In Line at CVS

Talbots carries a particular type of top that I like to wear. It has three-quarter length sleeves and a cross-over bodice with a V-neck. They are a nice fit and flattering for my shape. The only problem with them is that the V-neck is a little to loosey-goosey for my comfort, so I use a safety pin on the inside of the shirt to hold the fabric closed where I want it.

This morning as I was getting dressed for work, I grabbed one of said favorite go-to tops, and while I was tossing it over my head and getting the safety pin straightened out, I thought to myself that maybe today I should wear the safety pin on the outside of the shirt. I didn’t, and promptly forgot about it.

And it didn’t matter.

During my lunch hour I ran to CVS to pick up a Valentine’s Day card. It was a high traffic day in the greeting card aisle, and there was quite a line at the checkout. One cashier had a customer who was being difficult, so she had to call for the manager. The other had to run back to the pharmacy to do something special for her customer, so it was taking longer than usual, and there were about eight of us in line.

While I advanced to being first in line, the store manager set the original clerk up at the register in the photo pick up area and she called over the next customer in line. That was  me, so I stepped over to that register. As I did so, I spotted a woman in non-western dress and with her head covered in a (beautiful, by the way) hijab. She had a small child and an infant in a stroller with her. She looked confused as she hesitantly tried to advance, as I stepped up to the counter. I didn’t mean to be rude, really I didn’t.

She waited patiently for me to make my purchase, and tried to advance again as I left the line. It would have been fine, except there were now  even more people who had already queued up, so she would have been cutting them off. I turned to her and smiled.

“The line is here.” I said, almost in a whisper. I pointed to the people who had been waiting.

“Even for photo pick-up?” She pointed to the sign over the register.

“Yes. Usually this register is just for photo pick up, but when the line gets long, they open up all the registers for any purchase.”

The clerk was a little less generous. “Yeah, you still have to get in line.” Her voice had edged toward tart.

“Thank you, I didn’t understand,” she replied.

“I know, it can be confusing.” I repeated how the line works and what can  make it shift, and she nodded her understanding. She’ll know next time.

By now I had complimented her on her beautiful baby, and asked the little boy if the baby was his brother or his sister.

“He’s my baby brother, and his name is Omar.” He was very proud of his brand new sibling. By now we had an audience.

 

“He’s very handsome, and you know what? I have a friend name Omar!” My exclamation, which I made sure was loud enough for everyone to hear, brought a light of surprise to the woman’s face, and I could almost feel her relax.

Omar’s wife makes falafal like nobody’s business, and if you want to know where to get some just ask me, and I’ll tell you where their shop is.

We bid each other a good day as she guided the stroller to the end of the line and I left the store. As I was getting into my car I remembered the safety pin hidden on the inside of my top and chuckled.

I wish the woman well, and I hope to see her again sometime. Maybe she’ll recognize the middle aged white haired woman who has a friend named Omar. We can greet each other with a bit of familiarity and enjoy a moment or two of sharing the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumber Sandwiches

It’s a hot July afternoon, steamy with showers and intermittent sunshine. Each round of it builds heat and pressure. Tomorrow’s promise is for an even hotter day, when the temperature will cross the line and go into the nineties, something we find worthy of grocery  line chatter, along with the nor’easters that will barrel in from the Atlantic a mere six months from now.

It’s the perfect day for a cucumber sandwich.

TT got a call this morning from EB, his big-garden buddy, alerting him to the mass of green beans that are ready for picking. I can picture EB standing in the middle of their four acre vegetable patch, cell phone in hand, squash plants tickling his knees. It’s quite a place, the big garden. It’s more than a garden though. Over the years it’s become a little community, with shared spaces, exchanges of onions for corn or potatoes, or vegetables in exchange for planting and weeding help as the season progresses.

We didn’t plant green beans in our backyard garden this year, so this is a welcome call, and I add “green beans” to my errands list and make a point of taking a tote bag with me when I set out.

Well, you know I can’t stop at picking just green beans. I spotted a couple of small tomatoes that had ripened when no one was looking. Their red skins were blushing from underneath the protection of their leaves, so I picked those, which are enough for tonight’s salad. I heard a couple of bright yellow summer squash calling my name, and even though we have some in our own yard, I had to oblige.

Then I meandered over to the cucumber patch, and glory! What a year it has been for cucumbers! Before you could say Israeli salad, I had ten of them in my tote bag, picked from just three plants. I’ll be making an Israeli salad for twenty next Saturday. I guess having enough cukes for that won’t be a problem.

This is the long way around to tell you this:

I got home, mixed up a batch of double chocolate zucchini bread and had that in the oven in less than half-an-hour. My stomach rumbled its discontent at being empty as I then eyed the cucumbers, which were still warm from the field.

It was meant to be, so I went for it and slathered my multi-grain bread with more mayonnaise than would be considered respectable in polite company, doused that with salt and pepper, then peeled the best looking cuke of the bunch and trimmed it so its length matched the size of my bread. Then I sliced it into thin lengthwise slices, and stacked the slices on the bread.

Such luxury the bounty of summer brings to the gardener. An entire cucumber on a sandwich. This was no fussy tea sandwich. This was a two-fisted, open your mouth wide to take a bite, feast.

As I was constructing my lunch, a mantra waltzed through my mind.

“Thank you, dear mother earth, thank you, dear mother, thank you.”

And before I knew it, I was sobbing in grief for my mother, who I miss every day, as I have for more than twenty-nine years.

And I was sobbing in gratitude for her, and for the times the two of us would sit at the table on a hot summer’s afternoon enjoying a cucumber sandwich together.

Sometimes it’s the littlest thing that will trigger a flood.

 

 

October Light

October light,
Softened by lace-dressed windows
Splays gently, silently
Across the bed
Trees dance in the window, and
Tiny spotlights glide over a
A roll of mingled thighs
Entangled in the interlude
Between passion and repose

On a Sunday Afternoon by the Water

We sit in a patch of splattered shade afforded by a maple tree. It’s scrawny shade as far as maples go, but we’re forty feet from East Bay, and the trees are routinely beaten up by the salty off-shore breezes and hostile winters. The maple tree is fighting for its life, so I don’t begrudge its meager offering. Every once in a while the bay sends in a gust of mercy, a water-cooled refreshment.

Folks of all ages and ethnicities surround us, enjoying their afternoon encampments around picnic tables and charcoal grills. Some, like us, have only coolers containing a sandwich and a cold drink, and a plan for supper when we get home after dark. I like to keep days like this simple, and a charcoal grill means I can’t leave until its dying embers permit it. Being held captive by fire while in repose by the ocean seems like a conflict. I am probably more restless than most, though. When it’s time to go, that’s it.

Closer to the water and to our left is a gathering of two families. The patriarchs sit at a small game table and play Backgammon. One smokes a hookah, and the tobacco smoke is sweet, not acrid and harsh like cigarette smoke. Their low voices are congenial and foreign. I hope they have no family suffering in Syria or another war-torn country. The women, heads covered and in long sleeves, sit in a loosely formed circle, chatting among themselves and paying little attention (in a most familiar way) to their dice-tossing husbands.

The young woman who took some time to roll out a prayer rug and offer her afternoon devotion finishes her prayers, then stands, and rolls up her rug. She slips out of her skirt with the same softened intimacy the wives and husbands share. At first, I am drawn in by surprise as I watch the young woman slip out of her skirt in public. Old fashioned hell-fire lessons so many love to proclaim leap to mind, but I disallow them, while at the same time, I sigh with relief as I spot the black leggings being revealed by her public disrobement. This will happen two more times, with two more women, and my voyeurism has taught me a lesson about ritual and respect.

It is a joy to see people at peace with themselves and their object of spiritual devotion. How free she is under her headscarf. May the love of their Creator shine down on these beautiful families.

I awaken from my unintended nap to see that the couple who were situated not far from us, to the right, are packing their things. Her knitting had been on her lap when we arrived, and she clicked her needles, winding yarn and beauty, to the accompaniment of her husband’s guitar playing. He played so softly it seemed like he was a mime. I didn’t hear a single note, no matter how hard I listened.

Some folks draw it all, and the woman behind us has been bothered by an errant soccer ball, once hit in the arm, a painful encounter by any measure. Apologies were sincere, but she her husband spewed forth with vulgarities, and I remember that we cannot choose another’s path. She had just been hit for a third time, and the peace has officially broken. A loud argument stopped just short of a female fist-to-cuff. Fortunately sensibility prevailed, and the ball players have removed themselves from the proximity.
TT had been enjoying a nap when the broo-ha-ha began and the look on his face as he was startled back to wakefulness was so funny I had to suppress a laugh. I wonder if he had heard the group across the field singing Happy Birthday to a child, and I wonder why it never occurred to me to celebrate JT’s dog-day August birthdays with her by the cooling bay.

It took all this to get to where I wanted to go, which was to write a blessing for my daughter and her new husband to be offered at their wedding reception six days hence. Finally the words flowed, here by the water, and surrounded by humanity, both peaceful and strained, and on a joyous Saturday evening, I shared those words with them among witnesses. I would love to share them with you, but I gave them away to the happy couple.

May they have a long and joyful life together.

Yoga Class

I didn’t want to go to Yoga class last night.

I didn’t feel well. The work week had worn me through, and my back was sore along with the thigh that had cramped up on Thursday night, which sent me wailing and crying through the house for twenty minutes just before dawn. It isn’t a pretty sight, take my word for it.

Not wanting to go to Yoga class because of soreness is about as brilliant as not keeping an appointment with the doctor because of a scratchy throat and a headache.

My phone rang as I pulled into the driveway in front of my house. I sat in my car for a few minutes after hanging up. TT and I were supposed to go together, but he got called away to a real estate emergency. Things like this are not new in our life. Marriage with TT has helped me learn to be flexible and independent. A gift given from the left hand.

So I sat there, car door open, one leg out, my foot resting on the driveway. The air was soft and warm, a perfect evening to be outside. I could take a walk, I mused, or tend one of the garden beds for a while. We could have a leisurely dinner together when TT got home. I was sorely tempted to call the teacher and beg off. It was just a Yoga class anyway.

Except not really.

One of the things Yoga can teach us, if we let it, is compassion and generosity. Last night’s class was the third in a series of four classes, called “Yoga for Food”, for which we pay a discounted price for the class and bring foodstuffs to be donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank.

My not going would mean less for others. It would mean that the teacher’s willingness to teach a class for no compensation was worthless. Do you see where I’m going with this? We’re all in this together. We all affect each other. What we do matters.

It’s humbling to think along these terms. And it’s inspiring.

I went to Yoga class as planned. There were three of us, and I wondered why all ten spaces were not filled, except for the fact that it was one of those perfect August Friday evenings in New England. I may have gotten a whiff of barbecue as I drove home from the studio.

My back’s feeling much better today. And now I think I’ll go for a walk after breakfast to work out the kink in my leg.

Namaste’

Affirmation

Affirmation:  All my needs are met on time and in abundance.

So one morning last week, Wednesday, maybe Thursday, I walked into the bagel shop where I buy my jalapeno bagel and a cup of coffee fairly regularly, alright, regularly, and as I walked in the door I spotted a man at a table. His coffee was steaming, and there was a mostly-eaten muffin on the table. It looked like blueberry. Between his foot and the wall was a bag, and his foot was resting against the bag as if to protect it.

His clothes were not clean, but he was neatly dressed and his shirt was tucked in.

The man had a kind looking face. Perhaps it is because he was asleep. Perhaps he is simply a kind man. A kind-faced man, fast asleep in a bagel shop. And then I saw it.

As I was placing my order, another man, a decade or so older than me, came into the shop. He stopped and looked at the sleeping gentleman with a “get a job you lazy bum” sort of snarl on his face. He then looked at me for assent and confirmation that the sleeping man was a no-good bum. I ignored the surly man and continued with my order.

“…and would you do me a favor?” I asked.

“Sure, what’s that?”

“Would you please make sure that the man who is asleep at that table gets a plain bagel and peanut butter on the side before he leaves?” I spoke quietly so as not to let the stranger know what I was doing.

The clerk knew what I meant and went about getting the order together. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the surly man realize my plan, and honest to God, I felt his energy shift from contempt to understanding. Long story short, the clerk gave me my order, put the second order aside for later and gave me my total. I paid him with a ten dollar bill and dropped a dollar in the tip jar and then dropped in the eighty-six cents change as a thank you. It was my last ten dollar bill for a few days, but that didn’t matter. I can make my own breakfast in a pinch. Because I have a kitchen and a refrigerator, a toaster oven, and everything I need to feed myself on a regular basis. And then some.

I think you know where I’m headed here, but I’ll finish the story anyway. Before I could pack up my wallet and take out my keys, the older man, who had once worn contempt on his face, was putting a dollar in the tip jar. I don’t think he realized that he hadn’t placed his order yet.

I left the place in tears. I don’t tell you this story to brag about what a generous or kind person I am. In fact, I am a far distance from standard with a lot of catching up to do. I’m telling you this because of what happened to me.

In those few moments in the bagel shop, what was once my affirmation that I declare with a confident voice and quaking heart, became a humble prayer of gratitude. All my needs are met, on time, and in abundance. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Haven’t seen either of the two men again. May they both go in peace.

Snow Day

It’s a snow day. It means I have time to think. We don’t have many snow days, and frankly since I am not a student or child and count each customer’s order shipped as bread in my belly, I do not really appreciate it when the weather determines the factory’s productivity. Nevertheless, it does give me some time to think without being interrupted, and that’s a luxury.

And it’s funny how things go. Today’s plan was to putter around the house doing little things like finally putting away Christmas decorations, getting the laundry caught up, and maybe even dry-mopping the hardwood floors, but while I was poking through Facebook this morning I spotted something a childhood friend posted about a new restaurant. It wasn’t the restaurant that caught my eye; it was the location of it. Mashpee.

My parents built a summer home in Mashpee, in a planned community called New Seabury, in 1964. Seeing the comment on Facebook has had me waxing nostalgic for hot summer days at the beach with my mom, followed by endless games of Rummy and Cribbage after supper, ever since. Suddenly a blizzard of memories are swirling around me. Memories of having friends down for the weekend, riding our bikes, exploring the new construction that was popping up all around us. My parents were wonderful hosts, and it seems that they always had enough to take us out to the movies on Saturday night or out to dinner. Sometimes we would play miniature golf. What we didn’t have was television. I resented it then, but no longer. It was a wise decree courtesy of my father.

I miss my dad. He was a difficult man. He was a charming man. He had a giant sense of humor but also an unpredictable temper that could send you into the corner wondering what the heck just happened. He was brilliant, and yet he made some colossal mistakes. I do no finger-pointing. I merely remember and try not to regret his blunders.

I cried like a baby the day he died and many times since. We were very close as fathers and daughters go. We learned to sail together, we taught each other how to play tennis, and with deference to any and all tennis partners I have had in my life, he was by far the best, and my all-time favorite. He was a fierce competitor, and he never let me win, which made beating him on the court all the sweeter.

He took me to the zoo and never scolded me for being afraid to feed the buffalo. Gentle giants, those buffalo. We would go to the factory on Sunday mornings sometimes, and ride up the freight elevator to the third floor.

He taught me how to drive a stick-shift. He told me once I was the only driver he ever felt safe enough to fall asleep in the car while he was a passenger.

He stepped up to the plate when my mother died and heeded my warning that he was no longer just my father, but now he had to be my mother too. He understood. He and I understood. It didn’t matter that no one else did. We had each other, my dad and me. And he liked TT. It helps when your father likes and respects your spouse. Having my father endorse my choice of husband meant more to me than I can ever say.

I miss my dad. For about two weeks after he died, he followed me around. Every once in a while I would look up from my desk at the factory thinking that someone was at the door needing my attention and there would be daddy, in his khakis and maroon cashmere sweater, smiling, just for a split second before he would fade back into the ether. I dreamed of the two of us side by side, talking, leaning into each other like a priest and confessor, and he showed me how thin the veil between here and there really is. And then, finally, I dreamed of him ascending a set of stairs at a schoolhouse. He told me I couldn’t go with him. I knew it too and understood through my disappointment.

I kept his sweater though, and today after storing it for years, I put it on. It’s warm and soft and wraps me in folds of gentle memories. I don’t ever remember him being home on a snow day, but today I’m glad he popped into my consciousness.

An Open Letter to Adolescents

I recently graduated from college after being away for thirty years. I tell you this only as a way to introduce this blog post. The last class I took was Adolescent Literature, which was really an exploration of issues and problems of adolescents. Our under-lying theme was community. We made our exploration via adolescent literature. We read plays, short stories, non-fiction, biographies, short novels and longer novels. One of the components of the class was keeping an on-going journal, and a final assignment of the class was to make a journal entry that tied together what we had gleaned from the coursework.

Sometimes friends would ask what I was working on or what I might be writing for school. Here is an example. It is my final journal entry. I send it out with love and great wishes for all of you who are wading through the muck and mire called adolescence.

Please bear in mind that since this is a journal entry, it is unedited.

 

An Open Letter to Adolescents

Hey, you! Yes, you, with the nose ring and the bright red streak in your hair. And you, with the sullen look on your face. And you, preppy girl with the alligator on your polo shirt. While you’re at it bring your friends. I have some things I want to say to you. Bring everybody.

No one gets out of this life alive.

The first thing I want to tell you is that you are not alone. No, I don’t mean aliens, ghosts, angels, or even God, for that matter. I mean you are not alone. You are part of something bigger than you. You are part of a community, and what you do matters. Your first community was your family. You may think that sucks, but it’s true. You didn’t choose your family, but there you are, in the middle of it. And no matter how your life goes, you will always be attached in some way, even if only by genetics.

Your life may seem small and controlled by others now, but how do we really know when life ends? In “Our Town” life went on and on, even after death. Dream big. Don’t let the life you know now keep you hemmed in. Even if your life is as bucolic as the sunset over rolling pastures, step outside your comfort zone, leave your home, at least for a few years. Many people refer to this as “The College Years.” If you can swing it, go far enough away so that you cannot commute. Get out of Dodge. It will do you good, especially if you decide to return. It’s good to know what your home and family look like from the outside. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Who are you going to see when you look in the mirror twenty years from now? Thirty? Forty? Will your grandchildren throw themselves gleefully into your arms when they see you? Or will they be wary of you, uncertain of how an encounter with you will go. Yeah, you. You’ll probably be a grandparent.

Don’t be afraid to ask your parents or a professional about sex. It’s good for your parents to be embarrassed once in a while. Besides, your parents do worry about you and care about your sexual activity and inclinations.

I hope you don’t face any early losses through death, but if you do, remember to be kind to your parents. They are fragile too. Even the slightest act of kindness will go a long way. Share your friends with your parents. It will make life better for you in the long run, even if they don’t like your friends.

Speaking of your parents, I want to tell you this. Follow your instincts. If they ask you to lie, steal, or cheat, don’t do it. That money your mother keeps hidden may save your life someday. And if it’s never needed, so much the better. Let it sit there. It’s for you even though you don’t realize it. You just can’t have it now, and believe me, she doesn’t want to have to use it. Because if she has to grab that money, it means the house is on fire, so leave it there like a good luck charm.

Of course we know you snoop.

As your community widens, try not to burn bridges. It’s okay to leave folks behind for a while, but let them go with love. Do not discard them. They are probably having a bad day too and don’t need your disdain.

People who look different from you or have invisible differences like deafness or mental illness bleed just like you do. You don’t need to cut them open in order to prove it.

When you make a promise to a little kid, keep that promise. People are there for you, even if you have to bang on the door to get them to let you in. Be there for the next kid. They are scared too.

Oh – and be willing to put up with a few crappy rules. You will be eighteen soon enough.

Do you remember that girl who was in your Seventh grade class for only one semester? Did you wonder why she didn’t come back after the winter break? Well, she moved back to be with her mom. She was a foster child. She was lonely, scared, and out of her element. Did you take the time to even say hello when she was in your class? You will be given another opportunity to learn this lesson. Stay alert for clues.

Another thing about your parents – yes your parents. They make mistakes. Sometimes they will even pull up stakes and make you move new a new town or a new lifestyle, only to realize once they get there that it was the wrong move. It’s as hard on them as it is on you, so the best thing you can do is stay true to yourself, and if there’s something you love to do, continue to do it. Grow into your own skin and learn to enjoy your own company. You only think everyone else is out partying on Saturday night. Many more are home alone, reading, writing, editing their photographs, watching television, or playing computer games. Find a hobby, something that you can lose yourself in. If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I forget who first said that.

How about that freakish kid in your class with the cats-eye glasses and mousy brown tangle of hair? She never looks up and shies away from any encounter. You heard that when she’s bent over her desk in class, she’s writing notes to herself in cat language. Did you consider this? Maybe she’s the daughter of parents who are abusive or psychotic. Maybe she likes to think she’s invisible so she won’t be hit. Maybe she is psychotic and her parents won’t allow anyone to treat her. Maybe she goes home to a house that is so filled with filth and clutter that a person can walk only a pathway from room to room. She may have had cat chow for breakfast because it was the only thing she could find. Don’t mock her cat language. We all cope any way we can. And let me ask you, when did you take the initiative to develop your own language? She may not respond well to an outreach of kindness, but you don’t have to make fun of her. She didn’t ask to be dropped into a living hell. What gives you the right to make it worse? School might be the safest most supportive place in the world to her. It might be her safe haven. Don’t destroy that too.

Think about the kid in art class who has spent the whole semester working on carving trees in linoleum blocks. They bend over their work, letting their hair fall like a shroud over their face. That curtain of fine strands may be their only protection from the bully who mugged or raped them during the summer. They will let you in, maybe even trust you a little bit, but you will have to step up and say, “Don’t I know you? Weren’t we friends last year? What happened to you?” If you want to have a good life, you need to step up and care.

Beware of those who are in power. Focus on truth, not legend. If truth dispels the legend, then so be it.

You can expect help from unlikely sources, like intuition and spiritual awakenings. Stay open. People will come and go in your life, some like angels to help you, some like ghosts to scare you out of your complacency and the luxury of hiding. Learn who you are. Know your name. Remember who you are. You are someone who matters. You are not a pawn. You are learning to be a self-directed human being.

Question authority or someday you may find yourself in a fight to the death with your neighbor, someone you once helped when they were down on their luck. Don’t be afraid to turn away from what doesn’t feel right. Your intuition is real. Honor it.

Don’t let hate motivate you. Be a leader, or better yet, be an example, and others will follow naturally.

Stop every day, even if only for one minute; look up at the sky and say, “Thank you.” Thank yourself if you have to, or thank gravity for preventing you from drifting off into the stratosphere, never to return.

You’ll be gone soon enough. Believe it or not.

 

 

Last Year, This Year

Another year begins. I can hardly believe that three hundred sixty-five days have passed. In some ways nothing has changed; in other ways everything has changed. 

Last year I had a sixteen year-old car that I was hoping and praying would make it through one more winter, which it did, and then some. This year, I drive a new car. Oh my, how things have changed. What were expensive upgrades back then are standard features today. It didn’t take long for my sentimental nostalgia over 220,000 miles shared with the old blue lady to pass.

Last year we had already suffered several major snow storms by this time. This year, only the first major storm is pending arrival, and I have been able to get out for walks because the sidewalks have been clear and dry. 

A year ago today, with every good intention, I re-joined the YMCA and started attending Aqua Zumba clsses and even swam laps and beat myself up on the cross-trainer a few times. This year, no renewal. I know better. School takes too much time for making the dues for the Y worth their pennies. Next year there will be no school because I will have graduated. Maybe I’ll join the Y again, but maybe I’ll just walk more.

Last year I was worried about money. This year I’m still worried even though the thin cushion is a little less thin. Last year and this year I know I’m not alone in this. Some things never change. We are never alone in our worry even though worry is one of the most isolating feelings a person can experience. 

Last year JT and KC were half-way through graduate school. This year they are almost done. And soon to be married. Maybe they will be living elsewhere next year at this time, and I don’t just mean out of the house; I mean another state. Or maybe just down the road for a while. I guess we’ll have to see. Next year at this time they will have entered the work force. 

Last year I hadn’t gone for a mammogram. This year I await a six-month’s follow-up to a diagnostic mammogram I had in September, “just to be sure”. Last year I was still denying and dodging my first encounter with a colonoscopy. This year, I’m ever grateful that a pre-cancerous polyp was efficiently and deftly removed by the doctor during the procedure.

Last year the garden was a mess. This year I am perusing the seed catalogs again, hope renewed by fresh cold air and knowing that spring is around the corner. 

This year I’m napping less but wish I could be napping more. Last year I napped more and felt guilty for napping so much. 

I still eat meat, but less of it, and more of it is chicken and fish rather than beef and pork. I still like butter. That won’t change. Last year I had twenty quarts of home-canned tomatoes on the pantry shelf. This year? None. The garden was a mess. I repeat that statement because it’s the first time in thirty-three years that I have felt like a failure as a caretaker of the good rich earth that fills our raised beds. Do we at all understand how important it is to acknowledge where our food comes from and respect the beautiful green and blue earth that feeds us? We don’t manufacture our food. It is grown and raised. 

Last year I was a happy servant to a beautiful female cat who had been my benevolent furry royal highness for nearly fifteen years. This year I realize just how allergic we had all been to our feline friend and realize that my life as a pet owner is probably over. 

Last year on this day the sun rose and set at about the same time, so that didn’t change, but it seems that just about everything in between did. 

Some other things haven’t changed. Light dispels darkness. Kindness trumps selfishness. Love wins every round, every game, every time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Laurie Blake

I have decided to relocate.

The man can sit silently in the morning, sipping coffee, waking up slowly, reading the morning paper or watching videos on beekeeping, hydroponic gardening, woodworking, who knows what, until the very instant my pen hits the surface of the paper, at which time he decides it’s time to talk.

To me. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday, the only free mornings of the week.

About politics, pet peeves, the news, anything that will get me riled up, on edge, and off writing.

Perhaps he cannot stand to see my soul bleed out onto the page, blue ink spewing rhythmically with the regular pumping of my heart.  Perhaps he doesn’t realize that what he causes is more than an irritant.  It doesn’t matter.  If I’m going to write, I need space and time.

Don’t get me wrong.  He’s a wonderful man. Honest, productive, caring, creative, generous, hard-working, loving. Plus he takes hold of my pillow after I get up in the morning and hugs it to himself for a while before starting his day.

I don’t want to get up another hour earlier.  Sleep is too important for maintaining health and sanity to pretend it is dispensable.  And by evening, the day’s activities have shattered the crystalline impressions that glaze the first hour or so of wakefulness. By 10:00 PM, the need to sleep has become my master.  The blank page would remain blank if it were not for the early part of the day.  I do not use an alarm clock or clock radio.  I do not like to awaken unnaturally with the first few moments of being awake spent sitting on the edge of the bed, stunned.

So what I have decided to do is relocate.

To another room.

For writing in the morning.

Why finally decide this morning?  Because Laurie Blake died.  Who is Laurie Blake, you might ask.  I didn’t know either until I heard that she had died. While reading one of her obituaries yesterday I learned that she was a beloved high school English teacher, whose favorite class to teach was Creative Writing.  I learned that she had run in twenty-one marathons, including Boston’s. I read that she was only three years older than me, and I assure you, that is much too young to die. She had suffered from brain cancer.

I didn’t know any of these things until after she died, because to me she was the nameless woman with whom I crossed paths hundreds of times. She was the tremendously fit and beautiful woman, with long blonde hair tied back into a pony tail that trailed behind her as she would run from the opposite direction in which I was walking. As I, an oversized woman with graying and shoulder-length free flying hair of similar age would approach her, we would always smile and say hello.  Runners don’t often bother to smile or say hello to walkers.  Laurie did, and she didn’t scorn me for only walking. We made eye contact, and her smile was encouraging and genuine.  Many times after sharing the sidewalk with her for the few split seconds it took for us to share our greeting, I would find that there was a little more spring in my step, and I felt better about walking rather than worse for not running.  For split seconds at a time, we knew each other.  We shared splinters of joy in what we shared, being outside in the fresh air, moving our bodies. Then we would carry on with our own private lives and it didn’t matter that we didn’t know each other.  Dare I hope to think that my smile and greeting was an encouragement to her?

Friday night, while I was out on my walk the grief set in, and I began to mourn the loss of Laurie Blake.  She was much too young to die, but death didn’t care.  It took her anyway. And that is why I am relocating to another room for writing.  Laurie didn’t run marathons by running only short distances and sprints.  She trained, she practiced, she paced herself, and she ran nearly every day.  She relocated to the outdoors.  She took space and time for herself to engage in her passion.

She was too young to die, and so am I, so today I decided to make space and time for myself so I can write. Life will go on without me for a little while, and maybe, just maybe I can leave something behind that will be an encouragement to another person, as fleeting as our encounter might be.

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