Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10 Minute Poem

Museum of Sorrows
(on being Polish)

Some show
hearts on sleeves,
public displays,
everyone knows,
even those who don't
(or want)
to know:
not Polish.

Polish are like statues
- beautiful statues -
and statuesque,
that viewers want to touch
but can't
the velvet ropes,
the cordoned rooms,
the carefully crafted
in a long museum
of sorrows
end to end.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

FIELD NOTES: Halloween Soup

Recreating Gramma's pumpkin soup with potato dumplings in my happy blue pot...
except I cheated by using pre-cut butternut squash...needs more flavoring, too....

A RECIPE: Hers, Mom's, Mine & Theirs

2 c. grated potatoes with or w/o skins,
1 egg, 1 c. flour, dash salt, tsp. sugar

Grate potatoes and remove excess moisture by squeezing & draining. In large bowl, beat egg; add salt, sugar and flour; add potatoes; consistency should be able to form small balls by hand to drop into boiling water. Coat hands with flour if sticky.

20 oz. pumpkin* or butternut squash, peeled, cut into squares
2 c. water + 1 1/2 c. water
 1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. milk or cream (your choice)

In large soup pot, cook pumpkin in 2c. water until soft (15-20 min.); drain, reserving water, then mash pumpkin in another bowl. Return reserved water to soup pot, add another 1 1/2 c. water to pumpkin water, bring to boil to cook dumplings. Drop dumplings in for several minutes until dough is cooked, then immediately add mashed pumpkin, butter, and milk. DO NOT BOIL milk. Finish with seasonings of choice: salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg.
*Try canned pumpkin or squash


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FIELD NOTES: I have been to another world...


Victoria Rose Embros Kucinskas
March 22, 1922-August 27, 2010

Donald Kucinskas
January 1, 1921-January 6, 2009

          I am not sure how a daughter actually delivers a eulogy about a mother, how her voice can hold still if her mind is actually aware of what her mouth is saying, how her eyes can remain a dam against the release of thoughts that are not yet fully translatable even to herself, and to be articulated intelligibly before a gathering of people who surely knew her mother in different ways, their vibrations filling the atmosphere around the speaker; it does not seem possible…or adequate. But I will write it now…at least some of it…
          In the folder from her 60th High School Reunion, there are pages of “Fun Type Questionnaires for the Graduates of the Class of 1940”.  To the question “After you graduated were you doing what you always thought you would be doing the rest of your life?” my mother wrote: “Yes – being a wife, a mother and a grandmother.” She added a note to the bottom of the questionnaire: “I just want to thank God for all the blessings he’s bestowed upon our lives.”
          As children of immigrant parents in the Great Depression, she and my father were taught not to throw away anything that might be reincarnated into an alternative use or buy anything new unless something had truly worn out (read: disintegrated). She could sew, cook and nurture plants; he could wire, plumb and construct. Therefore, we children grew up not a house of “treats” but a house of resourcefulness, ingenuity, integrity and respect for stewardship. If my parents couldn’t repair something, it truly was broken…and you didn’t necessarily get another…
          My mother’s world was very small; she was proud of saying she lived in Terryville all her life in a great big triangle. She remembered moving from their first rent by walking down the street carrying her little celluloid duck under her arm. As she grew up at the second rent, she made a point of going out to the icebox in the hallway when she heard a certain young man coming down the stairs, a certain young man whose father owned the White Eagle Bakery and whom had delivered bread, for a time, by horse and cart. She was third in her class of thirty-six and was voted Best-Looking. She wanted to be a nurse, and volunteered as a Candy-Striper at the Bristol Hospital, but on her mother’s insistence, she became a secretary and found a place at the Phoenix Insurance Company because it was handy to ride the trolley into Hartford. There she made more life-long friendships with a group of women who called themselves the Gabby Girls until, one day, she said yes to a tipsy baker-turned-sailor on the phone from California; she and her mother planned a wedding in two weeks. After the war, the three-family house on the hill that her father had always greatly admired was for sale. She and my dad and my grandparents never left it. Her world was small, but the space she leaves is large.
          I did not know my mother as the beautiful, young woman with the great legs in the black and white photographs that showed off her inherited skill for sewing fashionable outfits, but I do know that friendship and family were very important to her as evidenced by all the little pieces of writing and drawing and cards in piles around her house. Visually, I knew her mostly in the teased hair of the 60’s and 70’s and enjoyed playing with her pointy, shiny high-heels. I characterize her personality as the good sport at family picnics and the “nice lady” around the town when we went on errands or shopped. Later, I admired her as a “business lady” in my dad’s new adventure called Cheshire Wayside Furniture, her grace to withstand local politics when my dad was mayor and her humbleness at drawing the attention of Polish customers at the bank when they discovered a teller who could speak their native language. She married a sailor, but she never liked to make waves.

          All I wanted to say was this:  “I had good parents.”

          If you can read between these four simple words, then you know how much weight they carry, how little else needs to be said in our complex, grownup world. Now, as a teacher of other people’s children and having had to learn the language of educational standards, I am struck by the idea that my parents somehow supported all the best practices of parenting without even knowing what they were called.
Thanks and Ja Cie Kocham
(that’s “I Love You” in Polish, pronounced Yacha kocham)

Victoria Rose Embros Kucinskas obituary

Sunday, July 25, 2010

FIELD NOTES: Insider Edition (too hot to go outside!)


Mind on chore in laundry room,
aside I sense some movement.
Sliding in
and sliding out
at lower right periphery
I guess a dust ball I hadn't time for.
But recurring like a rhythm,
reflexively my head turns,
then does the double take
in noticing the near invisible.
Without glasses I bend forward
peering in on a tiny tug-o-war
made of threads
and transparent film,
daddy-long-legs versus dragonfly
shifting weightlessness
and forth.
From my superior height
I judge this event
futile without victor,
so skipping consideration,
I act
to 'put them out of their misery'
with one sweeping-handed motion.
I continue
tugging twisted jeans from tub.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

FIELD NOTES: Meeting My Enemies

(Noted: This is the 113th anniversary of the birth of Anna Maria Gromala Embros, in Poland)

Been dealing with little devils......haven’t written for a month…fighting frustration…but not defeated yet…continuing with this year’s goal of productive purging, I charged up to the attic - a forgettable dumping ground with a very small window of opportunity to work in if you know New England weather extremes - with my skin, nose and eyes being indiscriminate hosts to all things allergic and my long limbs telescoped into unnatural configurations…it began…then moved out into the landscape where hardy and nasty weeds seem to flourish in the blink of an eye and the climate seems to have fast-forwarded to mid-August - Atlas losing his grip, leaving Connecticut on a tropical cant…I came away with bruised muscles, respiratory distress, scratches, poison ivy and whole new list of purges…and through the window I see a big white butt cruising through the backyard brush…ire wells up – I did not work so hard to create a salad bar - then I see a fawn frantically following…it may have gotten stuck in the old wire fence, so I am obliged to investigate…on my approach, it collapses its legs in self-defense… its body and breathing tinier than I imagined…I am meeting my enemy…knowing nature, I look but don’t touch…there is safe egress…Mama will return. In having the capacity to smile and coo at things smaller than ourselves, we recognize innocence fresh from Eden, project hope onto them and invent happiness…there is no way of knowing what this innocent will turn into, what fate will befall it, if it will bring grief or harm to me…or me to it…that goes for my own children, too.

For me, the struggle remains process versus product…to be conscious of joy in the job, the focus of the moment…which is why I didn’t have a camera…which is why there is no fawn photo to go ‘viral’ on the web…which is why I can only show you where it was...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

FIELD NOTES: “It’s ten o’clock. The day’s almost over...”

Sunday morning something I say that makes my children laugh. I am a morning person…I can get up easily…that is to say, at whatever time the sun breaks and the birds chirp …not when it is thirty degrees out and still as hard and black as cast iron at five or six…then, I do have to force myself out of my quilty nest to prepare for work…but this morning, it is Sunday…it is spring…the windows are open – they have been all night – due to above average temperatures (whatever ‘average’ is for New England) and I notice a perfect Symphony of Quiet…an adagio of birds and people sleeping…I go to brush my hair and can still hear the arpeggio of my bacon and eggs in their little skillet and the whispering rondo of the coffee pot…I write a little, surf a little…and then comes ten o’clock…like the surface of water or snow, the air does not stay undisturbed…a crescendo of working vehicles, tools and machines…the neighbors have started their weekender’s construction project…hammers, drills, power saws, male voices in a language I do not understand…I hope they will be finished soon…and then, oh, if I could have a week of spring-like Sunday mornings, what a vacation that would be!

The World's Quietest Places

Thursday, April 22, 2010



Just a few encouraging words to be kind to our planet with simple, small steps...

ONE: Try composting from your's EASY! really is! (email me if you have concerns)...I'm excited about the new compost-able Sun Chip bag and also the corn starch packing peanuts I received in a recent mail order (why aren't ALL packing peanuts dis-solvable like these???)...then I'll bring this compost to my preschool's science center for the kiddies to experiment with too!

TWO: limit plastic water bottles

THREE: recycle as much as you can

Side note: one of my favorite parts of visiting my daughter in Seattle, was how much she was able to ironic that there is now a garbage strike in progress...

The Plastiki Expedition
The Cove: Japan Dolphins

Sunday, April 18, 2010

FIELD NOTES: Behind the scenes is where I am most content…

Through the window

…I went to visit mom…she was lonely…we had tea and read the newspapers…I did the crossword puzzle my father used to do…I drove home…alone,not lonely…transported elsewhere by public radio’s Echoes…cutting through the hills on 254 to Litchfield, imagining the horizon line like former tribes of Connecticut…the day was a confusion of weather…cloud-cover one minute, a peek of sun the next…wind…calm…drizzle…I felt taken back behind the scenes to nature’s weather board…cue: cloud blanket above horizon…now spotlight trees in hills, cue: sunlight…wait…cue: raindrops…just a few…no, cue ominous dusk…ah yes, I am home…behind the scenes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

FIELD NOTES: It's all the same to me...

A walk in the park

…I drive out of my neighborhood…notice a dog with his nose to the ground on his front lawn…a young man sits on his front stoop playing his guitar…at Harrybrooke I notice the reflection on the water looks just like the photograph I took one April ago. Wasn’t I just raking? Wasn’t I just bracing for a long hibernation? And here it is…the closed bridge that used to be the way to town…the horizontal branch I admire like grandma’s arm guiding the river water below…watching her adorn herself…and un-adorn herself…for seventeen years…someday she will collapse…and the bridge…and me…but not today… today, spring’s white-noise water falls from the rocks in twenty-thousand tones to make it all the same…back in the neighborhood, I notice the dog…in the exact same place…as is the young man and his guitar…my heart hasn’t missed a beat…like a wheel, I have been nowhere…and everywhere…because it’s all the same to me…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

FIELD NOTES: First Rake Haiku

Saturday, the First Day of Spring 2010

Piquant green on tines,
Extension of my fingers,
The scratch ‘n sniff of spring.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FIELD NOTES: I hear one bird…

Through the (weekday) window

...its song muffled through the closed up winter window sashes. The heat clicks through the hot water baseboards in my bathroom, the morning news speaks so thinly from its cave in the other room that I can barely hear what’s new in the world today…but this one bird is what alerts me that I have been in a stupor of sorts, buried in snow and government paperwork. But that is the character of February. It is a good month for Lent. It is the month in which I write the least…move the least…eat the most and sleep the most. The attic overhead feels pregnant and overdue. The household file box needs its yearly purging. I take stock in my inventory, both in what I have collected and in what has somehow slid in around me like a storage facility. In February, its closeness turns claustrophobic and fills my nostrils like so much dust. I mull over things, incubate ideas about what’s next, brood and hibernate and absorb and fidget. What relief the one bird is, nature’s town crier, chirping that what is not here now, is preparing to return. Bulbs are energizing underground; they simply cannot be flowers all year round. So, back to the drawing board...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FIELD NOTES: So what exactly happened under that blue moon on New Year’s Eve?

Catching up on a Sunday morning answer a question with more questions…what looks like busywork, but isn’t? A spider spinning? A bee buzzing? A bird building? A woman cleaning?...I went to my studio in the basement. It had become coated with dust not from neglect but from a certain unfortunate condition of busyness. Relatives were preoccupied with other things, but apart from that, it just happened that I was feeling more reflective than social and, moreover, was willing to embrace it even though that eve is intended for partying. The word ‘evening’ may mean the closing part of the day and the early part of the night, but the word ‘eve’ is not merely its shortened form; it brings with it other connotations. A second definition - its commonly acknowledged sense - is “the period just before some important event” or “a period of decline”. Imaginings of last light, owl-light, twilight, dusk, nightfall, soiree, sunset and the poetic gloaming are conjured. Who has not experienced how differently things look when you are in the dark?...I grabbed a bottle of Bellini, piped in some dusky jazz and pulled out an onerous bin filled with fabric scraps…probably some thirty years worth because I used to sew everything: shirts, skirts, gowns, pants, jackets, purses, pajamas, curtains, cushions, even dolls. The bin turned into a magician’s hat with endless strips from the striated layers of my life that I could color-date. A heap lay before me like a new map or fitted sheet impossible to return to its container once sprung. Midnight was on the march. Should I: Discard it and not look back until I discover I have nothing to show my grandchildren and no memory of my handiwork? Give in to burden and hang onto it like someone hiding in their obesity?...Neither...Though the blue moon ended up being hidden by cloudiness, it illuminated my night. I gathered the expensive or exotic specimens into a sequestered group, then folded the useful pieces that were big enough to actually be made into something and placed them strategically back into the bin. I took a sample swatch from everything that remained, editing this economically industrious period of my life into a small box. Before the ball dropped, I turned out the light, went upstairs and opened a bottle of champagne. The box of swatches will be reincarnated into a collage…perhaps…under the next blue moon…

Sunday, January 17, 2010

FIELD NOTES: A Happy Blue Pot

A Happy Blue Pot
(For Haitians & Others, January 2010)

I bought a pot;
(enameled cast iron,
cobalt blue on the outside, milk white on the in)
not because I needed it
at the time
but because it caught my eye
like love at first sight.
I first cooked in it
the bean casserole
for Wigilia*
and when I found myself smiling
unconsciously as a babe
I called it “my happy pot”.
I have since made soup
and rice,
and smile each time
for not much reason
other than delight in gathered senses
from a sometimes senseless world.
I do not wash the pot;
I bathe it
like a child of mine
when s/he was a baby
and wrap it gently in a towel.
Out from this Aladdin’s lamp
wafts wishes, memory and dreams,
and I would want it with me
if my earth should shake.
I clang my spoon,
call out,
how can I
give it
to you?

*(pronounced: /vi.ˈɡi.ʎa/ or vee-GHEE-lee-uh, the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland)