A Perfect Blend for a Lovely Evening

Last night I had the great pleasure of combining four of my favorite things all in one evening.

My oldest child.

Mexican food.

My alma mater.

Poetry.

A perfect blend of lovely things for a night “out.”

A writerfriend and I were talking a while back about poetry.  I love it.  I love reading it.  I love writing it.  Sometimes my brain thinks in iambic pentameter. But mostly free flow.  Anyway, poetry is my heart.  However, as I jokingly told her, “No one buys poetry books anymore…..except me.”

"I Watched You Disappear" by Anya Krugovoy Silver

“I watched you disappear” by Anya Krugovoy Silver

And so it was that I found myself holding a beautiful copy of this poetry book by Anya Silver.  My friend got it for me for my birthday.  It was ironic (or perhaps perfectly planned) that this same poet was going to speak at my alma mater, Wesleyan College.  I got the book Sunday evening and the very next day I reluctantly handed it off to my college aged daughter, Auburn, with the request that she attend the reading and perhaps have the book signed.  (I’m a book nerd from waaaaay back.)  She agreed and took my lovely book with her, but not before we stood in the parking lot where we’d met for lunch, weeping as we read two poems, “Paper Mill, Macon” and “I watched you disappear.”

Weeping.

Such beautiful, raw energy in these poems that hasn’t let go of me yet.

The more I thought about the poems, the more I longed to be in the audience, listening to this artist share her work.  The Fella was more than willing to hang out with the littles, so I hopped in the vehicle and went.  Not a whole of lot planning happened beforehand which is probably the only reason it was able to happen.

My girl and I met for supper with her best friend and her parents.  Two words.  Fish tacos.

For the love.

Taylor Amphitheater, Wesleyan College

Taylor Amphitheater, Wesleyan College

We bundled up in the cold and made the five-minute trek over to Taylor Amphitheater where the poetry reading was to be held.

Home.

I’ve sat in that room many times over the years, but last night topped it.

Anya Silver is a weaver of words.  She writes about the raw emotion that comes with a cancer diagnosis and about what it’s like as a Mama loving her child.  The poem about her son’s legs…..beautiful and delightful.  And I completely got it.

What impressed me perhaps even more than her writing and her easy reading of it was her grace.  One young woman in the audience asked a question that had just been asked a few minutes ago.  Without ever making the person questioning feel uncomfortable or any of the rest of us for that matter, Dr. Silver answered it again briefly and then delved into a little more in-depth thought on the subject.

Wow.

After she finished reading, Dr. Silver graciously met with people who wanted to purchase books or have their books signed or just visit for a few minutes.  I wound up toward the end of the line, and while my mind was starting to wander back to the Fella and my littles and their getting ready for bed routine (okay, I was missing them), I wanted to stand in that line and meet this woman who could elicit such emotion from me with her words.

Her and Miranda Lambert.

Tears.

The lady in front of me did not have children to go home to.  She was elderly, and from her conversation with the poet I wondered if she were going home to an empty house where the only sound would be the sound of her own feet brushing the floor with each step, where the only fire she’d warm herself by standing close to would be one she made herself.  I wondered who listened to her stories when she was sitting in her home, presumably alone.

I hope she has a dog. Or a cat.  Because she had such good stories.

She carried on a conversation such that I thought they’d met before and were good friends, but eventually I figured out that was not the case.

And again I was struck by the kindness and grace of the one signing the books.

When we moved up to meet her, sitting there next to her little guy, 10, who was reading an Encylopedia of Presidents that Cooter would have loved to peruse, I introduced myself and Auburn.

And then…..

I too launched into sharing a bit of my story, our story.

On the way home, I laughed at myself.  I had done just what the precious lady in front of me had done.  Carried on a conversation as though we were old friends.

And I wondered, do we feel the need to do that because she has just shared some intimate and deep and personal stories about herself?  Now we want to do that as well?  Or was it that her stories took us to a place where we were comfortable with her and comforted by sharing our own?

I don’t know.  But it happened.

She answered my questions graciously, and I know some of the answers will change me as a writer.  As a writer of poetry too.

But I left there with one question unanswered.  How do you write the raw and broken so well and be okay with putting all of that into words and putting it Out.  There. ?  

Because I have some thoughts that long to come out, but I’m not ready to open that Pandora’s box yet.

It’s just too much.

Last night was an amazing evening.  And while I missed the rest of the crew, it was absolutely one of those moments I will pull back out and thumb through over and over again when the nights are long and cold and dark.  There was so much light in this experience–and sitting there next to my girl at OUR alma mater, listening to stories that resonated with us both…..

PRICELESS.

Tonight I’m thankful for my writerfriend who introduced me to Anya Silver’s poetry.  I am thankful that Dr. Silver is willing to share her journey and not pull any punches.  We need to hear the truth–I think we even crave it sometimes.  I appreciate the Fella’s gift to me of time, and I love my littles for making the evening a good one with their Daddy.

And here’s a note to all my children and any of you who want to listen too:

Whenever you have a chance to hear someone who has created something/anything share about it–GO.  Go and listen.  Go and taste.  Go and sense every wonderful feeling you can.  Because that opportunity might not ever roll around again.  And seeing the poetry through the eyes of her story that she let us see–that only made the poems more powerful.  

More heart wrenchingly beautiful and achingly divine.  

Poetry is a beautiful art, and it changed me a bit to go and hear such a gifted writer share her story last night.

It also scared the bejeebies out of me if you want to know the truth.

I have such a long way to go, but the path is filled with beautiful people along the way who are willing to share what they know and what has worked and what didn’t.  I just know I want to go down that path.

May you all have someone share their story and it lead you down the path of where you are supposed to go.  And may you come across a poem that takes your breath away or makes you laugh or cry or reach out to someone else with love.  Or go read an Anya Silver poem and you’ll find yourself doing all of those things.

Love to all.

 

leaving pink behind

when she was old enough to know her colors

pink was all she loved

pink sheets, pink blanket, pink pajamas

pink everything

 

a year ago she began talking about purple,

how she pretty much thought it might be her favorite color–

it seemed more appropriate for someone one year shy

of being ten

she still loved pink

but purple came in and sat alongside

 

two days ago, I heard her say,

in what I can only describe as preteen adamance,

with regards to something her brother said,

“why did he tell me he’d get me that in–PINK?!?

doesn’t he know PURPLE is my favorite color?”

As.  If.

she has officially turned her back on pink

as though it never held a place of honor

much like other ones who have grown older and said

they never loved the purple dinosaur

though I can attest otherwise…..

but wisely don’t

 

I see her growing and leaving behind the things

of her childhood–

the miniature dolls she toted everywhere

now lie limply in the unzipped bag in the corner of her room

little Rosa, her black puppy that we could not leave home without,

I have not seen in months

hiding, I suppose, missing the little girl who named her that

because it means “pink” in Spanish

(she once loved Dora too, but we don’t talk about that anymore either)

 

she loved to dress up like princesses and could spend the day

learning and reading and playing in one of those dresses

only this year she wants to dress up like a wicked one, and I am left

pondering and remembering and intrigued–

that this sweet Princess is finding her darker side…..

 

so please, won’t you understand, that when she asked again,

just the other day,

for a lovely doll for the celebration of her first decade on earth

why my heart leapt and I am moving heaven and

earth

to find that doll and have one more day of make-believe and

tea parties

with my little girl

who isn’t quite so little anymore

before she leaves the purple behind too

 

 

 

What Grown Looks Like

A little while ago, I saw where a young man posed the question, “What makes a man?”

I’ve been thinking on that.  So often we hear in graduation speeches, “Now we are adults,” or when a young person gets his/her driver’s license, “Well, so you’re driving, you’re grown now.”

Ahem.

I beg to differ.

I don’t think that any one thing makes someone grown.  Or not grown.  I think our lives are a series of mature and immature choices, selfish and not.  We can slowly become more “grown up” and in the midst of that, we can make some really “child-like” decisions.  Having a child, getting married, getting a job, turning 18 or 21–none of those makes one grown.  It’s what we do in each of these moments that determines if we are really “grown.”

Today I watched as my oldest made a decision that was not comfortable for her or what she really wanted to do at all.  She chose to do something for someone else because she loves them and they needed her.  She is growing up so fast right before my eyes, and today only served to remind me of that.

This afternoon Cooter came in and said out of the blue, “Don’t force love.  Let it come to you.”

I almost spewed my water.

What?!

I asked him where he’d heard that.  “Oh, Princess said it to K [a neighbor boy around her age] today when he was talking about the girl he really liked.”  The way Cooter imitated her, I knew she’d said it with compassion.

I’m not one for all these early boyfriend/girlfriend pairings–I think they’re way too young–but I am happy to know that my girl can be compassionate and sensitive to someone else’s emotions…..and show great wisdom in such circumstances.  Wisdom beyond her age…..

Yesterday morning, our Princess woke up and came to my room in tears because of a bad dream.  Cooter was already piled in there, staying warm under the covers.  He was a bit groggy, but to my surprise he leaned over and gave her a hug and asked her what happened.

Surprised by sweetness.  Right there.  I didn’t know he had it in him.

When it comes to my children growing up, sometimes I have a blind spot.  Often I don’t want to see it so I don’t.  Or I might look for it in my oldest because she’s over 18 and in college, but I forget to look for it in my littles.

The truth is we are all still works in progress and all still growing.  Tonight I am thankful for the ways each one of my children is growing.  I give thanks for the reminder that the most beautiful form of growth can’t be measured on a scale or yardstick or even by looking in the mirror.  The most beautiful and precious ways people grow can only be seen by looking in the heart and hearing their words and seeing their actions.  And for today, I am reassured by and thankful for the compassion and love I see in those gifted to me.

May it be a growing sort of day…..

Love to all.

Inside the Cocoon For Now

It’s my girl’s birthday.  Commence the partying!

A week or so ago, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday.

(well, within reason, you know)

I batted around a couple of things that she’s enjoyed before.  Magazine subscription.  Shoes.  Clothes.

Nothing was resonating with her.

She just shrugged.

Well okay, technically the shrug was in my mind because we were texting and on the phone, but yeah, pretty sure she shrugged.  I have known her for nineteen years now.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have a clue.”

I told her that was okay.

“No. It’s not.  I don’t like that I don’t know myself.”

The words that came to me came instantly.

“It’s hard to pin down a moving target.”

I don’t know where those words came from but they just made sense.

After all, in the past two, four years my girl has grown by leaps and bounds.  She’s been forced to by life and death, and she’s made choices on her own that required a level of maturity that I can hardly fathom.

And then there are moments that I realize she’s still my girl.  When we laugh together over a memory or something that just happened.  When she complains about my helicopter parenting or I turn my head so I don’t have to look in her room.  When we sit and talk for hours or volley messages back and forth.  She’s still my girl, and yet she’s so much more.

It makes sense that she has a hard time figuring out her likes and dislikes and preferences and favorite things right now.  She’s growing and changing, and it absolutely makes sense that as she changes, so might all of those things.

A sweet friend shared a quote tonight from Maya Angelou.

IMG_4702

 

That right there.  My sweet girl, it’s okay that you don’t know what you want.  That’s absolutely wonderful.  You are growing, changing, transforming.  From one beautiful creature to another.  I am sure if you asked the caterpillar what she wants and then asked the butterfly, they would be quite different.  The butterfly doesn’t need several pairs of shoes at one time and the caterpillar doesn’t need wing cleaner.  But they are one and the same.

And, I’m just guessing here, when the precious creature is at her innermost changing tucked inside her cocoon, if someone asked her what she wanted, she’d very likely say, “I don’t know. It’s like I don’t even know who I am.”

Tonight I’m thankful for words that come into my head and show up on my Facebook feed just when I need them most.  I’m thankful for growing and changing and beauty all around, as scary and hard as it might be to see when we’re in the middle of it.

Here’s to my girl and all of those like her, those who are in the midst of transforming.  I cannot wait to see what all of you beautiful people become next.

Love to all.

 

The Miracle of Mostly Dead

At the end of last summer, the cherry tomato plant I’d put in a pot on my front porch and watched grow, withered away in the late summer heat.  Exhausted from its efforts to grow, bloom, and bear fruit all pretty much simultaneously, the stem and leaves browned, dried up, and crumpled back down toward the earth.

It was gone.

Being the avid gardener I am *ahem*, the “empty” pot sat on the porch all winter.  Rain, snow flurries, and various and assorted little critters found themselves landing in the pot before moving on.

As spring I arrived I had grand intentions of planting more “summer” vegetables in my pots.  The best I did was create our fairy garden.  While that feeds our hearts and souls, nothing was planted that would feed our bodies.

And then, one day, I saw a sprig of green rising up from the twisted brown tentacles of last year’s plant. I wasn’t sure what it was until, on a whim, while I was watering all my other “front porch greenery” I decided to water the little green twig in the soil.  The smell was unmistakable.  There’s nothing like the smell of tomato plants.

Well I’ll be.

How beautiful is this, where once all there had been was darkness and what looked like nothingness?

How beautiful is this, where once all there had been was darkness and what looked like nothingness?

That little plant wasn’t dead.  It was mostly dead.  (There’s a difference, I know–we’ve watched “The Princess Bride” over and over many times.)

And mostly isn’t all the way.  Bless it.

It quietly came back.  And today, this happened.

The cherry tomatoes our Princess harvested today.

The cherry tomatoes our Princess harvested today.

Isn’t that amazing?

You can take away from this that if you are a lazy gardener and let things slide, every now and again you might get lucky.

Or you could think about how amazing it is that there was still life under all that darkness, all that death–resilient–life that didn’t look like life as we know it but it was there all the same, gaining strength to blossom and grow and bear sweet and beautiful fruit all over again.

Either way.  Up to you.

But yeah.  Life.  There even when you can’t see it.

I needed that reminder.  That’s the stuff miracles are made of.  Believing in something you cannot see.  Believing in the possibility.

Love to all.

 

Parading It on the Front Porch

On my way home from my OutandAbouts today, I took the backroads.

It’s how I roll.

I’d rather take a backroad anywhere than ride on the main roads.  Especially with all this construction of the main highway near our house–I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

So I drove through the old part of our little community, stopped at the four-way, crossed, and drove past the log cabin that we all love.  They have the best decorating sense–exactly my taste: old farmhouse style.

I was on autopilot, so I almost missed what was sitting on the other side of the road.  Up next to the little road, since they were throwing it out.  As I glanced back, I could see that it was an old broken chair of sorts.

My treasure I rescued from the side of the road.  Every single piece of it.

My treasure I rescued from the side of the road. Every single piece of it.

It is not far to go from there to the stop sign near the old church and its cemetery; but I promise you that, in my imagination, I had used that chair in about five different ways and places around my abode before I could STOP at the sign.  I was about to shrug it off and keep on trucking home, when I thought about it once more before my foot pressed the gas to move forward.

Forward.  That’s exactly what I need to do.  Move.  Forward.

A lot of times I let life happen to me and a lot of those times I have no choice.  But many times I do.  And way too often I just shrug an idea or plan off, and go on with whatever is in front of me.

Sometimes that’s okay.  But sometimes I wind up regretting–that which I did not try.

And somehow I had a feeling that if I didn’t go back for the chair, I would regret it.  A small thing, I know, but I knew it was symbolic of bigger, more important things.  If there’s something there for the taking, and I want it, why do I just walk (or drive) away?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that today I didn’t.

I turned the go-mobile around and headed back down the street where the speed limit is about 15 I think.  I pulled over, turned on my hazards just in case, and opened the door to load it.  There were broken pieces laying on the ground.  I picked them all up and threw them in the vehicle.  I didn’t want to be that kind of scavenger–one who just takes the goody and leaves the other.  If I was in, I was ALL in.

This evening after the sun drifted behind the trees back of us, giving us a little bit of a reprieve from the heat, I unloaded the pieces.  It was a beautiful rocker in its heyday.  Nice wood, solid.  I can’t imagine how it came to be all broken like this.  Maybe fell off the back of the truck as they were moving?  Someone got scared late one night playing in the yard, and knocked it off the porch in their haste to get inside?  Too much wear and tear and not enough know how for fixing it?  I don’t know.  But I’m tickled to say I found a spot for all the pieces.  It was fun and only a little challenging to find a use for all of it.  I think my porch is the better for it.  Not sure the Fella feels the same, but since he didn’t express a preference, it’s staying put for a while.

A stake for my "Phoenix" tomato plant.

A stake for my “Phoenix” tomato plant.

This is my “Phoenix” tomato plant.  I don’t know what variety it is really, but it rose from an empty pot–there was nothing alive there in April and now look at her.  Better than she ever did last summer.  Amazing.  Rising from the ashes, just like a phoenix.  I was proud to give her a spindle as the high-falutin’ stake she deserves.

One arm made a lovely backdrop for our fairy garden.

One arm made a lovely backdrop for our fairy garden.

This was my belated Mother’s Day project.  A fairy garden.  The birdbaths are especially dear to me–the frog is for Mama and the cardinal for Daddy.  The arm off the old rocker makes an interesting backdrop I think.  We could even hang a fairy swing from it later on if we find one around here–which I’m sure we will.  😉

Beside our front door.

Beside our front door.

This plant has never looked so happy.  Neither has Madam Frog, as long as the cats don’t knock her off.  There’s a little fairy wishing well in the pot if you look closely.  I love this old broken rocker turned plantstand.  I don’t know if it’s too tacky to be quaint by normal standards, but around here we embrace the brokenness.  And the crazy.  And we parade them all on our front porch.  Literally.

This was a good day.  It felt good to have a vision, and instead of thinking of a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it–go and pick up a broken rocking chair that once belonged to the folks who live right there and are probably watching thinking “whoo hoo it’s gone” or “can you believe that crazy chick is actually loading that into her go-mobile?”–I just took a deep breath, leapt, and did it.  I know it’s a small, small thing.  It’s not like starting a non-profit or writing a book that can change the world.  It’s not like putting grief aside and moving along towards a new and different future.  It’s not even like doing something handy such as making a clever supper out of minimal ingredients or having all of the laundry done and folded AND put away all at once.

But it is a step.  A baby step.  And one that fed my soul on this sultry summer evening.  And for a Thursday in June, that’ll do.

May you have a vision and go for it without thinking too hard.  Just go forward.

Love to all.

 

Keeping the Creases

I finally got around to unpacking the kitchen box from my Mama’s that I had here.  Mess Cat did a beautiful job of packing it.  Everything was safe and sound, wrapped in Mama’s cloth napkins and placemats.

For years Mama used thin cloth napkins folded into a square to catch the sweat from her and Daddy’s drinking glasses, thus preventing sweat rings on the table, the desk, or her side table in the living room.

Mama's cloth napkins turned into coasters.....some of these have been around a very long time.

Mama’s cloth napkins turned into coasters…..some of these have been around a very long time.

As I was folding Mt. Washmore today, I came to her napkins.  It was amazing.  Some of them, after so many years of being folded in just the same way, even after being machine washed and dried, held their creases and were almost perfectly folded even after being soaked and tossed and thrown around under extreme heat.

Wow.

Sometimes we are like that, right?  Something is so ingrained in us after years and years of doing things the same way, that no matter the pressure, the hard times, we’re still going to do them exactly the same.

And I think sometimes that’s a good thing.  To be strong and consistent and hold our own in the face of adversity.  Of loss, pain, or grief.

But sometimes maybe it’s not.

Sometimes maybe we should let some of the things we go through reshape us–maybe we shouldn’t fight the change so hard.

A very wise therapist I know once talked about a furrowed field.  All the rows and lines, all nice and orderly, freshly plowed, ready for things to grow.  But when a storm hits, the field goes back to how it was before the furrowing.  When adversity comes along, it returns to its old patterns, its old way of being.

His point was we can think we are changed, ready for new growth, but when something hard happens, we tend to go back to our old ways of coping, of handling it.

And sometimes that is not healthy.

Tonight I’m thankful for some things that never change, like my Mama’s cloth coasters.  And their creases.  And I’m thankful for some of the things that do change.  Things that have me stepping outside my comfort zone.  Like writing and reading new books and meeting new people and sharing stories.

We have the power to do both within us–to change and to stay the same.  The true power is knowing when to do what.

Love to all.