That Long Trip Home

That Long Trip Home

“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door”

 John Lennon, Paul McCartney

 

The God of full moon watched over me all evening as I drove southeast through the rolling hills of Oklahoma. I welcomed her presence, kept looking up and grinning at her, enjoying her luminous beauty.

It was that long trip home to see Dad.  At eighty seven he worried so I hated that my work, rather my obsession with work, caused me to get a late start and drive in the dark.

Preferring the comfort of home at night, I’d rather just hang out with my pet family and read.  And, I can’t see squat in the dark anymore so I don my distance glasses when I drive at night and the heart thumps a tad faster.

Seventy five miles from Dad’s thin fingers of white fog began to float by me.  I thought it would simply ebb and flow from low lying areas to higher ground, but this fog lingered-much like the new ache in my spirit.

As I meandered through the hills and the threads of fog I wondered how many times I had made this long old trip.  It began when I first left home for college at seventeen; the years blew by so quickly.  I am sixty one now, so many trips. As I drove on through the fog I thought of Robert Frost’s words, “miles to go before I sleep”.  They seemed prophetic to me as I felt my life spiral down.

The further south I drove the thicker the fog became; I slowed down to sixty miles per hour. That last stretch of road is just a two lane state highway for the most part;  it bends and twists along, lined with pine woods on either side.

My feelings about this old trip also meandered back and forth; I hated it and I loved it.  When I was young and full of myself I drove waaay over the speed limit to get it over with. (A grand collection of speeding tickets confirm this.) Back in the day, I could finesse my way out of one from time to time.  Once, Kelly and I actually bribed a young highway patrolman with a baggie of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  He smiled, took them and drove away.

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My youth and self-absorption resented the trip and having to make it. I would hurry back on Sunday only to find that I had left behind those who would always stand with me.  With passing years I was more likely to drive back with tears in my eyes, wishing I could stay longer.

I hated the physical distance the trip placed between my parents and me over the years.  And, the panic I always felt when one of them was sad or in the hospital, knowing it would take me at least four hours to get there. Every celebration, every holiday, every funeral, and every conversation that needed to take place had to wait-for that long trip home.

But now I loved the solace of the trip, time to collect my thoughts, to record them, and to sing-loudly, and very badly.  It also opened the door to silence, so I could hear God. The long trip home was illuminating more often than not.

On the last leg of this trip I was so weary; the fog had become thicker and thicker.  This was exactly where I hit the deer a few years ago. She came out of the woods on the right side; I saw her stop, stand there, and look right up at me.  I uttered a telepathic prayer, hoping she and God would both get the message for her to stay put.  Why she jumped right in front of me I’ll never know.

Remembering that dreadful day I slowed down to forty miles per hour.  By now visibility was greatly reduced and I switched to fog lights. I could only really see about twenty yards ahead.

I stopped and called Dad, whom I knew was looking at the clock and wondering.

At twenty five miles out I was white knuckled and driving through dense cotton candy. The woods I could typically see to the left and right had simply vanished; I could only see about ten yards ahead. Even the familiar country homes that I knew lined both sides of the road were invisible. I was exhausted and driving on faith.

So many times life requires driving slowly through the mystery, living in the unknowing. Did the interviewer think I was right for the job? Will the sale of the house go through? Will the next commission check be enough? Will this person have the depth of commitment for a long term relationship? Will my body remain healthy enough to enter the 10k?

As the God of full moon watched over me that long night, I thought back over my forty four year relationship with the trip,  the weariness and mysteries it brought. And, I knew I’d miss this long old fatiguing trip home when I no longer had a hug awaiting me at the end of the road.

 

“We had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

An Ordinary November Day

An Ordinary November Day

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” ― Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

One plain ordinary day in November can change you forever.  You can have dinner; sit down to once again dull that rational part of your brain with mindless television, and it can happen.  Your life can change forever.

I am the same me that I was in the October, the same me I was when I was forty eight, the same me I was last week.  Aren’t I?  No, I don’t feel the same now, not at all.

I remember October, back when I was me.  I was out in the garden late in the afternoon when a colossal gust of wind whipped around me and almost tossed me into the pool. The evening was sooo perfect, the late sun shimmering on the water and that burgundy coleus smiling up at me.  I looked out toward the buoyant elephant ears waving back and forth.  Seeing the wind’s effect on the pool, I attempted to catch the scene with my new camera, the only one I’ve had that requires thinking. (A little late in life to start that habit.)

As I focused on the picture I wondered if that particular gust of wind had ever washed over me before. Where does it go? How far does that same gust of wind travel?  Does it circle around to the other side of the world and then come back?  Did that delightful Massaman curry scent from dinner a couple weeks ago just float through London on its way back to Bryant Street in Edmond?

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Is it possible the same wind could touch you twice?  Could that wind that swept through your hair as you played in the leaves with your nieces so many years ago, the wet breeze that chased you through the parking lot at Rose State the day you won third place in the writing contest,  and that cold current you felt when your life stopped right after dinner be the same wind? Could the wind go all the way back to yesterday when you were still you?

I go back to the words, read my own, and once again see that sad square box that holds me, confines me, and gives me a wretched deceptive sense of security.  No, I won’t be that prim little middle class Pollyanna.  Not anymore.

I didn’t ask for the rose colored glasses and I hate the square box; I am done.  This practice of writing has caused decisive hairline fractures in the box and some of the cloistered me is trickling out.

At the checkout stand in the grocery store I swiped my credit card for payment and the lit words appeared on the screen, asking me if I wanted debit or credit.  I saw a word that surprised me.  Flashing on the screen was “procrastinating–procrastinating”.  What it actually said was processing– processing.  Yes, I was doing both.

So, I slowly allow my tired eyes to see what they never wanted to; my unsteady heart both dreading and wanting the painful truth.  I wish I could unknow this truth, but realize I cannot escape the pain. It does not come all at once; by degrees I let it come.  I have to bear the catastrophe.  I cannot go back and be the fair-haired Pollyanna; I never liked the stupidamnshitty girl anyway.

When I was young I thought I was invincible and invisible and did anything I thought I was big enough to do. I constantly surprised myself.  What happened to that girl with freedom of spirit?  I need her now.  Where is she?  This me-is drained of spirit and light. This me-is in the dark and angry.

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Just get ready for work I tell myself; do what you do each day. Without the ability to focus I am scattered, can’t steady my legs under me which shake uncontrollably.  Just brush your teeth-you can do that, I tell myself.  I look down in the sink and see a fly lying there on her back struggling frantically to right her posture. She and I are the same.  She just wants to survive the day, just function, just feel normal.  Not drown in a stream of sad reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  I will not be consumed by this dark hurt; I don’t want scar tissue to build up on my heart.  I will not give over to despair-often. On this ordinary day I will do what I do each day; I will turn inward to God.

“The whole problem with people is…they know what matters, but they don’t choose it…The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” ― The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”  ― Sylvia Plath

 

Aunt Helen’s muscadine jelly is all gone, even the emergency jar I kept in case I needed consolation. This generates a pang of deep loss in my gut. But, there are two tiny containers of Mom’s muscadine jelly left! This morning I lathered it on my biscuits. I refuse to share this jelly, ever- not even with the Sweetie. Maybe with my sister Jan, if she was here. Maybe.

This is my holding on to Mom and Aunt Helen, who have both passed.  I hoard this jelly for hard days when I need their help, days when I can find no inspiration. When there are no more shoulders to stand on, no more jelly, what will I do? These two women, resilient each in her own way, helped light the path for me.

But, the disparities between my mother’s life and mine were significant. She had a way of nesting comfortably at home, right from the get go. She married at eighteen and started a family before you could say “Nuthin says lovin like sumthin from the oven!”

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Mom and Aunt Helen both knew the art of domestic flourishing.  Me, not so much.  I can sell thousands of dollars’ worth of darn near anything, but could not make an edible Italian Crème Cake if you threatened to fill my kitchen with angry birds! (channeling Hitchcock)

The way Mom nested so deeply at home was always a mystery to me. I could not grasp, not only her satisfaction with her life of nesting, but her enthusiasm for it.

Did I on some level back then believe my world of career advancements and adventure held more value than Mom’s world of domesticity?  That her world of being at home was not as significant as my world of exploring?

It’s not that Mom never had dreams of having her own career; she was very bright and capable. She possessed uncanny knowledge, with the most remarkable intuition regarding anatomy, physiology, and disease states.  She used to muse with me that she would  like to have been a surgeon. But, times were different back then. And beyond that, she knew that achievement out in the world was not her focus.

Mom really encouraged me to go for it; she lived vicariously through my recounted adventures.  I imagine she envied my freedom. Back then women had so many limits on their lives, some self-imposed out of a sense of duty, but many imposed by society, spouses and children.

Mom was brilliant in the kitchen, whipping up something that made your toes curl in delight, a natural at it. When she brought sick neighbors a peach cobbler they were almost glad they got sick!

IMG_0139She was an authority on tending home; she could do it all.  Like a new dress?  She’d create one on her Singer. Want advice on minding your garden? The woman had a super green thumb.  Need art for your living room?  Dale could paint one for you in oils, watercolor, or charcoal you would be proud of.

Compelled by a strong desire to be “out there”, I was birthing success in my sales career, exploring yet unrecognized talents, expressing myself creatively, traveling, riding bikes, volunteering, writing, walking for hours on end, and seeking ways to deepen my spiritual journey. In addition, I was single for many years and making a living had to be a priority.

As the wrinkles collect though, the more I nest at home.  I long to see Sweetie and all the little critters at the end of the day. I have been able to rest in myself through prayer meditation for many years now. Domesticity though, is pretty much a messy struggle. Still.

I can see that this is how my Mom’s spirituality showed up. It was a lovely gift wasn’t it? It was given often without thanks or ceremony.  Mom was very guarded with her true feelings; (but certainly not her opinions) she was not one to verbally express her faith in God.  It was always implied, always there, just under the surface-loving expressed in gifts of home for her family.

“When did the choices get so hard

with so much more at stake.

Life gets mighty precious

when there’s less of it to waste”  Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

 

Blink, and One Year is Gone

Blink, and One Year is Gone

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Begonias are fading, the little button plant’s eyes are closing, enormous elephant ears are going back to the earth and we already feel a chill in the morning air-way too soon.

I love the now and savor the Holy in it.  I walk out in the garden touching each plant, thanking them for their perseverance, their strength – their contribution to my world full of soft summer.

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Is it dread of change I feel with the fading of the summer, some dying some holding on? Always I am trying to make more of the present, and yes holding on with great thankfulness.

Time creeps up and it’s been a year since I started sharing my heart with you.  I thank those who just drop in from time to time, and much gratitude to you weekly followers, my patient tutors who comment, encourage, disagree, and suggest.

The year of blogging has shown me much.  Posts I thought were not so special turned out to be favorites of yours.  A handful that meant more to me had lower readership. The most private one I wrote and the most difficult to write is still the one read most often.

Most of you find delight in the same silly things I do, many thanks for comments that gave me the ear to ear grin.   I know some of your heartaches and stresses; I am sad with you and you have my prayers.

From across the globe, Costa Rica, Germany, Vietnam,  France, Russia, the UK, Bolivia , Brazil, South Korea, and here in the US, you teach me that what we share is larger than what we do not.

On this showy pre-fall morning after a remarkably gentle summer, not doing the work that pays, but pulled always to this exercise in expression, I am humbled by the year past. IMG_0703   A wild love for the written and spoken word prodded me and keeps me here.  I can feel and taste each phrase.  I tuck them away to pluck out later when my spirit runs dry.

These writings, little meditations with God, are only crude thanksgiving. The title I chose for my observations, “Holy and Not so Much”, has proved true. Has my writing caused God to start stress eating?  Are the church elders tearing their clothes and gnashing their teeth? In spite of these possibilities, I carry on.

The  gifts  I  receive  from  the  writing  are overwhelming. The gift is in the writing-the crafting of each sentence, acquiring a new depth of honesty, birthing a willingness to be transparent, the assurance it has been time well lived, and recognizing the Holy in each day.  I am grateful to you for sharing your lives and for this opportunity.

Special thanks to Monica, my daughter in spirit, for illuminating the path and believing I had something worth sharing.

The look and format of the blog have changed. You will see it is very much a work in progress.  When we imported the archived blogs to my site some of them turned out a bit—woogity. We will eventually correct these issues, I think. For now, it is easier to sign up as a follower, I’ll suggest great reads, share more of my dodgy photography, there is a new a search feature, comments should be simpler to post and my new site is full of livin’ color!

And a few surprises. .   There may even be an occasional post from the Sweetie!

Ten Years and a Road Trip

Ten Years and a Road Trip

“A vacation is like love-anticipated with pleasure., experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.” ~Author Unknown

What’s brought me to this state of double vision, painful hips and feet, constipation, migraine, and generalized pissy attitude? The thing we Americans call vacation. It is very poorly named.

My enormous Random House Dictionary, unabridged, 2nd edition (which I sold when I worked for them) defines vacation as A: “a scheduled period during which activity is suspended” or B: “a period of exemption from work granted to an employee”. I can state with absolute certainty that Random House is mistaken! The term I would use to define this particular vacation is masochistic labor while trekking through the Torrid Zone.

It started with high hopes, great planning, ambition, sites to see, foods to try, friends to visit, time for contemplation and writing, but more closely resembled emergency rescue and heat stroke.

The idea was to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Yep, next month will be ten years since our surprise wedding. Yes, I know this is a bit odd, but as I’m told-so are we. We had planned to get married on September second, just go to the justice of the peace and get er done. My friends Lisa and Leigh Anna weren’t having any of it. On August sixteenth ten years ago, the three of us were getting a pedicure when I noticed they were extremely cheery and conspiratorial about something. When I pressed them for the reason they replied “Guess what? You’re getting married tonight!”

It was actually lovely. I already had my dress, a good luck dress that seven other women had been married in and all were still married! In fact, my high school singing partner and confidant Cheryl had been married in it too. Sweetie had the rings and his suit. Lisa and Leigh Anna spared no detail. The minister, Curtis, was a friend of mine; they had a beautiful bouquet for me and boutonniere for Sweetie, rose petals for the ground, a picturesque spot at Cole’s Garden, a photographer, and music. Just Sweetie and I, the minister, and two couples who went out of their way to make a wonderful memory for two old friends.

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We chose our first road trip together for the ten year celebration. This was wrong on so many levels. As we headed out west to our first event, the Marine Corp reunion, we came to a complete stop in the desert where we sat for three hours while a wreck was cleared-during a record heat wave. So much fun. We turned off the car so it would not overheat or run out of gas. We played “I spy” to forget about the heat and the waiting. It was a short lived game as we spied a rock, some sand, the sky, blacktop, and the two trucks in front of us. Not much to “spy” in the desert. I shed my shorts to stay cool and the truck driver who walked up to keep us updated on the possibility of movement had quite a surprise. I on the other hand did not give a flying fig. That empty Planter’s peanut can came in handy after drinking multiple bottles of water to stay hydrated!

I am a contract sales rep; I make sales or momma eats spam-so I am diligent. But I really needed to completely get away from the laptop, the clients, the phone, and the stress. This did not happen so much. Sweetie is a chef and feeds two hundred college kids three meals a day, many of whom have quite a sense of entitlement. He needed to be away from the little….darlings and the daily assault of food service issues. His happy little dream did not materialize either.

While we sat in the desert, my clients continued to call and email me, despite the fact that I had notified them all twice that I would be on vacation during this period, and had an auto-reply on my email reminding them I would be unavailable. I worked all day long the first four days of “vacation”. Sweetie was likewise harangued by faculty from the university with this issue and that. A “period of exemption from work”, right. At this stage we morphed into Clark and Ellen Griswold; I threw myself down and did the really big ugly cry-snot everywhere and mascara running down my face. Come on, you know you’ve done it too. It wasn’t my finest hour.

Sweetie, Grand Canyon

I opted to visit my sweet aunt who lives in Lake Havasu while the Marines reminisced, guzzled beer and swapped “Desert Storm” stories. That drive from Las Vegas, Nevada to Lake Havasu, Arizona in middle of the summer is not for the faint of heart. With a record heat wave, the mercury topped out at an astounding 122 degrees and God help you should your car break down because there is nothing and no one on that road but you.

It was my first time to drive between the two points so when I came upon a sign that said “Welcome to California” I melted down the rest of the way. I felt like one of the Andrea Gail crew until my Dad happened to call. He told me that you indeed pass through a smidge of California (still rescuing me after all these years) on the way. I had visions of wandering the dessert for weeks, a crude turban made from my blouse atop my head, drinking the contents of my planters peanut can. This is such a desolate part of the country; I can’t imagine the endurance it took to settle there years ago. I would clearly not have been one of them.

The Grand Canyon portion of the trip was a surprise too; they also were having a record heat wave. It was so hot the first day we went to our rooms, stripped off the clothes, fell on the bed and didn’t stir. The next day we got up when the sun did so we could trek down into the canyon without heat stroke. Going down was an adventure, scenic and surprisingly easy with fantastic views and interesting terrain to explore-really fun. Going back up, not so much. To add insult to injury, after we huffed our way back up we realized we had only gone down one mile!! Must step up the fitness routine.

Things improved, sort of, the weather gods finally smiled upon us on the way back and it went from 117 to 52 degrees within hours. Upon entering New Mexico we almost slid off the road because a storm we encountered left six inches of hail on the road. The last couple days a little grace found us, a great time in Albuquerque and enough fiery hatch chilies to make us forget the rest!!

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

The Big Wind-After

The Big Wind-After

May 20th,  2013 is a benchmark day, one we’ll mark time by from now on. They’ll say “It was the month after that second F5 tornado hit Moore.” or “Nothing will grow in that spot since the F5.” and “He was born the year of the F5.”

 

When I report to the volunteer center in Moore I assume I will be assigned one of the cushier duties, organizing donations, distributing meals and water or making boxed lunches.  I am not the most robust appearing individual. But no, they take one look at me, thrust a shovel toward me and announce “debris pick-up”! I don my work gloves and sun visor, exchange the shovel for a rake, and get the debris bags ready. I am assigned to work at Little River Park in Moore.

As I step down off the bus I stare out over the terrain and a feeling of utter hopelessness pours over me.  We all feel it. How can the little we are able to do possibly make a difference? We stand and survey the landscape of splintered trees, bricks, metal, tattered clothing, insulation, broken furniture, boards, dirty toys and broken glass. With miles of debris ahead; there is nothing here that resembles a park.

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Except for the large plastic jungle gym rising out of a massive mountain of rubble no one would recognize this as a place where children played the week before. Every tree is splintered; every home in the surrounding area is in ruins. No one is there now.

I rake piles of rubble, fill my big bags and deposit them onto one of the enormous piles of debris that line the landscape. This debris is so embedded, sticks, boards and metal sticking upright out of the ground, just layers and layers of it, some of which I can understand.  But, I get the feeling I am raking layers from the 1999 tornado also.

I choose to think that our group and others like ours will be of help; I keep raking. Something shiny catches my attention; it is a rearview mirror. How far did this tattered mirror travel? Whose was it? What did its owner endure? And, did they make it? We’ve learned not to stay in our vehicles, but to get out and take cover elsewhere because a vehicle not only fails to protect you, but can kill you in a tornado.

I keep raking and something that looks like pale dirty flesh tumbles out of the pile. It’s a fatally injured Barbie.  I know this is sacrilege in this part of the country, but I’ve never been a fan of hers-you don’t want to hear my rant.  Seeing her here though, headless, her skirt torn and dirty, and missing a leg, I feel sadness for the little girl who wonders where she is. Maybe a tad of empathy for poor Barbie too.  Most everything else here is hard to recognize.

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These victims must start over in the most basic way.

Can you really grasp not having any clothes to wear or even a coffee for the next day?  No cup to put it in? In 1985 I all but burned my condo down and the next day I had no clothes to wear. I do know how this feels. I remember the sinking feeling of wondering how to put my life back together and make a living at the same time.

Mother’s day at church our guest minister spoke of her childhood.  Each day as she left for school her mother would shout out after her, “Mary Kathryn, go out and find your greatness!” Her mom knew small steps each day yield a river of strength and resilience. There is a time that each of us must reach down into the rubble and find our greatness. It waits there for our courage and resourcefulness to grasp it. These victims are reaching down to the bottom of their endurance.

Can you feel the horror and ache of families missing loved ones for days?  A few years ago my beloved cat, Hootie, was missing for five days.  I lost my mind.  He was a cat. I cannot begin to know the heartache of that father whose child was taken from him while he prayed. Natalie Grant’s lyrics say it best, “This is how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.” Yes, this is how it feels-and you are different from then on.

Hope is often born of suffering.  One news reporter showed us a huge pile of twisted rubble and metal; on closer inspection it proved to be multiple twisted vehicles-unrecognizable.  Inside one of them a light still burned several days later.  Sometimes greatness is just a flicker.

Oh God, we thank you for the gifts in our lives.  Open our eyes to see them more clearly and help us to be willing to extend ourselves for those who have lost theirs. Move us from our comfort zone to do some good today. Wrap your arms around those sad families; hold them until they know it is you. Amen

 

 

Waiting for The Big Wind

Waiting for The Big Wind

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  ― Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living

It is incredibly hot, I am sweating profusely, and I am afraid. My muscles are taut and my back aches from the strain. The sweet little dog in my lap senses my anxiety and stares at me with a knowing look. Our storm shelter is very crowded but eerily quiet; all the adults are praying.  The fear is palpable.

I’ve been in this shelter built under our garage floor before, but this time is different. This time the sweetie is with me, his first time to be in the shelter. Typically he is working twenty seven miles away so I tackle the ice storms, blizzards, earthquakes, 80 mph straight-line winds, destructive hail storms, and the horrific tornadoes that wreak havoc in central Oklahoma.  Another reason this time is different is because this tornado is two blocks from our home, and we can hear it howl.

You gain new respect for your own personal space when you are in a metal box underground with three other adults, four children under the age of ten, (two of whom are crying) an 80 pound Labrador retriever, a 24 pound terrier who has left a gift on the floor, a trembling Chihuahua, and one very nervous cat. Did I mention she still has claws?

It was not our turn this time, but tornadoes strike so often here you feel that sooner or later your number will be up. Tornadoes have begun their yearly rampage through my state; it’s practically a rite of passage. This is something I loathe, dread, and take damn seriously.

Oklahoma City is the epicenter of “tornado alley” in this country. Yep, just south of OKC, in Norman, the Oklahoma University School of Meteorology and the National Storms Laboratory pioneered state of the art tornado forecasting and tracking. We have storm chasers reporting with moment to moment updates like nowhere in the world.  When I was in England I met a man from Spain who asked where I was from.  When I said Oklahoma he replied “Oh, you have big spinning wind?” Yes, that would be us.

May  is different here. We huddle in front of the TV frequently in the spring; glued to the screen waiting, watching, and listening for news of a new mesocyclone descending with the potential to leave devastation in its wake. We totally get the meteorology lingo; we know what the “dry line” is, what “PDS” means, what a “sink drain” refers to, and the difference between an F-2 and an F-5.  We surely know a wall cloud when we see one and we keep an eye out for circulation.

And, we know precisely what that moment feels like when you must make a decision about what you will do, where you will go.  You have about fifteen minutes to gather yourself, your family, and pets.  It is not a drill;  it is the worst reality.   We central Oklahomans do this over and over again in the spring.

The meteorologist points to a graphic showing that at 6:30 the tornado will be four miles away, at 6:45 it will be three blocks way, and at 7:00 the stupiddamnshitty thing will be on top of you! So you gather the pets, wallet, water, boots, bike helmets, blanket, iPhone, iPad, flashlights, and head for a windowless room to put as many walls as you can between you and the funnel.

Before we got the storm shelter I would announce (despite Sweetie’s protests) that we were packing it up and heading to Baptist Hospital. Under Baptist there is a long underground tunnel locals take shelter in during tornadoes. There you’ll find people of all ages and their pets lining the halls, waiting, listening and wondering what will be left of the life they have built when they emerge.  Just a typical spring day in Oklahoma City.

These non-relenting tornado strikes are like episodes of atrial fibrillation that keep knocking the breath out of you time after time. Folks show the stress; they now have that post-tornado face. Locals know the look; these are the faces of grave loss, whose lives are forever changed. They go through their days unable to come to grips with what has blown their lives to bits. Whether or not your home is hit, the big wind opens a wound of uncertainty in your spirit.

We never dreamed that horrific 1999 scenario would be repeated May 20th, 2013 to practically the same degree, same location, and same sad path. In-ground shelters are selling like hand warmers in the tundra.  And, the brand new neighbors who just moved here from Hawaii and shared our storm shelter last Sunday—-they have already installed their own underground shelter.

 

“…I’d been caught up in some wild cyclone, like Dorothy throw into Oz, with not a good witch in sight to save me.”  ― Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon

Celebrate Me Home

Celebrate Me Home

Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still. —Valentine, K

 
Sitting alone in the woods with the two monastery dogs, Banjo and Oriole, I gaze out in the distance, they are good company and seem to have taken a vow of silence like me. From the hill I look over the tops of the trees attempting to show their early spring radiance. I can see Lake Keystone as the sun beats down on the back of my neck reminding me that it won’t be spring for long. Before you can say “hotter than hell”, it will be.

Hiking and climbing over the huge boulders I do something I have not done in a very long time, I smell the earth.  It takes me back to a time when I was much closer to the earth, the land, the country, and I am grateful for my awakening senses. For a while I am home.

I country grew up in the country.  Not so much in a small town, although that was part of it, but most of my time was spent out in the country.  Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still.

The country is inclusive, and extends solace to all.  It’s gifts are the  healing sight of pastures and farm ponds, the touch of green grass, a soft blanket of needles under foot through the pines, the smell of freshly cut hay,  the whiny of horses, and the feel of a humid  breeze on your face.  And nothing occludes the stars from your vision when you are in the country, a tonic for city worn eyes.

The end of the day did not find me with friends at the Dairy Freeze when I was in school; I was in the country feeding cattle.  My brother and I had a little cattle company when we were kids, the “M&K Cattle Company”.  I’m still pissy that it wasn’t named the “K&M Cattle Company”; after all, I was older and infinitely wiser. (my version) This joint venture provided biology lessons, finance 101, daily workouts, precious time with a treasured sibling, and opened us to the dire truth of forgoing something we liked for something better.

In the country folks just drop in when ”y’all come round” is extended. And you better have coffee and pie ready too, they never turn it down.  They just sit mostly, and talk. Some want to walk quietly around the pond and skip stones across the water, or sit on the bench under the trees and smell the honeysuckle that lines the fence row.   Or, go out to feed the horses some hay, and stand on the corral fence to get a better look at the cattle down in the pasture. You can tap on the fence that extends into the pond and the catfish know it is feeding time; they skim along the top of the pond, huge mouths wide open to scoop up chow.

There is something about the expansiveness of the countryside that makes you feel free in a way nothing else can.  The absolute wonder, beauty and simplicity of the land, the animals, the sunrise, the night sky-even the air bristles with unique enchantment.

I’ve lived in the city now for years and love its rhythm, its convenience, the melting pot of faces, cultures and cuisines, its opportunities, the city lights when it rains, its anonymity, the seasonal events, the synergy of liked minded spirits, and the life I’ve nurtured here. But I sometimes feel a deep longing and know I’m missing that part of me I left in the country. Nowhere can I hear better God’s invitation to sit and talk.

I remember years ago coming to myself, realizing that I was smiling for the first time in about four months. I was out in the pasture, just walking in the country. I was home.

God made the country, and man made the town.  ~William Cowper, The Task

 

Head in the Oven?

Head in the Oven?

“They don’t seem to understand, I’m too far gone to try. Now these lonely memories, they’re all that I can do. And I’m down to seeds and stems again too.” –Bill Kershen

Sometimes life is difficult. Days stretch out ahead with unrelenting demands, some you care about, others not at all. Somehow you will yourself to put one foot in front of the other and keep trying. I have the urge not to.

Drained from years of striving I want to sit right down and refuse to do anything, it’s too much stupiddamnshitty work! You know other people do it-give in to consuming weariness and forget how to try. I want to fall in the floor and whimper like a four year old who’s been told they can’t have McNuggets. This is not the same valley I always crawl out of but a deep trench that has me trapped.

While I’m at it I’ll stop choosing to keep myself emotionally stable. It’s my turn to go round the bend, just veg for a while, refuse to communicate, live in my own self-absorption. I’ll stop digging down to the bottom of my soul to find something worth salvaging. Get in the car and go-just anywhere! Other people go that route, why not me?

I won’t vacuum either; I loathe vacuuming. You push a heavy, deafening, incredibly awkward metal sucking machine around until you jerk your arm out of the socket and ten minutes later the floor looks just as it did before you sacrificed your rotator cuff. I’ve run out of parts to injure. Maybe things are looking up.

Weariness strains your endurance repeatedly to combat a new symptom, new syndrome, new injury, or another body system gone awry; unwept tears flow unrestrained. Coming so frequently that your lashes fall out, you are truly the bluest girl on the block.
“The tide you never valued has gone out.And you are marooned on unsure ground.Something within you has closed down;And you cannot push yourself back to life.” –John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Life has not been a tidy pleasant picture. It’s been the full catastrophe complete with struggle, omissions, grand mistakes, fear, poor judgment, lies, resentment and anger. But, for twenty two years now I’ve come out swinging time and again if only in the twelfth round. Why? Because of the gifts.

Living with years of unrelenting physical pain gifts you with tender gratefulness for good days. Loss of control gifts you with reliance on God. Years of heart breaking physical struggle gifts you with uncanny empathy for the struggles of others. Inability to continue treasured activities gifts you with new talents. And shared feelings shine the brightest light on those who truly love you.

Years ago after a painful back injury I cried (whined actually) to my ever supportive loving sister that no one understood my physical problems. Her response was one of the best gifts I have ever been given. She said “I want you to start at the beginning and tell me-all of it. Don’t stop till I understand”. I did.

Those who reach the finish line in a car or on cycle do not earn the distance walker’s lessons. I am blessed, not everyone gets gifts like these and there is no short cut that allows it-just suffering.

 
‘Meg’ Magrath: “Why’d you do it, Babe? Why’d you put your head in the oven? Babe: “I don’t know … I’m having a bad day.”— (Crimes of the Heart, 1986)

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”–Mary Jean Iron.

Yoga mat on the floor, I peered up at the room from a Chihuahua’s vantage point and stretched my arm far over my head just as instructed. A large window faced me with an enormous Schefflera in front of it. Each long stem stretched out in a different direction; the huge leaves seemed to grin back at me saying ”It was your idea to try Yoga, miss healthy pants.”

A restorative Yoga session, so not much was required of me-a good thing since this was my first ever Yoga class and I had widespread arthritis pain and multiple disc pain to contend with. My mind traveled back to when I did not have this level of pain constantly and sadness covered me. I wanted to curl up on my mat and weep; I longed for a miracle.

But lying on my Yoga mat I had my miracle-that I was able to be there at all. In fact, I am stunned that I am able to do so many of the things I do. There are magnificent things in my life, many that I am aware of and certainly those I have been too dull-witted to see.

At a concert I heard Amy Grant say that one morning she was getting coffee when her young son came in. She picked him up and put him up on the kitchen counter in front of her. She was stroking his hair and reflecting on how much she loved him and the miracle that he was, when he said “Mommy, you have really bad breath!” There it was, the extraordinary right next to the commonplace! This is life.

Do we perceive the beauty in the everyday sun filling the room on an icy winter’s day?

The wonder of lunch with friends we’ve shared life with for over forty years?

Playtime with the precious bright little dog that learns any trick you teach her?

That first cup of coffee in the morning, knowing the journey the coffee took to you?

A road trip with a treasured niece and the gift of good conversation with her?

The miracle of meeting the right mate whose flaws equal yours in just the right design, when you had not been interested in y-e-a-r-s?

The significance of everyday occurrences distills and the closer we draw to God, to spirit, the wider our eyes become. The film dissipates and we can finally grasp what was there all along. The thing is, God uses these events to give us an opportunity to wake up . . . an opportunity.

 
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein