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Posts Tagged ‘appreciation’

I shut my eyes in order to see. (Paul Gauguin)

Umbrellas and I don’t get along well. I either leave them in the car or under the table at a restaurant. Several years ago, I published a poem on a For a Better World site, AEQAI, maintained by Saad Ghosn. I remembered some of those narrative poetry lines while I was driving today, rain falling, my umbrella in the trunk, my thoughts recalling the many broken people I know. Peace upon all. Without judgment.

THE BROKEN UMBRELLA

I find an old, bent umbrella

in the back of a closet,

and remember a story

about my great aunt,

the one who lived

with my grandmother.

I heard she refused to go to school,

rain or shine, without her umbrella.

Grandma laughed when she told me,

one of those tired adult laughs

I didn’t understand.

She never knew why

her little sister feared rain.

And I wouldn’t dare ask.

 

My great aunt talked about men

as if they were born as sooty coal

covered with flesh.

Genetically messy, crude, loud.

Sports without a soul.

Since I was her only niece,

my aunt sought my ear.

I tolerated her out of pity.

I pictured her as a child

at the turn of the twentieth century.

paired with her umbrella,

two closed slender shapes

surrounded by bullies

who gave fuel to her opinions.

She learned bitterness somewhere,

wore it as a badge of a holy crusade.

 

In the fifties Grandma took in a boarder,

a quiet man who ate corn flakes

doused with warm water.

My aunt latched her door at night,

and moved a bookcase

in front of it.

 

Then one night after Grandma died

I stayed overnight with my aunt,

gave her some company.

I recall her bony frame in dull, plain pajamas,

all femininity pressed out,

as she told me about an uncle,

or was it a cousin?

You won’t believe what he did to me?

By then I was old enough to guess.

But, not old enough to know

the burden of that knowledge wasn’t mine.

I remained silent.

Her secret stayed bound

within flannel and hate.

She died in a nursing home.

Alone.

 

I imagine a new scene as I discard

the useless umbrella from my closet.

What would have happened if

I could have borrowed a few years

of experience from my future,

risked touching the pain in her eyes,

and asked, what happened?

 

My old umbrella’s hollow spiked bones stick out

through torn, split fabric.

I can’t fix it. Yet, strange,

I feel an odd sadness for all things

that no longer have a chance to recover.

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Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open. (John Barrymore)

My grandson, Dakota, and I explore our backyard with his new red plastic truck. It’s large enough for him to sit on it. I’m grateful he realizes I would crush it. A septuagenarian squatting that low and then maneuvering the toy from a bug’s height, would be a sight for the neighbors. I wouldn’t want them to anticipate a 911-call.

“You know you won’t live forever,” he says.

“Yes, I do. That’s why I celebrate time with you, give to others, and love as much as I can.”

He doesn’t answer and continues playing with the truck. We create ramps from National Geographic Magazines. He rolls construction paper and tapes it with heavy tape. My granddaughters’ baby doll bottles in the center maintain firmness.

We let the moments speak for themselves, the challenge to roll or unroll. To go over the ramp with the truck or bypass it. If one tactic doesn’t work, Dakota tries another. My little buddy doesn’t give up easily.

I consider how quickly the notion, not-good-enough, flashes into my mind. I know it was taught to me in childhood. What isn’t good enough? The statement is too generic to be true. Nevertheless, the temptation to just-forget-it rises far too often. For most human critters, both young and old.

My friend, Cathie, calls. She hasn’t seen me at the Y for a while. Either I have been entertaining grandkids or working on my book. She has something to give me.

“When I saw this, all the bright colors,” she says, “I thought of you and just had to get it.”

I plan to meet Cathie. On Friday morning. At ten AM.

She has made a pillow. Cathie is a seamstress. She uses her gift to celebrate other people.

“It’s pre-hugged,” she says, holding the pillow through the plastic bag against her chest.

Since we have both been in the pool, we are soaking wet. A chlorine hug doesn’t negate the love attached to her or her work.

Life isn’t perfect. It never will be. However, with grandchildren like Dakota and friends like Cathie, sweetness is easier to find.

 

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I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same. Giving and receiving—not giving and taking. (Joyce Grenfell)

“Do pebbles grow into rocks?” my young step-grandson asks as he gathers odd-shaped stones and places them inside a cardboard treasure box. The box rides inside a red wagon.

I smile and tell him rocks are more likely to break into pebbles. I smile, but don’t laugh. His innocence warms me. He finds a tiny lock on the side of the road and adds it to his collection. Then, he puts it inside his pocket, to take home.

For him, all of life is a collection of serendipitous learning experiences. The tracks left by a bulldozer, a dusty trail made by the thin wheels of the collapsible, fabric wagon. The dusty wheels create mud after the wheels travel through a deep puddle.

The thought strikes me that rocks and keys may not be the unique metaphors I imagined them to be in my series, The Star League Chronicles. Black rocks act as weapons for the Malefics, the evil League. Chase Powers, the main character, operates an ancient, rusty, magical key. Sometimes, the key knows more than he does.

Sometimes play teaches me. And I haven’t been a child in a long time. My teacher-key contains no magic. Often its key is no more than a realization, a prod to notice a beauty I hadn’t noticed because I’d been stuck inside ubiquitous bad news forecasts.

This little boy trusts me. A breeze cuts through the afternoon heat. I am at peace despite that fact that I have an approaching deadline—and more words to write and edit than I want to think about. Right now, I could be pecking away at the non-magical keyboard-keys (pun semi-intended.) With the hope of creating magical scenes.

Instead, I follow a red wagon into a child’s imagination and allow my love for this boy to expand.

Work challenges will continue tonight…and tomorrow…weeks after. Until the story fits into a whole.

For now, I give and receive experience. And hope to remember this beautiful day in the middle of July.

 

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There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world, I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary, and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair, and disrespect. (Nikki Giovanni, poet and professor)

 Today’s quote may be longer than the blog. Always something to do. I’m taking a few weeks to both rest and work—write later. My usual blog will be back in July. I promise.

Time. This strange experience that turns infants into children, children into adults, adults into old folk.

My youngest granddaughter studied my skin today, but said nothing about its soft feel, rippling like moving water. I would have told her a lot of time is hidden inside those striations. However, striation isn’t in her vocabulary yet. It doesn’t explain my life or anyone else’s either. No superficial explanation does.

Occasionally I find I need to step back from my self-imposed rat race. Breathe. Rest. Work. Explore. Discover.

In the meantime, peace upon all. May your journey be rich. And blessed.

 

 

 

 

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Serendipity always rewards the prepared. (Katori Hall)

I stand on our partially wet, partially dry sidewalk and wave to our neighbor as he leaves his house. He waves back. During that short pause, the daily newspaper lands at my feet. The delivery man’s arm and back of his head are all I can see as he continues on his rounds.

To the right of the newspaper are damp yellow daylilies. A perennial that returns and blooms even though passing deer often choose the bright blossoms as a part of our neighborhood’s buffet.

Ah, I’ve heard of door-to-door delivery, but never six-inches-from-your-right-toe service. An accident maybe, but I’ll take it.

Inside the paper will be a comic page, death notices, and stories that could cause me to wince. Another layer of everyday life wrapped in an orange plastic tube. The completed package.

Completion. I wonder if there is a certain misunderstanding of the notion. Sure, I can complete a single chore. All that is expected of me on this journey? I may not be the final judge. All I can do is I watch for the serendipities, the blessings inside dark and light. They appear along the way.

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You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, “Am I having fun?” (Christopher Meloni)

I watched as my beloved Toyota was being towed away. Her replacement existed. Among a few possibilities. Nevertheless, Little Beige and I had seen many miles together. We fit old-sneaker comfortably; until that last crashing moment I knew what to expect. She didn’t complain when one of the kids spilled drinks on her back seat. I knew how her few buttons worked.

Now, I wait as my husband and the used car salesman work out the final details. Jay has a business degree, as well as a knack for checking out the facts. I listen, unaware that my granddaughter, Ella, has also been listening.

As Jay and the dealer leave the building for some checks on his car, Ella takes over the salesman’s chair.

“What kind of car do you want?” she asks.

“Green with an orange steering wheel.”

“We can do that.” She pauses. “I will have to make it.”

After a few arm swirls, she hands me the invisible product. “Do you need anything else?”

“How about a truck? Purple.”

Once again, the request is no problem. One item costs me $54.56. The other costs $56.56.

She laughs when I ask for a tractor complete with farmer. So does a fellow customer at the next desk.

Before Jay and the salesman return I am also the proud owner of a motorcycle and yellow school bus. Fortunately, the imagination doesn’t limit size. It doesn’t care about the age of user or seller either.

“We can go home and play now, Ella,” I tell her.

The day lilies by our driveway have dried by afternoon. The morning dew has evaporated. Each hour has its cost and its gift. I’d like to say I have forgotten about the fearful moment when I knew my 2005 Toyota had breathed its last breath.

Yet, somehow, I survived. Each minute brings something different—both pleasant and miserable.

Ella and I play. The sun rises and sets. We are part of a larger whole. A whole I may never understand until my life is completed, and perhaps not by then. After all, knowledge isn’t my goal; love is.

 

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The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. (J.M. Barrie, novelist and playwright)

Random, dead, moss-covered wood. I’ve felt a kinship with it at times. Yet, the fallen logs create artistic patterns. Hollow centers offer homes for wildlife.

My husband and I walked under a lacy shade of branches. They protected the ground from the late-May heat. The pattern of dead and alive seemed to ramble, aimless. Nevertheless, there was a wholeness to the scene.

Recently, my husband and I attended an event. I am intentionally vague about whether the event was a picnic, graduation, family reunion, or none of the above. The setting was accidental; the story reveals a story within a story, the one that occurred instead of the one planned.

One of the guests passed out after a possible seizure. An individual honored at that moment ran to her defense. She saw the need for a 911 call. Two of the attendees were nurses and two were doctors. They assisted the fallen person more thoroughly than the paramedics did.

After the ill guest was taken to the hospital, any separated groups bonded. A different story developed based upon mutual care and love. We met as friends, not strangers.

I hoped to hold onto that intimate feeling forever. Then I totaled my car the same day my husband and I returned home. A tree won when the accelerator stuck…or I missed the brake…or fate decided my time with Little Beige should end. I don’t know what happened. This incident was the first in my years behind the wheel. It doesn’t matter how the accident happened. My 2005 Toyota will soon become junkyard fodder.

Like the dead branches my car has a history. Soon to be buried. I am okay, relatively anyway. So is my husband. We were not physically injured.

Neighbors arrived immediately. With offers to help. With support. With the difference between rotting in the moment and survival.

The story changed. I am not the only character in my tale. Nor, am I the only heroine. And that is what makes the difference. Sometimes, simple actions may have saved someone more than anyone will ever know.

Thanks to all who take that extra step forward.

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