Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gifts and Thanks

My handcrafted gift to my Writing Partner
This has been a summer of gifts due to the generosity of Trenton Elementary School Board.  As many know, in July I had the good fortune of attending a Writing Institute at the University of Maine.  My recent course work has motivated me to write daily which has only contributed to my growth as a writer and a teacher.  Over a four day span, with others in my school district, I am attending a Writing Workshop Institute presented by Columbia University Teachers College.  The strategies that we are exploring as adult writers in preparation of using them with students, has deepened my writing experience. Simply, I am thrilled and excited to be part of this process with other teachers.

Gratefully, my writing partner proved to be patient and supportive. We had worked together in the past (decades ago, but don't tell anyone), so it was fun to spend some quality time and get to know her in the present tense. There is nothing like learning and courageously discovering together to bond a pair of writers.

I would also like to humbly thank my readers.  The words of encouragement help me continue to explore my inner landscape, which can be scary territory.  To those readers who have on occasion, commented-your honest thoughts and reactions serve as a compass.  I think I am headed in the right direction.  Many thanks to all who have touched my life, in ways big and small.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tangled Thinking

          My husband making conversation on the way home from work mentioned, "Elizabeth said that there was going to be a kissing booth at the Pet Fair for the SPCA." I laughed, not really imagining who in their right mind would volunteer to be kissed by every stranger that walked passed the booth and furthermore in this day and age wondering if this was such a good idea.  "I think Elizabeth mentioned it because she thought that Rex gives good kisses!" he added. He started to add all of his doggy friends to the list of good kissers, "There's Baxter...oh and Charlie, that cute little Charlie..." Sometimes, my mind is in a tangle. I thought chuckling aloud.  And just so you know, Rex loves everyone, including strangers and he is a darn good kisser.

The Last One Standing



I was always the last girl standing.  The boys would form a line on one side of the gym and the girls would be about half court facing the males.  Standing there, the boys would eye the lot of potential partners.  Oddly it felt like some ancient mating ritual.  On square dancing days, I had all I could do to trudge into the Steven White gym.  Standing in line I could not hold still-my feet moved constantly shifting weight.   I stared at the shaft of light that gleamed off the gym floor, averting eye contact wondering what was wrong with me.

             Once a month, I sat on the Board of Directors for the Kennebec Girl Scout Council.  I bet I was the only student to ever walk the halls of Biddeford High School with a green Girl Scout Uniform.   Boys laughed at me. 

“You in front.  Kneel on the grass.  We need to see those behind you.”  Without question, every student in front knelt on the ground.  I felt the grass dampen my knickers.  They lived in the back of my drawer.  Forgotten.  My mother made them along with a matching, but reversible patchwork quilted bolero.

“It’s picture day,” my mother reminded lightly.  “Wear your knickers,” she added.  NO ONE wears knickers, I thought as I pulled the elastic hem down below my knees. As I walked out the door, my mother gave me a peck on the cheek.  “You look nice. Have a good day! And smile!”

The Girl Scout uniform is gone and I’m not sure what happened to my tie dyed outfit, but the fear of being the last one standing remains.  As an adult, shouldn’t I be OVER this?  Sometimes, I think I am just too sensitive.  Then again, who wants to be rejected?  Yesterday on Day One of our workshop, we were directed to pick a partner by the end of Day Two. “We can be partners!” I offered a coworker. 

At the end of the day, my coworker bent down to talk to me as I sat finishing notes on my computer.  “I am going to be partners with Sally.  She knows what she is doing with writing.  You don’t. I need someone with experience.”

What?! I screamed inside.  I swallowed hard. “O.K.” I said.  What was I going to say? Just like those boys, it is clear that she doesn’t know me as a teacher or a writer.  Clearly, she knows not of the decades I have spent sharing my passion of words with my primary students.  She also doesn’t know of the decades that I have worked through my own writing and that I am continuing to experiment with the craft.  She’s never read my blog.  Clearly, she doesn’t know.  The image of the 14 year old, standing alone is all so vivid and it still hurts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How We Roll

After 138 days of life on this planet, one of our girls laid an egg.  It was still warm when Jerry discovered it plopped in front of a nesting box.  That is how our girls roll.  They are an advanced bunch and unconventional too.  My research of Buff Orphingtons indicated that it would be 5.5 months before  they would gift us an egg. Our lucky day.  Now every squawk sends us running to the coop for more.

Running Away


                     “Come.  Come for a few days,” my friend offered.
Silence followed.
                     “I…I don’t know, “ I stammered.  “I’m not sure I can leave.”
            “See you soon,” and my friend added, “I love you.”
            If they don’t blame me; I blame myself. I sat in the sun, closed my eyes and realized I was hidden behind the towering stand of sunflowers in the garden.  I wasn’t there long.  Muffling the sobs I moved to the large field- my arms outstretched, squinting against the sun to watch the set of moving clouds evolving into the curving muscle arm of Cape Cod. This has always calmed and grounded me. My breath slowed, but then my throat tightened. Not working.  Into the house I went.
            “Ma, you know you have been a grouch for the last month.  You know you have.” my 18 year old hissed.
            “That has nothing to do with the fact that your friend is polluting my air waves with bad language in front of your sister.  He’s a guest in my house.” I yelled back, walking out the door that slammed behind me.  I retreated to the porch. Alone

            Maybe I am a grouch.  Everything gets turned around and it is always my fault. I thought.  Suddenly, I felt that I needed to crawl into bed, alone. No one wants to be with me anyway.

            Hours later, Facebook did not prove to be the usual distraction: This planet is inline with that planet so it has been a wonky week.  How are you dealing with the wonky week? 
Is there any relief?  I mouthed softly.
My cell rang and hearing my friend’s voice let loose the tears from the tight spring that had held them back for hours. Her voice beckoned me to come join her for a dose of unconditional love.  Wonkiness embraced.
            Hanging up, I walked resolutely to the bedroom and stuffed a few essentials into a canvas bag and headed for the door. Leaving without a word. Minutes later I was in the car, barreling down the driveway, both wondering what the hell I was doing and at the same time feeling light and free.  Convertible top down, my bangs blew from my face and my vision was clear, but just for a moment.
            I could just drive to camp, I thought.  That’s not exactly running away.  I hope they remember to let the chickens in at night. We're on the last roll of toilet paper in the house.  I hope they figure it out. Supper?  'Bet they will have lobster.  They won’t miss me at all.  The tears flowed.  I drove right passed camp and headed north-manuvering the winding roads through thick forests and mountains-the views familiar, yet breathtaking.  Blinking hard the tears stopped.  I need this.  I need this.
            My friend was sitting on her porch, waiting for me with hearty hugs. I left everything in the car, but agreed to a cool glass of water.  As we sat around her table and talked, the laughter replaced the tears.  Dinner came with stories and more laughter.
            Crawling into bed, it was barely dark and I was alone. Restless, I moved from my back to either side trying to seek comfort. Was this borrowed bed facing the same way that my home bed faced? I wondered if that was why I couldn’t sleep and then I thought of my husband, my dog Rex and the extra emptiness in my bed at home that my absence provided.   Shifting on my left side, I looked out the window and into the expansive star-filled sky.  I am never alone, I thought.  Gratitude at that moment  shifted my heart toward home and all that I had left behind.  I knew that I would return in the morning- for that is where I belong.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Plucked


Crawling into bed,
Pressing the pillow
Against my ears,
Squeezing both eyes shut,
I shut out the world.
Amid the crying,
The screaming,
Accusations,
I hide in
Fear.
Fear that I will lose them
Both
And be alone.
Abandoned.

The feeling
Of Abandonment
Even now,
Worms its’ way
In
Each Cell
Of my body
Tunneling through
My brain,
My heart,
My soul.

I fear being alone
And
Forgotten
Like a sweet raspberry
Plucked
From the vine,
Once the taste
Fades,
Is Forgotten.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tiny Pieces




If I could
Tear away
Tiny Pieces
Of my heart,
I could
Rearrange
And fill in
The emptiness,
And replace them
With
Gratitude,
Joy,
Patience.

If I could
Tear away
Tiny Pieces
Of my heart,
I would.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fear and Trust


         Most days I wake up with urgency, there is so much left to do.  I am not talking housework, but people to be with, places to go, books to read, paint to be splashed upon canvas and important things to say through writing. There is so much to discover.

         As I try to rein in time that seems to move much too fast during these summer weeks, I collect images. Early morning coffee with my husband surrounded by growing color in the garden, fast swims avoiding a face to face after the sighting of  “a snapping turtle with big teeth,” the describer holding her curved arms in front to show the creature’s size- much larger than a basketball hoop.  This makes us swim faster. Lazy afternoons on the porch, everyone reading the warm breeze and carefree hours infuse us with gratitude. Lobster bakes, bumpy boat rides to “our secluded beach” the water warm and rimmed in a curve of pink granite nuggets.

         The hours gifted devoted to writing have been precious.  Sometimes, I wake in fear the urgency gone, wondering if my words are worthy.  I stare at a white monitor, breathing deeply, searching for trust that words will come. Eventually. 

         Living is an act of trust.  All the creative avenues, drawing, painting, capturing life through photographic images, and writing have helped me to loosen my grip over trying to control my life.  If only, I can be open to the gifts.  I do not want to miss a thing.  Creative expression is a spiritual act, one that puts you in touch with the Universe and trust.  Fear and trust cannot coexist.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Retreating



Morning light pierces through
Fog thick
Heavy
With salty air,
Taking time to retreat
Where does fog wonder?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Food for Body and Soul


         Stress has been my shadow for a long time.  I’d like to think that I am of the resilient sort, which sometimes I am, but then again I go through periods in which food is used to comfort me.  Food is associated with large, happy family gatherings where cousins, aunts and uncles gather to tell family stories that bind. I love food.  The remembrance of biting into a ripe peach, the juice dripping down my chin as I lean forward to direct the drip stimulates my taste buds.   Nothing’s better.  Wait, maybe the pairing of vine ripened tomatoes, sliced thickly on a slab of fresh mozzarella, topped with basil leaves, dribbles of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkles of freshly cracked pepper and sea salt. I come from a long line of cooks.  My grandmother would hoist me onto her yellow wooden step stool, me in an oversized apron.   We would take turns stirring the thick chocolate chip cookie dough with a sturdy wooden spoon.  My arm would ache as I stirred and she would steady the ceramic bowl.  My grandmother could have baked without me, but she chose to mentor me, as did my mother. Early baking experiences with my mother always included stories about how her mother taught her the workings of the kitchen.  Cooking has always been a bonding experience. To varying degrees all my children cook and bake.
         
         When I think about the sensory pleasure that food provides, I am transported to times with family or dear friends.  Food is a spiritual experience for me.  It is not only the inclusion of the freshest ingredients, but the intention of the preparation, for it feeds both the body and the soul.  It links me to past generations of cooks and bakers binding us as a family and to a place that I am happiest, in the kitchen. No wonder food is a comfort.





Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cozy Comfort


       


         The rain is heavy this morning slanting slightly from east to west.  It creates a soothing rhythm.  The ground has cracked opening itself in thirst, as it has been dry and unusually hot for weeks now.  The chickens emerge from the coop despite the rain, pecking the ground for the corn I just tossed. The rain is a relief.

         Sheltered beneath the porch, aside from necessary chores in the house, I suspect that I will perch here in cycles of reading, writing and observing.  In this weather long pants, a sweater and socks are required.  As I gaze out toward the garden, the greens are lush; the window boxes line the porch with geraniums, their heads bent toward the rain show an intensified red. The rain gives life and vibrancy and it prompts me to slow down and notice.

         Today is all about cozy comfort.  Everyone needs a day like this to retreat on the porch with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Potentiality



      The grass soaks my bare feet, each blade, heavy with dew.  I carefully make my way to the garden steadying a mug of coffee in each hand.  My eyes search for my husband, who is bent over inspecting green fruit splayed side by side on a vine.  Nestled in one corner of the garden are twin cedar chairs attached by a little table.  Early morning coffee, the sun on our faces, we are swallowed by green foliage, large sunflower leaves broad, approaching the size of umbrellas shade the north of the garden, squash vines with large yellow blossoms meander with no clear direction of growth, just all over the place.  Floral purples, pinks, whites and yellows frame the perimeter of the vegetable garden.

         Sitting still in the garden is a spiritual experience.  Tiny seeds the origin, yet we, the gardeners are just beginning to grasp the potential.  The element of potentiality is true for all living things.  Sitting still and taking in the beauty makes things all so clear.

Investing in Future Generations

                                                                (Photo Courtesy of Angie Oechslie)



         Fifty-five years ago when my in-laws gathered together some of their savings to invest in waterfront property on Donnell’s Pond, I am sure that they had no idea of future generations who would benefit from this decision.  Today I watched the fourth generation swim, splash and paddle only retreating from the pond for a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich-cousins together at camp. If only Grampy could have been there with the littlest on his knee, belly up to the worn formica table on the screened in porch sharing a plate of cheese and crackers or demonstrating his latest strategy during a Yahtzee game.  Then, in the main part of the camp, the oldest cousins each helping Grammy roll out a flaky pie crust to hold the wild blueberries that were picked during the afternoon.  While the pie bakes, taking a meandering walk on the dusty and rolling trails through the blueberry field, Grampy walking stick in hand with kids trailing to where a favorite boulder holds the memories of generations. Fifty-five years ago, if they had only known, they are sure to know now.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Awestruck


         On my way to the chicken coop I noticed the sky light up some distance away.   I stopped and just watched.  At first, I thought that it was heat lightning.  There was not sound, but an eerie stillness. I considered that it might be someone lighting off fireworks as the view was partially obstructed by the tree line.  As I stood and watched in silence, I recognized the beauty, and then I saw bolts of lightning within the flash of light.  After a time, I sat on the porch and observed in wonder, awestruck with the beauty and power that nature provides.  If it had not been for the chickens and their need for tending, I could have missed this magnificent showing.  I was in the right place at the right time and that is always a good thing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Rush



“Does time speed up as you get older?” my 23 year old asked.

“Yep,” I replied hastily, “it does.”

“Scary,” she added.

Some days, I still feel like that little girl wearing Red Ball sneakers, my big toe wearing through the red canvas-my one pair of sneakers and rubber flip flops needing to last the season.  Has time sped up now that I  have the responsibility of so much more than collecting baseball cards, exploring the shaded woods at Shaw’s Hill or learning how to round the gravelly turn at the bottom of the hill on Dearborn Avenue without skinning a knee?

It was not until college that I recognized the present time as the best time.  Yes, I am a collector of past bittersweet memories.  I want my children and grandchildren to know of growing up more than a half century ago.  I want them to know my ‘can’t describe in just one word’ mother and my virtuous father who taught me about strength, truth and hard work.  I want them to know all that and more. 

Lately, I wonder if the time I spend recalling and writing about the past veils the bounties of the present? My brother, the family historian has created mental files, but has not written anything down on paper.  My niece and I have talked about creating a series of videos preserving family history.  There is so much I want to ask my parents and my grandparents, but the opportunity has been lost.  I don’t want to lose this one. As the continual ebb and flow of time rushes passed me,  I realize that it is both the past and the present I wish to preserve through my photography and writing.  The only problem is-time will not slow its’ pace.   It is downright scary.  I best get busy. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lessons From A Cat




Charlie’s motor is robust when I really listen, the purr much like the sound that comes after a tight winding of a rubber band that sends the propeller whirling.  I’d like to say that Charlie rubbing his head across my face nudging me into affection, is distracting, but it isn’t.  It just makes me multi-task.  Type and smile, type and smile. Charlie is just as quickly off the porch, stepping through the cool green grass.  Julie takes his place-her soft fur brushing against my face, her purr so much louder than Charlie’s, in comparison.  A nudge, then she has hopped off the worktable and rubs against my leg.  Sitting closely, her ears twitch, her eyes ever vigilant for a nearby bird.   It is much too hot for birding.  She plops herself down on the porch with a thud and sprawls out, front paws folded at the joint under her chest.  Grateful for life’s choices: to nap rather than go birding on this hot day, grateful for the close human contact or just plain grateful. Clearly, my cats live in the moment and are content.

 Although, I continue to work during the summer on school responsibilities and tutoring, for the most part I can make my own hours.  I can stroll in the garden and discover new cucumbers, just the size of my thumb.  I have the luxury of roaming through the island early, dropping kids off and picking kids up or weary from little sleep, I can nap.  Gratefully, I have choices.  Like my cats, I can live in the moment and be very content under all conditions.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Worth It


Disclaimer:  My purse is slung over my torso making my girth much wider than it is in reality.

Is my reality, really reality?  Much time is spent pondering this notion.  Is how I am viewed in this world congruent with my thoughts about myself?  I think not. 

“I am really shy,” I admitted to a long-time dear friend.  She burst out laughing, not able to hold the hilarity of that statement within. I am really, really shy, I thought.  

When I was a kid, I remember being pretty confident and sure of myself.  Somehow, somewhere along the way, I have lost this.  Sometimes, I stand on shaky ground. I go through periods of confidence and then it vanishes and I have to fight to wooo it back to where it should reside within.

I see other busy mothers working out at the Y.  They make time to exercise, relieve stress and tune-up their bodies.  I can’t seem to sustain a focus on myself month after month, year after year.  There are too many other bodies I am responsible for nurturing and protecting.  I know, I know that is a cop-out.  This self-care thing has been an elusive goal that I grasp for a year or so at a time, but them I flail about over and over like trying to get the wooden ball attached to a string into the cup.  Impatience gets the best of me.

Writing is one way I take care of myself.  The act is purely spiritual.  I bought myself an orchid, a deep fuchsia-colored orchid.  We both need attention on a regular basis-my orchid and me.  My body, mind and soul need to be revered and nurtured.  My incongruent reality, does it really matter?  My current focus:  I am worth the bother.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

All So Real




          As the temperature rises, I head for the porch protected under a canopy of leaves created by an ash tree we planted years ago.  Honestly, I can’t complain a warm breeze brushes against my bare arms and across the back of my neck.  Warm, but somehow cooling as well.  This is the perfect place to write.   My mother loved to be surrounded by greenery and bird song.  Right here, I have both.  In the distance, a dog barks, in rhythmic yaps sounding so much like my husband’s iphone that it prompts me to search each corner, under cushions and beside his beloved tower of library books.  No phone.  It must be a dog.  Chuckling, I recall times I have been initially duped by imposters-fake flowers presenting as real, a pelican statue on the Florida gulf and plastic wood.  It is all in the touch, the eye, the ear (in the case of the phone), that at first, I cannot always decipher authentic from fake reproductions. 

         When I am surrounded by real, my heart quickens and I feel the blood course through my veins.  Pausing, I note this particular moment birds singing some near, some far, yet positioned to create a symphony of sound from all directions.  Rushing out of my daughter’s elementary school, delicate white petals catch my eye along the stair railing.  I bend low to get an eye-level view of the white roses. With each moment that passes, I reposition myself to get an alternate view of the bush, laden heavy with bud.  It’s all so real.

         It is with each morning upon rising, I commune with the living.  Pails weigh on either side as I trudge out to the coop, to greet my hens.  This routine grounds me and awakens me, opens me to the possibilities of this world.  Slowing down and noticing the details of the living fills me with gratitude.  Those details are spiritual and there can be no substitutions.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Erroneous Thinking: (Re)purposeful Living




Despite our nearly thirty-three years of marriage, my husband and I are not good for each other.  We don’t throw anything away.  I tend to re-purpose, but while waiting for functional re-purposing, the stuff has to go someplace.  That someplace is not good.  I do not open the cellar door.  Just imagining the piles of “we might use this someday” stuff, my breathing quickens and my body is stiff unable to move.

On optimistic days I ponder, If I sort through one box a day, by the year 2014 I will be nearly done, I think quietly enough so no one will hear me.  If someone hears me, then I will be committed.

This morning my husband retrieved a big floppy hat to protect me from the sun’s rays.  I vaguely remember owning the hat, yet I do not remember where I got it, a sure sign that I own too much. 

I dream of an empty room, just my own with a few pieces of art for color and pleasure, a  winged-back chair, a cot, a bookshelf lined with my favorites, and an easel with some art supplies neatly tucked away.  Stark, for the most part.  That is only a dream.

Now that brings me to the photo of the teacups.  I visited a sweet little Antique shop in Franklin near camp with my daughter.  The garden displayed the teacups, chipped but repurposed.  I don’t have any teacups.  Perhaps I will have to get some.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Uniting in the Familiar


         Periodically the dog wades into the shallows, mouthing sips of pond water. It is hot, must be in the 90’s. Today is the first day that I swam back and forth to the second buoy approximately one mile.  Cutting through the water flows that flushed warm and cold, I stroke my way toward the marker.  With face in the water, the escape of air bubbles propels me forward, then my head turns to the side and I gulp in one big breath of air.  The same synchronized movements I learned so well years ago during swimming lessons,  I reach with a long right arm, hand cupping water, slowly releasing bubbles, left elbow out of water, turning my head for air. The cool water supports my body as I slip through toward my destination. The rhythm is familiar.   This motion unites my mind, spirit and body as I slice through the water surrounded by wild beauty.  This is just what I need.  There is magic in Donnell’s Pond.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Topsy Turvy


When I was a kid, I would sprawl out on the long, scratchy couch in the living room and instead of dusting, I viewed the world from upside down.  An undetermined amount of time would be spent this way my upper torso bent, my head almost touching the floor, everything topsy-turvy. The same chair or for that matter the same face I had intimately known was unrecognizable with a simple tip of the head.  Yesterday as I lay under the shade of a maple, I watched people walk with my head tipped.  Interestingly, from this perspective movement was halted, jerky not at all fluid when viewed upright. 

Life is complex and can be viewed from various perspectives.  Things are not always as they seem.  I would like to think that I am flexible and open, viewing arguments and decisions from various points.  Yet sometimes, I know I am guilty of rigid thinking.  I have lost that childlike curiosity carefully dissecting the world from varying degrees of experience and vision.  If only I could trust the Universe, just a little more.  My rigid thinking would be gone and I may move about this world with a little less fear.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Shadow



Honestly, I thought that I would
Excel as always,
Not burden anyone
With
My Grief.
Get over it,
Be done.
I was wrong.

Sneakily
It creeps
Behind me
Surprised,
I look over my right shoulder,
I begin to run,
Hiding behind
My smile,
My laughter
And books,
Piled high,
Peering out tentatively,
I retrace my path.
Expecting to be alone
Yet grief follows,
Always there.
Grief.
A shadow marking my
Path.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Sea of Writing and Waves of Reading

Author's Note:  Although this photo (taken a few years ago) portrays beauty in the fury of the sea, during a hurricane, it is VERY dangerous.  Several people were dragged out into the ocean. And as I recall, someone drowned.

I am home and very happy about it.  Although exhausted from my adventures playing college student living in a dorm, I would do it again and again.  There is something about engaging in passionate conversations about general education, writing and reading with professionals who are fervently studying their craft and exercising reflection on a regular basis.  I come alive when I step on campus, thriving in a sea of writing and waves of reading.  I just can't get enough of any of it.  I am home and very happy about it, but I am going through UMO/Maine Writing Project Institute withdrawal.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Home

I think of home and how the wind from the sea forces a cascade of waves along the stretch of the field. How the chickens who are just shy of laying age can let out a squawk and send me running toward them on their behalf.  When I get close, I slow my pace preparing myself for what I might see-blood and feathers.  Instead I see a congregation of hens cackling together in a way that sounds like they are all taking turns laughing in response to a good joke.  I miss all those things and more.  I miss watching my youngest sleep, long limbs every which way sprawled helter skelter across her bed.  Her little red dog, sleeping on his back belly up pressing  against her.  I miss how Rex snuggles between Jerry and I each morning needing some persuading, usually reluctant, yet free with the kisses and love.  I miss watching my husband read.  The house quiet.  I just stare.  What would I do without these simple pleasures? I know, I would miss home.