“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


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.