Pearl Inspired Letter

She read this morning the words of Pearl Cleage and the gist clung unflinchable like a stray hair. Mothers have deep and rich interior worlds. What daughter doesn’t want to know the deep lessons learned while navigating?

Her own children believe she is magic. That homemade dresses, meals and clean floors simply appear. That she is Glenda the Good Witch and they are Dorothies in red converse and flip flops – sparkles optional.

There is no magic here, only life in its great clawing rawness. She wonders if sharing the how’s and why’s will help strengthen the wing feathers and strong roots she is creating. Will it provide a bigger vision?

She shovels clothes into the rush of water, pulling the bright pink t-shirt from the white of socks and summer dresses.

Are these quiet details as important as the recipe for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls? Or instructions to properly load a dishwasher? Or honing the skill of finding the perfect Katherine Hepburn pants that have good drape?

She chuckles “Or this?” and reaches for lavender scented Downy so mundane chores smell like fields of memory and dream.

Pearl Cleage’s daughter didn’t think so. She believed they needed to remain intimate to those who participated in them.

She sits quietly at the kitchen table. Outside the window, a honey bee searches the blossoms of the wilting Ballerina Roses for missed satisfaction. Inside light piano music mixes with screams of “Ow-ow-ow” and “Stop.”

She picks up the pen next to the day’s list.

Dear Children,

Once upon a time is the way the most fantastic stories open. Those of good and evil, of great love, loss and big skies. This one has the added bonus that it is true or as we say around here: “I’m for Real.”

Once upon a time, a man came after many prayers were lifted. He liked the way I twirled in dresses and didn’t mind how my laugh unfurled in a room as if on wings. We became friends. And the air and light began to move differently.”


A nod goes to Story A Day for the prompt Epistolary Stories. Also to Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lessons, Lies & Love Affairs by Pearl Cleage.


Modern Romance

She looks at the count displayed in the upper right corner – 5,576. All are marked the dull read.

Read is an action word – fast like a hop and stretch to catch the ground ball and tag out at first. There’s a caught and slung feeling before moving quick to the next motion.

Received, although action, is different. To receive words given denotes a lingering. They are consumed slowly like a deep breath that fills body.

She nods 5,576 received. Inhaled.

Wasn’t it Van Goethe who sent to sweet Charlotte “every beautiful spot I wish you were there. I can’t help loving you more than is good for me…your presence never leaves me?”

And Beethoven to his nameless “Beloved Immortal” wrote, “My angel, my all, my very self — only a few words today.”

Or Napoleon Bonaparte sent Josephine while at war: “I wake filled with thoughts of you.”

She wonders if Josephine ran her fingers over the thick paper. She wonders if she circled the smudges softly longing them to be his prints. She wonders if after reading she smiled full and blushing.

It is cliché, she admonishes silly hopeful romantic notions. The 19th century days of courtship letters meet cursor and backspace. A text or tweet flashing on a palmed screen replaces the tactile note with branded seal carried by servant after a party. Don’t be dumb, she scolds.

But oh! The words swing her open like a garden gate, causing a rush of gooseflesh, same as theirs.

Is there a song of street corner horns attached? Secret words sent of a full moon? A tree top suspended in clear blue sky? Or does it hold the simple word pavers of faith walk – Love – followed by a period? A longing to hold?

It would take reams of paper to print, she pokes. Think of the trees. Then she closes the window.


A nod goes to Story A Day for the prompt Epistolary Stories.


My brain is weary of those bullet pointed resume words customized daily. It is squishy, I know. It is no longer the taunt and fit muscle that hunts for dots to connect, that draws pictures in starry skies.

The stumble occurred on a random May morning over coffee. Story A Day. My interest perked but there were other more important things to tend. I left. I customized.

I don’t believe in coincidence – perhaps this is the open window, the rabbit hole filled with adventure to follow. I returned. I read and gathered. I chewed slowly for a month.

The prompt: Epistolary Stories.

I read or heard a story about a poet who telling of her craft said that sometimes words rush at her like a freight train when she’s in the garden. She drops the hoe and sprints to the house for pen and paper. Sometimes she makes it in time so the words ink themselves as gift, no thought, no editing. Sometimes her foot catches on the top porch step. She is late and the train rushes through her as if she were a tunnel. At which point, the words come perfectly backwards.

The saying goes like this: “It’s either a light at the end of the tunnel or a freight train coming.”

“No worries,” I whisper to self while opening a blank page. “You like trains.”

Tag Out

Things are not going my way. I need to reschedule, re-organize, re-prioritize. I need to re-something. And I chuckle snarky at my internal shift.

These are the days when I’m grateful my shirt is on right side out. If I can to that, I have said out loud, all is lined tidy.

Then my mom notices the tag. It’s a label truly, just stamped paint & not what I need, which is the flag of hard white flapping surrender, getting hung in my hair or tickling my elbow like a gnat.

I smile wide. “Dang it. Stupid label.” I toss my hands in mock exasperation.  “There goes the façade, Mom. I don’t have it all together.”

And we laugh together from the experience of tags out, unmet wants & unwanted mets.

Then her face gets stern. “Don’t fix it, Honey. It’ll be bad luck. Leave it as it is.”

“Sweet! One less thing,” I nod, laughing loudly.

Standing at the sink, watching the water rush away the remnants of dinner, I feel the hard swell rise despite. Then I pull her grace around me tight like the Holly Hobby sheets & quilt, the net from my childhood.

“I love you, Mom.” I say hands putting more dirty dishes into the sink.

“I love you too, Honey.”

Napkin Grace Remembered

“It’s just going to take a lot of Grace from both of you. A whole lot of grace given by both of you to get through this.”

~ A. B., November 2012

I was busy. I didn’t want to talk, to answer. To open up to seek & find because I knew my own cracks. To hear again all of the ways I was “not.” I had the list in multiple forms from multiple times given. But I did, at first moving boxes with the phone pressed between shoulder & ear, because I was working & there were deadlines. Then while lifting tub filled with serving tools & napkins, the air shifted inside the humid shed & I sat heavy with unspoken apology, in unseen humility, towards him.

His voice was genuine. His concern authentic.

He spoke of a role, of covenant, of grace.

I heard him tell of his burden to teach, to lead. I know this rightly is his gift.

I counted the slats in the ceiling, listening, inhaling his words. Using a broken pen to scrawl his words on a cocktail napkin to carry, which I did in my pocket for weeks, well into holiday, before it pilled and ink from the broken pen stained my hands when I touched it.

I’ve read that when Jesus was stabbed by solider’s sword on the cross, the Holy Spirit was released, Grace came rushing, into the battlefield of our lives.

And that’s what I think of now. I hear the rhythm in his voice, the words unfiltered, speckled with the language of men now when I must recall to steady myself in the world’s wind blowing up threatening storm.

And I whisper “Hey” to him for the volume of his voice to rise. I whisper prayers with each exhale acknowledging Satan in the list being given again, in my never ending desire for Grace to move in. I whisper, quiet inside, “Dear Holy Spirit, I know you’re here somewhere. You are welcome here. Please wrap us tight in armor, gird us so we can remain open, fearless.” I near whine, drawing out the word ‘Please” again and again because words left me. But all I hear is a haunting echo as I look to the ceiling, counting slats. I remember the pilled napkin. The one whose ink stained my hands.

To Deep Carry

I didn’t merely think of him, he didn’t pass through my mind like the missing item, something to be added to a list scrawled on paper or chalkboard.

He was summoned there by a whisper rising from center, where life forms. My continued longing deep brought him forth so that when I closed my eyes, I felt him near & solid in muscle & sinew, despite geography.

And we rode without conversation like that contented in the murmur of wheels, spray from tire trucks & children sighing in sleep.

I smiled offering up the way the steam rose from asphalt. The way the mist formed haloes around street lamps. The way Tennessee fog like a lace scrim lifted to the light to reveal the secret way trees exhale away the night. The way this right here is the dream of umbrellas and laughter.

The Click

I thought it would be audible. The click.

I didn’t expect so much a flash bang sound like those thrown in movies before entry that are resplendent with bright light, loud voices & a battering ram.

Nor did I think it would be something consistent moving closer like a woman’s stilettos measuring time on hard polished floors before entering & sitting down at the wide table.

Both of these give that Darwinian sense of fight or flight in a belly, don’t they?

It just came so quietly. The click.

It was almost like the fault line gently sighed so a quake was felt in middle Illinois like it did once in 1987. I remember that day how I watched the window awning quiver and knew something had happened, something was not the same, but I didn’t know exactly what until later. I guess that’s how it happens sometimes.

I was standing there in brown leaves that held neither winter crackle nor spring promise. The children were behind me talking. Their lift & lull heard at distances further than mine. The smell of yesterday’s firewood lighting that day’s rose in white smoke when suddenly my world’s wind came hard. And I simply stood looking up into a looking down that demanded me to mend and make right.

I felt my face tighten with the weighted adult look & nod. I felt my head bow down as something changed. I felt myself float away knowing yet wondering  what was different in this shaded light here when the circumstance & expectation was familiar. It was just geography after all.

It wasn’t until later, the date kept and given by another who marks & measures using sticks & the like, that I realized I felt the answer move through artery & vein with a gentle strength. It wasn’t until then I found the words of no more and enough formed in marrow deep. It wasn’t until then I felt fully the depth & breadth of the air I took in daily. It wasn’t until I relived that I realized I caught a glimpse of the bluest sky between the green oak leaves there when I looked up, before I walked away.