“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Autumn, autumn everywhere

Autumn is everywhere.

It is piled in the middle of the rainy streets, painting a do-not-cross yellow line that matches the trees along the curbs. It is on the windshields of all the cars, a small piece is stuck under my wiper blade. There are heaps of autumn in all the yards. The rainstorm last night knocked bunches of it out of the trees - the lovely, lovely Katie said she could hear leaves hitting the roof all evening & into the morning. The golds and reds - I can't believe I thought we wouldn't get red leaves; what was I thinking? - almost vibrate against the wet gray sky.

It is even in this image.
The autumn afternoon light through the window.

Is there a story here? Possibly not. Maybe. There is a train crossing the trestle across the street, but it is mostly quiet in this part of town. The after-Thanksgiving rush is south of me, not here in the downtown area. I have part of a very tart made-especially-for-me apple pie (thank you to my wonderful sister-in-law!) at home, a cat asleep here at work, one asleep (no doubt) in front of the fire at home. Right now I want no part of Christmas. It is my ritual every year to decorate the Emma Tree on Thanksgiving evening, but last night I failed. I began hanging ornaments - it has lights year round- & just changed my mind. I undecorated it. Not in the mood. Not yet. Maybe not at all this year. Or maybe just a bit. Who can tell? But right now I want to enjoy autumn & I'm tired & I'm lazy. I want to watch old movies on tv, football games, read romance novels.

My eyes are growing heavy.
And apple pie awaits me.
your eyes are growing heavier . . . heavier


A mishmash of images

A little laziness from me today.
Just a few images I have with no stories attached.

I love the softness of the smoke
against the bare tree branches, the ghostliness.
That one little part of this image makes it all work.

And this one little heart,
there on the side,
makes this work.
Manet used to paint an entire person
just because he wanted
to paint the bow on the back of her dress.
I totally understand.

Especially when the wind blows
they all begin fluttering & trembling.
Which reminds me of a story JY told,
about the set design of an opera,
with trembling leaves,
each leaf tied to its tree.
That was in New York, I believe.
But it also reminds me of the opera story
he told last week.
About the set design he'd just seen,
but I don't remember which opera -
something about Faust.

And this.
This is just my favorite.
Would that my Christmas tree
could be this gorgeous,
this absolutely perfect.
The leaves look like orange ribbons
hung by fairies.
Maybe they are.
splishsplash I was takin' a bath


The Juggler

These are the hands of a juggler.

These hands spend a lot of time behind a steering wheel - to the store, to the doctor, to schools & pharmacies & auto repair shops. These hands spend a lot of time making telephone calls to children, grandchildren, a boyfriend, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, plumbers, physical therapists.

These are the hands that gently help Mary out of her chair or bed, help her dress, cook her meals. They are also the hands that wheel the trashcan out to the curb every Monday & Thursday morning. They wash dishes, fold laundry, change the cat litter. They know which flowers to cut & put in vases all around the house, they know how to re-program the remote control when the television loses all volume, they know how to snap beans, they know exactly how much cherry ice cream to put in the bowl. They address cards & letters, they make sure photographs have the dates taken written on their backs, they buy cakes & cookies & cokes for the neighbors. These hands refused to leave Mary in the nursing-home-from-hell-which-shall-remain-nameless. They sweep porches & mow yards & point out the most delicious, ridiculous, awful newspaper stories for Mary's delight.

These hands wave at me every day from across the street. A part of our neighborhood. Let me introduce Lyndi.

Her hands are the hands that truly do it all. Hands of strength, but no doubt hands that are exhausted. Open hands full of love & giving & giving & caring & thoughtfulness. These are the hands that keep Mary alive.

Thank you.

A juggler.
With all her balls in the air.
but she needs time off


A leaf's last journey

The movement into winter is golden turning white.

The last leaves cling to their branches, their trees, their homes, their places of birth. They have swallowed the sunlight all summer and now burst with that radiance - golden, red, tangerine, persimmon & pumpkin. They are the last of their tribe; they have outlasted the storms, fought the wind & rain & the changing seasons. They have fought with every ounce of shimmering breath to stay just one more day, one more hour, one last moment. What do they feel when at last they let go?

Is it freedom or fear?

Do they leave protesting in a madly whirling gust of wind, or do they just let go? Do they have the chance to choose? Is there an exuberance at twirling softly through the autumn air, or blowing high above the treetops into the sky - do they look back & shout a hurried goodbye to friends & family, knowing they are at last alone, knowing they can never return? Do they hear the replies, or does the sound of the wind surround them?

And when they land, what then? Is it sadness they feel? Do they understand that this is all, that this is the end? Or is this just one more step of the journey - this blanketing of the earth with their warmth?

At no time of the year am I more aware of this gift of the leaves,
of this
letting go,
letting go,
letting go.
all fall down


The time has come

. . . to gather these leaves in my arms

ginkgo tree 2008

Each morning on my way to work I pass this tree.
It sits at the corner where I make my turn from home to business.
2 blocks away.
I sit in my car,
point the camera & quickly shoot
before a car is behind me,
telling me to move on.
in the fall i think of sting's fields of gold


The thief

Shhhhh . . .

This is about a thief of trust.

You sat on the floor with her, elbows on the coffee table, exchanging secrets & gossip, told her some of your dreams, talked about art & the internet, books & tv. You whispered while Mary was sleeping, giggling with each other while trying to stay quiet. You answered her phone call when Mary was distraught & angry, crossing the street to help, understanding her tears, as well as Mary's. Yes, all of that, and more.

And yet.

She was writing it down. In ink. On paper. Noting times & actions. Oh, not your actions, not your words, not your thoughts. You are not an employee of The Company that Cannot - if you were, you would've made the list of Things Done That Were Not To Be Done. But lucky you. You don't.

This company that cannot can hire a spy. That word - spy - makes you laugh. How very James Bond-y, you think. Shaken, not stirred, you think. When you are told, you think oh, surely not. Much ado about nothing. But you are wrong. There is a paper trail, there are emails, notes, non-returned phone calls, her sudden disappearance. And you never knew, never even - not in a million zillion years - would've suspected. Never. In this you are not alone. Everyone is stunned. These are all people with whom she has shared meals & laughter, people who believed she cared. "How much money was involved?", you ask each other, feeling hurt & angry that your thoughts run in this direction. What does it take to make someone a thief? One who is welcomed at the front door. No cutting of screen windows necessary.

But as it turns out, this betrayal is a gift.
The Company that Cannot is gone,
And the spied-upon-ers?
Still here.
Gone from that company, kept here.
sundays on the phone to monday


Notes from an artist, not producing

I am just stuck.

This hand looks like a cry for help, like someone trapped, desperate to get out. I hadn't thought of that until I posted it here & took a dispassionate look at it. In real life, it's attached to a painted arm, on the page of a book, and has far to go before it sleeps, but this is where it is now.

I cannot paint lately. In fact, I haven't really been able to produce anything for months, and I can pinpoint it back to when Maggie got sick, and Mary got worse, and I became overwhelmed with the idea of losing them both, but that's an excuse, and it's one I've grown tired of. It's true, it's a fact, but still I am tired of it. It is also true that I have always been unable to paint when depressed or sad or blue or anxious or any of those times when all the professionals - artistic & psychological - tell you it will help you. But I've grown tired of that reality. I'd like it to change. Hence the effort once again to keep an art journal - an effort that lasted less than a week, that brought about tears & frustration & support from so many people, but still, it just made me miserable. I bought this wonderful book recommended by Bridgette & it's full of incredible journal pages & I have to admit, it's sheer pleasure to just look at those pages, and it even has great tips to help you get going, but not one journal page have I produced since its purchase. I have been randomly, eyes-closed-finger-pointed, picking words in the dictionary - irrevocable, dialectic, smart-ass, prickly heat - and while laughing at the sometimes very timely appearance of these words, I haven't done thing one with any of them.

As part of my birthday box-o-goodies, Lulu sent a pre-made board book, with pre-cut windows & everything, and I thought aha! This will get me going! I have tons of pieces of luscious paper squirreled away - I'll just loosen up - yes, I seriously believed I could! I'll just glue those babies in that book, I said to myself, & paint & not be serious at all! So 2 days worth of gessoing, even though I told myself I was going to paste over that gesso, led to yesterday's trauma of trying to convince myself to just stick the paper in the book! Just do it! Oh, what a fear of commitment I have! The lovely, lovely Katie laughed & laughed at me & seemed quite dumbfounded when I showed her just a part of all the bits & pieces of papers & magazine cut-outs I've been saving for years. And oh, how happy it made me to just go through all those pieces, which is, as they say, the problem. Because once I glue them down, they are gone. They are used. They are wasted in some silly book that I will hate & I will be mad at myself for no longer having them at my disposal. Truly. This is how I think. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

But I pushed myself. I got 2 or 3 pages of background almost done, kind of, maybe. Maybe. Katie & Robert stopped by for a second as they were off to enjoy life & I was stuck behind this book with 2 paintbrushes in my hand & I snapped at Robert rather testily - he being a real artist & all - that I wanted no comments. None. He pulled any comments he had (and you know, they might've actually been nice ones) back into his head like a kid pulling their hand away from a hot stove. Robert has experience with aggravated women & knows when to just keep quiet.

But I will finish this if it kills me. It may. I just think that if I don't, it will kill me artistically. This is play, I tell myself, this is practice, this is getting up in the bullpen & warming up. And I may be right, because, like I said, that trapped hand up there wants out.

Or tattoos or something.
1, 2, 3,what are we fightin' for? - don't ask me, I don't give a damn


Just this moment forever

Dogwood leaf - heart on fire

On the road Friday there was a storm coming in from the north, grey-black clouds facing me, Maggie on my lap. The sunlight was tipping left-over leaves of crepe myrtles & the tops of red maples & one gorgeous giant yellow tree, and they looked like birthday candles on a giant cake called the road - soon tiny baby raindrops began to patter the windshield, merry companions of the leaves falling from trees, and as the sky ahead of us grew darker, headlights began to be switched on, and all the while we were listening to Christmas carols sung by Diana Krall, and I was skipping the fast songs and only playing the slow ones, and truly, truly I felt we had accidentally meandered into a fairy tale. We stopped at an intersection full of cars and leaves & the leaves were swoosshhing along with the cars & the quickening wind, and Diana Krall was dreaming of a white Christmas, and Maggie was purring, face pressed to the window by my side, and I didn't want to go home. Couldn't we just stay in this moment, I thought, she and I? No more trips to the vet, no more worries or concerns about the future, no more heartaches. Just this moment forever - full of autumn winds & leaves & rain, a gathering storm in the distance, but oh so peaceful. It didn't seem fair that the light had to change.

And that night - the downhill to home, where the streetlights & moonshine lay giant shadows of trees at the bottom of that hill, shadows I see every night, and yet each evening they surprise me, waiting for me, moving in the wind. I am always disappointed when I remember they are only shadows, and I must return from that momentary dream of tree-ghosts back into the real world. Every night I find out there is no Santa Claus.


A shout out to my mother


My mother just re-connected her internet.
I can feel her eyes on me right now, as I type these words.

I better be nice.
I'm scared LOL!


Work boots

Continuing a theme.

These are usually boots I can stand in forever, but not today. The boots however are not to blame. It's the socks. They're real cute & stripey & kind of Wicked Witch of the East looking, if you were watching the movie on an old black & white t.v., but not so comfortable with these boots. You can see me in these boots. These have been worn, unlike those boots that Dan Rather wore that time he posed for Texas Monthly, trying to still be all Texas & everything, leaning back in a chair on a front porch somewhere, feet propped up on the porch railing, bottom of the boots facing the camera. Bottom of new boots facing the camera. Like I said, I've worn these boots. I've had them polished on the River Walk in San Antonio and in Jackson Square in New Orleans. I've had passes made at me by men and women because of these boots. I've played in them & I've worked in them. I've even painted in them - you can see a splash of white paint on the right boot. They are old friends.

They understood when I had to take them off today.
nancy sinatra, eat your heart out


Floodin' down in Texas

I stood at my front door, watching,
then stepped outside
for a couple of pictures.
This creek is 7 feet deep or so;
water over my head
if I had the bad luck
to be down there at that time.
I said a couple of quick prayers
to keep it from flooding across the bridge
& in my front door.
Across the bridge it came anyway,
but not quite to the door.
A good day.
Thank you God.


The most wonderful birthday ever

It was a bag of miracles.

It was the first of birthday goodies & surprises, from Lulu, and it contained tin milagros of all kinds & little skull beads & when I opened it, I felt the magic come out, come out from all the places it had been hiding all week - from dusty corners and from under the bed, from behind mirrors & inside the pages of books. If I'd been paying any attention, I would've seen those teeny, almost invisible footprints magic leaves behind when it hides; it really wants you to find it & leaves all kinds of clues, and I'm sure it must just sit there & shake its little magical head (which no doubt sounds like soft silver bells in a summer breeze & if you were really listening, you'd hear that bit of music) when you pass by & don't notice it crouched there, just waiting for you to lean over & scoop it up into your open palm. But Friday evening its curiosity just could not be contained & so it crept out of all those hidey-holes & joined me on the bed, and ooohed & aaahed right along with me. There were, as I said, heart milagros & eye milagros - my very, very favorite, because I am all about seeing & looking - & car milagros & belly milagros, and even airplane milagros. There were art things & a little St. Otto - The Patron Saint of Parking - to put in my car, although I really don't need that because I have terrific parking karma. I am also a wonderfully decisive parker. I see a spot, I park - I don't drive around & around the parking lot, looking & waiting for someone to leave so I can whush in & grab their place; I don't care, I just park. Maybe St. Otto has been with me all along. And isn't the bag really just a terrific bag? And Lulu really did see a ghost riding a bicycle, and the bicycle made no noise whatsoever, so I guess it was a ghost too.

And then it was birthday supper time, and it was the best steak ever - ever! - and I didn't need, or even want, steak sauce because it was truly incredible & melt-in-your-mouth wonderful, with sauteed spinach on the side, and Michael, who has never liked spinach, says he may have to rethink that. And then home to a quiet warm house with a new book, and a new CD that I'd ordered for myself, but which just magically, unexpectedly arrived on my birthday, and I could just feel all those little swirls of magic & miracles in the air, like little fingers rubbing the back of my neck & my shoulders and my toes & I just drifted off to sleep. . .

. . . to wake up on my birthday to find the lovely lovely lovely Katie at my door with a package wrapped in paper spun from pearls all tied up with a velvet ribbon. It contained time itself.

Magic dropped in at unexpected times all day. There was an antique print of Sir Galahad with a White Horse from my brother (which looks exactly like Michael, who was, after all, a knight on Halloween) & another meal - Mexican this time - & a necklace with tiny rubies from Lyndi-Linda who truly truly didn't have to & a macro lens from the ever-wonderful Michael & money from my mother, who has given up even trying to buy me anything, but the day also brought such love. Such joy & childlike happiness. It was absolutely my most wonderful birthday as an adult, and I swear at this very moment - this very moment, while I was typing these words - another box showed up, this one from Christy, full of red leaves from Kansas & a beautiful blue container, inside of which was nestled blue tissue paper, wrapped around bracelets of blue & pale green & lavender & turquoise - yes, yes, thank you!! - & even more love & friendship, and I may cry.

There have been emails & happy birthdays from so many of you, and I cannot say thank you enough. But thank you. I have birthday cards sitting around my house like Christmas cards in December, and a cat drawn by Emma. I just look at them & feel the magic floating around me.

And tonight? A massage. :)
cherish is the word I use to describe


On being my own woman

I am unapologetic for being me.

I have reached that point in my life, my 55th birthday coming fast at me this weekend, leaving me breathless and amazed at these double 5s, because 50 was just yesterday.  But at 50 I still tiptoed around the truth about me - oh, I thought  I didn't, but I did.  I did.  And I cannot tell you about that year or the next or the next, and what I learned about myself in those years, but this year I can say the truth.  Even if it makes me wince.  I have learned mostly to believe in myself.  So, in celebration of almost being 55, here is a list.
  • Know yourself sexually & politically.  Apologize for neither.
  • Always ask questions.  If the person to whom you are speaking has no answer, know that they have no answer.  Do not accept what they are telling you without answers, without proof.  Ask more questions if needed; do not make judgments or decisions without truths in front of you.  It is up to you to find those truths.  Move on from someone with no answers. Move on also from someone who gets angry because you asked a question.
  • Treat your stomach kindly.  If you don't want to eat someone's salmon salad or if you're just not hungry, never let that person make you feel guilty for not trying a nibble.  It is their issue, not yours.
  • Say no.  Say no often.  Take the phone off the hook.  Make sure your phone number is on the Do Not Call list.
  • Remember that you usually can  judge a book by its cover.  Also remember that sometimes you can't, but at this age, you know  you know.
  • Stop expecting people to act a certain way when grieving - just because they are not hysterical & weeping does not mean they aren't suffering.  Conversely, just because someone is  hysterical & weeping does not mean they are  suffering.
  • Leave people alone when they ask you to.
And who am I?
  • A registered Independent w/Libertarian leanings
  • A voracious reader - anything except mysteries
  • 5'8" - thank you God!
  • Argumentative
  • Grouchy
  • Animal lover - I believe, like Kinky Friedman, that there is a special place in hell for people who de-claw their cats
  • Lover of old movies & silly romantic comedies if the clothes are pretty
  • Lover of anything about India
  • I own a gun
  • I pay my own bills & don't believe it's anyone else's responsibility, especially not the government's by way of other taxpayers
  • I live in jeans
  • I love my family, my friends, my pets, my city, my state & my country, and if any are threatened I will defend them/it to the best of my ability.
  • I can change a flat tire, jump start a battery & untie knots with incredible skill.
  • I keep candles, flashlights, lots of matches & batteries & Pepto-Bismol for emergencies.
  • I am impatient with fools. I sigh loudly. I roll my eyes.
  • I am a strong woman.
  • I am emotional.
And I will end here with a story to illustrate that.  Tuesday night, election night, after work, after grocery shopping, the bag "person" helping me to the Jeep - this person who was male, about 6'6', 230 lbs., African-American, about 18 or 19 years old; I mention these things because they're important.  We schlepped the bags of cat food & ice & cokes & potato rolls into the back of the vehicle, and after closing the door, stood for a second in the cool night breeze, and commented about the day.  We talked about the election and how very glad we both were that it was over.  I said to him "Now we can just get back to normal" & he laughed & agreed, then stopped, and spoke to me seriously.  "If  we can." he said.  "If  we can get back to normal." He looked so sad.  I patted his arm & said oh, we will, and we laughed again.  He left, I climbed into the Jeep & began to cry.  For him.  For me.  For our just wanting to get back to normal, neither of us concerned how the other had voted.  God, I loved Texas at that moment.  I loved this country.  I loved him  for his concern.


My mouth is closed, but my eyes still see

I was going to save this image for Valentine's Day, but why wait?

I have no other words for today; my words were used up yesterday, and then deleted. Some of you read them, some of you will understand why I am speaking of only flowers today. Some of you will understand my need, my desire, to be accepted as an artist and writer and stay true to who I am. Some of you will also understand why that seems impossible. Some of you will understand that it is difficult to be honest, and above all, I am honest. I am also a questioner, I want to see the details, I want truth.

And so these flowers. They are what they are. Pretty. Pink. Nothing more, no pretense that they are something else. Today I embrace that which is honest, which doesn't pretend. I embrace the truth about myself and about others. My eyes are open to that truth, but my mouth will remain closed.
carol - this is for you; may you find honesty


Funeral shoes

These are the shoes I wear to funerals.

I am 6 feet tall in these shoes.
Today one of my uncles told me I was tall enough,
I didn't need heels.
My mother suggested
that the reason they were hurting me more than usual
(I'd complained)
was because I had gained weight.


Haunted houses & memories

It's a time for remembrances, for hauntings.

Yesterday was All Saints day, and I lost an aunt. My mother tells me that she is not the only family member to go on this day, but I was too young the first time and didn't really know my Aunt Barbara, who lived in Chicago.

My mother used to live in a haunted house. I lived there, too, for a while, and know this to be true. It was a strange place, with strange vibrations, an unhappy history. A big house, a long house - 4 bathrooms, servant's quarters, a solarium - it was built by one of our town's founders for his wife, whom he beat. She had safeguards built in - a door leading from the closet in the master bedroom gave her passage to the back yard. Word has it that the maid used to keep a pot of water boiling on the stove, with the threat it would be used on the husband if he attempted to hurt his wife. I don't know if it was ever necessary.

Once my mother was painting her bathroom, and when she applied the paintbrush to the wall under the sink, a secret panel popped open. Inside was a treasure map - truly; I'm not making this up - leading to gold in Mexico. There were also photographs of a trip to find that gold - a man next to a small plane - and a typed description of that apparently unsuccessful trip.

My parents would sometimes come home to find pictures off the wall, objects moved to strange places. When I lived there, I once looked in vain for a pair of high heels, only to eventually find them sitting atop the dining room table, exactly centered. Sometimes you could hear a woman crying, and sometimes you would be watching tv or having a meal and those aforementioned pictures would just fall off the wall right next to you; knickknacks on shelves would tumble to the floor. I once saw a light - a circle of light - solid. I was in bed & its brightness awakened me - no, it was not a dream. A perfect circle there on the floor next to the bed, but something odd about it - I reached out my hand and placed it in the light, expecting light to fall on my hand also; hoping it would help me determine from where the light was coming, but I placed my hand on the light, not in it. No light fell on my hand. I then watched as the circle moved slowly across the floor - truly, truly; I know you think I'm crazy, that I'm making this up, but I'm not, it really happened. When the light reached the wall under a window, it moved up the wall and out the window, causing the blinds hanging there to shake violently. And then it was gone. I moved out soon after.

Others saw things also. A boyfriend saw a woman "walking" around the yard one evening when he left, only to see her disappear into thin air when he approached her. He only mentioned this to me when I mentioned to him that an elderly neighbor, unable to sleep one night, sitting on his front porch, told my mother that he'd seen me walking about the yard in the middle of the night, gliding here & there, and wondered what I was up to. 'Twasn't me.

And my brothers & I found a pet cemetery in the woods behind the house - tombstones & all.

My mother no longer lives there - she sold the house after my father died, but I wonder about that sometimes. He so wanted to go home, to leave the hospital & just go home. I wonder if he did. If so, he didn't make his presence known in the few months she stayed before moving, but I wonder nonetheless if he showed up later, as a joke maybe, to play with the new owners. He would've loved that.
He would've LOVED it!


Blue November

November arrives slightly blue,
soft & sleepy,
slightly restless.

It creeps in with news of a dear aunt's death,
wearing black stockings,
tiptoeing across cold wooden floors,
hands on its heart.
It slides in through opened windows,
and suns itself on the sill,
belly up,
preparing for this too soon winter.
It nestles next to your hand
under the pillow,
attempting silence,
but tickles you with childhood memories
laughs when you awaken afraid.

The colors of October are yesterday,
forever gone, never here,
it whispers.