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Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Madigan Erlandson’

Health: issue summary

April 29, 2010 Comments off

by Susan Elbe and Kelly Madigan Erlandson

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to edit an issue of qarrtsiluni. It was both challenging, in terms of volume and time, and highly rewarding.

Our hope was to focus on and highlight health — both the radiant, full-bodied, energetic variety, and the various ways health is impaired or depleted. We struggled to balance the issue, hoping to equally include pieces that celebrate the joy we experience in health and that explore the grief in our disease and dying. We were continually surprised at how difficult this was, as the majority of submissions we received focused on ill health.

We wondered why the focus seemed more on our dis-ease than on our vibrancy. Is it that we use writing to, as Gregory Orr says, “(sing) the pain back into the wound?”

Gregg Levoy, in his book Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, says that writing is really only the mode of transport. “The true calling is whatever we hope to draw to us through our art, what we want it to bring to us.” Perhaps all this writing about our dis-ease is meant to bring wholeness to us.

On the other hand, the visual art we received was much more focused on the positive aspects of health. There were many photographs, paintings, and mixed-media pieces full of harmony and joy.

We have no answers, only more questions. Art in all its forms holds much mystery.

We thank all of you who submitted. It was an honor and a pleasure to be allowed into your aching hearts, your quirky minds, and your love of life and this Earth.


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For bios of Susan and Kelly, see the Call for Submissions post.

Memory as Lighthouse, Memory as Bomb

October 29, 2008 5 comments

They told me I would not remember
but the rootholds of the mind are rigorous.

Amnesia is not a choice, not a warranty of anesthetic,
not the brain’s sophisticated segregation

of experience deemed injurious to function.
Rather it is the story of the vessel arriving in the bay

that we cannot see because we do not know ship
but do know disturbance on the surface

and if we peer and puzzle at the water’s strange course
the craft comes into view, a miraculous assembling.

Once comprehension rives them, we cannot see
the woman’s face and the image of the vase as one.

The memory center may be flooded with the medicated
smoke that expects to still the hive, to lure

the soldiers into dereliction of duty but even so
the trip-trap footsteps of the hunched figure

ascending the 210 stairs of the lighthouse
continue their rhythm. I cannot forget

the truth revealing itself, a disturbance of flow
and then stunning materialization,

a brilliance like bombs exploding,
a white light that sears the skull and throbs

in the chemical reuptake between cells,
replicating history, insisting on full recollection.

by Kelly Madigan Erlandson

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Deep Subject

June 24, 2008 2 comments

The boy has learned to fish without catching, an evolution from catch and release. The technique involves reeling the lure back to himself furiously after the cast, faster than the fish can swim. He explains that this way he can see them jump and chase, but doesn’t have to face the daunting task of releasing them from the barbed hook.

While he casts and reels, I tell my brother-in-law about my extra well. I am still new to this property. I know where my new well is, out behind the house, with its clean white stem protruding from the ground. But there is another well, west of the garage, covered with planks. A month ago a friend and I pried a board up and with the aid of a flashlight peered into the circular brick structure reaching down into the dark. The flashlight beam reflected back up to us from the water’s surface.

My brother-in-law was raised here, born into a family that has owned the land nearby for over a century. He tells me this was the old well, probably hand dug during the early part of the twentieth century and abandoned when it ran dry or went bad. It poses a problem. Under normal circumstances, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides would be filtered by twenty to fifty to seventy feet of soil before joining forces with the groundwater, but an open chute offers a straight shot. Old wells should be capped.

Peering down from the top, we can’t see how deep this tunnel reaches. The water’s surface, maybe fifteen feet below us, reflects the surrounding brick walls. At his suggestion we get a chain from an old porch swing, and tie it to a brick. I hold the light while he lowers the brick, hand over hand, down the well shaft and into the water. He reaches the end of the chain and the brick has not reached the bottom. We add on a rope, and then a second rope, before it does.

His son comes up from the pond as we put the board back in place. We know what it would mean to fall into a well in this remote valley, where one cannot be seen from the road, a road on which few vehicles travel anyway. Even if you could swim, there would be no place to swim to, with the surface of the water several body lengths below the rim. We warn the boy away from the danger.

My husband says his father told him men in the bottom of wells could see stars in the daytime. My brother-in-law has heard this, too, that the walls of the well block out sunlight sufficiently to make stars visible. It’s a story with a long reach, recorded by Aristotle.

Later, I tell him and his son a poem called “In the Well,” about a boy being lowered down to the water to retrieve a dead dog. It’s dark now, and the whip-poor-wills are calling. The boy and his dad head back over the hill for home. My nephew’s desire is to fish but do no harm, and I am not sure I can bring myself to seal this circle of stone. Maybe after it has been drained, when I can climb down into it, I’ll see something from the bottom that wasn’t visible in the brightness of daylight.

by Kelly Madigan Erlandson

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