When I neglect the solitary pleasures of my soul, Forget that there are myriad Waldens, cloned Thoreaux, I lessen what I have to spend, to share, Ignoring random treasures buried there, And find my self undug and drowning old, A story dreamed, but never to be told.
But if my face should turn towards silent suns, Lessening winds that storm and whip and churn, Perhaps a tale will speak from ashes left To smolder slowly, finally, to burn.
In brightness glowing with a roseate hue, A saga shared with stones and living few, The blooming blaze of me will well retell The story still unknown, but known too well, of love and life, of death, of heaven, hell, Of ages sages laughed and lied for, Eons soldiers killed and died for.
Daily gratitudes: Nerve Lists A beautiful thank you card Friday Finishing a journa
Quote of the Day: “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” — Henry David Thoreau
When I was little, I worried a lot. About things that had a .000001% chance of ever happening where we lived, like tornadoes or earthquakes. Things my Father called non-questions. He shut me down with that statement whenever I’d finally driven him to the point of exasperation, though he was still kind about it. But there was one fear that neither parent could ever quell.
For my first 14 years, we only took driving vacations, and only within North Carolina or to West Virginia to see my grandmother. (Except for a few train trips down to Florida to see my other grandparents when I was very small.) As my Father worked at the University, we took Spring Break when school took Spring Break, which was usually in March. My parents would load up the car and drive to the Outer Banks, staying in Buxton where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse sat on the point, shining its beacon as a warning to ships far out in the treacherous seas off the easternmost point in the state.
It was a drive that felt like forever. We didn’t have a big four-lane highways back then. We took two-lane state highways, passing through rural farmland. I remember seeing so many old white abandoned houses that I wanted to grow up to rescue. We would stop in Willamston and have lunch at the Shamrock (it’s still there), and I always had stuffed flounder (it’s no longer on the menu), which was one of my “special occasion” meals growing up. I can still recall the wood of the captain’s chairs at our four-top, and the art on the paneled walls after all this time. After lunch, the drive turned from farmland to swampland, trees deep dripping with moss in uninterrupted mystery. What we were skirting is now the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve and the Alligator River National Wildlife Reserve, but back then, to a child, it was just the creepy swampland. Then suddenly, the swamp ended and we were heading over the bridge, through Manteo, across another bridge, and onto Whalebone Junction, where we turned right on Highway 12, which runs the length of the upper Outer Banks.
And that’s where the trouble started. Or more accurately, where I started being a particular pain in the ass.
By now, it was usually dusk. Not only was it a long drive from Durham, when you added trying to pack the car and two kids, stopping for lunch, and keeping to the speed limit, which my Mother did, the day was well faded by this time. Car headlights approached us as we traveled the 60 mile stretch of oceanfront road that was frequently washed out by Nor’easters or hurricanes. And therein lay the cause of my fears. Always, all the cars — all of them — were coming towards us. And we were the only car heading in our direction.
I was frequently near hysterical about this, absolutely convinced that something disastrous had happened at our destination, and that’s why everyone was coming towards us. They were all sensibly running away from the tragedy/monster/peril. But we were going towards it. Here we were, an innocent family, blithely travelling straight to our doom. Driving unknowingly right into the greedy, vicious maw of the beast. From my shotgun position, I kept swiveling around to see if there was anyone behind us, but no, there wasn’t. Just a long string of refugees from the terror ahead, passing by us, unable to gesture or indicate what was out there. My parents had enough of my nonsense after about 20 miles, so I would shut up and sit silently, staring into the darkness and girding my loins for our fate. As I recall, my brother, E-bro, was singularly unhelpful in this situation, but that’s what older brothers are for.
Of course, we would always live to tell the tale, reaching our haven of the Tower Circle Motel without being devoured or destroyed. Mr. Jack Grey would have left the light on for us and the door to our unit unlocked. There were no monsters or secret storms, just the sound of the crashing waves and the reassuring beam of the lighthouse flashing in its silent, trusted rhythm. We went on to spend a week with books and games and music and walks on the cold beach, times that I treasure. But every year, I went through this anxiety, without fail, until I grew out of it. I can’t remember how old I was when that happened. Curiously, my nephew had the same fear when he was small. That takes my mystical mind a-roaming to things like soul families and past lives. Did my nephew and I share a life long ago where we had a legitimate fear of something that destroyed us? Sounds a bit far-fetched, but one can’t be sure. I’m just glad that fear is a memory and that I’ve done a complete 180, going anywhere fearlessly and perhaps too often disregarding what might lie ahead. Roads, day or night, are made for adventure.
Daily gratitudes: Plans No change fees on plane tickets Nearing vaccine eligibility My baked salmon Getting called for Jury Duty!
Quote of the day: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — William Shakespeare
After the storm, after the slow start that led to so many social media posts slamming and demeaning meteorologists, after the quiet, steady, falling snow, after the winds whipping drifts five feet high, after the trees were firmly and politely bowed with their cold burden, after all that… Comes the crisp, clear, pure sky, the dazzling contrast of white against azure, the sun valiantly shining but futile in melting, the silence of usually busy streets disrupted occasionally by the clinking roar of a plow, the creaks and plops of those trees shedding dollops of snow, the woman wading through the depths of an alley to free her Bungalow from its magical slumber….
Daily gratitudes: That I’m strong enough to shovel myself out The beauty of undisturbed snow A dent in our drought levels A warm sunset in a cold sky Hot baths and good books
Quote of the day: “The snow fell as softly as a poet’s tears.” — Kevin Ansbro
Slivers of sun peek through sodden skies As the tender tendrils of spring Tremble in the breeze. deceptive wind deceptive warmth teasing clouds Where is it coming from? Where is it going? How strong How stubborn How painful How powerful How tragic We wait, Me and the harbingers of spring tentatively tucked up for whatever the storm brings.
Daily gratitudes: Tuna steaks A day warmer than expected My pirate mask Friday A quiet day
Quote of the day: “Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity.” — Novala Takemoto
Today, my youngest stepson would have turned 26. We lost him to suicide almost two years ago, another date that we mark with grief as we pass through the years. He was a complex and magnificent soul, with so much to offer. But as we all do, he found it hard to get out of his own way. The hopelessness and futility that feeling can engender became too much for him to bear.
M marks his birthday by dining at our son’s favorite restaurant, accompanied by his picture. He buys our son a glass of wine, and leaves it untouched. To date, M does not want me to accompany him on this modest pilgrimage.
I feel somewhat detached from my own grief about his loss. I think that’s defense mechanism that I have built, particularly around losing him. I have seen my hopeless, raging grief spill out at sunset by the side of a mountain river. I know it’s there. I just don’t know how to manage it, particularly in the face of M’s deeply painful, life-changing sorrow. My grief lives tucked away on a shelf so that I can be strong with him, for him, in the face of his.
Losing a child, at any age and regardless of the relationship you have with them, means losing so much more than just their being, their day-to-day existence, your interaction with them. It means losing the future. Your hopes, prayers, and dreams for your child vanish in an instant. You grieve that loss as well. I chastise myself for the opportunities I missed with our son, the promises I didn’t get around to keeping, the unintentional hurts I may have caused him. It’s impossible not to ask myself if I contributed to his choice. Or if there was something I might have done that could have prevented it.
His joy in his life was as real as his struggle. I hope with all my heart that where he is now, he can freely feel all the joy, and that the struggle is gone. As my belief supports, I trust that he and I will have a chance to get it right in some other life. In the meantime, M and I honor the day of his birth in our own ways, and honor him daily with remembrance, and prayers that his spirit has found some peace.
Daily gratitudes: Jasper the Great Pyrenees Two horses playing “I’m gonna eat your face” Wind chimes Having Ice Melt on hand for our upcoming snowstorm Sending presents
Quote of the day: “May the stars carry your sadness away, May the flowers fill your heart with beauty, May hope forever wipe away your tears, And, above all, may silence make you strong.” — Chief Dan George
I am dogless and have been so for over a decade. But I love them passionately, all of them, regardless of age or breed. I (like most dog owners) had the absolute BEST DOG IN THE WORLD a number of years ago — Tug. He passed away as a consequence of cancer and I miss him every day. There have been others – J.T., Champ, and Roscoe, with Roscoe being the only remaining pup. He lives with his Alpha Dog ex-Pat, and he’s getting on in years. I’ve never been home enough since I’ve lived alone to feel like I’d be able to give a dog the care he or she would deserve, though I’d be overflowing with love.
When I lived in the Cottage, we had the pleasure of the Big House’s pug, Poppie, for company. He would wander in whenever he wanted and explore the delights of the garbage. Since I’ve lived in the Bungalow, I’ve co-habitated with cats, so no dogs were allowed. As we move to the Retreat, we expect that our travels will take us away from home too much for a dog. We should also learn how to live together (and get our cats to live together) before we introduce another living being into the mix.
In a perfect world, I’d win the lottery, buy a huge tract of land, and make it a home for senior dogs, giving them all the comfort and adoration they deserve in their golden years. That’s the dream. Living in reality, however, I find that I need that my spirit needs the company of dogs and since I don’t have my own, I must seek them out. They have the best souls, so pure-hearted. The dog park is within walking distance, but I feel like a real creeper when I go to the dog park without a dog to interact with other people’s dogs (not the people, just the dogs). So that’s out.
There are often dogs at the wonderful coffee shop two blocks over, but without fine weather, sitting on the patio, where I can interact with the dogs is not an option. Besides, people keep their dogs close by when they’re there. There’s Home Depot about 10 miles away and I can sometimes get a dog fix there, but again, people are there with a purpose and usually don’t want to dally about with a woman who just wants to pet their dog.
Fortunately, we are blessed with a Dog Bar at the far end of our Main Street, run by a lovely couple who are alumni of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The place has opened up some as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, although it still has a lot of rules that apply to people, but not to dogs. I was lucky enough to score a seat at a barrel in the outside dog yard the other day, when I realized that one of the reasons I was out of sorts was because I had not pet a dog in at least two weeks. Unacceptable.
Entering the dog yard, I was immediately greeted joyfully by no fewer than six dogs. They acted as if I was an old friend that they hadn’t seen in years – it was lovely. (I’m going to believe that they saved that greeting just for me, not for any other patrons.) I do think they instantly know that I, being an animal shaman (in training), understand them. I smiled more broadly beneath my mask than I could remember doing for weeks. Dogs just have that effect, don’t they?
It was impossible to get all of their names. Cooper, the beagle mix, did not leave my knee for most of the time I was there. There was a lovely black and white fellow who nestled between my thighs. Two corgis (brothers), one with a tail (which I had never seen on a corgi before), who could walk under the picnic bench seats without being aware of their lack of height. A shy greyhound rescue who was quick to get a little panicked when overwhelmed, but who had made great strides in socialization. Domino, an imp with a harlequin face. A small rat terrier. A Bassett mix. I could go on and on. Everyone raced about playing, occasionally marking territory or pooping. Owners were quick to hand with their little green bags before any other dog could snack on such deposits.
Bliss. I sat nursing a glass of wine and petting dogs until the sun went down and it was too cold to be outside. My faith in the ways of the world according to dogs had been restored. We’re expecting somewhere between 10 to 40 inches of snow between tomorrow and Monday, so I doubt I’ll be venturing out there again for a while. Oh, but I do so look forward to my next visit, with all the best dogs.
Daily gratitudes: Blue skies The five-second rule My truck The return of the birds Saving veggie scraps to feed the bunnies in the snow
Quote of the day: “Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” — Orhan Pamuk
Today is the 16th anniversary of my Father’s death. It feels strange to call it an anniversary, because I associate that term with happy events, despite the fact that I’ve lost an inordinate number of people I’ve cared for in my life, disproportionate to my age. My body is aware of today. I have felt ill for a week. This is not new to me. My body has a physical memory of events, moreso than my conscious mind. There comes a point, usually before the anniversary of the event, when my body and mind catch up with each other and I figure out why I’m feeling like a cow turd in a remote Highland field.
I remember most of this day as it happened 16 years ago. I knew Daddy (yes, I’m a Southern girl) wasn’t well. I had talked to him the day before, and the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”. That’s as it should be. I was still in bed when ex-Pat came in with the phone, and said it was Larry, my parents’ best friend. I knew then. My Mother couldn’t talk to me. I don’t even know if she called my brother or if Larry did. K was going to up to see ice sculptures in the mountains with her aunt and uncle that day, and to a classmate’s birthday party. I was supposed to go with her, but we decided we didn’t want to spoil her much-anticipated day. So I stayed home and her dad went with her.
What I don’t remember is what I did after they left. Did I cry? Did I call my brother? Did I talk to my Mother? I don’t know. In the afternoon, I called my friend Denise. She is one of those friends who you know will always be there for you, even though now we’re quite distant. (But my phone Facetimed her about a year ago, all on its own when she was trying to talk to Comcast, and we caught up after a decade. It was lovely.) When my Father died, she dropped everything, and came and drank martinis with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. She helped. I wish I could have been within a thousand miles of her when she suffered a similar loss, but that’s life. Or death.
I was a Daddy’s girl, for sure. I still miss him every day. I wish he could see who I am, what I’m doing, what I’ve become. Who I’ve become. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me. Neither of my parents was ever effusive with pride over me, to me. In the course of the last year, I’ve thought about that a lot. Been angry about it sometimes. And recognized that there are things that just are, that I can’t come to terms with, not without a dialogue with them about it. That’s how it is, and I think that’s part of how I grow as a person as I continue to age and look through the glass darkly at my past, my relationships, my perceptions. I also think that’s an important step to take as I move through the years towards the next place. Acceptance. Of my parents. Of relationships. Of myself. We can’t always have answers or fix things. Sometimes we just have to settle for an unfinished peace.
The sense of loss of Daddy never leaves me. It’s not at the forefront of my days as it was for a long time after he died, but it’s always there. When I make a huge change in my life, he (and my Mother) are the first people I want to tell. I think it’s important that I’ve had to make changes without their guidance and input. I think that’s a sign of strength, of growing up, which is a journey not limited to our childhood or teen years — it is a lasting adventure in our lives, if we’re lucky.
My life looks nothing like what it did when Daddy was alive. But I know he’d support me in the changes I’ve made. I know he’d have so much to talk about with M. I think M would be one of those guys he’d actually have approved of. And he’d be so proud of K.
He didn’t want to go, and he made that clear to me after he died. It took some time for us to work through that. I may write about that later. We talked a lot in our lives. We had a unique relationship. Ex-Pat always thought that we were too close. He didn’t understand how a father could tell his daughter that he loved her so often, that he would always look out for her. That’s a refection of the relationship he had with his own father.
I try hard not to catch the grief train when it pauses at the station these days, but I still step aboard, look around, feel. It’s how and who I am. It is woven into my curious relationship with death and the afterlife, a thing which I am still holding close, trying to feel how it nestles into my daily existence. I don’t wallow as I did a decade ago. But while years according to the calendar have passed, my partnership with my Father, and what today signifies, are still as fresh as they were 16 years ago. My heart, today, around this, his death, is like a statue that has stayed in place outdoors through seasons and weather for all these years. It has changed in appearance, grown mossy and tender and tougher all at once, but with its core solid and intact.
How did I celebrate my Father today? I worked. As he always did. I had a couple of glasses of wine that he would have liked. He was not a drinker, but he enjoyed trying wine with me. I went to my local library’s book sale and bought 11 books in honor of his lifelong career as a librarian. I picked up some yellow roses at the grocery store, which were my Mother’s favorite, but he would have approved. I wrote this post, which he also would have appreciated, because he always loved my writing, and he was the first person to introduce me to the blogosphere, when he asked me, “What is a blog?” and I didn’t know, so I looked it up. And while he so very seldom visits me in my dreams, I will fall asleep tonight thinking of him, and having recited the prayer that he always said with me at my bedside when I was a child.
Love you, Daddy, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time.
Daily gratitudes: Birds in the out-of-place tree, a sure sign of Spring The squirrel that made it across the road Cooper the Beagle mix at the Dog Bar A clean oven My red shoes
Quote of the day: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges
Since this seems to be how things are flowing, weekly original poems will now appear on Friday.
Gone My feet have walked these streets these paths these hills Climbed this mountain. Does the soil remember the imprint of my sole?
This town no longer knows me nor I it, its open earthiness drowned in vats of chic microbrew pubs and the inch of wine called a glass in expensive eateries where pretentiousness is disguised as humble entrees.
The elders here are as hidden as the sun sinking behind the peaks, the shadows of their light highlighting brief, vivid memories across the cold snow.
There is no place for any of us here now.
Daily gratitudes: Canadian geese laying in the snowfields Pigeons snuggling atop the lamp post Lemon ginger tea That I had the privilege of knowing Millie Blue skies
Quote of the Day: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Elie Wiesel
While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.
In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.
Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.
I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?
Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.
The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?
I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.
Daily gratitudes: The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus Beating the snow home Talks with K A good night’s sleep Wind chimes
Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer