“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

8.31.2010

the drive home last night

took me past frosted, sweating windows,
warm rain surprising the cool rooms inside,
red lampshades glowing like ruby red slippers,
dripping sizzled jewels of light onto hot windowsills,
there's no place like home,
there's no place like home,
there's no place like home.
me too shy to stop the jeep, ask to take a picture,
but grateful, grateful for the unphotographed moment.
soft yellow light had earlier frosted the evening's streets,
the treetops, the reflections in puddles;
lunch had bathed us in the blue of maggie's flowers.
the morning had been gray.

the sound of screech owls in distant trees
greeted me as i stepped onto the driveway.
there's no place like home,
there's no place like home,
there's no place like home.

8.30.2010

a giveaway: just sit there and look pretty

I tore this phrase from a magazine, one of many I was tearing and cutting this weekend, preparing for an autumn of artwork, the need to get my hands messy quite big, and now I have a table for such, not the one I thought I wanted, but a better one, one that works in my small space; I bought it Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend reorganizing, cleaning, tossing, and that included old magazines and calendars and mail, and that included grabbing words before tossing - words to inspire me, phrases for prompts, pieces for collages. Dropped into the many bowls of words surrounding me, this phrase lay forgotten on the couch. I found it later, dropped it into a box of candles I've looked at for a year, the starting point for an assemblage, but no energy in my heart to move me forward.

I dropped the words and then suddenly read them. Really read them - they jumped at me. And I knew this would be the phrase to bring me back to art, or at least back to attempting art - I haven't painted in 15 months, haven't glued, haven't hammered, haven't anything but typed words. And it 's been enough, more than enough, but I am at last ready for more. I've never been one of those folks who could paint her way out of a box of despair; I need happiness to begin that process, and it may be that the painting will tell you how angry I am, but it is contentment that moves me forward, that it is the first foot on the road, and I am healing. I feel the call.

And so. This phrase. There is something quite Mad Men about these 6 little words, these little words that have nothing whatsoever to do with pretty and everything to do with power. I can't put into words the way I felt as I stood and stared at those 6 little words. I will have to put it into paint.

And then I will give it away. To one of y'all.

I've thought long and hard about this; this being my first giveaway, I wasn't sure how to approach it, and this may not be the right way, but here's how it will work. I'm giving myself a bit less than a month to finish this. It's a long time, I know, but it's been a while and I want no time pressure. During that month, I'd like you to think about this and come up with your own interpretation of these 6 little words - photo, painting, journal page, paragraph, poem, I care not. I just want to see it. And on September 23, the moon all full and female, I'll show you mine if you show me yours. I'll link to everyone's site or Flickr account and would like for you to link back to here. If you don't have a blog or Flickr or whatever, let me know and we'll figure something out - perhaps Facebook. If I can figure out how to make a button to paste onto your site, I'll do that, but I know me, so don't hold your breath. :) I'll drop all your names into a hat or a box or a bowl and I'll find someone to draw a name and that person will receive my painting.

Because I need y'all to keep me going.
And because I really want to see your stuff.

So.
Don't just sit there and look pretty.
Jump in.
Leave a comment, let me know.
Tell your friends.
I'll post the list on the sidebar.

8.26.2010

i dreamed of writing last night

and poetry among the shadows, and i searched for words to rub together to start a fire, and i wondered how did i get here - letting the days go by - and had i made a wrong turn somewhere. i felt quite lost, felt overwhelmed with the search, felt angry about it; there were no words in the poetry that even sparked a spark, and i was tired and i was without hope and didn't want to look any more. and then i awoke.

this is called thinking too much. this is called oldest sibling too sensitive perfectionist daughter. that's how i got here. that, and reading without writing. too many influences. too much input, not enough output. an anonymous comment making me feel i am too much the sad blogger too often. it takes so little for me to question myself, to back away, to feel i am wrong, to feel i must change. i am once again that first grader who will not read in the reading circle, who stays silent when it comes her turn, who will only speak to the teacher, and then only at her desk, where the others can't hear and laugh at her. i am that child again, afraid to talk. it never goes away.

i have a good life - i will say it right out loud so there is no misunderstanding. it is not perfect; i don't live in a house by the water, maggie the cat was not immortal, my mother is ill and often requires more than i think i can give, i don't make enough money. but i am easily content and not easily bored. i am happy to watch the clouds move across the sky and i notice doorways and the colors of buildings and not a shadow crosses the wall that i don't think of as art. i seldom read poetry, am unschooled in rumi and mary oliver, though familiar with both, but know the poetry of my life, the hard parts and the easy. i will show you both. look away if you must - i understand.

and so. this morning. here i stand in jeans too big, baggy and comfortable. the shadows that will burst with dogwood blossoms in the spring lay against the wall. there is a baby gift to wrap in blue paper and the day lies before me, empty, the air cooler by 10 degrees. it feels like change.

8.24.2010

the sun sits upon the grass a bit differently lately

and the hot blue white days of summer will soon be past us; September will usher in a warmer light, the barely beginning of the golden months. It will stay warm here for a while, into October or November - my November birthday doesn't always need a jacket - but it will be autumn nonetheless and the stores will be filled with oranges and yellows and pumpkins and after a bit the leaves will begin to fall, brown and dull at first, then reds and golds and coppers, but even before then, even while it is still summertime hot here, we will have moved into that autumn mindset and all my lovely blues will disappear. I will look hard for them, feeling guilty bypassing the splendor of fall in search of other seasons' frocks. But I will do it. I know myself. I will search for turquoise lights and teal neon signs, for aqua shoes and baby blue tshirts - for blues wherever I can find them. I will miss them, and it will take a while for me to fall in love with autumn. It always does. I am like a child who must put away her favorite lilting summer dress - the one that sings so sweetly of warm breezes and butterflies - and put on a somber brown coat, a coat that hums a harsh tune of hiding away, of dark closets and mothballs. I am already tucking away the memories of blue popsicles and blueberries and I have a new white & blue striped bra to wear as a reminder under coffee colored tshirts. Long sleeved.

But as I said, the sun sits upon the grass a bit differently, it slides across the street at a different angle, and the afternoons already whisper fall. The breezes are unrelentingly hot August breezes, but students trudge by on their way to school each morning, that old autumn ritual just beginning this week; football games will be here any minute, never mind the heat, while I watch baseball, counting down to the days of October, where fall officially begins for me. Somewhere after the World Series and somewhere before the end of Daylight Savings Time, the dark days of fall drop into place and I grow more accepting, lighting candles when I settle in for the night, softer music on the stereo. I almost said "and a cat in front of the fire", but not this year, and I am sad to think that, but it is okay - I have those memories tucked away also.

8.21.2010

it's just hot out there

and i am sheltering behind curtains and shadows and parking in the shade when i venture out, if shade can be found, if others haven't already claimed it as theirs. the trees at my mother's house are mostly in the back yard, the one huge live oak too far from from the driveway to offer any coolness, and it matters not if i back into the drive or pull forward - the sun is relentless and the heat is hard, merciless, and fast. i've lived in hot places only and am familiar with augusts both humid and dry, but i always forget the trueness of hot. i have the memories, know the feel of a hot road under bare feet, but like pain, it is easy to remember, but impossible to conjure up that true feeling.

4 days into 5 days off, and each afternoon finds me in acceptance of this heat, indeed the afternoons are the easiest - i tell myself it is august, it is texas out there, after all, and i relax into the coolness of my house, quite shaded, surrounded by pecan trees, magnolia, hackberry, the cherry laurel, oak, nestled next to dogwoods and camellias, and i read and i read, and yesterday i began to repaint the bathroom, no hurry, just a bit here and there, it is something to do when i can't sleep and the books have momentarily lost their charm. the lovely, lovely katie and i shop antique stores full of dark, heavy furniture, and mi casa imperfecta, small though it is, feels like luxury when i get home - airy, light, cluttered, but full of sunshine filtered through leaves hanging still in the motionless air. there is silence, and cool white sheets on the bed, and the freezer holds nothing but ice and lime popsicles. there is a kitkat bar in the refrigerator and milk for cheerios, and strawberries and blueberries and white grapes. i am drowsy by 5 pm, lulled by the sound of the air conditioner and the fan.

life is good.

8.16.2010

i bought a chair this weekend

and like so much in my life, it didn't quite fit in. it needed a bit of work. it's a beautiful thing, a wonderful little piece you are bound to see more of in the future, all sweet teal leather and sexy little legs, a big bottom, sooo comfortable, but those legs, as sexy and gorgeous as they were, just didn't work in my little space. they were sleek and black and fabulous, but i needed them to be less legs in high heels, more sandy bare feet on the beach. and so out came the sandpaper and stripper and butcher paper to protect the floor, and upside down went the chair and i set to work, hallmark channel movies my background music. it took all day and my back and arms will swear under oath to the truth of that. finally there it stood, just the wood looking back at me, and i began to wash on white paint and grayish paint, mixing as i went, acrylics and craft paint and wall paint smooshed together, and soon i'd overdone it, soon it was too much, soon i'd grayed it too gray, which meant some more sandpapering, and that's where it is today. still a work in progress, and i am more than okay with that.

because this is not the kind of thing that bothers me. it exhausts me and that can make me frustrated, but the truth is it doesn't bother me. it's just a chair. i'll get there, to that beachiness i see in my head. no biggie. there's not a piece of furniture in my house - except that blue/green table my mother gave me - that i haven't played with, changed, slapped with a paint brush, covered with a slipcover, made mine. yesterday, when one of the new chair's legs didn't quite match the others, i realized i paint furniture the way i paint paintings. slap dash, mixing colors as i go. covering up, taking off. if i am doing it right, with absolute irreverence. it ain't art, and how easy that makes things when you approach them with that attitude.

i try, quite unsuccessfully, to approach my life that way. it ain't art either. i make mistakes. i make a lot of them, and i so often take them oh-too-seriously. how much more fun are those days seasoned with a dash of irreverence, which is not the same thing as carelessness, and irreverence is maybe not the right word either because that implies no respect or spirituality, which is not what i mean. i mean i giggle while sitting in the back pew. i mean i say my prayers outside, surrendering to the sky, and i mean i understand how unimportant it all really is, but i also mean that by surrendering to the sky, art is born, that my heart is filled with life, and i understand what miraculous gifts even the tiniest of things and feelings are, that i understand that all is sacred. it takes that irreverence to get me there, a circuitous route, a silly route. i mean i cover things up and i take things off and i use plenty of sandpaper, but eventually i get there. all my days are a beginning again, a picking up where i left off, and sometimes there are days that are grayed too gray. eventually that won't bother me. it is just a day, i will say, it ain't art.

8.13.2010

4 months ago today

and she was gone.

The Spring of No Maggie became the Summer of No Maggie, the hot nights once shared with her under the stars now just too-hot nights; I visit them seldom. The house is still empty, still wondering where she is, her spaces not filled, her places still hers. That corner where she lay on the rock wall crossing the footbridge over the creek still says Maggie, all the blue chairs still say Maggie, and the space next to my belly while I nestled on the couch reading still says Maggie. My heart whispers it, my heart alone knowing she won't be back.

This time after her ending has, like all times after all endings, been a trickster - long and hard and slow, but so fast. Too fast for my heart, too fast for my soul. In my mind's eye I see her in a child's version of heaven, curled on a corner of its wall, overlooking us here on earth, looking down, keeping an eye on me the way she used to keep an eye on her yard, full of cat contentment and patience. She was nothing if not patient. Always.

Today is hot. The clover blossoms where last she lay are gone. The house next door is now the color of butter. I am older by far than 4 months, and I am younger. I eat popsicles for supper and chicken for breakfast, and chocolate when I want. I read and watch baseball on tv. This Summer of No Maggie will soon be gone; autumn awaits with its own memories of her. It will be too fast and then Christmas will be here and then spring and April will return and it will be a year and I will find it impossible to believe.

8.11.2010

i drove home last night in the late twilight,

my headlights reflected like fairy blossoms in the windows i passed;
there were bicyclists on the hill near home,
they headed up the other side,
me just beginning the downward slope toward them;
the red reflectors on the bicycles' back fenders
looked like christmas ornaments against the darkened road.

and i remembered
there are christmas trees in the jeep's backseat.
two. white.
one there since the end of january,
one there since sometime in spring.
when later i fell asleep,
i buried a poem deep in a dream of snow,
wrapped in winter light and red and silver paper.
i awoke to the august heat,
relentless against the windowpanes
but i swear i heard bells jingling in the distance.

8.08.2010

if you are lucky enough

you will find the late afternoon summer sun
sneaking through your windows,
slipping between the blinds,
sliding across you as you lay in the land of not-dreaming.
if you are silent and still,
it encircles your wrists with bracelets of august light,
rarer than gold,
fashioned in the heat of the heavens.
it tattoos your thighs with white stripes,
growing warmer as it drops in the sky outside,
that outside secret sky,
growing warmer as it moves across your welcoming belly
as it finds your ear and softly whispers a daytime lullaby.

if you are lucky enough,
it will at last rest on the cotton sheet covering your chest,
then begin its dance
with the shadows of the wind in the trees behind the windows,
sparkling, glittering, twirling across you,
sunshine, shadow, sunshine, sunbeam, shadow, flit, flicker.
summer fairy lights on a lazy afternoon.

if you are lucky enough,
the afternoon is filled with butterflies you cannot catch,
those august butterflies just out of reach,
their wings kissing your fingertips goodbye as they pass.

8.05.2010

August Break 5: Heart Shape, Heart Shape, Heart Shape

I know you see it.

That black upside down heart.
And the rightside up ones behind it.
Three or four of them.

They're in the hall here at work.
They should be in a room,
but they're not.
It's crowded in there,
and though I usually complain about that,
about clutter in the hall,
and usually end up dragging boxes
off to where they belong,
I've let these stay because they're white.
And I like them.

Can you guess what they are?
So easy.
I know you know.

8.01.2010

august break 1: the landlord's dog

Luci Lu. Or Lucie Lu. Or Lucy Lu.
Depending on the day and who's writing.
Looka that tail.

this one doesn't count

because I have to say some words before I can go on with this month. There are no rules, I know, but there are some unspoken ones, so to speak; at least I hear them in my head, and here I am breaking them before even beginning. I am such a rebel. But it is no coincidence I think that my first image today is one of my bronzed baby shoes, once-upon-a-time bookends, that this fallen book, Pictures Under Discussion, that has been fallen for a month or two at least, Georgia O'Keeffe's hand holding her beloved stolen black rock, drew me.

This morning I stood shaking in the shower and it is three days beyond the incident, beyond the scare. I have emailed a friend, I have typed the words and erased them, I have cried on two shoulders, texted while it was happening, but it stays with me. I have to say these words out loud and I am sorry.

My mother is all right, she is fine, unless you speak to my oldest brother who is full of worries, real and imagined, and not shy about speaking his words aloud. She is fine until my phone rings and I see her name on the caller id, and she is fine until I imagine more weakness in her voice than is there. She is fine, she is fine, but my belly begs to differ and I begin to shake and I want off the phone. I want to run away, I want to be alone, you understand, and I escape here to work, to Lily cat and my continuing read of Anne of Green Gables, now book 3, Anne of The Island, no longer Green Gables; she has moved on.

So must I.
It is no longer Thursday afternoon;
the sun rose this morning and it was August.

I don't want to give details - they're unnecessary, really - it was just that something happened, one of those things, something that meant nothing, not really, it was a mistake, one of those things. A machine malfunction at the hospital, a quiet little beep, that said I was losing my mother. It was wrong, but it took a minute or two for 3 nurses to ascertain that, a very long minute or two, and it would've meant we were losing her, not just me, but I was the only one there, me and those nurses, and it felt quite personal. And that's it, except that they then became concerned that she wasn't rousing from under anesthesia, and I had to leave, to be honest, I had to find the bathroom and cry while they worked on her and with her and when I returned they were all smiles because she was fluttering her eyes at us all.

It was less than an hour on Thursday afternoon.

And that's it. It scared me. It was not fun. She is home and I am still shaky when she calls, when my brother stands at my front door and tells me he thinks she is still sick. And so I run away. To here, to a safe place, cluttered and messy and quiet, my office stacked with papers and pictures, a cat asleep on the chair next to my desk. I turn my calendar from July to August and there is a picture of trees in summer fog.