pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Month: April, 2008

waiting, waiting….

all around me, everywhere i look, the springtime is unfolding, what’s welled inside is aching to burst forth. cold winds, unexpected plops of snow and other falling things, seem only to make it all, all the more unlikely. but still it doesn’t run away and hide. doesn’t pack up its tightly-wadded buds and tender leaves, return to whence it came.
i am out there, often these days, trying to learn the same.

not long ago i had a dream. it was something filled with hope. i believed it mattered. but over recent weeks and months, a year perhaps, it’s gotten rather dented.

i don’t know, not at all, if it will ever be. or if it’s worth the trying.

if these sound like gasping words, the words of someone wobbling, well then that would be the truth. and i always tell the truth, whole truth, not one word less than.

truth is: for one whole year i rose before the sun. i pulled up a chair and opened up my heart. i typed. i tried to tell fine stories. i tried to make it matter.

i believed.

all around me for a while, i heard the sound of chairs. some came to the table, and told me they were there. made this place quite holy, and filled with shining light. others never spoke a word, but i had to think they cared (sometimes they even whispered so, when no one else was listening). still others, some of whom i deeply love, never even came.

i thought at last i’d found the thing that i was meant to do: to write of holiness, to magnify the little stirrings, to make the homefront count.

but now i’m not so sure. no one it seems is in the market for a book of little stories, of the heart and soul of all these hours we so deeply do believe in. heck, the newspaper where i work all day has told me, twice now, no thanks, not interested, could not care less.

oh, well.

but that’s not all.

of late, that someone who i share a house with has left me in the dust–at least in this here blog department. on a slow day, he tells me, he racks up a mere 600 hits; bemoans it as a dud. i get 100 in a week, and i am rather pleased. in just a month, he’s passed 100,000. most days, he has thousands clicking in to hear his thoughts.
hmmm, hard not to feel a wee bit underwhelming.

i’ve been told you can’t compare the two. well, all right then, but where’d my wind go?

i can’t bear to give it up, this thing i held so dearly. but on the other hand, i think, perhaps my time is better spent merely tending to the ones i love, writing only for myself. telling tales the old-fashioned way, the way the paper likes it: he said, she said.

perhaps a year and nearly six whole months, is more than i should ever think out loud. perhaps you’ve heard too much.

maybe it’s just the lull of spring, when all the juice is pulsing at the branch’s distal tip, or stirring in the chill of underground. and the bloom, still working toward perfection, is not yet ready to reveal its uncompleted beauty.
maybe all i need is time to bask in sunlight, to feel the warming winds.

but today i am that bud above: furled tight. pulsing deep within. not yet knowing when i’ll open up.

waiting, waiting…

have you had dreams you loved, and nearly lost? what kept you believing? how did you weather all the forces that seemed hellbent on crushing you?

bottom of the barrel

the morning, it seemed, was unraveling in the same way as the dinner hour that preceded it.

the night, those long dark hours that sometimes steady the unsteady, alas, had not shaken off the sorry sense that somehow i was scrambling in a way that isn’t good for any one, and certainly not for me.

the eve before, it had been one of those full-scale collisions on the calendar. when mama works all day, and barely makes it home in time for the calculus that awaits. when child A needs to be decked out in full baseball regalia, fed and on the field at hour X. and child B, for reasons that don’t wholly compute, had to be fed, in tux (that would be tuxedo, mind you, for 14-year-old, complete with cummerbund and cufflinks and how-on-earth-do-these-things-wiggle-through-the-little-holes-on-daddy’s-wrinkled-fancy-shirt studs) and on stage at hour X+30 minutes.

in order for all this to unfold according to flawless mathematical equation, the lowly chicken roasting in the oven had to be cranked to overdrive which was setting off bells and whistles at increasing frequency and velocity. the father of said children had missed his train. and the grandmother, attempting to keep peace in roiling frothing seas, kept mostly quiet except to roll her eyes and mutter something about how in the old days such nonsense would never have unfolded on a school night.

to beat the odds, and keep my flagellating to myself, i just kept driving. child A from here to there, on time, and left in care of what i took to be someone’s trusty grownup. back to train to fetch the missing father. home to scoop up child B, still fumbling with those studs, and off to stage where he stumbled to the music stand in the very nick of time.

upon ditching out of concert, at so-called half-time, to retrieve long-abandoned child A, i discovered tear-streaked little person with aching throbbing head, and no bat, which, i discovered even later, his train-missing father had purchased just the week before for close to what i spend for groceries in a week. okay, make that two days’ groceries. but that’s only because food these days ain’t cheap.

much soothing later (and i mean of the throbbing-headed child, although i myself could’ve used some soothe if there’d been any left to spare), i plopped in bed, at weary last. and, promptly, heaved a sorry sigh.

awoke to grizzly bear stalking kitchen. was told i’d need to do X, Y and Z before the day was done.

and that’s when i looked out the window. caught the flight of many wings. flapping. diving. ruffling feathers in the branches of a bush i could nearly touch.

that’s when i felt the calm set in. or what passed as calm in a passage best described as bumpy.

and that is when i thought: i know, i’ll feed the birds.

for a make-believe farm girl like me, there is a soothing that comes in slopping for the herd. now, my herd might not moo, or oink. and, dang, there is not yet a clucking in my yard. no cock-a-doodle-nothin’. but i do make believe my wild things depend on me. and i’ve come to understand that i depend on them.

the cord between my heart and soul and the scrambling things outside is short, and getting shorter.

my ties to the world of nature, i do believe, are thick and thicker. part medicine, part religion, i step outside to heal what ails me. these warming days, i can’t stop walking. it’s as if the air itself is a masseuse’s fingers, and it rubs away the winter’s ache.

i am sure to stumble soon because i never look where i am walking. i look up, in trees. i catch mama bird resting her big belly on a branch that bends to hold her and her many belly-popping eggs. i see squirrels entwined, and i do not think they are merely dancing the watusi. i look way away from where my feet fall, into where the tender beauties of the spring are unfurling by the hour. i catch the light play tag with leaves, and watch the shadows try their darnedest to keep up with where it’s out-of-bounds.

it might at last be spring (although i heard that summer’s coming by the weekend), and the birds might find their fill with all the tiny buds and worms that have awakened.

but i am stingy. i want my birds to stay nearby. i don’t care to share them with the woods, not all day anyway.

so i thought i’d lure them back to where i need them on the days when all the world is yanking on my sleeve. that’s why i opened up the bird seed barrel. and that’s when i saw just the scantest bit of bird lure.

i saw that empty bin. i knew just how it felt. to be without the stuff that fills you.

so now i’m heading off, to buy some sacks of seed to soothe my soul. and keep my birds, as close as they can be.
until i fetch a cow to keep me company.

what soothes you on days when all forces conspire to bring you down at every turn?

i should mention that today is a day to mark for all who live for words and prose and poetry. today’s the day the bard was born. and here’s a bit about wm shakespeare that came to me from good ol’ garrison keillor, who every morning, like a kindly neighbor, sends me a snippet of poetry and wordly wisdom for the day. sayeth the one from wobegon…

“Today is believed to be the birthday of William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-on-Avon, England (1564). He was a playwright and poet, and is considered to be the most influential and perhaps the greatest writer in the English language. He gave us many beloved plays, including Romeo and Juliet (1594), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), Hamlet (1600), Othello (1604), King Lear (1605), and Macbeth (1605).
Only a few scattered facts are known about his life. He was born and raised in the picturesque market town of Stratford-on-Avon, surrounded by woodlands. His father was a glover and a leather merchant; he and his wife had eight children including William, but three of them died in childbirth. William probably left grammar school when he was 13 years old, but continued to study on his own.
He went to London around 1588 to pursue his career in drama and by 1592 he was a well-known actor. He joined an acting troupe in 1594 and wrote many plays for the group while continuing to act. Scholars believe that he usually played the part of the first character that came on stage, but that in Hamlet, he played the ghost.
Some scholars have suggested that Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays attributed to him because he had no formal education. A group of scientists recently plugged all his plays into a computer and tried to compare his work to other writers of his day, such as Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford. The only writer they found who frequently used words and phrases similar to Shakespeare’s was Queen Elizabeth I, and she was eventually ruled out as well.
Shakespeare used one of the largest vocabularies of any English writer, almost 30,000 words, and he was the first writer to invent or record many of our most common turns of phrase, including “foul play,” “as luck would have it,” “your own flesh and blood,” “too much of a good thing,” “good riddance,” “in one fell swoop,” “cruel to be kind,” “play fast and loose,” “vanish into thin air,” “the game is up,” “truth will out” and “in the twinkling of an eye.”
Shakespeare has always been popular in America, and many colonists kept copies of his complete works along with their Bibles. Pioneers performed his work out West. Many of the mines and canyons across the West are named after Shakespeare or one of his characters. Three mines in Colorado are called Ophelia, Cordelia, and Desdemona.”
–from “the writer’s almanac,” (2008)

blue patches worth the wait

i am drawn to them the way i stumble to the bathroom sink in deep of night. when my throat is parched, and i am not awake so much, except to feel like i am choking on the dryness. and then the waters come, cool ones, wet ones. and the choking goes away. and back i stumble, into sleep. my throat no longer aching to be soothed.

it’s what it feels like, especially at the close of this long winter, when the patches start to sprout. first, like measles made of blue, the spots come here and there. scattered. hardly connected. a little bit of cobalt. another little bit.

but then, suddenly, it’s spreading. whole pools and puddles, patches. old yards, right now, show their age. in the best way i can imagine. they spread out in blue. as if whole blankets from the attic have been taken down the winding stairs, shaken out of all their accumulated winter’s dust and left to air, where thirsty ones like me can drink them in.

it is the single thing of spring, the scilla, or Siberian squill, that sends me soonest to the moon, has me down and on my belly, taking in the endless waves of nodding heads of blue.

they come, the scilla does, where earth is undisturbed. it is, like gray locks on a wise old lady’s head, a crown of age.

oh, you might tuck a bulb or two into the ground. and, should the squirrels not binge, you might find just one or two breaking through the crust, come spring.

but if it’s a swath of blue you’re after–a river, really, blue on blue on blue, paying no mind to where one yard ends and another starts, barely yielding to the street, popping up again just beyond the curb–then you will have to wait. ten, twenty, fifty years, when, squill by squill, they multiply, take up every inch of old and tired real estate.

i’ve nearly crashed the car in this accidental season. can’t keep my eyes on this here road. i’m always scanning for the scilla pools.

and when i come upon them, it’s not enough to merely notice, and keep along my way. why, no, i’ve been known to pull a U-ey, screech the brakes, drop to hands and knees. it’s why, i think, God gave me a belly, the perfect launching pad for taking in the earth at eyeball level.

you might have seen me, sprawled. you might have thought, oh, that lady’s had a stroke. or perhaps she’s lost a ring, and is making like a snake, turning over leaves in hopes of finding gold.

gold, shmold. i am seeking blue. inhaling it. licking it. basically, consuming it through every pore. getting my annual allotment, and then some. i fill my belly now, or else, i wait.

through may and june, when there are, praise be, distractions to occupy my eyes and nose. through july and august, when all i do is sweat. through the whole of fall, when i make do with swirling leaves and pumpkins, too. to december when the tree lights twinkle, and somehow seem to mesmerize me. back to january. february. on to march, the slow road to mental decline if there ever was one. by early april, without a bit of blue, i am nearly sunk. so blue inside i might as well give up. call 9-1-1, come get me.

but then, as if my inner blue is on the loose, the spots appear before my eyes. at first, i think i’m seeing things. could this be a blue mirage? is someone playing cobalt tricks?

and that, my friends, is why you find me, at the height of april, flattened. on the ground, stretched out. rolling in the scilla. seeing if, perhaps, i can stain my skin the blue i thirst for. so the wait won’t be so anguished.

it is a silly thing, how sometimes these meanders go where i’d not one bit intended. i had set out in one direction, but my fingers on the keys took me elsewhere. oh, well, that’s how it is in spring, this season that we wait and wait for. i’ll be back, i guess, to lolligag my way along some other route some coming day. because it seems the squill took over here. do you have something in the spring that makes you go a little gaga? do you have squill where you live? or what is it that lures you over the fine edge?

doesn’t take much

there is one skinny window in my kitchen that i look out a lot. it’s near the coffee gurgler, for starters. and i never start without coffee. not sure i could start without coffee. pretty much the gas to my lawn mower. oh, wait, i don’t have one of those; i have one of those old-fashioned pushing kinds, with the blades that whirl in sharp circles, and spit out the grass from the sides. makes me think of a shortstop with a mouth full of chew.

hmm, but that wasn’t my point in the first place.

so, back to the point.

all right, then.

back to the window.

just outside that ol’ window is my flowerbox, one of the ones i forget to water in summer, and spend the rest of the year–thanks to the disheveled row of dehydrated stubs–being reminded just how guilty i am.

beyond that, though, is a tangle of bushes that i pretend is the woods. oh, sure, if you look up and not down, you can see the brick of the big house next door. you might see the gutters as well. and that might signal your brain, something like this, “psst, this is not the woods. this is suburbia. and you are no more than the length of a stretched-out tall someone away from the people next door.”

but i make sure i look down. i don’t like the noise in my head that tries to shake loose all my cobwebs and gauzy-edged dreams.

far as i care, i am in the woods. and the tall skinny window is that of my fairy-tale cottage, and there in my woods, the seasons and birds muck around in that bramble, close enough that i can keep watch.

so it was, that the difference between monday and tuesday was rather quite something. on monday, i swear, i had nothing but sticks out the window, but tuesday, oh my.

as you can see up above, in that little picture i took just so you could see too, i had the stirrings of life.

now, i admit, it’s not much. and it’s hardly dramatic. why, you could be barreling by and not even notice. not unless that proud little branch with the nubs on the end, and the first sprouts of leaves, reached out and poked you in the eye. said something like, “hey, look, i’m not just a stick anymore.” then, as you cussed and patted your teary old eye, you might notice.

but i–maybe like you–have been on the prowl. i have been combing the earth, hiking the woods. i’ve been down on my knees, practically begging, dear mama earth, please please fork it up. puh-leez give us some sign that all is not lost, and we are not stuck in perpetual whatever this is. not quite winter. sure not spring. a cold mucky preamble that might never get to the story.

so there it was, maybe. the answer to at least one of my prayers. nothing big. just a little green. a little more nub than the day just before.

it was enough, though, for me to stop and to let down my jaw.

and that’s when i made the connection. life is like that, 99 days out of 100. the growth that we’re looking for isn’t dramatic. won’t bang us over the head with its sparkle and fizz. might even be drab, not fuchsia and cobalt and knock-you-down yellow.

sometimes, it’s just a few sweet leaves on the end of a twig on a very old bush. they unfurl. they inhale the light and the sweet notes of warmth that blow every once in a while.

they stir.

they put forth.

all over again, a life force is tapped. the cycle of birth, of bloom, and of fade, is set back in motion.

we are, all of us, a part of that flow. we grow in barely perceptible bits. we are not like our children, those swift sprouting beings whose legs, i swear, grow in inches, from the time we tuck them in bed till they rise the next morning.

and sometimes it doesn’t take much, just the barest small measure of growing, of quarter-inching toward life, to make all the difference in the whole world.

sometimes the chasm between hope and hopelessness is barely as wide as the breadth of a new blade of grass.

sometimes it comes in measures you might overlook: the deepening red of the cardinal; the early brown push-ups of sprouts through the crust of the earth, the flitting of sparrows with string and fuzz in their beaks, a nest in the making.

sometimes, we, too, start to unfold. forgiveness seeps in where heartache once held its tight grip. the ache in our heart lightens. the words we were groping for, the ones we needed to whisper, out loud, they come to us, at long last.

sometimes, it doesn’t take much.

but there it is, the barely perceptible sign that the thing that we prayed for, the thing that we needed, is coming to life.

now, we keep watch and we wait. and we try to believe. what is good, what is right, what is life, will return.


doesn’t take much.

are you like me drumming your fingers, counting the hours for the full chorus of spring, and all that it stands for? it is indeed the season of hope. and after this here winter, these days of endless gray and chill and forecasts for snow, it comes achingly slow. but while the spring always comes, so too it reminds that all we await, might come as well. what do you yearn for this day? and are there signs out your window of hope?

big sister, beamin’

there are four of them, the brothers in my life. and, mostly, back in the early days, it seems, we made like some sort of appendaged amoeba. i mean there were skinny arms and banged-up knees sticking out from wherever we were tumbling. but we were mostly one.

into the station wagon we fell, en masse. an elbow, maybe poking someone in the eye. a knee in someone’s rib. but little bottoms all lined up and squishing for a piece of seat.

same thing at lunch: into the bench we plopped to slurp our chicken noodle soup. and church, definitely in the pews at church, we were wiggly, squirmy, big-eyed bunch, a single serpentine.

i always was, still am, the only girl. i had my own terrain to struggle through. had no one in the house to learn the girlie ways from. once walked across a frozen tundra–or so it seemed that subzero afternoon, the wind against my neck–to sneak home my first palette of every-color shadow for my lids. then locked the door, up in my room, and tried to figure, just what the heck to do, and not get caught with baby blue smeared above my eyeballs.

the boys, though, were as much a part of me as my curly hair. even though i wasn’t oldest, i was, in ways, the big sister. i made mistakes before the others. i stirred some dust, slammed doors. i took care of them, sometimes. i cooked and made them little menus. when they were really little i dressed them up in all the baby clothes. i rocked the littlest one, once he came, didn’t want to lay him down. held his hand, the night my papa died. sealed our hearts forever.

as we grew, we’ve grown to scatter all across the country. and in other ways as well. we’ve got red states, blue states. one who flies a plane, and one who plays piano. one who soaks up everything he reads, and one who seems to master anything he touches.

he’s the little one above, the one i’m holding by the hand. the one i’m standing there beside, believing in him wholly.

he’s the one right now i am feeling mighty proud of. he is, you see, the one who’s always found his muse in making beauty with his hands: he paints, he drums, he cooks, he gardens. he sculpts, and crafts with wood. he also makes outrageous beauty with the words he puts upon the page.

it was right here, at this blessed table, that we read him many mornings. people asked me, who is that? who writes such lovely missives? who pierces all our souls with the way he cobbles thought, sculpts words into lasting pictures?

my little brother, now a man with sturdy hands, strong heart, he sat down to a keyboard, and wrote a tale of building me a bench. it was wise and clear and pure. it was rife with wit, like he is. and precise in every word–he wrote that the bentwood arm is made of cherry shaved in razor-thin slices “like prosciutto,” an image i will never lose.

it seems the world looked up and noticed. put his name high above his words, on the front page of a whole section of the newspaper. and readers by the dozens have been writing in, saying, oh, what blessed beauty.

i am the big sister who once held his hand, and tried to keep his toddling self from listing to the ground. he, along with all the brothers, once swept me down the wedding aisle, the wings to my great flight.

i believe now i am standing, looking up. my little brother, now a man, is off the ground, and soaring.

i couldn’t be more proud.

i am, after all these years, the big sister long believin’. only i am not alone. whole lot of folks now see what i saw. and i am, still, big sister beamin’.

do you have a brother, or two or three, or seven, who lift you off the ground? who make you laugh like no one else? who know you deep and deeper? or, do you have a big sister? did she, does she, believe in you? or is there someone else who’s taken on the task of reminding you when you teeter that you are something rather gorgeous?

if you’d like to read my brother’s story, i saved it here for you. it’s paired with one that i wrote, that you first read right here on the chair. bless all of you who found us in the paper, where a shining light beamed down on the big-eyed, beautiful boy i call my brother.

i just had to put up that scrumptious photo because it melts my heart. the tribune cut out our little heads and floated each of us inside our essays. but the whole picture was missing there, and it just seems essential.

sweet david, what a flight…..go now, my love, and write your way, past sun and moon and stars, the heavens and beyond are yours…

the other blog in this ol’ house

maybe it’s because we shared a glass. maybe it has something to do with sleeping on the same sheets for the past 18 months. (oh, i mean i changed the sheets and all, but even when i did our arms and legs were still stretched out on common threads). egad, we might have even touched. our toes, i mean our toes.

what’s happened, though, is most peculiar. i once resided with a fellow who harumphed at the notion of a blog. i still recall him–quite vividly, in fact–with his gray hooded sweatshirt pulled up and past his ears, sitting at the banged-up kitchen table one dreary weekday morn, spooning little Os into his mouth, while i pranced by with camera.

“i will not be blogged,” he bellowed. and i of course demurred. i’ve only once or twice trespassed across that line–and that was to make nice. and he, of course, responded with a mighty grin.

but now, it seems the anti-blogger has come around, crossed over to the dark side. why, even as i type, he is on a train tap-tapping at his keys.

stranger than fiction, truer than truth, we are now a two-blog household.

he of course is blogging boldly, about that thing he loves, the size and shapes of towers, and how we build our cities. i too write of that i love, the little things that unfold around us, our hearts, our souls, our wings, our stumbles.

seems he’s taken rather quickly to this whole new world of laying it on the line (he seems to lay it nearly every hour, on the hour). and seems the world is taking rather quickly, too, to every word he writes.

there is irony aplenty here, so much in fact, i need to scrape it off the walls. but i’ll leave all of that to your imagination.

i’ll offer these few points:

you’ll get a chuckle, yes indeed, at the fact that weeks ago he was moaning–over mashed potatoes, if i recall–that there might come a day when he’d get merely 10,000 to 20,000 hits.

i choked, i really did, nearly spit my spuds across the table. thought of all the mornings i arose before the rooster even crowed. i realized, i did, that in 18 months of all this finger exercise i’d only just barely scraped the 20,000 mark (and half of those i fear, were me simply clicking past the chair, on the way to other places).

in fact, just the other day, his first official day, he clocked a stunning 6,000-something clicks. i did a little checking, flipped through the pages of my calendar, where i confess i scribble all my clicks on the days that i hit “publish.” took me, for example, from aug. 24 to dec. 10–a full 14 weeks, or 76 meanders–to get that many clicks. and his were on the single day he launched, for cryin’ out loud.

oh, not that i’m comparing. not that i’m feeling one bit, um, overshadowed.

just that well, after all of this, i am now the other blog in this ol’ house.

mostly, i sit in pure amazement at the power of the internet, when it knows where to find you. i scratch my head, trying to figure out just why it is you and me might be the only ones who visit here today.

just a week or so ago, i was getting up at my most delicious hour–that would be five bells from the noisy clock downstairs–and the stretched-out someone right beside me, groggily inquired as i rose, “getting up to blog?”

“no, merely writing in obscurity,” i shot back, quite proud of my early morning sense of humor.

it’s not every woman who can a.) take the dismal comparison, and b.) find something still to laugh about.

so there you have it.

fact is, i more than many on the planet understand the yins and yangs of feeding this here blogging beast. i know what it is to worry all the time, to wake up in a sweat, to wonder who might think that you’re a fool, and, worst of worst, what in the world will you do if, at any hour, the computer won’t turn on.

fact is, as always, he is doing a mighty job. i would not be lying if i said that long ago i fell in love, in part, with just how much he cares, and how triumphantly he makes it matter.

i worry of course that once again he works too hard. and frets too much.

of course, i understand the bumps and bruises, and the exhaustion to the point of flopping to the floor.

what i don’t get is how in the world can it be a bad day when you only get 10,000 hits?

dearly beloved loyal readers, bless you–all three of you–who continue to come back for more. ‘twas too tempting a morsel to pass up this chance to poke a little tease at me and my beloved blogger. here’s hoping it is tossed and caught in the same shared jovial spirit. truth is, in these fretful newsprint times, i stand up and applaud anything that draws a reader. and so i wish the hooded one smooth soaring to the highest heights. i’ll be here, holdin’ down the fort. a job i attempt to manage…..
p.s. the photo up above is the smiling picture of the author of
the skyline, the latest blog wholly endorsed by the chicago tribune. they ran a lovely post about it earlier this week. seems they recognize a good thing when it’s in their grasp.