“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


somerset life: in which i tell the the world about east texas

yep. the whole world.  i took this picture outside our business, the wind blowing the pages.  i looked down and there was the gate from the antique place down the way, there was the rainy car window image from the day i sat outside that mexican food place out on the gladewater highway, waiting on michael and food. i looked down and there was an old boathouse on lake tyler, there was me showing off the sun through my celebration skirt a couple of hot summers ago.  the wind flipped the page and there i was against the best graffitti ever, down here on the wrong side of town, there's a menu from the fair, and there's the tree in the field way north of us, where katie buys raw milk.  another page flips over and there's that building in mineola that i love and those road signs on the way to winnsboro.  and then there's my naked feet, back in my house, back home.

i love this area. you probably feel the same about where you live. 
i understand. 

this is my third and last Authentic Living article for somerset life, and it's in the bookstores now.  i want to thank christen olivarez for giving me the opportunity to spread out over those three articles and explore my sense of place, of my neighborhood in the azalea trail, of my crazy messy house, of my life.  and i want to thank y'all for reading it, for letting me know what i said would be welcomed, and for being here week in and week out.

from the article: 
"It is not Paris. 
It is not Morocco. 
It is not even Oregon or New Mexico. 
It is here, it is Texas, and even then, it is not West Texas,
it is Northeast Texas,
a church on every corner and a taqueria on every block,
feeding your soul and feeding your belly."



every year i pretend to myself that i'm going to make christmas cards

i never do.  i have the stuff - i have more than i could possibly need, and i have ideas - tons of them, too - but i don't have time.  i don't have a husband and i don't have kids and i don't cook if it requires more than a couple of ingredients, and i'm not a great housekeeper, but i still don't have time.  i am never caught up and i don't know how you women who get caught up do it, and really, i don't want to know, because it makes no nevermind because what works for y'all ain't gonna work for me and i am done with pretending.

so i bought christmas cards today.  well, actually, the ever-wonderful michael bought them for me; i tossed them up on the counter with all the stuff he was buying and lickety split, just like that, they were mine, and i feel gosh darn good about it.  i may go buy another box just in case.  i may buy a christmas present while i'm at it, even though i've been pretending to myself that i will make those also.  (my mother informed me she didn't want anything handmade and she especially didn't want anything with any damn buttons glued to it or sewn on; she'd had enough handmade stuff when she was a child and poor and walked miles and miles to school - which, i have to admit, is true - and she wanted store bought stuff.)

i continue to get lighter.  i remember last year, or maybe a couple of years ago, writing about being tied down to earth and not quite being able to get away, about being tethered, at least i think that's what i wrote, if not i should have, and here i am finally doing it.  it was a slow process getting to this point, but now that i am here, i am dropping things with wild abandon.  perhaps not wild abandon - i can feel y'all rolling your eyes - but i am dropping things and not looking back, at least not much, and for sure with no regrets, with only smiles and a hand over my mouth to contain my laughter.



at night these words glow

in the barely-there light of the streetlamp across from our building.  it's really a street light, but i love saying streetlamp, because it's a word that conjures up different places, other times; it sounds more romantic when i say it out loud.  they are the top of a painting, a meditation on things i love, a list in white paint scrawled across a big blue painting that has never felt quite finished, but this image has pointed me in a new direction and it feels like the right direction.  the painting is propped against the wall behind a framed mixed media piece and pieces of words stare out at me, parts of phrases.  i lay on the couch in the dark with lily cat as company and watch the words grow brighter as cars pass, then fade as shadows from the old iron burglar bars pass over them, then back to their soft glow, and ideas come to me.  it is always at night when i find the best words and i am tempted to try writing by starlight to see what might come.  with a pen whose ink is filled with the light of the moon. 

this painting will change, and others will follow.  i will need a magic potion for paint; the shadow of an owl in flight mixed with the copper of pennies flattened on railroad tracks by trains headed west, christmas trees still jeweled with silver stars and white lights, the eerie lonesome sound of a dog barking in the cold distance, my mother's pearls slowly stirred into the eye of a tornado.   

a rose by any other name would not be a rose.  perhaps i will add a white rose. some fir needles.  a snowflake caught on my tongue. 


a small story of a small night, with apologies to t.r. pearson

sunday afternoon late, and the melancholies settled in, the outside masquerading as early spring, a quiet, quiet day, a gray morning but the sun finally out and beginning to set early, all golden across the yard, and i indoors watching a movie about life, death, commitment or lack thereof, sadness, love - so unlike me, i usually don't, i usually turn away from those, but penelope cruz was starring, and she'd been on the tv all day, in the background, captain corelli's mandolin showing up twice, and vicky cristina barcelona saturday morning, so i stopped to watch and was taken with the story and the set design and the gray gray ocean, while outside the sun fell lower in the sky, and it seemed spring again, it really did, a spring with maggie, and death kept showing up in the movie and the sun was laying stripes across the yard as it fell even lower, and it was spring in my head, it really was.  it was in the 80s outside, an easy mistake.  i fell into the movie and watched the darkness sneak up outside the glass doors and the phone didn't ring and the computer was off, and i felt maggie gone, felt the need to visit lily cat; it was warm when i stepped outside and headed north, a 5 minute drive if i catch all the lights red, storm clouds gathering, a streak of lightning exactly horizontal across the sky in front of me, thunder in the farther northern skies, and hail from those skies later.

i had planned to write about words, but my office felt like home and there was a cat to keep me company.



the magic of other places

there were crows at the tippy-top of this skinniest of trees, three of them, all cawing, and it was the first time i noticed they don't all sound alike, they each had their own voice, and i knew if i walked back to get my camera they would fly away, and they did, but it doesn't matter.  they were there and they had companions in the sky and they kept me faraway company for a while longer, too far away to photograph and i think they knew that, i'm sure some of their cawing was really laughter, but that doesn't matter either.  it was magical. 

i stood at the edge of a once-upon-a-time horse ranch, my first time there, land that now belongs to friends, and though there are no horses there, not yet, maybe later, there were four in the pasture next door, two barbed wire fences separating us, an empty field between, and as i walked to that edge, one of the horses lifted her head, saw me, pawed the ground, and we said hello across the now-not-so-emptiness.  friends forever.  i walked the edge of the property, through a gate, into another small pasture, pine trees hugging the fence line, everything green, the overhead sky shifting from blue to gray and back again, the ground beneath my feet quite happy.  content. 

you can feel that, you know, at least i could yesterday, that's how happy this land was, and i realized i'd forgotten, in my sadness and self-absorption, that other places are magic also.  i don't mean vacation spots, their magic so tied in with their away-ness - i mean places that are here, that are home, places that nourish people, grow them like trees able to withstand storms, places that hold them and protect them and places that become old friends.  as i ponder moving, as i move beyond pondering -  it is a must-happen, i have to go - i have been troubled and teary-eyed at the loss of this neighborhood, my place of enchantment for so many years, though in truth the neighborhood i held so dear has been disappearing in bits and pieces daily, weekly, going, going, almost gone.  i have been saying goodbye for so long, to the trees dressed in their spring finery - will i see them again? - to the summer lilies, to dragonflies and honeysuckle and wisteria, to the hackberry tree, my dearest friend of all, there to greet me each day as i open the house to the morning.  goodbye to the robins, but not yet the owls.  i will never have this again, i tell myself, and that is true, i won't, but i'd forgotten there are other places out there with their own magic, with new stories to tell me.  i was reminded as i walked the edge of my friends' property, and felt the friendliness of the place, heard secrets whispered loudly from tree to tree - they've been waiting so long for someone to listen.  somewhere there are trees waiting for me.

there was a roadrunner out there also, you know; mentioning him is like telling someone you've seen a ghost, but he is as real as they, so mention i will.  i saw him at first as just movement under the trees, then he appeared next to the fence, on my side, yards and yards in front of me, running along the fence line, soon disappearing from my view.  a roadrunner, you say?  in east texas?  yes. my thoughts exactly.  magic.



a little rain yesterday and the puddles were mirrors

the wind was up and the leaves were falling, spinning in circles down the sidewalks, dancing in front of the jeep as i drove, tiny leaves dropping from bone thin trees like snowflakes, swirling, twirling, the world laughing in leaves.  it is laughing in giant yellow catawba chuckles, lyndi's yard across the street beginning to be covered, and it is giggling here and there in oranges and reds.  the fall, she is coming; she is here, in fact, just an east texas fall still mostly green going yellow, a late fall still in the 80s outside, people still in shorts as they wheel strollers down the street.  last year was cooler and i have pictures of trees turned totally red, but this year maggie's blue flowers are still blooming, though there are fewer blossoms each morning. over 6 months now that she's been gone and they still whisper her name. 

a weekend lies ahead and it is empty of obligations and baseball, though both will be back next week, and i feel free.  i have an idea for small paintings but the outside is too irresistible and the jeep is full of gas. there is sunshine on the roads.



the truth, but only a bit

it is almost 3 in the morning
and i am awake again, still, always,
thinking about the truth
and how it needs to be doled out a little at a time;
too much at once is bad for you.
it needs to be wrapped all pretty like the rest of the candy
and you won't notice when it's dropped into your bag,
you will just smile and say thank you
and when you get home
you'll gobble it up and later your belly may rumble
and you'll think it was just because there was too much sweetness,
but that won't be it at all,
it will be that one kernel of truth
that couldn't be spoken aloud.



i blame it on october baseball

this not writing, not reading, not emailing, not answering, not calling, not anythinging but a little bit of facebook, but october baseball is something new here in texas, and i have waited years and years and years and years for it and here it is and i go to work and i come home and i watch the rangers and i go to bed and the next day it starts all over again.  yesterday was a day game so i managed to work in a haircut and we talked baseball while she snipped and clipped.  we talk baseball at work, my brother who usually never calls unless it is bad news calls me every day and we talk baseball.  my mother talks baseball, the women sitting behind us at lunch talk baseball.  it is everywhere, here in this usually-we-are-discussing-the-cowboys right now part of the state. 

baseball has saved me a couple of times, in the same way art will, in the same way words do.  once, the year following my father's death, and this year, following maggie the cat's.  i was raised on sports and baseball was only one, but it was the one that drew me.  my father coached and was the president of the little league association, i was a scorekeeper, my brothers played (girls didn't play in texas back then, though they did in other states - i was always jealous of my california cousins who were privileged to do so).  i mostly understand baseball, if it can really be understood, and when i moved back to texas i began to watch the rangers, on and off, on and off, not daily, not fanatically, but i kept an eye on them.  baseball has a long season.  it allows you to miss a game or two. 

the spring after my father died, baseball beckoned and i answered the call.  it was something familiar and it filled long hours and i could talk to him while watching.  maybe not out loud, but i could talk to him.  14 years ago and i have been a fanatic since.  we've had employees who could testify to this - females who so got it when i returned from a late in the season game with a free poster of pudge rodriguez, the then-catcher for the rangers, and tacked it to the wall, and joe the photographer who still lives and dies by each game.  and it is joe to whom i owe a thank you for making me pay attention this year. 

i'd missed more and more games when mary was alive, when i would spend so many evenings at her house, keeping her company.  at first, if it was just the two of us, we would watch a game and she would tell me tales of dating baseball players back when she was young, when this area had a semi-pro team.  as she worsened, robert and katie and i would spend those evenings together with her and we'd watch movies and political shows and i'd have robert check the score during commercials, and i would finish watching the game when i returned home, but i gradually watched less and less and the players i knew so well left and it was hard keeping up, but i did, i did, but it wasn't the same.  this year baseball was already in season when maggie died, just barely, but i couldn't watch.  i would stay at work to spend time with lily cat and i left the tv off so much i grew out of paying attention to the games.  i didn't listen to the radio.  but joe kept pushing me, this is their year, he would say, and i would watch a game, and i would think he might be right, but i wouldn't watch the next game and he would have to push again.  he would call me.  you have to see this guy, he would say.  you gotta watch this game.  and he kept pushing and pushing until at last i fell back in.  and he may have been right.  this may be their year.  it is their best year ever and here we are one game away from going to the world series.  that doesn't even sound possible, but it is.  it's not over till it's over and tonight i am writing this because there is no game, but by tomorrow night or saturday night we will know.  either way, it has been fun and i have enjoyed every moment and i have found myself close to tears when things looked bad, but still, i wouldn't trade this for anything.

we have tickets to game 5 of the world series if the rangers make it.  if there's a game 5.  a week before my birthday, it would be the best birthday present ever. 



i never head to the new side of town for images

i never head to the new stores, new roads, new lawns with no trees in the yard, and despite what a local radio ad says, i am attracted more to those restaurants with hand painted signs, not the others with signs slick and perfect, no brushstroke to be seen.  i never head to where it all looks the same at first glance, the mailboxes standing in neat little rows, the flowers tamed and stifled, one thumbwidth between each blossom, no telling secrets from bloom to bloom.  i never head in that direction.  i like things a little messy. 

"it is so very easy to fall into step
with these rhythms and easeful footsteps around me . . ."  
from maddie this weekend, with perfect timing.

i know of what she speaks.  i know this dance that is not my own.  i sometimes go for days with no reading of anyone's work, no blogs, no images, no books.  it is where the second-guessing lives, where footsteps are drawn on a dance map - put your left foot here, put your right foot there, and no matter how secure you are, if you have an artistic soul that questions everything - everything, everything, everything! - you question yourself and you fall into those others' rhythms and you are lost - after all, their music sounds divine, so why not? you think.  it is not vanity, you understand, it is fear that everyone else has it just right and you don't. 

so i leave the music off, the words unread, the pictures unseen, and i let my rhythms move me. sometimes they are too-fast movements, sometimes slow, mournful, painful steps; sometimes my hip hurts when i move a certain way, but move that way i must or i will stay stuck.

sometimes the best artist date of all is to stay out of the museums.

i haven't been anywhere these last few days, i've been right here, just being, just sitting, because sometimes i need that. another need.  always another need. but it's one i've learned to honor because it's where my words are born - words that will be poetry or paintings, beginnings or endings, trash or treasure, kept or tossed. words that need room, space of their own, words that nestle next to me, sprawling on the couch, watching baseball.  words conceived in nothingness.  i jot down sentences here and there, type a few lines, nibble some chocolate, and revel in the being nowhere.  and then i come back.



she who needeth no sign

because while i was inside wondering what to say,
and how much to say of it,
she was outside twirling through the puddles,
leftover rain, sparkling pink, boot scootin' down the sidewalk,
and that's the way you do it.


sign day: a birthday cake would be nice for starters

a small white one.
just a cupcake with a candle would be fabulous.
and flowers.
but that is next month.
for now the dance will do.
it will make all the other needs go away.

It is harder to talk about the small things than I'd thought it would be. Those big things - less fast time, more slow time, more space, my own house, more privacy – those are easy and I only need one sign for them. More money.

This, however, is hard. It is seated in sadness and jealousy, and blogging made me do it. First made me aware I needed it and was keeping my mouth closed and had been keeping my mouth closed for my entire life, and then made me noisy.  We celebrate each other out here in the blogosphere, we throw smooches across the miles and send surprise packages and we know each other. No one in my family knows my favorite colors, but y’all do. Y’all do. I would never say these things out loud otherwise.


You should be, but you are not celebrated if you on purpose make it to your 50s with no out-of-wedlock children; there are no parties thrown for that, no cards to buy. It doesn't count. You buy gifts for cousins and friends and neighbors, whether it is the first child and wanted, or the 4th and an accident and maybe wanted not-quite-so-much, whether there is marriage or no-marriage. You keep your mouth closed and your wallet open and you celebrate the mother-to-be. (When your niece sends you a Mother's Day card, designed especially for aunts, your heart breaks open and the tears come, and you don't know if it was her idea or her mom's idea, but either way, that celebration of you as a woman and a nurturer is a first and you are grateful beyond words.)

You should be, but you are not celebrated if you on purpose remain single, thinking marriage a sacred union, vows not to be undertaken lightly, thinking divorce the last option if it doesn't work out; there are no "staying single" showers, no places to register for lingerie and vacuum cleaners, even though you need that stuff just as much. There are no special luncheons, no gorgeous dress, no colors to choose, no cakes to taste. You are never the star for the day. You buy cards and gifts for years and years, for 2nd marriages, and even 3rd, and you keep your mouth shut when people – even your friends - say of someone "she's never been married, you know", a not-so-secret code for something-is-wrong-with-her, and you keep your wallet open and you buy a new dress to wear to celebrate someone else. And when you type those words, they sound familiar, as if you’ve already talked about this before, and you understand just how deep this hurt goes.

You should be, but you are not celebrated for paying your own bills, for achieving small dreams, for writing words that can make people cry. You don’t, but you should always have birthday parties with streamers decorating the room, and you should always get birthday cakes, at least a cupcake, and there should be balloons and a wrapped present or two, even though you are a grown adult woman. You need that cake, even if you don’t take one bite because your belly is jumping for joy. You need those streamers, you need those flowers, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for needing it.  You should stop blaming yourself - "if I were less shy there would be parties”.  There is truth in that; you are loved, you are appreciated, and if you were less shy, there might be parties. But you aren't. You are who you are. And you still need it.

I am who I am. 
I don't do parties well;
my shyness is too great and my anxiety keeps me home. 
That is just fine.
I want no surprise party,
I have no desire for large crowds. 
But my heart needs to be celebrated. 
Just a little bit. 
And, of course, it needs that dance.


Back 10 days or so ago, I wrote
 "life is just overwhelming at times,
and we are all standing on a corner
with a sign in our hands needing something."

Graciel decided we needed to show our signs.
What is/are yours?
Show us your heart, as much as you can,
or leave your sign as a comment.
We're reading.



last week was a hard friday afternoon

it was baseball games on tv and thoughts of glitter and wearing shoes instead of flipflops. it was laundry left in the washing machine and ideas for paintings left on the tabletop and pieces of poetry left in the silence of watering maggie's blue flowers less often. it was van morrison and raul malo and neil young mixed with radio opera, sliced avocados with mexican food and losing the back to a diamond stud and having no other with a fit tight enough. it was perfect days in autumn sunshine and nights in the 40s and no a/c needed and it was still trixie belden and a bit of bird by bird. it was insomnia every night without fail and plain cake donuts while rushing to work in the mornings. it was staying late in the evenings with lilycat. it was life going on.

today is 10-10-10, but those are just numbers made up by people a long time ago and put on a calendar and i admit to not thinking they have any power at all beyond the power we give them.  i give them none.  i am supposed to hold the power in me, though lately it hasn't felt that way.  lately i feel stucker than usual and i am stucker than usual and no numbers on a piece of paper will change that, unless that piece of paper is a winning lottery ticket.  this town closes in around me, this house closes even tighter, and the chance that it might get better and allow me to heal and breathe is gone, the final hint from the universe at last accepted, acknowledged, and cried over, and i get in the jeep and drive and there's no place far enough away.  i drive and i think and i keep the radio off or i listen to football games and the universe plays with me, lets me know it will be just fine.  a drive yesterday took me 70 or 80 miles down the road before i turned back, and in the middle of that decision to turn back, my phone rang and it was the ever-wonderful michael, in exactly the same place, he driving to meet some friends, passing me on the road.  he'd driven the back roads, i'd driven the interstate and we ended up in the same town at the same exact moment.  a smile from the universe.  magic.

mary's sweet olive tree is alive and well and tossing kisses of its perfume across the street to me.  i walk through the neighborhood and, turning the corner to home, the sight of the catawba tree gone all yellow green, soon to drop its leaves, stops me, almost bringing me to tears.  it feels like the last year we will visit with each other, this tree and i, and those sweet olive kisses suddenly seem like goodbyes.


there is a pear hanging in the october air

all alone, perfectly centered over the creek; turn left at the front door and there it hangs, the first october pear i've seen here in 17 years, the blossoms from this tree all gone by early summer, the other pears eaten by squirrels.  this one, however, is out of reach, out of time, an autumn pear, a new piece of magic when i think i've seen all the neighborhood has to offer.  it puts me in mind of christmas wood, of trees golden and covered with oranges and pears and the scents of fir and green tea - it is my christmas wood and that is how i decorate it, a dusting of snow and it is always dark twilight, always christmas eve, the sunset holding the world in its embrace, and there is a cabin that is mine, and i am on the path to there, to candlelight in the windows and a cat sleeping in front of the fire and the feel of angels overhead.  it is always quiet and the snow is always dancing down. 

i am dreamy lately.  you must forgive me.


yesterday afternoon late

golden afternoon sunday sun
and my arm lazy on the steering wheel,
this song on the stereo.

the falling light slipped between still green tree branches.


sign day: october 12. what do you need?

we want to know.
in my last post i said "life is just overwhelming at times,
and we are all standing on a corner with a sign in our hands 
needing something." 
that line struck a nerve.  it lit a spark under graciel.
so we are making signs.

from graciel:  "what is the sign in your hands? what. do. you. need?
tell me.
from your gut and your soul.

if you have a blog, tell me in a post on tuesday, october 12th.
write your sign and photograph it.
write many signs if you have many needs.
listen deeply to yourself. get creative.
it does not have to be pretty.
express. your. truth.
she and me are starting a sign revolution.
obviously, we have needs.

are you in?

(what? you have no blog, but still have needs?
tell (us) what your sign would say in the october 12th comments
or post your sign on facebook and let us know!)"

she says it perfectly.
we have needs.
and we are starting a revolution.

so. if you are in, on the 12th, post your sign. or signs.
say it out loud.
link back here to my original post or to graciel's post.
or both.
and we'll link back to you.

you say you want a revolution?