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It was the fall of 1962; Khrushchev put the fear in my mother's psyche. The threat of nuclear missiles launched from Cuba to the United States left her in a state of panic. She was thirty years old, with five young children under the age of seven. Crying uncontrollably for weeks, her doctor advised my father to institutionalize her for three months. Electric shock therapy was the treatment. I, being just two years could barely grasp the absence of my mother, my primary caretaker, the love of my life. I cried those three long months wondering if she'd ever return.
I am the first to wake every morning. Unlike my husband, I'm a morning person and revel in the quietness. The house is cold since the wood stove burned out during the night. My feet touch the icy linoleum as I move across the kitchen to the stove. Grabbing newspaper I crumble three or four sheets and lay them on the bottom. Next, the dry cedar kindling that's been cut to size. The paper quickly ignites and the crackling of the wood starts the process of heating our home that I'll tend for the day.
During the winter months, I've been plagued by SAD or what's commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This has gone on for years, come to think of it, maybe my whole life. The symptoms are lack of energy, social withdrawal, loss of interest in work or other activities, unhappiness and irritability, increased appetite, blah, blah, blah. I know I'm not alone, probably millions suffer through the same thing. It was called "cabin fever" before the medical profession coined the term. Whatever the case, I've survived another rainy, winter in the Pacific Northwest. The green signs of spring have returned.
To anyone who will listen he tells them "we're spirits in bodies". Then he goes on to say "we choose our parents at birth". He has read everything there is on Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian born author and lecturer alive during the turn of the century. To quote Steiner from his book, Reincarnation and Immortality. "The science of spirit wishes to use words, concepts and ideas in order that something living may stream down from the spiritual world into the physcial. It does not only seek to impart knowledge; it strives to awaken life". Intrigued, I want more.
In the distance I hear the hoot of the Barred Owls, the faint back and forth calls between male and female. It might be their mating call or the male standing ground, protecting his territory. Hidden among the red cedars they patiently sit, high among the branches or wait in the lone snag, bordering the tree line along the property. On morning walks I sometimes will spot them. Their calm, steady eyes watching me, long before I see them. I find tufts of rabbit fur, the remains of a meal from these hunters, nature's birds of prey.
She's always watched from the sidelines; conflicted by the two forces of being a part of something or being alone. It affected all areas of her life. A former supervisor once told her "you need to be a team player". The job didn't last much longer. She was sure the other person had the problem. This wasn't my issue "she thought to herself". But through situations and life events the change needed to begin with herself. No more pointing the finger at someone else. The world was not out to get her.
If I'm shopping in the clothing store and you, the perky young woman comes strolling in talking on your cell phone as if you never left your bedroom. Consider this. I really don't want to hear about "the yoga class you're thinking of taking because it might help your knee problem." Or the fact "you're feeling better these days because spring is finally here." I'm glad for you but I'd really like to shop without the onslaught of your private conversation. I've given up on politely asking you "to take your call outside". Whatever anyone says to you doesn't matter.
I have been writing this 100 word piece for over an hour this morning. I have started and deleted so many thoughts and ideas and nothing seems to stick. The other morning the words just flowed and I completed the 100 words within minutes. There was no editing, rewrite or spell check. These days writing seems to be about discipline. Taking the time out of a busy day to put pen to paper or in my case fingers to laptop and just write. I have no agenda with these writings since I have me.
Yesterday I heard on NPR a story about "frugal fatigue syndrome." Another name coined by the media to determine the buying trends of the American people. Guess with the down turn of the economy shoppers are pickier about their purchases and holding out for the deals. I'm tired of the names given to figure out the buying habits of consumers; what Madison Ave. thinks we should buy or the newest trends. I'm not the norm in consumer shopping. My shopping habits would never help the economy recover. For me, less is better and I'll stick with that.
Her friends kept telling her "you're an enabler, you keep giving him permission to act this way". She needed to hold on, trust in God, have faith to be strong. Her sister said, "you can't let him walk all over you because you deserve better than this". Yet she believed in him, knew in her heart that his intentions were good.
Standing in front of the court room with her left hand on the bible, she heard the words, "Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God"?
Everyday at the same time I drive by as he's walking on the side of the road to catch the local bus. I'm guessing he's in his eighties, even though he uses a cane, his gait is steady with a purpose. He carries a manila envelope under his arm and he rarely looks up as he makes his way down the hill. I've thought about stopping and offering him a ride but I never do. This trek he makes seems like his morning routine, his daily exercise. His contact with the rest of the world. Humanity.
I used to own a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, the classic writing guide recommended by every English teacher throughout the United States. That little book traveled well and moved often with me from coast to coast, settling in one place and relocating to another. I moved more years than I care to remember. The less attached, the easier to pick up and move, Possessions were sold or given away with the remaining treasures packed in boxes and relocated to a new destination. I'm rooted now, settled forever in my community.
From the moment I laid eyes on him I thought he was my soul mate, the man I would marry. I was nineteen years old, working in Yellowstone National Park and he arrived mid summer to work at Lake Lodge. He was unpacking his car, a white 1969 Rambler filled with his camping gear and painting supplies. Earlier that summer he left New Jersey to travel throughout the West and landed in Wyoming. I was too young and naive to realize the infatuation was based on emptiness. We were not meant to be together, he's still alone.
He was on his way out the door and asked me "did you send in your resume?"
I told him "I was still revising it."
I lied. I haven't even started.
The job was posted on Sunday, I said I would submit it by Wednesday.
I'm a day late, the queen of procrastinating at your service.
The job is bookkeeping for a local non-profit.
3/4 time to start. Must know Quickbooks.
I have experience in Excel and my skills are outdated, probably obsolete.
I still should try.
At the coffee shop yesterday one of the morning regulars asked the barista.
"I'm curious but is Lila, the one with the curly, dark hair pregnant?"
The barista answered "yes, she is and due in two months."
I had asked the same question three weeks ago to the owner. You just don't want to offend a woman if she's really not pregnant. At twenty-three Lila will give birth to a baby boy in June and will also marry the father, her boyfriend of five years. She's glowing right now, a sweet beautiful woman.
I glance at myself in the full length mirror and stop, really look at the woman I've become. I've never looked or acted my age and I hope that continues. There's no reason to lie when asked how old I am. What's to hide? I credit my DNA, family genes, the Eastern European lineage of Slovakian, Polish and Bohemian mix. My parents, now in their mid-eighties are relatively healthy, still living in their own home. They both drive and my dad continues to play golf during the summer. I can only hope for more.
We've been duped and we don't even know it. To exist in this manner why do we settle for less? Wake up. Look around. Don't be so apathetic. Stand up, believe in the truth. More importantly, speak your truth. I'm tired of the madness. The rich just keep getting richer. The rest of us are hanging by a thread. I have no affliation to a political party. I despise the two party government that runs our country and I cringe with the rise of the Tea Party. I'm tired of all the talking heads. I want something real.
He twitches his whole body then lets out a whimper. I can only imagine my dog is dreaming and stop for a moment to observe his behavior. He's sound asleep and his breathing is steady. His legs are spastically moving as though he's running in place. He lets out a yelp and tiny moans that last a few seconds. I picture him chasing bunnies or maybe he's being chased. In total concentration I watch him curled on his dog bed and reach down to stroke the top of his head and tell him it's okay. He's a good dog.
Telling the truth is so much easier yet he fabricated lies and continued to exaggerate stories all throughout our relationship. I always sensed he was lying to me but wanted to believe him, believe in us. He was an aspiring poet yet he painted houses for a living. He fit my "tall, dark and handsome" criteria for a boyfriend. When she showed up one evening standing on the front porch, holding a bottle of wine, I should of known. At that moment I should of packed my bags and made a fast exist for the door. I stayed.
Every Wednesday after she takes her daughter to school she returns home to prepare for the day. In the course of the morning the hired help arrives to manage the three story home. At 9:00am the housekeeper diligently cleans from top to bottom. Along side is the personal assistant who manages her computer files ordering goods and runs errands around town. At 10:00am the bookkeeper arrives and balances the numerous checking accounts and keeps tab of the household budget. Next is the dog walker who takes two corgis around the neighborhood. Nice to be rich.
Tom knew if he left anything out on the kitchen counter, Marie would put it away. It was subtle at first but he noticed how quickly his wife would put the bread back in its place or the banana peel he left out would disapper and be desposited in the compost bucket. Tom could eat and leave any mess and sooner or later Marie would appear in the kitchen and clean up. She didn't mean to pick up after him. He did not consider himself a slob. They were co-habitating and living life together, peacefully.
At a poetry event held the other night I collaborated with three other adults to create these poems. With a few seconds to write one line we laughed and played like children and wanted to write more.
"Not long ago
but very far away
a man wept
into the darkness"
"She never liked the sound of the word 'ointment'
it caused her upper lip to quiver
until her massage appointment"
"In a deep, hidden hollow
the wind shook the leaves
causing the mossy, wet earth to envelope her heart
then the paramedics came"
"Tabitha flew the coop
but no one noticed
except Leo the dog
who noticed everything"
I thought I saw everything until Iooked up from my paper and realized the two women sitting in the coffee shop were praying. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against praying since I do it every day in the comfort of my home. But this was an intimate moment, holding hands across the table with heads bowed down, I heard snippets of the prayer and felt like an angel in the presence of God. "Please guide our day, bless our families, loved ones and give us strength and courage." It was a beautiful moment, my heart filled with spirit.
At just after dawn I parted the curtains in the dining room and took in the morning light. Towards the back of the field I saw her gliding across the tall grass. The lone deer was making her way from one end of the property towards the woods. I watched as she gingerly stepped, pausing to eat, then moving across the wet field. With a clear sky overhead, the contrast of the lush green grass, against the blue colored sky was magnificent. Spring has been slow this year but this morning I was optimistic of its long, overdue return.
He is by far the better writer of the two, yet he chooses not to write. Some would say he's lazy, maybe lacks the discipline or just doesn't want to. He's an avid reader, pours through three to four books per week and he'll finish the New York Times crossword in record time. Every year his students will tell him "you should write a book Mr. R." He already has the title. One of these days when he retires he'll sit down and do it. Until then he'll make excuses and complain that he's not writing that book. Insidious.
I've been thinking about my grandmother Florence this month. Her birth and death were both in April. At her funeral they gave out small prayer cards with a saint on the front side and her information on the back. A small remembrance for this stoic, hardworking woman. I have that prayer card stashed in a box, along with old photographs and memories of years gone by. Every April my parents visit her grave and pay their respect. They'll place lilys, her favorite flowers next to her headstone and say a prayer in her honor. Blessed be forever...
The only place to hide, to escape the bickering of her parents yelling was her bedroom closet. Tina found solace in the confines of this safe space. She could close the doors and stop the incessant voices from down the hall. Since she already had to share a bedroom with her older sister the closet was her own private haven. She wrote poetry and kept a diary of her life as a twelve year old.
"Dear Diary, today I woke up, ate breakfast and went to school."
Tina's life was easier back then, she missed her closet.
My husband calls me the energizer bunny because I keep going and going and going. I knew something was off but proceeded on with my day and by late afternoon I knew I was sick. Earlier in the week I ran into a few people who were "just getting over somethin." One still coughing and sneezing I even said, "I hope you're still not sick?" Within twenty-four hours I was down, puking my guts out and cursing the woman with the sickly germs. I knew better to blame her or the others, it was the flu.
I woke at 1:00am and my stomach was rumbling and I ran for the bathroom. I had one thing on my mind but for a split second I realized the pre royal wedding events would be televised live. My cynicism earlier in the week with the media coverage tainted my outlook on the whole event. With all the devastation going on this past week with deadly tornados in the south and more killings in Syria this wedding seemed so petty. Yet close to two billion were fixated on their tv's watching what royalty does best, pomp and circumstance.
I have a collection of books on my nightstand which keep rotating depending on my mood and interests. "Bad Dirt, Wyoming Stories 2" by Annie Proulx; "Calling the Circle" written by Christina Baldwin; "Jewel in the Lotus" a tantric book by writers Sunyata Saraswati and Bodhi Avinasha; "Washington-Off the Beaten Path, A guide to unique places" Todd Litman and Suzanne Kort; "A Time to Plant" Kyle T. Kramer; and "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White. Reading has been an escape yet it offers so much more. I find comfort and solace in books, they don't talk back.
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