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Wesson

The first time I saw Wesson, he was peering at me through a bunch of shrubbery.  I was hiding.  He wanted me to come out, but I wanted to stay put, safe under my bush.  His entreaty found me, even through the leaves: “Your Aunt Judy and I came to get you and take you back to Texas with us.  Don’t you want to come?”  That wheedling voice didn’t fit his bulk.  I didn’t want to believe him.  ”Come on.  I won’t hurt you.  We have a nice house with lots to eat.” he elaborated.  That sounded interesting.  He stuck his fat fingers through the leaves and wiggled them at me.  I didn’t grab his hand but decided to crawl out and see what might be what.

He turned around and headed back toward the house, where Mommy and Aunt Judy were talking about scary things I didn’t want to even think about. He looked back to see if I was coming.  I was.  We were staying with a woman and her children whom we had met at church.  That was because we had been evicted from our pretty Waltham, Mass bungalow at 55 Candace Avenue. With a wagon wheel on each side of the front door, it looked like a safe place for a Texas family to live where everything else was Boston baked beans, clam chowder, and pilgrims.  It had a white picket fence, with yellow roses climbing up and over and everywhere around.  It was home.  They took it away, or made us go away, or do something that was called being evicted.  Evicted is a dirty word, mean and nasty, an uncaring word.

If that hadn’t happened I would never have agreed to give up on Mommy and to hope for another home where something to eat might be counted on.  Too many times I remember splitting only a can of spinach with her for supper.  Sometimes there was a slice of bread; sometimes there wasn’t.  Once a visiting neighbor girl and I ate up the whole plate of fried squash, and Mommy scolded me for not saving any for her.  I wondered why she didn’t say that one little squash was all we had.  She admitted she didn’t want the neighbors to know we were having a hard time.  I remember feeling guilty that night.  It was my fault she went to bed hungry, while I digested more than my share of delicious squash, so tasty because of the way she flavored and cooked it.

So with no food and now no house, Aunt Judy was sent for.  She rescued me, and I was saved.  Driving cross country with her and Wesson, I was overwhelmed by an intense optimism.  When Judy lamented the death of a still-glowing lightning bug that had splatted our speeding windshield, I quipped, “Well, at least he died with his light on!”  It seemed an appropriate metaphor.

Living with Aunt Judy and Uncle Wesson was a sojourn, not a home.  It was a confusion that taught me the tolerance Judy spoke of whenever I came to her complaining about what heinous thing he had done this time.  “Wesson can’t help himself,” she explained.  “He is what he is.”  Like gentling a pet, if I could be nice to him, maybe he would decide to like me.  I tried; he continued to be trying.

He battled my sensitivity at every turn and did his best to convince me that whatever I felt was wrong.  Mommy had fried eggs as an art form.  They sat on the plate and looked at me like two smiling eyes, the bacon strips curving into a happy hello morning.  The edges of her eggs were smooth and lovely—Wessons’ crusty, crunchy and crass.  Even the words grated on my tongue.  I trimmed those rims of nastiness and pushed them to the side of my plate.  That made Wesson rip-roaring mad. 

“Angry, not mad,” Judy corrected.

“Mad,” I insisted.

“Eat those eggs,” he seethed through clenched teeth.  They were cooked just for you.  How dare you say you are too good to eat crispy eggs?  Remember when you didn’t have any eggs?  Huh?  Look at me, girl.”

I looked.  I ate.  Sometimes I gagged and heaved, but eventually I swallowed.  He was right.  It was good to have food.  He was disgusted by what he called my namby-pambyness.  Being prissy, girlie and hesitant was not a good thing.   I was to be forthright and sure of myself, ready to rumble, no matter what might be coming down any pike. 

I listened—and learned—and succumbed to what turned out to be Wesson’s obsessive personality traits.  There was only one way to open the cereal box—the right way.  Everything must be carefully unfolded and separated so as to be re-closeable, keeping the contents crisp and ready to eat.  Even the tiniest tear would incite his wrath.  It was puzzling how dainty he could be, opening the Cheerios container and how ruthless when frying eggs and killing bugs.

Probably the first best thing he taught me was the proper way to kill.  Elementary school science classes had required that I catch butterflies and stick them with a pin to a substrate, where I watched them slowly die, cringing for each and every one of them.  There had to be a better way to do science.  Wesson claimed it.  He caught the bug, held its wings, and squeezed the life out of its body.  He assured me it was kinder to kill it fast between his broad fat thumbs than to let the creature slowly die, watching me and hating me for what I was doing to it.  Maybe he was right.  Kill fast, if you must kill.  He even presented me with a special cigar box, the pride of his collection, that had been made to house the very best of cigars, and now could conserve my excellent collection of Lepidoptera.  He was being a good uncle, and was trying hard to be kind. He was also fat and bald, sweaty, coarse, stunk of cigar smoke, and loved to use me as the subject of his drive to control the world. 

On a road trip through Virginia one spring, he spied a woodchuck standing by the highway.  It was young—very young.  He screeched to a stop and ran back, grabbed the pup by its scruff, and swaggered back to the car declaring triumph.  That happened right outside the town of Salem, Virginia.  He called the unfortunate rodent Salem in honor of its home in the Appalachian woodlands.  Years later when I came to live in the Roanoke/Salem area, every time I had to drive to the Salem side of the metroplex, I dreaded remembering Wesson and his glee over separating a baby groundhog from its family.

In his defense, he cared for that petted prisoner with obsessive determination, for many years locating food stores that were willing to donate wilting produce to his “wildlife refuge.”  He pronounced the little woodchuck mine, and preened his fatherhood skills as he presented me with my very own pet, already caught, named, and gentled at his own hand.  It was my job to calm and settle the creature, letting it know that life could be good even in a cage where there was all the food you could chuck.  Maybe there was a bit of truth to that.

Determined to please, I caught my own roadrunner one summer, visiting on Grandpa Martin’s farm out west of Ft. Worth, where the ground was sandy and the wildlife plentiful and trusting.  I found the bird tangled in a roadside snarl of weeds; wings, tail, feet and feathers a-scramble; caught and trying to free itself.  But Dotty-to-the-rescue, snatched him free, extracted him from his desperation, and brought him home to a life in a wire box.  Wesson was proud.

The first time I found a kitty, Wesson let me keep it for my own.  It was yellow and pretty and Wesson didn’t notice how cute and silly it was.  It liked to play, and I with it.  I fed and cared for it just as I had promised to do.  When I came home from school it was there waiting for Puss ‘n Boots and a romp.  It helped me to feel big like a growing-up kind of girl.  One day I came home and found it in bed, still and lethargic.  It didn’t want to play.  It sneezed and coughed, a strange thing for a kitty to do.  Wesson said it would be ok and to just let it be.  But the next day as I watched it just got very still.  It’s pee ran out and pooled in the soft depression of its bed where it lay curled, despoiled by its own fluid.  I went to another room and prayed that it wake up.  Then I returned to the basket, and it was still dead.

When Wesson came home, I begged him for help.  I wanted to take Kitty to a doctor so he could make it be well again.  Wesson explained, with more than usual patience, that when something was dead, it was dead.  So I decided the thing to do was to give it a proper burial, like Mommy had given my turtle when its soul went to Heaven.  We buried the little box turtle under a weeping willow sapling where he could someday live again in the life of a great tree.  But Wesson had other ideas.  He went out to his shop and found a shallow square box, just big enough to hold a dead cat.  “Put it in,” he said. I did.  He took the box, folded the flaps together and said, “Come.”

We got in the car and drove down the road to where a bridge crossed over Kessler Creek.  “Watch,” he said. slowing only a bit as the car passed over.

I watched as he threw the box, spinning like a Frisbee, out, out, and into the current that carried it away, out of our presence, beyond our knowing, so we didn’t have to feel whatever we might otherwise feel.  It was one of his best lessons in the art of not feeling.  I worried for a long time, and still do, about whatever happened to that little cat as it rode its box downstream, downriver, and out to the sea.  Wesson said, “If you don’t know, toy don’t have to worry.” That didn’t make it necessarily true.

The confusion of that sojourn in the home of my Aunt Judy, whom I adored, and Wesson, her fat, cigar chewing, and aggressively unfriendly husband is cringe worthy.  Wesson dabbled at various sales and blue-collar jobs.  He immediately pegged me as dangerous, noting the seriousness with which Judy undertook her task as guardian ad litem.  Forgetting that children grow vigorously, that first season she bought thirty-two Bobbie Brooks blouses for me while attending a trade show.  She seemed to be delighted by this opportunity finally to have a child, even one not of her own blood and bones.  Wesson was a horse’s derrière of a different color.  He was clever to never accost me when Aunt Judy might hear.  “You think you’re something special, Little Miss Priss,” he would sneer.  “Mommy’s sweet little thing!  Your crazy mother is the only one who thinks you’re worth anything.”  Of course I hated him.  This was a new uncomplicated kind of hate.  It was sweet to taste its purity, unlike the bittersweet complexity of the love/hate I felt for my mother.

Wesson arose early, and disdaining the civility of robe or dressing gown, he swaggered fatly in his boxer shorts, his long, soft, pink thing flapping below.  I saw him, and he knew I saw him, so expose himself to my innocence, a repeated act at once lascivious and aggressive.  Whenever, at my request, Aunt Judy prompted him to adjust his pants, he feigned a shocked surprise, modesty affronted that I should have noticed.

Wesson enjoyed manipulating me to do things that inspired terror.  Once each year at the Texas State Fair I was required to ride the big roller coaster, always in the lead car, wedged in between Judy and the press of Wesson’s sweaty bulk.  “You have to ride it just one time,” he crowed.  “It’s good for you.  Keeps you from being a namby-pamby.  Come on.  Let’s get it over with.”  And afterward, “Now was that so bad?  You should listen to your old Uncle Wesson!”  Then he would buy me a candy cotton ball as big as my head.

He insisted that I climb the giant pecan tree, whose luxuriant limbs shaded our backyard.  He cut and installed wooden rungs to provide purchase for my slippery tennis shoes on the featureless lower trunk. Victory over the tree won for me a new confidence, and I climbed it often until I was permanently grounded due to the onset of my menses.  At the first sight of blood, Judy declared me a woman, bought me a training bra and instructed Wesson to stop trying to make me into a tomboy.  That was his cue to begin dropping suggestive references to my burgeoning bosom.  I cringed, slumped, hugged my books, and walked lighty, a parody of the invisible.

Succumbing to Wesson’s grousing, Judy several times put me on an airplane, destination pinned to my blouse, and sent me and my suitcase to live with my mother in her Boston rooming house.  The experiment always ended badly, local authorities indignant, and I was returned to the comfort and relative security of Judy’s Dallas home, not a bad arrangement if I could steer clear of Wesson.  It’s hard to tell a story about Wesson; every storyline leads up and around and away from him and his noisome, nattering, negativity, to a place filled with loving people who saw something good in me to engage and celebrate. 

Once when I was away at 7th grade boarding school, Wesson stopped by my classroom unannounced.  He said hello, gave me a sweet uncle hug, smiled at Sr. Rose Marie, and took off south for Dallas.  It was good to see him go.  The months I had been away had brought change.  I must have grown, and even my hair that I had always plaited and wound into a Scandinavian crown, now hung down my back, loose and wavy, the ends ringed into curls.  I hoped he approved of my new big-girl appearance.

That hope was wasted on him.  The first thing he did was find Judy, tell her that I looked like a Jezebel in pink lipstick, flaunting my golden tresses to whosoever would be pleased to look.  The next day, the call came from Judy, who demanded that I braid and control my hair every day no matter what.  “There is no undertaking appropriate to your age that would require you to appear as a loose woman,” she harrumphed.  At least Wesson was happy, having goaded Judy into a severe reprimand of his pesky peeve.  Nothing could better assuage his jealous intent.

One summer, in a time when air conditioning was something only for Saturday afternoons at the movies, I sat for my two required hours of piano practice on Aunt Judy’s piano bench—in my shorts—sweating.  The bench never recovered, and it was Wesson that milked it for all it would squirt.  He announced that since it was my fault, I would have to pay for it to be resurfaced, a debit that would take half of my weekly allowance for a year.  He explained that rather than just cutting my stipend in half, it would be a better punishment if I had to send the money every week from Sherman.  It was a pain having to remember, find correct change, address and stamp an envelope, and then get it into St. Joseph’s outgoing mail.  I was good for a while, but then I missed, a few weeks later missed again, and then I was just onto other things that demanded my attention.  I hoped Wesson had forgiven me.  Surely if it were all that important he would have reminded me.

My hope was ill-founded.  I learned that at Christmas, when the whole Tyson family met at Uncle C.J. and Aunt Ethel’s big house in Highland Park, and everybody opened presents.  When I opened mine, there was Wesson’s gotcha.  Instead of a Christmas present that year, I got a check for a piddling sum that represented all my payments, few though they were, made toward Judy’s piano bench restoration.  The custom greeting enclosed, that Wesson insisted I read aloud for all the hushed room to hear, pointed out that if I had been a good person and made all the agreed-upon payments, I would have received a handsome sum.  As it was, for me, Christmas was to be a disappointment.  If I didn’t already hate my dear Uncle Wesson, that would have been the last nail in the coffin of my affection.  Several months later, Aunt Judy undertook a needlepoint project to cover the defiled piano bench and let me forgive myself for being a thoughtless, neglectful, nere-do-well.  She seemed happy to find a way to make everything right with Wesson.  I’m glad somebody could do that.

Tolerance and forbearance had always been her way of dealing with Wesson, even from the very beginning.  I did try.  Once I knitted a pair of wool gloves for him as a Christmas gift.  They were customized in that on the left hand, the 3rd and 4th digits were missing from the design.  Wesson had lost those fingers long ago in an oilfield accident.  He was touched by my hard work, my attention to his unique physiology, and he wore the gloves for many winters.  I wondered what he must have thought as he drew them up across his gnarly knuckles and patted the ribbed cuffs snug about his wrists.  I hope they gave him some degree of comfort and happiness.

As the years went by and I came to know men as a variety of friends, relatives, and countrymen, the most telling question I ever asked myself was, “Is he anything like Wesson?”  If he was, I knew that I had to be tolerant, try to be kind, let my little light shine, and whatever happened, to die with my light on.  No creature is too insignificant to teach us a good lesson, be it a Wesson or an iridescent firefly.

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Resurrection

Getting into a pastoral idyllic West Virginia existence was a metamorphosis that found much support since I was giving up an unpopular wild idea that called for me getting an engineering degree and doing great things with it.  Nobody but my dad had approved of that wild-ass idea, and the wider world was more than glad to congratulate me for going back to ordinary striving, which spelled getting married, getting pregnant, having babies, and settling down to do women’s work.  Even my women’s body said You Go Girl!

Seven years later, it had all unraveled.  Baby girl laid to rest, and persevering at Salem College in spite of tragedy, I was at the jumping-off place with my teacher’s college.  Only one semester remaining, the only thing left to do was Student Teaching.  I looked down that road, pictured my introverted self, standing in front of a classroom of flesh and blood students, and threw in the towel.  It was more than cringe worthy; I couldn’t do it.  It literally wasn’t in me.  It was the first time since I ran off the stage trailing tears during my 1950 piano recital, that I faced something which for me was just not possible.  Yet there I was, buried in the back of beyond, a beautiful place but not sustainable for a mother of three with no college degree.  I loved my babies.  How well I knew, having so recently lost one of them, and now I must fight to keep from losing them all.

I took Dale and Lane out to the Taylor farm, a familiar grandma and grandpa destination, but this time taking pillowcases filled with everything, not just the usual pajamas and toothbrush.  Garnet promised to care for my boys until I could reclaim them, and I left.  I had paid good cash for a new washer and dryer, and arranged to have them donated to an old spinster friend, Elizabeth Spiker, who had been there for me and the boys since I first left the hollow to return to school.  It felt good to give back, a thank-you for all those free meals at her kitchen table.  Everything else got passed on to the landlady with a quick letter.  “Put it to good use,” I instructed, and the things I simply had to have went into the old Dodge.  I left the key on the table and pulled out before dawn, springs squawking and engine backfiring.

That old Dodge and I somehow made it all the way to Texas.  The only thing bad that happened along the way was losing the pulley that sits on the front end of the main crankshaft.  In the natural order of things it runs a belt that turns the generator.  That was a show-stopper.  It had lost its screw, but I soon had it brute-force-welded onto the shaft were it ran for several years with only occasional replacement whenever the weld joint failed.  I parked my car, my assorted claptrap, and my body at my dad’s place in Azle while I looked for a job, any job.  Texas Instruments in Dallas was more than glad to hire me to assemble electronics, and I accepted.

That required me to find lodging in Richardson, where TI operates its Apparatus Division.  Working felt good since there was money coming in, albeit only pennies per hour.  My dad was glad to see me once again engaged with the real world, but made a strong case for leaving the boys for the Taylor’s to raise. 

“How could I do such a thing?” I protested.

“Easy,” he replied.  “Just do it.”

That was long before Nike coined the same quip as a slogan, and it entered the stream of history.

With a paying job and an apartment, I was ready to petition the West Virginia Court for resumption of custody of my two sons.  More letters led to a hearing date when I was to fly to Harrisville, West Virginia, present evidence that supported my ability to care for and support Dale (8) and Lane (3) on my own and request out-of-state sole legal custody.  It was asking a lot.  I had fled the state in disarray, but at least had set up the paternal grandparents in loco parentis.  Since I wasn’t tasking my dad to support us, he backed off and was at least pleasant about having two grand-sons to contend with, a problem often called to his attention by his then resident squeeze, Marcie.  But that’s another story.

The several weeks of waiting were an eternity.  It felt like I had crashed and burned.  The TI job was a life saver, and with the help of a suicide help-line and my new TI Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance, I lived through some panic attacks and gastro-intestinal challenges to present myself as demanded by Judge Max DeBerry.  Having already conceded the enormity of my situation in prior hearings, he found in my favor.  We three took off for Texas on the next plane.

This began a head-of-household/single-mother-act of comedic proportions.  I learned about after-school daycare that was worlds removed from mountain-mamma-by-the-hour.  Just keeping a lease was a challenge.  Ask Dale who woke up from a night terror to find himself peeing into a 120 volt receptacle.   It was a real shock, and required some fast talk to keep the landlord from voiding my lease.  I agreed to pay for a new outlet, and the fiasco was forgiven if not forgotten.  With two kids to feed, I soon realized that my little paycheck wouldn’t be going very far.  In fact, the first time my car license came up for renewal, I didn’t have the money to pay the fee, so assessing my position, I bought a new Dart.  My old car was the down payment; my brand new TI Credit Union account offered a low interest loan; and the tax, title, and license were rolled into the deal.  All I had to do was make the payments—which I managed quite nicely given raises and promotions.  We made do.

As a child I had been moved from place to place, changing homes and schools at the drop of a caregiver’s hat.  What was difficult then, made me fearless now, as I assessed present and future housing options.  I wasn’t afraid of a move.  I even liked it.  No need to scrub the oven when a new apartment would present a pristine one.  As I made more money it was fun to find a better place where the boys would be even happier, with a bigger pool, a fishing pond, or a clubhouse for after school happy days adventure.  Every new job provided the necessary excuse to pry us from any onerous lease.

I enjoyed moving to better, more interesting places, which is what led to a memorable relocation to a cabin on Spring Creek. The place used to be remote but was suddenly on the edge of suburban development.  It was a sub-let from a friend of a friend named Bill Birnam.  I paid him $60 every month and enjoyed a snug wood-paneled cabin on a creek with Tarzan swing overlook.  The boys could yell as they swung across the creek gorge and cannon-splashed into it.  With such reasonable rent I had money for upgrades, matching towels, tablecloths and napkins, and even big plans for acquiring furniture.  We were in fat city for several months until one day a dozer operator knocked on my door and said he was scheduled to demolish the structure.  I was appalled, and refused to leave since I had paid that month’s rent in good faith.  Of course the next day brought the eviction notice.  As a member in good standing of Highland Park Methodist Church, I called Dr. Dickenson and asked him what to do.  It turns out the owner of the property was also a member of HPMC, and Bill Birnam had no right whatsoever to create a sub-lease and collect rent based on his cancelled primary one.  His name may have become famous in Dallas County years later, but then and there, he was just a two-bit wannabe operator.  The developer, a God-fearing man, agreed to move us the very next day into a pre-paid lease at Springbrook Apartments— nicer, and even closer to TI.  God is indeed great. 

Wherever we moved, the boys settled in nicely, made themselves at home and explored with exuberance.  Their favorite thing was to present me with treasure re-claimed from dumpsters at each new location.  No matter how much I forbade such dangerous adventurism, it was hard to hide my pleasure when presented with something needed and useful.  My favorite Revere-Ware skillet was the bounty of just such an exploration.  I still have in my jewelry chest a fine gold chain, resplendent with two tiny gold ballet slippers and a pearl.  I’m sure Dale knows that even though I admonished him never again to undertake such risk, I was deeply touched by his gift, retrieved from the bowels of beyond.

Not every escapade was dangerous; indeed most were wholesome, such as finding a well-stocked pond on the Springbrook grounds, secreted among shade trees, where Dale spent all his spare time bait fishing and tying flies.  He was establishing a life-long penchant for wetting his hook and befriending peace.  Lane made human friends with astonishing alacrity.  Every time we moved, he learned to create more buddies to replace those left behind.  I asked him one day, how he managed it so well.  “Easy,” he replied.  “I just start throwing rocks at the new guys.  They get mad and start chucking back.  Then, I go over to their side and suggest that we make friends instead.  It always works.”  No wonder Lane grew up to break every sales record he ever challenged.  Even now, I believe he should credit our excessive perambulation for his ability to engender good will and create money.

There were five long years between Dale and Lane, a difference that no doubt contributed to their Three-Stooges brand of comedy.  Lane was constantly baiting Dale, and Dale inevitably reciprocated to excess.  I then waded in with more than enough remonstration.  Our rowdy triumvirate outdid the Three Stooges at their own shtick.  I look back with amusement and more than a little chagrin.  I always wondered which of us played which stooge, but never was motivated to investigate.  Lest the fault be placed on the boys, I should confess to hedging a blow by iron skillet aimed at Dales head, which was mercifully accurate in its deceleration and didn’t even raise a knot.  It was the only appropriate response to his retort that washing dishes was women’s work.  I’m happy to report that he never, ever again spoke of dish hygiene as the rightful purview of women.

One Christmas when money was more than usually short, we conjured our holiday by monitoring the diminishing inventory of a neighboring Christmas tree lot.  As soon as the lights went off on Christmas Eve, and the Santa’s helpers drove away to make Christmas for other girls and boys, we pulled on our boots and went shopping.  This was the time when cut trees went from insanely expensive, to gratis.  On December 26th all those trees were to be carted away to become mulch, or even smog.  We picked out the prettiest white-flocked princess on the lot, and dragged it away to our empty apartment where it did its best to make our holiday glow.  I suppose it was a complicated lesson to model for two little boys, but I assured them that we saved that tree from a Joan-of-Arc martyrdom.  It’s amazing how an action can vary from scurrilous larceny to blessed mitzvah as only a matter of timing.

Sometimes timing became the catalyst.  During the early days when we only had money for food, rent, and electricity, we made-do for furniture with wooden milk cartons from behind the Kroger store in the next block.  We slept on the floor, folded our clothing neatly and stacked it in the crates.  Bedding served as bed-location-holders and defined the spots where beds would someday be.  In the autumn of the year, I had long enjoyed picking dried weeds and flowers, saving and arranging them into fantastic bouquets and whimsical dioramas, where flower carcasses stood in for trees, and mirrors became frozen skating ponds, while canned snow sprayed the whole scene with the snowfall of a quiet night under a starry sky.  With a whiff of imagination, amazing things can be accomplished, but with a stroke of bad luck doing eccentric things can be interpreted as scandalous.  A case in point is the time when we spent the week-end gathering weeds and grouping them throughout our rooms, where they could be utilized in one or another of that fall’s nature projects.  On Monday it was off-to-work and school, looking forward to a list of artistic endeavors yet to be accomplished.

That was the day when the Richardson Fire Department showed up and picked my apartment number from a lottery, that called for it as well as several others, to be inspected—something to do with insurance, fire codes, and safety.  I got the call on the job: “Come home immediately and vacate the premises—forthwith.”  Of course they were alarmed at what they found in Apartment 4C.  Where others had tables, beds, lamps and chests of drawers, we had milk cartons and boards balanced as shelves separated with stacked bricks.  The whole apartment was strewn with dry weeds just waiting for a match.  The fireman didn’t even want to know what we were up to; the property manager just wanted us out. 

I didn’t argue.  It must have looked terrible to anyone who had no vision of the holiday to come and how we planned to make it beautiful in spite of a stretch of penury.  I apologized and moved out.  We did our best that year, and it’s memorable that it was the expose of our odd-ball disarray that made for a lovely remembrance, while the hurtful repercussions following it are lost to time.  As years passed and we traded found items for real furniture, life began to take on a more traditional appearance; but never would I be considered normal.  I was always too willing to entertain unusual permutations and combinations when assessing possibilities.

As the boys got older, their situations became more complex.  It was at Sherman’s TI that I got a call to go home and let Lane into the house since Dale had locked him out—naked.  He had to make his way nude to the next door neighbor’s back door, coincidentally the NTSU Dean of Students, and use the phone.  My exasperation level was indescribable.  How was I to represent myself as a professional employee at a serious institution, with such goings-on defining my life?  Too angry to even remonstrate, I sank into gloom.  Things must have improved since we all lived to make another day.  I felt better when I learned that the Dean spent much of his quality time on the commode, reading his paper and conversing with his family through the open bathroom door.  I couldn’t match that, nor did I want to.  We all have to have something to feel superior about.

It took a lot to get me and my progeny from barefoot-and-pregnant-mountain-momma to serious contender in the military-industrial-aerospace-complex.  The way was far from straight.  I walked it, step by step, but I didn’t do it alone.  I had kids to keep me grounded in the things that matter most, and co-workers that kept me from falling in love with my own inventions and becoming insufferable.  Where would I be without the folks who kept me real—and together— and connected?  I would be even harder to put up with.  I can’t claim to have ever arrived; no matter the level of ascent, there would always have been one more hill to climb and one more river to cross, but the time spent on the road was well served, and the life well lived.  It’s always these little family skirmishes that most enrich my memories, not the see-me-run-Daddy moments that always fell short, usually flat on my face.

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Psi

I found him by accident, quite by luck it seemed.  Coming off a riff of sleep; dead to everything, almost to even me.  I couldn’t feel my left index finger.  It didn’t exist in the natural world.  Same with whole right arm.  Flop over onto back and wait.  Blood can flow.  Sense comes raging back.

But knowing is a lagging indicator.  It hesitates; it waits; then it sees a world of being coalesce.  I stand on solid marble, magma long congealed.  Square, foursquare it is, and firm as earth can call to being.  In this place down is down, and up is unequivocally up.  I like it here.  It plays.  Another plate is attached and another on beyond.  I belly up to my firm flat plat and wait.  On my belly is the place to be, hugging all of earth in one cosmic sweet embrace. 

He manifests.  There, standing on my plate.  A male energy; two legs, two arms, one head.  No phallus.  Why so bereft?  What would he do with it?  With no need to dominate, impregnate, urinate, why waste skin on an atavistic appendage?  So why then is he here, standing with attitude on my substrate?  I have called him; that’s sure.  I want validity. 

“See me,” I demand.  “Know me.  Acknowledge my unique self.  I ask this.  It is my prayer.”

No ears protrude from any apex, carapace nor crown.  He has no need to hear.  I have no need to speak except to align words to my will and admire them.  Even forming words into coherent concept is a power play.  What do I have to prove and to whom?  But he knows whereof I speak, or would speak if I had a mouth.  I seem to have become thought, pure thought, as I form knowing into strings of testament.  I hear no answer with my not-ears.  I close my not-eyes and slide across the smooth plane, on my not-belly, arriving at an edge.  There it stops, but another one begins.  It, too, is a familiar plane, a home.  I step across and slide to yet another edge.  I recognize three plates—three—a magic number.  They are all mine to explore at will, if that is something I would do.

I awake to lack of breath.  I breathe.  In the world of friendly plates I had no need to respirate.  What would not-lungs do with air?  It is a strange world this awakening, where breathing is an act of will.  If I am to face this yet-another-day, I must arise and claim it.  And that’s exactly what I do.

As an afterthought, I wonder what his name was.  “Easy,” my inner voice replies.  It’s Psi!”

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Night Terror

Suddenly present

in a green grass meadow,

watching wind cavort

in a rippling sea of verdance,

Where is it going,

so sure of itself,

when I know nothing

of where I will stay

this night, or any other? 

I wander and gander,

peering and scrying

this feasting of sight,

sunrises vivid with hoping,

sunsets dismal with knowing

what tomorrow will be

and how it will end.

~~~

I portion out cash for a day at the store,

and give it to clerks

to man (or to woman)

the register of each department’s purview.

I want it back at the end of the day

with what has come in

less what has gone out.

to serve the avarice sparkling green in my eyes.

~~~

It feels good to be working

on my feet and in charge.

Something will be what it can

if I but see it as possible.

Then I catch sight of Maggie

the golden, my wonderful dog.

There she is.  I love her!  I do!

She bolts into my house and hides.

I look for her, and there she is, under my bed,

Nose tucked beneath paw.

Now a different collie breaks into view.

They look so alike and lovely, I wonder

Which is true friend?

~~~

With doubt it cracks, splits, fragments,

a crazy kaleidoscopic tumble,

a panicky stir of geometries,

shattered rainbows

of color and of shape,

of feeling, delight and

anguish, love and fear

that delight, mesmerize,

titillate, obsess, disgust,

and then, in blink

of jaundiced eye,

stop.

~~~

I look in the mirror

And what do I see,

But a fearsome image

Grinning back at me.

It is small and shrunken

More bone than bonny

More hag than handsome

with pretty forgotten

Shredded to time addled dust.

~~~

What frightens more than bones

Caught in crepy lucent skin

Is the visual of a mouth rimmed blue.

~~~

“I see you,” it says.

“Please go away.

I don’t want to be the you

one more tragedic day.”

~~~

I waken with relief to

another day of governed rest

one of many to endure

but to never number.

Each will follow after

the one that went before

like ducklings

in a fuzzy row

while I hide

in fear of spectral death.

~~~

Why should I fear

some peaceful silent end

when I am

in verisimilitude

already dead?

~~~

Gone will come later

in soft sweet silent sleep.

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Birthday

Larry spun his head about and nailed the boys in their back seats.  Dale and Lane, always jockeying for position in the family hierarchy, were baiting each other into misbehavior.  What else was there to do?  They straightened up for the moment, until Larry would become otherwise distracted and forget about them, sitting back there buckled into their distinct cockpits.  A nine-seat station wagon was a luxury most families wouldn’t presume to afford, but when several US automakers came out with the nine-seater , Larry and I, lulled into false confidence by a buff economy, had made the leap.  We bought a big long, metallic brown one, that looked like a limousine, and were settling down into all the room and luxury it afforded.  With two good engineering jobs going great guns, what could go wrong?

That same hubris had led to a decision to make one more baby before babies would become a lovely but past possibility.  We found an obgyn, got checked out, and were told babies were already not an element in any conjoined future plan.  Going home in a fog of remorse at having waited too long, we proceeded to make a liar out of the good doctor.  Throwing away my trusty diaphragm, we set about enjoying each other with more than ordinary joy.  That night one of my laggard eggs, which had waited until some last hurrah to declare itself, welcomed one of Larry’s most excellent, speedy, and adventurous spermatozoa.  They teamed up to make just one more baby.  Nine long months later, we had arrived at the culmination of all that planning, and now awaited my doctor’s decision: what to do about some insistent contractions that weren’t all that painful, but nevertheless persisted.  The morning had dawned with an awareness of a sea change.  Hormones had shifted.  I lay awake and aware of the return of a certain prurient sense of longing.  It was nothing to write home about, but something to pay attention to.  Such reporting to medical doctors only convinces them that you are hypochondriacal.  And that’s what happened.  He said to just go home and wait.

It was Saturday morning.  The day had dawned clear.  Across from Richardson’s Presbyterian Hospital, a petting zoo was setting up at North Park Mall.  I directed our expeditionary force to check out the animals while we let some time work its will.  Why should I believe what some doctor said about my flagrantly enceinte constitution, more that is, than I believed my own reliant self?  I was more attuned, more involved, and yes—more motivated to believe in my own credibility.  So we waited.  Hot dogs for Larry and the boys, a clear chug-a-lug of juice for me, and then we distracted ourselves with fuzzy bunnies, floppy eared milk goats, fat cuddly puppies, and even a llama that added the dimension of height to the four-footed menagerie.  The llama was a fuzzy, its hair dense, silky, and soft.  It was fascinating to stand with it and exchange vivid eye-to-eye mind melds.  It almost diverted me from the underlying reason for this strange detour around and about a Saturday morning.  Almost, but not quite.  Eye to eye with a llama, that was coincidentally pregnant, I sensed a kindred animal spirit.  Newly encouraged, inspired to lean into my day’s work, I had a baby to deliver.

Suddenly I yearned to sit down.  What had been a Braxton-Hicks Contraction, suddenly became an out-and-out labor pain.  The next one was not far behind, and soon we were hustling for the parking lot and reclaiming our long brown vehicle.  Across US 75 and into the hospital parking area was the next translation on our agenda.  Then a return to a disinterested emergency room led to a rolling of eyes, a re-exam, raised eye-brows, and a new sense of urgency.  Larry was dispatched to take the boys home to Sherman, a long ninety miles in a long car, for me a long wait while I got on with getting on.

Admission to the labor pavilion of the complex was a big concession from the medical establishment, but how could they argue with verifiable regularly spaced intra-uterine muscle spasms?  I had just the day before finished reading a well-chosen library book: Marjorie Karmel ‘s Thank You, Dr. Lamaze.  The Lamaze method of childbirth gained popularity in the United States after Ms Karmel wrote in 1959 about her experiences as a midwife.  Formation of the American Society for Psych prophylaxis in Obstetrics (ASPO Lamaze) soon followed, and by 1974, the Lamaze method was more than a big deal.  It had become the premier childbirth education certifying organization in the world.  The society’s title suggests upholding a woman’s mind as a viable partner in birthing a human child.  That is profound!  It took a creative intellect with a soupcon of arrogance to patent childbirth.

The key element I had absorbed from the reading was a freaky pattern of breathing that seemed to work as I tried it out in the labor room.  It became a shallow panting, like I had seen with dogs delivering puppies.  As long as I breathed fast and shallow, the pain went away.  As soon as I stopped and breathed normally, all the agony came crashing back.  I panted.  The labor nurse questioned my method, insisting that I take deep breaths and relax.  I shrieked, “I can’t!” and went back to panting.

That went on until almost suppertime.  I, of course, wasn’t having any supper, but Larry ate for two while I panted and dilated my aging cervix.  I watched nurses come and go.  Finally it was time to adjourn to the delivery room—blue, cold, and sterile.  Somebody called my doctor, who entered all gussied up in a tuxedo set off with with shiny black patent slippers, on his way to a formal event.  No wonder he didn’t want me tinkering with his evening.  He didn’t bother to gown up, but stood there resplendent in his regalia, directing the play by play.  First he wanted me to stop that infernal panting and agreed to give me a saddle block to obviate its necessity.  As soon as the needle was in, the pain stopped.  Bless medical science!  I smiled and lay back to enjoy watching the action.  Acquiescing to the sterility declared by pulling on rubber gloves, he reached for the forceps, one tong at a time.  No sooner did I spy that infernal tool of infant torture than I cried foul. 

“No forceps for me!”

“But you can’t push the baby out now that the block is in place,” he insisted.

“Just you watch!” I cried and proceeded to suck in a monster breath, hold it, and push down with everything I had.

“Wait!” he cried.  “Don’t push!” raising his hand like a traffic cop.  Time for delicate intervention, but with scalpel alone.  Soon he was satisfied the way had been prepared.

“Now push!”

I pushed, and a new person joined our assemblage.  Everything would have been fine if the newbie hadn’t proceeded to hose down the doctor’s tuxedo jacket.  Baby, too, was all wet, red from his rage at finding himself naked and shivering in a bright cold scary place, but soon appreciative of lots of up-to-date attention, a routine offered to every Texas newborn.  The room may have been cold and officious, but it was a good place that valued health and the humane dispensing of it.

The doctor departed to attend to his sartorial disarray, delegating stitches to the nurse.  She then wrapped up baby and laid him next to my bed where I could look into his great wide-open eyes.  I claimed him right then and there for my very own.  In case there had been any question, he was mine.  Those eyes with their fully dilated pupils said it all.  They looked deep into my soul.  I called him Kurt, short for Noble Counselor.  He has lived into that heavy moniker ever since, dispensing empathy and wise advice to all who share his august presence, which seems appropriate to his birthday, the tenth of August, 1974.

Kurt had established himself as a member of the family, and it was soon time to take him home.  That should have been a simple proposition, except for the canine member whom no one had considered.  This had in many ways been a ridiculously confident period of our lives as a Sherman, Texas family with two kids (now three) and a dog.  As well as buying a nine seat wagon, and undertaking to make another person to help fill it, we had opted for a Great Dane.  Others might have visited the local shelter and chosen any endearing canine, but we had to actually go and visit a Dane breeder— just to gather information of course—where we fell in love with a soft, sweet, floppy-eared six-week-old bitch that we dubbed “Greta” when she wagged her tail and licked our noses.  Given all that, we just had to write a fat check and take home a Von-Reisenhoff Dane.  The puppy grew into a big, big dog, that guarded our premises with a formidable voice and an imposing presence.  She ate a lot and kept low tables clear of interposing objects given the muscular nonchalance of her tail sweep.  Life was good.

Arriving home with Kurt wrapped in a baby-blue receiving blanket, we got him settled, with a full belly and a dry diaper, in the bassinet right next to me, where I could keep an ear tuned and a watchful eye peeled.  I relaxed into my place on the big bed and prepared to sink into a restorative night’s sleep.  Larry locked up the house and let Greta in for the night.  As he reached for the light-switch, she shoved him aside and charged through the door into the bedroom, just as Kurt began to wind up a whimper.  With an affronted roar, she launched a frontal attack, jumping over one corner of our king-size bed.  Larry, who had never demonstrated any athleticism, acted every bit the father.  He matched the dog’s assaulting arc with his own body and tackled her in mid-air.  He brought her down right at the base of the bassinet.  A good dog, Greta had defended me against an unidentified marauder; a good father, Larry had saved his child.  Kurt didn’t even know what happened.  The next day we staged a proper baby reception, where Dale, Lane, Greta, and baby brother Kurt were properly introduced.  Life continued to be good.

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Tree

I am disheveled, only haphazardly clad, and not sure where I’m supposed to be.  All that long blonde hair I used to be so proud of is a wild declaration of my compromised status, whipping in the wind and stirring into one rambunctious tangle.  With nowhere to go, I trudge somewhere—anywhere at all—which turns out to be along a shorefront, a beach community, maybe Laguna Beach my best old haunt, the place where my finances started to become “complicated.”

With no shoes, I trudge along the waterline, waves keeping sand moist and firm, so it’s easier to walk than up higher where feet sink deep into hot sand, a calescent salty mire.  The wave water runs cool, always cool—not like the opposite coast—the Japan current assuring cold water and temperate air along our western seaboard.  The chill water is a sweet consolation, bathing hot feet with clear gentle brine.  But teasing lively waves as they venture ashore can only hold my attention for a while, and the need for diversion sets in, a bit of challenge even inside the warm body of a dream.  Tangles of seaweed piled and abandoned at high tide are beginning to dry now as the sun decides to work its will.

I leave the sea and its weed to sort things out, and clamber up the westernmost embankment of our great continent, finally gaining the roadbed of US 101, the coastal highway.  Here it is called Pacific Coast Highway, as differentiated from its Oregonian definition as Oregon Coast Highway.  Other monikers apply where appropriate, but not here where it’s definitely PCH.  I climb up to a rudimentary shelter, a lifeguard station, refuge from the vicissitudes of pulling swimmers out of tides and waves.  It’s only now that I realize this is a place I have visited a thousand times before.  I grab a stool, an old chair now missing its back, peeling what’s left of its paint that once was orange—like so many things recently of concern.  (Why must our current president spoil even my dreams with his identity as Orange Baby Man?)  The row of holes is left by extracted chair-back vertical elements—once there, now gone.

My arms reach for this artifact of my subconscious, an action I recall having repeated countless times.  I know what happens now: I lean back and look up, and there atop the overhanging bluff is a great tree.  It is old, and it is grey, and it is magnificent.  Bare-limbed and arrogant, it crowns the apex of this western promontory.  So, what’s to be done?  I grab the stool, turn it around so it fits the situation, and sit down to puzzle what to do next.

Finding myself here reminds me of how many times I looked up and marveled at the great buildings rimming that cliff-side aerie.  As a newbie store owner, when I first undertook to revitalize the old Fahrenheit 451 bookstore, I often glanced upward as I bustled about Laguna’s commercial district, itself strung along Coast Highway at near zero elevation, right at the edge of sand and sea.  I had no time to explore.  Running-a-business turned out to be a single all-consuming event.  It took all my time, and as it turns out, all my money.  I remember wondering who inhabited those amazing structures that graced such an enviable location at the western end of everything-American this side of Hawaii.  In my fantasies, I imagined them to be wealthy socialites, ostentatiously educated, smart enough to get amazingly rich.  I promised to someday drive up along those cliffs and explore—but never did it.  There was always something more important to do, something attached to a deadline, something soul numbing but necessary.  It wasn’t until several years into that grand misadventure, after I had added my retired father to the F451 payroll, that one evening I pointed out to him, with more than a bit of awe, the glittering community twinkling along Laguna’s elevated rim.  “Have you been up there?” he asked— a simple question with a lot of baggage.

After I confessed to never having driven up to Laguna Heights for a reality check, it was just like him to insist that not another day must pass without doing just that.  We revved up the car and scaled the bluffs.  The entire cliff edge with all those glorious seaside views was lined, not with mansions but with restaurants, classy but not prohibitively expensive.  Access to any of them was surely within our means.  Those enviable outdoor tables with their stupefactive views could all this time have seated me, my guests and my extended family stopping by for a visit while on California-or-bust road trips.  I felt like a numbskull, a certifiable nitwit.  It was a typical lesson from my dad.  He had spent a lifetime modeling for me how to define my world and make it serve my purposes, rather than being constrained by the creativity of my fears.

Before week’s end, I had reserved a table for four at the Quiet Cannon, a white-tablecloth eatery that was to become one of my favorite hangouts during those Laguna years.  I especially loved it because although it was once called “The Quiet Woman,” (demurely depicted on its sign by a headless human female) it had in enlightened times changed to the more dignified “Quiet Cannon,” itself a puzzling oxymoron.  We also learned to frequent several other spots perfect for celebrating sunsets while dining and imbibing along that once frightful overlook.  This became a place where memories were made.  Indeed it was there at the Quiet Cannon, only a few months later, that Daddy met me for dinner, gave me my copy of his will, explained the solemn duties of an executrix, and detailed his sad diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Dementia.  Perhaps that explains why a grand old tree haunts my dreams as a lucent avatar of wisdom, competing with Pacific lighthouses for that silent signal honor.

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Hubris

When the Challenger lifted off on that fateful day in January of 1986, it was never to complete its mission, thanks to management taking over the place of engineering as prime decision-maker about something that was consummately technical. Those O-rings weren’t designed to function at the temperature predicted for that liftoff. Engineering provided the factual imperative to scrub the mission. Management ignored their input. The rest is a history that should inform, but too often doesn’t.

Donald Trump, sporting his “Keep America Great” hat, held forth during his tour of The Centers for Disease Control, and remarking on his “unusual aptitude for understanding the intricacies of Corona Virus prevention and mitigation” is comedic. Perhaps tragedic is a better term. This is particularly off-putting to my understanding since I lived through a similar catastrophe in 1970, working for Varo Engineering. Varo’s Static Power Division in Sherman, Texas was solely dedicated to making high voltage power supplies for night vision devices. It was a uniquely specialized product, historically successful under the leadership of Ernie Reich, a savvy electrical engineer.

Things went very well until a change of plant manager upset everything. Tom Robinson came in with much fanfare and put himself forward as Mr. Know-it-all. He decided to make a change to the basic design that could not work—ever. Even I, as a mere manufacturing engineer, understood that what he was planning was impossible. That was when I decided to save poor Mr. Robinson from himself. I went to his office, sat down, and explained why what he was planning would not be advisable. Somehow, he failed to understand that I was doing him the best of favors. The next thing I knew my supervisor was giving me an exit interview. No, all those excellent performance reviews didn’t matter. Tom Robinson wanted me out.

I was out, but soon found work down the road at Texas Instruments where they remembered all those good years spent at Richardson TI’s Apparatus Division. No sooner had I gotten settled down that I learned what happened back at Varo. Robinson made his star-crossed design change to high voltage multipliers. Reich quit and started his own company in his garage, Reich Associates. The military pulled Varo’s contract, awarding it instead to Ernie Reich. Varo’s Static Power Division went belly up, and I did some moonlighting mold design for Ernie for a while just to rub it in.

Don’t be consoled with the idea that Trump’s shenanigans may yield any such benevolent outcome, though even the most cosmic definition of God won’t allow for evil to prevail in the end. When even Democrats can cooperate to mount a siege, as in four presidential candidates withdrawing to make sure someone who can beat Trump is nominated, something momentous is surely afoot.

I haven’t failed to grasp, however, the significance of my own piece of hubris as I marched into a new plant manager’s office to tell him how best to do his job. It is so easy to become convinced in the perfection of an opinion that wisdom fails. That’s when disaster puts on his “Keep America Great” hat and chaos runs amok. But if you wash your hands every twenty minutes, you won’t have time to get into trouble, and if Corona virus gets the last laugh, they won’t blame you.

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Redeemer Roundelay

My most important function here at Redeemer is to get hold of myself.  I need to decide what I believe and why.  At Thursday Morning Bible Study, that just might happen.  We are learning to trust each other.  That means daring to ask hard questions and grow with the answers.  It means putting words to our pain and asking for prayer, and meeting the answers with gratitude.  It’s learning that these friends will call you out when you are being stupid, but will love you anyway, especially if you keep on trying.  We are getting to be cozy with the Good Book, and trying out a lively variety of its verities.

The most exciting thing I have been doing is inviting people to sample our special take on being Christian.  There is so much going on here that it’s natural to offer to share it with others, especially when some certain thing we are doing would so enrich their lives.  My grandson, Remington, finally came to check us out on Christmas Eve, and we enjoyed the warmth of a hygga fireplace and a cup of Christmas tea after the service.  He is a baritone, a guitarist, and a computer wizard, who after work likes to multiplex his soundtracks on his home computer to amazing effect.  A midnight tour of our premises ignited his imagination with respect to the Celtic service.  He promises to attend one of those soon.  Who knows where that may go?

Other than praying about it and promoting it, what am I actually doing?  I’m busy with a lot of things, but the choir is my anchor as a church member.  It’s a place where I can show up and know there’s work to be done, work I can still do, even as an old person.  Sure it’s a major concern whether this is the day I won’t make it up the aisle when balance fails, and my old computer injury keeps gnawing at my shoulder bones as I heft that music folder through yet another service.  But I can still pick up an unfamiliar score and read the soprano line like a pro.  That feels good—good to hope I might still be viable.  I’ll never sing another solo, but I can be part of the perfect harmony. 

It feels calming to make sure the choir room chairs line up just right to greet our singers as they enter, and I arrive early at rehearsal to make that happen.  I like to record our Sunday anthems when they are memorable.  My IPhone pew-sits right in front of the Tenors.  It’s set at Voice Memos and its red button, pushed-to-start, makes a beautiful memory of a morning anthem.  I text it to my sister, who just this year lost her husband, and often to my musical grandchildren who are popping up like genetic mushrooms all over the country.  Sure it may be a bit Tenor heavy, but I love tenori.  If we wait for perfect, we’ll never get anything done.  I’m making noises about doing some proper recording of the choir so we can make a CD and raise some money for our 2021 Scotland pilgrimage.  There’s even politicking to be done, trying to get the choir listed in our bulletin as a proper participant in Sunday services. 

Whatever I do at Redeemer seems to circle back to Bible Study and the prayer that sets the tone for everything else.  That’s where we go each week to pick Philip DeVaul’s brain.  It’s not so much that he tells us what to think, but that he makes us want to.  The ideas he brings to our attention are so vibrant, we spend the whole week dissecting them.  Sometimes we even feel inspired to think thoughts of our very own.  I just finished such an exploration titled ‘House of God.’  It was based on a real dream, a place visited many times in rem sleep but never before recalled on awakening.  It reads as follows:

“She sees it.  It’s there, hanging in the mist, wanting to become a real thing.  She swims in her vision, aching to get to it, sensing that this is the final answer—if there is a final answer.  Only at times like these does wanting make it so.  The haze clears as she nears, to reveal a stone church, once a place where people came for refuge, to worship and to pray.  They sensed it to be a sacred altar where God, if there was one, might hear what they had to say, even to themselves.  Their prayer lay full-formed in their minds, wanting to be muscled into striving, into belief that such things are possible—into faith.

“In the clarity of pre-dawn, she approaches the structure and wonders why it is so small, why so spare and lacking in any claim to magnificence.  She is not impressed.  Perhaps, she thinks, this is but a fool’s errand and I need not enter in.  I could leave, go back, give up, just go away and pretend I never even determined to haunt this old relic—but no.  She keeps on.  If there were outbuildings they are long gone and cleared away.  All that’s left is this one edifice reaching from out of the mist and beckoning.  She moves her feet, a studied pattern of will.  She wants to go inside and meet what she finds there—waiting—just for her. 

“There must have been a steeple long ago, but all that’s left is a discontinuity of roofline where once rocks took on an upward urge and bravely pointed the way to spirit—or to God.  If there were a door she would open it, but it has long ago succumbed to the ravages of time and age.  Only the memory of a door remains as the evidence of its past attachment, the holes left by long lost bolts and rustic cinctures.  She reaches out to touch the tiny apertures.  They are really there.  Satisfied, she engages feet and steps inside.  The dawn has not yet found its way inside this shaded vestibule.  She stops to breathe and say a prayer of thanks for this quiet entrance into what was surely a place of prayer, where folk arrived to safety, from who knows what alarms.  A deep breath, and she draws herself in her entirety into the main vault of the surround.  Only then does she look down.

“There, under her feet, are a quadrillion tiny stones, gathered there to form the underlayment of what she might—perhaps—believe to be real.  They are formed as part of the natural order of things, shaped by grinding against all other stones in an ancient river of time.  Every stone is perfect in its own intrinsic way, formed as it was out of its own primordial way of being.  She bends down and scoops up a handful of the variegated gravel.  The colors brave the spectrum of universe and reflect every hue of light’s arc of possibility.  Sparkles emanate from inside the hearts of clear gemstones, as occasional rays of white light are simply reflected out, and find purchase in her human retinas.  They celebrate that first incarnation of God as physical matter, as solid mass and rock, as molten magma, cooled and coalesced into earth, bound by gravity’s longing, circling faithfully about what it forever loves.  “These are the jewels of God’s own treasure,” she breathes, as she rolls them between her palms.

“She takes a step and notices the cushion created by movement of slick shiny pebbles sliding over their very selves and providing a safe way for feet to transverse the vastness of this nave.  She smiles, thankful for the insight.  Like most physical representations, these rocks suggest a metaphor for all the many ways of interpreting humanity’s god—one  who was there, must be there, just had to be there.  But how was he to be described?  How understood?  How worshiped, if indeed that was what he required?  She doesn’t pray for an answer.  That would be too simplistic.  She closes her eyes and touches the gratitude of being a form of life on a complex and eloquent planetary expression of Ultimate Being.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I texted ‘House of God’ to my priest, he actually read it.  That’s major!  I seem to have become a writer in this my last hurrah, and believe me, the most important thing for a writer is to find people who will occasionally read your words.  As an introvert I must think to talk, not talk to think.  Talking and thinking at the same time confounds me.  That’s why I’m so driven to write.  It’s my best way to reach for friendship.

This adventure at Redeemer has assuredly been a roundelay, a song that moves in circles.  Beginning as songs do in the choir room, it is circling ‘out-and-about’ the community, ‘up’ to Rise and Shine, ‘over-under-around-and-through’ Knittin’ Kittens, ‘on’ Sacred Ground, ‘over-the-hill’ to Second Half, and always ‘into’ the prayerful heart of Bible Study.  I love you Redeemer.  You are my church home.

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House of God

She sees it.  It’s there, hanging in the mist, wanting to become a real thing.  She swims in her thoughts, wanting to get there, sensing that this is the final answer—if there is a final answer.  Only at times like these does wanting make it so.  The haze clears as she nears, to reveal a stone church, once a place where people came for refuge, to worship and to pray.  They sensed it to be a sacred altar where God, if there was one, might hear what they had to say even to themselves.  Their prayer lay full-formed in their minds, wanting to be muscled into striving, into belief that such things are possible— into faith.

In the clarity of pre-dawn, she approaches the structure and wonders, Why is it so small?  Why so spare and lacking in any claim to magnificence?  She is not impressed.  Perhaps, she thinks, this is but a fool’s errand and I need not enter in.  I could leave, go back, give up, just go away and pretend I never even determined to haunt this old relic—but no.  She keeps on.  If there were outbuildings they are long gone and cleared away.  All that’s left is this one sanctuary reaching from out of the mist and beckoning to her.  She moves her feet, a studied pattern of will.  She wants to go inside and meet what she finds there waiting just for her. 

There must have been a steeple long ago, but all that’s left is a discontinuity of roofline where once rocks took on an upward urge and bravely pointed the way to spirit—or God.  If there were a door she would open it, but it has long ago succumbed to the ravages of time and age.  Only the memory of a door remains as the evidence of its past attachment, the holes left by long lost bolts and rustic cinctures.  She reaches out to touch the tiny apertures.  They are really there.  Satisfied, she engages feet and steps inside.  The dawn has not yet found its way inside this shaded vestibule.  She stops to breathe and say a prayer of thanks for this quiet entrance into what was surely a place of prayer, where folk arrived in safety, from who knows what alarms.  A deep breath and she draws herself in her entirety into the main vault of the surround.  Only then does she look down.

There, under her feet, are a quadrillion tiny stones, gathered there to form the underlayment of what she might believe as real.  They are formed as part of the natural order of things, shaped by grinding against all other stones in an ancient river of time.  Every stone is perfect in its own intrinsic way, formed as it was out of its own primordial way of being.  She bends down and scoops up a handful of the variegated gravel.  Their colors brave the spectrum of universe and reflect every hue of light’s arc of possibility.  Sparkles emanate from inside the hearts of clear gemstones, as occasional rays of white light are simply reflected out, and find purchase in her human retinal plane.  They celebrate that first incarnation of God as physical matter, as solid mass and rock, as molten magma, cooled and coalesced into earth, bound by gravity’s longing, circling faithfully about what it forever loves.  “These are the jewels of God’s own treasure,” she breathes, as she rolls them between her palms.

She takes a step and notices the cushion created by movement of slick shiny pebbles sliding over their very selves and providing a safe way of proceeding for feet to transverse the vastness of the nave.  She smiles, thankful for understanding.  Like most physical representations, these rocks are a metaphor for all the many ways of interpreting a god that was there, must surely be there, just had to be there.  But how was he to be described?  How understood?  How worshiped, if indeed that was what he required?  She doesn’t pray for an answer.  That would be too simplistic.  She closes her eyes and feels the gratitude of being a form of life on a complex and eloquent planetary expression of Ultimate Being.

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Chronos

Chronos, full of himself,

  cut a swath in the fabric of time

  with one great sweep

  of his mighty scythe.

Then he was eaten up with remorse

  at the thought of so many lovely minutes

  sacrificed to his impetuosity.

He swore a solemn oath

  for all to hear and remember:

“Between those who love

  minutes shall become eternal,

  shall live forever as timeless moments.”

There is an enchanted space

  between “the you” and “the me”

  where all can be,

Where time is not measured

  in fascist minutes and hours,

  but instead calibrates itself

 in slices of forever.

Seconds goose-step past,

  an ordered flow

  of diminutive helmeted Gestapo,

  moving on, marking time.

But we aren’t recognized

  nor counted in the enchanted

  hollow of our space.

Be patient.  Yes.

Step carefully, slowly.

This is unmapped territory.

Phallic imperatives do not apply,

  do not compute.

The urge and urgency

  of goal set and achieved,

  of point wagered and won,

  object objectified.

Between “the us”

  all these are null.

Time has been neutered.

Flow has assumed

  an aspect of the feminine.

Action leads to action

  as rationality condones.

Gone is striving to completion,

  to resolution.

Time has appropriated

  for itself new meaning.

Each moment contains

   and is contained by

   all the moments that ever were

   or ever will become.

In the quiet spiral of our ocean conch,

I hear only silence,

   save surge of breath and beat of heart.

As we intertwine,

   eyes open wide and clear,

   time looks graciously away,

   and leaves us to our sacred space.

My eyes feast upon

  the tender curve of your lips.

My fingers touch and trace

  their gentle arch and swell,

  meeting left and right.

Time has gifted us this moment

  that minutes cannot define,

  describe, delimit.

More than happy, I am happiness.

With no goal to strive toward,

No plan unrolls before me

  demanding that I “do” in order to “be”.

“I am that I am”, as “you are surely you.” 

Dare I plagiarize the poesy of the divine?

It was Moses’ God first coined that line,

His as flame, mine constrained to word.

The winds of your love

  flow gentle through my hair

  while those silken silver strands

  cocoon the enchantment of our magic.

In a land far away

  but as close as your next breath,

  where all moments, that ever were

  converge, and  time becomes eternal.

All minutes become moments

  in one temporal orgasmic scream.

This is the land where time stands still

  and hearts skip beats,

  and worlds come wobbling

  and lurching to a stop.

There is food here for philosophers,

  but I am merely sated and fulfilled,

  forever being and becoming love.

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