Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys, in-di-gestion!

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Oliver! -Lionel Bart

I love to eat. Constantly. If I am not eating I am thinking of food. You too? I figured. Eating makes us happy in a way nothing else can. Dining not only fuels our bodies and senses but is a superglue binding our memories and emotions. Those endorphins are furrowed right into our little taste buds.

When that combination of hot peach cobbler and sweet ice cream hits my tongue I am right back in 1966, huddled around Grandma Sander’s kitchen table with my sister Jan and Roger and Howard Sanders. We are playing a game; I don’t remember it, just the flavor of her cobbler and ice cream, like I have a bowl of it right here. I can feel the affection of those old friends and hear the music we sang. “Make the world go away, get it off my shoulder.” Cochran, Hank 1960

Unknown Coffee

Think about a time you tasted a new flavor that made your toes curl. A friend walked in when I was ill with the first Starbucks cup I had seen and said, “I think you will really like this.” It was a Chai tea latte. Oh, Momma! Starbucks can make you fly around the room.

We feel tied to certain dining spots too, those with ambiance and flavors matching our tastes and sensibilities. Recently I trekked to my favorite Sushi house and could not believe my eyes! It had sadly been converted to yet another of the two hundred insipid Tex-Mex restaurants in the area. Once more, quantity wins over quality.

Fr Laundry Food

The first time I went to my little Thai diner I ordered Massaman curry.  I asked the waiter, the son of the owner/chef, (forced into servitude and wanted to be elsewhere) if the chef would add “something green” to the curry-broccoli, snow peas, anything. He stared at me blankly and wrote down my request. Shortly after he returned reporting “She don’t want to.”

When he brought my curry dish, sure enough, something green! From that day on each time I went in he smiled and questioned, “Something green?” The hostess at that same restaurant greeted us each time with the combo honorific “Mamsir!” in a very shrill comedic nasal voice.

FL Kitchen

Once in a while dining both delights the pallet and gifts us with a treasure. Living in Tulsa, I went to Oklahoma City to visit my friend Daphne. At Steak and Ale in one of the four dining rooms I looked up during dinner to see my Dad across the room having dinner with a friend! He had driven up from Southeastern Oklahoma. We had no idea the other would be in Oklahoma City that weekend, much less that night, in that dining room at that same time. Sweet serendipitous moments. . .

Dining does not always deliver sweet memories. Eating out alone one night I became increasingly uncomfortable because the woman’s husband at the table next to me kept grinning at me, ignoring his spouse. She noticed too; the hurt on her face stung me, partly because I was embarrassed for her but also because I knew that pain. I had struggled through meals like that.

60th

I was seated adjacent to Governor George Nigh and his wife Donna one night enjoying some crab claws. Until, one stubborn slippery little fugitive slipped out of my hand, flew across the table, banked off the wall right behind the Governor’s head, and hit the floor with a thud!  The look he gave his wife was, yep they seated us by the rednecks again! The complete walk-of-shame.

Cookies are a big staple for me. At some restaurants, like the 501 Cafe, I order cookies first. These are not ordinary cookies, these are Italian Ricotta cheese cookies, a special iced recipe. I’ve been known to drive across town to get one. Lisa taught me to make them, but mine emerge from the oven dense biscuits with chunks of granite inside.

I grin each time I think of snacks on the porch at my cousin Fredda’s lovely mountainside home in Colorado. She, Mom and I sat on the porch feeding Tassy, her pet squirrel, enjoying the beautiful view, drinking Sangria, and laughing uncontrollably; Fredda was at her comedic best. Everything was funny that day.

Sometimes the dining magic evaporates. Have you worked hours making a meal to have it turn out only fit for last year’s compost?  Not that it’s ever happened to me. . .Dining (2)

My sister Jan and I were at a neighborhood fish house having oysters on the half shell one night (I was eating oysters; Jan was pretty much gagging at the sight.) when I bit down on something very hard. I thought I had lost a filling but when I looked down into my napkin there was a big pearl! I still have it.

A peanut butter sandwich that smells like a combination of horse hair, sweat, and the great outdoors, topped off with a warm cup of water and a couple mashed flat cookies is one of my favorite dining memories. This, courtesy of Dad, atop a mountain overlooking the old swimming hole at Beavers Bend State Park in far Southeastern Oklahoma. We would ride all the way up in the morning and have lunch way up high, overlooking the Mountain Fork River. Best lunch ever.

Dad sm

When I was a kid supper did not begin until after the nightly inquisition. Dad loved to quiz us on geography, science and vocabulary before dinner. Who can spell syncope? What country is Dusseldorf in?  What is a chrysalis?  What are the symptoms of Anaplasmosis in bovine? He threw in a few math questions too; I try not to think of it. Math! No wonder I was thin.

Food, Marvelous Food

One taste of an excellent pecan pie makes my heart ache for my Mom. I think of the hands that skillfully prepared our meals; her cooking spoke a language of it’s own. Holidays are different now, but as I eat the turkey I see Mom in the kitchen buzzing around and hear Daddy begin his table prayer with “Our Gracious Heavenly Father”. Sweet childhood, sweet innocence, sweet siblings.

Meals at the Valentine household were a mix of exquisite flavors and appetite-slaying vivid Veterinary pathology. About the time the gravy from the roast hit your tongue you would hear Doc on the phone “Curtis, it sounds like the cow has a prolapsed Uterus; don’t let your Collies lick and scratch it; that could cause infection!” “Do you see discharge around the area?” Good times. We developed thick skin or went to bed exceedingly hungry.

The most meaningful meal I have though is not at the table but on my knees, the Eucharist meal. Eucharist translated means “to give thanks”. We do this with the bread and wine, a physical sacrament, and a purposeful surrender of our egos and dogged determination to live life our way.

Sm Communion

A lot of calories get used up before anyone sits down to consume. But more importantly, a lot of talk happens first, news exchanged, secrets revealed across generations, paths cleared with a touch on the arm. I have given and received some of my life’s most important hugs with those big oven-mitt potholders on both hands.”

–Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

 

 

A Valentine to My Younger Self

A Valentine to My Younger Self
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

 

“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.”  Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing

 

My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.

I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.

30 B-Day Cake (3)

My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.

That day I received deep purple roses in a beautiful cut glass “Valentine” shaped vase (that I still have) from a secret admirer. I learned later my dad, Doc Valentine, sent them. He felt my distress and sent them to cheer me. If I could speak to that overwhelmed young woman, there are things I would tell her.

KATT B-Day

Most important, is that she is precious to God just as she is-and that will never change.

I would tell her that life will be richer if she invests in her spiritual life starting right now. There is no other way to tap into deep strength, love, hope, wisdom and calm unless you do the work. Don’t be fearful of self-examination; begin to uncover your core beliefs. Cultivate a faith practice that belongs to you. The spiritual path of your parents will not sustain you, it must be your path.

The more exposure you have to different belief systems and the more discipline you employ, the richer and more grounded your life will be. Inside the confines of organized religion, or outside them.

I would tell her that her that her family members are deeply in love with her and differences between her and them are not enduring, so be vulnerable with them. Let them know how dearly you love them.

Spend as much quality time with your parents as you can; do things with them that are important to them. Your social life will survive if you give up a week in Cozumel and spend it with Mom and Dad. When they are gone you will feel the profound heartbreak of knowing there is no longer anyone on the face of this earth who is crazy about you in that same way.

I would look into her eyes remind her that life is about what she can give, not what she can get.

When I see photos of my younger self I am always struck with the same thought. You looked good girl! I would tell that fresh faced girl that obsessing over her imperfections to move the “prettiness” barometer the right direction will just stress her. At sixty three, there is a sweet freedom in going to the market now in sweats with no makeup that makes me grin.

Button best

I would tell her to relax; vegging out is sooo therapeutic! The work ethic police are not going to give her a ticket because she had a glass of wine and ate mass quantities of chocolate one evening. When I was young I could not simply sit and chill. I had to be doing my nails, the laundry, baking cookies, writing a proposal and exercising the dog at the same time. I was a constant storm of “doing”.

Yes, have a ball; try everything you have the moxie to. But please consider this, you must live with the decisions you make now for the rest of your life. What seems reasonable right now can haunt you when you are sixty-three.

She needs to know that shyness will never serve her well; it will limit her life. Get out of that comfort zone! If she does the thing that scares the crap out of her, eventually it loses its power.

If she continues trying to live under her own power, she will endure daily fatigue. She does not have to rely on her own steam; the power of God is within her. Let go dear one.

She should trust her intelligence and intuition. I was in my forties, in the pharmaceutical business, and taking masters level medical courses before I believed I was smart. Raise your hand at that meeting; express your ideas. They are sounder than you think and have as much merit as the next guy’s.

Her fear that because she is not brilliant she will not thrive will be proven wrong. Over and over it will be she who flourishes because she works like crazy, is more creative than she realizes, and has a grateful heart.

That young girl felt such pressure to stay flawlessly in the prescribed box. I would tell her to stop waiting for the universe to give her a permission slip to live the life she really wants. Her parents are never going become less conservative and approve of her decisions. Make them anyway! Live life on your terms and accept the consequences and rewards.

I’d tell my younger self to move into that apartment with her college girlfriends, take that job singing in the Memphis nightclub, go on the road with the band, wear that tight dress to the party, backpack through Europe, and tell that critical boyfriend to drop dead! Today!

I would congratulate her on what she has done well, invested deeply in solid friendships, let herself fall in in love, kept her GPA up in college, won good jobs, exercised regularly, read voraciously, kept a journal, traveled, maintained a healthy weight, experienced life in several different cities, and worked her nearly flat ass off. She always assumed she would take care of herself and never expected anyone else to. She has taken responsibility for her own health-this will serve her well in later years.

PENN SQ KATT

I would tell my younger self that her DNA does not necessarily include the marriage gene, nor is it a prerequisite to a full life. Yes, let yourself be vulnerable, but your health and your emotional well-being are worth protecting. Be clear about what you are willing to do for someone who cannot, or will not reciprocate.

Struggling through a relationship with someone whose value system is worlds from hers, or who is emotionally immature or mentally unstable will suck the energy, peace and creativity completely out of her. And, it takes two mentally and emotionally healthy people to nurture a relationship into depth and maturity.

She also needs to know that sometimes it’s a good thing to cut your losses and move on, call it a day.

Finally, I would tell her to vote-even when the pool of candidates is not collectively capable of ordering a pizza.

 

“Women who want to be grown/up will have to come to a blatant self-acceptance. ”Dance of the Dissident Daughter”—Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

 

Have You Seen A Snow Goddess?

Have You Seen A Snow Goddess?
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

Wakonda high school, hats off to thee.

And our colors, true to thee we’ll ever be.

Firm and strong united are we!

Hoorah rah rah, Hoorah for Wakonda high school!

 

When I was a kid we lived in the Tundra for eight years. The incessant cold all but atrophied my grey matter; the above is what is left in the memory bank of our school song, a cloudy memory from the second grade. This Christmas season brings back memories of that time, and my parents, whom I miss more than I can say. This was a divine time in our lives, a time of innocence and possibility.

Our first years as a family were fairly idyllic in small town South Dakota, Wakonda, population 405. Wakonda is an Osage Indian word meaning “Great Creator”, an abstract, omnipresent spirit. Curious that my awareness and seeking of God began when we lived in Wakonda.

SD House Sized (2)

My folk’s first home was actually their dream home; they paid less for it than you would a used car now.  It was on a corner two acre lot with cherry trees, apple trees and crab-apple trees. This place was an absolute marvel for a kid!

The front stairwell was carpeted for ancient twenty seven year olds, but the back stairs were plastic coated, and all ours! If you pushed off from the very top step you could s-l-i-d-e all the way down on your butt.

The above picture was most likely from spring. Had it been winter, you would see none of the bushes, and the front porch would also be obscured, by foot-after-foot of icy, cold, ever accumulating, stupidamnshitty snow. It was South Dakota. I remember looking out the window thinking “Wasn’t our car in the driveway when I went to bed? “

Stn Wgn SnSzd

The upstairs bathroom had a big wide black vinyl floor, aka skating rink. Jan and I used to fill the tub, toss most of the water on the floor, and push each other’s skinny, naked, bottoms across the floor, or plant our feet against the wall and push off, doing wheelies as we giggled in glee! “Pushy and Pully” is what we christened this beloved wild ride. Mom did not love this so much.

The bathroom also had a curious little door which was a laundry chute. We tossed our dirty laundry down it and it landed in a basket, right by the washer in the basement. This was nifty enough until my little brother Mark tried to throw the dog down it and follow suit with his body. Dad nailed it shut.

Life had its difficulties in Wakonda, like the stupidamnshitty weather.  It began snowing in October and did not stop until April.  In the movie, “A Christmas Story”, there is a scene where a kid is so bundled up in his snow suit that when he falls down he cannot get back up.  He just rolls around on the ground, like the Pillsbury doughboy. That was me.

The weather was grueling for Dad, who braved sub-zero temperatures to treat livestock for clients. He detested the cold. Can you imagine doing surgery outside in some farmer Brown’s stable in the icy wind when it is ten degrees below zero?  But, he was the only Veterinarian for miles around that rural area, and the man loved his family. They most certainly do not make em like that anymore! Thanks Daddy, love you.

If the weather was not severe, Dad would let me come along on country calls with him. I would sit right beside him atop his medical bag and shoot pheasants out the window with my finger. One of the things that made county calls delightful was the country cooks, who would without fail invite us in for pastry and coffee. Scandinavians are damn serious about their pastry! A few too many pastries could be why my third grade boyfriend named me “pudger”.

The bitter cold could be also be challenging as you walked to school. The high school boys thought it was big fun to push us over and roll us in the snow. The coldest I have even been was after one of these episodes, with completely numb legs, feet, and hands. When your limbs begin to come back around they ache and sting like crazy.

My sister Jan and I attended a very small school in Wakonda; first graders through seniors were in the same school building. This made for all kinds of fun you don’t see today. Back then we experienced childhood in a protective Wakonda bubble-early childhood as it should be.Wakonda School

The high school boys used to push our swings for us on the play-ground. Those swings were actually taller than most and the teenagers could really swing us high. It was one of my favorite things. Looking back on this, my folks would have melted down had they known how high they pushed us!

I would close my eyes and lean my head way way back. It made you high as a kite. I loved it, who wouldn’t?  One day I was so giddy with the “swinging highs” that I slipped out the back of the swing and landed hard on the ground below on my back  It totally knocked the wind out of me. I looked up to see kids gathered around and my big sis pushing her way through the crowd.

Jan is four years older than I am (Don’t you forget it sister!) and looked out for me. She came by Mrs. Hart’s first grade classroom to walk her five year old sister home.  One day Mrs. Hart pulled out a big over-sized “Dick and Jane” reader, placed it on an easel, and turned the pages as I read to show Jan what I had learned. That was the first time I remember feeling something like pride. Mrs. Hart took an apple, broke it in half with her hands, and gave me half; she did this routinely. I still don’t know how.

Small town life, circa 1958, and the tiny school, had its advantages; Jan brought her horse to school for show and tell one day. Can you imagine that happening now? Anywhere?  Even at seven years, I rode my horse Dolly all over town, anywhere I wanted to go, over to the drug store, to the schoolhouse, or to the grocery store to see my fine little beau, Craig Christensen.  He ran us into a tree right after this picture was taken, but I did get my first kiss after. Thinking back, that may have been the first signal to me that men were bad ju ju!

Craig Me Szd

One evening my bestie, Rose Anne, and I rode our bikes up to the stadium.  We were forbidden to climb the stadium steps. Of course we did.  When we were at the top, I fell-again. Onto by back-again. Knocked the wind out of me-again.  It’s no wonder my back is jacked up now!  We took an oath never to divulge this secret for fear of parental retribution.

We even had a murder mystery in Wakonda.  Someone in town poisoned a number of family pets with strychnine.  Dad saved all of them he could; two of ours were not so lucky. We never knew with certainty who the perpetrator was, but the evidence pointed to someone close to our family, our babysitter! She was crazy mean; our parents thought we were just whiny kids until the evidence began to mount. So glad I never ate her pastry!

Yes, Wakonda did lack population, restaurants, kindergarten, shopping, a hospital, warm weather, a reputable babysitter, and countless other things, but we had something no other town could boast.  We had Janet Hesla.

Janet Hesla was Aphrodite of the frozen Tundra. When she passed, this second grader stood silent in gaped mouth awe. A tall blonde Danish snow Goddess in a tight skirt and sweater, bobby socks, and pony tail; the Holy Grail of womanhood. Janet Hesla had a smile that made high school boys forget their names and third grade girls dream with every fiber of her chubby little beings that they could be just like her.

Now, a good seventy percent of the town’s population had blond hair and blue eyes, this was Danish, Swedish country.  But–there was something dazzling about Janet Hesla, something regal.  All the boys wanted to be with her and the girls wanted to be her.

Janet had a slew of brothers and sisters as charming as she; her brother Stevie kissed Jan one day. Were they under a car??? It was someplace strange, second grade memories are a tad foggy.

Out in the Tundra, we made good friends, the people were lovely, and any occasion to celebrate was welcomed. These folks could whip up a big parade at the drop of a hat. One day junior class officers came into our second grade class to choose someone to ride on their homecoming float; Janet Hesla was class spokeswoman.  She announced they had chosen me! My life was golden; chosen by the blonde Goddess!

Most kids declare at some point that they are parting company, hitting the bricks, going on the lamb, making a getaway from home. I actually did it in the second grade, in the dark, in below zero weather.

I walked two blocks in the dark; snuck right out the front door without being missed, to my best friend’s house.  Her mom answered the door, “Well, we weren’t expecting you, how did you get here?”  “Mom brought me”, I lied. “Your cheeks are very rosy.” she questioned. “Well, it’s cold outside” I reasoned. I was lucky I even made it there, with all the underwear I owned in one plastic bag and four school dresses crammed in the other. (I planned to stay a while.)

Me Silver Szd

This did not meet with the sweet homecoming I imagined. The experience changed me, at that tender age. I was an oddly spiritual little munchkin even then, and I remember deciding that from them on I would pray to God, and make good friends who might understand me better. And, who knew, when I was older the chubby little munchkin might transform into a Janet Hesla like swan . . .and fly away from the frozen Tundra.

“My old grandmother always used to say, summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.” ― George R.R. MartinA Feast for Crows

 

 

 

 

 

Mary and The Teeth Gnashers

Mary and The Teeth Gnashers
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

 

 

It seems to me that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you should spit it out. You don’t constantly swallow it back.”  Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006

 

Hours on end we sat on those hard pews looking up at the minister.  We listened, my girlfriends and I.  Week after week we learned and prayed and wondered why.  And, why not?

The Good Book was read to us and by us, stories that left us out. We felt less than. God was male, disciples were men, preachers were all men, deacons were men, and choir directors were all men. We felt less than.

So few examples to look to, to emulate. Women were revered because they were obedient and docile. From the bible, it seems the only way for a woman to redeem herself as worthy was to give birth multiple times and preferably to male children.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I am grateful for the bible stories that do tell other stories of women.  We see the perseverance and divine insight of Anna, the faith of Mary Magdalene which lead to healing of her chronic illness, Pilot’s wife warning her husband of her powerful dream about Jesus, “this innocent man”(which he ignored).  The story of Priscilla was encouraging, as she was chosen by Paul to shepherd a church he left behind, and Miriam who questioned authority and helped Moses lead the Hebrew people to the Promised Land.

There were too few of these stories and unless you excavated them, you never even heard them.

It’s sad when you remember where value was placed when many of us were girls. It was accepted as just the way things were. Girls grew up understanding their worth, and later as adults hid the hurt because mentioning it brought on not just opposition, but wrath. Not only from men, but sadly from other women.

When I think of God now I do not usually visualize the masculine or the feminine, but sometimes I visualize both. As a girl, I was taught that God was masculine, and sitting on a throne in strict judgement of all I did. We do need an image of God for understanding, one we can be in relationship with-not a complete abstraction. I get that. And I understand the Book was a product of the time, a very patriarchal culture. But I was never even served communion by a woman until I was in my thirties. This is what God intended?  Really?

Female ministers were unheard of until I was in my late thirties. When we were seeking female spiritual mentors we found them because we were hungry and very observant, but they were sitting in the back pews.  I wondered why we didn’t have someone like Mrs. Grant leading the service-calm, steeped in experience, wise beyond her years, and most of all, loving and non-judgmental.  What a mentor she was to me.

I know, the Deacons are “tearing their clothes and gnashing their teeth” right now. What is up with that tearing and gnashing anyway?  I will most likely be flogged for going down this path, but if we don’t tell our stories whom can young women depend on?

Grad Kel, Me

The exclusive male spiritual imagery did something to my soul as it negated the divine feminine.  Even as a child I was serious enough about my spiritual life to notice. In my eyes they could not make me absent or weak by painting the other predominant and strong. And, how do we aspire to something if we don’t know it exists?

These words are old news to most of you, but so sadly, still never thought of by others. To keep the fire going it takes candor.  It is disrespectful not to shine light on this issue, especially to those who worked so hard to get the conversation started and were made to suffer for it.

When we were kids, the minister would talk about Mary at Christmastime, the rest of the time we didn’t hear much about her and when we did it was primarily about her obedience to God. We did not hear much about her as sister, wife, Holy, loving, constant, and incredibly strong. How I loved Mary as a girl.  Still do, and have spoken to her for years.

I changed church affiliation, in part, because of this gender issue, as have friends and mentors. This was not turning my back on how I was raised, or running away from what I was uncomfortable with, but walking toward my own deep spirituality.  I now have an opportunity to interact with female priests and deacons, female lay ministers, female communion servers, scripture readers, and our senior warden is female. The young girls who attend hear stories of women who made a difference 2000 years ago and women who do now. They are asked to participate, and they learn that their service is valued and needed. It is a matter of dignity.

Anna, Siri small

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Beatles. “Let It Be”

Places of worship should not only concern themselves with growing, but also with maturing as organizations. Honoring both the male and the female divinity is one step closer to maturity.

God loves me, and loved the chubby little blond headed girl who sat and listened, tried to understand, and felt less than. My spirituality is now grounded in a divine that includes the feminine and does not need the validation of patriarchy, or the church.

I think of Paul McCartney’s lyrics, “I give her all my love, that’s all I do.  And if you saw my love-you’d love her too.  And I love her.”  That’s how God loves me.  In fact, I think God is disappointed in the way things have been represented too. But, things are changing; Mary and I are smiling more often.  Now, let the teeth gnashing begin!

“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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where We Came From

Where We Came From
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

 

In the late afternoon I walk out in the garden and step under the Weeping Balsam trees; feathery very low hanging branches brush my skin and I marvel the trees do not fall forward. True to form, the Morning Glories have shriveled back into themselves and the Hydrangeas look like they could use a long drink.

Yellow Daffodil Tiny15

Feather Tree-tiny

The little red, citrine, melon, and blue, glass garden lights are glowing.  They bring a smile to my face, primarily because they are so pretty they make me feel like I have entered Fantasia, but also because I have failed twice at setting the timer for them to come on at night as they should.

I was well into my thirties before I ever planted a single plant. I used to kvetch to my Mom that she always wanted me to “grub in the dirt” with her. Gardening was just not my thing back then.  I was my thing back then.

A look back at the self-absorption years makes me wince mightily.  My life was like a pinball in an arcade game back then just bouncing from one post to the other.  What to eat, where to go, what to do, what to wear, whom to see, there was very little depth there. It is a wonder I thrived.

My gratefulness barometer was also broken back then.

Deep Clamydia Tiny-15

Twice in little more than three years death and its companion, grief, have paid a visit, along with divorce, personal loss, financial stress, health issues, and something resembling post traumatic stress. Yet with each blow there was relief, if only at the twelfth hour. Over and over I felt at the end of my rope only to find I wasn’t. I am alright; I am grateful, and know I can take little credit for it.

I marvel at God’s energy flowing through my life, then and now. When I was down to my last financial resources the money came each time.  It just came. When I needed resolution to issues related to the sale of two homes within one year, solutions presented themselves. Buyers came forth.

A health issue that persisted for over a year and a half specialists said required surgery was relieved by following a simple suggestion in an article I read.  An unpleasant neighbor I dreaded seeing suddenly just moved away.

The profound sadness that accompanies grief indeed found me, but is becoming more bearable through intimacy with God, talking to my loved ones who have passed, reading, writing, walking, and through gratefulness.

Today as I walk in my garden my gut reminds me that I am kin to this earth.  This little sanctuary, this weedy family, is that thin slice of this life that suspends reality for a while and allows me to rest in the Divine.

I feel so grateful to the woman who owned this home prior to me for her masterful gardening; her talent and time sacrifice so evident in this gorgeous gift.  For tulips and daffodils, Clematis, Roses, Daisy’s, and the myriad of lilies in the spring to the late summer calla lilies, morning glories, dianthus and crepe myrtles in August, I thank her. When your day begins with heartache, what a comfort these colorful siblings have been.

Purple Iris Tiny-15

Even the two trees in the backyard delight me that aggravated me so last fall when I first moved in, their tiny leaves tracking in the house each time a pet walked in and covering the yard for me to rake. Now, as I sit on my little meditation bench under them I wonder at the shade they provide sooo perfectly on this west side of the house allowing me to sit out even in the late August afternoon and read. I am even grateful for the fence that surrounds me perfectly so that I get a breeze but not the afternoon central Oklahoma gale.

Yes, I am related to this garden Fantasia, but like the morning glories, I came from someplace else. I cannot remember it, perhaps they do.

Morning Glory-tiny

 

 

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” May Sarton

 

Love you Tender Memphis

Love you Tender Memphis
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

Now, they’ve got catfish on the table

They’ve got gospel in the air

And Reverend Green, be glad to see you

  When you haven’t’ got a prayer

But boy you got a prayer in Memphis

   “Walking in Memphis”, Mark Cohn

 

We turned up the radio to be certain we heard the news correctly. It was 1977 and we were driving back from a beach vacation passing through Memphis. Elvis had died. It was so fitting that we were in Memphis when we got the news; I had just moved to Oklahoma from Memphis and had great affection for the city.Memphis

Only Memphis could have produced Elvis with that combination of southern charm, overt but easy sexuality, down home familiarity, polite respect and deep generosity. You have to have lived there to know it.

This former small town girl loved her four years in Memphis. I remember my first week there, making my brand new husband drive me around in the rain so I could see the blurry flicker of the city lights through the window of the Maverick. My first steeped exposure to a city of any size; I was entranced.

God does place us where we need to be. What a gift, Memphis in the 70’s!

We lived in Midtown right in the heart of the city, not far from downtown where I worked. Our apartment was on the third floor right over a city bus stop and two streets over was Methodist hospital. At first I woke so many nights to the sound of the bus stopping or the ambulances arriving at the emergency room. After a few weeks I never noticed it again. Each unit was huge and included a study; we paid $80.00 per month back then.  The Dunlap Apartments were built in 1923; there was actually still a little door with a latch in the kitchen where the ice man delivered a huge block of ice for the “Ice Box” back in the day.

Dunlap II

I was attending Memphis State University (now called University of Memphis) and he was at Southern College of Optometry, which was right across the street from our apartment. I worked at Goldsmiths department store, the main store downtown. What a wonder it was.

The store was on main street and occupied the space where the Gayoso, one of the old grand renowned hotels built in 1842 once stood. Goldsmith’s was enormous, with five floors and a full time elevator operator. The downtown store  included two restaurants, an employee’s cafeteria, a bakery, drug store, hat shop, appliances, furniture and art, clothing, salon, book store, houseware, furs, candy shop, drapery, luggage, personnel department, training department and administrative offices.  There was also a discount store in the basement, a fully operational display department and the “Enchanted Forrest”. Kids got out of school during the holidays to ride the bus downtown to see the Enchanted Forrest.

Each winter a section of the basement was transformed into a winter wonderland for kids. The white, snowy, magical décor with soft blue lights  transported kids to Santa’s world of wonder. Animatronic-like skaters and animals would spin delightfully, Santa’s elves would greet you and if you were good Santa would listen to your wishes. You could even make reservations for your child to attend “Breakfast with Santa”, an annual event held in the better of the two restaurants. Goldsmith’s was the standard department stores are still measured by today.

The things I loved then about Memphis I still do. I was there two weeks ago and felt the same quickening of my spirit I did when I lived there. It’s the city, the authentic southern values, the music, the food, the Mississippi river, the old, established neighborhoods with craftsman style homes, and that unique Memphis drawl. Memphis is an old city, founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson. Almost two centuries of both change and reverence for history have grown Memphis into a very unique city.

I stayed with my dear friend Deb while I was there, the woman who kept me sane in those early years of cultivating a career and new marriage. Just one of the things that makes Memphis stand out is that within walking distance from Deb’s home you can shop for antiques in cool old artsy shops, hear very good original music, and dine in any number and type of restaurant. You do see the bland cookie cutter chain business around town, but not as many as the unique independents. And, Deb’s neighborhood is only one of many like this.

Memories of my years in Memphis include the streakers, Overton Square and nights out on the town, the Peabody Hotel and the daily duck walk, Beale Street and timeless blues, Rick Dees on the radio, the unmatched Rendezvous barbeque experience, Overton Park with its enormous old oak trees and free concerts, and Elvis at Graceland.

A walk down a grubby alley downtown still lands you in a huge basement haven for barbeque lovers, called the Rendezvous, with its open kitchen drawing you into the experience. The staff, many of whom have worked there their entire lives, greet you donning white shirts and black bow ties with white linen towels draped over their arms. There is truly nothing that matches the flavors, the ambiance, or the unique experience.

Small Sign

The first place we lived was just around the corner from Sun Recording Studio on Union avenue where the greats including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded their iconic hits.

I never met Elvis but do have memories of him. Rumors flew one day about the Cadillac dealership one block up. Elvis had been in shopping, bought himself a new Cadillac and also bought one for a lady who was shopping.

He called our Goldsmith’s Southland store one night before Christmas and told them not to close at 9 p.m. that he was coming to shop. Goldsmith’s accommodated him. He and his entourage spent upwards of $10,000 that night back in 1976.  I know I was young and everything seemed larger than life to me at the time. But there is still something incredibly provocative about Memphis and its rhythms.

If you are old enough, think back on that time. These were the days of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, John Denver, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, and Minnie Riperton. They were days of protests, hippies, MASH, Watergate, returning Vietnam vets, Patty Hearst, pot, sit-ins, love-ins, emerging women’s lib and Peter Max.

Peace and Love

And the threads back then, nowhere in the country did you see peacocks struttin their stuff like in Memphis. Men sported stacked heels, hip-hugging, plaid bell bottoms and flare sleeve shirts. Women wore headbands and miniskirts. I still have a pair of very wide bell bottom jeans that Mom embroidered all the way up both legs for me. Can’t get my derriere in them, but still have them. Curly perms, sideburns and ‘fros were the rage, and sedans in Memphis were pimped out like crazy, driving up and down Main Street.

Memphis was about as much fun as a part cowgirl, part hippie, part serious college student, part closet writer could have. It also helped me say yes to independence, confidence, tolerance, and love for people who looked and spoke differently than I did. It was a time of discovery, creativity, questioning and revelation. It was-far out man!

Clouds, Go Figure

Clouds, Go Figure
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

 

The first hours of daybreak are not my finest. On the very rare occasion I am forced into wakefulness as the big shining orb begins to rise, my surly attitude can be transmuted by a spectacular sunrise.

Do you know what it takes to see a beautiful sunrise? Clouds. It takes more than just a couple higher clouds. Fall and winter months produce the best sunrises because the angle of the sun is lower. More violet and blue light scatters, causing the sky to be very blue. The sun’s rays pass through the cloud layers for a longer time and this enables us to see those glorious melons, blues, reds and yellows.

Clouds, go figure. Without clouds, there is nothing for the sun’s rays to reflect off of, to show us the beauty in our world. Struggling and suffering are clouds in our lives that can propel us toward strength and growth.

If we spend our entire lives doing everything in our power to avoid suffering we miss completely the power we e-a-r-n from the process. People go to such great lengths to avoid pain and suffering that they end up with lives lived on the surface. You know them, people who avoid having difficult conversations and allow their relationships to remain superficial, are so afraid of a job interview that they stay in the same job their entire career, never learn to swim or ride a bike, or never speak up for themselves at work. You never get what you really want out of life like this do you?

Balloon SunriseI When I was a kid in South Dakota I was scared silly to graduate from the “Tadpole” swimming class to the “Minnow” class. When it came time for the next class I spent a second term in “Tadpoles” because I was so afraid of what might be expected of me as a “Minnow”. Finally I put my big girl panties on, tried the next class and turned into a Mermaid, jumping off the diving board, turning flips off the side of the pool, diving into the water, and swimming laps with confidence.

Had I not moved through the suffering I would have missed the joy of the process, not to mention the mermaid stage of my life and that little green swimsuit that earned me the moniker of “pear butt”! The only way to get to the other side was to suffer.

Look around you. Those who do the work, earn the gifts. They have learned the dire truth of letting go of the safety net or moving outside their comfort zone to gain something much better.

Cheryl is no morning lark either. In spite of this, for as long as I can remember, the first thing she does in the morning is stretch and do some light weight bearing exercise. She makes no big production of it and few know she does this. (Well, up to now, sorry Churl.) Her reward for this dreadful morning sacrifice is some fairly chiseled arms, and more upper body strength than most women her age and size.

Lorna forgoes spending on unnecessary household items. Her gift is enough discretionary money to travel all over the world, and wonderful memories to take with her. She just chooses memories instead of things.

There is pain involved in good decisions more often than not. These decisions make our lives better, markedly better.

The safe way we have always done things is not always best. I might have remained in just one career and perhaps been closer to retirement than I am now. In no way do I regret the changes I have made. The gifts from my tenure at ten or so post college jobs over forty years are tremendous resilience, courage, friendships, communication skill, travel, an expanded world view, expertise in various fields, and the confidence that I can do most anything I intend to do.

Fear generally is the thing that halts the growth process, fear of suffering. We fear failure, rejection, embarrassment, financial trouble, loss, physical pain and the unknown. And yes, we have all experienced these. They are the real deal. Being rejected is humiliating, failing is frustrating, having your heart broken is devastating, changing jobs can scare the blonde off your hair, but suffering is the place we begin to earn the gifts.

Not particularly to my liking, suffering is also one of the ways we gain self-knowledge. We all know folks who have allowed themselves be taught by suffering, instead of immobilized by it. In her memoir “The Hiding Place”, Corrie Ten Boom recounts being held in Ravensbruck, a notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp as a Dutch Jew who aided other Jews during World War II. That desperate time taught Corrie who she was and who she was not. Most of all, it taught her gratefulness. What she had suffered during the war gave her the knowledge and empathy to run a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors after the war.  Like Corrie, we also learn reliance on God from suffering. Corrie was able to share with thousands how God’s love brought her through the ordeal.

A different type of suffering is that which we must allow. When we do not allow these sacrifices, not much life happens either. Want energy? Exercise. Want financial stability? Do your homework, seek the advice of a financial advisor, and follow it. Want to meet someone wonderful? Do the interior work to become someone wonderful. Want to love your work? Quit that job that sucks you dry of creativity and do something you have passion for!

Sunrise SmallOur spiritual lives are no different.

We want to feel close to God, to have discernment in our choices. But will we do the spiritual work to know God? I love my church, but just going to church on Sunday morning and expecting to grow in spiritual wisdom is like standing in the kitchen each day and expecting to become a great cook. We all know how that turns out. . .

You have heard the phrase “fruits of the spirit”. I believe those fruits of the spirit are earned gifts developed over time with consistent effort.

When I was a kid I turned to absolute stone when my Dad used the word “discipline”, the dreaded “D” word. Oh, he wore that tired word out! Talk about suffering, I wanted to just lob off my ears as he yammered on. As I have matured however, I have come to understand that applied discipline yields growth. This is also true in our spiritual lives.

Spiritual practice takes so many forms, prayer, meditation, reading and studying spiritual material, writing, sharing our faith lives with others, attending church or spiritual groups, going on retreats or quiet time in nature listening to God.  We utter a litany of prayers but we do little listening. Whatever path we choose, growth takes place when it is done with intention, consistency and discipline.

Here is the dismal truth folks; we must suffer to get to the really good stuff in life. Yes it is generally uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes downright frightening but the sweetness on the other side is like no other. Pain and sacrifice can mean a step closer to our dreams. People who do not make the leap suffer too because of their indecision; they just never reap the reward.

 

“Thirty-nine years of my life had passed before I understood that clouds were not my enemy; that they were beautiful, and that I needed them. I suppose this, for me, marked the beginning of of wisdom. Life is short.” ― Iimani David

 

 

).

What We Kept

What We Kept
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.” ― Crystal Woods, Write Like No One Is Reading

 

I moved recently, and learned some things about myself. One of them is that I am exceedingly and rather pathetically sentimental. I found items preserved for years that reasonable adults do not to cling to.

I have two jewelry boxes, not because I have marvelous jewelry, but because they are both filled with small treasures.  The content, bits and pieces of my life.

I found name badges from jobs gone by; there were many. What do I think I can do with these?

Actually, one did come in handy on a date with a memory challenged bucket head who kept calling me Linda. I went to my car and retrieved one of them, put it on, went back into the restaurant, pointed to my name, Karen, and asked him if he thought he could just read it. Again, boy can I pick em!

There were three large copper colored sequins at the bottom of one box. These were tossed onto me by Bernadette Peters at her concert with the OKC philharmonic. To date, they have imparted no more musical talent than I had before.

Enormous peach colored, dangling, ball earrings were way back in the corner of the larger box. Dad chose these for my birthday all by himself when I was about fourteen. I also found a blue western blouse in the closet he helped me buy for a rodeo when I was in the eighth grade. The man would rather take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than shop for or with a woman. But, do I really need to cart these around for 40 more years?

Varsity Review Small

In that same closet I found a long, glittered, wildly patterned, purple dress I wore in 1972 when Kelly and I were chosen as a duo for the Varsity Revue at Oklahoma State University. I thought I’d wear it to my church’s annual Mardi Gras fund raiser.

I could get it on it on but I could not breathe-much.  I could not bend-at all. I wore stretch pants and a top.

Two little lapel pins that say “Never too Old to Rock and Roll” were in the bottom drawer along with an old ticket stub from a Kenny Loggins concert, circa 1985, marked $8.50. Under the lapel pins was a check made out on my account for one million bucks and signed by Kenny, right after he kissed me. Backstage passes-those were the days!

An extra large, very brittle, medication capsule Dad used for horses when he was in practice rolled out from the back. Really? There was a champagne stained Golden West Broadcasting bookmark signed by Gene Autry dated November 5th 1980, and a worn out “Winnie the Pooh” watch.

So many things I should have let go of years ago, like the three tiny pink buttons from my Aunt Alma’s nightgown that I wore for years. They are what is left of it.

And, evidently I am a Christmas card hoarder. Who knew? You could wallpaper the louvre with the cards I found! To my credit, I kept lovely ones. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all of them one day. . .

Three cat eye marbles rolled out of a tiny marble bag. Dad sewed Mark and I these bags himself to hold our marbles when we were kids. I can’t just toss those can I?

Examination of a crumpled, very old cocktail napkin with a really nice ink sketch on it revealed a little note on the backside that said “Someday, when I get a job, will you marry me?”  I did not.  I suspect this was kept for the ink sketch.

There was also a Christmas list sent to me by my niece Katy when she was about nine. On it, her hearts desires. At the bottom she closed with “I love you more than life itself”.

There were a couple treasured cassettes from my singing days, recorded with Howard, the singing partner of my youth. “Make the World Go Away. . .” I wonder if I even have a device to play them on now.

edited GlobThe pièce de résistance though was a glob of candle wax. Yes, I saved a glob of candle wax.  It is a particularly artful, lovely glob. I saved it not because it held a particularly warm memory from a night of extended passion, but because it was striking. I offer exhibit A, to the left.

Why do in the Lord’s world do we keep these things? Because, they give witness to our lives. It really happened. I still miss her. We were all there. It was a beautiful trip. I wish I could do that again!  I was in love then. My Mom was proud so of that!  That was so much fun. . .

Think back. What are you silly sentimental about? What did you keep?

“Sentimental blackmailing is the melodrama done by heart over our brain.” -Upasana Banerjee

Shall I Go Or Shall I Stay?

Shall I Go Or Shall I Stay?
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits. Robert Southey

There have been strangers in my home for the past few weeks. I hate it. Just hate it.  My house has been on the market.

Have you sold a house lately? If not, I can tell you that the process has changed a great deal in recent years, so have the buyers.

To start with, they expect you to surrender your common sense and will to them.  This pisses me off to the absolute highest degree of pissivity.

You love your home, right?  You have updated it a little and meticulously combined styles to create the décor and ambiance you crave. When something breaks you repair it, when furniture needs moisture you polish it, when the pool needs paint you paint it.  When the carpet gets old-well we pretty much ignored that.

Everyone thinks their home is splendid; I know.  But mine really is.

I did not want to sell my house in the first place.  Draped in sunlight with windows across the entire south side-it has given me so much pleasure. I can see the garden, pool and wooded area in the back from any seat. The moment I walked into this house I knew it was the right one.  I feel grateful and blessed to have lived here. I am scrambling to find another solution, before I go broke or exit the sane world.

It has only been the past couple years since I began blogging that I recognized how necessary visual beauty is to my daily routine-how it feeds my spiritual life.

My folks were the same way. Mom had a very distinct sense of style; the artist in her needed to be surrounded by beauty. Dad positioned his easy chair right by the glass door to see the sun come up each morning over the pond and the grazing horses in the pasture. My sister also finds inspiration in her habitat; she and I both seem to need water nearby.  What would I do without that beautiful view out my back door? Yes, I would miss the beauty of this house, this treasured home.

Nothing quite prepares you for the rigors of offering your home up for public scrutiny. Nothing.

You can’t see the pool from the kitchen. What is that spot on the celling?  You have too much furniture. You have too many plants. What is wrong with that window sill?  Do you know you have discolored carpet? I think you need a new roof. Too bad the kitchen is not wired for gas. These steps really limit the number of potential buyers. You can’t have your dogs in here while we show the house. That cat food leaves an odor in the room. Take down all these Asian things. All these family pictures have to go!

My house looks like an exceedingly clean, very sterile hotel. I have no idea where my bras are.  My clients have begun to wonder if I only have three outfits. My neighbor has all my jewelry.  And, I can’t find my checkbook.

Rock Sidewalk

The house showing drill would exhaust Michael Phelps. Scrub everything that can be scrubbed. Dust anything that can be dusted. Leave nothing out on the cabinets, take out the trash, vacuum all carpet, take that stack of books off the bed, take jeans off elliptical trainer, and while you are at it-straighten the closets. Turn on all the lights in the interest of “full disclosure”. Take dishes out of sink, take shoes off coffee table, put all office files in cabinets-or clothes dryer, clean oatmeal off office desk, and sweep front porch and around pool.  Go on poop patrol in back yard. Go on poop patrol behind couch for that matter. Hide anything that could be easily taken including checks, cell phones, TV remotes, paperwork and jewelry.

Do your best to make your house smell like it is not a wild animal sanctuary.  This is very shaky territory.

Put the cat dish up, heat up the car. Did you know that when it is five degrees outside no amount of car heat is sufficient for a Chihuahua? Get the dogs into the car and go somewhere to wait for time to pass while the house is shown.  Pray. This is about as comical as it sounds.

This winter has been record cold.  So, I put sweaters on the dogs, which sounds like a simple task. For Gus it is; he actually helps by putting his head and feet through the holes for you.  Marley on the other hand, falls over on her back-feet straight up in the air in frenzied contractions. You would think I was giving her an enema!

This scene has been repeated over and over the past few weeks. My cat has taken to hiding in my underwear drawer. My dogs hate me.  We all hate the freakin cold.

I’d just as soon be stripped naked, flogged in the town square and made to sing Copacabana, as have to prepare this house to show even one more time.

The Chihuahua has chosen this particular time to become incontinent in some manner of subversive protest. One day just before a showing she peed in the living room.  Not a dainty little Chihuahua dribble,oh no, a bear-down-and-squeeze-that-tiny-sphincter-with-all-my-might pee.  Just the household aroma I was going for.

The offers are interesting too.  One was for the same price paid for the house nine years ago.  Another not only low-balled me but had the temerity to ask for one of my Asian antiques as part of the contract.

A middle aged buyer offended everyone in the cul-de-sac by using profanity that would make Richard Pryor blush, as he  made out with whom he broadcast as his “baby momma”,  pressing her up against my retaining wall. I am not making this up.

Finally got a good offer, accepted it, and the buyer backed out two weeks before closing. I grew weary and took the house off the market to recapture my dimming sanity. A little angelic intervention perhaps.

One day the pilot light went out on the heater when it was about twenty degrees; I thought the heat had gone out.  I was without heat all afternoon so I lit the fireplace which has a gas starter.  About an hour later I came back in the living room to find a haze of smoke.  I had forgotten to open the flue.  For this offense I was gifted with a thin layer of soot on the white fireplace.  Have you ever cleaned soot off a white brick fireplace?

And the stupidamnshitty vacuuming-I swear the carpet has aged from it.  I know I have. When I do move, I am not vacuuming for a year.  Just before the open house I was vacuuming when I smelled burning rubber; I had run over one of the dog toys which was smoldering in the corner. I now must borrow the neighbor’s vacuum. And, buy a new T-O-Y!

I am exhausted. My nails are nubs from incessant cleaning.  I have construction worker hands, my back is jacked up, I am in an exceedingly volatile mood, and I think my neighbors are just a tad afraid of me.

My brother tells me that I am no longer a cucumber. I have been deeply dipped in the vinegar; I’m a pickle now.  I can never go back and be a fresh cucumber. I am worn, and changed by this comedy of blunders, a worn wrinkled little pickle who loves her home.

You are home this night
Home of stillness
Your home of spirit
Being and bliss
You are home this night
Abiding home
Forever home
Your forever home

–“Sleep”, Donovan

That Long Trip Home

That Long Trip Home
FacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInEmail

“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.

Twilight

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