“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


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.