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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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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The Gift of Letting Go

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go…

©Mary Oliver

*****

The inimitable Ms. Oliver’s punctuation choices make us slow down… read that again… count the ways… just as she intended. She subtly reminds us that poetry and prose are different animals, meanwhile enchanting us with her grasp of the world.

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Tell me…

In the middle of ongoing disquiet, another guest author has appeared on my doorstep this morning, precisely on time. Mary Oliver left us in 2019, but her words are filled with life, and I love her…

It’s the birthday of American poet Mary Oliver (1935), born and raised in Maple Heights, Ohio, a semi-rural suburb of Cleveland. Her father was a social studies teacher and athletic coach in Cleveland public schools. Of her childhood, Oliver said, “It was a very dark and broken house that I came from. And I escaped it, barely. With years of trouble.”

She skipped school and read voraciously to escape her home life, mostly the work of John Keats and Emily Dickinson. She also began taking long walks in the woods by her house and writing poems. She says, “I got saved by poetry. And by the beauty of the world.” She calls her early poems “rotten.”

After Oliver graduated from high school she took a trip to Steepletop, the home of the famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, New York. She became good friends with Millay’s sister Norma and ended up staying for seven years, helping Norma organize Millay’s papers and writing her own poems. She attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College but never earned degrees.

Oliver’s first collection of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems (1963), was published to wide acclaim when she was 28. She writes short, poignant poems, most often about her observations of the natural world, particularly the world of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she spent more than 50 years with her partner, Molly Malone Cook, who was one of the first staff photographers for The Village Voice.

She finds most of her inspiration on her walks and hikes. She takes along a hand-sewn notebook so she can stop and write. Once, she lost her pencil, and now she hides pencils in the trees along the trails so she always has spares. She says, “It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer.”

Oliver’s books consistently hit the best-seller lists. Her collections include Dream Work (1986), Why I Wake Early (2007), Blue Horses (2014), and Felicity (2015). She was outside replacing the shingles on her house when she got the phone call that she’d won the Pulitzer Prize (1984) for American Primitive (1983). Her books about the writing of poetry, A Poetry Handbook (1994) and Rules for the Dance (1998), are routinely used in high school and college creative writing courses.

Mary Oliver died in 2019 of lymphoma.

On writing poetry Mary Oliver said, “One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.”

One of her most famous poems, “The Summer Day,” ends with the line, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” When an interviewer asked her what she’d done with her own wild and precious life Oliver answered, “Used a lot of pencils.” -Copied from Facebook, author not known

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A reflection…

Photo Credit Kim Smith 09/05/2021

Today’s guest post, while I celebrate my 74th birthday, is a gift from Suzanne Reynolds…

She Was Told She Was Beautiful

When she was a little girl

they told her she was beautiful

but it had no meaning

in her world of bicycles

and pigtails

and adventures in make-believe.

Later, she hoped she was beautiful

as boys started taking notice

of her friends

and phones rang for

Saturday night dates.

She felt beautiful on her wedding day,

hopeful with her

new life partner by her side

but, later,

when her children called

her beautiful,

she was often exhausted,

her hair messily tied back,

no make up,

wide in the waist

where it used to be narrow;

she just couldn’t take it in.

Over the years, as she tried,

in fits and starts,

to look beautiful,

she found other things

to take priority,

like bills

and meals,

as she and her life partner

worked hard

to make a family,

to make ends meet,

to make children into adults,

to make a life.

Now,

she sat.

Alone.

Her children grown,

her partner flown,

and she couldn’t remember

the last time

she was called beautiful.

But she was.

It was in every line on her face,

in the strength of her arthritic hands,

the ampleness that had

a million hugs imprinted

on its very skin,

and in the jiggly thighs and

thickened ankles

that had run her race for her.

She had lived her life with a loving

and generous heart,

had wrapped her arms

around so many to

to give them comfort and peace.

Her ears had

heard both terrible news

and lovely songs,

and her eyes

had brimmed with,

oh, so many tears,

they were now bright

even as they dimmed.

She had lived and she was.

And because she was,

she was made beautiful.

Suzanne Reynolds ©2019

Photo Credit: Nina Djerff

Model: Marit Rannveig Haslestad

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Thunderstorms rolling through…

It’s a rainy weekend, thanks to Ida and other disturbances including good ol’ Larry… we knew he’d show up at the party eventually. No PickleBall for The Guy because the indoor courts are closed to the public on weekends, so he produced yet another iteration of The Saturday Breakfast, whose savory delights left me speechless. He said, yeah, that’s what he’s been workin’ on all this time…

When you decide to let go of something… say, anger, to cite a random example… it’s all a process. One step might be resolved in a matter of seconds, others are layered so deep they’re an enigma requiring time and determination to crack. I’ve held to my divorce from TV news, but I pick up plenty of it elsewhere, and this week was full of challenging developments that make my sense of justice want to stand up and get rowdy. Instead I “cut clippings” from the internet like my g’ma did the newspaper and share them with likeminded people who say “Right on.” Or other words.

Incredibly, the COVID pandemic is still #1 in the news after almost two years. That’s nearly impossible to accept in one of the richest, most educated nations on the planet, but here we are. No amount of logic, patience, impatience, nor any combination of approaches to the problem has changed anything – half of us will remain a danger to the other half out of a deep need not to comply with anything the other half touched, and the ramifications will go on forever.

Stupid EDIT button won’t edit out…

*****

*****

Death beats gerrymandering and voter suppression every time.

So yeah, that’s the COVID scene, continuing unabated. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Texas and our inimitable Supremes pulled off a whoop-de-doo that may have them all by the tail before it’s over. We don’t need no Taliban, we grow our own.

Turn your sister in and collect $10K, just like that, bubba.

So that’s last week, what I have receipts for. Disturbing stuff, but I can’t do a damn thing about any of it, so today’s about the breakfast, the hot soak, the great coffee, the quiet, the rain…

We thought the atmosphere in the nation would improve after the election, but the neighbor-against-neighbor mindset seems here to stay, and we’re watching a country we stupidly thought we knew willingly march itself into Authoritarian Capitalism. And I can’t do a damn thing about that, either. This Pollyanna gig ain’t all it’s made out to be, boys & girls, in fact it’s a real slog lately. There are people I “should” contact, things I “should” do, wrongs I “should” right… and I hope there are enough tomorrows for the truly important out of all that. Meanwhile…

*****

I remember 28 as the year before all hell broke loose and life got real. Better fruit would have helped.

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A Sunday in the time of ‘rona…

As the fog of the past eighteen months continues to dissipate, it’s impossible not to register the hurt of humanity around us. Everyone we know, everyone we see, has absorbed pain and uncertainty since the outbreak of the pandemic, and it shows. In the human race we want somebody else or a whole lot of somebody elses to understand, to just please get it, okay? And when it feels like nobody does, it’s a lonely place, so maybe someone needs to hear this on the first day of August 2021:

Much of the world is still in dire straits, and here’s a fact: It always has been. But the trajectory as we start another new month is onward and upward, which hey, happens to be our state motto: Ad Astra Per Aspera – To The Stars Through Difficulty. Feels better, hm? And in case nobody’s mentioned it since Christmas of 2019: If you’re reading this, you’re worthy of everything the world has to offer, so getcha’ some.

So here’s a simple rule of thumb…

And this, despite its typos, says good things:

*****

This presents as an oxymoron, but it’s possible to take our time while moving forward…

We’re really not here very long…

*****

Best thing to know in the midst of chaos, sadness, happiness, all the time…

Happy Sunday, August 1, 2021, to all of us, with a hug for everyone who still stops by this blog. 💙💋

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We carry on…

It was a fun weekend, resulting in a train of thought that’s still on the tracks this morning… and the main nugget is that the hum and swirl of American life rises out of a rich network of subcultures thrumming with energy and heart. Some of our societal microcosms are readily visible on the surface, with signs and symbols we know at a glance… service organizations like the Lions Club; religious groupings; a worldwide fellowship for magicians; the Hell’s Angels; and a club for every possible area of human interest under the sun. Saturday night we got to meet a subculture we previously knew almost nothing about – the world of gyms and cage fighting. When you “know a guy,” you go there.

A young veteran we love and respect owns a gym in the KC area with some other people including his wife, and in the interest of positive advertising, physical fitness, and pure badassery, he’s fought his way to professional status and a spot just under the headliner on the card… so it was time we saw the show for ourselves. A sweltering hot evening, long lines of fans, huge fairgrounds pavilion with big open windows, BBQ, drinks, a light-show going on, music that was primarily heavy-duty vibrations felt from the feet up, long tables arranged concentrically with ends toward the cage, and chairs designed by Satan himself for maximum torture. Knew I was gonna be in trouble, but I wasn’t missing this, even though the undercard consisted of something like fourteen fights before it was our man’s turn. And it was great – we were with friends who are family and everything was laughter and hugs and a feeling I’d forgotten over the past eighteen months… belonging. I found myself doing things I vowed I’d “never do again,” like sip a sistah’s drink when offered, shake hands, hug people face to face, laugh and talk unmasked in a public gathering… but almost three months of being fully vaccinated, plus our negligible transmission rate, makes all the difference. The people-watching was sublime – no worries about the generations coming up, America… they’re beautiful.

Kim has taught me a lot about boxing, which was of absolutely no use in this venue – the action is fast and furious, three 3-minute rounds, and there may have been only one match that lasted through two. Most of the amateur matches were over in under a minute, with someone either knocked out or tapping out, followed by hugs and camaraderie all ’round. These guys fight out of various gyms and mostly know each other, and the whole operation, under the glitz and glitter, is squeaky clean, everybody checked again before entering the cage, everything recorded and monitored. That said, there’s a thing in all of us that loves a winner, and we can turn primitive in a heartbeat when that’s on the line. I can still scream with the loudest of them, and I welcomed every chance to stand up outta that chair. A colossal thank you to DM Bruce Associates for their co-sponsorship of the night and their sweet hospitality to us as always.

Our man Deron “The Pharaoh” Carlis won by knockout in the 2nd round and walked away unmarked, so the evening was a total upper, and when we came home after 10:30, 8th Street was all lights and people, with the streetside dining areas full. We hope the city will let those stay open all summer!

When the light goes… when life dies down to an ember… it’s easy to think it might be finished, never coming back, never the same again. But being in that pavilion on Saturday night, with people from all over the NE corner of Kansas, having Deron’s (ridiculously young) parents come over to hug us, and seeing other people we’ve met since moving here, full of happiness and hugs, was a little revelation: I still need other humans, they aren’t all impossible to communicate with, and it feels good to care. Who knew cage fighting could do all that?

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Veterans’ Day 2020

Kim was rollin’ ’round the river early this morning and brought back the receipts…

Rowing crews, bundled up, down by the Boathouse
Crewing on the mighty Kaw
Old power station, still used but currently undergoing a cleanup and revitalization, in conjunction with work on the riverbed below the dam.
Yup, those are roads they’ve built out into the river.
Liquid sunshine on this Veterans’ Day morning
Can’t hold back the light…

Photo Credits: Kim Smith 11/11/2020

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Seasons… page 91

Day 181 – 09/09/2020

It’s misty, windy, and chill again this morning and it rained before dawn. The showers may stick around for a bit, and our highest forecast temp through next Wednesday is 83º so the times they are a changin’.

The seasonal transition to fall is the best, followed by winter-to-spring… everything seems to come ’round right, with new air, different foliage, the desire to FEEL it all again. And even though autumn has delivered a heavy load of melancholy since October 1985, it magically renews me every year like clockwork. In the swirl and murk of multiple crises bearing down on us, my spirit’s been waking me up the past few mornings with a jolt of happiness… anticipation even. Hello, soft muse, I’ve missed you.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

Since there are good and positive aspects to every experience I’m consciously seeking them out, and one I’m happily aware of is the opportunity I’ve had to get healthy. Among other things I could whine about, I took a doctor-prescribed Rx for about eighteen months that altered my body chemistry or some such for the next three years, and now I have things almost squared away again which produces a fierce sense of gratitude. As recently as March, shortly after we started isolating, I had to give up coffee, of all slings and arrows, but with the advent of cooler weather I braved a trial mug and discovered that we’re friends again. If that wouldn’t make a girl feel better in September, you have to wonder what it would take.

Fall is about endings so it inevitably holds a hint of sadness for most of us, but its quiet, gentle beauty provides a store of firewood for whatever winter brings. I have a nice little stash going here, gathered from my desk as I watch the leaves change from one day to the next. The arrival of a new season is giving me hope… life goes on, the planet keeps turning, things we couldn’t possibly bear up under have happened and we’re still standing, so my hat’s in the ring until the large female vocalist lets us know differently.

Under everything, always, is this…

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Okay, NOW it’s Friday… page 80

Day 148 – 08/07/2020

sun out

clouds in

breeze blows

light goes

day creeps

mind leaps

JSmith 08/07/2020

The following was stolen goods when I helped myself to it – part of a Buddhist workshop – and hopefully the Buddha would approve of theft-on-account… on account’a I liked it and needed it:

Inner Dialogue, Self-Counsel

Self-Counsel: Whomever you’re waiting for to save you, they’re not gonna show up.

Inner Self: But I just want to be loved, I just wanna share this experience with someone.

Self-Counsel: Love isn’t easy, there’s no fairy tale ending. Did you ever hear the one about the guy who got everything he wanted? He still wanted more. You could fit whole universes in that hole in your heart and that would still just be a drop in the bucket. Not because the bucket is infinite, but because the water evaporates.

IS: So what do I do?

SC: Whatever you do, you have to do it yourself. Those were basically the Buddha’s last words. You already have the love you’ve been looking for. Embrace your shadows, hold your demons, rock the helpless child to sleep.

It’s not enough to do it once and be done with it, you have to do it every day, every minute. You have to forgive the world the pain it’s brought you, and forgive yourself for not knowing how to handle it. With this as your main focus, everything else will fall into place. You have to trust the love that’s in you, and see that it shines alone, without needing support.

IS: But it’s so easy to forget.

SC: You have to build it into a pattern. Then you won’t need to remember, it’ll just be there, and you’ll just be here.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

-John Lennon

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Remembering…

An edited nostalgia piece from 2013 …

During a nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to the western Kansas drought and heat (we’ve since moved to the northeast corner of the state), the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose blossom and handed it to me.  As soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and a whole era lined up for review. 

We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents on a farm in the middle of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included most of the veggies you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to pluck warm from the vine, with a tap on the salt shaker Grandma kept tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach; and flowers.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons, roses. Not a complete list.

All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  In a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelon and cantaloupe.  And a quarter-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a happy celebration for friends and neighbors in the yard.

Outside the confines of the hedges sat the two-story farmhouse my grandpa built, saturated with decades of living. Between the house and garden a hammock was stretched between two big cottonwoods, and a rope swing hung from a branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the grass.  

There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of ice-cold running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe next to the well so anyone who wanted to could pump a fresh drink of water. (There was no pandemic raging.)   

We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard, held tea parties under the tall conifers set in the middle of the garden, and built more than one fort among the fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

When I think of my grandparents – she born in 1889 and he five years earlier – he shows up in long-sleeved chambray shirt and faded Levis and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma had been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every morning equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut armfuls of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool cement-lined root cellar.  The other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them in canning jars in the cellar.  It was a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of the pit, and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet. We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

Despite our mercenary outlook, we managed to gain a sense of having contributed to something special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller arrangements they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there were always unclaimed flowers, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I started to feel tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile west of the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

If my grandparents were here now they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … all of these have stood me in good stead over the years.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy in a monetary sense.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day arrives.

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In… page 47

Day 67 – 05/18/2020

My baby sister, Señorita Margarita Rita, lives ten minutes from me but we hadn’t seen each other since March 10th. I put on actual clothes, shoes, and eye makeup and she came over today bringing the sunshine. Wow. Needed that. It was time to feel like a person again and enjoy the perks pertaining thereto. It was time to laugh a lot.

We distanced – no hugs, spaced apart – but that’s a distance I can live with since it was the only one in evidence. It’s affirming and gratifying when the people you love get you.

Because I have sisters, I will always have friends.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/17/2020

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The quiet…

Kim left the house before 7:00 this morning in rainy darkness, giving himself time to stop at the hospital for routine labs before going out to the Sports Pavilion to walk laps and play PickleBall. I could have fallen asleep again after his goodbye, but the thought of coffee and quiet drew me out of my warm nest.

Sitting here watching the rain fall and the light slowly change, a memory: I once had a little boy who, around two and three years old, could sometimes be found sitting in his dad’s big closet in the dark with his blanket over his head. Maybe it was too noisy for him out in the big spaces, but as an old soul, I think he just needed time alone to process everything.

As that little boy’s mom, our loft space is my closet, the rain is my dark, and the quiet is my blanket. I totally get him. Some of us are blessed with the affliction of feeling too much, so the defenses have to be mighty.

The kid in the closet figured things out in fine form. The mama, who’s slower on the uptake, still works on it in the quiet dark. 💙

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Girlfriends…

Updating a piece I wrote in 2013…

Girlfriends.  I’ve always loved the way the word sounds, even though it carries a certain kind of angsty baggage because despite slumber parties and hanging out and all the other things girls do, the intimacy required for besties felt foreign to me.  Growing up on a farm, miles from town, my two younger sisters were my friends.  I didn’t think of them as girlfriends, though — they were my sisters.  And there were the girls down the road but they weren’t girlfriends, they were neighbors. 

When I look back at the young me, it’s clear what a solitary soul I was.  My best days were spent in the hammock stretched between two big trees in my grandparents’ yard, reading a book, thinking my own thoughts, accidentally taking a nap, then combing the garden for ripe strawberries and tomatoes, checking the orchard for intruders, and generally sticking to whatever it took to avoid my mom’s eyes landing on me and assigning me a job.  I wonder what I thought I was going to do on the off-chance that I happened to flush a few snakes, possums, or cross-country bums out of the trees?


Grade school is kind of a blur.  I was a good student, friendly, happy, clueless.  There were other girls, of course, and I made friends … but I can’t think of any girlfriends who’ve carried over from those years if we’re talking people I’ve never lost touch with at any time and with whom I share my deepest secrets and feelings.  High school, with forty-seven of us in the entire place, meant fun, freedom and fraternity … and continued cluelessness.  College brought more of the same.  I was popular, I guess, if you want to gauge it by things like being elected cheerleader seven years in a row and landing a spot in the Homecoming court, but none of that felt quite authentic to me.  I think it took me so long to realize that I could define my own life, I missed a lot of stuff on the way up.


Don’t get me wrong, I have great acquaintances, friends, women I look up to, respect, like, even love. Somehow I’ve just never truly been girlfriend material.  I don’t spill my guts easily, except with my sisters, and it’s always been hard for me to ask for help.   I went through a hellish time ten years ago [17 now] and held most of it inside — not exactly refusing to share my grief, pain, and stress with other women, just not really knowing how.  And without that open-up-and-let-it-all-hang-out mechanism, it’s hard to be a girlfriend, let alone accumulate them.  To my likely discredit I move on easily now, I don’t send Christmas cards, I tend not to do even the minimum amount of work necessary to hang onto relationships, the notable exceptions being marriage and family.


All of this to say that there are women in my life who represent the best of what I always pictured a girlfriend to be, and they’re incredible.  I’m probably still not going to be very good at the gut-spilling thing, but if I ever need it I know they’ll be there.  Life continues to surprise …

JSmith 01/27/2013

My friend Tish and I.
We were BFFs in spite of going to different schools
and seeing each other only a few times a year.

Image

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