Archive for February, 2018

I watched a movie recently called “A Door in the Floor” about a woman who lost her two sons in an accident and how her life and marriage unwound inexorably after that. There was nothing possible that could stop it. Concurrently the book I was reading was about poetry as the other side of insanity. “The Quickening Maze” is set in a Victorian British asylum. The caregivers are more certifiable than the inmates. Most of the patients are creative types, most but not all of them, mad. I see attributes of myself in each and every character.

Such quixotic media invites an orgy of introspection. Can I make a case for being truly rational? Can my life really be the passage of a sane woman through an insane world? Hardly. Only a lunatic could have left such a path of destruction, while trying so earnestly to make everything come out real and true. My right path is keeping on trying. Somehow there will be a way to wind it all up and lay me down to sleep with a measure of peace and honor. I refuse to believe the lie that my only resolution is suicide. I must keep strong and demonstrate for my sons a noble path that leads to grace and goodness. That is surely the way to redemption.

Then an e-mail from an old friend arrived. I had sent some of my pieces to her. She wrote back complaining that they had “too many words”. It was reminiscent of the scene in Amadeus where the Emperor tells Mozart that his composition has “too many notes”. Jane is tone deaf about art of any kind. Not only can she not approximate a pitch, but she can’t choose clothing of complimentary colors, nor visualize objects on two dimensional drawings. Why should she appreciate my efforts at creative writing? Why am I writing about what I have endured, and how brave, though foolhardy, am I being in sharing it with others? I expect too much. At least she got me out of my head and into hers, a serendipitous interposition.

Another voice from the past, Nan, comments on my blog, telling me that what I am writing is beautiful. I don’t necessarily believe her, but she is kind. It is the very breath of life for me that some dear somebody cares enough to comment. All these serendipitous inputs are telling me that we aren’t expected to repair the past. Friends need only love us.

Remember playing cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers a lifetime ago? When we get shot, we’re supposed to fall down dead. I am defying the rules by behaving as if I could express life as an algebraic equation and solve it. I should simply fall apart after taking so many mortal blows. I am keeping on keeping on because Daddy taught me to stop when bad things happen, and think about what to do, and then do it quietly and thoughtfully. I should be drugging or drinking or plotting suicide, but I’m not. What’s inhuman is that I’m still slogging on, nursing the possibility of hope.

If I share this with anyone, I will be immersing them in my pain. That is wrong. I need to internalize my own anguish, not broadcast it. It is my pain, my punishment. I can take it. Everybody at my so perfect church acts like everything is just fine. That must be the secret to maintaining a classy persona. Stay cool. Keep moving. Pretend all is well. Why does it work for them and not for me? Maybe I’m not a good enough pretender.

Today I watched “The Rabbit Hole”, with Nicole Kidman, a story of losing a young child under the wheels of a car. She, as did I, sought out the driver of the car and offered forgiveness. For her it brought a measure of redemption; for me, it only separated me even more from accepting the hole of my heart. I should have screamed at him and beat his chest. That would have been more honest, more real.

For all these many years I have written all around my grief, but addressed it only through metaphorical stories about talking trees and rumbling roads and pontificating shingles. How crazy is that? The world waits for me to crumble. I refuse to give them that satisfaction. Better to be strong and crazy than weak and sane.

At my daughter’s funerary viewing, hundreds of people showed up to see her sweetly asleep, shrouded in lace, dead and beautiful in her white coffin. It had the sense of a surreal circus. As a mother, all I could feel was embarrassment. I met no one’s gaze, and they were happy to leave me alone with my loss. They were every one so glad it was me and not them who had made that most heinous of all mistakes. Precious children must not be allowed to die whether by accident or by intent. Death must not win out. I failed in that most basic requirement of being maternal. It’s not enough to make life. The obligation that goes on to the end of forever is to keep it alive.

I am thankful for the serendipity that continues to place in my path endless possibilities for understanding and healing. It must have something to do with a cosmic curl of caring reaching out to encircle me, protecting, forgiving, cherishing. There must be a God.

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Forgive and Forget

Is it enough to forgive,
or must I forget as well?
If I dwell on it,
chew on it,
reduced to pulp of mind,
surely I will swallow it
in one great gagging gulp.
Where then will it be,
stuck rumbling in my gut,
a toxin to true thought,
that ruminating mind,
a bovine chewing on its cud?
Most surely it will stay,
inured to reason’s blade.
Would that I could cut it out,
Excise all pus and pain,
drain that obsessive swamp,
and free myself this day
and evermore… but no.


It’s not enough to forgive;
We must forget as well.
Open the cocoon of pain,
so it may flutter-flit away
a butterfly of love,
forgiveness giving birth
to all that can become.
We know in some clear place
that forgetting must ensue
if we would be truly free.
We reach for dementia’s hoary hood,
Knowing oh so well that forgetting
Is the path to not-knowing,
and forgetting near so fine
as never having known at all.
I forgive you, and you, and even you.
I forgive all that ever was,
and more loving yet,
I promise to forget.

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Starting Over

As wishes turn into kisses
And longings turn softly to sighs,
The lust in me stirs and remembers
How tender, how sweet were our cries.

Our lips touch gently and linger,
While our eyes meet and shimmer and shine.
The earth stops and waits in its turning
As our hands and our hearts intertwine.

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Sunrise Song

The magic mists of morning
Rise to meet an azure sky.
Grass, dew-sparkled, waves
In hushed wind-worried sigh.

Rolling fog casts shadows
On meadow flowers below
While spectral rays of sunrise
Stripe hills with rainbow’s glow.

To God’s capricious artistry
Etched in filigree above
I add with joy the cadence
Of this paean to you, my Love:

A song that wants to hear its singing,
A melody with more than tune to tell,
Text whose words spell more than meaning,
And speak in rhymes that dare not tell

Of moonlit nights with smiles remembered
When all but lovers go to sleep
And prayers of children heard at twilight
Pray the Lord their souls to keep,

Lest reporting jar the meaning
Of quiet thoughts that need no words,
A song that rings in children’s laughter
And scolds bright mornings with the birds.

Come, my Love, and meet the dawning.
Breathe and savor all you may,
For the magic mists of morning
Rise to greet our wedding day.

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Body is a fine instrument,

tuned to frequencies

of time and light.

It plays.

I rise, ungainly cobra that I am,

uncoil from warmth of bed

to clarity of smallest hours,

wishing for, anticipating dawn.


Together-music fills

what’s left of time and night.

We sing with morning stars.

No bouncing ball directs the song,

but lit on lacey screed of mind,

northern lights sweep aura,

fade to pink, then purple,

mauve, then teal to green.


It’s time to dance,

a two-step urged by frequencies

of light and sight,

slip-sliding round the edge of night,

the bend, the lip,

the definitive event horizon,

of that deep-deep-darkest

of black holes.

Cringing back from what must come,

I pray, “What’s next?

Am I rugged-individual-ly alone?

Should I ally myself with All,

or invest in beingness of things,

Toll-House-cookies, roasted-beast,


How is is is?

Can I trust it to be real?”


Who would be incarnate

should live solidly,

safely fixed aground,

hidden from that lovely light,

inured to spirit’s mad delight.

Granite shoes are safe,

a resolute embrace.


Silly poet that I am, I flit,

a winged dragon,

gadding to-and-fro,

an aerial do-si-do,

way too charged with life.

Hijacked by beauty,

like Hubble snaps

of Magellenic clouds,

my eyes are full of stars,

and stars are full of me.

Lucky stars!  Lucky me!


When morning comes at turn of day.

Realities of breaking-fast intrude.

Oatmeal pines for hot and spoon.

Teeth hanker for a brush.

Throat wants salty gargle.

The throne I sit deserves a flush.

Quotidian ilk demand their due,

as toll I pay to even play

the silly stupid game.

Well worth their price,

these gentle gauche accoutrements

call me back from

tantalizing edge-of-mind.

“Put feet to floor,” they bray,

and join the lively fray.”

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It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes,
But it is wisdom to believe the heart.
To trust the soul’s invincible surmise

(George Santayana, 1863)


I have long prayed, since when my pajamas had feet, to become a wise woman.  Every selfish entreaty with the Divine that began with passionate requests for intervention and salvation ended with the quiet whimper of acceptance: nevertheless Thy will, not mine, be done.  I begged only to become a wise woman.  Prayer after all consists mostly of positioning our lives to catch the holy wind.  Setting sails with love’s pure light will surely take us home.


He who seeks for Heaven alone to save his soul
May find the path but surely miss the goal,
While he who walks in love may wander  far
But God will lead him where the blessed are.

(Henry Van Dyke, 1852-1933)


I wonder in retrospect if I was harboring a suspicion that God will not answer prayer.  Maybe I’m only a cynic at heart.  What if I were to speak to the God of all creation expecting to be heard, to be answered, to receive bread… not a stone?  What if I made room for a simple faith?  It might be a life-changer.


“The feeling of done-and-done-and-done is so much fun.”  Binge-watching Fixer-Upper has planted a bug that plays on endless loop in my head.  Wayfair and HGTV have no idea how pervasive is their contribution to the collective consciousness.  The only cure seems to be replacing it with something more grounded.  I have found a rendition of the Mozart Requiem that is made to order.  Arsys Bourgogne is a French choral group that is everything a choir group should be.  They are pitch-perfect, and express their music with a lovely integrity that reaches into my very soul.  Their soloists embody the composer’s pure intent.  Always tuned to the soprano line, I appreciate her pure vowels, crisp consonants, tonal clarity, and sure sweet arch of phrase as melody becomes meaning.  European vowel production promises and delivers choral singing at its best.  I am enthralled, and hope my Wayfair bug will be extirpated and expunged.


My plan is to watch the Arsys Bourgogne Mozart every night before bed in hopes of getting some sleep.  It’d better work.  I am tired of lying in an attitude of sleep, counting ceiling tiles, and listening to Wayfair’s jingle play in my head.  God help me.  Clarity of insight is cool, but I really need to cut some zzz’s.


If that works maybe I can carry it a step farther.  Sleep knitting up the tattered sleeve of care is a must.  Shakespeare knew that.  With some restorative sleep I might actually dare to pray for a good death rather than lying abed and worrying, glassy eyed, about a slow and painful one.  Am I wise yet?  Just asking.

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When it becomes dangerous to live in your own home it is time to leave, and leave I did, taking with me my cat, my Collie dog, and my Sig Sauer P239.  Yes, I had a permit to carry, so I was legal in case it might have become an issue.  It was early October in Roanoke, Virginia.  The weather was seasonably delightful, and my green tent blended well with the autumn color at the local campground nestled in the foliage alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I should have left years before, but had nowhere else to go.  I had no savings since my retirement income always got sucked up into the expense of running house and farm.  The bruises got worse.  I was fed up with being punched and slammed against walls.  That hurts.

My ’89 Acura Legend had a capacious trunk with a small seat-back door that folded down to allow access to the main interior.  It was designed to provide for carrying 2×4’s home from Lowe’s,  but I used it as a cat door for Espresso, my black Domestic Shorthair, so he could visit his litter box in the trunk.  He loved to ride shotgun with his front paws on the dashboard so he could see with those lovely golden eyes where our adventure was taking us.  Maggie, his canine counterpart, preferred lounging in the back seat on top of all the pillows, blankets, clothing, camping gear, food, and water.   She had a twelve hour bladder, so I only needed to walk her morning and evening.  We managed.

My YMCA membership provided exercise, a hot shower every day, and a place to change clothes,  which I kept clean at a Franklin Road laundromat.  It should have been doable, but things kept happening.  First somebody stole my tent while I was on my daily rounds.  At least I had the foresight to empty it every morning, stowing sleeping bag and other gear in the car.  That forced me to sleep in the car tucked into my sleeping bag , not nearly so comfortable but doable.  My ex-husband and I had always enjoyed winter camping (no tourists,  no bugs) so my sleeping bag was certified down to zero degrees Fahrenheit.

October gave way to November, then December.  The campground closed for the winter, and I was on my own to find a place to park every night for shuteye.  First there was the requisite stop at Mill Mountain Coffee to slip in the back door and fill my hot water bottle, preventive for icy feet syndrome.

My State Farm Insurance agent had a back-of-the-office covered carport;  I began appropriating it nightly, especially on stormy ones.  One bitter cold evening, after pulling into my spot, I ran across the street to a Seven/Eleven to pick up breakfast makings.  I left the car running to keep it extra warm to start the night off right.   Of course Maggie had to protest.  She wanted to go, too.  Barking and pawing at the window, she managed to step on the back door lock, which on the Acura automatically locked all four doors.  Now I had a car parked, locked, and running with a cat and a dog inside.  What to do?  I ran  across the street again, this time to ask for help.  There are times when I’m sure God is watching out for me.  The local emergency squad team had also stopped there to coffee up, and they came to assist.  One of the team was a young very thin woman who was able to slip an arm through the narrow opening I had left to provide fresh air for Maggie and Espresso.   She reached in,  pulled up the slick knob-less locking mechanism, and all was saved.  What luck!

I managed to live through a bout of food poisoning and was feeling pretty puny, having also run out of vitamins.  Christmas was the loneliest ever, and in January the jet stream conspired with Old Man Winter to send sub-zero weather.  One bitter night, as I lay trying to fall asleep, the Slumberjack bag failed me.  I began to shake, and my teeth commenced chattering.   It was then that my sweet dog Maggie, rose from her accustomed place in the back seat and carefully climbed to the passenger seat where I had been spending my nights with the seat-back fully reclined.  She placed her paws carefully as she crawled forward, careful not to hurt me.  When she was satisfied she had just the right spot, she covered me with her hairy body and remained there the entire night, while slowly I warmed and slept.

Another January morning I woke locked in the deposit of an ice storm.  We were frozen in all day waiting for the parking lot, where I had chosen to spend the night, to be cleared.  There comes a time to admit when you are beaten.  It was time to go home.  Some beatings are worse than others.  Knowing the difference leans toward wisdom.

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