Sunday, June 23, 2013

What Comes Around, Goes Around, But Don't Worry About the Dizzy, Baby (That's just you taking shape.)

We rode a train today in two circles.  I asked Nora where we'd end up, if we could ask the conductor to drop us off in France, and she replied (so factually minded) that we would be returned to the same place we had begun.  Then she set her face forward (brave girl ready to do it all again and again only to arrive as she had left, resigned, determined) and despite this, enjoyed the cool breath that moved across her sweaty forehead when I wanted to take her up and tell her to never return to the same place she started without having been changed, without doing something good and crazy and healthy on the journey.   She knew this already.

The conductor would pull the whistle rope, and I matched the note with arms up in the air riding a completely horizontal roller-coaster:  WOOOOOOOOWOOOOOOOOOOOO.  I could see from the way Nora wanted to laugh but didn't that she was on the edge of being embarrassed.  But I refused to let it pass: the chance to yell WOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  In the tunnel, the conductor turned around and yelled, "Ready?"  Yes, I was.  And we screamed through the tunnel.  Twice around we went, and just as Nora had promised, we were returned to the place we started but better, released, loud and cool.

Nora and I are living in my folks' basement for the time being, another full circle.  We arrived in Nebraska six years ago and slept in this same room for six months.  And now we wait for the circle to be completed: to return to her birthplace in Athens, GA.  Six years ago, Mom and Mike arrived with a white trailer to pack us up.  Nora had been in my arms for the last four months on a breathing monitor.  On the 18 hour ride, we pulled over at one point beside a wheat field, so I could try to rock Nora to sleep in the shade of the car.  She cried and a combine circled by, the yellow dust rising up in a loud cloud that forced us to move our vehicles.  I'm not sure if there's anything braver than a mother taking her baby across 1000 miles.  I don't see myself this way, but I probably should. 

Don't be surprised when you see how easy it is to release the activities of the old life, so you might take up the commandments of the new.  We lived on a farm.  I was an English professor.  And that is the story that waited to unfold when I walked for the first time into my mom's living room with a six month old baby in my arms, sat in a chair and asked, "What happens now?"  And that is what happened.  You were witnesses.  You helped us with your songs and food and love and prayers.  And now I'm holding vigil here asking to be released because there is someone so beautiful and strong and certain waiting for us just down the rode a 1000 miles, my husband Tom.  I've cleared the space, taken the New Name, and I'm ready to call the freedom song beside the fields, through the tunnels, across the skies until we're home again.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Tales from the Sickbed

Someone Needs to Go Back to School

Nora loves to type random letters on my keyboard and then have me read them to her.  For example:
aiopwpeoinbknps.  She delights in the sounds, all garbled and silly.  So do I.

After a few minutes of this, I start typing sentences for her to read:

I love Nora.

Nora loves cats.

Nora loves stars.

Nora loves dogs.

Nora loves blue.

She did fine up until this last one.  "Nora loves...b....Nora loves....bue..."  Suddenly a look of recognition.  "NORA LOVES BOOBS!"

This is what happens when you miss almost two weeks of school.

So, this is Friday night, eh?

I know I've been sick, but it's Friday.  I'm pretty sure if I wipe the rim of my wine glass with a Clorox disinfecting wipe, I'm in the clear.

Maybe It's A Little Too Soon to Try Jumping on the Bed, Nora

There's a look of panic on her face.  I grab her around the waist and rush her out toward the bathroom.  "Stop, Mom.  Stop."  I put her down.  "It's okay.  I just threw up a little in my mouth, but I swallowed it.  That's the easiest way to take care of throwing up."

We rest.  We mend.  We eat a little.  We mend.  We are loved from near and far.  We mend.  Prayers go up.  We mend.  We laugh.  We mend.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mercy Seed

If you know the snow seed, plant the fence around the spare note, the pick up note, left behind that grows into a farmhouse in the middle of the white space, five lines grouped on the sheet of paper.  She holds a girl, six, in the single bed her mother bought after she moved out, when she lived in the basement room of an unknown house because she needed to be loved gentle and right.  Her granddaughter falls asleep, and her daughter plants the kiss on the nose that's still growing.

This is not meant to romanticize a life lived for real.  But it is the same kind of thing you find in a shoebox made into a Valentine mailbox.  If you will but slip the note into the box and let it read:  I have been looking for you because I saw you forever.

It's easy when you move into it and speak from within it rather than about it.  


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Hands

Lined maps of all that has passed across the outstretched vista.  You see it was not your future written there but the lines of your past traced deep to reveal your work and your love, canyons carved by the waters of life's precipitation and participation.  How you allowed yourself to be moved, to be changed, is recorded there in the fissures.  And all that was held heavy, that cut deep, can be released, so you might hold them out now, holy palimpsests awaiting the arrival of your Beloved's own difficult and beautiful maps, the two finally folded together as you walk the rest of the way Home.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Refresh Me

Morning:  The space is both barn and ark, the ceiling high and made of wood slats stained dark.   Nora sits quiet beside me as the woman in front speaks of advent, the coming, and explains the candles and tree, the banner that will rotate for the next three weeks until it reveals the arrival of Light in the dark world.  Every Wednesday, I join the kindergarten class for chapel.  I'm the tallest one in the group by far.  Later, I join the folks at Concordia for communion.  I leave my coat on because I'm uncomfortable with my body lately, a winter pattern.  I make a note of it, this desire to hibernate in large pieces of fabric, to hide and burrow.  I sit down and close my eyes.  The people around me are singing hymn 349.  I keep my eyes closed and ask to be refreshed.

Afternoon:  The wind blows my earrings around, so I take them out and shove them down into the pocket of my jeans.  The route I take from my office and into the woods is as direct as possible, a slight turn around the art building and a few yards across the track.  I make a note of the way others engage motion:  one man walks in circles with his hood pulled up, the other runs.  I realize I'm not a "track" person.  I keep walking up and over the rise and down a steep hill until I reach the trail.  Supposedly there have been mountain lion sightings, so I stick to the concrete part.  Mountain lions hate concrete.  That's a fact.  I keep my eyes open and ask to be refreshed.

Early Evening:  Nora and I finish her birthday poster, she eats, and then it's straight to the bath.  Hair is washed and braided, fingernails clipped, lotion rubbed into little feet, stories of snow bears and kissing frogs are read, and she is refreshed.

Late Evening:  I stretch and move this body, unwrap the fabric, and after thirty minutes, I can feel oxygen in the blood stream again.  I hear from Tom who has been in NYC for the last few days.  I miss him constantly, running my hands through this time apart, trying to untangle the distance.  I need to be brave enough to feel how much I miss him, and when I hear his voice on the line:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"You are here with me.  You have been here."

This bright kitchen on the evening of Thanksgiving fills with root smells:  turnip.  And the voluptuous butternut squash.  The onion slices quickly tossed in and spread across the glass baking dish.  Olive oil, sea salt.  Mix with bare hands and rub the oil in after you run water across, the skin glossy.  Waterproof.  Nora sleeps safe and happy after cousin play.

Would you believe me if I told you everything is beautiful?  You would?  I knew you would.

Tom is in a studio in Georgia putting songs on tape late in the night.  I put on an REM song that starts with the sound of the cicadas and the trees and the crickets, and even though it's the wrong season, I imagine where he is.  The trees reach high above his head.  He walks between the studio and his safe, white house, and I hear the gravel under his feet as he talks.

These moments happen all the time.  I hold my hands open.  Thank you.

"I think about this world...And I cry a lot.  But I'm in this kitchen.  Everything is beautiful."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So here I am in a little farmhouse in Nebraska after God put me in a safe and growing place, and I worked through my past as I worked through the garden.  I was scared and I was pretty sure that I'd messed up so badly that I'd never recover, like I'd be singing the Single Mama blues forever working too hard for not much and making ends meet by tying together what came my way from the local second hand store, from what my sister passed down to me, and from I was able to grow from a $1.29 packet of seed picked up at Walmart.  And I prayed the fabric of this life would hold strong, so we could pull it up to our chins at night, Nora and I in the double bed my great aunt had passed down to me after her death and whose Rodale's Garden Problem Solver became my regular reading though I never would have believed it.

And then Pastor J. showed up and we talked a lot of honest stuff across the scarred kitchen table, and Nora was three, and she started preschool, and I met so many beautiful women, and we laughed and we sang and we loved, and we still do even while we're negotiating the changes that come when women are mothers and women and wives and wishers.  Then  I got hired full time at the University after 80 other applicants passed through, and I could not believe it.   I payed bills.  All of them.

And all this time my mom and my stepdad were loving me and holding me strong and encouraging me, and I bought some boots for kicking around the shit that haunted me and the new ideas that also haunted me.  And I wrote to friends and I wrote to the world and I sang on my dad's Martin in the kitchen sitting on the counter with my bare feet propped up, just cover tunes because I was still looking for my own voice, and when it was too hot, I'd drink a beer or some sun tea, and when it was too cold, I'd close the door to my bedroom, turn the heat down and crank up the space heater as Nora and I hunkered down.  The landscape turned from green miles to the white of some alien landscape, the little brick house they built for Ila sitting around us like Fort Farm, and we were under attack not from anything I could address directly like a broken well pump or a dead farm cat in the shed, but from the pain of already sealed choices I'd made for myself and for my daughter, who lives with my decisions as children must.  Back then when I didn't know where I, this real woman who woke each day as herself either closer or farther away from that "I" and what she was made to be, could place myself, and the distance between us was immeasurable though I couldn't, at the time, have known that I should be thinking about the states that separated us.  This man.

I still couldn't articulate then what I deserved until the rain poured down into your shoes, and we decided not to harden our heart, and there you were: 1000 miles away.

And here it is, and it asks courageously that I walk away with what I found here on the farm, carrying our lives in a bundle of seed packets labeled "Holy Night She Cried Until the Morning Glory" and "Sweet Pea that He Calls Her When She Looks Shy at the Dinner Table with Bread He Baked" and "The Only Explanation is Heirloom Grace Seed" and "Protect the Children in the Fortress Called Home of Our Belonging" beyond the plains, beyond my own small expectations for my life into what I was actually made to receive and made to give.