Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Slow Down

Slow down.
What everyone else is doing
When seeking

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Fear holds me.
Anxiety binds my spirit
Limiting my vision 
Of what lies ahead. 
I can only see as far as I can see,
And then
I must trust,
Simply trust.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Up, Out and Move

I need to forget where I take shelter being a little too comfortable in my reclining chair day after day upon returning home from work.  Here I read, socialize and most sadly this is where I eat.  Thinking about how to improve my health are first steps, written plans and action being the next phase.

There is a restlessness I feel. Uncertain whether it is the change of season or the fact that this time of year always seems to unearth projects like knitting, freshening up the interior of the house or tackling stacks of books or writing that novel.  I become a tad anxious and overwhelmed, but immersion in nature, I believe will stimulate self-truth, upright the ship for a voyage to face whatever lies ahead in this journey.

Innately, I feel like running out into the wilderness of my backyard,  touching every living surface  particularly noting the sights, smells and feeling of nature.  I wish to see the light of the sun through the paper thin bark of a white birch, the loose end unwrapped and flapping softly to mark a passing breeze.  I wish to feel the cold under my bare feet as I race on a whim to the garden where the towering sunflower skeletons, hollowed and lifeless stand ready to catch the snow with petals shriveled and the color of creamy coffee.  This is not the way one writer should experience life-sedentary from the arm of a chair, living life vicariously.   I need to get up, out and move.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Ordinary

We walked everywhere and when we were not able to make the journey on foot, we would hop on public transportation.  Later, when I was older, I rode my bike miles and miles to a friend's house in Saco or a longer distance to Fortune's Rocks near Biddeford Pool.  It took me so long to ride my three speed up and down the hills to the beach that I was not able to stay, but for a quick bare-footed walk on the sand, until I had to turn around and head home before it got dark.

When I visit home, I  feel much like I did during those early journeys on my bike.  It takes so long to get home, I  am never able to linger, explore all the crooks and crannies to recall details of my past life in Biddeford.  Not having lived there in over three decades now, the changes make it hard to remember.  The big historic tree in front of my grandmother's apartment was cut down.  The changes are not all bad, many once empty store fronts have new life now as restaurants have opened and my beloved city is being revitalized as a center for the arts.

When I was little, I would most often walk throughout the city with my grandmother Caroline.  We would visit Butler's where extra attention was given to my grandmother's carefully wrapped in lamb skin feet.  The shoe attendant would take great care in helping my grandmother get the  perfect shoes with the most comfortable fit.  I would walk up and down the sweeping staircase of this small department store slipping my hand down the shiny wooden banister my heels clicking on the large tiles as I landed at the bottom of the stairs.  Once the shoes were purchased, my Grandmother would take me to Woolworth's a door or two down from Butler's for a whirl in the soda fountain stools while I waited for a sundae or a colossal banana split. The price was set in accordance with the small tag found inside the balloon of my choosing that hung like a bunch of bananas above our heads on each stainless steel column that lined the counter area.  The draw of the colorful array of round balloons must have sold a number of banana splits each day, for while my Gram and I sat there we heard the pop of many a balloon the only way to pay for your split.

With a full belly, the walk home seemed long. Sometimes we would stop at a shop near the Thatcher Hotel where they just sold undergarments.  My grandmother would pull a dark green curtain aside while a woman with a short, graying hair and a tape measure dangling from her neck would follow my grandmother.  I would wait patiently until they both emerged.  Everyone would talk in undertones, a parcel was quickly put into a brown paper bag and we would head for home.  After a morning of running errands, my grandmother would arrange her bed for an afternoon nap.  The coverlet folded down at the foot of the bed and then removed so it would not be dirty or wrinkled.  I don't actually recall napping, but we would snuggle in her bed and she would listen to my hours spent with Sister Mary Natalie my first grade teacher at St. Mary's School and she would tell me of the two weeks she spent with my aunt as they traversed this great country with two little kids in the backseat.  It sounds like an adventure, one that my grandmother cherished.

As I age, it is the moments spent  growing up in a bustling little city in southern Maine where running ordinary day to day errands with my grandmother, buying shoes and spinning in a soda fountain chair are what I cherish.  It is the slowing down and the taking time that help to forge the memories.  I went cross country in a big old jet plane, but I don't remember much.  Pardon the cliche:  There's no place like home.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trusting the Silence

This poem is in response to my inability in remembering detail.  I have forgotten the sound of my mother's voice, moments when my dying friend admitted to fear and the number of steps to my grandmother's apartment.   I want to so desperately to remember everything, and as I  frantically try to recall, I remember nothing.   I must trust the silence.

Hues of color bleed through the darkness,
When not long ago,
Pricks of light shone,
Through black, nothingness.

Fresh memories empty into
Silence reveals the
Existence of
Bird song.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

pandemonium in my mind

News has gotten me on edge.  Last night someone posted on Facebook that healthy dogs have been suddenly dying from a strange virus.  Instead of reading it and critically determining the viability of this post or calling the vet for an official confirmation or denial of the article, I ignored it- at least until Rex sneezed on me during the night and woke me up each time.  I think it is called pandemonium in my mind or maybe just plain anxiety.   It was just a week ago that our Rex was rushed to the vet.  He was on a bland diet and  is on the tail end of antibiotic, yet he has developed new symptoms: repeatedly sneezing.  Unlike last week's illness, at least Rex is exercising his tail, wanting to cuddle and has not forgotten the bad habit of begging.  Hopefully, all is right with our world and that article was a hoax.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Discipline and Moderation

At one point in my life, I prayed, meditated and did yoga everyday. Recently, I have given renewed attention to my spirituality and I honestly crave meditation. yoga and long walks in the woods which I find to be meditative.  When I review how I have spent my time each day, I am embarrassed. 

I must  evaluate the quality and need for the activities that eat up my time.  Prayer, work, eating (all necessary), writing, reading and photography (also necessary) and then there's social networking.  Do I have the discipline it takes to moderate this activity?  I have made those promises to myself before, only to be sucked into the vortex emerging hours later with little accomplished.  We got rid of cable TV because it did not contribute to my well-being or the well-being of my family.  For the most part, I have  replaced the nearly mindless chatter of the tube for the highly dysfunctional world of Facebook where dirty laundry is aired, people bash one another with no remorse and proper grammar is entirely ignored.  Why, oh why do I not have better regard for how I spend my time? It is all about discipline, isn't it? Moderation in all things.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Smiling Lessons 102

I have all I can do to contain my laughter.  My 13 year old caught a glimpse of the above self-portrait (Day 15) and without prompting demonstrated various techniques to enhance my photo with a smile.  "Look Ma, do it like this," she said demonstrating the preferred smile while explaining the "how not to smile" techniques.  Apparently one should never smile with  the teeth  together nor should  the top teeth ever overlap the bottom, which is my usual strategy.  I guess I've got it all wrong. The following photo is post smiling lessons.  I have my daughter Eddaejia to thank for today's selfie!
My mother must be so very happy. See the post about my mother's failed attempts at smiling lessons here:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Through the Brambles


Lately, I have been thinking about how I handle stress, disappointment and life's surprises-of which I have had many.  Grit?  It is always a question as to how much I have.  It seems that I have more when I have accessed my resources and supports than when my reserves for "curve balls" has been depleted by lack of self-attention.  It has long been my contention that not only do the daily habits of a spiritual being like praying, meditating and engaging in kindnesses support each soul, but for me, creative pursuits contribute greatly to my well-being.  That is why I write.  It sounds corny, but it feeds my soul.

Writing for the purpose of posting to my blog has become a habit.  The hard part is working on other writing projects that require long term effort, persistence and facing the fact that I don't always know what I am doing as I tread on new territory.  My motivation for my current project is to honor a strong woman who became my dear friend, an unlikely pairing. Part of what thwarts me is the fear that my words will not do her justice.  Part of my fear is that my memory of her remains unclear, foggy. When I think of this project there is a mix of excitement, apprehension and pure fear.  It is easier to think plenty about this project than to plunge ahead and give it a go.  I am hopeful that with all my supports at the ready and by creating a plan for persistent effort, I will find my way through the brambles.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Nature of Things

This morning, every flat surface in the house seemed to have a teenage boy snuggled under a blanket.  What a wondrous way to wake, so we set about to make them all feel at home.  Pounds and pounds of bacon sizzled in the pan sending a lingering wake-up smell in the house and a waffle recipe that multiplied by five times for all these extra mouths, plus the adult children and significant others who normally join us each Sunday.  The house was filled with food and people.

It was cold and drizzly and some folks in the state woke to snow.  My trusty Sue-Baru would get us to Bangor (running some errands) and then to the Augusta area to visit with my dear aunt.  This trip was long over-do and I was able to catch up on the welfare of all my cousins who have been lost in the decades of adulthood.  Photos along with my aunt's commentary provided me with a glimpse of their lives with children and grandchildren since my younger wild days of chasing my boy cousins for hugs and kisses.

Later in the afternoon, as I sat on a bench in the middle of a large square room (facing what I thought at first was a self-portrait taken with a camera), I was in awe that this piece of art that was two stories tall was in fact a tapestry.  My daughter, who is an artist told me that this particular artist is confined to a wheelchair and has designed a lift to hoist himself up to meet eye to eye with the line he is working on.  Such tedious work. It puts a ridiculous touch on my little self portrait project and my hesitation to share art depicting myself.

Today after the visit with my aunt and a brief stop at Colby College's Museum of Art, I realize that my life is full of possibilities: the human connection spawning love and the divine connection unfurling creativity and love.    I sometimes fail to recognize these.   Both experiences were of a Divine nature.  Love and creativity.  'Can't miss.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Creating History

There are a few things that change around here as soon as the cold weather arrives-the wood stoves are cranking, I have all I can do to stay up until 9 p.m. and the family gathers for what has become traditional Fall and Winter meals.  Thoughts of Friday night conjure up testing yeasty dough for proofing and using four hands to decorate the pizza pie.  Some weeks the house is filled with hungry teenagers and older Keene children with significant others, while other Fridays are pretty quiet with wedges of left over pizza available for a snack late into the night or for the perfect "take and go" breakfast in the morning.  Food does not last long around here.

My childhood Sundays were filled with mass at St. Mary's Church in Biddeford and then a big family brunch at my home on Dearborn Avenue.  I think that is where I learned to overeat.  This meant that family was gathered around the table eating and chatting until everyone was finished.  The longer I ate english muffins slathered in peanut butter and bacon (after a course of bacon and eggs) the longer I had to listen to family stories.  These tales uniquely bound us together.

My children are big story tellers.  Recently, Jerry and I learned over Sunday waffles (homemade by the way) that Gabrielle was the scape goat for many escapades instigated by her older brother Alex and twin sister Elizabeth. No wonder Gabrielle was always in trouble, I ponder as I toss a few fresh strawberry slices on my blueberry waffle.   Of course, no one else was there on this particular Sunday to deny or to support this point of view, but nonetheless the stories flow freely among the Keenes and their significant others or friends who choose to join us.    

While writing about my childhood and family through the years, I realize that what has been most important to me has been the constancy of traditions and routine.  Over the past week, we have jostled between summer like temperatures in the mid-60's or have endured the frigid task of scraping frost off the car windshield when the thermometer read 23 degrees.  This is our season of gathering and telling tall tales over some mighty good homemade food which is part of our family history. I am ready.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In Sickness and In Health.....

                                                -Rex's bland diet

Each night our double bed is overflowing with life inhaling, exhaling stretching and snoring.  I slip under the layers of sheet, blanket and comforter and I start to yank, fighting for cover and more than a postage sized space to lay prone.  It is quite a process to investigate the real estate claimed by canine and feline.  Cats on the pillows,  all curled with nose touching tail.  Others stretch wherever there is space. stepping over dog, whose ears twitch in recognition and certainly not in irritation.  We are a family where there is room for all.

Hunched, I sat on the side of the bed last night.  My hand covering my eyes, elbow on knee, I was worried about my sick pup.  Rex had not moved all night.  Like checking a newborns breath, my hand rested gently on his aching side and I watched my hand move with each breath.  Shallow, quick breaths.  He recognized my presence his eyes opened glassy and sick.  His tail between his legs.  He lay motionless.  Pitiful.

I lay on my side, moving my body like a contortionist to fit in the tiny space that was left on the bed.  I kissed my boy, nestling my nose into his neck and was soothed by long gentle strokes along satiny fur.  Whispering of my love and  I spoke of fishing at camp, runs at the Stone Barn and long trips in the car.  My armed craned over his body, I closed my eyes and prayed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happiness Collector

Between the hard, cold realities of life's upward climb, there is always  cause for celebration. I collect those moments in photographs and words like I collect coins for lean times.  I guess I am a happiness collector.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On The Black Box

It has always been one of the most unnatural things for me to do-to stare into the eye of a lens for the sake of capturing my image.  This difficulty has been fodder for family stories for decades and it drew my mother's ire.  With care she gathered together all my school photos and hung them in the hallway across from the cellar door.  Whenever photo day came near, she would beckon me to study the expression in each photo.  There was no smile, but an odd pull of the lips that disappeared into a set of twin dimples.  No teeth were shown.

"Here, smile like this. Show your teeth," my mother would demonstrate accentuating her smile with a pointed finger."You do it, now," she coaxed.  I practiced in the tiny hallway, just me and my mother long enough to satisfy her.  We parted, each hoping for a different outcome.

While sitting at the kitchen table, she unhinged the glass protecting each portrait-the expression was the same year after year. As I stood in line waiting for the photo to be taken, I  practiced smiling as my mother had shown me. Sitting on that big black box and staring into the lens made me self-conscious and nervous.  I always deferred to the default 'no smile, no teeth'-my mother's disappointment.

 Even today, portraits are such a difficult undertaking. Everyone is coaxing me to smile. And, I just can't.  I really don't know why.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Striving for the Impossible

Scattered on the wooden floor,
Balls of
Half written messages,
Not good enough.

How does a mere eight years
Of life,
The need,
The desire
For perfection?

It makes for 
Always disappointed
Always a

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Return

Your return
The old
I run,
I am meant
It hurts.

The Admission

With this admission, I realized that there was so much more that I didn't know about her.

Everything was red and big. Red lipstick was drawn just passed the natural curve of her lips.   Hair dyed, twisted into a tight bun, morphed by the bow clip  that loomed like wings of a great bird ready for take-off. Earrings made of shiny metals and ribbons rocked at her lobes looking weighty as she shuffled around the halls in shoes that were slightly too big and would not stay on her feet.  All this warned us of her approach. She yelled as she walked.   She never apologized for her booming voice and explained that she was Italian, as if that excused it all.  She always talked over everyone.  Her presence was made known right from the beginning.

"I have to find another job," I confided in my friend, a fellow teacher.  "I can't work with that woman!" I swallowed hard, not really sure what I was going to do.

There was no way of missing her in the halls of school or on the road either.  Her cars through the years were big, large tanks.  She always insisted on driving. Her oversized hands gripped the wheel seconds at a time.  Sometimes both hands were off the steering wheel to emphasize a point.  The tank seemed to drive itself.  "I can't look at the road," she began to explain loudly, "It distracts me!"

"For goodness sake, hang onto the wheel, would ya," I screamed.  My eyes darting left, right and ahead in a futile attempt to control.  Nothing about this woman was controllable, and I often wondered why her husband retired, kept opposite hours.  

Spending time with her at the beginning was out of professional necessity and then over time, it was by choice, I realized that she was often a misunderstood woman with a big big heart.  

"Come to my house for supper, " I offered.

"I can't," she answered without much forethought, then added, "Do you still have cats?"

She knew I had cats.  "Ya, why?" I asked.

"I can't come," she stated firmly.  

"You're not allergic to cats are you?" She had a dog which offered her company and wild chasing when it got loose. She was used to pets.

She didn't answer and there was an uncomfortable silence. I was dumbfounded and couldn't think of why she wouldn't be able come to my house.  I was the one to always visit her at her house. She had never come to my house, although we had been friends for years now.

"I, I am..." oddly she stumbled over the words, "I am afraid of cats.  I can't come."

I thought that I was the one that wrestled with irrational fears.  This fearless woman who I thought I knew so well was afraid.  I couldn't believe it. 

This admission only opened the way for more honest talk.

Friday, November 1, 2013

One More Moment

I turned to leave catching a glimpse of his brown eyes casting so much feeling, it made words unnecessary.  He was afraid.  Afraid to move after the fall.  This made everything worse. The Parkinson's Disease didn't help either.  The Physical Therapist had him in a hoist to support his weight giving him a sense of stability.  In a soft voice that I thought would be reassuring I cooed, "It will be OK Daddy.  You'll be OK." I guess I was in denial. I left.

When I was a little girl, the day after Halloween marked a day when I would slide into a pew at St. Mary's Church in Biddeford and pray for people I did not know.  All Soul's Day.  The list went back by generations-family that remained nameless.  "I pray for my grandmother's mother, my grandmother's father,  my grandmother's grandmother," I mouthed.  It didn't feel real.  Just an obligation.  Never did I realize at seven years old that I would one day be praying for the souls of my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother, my father, my aunts and my uncles.  

"I can't be here.  I can't," I managed to whisper breathlessly.  "I can't breathe.  An elephant is on my chest. I can't do it."  Closing my eyes, I remained motionless.  My body heavy and incapable of supporting my own weight in a seated position, never mind move to another room or the hall where I could forget.  

"If you leave.  You can never take this moment back," my sister confided. Choking back tears, I thought about how I had left my father a few days ago.  This time I stayed.  I needed to be here for my father.  Through this transition.  

Today my "All Soul's List" is just as long as when I was seven years old, but now I can remember how my father's bearded cheek scratched against my face when he snatched a kiss.  I remember the oversized hand that reached out to walk me safely across the road.  Old Spice after shave brings a flood of real memories. My heart aches in longing for one more moment.