Archive for the ‘Yin and Yang of Relationships’ Category

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.


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“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.

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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.

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I found it there mounded asymmetrical in the dirt. A heart. A dirt heart peeking through the litter of brown leaves and twigs.

I bent low to push them away & trace its edges.  When I called to my mom to come see, she gave the obligatory “Oh yes Honey,” which made me laugh & blush at my simplicity & easy distraction. There were other things to be truly tending, I knew.

But during the unpack & organization of a camp kitchen, a hearth, a dining room that would house the gathering family, I couldn’t keep from seeking it.


Eric Legge, one of my long time artist crushes, photographs them – found hearts. His flicker page is filled with them. A heart in the sky where tree branches meet. A heart of rust on scrap metal. A heart in a tossed banana peel. A heart made with fingers.


The next day, my mom told me the storm would pass, despite the dark clouds racing in. She said I was in the Midwest & things like this blow over. But I kept looking skyward, thinking of the children’s tents. I knew a storm was coming. The earth smelled different and the air although lazy summer hot was electric with anticipation for the first drops of rain.


He created a series of work in which he carved hearts deep & rough into cabinet doors & found pieces of wood then created a frame of sorts, wrapping each with extension cords and thick house wire. I asked him about the wires and he, in the softest secretive tones, told me how the heart must be filled with electricity, how that emotion described as “heart stopping” caused the hairs to rise on his arms and neck with intensity. He near whispered “bursting with strong energy. Love is the most important thing.”

I learned later that his father had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack earlier that year and I smiled despite myself.  Because here was this man who worked side by side with his dad daily, whose respect & admiration was openly present when they spoke together or he spoke of his dad, and he was using his grief and confusion to create this beauty, to come to terms with that craziness, in order to hang on.

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It was a competition. Truly at its core it was a competition, but not like the ordinary learned competition – that of man against someone or some thing bigger outside like in barfights or bear attacks or in a boat on the ocean during a hurricane. It was more simple that than and more complex. It was woman. It was me.

It was the fourth, officially day 1,460 of yes acceptance in good and bad, in sickness and health, in tripping over shoes in the living room and struggling for a Windex sparkle clean and words to express. It was a long day for me, filled with spreadsheets, floor plans, impossibly small font and the task of weighing and measuring not just these. And I thought at 4:30 that I must do something. Tangible. With a bit of whimsy silly. A bit of sentiment. A bit of filling up gently, steady. A bit of saying something without using words. Something to bridge the growing gap and buttress a weariness also growing.

With an ordinary pot roast, something we Midwesterners serve on a busy Tuesday, a few candles, scrap wood, yard roses so different from their shop cousins because they show the wear of wind and rain and children bumping past and through, and honeysuckle vine dripping sweet nectar on an generic fruit filled tablecloth, I stood slowly to the challenge against self, pulling up from the boot straps snug around weary ankles to create a celebration. From all I had within my grasp, I set about to create feast.

And I could feel myself lift from the cheap seats of whatever-world to the field. The girl’s eyes were alight. The small boy smiled shyly. On a Tuesday.

And I spun rose petals so the bruises were hidden on the bottom.

And I tucked vine around and through candles gathered from other rooms.

Once, I thought, in a fit of silliness, candles dripped down the front of long bureaus and into drawers. Was that pre-ring? Or early-ring?

These wicks enflamed and sizzled the dust away.

As I fixed plates, the children asked questions of why and how on a Tuesday. And I told truth.

I told of how God made Adam and Eve to create the first covenant. I told of how children added texture and depth and how they were brought into this covenant to bear witness, to learn and grow it bigger. This glory is what is craved, I said. To create like this and spread wide. I told of how the commandments said to honor it in so many ways. And that right now I was trying so hard, with all that I had in my bone, to gather the pieces of fumbled days and celebrate. I smiled at them and told them open over potatoes being mashed that I hoped I was doing a good job as a bride, as a wife, but was fearful so I prayed those places away which is what one does, I said, when an ache becomes searing, when something must be done. And this brings glory too, I said. To pray. To lean.

And I said all of this in that way that comes hushed because of the absence of flourscent light over kitchen island. In candle light, all feels like a secret revealed, doesn’t it? Something mysterious maybe? Something sacred? And they pushed in and they blushed and got out the ketchup.

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I made a promise, after hearing & recording all that was said, on that old bench. I used the words ‘never’ and ‘ever’ and closed the door & dead bolted.

Beforehand, I battled it out loud. I used words like atonement for, jealousy of & lording over. But I was weary & the wind was too strong. So like a house of cards, I toppled. It is best to lie still lest the beast be further aroused, I thought. Silence can be golden, I consoled.

In my mind, the facts flared. After all, I had done the calculations in the early morning hours. I made lists, cataloging the whole against the slightest mention into one column, then flushing it further into positive & negative. I knew these darts slung while I sat slumped were myopic, knew in black & white the wrongs, but my soles were sore from treading, my muscles tired of strain.

So I willed it. I vowed the quit.

And instead of scraps scrawled and tucked away, each time a phrase rose gentle swift, each time a verb turned in dance with the sun or a stray leaf, I spun around resolute & refused to note. I refused to embrace & my arms ached deeper.

Then came the reminder of who I was in brotherly laughter. Then came the sharing on a bold twirling whim, one I had back spaced out of many times. Then came the question of “why not” & the honest answer & the retort “ridiculous.”

And I girded & I wrote & stitched & slept because all of this is what was needed in one day.

And now I offer fumbling apologies for delighting in wonder at how far exactly ants dig & why the sky is so blue some days. For my need to relive in order to understand. For my need to document the search in order to finally arrive.

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There’s a certain subtley I think we’ve not mastered yet.

That of this moonlight falling around and inbetween and through these tall trees on I-20/59. So ethereal soft and delicate like eyelashes that nothing is disturbed, not even the papery veins of oak leaves or the web built between.

I hear the children centered up tightly safe in mounds of blankets, a homespun quilt nest. They rustle like small birds adjusting feathers against cool air and skin. Their impulsive sighs and dream words mark the road stronger than the dashes that lead me home.

I think I could do that – of course I always think I can. I always think I can learn that right there. To touch like that.

With the right tension of muscle and mind, with the correct poise of hand and body like that of a crane over water, I believe I could discover the way of this moonlight.

I know with this open hand I would suddenly feel the very pulse of growth from deep white root to dark leather leaf. I would slide along gentle the gossamer threads and weave in and through the grasses and twigs of a nest built of tiny things found and carried there one flight at a time.

With this gentleness found in fingertip, I know I could fall into that shadow of arm crook and permeate the emptiness between those eyelashes and rest in the tightness of that wrinkle to become fully bound and contained in the dreams and thoughts the moment they rise like that misty haze at the wood’s edge. I wonder if I even would be able to see myself in reverse from here inside, as if in a mirror, through those eyes, their blue as wide and clear as sky.

This is too thick, I admonish, watching my left blinker flash bright before moving from behind the truck into the empty lane. Ordinary people are turning off televisions, locking doors and perhaps preparing the coffee pot for the next morning. They don’t think of this. They don’t wonder at the hows to make such a consideration like this possible. They don’t consider this a kind of perfection.

But I long to touch this way. Without harm or alteration or consumption, I know my hand placed just right could do it.

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