Happiness, I think, must have been hard-won during the Great Depression. My grandmother planted flowers. Not just a daisy here or there, but a glut of them. Row upon row of iris, tulips, gladioli. Peony bushes so heavy with blossoms they toppled over. Roses climbing trellises, poppies wagging bonneted heads, lilies stooping, sleepy on their long stems.
Of course, of course, a garden! Times were hard, so – tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, carrots, onions. Yes, all that and more, but the flowers . . . the flowers were her happiness, and I love to picture my mom working with her, small girl with straight bangs and a cotton dress, crouched beneath a sun hat, between the pink-lavender-scarlet rows.
My mother left the shelter of the valley when she married – moved up the hill where the weather was in constant, vivid motion, a clean wind endlessly scouring the prairie. She planted flowers. It was harder there, the soil not as amiable to the fickle seeds, but she worked at it. And when the wind caught in the lilacs to push their sweetness through the old farmhouse, it smelled like home in every room.
Of course, it became home.
I was a farmer’s daughter, and more interested in my father’s pursuits than my mother’s. Haying or running a combine made flower-work into child’s play, a triviality. Not until I’d moved away - had my own children, an old station wagon and a plethora of unpaid bills – did I begin to appreciate the tender resilience of women and flowers.
I planted cannas - the largest, brightest variety I could get my hands on. From seeds. My little girl followed with a toy watering can while the baby watched from his playpen beneath the awning, and then we checked on them every day. By the time the new shoots poked through the mud, the homesickness and heartache had subsided a bit. We’d begun to call that alien patch of hard-scrabble yard home.
And the blossoms were glorious, big as a man’s palm and red as clown paint. They nurtured me – dazzled my eyes and fed my soul - until I was strong enough to stand well on my own.
*From left to right: my grandmother, my mother, and my daughter.
Sometimes, a writer just needs to flex her muscles, so to speak. This piece was that opportunity for me. What is the sound of spring? What is the feel of her? I had fun! Shaping words to life is a beautiful pastime. Hope you enjoy!
Out on the prairie, over the hill, Spring screamed herself raw - shrieked like a wild, untamed thing, a banshee - and finally sailed into the valley and set the shutters banging on the close, huddled houses, so that the townspeople roused, checked their weather radios, called the dogs in.
By mid-morning, the sky was purple, and hectic with the energy of a tempestuous child, clouds drifting like bits of ragged gauze - and the windows on the houses stayed closed until the rain had passed.
Then came a noise made up of water-rush and bird calls and breezes pushing old dead leaves aside. A song like an old swing melody picked tenderly on banjo strings. And the people opened windows to listen and . . . there. There was the sound of Spring.
A hundred windows opening at once.
Every door that Winter had closed bursting at the hinges, all the shutters flung wide and every bit of Winter’s trash pushed to the curb. Sadness, anger, darkness, despair balled up like last week’s newspaper and tossed to the wind. Hopelessness, heartache, begone!
Robins tugged at earthworms, children found their ball bats, old men warmed their tired bones on front porch stoops. Firemen washed their trucks, bartenders bought a round for the house, the local priest played hopscotch with the first communicants. And everyone, everyone remembered.
Remembered light and love and happiness.
And the energy of their remembering lifted all that joy upward, and out, and it rained back down on them, benevolent as sunshine, warm enough to bathe in. Because that is, of course, the nature of happiness, and love – it spreads, it gets larger until all the cold gray stuff is gone.
Every window open.
Shutters making a joyful, banging racket in the wind.
Hello, new little writing home! Aren’t you pretty? I feel as though I could sip a cup of coffee and linger here for a bit.
A long and sorrowful autumn has passed since last I tarried in a webpage, and now winter clenches it jaws, shaking the life from us. My dreams have lately been fantastical, afloat in water the color of Curacao, with frog song like the noise of Muddy Waters jamming on the shore. Long walks in pink mist, a big hand cradling mine. In my dreams, I write, and the passage of time never alters this. Miracles and silvery piano chords, tarot cards and chocolate dump cake - all sweep along with the stroke of the pen.
In my waking life, Gentle Reader, I write – and this, too, remains unaltered.
Witness the little girl curled in the leather armchair with a notebook in her lap, lips pursed soundlessly around words she is making her own. The new mother with a baby in the crook of her arm, a pen in her right hand. The cashier who kept a list of her customers idiosyncrasies beneath the counter, the EMT who spilled her sorrows and elations into a journal.
All me. Writing, always writing.
There are worse habits, aren’t there?
But the creative process is like a drug, at once swaddling and unraveling the psyche. Imagine breathing life into a person, a setting, a world, and perhaps you can understand the addiction. For years, sharing such a treasure was unthinkable. My facebook page felt . . . trivial. Twitter? A madhouse. Blogs? Absolutely soul-baring, and that was never, ever what I wanted.
Until people began to respond.
And in turn I realized that I might have something to say, to somebody besides myself.
Publishing a novel was an impossibility until it happened. Until I opened that first box of dreams papered in blue sparkles - and I will tell you now, lovely people, that my little book did exactly as ordered, wending its way into the world and touching a few lives. Lives. So, both larger and smaller than I’d anticipated, but overall, something like August sunshine and hot fudge sundaes, everything good.
And so, I thought that . . . maybe writing isn’t very different from EMS. Maybe it’s the touching of lives that matters most.
Welcome to my webpage! May your journey here be magical!
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
I'm not a poetry reader, isn't that a shame? That's a bit like saying “I don't listen to music”, which would be unthinkable. So I'm setting out, this summer, to remedy that situation, and when Mary Oliver crossed my facebook page – the way so many poets, authors, and artists do, just in the random act of a friend hitting the “share” button – I decided the time is now. I've ordered her “A Thousand Mornings” and may even give it precedence over my annual reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Summer has bruised me, this year, with too many stresses, ill tempers, unfinished projects and unanticipated bills. The drawn-out decline and final, horrid death of my beloved dog, Boo. Heat that clings like a viscid second skin. Poison ivy on my shins.
I've created a quiet spot in the woods near my house – arranged two sky-blue Adirondack chairs around the roots of a giant maple, hung wind chimes and bird feeders, strung fairy lights where the overhead branches dip down almost to the ground. The effect is something like a child's secret hideaway, walls and ceiling of jeweled green, dirt floor soft and cool. In the evening, when the sky is plum-colored and the bats cutting capers above the house roof, I can feel my soul unwind. I can almost believe in magic.
Ah Lord, life would be better, wouldn't it, if we could all subscribe to that simple ideology?
Importing my blog onto the new website has been quite the feat. My team and I are still in the process of categorizing and fine-tuning the years of posts you'll find here. We hope you enjoy our work-in-progress library. Check back soon for updates!