Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Whichever Way the Wind Blows

Photo Credit to my Incredible Half-Sister-In-Law, Crystal Brown
I know...

It has been too long. I realize that the irony is thick around this one, but I was busy writing so I didn't write. Here. (Rolls eyes... Takes deep breath.)

Life gets in the way sometimes and lately I have been letting life get in my way more than most. You know, I have these afflictions. Afflictions like parenting and making a living (several, in fact) and every now and then running away from home... FAR away from home. These all have gotten woefully in the way of writing here. Not that I haven't missed it. I have.

Here is where I feel free. I can be who I am, write the short stories, be the scattered person in my head with the thoughts all a-tangle and the wine glass full to the brim. I will still check in... I will. I still have writing prompts that keep at me and little pieces of myself to explore. Here is where I do that. Here is where I dare to be unprofessional and not authoritative and not at all in control. Here is where I live.

I am a dandelion seed, blown about on the hot winds of summer.
I am hither and yon, lighting only momentarily to take flight once more.
I tilt and careen, carefree in my path, never certain of my landing.
When my updraft-umbrella-seed finally alights,
I am there only enough time to push through the surface, bloom briefly and take flight again;
Rebirthed and rejuvenated, lifted by the breezes to fly again.
Aloft is where I find peace, the earth cannot hold me fast.
Aloft I am renewed and invigorated. Earthbound is not for me.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Of Bangles and Silk

Photo Credit
I have a gypsy shadow… She rises from the steam of my bath, curling, twirling, spinning madly, arms raised entwined above her head. The tinks and clinks and tiny bells upon her skirts hypnotize my busyness, slow me down, calm my buzzing brain. She is a froth of activity, but so free, so wild, so unencumbered I forget to worry, I just watch…

She twirls into the depths of me and spins herself around my heart, releasing all of the things I should not do, could not do, have not done. She opens the gates on my fears and sends them fleeing out into the openness, away from me and my soul. She laughs at my reluctance, dances through my anxiety and flings my insecurities and doubts far away.

She unfurls my confidence like the silky scarf tied fast around her hair and opens me wide with the flick of a ringed hand, bangles clanking against her wrists. Refusing my hesitation with a hearty cascade of laughter she reaches in deep, caressing my inner secrets, cherishing my awe and wonder wresting from me the gems I never thought to possess.

The silver bells on her ankles bounce and sing as she beckons me to loose the wild, to dance with her in abandon and unbridled joy. Her cascading laughter and whispered sighs encourage me to dive and spin and twist beside her, to open that vault of mystery and explore the delights inside. She pulls the burn of my desire from my deeps and spins the flame, unafraid, into an orb of bright and inviting light. She is revealing the hidden and giving wings to my dreams in ways I could not do.

I have a gypsy shadow and she's never far away…. Listen and you can hear her sing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Watercolor by Quincy Brown

I see you…

I see your intensity, your smiling eyes, your mouth pursed as you create the life you imagine through your art and your writing.

I see your desire to do right, to choose wisely, to make us proud.

I see you…

I see that spark that lights within when your friends reach out, when they touch your heart, when they hear your silent cries.

I see a woman with incredible drive, a lust for life, a laugh that reflects immense joy within.

I see you…

I see my shadow, pale and waning; not much of me now, but all of you.

I see your heart, vulnerable and soft, in your touch and hugs, your breath on my neck.

I see you…

I crave your voice, the laugh that cascades like water, the way it floats on air and sings back to me all of your secrets and dreams.

I feel your loss, the stepping away, the testing of boundaries and I see your cautious look back.

I see you…

I see the day fast approaching when I will wait to hear your call, to watch you drive in the driveway, to feel your hug around my neck.

I see your wings, stretched out, ready for flight and new, adventurous views.

I see you, darling girl, with all of your shining little gems. I see you when you are sure nobody sees. I see you and I am filled with joy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Getting Affairs In Order (Short story: Long post)

Photo Credit: Creative Commons
She was there, kneeling on a low gardener's bench, her aged hands gloved and working steadily, a large brimmed hat with a festive floral ribbon pulled down on her greying head. She alternated between the small spade and her hands, turning over the earth and plucking out the unwanted weeds. When she sat upright and reached for the glass of lemonade not far away, August decided she could interrupt.

"I was wondering when you would come through that gate," her grandmother grinned sidelong at her as she replaced the glass at her side and began her work again. "What's up, Buttercup?"

August sighed and sank to the railroad tie that delineated one of her grandmother's small flower beds. She fidgeted with a dandelion that had been yanked from its purchase and tossed to the side. Just the thought of speaking to her Gran was causing her eyes to sting with unshed tears. What was it about voicing a problem that made her puddle like a school girl?

"Take your time," the old woman offered gently, still turning earth over and creating a soft dark pillow around the plants and flowers. "I'm not going anywhere."

August took a long breath as an attempt at steadying her voice. Still unsure, she took another, watching as the gnarled hands of her grandmother worked gently, lovingly, but steadily; turning with the spade, sifting with her gloved hands, the freckles along her papery skinned arm shifting and flexing with each movement.

Finally August offered softly, "I don't know what to do anymore. I feel so lonely and lost," and with that, the tears began to fall. She watched as her grandmother kept on working, shifting her gardening bench into different areas, but still the same methodical movements. She was giving her room, permission to find the words in her own time, with her own voice.

"I don't know, Gran. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill but he's so distant, and I am so angry and we fight all the time. I wonder if it's over," her voice cracked and broke, tears coursing down her face now, her breath coming in ragged bursts. She swiped at her cheeks, and blew a breath out through her pursed lips.

The old woman rocked back on her haunches and wiped at her craggy forehead with the back of a gloved hand, "Do you want it to be over?" She gazed at her granddaughter with clear, bright eyes, concern etching her thin mouth in tiny, fine lines.

August could only shake her head no, too afraid to risk speech lest she begin to bawl incoherently.

Gran nodded to herself and returned to the earth in front of her, "Then it isn't over."

"But how do I do this, Gran? How do I keep our marriage from imploding? How did you do it, all those years with Poppy?" She listened in desperation as the hat bobbed up and down, rhythmically keeping time with the movements of her hands in the dirt.

A grin crept along the corners of Gran's mouth as she delicately placed an upturned earthworm back into the shade of a peony bush where it burrowed quickly into the soft black soil. She turned her gaze on her granddaughter and chuckled, "I had affairs. Lots and lots of affairs."

August  dropped the dandelion and gaped at her grandmother, working ceaselessly non-plussed in the hot sun. Had she heard that right? Surely not! "Gran, what did you say?"

"I had affairs." The hands turned and flicked, sorted and sifted, leaving behind newly turned earth, breathing new life to the roots of her precious garden. She was smiling to herself and patting at the brown carpet before her before turning round and sitting on the kneeling bench, her knees the color of coffee, the wet dirt caking her khaki capris.

August could only stare in shock. Her grandmother had affairs? She couldn't make her head wrap around the image of Gran in another man's arms. It was unfathomable.

"I think one of the things that we women do to our men is put them up on these pedestals that they never asked to be elevated to," Gran continued, "We ask them to be our everything: friend, lover, confidant, provider, and the weight of that is crushing," She took a long draught of the glass heavy with condensation before offering it to August. She refused with a shake of her brown curls.

"We think that once we are married our lives should center around this one man, this one thing about us: our marriage. We think we have to concentrate our entire effort on being the best wife, the best mother and the best couple among our friends. We lose ourselves in that single solitary thing about us and we expect that our husbands will lose themselves too," she glanced at August who was watching her intently. "and when they do not, we are crushed. We wonder what we did wrong, why doesn't he love us they same way we love him? We forget to be who they fell in love with; we forget that we are vibrant, loving, talented women and we wither in our lopsided bitterness."

August sighed at the recognition. She had done just that, but was the answer really another man? She shook her head from side to side, "I don't think I could do it, Gran; take on a lover?"

Her grandmother burst out laughing, the peals of it cascading around the brick foundation of her home and trickling down the vining roses along multiple trellises, "Oh my word, child! I don't mean I had affairs with other men!" Her laughter echoed around the copse of fruit trees and trotted back to them on tiny unseen hooves, "If I am having issues with the one man, why on earth would I invite another into the mix?" It was Gran's turn to shake her head, grinning from ear to ear as she patted August on the back.

"No, dear child, I had affairs with myself, with my interests. After almost leaving my marriage in only the third year because I had mistakenly made it the complete center of my existence, I decided I had to find another focus. I began to explore me and who I was, who I wanted to be. I gardened," she gestured at the fabulous beds surrounding her home, cultivated from years and years of attentive grooming. "I painted, I read voraciously, I volunteered, I even traveled. I did it all without the aid or company of your Poppy. I had to."

August nodded, recalling all of these things in her Gran's life. She was here because she admired this woman, so strong and vibrant, even with the sudden passing of her husband after 48 years of wedded bliss.

"Once I quit making that man the sole center of my existence, once I released myself to take care of me," she pulled her gloves off, one finger at a time, "I released him to remember I am capable of living without him. It eased the burden he already felt heavy on his heart. It let him breathe."

She lay the gloves on the bench beside her and clasped her hands around her knobby knees, "A marriage cannot survive inside a sealed vault. It has to breathe," her bright eyes locked with August's. "If you hold a bunny too tightly, soft and lovely as it is, what happens?" Her scant eyebrows lifted with the question.

August recalled holding that little grey ball of fluff as it breathed its last in her hands, having refused to put it down for far too long. She had been just a child but it had been a lasting lesson, and her Gran had been the one to pick up the pieces when she fell to devastation over the loss. She sighed into her lap, "It dies."

Gran laid her hand on August's shoulder, "You have to let it rest, honey. If you overwater and over-tend, your garden will die. There is a time to weed and work and a time to sit in the shade with a glass of something and enjoy the view."

"Giving him some space will remind him how much he enjoys your presence. If there is never absence, there isn't a chance to miss someone. If he never misses you, he will take you for granted. If he takes you for granted, you will want to know why you are trying so hard, why you should stay." Gran stood and stretched out long, her bared shins as freckled with skin as papery thin as her arms, but there was strength beneath that aging skin. Her calves were muscled and wiry, her torso thinner than most women her age. She had obviously taken care of herself, thought August, and maybe this was the very reason she still radiated vibrance.

"Does it get better?" August tried to be hopeful, "Did Poppy appreciate you more?"

Gran's face shifted to a wistful smile, "No." The word hung like a pall between them, "But I appreciated me more." A tear traced its way down her soft cheeks, rosy with the heat.

"You cannot make someone notice you nor change who they are inside. You can only decide whether you will stay and what you will do to make it work for you. I knew I loved him more. I knew I would always be a little bit lonely in the marriage, but I also knew I would be devastated without him. I chose. I chose to stay; I chose to choose me when I needed to and I chose to love him in the ways he needed." She stared off into the muggy humidity of the morning. "It was not a silver bullet, darling. Nothing is. Marriage is hard and often an unequal endeavor, but then I was never taught it would be equitable."

"That is a lie that your mother's generation tried to sell you," she grinned and wiped at her leaking eyes, "Marriage is very seldom an equitable endeavor. There will be times when it is easier to look into each other's eyes and then there will be times you are fathoms apart. In those times, when you cannot see eye to eye, don't look to him for your happiness. Look to the mirror and look to God." She bent to reach for the bench and her now empty glass.



"Thank you." August stood and clasped her grandmother in a hug around the myriad awkward pieces of equipment in her arms.

"Go do you, August. You will appreciate it, even if he doesn't." Gran pecked at her cheek and waved with her fingers as she turned to retreat into the cool shade of her kitchen, screen door slamming against the wooden jamb in punctuated finality.

August sighed and made her way back out the garden gate. She would have to find a way… No, she would choose to find a way.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mourning Light

They were gone. The noise, the warmth of their multitude, the chatter of their voices, low and reverent… It was all gone. Now the silence invaded, creeping slowly along the hardwoods, seeping in through the cast iron vents, trickling into her ears and down her neck to her heart held together tenuously with frayed string and tainted memories.

She drew her breath in slowly, closing her eyes to the evening light that fought to remain in the open air of the living room. She listened as her indrawn air filled her chest and seeped out of her in stuttering puffs. The grandmother clock in the hall ticked rhythmically taking on a loudness in the looming silence; the house creaked and popped sharply in the heat of the waning day, registering its complaints to no one in particular. Gradually she opened her eyes.

The fading light streamed through, bathing her in its soft caress. The dust motes swirled and dipped in the golden rays, bandied about by her breath - in and out, in and out, just as she had watched his breath come and go in those last days. In and out, just keep breathing she had prayed, please just keep breathing. Until he didn't.

Until he died.

Tears stung at her eyes again. Here in the silence she let them fall. She didn't stop the flow, pat at her mascara, smile that insipid smile she had recently adopted. She just let them fall, course down her cheeks and drip off her chin to her chest where they ran tiny rivulets into her shapeless navy shift.

She looked around the room, devoid of furniture, the wood of the floor glowing a burnt umber in the sunset. Gone was the hospital bed, the monitors, the tubes, wires and bags of fluids. Gone was the form wasting away under layers of blankets that held no warmth. Gone was the symphony of sound that marked his presence and then his passing. She stared into that beam of sunlight and could almost see him there, faded and blurred against the tears.

She reached into the ray and swirled the motes with her hand gently, just as she had touched him during those final moments.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons
The clock struck off the hour, chiming melancholy tones into the cavernous house where she stood alone. Time to feed, she thought to herself. A sigh escaped her from deep within and the motes swirled in response. There was nothing to feed anymore. They had sold the animals to fund his hospice and final passing. Even the calf they nursed in the laundry room for so many weeks had been sold. She had been a pet of sorts, runted and dog-like, following her around the yard begging for a handful of grain or a stalk of celery.

All of it was gone. There was only her now. She turned toward the doorway and stepped onto the porch as the last of the days light slid below the horizon. She wrapped her arms around herself and drug the night air into her lungs. The light around the place the sun had sunk on the skyline glowed pink and violet, celebrating one last favorite of his as it disappeared with a flicker.

The finality of it was done, marked by darkness and the slow dawning of stars in the azure sky. She would move on in the morning, make decisions and plans, trod the new path of her life without him, but tonight, right now - She would savor the last of it.

She sank to the steps of the porch and leaned her head on the pillar, gazing into the darkening heavens around her. Each star that appeared, shining forth its light gave her heart a pin prick of hope. Even in the stark sunlight of the brightest day she couldn't see the stars in their gentle placement. It was only in the blackness that they gleamed forth. The darkness would allow her to regroup, gather herself gently to her purpose, feed her soul the comfort of silence…

Friday, April 25, 2014

What you don't see….

The early morning light creeps through the slats in the blinds. Tinged petal pink and innocent, it reflects nothing of the darkness it endured in the hours prior. My body is awash with relief that another night has passed and another day is underway. I can see the sleeping form of my oldest, still breathing steadily in slumber under mounds of covers and pillows. I smile at our night curled next to each other, lending comfort back and forth like a brush to comb out our emotional tangles.

I stretch quietly beside her and marvel at the refreshment having her weight on her father's side of the bed lent me. As I watch the light creep into my room, stretching its yellowing fingers along the ceiling, bringing brightness and energy, I am reminded that there is so much that no one sees in my life.

Padding to the kitchen, rinsing the coffee pot in ritualistic steps, I realize much of my life is hidden, sheltered, isolated. No one sees the long nights, the television playing well into the morning hours to drown out strange sounds, the sudden way I can awaken and sit bolt upright in bed. No one sees the kink in my neck, the knot in my hip, the drag in my gait because I cannot sleep when he is gone. No one sees the tears of frustration I have dropped off the end of my nose because timing was off and there was no momentary break to hear his voice, read his words, feel his love.

I sip at my mug and recall the thank-yous, the compliments of my support, and I smirk to myself. I return those honest and genuine sentiments with a forced smile and an easy "of course," but in my heart I am jealous, envious, seething. I want to scream at them, "Do not thank me!" I want to cry, "I get no choice…" But I don't, I only smile and nod. It is vastly inappropriate to be so territorial, I tell myself. I shouldn't covet, I chide, but therein lies the rub.

Like a child learning to socialize and share their toys, I must continually give more, not just of myself, but of him also. Like that same toddler, I peer sideways as they take him off, reveling in his talents and his gifts and I want desperately to yank him back. I want to tell them, no - I changed my mind… I will give you anything else, but not him. I know it isn't possible. I know it isn't fair.

I realize in my thoughts I have drained my mug and I wander back to the pot, once more. The ebony liquid swirls against the cream and crystalline sugar and becomes a shade of warm caramel. It's transformation sparks me…From black and bitter, adding the milk and the sugar I create something I can enjoy. If I want to stand beside a man with so many dreams and desires, I have to be willing to drink my cup without resentment. I don't like black coffee, so I add sweetness and light to make it more palatable. My life is the same. I cannot live in a world of isolation and bitter loneliness, so I add to it the sweetness of friends, the bright light of social interactions. It is a constant battle to push outside my comfort zone into the illuminated world around me, to resist the pull of my own darkened heart waiting sullenly for his return.

So much of me is hidden, deep in the folds of sleepless nights and broken hearts, and like the moon I will shine forth the face I want seen, but she is there, that jealous one. She is there slinking in the darkness and only by adding the tiny flicker of a friendly candle can I keep her at bay. Always, always, she is there…in what you don't see.
Photo credit Creative Commons

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Photo used with permission from Antonio Ysursa
The bus rocked and tipped along the narrow dirt road, crammed to the rafters with the small brown people she had lived among the past year. Even from the concealing folds of the modest hijab she wore, she felt conspicuous; a lumpy pearl among shining, dark amber. What the hell was she trying to prove anyway? She didn't belong here, she didn't have any business inserting herself into this culture, and yet going home seemed like failure.

She peered from the headdress and bowed stance to gaze at the occupants packed with her into the rickety, creaking auto bus. There were young girls in plaid school uniforms, old men reading crumpled day-old papers, women coming from market with bamboo encapsulated chickens and ducks. It was a cacophony of sounds and menagerie of color; bright saris and drapes, the crisp white of the men's tunics, all against the exotic mochas and deep chocolates of shiny brown skin.

No one looked twice at her, despite her towering height of five foot nine. She was just another traveler on this dusty road, bumping along, grabbing for any purchase as the driver slung the top heavy bus around narrow corners and swerved to miss oncoming traffic. She was nothing to them. She was an outsider, a European, a White.

She sighed as she returned her gaze to her lap. The fringe on the edge of her wrap had drug on the ground as she had run for the teetering bus and it now lay caked in mud from the gutter. She picked at the small dried clods with her fingers and reached into her bag for a bottle of water. Using a few precious drops, she cleaned the bright pink and red silk. She turned back to replace the bottle to safety and that was when she saw her.

She was the only person on the bus who didn't seem to ignore her, with her giant stance, her pale skin and her auburn hair. It took just a moment to recognize that the child's skin was freckled, pale like hers and her eyes were blue, glinting steely from the slate blue head covering. Her heart stopped and she was reticent to draw breath. Where was the child from? The woman sitting next to her had nodded off, being elderly with her craggy brown face bobbing about as they swayed and dipped along the road. Her mind whirred with mystery and she looked up and down the crowded aisle of the bus, searching for anyone who might lay claim to this porcelain skinned youngster. The girl just continued to stare, unblinking, unbending… Unnerving.

She tried a smile but those eyes bore into her; accusatory, excavating her insecurities and exposing her fears. Those eyes were not youthful eyes, but weary with mistrust and brimming with hatred. The gaze of a child so filled with contempt was startling to her, but the look itself - it was familiar.

It was a stare that she had become so acquainted with, matched with cat calls because she was white. Of course she would be a whore, she had been counseled before her trip: she was American, her hair was red, she was labeled with all of her un-Indian-ness a devil. She had no business being there, despite the humanitarian organization she worked for, she would never, ever fit in. While this had been drummed into her, she had naively pressed on in her insistence that she was perfect for the work, that her heart would overcome, that surely it couldn't be that bad.

Despite the open antagonistic nature of the people among whom she lived and ultimately served, the mission statement of the organization held her fast. The compassion she had for Hindu women and the deep longing she held for rescuing those ensnared in the sex trade quelled her desire to leave. She could take the stares and the vile propositions launched at her in broken English. What she couldn't take was the horribly calloused way she had seen Indian women, women of their own hue, beaten, raped, slashed and tossed away like garbage. It was heartbreaking.

The bus hissed and screeched slowly to a stop at a small town, dusty and rural. The old woman, opened her eyes as if by clockwork and grabbed roughly at the child's hand, dragging her toward the exit, pushing slowly through the close press of bodies. As the girl reached her seat she whispered in Hindi, her eyes mean slits in that angelic face, "Go back. You don't belong. We hate you!"

She sucked in breath at the vehemence of the statement. Even as the old woman tugged at her hand, those eyes accused her, looking back, staring through her to some unseen threat, coated in loathing and contempt. She lowered her gaze as the tears began to sting her eyes. It was a confirmation of all things she had taken for granted, the simplest act of friendship slapped away in a hail of racist abhorrence. She realized then that just because she looked the same, because their skin was the color of milk and not coffee, she was still recognized as outside the norm. It ran deeper.

Racism ran chasms into any culture, no matter the origin, and here… Well, here she stood out like a beacon ablaze with enticing neon light. But could she quit? That was the question that kept at her. That was the meat of the matter, as her grandmother would say. If she did quit, what did that say about her convictions? What did it say about her heart and her determination? It was always going to be hard. It was always going to have someone telling her she couldn't do it, she wouldn't fit, she would fail. Failure meant so many would go without, some would perish, many would starve disfigured and alone, and why? Because her feelings got hurt? Because some nasty little man asked her to perform fellatio in the streets of Mumbai? So what.

She took another breath and waited as the bus refilled with faces that didn't match hers, with women who tsked and whispered and pointed, with men who leered. She adjusted her wrap and sat a little straighter in her seat. No one had said it would be easy. In fact, most had told her she would fail, she would be home inside a month. Well, she had been here a year. She was by no means a super star, but what she was doing, what she awoke each morning to accomplish, it was her dream. It was a terrifyingly difficult task and she may never see success, but what would she see if she quit? Nothing. And if only one woman was saved, if only one girl was plucked from the sex trade, still intact and unscarred, then maybe she could say it was worth it. It would be so worth it...