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Found Heart

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.

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.

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.

IMG_20130304_113014_583 (2)They’re dying, I know. The words are said as fact by those who pass by and I accept it as fact because it is so. I have watched the petals wilt and curl brown gently into themselves for days.

I slopped across a muddy back yard drawn by their boldness against a heavy concrete sky to touch their petals bright and wet. I slopped back again with shears & the dogs followed.

I told the story of when this home was new to me, I found these like a gift small & near the ground. I researched to discover name & need. With furrowed brow and sunken ear against the rain, they twisted their heads as if taking notes.

I drove the blossomed sticks to work in the cup holder, mindful of each curve and stop.

“They’re more beautiful in death, I think,” I said days later to a friend as I walked into her office. “But I guess it’s time to toss them.” I shrugged shoulders and twisted my mouth in the way that said ‘not yet please’ against fact. Then in that bright light, I spy the tiny white root, like a bright hair, from the woody stem and the words begin to trip over themselves. “Oh my gosh. Look, they’re rooting. Right here in the office.” And I hold the old spice jar up for her to see. “Oh my. Who knew from this randomly snipped branch? Really? Who knew?”

And standing there in a harshly lit office, with the heat of awareness rising to my face & neck, I nearly flood. From a woody stem cut comes this? I turn the jar around in my hand holding it high to see better. “Who knew?” I whisper. “Who knew?” I feel my skin and mind go cool light filling with the glory of it and I again am low to the ground, in the mud.

One Small Thing

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

A Missing

I changed fabric softener. It is a nod, a nuance almost, towards. This movement from the unpopular purple lavender to traditional bold pink. I recall the statistics & rebuttal of my disregard for trend. I recall the laughter.

Now each time I load the washer with the dirty and the dryer with the soggy mess, I am surrounded by that scent familiar. Remember, it says.

So I twine together pieces tight & gentle until the story is made and remade close to daily. Then I lift with all I am into love and light bound strong what I hide here in palm.

It is here in that certain slant of morning light in the laundry room I find & tap deep beauty. Such is my habit, I think. This moving in the shades of shadow. This moving of ordinary chore into sacred recollection. This putting on of sweater freshly warm & soft. This lifting.

Dear Friend, I hope the snow falls in sweet whorls that whisper.

Weekend Reminder

When he stated fact in church on Sunday, I remembered it took 42 minutes.

I know this because when I walked through the screen shoulder & heart heavy, I looked at the steady green numbers & stood quiet before stepping leaden from the kitchen sink to the oven to the refrigerator until finally I surrendered to a slump. Into an orange jewel painted chair, like a bird, I thought, to remind me of feathers & wings & soaring great heights.

He said 70% of human waste is expelled through the lungs, through breathing. Through something we take for granted, I thought.

I remembered how I looked out onto the winter worn yard filled with twigs and branches strewn by weeks of storms. To walk across it barefoot would be ridiculous, but the mud and wet leaves would feel like cool silk to my toes and soles weary. But I didn’t move. I sat.

He said he thought that our bodies ridded ourselves by other means. People laughed in that pitch that showed their wonder at where exactly he was going with this.

I don’t know when I realized how sharp my breath felt moving in and out  but the shallow jagged motion gathered my attention.  Tiny shards of glass like frost, I thought. I imagined the tiny molecules snowflake shaped and spinning moving into and throughout lungs hardened by the sheer force of the heart center also hardened.

But what if it was simple? What if this slightly chilled air coming through a door that pushed itself open was like the mud and leaves? What if it was silky & smooth to breathe in and out?

And I followed the trail of air into my lungs, each aorli opening like blossom sending tiny puffs of dander and dust out with each exhale. I saw in my mind’s eye the jerking pump of muscle plateau out as if the climb was over for a moment. I felt the freshness feed veins and arteries down through arms to fingers, legs to toes and swirl in the dance of ribbons here messy below navel where I can see the pulse of all.

He gave the direction that today was the day to fill with God. To breathe Him in and exhale the disappointments, the morning, the week. To breathe in God and know Him.

It’s His name, isn’t it? Hebrew, unrecognizable even there. Something I learned in college after a walk across frozen grass to the basement classroom. Then I relearned in my late twenties. Then fought to learn in my thirties. And here again.

And his face brightened as if in sun and the eyes rimmed red in awe and I wanted to touch my friend’s arm gentle because I was relearning, remembering it again. It was brought to my mind too, days earlier. That to know Him is like breathing in and out with intention.

This is when on Friday I looked at the clock. This is what I have carried with me.