Trying Out Sonnets – with Photos Added, Too

The creative minds over at T.S. Poetry have linked up with similar thinkers at The High Calling this month, encouraging us to try our hand at reflecting on our history through poetry and photo. The photos are beyond me for this assignment – not enough time to be as reflective as I’d like – and I’m in the midst of a technical slap-down, learning to edit in Picasa without Picnik and do batches of watermarked pictures. Not up to speed yet, but I have hope! 

(12 hours later – I am posting pictures I unsuccessfully attempted to add to the High Calling group…because a search did not turn up such a group! So here they are, with my comments – after the sonnet. Transferring the comments did not yield great formatting, so I apologize for the broken sentences here and there.)

First off, here is a very strange (and my first ever) attempt at writing my story, my back-story actually, in sonnet form:

From There to Here

Over the sea, across the hills, they came with babies in hand.
And not only those, but ‘children’ unseen, baggage from heaven and hell.
Depressive binges, silence and outrage, fears too immense to command,
all of it clinging, like barnacled boat hulls, as small Craftsman houses they filled.
Each side of the tree that tracks my beginnings tells tales remarkably true;
strong women working, troubled men shirking; collars of both white and blue.

They all found their way to that downtown brick building, Trinity Methodist Church.
Music and laughter brought happ’ly e’er after as my parents started anew.
The baggage came with them, minus some heft, as together they started to lurch

toward life and its beauty, life and its sorrow, life with its hard lessons, too.
Creating a family, immersed in the 50’s, with women subservient at home,
though better than childhood, proved binding and blinding, creating a box all its own.

Over 40 years later, I chose to jump sideways, leaving box and the 50’s behind.
Perhaps you can see now, why most of my tree-mates think surely I’ve lost my mind.
And here are the photos and comments: 
Who made up your DNA?
My father was born in the deep south but grew up in Los Angeles. This blue book was written in by his mother from 1917 until about 1927. I don’t remember ever seeing this book when I was growing up. My mother surprised me by giving it to me a few months ago and I have loved seeing my daddy as a baby and young boy. Such stark, sepia-tinted photos throughout, such strange insights into my grandmother’s psyche and background. The nurse who helped deliver my dad is noted in this book as ‘colored.’ What a shock that was to read!
The shoes are mine, again given to me fairly recently. They are well-worn, as I had a severely extended arch on one foot, requiring a ‘lift’ in one shoe and constant wearing. I wore
corrective shoes for about eight years – and I HATED THEM.
Where do I come from? 

A father who lived and loved music (no photos, sadly) and a mother who knew how to welcome others. These luncheon trays littered my early life – church friends, neighborhood
friends, dad’s work colleagues – everyone was welcomed into our small home in North Hollywood, and a few years later, a larger one in Glendale. Each home was lovingly decorated ‘on the cheap’ – that’s what happens on a single income teacher’s paycheck.

What object is precious to your past? 

I chose two of them, both representing my mother’s grace, beauty and hospitality. The aqua figurine sat in the middle of a low bowl, used to float camellias from a wide array of bushes
in our yard. The tea cup is the first of my mother’s collection, given to her as a wedding gift, and reminiscent on so many levels of our family history. My mom’s dad came from England, her mom from Canada, and English or Canadian china teacups are a huge page in my story. I now have pieces of both my grandmother’s and my mother’s collections. I don’t use them as often as I once did, although when I dig out those luncheon trays (previous photo), I often choose to use china cups instead of the glass ones. I love the all-over calico pattern of this cup and it is now so delicate that I only use it decoratively and not for tea.  

What memory resonates most deeply?

This is a piece of the slate roof on the Presbyterian church in which I was confirmed and married. The old gothic structure was torn down following the massive Northridge earthquake in 1971 and the slates were sold to help raise funds for a new building. This was the church of my adolescence and beyond (ages 12-30), the place where my leadership gifts were called out and named, where my faith became anchored in sound thinking, good questions and NO easy answers.

What moment in history marks your childhood? 

This plate is the one thing I asked my mother to leave me when she dies. She decided to give it to me before that happens and it currently hangs in my entry hall. This church is where I
met Jesus, where I walked forward every month to receive communion between the ages of 7 and 12, where my father played magnificent solos and accompanied the choirs and the
congregation many Sundays. This brownstone building was known to me, deep in my marrow – all the hiding places, the strange rooms, the colored glass windows – each corner precious and safe and inviting. It closed the year after we moved away and began attending Glendale Pres – one of the saddest days of my young life. The heritage I carry from that place is literal – my parents met and married there, I was baptized there. Sad to think it is now a used car lot in downtown LA.

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  1. That was good. Way to bring out the humor. Don’t think I will even try. lol

  2. I love it! Delightful. My favorite: “most of my tree-mates think surely I’ve lost my mind.”

    Keep writing!


  3. You are too fun. My family tree is full of nuts, so you’d fit in quite well with us if your “treemates” banish you. 🙂

  4. I once wrote this silly little poem (and now you’ll know why I don’t attempt sonnets) … but after I wrote that comment, I remembered this old poem I wrote for a women’s Bible study:

    When they look upon my family tree
    One hundred years from now.

    May they find I was a NUT upon
    My family’s leafy bough.

    And from that nut may seedlings grow
    to something greater still.

    Into a tree that won’t forget
    That tree on Calvary’s Hill.

    When they look upon my family tree
    One hundred years from now

    May they find I was a NUT upon
    My family’s leafy bough.

    And when they say I was a nut
    Let it not be said in vain.

    For I was NUTS for Jesus
    And was planted in His Name.


  5. This is great, Diana. I love it. And I don’t think you’ve lost your mind at all!

    This lurching toward life and beauty and sorrow. Powerful.

  6. Jennifer, you are a nut! I want to go nutty with you.

  7. Such kind words from all of you! Thanks so much. And Jennifer, I LOVE your nutty poem. So if needed, I just might take you up on your invitation. Although, truth be told, my extended family loves me a lot – they just don’t really ‘get’ me. Such is life. Hey, I’m not even sure I get me. :>)

  8. What a great sonnet! You’ve captured the zeitgeist of a whole generation, it seems. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at a sonnet before August leaves us. You’ve inspired me.

  9. What a wonderful story of courage, sorrow and laughter.

    The last two lines are fun and even brought you an invitation to join Jennifer’s family!