Friday, November 7, 2008

Everyone Wants You to Be Happy, Why Do You Insist on Serving Them Your Grief?

How I remember this quote by Rumi


Monday the trees were a dull rusty brown. Wednesday they were blazing with orange and red and gold, though the ginkgos were still palely green. Now the ginkgos shimmer with light under the fierce blue sky.

I was born a sad anxious baby, and everyone had to deal with it most of my life. Now as I head into old age I am surprised by the joy of this savagely brief beauty and understand it has always been this way.

Spring has nothing on fall.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why I Am In Love With My Town--Even With All Its Warts

Last night on my way home in the Real Time dark of 5:15, I ran into so much traffic that it seemed like a traffic jam. In the few miles from the country to my house, there must have been at least fifty cars coming and going.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sometimes The Universe is Just Wicked Funny Like That

Last week I made the mad dash to the big box store, and even though it was fairly early morning and not the end of the month, the parking lot was buzzing. I made a couple of turns up and down the rows, when the closest spot I found was just past the mid-section and had a black SUV on one side and a buggy on the line of the other. Ahead of me several cars were backed up, waiting to pull into traffic so they could search other lanes for parking spaces. I made a decision…I had more room in the space between the buggy and the SUV than I did on the far side of the buggy, so I pulled forward, prepared to edge my big old Queenmobile (different story, folks, but it’s definitely a geezer car) into this open space when a spry fashion-grandmother type whipped around the SUV and carefully placed her buggy smack dab in the middle of my parking space.

I considered the options…I could pull forward, making a couple of more lane turns, or I could try to back past, lets see, the space where there was not enough room, the shopping cart corral, and finally past an open parking space, provided someone didn’t bushwhack me from behind, getting us all involved in a fender bender.


I didn’t like those options, so I chose the most rational thing I could think of. This woman, obviously well-groomed and cultured, surely just hadn’t seen me, so I beeped to let her know I was fixing (a nice Southern word) to use that space. Beep, beep. Just like the road runner, but with less emphasis, thus much more gentile.

The woman looked up and snarled at me. Twisted her face most unlady-like and seemed to mouth the word What? As in, what could I possibly want from her?

In situations like that I’ve been known to take offense, because obviously this woman was breaking the rules and I was right, and so she was putting her personal agenda ahead of my legitimate needs and rights. Right? But for some reason I could see her agitation out of all proportion to what she might perceive as my offense (though the offense was all on her part, having chosen to be an outlaw) and I could hear my little road runner beep beep, all prim and proper and prissy-mouthed. I cracked up laughing. Don’t know why. Just started belly laughing and gave in, pulled forward, foregoing the imagined reverse fender bender, not even dismayed that now I was in the inching flow of traffic again. Suddenly two parking slots opened up next to the handicapped spaces, the two nearest parking spots to the entrance for anyone without a handicapped symbol on her license plate.

As I pulled in my choice parking space, the black SUV passed behind me. It had tags for the county next to mine, the county whose largest city had 2,100 people in the 2000 census, while our very town had 21,000. Maybe she just didn’t know how to act in town. Perhaps this poor woman had a momma sick in a nursing home, or maybe she just found out her unmarried daughter was pregnant or her husband was sleeping with his secretary, or she had to get home because the bridge club was due at her house at any minute.

Maybe even if I had taken offence those parking spaces would have opened up, but I would have spent precious time being pissed at some woman I didn’t know. I personally like to think that the Universe loves sharing a good joke. And a rolling belly laugh? That great feeling lasts a long time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why I Love My Town

Today while I was shopping I spotted the frail-looking old man dressed in a suit and trying to lift a bag of dog food down from a top shelf. He pulled it close enough to peer at it, his eyes only a few inches from the bag. After the close inspection, he shoved the bag back into place, and felt his way further down the isle. He fumbled another bag part way off the top shelf, again looked at it very closely, then let it tumble into his cart.

He apparently didn’t need any help.

I saw him again at the frozen veggies, repeating the same technique, pulling first one bag out, pulling it next to his nose, reading carefully, putting it back, fumbling a few inches down the freezer case, selecting another bag, pulling it close enough for him to read, dropping it in cart.

And I knew again I love my town, a town with few enough cars that an old, blind man can safely drive himself around.

Don’t ask me the name of my town. Though you would probably love it as much as I do, we’ll all be better off if you stay right where you are.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What It Means To Be A Libertarian

The woman is washing dishes for his mother who’s just home from the hospital. She picks up a plastic container and underneath is a spider. A brown spider. She knows the man doesn’t kill insects or spiders though he has no trouble offing armadillos or raccoons. Come here, she says, and tell me what kind of spider this is. It’s your house and your spider to deal with.

He comes. He looks. It’s a brown recluse, he says. Don’t worry, I squirted it good with detergent.

She goes back to the sink, and the spider is laboring to the sink’s edge. She has trouble breathing, the spider is struggling that hard. She wonders if the spider will hide under some other dish, one day recovering to bite his mother. When she cleaned out her dead father’s shed, it was lousy with brown spiders. Her entomologist son-in-law said they were brown recluses, he had been bitten by one once, it had rotted a hole in his skin. Even though she was paying him, she said he didn’t have to help her clean out the shed, and he found something less risky to do. She nuked the shed twice, donned gloves and hauled everything out on her own. The hundreds or maybe only dozens but plenty at that of brown spiders looked nothing like this one, nor did the tiny brown ones in her bathroom that her friend thought were recluses, or the larger brown ones on her porch, one of which she suspected of crawling in her pants legs to bite her, causing a raging infection that required two mega doses of antibiotics to heal, and itched for over a year.

All those different spiders, and all brown. Because she cannot tell them apart, her philosophy is if it’s brown and a spider and inside a house, it has to die. Besides, this one looks like it is in agony. She wonders why the man can kill animals but has an insect catcher to transport creepy crawlies from inside to out. Why would such a man leave this spider to die such a difficult death? She grabs a paper towel, apologizes to the spider whether it’s a brown recluse or not, then squishes it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The World Will Have To Go To Hell In A Handbasket Without Me Today

Whose Birthday Is It?



It's MY birthday!!!
I'm going to bathe and email and eat fried oysters with a friend. I'm going to visualize driving in Houston Tx with an abandoned ease, because really, children do it all the time, right, and they are texting. I'm going to practice me some sign so this fellow won't be thinking I'm too dumb:


I'm going to practice A Course in Miracles. I am going to make me a doll.




If Blockbuster has disc 4 of Life, I'm going to spend the evening on the couch with a redhead. Some way rich dessert from Veronica's bakery may be involved.

Today...no headlines, not one P word.



I might just do it all over again tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Because

By the time my backyard cat population attrited, I had a young raccoon with long tits feeding regularly at the food bowls. Once I spotted her opening the door of my neighbor’s shed and going in, letting the door swing shut behind her.

Soon Little Mama was feeding at Wanna Café by night with three rollicking babies. My husband insists we continue with the free food. “You’re disturbing them,” he says when I switch on the light to see if I can spot them at the bowls, flipping in and out of the pans of water I’ve set out. It’s a pool party at Wanna Café every night, and since I’m the hostess, I think I have the right to enjoy it, too. I want to see their long back feet, their little nibblish hands. I want to see the babies fall into the water, leap out, spin the food bowls.

More than that I want to open the door of that shed and see their little eyes glowing in the dark. I want to share their secrets.

I know if I do that, they must leave if they still live there; they will no longer feel safe. It’s the same impulse to clap my hands to see the clattering blackbirds swirl into the air, to run into the field of a thousand snow geese and watch them rise and circle. The same impulse of a child who takes a stick to stir a hill of ants just to watch them scatter.

I know it’s egocentric to want disturb these creatures at the necessary labor of their survival just so they will dance for me. But still I want to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ritual

No matter how busy I am when I shop, when I buy eggs I open the carton and roll each one just a bit in its wee cup, making sure there are no broken ones. Every time I do this I feel connected with everyone who does it, who has ever done it and who ever will. In that small silent space in my nattering life, my finger gentle on the cool, thin shell, I feel as if I am participating in a universal domestic rite invoking the safety and prosperity of the family. My family. All familes. Amen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Faith

Because I am not going to take time to look up exact quotes, you’re gonna have to take what has filtered through my brain.

A Course in Miracles says free will is choosing what you want to believe. Once you have chosen, you call your witnesses to testify to the truth of your beliefs, and the witnesses always come at your call. By the way, A Course says there are only two choises: heaven or hell.

An article I read a few months back said a certain location in person’s brain lights up when she thinks she’s been proven right (and it also works for he’s). When presented evidence that proves her belief, her brain releases one of those happiness chemicals, even if being proven right puts her in a worse position than if she were wrong. She will dismiss all evidence contrary to what she believes. Calling the witnesses, and we would rather be right than be happy.

Which reminds me of a radio skit of two boys at Christmas that I heard in New Orleans in the late seventies :


Boy #1: You know there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.

Boy #2: Yes there is.

Boy #1: No there’s not.

Boy #2: Yes there is.

Boy #1: Not there’s not. :

Silence.

Boy #1: So?

Boy #2: So what?

Boy #1: Aren’t you worried?

Boy #2: Why should I be? You’re the one who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

You Hoo, Honey, I'm Back

This blog (along with Being in America) has been my paean to and exploration of my awakening to the Happiness of Being (Love, Peace, Joy), what I’ve been told over and over is my true nature. If you know me, or read much of my hippy dippy ommm-de-ada ommm-de-ada blogs, you know I born under an unhappy star. At some point in my search for a better way, I began to think that in addition to being raised by a young (when I was born) mother who loved us and was determined to turn us into decent worthwhile human beings even if she had to jerk us up by our hair roots to do so, I also was born with anxious wiring. Why else did my sister turn out like Teflon and I turned out a mess, still dancing for my mother (and gosh, I loved her…I just wanted her to be happy)? Newsweek recently published a report corroborating that not only was there a reason I was an anxious child anxiously tap-dancing to please my mother, it was the same reason I couldn’t spell, and though they didn’t say it, probably why my dad, my son and I perform a close-enough butchering of the English language—Ta Da: DNA. (hey…if you read the article, my sister wasn’t that kind of Teflon…she was the kind where she didn’t pay that much attention to the rage, and kept on trucking).

So my life has been a litany of instruction manuals of the ommm-de-ada kind for changing the way I react to the world. It has been suggested at times a wee bit of meds might help when I feel like this:
but that was just my self serving family, thank you very much.

But for them, I gave it a try. My first foray into anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals (you know, other than nicotine and fat-laden carbohydrates) had my family hiding in closets and barring the bedroom door. Apparently my anxiety was covering up a great deal of rage of my own, and even though I found out the drug I was using was only one molecule removed from the drug most named in rage-related homicides in Europe, and surely there were other, gentler drugs, I decided to stick with books and mental practice.

I begin to experience a brightening of a mood here, a golden moment there, though, in general, diffuse anxiety and the occasional depression remained my companions. It’s in my genes, don’t you know.

Then one of my distance teachers said that thoughts created neural patterns, forming and reinforcing connections for misery or happiness, and thus we taught ourselves what the world was like by our thoughts. Newsweek has a new article in which scientists agree with my teacher. I had realized for a long time that I really only focused on the flaws in the world (my flaws, the world being a mirror, my teachers would say), and there was much more to life than the flaws. So I began practicing, recognizing the critical thoughts, the sad thoughts, the painful thoughts, and substituting thoughts I would rather have.


It worked. Really, really worked. Several weeks ago I experienced happiness. Not a lessening of anxiety, not a golden moment of unspeakable love, but effervescent, loving lightness of being. For a day, then two, then three.

And then I began to notice the elections. And the politicians. I began checking Drudge and Google out everyday (every 10 minutes?), reading blogs, following sources. I didn’t read the blogs that I had enjoyed. Couldn’t even click on their links. I needed to know what was going on, I needed to make the right choice among people, all of whom would make choices for me that I didn’t agree with.

Zoom. Not anxiety, maybe, but crankiness, and addiction, a furious urge to know NOW.

Uh-uh.

So maybe I do need to blog my thoughts and beliefs about our political systems, and what I think freedom means and entails. What the candidates have to offer, and even if I can’t get what I want, try to know what I don’t want the most. But not here.

Then again, maybe I can’t serve two masters. If that’s true, I know the one I choose to choose, and this will be my only blog. I may not be able to save the world with love, peace and joy, but when we have that and share that, maybe we can find a way to say "yes, and" rather than "no, but--you idiot." It’s bound to turn out better than poking each other in the eye with our pointy views.

And a P.S. In the past couple of months my blog has been noted by two bloggers I admire. I have some gratitudes and recognitions to pass along—coming up.
painting: The Scream Edvark Munch, 1893

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Talking More Trash

And hopefully the last of it:


Pieces of trash have reappeared in my neighborhood, but not to the extent we had before I became the anti-litter-lady. I’ve wondered about that. It occurred to me that when trash is lying about, I notice it. Every time. So it seems like always trash, even if it’s the same trash. And then another piece and another piece joins it, so it’s eternal trash, strewn around by cretins I can do nothing about. Trash upon trash upon trash, a mental mountain at least. But if I dislike the litter, and if I pick it up on a semi-regular basis, the original trash is gone. If I took it home, put it in the kitchen garbage, never took it out to be carried off by curbside service, my house would quickly fill up with other people's trash. But I do put it out to be hauled off, and the neighborhood is a bit cozier, and I’m a bit happier. I don’t like trash—but instead of having to change all the world’s litterers, I can simply change my bit of the world.

Gotta admit, I still have trouble with the social interaction trash…somebody says something unnecessarily mean or stupid or—Big Not Fair—something untrue, or I’m waiting in line at the big box store check-out while the clerk counts the cash she’s handing back fifteen times so she can finish her personal conversation with the customer in front of me like she’s doing official business and not just chit-chatting, while I have official business of my own to take care of just as soon as I can pay for my goods and get on my way. Instantaneously, the chemicals flash and I’m looking at some trashy feelings.

Nevada Barr in Seeking Enlightenment, Hat by Hat, her book on her spiritual evolution, said she went to a refresher course for park rangers. A guest speaker, a sheriff, asked the group what they did when somebody ‘talked back.’

One young man said, “I don’t take shit off anybody. They give me shit, I take action.”

The sheriff set him straight. “As a law-enforcement officer it’s your job to take shit. Punks smart mouth you, you take it. Drunks vomit on you, you take it. Ladies spit at your because you wrote ‘em a ticket, you take it. Taking shit is what we do. You damn well better get good at it.”

Though I still hate taking shit, I’ve come to realize the first thing I have to do is notice it’s there. If I’m living in a reactive trance and somebody gives me shit, what I’m feeling will seem real, and I’m just going to get madder and madder. I’ve got to claim the garbage first. That’s just the first step. Even if I realize what’s happening, if I cling to my own outraged righteousness, I’m going to be hauling that trash around, and collecting more to pile up on it. But if what I really want is peace, love, joy, I’ve got to share it with the cretin, um, fellow creature in front of me. I’m going to have to claim those outraged feelings as my own garbage, and then let them go.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Persuasion

I’ve written about becoming that old trash lady, picking up garbage along with my dog’s poop. It’s kind of embarrassing, in a way. But today I didn’t take my poop retrieval bags with me when I left the house (alrighty, it was early and I was dopey; the dogs didn’t poop in anybody’s walking path, I’ll pick it up later, okay? We don’t want this poop thing to be obsessive). The trash thing may well be on its way to a mental illness deal, because I was slightly nervous about not being able to clean up the neighborhood. Scheesish, I was thinking, what a fruitcake I am.

Then I discovered THERE WAS NO TRASH. Not a yellow napkin. Not one paper straw cover. Not even a plastic cup lid. Nada. Nothing.

This may be what is happening here: the law of attraction. If trash is lying about and people are passing in their cars, their little brains note it, the synapses flash, the car window lowers, out comes the detritus of their mobile lives. Trash collects trash.

But if the garbage isn’t there in the first place, the synapses don’t turn on. On some level the custom of the natives prevail.

I remember it being Krishnamurti who said, Be the change you wish to see.

You know we're not just talking trash here. Peace, love, joy, anyone?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Love My Town

The other day I was trying to leave the grocery store, but the out door was blocked by an old white man with a buggy. A spiffily dressed old black woman with a walker was trying to make her way in the out door. This is Mississippi, folks, and those racial differences at one time made a huge distinction, especially for folks as old as these two. Besides, you needed the visuals.

A shopper would come up behind us, stop, then whirl around the old man, and breeze out the automatic door, dodging the old woman. The old woman would take two shuffles forward on her walker, trying to give the old man room as he patiently waited for her to clear the path, only to have the door shut again. She was accompanied by her attentive grandson who seemed clueless about the door.

It took two shoppers leaving for me to figure out what was going on. "She said she has to go to the restroom," the grandson said, his voice very quiet, as if that would inform the world why he was trapped, the best years of his life passing him by, here, trying to go in the out door. Being a know-it-all kind of person, instead of whirling between the two myself, I took charge and got the old man out and the old woman in. I don’t know how long it would have taken them otherwise.

Even up until right this minute, I think about them and am tickled to live in a town where people will be so patiently courteous to each other even when it behooves no one.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Convolutions

Apologies to Jessica Lange, who is one of my secret girlfriends, which is why I was reading celebrity news about her to begin with. She’s just my age, but from what I’ve read (and remembered), she’s been fearlessly independent, living her beliefs. She’s not really my secret girlfriend…she’s one of my secret lives…living the life I would have lived if only I had more courage. And better hair.

In addition, apology-wise, about the quibble over the price of her house and the yuppie thing. With the housing bubble of the past few years, two million dollars is probably a reasonable house figure in an upscale neighborhood that has any kind of people-pleasing attraction, and is meager for a celebrity’s home. I’m sure Morgan Freeman’s home outside of Charleston, Mississippi, is much pricier, in a less saturated luxury-home market. Jessica did not invent fractional reserve banking, deregulate lending practices (subprime) to ensure minority participation, print money as a way of market control, nor shore up the resulting bad lending practices with governmental guarantees. While she is responsible for her success in her chosen field, she is not responsible for the speculative housing boom in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Several years ago my friend Barbara and I took a Florida Gulf Coast trip. “Seaside is up ahead,” she kept promising me. “just around the bend.” She started laughing when I finally spotted the little tinker toy Victorian village on the gulf and started screaming. “I knew it would scare you,” she said.

During that trip I was reminded of Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, where (I think…I can’t find my copy, and I think this is where I read the idea) people consumed that which they professed to love. Find a quaint fishing village. Love it. Talk about it. In no time the real-estate locusts would follow, gobbling and spewing until only the new could survive. He should know…he had moved to Mandeville, Louisiana, that sleepy little fishing village outside of New Orleans. When I stayed for a few days in Mandeville in 2000, it was all gated communities, precious retail shops, and high-end eateries.


“The locusts are coming, the locusts are coming,” I chanted my way down the Gulf Coast the year I traveled with Barbara, stopping at all the beach dives along the way. Our end destination was Apalachicola, the sleepy fishing village our friends had discovered when they pulled in to rest on their voyage around the world in the sailboat they had built. They were charmed, settled in to build a river boat and enjoy Apalachicola’s eccentrics and Florida singularity. But by the time we arrived to visit, Apalachicola had been named one of the ten best kept secrets by Coastal Living, and the locusts were devouring it, buying second (or third homes) at inflated prices, taxing the fishermen and eccentrics out of their homes.

And ever since I read Misty of Chincoteague, and later, The Water is Wide I wanted to live on the Outer Banks, just like at one stage of my life I wanted to be Jessica Lange. I don’t know how many people wanted to be Jessica Lange, but apparently many, many shared my Outer Banks dream. And by the time I got there to visit, they were living it. I was too late. Honking pink McMansions and bumper to bumper traffic. Salt water in the water faucets because the population stressed the water supplies. Not a wild horse to be seen, because they ate the gentry’s geraniums and kept getting hit by cars. I wished somebody had passed a law that nobody got to live on the Outer Banks but me, though of course I would have all the amenities. And I would take good care of it. I wouldn’t share.

A couple of years ago I visited my daughter in Destin. Not only did Destin (once a what?…SLEEPY LITTLE FISHING VILLAGE) have bumper to bumper traffic, it had big box mall after big box mall. You could probably buy anything you wanted in Destin. I ate at a restaurant and looked out the window at the pier on the bay. “What kind of bird is that?” I asked the waitress, who lived in Destin. “Don’know,” she said, “some kind of water bird?” My daughter took me to this “beautiful” new housing development. It turned out to be the triplet to Seaside. On the way down, I looked for the coastal dives my friend and I had visited just a few years earlier. They were gone, replaced by high-end stores and fanicified restaurants.

What Jessica said in the AT&T news article I read was this: “In an interview earlier this year with the New York Daily News, Lange spoke with disappointment of changes in Stillwater. She says it went from a little town with lots of characters to a "yuppified" place with too many gift shops and condominiums.”

Let’s face it. No matter how conservatively Jessica Lange lived for the income she honestly earned, her two million dollar home was going to start taxing the characters out of town. And with a little help from Big Brother governmental practices, the folks who liked what she liked were going rush in to replace those characters, bringing along specialty coffee and la-de-da one-of-a-kind everything.

I read once, if you use something, you use it up. No way around it. But if I could find a way, I would stop the locusts. And make sure I got there first.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ya Think?

Jessica Lange’s four bedroom Victorian in Stillwater, Minnesota is on the market for just under $2 million. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Ms. Lange said the town where they had lived and raised their children had “yuppified” over the nine years they were there, with now too many gift shops and condominiums.

Is it just me, or does a complaint about the “yuppification” of your hamlet ruining your pleasure in your four bedroom, (just under) $2 million home sound a bit….ummm, what's the word for it?….yuppified to you, too?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who You Gonna Channel Today?

I scoop my dog’s poop, and because I have poop bags readily available, I also scoop the trash people with poor home-training throw out in my neighborhood. For some reason I’m not bothered by the napkins and fast-food cups, but I do wonder about the folks who pitch the litter and why their mommas didn’t teach them better.

One day I took the dogs out to pee and saw a red car U-turning in front of my house while its passenger was busy ditching drive-through garbage out the window. I yelled out in exasperation, “Guys, don’t throw your trash out here. We don’t do that in this …….” I bit off the word “neighborhood” because I realized I was yelling at a black kid. Our little town is still fairly segregated, so I knew I sounded like I, the old white woman, was pointing out a great racial divide in public behavior, which was not my intention. I was merely intending to let these people know folks don’t do that in town.

The car straightened out in the road and stopped. The black kid looked out his window, then opened the door. I thought of all the horror stories in our local paper, the drive-by shootings, the kids killed at four-way stops. All of this was just a jumble when this kid sprung out of his car. Instead of lunging at me, he headed for the burger wrappers and the French fry box.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said. I had just wanted them to know not to do it again. “I would have picked it up.”

“She threw it out…I can pick it up,” he said, sliding back into his car with the trash. “No problem.”

I thought at his age I would have been embarrassed and thus angry if I had been reprimanded by some old woman yelling, and I might have considered bringing back some real trash, just to show her.

But that kid—he’s another one of those chance encounters I’ll remember forever. I knew I had become a trifle obsessive about litter, but somebody had taught that kid right. While I was channeling Lady Bird Johnson during her Beautify America stage, he was channeling Gandhi.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From a Dream Journal--1991

She takes me to the hummingbird tree, where birds are flitting to and fro.

"I knew these birds were here," I said, "but I just never stopped to know."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ester, Jerry, Abraham, I Gotta Remember That Secret Thingamajiggy

Before I left town for a week, I did that thing I do....cleaned until I was snarly, which didn't get me very far because cleaning makes me snarly and I hate to inflict that piece of my personality on my beloveds so the dust and fur get out of hand, but I'm sweet, you know. There I was, down to the wire, the sink empty and clean, the dishwasher vacant, the garbage hauled out, the floors mopped, and all the clothes washed. As I was making the frantic dash to tidy this and that, I thought of other trips I had taken, or rather other homecomings, and how, no matter how I tried to leave the house in some semblance of order, I would return to overflowing, smelly garbage, and dishes piled in the sink and covering the counters. I briefly thought of pressing The Boyfriend not to let that happen, but since I was snarly anyway, I figured I would just smear him with a film of accusation, so that if he did what I asked, he would resent it, and if he didn't do what I asked, I would resent it, nobody really wins, so instead I told the Universe what I wanted and decided I would deal with what was what when I got home. I imagined my homecoming, the kitchen as clean as I left it, and how happy I was to be home. I only flashed on this vision, because I was snarly, and there still was much to do before I left.

Seven days later I was headed for my house, where the son of my 83-year-old traveling companion was to meet us, saving me a two-hour round trip to deliver her to her door. Only he didn't answer the phone two hours out of town. And he didn't answer the phone one hour out of town. And he didn't answer the phone as we pulled into town.

I thought of how tired I was. I thought of the week of being sociable. I thought about waiting for the son at my house, neither I nor my companion being able to relax until we contacted the son, and then there would be the at least hour's wait for him to arrive. I thought of the trash and dirty dishes of years past. I shot past my town and headed for hers. It just seemed simpler.

When I did finally arrive at home, the sink was spotless. The garbage was only half-full. I had to wonder if he took out the trash, or if I were the one who accumulated garbage? At any rate, my vision had come true, including the happy part of it. Without me saying a word. Without me indicating he needed a mommy to tell him what to do. (Okay, you feminists...if you wonder about the division of our work-load, ask me, but definitely, our division works for us, which is what feminism is all about. If this bothers you, just stick to the point of the story...that what I envisioned came to be.) "It was great to come home to the clean sink," I said. (I'm not above positive reinforcement, though it's best not to be condescending--a fine line--about it.) He laughed. "And I emptied the trash, too," he said as if we had actually had that conversation before we left, only if we had had (are you dizzy yet, with all those hads?)that conversation, he would not have been laughing....nobody likes being told what to do. "And washed the clothes and dusted the television. And the fan." He was happy, I was happy, we were all happy.


And I KEEP FORGETTING. This envisioning stuff, it works for me. Over and over and over again. Why does thinking about what I want seem to be WORK, and I let it slide. I certainly could have used it several times on the trip. Maybe even with the son being where we needed him to be when we needed him to be there. The possibilities washed over me, as they always do when I remember the Power of Visualizing. I must remember to ask, I told myself, I MUST remember to ASK.

So what did I ask for next? World peace? Food for the starving? Cure for terminal illness?

Nah. My brain's still occupied with the little personal matters-to-me. I asked not to spill food on my shirt when we went to the Mexican restaurant. And it worked. And when Mr. Neat dropped that bit of cheese dip, I didn't even laugh.

Krishmanurti said be the peace you want to see. Maybe that starts with the little personal things, the dishes and clean shirt.

But whatever you want, you've got to remember to ask for it. And feel the happiness, as if you already have it.

Okay, today's lesson's over. Bet I'm forgetting already.

No! Wait! I am asking to remember. Now I've gotta go and visualize those results, and how happy I am to get them.





Monday, July 14, 2008

When You're a Grump....

Today’s A Course in Miracles lesson is about forgiveness:

Let me not forget my function.
Let me not try to substitute mine for God’s.
Let me forgive and be happy.
Lesson 64

Easy to do when I’m meditating. Not so easy when my 79-year-old very tired neighbor (with cancer!) wants my help trimming her crepe myrtles during the cool part of the day which also happens to be MY WRITING TIME! !!!!!!! when I had spent the week-end cleaning so I could WRITE THIS MORNING.

Then I’m under the crepe myrtles with a saw and clippers, and my general mode of operation is the bull-in-a-china-cabinet one anyway, and Miss F's is precise and s l o w l y methodical, and I can feel the BIG NOT FAIR chemicals surging through my frontal lobes.

Let me not forget my function.
Let me not try to substitute mine for God’s.
Let me forgive and be happy.

Let me not forget my function.
Let me not try to substitute mine for God’s.
Let me forgive and be happy.

Let me not forget my function.
Let me not try to substitute mine for God’s.
Let me forgive and be happy.

Which for me at the moment means please, while Miss F. persnicketingly chooses which twig to remove to relieve the weight that has the myrtle drooping to the grass, please, please please don’t let me me saw this fricking tree off at ground level, and don’t let me sear this unusually cool summer morning with profanity. In front of this 79-year-old very tired single woman with cancer.

Let me not try to substitute my function for God’s.

Let me forgive and be happy
.

I don’t think that meant let me try to maintain. I don’t think that meant let me begrudgingly get through this task and without my g.d. irritation showing.

Do you get that chemical feeling in the front of your head, like clouds gathering before the storm? That flat desperate feeling like your brain is a fox caught in a leg trap and is fixing to start chewing until something gives? That bellwether feeling indicting your emotions are about to erupt, and you are going to be hateful, or/and you are going to burst out crying because of the unfairness of it all, and the residue will yuck up the whole day, year, the rest of your life? Because of the BIG NOT FAIRNESS OF IT ALL?

I don’t think that’s what the A Course lesson means.

I had to back up…recognize it wasn’t God’s function that I had to write this morning, at least not at that very minute if I happened to be down the street helping my neighbor. So if I was at Miss F.’s whacking on her crepe myrtle, and I wasn’t happy, there was something/somebody I wasn’t forgiving.

I had to turn the forgiveness matter over to the Holy Spirit, that’s what A Course calls it. Forgive her. Forgive me. Forgive my mother. Forgive whomever the hell needs forgiving. I’m willing. Just don’t know how. Show me God’s function for me.

And I noted the frontal lobe crap. Which began to recede.

“I don’t feel so tired,” Miss F. said after the proper branches had been sawed, the tree had been tied to fence, and the trash hauled to the street.

And I left with a bag of tomatoes, light of mind, light of heart. Happy. With enough time to write this and plenty more.

Why do I always forget what works?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sometime My Brain Feels Like It's Going To Explode

Last night I felt a tickle and looked down to see a BROWN spider scurrying up my leg. In my house, because I have been bitten and had to take several rounds of knock-ass antibiotics (do you ever read the possible reactions on those things?) a spider colored BROWN equals DEAD—my doctor has an undergraduate degree in entomology and says not even he can identify brown spiders as anything but brown—so I hit it with a shoe. It rolled into a ball and I went back to typing, thinking I would futilely try to species it later. Later it was gone.

This morning a smaller, though same type, BROWN spider ran across the couch, and I killed it with a sock. Two spiders, BROWN, same couch, two too much. Today was deep vacuum day. By the time I finished I had found three more spiders, one of the same BROWN variety and two of a different, bulbous and golden, brown, all sucked up in the vacuum cleaner. Under another couch I found a crippled BROWN spider. Man, what could I do? It had survived the whacking last night, and now was trying to skitter out of the path of the BIG THING, just trying to survive (so it could bite me later with its very toxic venom pouch or whatever it has if it were the same as the undetected spider that had left four, FOUR welts that had become infected with MRSA, required several rounds of etc etc etc and itched for two years. I did the only thing I could. I scooped it up on a note card that had a quotation from A Course in Miracles and flung it out the door.

Once I peeled my thumb nail back trying to corral a cockroach with the empty cardboard paper towel tube. Ouch. A long time ouch. Now cockroaches live or die according to my whim and how easy they are to catch in an actual paper towel and what’s on my agenda for the next few minutes.

Shug the dog is allergic to many, many, many substances, including fleas, including anti-flea medication. Since we’ve had upwards to ten house pets at one time, we’ve been able to keep the fleas at bay by Advantageing the rest of the animals, and leaving Shug toxin free. Only this year Shug has fleas. What’s the difference between killing fleas with a toxin administered to your dog or cat, and personally picking them off your allergic dog and squashing them between your fingernails? Blood-lust. Sentient beings or not (and I know they are because they run like hell and deviously hide—they know enough to know they do not want to die, ‘don’t got to the out back,’ I imagine them saying to their adolescents, ‘for the Big One will surely kill you.’), I track those suckers like the Terminator after Sarah Conner. Only I get them. It’s easy to get addicted. Sometimes I wonder if there is a flea-crushing competition, I’m that good.

A lone ant traveling the sunroom we call Paladin, you know, a knight without armor in a savage land. We might blow it off our arm, but otherwise we greet it by name. An ant on my food counter? I think of it as Borg, those mentally linked Star Trek cyborgs. “You are about to die,” I tell it. “Warn them. Warn the others not to come.” One dead to save thousands. Those ants that congregate in the cat food bowls? They get washed down the sink while I sing, “it was sad, sad, sad, it was sad when that great ship went down, down, down.” And the ant families swirl around the drain as I finish up, “husbands and wives, itty bitty antees lost their lives.” Yesterday there were no ants on the pet food bowls, but the yard stick in the corner was covered in them.

And that’s not all. As I wash those battalions of ants down the drain, I know those ants want to move into my house, set up housekeeping, share my food, eventually devour me after they starve me to death, and even if it’s not personal, the result is the same, so it’s me or them, Buddy. And what is the difference between ants and people? What if I were the leader of a marauding population, be it space alien or Attila the Hun, if I didn’t need the folks I was conquering for labor, and I needed their resources? Would the ability to make war on the insect world allow me to massacre populations? Just a thought while I’m feeding the cats.

And I am BIG—maybe bigger than the ant, the spider and flea can conceive? Am I capricious fate to them, or something akin to the Hand of God? “God created man in His Own image, and man immediately returned the favor,” says one variety of a quote attributed to many people. I think of how I treat the insects and know I fear God feels the same about me. Two-and-a-half billion people in 1950, with a projection of nine billion in 2050. Was the God of the wooly mammoth and the great auk not paying attention? And while the number of polar bears are at a historical high and the notion of man-made global warming has become a hysterical religion that brooks no heretics, can Mother Gaia sustain nine billion people and the polar bears? And is one single one of one worth more than one single one of the other? Is your head spinning yet?

Okay. I believe God and ant and woman are all one, and having my brain scream “we’re all going to die” while I refill the cat bowls is merely drama entertainment. Let’s not move on to starving babies, plague and how my neighbor hacked a branch out of the magnolia so she could park her son’s run-about golf cart there, and now will the magnolia catch a virus from its injury and die. Bombs. Bombs and waterboarding. STOP.

A Course in Miracles says we have two choices: heaven and hell, and we call our witnesses to prove the one we want see. This has proven true to me so many times, yet I stand by my sink, drowning ants, and wonder how to call forth heaven when hell is obviously, disastrously exploding in my future like I have no choice in the matter at all, I’m either ant fodder or ant executioner. If I get an inkling, you’ll be the first to know.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Even If He Likes You Better Than The Kids, He’s Still Gonna Have To Pay Child Support, You Betcha’

Last night Kent and I ate at the Mexican restaurant at a little after five—latish for us, but early enough there was only one other family in the section where we eat: an attractive couple and two cute kids. The couple was seated together and the kids at another, fairly trashed table, kind of the way multiple adult mixed groups and their off-spring eat together. I noted that because Mommas and Daddys and Jrs. usually sit at the same table…it’s the mixed groups that give the kids the treat of trashing a table with their friends. Even then the Baby Sister, even if she’s all of five like this little one, usually sits with Mommy. My mind works this way ALL THE TIME.

The woman was attractive in that big-haired Barbie-Doll camouflaged make-up way that is common in My Town. The guy was starched shirt and pressed jeans handsome. They were talking to the waiter. “Going to the carnival?” the waiter asked him as we passed. The carnival was parked in the strip mall lot across the street. “As soon as we leave here,” the guy said.

“Don’t you do carnival rides before the kids eat?” Kent whispered in my ear. “That usually works out for the best,” I whispered back.

We sat at the table at the very back. That also usually works out for the best, given my tendency to stare as I get trapped in other people’s lives. Maybe we should sign up for cable t.v., or whatever people are watching these days.

The woman was querying the waiter about spinach. Apparently he had served it to her once, and it had been good, and even though it wasn’t on the menu, she wanted more. Spinach in a Mexican restaurant? Of course I was intrigued. She interrogated and badgered him as another waiter brought us chips and salsa, went back for cheese dip, returned again with our Cokes. They serve it in Grenada and Batesville and ah, um, oh Greenville. The other Mexican restaurant said they would get it, butI like it better here, why didn’t they get the spinach, I don't want to drive to Grenada every night, I mean every week-end to get my spinach, you should talk to the management, it was so good, I love the spinach, why didn’t they serve the spinach? she said in a margarita wheedle that some women think is sexy. If you do, let me tell you: not that I’m your type or anything, but I don’t think so. The whole time the little girl in her fancy pink flares and crop top, a little like Bo-Peep without the flounce, played up and down the section, stopping several times to flirt with us. Nobody ever said, “honey, come on back now.”

The man said, “Kids, y’all ready for that funnel cake?” Kent and I gasped at the same time and I could feel the drop in my stomach as the Ferris wheel swooped toward earth. We caught each other’s eye and sniggered. As the kids hoorayed for funnel cakes, the spinach segued into salsa. The waiter left to fetch the grown-ups some very hot salsa. Is it time to go? I wasn’t talking to him, you were the one who kept talking to him, I said, uh-huh, you were the one that asked him about the spinach, it wasn’t me, I wasn’t the one that kept talking to him, she said, her eyes fastened on her guy as he bounced Little Bo Peep in his lap until the waiter brought the very hot salsa. Um, good, it’s really good, don’t you think it’s good? she said. “You don’t want that,” the man told the kids. The little girl ran back to make eye-contact with us, because she knew we were seeing her, and that we thought she was cute. (By the way…the outfit was a tad fancy for a Saturday night at the Mexican restaurant, but it was lopsided, and her hair needed brushing. Just the facts, m’am.) The little boy picked up the salsa and pretended to slurp it down and nobody said put down the damn salsa, we’re going in minute. The woman never quit looking at the man.

Eventually they gathered up and wandered off, the man and the little girl first. The woman slid out of the booth and the boy made wild, wavy, I’m-gonna-get-you hands at her. I couldn’t really hear if she said stop that, but her flat expression and tensed body (boobsied, little-waisted, toned butt, every bit rigid) indicated if you touch me with that frog I’m going to kill you. Then they all were gone.

So what do you think the relationship between all those folks were? Have you got a little back story going on in your head? I know I do. I’m all about back story, including how how hormones interfer with recognizing a magnolia. I could be wrong. One thing was for sure, though…somebody was going to at least want to puke before the night was over.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Peale

Yesterday was a rare day of eating lunch out at the Katfish Kabin, yum yum, my fav. The buffet at the Katfish Kabin is a risk, because I always want the occasion to be perfect and sometimes when we go we can’t get a seat and the fish have been sitting too long in the warming tray. Yesterday the noon crowd had thinned out, the seating was easy, and we had to wait a tiny bit for the catfish to come from the kitchen, just fried and very hot. I snagged a table in a empty corner of the back room and waited for Vernell to join me. What could be better for two friends who seldom get to eat out or visit each other?

Except by the time Vernell brought her tray and sat down, the table next to us began filling with up with hefty, hungry, HAPPY women. Hefty, hungry, happy, LOUD women. First there were four, then six, seven, eight. Did I tell you they were happy? And LOUD? And that there were ten before they were all seated? Ten hefty, hungry, happy, LOUD women?

Vernell has a soft voice, and my hearing, it isn’t what it used to be. I felt tricked and abused. I thought about changing tables, but that would have been obvious and cranky, throwing the happy women, the waitresses, and Vernell and me all off-kilter. In desperation I imagined me standing up, prim as a librarian, tapping on my glass, and roaring, “WILL YOU PLEASE HOLD IT DOWN!”

Also nada. They probably couldn’t have heard me, anyway.

Then it occurred to me to visualize being able to hear everything Vernell was saying. Perfectly.

And I could. And for some reason, though she has older ears than mine, she seemed to be hearing me, too, without my having to raise my voice. Instead of listening to the roar next to us and that voice racketing in my head telling me about our lousy luck, I listened to Vernell. The conversation was swell, and did I say the fish were hot? Hot! Lunch was everything I always want it to be, but don’t always get.

“That sure was noisy,” Vernell said as we left. “It sure was,” I said. “That was a noisy group,” she said, three times before we got to the car. Probably because she still felt as stunned as I had before I gave up defending myself from the noise and started listening to her. Probably she didn’t know I was contemplating positive thinking, and how powerful it is. And that group?—they were like rain or wind or the hot, hot sun—a force of nature I really couldn’t control, not an enemy to be attacked and condemned. If I could decide to hear Vernell under the surge of their voices, what might I decide to do next?

She probably couldn’t figure out why I agreed with her and was still grinning. How could I explain to her when I get a gift like that, I’m always HAPPY?

Perfect.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Raptor Rapture

I'm that woman...the fat,frumpy one walking her dogs and carrying a bag on her arm to pick up the poop, not because I'm a good neighbor--I was once told you could be arrested if you didn't pick up your dog's poop in Savannah, but if you walked down Grand Boulevard in my town picking up your doggy poop, you would very shortly land in Whitfield, which for those of you that don't know, is the state insane asylum, is that okay to say....insane asylum?-- But the neighbors know me after all these years, and I can pick up my dog's poop without fear of the consequences, and I do it now because the Sugar dog EATS THE POOP, and really that's grosser than picking it up and tossing it in the trash. As long as I'm cleaning up poop, I also pick up trash, kind of making amends for all those years I skirted being locked away by not picking up the doggy poop (though generally I only let my dogs poop in obscure places or in the yards of people I knew had dogs and walked them without bags on arms, it was a mutual poop exchange) and because it's my neighborhood, and I like it better without trash than with, so I am that fat, old lady who picks up other people's trash, and because of all those years of my dogs depositing doggy poop, I don't even get cranky at the louts who throw out fast food trash and rubber shoe insoles? though the rubber shoe insoles did lie there and hang there (one in the leaf-thick ditch and the other dangling from a stunted crepe myrtle) for several days. Only today they had been joined by a scrap of newspaper several years old and some crumpled piece of gunky paper, and I decided today's the day. So when Sugar pooped, I scooped it up and turned to pick up the trash, only Sugar planned on going in the other direction, and I jerked and she pulled and she SLIPPED OUT OF HER COLLAR, and once when I dropped her leash she jumped on some walker's dog, and he had to hang her, like Muriel had to do with the Welsh Corgi Edward in The Accidental Tourist, if you haven't read it or seen it, do both, and when the walker set Sugar down, she looked bemused and then gleeful, because she could then jump his other dog, and she had that same hound-jumping glee on her face today, only I used my most intimidating you-best-not-even-think-of-it voice, Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, as I dropped my poop bag and then stepped on it and slid, but I didn't fall down, and apparently was threatening enough that Sugar hunkered down and I caught her, and as I slipped the collar back over her head, I saw IT, and IT had something long and drooping in its beak, and IT landed high in a tree two houses down. I made note of the tree, then quickly walked the dogs, stuck them in the house, grabbed my bincolulars, rushed back out, looked for the nest, couldn't find it, until IT flew back into the tree again, this time with a long weedy strand, and there IT was, at the nest with a mate who was arranging the building material just so, and I now knew where a MISSSISSIPPI KITE couple was nesting, like a gift from the God of Spring. If I had not slid on the bag of shit, I never would have seen them. I would have spent all of my life, not ever knowing about the nest high in the tree. I thought that. I did. Because I am that kind of woman.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Slap Yo Momma

Okay, I'm fat. And possibly one of the reasons is that I've been craving (and eating) grilled sourdough cheese sandwiches, with a hint of red pepper for breakfast. I've been thinking about making a change, and today was the day. Breakfast: falafel (Tarazi gourmet falafel veggie burger mix was my short cut--and I used the last of it today) on whole-wheat pita, dressed with tomato, lettuce, and raita, with a side of canteloup, hummus, and a dollop of cilantro chutney. And a few Kalamata olives.

Not that anybody cares what I ate for breakfast, and it's not exactly diet food, but I'm just saying...stop by. Bring the Tarazi mix and I'll make breakfast for you, anytime.

Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about the Mississippi kites, which you do not eat. Though they may eat you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More Six Word Memoirs From the Woman with a Way With Words

from Memphis:

"Fun, yes. But I must stop."

"I should be working on that."

From her boyfriend: "I know it all about everything."

Her 12 word rejoinder:

"You, who think you know everything,
irritate those of us who do."


And my memoir describing the rest of my life has been reduced to two words:

"Still painting."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

April 25

Minnesota

14 degrees

Mississippi

77 degrees

winter street photo by Paula of Logic is Optional

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Great Ideas But Short Attention Span

or

Will She Ever Finish Painting Upstairs?

or

I Was Working: The Phone Rang





and ones contributed by the Baboo of the Comfy Chair:

Get the f_ck off my lawn.

and two for our friend, the guy who woos women, gets them pregnant, marries them, and never hits a lick at a snake ever after:

The prince of nothing you want.

I have three billion secret admirers.

At the Movies

Someone who's been in my life for a long, long time pissed me off, and a trial has been playing in my head about that transgression, the wrongness of it, the unfairness of it, with lots of witnesses called and evidence chronicled. For days. Right here in the smack dab middle of the most beautiful spring on record, which I really haven't had the time to appreciate, because this movie playing in my head won't stop.

For so many years now, my study of Life, The Universe and Everything has emphasized forgiveness...for my mistakes, for their mistakes. I'm told the choice is similar to the one of the vase or the face...depending on the way you look at certain picture, you either see a vase or a face, but you can't see both at the same time. Or another familiar picture, the beautiful young woman or the hag. My Life Study says I can choose to forgive or condemn, and I will see Heaven or Hell. Not both and nothing in between.

So for several days, even though I know the choice--and the choice for Heaven has always worked for me in the past--I have felt like hell. I am told if I am willing to forgive, just a little willingness, forgiveness will happen for me. I'm willing to, really I am willing to, but I haven't been wanting to. Is there a difference between willing and wanting?

And while I was willing and not wanting, I have tried to reason why I couldn't let go of my anger. And grief. Yes, grief, over such a little, really, insignificant thing.

Now understand the transgression is not great, other than that psychic chasm that's formed in my brain, the one where I landed in hell, and can't even imagine what heaven would be like. And the other person, she didn't mean to piss me off, and she doesn't even understand why it's a big deal to me, and she refuses to even acknowledge it happened. But if she ran over my foot with her car, even if she hadn't meant to, still my foot would hurting, and a discussion wouldn't be out of order. Or would it? Or at least a discussion about this particular point, since there was no physical damage, and any sane adult would just let the matter drop. Right?


So here's the reason I've come up with to justify these past few days: I again feel like this relationship is one of those where it's all about the other person. The two of us is all about her, which leaves me feeling like a hungry ghost, either giving in and giving all and not receiving anything, just so we can be all warm and fuzzy about her, tomorrow, on her time, on her terms.


For now, all I can do is wait and be willing to see a different point of view. At least today, after five days, the activity in my frontal lobes that feels like a raging storm has subsided, and I can at least contemplate there may be a heaven, even if the idea of what it might look like still leaves a blank for me.

And what is love, anyway? Today Poets.org has posted a poem that doesn't give me any answers, but does examine the question for me. And maybe today I can appreciate this glorious spring instead of playing my mind movie, and some time soon, maybe I'll be able to catch a glimpse of Heaven.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Don't We Go Out to Dinner So We Can Catch Up With One Another

There were only two sets of us, us and the two women who sat down and ordered the fishbowl drinks. The woman facing us immediately picked up her cell phone and began talking to her daughter, Bad ex-Boyfriend did WHAT! and he didn’t need to do that and tell him your mother will get a restraining order and make sure it was carried out until the day she died, yadda yadda yadda yadda, and more yadda yadda yadda yadda, put Honey on the line, Honey, Darlin’ has been having a rough time with her daddy and all and she doesn’t need this, and it's so bad I'm out having magaritas and Bad ex-Boyfriend is everywhere she goes, he doesn’t want to date just to be friends and how is she going to meet other boys if he’s always around and she doesn’t need that she’s having such a hard time with what her father did she was so broken up she almost couldn’t walk down the aisle and could Dante just call up a few people and get her together with some people she could make friends with she doesn’t have friends here and if Dante did that Mom would make a donation to the organization and yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda.

When I wondered idle thoughts about did she really want that much of her business all over the Mexican restaurant, her companion turned and looked in our direction, but I was mostly looking at my husband, at least I hoped I wasn’t gawking because that conversation was a magnetic as t.v.

Thanks and expect a donation to the organization, Darlin’ really needs this, Momma said and put down the phone.

For two seconds.

Same phone call, or a different one, my husband asked as the yadda yadda yadda when she told me I almost cried yadda yadda yadda went on. And on. And on.

If I were with her, I would knock that phone out of her hand, my husband said.

But her brain might fall over and she might never recover, I said, she might not know how to talk without the phone, and at least with the phone her friend and the rest of us are getting the real poop.

Momma was still talking on her little phone when we left. I glanced at the companion as we walked by, and when we got back to the truck, I was able to reassure my husband. Don’t worry about the friend, I said, she was sitting there text messaging.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sometimes My Brain Works This Way

My Baboo of the Comfy Chair had a class in the Big City 100 miles north. The Big Bad City, second-mostly-deadly-in-the-U.S. A class in the heart of the car-jacking hood, only a couple of blocks away from the once-pride-of-the-south mall that's now empty except when they dump the bodies there. A two-day class in a city on a stretch of interstate filled with truckers on speed. In fact, he saw two Big! Burning! trucks on his way home the first night.

Baboo of the Comfy Chair is not a road warrior.

I could have changed bed linens while he was gone, welcoming him home to fresh, clean sheets. I did not. What if the unthinkable happened? What if he......I needed those sheets while he was gone. I needed the smell of them. Plenty of time for clean sheets in the long rest of our lives.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

WHAT? ANOTHER NEW BLOG?

No. Make that TWO (2) new blogs.

New blog #1: Boxes of Books

I'm a book addict, which means I buy books, mostly second-hand books. There is an old saying, owning a book means you never have to read it. Because there's always later, you know. And that's proven true with me. I have books that have been on my shelves unread for years, so long my books are catching book cooties from one another, those ugly age spots, mold, spores, somethings, that splatter the pages of books. But time is passing faster, and I'm rapidly leaving, if it's not happened already, middle age. I can't even contemplate dying, because my magpie ways will leave horror for my children to clean out, and this is just the way my mind works, but the time has come, as the walrus and everything, and it's time to lighten the load. I've ditched boxes of books already, whose time has come and gone, but I still have boxes and boxes of books I want to read. So I am. And because life is always so much more if you share it, I'm telling you about it. Just telling you, you don't have to listen. But if I review a book, and you like it, when I'm finished with it, I'll draw names (if there's more than one of you) and send it to the winner. I'll tell if it has book cooties. Or you could just check it out from your neighborhood free book store (that's a library, folks), if you can't wait.

My friend Keetha finishes every book she starts, no matter whether she likes it or no. But I gotta tell you, as a young friend of mine said about phone calls from her sister, I just don't have that kind of time to invest. Still I will tell you about the ones I pitched back, too, because that's what blogs are all about, about how imperative our ways of thinking are. Sorry to the probably very good authors I must part ways with. So here are two of the most recent:


Deception Denise Mina...a story about a serial killer. As one reader said, "well-worth the 'sticking out'. " I'm done with the 'sticking-out' reads, especially about serial killers and the cutting out of tongues.

Sarah Conley Ellen Gilchrist...another of Ellen's stories about an aging, rich, white woman with problems. The cover girl looked like my niece, so I was disposed to be kindly toward it. It had a this happened, then this happened, then this happened quality about it that I found off-putting, but I happened to pick up Hemmingway's Islands in the Stream waiting to be read and checked out a brief passage, and it read the same way, this, then this, then this, so what do I know? I made it about a third of the way through when I felt the overwhelming urge to flip to the back to see how it turns out because I wanted to be done with it. A sure sign for me to quit the book. I didn't flip to the back, because frankly, my dear, I didn't give a damn.

Today's keeper is The Dark Room Rachel Seiffert, one of those beautiful reads with something to say. I'm on my second go-round. I'll let you know when I'm ready to ship it off.

Blog # 2

Kin Cookin' Vowell Reunion Style

Like who needs another cooking blog, but my family has had a cook book since 1979, and this year, after our every-other-year reunion, we've made it to the net. Folks still bring home cooked food to this three-day event, and I'm telling you, we sent home, uncut, a beautiful bakery carrot cake. It counted as home cooked, because a cousin owned the bakery. So, if you want to just check out the eclectic offering, drop by occasionally. I'm having to flog those guys to giving up the recipes, but I'm lazy, and I can sit in front of the computer and drink coffee while I hound them, so we'll get new recipes up on a fairly regular basis.

Th th th th That's all for now. Aren't you glad?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Southern Cookin' Grammar Rules

I keep trying to make Potatoes Anna. Since I’ve never had them cooked by someone who knows what she’s doing, I’m not sure what they are supposed to taste like, a little potato cake, I think, creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside, but I don’t think I’m there yet, maybe it has something to do with the starchiness of the potato. Yesterday when I turned the potatoes out of the pan, a heck of a lot of butter pooled in the plate. I poured that off.

Are these are too greasy for you? I asked the in-house diner.

This is the South, he reminded me. ‘Too’ is never used preceding greasy, but sometimes ‘enough’ can follow it, as in “Is this greasy enough for you?”

Still….


P.S. from Keetha’s Delta Dish on fried and fish and festival:

Besides the people watching, the Festival was also about the food. Jeffrey, my dad, and I ate lunch together, which was, of course, FRIED CATFISH. It pains me to say that the catfish was . . . okay. hushpuppies were a disappointment, although the french fries were perfect crinkle cuts with the right ratio of crisp to greasy. Leaving the festival (which, in our defense, was hours and much walking later) we got a funnel cake. YES WE DID. It was good – light (as light as fried pastry thickly covered with powdered sugar can be) and not greasy. We ate every bite; I have the picture of the empty powdered-sugar-crumb-laden paper plate to prove it.


Go ahead, write the woman and ask her to put you on her mailing list. She's all about food and writing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Processing

I’ve told you this before, but just so you’ll know about the dogs: Sugar was three weeks old when she came from the pound, dropped in a barrel by the door during a thunderstorm. Other than thunder, she’s afraid of nothing, and has always been sure of her place in the world, and her right to mail carriers, delivery vans, and my neighbor’s shoes while she’s wearing them. Once she bucked loose from me and jumped one of the two dogs another neighbor was walking. The neighbor, being a nice man, did not kick her head in. He hung her with her own leash. When she was calm, he sat her down. She shook her head, took stock of the situation, grinned and jumped the second dog. Understand, no teeth touched flesh, just a lot of air-gnashing and hair pulling.

Spunky? Though she and Sugar are the same age, Spunky arrived, also from the pound, over two years later, anorexic, trembling, with a mouthful of rotten teeth and her heart riddled with worms. “Daddy, daddy,” a child said, “look at this dog, she’s so skinny, she looks like a toy dog, but she’s a real dog, ain’t she cute?” It’s taken ten years of coddling for Spunky to come into her own.

Several months ago the girls got into a beech fight. Because my husband picked Sugar up and moved her out of the fray, both dogs thought Spunky won. She became Alpha Princess, bossing Sugar around with a toothless snarl, while we prophesized one day Sugar would get tired of it and take her down. Sunday was the day. My husband was giving them pieces of jerky treat, when Sugar got too close and TOUCHED SPUNKY’S BACK. Spunky whipped around to gum Sugar to death and Sugar knocked Spunky down, pinning her on her back between the couch and the chair. It looked as if blood would flow, maybe from Spunky having her throat ripped open. I was the mobile one, and I jerked Sugar up and away. Even though Sugar had again been the dog removed, nobody thought Spunky won.

Spunky got up and fled, first walking pretty steadily, but by the time she reached the living room, limping as if her leg were broken. I inspected. No blood, no pain, but her leg was very wet, as if Sugar had slobbered all over it. I picked the poor princess up, carried her to the couch, and tried to love her back to health. It must have worked, because by the time the leg had dried, Spunky was walking with no limp. “She just wanted us to know what Sugar had done,” my husband said.

Still, whenever Sugar passed by the couch where Spunky usually sits, Spunky would snarl that toothless snarl, and wave a limp paw, just so, you know, Sugar would fully understand how badly she had behaved. Not that Sugar cared, but you always gotta tell on them first.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Like We Care

Strolling the superstore, we pass the display, a table full of ‘green’ products, artfully bordered by plastic ivy, with a plastic ficus standing sentry.

He: I always appreciate a big corporate concern that is so upfront about faking it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pets Like Us

PROCESSING
A couple of nights ago, the inside kitty was accidently left on the porch with the outside kitties. My husband let her in when he got up, and though she badly needed rest, instead of sleeping she had to roam the house for an hour, wailin' and bitchin' at the top of her lungs, telling on us first.


MENTAL KRYPTONITE
Last night in the bout of dogs waking me up, dogs off the bed, dogs on the bed, dogs off the bed, I stepped on the Alpha Princess's tail just as she was poised to soar back onto the bed. I stepped off before the tail was pulled, but it threw her off her mark, she hit the top an inch too low and thudded onto the floor on her side. I picked her up and put her in bed, and she lay there, breathing heavily. This morning she would not attempt the jump onto our very low couches, she was that sure her bounding-tall-buildings power was broken.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not Sharing, Not Caring

When I shifted stuff around in the car trunk, I found a half empty can of Christmas Trash: chex cereal and nuts and cheese bits and pretzles baked with butter and salt and red pepper. It was still crisp. And yummy. Every last bite. Right then.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ego Is Not Your Friend

After another long day, culminating with the news of the death of my dead mother's best friend, my daughter's 1 1/2 hour phone call about work agony, the evening check-up call to Miss Fran to discover she's loopy on codeine (save some for me!), I sat down for an hour and a half of special features on these girls:




I remember years ago when I came home one night, and my husband said, there's this British comedy and you need to see it, and he sat me down in front of the t.v., and within seconds my brain screamed: THAT'S THE VOICE IN MY HEAD!

Dead on.

They still keep me laughing.

He Gets Me

My baboo was the one who ordered In the Woods for me. He doesn't like musicals, fairy tales, or generally movies where things don't explode. He sat with me while I watched it. That would be like me ordering a 1950s Z zombie movie for him, and I probably wouldn't sit through the whole thing. It's still love, after all these years.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Been a Helluva Month

he said three times, and when I said more than a month, he said, okay a year, it hasn't been a good year, and it's true, this year has seemed more assaulting than the Year of Funerals, when we attended one or two funerals a month from January to October, maybe we're getting old and not so resiliant, and that's why tonight I was glad to couch potato and watch Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.



And I would watch it again, my friend, with you.

Note to Mommas: The first half is Grimm's Fairytales for Children, and there is a reason they are called Grimm's. The second half is Grimm's Fairytales for Adults. I don't know how your nine-year-old will respond to this half, but come on over and let's watch it together.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Match Made in Heaven?-or- Is It True, When You Live Together Long Enough, Your Brains Look Alike?

ROMANTIC:

I: Last night I dreamed of a red hibiscus.

He: Last night I dreamed of a red hibiscus.



INTENSE:

when he was working too hard, too long, the children had driven him crazy, and he stormed upstairs, leaving me standing with my eyes closed and head bowed in our tiny kitchen:

I, thinking: Dear Lord Almighty, he needs to get a life.

feet thundering on the stairs, through the dining room, butler's pantry, into the tiny kitchen, he grabs me by my shoulders, looks into my eyes, and says: I NEED TO GET A LIFE.



MUNDANE:

(while watching Cube Zero ):

I think: This is Lost without the airplane.

He says: This is Lost, only with cubes.



ENOUGH ALREADY:

I: Look at this website.

He: She seems to be having a good time with her blog.

I: She makes me laugh. I want to write funny like her. I think: except I can’t, I’m too damned sincere.

He: You can’t. You’re too sincere.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

You Might Suspect You Haven't Been Having Enough Fun...

when for once in a blue moon you go to the posh breakfast place, then look out the window and across the street to the posh boutique hotel, see clothes on a rack by a curb, and think yard sale...that might be interesting before you realize you're watching posh guests leaving the posh boutique hotel.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For You, Today

Because a lot of stuff with major emotional content is going on right now that requires my time and attention and

Because I always wanted to join the circus and

Because of elephant-love and hugs

I am directing you to perhaps my most favorite post on the internet. Go here now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

If You Just Can't Get What You Want, Maybe You Should Check What You're Not Asking For

When I talked to my daughter she brought up the woman who had made a list of the qualities she wanted in the guy who would be perfect for her, put the list away, and four months later, he showed up at her Christmas party. Good present. My daughter said she had recently been at a gathering of singletons, mid-twenties to late-thirties, when the conversation turned to True Love, which none of them had found. “We discovered we all knew what we didn’t want,” my daughter, “but none of us had a clue about what we did want.”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

WHO SAID THAT?

Notes found in an old composition book (though from this past year):

Dr.: There is a correlation between your hip pain and spiritual problems. Are you a spiritual person?

Patient: Yes. Right now I’m praying you get paid.

**********

“Her heart can’t stop beating. You have to have a heart first.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grocery Store Olympics

Today I needed spinach and ricotta for lunch’s lasagna. It was 10:00 a.m., so I was racing against the clock. In the store I quickly tossed items from my list into my basket and headed up front. The store had two checkers. The line fartherest from me had one customer, nearly checked out. I angled for that line, when coming from behind on my left was a woman, also with a few items. She looked like she was trying to cut me off, but I was a neck ahead of her. Ordinarily I would have slowed down, but time was fleeting, and I had a casserole to cook. The need to speed had taken over my brain. My competitor was inching forward, with a few side-long glances in my direction as she gauged my distance. Still, it looked like I could make the gate first, only fair, since I had approached first, and I was in a hurry.

Out of left field a third checker called out ‘can I help you’. A new line was opening with no wait. My racing companion swung into the new lane with all of her seven items. I had the coveted place in the now middle isle. Somehow, though, it felt as if I had lost, even though I had gained what I had been jockeying for. She was checking out first. In fact, if I had stepped back, she would have been hemmed in by the candy counter, and I would have been checking out first, shaving maybe three minutes off my over-all time. Instead I got the silver, she got the gold.

That’s when I noticed the swirl of chemicals in my head. They were churning. No matter when I could check out, impatience had hi-jacked my brain. The peace of my day had been disturbed. And I understood: With peace, you are either peaceful, or you summon the brain chemicals for war. Either/or. The face or the vase. Two different perceptions and you can’t hold both in your brain at one time. There is no partial peace.

When I left the store my opposition was in front of me. For the first time I noticed her, really noticed her. She was wearing an apron. She was headed somewhere to cook lunch, just like me, with the same time limitations I had. God’s speed to her, and His peace to me and to her, because peace—it’s just not a competitive sport.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I've Been Waiting, Waiting for the Miracle to Come...

If it is your destiny to be this labor called a writer, you know that you’ve got to go to work every day.


Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man, Sundance Documentary

A Giggle and a Peck: The Universe Loves a Laugh

I think I was born nervous, timid, unsure of my self in this world. I’ve been fearful, depressed, anxious, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life looking for a better way. At one time I was practicing visualizing a happy and peaceful life. One school of visualization says to practice the feeling you want to have as if you already had it. As I headed to a situation where I knew I would feel alien while I still needed/wanted to make an appearance, I repeated, “I have a happy and peaceful life, I have a happy and peaceful life.” I managed the occasion, then went to a Chinese restaurant to eat with a friend who always loves and welcomes me. When I finished the meal, I got my fortune cookie. I cracked it open, pulled out my fortune, and read, “Your life is happy and peaceful.”

***

A divorced friend felt like she was floundering in the shallows of a single life—not that her life was not good, but she missed the company of a good companion. She had dated some, but those men had turned out to be shallow, inconsiderate, or just plain weird, and by the end of last summer, she had regretfully stepped out of the dating pool.

Visualize, I told her, and related a couple of feel-good stories about women I had read or heard about who made a list of the qualities they wanted in a man (all the qualities), and within a short period of time, a man with those qualities appeared. The women I had heard this story about posted the list somewhere they could read it every day (one had to hide it, because some of the qualities she wanted in a man, she didn’t want to discuss with her children). Otherwise, they didn’t even wait for this perfect guy. They went about their business, dated or not, and then one day, voilà, he was there.

Uh-huh, she said, before going about her business. I’m sure she thought I was a hippy-dippy bona fide kook.

Fall passed and winter arrived, bringing the holiday festivities with it. She had a party. She cooked too much, decorated too much, maybe drank a bit much. One couple brought a friend. He was nice, but she was a tired and distracted hostess. He got her number. He called. Rested, she went out with him. Then she and he went out again. And again. And again. From what she told me about him, it seemed as if he had been waiting for her a long, long time. She wondered when she would quit marveling about how sweet he was.

Recently she cleaned out last year’s date-keeper, and read a stray note she had forgotten she had tucked away there. It was list of all the qualities she wanted in a man. She had made the list, but felt too silly to read it every day. This new man she was dating and dating and dating had every one of those qualities. She hasn’t stopped marveling yet.

*****

And you, what giggles has the Universe shared with you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feast

Hollies of robins,
Fools for winter’s red berries,
Song drunks, wild for spring.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Universe Reiterates Its Point

The man who resented magnolias stopped raking and looked at the tree as if he had just woken up, then looked at me, laughed and said, “My wife was the one who had to have this house.” He is no longer part of the household. I don’t think his wife’s lack of awareness for her ex-husband’s aversion to magnolias contributed to the divorce, but it might represent a general trend.

After I had written my post yesterday, a friend and I exchanged emails about an acquaintance we have in common who just announced her engagement. We, the dowagers, do not know the fiancé well. We do know his feelings seem more important in the relationship than hers, here in the courtship phase, when he is supposedly on his best behavior. (Just ask Mrs. Camellia why she figures that, Honey, she will count the ways.) The acquaintance is smart and beautiful. She thinks she loves him. Maybe she thinks love means patiently waiting for him to take her into consideration. We know the bride-to-be's family, and it would appear this young woman is tumbling along the lines of family fractals. While we hope the stars in Cinderella’s eyes aren’t blinding her, my friend wrote me, “I guess we do what we have learned at home. At least there won't be surprises. For the observers, anyway.”

Yesterday I came home from having my hair cut with a new bit of gossip. “Did you hear Skeet and Lola are getting a divorce?” I asked my husband. They both work in my husband’s place of business, and maybe ten years ago Skeet left his wife and children to take up with Lola. “Oh, yeah,” my husband said, “Skeet’s walking around like he doesn’t know what hit him.” “He wasn’t expecting this divorce? What happened,” I asked. “The women at work, they all take Lola’s side. They said he was gone too much, and Lola got tired of him hunting while she sat around waiting for him to come in out of the woods.” Where we live, hunters start hunting as kids and never quit. Nobody could marry a man who hunts and have any doubts where he would be during hunting season. My husband, who doesn’t even read my blogs, added, “Tell me she didn’t see that magnolia before she moved him in.”

So many of us can’t see the trees because of the enchanted forest, but that tree we’re pretending isn’t really there or it doesn’t bother us so much? --it’s a magnolia. If we can't stand magnolias, the stardust will always turn to grit. And we're going to think it's somebody else's fault.

Friday, February 15, 2008

When We Always Want to Know Why Is This Happening--to ME--AGAIN

We hadn’t been living in our new-to-us house for very long when I was called over by my neighbor. It was the first of only four times we were to speak to one another—we didn’t have problems, but she was from an old society family and we were just folks from some place else. She wanted to discuss the magnolia spread far into both of our yards. “This magnolia gives me lots of pleasure,” she said. “Even though its trunk is on your property, you are to do nothing to harm this tree. It is very old, it is magnificent and it is a great treasure.” I have no depth perception. To me that tree stretched to the sky and was round enough at the bottom to house a forest of magnolias. The birds loved it, Mrs. Society-Jones loved it, I loved it.

Mrs. S-J died and the family with teenagers moved in next. They must have loved the tree, too, because the ground underneath was often littered with beer cans and whiskey bottles. I am sure whole packs of high-schoolers used the tree for their rites of passage, it was that big, so they could hide and the grown-ups would never know what they were doing under there, and I didn’t want to know. When those people left (and the neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief), a family with a small child bought the house.

Not long after I stepped outside and found the father grimly raking leaves from around the tree. We had never raked; we weren’t the raking kind. I said hello, found out he was preparing for a family party. He said as if I were at some way at fault for his misery, “I hate magnolias. They’re trashy. We had one when I was growing up. I had to rake it. I swore when I was grown, I would never live with another magnolia.”

I looked at him, and then looked up at the tree. Up and up and up and up. I said, “Didn’t you see that magnolia before you moved in?”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saturday's Sermon

I had breakfast with a man who inspected cranes, the mechanical ones, not the birds. He been inspecting cranes for twenty years, and he loved it so much I loved listening to him tell me about it, though I was also listening for what the Universe wanted to tell me through him.

He not only inspected cranes, he taught classes on operational safety. Even though he could not drive a crane, he could read the specs and he knew the stress points, and these were things the operators often did not know. He talked about lifting heavy loads, and how on the old cranes these loads could tip the crane over, and on the new ones, lower to the ground, how too heavy a load could crack the chassis. “Of course it depends on how you pick it up,” he said. “You can pick up a lot more if you lift it slow and steady. If you take the bucket up fast, it will bounce around, and then there’s the shock effect, creating a lot more stress on the equipment, and that can do a lot of damage.”

Once when my step-daughter was three, her dad headed out to the country after the Delta spring monsoons. He came to a bridge that was barely submerged, and being young himself, and foolish, he began inching his way across. Ellie plastered herself against the back of the seat and began shrieking, “We’re all going to die,” over and over. On that day, they did not, though the water was higher than he expected. He took his shrieking daughter and walked her to dry land, came back later for the truck. The we’re-all-going-to-die reaction is generally my immediate technique for meeting emergencies head-on, my mind running rat mazes of disastrous consequences, even if my exterior appears to be fairly calm, and even though I have survived all the emergencies low these many years. Now on the morning of breakfast with the man who inspects cranes, the Universe reminded me again: If you have a heavy load to lift, slow and steady is the way to go.

Thank you, Universe.

Long after the man went on his way, I’ve thought about heavy loads and stress and slow and steady. One morning as I was walking the dog I was thinking on this Universe lesson, what I would cook for lunch, probably about my children, the elderly aunts, and how I really needed to clean the upstairs room when my eye was caught by

the knobby twigs of the popcorn tree lacing against the gray winter sky.


I realized I could not see the tree or the sky or the birds darting overhead while my mind was full of chatter. I really didn’t see anything except the video playing in my head, telling me how things are, how they should be. If I took in

the tree, the birds, the morning sky

my brain had to shut up. And if my mind is full of this constant movie-making, all talk, talk, talk, and flashing images, when the waters start to rise, and I finally notice, that movie-making brain is going to shriek for all its worth.

Slow and steady.

And quiet.

It takes practice.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Star-Struck Destiny

Overheard from a gaggle of clerks behind the counter:

"My father told him he wasn't ever going to find a girl who thought as much of him as he thought of himself."

Friday, February 8, 2008

That Would Be Correct, M'am

The night was cold and dark and I had only been home for a couple of hours after an all day’s trip with Frannie to the big city when the phone rang. It was Frannie. “I’ve broken my arm,” she said. After she got home, her little Shih Tzu Poochie wouldn’t go out to potty but had pooped in the living room. Frannie was trying to clean the mess up when Poochie decided to eat it. Poochie is nothing if not determined. Frannie, tired and frazzled and very irritated, kicked at Poochie and fell. Her arm was definitely broken, so crooked I couldn’t stand to look at it after I arrived to take her to emergency room, where Frannie told her story to each of the many professionals who provided her treatment that night. The story met with the same results. The doctor or nurse or whoever would ask her what happened, and she would dutifully report the incident, and when she got to the kicking part, the professional’s mouth would twist, and he or she would mumble something about how was the dog, and patiently suggest she might not want to try that again. Frannie is a singular woman, and never noticed that the people she was talking to might not think kicking your dog was legal, much less a socially acceptable thing to do. I was with her for most of the interviews, and every time I would get tickled, because I knew Frannie and I knew Poochie, and as my husband described the incident later, Frannie was going to discipline Poochie and Poochie took her down. We always knew that in any Frannie/Poochie confrontation, Poochie would be top dog. I finally suggested to Frannie she might not want to give all the story to everyone, and somewhere in the many doctor’s visits I noticed her story took on a variation, and the kicking part was usually omitted.

In the ex-rays they took to make sure Frannie was in shape to undergo surgery to set her arm, it was discovered she had cancer, so not only did she have to deal with a broken arm, she was in for the long haul of chemo, though she realized if not for the fall and the break her cancer might not have been discovered until it was too far gone for treatment to help. Over the past year she has done remarkably well, as has Poochie.

I talk to Frannie at least twice a day, morning and night, just a check-in call to make sure she hasn’t fallen and can’t get up. Yesterday morning I was regaling her with tales of DeMonica the cat who rides my hip at night like a California surfer when I’m sleeping on my side, and when I lay flat on my back, she sleeps on my chest, her butt so tight against my neck, I’ve dreamed I couldn’t breath and explain to my dream companions I can’t talk, I have a cat on my throat.

“I love cats, and all the cute things they do,” Frannie said.

Like try to smother you is what I thought, but what I said is “Cats are bad to trip you.”

“I never tripped over my cats,” she answered.

“I guess you never tried to kick your cats.”

“I never tried to kick Poochie,” Frannie said.

“When did your story change from last year?” I said.

“She got under my feet and I tried to avoid her, to my own detriment, and not hers.” Frannie sounded perturbed.

I weakened. I couldn’t goad an almost eighty-year-old woman who had been battling cancer for year. “I believe you,” I lied.

“I don’t care if you believe me,” she said. “I don’t care if anybody believes me. I know what happened. That’s all that matters. People will believe what they want to believe.”

And that, my friends, is the absolute truth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

when we are lost and cannot find our way

In a scene in the middle of The Serpent’s Egg, Ingmar Bergman’s film set in 1920s Germany, cabaret dancer/prostitute Manuela seeks out a priest because of the guilt she bears for her ex-husband’s death. Busy with church duties, the priest brusquely pushes her aside. “Please,” she cries. Finally the priest hears her anguish. “We must give each other forgiveness that a remote god denies us,” he says, then lays his hand on her head, forgiving her and in return he asks for her forgiveness for his apathy and indifference. She lays her hand on his head, and says, "I forgive you.