Wednesday’s Words/Fiction: Better Times

a2050d1ad07197f1d6a42b748e0ecd61
Photo by Vivian Maier

“Sure, there have been better times, I’ll give you that. But this life is manageable enough for me.”

She stubbed out her menthol cigarette in the hotel ashtray and looked out the window with interest, like something compelled her to study the brick building across the alley. In truth she was avoiding his eyes. It was like a tick. If he looked at her more than five seconds without blinking she would dodge his gaze. Her own son’s eyes could make her skittish and indrawn at once. He ought to be used to it. The view next door was safer. Maybe a curtain fluttering with a tabby cat peeking out, or a pigeon perched on a windowsill staring over at it. Or a fat man with a fedora in his hand as he looked back at her. She’d said on the phone she’d seen such a man. Maybe by now they were friendly in that wordless way city neighborhood people can become.

Her son made a face at the sooty ashtray. She’d carried that thing from place to place for so long. Starlight Inn, it said. Once it had a navy blue background with three stars stamped white against it and the name of the place. Now the design was obscured by relentless heat and toxins from cigarettes smashed onto it for four decades. It was stolen from the place where she and her new husband–not his father, who had died when he was five– took their honeymoon on Cross Island. Up north, the Great Lakes and those inky green forests. He’d been there once, years later, on his own, just to see. It looked like a dump by then, or maybe it always was.

“They could be much better now, is what I’m saying, Ma.”

She tore herself away from the view, eyes flickering over him. Grunted. “By joining you and Marcy at the new place? The latest three bedroom suburban delight?”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant. The extra room at the back, it could be yours. A bathroom next to it. The second bedroom is now our office, you know.”

“I’m featuring it: almond or dove grey paint on every wall, floors so clean you could lunch off them, grass blades all one length. Neighbors who draw open their drapes on week-ends, maybe. I’d sure blend right in that decor and neighborhood.” She laughed a tight laugh. “I’d be a timekeeper while you two were working, counting down minutes in Dullsville ’til the front door slid open. We’d say our hellos and chat about…well, what? I’d season the beef, cut up carrots, onions and potatoes alongside your sweet wife, then you’d watch your big TV and I’d soon after disappear to a big bed. Then we’d start all over again.” She lit another cigarette. “Thanks, but I mostly think not.”

“It’s not safe here, not even in reliable shape. Did the mice come back or are they rats? I’m calling that bum landlord of yours again if one more is spotted. What about Apartment 19 down the hall, is the ex-con still hunkered down? And don’t forget how Murray died right at your feet last February when you were taking the garbage down.”

She swept grey strands from delicately lined cheeks, then bore into him with a narrowed look. She could peer into him yet he could not do the same. He was ready for a calculated zinger. But then she only shrugged, the tension leaving.

“Murray lived a good life. That was exactly how he wanted to go, boom. A gift, that dying was, and I’m happy for it and him.” She took a long drag, blew it out slowly, and it ended in a coughing spasm. “I miss him, yes. But Bernie, he’s too old to act all criminal anymore–he minds his business, I don’t care what. I’ve got better things to do. And nicer neighbors, we stay busy.”

Here we go, he thought, the litany of days and nights rich with entertainments and fulfillment.  He pushed his window sash up higher so the smoke wouldn’t choke him and waited. When she only shook her head, got up and set the kettle on the flame, he looked out her window and saw the tall fat man, sans hat, his beefy arm resting on the ledge with a can of something in his hand, a paperback book held open by the other hand. He also saw a woman two windows up take off her dark coat and raise arms over her head, stretching with all her might. Her yellow sweater came off her waist a couple inches; she suddenly tugged it down as if she knew someone saw. It was live theater here every day, apparently. he remembered how that was, the amazing density of all kinds of people, the great palpable energy, and guessed that was why his mother still loved the inner city life. Plus she couldn’t smoke if she came to stay with him. She maybe could smoke far from his new house. She’d only quit once when she was pregnant, she had told him. Then gave in to the urge again, never thought of stopping since.

The good tea cups were taken from the shelf, the ones that held barely enough to wet your whistle. They had pale blue flowers around the rim, a touch of gold trim. They were left over from a past wherein she had a full set of china, there was a decent dining room and friends shared meals and stories. He was the one who carefully fit the candles in heavy glass candlesticks for company. When he was nine she let him also light them. They cast a honeyed light across the oft-bleached, off-white tablecloth and shadows danced about as invisible drafts pushed the lithe flames this way and that. He loved that moment before he was given the next chore, maybe running his toys to his room or fetching a vase for her roses just cut from the little yard. It became a heavenly place, he thought, food cooking and his mother’s strong voice calling out to his stepfather Teddy to remember folding chairs in the closet if many were coming, and then soon the door chimes ringing out. Everyone treated him like an important person, or teased him for the “plucky cowlick” on back of his head, squeezed his shoulder, patted his back and smiled when he answered all questions.

And yet, their life was not easy, and it got worse. Teddy was a man of many moods, as his mother told him over and over, but if anyone had asked him, Teddy was a man of two moods: good and bad. But he was excused; he’d lost his own parents and a sister in a fire. That was sad. And it was the reason he was not altogether well–not counting the beers. Still, he worked hard at the foundry. He loved his mother as he could. He managed to help raise him.

“Still,” his mother was saying, “I see what you’re getting at. I’m not young and I have my deficits and the place is falling down bit by bit. I just never was the suburban sort ,you know. I’ve lived down here most of my life, one place after another. Come on over here, now.”

He got the sugar bowl, sat down at the little round table in the middle of the kitchen as she poured hot water over mesh bags of black tea. So, where was the usual listing of daily fun events? Had she edited this part of their discussion today?

“I remember, Ma. I was around, too. A life that was good, overall…”

She sat, too, back straight, and buttoned up two more buttons of her burgundy cardigan. It was bulky on her thin frame, nubbier each time she wore it. The color always lit up her cheeks and he sometimes thought that if he came and she no longer had it he’d have to buy a replacement, as it was her favorite. And his. They blew on their tea and he mused over what to say next. There was a relaxed expectancy in her now that he wasn’t pushing the topic of her moving soon.

“Okay, well, I remember sitting by the stoop on Marsh Avenue many afternoons, counting different colored cars as they went by. I kept a little notebook over the years, I guess you knew that.”

“Sure, you told me how many of each. Showed me the columns of marks. Then the makes and models when you got older. You had a memory like a fine sieve, you caught all the interesting stuff. No wonder you ended up a lawyer. Saw variations in a pattern. Had a mind for puzzles. Give you a maze and you made a new way out if the ready-made one boring. My little smart aleck.”

He snorted. “Sounds like you, the mystery maven, and a smarty, too…But you find intrigue where there may not be any at all, am I right? is it entertainment?”

“Sure, intrigue is what life is about–pay attention, you’ll see it all.”She placed a finger alongside her pert nose. “But I can still remember you on that curb, clear as day. I’d have to yell to get you off the damned street curb and go sit on the stoop, what if someone mowed you down? Playing with Pete Callaghan’s cat, what was her name? Sonsie, friendly thing. Remember how you always wore that cowboy holster and gun? Begged me for a hat, then you lost it or a kind stole it, you never said for sure. I hated children playing with guns and still do. But it was the one thing your dad got you when you turned three and you wouldn’t let it go.”

Of course he knew all this and she knew he knew it but she always said it. It was a cap gun and he loved it, shot it off all the time. He and his buddies thought nothing of it as they made a ruckus, chased each other all over the sidewalks. No one got seriously hurt back then, not there.

“It was quieter then, overall, and fewer cars.”

“Who could think to afford a car? Not like today, you with your silver machine –what is it? A Lexie?”

“Lexus, Ma. And it’s taupe. And you’re thinking of an Alexa…”

“What’s that? And taupe! A color to put you to sleep. Well, we walked, it was good for body and soul as well as necessary. Took a bus if it was far and we had too little time. Though it seemed to take longer.”

“I counted a lot of cars on that street. And trucks, buses, motorcycles and bicycles….”

“Things have changed, the way of the world.” She sighed. “But here I am–it’s important to be rooted.  I know what’s what, who’s who, that the store on the corner is still a place I can get fresh kosher dills from the jar and a small bag of freshly popped popcorn for free and a gallon of milk cheaper than the new grocery two miles out. Plus a swanky, bitter coffee,  if I’m so moved. Though that seems expensive to me for what you get, two bucks for a 12 oz. and it’s just in paper.”

“That’s kind of cheap, Ma, but then you’re cheap. Otherwise you’d at least upgrade your walk up. Or at last buy a small condo.”

She pulled her sweater closer to her chest and frowned at him.

“Buy air, you mean! See? Your values have changed. You were frugal right from the start, then you grew up and got professional, married up, bought two different houses already. Now you want me to move in the same circles with you, I suppose. Well.” She sipped as he played with her silver lighter, flipping the top open and closed, then made the flame flare. “Stop, it’s repetitive and annoying. Anyway, I’m not saying it’s bad for you and Marcy to move on–I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished, you know that–but just not so good for me. I guess.”

He put down the lighter, held up his hands in surrender. “I’m not going to keep at you. You know you’re welcome. Marcy and I like the idea of you with us but since you keep telling me to back off and let it be…well, you win.” He gulped down his tea and checked his phone for the time. “Anything you need me to get or do before I head out?”

His mother paused, looked him over with hooded eyes still so blue– then beyond him as if trying to conjure an idea. She picked up the teacups on their delicate saucers, the got up and set to work at the counter. “Can’t think of one thing. Go on home. I have business to take care of, people to call. I happen to have a picture to finish painting tonight, a watercolor of my violets.”

“Good, you’re painting again.”

It was usually flowers she couldn’t plant there; she had a keen sense of aesthetics. He put on his jacket and waited as she puttered in the kitchen, rinsing off this, wiping that. She had energy, good sight and hearing; she was sharp and strong minded. But she was lonely ever since Teddy left her nine years ago, even if she finally admitted he was a beast at times. “But he was the common beast I knew, and not always mad,” she’d said and then looked away.

He’d sent her a postcard of a turquoise ocean, palm trees on glinting sand all the way from Mexico and with an apology. He’d always said he’d do it; she’d always said she would not so he had to go. She wasn’t sorry she stuck to it. And so that was that.

It was a relief when it was finally over. The yelling, his terrible insults, the darkly sad times and in-between times after which the man would be happy-go-lucky for awhile. It had been exhausting and hard work for his mother and him to manage it all. He had wished for her something so much better, no, something miraculous when he reluctantly went off to college and then, happily, law school. Now he could help her at last, and she refused. She would not budge. Like someone who had made a nest where there were few spots left (at least on her small income), she was set.

“I’m off, Ma. Sunday for dinner with us, right?”

“If I am not otherwise engaged, I’ll call you Saturday to RSVP.” She put her arms about him lightly and he gave her a soft squeeze. She hoped it might be veal Parmesan.

Once downstairs and outdoors he stood at his car and found her smiling, hand in the air. She always waved, she had been waving at him from windows all his life. Except when she worked at the neighborhood paper several years. He was a sassy teenager then but he’d discovered she wrote an informative city gardening column. She always made something beautiful of the pinched spaces behind their flats. Now she didn’t have a garden, she had two African violets and a few potted plants brightening up those shabby four rooms. He longed to see her help Marcy work up a boisterous jungle of beauty at their new place. To place fresh flowers on their table between glimmering candles.

She held herself with cold hands and long arms as he disappeared, then took her seat by the middle window. Squinting into the duskiness across the way, she picked up the cordless phone and punched in numbers, then watched until she saw a lumbering figure arrive at the opposing window. The big man picked up his receiver and turned to look at her, settling into his easy chair. She was so tiny over there she almost faded into shadow. He saw the glowing tip of her cigarette so lit one for himself.

“Well, did he convince you to leave yet?”

“No, but it is getting harder for me to refuse and easier for him to persuade me. Though tonight he gave up rather fast.”

“Well, I know, you’d have all the amenities, right? People to look after things.”

“I don’t know if it’s all that. Maybe great home-cooked meals? The possibilities of a garden? Though what I could do I’m not even certain–my knees aren’t what they used to be, Floyd. I deny reality, at times, pretending I’m nowhere close to the end.”

This required no comment; they both had left behind more years than they would gain.

“The odd thing is, today I half-wanted to give in.”

“Let that thought cool a bit, please.” He took a drag and exhaled and she did, too. “I’d miss you like all get out.”

“I’m not that much company over here. But we do have good chats. We need more of interest in our lives than a daily phone call.”

“You’re my one true friend these days, even if I can’t visit you in the flesh.”

She pictured an actual meeting and felt they were better off this way, sweet as he was. “We’re dying off, for one thing. And then it’s hard to meet people that you actually like and that will stay put.”

“You mean, like us.”

“Guess so, Floyd. We are two stuck people.”

But as they talked, she imagined being at her son’s, not conversing with someone across an alley, and it didn’t seem so terrible a thing to leave decades long grime and cranky appliances, the snuffling, scratching creatures of the night and sketchy characters even if fascinating that inhabited her crumbling downtown world. That chill she sometimes felt even when it was heating up fine outdoors. Nights like long circlets of licorice no longer even palatable. Floyd was sweet, a practiced conversationalist who was once a cartoonist. He was quirky, a plus, but he was so fat and severely diabetic it scared her to think he’d soon go next.

Her son and Marcy–who ran a small import business on Fifth and Tallwood–were healthy, of course, kinder and smarter. At least in the way she understood. They just cared about her best. She had to let that sink in, face all of it as fact. They were family of a commendable sort, she admitted it. And her stubborn loneliness fell under a specific category: true home, gone missing. She guessed that meant love.

Maybe when he came by next she’d have boxes and bags packed, the forbearing violets and his cap gun and all. Much would need to be let go but how much did she care about the material world? Little to none. She stubbed out her cigarette and  shooed away the noxious curls of smoke.

She finally said goodnight to Floyd who stated he’d see her in his dreams, unlikely if she was honest and she was sorry he was more alone than she, and wondered if it might be her job to be there for him. But no, not actually so and it was like a smear of sadness to think it. Then she picked up her almost full pack of menthols, opened the trash can and emptied the pack, crumpled the package to toss in. She watched it all mingle with teabags, burned fried egg, stained junk mail and several stale macaroons she had shared with no one, so had forgotten to entirely enjoy each one. The lid banged down. Sunday she’d be as ready as any day to go forth into unknown territory, so time to get on with it.

A Child’s Winter Haven/A Woman’s Home

Michigan Winter
My Michigan Winter

It may not have been the most superior year for snow. That would be when the door had to be shoved open, an impressive snow drift refusing to budge until you put your weight into it. But any winter was a different world from what I have now. Foremost in this land is rain: chilled, heavy or sparse, freezing or just slanting and bitter wind-blown, intermittent or all day and night. Inevitable. Not that I don’t like rain. The Pacific Northwest depends on lots of it, while I count on the lush green landscape to remain enchanting. And from May until late October it is mostly clear, sunny and festooned with flowers.

But I still have moments of snow yearning.

A recent long walk triggered memories of my mid-Michigan childhood. My hair, despite a cap anchoring it, was tangled by wind. My cheeks were getting chafed, felt perhaps twenty minutes from being immovable. I jammed gloved hands into my jacket pockets and sped up my pace. But the scent on gusting drafts held familiar sharpness: it teased me with a remote chance of snow. I kept a faster pace to keep blood well pumped through all systems; I am no longer acclimated to very cold temperatures (below 50…). Still, ridiculous to entertain the idea of snow arriving. There was snow being dumped in the Cascades, accumulating on volcanic Mt. Hood, our highest peak. Snow in the valley–unlikely. If it happened, a light layer would tantalize, cause school closures and then vanish in more usual temperateness.

But as I walked scenes of lustrous white flashed in my memory. They arose from flat, spare lands of the Midwest of my childhood–oh the swirling, drifting, diving snowflakes that fell upon my world were like magic. A dependable, ever powerful magic. I would awaken to a silence so deep it swaddled the mind. I’d peer out my upstairs bedroom window at the driveway to find cars blanketed, bushes shaped into capricious forms, trees wearing their dresses of fluffy whiteness. The cloudy sky was densely stuffed with more impatient snowflakes. If only school wasn’t required. I’d have to wait for play until after the afternoon trudge home in boots and scarf, mittens and snowsuit. Then I had only a short time until dinner, then homework and practicing cello. Schools and businesses were rarely closed due to snow; we still had plenty to do.

But if it was Saturday (not Sunday, that meant church until noon), a good portion of the day was mine. (And the night. I loved the evening hours even then, and the snowy landscape took on a unique beauty.) After accoutrements of said snow lover were accounted for–long pants, undershirt and shirt with sweater and long johns and thick socks in addition to outerwear–I readied myself for the first breath. It hurt. It stung like it was supposed to, a sudden swoosh of cold that could freeze the hairy lining of your nose, poorly protected flesh. I’d experienced hands so over-cold that when indoors by the heat register they would burn terribly. If, though, the  wintered air could seem mean-spirited and brittle, it was in fact welcome, a lively impetus to move the limbs, embrace the weather. I would lift each heavy-booted foot and plow through the back yard. First off, the obligatory snow angel: lie down, spread legs and arms to make windmill motions and an angel appeared at once. Because I loved angelic beings, because it was the tiniest artistic moment, this proved quite satisfying.

The towering pine trees that rimmed our back yard stood like empresses with ermine capes, already present for the party. My favorite climbing tree, a graceful big maple, was naked and ghostly still. Bushes responded to passing legs and a few swats with sprays of snow that covered my glasses. I’d have to take off mittens to wipe away wetness so I could see where the next step would lead. They all led, back there, to Stark’s Nursery, the land of –at least to me, a city child–the wild and free. I decided to get my Radio Flyer sled, in case there was anything interesting to drag home. In case I wanted to sit down and warm up my snow-crusted mitten-bound hands by slapping them hard against each other. Once out on the rolling land of the nursery, I saw other kids searching for good spots to begin the snowball fights. From behind walls made of hand-built rectangles of snow, a fort of sorts, they would ready, aim, fire off a guarded supply of hard packed balls. Woe to anyone not paying attention. I had a decent throwing arm but snowball contact could be disastrous when meeting flesh. Like exposed faces. Since I wore glasses until a teen, I tended to avoid the heaviest skirmishes; I wanted to be able to see it all.

I might scope out a place for an igloo. A snowdrift half as big as myself helped me get started. I would begin to carve out a good hollow, then pack snow for base and sides, adding a little here and there as I built upward to the roof area, shape bigger blocks as needed to frame things out nicely. Soon other kids might join in to make the interior broader and deeper. If the snow was the sort for exceptional packing, we might add a small wing, carving out a connecting tunnel. And that made for a cozy snow abode. I recall sitting inside and thinking that nowhere else, no matter how fancy, compared to such a spot. I was surrounded by glistening whiteness. By then I was warm, even sweaty, and frigid air was welcomed anew. Shimmering sunlight bounced off the nursery’s open range: snow blindness might ensue so I’d close eyes, rest, rudimentary thick, curved walls keeping all of us that fit both snug and safe.

Pulling an empty sled through ankle-to-knee-high snow attracted freeloaders whose weight slowed or stopped my progress. We took turns hauling each other a bit. But a sled was good for piling on broken branches the snow’s weighty load had snapped off, then taking them to the igloo to decorate. Or use as brushes on smooth snowfall. Better yet, pile a couple fallen heavy icicles and give one to a friend for a rousing sword fight. But what I now recall about sled pulling was how it made two deep tracks in a perfect, scintillating expanse. I found it lovely, a design of curving, shadowy swipes upon a canvas of snow. I don’t know why this captivated me, but there it is: voluptuous snow; fresh ruts; light moving across the yard; festooned trees leaning about.

At night it was the best time, that entrancing time between twilight and darkness now informed by a gently undulating carpet of whiteness. It was the side yard that drew me first. To the left hibernated a huge garden plot kept by our crotchety bent-over neighbor. To the right was our two-story cheery yellow and turquoise house, its many windows glowing, parents and older siblings ensconced and busy with work. I could slink around, watch and listen undetected, seek shelter within snow-swathed bushes with their poisonous but pretty red berries. I would act out stories of grand heroics wherein I was rescuer or explorer or brave lost orphan. No one could hear or see me, so I had full creative license.

By night, traffic had slowed to a trickle on our often busy street. The corner streetlight beyond our front yard would swing in winds from an Arctic front, casting shape-shifter shadows over and around all. Our front porch was made of brick and cement. I could sit on one of four corner built-in seats. The air seemed imbued with blue and amber as lack of light and swaths of artificial light intermingled, then separated. Cold and quietness spoke to this enthralled child, reflected peace woven with mystery. Things present and things to come. Of a world that was made of fabulous parts, an earth created by a omnipresent God. If it was a full moon night then it was even more shivery good, the dark blueness and whiteness limned with silver.

But when I prepared to go ice skating, time seemed suspended. Even as I changed from boots to figure skates, my heart pounded, muscles tensed, ready to spring my body forward. I could not get out to the ice fast enough. I took a lungful of crisp air, pushed off with a thrust of sharp blades: it was all motion inside speed, taking risks, threading my way around the busy outdoor rink. The thrill of it, hard, slick ice beneath my feet; rushing, cold breeze over my skin; hands aiding balance now often bare, my limbs reaching as I urged my body forward–then rose from the surface. Gravity defied for a few instants as I leapt and spun and jumped. The unrestrained happiness of it, radiant winter sky above, legs strong and feet sure. There were very few things I felt passion for as I did for figure skating, even the study and daily practice. Even the falls and the rising up again. I felt both moved beyond and fully occupied by sinew and blood, nerve and bone. My breath rasped in, out and energy coursed through my innermost center. Ice skating was heavenly, that was all. (I still dream of it and occasionally put on my skates for a lovely spin.)

There was also sledding, inarguably excellent fun even if my town held only a trifling of hills. But more so: tobogganing. We had two great toboggan runs deep in City Forest a few miles out from town. To be a successful tobogganer requires fearlessness, decent muscle strength, a spirit of adventure, and willingness to take any blows and bruises. A shiver of recklessness is what I felt. The framework that created the elevation and length of those iced runs were made of wood. Standing in line as we climbed up steps to the top was part of the experience, a sense of danger, as the high tower helped support two of four elevated toboggan runs. They were wooden, had been around awhile. In any case, toboggans in tow, up we went, no turning back. The runs were five hundred feet long, thickly iced and snow lined as well. We squeezed up to four on a toboggan and held on to each other from behind. The ride down was bumpy, fast, long enough and breathtaking, every one screaming in enthusiastic compliance with such an event. Occasionally someone would fall off or get a hand caught between the side and the toboggan (we were strongly cautioned by adults), but overall it only felt like a crazy ride. In short: a winter thrill.

There are miscellaneous winter bits, like the few happy times I skied on quite giant bumps of earth further up north, only giving it up due to the large expense. There was ice fishing, much further down on the happiness meter unless I could be indoors by the fire, watching for a red flag signaling fish nabbed beneath the hole. There was deer season, the one time I did not want to be in Michigan woods at all. And winters on the Great Lakes, when you were blessed beyond measure just to stand and freeze as you took in the panorama of beauty.

The snowbound months comprised one season among four others, and surely snowflakes gathering all about meant home. But now I have lived over twenty years in Oregon and it is a different tale.

So there I was, walking after a cold brief rain, thinking I smelled the electric, bright scent of snow on the horizon– indulging myself. Kidding myself. For if it does snow in the Willamette Valley this winter, it will be pretty and pleasing–but it will not be too exciting. Flat-out marvelous. Not to me, as I’ve already had some of the best snowy moments that can be had. Being a child helped immensely; that is, the gifts coming to an outdoors sort of kid in the northern Midwest seem some of the very best. Nostalgia notwithstanding, it had its pros and cones, I suppose. The perils of icy roads and raging snowstorms were real, too. Shoveling heavy snow was not a blast. All that clothing was not easy to maneuver within.

But I will take these rainy days and nights, too. Gladly. At best, I now find in it the rhapsodic aspect of winter, even though these clouds can seem leaden and dampness does not abate for any length of time. It is still a deep affection I feel, even when our famous roses go on hiatus. The falling waters are signs of a time to turn more inward–though I still walk with raincoat and scarf, gloves and a moth-attacked blue cashmere hat. I take to the streets and find good surprises while woods and wetlands eventually dry out some. While mud is not snow and raindrops not snowflakes, the varieties of rain comprise musical programming that keeps me soothed. Water is critical to life and any precipitation keeps it flowing. At its worst, the rainy season keeps me rooted to chair more often. Sends me scurrying toward others so as to share cups of steaming tea or coffee. I engage in indoor experiences less urgent when sun blares for six months. But this emerald acreage, the density of wilderness is all about me. The rainfall nourishes, transforms and prepares the earth for more adventures to come. I am ready and willing to partake of it all.

It seems one’s sense of home is a combination of elements, tangible and intangible. I have learned to carry home within me and in that regard I count myself fortunate. So now that December is here: welcome, rain. Or let it snow a tad. I will find a spot in winter’s design and then just ease on in.

Oregon, Early Winter
Oregon, Early Winter
My (Ever-Green) Oregon Life
Mt. Hood, between the rains
Mt. Hood, between the rains

Moving On/What We Leave Behind

Home is where

As an habituated writer, on any given day I sit down to the computer–or pull out a notebook if I am on the go–and start writing without much brainstorming. Words are conduits through which clues for tales arrive to stimulate forward movement. If the story is fiction, my mind becomes a space akin to an open doorway. I see someone traverse a room or street, their hair or feet, perhaps settling back into a bus seat or panting on a steep mountain trail. Crying on the edge of a bed. Eating ice cream as storm clouds gather. They are always up to something even if silent.

Nonfiction can seem more elusive. Patience is needed to seek a topic that grabs me, even though I could choose any topic and write until I am bored of it. Ideas are everywhere to note. And I can research things as needed. I love to learn while writing, not matter the genre. Writing is an act of gathering points of reference and insight, of defining personality and place, giving the story’s innate depth and breadth more air and light. It records life as it unfolds.

But this is a day that resists my laboring and inquisitive nature. I have other matters on my mind, events and people with no useful place in a narrative now. I pull out and stare at a list of writing prompts received at a workshop. I’m not big on verbal prompts although I do use visual ones. Yet I am stuck on this list, perhaps due to its simplicity. Or so I think. On second and third look, each one unearths deeper things. Which is the intent. I seem to gravitate to this:

Write about what got left behind.

Possibilities draw me in: people, places, creatures or objects. And what comes forward is all the houses I have lived in, all the rooms and yards and neighbors and pets. The five children raised there.

Starting at age twenty, I resided in thirteen homes in sixteen years, followed by one house for seven years, then three more places after that. That is a plethora of experiences, with something left behind at each stop, I am certain.

It was related to marrying, unmarrying, marrying again and where the work took us. Employment tends to dictate habitat. My first husband completed a Master’s degree in sculpture and ultimately had a construction business. Sometimes that industry required moving to more booming areas. My current husband worked his way up the corporate ladder, which meant he was transferred by companies or he accepted better positions. Inevitably it meant moving closer to the next job. (My career began in my mid-thirties. Luckily, I always lived near my place of employment.)

So: what got left behind?

The question reverberates as I review homes. There was a college abode that required patience and humility: a combination renovated chicken coop-shed painted a dull yellow, minute square footage currently qualifying it as a trendy “tiny house”. The roof slanted so we had to stoop to move from kitchenette to couch to sleeping area. A couple more early marriage/student housing locales were rented. After college and two children we found a townhouse with wonderful woods and playground. Then a Texas apartment with a pool of aquamarine water where we cooled and relaxed daily though we went broke. Next up: a solitary Michigan ranch house surrounded by fields and deer. The business eventually improved, but our marriage had come apart.There was a transition period during divorce where I, with two children, found a renovated two-story carriage house on an old estate while I took more college coursework.

Second marriage and three more children: a two-story blue house with a wide front porch on a quiet street. Then to a modern glass and cedar house on rolling country acreage with central wood stove and a red barn the kids took over; we also had a field mice infestations in the lovely place. We moved to a ranch-style house with lilacs that enclosed the yard, a fireplace that crackled with cheerful flames all winter. The split level house by a small nature preserve called Dinosaur Hill was next. And there was a perfect-sized Tennessee A-frame house that reminded us of northern Michigan. It offered an acre for a garden and a pond that attracted cotton mouth snakes, worth avoiding. Then came a house that once had a hair salon in the basement lined with mirrors. Our daughters practiced jazz and ballet dancing there. And at last a house with green shingles and a hilly back yard for sledding where we managed to live for seven years. After a Northwest move, there was a spacious, airy home, a favorite place with French doors to the living room and a sunroom that became my very own writing room.

Perhaps it was not the usual way to live for one who was middle class, moderately upwardly mobile. I had lived in the same comfortable childhood bungalow for eighteen years. But I wanted to a different way of liviung, to escape the strictures of the home town. Have adventures! I was drawn to the impermanence of a somewhat nomadic existence, the spontaneity of it with curious contrasts of life lived on the fly. There was a challenge to finding new jobs, houses, neighborhoods and companions. I didn’t often feel regret as we packed up to move again. Our children seldom complained or not for long though it wasn’t easy to change schools that often. We discovered the plastic nature of resilience,  how we could readjust ourselves with every new demand. For example, when we couldn’t locate a suitable house after one move we resided in a state park lodge and then cabins for two and a half months. And enjoyed much about those times. (This is shared in another post.)

Our five children are close in age. I think they would have suffered more (if they suffered, at all) if they had not had one another to play with, rely on, fuss at and care for. We stuck together as a team, from playing games to homestyle musical concerts and plays, to art events and museums and quick week-end gababouts. They found friends as did I. I enjoyed meeting people, navigating new territory so made my way. It was never boring and gave rise to more creative activity: more stories, poems, drawings, music. Education galore for the children.

But, in the end, what got left behind?

1. Friends, first of all. Each new place brought the opportunity to find at least one or two folks who could become a good friend. Monika, Steven, Jerri Jo. Betty Jo and John. Carol. Kurt and Madonna. Kenneth and Jane. Noreen, Judy. Deborah, Nikki. The list grows as the years come forward and faces pass before mind’s eye. When you move from one city to another, one state to another, those friends become harder to hang onto. If I let myself feel this procession of  friends come and gone, I can admit to having known homesickness–not for much for a place but for certain, once-close friends. The pain could go deep and remain long. Sometimes phone calls and letters–before computers were common–made my yearning worse. One learns to love and let go. Move on.

I especially remember Jane, the receptionist at the lodge who became my treasured friend in an insular town where I felt like an alien for a time. I was slow to understand her rich Southern accent, often asked her to repeat herself as if she was speaking a peculiar language. It took me a few seconds to even decipher her name at first: Jaaahhhien. Jane had lived a rough and tumble life but her graciousness was generous, her heart wide open. She found the best in others. Our settling in was aided by her food and laughter and tips about how to understand our locale and its inhabitants. Jane shared the area’s history, educated us in differences between harmless and dangerous snakes and insects, told me where to shop and what dentist to try, how to cope with incipient racism and a pervasive anti-northern sentiment. In time, we gabbed as if we were meant to be sisters. Saying good-bye was arduous. I can still feel her hug, see her standing with hand waving above a wobbly smile. I wanted to load her up with my family. In the following year we lost track of each other. We were given to each other as friends for only a short season.

2. Dogs. One died from parvo virus, two were given to others for safekeeping, to love. There was Max, a mixture of various big dogs; Twiggy, a miniature grey hound; Buddy, a Brittany springer spaniel. They all should have been country dogs. Two of the three were. The last was shipped out to the country when we moved. I really liked Buddy but hope to never again try to raise much less catch a springer spaniel. Our big family likely felt like a crazy zoo to his nature. He would lie in wait for the door to open even an inch. He zig-zagged like mad across streets and parks, engaged in a serious hunt that only he could discern. He liked us, yes, but he loved his freedom far more. I empathized at times.

But it is a vignette about a neighbor’s dog that sticks with me. When we locked the door to one of our favorite houses–one purchased–the very last time, a muscular, unkempt but handsome German Shepherd bounded over to us. Tag had often visited, chasing around the kids, given to barking at us along with anything else that moved or made sound. He watched us plant vegetables in neat long rows and weed the garden that ultimately failed–partly due to his digging habits. He was powerful and friendly, sometimes stalked bugs and snakes with us on humid summer evenings. I wouldn’t say we were so close to him that we thought he was counted as also ours yet we appreciated one another a great deal. For one thing, his presence meant we didn’t have to get another family dog during our two-year stay. I admired Tag. And I love dogs that stand high enough for my hand to graze their fine backs and heads as they trot beside me.

On moving day we had said our goodbyes, cleaned up after ourselves and were ready to try to beat the moving van back to Michigan. The house was hard to abandon to someone new but time to move on. Then my eye was caught by Tag’s race across the open land separating our two houses. He skidded to a stop, jumped up on us, licked each of us enthusiastically, big paws on our chests. And my husband and I, well, we wept as we hugged him.

3. Back yards. I miss them more now, as we reside in an apartment (large enough, comfortable for us) with only a balcony. I daydream about them, remember them with the glowy sensation of someone in love.

There have been all sorts of yards, some far better than others. How can I not recall the three yards that were really fields, where wild creatures came and went, along with shy deer and foxes and scores of birds, bold raccoons and quiet opossums. Rasping cicadas and tree frogs and bull frogs making their good racket. One rural house was across the road from a small river. I took the children daily, learning about wildflowers and plants each spring and summer, tromping through snow in winter, pulling two little ones on sleds. I chopped wood at three country houses for wood stoves that provided excellent heat. Clothes on clothes lines snapped in the breeze, smelled of far away winds. Sunsets and sunrises engulfed the sky. Those yards felt more like a giant campground.

But another comes to mind now. It belonged to a home that we perhaps liked structurally the least. A two-story bungalow, worn at the edges, it was crowded with seven people though it had four bedrooms. We stayed there the longest as four of our kids entered and exited adolescence. The village, as it was known, was one square mile in size, located between a couple of Detroit suburbs. Our tree-lined street meandered towards another community known for residents and businesses with exclusive attitudes and tastes.

But our own back yard was quite good enough for barbeques right near the door that led up to three stairs into a too-small kitchen. Tulips and irises popped up along the lawn. My husband planted another vegetable garden. There were large maple trees providing shade and beauty. The uneven yard sloped gently to a back alley that the kids loved to use as a short cut to everywhere. A jungle gym on flatter ground served them well–they practiced daredevil acrobatics and swung too high. Neighborhood kids careened in and out, biking down the hill, my son building and sharing daily his skateboard ramps. There were more outdoor games, sledding, building snowmen, raking and jumping in vast leaf piles. It had a sweeping view of neighbors and vibrant clusters of treetops. It fully worked for us; it matched our easy style of living. I counted my blessings as well as worried and wept over life’s woundings in that back yard.

4. Ourselves.

At least, I would like to believe we left something decent and true of ourselves in every place. Each child’s distinctive personality and deeds had some effect on others, just as their classmates’ and buddies’ did. Who they were in essence is reflected in who they are presently; strengths and talents they developed at each juncture have held. And they still keep in touch with special childhood friends, now adults with complicated lives like theirs.

As for me, I shed my youth and many illusions. A compact person, I lost more weight as I burned energy as if on fire. That winding road provided some treacherous turns and suspenseful times alongside excitement of discovery and spontaneous joy, those serendipitous meetings and little dawnings of broader wisdom. I suffered from mistakes and healed with love and faith. I gained gravity, a coveted element for a poet-seeker at heart.

I learned about myself in ways may never have been realized had I remained in my childhood town. Every time we started anew I was called upon to stretch myself, often beyond reasonable expectations, but what needed to get done was done. How does one find a new home–often rental–for seven when the main breadwinner has gone ahead to the new job or is too overworked, himself, to participate much? Research and phone calls. Repeat. Visits to places and presenting my best self. Repeat. It was a sales job. Talk quickly with friendly confidence: no, my kids don’t destroy things (not often); no, no pets will join us if we can’t have one; yes, I manage the household, husband is an engineer (or whatever the title became) who often travels. Too much to relay and examine and make deals about, perhaps, but that home had to be won and signed for in time.

Speed often mattered those days; so did thoroughness. It was critical I knew how best organize our children as well as material possessions, how to coordinate timelines and rapidly changing priorities. I, an introvert who likes people yet a creative sort who’d rather dream and write or sing in a quiet corner (when I could find one) than chat up strangers at a tedious business dinner, just adapted. Once everything arrived at the new house, it was another list of “To Dos”: school info, medical resources, parks and playgrounds, afterschool classes, introductions with neighbors, find the fastest route to the grocery and other marketplaces. And as for the slow unpacking: does anyone know where the cheese grater and toilet paper went? And who stole my sweater and jeans this week?

I know I gave care to my friends. Enough? Much time and thought to my work with people whose needs required patience, insight, compassion, problem solving. If I left anything with them, I pray it was gentle acceptance and hope, a desire to live deeper, more happily. When I had to leave my job overseeing services for homebound disabled and elderly clients, their phantom lives followed me. I dreamed of them, missed their talk, wondered from afar if someone kind was listening to them so they were fully heard, reading aloud their letters. Giving them a gentle pat on the hand and minding their meals and medicines well.

I used up my youth, I suppose. And hooray, as what is it for but to be lived inside and out? I didn’t notice it slipping away amid all that love and chaos. Growth happened when I wasn’t paying attention. Sleeplessness and surprise when I was fully alert. By the time I was forty-two, four of my children were out of high school. Those of us left moved to the Pacific Northwest and there were more changes than ever before. Middle age became a well-earned haven, mentally and spiritually. Life has become calmer, clarified, streamlined, sparked with new meanings. It’s been twenty-two years here and I can barely believe this: I have lived in one home for nineteen years. I may not leave, at least for a time. If I do, I hope I go once more without a backward glance, eyes wide open, shoulders back, head high. Something good will come of it, I just know it.

What did I finally leave behind, then? A lifetime inhabited with my intense committment, for good or not. But that’s all. I carry what I want here, in my heart. New moments and memories are being made as I type these last words.

 

(Note: This writing prompt is taken from Jessica P. Morrell’s “Brave on the Page Writing Prompts”.)

Earley Waits for Mail

mnDtgrrWH_PPRCjOXFSRFmQ

Earley waited for the mail all afternoon like he did every delivery day, with the patience of Guernsey cows, which he’d loved as a child on the farm. His grandson would take issue with that idea, tell him, Cows don’t know enough to be patient, but that’s what Earley thought of when faced with the occasionally slow passage of time. Cows liked to eat, rest, socialize, all with a deliberate pace and acceptance. It seemed a good lesson. Being human created issues with time. For Earley, time generally was dashing away. As far as the postal service went, he was just grateful he still got it. What sort of life would it be without a little junk mail and a letter or package now and then?

Sol was too smart sometimes, explaining calculus and reading thought-provoking passages from his contemporary novels. Earley had patience with his grandson, but who cared what sorts of odd tricks numbers got up to at this point in his life? But the books he liked, or rather the being read to, especially when it had to do with a little love or a lot of history. One stimulated the other in the world, he thought.

When his son, James, was at work and Sol was at school he had some waiting while he did chores and puttered. Today was–he checked Sol’s calendar on the fridge–computer club. Three days a week the boy had obligations he said were fun. Earley had neither for the most part, unless you counted being a grandfather.

“You have to get a hobby, Grandpa. Ever since Grandma passed you’re just waiting all winter to garden. I know gardening is your thing but really. You need more than that. Maybe like playing Sudoku or checking out that new fitness club. I saw one of your friends over there. What about your woodworking?”

“I’ve made enough stuff, why do I need more? I do my crosswords and word searches so I don’t get soft in the head. I walk everywhere. Cook. Do laundry and pay bills like when Nana was alive. Plant my garden in spring. What more? You have hobbies, I get some free time.”

Sol and James looked at each other, eyes rolled. It made Earley think a bit. He did get restless at times. Then he saw the ad and put in an order.

For the last week he’d been watching over Sol by himself. It wasn’t hard but it took a little more out of him. Worrying and making sure he did all that homework, catching up with him more than usual. No James as a buffer or disciplinarian. It went pretty well.

James had gotten to Florida on Tuesday. He was supposed to have have come back home by now, not that Earley was anxious for it. It was never much real hardship being there for Sol. James called twice, once when he got to Miami and once when he found out he would be back a few days late. James was a fully degreed person, a writer and a construction worker, which Earley didn’t quite get, but the building trade usually worked out better. Bills had to be paid for three people.

James had this desire to swim his way into that smallish pool of people who might find their stories on shelves. He had been working on a psychological thriller for four years and it was almost done. Earley hadn’t read it yet. He wondered if it would scare him; the thought of that captivated him. Well, in good time.

James poked his head out of his office door one morning.

“I’m going to Miami, you guys! Kevin was hired as editor of Killing Justice, that new thriller and mystery magazine I mentioned, and said I’d be a good addition. But I have to do a formal interview. We’ll all move there, start fresh if this works out.”

Sal frowned and considered. He was fifteen. He had a small, well-defined life that he liked just enough. The house they shared with grandpa was big and had a garden he helped tend. He wondered how his grandpa would manage down there. He did want his dad to be happier. Sal could try Florida after ten years in Omaha despite leaving his best friend. The thought of tan, beachy girls and large reptiles soon held him in thrall.

As it lowered, the sun shot out pink and orange rays behind houses across the street, making half-halos about trees and rooftops. The sky warmed up like a tropical vista. Earley wondered what it would look like in Florida. He watched out the bay window, then saw the porch bathed in a glow despite a deep chill he kept at bay with the heat jacked up too high. The mailman–well, mail woman now– should have been there long ago. It annoyed him despite his resolve. So much for Guernsey patience. He wondered about James coming back late, what that all meant. His stomach growled as he glanced in the refrigerator. Leftover meatloaf when Sol got home.

He grabbed the seed catalog and sat in his worn, smooth leather chair. When he turned on the light and opened it to the first page pictures dazzled him with their lushness, as always. He could hardly stand that he had months to go before the planting.

51X2z748CfL._SX300_ (1)

What would it be like to grow things all year long? he wondered. Florida looked like it sprouted life without any effort. It unnerved him a bit. The winters in Omaha were a good time to hibernate, which he liked. He might have to wear madras shorts in Florida, learn how to swing a golf club well, use terrible smelling sunscreen all the time. Or stay indoors even when there was no snow and no rain because of that heat. He wanted his son to use his degree in English and Sol to be able to try other things, but this was a lot to ask. If it was to be asked. He breathed into the gathering dark, a ruffly sound making its way down his commandeering nose. What if James thought it was time for him to join the others over seventy in those cramped places they pretended were communities? He had one already, right here, on this street, in this house. It had been good enough for forty-five years. The house had conformed to him and he, to it.

The front opened, then slammed shut the same time his cell phone rang. Sol tossed a package on the rectangular table in the foyer. Earley got up, then looked at his phone.

James. He answered.

“Hello? Son?”

“Hey, dad. I’ll be home tomorrow but I wanted to talk to you guys. Is Sol there yet?”

Earley beckoned to his grandson and he came over.

“We’re both here.”

Sol put the phone on speaker.

“Sol?”

“Hey, dad! See alligators yet?”

James laughed. “Not yet. But we might sooner or later.”

“We? You got the job, dad?”

“I did. They liked me and I like them. I’ll start in May.”

Earley walked to the table where the package lay. He could hear the two of them talking, excitement tinged with disbelief in Sol’s voice. He shook the package to confirm it was his order for sure, then went back to to his chair and sank down in the old cushion, box in hand.

“Hey Dad? You there?”

“Yes, I heard you.”

“Are you glad for me?”

“Happy as a clam.”

“Grandpa, clams aren’t even close to being smart–”

“You don’t know that, Sol. We don’t know every single thing.”

“Dad, I have to get going. Kevin is taking me out to dinner to celebrate. I’ll tell you everything when I get home.”

They hung up. Earley fished his Swiss Army knife from a back pocket. Sol had sunk into the couch, his jacket still on, backpack at his feet.

“Florida… sweet. I think.” He sat forward, hands clasped together between his knees. “What do you think, Grandpa? Oh, you got a package. What’s in it?”

Earley cut through tape, tossed the paper and pried open the box. Inside were neatly bagged pieces of wood. A whole ship.

“Behold, Sol, the Santa Maria. The largest ship of the three sailed during Columbus’ voyage. Modest, really, especially by today’s standards. About one hundred tons of her. Deck was 58 feet. A good seafaring ship until she shipwrecked in Haiti.”

“Nice! A wooden model. So that’s your new hobby?”

Earley smiled. “Could be.”

They looked over the plans and talked about history until Sol said he was hungry. At the table over meatloaf sandwiches, they were quiet awhile. Then Earley spoke up.

“You think you could head down to Miami, then? Or would you want to stay here?”

“We’re all in this together! Dad’s taking me and you if you’ll go and I’m sure taking you, so we’re going together. Right? Florida, like it or not, here we come.”

Earley wiped his mouth and sat back. “Well, it could be a good place to make and sail ships. But I’ll get back to you after your dad gets home and we talk. I’d have to have a garden. At the very least.”

Sol agreed; no garden, no move. He put the kettle on for tea and got out the organic peppermint teabags. That’s what his grandpa liked after a meal. That’s what Sol would always make him.

Monet in the Garden by Monet
Monet in the Garden by Monet

The Genuine Article

The air is redolent of all things inviting: brown sugared yams, buttery potatoes and the sweet tang of cranberries; tender fowl, golden rolls in a generous mound. Mincemeat, pumpkin and Dutch apple pies cool in the kitchen under the slightly opened window, which ushers in a gust of crisp air.

The dining room and table stun. Tall white candles draw the eye to the center of the long orchid tablecloth; an elegant flower arrangement brightens the room from atop the buffet. Each of seven white china plates, delicately rimmed with rosebuds, marks the preferred places of our family members. Crystal goblets offer a melodious ring when I run my damp finger around the rims. Music beckons, perhaps an Aaron Copland symphony resonant of a gentler, happier America or stately Brahms.

My mother wipes her hands on a floral apron. “Come to the table.”  We hold hands and pray, then eat and talk. It is very good food; it seems to taste even better because it is the holidays and everything is beautiful. The conversation is congenial and calm. The pie seems made in heaven, each bite a notation of love given and received.  

And so it often was, growing up in the family home decades ago. My parents are now gone but I recall the traditions easily, and the people with an abiding love. But it does not come back to me like a Thomas Kinkade card, bigger and more vibrant than life. And I do not pine for those years,  the meals prepared and people gathered in a certain civilized manner, the atmosphere charged with all that familial bonds awaken, both memorable and forgettable. I don’t mourn for the past. 

In other words, I am not prey to nostalgia.

The dictionary tells us nostalgia is a longing that is bittersweet, a melancholy tinged with a gauzy remnant of cheer. It is a longing for things, places and people long behind us. Nostalgia is a form of homesickness and creates a revered experience for many. Clearly, it originates from a powerful need.

But for me, nostalgia is an artificial filter, causing one’s memory to pause and re-route to a place and time that never quite existed. It is easier at times, perhaps, to ressurect the past and recall it as the one time and circumstance that was without fault than to live with what we have. We want that safe, wise, all-inclusive moment because it feels as we think life should feel, must feel: fool-proof and unshakably right and good. We want to savor again every piece of homemade pie. And we want the reassurance that all this will be available next year and the next, if only in the secret drawer of our childhood or youth. It is like an equation we can count on no matter what–but in exists only our mind’s eye, in our dreaming and desire, not in actual fact.

I suspect nostalgia keeps us tethered to a past that may not even have been what we think. Maybe some will insist “then” was somehow more attractive than “now”. But can’t it keep us set apart from the current time, these people, this moment-in-the-making of possible wonders? And could it be a sign of an impoverished soul to keep recreating a perfect (nostalgic) slice of life?

So: imagine now a smallish dining room off a smaller kitchen. The heavy oak  table is decked with a tablecloth–the same one my mother used, it’s true. Many small candles encircle the top of the old oak table, and a trail of light flickers in the living room where more candles radiant a generous glow. Brought by each Thanksgiving dinner invitee are pots and platters and bowls filled with food to please all appetites. Deserts line up like lovely prizes on the kitchen counter. There are recyclable plastic eating utensils artfully laid out beside the disposable plates.  The table is so full that I have to make room for glasses and cups as I brew coffee and tea. The Martinelli bottles are frosty cold and a daughter smiles at me as she pours sparkling apple drink.

In the living room are seats enough for about seventeen people; more people sit on the floor. We balance our plates and swap stories. We remark on our uneven lives, discuss our culture as we see it, books and music we love or ponder, projects people are working on, even the nature of God. Laughter and sated appetites cushion the growing darkness. Faces older and younger are illuminated by candle light. Something spills and towels are brought to the scene. One grandchild fusses at another.  The music is likely not heard; it is drowned out by the lull of human cacophony. 

I stand back. Here is a place full of  something good, a gathering of people of different politics, skin color, heritage, dreams, needs. We weather times that sneak up behind us to dump bad news; times that break open promising opportunities; times that whittle us down and refashion us into something more, richer. Times seemingly built of ordinary days and nights, only to surprise us again. And during festive celebrations we rest here together, the group changing as one leaves, another joins. The circle moves and breathes like a patchwork creature made of care. And the messiness that accompanies it is beautiful to me.

It is on the far, far side of artifice or perfection, this motley crew of my family, and my place is nothing fancy. The food is simple and enjoyed as a complement to our talk. The rituals are a mix of new and old, as well as flexible. I prefer it that way, not the way of the past, no matter how good it looks in retrospect. I, along with many other folks, already had those moments; that happiness mixed with life’s hardships has come and gone. Nor do I need a projection of what might be one day. The future is only a moment away, but yet to be.

It is this time I am living, this moment I am given to become intimate with and believe in, share with the others. I long for nothing but this day, this life, and all that each one can bring, no matter what it is. I am already home, here, now, and it is the genuine article, the only one I will offer when you come though my door.