out there

out there

it’s been fairly nose-to-the-grindstone excruciating trying to get on top of work since we launched The Stir (did you check it out yet?). however, i’m holding my head high, knowing it won’t be like this forever.

and it helps that there are flocks of goldfinch tearing around the neighborhood every morning, throwing exuberant parties in the treetops. it’s also baseball season! my coffee is always freshly roasted, and i’m drinking smoothies every day. not to mention, there’s a $25 bid on my chocolate cake photo. and i have a fried chicken sandwich in my future (no, not because i won, but because i owe m one for pulling through on our writing bet, and i’m sure not going to let her eat alone).

i will come back to the stories. i have so many more to tell. like the one about the glowing yellow window, through the lattice work, and the sadness that sits inside. or the way she drove me, at 92, through the green and rolling hills, under the blossoming pink trees, down the familiar road streaked in yellow mustard, and showed me the way — and how i can’t stop wishing i hadn’t been in such a hurry. or the dream, in which i was running and leaping across green grassy fields. how soft black skunks were hiding in the clover. how i was trying to “get away from it all” there in that field, out in the wild, but the “all” was still there. still in the back of my dreamy mind.

yep, there are plenty more.

so…how is it out there anyway? do tell.

convalesce

story #10 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

when i walk the halls of the convalescent hospital, i can’t help but wonder which kind of resident i will be.

will i be the woman with the oversized, cage-like walker who can’t stop walking. she does about fifty loops a day. or more. she can’t stop. what does she think will happen if she stops? i can only guess. it’s quite possible she thinks she’s getting somewhere too, one big loop at a time. she sometimes stops and goes into other people’s room. maybe she thinks she has finally arrived. it’s probably very hard to get going again when she finds out she hasn’t.

or maybe i will be the tiny barefooted woman curled on her side in an afternoon nap on top of the blankets.  does she feel at home there? will i? even now, i can’t take a nap without a blanket over me. how tired do you have to be to feel at home there?

the woman a few rooms down is tucked in a tight cocoon, her big eyes looking out into the hall. is that who i will be?  too tired to fight, arms tucked inside the safety swaddle of an end that takes forever to come?

nine

story #9 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

there was a time when i would have thought it a strange coincidence that i’m writing story #9 right as i celebrate my 9th sobriety birthday, but those days are gone. now i know better. the right things happens at the right time because life is perfect.

i started this post a couple days ago, on my actual 9th sobriety birthday, only to be pulled away with news of my 89-year-old grandpa being taken to the hospital. and so i dropped the perfect post at the perfect time in order to do the next thing that would wind me up amid another helping of life on life’s terms. and although old age can be cruel and things are not good for my grandpa right now, although not as bad as they could be either, i am glad i could show up for him.

it’s scary in the ER late at night. the bright lights, fast pace, bodies broken, minds lost, big words, rules. i touched his white hair, and he acted like everything was okay when it really wasn’t. i will never have the words to describe the look in his eyes, and at some point, he said to me, “you’ve gotten away from me lately,” meaning i haven’t seen him in several weeks, meaning i cried all the way home.

all of this just seems too intensely intimate and soon to talk about. i want to stop. i want to hold it all inside. life. death. love. loss. fear. but then again, i want to share the intensity because the foundation of the intensity is so incredibly real and good.

the circumstances in life are not always perfect, but the part of us that grows and changes inside in response is always perfection in its finest hour.

we are here. i love you. you love me. and nothing else matters in this moment.

the not writing

story #7 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

getting back into writing practice is a chore, especially on day seven when you think you may have peaked on day three. and it’s really a chore when you will do anything except write, like tell yourself over and over that you can’t write and that you have nothing to write about, which leads you to wonder if you might have already written the last thing you’ll ever write. and then you try to remember what that last thing was.

i busy my mind with all the other important considerations too. perhaps, i’ll do an interview with myself. maybe i’ll write a life list. i tell myself i only hold few stories inside anyway, ignoring the reality that stories don’t actually become stories until you let them out and until you set them free.

i feel like a bore. i pet the cat. i wonder if i am enough. i bury my cold feet in pillows off the couch. i search for inspiration in television commercials because i’m too busy “not writing” to go turn the damn thing off. i think about work. i go off and find the URLs and add links. that takes up some time in which i could be writing. i worry about the big picture: death, failure, stories never told. [insert fretting here.]

i can’t even come up with words to describe the awesome, super-good, way neat, fun fun, great things i plan to write in the future.

this is the busymaking of the not writing.

because if i were to, you know, write tonight, i might tell you secrets. or things that make me uncomfortable. i might fumble. i might not get the words out right. i might hate every word. or i might find resolution, answers, options, beliefs, understanding, hope, sweet release. scratch those last thoughts. they are depressing me.

stop, my head says, you are too tired to write tonight (making words italicized also takes up some time and creates some time-sucking chatter that rumbles over the voice that’s saying you can’t, you can’t, you can’t).

who knows where my fingers might lead me if only i could turn off the head full of fear. i think about breakfast. i imagine my boys tucked in their beds. i try to bite my fingernails, but stop because i have painted them red. i listen to the clock tick (literally, we have this really loud clock). i sit in the dark, in the blazing hot spotlight of the computer screen. i am on stage, and i can’t perform.

oh, woe is me, if only i could string a few words together tonight…if only, if only…

au pair

story #6 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

there is a small backyard field. it’s full of yellow flowers. there is a blonde baby in a too-long dress. the flowers come up to her waist. she’s pointing up at the sky.

i’m in charge of this sweet blonde baby, but she is not my baby. these are not my flowers. this is not even my city, not my country either. we go for a lot of walks to push the days along. we visit the sweet brown horse down the street to the left. walk the long pebbly lane up and to the right, visit dogs, chickens, roosters, cats, beautiful flowers, grape vines and listen to dogs, chickens, roosters, cats, voices speaking Italian but not to us. it’s a real bitch to push the stroller along the gravel road.

i miss everything about home, but i’m so glad to be away, living a new life, surrounding myself in things and places and certain types of breads and yogurts i will miss everything about later when i go home. i know i’ll never get a chance to do this again. live so far away, in another country, away from my own life and in some ways, away from a certain self.

i hope there’s a whole life waiting for me when i get back, but i’m content to keep things slow and go here for a little while longer, living inside dozens of books, inside my mind, inside my tiny journal, in the eyes of this baby.

even in the moments of desperate loneliness, i feel free.

hover

story #5 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

today one bushtit in a small troop of bushtits fell behind, lost step, got the hiccups, or momentarily reconsidered everything about the life he’s been living thus far.

he lifted off the bare-branched pomegranate tree, just like all the others, in a perfectly choreographed swish against the backdrop of the silvery blue sky. but by the time the group passed in front of my window, the perfect lines of their group dance broke. or he broke. i held my breath and watched him hover middair in a shockingly long delay while the others soared on.

i thought sure he’d fall, drop out of the air in a hard, fast plunk onto the pavement down below. it could happen before my very eyes. his frolic in this world could just end. stop. disappear. there was even enough time for me to imagine the invisible thread hanged down from the sky, slip-knotted tightly to his wings. a thread so strong that he had an impossibly long moment to will himself skyward again. reconsider. breathe. dream bigger.

and just like that, up and away he went again without a single flap of his wings.

i ran to the next window to watch the birds’ continued path to the elm two houses down. by the time i pressed my hand to the glass, i couldn’t tell that one bushtit’s grace from the next.

calico

story #4 in my “23 stories for a fried chicken sandwich” project.

all day, i was preparing to write something genius tonight. more genius and beautiful than ever before. but then leo found something odd on my cat’s mouth.

my calico celie is 17 years old, will be 18 in august. i stole her away from her stray mother who lived under the fence from me and my best friend K’s Melrose place apartment building (U-shaped with a pool in the middle; whacky neighbors we could spy on without barely trying). i wanted to keep Celie’s black and white brother, but she’s the one who kept squeezing under the fence to sit by me. i was 21 years old then. seems like a lifetime or maybe lifetimes ago.

her health has been deteriorating. she can’t clean or groom her whole self so well any more. but it isn’t all bad. although she’s always been an indoor car, for a few years now, she has spent hours in the backyard sun each day.

you really don’t know how you’re going to feel until it happens. i’m still holding very still.

the mass on her lip is pretty large. from what i can see, there are problems i can’t even begin to diagnose going on inside her mouth too. her eye is swollen, almost closed. my poor old girl.

i have loved this cat and, i admit, largely taken her presence for granted, especially since the boys came into our lives. but we do still share our small moments of bliss. i’ll call the vet tomorrow. tonight, i brushed her in long, long strokes for 20 minutes, and she purred and purred and threw her head back in thanks.