Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin stands next to Tony Vogt

When I was a bright-eyed 25-year-old I rode nearly 6 hours in a car from Portland, Oregon, with Ursula Le Guin to the Winter Fishtrap Gathering in Enterprise, Oregon. We stopped to eat lunch at a casino on her request because she had never been in one. At the end of the conference, when we said goodbye, she called me “sweetie.” Sweetie only feels good from someone grandmotherly and it felt good.

I’m so glad I got to meet her and have so much of an imagination debt to her. I’ll miss knowing she’s still out there dreaming up amazing unknown worlds.

This post for Visitant remembers what I learned from her at the 2010 winter gathering.

“Move away from speaking and writing in a way that champions violence. Rather than struggle against, work through. Don’t conquer, fix.”

(If I were to rewrite this, I would discuss her use of the word “transvestite” where she’s feeling frustrated about having to pretend to be a male author or only write about men.)

Sesame Chicken with Noodles

open recipe box with faded labels

It’s another entry from my dead mom’s recipe box. This is the only recipe that was not taped onto an index card, so I assume it was the last or one of the last ones added. This recipe mentions Reynolds Wrap by name and appears to come from one of their advertisements. This is another recipe for the microwave so I deem it dubious.
recipe for Sesame Chicken with Noodles clipped from magazine, damaged by liquid

Sesame Chicken with Noodles
¼ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 boneless chicken breast halves
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
¼ cup sliced scallions
1 cup shredded red cabbage
½ cup walnut pieces
2 Tbsp. sesame seed
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Spinach noodles

For marinade, combine first 9 ingredients in 2 qt. microwave-safe casserole. Cut chicken into ½-inch wide strips; add to marinade. Cover with Reynolds Plastic Wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes. Drain chicken, reserving ¼ cup marinade. Combine reserved marinade and cornstarch. Toss with chicken. Cover with Reynolds Plastic Wrap turning back one edge to vent. Micro-cook on high 5 minutes. Uncover; stir in red pepper and scallions. Re-cover with plastic wrap, leaving one edge open to vent. Micro-cook on high 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Re-cover with plastic wrap and let stand 1 minute. Serve with cooked spinach noodles.
Seves 4.

Ambiguous Loss

green tinted photograph of a woman in a dress sitting at a chair slumped over a table.

My counselor recommended that I read Ambiguous Loss because she saw themes of unresolved anxiety and sorrow from my aunt’s terminal cancer and my father’s declining physical health. I didn’t get around to reading the book until after my aunt had already died, but the author, Pauline Boss, covers grieving the inevitable loss of a loved one from cancer, so maybe it would have been helpful.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to help myself with self-help books. I’m not sure what they do.

To experience an ambiguous loss is to have a person who is both there and not. My aunt was alive, but I knew she soon wouldn’t be. My father is definitely still alive, but his degenerative back and joint problems, severe pain, and slow organ failure cause him to not be as present and involved as he used to be. He is still there, but something is gone.

I have a name for what I’m experiencing. Is it enough to have words for something? The words “ambiguous loss” are a tool I can use to explain what I am feeling to others. I bought a copy for my mother, so she and I can now use that term to communicate with each other. But naming a loss doesn’t replace what is gone.

I believe this is Boss’s goal: to legitimize the grief from ambiguous loss to mental health practitioners like her. I’m not a practitioner, but someone in need of guidance by one; I’m still not sure how to help myself.