“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

6.29.2010

Maggie's Ashes

I will miss her come winter,
come the cold weather
and
rainy nights
and
iced over windows,
come the fire in the heater
and
piles of blankets on the couch.
I thought I would her miss her less by then,
but no.
No.
I see not.

Rain snuck in late this afternoon and it grew chilly at work; I read Edgar Sawtelle aloud to the ever-wonderful Michael when we finished for the day, read it wrapped in a summertime blanket of white, my toes snuggled warm against the sudden chill in the building; we are into the sad parts, and I read the funeral and it was time to go, and he was off and Lily cat rolled on her back, her belly needing scrunchled, and the rain was just barely out there but the gray was everywhere, and I headed home to loneliness, wanting to stay and snuggle on the couch and read to Lily - I have a copy of Anne of Green Gables tucked into my purse - but there were things to do and so home I came to the emptiness that still lives here, especially in this weather, a summer night rain that even Maggie would've given up to nestle next to me and watch bad tv, picture on, sound off, listening to the rain fall until we both fell asleep on the couch, that first moment of darkness when I'd turn off the tv the best.

The image above is by Michael,
art direction by me.
As I told someone else,
I just held her to my heart and closed my eyes.

6.27.2010

Summertime: Stillness, Change, Return

Summer, summertime, and a new blue dragonfly to keep the red ones company out there where I'm standing on the other side of this door looking back in. It looks like summer out there now and the morning heat is heat and the afternoon heat is heat and the evening heat is heat and they all feel different and they all feel like summertime. Last night I was home late and outside surrounded by the sound of cicadas and the thickness of the night and I slept a sleep full of dreams, dreams that made me lay a bit in bed after waking, gathering them close, remembering the dream bluebird, covered with the softest of feathers and kittycat fur, so blue, so blue, who nestled close and let me pet her, who stuck out a pink tongue and licked my thumb, almost purring a bluebird purr.

Our neighbor has built a tall wooden fence - 8 feet? 10 feet? - separating visually our backyards, and it feels private for us, private at last, I feel better seeing the fence out there and feel I can breathe again, feel that the vines and the blooming-once-a-decade climbing roses can return from their mysterious deaths last year - there is already some green mounding over the old chain link fence, growing wild like we like it, wild like she doesn't. It feels positive, that fence, a change in the right direction, and I dreamed of our yard also, of new porches and wild birds and suddenly the front yard was private also, and I dreamed of the house and it had grown and we were using it for new purposes, new creativity, and yes, yes, I know this dream meaning, this message to me, this change it says is possible, is necessary. A table, a big table, I keep talking about it, but I know now it is meant to be, perhaps not that first table I saw - but a long one, and the living room becomes studio. It won't be overnight, but I feel lighter just knowing it will be.

~

I am beginning to take care of me again. I have ignored things, felt bad and depressed and deprived of light and energy for quite some time. I have been sick, blaming so much on losing Maggie, on the last 2 years of keeping her with me, all true, all true, but I ignored me during that time - I was work and Maggie and work and Maggie and again, I regret not one moment, but I fell away somewhere in there. Last week, a dental appointment I'd put off for a year found 2 abscessed wisdom teeth, where I didn't know I had any wisdom teeth. They were removed Friday; I have had no pain at all. It is the first step to finding my way back to me.

~

I heard Maggie last night, I was sure I did, but of course knew it not to be true; when I came into the house from the summer night, her favorite time, I felt she was outside the door and turned. I do these things sometimes - it feels so real; later I thought I saw her outside, the side of her face caressed by moonlight, but of course she wasn't there - I had to look. During the night she meowed in my dreams and I tried to find her but couldn't.

I spent time with Lily cat earlier, to the business to sit with her and read until darkness made it impossible unless I turned on Emma Tree's lights, which have been off most of the year. I didn't want that, I wanted to just sit with her a bit longer in the dark. Before the darkness, we'd watched a bird outside on a wire, unsteady, having a difficult time finding its balance, working hard to settle itself into stillness. At last it did. And I remembered my muse is a bird. Hey there, I whispered, welcome back.

6.24.2010

shadows and flowers and things that go away

spring disappears
and i walk on shadows,
the summer sun painting them under my feet,
across my legs,
splashing my face -
sun,
shadow,
sun,
shadow,
heart shape,
heart shape,
heart shape,
sun.

if they are big enough i call them shade
and stop a moment to rest,
let them bathe me with their coolness.
rain today disappeared the shadows
and delayed the heat until afternoon,
the humidity a warm surprise when i left work
and headed home,
the shadows already asleep for the night.

mary's yard has lost the white camellia bush
that stood guard at her bedroom window,
or was it an azalea bush?
it stood at the corner across from bob the cat's grave
and was lost to a falling tree,
the house barely missed,
but more flowers gone,
more mary gone.

i don't know why i thought of that,
or perhaps i do,
those scattered petals across the yard
now not even shadows of petals,
all gone, all gone.

last night i missed lily cat
when i was home and snuggled in bed,
book beside me,
but she still at work.
moon,
heart shape,
moon,
heart shape,
heart shape.
across my heart.
i am opening up.

6.20.2010

still reading, still lazy, still happy, still healing

A different book now, but the same song, a song of doing nothing, of leaving the dishes piled in the sink, of looking past the laundry to be folded, a song of groceries not bought, of phones off the hook, of too late nights and too early mornings. I should be ashamed, I tell myself, I should do something, and so I take out the trash and water the outside plants against the summer heat, and then the book calls to me again, and I curl up in its story and forget the floors to be vacuumed, forget almost the air conditioner which has picked today to stop working. I am propped here on the bed between two fans, the coolest place in the house, a perfect welcome to summer. I should be reading The Help, the hot parts, the sweaty Mississippi summer parts, but I am 2 books beyond Aibileen and the girls and as luck would have it, in northern Wisconsin with Edgar Sawtelle and knee deep snow. I bought this book a year and a half ago, plopped it onto the stack of to-be-reads, and walked away; I picked it back up Friday, unable to put it down and I cannot argue with the timing of this cold tale on a sultry Texas night. I am glad for the strawberries in the refrigerator, and the staples of lemon sorbet and lime popsicles in the freezer. I am thankful for ice and wishing I'd bought watermelon, thinking I could have put the book down long enough for that, but knowing in my soul I could not. You takes your choices, and I chose reading.

I am unsure why now, why the reading signifies healing, as it surely does; I longed to escape into books these last two years, but could not, just couldn't. Perhaps it was depression, or perhaps it was just mindfulness, taking in the last of Mary's days and the gift of another year with Maggie. I often felt lost and frustrated at the not wanting to read, often felt it was gone forever, mourned it as yet another loss. But the books understood and they waited, they knew I would be back. I regret not one day of putting them off, and I thank them for their patience. I scan my bookshelves and so many call to me again - Out of Africa, West with the Night, The Far Pavilions - my usual summer read, a ritual of years running until the last two, Chocolat, Under the Tuscan Sun, A Short History of a Small Place, The Milagro Beanfield War, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Prodigal Summer. And yet, so many still unread, full of secrets and surprises.

I feel rich.

6.18.2010

Storytime

a lily cat, a summer skirt and bare toes, and a story read aloud.

Each evening before heading home, I settle into the scrunchiness of the couch at work, which is really a loveseat, which makes it all the more scrunchy and wonderful, and Lily and I share an hour of words, some read aloud, though the sounds of the air conditioner, pages turning and purring are the true noises, quiet and hovering in the background; the out-loud words are just here and there, a sentence or two so delicious they must be spoken. If I stay late enough, the bells and wind-up-toy music of the Mexican ice cream vendor will break the spell of otherwise silence, he pushing his cart down the almost deserted street outside, headed to the downtown square or to home - I like to think of him selling ice cream to folks relaxing under the trees and on the park benches as the temperature begins to cool, but I also like to think his day is done; he walks staring straight ahead, our area emptied of folks, all but me already gone for the day. I wonder how he got here, how long he's been pushing this cart, is he one of the business owners - their building is a couple of blocks north - I wonder if he is happy. I guess at his age - is he 30? 40? only 25? I wonder if he speaks English; in this area of downtown it is easy to lead your life in Spanish. I wonder about his story.

I will stop him some day and buy a popsicle and learn an answer or two. For now, I like the wondering.

6.15.2010

The Prodigal Reader

I knew it would return, would find its way back to me again, or that I would return to it, would find it along this narrow road I have navigated the past year or so - the love of reading, of whole books in one gulp, of a good story. Lost to me lately, this last couple of years, lost in the living of my days, gone with the death of a friend - I can pinpoint it to then, gone with the need to hold a cat closer before she too was no longer here, gone with the absolute have-to-write-it-downs I suffered from, the hardness of each day, the search for hidden gifts and beauty in the shadows of realities.

Return it did, a week or two ago, returning with an insatiable appetite - I began with silly stories, pulp fiction, not-quite-but-awfully-close-to romance novels, books purchased at used bookstores, easy to toss after reading. I could not get enough, needed another's words, another's stories, could not have cared less that the writing was mediocre, stuffed with too many adjectives. I was starving and the first course was easy to swallow, easily digested, the jellos, the toasted white bread books. I would grow anxious as the end of each grew visibly nearer. Bookstores called to me; I scanned the stacks of unread books here at home for something bland, but something that would hold my interest, Dairy Queen vanilla with no chocolate. If someone had appeared on the street corner, the trunk of his car full of books - pssst, little girl, just try one - I would have asked no questions; I would have scrounged quarters and bartered old jewelry for new words. The couch once again became my home, no tv on now, no need to turn off any sound; each morning I awoke to read and each evening fell asleep with a book beside me in the bed. The couch at work became a place of refuge, Lily cat nestled beside me. I read in the car when Michael was in the bank.

Eventually I progressed to tastier treats, rereading books that brought joy, finding a new one to take a permanent place on my bookshelf. I moved the unread stack next to my bed to a different place, mixing them with others read and unread, no longer a reminder of things undone. I remembered hiding a hundred dollar bill in The God of Small Things a few years ago and forgetting it until I picked the book up to try once again to read. It is still unread, only a few pages managed, but I blame the hundred dollars for the last failure.

It has been a long journey; I, the prodigal reader, at last home again. The words are comforts, are like old friends consoling me with their company and a glass of iced tea. Sweetened. There is a lemon pound cake on the table, and the words reach across and hold my left hand as my right picks up a fork and takes another bite.

6.13.2010

Floodblogging on a Hot Dry - if you don't count the humidity - Day

A picture is worth so many words and sits there in silence, no words to decipher, no italics needed to make a point, but today a post without pictures, the need to be back in the writing game strong. A butterfly flitters on the opposite side of the front door, only a pane of glass separating me from the the black and gold of those wings; yesterday two red dragonflies beckoned me to the yard, swooping by the door several times before bumping against it, knocking on the door, not wanting to come in, but wanting me up and off this couch and into the heat. And just now, a robin against the door, whompfhhhh! - at least I think a robin, I saw only a flash of red before it flew off a bit drunkenly. Perhaps a cardinal - I will check for feathers.

It is hot out there - as Matthew Broderick said of Mississippi in Biloxi Blues, it is Africa hot, but really it is more Louisiana hot. I know so little of Africa, so much more of Louisiana. The humidity is not quite invisible, it lays across the orange lilies, I can see it heavy, heavy, pushing them over just a bit with the extra summertime weight. Next door Amber walks by with her own extra summertime weight, she grows bigger with each week, a Texas summertime pregnancy must surely be miserable, but she knows now whether it is a boy or girl - I will ask later. The dragonflies are out there again, those lilies one of their resting spots; they fly round and round and up and down, into the creek and up and out and all over again. I have said this before, it is the same every summer, and I watch them soar across the street and back again, a small bump against the door just now, and back into the creek, always the same, always the same, but always different.

We had a flood this week. I laugh when I look at my Facebook profile, my status on Wednesday morning reading "roof is leaking and i can hear the rain hitting the ceiling over my head, one drop at a time, with a soft, soft, sleep inducing, quite pleasant thud", followed that evening by the link to this blog, the post "Reading in the Rain", followed the next morning by this exchange between the lovely, lovely Katie and I, she at the coffee shop 2 or 3 blocks away, me here at home:

Me: uh oh. when i can see the water rushing down the creek while sitting on the couch . . . what is that? 8 feet of water where there is usually an inch or so? (Thursday at 8:20am)
She: I hear we are suppose to get 8 more inches of rain. (Thursday at 8:22am)
Me: am i allowed to cuss? (Thursday at 8:22am)
She: oh hell yeah! (Thursday at 8:24am)
Me: i moved the tornado drawing off the floor. :) trying to see what else might get hurt if i flood (Thursday at 8:24am)
Me again: creek is down a couple of feet already. a good sign. (Thursday at 8:25am)
She: thank god, hoping it goes all the way down. I have about 5 leaks goin on at the studio. rug and couch is soaked. dern it! (Thursday at 8:26am)
Me: omg. smith county is getting the worse per: channel 7 news. LOTS of flooded areas. (Thursday at 8:28am) Note: my omg referred to Katie's couch, not the weather report; it is a velvet couch, quite beautiful, the color of sage and lemons smooshed together.
Me again: tyler getting the worse of smith county (Thursday at 8:29am)
Me yet again: i'm afraid to go to work - LOL! - my office ceiling may have given way. (Thursday at 8:30am)
She: well....crap. (Thursday at 8:31am)
Me: the creek must be way down - i can't see any water now. is your couch ruined? (Thursday at 8:33am)
She: no, just a little wet. I woke up at 4:30 and went up there and put flower vases and pots out to catch the water. (Thursday at 8:36am)
Me: i saw your headlights & wondered what was happening. glad it's not as bad as could've been (Thursday at 8:47am)
Me again: @#*&^*#$# - creek is up again. Man!! (Thursday at 8:50am)

At this point I realize others are listening in . . .
Kelly: Yikes! Hope you dry out soon... (Thursday at 8:51am)

. . . but I have no time to respond to anyone but Katie:
Me: bridge is flooded & water is coming from the back yard around y'alls' staircase to join. i'm getting everything off the floor (Thursday at 8:52am)
She: oh crap again! big tree fell down on college; the pretty yard that's on the north east corner of lindsey and college. (Thursday at 8:56am)

Sooz sends a message:
Dry in California...wish you were here... (Thursday at 9:00am)

But I am barely noticing at this time, speaking only to Katie, watching the water:
Me: front yard is totally underwater - the back side of the bridge is totally underwater
(Thursday at 9:01am)

Me again: man - so far the side that floods the house is okay but water is up to my front door got my boots outta the jeep. jeez - we got WAVES at my front door! (Thursday at 9:04am)
Me one more time: house is flooding (Thursday at 9:09am)

You really don't need pictures for that, do you? Luckily, I noticed the water coming into the kitchen in time to throw rugs and towels onto the floor and to my surprise, that worked. It kept the water at bay, away from the carpeted areas of the house. I have had much worse flooding with much less rain. This rain was huge - it's the most I've seen in 25 years. 10 inches or so quickly. I'd managed earlier, somewhere in the middle of that exchange with Katie, before the water was deep in the yard, to get to my Jeep and get my rain boots, and a good thing that was. When I noticed the kitchen was going to stay okay, I stepped outside to save one of Katie's lawn chairs, across the footbridge, in the front yard. One step into the yard and the water was almost to the top of my boots, rushing fast from around the house, under Katie's staircase, to merge with water rushing across the creek - it had overtopped - from the front and back yards of the empty house-with-the-red-door next door. The creek in that backyard had overtopped, sending water in the direction of us - the meeting of all those waters from different directions occurring 3 or 4 feet from my door causing those waves I'd mentioned to Katie. 18 inches high, splashing against the glass doors - I sat on the couch and watched because there was not much else I could do, the water not yet in my house, and when it was, it came from behind. But anyway, one step into the yard and that water physically moved me and I knew I wasn't stepping onto that bridge, at that point knee deep in rushing water; the entire yard knee deep in rushing water, rushing across the street, across Lyndi's yard and into the creek there - it is wider and deeper on that side of the street. Bye bye lawn chair.

40 minutes later I realized my computer was still on, Facebook still up, and there were comments from many folks, worried, concerned, all good friends. At lunch came a text message from Katie that the lake was gone - the lake on which, once upon a time, a few hours earlier, their lakehouse stood. No longer. The dam broke, and well, you know the rest, the monkey got choked, and they all went to heaven in a little rowboat . . . A crazy day. It required Mexican food and an afternoon of reading while washing all those rugs and towels.

I will cheat here and show you some pictures.
All photos by Robert Langham:


Our yard. If you look hard, you can see the flooded footbridge right there in the center of the image. The water is knee deep at this time, rushing into the creeks; the back side of the creek, to the right of the footbridge here was not yet overtopped. But soon.

Water rushing into our yard from next door. This tree is the tulip tree, she of the lovely pink blossoms in spring.

Another view. Front yard next door, heading toward our yard.

Next door again, between the garage and house. The creek in the back yard, normally 8 or 9 feet deep, has overtopped here by quite a bit, it is not even visible, not even the brick edging above it. The water level is also knee high (at least) here and heading into our yard. I cannot believe Robert stood in this rush of water and photographed.

6.08.2010

reading in the rain

rain today all day.

and my computer broke. a slow soft quitting, just swwwwssssss and that was it and as it turned out that was it and it will be monday before a new one replaces her and i have all my images and programs back.

i had this rainy day taqueria image tucked back in the blog's back closets, and it's kinda funny cause it's a rainy day all right but pretty soft and slow y lindo in its own way. 2 weeks ago a lost computer would have been stress, but today it meant freedom and book buying and sprawling on the couch in the front room with Lily cat and the new book, the ever-wonderful Michael at his desk with his new book, able to do a few things on his computer, but mine being the mama from whence all things flow, he too was forced to slow down. so it rained and we read and Lily cat slept and purred and snuggled against my bare toes and kept them warm.

i take signs from the universe seriously.
i'll be back on monday if i can figure out the new computer.
tuesday if takes an extra day.

6.07.2010

Never-was

A painting that never was.

Well, it was for a little while, not true I guess that it never was, else how could I be showing you? But I got frustrated and painted over it and I even think I glued stuff onto it; I'll have to track down its poor bones and see.

Lots of things in life that never was. You know? Never was time/opportunity/want-to-enoughness for my first real boyfriend to ever buy me flowers, he said he couldn't find any exotic enough, I think about that even to this day, a million years later, and wonder why I just didn't laugh at him cause I knew he was lying, knew I just didn't matter enough for him to take that time, knew it then, and know it now and it still pisses me off because it jumped to my mind very first thing when I thought about never-was. And funny how when I think about never-was, I think only of regrets or bad things or hardness. Never was enough money for this or time for that. Surely there has been a good never-was or two. Never was a cat like Maggie who curled inside my heart and just took it over - that's a good thing. Never was an ever-wonderful like the ever-wonderful Michael who keeps me in pens and cokes and gasoline and feeds me daily and watches me not eat half of what he's paid for and never complains about it - a very good never-was.

But mostly that's like trying to prove a negative, those regrets and missed phone calls and bad decisions, and not all of them are true regrets, now that I really ponder this, a lot of them are never-wases I just thought I should feel sad about. And they are all in the past, which makes me wonder if the ever-wonderful Michael is a never-is but no, that just brings up a whole different train of thought cause he never is on time, which is not a secret to anyone so I can say it right out loud. No, I guess he is a never-was cause it's the comparison to others that I'm thinking of, and that is the past, so I'll let it stand. This is confusing stuff - never was such confusing stuff.

So.
From the past.
Never was taught to swim as a child and
never was a cereal box I didn't read while eating the cereal and
never was expected to do anything but
grow up,
get married,
have babies,
but never was marriage and never was babies,
and never was ever an occasion to wear a floor length dress.
Never was able to whistle and
never was much of a cartoon fan and
never was tall
until the summer between 9th and 10th grades and
never was a loser when playing Scrabble and
never was scared of driving stick-shift cars and
never was concerned
about whether the windows were automatic either and
never was shy about wearing bikinis and
never was comfortable at parties and
never was there a front porch
as wonderful as my grandmother's.

In the summer, in the evenings, surrounded by silence and stars. Never was anything better to me then. Now it is those same summer evenings, under those same stars - never was a night the stars weren't up there, even if hidden by clouds - but a boat instead of a porch.

That is an is, though, there just is nothing better.
Never was a season like summer
to set me to silliness and dreaming.

6.04.2010

no expectations - just sky

last weekend i saw the first red dragonfly of the year.

yesterday was rainy skies but this morning we are back to blue and hot. i am caught up on things, on life, all articles-to-be-written written, all work-due-out out, and the summer seems suddenly a road into the distance, days of freedom a possibility, 3 day weekends starting today, a camera with no expectations, empty, waiting to be filled.

me too.
here i go down that road to see what's there.

6.02.2010

Magical Object Thinking

cell phone image from a few days ago.

A magical thing, a cell phone.  I just opened the door to the Jeep, stood on the edge of the floor board, steadying myself against the window and fired off a few shots.  The light was changing by the second, and unlike Ansel, I didn't know the moon's luminance, and it wouldn't have much mattered because to adjust the exposure on my phone takes too many steps and takes my eye away from the viewfinder, and I can't set ISOs or anything (when did it just become ISOs? - I remember when it was ASAs)  so, like I said, I saw the shot as the grocery boy was putting groceries in my car and began to fire away as soon as he was finished, complaining to myself that waiting for him to be gone had caused me to lose the lovely pink sky, but still, I was pleased and it felt quite a bit like magic.

Diane Schuller posted a link today on Facebook by Lauri Baker, in which she talked about people who tell her what wonderful pictures her camera takes, she, of course, having nothing to do with it, which made me nod my head in agreement, so understanding her frustration and annoyance, but also thinking there is more to it than photographers allow or understand.  I don't think it's personal, although it certainly is personal to those who know their craft inside and out, backwards and forwards, and it is certainly an insult to that knowledge and the time spent learning that craft, but I think it's more indicative of the culture in which we live.  A culture that gives power to objects.  We assign them magic.

I watch the news and there has been a vehicle accident - the journalist, in all seriousness, reports that " . . . the SUV jumped the curb, hitting three people, killing one . . . "  as if the SUV did this of its own accord, SUVs being such dangerous creatures and all, the person behind the wheel not responsible at all.  Guns do terrible things all the time, I hear, with apparently no finger on the trigger.  Magical objects, both of them.  We are a society full of magical object thinking, we  are not to blame, the object  is.  The less responsibility we assume for our actions, the more we shift our way of thinking - not only is everything that goes wrong  not the person's fault, everything that is done right,  done correctly,  done well  is equally not the person's accomplishment.  A subtle shift, but a shift nonetheless.  Kudos to the equipment.  Your camera takes wonderful pictures, not you.  Guns shoot people, not the person pulling the trigger.  And those SUVs are just girls gone wild on gasoline - no drivers needed.

Magical object thinking.