June 14

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Another blessed day where I rise in sunlight. Hello pretty plants, look at you growing!  Another blessed day where I pick at last night’s leftovers. My zucchini needs some salt and butter love. What’s this? Another thundershower expected this afternoon?  And a beautiful bug on my front door, painted like a mumu from the 1970s, orange with giant white flowers. Good morning, cat lady neighbor dressed in a sassy printed dress, off to work you go. Good morning, lady who works in the realty office two doors down who can’t seem to remember what time the office actually opens.

Another blessed day to reflect after reading the news. The news is self-inflicted, you see. I shouldn’t do it but I do. I guess it’s another blessed day when I find out we haven’t bombed North Korea (or NOKO, if you watch Fox News.)  Another day to decide if I am going to split myself in two post-news, to reach down for the anger or to take it in stride. To assimilate the information, write about it and put it away.

So I come to the page filled with sarcasm and snark, only wanting to say, “God bless guns.” I mean, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about without them, right? God bless politics, it just makes the world a more interesting place. God bless religion, too, while we’re at it, I mean, where would humans be without existential crises?  Yahoo for news! For stuff to write about!  For reasons to avoid social media (or tend it with fervor and obsession.)  We’ve got nothing better to do, eh?

Another blessed day to curate a to-do list. Get ready for some thunder! What’s for dinner?  God bless the farmer and the butcher and the fisherman who brought me this plate of stuff that I didn’t have to raise a hand to put here.   Another day to be grateful for air conditioning and frozen peas.

I should be writing, but all I have is a shrug and sarcasm which I hope (I wonder if that’s the same kind of hope as a Trump hope) that I will translate into true gratitude and some blood on a page.

A Little Paper Chaos Would Be All Right Just About Now

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Writing tools.  Life tools.

Eating, drinking, and sleeping well.

Surrounding oneself with beauty.

Taking challenging dives to earn and learn from the experience. (You and your writing will be better for it.)

Read.  Repeat.

Write. Repeat.

And for the love of all that’s good in this world… don’t forget which thumb drive you saved your stuff on.

Or … did you not save it? Or did you save it 15 times in 15 different versions and now nothing makes sense, hiding behind 15 subfiles of what you called being organized?

When your house is neat as a pin but your writers shed is filled with rusty Sandisks and unmarked thumb drives (the ones you will grab if the house catches fire in the middle of the night instead of grabbing clothes because you sleep naked no matter what your mother said) because you don’t want to print anything anymore for fear of making your house look like a half-baked hoarder lives there, landslides of paper collecting dust, spiritual landmines of defeat… one should decide to start printing shit out.  Go with the paper landslides.  The headache of sorting it all from directory or thumb drive is Herculean and possibly Sisyphean.

That is all.

 

Of Gemini, Vanilla, and Truth

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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.

A Day Of Silence

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Soft.  Soft.

Yesterday, full of meditation.

Full focus on being present.

Refocus. Refocus. Refocus.  Because the mind wanders so easily,

treading paths that sound like jealousy, heresy, inadequacy

detours around

a little girl’s pain

a woman’s leaving

music that reverberates in my bones

dredging a stick through embers

igniting memories and regrets

calling me back to my body that sits in silence, suffering

writing thank you notes and apologies in ink and in blood

so much good will that do unless I put these hands to use.

Yesterday, full of silence.

No candle, no ritual.

Reflection,  insomnolent

Your pure truth was a light for me, your woman’s authenticity.

I’ve never been clear with anyone and not sure I ever will be,

but I learn from you and I hear and remain sleepless.

All I can be is grateful for voices I trust in a field where I walk

looking for wisdom, peace, and silence

amid chuckholes that break a horse’s leg.

Generations of Metal & Thank You’s

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Taking a moment to acknowledge my yesterday, a long day, but a great one.   I looked out the hotel room window last night, curtains open just a bit for some light.  I was wrung out from headbanging for 2.5 hours and shouting myself hoarse, so I committed my body to the sketchy sheets of a king bed touching memories, hoping I wouldn’t forget them this morning as I drove home.

Thank you to Sanctuary, the Iron Maiden tribute band, who put together a pre-concert meet and greet at the Hard Times Cafe, complete with t-shirts and heaping plates of delicious nachos.  You brought old friends together and we made new ones complete with class picture after the gig was done.  Thank you, Rob, for donning the giant Eddie shroud once again so everyone could get their picture taken with you.  Rob, you make great memories for us, and I’m glad you’ve been a part of what’s become a Sanctuary tradition.

I suppose I should say thank you to Iron Maiden, for they are the reason we all became friends, the reason we come from near and far, congregate and hug and sing.  Yesterday as I stood in the tavern watching Sanctuary play, I looked around and saw people of all ages, shapes, and stripes. Looked at the younger ones who are here with their mom or dad, I felt like the night should be called “generations.” Maiden keeps playing, we keep returning, and the music/vibe will live on through the kids. Well. I hope, anyway.

Shifting gears to the lawn, which is the back end of an ampitheater (shed)  venue.  I guess I should be grateful I even got a lawn ticket because the place was sold out.  This was my first Maiden show on the lawn, and you know?  I rather liked standing barefoot in the cool grass, the moon shining overhead.  Thank you, Kent, for keeping me company during the opening act, a band I had no desire to see but they proved themselves to be tight musicians. Not thrilled by their shtick, but like you said, everybody’s gotta have one.  (Still not gonna buy their music, though.)   It was nice chatting with you, and how you randomly found me out of 30,000 other bodies I have no idea. I didn’t steal your purple sneakers as promised, so you’re lucky.

Thank you, two nameless teenagers who were more interested in dry humping during the opening act. First time for seeing that, I must say, and I have seen a lot of things. Little girl, you gave quite a show on that blanket on your back, three knuckles deep in your pie, and your boyfriend getting into the act.  You made a lot of guys happy watching you. Perhaps the world will become a happier place if more of us came in public? Who knows.

Thank you, nameless young father who brought his 4-year-old to his very first concert.  I noticed that when your son, Bear, had enough during the Maiden show you and he curled up in blankets and went to sleep. Thank you for putting your son first. It gives me hope for our generations.

Thank you, two guys who stood next to me during both bands.  (You shall remain nameless as one of you did something he kinda of knew he shouldn’t have and wouldn’t want his name broadcast.)  It was a pleasure meeting you and watching your banter, the product of a close and long friendship.  Thank you, Mister X, for allowing me to watch you as you experienced your first, and possibly last, mushroom trip while seeing Maiden.  I got to see your journey, and yes, it WAS beautiful. Thank you, Mister X, for being concerned that I was alone at a concert, aghast that Kent “left” me to take his place down in front, no matter how many times I told you, it’s OK, I go to shows by myself all the time!

Thank you, Iron Maiden, for playing a tight show.  Nicko’s drums sounded better tonight than I’ve heard in a long time (though… the guitars are still a little fuzzy here and there.)  Bruce, your energy and enthusiasm unflagging as always. Thank you for acknowledging the fans who came from other countries to see you, as they always do, pressed together down front, and reminding us in banter and song that we are all “Blood Brothers,” a family.

People who I would not like to thank, which probably has no place in a “grateful” post, but oh well! To the trains who trundled past and blew their horns not 300 feet from my hotel room three times as I clung desperately to sleep…to the person who thinks it’s a great idea to charge $5 for a bottle of cold water, to whoever designed that “parking lot” — that gravely bottlenecked rats maze a rat couldn’t find its way out of, and to the merchandising team who wants me to pay $45 for a t-shirt…. SUCK IT!   (And as an aside, I’m betting more than half those people behind the wheel were not able to be designated drivers.)  *yikes*

Back to grateful:   I don’t know how you did it, Kent, being down in the front (pit) area to finding me in 30,000 other people as we’re walking through the concourse, but whatever it was….  thank you for helping me find my car in that ridiculous parking lot.  Next time I will be more diligent in noting where my car is on the grid, but your company was appreciated.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, thank you 2001 Lexus for getting me there and back again.  You have been a faithful, reliable prairie schooner, and I couldn’t have done it without you — or the the man who helps keep her steel wheels on the rail.  Thank you.

Angels In The Parking Lot

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It was a week full of wear and a week full of wonder.

Let’s focus on the wonder and the joy for the wear is just too wearying.

Here we have neighbors who know how to ask for help, who know how to help, to engage in the help, and one who sits back and wonders.  So my neighbor got a flat tire and asked me for help.  I got her car towed, and I asked another neighbor to help us take off the flat so she could get it fixed, and then he installed the good tire when it was done. (I supervised, of course, because they’re all using my car and my tools and my jack, but at least I provided some cardboard for him to sit upon so he didn’t get gravel in his shorts.) And, amazingly, he torqued the lug nuts in a star pattern without me having to say so, which is a miracle in itself and I want a fucking medal for keeping my mouth shut.  Neighbors helping each other, even if one of them isn’t as independent as she could be, I should not judge, but I hope she learns a lesson here and gets a spare tire and a jack.  Three strangers showed up and asked us if we needed help, and I knew we’re not in New York, Dorothy.   It was wonderful, top to bottom, even though it was a trial for her getting a flat.  We should look out for our neighbors, a message I want to trumpet as often as I can.  It’s where the real world is, angels holding hands as she’s waiting for the ambulance to come.  Work this human thing, people!

You probably live near someone. Do you know their name? Can you wave to them when you go down to get the mail?  Can you make eye contact or smile just a little?  Will you shove a few bucks in the guys hand when he begs in the parking lot, and can you ask your partner for help when you know you’re really hurting and need help, and I don’t just mean washing the dishes?  Ask for help.  Give some help.  All the rest is just noise.

Love.

Rumble and Learn

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Overcast for one and a half days.  Overcast is gentler on the body than full skin exposed to a Memorial Day sun, but I needed to stay inside.  Aunt Flo scheduled me for some couch time, and when Aunt Flo speaks I obey.

This morning I awoke with an unsteady purpose, mostly just wanting to get through this hour to the next, because that’s all I can do, but a neighbor called and asked for help.  I am blessed because she asked me and blessed because I could answer.  I hope she will take measures to be prepared for the next time, but only she can answer that.

I came home and answered a text to conversation.  Another friend who is in need. I am grateful to be able to be present for them.  I am determined to live my life with boundaries but not in solitude like a prisoner, and that means I am here to hear, so I heard, and she is okay.

Overcast.  The rain has come harder, the sound and feel that I love.  I opened my door so I could feel and hear it.  I see my disgraced neighbor at the office working on moving out. I am sad for him because he reminds me of my son: smart, young, and in party mode.  I want the best for him because young people make bad choices, and the mother of me sympathizes, but at the same time I want them to tighten up and make better choices, as if I am so perfect.   I see them as I see my son.  I see the lease that I read (and I mean read, all the way, like a dork because who the hell reads their lease entirely but me??), the same one they signed, and I know the realtor has rights, even though young man was just being a boy, like my own son. Where does it end?

I write this as a little weather comes in.  What a gentle thunder, a tender dark, something that will move east and the neighbors will fall out for sunset in damp sand. That was no storm, just a rumble.  We are all living in degrees.  What I want for my country more than anything is to accept that we are all of and in degrees, and we must compromise.  Compromise. It’s the only world we have. Some days precipitate comes and it’s a mist, sometimes it’s a little rain, sometimes it’s a prelude to tornadic activity, but it leaves us all, prepared, just in case.  The sand remains damp and my neighbors remain.

What the hell does a pile of twenty-something strangers who might be called upon to put their boots on a land far away to uphold decency, if not democracy and die matter to me, a woman who lives in relative safety matter if they drink hard and play their music hard and puke hard have to do with compromise mean?  I spoke to them, I hugged them– strangers– and only wished, as a mother of a young person, they would have pulled it together and pulled it back.  Living here by the ocean is a paradise anyone would pray for… and they blew it.   Yeah, foolish me, but I can hope can’t I?  I fear for the young persons who will deploy soon just as I care about those who wear blue and show up to a domestic, or those who came to fight a fire when the wind was against them, the coldest night of the year fighting a fire that nature seemingly didn’t want them to win, three days after I moved in.    We honor those who serve, but I expect them to behave decently.  I honor service, but I also recognize rules, the same ones the rest of us have to follow. And I can’t beat compliance into them.  I can only hope the best for them.

Honor.  And fight for peace, so we no longer have to quarrel over monuments.

 

 

Tales From The Mattress

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And there it was, through the struggle of the night, another long Goldilocks night where I’m too hot, I’m too cold, but oh, please, bring me just right….  I awoke in the middle of the night and remembered that story I used to tell myself when I was little.  Actually, I was telling my stuffed animals, for they were good listeners, but I am getting ahead of myself.

My brother and I went from cribs to bunk beds, nothing in between.  Brother got the bottom bunk which means I got the top.  It was so high up, though, and Mom was worried about me falling out of bed.  Dad had every Craftsman tool known to man (or at least it seemed that way to a little girl who liked following him around, wanting to help spackle or anything else he thought I was capable of doing.)  Dad brought home a ginormous piece of wood, longer than the bunk bed and thicker than a pizza box.  He drew lines and sawed the ends into curves, sanded, then he varnished the shit out of that thing which stunk to high heaven and set off my asthma, naturally.  When it was done, he fitted the smooth, dark wood piece over the edges of my bunk so that it would keep me from falling out during the night.

I accumulated stuffed animals over the years and I lined them up, just so, at the head of my bed.  They were my cabinet, my aides du camp, the only thing helping me through Godzilla / tornado dreams — or worse.  Mom used to read us bedtime stories like an orator on a stage, me high in the balcony.  I used to make up stories as I lay in the laps of my dear stuffed animals, and they listened.  And I remembered one of those stories last night.  You know.  It’s the one about the dragons.

My goal is to write the story today.  I don’t know what I will do with it when it’s done.  There are so many places I could hobble up to and beg they take my paltry thing and publish it.  But it all starts here. In my bed.  The place where I still sleep with dragons.

Sleeping, Unconservatively

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I peeled my sad, angry, frustrated clothes off and went to bed, though I still wore a layer of it on my face. It occupied some of my heart.  As I lay on my side and looked out the window I noted the orange sky.  That means weather. The kind that brings lightning. I can’t sleep when I know the lightning is coming, especially after that last storm that seemed to want to eat the Hampton roads. I was tempted to stay up all night so I could be prepared for the blast, no matter how long it would take for it to come, but I really wanted to sleep.  I chose to peel off my layers of anger, to turn over and breathe and meditate and pray and hope for relaxation to take over so I could sleep.  I chose to sleep, and I would deal with the storm, the adrenaline rush of fear that comes when a little girl sleeps in her bed and her parents crash the door… if and when it came.  Meanwhile, there’s nothing. i. can. do. about. it.  Any of it.

This morning I awoke, still wearing my angry face, sad to say.  I could feel it, stuck to me like a wet leaf but not so easily plucked off and cast aside.  Reading the news did not help.  Last night’s echoes still reverberate, that a politician assaulted a journalist who the hell knows why, and my fear that it’s only going to get worse.  More, I can’t stay quiet when I see a young woman who wants to graduate barred from the ceremony because she broke her “morality” pledge and got pregnant. I’m supposed to stay quiet when girls can’t wear braids in their hair or barred from a graduation ceremony because they’re pregnant.  Both schools have rules and mores, and both girls broke them.  The pregnant girl broke the contract she signed when she had sex outside of marriage and got pregnant. But the strength she showed in keeping her child and choosing to move forward with her life, to finish school and graduate shows a lot of backbone.  Or… maybe a lot of pressure from her parents and society?  Either way, she’s barred from graduation because she broke the morality rule, and all I can feel is sorrow for all of us.  I guess I should fall in line and feel solidarity for the rule, because if they allowed her to attend it would mean the school condones her behavior, and then cats and dogs living together.

I ruined my 5-star morality rating years ago, and I’m betting we all have some tarnish on our souls.  Here we stand punishing young people for an act as simple as wearing braids or as troubling as premarital sex which results in pregnancy.  I am an angry woman this morning because females should not be punished for wearing braids, or for carrying a child.  I am in no way a pro-life person, because, you know, I hate babies and life and I just want to sin and fuck and eat embryos with my grits.  But I am a pro-life person in that I can’t stand seeing injustice, even though they signed a contract.  The contracts and handbook rules that regulate dress code and morality are in place to keep young people in line, and boy do they need keeping in line, what with all the things they’re privy to on social media and lack of guidance from home.  I get it.  But the angry woman of me feels that black girls banned from wearing braids and pregnant girls cannot attend graduation that they earned crosses a line and really pisses me off.  I am sad for all of us as a society.

And don’t even get me started on the politician that body-slammed a journalist for asking a question.  I feel like we’re all just losing sight of things that should matter more than offensive t-shirts, weaves, and a young woman who chose life, which is ironically what conservatives want to preserve at all costs.

It’s almost noon, and I have to decide what my diet of the day will contain.  As I write, I am playing action movies in the background.  The angry woman of me needs to hear fire power and powerful soundtracks, a catharsis for me that elevates the idea of justice because I cannot be the iron hand to wield it.  I see justice and common sense diminishing in my country.  And there’s nothing.i.can.do.about.it.

Aw shit, what do I care.  If you sign a contract, you’re bound. You fuck up, you get punished. No graduation for you.  Just like a president, I guess….

May 22

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Yesterday’s morning bed looked a hot mess, all but the mattress pulled down onto the floor. Could’ve been hot sex or could’ve been another sleepless night, too hot in a t-shirt and a stuffy room.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which one was more likely.

This morning’s bed I left early, 4:30, awakened by voices outside, young men either headed to the gym or early call to work.   I knew there was no going back to any kind of rest or sleep, so I pulled on yesterday’s clothes and ventured outside.  The finches are strenuous early, morning doves and gulls silent. It’s a farther walk to where I can hear the water but it never quite drowns out the sound of birds singing in the dark.

I sat in the damp sand, water black but for little white wave crests that break just before the shore, that moment when they’re good and ready.  Sunrise in 48 minutes. I doubt I will be able to sit still that long.  A small container ship creeps across the bay, barely silhouetted by the town lights. Hampton bridge is busy, as always. I will not see the lights go out this morning.  Town lights behind me make the night sky glow pink and blue in the clouds.

Two buoys appear in the bay, inky things in the dark, but they are orange in daylight. My eyes say they weren’t there a minute ago, but of course they were.  When will the dolphins return?  I can see bird silhouettes flying now.  They weren’t there a minute ago, but of course they were.  Sunrise in 20 minutes.  I doubt I will be able to sit still that long.

Mostly I just breathe. I focus on the scent that arrives in me. There is a faint chemical smell in the air with a tint of the seaweed clumps that arrived during those hours I could not sleep.   I smooth the sand down that lies before my crossed knees but no words come. It’s just damp, cool sand with a side order of things I should not be thinking.  But why shouldn’t I? What better place to let the words come and then go in a place where there are no dogs yipping, the rain has not yet begun to fall?

I leave before the sun rises in a sky ready for rain. I need no proof the hours moved by seeing a glowing orb.  I take with me a different kind of beauty, when the eyes adjust to dim light and can see what wasn’t there but a moment ago.