Today vs 355 Days Ago

Today I watched an emergency vehicle roar

followed by a chorus of five more

the hymn they sang was not for me

but I found myself unable to breathe

I started to panic, filled with fear

as if they were suddenly going to stop here

I wear her shirts and her ashes

as if those would conjure her

breathe, ironically, life back to her

to us

to the moment in time where we were

all of we, together, being happily.

It was a feeling of holy

a feeling of communion

as we broke bread together

The laughter we shared

reciting our ancient tales

filled us faster than food

She just at fifty, me at 49

We’d spent a love-time of life

but never enough time

The chaplain at the hospital said,

on the day Bean really died,

Maybe you were the face of God

she had to see before she could

finally be at peace.”

It was the most comforting words

because I often think of them.

I often think of Bean’s face in that same way,

the face I needed see before she went home

“Be Safe”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I want to be safe in the sense that I don’t get shot in my house. I want to be safe in the sense that when I walk down my streets at night with my little dog, waiting on her to do her “business”, I’m not going to be attacked. I want to be safe enough that when I follow the road rules, I don’t get in an accident because others also want to be safe, or rather, unharmed.

But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to be safe. Being safe takes a chunk away from the loudness of life. It reduces the voices of exuberant laughter to polite chuckles. It sucks the genuine grief from our deepest fears and distills it into quiet murmuring condolences. It shatters the adventure of stepping one foot outside of your comfort zone by giving the illusion of safety.

But safety, like everything, is an illusion. It’s not real. It surprises us because we expect things to be the same. We expect to wake up, go about our day without incident, return home, eat the same meal we did last week, watch regurgitated shows with different characters but the same stories, and go to bed at the same time. It’s our expectation of safety that, pardon my french, fucks us up.

Chaos and change are the way of the world. If we could control any of it, we’d be reasonable in our expectations, but we do not. We can do our best not to contribute, by following the rules, obeying laws, keeping an eye out for ne’er-do-wells, but being safe is a lie we tell ourselves so we can live with minimal fear.

My Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Dave are driving a different route back from their vacation in Maine. It has places for them to stop that they’ve never been before which means the potential for a fantastic adventure. But in the commentary on their shared pictures, there were all the comments from a variety of people telling them to, “Be safe.” The comments are made with love and not as admonitions, mind you. They are meant with the best of intentions. But I don’t think I’ll wish them the same.

I wish them to be unharmed but in no way to be safe. I want them to have the adventure they’re hoping for on the new route. I want them to have experiences that will give them the best adventure with minimal difficulty. I want them to see things so spectacular it takes their breath away because they chose to stop somewhere they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. I want them to experience every drop of grandness in the views, every bliss to be had floating on the breeze. I want them to taste the rain as if it were their first time. To have Ruby show them the newborn idea of life heroic in a way that brings them fits of delight. But, I do not wish them to “be safe”.

What…?

What hands have held my face, to stare into my soul?

What lips have breathed a lifetime of my kisses stole?

What voice has whispered me my truth, my secrets sealed untold?

What arms have held me in a haven, my broken heart consoled?

What legs have walked a million miles to arrive upon my threshold?

What heart has answered the siren’s song our bindings to behold?

What worth is placed on eternal devotion, more valuable than gold?

What gifts be given to thine own true love, from youthful glow to old?

Two Strips of String Cheese

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There have been many times in my life where I’ve been food insecure for whatever reason. [Couch surfing, ditching an abusive husband, barely making ends meet with 12 hour days] By default, I find myself counting and re-counting the dollars I have to spend at the grocery store. I’m hyper aware when dollars go missing from my pocket.

At the grocery store this evening, as I browsed the produce section, I noticed a young man whom looked a LOT like my friend Rocky. Hair, gait, style of clothing, even the way he was talking aloud to himself reminded me of Seabuurd. He also looked quite distraught.

“Are you okay? You seem upset.” I asked.

“Yeah, I just…I just lost $10 somewhere on the floor. I’m retracing my steps.” he replied.

“Well I sure hope you find it.” I continued on my way giving a short glance around the area hoping I’d be the hero that found the missing currency.

A few aisles later, I see the young man again.

“Any luck?”

“No. Someone probably found it already. I really needed that.” He fruitlessly searched the barren floor.

“I’ll keep a look out.”

“Thanks.”

I checked my pocket where I only had $7 left until Friday evening. I decided if I saw him again, I’d give him the dollars. I headed to the pharmacy area to see if they had an OTC sling to put my arm in because my shoulder is really jacked up right now. As I searched the pharmacy shelves, I heard a loud ruckus coming from the checkout part of the store.

Three women were taunting the young man with the $10 they found in the aisle. At first he started to explain himself, but they kept on going. Bragging about their good fortune loud enough to be heard, literally, half-way across the store. The other patrons joined in to defend the young man, but the young women just wouldn’t let it go. Finally, the young man, nearly in tears tells the women that he hopes they get pulled over and have to use his money to pay the fine.

Not finding what I need, I head over to the checkout lane. I select the one with a high school friend of mine as the cashier. As I approach her, I ask what all the noise was about. She tells me the story. While she’s talking I look over my shoulder where the Rocky looking young man is packing his groceries into bags. He’s obviously shook up. I reached into my pocket and gave him my dollars.

“It’s not the full $10 bucks, but it’s closer than you were.” I smile at him. At first he refused, but my high school chum tells him to take it.

“She won’t quit. You’re better off taking it.” She tells him.

“Oh, well do you like string cheese?” He asked me with sincerity. “Here have a piece.”

He gave me a piece which I peeled at the register and we ate together in the middle of the checkout line. “Have the rest of it.”

“Nah, I’m good. I can’t eat too much of that.”

“Please take a couple pieces at least.” He offers them earnestly to me. I accept and put them into my grocery bag. At that moment a tall well-dressed man enters the store, walks up to the young man with his hand extended.

“I approached them in the parking lot and asked for the money back. At first they were all about keeping it, but I told them I’d call the police because they were assholes. They gave it up.” He chuckled richly.

“Aw, man! Thanks, dude!” The young man reached into his pocket, retrieved the dollars I’d given him, attempted to return them to me.

“No. I already gave it to you, they’re yours. You now can pay it forward better.” He looked astonished. He kept telling me what a beautiful human I am. Even as I walked away from the counter he was continuing his praise.

You may or may not believe me about this, but I do stuff like this all the time. I don’t do it for the compliments or praise. I’m not even telling you this story for positive feedback.

I’m telling you that when you do something equally as kind, it spreads like a California wildfire. When you put yourself out there by an act of kindness bigger than the moment, you’re doing what you are born to do. You’re born to shine. You’re born to be the beacon of hope, love, and joy in this ridiculously cruel world. You get to be the hope someone sees by your actions. Like lighting your candle off your neighbor’s at the Christmas eve candlelight service, it spreads love.

Preaching all day long does nothing but give you a sore throat. ACTIVELY living loving is a practice in mindfulness; a revolutionary awareness of the world around you. It is a true mark of courage to be the light in the darkness. It is a badge of honor to set aside some wants you have (like giving up my breakfast tomorrow morning) to give someone else that light. I’ll keep doing what I do, regardless if you follow my lead or not, but we should practice this kind of radical kindness every day.

Advice of a Falling Leaf

I love Autumn. Everything about it brings me giddy glee. The red plaid flannels start trickling out of closets to combat the chilly mornings. The coffee pot, that in my house never quits, starts perking earlier against the darkened dawn that used to invite iced tea with its chipper light. The apple festivals are polluted with the joy of pumpkin spice while the silent witness of the changing leaves hang like ornaments blazing with remembered warmth.

As I sit watching the wheels of nature turn, I wonder what advice those leaves would give to me if they could tell their life stories. I’ve seen them grow on what appeared to be desolate deadened trees, blossom into their spring and summer finery, challenge the fashion of green with orange, red, and yellows, then gracefully drift on the winds of the changing seasons to carpet the ground with rustling tapestries. They speak to us in their ancient tongues and we hear them when we listen.

Don’t be afraid to bloom

In the spring, the beginning, the start of any project there is darkness. There is a point where we don’t know and we don’t understand. We wonder “What if…?” Will the risk we’re about to become engaged to grow or will it whither? We don’t know, but we can hope. We take the idea that needs great care. We water it, coax it, and nurture the idea like we would an infant. The idea becomes a concept.

Reach for the Light

Every good concept, and even the not so good, needs to see the light of day. It needs to be explored, coddled, and embraced as the truly important part of our lives. Particularly when it sings to our soul spirits the song that makes our minds dizzy with gratitude, hope, and joy. Allowing the concept to gain momentum from the creative input and outbursts of potential fruition help us to realize that maybe our ideas weren’t all that crazy. Perhaps our vision is what the world has been waiting to see for many moons or many seasons. It’s an enticing bite into the dawning light when we can understand that our hibernating ideas, need light to grow.

Rise Above Your Roots

Everything you were taught in your lifetime has led you to this very moment. Every tool you need is close at hand. Your history has guided you to this precise time of understanding, of clarity. It is your roots that have allowed you to tap into your potential. Dig down into the earth of your experiences. Find everything you need but don’t be afraid to rise above them. Be who you are meant to be not who you were told you are/were. The ancestors that have come before you had their own fears and insecurities that have trickled over your being in unhealthy droplets. But then so has the strength, the power, and the will to persevere. You are more than your roots, but you’re also of them. Every bit of this is the fertilizer you need to bloom.

Show your true colors

Your concept is sound. Your talents regarding your project are apparent. You’ve had reassurance from your “Amen” corner that your vision is clear. You’ve tested the waters and found they’re receptive. Now what? Strip away the bud to unfurl the sails of destiny. Allow the world to see the glory of your brainchild singing the song of life. No matter which decision you’re facing right this moment, if you’re working towards growth, you’re working towards blooming into your full potential. Don’t be afraid. Just breathe because that will allow things to fall as they need to and you to realize your own dreams. If the process is painful, there is a reason for it. Embrace the push of labor towards your blooming. As a common phrase, don’t be afraid to shake your tail-feathers a bit.

Let it go

When you have given every bit of energy to an idea that actually works, it is sometimes difficult to allow someone else to take ownership in their own lives of their ideas that grew from your seed. Surrounded by the sheep that flock to your idea, the project you’ve created is now out there in the world breathing its own life. It is bounding around in happy abandon through fields of expansion. Allowing it to take a life of its own is similar to cutting ties or watching the death of something precious, but it’s not dead. It has lived as yours. It will always be yours. It has just moved forward to fall gracefully from the branches of your loving hands to the hearts of those surrounding you. Accept the release as a part of the natural order of things. Allow it to be the memorable shades of color it was destined to become when you first acknowledged its presence in your life.

Rest

I find it incredibly cathartic to find the place where I can hibernate for a while to rejuvenate my spirit after I’ve “birthed” an idea into a concept. I retreat to solitude, typically with a good bottle of wine and a warm bath accompanied by a good book or soft music and I wallow. I allow the world to look at my creation and pass judgment on what I’ve brought out of Otherwhere. Once I’ve followed the necessary steps, it’s done. It is what it is. Then I get to allow the next idea to flow into concept form and the cycle, like the seasons, begins again.

Folks and Rents

When I was growing up, my Bapa and Grandma were a constant in my life. There was something magical that came whenever they visited. My parents were more kind and lenient. My brothers, like me, put on the best show we had in our pockets. Just hearing a rumor of them coming over got us pretty excited.

On Friday nights they had a standing “date” with my family. They’d show up early evening to drink coffee at the dining table with my Rents. They’d talk about adult stuff that didn’t much interest us kids. We were allowed to be outside playing while this ritual took place. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken more of an interest in those conversations because I feel I would have gotten to know them, the world, and my parents an incredible amount more than I did.

At the tail end of the coffee ritual came the fade in to our favorite part of the night. POPCORN! My mom would pop a massive bowl of the fluffy crunch while counting out the apples (one each), and chocolate squares. We’d all get into our spots in the living room to get ready to watch The Dukes of Hazzard. I was madly in love with Beau/Bo Duke. I thought Daisy was absolutely gorgeous, but took little interest in Luke. 

As a family we would watch the show and laugh together. On commercials (my brother as the remote to turn the television down), we’d squish in conversations about what was important at the time. It could be about the show, grades, behavior, how much we were loved by my mom’s Folks, or even what words were entering our vocabulary. At the sight of the General Lee, we were right back into the wild world of those “Duke boys.”

At then end of the show when Cooter pumps up the power of the ol’ #01 and Uncle Jesse had outwitted Boss Hog, we’d disperse to the bathrooms with us kids having to run upstairs so the adults wouldn’t have to. At my age now, I completely understand the wisdom of that, but as a kid, I resented having to do it.

And then, settled in with a refreshed bowl of popcorn, in our pajamas, we heard the verdict of whether or not we’d be able to watch…Dallas. Oh! How I hated J.R. Ewing and loved Bobby. I didn’t quite understand what Sue Ellen’s issues were at that time, but I knew to feel sorry for her. I thought Miss Ellie was elegant. The costumes, the dialogue, the adultness of the show made it more than worth a few good behavior days to follow the story line that I was just starting to get, but did not all the way.

I’d snuggle up to Bapa and watch with him. It was a feeling of complete and total safety. There was nothing in the world that could touch our family then. My Grandma was okay with the show, but commonly would lax her head back, mouth open, and snore lightly. It was practically tradition. 

When I think of my mom’s Folks, it gives me a feeling of family so deep into my bones a part of me lay with them in their graves. It is a feeling of promise that the world would be as strong as we were. Our duty to the world and to each other was and is to create love wherever we are because that is how the world SHOULD work. We know that it doesn’t, but with each little act of compassion or kindness, we are all living our Folks dreams for a better world.

As for my Rents, it took much longer for me to see them as givers of light. I was estranged for so many years but it wasn’t until I returned that the pangs of what I’d set down to walk away from really set barbs into my spirit. I realized that what I’d given up wasn’t just parents with incredibly high expectations, but that I’d relieved myself of that burden to do it my own way. I wasn’t born to follow their path. I was created to accept the guidance of the Folks and my Rents to become even better than they were, or at least comparable.

Since I have no biological offspring of my own, I often worry of how my legacy will pan out. I think of the many traditions I was taught at their knees and mourn the loss of it stopping with me. 

But, I have discovered in love and unity that my cousins, nieces and nephews, all carry me with them. For example, I got to take my great nephew across the Mighty Mack for his first time and buy the fudge of his choice in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. He learned to sing 500 Miles by the Proclaimers at the top of his lungs, got spoiled with ice cream, and basically…well The Folks and the Rents carry on in me no matter where I go.

She the Phoenix

And the Phoenix, in all her glory

will don the robes of the warrior queen

that are tempered in the fires of suffering

and ashes to reveal the colors

of a Goddess within the flames,

born repeatedly from the music

of the nest’s heat dancing

the blazing sparks.