Writing 101 – About A Loss

Oh woe – our tomatoes!  They started out so plump and meaty, the early summer heat, and our diligent weeding and watering made our first gardening endeavor seem assured.  We staked and secured the heavy fruit, tending our plants with love and care.

Then came the rain – days and nights of torrential downpours, and along with the rain came blight, a black cancer through the stems, the fungus seeping into the just ripening crop, and no amount of trimming stemmed the disease.

 

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101 – Three Songs of Importance

Seasons In The Sun, Terry Jacks.  No, it’s not important to me now – it’s not even that great a song – but when I was a kid, hearing that song for the first time, it was so sad.  Someone who sounded young was dying!  He was telling his friends and his father, and his little daughter, Michelle, (or at least that’s how I interpreted the lyrics) how hard it was to die, how much he would miss everything.  It was the first time I thought about death from a first person point of view, and it was heartbreaking, and I totally got it. I wished I could save him.

You May Be Right, and My Life, Billy Joel. I had a messed up childhood and Billy Joel provided an outlet for my anger at the world. You think I’m crazy?  Well, maybe I am, but maybe crazy is what you need to survive this world, and ‘I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life, go ahead with your own life, leave me alone’.  I remember friends telling me that my posturing looked like I had a ‘stay away from me’ note taped to my back.  Sadly that never stopped the predators.

Stevie Wonder provided the backdrop to much of my childhood and young adult life, starting with several songs on his, Songs In The Key Of Life, album, and continuing to this day.

During one of the most difficult periods of my life I particularly resonated with You Will Know:

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101: A Room with a View (or Just a View)

He murmurs and rustles around in his bed, and I find myself holding my breath, hoping his movements cease.  I settle back into my pillow, turning onto my right side to go back to sleep.  The street light filters in through the gaps in the blue cotton sheet curtains Jennie made for me several years ago, and I can’t get back to sleep, worrying that his fever is back up.

I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed, touching the cool, worn, dark wood floor.  The ill-fitted glass door handle takes an extra turn to disengage it, but I hear nothing as I tip-toe through the sitting room, trying to step easy on the creaking boards as I make my way past the built-in, glass-covered cabinet where the eight setting, black and green accented, White Lily Corelle dishware, glints in the dusky moon-lit room, the mismatched drinking glasses and Tupperware sippy-cups taking up the second shelf.  The double windows across the room are flanked by hideous floor-length, white polyester, purple and blue-rose patterned drapes, given to me by my aunt, Mary, after the last time she visited and saw the bare windows throughout the apartment.

The kitchen’s tan and white stone textured linoleum flooring feels cooler than the wood floors, but doesn’t creak.  The 1950’s era white Formica kitchen table stands next to the kitchen window, where the hanging spider plant casts an elongated shadow across the table’s surface.

Over the sink, the green Granny Smith-apple shaped clock’s minute hand sounds its steady tick-tick-tick, the time reading 2:30 a. m.

He cries out, as though he knows I’m standing there, and I wait before entering his room, knowing the very creaky old floor boards will fully wake him if I go in now.  I decide to grab the ear thermometer and step lightly off to the right of his room, entering the narrow bathroom, going past the tub to the mirrored medicine cabinet on the opposite side of the room above the sink.  I find the thermometer on the middle glass shelf, and push the cabinet door into the squeeze latch to shut it.

I tip-toe back to his room and stifle a laugh as I see his little body turned sideways, his legs draping over his toddler bed while the upper half of his body remains on the bed.  He must have tried to get up and fell back asleep in the trying.  I move stealthily, kneeling beside him to lift up his legs back onto the bed.  He rouses and starts to cry and I tell him I’m there, and I’ll rub his back after I take his temperature.  The thermometer reads 99°F.  He has fallen asleep again, but I lay down beside him and rub his back lightly over his Elmo pajamas.

He wakes me up several hours later, laughing that ‘mommy’s in his room’.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101 – Unlock The Mind

I guess I need a structure to write.  I’m a better follower than I am a self-motivator.  I enjoy writing, and most of my writing lately has been private journal entries.

I can’t think of anything to write, and fear that I’ve lost my passion for it.  I was once advised that if you can’t keep a flow of writing going, then make lists.

1. Writing is important to me because I get out all the tumbled thoughts burning inside of me.

2. If I make my writing public, it’s possible to connect with someone else who can relate.

3. I would like to make a living as a writer, and I have to WRITE for that to happen.

4. I worry that my thoughts are too intense, my hurt too deep, and would leave myself too vulnerable to the slings and arrows of others.

5. I’m not that important, is a good thing to remember.

6. I love my child with all my heart, and he’s off into his own life now & sharply separating from me.

7. I was made to endure.  I might not like it, but I can do it.

8. Writing nearly always helps the weight shift, if not lift.

9. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take this chance again.

10. I don’t have to worry about how anything is received, I only have to write.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Tabula Rasa

Empty space frightens me.  A blank page is so foreboding, and thoughts of the future, while they can be hopeful and inspiring, are often laced with dread.

What am I going to do?  What can I do?  How can I make a worthwhile life and not merely exist.

I read a blurb about a couple who stopped to take a picture of a beautiful sunset in Boston. The woman posted the picture through Instagram, and almost immediately after, a car near them struck another car, sending that car careening into the couple, killing them.  What the fuck?!

Seriously, how do we have any sense of stability or safety – ever.  We can’t, but we do.  We inure ourselves to how fragile we are, how fleeting this existence, and if you’re not religious, how final it all is.

There’s a certain beauty in life being here and now and nowhere else.  We don’t exist anywhere else – when it’s over, it’s over!  We wouldn’t know, and we couldn’t care.  It doesn’t matter how long or short our life is – only that we lived it.  Whatever portion we have, be here now.

Be here now.

Why does that elude me?  I’m in the past so often you’d think the present doesn’t exist for me.  Maybe the present is too uncertain for me.  The past is full of memory, of life, of friends, of excitement, adventure, and of hell too, but I get to choose what I focus on more often than not about the past.

For instance, summer has several levels. I remember my childhood summers as fairly care-free, and some of that was because I was so young. I was still discovering the world, and how things worked.  That’s still true, but now, I have experience and perspective, and that dulls so much of life’s brilliance for me.  Then, there is the pre-teen and teen year recollections.  Those years were fraught with a mix of hell and heaven.  I mostly think about my friends at that time, and how much they meant to me.  They were my tribe.  We’d spend time together nearly every day.  We hitch-hiked to the beach, or just spent time talking, getting stoned, laughing, swimming, working in various capacities, but mostly enjoying each other’s contribution to the whole of us.

It wasn’t perfect.  Friends got bitchy, plans didn’t work out, things went awry, but the charitable haze of summer memories favors the best times, and it makes me long for my friends, and to re-experience those precious moments – only known to me because I got to keep living.

I am thankful for that.

Summers throughout my twenties collected friend and love-soaked reminiscences, but also loneliness and a heap of broken heart rubble.  Having my son was the best and most terrible decision of my life.

Through my distant view, I needed way more help than I had.  I feel I was an 80% good mother, but that 20% sucked, and hurt my son through my Momzilla phases when I would yell for stupid things, and yell to rail against my circumstances, only I never managed to change.  He will never write a Mommy Dearest-esque diatribe about me, but he did tell me, when I apologized for the hundredth time about my lack of volume control, that I taught him how to deal with angry people.  Damned with faint praise.

We did have many sweet summer times though, so I am glad for that.

My thirties were all about parenting, and less time with old friends.  I was finally diagnosed with major depressive disorder, PTSD, anxiety and panic disorder, and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I got proper treatment, and found help for my ongoing trauma re-enactment.  This knowledge gave me a context, and a way to deal with some of my mental health issues, but just because I finally understood what had happened and how my brain was effected didn’t suddenly make the clouds part and birds start chirping.  It’s taken a long time to be more good with myself than not, and there are plenty of days when checking out seems like the best solution to my problems.

Now that my son is grown and off into making his own set of adult memories, I’m relishing summer again.  I long for carefree days with friends, for swimming, and lying on the beach, for talking about anything and the bonds of deep connection.  I’ve had that with my oldest sister this summer, and it’s been wonderful.  We’ve talked for hours on the edge of the lake, basking in the sun, then cooling off in the refreshing water.  I am her sister again, two women with shared history merging paths anew, a choice bringing us immeasurable personal value.

I desire that with all of my friends and family,  Communion is the only true currency, the most worthy pursuit I can imagine.

If I die and that is the end without any residual consciousness, or sentience, then living well is my gold standard.  If there is existence beyond our physical demise, I have no idea what that will mean – for I certainly don’t accept a heinous god and the precepts put forth by various religious tracts – but I do think I will be at peace, and surrounded by the love given to me, as well as the love I gave.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Broken

I’m filled with fantasies of how my life could be, but it’s not.  I ask for help, and none arrives.  I don’t begrudge the lack of help, I understand it’s not always possible, or available.

I get it.

So, what do I do?  My choices are slim, my failure to thrive.  I don’t blame anyone but myself.  I understand my life is in a context: there’s a prologue and pre-amble, and there’s a body of supporting evidence, and outcomes, and anecdotes – but no dénouement yet.

I convince myself it’s going to be alright, but I act in ways to ensure the opposite.  I don’t understand myself, but I keep trying to make better choices.  I look for ways to help myself, and use what’s available, and it’s not enough.

The price of poverty is high, and getting out of it unassisted is improbable.  The guilt and shame I live with becomes unbearable, as it is today. I did this to myself, and I’ve strived for so long to undo it, and still, I’m sinking.

This sickness consumes me.

I might be worthy, but I’m still poor, and I’m weak.  I give up too easily, I’ve been told, but it’s been years of struggle.

Summer Times

Summertime reminds me most of my next oldest sister, Allona.  I think of my eldest sister, Rachel, too, but Allona was more adventurous and high-spirited.  Allona could also be intractable and bossy, but thankfully those times were less when we were younger.

Allona lived in several Rhode Island towns over the years, some areas better than others. She was gifted with a parrot when she was in her early 20’s, whom she still has.  Her parrot was cool when she first got him, except for his deafening jungle squawking early in the morning & whenever the humans around him got loud.  Now, he’s a cranky old bird who delights in going after exposed toes, or snapping at anyone foolish enough to try to touch him.  Allona has taken very good care of him over the years, but they’ve both grown more ornery over time.  I wouldn’t mind him so much if he could be trained not to squawk so piercingly.

Summers in the 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s were often delightful, however.  We’d spend days by the shore, go dancing at night, and mostly enjoy each others’ company playing card games like Pitch or Spades.  Sometimes we’d go camping, my favorite part being the smell of brewing coffee on the camp stove those early mornings.  Camping lost its thrill for me as time went on and my body’s aches rebelled at bed rolls and even at air mattresses, but it was the least expensive option to go anywhere and stay for several days.

Life changed when I had my son.  I wasn’t as carefree anymore, and though we camped a few times when my son was a baby and toddler, it was more stressful than enjoyable.  I camped several times with my son and some of his friends in his pre-teens and teens, but after he was 13 or 14, my company was no longer desirable, which worked out because my body didn’t desire camping anymore either!

I always felt welcome at my sister’s house in my teens and twenties, and considered it a home away from home.  I am still comfortable at my sister’s, but I feel more like a guest these days.  Part of that is maturity – I’m more helpful and recognize that she has an order to her home that she likes, just as I have – so I try to keep my footprint small when I’m there.  In our teens and twenties, I didn’t think about respecting her space and resources – not that I was slovenly or over-consuming – it just wasn’t foremost in my mind back then, and neither was it in hers.

Allona was an energetic, adventurous, go-getter – and she still is – but now her efforts are more inwardly directed.  We figure out what’s important to us as we mature, and, often, our world becomes smaller as we let go of people and things that no longer serve us.

I don’t want to let go of Allona, or any of my family.  They’ve become more precious to me with time’s passage, and now that my son is grown, I feel I’ve reverted back to young adulthood – wanting adventure and close, happy, and carefree friendships to spend my time.  My body’s limitations tell me otherwise, and the sad distance between my son & I, when I had hoped to grow closer as friends once he was an adult on his own.

But today I feel a titillating warm summer breeze calling me to the beach, calling me to adventure, and I wish I were with Allona to share it.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Wish Granted

Daily Prompt, DailyPost

 

Undoubtedly you’ve heard of me.  I’ve been granting wishes for millennia, chained to my ornate prison.  I was once flesh, like yourself.  Once free to roam, dream – unfettered…

Be careful what you wish for.  My sullied dreams turned to dark thoughts with darker action.

You’re grateful it’s no longer possible for you to come upon my chamber.  All comes at a cost, but that was never my concern.  I granted that asked of me.  Only one ever asked what price might be exacted.  Once asked, I am obliged to answer.

You judge me?  I, who have suffered far beyond what your limited intellect could possibly fathom?  Be glad in the hearing, when my lust for revenge has gone, my anger, abated.  You are limited, and that now engenders more envy than contempt.

Once, I dared command the Unseen, Unknowable, to show Itself and imbue me with its power – but I would not acknowledge my limits – and so, was imprisoned and made to serve others.

A young woman sought me out, having heard my legend.  She found and followed the treacherous path to my dwelling.  One wish did she request – a wish for another – thus saving herself, and though we knew it not, released my bonds as well.

As I demand of all who find me, she told how she came to be there.  How pleased I was to hear the growing power of my legend, to feel the fear quivering in front of me, she, having survived the way, was awed beyond all expectation to behold my countenance!

She followed the sea path, the well-worn passage of many failures before her.  The conditions of fierce storm and icy wind being met, she wore seal-skin coverings – more clever than many others before her – she carried a gold knife to open the seal of my dwelling, and once entered, she gave the customary smoke offering.  She had navigated the underwater sea cave more skillfully than many, and traversed unrequited remains through the steep mountain terrain.

One of my only pleasures came through the accounts of successful petitioners.  I do not hope to arouse your pity; I offer context of my existence.

Upon finding my vessel, I heard her utter the incantation, her quavering voice interested me, her desperation so familiar, so wretched, I wanted only to watch her wither and fail her quest.  Her voice became stronger, her resolve quieting her outward fear.

I revealed myself through a slow vapor, enjoying the astonished look that the legend was true, and more quizzically, a relief and calm enveloping her – an unknown sensation to behold.  Her humility assuaged my resentment at being summoned.  Her shaking limbs betrayed her resolve, but she did not waver in purpose.

As I rose, filling all before her, towering above her, and the unexpected heat and putrid stench nearly making her retch, she squeezed shut her eyes, drawing shallow breath through her mouth, clenched her hands, and made herself look up into the solid-seeming giant before her.  My over-large head grazed the cave’s top, allowing her a full realization of her foolishness before I bent toward her, bringing my vile face down as though to swallow her entire.

She expected her demise; her quest was true, but I did not diminish.  She spoke clearly, though I knew her heart quickened to painfulness, and her hands continued trembling.  She asked permission to request her wish.

She did not demand, nor display arrogance, and I knew she was prepared for denial.  She believed some of my legend, but not all.

Curious, I baited her.  Didn’t she know I had no choice but to grant her desire?  She heard rumors, but she wasn’t here for herself, she croaked.

I nearly deflated in front of her.  Recovering, and puffing myself out, I pressed her against the cave’s wall, then withdrew enough to allow her room to stand and speak, if she dared.  Was this some clever ruse to chain me afresh?  Did she carry a container I could not sense that she hoped to carry me away in?  ‘I wish help for my brother’, she uttered.

‘And what allowance would make you endure your passage for this brother?, I demanded.

‘His heart is failing, and his kingdom will fall without his guidance, but he would never seek help for himself’, she replied.

‘So what will you gain in the transaction?’, I countered.

‘Peace, and safety for my family’, she responded.

‘Then request peace!’, I bellowed.

‘I do not wish peace without merit.’

She did not wish peace without merit!?  She understood that proper wording could gain her the world, yet she chose nothing for herself.  I understood courage and worthiness then, and willed myself to her height.

‘Your request is granted’, I replied, ‘but a favor is wanted in return’.  She submitted as though she expected more suffering, but I brought forth a sweetly fragrant and soothing breeze that quieted her soul as I knelt before her, and asked for her hands, that I might absorb some humility.

We were equally impressed by this behavior – she from astonishment that her body and soul remained unmolested – and I, by the release of my unseen chains which I hadn’t known was possible until that moment.

My powers were diminishing, but I retained enough to return her to the head of the sea path.  I left her with instructions to tell of vanquishing me. Ever after, all those seeking me were thwarted as my cavern dwelling laid in ruins, the sea passage and coastal trail destroyed soon after she stepped off the way toward her home.

Though my vessel was destroyed, ending my bondage, I chose to stay within the mountain, my containment voluntary, even though the burden of my folly will always remain.  I have related this to you that you might think on it, and recall to those dear to you of any wisdom found in the telling.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Agreements

I agreed to my life even when I railed against things I couldn’t change.  I always wanted something more, or different.  I’ve been searching for the spark that would make me feel satisfied and content.  I’ve never found the magic formula, and have been told it is a Don Quixote worthy quest.  I have enough perspective now to look back over my life and examine its contents.  It would be helpful if my life were a container I could pour out and toss what is no longer useful, and clean up lack-luster parts.  Memory changes with time, even if specific notations remain.  My “I will always remembers” or “I will never forgets” are less sharp, though some have grown in poignancy.

Some memory seems encased in amber – music and lyrics I recall entirely without active thought, for instance, while I often struggle to remember the past days’ events.  I know it’s because young brains absorb information at a dramatic rate, until, soon – too soon – dendrites start withering as that not used loses access, and because music assimilates differently than other information.

Even recently, I wanted to end my life, quelling my agreement to this unremitting existence, but it will happen anyway, and sooner than I’ll probably like at the time.  Life abounds in irony, those who want it can’t keep it while careless others have abundance. Is that life’s trick, life’s paradox?  You only get what you want by not wanting it?  Become less, and I’ll be more?  Life also employs exceptions, so there are never any hard and fast rules, but there are typical truisms I’m wise to follow.

Life’s cruelty is the payment it exacts, but my hope hedges against the cost being worthwhile, so I keep playing, searching for satisfaction, for purpose, and, ultimately, for redemption.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Not Really Here

He avoided my glance and we sat in silence, the palpable awkwardness filling the space between and around us.  I searched for interesting topics, but nothing came.

I only see him every few months, you’d think I’d have stored up things to say or ask, but everything I brought up was rebuffed with a shrug or monotone brevity.

I dreamed we were on a school trip I must have been chaperoning, and he wasn’t as distant as usual, but I was guarded throughout, worried I’d say or do something reproachable.  I woke up sadder than I’ve been in a while, grieving a new piece of this unfamiliar landscape.

I read Necessary Losses. I remember it was insightful and helpful.  Maybe I’ll read it again.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Twenty: Diaries, Cards & Letters

I started my first diary at eleven years old, but lost it when I left it in the back of a car and it got thrown away by the car’s owner.  I had only written a few entries, but I learned never to take a journal with me unless I could carry it in my back-pack or handbag.  I began collecting cards and letters around the same time.  I saved every letter my Australian pen-pal wrote me, and then I saved all the letters from various friends and relatives over the years.  These are my most prized possessions.

I moved around the country several times, going as far as San Diego, California from South Portland, Maine, and then back home to Massachusetts where I’ve remained ever since.  On the move back to MA, I shipped mine and my son’s belongings while we flew home.  Some driver along the way dropped one of the pallets our things were on and damaged our bicycles, mine especially, and a couple of boxes were lost and never found.  One of the boxes had many of my son’s books, and some of my saved cards and letters, but I’m fortunate that none of my journals were lost.

Re-reading the letters was experiencing those moments again.  I remembered the time so much more vividly than simply looking at pictures, and it’s interesting to remember incidents long forgotten, disagreements, difficult, or easeful times.  The few love letters I saved still bring back deep emotions, even though the guy was a jerk most of the time, and I am forever grateful the relationship ended.

These missives of friends and family fill me with gratitude as I read words of encouragement, kindness, or the re-telling of those time snapshots.  I feel badly for how much suffering was shared, or the worry about each other.  The caring is apparent, the love and friendship we shared is endless, and I am still in touch with almost all of the senders.  A few have died, so I cherish those cards and letters all the more.

My journals are harder to read because I wrote most when things were the worst.  Writing helped me purge all that raw emotion on the page, helping me to compartmentalize my tortured mind and keep slogging through my life.  I champion that young woman who found insight and reason to keep going as much as I wipe away tears for her because she couldn’t find solace.  I have enough distance now, enough perspective, that I am not dogged by the horror of my life as much as I used to be.  Growing up with physical and sexual violence leaves its mark, and my lack of coping skills bleeds through far too many pages.

The happier times are a joy to read, the enjoyable days with my son especially, and my friends and family too.  I drew my strength from others, but I hope I wasn’t a huge drain on those around me.  I kept my hell contained as best I could, but I was the Eeyore of my peers, although my outer nature was sunnier!

Eeyore

Most of my focus is discovery now – getting to see how I’ve grown, and that I have endured – and while I still have a lot of rough edges, I do get out of my darkness faster than I used to.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

 

 

Writing 101, Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’ – Or The Pissin’ & Moanin’ ;-p

My left arm still isn’t functioning.  At first the surgeon said 2 days, then it was 2 weeks, it’s now 4 months, since yesterday, and there has been a very slight change.  My bicep is coming back a bit because I can feel it try to tighten, but my deltoid is still MIA. I’ve been slacking on PT exercises not because I don’t want to but because I have so many other things to do.  The exercises are to keep my arm from further atrophy, and remind my brain that my arm is still willing to work.  I am doing the shoulder crunches and trying to bring my shoulder blades together all through the day, so I suppose that’s something.  My arm is just hanging by my side most of the time and the sling sucks because I can’t get anything done when I have my arm in the stupid thing.  I will wear when I go for a walk or activities that I don’t need both hands, because my left hand is still working – my triceps are fine – but I’m getting super tired of this bullshit.  I want my arm back.  I’m reminded of the scary story about the Golden Arm, and how silly it is now, but how scary it was hearing it when I was six or seven.  It was in the same genre as the Camp Murderer, when someone tells the story about the asylum that is only a few miles from the campground, and they heard on the news today about a psychotic killer having escaped.  Someone will leave the tent, but the story was so absorbing I didn’t notice, and at the climax of the story, there is scraping against the tent, and the screams probably woke anyone sleeping in the campground.

God, I was so gullible!  I’m not supposed to edit or trash self-talk or anything for this post, and I am doing my level best because I just want to delete it all and find something better to say.  Waa, waa, waa.  Is that how to spell that, the baby crying back door way of dissing myself for having feelings?  Yeah, don’t stew in the self-pity, I get that, but you can still be pissed at the condition you’re in, and then move on as best you can.  No one likes a downer, man.  A buzz killer, etc.  I just noticed I nearly wrote 400 words on my free write, so that’s cool because now I’m done!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

 

Writing 101, Day Eighteen, Neighborhood Troubles

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

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Today’s Saturday.  It’s Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for the fifth of May.  We learned that yesterday in history.  Ms. Jenkins told us about the Battle of Puebla victory against the French army that the Mexicans won, even though they didn’t win the war, but it’s sort of like how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Mom helped me decorate the window with red, yellow, and green crêpe paper streamers, but she wouldn’t let me have a piñata, but at least we’re having tacos for supper and some fried ice cream for dessert.

I wanted to put some of the streamers around the stair railings outside, so I put on my favorite Hello Kitty cap, pulling it down so the sun was shaded all the way and went out.  It was still morning but it was hot already.  There was a green and yellow car with, Marble County Sheriff, in big white letters outlined in black parked outside Mrs. Pauley’s apartment. The sheriff got out of the car and went up the cement stairs to Mrs. Pauley’s apartment.  Some other guy I’ve seen a couple of times was standing outside Mrs. Pauley’s too.  He’s shorter than the sheriff, and the grey suit he’s wearing looks a little big on him.  I hope Mrs. Pauley’s not in trouble, or maybe something happened to one of her kids?  She’s got six kids, but they’re all grown up, and I only know George, who moved out last year.  He was there a few times when Mrs. Pauley watched me.  George liked building card houses with me, but I could never get mine to stay up as well as his.

The last time I saw George, and all of Mrs. Pauley’s family, was when Mr. Pauley died. It was the same day I started school last September, and I watched through the living room window that night when the ambulance took him away, and after that the Pauleys’ apartment was dark for a few days.

Mom and I went to the memorial service because the Pauley’s were nice to us – they were nice to everyone – but, like I said, Mrs. Pauley watched me sometimes when Mom worked late.  I really liked going over to the Pauley’s with mom in the summer when Mrs. Pauley was weeding her flowers she planted on both sides of the stoop.  All the flowers made her house look happier than all the other houses on the block.  Mom would make up a batch of iced tea or, my favorite, lemonade, and we’d bring some to Mrs. Pauley.  We’d all sit down and have a drink while Mom and Mrs. Pauley talked about the terrible Peterson’s next door, with their bratty kids who got in trouble for spray painting swears on the side of City Market at the end of the block, and stuff like that. Mrs. Pauley got sad talking about Mr. Pauley losing his job, and how they weren’t doing so good lately.

I felt bad for Mrs. Pauley, and started helping pull some of her weeds until she asked me to stop because I accidentally pulled up some things that weren’t weeds. I started watching the ants scurry around the sidewalk instead.  One was pulling a dead bug that was way bigger than it was, and I wondered how it could do that.  I liked being there with mom and Mrs. Pauley. I liked the way the breeze felt on my arms and legs, and how it ruffled my mom’s hair.  Only a few of Mrs. Pauley’s grey hairs moved around because she wears it up in bun all the time.

Mrs. Pauley is my favorite neighbor because she doesn’t ask too many questions, and she likes baking chocolate chip cookies – the chewy kind that I never want to stop eating.  I loved helping make cookies the last time she watched me because I got to eat one almost right out of the oven, and the chips were all melted and tasted so good.  Mrs. Pauley also likes that I have good posture and that I keep my clothes clean.  I guess she doesn’t see me much because I do not always keep my clothes clean!  I didn’t like it when we were on sitting on the stoop and Mrs. Pauley said that someday I’d find someone ‘as good as her Harold to marry’.  Eww, I don’t ever want to get married.  Mom laughed and said, “Jeanine’s barely cut her second molars, it’s not time to start talking about husbands!”  Then mom took off my hat and ruffled my hair, which she knows I hate, but I let her that time because she looked so happy sitting there with Mrs. Pauley, and she’s usually so stressed out.

Mrs. Pauley started crying after the sheriff handed her a piece of paper, and I decided to go over and see what happened.  I pushed my hat up a little so I could see better, and went across the street as soon as there were no cars coming.  I’ve been wearing my hat since I got in for my birthday last June, and it’s getting dingy looking around the brim, but I won’t let mom wash it because I’m afraid it will get ruined.

The sheriff was telling Mrs. Pauley that she had to have all her stuff out by Monday, and the other man said he was sorry, but the rent was long overdue.  Mrs. Pauley didn’t even see me standing there.  She just closed her door and the sheriff and the other man left.

I ran back across the street and told Mom that Mrs. Pauley was getting kicked out of her house.  Mom’s eyes widened, and she said ‘oh, no’, and then she took out her phone and called Mrs. Pauley.  They talked for a little while and mom had tears in her eyes when she ended the call.

I decided that we had to help Mrs. Pauley.  I asked Mom what we could do and she suggested starting a collection to help, but Mrs. Pauley was going to need a way to continue paying her rent.  I thought of calling George, and her other sons – maybe they could help.  Mom helped me find George’s number off the internet, and we called him right then.  He didn’t even know Mrs. Pauley was in trouble, never mind lots of trouble!  I didn’t understand why George didn’t know, but mom said some people have too much pride to let others know when they’re not doing well.

The day I saw Mrs. Pauley almost lose her home was a terrible, horrible day – kind of like Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was one of my favorite books when I was nine. George must have called his other brothers and got their help too because Mrs. Pauley didn’t move out.  Mom and I went to the City Market and they gave us a bunch of old plastic containers, and I used a red marker to write ‘Help Mrs. Pauley’ in my best lettering.  City Market let me put a container on their counter, and we brought the others to the library, the Happy Bean coffee shop, and I brought one to the school office, while mom brought the last one to work.

We only got a hundred dollars the whole month, but Mrs. Pauley thanked me over and over.  We’re going to keep the containers there, and try to find other ways to help too.  I told Mrs. Pauley she should start selling chocolate chip cookies, and she thought that was a good idea.  It may not be like the Battle of Puebla, but it did start on Cinco de Mayo.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Seventeen, Fear With A Twist

One of my worst fears?  That the bartender won’t bring my drink soon enough!  That’s my fear with a twist – get it?

Fine, a real fear. I could say something pedestrian and banal like ‘I’ll never find love’, or ‘dying alone’, etcetera, but an honest fear is dying of AIDS, or being burned alive.

The context is ‘address one of your worst fears’.  Of the two mentioned above, being burned alive is probably the worst because there are good drugs for AIDS, but I watched a friend perish from AIDS, each day worse than the last, his broken body wracked with pain, blistering sores, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and he endured each new opportunistic bacteria, fungus, or virus that destroyed his fragile immune system.

Maybe being burned alive is a piece of cake after that, but I don’t know.  I don’t want to find out.  This was a stupid fucking exercise, and I’m not even sure why I did it, but there, it’s done.

Writing 101, Day Sixteen, Labor Of Love

My job keeps me humble.  Every day broken hearts and lost love by the thousands come through the Clearing House, and part of my job is sorting through the morass, deciding what’s repairable, and we send that up to the Techs with the appropriate work orders, but the tough ones are those we ship back for further grief processing.  Sometimes hearts that looked relatively untarnished come back several more times – each time more ragged and bruised.  I’ve been tempted to send encouraging notes with those, but I’m not a Technician, and I’d probably only make it worse.

The Clearing House selected me when I was fifteen, and my empathic powers weren’t developing as my parents had hoped.  I couldn’t repel others’ grief, and you have to keep your emotions out of it if you’re going to be a Technician.  Filtering others’ emotions through my heart used to cause me terrible sadness, but being a Sorter has clarified what’s mine, and how to not attach my heart to others.

Not that I’m immune to heartbreak – I’ve had several leaves of absence while my heart was sorted – and my work review has had several underscores in grief differentiation skills, and too much entanglement.  It has taken me nearly twenty years to learn the craft, and I still slip up now and then.  The older crew worried about me, and a few times I was almost done for, but I made it back, and I hope the last leave was exactly that!

Trey swore he’d never seen a heart that torn up mend, and I owe a lot to the techies – especially Marcia, bless her heart, who took my heart home for some extra care, even though she wasn’t supposed to.  I guess even Technicians can score low on entanglement sometimes.

Dealing with lost love is trickier than straight-up broken hearts.  There’s often so much hope left that you’d think it would be easier to sort out, but lost love is like a bottomless pit.  You send it up to Tech, and it comes right back down to be sorted as hopes rise and fall, and we do our best to piece it all back together into something workable.  Sometimes the best that Tech can do is rearrange pieces to fit, but sometimes there’s only a shell left, the insides are all fragments.

The best part of the job is seeing mended hearts, and when love is found – either old or new.  It’s difficult, but the world couldn’t exist without our work.  The Techs get most of the gratitude, but they share it with us because the entire operation is only as good as its parts.

Last week, I picked up a heart, and was just about to toss it into the irretrievable pile, when it fluttered and shimmered for several seconds.  It wasn’t really enough to send up to Tech, but my empathy must be getting better because I couldn’t toss it.  I knew I might get reprimanded, but I was prepared to defend my decision.  Turns out, I didn’t have to.  We don’t always get to know particular stories, but yesterday Marcia came down to tell me that the heart I saved was from a young woman who reminded Marcia of me.  She almost didn’t make it, Marcia confided, but just as Marcia was about to stop resuscitation, the heart leaped and glowed stronger than ever.  Marcia delivered it personally – she might be the one reprimanded if management finds out! – but the woman decided to love herself, and finally knew that she was enough.

I’m so glad Marcia shared that with me because it helps keep me strong too.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Fifteen, They Canceled The Fair

fryeburgfairnightHow many years has it been? Twenty-five, no, thirty!  I’ve been going to the Down Home Agricultural County Fair since I was seven or eight, and now it’s canceled.  Sure, there are other fairs, I suppose – other fairs that are not the Down Home!

I had my first kiss underneath the bleachers next to where Frank’s Fabulous Pigs raced. I had turned thirteen the previous September, and Jimmy Reynolds, my friend and secret crush since third grade, grabbed a hold of my hand and pulled me under the bleachers.  At first I thought we were just going where we shouldn’t be, maybe to look for lost money, him beaming that ten-megawatt smile at me, and me awaiting further instruction, when he leaned in and kissed me.  My heart pounded and my hands were instantly sweaty as I kissed him back, and we stood there until the sound of feet stomping above us broke the spell.

We held hands the rest of the night, and although it was usually hard to shut me up, I couldn’t think of a thing to say – and neither could he.  We just kept riding the rides, playing the carnival games, and sharing fried dough, and a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Jimmy moved to Florida at the end of the summer, and we wrote letters back and forth for a while, promising to visit, which we never managed, and after a year went by the letters slowed, and by the next summer, I stopped hoping for a response to my last few letters.

The Down Home County Agricultural Fair was a near guarantee to see everyone I knew – and the chance to eat my fill of french fries with vinegar, fried dough, and over-priced lemonade, that I enjoyed watching the vendor make for me.  “You like it sweet or tart, honey?”  Sweet for me, tart for Jimmy.

Time wore on, and every year the events that attracted me changed from thrill rides to animal shows, and after my son was born I went with friends who had children, and we’d meet year after year, first riding with our children on the kiddie rides, our knees scrunched up, or wider hips not quite fitting into the tot-sized cars, and when they were big enough, putting our children on the kiddie rides alone, and watching with happy trepidation as they thrilled or freaked-out, and when they were older, bidding them farewell with instructions to meet later by the front gate, and having them pretend they didn’t see us whenever they’d pass by.

With my son in college, and friends scattered around, I went to the Down Home by myself last year, and spent most of my time looking at prize-winning quilts, home-made clothing, garden and preserve entrants’ displays, and shook my head at the carnies luring game players to win prizes not worth the two dollars to play one game.  Back in my day, I find myself thinking, it was a quarter, and the prizes were bigger, and better quality too.  I might as well start yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.  I catch myself and laugh, I don’t want to be in the ‘old coot’ category – not now, not ever.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

 

Writing 101, Day Fourteen: Letter To Mother, August 19, 1912

Photo credit: The Fairmont Copley Plaza

Photo credit: The Fairmont Copley Plaza

August 19, 1912

Dearest Mother,

I am so very sad you couldn’t make it to the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s opening gala.  I’ve been told there were over a thousands guests, although I knew it must have been close!  Oh, the crush of people, so excited to be in such a gorgeous hotel, and Mayor Fitzgerald’s wonderful remarks for the occasion.

Samuel and I toured the hotel with the mayor’s coterie, and you would fall in love with all the furnishings, paintings, and such fine architecture.

Our sixth-floor room looks out over Copley Square, and the windows are shaded with gorgeous gentian-blue brocade drapes, and the floor is covered with thick, soft, deep blue carpeting. There are custom-made furnishings, as well as the finest Queen Anne dresser and desk, and the feather bed makes you feel like you’re floating rather than lying on solid material! The cool marble in the bath feels so good on your feet, even though our room, as every room, has air-conditioning!  Imagine that, mother – all the cool air you could want at the click of a knob!

I wish I could stay here forever, but I’ll have to cherish our weekend as Sam’s architectural work and my household duties, as well as all the children’s activities, keep us from ever doing much these days.

Samuel and I have a luncheon to attend this afternoon, and I promise I’ll write more on our return.  I do hope you’re settling into the Gloucester house comfortably, and I can hardly wait for September when I’ll get to see you, and your mark on the place!

As ever, your dutiful daughter,

Marie

Fairmont Copley Plaza

 

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Something Found

Shimmering, silver, shadowed light,

Guide my path through darksome plight.

Arose a call cut through still air,

A screech, a chill, nothing there.

Trembling hands, heart’s fast throb,

Holding back a muffled sob.

Stumbling through brush,

A tear at my sleeve,

Barely feel able to breathe.

Ahead, Yes, there! Thankful Shelter -

Door pulled open with a heave -

Behind all chaos I did leave.

Locked, barred, against my fright,

Growling, scratching, they seek to bite.

Once lost, I am found,

And won against the raging hounds.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

 

Writing 101, Day 12, Too Shy

Too Shy, that was my nickname for a while in fourth grade, only the bullies ran it together – Toozhyyyy – so it sounded like my parents named me from a science fiction or fantasy book, or that I was from some exotic locale, which was how I liked to think of it.

I went to a new school a few weeks after fourth grade had already started, and made friends with Annabelle at recess my first day.  She wanted me to join in a game of Red Rover, but I said I didn’t want to because I didn’t know anyone, and I wasn’t very good at it, and she declared my problem was being too shy, which Eddy Frost and Kyle Jacobson heard, and started calling me Toozhyyyy, looking at me with their stupid, sour, faces, as if they had made up the best insult ever. I guess, maybe they had, because that’s what everyone called me when the teachers weren’t making them use my name, which is Susan.

Most of the time I pretended it didn’t bother me, but Annabelle suggested I bow the next time they called me it, and after that I became Queen Toozhyyyy, and one day I couldn’t take it anymore so I started calling Eddy, ‘Betty’, and Kyle, ‘Kyle-Pig-Pile’, and Annabelle laughed like it was the best joke she ever heard, and she called them that too, but it didn’t catch on.

Eddy told me he was going to beat me up after school if I kept calling him Eddy-Betty, and I told him I’d stop when he and Kyle-Pig-Pile stopped, and I hoped he knew how to fight good because my older brothers taught me how to fight, and I’d sure hate to see the bloody nose he was going to have.  I said it with my meanest look, staring right into his eyeballs as if I could see right into his bloody brains.

Eddy and Kyle left me alone after that, and I’ve been Susan ever since.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day 10, Favorite Food

“Why can’t I go with Lisa and Trudy?”, I begged mom for the third time in twenty minutes.  She was cutting up carrots, and celery –  and she gave me and my little brother a half a celery stalk for a snack, before adding the rest into the pea mash in the big stew pot simmering on the stove.

“For the last time, you’re too young to go out by yourselves.”

“But their moms are letting them go!”

Mom stopped chopping and eyed me, her lips whiting around the edges.

“Well, they are not your Mom, and your older brothers will take you after dinner, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go at all.”  She wiped her hands on her blue and white-flowered apron before picking up the ham-hock and adding it into the pot. “And, it’s the first year your little brother is going Trick-or-Treating, and you’ll have to stay with him”  She turned around starting to chop the onions, and I knew I’d be in trouble if I said another word, but I couldn’t help groaning, and I left the kitchen when I saw her raised eyebrows.

I laid down on the couch in the other room to pout, and listened to the wind blowing leaves against the side of the house, and after a while mom began humming, and I could hear my brother playing with his Lincoln log set on the kitchen floor, the sounds making me sleepy.  The celery hadn’t made me any less hungry, but mom would just get irritated again if I started asking if supper was done.

I got up and went into the kitchen anyway, and sat at the rectangular Formica table with the bumpy metal trim I liked to run my fingers along.  I didn’t like the kitchen chairs in the summer when my legs stuck to the plastic seat.  My brother got his head stuck in between the chair top and seat last summer and mom buttered his ears to get his head back out.  The stupid kid tried to do it again but mom warned him that she would just leave him there this time.

I thought that sitting at the table would make supper get done sooner, but instead, it seemed to take longer.  I liked the way the windows were steaming up though, and I went to draw a finger picture on the window but mom yelled at me that it would leave grease marks, so I sat back down and laid my face on the cool table-top.  Mom told me to get up and get the bread out of the pantry and put it on a plate, and then get the bowls and spoons out.

I didn’t grumble this time because I was so hungry and I knew that meant supper was ready!  I even got the butter without being asked.

Mom sat my brother on top of the phone books on his chair, and she told me to get my brothers and sisters for supper.  I yelled from the bottom of the stairs, making my mom yell at me from the kitchen to walk upstairs and get them, but they were already stomping down.

We all sat and ate our dinner, my older brothers finishing first, and my sisters close behind.  I loved the soup so much I wanted another bowl, and mom said there was just enough for seconds.

I hated having to wait for my little brother to finish, but mom let me go get my costume on while she cleaned up my brother.

After Trick-or-treating, the house still smelled like the pea soup, but I was too full of candy to want any more.  Mom made us pour out the rest of our candy to see what we could keep, while I smirked at my secret of already eating several pieces until my stupid brother told her we ate some on the way home – and I had told him he could have some only if he didn’t tell mom when we got home.  She told us to go straight to bed, adding that if we were poisoned it served us right for not listening to her, but when my brother burst into tears thinking he was going to die she relented and let us stay up another half-hour.

Through the years, Halloween has held a special memory of my mom’s pea soup, but I’ve yet to have, or make, pea soup as good as hers.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day 9, Life Goes On

Chester smiled at Bree, squeezing her hand, “What an absolutely gorgeous day!”

“I know! After all the rain, it’s nice to feel the sun again.”  Bree lifted her face toward the sun, she and Chester standing still for a long moment on the park’s dirt path, just past the weathered magnolia tree not yet in bloom.  “The air smells so clean, doesn’t it?” Bree inhaled and exhaled, looking at Chester who nodded his affirmation, his eyes still closed against the sun.

Bree clasped her fingers through Chester’s and they walked on, enjoying the greening grass, the azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, cherry, and ornamental pear trees in varied states of blossoming.  Spring was the hardest for Bree, the time of re-birth and awakening, but this was the fifth spring without Jason, and Chester seemed to sense her thoughts as he brought her hand up, kissing her fingers.

The path turned onto the broader paved bike lane where concrete benches sat every few hundred yards, and shade trees offered respite from the sun.  A calm breeze ruffled the edge of Bree’s new spring skirt and she hoped the wind would stay mild.  She bought it because she needed something new and pretty, but more because it was Chester’s favorite cerulean blue, and he liked it when she wore something other than jeans and t-shirts.

A woman sat knitting on a bench, and Bree felt her stomach tighten as she noticed it was a small, red, sweater.  Chester put his arm around Bree’s shoulder as he felt her trembling, and guided her beyond the bench.  Tears welled up in Chester’s eyes at the memory of Jason at two years old, in the red sweater Bree had knitted him, the sweater he was wearing that awful October day.

Bree had been doing laundry down cellar while Jason napped.  He had fallen asleep on their drive to the store and hadn’t woken when she brought him inside.  She put him in his crib and rushed to get some chores done while she could.  She had just finished transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer when she was seized with terror.  She ran upstairs and into Jason’s room to find him hanging over the side of the crib, the neck of the sweater having gotten caught and twisted on the crib’s edge, choking him.  He wasn’t breathing, his body tinted a grey-blue, and Bree heard herself scream but it seemed that someone else far away was screaming.  She frantically untangled him and began CPR, but it wasn’t working.  She scrambled to get the phone, her shaky fingers missing 911 twice before she connected.

She begged them to call Chester at work, not able to remember where he was at first.  The first responders found her clutching Jason to her, her face swollen from sobbing, and unable to speak.  She heard herself growl as they tried to pry Jason out of her arms, and she came back to herself when they told her she would have to let them help her child.  She thought that meant he was alive and she jerked herself up holding Jason out to his redeemer.  She didn’t notice the other responder had taken her arm and was pulling her back.  She heard soothing tones, but she didn’t know what he was saying.

Jason wasn’t coming back to life, and Bree felt hers slip away too as the edges of her sight narrowed and she was no more.

She woke up in Presbyterian Hospital, Chester holding her hand, looking gaunt and vacant. “Hi, love”, he said, bringing his face closer to hers, taking her face in his hands, and kissing her. “We almost lost you, too.”  Tears dropped onto her face, mingling with her own.

“He’s gone.  Our baby’s gone, isn’t he?  They lied. They didn’t save him.”

Chester kept his face next to Bree’s.  “They tried, honey.  They tried with all their might. I love you so much, please stay with me.  I can’t lose you too.”

Bree wailed, the sound chilling to all who heard her grief, and Chester dropped his head down to her shoulder, sobbing along with her.

The next year went by in a blur for both of them.  Their families and friends rallied around them, providing them with meals, comfort, and distraction.  They decided to sell the house and move into a condo.  Chester and Bree took leaves of absence from work, and it was several months before Bree stopped contemplating suicide daily.

Several years passed until Bree’s mourning was less surface, and she and Chester were learning to live side by side with their grief.  The first time Chester and Bree laughed felt like a new ability to Bree, but she felt guilty for having mirth, as though the world should be in black and white now, and always raining.

Bree had a psychic friend who came to tell her that Jason needed to see her happy.  He was waiting for her, just out of sight on the ‘other side’, and her joy would make him glad, and comforted.  Bree wasn’t sure she believed her, but she appreciated her friend being kind and consoling, and trying to guide Bree into the present.  Chester often looked lost and not as ready with a laugh or a joke as he used to be, but he went back to work sooner than Bree, and he started telling her about his daily routine again.

This year Jason would be seven, and Bree saw Jason in any boys about his age, wondering what he would be like.  She and Chester thought about trying to have another baby, but neither of them were ready yet.

Bree forced herself to breathe deep and slow, and find an object to focus on.  A beautiful maple tree grew several hundred feet off the path, and Bree noticed the tiny yellow-green leaves against the dark wood branches.  She looked at Chester who was also admiring the majestic tree.

“Life keeps going, honey.  Maybe we can think about trying to have another baby before we’re too old.”

Bree let the statement hang in the air, but she held Chester closer, and murmured, “I love you so much.  I’m happy to be with you, but I’ll think about more.”

Chester leaned in, kissing Bree full on the mouth, kissing her across her face and down to her neck.  He knew it embarrassed her, but he couldn’t help himself.  Being together in the beautiful day with his gorgeous wife, having survived such loss, but willing to risk again made life feel new for the first time in many years.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Eight: Adverbs Schmabverbs

A detailed description of somewhere I go today, and the twist is to write without using adverbs.

Tucked inside a low, single-level brick building, housing a law practice, and four other health practitioners, is Dr. Brad’s office. The asphalt frontage allows ten parking slots, one for handicapped parking, and I try to use a different space each time I go because I read that staying away from rote behavior helps your brain.

There is a six or seven-foot tall evergreen tree that reminds me of a Norfolk pine except it’s bent over like someone stuck some branches in the ground and called it a tree, but I can see that it’s alive.  I giggle every time I see it. Maybe it’s a young hemlock that got crossed with a Willow tree in a grotesque plant science experiment?  The landscaping also includes magenta-flowered rhododendrons, and low shrubs, set in a brick-lined, elongated s-curve in front, stopping at the three concrete stairs to the glass door, as well as a Zen sand garden enclosed by small white rock chunks.

Warm air flows over me as I open the door, and I walk over the wall-to-wall, multi-colored, low pile carpeting as I head to Dr. Brad’s door.  A slatted blonde wooden bench, and low white plastic table, garnished with several old copies of, Coastal Living, sit against the wall opposite the office door.  As we live nowhere near a coast, the choice of magazine is odd, but I’m glad to peruse the pages for tips on my future beach digs.

I hear noise from within the office, and see the doctor striding over to unlock the door. He smiles and holds his hand up in greeting. I return the gesture, and place the magazine back where it was while saying, ‘hello’, as he utters his, ‘Come on in!’ – a routine that has varied, in the five visits I’ve had with, ‘Glad to see you’, or ‘Welcome’.

Brass coat hooks line a wooden strip on the wall, and a black rubber mat with a sign reading ‘Please take your shoes off’, are to the right next to the door as I enter the waiting room.  Two deep-red fabric-cushioned, mahogany chairs are to my left, and four more of the same chairs edge the white wall leading up to the sliding glass-paneled window separating the business area and treatment rooms.

Three Van Gogh reproductions hang in gold metal frames over the three windowless walls, and New Age music plays out of round, white, ceiling speakers, but I follow the doctor through the tan wooden door to the left of the business window, through the blue carpeted hall, and into the sage-green painted treatment room, its central features a black treatment table, and a large window taking up three-quarters of the wall across the room, framed with light-yellow cotton curtains shading the room from the outside.  A mounted pull shade sits inside the top of the window frame, with a white-ringed cord at the center hanging down an inch or so.  Dr. Brad places a tissue-paper cover on the split-cushion top of the treatment table, and says, “Please lie face down, and let’s see what needs adjusting today.”

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take Dialogue

Mid-morning in an artsy café in a northeastern U.S. city, recent time.  The café is busy, with not many places left to sit.  Smooth jazz is playing quietly in the background.  Marie Tisdell, late 30’s, pretty, confident, stylish, – a somewhat jaded romantic, enters the café, sees the table she likes to sit at open, and puts her local weekly magazine open on the table, hoping to keep anyone else from sitting there while she stands in line to order a coffee.  As she comes back to take her seat, she sees Dan, a 30’s, handsome, casual style, grounded personality, who is sitting in her spot, looking at the magazine.

Marie walks up to Dan: “Uh, hi, that’s my paper, I was using it to hold this table for me.”

“Oh, sorry, but seats aren’t reserved”.

Marie looks around for a different table, but none are available.  “Well, is it alright if I sit with you?”

“Uh, sure. Would you like your paper back?”

“No, you can look at it.  I just want it back when you’re done.”

“I’m just checking events anyway.”

They drink in silence, Marie stealing a glance at Dan now and then as she watches other people in the café, waiting for her paper back.  She drinks her coffee, and rises to get a refill, at the same time Dan does.  They both chuckle, Dan quips: “Wow. You’re a quick coffee drinker!”

“And you’re a quick study, I see.”

He smiles somewhat self-consciously at her tone.  Marie, realizing her brusque manner, continues, nodding toward the paper:  “Find anything interesting yet?”

“Oh.  Yeah.  There’s an art opening I’d like to attend.”

“Oh, – which one?”

“There’s the Anwar Gallery – they’ve got some new local artists for the rest of the month.  And there’s the Tremball -” Dan notices an odd look on Marie’s face.  “- Are you mocking me?”

“Me? Why I don’t even know you.  I’m not feigning interest. . . yet.”

Dan doesn’t know what to make of Marie, and goes to take his refill back to the table.  He stops, and extends his hand, “I’m Dan Holden.”

“Nice to meet you.  I’m Bea.  If we got married, I’d be Bea Holden.”  When Dan doesn’t laugh, Marie continues:  “Sorry, lame joke.  I’m Marie Tisdell.”

“Well, Marie – Bea – whoever you are – it’s interesting to meet you.”

“Sorry.  I don’t usually introduce myself so frivolously.  I’m anxious about the gallery opening.  I tend to make stupid jokes when I’m nervous.  I’m one of the artists.”

“Really?  Which gallery?”

Marie sits as she answers, “The Anwar.  You know it’s something of a play on words, don’t you?” She looks at Dan for confirmation but he shakes his head ‘no’.  “James Anward, the owner, is very big on nature, art imitating life and all that.  Well, he’s very invested – literally and figuratively – in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – or ANWR.  I suppose you’ve heard of the drilling they want to do?” Dan just listening, shows no answer.  Marie continues:

“It’s been a hot topic for a while?  You know – oil?  Texas Tea? Black Gold?” She deflates somewhat at his playful lack, but tries to save face.  “Well, he’s very into saving the natural world for the sake of art I suppose, or at least to look the part.”

“You seem quite cynical.  Are you?”

“No, not really.  I’m just in a mood today.  Tomorrow I’ll be all hearts and flowers again, I’m sure.”

“And is this a pattern of yours?”

Marie gets up to leave saying, “You’re quite forthright, aren’t you?  Sometimes it helps to know a person a bit before you start to psychoanalyze them.  I’d bet you’re a therapist, am I right?”

“No, just an observer of humanity.  I write those observations and publish them in things called books.  Ever hear of them? New York Champagne? The Light Out Of The Dark Ages?”

Marie smiles slightly and quietly says, “Touché.”  She puts on her jacket, and slings her bag on her shoulder. “Well, Mr. Holden, it’s nice to meet you.  I must be off, but perhaps I’ll see you at the opening this evening?”

“Perhaps.  Good luck in any event.  I hope the critics rave.”

“Thanks, but you haven’t seen my work yet.”  Marie smiles again and continues: “Honestly, I’d be happy for a critic to show up, but as always, be careful what you wish for…  Ciao.”

“Bye.” Dan stares after her for a moment, pondering their encounter.

- The Art Gallery -

Marie flits around the room, greeting patrons, listening in on chatter among the gathering.  The energy is charged with excitement, glamour, and intellectualism.  Marie sees Dan, who is alone, looking at one of her works and greets him. “Hey! – you made it!”

“Hi.”  Dan smiles in greeting, continuing, “So, you really are Marie Tisdell.”

“Yes, that’s really me.”

“Nice work.  I see you’re into photo-realism.”

“Yes, and I prefer watercolor to oils, but sometimes only oil will do.”  Marie notices disdainful looks directed toward Dan from her colleagues seeing his attire.  She steps closer to him, coyly saying:  “So, would you like to get out of here, and maybe grab a bite to eat, or get a drink somewhere?”

Dan looks around at the full room, reporters and all, and turns back to Marie.

“Isn’t this what you were hoping for earlier, and now you’re ready to go – why?” Dan looks over his faded jeans and flannel-shirt – “because I’m not as haute couture as everyone else here?”

“No.  I – I don’t know.  I just thought…”

“What? That I’d be more comfortable away from this atmosphere?”

“I guess I assumed.  I’m sorry.”

Dan relaxes somewhat. smiling wryly, “Well, you know what they say about assumptions…”

“Um, that they’re seldom accurate?”

Dan chuckles and says, “Exactly.”

“Well, I feel like an ass.”

“Funny, you don’t look like one.”

“Oh ha, ha.  I’ve got a critic to grovel to now.  Maybe I can finish up the night groveling to you?”

“Let’s not take this too far, but concerning your art – I’d say you have real promise.  I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

Marie rolls her eyes while sighing. “Amateur.”  She smiles at him as she walks to greet the reporter.

Dan leaves after Marie begins speaking with the critic.  Marie searches through the crowd after her interview looking for Dan, feeling a pang of sadness as she realizes he left.

- The Café – a few days later -

Marie walks into the café and sees Dan at her favorite table again.  He’s reading and doesn’t notice her.  She gets a coffee, and starts to leave without talking to him, then changes her mind and goes up to the table.

“Seems like we both enjoy this particular spot.”

Dan looks up discomfited: “Oh, uh, hi.  How are you?”

“Oh – just fine, thanks.  Well, I just thought I’d say hello.  Take care.”

“Yeah, you too.”

Marie turns to go, hesitates, and turns back to him: “Listen – about the other night – it was really nice to see you there – my faux pas notwithstanding.”

“I did enjoy the show, but not the assumption part, of course.”

“Yeah. Uh, hey, I know this didn’t start well, but I’m really interested in you, and wonder if you’d be interested in going on a date sometime?”

“Well, that’s a very interesting proposition, and I must say, I am somewhat interested in your interest.”

“Okay, wordsmith.  That’s enough fun at my expense for now.  Do you mind if I sit for a minute?”

“No.  The place is full of empty seats.”

“I meant with you.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know – am I socially acceptable?”

Marie sighs as she sits, “Are you one of those ‘beat a dead horse’ kind of guys?”

“No.  Goats mostly. – You?”

Marie relaxes, her playful self fully engaged: “Squirrels for me.  There are more of them.”

Dan smiles brightly, leaning in toward Marie, “So where would we go on this ‘date’ idea of yours?”

“I know this fabulous art gallery…”

Dan’s eyebrows raise as he quips: “I found I hate art galleries.  How about a monster truck rally?”

“You’re joking – right? Hey – I know.  Let’s go on a picnic!”

“It’s January.”

“We’ll avoid the ants.”

“We’ll incur frostbite.”

“No bees – flies -“

“- No mosquitoes!  Let’s go!”

“Are you okay if it’s in my living room?”

“That was my next suggestion – but mine – not yours.”

“Why not mine?”

“Too big and airy I imagine.”

“Now who’s making assumptions?”

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

 

Writing 101, Day Six, Most Interesting Person Recently Met

He was in the left corner of the practice space in the basement when I walked in, adjusting his bass strap, tuning up with what I would later think of as ‘farmer’ hands, nearly twice as big as mine – broad and strong with long fingers. He looked up with an inquisitive acknowledgement of my presence, and I sensed that the other band members hadn’t told him I’d be auditioning that December Sunday two years ago.  His lanky body stood somewhat curved over at his shoulders, a slouching habit revealing not only poor posture, but his laid-back personality, and his easy smile reassured me that he was fine having me there.

He appeared more aloof from the other band members, and I hoped he was happy with my singing.  It was clear he enjoyed playing, and was good at it, but if that was his last day playing down in that cellar, it wouldn’t have disappointed him.

I got the gig and was so happy to have a band again.  The lead guitarist owned the house, and had me come early that first practice, ostensibly to work up a list of songs we all knew, and what key was good for me, but also to read me the riot act about no band romances – adding that it was a moot point because all the guys in the band were married – but that he had seen more bands ruined through dalliances and didn’t want that to happen.  Not only was I romantically involved at the time, but later, as I looked around at the guys in the room, the only one I would have considered was the bass player, and as he was married, there was no reason for the lecture.

Several practices in, the drummer and bassist were chatting about their weekend when I got there, the bassist describing how he had gone shopping out in Lee, and what a nice drive it had been, and I found myself oddly jealous, wishing I had been with him.  I wondered where the hell that came from, and quickly dismissed it, but where I stood was catty-corner from him, and I found myself looking at him often, and he would always smile, and I’d feel mortified that I was caught stealing a glance, though he never acted as if I were behaving untoward.

He laughed loudly at a private ongoing story he and the drummer shared, his broad smile drawing me in.  I wouldn’t have guessed that his life was falling apart at home.

We had a gig several months later at a shanty-like bar, a small wooden structure set back off the main route in the middle of nowhere, and I was always surprised by the amount of people able to fit in there, let alone that showed up.  After the job, we sat at the bar having a few drinks and chatting with the owner and his girlfriend, along with a few assorted others, and having recently ended my latest pseudo-relationship, I had a couple of shots with the guys, and then went into the bathroom to change into my street clothes after a while, announcing I’d be out in a minute, and when I came out, everyone was gone except Ned, who waited for me.  He walked me out to my car, asking if I was O.K. to drive, and if I wanted him to follow me to make sure I made it safely home, and I assured him I was fine.  From that day forward, our friendship steadily grew as we goofed around with each other more at practices, complaining to each other about band issues, and other small talk, and I thought that’s all it would ever be until he announced to the band one practice that he and his wife were separating.

I felt bad for him, but more because they stayed unhappily together for so long out of convenience rather than love.  After a few more practices, I grew worried because while I liked him, I thought he might see me as someone who answered more questions than I might raise for him in his life, and I knew the amount of baggage I drag around this world.

He told me he fell in love with my toes that summer when I wore sandals or flip-flops during band practices, adding that he’s not normally a ‘foot guy’.  He started there and ‘worked his way up’, and by the end of the year he said he couldn’t imagine being without me.

I was scared because I liked him too, but divorce is not the best place to start a relationship from, and I hemmed and hawed for a few months, but he eventually won me over as we spent more time together and realized how much we have in common, regardless of our differences.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.