Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir on PBS

Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” – Amy Tan

My fellow writers:

I hope none of you missed this incredibly personal and touching “American Experience” on PBS last night entitled, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. This piece was so beautifully put together, combining Amy’s own photos from her past, her intimate recollections, with talks she has given about her stormy relationship with her mother. Words fail to describe the gorgeousness and truth to be found in this two hour special.

Her delicate storytelling and truth-telling is at once fierce and so very sensitive to the human condition we all face, especially that of women. I was glued to my seat from the very beginning and could not move. She is my hero! I feel like I now need to go and re-read all of her books and especially her new memoir, “Where the Past Begins” from 2017.

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir on PBS, premiere May 3rd 2021

Early bloomers in my high country garden!

I was astounded to find my tiny high country irises blooming today in my garden at 7,000 feet! Their leaves are only six or seven inches tall, but the flowers are fantastic!

I got these from Perennial Favorites near Rye Colorado a couple years ago. They specialized in offering high country species. So sorry they decided to close and retire, but these are the gift that keeps on giving!

My earliest bloomer is a type of creeping thyme that takes a few years to get going, but then it takes off! It’s been blooming for at least a week now, even through the snow!

Yesterday I got my brother John up here to help me weed and plant some new plants. He loves working outside with his hands. He’s a self-identified “dirt guy.” If you’re nice he might work for you too!

My garden didn’t look like much back in May 2017…

But this year should be GREAT!

I’ll keep you posted on the new flowers in my garden as they bloom!

OH, I forgot to mention…I actually witnessed some Rocky Mountain Bluebird sex yesterday! Babies to follow!

UNBELIEVEABLE! I just caught a hummingbird on a penstemon flower right outside my door!

My dream: Welcoming new residents to this area!

Since moving to the Walsenburg-La Veta area in the summer of 2014, I have held a dream. Long ago I read the novel “The Significance of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert (a marvelous read!) about a girl raised by a shipping magnet and captain, who invited the interesting people he met all over the world to his home in Philadelphia for a type of ‘salon’ experience. I loved that idea! So when my previous blog “Midlife Crisis Queen” crashed in 2014, I started this one, with the purpose of informing others who might be considering a move to this area. I didn’t want others to experience what I did here, a lack of friendly folks when they got here. I thought, why not offer friendship? Moving to a new rural area can be quite intimidating for some.

As usual, it was a good idea, but it took quite a while to come to fruition. Now this spring I have welcomed three very interesting and excited couples who have moved here, or are working up to it. The most interesting coincidence has been that Mike and I share so many common interests with these newcomers! They are counselors, engineers, artists and writers, all excited about making this area their new home. They have their own visions of music festivals and writing groups, etc.

For me this is my best, recent example of the power of holding a vision until it emerges on its own power. I fully believe now that what we focus on grows, so I try to keep my focus on positive possibilities in my future. Intelligent, interesting newcomers are arriving first on my e-mail and then at my door. Such an exciting new development! I will do what I can to make their transition a little less traumatic because that’s what I do and that is who I am… Now I have a vision of a garden party with great music, food and entertainment out on our patio, welcoming newcomers from everywhere 🙂

“What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

What does a brain injury feel like?

In my last post I spoke of “enforced introspection.” Because of a few health concerns in the past few years, I have been living in a type of enforced introspection. I was reminded of this situation on Thursday with another accident and rude awakening. I went too long without my oxygen tube and passed out on the floor. This has happened a few times in the past few years.

What happens is not completely known to me, because I don’t remember anything when I regain consciousness. When I gathered my wits about me, I called for Mike, but he had just left for a while. I struggled to my feet eventually and got my oxygen. Wow, what a big bump I had on the back of my head! That’s the best indication I have of how hard I fell.

My health situation is complicated because I know the problem isn’t just an oxygen deficit. The combination of low oxygen and previous brain injuries, especially a traumatic brain injury in 2008 (brain bleed) make my consciousness level less dependable than what most others experience. This is my first life experience with a disability, and I would say I am not adjusting well. My but I can be so stubborn. My brain is not amused.

I have always been my own brand of unique and taken some pride in that, but this is a uniqueness I could do without… I now realize that previous brain injuries (TBI) have made me much more vulnerable to future ones!

The only thing interesting about this brain deficit is observing my varied levels of consciousness. For instance, right now, as I write this, I notice that the spelling part of my brain is not happy. I forget how to spell some of the simplest words, but as I keep trying, they come more easily. It all leaves me in a bit of a dream world, but in a good way. It doesn’t freak me out, because unconsciousness is not scary to me until I wake up and wonder what the hell happened?

I called my brother to tell him about my fall and he said, “What can you do about this?” As far as I can tell there is nothing to do except be sure to stay on oxygen all the time, but my spaced-out nature makes that more challenging than it sounds.

Stop trying? I’ll keep fighting until I can’t fight anymore!

Re-thinking your dreams

In the past year or so, in times of pandemic and forced introspection, those are the best times to re-think your dreams. I meet many down here in rural southern Colorado, who ended up here because in their 50s or 60s they spent some time reviewing their life, and decided that they were finished with cities.

I have found this place to be a magical alternative to city life.

My husband Mike had been dreaming about just such an existence for decades when we moved here in 2014. I was a bit further behind him in dreaming big enough. I couldn’t visualize it like he could. I worried about the isolation. I had never lived so far out of town in my past. It was a new experience for me. But it didn’t take me long to appreciate the morning silence, the birds, the plants, the beautiful weather, the snow…

Only certain types of people appreciate these qualities, mostly the quiet types who find it easy to entertain themselves with numerous avocations. I was never a big shopper. I didn’t go to bars or restaurants much. I have always found my own mind fairly entertaining with the assistance of books, movies, etc. And we are total weather watchers.

Watching the ever-changing clouds and weather over the Spanish Peaks is a lovely pastime.

So you see, the kind of people who move here and stay are very self-selected. They have chosen to check out of “normal” American life, where buying the next cool thing is their goal.

Not that we aren’t always re-thinking our dreams, and we know we have the freedom to follow new ones here.

Systemic Racism is the Pandemic

A “race” is a grouping of people based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as different. The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century the term “race” began to refer to physical human traits. Modern science regards race as a social construct, created to assign identity based on rules made by society. While partially based on physical similarities within groups, race has no inherent physical or biological meaning.

”Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Dr. J. Craig Venter, head of the Celera Genomics Corporation in Rockville, Md. ”We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world.”

Dr. Venter and scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently announced that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome. Researchers then unanimously declared,

there is only one race — the human race.

Isn’t it amazing that this concept, which truly has no basis in biology or reality, continues to cause so much distress in American culture? And what about our history as a country? First the Europeans who came here did their best to exterminate the natives, setting them apart as “savages” and unclean by European standards. Then they brought in African natives to do the dirty work of planting, raising and harvesting crops, and so many other jobs they didn’t want to do, all based on “racial” differences.

“Race” has been used since the beginning of human existence to ostracize, hate and dominate others.

I wonder how many European-Americans have experienced racism themselves. When I lived in Thailand, during the Vietnam War, and Taipei Taiwan, I learned what it feels like to look different. In Bangkok, a field full of Thai soccer players rushed over as I walked by to yell, “Yankee GO Home!” In Taipei I knew enough Chinese language to understand when people were talking about me on the bus, calling me a “foreign devil” or “ghost.” Kids would yell at me in the alleys… Yes, I understand their dislike of American imperialism. I also didn’t enjoy being picked out in a crowd and blamed for everything they didn’t like about America.

My point is, all aspects of identification by appearance are inherently wrong, and don’t get me started on eugenics and the “master race.” We are all human and we look different. So what. Can any stereotype be seen as always dependable? No. Are any of us without shortcomings? No. In our country today and always, assumptions made about a person based on their appearance have killed far too many of us either by physical violence or emotional violence.

Why not just call it what it is: poor education & upbringing, hatefulness and boundless insecurity on the part of the racist.