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It’s the dog-walking hour, the hour before the sun takes your breath away. It’s the hour of elderly neighbors standing on the sidewalk telling naughty jokes, or breakfast with a neighbor before church lets out so we are guaranteed a seat in the cafe.

And now is the writing hour, the time before my gumption heads for a sofa and a dogeared book, the hour that I will stand barefoot on the cement balcony to watch neighbors go by with their groceries or work on their next hangover before they deploy, thinking about things I cannot repair or undo with a swish of my wand.

Nothing is the same as it was last year on this spit of land, least of all me.  The beach is wide and flat now. Neighbors are missing and favored dogs have passed away. New dogs and new neighbors have come.  But always, the pastel sky and the wonder of the wheel is present. I opened a journal to read where my heart was on this day last year. Nothing is the same, as it should be, but some things I still carry forward I see.

Today would have been Mom’s birthday, a Gemini through and through. She wouldn’t appreciate that pagan description, but oh well. One thing you could count on with Mom: you never knew who you were getting in a day.  Her moods shifted quickly, and I wonder now if the happy happy joy joy sing-song Mom was for real or just one way she masked her pain? Or maybe both? I will never know, and that’s okay.  But in those days, watching her devolve from parent to child trapped in a desperately lonely life frightened me.  She used to sit at the kitchen table paging through a big Sears catalog picking out rugs and clocks and furniture that she said would look great in the house she imagined. These were not casual musings.  It was hard feigning pleasant conversation about how this rug would go with that sofa, hey how about this one, but I couldn’t tell her I didn’t want to be part of her game.

It’s funny how you can pick up pretty seashells to keep or share, or pick up grocery bags full of cigarette butts, plastic bags and bottles from the same spit of land: the ocean just coughs up more of both every day.  I have two good hands that can manage both, and I struggle to remember this.  Sometimes I feel a very distinct two of me, truly torn, and on those days I worry for my spirit.  I recognize the gentle, rational, creative me and then there is the angry, fightful one, and often the angry one wins, the one that cannot handle the song Hallelujah.   I forget that I have the ability to manage whatever the world throws at me with both hands.  It’s the reason I don’t reply to most social media posts, or the reason I give you one word responses: Momma said if I don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Well.  On those Two-of-me days I want to create new social media sites where I give myself permission to vent and rant and troll the trolls, to hate the hate– a “safe” place to curse the darkness instead of being the light.   On those days, it is easy to judge others, to rage at injustice or simply complain about a visitor disparaging another person’s sweet dog.  On those days I forget I am free to seek another venue where I can return myself to kindness because anger is just too easy. Now, I am not wrong to feel pissiness, anger, or the rage, just as I am not wrong to want the peace that lives in me, that wells up and allows me to cry.  But feeling the peace, the beauty, the truthful good, when it wells up wide and deep, it often makes me feel overwhelmed and afraid.  It nudges out the anger, my protective shield:  how can I face you, or anything, anyone, naked?  I feel like a piece of beached jellyfish that everybody pokes with a stick or scoops up and tosses back into the ocean.  Most days, for the sake of my peace, I will show you some calm vanilla, a quiet void of non-words. On the days I don’t feel torn in two, when I feel strong and whole, viable and certain, useful and creative, I can speak and write truthfully and happily from my vulnerable place.  I can manage me and you with both hands, but those days are rare, and I want something more.   So.

Here’s to weaving the All-of-me’s together, the polyester, cotton, paper, leather, seaweed, barbed wire, and spider silk together, to threading them with my glitter beads and wampum and balsa, to painting them with silver stars and onyx night, adding a touch of unobtainium, and everything will be just all right — so you and me can know who you are getting on more than any given day.