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Archive for October, 2016

“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked pensively.

“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” (Trina Paulus)

My back feels almost okay. Maybe the weather is trying to behave—going for stable with autumn cool. Then again, I’m in a less stressful place right now. That could have something to do with it, too. I watch my husband pull a clean fitted sheet back onto our bed. With ease. A simple matter, but a task he couldn’t do as recently as a week ago.

I smile at the woman next to me at water aerobics class and she smiles back. I want to talk with her, but don’t know why. Eventually, I ask her name and offer mine.”

She tells me, “Last week I thought you were tall. Then I saw you get out of the water.”

I explain that I choose to avoid the impact of jumping. “I love to tread water anyway. It’s no big sacrifice.”

We yak all through class. And it’s okay. My arms and legs follow the instructor’s moves. My heart follows this woman’s perspective. Her sharing buoys my spirit as the water lifts my body through the hour’s exercise.

This beautiful lady doesn’t have an easy life. Yet she meets each day with grace. She is a caretaker, not by choice. Life threw her a curve. And she caught the ball on the first bounce. Insert any crisis here; details can vary. I don’t need to give her name or relay anything about her situation. Difficult stories abound. Her life work makes mine look like kindergarten homework.

Simply imagine finally having the life you want—seeing it shot down—then redefining all that is left… The possibilities are endless.

After I climb the ladder to leave the pool I wonder about what it is like to be a caterpillar. After all, I’m built close enough to the ground. Perhaps too, the choice to become a butterfly isn’t a one-time shot in the human realm. Wings don’t develop through a single metamorphosis.

Change occurs throughout life. At twenty, thirty, or seventy.

My husband leaves the men’s locker room and meets me by the door. “Listo?” The Spanish word is part of the phrase Listo para salir?  It means, Ready to go?

“Listo.” I answer, meaning I’m ready to fly, and I’m working on creating a new set of wings.

photo by Sue Wilke

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People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. (Epictetus)

I am driving home from a doctor’s appointment, a yearly event. The office is in a part of town that confuses me—one way streets, lots of traffic. Moreover, it is raining and thunderstorms are on the way; my concentration is on sleep mode.

I’d like to say the current state of my country is strictly a political matter that can be settled with the right word, the perfect argument. It is far larger than that. Yes, I will cast my vote, but that is only the beginning. I need to live understanding for all people, the human respect I believe to be primordial.

However, I also need to pay attention to the moment, to where I am going. How the heck did I get on Vine Street? I was supposed to turn left on Calhoun. Somehow. I drove this route last year.

Last year I wasn’t preoccupied by the fact that my husband is recovering from surgery. My back wasn’t acting up, and dark clouds didn’t hover and threaten, in more than meteorological ways.

Aha! I know where this road bends past the zoo. I’m not lost. Really. I’ve simply taken a side trip. One that tells me not to assume I know where any path will lead.

My husband’s birthday is this week. I celebrate him. I celebrate the red and gold in the trees, colors innate to leaves that don’t rely on a bright day to be beautiful.

I’m home. Not perfect, but a blessed place. The rain begins. In our front yard, drying mums catch a drink. I step inside the house. Complete safety exists nowhere, but I’ll more than settle for a place where I’m greeted with love.

driving

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Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. (William Wordsworth)

A few dishes washed… laundry piled in the hall… dusting barely begun… I stand in our tiny hall and survey what else needs to be done. My guitar case is partially unzipped. I don’t bother to either open or close it. I haven’t played in weeks. No energy remains in this short body. I miss music. I miss classes at the Y, as well as the times with friends I needed to cancel.

Am I getting sick or has the adrenaline rush of the past few weeks ended and left me drained? Twenty minutes, that’s all. I’ll give myself a one-third-of-an-hour power nap. Jay can take short walks—by himself now. I should be able to take mini siestas. The nap extends. I’m even further behind.

All the while I want to call my friend, Henrietta. Her husband has been in hospice. The last time I talked to her he wasn’t doing well. I see my friend’s face in my imagination and I suspect the thought of her unconsciously has buoyed me through.

When I wake up the grogginess lingers. I prepare lunch on auto-pilot, but I can’t get Henrietta’s picture out of my mind, and I don’t want to. She has been caring for a husband who will never get better. I have been helping a spouse who has been looking forward to my homemade soups, digging into chicken with baked stuffing, and thanking me for being there. No comparison.

Finally, I’m tackling laundry when Jay says he is going for a walk around the block. Now, the time is now: I call Henrietta.

“I don’t know why I have been thinking about you a lot,” I begin. “I just had to get through to you. Don’t want to interrupt if you are busy…”

“I know why you needed to call,” Henrietta answers in her usual soft voice. She tells me her husband died yesterday. She believes an angel has been speaking to me.

What force, intuitive or divine, led my spirit? That answer is not mine to know, only to follow. Henrietta asks me to write my experience. Share it. Fill my paper, or this blog, with the breathings of my heart.

The fatigue settles. I begin to look forward to the next day with my grandchildren, a family birthday party, baking a pie for a friend, time to write.

The sun shines and a light breeze passes through. I grab both as if they could be stored and saved; I settle for savoring. The pain in my back eases. I realize I’m not as good at relaxation as I’d like to be. The ugliness of national news disturbs me. I can’t understand how respect is so difficult to comprehend and accept, in word, in deed. Respect is basic and has nothing to do with political agendas.

I breathe in and out—slowly. One heart that beats in steady rhythm allows life to exist; two hearts that beat with empathy can empower many. Life is precious, but it isn’t permanent.

At least not in this realm. I celebrate one day at a time. No more, no less. One precious day that can never be retrieved.

look-at-the-sky

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We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams. (Jeremy Irons, actor)

I’m at a book signing that is part of a small city pumpkin festival. Two memories, one from long ago and one from last year, hit me as I talk to a couple who stop at my table. The wife asks if there is violence in my middle-grade fantasy, The Curse Under the Freckles. The couple tell me their son is highly sensitive to anything brutal.

I give a short explanation of the story. Chase, an eleven-year old boy, was born with magical abilities. However, his mother knows about the curse and the dangerous side of the magical world. She never tells him. When Chase finally learns about it, he has lost every possible tool to break the curse. He must do it in three steps, but, no one gives him any idea what those steps will be.

They will not include the usual fight.

I say the book does not rely on blood and violence for entertainment. Then I realize a tragedy involves one of the main characters. In an early chapter. A death. Of course this is fantasy, and in a make-believe world a character can die and still be okay. The book has a happy and unexpected ending.

The young boy has been standing behind them. He moves between his parents, and shakes his head. I nod and smile. A silent way of saying I understand. In some ways he reminds me of me in an earlier century.

I recall the mobile library that came one day each week to my elementary school. In the primary grades I browsed for books with the least amount of conflict. I chose stories closest to utopia, places where taunting and meanness didn’t exist, where parents told their kids how wonderful they were. Most kids would have considered the books I read boring. Even then I knew I wanted safety. In real life and on the printed page.

Eventually, my tastes grew up. In fantasy, wild events could occur. I reveled in another world. It became my escape.

This young boy’s experience and mine are probably not even close. Yet, I suspect he has a keen sense of empathy that needs guidance. I am glad to see the concern his parents have for him. I watch as the family walks away, and I silently wish them the best, more than the best if that could be possible.

This is one time I am okay not to sell. To him. And yet I fully believe in the appropriateness of my story for kids. Real life sends difficulties to everyone. It doesn’t care how old the individual is. Chase’s losses would throw anyone, of any age. However, in fiction I can tailor the outcome, create a happy ending. In fantasy, possibilities extend beyond real life’s limitations. All the painful details don’t need to be elongated in a book for kids. Several young readers have requested a sequel. That book should be published next year, time yet unknown.

I remember another book signing when I came as customer, not vendor. A well-known children’s author told a girl the book was not suited for her age. I was impressed. To sell is not a writer’s sole mission. To entertain, to touch the heart, to make a reader’s life a little bit better, if only for that moment—these goals matter far more. Sometimes a story can plant answers, each word, chosen like seeds placed in fertile soil, lined across the page.

When the reader says, yes, I think like that, too, possibilities open. Perhaps healing then can begin…

bookfest-hamilton-2016

 

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When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. (Marcus Aurelius)

While my husband was in the hospital summer ended. I know Mother Nature didn’t make the transition intentionally. I love the pool and was looking forward to at least a few more days of sunscreen. But, the sudden change in weather highlighted the change in our everyday lives.

One Columbine plant blossoms. I take a picture of it. To savor.

No moment lasts forever.

I start an edit on a recent short story. My husband calls to me for help. His request is legitimate. When I come back I’ve lost my train of thought. It didn’t take off without me; it was never developed enough to make it to the track. And I stare at the page until I realize I haven’t washed the dishes yet.

This could be a long day. Or, it could be a chance to savor life as it is: the single Columbine plant in the front yard, calls from friends, three more get-well cards for Jay in the mail…an offer from my twelve-year-old granddaughter to help with heavier chores…

And I ease into the transition of caretaker. For me this job is temporary. For several of my friends it was a never-chosen, no-pay career. Two friends, Judy and Carol, are angels in human form. They never complain. I taste now what they experience daily. Somehow, it isn’t so bad. I am privileged to have this much time with my Jay. I have other friends who would give anything to have their husbands back in more than memory.

My husband does not take my presence for granted. I realize he never has.  

“Wow, that meal was delicious,” he says. No more than a few eggs and leftover French toast. And yet, this moment says healing has begun.

And I celebrate that healing.

columbine-in-october-2016

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