We arrive with all our eggs carried like loose change until time and sperm meet and a baby grows where nothing has lived before. We cast the best eggs first save lesser ones for later like unmarried daughters spinster cells - homely but good at housekeeping. The price for children is pain mental and physical. Childbirth is the well-kept secret of forcing a bowling ball through a buttonhole. Unmentioned too are cramps which yield only to tub, hot pad or drugs - the feeling of one’s innards being yanked out like a dropped transmission. And Lizzie Borden days when PMS changes our minds to war zones. Anger and profanity replace finer feeling and a flat tire is reason to call the suicide hotline. Did we choose the wrong gender? One must wonder until 20 hours in when they hand me you, made in me. A miracle to erase all memory of pain.
Please no box, no steel to seal me from the earth. Return me when it is my time to all I was and wish to be again. Release me to be born anew, green and wonderful each Spring – shoots sprouting from my heart each part of me blooming. Promise me.
A blue jay struts across the porch to forage in our planters. The red streak at eye level's a cardinal. White “ribbons” wrap the trees - plastic prayer flags to a God, gnome or Goddess unknown. A cuban lizard pulls one off the live oak on the corner. As I leave Johnnie’s Bakery, an agama, his head and tail stripe the color of children’s aspirin, races ahead of me. Johnnie’s bread has the taste of hope hand-made, crusty, fresh. So too does the air, laced with scent of gardenia, magnolia and surf. Beauty confounds the thought of 50,000 dead. Mourners bereft of goodbye are blind with grief while fear heightens others'senses. How can such extremes of bliss and horror cohabit this planet? The return of wildlife, clean air and quiet seas make it clear this earth can shrug us off without notice.
My aunt gave me the sea in a book big as me. Curled in a chair, I wandered tidal pools despite the Christmas chill held hermit crabs and starfish inhaled salt air. I walked that book’s pages with childlike devotion an eight-year-old explorer baby beach comber. Robert Frost’s snow drifted into my 4th grade class and I listen for his horse’s bells as I practiced writing and first used an ink pen. Line by cursive line his poetry became mine along with the smell of ink, the feel of good paper, the love of pens. I began my own poems in solitude, sweet solitude…
Dad dreams we flee the Nazis, our ‘55 Buick low on gas. We drive by the sea. They come with guns. They come in submarines. He wakes sweating and terrified. He shares his fear with me. Nazis enter my dreams dragging the stench of Dachau. They come with guns. They come in submarines. I wake sweating and terrified. Neo-Nazis march in Charlotte armed - flags waving, hatred palpable and near. In dreams, I hear the thud of boots on the night stairs.
Hold every cell still palm under chin legs and feet balanced. Stay in the trough between cough and ache. Sleep without waking the dragon. Forget how tooth, limb and eye throb and cry for relief. Dream, pray wish this will pass.
She touches me as if I'm rock or tree immune to time and gravity, impervious to woe. The twenty years we’ve left (with luck and grace) invisible to her. In her constant now our cardinal sings the mac ‘n cheese is hot. We walk the stones in her backyard our sacred spot. She will have time enough to seek me in rocks and trees when I’m gone. Today she leans against my jeans and turns me briefly immortal.
These mornings are it, life’s glory disguised as just another Spring day. Sunshine, leaving for work in the soft air - a bit of traffic, not too much – an easy commute. The sweetness of it, life here and now - The no big deal, the simple day, the normalcy. It’s what I yearn for when life turns cruel to drive over the bridge into town to breathe the smell of the river, to ride down Main Street as cherry trees blossom. Give me a day like that, I think one with no special thoughts or agonies, a day to enjoy my habits with nothing amiss. Sometimes I walk right by them without noticing, these perfect days, driving down Main Street.
Squirrels remind me of a man I loved, who with rope and spike mimicked them climbing trees and swinging limb from limb. “They are my brothers” he said. Came home crying one day because he crushed a nest, killed babies, when he felled an oak. I stop to watch a tree man work today. High in the air he swings in chain saw ballet. As I watch him cut,climb leap from limb to limb, my young life returns to me. I see my love without a net fearless and free against the sky.
A flattened Cane Toad lies in the street. Its poison can kill a dog. They hunt by the garage at night under the light - run when I come out leap into the garage door with a THUD. Invasive. Poisonous. Not bright. When the temperature drops below 40 in South Florida, iguanas fall from trees like rain. “Don’t touch them” we’re told these colorful creatures are dormant. They advise us to kill them -these visitors from the Jurassic. I cannot. How could they know they’re trespassing? Purple stalks of Lupine carpet Iceland their color pops against green moss. Their beauty out-competes local flowers - poses for photo ops with tourists picnicking by “Keep Off” signs, blankets old lava flows and glacial melts. Visitors stride from ships and planes to seek this island’s treasures - yet urge it to trade silkies for Sea World. Loosestrife blooms each August at riverside in my old town. The mill wheel turns. Art hangs in the stone museum. People come for the small shops and fine buildings but stay for quiet streets overcast by ancient trees. The area booms when the Interstate is finished - corporate folks out-compete farmers. Agway loses to Walmart. Commuters careen past hay wagons on country roads.
we’re not artists in all places, times. no one’s whole life rhymes. at moments we may draw, write, pray. at others, watch, love, raise children, join the fray of being. let’s love ourselves await the time when Spirit calls then pick up pen or violin and begin.
Las Vegas. How glorious. It’s a hot diggity dog free-for-all. No planning, no zoning – dump it all out there on dry-as-a-bone high desert, a pawnshop, car-wash heaven. Million dollar-gated communities rest flush against junked car yards with razor wire fences, graffitied underpasses and washed out arroyos with undocumented poverty up the wazoo. In the middle of which someone has dropped a statute of liberty, a sphinx and a pyramid stitched together by a roller coaster - “Oh, say can you see!" People flock here to drop millions. “They’ve shipped the wild horses north.” The park ranger told me. “They couldn’t survive here.”
The whole place we built ourselves not just paper and paint. We hung rafters from the sky a chimney and bright metal roof which sang in every rain. We walked blank land and invented life anew in the Blue Ridge as if anyone ever starts again. Years later a blind date remarked “You’ve spent your life on houses.” True. Like a nest-obsessed bird, I painted my way from town to town designing space for friends and music, tables to sit at and chairs to read in. I envisioned a family unlike my scattered patchwork which rarely gathers where I live. All that time and work for a life dreamed of a love desired – perhaps that’s why birds have not just nests but wings.
I did not know when I birthed my son that he would take my heart with him. At night, desperate for rest half asleep, barely present I’d attempt to nurse him. The choice frustrated us both. One night when he cried, I took him downstairs to my rocker, made tea, made us comfortable and realized he was my life. He grew. I watched my heart learn to walk, read navigate friendships, school and grieve a first love anew. He became a man who with his spouse created three children into whom he placed his heart. Together, powerless but present remembering our own youth we watch their spirits grow as they navigate their lives. We’re participant and spectator both since we freed our hearts to beat, break and love inside our children.