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Brittle Petals

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After the memorial service, I am sad.

I don’t want to be alone tonight, and I tell God so.

I am aimlessly rearranging things in a kitchen cabinet when I find the box — Guatemalan, I think.

Bright enamel covers it. Dust covers it, too.

I wipe it off, open it up.

At first I don’t remember. Then I do.

They used to be yellow; now they are brown.

They used to be soft; now they are brittle.

Brittle petals, memories of a friend who was there in a long-ago sadness.

Yellow roses from a Texan.

He never said they were from him. A friend said, “It was Bob.”

Today would be a good day for yellow roses, but brittle petals are a nice second.

Thanks, Bob. Thanks, God.

Brittle Petals in a Box

Brittle Petals in a Box

What Would You Do with Your One Moment?

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My brother writhes on the floor, yells in pain, and then is still as he gasps for breath.

“It hurts, it hurts,” he moans. “Why does it hurt so much?”

His legs and stomach are too swollen for him to get up off the floor where he has fallen.

“Please let me call the rescue squad – they will help you get back up on the couch.” He is too much for me to lift. His legs have no strength to push.

“No, no, they’ll take me away. They won’t let me live here alone like this.”

This is not the time for me to beg for the thousandth time, “Please get the operation; it doesn’t have to be like this.”

And for him to say for the two thousandth time, “The doctors don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not my heart. There’s something wrong with my stomach.”

This is not the time for another fight, not the time for more tears. This is a time to try to get back up on the couch.

What is the right thing to do? I cannot think, cannot decide, cannot help.

He tells me he hasn’t eaten all day. I bring him some mac & cheese and a little water. I wait for him to catch his breath.

We are about to try again, to hoist, to push, to groan, to fail.

Then time stops.

As per the WordPress Daily Challenge: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Miranda the cat has stopped in mid-stride, her head cocked in puzzlement as it has been for the entire seven hours her human has been on the floor struggling and groaning. The clock is stopped at 5 a.m.

Everything is still.

I gently put my hand over my brother’s heart, pray, and heal his mitral valve.

That’s what I would do with my one moment.

A Better Day

A Better Day

What would you do with your one moment of stillness?

Related story: http://outsideinmagazine.com/issue-six/wordstories/late-summer-dream-melanie-lynn-griffin/

Autumn’s Red Plastic Ritual

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All summer, it’s a chore. Not a big chore, just something that must be done, like groceries and cat’s pans and mowing. It’s on the list.

But when the sun hits the equator to signal the start of Fall, which it does today at 4:44 p.m. EST, my chore becomes a ritual – sacred because it will soon be no more.

I pick my favorite pot, the small one that belonged to my roommate Eileen back in the seventies. I fill it with exactly two cups of water and watch as the liquid comes to a boil: round rolls that are at first full and viscous turn to thin bubbles snapping and spitting.

As the steam rises, I measure one-half a cup of sugar — honey-colored, raw, organic sugar — and pour it into the water, stirring with a well-worn silver teaspoon that belonged to my mother, the woman who taught me to love nature and to talk to animals.

I add a few ice cubes to the pot and set it by the sink where the red plastic containers soak in white vinegar and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Peppermint Castile soap, the scent of which graced every good hippie group home back in the day.

Hey, man — did you ever read this label? Far out, man!

Mom used Ivory Liquid.

I scrub the plastic with a toothbrush to remove every spot of dirt and mildew, rinse well, and then carefully pour in the sweet water.

By now the hummingbirds are hovering around their vacant feeding spots outside. They look puzzled, shiny heads tilting first this way and then that, examining the empty hanger from one direction, then buzzing over a few inches to see if things might look different from the other side.

It was here a minute ago.

“Coming, coming,” I say, as I moisten a paper towel with Avon Skin-so-Soft and wipe the tops of the feeders to repel the lines of ants that also await my return.

The red feeders are still dripping, and a sticky sugar trail trickles across the kitchen floor as I head out the door.

I never know which will be the last feeding, the last time I’ll see the hummers before their long flight and before my long winter devoid of their bejeweled company.

See if you can see her - she's looking directly at you!

Can you see her? She’s looking directly at you! (Click on it.)

nh2013 005.b

Is this fresh?

Fueling up for the flight

Fueling up for the flight!

Have a blessed Autumn!

Related Links:

http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-september-equinox

http://www.defenders.org/hummingbirds/basic-facts

In Memory

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In Memory

“What about cups?”

How can we be talking about cups?

“I’ll bring them, and napkins.”

She looks perfectly normal.

 

“And do we have tablecloths?”

Her eyes are red.

“We can get some.”

I wonder if she can sleep.

 

“I was thinking lemonade.”

I realize it’s only been one night.

“Let’s keep it simple. Water is good.”

One night. Alone.

 

“How many people do you think?”

How many people does it take to remember?

“Over a hundred, I’m sure. Two, maybe.”

Will she even remember the day?

 
“I want everyone to wear blue.”

I nod.

“It was his favorite color.”

I nod again, wonder if my blue shirt is clean.

 

“It will be nice,” I say.

“Yes.” She nods. “It will be nice.”

Her face crumbles, like a stone cliff cracking, collapsing,

Sliding down into rubble.

 

Beyond This Place

Beyond This Place

I had this conversation, which became a poem, yesterday; it is my offering to the WordPress Weekly Challenge on using dialogue. I offer it in memory of Mark.

The Music of Life: A Poem and a Picture

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I’ve mentioned before that I don’t consider myself a poet. I wouldn’t know an iambic if it bit me in the pentameter. Nevertheless, I do from time to time write things with funny line breaks. So here, for your reading pleasure, is one of those things.

First, here is the lovely painting that inspired it, “Morning Music Detail” by Rod MacIver at Heron Dance art studio.

Sing Life

Sad? Sing.

Sing despair, sing way deep.

Sing anger at Mystery;

Sing loud into Empty.

 

Afraid? Sing.

Sing lost, sing hollow.

Whistle, if that helps;

Whistle into  Alone.

 

Joyful? Sing. Sing!

Sing light, sing golden.

Sing honey into Our Oneness;

Sing laughter at Big Questions.

 

Confused? Might as well . . .

Sing high, sing low.

Sing “How should I know?”

 

Bored? Hum.

Hum monotone, if you must;

Still, hum.

A Bit of Fluff in Obama’s Ear

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“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”  Wise words from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thank God the bit of fluff that’s been lodged in President Obama’s ear when it comes to Syria seems to have been dislodged, at least for the time being.

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...

A cabinet meeting of Winnie-the-Pooh’s top advisors . . . might they bring some wisdom to the conundrum in Syria? (Photo:Wikipedia)

Miracles Happen

It was with a great sense of anxiety that my book group crowded onto the sofa to watch Obama’s speech on Tuesday night. Earlier, when we had been discussing an O’Henry short story, the chips and cheese had been rapidly disappearing from the bowls on the coffee table, but once Obama reached the podium, the snacking stopped and the silence fell.

Several of us had prayed and fasted through lunch the day before, along with hundreds from our church, on behalf of a peaceful solution in Syria. And it did feel like a miracle when half-way through his speech, Obama began to back away from the cliff.

My friend Shobha looked incredulous, her brown eyes wide and teary. “An answer to our prayers,” she said.

Trying to Trust

I never did trust George W. and all his war justifications. With all due respect (due being the operative word here), I think he was an idiot who was just the puppet of a bunch of neo-con war-mongers.

But I want to at least try to trust Obama; I voted for the guy. I like him personally, although I’ve been disappointed by him in many ways. I almost wanted him to persuade me of the wisdom of bombing Syria because I was so certain he was going to do it, and I didn’t want to lose all faith in his wisdom.

But I have not been persuaded; not in the least.

“Think it Over, Think it Under” (Pooh)

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, wrote on her Facebook page September 8th:

“But isn’t this one reality–that the most fastidiously trained and learned people in the government, military, humanitarian and diplomatic fields, can’t figure out the right move — reason enough to hold off bomb strikes for the time being?”

Even my very conservative neighbor Pat, with whom I rarely agree about anything except the weather, agrees on Syria. Don’t bomb. Not now. What is the hurry? Her grandson is in the Army, somewhere in the Middle East, but he can’t tell her where.

I have only one friend who supports the bombing, and he’s one of those one-issue kind of guys. Israel is his issue, and peace is not his strategy. He might feel differently when his little boy reaches military age.

Otherwise, ambivalence is the strongest support for Obama’s position that I’ve heard.

Gratitude

I plan to do some volunteering this weekend. I want to serve out of the abundance of gratitude I am feeling.

I like to think it was the people who postponed this folly. That now and then, regular folks can still make a difference. Was it the yelling of Americans who are weary of their kids being killed? Was it the yelling of citizens in our allied nations (whatever *that* means these days — someone we’re not bombing?) tired of being dragged into conflict by the U.S.? Whatever it was, it shifted Obama’s ear-fluff.

I’m sure it was a complicated bit of fluff, probably comprised of ego, politics, patriotism, compassion, anger, fear — desperation might be a better word. I’ll bet he felt trapped by his own line in the sand.

I used to have a boss who said that when he could see no solution to an office politics problem, he would “just throw a grenade and let everyone run around for a while to see what happens.” I never agreed with this approach, and I never saw it turn out well. Stupid office politics; even stupider international politics. Apologies to my male readers, but I think it had something to do with testosterone.

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.
“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

And so, my fellow citizens, God bless America.

God bless Syria.

And God help us all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A related post that conveys my thoughts in a much more intelligent way:  http://woodgatesview.com/2013/09/11/on-the-anniversary-of-911-a-victory-for-clear-headed-thinking/

This is my monthly contribution to Bloggers for Peace. Bloggers, why not sign up?

Highly Impractical and Completely Unanticipated

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This December I’ll be earning my Masters in Writing, a highly impractical and completely unanticipated happenstance. I am, shall we say, beyond college age.

graduation cap short tassle gold

My thesis has obliterated my actual life. Communication with normal people is out of the question. I went to a party on Sunday and the only topics of conversation I could conjure up were grammar rules and formatting templates. I think I had better stick with other thesis students for the time being.

I’m currently writing this post to avoid doing footnotes. My nails are bitten to little nubs, there are colorful life forms growing on the dishes in my sink, and my butt is numb from sitting at my computer.

In the words of David Byrne  and the Talking Heads:

“You may ask yourself, well — how did I get here?”

Good question.

As with most worthwhile endeavors, there was some loss and letting go involved before new life could take root. A couple of years ago, my world got weird when I lost my mother to the Great Beyond, my brother to mental illness, and my job to burn-out.

I was adrift, and life held nothing but questions.

Embracing the Counterintuitive

I began attending workshops at the Bethesda Writer’s Center near my home, hoping that writing might be therapeutic and perhaps even unleash new energy and indicate a new life direction. I filled journal after journal. Fortunately, I had a decent savings account, but I occasionally worried about what was next. Freelance writing, after all, is hardly a lucrative pursuit, especially if it’s primarily of the angst-filled, navel-gazing variety.

Then one day, a young man read a sentence in our workshop.  His name was Robert, and his sentence had something to do with a soccer game and a boy leaping into the air. It was beautiful. Magical. I saw that boy leaping into the air. I heard the smack of the ball.

Soccer Player Kicking A Soccer Ball Clip Art

“Where did you learn to write like that?” I asked Robert after class.

“I just graduated from Johns Hopkins in Writing,” he said, his brown eyes shining with pride. “It’s a part-time program with great teachers. You should check it out.”

I sensed that Robert had something I wanted.

Turns out that there was an open house that very weekend, and I went. Over crudités and seltzer water, I fell in love with the idea of becoming a fifty-something “returning student.” It sounded so — what? So risky, so bold, so romantic, so very not me.

I’ll admit it’s counterintuitive to spend your retirement savings on tuition, but I believe in destiny, and this felt like it. Or at least like fun.

I promised myself I would never take a class I wasn’t completely psyched about – the goal was not the degree, it was becoming the very best writer I could be and enjoying every moment. Losing my mother had taught me that life is short. I have kept that promise to myself and am having a blast. Okay, so maybe the writing conference in Florence, Italy was a bit extravagant, but it gave me memories, friends, and writing colleagues for life.

One Step at a Time

A year ago, nearing the end of the Hopkins program and still unsure of my future direction, I took a class in teaching writing. I thought maybe I could teach a workshop at a local community center or a nursing home or maybe even return to the Writer’s Center as a teacher.

Our first assignment was to create a syllabus. Ugh . For a college freshman composition class. Double ugh. (That’s literary language for ewww…) Mindful of having fun, I almost dropped the class but decided to stick it out another week to see what would happen.

I loved it! I created a detailed syllabus based on a topic I’m passionate about, environmental protection. When the professor returned it to me, he said I had gone way beyond what was required by designing field trips, including reading lists, and identifying guest speakers. At the end of the semester, he told me, “You would be a terrific writing teacher, just by being yourself. You absolutely have what it takes.”

It feels too good to be true, and it probably won’t pay much more than freelance writing, but I believe I’m being guided, one counterintuitive step at a time, to a new career doing something that I’m going to love!

I’m not going to do the graduation gown thing. I’m just inviting a few friends to the public reading where they’ll get free wine and cheese and listen to me and my twenty-something colleagues read our work.

Thanks to WordPress for the challenge to write a story backwards, starting with an event in the present and then following the wandering path back to the story’s  inception. And thanks, Robert, wherever you are. It’s been a fun ride.

And now back to my footnotes.

path on peat moor in sepia colour

The Wandering Path

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