“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


i dare, i am, i dream. 2013.

my neighbor's window.  if you look closely you can see reflections of the rain.

and this is where it ends.  on a rainy day with christmas lights still twinkling, with no resolutions to change who i am.  i dream in color and i don't always answer the phone.  i will take those things with me into the new year, and leave behind who knows what.  i still navigate by the stars.


the year fades away and will not return.  she stands in the doorway, open to the cold wet day, to the light of midafternoon, and watches.  leaves are plastered to the sky.  she has wielded an almost empty pen for months, though she still knows the secret art of storytelling, and she has taken to wearing too much gray, too much black, too much sadness and anger.  she needs to cut her hair.

but.  she has sparklers waiting for darkness to drop, and matches, and she is counting backwards from 10.  she is almost there.



behind the tree and through the lights

my mother was so wrong.  once she took up with this cat she said no way could she any longer have a christmas tree, said this cat was different from all her others, said this one would never put up with a tree dangling lights and other pretties in her face.  and so for all the years they lived together there were no christmas trees, and i complained about it, i admit it; i wanted christmas to look like christmas.  i volunteered my house for the family christmas gathering and was always shushed, and she, being my mother, always won in our christmas tug of war.

after her death last year, i still believed her, and i didn't put up a tree, never mind that the cat had been with me since late spring.  we were still figuring things out about each other, and like i said, i figured mother knew best, at least about the tree.  but this year, another year down our together road, this cat & i know each other like old friends.  she goes outside on her own and, unlike my mother, i let her stay out after dark, though i still call her and worry her home, and even if takes 30 or 40 minutes, she always comes from wherever she is.  she has adjusted her feeding schedule to my workday, but she still wishes for someone here all the time; if i am late getting home, she sometimes wants not food, but just to be close to me.  be still my heart.

so this year, a tree.  with danglies and lights and everything.  with christmas cards standing on shelves behind that tree.  and of course, with a cat who has found a new place from which to watch the outside.  from an empty-ish spot on a shelf behind the tree. she hasn't yet even knocked over a card.  she snuggles against one and goes to sleep under blue lights.  i hope my mother can see her.


photos behind cat:
 bird on hand by robert langham
hearts on a string by susanna gordon



now. with a picture of christmas day.

this is the week of winding down, the week that almost doesn't count, these days between christmas and the new year ignored as we think back or think forward.  it's a very un-zen week.  we pay little attention to the now.  i am as guilty as everyone else.

and so i write.

the snow that fell on christmas day is still out there in splotches and stripes, white icing on the monkey grass and honeysuckle.  i'd noticed the afternoon of christmas eve a blossom on that honeysuckle, but it is now covered, now invisible, now gone.  the christmas tree lights are on and blue and there is a fire in the heater and a cat asleep on the couch.  i had apple pie for breakfast and the taste is still on my tongue.  there is a wreath hanging on the oak tree across the street and i can see its red bow through the empty wisteria vines in our front yard, bright in the morning sun.  all is calm - it is a silent day.  when i think about plans for later, i go blank and stare out the window, seeing nothing but the now.  it isn't hard at all.

i am breathing in . . .
i am breathing out . . .



advent day 24: christmas eve

most of all, i wish you joy.
whatever shape it takes, whatever color it comes in.

for me, right now, it is a star shaped leaf,
the almost last one,
high up in the empty branches of a sweet gum tree,
twirling in the breeze,
 and the presents polka dotted under my christmas tree.
it is the sugar cookies in white bags on the kitchen counter
and the silence of the neighborhood as we all slow down.

it is more than enough.

merry, merry christmas!



advent evening 19: glow

katie's white lights again, glowing warm against the possibility of rain.

that's what i want for christmas, i think,
that trick the lights know,
to glow through the falling rain,
to shimmer against the possibility of cold shoulders.
to stay still against the winter winds.


christmas will be at my house this year.  a first time ever.  we will gather early christmas eve as the sun begins to set and watch the darkness fall around us.  i've bought blue lights for the tree, the same blue lights that once wrapped the staircase you see pictured above, and my sister-in-law is bringing food; one brother may not be here.  all i have to do is clean the house and not cry when they leave.  insert a smile here, because i know i will cry, the same way i cry when i watch it's a wonderful life or when i hear judy garland sing have yourself a merry little christmas.  i'll walk the neighborhood when everyone is gone, silently ooohing and ahhing at the lights.  i'm hoping the new church bell on the corner rings out some carols, and then a silent night.

tonight there is the beginning of a fierce wind outside;
leaves are flying.
the front door is open and skye cat is asleep on the couch.
my feet are bare, as are my shoulders,
and i have a fan turned on.
christmas will be cooler they say.  



advent day 18: what's under the tree

something different.

my very favorite part of this christmas tree is the unexpected sweetness of these 3 bows.  most people don't even notice them.  but there she was, decorating with lights and copper balls, when bits of leftover ribbon peeped over the edge of her christmas box, and just like that, a new tradition was born.  that's all it takes.  listening to your heart.

i swear i heard the tree giggle.



advent day 17: against a rainy sky. on, off, on, off.

the tenderest of little twinkle lights, caught mid twinkle, late gray afternoon or early foggy morning, rain behind the clouds. 
their tinyness touches me somewhere near where my heart beats.



advent day 16: bows & candy canes & cindy lou who

in the end, i decided to go with something to make you smile, with poofy big red happy ass polka dots and a loopy christmas bow, with nothing deep, with pretty and fun, with stripes across the door, with the kinds of things we say are not important - the silly, the frilly. the froo froo, the too too - because i think we too easily dismiss those things.  because delight is underappreciated, and because it has the power to heal.

what i think we need, especially now, is some christmas magic.  we need the twinkling of outdoor christmas lights, we need jingly bells and star shaped sugar sprinkled cookies.  we need christmas trees and ribbon and we need cindy lou who and the grinch and we need bing crosby singing white christmas.  we need angels to get their wings.  and we need zuzu's petals - they are still in our pocket if we will but look again.



advent evening 13: not yet

the nights are made of candlelight and cards not yet written.

i tell myself i have plenty of time.



advent evening 9: no pictures, just the night

there is barely any room, just a bit of unfilled triangle space between my left thigh and a pillow, but the cat squooshles into it and lays her sweet face against my left hand and falls asleep.  i sit crosslegged on the couch, typing now with one hand, my toes growing cold, but how can i move?  this small moment is the stuff la dolce vita is made of and this cat's company is a gift.  i wiggle my toes, manage to move my right foot a bit - the cat wiggles a disturbed ear and stays sleeping.  i risk moving my right leg to the small stool i use for a coffee table; another ear wiggle.  my left hand begins to go numb and i finally, gently, slowly, move it from under her head, and she resettles herself against my side, still sleeping, waking when i move my left leg, but settling again.  her contentment is humbling.  all she needs at this moment is me.


it rained today.  we were shopping for white lights and stopped for a bite, watching the gray skies grow darker, heading home under slow fat raindrops plo p p ppp ping against the windshield, when suddenly it was rain with a capital R, and wind, and i was soaked to the skin in the 20 feet or 10 seconds it took me to reach the front door, screaming and laughing all the way, flipflops slipping and sliding and squishing.  hence that 10 seconds.  they say by tuesday we will be in-the-20s-cold.

this december has been christmas calm; the gifts i need to buy are fewer and living the days grows more important.  this silent night on the couch, the christmas lights on the house across the street, at last on and coloring the night, this cat next to me, a close friend to laugh with, girl movies on weekend daytime tv - all seem gifts.  last night we sat on the back porch again, temperature in the 70s, and watched the stars and talked about men and families and politics and wiggled still bare toes in the night air, and that, too, seemed a gift.  she mentioned it would be the last night in a while that we would sit there and when i said no, we could go out when it was 20 some odd degrees, all bundled up against the cold, she laughed at me because she knows me.  and that  is a gift.

i have no picture tonight.  i just have tonight.  it is enough.



advent day 8: thinking inside the box

she'd come downstairs with a silver box and asked me to tie the ribbon for her - a piece of loveliness, brown silk drizzled with polka dots, and it was the most gorgeous of christmas packages, that ribbon against that paper, and we ooohed and ahhhed and laughed and said that's all anyone needed to give us, a box full of empty so beautifully wrapped we'd never want to open it.


but if the box wasn't empty, what would i want?  the older i get the fewer my answers.  

dark chocolate wrapped in thin silver foil
peace with freedom
a clock running on texas slow summer time.

those 3 things slip off my fingertips with no thinking and seem more than enough.  but i pause, and think, and i add to my list. money to catch my bills all up, to catch my breath.  a house, a boat, a vespa, a pony.  20 less pounds with no effort on my part.  a dip in the blanco river.  white hydrangeas all year long.  more windows.  another cup of tea.  and i'd like the cats in the neighborhood to all love each other.

yesterday the first box showed up, a gift for st. nicholas day,
wrapped all in stars.
i almost left it wrapped.
inside was that other cup of tea,
although, and i admit this freely,
the  tea is so beautifully packaged i may have to just look at it a bit.
just a bit.



advent day 6: katie's white lights

this year the lights that once were blue are white, and standing under them
inside them
as they each night climb the spiral staircase all the way to the 3rd floor
is like standing atop a christmas cake all candlelit and full of wishes.

in the damp unfocused light of morning they hang like unopened blossoms
waiting for darkness,



advent evening 4: the gift of moving forward

too busy to remember to take a picture today, i cheated.  

i swear i was gonna tell y'all, but there's a story that goes along with the cheating that i offer with my apology, and it's this: the age old truth that you can't go home again, or back again.  you move forward always and that is a gift.


this image is from 3 decembers ago.  in my search for a picture to cheat with tonight, to decorate my page and my words, i first went back to the images of last december, and then to the images of the december before that, each year so different, each christmas  so different, even snow one christmas eve, and i remembered how i'd felt during those decembers, i, too, so different from the woman now typing these words.  in truth i'd felt it with this year's first advent post, felt it when i went back and read my 2010 advent posts, felt it and was sad - that woman seemed to see magic so much easier than this one.  i sensed a struggle as i wrote, felt myself pressuring myself to be that other woman again, but it's like falling out of love - when it's done, it's done; you can't get it back.  i moved forward and i kept writing, and yesterday i felt it give, felt something loosen, felt myself stop trying so hard;  i painted my toenails red in celebration and reached out to embrace this  christmas in flipflops, with an unburdened heart.  today i happened upon proof that i had indeed changed, and proof that it is more than all right.

the image at the top of this post is not the image i'd originally thought to publish all those years ago.  it is the image before that one.  i never published the other one, at least i don't think i did, i can't find  where i did, but it's really not important.  the important thing, the interesting  thing, is that not being able to go back thing, because, like i said, like a thousand more important and famous authors other than me have said, you're never the same person as you once were, and back is always so different when you try to get there.  this year i fell crazy in love with this  image, the one with a bit of those sheep showing, which i didn't like at all  3 decembers ago.  back then i liked the one with no painting peeping over the edge, liked just the wall and the lights -  i thought this  composition just wasn't working, thought the sheep were just in the way.  i was so wrong.  it is nothing  without those sheep.


image taken at winnie & tulula's / athens, texas


advent evening 3: red toenails and jingle bells

we are ankle deep in leaves and stars
and knee deep in paperwhites, not yet bloomed.
it was 80° today, with a smidgen of rain.
a texas christmas be coming,
which means we really have no idea what will happen.
but i painted my toenails red anyway,
in celebration of the yuletide season
and flipflops not yet gone,
and i wished for tiny jingle bells to wear on my toes.
i know  santa is listening.



advent evening 2: it was the awfullest christmas parade ever

but the lights on the buildings were wonderfully dangly
and we laughed like crazy women all the way home.



advent day 1: an unseen angel

i have been topping trees with stars and i have dangled a few from the ceiling.
if it's pretty it must be christmas.

i have tons of little christmas trees, more than i ever remember, in fact, all wrapped in black bags and tucked away, hidden, going invisible the rest of the year, always a surprise when i begin to unwrap them.  i can't even tell you what i was looking for this season - nothing specific, just some inspiration i think, for christmas at work.  the emma tree is gone, nowhere to hang bulbs and lights unless i buy a real tree, and i save that for home, so i was looking for a hint, for a sign that said this way,  for help, for magic.  i unwrapped trees and laughed and oohed and ahhed, and said yes, i remember you, and i stood them on my work table in the front room, not thinking, just doing, and when at last i turned around, i found a village of trees scattered across the surface.  and like that, yes, just like that, i was a child again in my grandmother's house, building doll rooms from whatever she had to hand; an opened wallet for a couch, matchboxes for coffee tables.  i never owned the "store bought" doll furniture, and i never minded - i loved making my own, deciding what this  looked like and what it could become.

and so the christmas trees.  i stacked, i rearranged, i drizzled warm silver garland through their midst.  boxes wrapped in white paper became snowy hills.  i found stars and bluebirds and nestled them among the lights and branches.  i rolled a few clementines against their bottoms and tossed them silvered pinecones.  i played.  and then there it was.  the best christmas village ever, built of stuff gathered over the years of my life, nothing matching, everything perfect.  i was that little girl clapping her hands together.

and the best part?
that flurry of blue in the picture above.
i have no idea what that is.
the wings of a christmas angel, i'm thinking.  


almost december

moving into the softness called december.
tonight the local christmas parade,
santa claus,
still almost full moon overhead.

two years ago, i joined graciel in counting down the days to christmas.  an advent calendar of thoughts and photos, poems and silliness.  it was good medicine - i haven't forgotten how it made me feel the magic.  how it made me slow down, and when i didn't or couldn't, how it made me at least stop long enough to take a picture, to write a few words, to say i'm busy  and whew!, but here, isn't this wonderful?   the christmas part made the 25 days in a row, if not easy, at least fun.  i fell into it like a child amongst gifts on christmas morning.

this year i will do it again, and i'm inviting you to join me.  no rules, no have-tos, except that it be about the christmas season, or whatever season you celebrate at this time of year.  i say all the time that the universe is dropping gifts around us, that we just need to reach out and catch them.  hold our hands open.  i'd love it if you opened a gift each day and shared it.  i'll be doing the same.



celebration with a small c: life

i keep opening my doors and life keeps getting in.  it blows in with the autumn winds and sits still with the heat of summer and sneaks silently through the keyhole, dragging moonlight with it, waking me, tapping me on my sleeping shoulders, whispering i should get up, there are stars out there waiting for a waltz, music is playing, get up, get up.  sometimes i do.  life understands when i don't.

life leaves gifts everywhere.  it is messy and the packages are hastily wrapped, the look here  messages scrawled in shadows.  life says hey, your cat is on the neighbor's roof, and listen to that yowling, is that not the best  yowl you've ever heard?  life says taste this tomato, taste it warm right from the earth, let the juices dribble down your chin and dear god,  but isn't this the best tomato ever?  life says there's a flower blooming in the night, it will be open for your pleasure until morning's light, and look at those petals, white against the darkness - isn't that the best blossom ever?  life says inhale.  life also says your mother is dying, take her hand and remember her eyes, it will be all right, there are secrets i'm not telling you yet.  life says you may feel penniless, but walk into the day, the sun is waiting with arms wide open, free for the taking.  life says exhale.


it is kelly's 50th birthday today and for her party she asked for life to be celebrated.  she asked how do you do it and what does it look like?   it looks like the everyday, i thought.  it looks like fallen flower petals and it looks like rain.  it looks like the sounds the birds make at dawn.  it looks like the aisle of the grocery store when a song i love suddenly begins to play overhead, and i cannot help but dance a little dance.  it looks like a sigh, a kiss, an unmade bed.  it looks like cheerios in a white bowl with a bit of silence on the side.  it looks like your team winning, but it also looks like your team just playing the game for the joy of playing.

it looks like a plain vanilla cupcake in white paper, a dance with the wind, pink toenails, warm socks.  it looks like jalapeños with breakfast and silver paint on the walls.  it looks like a fire against the cold of winter, and a deep lake cool against a summer sky and it sounds like steve earle and bob dylan and sometimes taylor swift.  it looks like chick flicks and books that make you cry and all the candles blown out on the first try.

it is all the stuff you forget so easily and all the stuff you can never forget.  it is the cat racing across this keyboard, leaving numbers and symbols typed across the screen, yowling a happy birthday.  is that not the best yowl ever?


kelly is here with a gift of words and wisdom for you all. 
please stop by and wish her the happiest of happy birthdays.  

this post is part of her celebration.



zone 8b

thanksgiving morning.  across the street the ginkgo tree glowed as pale as a cold winter moon; one big wind, i thought, and her modesty will be gone.  here in our yard, the dogwood flashed back at her all orange and winked at me through the open doors.  it was barefoot weather still this side of warmish.

yesterday morning came cold into the day and the leaves were falling, 
leaving the trees,
adios, adios, till next year, goodbye


"trees initiate a process of self-preservation when they notice the shortening of days . 
. ."

i am up late lately, unable to sleep, writing, reading, musing, a tree myself after all, a nearly naked emma tree bracing for winter, feeling the old drop away.  3 or 4 hours of sleep for nights in a row, and then one grand catching up.  pens are everywhere, catching small sentences and thoughts.  something is happening.  i go to the place where i keep my mouth closed tight, taped shut, and that's where the truth falls from my fingertips, smacking hard against the computer keyboard or scrawling upward across the pages, leaving trails of black ink to find my way back again.

"trees are adapted to the climate of the area where they grow. they do not wait for their leaves to be damaged by the harsh conditions of the winter or dry season before losing them.
they prepare in advance for the onset of the unfavourable season . . . "

the unfavourable season.  spelled with a u, it looks not quite so.


sunday morning blooms windless with shadowed light so sharp the trees sit on the lawn like watercolors outlined with fat dark graphite pencils.  not quite real life, but startling so.  no breezes to flutter the still there leaves, the sun not yet over the treetops, just tipping the tops of trees across the street with dabbles of gold.  it is chilly.  my feet are cold even under socks.

i have nothing to teach you, you know.  i worry about that.  i worry it is expected.  my camera has so often sat silent this year, and my words have been few and far between, at least here in this space, and knowing the reason changes little.  i am afraid to move forward into a new year holding so much silence.  in the evenings i write my thoughts on a private blog, thinking i will gather courage and open it up, knowing i won't. 

de·cid·u·ous  (d-sj-s)

1. Falling off or shed at a specific season or stage of growth.
2. Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season.
3. Not lasting; ephemeral.

is this all it is?  is it temporary?  i like wikipedia's definition better: "falling off at maturity", and sit easier with those words, with the added knowledge that i must "regrow new foliage during the next suitable growing season".  truth be told, i have been feeling the growth for months, feeling its itch under my skin, feeling it in the facebook posts i type in annoyance and then delete, in the tweets i erase.  something is coming.  i like that.  i think.  losing one's leaves and baring one's soul to the cold seems cleansing.  necessary. seems like a good idea.

the honeysuckle outside my door
here in this horticultural zone 8
has evolved from deciduous to evergreen
and blooms a little bloom or two during the warmer days of the unfavourable season;
indeed there were blossoms on thanksgiving day.
it will stay green all winter.



the chef sang in spanish

i have been sick and she may be the best cat ever for when you are sick, better even than maggie, cat-of-my-heart, cat-of-my-usedtobe-life; she puts her face to mine and meows, and if she has a shortcoming, it may be that, that she is here too much, her face in mine, all worried looks and feed-me-now meows - i'm not blind enough to not notice it's not all about me, that part of her concern is that i'm the one who knows how to open the cat food.  for the most part though, she comes and goes, inside and out, onto the bed and off, helloing me, making sure i'm still here, curling into sleep next to me.


10 days into november we were covered with sunshine, warm breezes blowing leaves from the trees, the lawn more yellow than green.  11 days in we woke to rain and november looked more like she should - a bit tired,  a bit end of the day, can't wait to get out of those clothes that bind, trying to catch her breath before holiday season.  still sick, my bed was piled with lemon drops and butterscotch candy, my kindle filled with $2.99 western novels.  i went from hot to cold and back again and watched the wind outside the window, feeling much like early november looked.

ah, but here past the midpoint?   the leaves are suddenly red and orange and falling golden into my days.  i listened once again to christmas carols on my way to work and watched small flocks of birds against this morning's blue sky, swooping in slow perfect rhythm to have yourself a merry little christmas,  their white bellies and frilly underneath feathers an indecent flash of petticoats outlined by sober gray; tonight a crescent moon in that same sky, almost dark, almost night, as i passed a window curtained with scarlet sheets, a lamp's light its own moon in the rectangle of red.  and lunch?  lunch, my sweet friends, was migas, no cheese, no onions, just jalapeños please, the eggs scrambled hard, muchas gracias,  a small cafe filled with silence and heaven, when what to our wondering ears should appear but a song sung in spanish, the chef loudly singing to himself as he cooked, his voice full of happy, preparing our food con alegría y amor, with joy and love.  with joy and love.

'tis the season of small moments and unasked for gifts.
i could not stop smiling.



a no story sunday morning

there's no story here.  it's just yesterday's sunday morning with katie keeping an eye on skye cat and lucie lu trying to and skye cat just . . . well, being a cat, blending in with the fallen leaves.  just the hackberry tree and the shadows of leaves and sunshine and morning talk.

but then again, maybe there are many stories.



old and new

yesterday morning's air was chilled, with one last gasp of honeysuckle hanging over the creek, holding onto the very last of summer. november opened her eyes.

the churchbells on the corner sing us into the day.
my front door is open a bit and there is a fire in the heater.
this afternoon will be almost warm enough for the air conditioner.


juxtaposition is magic.

brick by brick, brick next to brick.  another wall is changed, this one behind my bed, and only because i painted the piece of wood i use for a headboard, the flat part of an old drawing table, painting it what looked like emmatree blue in the can and in my office at work, but what looks more green in my bedroom, not so wonderful against the old taupe wall.  so brick by brick the taupe turned white, just that wall, just like that, and now the room lights up in the best of ways.

piece by piece.

a new grayish color now covers my mother's old skinny picnic table, skinny enough to fit on my tiny back porch, a porch i've neglected for a couple of years.  i'd thought to paint the table white, but knew immediately it would be too too.  it needed to be softer, it needed to sit on the old wooden floor with ease, it needed to collect falling leaves with grace.  it has a history, this cheap old table. it once was my family's dining table, all my parents could afford, and while i  thought it was cool, being all young and teenagery, my mother did not - she saw it as evidence of their poverty and would cover it with tablecloths when company came, and laugh about it, but in truth it broke her heart.  she wanted pretty, and this table wasn't that.

times got better bit by tiny bit, and a new house was found, a new table bought - still not the pretty one she longed for, but one she could live with, one that fit into the new space more easily, one that allowed the picnic table to assume its intended duties on the outside of the house; years went by and she moved back to texas, the tables traveling with her.  eventually she found the dining room table she wanted - i liked it so much less, all formal and darkish wood - but she loved it, and when she moved again, after my father died, she dragged all the tables with her once again and even added another, one i actually liked, dark wood notwithstanding.  it sits in my art space, waiting to be painted white, but in the meantime, the picnic table called, and last weekend, the lovely, lovely katie and i moved all the stuff off the porch, everything but that table, and painted.  we watched the redwood soften into a gray and nodded our heads.  yes, this would work.  in the spring, we will paint the back wall of the house, just the bottom brick part, brick by brick, and perhaps the table will change colors yet again, but for now the gray feels right.

2 nights ago was halloween and somehow i forgot that meant trick or treaters, only remembering the candy part as i pulled into the driveway.  ghosts and goblins were already out & about, and i, needing a place to hide - i say this with guilt and laughter - found refuge on the darkened porch, not yet finished, the table piled with empty planters and all the other outside stuff, waiting for this weekend to finish the transformation.  katie came downstairs and we sat in the glow of candlelight and talked the night away, until skye cat came home and the street was once again quiet.  it was more than nice.   
last night was the end of a warm day, temperatures in the mid 80s, and we once again found our way to the porch, sitting by the light of the candle.   the porch, the table, the surrounding darkness, katie's dog next to our feet, things next to things next to other things, begins to feel like home, like a new ritual, like safety and silence and peace.  there will soon be string lights and flowers and chairs befriending the benches, but last night one taper in an old candle chandelier chased away the hardness of the day.

thank you, mother, for keeping that table that made you feel so poor. 



rising falling

i put this up and took it down and put it up and took it down and worried and agonized and the cat walked across the keyboard more than once, got involved in almost cat fights more than once, and i put this up and took it down, and deleted my tweet about it, and worried some more, because it's a true story and it's not a pretty one, and because my belly ached for 2 days after it happened, and because i was afraid y'all would think oh my god, here we go again, more stuff, more unhappiness, and then i knew that that  was the real fear, the true  fear, the fear of putting it out there.  and so here it is, up again, without a picture, full of fears of all kind.


rising falling, by d smith kaich jones.

in response to today's prompt at dVerse poetics.  fears and phobias.

he is waiting for me in the green humidity,
all ragged breath neediness and falling down life;
he cannot breathe cannot stop the panic cannot stop the disease cannot stop my anger
at my anger,
at the overgrown limbs slapping leaves and leftover rain against my windshield
scratching raspy clawing at me,
at my struggle to get to him
in time
one more time,
his falling down house a bad phone call away,
in the middle of falling down nowhere
down muddy ruts through falling down fields
his gasping fearfilled falling down life falling again harder
and again.

i see his car through the leaves, a hole in the middle of the woods he calls home,
driver's door open striped shirt chest rising falling 
he cannot breathe cannot find air cannot find peace
the fear is growing he cannot breathe the knowledge a monster so big;
i feel my panic feel his panic and i am through the trees, jeep on all 4 wheels,
with the pills
with the medicine
with the money
with the fear i cannot do this anymore.

his body is shaking his chest rising his face tear streaked he looks too thin
his hands need help,
they won't stay still,
but he grabs my passenger door crying i can't do this anymore anymore
his voice aloud, my voice silent, the same words spoken.
i hold out pills, i tell him chew
i tell him sit,
i turn the air conditioner colder,
open a bottle of water with lying hands, hushed, steady;
i talk about nothing and everything and i stay until he is breathing
until he is safe though the shakes don't stop
until his embarrassment pushes me to go.
i leave him behind bundled in loneliness hidden by trees



look ma! no hands!

I am reading when women were birds, one page at a time, often one line  at a time, not in any order right now, just opening the book and letting the words find me, then backtracking to the beginning and reading a bit, and then not.  I like to think I am leaving my own womanbird tracks as I meander across the pages.


I am all grays and silver and champagne glitter lately, softness and sparkle, and driving home last night the tiniest of tiny water droplets drifted and splished across my windshield, glittering the almost nighttime sky.  I am silent and look to my many bowls of words for inspiration; reaching in, eyes closed, the first word I touch is  beginning. 

and so it shall be.


monday:  october morning cat at the open door, the slight chill of fall swirling through still warm sunshine.  a sudden breeze and the hackberry tree lets a leaf go -  it swoops inside the door, just barely, just enough, and lands softly on said cat's head.  at the exact moment i am choosing a word for this month.  the universe speaks its own language, and though i am not fluent, i understand more than a bit.  release, let go, take your hands off the handlebars and coast,  it says.  begin.  close my eyes.  exhale.  open.  i move always forward, even if slowly, moving with my body and the sound of my heart in my ears, and i am always beginning again and again.  i start over.


it is the orange part of the year in other places, but here we are just beginning to see a brighter green, yellow, brown, leaves edged with silver like pages in expensive books.  today is cold enough for a fire and the skies are gray.  across the street i see fallen leaves scattered across the neighbor's yard.  there is a spot in the catawba tree where the leaves are more golden than the others, more golden than they were just this morning.  on the street, a man walks by wearing a black sweater and black beret.  just enough.  not quite time for jackets.  in the house, messes are everywhere - sacks filled with leftovers from my mother's life, bags overflowing with paperwork and unpaid bills, shoes piled atop each other - and here i sit, this almost evening's october cat curled next to my left thigh, her favorite place as i type away, my arm resting on her back.  i've become good at walking past the messes.  used to be they made me crazy and angry, but i've grown past that.  it's a good thing.

friends are out of town or have been asked to not call and it is day 2 of 3 days of solitude.  in the midst of all this messiness, partway clean but mostly not, my soul begins to stretch, sprawl, laze, relax.  i think about painting the top of the table that sits next to my bed. emmatree blue to brighten the coming months, i think.  maybe, i think.  maybe gray.  maybe i will do nothing but let it be.  i feel my soul yawn and nod.



stop. this isn't about the dragonfly.

it's so often not about what you think it is.

it's too often about what draws your eye, your ears, your bleeding heart; you rush to put the other lens on the camera so you don't see the background, the background falls away, the background you want to ignore, the background that hangs there so beautifully true when you move the camera away from your eye.  when you allow yourself to see.

painter's eye sees that curve of darkness above the dragonfly, and the just beginning to fall leaves scattered across the creekbed, knows the strokes of light painted with a wide open fstop.  painter zooms back and blesses the knowledge of this place, of this moment.

it is about seeing it all, and choosing what to ignore.  photographer's eye ignores the shards of monkey grass and f16, and hands the camera to painter's eye.



the nearing end of the day

i see these chairs everyday.  his and hers, not matching, not expensive, just a place to rest at the end of the day, before the mosquitoes come.  they move around the yard, following shade or sun.  they say time taken. time taken to speak to each other.  time taken to sit under the sky.  time taken to just breathe.

neighbors stop by.  dogs.  cats skirt the edges of the yard.  conversations are held.  how are yous.  you're not gonna believe thises.  glasses of wine sit in the grass.  strollers go by, parents waving.  joggers, walkers.  kids with basketballs.  skateboards.  more neighbors, more dogs.  laughter.

just a couple of chairs.
a loveseat.
time for each other and the lives they lead.  

a scene from the nearing end of day.
my neighborhood.



words. misbehavin'.

up early this morning again, again, letting the cat out into the darkness soon to be rain.


my camera sits still, stays quiet, no photographs documenting these days. i just have words, and they are fleeting, fractious, naughty, playing hide and seek, and i just let them.  i am a bad word mama lately - i just let them loose and don't even try to rein them in.  i let them stomp through puddles and sit in cars with their seatbelts unfastened and i just look away if i see cigarettes dangling from their fingers.  they eat candy for supper and apple pie for breakfast and i even offer them cokes or coffee to wash it all down.  they stay out late and come in noisy.

i have no idea when they had extra keys made.

they make mistakes and text me misspelled lies.  i laugh and roll my eyes and open another can of paint; yesterday dipped a red glass heart in fat white paint, smothered it covered it laughed at it dripping, my fingertips drying fast.  the words don't understand, they think i'm silly, i embarrass them, and they cover their mouths, giggling at me, refusing to take part.  i agree with them, but i like the silliness, i am too old to anymore care that the breeze blows paint onto my skin.  i wear it as a tattoo that disappears with the days, knowing another will soon take its place.

the words sip beer and sit under the cloudy skies, drinking in rain and cursing the mosquitoes, saving their stories for later.  i know they will come in, i know they will be back.  they will bring pictures of their adventures, and say nice things about the chairs i am painting, the circles i am cutting, the figure eights i am moving in.


daylight now and gray and chilly on my toes.  the phone shows 67°.  the catawba tree across the street glows yellow green in the wet air, shimmers when the wind shakes left over raindrops from its leaves.  the cat is almost asleep on the aqua chair, an outward facing circle, ears always on alert.  a fire truck passes in the distance.



remind me

the earlier sound of thunder has given way to the softer sound of rain.
doors are open.
streets are silent,empty.

remind me of this moment,
this moment right here,
this one bird moment,
sheltered high in the hackberry tree,
singing end of the day notes with the rain.
remind me someday when i am complaining about some unimportant something.
remind me that the light in the window across the street,
just now on,
was a pale golden rectangle surrounded by even paler ginkgo leaves,
almost silver in the slipping-away-fast light of the day.
remind me that the grass was golden green and out of focus,
that it was darker green near the door where the light had already slipped behind the horizon.
remind me of the lamp's reflection in the glass doors,
golden white against the darkness of the oak tree in a.c.'s backyard.
remind me of the songs the rain sings as it slows.




my god, but this night is quiet, the september sounds of cicadas softer than their summer songs, one last bird singing the day to sleep, the dusk to wake.  it falls darker as i type those words and i look up to see that dusk has given way to almost-night.  the front door is open - welcome breeze, welcome almost silence, welcome.  i have not felt this peaceful in months.

a book finished as the day draws to a close.
dark chocolate with almonds.
barking dog in the distance.
i want so little else.

done is a funny word.  done with my mother's house, time now for some easiness.  i am painting a chair at work, and a table is next.  i am making banners and there is already glitter scattered across the seats of the jeep.  i am done with a chapter of my life and beginning the next.  i fantasize already - already! - about the empty place out back, falling down its own stairs, and i see myself there.  i like the way the kitchen floor slants downward to the north and i can imagine french doors replacing the windows that open onto the long flat garage roof.  i see that roof as terrace, screened to hold skye cat close, full of plants to keep us happy.  perhaps a roof so we could sit protected when the rains fall.  i see it all and i lay here in this quiet and know the quiet that terrace would bring, and i give in to the illusion.  i see us there.  i even know the plants i would choose.

done leads onward.  done opens up that spot in your soul you thought would never open again.  done has music to dance to and dreams once again of tomorrow.  done has a paintbrush in its hand and sees beyond the horizon.

darkness drops in silence and it is night.
there are stars and tomorrow the sun. 



one more time again

before i start this day - check that, it's already started.

take 2.  before i move forward even further into this day, before this last bit of ohmygod  heat sweats me and beats me and before i once again choose christmas carols, the colder the better, perhaps sting's winter songs, as the music to move by, to remind me there is cool air coming tomorrow, i say a happy little prayer.  a gratitude for this week.  for the tears-in-my-eyes laughter i found in unexpected places.  for the rip somewhere in the wall that's kept me in for such a long while, fresh air pushing fast into the used up thoughts i have been breathing too long.  inhale, indeed.  inhaaaale.  i talk too much about exhaling, about letting go.  time to talk about moving on.  which requires one last big exhale and then.  tomorrow comes.

last night was shoes with pink flowers, a pearl anklet, a swirly skirt, and dancing in the balcony, lyle lovett on stage.  i remembered life before.  today is one last jeep load of stuff from my mother's house and i am done.  i can feel her exhaling right along with me.  pushing me out the door to the rest of my life.  i love her for that.

i do wish she'd chosen another day, though - it will be 103 today.  85 tomorrow.  when god is happy, he plays.  i think he is happy.



the everything of tuesday morning

tuesday smells of early morning dew
the awakenings of birds,
doors and windows opened one by one as the skies lighten
until sunlight,
yesterday's mushrooms
are no longer white against the summer green of grass already warm,
leaves are scattered from last night's secret breezes.

the cat's ears turn east and west,
deciding west,
and she disappears to my left.
i track her movements by the birds gone silent.



blue lunacy

september began under a blue moon and we hugged the trees - the tiny dogwood, the magnolia, the pear and cherry laurel, the pecan, the oak tree, extra pats on the belly for the hackberry, my old friend.  we talked of placing water under the moonlight for this morning's tea, but exploded into laughter when i said if we put some water outside under the moon, we'll catch . . . and she replied mosquitoes.  we'll be drinking lunacy,  she said, blue lunacy,  i replied, and then we were off  into the night, trailing the laughter behind us, moon shadows everywhere, leaf shadows, the cat howling. blue lunacy.

for the first time in ages i picked up my camera and never mind the several second exposures, i felt inspired and tickled blue inside and the cat kept howling and august was almost behind me and it felt good all over.  just a bit of a bit of a breeze, a hot night, and i admit it, i placed some water on a bedroom window sill and let the moon bathe it all night.

where august has been:  inside my mother's house.  new french doors, new floor, new tenant.  emptied rooms.  when i removed her calendar from the wall, her last year of handwritten birthdays and doctor's appointments, i fell into little pieces and all the king's horses and all the king's men were useless.  only the tears could put me back together and i let them come, though in truth i had no choice.  one last goodbye.  all will be well.  i can move forward.

where august has been:  in pain.  this chronic, often severe, since february pain tapped me on the hip and pushed me on my backside and all the king's horses have again been useless.  writing has been useless.  doctors don't know, but we move slowly forward.  i splurged on extra massages and a chiropractor with the new money from my mother's house, but the pain remains, and makes no promises to leave.  

where august has been:  inside the business with its newly painted walls.  a table for art and new fairy lights.  no emma tree.  i will show you later.  

what august gave me:  an owl's feather, a now found long lost necklace, cello music.  christmas carols in the jeep.  old photographs and my mother's words. 

this morning is september and the skies are gray and white clouds,
blue sky peeping through.
the music is lyle lovett's joshua judges ruth
and on the road this morning, a dead kitten, still warm.
i stopped the jeep to move it and lifting its body felt its last breath.



late august night into morning

my mother's wasp nest, found in a drawer wrapped in paper.  she knew the important things when she spied them.  her cat, now mine, happy asleep smiling, pushing hard against the glass that keeps it from her, pushing, pushing as close as she can get, and good enough; they sprawl lopsided lazy together across the shelf.

iphone.  earlier this year.  pink shadows.  

i told someone today that i'd been absent here because august needed me more than i needed words.  truth.  but i begin to feel their pull in the late hours of night when outside the darkness is still and filled with cicadas still singing and tree frogs ditto, when the inside is still and filled with only the swoosh of the fan and the muted hum of the air conditioner and russell crowe on the silent tv.

yes.  yes.  i feel the words beginning to whisper in my ear.



august 7

coming home tonight the sky was every shade of blue and gray, a hint of thunder in the far off background, and i wished for the first time in weeks i'd carried my camera with me.  the sun bursting bright and blinding in the western sky, white steeple against dark clouds, slate steeple against an eastern summer sky still blue with the afternoon. sidewalk with white poodle against green hedges, white chair in the side yard against the grass.

i am painting still, painting still,  feeling still as the color covers a door, painting doors to open new days.

dusk:  skye cat, the front door open, the sound of cicadas heavy in the air.  i have a broken thumbnail, down to the quick, blue painter's tape wrapped around my thumb to hold it in place.



painting walls and changing space

a gallon of paint is cheaper than a shrink and contains dreams we don't know we're dreaming and power and, for me, each brushstroke is a breath in, ommmmmm, a breath out, no thinking and all thinking, just me and the changing walls and the brushstrokes and silence.  i never play music, the same way i never play music when painting a canvas; the rhythm is no one's but mine.

i am not writing right now, and right now it feels right.  right now it feels releasing.  right now it feels like breaking the rules and escape and vacation.  i feel the old stuff draining away and new stuff flickering close to my skin.  i suddenly know the story i must write, but not now, not yet, but soon. right now is about physical spaces and changes and answered prayers and gifts falling into my hands.

august is filling up with all that stuff.
i will be back with tales and pictures.



aurora - from northeast texas

last night a crescent moon in a misty sky.  despite everything.

i tried to write about friday and failed.
i only have words and they are worthless.
what i thought on friday was my god  a thousand times,
in response to the slaughter,
in response to blame being assigned to everyone and everything except the shooter.

but that's what we do.
we want answers when there are none.
that no answers  thing is the scariest thing of all.


i'd turned on the tv without sound as i usually do, turned on the computer, and looked up to see the words scrawling across the bottom of the screen.  and i thought my god, and i thought how many? and i turned up the volume.  with the first few details i thought white guy, and i thought crazy, which is no doubt politically incorrect to say, but i thought it anyway.  i thought they will blame the guns, they will blame the movie, they will blame his parents, and i thought what is wrong with us?, and i had to remind myself that bad things happen sometimes no matter what you do.

i thought we can't fix this, all we can do is learn to live through it, if possible.  i thought we need survival skills; we aren't taught those, but we should be and we need them.  i thought of the passengers on flight 93, thought we needed to be those people, but also thought i have no idea if i can.

by late afternoon i'd heard blame assigned where i hadn't expected - rush limbaugh, president obama, the tea party, and i had to stop listening.  i saw a reporter refusing to step away from the shooter's father as he stood in line at the airport, waiting for the flight to aurora, and i had to stop watching. i'd discussed it with friends, not searching for an answer, just needing to say words out loud.  the panic attack hit at 7, while i stood in the grocery store, and it pushed me back into the evening heat, hurrying me home.

the tv stayed off and i worked crossword puzzles and read a bad romance novel.  but even there, in those pages, there it was.  scotland, the 1500s or 1300s, i have no idea - people rounded into a church and the church set afire.  i thought of the same scene in mel gibson's the patriot.  i suppose if one wants to kill a lot of helpless people, there all all kinds of ways to do it.  bullets aren't necessary.


at work this morning i found a doubleleaf heart waiting for me outside the door.
when the ups guy showed up i said give me your hand, and he did.
i like the way he's holding that leaf as if might break.



summer. take 2.

the world outside is taking a breath, and i with it.  july is here, and brought with her a weekend of rain when she opened the door, this summer so unlike last summer, cooler, wetter, greener.  this morning we are all sunshine, a sunshine that is a color yet unnamed - bright, lighting up the house, begging to be partaken of.  

some once-again amazing sunshine out there.  thanksgiving in july.  gratitudes.  big swooshes of movement.  walls to be painted, canvases also, moving me through the remaining days of summer.  i have neglected my camera this year and maybe there will be pictures.  typing tightens my shoulder and i have stayed away from long bits of it, nodding to this sign from the universe.  time to get my hands dirty and my brain emptied of thoughts, painting always my meditation.  my shoulder needs a bigger space than i've been giving it.  time to get physical.

friday, july 13:
by noon the emma tree was down. 
by 12:15 the places on the wall scraped bare by her limbs were sanded and painted. 
by 12:30 she was propped against a different wall in a back room.

i thought it would make me sad, but no.  it made me smile.  it made her smile.  i'd forgotten all the bruises and broken limbs she'd suffered these last few years, forgotten how she was held together in places with wire and ribbons.  no more.  the broken parts are gone and she is resting, healing, waiting for me to find her next home.

it's been in my mind a while, to help her down from that tiresome spot, but others said no, she should stay, and so i left her, but i ignored her.  when a bulb burned out, it stayed burned out.  not on purpose, but it stayed dark.  that corner of the front room . . . well, it seemed neglected.  sad.

so i will start there first.
the yellow-once-vibrant blue walls will change again.
a canvas as big as a room.



because surely those glass slippers were damned uncomfortable

if i'd  told the tale,
cinderella's shoes would've been made of enchanted flowers,
and when she saw those babies on her feet,
she would so understand that she didn't need prince charming to help her get away.
she would suddenly see the magic in her own two feet and off she would go.




saturday was a wedding.


sunday was a funeral after a death on thursday.
she was 87, married 64 years when she buried her husband last fall,
burying her heart with him,
choosing her casket ahead of her time,
the palest of barely there baby girl pinks.
no somber goodbye colors for her.
she was saying hello, i think.


i wish for saturday's bride such a love.
64 years.
my god, what a thing.


the cemetery was hot with july and few breezes,
and my drive home was sprinkled with raindrops,
with the smell of that rain against hot asphalt,
the way rain smells in the summer, when it is just a touch on your shoulder,
when you quick turn around look behind you and it's not there,
just its perfume hanging in the air. 
just a ghost of rain.