Eternal Spring

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

I believed then, that I would feel young until I was properly old. I knew without doubt that I would travel, climb mountains, ride horses from castle to castle and understand the intricacies of life. I would know interesting people, have close intimate friendships, and that together we would raise our kids and laugh over memories shared through photos of smiling bright eyed children. The holidays would be huge, children, aunties, uncles, moms, dads, old friends and new. My sister would be there. She would always be there and the sun would shine on our Easter egg hunts and we’d laugh, how we would laugh as baskets were filled with colorful eggs. In these made up sunshine memories I never worry about my hair or my makeup or the clothes I have chosen for the day. Bra straps never slip and the children are always happy. Happy just to be. Sometimes in the evening after dinner dishes are cleared away my sister and I  walk in the rose garden and listen to my son play something melodious and timeless on the piano, the sound drifting on a warm spring breeze scented with roses, lilac, and daphne.

I feel myself  take her hand and kiss her cheek and remember when the nurse held her up to the nursery glass so I could see my small baby sister, new and pink in the world. The dream house I live in is always stone. It is a mountain of foreverness, unmovable, unshakable, invulnerable to time and trouble. There is no noise save the music of Duncan’s piano, the warble of an evening bird preparing for sleep, the distant snort of a horse in a pasture far away. We walk unburdened by debt and time’s many troubles toward an evening that promises deep restful sleep and a happy tomorrow. And in the morning sweet spring wakes us with birdsong, the scent of fresh coffee seeping in under our bedroom doors until feet touch down on cool clean oak plank and we are up, wrapped in colorful robes, plaid pajamas, rosy cheeked and bright eyed from the rest, in truth, that only children know. In my dreams I am always young, always draped in bright cheerful colors, always surrounded by my beautiful loved ones. In my dreams I am happy.

 

You’re Crazy

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“You’re crazy…you’re really crazy…you are aren’t you…” the woman stared at me, her eyes studying my face. “You really are aren’t you.” I looked back at her, confused. Christ, I was sitting in my new Audi wearing a grey turtle neck and holding my toy spaniel, yet there it was. Somehow, in some way, she had identified me as not OK. “Yep, totally certifiable,” I joked back, wishing to god this awkward moment would pass.

She’d come to the car to see my dog who is, I must admit, irresistible. A quick exchange of niceties had followed and then this glazed over moment when she searched my face and proclaimed me insane. I didn’t do anything to start this. I was just being me; just being a mom dropping off her son while holding a lapdog in a silver Audi, yet like puff the magic dragon my crazy had managed to make itself known. Or had it?

This is not the first time this has happened to me. In reality, crazy has been a lifelong companion. It was how my certifiably unstable mother undermined me from a very young age. I remember standing on my neighbor’s porch imagining a story I was telling myself only to be pulled out of it by my mother, appearing like a black cloud from nowhere, saying, “Don’t move your lips when you think, you look like a crazy person.” Later, while splashing in the bathtub I announced my wish to be president of these United States. “Don’t be crazy,” Mother answered, “You’re a poor white girl without an ivy league family. You will never be president.” I was maybe five? Yet the worst was the thousands of different times she and dad said, it’s fun to dream but if you think you’ll ever be anything, you’re crazy, in a thousand different ways over several decades.

Crazy morphed into, Emotional. Emotional became you’re too Sensitive, followed by Fractious, Unreasonable, Weak Minded, Fickle, Touchy, Confused, Flustered, Unbalanced, Irrational, Difficult, Hysterical, Crazy. You’re a crazy girl. Just crazy, girl. Too crazy to be anything!

All of these words have followed me like ribbons knotted in my hair and it’s taken decades to comb them out. And now I’m rich and loved and happy and successful and sitting in my Audi hearing, you’re crazy all over again.

It’s true what they say about your past. If you run from it, it will find you. Even on a good day, a best day, even when your hair is perfect and you’re dressed well, it’ll get you . It’ll sink its teeth into you and it will try to make you bleed. Today it used a closed minded, utterly vapid little rule follower, and it took her wholly and completely.  Like a faithful little puppet, vacant eyed and hungry for the answer as to how I’d got away for so long, crazy unleashed itself in words that flew like dull arrows and missed their mark. Even repeated again and again I felt nothing. No pain, no embarrassment touched me. I stared back in confusion until even the possessed felt the strangeness of the moment and snapped out of it. She said a few more niceties before walking away leaving me stunned. “Well that was fucked up,” my son said and he was right. It is fucked up to tell someone that they are crazy. What made the bite painless this time is the reality that I know I’m sane because I know who I am.

Crazy has been used for centuries to undermine women, homosexuals, rule breakers, and artists all over the world. To call someone crazy is to label them as rebellious, broken, shattered, irreparably insane. Lunatic is another word used to undermine individuality. The word itself is derived from Luna or Moon meaning that a woman on her moon cycle or menstruating was a lunatic when the P.M.S. kicked in.

Women were locked up in asylums for being hysterical. Hysteria is a nineteenth century feminine affliction involving anxiety, depression, overt sexuality, and mood swings. Hysteria was oftentimes remedied with a hysterectomy. (Hystera is the Greek word for uterus if you’re wondering.) So, to recap, we passionate types have been labeled as broken, been “negatively” afflicted by the moon cycles, and driven mad by our own uterus’s to the point where doctors removed them.

So why were woman and the marginalized so afflicted? Because their energies and purpose where stifled. They were allowed no personal exploration, could find no personal fulfillment, and were allowed no personal expression. They were wholly confined to the social norms they were born into.  Thankfully, things are so much better now. We are moving towards personal equality and it’s a beautiful time to be alive.

Equality isn’t women lording it over men, grabbing them by the penis and elephant walking them into a submissive and powerless future. Equality is simply the return of an ancient symmetry; the symmetry of the sacred female and the sacred male. These two, when brought together make a perfect unit. Stable like a triangle, they lean on one another in equality.

Gay or straight, a balanced couple is a couple where both individuals have a balance of the sacred male and sacred female energies within each one of them. Sacred female is the energy of intuition, compassion, sensuality, and unconditional love. It’s an energy that when embraced balances the male energy away from toxic masculinity into a more open and peaceful masculinity that is beautifully powerful. Sacred masculinity is the energy of compassion, relational integrity, emotional intelligence, fatherly guidance, and leadership from the heart.  And the sacred feminine doesn’t demand that woman set aside their femininity but encourages them to embrace it, love it, honor it.

As we move away from gender identification, and socially enforced gender rolls, we will move instead toward a more classical, creative, and open style of living where we will again create the golden age spoken of in Egyptian hieroglyphs, and by Plato and Socrates. And in this new renaissance we will be able to let go of labels like lunatic, hysterical, and crazy, because radical individuality will have simply become the norm.

I don’t know why that woman called me crazy. I did nothing to call her attention towards me. But maybe my own individuality stood out to her as too different, too free.  Maybe some deeply awkward part of her was trying to use the crazy label to push me back into my place. Thankfully, I live in a time when it’s OK to stand out and be different.

To read more about gender discrimination through labeling others as crazy, read, A Brief Yet Fascinating History of the Word Crazy by Amanda Montell 

Tanya

desert

We were six. You were a Navajo, and a black girl, my soul sister-more sister to me then my own flesh. I loved you. I love you. You were dark brown and your hair hung in glossy black ringlets. We read books on archeology in the library, we giggled over mummies and sphinxes, talking about the ruins we’d wander, the deserts we’d ride across on camel back. I’d hold your hand. You’d hold mine and say, “Shall we?” I’d answer, “we shall.”

Home was hard. My mama screamed, punched, kicked. Your mama drank, smoked, fucked your nameless fathers. Thank god for grandmas. Mine was an immigrant, dancer, nurse, a jitterbugging good time girl grown gray. Yours was a white haired squah, mother to many, once a reservation maiden sent to Indian school and beaten for speaking in her people’s tongue. We both lost our families to violence.

My mama brimmed with poison, spilling her lies into my ear for spite. “You need to know Eleanor,” she said, “Tanya is not black, and she is not Navajo, and there are no people  who will claim her. She has no people. Her mother is a bad woman and her life will be hard.”  I looked at my mother, the red-haired L.A. calendar girl, ex-go-go dancer, and nodded, my heart sinking in my chest because I loved you.

That week we stood in the sun watching your little brothers play, one Mexican, one almost white. “I got something to tell you,” I said, and I poured mama’s poison into your ear in a hushed voice, a loving voice laced with concern. “I need you to be brave,” I ended, “because mama say’s your life will be hard.” I remember how your big eyes held mine, how you nodded at me and said, “OK.”

I cursed you that day, my mama’s words working you over through me. Christ, how her lies laid thorns in your path. No one knew what you could be but mama’s words took everything. You and I…we were everything…until that day. I remember saying goodbye. Mama didn’t want me playing in your apartment because she’d asked your uncle where he was from and when he kept saying, “here, I’m from here,” she’d got angry. But honestly, where else could a Navajo be from but here?

Years later, when we were 13, I heard you got pregnant. You partied drunken like your mama, while I rode fancy ponies in pretty show rings in a tweed jacket and hunt cap. I was told you left school to earn money while I went to college to pursue my dreams. I became an angry person when the dreams fell through, ready to fight the man and the system. Did you fall into the system? I grew up, grew old. Did you get to be old too? I remember everything about you, the way you danced, how the sun lit up your hair. I remember that I loved you…never seeing your pretty color as anything but beautiful.

If I could take my white mama’s curse back, I would replace it with courage, with kindness, with the vision of us riding camels in the desert together seeking lost civilizations and buried treasure. If I could change the past I’d hold my hand out to you and say, “Shall we?” and taking my hand you’d answer, “We shall.”

Why We Help

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I recently had an enlightening exchange with my psychiatrist. We were talking about the nature of love and mothering. I’m a mother hen and always have been and the question was, why do I do it? What do I get out of looking after people? Our conversation went something like this.

 

Doc-“So, what do you get out of it? What’s the payoff for wearing yourself out caring for others?”

Me-“I guess I help people because I think life is hell and we need help to get through it.”

Doc-“We are animals. We make life a misery for ourselves and others. Coyote’s don’t help each other, neither do bears or lions. Why should people help each other? Why do you help?”

Me-“I help because I know we are sentient animals. We are aware. It is our spiritual duty as aware animals to seek God and to help everyone, every day of our lives. I feel it’s our prime directive to seek peace and love and to help everyone we can.”

Doc-“We are sentient animals but most people only live for themselves. People go to church and they do their charity work and they help but it’s usually because it makes them feel good, or it makes them feel a part of something. Spirituality and religion are no more synonymous than ape is to human. Not many people put others before personal investment. Most people are self-orientated.”

 

When I was young, I remember feeling a sort of narcissistic glow when I helped someone. I remember feeling like a good person for just a moment. Helping made me feel good about myself. But it’s been many years since my feeling good came into the equation of, “why I help.” Honestly, I believe it’s motherhood that changed me. After fourteen-years of giving, it’s become an unconscious act. I love people. They don’t have to be family, I just love them. They don’t have to be good or perfect to receive my love. We are all animals wandering through the same shit show together but what matters is that we are conscious animals. So, support your neighbor, help your friend, help a stranger, give money to Meals on Wheels, and protect school lunches. Help peacefully protect our human rights, civil liberties, and personal dignity. We know what is right and what is wrong. That’s why it is our absolute duty to help one another get through each day. No one gets out of here alive so let’s at least get through it together.

Love and Bless,

  1. E. Orme

Star Catching by Moonlight

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Beauty

Miss Rose lived in a white clapboard house set in a rambling garden where Tabby-Ginger hunted each day. Roses grew in tumbling hedges along her borders, guarding the gate of her frail white picket fence like thorned harpies, their long claws and green hair crowned with red petals. Of all the souls who visited there, Tabby-Ginger was more frequent, not because he was best liked or made welcome, but because he enjoyed the shade of her well established hedge. Whenever Miss Rose saw his ginger tail drift out into the sunlit furrow between the lawn and the hedge, she threw rocks. Miss Rose disapproved of interlopers in her garden; even girl scouts, neighbors and relatives were unwelcome. As for Tabby-Ginger, he did not mind her rocks. They mostly missed, so he mostly came to sleep away the day.

Miss Rose led a solitary life, a life without children, dogs or friends which suited Tabby-Ginger very well. He too enjoyed solitude, doing what he could to avoid worldly chaos. The cat and the old lady were a well matched pair, both unsocial, cantankerous and always opinionated on the subject of what was and was not proper. And so it was a strange thing to be woken one night by the sound of Miss Rose’s bare feet crunching through the browning summer grass, her body swaying in her pioneer night gown, its long lace edged sleeves and ankle length hem glowing with moonlight. It was a strange thing indeed to see the solidly rational old woman twisting and turning, eyes closed, hands outstretched, cupping for starlight just as a beggar cups his hands for much needed bread.

Rising to a sitting position, Tabby-Ginger shook out his dusty sun burnt fur, washed his front paws, and watched the distressing spectacle unfold. It would be wise to move to another garden with a different hedge, he thought. After all, one needs a respectable yard, free of commotion, in which to sleep. And yet unseemly as it all was, he remained transfixed by Miss Rose’s flowering madness. Never in her stone throwing sanity had she been so fascinating; unhinged, she was almost…yet being but a cat, the word escaped him. Miss Rose lifted her hands to the sky, her fingers plucking starlight from the air. Her silver hair, so long it ran in a river down her back, was lit with the light of a million galaxies that gleamed in the silver of each strand. In that moment Tabby-Ginger found the word he felt running through him. He understood the feeling and its meaning. It lived in the iridescent blues of torn butterfly wings, in the jewel-like-faceted eyes of a half killed dragonfly. Miss Rose was…beautiful. The cat remained mesmerized as the full consciousness of beauty swept through his feline soul. And yet even in the midst of his awakening a baser part of his brain asked, whatever will the neighbors think?

Tabby Ginger watched star-beams (those rarely seen silvered celestial fingers of light) kiss her hair, fill her cupped palms, and creep down her moon-bright arms to gather like an immaculate heart at her breast. Miss Rose drooped under her brilliant burden, her arms too filled with light sought, light caught, light held to stand the burden: her swaying soon became so unbalanced by the weight of her catch that she fell slowly, softly to the grass. Concerned, Tabby-Ginger walked towards her on callused old paws that made no sound. He needed to sit with her, to understand the magic that made his heart lift and then collapse under the weight of its magnificence. So he rested in vigil over the woman who threw stones and tended roses while he remembered.

Miss Lilac

He’d not always been a skulking no-man’s-cat. Once, he’d had a home and a garden all his own. It was filled with lilies and iris, daffodils and forget-me-nots. There were fewer thorns in those long ago days when he’d been sought after, searched out, and chosen from the box. A dozen brothers and sisters had mewed and bounced, hissed and swatted around him and yet from among the frolicking rabble Miss Lilac had chosen him. He never knew Miss Lilac’s Christian name. The Sunday cake lady called her Mrs. Joseph this and Mrs. Joseph that but Joseph wasn’t soft or feminine so he called her by the scent she loved best. Like Miss Rose, Miss Lilac was old and solitary and tended flowers. From her flowers she made perfumes to sell. For herself she made lilac. The scent of spring proceeded her through the darkest months, the snow months, the cold months when Tabby-Ginger’s coat grew thick and daylight hardly shown. Miss Lilac was an elder, an old one, a silvered lady so ancient in her methods that she could make lace even in her blindness, her needled fingers twisting the long white threads into patterns as intricate and gossamer as any spider’s web. This was her magic, her body swaying-star catching-magic, done with needles that spun whole worlds out of thread.

A cloud crossed the moon pulling Tabby-Ginger from his thoughts. In the sudden darkness Miss Rose glowed brighter, her starlight pooling across her chest. Is there beauty in every human being? Tabby-Ginger wondered, still struck by the woman before him. A young cat would run; a timid cat would hide. He thought. Only a mad old cat like me would stay to watch.

God Cake and Lace Magic

In the long ago years when he was fresh and new to this world, Tabby-Ginger knew a woman who arrived at Miss Lilac’s home each Sunday bringing God cake (that baked good made especially for those who forgot to go to church) and thread, (spun from the cradle of murdered caterpillars dropped before wings could spread into boiling water.) The God cake was set by without ceremony, but the thread was caressed and celebrated, gone over and described in such detail that even Miss Lilac could see its color through the touch of her fingers. The thread was so soft that it was the only thing Tabby-Ginger wanted to sleep on. But sleeping on it made Miss Lilac angry so Tabby-Ginger slept on her instead. During the day he would hunt through the flower garden, sleep under the full shade of the lilac, or wander into the house to beg milk. Miss Lilac had little but she always had milk enough to fill a saucer. Then, finding his place on a pile of scavenged magazines in the kindling box, he would watch Miss Lilac weave webs of caterpillar thread into table clothes, lady’s lace collars, and bedspreads sparkling with stars as big as a grown man’s hand. It was magic, Miss Lilac magic, but Tabby-Ginger didn’t know that then.

Looking down now on Miss Rose, he could see beauty’s hand decorating his life in hindsight. There had always been a beauty in his existence, yet before this night he’d never been aware enough to see it. Now, awake to her presence, Beauty spread her colorful palette across the remembered canvas of his life. He recalled the beauty in his mother’s whiskers, the sparkle of her large green eyes, the pink glittering touch of her loving tongue. He saw the beauty in Miss Lilac, in the twist of silver hair held high with pins to the top of her head. There was beauty in a warming fire, in sunlight poured through lace curtains, in intricate shadows cast across hand hewn wood floors, and in milk set out in a chipped china saucer. That was such a long ago time, he thought feeling his heart grow heavy. For where beauty’s power can lift a soul to exaltation, it will-in that same moment-weigh the heart with its absence. Every memory that formed in the old cat’s mind was transformed, made majestic, beautiful, before fading into the bittersweet emptiness of loss. What is this feeling? Tabby-Ginger breathed a sigh, his heart so heavy it was want to break. Before him Miss Rose lay unmoving, as still as death.

Going to the Gone

Miss Lilac died in the winter. Having outlived her husband and all her twelve children, she had no one to light a fire or keep her warm. It was a kind death, a falling to sleep and never rising death, a good mother’s death…still…the silence of it…the loneliness…had been terrible. Tabby-Ginger did what he could to warm her, fluffing out his coat, bushing out his tail, spreading his body over hers but he was only one cat, and being one cat his efforts were not enough. And so she passed away while he tried to warm here. What have you found in the secret place? He needed to know. Will I go with you? But Miss Lilac was no more than a husk wrapped in a worn counterpane and could not tell him.

Tabby-Ginger knew many things. He listened and he watched and he read the world as easily as the katydid read the weather. For a katydid knows more of sheet lightning, more of the long thirst called drought than the newspaper man could ever guess at. Tabby-Giger knew Miss Lilac had left for the place called gone; he knew this in the same way he knew the lady who delivered Sunday God Cake bought the lacework for less than its value. Tabby-Ginger knew this because he slept on books and magazines, newspapers and letters. Being a cat, he liked to be where humans were, to know what humans knew, and he knew that he’d seen lace stars the size of a grown man’s hands pictured on the paper. He understood what the blind woman could not see. And he understood that death, no matter how it came, was final.

But what comes after the last breath, after the stillness? Is death a beginning or an end? The questions persisted, but the answer eluded him. Every cat knows the well crunched vole never stirs but how can that rule apply to humans? Miss Lilac had not stirred, had gone to the gone, leaving him a no-man’s-cat which never felt right.

With Miss Lilac, he’d known comfort, kindness, and home. Without her everything had changed. A no-man’s-cat is friendless, homeless and hungry. His fur loses its luster and the cold of the homeless is so terrible that some winters it seemed wiser to give up than to go on hunting, seeking and surviving. Remembering the cold of winter made his coat bristle, is whiskers twitch. How many more winters could he survive? The question frightened him. Maybe that was why he watched over Miss Rose, counted her shallow breaths, and checked for the signs of stillness that led to the stillness that does not pass.

The Way Home

The last of the day’s heat drifted from the earth while the starlight chilled the garden with an otherworldly cold. Miss Rose lay in the grass; the starlight fading from her to light the walkway, silver the lawn, and frost the flowers. It touched the earth with its monochromatic tones, leaving the pale bloomless world looking hollowed and shrunken. Moment by moment Miss rose did not stir. Has she gone to the gone? Tabby-Ginger worried, rising to his feet to pace before her. She is still…too still… With a sudden panic Tabby-Ginger called her name, his deep feline voice breaking up the silence. “Meee…Rowwww…” He rubbed his nose against her nose and batted her chin with his paw. Though he was not hers and she was not his they had shared the beauty of the garden…the sparkle of spring dew on new buds…the light breath of a butterfly’s wing stirring the scented summer air. Besides, hadn’t she thrown rocks, and hadn’t he dutifully run?

No she cannot have gone to the gone, he thought, jumping onto her chest. Gently he caressed her with Eskimo kisses, nose to nose, whisker to cheek. Then, fluffing out his fur, and bushing out his tail, he warmed her with his ragged self and purred life back into her. When the stray cloud uncovered the moon, then cat and woman were fused in one pool of chillingly bright light.

“Mee…roww…” Tabby-Ginger called. “Mee…roww…” he called again, his broken teeth nipping at her chin. Then a movement, a breath indrawn, stronger than the last. Do not go the gone… Tabby-Ginger cried. Miss Rose opened her eyes.

Tabby-Ginger watched wonder and confusion dawn and fade to loss and sadness. Had the starlight been a dream dreamt on sleepwalking feet? Tabby-Ginger saw the question in her eyes and knew the magic of the night was fading in her memory. Humans, ever rational, demote magic through uncertainty; all the worlds wonder cast away in their ceaseless search for reason. Still, an indisputable knowing passed between cat and woman as holding him to her chest she sat up.

Peace

One surveyed the other with the respectful gaze of enemies made acquiescent by proximity. Without words each knew that their stalwart, well organized souls, were bound by the inexplicable events of the night. Miss Rose understood the sparkle of care in the old cat’s eyes and the cat saw the loneliness and confusion that shimmered in the woman’s pale blue gaze. Their memory of gathered starlight, whether dreamed up illusion, or miraculously reality, bound them.

When Miss Rose straightened her gown and rose from the lawn, Tabby-Ginger proceeded her in the same way he’d once proceeded Miss Lilac toward the house and up onto the porch; settling himself with proprietary ownership at the door. Miss Rose stared at Tabby-Ginger, her expression questioning whether her house needed a cat. But after the momentary hesitation she allowed him to enter.

For Tabby-Ginger, this was no small victory. This was a gain in earth, a movement of the ginger cat’s Maginot’s Line, his domain repositioned from the distant hedge and sunlit rose beds to the warmth of a homey house where no rain or snow could ever find him. Entering the kitchen, Tabby-Ginger spotted a pile of newspapers in the kindling box near the cook stove. Making himself a bed, he let his eyes close with feline contentment and purred the soft purr of the well housed cat. This is right. This is good. He thought. I will make this house my home.

Comfort led to sleep, and sleep led to dreams in which Miss Lilac spun a world, his world out of thread; her silvered lacework spread out from the place called gone to where he lay, luring him with its soft comforting warmth all silky, smooth, and inviting. The dream called his old bones to home, while his gentle knowing answered, soon…soon…I will rest with you soon. But the dream was broken by light footsteps and the sight of Miss Rose holding a saucer of milk.

A Tuscaloosa Morning

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Where were you when I called last night? Where were you when I had to go out in the chilly darkness cause the wood box was empty again. Right now I’d like to flick your red pick-up truck off the landscape like some miserable bloodsucking insect. Fat and shiny, it winds its way over the bumps and dips of our Tuscaloosa farm land, its old motor ripping up the morning like sheet lightning in August.

“Y’all sit down and be still now.” Four pairs of eyes look up, questioning. “Go on now. Jemima, put Pudding in her high chair. Cecilia, Rose, get to your places. You’re Daddy on the drive.” I stoke the fire with fresh logs still cold from the wood shed; iced sap sizzles to steam as the fire licks the wood alight.

The stove is warming up quick but not quick enough to warm the room or fill it with the soothing scent of oven hot bread and fresh coffee.

“Y’all be quiet when Daddy comes in. Be respectful.” Cecilia and Rose nod but Jemima looks away. Only Pudding makes a sound, a high sweet baby sound all happy innocence.

Feet walk on porch boards; old wood creaks under a heavy weight. The screen door squeaks to life, calling on the front door hinges to answer it in low grinding tones.

“What y’all doing up so early?” My husband casts long shadows. His shoulders fill the doorway.

“We’re up on time. It’s not us that’s early, it’s others that be running late.”

“No Ma’am! Not late but right on time, on time for breakfast anyhow. Isn’t that right Pudding?”

My baby smiles real big. Her sweet brown eyes flash all kind of sunshine into the shadowy kitchen. I smell the bread begin to warm in the oven, see the butter melt in the fry pan. A touch of a finger to hot tin tells me the coffee pot is part way to percolating.

“The truck running smooth?”

“Smooth as ever,” my husband smiles.

Jemima flashes me a worried look from where she sits at the table. Ignoring her, I crack six eggs into the hot butter, scrambling the yokes into the whites. Better some kind of man than no man at all, my grandma whispers in memory, bidding me to tread careful. Yah…but if it weren’t for me our little ones would’ve been as cold as corpses in a snow drift last night.

“Any trouble on the road?”

“Not one bit.”

“Well that’s fine!”

I bite my lip, scrap the eggs onto six different plates, tear chunks of bread off the loaf and listen for the coffee pot to sing. The room smells all full of breakfast, the scent hangs heavy over the stink of cigar smoke, bourbon and cheap Woolworths’ perfume. Jemima takes two plates to the table, the first for her Daddy the second for Cecilia. My girl knows her manners but watching her wait on him makes me sad. When she comes back to the stove we take the last four plates to the table together.

“You see any of them Carlson boys last night?” I place a bit of cooled egg on Puddings tongue and watch her chew.

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. What’s it to you Lizbeth?”

“Only that they’re mama was poorly. I was only asking on account of her. Seems a shame a fine woman like that working so hard all her life only to raise up six of the worst men that ever walked God’s earth.” I shake my head. “And that Meme Carlson…they say she’s turned out worse than the lot of them! Mrs. Haylee says she’s nothing but a two penny wh…”

“And how would you know how she’s turned out?” My man interrupts. “Not like you look her way at church or any other place. All you do is listen to gossip and slander and that just ain’t Christian. If you want to know how she does you should go on over and see for yourself.”

“Now why would I do that when I’ve got others to do it for me?” I take another piece of egg off Pudding’s plate and place it on her tongue. Looking around the table I see she’s the only one eating. Behind me the coffee percolates, its slow whine building into a scream. Rising, I take a mug out of the cupboard, fill it with coffee and walk to my husband. His shadow falls at my feet, cast by the sunlight pouring in from the living room window. It’s a big shadow that grows bigger when he rises to his feet.

“I’m tired.” Looking me up and down he turns to go.

“No sir, I’m tired.” I set my foot onto his shadow, pinning him to where he stands. “I’m tired of chopping and hauling my own firewood. I’m tired of milking cows you don’t make time to feed. I’m tired of tending and mending and cleaning for a man who can’t be bothered to come home when he’s needed. Jesus knows I’ve done my chores.”

Out of instinct my body tenses, my muscles contract, hardening in preparation for a strike. Looking hard into my husband’s eyes I see a mean light shine but Pudding giggles and the meanness goes out of him. With a defeated sigh he slumps back down into his chair. Jemima hushes my baby, pushing clumpy eggs into her open mouth.

“No Jemima, you let that baby girl laugh.” My husband looks down the table at his littlest girl. “You let her feel happy for as long as she can. It’s a sad damn dirty thing to stop a body from feeling glad.” Picking up his coffee he looks at me like I’m the last nail in his coffin, “and by the by Lizbeth…Meme Carlson had the good manners to ask after you. She says she hopes you’re doing fine.”

Attributes of a Magical Grandmother: Part 5 of Rain on a Cloudless Day

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Granma is probably my most favorite person in the universe. She dresses up at Halloween, throws banquets at Christmas and takes me bowling on Saturday mornings. My Granma is different from other girl’s Grandmothers. She bakes and cooks and does things other Granma’s do but not for the same reasons. She doesn’t take care of people or baby people. Instead she makes them strong. She teaches them how to navigate the world by being fully and perfectly alive. She is alive. Every day she finds things to do that I find magical.

Magical Granma Attribute one would be her incredible tackle box. Imagine opening a box filled with every fishing lure you can imagine. Note the smell of salmon eggs and other assorted fish bate. Together we cast, reel and become patient while full size rainbow trout circle near by.

Magical Granma Attribute two would be her sewing box. From the contents of that sewing box I have learned to embroider, bead and do needle point. During the war Granma embroidered in air raid shelters while other people counted the seconds between explosions, controlling their fear by trying to predict where the next bomb would hit.

ATS-4

Magical Granma Attribute three are these stories of life and death that haunt my young mind. She begins,

“During the war…” and the room falls silent. Her words are spoken matter of fact but their meaning makes pictures so rich with color and scent that they are a part of me.

“During the war the bombs fell…” thousands of them rained down on her life as they did so many British lives.

There was the time bomb that slipped silently into the wreckage of a bombed out nurses ward. Granma and her fellow nurses had returned to the area to gather what supplies could be salvaged. They worked quickly and efficiently in the wreckage at Portland Bill, until a voice yelled out. “Look up,” the voice called. “You silly girls. Get the hell out.” And there it was, swinging above them on the ropes of its parachute. When I imagine the bomb it always looks like a giant deadly watch, its long arms spinning towards death. Granma says it didn’t tell time that way. It just counted down on its own, never telling anyone when it would go off.

Magical Granma Attribute four is her garden. I love her garden. There I find a purple eggplant the size of a football. Granma says I shouldn’t pet it but its smooth purple skin is too beautiful not to touch. The air in the garden is filled with the scent of roses, huge beautiful carnivorous roses, their thorns gleaming sharp and deadly in the bright Utah sun. They are carnivorous because they scratch me when I get too close and they eat our fish, at least all the bits we don’t eat. I walk behind Granma with my little trowel and help her dig small graves below each bush. This is why her roses are the largest and most beautiful. It’s because of the fish.

Magical Granma Attribute five is time. Time moves slowly around her, it smells of ham and roses, fat lap dogs and long stories. I sit beside her on the steps of her front porch and listen to the birds in her cherry tree. Here there is time to remember, to watch, to notice the butterflies, count the tomatoes and just be together. There is no rush or hurry because there is no one else in this world who can stop time like Granma. A day lasts a week in her garden, so filled with food and story that I don’t grow tired and I never want to go home. Through brightly colored memories, we walk her father’s farm in England and drive her pony and trap down through the fields to bring lunch to the men. Closing my eyes I feel the English sunlight. I see the endless green down lands stretched before us, their curving flanks dotted with sheep. Somewhere over the next rise men plow with draft horses, harvest timber and gather watercress. Just over the next hill our people work the earth and they are hungry for their lunch.

Dorset

Sister Sincerity

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Spare me your small lies and subtle subterfuge laced in fake smiles and soft excuses.

Spare me the white lies that are little drops of shit rolled in sugar.

I held you when you were frightened, your tears and snot soaking my shirt because you were a child again, lost, frightened and real.

You once asked me what I valued most and I said, “Honesty” with firm and instant conviction.

I would rather have you swear in my face than lie to me with a smile.

I don’t know where our honesty went or when you decided that I was not worth being real with, sincere with, our honesty sliding from soulful communication to this sickening game of “happy.”

What is “happy” that it should supplant authenticity, reality and truth?

I don’t wear “happy” like a badge to hide my humanity.

I don’t wear “happy” to hide the reality that shit happens.

I don’t wear “happy” as a shield that screams, “I’m good with God so please don’t notice the chinks in my faith.”

I’ve seen your soul; I’ve seen it shine in real joy, glimmer in the light of real laughter, letting authentic “happy” shimmer like jubilant fire flies around you.

I’ve seen you shine and called you “sunshine,” so bright was your funny that just being near you made me “happy.”

Wag your tail sister, it was made to wag.

Let’s be real again, authentic and honest.

I miss your sparkle.

The Temptation of Sweetness

forbiden fruit
My favorite place in all the world is Ashbury’s peach farm, not because his dog is friendly or his gun ain’t loaded, but because his peaches are so juicy they drip down my chin and stain my T-shirt yellow. You’ve never tasted a peach so sweet as an Ashbury peach. You can eat the windfall, or the fresh pick and you won’t find a worm in any of them. I think they must be like Eden’s peaches. You know, the kind Eve skipped over when she got a taste for apples. If I were her, I’d have stuck with peaches.

I’m sucking on a peach, thinking on Eve and her master transgression, when I see Ashbury’s Hell Hound come sneaking up. It ain’t no Pit but it’s still got bite. I’m about to get treed when I see James Ashbury and he’s smiling real big.

“You gonna call that hound dog off?” I got one foot in a tree, both arms hugging the trunk, my half eaten peach stain’in my T-shirt pocket. I feel his eyes on my bare legs moving up to my peach stained shirt.

“Maybe I will.”

“Or maybe you won’t!” I yell, climbing up onto the first limb, my feet dangling over the old dog’s head. Looking out on the orchard I marvel at the acres on acres of peach trees. Looking back down I see James and that smile of his. He’s cute enough but his father’s no friend of mine.

“Mazy Reed, why are you always stealing our peaches?”

“Because, James Ashbury, you grow the best peaches in the whole county?”

“Well, you’re right there. We grow the best peaches in ten counties. Now, why don’t you hop on down here and I’ll tell you what’s even sweeter than our peaches.”

I spit a pit down at the dog. I wait and watch to see what James’ll do next. That boy’s eyes don’t leave me. Neither do the dog’s.

“You gonna call that hound off?”

“Yes Ma’am.” To prove his word he whistles the dog away.

I don’t leave the tree ‘til I’ve had another peach. It’s no good getting caught if you haven’t eaten your fill. Slowly, I slide down the trunk ‘til I feel the cool grass and hard dirt under my bare feet. The sun light’s all soft and yellow coming through the heavy leaves above.

“So you gonna tell me what’s sweeter than peaches?”

“Well…” James drawls out. He’s cute. Damn, he’s cute. I remember him when he was a senior in high school. I’ll be a senor this year but none of the boys in school can compete with James. He’s fine.

“Well?” I ask, “You said you’d tell.”

“That’s right. I did.” He walks slowly up to me like I’m some sort of wild animal that might take fright. Then he leans in, and ever so slowly, he kisses the juice off my neck.

“Now, you behave!” But my words don’t come out as serious as they were meant to.

“I’m behaving,” he whispers. His lips make their way to mine. It’s a sweet kiss, a peach flavored kiss, the kind of kiss you dream about all your life but never really think you’ll get. It’s the kind of kiss that goes on so long that you lose your breath and forget everything you though you knew about life and living and kisses. When it ends, you just want it back again.

“Mazy, do you know what’s sweeter than a peach?”

“This.” I kiss him before he can say more. It doesn’t matter what he’d of said ‘cause he’s mine now. Just like his peaches, I’m gonna have all his kisses, when and how I like ‘em. Pulling back, I look into his soft brown eyes; eyes that reflect acres and acres of heavily laden peach trees. It’s all Eden, all over again because truth is, it was never the sweetness of the fruit that led Eve astray.

Shunning: Psychological Torture

Unmarried mothers were shunned and left to fend for themselves
Recently I read an article reporting that between 1925 and 1961, 796 children were placed in a mass grave in one of Ireland’s Catholic run, Mothers and Babies Homes. The article stated that the mothers received little care and some women even gave birth unattended. Why were they so mistreated? Because they were seen as “a threat to Ireland’s moral fiber.” These children were the victims of an outdated morality that would rather shun its unwed mothers than support and love them as valued members of their community. The Mother and Baby home closed its doors and sealed its mass grave (a sewage tank buried on the grounds) in 1961.

In 1991, a Catholic girl at my high school had an abortion so her parents would never know she’d had sex. The 90’s were a sophisticated modern decade. We had free choice, free will and the right to make all the mistakes we wanted. Casual sex was the norm and most everyone I knew was going at it like rabbits. And yet, this girl chose to have an abortion because if her parents knew she’d had sex and conceived she would have been shunned, outcast and disowned. Her abortion was not a choice made in free will, it was a decision born of fear, the fear of being outcast, shunned and forsaken by the people who should have loved and supported her no matter what.

Everyone passed the hat to help raise the abortion money. Everyone contributed to the death of this “embryo.” Everyone participated in this act so that a girl could keep her family. No one asked if she wanted the baby? No one asked if she even thought of it as a child growing inside her? I remember how sick the whole event made me. I stood back, watched and wondered what kind of parents raised a child in such fear that she’d rather commit murder then admit to having a sex life, disorganized as it was.
mother and child

Over the millennia, billions of woman have been cast off, incarcerated and killed for moral reasons while their children have been aborted, cast out, hidden away, called basters and abused because no man stepped forward to claim them. Shunning is an atrocity. It’s a manyfold evil that leads to heartbreak, legalized acts of murder and a shame that taints our history and threatens our future.

If all life is sacred and we are the children of an all loving God than why do situations like this ever even occur? I try to forget this memory, this time in my life. I would like to put it on the shelf with all the other outrages and deaths that ran like a red thread through my early existence yet this death refused to stay buried. It welled up inside of me, rattling its cage because of the unconscionable cruelty that created it. Conditional love was the killer and this girl and her unborn child were its victims. Be good or you’ll end up on the streets, be clean or we’ll disown you, remain pure or everything you know and love will be taken from you.

Injustice should never be forgotten and like the mass graves that hold 796 Irish children, this memory will not be buried because conditional love is an evil that has no place in this world. When we practice unconditional love, acts like these don’t exist! Unconditional love does not reject, instead it accepts. It does not shun but gathers its loved ones together because unconditional love creates a community so strong, so entwined in love and acceptance that when the unplanned, or unexpected occurs it reacts with compassion, acceptance and a coming together that reflects what community was meant to be. In a loving and open community there’s room for the unexpected surprises life hands us.

Stories like the mass Irish grave and the girl in my high school remind us why shunning is such a devastating and horrific act. When you practice shame and exile, you abandon both the mother and child to the mercy of the streets or institutional care. We must, as forward thinking people, support the women and children of our community so tragedies like this never happen again. We must gather around new life and love it for coming instead of condemning its existence. After all, if we are all part of a divine plan than surly every life is divinely created, divinely loved and must therefore be unconditionally loved and protected. My prayers go out to all the souls who suffered and died in shame and isolation. Each loss is a failure to teach the beauty of unconditional love and unconditional support in community.
pregnant belly

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