Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Feel Plain

I feel plain,
one step closer to stillness
my ever present heart
my breath flows easily
in and out
my back creaks
I know the veil
has thinned

there is no separation
between you and I
if I reach out my shadow hand
and place my warm palm
on your heart
can you feel its weight?

I believe in nearness
in the absence of earthly space
in quantum physics
there is no space between us

our energy flows easily
sliding around each other
where I end
and you begin
means nothing

death steps nearer
brings her weighted boot to bear
and stomps
my heart beats
my breath flows easily in and out
my back creaks

The flimsy ghosts
wrap their arms around me
holding on to life
through the visions of my mind

when time slowed, bent, skidded to a halt
I saw life step nearer
in her weighted boot and stomp
my heart
my breath
my back

the flimsy ghosts wrap their arms around me
I know the veil has thinned

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bertram Family Christmas Eve

Bertram Family Christmas Eve

We cook until we can’t stand up, making Lasagna and vegan Lasagna, pumpkin pies and vegan pumpkin pies, relish trays with four kinds of dip, apple crumble, cheese cake, cheese and olive plates, we have five kinds of chips and grape-cranberry juice which has been made festive with the addition of ginger ale. It begins as soon as my feet hit the floor—well, as soon as the caffeine in the tea I drink nowadays hits my feet on the floor. I make a list and tick things off as we go. We listen to Carols, try to come up with interesting things for the anxious little ones to do on this longest day of the year. It seems to drag on forever, as each piping hot dish is brought from the oven and laid on a side-board. The entire house is scrumptious. My girls have finally gotten old enough to help and this year I not only have my culinary-talented and kitchen-enthusiastic future daughter-in-law but also my mother-in-law, a fine cook herself, who is visiting from England. We laugh as we cook and occasionally curse, as when I forget to set the timer and toast the top of two pies, and we utilize all of our joint skills to make another Christmas Eve special.

The kids harass us incessantly about opening an early present. I say no, but we all know I’m lying. We open the kid’s gifts to each other early each year because the future daughter-in-law is in the drawing; she will go to her parent’s house for all of tomorrow. We have to open the kid’s gifts now or we won’t have the chance to share with her in the gift-opening. We all know this, but I like the look of worried suspense on the two little ones faces. They think I’m not being entirely honest, but they're not completely sure. When we finally say, “yes,” there’s cheering.

As night falls in a heavy blanket of black, we lay all the food we’ve cooked out on the table. The lights twinkle on the tree, and the pride and joy of our lives all tromp up the stairs to sit down to feast. It’s a Bertram Family tradition to lay out this meal for the kids and then to let them eat their fill. They laugh and joke, eat, drink, and are merry.

“When are we going to open the presents?” He’s only asked that a hundred times today, “You said after we’re done eating. We’re done eating!” He’s very smart for a seven year old. But before we begin, this inquiring young gentleman has to use the bathroom, which he announces. So as not to be offensive to this mixed-bag of relatives, he spells out that he has to go ‘p..o...o..p.’ We erupt into horrified laughter. Who in this room, where everyone is older than him, did he think he was sparing this news through spelling?

It takes an hour to rip the paper off the presents, and 'ohhh' and 'ahhh 'over their perfection. Everyone is pleased with their gifts: Piranha Panic, A Giant model horse, An i-pod arm band for the runner who won’t be running until her compression fracture is healed, a PS 2 anime game, a dragon kite, a fantasy book series, and a lovely red tea pot with four cups. They all bought gifts for each other with no influence from Mom or Dad. As it goes, they’re good gift-givers.

Winding down towards bedtime, four youngsters vie for room in the bathroom to brush teeth. I know I’ve still got a bit of the night ahead and make another cup of tea. When the children are nestled all snug in their beds, I go down and read “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which, after 20 years of reading, I know by heart.

“Mom doesn’t even have to look at the pages,” The twelve year old says. She shrugs herself comfortable, and snuggles into bed.

I read the story, easily showing the pictures as I don't have to follow the words. It brings a tingle of joy to my toes and that swelling of warmth in my chest. I kiss each soft head, bless them with good sleep, and pause just a moment longer than maybe I would have in years past, when we hadn’t recently crashed head-on into a tree. I shut the door softly. They all sleep in the same room,

“No none leaves without asking me.” The fifteen year old says. She’s cleverly sleeping in front of the door; they’d have to step on her on their way out.

I’m bone tired as the house finally settles into deep silence. I’m still a long way from done tonight, but this moment, in this year, even with my cramping whip-lashed back, my creaking, unstable spine, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everyone I love most was smiling and happy today. Little spats, a regular feature of such a large family, lacked their usual rancor. There were more hugs, more apologies, more willingness to overlook the imperfections of a sibling, more easiness in forgiving.

Tomorrow will be the whirlwind of presents, and more family and friends, a frantic, joyous busyness from dawn till dusk. I won’t have time to pause and ponder, but this Christmas Eve in the silence of my sleeping house, I know how very certainly I am blessed.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night…”

Peace and Blessings,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Life of Whiplash, written over time 12-07 through 12-29

Whiplash is not a pleasant injury. Insipid and creeping, it does not show up until the fifth day after impact. The impact itself is bad--I hope never to live through something like that again--although, it does beat the alternative.

In the first few days, I lived in a pleasant state of drug-induced numbness and accident-related shock. As the shock wore off, and I scaled back on the pharmaceuticals, mobility returned and life began to normalize--or so I thought. It was at this moment that whiplash hit. Those supple muscle lying along-side my spine seized up, turning into knotted cement blocks. Trying to move with this new musculature produces a kind of torment. A slight bend sends shocks of pain. These unpleasant nerve-bursts are not limited to where I thought I had been injured in the crash. They are indiscriminate, involving whatever muscles and vertebrae seem to take their fancy.

Ironically, the correction for such an injury is to move, very slowly, very gingerly, and to stop before actual pain. In fact, the orthopaedic pediatric specialist looking at my daughter's x-ray said the best thing for us all would be to do Yoga. Fortunately, I have been practising Yoga since I was six years old, my daughter she since before she was born. In fact, we have all done Yoga throughout our lives. Yoga was how my husband and I first met. Now, how funny, it is to be our cure--once again. We practise within a very narrow margin, cautiously, listening, moving as softly as we may, and the two with the fractured vertebrae are the most subtle practitioners of all.

The bones are healing by now, with three weeks gone, knitting themselves together, solidifying. The ligaments and tendons will take 8 to 12 weeks to grip with any kind of real strength. From now to my Birthday in early March, we will all tread gently, treating our spines with careful respect.

This in not my first healing experience, though it is my first car accident. I have learned healing is something you allow, not something you make happen. With the right food, exercise, sleep, and kindness, our bodies will have the best chances of healing. Though, people tell me we will never be completely healed. A 95% recovery is considered the best we can hope for and, even then, we will live with the evidence of this event in our spines for as long as we are here. I am not worried. What experience have I had that is not still with me lodged somewhere in the bone and blood structures of my physical form? Why would this be any different than a hundred other moments that have made their mark on me? Why would the spine be spared when the psyche is not?

I have also learned that every experience in my life, no matter how seemingly insignificant or insufferably painful, has added to all the rest to make me into who I am. This accident is not special in this way. It brought with it difficult physical pain, but now I have slowed down, and am taking care--I have to in order to survive. It also did not merely lash the spine, and rattle my brain, but it made its mark on my mind. Not with any kind of fan-fairing dramaticism, just a deep, subtle shift, like the sands of the ocean floor drifting from the force of a wave and never going back again. I learned something about the nature of life, how fragile it is, how there are no guarantees, how much useless time I have spent worrying over things that may never occur.

We are all here on borrowed time. Everyone I love, and all of those who love me, we only have each other on loan. How can I worry about what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year? There is no promise that any of that agonized-over future will even exist.

Right now, I kiss my loved ones, I stand with my feet square on the earth and bask in the bright light of the sun, I count the stars that dot the sky, and sit quietly when I can, resting peaceful, because today I am alive.

Alive and Slowly Moving,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things That Go Bump in the Road

Things That Go Bump in the Road

We were late. All four kids were rushed out of the house by two harried parents and into the Ford Expedition. My husband was driving. Our eighteen year old, a third member of our dance trio, had gone ahead of us in his little Toyota. The other two dancers, our nine year old and I, were dressed in black skirts and stockings, ready to skip to the Irish reel and jig. We had been practicing for 10 weeks and this was to be my daughter’s first performance.

Life does not always go as planned.

Our twelve year old daughter had left her purse at a cousin’s house so we had to make an extra stop on the way to our performance. It had snowed the night before, sugar dusting all of Virginia with less than an inch of fluffy, white powder. By the time we were on the road, just after noon on Sunday, it was nearly forty degrees and a bright, clear sunny day.

No remnants of the first winter snowfall remained on the road as we drove to the top of the hill.

Getting the purse had added pressure. We were only minutes behind schedule, but that was enough for us to be going at a steady clip heading down the long hill. Not speeding—it’s impossible to exceed the limit on those winding roads—but moving along quite nicely in an attempt to make it to the recital on time, just cruising on a Sunday on a road we knew well and had driven over a thousand times in twenty-five years in all kinds of weather.

The eldest had her i-pod on and was reading, settling in for the hour-long drive. The two little ones were laughing and messing around with each other. The middle daughter was sorting through the recently retrieved purse and I was inhaling my salad in the front seat, trying to fuel-up for our dance performance.

Life; busy and hectic as usual. No sense of foreboding, no brilliant flash of insight, my only thought when I saw the ice on the road was for my son, driving ten minutes ahead of us. We were in a four-wheel drive, he was just in that little Toyota.

My husband swore as we hit the front edge of the first ice patch and reached down to make sure we were in all-wheel drive. We were, but it wouldn’t do us any good.

We hit the second patch and he knew we were in trouble. He turned into the skid as we began to slide. I imagine we were going about 40 miles per hour but we hit the ice on a steep down-slope and picked up speed as we careened off the right hand side of the road, dropped into a ditch and headed straight for a set of mail-boxes.

I thought, “We’re going to hit those mailboxes.” And I remember the feeling of horror and dismay, knowing we were going to have an accident and no way to prevent it.

That was the moment everything went hay-wire.

We only clipped the mail boxes. Our trajectory changed. I closed my eyes just before we slammed into the boxes—I’m a horrid chicken at times like this—when I opened them, we were airborne. We had careened at high speed back across the road, hit a culvert, where a pipe went under the driveway, and sailed over the gravel lane. We hit railroad ties lining the drive on the other side and sent one flying thirty-feet into a field. We crashed landed through a fence, plowing straight over a wooden post that bent like a toothpick. It didn’t slow the truck at all. Ahead, in the field, we could see the tree coming. Eyes wide open, this time, I watched as we barreled towards it. There was no way to avoid that tree, no time to think, or even react before we hit. I could see doom looming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

The impact came with a force I was not familiar with, not from falling off a dozen different horses. It started in my low back and ricocheted all up my spine. My head flung forward and my chin hit my chest. I know now why they call it whiplash. My husband and daughter in the driver’s side both screamed in pain. We had stopped, but to what? He shouted, “Don’t anybody move! Stay exactly still!” Immediately, I turned to look at the kids, feeling the strange looseness in my neck and back. They were all staring back at me, eyes wide with shock and pain. All of them awake, alive. Two started crying.

I knew we were supposed to stay put, I had had my CPR training, but I looked back to the front and saw the mangled hood of the truck. My husband was shouting for a cell-phone. There were four in the truck, somewhere. I began frantically looking for mine. It had been charging in my cup-holder but I couldn’t find it. I traced the cord and pulled it from the floor, handed it to my husband. I looked back up at the crumpled front end.

“We’re getting out of here.” I said.

I don’t know what makes a vehicle explode, but I was not willing to wait and see if ours would. I got out, moving with difficulty and had the kids get out, looking them over as they left. Our little boy was bleeding on his lips. I took the edge of his shirt to wipe the blood. Slowly, we climbed the hill and the kids sat on the remaining rail-road tie. By then, my husband had stopped someone on the road who actually had a cell-signal—my phone didn’t—and they called the rescue squad. He also called my sister, an RN.

I looked down at my kids, all crying and shivering in the brisk wind. I took off my coat and wrapped it around the nine year old, wrapped my scarf around the twelve year old. My husband came over and looked at me. We knew how lucky we were,

“It’s good they’re all crying.” He said, “It means they’re all alive.”

“My feet are cold.” My littlest one said. I looked down, he was missing a shoe.

“Mine, too.” The nine year old was missing both of hers.

I noticed my feet were also cold, both of my shoes were gone as well. Where were our shoes? I hobbled back down to the car and found them. I didn’t know you could hit something so hard it would knock your shoes off. One of mine was jammed up under the dashboard where the impact had driven part of the engine into the car. It was a while later that I realized my shin was bleeding and I had a bone-bruise as a result of the engine’s movement.

The EMT’s arrived and put collars on the older four of us and hauled us off in two ambulances on back-boards. The littlest two children seemed to have escaped nearly unscathed, and went home with my RN sister, to be checked out later by our Family doctor.

In the end, we have five cases of whiplash with a lot of pain and stiffness during any kind of movement. My husband was the most gravely hurt with a herniated disc in his lower spine as well as a small laceration to his scalp.

This week, for me, has been a dazed blur, partly due to the combination of pain-killers and muscle relaxers they prescribed for me, mainly due to a kind of numb gratitude. I didn’t know I could feel so grateful. I feel as if I am living in a dream-world, or walking on a cloud. Just the sound of their voices and the sight of my husband and children fills me with an intense, stunned love.

I don’t know why we were so lucky, why all of us were spared. It isn’t easy to total an Expedition. The tree was twelve inches in diameter. We hit with such force, we uprooted it, yet, in essence, we all walked away. I know one day, my name will be called and I will leave this earth to join my maker. I know one day, we will all be called. “Why not now?” is a question that has no answer, yet I can’t help asking.

In the end, I suppose, it just wasn’t our time.

(Photo by Nataraja Bertram)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

six words, no less, no more

December 03, 2008

So, I get these writing prompts from mysterious places. The latest one said write about yourself in six words. My first thought was;

Whoooaaaa! I have to be succinct.
Which is six words if counting.

next I wrote about my life
nobody knows their way before starting
Guinness girl loves men and babies
babies made me into my Mom
I live for love and horses
I only swim in freezing waters
I live with crazy inside me
even fire can burn too brightly
shiny candy shell covers inner darkness
born wild, nothing mundane holds me

then I wrote about my heart
true love is only for takers
where love resides, all demons flee
don't look and think you know

then I wrote about my art
writing lust overcomes uncertainty. I unmask.
in words, I find my magic
come to me, I'll write you

then I wrote about my God
faith floods and washes fear away
where none reside, I am complete
all are born, few truly live

Then I wrote my finished novel

Love happened. She turned. Wrong way.

What about you? What words appear?
Can you write you in six?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Birthday Princess

She had dimples when she was born, after two boys, my very first little girl. I remember the fresh joy of realization. Surprisingly, it was followed immediately by a squeezing of my heart. I knew some of the things this tiny being would go through, the sorrows, agonies, and challenges faced in life on earth as the fairer sex. It surprised me how immediate the kinship was. I did not love her more than my baby boys, I just knew that a woman's heart would be hers one day. A heart that would break and, even in that pain, expand forever to encompass more in love.

Now, she's a young woman, lovely to behold. She is beautiful, strong, funny, and artistic. She walks to her own, unique music, a bundle of contradictions. At times I look at the children we have and wonder at the experimentalism of genetic mixing. How can she be both soft and loving, deeply caring, and yet have the depth of character to not give one damn about what people think of her? How can she love soccer passionately, playing tough and running hard with the boys, and yet be terrified into screaming idiocy by spiders? How can she collect both skulls and porcelain dolls to display equally with pride on the shelves lining her walls? How can she cry, her tender heart splintering because a friend asked out the boy she adored, and yet move on to forgive that lifelong friend and keep their friendship alive?

Right now she sits at home, a little melancholy because both Mom and Dad had to work today. She's waiting for us to finish up so we can go for our dinner and movie date. Still a sweet, tiny, fairy-girl who drifted in from another realm, she just wants to spend time in the loving presence of her parents. But, Dad and I both know, we are the lucky ones.

Happy Birthday, Little Princess, I am coming home to see you.

Love and Blessings,

(Photo by Jyothi Sacket: In the Moment Photography)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finish the Story; a Mother's Tale

Children are not very forgiving, at least not of the flaws of their parents. It was a good idea to begin with or so I thought. They harass me, incessantly, on long drives, on slow evenings, on snowy days and dark, close nights in the confines of our camping tent, to tell them stories. They don't want the store-bought kind, the ones some other writer has struggled to create. They want me to tell them tales off the top of my head. They give me a theme, "Mom, tell us a story about a sea-turtle and a jelly-fish." "Tell us one about a mountain lion and a squirrel." They're nothing if not imaginative. And so, I sigh, close my eyes, and begin.

A tale told by the seat of one's pants is not an ordinary kind of story. Strange things happen when you allow your imagination to run free. There is no editing, no careful choice of word. The force of the story moves itself, the unexpected abounds. I listen carefully with my inner ear. In that slight pause before I speak, I grasp the tale from the nothingness and weave it into being.

I find, I like these rambling, unpredictable tales, so I decided to write them down. Why not put them into books of my own? Other children might like to read them. Another struggling writer-mom might be grateful to be able to read a story.

I don't have a lot of writing time, like most artists, squeezing it in between dinner and home work, soccer practice and the weekend chore-list, between kisses goodnight and the pull of sleep. Writing these stories was a good idea, but it's hard to recall it all to words in a single sitting.

Advice to all writers: Do not read your children an unfinished story. They do not respond positively, at least my kids don't.

"Read the end." The 7 yr old said. I had kept him and his 9 yr old sister completely captivated right up to the point where the old man was bobbing in the black, black sea.
"I can't read it, I haven't written it yet." I was thinking of course they would understand.
"This is the worst story ever." He glares at me from his warm blankets. "It doesn't have the end!"
"Yeah," His nine-year old sister agrees, "It doesn't even have the mermaids, yet."
"It needs the rest." he says.

Of course it does! I just haven't written it yet.

Note to self: Children do not make good literary guinea pigs.

There are many risky moments on the rocky road to achieving a dream. Moments when you could throw up your hands, turn tail, and crawl back into the safety of your quiet cave. Should I be flattered or horrified? They loved the story, loved it enough to be very upset that it hadn't been finished. I feel obligated to finish it now. Before, it was just the hint of idea, the pale, frail glimmering of opportunity. Something I could set aside, work on at leisure. Last night, fate made an edict. To save face with my kids, I must finish the story. Weary from work, disconsolate with my minuscule time to write, I worked on that story long past the time when my babies lay dreaming, till my eyes were grainy and my vision blurred.

Shhhhh, don't tell them, but "Tell Me a Story of the Old Man and the Sea", is nearly done.

I'll let you know if they like it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I am Alive

writing hides inside my throat
words burning to be spoken
in frail fingers
struggling to make their meaning known
in the stillness
where all life is born
words arise
as ghosts from ashes
the silent observer
sees everything
and speaks about the slant of sun
the breath of wind on lips
eyes colliding
life aching to be born
it comes to me as gift
and offers me salvation
all I have
is strength of spirit
writing comes
I answer
and so
I am alive

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn in Virginia

Why do I love Autumn in Virginia?

On the 6th of November, it is sixty-six degrees of sun-filled sky. The morning breeze sends orange and red leaves skittering across the pavement. Clouds of birds fly over my building heading further South. The steady stream of diving, dipping, chirping life lasts for 25 minutes. How many thousands could that be, making their merry way to sunnier shores? I stand staring up, open-mouthed, until I realize what is falling from the sky, polka-dotting the cars in the lot.

The evidence of fall is here, in the mama and baby bear who wander through the pasture, four eerie eyes, bright in the flashlight beam. They set the horses to stamping and snorting and send my daughter's heart skipping into triple beat. They were merely looking for a place to hibernate. "Not in our barn!" She says.

Autumn sports are played in the brisk, chill mornings, we stand screaming and shivering in hats and scarves, fingers gripping hot coffee, the steam swirling into empty air. By game's end, we are in shirt-sleeves, cold coke pressed to forehead, while the sun seeks to turn our skin to the same russet of the leaves.

Autumn is a kind friend in VA, bringing simple gifts of the full fall harvest, the colored leaves, and lazy sunshine. The cold nights cast a frosted glow on every morning, but roses still bloom in our front garden, slim and regal, floating on their green-coated stalks. Past the weighty, viscous heat of summer, and before the bitter ice-rains come, fall rests, offering a lull in the passing seasons, time to pause, to watch the birds and reflect on nothing more than beauty, simplicity, and the natural wonder of our world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Am Created

My mind was created by something greater than me
the secrets of my heart
the greatness knows
the flowering tree
giving air
sweet fruit
ever pure in service
the wide world
wraps her arms around me
cradling this one
thoughts rise like bubbles
from the depths
they are not my own
I did not make them
I am not of them
a great, still force
I am created


Some mornings when sleep tries to shake itself from my brain, I just want to forget the world and sink ever deeper into nothingness, to remain in my dreamlands, where colors are brighter and the vague, sweet longings beneath the surface of the day, become my bold reality.

I fly in my dreams. I love the feel of rushing that sweeps me head to foot as I realize I can thrust myself off the ground and into the great, dream-sky. I dip and dive over hills and swaying branches, a dream-wind sliding over me, and look for things I never let myself have in reality; waterfalls, open fields, horses that change color.

Sometimes I see you in my dreams, and wake with you beneath my skin, closer now than we would ever be on Earth. In the clear waters of my dream-mind, I take on the colors of your soul, and wear them like an inside cloak, a talisman against the waking day. Though time may pass, and distance wear forever on, in my dreams, you are with me ever still.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am Writing


I am writing this from my 8th floor hotel room. My ears are cold from the wind, my hair blown out like a frizzy halo. It is not beach weather. When I walked back from the gift store having bought presents for my precious children left at home, there was not a soul on the beach. I could see a mile in either direction. No one was there but me and the gulls. I think, maybe, even they thought I was crazy.

What is it about the ocean wind that blows the mind clean? Even my thoughts take on a fine-edged clarity. A pale lovely woman with a faded holey shirt, tattooed, rough around the edges and a handsome young black man helped me pick my presents, staying open five extra minutes so I could find something for the five kids at home. They were the solid workers, the ones who stay on after the seasonal rush, stuck by reasons all their own in the barren tourist town, helping the occasional traveler, like myself, who is only here on business.

The buildings along the seaside were gray and drab without the colored towels and swim suits, without rainbow umbrellas, and a hundred different shades of skin, coolers with cool drinks, lawn chairs and beach toys to distract from their blocky solid stance, the first stone barrier against the sea. In one room, a Christmas tree stood, its twinkling bright lights the only thing to be seen. In another, dark shapes moved across the window, ghostly, silent people thinking lonely thoughts behind the glass.

For me, this great quiet solitude is entirely new. Never before in my life has my time been wholly my own to manage. No dinner to prepare, or homework to complete, no stories, complaints, no fights to break up. I miss my noisy brood, but find this vast emptiness of duty to be other-worldly. I am my own self and nothing else. Time is mine to do with as I choose, and so I sit here and write and sip hot-soy-chocolate, legs curled under me, listening to the hum of the heating unit as it tries to thaw out my ears. There is a waterbirth article I need to write that will be translated into Russian. My fingers know the keys and my mind hums like the heater in anticipation. Words slide their way through my wind-clear mind and lay themselves onto this page. And so, in pure, sweet contentment, I am writing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cauldron Pot

I am always trying to relate to myself. To figure out, to analyze, what is going on from the inside out.

Writing for me, is like a force of nature. The moment comes upon me, the mood, feeling, idea, the story appears like a pulling force, a hurricane, a tornado, a deluging rain. Or it is stark and baking, like the desert sun, sparce and full of meaning. Always, it is something that comes with power, grace, and beauty, something that can't be avoided. It's difficult at times to manage such a thing. I wrote this one, thinking about that...

The Cauldron Pot

I reach inside the cauldron pot
arms long and stretching
looking ever inwards
to the me beyond

what does she know
this inside self
deep below the surface
where jelly-fish glow whitely
blinking in the blackness?
whales are only wave-makers
massive swells of darkness
I grasp their swishing tails
down to the depths we go
where pirate ships have sunk
and buried sweet white ladies
their bones bleached clean
alive and blue
the glimmering soft-fish
light her sternum

she wakes and grins a bony grin
laughter bubbles
from blue-black sockets
Ha! Ha!
she laughs
and down she goes
her sea-weed hair
all a-glow
I follow
deep and deeper still
darkness black
and eyes dead blind
I grip the tendrils of her hair
and leave my skin and bones behind
when next I see the emerald sky
the pale pink morning
on the shore
I clutch the frail strands of her hair
and weave them into something more

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Put the Book Down

I have a very dear friend who has been under attack recently by chickenheads who didn't like what he had to say on immigration. While deeply sad for him, I could not understand what it was that was making these attackers so upset. If they didn't like what they were reading, simply put down the book. Don't read that one, then another one, and another, working yourself into a hateful frenzy, looking for more reasons to despise someone you barely know.

Put the book down.

We have freedom to avoid anything that causes us distress. We don't even have to think thoughts that are worrisome, anxiety-producing, or anger-building. If you don't like what you are reading, put the book down. Not every word was written to reach all ears. In the same way that I have faith that the words I am writing were meant to be written, I have equal faith that the ones who are meant to read them will find access. In this world view, I suppose the attackers were meant to feel angry, hurt, or out-of-control. He got some pretty nasty e-mails. I know because I read them. They accused him of being exactly the opposite of what I had found him to be. They said he lied. He is one the most honest writers I have ever read. They said he had the story all wrong. He was there, he lived it from both sides of the angry border. For him, these words gave him strength, made him stronger. Through fire, they honed him and made him more into what he was meant to be. For the chickenheads? Who knows?

Life lessons like this are not painless, but my friend, in his honest wisdom, sent this quote to me and I think it says it best:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything and anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you

--David Whyte

We may not like the chickenheads, the ones who would attack us for who we are, but even this bright burning brings with it a gift. For me, on this day when I was attacked (possibly with justification) it has made me into something stronger, more determined to speak my mind, to stand tall and clear, flawed and flawless, as I am.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Over the Hills and Far Away

When I was a we'en, I ran like the wind, liking nothing better than the feel of my heart pounding, the rushing of blood through my veins. Through the forests and over the hills, gulping leaf and moss scented air--this alive--I reverted to the wild in me, to the voice that whispered the same soft rustling as the sun-tipped leaves. I drank the air and light and sound of this un-human world, sustenance and protection against the mundane life that I awoke to every morning.

This is how I survived my childhood and the pains I couldn't bear. I ran them away, over hill and dale, letting the gasping of the effort blow them away.

But, we grow old and we grow slow and we no longer hear the wind that calls our name. Responsibility makes its weighty appearance. Age stomps in and demands decorum. We buckle and fold and forget the sunshine days.

Or do we?

Somewhere deep inside of me, on quiet nights, I can hear her wild howling--my wild miss--lurking in me still behind my many faces. Yesterday, like any other day, I drove the winding road home from work. The breeze snuck in my window and settled just under the edge of my skin. I put on workout clothes and stomped to the basement to lift weights. There was no room in the basement, a project had all the items from one locale leaking over into my exercise space. I dragged back up the stairs, longing for the rush of blood.

The door burst open and the wind blew in, "Run with me," she said.

"I'm going for a walk," I announced and of course they wanted to come.

Three tall lassie's and one fine lad. We dressed in shorts and tank-tops, laced our shoes, and out we went...walking.

I didn't know then that the wild in me had been born in my brood, but the hills knew their names, and called to their swift feet, away they went, galloping, a herd of two-footers and I forged after them. We dodged the trees and leapt over rocks and fallen logs. They laughed like clear water and bobbed through the rippled light, fairy-beacons, frolicking, guiding me on the path back to myself.

And the wild one laughed and is laughing still.

Monday, October 6, 2008

JMU Paren'ts Weekend--How Could I be So Blessed?

The thing about motherhood is it always holds surprises. We went to Parent's Weekend at James Madison University where our first born is studying away to achieve a BS in Computer Science. We nearly didn't go, what with the other five to attend, with groceries, and house-keeping, gardens to weed, and trim to be laid over the new porcelain tile. So many things to stand in the way, but we went because it was Parent's Weekend and we are, after all, his parents.

We met at his tiny, less than pristine apartment and sat around looking at funny things on You Tube, laughing at soccer bloopers and rude English TV shows. We met up with his Love and her parents and proceeded to commence upon a walking tour that was very, very long--but also beautiful. We talked, meandered, laughed and joked in the fall sunshine. We all stood in the center of the circle and clapped to hear the squeaking penguin. (you have to be there to understand) We took pictures with James Madison who is a tiny, little man. I wondered, would he be horrified at becoming a bronze statue where giants routinely draped purple and gold beads over him, threw their arms around his neck, and took pictures for their facebook sites? That lofty scholar could never have considered such a thing.

The Love knew everything about the campus, and the buildings and told stories and directed us to points of interest along the way. The parents leg's grew crampy, hips began to hurt, feet blistered. But no one stopped smiling. We had lunch at the funny little hippy cafe. And iced coffee (thank God!) mid afternoon. Dinner was Pizza and beer in the Love's apartment. We sat and shared stories, laughed and relaxed. A "Bonding" experience is what the Love called it. And, indeed, it was.

But for me, it was also something more. I got a glimpse into the life my son had chosen to create for himself. A look at the bright shinning star he had set up to guide him. How could you not feel inspired on the green rolling campus? How could you not want to achieve with history and inspiration all around you? When we passed the football stadium, (we won 49-0) and the purple and gold streamers littered the land, a big sign hung over the side of the building, it said "Welcome JMU Parents." Was it in that moment my heart burst with pride? Or had that sign just made me aware of what had been building all throughout the long, unassuming day. I was so proud of our son. Neither of us went to college. We had turned down an untraveled road and decided to write the map as we went along. How had we made him? He is much too smart, too talented, too focused, and hard-working. He belongs on that campus where the cross-walks are painted in school colors, where the blue stone buildings lend weight to the minds who have come to learn. I could see he belonged there. I could see he was content with the choices he'd made. We drove home, exhausted, much later than we had planned. But my sleepy heart was singing, the song of a mother who finds her nestling has grown fledgling wings and is aloft upon the wind and that little piece of me that is with him always can feel the rushing air as the current lifts him ever higher.

How could I be so blessed?

(Photo by Jyothi Sacket: In the Moment Photography)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Writing is My Monastery

writing is my monastery
in quiet spaces
between the words
I know my self

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lorch, Germany

Lorch, Germany

Why can’t I be in the Rhine Valley in Lorch Germany, with its quaint houses surrounding the lake? I could dive into cold water, wash the fatigue and grime of tedium away, leaving my skin aglow. A brisk walk in the early morn to find my coffee, and seek out friends and neighbors could start this day. We could talk about how we slept or didn’t sleep, how the wind howled or the cats screamed, or our dreams kept us awake. In Lorch, I could lay my burdens by the lake-side and let the fishes nibble them away. I could care only about how blue the sky is, how the wind feels cool upon my face. I could leave these painful dreams behind, lie back on the green grass and stare at the clouds that only have to drift along on a carrying wind, never wondering, never worrying, with no lost dreams, and no regrets. I could float like that in that tidy hillside village far away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writer's Desk

I've been looking for my desk. Having started 'writing' again, I've decided I need one. A place for just my things. With odd objects bearing mystical meanings known only to me resting in perfect spacing on its hard-topped surface. A place to sit and contemplate, to chew the end of my pencil, tilt my head sideways at the keyboard and wonder.

I intend to create magic as I write. To pull something out of nothing, put down words that no one has ever read before. To wind them in a tangled, lyrical fashion so that they sneak up on people and surprise! This is no small thing to be trying to accomplish. One needs all the help one can get. A Magic Writing Desk could surely be useful. It could lend its ancient, weighted wood to my ponderings. It could lend its solid steadiness to my wayfaring thoughts. Truly, the right surface, the right pen, these things make a difference. Just as the right pictures of ghosts and gods, goddesses and relatives, far vistas and reptilian creatures on my walls watch over me and grant me their support.

Alas, it has not come. I sent the winged message on a prayer. Knowing, in these things, it is best to let the spirits make the acquisition. And so we wait, my desk and I, until that moment, long decreed, has arrived. Then we'll sit in blessed emptiness and create these words together.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Funeral

The Funeral

The hard-backed pews bear witness
death came on swift, fleet feet
from out of the shadows she rose
and laid claim

The weeping widow
left behind
broke in the noon-day sun
the trees and I both weeping
but the frail heart breaking is not my own

The pieces left for wind to scatter
I touch with tender hands
and pray
to say the words she needs to hear
pour my life
through the gap in her chest
and somehow bandage this wound
I know will never heal

Death came but the living bear the burden
of the blue sky
and the globe going round and round
of brutal time continuing
on and on
without them

We bear witness to this loss
the eyes so grieving
mute to truly comfort
the inevitable blow
of frail life passing

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Same Eyes

There must be something about the dentist. I like to lie in the chair and stare at the ceiling. There is nothing for me to do, no problem at home or work I have to solve. I breathe. I refuse the offer of TV, even of music, and I blink slowly in the bright light, languidly, watching my eyelids descend. I realize I am seeing through the same eyes as I was on the day I was born. Everything has grown, has changed, except these eyes...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hi Dad!

Hi Dad!

It seems fitting that you would be the first commentator, as you are the reason I started writing in the first place. Your stories had a big impact on me growing up. I am loving this blog as well--even if it is only me, you, and a few of our close friends and relatives who are reading it! Anyway, I don't know about Pulitzer--I want to write POPULAR fiction. :>
Love you, too!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Six Kids, Six Schools

Today, I have six children in six different school systems. One in primary school, one in elementary school, one in middle school, one in high school, one in community college, and one in University. How am I ever to keep up with it all? I stand outside my life, looking in, and think, "Is she insane?" She laughs a lot, that has to be good....

What I really know is this....money could give me big houses and fast cars, beautiful dresses, and diamond rings. Fame could give me a name in lights and millions of adoring fans. I could have gone to school and gotten a degree, had a career as a high-flying executive. I could have raised horses, joined the peace corp, or run away to live in the East. Instead, I settled home, found a man I loved to share my life, and began having children. Six of them, 3 boys, and 3 girls. I am so proud, I can hardly see straight and I love them so much, it makes me cry. They are the work and art of my life. I can't imagine any existence more rewarding or full of greater joy. With tiny toes, and smacking lips, with late night cries, and teen-aged arguments, they have given me the thing I value most--the chance to be something truly wonderful...a mother. There is no love like that I feel when merely looking at their faces.

I love you, kids. Thank you for coming into my life and letting me be your Mom.

And if you think I'm going to be able to make it to all of your conferences....well...I'm not saying I won't try.

Cheers to all you Mom's out there!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Sign Post

It's funny where inspiration comes from. Something seemingly unrelated can trigger a thought, or a feeling. I wrote this last evening while I was driving home from the dentist while thinking about my 18 year old son, who is thinking about moving to England.
(Not to worry, though, I pulled over before I wrote it.)

The Sign Post

The Sign Post

He stood still
on the side of the road
paint cracked and peeling
words etched into the wood of his face
faded to dusty-gray.

He watched them come for miles
bright clear faces
longing for the sea
or to climb mountains.

He pointed the way equally to them all
the angry ones
looking to hurt someone
the sad ones
searching for a place to die.

Boldly in the wind and rain
while sun bleached his face to white,
in fog that hid him
in snow that buried him
he watched them come and go
sometimes wistful
sometimes with no thought of them at all
Just standing
as he was made to do
a sign-post by the side of the road

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Truth of Me

I don't understand how the hardest thing for me to be...is me.

All other definitions come easily to me, mother, wife, daughter, friend. These I know and have been successful at being for years. My own me, deeply hidden in the recesses, cringes in fear at the light of day. She hid herself from view, not sure if this world was safe enough. And with great zeal and creativity, created other hers. And lived as them. Now, I want out. To live my life in a straight line. To say, not what you want me to say, not what experience has taught me you want to hear. But to speak the words that rush, that barrel up from the bottom. The truth of me. I slide easily around inside myself, ducking behind corners, falling into manufactured selves. Out of fear, for safety, because it is easier and what I'm used to. But every now and then these days, I feel me, stepping out and shaking the water from my fur, blowing in the morning air. Surveying this fair landscape. For whole moments, I leave the shallows of my pond and walk naked as I am.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A beginning

I don’t get out much. It’s a disadvantage of living in the middle of nowhere and raising a large family among the hills and trees. I wouldn’t trade this wild, secluded way of living, the leaves that rustle outside my window, the raccoons who come to eat cat food off my back deck. But the world is wide and wondrous. I long to know the scent of unfamiliar spices, the lay of a different land, the foreign hum of people chatting about their daily lives in a language I can’t understand. I may never get to leave my house in the gully and see everything I want to see. I may never get to talk to a woman in New Delhi about what it is like raising a child in her land. I cannot help wanting to know.

I have started this blog to share my life as an American living in Virginia. I will post the funny, quirky things that happen as I wander through motherhood, housewife-hood, and now as a career-mom. I feel a need to share my stories, to give you a glimpse of the world as I see it. I also want to see yours, the color of your day, the mood of your morning ritual. My hope is this will become a place where you can tell me the little things, the color of your coffee cup, the view from your bedroom window, but also the deep life stuff, difficult things you are dealing with, challenges you face, dreams you have that you still hope will come true.

I hope you will join me in this sharing and exploration. I look forward to reading about even the seemingly insignificant, whatever the world has shown to you that you would like to show to others, whatever gives a glimpse of what it is like to be you, living your life, in your world, in your “view over here.”

Peace and Blessings