“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


hope is a passive word

but we hope anyway.  we say our prayers, we mind our manners, we close our eyes and take deep breaths.  we are familiar with ommmmmmmmmm.  we touch thumbtip to fingertip and sit with the place of no-place, or we cradle one hand in another, or we lay trying-for-calm on our backs, palms against our bellies, we breath in p-e-a-c-e and we breath out, out, out, out.  we hope.  we hope.  we cry when dreams are disappeared, and we search for sleep, that sly, sly sleep lurking in all the wide-awake places, the sunshine falling across the backseat of a jeep a lullaby crooning us into never-never land, if only for a few moments, if only for half an hour.  if only, if only, we tell ourselves, and we say more prayers - to the blue autumn sky over our heads, to the breezes passing by through open windows, to the songs of birds and the chatter of nurses, lilac clad at picnic tables.  we are kind to animals and we sometimes give money to that man on the corner, knowing he will just buy liquor if he can find a ride to a liquor store, but not caring at all, hoping the drink helps him through the night.  hoping.  such a passive word.  we leave our pennies in the penny box at convenience stores and we don't litter and we always, always drop dollar bills in the salvation army buckets.  we tip well.

i remember the woman from walmart's pharmacy when she is wheeled into the emergency room - i am there with my mother, hoping, hoping - i remember her because she was kind and the line that afternoon had been long and she looked me in the eye when we spoke, and i lean my head on my hands and my prayers are no longer words, they are just unformed thoughts, and she is fine, everyone is fine, life is just overwhelming at times, and we are all standing on a corner with a sign in our hands needing something.  we deny it, we say we need nothing, but that's a lie, and i know it, and you know it, it's a lie. 

eventually it is done, as it always is, and the night closes around me as i walk to the jeep, wanting sleep, wanting tacos, wanting lily cat to snuggle with, and i debate heading for work & her or home & bed, and home wins because it is a minute closer, distance always judged by time, time always judged by the movement of stars in the sky, and when i walk in the door the sound of a cello fills the room, the stereo that comes on at midnight to warn me i am up too late already halfway through a favorite cd. 

hope.  such a passive word.

i joke with a hospital security guard when he needs to see my driver's license to let me into the emergency room wards and i let the guy at the taco place keep the change.  it is a new day when i reach home, that music waiting.


entrapment 1

you can't get out and you can't get in
and you push your fingers through the bars and the wire
and you reach for the lock,
the doorknob,
the latch,
the magic potion
that will push you through one way or the other
but your fingers are never long enough or else they're too fat
and either way it is always out of reach. 

the rules are changed by those just as trapped as you,
but they at least are here or there
and not fighting, gasping, struggling
 for breath
as the two places grow closer and closer
and squeeze harder and tighter
and you would ask for help
but they are deaf
and keep their eyes to the ground;
it's so much easier that way. 


i was wearing the blues this weekend

and not the good kind, not the cute kind like these marked down dirt cheap Gap blue shoes, but the kind that kept me indoors watching old doris day movies and critiquing her hats and houses, and not making the bed, with twix candy bars for supper and i don't even care that much for twix, but the ever-wonderful michael had some stashed in the refrigerator at work, and that's where i was for a while, needing to spend some time with lilycat, so there you go. and i was feeling like I shouldn't say that out loud here, not wanting people to feel sorry for me or worry about me, not wanting anyone to read more into it than there is, and suddenly realizing that's a sneaky subtle form of the same ole same ole - me just sitting there and being pretty - and aha! a light bulb goes on in my head and it ain't one of those wussy energy conserving ones that splutters & flickers before lighting up all the way. It lights all the way up real fast and is a 100 watter, bright for such a small space.

aha, thinks i, we do it to each other, we say to each other i wanna hear about only your happy times, please don't tell me about another weekend that broke your heart, please just give me a list of joy, and i get that, i really do, dear god, there are days i am on my knees with thanks for those blogs and websites that are just happy and full of words that make me smile, full of pretty pictures, and there are days i bloghop from one white house blog to another, grateful they are there to pull my thoughts away from the clutter in my house, from the fear that i am stuck in these rooms forever when i want so badly to be gone - i thank the universe and god and the trees and the moon and stars that these places exist.

this is not one of those places.  when i get down i talk about it.  sometimes the details are unnecessary, the road that led me there unimportant, but i have to talk about it and i have to let those words loose into the air, i have to find my way to the gifts hidden in the blues.  it is nothing to worry about.  it is just life.  and yes, perhaps i get sad more often than others, sadness brought about by events i can't control, and i would like to say i'm sorry about that, but i'm not.  there will be no apology here for feeling things.  would i like to be less so?  yes, but i will not apologize for the way i am. 

and so. this weekend i thought doris day's black hat with the white feather thingy was ridiculous, i thought the laundry could wait, i thought the cereal bowls stacked in the sink could wait, i sat at the table and painted while listening to the texas rangers win the west,  i noticed my pajama pants had little white circles drawn all over them and wondered if that was the reason i was painting little circles all over the canvas, and even wondered if that could be the reason for the circles in the just sit there and look pretty painting, even though i don't think i ever wore them when working on that.  this weekend i played computer mahjong for hours on end and read still more trixie belden and watched mad men, even though i think don draper could kick jon hamm's ass, and probably should.


we have a winner

and apparently she who covets most wins. 

this was harder than painting the painting.  i wanted everyone to win.  i still want everyone to win.  and maybe we did - i know i did.  y'all just blew me away, and made me laugh and cry and cry some more and think some more.  thank you all for participating in this whim of a whim, if every there was. 

and so.  dear graciel.  it is yours.  please send me your snail mail address via email and it will be on its way to you next week.

oh.  and re: the drawing.  i did it myself.  katie was teaching a class, and i just couldn't stand waiting.  i'd already printed each person's name on a square of paper, folded them, had them all waiting in a bag.  into the hat they went - an old hat i keep in the bag of the jeep, cause you just never know.  i hung the hat on the emma tree and turned on her lights - they haven't been on since maggie died.  there are 2or 3 that need replaced.  i held the camera in my right hand and reached in with my left.  harder than it sounds.

again.  thank you all.  thank you.


just sit there and look pretty: the painting

It started with 6 words and a challenge and the promise of an unseen painting to be given away. Show me your vision, I asked, and you have; tell me how these words make you feel, I suggested, and you did. I have been overwhelmed and flabbergasted and extremely humbled by the participation and enthusiasm shown by those joining me in this little venture - they/you are listed in the sidebar to the right of this post ~ please pay a visit or 2 or 4 or 10. You won't regret it. And I? I cannot say thank you enough.

I began this painting in anger and indignation, at least the idea began in anger, but by the time the first brushstroke touched the canvas, I had softened. I'd thought about this phrase a lot, I had conversations about it with people - mostly women - who were not a part of the giveaway group; I knew a bird would be there, I knew there would be an empty chair. I'd thought about a woman tied to the chair, breaking free, high heels crashing through, she was woman, hear her roar, but I dismissed that, dismissed it because it was just too silly, and dismissed it because we haven't been tied to any chairs, at least not by visible ropes - any sitting pretty and keeping silent we've done has been done with our consent. At least my generation and the generations younger. That wasn't true for my grandmother who put up with abuse and poverty and married my grandfather only to appease her family, a family who didn't want an old maid around. But I am not her - I am not here to tell her story, not really, although her story leads to me.

I paint the way I write - with only the first sentence in mind - and though I've known this, I've only, with this painting, truly accepted it, allowed it, let it open me and fill me and yes, I said, let us see what happens here. And so. No bird. No chair. I sat with the idea and sat with the idea, and somewhere in the sitting with it, I realized I was sitting with it. I sat with thoughts of suttee gates and stonings of women and my grandmother tethered to an unhappy life and felt my anger move away from me, felt myself blessed.

And so this painting. A self portrait. Me sitting pretty, monkey mind thoughts overhead. The first painting in 15 months. I see every flaw, see the mistakes of months of not drawing. But I painted with joy despite the unpracticed mechanics - painted with no agonizing, painted with a new color. Painted with softness. It is not perfect, and perhaps it is a good thing it was promised to someone else by a certain day - I may have fallen into my old habits and painted it over, beginning again and again and again. But it is complete, it is finished, and tomorrow a name will be drawn from a hat and it will belong to someone on that list I mentioned above.


tomorrow's the day for sitting pretty

Please check the Not Just Sitting Pretties list on the sidebar and make sure your name is there. If you're in and you're not listed, please leave a comment here so I can catch you up. If you don't have a blog or website or flickr account and need somewhere to post your entry, email me and I'll make sure it gets posted here. All visions/entries must be posted by tomorrow to qualify for the painting giveaway, and I must be able to see them. And a shout out to Diane & Brenna - I cannot find a link for y'all or email addresses; please make sure I know where to find you tomorrow.

And that's it.
See y'all tomorrow with a story of a painting.


it is magic, it is enchanted, it is charming.

It is full of spirits in the shadows and hidden hearts and flowers that bloom in the dark of night, and it speaks its own language. If you are lucky, if you stand under midnight skies and listen for owls and watch the wind move the clouds, you will learn to speak it back and a conversation will begin.

It is not a fairy tale. It is real. The sidewalks are sometimes too hot to stand upon. There are bits of squirrel-tossed pecan shells hidden in the grass that make walking in bare feet a game of tiptoes and swearing. There is crime and annoyance and too-loud cars at 2 a.m. In the last heat of a hot dry summer, it looks tired, exhausted, dusty. When you turn the corner onto the block, you would never know, if you didn't know, that you are stepping into magic. There is no doorway, no gate, no sign to alert you. It appears so ordinary.

And yet. The color of the air each morning is different than the color of the afternoon. Stand still for a moment and there is a bird flying through the shadows at your feet - your muse teasing you, playing games with the leaves and the golden breeze, tickling the tips of the monkey grass. You cannot say dappled enough when describing these days; they are that dappled. Your toast is the shape of the almost full moon, and you butter it and swallow the moonlight for supper. It is so ordinary.

It is not a fairy tale.


there is a flower from maggie's blue bunch

those that greeted me at my front door the day after she died, a heal-your-heart gift from a dear friend - there is a blossom from these ever-blooming beauties, placed between 2 torn sheets of wax paper and weighted with heavy glass for days, and it made me almost cry this morning when i finally lifted the glass - it's blueness all gone, transparent, so fragile and heartbreaking and beautiful, so perfect, so perfect, and i am another step onto my road of softness, of forgiveness, of embracing those tender parts of myself that hurt, that bruise so easily. it is a wonderful morning.

and a wonderful day awaits. breakfast, a visit with lilycat, this new painting to finish, this new painting that has opened up something in me and now i know the end to another painting, one i'd thought finished, but never really sure - now I know i knew it wasn't and now i know it was waiting for me to reach this place. and that thought almost makes me cry. it seems unfair that maggie the cat missed it, this softer place, but i type that and know she didn't - it is her passing that loosened it; she lived with it all along and has set it free.

sitting with emptiness for a few months has led me here.
it is a good place,
a place where my heart speaks to me a bit louder.


softness sleeps beside me

nestled against my neck, and my dreams are dappled with the shadows of flowers and giggles and goodbyes; they are filled with blue doors and open windows and nighttime streams silent with the moon's reflections, as if there were many moons overhead. starshine flickers under traincars as a train rushes by and the light flashes onto my skin, cool, white, blinding if i look with both eyes fully open. i close them.

there is a white box overflowing with pink flower petals in the refrigerator and i have no idea how to preserve them, though the refrigerator has held them for 5 months and the pink hasn't faded. they are as fragile as butterfly wings and as sacred as a true lover's whispered promise in the night, and i hold onto them still, afraid to lose them, afraid to move them. softness.

the road i am on now is a soft road, unpaved, that childhood sand of my grandmother's road, but i am no longer scared of my shadow; i am traveling by night again and my shadow is cast by the moon and the stars, that moon of my dreams, the stars of my waking. i am barefoot and the softness of the sand is a pleasure ~ like lake water, it is warm at the top, cool underneath, and i revel in that cool underneath. softness. it is the road i have chosen. it forked and i turned this way.

i find myself often on those old remembered roads, the roads that led to safety and warm arms and sassafrass trees and 4 o'clocks, and secret trails through the woods, roads shadowed by trees as tall as the sky, and i am soft on those roads; life holds everything before me. they are dream roads, living now only in my memories, but they are where i choose to begin again. the navigation of this year has drawn to an early close and my new map starts here, starts now, in bare feet and pink toenails, the polish chipped and worn, with the summer sand between my toes, hair bleached blonde by the sun. the fears i felt then i still feel, but i choose now to gentle those fears. i will fight them no longer, and at last, befriend them. even fears need warm arms to hold them.


sitting with myself and this nothing-to-sayness.

I type a few words and stop, elbows on the desk, hands folded as if in prayer, and stare at this screen. I'm not thinking anything, I am blank. It is a meditation - if I tried to still my mind, legs crossed, candle burning, I would be unable. I let the sounds go by, Lily-cat's soft snores, the hum of the computer, the clickclacks of keystrokes when I do find some words, and I am suddenly aware that the space bar makes a different sound, a more decisive sound, harder - the letters are soft, cushy clicks. The space bar is a definite clack. I apparently bring a little zen to this place.

We try so hard, don't we? Us women? To be happy, to be joyful? We pay money to other women who promise to teach us how to get there; we paint the words joy, hope, peace on canvas and paper and pray that the words themselves will be talismans, will move us into those feelings. We light those candles. The truth is that the words are just words, the truth is that joy lies in the brushstrokes, the word matters not. I'd forgotten that until I picked up a brush again, until I began once again to gesso and the world fell away. I'd forgotten that it is up to me.

We try too hard. We do, we do. Are we so unhappy, so bereft of joy that it must become a to-do on our daily list? Breakfast - check. Shower -check. 10 minutes of joy - check. And then onto the rest of the day. We try too hard. Joy doesn't live in that place of trying too hard. I am not a life coach, not a psychologist, there is no diploma attached to the wall proclaiming me as such. But this I know to be true - joy lives in the not trying so hard, joy lives in the dessert you reach for first, it lives in the peaceful turning of the pages of a book you cherished from childhood, it lives in that place you go to when you read those pages. It lives in those unexpected places you go when you aren't thinking too hard, places off the map, places with no names. It doesn't live in the places you have purposely called Joy or Happy or Peaceful or Dancing, even if you have drawn the route with a sparkly red pen, even if you plan on dancing wildly once you get there, even if. If you need a map to get there, it ain't joy. Get lost.

I painted this weekend,
and for the first time in years,
perhaps the first time ever,
I painted with joy.
I stopped thinking
in that not-thinking place lay joy,
lighting my way like a burning bush.


sunday morning's back porch owl - midnight thursday

the stereo that comes on at midnight to tell me i am up too late is on. i should be in bed, but i have this image of sunday morning's back porch owl with his sleepy eyes and sleepy eyes of my own and a desperate yen for words; they should sell packs of them rolled like cigarettes and i would drive through the dark with my sleepy eyes and my sloppy clothes, this shirt that that says texas across the front, and buy a pack, and i would open the pack in the jeep and drive with the windows down, my elbow propped against the night, and i would let the words soothe me, drift over me and out the window and down the road. i would do it with no hesitation, and maybe i would drive out to the airport and park outside the fence and just sit with those words in the peacefulness of nothing and watch the planes come and go. or maybe i would just come back home and sit in the driveway, still in the jeep, and listen for the screech owls in the trees, maybe sunday morning's back porch owl would have a special song for me, but maybe not, maybe i would find a radio station to play soft and low, old country songs my father used to sing to me, or slow slow jazz with a rhythm i could barely follow, and i would hang my arm out into the darkness and keep time with some of those rolled up words i'd bought. maybe i would just stay out there and watch the sky, all the stars gone away, hidden behind a solid bank of clouds; i would prop my head against the car door and stretch out across the back seat and let the night lull me to sleep. maybe i would.


the slowing down of the day

doesn't always come at the end. today it was lunch, and the back porch at home, and the landlord's cat keeping me company, her belly begging for rubs. it was maggie's blue flowers wet with hurricane rain and the warm, warm heaviness of the air, the dampness of the bench, the sound of pecans dropping onto the ground. it was all that and the sky yellow gray with more rain threatening.

there is a canvas ready and waiting for tonight. the day is slowed early, all other work complete until friday. yesterday's mood has lifted, the craziness gone. today's words are softer and know where they live. 

the skies have opened up.


once upon a time a friend spilled coffee on her stove & it dried in the shape of texas

i flipped this image horizontally
almost i can't tell what it is anymore,
so used to seeing it only the one way,
and there's something to be said about that.
i am probably -
no, not probably -
i am without doubt the wrong person to talk about seeing it,
whatever it is,
from another angle.
i even laugh at the "reverse angle" videos in televised football games
(do they still do that?),
because it just is what it is,
and it doesn't really matter from whence you view it,
nothing is changed,
those football calls are seldom overturned,
and that fan up there blows cool air no matter which way it's turned,
as long as it's plugged in and there's electricity and nothing is broken.

that's what part of me thinks.

there's another part of me that thinks if you just look long enough
or maybe just glance from the corner of your eye,
everything is different.
that if you stand still long enough, the shadows will give you wings.
that standing on boo radley's front porch
is all you need to see inside his heart.
that enough football calls are overturned
to warrant views from every angle possible.
there is a part of me that understands
pablo picasso,
georges braque,
a part that knows the red queen had the right of it
when she could believe six impossible things before breakfast.

i learned photography on a camera that reflected everything
have taken pictures with one that showed me the image
both were wrong and right at the same time.
i know the reversed reflection of candlelight in a mirror
is as bright as the real thing,
able was i ere i saw elba
says the same thing front to back as back to front.
this past weekend,
i watched the white stripes of the road
flash on-off-on-off
in the black reflection of a boat towed in front of me,
on-off-on-off-on-off on the lower left hand side,
the stripes blinking back at me for miles and miles of highway.

there is a part of me that knows it is all smoke and mirrors,
but the smoke drifts through my hair
and later i smell it on my clothes,
and i have seen the mirrors break.


there is a tenderness to september

a tenderness to that last kiss given to summer - a tenderness that leads me home to light candles, to leave the television off, a tenderness that tells me once again to fall into the slow song of the night, to sit in silent companionship with the darkness outside the doors.  i find myself softening to these faster, hurry-up days - perhaps the memories of all those childhood septembers remind me of the swiftness of the days; i barely remember the days of this year's summer moving by.  i'm not sure i could list any accomplishments - i can't say, as when i was child, today i climbed a tree and for a short while was a mockingbird.  perhaps the knowledge that soon i will want all the sunlight the shorter days can offer walks me into the outside, orange and yellow butterflies part of the landscape, masquerading as flowers and leaves until they take to the sky.  perhaps it is just that at last the thermometer stays several degrees below 100.

this evening, this last long holiday evening for a while, there is an off and on cool breeze, soft, soft, and there is the end of day birdsong, just chirps now and then as nests are settled into, and only a cricket or two cricketing.  there is a neighborhood cat who walks by the open door every night, who has, i think, at last accepted the truth of no maggie cat; he no longer sneaks by, attempting to avoid her, but stops at the door and sometimes takes a step or two inside and wishes me a good evening.  my heart feels quite fragile and quite in love with it all.

and suddenly, the air is filled with the sound of crickets.
the birds have all gone silent and to sleep.


the door to september turns out to be blue

and right around the corner. Of course. It's not locked, and autumn is back there. A very early Texas autumn, to be sure, still green for a good while yet, but the air is cooler and our yards are red with robins and green pecans are pebbling the grass and sidewalks and the last long weekend before Thanksgiving is here at last. There is no denying it. Halloween stores are appearing all over town, high school football is in full swing, and my thoughts go past November, Christmas lists already appearing in my head. I remember the heater doesn't work and must be repaired, I wonder when flannel sheets should be laundered, ditto the stacks of unused-since-last-fall white blankets. I admit to fantasies of working at my new (old) table, surrounded by early darkness and art in the making, a fire popping and flickering in the background. I admit to fantasies of Christmas at my house this year, tried once with no great success, but the thought crosses my mind and I don't dismiss it.

But that is far away.
It is not yet labor day.
I can still wear white.