January 19: Shouting into the wind

It occurs to me that I could be shouting into the wind with this journal. But, the more I think about it the more convinced I am that it doesn’t matter even if I am. Even though writing is for readers if the work doesn’t serve the needs of the writer, in some way, I cannot imagine it being worthwhile. Writers, at least this writer, are disinclined to think of the wants of others before they think of their own needs.

I’m kidding, but just barely.

Today I was thinking about my maternal grandmother, Mary, not my sister, Mary. She was an unusual woman. I think of her as hard rather than unloving. Perhaps she was an example of one who showed her love by action and not so much by word. When she spoke to me, or any of her grandchildren, she sounded as if she was talking to a gas station attendant; matter of fact trending toward blunt.

Still, I never heard of her being mean spirited to anyone and that surely counts for a lot.

Her actions, especially those that came before I was born, showed spirit and love. During the depression she was known to invite men who had found their way to the family’s door and knocked upon it, looking for food, into her kitchen to share their modest dinner. I can imagine my grandmother doing this in the very same matter-of-fact way she might have spoken to a gas station attendant or decades later, a grandchild. One time she even gave a pair of her husband’s work boots away to a man whose shoes had holes so large that the snow of the Iowa winter found its way easily to the man’s bare feet. I heard about this from my grandfather who recalled the time my grandmother gave away the very boots on his feet.

My grandmother corrected him immediately, telling everyone in the room not to believe my grandfather. He had another pair of work boots and he knew it, my grandmother said. He was lucky to have two pair of boots, neither of which had holes in their soles. When she spoke, it sounded like she was taking to a gas station attendant.

Even so, I wouldn’t say that I knew my grandmother Mary all that well, but then again maybe I did. Maybe the way she treated people and the way she spoke to them contained a lesson that’s easy to miss. Actions are hard while words can be easy. I cannot imagine knocking on a door, looking for food. Perhaps that is my own failing, my inability to conceive a world where I am the one in need. My grandmother knew she could have easily been the one knocking on the door, desperate to feed her children. And she knew that even though her own family barely had enough to eat, and lacked enough coal to stave off the cold, that others had even less.

She gave what she could, as we all should.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Headlights from Charlie Cunningham’s Flesh & Bone Studio Session (Live) from 2019. Covid caused us to miss a chance to see Cunningham near the end of last year at the Fonda in Hollywood but I hope we’ll get another chance to see and hear him during better times.

His music is elemental, elegant, deceptively simple, beautiful and more than a little haunting.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Shouting into the wind’s not so bad after all.

January 19: Shouting into the wind

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