Breath

Breath

Years ago I sighed suddenly.
A quick, unexpected breath that snagged in my throat
like a small bird tangled in a net.
It kept happening after that.
Occasionally, and out of nowhere.
The sighs audible, gasping; a short stuttering note of surprise.

I have searched for a reason
this should happen.  Wondering
what I had done to annoy
my own breath that it would sound
so exasperated with me?
I recently discovered that I hold my breath

when I am concentrating
on some inconsequential task.
While someone is drawing their last
breath I unconsciously hold mine.
A child is born and gulps a first breath
then wails from the surprise of it.

Isn’t that the way breath
is meant to be?
Rolling in and out endlessly
like ocean waves taking us ever further out
until at last, we lose sight
of the distant shore.

It’s Spring: A Poem and a Light-hearted Lament

A pretty yellow flower that says heralds spring.

Photo of a pretty yellow flower to herald spring.

Spring has well and truly sprung where I live.  The sun beams beatifically while a bellicose wind is determined to huff and puff the few remaining days of March.  In the background, my husband’s chainsaw gnaws through a pile of downed tree limbs — winter’s detritus.

Today is my husband’s birthday.  (Happy birthday, Bob.)

In a couple of days it will be April, which is National Poetry Month.  I love poetry as much as I love spring.  On spring mornings rife with sun, I often think of Wordsworth. Specifically the following:

My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

I learned this poem many years ago when I was still the Child.  A few years ago, while thinking on Wordsworth, I jotted down a response to My Heart Leaps Up.

My heart despaired when I beheld
A codger in the dell:
So was it that my life began;
Yet here I am without a plan,
Fast closing in on next-to-dead.
Oh, bugger hell!
And I could wish my days to crawl
Before I have to chuck it all.

I must have been in a funky mood when I wrote that ditty.  In my defense, the too swift passing of time has been an obsession with me since I was about eight, and the only way around it is to poke fun of myself, which is what I am doing here.  (Plus, I do love the word codger.)

So, welcome to another spring; to young men’s (and women’s) fancy; to love and poetry.  Welcome, welcome, welcome all!

Vernal Blossom

vernal blossom

Yesterday was the first day of spring.  I found this lone flower blooming in a pot of greenery by my kitchen window.  Isn’t it lovely?  Oh, harbinger of new and reawakening life.  Oh, beacon of joy.  This is the stuff that stirs poets to pen.

Except that this is my Thanksgiving cactus which ordinarily produces its pink-tinged blossoms and white translucent wings in November, and it did not disappoint four months ago when it was awash with blooms.  In all the years that I have had it, it has never flowered in spring.  Nor has it ever only presented a single bloom.

This morning there was snow.  By the afternoon it was gone.  Harbinger of doom?  Who knows?  I do think we should all hang on to our hats; come summer we may be in for a hot, bumpy ride.

 

Curtains Made of Lace

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_Gothic

American Gothic by Grant Wood  1930

She didn’t ask for much.  A smile, a touch–a little love and tenderness to shift the close of a dirt and scrabble day.

First year married drifted by on a breeze of hope and expectation.  There was work to be done.  Hard work, but worth the blisters raised as they dug a life out of rough earth; grew the wheat to make the bread they hoped would sustain them.

Second and third years married passed in a flurry of motion building on the first.  More earth to till, more grain, more sweat.  An arch of eyebrow, a sigh.  No babies planted, but years stretched out ahead of them.  There was time yet for that.

The farm grew in acres.  Middling trees marked the borders of all they owned.  She made curtains from her bridal veil and hung them in the window of the room where a child would one day sleep.

Four years swept by, then five, six, seven.  They bought a tractor when she wanted a crib.

The tenth year saw a drought.

It rained through much of the eleventh year.  The silo was replaced.

Year fifteen a barren womb dried up and was removed.  Hope shriveled to a useless thing.

The seventeenth year she set a potted plant out on the front porch and tried to put her  faith in that.

Disappointment etched lines between her brows. She left the curtains hanging in the upstairs room.  The lace had come all the way from France.

It would make a fine shroud–all she wished for now.

 

n.b.  Writing prompt by Visual Verse.  While my friends were dancing, I sat in a corner and came up with this.  Don’t ask me why.  Muses don’t have to have a reason.

A Love Song

bob & jordan France 2

Just an old-fashioned love song,
One I’m sure they wrote for you and me.
Just an old-fashioned love song,
Comin’ down in three-part harmony . . .

~~~  Three Dog Night

 

Of all the photos I have ever taken, this one is my favorite:  My husband and our son walking down the street in a French village twenty-two years ago.  They are walking away from me not to go anywhere in particular, but to allow me to record how astonishingly narrow the street is, using them as a measure.

I don’t remember where this was specifically.  Somewhere in the Provence area.  We had rented a car and were driving around to various places we’d pinpointed on a map.  A guide book I read mentioned a villa outside this village that Picasso may (or may not) have lived in for a short time.  We thought it would be fun to say we saw where Picasso may (or may not) have lived.  It was the first trip we’d taken where we needed passports.  We were giddy with excitement.

Thanks to the digital services of online places like Zazzle, this photo now adorns the case on my cell phone, as well as cheering me from a mug as I enjoy a cup of tea.  I bought three mugs bearing this photo, one for each of us.  To remind us.

We are a love song.  The three-part harmony.  The Boy and his Dad striding step by step along side of one another, me capturing the joy of a free and easy moment to carry us through life’s rough patches.  For me, the thought of that is all the Valentine I will ever need.

 

A Wish for Grace, A Dream of Sleep

Fa-la-la-la . . . oh, forget it.

Fa-la-la-la . . . oh, forget it.

Today is the day before Christmas.  The last shopping day.  The last day to go out and buy food if we’re to have a proper meal for Christmas.  I have three baskets of laundry piled high:  His dirty clothes; my dirty clothes; clean clothes and towels waiting to be folded.  We’ve a tree (see photo above) with lights and an angel on top, but nothing else, and yet, I think it’s the most beautiful tree we’ve ever owned.  It is perfect, is it not?

I am tired.   Really, really tired.

This has been my refrain, my mantra — every single day this year.

After months of trying to find the cause, I learned that I have severe sleep apnea.  A machine recorded how many times I stopped breathing in my sleep, which turned out to be an average of once every 75 seconds.  I was hoping Santa would bring me a CPAP machine for Christmas, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.  (A higher power than Santa requires that he fill out forms and documentation in triplicate while also procuring the eyeball of a Komodo dragon, three sets of fruit bat wings, and a pair of fuzzy dice before he’s allowed to deliver medical equipment.)

All of that aside, this is not a post just about me.  It’s about you, too, my readers, my friends, my family, my tribe.  What I wish for us all.

I’ve had plenty of down time this year.  Hours spent lying in bed–not sleeping–waiting for the brain fog to lift, the morning headache to subside.  Time enough to think about all the important stuff, or my interpretation of it, anyway.  (Everything is subjective.)

And what I’ve come up with is this:  Life sucks.

Life is incredibly difficult and unfair.  It’s full of nasty isms — racism, sexism, ageism, terrorism.  Everybody hates something, or someone.   People are mean, politicians corrupt.  All over the world people are suffering and sick, afraid and lonely.   People are dying.  Too many are contemplating suicide.

Why should I stick around for this?  Why should any of us?

It’s been that kind of year.

And then someone on a social media site shares a cute cat video or (even better) the video with a penguin laughing — laughing — and for a few seconds I forget about how hard life is.  It occurs to me that life has always sucked, yet here we are, still hanging in there, wending our way towards grace and a little kindness through whatever means we can.

Tomorrow is Christmas, the Boy is home, and music and laughter will abound despite everything else.  Despite piles of laundry, an unadorned tree, and gifts that didn’t get wrapped (sorry, guys!).  Despite death and disease, hatred and terrorism, love, hope and charity still persist.

Wherever you are, however you hurt, hold on to the fact that there are people who love you.  There is generosity and love all around.  Sometimes it’s hard to see, but it’s there, I promise you.   You are enough.  You have done all you can.

Tomorrow is another day, another step forward on whatever path we choose. An added bonus here in the Northern Hemisphere is that we will have another minute or so of light.

That’s good enough for me.

May the coming year be better for us all.  May we all find joy in whatever nook or cranny it resides.  But most of all, I wish us peace.

 

 

 

 

Shine a light

In memory of my brother. Another birthday in which there is no cake.

A Wilderness of Words

Tom with fire.jpg My brother and his trusty Bic lighter.

The boy in the photo above is my brother Tom.  My mother named him Thomas, but we all called him Tommy.  At seventeen he dubbed himself Tomas (pronounced toe-mas, accent on the second syllable).  He took to wearing sunglasses and being quietly mysterious.  It was the first of many personas he would try on for size while looking for how he fit in the world.

It wasn’t easy for him, figuring it out.  He had a handicap from the start: Youngest of seven; born colicky, and needing a lot of soothing in a busy, boisterous family. He was often lost in the fray.

At two he fell through the heating vent in the bedroom floor, bumped accidentally by another brother as they jumped on my parents’ bed.  He landed in the dining room below, barely missing the table. Astonishingly, other than…

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Say His Name

shannon adams 2

I never met Shannon Lewis Adams, but I woke up this morning thinking about him.  I said his name out loud.

On September 11, 2001, he was twenty-five, about the age that my son is now.  A baby, still, his real life just beginning — the one his parents had spent years preparing him for. Nurturing him; encouraging him.  Loving him.

Fly, little bird, they may have thought then.  Go out into the world and see what there is to see.

And Shannon flew.  To a lofty building far from home.

I knew his father.  We grew up in the same small area in the Adirondack mountains of northern New York.  A place where most people are content to spend the whole of their lives.  Lewis Adams had a shy sweet smile that traveled  his face and was reflected in his eyes.  I’ll bet his son Shannon did, too.

I picture a space in the universe where all the lost smiles fled to that bright September day. They are there still.  We need just say a name and the space lights up with love.

Of all the names I know just the one.  But it’s enough.  One name, one face, one smile is all it ever takes to bring us to our knees.  And still we say the name.

Because we can.

 

 

On the Way: Window Dressing

I’ve been traveling around England for a little over a week.  Today I’m in London.  My husband and I have logged some miles walking and today was windy and cool, so I wanted to head back to our hotel early.  On the way we walked past Selfridges.  Some of the window arrangements caught my eye, and for a few minutes I forgot about being tired and cranky.

This spring we watched the weekly PBS presentation of Mr. Selfridge.  I imagine that Harry Selfridge would approve of this display for the Apple iWatch.  I love how all the elements of this design — the butterflies changing color and suspended from thin filaments, the watches on pedestals rising from the bottom — meld with the reflections of sky and the wonderful glass building across the street to create something quite fanciful.

  

Into the woods

creepy woods 2

I’m off on an adventure, but I’ll be back soon.  You may wait in the heart of the Night-Light Forest while I’m away.  It’s lovely here.  If you squint your eyes, you can just make out the shadowy figures of creatures who are too shy to show themselves.  They hum the same soft tune and sway to the music they make.  The light show was created for them.  They love the lights — O glorious light!  Magnificent bursts of phosphorescence; the sky is awash with color.

If you chose to spend time here, be respectful.  No hooting and hollering lest you disturb the serenity.  Don’t trod on anyone’s feet.  Feel free to hum along, though, once you’ve deciphered the tune. If you must snack, pick up after yourself.  And if you happen to see Betsy, tell her the thing she most wants to know is skulking around here somewhere.

I’ll see you all when I return.  If you’re good I may bring you a little something.  Maybe chocolate, maybe not.  It’s a surprise.

Everyone loves a surprise.