Just bitchin'

The Nature of Expansion

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“Your problems are so big compared to mine.”

Not really.

The thing about problems is their intense individuality.

There is no large.

There is no small.

The thing about problems is their ability to expand, to reach into every corner of your life.

Your intellect tells you that losing a loved one is so much more devastating than losing a job. But the heart engages on a different level. Both misfortunes expand, consume, fill. The sufferer’s life is colored; time divided into a Before and an After.

Lost loved one.

Lost job.

Lost pet.

Lost reputation.

Lost limb.

Lost opportunity.

Lost love.

Illness.

Pain.

Misunderstanding.

Unfulfilled desire.

There is no large and there is no small.

There is full, and there is free.

Use this knowledge of volume for compassion.

And for hope.

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animals, Just bitchin', poem, writing

Ebony

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She follows me,

a slinking, silent presence filled with expectation.

Her coat is dusty.

She’s been rolling in dead leaves,

rubbing her skin against pavement and stems.

She itches;

a pleasure that will turn to torment with age.

A black ghost, a shadow.

I offer food, water, play, affection.

Green-flame eyes bore into mine.

Stupid human not to understand.

They are everywhere.

She is near the end of her life

and her world is thick with spirits

I can’t see.

Yet.

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Just bitchin', poem

For Fatherless Girls on Father’s Day

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As you recall times shared with family and father,

some of us look back on a singular lack.

I remember hearing ‘Girls don’t need fathers as much as boys do.’

Emphatically and thoroughly not true.

The place where a father might have been is empty and dark.

Less than grief, but more than loss, a separate chamber in the heart.

We’re girls who learn men from the outside first,

slaking a congenital thirst.

We grow up strong, we make up the lack,

But there’s something that we never get back:

the memories others celebrate today,

fathers and daughters along the way.

We’re grown women who have learned our way,

but the father-shaped abyss echoes today.

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garden, Just bitchin'

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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Just bitchin', writing

Dear Outlook.com

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Dear Outlook.com,

 

Hello there, my old friend.

We’ve been together for quite some time now, haven’t we? Long enough for me to overcome my trust issues and learn to lean on you. Long enough for me to rely on you, making you the guardian of some of my most precious information.

You know…things like email correspondence with agents and publishers…contracts for the work that’s been or is going to be published…critiques and encouragement that mean the world to my shriveled, degenerate writer’s soul.

You know…all the stuff I crammed into a custom folder with the unoriginal title of ‘Writing.’

You know…all the stuff that disappeared today.

I can’t tell you, dear Outlook, how thrilled I was to find a completely different program in your place when I logged in after lunch. That’ll teach me to take a midday break, I guess.

But…back to you, the star of this love letter.

Can you imagine that ‘special’ feeling I got when I realized my old friend had been transformed into a cumbersome, lumbering, inelegant troll?

I bet you can’t.

Do you know how great it was when I tried seventeen times to access the live chat Help Desk only to find you are now so buggy, you cut every attempt off as soon as the chat begins?

I bet you don’t.

Can you imagine the rage of loss that had me considering legal action for the wanton destruction of years of accumulated information?

I bet you can’t.

Do you know how much fun it is to now have to employ numerous mouse clicks and maneuvering where before one click sufficed?

I bet you don’t.

So thank you, dear friend, for a day devoted to panic and anger.

It’s special times like these that remind me how much you care. We are so in sync, you just know you don’t need to warn me.

So, thank you, dear Outlook.com. After that heavy cup of yogurt for lunch, I really needed that shot of adrenaline to get me through the rest of the day. You know…the reaction to finding years of effort…gone.

No, I bet you don’t.

And you wonder why so many writers become raging alcoholics.

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