Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Bent be four


Look at you. 
Adorable you. 
You look like the numeral 4, for real, you do! 
You are a tree, 
you are a 4, 
how can that be?

I must write about you.

You are a testament to courage and fortitude.

Life is like this. 

You are born, you grow, perhaps everything's normal, for awhile - but, whoosh, something, someone, some force more powerful than you, presses down and gets in your way. Maybe, it was something traumatic like neglect or abuse, maybe something less dreadful but still painful, involving lots of screaming arguments, punishing discipline, or, even, ignoring you, finding you invisible. Maybe it is poverty or tragedy or illness or some other force separate and bigger and yet put upon you, that presses its way into your path. Stunts you. Messes with you. You cannot grow straight ahead anymore. You avoid, you turn, you move away. Fully. 

For awhile, this is peaceful. Steady. You are blocked but not tormented, because you are not resisting so much as avoiding, keeping out of the way. Though you have knots from the tension you hold, the resistance you've shown, the anxiety within.

You probably doubt there will ever be another way. It is all you know. You make do.

Then, SURPRISE! There is an opening. Possibility. Opportunity. Take off! Go! Move on! Instinctively, you do. You listen to innate wisdom, you seize the moment. Unbelievably, you are able to grow, forward, straight up, unimpeded, and with fierce power and courage and strength.
You. Grow. Strong.
All things are possible! 
You have survived. 
You have bent your way around the ugly, finding new and miraculous growth, steady, wise, and shouting out, to one and all: persevere! believe! overcome!

Now, as you take a deep cleansing breath, pause for a moment and look to the side, 
back to your origins,
where it all started.
Look towards your childhood, look back at your early years - what do you see? 
Over there to the side - left behind - there is a part of you that holds on, remembers. When you least expect it, you will find echoes and parallels to those years long ago. You'll see it, especially, in your fear,  anxiety, and anger. It shows up unexpectedly. Despite how you strived to live your life so differently, you will not be able to avoid the past entirely. There is a part of you that will always be firmly rooted in those early days. 

It's okay. It's all you. Be forgiving of yourself and others. You are who who are. No matter what, you are worthy and lovable. 

It's amazing to think...

What stops one person, 
may not impede someone else. 
What one avoids, 
others may see and learn. 
What one believes and 
takes to heart, 
others may not even notice. 
What one models
may influence someone else.
Understanding what one does,
changes over time and depends on perspective.

So many possibilities. 

So many things that stunt us, stop us in our tracks. So many obstacles to make our way around. So many ways to inspire and grow.

Thank you, tree, for reminding me. 

Life is like this.

When all seems lost and painful, take a long walk and look for signs of hope and possibility in nature.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Pitcher


It's time for the October OpenWrite on Ethical ELA! On this first of five days, Dr. Sarah Donovan inspires us to write a poem that is connected to sports. I went down memory lane....

The Pitcher

The blast of the ball 

striking the bat

screaming past your head,

deep, low, fast into outfield,

batter makes first,

bases are loaded,

pressure builds

get this guy, get this guy, get this guy

I can’t look at you

I can’t watch

I can’t bear it

Starting shortstop,

strong and quick, 


now vulnerable and exposed as



forced to close out this game?

Watching you




How’s a mother supposed to live through this?

Watching you

giving it your all and 

knowing you're knowing

it might not be enough

get this guy, get this guy, get this guy

I can’t look at you

I can’t watch

I can’t bear it

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Shady situation

A snippet of fabric from my old roman shades

I hold the shade firmly in place with two hands, being sure not to let go, while Tony positions the drill at the far end and reverses the screw. Taking down. Coming down. Down, down, down. Our family room roman shades, sewed by my sister-in-law and me, nearly thirty years ago. Thirty years, as told through curtains - wow!  

I remember how excited I was to make my own curtains. Was this simply me, nesting, with my young family? I cannot imagine taking on this task right now. Certainly, to create my own curtains was the most affordable solution. We had just completed an addition to our home, a large, open family room. The addition was completed mere days before our second child was born - and, though I knew that furnishings could be purchased and arranged over time, the five big open windows needed some sort of covering just for privacy's sake. My sister-in-law Linda lived nearby back then, and she, a skilled sewer, assured me that we could make roman shades together. 

I made so many trips to the fabric store, trying to choose just the right one. Carrying my newborn in a chest pouch, I made my way through tall, vertical rolls of fabric, awash in florals, geometrics, ripples, stripes, checked, getting lost and confused, trying to imagine them in my house. This place overflowed with rolls of gorgeous cloth - so many different textures, so many different patterns. I took home fabric swatches to quiet my mind from the confusion of so many choices, and to share with Tony to make sure we were in agreement. In the end, we liked the multi-colored fabric shown above - predominantly earthy red, with touches of grey blue, dusty pink, muted green, off-white. I loved the varied colors, I liked the way the fabric felt between my fingers, I even liked the way it smelled. 

It felt like a hard and crazy decision to make at the time, buying that much material. Others assured me, "it's only fabric - you can change it whenever." Ha! 'Whenever' is thirty years later, and I still don't WANT to change it. I simply MUST. 

Yes, those shades hung out through countless hours of arts and crafts and toys, so many television shows, videos, and movies, sleepovers and cousins visiting, extended family on the pullout couch, endless meals and celebrations, so many Friday night pizzas and wine for Tony and me...imagine! They simply became part of the background, taken for granted. Quiet, unobtrusive. But, like an easy-going student who simply will not be ignored any longer, they decided to fall apart. The tattered state of these roman shades was stunningly obvious during this time of endless days at home. (In fact, the whole house seems to be suffering from thirty years of deferred maintenance!) The shades wrinkled and bunched up in unexpected ways as they hung, no longer looking 'neat.' There were uneven fade lines at the folds, from where the sun soaked them during the day. The once strong and 'room darkening' backing became neither; instead, it faded, weakened, and discolored from so many years of bright sunlight, and actually disintegrated in sections. This meant, when I raised the shades each morning, I had to take care to adjust and refold the fabric so that the worn holes didn't show. Oh my. Yes, it was time. My goodness, it was long past time - these shades went from beautiful to comfy to plumb wore out. 

I cannot imagine sitting down and sewing new roman shades right now, even though, surely, I have the time. I remember Linda coming over to our house to sew - we'd lay the fabric on the floor, and measure, mark, and cut. We'd sew and chat alongside each other at our machines, in and amongst my nursing the baby, running after my preschooler; my ten year old niece helped greatly with the preschooler's entertainment. (Blanket forts!) With Linda's guidance, I created shades for the two single windows and the small one in the kitchen, we worked together on the double window, and she figured out the intricacy of the triple window. Ah, this triple window! Linda was amazing with this - fearless. I remember how she sewed these large panels together and asked what I thought, did the patterns align well? I assured her that I thought they aligned beautifully; however, she shook her head no, in disappointment. "I don't think it's quite right," she critiqued. With that, she pulled out all the seams and restitched - while I sat with my mouth agape in astonishment! This story is now family legend - Linda's beautiful work. [The photo above shows a swatch of fabric from the fading and worn shades, spotlighting Linda's perfect seams.]

Our new roman shades? These were a much less meaningful process. I "researched on-line" (no fabulous sensory immersion in a fabric store, this time), I ordered a few swatches, I went with a softer, muted neutral...though, if I look very closely, I see soft lines of grey blue, dusty pink, muted green. I measured the windows, placed my order, and voila, a few weeks later, they were delivered to my doorstep. 

Our rainy afternoon yesterday was just perfect for installing them. Yes, it was a simple, efficient, and sterile process, really.

Strangely, I feel more alert; reorganizing and updating has this effect on me. It's not just the windows that are different - the room, too, is much cleaner and brighter, simply due to all the straightening and cleaning we did as we took down the old ones and put up the new. I have always been someone who tidies and culls, before settling into writing or a project. As a teacher, before a 'tough' conversation with a preschooler's family or a colleague, there I was, cleaning off the top of a cabinet, tossing stuff into the trash, making things tidy. Honestly - before my final exams in college, I had a meticulously cleaned room. That's just me. 

So, here I sit. My first morning with these new shades.Yes, they look nice and clean...they hang nicely. A much-needed and long-overdue change. I know this. 

But it feels odd. 

I'm still not sure about these new shades. When will their newness wear off? When will they become ordinary background? What chapters of my life will they witness? What's their story?

Give me time.

Speaking of stories about curtains, I am reminded of Virginia Woolf's dreamy story Nurse Lugton's Curtain:

Over them burnt Nurse Lugton's golden thimble like a sun; and as Nurse Lugton snored, the animals heard the wind roaring through the forest. Down they went to drink, and as they trod, the blue curtain (for Nurse Lugton was making a curtain for Mrs John Jasper Gingham's drawing-room window) became made of grass, and roses and daisies...


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Time passes


I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
                                                        Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Look at our front yard tree, an Autumn Purple Ash. Just like its name implies, it is October and it is "purpling," the tips of its leaves changing color. The leaves will become deeper and deeper in color in the next week or two, and, if I am lucky, I will see the entire tree enshrouded in purple before all the leaves fall to the ground. We planted this tree some 25 years ago or so, and there have only been a handful of times that I have been lucky like this. Some years, a hard rain or wind will lift all the leaves off before they reach their purple peak, and that's always a strange sensation to know it's another year before the chance will come again. Many years - honestly, MOST years - I've been simply too busy to notice...backing down my driveway, heading to school in the opposite direction from the tree, returning home from teaching after dark. It makes me sad to think how many times I ignored that tree. I think if I had a 'do over,' I would go out of my way to see the tree. I would add one block to my drive, beginning my day by turning and driving in front of my house, and soaking in the "autumn-ness" of that tree before heading off to work. I guess that's another lesson from the pandemic, yes? The varied rhythms of plants and trees during the different seasons are beautiful to observe. 

There are moments in life when I am bursting with a very similar, transitory feeling, much like the tree. Do you experience this? Happy, near perfect moments, where you feel rich, deep, expansive love coupled with the awareness of it being fleeting, it is passing, it is momentary. This is certainly true around celebrations and big milestones, or even when traveling - all times when I am engaged in something significant that is also, by its very nature, passing or temporary. I am thinking more of small moments where I have felt both present and - strangely - nostalgic, such as:

- my oldest son, maybe four or five years old, sitting at the table with me as I worked, practicing writing his name over and over...how he'd write almost a mirror image of his name, backwards and wobbly letters, and how I thought those letters were just perfect and shouldn't ever have to change, but I knew they would...

- laying next to my youngest son when he was about ten years old, reading to him at bedtime, and knowing at any moment, one day very soon, he would no longer need me next to him at bedtime, none of my boys would ever need this anymore...

- listening to my middle son share a funny story from his teaching day, that first year of his teaching, when he still lived at home, and laughing so hard, while simultaneously aware that soon he wouldn't be coming in our house door at the end of the day...

- Tony and I enjoying a hike together, wandering along on a winding path uphill through the woods, having to watch our step very carefully, wondering if we over-extended our abilities...

- my Dad saying "I love you" in his final days, and me wondering, would I hear him say this again...

There are even much lighter moments where I have the same sensation - say, two bites from the end of a most-delicious pizza!

This sensation is at once sweet and wistful. It is the very temporariness of the time - the 'going,' the departing - that adds so much richness to what I feel. I suppose time and experience lead me to this feeling. I've lived long enough to have gained some wisdom from living...I've experienced something so similar before, I 'connect the dots,' I see where it leads, where the moment is headed. It's as if I am in two places at once, present and future, loving and missing. 

Actually, I don't suppose it is simply happy or positive moments that lead to this rich reflection. I can think of negative moments that proved to be, at once, "the writing on the wall" - a foreshadowing of the need to do something quite different, a new path, even, a way out. However, I choose to focus on the happy.

Am I just describing melancholy?

Can one have melancholy about a pizza?

These days, I am almost in sensory overload from these type moments with my granddaughter ("Frog"), knowing full well that this two year old child will be gone in a flash...and watching her laugh with delight
as she shakes rainwater from flowering mums, 
as she squeals "Again! Again!," when we roll her stroller  under weeping willow branches that brush her head, or 
as she sits on the side of the road and rubs the leaf of a lamb's ear plant because it is so soft. 
Yes, being around Frog is to be in a whirlwind of these moments, "we're having, we may never have again."

In my house growing up, my Mom would frequently toss out a favorite expression from her high school Latin classes: "tempus fugit" - time passes. Life is change. That was her closing argument, her way of telling each of us to get over something, or to deal with something. "Tempus fugit." What makes me chuckle now is she changed the expression over time. When she was elderly with dementia, she inadvertently inserted an 's' on the end of the original Latin, and would exclaim, over and over "Tempus fugits!" in the midst of most any conversation. Makes me chuckle every time I think of it, and now I often exclaim the same thing, in my house.

Time passes.

Tempus fugits!