Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hanging at the Hub

On the best kind of night you could ask for in the Pacific Northwest: warm, with honeyed sunshine rolling down - promises of a crisp of cool later - I sat with my girlfriends at a restaurant pub at the end of the street. It is the kind of place with exposed beams and rolled up doors onto the veranda that makes me think of a great night in Brooklyn nearly fifteen years ago. Over plates of tasty goodness; glasses of crisp, mellow wines, and gallons of iced water, we came together and let our hearts flow all over the table. For a few hours we took off our hats that said, "wife," "mom," and "worker," and were for a moment, simply, "the girls."

Everything is fair game when we are The Girls. We are funny. We are sad. We are serious. We are hilarious. We talk of parenting challenges and how to deal with our own parents as the seasons and roles begin to change. We wonder why relationships go bad, and vent imaginatively about how they could be right-sized (or at least avenged). We wonder for a moment, just how fantastic it would be if we all worked for the same organization. We laugh at our own behavior, the outcome of our own expectations, and The People of Wal-Mart.

It is a safe place. Full of grace, and wisdom, and love. Around the table we are all together different, and yet all together the same. Gleeful in our imperfections. Grounded in our faith. Grateful to have found each other in the midst of our journeys. A thought as we finally wind down and get ready to head home as the stars come out to play: it's good to have girls.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

walking alone on the shore at dusk

I walked, then once, upon the shore
at water's edge without a care, nor
errant thought to cloud my mind.

So pleasant there, I sought to find
the company of kindred souls
some sacred partners - hearts like coals -
that burned with passion and a need
to twine together; yearn to feed
a growing, deepening  hallowed trust;
discarding thoughts of shallow lust
for worldly pleasures - all foresworn;
we'd miss them not, and never mourn
the fallacy of what had been
but turn instead to what's within.

Then find, I did those kindred hearts
the ones that take your many parts
and simply make them whole again; 
forgetting easily what's been
a checkered past with no success -
of finding hope and finding rest.

And for a moment we did walk
together and have time to talk
of dreams and places we would go
sweet fellowship; so good to know
that others held so like a mind
(the rarest gift, you'll never find)
And hope was birthed anew once more
as wandered we, upon the shore.

But times were hard and shadows fell;
where once was light was now a well
of darkness rife with grief and loss
- no penitent could pay that cost -
and hearts were shattered without thought
no chance for restitution brought.

So echoes now, on lonely sand
a wrenching want and sharp demand
for what has been and now has left
an aching loss of closeness cleft. 

I walk alone upon the shore -
'twas first with three, but now, no more.

Monday, July 11, 2011

at the end of the day

I am not your friend.
I am not your lover.
I am not a theme-park medium behind a crystal shard.
I am not even
the parking lot attendant taking your last bit of change.

I am the space at the edge of the road
where the sidewalk ends
and the grass begins;
where you throw yourself down
after changing a flat tire -
and all the frustration of
and loose nuts and bolts,
and spilled coffee
late papers -
run draining out of you
like poison
onto this gravelly inch of land
which absorbs your pain
like a parched sponge.

fingers blackened with grease and gas -
the closest you'll ever get
to the glittering lights of Dubai -
streak across your once crisp
white shirt
(no more)
striped now with red
as the slice in your finger
wells up.

drips down
mingles with your pain
in the sponge of the land
that you drive by on a daily basis
and never
not once
give a second glance at.

glance now -
as your temple throbs
eyes pulse
see dark flecks of asphalt
(who's fault?)
glass shards;
telltale signs of
another tragedy
far worse than your
misaligned tire.

exhaust fumes.
cars surge.
everyone fighting to get
to the end of the day;
leave that wicked mess
for another one
(another someone)
trying to get to
(another someone)
a better place
where something beside
dirt and ash
cradles you

arms like silk
are a dream not realized.
closest thing you're going to find
is the stained
microfiber of your couch:
buried and musty beneath
last week's laundry
and last night's dinner in a box.

who needs that?
take a moment;
throw the tire iron
over the edge
and just breathe.

This is one that just popped up out of almost nowhere. I thought I was trying to write something for an online poetry competition, but not so much this time. But the imagery and the flow that emerged here, just really make me happy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Color of Seven

In the beginning, it was white. All white. I suppose that seems a little obvious, doesn't it? But it wasn't to me. It was supposed to be blue, blue, all over the place blue. For years. Even before we got pregnant - we made a deal: boy or girl, we like blue. We'd stocked up for years on all kinds of blue things. Boy blue. Girl blue. And everything in between. The predictable baby blue. Sky blue. Deep, rich cobalt blue like the glasses in my mother's kitchen windows. Powder blue. Kingfisher blue like a decadent streak spotted on an afternoon's walk. But in the end; in the beginning; it was white. White onesies, white bubbles, white diapers, white blankets, white bows. All on this little white bundle that we'd waited - what seemed like forever - to say hello to.

But let me pause; back up, and tell you that one way or another - even if marginally - I am an artist. Not in a Georgia O'Keefe, Jackson Pollock kind of way. Not even like my uncle Rick who's gracefully dripping sea life watercolors grace galleries and aquariums around the world. My art is in my words. In the still life arrangements I inevitably create on my shelves. And my art is in my revelry with color. For as long as I can remember - except for perhaps a short, dark, brief-stinted love affair with being Goth - I have lived my life out loud in color. I've had color wheels since I was three or four, inhaled my color theory art classes in college, and delighted in the discovery of the pantone matching system book - oddly named, "the PMS book" by designers in the field.

For me, color can convey, classify, and capture moments - sometimes as well as words. When I see burgundy, I'm immediately transported back in time to my senior prom and can feel fourteen yards of slippery satin twirling around me on the dance floor. The right shade of cerulean blue takes me back to my favorite beach at home - the one that most tourists can't get to - with fine sand like dusting sugar and trade winds that cool even the hottest August afternoon.

In the same way, color has become a defining characteristic when thinking of my daughter's life. I will give you seven years. Seven memories. Seven Colors.

I've told you that the beginning was white. Pure, clean, beautiful white. After that, I feel like I'm flying all the way to the other end of the prism with One being red. The red of twice-kissed lips. The red of excitement and emergencies. The red of ladybugs. Because of all the nicknames my daughter Bella has, "ladybug" has been the easiest one to translate into dress. I don't know if I can tell you how many ladybug outfits I discovered for her in the first year of her life. Ladybugs on dresses, ladybugs on pants, ladybugs on shoes. These sweet little redbugs were even the mascot of my mother's high school back in Fordyce, Arkansas, so you might imagine how many of her old friends and acquaintances made sure we were stocked up on redbug note pads. We celebrated that first year with, of course, a ladybug themed party complete with red-spotted cake, red balloons, and red roses.

With white plus red, the natural result is pink. And pink is truly what year two was. With a year of experience under our belts, it was a tad less dramatic than the red of year one, but still with more color that the beginning purity of white. In our pink year, we had a solo Easter Egg hunt. We were still recently moved back home to Washington; no church connection yet; no radar out for community events. So that Easter, Bella, dressed in sweet pink sweats and hoodie, got to find all the eggs in our yard. I can still remember the cold, crispness of that spring morning; watching her hold the still-too-big basket; walking from end to end of our front yard; trying to find these pastel little eggs - that seemed shout out at us from their hiding places. Of course, she found them all, and her delight as she found each one - squealing as though they were the most wonderful treasures - is a truly sweet memory.

At three, I was overwhelmed with such warmth and joy from my little girl; it felt like the sun was out all the time. With glowing highlights in her hair and a smile that could melt me like butter, we were surely in a golden yellow time. Those highlights of hers stand out to me in memory so clearly. I was happy to see actual evidence of my recessive gene in action and hoped that this meant Bella's green eyes would stick around as well. For some odd reason, the one piece of seventh grade biology that stuck with me like a glimmer of light in the attic after all these years, was the chart we drew with the big B and the little b to show how dominant and recessive genes were distributed. I often amused Bella by telling her all the different names of the colors I saw in her hair: honey, strawberry, pecan, marmalade, and butterscotch.

At four, my honey-haired child was off to her first taste of the learning in the Blue Class at our local Cooperative Preschool. Introducing her to education was like standing on the edge of the ocean; looking out into its vast azure expanse, and launching our daughter off towards the horizon where sky meets sea. It's an amazing thing - watching a child learn. When everything is new and fresh and waiting to be discovered. Being a co-op preschool, parents were asked to be present to help the teacher - and what a wonderful thing to be hands-on as your child uncovers something new each day. I can still remember the look on her face when she sank her fingers into the bean bin - literally: a sandbox filled with every kind of dried bean imaginable. Standing there, pushing through the smooth, sliding orbs; feeling them cascade through her fingers, she looked up with delight and quickly grabbed my hand so I could run my fingers through the silky streams of dried beans.

Five and Six go together in my mind - these are the years Bella began her own garden. They are absolutely green and orange. Gardening, as I've talked about here, is a real passion of mine. I love putting seeds and starts into the ground and caring for them until they turn into something good to eat. That passion is mutually shared with Bella who picks out, waters, and tends to her own little 6 foot by 3 foot patch of happiness each summer. With tomatoes, radishes, green onions, and carrots, I have quite the little gardener on my hands. There is nothing as priceless, though, as those early times in the beginning of the gardening rush when she would pull out the vegetables - particularly the carrots - to "check and see if they were ready yet." It used to drive me crazy, but after a while, looking at those little teeny bits of carrot at the end of those frothy, feathery tops, all I could do was laugh out loud together with her - and enjoy a small yummy bite.
My Lovely Bella Girl

I cannot believe that eleven days ago, my little bit of rainbow girl turned seven. Seven is a drink. It is a movie. It is a prime number. Seven is purple. Seven is probably seven shades of purple if I start to think about it. It is the stormy aubergine of a growing girl exploring every end of her seven year old emotions. It is the pensive violet of daydreams and as she discovers her love of writing and storytelling. It is the soft lilac of tulle and satin as she continues her love affair with ballet. Seven is the twinkling amethyst of unicorns and magic. It is the softness of wisteria on our front porch - the backdrop for so many photos my child who's growing with Amazonian speed. And it is the regal purple of royalty as she works to exert and define her role in our family.

The color of seven is for me, a rich amalgam of bright and shadow, light and dark - a liquid fountain of hues and tints running in and about our lives. The colors I see characterize happiness, work, sadness, and delight. But most of all, they are the color of a life well lived, and of more life yet to come.