Thursday, August 29, 2013

Time



Summer stretched before me, expansive like the open field near my house.  The same place I would find little patches of wild strawberries early in the season, kneel before the ruby jewels, grasp each fruit and with a gentle pinch pop them into my mouth one by one.  The pads of my pointer and thumb would blush for days and smell of strawberries. 

Later in the summer, I would return and search for huckleberries and blueberries on the slant of the hill.  They were not plentiful and despite my best efforts, I would barely capture enough fruit to add to a muffin batter for the morning’s breakfast, but I didn’t care for summer was slow and there was always tomorrow.

Time is relative.  When I was young, time crawled at a snail’s pace.  Now, it is often a blur, however I can manipulate my perception of time by noting details and taking moments to recognize shape, shadow and hue of my surroundings slowing the pace. Mindfully, gratitude swells within me.  Those moments of contentment appear eternal.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Beginning



‘Not quite sure what I am going to do when I grow up. My daughter’s response, “You are grown up.  You’re OLD.”  The problem is I don't want to be old.  I want to be young and spunky, yet I can now order from the Senior Menu (lighter portions for my sedentary ways) and some of my other friends still get carded.  Looking in the mirror, I see young and vibrant, while I find wiry blond hair (I am sure of it) springing from my temples and new lines that were not there yesterday.  I’m not ready to be old and to measure life by how much time remains.  I must admit though, that there is a new urgency since I have been writing daily.  There are new places on this earth to discover, stacks of books to read, and miles to paddle, walk and climb.  A new curiosity has risen within me, giving me a life that is just beginning.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"A Woman's Place"



We live in a culture of unspoken rules.  There is a set of expectations that define a woman and  a mother.  Cultural standards may contribute to order and the wellbeing of society, but the rules are often confusing and limiting.  I was talking to a friend who admitted to struggling emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially.  Ordinarily, a very private person, earlier in the day she opened up to a mutual friend who from our perspective is “well put together” and executes life with ease.  Outward appearances do not tell the inner truth.  Why do women seem so hesitant to unite and support each other in common struggles?   The rules are clear, but do not ultimately serve a purpose.  For instance, women are to think of others at all times and take care of themselves last. Driven by guilt, for years I put myself last.  It didn't work and resulted in extra stress, extra weight and a few more medical bills.  Taking care of myself does not come naturally, I have to work at it, yet it gives me the positive energy to ultimately fulfill my responsibilities of caring for others in my roles as mother and teacher. One day self care will be legitimized and society will celebrate the efforts of ordinary women. It will become the expectation of womanhood, as natural as the pull of the tides.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Thrilled

It is difficult to express how thrilled I am to have a piece of my writing featured in BOOMERCAFE which is an online magazine for Baby Boomers.  It was upon the gentle coaxing from my friend Phyllis Edgerly Ring, a fellow writer that I submitted 'Yellow Flowers Blooming' a remembrance of my mother.  I had never heard of Boomercafe and have since decided to subscribe to the free publication which offers an array of topics of special interest to Baby Boomers.  (Yes, I am THAT old.)  Well, I hope you read this piece if you haven't already.  Remember feedback is most helpful, if you find the time to comment.  A big, big thank you to all my faithful readers.

http://www.boomercafe.com/2013/08/26/the-passing-of-a-parent-is-one-of-those-life-events-many-boomers-share/

Taming

Construction delays are commonplace in these parts sometimes causing delays of an hour or more.  As I passed the 'Caution Construction Ahead' sign today on the Crooked Road, an audible sigh escaped, I tightened my grip on the wheel in preparation for what may become a long, long line of built-up traffic.  What I did find as I inched my way toward the dual stop and slow sign was a playful flagger.  Passing slowly, I yelled out the open window, "Nice moustache!" I smiled.  My son chuckled, "I was thinkin' the same thing." A little unexpected lightness to what must be a trying job at times, taming the tigress behind the wheel.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Adrift


The boat is adrift,
While I wait
Ashore,
Pondering a save,
Plunging into
The dark,
The deep.

I fear
You
May not
Recognize
I just want to
Help.
I love
You.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kindness and a Grateful Heart



                                     Photo compliments of my niece Erin Scott Mokler

From inside the house I heard a voice I thought was my daughter’s boyfriend.  Overhearing the word motorcycle in the short conversation, I was certain that Aaron had dropped by alone as Elizabeth was working this morning. Being right in the middle of some chore and not being able to contribute intelligently to a conversation about motorcycles, I figured I would complete my task before rushing out to say hello.

Suddenly a beckoning, “Barbara, come here…Barbara.”   Stepping out onto the deck, I craned my head in the direction of my husband’s voice.  I noted that Jerry and our friend Stanley were standing in the middle of our dirt driveway both looking down at something.  Suddenly, I stopped.  Fear had gripped me as I thought that perhaps one of our cats had met a final fate with a car. I couldn’t move.

“No, I said come here!” my husband’s voice was strikingly more assertive.   I crept down one step and stopped again.

“I’m coming.” I croaked.

“No hurry.” Stanley added.

And then I saw her.  Sitting in the middle of the driveway-her legs drawn close to her body with her chin resting on her chest.  She ran her feet across the gravel and suddenly her legs were outstretched, then drawn in again, seemingly restless trying to seek comfort. 

“I have to lay down,” she said.   Accident was all I heard.  No visible blood.  Her body was moving, no moaning.  I rushed to get a patio cushion while my husband stayed with her.  She seemed disoriented and was ghostly white. Hospital I mouthed to my husband.  He shook his head, “She doesn’t want to go.”

“Let’s go,” I opened the car door motioning for everyone to pile in.  What was I thinking?   There was no way she was ready to move on her own.  She began to protest. Somehow I knew I wouldn’t win that battle.

“Did you hit your head?” Please Lord, I prayed, say no.  “Did you break anything?”

“Just scraped up.  Give me some time. I’ll be OK,” she said with certainty.

My husband held her hands in his and remarked, “Oh, you are so cold.  So cold.” High anxiety returned.  I coaxed a bit more, to no avail. 

She lay on the patio cushion in the middle of our dusty driveway while I prayed that she would be all right.

Later, as we soaked her wounds and I patted them ever so gently.  
Once it was over and she decided that she could go to work, I thought of the stranger  scooping my beloved daughter into his truck and bringing her home to me.  I am grateful for the happy ending, but I am also grateful for this kindness.    I wish I could thank him in person for she is dearly beloved.




Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Routine


One thing I am going to miss about the summer is our early morning routine.  Shuffling through the grass wet with dew, coffee cup balanced, we make our way to the corner of the garden.  We sit, listen and observe.  Starlings, sparrows and woodpeckers squawk and assert their territorial rights from our once majestic maples in the front yard.  Hummingbirds thrumb their wings darting close, sipping sweet nectar from the blooms rimming the vegetable garden.  The conditions are perfect for prayer and gratitude.  We sit some more and continue the gentle awakening as we slowly sip and savor our coffee.  We may talk about our plans for the day or what is happening with our kids. 

I try to sort out the elements of what makes these moments ones I do not want to forget.  I am alone with my husband of nearly thirty-three years surrounded by the miracle that takes place in our garden as it changes from day to day.  It is truly a spiritual place, a blessed place. Starting our day in gratitude and prayer in this setting makes for better days.  All these elements combine to make this daily thirty-minute period memorable.  Somehow, we need to replicate it in February.  That might take some doing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Losing



Fear shakes me from
Slumber,
Losing you
Fresh,
The heartache lingers.

It was just a dream,
But so vivid,
Real.
I wake with a
Thirsty heart,
Every moment
Precious.

Don’t leave me.
I love you.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

seeking the new normal


Sabotage is a good word for what I often engage.  Why I do it, I may never know.  Perhaps it is not  as important to seek the origin of my multitude of bad choices, as it is to continue to develop healthier goals and stick to them. 

As I slid into the dentist chair this morning, I felt small and vulnerable like that third grader who despite her mother’s coaxing did not brush her teeth as often as she should.  The suggested regime is clear.  I do brush everyday.  I floss when I think of it and if the rinse is handy, I might swish.  I am a self-described multitasking procrastinator who is perpetually in a rush otherwise known as a working mother.

Is it the mothering and working part or is it something that is inherently deficient in my character?  Through the decades I have lost hundreds of pounds, only to gain and lose and gain and lose.  Historically, fall is the season that I begin to focus on my health.  I begin to walk again, make better eating choices and ease into a routine.  Does the structure of school help me to function through all the stress that life flings my way?  The analysis does not contribute to a change in behavior, but delays the actions that inch toward lasting change. 

I have been reading a lot about grit and how it is an important ingredient in success for any individual.  Today I stumbled upon my health file.  Among my written goals of a little more than a year ago was to participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday.  Nothing got in the way of reaching my daily goal.  I visited the local YMCA and announced the goal to my family and the physical trainer. They encouraged me through the lows.  Over time, I began making healthier eating choices and benefitted from increased energy.  My journey to health required grit, more than merely persistence, yet is also meant that I needed to be patient and kind to myself.  Somewhere along the way, I dropped all of it.

The realization has come to me slowly.   I no longer wish to live my days  consumed by bowls of ice cream and chocolate bar wrappers.   It works for me as well as trying to drift off to sleep with a rock as my pillow.  Try as I might, it just doesn't work.   I must seek a new normal that serves my body and soul. I must do it because of self-love.  For me, that is the hardest part.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hours in the Life...


4:30 a.m.  Calming fears as my little one’s temperature rises.
4:50 a.m.  Email drafted canceling today’s plans.
5:48 a.m.  Hot water on for coffee (French press-the best!)
5:52 a.m.  Balancing old grapes, leftover chard, oats, and corn for the girls, the hens.
6:00 a.m.  Driving a big screw through a cabbage to hang for the girls.
                   (Trying not to harm myself.)
6:15 a.m.  Coffee in hand-to the garden with my big love.
6:17 a.m.  Gentle awakening with prayers, surrounded by blooms.
6:30 a.m.  Sighing deeply, filled with gratitude.

And so begins my day Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Embracing the Time



There is a different slant of light.  The kettle whistles nearby as my husband and I discuss the weather.  Despite the cool air, this morning, in protest I wear a tank top. My arms exposed and chilled.  As we sit out in the garden swallowed by pink, yellow, and purple evidence of summer, uneasiness settles within.  My mind wanders to the near future. Some plants have withered and will soon transform to varying shades of brown with the entire plot following.  Natural process.   It is always the same these last few weeks in August, yet I get the same feeling in my gut.  I just don’t like it.   Once fall fully emerges, I actually embrace the colors, the crisp air, the cozy layering and all that goes with it.  With this straddling of summer and fall-I must accept and find the beauty in this divine cycle.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Save the WEED!


If I could manage it, I would have a field of “weeds.” According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “a weed is a plant that is not valued where it is growing. “ Through more than a half-century of living, a good deal of my time has been devoted to contemplating the perplexing station of Queen Anne’s Lace, which is considered a weed.  How do you measure value of a plant? This blossom cannot be eaten, it doesn’t have a pleasing scent, and it heartily grows wild, yet in my opinion its’ beauty outweighs all the things that it is not. It is symmetrical.  Each head is comprised of a multitude of small clusters of individual blossoms seemingly suspended and further a satellite of tiny blooms.   From an engineering standpoint, this plant must be the subject of study for delicate, yet functional construction.  Forget the ‘field of dreams’.  I just want a field of these lacy blooms.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

So Much Depends Upon



So much depends upon
The warp of a wooden door,
And fat, little chickens
Who morph
Into
Escape artists,
Skinny ones,
Who will
Never
Return
Home.

(This poem is inspired by William Carlos Williams' Red Wheelbarrow)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gifts

Gifts


As all the hens approach adulthood, their personalities have changed.  This transition coincides with my recent weeklong departure. Could it be that they just missed me and are happy to see me or is this truly some expected hormonal personality re-ordering due to egg production?  I have personal experience with hormonal fluctuations and it isn’t pretty, so I prefer the initial explanation: my hens love me and just plain missed me. 

Prior to my trip, the girls paid no particular attention to my presence, except when I gave them food.  Just before I vacationed, they were introduced to a daily serving of old bread and oats rather then their simple ration of cracked corn, laying mash and veggie scraps.  As an additional treat we drilled a hole in a cabbage and suspended it on a clothesline rope, so they could peck away at it.  I read that it relieves boredom. Upon my return, my voice signals them to congregate close to the gate and cluck loudly making entry impossible.  I carefully time my entrance, slowly opening the door, squeezing through an opening not wide enough for passage over the dirt threshold.  Eventually, I risk their escape and push through a wider berth.   Walking through the yard, I am surrounded by squawking chickens quickly closing in on me, no longer soothed solely by my sweet talk.  They cannot possibly be hungry, but then again, I begin to argue with myself, they are growing and maturing chickens. Maybe they eat like our teenagers.  So I proceed to get more grain or bread to suffice. This does not change their behavior.  They continue in their crazy, obsessive ways.  As I am standing motionless, observing their nesting instinct hoping to observe the actual laying or dropping of an egg, I feel a tap on my turquoise ring.  While my arm was by my side, a hen hopped up and pecked the interesting blue stone with the gold colored veins.  That’s not food.” I respond in alarm.  You can’t possibly be hungry, but then again I begin to argue with myself, this egg laying business is hard work.  My girls have me just where they want me to be, in the center of their yard tossing bread, corn, oats and hanging crispy tight heads of organic cabbage.  Well trained am I, but I must thank someone for the three fresh eggs I got today.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Unexpected Journey


Insulated by love and dreams as a child, I envisioned a pretty easy life with a weed-less garden and a self-cleaning house.  Being the perfect wife and mother, life of course would be care-free and perpetually happy.  Growing up, I clung onto my fairy tale endings.  Reality bites.  There have been many ups and downs. I have had to rely on many people to support me through this often times overwhelming journey.   These challenges and struggles have forced me to focus on my spiritual self and continually search what is the truth for me.  Selfishly, I wish this spiritual journey would be effortless as well.  This is not so.  It is hard work and takes concerted effort and self-reflection to not stray.  No I am not a perfect being.  Life has not dealt me a straight path, but one with sharp corners and unexpected turns.  Survival depends upon the connections I make as I realize that I really cannot go it alone and no, it won't be perfect.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Goodbye, For Now

                                                                         Photo taken by Sean Mokler
"I think too much and feel too much," I related to a friend today as we sat  on the East Promenade beach.  Hours earlier, I had said goodbye to my niece.  Frankly, I hate goodbyes.  I attended Erin's birth.  Having taken hundreds of photos of the newborn and showing them off to family and friends after she was born, it is no wonder that people did not confuse me as her mother.  We have always been close. I love being an auntie.  She is all grown up, married to a great guy and living in a beautiful house with two sweet pups.  We are both teachers, but our common passions go beyond education.  We love art, writing, walking, playing games and we have an intense love for the same people.  A major problem is we live seven hours away, so we hardly ever see each other.  Our annual visit is the chance to continue to make memories and remember how very lucky we are to be family. Goodbye for now, until next year Erin.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In a Funk

Maybe this should say:  i try to write.


I am in a funk as a writer.  Meditation hasn’t helped to unearth anything worthy and certainly nothing notable.  Breathing slowly and deeply, repeating the mantra, Trust the process.  Something will come, simply shakes my internal editor from a long sleep, rousing her to action. Out comes just a lot of blah-blah, blah-blah, and more blah-blah-at least that is my perspective.

Sitting at my father’s knee, as he rustled the Biddeford Journal each afternoon from his well-used armchair, the coffee table would often be scattered with hand written notes from my mother and from my father.   I would sit for hours and try to emulate cursive. The slant, the large loops and curves would often elude me.  The newspaper would fold on his lap and my father would patiently model each letter.  Over and over I would practice. He would offer critiques of my form and precision and often model over and over for me.  Perfection was what I was after.  Often, it was frustration that I found.

When I was much younger, even before I entered school, I remember writing in a wave of loops. Proudly, I would read my writing as though performing before a large crowd- I would read the message to my father.  There was a sense of discovery and accomplishment and we both celebrated the approximation, my father clapping loudly.   Just what happened to dampen my curiosity and playful nature, I do not know.  As an adult writer, I must prepare myself for play and practice.  This does not come naturally and I am continuing to explore what works for me.  Some days, meditation works.  Other days, I go for a walk, paint or simply go about my day with the faith that something will well up from within.   Sometimes, I think I try too hard and it is like attempting to force a sausage through a keyhole, it just doesn’t work and the flames of anxiety and frustration burn brightly scorching my creativity.

For weeks, now I have wanted to offer a public apology, but I guess if you read other blogs, you have come to know that some posts are of better quality than others.  It’s a given.   Interestingly, I suspect that this reminder is more for me than for my readers.  Meanwhile, I will continue to cultivate a sense of discovery and curiosity toward my daily practice of writing and celebrate successive waves of loops, while we all cheer the approximations.   It sounds like it is so easy, yet it is one of the hardest things for me to do.


  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Imagine


Imagine a world,
Songs of love and peace
A perpetual loop,
In
Our
Heads.
Some would think
It
Propaganda,
Others
Revolutionary.

Let’s try.
We have
Nothing
To Lose.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Borrowing Birds

One Good Reason Birds Stay Clear


Despite the threat of two resident felines, the birds abundantly surround my niece’s yard.  The tree just outside the second story window is lush with shiny green leaves and little sparrows that flit from branch to branch waiting for their turn at the nearby feeders.  The cats in my house outnumber the birds that have visited our birdfeeder outside our bedroom window.  Every few years, the feeder returns to the spot or we try a different location, expecting different results, but the birds remain high in the tree tops far away from the house.   Joyfully, I hear evidence of their presence a distance away.

When I was about eleven years old, and my sister was an infant, my mother began studying birds.  The double-sided bird feeder hung just outside the window and nearby, inside the house were binoculars and a Peterson’s Guide to Birds in the Northeast and a small black binder with journal pages where my mother recorded bird sightings.  She made a few visits to the Scarborough Marsh with Audubon members noting encounters with the Great Blue Heron and the Snowy Egret. 

Prior to my mother’s interest in birds, I was able to identify a blue jay and a robin.  Under her tutelage, I began my careful observation, noting various shaped beaks, markings and sizes of birds.  The most elementary knowledge of the difference between males and females had previously eluded my need to know.  My mother’s enthusiasm and persistence to learn more about birds and pass this knowledge to me helped to cultivate my interest in nature, and now that I think,  this was the beginning of my interest in quietly observing and noting what I see.  

Somehow, I wish that my kitties and the wild birds would be able to co-exist. Right now, I will enjoy their song and make visits to other people’s houses (borrowing birds), where the cats can inhibit their true nature or the birds can fiercely overcome their fear of felines. 




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Art or Fine Art


My Chicken Art-Winter 2013


“Just what is the difference between fine art and art, dear?” a wife asks her husband.
He replies, “The only difference between fine art and art is the price.” As I walked from tent to tent witnessing the talent of artist after artist at the Mystic Arts Festival today, I approached each with a barometer of whether I thought that I was capable of creating similar offerings.  Truthfully, I think I overestimate myself as an artist.

I have always aspired to be an artist.  In 4th grade, I paid a quarter a week to take art lessons with Sister Mary Peter.  In 6th grade, Sister Mary Christina’s class practiced a precise replica of lines and exact measures under her direction. Perfectionism and impatience with myself continued through high school and college killing any creativity that may have bloomed. I was never satisfied.

Working through creative inhibitions is not an easy task.  Despite my desire to impart a growth mindset and continue to develop as an artist, the struggle continues. As a writer, I have slowly come to understand that with the few decent pieces of writing comes a slew of really bad writing.  So it is with art, as well. 

Recognizing my creative self and approaching my practice with patience and playful discovery will help that young 9 year old live her dream.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dancing With My Brother



We play the dance,
My brother and me,
Clumsily,
He links elbows with independence,
While I watch,
Wanting to help,
Offering.

He stumbles
Through
The asphalt parking lot
Then silently,
He reaches
For my hand,
The hand
He refused
Moments
Ago,
And he never
Lets go.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Labor

Former Mill in Biddeford


At 11 years of age,  Caroline McCarthy began working in the Biddeford Textile Mill.
(Caroline McCarthy Scott was my dear grandmother.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Surrounded By Happy


         

When we enter a store together, my husband and I, we often divide and conquer.  Other times, we push through the automatic doors, intending to shop as a pair, yet we find ourselves shopping alone or spending time roaming the aisles looking for each other.  I have found though, that if I stand still in the middle of the merchandise and listen, I can easily find my husband.  Rolling the cart in the direction of the whistle, will locate my happy husband.  For the most part, I am surrounded by happy, optimistic souls.  This morning our friend Stanley was singing a tune, while stacking wood.  Moments ago, he was cooing with my girls looking for eggs. Even with immense challenges in the house, there remains much laughter and gratitude.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Morning Walk

Compass Harbor Path


Stairs Descending George B. Dorr's Estate-The Father of Acadia

Sitting on the stoop of the Chinese Restaurant,
My daughter waits, reading.
It’s early.
We’ve made plans to walk.
Leafy ferns, still green,
Line the wide path
Toward ruins of a past life,
On the crumbling patio
I stand, pause and imagine
A grand life, hours filled with fancy cocktails,
Sipped by ladies donning feathered hats,
Tipped just so on their heads,
Their gentlemen near.
Or
The man of the house,
A recluse
Enchanted by the changing tides,
Wearing a path to the sea.

Descending the granite steps,
The path ahead
Mottled with
Light forced through the forest canopy,
We are guided toward the sea.
Never do we consider that we may not return,
The salt air courses through our veins as we ponder
The past and the present,
We return,
For we are enchanted by the changing tides.
The path to the sea is worn and has been traveled
By many.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Transitions


The transition abrupt,
We’ve barely had a chance,
To dance under the
Twinkling dome of
August nights,
When puffy
Down,
Blankets
Our sleep.

By day,
I seek summer,
Not wanting to
Forget,
The weight of tomatoes,
Smooth,
Warm.
Anticipating the first bloom,
Petals illumined
In early light.
The earth
Musky,
Air heavy
After rain.
I seek summer
Not wanting to
Forget.