Monday, December 20, 2010

Snowscape Haiku

#1

Bright, silver glitter
white moonlight on fallen snow--
winter's cold beauty

#2

Each icy raindrop
falling on the window pane--
chiming like a bell

#3

Fragile snowflake falls
drifting from a darkened sky--
unique and alone

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bones Don't Care

(This is an exercise in rhyme written in honor of my recent Halloween activities with the Haunted Trail Walk. [www.hauntedtrailwalk.com] Participating as one of the un-dead got me thinking about bones.)


Bones Don’t Care

White,
like newly fallen snow,
pale against the drifting sand
sockets shine,
a purple glow,
in the shadowed land


Stark,
amidst the paler stones
slender limbs—no more they—
seek to hold
within their bones
warmth drawn from the day

Rocks,
so cold and colder still
pale day fades away to night
bones, once live,
preserve their will,
drag themselves upright

Clack,
and creak, they rise again
footsteps dark across the sand
weaving in the wild wind
pale bones stalk the land

Pale,
yet shining in the moon
liberated from their skin
on they go o’e hill and dune
remnants of our kin

Bones,
just like the ones we share
stagger through eternity
hollow shells that never care
who they used to be

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fried Potatoes

I don’t often cook for my family anymore. I work full-time and don’t have the energy—or perhaps it’s the inclination—at the end of the day to go into the kitchen and prepare a meal. Fortunately, my husband (unemployed since last December), has taken on the role of house-husband and most evenings he cooks a meal for our family of seven.

I do miss cooking, so I often cook on weekends, preparing a family favorite or experimenting with something new.

Last Saturday morning I made Fried Potatoes as part our breakfast. I always fry my potatoes in the same skillet. A large stainless steel revere wear pan with a black plastic handle and a bottom warped from years of use. It’s not a great skillet but I can’t get rid of it because it belonged to my mother.

She gave this skillet to me years ago when the ratio of my six kids to hers tipped over; hers were leaving just as mine were still arriving. She knew I needed a larger skillet to keep my growing crew fed, so she passed it on to me.

I grew up poor, many people did, and food was sometimes hard to come by. We never starved, but neither did we have those convenience foods my children now enjoy. We didn’t eat boxed cereal, or bags of chips, cheese slices, or jars of juice or soda and almost never had candy bars or ice cream. We ate whole foods like oats and wheat cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of and beans and rice.

My mother had six children, as I do, and every night she set our table with a meal. We were never hungry but staples are not the most fun foods to eat. My mother has an indomitable sense of fun. She believes it doesn’t matter how much you have, but what kind of experience you choose to create with what you have that makes life enjoyable. With my mother, I have sat at the kitchen, dressed in a nightgown and make-up, playing cards, I have learned to make grape jelly from grapes we picked in our back yard, I’ve made bread and biscuits, pizza and cinnamon rolls all from scratch. I’ve had picnics and sleepovers where we cordoned off one room for music and danced. I had very little from the standpoint of what you could measure in material wealth growing up, but from my mother I learned how to take what you have—no matter what that is—and make it fun.

On Sundays, all my growing years, my mother made us a big breakfast just for fun. It was a celebration of family and also a chance to eat our favorite foods. Traditionally, it consisted of pancakes with orange sauce and maple syrup, soya sausages and, of course, fried potatoes. My mother is a master at putting a complex meal together, and she was brisk, the heat making her face glisten as she hustled about the kitchen, assigning tasks to her fledgling cooks. We each had a job to do and mine was often to watch the potatoes.

My mother cut her potatoes in slim wedges, peels on. Today, I peel mine and chop them into one inch squares. The shapes of the potatoes may differ, but the procedure is the same. Chop them, drop them into hot oil and let them fry. I learned how to flip them without dumping them over the edges of the pan, I learned the timing for how long to let them fry before they needed flipping, I learned when to sprinkle the salt and how much was the right amount of pepper. I learned all I needed to know and took it with me into my own motherhood.

Over the years, amidst the bustle of the Sunday cooking, my mother often commented on how this skillet was the same make and style as the one her father had used when made fried potatoes for her and her sisters in the tradition of their family.

On Saturday, I repeated the fried potato ritual as I had many times before. I grasped the handle of the warped-bottom skillet, ready to flip and felt the ghost of my mother’s hand in the plastic. I felt a link, stretching back through my bloodlines to my mother then beyond her into my grandfather. I realized, I was a third generation potato fryer, and felt this simple act unite us as family as absolutely as the color of our hair, or the shade of our skin.

One of my children has left home and the next one down is right behind him. I fed four kids with the potatoes I fried on Saturday. I stood before the heat, with potatoes popping and frying, remembering my ancestors and wondered which one of my kids would inherit this skillet once my need for it is done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Morning

September morning—
Dancing in your mist-wreathed skirt
You beckon Autumn

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For the Hills and Valleys of Home


I dreamt about Peebles last night, the place fresh in my mind after our recent sojourn through the Tweed Valley.

I’m a sucker for places, this is what I’ve come to realize.

I can’t explain why I’m easily seduced by the lay of a certain land or the look of light falling across those mountains, or tripping across that river. Land speaks to me and when I like what I hear, I fall for a place.

This is how I’m in love with the Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders. If you’ve been there, you understand why—if not, you should plan a trip; it’s unforgettable.

I first visited Peebles when seventeen whilst coming back from the touristy Loch Ness. I swam naked in Loch Ness and what I can tell you about that experience is; don’t underestimate the midges. Despite their diminutive name and size, they do some bodily damage. The water at Loch Ness was inky black and icy, perfect for a swim. We stayed in a small bed and breakfast and what struck me then was the red of the setting sun, streaking across a midnight sky. By the time I awoke, early as usual, the sky was already bright with sun.

When we drove into the tweed valley, winding down an impossible road between green sloping hills, my chest shuddered, as if a bird struggling to take flight. The insides of me hummed; I drank in the sharp contrasts of green fields and low, rolling sky, white sheep and dark shale. From the first moment I lay eyes on this valley, I have wanted to live there.

Life is not so easy as this, allowing us to simply follow the trail of a yearning, commitment and responsibility get in the way.

I’ve gone two more times since that first glimpse and each time, my experience has been the same. Some sleeping part of me awakens; I come alive. It reminds me of the quickening in the Highlander series. I almost feel as if my hair was standing on end and lightning bolts shooting out my ears. I almost feel immortal.

Last week, we rode again through the hills dropping down into Walkerburn and Innerleithen, then on to Peebles. The weather was variable, meaning it rained, then the sun shone brightly and skimmed the wet grass with sparkling light. Then it rained. Then the sun shone brightly. Then it rained. Then the sun shone brightly. Over and over again all day long. Every time the sun broke through those fickle Scottish clouds, I took off my rain jacket and polar fleece and said, “My, what a beautiful sunny day!” Then, when the storm clouds rolled in and the rain began to pour, “I love the rain!” That day was my favorite weather ever. Not a moment to brood over a hot sun or rainy sky. Before you could grow weary of what was—it had already changed. We walked for miles in that town; to and from the pub, to and from the coffee shop, the crisp, clean air filling my lungs, allowing me to breathe. That’s another thing I love of the North; air I can actually breathe.

These days, I’m seriously considering places to live, knowing it would be best for me to leave this polleny place I have long called home. It was inevitable that Peebles should creep into my mind and tap on the inside of my skull. This time when visiting, I looked at it with a new eye, asking, “Could I live here? Would I be happy in this place, with these mountains, by this river, raising my children, cooking dinner, dancing, and dreaming my life into being, wishing for things or crying over disappointments?” It’s an impossible question to answer, based solely on the spare days I’ve spent in the valley. But, like I said, places speak to me and when I think of Peebles I hear this river and the slant of these mountains and the slope of that valley calling me home.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Speaking of England....

Ah, life--never a dull moment with you.

Everyone says life can change in a flash. When it happens to you, you don’t really notice. Our car accident changed my life, but not in a way that directly makes sense. Or maybe it does—in a convoluted, everything-is-connected, things-happen-for-a-reason, philosophically-oriented sort of way.

It's hard to find that thread at first. We hit a tree in late 2008 and now we're moving to England. How are these two things connected? One could ask, and not immediately come up with an answer because it all started way back when I was twelve. Or thirteen. Something like that.

I have been sick forever. My symptoms have never changed, but those docs kept slapping diagnosises on me like they were the latest fashion jeans. I have been tested and diagnosed with a lot of things, and given treatments that never worked up until I got sick of doctors and stopped seeing them as they never did me any good anyway.

Then, we hit a tree. I had to see a doctor then. With very bad whiplash, it was the only sensible thing to do. Recovery from that included an initial round of muscle relaxers and heavy duty pain-killers, followed by the more “me-friendly” applications of yoga, chiropractic treatment, and exercise.

Come February, 2009, I was still feeling pretty bad. I caught a flu, nothing to worry about, just a cold and a cough that came on quite suddenly. I wasn't going to see a doctor for it, but my youngest son was sick, too. I thought, as I'm going in, why not let them have a listen to me while I was there? It couldn’t hurt and my lungs did sound gurgley. This turned out to be one of those accidentally brilliant decisions. I had 'silent lungs' which, as an asthma sufferer will tell you, is not a good thing to have. It means a portion of your lungs have become so inflamed, the air has been trapped inside them, preventing good things from happening, such as getting enough oxygen. Silent lungs will get a doctor hustling. I had some kind of breathing treatment immediately, a scrip written for oral steroids and was given an albuterol inhaler. My son, as it happens, was perfectly fine.

Thus began my love affair with asthma. Do not get asthma if you can avoid it; it is not fun.

Though no doctor has ever said it, I think my asthma finally appeared out of the blue at forty years old due to the car accident. The spinal column is your nerve center, with all communication to and from that master planner, the brain, running through it, out to our extremities and vital organs and then back to the brain. It seems to me that the hit my upper back took from that tree could certainly trigger a condition that might have lurked in me for years. Once I got my inhaler and used it a few times, I realized I had been having asthma symptoms all my life, I just hadn't realized that tight-chested, breathlessness was an asthma attack. It was a normal part of my world, and only with the inhaler did I realize it was correctable.



Asthma. One more diagnosis to add to my list. I wanted to know why I had asthma. I always want to know why. It doesn’t matter what it is, I want to know why it is. One type of asthma is allergy induced. At some point, I had been diagnosed with allergies to chemicals. I knew you could also be allergic to other things. In talking with my doctor, we opted to get me a thorough allergy panel and see if there was more going on than the chemical sensitivity.

If you could see me now, you would realize, I am laughing out loud. It’s funny, but in that very awful sort of way. I was tested for 70 allergens. I tested positive to 43. If you've read this blog before now, this won't be news to you. As it turns out, allergies is what I've been suffering from forever—those same set of symptoms with multiple diagnosises turned out to be allergies plain and simple. Well, plain, maybe--but not so simple.

It's hard to be that allergic. You feel as if everything is making you sick because, in fact, it is. Once I found out, I dutifully took two doses of antihistamines daily as prescribed. Everyone asked if they made me feel sleepy. Are you kidding? I have been fighting chronic fatigue since I was twelve years old; antihistamines finally gave me some of my energy back. I have often wondered if being so sick is why I simultaneously became focused on health. I eat a great diet. I work out. I practice stress-reduction techniques. I drink gallons of water, I limit my fat and sugar intake. My blood-work is beautiful. I realize now, I have to do all of that--just to feel reasonably well. I have fatigue so crippling at times, I feel as if I am dragging myself through quicksand and I can get sick in a minute, seemingly out of the blue. At any moment, on any given day, I can come across something that knocks me out. That is what being highly allergic is like. It’s like being repeatedly ambushed by the world. I would do anything to avoid being made sick. It’s just not easy to know what to do.

All of this leads us up to this Spring. I was taking antihistamines, I was feeling really good. Life was happy and I was happy in it. I planted a big garden. That same one I went on about in my last post. I enjoyed every moment of fresh air and planting until the pollen started to kick. Being out side in pollen is like having fine sand thrown in my eyes all day. I itched, I coughed and I relied on my antihistamines to protect me.

In my defense, I have only known I've had allergies for one year, so I'm not the smartest patient in understanding how to deal with them. Avoidance is, apparently, the best measure. I was not fully aware of this going into Spring. We had record pollen levels in VA and by April 15th, having overexposed myself to the blooming world, I was sick. I was Patagonia Dreamin' because it hurt to breathe. It hurt to think, to move my eyes. My joints ached, my muscles cramped. I dragged through every day at work and collapsed once I got home. I had lost my beautiful life, once again, to ill health.

In trying to recover, I locked myself indoors, cried over the loss of my beautiful garden which I couldn’t tend, cried over the loss of my horses which I could no longer care for, and cried over the loss of the outside world, which I loved. After all the crying, I took a good, hard look at my life. I realized I needed to do things differently. Of course, I talked with doctors first. What that boiled down to was a recommendation I go on low-level steroids. With my sensitive nervous system, they might as well book me a white-walled room now. I've been on oral steroids; they are not good for my mental health.

On occasion, I tend to show slightly obsessive tendencies, particularly when I have a problem to sort out. Understanding pollen was my problem, I became obsessed with learning about pollen and how to avoid it. It turns out, there is pollen everywhere. With the exception of Siberia are the top and bottom of the globe, pollen a part of the natural world I love so well. But, this is not the end of the story. There are places that have better pollen profiles. Cool, rainy climates, with shorter growing seasons mean that pollen exposure is minimized. Mountainous regions also have this same affect. Can anyone say...Patagonia? I can't really move to southern Argentina. It’s not practical, but there is a place I can move that looks much better from a pollen perspective. Can anyone say...England?

Lucky for me, I married a Brit.

We’re moving. Once the house sells, we’re going to a place less plagued by pollen levels and I will, hopefully, for the first time in my life, breath a little easier and itch a little less.

Cheerio, peeps! Onward, ho!, to Britain!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Garden Ahoy!

Each year as frost gives way to budding grass, and the stark shells of the trees get fleshed out with foliage; we begin to plan the garden. It's a favorite late-winter past-time, a ritual my husband and I have re-played for years.

In our early life together, we had big dreams. Back then, we didn't merely wish to grow a couple of vegetables, a few herbs and shrubs. We wanted to live off-the-grid, to be self-sufficient. At 19 and 24, as we ourselves were just starting to grow, we read everything we could find about passive solar heating, grey-water septic systems, composting toilets. We read how to build pole-and-beam straw bale houses, earth bermed houses, and tire-rammed earthships aligned to face the south so the long, angled windows running across the front would let the most light in during the winter months to grow indoor vegetables and the least light in during the summer-time to keep the place cool. In between planning and dreaming, life moved on. We worked our day-jobs, and one baby, then two and then two and two more came along. Somewhere on that journey, the dream slipped away, lost to the reality of raising six children.

But, the love for gardening never budged. Each year, as February drew to a close, we would haul out the seed catalogs and plan out our garden. Many years, that was as far as we got and the dream of the dirt patch of veggies remained a dream as every Saturday was given over the Soccer games and grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and trips to the mall. We let go because we had to; stretched as thin as we were, even one more thing would have been one more thing too many.

Even though we didn’t have a physical garden, the love for it remained, dormant like a seed over winter, waiting for the right conditions to spring forth.

Once in a while, extreme stress is the greatest catalyst for change. Raising six kids is not easy. It is constant hard work. Rewarding, yes, but close to all-consuming. Anyone who has worked at that kind of pace knows, eventually, the foundation begins to crack. You can only give up everything you love to do for so long. As the stress builds up, it wears you down and like a small animal trapped in a hole, you begin to look for ways out of the rut. In our attempt to survive the pressures of our lives, we remembered gardening. We recalled plotting out the land, ordering seeds, and those long hours spent in the early spring sun. It had been years since we’d had a proper garden, but last year, we decided to plant again.

Last winter, we plotted, last spring we planted. We were still over-worked, over-tired, over-stressed, but when we stepped out into the yard, things were growing and we were eating them. Fresh basil and tomatoes off the vine, two kinds of squash, more pole beans than we knew what to do with. We had cucumbers, kale and collards, a few brave carrots and beats, and a spattering of spring mix as our earliest crop of the season.

It was inspiring to see things grow, to feel the cool of the earth and the warm sun shining. It was encouraging to see we actually had time, if we made the effort, that we could take at least a little of that long ago dream and weave it into the lives we led now. Our garden was a success!

This February we began, even more inspired.

As of this day, May 14, 2010 we have planted: spring mix, carrots, kale, collards, spinach, tomatoes, bell and jalapeno peppers, three kinds of squash, corn, potatoes, watermelon, peas, beats, turnips, radishes, onions, sunflowers, cauliflower, basil, oregano, cilantro, chamomile, rosemary, strawberries, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. We’ve been eating fresh greens and radishes for a couple of weeks now and everything else is coming on well.

I don’t think either of us are seriously considering a life off the grid at the moment—at least not before the kids leave home. These days, our garden is haven, a sanctuary of peace and contentment. It is a chance to remember our dreams. Moving through life, so many things fall to the side, pushed away by responsibility. Doing this one thing, simply for the love of doing it, makes our lives better. There’s simplicity in gardening: when weeding, we weed, when tilling, we till. There is nothing else beyond these simple tasks, nothing to worry over or plan for, there's just the dirt, the green things growing and the bright sun overhead.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Patagonia Dreamin'



If I could, I would move to Patagonia where the mountain air blows clean down the hills and the sun sets in angles over the steppes. I found this place through fantasy-escape-mode, a very handy mental tool I employ when things get bad in my real world, such as being an allergy-sufferer in the worst pollen season in recollection. It was on a Monday that I hit the search engine and typed 'pictures of mountains.' I wanted something lofty and majestic to put as my desk-top background so that, in between my clerical tasks, I could escape to another land. I searched for mountains and that is where the love-affair began.

A picture popped up: low steppes with a herd of horses grazing and snow-tipped peaks rising into the sky. I can't explain what happened to me when I saw this place. My mind stilled, settled into itself. I imagined cool, dry air flowing into my lungs. I imagined lying on the stony ground, the wind rustling the grass around me, the sky stormy-blue overhead. This picture called to me. If this were Star Trek, I would have said, "Beam me over, Scotty." Even the soles of my feet wanted to walk barefoot over those stones.

Still, it was just a picture. I had no real idea where this was. However, I did want to know.

I have the kind of imagination that, once activated, is a bit like a baking soda and vinegar project. Once two things combine (place and longing) a chemical reaction occurs that cannot be stopped; it has to run its course. I did a new search to see if I could locate to origin of my fantasy-picture. Did I mention determination and persistence as part of this potion? Once my mind sets to a track, it does not deviate until the mission is accomplished. It was easy to discover the picture was taken in Argentina Patagonia. Patagonia! A word of legend, buried in my psyche like a forgotten bicycle in an old garage. Did I actually know anything about Patagonia, or was it the romance of the name I found alluring?

I searched google maps and found Patagonia as the southern-most region in South America, bridging the mountains between Argentina and Chile. I looked at the map and asked myself a question. Where, along that mountain range, did I think my fantasy-picture was taken? Of course, I had no reference beyond the photograph, so I opted to utilize instinct and see where it got me. It got me to El Chalten, a tiny town located in Los Glaciares National Park, population 200. I pulled up pictures from the region, which is now heralded as one of the fastest growing tourist spots for back-packer, hikers, and mountain-climbers, and recognized a distinctive mountain peak from the photograph: Mt Fitzroy. I had found my dream destination!

El Chalten is a rare town, situated within a national preserve. There are few year-long residence, but they host a rapidly growing number of tourists each year. Being at the more southern sphere of the globe, they have alternate seasons to the ones we have here in Virginia. Their peak summer season is in January and February, when we’re bundling up around wood stoves and under blankets. From the little I have learned, they have a cool, relatively dry, unpredictable climate. Wind is a near-constant companion and the weather can change in a flash. The hike to give you the best view of Fitzroy takes two days and is, by the accounts I read, not too strenuous and worth the effort. Their winters are cold, and windy, but not as harsh as their far northern counter-parts. And the park is stated by all who visit to be spectacular year-round. I say, what’s not to like?

Aside from the notable absence of over-abundant greenery, other things appeal to me about Patagonia. I like extremes of light, like the high-northern slant of sun seen in Scotland. I like unpredictable weather, perhaps because I’m used to unpredictability from a life of living inside my own head. I like rolling steppes, sparse population, and strongest of all, I like the Andes Mountains. I can't say what draws me to them; they exert some pull over which I have no domain. They call to me by name. In the center of my being, I feel their echo. Is it because I grew up under the looming presence of another mountain range, the Colorado Rockies? It is something imbedded in my Native American genetics that makes me wish to live in close proximity to their majesty?

I can't answer these questions. I’ve never been very good at explaining myself to myself. The best I can say is I know I want to be there, that, part of me, while sitting in Virginia, smelling the first of the Honeysuckle bloom, longs to be far away, living in Patagonia.

Patagonia:
Patagonia

Mountain air
sweeps down the hills.
Sun sets in gold angles
over the steppes.
Horses mill, grazing
in the shadows of snow-tipped peaks.

Cool air
breathes rustling grass
over stony ground,
scatters horses before
the wind.

Howls echo down the canyon;
phantom hunters
chase the cries of their prey
from the tip of Fitz Roy
down sheer cliffs
into the breath in my mouth
freezing
ice caps behind my lips
that clack in the dusk
like tumbling stones.

At home
in this barren expanse
of isolation
where bright stars
mirror
a thousand dead dreams,
my heart
soars
over peaks and into
impossible sky
beyond
tumbling into desire
and longing.

Even the souls of my feet
wish to walk
barefooted
over the stones
of Patagonia.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring = Depression

No season is waited for with such longing as is Spring. Shaking off the cold of winter, the entire world bursts forth. Trees pollinate, plants propagate, and all variety of animals bring their own fierce joy to the season by mating. Baby everything’s are born, flowers, calves, sheep, horses. After that quiet dead of winter, all is renewed, alive, awake and ready to play. All, that is, except the allergy sufferer.

I found out I had allergies last year after developing asthma; prior to that my mysterious ill-health wore many cloaks: IBS, CFS, MCS, MDI, Fibromyalgia. Because I have a-typical symptoms, not the classic rhinitis, no one was looking at my collection of symptoms as being related to allergies. It took asthma to connect the dots. My lack of ability to breathe had to come from somewhere. We looked around and found, through allergy testing, that I am allergic. I am not violently allergic to any one thing, for which I am grateful. Instead, I am low-level allergic to many things; 43 things out of the 70 tested for, to be exact. After a lifetime of mystery illness, suddenly I have a name: allergies. I have indoor allergies, outdoor allergies, pet allergies, allergies to mold, food allergies, and early, mid and late season allergies to trees, weeds, and grasses. In short, the entire blooming world is making me feel sick! Faced with those kinds of odds, late last year, I began a regime of anti-histamines. Anti-histamines are wonderful. I no longer itch twenty times a day; I do not have repeated violent bouts of abdominal pain, my knees are not swelling, my joints don’t ache and, best of all, I can breathe.

My anti-histamines brought me relief over the winter months, while closed up with dogs and dust-mites, and so I headed into Spring with optimism and good cheer, believing I would manage to skip by, unscathed, through pollen season and into the heady summer.

I did not know then what I know now. The uncomfortable physical symptoms that had plagued me all of my grown life are not the greatest burden of an allergy sufferer. My anti-histamines, gallant though they are, cannot completely quell the itching, swelling, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and aching joints that accompany my allergic reactions to the most pollinated spring in known memory. They did a pretty good job of it. Had it been only for those, I would not complain. But, allergies have an undertow, a hidden foe that lives beneath the radar, a shadow condition that no one talks about and that is Allergy-Induced Depression.

I have always hated the Spring. Each April, as the world around me bursts forth in plant life and song, I want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep and until I somehow feel well enough to be alive. Over time, I came to accept this aberration of my mood unique to spring. I identified this time of year as one where I, in contrast to all else around me, wanted to go into hibernation while everything else was coming out. What I did not fully realize until this very Spring was the reason behind my desire to hibernate. My anti-histamines do a very nice job of keeping the other symptoms at bay; they do nothing for the lead-headed, mind-numbed, slowed-way-down, utterly exhausted feelings arising from allergy-induced depression. I know it is not my life. I love my husband, my children, my community, and my place of employment. I have a multitude of good things going on I wish to continue. My life is not to blame. The problem is in my brain, my broken brain, like a clock that has seasonally stopped ticking, even now, I cannot say when my brain will begin to tick again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Secret Keeper

Secret Keeper

Will you be my secret keeper:
skeleton key
to my dungeon heart

Will you stand beside me
on the stone stair
feet shivering
awaiting
white clad phantoms
as they race by
seeking light
their faces
masks
I always know

I live in the castle
above the vaults:
sheer walls reflecting light
turrets rising skyward
noble, stony face

I pretend
there is no dungeon
no dark birds flying to roost
no screeching bats clinging to stalactites

In the inky dark,
cold is never colder
and alone is all I know

I seek to
reject those bottom layers
ignore the subterranean roar
of a waterway
in the belly of my earth

To stand atop my tower,
gossamer gown floating
eyes on every sunrise
as if only golden light
exists

I would abandon
my pale phantom
that little girl
who sits
alone

Except for you, gate keeper,
you stand
strong bones planted to the stone
soft skin smooth over muscle
five fingers linked through my own

Beside me
as the phantoms whirl
you hold
the secrets of my heart

Monday, March 8, 2010

My mind turns with the season
emerging
towards the sun
tender ideas
stretch to an open sky

from the dark depths
of my inner world
I waited
for illumination

for the soft breath of spring
to breathe me
back into being
my collective self

Monday, February 22, 2010

Seasons of Snow and Rain

It's funny, the circles life makes. At exactly this time last year, I was longing for snow. I remember that feeling, how I watched the weather forecast and the sky, hoping.

This winter, without hoping, without bone-deep longing, snow fell all over the place. Our first snow came before Christmas. A most inconvenient time, it didn't even slow us down. We still had shopping to do, parties to plan and attend. That snow came and went with just a whisper of its passing left on my psyche.

It snowed again. That time, I got out, left my house and walked amid the scent and silence of freshly fallen snow. I loved it.

Since then, I've been trying to figure out why.

Last winter, we slipped off the barest minimum of ice and hit a tree head-on. In the wake of that event, I had whiplash—which I still deal with—and a biting fear of slick and icy roads. Anytime our vehicle seemed to skid sideways, my hands gripped the seat, my heart began to pound.

This winter, I have experienced a lot of seat-gripping, heart-pounding while riding and driving. This winter, we’ve had more snow that I can ever recall. I’ve been forced to traverse roads once determined impassable. I've driven on ice, snow, and inches of deep slush. I've slipped over road-ways to get to the store, to work, and to the gas station for fuel for the generator. I've shoveled, pushed and prayed more than one vehicle out onto the roads then shook in my boots to drive on them.

For a while, anyway.

Desensitization does appear to be a genuine and effective way of overcoming one’s fear. As the days wore on and the snow became a permanent VA fixture, I got used to the terror of driving. I got so now I don’t even blink at an icy patch, don’t even flinch if I slip-skid off to the left or veer completely side-ways. I’ve adjusted to my new, snowy landscape and Eskimo style of living.

You may imagine, then—as the old saying goes—the familiarity of the snow would breed contempt, that I like nearly everyone I know would grow tired of sloshing through snow drifts and dealing with all those unpleasant side-effects of this weather: no electricity, no phone, every day a long hike up a steep drive. You would imagine these would mar or at least somewhat diminish my affection for snow.

I remain enamored, delightfully enchanted whenever it begins to fall. I wrap up in running pants, under armor, long sleeved knitted shirt, wool socks pulled over my pants, carhart overalls, a long-sleeved wool top, my coat, my hat, then my boots and out I go into the crisp, cold air. I breathe deeply, drinking it in and stand amazed by the fairy world I behold. I can't help that my eyes love to look on a snow-coated landscape. I can’t help that my lungs love to breathe cold air. Every single thing about snow makes me happy: crystallized tree-tops, the crunch of my boots in the diamond strewn fields, the stillness with just the occasional bird chirping and flitting from limb to limb, the dark of the trees, stark against this white backdrop, the contrast of color, the bright scent of pine, and the rattling of frozen things clanking together, the impossible brightness of the sunlight reflected. I feel alive when I’m out there. My heart hums to this landscape and I spin and let the snowflakes fall, cold kisses on my unturned face.

No matter the hardships—this year there were plenty—no matter the early terror of driving or the lingering environmental burden brought on by this weather, I have found, as much as I ever did before, that I completely love the snow.

Today, with the pitter-pattering of rain, that early herald of Spring, the snow I love, that I once prayed and longed for, washes all away.

That is way of the seasons: nothing remains forever, no matter how much we may love it, everything goes when it’s time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Today, the Sun Hangs Bright in the Sky

Today,
the sun hangs bright in the sky
and sets the asphalt to gleaming
it turns dead grass
in the meadows
to gold
and casts celtic shadows
through skeleton trees
onto the world below

This week:

a close family friend
lost his father
to the metal wheels of a train

another friend passed
after withering quietly
for almost a year

a co-worker's mother
left this world
abruptly on Saturday

Today,
death drifts around me
I face
the inevitable realization:
Life Is Terminal

There is no guarantee
for any of us
that we shall have a tomorrow

But

Today
the sun hangs bright in the sky
and sets the asphalt to gleaming
it turns dead grass
in the meadows
to gold
and casts celtic shadows
through skeleton trees
onto this world below

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why it is Sometimes Wise to Acquire a Rottweiler

Walk in the Cold of Winter

Thirty-two degrees
with the temp softly falling
I step out my door
into the cold of winter dusk.

Snow lay in a thinning blanket
over the hills
the smell of it sharp and fresh.
Dark trees stand,
silent sentinels
against a purple-gray sky.

So cold, it makes my nose hairs shiver.

My legs are restless,
the blood in my veins
hungry
for that rapid pulsing rush
of rhythmic movement.

Not merely inclination
but a passionate longing
to dance, to hike, to run,
to hear my loud heart drumming
to feel my breath in ragged gasps

In effort
I find balance
of body and mind
in tandem
they keep me sane.

Or saner
How sane can it be
to walk in temperatures so cold?

Full dark
I round the last bend
early stars
sparkle
bright and brittle
as the scent of snow