Writing the Distance: Mary Katzke

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Mary Katzke provides poem and photograph.

Old, Fat Women During a Pan-damn-it
Mary Katzke

“I used to have a lotta f*****g plans. “

Lucy leans forward with a gob of Neosporin on her fingers and starts slathering her bruised ankle. By way of explanation, she adds.

“I was power washing my deck before I came.”

Ellie, just got back from halibut fishing, walks from the cooler with an open bottle of sauvignon blanc and drops her relaxed body into a canvas deck chair facing the lake.

“I’m just so f*****g happy to get away from testosterone.”

How so? We wonder, having almost forgotten.

“They can be so controlling- like ordering my food for me.”

“Was he right?”

“Well, not that day. Then I got pissed he can’t remember what I like!”

We’ve raised and launched our children together only to suddenly, find them back in our empty nests. We are unprepared for this life change and the conflicts that come with it. This weekend we have escaped to enjoy one last girlfriend time at the cabin, now sold to cover bills.

Here in bold sunshine, we are wearing bathing suits that have been hidden in our bottom drawers for years, hope for them to fit again long ago faded. This is the only place we’d consider wearing them. Rolls and dimples and unruly hair refuse to be wrangled- and we don’t care.

“I’m really sorry everyone,” Ellie apologizes. “I brought a cheese cake.”

It’s complete surrender.

We try to talk about Black Lives Matter. Lucy, raised in the South, shares that she was once whipped for opening the car door for her family’s black maid. By now we are buzzed enough to sit with that for a moment.

“There’s so much in the one line, I can’t even begin…” I say, helplessly.

Sensing a need to change the channel, Ellie queries, “About that grey hair we’re all seeing – question! When do we go full-stop?”

We are grateful to be here, even as our plans are pandemicked away, because, we remind ourselves, we have all outlived our mothers.

Yes, still here to enjoy Ellie’s mouth-watering fresh halibut on the grill and magic cookies made by our kids. Belly laughs and breezes coming off the lake. Enough mobility to have yoga on the dock. Life in a beyond beautiful setting.

Lucy gets teary-eyed for a bit about leaving this behind.

Then we raise our glasses and yell, “The asshole neighbor! The mosquitos!”

As the echos from our cheers settle, we hear the pitch perfect and forever familiar call of the lake’s pair of loons. It’s a song that stirs a montage of memories from decades of waking up on trips around Alaska.

Before long we will be snoring like our children once did, tired from too much fun.


Mary Katzke is a documentary film maker, writer and photographer. She lives in Anchorage.

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