“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


lost and found dreams

they are dreams intruded upon not left alone
 tattered shoved about pushed over the 
past sleeping past waking past here past now past then
past when
past if and why not and why.
they hear the rain the hail the leaves tapping on windows
sliding against screens torn by the wind and

they are lost birds looking for south.

and yet
and even so
they curl about me 
protecting warming hushing singing lullabies
whispering it's okay it was only a
go back to sleep.
they leave a light on and the door open.

even dreams know when it isn't real.



3 days

december 22:
i may find a photo for these words, but maybe not.

it's cold outside, but not snow cold, just northeast texas december cold, brown and gray landscape, fallen leaves everywhere, dreary sky, gusts of wind that look like winter.  sunday afternoon quiet on the almost-christmas streets of my neighborhood.  the shadows are not yet dark, details not yet hidden.  3:40 pm.  a friend stops by, we talk, then i return to this keyboard.  at 4:16, the details begin to slip away.

december 24:
the morning of christmas eve.
clear cloudless blue blue sky, but cold.
christmas shopping done, packages wrapped.
the ever-wonderful michael's gift, scheduled to show up 3 days late,
showed up early instead and is sitting, waiting for him, a surprise.

it has been an uneasy season and i have the front door open despite the cold air.  a fan blowing for me, the fire for the cat.  my belly wants nothing more than for it all to be over, this christmas, this year, and it wants cold air.  the uneasiness extends beyond me.  across the street, behind the christmas lights, an argument has ended a relationship. he is gone and she is there, and never mind that she is right, i miss seeing him outside, smoking, calm.  a man of untold stories.  i sat with katie on the outside stairs, in the then warm air, in barefoot darkness under her red christmas lights, sheltered from the drizzles of on and off rain, and we talked while they shouted.  later, i couldn't sleep.

december 25:

cold and sunshine and a gray sky going blue, slathered in white clouds.  when i was a child, christmas morning meant the street was full of new bicycles and skates, new coats and thises and thats, full of us kids outside in whatever weather the world had given us.  now the streets are silent, everyone inside, unless you count adults walking their dogs, a neighbor in her white robe, smoking a cigarette, another neighbor walking to her car, red bow in one hand, keys in the other.  not a child yet to be seen and it is almost 10.  back then, in my childhood, christmas was a mixture of santa and jesus, and no one worried about too much one or the other; it was christmas and that meant both presents and  oh little town of bethlehem, and it meant tinsel on trees and wings on angels and no one lectured you if you believed, and if you didn't, you didn't lecture those who did.  you sang along with christmas carols anyway, and did it with true joy.  'twas the season, after all.



prison break

no rules.

let this next year be out of focus and full of even more imperfection, 
full of flowers that outgrow their containers and dangle dangerously over the sides,
pushing their roots out the bottoms.
contain this, baby.


reverb 13, day 19:
how will you practice self compassion?



reverb 13 / day 15. view from a bedroom window

right through the heart. caught.

from the living room, it looked like a bird, but a few steps into the bedroom and i could see it was a leaf, and a heartleaf at that.  and in further truth, in real life, none of these lines run straight across the view - they are all crooked, running north downhill, the fence more downhill than the back of my new neighbor's garage.  from my spot here on the couch, i can see the uneven space between the garage and the back gate, and in that space i can see the curly cue of a chair on her back porch, up the back steps.  it looks like handwriting, that bit of a curl, black letters against the peach of the house.  a love letter, i think to myself, or a bit of music on another rainy morning.

i wrote that paragraph yesterday, and then discovered the garage will be torn down.  life moves forward and on, and my view changes once again.


Give us a sensory tour of 2013.
from reverb13.
day 15.
easy to want to cheat on this, to backtrack through this past year's blogposts and secret journal pages, but i won't.  i'll close my eyes and see what's there.
gray.  it seemed gray.  too much beyond my control.  colors i loved painted away to colors i don't, juxtaposed by colors i love on the end of a paintbrush, covering old memories and darkness.  a bit of dark, a bit of light.  gray.  it seemed rainy, and green with that gray, and it smelled like pain and honeysuckle.  it sounded like too many phone calls from too many emergency rooms in the summer heat and my heart beating fast and loud and hard.  it tasted like fear and freedom.  and always, it felt like bare feet on a constant journey, every day new.  
it was gray and soft and hard and i turned away from too many others and embraced a chosen few.  all my clothes felt too big or too tight, and i gave away the ones that scratched at my skin.  i floated on warm water under hot suns, slow, slow, my eyes closed behind black glasses, my skin older and wiser. my fingers learned again the ache of writing.

it was gray and quiet, gray, then full of noise.  i daydreamed of running away and dreamed nightly of returning.  it smelled of long ago, root beer and butter cookies and cold fried okra.  i muted them all, desaturated, turned the volume down.  i watered the colors but they ran like tears across pages that refused to stay empty.  it was gray and sepia and the color of my mother's dress in an old photograph, faded blue.  she wore pearls.

the itch of an ant bite below my left breast.
outside, december sunshine and christmas sparkle against exhausted trees.
they assumed when their leaves fell, they could exhale, relax,
but they are burdened with tinsel and bows.
inside, the house is too cold in one room, too hot in another.
there are clementines in the refrigerator, and expensive strawberries,
and on the side of the bathtub, shampoo that smells like green tea, and frasier fir candles.
i am touching christmas with only the tips of my fingers.



jingle bell and my own personal christmas evolution

last year's christmas wreath seems suddenly too tame.  i am wanting wildness this season, overgrown-ness and unruliness.  the emma tree has been gone for 2 christmases now, and i miss her imperfection, but her absence has awakened ideas in me long ignored.  ideas that have nibbled at my ears and fingers, always there in small ways, but ignored the way you ignore a small pain - you just go on about your life and it eventually goes away or becomes a bigger pain and you then have to do something about it.   me.  there.

i am falling in love with the imperfection of autumn/almost winter, the way the leaves pile against the curbs and scatter across the walkways.  the way they are raked clean on tuesday but wednesday morning finds them back again, giggling at you as step outside the door.  the way they fall like raindrops before the wind.  the shadows they cast on the walls while doing so.

the sound of this morning's sleet against the front door.  

all of these suddenly inspiration.


jingle bell cat still waits outside my kitchen window, at least on the warm mornings, the first face i see when i open the blinds.  the other morning, however, he was pointed the other way, watching a bird in a tree, still, silent, then slowly moving across the yard to the broken down bench, and then, just like that, nonchalance, a stretch, a smile.  he watched the leaves fall, and then turned to watch me taking pictures through the closed window and screen.


this morning, across the street, in and around the house that once was mary's, the christmas lights are off and the santa claus pictures thumbtacked to trees are a bit bedraggled from the rain.  the red ribbon tied around the ginkgo droops; on the other hand, the silver garland wrapped around its twin trunks is a bit of brightness on this gray morning.  next door, the catawba tree is now without leaves and i am tempted to climb up into it and glitter the ends of its naked limbs - glitter would then fall into the street with every breeze and follow the leaves into my house.

and that  is the christmas decoration i am craving.



between warm and night

there is a warm crescent moon in tonight's december sky; i stand under the milky clouds to pay my respects, and track the flight of an owl from our yard to trees somewhere behind us; church bells ring the hour.  across the street, the christmas lights chime in, no rhyme or reason to their song, a child's chorus of colors strung helter skelter through the ginkgo tree and around the windows. voices float in the darkness, car doors slam, a dog barks.  coming home.



if you type it, they will come: a small november fairy tale

i almost want to let the leaves lie, the ones that have blown in through the open door on november breezes, the ones that erase the line between inside and out.  the stories of my childhood seem to live in those erased lines, all my favorite characters neither here nor there.  i lived in the pages of books, in balloons and boxcars and thatched roof houses, my imaginary gardens a mess of flowers and food, my snowfalls lit by moonlight and stars, my yard just a part of the forest, leaves and cats and birds on wing calling my home theirs.  i never questioned where the teacups came from.


real life sunday, and it is warm - barefoot warm, in the 80s, bright sunshine, no sleeves.  the heater is off, windows and doors open, the real life cat in and out and in again, asleep on the couch. hallmark christmas movies come and go on the television and piles of laundry await their turns to come clean. across the street, byron was up early, raking his leaves, no noisy blower disturbing the day.  here, in the house where i live, we have swept the sidewalks clean, and stairs and porches, but everywhere else belongs to the leaves.  there is no sense in trying to control them, to box them in - the yard is too big and we are anyhow cleaning inside.  we talk of moving my mother's picnic table to the yard for thanksgiving, a white tablecloth tossed across it, or maybe christmas day.  on a day like today, it seems quite perfect and possible.

as i type those words, a sparrow flies into the house and awakens the cat.
i am in love with this day.



accompanied by leaves

it's already too cold and there's no baseball and it gets dark too early.
it takes forever to stop sneezing in the mornings
and the heater is old and gets too hot or not at all.

i stumble into today and say scissors when i mean sunglasses,
except i really don't mean sunglasses,
i mean glasses to see with,
to peel potatoes and break blue eggs for breakfast with.

it is one of those mornings when i thought i had an onion but i didn't.

warm air slips out of the house,
escaping through cracks in the windows
and my cold toes take it personally.


tuesday looks gray and i can see reflections of the fairy lights in the windows and across the glass of photographs hanging on the wall in just the right places.  when i move around, the lights follow me in all the mirrors.  the temperature and leaves are falling in perfect rhythm with each other, and the cat is asleep atop boxes filled with art supplies, her new favorite once-again spot.  the tv is on with no sound. across the street, the ginkgo tree has gone that suddenly gold that tells me it's november at last.

another small morning.
no birdsong, no squirrels.
just moments of wind and leaves.
and suddenly warmer toes.



november, day one.

first november morning and all is quiet.
the front door is open to sunshine and distant birdsong,
yesterday's humidity and gray skies gone.

november blooms with blue skies and sleepy cat.



with grace and contentment, age and joy

sometimes there are no words.

i can't quite tell you why i moved this once almost healthy bench, no sag or droop yet belying its age, into the back yard.  for years it sat beneath my kitchen window, sheltered on the back porch, a space for a cat to sprawl in the afternoon sun, a place to prop jasmine plants so the smell would wander into my house.  i can tell you that the porch is small and my mother's table needed room to breathe, that this bench had nails that would snag you when you weren't looking, and those would be truths.  i could tell you it was a hard decision to make, the move from porch to yard, but that would be false.  true that the table needed a space, but for years i'd envisioned the bench somewhere in the yard, had listened to people tell me it wouldn't last, and nodded yes, i understood, but . . . when it rained, only its left side got wet, and sometimes wasps built nests between its back and the wall of the house, and it just seemed . . . trapped.

i usually don't say this kind of stuff out loud to people, not in real life, which is where words on the page come in handy, a place to write down all the heart stuff, the hard stuff, but even then there are sometimes struggles.  words are not enough.  sometimes a picture will do instead, but sometimes neither.  sometimes both are needed.

so, the bench.  my mother's table took its place and i moved the bench to a spot i could see from the kitchen window, where i could watch its decline, try to catch its movements, movements that are too slow to see, but quicker than expected.  one morning the right side was lower than the left and then suddenly lower.  wild leaves creep in and out.  some mornings it is full of cardinals, some mornings squirrels, sometimes snowflakes.  when autumn truly arrives, and leaves begin to finally fall, it's a landing place for many.  when it rains it gets wet all over.  in the spring there are robins.  and sometimes, still and always, a cat.  it is exactly what i'd hoped for and couldn't explain.  i watch its slow crumble back into the earth and know its happiness.

it explains to my heart all those broken moments i still carry.
a slow letting go.
i expect to see it open wide its arms any day.



outsider. armed, perceived as dangerous.

just in case.
it is sunday morning and we have had rain all weekend.


in the house on the corner it is 2 a.m. and she comes home to intruders,
2 of them;
the she in the house on the other corner steps out to water the plants and finds someone there,
more than once,
and he has words to say to her.
another finds a thief in her garage and when she yells at him,
he yells back with names and obscenities and continues thieving.
the house 2 doors down has a vehicle violated and we thank god it was only the car. 

last week.


on twitter, the women talk of peace, say we've been conditioned to fear, that guns can never be the answer, and i wonder where they live, what their stories are, and understand once again the always neverending truth of my outsiderness from poetry and art, because what i  know to be true is that, after a gathering of women  - outside in the night, discussing these current events under the stars - the women with guns went home to a sound sleep and peace of mind.  the first she, she of that first house on the corner, fled for the night to somewhere she thought safe.  the second she slept not at all.


and so begins the real truthtelling.



suddenly. autumn.

october bloomed with these red flowers, as she always does.
there is a cinderella pumpkin in the back of the jeep, full of dreams and secret stories to be told.
i am thinking of campfires, nights under skies filled with stars and friends.

last night autumn showed up on the wind, blowing in with cooler air and falling leaves, scrubbing away the last of the last sticky warm summer air, and i thought at last.  autumn.  october.  at last i understand you.  suddenly i am ready, never mind that baseball is still here and being played.  that first true wind of autumn changed my mind.  all the fans in the house are off and i am even wearing socks.

this is why i draw my own map.  new roads show up when i least expect them and demand exploration. this morning's road is birdless, quiet.  skyecat is burrowed under art papers in a basket, recuperating from a cat fight last night.  there is a bundle of twigs in a vase near the door, white candles gathered in an old egg basket.  the backyard is polka dotted with mushrooms.  last week i could not have drawn this road.

this past week has been filled with work and dreams.  giant red hawks guarding my home, filling the trees, silent, still.  my mother again.  she shows up all the time, but the hawks are new dream creatures.   perhaps i felt autumn coming.  perhaps i knew these flowers would bloom.   today looms small and wonderful in front of me.  breakfast.  laundry.  a bit of housecleaning.  dark chocolate.  i promised my aunt i would visit; she wants an old painting of mine, and i said yes.

it's october.  the magic begins.
again and always.
magic understands baby steps.



sunday almost october

the heart root of the elm tree,
this morning an owl standing guard.
black silhouette, broken limb, gray sky.

we are rain and green and fog, and scattered here and there, the almost invisible orange of trumpet vines. we are a sunday morning cat running in the rain, a streak of stripes past the door and then back, into the house, too awake too early.

last night's dream: a hummingbird shell,
the bird having slipped itself free,
leaving behind just a bit of emptiness he or she once called me.


my god, but sunday mornings are quiet here on my street, at least the rainy ones, at least this one, the only sound that of dripping trees and a mockingbird off in the distance.  church bells ringing, but barely there.  september is almost gone, and i swear she just got here, just dropped in for a moment and a whisper, flinging storms about as a bit of housecleaning.  all the unripe pecans have been knocked from the tree and my toes have been chilly every morning for the past week.  september, we barely knew ye.

i am back to 5 day work weeks and my house is back to cluttered, but it is artful clutter if you don't count the dishes in the sink.  laundry piles up and my hair is always a mess and the polish on my toenails is chipped and worn, totally gone on my right pinky toe.  baseball is winding down, today's game the last season game, my fingers crossed for post season - for me, the true end of summer.  after baseball, halloween and black tissue paper pompoms for the business, and true autumn, and then november, the month of birthdays.  i can see the map drawn out before me, with a path headed to christmas, luminarias standing guard against the cold of winter.

but that is then.
right now is a blue jay squawking across the sky and a back yard full of cardinals.



midnight thinkin': birds and death and long lost dreams

it's late and sleep is off somewhere kicking up its heels, not home where it belongs.  my ankles ache and my hips hurt and the m key on this keyboard is playing hard to get.  each month it's a different key playing this disappearing game, to keep me alert, i suppose, keep me watching the screen.  there are baseball scores to be checked, but i am saving those as surprises for tomorrow morning, and the air conditioner has come on, a surprise for right now, blasting too cold air against the back of my neck.  i climbed out of bed to get into this chair, and now i will have to get out of the chair to turn that cold air off or down or something.  i fall into resistance mode, not wanting to get up from this comfy spot, annoyed, noticing that now the s key is sticking,

or ticking, if you give leeway to the keyboard,
like a cartoon time bomb about to explode with a jagged cloud of black smoke left behind.

i get up.


this week:
i have been writing birds, reading apples, and painting nothing.
a busy week will do that to you,
and you will be grateful for the birdwings and appletrees that carry you to other places.
i have been saying blessings and thank yous to the ordinary everydays.
when i work late into the evening, standing on legs that want to sit,
i whisper gratitudes to the work before me.


my uncle died last weekend, and as with every death, as with every funeral, i asked the now gone soul was it enough?  this life the world would see as small?  was it enough that there was a boat you could sit in and while away the hours under the texas sun on a texas lake, was it enough that you stayed here, that you lived and died in this almost small town?  was it enough?   i sit through the services and i think it must have been, i hope it was, i hope the unanswered prayers and dreams not achieved meant not that much, not there at the end.   and i wonder what they might have been, those dreams.  so many people i see online say dreams must be big, must scare you or they're not big enough.  i'm not sure i agree, but perhaps that is just my age speaking.

i watched the birds during the burial service and after
and hugged my aunts and cousins and friends and uncles.
my heels sunk into the earth when they wanted to fly.


i'm not sure what i know about rare birds;
whether they are loners or fly in rare flocks,
whether they hide in plain sight or sit still in secret trees,
whether what makes them rare is a good thing or bad.
whether i'd rather be one of them or one of the hundreds of blackbirds on a wire,
with gossip to share and shoulders to cry on and eyes to roll when that bird down the line,
that one, right there, you see him,
tries to impress me with smooth birdtalk,
leaning out from amongst his friends, winking and ruffling his so suave feathers,
scattin' bad birdpoetry in my direction.
not sure i would laugh as loud if i was a rare piece of color against the sky,
not sure i would secretly wink back if not for the safety of numbers.

not sure i would.



rain, fall

last night was a cardinal and an owl and one jingle bell cat.
rainy red feather juju -
i will leave it to you to decide the winner.

this morning is the first morning that feels like fall may actually be coming
and is full of sneezes and rain;
skye cat is hunkered down by the open front door, timing the seconds between raindrops,
deciding when or if to skitter out into the wet.
the only cat i've lived with who likes the rain,
she has been out once this morning, but once is never enough.

i too skittered out the door, taking momentary refuge beneath the stairs, umbrella fumbling fingers finally giving up and letting it rain down on me.  accepting.  revelling.  feeling actually chilly when i ran back into the air conditioning.  waking up.

it's still green out there, but the back yard is full of overnight fallen leaves.  the gray day fills the house and lamps are on and something about their golden light calms me.  good morning almost autumn.



the moon comes out and silvers the yard

we are this  close to this year's harvest moon.
i have no image.

the internet this morning was full of discussions about art and not-art and filled me with thoughts as big as that almost-here moon.  the studio part of my living room is swallowing the entire space, paintings and partial paintings everywhere, words taped to the poles that hold up the ceiling.  the couch moves closer and closer to the front glass door, closer to being outside, shuffling in small secret steps.  the birdsong is louder, the squirrels closer, the falling pecans bouncing through the open door almost onto my toes.  it begins to feel like my true home.

i am painting both canvas and furniture and still clearing clutter, every weekend narrowing it down a bit further, this weekend distracted by a newly found notebook of my mother's.  at one point she'd written about animals she'd lived with, and there is this bit:

"Another time, another tender moment I remember, is when I raised Reggie, a blue jay.
The very last time I held him, a tail feather released,
falling to my feet as he soared from my protective hands."

feathers.  talismans for her also.  signs.  of course.  
i am so her daughter.


she drew blueprints for houses her entire life.  as a child i would sit at the kitchen table with her and watch her design this week's house of dreams.  she must have drawn hundreds and not a one saved.  i was always enchanted by the possibility of such a small drawing, and, at an early age, began to draw my own blueprints, so different from hers.  hers were adult homes, with bathrooms where you expected them to be and bedrooms all over here or all over there, but mine were always spaces, open spaces with wide stairways, my bed always at the bottom of a staircase, the stairs themselves night tables and bookshelves.  i remember drawing the books stacked helter skelter on this stair or that, and vases of flowers on the floors. the kitchen would be another staircase somewhere else in the space.  the front door was far away.  it was my nest.

though my real front door is ever so close, my home is still not an adult home, and quickly becoming even less so.   it is becoming a studio and i am letting it draw its own map, letting it tell me what it wants.  it whispers the word fun.  it tells me the bedroom will be sanctuary.  it tells me to let go of old paperbacks, their type so small i can't read them anyway.  it tells me i need at least 2 more chairs for the tables.


when i am an old woman i will not wear purple.  i will wear gray or white tshirts splattered with paint, and pajama bottoms or jeans.  i can feel it in my bones, fast coming down the tracks.  old is not that far away.  it's not what i'd expected, it's not what i thought it would be like, to be not rich and older, to be still learning, to be still struggling, to no way no how be able to retire and relax.  in truth, it feels quite terrifying, but it feels very much meant-to-be.  it feels like home - there are no stairs, unless you count the ones that curve up to katie's place - but it feels like the blueprints i used to draw, up and down and books and flowers and certainly not all grown up boring.  the kitchen is back behind me somewhere, but i forgot to draw a stove.



that hopeless moment

beginner's mind  just words.  that moment when you sit on the chair and you think i've done this before, i can do this again, but you want to go right from zero to masterpiece with no loosening up, no practice, never mind that you know you can't get there from here without taking the top off the car and letting the wind mess up your hair and letting it stay that way for however long it needs to be tangled. that  moment.

the one where tears just show up out of wherever they've been hiding and you actually cry over beginning again, never mind how deep down excited you are about it all.  that moment when you think - no, that moment when you know  you can't do this, that you are all just words and surface, and old  surface at that, and you're sitting at the table you made room for in your tiniest of spaces and there's a brush in your hand and no matter what you put on the canvas it is just the awfullest ever, and self talk starts creeping in.  that  moment.  you are too old,  the voice inside you whispers, you are silly for thinking you could start again, no one will care about these pieces, you don't even know what you want to say, it was just a stupid thought you had and you should never have said it aloud, much less believed it yourself.

that  moment.

and while you're sitting at that table, feeling hopeless and way too old and thinking nothing but a package of m&ms will help, the girl across the street pulls up with a couple of boys, she all sixteen and black and beautiful, lovely late afternoon sunlight sliding across her face, she with her whole life ahead of her, the boys all white and thinking they are men, tshirts with the sleeves torn off, football player arms and strength and all showing off, these still young boys, not quite men, and you say a little prayer for her, that she will not let them take away her dreams.  so easy to let that happen at sixteen.

and you look back at all your  bad decisions and all the good ones, too, though today even the good ones feel like a necklace of albatrosses, but, no longer being sixteen, you reach way down into your almost giving up soul, and find a bit of wisdom, a bit of something you have learned, and you just stop.  you clean the brushes and you close up all the paint, and you tell yourself you need a brighter lamp and you put that on the list for tomorrow morning.  you remind yourself that today counted, that putting brushes and paint on canvas is where you start.  you tell yourself you need more gesso to cover up the mistakes, knowing you will let bits of those mistakes stay, and you add that to tomorrow's list.

and so it begins.
i remember this moment from years gone by.
over and over.
it's the first day of school every time.



second day

this 2nd day begins with gray skies and the promise of coming heat.  the streets are wet with humidity, then dry, then a bit of rain comes and they are wet again, the bricks slick and dangerous.  it is quiet, no traffic at all, the birds just now beginning morning songs, the swwsssh of small breezes against wet grasses and trees.

green and gray and summer still.

a daylily across the street has bloomed, orange against this misty day
and the morning's first car passes like a ghost.
a dream.  

i continue to clear space, reminding myself there is a purpose to this, that this particular journey is about the destination, but enjoying the journey nonetheless.  picking up souvenirs along the road.  a foot from a broken buddha, a milagro with a broken leg.  omens of times gone by.  my mother's silver pin - on its face the word miracle  is stamped, tiny and tarnished.  everything i save seems to have chipped places or cracks, seems to belong someplace else - feathers from birds long gone, twigs from the pecan tree and also the pear.

my house 101.
relearning the space, letting it remind me, letting it change.

my mother's white table is perfect and suddenly that part of the room is lighter,
seems to float, no dark brown holding it to earth. 



and all the sacred stuff

cicada wing
iphone image

on the green table next to the bundle of sage.

september.  here.

my mother's thanksgiving table is now white, 2 days to get it so, if you don't count the 2 years of tears behind those 2 days.  the smaller table is stripped of its thousand and one layers of lacquer, and i am clearing space in and out.   surrounded by a jillion canvases and assemblage boxes and bits and pieces here and there.  leaves, beads, squares of silver paper, milagros, stars, arrowheads, sticks and stones.  i'd forgotten so many things, and those i'd not forgotten were covered in dust.  i think to myself that that is bad art feng shui, that no wonder this year has disappeared beneath my achiness, but of course the year hasn't disappeared, it has been here all along, and of course the dust was necessary so that i would be here right now, saying hello to the almost ready studio space. 

hashtag that gratitude.  



exploring. navigating. speaking with the stars.

an old grocery list of my mother's.
iphone picture with the light gone pink.

it explains everything, and nothing.  she wrote cough drops, and i wrote, after questioning her, hall. cherry flavored.  i crossed the word through when i tossed the package into my grocery buggy.  she wrote gum;  i, after questioning her, wrote dentyne, cinnamon.  she wrote cat food, i wrote no salmon.  every time i shopped for her, she'd hand me tiny scribbled lists, smaller than 3x4 inches, and i'd stand there in her kitchen and complain and question her.  she'd make me return the list if the other side was still blank, and the paper would wait to be used again, stuck in a drawer with nail files and pens.  that's where i found this one.  it makes me laugh to see that i wrote whatever  near the bottom of the page.

What word did you choose as your travelling companion in 2013?
How is it working for you? Where have the surprises been?
If you didn’t choose a guiding word, what word sums up your year so far? And why?


i chose no word and then found it hard to write.  coincidence?  perhaps.  

i've grasped at words all year, and like all sane and wild things, they've flown, skedaddling just beyond my fingertips and vision.  if i squint my eyes i see glimmers and waves of heat where they once were.  

i am looking too hard.  last year someone asked me how i connected with my creative spirit, and i wrote to her  "I unfocus.  I let go but I pay attention.  I open myself to whatever comes.  I recently found a Krishnamurti quote that describes this process perfectly:  In the cultivation of the mind, our emphasis should not be on concentration, but on attention.  Concentration is a process of forcing the mind to narrow down to a point, whereas attention is without frontiers.   Within that borderless place live my words and pictures and ideas and truths.   If I am tired or totally rested, it comes easier; I am less judgmental, less caring."

i read that, those words i wrote to her, and i see a map.  once again.  still.  

the word that found me 3 years ago, that traveled with me for 2010, was navigate.  i look back and see i am still navigating, writing about personal journeys, the path of life, about drawing my own roads, about navigating by st. exupery's stars.   about resting when tired.   i see it is a word that never left me.  if a word can be your soul mate, this would be mine.  i am an explorer of the small moments in our lives, and i say our because our lives are much the same - you may live where it snows for christmas, your skin may be a different color, you may be half my age.  none of those differences matter.  we all have small moments that are the truths of our lives.  even within life's big experiences, it is the small moments we remember and pay attention to.  your mother dies, and you don't remember death, you remember holding her hand that last time.  you remember her last breath.  you fall in love, and you remember that first kiss.  you get sick, and you remember the books you read while your body healed, and the rain outside your window.  you remember laughing at the grocery lists you  wrote for someone else, lists as secretive as your mother's.

this year my map has kept me close to home, exploring a place i thought i knew.  seeing another spring, another summer.  that makes me no less an explorer.  
each summer is different than the last, each christmas is new, the leaves that drop each autumn different than last year's fallen leaves.  the wind blowing outside my door at this very moment has never been here before.

i forgot that.  i was looking too hard.  i drew borders and built fences and thought because i could still see the stars, i was paying attention.


“…it was even more disconcerting to examine your charts before a proposed flight only to find that in many cases the bulk of the terrain over which you had to fly was bluntly marked: ‘UNSURVEYED.’ 
― Beryl Markham



oh, and studio space. i forgot to mention that.

count the blessings of this year.

it is always the smallest of things.  the time the house didn't flood though it rained like crazy and i was sure it would.  the sand katie brought back from france, the most beautiful of grays, mixed with our texas red beneath the stairs, and how, until the two colors finally became one, it made me smile every time i passed it.  this up-until-august mild summer and sunsets over the lake.  sitting on the back porch with a friend, around my mother's old table, in heat and in cold, talking down the day.  ideas that kept coming and words i kept writing when i thought i couldn't.  accidental hearts dropped from trees onto the sidewalk.  reading by kindle-light.  a new photograph on the wall.  a paintbrush in my hand, though never against canvas until this very day.  2 paintings sold in a year of not talking much about even being a painter.  reading my poetry aloud to strangers, and crying at the same poem each time, even though i'd not cried during its writing, and even though i wasn't sure it was truly poetry.  surprising myself.

it isn't last year and the cat bites me less. 

a few weeks ago, a healer told me i had a too-vulnerable heart.
a blessing, i think, to not have hardened myself
after all the deaths and hurts of the last few years.
everything heals in its own time.
even the scars are blessings.  

i am blessed to be sitting here, electricity paid, the tv on with no sound, elizabeth taylor as maggie the cat, a fan blowing cool air onto my bare feet, the now-nicer cat asleep behind me on the back of the couch, a mockingbird singing outside the door.  cicadas.  

always, always, it is the small things.  



that thing it seldom is

here's what i did today.

i read a book and there wasn't nothin' in the least redeeming about it
except you know, it took me away to another place
without explaining to me what i should eat
or drive
or why we humans are just killing the earth,
stake through the heart and all that,
and it actually had people who were heroes
and when i say heroes i mean women too,
and none of them wore high heels,
and nobody was an environmental activist or even a democrat.

i built a tiny little box and i stuck a heart right on the front
to remind me where to put all the love when i'm mad at it;
that way when my anger goes away i won't forget where i hid that love
and i can find my way back to feeling good 
without swearing i know i put it here!

i made a flower.

i got a library card so i could kindle up free books,
then disappointingly discovered that what that means
is mostly summertime novels all year long.

i photoshopped and crossword puzzled
and i ate my lunch with a knife
because wendy's apparently thinks that's all you need with a baked potato.

tomorrow i'm building a tiny little box with nothing on the front
so i have a place to put my aggravations.



sunday after saturday

it is saturday morning.  the saturday part of that means the sound of edgers and lawn mowers bzzzzing through the open front door, and the morning part of that means the cat is pushed against my left thigh, and even that is not close enough for her.  she has her rituals and i am part of the morning one.


my uncle is dying
and bill collectors calling.
there is nothing i can do to stop the tide that is coming,
a tsunami a storm a big big wave;
swimming is exhaustion against such power.
i will float, palms and face up toward the clouds,
catching the moments of sunshine.


it is sunday late morning and the cat is sleeping outside the same open front door.  sunday means the noises are less, the silence stronger, the ticking of the clock almost loud as it moves toward noon, just 15 seconds away.  a dragonfly wakes the cat.


it is the summer of no stories.
the summer of seeing and not telling.
the rearranged living room pushes the couch closer to the door
and my view is narrowed.
just a bit.  


across the street, byron has borrowed a lawn mower.  it is orange and glows through peepholes in the wisteria, just here and there as a breeze blows across the leaves.  leaving it on his driveway, beer in hand, he moves to the front porch, to sit for a moment, to savor the still quiet day.  he leans into the sunshine, into the rare coolness of this early august afternoon, and the sun drops behind a scattering of clouds.  perhaps he is thinking if he waits, rain will come.

the sky goes blue again, shadows dappling the yards and street.  he leans back in his chair, closed window behind his head, a cigarette now in hand, and the cat comes into the house.  she jumps onto the couch and settles against my left thigh, sighing.  across the street, byron begins to mow and the sound is low and muffled.  a sunday sound.



august break day 15: it will look different the next time you see it

2 of my mother's many tables.

i've had the green one since my father died and she moved from the big house to the not so big one.  this other, the dark one, is one that stood inside the front door of that smaller place, one that i kept after her death, and it is about to change, and it is about to change because i have changed, am changing, always and forever, amen and namaste.  i am a secret i will tell you later.

time for whimsy.  let the games begin.

august break day 15


inside the front door - a straight from the camera iphone picture.
the floor needs sweeping and there are no doubt spiders in the corner if you look closely. 



august break day 10: begin again.

2 days ago they painted the across-the-street house,
the house that once was mary's;
call me judgmental, but i know an ugly color when i see one.
they cut all the climbing roses,
30 years of yellow blossoms,
those that dangled over the driveway and climbed the roof,
and they chopped off part of the catawba tree,
sacred, older-than-the-neighborhood, now partly gone.

full of anger and tears, and up to me to deal with my changed view,
i moved the furniture in my tiny front room around,
and suddenly, accidentally, i have studio space.
see how the universe works?
the couch no longer defines the room - it is just a place to rest.
the entire west wall is for creation.  words, paintings, wrapping christmas gifts.

for years i have thought to make this room a studio,
to let the living room go.
the truth all along was to let it live.

august break day 10.



august break day 6: lunch

when we can't decide where to go or what we want, we want mexican.

weeks ago, at this very place, we sat across from a londoner.
england, you know.
i only know because between her ooohings and ahhings
she mentioned it to her waitress.
she asked about everything,
how this  was cooked, and what was that,
and how exactly was this little tidbit made?
and this stuffing, what is it?

her unbridled happiness at the food i take for granted made me smile.
she'd never heard of a chimichanga
and i could hear her savoring the word as she repeated it aloud
in her fabulous british accent.

that day, my guacamole tasted better than ever.

august break day 6.



august break day 3: dress for sale

fluttering in the breeze,
speaking spanish in more ways than one.
after taking its picture, i stopped by the panaderia for a couple of heart shaped cookies,
and the men all held the door for me.
going in and going out.

august break day 3.



august break day 2: too early to think straight

this morning: me stumbling into the day.
circles and shadows.
97ยบ before lunchtime.

thank god for fans and air conditioning and nearly naked feet.

august break day 2.



august break day 1: morning light w/chair

by august it is all about the shade.

this morning: cheap plastic chair against all that green.
august break day 1.


today is the first day of susannah's annual august break.
she was instagramming before instagram even existed.



he left for a week and she planted flowers

he needed space, and time to think it over,
and she needed the dirt under her fingernails.
he was in the car, driving west;
she was in the sun, facing the shadows.  


from one window in my house i can see the growth of tomato plants side by side with the flowers, and i wonder if it has helped.  she hits the bbq joints with girlfriends on saturday nights and seems okay, but i hope she sneaks a cigarette when he's not looking, he so full of rules and all, all those rules being hers to follow.   

she will offer him a bite of something her tears helped water, and he will buy roses wrapped in plastic, picked up at the last moment on his way past the grocery store.


all i need is a window.  the stories are everywhere.



in which i toss things out

i'm needing a blank white page here, if only for a while.  i need the empty space around me.   the silence.  these white pillows i am leaning against, the cat sleeping next to my toes on a white blanket, the sunlight bright against the windows, yesterday's thunderstorm.  all needed.  insert gratitude right here.



the girl who painted walls

some times it was just a wall, other days it was the detail work, the up against the molding parts where she would need an artist's brush; she never used painter's tape, all that was was wasted time, taping up against the edges of things when she could instead be laying a new coat of color next to those edges - no, the joy of sitting still, moving her hand into the just right position, at the exact right angle, the one where she could glide along for a good 24 or 28 inches and not even hold her breath to keep the brush steady, the brush now an extension of her, of her not feeling anymore anxious - that was a joy only to be had when she was past the worrying about perfection point, which of course is where the perfection actually turned out to live.


not that that matters.  there are walls to be painted.

i will start here, in this first room.  the room of july 7th.  i have a small bucket of white paint and old-but-good brushes that have seen me through many a wall or chair or table.  the room of july 7th is cluttered and the early sun is laying lazy outside the door.  it is an honest room with stacks of books and scatters of pillows and a couch that sags too much for its age.  the room of july 7th doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks.  i won't cover that up with new paint - i've tried before and it doesn't work, it just creates problems under my skin.  i will paint the wall with a color called truth, a color which does not set you free, no matter what all the cool kids tell you.  truth is a prison when your truth is not their truth.  

i won't lie.  i may stay silent, but i won't lie.  i will paint this room with truth and leave the door open for anyone who wants to leave, or for anyone who wants to enter.


some days her hand hurt or she had to paint the high up parts, where the walls met the ceiling - she'd hold her head in such a way to give her hand freedom and her neck would begin to ache from all that tension and staying still; she would catch herself holding her breath and mentally give herself a shake, physically give herself a stretch, climb back up on the stool or the ladder or the chair she'd been standing on, and continue on.  sometimes, though, she stopped, could feel her muscles giving in, could feel the exhaustion in her bones, and she washed the brushes and scrubbed her hands and later stood under a hot shower.

she always slept like a baby on those days.

this morning: the sunday birds, dressed for church, midmorning breeze.  the cat up a tree.  paint under my fingernails.

claiming my name.



no echoes

"There is no journey forward without ghosts; there is no telling without fear."
– Gerry Turcotte, from “Persistence of Vision” in Border Crossing 

i wanted no echoes.  to walk away from everything i'd written or said, no matter how true.  to be able to turn a corner and keep moving forward, to find a spot where i could no longer hear those words still ringing in my life.  what i found is that no such place exists, no matter how far away i hide my heart. 


june 8:
at 9 pm the sky is still blue.  not daytime blue but also not the blue of nighttime, it is the blue of almost summer, the days lengthening quickly now, too quickly for those of us who would have summer stand still a while.  never mind that the heat has been mild, that so far these days have fallen on our skin like a sprawling spring, too lazy to move on.  

6 days later the heat is here, has been here, in fact, for a few days.  yesterday the afternoon sky was solid summer blue, not a cloud to be seen.  i thought to myself that if i were a sky, that is the sky i would choose, but then remembered the summer of 2 years ago, when clouds were the stuff of prayers, and thought perhaps not.  perhaps i would want clouds.  and then i remembered the nights with maggie under midnight skies full of moonlight and stars, and knew i would want both. i thought of snowy skies and white nights, of skies full of lightning and hail.  i would want it all, i thought.  i will take  it all.  the bad with the good, the hard with the easy.  

my words will bounce off the walls of my past and there will be echoes.  


the reason for things:

while i was away from emma tree, katie & i threw a yard sale.  old clothes are mostly gone.  those dresses that no longer fit, tablecloths i never used.  it was a hot hot saturday in the middle of those otherwise mild days, a
loozianna  day with humidity up to here and sweat down to there.  we sat in the heat and bargained away bits of our pasts, making maybe not enough money to say it was worth it, if we only counted the profit part, but we also counted the sitting in the sun part, and the negotiating in spanish part, and decided it had been a good day.

come the following night, she found the cat.  he was curled on the curb around the corner, in terrible shape, suffering, hungry.  we thought he'd been in too many fights, and though he could barely move, we lured him into a cat carrier with food and kind words.  one look and we'd known we couldn't leave him.  never mind how broke i am,  i said, he needs help,  and never mind that,  she said, we'll split the cost.   at the emergency vet clinic, we discovered we were wrong - he'd not been in any fights, he just had too many diseases, including feline aids, and was dying.  and so, crying, we let him go just an hour after finding him.  the vet waived the euthanasia fee, calling us good samaritans, but couldn't waive the walk-in fee or the costs of the tests, but never mind.  i was just glad there had been one last meal, that he had died with a happy full belly.  and our cost?  yes.  the profit we'd made from the yard sale.  almost exactly.  on the way home, i turned to katie and asked if she'd do it again, the yard sale, i meant, knowing she would make no money, that it would go to an orange stray cat we didn't know, and without hesitation she said yes.  me too, i said.  me too.