poem, writing

A Goreyesque-ly Good Day

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The weather is savage.

Wind churns the bay into frothing whitecaps.

The waves batter against the bulkhead with force that resonates through the cottage’s foundation. Two feet of concrete seems like a flimsy barrier upon which to depend when salty droplets pepper the windows.

Leaves and pine needles fall before the gusty assault, turning into missiles that sting the flesh, scoring it with reddened welts.

You feel small and mortal and anxious before such force.

It’s the perfect start to Halloween weekend.

To make it even better, the online literary journal Goreyesque has published my poem ‘Ogre’ in their Halloween edition.

http://www.goreyesque.com/cat-jenkins

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Always a fan of the subtle, sublime, and unsettlingly brilliant author and artist Edward Gorey, I am honored.

Once again…

…Happy Halloween…

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Suddenly Strange

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This morning there were bats silhouetted against ragged clouds tinted moon-orange.

Such eerie beauty catches your breath. When you remember to inhale, you breathe in the change that is gathering in the dark. This is the time of year when worlds collide…

…when the separation between superstition and logic thins, perforates, lifts…

…when it is rumored the faerie kingdom is on the move, changing venue for another year…

…when ethereal things solidify…

…when the current of strange energy that few can perceive, flares bright.

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It’s candy and costumes and masked balls. It’s opening your door to strangers and taking risks.

It’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach that wavers between terror and anticipation. It’s the small hairs on your neck rising. It’s the fleeting image of something pale gibbering in the corner of your eye.

You are haunted.

You love it.

Happy Halloween…

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Life Lessons from the Garden

IMG_1303There is a time in childhood when things seem magical. No matter what else is happening in your young life, you believe in things strange and enchanted. It doesn’t last very long.

As adults, we look back on it wistfully, unable to find our way back to that simple, easy faith that made the world such a miraculous place. I was lucky enough to spend much of that magical interval in Granny’s garden.

Shortly after I was born, my parents’ marriage began to flicker. It was only a matter of time before the light went out of it completely. I knew something was wrong.

But I had Granny’s garden that summer I was six years old.

While my parents sorted out their troubles, they sent me off to Granny’s.

I remember wooden floors baked honey-warm by sunlight streaming through windows with tiny stained glass borders of purple grapes and gold-green vines coloring the rays. I remember the quiet purring of Granny’s cat and the brown sugar scent of its fur. I remember an endless supply of home-baked cookies frosted in pretty pinks and yellows.

But mostly I remember the garden.

There is something to be said for living on the same piece of land for fifty years. You learn its rhythms, its pulse, its eccentricities. Bulbs naturalize in patterns only nature could paint. Perennials root more and more deeply, soaring to new heights of beauty each year. Annuals self-seed in new locations chosen by wind and chance, bringing colorful surprises each spring.

On fine, sunny days Granny and I would venture forth into the garden. I would spend hours exploring its wonders while she sowed and weeded and watered. Toward the end of each day, sunburned and berry-stained, I would watch her worn, brown hands as she performed each task with a peaceful kind of grace.

Sometimes she would tell me stories. Sometimes they were about my mother when she was a little girl. Sometimes they were fairy tales built around the denizens of her garden; the flower fairies. I was mesmerized by Jolly Holly Berry, Phyllis Foxglove, and Tiny Johnny Jump-Up, to name a few.

One day as summer was drawing to a close, I was sad, knowing school would start soon and summer in the garden would end. Granny was pruning back bits of my favorite rose. It was a vigorous climber, covered in tiny, pink blossoms. Granny said it was called “Fairies’ Blanket.” I took the name literally and was always peeking behind the arching sprays of pink to see if I could catch a fairy napping.

“The deer have been at it again!” she said, shaking her head. “See these bare tips where the flowers and leaves are missing? That’s deer-work all right.”

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I was uncharacteristically silent. The quiet snipping of the pruning shears continued for a while. Then…

“Child, you know your parents’ troubles have nothing to do with you, don’t you?” Somehow Granny knew what the root of my six-year-old worries were.

“I know…..but…”

“But what?”

“Nothing.”

Granny squinted into the sunlight, searching for more deer-work to trim.

“You know, I planted this rose the day your grandfather passed on.” With gentle fingers she loosened a spray of blossoms that had become tangled with its neighbor.

“Your Grandpa was the light of my life. And I was his. When he left, I thought there’d never be anything happy or beautiful again. So I planted this rose.”

“So?”

“So look at all the damage those deer have done. But once I trim it away, you can bet there’ll be more roses growing from the wound. It just takes time.”

She reached higher, using the shears to snag a tall stem and bring it closer.

“Some of the best parts of life have happened to me since your Grandpa died. You, for one. I didn’t know how happy grandchildren would make me. You’re a kind of rose. A different kind than Grandpa was, but still…a rose.”

She stepped back, squinting against the sun to survey her work.

“The point is, child, no matter what gets ripped away from you by things you can’t control, something else just as wonderful could be in store, waiting to grow from the wound. Just give it time.”

An awful lot of things have happened since that summer. My parents did divorce. I have my own home now. My garden isn’t near as nice as Granny’s was, but there’s a rose climbing up outside my kitchen door. It’s covered with tiny, pink, perfect blossoms from June to mid-November. I’ve seen a deer come and nibble on it from time to time. It doesn’t really matter. I prune out the damage to make room for new flowers.

It takes time, but beauty will grow from the wound. And it’s worth the wait.

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An Autumn Memory

blogapple2_1“No hay manzanas en Mexico,” the old man growled.

No apples in Mexico? Was that really true? Maybe he just didn’t like the question. Or maybe he just didn’t like me.

He turned away, back bent under a large basket of avocados, muttering to himself. I caught the words “gringa” and “loca.”

I’d been traveling all summer, trying to make the most of what I saw as my final break before entering the “real world” where I’d have to find a job and settle down to the business of being an adult, for once and for all, until death do I part. To tell the truth, I was a little reluctant and a little scared. So I took off for Mexico as soon as graduation was over.

So far, it had been great. There had been some culture shock. I had learned that girls who get pinched in the market place aren’t supposed to punch their admirers. I learned that if you bought anything, the vendors would ask you how much you “wanted” to pay on the receipt as opposed to how much you actually paid. This allowed you to bend some of the strictures about bringing merchandise over the border. I learned that you really, honestly shouldn’t drink the water…or eat anything washed in the water, if you weren’t acclimated to any local digestive bugaboos.

Now it was autumn and I was in Taxco. Drought ruled. There was no water in the cheap motel I’d taken. I spent the night sitting in my room’s wide, adobe window frame, watching more stars than I ever thought the sky could hold. Somewhere a dog or coyote barked. There was an answer. And another. Soon a canine symphony was traveling from horizon to horizon, speaking a wild kind of joy.

Increasingly over the last couple of weeks I’d been having bouts of homesickness. Crouched on the windowsill, feeling dusty and grubby from lack of water to wash in, I thought of autumn at home.

Leaves would be every color found on the warm side of the rainbow. The air would be sharp with frost and scented pines. Everyone would be snuggled in sweaters pulled from summer storage, still smelling slightly of camphor. And there would be lovely things like pumpkin pie, hazelnuts fresh from the tree, and apples.

Wonderful apples.

I closed my eyes and relived walking through an orchard, picking a perfect fruit, biting into its tart, sweet, crunchiness.

Come morning, all I wanted was to taste a newly picked apple. So, I walked down the narrow streets of Taxco, naively thinking that there should be orchards in what I considered a rural locale.

That old man with the avocados made me mentally slap myself. I was thousands of miles away from where apples grew naturally. I drooped under my dashed hopes.

A small girl had witnessed the grumbling exchange. She tugged at the hem of my jacket and said, “Senorita, mi padre tiene manzanas.”

“Your father has apples?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Si. El los hace.”

“He MAKES them?” I must have misunderstood, but with a wide, innocent smile, she grabbed my hand and pulled toward the road which led to the center of town. She chattered about how beautiful her father’s apples were. I let her lead me, curious to see how this would turn out.

It seemed my exuberant, little guide was headed toward the town’s main street.

We turned a corner and stepped out into a river of silver. Taxco is known for its silversmiths. Apparently, this was the section of town devoted to the art. Both sides of the street were lined with tables, cases, booths displaying beautifully crafted silver. In the clear, mid-morning light jewelry, utensils and sculptures rippled and sparkled.

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My little friend pulled my hand, impatient. Almost blinded by the reflection, I let her bring me to a stand halfway down the street. The man behind the makeshift counter gave me a huge smile.

“Eh, pequena, donde has estado?” he queried, “Little one, where have you been?”

His daughter answered that she had found a lady who was looking for apples and proudly pointed to her papa’s display.

Silver apples as paperweights, serving dishes, Christmas ornaments, picture frames, belt buckles and every other creation that lent itself to this noble metal surrounded me. I laughed, crumbling in mirth until father and daughter exchanged significant glances. A crazy tourist was among them!

Finally, I did pick out a delicate necklace with tiny, silver apples strung on an elegant chain. I thanked the little girl for helping me find apples and walked up the street to the place where northbound buses stopped.

I’ll never forget picking silver, Mexican apples. It was the day I finally decided to go home.

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