“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


it is the far end of the day

past the time when my shoes were still on; the lights of the emma tree are off and it is darker in the room, and if you asked me right now what my favorite medium was i would have to answer shadows, you should see the way the streetlamps are using shadows to paint those now-not-so-empty white canvasses propped against my new yellow walls, painting the walls themselves, painting the address on the glass door backwards against the walls, the curvy window bars nothing but shadows tossed in a soft helter skelter about the room.  to my right is an old wooden child's chair and a pale blue planter, both empty of anything but those shadows, and they stand next to the canvasses and that's the painting i want, that's the photograph i want, but i'm not good enough to catch it and it's too dark to sketch, and it becomes a private image i keep to myself.  i can give you only the words.

they come at me, these images, when i am not ready, when i am unprepared and tired, or they wake me from dreams and i write their words in the dark, finding them days later scribbled in a notebook half kicked under the bed, almost lost, almost undecipherable, but still alive, still breathing, more alive than i, and they are almost in tears asking to be written, to be painted, but they are more alive than i, and lately not so understanding.  lately they feel time running out.  i am a traitor, a deserter, and i walk away, i too, in tears, with no excuses.  my heart is too full.

across the room lilycat is watching the deserted night. 
i see nothing and she sees a leaf stir in the wind. 




the windows are all frosted with the tale of winter on its way,
there is a fire in in the heater
and the smell of cinnamon still lingering from breakfast. 
the trees are a bit more naked than yesterday,
shameless after the winds that blew through yesterday,
and it's beginning to feel a lot like christmas. 



not still day, not yet night. thanksgiving eve.

there are birds nesting in the emma tree. 
silence slides over them and we wait for dark together
and we say our gratitudes. 

for big things ~
for the warmth still outside these windows,
for peace bought at a heavy price,
and small things ~
the purr of a cat in the other room,
for blue flowers still blooming.

for not knowing which is big, which is small.

for friends and books and movies only girls can love,
for candlelight and worn out jeans,
for true love and birthday cakes,
for each new day of a healing heart.
for baseball and memories and time alone,
for time together with no need to speak.
for no explanations needed.

for high heels and bare feet
and white blankets and old movies.
for growing and for standing still.

for apple pies, massages and expensive watches.
for extra time.
for 5 dollar clocks that run on batteries.
for those gone ~ sweet maggie ~
and those still here.

for full moons and family
and summer days and dark nights
and slow christmas carols
and the luxury to do nothing.
at least not right now.

i am always bad at this.
yesterday i was grateful for energy,
today i am grateful for laziness with no guilt;
it changes constantly and i forget so many things -
ice cubes, hot showers,
the smell of lipton tea,
the taste of saigon cinnamon.
the feel of clean sheets,
a hug at the end of the day,
a story read aloud.

tomorrow will bring cold air
and more leaves down from the trees
and a sister-in-law who cooks
and never makes me feel guilty for not doing so.

thank you to her.
to you.
to lilycat.
to the ever-wonderful.

have a fabulous day.



sandra dee is on the television, showing her thigh to troy donahue

showing the place where a rose reached out and scratched her with its thorn, as roses do, and that is all there is today; i have done nothing but watch the leaves fall from the trees.  i have done little all weekend, truth be told.  i let the dishes stay unwashed, i put off laundry, i didn't even visit lilycat yesterday and found i missed her, for which i am grateful.  it means my heart is healing.

november continues exactly as it always does - impossible to know day-to-day whether it will be warm or cool, gray or full of sunshine, and, really, here where i live in northeast texas, each day is filled with all those things.  the only constant has been the wind, and the leaves in the air.  i was up at 5 and, needing something from my jeep, stepped out in a short gown over flimsy pj bottoms & flipflops and it felt nice, just cool enough to insure i didn't linger.  i turn the heater on, then off, then turn on a fan, then off, open a window with the heater on, trying to find that perfect balance, but there's no getting there.  my legs are hot, my feet are cold, my arms and face feel extra warm but i need a sweater.  and then i don't.  the computer says it is 78 degrees out there, says it will be cold by thanksgiving eve, and that there will be a blue moon in tonight's sky, or was that last night's sky?  impossible for my mind to figure out today.

my thoughts are everywhere, like the weather, like the temperatures, like the traffic on the roads.  it feels like too much monkey business when i step outside the house, and just as crazy if i don't.  it is one of those jazz days, everything playing my attention and then moving on to another riff ~ i change channels, checking the cowboys score, and the end of a commercial is on; rethink possible it says on the tv screen.  outside the sun breaks through a cloud and lights up the now-bright-yellow hackberry leaves and then a gust of wind and down they come; cloudcover again and they are pale green.  back to the tv and there are pink roses on a desk, sheathing their claws, a baby blue telephone, sandra and troy in a sailboat on a rough ocean, and you know where this is going as they head for rocks near the shore.  across the street, pink silk roses hang near the ginkgo tree, its leaves speckled pale gold coins, good luck waiting to drop into the slots, the pretend roses the spoilers that keep the jackpot at bay.

a day of stuff and nonsense. 
78 degrees or not, i need socks again, and my nose is cold. 
the cowboys are winning
those leaves up above have puppydog ears.
there are no deep thoughts here.
for that i am grateful.
a day off for rest.



i feel a bit like vermeer

he with his wonderful window light, me with my wonderful emma tree light, suddenly there with this newly painted wall.  the emma tree has been there all along, but the dark walls hid it, and i was seldom here late late at night, not often anyway, never when i felt good, but now is now and i am and it is.  the combination of this light and my cell phone camera and photoshop and my desire to paint a picture with a camera come together exactly the way i see it when i see it, and i am grateful.  and surprised.  a little extra gift from this new yellow wall.  expect to see a lot of this space ~ i have ideas.

last night was a near panic attack, but i staved it off with drugs and work - coming back here to the business, catching up on a bit of this & that, keeping my hands busy, keeping my brain away from those anxiety thoughts of nothing and everything, at last a bit of lily time in the front room and this emma tree light and i softened into the rest of the evening, the sound of across-the-street trains soothing, the wind up and cool outside the windows; when the wind is up and the leaves flying and the clouds running past the moon, i am enchanted and i am in love with autumn nights.  it is a place to start.  it is november.

i am suddenly in love with that word.  november.  i am in love with the moon that stood guard over my yard last night, when i at last returned home, in love with the sound of raccoons in the dark, with the sound of a nightbird in that wind, with the leaves flying past me.  outside felt more like my home than my home.  there were lamps in windows along the streets around me, the smell of a nearby fireplace, white clouds across the sky from the moon.  maggie's blue flowers are still blooming, even here in november, and i brought them in; they won't last much longer, but i will give them a few more days if i can ~ the moon lit my way safely down the sidewalk and the leaves flew and danced.

earlier in the evening, from the warmth and comfort of my couch, i'd watched leaves tossed from trees; they fell in the dark, but the porchlight caught bits and pieces of them as they fell, and they rained down like falling stars in the night, twinkling past my glass doors.  the lights of november.



when i stepped outside, the leaves were like lights

lights i could see only from the corners of my eyes, or if i just glanced down; if i tried to catch them in the act of glowing - and they were, i swear - they would return to normal leaflike behavior.  i tried anyway, but my "camera" camera was just not getting it - i walked up and down the sidewalk trying to cajole them to show themselves, trying to surprise them into lighting up but those leaves were just downright uncooperative, as wild leaves can be, so i decided on sneakiness and my cellphone camera.

close enough.



sunday morning and it is 48 degrees outside

it feels much colder in my house, my nose is like ice and my toes are frozen through socks, but the heat is now on and there is sunshine across the street, on the street, and tipping the corner of our yard.  the yellow leaves of the ginkgo are bright bright under that sunlight, no doubt shooting off heat and sparks and i am tempted to put on shoes and run on over just to see if it is warmer beneath its limbs.  over here, on the cool side of the street, we are covered by shadows and leaves and we are cool greens and browns.  there is a small squirrel dashing to and fro in front of my glass doors; when dashing to he has a pecan in his mouth, fro he does not, to he has another, fro he does not.  the wind is up and windy and flinging leaves into the creek; they fall from the trees like the days of the year torn from calendars, not many left, 2010 soon just bare branches.  

i am still painting walls at work, almost done, painting the backside and inside of the counter, finding photo orders from 2007 still waiting to be picked up, finding i need a bigger trash can, finding a bit of serenity in the brushstrokes.  that honey yellow is suddenly perfect against a new greengray wall, next to my aqua office door, next to the peeks of lavender/blue behind that door ~ i will show you later when the countertop is less piled with stuff, when flowers fill the pot which that plant from my father's funeral used to call home, it too finally gone; did i tell you this already, that the plant died and how not sad i felt, how i contributed to its death, it was so needy and i just had to say no more?  my father would understand; now there is a spot for flowers.

so.  sunday morning and a warm shower awaits and a bigger breakfast than the toast i had earlier.  a neighbor walks by, pushing a stroller, happy hatless baby in the sunshine sitting up looking around and backwards and taking it all in, enchanted with the world, with the yellow on that side of the street, the green on this side, the blue blue november sky above.  i know exactly how he feels.

there are red leaves entwined in the honeysuckle vines.
did i mention that?



small magic

a red leaf, a twig, warmer air today with the sky beginning to go gray by mid-afternoon, cooler air moving in, maybe rain they say.  the sound of a train outside so close; it passes right across the street, right behind the building facing us, and then the sound is gone and the silence is loud and it is just me and lily cat, here with the almost dark dropping as softly as this leaf.  november again.

i look for poems; no, that is a lie, i think of it, i intend to search, but i don't; i only remember when the day moves on and it is that time before supper, that time when, as children, we used to stay outside, playing under the streetlamps until our mothers came to the doors and called us in - when that time comes and i sit here to write and the day has been full of only small moments and i want only to say listen to that nothingness, feel the luxury of this aloneness, when that time comes and i have so little to tell, then i remember i meant to look for poems for you.

but there is poetry in the day just gone -
the finding of 11 cents on 11/11,
a dime and a penny nestled together like an old married couple,
just touching, enjoying the sunshine,
rescued before the winter closes over them hard and cold;
that red leaf up above -
i stepped over it and thought it looks like a song;
stars hanging from the trees like leaves,
an autumn pear yellow on the ground,
a woodpecker in the magnolia tree,
another in the sweet gum, glittering in the silvering light. 

last night there was a sky behind the clouds
and the darkness was shaped like a smile.

it is enough.



late birthday evening, lily in my lap

watching the stars as i watch my steps,
i find poetry in the night sky,
and i apologize once again to autumn. 

there are broken branches even on this side of the door,
the inside part,
and there are bulbs that need changing,
stars gone out,
yes, even here, even on this side,
and i dangle my feet under the almost empty emma tree
and dear god, but the silence - can you not see it? -
is a gift wrapped in colors gone to bed for the night.



here's how stories work

the ever-wonderful michael was telling me about this thing that happened, and that's because, well, remember? he said, that she is married to that guy? and this happened?, and then a while back when that was going on, there was this kid who . . . and his grandfather bought him this toy airplane, and he was friends with another kid, and did i ever mention that they moved across the street from these people who . . . ? and all those stories were separate from one another, but not really, they just looked that way on the surface, they were really all tied together, because that's how stories work, at least stories in conversations, stories told by real people.

that's what i think i do.  at least that's what i try to do.  i start out telling you the story of painting the front room at work, and that reminds me of what i felt when i was buying the paint, the paint was yellow, honey colored, and that reminded me of autumn, and i remembered what i felt when i was standing in the paint store, waiting while the paint was mixed, lots of time for thinking and looking out the windows at the leaves falling away from trees, at the different blue of the sky, lots of time for remembering last autumn and where i would have been on a saturday morning, lots of time for wondering if my need to paint a few walls was a working out the grief i still feel for maggie-the-cat, remembering that's what i did when my father died, not comparing the two deaths, just thinking about how people deal with grief and moving on, which is not the same thing as "getting over it", it's just moving to a different place in the grief.  and i move from that thought back to autumn, which always gives me the blues, just not outside the window, and really it is late autumn that makes me feel this way; early autumn is just a phrase here in east texas, just a mellowing of summer, and i think about the leaves leaving, the turning away from the world that we all do; we go inside, even here where it doesn't get all that cold ~ it gets cold enough ~ and i remember that that night is turn-back-the-clocks-night, an earlier darkness now, and i move from that thought back to maggie, back to my father, and i am filled with missing.  when i get in the jeep, i cry, still thinking about it all, all those separate stories, but ~ and here's the thing ~ i stop crying.  i move on.  i get going.  i stop by my mother's house and she feeds me homemade soup and i tell her my thoughts, and she tells me her dream, which is another piece to the same story, another feeling of missing, of melancholy, and when i get in the jeep to leave, i cry again.  but ~ and here's the thing ~ i stop crying.  i move on.  i get going.  there is a newly painted room outside this door to prove it.

but i feel the need to tell you the story - tell it to you like we were sitting in my mother's house, a bowl of soup in front of us, a conversation between us.  there are people who will tell you they painted a room, and maybe they'll tell you the color, and that will be it, that will be their story.  it is not my story. 

remember when? i will say,
and then this happened,
and that thing we were talking of?  
. . . yes, yes, that too . . .



tears and paint and the morning light

i bought paint yesterday, with autumn outside and thoughts of maggie the cat everywhere, and the remembrance of painting a wall after my father's death, the painting and repainting - I've mentioned it before, the search for the perfect color that would ease my grief.  I know now it was the act of painting, of watching the change from white to aqua to pale green to taupe, that was the easing, the meditation of painting, the not thinking, just doing, moving the brush or roller across the space, the slowing of the break in my heart, the stitching together those torn pieces of my soul.

so i bought paint yesterday, a couple of gallons of changing-your-life - that's what i call any paint i buy - and i stood in line with autumn visible outside the windows and maggie in my heart and i held the tears until i was in the jeep and then sat and cried.  i've known from the beginning autumn would be hard, knew it would bring thoughts of her closer than usual; the cold evenings would bring her in and she would find my lap or the fire or an empty chair and we would sit together, a couple of old friends, and we would ignore that this was probably the last autumn we had together.  autumn reminds me of her, though she, like me, was much a summer baby, reveling in the summer nights - autumn memories of she & i in the jeep every saturday, headed to and from the vet's, watching a line of crepe myrtles go from flowers to green to fiery red candlesticks; i called them maggie's trees. we watched them every weekend for 2 years, but always their fall finery stuck in my head, maggie watching them fly past as we headed home.

i don't like autumn. it is my least favorite season, no secret if you've been here before.  it is beautiful - i have learned to love its colors, even if only a bit - but it is sad and remindful of the end of things, the end is coming, it says, and it offers gifts of leaves and nuts and red berries to ease that goodbye, but the end is coming.  the nights are longer and we gather together to celebrate each other and families and it always feels like goodbyes for me, and i cannot wait for new year's or winter, a beginning, a definite end. 

so i bought paint yesterday and then headed for my mother's house and homemade soup.  she had dreamed of my father; she was in a crowded place, people coming and going, and she heard her name called.  turning around, she saw him standing there, waiting for her, tall and straight and still; his skin and clothes one and the same, seeming to flow together, she said.  they embraced, she reached to caress his cheek, his skin smooth as silk, otherworldly.  suddenly thirsty, she turned to a nearby water fountain, and when she turned back, she awoke.  she was unable to sleep, she said, and got out of bed, found something to eat.  his cheek was so smooth, she told me again.  when i left, i got in my jeep and sat there and cried.

her dream felt like autumn, remindful of the end that is coming, but not yet, not yet, thank you, but i pay attention; she said it was the first time in a dream he'd come specifically to see her, and i am glad he left her with me.  the paint in the cans is a golden honey yellow color and it is too autumny.  i will fix that, i wanted more butter than honey, but i will see it in this morning's light and perhaps change my mind - when my mother described my dream-father i saw him glowing like the morning light.  that was the color i couldn't find all those years ago when i painted and repainted a wall.



i pay attention to my dreams

i admit it is the light switch that does it for me in this picture.  it is a gorgeous dress and it was a gorgeous time, and there are other pictures, but this morning this one, with the softness of that dress-of-bygone-eras against that lovely light switch is the one that calls to me.  there is also something about the sunlight settling itself against the fabric, warming it to your touch, that makes me smile.

i spent a large part of yesterday at the d.m.v., renewing my driver's license, waiting in lines, impatient to get done with it, to return to this place, to take pictures, to talk, to meet new people.  i'd stopped on my way - a sale called HEAP - a heap of whatever, they said.  there were antiques and crafts and christmas decorations, photos i am waiting to share , and there were homemade cookies made by this wonderful woman.  i only had a moment, then off to the 2 hour wait for my license, a quick lunch of drive through mcdonald's, a grabbing of my camera, of my latest magazines to show, and back i went, they closed at 4, i was hurrying, hurrying, hurrying through picture taking, hurrying against their clock and mine - i still had work to do and the afternoon almost gone - but it was fun and it was fabulous to meet other women in this area who like pretty, and not the typical east texas pretty.  fun pretty.

i am again hurrying this morning - against the clock of the drugstore, against the soon even-earlier darkness about to descend upon us; i am leaving my house cluttered and piled and off again to HEAP - not for pictures this time, but for a couple of christmas ornaments, if they are still unsold.  they are that perfect blue. 

and then to the paint store.  i dreamed once again last night of a house i lived in long ago, and i was painting the walls - i can see the brush against the molding, careful, careful to not splash paint on the wonderful white molding, and it was soothing beyond measure, that slowness of the brushstrokes a meditation in a dream.  it is a sign - i was painting the walls a soft cocooning cool buttery yellow, a color i have thought about for a year or more, a color i think the front room at work should be - such a change from the dark purply blue it is now.  i will have to paint around the emma tree, but i think it is therapy i need.  the room will be softer - i need more softness.  it will no doubt take the entire month of november to finish, but i can already see the sun settling itself into the corners, warming the walls.



in the hush of the moon: where i am today

today i'm not here.
i'm here,
talking about art & time in the hush of the moon.
don't you just love that?
in the hush of the moon?
emily & i would love it if you kept on straight ahead
paid us a visit.



okay, she really didn't drive me crazy. she really just made me laugh.

cause it was the world series and there was some energy in the air, folks, and she was missing it, neither of her cameras were catching that energy, that special we've never been here before energy, that if we don't win tonight, it's all over, but still, this is great! energy.  she was taking pictures!  all the time!   everyone was taking pictures some of the time - we have crossed the threshold of the digital age and there is no going back - but this woman was non-stop.  i'm not sure she knew the rangers had lost until her husband or whoever he was nudged her and said let's go.

it was my first experience with police blocking the hotel parking lot; i'd met elaine earlier - we'd arranged for a bit of time before the game because she lives nearby - and the police told her no, that it would be $20 to park and come inside.  we talked them into letting her in for free - i personally think it was her red hair that did the trick - but that's how crazy with energy the whole place was; parking spaces were for sale at the nearby hotels.  it was electric.  people were lining up, heading into the ballpark as soon as it opened, and when i mentioned this to elaine, she said, well, they didn't want to miss a minute, they wanted to soak up the whole world series experience.  and she was right, except for that woman sitting a couple of rows in front of us. 

the weather was perfect, it was that held-over october weather i spoke of yesterday, a chill in the air later, but not cold.  there was a companionship with 50,000 plus people, all of us there speaking the language of baseball.  there were those budweiser horses and a dalmation on a firetruck, though i have no idea why; there was a line of spiffed up black denalis, complete with chauffeurs standing alongside, there were rangers tshirts everywhere, red everywhere, cheering, stomping, and when the giants hit a 3 run homerun which would eventually prove to be all they needed to win the game, i was in the ladies' room and every woman in there with me swore.  camaraderie.  when the game was over and the rangers were off the field, we applauded the giants, and then chanted thank you rangers over and over.  it was pretty wonderful.

during the post season leading up to this final game, i'd been posting quotes about baseball as my facebook status before each game.  there was one i didn't use, but it stayed with me because i understood:

The greatest feeling in the world is to win a major league game. 
The second-greatest feeling is to lose a major league game. 
                                                   ~ Chuck Tanner,   quoted in The Sporting News, 15 July 1985

it was pretty great just being there.

and thank you rangers.



not empty now

november came in like november should, full of gray skies and rain, washing october away, washing away jack-o-lanterns and candy apples, washing away the yet-again rewatching of to kill of a mockingbird, bringing the longing for old holiday movies, bringing stores dressed in fairy lights and neon signs glowing in the chilly fog. it came in a day late, holding onto the feel of october for one night, but this morning it was november and it felt like fall. we drove through the storms and there was silence or the radio or the sound of the windshield wipers and the road kept us company and i thought.

yesterday morning i awoke to a surprise celebration of me and i still don't have the words for how that made me feel, how it so softly touched a place in my heart, that place right next to where maggie lives, that place that has ached for so long, been empty for so long, and i feel like the end of little women, when friedrich says to jo all i have to offer are my empty hands and she says not empty now. not empty now. the emptiness washed away.

it started with amy and blue cupcakes, and i haven't visited everywhere yet, still have no words, but i will find them. even if they are just thank you. for now, thank you all. namaste. bless you. i will find my way to you.

on the road yesterday morning an orange butterfly flew past the windshield, then orange leaves, that same feeling as last year, unable to tell which was butterfly, which was leaf. the old highway we drove held treasures to be photographed later. i will be back i told them, and when we neared dallas another orange butterfly flitted past the jeep. it was a perfect day.