“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.