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

Month: August, 2009

a lull in the rain…

the rat-a-tat of the rain stopped. and that of the week as well.

at long last, i listened. heard little but the last of the waterlogged drops, rolling down from the leaves and the stems and the petals.


the world out my window is soggy. so am i, from the back-to-school week.

but these are the sacred hours. i’m alone in the house. the boys, at long last, are tucked into desks. the clock ticks. the coffeepot occasionally gurgles.

i have nowhere to be, and nothing to do. except to be here. where, like an old scarecrow who’s lost all his straw, i tuck myself back together again.

which is why i went out to the garden.

i’d looked, as i puttered and put things away, at the old cracked milk pitcher, the one that sits squat on the old maple table.

i looked at its blooms–spent, stooped, so very tired. the hydrangea, and a limp stalk of phlox, both looked as if someone had let out their air. wholly deflated. and the black-eyed susans, they’d lost their wink. mostly were crinkled.

so i reached under the sink, pulled out my pruners, and set out to where the breathing begins again: out in my waterlogged garden.

i shook a few daisies dry. tried to help a sodden anemone stand. i tiptoed back to where the black-eyed susans were tangled and wet, bent down in yoga repose.

then i started to snip. took some weight off their limbs. snipped and watched them spring back to upright. became like a game. making the blooms boing back to life, instead of the way that they were, fallen and flimsy.

i snipped and they boinged. and that’s when i realized i was holding the prize: i’d gathered a fistful. a fat fistful, too.
now, let me just mention this one little thought: there is hardly a balm–at least not at my house–so soothing, so calming, as the pure joy of gathering blooms for the kitchen.

a good quarter hour outside, time enough for my toes to get muddy again, and my cuffs to get soggy, i turned back to the house, my boinging all done.

i gathered a whole host of pitchers and jugs and wee little vases. stood by the sink, stripping off leaves from the ends, the parts that would drink in the water.

and then i tucked in stem after stem. composed whole bouquets. a shooting-out yellow thing here, a floppy purple thing there. rounded out with daisies, and mint that grows wild.

felt something like embroidery, only with stems instead of fine threads. anemones instead of french knots.

when i was finished, when each of my pitchers and wee little vases were filled, i took a deep breath and realized that i too, after all this snipping and tucking, had taken some weight off my tired old limbs.

oh, i’d still not gotten nearly enough sleep. remembered reading the clock at 2 and at 4. thought back to the long week of lists. the getting up early. going to bed late.

i thought about all of the worries, the ones that come at the start of the school year. the ones when you pray your children are whole, and ready to take what’s ahead. when you pray that they’ll bob on the in-and-out tides. and the waves, too, that crash to the shore.

and then i just stood there. took in the tick of the clock. the rustle of breeze through the cranberry bush, just out the door.

i delivered my pitchers and vases back to the places they perch, the table, the sill, and right by the door.

then i sighed. and whispered the launch of a prayer.

if only a stroll through a water-soaked garden could fix all the bent-over limbs in our lives.

if only the lull in the rain brought peace to all the places too sodden to stand and soak up the rays of the sun, the sun that’s sure to break through the clouds. one of these most blessed hours.

it hit me like a bulls-eye this week: the job i love most in my life is the one where i make this house a sacred place, a tranquil place, and where it’s my job to be the emotional rescue for the ones who dwell here. oh, sure, i love my story-gathering gig, but the job that fills me up the more i pour out, it’s my mama job.
gathering blooms after the rain is but one manifestation of that holy endeavor, soothes me, maybe even soothes the ones who will bound in here at the end of the day.
what are the holy tasks you stitch into your life to smooth out the wrinkles all around you?

delicious cupcake

i call her ellabellabeautiful. the man with whom i share deepest darkest secrets–and grocery lists, besides–he took one look at her one moonlit evening back on old cape cod and dubbed her, “delicious cupcake.”

it’s a name that sticks.

it’s a name with superb, as they say, gifting opportunities.

why, if i lived next door, which is what i wish right now, i’d bake for her, wee little morsels, all swirled in pink and polka dots. i’d pull them from the oven, mound them deep in frosting, sprinkles, the whole caboodle. then i’d run, barefoot, right next door. to where the screen door slaps. from where her squeals and gurgles come.

i’d bring, oh, yes, itsy-bitsy cupcakes to my itsy-bitsy most delicious cupcake.

if i told you she was perfect, you’d nod and say, oh, yes. all aunties claim perfection. and then you’d maybe roll your eyes. think i wasn’t looking.

ah, but i’d protest. stomp my feets perhaps. i’d insist.

she really is, you see.

there are babies far and wide, i know. but those babies are wont to cry. and pout. and fuss through dinner time.

not delicious cupcake.

oh, no.

she just coos and watches. takes in the world around. folds her hands just so. spends whole long minutes–which in baby time is forever plus two days–weaving one finger in between two others. it’s quite a trick. delicious cupcake.

the most astounding cupcake trick, i’d say, is this one: for three days and three nights i barely left her side, so it’s not like she snuck off to the bathroom, slammed the door and had a real good cry. not like she crawled under the covers and whimpered till the sheets were soggy.

i tell you, that baby did not cry.

now crying, for most little humans, is just a part of what they do. a big part. a straight-through-dinner-and-on-into-nighttime part. they cry and cry and cry. till your arms shake. till your wits are at the very end. till you consider looking for the warranty, seeing if perhaps there’s a clause for refunds and returns.

but not cupcake.

cupcake, in a house full of big people who would have noticed just a peep, well she is altogether something more (yes, i said it: more. it’s auntie’s privilege to claim superlatives and not call it boasting).

she is that rare mellow baby girl who doesn’t raise her voice in protest. ever.

she seems to understand she won the baby lottery. she’s got a mama and a papa who would make you, too, a cooing, charming wonder.

they play the flute to her. they sing to her. they rock her in their arms. she drinks her mama’s milk. lets it dribble down her chin.

they hold her up to see the stars. take her strolling in the garden. already, she knows a black-eyed susan. and a sweetpea. and she’s just barely four months old.

i cried and kissed her goodbye after three fine summer days. but, oh, for the height of my summer’s ecstasy, she’s what i did–wholly, and deliciously–on my summer’s vacation.

this is but a travel postcard. i could write volumes on the subject of her holiness, her deliciousness. i could write of how i ache to be so far, far away from her. to know, every single day, that i am missing the miracle of her unfolding. but i am merely leaving a morsel in our trail. she is a love, plain and simple. and perfectly. delicious cupcake, yes.

what did you do–who did you meet–on your summer’s vacation?

the birthday fairy’s final flight?

she appeared out of nowhere that long ago night. why, we hadn’t an inkling, not even the slightest, that somehow she’d slipped in the room, surely was inches away–perhaps deep in the toy chest–that fine summer’s night as the soon-to-be-birthday boy was tucked into bed.

he was just a little thing back then, dimples still on his knees. about to turn two, if i recall.

and just as soon as he’d drifted off, into that land where little ones dream, the someone who’d wafted in unannounced, well, she must have scurried to work.

had at that room in ways, thinking back, that had to have made quite a ruckus.

there was, for starters, crepe paper everywhere. she hung that room, and the four-poster bed, with a bi-colored web that would not end. downright festooned the place. made for a trap you couldn’t escape.

every knob was wrapped. every protrusion, a certifiable anchor for stream after stream of that long crinkly paper.

balloons bobbed from the headboard and footboard, and bookcases too. the room, with its bumper crop of inflatable bright spots, looked as if it had a case of the chicken pox.

i mean no offense when i say that whoever she was, she’d gone, frankly, a tad overboard.

and speaking of boards, there were posterboards in plenitude. hung high and low and in between, besides. scribbled and scrawled, in words and in pictures, each board with a ditty heralding the wonders of two. (and then three, and then four; as the years kept on climbing, the ditties climbed too, with year-appropriate themes, rolling from number to number, not unlike my creaky odometer.)

it was, i tell you, quite something to awake to.

and right from the start, from the first fluttering open of that little one’s eyelids, back at the dawn of that long-ago summer’s birthday, the attraction was instant.

the birthday fairy was here to stay.

a flat-out part of the family, she was, crepe paper and all. might as well set her a place at the table. or offer a cot for a middle-night nap, after she slips o’er the sill, and shakes out her satchel of tricks.

she’s been a rite, ever since. essential to each and every little one’s birthday. around this house you don’t turn from one year to the next, without the fairy fluttering in through the window, leaving behind her own brand of magic and mystery.

in fact, when boy no. 2 came along, all those many years later, so came a fairy, one who stepped right up and leapt straight into action.

year after year, it’s always the same.

and, somehow, no matter how tired i am on the eve of those birthdays, i always manage to stay awake late. always make sure i’m the last one stirring here in this house.

after all, i’m the one who needs to be at the ready, make sure that ol’ fairy doesn’t get tangled up in the curtains. sometimes i even get asked to hold the tape, while she has at the stretchable streamers. more often than not, she puts me in charge of seeing to it that the presents are set just so at the foot of the bed.

it’s always unfolded with nary a bump.
until this year, when just the other day, as i was out watering the garden, the little one–who turns eight on the eighth, that’s tomorrow–came up beside me and asked what the box of frosted flakes was doing in my office (the fairy always leaves a smattering of favorite groceries, a trademark move).

i fumbled there with the hose, tried to change the subject to something along the lines of why i’d seen fit to water his toes. he was barely deterred.

and just the day before that, driving to somewhere, there came this unsettling question from the seat right behind me: “mommy, tell me the truth, do you buy the presents or is it the birthday fairy?”


“of course, there’s a birthday fairy,” said i, dodging the heart of the question.

after all these two dozen flights of the fairy, it seems the little one, at long last, is peeking behind the birthday curtain. the magic, it seems, is being prodded with questions.

and it’s a question that leaves me deflated.

might this be the birthday fairy’s last believable flight?

might she soon retire to the sun-drenched paradise where santa, and the tooth fairy, even the easter bunny, kick back, put their feets up? sip on something tall and cool and quenching. think back on all the magic they’ve scattered over the years.

oh, don’t let it be.

although i might have guessed her time was running out.

i’ve always wondered why neither boy, up till now, mentioned how odd it was that neither their papa nor i ever wrapped a single birthday gift. left all that to the fairy who, long, long ago, discovered the unlocked window into our house.

and, ever since, has delivered a motherlode of magic deep in the star-lit birthday night, when numbers turn from one to the next.
i imagine from here on in, as his big, big brother now does, he’ll pretend to be deep asleep, while i go about my annual flight.

and when we all awake in the morn, we’ll marvel again at the magic that once upon a time arrived unannounced, and won’t be chased away by unanswered questions or birthdays that climb, year after year.

happily ever after.


i suppose i’m a big believer in magic, and a good dose of it will always belong in my house. what sort of magic lives with you? and how do you keep it alive?

i’ll be away next friday, spending the day at last with my ella bella beautiful, the baby girl now four months old. oh my. i’ll tell you all about it upon my return. so savor the week. i know i will.

egad. it happened today. the whole birthday fairy meander, version 1, went up in smoke. poof in thin air. without a whimper or a bang. just plain kerpluey. and i’ve now spent the last many hours trying to bring it back to life. it didn’t happen. and what you see up above is an attempt, in fits and starts, to resuscitate what once was a meander that i’d found quite to my liking. what’s here now is a pale, poor version of its former self. oh, well. so it goes when you write without ink and paper…..