‘Da Trip

I’m sitting here, researching Florida corona virus and trying to find out if there’s a check point on I 75 going into Florida. My son and I are driving to Florida next week to visit second son and daughter-in-law. And why, you may ask, am I driving into Florida with cases surging there? Because my daughter-in-law asked me to come. As did second son. So I’m going, armed with hand sanitizers and masks.

I will also, no doubt, be going to visit my previous husband and his wife, armed with hand sanitizers and mask. Why am I doing that – the visiting part, not the mask/hand sanitizers part? Because I am a good mother who endeavors to keep her family happy. And ex and I have been divorced for longer than we were married, and because it’s a family tradition of sorts. Ex is also nearing 80 and had open-heart surgery a year ago, and, well, maybe this is the last time I’ll get to say hello.

Older son is mostly driving. I’ll take over from time to time, but we’re driving straight through, unless of course, Florida’s borders are again having checkpoints for people entering Florida. But mostly for those coming down from higher on the East Coast, New York, etc. which isn’t us. So maybe we won’t get caught in the backup.

My current husband can’t go as he’s still teaching summer school, but he has, vigorously, reminded me to always wear a mask, especially at ex’s house, and to keep my distance. He doesn’t even let me go grocery shopping with him, and here I am, venturing down to Florida. My most important protection for this journey is my oldest son who is precise and careful and will not let me go astray as much as I’m inclined to do. Actually, second son is careful of me, too, but he hasn’t had as much experience in ordering me about as oldest son.

And all I really want to do is sit here at my computer and work on the Mexico book which is exhaustive with details stored in a variety of journals going back to 1984 when I first went down there to make a movie. And stayed. For three years.

But what else am I going to do? First book is at the publishers. As usual, I’m going backwards. But first book was easier as it detailed just one year. The Mexico book covers at least three or four. I’ve sort of lost count and have tried at various times to write it to no avail. Maybe because there’s so much. Although writing the second-book-time-wise-first taught me a lot about writing, so maybe it was a good idea. Who knows. This writing thing is such a crazy process. I’m planning on taking a couple of the Mexico journals with me to read on the trip and a supply of post-it tabs to mark relevant passages. I suppose that’s useful.

I have, along with journals, several pieces of various things I brought back with me from Mexico and which now sit in three shelves on a corner bookcase in my writing room. I suspect this room was designed as the children’s playroom and perhaps bedroom. The door is a double door, I expect so a mother could open the top section and see what enclosed kids are up to. That door is now securely attached to the bottom door by second son, whom I’m going to visit, by two metal bars so now one only opens one door instead of each section separately which each have a know. He lived here a few years ago and got tired of opening each section. Ergo, bolted them to one.

The corner shelves hold Mexican treasures: a glass box with a door that opens to a glass tube sitting on a cork. Inside the glass tube is a very strange horned creature with a monkey sitting on its head. The glass tube is about two inches tall so you can imagine how small the characters are inside.

Another treasure is an ofrenda table, about 3 inches long and an inch wide and with tiny cups and loaves of bread and and what look like sweet bread and a skull. All in three inches. An ofrenda table (full sized) is set up in homes on October 31st for three days to celebrate the Days of the Dead and the deceased family members. Oh, my. Here I go with another story: when I lived in Mexico, I made friends with an American woman who was on sabbatical from her university job and came to Mexico to do research. She had a car and we drove out to a small village outside Mexico City and walked the street of food vendors and masks and noise etc etc, until we came to the cemetery beside a small stone church. It was silent. I can still see the tall candles at corners of graves and on one grave near the gate, an old woman in black sitting on the raised stone edge with a sleeping child across her lap.

Yeah. I need to write the Mexico book. It haunts me.

I Am Remembering

While I have begun the next book – one about my life in Mexico–while waiting for the first one to be published–I am stuck. Not because I don’t know what comes next in the story, but rather because I don’t know what comes next after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. We have had protests in Kansas City as I’m sure most of you have experienced or at least heard about. I am too old to join them. This is theirs; mine were many years ago.

What I’m particularly remembering is a protest, turning violent with police charging in, in which I was a participant. I was in my late twenties and living in Los Angeles, working at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as a waiter, and searching for contacts in the film world. I was also lovely, thin, and willowy, but then, most are in their twenties. And I had a mane of blond hair. And blue eyes. I still have blue eyes but the blond hair and willowy figure have gone the way of aging.

So anyway, this was in the middle of the Johnson years when people were protesting the war in Vietnam. There were huge protests in those years, too, and many turned violent. The President was coming to Los Angeles for some dinner at a swanky hotel (not the Roosevelt) and a huge crowd of people came out to protest. I was among them. As the helicopters whirred overhead bringing in the President and others, the protest grew really loud and there was a surge forward. With helicopters whirring overhead and the crowd disoriented in the downdraft, the police moved in.

I began running and dodging sideways through the crowd when I came face to face with a very large policeman holding a billy club aloft and about to swing it. I held up one arm, said, “Please don’t hit me…I’m going.” And he didn’t. I left safely. Many others did not.

My reason for writing this and remembering this in the time of protests over Mr. Floyd’s death is because, while at the time I didn’t think about it, was, rather, simply grateful, now I wonder if the policeman lower his billy club because I said please or because I was a pretty white woman.

I suspect the latter.

I come from a family of six white farm kids from Kansas. But our children have reached into the world: one married a Korean, one a Mexican, one an African American, one a Filipino, and one a Native American. My great-grandson is Filipino/Korean/Caucasian. When my granddaughter said, “I see the Korean part and the Filipino part but I don’t see the Caucasian part,” I said, “Just wait, The white part is the crazy part.” And I hope he grows up as free and crazy as his great-grandma did. I expect he will.

A Poem Published

Here’s a pretty cool email that landed in my inbox today:

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Plum Tree Tavern.  As is traditional at the joint, I have selected my favorite pieces posted over the past year in a special volume.  Entitled simply,  Selections Plum Tree Tavern Volume Five, the poems and photographs are collected at  this location  A link to the work can also be found under the “Plum Blossoms” section in the right hand column of the Plum Tree Tavern home site.

One of my poems was selected. And that’s pretty cool. “Land Inventory” a poem about the family farm. Click on the link and scroll through the journal. There are some really good pieces and nice visuals. If you click the above link and scroll down to Sunderland, you’ll find ‘Land Inventory’ a poem about the family farm. Or you can just read it below. But take some time to check out the journal, too.

Land Inventory

by Janet Sunderland

The county appraiser sent a questionnaire
and a topography map, wants me to update
our family farm value, asks about changes
to acreage or productive capability of the land.

Ignore the appraiser’s flat gray map, see,
instead, the sapphire sky, white-striped
like zebras in Grandpa’s National Geographic.
Airplanes flying high to Africa or China maybe.

Walk the field of milo – stacked red heads
flaming on emerald stalks. With one swift swing
of the machete, sever a sunflower’s head,
wipe sticky black resin from the blade –

The map won’t show Great Simba, now rotted
to a termite’s meal, won’t capture hazy afternoons
we picked gooseberries, or our clamber up
the peeling bark to ride a gray husk to India.

Legends lie hidden in the appraiser’s map—stories
held by the wind, borne by cottonwood seeds, flung
free, as we were all flung free. Memory our property.
I sign the questionnaire; affirm no changes to the land.

Covid Amid the Planets

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I’ve followed astrology for many many years, at least thirty I guess. When I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, some twenty-plus years ago, I was already watching the skies and watching the impact various conjunctions or placements had on my life and on the climate. My home was a small two room adobe in Seton Village out in the desert southeast a bit from the city. The stone paved patio was larger than the square footage of the house and surrounded by a low adobe wall. One afternoon, driving home from town, I passed a garage sale and stopped to buy a round glass-topped table and chairs and put them on the patio so I could sit and watch the sky.

But my watching sky began much earlier on the farm in Kansas. Summer nights, we’d take bedrolls outside to sleep as it was cooler than sleeping in our upstairs bedrooms. In Kansas, there’s a lot of sky and I learned the constellations and the planets and watched for falling stars streaking through the night.

And so, it’s probably not surprising I also follow astrology. The ancient Babylonians and Syrians did too, as well as many peoples. The Native Americans learned to watch the sky for their weather reports.

Most people can agree to the pull the Moon makes on our planet. When a Full Moon arrives, most are cognizant of more erratic behavior/dreams. When technology goes wonky, people are apt to say, “Is Mercury retrograde?” Most know the words but not the science.  With Copernicus’s Heliocentric Astronomy, published in 1543, the moon ceased to be a planet because its orbit was centered on the Earth, not the Sun. The Moon became Earth’s ‘”satelles,” meaning servant, from which our word satellite derives.  What’s interesting is a recent post from NASA titled, “Is the Moon a Planet, Too?” The article explains how our Moon functions like a planet.

But back to Astrology. Twenty years ago, astrologers began writing of the planetary combinations that would arrive in 2020/2021 and warning of both Earth changes and massive challenges. Well. It’s 2020 and we are in the midst of both.

A recent post by one of the astrologers I follow, Anne Ortlee, wrote: “For years, astrologers have been talking about 2020 and 2021. Now I’m asking clients to think back to November 1982 through spring 1983, late 1990 through early 1991, the year 2000, and December 2007 through January 2008. Now squish all those energies together, and you’ll have some sense of the big, big cycle starting now.”

For me, 1982-83 are the years in New York when I was working as a professional actor. After going to Old Mexico to make a movie, I stayed there for four years before moving to Washington D.C. In 1990 – 1991, I was in D.C. but getting ready to move to Hawaii; after Hawaii, I moved to Santa Fe where I met my husband, Cliff, in about 1994 and was ordained a priest. In 2000, I moved back to Kansas, and late 2007 into 2008, I wrote my first book and was querying agents (unsuccessfully, I might add…that book was a warm up, I expect.)

What that all comes down to for me is the years trying to find a profession that used my talents, ended up with me becoming a priest, an energy healer, and a writer – which pretty much uses all the skills I began working on years ago, (if you don’t think being a Priest isn’t being an “actor” just watch one sometime), and I’m about to have a memoir published.

You might want to check those dates yourself and see what you learn.

Currently, there are many outer planet combinations, For example, Sun and Moon connecting to Chiron, the Wounded Healer while Jupiter (excess) and Pluto (death and transformation) are conjunct, and with Mars (the warrior and fire…think fever) conjunct Saturn (structure) while Mercury (fast moving thinking) conjuncts Neptune (water and fog, truth vs lies).

That’s a lot to consider but perhaps you can see some correlations.

There’s some fascinating information about Babylonian astrologers online if you’re curious, as well as the Assyrians. Most of them have words related to a Great Flood (think biblical Noah) as well as constellations that pointed to a healer/teacher coming several centuries in the future.

And some say astrology is a fake science. Interesting.




Walking the Long Journey

I watched Andrea Bocelli live, singing from the Milan Cathedral. I cried through it. And sent out what prayers I could to succor this world in its grief.

My far flung family is well: one son and his wife live in Florida; one son here in Kansas City; my grandson, an emergency room nurse in San Diego, has just been deployed to New York City. One sister lives in New Mexico, two sisters and my brother live in Hawaii, youngest sister lives in Oregon. We have a family of healers. I do not need to mourn my family, but I mourn this world.

We are all elders in one age bracket or another. My youngest sister just turned 60, my oldest nearing 80. And so by grace or good genes or something, we are all well.

But I mourn this world. There is so much grief circling the globe.

Does the Earth, living body that it is, need to shrug from time to time and wake us all up? We forget how precious life is, sometimes. The Texas bluebonnets, erupting in a blaze of blue in my front garden only three weeks ago have spent themselves. They only bloom every two years, so I won’t see them again until 2022. That seems a long time in coming.

All life is so transient, and yes, we know that, but we forget to embrace each day. We forget to check in with one another.

And so, I am checking in with you, my online family with hopes for your health and with reminders that as we walk this strange journey, we both walk it alone and with others. So choose your path, stick to the sunny side. That’s where you’ll find the bluebonnets along with left over last year’s leaves.