Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Sanity project


We're in the midst of a sanity project.
Did I just make this term up?
I may have.

Here's what I mean - 

As we wrestle with our huge home remodeling project, as we -
  • finalize plans, 
  • order materials, 
  • plan out all these moveable parts, and 
  • deal with the unforeseen delays plus new problems, 
I feel very much that I am not in control.

I know this.
I know, too, that this is ALWAYS true - of home projects, of life itself.
I know I'll be okay, we'll be okay, the contractors will finish the work, it will all work out eventually.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it.

In the meanwhile, however, I need a sanity project: I need to do something that has a definable beginning, middle, and end. I need to do something that gets completed. I need to be the one who gets to do it. I need to get it done. I need to feel able. I need to smile at its completion.

Thankfully, my husband understands and appreciates this about me. 

So - we are installing a small flagstone patio in the backyard, Tony and I. I'm so excited! We visited my favorite 'home remodeling' place, our local quarry. We traipsed around that lot, looking at all the different types of stone, until we found the beautiful, irregular pieces we desired. 

Two days later, on a day when we were babysitting our granddaughters, it was delivered to our house. I actually woke the older one up from her afternoon nap (you can see she is still sporting her 'sleep sack'), so that she and her sister could both watch the flagstone be delivered by forklift. They love construction vehicles and wouldn't want to miss out on this. 

They were SO excited! 
We are SO excited! 
Honestly, this is just the work I want to do right now - dig in the dirt, move and sweat, make something pretty. 

Now, my day is not surrendered to others' deadlines, obstacles, delays, setbacks, confusion, forgetfulness...I can make these myself, hahaha, with my new spring sanity project! 

Now, excuse me, I'm going out back and getting dirty.


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Rabbit holes


On my walk this morning, I noticed so many more people than usual on the trail. Quite a few families, in fact, on bicycles or pushing strollers or playing near the creek. It took me a minute to realize - it's spring break week here - students are out of school, teachers have a much-deserved week to themselves. I'm so glad that the rain has let up for a day or two, and everyone can enjoy the sunshine and mild temps. Oh, how I loved April break! Truly, the end of this school year is in sight; those last weeks seem to fly by upon return.

We've been gardening and squabbling here. Sometimes, when I look out at the yard, all I see is what it needs - not what it has. Our yard needs a lot. Something. Focus. Love? It gets plenty of love; it has my husband - and yard work to him is what writing is to me - he piddles and dreams and puts things here, there and rethinks and wanders and tries again. I can't stand the 'in-between process' of the garden - I want it to look like a page from a gardening catalogue. I'm impatient. Thus the squabbling - totally started and stoked by me:

Me - Why did you move all the pavers from under the fire pit? I just did those last fall! 

Him - Well, I noticed they weren't level. So I'm making the pad level.

Me - Oh, nobody noticed! 

Him - I did. I'm fixing it. You don't have to worry about it; I've got it.

Me - Well it looks messy.

Him - Because it's in process. 

Me - Why do we even have that darn firepit? I hate that you keep it covered in the old brown tarp. It looks messy. 

Him - You bought it for my birthday a few years back, remember, hon? It doesn't have a cover and we don't want it to rust. We've had fun with it. 

(This man is too nice for a cranky wife like me.)

I heard the ugly in me. I wandered away and start pulling weeds nearby; I even mulched a part of the yard, soothing this insatiable need to 'complete' something, to have a finished task. 

It just feels like everything everything everything is up in the air, confusing, mixed up. We are in such a state of 'in-between'...we are a matter of weeks away from the start of a major home remodeling (contractor is in midst of securing permits) and inside the house is just a flurry of movement - emptying, culling, shifting, preparing. It feels as if everything I go to touch leads down some new rabbit hole, revealing something more, something unexpected, to do.

Then there is the larger world, which is off its axis. I can hardly bear to hear or read news - which makes me feel doubly bad, to be privileged enough to take it in small, manageable doses. 

It helps to write.
For some, it helps to garden.


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!

Friday, April 8, 2022

What binds me?


(Yes, I know it is Friday. I'm a day late!) 

Karen Eastland offered today's writing inspiration/prompt - to think about 'what we bind ourselves to' in our spiritual journeys. Check out her thoughtful reflections on this theme, and read the comments for links to other writers and their responses.

bind -
     to tie or fasten tightly

This prompt is so expansive...and a bit of a riddle, really. 

I wonder, 
am I bound spiritually? 
Tied up? 
Unable to believe in new ways? 
What anchors me?

Yes, my meditation on this theme has taken me in a zillion different directions and left me untethered (pun, yes?). 

Ultimately, for this post, I have landed in grief. Let me try to explain - 

A short while back, my sister-in-law died unexpectedly; she was very, very dear to my husband and me. She was his baby sister, and, with him being only two years her elder, she was someone who has always been a part of his world. Certainly, she has always been a part of my world with him; she was one of the very first family members I met, when he and I started dating. So, this is one of those tough deaths that feel 'unfair,' 'too soon,' 'more was possible.' It is painful. 

I decided to simply hone in on one small sliver of my spiritual understanding of the word "bind," which is to ask - 

what anchors me when a loved one dies? 

I offer a poem.

as I grieve

what am I to think 
of the turkey vulture
from our very roof
stain our cheeks 
welt our eyes
tremor our bodies
with the news 
of your death,
our forager?

in the days
that passed
in the mournful
there are so many woodpeckers

these are an easier happier perkier beauty
lively little birds
percussive shouts
further taps
as if
to say

which is you
which is you
which is you

every woodpecker
I feel
hold you
in my heart

mysterious and beautiful
little heavenly embraces 
offering light

as I grieve 

the sun telescopes through a dark gray sky 
a cardinal suddenly appears in the dogwood tree 
lenten roses stretch their freckled ruffled heads and genuflect
a wandering cat lingers on my driveway to greet me
the doe pauses as she crosses the street, looks right at me, 
tilts her head ever so gently
as I grieve 

each of these healing finds
a connection
to someone I hold dear
bridging is and was
a liminal touch

nature holds me wraps me binds me
as I grieve

the drumbeat of the woodpecker echoes my heart
as I grieve

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

On trauma, time, and healing

This past weekend, I walked the Richmond Slave Trail, a three mile route alongside the James river, from the Manchester Docks to downtown Richmond.  It was a spectacular day, sunshine, with temperatures in the 60s - a day to gather together. All along the river, there were many happy people fishing, families and friends of varied ethnicities and skin colors. I couldn't help but feel uplifted. 

Except for the history of the place, of course.

Which left me musing about healing...the trauma we inflict on others, how much pain there is in this world and how much pain there has been. Now there are these relentless and horrid scenes from Ukraine - the killing of innocent civilians, the destruction of homes, schools, land, life itself. 

Why in the world do we choose cruelty, ever?  

How long, how many generations, does it take to get through trauma? 

Does one, does a society, ever really get through trauma, with all its insidious future paths? 

Does land/place heal faster than people do? 

This sad musing led to this poem about my day in Richmond - 

Let's Gather at the River

today, 2022 -
rainbow of families welcoming the river
mothers fathers children in hand
sunhats coolers snacks to go
folding chairs and fishing rods 
plenty of sturgeon in the waters below
sun is bright wind is soft life is good here
come let’s gather at the river
the beautiful the beautiful river

anytime, sometime, other time, 1775 to 1865 -
packed up wedged in suffering on the boat
no mother no father no babies no more
day in day out darkness danger desperation
enslaved Africans at the James River
tied together chained shackled miles 
walking in a coffle along the river 
the beautiful the beautiful river 
to the slave market
come let’s gather at the river
the beautiful the beautiful river

how long 
to unhear the screams
to unsee the pain
to feel the wrong
to heal 

today, 2022 -
rainbow of families welcoming the river
the beautiful, the beautiful river
come let’s gather at the river


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating this supportive community 
of teacher-writers!