750words March 24 2015 ~ Punch Cards and Angels

Earlier today I read a blog post by Ken Decroo (Baja Moto Quest) about a dear friend Ken had lost to cancer and I started thinking about losses and the blanks those who go leave behind, like punched holes in a ticket or those cards stores hand out where there’s maybe twelve numbers and when all twelve are punched you get a free skein of yarn at the knitting store, or a free carton of smokes at the cigarette store, or a big discount on whatever at wherever.

Is my life like one of those cards? A thin, glossy rectangle imprinted with the colors of people who made me (genetically) and teachers who taught me (trained this brain) and friends who have held me and allowed me to hold them (song sharers, happy and sad). Is my life like that? And each time one goes, leaves this world behind … each time one dies, this small flat rectangular card of my life gets a hole punched?

Two years from now I’ll be seventy. The grandmas and grandpas are gone. Mom and dad are gone. Dozens of aunts and uncles are gone. Many cousins. too. And friends. And a husband. Plus teachers. Punched holes in my card have left a whole lot of blanks. There shouldn’t be much glossy space left to apply that hole puncher and squeeze down. Wrong.

Remember that movie from way back when, the 30s or 40s with Loretta Young, David Niven and Cary Grant. Cary was an angel. Loretta was the preacher’s wife. The preacher was Niven. There’s a scene in that movie with a bottle of wine which refills due to the angel’s presence. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not religious. I don’t follow scriptures. I don’t have the gift of “faith”—none of that. Yet, I like the idea of angels. I like to think the punched holes, the blanks, aren’t really blanks at all. I like to think they’re all still here/there—they’ve just gone transparent, see-through—if you know what I mean.

Beyond the idea of transparent angels, there’s the reality of other folks filling the gaps. New friends. New family as grandkids arrive in this world. New people to hold me and allow me to hold them. This punch card, for all the hits it takes, doesn’t get weaker, doesn’t become a tatter of once-shiny cardstock, doesn’t fold, doesn’t tear, doesn’t shred into bits.

To be sure—this life is a little dog-eared at the corners. I wouldn’t want it any other way. If I looked brand new, what would that say? Answer: The holder of this card hasn’t lived, hasn’t been hurt, hasn’t felt the sting of a bee nor watched a swarm of butterflies take over a thistle bush at the creek, hasn’t fallen off a go-cart and ripped a scar to her leg she still rubs with memories every now and again, hasn’t loved hard and been loved tenderly, hasn’t waltzed across Texas and into Arkansas, hasn’t been stepped on, hasn’t stubbed a toe—because she never made a move, never opened a gate or a door to find what might be on the other side. Yep. I’ll take dog-eared any day of the year. And I do.

If I line up my angels—pick them one by one from my brain as if picking up paper dots the hole punch has clipped from life—and interrogate each one as I examine its presence on my fingertip, what will they have to say?

Will Daddy break his shy silence? No. He’ll beam with that ruddy glow–his way of showing pleasure.

Will Mama turn her eyes away? She might. She never quite knew what to make of me, never quite understood what made me tick, yet, she was nonetheless sinfully proud of everything I did from first baby-step right on through to the end.

And Al? What of my late husband?

Each time I try to examine what my fingertip holds, his dot slips away. Honestly, I can’t explain it, can’t say if it’s me causing him to slip—or him—unwilling to be questioned. I could trouble myself about this, throw the blame of whatever it is going on in my thinking (or not going on as the case may be) over my shoulder like a sack of heavy laundry and tote it around throughout the day. Or I can let it go. No need to peel his dot from my finger. He’s already slipped away, silently, not skulking—just slipped away, shoulders straight, head high, what might be a smile about to happen, about to play in his eyes, curl the ends of his moustache, find his lips, change his unreadable face.

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750words Apr 14, 2014 ~ Gone Astray. The Words.

Gone astray. The words. They were there in the middle of a pasture of green thoughts and when I looked off in search of one, all the others disappeared. If I had a boss, I don’t know what he might say. Might even fire me from this current position I hold. If he did, how he would go about advertising for a replacement?

Wanted: Reasonable speller although, with spellcheck as a back-up, reasonable may be asking more than is required. Must know the difference between “where” and “were.” Would also be to applicant’s advantage if the “to” “too” and “two” problem of which to choose is a known. Dress codes are not applicable for fieldwork during word herd tending. Must provide own imagination and arrive on time with details at the ready to fill stanchions placed here and there at the edge of the meadow. Employer prefers applicants experienced in word culling, a history of separating weaker members of the herd from the stronger. Sturdy yet comfortable shoes will be a plus as the words often stray out of sight and into surrounding woods. A stick is also advised as the beasts are sometimes stubborn, unwilling to move without a good poke or solid thwack of encouragement. Word counts at the end of each shift are a must. The herd will fluctuate in numbers—this is a side effect of good husbandry and expertise, as mentioned earlier, in culling methods. Noxious “thats” and articles (“the” and “a”) should be weeded from otherwise nutritious green swards of clever clover whenever possible. Articles are often difficult to see; applicant should have a good back for stooping low, knee pads for crawling and keeping his/her nose to the ground in search of these pesky interlopers. Pay is next to nothing and what is paid is offered not in cash but as barter. Applicant works the herd of words with applicant’s imagination and receives, in trade for hours and frustrations, permission to work.

I don’t have a boss. Other than me. So what’s all the above nonsense about? Finding a new me to shepherd the words? Yes. I think that’s exactly what it’s about. I’ve embarrassed myself. Vanity. Thinking what I write, how I herd the words and cull and cajole and spoil the words is better than it is. Thinking when I enter them at the State Fair I’ll be the one winning blue ribbons—not Best in Show—but blue, red or white ribbons to hang on the walls of imagination. Marks of success. Kudos from friends. Applause. Atta-girls. Ovations. Silly me.

I have comfortable sturdy shoes for chasing down and rounding up what’s gone missing. I also have stone bruises on both feet. And worn out knees from crawling through the lushness of what’s good to weed out what’s bad. Additionally, my vision’s gone. Not entirely, but very much depleted, very much dulled. If I can’t see the bad, how can I pull it out by the roots?

You can see my dilemma, can’t you? How difficult it is to lace-up the boots of brown writing and tie off the laces in neat double-knotted bows, to trudge into the valley where words huddle in groups hungry and waiting for stanchions to be filled with details I’ll haul there in buckets. They shouldn’t be so heavy, these details. They’re only airy images of places visited (Italy, Greece, Mexico, Brooklyn, Raleigh, Ann Arbor, Jamaica), houses lived in (on the ranch, above the college, behind Thrifty’s Drugs, near the creek, at ocean’s edge), emotions felt (rage, betrayal, pride, love, love, love), and scents–the perfumes and sweat worn by the living and dead. Yet when they stack upon one another for what seems eternity, they bring this writer to her knees (and not in search of worrying articles).

Foolish writer, me. Wanting a cheering section. What I need to do is imagine myself as a cross-country skier, alone, in the cold, exhilarated, clouds of moist air pushed from my lungs leading the way up a hill and down a slope on a path nonexistent before my skis made visible tracks. Alone, working hard. Managing the trail from station to station. From one cup of steaming hot story to the next.

Or a surfer. I could be on a board, feet dangled in the water, watching the horizon from a seated position. Watching the white caps if there’s wind. Watching gulls soar and swoop. Waiting for words to roll in swells. Words I can ride from the deep to shore.

Revisiting the Fruit Metaphor, 1-11-15

Sixty-eight years ago Mama gave birth to me at San Antonio Hospital in Upland, California. Ten months ago I wrote about aging, comparing myself to a fruit. The old writing made me smile. I’m still a fruit, thin-skinned and uncertain about many things, yet continuing to enjoy this cobalt bowl of a world. If you’ve read this before–my apologies–it just seemed appropriate to repost today.

March 11, 2014 and I am two months into my 67th year replete with age spots and discolorations, wrinkles at crossroads with other wrinkles, chin hairs and nose hairs taking over the hair-making industry while the hairs on my head—silver-ash—grow fewer and fewer. You look at me (via these words) and think I am old … but I am not so very old.

I am a piece of fruit with a couple bruised places. Mostly still edible—though not delicious in appearance—I wouldn’t be the first plum plucked from the basket. I lean toward hopes I might be the last in the basket. I mean, once I’m eaten and the seed at my center has been tossed—what then? Better, I believe, to remain in this cobalt blue bowl of a world through as many seasons as chance allows.

What is Chance? By other names: Fate, Joss, Luck. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare?

I look at the question mark after Will’s name and don’t seriously doubt he penned the phrase, yet wouldn’t bet my life that he did. Uncertainty comes with these age spots and chin hairs. What I think I know, know I know, and know I don’t know (when in fact I once knew and simply can’t recollect that I did)—this is the uncertainty. It has its upside, gives an odd sort of freedom to waffle with answers. The word “dither” comes to mind. “Dithering old fool.” Not particularly flattering as a means of describing one’s facility to communicate, yet an age-related word more often than not.

Ok. I’m old. An old plum in a cobalt bowl. And I’m a ditherer.

Fool? Um, not so much. Fooled? Yes, every once in awhile. That’s life.

Shadows play tricks as well as pure light. Not sure what I mean by “pure light” unless it’s a light without shadows, a light cast with nothing within its reach to block its extension and leave a grayed shape to elongate or shrink with its passage. The trick is to absorb the moment or years of having been fooled and let them pass through as if I’m a finely woven screen and the embarrassment or recognition of misplaced trust or even well-placed trust that didn’t, after all, hold up to whatever ultimate reality was realized has no more substance than fog, smoke, steam. Let it pass.

Why plum? Why not peach or apple? Why not banana? Why not pear or pineapple? I have the acidity of pineapples but I don’t see me as all-over prickly on the outside, nor sticky sweet. I frequently have the green naivete of a pear and its thin skin—but not its core. The same may be said of the apple, its core, the clustering of seeds at its middle. I flush red often enough and blush pink; I feel green envy every now and again; I even feel golden at times. I’m just not many-seeded at my center. Bananas are out from the get-go because I don’t peel that way and I don’t turn black when refrigerated—and, trust me—I’ve self-imposed refrigeration, closing myself inside cold and dark many a time. Peach, although it has a pit—a single seed—is out because a peach’s coloration is all innocence; its fuzz is the fuzz of a newborn’s wondrously soft hair palmed by a grandmother’s hand.

I am not all innocence.

I am plum: thin-skinned, single-seeded at the core, ruby-meated, and frosty with gray.

I may be fooling myself. Uncertainty sets in … Is it possible I peel like a banana? Long strips pulled away one by one to dangle where I end? Multiple seeds in a fragile wheel running the length of me, each so small as to go all but unnoticeable? I don’t want to be a banana. I don’t want to be thick-skinned any more than I want to be thin-skinned. I don’t want to contain a wheel of miniscule seeds or mush down under the weight of a fork. On the other hand, there are few things that taste better than a slice of banana leaned against a spoonful of hot-fudge topped vanilla ice cream. (I seem to be waffling again.)

Let me stand outside myself for a moment and ask, What’s the deal with the one seed or pit or whatever you want to call it versus multiple seeds at your core?

It’s the heart, I answer. It’s the house where what some people call the soul resides. It’s the intangible center of what makes me—me. Maybe I’m many-centered. Could be I’m dithering (again).