Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grateful

It's easy to be grateful this year, even for the simple things like being able to inhale an easy breath. Nothing quite like asthma to give you a healthy appreciation of the inhalation. Last night, in the pleasant cool of the November evening, I felt how good the air was in my lungs, how cool and clean. I felt how easy it was to draw breath and I could detect each scent all tangled up within the air; wood smoke, and the rich, slightly acrid scent of dead leaves, faint pine, and trailings of the dinner I had fed to the puppies earlier. I inhaled DEEPLY and pulled all that darkness and starlight, leaves and wood smoke into my lungs. It's a simple joy, breathing--one too often overlooked.

I have more complicated things to be grateful for. I am happy my husband and children are alive and well. Some of us might not have been after the accident last year. It still gives me joy just to look at them and every action I have taken throughout this year was colored by the uncertainty of life. We never know when our moment will come due. This is why today is so important.

I am grateful for my writer-friends, who gave me a piece of myself I had overlooked--one of the best parts of me as it turns out. I spent months, cocooned in a lovely cabin and then packed my things and branched out on my own, setting out to see if that high mountain pass is, indeed, traversable. I'll be back, though, so keep the coffee hot for me. I wouldn't mind a scone, while we're at it.

I am grateful for my health--which started out bad this year and went down hill! I was diagnosed with hideous allergies, then undiagnosed--sort of. I don't feel much differently than I used to--less itchy, I guess, thanks to the antihistamines, but the doctors still don't really know what's go awry in my system. I don't care to dwell on it anymore, I am alive and well (mostly) today--what else matters?

I am grateful for my extended family members--of which there are many--my close community and my extended community that I am coming to cherish more and more each day. I am even grateful for my job. I guess anyone employed would say this at the moment, but even without the recession-induced threat of termination lurking in the back of any mind--I would still be grateful to work where I do with the people who are like a new family to me now.

Life is not perfect. It never is. It is wild and changing, full of heartbreak, joy, passion, and love. At least my life has always been. A crazy ride, being me. But I like it and so it is easy to be grateful tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving. I wish you love and passion, gratitude, joy and peace.
<3 and Blessings,
La

Friday, November 20, 2009

Madness

when the madness passes
I'm left with the rubble
of broken pots
shattered pictures
torn clothing

dazed, I wander
picking up pieces and
setting the furniture to rights

all the windows are cracked
in the wake of the storm
even the most precious artifacts
sit, knitted together

it takes such effort
in the quiet calm of a reclaimed mind
to put it all back together
I wonder
how many storms my house can take

before

it cannot
be made
whole again

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Love the Rain

Which is not a popular viewpoint.

Most people like bright, sunny, blue skies with only the occasional cloud floating overhead like a lost sheep. I like low, lowering skies, full of electrical currents and the threat of a sure drenching. I like all kinds of rain, the heavy summer downpours, the fine fall misting, the steady drizzle of a spring shower. I like to be out in it whenever I can. Nothing is finer than to walk through the woods listening to the sound of rain pattering and dropping through the leaves, or to stand on a hillside and turn my face up to the stinging cold droplets, or to lie cozed up in bed, drifting to the sound of it drumming on the roof.

I wonder if perhpas my love of rain came from my early years living in a dry, hard--baked climate. The Colorado dust would coat you over during the course of the day so your skin felt tight and drawn. Any rain we got then was a minimal, stingy sort. Just enough to make the scent of the dirt rise into the air, but not enough to quench any kind of rain-longing. Late in the evenings on the Ranch where we lived, Mom would send us straight into the shower when we finally came inside. Under that warm downpour I watched the water pooling at my feet turn a pale brown as the dust from the day was washed away. I loved feeling the water run over me, loved how it made a thrumming sound in my head.

I wonder if that's the origin for my rain-lust; a combo of dry climate and warm showers at the end of the day.

Wherever it arose, however it came to be, rain-love is always with me now and anytime the weather turns to storming I can feel a restless longing because I want to be out in the rain.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Lake

The Lake

I stand with a vast lake behind me, my feet at the shore, facing away into the dawn. It is wide and deep, with a surface smooth as glass. The light falls just so, you can't see into the depths but you know the vast waters are waiting. Sunlight slicks the surface and casts the world back into itself.

There are things dwelling in the depths; sometimes the surface rolls as a heavy mass moves beneath it and ripples reach far and wide.

This lake also holds knowledge and tells me much about myself, about the ones around me, about this world in which I live. I do swim in this lake, immersing myself completely in the cold, cold water, loosing sight and sound as I sink into myself.

When I emerge, it is as if every pore, every tender nerve point on my skin, is vibrantly alive, pulsing. I bring with me the sheen of dark waters, dripping from my skin.

I stand to face a new day, more alive.

But I know, there are demons in the depths. They can wrap their tentacles around me. If I am not careful, I could never reemerge.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yesterday, I Wanted Not to be Me

Yesterday, I wanted not to be myself, I wanted to escape from me for the afternoon or even just a few hours. The intensity of me was too great, the weird, oddness of who I am too convoluted. I couldn't make it out and was left with the bright burning of what I feel and nothing else. I wanted to escape, step out of my own experience of being me.

I often feel as if I am standing at the edge of a fire, a deep red-gold burning within me. I press myself closer and closer to the flame to see how long I can stand the heat before it starts to burn. It is a strange kind of game, to see how far into that brightness I will allow myself to fall.

I know I am not alone in my way. All over the world and throughout the history of humankind, there has been this cusp group of people like me: writers, musicians, actors, dancers, painters, composers. We have always existed on the outskirts, the ones for whom a 'normal' life is an intolerable one. The sports stars, the inventors, the religious zealots and the explorers who wander the globe, even those bizarre men who fish the bearing sea, we are the ones who left the crowd, broke away from the social norm, went our own way for no other reason than that we feel this hungry longing. At times, on the edge of the fire-pit, I wish I could lose myself completely, be burned to ash so only the cinders remain. I imagine then, I would have peace.

Instead, I stand with a great black lake behind me, that whispers things I could never know, and the bright, bright burning within. Poised between two poles, I navigate each moment, never knowing will it be the bright burning, or the deep of the lake that will eventually consume me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Me and 54, 999 other peeps


U2 have long been one of my favorite bands, belonging in that treasured top-ten who have a song for my every mood. Mostly, I like to play them as loud as I can, so when I sing till my throat aches no one can hear how off-key I am. I have cried to U2 songs, felt my heart crack down the middle and dump tears out like a late summer rain. I have danced till I was dizzy, "It's all right, it's all right, it's all right, she moves in mysterious ways." Before I knew U2 was anything more than an Irish band I was destined to love, I was already loving their music completely. When I heard they were coming to a Stadium near me, of course I wanted to go.

These days, times are hard and tickets aren't cheap. This is where the i-pods come in. Last June I finally joined the ranks of the technologically blessed and got myself an i-pod. My kids had had theirs for years, which is one reason I didn't have mine. I kept buying them, but somehow I never got to keep one for myself. Last June, I finally did. Sleek and slim, it's bright orange so no one can mistake Mom's i-pod for their own. We have one desk-top in the living room dedicated to our i-tunes. It knows who you are when you link-up and brings you your music. We all put our music onto this one machine and, occasionally, we share. For me, this means I have techno and William Control interspersed between the Chieftains, UB40, Sade, and, of course U2. For my girls, this has meant that I wasn't the only one who became smitten with the energetic Irish band. Unbeknownst to me, they downloaded my music and next thing you know, we were all Bono-crazy. When they heard U2 were heading our way, they scraped together their pocket money and bamboozled their father into buying four tickets. We were going to the concert!!!!!

That Thursday dawned bright and clear--I think. I was actually too excited about the evening to even notice the day. I worked at a frantic pace, planning to get out of there early, snatch up the girls from school, rush home, get changed, and rush back to Charlottesville, VA--almost one hour away. I wasn't the only one heading to the concert and I caught snatches of my favorite songs drifting from neighboring offices all day. I left work mere minutes behind schedule. I got home in record time. The girls and I had 15 minutes to shed our ordinary human clothes and turn into beautiful, concert-going divas.

In deciding what to put on, we had a few tricky moments. The best-looking garb is not always the best thing to actually wear. Short skirts can literally freeze your tail off in a brisk wind and heals can become objects of torture by the end of five hours. Going to a concert and screaming and cheering and dancing like crazy is fun. Going to a concert to be cold and in pain is not. In the end, we all wore walking shoes, jeans, and nicely tailored tops. We carried jackets and our bags with refresher make-up and left the real exotica to our choice of eye liner and shadow. We got out of the house in a record 25 minutes.

Charlottesville is a lovely, winding 55 minutes drive from our house. It was a bright, lazy afternoon. I remember that because we were listening to "Beautiful Day" on the way in and I thought, "How perfect." We got to interstate with no trouble, then funneled along with perhaps two thousand other people into the single exit lane and were bumper to bumper for thirty minutes. From living in the country, my girls idea of a traffic jam is three cars lined up at a stop-sign, so this was a big deal. They had all kinds of bad ideas, such as running down the highway beside the truck or climbing into the bed and dancing. Their worst idea was to ram into the back-side of that flashy Beamer who opted to cut in front of us coming into the turn. We did none of these. Instead, they re-applied lipstick and eyeliner and chatted about what kind of damage our F350 Diesel extended cab could do to that Beamer. I confess, I might have participated just a tiny bit in that last discussion.

Eventually, we passed the TV crews coming on live to show the traffic back-up. We leaned out the windows and screamed like idiots. We hopeed they got us on camera.
My son called;
Son: "Mom, have you seen the traffic? There are supposed to be 55,000 people there tonight."
Me: "Yes, I see it, we're stuck right in it."
Girls (shouting in background): "Did you see us on TV?"
Son: "I think you're nuts for going."
Me: "No way! I love U2"
Son: "He he"
Me: "Hey, you're supposed to say, 'I love you, too, Mom.'"
Son: "You did not just say that."

After that, the traffic cleared and we were on our way. We found my husband at the car-wash he's building. He moved the orange traffic cones and we backed into this private, no-pay parking lot. We were so pleased with ourselves for getting free parking; not so much twenty minutes later when we were still hiking though the picturesque residential area on our way to Scott Stadium. At this point, we girls were truly grateful for easy walking shoes.

Concert-going Tip # 1 : Even if your kids are vegan, do not try to bring food into the Stadium, they will make you throw it out. Unless the one checking your bag happens to be a man, and he, apparently, likes your eye make-up, then you will be allowed to bring in a big bar of chocolate, some lollipops, two kinds of breath mints, half a fruit leather, and chewing gum. My girls wondered how I did it. If I had a clue, I would tell them.

Concert going Tip # 2: If you can, get them to book three of your seats inside a concrete block. We spent ten minutes with the help of two ushers looking for seats PP 9, 10, 11, and 12. We did find 12, but the other three disappeared into solid concrete. We were pretty sure no one could sit inside a concrete block and the ushers did, eventually, agree with us. We traipsed half-way around the Stadium. Beside me, my middle daughter was sputtering under her breath, fuming,

"If our new seats aren't better, I'm going to go off!" she said.

She is her father's daughter; I fear for the person standing at the receiving end of her eventual ire. My eldest daughter and I followed in the wake of the fuming two, feeling completely assured that something eventful was likely to happen. We came to a window where a woman was waiting. I'm sure this woman was hired simply for her peaceful, easy expression and her uncharacteristic beauty. It's hard to be properly irate when someone looks like that. We needn't have worried. She reassigned our seats.

"Are they better?" my husband asked.
"Oh, yes," she smiled, a bright sun breaking through clouds, " they are much better."

We sat three rows from the edge of the stadium wall, close enough that Bono and the rest of the band looked like actual people, instead of dancing, singing miniatures of the real thing. Better seats, for sure.

Concert going Tip # 3: The people in front of you can hear every single word of your conversation, so it might not be the best place in the world to tell a graffic story of your vasectomy gone wrong. Whoever you were, I, too, am glad you made it out of there intact.

Sitting three seats from the edge, we were still not in the best seats in the house. The stage wrapped around all sides and the performers did walk down to our end a few times during the course of the show. It didn't matter. It was loud, and they were LIVE! I jumped, I danced, I screamed with my girls. I felt the drum-beat echoing in the hollow of my chest, that airy cavity made by my lungs. I felt the cells in my bones bend to the music, my heart lilt with the beat. Around me, 54, 999 other people were feeling the same.

With a twenty-minute walk ahead of us, we left before the encore. We stood up to go, the crowd surged to their feet and lit up like the Vermont night sky in the blues, reds, and yellows of a perfect miniature milky-way made by their cell-phones. My comrades stayed behind and heard the last beat of the drum, the fading ring of the guitar. I drove home through a long and rolling night, perfectly content.

"It's all right, its all right, it's all right, she moves in mysterious ways...."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hummingbird Review!

Remember a while back, I mentioned this great writer's group I am lucky enough to be part of? We've put together an e-zine: The Hummingbird Review.

Come by and check us out. My section is called Home Fires and I would love to hear what you think about our venture.

http://www.thehummingbirdreview.com/

Peace and Blessings,
La

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beauty of My Tomatoes

Last year, my garden died. This sad demise came from a combination of sparse rainfall resulting in near drought conditions and a busy life that gave me no time for weeding or watering. I didn't get a single thing from my early spring planting, a situation I was determined not to repeat this year. My favorites plants to grow and the things I just can't live without are tomatoes and basil. Utilizing reason, I decided to hedge my bets and plant even more of these than I had last year—thinking this way I could manage to keep one or two alive.

We had a banner rain year.

We had uncommonly cool, often overcast conditions.

I'm sure all that organic compost also had an effect.

We grew a tomato hedge. It is 20 feet long, nearly five feet tall and practically throws tomatoes at you when you walk by. We have been eating buckets of tomatoes for six weeks, now, and there is no sign of slow-down in tomato growth on the vines. We’ve had fresh salsa, fresh pasta sauce, tomato and bean salad, we have roasted them, braised them and finally—when I realize we were never going to be able to eat them—I blanched and froze them. The lower foliage of this hedge is made up of my sixteen basil plants. Recently, I picked and processed an entire trash-bag full of basil! In addition to the many bags of frozen tomatoes that will lend themselves to sauces, soups, and pots of chili, we will be eating pesto all winter long!

I never expected such an explosion. It has occasionally been alarming to watch this hedge grow. But picking them and popping them into my mouth fresh off the vine is one of my favorite summer pleasures. In honor of my tomatoes, I wrote the following poem. I hope you enjoy this journey into my garden life and kitchen. I would love to hear about yours.



The Beauty of My Tomatoes

I wish I could describe the beauty
of my tomatoes
adequately
so you could see them
sitting

In the bamboo steaming basket
above
my black granite counter-top

Oblong and bright red or
pale orange with streaks of green or
yellow ones
perfectly round and tiny as a dime

Light from the window
falls over them
brushes their skins
with gold

Were I a photographer
I would not have to
struggle
to explain

That these are not my big tomatoes
those beef-steaks sit
in round legions
like bright buns rising
on a lime-green dish towel

These are my other tomatoes
my cherrys and romas
tumbled together
in the straw-colored basket

I pick one to eat
the still-life altered
by my desire
for sweetness and
the taste the summer on my tongue

They are humble in size
but not in brilliance
they sit boldly in the fading light
urging me to eat

I wish I could bring
you
here

Into this moment

Where a tomato bursts
ripe and fresh
between my teeth

So you could see
with your two eyes
and taste
with your own lips
the beauty of my tomatoes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HOT Virginia

Virginia in August is like stepping into a steam room. With 95% humidity or above being common and a blazing sun shining regularly, the water molecules themselves heat up. They cling, a slick coating over your skin. Sweat drips from your body if you spend even a few minutes out of doors—say—in walking to your car.

My way of surviving such heat is to minimize all time spent outside. Of necessity, I walk from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car, then from my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned office. This would be a perfect system if my office wouldn’t keep changing temperatures.

I work in a rambling building that had rooms added out of necessity as the family-owned company grew through generations. Thinking more of useable space, and less of aesthetics or climate control, additions were tacked-on as needed. The problem with tacking things on is you end up with some interesting heat/cooling situations. For instance, I share a thermostat with my boss’s office which is located directly over-head.

He and I both have rooms with a lovely window view overlooking the south side of the building. I look out over the trash cans, he looks out onto the roof of the Annex, but they do let in that well-loved natural light and, by consequence, the broiling summer heat.

It is a well-known scientific fact that heat accumulates in higher elevations. When my boss’s office gets unbearably hot, he comes downstairs to where the thermostat is located and adjusts the air. He doesn’t do this often, just when things get overly toasty in the rooms above. The problem is, in order for it to be bearable upstairs, it has to be near artic conditions down here, effectively freezing the basement dwellers. The only way to balance it out is to open the back door and let all that natural heat wash in.

All in all, this wouldn’t be a bad system except for two things. First, due to the private nature of what I do, I often have my office door shut. This keeps private conversations private, but also allows for window-heated air to accumulate in my room. To solve this problem, I occasionally open the door and skim some cool air from the hallway or the office next door. This leads to the second problem. If my office is hot from the south-heating sun, you can bet the upstairs office is hotter. By the time I open my door, the whole cycle has started and finished; the boss has become too hot, the thermostat has been lowered, my co-workers teeth have started chattering and they have thrown open the back door. When I finally get around to opening my door, hoping for relief from my baking office, the sweltering, clinging, moisture-thick outside heat comes pouring in!

It makes me wonder, why, exactly do I live in Virginia?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bats, bats, and more bats

These days I always check my office first thing for bats. There was the one on Monday hanging over my door jamb. Sound asleep and tiny as a field mouse, he was sleeping off whatever fun he'd had the night before. On Tuesday there was one in the hall, nestled in a corner of the slate, nose to the crack. I would guess, like some of the humans in this building, he was pretending he wasn't there. On Wednesday, I was bat-free, but there were three in the office down the hall and on Thursday, I spun in my chair and almost stepped on the fallen rodent, who was looking at me with baleful, sleepy eyes—like tiny black beads—as if I was at fault for disturbing his sleep.

Our Purchaser called the exterminator, who came out to investigate the problem. They poked about in rafters and ceilings and discovered there is an inch of guano (odorous bat-poo) adding extra insulation to our ceiling. Based on this, it was decided we have a bat-infestation.

You can’t kill bats in Virginia, they are a protected form of wildlife. I personally have nothing against them. They eat mosquitoes and other nasty flying bugs, of which we are abundant, and dart and dive through the dusk-hued sky. I love to watch them as they send out their radar beams and pick up the trail of bugs through sound. Their flight is so erratic, you’re often sure they are going to fly right into your face, but they swoop off at the last moment, lifting the hair from your brow with the wind of their wings.

On Friday I got the best bat yet. He was nestled in my coffee-cup, little fingers latched onto the edge. I wondered if he was trying to wrest one more flight from the evening by sucking up the last drips from my mug. All in all, he was the easiest to take outside. I placed a request for employment verification over the top, pressed gently with my hand, and carried him out the door.

I always wish them well as they look groggily up at me when I tip them into the bushes. Their six-inch wing-span has a fine-meshed, lacy pattern. They hobble and hop away, screeching quietly. I can tell from their complaints they don’t like me very much.

Toward the end of the week, our expert had hatched a plan. As it would happen, we’re in the middle of breeding season. Those bats in my office, including the coffee-drinker, weren’t boy bats at all. They were the female bats, apparently worn out from breeding, they were too tired to search for a proper place to sleep. During this most exciting time of the year, they get a little nutty. They squeeze into our halls at night through an opening as small as a ¾ inch gap and have free-breeding parties. The Purchaser is not amused. He is the one the local sheriff’s office calls when the breeding-bats set off the alarm system. He's shown up dozens of times, riffle and flash-light in hand but, the bats? They’re not impressed.

We can do nothing until the season is over. With breeding comes babies which are now inhabiting our attic in tiny, squeaking droves. Our eventual solution will be to clean out the guano and board up all the holes to keep all future bats from nesting in our building. We can’t do that until the young ones have grown and gone. For the time-being all we are left with is coming in each morning knowing for certain there will be bats both above and below.

(Author's Note: My Lady bat in the coffee cup was imaginary, coming from the rafters of my brain as opposed to my office. The dirty coffee cup, however, is oh-so-real.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

I think it’s in the way the light falls, angling through the trees, hitting everything with a bright touch that is so alluring. Approaching Stonehenge, we traverse rolling plains. This morning gentle wind whips the summer wheat, and flips the leaves over. They look like schools of silver fish swimming in a blue sky. I have always wanted to see Stonehenge. With hippies for parents, I’ve know about this rocky formation for as far back as I can recall. What fascinates me and drives me most crazy is that no one knows for certain what it is, how it got here, and what the original purpose was behind its being constructed. The stones have remained, worn down by wind and rain, but the burning urges of the humans who created it have been entirely lost to the years that have passed. We’re left with only speculation; all that amounts to is scientific rumor.

Like all of England, the sky in the south is low and changing. Clouds roll over in fluffy groups, looking lofty from this vantage point, but I dropped down through them on the way back to earth and could see from the plane window how very close to the ground they were. They’re temperamental things, these clouds of England. A whole day of them may pass without even a single drop of rain. Alternately, it could be bright and blue and the clouds as white and airy as cotton wool and next thing you know, it’s a downpour.

We get hot coffee in the refreshment stand just outside the gates. It’s a funny thing about the British, you can find a pub, or six, in every small town, but coffee shops are reserved for shopping malls, airports, and, happily, busy places of interest. They also sell ‘rock’ scones, cucumber sandwiches, and brie, basil and tomato subs. We’re not hungry. We had cider and oatcakes at the campsite this morning.

We’ve arrived early so we sip our drinks and wait for the gates to open. Six little birds flit about the fence posts reminding us of our children. We try to catch a picture of them, but two fly off. “That’s about right,” I say. One of ours has flow the coop already, and the next in line will as soon as he can get his wings under him. Back at home baby birds had just hatched in a nest just over porch light. Just before we left they were so big, they looked stuffed into that small, grassy cradle. “That’s how I feel.” Our nineteen year old commented.

Aside from the birds, there are large groups of people arriving by the bus-load. We sit and, without seeming to stare, try to guess nationalities. There is an entire cricket team, looking smart in their neat shorts and cardigans. There is nothing more British to me than the wearing of shorts with a cardigan. Another group hosts a tightly angled accent. Is it highlands Scottish? Irish? There is one young man wearing a black T-shirt with a skull and silver chains on it. He’s friendly despite this garb, and is the only one in the group who smiles at me. I know, were my girls with me, this would be the one they would remember. While I’m off to get another coffee, they all get up and leave and Neil realizes there are not, in fact, English speaking at all.

With the caffeine coursing, we walk through a short tunnel and come to Stonehenge. Due to literally thousands of years of human occupation, there are numerous places in England that are just as interesting, old, and historically significant as Stonehenge. I have visited cathedrals where they’ve been saying Mass since the eleventh century. I’ve been to Lindisfarne, that water-ringed Island where Christianity first landed in these parts. England, and I suppose all of Europe, is rife with historical sites and ancient structures. Even with all of that, there was something mystical about this monolithic, geometrical stone ring. With the plains rolling away in every direction, it sits all on its own as the center of this small world. At intervals the stones line up. On the solstice, the sun rises and sets through these gaps. I can hardly think that was accidental. I stand in the exact spot and look through the gap in the stones. I can feel the weight of the millions of eyes that have gazed just so before me. Like the ping of a tuning fork, I recognize the magic that is at play.

Exactly half-way around the structure, we feel the first few rain drops. Absorbed in the ear piece, detailing the imagined history of this place, I hadn’t noticed the sky had darkened and the wind had picked up. Within seconds, it’s pouring. Neil gallantly gives me his rain-jacket. He’s wearing a polar-fleece, I’m wearing cotton. We’re camping tonight so with no way to get things dry after this, he deems I will have the worst of this after the rainfall. We try to stick it out, to continue to stand on the open plain and marvel at the monolith. The rain wins out. By the time we reach the tunnel, my pants and shoes are soaked, I drip and my feet squelch on the stone walkway. We stop in at the gift-shop to pick up presents for the kids.

When we exit fifteen minutes later, the sky is again a bright blue.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Getting the Hay In (written May 20th)

It's that bright kind of sunny day where you squint even in the shade and the entire country-side looks dipped in light. The blue sky harbors lazy white clouds and the bushy green trees harbor warbling birds. They never give me any advance warning, but there's something in the air on a hay-day (maybe that fresh-cut hay smell) that let's me know haying is just a phone-call away.

This time we're shooting to get 150 bales to feed our livestock of two: one fat young painted Saddlebred, and one bony old Thoroughbred. Mostly, they're pasture-pals, friends I can go to whenever I need a listening ear. I can depend on them to stand quietly while I complain and never argue or tell me the situation is my own fault. They're just there, quietly crunching, swishing tails at the flies while the warmth of their hides permeates the air. I can lean back against that solid, living mass, and let all my problems slide away.

I can't haul hay, anymore. After years of gloving up and tossing 60 pound bales onto trucks--as quick and tough as any of the men--now, my allergies won't let me. I always did come away from a haying session pocked-marked with raised red welts on my arms, and a voice grown hoarse and (I thought) sexy from coughing. Really, it was hives from my allergic reaction to those lovely Northern Grasses. I can't haul it, but I can still drive and fortunately for me, I managed to birth a strong, healthy, wonderfully helpful young man who came with me to hay today.

We drove to the field on dry, dusty roads, past where they were laying another field down. That deep green blanket would fade in the sun and be ready to tedder tomorrow, ready to bale the next day. Farther on, we wove past cows, stomping lazily in a lean-to, up over a knoll to where the hay field stretched out. Long rows were piled neat and the baler was churning away, rumbling and plunking as square bales popped out the back. They had three lines baled already, about fifty ready to haul. But, this was my son's first go at driving a hay-laden truck; I wasn't willing to push it. We'd load thirty-five bales, forty tops.

I drove down the lanes, he ran along beside me, as graceful as a gazelle, despite the fifteen pounds of muscle he has recently packed on through his weight-training sessions—pounds he'd be thanking God he'd worked hard to earn by the end of today. He loped along bare-foot because he'd been wearing sandals when we'd gotten the call. He had gloves in his truck, so at least his hands were safe. His feet, it seemed, would have to fend for themselves. He was faster than I had ever been and moved in smooth motion. He caught each bale, lifted it as I chugged slowly up in my diesel F350. Then, in one easy movement I could never have mastered, he tossed them into the truck bed. In moments like these you realize you have been kidding yourself; I never could load hay like any man, that was a dream born from a wanna-be.

I find I'm still a wanna-be. Only the strong memory of struggling for each asthmatic breath keeps me locked in the cab with the air-conditioner blowing. It's hard to give up something you love so that you can stay alive and breathing. But, even without the exhausted, itching, back-rending, muscle defeating, exhilarating effort of actually loading the hay--I still love it.

He looks hot as he pulls off his T-shirt, climbs into the driver's side of my truck, pops in his ears buds, cranks his i-pod, and drives my away. He'll be back in an hour or two, after he's unloaded into the barn and I'll head back out to the field as a driver, a blessed break from the office-job where I'll be working late, waiting in comfort for him to deliver each load to home. We'll do this four times, and by the end of the night, he'll be worn to the bone, sweating and itching, and too tired to lift his fork to eat and I'll envy him for his youth, his strength, his health that all give him this ability to load the hay.

More than that, I'll be grateful. I'll remember this day forever as I know he will. He'll remember it as the time he loaded one hundred and sixty-two bales of hay from the truck to the barn all on his own. I'll remember it as the first time ever I didn't lift a single bale while getting the hay in.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who is that Girl, Again?

It's funny how life likes to throw a curve ball, just to make sure you're still paying attention in the game. This winter has been one of many challenges, beginning with hitting that tree in December and then just rolling from there. Whole weeks went by where I lived moment to moment because, quite frankly, I wasn't sure if I would be easy breathing in the next. Asthma has a sneaky way of making a person come completely into the present. I stopped thinking ahead, stopped planning. I tagged the line, "...if I can breathe" to the end of every sentence, "Yes, we can go shopping on Sunday, if I can breathe."

It came on me suddenly, even though the propensity had apparently always been there, lurking, for years. Asthma and Allergies, completely new, utterly unwelcome ways in which to define myself.

The trouble is, I do sit well with definitions I don't like. If I have Allergies and am as highly allergenic as they say, my whole life could be cast in shadow: no more long walks through rippling fields, no more laying in the grass chewing on the long end of a stem, no more romping with the dogs, hauling hay for the horses, no more running over wooded paths unless the mold count is down. Stretched out before me, my new life looked like a desert, vast and wide and utterly empty of all the things green and beautiful, things I truly loved.

Indeed, it didn't sit well. I had to ask, if not that wild nature girl, then who am I? If I can't do those things I love, what can I do?

I looked deep into the darkest corner of my soul and found me sitting there, just as calm and peaceful as you please, sitting still and quiet in that close, cool darkness, all soaked up with the essence of me. That was when I knew, I can never be other than what I am. I've lived for forty years with all these things they now call Allergies and Asthma. Yes, I have had moments of highly atypical skin conditions, random joint swelling, abdominal irritability, headaches, pain, general irritability, and exhaustion. When the doctor asked my symptoms and I told him, he wondered why I hadn't mentioned them to other doctors before. I had but they couldn't find what was wrong with me and anyway, over time, "sick" became my normal.

Now, I have gone full circle, through normalcy, into pain, illness, diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and now back to what I know as normal. I have a lot of allergies, according to my very reliable forearms. I could take that information and no one would blame me if I opted out off the natural world and chose instead to lock myself away in a plastic bubble. I might attain something like wellness if I did that, but what kind of a well would it be? Would I be happy? Would I have a life I actually wanted to live? Would I have love?

A recent study has proven vitamin D is highly effective in mitigating asthma and allergy symptoms. So effective, in fact, they are now recommending we allergenics not stay inside, theoretically safe in our plastic houses, but that we get outside, strip down as much as we dare, and let that hot sun soak into all the surfaces of our skin. When you haven't been out in a while, the sun is like warm honey pouring over you. It is sensuously wonderful; it feels so good. And the soft murmuring of the leaves sounds like an endearment, as if they are rustling just for you.

I sat on my deck, having gotten the unofficial go-ahead to get out there and soak up some D and just looked at my natural world, the squirrels chasing each other irately through the branches, the butterflies drifting wonkily around the lilacs, those bright green leaves, bending and tipping waving at me in the breeze. I fell in love, in that punch-drunk kind of way that hits you sometimes. I could feel that thick, warm emotion coursing through me. All my aching muscles and even the blood in my veins relaxed. I settled deeper in my chair, and fell back in to wonder.

As every asthmatic will likely tell you, things trigger an attack. Once you learn what your triggers are, you can begin to get a grip on a very uncontrollable, often terrifying situation. One of my triggers is stress, if I get freaked out enough, you can bet I'm going to end of having trouble breathing. This was perfectly apparent during the day we took my daughter in for an emergency appendectomy. That's some stress, I can tell you, having your daughter become violently ill, then rushing her to the hospital--one hour away-- then having her operated on all within an eight hour period. This adventure began at eight in the morning, I stopped breathing normally by about two o'clock.

It makes you wonder, though, if you stop and think about it. If stress can have this great physiological impact, could not the opposite of stress work in reverse? Could sitting still, perfectly relaxed and deeply in love with anything at all make your lungs, as well as your heart, expand? It made me wonder and it made me make some solid decisions.

None of us ever know exactly how long we will have on earth and we are all given the glorious freedom to do what we wish with the time we do have. I could hole myself up in my house, make every person entering wash the pollen and dander and mold spores and dust mites off their bodies before hugging me, and keep my life pritinely sterile.

Or I could live, just as I always have, embracing every part of my world with two arms wide. I could inhale every moment of my life deeply. I could work myself to the bone in my garden and then sit, tipsy-in-love, letting all those good hormones work their magic.

In the end, in the very, very end, I have found, I'm just still me, same as I always was and I will do what comes naturally to me, what lets me remember deep peace and thick love.

I am wishing the same for you.

Peace, Love, and Blessings,

La

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Still in Poetry Month-- More Haiku!

little bird alight
within a gilded cage, will
stay if she can write

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Quiet Coming Home

my natural mind writes
easy in words
as the seagull is easy
in flight above a gray ocean
as the hawk is easy
in the updraft from the canyon

my body dances
in harmony with each lilting beat
and bottom drum
in unison
feet and heart both pounding
even my spirit is happy

my heart loves
equally enamored
with a passionate embrace
chocolate
low, rolling skies
babies, horses
the eternal light of god

my mind dreams
even while waking
creates other mountain ranges
other waving fields in which to run
other me’s to live this lifetime

I am this body
I am this heart and mind
I am this spirit absolute

this is what it is to be me

when I die, I will never die

my writing mind
will return to the belly
of the thoughts that birthed her
renew
and be born again to write

my dancing body
will lay down in black earth,
dissolve into those elements
that comprised my bone, sinew, muscles, and blood
and become other bodies

my loving heart
will be absorbed
into that greater love

my spirit will go back
to the source it never left
a cup of water
poured into the river
already flowing

I will fall back
into myself
into this quiet
coming home
I call dying

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Haiku

I'm in a writing group with all these amazing, talented writers. It's intimidating. But, as my husband the Soccer Coach would say, "You don't improve your skills on the pitch when you're the best player in the game."

Apparently, in Soccer (and in writing) we learn the most when dumped into a situation where we are surrounded by people strong, faster, more talented, and better at doing whatever it is we love. I think I'm in the right place.

April is National Poetry Month. In honor of this wonderful written expression, me and my fellow group-mates have been writing Haiku, one a day for the entire month. Prior to April 1, I didn't know much about Haiku. I still don't know much, but I'm learning. It's been ten days. Here are a few of my favorite Haiku. They're short and sweet, abbreviated and vast. I love them.

Spring Haiku

#1
pattering rain-drops
staccato out my window
the heart-beat of Spring

#2
lady daffodil
curtsying in the garden
nods me good morning

#3
wind drops from blue sky
skips over the emerald fields
and turns them silver

#4
rain left the world fresh
black earth gives up sunshine scent
from each new flower

#5
impossible light
cascading through my window
lures me to play

#6
low, dark mountains rest
young hills frolic at their feet
learning to be wise

#7
what is that color
blended burgundy and gold
my shade of longing

#8
cherry tree blossoms
a hundred dainty fairies
flashing petticoats

#9
adolescent trees
stretch in sap-filled eagerness
reaching for the light

#10
wistful clouds adrift
pause in the powder blue sky
to watch the horses

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We're on the Verge

We have crocuses
popping their heads up
through the soggy garden soil
those brave, diminutive flowers.

Buds on the trees are swelling
Grass is greening up
We're on the verge
Another couple of weeks
I'll be complaining about the heat

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Sound of Snow



It snowed seven inches on Sunday night, surprising the heck out of me. We were going to the Zoo on Saturday. I had been watching the Saturday weather like an obsessed hawk all week--scanning the web-casts daily, trying to determine if a Zoo trip would be nuts from a purely weather standpoint.

It was a little. 42 degrees and breezy, it wasn't the best temperatures for gallavanting about, marveling at rare and unusual beasts. But, in my life, I have learned I had better strike while the iron's hot--it cools off way too quickly when one thing, then another, then another comes along.

So, we went. I loved it, walked for miles, ended up foot-sore and bone-chilled by the end of the day. I got to see a shrew--which is the cutest little creature. I cannot understand it--where did the reference to an awful woman come from? Shrews are just as cute as cute can be. Call me a shrew and I'll throw my arms around you and kiss you for the compliment.

We drove home through rain and mixed snow, but it had cleared away by morning and I was looking forward to my day. I had a chocolate cake date with my girlfriend, Grace. She makes a mean chocolate cake.

It was rumor when first I heard of it---"Rumor has it, we're going to get 8-10 inches of snow."

"Suuuurrreee, we are." I knew better than to believe. I had suffered many dissappointments in our sunny, warm VA. Snow in March? Paaalease.

Four o'clock pm it started, large moist flakes, bits of shredded coconut, dropping onto the dark brown earth below, frosting the grass with the first hints of the whipped-cream topping that was to come. Oh, wait, now I've slipped into thinking about the cake, the chocolate one, the one I didn't have because this other white stuff fell thick around, the one Grace and Clarke were forced to eat for me. Thanks for the sacrifice, guys. :>

Are you wondering? Did I go out in my snowfall? Did I do all those things I imagined I would? Not all, life just doesn't work that way. Sometimes, when the moment comes, it is enough to watch your children making snow-angels--in their bathing-suits, I might add.

I did go for my walk, though. Some things I can't resist. I had to hear that sound, be part of the falling silence. I stood in my driveway and looked up, let the flakes fall on my face, magic from the earth and sky consumed me, I closed my eyes and heard that longed-for sound of snow.

Photograph of snow in trees by Sraddha Van Dyke. For one time use for "theviewoverehere," all rights retained by Sraddha Van Dyke.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spring is Coming

I saw it this morning in the lean of the sky. That bold sun hid behind white ruffled clouds and shot razor-beams across the pale blue. The trees are whispering to each other, stretching their long-bowed fingers, bud-tipped, making ready to grasp the light of day.

Last night a young black bear loped across the road in front of my red Ford F-350 crew cab pickup (farewell tight-turning Expedition--I drive a monster, now.)

"A bear!" I exclaimed, scaring the living daylights out of my daughter, who tossed her i-pod and clutched at her heart,

" God, mom, are you trying to kill me?"

Of course not, I just wanted her to see the bear.

As if the green haze across the lawn weren't enough, as if that warm wind moving with easy speed through the undergrowth did not tell the tale, certainly that young bear, lean and dark from his winter sleep is clear evidence of the coming Spring.

I never got my great snowfall, but did have one peaceful evening when the world turned white. I cannot say I enjoyed my winter. Though our Christmas was truly lovely, the tree, the asthma, and now the allergies were not.

It makes me wonder, though, what will my Spring be like? This year I know what the blowing pollen will do. All those years and all that illness, I never knew.

I am allergic.

Does it really matter what to? To the natural world, to trees and grass, to weeds, to microscopic mold spores that dwell on underbellies, that thrive in the dampness of my southern climate, to dust, to all sorts of things.

My body is a riot of objection, it thinks near everything is an invader, it marshalls the troops, hauls out the guns, vows to win the war! My nose twitches, my eyes water, my skin gets creepy crawly, my knees swell, my stomach aches.

As the fighting continues, I grow more and more weary until getting out of bed to make coffee seems more effort than I can manage. All because of allergies. At least I have a name for my foe, for that low-lying demon who has haunted me all my life. At least I live in a time and place where we have such things as antihistamines and albuterol. Fexofenadine, my faithful new friend.

I am always pensive in February, peering out from the shadows of the cold, dark nights and the heaviness of the flu season. As the sun stretches itself across the sky, holding on to two more minutes each day and the inevitable Spring crawls close, I wonder, I really do; What will this Spring be like?

Monday, February 2, 2009

It is SNOWING!!!!




Today, in balmy VA, I drove with my windows rolled down. 57 degrees, the sun was shining and all the world was whispering Spring. Late in the day, with dark clouds, wind, and thunder a brimming cold front made the temperature plummet.

Still, who has time to think of snow?

We had a lot of homework to be done, stories to read, dinner to be made. Each task completed, I thought, "Thank Goodness, one step closer to the warmth of my bed." As the night worn on, my toes grew cold without their brightly colored socks. The kids drifted off, one by one. The house grew still and quiet. Downstairs I padded, turning off lights.

And then I saw it, a thin blanket of white on my yard. Snow. I peeked out the door, it was still falling, a soft tinkling whisper in the night. On my outstretched palm it fell like feathers of ice. One child was still wandering our halls,

"Look, it's snowing" I whispered.

"Oh, snap!" She said.

We both know it could be gone by morning, with our Lady Virginia's fickle weather patterns. But, right now, tonight, my world has turned white, and I will sleep like the land under that soft, feather blanket, my mind resting in the quiet joyful knowledge: It is snowing.

Photograph by Sraddha Van Dyke. For one time use for "theviewoverhere" , all rights retained by Sraddha Van Dyke.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Long for Snow

It's difficult to breathe, today. The winter cold has got me. Sore throat, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, aching. I'm starting to sound like that commercial. I feel insulted by this cold, coming so soon after the crash. Hasn't my body been through enough? I could forgive it, I think, if only we had snow.

That's the trouble with living in Virginia, snow is almost mythical. Because it actually does snow once every few years, it makes this myth compelling. If it never snowed, I could give up and forget about pristine walks through the blanketed silence, my over-sized boots making the first prints on the virgin road. When it is that quiet in the world, my mind takes on an easy peace. I walk and watch the snow flakes fall, drifting unhurried through the skeletal branches, falling toward the rest of their mates waiting quietly on this earth; each flake unique when you catch it in your palm, and study it quickly before it melts away.

When I was little I lived in Colorado. Snow was a given there. We got blizzards, where you risked not making it home if you were even a few miles down the road from where you lived. The light was blinding off that white mass of ground, with a barren bowl of blue sky overhead and without the looming trees to block the glare.

In my new native home, the trees huddle under the white coverlet, a sheltered canopy, adding to the hush of winter. I have friends who live in Michigan and Chicago who will say they would happily give me some of their snowfall to spare their backs, bent from shoveling, and their ice-chapped faces, and their bone-cold way of living through the winters of the North.

Still, I long for snow. No matter what they tell me of hardship, and having to wear too many coats and scarfs, hats, boots, and gloves. There is an angel deep inside me, just waiting for her patch of white, and my willingness to lie down on that plain bedding and allow her to be born.

Through all this winter's cold, I long for snow.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Musing


Look at me with all those people. How did the wild, lost, woodsy girl turn into her; a mother of six with more tasks to complete in each day than any three women could do?

They're lovely, aren't they? Tall and beautiful, each as full of themselves as I could ever hope for them to be. Talented, more secure in who they are than even I am now, approaching that venerable age of forty.

Do you ever marvel at your life? Sometimes I stand back and cannot see the threads of how I came to be. There are still those lost parts of me, those whispers in the eves, calling me softly to come out into the rain, to shed my scales and raise my dragon head, to breathe my own fierce fire.

It's hard to reconcile, the great gifts I possess and the eternal longing I still feel. I wonder when the world will be made right by my own definition and I will walk tall on the street, and all who pass will know me, simply, as I am.

(Photo by Jyothi Sacket: In the Moment Photography)