Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alex and Lily: Chapter 32

Explanation: The world lost a brilliant young writer today. She was 29 years old, a member of the precious Big Yellow Writing Group, and winner of Glamor Magazine's annual essay contest--an essay that will feature her always fashionable photo spread and her wonderful story--available on the news stands in just 8 days. She never saw the final print of it. Although she was verys sick, she died unexpectedly after spending a glorious courageous weekend writing the best hysterical stories about her family, with a dozen of us fellow writers at Big Yellow in awe of her simple magical talent.
I cannot yet put my thoughts and the great loss into words. However, in her memory I am none-the-less following through with my intention to return to the love story of Alex and Lily. This story has been dormant since February, and yet the writing's almost finished.

To those of you who have followed along, with thin patience by now, thank you.

We resume with Alex and Lily together, after seven years apart:

The aisles at Trader Joe’s have an altogether different feel in early spring. It’s as though you could pick up a six pack of prepared optimism just as easily as an organic pizza or an avocado four pack. The ground in Western Mass. has been a deepening shade of white all winter and the measured hope of new growth and green grass is not lost on the shoppers of Trader Joes.

It is Saturday morning and Lily is making her way from the bread section, where she has stocked up on four packages of blueberry scones and one nutty loaf of Milton’s Multi Grain bread, toward the long aisle of frozen foods, where she knows she will find any number of fresh and easy to prepare entrees for the nights when both she and Alex don’t or won’t cook. They have been together now for 17 months and if you asked either about their nightly dinners and general contentment level, they would both say 'astonishing'.
Alex is healthy and back to work. Monthly blood tests interrupt the otherwise gentle flow of their lives, but all in all, their implausible bond has thrived.
Lily is looking at her grocery list . She does not see Max until they are within 12 feet of each other. She does not have time to respond to the ambivalence she has carried for almost two years: she has not seen this woman who rescued and loved her since she received Alex first letter, and for that reason alone she is unprepared to face her now. She is embarrassed—almost ashamed—that she had not made contact before now, has not explained things to her. And yet, despite all that, she is both delighted and relieved to see her again..
Max is ready. Lily can tell that she has had some extra seconds to brace and prepare.
“Hey! Lily.”, Max smiles. She barely pauses before she extends both hands in Lily's direction. It is a warm gesture—a gracious greeting—and Lily is reminded of how Max single-handedly pulled her up from depression and despair.
“Max”,, Lily says. “Oh god, you look great.”
Max nods. Once again, she will make this easy for Lily.
“It's nice to see you. I heard Alex is doing well. I’m so glad.”
Despite the effort, the unspoken will not work. They both know this.
“Max, do I owe you an explanation?”, Lily asks.
“No Lily. That’s ancient history. I’ve recovered. I had to replace you of course—no small feat...” Max smiles, “...But I’m doing fine, and I’m glad for you. I’m glad. I know how much you loved her. You must be overjoyed".
“I am overjoyed, Max. She’s cancer free. Even the kids have come around some. And we’re headed to Paris in May—kind of a celebration."
Max smiles again. She steadies her chin and looks fondly at Lily.
“It’s great to see you, girl. Take care, ok"? She begins her pull away.
Lily hesitates. “Max? How would you feel about getting together sometime, for coffee or something?"
The sudden movement in Max’s right eye is barely noticeable, but Lily sees it. She has made a mistake.
“No Lily, not now. Maybe someday, ok?”.
“Sure”, Lily replies. “Great to see you.”
With that, Max pushes her cart past Lily’s. Moments later Lily looks for her at the checkout counters, and again in the parking lot, but she would not see Max again. She would drive home with her five bags of groceries, and she would tell Alex that she had just seenleft one of the nicest people she has ever known. Then they would eat dinner--this night Chinese chicken with mushrooms and broccoli over rice. Later, just before bed, Lily would look at Alex and wonder if she could have even shown up if this woman named Max had not rescued her from the impossible weight of a hopeless heart.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I called my best friend two days into my vacation and she asked me what city I was in.
I paused before I answered: "I have no idea. I think I'm near the capital but I really don't know".
Later I learn that I am in Palm Beach, 10 miles from the Aruban capital of Oranjestad. I learn this because after several days of aimlessly lounging. sunning, swimming, eating, and reading, I figure I'd best learn something about the hospitable island of Aruba. Until then, all I know is that the temperature is a guaranteed 89 or so degrees every single day, with gentle trade winds to make sure the heat doesn't become uncomfortable.

We stayed at a Marriott Vacation Club in a "villa" that has two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and two patios, both with fantastic views. The first thing I do is look for birds: I want to impress Anon with the birds of the island. I fail miserably. At one point I did see two small yellow banana birds (please don't ask me their official name) but mostly I just saw dove-like birds looking for crumbs at the pool. So here's my bird shot for Anon. (Hint: look closely).

The place was beautiful. All week we shuffled from the pool to the ocean to the Lazy River. The lazy river, it turns out, is really a pool that twists and turns for quite a distance, with its own current to gently pull you along through those twists and turns without any effort on your part. All that was needed was an inner tube. We five women and one wonderful 15 month old Mr. Ryan were totally prepared:

This was my view from the lounge chair at the pool. Here I sunned and rested in between swims, drank virgin strawberry daiquiris, began and finished Anita Shreve's recent book, and sunned sunned, rested and swam all over again.

Variety being the spice of life, we regularly took short walks to the ocean beach, where we repeated the daily routine listed above.

The Kiddie Pool, which Mr. Ryan loved as much as the Lazy River, had a special set of instructions, just in case some thoughtless adult needed a reminder not to dive into 12 inches of water: The 19 mile long 6 mile wide island of Aruba is located just above Venezuela, meaning it is more desert than tropical island.

Still, this is the Caribbean and the waters were gorgeous. We did only one "tourist attraction" all week: a submerged trip 5 feet under water, in what looked and felt like a claustrophobic submarine--in search of sea life and shipwrecks. We easily found both.

The Antilla was 397 feet long and weighed 2,164 net tons. She was built in 1939 and was powered by two steam turbines. Although she was a brand new German vessel, the Antilla was sunk intentionally. She was an unarmed ship used by the Germans to supply their submarines during WW II and was nick-named Ghost Ship by the allies who were never able to locate and attack the ship outside of neutral waters.When Germany invaded Holland in May of 1940, the Antilla was moored just off the shore of Aruba which is a Dutch territory. The local law enforcement immediately asked for her surrender but gave her captain a day to think about it. That night the Antilla was scuttled in order to prevent the ship's capture.

We were privy to a couple of disabling conditions. Iguanas and lizards were everywhere in three sizes: small, medium, and quite large. This one was my favorite because of its beautiful aqua color that could change to brown or green on a dime--however this particular lizard somehow ended up without its tail. I cannot say if that slowed it down or not.

Following this loose association with disability, our rental car was damaged. I admit I am not always diligent about temporary collision insurance. Not to mention who wants to deal with car problems on vacation? Well, it just so happened that the passenger door of our rental car was creamed. But imagine our surprise when we found this very kind note on the windshield, offering reassurance not to worry about a thing:

jb and I always hit the road at one point or another when we are in a new locale. We couldn't resist driving from one end of the island to the other, confirming that besides tourism, the next largest employer is an oil refinery. I do not have the heart to show you pictures of the oil stacks.
I'm fascinated by cemeteries. These were no exception. You will no doubt easily see the differences between affluence and poverty from viewing these two sections of burials in the same cemetery:

From the beaches to the restaurants, low cost handmade thatched roofs were everywhere. I'll bet my friend Ces can explain this technique:
Our nightlife was pretty tame, except I dragged jb to one of three nearby casinos almost every night. True to form, she won and I didn't. But man I love those slot machines. I played beside a 90 plus year old woman who won hundreds and dollars, over and over, while I lost and lost and lost some more.
And this, for now, concludes this introduction to Aruba and the kj family vacation. I imagine there may be a few more photos to come.....

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I don't have time. I hope I will tomorrow. Until then, I'm offering two
meager photos to confirm I had a great time in Aruba. The first, as you will
see, is a bucket of Aruban beer and one slight addition. The second is life at
its slowest and finest. Even the strange women on the pink raft would no doubt


Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I'm back from a fabulous vacation. Soon I'll be sharing island photos, April poetry and more of the story of Alex and Lily. But for now, I leave you with this heartfelt image (kj says with a smile).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Still Poetry

UPDATE: I'm just about gone,
and wish all my friends and visitors
a wonderful week.
I will miss you,
and perhaps I'll return with
some island pictures.
Perhaps even a picture
of a bird or two for Anon.
Take care.
time to read, rest, relax,
eat, energize, envision
vacate, veg, visualize
tan, tickle, tell stories
go, gush, gallivant,
appreciate, anticipate, alleviate
commune, castaway, celebrate
dance, dare, dive in
rejoice, rejuvenate, recuperate
wish, wander, & wonder
Oh mighty vacation! Let me fall on my knees and float to the top of the heated pool. Let me surrender to the holy scorch of the benevolent sun above. Let me do penance through the quarter slot machines. And let me chill. Please just let me chill!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Day 7 Poetry: How Did You Get Away?

He died in 1273, which is amazing because his words haven't lost any of their currency. Rumi, a Persian Muslim Philosopher, filled volumes with his wise poetry and reflections. Such as:
"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray."

Sometimes you just have to fly forth and let yourself be.....
How did you get away?
You were the pet falcon of an old woman.
Did you hear the falcon-drum?
You were a drunken songbird put in with owls.
Did you smell the odor of a garden?
You got tired of sour fermenting and left the tavern.
You went like an arrow to the target
from the bow of time and place.
The man who stays at the cemetery pointed the way,
but you didn't go.
You became light and gave up wanting to be famous.
You don't worry about what you're going to eat,
so why buy an engraved belt?
I've heard of living at the center, but what about
leaving the center of the center?
Flying toward thankfulness, you become
the rare bird with one wing made of fear,
and one of hope. In autumn,
a rose crawling along the ground in the cold wind.
Rain on the roof runs down and out by the spout
as fast as it can.
Talking is pain. Lie down and rest,
now that you've found a friend to be with.

Day 6 Poetry: The Road Not Taken

Life is alot about decisions and choices. They don't come with guarantees: you don't have the luxury of knowing whether or not you made the "right" decision until afterwards. And even then, who can say with any certainty that one path is better or safer than another?
I think I first heard this poem in elementary school. I knew early on it would be necessary for me to venture into foreign territory at points in my life. And it's turned out that way. As in:
"A ship in harbor is safe, but it doesn't see anything."
Today, please enjoy the poetry and wisdom of Mr. Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.
The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Day 5 Poetry: Brevity

This comes from my good friend Fumblerette. All it requires are one word answers. And perhaps a bit of flexibility to consider this abbreviated poetry. Please give this a try yourself if you're so inclined.

1. Where is your cell phone? livingroom
2. Your significant other? jb
3. Your hair? wild
4. Your mother? brave
5. Your father? missed
6. Your favorite thing? gardening
7. Your dream last night? notes-in-a-pool
8. Your favorite drink? coffee
9. Your dream/goal? writer
10. The room you're in? office
11. Your ex? regret
12. Your fear? heartbreak
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? present
14. Where were you last night? pondering
15. What you're not? boring
16. Muffins? blueberry
17. One of your wish list items? no-regret
18. Where you grew up? massachusetts
19. The last thing you did? blog
20. What are you wearing? velvetsweats
21. Your TV? high-def
22. Your pets? stella
23. Your computer? loveit
24.Your life? active
25. Your mood? turbulent
26. Missing someone? terribly
27 Your car? toyota
28. Something you're not wearing? shoes
29 Favorite Store? booksbooksbooks
30. Your summer? Provincetown
31. Like someone? madly
32. Your favorite color? green
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? today
35. Who will/would re-post this? You?

Day 4 Poetry: Pals

I've flunked friend-school in the past.
I'm one of those people who may look and sound like an open book but I'm really very private, especially when it comes to truly being myself. So it is no small wonder that I am the beneficiary of a one-of-a-kind best friend who cares about my secret desires, petty grievances, grand aspirations and knee-knocking doubts. Although this poem has previously appeared on my blog, here it is again--with repeat thanks to my dearest friend for all this and more:
I tell you about my bank account
The challenges I mount
My heart’s desires
My passion and fires
The guy at the bar
My avatar
The near accident
The words I meant
The way I pace
An occasional grace
The lights at the park
My fear of the dark
The reasons I cry
The times that I try
My zero fashion
My deepest passion
My life on the lane
The times I’m insane
My college days
The places I’ve played
When I fall down
My sacred ground
The wide Midwest
Times put to the test
Living abroad
Loving lobster and cod
All that I feel
When I try to be real.
You patiently listen
To everything missing
I could chatter all night
Lost in delight
And you just smile and say,
“Wow--you’ve had quite a day!”

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poem # 3: Motivation

My poem today is not too long
I'm enjoying my morning and singing a song.

I complain too much and overlook too little
If I keep it up my heart would be brittle.

So instead I'm deciding to come-what-may
And have myself one fine day.

The End.

Day 2 Poetry: Family

If this isn't poetry, what is?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


April is Poetry Month. And since the trauma of learning about the actual craft of writing poetry, I've decided to join the fun and write a poem a day throughout April.
You may remember my surprise in learning that rhymed poetry is passe! So last night at my writing group when the prompt was a little rhyme from Emily Dickinson, I jumped at the chance to rhyme once again.
Flight in Rhyme

I dwell inside the foyer

And crouch along the wall

Waiting for a miracle

To break my gruesome fall.

Out the window three blue foxgloves

Sway and wave as though

I could be that free too

If I would just let go..

You see, I really try to welcome fate

I don’t complain when it is late

I spread my fingers and willingly wait

But I’ll be damned: what does abate

Is often hope instead of doubt

I wonder why I shrink just then

The foxgloves bid me to spread wide

But I forget to bend.

That foyer has an open door

Where visitors pass by

I often smile with open arms

And greet them eye to eye.

They tell me I am whole and fit

I tell them hardly, then I sit.

But they persist until I might

Flap my wings and pray for flight.

I could walk out the door

Into the light

I could raise my chin

And raise up my sight.

I could give up first

And sit down last.

I could whisper thank you

In the silver grass.

I could even agree

To heal my amends

And bypass the beginning

Until I get to the end.

I could and I would

I should and I might

Forget about shudders

And fly into the night!