Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bliss

There is a chilly wind out of the west today but the sky is clear and the sun is shining. I am finding that my runs are becoming a spiritual time for me, a time of reflection and contemplation. 
 This morning it felt that the wind blew away the angst of these past few days, the sadness and anxiety of loss, the angry sorrow that has filled my heart. I felt lighter somehow, like the Red Tail Hawk I saw soaring in the gusty winds at the top of the ridge. I watched him dipping and gliding over the cedars as I ran past an open field. I felt his freedom. I felt gratitude, and I put my hands together and I thanked the universe: for my good health and that of my friends and family, for my home and my place on this planet, and I wished for peace for all people. I thought of those without homes, without love, without health, without peace and my feeling of gratitude deepened. I said a silent thank you again. My hands fell back to my waist as I ran and I felt my skin prickle up in goosebumps, but not from a chill. It was more of an answer, it felt like an acknowledgement of my prayer, that I had been heard and noted. I continued to run up the hill, but with a lighter step, the warmth of the sun on my shoulders, a heavy weight lifted.

When I got home, I sat in the warmth of the sun streaming through my window, and closed my eyes to soak it in. I rested my head on the back of the sofa and  I felt what could only be called bliss, a feeling that has been most uncommon in recent days. I welcomed it with an open heart and a smile, a blissful smile.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm Sorry

      It has been over a month since Hurricane Sandy blew through, taking lives, destroying homes, and in my part of the east coast, knocking thousands of trees to the ground, either by uprooting or breaking in half. The noise that night was fearsomely loud, and I was frightened: of a tree falling on my home here in the woods, for the wildlife, the owls and the hawks, the chickadees and the cardinals, the fox and raccoons, that they had a safe place to hide out of harm's way. But there was no such place that night for any of us. Although my home came away miraculously unscathed, many others were damaged, some destroyed. There was no way to go further than a a few hundred yards from home in the following week due to fallen trees and power lines, and having no power or generator, little way to hear what had happened elsewhere. I walked up the road and spoke with my neighbors in front of their stone home, and we all were thankful that things weren't worse, not knowing that for many, including us, life would never be the same. Over the days that followed, we listened to our little crank up radio, and heard about the devastation to the Jersey shore, to Long Island, New York, & Connecticut, and our hearts sank. 

     For ten days we lived without electricity, but having a propane stove for cooking, a hot tub for water with which to bathe, rain barrels for flushing and  six five-gallon water bottles for drinking, we were far better off than many of our neighbors. I cooked up soups and stews, trying to use up my freezer stock before I lost it, shared it with my friends and neighbors, baked for the comfort of the fragrance, and waited. 

     When finally we could drive safely, we went out. It was a terrible ride, one that shook me, and saddened me. The fearsome noise we heard in the night was a tornado, spawned by the hurricane, that cut a one hundred  foot wide swath of destruction through a valley that orients east to west. Hundreds of tall stately pines, ash and oak trees, some broken and jagged, others with their roots and surrounding soil creating twenty foot high bases at the foot of the downed trees, all of these beautiful, wrecked woodland souls, lying like so many dead soldiers after a battle in the forest, their jagged stumps looking like broken bones. I heard in my heart the cries of the trees, their spirits lost, and I cried too. I kept saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry as we came upon yet another scene of seemingly impossible woodland destruction. On the ride home we did not speak and when we got to our truly miraculously undamaged home, I crawled into bed, too numb to think , too sad to function but unable to get the sorrow of  the shattered forests out of my head. We caused this. We humans, warming and changing our planet without a thought or care for the consequences.

     In the days that followed, I saw a multitude of similar scenes, but none quite as horrific as the tornado twisted valley. The world was noisy now with the roar of generators and chainsaws. We were able to venture further afield, and the shock and dismay pummeled me as I followed now unfamiliar roads with their guardrails topped by cut off remnants of the trees that had closed the roads, stumps that made me think of amputations, hundreds and hundreds.  I cried for the trees that had stood for decades.

     It has been over a month since this storm changed my little part of the world. I have wanted to write, but was not able to find the words. Seeing the images of the seaside destruction, the people's homes in splinters, the boards I walked in my childhood summers and not too long ago, scattered and strewn across the sand, seeing the sad faces of those who had lost everything, I again was struck by the uncomfortable feeling that we caused this. We brought this down upon ourselves, and it is up to us to try to turn the tide of our wasteful, wanton ways. We can, but will we?

       Then came today, the day after one of the largest massacres in our country's history, one made all the more heinous because of the innocent little victims, the 20 children, and the 8 adults who lived the last moments of their short lives experiencing a terror inconceivable to the average person. Maybe a veteran of war can know that horror, but in our country the majority of [we] civilians walk through our lives innocent and free from fear. Hearing the news, watching our president choke back tears, I cried again. And, again, I said I'm sorry. I am sorry for the loss of these children (and adults) and their families, their town, our country, for these lives barely begun, ended in such a horrific manner. I am sorry for the violence in our culture, the ease by which unstable people can obtain lethal firearms. I am sorry for the lack of treatment options for those very people who use those firearms to blast their way into our consciousness, shattering lives in the process. We have brought this upon ourselves by limiting or closing mental health facilities, for not listening to the families of these mentally ill people when they ask for help, for letting the almighty dollar dictate who gets health care and who suffers in silence until their demons overtake them.

      Houses can be rebuilt, stronger and better, and if we are wise, located out of harm's way. Trees will sprout through the aftermath of the storm and grow stately and tall, albeit not in my lifetime, but come back they will. We can change our habits to ones that require less burning of fossil fuel, less spewing of heated gases into the atmosphere, and perhaps slow down and eventually reverse the damage we have caused to our planet. But those 28 lives are gone forever, each of those individuals with their one life, gone, never to return. And the hole that is left by their untimely deaths unfill-able. Can we take this experience and finally learn from it ? I think we can, but will we? 
I'm so very sorry.









Tuesday, October 16, 2012

He was with me for 30 years, lying by my side every night when I slept, always waiting by my pillow for bedtime. A comforting presence in times of sorrow, he absorbed more of my tears than I care to think about:  the death of my Mom, my beloved Grandparents, the sad passing of my heart's companions, Jessi, Buster, & Blackie Rabbit; through divorce and heartbreak, surgeries, cancer and  painful injury, he was there for me to cry on, supporting the place that hurt, to hold close to my heart, absorbing anguished tears, demanding nothing in return.

He was also my traveling companion for many journeys. An uncomfortable flier, when on solo trips overseas, I'd hold him close, hidden under a blanket, eyes squeezed shut for take off and landing (the scariest times). A  flight  inspector winked at me one time saying "oh, you are not traveling alone" after passing my bag through the x-ray machine. He was my pillow, my arm rest, my security squeeze when planes got bumpy.

He traveled with me everywhere I went for 30 years, he was wise and worn, thread bare and comfy and I loved him as much as I ever loved any one in my life. I matters not to me that he was a stuffed bear, he was my Teddy, and he brought me more comfort and solace over the years than I can ever say.

I somehow lost him on my trip home from Vermont this week. I was driving and he was, as usual, my arm rest. All I can think is that he fell out of the car when we stopped and I did not notice. When I got home I looked for him, couldn't find him and assumed he was left in the car. The next day when I found he wasn't in the car, the panicked phone calling began. I called my friend, I called the diner where we stopped, I actually tracked down the phone number of the NY Thruway rest stop, and spoke to someone there. I drove back to the diner to ask in person, and rummaged through the outside trash bins where the parking lot cleaners had thrown their dust pan full of leaves and pine needles and crushed paper coffee cups.

Teddy is gone and I feel like a part of my life has been taken away from me. The part that kept me young. That kept me safe. That would be with me forever.

To most everyone I must seem crazy. How does one shed such bitter tears over a lost toy? and yet I have cried harder these past two days than I have in years, feeling as bereft as I have ever felt over the greatest losses of my life. It's how I feel, my sadness and hurt are visceral, and I can not help it.


 I know that life is hard and that there are many things that people go through that are far worse than what I am dealing with now. And that many would say that if this is the worst thing to ever happen to me than I am lucky. But I don't feel lucky right now. I am heartbroken and sad beyond sad.            









Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black Dog sitting on my chest

We went  to an Arts festival in a nearby town. The main streets were closed off and tents were up with vendors selling everything from glass to pottery to paintings, jewelery, and woodwork. Fine artful things, beautiful things.We walked along the first line of tents and I paused to look at a painting, then some bracelets. Every time I looked up, I was alone. When I'd look for Greg, he was usually standing 15-20 feet away, waiting. I'd join him and we'd stroll along. I would be drawn to another  booth and would look at the creations, sometimes chatting with the artist about the work, admiring it and complementing them on their collection and talent. I'd look up and around and there was Greg 20 feet away, waiting. It went on this way down one street and up another, and I got lonelier and lonelier as time went by. I tried to encourage him to look at some of the artist's wares, but he said he was just there for me. But he wasn't there for me, he was waiting there for me. For me to wander alone from booth to booth. At one point he asked if there was anything I wanted him to buy me and I said yes, I want everything; what I should have said was that I wanted his company, I wanted him with me, not waiting for me. There were hundreds of people there, music set up on every corner, cafes opened to the sidewalks, tables outside. People eating and drinking, laughing, chatting and shopping. The day was glorious and fine and I was as lonely as a body could be. Why can I not be happy with what I have? Why am I always sad and alone even when surrounded by thousands of people? We drove home with me in an angry blue funk. I went to bed and didn't get up until the next day.

This is what depression does.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Discord

The roar of the chainsaw hurt my ears. It chewed through the wood relentlessly, chips flying into the air. I had to turn away, heart sick, unable to watch .

My father was an unhappy man. An only child, living out in the country, going to a one room school, he hadn't many friends and was a lonely boy. He was indulged by his doting mother, was well fed and well pampered. The few early photos we have are of a chubby boy with a petulant expression on his face, wearing knickers and a newsboy's hat in the early 1930's. He did well in school and attended the newly built high school in town, but because of his insular up bringing and innate reticence, he made few lasting friendships. Then commuting to college, driving into the city each day with his father, not having the dorm roommate experience, the after class activities, nor the social night life of a young man in college, his chances of cultivating friendships were impossible. He did not meet my mother until graduate school, and she was the only woman he dated. He still lived at home, commuting by train to New York City. He did  stint in the Navy  where he was stationed in the South and relegated to cleaning the big tanks in the bottom of the warships, since he did not seem skilled enough to do anything else. At that time, a degree in chemistry did not get one too far in the military. He was spared the horrors of war, albeit spending it lying on his back, scraping away, alone in the bowels of his ships. Again, this solitary existence precluded establishing any lasting friendships, if by then, he was even capable of doing so.
He married married my mother when they both were in their late twenties, which was ancient in those days. His mother disapproved of his choice: there was no woman in the world good enough for her "Books", the nickname she gave him because he  always had his head in a book. Mom told me about having dinner at his home in the country with his parents and their yappy little mutt. This obnoxious little dog seemed to channel my grandmother's hostility towards my mother and would spend the dinner hour under the table nipping at Mom's ankles and dodging as she tried surreptitiously to kick him.

With his parent's help, they bought a house in the suburbs, close to where my father had gotten a job as a chemist, and  a  good distance from his parents, for which my mother was very grateful. They had the four of us in short order, my brother and sister barely a year apart, then me and my little sister three years later, barely a year apart. Dad worked a lot and Mom stayed home with her babies, at one point with three of us in diapers. We lived in a small 3 bedroom house, which was fine when we were little, but by the time I was five, a larger house was in order.

Again, with his parent's help, a 5 bedroom home in a lovely wooded development was built and we moved in. I remember swinging on the wild grape vines (we called them monkey vines) and climbing huge mountains of dirt as other homes were built around us.

In those early years, things were quiet at home. We were put in Catholic school, and Mom got a teaching job in the same school so she could keep an eye on us and make sure that we were protected from the cruelty and physical abuse that unfortunately were part and parcel of a Catholic education. I remember school being fun once I got past kindergarten and the horror of Sister Christine, a middle aged nun who appeared to hate children and delighted in punishment. She used her ruler with whipsaw precision, but also was capable  using  words and her fierce cruelty, to cause a five year old girl to pee her pants almost on a daily basis out of sheer terror. I skated through, scared to death, unaware of the ramifications of having Mom teaching downstairs. I waited  in fear to bear the brunt of Sister Christine's brutality, but was, in my mind, somehow spared.

I do not remember a time when cocktails were not a part of my parents evening ritual. Dad came home and after changing out of his suit, went right to his bar set on the kitchen counter. He made Manhattans, Gimlets, Whiskey Sours and the occasional Old Fashioned for Mom and himself. There was no pattern to the days, he made whatever suited him. I liked the Gimlets best when given a sip, with their limey bitterness, hated whiskey and scotch, but loved the whiskey sours , which he made with a can of frozen lemonade and ice....a slushie before slushies were invented- but it was a slushie that warmed you as well as cooled you at the same time. They were more of a special occasion or weekend drink. Mom and Dad would sip their drinks while reading the Courier News and then watching the news on TV. The war in Vietnam was raging, but I was too young to understand it, just as I was too young to know why Mom objected to Dad's making yet another round of drinks before dinner, then drinking it alone. The clinking ice in the glass was a comforting sound then. With dinner came a can or two of beer, a smelly, nasty drink, and then the arguing began. Early on, I could not follow the pointed barbs and snipes of conversation, but as I grew I was able to see that all was not well in our unhappy household. The dinner table could be filled with laughter and silliness but it was more often a battleground. Those times I would keep my head down and sneak food to our dog, Daisy, just wanting it to be over.

When the after-dinner clean up was finished and we all escaped to our rooms was when the magic began. Dad was a gifted improvisational pianist and when the house quieted down, he would sit down at the piano and play. Moon River, The Shadow of Your Smile, Young at Heart, lovely ballads and jazz standards, blending into one another seamlessly with Dad's signature flourishes and complex chord changes. It was as if he was transported to another world and turned into an artist, a musician, a man of incredible gifts, his existence as a work-a-day chemist and father of four left in the stardust of his imaginative renderings on the family piano. He'd play us to sleep, and I imagine that that was probably the happiest time of the day for him, actually, the only time he was ever happy. If I crept out of my room and down the hall, I could hide behind the bathroom door and listen to him play his wonderful tunes, punctuated by his clinking glass.

As the years went by, he played less and less as arthritis stiffened his fingers prematurely. My sisters took piano lessons, but their plunking was particularly discordant when compared to Dad's graceful play. He would attempt some of his favorites, but was easily frustrated and no doubt horribly depressed by the loss of his finger's agility. After a while, the piano was silent, just sitting in the living room corner, ignored and forgotten, the room darkened and empty but for Dad and his clinking glass. I wonder, did he hear the tunes in his head? Did he think back on his music and shed a tear for what he had lost? His talent was extraordinary and so it's loss had to be devastating. I no longer wonder why he drank himself into a daze every night.

Dad lived in the house alone for almost 20 years after Mom died. He continued to drink, but nevermore in the living room. It came time to move him closer to my brother, to sell his home of 50 years, winnow through his possessions, and let another family build memories of their own in our home. A lot of the furniture was old and the worse for wear, our old bedrooms turned into impersonal guest rooms the day after we moved out. Dad chose what he wanted to bring to his new, last home.

I was down the hall in the den when I heard the chainsaw start up. I could not imagine what tree was being cut out front. I walked to the front door and saw with a sickening jolt, my brother and brother-in-law cutting up Dad's piano to throw into the dumpster. It was not playable, nor fixable and this was the only recourse left to consider. I think now, there had to have been some other option, one not so violent and so permanent, one that would not tear through my heart like that saw through our piano. I walked out of the house and up the street to Evergreen Drive. I turned right towards my childhood friend Joanie's old house and started to cry, inconsolable and alone.

The emptying and sale of Dad's house was a painful rite of passage, one where middle age had to be acknowledged, childhood gone forever. A lifetime of memories, packed up, divvied up, given away, thrown away, over and done. Dad now lives in his 2 bedroom apartment at a 'retirement' home, surrounded by his few chosen possessions, awaiting  the inevitable. I still wonder, do those songs flow through his memory like they do mine? Does he think back to his piano playing days and realize how good he really was? I hope so, and I hope that the memory of his music is a comfort to him now, as it is to me.











Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Love Is


I am afraid for my friend . I saw her last night and she was not herself, snappish and seemingly implacably angry with her husband. When I asked her if she was OK she said No I'm not. A cold wash of fear swept through my soul and  I felt fearful driving home, with a sore heart for these two people whom I love like my own family. I was unsettled all night and awoke anxious with a vague feeling of dread hanging over me. I am feeling this as if it is happening to me and it is troubling my soul. I think that is what love is, being able to feel another's pain as if it were your own. I want to help, I want to make it go away, I want them to be happy, I don't want this rift to grow and cause a split that cannot be repaired, but I can do nothing. I tried calling her this morning and got no response, which worries me even more. It pains me that she's going through her day sad and lonely and confused and angry. I want just to tell her that I love her, to hold on, that she can work her way through this, to have faith in herself and the power of love. I want her to know that she is not alone, that she has a whole tribe at her back and me by her side, always. I just want to hear her voice. She has held me when I have despaired more times than I can count, allowing me to sob out my sorrows in her arms. Now I want to be the one who does the holding. Many times when standing alone, your world tilts in a different direction. That is when a steadfast presence is needed, a strong and sturdy love to lean on. That is what I want to be to this dear-to-my-heart friend, if she will allow me the honor.

Just Own Up

Don't I have enough guilt, catholic guilt, don't I put enough of that stuff on myself, as in everything is my fault that I should not have to hear it from my partner of 12 years whenever anything goes wrong? The dogs rob the bag of pretzels/chips/loaf of bread/stick of butter off of the counter and it is always my fault even though I did not leave the pretzels/chips/bread etc out on the counter in the first place. I am supposed to look and check for these things. When the front door doesn't close right, I must have done something, when the basement light does not work it was me, when something is broken I am always the one who must have broken it because heaven knows, no one else will ever take responsibility. We are a family of 2. 2 adults and 2 dogs. There are not that many of us that can be responsible for these mishaps, and there is only so much that can be blamed on the dogs. When I make a mistake I say so, if I am wrong I admit it. It is not easy and the temptation to shirk blame is always there, but I find that it is easier it accept responsibility than not.

 When the hard plastic spigot was snapped off of the bottom of the rain barrel someone might have hit it when he was shoveling. Might have? when 50 gallons of water comes gushing out of the hole in the barrel, I think one would know beyond all doubt that they hit the spigot with the shovel, there is no might have about it. When one of my favorite things turns up broken, and I find it's shards lying on the counter I do not want to hear that it might have been anything. You either did it or you didn't. It is pretty black and white to me, but my partner dwells in the gray area of maybes and might haves to the extent that he will never own up to a mistake, ever. If I hand him the pitcher of juice and it slips through his hands it is my fault. If a part is missing I must have lost it. When the screen insert for our custom made storm door went missing and the only explanation was that in one of his cleaning rampages he threw it out, that became a major issue. I do not deal with the basement where it is stored, and I do not throw anything away, another major fault of mine. And yet, there was no owning up, no uh oh I made a mistake. When I said it must have gotten thrown away, there was no yeah, maybe. There was the dead silence of denial. An then I am the one who is supposed to go to the screen making guy and have a new screen insert made. We still have glass in that door because I will not go have that screen made, and it's been years. I do push back and am not meek about it.

Maybe this is my payback for never admitting to the things I did when I was a child, like eat the last chunk of chocolate bar that my mom was saving for her late night snack...I blamed my sister. Or when I squeezed out all of Dad's tubes of oil paints onto his palette because I loved the colors and the texture of the paints as they oozed out of the tubes in beautiful worm- like  ropes...I blamed my sister for that too. When one got in trouble in my house it was a fearsome experience. A lot of yelling and screaming and spanking, then humiliating teasing by my brother to top it off. So it was no wonder that we all blamed each other for what ever we did; no one wanted to take the punishment. We probably evened out all of our misdeeds anyway with our round robin of blame. We could have just owned up to our own transgressions and taken our own licks and it would have worked out the same.

So now I have to reap what I have sewn, it seems. Mr. Might Have is a good man and I love him dearly. His goodness outweighs his occasional foray into stupidity. Maybe the punishment for owning up was even worse in his house when he was young. And if this is his worst fault, I should count myself lucky, I suppose. But just once I would like to hear the words Yes I did it or it was my fault, I'm sorry. Not after the fact, but at the moment. I pile enough  guilt on my own shoulders as it is, I really don't need any more.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

gone

The bell rings
in the wind
a hollow clang
echoing the empty
clamor of my heart's
sorrow.
A hole a void a space of nil
is what is left
after this long goodbye.
The missing peace
lost in the grass, in the
forest, in the sky,
in this life,
unrelenting
implacable,
gone.
like you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Twenty One Years

I can still hear her smiling in my head,
walking like a duck,
cowlick looking like a bald spot,
 humming tunelessly tone deaf,
 laughing at a bad joke,
questioning, answering, a walking encyclopedia.
 Mismatched color schemes,
 plastic ivy wrapped around a lamp,
 instant breakfast,
ugly wallpaper,
gaudy earrings,
mascara, eyelash crimper for fancy times,
 sewing machine humming in the night,
 patterns on the dining room table,
kitchen phone calls of pigeon Italian,
lost in the shuffle
Sunday dinner after church debacle of
uncontrolled laughter, shoulders shaking down the pew,
 tears falling,
snowdrops &  lady ferns,
 lost love,
finally friends,
 but too late
for the middle child,
the troubled child,
the lonely
and the lost.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

saudade

“The Portuguese call it saudade: a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable. Love affairs, miseries of life, the way things were, people already dead, those who left and the ocean that tossed them on the shores of a different land - all things born of the soul that can only be felt.” ― Anthony De Sa 
 So someone in this world has a word for what I feel almost all of the time, a feeling that I have struggled to define... I  hear Hejira a song that steals my soul away , the  fragrance of  honeysuckle on a warm summer breeze, I can lie abed too long of a morning and there it is :saudade. There is not a day that goes by in my life, nor has there ever been, that I did not feel it: saudade. It is more a part of my soul than I am, than anything else is. It is a wonder to me that there is a word for this hollow, wordless feeling. It is not just want, not just desire, not just need, not just sadness, not just desolation nor just hopelessness: saudade. A longing for what we know not and in the not knowing we are moved, usually to tears, sometimes to write.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

when do the feelings fade
  those of love lost?
              do they swirl
and dance around one's head
                              like an aura,
like a wisp of fragrance that carries the memory
                                               of years gone past?
                   is there a time
when, as smoke through a flue,
  they dissipate
 leaving still smoldering embers,
        embers living, yet
                  damped down deep