Two Choices

Falling asleep last night I had this thought: how is it fair that we only have two choices: life or death? More than a thought, it was a feeling. And I know I’m not the only one to feel it, because Americans are all about a search to get away from life without resorting to its unpleasant alternative.

Somehow in my half-sleep state, I knew, just for an instant, it’s possible to find such a place, different from all other known ways of what one might call ‘escaping.’ It would be a 3rd choice that embraced, not shirked, responsibility, a place where you could make things better, and in an artistic, enlightened way.

I think this pre-sleep feeling came from two strange bedfellows: the magnolia tree I saw from my window … and Donald Trump. However things turn out, Trump has come to represent, rightly or wrongly, destruction to me … and the magnolia tree in its fight to survive this crazy winter-no-winter-spring-no- spring season is both its victim and victor.

Like the magnolia tree that finally emerged in all its beauty, but for such a short time having tried and failed, tried and failed in the preceding weeks — we pay a price for fighting.  In my dream, there was a place where the magnolia tree found the sweet spot, the place that was not quite life since it was headed for a swift end, nor death, as it was beautiful—utterly unafraid and triumphant.

In my 3rd choice place, perhaps the magnolia tree’s petals could partake in covering all the destruction and hardship in the world as they fell.


My Cousin J.

So she just sent me an article she wrote about her worms.  J. is my baby cousin who lives in West Texas, near Big Bend National Park, in a tiny house in the desert, on a gigantic ranch called Terlingua.

My cousin J. grew up as a nice Jewish-American girl in NJ.  But there were certain differences between her life and mine … there were horses, sailboats, a private home, a brother and a father, none of which I had. Let me be clear: her family was not wealthy: they didn’t own these things.  Except the private home, and of course the brother and father.

She rode horses in shows.  No one in the rest of our family did that. But it’s too long a story — where she lived, what she did for a living.  She always had played guitar and sang, just as did I, but she began to write songs, which I did not.  And nowadays,  she and her very nice partner travel back and forth between a 1-room West Texas stucco house and a trailer they own in Washington State.

What she does mostly now is playing guitar with a western-type quartet that performs at the Ranch, writing songs for it, and also playing oboe in an orchestra in Portland, I think it is.

When her big brother had children, J. was a fabulous, involved aunt, the kind who gets on a plane and goes to the concerts, birthday parties, bar mitzvah’s —  or just visits. Now  there are 2 great-nephews (maybe 3 by now) and she does the same thing with them, though mostly with the one who’s not living in Spain.

Somewhere in all this she lived through breast cancer, 3 marriages, the suicide of her 2nd beloved husband (bi-polar-related), and wrote a book called What Goes Up… .

She’s only been able to do this all because I, her older cousin, have permitted it.  I could have squashed her like a bug to keep my place on the talent throne, yeah but knowing her, she would have simply joined the ends of what was left and continued doing her thing, like the worms she takes such good care of!

I did not know that worms actually create soil with their “manure,” did you?



Is Feeling Good A Boring Blog?

If so, be prepared to be bored!

Yesterday in my 60+ poetry class at the Y in NYC, my poem came in for some praise. It was a risky poem – I rarely write about such personal feelings as childlessness, and the poem pulled it off without ever using the word. That’s a goal for poetry, for good poets. Show, not tell.

Take Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Laureate.  His poem about the seasons changing begins:  “An agitation in the air, a perturbation of the light…”  … and suddenly there are autumn birds flying south, and the sunlight of summer cooling down, all without his saying so directly!

Then yesterday, my friend B. whom I met 2 yrs ago in the poetry class, came over to my house and brought her flute!  She’s only just begun studying again – we had talked about duets but never done it.  And so we tried.  She has two things I require and then one more: she has musicality, a great sense of rhythm, and a lovely tone.

OTOH, I struggled with my sight-reading. These are easy pieces, dammit!  I tried not to disrupt our playing too much, but I just couldn’t keep up.  She’s leaving me the book and I’ll try  to learn them well enough so when the flute is there I don’t get distracted. Since music is my favorite thing in the whole world, with dogs and cats a close second, I’m quietly ecstatic about this. If only B. will hold out and not mind my struggles!

Last good thing: today my nephew’s partner C. will be here and we will work on the absurdly complicated paperwork my co-op building requires for updating my kitchen! She knows her stuff.  Then later, Sam from the contractors will come to measure. It should be a day of accomplishment.

Only one bad thing: I will have to remove the paper towels and steel wool I have crammed into every crevice under my stove since seeing a water bug.  When I take it all away, I’ve no idea if any bugs may skitter out. I’ve a tendency to want to move when I see a water bug!

One more good thing (can you stand it?), I broke the weight barrier I’ve been stuck at for weeks. Overall loss, 35 lbs, with about 6 more to goal weight. Slow and steady does it!

Get on my Inchoate Bandwagon

I admit it.  I’m shamelessly using the word inchoate just to get your attention, but it’s a worthy cause.  I’m including a poem I wrote when much younger, or as we say at my age, much, much younger and maybe it will help chase the “Where the Hell is Spring Blues” away.  But just so Krista doesn’t throw me bodily off the site:

There was a delightful old poet

who was challenged one day with “inchoate.”

Though her ideas were many

She has left this to Denny …  (you know who you are)

For she knows, without doubt, she would blow it.


OK???  Now, here’s the other poem!


Spring Quest

The time was right for Spring to come

But She was not in view;

Old Winter had secured a hold

And Spring could not break through.


Oh, how the children cried, and mothers

Sighed to see them so.

But Winter held on stubbornly

And just refused to go.


A little girl searched through the snow

To find where Spring was kept.

She found a house whose door was shut.

Inside it, someone wept.


She peered in through a window 

That was untouched by snowflake

And there was lovely Spring, a-weep 

As if her heart would break.


The little girl did not dare lift

The window in the fear

That Winter would come rushing in

And freeze each falling tear.


So sad was she to see Spring thus

She too shed tears—and, lo

They fell like fire upon the ground

And melted all the snow.


She flung the her arms up to the sky;

The air turned warm and sweet.

Soon gentle birds began to sing

and grass grew at her feet.  


Then Spring was standing near, with

Sparking eyes and cheeks of red, 

And bending, thanked the little child

With a kiss upon her head.



© This blog is the property of Ellen Diamond.

Permission is necessary if you wish to use any or all of it.

no pain, no pain

These days, taking care of my body is a little like playing Sudoku — or maybe more like those handheld games where there was only 1 square free and you had to keep moving numbers around that 1 open square until they were in order.

The square is the place on my body that I don’t have to worry about (all that comes to mind is my mouth!) and the other squares are the various treatments and medications  I take to address the worrisome places.

So…the medication I take to keep my knees from hurting conflicts with another pain medicine I take for an old hip injury.  The treatment for the numbness in my legs (that came from a previous medication) is so expensive that something else has to go.  The medicine I take to help my reflux/Gerdes issue can irritate the kidneys, push, push, push.

Ursula Le Guin says that when you start to get really old, you need doctors more, but getting there is much harder!  Hauling my ass to the doctors doesn’t really help with this puzzle problem anyway because each doctor believes their regimen should take precedence over all the others!

Does anyone have a cabin in the woods where I can detox from everything — one where screaming and watching old movies day and night at high volume won’t bother anyone?  And does Fresh Direct deliver there?

Toxic April

My father died on April 24th,1950. My mother would take it over as her misery on the anniversary day.  Once she called and asked “do you remember what today is?” And I said, archly, “yes, Mom, it’s the day my father died.”

The terrible tragedy of my father’s death was compounded by the fact that we also found out that she’d known that he was going to die for about 7 years and not told us, not told him. So not only did we lose our father one Monday morning, yanked out of school by some car service that dragged us home, but we also lost any faith we might have had left in a mother whose conflicts about wanting to be a mother were all too evident.

Years later as an adult I developed a sadness syndrome when the weather softened into spring—and this may seem unbelievable—didn’t know why.  I just thought I didn’t like spring, that it frightened me because I’d have no excuse for staying indoors on sunny days.

Some April evening I’d suddenly develop a crying jag, but not my usual “sad dog commercial” tears – these tears would deepen and my heart would just ache. When it finally occurred to me that I might be mourning my dad’s death in April, I took the bull by the horns. At work, I’d call in sick and either stay home and just be with my feelings, or drive up to the cemetery where he’s buried.

Arriving at his tombstone was always a letdown, as lovely as the cemetary is. Tombstones in the end are not people. But acknowledging my sorrow — owning it, we say these days — was good for me. The April sadness receded. Nowadays I may even forget or realize after the 24th is over.

I can’t find the poem I wrote about spring long ago, but the first line was:

“Immortal Spring, you always smell like death to me.”

I’m grateful those days are far behind me. I may still find aspects of spring melancholy, but I don’t lose myself in it.


I’m pissed! I had a great idea for a blog, including the title, and it’s gone! I don’t remember anything, can’t even begin to trace my line of thought.

So … I’ll keep this short. I wish all you Easter types a wonderful Easter, and all you Jewish folks a happy Passover, and you Muslim guys and gals, happy spring and happy any religious thoughts or feelings you may have this weekend.

I talk to cab drivers a lot. Many, many of them are Muslim, from all different places including here. It’s amazing how much religious conversation can be squeezed into a 10-minute ride! The driver who took me to the Seder I attended and I talked about Mohammed’s teachings about Jesus and Moses. It was a fine chat, until he mumbled that his was the only true divinity. I still tipped him well.

How easy it would be to love each other’s religions and to appreciate how special each one is in terms of what it brings to the human condition. Imagine if we could do that — and leave the need to believe in the superiority of one over another in the dusty books they came from. Even non-theism has valuable ideas and feelings to bring to the table.

And then, of course, we would eat! Can you imagine what a feast that would be? Can you just hear the laughter?