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.

The Blank Canvas

I should be painting right now, but I’m staring at the canvases lined up thinking of you instead. I say I don’t think of you, but I do. It’s usually late at night in the silence of a sleeping house. I just get the feeling that if you were here, things would be better. I mean, I know they wouldn’t be, they’d be the same, but I could talk to you about them. I could ask for your wisdom and you’d laugh at me.

“Wisdom isn’t something that can be taught,” You’d laugh. “It has to be learned. The only thing I could possibly do is guide you away from what I’ve already tried that didn’t work.” Then you’d ruffle my hair. I’d act annoyed but I wouldn’t forget.

I look at the canvas and I think, “AHA! I’ll paint you!” Because you were always so beautiful to me. So real that even my own body sometimes felt alien, unkempt, and unruly as I watched you move with grace even though your shoulders were hunched over and you shuffled your feet. I don’t know how to capture everything you meant to me. I don’t know how to not cry when I remember the jokes you told me, how you cheated at cards, your morning prayers, poker with buttons, or sauerkraut making in the basement with the family.

How can I capture the truth of what it felt like to be with you? What it meant to be the most important person in the world in a room full of people with every one of them feeling the same way. You never excluded anyone from your love. You never turned anyone away who came asking, or just to be near you. You were filled with an unending capacity that I strive to achieve because I admired it so much.

I sit here looking at the colors of paints in messy bottles, well loved paint brushes drying after last nights foray, and I wish, I just wish I could hug you again. I wish you could tell me with your heart that you love me too.I wish I could coax the colors to obey my command regarding you. But they sit as still as a stalked mouse with me the pouncing cat. The brushes feel like hammers in my hands, refusing as well to obey.

I feel you sometimes, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. It’s usually when I pour my first cup of coffee from the still brewing pot. I sit down at my table and I look at the spot where my husband and usually the guests sit. I can see you sitting there with your own cup, smiling at me. Together we take that sip and the hot bitter beauty washes my tongue with scalding hot communion. We exhale and whisper the prayer together. Then, you usually go wherever you go while I talk to my ceiling and look to the sky.

My canvas is still blank. My heart remembers you. And for no particular reason, my wish is that you hear my words, “I love you so very much.”

Kawphy Nearly Nectar

This is a painting nearly completed. I want to save the finished product for my art show/Fundraising auction on June 20th in Knoxville, TN.

First hint that it isn't buildings as my husband guessed they were.

First hint that it isn’t buildings as my husband guessed they were.

All but the shading and some finishing touches to be made before official display. Kawphy Brewed will be the title when it's completed.

All but the shading and some finishing touches to be made before official display. Kawphy Brewed will be the title when it’s completed.

NaPoWriMo: Coffee or Tea

Ode to Kawphy

Kawphy Thyme is my Bapa's brain child. It is a truly magical experience when done properly.

Kawphy Thyme is my Bapa’s brain child. It is a truly magical experience when done properly.

The dawn blooms silver-pink, barely lighting my path

I climb the high hillside, filling my lungs with thinning air

With burlap in hand, I carefully select the dark red ripest

They drip from the fruited tree like tiny whiny grapes

I don’t cherish the fruit as much as I covet the seeds

The dawn heats water per the dictator’s striking hand

I am in Kenya, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Sumatra, Timor, New Guinea.

I am roasting in the sun. I am cool beneath the shade.

I am the Sabbats and Esbats wrapped in the Holy Grail

I am the earth which collects my offspring

I am the water that nourishes my roots

I am the air which determines my wealth of ideas

I am the fire on which my ovaries are brought to life.

I am the spirit wrapped in each element,

Indulged with a noisy slurping morning prayer,

“Ah, nectar of the Gods.”

I am Kawphy, not the coffee you seek.

I am the commune of commiseration

I am the lifeblood of the creators

I am the dreamless sleep of the catatonic believers

I am the dream of the hillside, delivered for a tithe of glazed donuts.

I am to be honored as family, birthed to live among emotions.

I am the power to move the world from my small hillside tree. NaPoWriMo

Born to be ME!

I just read this article: RIGHT HERE. In fact, I’ve read several in the past week that were lists of this or that empowerment, strength, courage, etc. With each new one I read, I find myself thinking either I’m naive, or I am this, or I am becoming this already, or even I’ve surpassed this.

Now, I know I’m far from perfect because I know what goes on in my head and am sometimes quite surprised about what comes out of my mouth, but my curiosity lies in my blind spots. Am I seeing myself clearly? Am I measuring my self-value and self-worth accurately and if so, against what scale am I placing the measuring stick? Am I comparing myself to others? Am I looking at my previous bodies of work and realizing how far I’ve come?

I spent three months this past winter, holed up and sleeping. I called it my hibernation, but I was trying to come to terms with the loss of my identity as a mother to a boy I love deeply but whom I couldn’t protect any longer. I hid in my own thoughts, avoided contact with people unless they darkened my doorstep. I went through daily motions without passion or conviction. I spent a lot of time contemplating my own identity.

Before the boy came to live with me, I was wild, scattered, driven to succeed at nothing and everything at the same time. I lacked focus, direction, but most of all, I was missing a sense of responsibility as an anchor. I was adrift without anchor.

After he came to live with me, I gladly gave up so much of who I was that I turned into a fierce Mother Bear who defended her cub so viciously that nobody could harm him. He opened my eyes to just how much sacrifice a mother makes for her offspring. It was during this time that I realized the damage I’d caused my own mother. THIS happened.

But then, like a thief in the night, he vanished without even a goodbye. I realized, as I visited an old friend tonight, how much that still hurt, but I discovered something far more valuable.

As I was telling the story of his childish and shady betrayal, I let it go. I looked at the last six weeks of my life and realized that his leaving gave me yet another gift. It allowed me to reevaluate who I wanted to be now that I’m “grown up” (I still can’t say that with a straight face.)

I said, in my daily conversations with my ceiling, “I am a writer.” And poems, stories, articles, and slogans came gushing out of me as if in a torrent of violent overflow. Lyrics fell from my fingertips as if a different entity had taken up my pen for me. Words dripped from my pencil which allowed me to assemble my work into a Kindle BOOK. I felt astonishment, but considered it a stroke of lucky happiness, finally.

I pondered to myself out loud, talking to the ceiling, but not really. “I am an artist.” BANG! ZAP! BOOM! (Really, that was the kids playing basketball outside!) I was informed of an art gallery requesting pieces for a set up based on Identity. I submitted a couple of pieces and I was on display a few Saturday’s later. When I say that, know that one of the pieces I was showing was a nude of myself. I really mean *I* was on display! I got asked to do a solo show on June 20th in Knoxville, TN AND to give two workshops. Then I got asked to donate for a great cause pride event called Art OUT, so I’m doing that too. I was quite pleased with the success of my declaration. I find myself throwing hours and hours into writing and art.

Harm None

Harm None; Watercolor/Mixed Media 8X10 $30 FOR SALE!

I spoke to my ceiling again (Yes, I know. Maybe my ceiling is magic, right? Only it happens when I’m not home too.) I said, “I really dig music. I should make some.” My friend, Professor Pudgytums in New York, sent me a pair of headphones (REALLY NICE ONES, THANK YOU!) and said, “Do it.” I made MUSIC. I’m working on a new song with the super talented Laura Davis. She calls me up and asks, “Hey, do you want to make music tomorrow?” Sure, why not. Every chance I get, I’m willing to go create.

This whole time, I’m thinking to myself. Are you sure? Are you really doing this? Are you having fun? Are you following your dreams? Are you living your passion? Are you accepting the…Let’s just say, I’m asking myself a lot of self-check questions in a day to see if I’m meeting my own personal standards and level of expected integrity for the day. Did I put in every bit of effort I could to make this world a bit better? A bit more beautiful? Okay then, carry on.

But with all the questions, I didn’t know if I had fallen off the cliff of self-identity, if I were pushed, or if I willingly had spread my wings to fly. I felt uncertainty and self-doubt start to creep in. I hate those more than I hate questions. Instead, my pastor, unbeknownst to him my questions and struggles, posted THIS LINK on his Facebook page.

“The smartest, most interesting, most dynamic, most impactful people … lived to figure it out. At some point in their lives, they realized that carefully crafted plans … often don’t hold up… Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living — to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead, because you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.

This might sound risky — and you know what? It is. It’s really risky. But the greater risk is to choose false certainty over genuine ambiguity. The greater risk is to fear failure more than mediocrity. The greater risk is to pursue a path only because it’s the first path you decided to pursue.”Daniel H Pink

Quite frankly, I’m a bit scared to talk to my ceiling again because I’m beginning to think there is a power greater than me making sure I have the best life possible. In the meantime, I’ll just keep making art, writing, drawing, dancing, laughing, and drinking copious amounts of Kawphy because that’s what writer/artist/lyricists do and I am happy doing what makes my spirit sing with wild abandon.