Little Shiny Things

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Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Birthdays, for me, are notable for nothing so much as a reminder of how quickly time passes.  And when I start thinking about that, I start thinking the Why are we hereWhat’s the meaning of life? kind of questions that have no definitive answers, and then my head starts to hurt.  I’ve felt this way since I was a kid.  At least there were gifts, then, and a cake to distract me.

I’m not that crazy about cake anymore, and there is nothing I really need, so on my birthday in those first few moments of waking, I generally feel a pang, a longing for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps if I had not been born in the dead of winter?  Maybe the longing is simply for sun.

Sunday, the 25th, was my birthday.  This year there happened to be sun.  As well as son of the other kind, and a plan.

And there were Facebook friends to keep me buoyed.

The first Happy Birthday popped up the evening before.  I was surprised. When I checked, it was a Facebook friend from Athens, Greece.  It made me smile and think about this woman who lived so far away, and where, for her, it was officially my birthday.  A few more birthday greetings followed shortly after that.  One was from a woman I adore, who is usually up rather late at night, and who was glad not to miss leaving her good wishes.  I went to bed thinking about that woman — a dear friend of my husband’s late grandmother (another woman I adored).  She’s also known me since I was a little girl.  She gets special props for that.

In the morning over coffee, I checked Facebook again.  There were more birthday wishes. More of me thinking fondly on each person who posted. More smiling going on, inside and out.

The plan for the day was a trip to Boston.  Drive up, pick up the Boy, and drive to the Museum of Science to spend the afternoon.  On the way, I kept checking to see how many more people had wished me a happy birthday.  The number kept growing.  I kept announcing the number to my husband as he drove.

We whiled away a lovely afternoon at the museum.  Later in the day, as I stood scanning the central room in search of Husband and Boy, I thought about all the people there — young and old, grandparents, parents, children, all of them exploring, touching, laughing.  So alive.  As opposed to the army of scientists and mathematicians whose ideas informed the basics of so many of the exhibits.

There is nothing like wandering around a museum to bring home the point of time passing by.

Still, throughout the day–a peek here, a glance there–at the increasing number of people who took a second to say Hey you, Happy Birthday kept me from wading too deeply into the murky musings of mortality.  People were waving and smiling at me from all over the world.

What a strange and wondrous world we live in.

There’s a lot to be said about the pros and cons of social media.  It’s the scourge of our society, a time suck, a spy.  It’s blessing, it’s a curse.

What I will say is this.  I read every single birthday greeting I received.  Time (the greedy bugger) did not allow for me to reply to every one, or even very many, but I liked each one which, for me, at least, serves the purpose of acknowledgment.

I can tell you that with every smile and wave you sent, I pictured each and every one of you.  How I know you, or how long.  Some of you I grew up with, went to school with, worked with, acted with, wrote with, played games with.  Some of you I’ve never met face-to-face. All of you have made me laugh.

I thought about where you are, or what you like, what music you listen to, or what you like to eat.  The words you hate, the games you enjoy.  Some little shiny thing about you that I can hold to the light, that makes you, you, makes you memorable to me so that when you wish me well, I know exactly who to picture.

I know exactly who to thank.

Between, & all the years that have passed since then

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In a kingdom far away

In a kingdom far away

BETWEEN

I wanted a red dress and wide hips —
the better to love with
not necessarily for birthing babies
as those books
would have us believe
their pages filled with
elastic wombs & embryos,
miniature aliens placed there
by god knows what.
Desire.  Was that it?

Motherhood has since selected
something more suitable
for me to wear.
responsibility and self-sacrifice
in a durable weave,
stains wash out easily.
Count on cotton
I hear in my head,
a titter made sonorous
in the hollow of sleepless nights.

Swaddled in flannel with pink rosettes
I dream of a tight red dress
warm breath in my hair
probing fingers
so many places to search for comfort
or passion.
Desire and need are not the same things.
My thighs have grown soft.
I remember when they were taut,
sprawled heedlessly on the edge of caring.

I perched there for a time,
between
the dream and waking,
between
desire and duty,
rivers of doubt flowing on either side.
I stared into the abyss
and leapt anyway.

~~~ written 1995


So, yeah . . . here’s a thing.  I’ve had a stack of old floppy disks sitting in a drawer forever.  A few days ago I bought an external floppy disk drive so that I could finally access the content.  One of the disks was just labeled Poems.  A few of them, like this one here, I hadn’t remembered even writing.  My son was six when I wrote this.  I was busy, probably tired as hell.

There are short stories I forgot about, ideas for children’s books, more poems. I’ll probably go through them slowly, savoring them.  Try to recall where my head was at the time.  It’s a little like finding a trove of letters from someone you used to know, but haven’t seen in a really, really long time.

Could be interesting.

On a Rooftop Dreaming

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Jordan last day on earth

This is The Boy.  He is an Epic child, a Mythical child.  He is pure joy.  Look at him, sitting up there on his roof, gazing heavenward.  Dreaming.  Making it up as he goes.  Always climbing.  As a child he scaled whatever heights he could find.  We have the pictures to prove it:  the Boy in trees, atop statues, fences, and walls.

Now he writes songs about rooftops and soaring through space; about sailing the seas, wanting to be a pirate.  He dreams in such bold swaths of color and clarity, and with such passion it takes my breath away.

He set this photo up of himself on his roof with a tripod and a timer.  It was still daylight at the time.  When he sent it to me I took the original and made it night, threw in some stars and a sliver of moon, because that is how I have known him best — at night.

Even as his life was forming, the wriggling/squirming/kicking came at midnight.  (Oh, how that kid could dance.)  And I was up anyway at that hour. So we introduced ourselves, and communed through the wee hours of the night.  Not for nothing, it was midnight when the labor pains began.  As though he’d decided then, Knock, knock, can I come out now?  Ten hours later he arrived with a skinned nose to mark his blazing entry into the world.  Eyes wide open.

He hasn’t slowed down a bit.

He’ll be home later today for a whirlwind stay.  He has a dentist appointment in the morning, after which, we’ll put him back on a train to where he now resides.  But this evening will be filled with music and laughter reaching into the hours when most people are long in bed.  And the stars will shine among the clouds and the moon will be there, as always.

And he’ll tell me his plans and dreams, and it will all still take my breath away.

Addendum:  The video below was made by the Boy a few years ago for a song he wrote and composed, Aurora Boreality, featuring the Boy and his band — Break Stuff, Steal Things. 

31 Monsters of Halloween – October 30th

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marydpierce:

I’ve started with the last on this Halloween day, but do look through Kevin’s entire month of drawings. They are positively monstrous.
At any point, if you find yourself short of breath and trembling with fear, chocolate helps. Bourbon will numb.

Enjoy. And happy Halloween, y’all!

Originally posted on Made Of Lines:

31 Monsters Contest: Share, tweet, or reblog any of the 31 Monsters or Made of Lines in general, and be entered to win one of 3 monster prints (monster of your choosing of course). The more you share, the more chances you get. Tag me or email me so I know you’ve shared.

October-30

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Bath Abbey at Night

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It's when you can't hear the bats, that's when the bats are coming.

“It’s when you can’t hear the bats, that’s when the bats are coming.”  Cover of a Birthday Card sent by a friend.

Bath Abbey church is a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture.  That is what Wikipedia says.  I marvel at the magnificent engineering and building of it.  And afterwards — all those peasants willed to cast their eyes heavenward to imagine the grandeur of God, while forgetting how poor and, probably, how hungry they were.

I shot this photo nine years ago on a trip to Bath, England.  My husband, son, and I were doing the nighttime Bizarre Bath Comedy Tour through downtown Bath.  We stopped by the Cathedral while our guide performed a magic trick. Looking up, I imagined those shadowy flying buttresses as stony arms that were waiting for me to turn my back to them.

At which point, they’d release the bats.

 

Inspired by Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

For in that sleep: what depression feels like

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what dreams

 

Sixteen years ago my brother sat in a cozy chair in front of a picture window that allowed him a view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and ended his life.  He used a gun. The bullet tore through his brain and his family’s hearts.  We stopped breathing for years.  We told ourselves that he chose this because he was in constant pain. His spine was beginning to stiffen; he could not raise his head.  He went sock-less, because it was too difficult to pull them on.

It wasn’t just physical pain.  My brother suffered from depression long before the arthritis that immobilized his spine set in.  Like the color of our eyes or the set of our jaws, depression, anxiety, and addiction are characteristics that run in my family on both sides.

And, for the most part, we don’t talk about it.

I was a teenager the first time I thought about dying.  I took a fist full of aspirin, hoping it would — while also hoping it wouldn’t — be enough to send me to sleep for good.  My ears rang for days and my stomach burned.  Sometimes I felt so inexplicably sad and so utterly weary that I would simply start to cry.  If someone asked me why, I couldn’t give them a reason.  I didn’t sleep well.  Especially on nights when my father was particularly restless and drinking a lot.  I knew there were times when he thought of dying as an escape.  In the dark I stayed awake to listen, fearful that if he went, he’d try take the rest of us with him.

After high school I moved half-way across the country.  I made friends.  I drank too much, I still cried, but only when I was alone.  I laughed like hell with my friends; I was charming and fun.  My eyes darted around the room as I wondered whether anyone would guess how miserable I really was.  I felt like my feet were encased in cement — if I fell in a river, I’d drown.

I wanted just to be happy, to be normal.  I wanted to know what was wrong with me.  I kept those wants to myself.  I thought that in thinking about my unhappiness, I was wallowing in self-pity.  People wouldn’t want to be around me, if they knew.

Eventually, stress and the struggle drove me to the third story edge of an open floor on the house my husband and I were building.  I was alone there that afternoon.  I knew that if I let myself go, my family would assume I’d fallen accidentally.  I was afraid of heights.  There would be no shame.

I chose therapy instead.

Today, I am an ongoing work-in-progress.  I don’t know that depression ever completely goes away.  Even after years of therapy, and many more years of taking antidepressants, I sometimes still get blindsided by a cavity of despair so dark and deep, it seems never-ending.  Other times depression hits me with a flip-flop of emotions, wildly fluctuating from bleak despair to . . . Okay, I’m coping . . . wait . . . nope . . . going dark again.  Often, in the space of 30 minutes or so.  I have to talk to myself a lot.

Sometimes, I just want to hide.  I want to go into my room and not answer the phone or answer emails.  Mostly, I don’t want to tell anyone when I’m depressed. Generally, they don’t understand.  People seem to want an explanation as to why.

I’ve learned when I need to ride out the storm.  I know that when I’m tired and overwhelmed by things my husband and others take in stride; when I get so busy I don’t eat well (or enough), or when the damn world is just too much with me, I have to retreat for a bit and simply be quiet.

A great deal of the time I am happy with where I’m at, content with how I got here.  I laugh a lot and mean it now.  Managing depression is work, but so is living, even in the best of times.  We all struggle with something.

Several months after my brother’s suicide, my family got together, still raw and hurting from our loss.  We went to see What Dreams May Come.  I think we must have thought it would be cathartic.  It wasn’t.  The vision of Hell reserved for the woman who took her life horrified me.

Robin Williams’ suicide makes me crushingly sad.  It’s the kind of heavy sorrow that weighs me down.  He was the brother/son/father/friend we all wished we knew.  A rapid-fire wit with a thousand different characters, the genius of which we are unlikely to see again.  We all knew about his problems with alcohol and cocaine.  Addiction is flashy and loud and calls attention to itself.  Depression is a quiet little liar and a sneak.  It whispers in your ear and tells you lies that no one hears but you.  Robin joked openly about his battle with addiction.  He said little publicly about depression.

I hope that we start talking more openly about depression.  About how quiet, but debilitating it can be.  It won’t be easy.  I have a difficult time talking to anyone other than my husband and a few friends about it.  When I do, I feel awkward and whiny and I end up changing the subject.

For my brother, for a sweet prince of laughter, and for all the other voices stilled, please keep talking about depression.  Keep listening.  Listening without judgement, without asking why.  Be kind.  And if you or someone you know feels worthless and depressed, you can find someone to talk to here.

 

 

Top 10 reasons I’m glad I married the man I did

marydpierce:

It’s August 1st again, another year zipped by with way too much ease and speed. This year we have opted to spend the evening with the Boy, followed by a weekend in Boston. We’re finally going to do the Freedom Trail walk. If you see us somewhere along the way, wish us a Happy 27th.

Originally posted on A Wilderness of Words:

The couple who segway together, stay together. The couple who segway together, stay together.

It’s my anniversary today (26 years), and because I didn’t get him a card (I’ve been sick and/or traveling a lot), I thought I’d take a page out of Letterman’s entertainment book and list the reasons why I am happy with the choice I made.

10. At our wedding I got to hire a string quartet to play for me us.

9. He truly likes to see romantic movies with me.

8. He can fix pretty near anything I break.

7. He rubs my feet when I ask him.

6. When I call the house phone from bed on weekends, he answers with a smile and says, “Room service.” (And yes, I can hear his smile – that’s how well I know him.)

5. He thinks I’m pretty and tells me often.

4. He’s THE best hugger in the universe.

3. He’s the…

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Tap shoes, dreams, and dust

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gathering dust as forgotten things go

My tap shoes gathering dust.  The dark blotch on the top shoe is my fingerprint.

 

I dreamed of dancing, once
of twirling, gliding, flying
slyph-like
across space and polished floors.
My parents couldn’t afford lessons
so I danced with Judy Forkey, instead.
She was Baryshnikov
to my Kirkland
because she was taller
and could catch me

when I lept.

Later the rage was tap.
Girls who took dance
in the next town over
wore their tap shoes to school
on the day of their lesson.
I loved the

click click click

of metal against
the tiled school floors.
I stuck tacks in the bottoms
of my shoes
trying to approximate the sound

click click click

It wasn’t the same.

Years later
I realized that I was grown up
and in charge of my life
so I bought a pair of tap shoes
and stuck them in my closet
sometimes I took them out
to imitate dance moves
on my linoleum floor
just to hear the

click click click

again.

I can afford lessons
now
when I find the time,
but time is harder to find
than the tacks
I had to filch
from my teacher’s desk
for the faux shoes.

Certainly
harder to come by
than dust.


Intrigued by the thought of leftovers.

If Andy Warhol came back as a horse . . .

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Would he look something like this?

Would he look like this?

A friend of mine has a horse she calls Rohan.  She also owns a tiny horse called Hobbit.  (She’s a huge LOTR fan.)  I took this photo of Rohan last month and then played around with it using various photo apps.  The picture makes me think of Andy Warhol.

What does this have to do with anything?  Nothing.  I just liked the photo.  It’s fun.  It’s summer.  And I’m not really here.

If you want to read something, though, here’s a VERY brief encapsulation of my entire life accompanied by 6 meaningful songs (plus a bonus track).  I’m featured with the very cool Hippie Cahier over at Life in 6 Songs. It’s a fun read, plus there’s great music.  What could be better than that on a summer’s day?

See y’all soon.

 

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