Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter light

It is now the twilight time of year. Days of sunshine are few, the trees skeletal against dove gray clouds and all seems dim and dark.

Recent events have added to the spiritual and emotional darkness of this season. The death of innocent children and adults by the hand of a very disturbed, troubled young man seems to steal the joy of the holidays and dampen our spirits.

We cry, we panic, we worry and fret about our own children, our family and friends; even strangers we don't know but with whom we share a common deep grief.

During times of darkness we seek light. We seek warmth, community and solace. Even our ancestors would gather around a fire in the darkest night for heat, company and safety. A fire to keep away the evils beyond the periphery of the light, to protect them from what lay waiting in the darkness.

Perhaps that is why this time of year we string our houses with twinkling strands of lights, burn candles, build fires and seek out the warmth of home and hearth. Perhaps it is somehow so deeply ingrained within us to be light seekers that we subconsciously bring light forth in the darkest of days, the darkest of seasons, the darkest of times.

Even during a moment of unimaginable horror, we seek light, community and warmth from one another. We seek solace. We light candles for the memory of lives cut short. We light them to remind us to hope, to pray, to know that the darkness shall in time, pass.

Within the circle of light we are safe. The shadows cannot conquer us as long as there is one spark glowing within our soul.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Too long


I realized with a shock that I had not posted anything since the very 1st of September.
As the days became darker, so did my mood.
I knew several anniversaries where pending. The death of my favorite aunt, the loss of my mother and my friend Alan dying. Somehow those losses overwhelmed me this year. Grief began anew.
Even the fiery colors of the trees did not help. Usually fall is my favorite of all seasons but somehow it seemed to fly by and take me straight into the barrenness of winter.

At the same time, my husband sank into the dark pit of his depression. He became irritable and angry.  Life became about avoiding his moods, ignoring his lethargy, praying he seek help. We began to fall back into old patterns and our marriage has suffered.

He realized that something was off and has sought help.

Together we are seeking counsel from a therapist who hopefully will remain neutral.

Even though I am a mental health specialist, a licensed therapist, I need help. We need help.
I spend time thinking "What would  I tell a client to do?" Yet it is hard to apply those tools to our marriage. The cracks are many and some are huge and I don't know if we can mend it this time.

That leaves me scared.

We have weathered so many challenges and survived. But now we question can we do this again? Can we do it together or must we go our separate ways. I don't know the answer. I ask for discernment and wisdom. I hope we can work out our differences and forgive one another. I hope we find the right path for ourselves both individually and as a couple. Do we walk apart and join each other in the future or do we walk parallel roads? Or do we seek out new routes for ourselves? I don't know. I don't have a map...

I hope for Spring.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Autumnal

 
The leaves have begun
their transformation;
a tinge of gold/red/russet
beneath the green.

The sunlight changes,
angle and shadows,
lean a bit differently.

The air is cleaner somehow
crisping like the fall apples,
breezes smell like rain and hope
on the way.

Walks take a bit longer
awaiting the crunch of leaves
with every step,
filling the world with quiet percussion.

Changes



So much has happened lately. My heart is full to bursting.
I started a new job within my agency as a supervisor. I debated seriously before taking it. It meant giving up working as a therapist and becoming more of an administrator and adviser. But in the end, I decided it was time for a move.

Being a therapist is both a joy and a sorrow. There is so little one can to “change” others.
One has to help them recognize and encourage that change is good but amazingly difficult.

I had so many cases where change was not possible or acceptable. My heart was weary from the constant breaking…

There were a few “successes” where my clients were able to better their lives, change old habit and begin to believe their lives could be better. But of late, those were far and few between. My clinical director told me I had “compassion fatigue” and I have to agree, I did.

After two very rough years of personal loss and grief, I realized I could no longer let fresh grief into my heart. My soul was weary. My anxiety and depression at all time highs. My health was suffering and I had a deep enduring fatigue. It was time for me to change.

So I have stepped out of the role as therapist and into the role of supervisor and hopefully mentor. I still get to listen to people and their stories, but there is a bit more distance, a buffer surrounding my soul~ a chance to heal and become whole.

I can always to back to being a therapist. I can always go forward. Change is always possible. I just need to have the courage to step out on faith. 

Teddy Gal


 
I was five
when I first rode the bus
from Detroit
to the south;
A brown bag with a change of clothes,
a cold biscuit in my pocket,
sitting in the back
pierced by strangers’ stares.
I sat as my mama told me to:
Still, quiet, my head held high.

First day of school
straining to understand
the strange southern tongue,
scared of the laughing girls
and leering boys
I rode the bus way ‘cross town
to the black school
used books and broken desks waiting
for me, scared, 
but my head held high.

I rode the bus to Selma.
Where I marched til my feet were burning
like the fire in my heart
the blood in my veins
tor justice.
I rode that bus to Selma.
With my head held high.

I rode the bus cross town
to the job that paid me slave wages
a hundred years past slavery’s end.
Kowtowing to the white folks
watching the boys that raped me
dance with their pretty wives
who looked through me
in my maid's dress serving
fancy eats.
With my head held high.

I rode the bus to Eastern State
the loony bin, crazy house,
Asylum
my heart was broken,
my spirit wounded
my body tired and my mind so very sad.

But still, with my head held high


Now I ride the bus to Frankfort
where I tell the truth,
where I have my say
and they dare not set me down
because all these years
I did not falter
I did not quit
I survived it all
With my head held high.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

You sit there
slightly smiling
in a starched shirt
and shoestring tie;
Life spiraling before you
a gleaming river
of promise.

What would you have done
if on that day
you knew
that you had only
fifty years to live out all
you dreamed?

Would you have chosen
a different path,
a smoother road?
Or still have taken
the twisting, steep climb
that became your life?

Sitting in the chair
 young, sweet, with
an innocent unknowing.
Never imagining
the pain that would
carve your heart
into a scarred
but still loving,
beating, bruised and
tender beyond all get out
center of your soul.

What if you had known
that life would betray you?
People would hurt you?
Cheat you?
But ultimately
love you so fiercely
that their own hearts
shattered with sorrow
once you were gone.

What would you have
changed if you knew?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Narcissus 1

Your words
cut
slice
burn
sear.

The tone of your voice
which you do not hear
while others do
makes me want to hide,
to duck my head and run.

I wonder what it is
inside of you
that wants to hurt
as much as heal
in this world
we share.

You have no patience
for me or my life.
I am just a shadow
passing by,
a flicker in your mind
and then gone.

You are the sun
I ~ the moon.
I am not to outshine you,
I am only to reflect your glory.
I am to orbit you,
Submissive.
Bowing to your gravity,
I cannot affect more than the tides,
I have no impact upon the light
except to shine it back to you.







Sunday, July 15, 2012

Infidelity

 
It is not the grand gesture
nor the grinning illusion of truth;

Rather it is the small lies,
which start as seeds of mistrust
growing tendrils of suspicion
that begin the cracking of the foundation.

It is the sly glance at her.
The eyes flicking down
and to the left
when her name is mentioned.

It is the distance in your touch
the murmur in your sleep
of another’s name,
an unfamiliar endearment
that is not and never was mine.

Perhaps you have not yet
touched her except in your mind.
But those fantasy kisses
are stolen from my lips.

Those imagined touches
burn like fire
scorch like flame
exciting and scarring
hearts all the same.

She is the one
who slips beneath the sheets
separating life and dreams.
She is the one who
reaches into your heart
and pushes me aside

She is the one
that is no longer me,
no matter why.



 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Scythe

The sun tips above the horizon
greening the grass
drying the dew.

The farmer wanders slowly
into the knee high grass,
bows slightly
and grasps the scythe
as if to dance.

His body sways
and dips
and the tall grasses
fall before his graceful arc.

He winds a path
through the field,
the scent of new mown hay
rising and spiraling into the wind.

The sun creeps upward,
as his shadow lengthens then ebbs
to a small circle beneath his boots.
Pausing to rest,
he turns and sees the rows of grass
like waves following his wake.

Around him a sea of green
sweet smelling and sun fresh
he turns back and again grasps
the scythe,

and once more begins
the ancient dance of man,
metal, grass and sun.

The whispering sigh
as the grass falls
soothes his soul
and plays a quiet tune
vibrating with the hum of bees
and the pulse of his heart.

Long is the day,
hard is the labor,
but deep is the love of the land
and the satisfaction of one man.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bean Snapping

Standing barefoot in my kitchen
Snapping green beans at the sink
I feel the heart tug
of all the women before me
in my family who stood as I now stand.

A quick flick of
fingers and wrist
a small hill of strings and end hulls
build before me.
I recite quietly the names:
Pole Beans, Limas, Shellie,
Crowder Peas, Shucky, Navy,
Pinto and Peas.

I whisper the names:
Nettie Mae, Eloise, Idell,
Ma Sudie, Aunt Veen, Catherine,
Pearl, Carol Anne, Versie,
Imogene.

I see them in my mind,
strong hands, scarred and veined
by outdoor work.
Nails short and clean.
Worn gold bands tight as a pledge,
loose as a promise. 

Feet bare,
firmly planted on the linoleum,
worn wood, rag rug
In front of wash pan, sink,
bowls of water from the well
cistern or faucet.

In the background
the burner hisses
as beads of water
strike the glowing heat.
Sounds and smells stretching
through eons,
Endless summers
of gardens wealth. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A year goes by...

The time is fast approaching when it will be a year since my brother died.

Father's day just passed. Last year's Father's Day was the last time I saw my brother alive. He was so sick, looking so much like our father did in his last days of cancer. So many layers of emotions; love, sorrow, anger, despair, hope and acceptance~ an emotional tornado lodged in my heart.

It doesn't seem possible that a year has passed, 4 seasons come and gone. Holidays and Holy days blending together yet separate and distinct due to the huge void that my brother left behind.

Losing a sibling has affected me so differently than losing a parent. I always assumed because I was a late in life baby, that I would outlive my parents. Parents grow old and pass on. Siblings are supposed to be around forever.

Now I know that is not true. Now I look at my sister and brother and part of me is unsure and scared. What will I do when they go? Who else knows me as well as they know me? Who else has been through so much with me?

I try not to panic. I try to stay calm and stay in touch. But now there is a void, a broken link in the chain linking me to the past and the present.

I feel as though I am holding my breath, waiting for 'that day' to come and go. To see if I survive it, relive it or give in to it.

Within a week, I will know. Within a week, I may finally be able to let go of the anger of losing my brother too soon...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The lives of cells~



This weekend has been a time of reflection. I celebrated two lives in different ways. I lost an old college buddy to cancer and attended a baby shower for a soon to be born tiny girl.

I started to think about life at its basest level, life as a cell. How we all begin our lives in the same way, cells growing, dividing, changing, creating. Then I thought of how similar and disparate cancer was; also cells growing dividing, changing but creating malignancy instead of life. One action: division, but two totally different outcomes. Or maybe not?

I looked up the words cancer and pregnancy in Wikipedia:
Cancer /ˈkænsər/ ( listen), known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a broad group of various diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. Not all tumors are cancerous. Benign tumors do not grow uncontrollably, do not invade neighboring tissues, and do not spread throughout the body. There are over 200 different known cancers that afflict humans.


Pregnancy: The sperm and the egg cell, which has been released from one of the female's two ovaries, unite in one of the two fallopian tubes. The fertilized egg, known as a zygote, then moves toward the uterus, a journey that can take up to a week to complete. Cell division begins approximately 24 to 36 hours after the male and female cells unite. Cell division continues at a rapid rate and the cells then develop into what is known as a blastocyst. The blastocyst is made up of three layers: the ectoderm (which will become the skin and nervous system), the endoderm (which will become the digestive and respiratory systems), and the mesoderm (which will become the muscle and skeletal systems). Finally, the blastocyst arrives at the uterus and attaches to the uterine wall, a process known as implantation.
The mass of cells, now known as an embryo, begins the embryonic stage, which continues until cell differentiation is almost complete at eight weeks. Structures important to the support of the embryo develop, including the placenta and umbilical cord. During this time, cells begin to differentiate into the various body systems. The basic outlines of the organ, body, and nervous systems are established. By the end of the embryonic stage, the beginnings of features such as fingers, eyes, mouth, and ears become visible.
Once cell differentiation is mostly complete, the embryo enters the final stage and becomes known as a fetus. The early body systems and structures that were established in the embryonic stage continue to develop. Sex organs begin to appear during the third month of gestation. The fetus continues to grow in both weight and length, although the majority of the physical growth occurs in the last weeks of pregnancy.

I marvel at how cells can divide and multiply within a body~ in one a life is created and grows, in another life is slowly leached away. How can one understand this mystery? How can one cell kill and another create?

I think of all the people I have lost due to cancer. I think of my husband who had malignant cells in his body and in their destruction he was given a new life. I think of this tiny baby nestled beneath her mother's heart suspended in time, floating, perhaps dreaming, waiting to draw her first breath. I think of my friend drawing his last breath whilst sleeping, suspended in time, perhaps also dreaming waiting to begin the next phase of his existence.

I reflect upon how many lives he touched, how many people from so many phases of my life are linked by the love he shared. I wonder at how many lives the baby girl will touch, how many lives she will link by the love she will share. I wonder at my presence in both these lives and I am humbled and awed. I have been blessed by knowing my friend. I shall miss him but I celebrate the joy he brought into the world.  I pray that the baby soon to come will be also blessed to know joy and love and wonder.

I wonder if death is merely a different kind of birth. A birth where we transcend our bodies, were we fly free. Or perhaps a birth into a different world, a birth back to the source whence we came. Birth and death may not be so opposite as I once believed, perhaps they are only the flip side of the same coin. I do not know, nor profess to understand this mystery of life and death. I only know that I have been touched by each this weekend and I  am crying tears of both grief and joy.

Rest in peace Homer. Welcome to the world Aubrey.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sitting on the porch,
listening to the rain
and an owl who
hoots softly
lonely in the woods.

Earlier walking the road
to the where the old house
used to be,
looking for fossils
and arrowheads
we find a flint,
small and broken tipped
perfect for pocketing.

We sat at long tables
laughing, joking
eating food
that was our history,
recipes that live in our heads
not in books
written on dry paper
in ink.


And around us
ghosts of memories,
of those gone on before,
living again in our hearts and words.
Presences real but unseen,
love flowing, timelessly
between generations
gathered on the land
where it all began.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A 5 minute Life Lesson for a 5 year old...

Ms. Martha: (Looking down to see a client’s sibling clutching several packs of peanut butter crackers) Where did you get those?

KIDDO: Your car. (Smiling)

Ms. Martha: Did you ask me if you could have them?

Kiddo: NO! (Batting her big blue eyes and smiling)

Ms. Martha: Then whose are they?

Kiddo: MINE

Ms. Martha: No. They are mine. You did not ask permission to get them.

Kiddo: Staring at Ms. Martha and beginning to pout.

Ms. Martha: You have to give them back. Do you know what it is called when you take things without asking???

Kiddo: Noooo

Ms. Martha: That’s called stealing. It is very bad. YOU are not bad, but what you did was very bad. You must never get in Ms. Martha’s car and take things ever again.

Kiddo: But I want them!

Ms. Martha: I know you do, but they are mine. You cannot have them.

Kiddo: PLEASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSE?

Ms. Martha: No. Hand me the crackers. (Kiddo does so) 

Kiddo: Ms. Martha may I please have the crackers??? PLEASE

Ms. Martha: Are you going to get in my car again?

Kiddo: No. I promise. Can I please have the crackers?

Ms. Martha: Thank you for asking. You may have one pack but you have to share with your sister.

Kiddo: NOOOOOOO

Ms. Martha: Then no crackers unless you share.

Kiddo: ok, I’ll share. (And she does)

And from now on, Ms. Martha will lock her car.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

( Redemption ~ Peter At Dawn)

 I ,
as bad as they come,
came
to know Him.
He loved me.
Always.
Totally.
Without reserve.
I loved Him,
with reservation.
I denied Him
not once
but thrice
and yet,
He loved me still.
I watched
as He died
reeking of sweat and blood
and the sharp vinegar
offered to slake His thirst
Salt formed on His cheeks
from tears
shed for me.
For me?
He died for me...
In an instant
I came to know Him.
and I love him
and I deny him
no more.
Salvation,
Redemption
are mine.
Because I,
as bad as they come,
came to know Him.

Communion~ for Holy Week

  
One by one they come
to the rail
seeking comfort
asking forgiveness
faces of sorrow
eyes overflowing with tears
faces joyful
hands cupped, extended
waiting to receive.
Gently the bread is broken
pieces placed in hands
worn from work
trembling with age
soft with innocence
The miracle begins
Whispered words
“The body of Christ
The bread of heaven”
and the love flows
from heaven
through me
to them
and back again to heaven
Lives linked
by God
An act so intimate
that my soul
quivers and vibrates
tuned to a higher pitch
resonating with a love so great
that my mind cannot fathom
the miracle in my midst
Unable to think, to reason,
I can only feel
and respond
reveling in the glory
as they come
one by one to the rail.
           

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Mailman's Son~ an ode to innocence.

This is the first short story I ever wrote and finished. It has been revised and tinkered with for over 20 years... The hero Sam is based on several sweet boys I knew in my youth, but one in particular. He was my best friend for a long time. Then we parted ways over something that seemed so important in our twenties but which I can no longer remember... 
A few years ago we reconnected, now middle aged, married  with children and grandchildren. We are no longer those starry eyed kids dreaming about life, much has happened and life has taken us far away from our hometown and brought us close to it again. 
This is an ode to innocence, friendship and that first bloom of love. 




 
The Mailman’s Son
            I always thought that there was something curious about Sam Courier.  Perhaps it was the way he looked, all pale and pink like a rabbit.  Or maybe it was the way he smelled, like musk with a hint of Clearasil.  Or it could have been because he seemed to know things that no one else knew.  But now I think that it was probably because his father was the mailman in our small town.  All the foreignness from all those letters and cards and packages that Mr. Courier picked up, somehow must have transferred itself to his family, Sam in particular.
            Mr. Courier drove a jeep with the steering wheel on the wrong side.  He’d shipped it to his father  -- also a mailman-- from Korea during the war.  That was quite a day in town. Hardly anyone got mail from “our boys” let alone a crate.  Mr. Courier strutted about, chest puffed up like a Banty rooster. He drove that jeep everywhere.  Frog McIntyre, the sheriff saw him careening down the hill behind Frodge’s General Store no one behind the steering wheel apparently, and Frog pulled Mr. Courier over but couldn’t figure out quite what to charge him with. Frog let him go with a warning to “Slow down, you hear!”  So it seemed to me Sam wasn’t the first curiosity in his family.
            The first time I truly remember Sam, was the day in second grade, when he came to school in knee britches.  He called them knickers.  He said people wore them to play golf.  He had a wool cap with a fuzzy pompom sewn on top.  I assumed this was worn for golf also.  Frankly, I didn’t know anyone who played golf.  In fact no one in school knew anyone who played golf, although Donnie McIntyre, the Sheriff’s son, watched it on TV.  He said that no one looked like Sam though.  Sam said we were Philistines.  We all knew that was from the Bible and probably not a bad word but the way Sam said it made us feel unsure and stupid. 
            As we got older, Sam continued to excel in his oddness.  In seventh grade Sam started to look like the hippies we had seen on TV.  They had long hair and wore beads and ruint blue jeans.  They had no respect for anything or anyone.  They were the curse of our country or so said the men in Froedge’s General Store as they sat around the potbellied stove drinking Co’ Colas and spitting.  Sam came to school one day with a pair of wide legged jeans that he had poured bleach all over.  He’d fringed the cuffs and sewn patches on them.  He had on one of his father’s vests but no shirt, and we could see the beginning of fuzz in his armpits.  Kids were laughing at him and calling out things like “Hey, Sam, it ain’t Halloween yet” and “Who dressed you this morning, the ragman?” and “Courier, Courier, crazy as a cootie louse.” Sam just looked at us all and smiled a little half smile. 
            “Neanderthals” was all he said.
             About that time the principal, Mr. Branstetter, came out. He called Sam over and talked to him in a low whisper.  All of us had fallen silent and strained to hear what was being said, but we couldn’t make out a single word.  Sam and Mr. Branstetter walked into the schoolhouse and later on Sam came back to class wearing a brand new pair of straight-legged blue jeans and a red sweatshirt from the University of Louisville where Mr. Branstetter got his teaching degree years ago.  I think he got the blue jeans from Earl Froedge’s General Store.  The price tag was still on them and nobody told Sam until after school was over.
            It was also in seventh grade that I developed a figure and Sam developed an interest in me.  He started to stare at me in class.  He began calling me at home.  At first I hung up on him, but then one night I was bored, and Mama and Daddy were at choir practice.  The house seemed awfully big and quiet, so when the phone rang and it was Sam, I decided to talk to him.  It was funny because he wasn’t so weird over the phone.  I even sort of liked him.  But I wouldn’t talk to him at school. We could only talk over the phone.  I made him swear not to tell anyone that we had talked, and if I found out he told about us talking, I’d never speak to him again. So having reached an agreement, we started talking every night.
            During those hour-long phone calls Sam started to tell me about magazines he read, like Creem and National Lampoon.  I’d never heard of them, they sounded like the dirty books that high school boys read.  He started to play music to me over the phone.  I had only listened to Country or Gospel music, but Sam changed all that.  He played Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Rolling Stones, and lots of Alice Cooper.  I’d listen, trying to make out the lyrics, as he held the receiver next to his record player, but I never really could understand the words. The rawness of the music scared and thrilled me like the time I rode a roller coaster at Beech Bend Park.  I can’t say if I loved this music, but it did make me feel different, older somehow.  It sure wasn’t anything I had heard in church.
            At school Sam ignored me most of the time.  He’d only talk to me when I was with someone else.  That was allowed.  But before he’d leave, he’d slyly look at me and wink.  I’d get furious but I couldn’t show it.  Later over the phone I’d say something about him looking at me and he’d deny it.  He said I was “paranoid”.  I had to look that up in the dictionary, which ticked me off.  I may have been ignorant but at least I wasn’t “paranoid”. 
            It was during the second semester of seventh grade, that Sam started a pen pal club.  He was the founder and lone member.  He’d gotten names and addresses from the back of one of his magazines and passed out copies to all the other kids.  Everybody just threw their copies away, or made paper airplanes out of them, or stuck them in a book and forgot about them.  Sam, however, started getting letters from all over the place.  They came in from Chicago, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas and even a few from other countries.  He read some of them to me.  They were filled with strangeness.  Kids in the city sure weren’t like the kids I knew.  City kids went to concerts: we went to singings.  They smoked “dope”: we smoked tobacco if we smoked at all.  They spoke a different language.  Everything was cool and groovy, it was all “Make love not war” and “What’s happening” and “Keep on trucking”.  I can’t say I understood much of this.  It made me wonder what Sam wrote about.  The most exciting thing that happened around Summer Shade was a hailstorm or Medford Huff getting drunk on his own moonshine and singing and crying all night in the cemetery until Frog McIntyre came and took him home to sleep it off in his tiny cabin.  Somehow I couldn’t believe city kids would be interested in any of this.  All I know is about a month after Sam started getting letters, he convinced his mother Miss Lucy to take him to Della’s Beauty Shop and he got a permanent.  Of course he called it an “Afro”.  It was definitely the biggest head of hair that the town had ever seen.  Miss Della was quite proud of it.  His daddy, however, pitched a fit.  They say he screamed at Miss Lucy like a banshee for letting Sam do that.  He said she was ruining their son, turning him into some kind of freak.  Miss Lucy cried and cried.  Sam for the first time in his life stood up to his daddy.  He told him not to blame his mother, but that it was his idea and that it was cool.  His daddy smacked him good.  Sam stood there and looked at his father. 
            “You’ll be sorry you did that, Daddy, that’s the last time you ever hit me you hear, ‘cause the next time you do I’ll dye my hair purple!”  Well, needless to say Mr. Courier hit him again and said, “Sam get out of my house and don’t come back until you get a haircut and some respect for your elders.”  I found all this out later because Sam came to my house.  My daddy took him in.  Just like that- curly hair and all. I couldn’t believe it.  What was my daddy thinking? 
           
 Daddy told Sam he could earn his keep by milking cows and chopping wood.  He could sleep in the little room off the barn, there was a bed and a chair and a coal oil lamp.  Sam looked around, smiled, and said, “Nothing like roughing it.”  He lasted two days until the Barlow twins found out where he was staying and stuck a polecat in his room.  Sam had to get a haircut then, just to get the stink off him.  So he went home and Miss Lucy cried with joy and baked him a ham with all the trimmings.
            Sam continued to be weird, just in a more subtle way.  Somehow he got seeds and grew a bumper crop of pot in Miss Lucy’s tomatoes.  She didn’t know what it was, but she thought it was “just the prettiest little weed she’d ever seen, like one of them Japanese maples”...  Sam offered to take care of it and pulled it all up when it got too big.  All that next year he’d come to school just smiling away like he had the biggest secret in the world, well at least the biggest secret in Summer Shade.
            In Fall when school started again and we were eighth graders, Sam convinced me to start meeting him after school in Hiram Watson’s barn.  Hiram didn’t use it anymore, he was too old to farm much more than a kitchen garden, and he had his Social Security to pay for everything else.  So this big old barn stood empty, waiting for someone like Sam to transform it.  He did, too.  Some days it was a castle and we were the king and queen.  He’d make me a crown of clover blossoms and teach me dances like the minuet and the Viennese waltz.    On rainy days Sam and I would climb up to the loft and lie on top of the old hay bales still sweet from some long ago summer sun.  Lying there under the tin roof listening to the patter of the rain, Sam would recite poetry to me.  Beowulf, Evangeline, Hiawatha all came to life in a musty old barn and forever embedded themselves in my soul.  He would sing Simon and Garfunkel songs, folk music, ballads - whatever came to mind and touched his fancy that day. When we were in the barn, the outside world ceased to exist.  We made our own universe.  We had our rules and we played our games, and all was innocence and wonder. 
            It was in Hiram Watson’s loft that I received my first kiss.  It was during Christmas break and Sam and I had figured out a way to keep meeting secretly.  I’d told my mama I was going sledding packed a bag of buttered biscuits and took Dinky, our old coonhound to add to the ruse.  I don’t know what Sam told his parents but when I came across the field I saw his sled propped up against the barn wall.  I tied Dinky to a post, tossed him a biscuit to hush him and climbed up to the loft.  At the top of the ladder I froze in awe.
            There was the most beautiful Christmas tree I’d ever seen.  It was a cedar about seven feet tall and wound around and around with strings of bittersweet berries.  There were birds’ nests sprayed gold and silver and each one had tinfoil-covered eggs in it.  Peppermint canes and toy soldiers hung beside tangerines and apples.  Glass icicles winked in the wintry sun coming through the cracks.  Real snow covered the floor.  It was so unexpected that I could only stare at the beauty of it. 
            “Do you like it?”
            Sam’s words broke through my reverie.  I climbed the rest of the way up and walked around the tree.  Sam watched me the whole time, his face filled with fear, with longing.
            “Oh Sam, it’s lovely.  Is it for me?”
            “Yes.”
             Then he walked over and kissed me full on the mouth.  His lips were soft and his kiss was as warm and gentle as a down quilt.  We stood there frozen in time.  After the first kiss we had our second.  And our third.  I discovered I loved kissing him.  After the fourth kiss Dinky started to howl and brought us back to reality.  We tossed him another biscuit and Sam threw down a ham bone with a red ribbon on it. 
            “That’ll keep him busy for a while” he said. 
            Then he gave me a little box also with a red ribbon. 
            “Hope it’s not a ham bone,” I giggled.                         
            “No, it’s not a ham bone.”
            I opened it up and inside was a ring carved out of some dark and shiny wood.  It was simple, plain, but unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
            “I made it,” said Sam.  “It’s walnut.”
            “Oh. Sam… it’s beautiful.  I love it.  I’ll keep it always.”
            Sam watched me as I slipped it on.  It fit my finger just fine.  I looked up and smiled.  His face went kind of funny.  Then he smiled that funny little half smile of his. At that moment I realized that no matter what, I loved him.
              I gave him the gift I‘d brought for him.  It was Alice Cooper’s latest 8-track.  I had sneaked and bought it the last time Mama took me to Glasgow to shop.  It had taken some maneuvering to get it in the house unseen, but I’d stuck it between a Loretta Lynn tape and Porter Wagoner’s Christmas album.  Mama knew I’d bought music for her and Daddy so she pretended not to notice when I ran and hid them in the back seat of the Ford.
            Sam opened the tape, and said he didn’t have it and had really wanted it because he knew his parents would never get it for him.  I was glad he liked it because he was my best friend, even if I wouldn’t admit it to anyone else.  After that we sat down and ate the few remaining biscuits I had, kissed again, and decided to actually go sledding after all.
            When I think back about that day I wouldn’t change anything except for the sledding part.  Because that’s where the trouble began.
            We left the barn separately because we didn’t want anyone to find out about our secret place or about us.  I left first, pulling my sled behind me as Dinky raced ahead chasing squirrels. 
            When I got to the big hill behind Froedge’s store, I could see that all the McIntyres were there as well as the Merediths and the Barlow twins.  I waved and ran to the top of that hill and threw myself full tilt into the fun.  Sam showed up a while later and of course the Barlow twins made fun of his hat and his sled and he smiled that half smile and said “Cretins.”
            We all forgot that we were mature eighth graders and we played like we hadn’t played in years.  We made snow men and snow angels, and we had a huge wonderful snowball fight, and of course we rolled Sam down the hill and stuffed an icicle in his pants.  And we all laughed and laughed until our sides hurt and we collapsed in a big soggy heap.  When it started getting dark, Mrs. Froedge called us all in for hot chocolate.  While sitting around the stove, the air thick with the smell of wet wool and chocolate and the crispness we’d brought in from outdoors, Miz Froedge said, with a smile:                       
            “Honey, I am sure gonna miss you when y’all move this summer.” I looked at her, wondering who she was talking to when I realized she was talking to me.
            “What ...  We’re not moving.” I said.  Her smile wobbled and her eyebrows arched way up high. 
            “Oh Lord, Honey, they haven’t told you yet?  Your Daddy done sold the farm.  Y’all are moving to Lexington when school ends to stay with your Mama’s sister...”
            I don’t know how long she went on chattering away, because I set down my cup and ran out the door.  I ran all the way up the hill and cut through the field behind Mr. Watson’s barn.  Dinky ran beside me barking at this new crazy game, but I didn't notice him any more than I noticed Sam yelling and dragging my sled.  I didn’t notice anything, not even the tears freezing on my cheeks.
            That last semester of school flew by.  I tried to hold every moment, every memory close.  I was so afraid of forgetting them, I was so afraid of losing my friends.  I knew a big change was coming, more than just moving away, and I dreaded it.  I spent more time with Sam than ever before, not caring if the other kids knew.  He seemed to be the only one who understood what I was feeling.  He was the only one I ever let see me cry.  I loved him so much that I couldn’t even think of him not being part of my life anymore, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t let him bring up the move, so we never talked about it.           
             That last morning in Summer Shade, I got up before my parents and walked across the dew wet fields in the glow of the dawning day.  In front of Hiram Watson’s barn I stopped.  The early morning light turned the weathered boards silver, spider webs in the weeds glistened with dew and sparkled as if hung with diamonds.  Queen Anne’s lace bobbed and nodded in greeting as the breeze gently blew by, touching me lightly.  I slowly opened the door, the hinges moaning and creaking and stepped inside.  Gentle clouds of dust rose with each footstep, and the newly risen sun peeked through the cracks, striping the air with fingers of gold.  I stood still in the center of that barn; empty stalls around me, wisps of hay scattered about, and looked one last time at the safest and most magical place I had ever known.  I didn’t want to leave it, but I knew I couldn’t stay.  As I turned to go, I saw him.  Sam Courier was standing in the door just quietly watching me.  Tears slowly trickled down my cheeks and a sob escaped me.  Sam walked over and gently took me in his arms.  We stood there Sam and I, trying desperately to hold onto our childhood.  Finally he lifted my head from his shoulder, dried my tears and gently kissed me.  Then he turned and  walked away without a single word.  I watched him go. I let him go, my best friend, my confidant, my first love.  Only as I was leaving did it occur to me: it wasn’t the barn that was magic, it was Sam.
            When we left that day, Daddy drove the Ford out the back way, past the barn, the sledding hill, Froedge’s Store and I watched it all slip by, dry eyed and determined never to forget.  I haven’t either.  The smell of cedar, the bright red orange of bittersweet, Queen Anne’s lace bobbing in the breeze all bring back memories.  By my reckoning, my childhood officially ended that first Saturday in June, and all I have left of it and Summer Shade are my memories. And a ring I wear on  a chain over my heart. A ring made of dark and shiny wood.
Photos from Missouri Folkore Society
           
END
 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Morning thoughts

I have grown to love the morning.

I usually am not a morning person and find my anxiety is at its highest when I first wake up. I have a tendency to stay in bed, tossing and turning, worrying and fretting. But lately I have forced myself to get up, feed the dogs and cats, enduring their early morning craziness, make the coffee and then when every creature has settled, I sit with a warm cup of coffee and just listen.

I try to use my DBT skills (mindfulness, awareness) and check in with myself.

I always hear the birds first, their chirping and tweeting cheer me. I listen to the slow breathing of now quiet dogs, sometimes punctuated by quiet "woofs" as they dream again. Occasionally I hear the chatter of squirrels as they fuss at the birds.

I listen to my breath, feel it moving in and out, calming me.

I watch as the world lightens, the sun peeking over the treetops, turning the world golden with promise.

Over the past few weeks, the trees have started to bud, pale green chasing away the winter's starkness.

Sometimes I pray, sometimes I just listen in gratitude.

Grateful to be here, I find the anxiety dissipates leaving me calm and ready to face the day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Coyote



Today while on the winding road
between the greening fields
I saw you, with amber eyes
Gazing at the world.

And in a moment holy and profound
you turned your gaze to me
eyes locked, souls bound
by a holiness too big to speak.

Silence hung between us
while a thousand thoughts flew
like the blackbirds rising
on wing at the scent of you
wafting on the wind.

Too soon time sped forward
and you turned away.
I continued on the road home,
changed by the amber eyes 
and a wild singing 
flowing in my veins.

Morning/Mourning

In that murky area between sleep and waking, I am besieged by ghosts...

I come out of a dream unsure what is real and what is not. I have to remind myself who has passed from this life and who remains.

Often I feel my cat of 22 years is curled against me, only to awaken to the realization he died over 2 years ago.



Today I remembered my friend Alan and woke with an image of him laughing and healthy~ pancreatic cancer ended his life a year ago.

Today I curled around my husband's body, laid my hand upon his heart, feeling the slow steady beat. I laid my cheek upon his shoulder feeling his warmth, the smoothness of his skin, the muscle and bone firm and healthy. I said softly to myself, "This is real. This is true. All else is just an illusion."

This morning I held Life and chased Death from my dreams...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DBT

Today I conducted a session outside, in the sun, near running water, with birds singing. It was glorious.
I have begun teaching two teenagers DBT skills  (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). It is a therapy that embraces the now. One learns skills with which to live in the present, tolerate distress and emotionally regulate oneself. It involves breathing, using all five senses and experiencing life as it is happening, living neither in the past or the future.

So we talked for a while. Then we walked around the beautiful Japanese garden, listening to the flowing water, standing for awhile watching the koi swim and flip about in the pond. The sun was warm and the breeze was light and fresh. A perfect setting for learning about awareness.

I plan to do more sessions there!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Signs and Wonders

Add caption



Today on Valentine's Day, I was working. As I sat in traffic at a red light, I was thinking about my loved ones who have died in the past year. Especially my brother, Doug, who gave many red roses to his wife Bobbie.

I knew this was going to be a hard holiday for her. I said a little prayer and selfishly hoped for a sign that God had heard me...

I noticed the car pulling up beside me because it was the same make and model of Chevy Malibu that I drive. As it eased ahead of me, the bumper sticker caught my eye.

In red letters on a white background, the bumper sticker simply stated: "GOD IS SO GOOD".

That was a phrase I have heard many times from both my brother and his wife's lips. It was then I knew my prayer was answered.  The relationship has changed but the love my brother shared with this world remains.

Happy Valentines Day from Heaven.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stuck

I am in such a strange place in my head. I can neither go forward or back until I somehow deal with the past two years.

I am tired of change and yet I yearn to change everything. Maybe just everything that has happened. I want to stop feeling the loss of my loved ones and bring them back. Not back to their times of illness and suffering but back to happier days.

There have been times when I wished I could stop time and hold a moment forever, letting the day stretch into infinity, relaxing into happiness the way one falls asleep on a soft bed, cloaked in warmth.

I want to relive those happy times, laughing again, touching, loving each person and be truly present for and with them.

I am stuck in this grief. In this land of loss. I struggle to be present even now, knowing that these moments won't last, that they too will pass and I will have regrets later...

I miss them all so very much. They are so clear in my mind's eye, I see them in dreams and hear their voices. I hate waking up to the reality that they are gone, that they aren't coming back. I feel like a child aching deep inside, screaming at the unfairness of it all, wanting to hold my breath until I get my way...

I miss them so very much.

Broken


I feel that deep inside me
something has broken
too much
to ever be
repaired
mended
or fixed.

The question now is
how do I
live with the dull pain
caused by the sharp edges of grief?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I spend my days with kids who are unruly, defiant, oppositional; who are wounded in ways the world cannot easily see. I usually find something to like, even love about these kids. However there is one kid with whom I am struggling. He is hostile, crude, sly, salacious and downright cruel. I have read  his history, it is not pretty or kind. He was born into a family of violence and abuse. He has had the odds against him his whole life. I try to be kind, empathetic, caring but he rejects my attempts. He doesn't let me in and won't talk. Only one other time have I encountered someone like this. I pray for and about kids like these.

In contrast I spent yesterday at a statewide church sponsored talent show. I watched as teen after teen sang about God, Jesus, their longing for grace and mercy. I watched parents cry and smile and cheer their kids on. I watched as families and friends hugged, held hands, prayed together and celebrated both wins and losses.  I watched kids cheer each other on, support each other, love each other. I watched people being vulnerable and real, unguarded and open.

I couldn't help but contrast these weekend kids with my weekday kids.

I saw the stark contrasts so clearly: family support vs family rejection. Love vs disdain. A life of the spirit vs a life of the flesh. I thought about how my teen years could have been different if I had not been born into a loving supportive family. How my nieces and nephews and their children could have turned out if my siblings and I had not shown them love and support.

And it hurt. It made me both incredibly grateful and incredibly sad. Honored and humbled. It made me want to show kids that there is love in the world. That there is hope and healing.

I want to be a light in a dark world. Even if the kids won't let me in, I want them to realize there are shadows in their life but somewhere a bigger light can chase out that darkness and turn the shadows into nothingness...

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012

A new year. A new beginning. A time to reflect on the past and wonder about the future.

I used to love New Years. As a teenager and well into my twenties, I would spend New Year's Eve with my mom and sometimes her sisters and brother. If we did the family thing, we would stay up telling ghost stories while eating pinto beans and cornbread my uncle Hoss made. Of course after I moved to NYC, I didn't make it home very often for New Years Eve.

On one particular New Years Eve, I kissed one of my best friends and everything changed. We fell in love in that moment. It didn't make sense, it wasn't on my list and I never expected it to be him. He was my friend. I did not want to wreck that relationship. After 24 years, we haven't. It has been stressful at times. We have been through so much, losing family, friends, pets and our home. I almost lost him to cancer last year. But through it all we held on. Yes, we have had days when we really didn't like each other very much. Where we have shouted angry words to each other and stormed out. But we have always calmed down and come back to each other.  We are more than just husband and wife.  We are BFF's.

Since that kiss we have not shared another New Years with anyone. It has become our private party. We treat ourselves to fancy snacks and a quiet night. We toast in the New Year and then go to bed. Over the years it has gotten harder to stay awake. This year we lost ourselves in a Harry Potter marathon. We had not read the books nor seen all the movies. Then this year I read the first book and was hooked. Suddenly I wanted to see all the movies and then read the books.

So for Christmas I received all the movies.

They are wondrous. That such a world could come from one person's mind amazes me. That the stories are not really about  wizards and witches, but about the magic healing power of Love. Love that goes on forever. Love that lives in our hearts. Love that connects us all, the weak and the strong, the good and the bad, the human and the world...

There is so much more in the story than I realized. I am glad we started 2012 focusing on a Love that shines in the darkest places, a love that redeems us and heals us.  A love that never dies...  A love that I share with others but most importantly that I share with my husband.