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Speeding through August’s heat-mirages, I stop automatically. The rusty pick-up has a hand-lettered sign with a skinny, squished E. TomatoEs. Plump, misshapen orbs glow like jewels. Their dusty, taut skin shows the caprices of Nature. My eyes are drawn despite the flaws.
“Here, taste,” urges the faded farmer, pressing a fat globe and salt shaker into my hand. Juice dribbles down my chin; it isn’t taste alone, but is sight – summer sunshine, smell – cut grass, feel – black earth and warm rain, and sound -- my grandfather’s voice. Tears prick my eyes. Perfection of memory, for a friendly smile.
I buy several.
That old farmhouse always catches my imagination. It’s rambling, of course. No ranch or split-level, this. Like many others, the metal roof slopes over a child’s block-pile of walls that badly need fresh white paint. Its outer contours hint at a few surprises inside – an unusual layout with strangely placed cupboards and sudden turns. But mostly, it’s the window. Hardly noticeable beneath the roof line, its odd porthole shape beckons myth and magic. An attic where dust isn’t grayness to be swept away, but dances golden in the light of a bare bulb, illuminating treasures that await discovery.
Elements from Psalm 139
Take the wings of the morning,
Riding the rush of Wind
Towards the pearl-lined East.
And the glow that arises on birds’ breath,
That grows in the shadow of the waning Moon.
Dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Where reflection blurs all boundaries.
The movement of Fire, Light, Water, Sky –
Surging upon the earth’s very foundation,
Gaining power from the solidity below
And yearning, growing to expansiveness –
Till all that exists is Spirit.
Holy, Holy, Holy
The heavens are opened,
Grace showers down,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
“I am still with you.”
Truly, the library’s hush does not result from the
ing of librarians, but is independent of the those guardians. It’s the quiet of the books themselves. Not an absence, not the vacuum of death or loss, but the anticipatory, momentary silence of a held breath. It is the same sense of presence that the faithful find in a cathedral, a hiker discovers on a wooded hillside, or that surprises a new lover in a glance. Stillness ripe with promise. Readers wander the stacks, listening, knowing that each book will offer up its internal voice with a contented sigh when chosen.
“Aunt Ba, I’ll take you to the wedding.”
She waves her hand and frowns. “It’s too far,” she says.
“We could take as long as we want.” I want her to be able to make this trip, if she wants. He is her only grandchild; she is 90.
Her mind as set as her scowl, she offers her trump. “I have to pee too often.”
“We’ll leave right now,” I counter. “We’ll stop at every gas station we see. We have until October!”
She shakes with laughter and hugs me. She will miss the wedding, but this moment is good.
Scientists have discovered a way to levitate small objects.
They mean micro-objects and nano-technology.
Still, I wonder how useful it (
quantum-level Casimir force
) might be. Can I utilize these findings?
Might the force that holds a gecko up by one toe be reversed to repel dust from my coffee table? Could my clothes air-dry in the house without stiff winter mustiness? Would it be possible to do household repairs without contorting to reach the needed tools?
Unfortunately, it took 50 years from its discovery to learn how to measure the Casimir force. I won’t hold my breath for household applications.
There is no horizon here. The world simply rises into hills. Beyond them, other hills – paler, less defined. People look out at walls, all day, every day. Beautiful, rolling, richly colored walls, but walls nonetheless. No one ever sees the sun set or rise. I think of stories of indigenous jungle dwellers who never develop depth perception and wonder what lack of horizon does to the psyche. There is no chance to stare into eternity; no opportunity to look beyond world’s end. Perspective is shortened, all the world is right here. How does hope come with no space to land?
Rounding a curve, I braked suddenly to avoid hitting the stopped truck.
A cow had escaped. The herd was clustered near the fence – impossible to tell if they were distraught, plotting, or just bored. The escapee jittered as each new vehicle drove up; she jogged about, seeking sanctuary.
The truck’s driver moved to the gate and opened it, slowly walking into the field. The cow hesitated.
Oncoming cars had pulled off the road and formed a vehicular wall preventing further escape. The pasture grass was green. She returned home. So did we all.
Exciting trip to the store, wasn’t it?
Hot heavy sky.
Closing in upon the earth.
Gusts whip hayfields
Into undulating waves.
Mimicking the sea,
Mocking the longing
For a cool island breeze.
Darkness comes rapidly
As clouds encroach,
Not waiting for nightfall
But racing with the wind;
Battering the air
To the color of bruises.
The wind’s rush and moan
Deepens in timbre
To a roar –
as of crowds, fire,
the horror of war –
Or the pounding of rain.
A deluge, a downpour,
Water sheeting down
in biblical proportions.
No single drop seen or felt,
just the humidity –
Suffocating, suffocation –
Washing itself away.
Her name was Zazi.
Boots, though bulky around her ankles, seemed strangely fitting under the faded pattern of her long cotton skirt. Her hair was a messy knot, golden and thick. Clear-faced and nearly ageless, her few lines were from the sun’s brightness.
The baby slumbered on the porch bench. A pair of sandals were abandoned in the yard. The sandals’ owner, age 3, gender indeterminate, sat on a chair in the shade watching the garden quietly.
From up in the holler, she had come down to help the elderly neighbors put up their vegetables. Like someone from another time.
At Lake Cumberland, my cousins and I were sleeping on the houseboat roof. Their dad was down on the small back deck. “Did you see that shooting star?!” he kept exclaiming at random intervals. Without my glasses, I couldn’t see anything; I retrieved them and watched the sky. Minutes passed. Then, “Turtle, you’re cut off. Those aren’t shooting stars. They’re
My cousins again. All of us this time, strolling on the dark Carolina beach with only ghost crabs for company. Stars streak across the sky – one, then more. We watch in wonder, standing and staring until we’re chilled.
Wonder, pride, joy – in early photos, we’re sharing delighted smiles. Years passed and you embarrassed me, sometimes gleefully. Your well of patience, once so endless, was more limited. A few more years and we wanted the same things for me, but clashed over irreconcilable differences. With perspective, you took the long view; I was drowning in the macro-immediacy of teen angst. The peculiar alchemy of fathers and daughters meant some conflicts over my “best interest” left me scarred. Yet, underneath it all, I still see you with wonder, pride, joy. Someday, our newest photos will show that. Happy Birthday, Dad.
I went to yoga today for the first time all summer. It was warm in the loft. The setting sun comes in the windows and creates especially warm spots. The nicer the weather, the more likely it is that we'll have a background of music and voices, as well as street noise. No matter how loud, it is distant enough to be relaxing “white noise” that just flows with the breath. There was a lovely breeze this evening, too. It felt great to be stretching and moving. My shoulders and hamstrings ache a bit. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.
I dreamt of shooting stars that turned into fireworks, leaving sparkling trails across the sky and then bringing untamed starlight down to earth.
Hundreds of teenagers were restoring a pyramid. One of the innovations – true to original intent, it was claimed – was the addition of lots of growing things. Specially created vases were part of the pyramid, interspersed over the rock face. Trailing vines and flowers covered the corners. The etchings on the pyramid’s stones were intricate paths for a riverflow of rainwater, each leading to water collection in the vases. It was quite striking, an amazing achievement of design.
Two identical glasses on the counter. I apologize, gesture. “I’m not sure which is which. I used that one.”
He looks at me without expression. “I’ve used your toothbrush before, does it matter?”
The memory erupts. On the east coast of Australia, somewhere outside Rockhampton. He was 11 and his blankness at my frustrated questioning hinted at more frequent occurrences. I’d ended up chasing him into the pool, heedless of my clothes, the whole family howling with laughter.
He picks up
glass and drinks. Now, he is grinning. It has been a long time. I’m glad he’s here, trying.
Literary comfort food –
Piping hot sausages.
Browning, popping, hissing, whistling, spattering in the frying pan. Afternoon tea or hearty breakfast.
Piping hot sausages.
The worlds dance in my head as the grease crackles and spits. My imagination is caught on the delicious scent and simply the idea of them. As they cook, I travel childhood’s pathways, through Mr Tumnus’ cave; Sara and Becky’s hungry, shared attic dreams; Tolly’s grandmother’s stone kitchen, in the company of the house’s earlier children; Dickon’s overcrowded family cottage; and the home where Will Stanton can sometimes forget he is the last of the Old Ones.
Blood pumps too hard,
Pounding my temples,
as before childhood nightmares.
I'm no longer a child.
I want to beard the lion –
is his mane not enough?
exorcise my demons,
share life's blood.
Mind-movies won't let me,
echoing cries of panic
the feeling of sinking into black;
icy cold hallways
white freezing white
leading to past nightmares,
– the real, lived kind
that make your soul bleed.
and the phantasmic spiraling chase scene
of those haunted, young sleeps.
I want to give blood.
But red leads to black, to white,
Red Black White
This is my Spam folder. I hope you have enough room to be comfortable. I think it’s spacious – I tend to avoid spam. I’ve tried to be nice to you here; I won’t be deleting you immediately, but will check in every 30 days. You’re here because I don’t care if my car, purse, ID, pants, or phone might be creatively stolen. I don’t care about strangers’ dogs, squirrels, children, pictures of flowers, or stupid jokes. Meaning,
I don’t want your forwards!
Since you’ve not adhered to that oft-voiced request, this is your new e-home.
Two by Two
Two hour meeting.
For every answer, two questions.
For every dragon slayed, two more grew.
For my two requests, excuses.
After emptying myself,
preaching, greeting, helping, listening....
Being and being and being there.
The too-early loss
of a young family –
sorrowing for them.
Cuts me with ghosts too.
“Pray for....Pray for....”
I used to sit at Stacie’s bedside
and pray for patience
as she repeated those two words.
For two - zero minutes.
And the machine flashes a red “2”
as I walk in the door.
“I love you very, very much” helps.
My brain feels fuzzy
like I am a zombie
or maybe it was eaten by
and I am just a vegetable
I wonder which one I would be –
squash describes how I feel
in so many ways
I’m certainly not
cruciferous, like a broccoli
or Brussels sprout
or is that Brussel sprouts
“I’m trying to be a carrot,
but my toes won’t point”
was the title of our
grade school literary journal
my first – maybe last –
appearance in publication
and my first detention
but I still liked my teacher,
though now that he’s an
I’ve heard he’s arrogant
I nearly hit a bat tonight; it swerved mere inches from my windshield.
It seems like everyone has a bat story.
Like being at a 2 a.m. rest area in Missouri when a woman approached. “Are you afraid of bats?” Uncertain where she was going with this, I shook my head and ended up plucking a tiny dead carcass from under the windshield wiper where it was lodged. The woman’s sister sat, terrified and crying, in the front seat with a pillow over her face until it was gone. I put it gently under a bush away from the traffic.
I bought a polished rock for myself today – an unusual occurrence, certainly. The stone is half white, half gray, with the word “grace” carved into its surface. I don’t even think grace is well-represented by a hunk of mineral. Grace is too encompassing and fluid, maybe more rightly equated with the ocean. But I was contentedly running an errand that would have reduced me to a quivering puddle of grief and misery not long ago. Carefully choosing from the rose quartz displayed without violently despising myself. This is grace. I carried the comforting knowledge (and stone) with me all day.
Clinging and damp, the heat was oppressive. The sun beat relentlessly through the haze. The family was uncomfortable; the guys wearing dark jeans and button-down denim or t-shirts smoothed their long hair self-consciously. The women were wearing their “good” dresses (the ones that see church for weddings, funerals, and maybe Easter) which were too long and synthetic for the weather. An older couple stood apart from the rest – he in a suit, she comfortable in a business dress and pantyhose. They were always on the edges, watching closely, though it wasn’t clear if they were sitting in judgment or not.
There is something soothing about rediscovering childhood’s simple joys. When was the last time you played with Play-Doh? Open a canister and its distinctive smell immediately transports you to a simpler time. Crayons and clay. Glue and glitter! The fun of working with your hands and creating something – try some fingerpaints once again. It’s hard to remember worries when you are Creator of your own universe. It isn’t the same as “adult” artistic endeavors – painting a portrait or making a quilt – in the case of childhood pleasures, it is the complete absorption into the process and attendant freedom that counts.
Lots of driving. Six hours, plus some. Time in the car gives me clarity. It’s time to think or sort out problems. Some people get their answers while jogging or meditating. I – no favor to my physical health – get mine while driving. Usually. But today it was too hot to think. My brain seemed trapped somewhere a hundred miles behind. By the time I reached “just an hour more” (for that part of the trip), all I really wanted was to start crying. That was my response to the 90+ degree heat and 70-percent humidity in a non-air-conditioned car.
Does everyone describe their friends as ‘generous’? Or is it less common than that? It is a characteristic that has been attributed to all my siblings. One recognized and seen in us clearly enough to comment upon. My parents’ friend once told me, “When I think of your parents, I never think of things – I think of people and experiences. All they’ve done for people and everything they’ve done that is so interesting.” It seems to be a legacy inherited; I am proud to have that foundation; there are no words for how pleased I am we all share it.
Pappap walked on his hands the length of his Army barracks. His sister had a roomful of sewing supplies and dolls (ruffled clothes, staring eyes) she crafted to sell. Another sister went sled-riding with my brother and I after church, shrieking her way down the hill in dress boots. My grandmothers were full of stories, comfort, and laughter. When did they grow frail, feeble, cautious, forgetful, melancholy, distant, slow, nostalgia-ridden, shaky....just so blatantly
? When did they begin to fade away? How can you miss someone standing right before you? How can you hold them as time slips away?
Words are inadequate for certain moods.
Twisted up inside
frustrated, aggravated irritated –
all those ‘ateds’ –
Grouchy and grumpy
wanting to growl
Instead of being able to explain it,
I sit and stare
(sweaters of belly-button lint, anyone?)
I ponder and wonder and wander,
lost in my own thoughts
I find it so hard to ask for
Whatever it is that I need.
Because I don’t know what it IS,
I only know that this isn’t it.
tap my fingers,
Maybe, I’ll try to explain
if I think that you really care.
Once upon a time, a young prince set out, hoping for adventure.
There are more adventure possibilities than one might expect. Some only worth avoiding. Fighting black knights and flying fiery dragons is lauded and the young prince didn’t think of the others. Because, of course, “young” was an important part of his title.
At some point, the prince – no longer quite so young – decided to return home. It was then that the struggle began in earnest. Inner battles undertaken, demons and desperation. Outer battles too, against the very things sought. Losers on all sides.
The story continues, fates undetermined....
Wouldn’t it be better to be naive....
....If to be otherwise is to forget that to ridicule another – for lack of education, knowledge, culture (whose culture, anyway?), because their values, faiths, beliefs aren’t yours – is to diminish all of us?
....If to be otherwise is to forget to look for the joy in simple things, the delight in a perfect moment, and to fail to share in the laughter of a child?
....If to be otherwise is to expect the worst in people, to ascribe suspicious motives, to be certain others will take advantage and manipulate?
I’d rather be naive.
Things That Comfort –
hot tea with a dash of half-and-half
the cat warming my lap
panting alongside the dog, walking along the ridges of the hills
dozing on the couch with a child asleep on my chest
curled up under a blanket, watching a well-loved movie, with a bowl of hot popcorn
laughing with friends
having a shoulder to lean on when you’re tired, sad, or lonely
staying in bed – all morning or all night – reading a fabulous book, for the first time or the hundredth
sitting on the back porch, listening to the wind in the trees
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