Cooter, Clemson, and Middle C

Earlier this month we enjoyed the Georgia National Fair and all of its splendor.  Rides, exhibits, music, food, friends, fun–every bit of it.  During one of our visits (yep, we went more than once this year–ALL the fun, y’all),  we were wandering through the commercial exhibit hall.  Cooter stopped to look at the piano in one of the booths.

As he looked at the keys, searching for middle C, the owner came up and, noticing Cooter’s baseball cap, spoke to him.  “Hey, are you a Clemson fan?” Then he looked up at me, “Are you a Clemson fan?”

I shrugged and said, “I’m not, not really,” and smiled back.  The good-natured salesman laughed and said, “Then why on earth would you let him wear that hat?”

I laughed.  “That’s just how we roll.”

The truth is that Cooter found the hat at the GW Boutique, and he really liked it.  His friend is a Clemson fan, so he cheers the team along with his friend.  Am I a Clemson fan?  Is the Fella?  Is anyone else in our house?  Not really.  But it doesn’t keep us from loving Cooter in his Clemson fan-dom.  He’s becoming his own person.  He IS his own person.  He is learning and living out his story, and he’s forming his own opinions about sports teams and what books are his favorites to read (biographies and history and oh, Captain Underpants) and what matters most to him.  We’ve been studying the beginning of this country and how the government was formed, and so he’s even been venturing into forming his own political beliefs.

On all of these things–sports teams, books, what matters most, and even political beliefs–there are things we have in common, things we believe the exact same about (Captain Underpants not being one of them, you understand), and there are things we absolutely disagree on.

And yet, just this morning, that little imp told me I was his favorite Mama.  And while, I’m the only nominee in this category–it’s not an award he had to give.  So, despite our lack of commonality on several things (the need for him to do his science lesson being a major one), he loves me.

And I adore him right back.

Perhaps what I should have told the piano man back at the Fair is, that in this family, it’s okay to like and think and believe different things.  That’s why it’s okay that my oldest loves music I don’t really care for, that my middle child loves UGA (though I’m a Tech Fan), and that my baby boy is a huge fan of all things football and enjoys books I am not really interested in.

And it really is all okay.

Because at the end of the day, we are all right here together.  Living in our own little corner of this great big world.  Growing and learning and sometimes changing our thoughts and beliefs and preferences as life takes us on down the road.  And whatever it takes for us to live and love together, that’s what counts the most.  Being okay with our differences and not only allowing but encouraging each other to have them–even if it’s cheering for a team I could care less about–that’s what keeps us going.  That’s what matters most.  In our house, our neighborhood, our town, our country, our world.  For all of us.

I hope you get to wear the hat you want.  Because it’s your head, your journey, your story.  And I hope folks love you just the same.

Love to all.

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the red couch

flying down the interstate
one goal in mind
home
mile after mile
and then unexpectedly
we see
a red couch
abandoned, in the emergency lane

cushions awry
broken slats

someone will walk into the house
and feel incomplete
like something is lost, missing
for their red couch is no longer there
waiting for them
to continue with their stories intertwined–
the couch filled with tears
and laughter and movie nights
and evenings spent reading together
by the fire,
hardly noticed
until it was gone

some will be angry
others wondering why
some blaming, some crying
some simply sitting where it used to be
wishing somehow they could bring it back

and so that is how it is
today
with you gone
and your stories with you–
how will we go on,
walking into the room
or the gathering
or taking the photograph
with one less smile?

like the couch
we are lost and broken
without you here

this journey
with all its pain and goodbyes
and finding joy in the hardest of days
laughter in the midst of the tears

it’s baffling
it’s all so baffling

much like a red couch
abandoned
on the trip back home

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By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/190007) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Family Jewels

So this is it.  An ordinary day that has really big things attached to it.

And to be honest, I’m really excited.

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For every single day, three years in a row, I’ve sat down at some point during my day, usually after all have gone to bed and the house is quiet, and I’ve shared a little bit of my day or my story or my heart right here.

And you’ve read these tidbits from my life.

Thank you.

With all my heart, I thank you.  I know what it’s like to have all the things to do and little time to click on a link or pull something up on a screen and commit to reading it, especially when I get a little wordy–yes, I’ve been called out on this, you know who you are, and I love ya.  And still, you’ve done this.  You’ve listened to my stories about growing up, raising children, being married, struggling through food allergies, letting my oldest grow up and leave the nest.  You’ve multiplied my joys and divided my sorrows, and you’ve raised your fist at injustices right alongside me.

Thank you.

You’ve read the goofy and the serious.  The mundane and the meaningful.  The poetry and the prose.  You’ve sat on my front porch and watched the delight and joy of children and heard the beauty in the songs of the birds and the frogs and watched the sun go down as we sipped the perfect cup of coffee.  You’ve laughed with me and wept with me.

You’ve given me the gift of your time and your presence, and as long as I have my memory, I will treasure this gift.

This week, anticipating this day coming, I’ve thought about what I’ve learned in the past three years, and if you will allow me, I’d like to share them with you.

*Sometimes you can put your whole being–heart, mind, soul–into something, and it doesn’t resonate with a single soul.  Speak it anyway.  You need to let that light shine, y’all.  Just because someone doesn’t notice it doesn’t mean it’s not making the world a brighter place.  Shine on.

*People can be beautiful, broken, hard, kind, mean, intense, easy-going, light-hearted, broken-hearted, funny, somber, sarcastic, caring, compassionate, salty, loving, oblivious, and we need to love them all.  It’s basically our most important job and really, it’s what we were created for.

* My family–every last one of them–are incredible people.  They might not set world records in things that will get them in that book that was the most checked out one in our school library, but they set the world record at loving me and supporting and encouraging and taking my phone calls even though they have all the things to do.  My children and the Fella have put up with my glazed stares when they’ve caught me mid-writing or mind-writing, and they’ve supported my writing by giving me space and time to do it.  They’ve read my stories and they’ve proofed my writing and they’ve given me permission to share our life with others.  I’m getting way more love and good stuff than I could ever deserve in this life, y’all.  When I sit and ponder on it all, in the words of my oldest, Aub, “I. Can’t. Even.”

*I set out writing this in 2013 in the midst of the grief of having said goodbye to my Mama suddenly and way too soon less than two months before.  Mama told me a lot of things–two of which were “You might need a nap, go lie down, and you’ll feel better” (she was always right) and “Go write your story, tell all of this in a book somewhere.”  (Turns out she was right about that too.)  Writing has and continues to heal me.  The words that I’m able to pick out and put on paper take a confusing, wonderful journey and make a little bit of sense out of it.  For that I am thankful.  Every single day of it.

*The ones who have already left this world and headed on up to the House left me a few things.  Even some that could be loosely called “family jewels.”  What I have discovered for the past three years is that the most precious things my Granny, my Great Aunts, my Mama, my Daddy, and the others I love, who are gone from my sight, have left me are the stories.  The memories.  The joy, the laughter, the shared tears, the tiny little moments and the big ones–all which led me to this place right here in this place right now.  THOSE are the jewels they left me that I treasure the most.

And I hope that’s what these stories, these three years of writing will be for my own people one day.  The ones in my family now, and those who will be.  Because my family is not complete.  We’ve all kinds of branches and leaves yet to grow…..we’ve got strong roots to grow from, and that’s a precious thing.  I hope that all of them will find something here in the meanderings I’ve shared to lift them in the dark days and something to laugh about on the joyful ones.

*Finally, I’ve learned that there is something worth writing home about in every single day…..if only you are willing to look for it.  (And believe me, some days I was turning over rocks to look, but there was never a day without something, some thoughts or words or stories to share.)  This is a journey made of many footsteps and many stories.  One day, one moment at a time.  The truth is that February 29th comes around once every four years.  It is special.  But if we are looking for it, March 29th can be just as amazing.  As can September 19th or March 3rd or November 16th or February 10th or December 14th or the twelfth of Everyday.  Each and every day can have a bit of light in it, if we stop searching for the big and amazing and star-studded.  The journey of an earthworm can be just as fascinating as the snow that falls from the sky, if we open our eyes to the beauty embedded in all aspects of the journey.

All this leads me to this.  I am taking a break from writing for I Might Need a Nap for a while.  It might be a week (I have folks enforcing this, so yeah, it will be at least a week), a month, or maybe even longer.  I will come back and write here when the story is there.  But I am not going to stop writing.  It would be like no longer breathing to stop writing at this point in my life.

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One of my people sent me this. She will remain nameless but she can bake her own cookies and I’m pretty much almost done raising her, so there’s that.

I have a project I’m working on which I am very excited about.  It’s coming together nicely, but it requires more attention from me, and since that means letting go of the blog or my family…..well, in a saner moment, I made my choice.  I am looking forward to sharing more details when the time comes.

I’ve also had someone come round who wants me to tell her story.  I tried to explain real kindly that her timing wasn’t ideal.  That made her harrumph.  (That’s a real thing.  If you’ve seen it, you  know it.)  She crossed her arms and stared me down over her glasses and just nodded and kept on rocking.  That worried me more than the harrumph.  I have tried to placate her, but she looks up at the clock and back at me from time to time, and I realize our time to tell her story is dwindling, so that’s on my agenda next as well.  Helping her tell her story.  She’s a character for sure, and I love her.  So I’m going to spend some time with her.  Because that’s what we do for folks we love.

Unlike other times when I’ve contemplated stepping away for a little bit, I’m excited.  That’s how I know the time is right.  I will be back, as there are more stories to come.  But for now, I’m going to go to bed before the chickens are waking up, I’m going to read good books, I’m going to take long walks in the evening, and if anyone asks, I’ll visit and tell my stories in person.  Because that’s something I want to pursue as well.  (So yeah, holler, and I’ll come spin a tale or two–bring the back porch to y’all, so to speak.  Turns out I get a kick out of that too.)

Thank you for sharing the journey.  If you have a moment to click the follow button over there and sign up with your email, you’ll be sure not to miss any future stories.  No worries if that’s not your thing.  Just please come back to visit from time to time.  Like I said, all kinds of good things going on over here at the house.

But first, I might need a nap.

I’ll catch y’all later.  Make ’em be good to you.

Love to all.

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circling the wagons close

some of life’s most sacred moments, holy moments
happen along the raw edges of hurt
and pain
when we circle the wagons close
and sit with each other in the dark

holding hands, hands in laps
fingering the edges of the wrap we have on
to ward off the cold
the cold that is here
the cold yet to come
all of it
the veins a light hue of blue
seen through worn hands that have birthed and washed
and tucked littles beneath blankets and cleaned and prepared
and reached for love one last time
before quietly letting go
and grasping for the good in that

it’s what we do
when darkness
and the cold come to call
we stand together against the chill
drying tears,
laughing and crying all in the same breath,
holding each other tight

it is one of life’s greatest honors and hardest gifts to bear,
to sit with another
when the news comes
and after, when the pieces, shattered and scattered, are there
and we don’t know yet what to do with them

whether around a kitchen table
girding our souls for what is to come
with the laughter of children in the background,
a playful reminder of
happier memories and times,
times when we were those littles and the “old” folks sat vigil,
waiting on the news

or in an apartment with friends we hold dear
pizza and movies a soothing salve for the stinging pain of heartache and loss,
that grief knows no age limits

or sitting in the waiting room
waiting
holding our breath and gripping hands, waiting to hear the words that
will choose the path ahead for us,
always waiting, no choices
only waiting

it is in all of these moments
and all of the emails and messages and cards
and phone calls and trips and opening our doors to pups
and children
and hugs and all the times we say “I love you”
with a little more emphasis
and hug a little longer

all of those precious moments
are
so real
raw
broken
beautiful
holy

and though we may not have the answers
or good news
or the energy to face another moment of this–
we have each other

in the face of questions
and anger
and pain
and sadness
and oh, all those tears we try to keep hidden,
in the face of it all
we have each other

circling the wagons close
to hold all the love in
like lightning bugs on a summer night
strong and moving around through the darkness,
holding all who are near in the Light

and like the circle
never-ending
bathing the wounded in light
and love
and holding each other close
as we let the tears fall

it’s what our people do
on days like this

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The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas…..

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There are nine words that tell the story of the past week, of the past year.  In saying farewell to 2015, I think back over the goodbyes of the year and my heart breaks again.  I much prefer the hello’s and the hugs and and the coffeehouse chats and the long conversations and laughter late into the night.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my story can be told in nine words:

“There you are!”

“I hate to see you go.”

Wishing you all the hello’s and hugs and “There you are”s for the coming year.

Love to all.

Peace

Today our family joined a dear friend who has a photography business and had her take our family pictures.  In the past week, this talented young woman and I have tossed around ideas about where would be best to take them. I was thinking I would love for us to go to Wesleyan, because there are so many beautiful places on the campus for pictures.  As we talked, she mentioned a place new to me, Amerson Water Works Park, where she has had shoots on more than one occasion.  She described it, saying there were many different beautiful spots there good for taking pictures.  I decided to try something new.  Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty I saw today.  The wooded areas, the trees, the pathways, the trails, and then there was this.

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In the words of my little friend from so many years ago, “Good job, God!”

And I felt peace within my soul.

Funny how that can happen when I step outside my comfort zone and try something new…..

May peace be with you.

Love to all.

The One Everyone Needs in Her Posse

When you look around at your posse, the ones who are closest to you, the ones whom you call to celebrate with or to share the hard times, the painful stories–look around closely.  In addition to the ones who will call you out and keep you straight and the ones who will come out with a bat swinging when you are hurting, make sure you also have the ones who will tell you, in the words of Mr. John Paul Schulz, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Because when everything in your life seems to be falling apart and you are beyond overwhelmed to the point where you CANNOT EVEN, you will need those compassionate souls.  You will need to be reminded that, while it seems bad right now, it will get better.  It will.

These can be anyone from your sister to your neighbor to your Aunt to your daughter to your best friend to your cousin to your vet to the person at the drive thru. (You know, if you were the kind who told the cashier about your hard stuff.  Ahem.)  Find these people.  And when you have them, give thanks for them.  And love them back.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of those in my posse–those who know me and love me anyway–but tonight I’m especially thankful for these encouragers, who seem to never tire of listening (though, you know, I’m sure they must), and they are always able to come up with just the right words.  Mostly telling me it will be okay.  Just like my Mama used to do.

Love to all.

Looking Forward To…..

Such a lovely day today.  The sunshine.  The crisp fall leaves beneath our feet.  The colors of the trees, the faint smell of fall in the air.  The children ran as far as they could until they collapsed in a pile of arms and legs, laughing.  We explored the park, read the historical signs, the children played, and we adults talked about all and none of the important things.  Moments of conversation punctuated by laughter and shared stories and companionable silences, during which all that was unsaid was understood.

A picnic lunch under the trees wrapped up the morning.  The quiet except for the rustling of napkins and children chomping away was a testament to the energy expended and fun had. As goodbyes were said and pictures taken to remember, we all hugged and nodded, “Yes, we will do this again soon.”

After a brief afternoon slumber to recuperate and rejuvenate, we were off again.  To share coffee with friends and do gymnastics and visit with my sister and her family. Again with the storytelling and remembering and catching up.  I think my favorite moments in life will always be the ones where stories are told–whether I’ve heard them ten times before or not.  After a lovely supper and candles and cake and singing and wishing, we were headed for home and closing the house and the day up tight.

Such a lovely day to have a birthday.

Except that none of this is true.

And yet–it was still a day with lovely moments.

Poor Cooter.  He is a sick little fella.  Round two with this cold/allergy/upper respiratory MESS.  We are so over it.  (But not over it, if you get what I’m saying.) Our Princess had two bouts with it and came out a winner, but then she had the help of her inhaler.  Cooter has no such help.  He only has his secret weapon.  Me.

Bless him.

He wound up in the bed with me last night, which suits me fine.  I like to be able to hear them breathing and check for fevers and besides, when they are sick, it’s just so pitiful.  When he woke up this morning, he lay there for a while, looking at the ceiling or a book and then, suddenly, he popped up, “Hey!”  He looked really close into my eyes, “Today is your birthday, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  “Well, happy birthday!” he said, with his croupy little voice.  Then, “I’m sorry I’m messing it up by being sick.”

For the love.  Priceless.  No, buddy, no.

Tonight as I hugged our Princess good night, she said, “I am worried that I messed up your birthday.”

“How?”

“By playing too much Minecraft and not just sitting with you.”

Oh my stars.  Can’t you just picture that?  Let’s all celebrate my birthday by sitting around together.  And hanging out.  And just sitting here.  With folks glancing at their watches (okay, phones) to see how much longer is left in this. very. special. day.  Hoping it will be over soon so we can all return to our regularly scheduled way of living.

Ummm, no.  I assured her that I did not begrudge her the bit of time she had played her game.  No worries.  She smiled and hugged me once more (when did she get to be as tall as I am?) and headed off to bed.

Between the moments of my littles’ worries about my day, there were some very precious moments.  My children’s neighborfriends wishing me a happy birthday because a little birdie had told them it was.  A gift bag on my doorstep from my sweet neighborfriend.  Message after message from all the people from different parts of my story sending well wishes for the day.  Phone calls from people I love, offering to go get Ginger Ale or whatever we might need, offering to tote my non-sick child to her practice, offering best wishes and much love.  Seeing faces I love on the screen, live and recorded, thinking of me on this day of days.  Cards in the mailbox and old pictures coming out of the woodwork. And the laughter.  Yes.  That too.

Mama's Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

This evening I baked my Mama’s special fall cookies with her birthday cake cookie cutter.  She made those cookies for me so many times over the years.  I love the recipe, I love that cookie cutter, and I love remembering her hands making them.  I can see so clearly what the early morning on my birthday was like all those years ago–walking in to the dining room where my present was sitting in my chair waiting for me.  That is, until the year I told them I really didn’t like getting my present first thing in the morning.  I liked it better after supper–because it gave me something to look forward to all day.

Which is why my cards are sitting right there, waiting on me to finish writing to open them.  I’ve been looking forward to this all day.

So lucky to be so loved.

So lucky to be so loved.

And perhaps that is what I have learned today–that while much of birthdays can be about looking back and remembering those of years past, it is just as much about looking to the future.  Now that I’m a woman “of a certain age,” *ahem* I find myself a little braver, a little louder, a little less serious, and a lot more in touch with where I am right now.  And I’m looking forward to the wheres of tomorrow and a year from now and years beyond that.  Some days I’m just plain looking forward, and while things might be too far in the distance to see them clearly, I do know that I’m heading in the right direction.  Oh I’ll still glance backwards every now and again, there’s nothing wrong and everything right with that.  But I can’t live there, though goodness knows I’ve been tempted.

I am looking forward, because if life has taught me anything, it’s that there is so much waiting there for me at the end of the day.  So much to treasure and unwrap.  So much joy.

Love and happy everyday to all.

The Love Behind the Extra Leaves and Card Tables

I miss our big family get togethers from when I was little.

It doesn’t matter where. From my great Granddaddy’s to my Great Aunt’s to my Granny’s to Mama’s. I loved them all. The hustle and bustle of activity, tables or counters or stovetops groaning, laden with all kinds of good foods–and some that I wasn’t so fond of, but it didn’t matter.  In that setting, a no thank you helping was palatable.  Sweet foods were piled on the plates next to the casseroles.  Some casseroles were having an identity crisis and could have passed for both. (Pineapple cheese casserole, I’m looking at you.)  They had all the goodies of a church potluck, but these were even better–they were with our very own people.

I am still not quite sure how Granny fit all of us in her little house. But she did.  Some folks ate at the counter that ran between the kitchen and the living room.  Others ate at the card tables she set up for folks in front of the couch with chairs on the other side.  Still, how her four children, their spouses and all the grands fit in there, it boggles my mind. Never mind how she prepared enough food for all of us.  It was so good that you had to work not to eat too much, because tucked away in the back bedroom–first known as the “Cold Room” and then the “Pretty room” after its denim and red bandana curtain/bedding makeover–was all of the homemade candy Granny had been preparing.  Divinity, buckeyes, Marth Washingtons…..oh my land.  I just gained ten pounds sitting here drooling over the memory.  I’m pretty sure Granny’s love language must have been food.  If you left hungry, it was your own fault.

Gatherings with my Mama’s side of the family took place first at my Great Grandaddy’s house.  He had a big table, so we’d all gather round the table piled high with food.  What I remember the most from their house was breakfast before dawn (Granddaddy was a retired probate judge and farmer)–biscuits and red-eye gravy.  Excuse me, while I wipe away a tear.  Those things were melt in my mouth GOOD.  For dessert a four layer cake with lemon cheese icing was a given.

Oh me.

After Granddaddy passed, we’d gather at my Great Aunt’s house.  I think she’s on my mind especially today as it’s her birthday.  A few years back I planted a yellow rosebush on her birthday because they were her favorites.  I expect later on I’ll go cut one and bring it inside and smile at all the ways she shaped who I am.

I was beyond thrilled the year I was deemed old enough to go get the extra leaf for her table.  She and my Great Uncle had a lovely table, but what with it being just the two of them, they usually kept it as a small round table.  As we all arrived, there would be a conversation as to how many leaves we needed–one or two.  Then someone would go fetch the required number of leaves carefully from under my Great Aunt’s bed.

Oh my, what a precious moment.  The gently gliding it out from under the bed, wrapped in its sheet.  Then the careful unwrapping and folding the sheet and placing it aside for later.  I carried it upright with both hands through two doorways, calling out to my siblings with a voice that near trembled with the weight of my responsibility, “Move please.  Step out of the way.  Don’t bump me.”  I could NOT hit the walls or doorway with this treasured piece.  The process of dropping it in place and securing it always fascinated me.  After it was all together, it was time to set the table and watch my Great Uncle fry up the okra.  That and my Great Aunt adding almond slivers to the snap beans or a casserole or two were the finishing touches before we sat down to eat.

These days such gatherings are few and far between.  I miss there being more people than I can count, but knowing every face I saw.  I miss the ritual of preparing for the people. It was sacred, a moment of reverence, of appreciating and honoring and creating a place for each one gathered there.  Each one mattered.  Each one had a spot at the table, the card table, or the counter.  And in our hearts.

Today I’m thankful for these memories.  For the hush in my heart when I remember sliding the leaf out from under the bed and feeling the beautiful wood.  For the taste of foods I haven’t eaten in years.  For the smiles and laughter and “scooching” over just a bit to fit in one more person. Because there was always room for just one more.  Most of all, I’m thankful for my Daddy’s sisters who have continued this tradition in their own way.  Who continue to set a place and gather us all close.  The words “thank you” just don’t seem enough.  But I do appreciate them so much.

May you all find yourselves in need of an extra leaf or a card table–surrounded by the people you love.

Love to all.

buried dreams

for J and for L, always 

over there in the far corner beyond the well manicured bits of the lawn
lies a little stone
in the grass
with a name
and two dates
that are the same

beneath the stone
all the dreams and hopes
and unwhispered I love you’s
are tucked away

never to be

hearts were broken
especially the one
whose heart he listened to,
the steady beat
preparing him for a life of his own

that was never to be

why can never be known
how, it is futile to ask
instead hands are held
and hugs are longer
and tears flow through smiles and eyes
that try to see the good

casseroles come
as they do
and cards and sorrowful phrases

until they too eventually end

and her hand is as empty
as her arms

and heart

and I wish I could hold her hand now
and hear all her dreams and hopes
all the words she needs to say
or not say
for the little one

who was never able to be

I lean down and trace the letters
of the name I never got to speak
the cheeks I never got to kiss
the eyes I never gazed into,
love intensely shining

the breeze blows and
the tall grass dances
to the tune played by the frogs in the bottom
as the sun sets

another day passes
and the pain remains
how long can she bear what weighs on her heart?
how long can I?

how long before our hands touch
and our tears fall together
tracing a river in the dry wasteland
where we’ve been for so long

far too long

By Lionel Allorge (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lionel Allorge (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 43:19 

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.