“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

11.30.2009

Autumn is Behind Us, Winter Closing In

You enjoy it while it is here, and the only good part about a trip to the vet as far as Maggie is concerned is that I let her out of the cat carrier, and I know, I know it's dangerous, I know, and I worry about it constantly but she hates those trips so much, and today she is down 1/4 pound in 4 days, and dear God, you can't spend your life always living in fearful what-ifs, so I let her out, worrying about the already-heres and watching traffic and letting a car pass me so she can watch the outside go by.

There are 5 crepe myrtles right in a row further up this road, already past their orange stage, moving into bright yellow orange - I waited for them to be as red as last year but it looks as though it's not going to happen, and there are dogwoods whose leaves have gone a bright, bright red, and roses still blooming in one yard, their red a pinker summer color than the leaves. We pass people walking their dogs, road construction crews, mud puddles and I turn the heater in the car down as we get closer to home, worried she will be too hot, although really, she spent the entire summer out in the 100+ heat, so it makes no sense, but I worry anyway and turn it down. This is not a problem at the house - our heater is not working just in time for the cold spell today - and I laid on the bed at lunch, tucked into a warm comforter, and played computer games, Maggie asleep on my feet.

Here at work,
Lily is asleep on the chair next to me,
and I haven't had my boots off once.
not once

11.29.2009

Stuck on Sensitive

Sunday morning taps me on the shoulder and says to wake up, the house is a mess and there is laundry to be done, and Maggie is hungry and you've just been fooled by the gray skies outside, it's really later than you think, and Sunday is right, it is later than I thought it was, but not just the fault of the gray skies, obviously rain coming, but also the fault of the bright-as-the-sun, I-think-God-is-coming-Memsahib back porch light of my neighbor, supposedly a motion light that gets stuck on sensitive and I have to block my bedroom windows at night with a Walmart camping blanket. I don't use an alarm clock - I haven't since Maggie's grown older, she wakes me every morning, or at least she tries - and sometimes we both sleep through the early no-sun-gray-skies-window-blocked mornings. So I am up at Sunday's prodding and re-rinsing the load of laundry in the washing machine (don't ask), and drying the load in the drier that needs just a bit more and staring at the piles of clothes and sheets on the floor awaiting their turn, and not knowing if I am up to an all day cleaning marathon, though God knows this place needs it desperately.

It is the ever-wonderful Michael's birthday today - happy birthday baby, if you read this, but I know you won't - and he is off deep sea fishing with buddies and hopefully there is sunshine where he is, and really, I am glad he isn't here; I am still dragging myself out of the Thanksgiving funk I fell into, and it is slow going, not helped by these gray skies this morning, and I know you are thinking my God, more of the same, I can't take it either, and I apologize, I am dragging, I am dragging, I will get out a bit today, I still have a birthday present to buy, but I know you know these days, when you look out of your now opened bedroom windows and you see brown dead vines on the entire length of the fence, where there used to be green vines and hidden climbing roses that would bloom every few years, but your neighbor, - yes, the same neighbor with that bright light, the same neighbor who painted the lovely blue house a horrible peach which you have not grown used to, you've grown, in fact, to dislike it even more, even though it peeks through only a few places, there is tons of stuff piled in the backyard, junk & lumber from a never-ever ending renovation, and which makes you no longer feel guilty that her view is your messy backyard - your neighbor has decided to kill them all and has done so without a word to you, without even thinking or caring that this dead brown-ness is now the view from your window, or that the bird feeder that used to be nestled amongst the vines, almost invisible, almost a part of the vines themselves, is down and the birds have found another place to eat. I know you know that feeling.

The lovely, lovely Katie and I were out and about Friday, spending money only on sand tarts and cokes (although she found a red chair I think she may buy), visiting Christmas stores, she already in the Christmas mood, me trying to find it - as if it exists in a box somewhere; I know it doesn't, but I was looking for inspiration, and I stood at a store in the midst of Christmas trees, one sweet, sweet little aqua blue baby, all lit up, all fairy land everywhere, a Santa Claus moon hanging overhead, and it was the closest I got, that and holding the squooshy fake snowballs, and it was pretty wonderful, it really was, and all day Katie and I said Oh My God! about a thousand times like we were 12 years old, and laughed at ourselves, but coming back to this messy house, this too small place, this too-changed neighborhood, seemed to overwhelm me, and it is just one of those times, it will pass, it will pass. So perhaps cleaning is not a bad idea - I will feel better, it will be like I've been sick and everyone knows I am better when I put on lipstick again. If it were an old black & white movie, the nurses would knowingly smile & nod at each other.

There used to be an awning over my front door, which was damaged a couple of years ago in a storm and removed. However, the piece of metal that attached it to the wall is still there and I noticed the other day there are 12 holes there. I think they're just waiting for Christmas ornaments. Big ones. Blue ones.

That will make me feel better.
I am smiling already.
now - laundry

11.27.2009

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Roses and pens from the ever-wonderful you know who.

This day comes to an end as quietly as it began, with Maggie beside me, asleep on a pillow, and the fire still crackling in the heater, and darkness, darkness, my old friend, outside and inside; Maggie is curled like a seashell and if I held her to my ear I'm sure I would hear not the ocean, but my very own heart keeping time with hers, while the clock is ticking away the very early minutes of a new morning.

It is ticking away more than minutes; it keeps going and the moon moves across the sky, full, then thin, then gone, then back and the seasons change and now is the time for colder air and shorter days, and then Christmas and longer days will find us again and I sit and watch Maggie's breaths, anger under my skin, and I have no patience for my mother's memories and I am sharp, always full of apologies later, but no excuses, just fear and watching and exhaustion and my niece will be 13 in January, my father gone 13 years the same month, and I stop typing to move Maggie back onto the pillow before she slides off onto the hard floor - she sleeps so deeply now. Friends lives are all their own, and when I try to say it is moving too fast, it is a merry-go-round spinning and spinning, and it is too fast and I can't catch up, I can't jump on, they say life isn't fair as if I didn't know, or interrupt to tell how it's the same for them but I don't care, I don't care, I've heard their stories and this is mine, and I don't care - it is late and I am a truth-teller after midnight, but I don't care and I hold the phone away from my ear and I say me, me, me, this is about me, please just this time let it be about me, but I don't say it out loud, I say it silently to the roses in the mirror, afraid to look up and see my own reflection, afraid to see the selfishness in my eyes. The clock keeps ticking and it's not set to Deborah time, not even close, and Mary's house across the darkened street is darker than usual and the night so quiet, no sirens, no cars, no cats, no nothings out there, the world asleep, tucked in its bed, all but me, all but me, and I am here, melancholy in my hands, cat now asleep on the stool next to my feet. She moves all the time, and then stops, and my mother can no longer lift the Thanksgiving turkey and I don't want to know that, I want to turn away, so I am sharp, the anger so close under my skin pushing its way through, and I worked that last Thanksgiving my father was alive, after the meal I headed to work, and I knew it was his last, he was so frail and could barely carve the turkey, or perhaps that's not right, perhaps he let my brother do it, my memories are getting older, and I swore I would never take anyone for granted again and I do it all the time and I am sharp and I am scared and I am tired and I want the clock to just stop for a bit, to let me catch my breath, to let those I love catch theirs. Maybe when the days grow longer.
maybe in the summer

11.26.2009

Listen / Thank You / Apple Pie

Listen.

The wind is still outside, no leaves are falling.
All is calm, all is quiet.

There is the purr of a cat standing here staring at my fingers moving across this keyboard - I'm sure you can hear her - there is the sound of yellow and gold as the sun begins to light the treetops, of flames flickering in the heater behind me, beginning to warm the day, there is the song of a lone bird giving thanks for clear skies, blue behind those glowing treetops.

And that's all.
All I need right now.
These moments.
This silence before the day really begins.

A quiet time to say thank you
to all of you
for coming here and coming back.
For your kind words and support and generosity
and for the beautiful places you lead me, link by link.

And now, on to apple pie.
Nothing says thank you like homemade apple pie.

11.25.2009

Say Your Dreams Out Loud: I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Back behind the place where dreams are made.

I used to live there.

Life was fine, life was good, but I'd reached that age where it looked as if that was all there was. Perhaps you've been there, perhaps you've just passed through - I'm sure we waved at each other, not knowing we'd meet again later, in a different place. Life is a funny thing.

I lived there, back behind that place, watching the dreams for everyone else packaged up and going out the door, watched some of them drift away with clouds to their new homes, surprises for their new owners, and I got used to it, got used to just heading for work and coming home, got used to no extra time, got used to no boxes of dreams-come-true waiting for me on the front step. Just got used to it. Accepted it. Every once in a while I would paint a little painting, collage a little collage, and the people I knew would ooh and ahhh and tell me this, this is what you need to be doing, you should move to the land of Working on Dreams, and I appreciated it, I really did, it made my heart glow for a moment or two, but bills had to be paid, and the business had to be cared for, and sometimes that meant 60 to 70 hour weeks, and even when it didn't, it meant I needed to sleep, to recuperate, and by the time I'd reached the time I could even think about painting, it was back to work, back to the routine. I know you know.

And like I said, I got used to it. I said goodbye to dreams and hopes and wishes, tucked them away in a corner of my heart, and learned to not be sad about it. I learned to ignore the people who kept telling me to move - to be honest, they were all people who had extra time, who weren't struggling, who had money or someone else paying their bills, who really didn't get it, who assumed it was just laziness on my part that kept me from trying. All good people, I loved them all, but none who really understood. And I kept going. I would channel those artistic parts of me into building the Emma Tree at work, into decorating for the holidays at work, into writing just lines, small bits of poetry for myself (though I didn't think of them as poetry), into wrapping Christmas gifts as beautifully as possible. You do what you can do.

But the thing is, those dreams and hopes and wishes, no matter how kindly they are tucked away, don't die. They poke at you and push at you and they make you miserable - at least that's what happened with me. And though I'd grown used to my work-a-day routine, I wasn't happy. I was okay. I was, as I said, accepting: I didn't cry myself to sleep at night - I just lived my life. It's easy to do that, you know (I know you do) - it's easy to stay with the status quo, especially when you are exhausted and always struggling for money. It's easy. At least you get a break every now and then, a break when you can breathe for a moment, but if you live back there behind that place where dreams are made, when you get that moment, you see those dreams that are not yours packaged so beautifully with someone else's address on the box, and you begin eventually to think some thoughts. And then the day comes when a thought grabs hold, when you are so inspired that you cannot run anymore and, of all things, who'd'a thunk it?, a blog is born. It seems so innocent at the time - you think no one will read this piece of silliness, but they do, a few at first, and then a few more - and those dreams and wishes start to push at you even harder. You hate it, you don't want them let loose, you know what grief they will bring, you know you still have no extra time, no space, no money, but they prod and poke and poke some more and finally they knock a hole in your heart and find their way out and you are lost. With every new achievement, more dreams find their way out, dreams you thought you'd lost back in the 8th grade when you won an award for a story you wrote and you had to dress up and go to a big ceremony to receive your award. And life gets hard. It gets more fun, it gets scarier, you have even less time, which you would have thought impossible 3 or 4 years ago, and you've grown older, and time brings losses and heartache, but new doors keep being opened and you keep going, keep going, keep going. Like that little I-think-I-can train engine, you just keep going up up up the hill, hoping the top of the hill appears soon. You are late to work every day - every day - because you are writing and you feel guilt about that, and you are defensive about it, but you know you can no longer live behind that dream factory, you know you must find a way to a new street, a new home, a new life. It is the only way you will survive.

And you hate feeling the dreams come alive again - really, you do. It was easier when you felt nothing. But you think about those kids who won awards with you back in junior high, and you wonder what they have done with their lives - you know, you just know, that some of them are writers. And so you write, you try to make up for all those lost years, and you cry yourself to sleep because there is just no room to paint, no matter what anyone says - you already have no stove, there is just so little room - and you design a studio/gallery/home in your head because that's what you really want and one day you type those words on someone else's blog as a comment to a tale she has told - too scary to say them out loud on your own - and more dreams are loosened, and so you finally write them in your own little place. You tell the world. A place of your own or you will die - you want that place. You will build a tree inside, and around that tree will be a table for art lessons, art groups, art fun, and once every couple of months you will have a show, not just your stuff, but others' stuff, and you will be the judge and jury. You will live in the back or maybe upstairs and there will be a cat there with you. You can see it in your head - you can see it. Where the money will come from, you know not. But the words are out there, and let those who will laugh, laugh.

It is my dream, and it hurts to dream again.
But I feel alive.
and full of fear and hope

11.23.2009

Home for the Next Month

Where I am heading for the next 4 weeks.

Into this little journal via Thought Threads.

I am the world's worst journaler - I even have trouble typing the word. That doesn't keep me from buying journals - I have drawers of them, all sizes - so when one of the requirements for the course was a small-ish journal that I could keep with me (spoken by someone who has never seen the giant tote/purse I carry everywhere), I, of course, wanted to buy a new one. It was perfect timing - I've been thinking about getting a new address book, and agonizing over that, agonizing over whether it was okay to put away the address book of my last 35 years, beautiful little brown suede thing, a companion really, and make a new beginning with a new address book, full of people I actually keep in touch with instead of people from my past. So off I went, my head full of address books and journals, and I oohed and aaahed over lovely leather things and cute little moleskins and even ecologically correct journals - which I admit made me just roll my eyes and laugh, because their target demographic is definitely not people with a limited income. And came home empty handed. Just couldn't do it. The address book I am still thinking about - I think psychologically it is the thing to do, but I just didn't see anything I liked; blue is apparently not an "in" color right now. And the journal? Well, I spent my money on a book or two instead, and decided I'd just use one of the journals I already had, which is truly more ecologically sound, if you care about such things, which, again, I admit, I don't, and that's all I will say about it - you all already know that about me and I don't want to get into politics. Except that the ecologically correct journals & calendars & dayplanners & address books reminded me of signs that say "Simplify", like one that one of my friends has hanging outside next to her patio. I mean, if you really want to simplify, wouldn't it make much more sense to just not buy or hang the sign in the first place?

So anyway. I will be journaling in this sweet little journal above, which really only measures about 5"x7" at the most, and has a pocket in the front for a picture. I shoved in the stamped eyes to take this picture - they were laying around in my pile of stuff to collage with - and they may stay. We will see. Right now it is sitting in a Ziploc bag with pens, so I can carry it with me always, waiting for my 1st assignment.

Who knows what this will open?
The dam may burst.
I may need a life preserver.
Rations for the voyage.
Dramamine.
ready to go, though

11.20.2009

Sassafras, Ginger, My Grandmother's Porch: I Walk Through a Dream

A tale tonight of autumn roads invisible beneath golden leaves,
a summertime shadow still with me in a dream,
the white autumn sun as relentless as July's;
the shadow dancing before me as I walked
the white sandy road between my childhood home
and my grandmother's house,
falling into nothingness as I topped the hill
and evening awaited on the other side.

I wore cowboy boots
and my 3rd-grade brown checked gingham dress,
trimmed in ginger rickrack,
and when I reached the hilltop
the last of the sun's rays made that rickrack sparkle,
ginger & cinnamon & copper rays flashing behind me
the moon and stars ahead.
No leaves on this side of the hill,
just the sand of the road, lit by moonlight,
my grandmother's house halfway down, to the left.
The night was summer here and my boots too hot,
so off they came and I felt the heat of the sand under my feet,
the heat of the day released at last into the cool of the night.

The smell of sassafras,
the chinaberry tree looming dark behind her driveway,
the sound of her rocking chair on the screened-in porch.
The darkness of the night,
the path catty-cornered through her yard to the stairs.
The quiet of the night and it was autumn again,
the trees losing leaves in the sudden wind,
my grandmother's laughter, the ka-thump of her chair.
A chair for me also that I knew to be blue
though its color was hidden from view.
I rocked and watched the leaves.
she is watching

11.19.2009

Where Will the Birds Dream?

See that hole?

A birdhole.
The image is not to scale -
the birdhole I photographed up close,
the wall back a bit.

I used to see it from my couch, that birdhole. This couch that looks out onto the neighborhood, that looks straight down Mary's driveway where she used to very badly back her car out over the curb and almost into the telephone pole and once tore the passenger side mirror off against the iron railing next to her porch - there were teeny mirrored pieces on the driveway for weeks and probably some still there if I closely looked. This couch looks down that straight-as-an-Oklahoma-highway driveway which separates her front yard from AC's backyard, and from this couch I watch AC's tulip tree bloom each spring, I watch the paperwhites and lilies make their way through the ground, and until last week I watched birds go in and out of that birdhole that AC didn't even know was there, on the way-back side wall of his house, until he had some boards replaced and the board with this hole came down. I sat here at lunch one day and watched the carpenter take it down, watched him toss the years and years of birds' nests out onto the ground and it was another sad change in a year full of sad changes and I walked over and asked if he would drill another hole for the birds, but no, no doing, and so a new board took its place and was painted, and I wonder what the birds will think when they show up to make their new home come spring and there is no way in.

Me no tengo home.
me sometimes too

11.18.2009

Inside the Door

Inside my front door, which are double glass doors letting in tons of sunshine and northern light, there sits this table, this buffet, this thing, this piece of furniture which I stole from a place I rented years and years ago. It was the home of my dreams, and in fact, I dream about it still - an old, old house divided into 3 apartments, 10' ceilings, wooden floors, a fireplace in both the living room & bedroom, giant windows; I only made curtains for the bottom half of each window - they were 8 feet tall and the house was built high off the ground; those half curtains meant I could watch the stars from my couch. It had windows, windows, windows and a dining area perfect for a studio and I loved it dearly. I knew the instant I opened the old heavy door that it would be mine. It even had connections to my childhood - my family had lived 1/2 block away in my preschool years and the house used to have "garage sales" in the house. I'd remembered that my whole growing up life, could and can still see the dresses hanging in the hallway next to the staircase, that backlit soft light of old photographs making the dresses glow, their faded pastels the colors of dusty fairy tales. When I walked into the house for the first time as an adult, I knew it, knew the place I'd remembered was real, and then I opened the door to my soon-to-be apartment and knew I was home.

At the time a friend lived across the hall, a family upstairs, but in time they left and others moved in and eventually I had to leave, driven out by younger, ruder people whose daddies paid their bills and who left me no time to sleep, no time to think, no peace. My landlord was useless - never mind the fact that I'd been there 7 years, that I'd taken such wonderful care of the place, never mind all that. Good renters are under-appreciated. Always. So I found a place in the country with the closest neighbor a horse who stood at the fence and looked in my front door, but before I left I stole this piece of furniture which stood in the hallway, sad, neglected, empty. It was definitely not me - it has curly cues all over and was a horrible yellow, but I took it anyway and painted the outside white and inside all the drawers & cubbyholes I painted aqua. It looks like a big white wedding cake and it makes me smile. No one ever missed it and I always think of that wonderful place when I touch this whatever it is.

As I said, it sits right smack inside the front door and is the catchall for the day's goodies and I am pretty bad about clearing it off with any regularity. If you look close you will see a white floating candle shaped like a star, pink bling left over from Halloween, lip gloss, a candle inside a lime, a small handmade journal, the strap to my camera carrying purse (I hate camera bags), an LCD reader for reading in the dark and Lord knows what else that I'm just missing. Lots of loose change. But it also holds flowers and postcards from Italy and Bali and a stopped clock (the very best kind, don't you think?) and it is home and it is mine - I've had it for 20 years or so now. My old landlord apologized to me later, sad he'd not kept me and he died a few years later.

I think he was glad I took the table.
mr wright aka mr right

11.17.2009

The Third Person

You never know who will be a part of your life, or maybe you do know- immediately - but you don't know when, but usually life is full of surprises and the redhead above was certainly one of those. Back last year I said I would introduce y'all to the people on my block, in my neighborhood, and I started and ended with Mary, and it was just too hard to go on, and besides, I kind of figured y'all knew the lovely, lovely Katie from the mentions she gets here and there, and certainly you've lived through the wedding drama with her, but here's what you don't know. Sunday night Maggie sat in her lap. Folks!!!! There should be fanfare, you should hear trumpets, angels should be flying overhead! This is uncharted territory for Maggie and Katie and me - I almost felt jealous - and it is that kind of territory for Maggie that, until now, was beyond here be monsters kind of territory. It was a moment, big enough that Katie even messaged her new hubby OMG!

Hers is the third lap Maggie has ever been in, and the second was only last week, and it was Michael's and Maggie's known him 17 years. For that matter, she's known me daily for 17 years and only began sitting in my lap recently. Katie took 5 years. She is the third person Maggie loves.

I know all kinds of things about her - Katie, that is, although I also know all kinds of things about Maggie. She is a high maintenance restaurant kind of gal - I'll have an extra bowl of black olives on the side, and only Romaine lettuce, and no cheese on the pizza - and I like that because it makes it easier for me to get what I want; I have always been a secret high maintenance restaurant kind of gal, but too shy to say anything. I know her colors - see that phone in her hand? - and the kinds of shoes she likes, and how happy she is to finally have her couch in to be reupholstered. I know how honest she is, what she wants for the future, her struggles with the present. I know how strong she is, both emotionally and physically, how little she suffers fools, how much she likes fairy lights strung about anywhere, how good she looks in hats. She owns her own business and just today her mother told her she had grown up smart.

I knew the instant she showed up, the moment she became part of Robert's life, that she would end up Mrs. Robert. They live upstairs (is she now Mrs. landlord?) and she passes my door several times a day, poking in her head to say hi sometimes, grabbing a glass of wine and settling in for a movie or a football game - yes, we are sometimes just 2 girls watching football, and I will say right here that we love Peyton Manning, but not Tom Brady, and that Tony Romo makes us nervous; she knows if my blinds are down that I need privacy and she gives it, but if they stay down too awfully long, she will text me to see if I'm okay. We are two circles intersecting, moving always, so that the intersection is smaller at times, bigger at other times, sometimes apart but circling, circling, like hula hoops (she is the sage-y green one, I am the baby blue); we will come back together again. It is not a static friendship, it grows and moves and grows and moves and grows some more.

She is much more a people person than me - I am fine with a friend or two and my cat and my house and books, but she is more extroverted, and has gently pushed me out into the world more, and for that I thank her. I also say a thank you on Maggie's behalf, who would say it if she could, and, in fact, did so the other night when she climbed onto Katie's lap. She (Katie) won't see this for a while, there is a political fund raiser thing scheduled for tonight (I've told y'all we are political people) and she won't read my blog for a bit, but I will tell her I saw her go by the door with something black to wear, and I suspect she has exchanged the new red coat for black. I expect she knows best, although the red looked like fun.
altitude

The North Wind & A Typing Warrior

Back from the land of nothing, where I slept a little later and watched Chocolat more than once, waking yesterday morning to find the sly north wind had shown up here, but I was more Anouk than Vianne and felt the need for home even more, watching the leaves fly hard through the blue air, feeling sad for the out of season late honeysuckle blossoms who'd appeared over the weekend, their "antennae" quivering in the wind and cold, blooming next to the out of season early paperwhites which had also surprised me with a few flowers.

But the weekend had been sunny and warm and Saturday I watched a yellow butterfly the exact shade of the yellow-not-yet-golden ginkgo leaves on the small tree in Mary’s yard – it flew around and up and down and as golden leaves dropped from the pecan tree and pale yellow rained from the hackberry tree, it danced between them. I lost sight of which was leaf and which was butterfly – the leaves poured out into the sunshine onto the brown and golden ground, and only when the wind held its breath could I find the butterfly again, still in the air, still singing the praises of fall with flight, and again the leaves tumbled through the air, and as I sat still and watched, there appeared a red tailed hawk, swooping around the corner of my house, past my front door, eye level if I’d been standing outside, and whoooshed fast fast fast, almost silent across our yard and across the street, heading north, ducking beneath the bare branches of the tulip tree and across AC’s back yard and onward into Mary Lou's trees. Oh! What a gift of the morning, the red tail feathers almost against my door as he made his turn. He was back in the afternoon, taking a perch in the V of a now leafless tree across the street, keeping watch over the creek, sitting in the sun, and Katie suggested perhaps he is my totem, he keeps showing up. I looked it up and of course, it means I am aware - that dreaded word again, the word that sounds so positive, but in this day and age, this uber-politically correct era, it is a word that means you just keep silent when you see the inconvenient truth. But it fit, of course, and I am now wondering if perhaps my muse, which I always knew to be a bird, is a hawk - I like that idea, a strong powerful bird sitting next to me, egging me on, fixing me with his or her hawk eye if I dawdle.

While typing I keep making errors, and while typing that phrase, I accidentally (if you believe in such things) typed typing warriors. Oh yeah. I think it's the hawk.
i embrace that notion - a typing warrior i will be

11.12.2009

Is this Heaven? No, it's just Ginkgo.

I'll be off for a couple of days so thought I'd leave you with this.

The ginkgo down the street.
There are several in the neighborhood
and even one at City Hall,
and a baby one in Mary's front yard,
but this is the best.
A block and a half from my house,
it's where I turn right each morning on the way in to work.

Not bad, huh?
and i think the house is empty - for sale, she says?

11.10.2009

It Was Just the Thing You Did When You Believed in Freedom

My uncle kept WWII in his heart until the day he died.

He didn't talk about it unless prodded,
and even then not much;
he'd saved the lives of several men he served with -
just the thing you did, you know,
this is America, after all, he would tell you,
worth every misery in every foxhole.
Freedom.
Like they say, not free.
There were medals and silence.

He died years ago,
fighting cancer from a private foxhole and losing.
The morphine took him back to war
and his silence was loosened,
his fears returned;
when my mother visited him in the nursing home,
she once found him in a supply closet
down the hall from his room.
Waiting for the enemy.
Ssshhh, he told her, they will hear.

Yes.
They will.
So let them hear our courage,
our belief in freedom,
our footsteps on the road.
Walking with conviction.
Walking with knowledge.
Walking with the ghosts of those who have given all.

Thank you.
Thank you all.

How Love Really Feels

I look here at this cat, this light of my life, this part of my heart, and I wonder how I got here - oh, I know she showed up on Independence Day over 17 years ago, riding so quietly next to Michael in the little blue truck he owned then, and I wasn't happy about it, I really wasn't, but there he was with this kitten in his hands, trying to ease my broken heart of 2 months, this kitten born the day my older cat had died, and what was I to do but go to the awful little grocery store near my house in the country, the grocery store whose roof leaked and if it was raining you had to skirt your way around buckets placed in the aisles, and I didn't even go near the butcher section, it was too disconcerting, and they had no kitten food, but off brand cat food - enough for a day or so, and she was mine. That's how simple it was. I thought she had no personality, this kitten who looked so much like my old cat, Stella, those looks being the reason Michael chose her, scooped her out of her safe life at his sister's house, away from her siblings and mom and the dog who used to lick her ear, those looks the reason she found herself in a strange place with a strange woman. At last she had a name - Maggie, Miss Magnolia - and it took a while for us to fall in love with each other - she is not one to easily give her heart away, and I hardened mine, I admit it and I feel such guilt, but I'd not wanted another kitten, not yet, not that soon, my heart still hurt from Stella's sudden death, and I knew this one would break my heart also, and I was angry with Michael for bringing me sure heartache, but she was there, she was home, and though it took a couple of months, maybe 3, I admit that also and am not proud of myself, the day came when I finally realized how much I loved her, when my heart felt not closed anymore, when I could feel it in my chest, beating away, when I could feel the meltiness of it when I picked her up and held her close, and only later did I realize she waited to love me also, this cat who loves so few.

These days my guilt comes when I grow exhausted with the daily care she needs - I admit this also, and again, I am not proud of this feeling - the constant watching and worrying, the fear that today is the last even when she seems fine. She is often sick in the morning, and I begin my day tending to that, first thing out of the bed, sleepy, angry, scared, wanting her to just be well, feeling guilty for all of those thoughts as I clean, she meowing for I know not what, more food, to be outside, to be in my lap, and the meowing seems more than I can take, and too loud, my fear the background chorus, all churning in my head, I just wanting silence and for this to stop, but crying through it all because I really don't want it to stop, only the morning sickness, she is fine the rest of the day, still able to jump in and out of an open bathroom window, stalk birds and lizards, but this morning she is outside longer than usual - having eaten and headed for the sunshine, and that has aroused a new fear - why is she not in here, wanting to be in my lap, wanting to walk across this keyboard, what does this mean, and the guilt is huge, though I was extra kind to her this morning, I worry that she overheard my crying on Michael's shoulder yesterday, that she will no longer want to be in my lap, which has been a true gift 17 years in the making.

She is sleeping standing up beside one of dogwood trees - I can't remember if it's the pink one or the white, but I can see her if I get off the couch and check in the mirror next to the door; if she were awake she would see me - she always does, her glance goes immediately to that mirror and usually she heads for the door. Relyn posted about time today, about it flying out the door, and it made me cry, this awful time that won't stand still, and I watch this cat grow older and though she is as healthy as can be she still has this awful kidney disease, and I am angry at that, I want things to just be the way they were, like a child, can't we have do-overs? But we can't, we don't, and what would I change anyway except those first few weeks she lived with me? For now, I keep her alive, Michael and I together, and the vet, and as long as she is happy, that is more than enough. I believe I will go wake her, entice her inside - it is too late to wash my hair, so perhaps she will keep me company over some toast.
come in, come in, wherever you are

11.08.2009

56 / Day 1

It smelled like spring when I left work Friday night, and I was a bit early in my leaving so there was still a hint of leftover lighter blue sky, and it had that feel of spring coming on - you know, that first evening you walk out into a spring evening and know it isn't all that far away anymore - but of course, it is fall and it was just an autumn tease, when the temperatures head back into the high 70s and for a moment you forget it isn't spring, but only for a moment because within seconds the night is atop you and the smell is now that of Christmas around the corner, and you are driving in the dark, listening to the radio for a just a minute and then back into silence, saying your goodbyes to this false spring and this true summer because you always wait until the last second, and after all, you are wearing flipflops today. but you say your goodbyes halfheartedly and you pass by the orange walls of Sunshine Records, closed for the night; the doors to the next door blue boxing gym/arena open to the cooling evening air, but never mind, you are out to buy flowers, no time for remembering that the gym was once an ice cream shop when you were a little girl, and your memories of that are springtime and summer memories, a child's memories of times long past, you are busy now, you are an adult, there are deadlines to be met, commitments to be kept, and even those you want to keep, are more than happy to keep, seem overwhelming, this false spring putting you in the mood to just keep driving and see where you end up.

But you don't, you buy the flowers, you spend Saturday doing what must be done and then Sunday arrives, your birthday, a birthday full of cards and gifts and bracelets all arriving early, and you bought yourself lemon donuts yesterday, because you have long past the age where a cake is part of the celebration, and, besides, it is a day you know you must spend alone, so much still to do today, that deadline still looming, and it is okay, you were quite a beast yesterday, and feel sorry for anyone who had the misfortune to speak to you, and time alone feels okay, really it does, you tell yourself, but deep in your heart, when you are honest with yourself, you know that what you'd like is an impossible-to-do-at-this-time-of-year day off, two days off, to finish these photos you must finish, playing cat and mouse with the sun these past few weeks, waiting for light which has at last shown up - you'd really like that time off, and you'd really like a surprise bouquet of flowers at the door, and maybe a cake, a small celebration for you, it seems so little, but you know it won't come, that this work awaits, so you are up a bit early on a Sunday morning, just like the Sunday morning you were born, and you find this image from earlier in the season, Maggie in your lap, Katie checking her Facebook - a familiar scene, the tv is probably on and we were no doubt gossiping while watching an old movie. An out of focus phone shot, but a reminder of this year, of a good friend, of a much loved cat still with me.

So my birthday begins with yellow leaves falling from the trees - they are piling against the curb - and Maggie impatiently waiting for me to finish typing so she can jump in my lap, Vivien Leigh in black & white walking down a curved staircase on the television, and me wondering what I've learned this year, how I've changed, knowing first and foremost that I have learned, once again - it is always an awakening of an old knowledge - that grief takes its own path and nothing you do can change it or the speed it travels down that path. I have learned there are people out there who really like my art, and people who really like my writing. I have learned to be more honest, and I was pretty honest to begin with. It has been a tough year, one filled with loss and recognition, with changes everywhere I look, and I welcome its end, I welcome the beginning of 56, though, to be honest, I cried myself to sleep last night - 56! I sobbed! Ah well, 56 it is. Glad to see it, even the bad days. Day one - so far, so good. :)

11.04.2009

Sighs Aplenty

It is all soft tonight, and shadows everywhere, and Maggie curled up on the other end of this bench and old music Johnny Mercer soft jazziness on the tv and the sound of flames flickering in the old gas heater and black and white socks keeping my toes warm and the idea of deep autumn moving closer, and it is my birthday this weekend and what do I want  he asked and this year I did not say world peace, I said peace of mind, that, and a long massage with hot rocks, and Mercer has put me in the mood for Diana Krall, who takes me back to last fall and early listening to her Christmas cd, in the car with Maggie to the vet's, just the slow songs - so much measured by those weekly trips to the vet, and I think of Michael who married & divorced very young, spending so much time with his young son in the car - have I told you this?  I am getting older, you know, I may have forgotten - picking his son up for weekends here and there, from dayschool and babysitters and they all lived out on country roads, and so much  time spent in that car, he and his son, and his son one day reciting baby poems the teachers taught, and Michael, thinking that perhaps better  poetry was required, spent those rides in the car teaching AE Housman's "When I Was One-and-Twenty", and the day came when he dropped off his son at his ex-wife's and there were relatives oohing and aahing and give us a poem  the ex-wife said, expecting one of those baby poems, indeed would have been proud  of one of those baby poems, but instead his son recited Housman, out of the mouths of babes, don'tcha know, standing there all 3 years old:

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
"Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free."
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
"The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs aplenty
And sold for endless rue."
And I am two-and-twenty
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

and of course everyone was amazed and a bit taken aback and even Michael was surprised while inwardly he laughed, not knowing how much his son had really memorized, and quite, quite pleased about the entire affair, because, after all, it was  his ex-wife's family, you know.

11.03.2009

What i should have mentioned on Halloween

I should have posted this on Halloween,
these ghostprints of leaves on a fence.

And I should have told you about the woman
who brought her horse to Halloween,
painted like a zebra.

And there was the miniature pony which made us smile
and we agreed that someone who didn't smile at such a sight
was utterly beyond beyond and flat-out hopeless.

There was the annual extravaganza next door,
much too much,
sending the lovely, lovely Katie and I
scurrying for the party in the woods,
she in ruby slippers,
I needing Pepto-Bismol
after backing out of the driveway whilst facing the neighbor's strobe,
saying I will drink some at the first red light,
but, wouldn't you know it?
We caught every light green until almost out of town,
in fact there was only one more light to go,
and by then I almost didn't need the Pepto,
but drank it anyway.

Good thing - there were cupcakes.

A View from the couch, before breakfast

That catawba tree I talked about yesterday.

Shamelessly baring itself right out there in public.
Totally nude at the top,
these few last leaves at the bottom are all that remain.

I have taken a trillion pictures of this tree and I am never happy with any of them because I think you have to be the tree to make it work and I haven't evolved to that level yet. I stand under it when it's summer or fall or winter or spring, when it's frothy with white blossoms, when it's naked or near naked, when it's wet, when it's dry - I shoot from the north side, from the south side, from the down side looking up, and this tree just defies me every time. It plays with me. It's an old tree and holds stories and secrets and tempts me daily to capture its mood, then laughs when I cannot. I think of it as Mary's tree, but it is not, it belongs to the house on the corner, and it is a tree made for climbing, though I've never done so. It overlooks the creek that runs next to Mary's house, and if I were a child, I would not be able to resist.

This morning I have a cat in my lap and I am leaning over her to reach this keyboard, and what I think of as the catawba tree's right arm is visible from this angle, this awkward position. The end of that arm, that limb, is shaped like an upside down v, stretched out quite a bit, and it perfectly matches the roof line of the part of Mary's house that is directly behind it. When I scooch to the right here on the couch, I can visually line them up so that the house appears to be just an extension of the tree. The ginkgo tree in her yard is full of leaves gone pale green, the edges of the tree close to gold, the complete transformation a couple of days away, and it sits behind the end of that limb, its leaves a fluff of foliage - in my eyes they merge, and the catawba ties the neighborhood together a bit more tightly. The sun is out, lighting the top of the ginkgo and the trees behind the catawba, and has just moved to light up the hackberry tree in our front yard. The view is still green, but that paler green I mentioned, a green going to gold, and there are a few orange leaves now glowing high in the treetops behind Mary's house. Around the corner, up a couple of blocks, still there yesterday morning, are jack-o-lanterns hanging high in trees, mimicking the change of color of the leaves: when I pass them I wonder how on earth someone managed that feat of aerobatics, and I wish they lived here on my street, maybe next door - I think they would fit in.
welcome november

11.02.2009

Hawk

I stood under an almost empty catawba tree Saturday,
a red-tailed hawk just a few feet above me,
so close I could count his feathers.

The neighborhood was silent,
the birds finding hiding places,
or staying still where they stood,
the squirrels disappearing into the trees.

It was a powerful few moments
and I stood below him as I stood below the 5 owls last year,
adjusting my breath to his,
finding a moment of meditation in the suddenly quiet street,
in a patch of welcome sunshine
near a tree I know raccoons call home.

There was no one around,
everyone taking a last afternoon breath
before the awakening of Halloween night.
Just me and this hawk.
Just us.
In silence.

When he left,
almost landing in a neighbor's back yard,
then flying fast and low across other lawns,
south into other trees,
I stayed for a moment,
until I heard a bird sing the all clear
and I began to move with the other inhabitants of our block.
we are one at times like these