Rich with Experience

The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

There’s no doubt the writers in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections program at Hope Lutheran have great stories to tell. This group of writers is as diverse as they are lively, having lived all over the world, from Tokyo to Texas. In their writing, you can feel their rich experiences culminate in the beauty of a simple line about the smell of autumn. The power of their struggle with memory loss is always present, just below the surface, as these writers bravely delve into their pasts to bring forth these poems. There is never a dull moment in this poetry, as it expresses the Hope Lutheran group’s bright attitude toward life and adventurous spirit, something that is truly inspiring to encounter. Their writing is lively, comical, tender, and honest. It is starkly sad and bubbling over with joy all at once. It rhymes, meanders, repeats itself. It goes into the RV to watch the Aggies game. It talks to nature, and to God. These poems are a pure expression of both the simplicity of life and its magnificent vastness, of which we are forever in awe.

Claire Bowman
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Fall Is Wonderful

Brown, brown, brown…
Showing up on our trees!
Yellow, yellow, yellow bushes,
those bright flowers on very green,
very tall bushes, waving in the wind’s arms.

Again, I go to the color yellow
found on the ears of corn sitting
on the kitchen counter.
Their taste, their crunchiness,
their bright and beautiful color
all make me happy.

I know corn comes in other
colors: white, red, or brown.
But don’t we all love yellow the most?

Pat Keen

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From April, May to June

The sun, everything is blooming.
Flowers are blooming,
The weather is beautiful.
Not too hot, not too cold,
Nice and cool and fresh.
You can enjoy walking in the evening,
Sitting in sidewalk cafés,
Enjoying the people-watching
And the fresh air of the evening.

I’m sitting in the sidewalk café
Where they make grilled shish-kabobs.
I’m drinking red wine with my vegetable salad —
Not too much, just enough
To enjoy everything there.
It makes me feel at home.

Sarita Mais

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Catching Trout in My Hometown Waters

I see a babbling stream of water
In my state of Wisconsin.
I hear the sound of the water rushing over
The rocks in the stream. Frogs croaking
And birds singing.
I feel a cool breeze.
I think to myself — how to plan
Catching a big trout under the water
Near the pine trees?
I wonder how many trout are available
Today. Should I cast closer to the shore?
I wait for a response from my cast.
Did I see one near my bait?
Try again and again until I get my catch.
Reel him in.

John Zimmerman

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Snow-Capped Mountains

I see wonderful shadows in the water
And blended colors that magnify
The beauty of colored images in the water.
I feel magnificent colored images defining
The images in the water.
I think to myself, “I want
To take in all of the images,
Including those in the water,”
And I wonder if the quiet beauty
Can be maintained with time.

Bill Hoisington

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Summer!

The sun is shining! Every day is an adventure. Should we go swimming? The joy of jumping into the cold water, knowing we shall go back out into the warmth and beauty of the sun. What a sensation and awakening to the joy of nature. The flowers bloom everywhere, sheltered in part by the glorious trees surrounding them. Life is good! Going home to dinner or eating a picnic on the beach, swimming and making sandcastles. Having an ice cream cone on the way home, licking it succulently, enjoying its cool flavour. Tired and satisfied, we go to bed thinking of the days to come!

We go out the next day to play with our friends, telling them about our journey, about visiting the fish-and-chip shop for lunch, a treat for all, including Mom, who didn’t have to cook. We meet friends on the beach and promise to see them tomorrow. Into bed, mother telling us a bedtime story or a poem she wrote several herself, which ushered us to sweet dreams of tomorrow, swimsuits and towels hung up on the clothesline to dry. Happiness and contentment abound. Everyone got up early the next day in anticipation of going again to the beach, a beach ball in one arm and towels in the other.

Audrey Krier

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Autumn

The crisp, cool air
The reds, the yellows
When walking on the leaves
The crunch, the burning
Of leaves, the fun of rolling
Through dry leaves, playing in the streets
The crisp, cool air, the leaves
Falling off the trees, the kiss
Of Autumn cool
The taste of waning
The laughter of adults
Do not attempt to change
The feel of Autumn.

Lyle Erickson

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Texas Longhorns

I see Bevo.
I hear thousands of people yelling at the UT Stadium.
I feel the UT band playing, my daughter Mary,
Who played in the Longhorn band for four years.
I think to myself of those wonderful days
Of football at UT, and I wonder
what it will be like in the years to come.

Lee Roy S.

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My Deer Love

A startled deer,
Fat and tender.
My little deer will soon surrender.
I hear only silence and stillness,
Quiet and peace—
Yes, a great big piece of juicy, tender meat!
In awe of the beauty, elegance,
And size of this creature—
I hope this bullet will go far enough to reach her.
I think to myself… I’m hungry.
I can’t miss.
This buck is toast!
And I’m sure this dinner
Is going to be a winner!
I wonder how long it will take
To dress her, and cook a little venison for dinner!

Rick Guilbeau

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The Winter’s Elk 

I see a HUGE elk standing so very still
In the white snow.
He is observing me, hopefully,
With great interest.
I smile widely, but don’t move.

I hear him give a snort.
Vapor comes form his nose.
I see him pawing with one great hoof,
As if sending a message to me.

I feel he’s as curious about my existence
As I am about his.
And I think to myself, “What if
I smile broadly, tilt my head,
And wink…”

I wonder what he will tell his family when
He gets home.
I know what I’m telling mine!

Jeanne Roden

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Winter Creation

I see a beautiful snapshot of Nature,
The cold water near the cushions
Of winter snow, and the tall stone-ledge
Mountains, now holding tiers of ice
And snow.

I hear in the still, quiet beauty — no
Sound, only beauty seen above and
Upon the surface, a Revelation
Of the cold, quiet lake.

I feel a still nothingness that holds me
As I gaze upon reflections of
The beauty and majesty that surrounds me.

I think to myself… This is a precious moment.
I must stop and be in this picture of Earth,
Of Creation.

I wonder if I will ever lose the wonder of this moment.
I think not.
It is a moment in eternity.

Elizabeth E. Flynn

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Autumn Mornings 

Crisp, cool sunrises
Coming over the mountain.

Orange, yellow, green, brown
Colors being blown around
In the fresh breeze.

Children high on the rocks
As the sun starts to lower in the evening.

We go into our RV to watch
The Texas Aggies game.

We enjoy the outdoors,
The coyotes howling in the mountains.
Now, let’s go to bed.

Bobby Pruitt

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Autumn (By Far!) 

Hot, humid summer is gone.
With less sweating, we can run!

Even in Texas, we have colors,
And it costs so few dollars!

Now that temperatures are lower,
We use much less of the mower!

Autumn has so much more food,
And everything tastes so good!

That we really enjoy life,
And again, again, I love my wife!

Manny Chavez

We, Not Me

The pieces published below were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, which aims to enhance the mental and physical health and overall quality of life of people affected by early-stage dementia. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

I used to think writing was one of the lonelier activities one could endeavor to undertake. Not so. Even at this moment as I write alone in a small windowless office, I hear the voices of the workshop participants I shared Mondays with at the North Austin YMCA. I am reminded that writing is a means for regaining a sense of connectedness.

One memory in particular sticks out. I’d asked participants to come up with a short list of words of wisdom they’d either given or received at some point in their lives. To be honest, as one who falls (unwilling) under the umbrella of “millennial,” my own list included phrases such as follow your dreams, never give up, and do what you love. I was thrown for a loop when one participant, Eva, shared what were her most valuable words of wisdom:

  • Help those in need in any way you can.
  • Learn about the challenges of others and find ways to help.

I think my jaw fell open. I realized then that I’d become so entrenched in the daily to-dos of my life, that I was so focused on the “me,” I’d completely forgotten about the “we.”

While not everyone in our workshop was able to use the tools of writing (pens and paper) — the physical act of writing either too painful or too frustrating — everyone was able to enjoy and participate in a communal atmosphere of language, or “creative discussion,” as we called it. Words floating in the air are just as valuable as words pinned to a page. Living in the moment is just as important as recording it. Listening to each other’s stories is just as significant as telling stories of our own. And like water washing over stone, everything that we do changes us a little. I was changed. And I believe storytelling always gives back to the community, the “we” that is so essential to all of us.

Julie Poole
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Out My Window, I Remember

Mother red cardinal, dark red. I saw her bring stray leaves and sticks to make her nest. She’d been found nesting in another nest in my backyard, and her last family stayed nearby. When it came time to nest with a new generation of eggs, she made a new one in a tall shrub near my door. At the time, I was in the hospital after open heart surgery number two. I came by to pick up something to wear besides PJs. They were teaching the babies to fly. I don’t wear perfume, so they didn’t sense me nearby. I covered my mouth with a soft pillow and watched the parents teach the young cardinals to take flight.

On vacation, touring nine states to see state parks and watch the acid spring water blow from its geyser, I was awoken and saw the most beautiful view I have ever seen. The sky was so beautiful, with so many colors, in fact, that I momentarily questioned if the world was coming to an end. And God would be next.

Emmaline Jones

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Rabbit Ring

The object that means the world to me and is particular in its value of longevity is the ring I wear on the middle finger of my right hand. It is made out of unpolished silver and depicts a four-footed beast with two long ears, a tail, and four long feet, a rabbit given to me by a former boyfriend, who told me to always keep my eye on the rabbit, a reference to greyhound racing.

Marian Fleming

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My Desk

My hand-carved oriental desk, which belonged to my mother’s mother, Da, as we grandchildren called her. Mom and I were with her on our first trip to Hawaii in 1949. We visited a distant cousin of hers living in Honolulu. Aboard the plane, Da became ill, was given a blood transfusion — wrong type — so after the hospital stay, we lived in a typical neighborhood. There was a Dutch refugee family with a little girl who had several deformities due to the lack of protein in WWII; a Hawaiian family on the opposite side with several children; and, us, in the middle — a league of nations! Children just played, using simple toys we either shared or created — language was no barrier — children just play!

When I sit at this desk, corresponding with family and friends back in California, I have a space of my own, an area to touch back in time, an area to create in, an area that is all mine.

Helen G. Haynes

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Character Sketch

My lifelong friend, Kathryn Ruth, a.k.a. Kathy, has been in my life since third grade — this is equivalent to sixty-five years. In forth grade, we said goodbye. Why, you ask? Each family was leaving Ojai, California. How our mothers kept their secret was amazing, for we (young friends) were devastated by our loss. After our new home was ready to move in to, I found out that Kathy was merely four houses down the block from me.

Over the course of these past sixty-plus years, we’ve shared weddings, the births of our children, high school, and college graduations. Then came the children’s weddings — some in Ventura, California, one on the Big Island of Hawaii. And now we celebrate our grandchildren’s birthdays — all seven of them. My eldest, Sean, twenty-three, U.S. army, down to Paige and Andrew, nine; hers Ava, eleven; Elsie, nine; Vianne, eight; and Shepard, six.

Helen G. Haynes

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Out My Window, I Remember

Long ago, I lived on a farm in Ireland surrounded by many trees of different kinds, meadows with sheep and rabbits crawling around, an orchard with many kinds of apples, pears, and plums, and an avenue surrounded by moss weeds.

Eva Church

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My Husband

One object that means a lot to me is the photo of my husband. He gave it to me, and I love it a lot. In the photo, he’s twenty-six.

Heather H. de Loyo

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Sewing

My objects are useful… scissors for snipping fabric samples and a tape measure for knowing how much to cut out for sewing.

I don’t sew clothing for myself anymore. My shape has shifted!

But I now sew pig pillows, the first choice of hospital patients, requested by chaplains and Ouch Buddies for children at the Ronald McDonald House — squeezable when getting a shot. And pillows for those same children in bright colors.

Ruth Crowson

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Words of Wisdom 

Wait. Wait for beauty, for buds blooming out
of season. For secondhand gloves full of memories.
For music by piano and music by flute.
For looms weaving our loves. Beauty
in love, and love in beauty. Love in
music, and music in love.

Ruth Crowson

From Real to Magical

From the beginning, the writers in AGE of Central Texas’s Early Memory Loss program expressed a preference for writing nonfiction — “real” things as opposed to imagined ones. But what happened was arguably more magical — they described the natural world, beloved family members, memories with rich sensory detail and surprising metaphor. Several writers remarked they were better oral storytellers than writers, but I argue that the art of telling stories aloud comes through in the writing. The reader is able to feel the rhythm of traveling stars, imagine the sound and smell of the ocean, and turn with the spinning night sky above.

Claire Campbell
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

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Placing the Stars

The girl who arranged the paths of the stars. They seem to her a part of a giant merry-go-round or an endless turning wheel in the cosmos, as its timeless turning in the fullness of the firmament. Never stopping—turning, turning, turning round and round in the ceaseless spinning through the heavens.

Jack

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Mother and Father

My father was always sleeping with a revolver pistol under his pillow in their bedroom. He never had to use it but he was prepared. I don’t need a pistol now that I feel safe where I am living!

My father and mother passed down the tradition of going to church to worship God and believing in Him, and his holy spirit has guided me in my life!

John Isom

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Whenever I

Whenever I
Walk by the sea
I think of the fish
See the waves
I hear the sounds of splashing
Remember the smell
The taste is spicy and salty
The waves are blue and black
The sound is loud and pounding.

Judy Rogers

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Cosmos

The night enfolds us; we are captured by its light.
The stars above support us, looking for their light.
We find our strength in feeling nothing, a revolution
to require. But as the sun comes out to play,
we see our role in life
a beacon to be shouldered
when day returns to night.

Dirk Ourston

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The Night

The nighttime is beautiful, especially when the stars are also bright and charming. I love to look at them for a long time. Sometimes I look at them and I cry, not for pain, but with emotion.

Some of the stars move, almost as if they are traveling, and sometimes the stars stay in one place, like waiting for a partner to come and go.

Some of the stars move as if they are traveling from one place to another, and they move fast, like they are late for an appointment—perhaps for a meeting with another star?

Julie Grote

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Sky and Sea

The night sky has captured the attention of people and animals on the earth for as long as the universe has existed in its present form. It has been the source of poems, music, art, and inspiration forever. Now that scientific progress has made us able to get more information about the formation and some history changes in the stars, we are still far from understanding how the stars and galaxies were formed and what their future is. It will be an increasingly important subject of study (and inspiration) for humans forever.

The sea is very demanding and unforgiving. Yes, it can be comforting and pleasant but in an instant it can become very threatening and dangerous. In some areas it can be weather, in others it can be local things like creatures or physical effects like whirlpools.

Alan

Memories of Nature

Art and language go together like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, shoes and socks. (Okay, maybe not shoes and socks.) But words can help us locate the images contained in our experience and memory. At the same time, visual art can inspire new turns of phrase, new insights, new ways of seeing. It makes sense, then, that we’ve developed a fruitful partnership with Mobile Art Project, which provides art workshops in nursing homes and elder care facilities. In our latest joint effort, we coupled our programs to work with a group of folks experiencing early memory loss. Our Badgerdog teaching artist Claire Campbell used nature poems to inspire memories of the outdoors. These written works became the basis for art activities led by Theresa Zelazny and her Mobile Art volunteers. We are excited to share these combinations of art and language with you. And we are especially grateful to AGE of Central Texas for inviting us to serve their clients. And to Mobile Art for the great work they do, and the work we do together.

Cecily Sailer
Library Foundation Programs Manager

Acrylic on canvas by Ed McQuillan
Acrylic on canvas by Ed McQuillan

Peter

Peter was… oops… is my friend. We share a love for the outdoors. We are both hunters and came to be friends through the women in our lives. He came to me through his sister, Sis. Me through my wife, Jean. The wives were friends and school classmates. Pete’s a big and husky redhead. Me? Not much can be said about a five-foot frame on a mature male. Pete and his sister, Sis, vacationed in Northeast Pennsylvania near the town of Milford on the Delaware River.

Ed McQuillan

Acrylic on canvas by Boyd Spencer
Acrylic on canvas by Boyd Spencer

Empire Bluff

The overlook of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes are about four miles outside the village of Empire, Michigan. To reach the overlook, one must hike about a mile on a nature trail. Different types of trees can be seen at different levels of the walk. Birch trees are my favorite.

Boyd Spencer

Acrylic on canvas by Keith Peco
Acrylic on canvas by Keith Peco

She (Stephanie)

She is like a field of bluebonnets.
She is like a waterfall.
She is a diamond.
She is strong.
She is a winner.
She is my everything.

Keith Peco

Acrylic on wood by Kelly
Acrylic on wood by Kelly

Colorado River

A green stream flowing through a myriad
of physical conditions—some rushing, some calm.
It affords exciting fishing experiences,
from trout, carp, catfish, and bass.
All fun to catch and a tasty repast.
It is usually cold to our touch, but tasty to our mouths.
Rapidly flowing, it permits little stagnation or visible algae.

Kelly Meyer

Collage on mat board by Gary
Collage on mat board by Gary

My Garden

In my backyard, I have a swing with two seats. We sit together and watch the clouds blown by the wind. We look forward to rain filling the creek down the hill from our house. The rain runs down the stream that wanders about half a mile to Lake Travis, which is a dammed-up segment of a river that flows through Austin.

I grow individual flowers in pots that are arranged and rearranged monthly and watered daily. As they bloom, I can fill a dozen vases and carry them into our house.

Outside, along the creek, are tall trees that wave their limbs in the drifty winds.

Gary Cobb

Acrylic on canvas by Frank
Acrylic on canvas by Frank

My Dog

My dog is in our backyard. He likes living in the yard because he always runs around very excitedly. My dog is in the yard. He likes being in the yard because he always runs around and likes to roll in the grass and dirt. He flows about me, getting dirty; like me, too!

Frank Leggio

Place Where I Enjoyed Nature

I grew up on a small farm east of Austin, near Manor. There were lots of pecan and oak trees. Beautiful smells, clean air, lots of vegetation, and cornfields. The sound of the open space, wild animals, quiet evenings. We had animals—horses, cows, etc.

Art Cunningham

Watercolor on paper by Karen Smith
Watercolor on paper by Karen Smith

Scene from a Calendar

Moss hanging from tree
Azaleas
Peaceful
Laying under the tree
Rolling in the dirt

Karen Smith

Watercolor on paper by Art Ulbrich
Watercolor on paper by Art Ulbrich

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Skinny legs
Yellow head
Black breast
The legs are so thin
How does it support itself?

Art Ulbrich

Acrylic on canvas by Bob
Acrylic on canvas by Bob

Sunflower

Soft petals in yellow
She loves me, she loves me not
As the petals are plucked

Bob Liebl

Acrylic on canvas by Fred
Acrylic on canvas by Fred Lucas

Beauty Undecided

A model “A” comes forth in a vision of strength.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Strength for evaluation.

Fred Lucas

Acrylic on canvas by Charles
Acrylic on canvas by Charles Walker

My First Snow

Whenever I see lightning, my mind drifts back to St. Louis. Snowflakes drifted outside my window. I was six years old and hadn’t seen snow before. The snow was drifting down, and I was so excited. When I awoke the next morning, the snow was still coming down. The drifts were so deep that I could burrow into the drifts and be completely covered.

The next day, the snow stopped coming down. As soon as I could go outside, I started leaping into the drifts. Unfortunately, the drifts also covered up the obstacles you could not see.

Charles Walker