Archive for June, 2014

I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them. (Boris Pasternak)

One accidental nudge while dusting and one of my ceramic angels falls to the hardwood floor. She loses her wings. Super glue helps connect the thin wings, but not for long. The next day they sever again when I try to attach them to her back. Maybe glue isn’t an adequate celestial adhesive.

Human beings who try to follow angelic example tend to be fragile sometimes, too. I aim toward the positive, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be thrown off balance when an unexpected burst of anger heads toward me, or some tragedy affects someone I love. I suppose that if perfect balance could be bought at the discount store, it wouldn’t be worth much.

From the back this kneeling de-wingled angel could have a rare bone disorder. From the front she looks like a pale, pious young girl. I am well-freckled, slightly tanned, and not pious. Only the over-ninety-set would consider me young. I am not made of plaster; bending is possible, both physical and mental. Generally, the latter is far more difficult. Physical injuries tend to be easier to overcome. Moreover, I can roll a single resentment down a metaphorical mountain and create an avalanche.

Ceramic statues can’t do much on their own. I’m grateful that as long as I have survived, the beauty of life remains available, with or without wings. Funny, but when I recognize the places where someone else’s severed wings have left scars, I feel a blessed camaraderie. Sure, I want to hear about another person’s accomplishments. But the struggle to get there is where the beauty lies.

wingless angel

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You are imperfect, permanently, and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful. (Amy Bloom)

After nine years my hearing aids gave out. The parts are no longer made, something like finding a replacement carburetor for a 1948 Chevy at the corner auto repair shop.  New hearing aids cost as much as a private jet and I have put off the purchase a tad too long. Of course I have joked that what I hear can be a lot more interesting than what someone actually said. Sometimes what I catch makes no sense at all. At other times it is best-not-repeated in a PG-oriented setting.

My new set is nothing like my old pair. Unfortunately, the left side of my mouth just happens to be bleeding from an archeological dig made to fit a replacement crown and my neighboring audio canal is responding with intense sympathy. The ear doesn’t want to be bothered with a microphone and wire. The right side decides to play ally and balk against foreign materials as well.

Fortunately my audiologist knows some tricks. She suggests a gel as well as a wiggling motion to get the gosh-darned-thing into place. She says that everyone has different ear canal shapes. I’m amazed. I know mine are slender, unlike the rest of me. (I don’t need two airplane seats, but I’m not a model’s size either.) While I’m not comfortable I hold onto the hope that tension and repeated in-and-out-of-foreign-objects-into-my-ears is making this situation difficult.

Now, days later, I stand in my living room at six in the morning and listen to the birds, singing in stereo outside the front and side windows. I revel in the fact that I hear, and that I can adjust the level of that sound—although I’m a bit clumsy with the buttons. The house grows silent and I suddenly wonder if my sound-wonder tools have fallen out. No. I hear a slight rustling as my finger touches the surface. This is a good sign.

I’m a bit clumsy with anything new. I claim both imperfection and permanent flaws. The journey would be downright boring if I already knew everything.

In this picture my hearing aids suggest the beginning of a fantasy song—in the key of C, adjustable, flowing, imperfect maybe, but full of possibilities.


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Love is the bridge between you and everything. (Rumi)

A cool breeze and a moderate temperature turn our walk in a county park into a mini utopia. It’s the kind of day where people pass by and say, wow what a day, as if they could hold onto the beauty longer. Storms and hot weather will return soon. Then, something peculiar in the grass on a hill to the left of the path catches my attention.  At first I think it is a piece of plastic caught on a hidden twig. But the shape isn’t right. It is too perfectly round. As we draw closer I see a turtle digging with her hind legs into the grass, apparently readying the area for her eggs. The lake is about three feet from the other side of the walkway.

Jay and I move closer, but not into her space. She remains focused on her work. As we watch Mama another walker stops. He and my husband discuss the hazards of eggs buried in that shallow open spot, mowed by park workers, within a predator’s view.

“Well, turtles aren’t known for their intelligence,” the man says, and then moves on shrugging his shoulders.

A reply comes into my head too late. I don’t equate intelligence with the right to exist. True, I wouldn’t take a vole to the vet, but that’s because it has a life-span of three to six months. Moreover, I’ve never met one. But this example circles the truth: Love is the bridge between me and anything.

Jay and I look at one another. We decide to notify a naturalist. At the camp store the woman behind the counter calls the naturalists’ office. The office seems pleased we let them know about our discovery.

When we return to the hill where we saw Mama, the search doesn’t turn out to be as easy as we expect it to be. Jay finds the spot, now a packed circle of dirt. Fortunately my husband’s memory is better than mine. The area he chooses to survey is right on. Mine misses it by several trees and thirty feet. He places three yellow warning flags around the mud turtle nursery.

The Midland Painted Turtle is known in the scientific world as Chrysemys picta. These turtles often bask on logs or stones in lakes with their friends, sunbathing with the stillness of the surfaces under them. Perhaps Jay and I didn’t save much, but a few more painted turtles may have a chance to celebrate the water and sun someday.

We didn’t bring a camera, so my quick colored-pencil rendering will have to do. One form of life may feed on another, but sometimes one life form helps another, too. The red stands out exaggerated in this picture, like dark stitches or scars. Life always has its cost. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Some scavenger may find all of Mama’s eggs. Maybe. Maybe not. I have no control over tomorrow. For now Jay and I trek hand-in-hand over the bridge that crosses the lake, and I wonder what the next bridge will ask of me.

Midland Painted Turtle06142014_0000

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If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? (Casey Stengel)

When is this sink ever going to drain? I ask myself. Sometimes aloud. Sometimes not. With or without an oath. The plunger is my friend, but sometimes it gets lazy and refuses to let the water move no matter how much energy I put into my part of the job. After all, I have not dropped crud or grease down the pipes. Sure, the man who put in my new dishwasher said I should have one of my old pipes replaced, relatively soon. It looks like it came from Rome’s original system. But, if it has lasted this long, and all I have is a few occasional drips easily captured in an aluminum pan, what should it matter? Someone is coming next week to look at the problem.

“Sure, I can handle it,” that man says as he squats under the sink. Then comes the uh oh. The piece breaks off in his hands. I suppose I should have taken a picture of the rotted, clogged, rusted pipe that has been living under our sink since the house was built in 1957—but it wouldn’t have drawn many people back for a second look. If this piece of pipe had been living tissue it would have needed emergency bypass surgery. The medical team would have wondered how the patient had managed to stay alive.

Nothing short of a miracle has kept water flowing through galvanized metal blocked so thoroughly acid would need to fight to pass through. And yet, this old hunk of metal has done the best it could until the end. Sorry I made you work so hard, I tell the severed piece lying on my kitchen floor. Although I’m not really talking to an inanimate object. I’m telling myself to pay more attention to those aspects of the ordinary that give me clues I ignore, generally because I’m busy with so-called more important matters.

Sure I know where I’m going. Sort of. On a spiritual plane anyway. But since I happen to live on this existential planet it might be a good idea to recognize where I am, every step, stone, and pipe along the way.

tomorrow year not specified06092014_0000

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Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. (Maori Proverb)

The man at the pool grill, grate-thin, talks to my husband and me about the brats and hamburgers he prepares. He compares them to other means of cooking and rewarming. With a smile that expands him beyond his slender frame he announces, “I have stage-four cancer.”

My hearing is poor. I need new hearing aids; after nine years the old ones gave up trying to help me catch sounds—and occasionally actually to listen. Even if I didn’t hear every word this sunny gentleman said, I caught the line about his health, thrown in like a significant clue in a fascinating stay-up-all-night mystery novel. His tone sounds out of context. And yet, it doesn’t at all. He faces the sun and lets the shadows fall behind.

I watch his eyes and try to follow the level of his fascination for life—even the mundane turning of food on a grill at the YMCA pool.

The ordinary is no longer ordinary when someone’s hours could be counted, when those do-it-sometime-in-the-future dreams become a maybe. Taking-a-blessing-for-granted is not a luxury.

I am not a big fan of fast food. I like to create different vegetable and main course combinations maximizing color as well as choose salads with multiple greens. But somehow, as Mother Nature offers a blue overhead that can’t be duplicated by creatures, a pleasant warming sun dries our bathing suits, a gentle man demonstrates perspective. A white bun with grilled meat doesn’t seem all that boring.

This moment is innately good.

(quote found at the Optimism Revolution, tiny illustration by Terry Petersen)

beautiful things in humble places06042014_0000





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