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Stories, Thoughts, Poems and Essays

Turn The Stone And Look Beneath It

Are you a good witch or a bad witch? In order to be a good witch, one must:

  1. Cultivate a love for the Earth, the Universe and all it’s beings, creatures, lands, oceans, waterbodies, and environment. This love must contain the good, the bad and the ugly.
  2. Be willing to help, in anyway you see fit. This may include caring for other humans and/or beasts, planting a garden, practicing living in balance with the Earth, making eye contact. Putting down the phone is a start. (You know who you are. 😉) If everyone does just a little, that love will radiate, helping to connect us. Caring about something other than ourselves is a big deal.
  3. Strive to be an example of the goodness Mother Earth blesses us with. Not to be perfect, because that is much too hard and a fair waste of time. Just be decent. Say you’re sorry. Be the one to make the peace. Share what you have; your talent, treasure, or affection. Do not emotionally impoverish yourself ever. Open yourself to receive.
  4. Approach each day as an opportunity to do better. I promise, you will feel the Universe smiling. Remember, troubles befall us all. During those times, make #4 a priority.
  5. Keep learning. Be curious. Life on our planet is rich. You can start this at anytime, but sooner is best. You will sense the vibration of this experience and you will be energized.
  6. Respect your physical condition. Be careful to promote balance and not excess. Magic can only be created by beings who are well, able and relatively sane. If you are struck by illness, continue to do all you can. “Thank you” always makes everyone feel special. Even the smallest efforts matter. Don’t forget that you matter, too.
  7. Try to gain an understanding and acceptance of our limited time in this physical realm. Celebrate the potential for our next selves. If you live with this understanding, when death comes for you or your loved ones, you will better be prepared to bring positive energies to this sad time. A life well lived is much more important than death. Do this now.

And that’s about it…

So, be a good witch. I dare you:).

One Tin Solider by Skeeter Davis
(Title credit to One Tin Solider lyric. I sang this in 6th grade chorus at Timonium Elementary School. Forever changed…)

 

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Birthing Art

 

In order to be an artist, one must feel things. Not just certain things. Maybe everything. Maybe stuff you wish you didn’t feel. And from the craft and sorrow and pain, at times joy, the artist creates. Then, the end result is shared. Most artists want to be understood, need to be heard, therefore, sharing the work is a scary and integral part of the process. But you do it. And you brace yourself, hopeful that others feel what you feel. That they are moved. When that happens, it’s extraordinary. When it doesn’t, you scrape together enough confidence to tell yourself it’s ok. Sometimes, you never want to leave the house again. But then, that thing inside you which drives you to create, express, produce, shows up again with a new idea or direction. Or perhaps, a new dedication to that thing you’ve been at all your life. Making you feel and feel and feel…

We as an audience, come to take what we paid for and go. That is our role. But, consider how this may effect the artist. Imagine writing a song at your lowest point, then having to sing it over and over, because that is all we, “the audience” want. Not your new stuff. God forbid you become less fucked up than you were. Or go getting all married and having kids and think you might keep this as your “job”. Then, your “art” is produced for pay and everyone says you sold out. Makes you think you’d been better to die pretty and dramatic at 27. Die young and leave a beautiful corpse. Unless you blow your brains out like Kurt. That wasn’t pretty.

Addiction seems to follow artistic types. We work so hard to express ourselves in the most pure way. It is like always being on your tiptoes, constantly reaching for a bright light to burst forth with ideas and colors and stories. Sometimes things don’t work out that way. Sometimes, you’re so close that if only you could expand your mind further, you would create the perfect (insert your selection). So, you might try different things. Sometimes, you get peace and satisfaction. Sometimes, you don’t and that one is a big, dirty hole to crawl out of. Not getting it perfect. Not feeling the glow.

And so we keep trying. Left with little choice than to continue slogging it out. Failing just when you thought were brilliant, then, succeeding with something you didn’t even think was that good. Pursuing, stopping, starting, striving to find the balance of what your soul demands and what pays the bills. Sometimes, you feel like a cheap hack. Sometimes, you’re just happy someone said, “I like what you do.” Those easy, little words, “I like what you do”, is enough for you to feel the bloom, like the sun on your face and the warm arms of the goddesses and gods surrounding you, embracing, propping you up for another day as an artist.

Photo: Kim Hageman

Wings: Meg Reichenberger-www.sequinedgem.com

 

The Bigot’s Daughter

 

My father was a bigot. My father came home with bruises and black eyes from fist fighting with his African-American co-workers at the Timonium post office. My father used the word “spooks” on a regular basis. My father Told me at age 12, “You might have to work with them, but you cannot be friends with them and you cannot date them”. This was because I said Billy Dee Williams was handsome.

I was not allowed to watch “Roots” like all the other kids and when my teachers discussed it in school, I had no idea what they were talking about. When I tried to invite African-American friends to my 6th grade birthday party, I was sat down on the couch for a talk. My father said, “We do not have spooks in our house. Our neighbors do not want them in our neighborhood. You will stop being hanging around with these girls now.” The truth was, I was selected to sing with these two friends for a trio in my music class. He didn’t know that. I was so scared what would happen if I actually performed on stage with them. I made excuses and quit the trio. I didn’t know what else to do.

I left home at 18. My father didn’t believe in college, and he had left us virtually penniless earlier that year. Once my mother was making enough money to care for herself, I left. I wanted to be among all kinds of people, unashamed of who my friends were. Out of the range of his still watchful eye, or the eyes of a town that adored my father, but sadly didn’t really know his truth. I moved to my beloved Baltimore City and started to learn my own realities about race.

One time, while waitressing at the Museum Cafe, I was sent to pick up glassware with my friend, Tim, who just happened to be black. My boss told us where the store was. Timonium. The fear set in. If my father saw me with Tim, what would he do to him? And me? He would cause a scene of some sort. I couldn’t really back out, so I went, terrified. After the pickup, Tim wanted to grab some lunch. In Timonium. As we walked into Friendly’s Restaurant, the heads turned. In 1984, the heads turned! We were ignored for seating. We stood there, Tim getting madder and more vocal, and again, I was terrified. We eventually left, still hungry.

As I continued into my work life in downtown Baltimore, I was so happy to find myself in places where I hoped race would matter less. I have always been happiest around all kinds of people, enjoying all the differences. I thought just because I was happy this way, everyone else would be, too. I was wrong. I didn’t know that if I got a promotion to a position previously held by an African-American woman that she would resent me because she wanted her spot filled by a woman of color. I didn’t know it would be weird to attend the funeral for the only son of an African-American colleague, shot down getting the laundry for his mom from the dryer at their apartment complex. He had just earned his Eagle Scout honors. I didn’t know it would be weird to attend that funeral, but when I got there, I found out it was. I didn’t know that when I began working for a non-profit who’s mission was to create homeownership opportunities in urban neighborhoods, that I would be unwanted in the effort because I was so white. I just wished the world to be a better place and for the cities that I loved to be better places for the kids growing up there. I was at a conference in Washington DC, where a group of urban issue professionals told me I had no right to my job because I didn’t know what it was like to be raised in the inner city. What could I say? I didn’t. Again, I felt terrified. So when I could, I quit that job just like I quit that trio in my music class.

So, I moved to a white neighborhood. Married a white man. Had a white baby and moved to a predominantly white state, in the predominantly white city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. But, because I wanted to be sure my very white, blonde daughter was as color-blind as possible in a mostly white community, I bought her dolls of every race. Her favorite was a beautiful African-American baby doll, that she carried with her every where. The stares she got in the grocery store made me so angry. One lady said, “I think your child got the wrong doll”. Yes, that happened. I wanted to slap her, but I just said, “This is her favorite”. The lady just grunted and shook her head.

And so it goes. And here we are, in the midst of so much killing. Honestly, this has happened for a very long time, but has in recent years has become news fodder, so now the world can witness what most Americans have known and turned away from. I don’t even know what to say anymore, to anyone. I again feel terrified, but will continue with the only thing I know how to do. Encourage people to get to know those they consider “different” and find how much you have in common. Support candidates who truly believe in equal rights. Be unafraid to be vocal that having a gun is not the way to peace. This is a feeble offering, but it is something. Do something. Do it now.

Thoughts on Denver

Rolling into Downtown Denver, everyone looked better and worse than we thought…

New Arrival

A bit rough

Tucked in, fast clip, blur

Urban mosh

There are issues with a pedestrian mall…

Look Both Ways

Watch out for those bicycles,

skate boys, and the bus.

Not safe today in Denver.

It is weird to shift gears…

Goodbye-Hello

Vacations are wrong

Stop your life, just to return

Hiding in plain sight

Truman

NYC

As he approached my table, I’d look up and my eyes would say, “Well, there you are!” and his face would say, “Can you believe we’ve never met?!” Laughing loud and hugging hard, we’d sit, tucked away at the edge of the Ritz’s Palm Court, digging into everyone’s business as well as our own. We’d both be small and blonde. My voice too big, his-too high. We’d finish each other’s sentences and start new ones at the exact same instant. He’d love my writing, I’d love his and we’d languish all afternoon over a lunch of Screwdrivers and dish.

I have been a Truman fan even before I knew what he wrote. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was one of my favorite movies. Who didn’t love Audrey Hepburn, her cool cigarette holder, LBD (little black dress) and cat? When I was young, I always knew there was a part of the movie just outside my reach and distinctly remember the year I actually “got it”. How sad and fabulous Holly’s life seemed.  Growing up in the 1970s, it still seemed possible to live a hand to mouth existence in New York City. I was pretty sure I’d have my Holly moment eventually.

I saw pictures of Truman at Studio 54 with Liza and Halston. As one of those pitiful, chubby, suburban girls, I devoured Vogue and Glamour every month. At that time, he seemed a strange little man, wearing colored glasses and a fedora hat. Still, I didn’t know of his genius, just his renown. I recall seeing him on talk shows, where he didn’t make much sense at all. Worse yet, I remember going to see “Murder By Death” and thinking that the tiny man in the hat and trench coat was very odd. Still, I had no idea how great he once was.

In the 1990s, I read an article by Dominick Dunne about Truman Capote’s “Black and White Ball”. This event goes down in history as the most important party ever. The article was featured in Vanity Fair and was filled with amazing black and white photographs of the revelers and their gorgeous outfits. Everyone wore a mask. The evening was scandalous because of the pain and suffering caused by the guest list. If you were on it, wonderful, if not, you were mortified and incensed. Truman wielded this much power over the rich and famous of NYC. At the time of the article, I didn’t realize he had died years before as a lonely outcast.

I loved the movie, “Capote”, which rightfully garnered Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar award. As the story unfolds about Truman and his friend, Nell, venturing across Kansas in search of a story about a murder in a farmhouse, I remembered seeing the movie, “In Cold Blood” when I was younger. How funny it was that Robert Blake from “Baretta” had actually been a movie star before his television show. It was then I learned that “Nell” was Harper Lee, writer of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and that Truman was the inspiration for the character of Dill. Of course, I had seen that movie too, my mother being a huge fan of Gregory Peck. The scene with Scout trick or treating in a ham costume had always terrified me. When I finally read the book in high school, it was hard to get the movie out of my head.

Years later, in a favorite bookshop in Door County, I came across a biography about Truman, written by George Plimpton. I knew of Plimpton, but doubt I had read anything he had written. The book was marked down to $9.00. Between the price and the fetching photo of a young Truman on the cover, I was game. He really did look a lot like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. When I started to read it, I couldn’t put it down. The Truman I didn’t know was much more interesting than all the Truman I knew up to that point.

He was an only child, like me. I could relate to many of the problems he suffered at the hands of his parents. Lucky for Truman, he was left to be raised by a loving and colorful household of aunts and uncles in Monroeville, Alabama during the 1920s and 30s. Somehow, Harper Lee was his next door neighbor and they grew up as close friends. The memories of living with a gloriously eccentric family, where he was the center of the universe, produced in Truman a belief that he was a bit untouchable. Those memories were also the fodder for some of his finest writings about his Thanksgiving and Christmas recollections of his Alabama childhood. I read all of these with relish each holiday season along with Dickens and Washington Irving. Truman’s work definitely belongs in the ranks of such greats.

When his mother comes to claim him and heads off to New York, his destiny is changed. Armed with a new husband of some means, his mother has him adopted as a Capote, sends him to a good school where he begins writing for the literary magazine. Upon graduation, he gets a job as a messenger boy at the New Yorker. Very shortly thereafter, he actually gets himself printed in the magazine, and the Truman Capote of fame and fortune begins.  Tiny, with golden blonde hair, a thin, lispy voice and a grand, long scarf that hung down the front of his camel coat, no one knew what to make of him. Armed with all the confidence in the world, Truman starts to become a sensation while barely out of his teens.

When Truman is twenty-three, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” is published. It hits the New York Times best seller list and stays there for nine weeks. The first time I read it, I was impressed by the amount of detail given in a very tight novel. At 231 pages, there is no languishing around page after page of wasted time. I find I can’t write any other way myself, so I have enjoyed all of his writing for this reason.

Sadly, Truman’s fame surpasses his writing. I have read all the major biographies written about him and own a copy of “The Party of the Century”, which tells the tale of the black and white ball. Intentionally, I put that entire experience aside and began reading his writing exclusively. While you cannot completely remove the work from his life, it is important to try. The stories he created are raw, while beautiful; strange urban realities veiled in some fantastic vision. The characters are bold, sometimes mysterious, but always colorful. Among his essays, one finds wonderful travel writing and sketches of famous people written with the glee of a fan. Again, it is hard not to frame it all with the high wire act he lived in New York and the rest of the world, but you must marvel at how inspired he was.

I know if we met, in the Palm Court at the Ritz in the 1950s, I’d be sure to be added as a “swan”. This is what he called his dear female friends, hand-picked for their style, influence or wealth. In the end, they ruined him when he forgot they were human and publicly shamed them in excerpts from “Answered Prayers”, published in Esquire. I suppose I’d need to be rid of him also. I doubt my husband would tolerate his shenanigans for too long. But for a time, I imagine we’d shop, dine, attend theatre, gossip, travel and write together, heads close, whispering and trading nasty comments. We’d be divine, until we had to return to earth as all creatures of humanity must eventually do.

My Name Is Jimmy

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That terrible floral dress. The one she always wore when company came. As he peered up between the boards, he could see the edge of that dress. Terrible, because the minute that dress came out, he knew he would be banished to the dark, dank space beneath the floor.

Ever since he was a child, she would hold his face in her hands and say, “You are my best-kept secret”. She always looked a little guilty when she said it, although she tried to make it sound like an honor. Out in their isolated farmhouse, he’d been birthed alone, raised alone and schooled alone. For almost 18 years, his mother was the only person the boy ever saw, ever spoke to. He was her glory and her shame, conceived on a night after her father had finally died, when a man was the last and only thing she needed. The life she had been waiting to live was short. The boy was her awful truth. She hid him away in the house she’d always lived in, full of peeling paint and rusty water. On those occasions when someone from the church decided to be neighborly, she donned the floral dress and sentenced him to the crawlspace. From there he watched and waited.

Recently, he’d been wondering about all these things. He wasn’t terribly smart or worldly, but he did sense there had to be something more somewhere.  They had a few books, but no television. She taught him basic sums and reading just to keep them both from being bored. He thought maybe he’d just refuse the next time she told him to get below. Or, maybe he’d just come on up and introduce himself. He knew his own name, didn’t he? He’d just say, “Hello, my name is Jimmy”. Now what could be so wrong about that? The last time he tried to discuss this with her she slapped his face and said, “Put that right out of your head! If anyone knew, they’d come take you away. You don’t want that, do you?” He thought that maybe he’d like that very thing. The dream of leaving had been enough to fill his imagination for years.

Yesterday, someone had called. After hanging up the phone, she told Jimmy that company would be coming the next day. Right away, he started to review his plan. Over the years, he’d found a dime here and a penny there. He kept them in an old cloth bag. Once when she forced him into the crawlspace, he put the bag in his pocket and left it way in the back. It scared him half to death to wiggle back there, but this was his “best-kept” secret and knowing about it made him brave. He had collected quite a bit of money and that made him happy. Whenever he found a coin or two, he put them under a stack of old Reader’s Digest that lay in his bottom drawer. Since she put his clean clothes away in the drawers above, this felt safe.  Then, he added the coins to the cloth bag when a visitor showed up. One time, when a lady from town came and took his mother to church, he added a brown faded jacket that belonged to his dead grandfather and an old crow bar he found in the back of a kitchen cabinet. He wasn’t sure about the crow bar, but it seemed like something he might need. If nothing else, he enjoyed having it along with the money and the jacket. The following day, when she said, “You need to get below”, he was glad he had them all.

She said to hurry and as always, he did as he was told. Jimmy slid down to the dirt floor, hardly thinking about the bugs and mice that might be there. He worried about them a little less today than usual. Considering his plan, he started to think about the look on his mother’s face when that piece of floor opened.  He liked the pictures in his head when he thought of the faces of the church folks when he said, “Hello, my name is Jimmy.” Peeking through the cracks, he could see the edge of the terrible floral dress as she brought them in, saying, “Oh, yes, it is a hot one. Come on in for some cold tea.” It was then that he gripped the jacket and the money and the crow bar and started to push the boards up.

 

The Yellow Boots

I am fortunate my mother spent a lot of time documenting my outfits, while at the same time, caring very little about what she herself was wearing. Nonetheless, I have a hefty photo album filled with little Kimmy festooned in the height of fashion from 1964 to about 1976. These were times of incredible change and it is amazing to see my mother go from Kennedy era hats (even though Jackie didn’t wear them) to pure polyester leisure suits.

My yellow boots were the first time I remember being totally obsessed with a pair of shoes. As some of you know, this is a problem that has become part of my charm. I spotted these boot in Hutzlers, which was our favorite department store in Towson, Maryland. I thought they were go-go boots like the girls wore on Laugh-In. When the sales lady brought out the box, they were French! Even as a 6 year old girl, I knew that French yellow boots mattered! I had to have them. My mother said we’d think about it and I cried like I’d lost my best friend, all the way home in our white station wagon.

Christmas morning 1970, I found them under the tree. I remember thinking I was about the grooviest girl on the planet in those darn yellow boots. Truth be told, we can all see they look like rain boots, but I had no concept of this fact. The only thing that mattered was they were French and they were mine.

A Taught Image of God

BeFunky_WinterTree2

My grandmother taught me about Jesus. Always Jesus. When she visited us, I would go upstairs to her room before bedtime.  There was a picture of Jesus in the garden with the children. She would talk about Him just like he was a real person. She would tell bible stories from memory and they seemed like actual accounts. Like she had been there. She would hold my hands and we would say the Lord’s Prayer together. Then, she’d kiss me goodnight smelling of powder and love.

I also learned of Jesus before going to a physical church. I didn’t attend a service until kindergarten, but I already knew most of the highlights from books my mother bought me at the Baptist book store. When I was young, no one really seemed to care much about denominations among Christians. We went to the Baptist book store even though we weren’t Baptist. That’s just where you went for things like bibles and Sunday school supplies. When spending the night at a friend’s, I went to whatever church they went to. Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, I never really knew there was a difference. Kids just went to Sunday school with their friends and it was fine. Church was church. If a family didn’t attend church, that was fine too. I don’t remember anyone caring.

My grandmother had friends from all walks of life and went to church wherever she was. Or just read the bible at home and prayed sitting at the kitchen table. I was given the understanding that Jesus was everywhere and with everyone. He certainly was always with her. At our house, my grandmother went to whatever church she felt like walking to. Over the years, all the different parishes knew when she was coming and welcomed her with open arms. She laughingly called herself a church tramp.

She said she liked to visit Jesus in any of his homes, could be a building or a forest. She believed very much in God’s gift of nature and took me on long, detailed walks of my neighborhood. To my amazement, she knew where every wild blackberry bush was. We always visited “the queen” in the center of all the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers near my dentist’s office. I learned the bounty of honeysuckle, milkweed pods and the root beer flavor of a sassafras stem. Considering that my grandmother only visited us for two weeks a year, it was magical to me how much she knew about where I lived.

My grandmother’s Jesus was eternal and anywhere, in her, in me, in the world. We visited with Him all the time. Grandma talked out loud to Him, just like any other conversation. She heard back from Him, too. She read inspiring words daily and put those words into action. She worked among the poor back home in California. She loved riding the bus, so she could talk to other humans. Her faith was easy. Her Jesus was easy, too. He just was…and always shall be.

 

Knowing

2012-03-05 06.49.44

I didn’t know
that with age
I would become
the embodiment of eminence
the zenith of glory
full of ardor and vigor

I didn’t know
that with time
I would metamorphose into
a deluge of intensity
the apex of vitality
with extravagance and flourish

I now know
my authentic self
has matured to accept
that my torso is better than a carcass
that I am not ornament, folly or frill
kudos to my mettle and resolve

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