An homage…

My mom was one of nine siblings and I grew up surrounded by cousins, with our maternal grandparents at the center of the circus, always. It was one of those families where the Christmas presents fill up half the living room and the dining tables take all the space that’s left. We were raised on humor, hugs, and a knowing instilled by farmers and former military that we were expected to suck it up and survive.

But Grandpa died of lung cancer… and then when Grandma, the Queen Bee, left us at age 95… all the air went out. We went from time-honored massive family reunions to none, literally in a heartbeat. The Clan has dispersed itself around the globe over the years, so there are generations of cousins I’ll never know, even by name. And it’s sobering to realize that most of the cousins I grew up with I’ll never lay eyes on again. They’re there… I’m here… neither of us is going here nor there for all the reasons… so the last time we saw each other… was the last time we’ll ever see each other.

People change. Life changes us if we’re living it at all. We assume we know the humans with whom we share a gene pool, but it’s a delusion of youth and immaturity… the longer we live, the greater the distance between us. And sharing a bloodline doesn’t mean we’ll get along, or even like each other. The current mood of the planet has soaked into every part of society by now, making family dynamics a minefield… therefore, at least half my extended family considers me “better in theory than in practice” at best… and I’m good with that.

Everything ends. The most beautiful things in the world – like a big crazy family with love coming out its pores – don’t remain static, they can’t. So I’m paying homage to a dynasty that was and is no more. It was never what we purposely remember it to be… but close enough for family and fairytales.

WHERE IT STARTED…

WHERE IT WENT… x 3 or 4 by now

Possibly the last big reunion we had. These are all 1st cousins, about half the total at the time.

Fall melancholy… moody rambling… somber thoughts…grieving the losses… celebrating what was. All respect to a big ol’ family that’s tried as hard to be human as any I know. And on we all go…

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Hey… it’s Wednesday

Here we are at HumpDay once again, boys and girls, on the downhill run to the weekend.

WHY I LOVE WEEKENDS, by some pore ol’ retired thing

  1. They do not contain medical appointments.
  2. The already Zen pace on my side of the equation slows to an imperceptible crawl.
  3. The weekend menu is outstanding.
  4. The trace of guilt over being lazy goes totally underground for a couple of days.
  5. Sometimes weekends mean seeing actual people… and we know there’ll be more of that ahead.

It’s overcast this morning, with only a slight breeze, and it feels like the world’s at a standstill… everything static… to remain this way forever. But hark, what do I see from my window? People and dogs. Gird your loins, folks, life goes on.

Case in point…

And the trees know when it’s time for change…

Just about when we think we can’t stand the status quo another minute, we look around and our immediate situation has morphed into something else entirely. In light of what looked like an endless slate of dental appointments, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I have only one left… this time around. Friday we see a neuro about my back. Patience… patience… and the world turns.

Maya Angelou’s profoundly simple statement of fact will stay with me…

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Beautiful day…

It’s Monday morning after a good weekend, the sun’s shining (but I haven’t looked at it yet), the coffee’s icy, as it should be, and I’m savoring an Everything bagel… the M-day and I have it going on so far. Kim’s over in NoLaw hitting PickleBalls with a big bunch of people he enjoys so I have a couple more hours to wake up before the day actually kicks in. Then… it all stretches out before me as an absolute blank… and is there anything better for weary minds than a day when nothing happens? This particular introvert’s greatest joy is a skinny calendar with whole blocks of time when there are no appointments scheduled, no deadlines to meet. I went underground sometime in mid-quarantine and I kinda like it down here, it appeals to my hermit personality… but it does nothing to improve my social skills, so there’s that, and I’m trying to surface again.

We have a need as humans surviving on an often hostile planet to connect, to understand something about our purpose here. When the connections are broken, by us or by others, the resultant hollowness goes on and on, becoming part of life’s daily fabric, and the older I get, the harder the spaces are to fill… because I toss out everything that doesn’t ring true. And yes, I do intend to live long enough to be somewhat of a problem to my progeny, although he did nothing to deserve that.

*****

You too? Or just me…

Having been made freshly-conscious of the fact that I’m “better in theory than real life,” let me just say, via someone whose name I regretfully don’t know…

This is the grace I want to extend to all. That, too, takes a lifetime to learn.

*****

And somehow, this thought is affirming and soothing…

This too, from my wise Twitter friend…

It all simply goes on. We live and are happy.

But… I stubbornly want to understand why people choose to follow ugliness when we live among wonders in the world:

Butterflies can’t see their wings.

They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can.

People are like that as well.

~Naya Rivera

Photo ©Petar Sabol

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Rain = Life

Rain, rain, do please stay… go away some other day… because there’s something about rainy days and Mondays that starts a week off right. Kim has razzleberry muffins just out of the oven, the leaves are blowing, and fall is settling in. Rain always makes a fresh start seem doable…

And I know it’s Monday and all… but a less-than-Monday outlook is permissible whenever we say so.

Over these past two years, immersed in a pandemic and a simultaneous attack on democracy, I think we Americans have a new realization about the importance of inner (and outer) rest… peace of mind and heart… freedom from threat. The way of life we value has taken on a vastly deeper meaning in the face of loss, and rest doesn’t come easy… but we can’t survive without giving in to it.

When everything within and without is in turmoil, it’s a challenge to stay focused on what matters… so along comes a rainy day to wash away the dust…

I’m heading for a nice hot soak with the Muffin Man, for which my beloved old bones will thank me. We’re in October of a year that hardly seems to have registered in key ways… beat up, jangled, but still truckin’ down the road… and good things are happening. Life continues…

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Onward to the weekend…

The pandemic that will never end rolls on day by day while the world’s people argue themselves and their children into early graves over it. Since I have no words left and it’s not my job to save people from themselves, my focus has turned more and more to the ones who want to stay alive and be in harmony with other humans.

It isn’t easy to keep showing up for a world that’s crumbling beneath your feet, with people who despise everything you stand for. But keep your head up and keep on walking through the muck and ugliness – and LOOK!… fall is here just in time to help with that.

Things happen every day that make us question our very existence and how long it can be maintained, so thank you to the smilers, the laughers, the lovers who don’t let us forget where the good stuff is.

There’s nothing there for you… move on.
Vitally important…

*****

*****

Leaving this here because it makes me inordinately happy…

Thank the universe for people with loving hearts and a lack of harmful ego. For those whose sense of humor heals us. For the ones who hold us together when we’re coming apart. For the people who look us in the eye and tell us the truth… and love us thereby. The world’s a mess and ever shall be, but facing it together makes it doable.

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Good hearts are safe homes…

I have brazenly committed a crime this morning and I have no shame, because I stole a piece of writing (and life) that’s too exquisite to keep to myself…

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an Old Country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

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A fractured fairytale…

Once upon a time, long long ago, on a farm far away, there lived a little girl. The girl’s early childhood held much of what today’s world calls “going through some things,” silently shaping her psyche and setting her future in motion.

From the outside, we observe that the “wild and free, who cares??” mindset of farm children earned the girl her share of dings and cuts, but it’s in hindsight that we see her defining moment… a water-skiing accident at age seventeen that rearranged the molecules in her body in ways that would make themselves known over the ensuing years. Hotdogging for friends, she skied too far onto the sand and when her skis stopped she flipped out of them, impacting earth with the side of her neck and right shoulder, and flipping again onto her back on the beach. We know it couldn’t have been pretty, but any landing you walk away from is a good one.

The girl blithely greeted life as if she weren’t a ticking time bomb, and her naturally sunny nature saw her through much. She married a good man with PTSD, just home from Viet Nam, and they had a blond, blue-eyed little boy and continued the farming life, with everybody pulling together to make it work. When the girl was 29 years old one of the concealed bombs from the accident exploded in the form of a ruptured aneurysm under her skull, and following cranial surgery she found herself walking away from another one. Thin, bald, but under her own strength, she started to entertain questions about what else fate might bring?

One weighty answer came years later when the farmer perished in a harvest accident. The girl then left the farm and her world spooled out in entirely new directions. Life had been totally rearranged, and after a year and a month alone she met and married a California surfer-dude, natural caregiver, friend for life, and best boyfriend ever… that’s what she said.

Meanwhile, areas of damage continued to make themselves known. A once-nagging back pain was now a constant source of torment, and a couple of small back surgeries aimed at relieving pain changed nothing. Her right shoulder became unbearable, so more than thirty bone spurs were removed and a few tears mended. Countless lumbar injections and epidurals on her left side have had negligible effect.

The little blonde farm girl turns out to have a fatal flaw… she’s something of a klutz. This only became more pronounced after the accident, which put her gyro out of whack, so throughout her lifetime she’s had many interesting falls… one a memorable escapade on ice that shattered her other shoulder, cracked two ribs, and smashed her face into a large potted plant. Now both shoulders get regular steroid injections to deal with Arthur, who makes himself at home everywhere, uninvited.

The little girl from long ago is old or on her way, and now another bill has come due. Our story tells us that the scar tissue from the cranial bleeds and surgery has a life of its own and is generating something called focal seizures… oh joy for the girl. She realizes by the symptoms that these seizures have been building in intensity for five years or longer… and that the accompanying aura is the same as when the aneurysm first ruptured out there in the stillness of the prairie. She says it feels like waiting calmly in the presence of death… and there is no fear in the room. The good news is “there’s an app for that,” and better living through chemistry is panning out so far.

Moving our tale along, the girl who is now an Old got to see her own spine last week in stark relief, which answered all but a couple of questions because there’s nothing like black and white for instilling reality… and now the Girl and the Dude have a few things to talk about.

So, boys and girls… life is long, day by day, but a brief candle when viewed from the other end of the telescope. Early on, we think everything will get right when we’re finally adults, which is one of the saddest, funniest misconceptions of childhood ever. Only gradually and often at a late date do we start to grasp that life is about the moments and each one is steadily making us who we are. Sometimes the way we handle life makes us prickly and insufferable… sometimes life comes at us so hard and fast we struggle to sort things out in time to deal with them the right way. And sometimes we’re just jerks. At least that’s what the little farm girl said…

THE END

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Seasons of change…

***

Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority
.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils
.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

**

Jane Kenyon, “Three Songs at the End of Summer” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by The Estate of Jane Kenyon. 

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