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Archive for the ‘Unflavored’ Category

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.

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There is a certain picking, I think, I simply don’t realize I do sometimes. I speculate it’s all in the timing. But when I think about it too much & too hard, the minute hand spins & I can’t find what I was seeking. Instead I smile, hum a song of call & response & drop crumbs to follow back.

My mom is a gardener. When I was just a girl with lopsided pigtails & barefeet, I remember  her small frame wrestling the tiller as it growled into the earth. I watched her stoop to dig holes & tuck in the white roots.  She used a small claw fork & hoe for weeding. And when it was time, she drug an old apple bucket with missing slats & wire handles behind her filling it with dirty potatoes & carrots whose tops hung over the edge carelessly.

Watching her move here now in this small space, she looks in my mind as she did then, although she would disagree noting the color of her hair, the size of her waist & hips, as we women do.

She told the story of last summer’s tomatoes. How on the top they looked ready & ripe. I imagine their red tightness looked as if each was holding their breath in the summer sun. She said when she brought them inside to slice, the bottoms were soft & rancid.

I chuckled & said, “So the bottoms fell out, huh, Mom?”

She turned toward me, shoo-ing a gnat from her face, “Yea,” she said, drawing it out in a confused sad sort of way before returning to the soil and beginning another story.

I wasn’t really listening because I was thinking of those wooly tomato leaves that make me itch. I was thinking of how a year ago she tended them daily – pulling weeds, flipping their leaves to check for aphids, watering, eagerly awaiting the fruit. I was remembering the strawberries’ red.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the strawberries. As I lifted each plastic tray I smelled the sweetness of summer but decided they were too soft & would taste more of fall wine in need of smoky cardamon than milk & sugar which is what my mouth craved.

I know I will return to that counter drawn by their bright promise, but I wonder if I will leave empty handed again.

“But you planted again this year Mom?” I interrupted.

“Yes. I’ll give it a few years, you know? And well if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Maybe I’ll stick with peppers and potatoes. I’m good at those.” She stands pushing her hand into the small of her back. “Oh Cindy, look at my pumpkin.”

“That begins with a ‘P,’ huh?”

She chuckles & squints her eyes at me in that delighted way she has when her children poke her. “Smarty pants. Come see.”

We both bend over the long curling vine at the end of the garden. Then she picks it up, flips over the leaves, plucks a few pieces of grass from the loose dirt.

I wonder if she’s coo-ing to them in her mind, to encourage and remind herself of their glorious orange to come. I wonder if I weren’t there she would sing and hum aloud.

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I stoop to pick it up. The dirty copper circle was heads up and only shone on the inside where Abe’s nose and chin were raised.

I have found near a dollar since June. I’ve counted them. In three weeks I found 37, which seemed to me unbelievable. I remember where some were found.

One was found in the dirt of a camp site. I unearthed it drawing circles with my bare toe.

Another was found in at the base of a gas pump.

A bright one was found in the cereal aisle, noticed when I bent down for the large box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I pick this new one up then with a licked thumb rub the face and the words “IN GOD WE TRUST” I turn it over and seek the others – E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. I hold it in my hand loosely as I have no pockets and walk into the bank. I whisper yes.

Because to me, there is a question asked when finding and pocketing small things like this. And truly aren’t I always saying yes to someone or something?

Right now saying yes outloud when my name is called. Saying yes when asked if something is completed or if the location of a thing is truly here.

But it’s the whispered yes that is the loudest. That said when walking into a near empty room with high ceilings that earlier echoed child laughter and clicking spoons and bearing witness to beauty standing on a table top. The yes of accepting an invitation offered loud to join and that offered quiet to melt into arms without pretense and consumption.

And this I think, this quietly offered yes in humble surrender and strong affirmation to the words world dirty pressed into something that goes mainly unnoticed – E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.

There are no great things, only small things done with great love.

~Mother Teresa

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When I mentioned dinner, they were excited. When I asked if they wanted to do a love bomb, both children hollered delight and celebration.

They are lovers who feel deeply and truly. Some days this is hard to see because they drift in a sea of pettiness over which fork is the best and who shot who first with the Nerf gun and who gets the last crumbly bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But I know they are because I am too and they are mine and I’ve raised them this way. To love what is given, to feel the strum of heart strings when sad over broken toys and lost notions and the pulsing joy of friends who will put on pretty party dresses, parade the cul-de-sac then dance to the twirling lights and loud music in our living room.

I told a friend about it and he cringed and said he would stay out back and smoke if invited. I laughed and flushed at his comment. I tucked the rest of my excitement away. And I wondered which part exactly forced him to flee.

All of the children came first. Toys were picked up, chairs were moved, and the tables joined the best we could to create a long “French table.” The girls dressed the table with mismatched cloths and flowers made from paper and glue.

The boys erected a marble roller coaster with grand twists and turns, in the open space where the dining room table once stood. The girls added disco lights to its high hills and plastic trees near the low curves.

Then the girls danced in the open space of the kitchen. And the boys swooped in to do the same with different jagged moves then swooped out again just as quickly.

When we sat down, my friends, their parents, complimented dinner and the setting and the roller coaster and everyone beamed. We served food, passing bowls and fetched the extra fork. Then my girl explained the rules and I began.

And this is when the light changed. When it spun concentric and became so large this table, this room, this table couldn’t contain it.

When small voices spoke large and big to fill a father, my friend, with words because he “works hard in hot weather.” To love a mother with the simple words of “she’s my mom and I’m her boy.” And a shy voice stutters and stammers smallness into sacred by saying “He plays with me always like Kinex and stuff.” Then a story of how he saw her in the hallway in kindergarten and “now we’re friends.” And when the oldest sister speaks kindness and admiration into the youngest sister, saying that she always defends the weak, all sat silent watching the girl sit straighter and taller in the shine of words.

This is when I came undone. This is when the air around me lifted sweet and tears ran down openly.

When I laid down that night, I thought of how all would look at each other differently. I wondered how long they would remember before the light faded from bright orange to blue to white like a sunset.

I thought of my friend. I wondered at how I’ve seen him speak loving encouragement and yet this sharing around a table made him shudder.

I wanted to whisper to each to be brave and to speak love. I wanted to whisper remembrance of all spoken out loud, to hold the words close as if holding stars in a jar on a liquid dark night. I know sometimes they are the needed lantern.

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I read the words at work and was undone in that way that scattered me and gathered me up tight and free in complete paradox.

And I watched the screen move to watery wave and knew I had to pull it in and focus. Focus – a word I said over and over again as those typed words drifted in and whispered soft while doing other things. A description of me, of all people. Amazing? Me, who has been told and reminded I don’t belong, am not near worthy, am not enough.

I knew a reply was expected and required and felt impossible.

How do you tell someone the depth and width of such an emotion?

How do you give breath to something when breathless?

I failed twice – back spacing my way out with machine gun fire. I reminded myself to focus. I moved onto other things like accounting and lists and schedules. I reminded myself to breathe.

And then when I was called out, the sin of omission brightly flagged, all I could offer was the two failed attempts and a stuttering incomplete explanation sung to the whine of please mercy and please grace.

I don’t know when I realized the word, felt it and knew deep as blood. Perhaps it was in that insistent bright light. Perhaps it was the flurry of my mind trying to wrap around, but not grasp at the proverbial straw.

Branded.

And the moment I replied with that word, shaking deep and chest breathless tight, is when I opened up wider than desert sky because it was true. Words drifted in reminding me of who I still was, erasing the world’s bruises, balming weary bone and skin. Typed words became vestibule for letters from Paul and Peter and Psalms then ended with Mother Teresa.

I remember the letter I found with no return address opening with her words. They were proclaimed as those I already knew, had written on a post-it and taped to the refrigerator, tatoo-ed in ink on my hand. This anonymous knew me, habits I owned and practiced quietly.

There are no great things, only small things done with great love.

~Mother Teresa

I hoped one word would be that one small thing.

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She said the words I didn’t know I felt. She said them over our clasped hands in a warm lamp lit office.

“I know she’s angry. Help her, Lord, move through it to find You.”

I felt that place, where secrets are pushed, jump awake as if at an alarm. Yes, I thought, yes, I am angry. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. And I squelch the scream inside.

And I walk, offering it up, labeling it joy, like James said to do. To bear all trials and tribulations as a gift. To say thank you for this barbed mess I hold in heart’s palm.

I tuck them, shattered pieces, into drawers and cabinets, out of sight, because company is coming and the house must be tidy and fresh feeling.

It’s becoming harder I think to cover and hide.

I think I am strong, that I can do hard, live hard and still not be hard. And I know I’ll take the blame, when no one else is around, because there are two so one must bear the weight of what is now tarnished, for the garden weeds and the dirty floors.

And I give hard thanks in hard rain fashion that pounds the earth at my feet, lifting dust as a reminder with each drop. And I walk, conscious of the callouses and blisters forming with each step, reminding myself that maturity comes with this kind of walking, that this limp and wilt is part of it.

What happens if I stop? What happens if I stop taking these actions and words as reminders that I am dust, to return to Him? Do I turn tables over because there’s desecration going on?

I think of Jesus and the money changers. I believe his skin prickled when he entered the temple. I believe it was with shaking hands he took the cords and wound them into a whip to banish.

And I wander there to that messy stone courtyard, stepping over broken bowls and mangled cages. All are screaming. Some with anger just because this is their livelihood being trodden. Some scream with that fear of a mad man. Did the hard wing flap of those doves released recklessly mirror the pounding panic and anger felt in the hearts of those businessmen?

After the turning over and the words spit through clenched teeth, I see John rip his hem to bandage up the cut on Jesus’ forearm.  I watch his hands move gentle as they pick the bits of straw from around it and wipe away the dirt. His mouth is moving, but his words, not meant for this crowd, are inaudible. After such strong action, there is always a cleaning up of more than the eye can see and the ear can hear, of more than washing dirty dinner dishes, gathering things dropped and letting go things broken.

Then the blind and the lame come. Always the blind and lame, I muse, as I hear the thunder move in and watch a July sky darken with heavy rain.

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I’m good at this – at this floating & smiling through thing.

She made mention once in a crowded Christmas dining room.

“And there she is floating through.” She sang the words then laughed. And I did too.

I don’t like crowds and the noise they birth. In the thick air, I begin to feel the pressure. Prematurely almost because sometimes the turkey hasn’t been carved and the children’s cups haven’t been filled and my body begins to tighten and my hands clench. I want to curl in hard then burst into outside space, stretching wide and gasping searing air. The thought of this action makes my skin prickle anticipation. I remind myself to breathe. I smile. I float. I fill cups.

No one wants to see this, do they? This inner struggle seeping outward into hard lines around my mouth and into my forehead?

It’s unsightly. It’s ugly. No one likes this. I’ve been told.

People respond better to a bright face and soft smile, as if there’s a secret held in my palm. It is more pleasing.

The secret is I think of clouds in blue white skies to battle those wrinkles. I feel my feet lift as if I’m painted into an oil painting of heaven, the kind discovered next to something rendered on velvet on the corner by the stop light. The kind whose color is grasping. But my body loosens all the same and the air filling my lungs seems less tight as if I am breathing in those rays of light and that blue overdone. Surely, this is a bringing forth, I think. Surely. And I float alone. I long for wings that work.

Then there are no crowds but just a handful of people around and I sink into that, floating and smiling because the air here is too restricted and not filling beating heart and pulsing vein. I battle the unsightly. Then I do it again in my kitchen. Again in my living room and in front of the mirror.

And what happens when some one sees that twist in my face when the sink in, the as if, doesn’t fully hide?

This is the part where the faking it is found out. This is the part where cheap paints smear.

What happens when that some one sees then reaches out and pulls me by the wrist down to where both my feet touch earth softly?

This is when I realize that being found, being earthed like this is a good thing. This is when I realize my actions moved from narrow perception and framed me cheaply . This is when I feel the feathers against skin and know the longing for wings that work was false too. They were there all along.

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