“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


the movement of summer: the last of july

texas saturday night.
no air conditioning.
gruene hall.

it is the end of july and i am feeling a rush to say words, a rush leading into my attempt at august break, a month of mostly pictures, a month i have my doubts about, and yet i have no words. it is too hot for words. august is tomorrow, this last month of summer already at the doorstep, and surely i have something, i think, surely something is worth talking about, but i sit here with both feet up, the hotness of summer visible through the glass doors, and i am blank.

this morning was a gift of fresh okra,
a surprise waiting at the front door
when i at last opened the house to the day;
it is too beautiful to eat, but eat it i will.
it was a red dragonfly perched on an old daylily stalk
the shadows of trees
moving across the lawn and the red bricks of the street.
right now is the sun in the west,
the shadows on the opposite sides of the trees,
the front yard all in shade,
2 strips of sunlight tipping the monkey grass along the creek
no breeze.
tonight is the future,
the very last bit of july,
the last stars of the month,
the last july moonlight.

i am blank, and not unhappy about that.



or only facebook-worthy?

she's already on facebook; i couldn't resist.
that stare, that don't you dare look.
i had to show someone,
and it seemed not deep enough
(how that will make you all laugh),
not angsty enough for blog-worthiness.
if i post her again here,
she will be double-dipping facebook
when the post shows up there.
not a big concern for me.
the blog's the thing.

but how do you decide?
how do you know?
(perhaps here comes the angst.)
perhaps the reason i am giving august-break a try.
see here, i will say in august,
a picture for your viewing enjoyment,
and a few words,
just a few that are tap-dancing
on my fingertips
and must be expressed.

how do you know?
besides the obvious, i mean,
the obvious being photoshopped stuff,
played with stuff.
textures galore.
other than that?
how do you know?
snapshots = facebook?
all others = blog?

there is a story here in this image.
the protagonist is lily cat,
the antagonist a huge mound of yellow packing paper
that's been on the floor of the front room
here at work
for 2 weeks now.
or perhaps that is backwards.
lily cat = antagonist,
paper = protagonist,
because she will not let me take it away.
it is a playhouse,
a hidey hole
that rustles and crinkles too much
to be a good hidey hole.
but we pretend we don't know she's there
and she springs at us,
then races down the hall and back,
back into, under, and amongst all that paper.
she doesn't know it yet, but i have more,
boxes yet unpacked keeping a secret.



it bees a little crazy and i can use me a little playful so that is why

I will be August-breaking.
With Susannah.

At least, I will be trying.
One picture a day.
Few words or no words.
Technically, no rules though.
I cannot imagine I can go a whole month
with just a few words.
I cannot imagine I can get a picture up each day.
I imagine I will backslide here and there.
But it sounds playful,
and I can use me some playful.

There's tons of us.
Well, at least hundreds.
Each on her or his own blog,
each August breaking,
each playing.
You don't even have to have a blog.
Susannah says y'all come
and she will explain it all.
A link is right here.

Leading up to August.
I will be either noisier or quieter,
but I will be here.
I will be here in August also.
We will see if every day.

And like I said,
expect an explosion of words every few days.
And look for pictures.
They will all have captions.
Some of them may be long.


i am feeling quite unhip today

and there is rain out there now that the evening draws near
and the voices of people as they pass by the building
and the cars sound like they are flying.


The Things We Don't See

One of the last pictures of Maggie. I found several on my cell phone after she'd died and didn't send them to my computer until June so I'm not sure when they were taken. But I remember taking them, remember the sun behind us, beginning to start its downward journey to night, remember her tall shadow, remember all of that. But when I looked at them again a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised by what I didn't remember. That forward posture. The way she's sitting. And really, it's not true that I don't remember it, I remember it like the back of my hand; what I'd forgotten was how sick that meant she was. It's a common posture for cats with kidney disease, and her vet and all the online places said it was more comfortable, that it was helpful for her upset belly, and I'd grown used to it, had watched it progress and you know how that it is - you don't really see those slight day to day changes, especially with those you love, they are just who they are and that's what you see, and then one day you notice your mom's weak arms or your father's growing thinness, or maybe you never do, maybe you just block it all out. After my father died, his sisters and my mother and various assorted cousins and in-laws would watch and rewatch videos of him; I couldn't do it and never did. Maybe a few years later, but not at first. It just broke my heart.

Several months after his death, however, I borrowed a box of old photos from my mom, looking for something, I don't remember what, and I happened upon a picture of him. It was summertime, or maybe early fall, and he was at my aunt's, one of his five sisters, for some kind of something, and he looked terrible. I'd forgotten how much weight he'd lost, I'd grown used to it. Seeing that image was more than too much. The box was closed up and I couldn't go on, I had a panic attack, I got sick, the whole thing that I do, but I will excuse myself this time. It was hard and I was shocked and I wasn't prepared. And now? Now I remember seeing it, but I can't conjure it up in my head. I see him healthier when I see him there or in my dreams.

Except. There is one look I also remember. He was in the hospital, he was dying, and there was a look, one of those right-in-your-eyes-don't-you-dare-look-away looks, a message sent that said he knew he was going, that he was sad to do so, but he knew it was over. That he loved me, but that he was exhausted with the fight, that he was done, that it was goodbye, and it was okay. I will never forget that look.

I have one of Maggie like that also. She was standing right where she is in that image above, but she was looking in the door - it was open a few inches and she found me in the room and looked at me, and I knew. It, in fact, made me immediately think of my father, the look was so similar. She was standing, but her head was hanging a bit and she didn't feel good and her eyes were green green green with the grass green behind her. I see it like it was yesterday. She spoke to me with that look, no one will ever convince me otherwise. And I have felt guilty, felt like I paid it no mind, though that's not true, it haunted me then and haunts me still; I sometimes, feel, however, that I should have stopped her daily treatments then, that that's what she was saying, though mostly I think she was saying goodbye, that she was telling me we'd fought a good fight, but were at last losing. When I look at the picture above, the guilt returns. I know she wasn't in pain, that she was just uncomfortable, some days more than others, that the treatments kept her feeling good most of the time, but I see this image and I feel selfish, I second guess everything. Would I do anything differently? No, no. To be honest, no. She had a couple of good years she wouldn't have had otherwise. She saw a couple of summers she wouldn't have seen, another spring. And she finally found my lap. That took 17 years. Right here you can insert a smile.

So. This picture. It made me cry. A lot. I have blurred it to soften it all up, all those hard days and nights.

And I am taking her cat carrier to work where it will become Lily's. It has been on the back porch since the day she died, way back in April. I have washed it and aired it and washed it and aired it and it survived the flood and more rains and today I have washed it once again and it is drying in the sun, out there on the brick wall where Maggie loved to sit. I feel like I am losing her all over again, so funny how we attach memories to things. But I want it to absorb the scents Lily knows, I want her to know it. In the fall I will maybe try to bring Lily home, let her have time here and time at work also. I don't know if she'll like that, but I may try. We will see.

In the meantime, it is another goodbye.


The River Knew My Name

"Before I forget, there are 6 windows on one side of the door, and 5 on the other. There are 2 on each end of the room and there are no curtains and the Blanco river lies just outside. The shortcut is Purgatory Road, and deer come into the yard at night. I am lying on an old iron bed watching the river and the shadows of birds as they fly from tree to tree. The cicadas sing during the day and there is a frog in the kitchen corner. There is silence – no one is on this river. It is mine for now. There are no mosquitoes and a hammock to fall asleep in under the stars peeking between the leaves of pecan trees. There is no McDonald’s, no Burger King, no Taco Bell. There is instead, Milagro’s, Adobe Verde, Jean’s Gourmet Tamales. I have a new opal necklace and for the first time the feel of a necklace doesn’t bother me – it is invisible to my sensitive skin. There are red butterflies I mistook for dragonflies and there are goats out on Hugo Road waiting at their locked gate as if planning a getaway; caught in the act, they skedaddle away as we drive by. At Gruene Hall I stand on a bench in bare feet and take pictures with such long shutter speeds that the dancers become unseen movement in the images. I approach women to photograph their boots, the butt of their dress, I feel at home, I feel at home, no fear, no care. I see a sign in a shop in Sattler: "If you’re not wearing bare feet, you are overdressed." I feel at home. We don’t lock the door facing the river at night; I feel at home."

The words above are notes from last weekend. That first picture is Gruene Hall. The image above is the view from the house. From the entire house, except the bathroom, and then the view was only blocked if you closed the door.

We weren't supposed to be there - it was a fluke, a result of no rooms at any inns closer to the Guadalupe, of my just picking a place on the map, any place in the Texas Hill Country a slice of heaven. Wimberley even makes that claim on the welcome sign as you enter town and it could not be more true. We thought it was a bed and breakfast, didn't realize it was all ours at first, a small house with the Blanco and a two person hammock in the backyard. There was a fire pit readied with wood at the foot of the limestone steps outside, a fireplace inside, and classical music in the air when we stepped through the door. There was a big white bed in the bedroom open to the river and two more on the back "porch", in truth a room of windows. My house of dreams. I wrote a while back about that dream house, and this house was a lighter version of that, a dreamier version. Perhaps the difference between a house on a lake and a house on a river. Perhaps. I am unschooled in the life of rivers; I know lakes and deserts and am familiar with the moving waters of a flood, but rivers are strangers. Here in East Texas they are snaky, unfriendly places, never speaking to me, too dark, too overgrown - I drive over them, glance at the brown water and keep going. But this river - this moving water in the heart of Texas - knew my name, knew my heart, and I knew it.

I slept deeply, waking with no memories of dreams, turning to face the dream outside. Breakfasted with the river moving past. Almost there was no one else out there, perhaps two or three people floating past in the morning hours, perhaps the people next door later in the day. A black Labrador from somewhere upriver kept company with us one evening, settling on a barely underwater rock until her owner tracked her down. Quiet. Silence. Peace. I ate slices of vanilla cake topped with strawberries, passing up the Fredericksburg peaches for sale on the roads. Quiet. Silence. Peace. I floated on the water and let the current carry me. Peace. Sunshine. Warmth penetrated my skin, soaked into my soul. Peace. Silence.

There were fireflies at night
and I cried when we left to come home.


at first, stillness

the skies are not blue out there today, they are gray and hot and full of rain, and did i mention they are hot? it is humid out there, it is sticky and yucky and it is texas nearing august without a doubt. this cell phone shot is from last week, still at work, reading with/to lily cat until she became quite distracted with that one little bird up there on one of the power lines - way up there; you have to look pretty hard, but it's there. paying her no mind.

outside the door at home this morning there is no movement. no wind, not a breeze, not a person, not even the sunlight moving in stripes across the lawn. nada. it is just green out there.

we spent the weekend in wimberley, texas, changed all our plans, skipped austin, didn't even bother with san antonio, and you will understand why when i tell the tale; on the drive back home, somewhere past rockdale on hwy. 79, i knew we'd entered ne texas - the trees on the side of the road were suddenly taller, the horizon suddenly hidden and mounds and mounds of wild honeysuckle, 2 and 3 times my height, covered fences and those aforementioned trees and the outdoors just got green out there on the road. in small towns there were pockets of color, crepe myrtles blooming, all dark pink, not another color in sight until we got here. this morning not even that, although just a moment ago the sun appeared and yes, there again, and the greens turn yellow-green and now there are yellow stripes through AC's backyard, laying out there quietly across the street. It is the only movement, and it comes and goes now, undecided about today. there is no birdsong, there are no birds, no squirrels, and that bodes rain.

but what power these words hold. if you type it, they will come. cardinals flying by the door and up into the hackberry tree, and suddenly red dragonflies. mockingbirds and a breeze along the creek. a brighter slice of sunlight. kenny chesney on tv singing that's the good stuff, and if i turn him off, i hear the birds singing. that is the good stuff.

and now, the sound of a lawn mower, it is almost 8 o'clock, a race against the heat and humidity. the grass grows faster than you can mow, perversely reminding me of arizona, where, if you still had a clothes line - i miss clothes lines although jeans dried so hard - you could almost begin to take down the clothes you'd hung as soon as you'd finished; it was that dry.

the small moments.
i thought i would hate them
after such a wonderful weekend away,
but i don't.
i know them so well.
too well.

the change i crave must start inside,
both house and soul.
one and the same.

my week is full,
every moment scheduled,
but then.
no movement pencilled in on the calendar.
i will begin then.

i see some blue up there in the sky.


Insert Big Smile Right Here

This was Friday afternoon, a few steps out of the car, me driving while the ever-wonderful Michael read Edgar Sawtelle. We had not yet laid eyes on the little slice of heaven we were about to occupy. But more about that later. . . . :)

This week, I have the honor and privilege of being one of the guest curators over at Jenny Doh's home away from home, CRESCENDOh. Not being a crafty kind of girl, I was more than surprised when Jenny asked, and when voicing my non-crafty concerns, never mind, said she, come on over. And so I did. And so I am there, and will be for the next 7 days. In the company of wonderful women and friends and we would love it if you dropped by and said howdy ma'am. (See? You spend a little time in the heart of Texas, and well . . . you get all polite and stuff.)

And then, in a day or two,
I will tell you a tale about my heart
a river running through it.


Simple On-the-Road Summer

It's Christina's birthday.
She likes things simple.
So in honor of this fabulous day,
a list of simples.

I'm on the road, so a list of summer on-the road-simples.

toes in the water
toes out of the water
flip flops
beach reads
gasoline credit cards
kitty-kat self feeders
cups of ice
someone else driving
changing your mind
taking that other road.

Stop by.
She is having a party today.
Tell her your simples.
And always, always,
take that other road.


On the Road

hittin' the road today.

Austin today,
Gruene Hall Friday night,
tubing down the Guadalupe River Saturday.

Anxiety level high for this short trip,
but baby steps,
baby steps.
If I say it out loud here, it will be okay.

It is after 8 and I still need to pack,
but not much needed more than a bikini
and skirts and cowboy boots.
God bless Texas.


First trip after Maggie's death.
Her gift to me.
And, of course, the ever-wonderful Michael's.
She made me promise to try,
to tell the anxiety disorder who's boss.

This one's for you baby.


In Which I Join a Revolution

It's not much of a heart and it is sideways but I park in front of it every day and every night and when I walk out the front door it's one of the first things I see and I always see it as a heart. Almost I don't see it as a rock anymore, it's just a heart and it sits there pointing out to the street, nestled next to the flower bed where the dogwoods grow. Another heart shape in my life, in the path under my feet.

I hear people talk all the time about how we must love ourselves if we expect others to love us, and I always nod, of course, I think, that's so true, and I always think I do; I know I am tough on myself, I know my faults, I know I am insecure and I know I have issues - who among us doesn't? - but always I think I love myself, at least I thought all that until last night when I had a bath - a bath with a dribble of some Neroli oil stuff I found stashed away in a drawer. It's the first tub of hot water I've sat in in a couple of years, me, who used to adore baths, who believed in the healing powers of hot water. It's crossed my mind a time or two while standing under hot water in the shower, crossed my mind that I hadn't had a good soak just for the sake of soaking in a long while, but the thought would go down the drain with the water, and it would be a while before I thought of it again. I don't know why and I'm not sure how interested I am in knowing the why of it. Soul searching can be exhausting and I soul search way too much anyway.

Instead of why, the word that comes to mind is kindness. To me. To myself. I don't practice it enough, despite the Kit Kat bars and the reading binge and the phones off the hook and the new pink rain boots with white polka dots - despite all that, I am not kind enough. There are excuses and reasons - there was a cat to be cared for, there is not enough time, there is not enough money. There is always a reason. I think of the artist's dates Julia Cameron wrote about and know that I have not only neglected my inner artist, I have neglected my inner me.

"nourishment is crucial.
joy is crucial.
sacredness must be rediscovered . . .
an inner revolution"

I found those words at Graciel's yesterday. She is reshaping her life - go there and read the whole thing; she says it so much better than I do. I read it and laughed at her perfect timing - a not unusual occurrence between she and I. She says she will move slowly, I say I will move in baby steps - they are really the only steps I know. Graciel says her skin feels thin; I know this feeling exactly. My skin feels thin, as if it is ready to be shed, and while it is still me underneath, still blue eyes and hair that always needs a haircut, still me who never gets enough sleep, still that me, it is a new skin. A new skin that reminds me how wonderful a bath can be.


weekend, heat, re-learning my space

even the shade is hot out there, which i discovered this morning when i watered my blue flowers; they haven't needed out-of-the-hose water for a few days, it's been rainy and their little blue faces and arms have been outstretched and they've been delighted to bathe in real falling-from-the-sky drops of water. i'm sure they feel and smell the difference, they've been looking pretty smug and content, but this morning they just had that look, their thirsty blue faces turned toward me on the other side of the kitchen window, and they weren't kidding. it was hot already and sticky muggy sticky, the feel of rainy air not yet gone, but soon, soon, and late this afternoon, well goodness. summah-time, summah-time. hot-sitting with lily cat out back of the business, the heat smashing into me from the pavement, the sun blaring all loud and blinding from overhead, 30 minutes was all i could do. 15 minutes pointed left, 15 minutes looking right, my left shoulder feeling like perhaps it got more than its share, still burning as i sit here hours later. i love it.

this weekend was green grapes and mexican breakfasts with avocados, raspberry sorbet for supper, the rain coming down outside, and anne of green gables for dessert. it was and is cherries and home grown tomatoes in the fridge, and baskets of strawberries and kit-kat candy bars. it is a bed with clean white ruffled sheets awaiting me tonight, and laundry mostly done, those small loads i put off, the delicate loads, the 3 or 4 white paper thin t-shirts, the 3 or 4 blue skirts & bathing suits, the linen shirt. it is the sound of cicadas at last, so loud i hear them through closed doors and over the a/c, a sound i admit feels lonesome, reminding me of last year sitting with maggie in the night. the house still feels empty and it's almost 3 months since she died, and though i try to find ways to fill her space, there aren't any; i will just learn this new space, and i am at last easy with that knowledge.

the darkness falls, it is almost 9, and i am back to my old habit of the tv on, sound off, but vicky cristina barcelona is on once again, so the sound has just been turned up; it is a movie that makes me smile, and, after all, it is about summah-time and love. i have closed the blinds against the evening heat and will pour some milk over strawberries and cereal. the strawberries look like hearts.


Somerset Life & The Rose Thief

This was going to be an easy picture.

The summer issue of Somerset Life is out and I am once again happy happy to be one of the contributors. Happy happy to talk about my magical neighborhood, to introduce its trees and fallen flowers to new readers. More than happy happy. I thought what better way to say this than to nestle the magazine amongst those flowers, plenty of crepe myrtle blossoms on the ground, all pinks and whites and speaking the language of summer. And then it rained. You remember. I told you. And all those fallen blossoms washed away. I could've picked some from trees, but so many trees had the blooms washed right off their branches, and I felt funny stealing them from strangers; I felt perfectly entitled to steal them from friends and neighbors, yes, and I know that's silly, but there you go. Silly. So I stole these rose petals instead, right from City Hall, just a few, I figured they wouldn't mind; I stole them from inside the rose bushes and I stole petals that were just about done, and after all, the article is about here. They should be pleased to know such a thief as I, and if the mayor says anything to me, anything hinting that I shouldn't'a done it, I will buy her a copy of the magazine. I think I will anyway.

It is a gorgeous issue. As always. I am once again surrounded by women I admire and love. Christen and the gang at Stampington have outdone themselves; I don't have the words to tell them how much it means to me so I will just say thank you. The cover itself, a photo by Leslie Shewring is to-die-for beautiful.

My hands still smell like rose petals.
I'll keep some in the magazine.


Sky as Life

Sky as life.
Blue sky, rain clouds, sunshine, big fluffy white clouds.
All together.
Just like life.

I drove through rain this fabulously long 4 day weekend, rain with no visibility, rain that made me wonder what on earth I was doing on the highway, rain that brought the ducks out of the lake and onto the muddy puddles in driveways and yards. Rain, y'all. Friday's rain was rain that wouldn't stop, rain that took away all boating possibilities and kept us inside. Rain that, when I was driving back home, began to disappear, just showers here and there, and rain that was full of birds. A blackbird swooped in front of my Jeep, barely able to fly, the rain absolutely pummeling him, and later, birds dodging the rain drops, slipping sideways through the wet. Lots of birds sheltering under overpasses, flittering back & forth past the traffic.

By Sunday there were blue skies and boat rides and fireworks and dancing the chacha and all of us singing along with John Mellencamp - changes come around real soon, make us women and men; the rain was still up there in the clouds, but it was yesterday when I drove through it once again. Yesterday's rain was the kind you see in the distance, just raining over here and a bit over there, a gray curtain falling from gray clouds in a sky mostly full of white and blue blue blue. I watched it grow closer, watched rainclouds scuttle by to the east; as the highway curved I would suddenly be driving into sunshine and then another curve and suddenly into rain, and once again, rain with no visibility, hard rain, but short lived, quickly back onto roads barely wet and into town, back home again.

Just like life.
Sometimes it pours, they say.
Sometimes you just miss it.
Sometimes you pray for it and it doesn't come.
Usually it's all there jumbled up together,
All those different clouds.
Blue skies.
I want to take lessons from those birds
and keep flying anyway.


uh oh

i am thinking about changing some things on my blog.
sit tight.
ignore all weirdnesses as i play.
i may regret it,
i may chicken out.
but just in case,
hang on.
it's liable to be a bumpy ride.


i know the heat by its first name

i saw a truck today, an 18-wheeler, actually 2 of them, and they were hauling stardust, it said so right there on their trucks, and i thought aha, so that's how it gets here, and i wondered if it was all gonna stay here, it seemed like a lot, and i wondered what would happen if there was a wreck on the highway and someone crashed into a truck full of stardust, would everyone be okay, i mean it being stardust and all and being tossed into the air and falling all over everyone and all the cars and i figured if i was gonna be in an accident, an accident with a truck full of stardust seemed like the absolute best way to go. and then i wondered if maybe the stardust was headed to a 4th of july celebration somewhere, and how fabulous would that be? sparklers and fireworks are pretty wonderful all by themselves, but just imagine if stardust was thrown into the mix, and i kinda wished i was headed to that imaginary party, but no invitation was in the mail, so i will stay here and sparklers will be more than fine, but i waved byebye to those trucks with a bit of envy in my heart, envy and wishes that i was going where they were going.

i was gonna go somewhere, somewhere on the ocean, but there's a hurricane out there stirring up rain, and well, i can stay here and see the rain, although rain can't possibly be the same everywhere and maybe rain next to the ocean is so totally different than rain across the pine trees and the blooming rose of sharon across the street that i should go anyway, but it's a long drive and i was going alone, just because i wanted to go, and the ever-wonderful michael made me promise to let him know if i took off (as if i wouldn't) but those hours alone in the rain just sound too blue and sad and it was the sunshine on the beach i was after in the first place, so i waved byebye to that idea just like i waved byebye to those stardust trucks, with wishes in my heart that i was headed to a blue-skied, sun-covered ocean.
i will stay here instead, where the dancing shadows of leaves fall on creeks and into the shallower parts of lakes, where i know the heat by its first name, where crepe myrtle blossoms are drizzled across cars and floating in muddy puddles in the streets, where the foamy top of a grape soda is dessert and supper. there is stardust on the roads leading out of town, but i will stay. and namaste.