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Twenty-nine Amazing Years with Guide Dogs

 

Twenty-nine Amazing Years of Working with Guide Dogs

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

With an overflowing abundance of hope, wonder, and joy, I took my first walk with a guide dog on March 21, 1990.  What a golden moment!  My first of four Leader Dogs–a gorgeous Golden Retriever named Keller–and I happily joined together to begin the greatest and most significant change in my life.  Forever thanks to Keller for helping me to achieve the steps onto a new stage in my life at age 39.

 

As these twenty-nine years have passed with Keller, Heather (my Yellow Labrador), Zoe (my Black Labrador/Golden Retriever), and Willow (my current Black Labrador), I think of the significant changes that have come forth in guide dog work.

 

  1. CURBS

 

When I began working with Keller in 1990, all curbs were quite similar and were much more easily identifiable.  Today, while some traditional curbs still exist, more and more are of the “curbless” variety, with only a plate of tactile markings or domes to indicate where the sidewalk ends and the street begins.  Thus, in earlier years, I felt more comfortable with walking in areas with which my guide dog and I were unfamiliar because the curbs were so distinct.

 

  1. QUIET VEHICLES

 

While some lawn-care equipment has become louder and while most everything else in the world has increased to a higher decibel level, “quiet” cars pose another challenge for the guide dog and handler.  Only with my third Leader Dog Zoe did I begin to experience these “quiet” cars.  When I trained with my current guide dog Willow at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan), an electric vehicle driven by a GDMI (guide-dog mobility instructor) was part of a “traffic check” lesson.  The guide dog schools’ preparing their guide dogs for these new challenges is reassuring for student handlers; nevertheless, I am pleased and grateful that by 2020, manufacturers will have to include an appropriate “sound-emitting device” in the electric vehicles.

 

  1. CONDITION OF SIDEWALKS

 

When I moved to Milwaukee in August of 1991 with Keller, I was impressed with the condition of the sidewalks.  I recall only one span of sidewalk that was uneven due to uplifting of sidewalk sections as a result of growing tree roots.  Especially during my years with Zoe and now with Willow, the condition of sidewalks has noticeably deteriorated.  Besides encountering more lifts in sidewalk sections, we find that many more holes, due primarily to the freezing and thawing cycles, dot our routine paths.  Fortunately, Willow is very cautious and likes stopping at various sidewalk challenges to take good care of me and to receive her praise.  My little Black Lab wiggles with delight when I praise her.  I must add that some of these unusual sidewalk formations are like a road map for my feet–or boots or shoes–because they do let me know exactly where I am .  One day, earlier this past winter, Willow stopped, as usual, for a minor lift in the sidewalk along a busy street.  A young man was passing by us and remarked, “I am impressed.”  After twenty-nine years of working with four outstanding Leader Dogs, I, too, am still impressed.

 

  1. PEOPLE USING I-PHONES WHILE WALKING

 

Oh, pedestrians, please do not text or use your phone for another distracting purpose while walking!

 

  1. CONSTRUCTION

 

While Zoe and I and then Willow and I survived the three-year streetcar construction project in our immediate area, both short-term and long-term construction projects continue and determine our daily walking routes.  This past Monday, as Willow and I were walking around a nearby park, I heard some large trucks on the other side of the park.  When we arrived at the north end of the park, I told my Lab, “Willow, right.”  She turned right, walked only a couple of paces, and came to an abrupt stop.  After telling her “Willow, forward” three times, I trusted in her “intelligent disobedience”:  I assumed that the truck noises must have meant some work on the sidewalk ahead.  Willow was happy to do a U-turn; then we made a left turn along Water Street.  A third of the way down the block, a familiar voice who identified himself as one of our substitute mail carriers, told me that my guide dog had stopped due to construction cones on the sidewalk.  I thanked him for letting me know the reason.  Although he offered to help Willow and me around the construction, I gratefully declined his offer because I knew my Leader Dog and I could arrive at our destination by another route.  We proceeded to the next corner and turned up the hill, with the sounds of the ever-present construction on City Hall to our right, as we headed to the bank.

 

Yes, yes, I know that “Construction is progress” and will also fill the holes in the sidewalks; however, I certainly would like one year–well, at least, one season–of absolutely no construction and no construction signs.

 

  1. THE TROLLEY

 

Now that the construction phase is over, the streetcar still poses daily challenges.  My guide dog and I always have to be careful with walking over the tracks.  Also, we do try to avoid being on a corner at the same time as one trolley is or two trolleys are making a turn when conditions are dry.  Why?  At such times, the turning trolley makes a terrible and distracting screeching noise.  Finally, each trolley has an electronic device that prompts a change in each traffic light so that the streetcar always has the green light.  Of course, this practice of treating the trolley like an emergency vehicle changes the light cycle; and altering the light cycle makes our crossing these intersections more challenging and less safe.

 

  1. KNOWLEDGE

 

During the past eighteen months or more, I have noticed more than previously that too many people do not realize that my dog is a guide dog.  Willow wears a special harness which is emblazoned with “Leader Dog.”  besides holding onto her harness handle (which is unlike any harness for a pet dog), I hold onto her leash which is in the working position of half its length (due to being doubled and hooked onto a D-hook).  I wear dark, amber-colored glasses with side shields.  Nevertheless, more and more, people do not recognize me as blind nor my dog as a guide dog.  So, I ask that you please help spread the word so that more people can recognize a working guide dog.

 

Despite the challenges which we may face on a daily, weekly , or infrequent basis, working and living with my guide dog has been and continues to be the right, most wonderful choice for me.  Being blessed with the love, devotion, and superior work of my four guide dogs brightens each of my days and gives me pause each night to thank all who make possible magnificent guide dogs.  I am truly privileged to have walked beside Keller, Heather, and Zoe–and now to continue walking with Willow in the lead.  Twenty-nine special years and counting!

 

God bless our Leader Dogs!

Alice and Willow

 

March 20, 2019, Wednesday

 

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Remembering My Third Leader Dog–Zoe

 

Once Again and Always, Remembering My Third Leader Dog–Zoe

 

(April 23, 2007-March 16, 2016)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

A broken heart–ruptured atrial neoplasm–all too quickly and unexpectedly took away my statuesque and once vibrant third Leader Dog Zoe on this day (March 16) in 2016.  Her broken heart put another kind of break in my heart.  Hemangiosarcoma–the cause of her passing was certain.  Certainly, her journey to the “Rainbow Bridge” at five weeks before her ninth birthday made all too short of a life for a nearly perfect guide dog.  I try to push aside the remembrances of those last minutes of Zoe’s life, but these recollections are carved into the stone of my memory and will ever persist.  On the softer, textured canvases of my memory, I do try to imagine again the happier, brighter moments with my beloved Black Labrador/Golden Retriever.

 

Sometimes, I think that because Zoe was so good all the time that I do not have any humorous anecdotes to recall.  Her steadiness, perfect pace for me, devotion to me, ever willingness to work with complete attention–all made for smooth, easy days and travels through life from June 6, 2009 through this day in 2016.  Zoe’s consistency of superior level of guide work and her impeccable “off-duty” behavior are not the material for a funny biography, but are the ultimate goals for a guide dog.

 

How completely blessed and immensely fortunate I was to have Zoe in my life for nearly seven too brief years!  I hope that Zoe knows that my fourth Leader Dog–Willow–takes extremely good care of me also and that she works hard and loves sweetly to mend a substantial portion of my broken heart.

 

With these words and with the re-sharing of the following poem, I remember and honor my third Leader Dog Zoe.

 

 

A Loving Portrait of Leader Dog Zoe in Watercolor Tears

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

If I were a sculptor,

I would have chiseled

into a block of marble

a lasting monument

to you and your beautiful ways.

 

If I were a painter of canvas,

I would have re-created

your portrait as you always sat

in your princes, posture-perfect pose.

 

If I were a skilled photographer,

I would have captured your likeness–

mid-stride, your harness up,

your head held high and proud

to be in the lead.

 

If I were a painter

with watercolors …

oh, but I have painted you

a thousand times

with watercolor tears–

this portrait framed only in my mind:

the painful hours and moments of your unexpected final day,

the precious and blessed years

that you

generously and lovingly

shared with me.

 

Since I am not an artist,

I have crafted only words for you

during these past measured three years,

these last thirty-six months,

these fleeting 156 weeks,

these recent  1095 days–

without you

at my lead

or beside me.

 

To give tribute

to your greatness,

I could only dedicate

a small book to you,

dedicate this blog to you,

remember you

and thank you,

today and always,

at the highest altitude

of gratitude,

as I walk on with you ever in my heart

and Willow now well in the lead.

 

 

In loving memory of my third Leader Dog, Zoe,

who passed away three years ago

at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, 2016,

at our home in Milwaukee–

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog

 

March 16, 2019, Saturday

 

A Plate of Pi Poems for Pi Day, 2019

 

Care for Another Piece of PI?

 

A Plate of Three Pi Poems for Celebrating Pi Day, 2019

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

NOTE:  In last week’s WORDWALK, I shared information and guides for writing a pi poem (also called a “piem”).  To help you in celebrating Pi Day, 2019, I am adding to last week’s quartet of piems by including another serving of three pi poems to inspire you to write a piem of your own for Pi Day–or soon thereafter.  If you need the instructions for crafting a pi poem, please refer to my blog post of March 7, which is directly below the entirety of this March 13 WORDWALK post.

 

I hope that you are enjoying a piece of pie as you read the following pi poems.  The first piem was originally posted on WORDWALK on March 8, 2017.

 

 

A Pi Poem to Treasure Crocheted Afghans

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Hands that held

small,

plain crochet hooks,

as

if artist’s brushes,

turned strands of yarn into canvases

of warmth,

of love gifted to all

who received afghans

crafted by

Mother, Aunt Zita,

and–of course, the most prolific–

my paternal grandmother (Liza).

 

rippled, shell, or granny square

were patterns they crocheted in colors

to match taste,

decor,

occasion

for the lucky recipient.

 

Covered with warmth

of the wool, granny-square

afghan,

I thought of my mother

who still gives me

her caring,

her wisdom,

her amazing inspiration

for this poem.

 

This week,

my sister sent to the twins

two small afghans made by our mother

so that a brand new

generation can feel the warmth from the past

and learn

to smile, wrapped in hand-crocheted love.

 

NOTE:  Below I will repeat the exact same pi poem as above; but I will insert at the onset of each line the number of syllables in that particular line, coinciding with the first thirty-five numerals of the mathematical pi.  I converted the first zero of pi into the number ten; thus, the second-from-the-last line of this post’s piem contains ten syllables.  If you would like to craft a pi poem on Pi Day (3/14/19) and if you write a piem of thirty-five lines or less, you may use the following as an easy syllabic guide for creating your pi poem.

 

 

A Pi Poem to Treasure Crocheted Afghans

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

(3)  Hands that held

(1)  small,

(4)  plain crochet hooks,

(1)  as

(5)  if artist’s brushes,

(9)  turned strands of yarn into canvases

(2)  of warmth,

(6)  of love gifted to all

(5)  who received afghans

(3)  crafted by

(5)  Mother, Aunt Zita,

(8)  and–of course, the most prolific–

(9)  my paternal grandmother (Liza).

 

(7)  rippled, shell, or granny square

(9)  were patterns they crocheted in colors

(3)  to match taste,

(2)  decor,

(3)  occasion

(8)  for the lucky recipient.

 

(4)  Covered with warmth

(8)  of the wool granny-square

(2)  afghan,

(6)  I thought of my mother

(4)  who still gives me

(3)  her caring,

(3)  her wisdom,

(8)  her amazing inspiration

(3)  for this poem.

 

(2)  This week,

(7)  my sister sent to the twins

(9)  two small afghans made by our mother

(5) so that a brand new

(10) generation can feel warmth from the past

(2)  and learn

(8)  to smile, wrapped in hand-crocheted love.

 

 

NOTE:  While you may choose any topic for the focus of your pi poem, I selected “Primavera” (Spanish and Italian for “spring”) for the topic of my next sample of a pi poem–first on my blog on February 28, 2017.  Try your poetic hand at being a “piemist” after you have read the pi poems of this post and the previous post on WORDWALK.

 

Welcome, Primavera:  A Seasoned Pi Poem

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Spring blessings

come

upon the heel

of

winter’s frosted clouds,

on ochre petals of daffodils,

on trills

of robins’ measured notes,

in hyacinth air,

from sweet voices

of children swinging,

from the soft whir of bicycles,

from fragrance of earth where I will plant

perennial Summer Soul

To hear the quiet affirmation–

dear Nature’s

welcome:

“Primavera,

alas, your turn has come to choose.

How will our March,

April, and May appear?

Whisper

meteorological,

precious secrets

to planters,

gardeners,

tillers of your magical soil.

Bless their fields,

gardens

with fair rationings of rain,

lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.

Primavera, come!”

 

 

NOTE:  The third and final pi poem of this season’s collection was previously posted on WORDWALK on March 2, 2016.  Yes, piems prompt me to think of spring; and pi poems become as much a part of our eagerly awaiting spring as all the other harbingers of this budding season.

 

 

Duality of Spring:  A Pi Poem

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Daffodils

spring

through winter’s snow

to

sing the pert prelude

of handshaking seasons of Nature’s

duet.

 

March–such duality–

snowflakes and flowers

of yellow

harbingers of spring,

conducts a cappella petals

that pose sprightly for still cameras

while the taciturn snowflakes

are melting, melting, melting winter.

 

Champion

flower,

narcissus,

trumpet the sounds and sights of spring–

calendar spring,

meteorological

springtime

evidently versus

a Milwaukee

sporadic,

faux springtime.

 

In Wisconsin, spring is just a

state of mind,

of hope

that winter will take a bow

and allow the scene to change to spring

by the end of May.

 

 

NOTE:  If you plan to use the material of this post and the prior one for educational purposes, I hope you will leave a note in the comment section or send me an e-mail at:

ajm321kh@wi.rr.com

 

 

Thanks for joining in the celebration of Pi Day!

(Watch for an extra post on WORDWALK on March 16 and then the regular weekly post next Wednesday.)

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

March 13, 2019, the eve of Pi Day

 

How to Write a Pi Poem (with Four Samples)

 

How to Write a Pi Poem for Pi Day (including Four samples and Two Guides)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

My math teachers and professors would be quite surprised to know that I am still working with the mathematical pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter).  Of course, I am using pi for crafting a pi poem–a poem whose number of syllables for each line coincides with the numerals of the mathematical pi.  A detailed, yet simple explanation will follow with four examples and two format guides.

 

For this WORDWALK blog post, I am gathering together three of my previously posted pi poems (also called “piems”) and one new pi poem.  Since I am presenting the piems in chronological order, if you are only interested in the new (previously unposted) pi poem, please scan down to near the end of this post.  The “guides” for writing a pi poem are immediately after the third and the final samples of piems.

 

In my April 30, 2014, blog post, I shared my first pi poem “A Pi Poem for a Literary Luncheon.”  This poem followed the first 23 numbers of the mathematical pi for each line’s number of syllables.  Thus, although the mathematical pi is an infinite number, I used only the following  portion of pi for my first piem of twenty-three poetic lines:  3.1415926535897932384626.

 

After hearing of the pi poem for the first time on April 25, 2014,  on the WUWM-FM radio program “Lake Effect,” I was inspired to write my first pi poem, which follows.

 

Poetry Pi for a Literary Luncheon

 

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

How do you

Cut

Poetry pi?

Do

You cut it into

Lines, stanzas, verses, meter, or rhyme?

Do you

Slice the pi into words?

 

The nice, honored guests

At our next

Literary lunch

Will bring mango, lemon meringue,

Cherry, chocolate cream, strawberry,

Huckleberry, gooseberry—

But I will bring the poetry pi.

 

With a plume,

I will

Cut the pi,

With metaphoric math in mind,

Into garnished,

Savory similes

To tempt

Each writers’ taste and pen.

 

** NOTE:  In my May 28, 2014, WORDWALK blog post, entitled “Remembrance of a Rainbow,” I included the pi poem “Meteorological Versus Metaphorical Rainbows.”  With the re-posting of this second pi poem, I am including the introductory note that accompanied the earlier post on WORDWALK.

 

Remembrance of a Rainbow:

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

One of the wonderful parts of growing up in the small, rural, Hoosier town of Blanford was having a big front porch.  Not only did my family love this big front porch, but also visitors loved our porch which had beautiful vistas of fields to the west, north, and east during all seasons of the year.  In my mind, I pleasantly keep a water color painting of a majestic scene I was blessed to view many years ago–decades ago.  However, this pastel remembrance does not fade from my memory album.  The scene was a gift from Mother Nature–a gift to behold.  Standing before the wooden swing on the front porch, I (then, an adolescent) saw a rainbow form and grace the eastern sky, over the land of our neighbors Bill and Clotene Toppas, at the crest of our little hill of the cut-off road.  While I do not have a clear recollection of stars in a night sky, I feel fortunate to have a distinct remembrance of this lovely rainbow on a misty and humid Hoosier day when sun met the rain just to the east of our front porch.

 

Inspired by this rainbow, I decided to write my second pi poem.  With this piem, I did meet my goal of 32 poetic lines.  The number of syllables for each line follows these 32 numerals of pi, up to the zero:  3.14159265358979323846264338327950.  Although a pi poem is most associated with Pi Day–March 14 (3/14), you may read or write a pi poem on any day of the year.  Additionally, the piem which you write need not be 32 lines:  your pi creation may be less lines or more–as long as the number of syllables per poetic line follow the infinite numerals of the mathematical pi.  My example of a 32-line pi poem follows.

 

 

Meteorological versus Metaphorical Rainbows

 

(A Pi Poem of Springtime Colors)

 

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

A rainbow

Forms

A radiant

Arc

Prompting umbrella

Holders to close their perk parasols

And look

At a rare gift from Mother Nature;

Yet the scientists

Interpret

This phenomenon

As sunlight hitting rain droplets

At varying, different angles

To spray a spectacular

Spectrum  of colors, viewed uniquely

By each child,

Adult,

Teenager.

 

Tiny raindrops break the sunlight

Into colors.

Ceremoniously,

I say:

Mother Nature’s  palette

Sometimes dribbles

Leftover

Pastel hues.

 

What does crafty Mother Nature

Re-design?

The sky—

Rainy sky touched by sunbeams.

 

Impressionistic painter, please brush

Rainbows on your world.

 

** NOTE:  In my third pi poem, I extended my use of pi by two numerals past the first zero.  With 34 lines, the following pi poem has syllables for each line based upon this portion of the mathematical pi:  3.1415926535897932384626433832795028.

 

For a pi poem, only the number of syllables per line is important; the rhyming pattern or lack of a rhyme scheme is the writer’s choice.  Dividing the piem into stanzas is also the decision of the poet (or “piemist”).

 

If you choose to take on the challenge of writing a pi poem by this year’s Pi Day–3/14/19, March 14, 2019–you have eight days to meet your poetic goal.  To further assist you with this goal, after the first presentation of my third pi poem, the piem will be repeated with a numeral accompanying each line:  the numeral at the onset of each line indicates the number of syllables in that poetic line.  Therefore, the second presentation of my pi poem lets you know how I did follow the numerals of the mathematical pi to create my piem.  I find writing a pi poem is like playing a word game, and I hope that you will enjoy crafting a piem also.

 

If you decide to take the “Pi-Poem Challenge” by Pi Day, please comment on my blog or send me an e-mail.

ajm321kh@wi.rr.com

 

The next piem originally was posted on WORDWALK on February 18, 2015.

 

 

Wintering Hands (A Pi Poem)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

My dry hands

need

winter’s lotion

or

moisture of snowflakes

without the numbing chill to the bone.

These hands

that do read braille by touch

reach into the gloves

of winter

to protect the sense

that gives me the blessing to read.

 

When you make snow angels with gloved hands,

when you form snowballs in palms,

when you shovel snow with mittened hands,

remember

to take

special care

of your wintered fingers and thumbs.

 

Throughout winter,

two extra pairs of gloves

are tucked

inside my worn backpack

so that if I

lose a pair

or find I

need to give a pair to someone,

I will be

fully

prepared to share the safe warmth

of thick fleece-lined, snowflake-patterned gloves.

 

Glove compartments soothe

the soul

that worries about winter’s cold.

 

 

** NOTE:  To assist you with writing a pi poem of your own creation, I will repeat the text of “Wintering Hands” below; however, you will find that each line is preceded by a number which indicates the number of syllables of the poetic line.  If you read only the numerals down the left side of the page, you will find that these numerals are the first thirty-four numbers of the mathematical pi.  To deal with a zero of pi, you may skip the zero, insert a stanza break at the point of the zero, or craft a line of ten syllables.

 

Wintering Hands (A Guide for a Pi Poem)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

(3)  My dry hands

(1)  need

(4)  winter’s lotion

(1)  or

(5)  moisture of snowflakes

(9)  without the numbing chill to the bone.

(2)  These hands

(6)  that do read braille by touch

(5)  reach into the gloves

(3)  of winter

(5)  to protect the sense

(8)  that gives me the blessing to read.

 

(9)  When you make snow angels with gloved hands,

(7)  when you form snowballs in palm,

(9)  when you shovel snow with mittened hands,

(3)  remember

(2)  to take

(3)  special care

(8)  of your wintered fingers and thumbs.

 

(4)  Throughout winter,

(6)  two extra pairs of gloves

(2)  are tucked

(6)  inside my worn backpack

(4)  so that if I

(3)  lose a pair

(3)  or find I

(8)  need to give a pair to someone,

(3)  I will be

(2)  fully

(7)  prepared to share the safe warmth

(9)  of thick fleece-lined, snowflake-patterned gloves.

 

(5)  Glove compartments soothe

(2)  the soul

(8)  that worries about winter’s cold.

 

** NOTE:  The fourth and final pi poem of this blog post is a new one for this year’s celebration of Pi Day.  I wrote the following nineteen-line piem on February 25 and 26.  After the first presentation of the poem, you will find the guideline for the nineteen-line pi poem to assist you in writing your own piem.

 

 

A Feather for a Nom De Plume

 

a pi poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Nom de plume

scribed

with a feather

to

conceal my own name,

unairbrushed photographic image,

hometown.

 

Beside the glass inkwell,

my heart’s nom de plume

twirls in hand

to reveal my past,

burgeoning rhymed poetic soul–

like a rainbow in an unknown sky.

 

Dear kind and earnest readers,

You think you know me by measured words,

but you know

true me

only by

the fluff of my fuchsia feathers.

 

** NOTE:  Below you will find the piem “A Feather for a Nom de Plume” repeated, but with each line preceded by the number of syllables for the line.  You may use the following guide for a nineteen-line pi poem.  Nevertheless, remember that your piem may be as long as you wish.

 

 

A Feather for a Nom De Plume

 

a pi-poem guide by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

[3]  Nom de plume

[1]  scribed

[4]  with a feather

[1]  to

[5]  conceal my own name,

[9]  unairbrushed photographic image,

[2]  hometown.

 

[6]  Beside the glass inkwell,

[5]  my heart’s nom de plume

[3]  twirls in hand

[5]  to reveal my past,

[8]  burgeoning rhymed poetic soul–

[9]  like a rainbow in an unknown sky.

 

[7]  Dear kind and earnest readers,

[9]  You think you know me by measured words,

[3]  but you know

[2]  true me

[3]  only by

[8]  the fluff of my fuchsia feathers.

 

 

** CLOSING NOTE:  If you are an instructor, a teacher, or someone else who would like to use this blog post for instructional purposes, please use the entire post and include the address of my WORDWALK blog where, since January of 2013, a variety of my other poems and prose pieces continue to appear.

https://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com

 

Enjoy piem writing, and Happy Pi Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

March 6, 2019, Wednesday

 

The Snowflake Gardener’s Zinnia Dreams

 

NOTE:  In Spanish, “Mal de Ojos” literally means “sickness of the eyes.”  The following new poem is a follow-up to my poem “The Snowflake Garden,” which earlier appeared on my WORDWALK blog and then in my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season  (available from Amazon and also as DBC 08305 from Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD).

 

Happily, I dedicate this poem to my writer friend Deon, whose favorite flower is the zinnia.

 

 

The Snowflake Gardener’s Zinnia Dreams

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

So many, many people

ask about my Snowflake Garden.

In this Wisconsin winter of 2019,

my Snowflake Garden is quite prodigious.

However, please do not be jealous.

Working on this Wednesday

in the abundance of my Snowflake Garden,

my frozen dreams drift

to my grandmother’s summer garden,

lined with bricks set at an unusual diagonal

and filled with two varieties

of red, yellow, maroon, and orange

stalwart, precisioned zinnias–

zinnias to the east and the west of the water pump,

to the north of our family bakery,

parallel with the grocery store building of a tall two stories,

flanked by an iron fire escape.

 

Like a photograph

that never escapes my mind,

I see my Italian grandmother,

clad in her typical black and white dress,

bending her back to tend her brightly-colored flowers–

the zinnias nurtured by the Aztecs

since 1520.

 

The “Eye Sore” flower of the Aztecas,

the “Mal de Ojos” of the Spanish–

used for treating eyes–

became a treat for the eyes

as these flower seeds  traveled to Europe in 1753.

 

Thanks to Doctor Johann Gottfried Zinn,

for whom the eye’s Zinn’s membrane is named,

zinnias spread to Germany, Holland, and Italy

in the 19th century.

 

The seeds then traveled back

to North America,

in the early 1900s,

around the time

when Domenica Allice Lanzone

immigrated to America,

to my Indiana.

 

After all of these years,

Do I now know–

thanks to reading the history

of the zinnia–

why my maternal grandmother

cultivated and cared for

her garden of zinnias?

 

As I continue

to tend to my Snowflake Garden,

I wonder,

“Did she ever think of my eyes

as she treated her zinnias

with such loving care?”

 

 

Happy Gardening Dreams!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

February 27, 2019, Wednesday

 

The Winter Tale of a Blessed and Broken Angel

 

The Winter Tale of a Blessed and Broken Angel

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

While many have been making snow angels in Milwaukee’s picturesque winter scenes of the past five weeks, thinking of Christmas and angels seems to have stalled midst this span of hard Wisconsin winter.  Three of the Christmas gifts which I received during the holiday season of 2018 certainly had an angel theme:  towels with an angel motif, a “Willow Tree” (twelve-inch tall) angel which stands guard over my manger set, and a fifteen-inch tall (and somewhat heavy) garden angel.

 

Given to me by a friend, this garden angel–with expansive, thick wings–perched gracefully on the cafe table on my front porch during the earlier winter storms.  After one of the heavier snowfalls, my angel, flanked by a container pot filled with silk red poinsettias and a gold metallic bow, looked as if she were inside a perfect grotto of snow.  After the next snow storm, only her sweet  face peeked through her snowland.  Following yet another winter storm, the cherub–with her little hands on the sides of her face as if she were saying Shirley Temple’s famous line of “Oh, my goodness!”–was completely covered with Mother Nature’s snowflakes.

 

As the snow melted, my garden angel re-appeared.  Then, I decided to move her to the end table next to the cafe table because she seemed safer, more stable, on the flatter surface.  [My front porch is unusually positioned and shaped:  it is on the southeast side of my townhouse.  With the stairs, the expanse forms an “L” shape.  The mentioned tables are at the north, or far end, of the porch–farthest away from the lawn, main sidewalk, and street.]

 

Whenever my Leader Dog Willow and I returned from a wintry walk and ascended the stairs of our front porch, I said, “Find  our angel.”  Willow, my Black Labrador Retriever, guided me to the garden angel.  “Good girl, Willow.”  I gave thanks for our safe return home.  I thoroughly enjoyed having this angel in the midst of my Snowflake Garden and dreamed of her watching over my summer container garden.  However, such was not to be.

 

On one of the extremely rare nights when I went to bed at a “normal” hour (between eleven and 11:30), on a Saturday night (February 9, 2019) when no snow was falling, my angel disappeared.  The next day, Willow and I went for a walk in the freshly falling snow.  Upon our return, on the end table was only the container of my weathered lavender plant.  I checked around the table:  no, the angel had not fallen.  After I went inside with Willow and took care of her, I returned outside with my white cane and checked out the entire front porch, the stairs, the sidewalk to the main sidewalk, the snowbank under my front window.  No angel to be found!  I comforted myself with the thought that if a homeless person had taken the angel, I hoped that my garden angel would bring as much joy to the homeless person as the angel had brought to me.  Nevertheless, I really had no idea what happened to my angel.

 

Next, I called the office of my apartment complex and told this angel tale to the assistant manager, Chris (the person who found the photograph for the cover of my holiday book).  Chris said that he would come and look for the angel a little later.

 

Wanting to walk in the pristine snow again, Willow and I left for our second walk on that Sunday.  As we were nearing home, Chris called out to us, “Alice, I found some pieces of your angel.”  We walked toward each other and met in front of my residence.  On the sidewalk, west of my townhouse, Chris had found some of the pieces of the angel.  “I have the wing.  Do you want it?”  I took the broken wing and thanked him for coming.  Then, Chris noticed that atop the snowbank which was in front of the parked vehicles were several pieces of the broken angel.  Chris explained that there were too many pieces to put the angel back together; also, he determined that not all of the pieces were in the immediate area.  After talking with Chris a little more, I thanked him again and told Willow, “Find our porch.”  With Willow’s harness in one hand and the angel’s wing in my other hand, we returned to our front porch–no longer guarded by our “garden-ian angel.”

 

Who would take from my porch and break into numerous pieces such an angel?  Who would then want to display the broken pieces atop a snowbank?  Someone who truly needs a guardian angel.

 

Where does one go to replace a Christmas gift of an angel?  To Amazon, of course.  Fear not, my new “garden-ian angel” should land in time for the blossoming hope of spring.

 

28 days until spring!

Take care!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow (my extraordinary four-pawed angel)

 

February 20, 2019, Wednesday

 

A Valentine for My Hoosier Hometown

 

A Valentine for My Hoosier Hometown

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Several weeks ago, my aunt (who bravely lives on the Frozen Tundra of Minnesota) was going through a drawer of items of our family’s past.  Since Aunt Kathy knows of my keen interest in local history of our hometown area in Indiana, she told me of her “find” and sent me a copy of the following old flyer which I am happy to share with you in this WORDWALK post.  Although I had not remembered reading this flyer previously, later I discovered that my cousin Carole also has one of the 1913 flyers.  While I refer to the piece as a “flyer,” the advertisement may have also appeared in one or more of the area newspapers prior to June 29, 1913.

 

Regular readers of WORDWALK and of my holiday book know that I often mention my hometown as Blanford–the name it is more often called because the post office is in the area of our community which was named Blanford.  All of us who received mail at the post office had a Blanford address.  Nevertheless, the earlier settlement was Jacksonville; and the school which I attended from first through fifth grades was Jacksonville Grade School.  Thus, although approximately half of the students were from Blanford and half were from Jacksonville, I recall many times when we were called the “Jacksonville kids.”  During my years in Vermillion County, the two sides of town blended together and seemed as one–even though one continues to hear the use of both town names.

 

To give a little perspective to the date of this flyer, I will add that in the nearby rural town of Klondyke, my father was born less than two weeks after the dates on this flyer.

The next year, 1914, brought three important happenings:  Jacksonville Grade School opened its doors to area students, my mother was born, and my maternal grandfather (who, by 1913, had already owned and operated  the family’s grocery store and Italian bakery for approximately five years in Jacksonville) had built (initially as rental property) the home where I grew up.  (Before the four-classroom, two-story Jacksonville Grade School–children in the Jacksonville area attended a one-room schoolhouse which was located on the land that was east of our home, near the gob pile of a long-ago coal mine.)

 

Growing up in Blanford/Jacksonville during the 1950s and 1960s, I was blessed with an ideal childhood and am enormously appreciative to all the people and the place that made possible such a pleasant childhood.  My hometown–despite all of its changes through the years–still holds a very special place in my heart:  thus, I, by means of this WORDWALK post, give a Valentine to my hometown and give you a peek at its very early expansion period.  After you read the flyer, you will find my closing remarks about the flyer’s content.

 

* * *

 

Grand Opening Day

Of the New Town of Jacksonville

 

Seven miles west of Clinton, 16 miles north of Terre Haute,

Nine miles east of Paris, Ills.  First Lot Sale

Sunday, June 29, 1913

 

One of the most promising permanent Towns in Western Indiana.

Three Mines opening up and another to go down soon

tapping the Richest coal field in Indiana.

 

Town site just west of old Jacksonville

on the Main Line of the Chicago, Terre Haute & Southeastern R. R.

1 Depot site already established, building to begin soon.

5 acres platted By Chicago capitalists for business blocks.

Lumber yard already being established and Bank Site Selected.

Three mines already opened and others to follow

will furnish active employment for 1000 to 2000 men for 40 years to come.

Besides miners’ trains will be run to other mines along the South Eastern Railroad.

These facts assure a Permanent Town, and

added to The mines is the Rich Farming Community of Western Indiana and Easter Ills.

 

600 Lots Placed on Sale on the Opening Day.

All should be sold at once, insuring a rapid increase in value.

Easy Terms.  Discount for all Cash.

 

No lots held back.  All plated on the market.

Any one getting a card off the stake, after midnight of June 28,

will be entitled to purchase the lot chosen.

 

Get in on the ground floor.

This is not only the Biggest Boom proposition ever seen in Western Indiana, but is

the Beginning of a Permanent city that’s sure to have a great future.

 

* * *

 

While in the 1950s, my hometown included three grocery stores, two Italian restaurants, two taverns, one gas station, one park with a baseball diamond and foot bridges over a creek, one post office, one grade school, and numerous individual homes for the approximately four hundred residents–to my knowledge, a lumberyard and a bank were never parts of our community.  Of course, more than three mines were in the area.  The most well-known of these coal mines was the Black Diamond Mine, the tipple of which I photographed when I was much younger.  The flyer’s statement concerning mining work for the next forty years was not an exaggeration because the Black Diamond Mine was not closed until 1964.  Then, in the 1980s, another major mining company ran a surface-mining operation on the south edges of our little town.  Nevertheless, our small Hoosier town was much more than its identification with underground and surface coal mining.  This rural hometown was a kind and caring community, the memories of which still touches my heart today.

 

Was the town of Jacksonville really a “promising town”?  For many of us residents, our hometown truly was.

 

I hope your hometown is also Valentine-worthy and that you take precious time to preserve both your family history and hometown history.

 

With best wishes to you and yours for a very Happy Valentine’s Day,

Alice and my little Valentine–Leader Dog Willow

 

February 13, 2019, Wednesday