In praise of Puotinen Women in this month of many Birthdays

Today, March 5th, 2012, would have been my Mom’s 70th birthday. She died on September 30th, 2009. I suppose that every year since her death, it gets a little easier to bear her birthday. That first year, I just wanted to forget it so I could deny the devastating loss. But this year, I want to remember and honor her life and the joy she brought to me and so many others. I also want to revisit some of my past memories of her, like my past reflection on her the day of her death, In memory of Judith (1942-2009), or my memories of Living (and not just grieving) beside her. I also want to watch the film about her (and some other Puotinen women) that STA and I made a few years back; I dedicated it to her:

The Farm Part II: The Puotinen Women from room34 on Vimeo.

And adding to the memories that I’ve already posted online, I want to offer up some other materials for the Judith Puotinen archive: A poem about dragonflies, written in April, 1987, shortly after her 45th birthday, and some images from her dragonfly pin collection.

Must you spoil my hours on the beach?

Just as I get my blanket straight
Wiggle my body into the accommodating sand
Comes movement like a spit-fire bomber
Zooming toward my head with the sound of a buzz saw
Swooping directly like a kamikaze pilot
And then instantly changing its course
Turning at a 90 degree angle toward the water.

Making me wonder about you dragonfly.

Sapphire blue wings of gossamer
Sprinkled with bits of glittering silver
Catching the sun like crystal mirrors
Ringing your wings like horned rimmed glasses
Around the delicate eyes of a sunbather.
Black, wormlike body directing your movements
Deliberately investigating creatures in your territory.

Pondering why your image sticks in my mind so long.

Crystalizing years after our close encounters
The intricacies of your insect nature
Finding that you are incredibly pleasing.
Recalling out of all of images of childhood
That of my beach time and your constant interruptions
Into my safe and secure world of dreams
Allowing me now the fun of investigation into your domain.

Realizing that it is indeed wonderful to be my age…

Now I actually thrill at learning about your unique jaw
And the playful nature of your buzzing and stunt pilot
Tricks which are really means of survival and territorial claims.
Not feeling ashamed but amazed by your water life
And stages of development and not least of all your
Incredible desire and instinct to eat the bane of
Minnesotan’s north wood’s life–the Mosquito!

Feeling gratitude for dragonfly antics on the beach.
Judy Puotinen
April, 1987

Wow, I love this poem and how it illustrates some of the qualities that I loved and valued most about my mom: wonder, curiosity, playfulness! How I deeply and desperately miss sitting beside her, maybe on the beach in the Keweenaw Peninsula, sharing in those qualities! This poem is especially valuable to me because it also speaks to my mom’s love of dragonflies. When my sisters and I were dividing up her stuff, I decided to take her dragonfly pin collection. I wasn’t quite sure why I picked it, but after discovering her poem in a random notebook, I know why. This poem and these pins enable me to bear witness (at least in memories) to my mom and her vibrant, joyful, creative/imaginative, always-questioning-and-wondering life. It’s nice to feel joy on her birthday, not just grief.

Part of my mom’s collection

Two other important Puotinen women, both of whom share my mom’s wonderful qualities of joy, imagination and curiosity, celebrate birthdays this month. One turns the same age my mom was when she wrote her dragonfly poem, the other 6. In thinking about my mom this March, I want to also think about and celebrate these other Puotinen women (and even other Puotinen women who weren’t born in March) who carry on her legacy and embody so many of the qualities that I valued most in her.

Troubling (with) Writing Prompt #472

Over on my staying in trouble tumblr, I’m following writing prompts. They frequently post images, quick stories or questions in order to get students (in middle school, I think?) to think creatively and to write. I was struck by #472, which was just posted (of course, I reblogged it):

My first reaction was: Making and Staying in Trouble! That’s what I’d like in a can! Almost immediately I questioned by own response. Virtues are not something you are just given to consume, like tuna. Or maybe bamboo shoots? Even though the can in the picture looks like tuna, I never want to consume tuna; I really don’t like it. Virtues require deliberate and repeated practices that get built up over time into habits which help shape/produce character. They aren’t things we have, but practices we do.

I do still like this question. It inspires me to want to think and write more about which virtue (actually, I would want to write about virtues) that I think are most important. Learning how to stay in trouble is at the top of the list. I would also include patience/persistence, curiosity, and attentiveness. I’d love to read what others think are important virtues…I might have to ask.

It has also provoked me into thinking critically (and curiously) about different understandings of how virtues are built up. If virtue isn’t something that we are given, where do our understanding of virtue come from? I’m attempting to answer that for myself by collecting my troublemaking role models over at Pinterest. So far, I’ve put a lot of my theoretical/academic models for troublemaking. I’d like to add some earlier influences…like Dr. Seuss and Free to be…you and me.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I thought I would repost two entries that I wrote about Horton Hears a Who a few years ago. Both of these entries offer an appreciation of Dr. Seuss’ original message and a critique of the updated movie, released in 2008. I’m not sure if I will write about the latest distortion of his critical message that comes out today; my love of the original groovy 70s version and the marketing campaign for the new one makes it difficult to imagining watching it:

Another Feminist Response to Horton Hears a Who
Horton the caring troublemaker who not only makes trouble, but stays in it

Also, I wanted to post the REAL The Lorax movie from 1972. It’s a critique of corporations and their environmental abuses + an indictment of “us” as over-consumers of the t(hings we don’t)need.

Of course, I also must include the Dr. Seuss poster that made the rounds a few months ago (I think it first appeared on George Takei’s Facebook page).


Troubling Pinterest?

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to join and experiment with Pinterest which, according to Mashable, is the “hot new social network.” I haven’t had too much time to spend on it, but so far I have mixed feelings. STA and I discuss how we’re–the “we” is much more him than me–“not pinterested” in Episode 3 of our podcast, The Undisciplined RoomWhile it has potential as a space for creative inspiration (I think my mom would have loved it for her art/craft projects), it is also a space for sucking up lots of time and for marketing products and lifestyles. Yikes! Thankfully, I also imagine it as a space where I might make some trouble and create some boards that inspire my creative and critical writing projects and troublemaking experiments. The first board that I’m in the process of creating is: Troublemaking Role Models.

Another one of my troublemaking role models: Margaret Cho

Just read Margaret Cho’s amazing post, Being Mad on Twitter. I wish I had time to detail all the ways I really appreciate this post and Cho as a troublemaker. Since I don’t, I want to make sure and archive it for later. For now, I just want to highlight a few themes for revisiting–all of which speak to my own vision of virtuous troublemaking and all of which Margaret Cho practices in her twitter exchange + blog post:

  • valuing and refusing to suppress/hide/ignore rage and anger
  • using twitter for authentic expressions (of rage, anger, love, strength, vulnerability) and truth-telling
  • talking back and refusing to accept
  • giving (self) care and expressing (self) love
  • showing/modeling for others how to be brave, honest, refuse to accept hate, and kick ass!

I love this tweet: