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Category: worry

the fixer

vintage tool kit

warning: this is bound to contain self-incriminating confessional as i explore the wilds of motherdom, and the root of the many sleepless nights in this old house.

somewhere along the line, the mothering line, perhaps long long ago in the days when a toy train would lose its wheels, or our striped little kitten would get stuck for days and days in some unknown nook or cranny along our graffiti-strewn alley, i seem to have morphed my job description, cobbling in an amendment to my motherly constitution, one that made me in charge of glueing on run-away train wheel, parading the alley for hours on end till said kitten meowed loudly enough for me to detect his latitude and longitude, bang on the door, grab the gang banger (yes, this is true), and get the little rascal loosed from his trappings.

i became the fixer. where i saw shattered parts or hearts, i’d set out to fix ’em.

this is not a task one should take on too lightly. for life, as it’s wont to do, throws steeper and steeper inclines, raises the bar higher and higher. when a backpack grew moldy, i could toss it in the wash. when a favorite sweatshirt somehow got kidnapped between the schoolyard, the little league lot, and the bedroom, i could dial up another one. i cannot count the number of days — and nights — of my life i spent prowling the alleys of chicago’s north side or this leafy little town, tearfully yodeling for our lost little kitten, the one who came home every time, with adventures left wholly unspoken.

truth be told, in the muddle of mothering, of being the self-appointed healer of brokenness, i took a wee bit of shine to this task and this title. if i could fix the runaway train wheel, track down the cat who’d lost his way home, maybe i had quasi-magical powers. maybe i’d found a backwater in life for which i had particular navigational skills. if i could set the world right, after it had been hurled topsy-turvy and helter-skelter, well then i could expunge a whole lot of hurt. i could find a way to nudge us — me and the people i loved — back to ground zero, the tranquil landscape of equanimity. aka, nirvana. or at least the momentary mirage thereof.

it was a job that felt noble and good. and, perhaps i’d fooled myself into thinking, locked in my indispensability.

the problem is that the little people over whose peaceable kingdoms i reigned, they got big and bigger. and so too did the things that need fixing. missing homework might be explained with a note to the teacher. not so much hearts mangled by crushes. or any one of the conundrums that are the daily bread and butter of life in the 21st century.

nowadays, often enough to give me that haggard sheen that comes from long nights tossing and turning and even longer days churning inside, i find myself encountering the worries of ushering one kid through the last few weeks of his junior year of high school, and another one who’s just moved to DC for the summer and found himself sleeping in a dorm room that redefines “spartan” (the exterminator slipped a note under the door just yesterday, and someone saw fit to assure the dormers that the asbestos was confined to the boiler room), and all while juggling a paper or two still due back at law school.

too many things i cannot fix. and, yes, i realize the fallacy. i understand that i shouldn’t, that it’s not my job — nor would it be wise in the long run — to be anyone’s personal fix-it shop. but somehow in my scrambled head, i still ache to be able to wave my magic wand, as i so ingeniously did in the old days. and i can’t quell the yearning — and scrambling — to do so.

maybe it comes from years of not knowing how to fix the things that flummoxed my very own self. the chains that truly bound me. maybe the easy satisfaction of glueing together a toy, of putting clean sheets on the bed of someone i loved, maybe it all gave me an unquenchable glimpse of how it might be to wield prestidigitational powers — the ones i clearly lacked when i was the broken one.

or maybe it’s just what you do when you love. when you remember the day you whispered the promise: “i will shield you, my sweet, will do all in my power to keep you from hurt and from harm. will enfold you in safe holy wings.”

maybe, in the end, the love itself is the thing. maybe the fixing isn’t quite so much the point.

maybe even when we can’t find the missing piece, solve the equation, apply the glue, maybe it’s in the certain openness of our hearts, the willingness to leap into the trenches, or even to listen from afar, maybe it’s the undying sense that we’re in for the forever haul, maybe that’s where the true fixing comes….

maybe that’s the heart of my unending motherprayer…

i’m without answers, and uncertain whether my fixing affliction is shared by many, though i’ve a hunch i’m not alone. do we miss the point — and drive ourselves batty — when we think it’s our job to be the fix-it machine? or is the whole point to station ourselves firmly and squarely beside the hearts we love, so that when they inevitably wobble or break, we are right there to apply love even when we’ve no glue?

maybe i should pretend….

picture of dad, taken from back cover of his book.......

i’m typing this a day before i usually type. because tomorrow, friday, at this lovely hour, i’ll be feeling my heart plunk though my chest. i’ll pretty much be wishing i was anywhere besides where i’ll be: sitting in a grand dining room, with white-jacketed waiters scurrying like flocks of plate-bearing birds. knives and forks will be tinkling. i’ll be wishing that every wine goblet at every place was sloshing and swiftly being drained. i’ll wish for delirium to sweep across the room, and everyone in it to drift into ether-land. i’ll wish, quite frankly, to be knocked out myself.

it might extinguish the angst.

as the clock ticks toward 40 minutes after 12, i’ll be calling on angels and saints to lift me and carry me through the next 35 minutes.

you see, i’m slotted to get up, before a crowded dining room, in an old-guard chicago club, and unspool a few wisdoms.

which — if you know me even a wee little bit, this should come as no surprise — scares the behoozies right out of me. oh, i’ve been practicing a good bit of late. it’s what comes after you spend a few years sitting alone in a room, typing your heart out. all of the sudden, they (those faraway someones in the towers of publishing) glue all that typing together, put a pretty cover on it (in my case, a vase of what my little one calls “the dead flowers”), and then they make you get up and talk about those words. out loud.

which, pretty much, is my definition of living-breathing fear. it’s so far outside my comfort zone, i find myself dreaming of rocks i could hide under. examining closets for the extent of their “hide-ability.” my recurring nightmare, just before i wake up on the dawns of the days when i’m slotted to “book talk”: it’s me being toppled by tidal wave after tidal wave. complete with slimy sea shimmerers.

but then, each and every time i stand up — certain my knees will give out, especially if i’m teetering on the skinny little “kitten heels” my fairy godmother in book touring told me i needed to buy (“everyone looks at your feet while you’re reading; you need something excellent for them to look at,” she instructed, in no-fooling terms) — each and every time (so far), i’ve been overtaken by the intoxicant that swirls through the room. the one called love, pure and simple. i look out into a crowd peopled with faces i love, even faces i’ve never seen before, and suddenly i am soaring. no longer the terrified typer, but suddenly afrolic, to make up a word, one that for these purposes we’ll define as in the midst of frolicking. frolicking in waves and waves of laughter and tears and words tumbling on words.

but here’s the problem: i can tell, by the toxins that build by the hour in the hours and days leading up to every one of these podium moments, that i have clearly not inherited the microphone gene, the one double-dosed in my father, that jolly fellow above, the one who looks as if the mike is a plug that literally fills him with high-voltage current.

my papa never met a podium he didn’t love. heck, he traveled the world seeking out podiums. told us umpteen thousand times his fine little podium trick: just look out and picture everyone in their skivvies (that’s vintage 1920s talk for undies).

frankly, it’s never worked for me. i’m too scared to picture anything, let alone fruits-of-the-loom, and tattered stretchy sports bras (if my undies drawer stands as template for this).

so it came as something of a surprise — perhaps a hand reaching down from the heavens — when, a few hours ago, hard at work rinsing gunk from the kitchen sink, i suddenly was struck with a novel idea. one that in alllllllllll my years of being allergic to podiums and microphones has never before leapt into my braincells.

what if i pretend my papa is sitting there? smack dab in the very front row, all pink cheeks and twinkling gray-blues, drumming his fingers in that way that he did, that way i still can hear in my head.

what if i channel that jolly old soul who lived to tell a great tale, who wrung every drop of guffaw out of a punch line, who couldn’t care less how corny it was, long as it erupted the room in knee-slapping, tear-swiping, catch-your-breath laughter?

my papa lived to make people laugh. my papa lived to delight the ear with the tricks of his tongue and his tale-telling superpowers.

i’m a dialed-down version of my papa. what i’m aiming for, first and foremost, is to make it through alive. or at least not collapse in a heap, my little black dress and kitten heels the only discernible survivors. oh, i love a good laugh. i swell to it, like any living-breathing soul of irish descent.

but when i feel heaven and earth intermingling is when it’s so very quiet you can hear breath flowing in, flowing out. when you look into faces, rapt. maybe a tear, maybe streams of tears, messily making their way down cheek after cheek.

that’s the magic that propels me out of my seat. that’s the one and only reason i’m mustering whatever it takes to stand up and teeter on wobbly knees, wobbly ankles, curled-up toes: i’m aiming for the pulsing heart inside each and every one of us. i want our hearts — for as long as we can stretch it out — to beat in the blessed unison, the deep-down understanding that we all, every one of us, are searching for the sacred stitch that draws us together, that animates the whole of us, and lifts us to a plane of higher purpose.

and, maybe, if i pretend my papa is there, in the very front row, all dapper in his brooks brothers suit, the one with the buttoned-up vest, the one he wore on the most special occasions. maybe if i pretend he walked across chicago’s loop from the glistening tower where he typed for all those years — maybe, just maybe, the god-awful worry will melt away.

and i can pretend, tomorrow, that me and my dad are sitting alone in a very big dining room, and i am looking at him, straight into his heart, telling my very best stories, and unspooling a wee bit of wisdom.

miss you, sweet papa. see you tomorrow….

how do you talk yourself through the things that scare you to jitters?

first-world problem, indeed

that i am typing on a screen seems nothing short of a miracle. of course, this is not my trusty and lugged-around laptop. that ol’ die-hard is in the resuscitation ward, aka the genius bar at my neighborhood apple store, where a genius and near-goddess named gretchen is tending it nearly round-the-clock. she’s pumping bodily fluids into it. she’s taking its temp at regular intervals, and calling me with updates, since i am, after all, its next-of-kin.

no, this snowy morning’s typing comes courtesy of the ancient family desktop, a clunky hulk of a thing i’d thought served one sole purpose: tucked-in-the-corner gathering ground for dust and accumulated fur balls.

it’s been a long week, all right.

after weeks of slower and slower typing, and the near constant appearance on my screen of that nettlesome whirling color ball — the one that whispers, “shhh, we’re working on it, lady. cool your jets if you care to make it to the end of the sentence…” — it seemed that i was due for a once-over at the genius bar. what better time to check in there than at the preamble to the super bowl, that annual concussive rite i disregard except to make maximum use of cleared-out stores and shopping aisles, when i alone am out minding by own business.

it didn’t take long at the bar of genius stature for a nice genius of a man to plug in a diagnostic cord, and declare: “hard drive failing.”

i’ll spare you the agony except to say that the external hard drive i’d dutifully plugged in every single day for all the years i owned it, well, it too was failing.

as tears filled my eyes, another nice man at the genius bar bellyflopped his arm across my shoulder and whispered, “honey, this is a first-world problem.”

it is indeed. and i am wholly mindful of how a lifetime archive of lost photos and emails — accumulated across the childhoods of both my boys — measures up against a growling belly that can’t be filled and a litany of other sins and injustices that are too excruciating to even thoughtfully attempt to lodge into any sort of comparison.

suffice it to say i ached for what might be lost — and still might be, since the resuscitation is still ongoing. i couldn’t stop the roll call of lost treasures — the compendium of choice words and knock-me-out passages and poetry i’ve so carefully copied and pasted over the years. every email that ever made my heart go ping! every photo i’ve taken in the last 10 years. the PDFs of every tribune story i  deemed worth keeping as i shuffled out of the newsroom on my last day at what once called itself the world’s greatest newspaper.

and don’t you know that after four months of waiting for the very last round of edits on le book, my dear editor got back to me on tuesday — day 2, the cyber-hostage. and asked that i make the revisions by, um, wednesday. without my laptop, mind you. after carefully keeping other assignments at bay, so when the revisions finally landed in my lap i could devote all my attention to slowing time. (slowing time, by the way, is the title of le book, so that last sentence is deliberate double entendre, one my editor and i find to our liking.)

miraculously, and through the kindness of yet another saint in this saintly equation, i’ve managed to borrow a laptop with just the right accessories, and last eve shipped back what just might be the very last crossed t’s and dotted i’s of slowing time, the book.

funny how life has a way of not unfurling according to your best-laid plans. funny how you process loss — how it comes in waves, and one minute you think you can manage to rise above it — absorb it with zen-master acceptance — and the next minute, you swear you’re going under.

so, yes, my first-world problem turned my days and nights upside down. but here i am — almost on the other side of the cyber-chasm. i figured out  plans  B, C, and when needed, K through R, as well. i made the acquaintance of a saint masquerading as a goth-coiffed apple genius. and the long-awaited final edits on le book are signed, sealed and delivered.

i await a call from the cyber-nurse any hour now. then i’ll toddle off to pick up the rehabilitating laptop. i’ll spoon chicken zoup, or whatever’s needed, till my files and i are reunited. and back to first-world business.

in the meantime, i am beyond grateful to saint gretchen and her undauntability. and i’m plugging in my new external hard drive the minute it gets home.

hope your week was far better than mine. and that you repeat early and often: back up. back up. back up. 

no questions other than: over all the years, what treasure have you lost — cyber or otherwise — and how did you learn to get along knowing it was forever gone? for me there was once a typed letter tucked under my pillow, the night i was crowned homecoming queen, and perhaps the most open-hearted missive my father ever wrote me. for the life of me, i’ve never ever been able to find it — not at the bottom of any box, not anywhere. it’s gone but for the memory of finding it, and being stunned at his tenderness. my father too is gone now, long gone, 33 years monday. but he’s with me every day, in every keystroke, always.

home. amid a host of tugs and pulls and squeaks from far corners.

moving boxes...

dispatch from 60091 (in which, except for invasion of colonies of critters with matchstick-sized legs, i attempt to nest in solitude, with a few elephant-sized distractions…)

i’ve waited 18 months for this. to have unpacked the mountain of moving boxes. to have tiptoed room-to-room, inhaling the musty scent of home. to be tucked up against my old maple table, with the morning sun draped across the slabs. my old chipped coffee mug at the ready, inches from the keyboard.

i’ve waited for the tick and tock of our grandpa’s clock. to hear the morning song of birds, my birds, my flocks, rising up and rolling in from the jungle that is my overgrown garden. i’ve waited and waited.

to be home, and going nowhere.

alas, it hasn’t exactly been a week of lolligagging and tossing back bonbons in a tub of bubbles.

the night before i zipped the last of the home-bound suitcases, back in 02139, i got word — make that, news flash — from my hilarious friend who spent the year here holding down the fort. she’d ducked into the wee bathroom off my writing room (the old garage, long ago turned into maid’s quarters, how apt that i now dwell there…), and there, dozing atop a feather bed of nibbled toilet paper bits, a nice fat chipmunk. only it wasn’t sleeping. it was, um, dead. and had chosen a basket filled with toilet paper rolls to be his final resting place.

she spared me pix of the kerplunked critter, and instead sent me a dramatic close-up of just how adept chipmunks are at making bedclothes out of the tissue paper with a purpose.

i considered myself fair-warned.

which is why, once half across the country, once the cat, the boy, the three fat suitcases and i were greeted at the baggage depot by my fair mama and ferried home, i tiptoed with trepidation into that wee room. i scanned for paw prints, wee paw prints, everywhere a furry thing might scamper. i scanned, too, for the caraway-seed-sized deposits they always leave behind.

i found them.

abundantly.

piled high and thick atop the baby blankets i had so neatly folded and tucked into a basket back in the corner. must have seemed the perfect lullaby land for all the baby chipmunks (and judging from the pile, there was a bumper crop of baby chipmunks). i did not scream. i merely long-jumped from the room, slammed the door, and decided to deal with it in the morning.

long story, short: $500 later, my new best friend joe, the jesus-believing critter control apostle, arrived on the scene, armed with coyote urine, ammonia crystals and wheelbarrows of cement. not a poison to be found, bless his benevolent heart. just some serious deterrents for re-entry to the chipmunks’ underground metropolis, the one they dug in vast array beneath the concrete slab upon which the old garage was built.

that’s the story of the first-floor critters. upstairs, in all the drawers where soaps and cottonballs were stored (note the past tense), another branch of the Rodentia family (the ones with long skinny tails and appetite, apparently, for european scrubs) had made themselves quite at home. why, it was a veritable carnival of critters, all with matchstick legs and the itty-bittiest pit-a-pats the world has ever known. they’d run amok undetected for lord knows how many months. (they don’t exactly blow trumpets announcing their arrival.)

and, oh, they served as such a rousing welcome committee. (i was roused, all right!)

but all that, truly, fades in the narrative arc of this long week.

the heart of the matter is that one long dark night this week i sat alone in my long-awaited bed fielding phone calls from my firstborn who was spending the night in an ER 1,000 miles away, getting IV painkillers pumped into his veins (neck and head pains, all tied back to a broken neck in the eighth grade, when he somersaulted over his handlebars swerving from — get this — a chipmunk who’d dashed across his bike trail).

and that’s only the half of it. my little one, the brave one who boarded a plane to germany a mere 48 hours after whirling in the door, a trip he’d long awaited, a trip for which he’d spent the year studying with his german tutor, he’d gotten sick as a dog on the flight across the atlantic, and 24 hours after de-boarding the plane was still upchucking in his new german bathroom. i was getting emails from the teacher, updating me on just what shade of green he was sporting, hour by hour.

when you are 11, and 4,538 miles from home, and you’ve been tummy-rumbling in volcanic proportions for a good 36 hours, you really truly desperately deeply through-and-through want one of two things: a.) to catch the next plane home, or b.) to have your mama sky-dive from the clouds.

thus, you do what any thinking person would do: you pick up the phone, and dial in your request.

and your mother, on the far side of the globe, hearing the whimper in your voice, imagining just how wretched it must feel to have wretched straight across the ocean, she kicks into high mama gear: she drops to her knees, points eyes heavenward, and unfurls the litanies of prayer reserved for just such moments.

she smacks herself upside the head for letting such a little guy go in the first place. she calls on angels, saints, random trumpet players, anyone and anything who might come charging to the rescue, to barrel up the hill and storm the ramparts.

she tries everything she can humanly think of. she pounds out “this i believe” treatises, reminding the little fellow just how brave he is, and just how valiantly he has conquered a host of uphill battles: the sleepover on wrigley field, the two-week summer camp in the deep dark mosquito-infested woods of michigan, the whole dang city of cambridge, massachusetts. heck, he even weathered a whomping case of scarlet fever and pneumonia when he was just a wee young thing.

the boy can do it.

he is, i often remind him, the egg that wouldn’t take no for an answer. while all the other eggs could not make it out of the roundhouse and chug up the mountain, that little guy was the one egg who made the climb, who was born in a shaft of pure white light at 3:22 one hot august morning, to a mother who defied logic and medical tomes, clocking into the maternity ward at 44 years, eight months and five days old.

on the off-chance that my sweet boy is tucked under the puffy covers in munster, reading these words from glowing screen, i have five words and a comma for you: you can do it, sweetie.

i love you higher than the moon and wider than the oceans. you have angels, saints, mamas, papas, grandmas and grandpas, uncles, aunts and a big brother all pulling for you. we’ll make sure you are pumped up with dramamine for the swift ride home. and we’ll be waiting at the airport with double-time hearts and wide-open arms. we’ll pull you to our thumping hearts, and keep you home all summer. we’ll even ply you with fresh-squeezed lemonade and oatmeal-raisin cookies. we’ll let you stay up late and sleep till lunchtime, if that’s the way you like it. we’ll whip up a welcome home parade, and make you grand marshal and chief potentate. i won’t even make you pluck your dirty socks off the floor. (not for the first hour, anyway….)

you will have triumphed over the latest in your long litany of championship makers. you are some boy, you glorious sweet soul, you who always says, “yes! i want to see the world!”

it’s right before your eyes. take it in, sweetheart. then hurry home. so we can all chase chipmunks hither and yon and all around the garden, one big happy reunited family. home sweet home, at last. oh, sweet lord, at last.

so that’s the news from the homecoming committee. shoulda known that you can’t go away for 10 long months and not expect a bump or grind upon return. 

question of the week: what words of wisdom would you impart to a wee lad far from home, and weathering a whopper case of travel bugs…..

when the cat comes limping home

our sweet old cat is a wounded soldier. one who all week has needed me to be his nursemaid, his nanny, and his doting ambulator.

the old fella has had many a page-turner in his time.

the spell, long ago, when he was holed up in the down-the-alley gang-bangers’ drug-dealin’ den, and, in search of him, i tiptoed through the pitch-black cellar with the dealer himself, who lit my way with his bic-flick lighter. (it wasn’t till i’d safely rescued the rascal that i realized i’d been alone in a dark place with a dude with a penchant for trouble, although during my time with him he was a downright gentleman; i baked him brownies, dropped them on his doorstep later that day.)

or the time that ol’ cat took a stroll out the third-story skylight and lived to tell about it, after a rather bumpy ride down to the sidewalk.

he’s been caught and wedged and upside down aplenty. he’s come home with a nip to the ear, and minus a few tufts of fur.

but, until last week, he’d never come home limping.

and he’d never ever needed me so very much.

i fell swiftly into the role of nursemaid; after all, far as he’s concerned, i am his not-so-furry mama.

once i realized he couldn’t even step down from his padded orvis bed, why i concocted a pillow staircase, one that led gently up or down, depending on where he was headed.

soon, he was headed nowhere. just lay there curled up like the cutest old cat that ever there was.

i bought him cream. opened cans of albacore tuna. he lapped up that cream like any kitten would. he turned up his nose at the tuna.

and that’s when we knew we were sinking deep into trouble.

all week i carried him wherever i deduced he wanted to be: the litter box, the outside bird bath where he insists on drinking (i know, it’s gross to think about, and i pour him fresh pure water twice a day, swirl it around the shiny silver dish, but he refuses. apparently he likes his water murky. and so it is. i try not to think about it).

i ferried him up and down the stairs to all of his favorite curled-up places, the rug by the bathtub, the blanket on the window seat, the old chair by the furnace down in the basement.

i was quickly becoming a cat whisperer.

at last, the vet, whom i’d been talking to every coupla days, thought it was time for a look-see. i got up at the crack of dawn, drove darn near to the edge of creation.

but the vet, you see, is an old, old friend. a wonderful fellow. one you’d drive to see, too, if you had a cat with a limp, and no clue what might have happened out there in the jungle that is our leafy backyard.

seems the old tabby got a few nips to the shoulder. nothing huge. but enough little bite marks to make it all swollen and quite a bit sore. (now if that cat could talk, and i sure was wishing he could these past few days, he might tell you and me that “sore” didn’t begin to tell the story, more like the biggest pain in the arm he’d ever imagined.)

old guy had a fever, too. which accounted for all of that snoozing and the two pounds he’s lost in the course of a week.

he’s on the mend, we now hope. though i still get to play nursemaid, for as long as he needs me.

i’ve been told to put warm moist packs to his sore little shoulder, at least twice a day. and that’s where the hot water bottle comes in. just like a baby whose tummy is achy, our sweet little cat is purring under the spell of the oldest trick in the doctor bag.

it’s an uncanny thing how deeply we fall for the sweet little critters who call our haunts home. one night i barely slept a wink, so worried was i ’bout the cat curled up beside me. i kept peeking to make sure i detected some sort of twitch and knew he was still among us, alive.

two days i stayed home from the office, worked here in the typing room, just in case he needed me. just in case.
we humans, i hope, employ our hearts rambunctiously. pay heed to the call to tend to all creatures great and small.
that ol’ cat has given us chapters and verse, whole yarns of adventure and mirth. we owe it to him, to the universe, to give it all back, whatever he needs.

if only these seeds of pure love and devotion would catch and grow into a world-wide bumper crop….

if only….

in the meantime, i’ve a new jug of cream in the fridge, and a whole stack of tuna tins there on the shelf.

whatever that ol’ cat desires, we’re here to attend to his every last whim. so long as he sticks around, and gives us reason to purr.

i happen to know for a fact that we’ve got some of the most dedicated creature keepers here at the table. i bump into one nearly each week at the farmers’ market, weighed down with her bushels of leafy greens. she has hardshells aplenty, some who are nearly 100 years old (and i am not kidding). the stories she tells about her deeply devoted ways nearly always have me in tears. maybe she’ll share a few here. you’ll be inspired. i promise. and anyone else with a story to tell about a sweet creature you love, and nursed back to vim and vigor, we’re listening…..

fencus interruptus

since the day i hacked back the weeds, lassoed the wild-haired junk bush, it’s been my one guaranteed wedge of the sacred.

not very wide, my prayer alley, wedged between me and the brick house next door. just wide enough for a wheelbarrow. and once the blooming begins, barely wide enough for me and my garden-clog feets.

oh, but i tiptoe back and forth anyway, feel the rambling pink roses scratch sharp against my shins, climb over the ferns or the bleeding hearts that reach out to brush me soft as a kitten’s whisker.

for three years now i have coaxed and coddled a holy trinity of climbing hydrangea, backdrop to all of the sacred, the last line of defense between me and a not-so-nice fence.

i’ve watched with chest-thumping pride as those babies finally caught on, got with the program after sputtering starts.

at long last, as i cooed and kindly cajoled, all three of ’em stuck out their sticky-toed feets and worked their way up the humdrum planks i’ve been trying to hide.

just this past summer those vines reached the top, a triumphant hallelujah, indeed — if you’d been listening, that is, deep in the night when the plants in a garden do all their whoppin’ and hollerin’.

after all this twirling my thumbs, and all of these summers and autumns and winters of waiting, my old side garden, my contemplative place, the walk where i sit on a bench, or the stoop where i soak up the sun like a frog on a lily pad, it had finally grown lush, grown through-and-through green, become like a tunnel of leaves and fronds and bird houses and bluestone steps.

you could get lost there. and, so help me, i did.

but yesterday morn, when the winds blew mighty and fierce, my little one was scooping up pancakes, sitting on a stool that looks out through the door and onto the one swatch of garden he and i have a habit of watching.

that’s when he yelped, “oh, no, george’s fence is blowing away.”

and that’s when i looked. and by golly, that boy who keeps watch on me, on our world, now that he’s the only kid home, he was 100-percent utterly right. george’s fence was blowing away. or at least over. headed straight for my bushes and trees.

egad.

it was barely seven o’clock, but i leapt from the house in my bare naked feet, and hurdled straight over a pumpkin. i had a fence on the loose to corral, and a whole line of sacred to save.

i got there in the nick of time, you’ll be happy to hear.

but, already, it was too late.

the fence was awobble, aquake.

i called up george, our dear next-door friend, and told him what was the matter.

oh, that fence, he sighed. told me a chunk of it had caved in already, on the far side of the yard, where i couldn’t see. told me he’d get his fence guy right over.

well, that fence guy is here all right, told me he’d have to get at the fence by tromping straight through my garden.

egad, i said. though i believe, if i’m honest, the word in my head wasn’t nearly so scrubbed-up-and-polished.

um, mr. fence man, i said, you cannot tromp through my garden. my garden, you see, is very much alive, and it very much matters. the soles of your shoes, smooshed on those stems, on those leaves, they will crush every last bit. and along with the garden, they’ll steamroll my soul.

so, the fence man and i, we reached a detente. or at least his version of an agreeable deal: if i pulled down every last spoke of my climbing hydrangeas, if i tenderly talked to the hundreds and dozens of sticky-toed clingers, if i promised each one that it wouldn’t hurt, that i was actually trying to save them, well then, we might be in business.

the falling-down fence would be fixed, and my bushes and trees — and ferns and mop-head hydrangeas and forget-me-nots and bleeding hearts and sage and nodding onion and on and on and on — it all would stand a fair chance of making it through to next spring. or at least through the weekend, i gulped, fighting back worries.

the climbers, the ones that clung to that fence for dear life, the ones that had soared to the top of their particular mountain, they now dangle, adrift.

the roots, far as i know, are solidly planted. no foots have crushed them so far, and so help me God, they shall not.

but the act of tearing them off, of taking them down from their proud climbing wall, why, it felt worse than yanking a band-aid off the hair of your knee. poor hydrangea.

poor garden. poor gardener.

life is like that sometimes: just when you reach the top of the hill, when the climb is behind you and the view is quite something up there, the whole thing comes tumbling apart. you lose your bearings. you do what you’ve long dreaded.

and you start all over again.

i’ll be out there tonight, with rolls of scotch tape. and plenty of triple-strength holy water. a good sprinkle, a dousing, never hurt, now did it? certainly not in a garden whose first name is sacred.

and so goes the latest installment in the sad tale of fencus interruptus.

was a week for weird weather, all right. my boy in far off amherst, suffered a storm they’re calling “snowtober.” 12 inches of snow. trees down left, right, and sideways.
as i type, my sweet mate is on a train chugging toward that very college. it’s family weekend but i am at home. that’s a bummer, indeed. but i’ll get my turn in the spring.
in case you’re in the mood for a little typing, here’s a question: what mountains have you, like my hydrangea, finally climbed, only to discover, you’ve got to start all over again……

starting the goodbye

that old cat, a country cat, has been a feisty cat since the day he sprang forth from the icehouse beer cardboard six-pack in which he’d mewed the whole way home.

he was a kitten then, a wee striped thing, and he’d come to fill a gaping hole in our little family.

you see, we’d had our hearts broken time and time again back in the baby-hoping years, wishing and praying for a someone to carry home someday for our little one, who’d turned from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, and still was all alone, without a someone to share a room, to fight over books in the back seat, to venture off into our tiny back yard and spend the afternoon making like it was the amazon jungle, or the dark side of the moon. or, heck, looking down the road (and that’s what mamas do), there was no one yet whose hand he’d hold on the someday when i die.

fact was, there’s only so much breaking a heart can do, and then it’s time to wipe away the tears, make peace with what you’ve got rather than long for what you’ve not, and, well, when talking to a friend, a friend with many cats, and more on the way, you nod and murmur, “hmm, maybe…..”

and then you rejoice at the news that your kitten has been born. you wait six weeks, and when the father of your four-year-old is out of the country, for heaven’s sake, you drive out to the farm to meet the furry little fellow.

and, oh, you feel your heart go thwallop. and you see your little boy melt down onto the floor to meet what will pass for, um, a brother.

and you tuck the little ball of stripes into the nearest carry-all you can find, in this case the cardboard six-pack left from someone’s weekend beers.

and home you drive.

and out you let those stripes.

and he hightails it straight for your toes.

so many toes he charges for, he nibbles, he pierces with his razor kitten teeth, you hear these actual words come from the mouth of the father of your child, once he’s back from faraway country: “either he goes, or i go,” you hear him say. (and deep inside you snicker because you know forever more you’ve got one fine yarn to tell.)

and of course neither the ferocious toe-smitten kitten nor your mate heads for any door.

and you grow to love said cat. you catch your little one curled up with him, stroking him, making houses for him, trying to coax him into his kindergarten backpack.

you screech when said kitten leaps from tree limbs onto rooftops and when, uh oh, he can’t get down. and you hold your breath as the one who issued he-goes-or-i-go declaration hauls out the ladder and climbs precariously to the little rascal’s rescue. again and again and again.

and you walk through city alleys, crying, calling his name, every time he goes and gets lost for days on end, stuck in tight spots and dark cellars where, egad, drugs are sold. (you discover the latter after you’ve tiptoed through the labyrinthine basement blackness with the helpful chap who gangbangs on the side.)

oh, lord, that cat puts you through the wringer. and you love him more with every cock-eyed hair-raising chapter.
and then, some 13 years pass, and the cat you never could contain, the cat that roams all night, and leaves body parts on your doorstep, he slows down one summer. loses weight. is hardly his feisty self.

you fear he’s slurped too many murky waters from the birdbath, darn it. or perhaps he swallowed one too many critters from the tall-grass jungle.

and the boy who once carried him home, who stroked him, and cooed to him the whole long way, the boy who loved to tell the story of his name, how he came to be turkey baby choo-choo hi cat bye cat, the boy whose legs are now so long they spill beyond the borders of the bed (though the cat finds room to curl there, each and every morning), he is the first one to crumble when you point out the cat’s all bony just beneath his fur.

when you point out how he barely leaves the hollowed-out spot beneath the old roses in the garden, where he now spends hours napping. or is it that he’s feeling rather ill, and just can’t muster what it takes to up and stumble toward the house?

all at once, you all realize how time has passed and this chapter might be coming toward a close. how this cat that carried you from all alone and four to seventeen and very much a real-live brother has shared some fine adventures, stories to be told forevermore. and how, along the way, you’ve come to count on that rare breed of loyalty a boy and cat can surely share.

and you realize that even if it’s not the very end, the goodbyes begin in measured spoonfuls.

and so for a whole hour one summer morning, you sit on bricks, beside the spot where he’s gone limp, you stroke your blessed furry cat, you honor him with gratitude that’s deep, will last forever. you whisper words to him, tell him he was mighty in his glory days, showed what cats are made of, hauling home whole herds of chipmunk parts, and mice tails too, fierce hunter.

you consider the gentle side of that ol’ cat, how he climbed upon you in the morn, pushed his paws into your chest, as if kneading breadloaves, one paw after another, sure sign of cat love.

you think back on all the times when that cat, he leapt to your rescue. how when you were sick or sad, he always had a knack for climbing in your lap, for licking you with that scratchy sand-paper tongue of his. uncanny, how the cats smell hurt rising from the ones they love.

and with a cat–or any creature, after all, maybe even with a caterpillar if you name it, feed it, let it out for so-called walks (though more likely bends-and-stretches)–love’s a two-way street.

and, oh, what with college round the bend, and all this slo-mo cat decline, it seems we’ve come to the part of the story where the grace-filled parting starts unspooling.

where we gather up all the hours and the days of our entwined lives, where we sift through the parts that make us laugh out loud, and the ones where we held our breath and begged the heavens for his safe return.

love is like that towards the end. if you’re blessed to see it coming. if you’re given long slow mornings where you have a chance to look into each other’s eyes and hearts, say thank you for the bond that will not break, the bond that got us through a dark place, the pawing at the door so many times, when in on cat feet crept the next best thing to a little brother, one who never fought for books, but did play along in the amazon jungle.

that old cat is moving slow now. and we are mustering the start of our holy blessed vespers, the sacred rites of thank you and thank you before the last goodbye.

not always do we get the chance to tell the stories one more time, to whisper thank you and good bye. i know too well how suddenly sometimes death can come, and we’re left gasping. without goodbye. i know too that cat or dog or bird love is real. and its loss leaves a gaping wound. hopefully that old cat has a few romps left. he’s the cat my boys grew up with, he’s the cat who’s made us laugh and cry. and one thing’s certain, there’ll be more of both. have you been blessed to whisper long goodbyes? or were you too cut short?

the labor pains that never really end

back in the day when my belly was on the rise, and my doctor gave me choices, i signed up for the labor plan in which no drugs were involved.

i wanted to take it head on, surge through, make like the rest of the mammals and feel the pain.

i imagined it pure, somehow. undiluted.

didn’t realize, quite, that i’d signed onto that plan for life.

oh, i weathered it all right back in that birthing room, rode the tidal waves of contraction to the point that i imagined myself on a ledge, and wondered if at any second i might teeter off, go plunging to the lanes of traffic far below.

ah, but then the end came. the part where squeezing stops and pushing takes over, the part where the doctor aptly diagnosed, “looks like an irish head,” and my jewish husband asked, “whaddoes that mean?”

and before the first push, at the brink of discovery, i hollered out, “it means it’s gonna HURT!”

and, i suppose it did.

but that hurt like no other hurt gave way to miracle. gave way to pool-blue eyes that looked at me, studied me, as if to say, oh, so you’re the one.

gave way to thighs, rich and pudgy and layered with hallelujah fat. (i’d convinced myself, somehow, that i would grow a babe of merely flesh and bones. ahem. not that i’ve cooked up a stewpot of worries ever since conception…)

i remember my arms reaching out to take that just-born child, my fingers hungry, reaching as they’d never reached before, to pull him in, to harbor him against my chest, against my heart, to seal forever the envelope that would keep us one heart against the other, that would surround him forever in a cocoon of infinite love. love that always was and always will be.

i remember being wheeled from the room where he was born, down the hall and up one floor, to the room where i would come to know him, to study him, to memorize the dips and planes of his whole blessed body. to baptize him in the tears that came that night, that did not end, not until i had anointed him, bald head to baby toe, in the salty wash of a mother’s hope-give-way-to-ever-after-love.

back then, no one explained to me how those labor pains don’t really end. oh they subside, retrench, slither back into the corners.

but, your whole life long, when you’re a mother, you’re at risk of nearly writhing again. that ledge, where once you teetered, you remember it.

when you sign on–or at least when i did–you sign an everlasting contract.

you are, for the rest of your life, right there in the trenches, one step ahead of your child’s heart. it’s you–your flesh, your blood, your bones–that stands between you and the tip of the sword that flails toward your child.
or at least that’s the way it is for me.

all week this week, i’ve ached and held my breath. watched the boy i love so very much weather curves and setbacks.

the other night, when the clock ticking on the kitchen wall, ticked straight up to 1 a.m., all i yearned for was a bed. but right beside me sat a boy who ached from head to toe, whose body nearly flopped onto the keyboard where he typed, whose brain gears were getting stuck, but whose sentences needed words.

all he wanted from me was to stay right by his side. he did not want to face the night alone, the dark, the hollow.
i tried to make my braincells kick in gear, to back up his, but mine too were stuck in midnight quicksand.

except for this one thought, the thought that kept me upright, shoulder-to-shoulder beside my aching tired boy: remember when the labor wouldn’t stop, i asked myself, remember when it hurt so much and there was no escaping? well, this too is labor, flashed-forward, labor of another kind: yes, it hurts; stick with it.

this child, now nearly 10 inches taller, and 50 pounds heavier than his mother, he’s in a dark hole now, i told myself. he is trying to make sense of sentences for a teacher who demands the very most–razor-sharp thought, construction without yield, lump-free logic.

you do not leave a child when it hurts, when it gets too hard. at least not in the book of motherhood that i took off the shelf.

i’m not alone.

i see it all around me all the time. the mother whose son’s leg was crushed in the elevator door–after the other leg was broken in the shower. the mother whose sweet girl has tumors in her liver, for the second time now. the mother whose baby was born blind in one eye. the mother whose third-grader doesn’t learn like all the rest, who twirls in circles, even when the teacher says to stop, even when the other parents pretend to look away, but you hear them if you listen, tsk, tsk, they pretend not to say.

mothers do not escape the pains of birth once birth is ended.

mothers sign on, through thick and thin. marriage vows pale, put up against the promises of motherhood.

there is no mountain i will not climb. no shark-infested waters i won’t swim.

if i need to be up at 5 to stir the oatmeal in the morning, watch me stagger down the stairs. need to run to the grocery store at 10 p.m., to buy roadfood for the hungry rowers, well then grab the keys, find the clogs, and point the car where it must go.

there is no shortcut when the subject is a mother’s love. no cliffs notes on how to raise a kid. you take what you’re given, you swerve, you duck, you swing. you give it all you’ve got, and then a dollop that you never knew you had.

show me a kid in trouble, and a mama whose heart is not weighted down, as if sagging from a bag of rocks strung and tied around that sorry muscle.

but then the morning comes. the kid looks up, stares straight into your eyes, deep through and out the other side, into the eyes of the one he knows loves him through and through and through, rough spots and zits, a mother’s eyes don’t see those things. or if they do, they forgive and forgive.

all a mama wants is for that kid to grow and thrive and capture all his dreams.

and if it takes the labor pains that do not end to make those dreams come true, well then i’ll be the mama who takes it head on, full throttle.

because, in my book, that’s what births the miracle, the love that’s like no other.

that magnificent creation up above, the garden of wonder? it’s from my little one, and i am crazy mad for it. intend to frame it, hang it on my bedroom wall. so i can wake up each morning, and rise and shine and face the world that so benevolently gave me not one but two dreams come true.

happy mother’s day to each and all of you who mother in one magnificent form or another….

postcard from daycamp

dear anybody out there,

it’s me. at camp. oh, i know. i’m not supposed to be here. back in january, when winds were howling and snows blew in through the cracks, when the farthest thing from any right-thinking mind should have been what to do with the long hot summer, back then, when i signed up for this little adventure, i did not check some wee little box, saying i too wanted to come.

nope, this was supposed to be daycamp for l’il campers. not daycamp for mamas. but, in the world that i live in, things don’t always unfold quite like they’re ‘sposed to.

nope.

despite the fact that right up till bedtime the night before the first day of camp, all was swell in the i’m-going-to-camp dept., somehow, when curls hit the pillow, something had changed.

suddenly, there was much tossing and turning and calling down stairs. “i feel nervous,” was one of the hollers. “can you come here?” was another. followed by a solemn request to climb out of bed and reach for the box with the little glass hearts, the ones employed back on the night right before the first full day of school. the ones we squeezed back and forth, our own morse sort of code, to make like an invisible wire kept us tied through the long lonely hours of a first day apart.

and so, duly equipped, on day no. 1, my little camper set out with sunscreen and towel, pb & little glass heart.

apparently, the ol’ heart is due for a tune-up. a sad fact that became abundantly clear faster than i could spit out, “sweetheart, how was it?”as he slumped off the bus at the end of the very first day.

the big yellow camp bus had not even coughed up its exiting fumes, nor started to roll out of sight after unloading my little one, when his face, red and splotchy for starters, turned into a miserable mess of sweat, sobs and tears.

“i was homesick all day,” he told me, clutching my hand, nearly collapsing into my side, crying so hard we plopped right down on the sidewalk.

the rest of the night was one long, sniffly attempt to try to decipher the root of the very bad case of mal de chateau, to put a french spin on the global affliction.

if the word p-o-o-l was so much as whispered, the sniffles turned back to the sobs.

seems the pool, according to said camper, was seven feet deep at the shallowest end, and you could and you would sink to the bottom. seems, too, the campers were warned, and spared no gory details, of the imminent dangers of cracked heads and corners of pool.

besides all that drowning and bleeding to death, it was just plain nagging homesickness that ruined the day.

there was no going back for much of the evening. he was, it seemed, on strike for the summer. would rather wither up in his room than have to board that darn yellow bus, romp in the sun, slip on the edge of the pool and succumb to the deathly deep waters.

scrounging for some sort of out here, some sort of way to turn this around–save calling and begging for refund–i asked, squeakily, would it help if i came for the swimming? to which he shook his head yes, in between inhales in between sobs.

and, so, that is how i came to be the only fully-dressed soul on the side of the pool at the next day of camp, which happened to be only just yesterday.

which brings me directly to my reason for writing: life ain’t how you script it, now is it?

so much for breezy, easy summer. so much for scootching the boy onto the bus and spending my worry-free days here at the keyboard.

nope, not once in my wee little memory can i recall something around here unfolding the easy way.

all over america, i assume, there are campers whistling their way onto lumbering buses, signing up gleefully for rope climbing and watersliding. not minding the sun, not even mosquitoes. heck, someone somewhere might even take plain old grape jelly with the ubiquitous smear of peanutty butter.

but not at my house. and maybe not at yours either.

here, i am holding my breath. waiting for the camp nurse to call. wondering and wondering if maybe there’s someone who’s taken a shine to my homesick sweet camper.

i did all i could: stood there and cheered at the side of the pool, come yesterday morn. eyeballed the depth, informed him quite clearly it’s 3 and a half, not seven and change. told him, nope, i could not come every day.

but i could and i did tuck a love note back in his lunch bag this morning. slathered him up, with plenty of sunscreen. promised i’d wait right at the curb for the bus at the end of the very long day. then i waved adios, and started my prayers.

i find myself wondering why it is that for some of us the equation is never so simple, never straight forward. camp + camper does not equal instant attraction.

these things are labored for around here. we soothe and we coax. we dial up camp. we explain, and we ask if maybe we might be an exception, and sort of just lurk by the pool in the midst of our workday. just this once. please.

so much for carefree summer. heck, if this keeps up, i’ll be longing for school days.

and i know i’m not alone. i know a mama who had to walk a sixth grader into the school social worker each day, just to get the child out of the minivan. i know kids who won’t get near a bike. kids who refuse to go on a sleepover.

all i’m saying is there’s so much of growing up that everyone pretends is so easy. only it’s not. not at all for the kids whose hearts ache, and the ones whose tummies are tied up in knots.

i’m just saying summer’s not always a breeze. and some lemonade just can’t be made sweet enough. i’m saying for every 10 kids who take to the ballfield, there’s one–at least–left on the sidelines, shaking in fear.

i’m saying, God bless those children who find it so hard. and God bless the mamas and papas and all of the grownups who pay close attention, who don’t just slap the kid on the back, tell ‘em to buck up or else. turn out the light, let ‘em cry in the dark.

Lord have mercy, is all i ask. and try not to forget, a pool, even a mere three feet of water, can look to very small eyes like enough of a sea to swallow ’em whole.

and for just such a child, there’s no harm, i’d wager, in a grownup stopping the workday, and heading to daycamp. streetclothes and all.

don’t worry ’bout sunscreen. the sun doesn’t shine where a child is homesick.

did you find it harder to grow up than you thought it should be? than it seemed to be for everyone else? do you know little ones–or now big ones–who found every climb up the mountain to be steeper than anyone warned you? who lightened your climb? how have you lightened some homesick daycamper?

red alert

i didn’t notice the first day. and not really the second day. but, by the third day, the third bitter cold day in a row, the third day when the unfurling of scarlet as it darted from pine bough to naked magnolia was decidedly absent, i started to worry.

now, worrying, in case you don’t know, is something i do exceedingly well. comes naturally. like breathing, only in staccato. only in spending the morning with an eye out the window, watching, combing the sky and the branches. on fullest alert.

as i watched without reason to hope, as i thought of the bitterest cold, i remembered the words of my mama telling me how so many birds from her flock had been lost, in the deep snap of cold.

“couldn’t survive,” she declared in that way that she does, unspooling for all of her nestlings all the mysteries of nature, of life and of death. she seems to know things that come from a long life of breathing in sync with the birds and the woods and the clouds.

and so, as the image of a little red bird, fallen somewhere, on the unforgiving crust of the snow, made the hairs on my neck rise, i thought of climbing in boots, commencing a search. imagined the crunch through the snow, pulling back branches, poking through all of the grasses, now frozen and matted and frankly quite knotted, that i’d left in the yard for the winter, for the birds who might savor their seed, or their harbor, on a day not too cold to put wind to their wings.

then i thought of the hawk. the great cooper’s hawk, the one with the tail so big and so thick i once mistook it for an owl–and that was merely the tail. add the head and the wings and the muscle-bound chest under all of those feathers and you’ve got a bird you should fear.

and fear it they do, all my fine feathered friends. one mere swoop of the hawk through the sky, clears all of the branches of birds. they scatter, i swear, when that hawk is a mile away. they know, before i see a thing, that death in the clutches of indiscriminate beak, or in talons the size of a three-penny nail, is a death to avoid.

and then, always, there is the cat. the cat that i feed twice a day. the cat who curls up on my lap, and purrs like a chevy with ’58 fins. that cat, i pretend, knows better than to touch a red bird. if that cat crosses that line, comes home with a dried bit of feathery red there where he does all his licking, that cat will be dispatched to the dungeon. and i like to think–though i’m sure i’m kidding myself–that he’s too tender-hearted to torment me so cruelly, to partake of papa the cardinal.

while all these horrible endings swirled in my head, i ached for the red bird–papa, i call him–who, whenever he darts through my day, brings me a deep knowing that i’ve been touched by a something divine.

i can be pouring a tall dose of coffee, there by my little side window, and, poof, there’s papa, his bright scarlet frock nestled right there in the bushes just inches away.

or, as i haul out the trash, or dash to an errand that should have been started nearly an hour before, there’s papa. cheer-cheering from top of the oak. or playing peek-a-boo in the pines.

wherever he comes, whenever he flashes his colors, my soul breathes a sigh that makes me feel wholly at home. he brings the divine down to the earthliest minute.

now, i know that a bird is not mine. these birds all around me belong to the heavens. and the trees they inhabit, just happen to be near to me and my four-walled nest.

but, over time, a particular possessiveness creeps in the equation. they are mine, i am theirs. together we do a fine dance. a dance i’m not willing to end.

and so, in the hours when i’d noticed his absence, when i raked all the limbs, when i scoured the ground, i felt the depth of that dance in my heart, realized the intricate wiring between me and my red-banner bird.

it is, perhaps, the shock of the color itself, heart-stopping, really, against the bleak gray of the winter undressed, or the white of the winter, fully attired.

it is that sign from above that amid the humdrum, the everyday, there comes, without warning, without siren, the scarlet cloak that whispers, “your day was just touched.”

it is hope when i need it, a charge when i’ll take it. it is, some lonely hours, as if the Holiest One is tapping there at my window, the answer to an unwhispered prayer.

and so it was, when, after three days that felt like three weeks, that flash once again caught me unawares. i was minding my business–i’d forgotten if only for a bit of a while that i needed to worry–when, suddenly, there at the feeder perched papa.

i moved close to the window, as close as i could without startling my too-long-gone friend. close enough to see his little heart pounding, there under the reddest of breasts. my heart pounded as well.

for a minute there, the other day, me and a bird from somewhere on high, we beat the same song with the whole of our hearts. papa was home, was safe, wasn’t buried, stiff in the snow.

his absence now over, i’ve not yet let go of the sense that i–and he–was saved from a terrible sorrow.

sometimes it takes a bit of a scare to remember how blessed we are.

sometimes we don’t feel the depth of a plug in our heart, until it is pulled. until there’s a hole and it’s gaping.

only then, sadly, do we realize that without that something we love, that something we count on, our breathing is not wholly ours. it depends on grace all around us. it depends on the touch under the sheets in the night, on the peck on the cheek in the doorway, or the flash of a wing in the branches.

the red bird out my window taught me that lesson this week. gentle bird, messenger bird. bird in heavenly red. bird that beckons attention.

have you seen a sign lately? a celestial sign? some sign from above that reminds you the earthliest truth? have you come to know, only too late, how deeply you miss some grace note you’d taken for granted? any one else feel a particular kinship to the reddest bird in these parts (save for the tanager who seems too scarce for everyday musings)?