Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thursday 13: Seeing is Believing

I want to thank my pal Ces for revamping my blog. I hope I do it proud.
Sometimes I wonder if my blog is boring. Often I'm tempted to explain or apologize when I write about people like Andy or Joey: sometimes I say, "Oh, you might think I don't know what I'm talking about but I'm a business owner and I think things through and I don't wave flags or jump on soapboxes if I don't know what I'm talking about."
At points in my life I've been accused of being too touchy-feely, too emotional, too bleeding-heart-ish. That often translates to me that I am not being substantive, or logical, or well informed--and I don't think I'm paranoid in picking up the assumption that that is not a very
respected way to be.
Such is my state of believing that hearts bleed and love heals. I'm living a life of deep love and there's not much I can do about it these days, unless I'm willing to be numb, which I'm not. Except for this winded introduction, I've pretty much stopped explaining and apologizing about what I see and believe and feel, and why. I'm kind of at a "take me or leave me" stage in life. Hey--why not? I may be petty and oblivious sometimes, but I'm also kind and fun. And let it be said again: I do show up and try.

So. This Thursday 13 I am writing about "seeing". Not just staring or looking at but really noticing and well, seeing. I am honoring those around me who see:

1. Jessica: Nothing gets by this daughter of mine. Any phony, pretend, or manipulative cover-up is sniffed out and hunted down by her sincerity radar. She solves murder cases months before the police suspect the heartbroken husband is having an affair with the babysitter, and she psychs out the contestants on American Idol long before their true colors appear. Jessica can look pre-occupied, but she never is. She is an observer of human beings and their quirks like no one else I know. If sincerity could be packaged, she would be the first one to see it.

2. JB: Years ago I was driving to Maine with JB when I first noticed flowers dancing in the wind. And a time after that I was walking with JB when I first saw the brillant color of a blue sky. I had misplaced my 5th grade wonder until JB beseeched me to roll down proverbial hills with her. When she's happy, she sees a world at play. She pulls out her crayons or special wine glasses and throws a party. And she sees to it that I play right along with her.

3. Dad: You die and then you show up every year with some new flower or plant overflowing in my or mom's yard. How do you do that, Dad? You've outdone yourself this Spring. The bushes are awesome. I remember so much of your silly advice, Dad. I never thought I would, but it's so easy now to see what you meant.

4. Ces: My best friend brings vibrant words and colors to most of my days. She laughs her way through laundry, rivets me with tales of her palette knives and childhood in the Philippines, and even in the quietest moments, she sees me as I really am--even the tears and quirks and confusion. And then she welcomes and accepts me anyway.

5. Lily and Amy: these two women who live down the street offer small and steady acts of friendship: a dropped-off plate of homemade tarts, a minature rose bush in a tin can, extra mulch all packed up and ready to go. In a pinch they will feed our dog and water our grass. They see, as JB and I do, that finally we all have found the hang-out, take-care-of, trusted local friends we've longed for.

6. Janna: JB and I are trying our best to host this holiday party--we are stretched thin everywhere, and you just bring us each a plate of all the little-of-this and little-of-that food we have prepared. You don't ask: you just see we won't have time to eat on our own so you bring it to us. You are Jessica's friend, not ours, but you are also family.

7. Jane Mc: In Northern New England a psychotherapist named Jane improves and saves lives and relationships through her experience and skill and caring and competence. She sees straight to the heart of "issues" like pain and loss and defenses and pride, and she walks with you until you see all this for yourself.

8. Stella the Dog: It has now been a year since this tight, fearful, distant dog arrived. I can't say exactly when she started to fall into the safety and love surrounding her, but she now does. We have tamed eachother. We miss oneanother when we're apart. We see love.

9. Mike H: This friend of mine takes my side no matter what. Over 25 years he always defends me, listens to me, supports my point of view, and always always makes sure I understand I am doing the best I can. Mike sees unconditional love and he communicates that to me every time.

10. Melissa: There's no kidding anybody about the stamina and patience required to bring up two charmingly bright and active little girls. I know you're exhausted most of the time, and probably confused and amibivalent sometimes on top of that. None-the-less, you manage to see birds, dogs, the natural world, children, and all the little moments. You don't have to see all this, but you do.

11. Artists and Writers: I did not grow up with either anywhere near me. Now, the world is bright and deep and daring because of the artists and writers who share and show me what they see in so many different styles and ways.

12. Mom: My mother is 91 with no memory. And yet every time I'm with her she says something like "kj, look at the sky. Doesn't that cloud look like a dog?" or "kj, Don't those colors look funny together?" I only learned it recently, but my Mother sees.

13. The ducks: I am sitting in my back yard on the brick patio, drinking coffee and thinking nothing. A mother duck, walks through the side gate, just waddling in a straight line. She is followed in single file by 8 baby ducks, also waddling in a straight line. They walk right in front of me, reach the fence 4 feet ahead, make a sharp left turn, and follow the fence, still in single file, until they reach the end, where they skoot under the fence and disappear. I will never forget this moment. It is registered in technicolor in my mind. It was a moment to see.
Let's face it: it's all to easy to walk through life and not see. Demands and chores and hurts and challenges and plain old weariness make it hard to take the time to see. But the cost of not seeing is too high. At least that's my opinion.

The Leprechaun

One friend thinks it’s up to his parents and anyone else would be crazy to take him in. Another thinks he’s at the make-or-break point and if he has to go back home, his future is toast, his chances are over.

He’s a little boy by anybody’s standard—not yet five feet tall with blond bowl shaped hair and a short sleeved baseball suit that somehow lets you know he is the pitcher and shortstop. Oh, and he has the smile of a little angel-imp.

His name is Andy and he is staying with his Aunt Lulu because he was in all kinds of trouble in the chaotic house where his exhausted mother and drug dependent father cannot control any of their six boys, ages 16 to 3.

He probably does have attention deficit disorder and he definitely panics when things don’t go his way. He can’t fall asleep without someone lying with him, and months ago he stayed up all night for several nights after his father threatened to kill his hamster.

He does such an authentic leprechaun imitation you expect to see him jump onto the chandelier and swing away.

There is pretty much agreement by everyone involved that if he goes back home his trouble will follow him to adulthood, and probably settle there for the rest of his life. So his Aunt Lulu has completed a rescue mission and taken him in, enrolled him in 6th grade, and watched her single-woman life and career be imploded with the force of a turbine engine. She had no idea about the demands of after school and homework and baseball games and boring Saturdays and dinners and extra laundry and especially she had no idea about Andy’s occasional rage.

There are counselors and psychologists and supportive friends and there is true blue hope that Andy and Aunt Lulu might become a family. They are both trying, but it’s not looking good.

The friend who looks to Andy’s parents to shape up really knows this is not going to happen. And the other friend who believes the moment is near when this little boy either finds safety or is lost forever, knows you cannot create real resources where there are none. Both both fall asleep wondering what they might do to help Andy. They are looking at their full wonderful lives and know they cannot absorb a 12 year old boy without great great life-changing sacrifice. (Why couldn't I take him in?, they dare to think.) They push themselves to be realistic, but that is not an easy thing to do. It is easier than ignoring the reality of Andy’s situation altogether, but not by much.

If a person of any age were hurt in an auto accident, for example, or fainted at the movies, almost anyone would stick around to help, do what they could, and then feel good about it. (Couldn't I?) In a sense, Andy is hurt and fainting in slow motion, granted, but his injuries are just as critical. You can trick yourself into just standing and watching, but not really. You can also try to shake up and bitch down the agencies one would hope are equipped to step in and help, but the reality is they really aren't equipped--not for slow moving emotional damage.

Aunt Lulu maybe can’t do this. So then what? What is expected when honorable good people—those with busy lives and open hearts—see a good sweet child with the potential of the universe, teetering and trying to hold on to his dear life? A 12 year old child looking for a place to be safe so he can let go of the survival skills he’s had to learn and replace them with his true leprechaun self.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Joey and the Road Home

In my mind this is a feel-good story. I've writtten about Joey before: there is a Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3-- if you want to know more, head back to October 30th and you see another post on Joey.
But, really, this is all you need to know.
First his father died, just about falling on top of him.
Then, after ignoring his calls and pleas for the two weeks between when she left him at home and she was hospitalized, his mother died with the phone receiver still in her hand.
Then he was beset by full blown panic which resulted in five days in the psychiatric ward,
During which his arm was broken while he tried to break free of the four point restraints the substandard hospital staff had uneccessarily put him in.
Then he moaned and groaned and whinced and whined through months of a psychiatric residential program,
All the time perseverating about his mother and father,
From whom he had never been separated,
Not even during his work breaks, when he would call home,
And not even when he got home from work, when his mother would open the door for him at precisely the exact moment he walked up the steps.
It in now five years later. Joey eventually moved into a supervised apartment program where he has two roomates and a part time staff person who helps with meals and recreation.
It took a couple of years before he starting calling it home. In the meantime, the family house was sold, I-his-childhood-neighbor and his beloved aunt became "trustees" to assure he would not fall through the cracks, and Joey began a new life.
Last month he said to me, "I'm happy, kj". Before that he said, "I like it here". And before that he said, "I could have ended up in the street. Thank you for helping me".
This week Joey retired from his job of 42 years, as a Cleaner in a local hospital. They gave him a hundred dollar gift certificate at a local mall and threw a party for him.
Joey, now more often called "Joe", will be spending his days hanging out with his friend Paul, a mentally challenged man who told me when he first met me, "I don't know what I did right that God send Joey to be my friend".
Happy Trails, Joe. I'll try not to be too far away if you get in a jam.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thursday 13: Living It Up in the Garden

Warning: This post might be boring. You kind of have to have some interest or patience with gardening to put up with my # 9 yard tour.....
Notice: The spelling of Inpatients has been correctly changed to "Impatiens". This change is the result of a small overdue act of intelligent kindness from one best friend to another.

I can't think of anything I like better than working in the yard when it's comfortable enough to wear a tee-shirt and the sky is blue. And when I don't have my envelope length list of unfinished demands weighing on me.

JB and I moved into this house without an understanding that this third of an acre lot is pretty sunny and offered some landscaping fun. I'd never had full sun before--never!--and I love shopping at garden centers as much as I love bookstores. Add to this the unbelievable fact that I have non-work time like never before: these days I am still writing and pondering my next moves while I leisurely plan out my yard.

I'm an enthusiastic gardener but not an expert one. If you think about it, gardeners only get a limited amount of chances to paint their canvasses. I think that is why older people seem to be the best gardeners-they've had more opportunities and seasons to practice. To compensate for all that I don't know, my plan has always been to buy and plant things while they are blooming--that way I can actually see how the colors, size, height and duration will look with everything else around it. Last fall this plan fell apart when I had back surgery, so I'm really only on my second year of beginning to plan and plant.

I'm hopeful. Here's some of how I'm doing:

1. Last summer we hired someone to build up this "shade garden" in our front yard. He turned over the soil, pulled out some roots, and added about 4 inches of compost and top soil. The result: I can plant most things without worrying about hitting roots. Then I bought hostas and a few ferns. I planted the hostas in a circle around the tree. I've now added a couple of Bleeding Heart perrenials, a few begonias, ground cover in the lower right hand area, and today I started putting annual IMPATIENS (ha ha ces, I will no longer spell it wrong) around the outer rim of this half circle. I dug a trench all around the circle, using this fantastic spade I got for Christmas. I've never used a spade before (it's a flat shovel) and it's been fantastic in making a boundary. Oh, and I hauled and spread out mulch.

Here is the current view from the little room off the kitchen. This is project # 1, and it's just about finished. It took me about 6 hours to get all this done.

2. Here's Project # 2. I started with a messy area around the front lamp post. I dug it up and found thin hostile sheet metal someone had dug in, probably to keep the grass from spreading. I wanted to get the metal out so someday I wouldn't be nonchantly planting and all of a sudden I've sliced my hand. I tried to remove it, but it was hostiley hopeless. In the process, I sliced my finger. So I left the ##@%% metal, took my time making a border using flat rocks, and added as much topsoil and compost as I could. Then I planted dark pink IMPATIENS. They will flower all summer. This shot is incomplete--you have to imagine one or two more circular rows of inpatients. Project # 2 looks so simple and basic I'm embarrassed to admit how much time and energy it took. I'll leave it at that.

3. Project # 3: This is my favorite. Last year I hired two guys to dig up an area off the driveway for me. I wanted a half circle garden where I would mix perrenial flowers, herbs, and a few vegetables--tomato plants being one absolute necessity. Today I hope to plant 8 tomato plants, surrounded by marigolds and basil, which all serve to compliment and protect eachother from disease and bugs; and leeks and onions, which I've never done. Last week I planted little lettuce just behind the # 9 rock. The garden will take the most time and effort all summer--it will need to be weeded and I will keep adding and thinning plants, following my plan of planting and clustering while they are in bloom.

4. Project # 4: The back yard and the back of the garage--I am giddy that the ferns and begonia-like leaves I planted last spring have come back!! I will add pink IMPATIENS in between and that will be that.

Projects # 5, 6, & 7: This area will take me a few years to finish. I want to put a stone path of some kind to JB's Magic Cottage, the area against the fence is still a big question mark, and the patch of dirt that you see will shortly be jampacked with zinnias. Last year we had freshly cut flowers all summer. If you have never fallen in love with zinnias, I recommend that you do. Give them sun, feed them once a month, and cut how ever many you want and they will happily multiply for you.

8. This is a shame. I have tried to make this shot vertical. I have tried!! In Adobe where it is stored, it IS vertical. NOTE: MY PROFESSIONAL BLOG DESIGNER WHOSE FIRST INITIAL IS "C" STRAIGHTENED THIS OUT FOR ME. IF IT'S NOT OBVIOUS, I HAVE FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES. That said, here's my most exciting yard project so far. Last year JB and I planted 3 flowering trees. This one is right outside my office and its flowers are AWESOME.

9. Here's the first flower from the garden. I can't tell you what it is but it's spikey blue. In the plant world, blue is not a frequent color, so I try to appreciate it more.

10. Ok, I admit it: I spent $ 30 for this "Cinnamon Fern". The leaves inside are actually ferns but they look just like a cinnamon stick. I saw it and fell it love with it. I justified it by telling JB it was a gift for her, which she accepted graciously. She wants to put this in a pot somewhere on the patio, but it will need to find a place in the ground before next winter.

11. Project # 8: The area behind the Magic Cottage is a little sanctuary. There is traffic on the other side of the fence but JB and I pretend the whizzing of cars is actually the sound of ocean waves (magical thinking 101). Last summer I planted these boxwood shrubs which will hopefully grow into eachother. Last fall they were joined by flowering tree # 2. I don't know how this will develop, but I like the feel of it so far.

12. What can I say? This shot pretty much sums up my garden and my life these days.

13. Oh, one more addition to my garden: Mr. Ryan gets baptised. He already walks with the angels. Maybe not the best transition, but, hey, this Thursday 13 is about growth afterall. :)

Here's wishing you all a fine Memorial Day Weekend. In this neck of the woods, summer now begins!

Monday, May 21, 2007

An October Walk in the Park

If I saw you weighing,
about your place and space

and I watched
your emptiness take shape,
one day content
in the simple act of cooking dinner
with basil on your fingers,

other times withdrawing
from aching disappointment
or confused by all those dualities
that lead you to the familiar
and unknown,
to the window
and the cellar,
all at the same time.
all at once,

If I watched your hearftfelt effort
to find yourself
at the place you first got lost,
I would confirm
there is no shortcut
and, fearful of sounding pompous,
I would think
about a few things
that may help,

I could tell you it is what it is,
that you have to feel your way
through jagged walls sometimes,

but in the end you learn to balance
between the mundane
and the sacred.

I could tell you the confusion stays.
It doesn’t ever really shrink,
sometimes because of real or imagined hurts
and sometimes because DNA works that way.
But—this is important—
I think the wonder stays too--
and so does the part you already know—
the part about how monumentally love matters.

So here it is.
This is where you might lose it--
these damn dualities.
I can’t tell you why you might
wake up in turbulence

When the rest of the world is busy
watching Jeopardy

or why you might soar
only to crash hard and tight.

But I can tell you
to expect confusion,

to learn to work with it,
to work around it
and beside it.

And I can tell you
there will always be

exhaulted wonder,
moments when the stunning fireworks
pull you from your roots
and you know every single thing--
all of it compacted into
the shining molecule
of acceptance.

Does this help?
Can you stay with yourself
when everything shifts
and you have to accept
before you seek?
Can you give yourself a break
and let not knowing
fill you in all the right places?

I HopeYou Can.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Special Thursday 13 (plus 2): JB

Even though I refer to her by several names, nobody really calls her JB. She is fierce about her privacy and has sometimes viewed my blog as an alien force. But in a weak moment, prompted by my pleasant and persistent pleas over many months, she has agreed to let me write about her.
For starts, she is an artist. JB works a regular job as a Consultant but she at her core she has the eye and wonder of an artist. She is at her happiest playfully making art, moving pieces and colors around with the exuberance of a 3rd grader who has finally been allowed to use scissors and paste. Here is one of JB's collages: made on one of the dozens of old windows she has in waiting.

It is again unfortunate that I am still posting sideways photos, and especially in this case. This is one of my favorites of JB's pieces. She's embellished a picture frame with the tools of her trade: fabric, ribbons, found objects, and rocks and bark found as she walks along in life.

You should know that Emily Rabbit is really JB's friend, not mine. Emily first appeared almost twenty years ago. Esther followed a few years later. Esther has handed out halloween candy for all that time. She is ususally cranky and a bit of an exhibitionist. One day JB came home with Mildred, who she foolishly expected Esther to "mother "and raise. Esther kind of takes care of Mildred, but she's never been happy about it. We think she drinks sometimes, because one morning we found Esther draped over the staircase, feet dangling every which way. JB told Esther that drinking and flying is forbidden in our house, but I wouldn't count on her cooperation.

Here's another of JB's artwork. This one's in our kitchen. It shouldn't be sideways either.

JB had a red Honda for years. Then one day she asked our car repair guys to pick her up a used Mercedes at auction. This is Prissy, so named for her attitude in snow. Because of my bad advice, last year Prissy was traded in for another Honda. I was a bad partner, because JB is not a Honda-type girl. She works hard and she deserves a used Mercedes (even though the repair bills were outrageous). When we left Prissy at the car dealership, we felt like we were abandoning a family member. I've said this before: don't name your car unless you are prepared to suffer the emotional consequences.

This is the house JB and I and Jessica and our dogs, cats, birds, and hampsters lived in until Jess got married and we sold the house two years ago. This is a Victorian duplex, meaning we had neighbors on the left side and we lived on the right. We spent years fixing up, painting, remodeling, landscaping, and doing it all over again. This was a grand home, and yet we never looked back when we left. As you will soon see, our present house is way way smaller and way way simpler, but it has a "magical" shed in the yard that has become JB's studio.

JB loves our backyard. I garden, she helps sometimes, we grill in the summer, and as we always have, sit outside at dusk and talk about our hopes, dreams, aspirations, inspirations and perspirations.

JB also loves shoes. People stop and ask her where she's gotten her shoes all the time.

And JB loves Stella. She never had a dog before she met me and was afraid of most dogs. Stella is our third dog, following Nicki, our Siberian Husky and Rosie, our beloved Springer Spaniel. Last year we walked into a local shelter and JB saw Stella for 15 seconds and said, "We should bring her home". I wasn't sure at the time, but she was 100% right.

Back to shoes. Here are JB's cowgirl boots. She has two pairs. She ususally wears them with long skirts and lots of jewelry. JB is the Queen of Accessories. I wish I could show you her closet and her jewelry box. Someday I might.

She is from the midwest and came to New England for work. She had never been to Europe before we went to Paris 4 years ago and Italy last October. This shot is of the Almalfi Coast, where JB and I fantasize about returning for several months. I would write and she would create art. We day dream like this alot, and often times we pull it off. One of the characteristics of our relationship is that we try to say "yes" to one another most of the time. So if one of us comes up with an idea that involves risk, or money, or change, we don't dismiss it. I like that best about both of us.

Here is JB's Magic Cottage. She loves it. It is filled with fiber and paints and old windows and wood and bark and found objects and stuffed animals, and there are six rubber lizards outside her door.

Last summer I planted zinnias in the garden and back yard. We've never had a house with full sun before now, so this has been an awesome treat. I am including the zinnias because they make JB so happy.

Here we are. You get to see JB' photographic hands and a hint of our relationship. It's all good.
And last, for my good blogger friends who have never seen JB: here she is-- this wonderful, dear, kind, rock of a partner of mine. We've been together 21 years--sometimes we soar and sometimes we sink--but through it all, she one of the finest people I've ever known.

(Thanks, JB, for letting me post your picture. And a cute one it is..)


Of all the trails in this life, there is
one that matters most. It is the trail
of a true human being. I think you are
on this trail, and it is good to see.

Kicking Bird to Dances with Wolves
in the film, Dances with Wolves

Does this path have heart?
If it does, the path is good;
if it doesn’t, it is of no use.
Both paths lead nowhere;
but one has a heart,
the other doesn’t.
One makes for a joyful journey:
as long as you follow it,
you are one with it.
The other will make you curse your life.
One makes you strong;
the other weakens you."

Don Juan, as written by Carlos Castenada

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Good Old South--Part 2

This is the second and final travel-a-long from down south in the US of A. When you last heard from our heroines JB and kj, they had left Greenville South Carolina and had driven across the state to the coastal island of Hilton Head. There they had checked into a Marriott Hotel and were greeted by a weather forecast of total complete rain for all of their remaining vacation days. They acted quickly in attitude and preparation: if it rains it's time to gallivant on the back roads and in the cities yet again.
First they walked the beach anyway. Afterall, who in her/his right mind would ever pass up an Ocean? And then they walked the pool, which by the way, defied the weather gods and welcomed one full day of sun for jb and kj to lounge poolside, including three chilly dips in water that was colder than a pool should be. Sometimes JB and I are the only adults in the pool, along with 5-6 kids. We don't care.

Next stop: Savannah Georgia. Along the way, I continued to read Eat Pray Love outloud while JB drove.
I kj totally fell in love with Savannah the moment we hit the city limits. I can't say why. A friend one told me cities have astrological signs, not just people. He said that's why certain people are happy in a city and other people aren't. If this is true, Savannah and I are compatible souls. Let it be said I did not see the outer city limits and I don't know about the quality of living for people without means. But what I saw, I really liked.
We ended our time in Savannah with a New York Pizza from Vinny Van Go Go's. Since pizza is my favorite food, right up there with Enchilada Verde, I'd say the day was pretty close to perfect.

Next, Charleston. In my mind this was a larger Savannah, with the added attraction that it borders on the ocean. The one fact I can tell you is that Charleston is ranked as the most polite city in America. I can also tell you about porches.
The south loves porches. Even the simpliest homes have them. In Charleston, what looks like the front door of the house is actually a door leading to the porch. My apologies that you will again have to twist to see what I mean, but really it's kind of worth the twist to see how the concept of southern doors and porches works.

People are always giving jb and I advice where to eat and what to see. So we arrived in Charleston with the name of the Haley Mills restaurant. It took us a couple of tries, but we figured out we were looking for the Mills Hotel, which turned out to be a stunning historic building and the best $ 8 lunch I've ever had (Shrimp and grits--I try to follow the 'when in Rome' rule....) . Aftwards I asked JB if she thought someone had told her about the Haley Mills as a joke. Straightfaced she said, "I don't think so.."

We drove back to Hilton Head, still reading outloud, and found this in our hotel room:

The accompanying note said "Your housekeeper".
Last stop: Back to Greenville. We stayed downtown, which confirmed that Greenville is a clean, charming, growing, delightful, and well planned city. Main Street runs a couple of miles with all kinds of statues scattered about to sit beside, cuddle up with, even talk to if you must.

The Reddy River runs through downtown and through an urban park on Main Street that is just fantastic. Please remember I am there in the rain, but I can tell you this park is award winning. And I can tell you if you have a hankering to move to a very affordable city with a good mix of art and activity and good Southern manners, and where housing prices are bound to appreciate in the next few years, Greenville's your town. You have to be comfortable with the role of religion in the South--it seems there are more churches than department stores, but all in all JB and I liked everything we saw.
On Saturday morning, JB and I returned the gold Chevy Impala with the shaky steering to Budget Rental and caught our flight heading home, where my garden awaits, the sky is finally blue, the air is finally warm and I still love deeply. No complaints. No wait, I have to complain because I enjoy it so much. I mean to say no major complaints. And for that I am very grateful.........

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

I wrote this at the Big Yellow. I have nothing to explain except to say I am a Mother and a Daughter and that has taught me more about Love than I could ever wish for.


Mother, she asked. How do you know when love is real?
All love is real, she said. She had that wise smile on her face her children would remember even when the call came about their Father. Even when they wheeled her into surgery, just before dawn and just after she wrote out the goodbyes that were not required after all.

Mother, she whispered. I love but I cry.

Do you cry because you feel or because you bleed? she asked.

She said, I don’t know, Mother. Sometimes memories and longing carry me to the silver stream where we used to camp. But then I fear I love too much and I wonder if I will be swallowed by it.

Mother paused. The movement of her arms and chin barely flickered. She smiled again.
“Daughter” she said, “There is no too much love. There is only enough love.

But separation causes pain, she said.

Yes, mother said, that is love.

Moments feel like days, she said.

Yes, that is love.

I forget myself, she said

That is love too. Mother’s green eyes looked straight ahead. She lifted her chin and waited.

But I’m told I care too much, expect too much, that I am too sensitive, that I am too vulnerable. I’m told I would survive.

That is incorrect. Mother said.

But if it’s incorrect, how can I explain that?

You can't.

And it’s incorrect, how will I know?

You must see if she whimpers when you brush her hair and if she sings when the sun rises, just when the birds begin. You must watch how she reaches in her pockets and whether she notices the northern star. You must toss your head back and laugh when she tells you you love too much, and you must wait to let her character unfold.

But, Mother. How do you protect yourself?

You don’t, she said.

But what if love is not enough?

It is.

But what if you dance and then ache and then double over at midnight?

Mother smiled again. You wait, and then you see.

Part II

Mother, I love her.

Then you will let the angels guide you. You will risk everything.

My Mother walked to the sink and quietly folded the cotton dishcloth in half and then again. She patted twice it with both hands and turned to me.

Love is all you will ever need she said. It will bring you everything. Without it you will die.

But mother, how do I know?

You have to listen. You have to study and choose a pure and precious heart.

How, Mother? Can you tell from birthday gifts, or kisses on the forehead, or from the nights when my moans strip me naked and I can only hope I am not devoured?

My Mother smiled. Love comes from your own heart. It is the place you can only know when you have arrived there.

Mother, is it like the love I have for you?.
Will it cause me to enter a burning building?
Will it bring me to my knees?
Will it last, mother?
Love always lasts. It is only hope that doesn’t.

But can there be love without hope?

Mother took two steps back. She braced her arms and softly fell into the chair.

Daughter, she said. I am old. I have watched a child die, lost my husband two hours after he finished breakfast, survived a life of hunger and poverty, and sacrified everything for my children. I tell you that once love enters your heart, it lives there forever. You can be scorched, abandoned, forgotten or misused. You can lose all hope. But you never ever lose love. Love is like just like that. It takes root and before you know it, you’re all tangled.

And you’re tamed.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Good Old South

This week JB and I hit the road for South Carolina. We've just finished another long winter and our thoughts are toying with warmer climates. So we booked a low-fare Travelocity flight to Greenville SC, used our accumulated credit card points for 7 free nights in a couple of local hotels, and off we went.
Neither of us knew much about the South. And although we planned/hoped to lounge in front of a pool with the hot sun on our faces for at least some of the week, a weather forecast of rain and more rain found us exploring instead of lounging. We've gallivanted to Greenville, Hilton Head Island, and Charleston in South Carolina and Asheville North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
This is not in chronological order, but here's a few slices of JB and kj on the road in the beautiful old South:
Every vacation should be lucky enough to start at the Crispy Creme donut "factory". This one's in Spartenberg, South Carolina. I had never had a Crispy Creme Glazed Donut hot off the line before. Here's important information: t a sign outside lights up whenever those donuts are being made and still piping hot. I 'm embarrassed to admit I had three and JB had two. And they were mouth watering awesome.

We spent our first three days in and around Greenville. My very best friend has family there who lovingly showed us their homes and around town. Greenville is a booming small city with incredibly affordable housing, ample land and space, and a downtown offering city culture and a state-of-the-art park.
The first thing JB did when we checked into the Courtyard Marriott was display Ryan's photos along the dresser. Then we headed downtown and ate ribs and grits. I forgot my camera the first couple of days in Greenville, and we're headed back there the end of the week, so photos of this sweet little city will have to wait until the weekend. Suffice to say we then hit the road, always veering off the major highways in favor of back roads, first passing through the smallest town of Saluda--population 520--on the way to Asheville.

This was a 90 minute drive we stretched into hours. This was my first introduction to cemeteries that use artificial flowers to lovingly mark the graves. No gravestones--just a plaque in the ground and these silk or plastic flowers. We saw several cemeteries like this, so it seems this is the way it is in South Carolina.

On the back roads I always marvel at human creativity and ingenuity. JB and I were in stitches driving by Granny Boops and Pop-Pop's Cafe. Shortly after, we passed these hedges where someone used his/her hedge clippers to write "MR" between the hearts. Bottom line: There's no substitute for back roads!Oh, and don't have the time to garden but you want planters? How about following this idea: find a beat up trash can and plant ivy in it.

Between Greenville and Asheville lies the center of Saluda has with its 10 or so buildings--that's all. You can't blink or you'll miss everything. Enlarge this white building if you can and you'll find the police station and city hall side by side. The town may be small, but it's also classy. Properties were expensive, with lots of equestrian areas. This shot of ciders and tomatoes was in front of the small general store.

And these shots nearby. I thought "goodbye cool world" was a pretty cool way to talk about global warming, and this little grill and fountain restaurant took me back in time.

We were on to Asheville. This city known for its arts and "hippy-ish" influence was larger than I expected and very fun to walk through. We had lunch, shopped without buying anything, visited Ces' favorite Mast General Store, which was all she said it would be, and ended up in an independent bookstore where I finally bought a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's "eat pray love". I have been reading it outloud to JB ever since when she is driving and we've decided we will finish the book exactly that way.

Lord, please forgive kj that she just cannot figure out, remember, or learn how to straighten these photos. She is pathetic and needs compassion for the time being......

The drive from Greenville to Hilton Head covered took us from the northeast to the southwest parts of South Carolina. This was a four-plus hour trip we again managed to stretch into the whole day, and loved every meandering minute of it. Hilton Head is on the ocean, but that will wait until another time. For now, may I introduce one of the small towns in rural America-- Prosperity, South Carolina.
The state is famous for its furniture. We saw lumber trucks and tree farms everywhere. But this truck had PREMIUM wood on it--you could just tell by looking at it. And the fire hydrant--another example of finding humor in all the wrong places.....
Well. Now. JB and I are now at a fancier-type resort with weather forecasts insisting on thunderstorms for every moment we are here. My plans to lie by the pool for three days are being replaced by day trips and more gallivants.
So. There will be a part II of this travel update: the ocean at Hilton Head. Savannah Georgia. And Charleston and Greenville South Carolina. By then it's possible Ces will help me straighten my photos so no necks will be twisted. For now, it's time for another breakfast and another day of eating out. Yipee.