“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


there were blackbirds this morning

more than four and twenty, and the sunday streets wet with last night's rain.  the days are warm, the nights cool, my house chilly with a heater that refuses to stay on, colder weather coming this week, rain here again now, the skies wet with clouds.

my hands itch to be dirtied with art.  my dollhouse start is full of obstacles, my head full of no words, my body no energy, and thoughts are scattered everywhere, birds in the sky looking for a place to land, jittery wings between raindrops, darting in one direction, startled into another.  the tv is egypt and trouble and higher gas prices and facebook is don't-eat-this-don't-eat-that-boycott-here-don't-shop-there, and i retreat into bad fiction, unable to move past beginnings, already bogged down with that striving to be perfect thing, fearful of being honest, and using that as an excuse for the not doing.

it is part of it, but not all, and i'm not sure what the other parts are made of, but today it all feels like excuses, not truth. using january dreariness as a reason for not working on my january room seems somehow . . . wrong.  lazy.  and keeps my hands unhappy, my hands who want to be sploshed with paint and glue, my fingers who want to figure out how to get this wire to do that, and can only figure it out in the doing.  but my hands are not in control.  they wait.

this almost-over afternoon says to stop here, to stop talking about it, just start the doing from right here, and it is right, of course - rainy afternoons usually know what they are talking about - but i immediately hear myself reply  in just a bit.  later.  soon.  there better not be a good movie on tcm.  i sigh.  i get more ice.  i do anything but.  i tell myself it really is january dreariness.  and maybe it is.



we are full of sky and empty trees

and also trees not so empty, but not on this road, not the road we chose at lunchtime, not the road we chose when i said drive me somewhere to take a picture,  and we drove a few miles out of town, me in the passenger seat, camera not even in hand, staring at the empty trees and dullness of the day, nothing speaking to me.  i let a blue and white painted wall pass by, and longhorn cattle, and donkeys and cows and trees full of space between their branches, and i thought of elaine's east texas post of pine trees and green, and how i'd commented and agreed it looked more like autumn out there and thought about how wrong i'd been.  here, on this  road, it looked like january.  i remembered years and years ago, driving an employee to dallas, he newly transplanted from minnesota, his fiancee flying in to join him here in his new texas life, remembered it was also a january drive, remembered the drive back as she took in the gray and nakedness of it all, asking is this what it always looks like? , blue skies bright overhead notwithstanding.  it is january and we are waiting for spring.

never mind that last year it snowed in february.  never mind that is officially winter, never mind there is coldness still ahead.  we are waiting for spring, the tulip trees all budded with promises of pink just weeks away, football only one game away from over.  never mind.  it is january and we are waiting.

after lunch, back in the ever-wonderful michael's jeep, the surprise of a cat's head popping up from the deep basket atop a table outside the cafe door, snuggled into a blanket against the weather, called for the camera, but instead we just laughed and headed back and once again i watched the trees and thought of january and finally said pull over here  and i thought i will photograph the month.   at home, i stopped to talk to a neighbor, to say hello to her new son, and she said it's so dreary now, i can't wait for spring

and perhaps that is why i haven't been here, haven't been writing, haven't been photographing or painting or crafting or gluing, have just been reading and cleaning the house, preparing for the dollhouse project, getting my real house in order.  perhaps it has been just waiting, but if so, it has been a much needed waiting, all budded with promises of its own.



last night belonged to the moon

the sky holding out her hand, 
the orange moon so-big and cupped in her palm,
a gift to see me home through air that felt christmas cold,
felt as if snowflakes were hidden inside.
all i needed to do, it seemed, was open wide my arms
and spin through the darkness;
the air would break open like an icy pinata 
and the snow would fall in soft silent slow motion around me. 
in the still awake dark of early early morning hours,
my moonlit bedroom windows,
out of focus,
floated white in the underexposed room,
and on the floor where maggie the cat once curled in the sun, 
painted a pattern with colder light,
a pattern identical to summer afternoons.
the corners, all textures and trying,
faded into secrets,
full of moments not quite there.

this morning belonged to the sun. 
shimmering bright against the frost. 
the corners full of nothing but dust and dreams.

words skitter away on such a day.
 and i let them.
the night comes again and is waiting outside the door. 



the things we takeaway

last night, at the end of all words, under the emma tree.

earlier in the day,
i'd noticed these boots still wore some sand from the beach.

i'd stood too close to the edge.

but how could i not?



florida: in words i can't find with pictures i forgot to take

there were things i didn't take pictures of. 
the streetlamps topped with sage green covers,
pinholed to loosen the light softly into the night. 
the blue stop signs.  
the white circle i painted on laurie's hand.  
the balloons tied to the street sign to point the way, 
mapquest and google saying no route possible from here to there
funny things, maps; perhaps there really wasn't -
perhaps we each had to find our own way, make our own map,
one that ended in the same place, but looked totally different to each of us. 

i didn't take pictures of the key limes
or the homemade chocolate chipotle truffles,
or the heart shaped pebble
in the path leading from the house to the beach
or the little ballerina outside in the wednesday cold.  
i didn't take pictures of conversations around the kitchen island
or at the kitchen table
and i didn't take pictures of words illuminated by candlelight. 
i have to remind myself to pick up the camera and so often i don't.

but this time, in addition to no pictures,
i have no words.
they're out there, i know they are.

it was a long drive back, longer than i'd anticipated,
bumper to bumper traffic across southern louisiana,
but no meals, just gasoline stops,
a lot of silent no-radio or no-cd time,
just the sound of the road beneath me at 70 mph.
a lot of thinking time,
a lot of wondering how to put into words this story of florida,
the true tale of anxiety i promised to tell.
i crossed the texas state line in the dark
and yeehawed into the silence of the jeep;
an hour later i stopped at work to nuzzle lilycat's neck,
and a few minutes after that i was home,
into bed,
where i stayed for 24 hours.

i don't know what to say.  
i don't. 
all i can think of is that i have never, in my whole life,
spent much time with "just women". 
i thought about that through 5 states and almost 13 hours,
and i formulated no sentences, no phrases, no nothings. 
and i don't know what i think about that. 
it is a different energy, that all female energy;
i grew up with no sisters,
grew up never having a group of girlfriends,
not in that sex and the city way. 
i don't tell all  to the girlfriends i have now.  
those few days on a cold beach were a first for me -
the only man i spoke to was a waiter one day at lunch. 
and michael on the phone at night,
michael who i missed in a way i've never missed before.

i am home now
and there are dogs running in the rain through the front yard,
and the heater won't stay on
and there is laundry to do
and my life returns to me as i know it,
but not really.   
it will take some time to find the words.
i feel changed, and if that sounds melodramatic, well, so be it.   
i do
i feel like parts of me were left behind.
 somewhere on highway 10, or maybe 12. 
some of those parts i found again
headed at-last-north through louisiana,
but some are gone forever. 
and it scares me.  change aways does. 
but suddenly i feel the need to cook
(thank you laurie)
to have a needle and thread in my hand
(thank you deb). 

i look at fabric differently,
and i think i can at last glue paper to a page
without thinking it is gone forever.
thank you kim

i took with me on this journey a silver heart from katie,
a bracelet from kelly,
one of elaine's little birds,
the words new focus  tucked under a wing. 
i took a broken strand of freshwater pearls from my friend lulu,
a picture of lilycat on my phone,
the memory of maggie the cat in my heart
and a message from graciel tucked into my purse. 
good luck charms.

i brought back beach sand and new friendships
and a much softer heart. 
i look at my picture on beth's blog
and i look tired and shy and scared. 
i can see i'd been pushing my hair back over and over.
a little girl again learning to step outside.
(thank you beth.)

i had wonderful teachers.
thank you all.


i am a slow walker

they always must wait and make sure i haven't lost myself winding through the pathways and tiny alleyways, but it doesn't matter, it's too late, i have lost myself a bit in this place.  this wonderland of playhouses painted like a box of easter candies, like jelly beans, only a few folks out to brave the cold cold air - yes, to all my northern friends, it is cold; us 3 texans are not the only ones to feel it.  we are 5, and we have known each other less than 2 days, but secrets tumble forth and silliness and laughter and tears and we draw with children's crayons on the white paper tablecloth at lunch, key lime pie brought home for dessert, and there is hot tea made with roses and valerian, the only ingredients i remember.  there are homemade fresh-from-the-oven muffins for breakfast, made by women with no need to measure, suppers prepared on the fly, what does the store have today?  the need for quinoa still unfulfilled.  there is alabama stitching going on, and garland making, and i am taking it in, wanting to get home and do both, ideas for my dollhouse and real house filling my heart and head.

today is a day with a long list of to-dos; it is wednesday and i am still here and excited to face the day.  feeling the friendships develop, happy to be with these women.  jumping is on the list and art and stories and more photographs, and the beach, the gulf in winter.  

time for stories when i return.



florida from the inside, last night

dark last night when i arrived, and late when i went to bed, 4 women up in the night talking about their lives and clothing and socks and snowmobiles, but this morning my anxiety woke me early, whispering in my ear that i should go home, that i should take my things and get in the jeep and sneak away, leaving only a note.  but i argued with it, said i should wait for beth to be up, though she may already be, she probably is, and give her a hug for her generosity and her so  thoughtful heart, and then just turn the jeep back in the other direction and move forward, closer to home, but all the while understanding deep in my soul that it would be an optical illusion of forward movement, i would really be heading backwards.  and so i have had a bit of pepto bismol and writing as an early breakfast and i am better and the day awaits. 

the morning breaks blue and white outside the windows of this room, so private, its own staircase and fridge, and it looks cold out there.  there is a green house visible from where i am propped on this sinfully huge comfortable bed, and there is a pink house next to it, visible from my balcony.  there are tree branches gentle in the morning breeze, stopping for a moment, then gentle again, as if the day is softly shaking them awake, and they are asking for just 5 minutes more, reluctant to rouse from their slumber - it’s cold,  they say, and you know how that is, how much harder it is to fully come awake on a cold morning. 

fully come awake.  a goal worth striving for.

and so, i will stay, if only one day at a time, that's all i have to do, and there are 3 wonderful women in the other part of this house, and i want to say the other part of this incredible  house, but fear using too many adjectives, although it is  incredible.  kim will be here later today, and then there will be 5 of us.  i write these words for me, as a journal of this trip, and i write of the anxiety because it is always with me, and i want the world and y'all to understand this is not just a mental "hangup" - real anxiety disorders strangle people's lives.   tv portrays them so badly, so tv-like, so just a hissy fit and here, breathe  and you're all better.  it is insulting to those of us who struggle with the reality.  so i will keep you up to date re: that + this beautiful place.  yin/yang, good/bad, win/lose, here/there, or actually here/here.   si?

i promise non-cellphone images soon.  today will be rainy and i don't know what's out there in the distant daylight, but it looks pretty enticing from my room.



last night - baton rouge, today - florida

crossing the atchafalaya basin yesterday evening.
18 mile bridge.

so far, so good.  i am sitting here in a motel room on the florida side of baton rouge and about to dry my hair and head on out.  the anxiety is still with me, as it always is, but a phone conversation with the ever-wonderful michael last night reminded me to just take this a day at a time, that turning around is always an option, but so is moving forward.  today, this morning at least, the direction is forward. 

soon the gulf will be within view.



first, louisiana . . .

i am packed
and tomorrow out the door
a few minutes before the cold cold front moves in.
michael will keep the house warmed up for me,
waiting for my return.
i hear there may be sleet and snow on sunday,
but i will be gone. 

i am heading for a beach somewhere.
and though it may not be warm, warm,
it is a beach and there are waves
and it is part of my promise to maggie the cat
to learn to travel again,
phobias and anxiety and all.
it is the gift she gave me on her leaving.

there may be pictures -
photoshop installed on this laptop just today -
but there may also just be words.
i am hoping to play,
to relax,
to spend time with new blogging friends.

(if there is nothing,
just know it is all good nothing,
and i will be here again in a week.)

but expect me sooner.
expect me tomorrow night.



the dollhouse project

a piece of a part of a long ago painting, covered up, painted over.  i have sketches like this everywhere, all these leaning houses,with open doors, houses that look like arrows pointing to the sky, and i seldom do anything about them, home home home so much an everybody theme that i feel a bit thief-like using it, and so i use that as an excuse and do nothing with them, or if i do, i gesso over them later and push them to the back of my worktable.

home.  such a trigger.  such a hard thing, when you no tengo home, or when the rules to the one you have are suddenly changed and it is no longer home, it is just a place you go to when you're sleepy, and you even try to figure out how to avoid that because it is just not home.  you stop caring if the floors need mopped or the windows need washed; even if you are still there, you understand it is not yours, no matter the number of years shared, no matter the love still within the walls you have painted with happiness or as a soothing to grief, and my god, how sad a place it was when you moved in, and how contented you made it feel for a good long while. now you watch indifference move in because it isn't yours - you'd forgotten that, but it isn't, and that's neither here nor there, it's just the truth and such is life - and you set out to find another place and despite obstacles of money and time, you believe, you really do, deep down in your bones and your soul, that there is a place out there with your name on it, just waiting, and you know you will find it and you know you will bid this place goodbye and make yourself your own home.

all that to tell you about this. 

graciel and i have a connection.  we will accidentally blog about the same subject on the same days, or have the same ideas at the same time, and so, when she mentioned to me that she was going to work on an old dollhouse she had, i was not in the least surprised.  i'd told the ever-wonderful michael just weeks earlier that i was considering building a dollhouse.  nothing fancy, just using foam core, but i told him i thought it would help me with my this-is-not-my-house heartbreak, thought it would help if i put the desire and thoughts and wants out there into the universe.  also, i thought it would be fun, and i thought the fun part would help with my perfectionism ism, would help me stop gessoing over so much; i thought it would help me move back into a place of play.  turns out those were exactly graciel's reasons.  and so, she said, let's do this thing.  and let's invite kelly, who more and more has this connection thing with us also; she answers questions i have before i ever type them.  and so we did, and so it is the three of us, little houses all in a row.  eventually.  the dollhouse project.  there are no rules, we are all approaching this differently.  i think mine will take all year - a room for each month.  kelly's will be virtual.  graciel is already full steam ahead into hers.  no schedule - no rules.  the rooms will represent different things for each of us, and we will see where these houses take us.

i have no picture to show you - january's room is not yet here.
it will be a few more days - i have things to do
and miles to go before i begin. 
a journey before the journey.


and last, a note from graciel:  
. . . . the lovely katie of into the woode wants to play along.
could there be more grown women
who need this kind of creative, perfection-crushing  therapy?
could it be YOU?
would you like to come play with us
and chart your progress online?
do i here a giggle and a "yes'?

 . . . stay tuned. perfection is walking the plank.



somewhere between paying for this balloon and walking it to their car, someone changed their mind

it was tied to a pole right outside the door of the pharmacy, blowing all over the place in the cold night air, and it said i love you right there on its heart, but still, there it was.  not where it should've been, not surprising someone or making someone smile, but tied to that pole.  someone took some time to tie it down, didn't just let it go free, didn't let it soar, and there's a lot of mmm-hmmms in that statement; it could so mean more than meets the eye.  back in the days when gentlemen gave flowers to ladies, all those flowers said something, had a language all their own.  blue violets were faithful, buttercups brought cheer, forget-me-nots remembered.  perhaps the same with this balloon. 

it was losing its ability to fly high in the air - battling the cold and the wind had taken its toll, as battles will do, and it had but a few hours more; i don't know what an hour of balloon life equals in people life, but it seemed about done.  it tossed and twirled in the wind and it was only when i got home that i thought of releasing it, that it came to me it was trying to free itself.  i didn't go back - it was quite a bit after i got home that this idea came to me, but it also came to me that perhaps it was tied to the pole as an i love you to everyone who passed by.  and perhaps that is just a rationalization, a silly one at that (i am full of silliness); more likely it just came bouncing across the parking lot and someone grabbed it and tied it there so that the person who'd lost it could find it.  but they couldn't.

there's a big mmm-hmmm in that thought also.



shadows of the new year

this year so far is full of sneezes
and shadows
and chocolate sorbet
and laundry unlaundered 
and reading reading reading
through books not deep but oh-so-satisying,
like made for tv movies you think you won't watch a 2nd time,
books taking me to scotland and upstate new york and montreal
and everyone of them cold,
snowflakes falling from the pages as i turn them,
piling in drifts by the couch and the bed,
melting next to the heater here in my office.

even the kindle pages.

it is 5:30 and the darkness is almost here,
but not here yet,
and that not-here-yet makes me happy.

new year's eve saw me on the couch with lily
watching illegal fireworks bursting above the treetops north of us;
it saw me listening to the storefront church 2 doors down,
parishioners praying out the old year, singing in the new,
their jingle of tambourines unable to be contained by mere walls.
it saw me smiling as i drove away into the cold night.
i be here, i thought.
i be here now.