Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Balance

                                                                                                Summer Babies


Peering through the glass pane from inside, I just stared.  Six deer grazed in our field. A typical sight, yet for some reason I kept watching.  Three of them began to run this way and that chasing each other much like dogs would.  The rest had moved further from our house intent on feeding.  Looking up from play the trio raced toward the others munching.  Playfulness aside, the six did what you expect deer to do-they ate.  I had no notion that deer play since their very survival depends upon food, yet they wisely balanced work and play. A lesson for all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By Sea

As I got closer and closer, the notion that I could make it all the way home and then to the gas station in the morning without running out of gas, nearly talked me out of a stop.  I had been on the road for two and a half hours and that was just taxiing my kids from one athletic event to another. Tired; I really didn’t want to stop.

“Hey,” I heard a voice.  All my attention was on how quickly I could spend fifty bucks. I looked up from the gas meter. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.” He shifted the thin grocery bag from one hand to another and smiled.

He looked just about the same as he did in Kindergarten and First Grade when we spent every school day together just taller.  “‘Heard you’re doing well,” I began.

“Ya, ‘going to Italy this summer.  Last summer was Alaska and the summer before that was…”  

I stopped pumping.  “Jealous,” I yelled. “Still lobstering?”

“Nah, I go to school year round.  There’s no time. Can’t wait to finish school though.”

“I remember that feeling.  You get itchy. I know it well.”

We said our goodbyes and both drove away in opposite directions.  I wonder if he too was remembering how much fun we had reading and writing together?  School still had that brand new feeling.  Now he travels the world and continues to learn. How lucky to be young and a world traveler by sea.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Discovery


So perhaps we write toward what we will become from where we are. -May Sarton

I have often asked myself why I write. It sounds like a simple question, but it is not an easy one to answer.  Recently I read May Sarton’s, Journal of a Solitude and was taken by the above quote.  I think it gives a partial explanation of why I am driven to write.  A born perfectionist, I am awfully hard on myself. Self-centered or co-dependent I blame myself for more than is necessary.  Constantly I strive and reach for more.  The chatter in my head defines my next tasks to work on.  Exercise.  Meditation.  Yoga.  Positive persona.  Fake it….you’ll make it.  Too much.  Too fast.  I realize I am not that perfect mother, that perfect wife that I dreamed I would be.  I cry.  I complain. And I notice all the dust bunnies on the floor and I am too tired to bother.   Sometimes I write to escape, but mostly I write to understand.   Who am I and who will I become?


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Culinary Delights

I am a risk taker in at least one arena-food.  My father was a meat and potatoes kind of man, but my mother had a stomach of her own. When given the chance, she was ready to try anything. The daughter of a chef attends to the presentation as well as the quality and flavor.  My great aunt was the first person I know to use seasonal, fresh local ingredients in her cooking.  Living in downtown Portland, she was a regular at all the farmers’ markets.

When my husband and I went to Israel more than a decade ago, we were anxious to try local cuisine.  We found the yogurt to be rich and delicious, the pizza had a special mix of spices and were carried out folded in quarters and put in a shopping bag.  The shaved lamb was tender and seasoned to perfection.  We also had falafel from a vendor on Mount Carmel.  When we got home to the United States, I roamed the ethnic section of the grocery store and bought a box of falafel mix.  It stayed in the cupboard and was never used.

Now, I tend to make things from scratch whenever I can.  So tonight, using the Epicurious application, I made falafel and everyone loved it.  My home does not have the ambience of Mount Carmel and the transformative powers that the trip brought to our marriage, but our supper came pretty close to being a perfect blend of textures and tastes.  I must thank my mother and my auntie because I will try just about anything, at least once.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coming Back

It has been a long long winter.  Too much time spent in my head.  Thinking.  My brain has been stretched and manipulated to a degree that it is worn out. Tired like an old rubber band fraying around the edges.  


The woods beckon me to venture into the dark where the moss come alive, emerald green. A path leads to high ground where  the blueberry barrens begin to buzz.  Life comes back slowly.  A pace all its’ own.  This is where I begin to unfurl. Life comes back slowly. Of this I am certain.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One Thing At a Time

                                                                                Photo by Travelinma

“It is genetic,” I joke as I check the pockets of my jeans, jacket,  the crooks and crannies of the large oversized bag holding books and journals and finally my purse-my just cleaned out purse.  Had I already put the keys in the ignition? Nope.  Through the rain and wind, I race in the house.  Scan the table, countertop.  Bedroom.  Night table.  Bed.  Keys on the bed.  Of course.  I left them there.  Don’t you remember when I was looking for something...now what was I looking for anyway?

As a young mother multi-tasking through babies, toddlers, twins and teenagers made me feel empowered. I was doing it all. I was teaching full time, running a business, taking care of children, and  the house. You get the idea.  Holding a baby while doing dishes. Vacuuming while cradling.  Sure.  Multi-tasking got me through. Eating in the car on the way to work.  Reading while talking on the phone.  Executed masterfully, or so I thought.

I was floored when I read a study about the dangers of multitasking.  After all it is not the best thing to be doing. (Oh, my plate is empty?  I forgot that I had finished. Did I really eat that?)  Now the emphasis is on giving full attention to one task at a time.  Multi-tasking is a bad habit to break.  Each day I take moments, close my eyes and breathe.  I pray. Yet I have allowed my brain to be snatched by technology.  The iphone has become another appendage. Awareness is but a start.

Writing each day helps to sort through the clutter of my life to unearth what is important.  It sounds like a bit of a cliche, but living each moment fully means that the mind is trained to focus on the now.  Rewiring the “motherboard” requires  persistent effort. Living mindfully is the key to living the life that I am intended to lead.   I don’t want to miss a thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Promise Package

Possibilities bring hope 
Promising 
Through persistence 
And
Effort
A passionate future.

(It is all up to you kid!)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Google It

My grandmother hid under the bed during thunder storms.  My husband watches storms from the shelter of our porch.  I am somewhere in between, but I can easily imagine coaxing my grandmother to move over to make room for my quaking body under her twin bed.  Now it is pouring.  Moments ago I thought I heard a rumble.  My brain tripped to a notion of safety-devices off, stay away from open windows and don’t take a bath.  Don’t sit under a tree, don’t walk in an open field and don’t decide to take up golf. Don’t.  Don’t. Don’t.

I realize I don’t know the do’s. You would think that such a fear filled brain would be able to recite the steps in dealing with any natural disaster and man made one.  I don’t know what to do in the event of a tornado.  Head for the basement?  When do I stand at the threshold of a door relying on the strength of the frame to protect me?  I don’t know. Is that during an earthquake? Some people sit in empty bathtubs, don't they?  My father was the protector.  He clearly trained me in the “don’t do’s”, but failed to solidify the ‘ disaster do’s.”

I have not heard any more rumbles.  Perhaps it was an isolated thunder event in the distance?  Maybe it was a truck driving past, but then again maybe it was an earthquake? How do I prepare?  Maybe I will just “Google it.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blessings of the Earth

Thick clouds cast a gray shadow over the daylight hours.

Nonetheless, I am drawn to sipping my coffee outside on the deck. Expecting to sit in quiet, I am witness to frenzy. Birds fly overhead this way and that and a chorus from every direction competes for sound space. I stand; my eyes scan the ink black tree tops. Everything is a shadow.  The squawky jays do not escape my ear. The smaller birds perhaps sparrows flit from tree to tree.  My untrained ear is of no use.   I lean against the side of the house in wait.  Uncertain of what I am waiting for I close my eyes and just listen.  I am drawn to the outside and realize just how blessed I am on this Earth Day.

Monday, April 21, 2014

the quest


The winter layers finally shed, we walk in the woods dressed like spring,  REAL spring.  Tails in wag, nose in sniff, hyper-vigilant puppies in a quest to not miss a thing. Each step  slows to the present.  Birds welcome in song.  Trees dormant all winter wear buds tightly wrapped, just in case it snows in May.  Uncertain times.  We press forward along the path of mottled light, trees cast shadows, but the sun warms.  My eyes and ears open to this moment. The only one that matters.  Now.  This day. And all is perfectly as it meant to be.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ode to the Egg

Unlikely place to find comfort
In the sink while water runs
Between white and membrane
With gentle hand the shell releases
Presenting a perfect protein,
Gifts from our hens.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

the risk

                                                                                           Copyright: Travelinma


Is it possible to feel too deeply?
A heart that aches incessantly,
Holds room for joy too.
Cannot sorrow and joy inhabit the same chambers?

For what is a life without the highs and lows?
The fullness of heart is preferred,
Over hollow.
Is it not worth the risk?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Empty


She walked in the room.  It was stripped of everything that belonged to him.  No note.  No explanation. Nothing.  It left her empty.  Sad.

Was she responsible? She may never know.

She stood in the room.  Alone in the silence.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Line in the Snow

Spring drags a line in the snow
She won’t step over,
Although wooed,
Coaxed
With sweet talk,
And promises.


What will come of the berries,
Beginnings still frozen deep
In slumber?


It's just not right.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Promises

The wipers squeak intermittently shoving the snow and freezing rain to the side. Visibility is not bad, but the roads are considering the calendar will soon promise May flowers. By afternoon, the sun hangs in the cloudless blue sky. It remains cold.

On the ride home I think of tea.  Afternoon tea with soy and somedays a touch of honey. Comfort.

An empty house gives time to write.  The door opens to a set of wagging tails and kitties coming in and going out.  Rap music blares. Undaunted, I sit in my bedroom.  The sun streams in.   The wind gusts. I type words-whatever comes to mind.    I am not sure I like it.  Discipline is a requirement of this practice-as is letting go of control.  Yet, I continue to do it, with the hope that it is doing something, anything.   Everyday promises to include something worthy of our attention.  Today it is the act of delicately stringing words while I sip my tea.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

it's all about timing

“It’s late,” my husband whispered, “We better get up.”
Forever and always, I have hated getting out of bed, especially in the dark.  This morning.  Dark.  Jerry crawls over me and out of bed.  Meanwhile, I pull up the comforter and settle in for at least fifteen more minutes of sleep, rest-I don’t know, I’ll take it.


Watching my husband pour our coffee, I have an odd sense.  The kids and felines of the house have internal clocks.  No kitty visits this morning and it is strangely quiet in the house.  “What time is it?” I ask as I put toothpaste on the brush.


“I screwed up,” my husband began, “it’s still early.” Knowing my possible reaction he continued, “It’s a good thing. Now we have all this time.”

I drag my now tired body out of the kitchen, feeling  lost in a battle between spring forward and fall back.  Burdened with the fact that I have just lost an hour sleep, I have all I can do not to slip back under the covers fully dressed with my shoes on.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Shift

Flood warnings for the entire state, the radio blared. I look around, the piles of snow linger only in the shelter of dense woods.  “No danger here,” I think to myself, “All safe.”

Later, in the evening while I sit quietly reflecting on my day, I’m embarrassed by my casual reaction to the warning. In reality, lives and property are at risk and considering the extended winter we endured, the snow melt could create some long lasting issues for Maine folks.  

When I was growing up, I never got used to houses regularly being swept out to sea.  Undaunted owners would rebuild in the same spot and certainly face recurring losses.  Many years ago geologist built a jetty that created problems that no one could imagine.  The little seaside village where my grandfather built a family home has been disappearing bit by bit.  No one seems to know how to fix it.

Place.  It is important.  Through the years houses change hands, landscape shifts or is altered due to weather or man.   Yet memories are framed by place.  The tiny strawberries I picked in the lot next door where a house now sits, I can still taste. Bringing my once stained fingers to my nose, I can smell the sweetness.  I hear the rattle of the windows in the first house that my husband and I shared in Otter Creek; we began our lives together there.  Place evokes memory.

Flood warnings for the entire state. I will always pray that our memories of place remain intact.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

top ten things I love today

10.  The fact that I still have wool socks in my top drawer for a quick change of "season."
9.   Watching how a charcoal sketch develops when I really don’t have a clue.
8.   Seeing a dear friend who kisses me on the head after a long, long hug.
7.   A hot cup of tea with soy, sometimes honey.
6.   Being surrounded by photos, paintings, sketches, carvings and pottery.
5.   Learning new things and recognizing the incredible capacity of my brain.
      (It still works!)
4.   Sunny, warm days, without black flies.
3.   Kitties, doggies and husbands who snuggle.
2.   Sunday morning waffles with a big crowd-my family.
1.   Rainy day naps.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stones

Tumbling like stones
In an angry sea,
Sharp edged
Becoming smooth,
Polished,
Reflecting a truth:
One must be tested
To reveal
Authentic 
Beauty.


Friday, April 11, 2014

we all have stories to tell

"How do we know about those around us?...Sit close to someone you love and implore that person to tell and tell and tell their story. " -Thanhha Lai
We’d sit close on the sofa, but not before my grandmother smoothed  the scratchy coverlet, the one with white gray roses as big as cabbages that seemed to match the wallpaper in Papa’s room. She’d tell me stories.  I only remember a few.  As a young impressionable boy, my father aimed for piety.  He would pretend that he was a priest.  His religious collar-a Kotex pad. Each time Gram told me that story she would laugh holding her belly, but she told it in a way that expressed her love for my father and his resourceful ways.  He did not become a priest. I think that thought was short lived.
My grandmother threw up just once in her life.  The  cross country trip from Washington, DC to San Francisco was hot. She unloaded in a gas station rest room that did not meet my grandmother’s strict standards of cleanliness. Two stories. One  kotex and a whole life time of experiencing the wretchedness of “tossing your cookies” just once.  I remember that story because it seemed like I had become adept at holding a bowl under my chin. Oh how I long to remember something really really important.  Something really really meaningful.   Decades of stories lost on a girl who didn’t know better.
Do I know better now?  I am not sure.  At one point in my life, actually several points in my life I toyed with the idea of becoming a Social Worker.  Psychology fascinated me.  Mostly, I thought I was a good listener. Is it because life has become complex?  Everyone is moving about so fast.  Is it that I have a tendency to be anxious and  to jump to conclusions?  I stopped listening. I stopped listening well.
Listen.  Invite the stories to come.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hope

When my mother and father would have a fight, I would go from room to room making sure they were alright.  Sometimes, they would both be crying.  Is that why I am so empathetic?  Is that why I hate disharmony of any kind?  When troubles brewed in the neighborhood, the lady next door would yell out into the backyard from her door,  "Why can't you kids just get along?"   Good question.  Why can't we get along?  We all want different things.  We all have varying perspectives.   Then there are the moral issues that can cause strife, conflict and confusion-like sex and drugs.   

Most often, I pray by myself.  We gave up family sessions due to disruptive behaviors that occurred and really bad attitudes.  Perhaps I could have been more persistent.  Forcible compliance just seems counter productive to spiritual growth.  So instead Jerry and I try to model a spiritual life together, as best as we can with our human condition.  We are far from perfect.  We stumble a lot.  Alone and together.

Someone once gave me this sage advice in my role as a parent, “You must always have hope.  They must see the hope in your eyes. You need to give them hope.”  I am going to pray now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Finish

On my belly
I crawl like a
Snake,
Forearms raw
And
Bloody,
My heart
Scrapes
Against the pavement.
Exposed,
Vulnerable
Toward a finish,

A mirage.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Go Away: I Might Miss Something

Usually, its just white noise, but not tonight.  Moose dying...Every morning I wake, I think of the suffering I have caused you...Ford recalls… I shuffle in my seat, just waiting for more. A flood of bad.

“I don’t know why I am listening.” I tell my husband.  I can’t help it. "Turn it off," I say. "There's nothing but bad news in the world. How can she report all this bad news night after night?"

All’s quiet or nearly so. I hear the click of Rex’s toes on the hardwood floor. He hops on the couch. His bell jingles. Dishes touch. Silverware entangles. The dishwasher is loaded and emptied by my daughter. (Bless her.) My son Jamin shuffles out the door, turns around to say, “I’m going to David’s.  See you later.  I love you.” (Bless him.)

Bombarded by newsfeeds and soundbites, I often wallow in grief. My stomach twists in compassion for those suffering. The news is depressing, there is no other way to describe it.  Conflicted, I want to be informed, but it is hard to remain positive sometimes.  

Presently, it is dark-just before 8 pm, but from inside the house I hear the distinct call of the timberdoodle. “Zheeet. Zheeet. Zheeet.”  Just think, I almost missed this. I've had it with bad news.




Monday, April 7, 2014

Waiting

We waited for days like today.  Reluctant mounds of snow melting.  Puddles.  Mud.  With the first few days of spring, sometimes earlier we knew it would come any day. Bike riding weather.  At least a month before we would shine up our bikes, inflate the tires and sometimes add a horn or glittery streamers for the handle bars.  


Every kid in the neighborhood had a bike with a banana seat and sissy bar handlebars.  Despite urging my mother to conform, I rode my second hand, heavy red bike with fat wide tires. Hand brakes were fashionable, but I had a one speed with a mechanism that activated the brake with a backward stroke of the pedals. The weight of the bike made it difficult to keep up with my friends. It seemed that I worked doubly hard with others who had three speeds- I had one speed:  slow. My mother held onto the belief that, “if it's not broken, why replace it.”  Quinn’s Bike Shop was near St. Mary’s School and I would start my journey home window shopping.  Sometimes I would go in and stroke the gleaming bikes. Then check the price tag.


When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I saved babysitting money I earned to buy myself a three-speed blue bike from Sears.  That bike frequently took me to the beach 15 or so miles away.  The hours it took to get there and back required short liberated visits, a quick walk on the beach followed by a picnic lunch.  It was nearly an all day excursion.   I went alone, frequently trying a different route and discovered that all roads have their share of hills.


On days like this-sunny with the earth thawing I think of the thrill of those first bike rides.  Soon the carriage roads, now soft with whispers of winter will be ready for riders.  I sure could use my rugged, red bike with wide tires.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Space

Change isn’t so bad, is it?  My mother moved the furniture around every few months infusing a “brand new” perspective to each room.  I wasn’t married long when I tried this.  “What was wrong with the way we had it?” my husband asked, just a bit dazed as he walked through the door.  He dropped his lunch box and began to push the furniture around into position.  Each piece moved easily under his strength as though they were destined to remain in “their place.”

Fortunately, for my husband  our present home does not offer many options in the furniture moving department. (Gosh, maybe he designed it this way! I never gave it a thought until now.)  All of us dusted and cleaned.  We put unused items in storage and created areas of interest with photographs and mementoes. And yes, we did move a few pieces of furniture. Together, we created a space that is comfortable for family gatherings.  

We have lots of family gatherings-every chance we get and for any excuse.  Not only do our eight children attend, but there are also a few significant others that join in.  Sometimes it is pretty noisy in this great room with all the laughing and talking.  Often, I sit back in silence and just watch. And think, We’ve created quite a brood.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

In Celebration


 Animated, my co-worker was telling me yesterday about early life in his marriage.   He surprised his wife with two little calico kittens.  He carried each in his large pea coat pockets from the old barn where they had lived.  Presenting one in the palm of his hand, his wife cooed in delight.  As she was bonding with one, he surprised her with the other. He had never been a cat person, but I think that experience converted him. Paul proceeded to tell me about every cat he and his wife have loved in their long marriage.



As he was sharing, I was thinking about all of our cats.  Growing up we had a multitude of cats.  Always.  Like Polly who got stuck in the chimney and George who survived a through and through wound (we think from an arrow) or Frosty who lived to be more than twenty years old. My brother remembers them all and the stories bind us in our love.  The tales go on forever.

My husband and daughter through the years have brought home nine cats.  They each have their own personalities and quirks. For instance, Maggie likes to drink directly out of the faucet and gives kisses when I ask on my nose and lips.  Abbie, a tiny calico  squeaks rather than meows and gave birth to Harry (named after my father) a long sleek gray beauty who can’t seem to get enough of me. Our big calico Julie Jewels robs shiny things. We had named her Julie long before we discovered her affinity for jewels.  What a delightful alliteration: Julie Jewels-and so appropriate too. 


Then there is Charlie, our gentle old-timer is thirteen years old. Duke a long haired marmalade is a bit of a brute swatting others away from the food dish. The last to join our family is Lilly, a feral born in a wall.  She is more than two years old, but remains the size of a kitten. She has adjusted just fine to our crazy house filled with teenagers.













Each morning we are surrounded by cats. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Absence of Justice






Sometimes bad things happen,
Innocence
Confused by guilt.

A mother speaks out:
All parties
Move forward.
Be positive.

A mother speaks,
The Power is all-powerful,
And
Deaf.

When will
There
Be
Justice?


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Living



Just when did fear seep into my life?  Is it the normal condition of a reasonable adult? A young colleague of mine is planning a trip across the country.  By herself.  At one point I wanted to walk the Appalachian Trail, bike long distances and to explore this country. Two summers ago, I thought about going out into the woods and camping by myself.  The thought terrifies me. All the ‘What if’s….’  begin to activate and my logical brain twists into one big knot.  Could I do any of these things by myself?  After almost thirty-five years of marriage I have come to rely on company.  My husband helps me out of fixes on a daily basis and my tall children reach things for me. Could I survive being alone for long periods of time?  Is this really all about fear?


I must challenge myself.  Although I have been in the same skin for more than ‘half-way to one-hundred’ years, there is more to discover about me. I continue to learn everyday.   There are more chances to take.  More adventures.   Trust trumps fear because I possess the inner resources and strength to live and love fully through the joys and heartbreak. I want to feel it all.  Only then will I know that I am living and bust through the fear.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday Night Club

When the box of Bridge Mix went into the grocery cart, I knew that Tuesday afternoon would mean “crazy time” in my house.  We had only a few hours after school to make the house presentable.  This meant that my mother, sister and brother and I would race through every room, scoop up any excess, unnecessary clutter like magazines and newspapers and throw it into my mother’s room and close the door. The door remained closed.  The vacuum roared through the house.  Dust flew.


Weeks before my mother would sift through her magazines and cookbooks searching for a dessert that would top all desserts.  Likely, my mother would choose a dessert that was not only luscious with fancy restaurant quality presentation, but also something that would not be labor intensive. It had to be prepared quickly-in the late afternoon after work.


This Tuesday meant the whole house was in a tissy.  I don’t remember where my father was during all this frenzy. I think he was either in his room sleeping or out at Doc’s Tavern or the Little Red School House for a few beers.  Tension was high.  We prepared the house for a dozen ladies who liked to gab and cared about one another.  Their knitting and mending came in with them baskets and bags-the primary purpose of the gathering.  Each woman took turns hosting.  My mother’s turn was met with a mix of dread and excitement.  


With a spotless house that smelled fresh and clean, moments before the doorbell rang, heavy with fatigue we sat and admired our labors.  The ladies streamed into the kitchen where there was a flurry of hugs and hellos.  The living room held every chair we had in the house arranged in a large circle.  Little tables held candy dishes of the bridge mix. A punch bowl stood near.  With all the cleaning work behind us, entertaining was exciting and fun.


Unfortunately, for me (and maybe for my mother) my bedtime was shortly after the “party” began. I did not want to miss a thing.   “When it is time for bed.  It’s time.” my mother began.  “You can visit for a little bit, then you have to go to bed.” I nodded.  I had heard everything my mother said.  


In bed, I lay on my back and listened, just barely making out voices.    I was missing out. Sneaking out of my room and down three steps, I could get a view of all the “club ladies.” Peering through the stair balusters I sat motionless. I watched, I listened, and  I learned until it was time for my mother's friends to go home. I never missed anything.


Club met every Tuesday for thirty years or more.  They lived through life together:  births, divorces, illness and death.   With time, it was less about mending and more about  relationship.  

I don’t have a club.  I feel like I am missing out.