Inspirational poetry gone awry. Sentiment with snarkish undertones, apathy all dressed up and parading about as if queen for the day....
Have you ever popped a chocolate into your mouth, your tongue wrapping about its deliciousness; explosions of velvety goodness and then..."Spitoo-ey!" Gag, gasp! "What in the hell was in the center?! Tasted like MOUSE CRAP!"
Death to generic chocolates. And all pretenders.
I despise pretenders. Charlatans and frauds...contemptible. I've actually raised my arm over my head casually during a dinner party and when asked why, I replied, "Savin' the watch...it's gettin' a little deep in here." (thank you mom for that southern gem)
And simply the worst of impostors are the ones that cover themselves in glitter and preen....gag me.
Thus my response to a recent blurb on a facebook page I came across. "I've flown and crashed, lost and won, I've learned my lessons and if you don't like who I am, then you can kiss my ass!"
I was all on board....yes, yes, and then....the flip of the hair and bob of the head and there was probably a finger wagging. This 20-something was all "I am who I am and if you don't like it, blah blah blah..." It's EVERYWHERE! In my classroom, on the bus, it seems to be permeating the very air we breathe.
When did this happen? When did our arrogance surmount our potential?
There was actually a time when self-improvement was a life-long endeavor. When learning and graciousness were pursued until death--and not just for financial gain or career advancement--but for the simple enrichment of the soul, the enhancement of the experience....just to be...more. Becoming a better cook, learning a language, reigning in a sharp temper, practicing patience.....being open to differences and beauty. Self control.
Living was a privilege then, cherished. Our technological advancements have eliminated so many diseases, sterilized our wars, isolated us behind screens. We've become enamored with our own opinions. We've forgotten that this life is not to be wasted on repetitious sitcoms, $5 pizzas, and lite beer! That the soul grows, the spirit blooms....that the potential inside each of us is breathtaking. The possibility of grace, the miracle of forgiveness. Kindness and laughter and giving....going without. Voluntarily.
The richness of humanity is the ability to change by will, not dictated by need.
And yet, the world is swimming with generic chocolates. Bridezillas and Springers and the girl at CVS who shoved her way in front of everyone. Potential so wrapped in layers of arrogance and belligerence that the seed within is suffocating. The magnificence that could be is choking.
The flames of entitlement are scorching our nation, leaving blackened husks where loveliness should have been.
Yesterday morning I was confronted with absolute proof that my darling angelic boys--have horns. And possibly a tail. I suppose every parent at some point faces the human fallibility of their prodigy, but mine slapped me in the face at 8am; shortly after waffles and kisses and "have a nice day!s." I waved good-bye as they left for the bus, one by one, and then went to tinkle. (three cups of joe before dawn will do that to you) And there, staring at me from the bottom of a yellow pool...was Pebbles. Not Bambam, not Fred or Wilma....Pebbles.
Someone had ditched their morning vitamin and forgot to flush. Ooooooh, I was peeved.
A peeved mum in our house leads to lost allowances and days without television...and cold cheese sandwiches for dinner. (seriously, ask my boys, tick me off badly--especially by being ungrateful--and I completely go on strike) Three growing boys used to home cooked menus containing bacon wrapped roasts and homemade bread and scalloped potatoes suddenly reduced to cold sandwiches and apples will surprise and delight you with rapid apologies and changed behavior.
At any rate, confrontations were had, the culprit confessed and handed over the cost of a bottle of Flinstones (about two week's allowance) and promises of future honesty were made. When we don't like something, we discuss. We don't lie, cheat or steal....or flush hard earned money down the toilet, dammit!
However, last night I was shocked repeatedly as glaring examples of exactly that--lying, cheating, & stealing--were paraded across the television screen accompanied by a catchy tune, nifty tag lines, and the ever present laugh track. Welcome to American advertising.
Example 1. Sad boy is about to ingest deplorable poptart when he is rescued by generous girl from such a blunder by her offer to share her delish toaster strudel. How does sad boy respond to this kindness? He snatches both halves of the strudel and runs off yelling, "You can have the poptart!"
Example 2. Famous race car driver is "insured for almost everything" by some insurance company but when he accidentally drives a golf ball through someone's window; famous-wealthy-adult race car driver sneaks off.
Co-workers steal each other's food, wives belittle their husbands, and little Timmy in "time out" plays like madman in the kitchen with no supervision. Twenty minutes of any "tween" show on Nick or Disney elevates destructive behavior, deceit, and theft--all draped in the absolute stupidity of any adult in the room--to entertainment.
And the laugh track runs.
There will always be the discussion about media reflecting reality or dictating it, but I cannot help but wonder as we are setting our children down for "entertainment" that is full of mean girls, moronic adults and a complete lack of responsibility--how can we expect anything different in our own living rooms?
Well.....I refuse to give in. Again. I will block channels our neighbors watch, rampage like a lunatic about stolen yogurt commercials, and attempt to find creative ways to make the consequences fit the crime. Sometimes I feel like I'm piloting a cruise ship on a tranquil sunny sea.....other times I'm barely poling my raft of ruffians in a hurricane while alligators snap at my heels.
I made soup today. Roasted chicken. And it took 6 hours. Seriously.
I began sometime after the second cup of coffee, but before the third. Pulled the carcass of bones and tendons from the fridge; burnished skin, gelatinous broth congealed to the breast and thighs. Johny Lang, Tracy Chapman, and Nina Simone took turns in the cd player as I listened to the wind blow outside. Something about the cool caress of Autumn's fingers on my cheek leads me to the kitchen every time...
Nearly unconsciously I begin to peel the meat from the bones.
Soon this becomes a personal quest...my fingers sliding along calcium lengths, searching out the divots and undulations that hide the sweetest, darkest meat. Peeling back roasted skin to coax tender slices of salty succulence from their place, separating cartilage from bone, sinew from muscle. The meat drops into the bowl, the bones piling in a mound inside the soup pot. Ribs, back, wings...vertebrae...skeleton abandoned.
Slice of onion, celery ribs with leafy tops, rosemary cut from the chilly planter on the porch--the single lonely herb left next to the brittle husks of basil and crispy sage. Crushed ivory cloves of garlic, black peppercorns tossed into steaming water....the bones sink beneath an an aqueous grave. Soft simmering....tempered heat....rosemary mist. Satisfaction permeates my soul as I leave the room with a last glance toward the windows slowly filling with lovely steam....
Three hours later.
Delicious carcass and vegetable pulp. Broth with....warmth. Depth. Marrow. Drain, chill, skim the fat, smile softly...secretly at the thought of rosemary infused lusciousness. Chopped panchetta into the pot, crisping. Onion, glistening. Fresh celery, carrots, herbs. The broth from lifeless bones, resurrected into liquid gold.
As I stir, I wonder. This afternoon I received a call from a distant friend, we chatted. Upon her asking about my day, I responded, "I'm making soup." She laughed, "Like you open the can, right?" I chuckled softly to myself. As I added crushed sage and fresh rosemary....I wondered if she'd ever had soup--real soup. Soup with love and time and marrow in it.
Like life, soup is so substantial...so basic. But when was the last time you had soup made from the bone? There is...vitality in it. Pain and blood and pulse and joy and movement....life.
Sometimes I feel like Campbells has taken over the planet. Condensed it. The Hallmark channel: "Open can, add one hour of time and the Jack Frost movie and sha-zam--Christmas eve!" Do you remember actually threading needles, making cranberry popcorn strings for the tree while swapping "favorite Christmas past" tales? Before Macys took over? I truly don't mean to sound...old. (chuckle) Or like some Martha Stewart commercial, but there is something missing...
Instant marriages--no such thing. Instant parenting? (take one child, add a wireless device and their own tv...) Friendships, home-making, dinner, holidays....I am internally battling this war against a condensed life. I refuse to give in.
The last step. After the simmer, the softening of vegetable and meat and corn, a cup of cream. Fresh pepper....the aroma fills the house. I go out to get the mail and the 45 seconds it takes to do so--leave me reveling in the warmth of deliciousness as I reenter. Eyes closed....amazing.
Mmmm.....quite the day and it's not even 2:30 on this rainy fall afternoon. I awoke to grumpy children after nearly losing a game of strip poker that surprisingly included my boss, my neighbor, & the mailman. (what, you don't dream like this?) Thank God for coffee makers with timers and toaster waffles--these two things save me from killing the boys on a regular basis. My 94 yr-old grandmother is staying with us for a few weeks to give my parents a break. This experience traverses a scale with a range from "Oh, how darling and cozy as she gets to spend cherished time with her great grand-children doing puzzles and drinking hot cocoa" to "Yes, Gramma--you need to put your teeth in to eat breakfast....no, I don't know where you left them."
He left for work, the children packed safely off to school carrying clarinets, clean gym uniforms and lunches. I settle Gramma on the couch for a very LOUD episode of Matlock and Hazel curls up at her feet. I attempt to bike for 20 minutes while watching Grahm Norton.....um, really I drank more coffee. Dressed, found the keys and off to do the shopping, hit the deli, & refill the wine rack. By the time I returned, I distinctly resembled a drowned rat, and the eleventeen trips with bags into the house didn't help matters.
Hot tea, deep breath. I love coming home. I spend actual TIME on how our home smells, hitting up this little import shop for the most delish incense that somehow magically combines clove and exotic spices with sandalwood and brown sugar. Y.u.m. However, beef burgundy was on the menu for tonight (seriously, any reason to open a bottle of wine at noon) and so I began seasoning the beef, browning it till the pan was lined with scrumptious crispy bits. In with the onion, a rasher of bacon for smoky lust, carrots and celery and half (er...um?) a bottle of wine....mmmmm, the aroma was heavenly. After simmering for a few hours, I'll finish it with cream and the boys will love walking through the door this afternoon. I put the bread dough on the back of the stove to rise, get Grandma some lunch and tuck her in for a nap.
Alright, switch up the laundry, sweep the entryway, vacuum the living room....and can I sit now? With a fresh cup of tea, I nestle into a corner of the couch with a magazine a neighbor had passed on. September's issue of Health--sporting a cover which told me I could melt 12 lbs in 28 days without hunger, purchase 8 energy foods, and "YES YOU CAN!" get stronger, cook healthier, and feel amazing every day! Sha-zam, can we just bottle the cover?
And speaking of bottles....
By the time I had turned a mere 20 pages, I was in shock. I went and got a pen and paper and starting on page one, began to write the names of the drugs advertised. Lovaza, Cimzia, Abilify, Lyrica, Orencia, Restasis, Vesicare & Viviscal....twelve all told. This did not include the six suppliment ads promising vitality and sexual fulfillment, the diet pills and programs (5 total) and I haven't even gotten to the FOUR PAGE spread on Botox! Perhaps most frightening was the pull-out two page poster, "Yoga For A Beautiful Body" on which the entire back was two pages explaining Pristiq and the risk vs gain of its consumption.
What. The. Hell?
It was as if this magazine was one long subliminal (??) message that you need drugs. You are not good enough. You are not happy enough or thin enough or have enough eye lashes the way the good Lord above created you. Yet every model for the wrinkle creams didn't have them, and the poor bent over Pristique lady was facing a mirror image of her smiling self. The yoga chick was already in smashing shape and Allergy Woman was rolling about in a hayfield with a hairy dog. If you don't like.....anything....they've got a bottle with a pill for you, baby. The the results are dreamboat! (psssst, remember the titanic....)
I know depression. I divorced my first husband. I have three sons, I therefore understand stress. Anxiety and I sit down for tea once every few weeks. I have been on welfare after that divorce, gone hungry, and worked my ass off to get back on my feet and stand tall. There is no pill for that. I find, in general, that anything easy isn't worth a damn. If a pill can fix it, you're in more trouble than you know. Now PLEASE understand that I am SO glad that we live in a world of modern medicine that actually makes miracles possible. Cancer, diabetes, leukemia--we have amazing medicines that have altered the direction of humanity! (my youngest son, 11 lb hulk that he was, and I would havedied if it were not for medicine and
c-sections) And there are times--absolutely--when medication is part of the answer. But a pill without change inside of ourselves--is just a lifelong addiction....dressed up with a prescription.
I suppose, most of all, I am appalled at the message in this magazine whose very title is "Health." It contains zippy recipes for new yogurt smoothies, and a fab way to do squats...but the real message?
Exactly what is healthy?
It is so much more than what is in the mirror, on the scale, in or a bottle. It isn't instant....ever.
When someone asks how my summer was, I'm always a bit lost...um, good? Crazy? Utterly exhausting alternating with euphoric sandwiched between layers of anguish and gaiety? If I could just download blurbs into your head....
If, by chance, you should be so inspired to spray your lawn with "weed killer," be sure to first calculate exactly what percentage of said lawn is actually weeds. If this figure is like in the....85-90% realm, re-evaluate this decision. Or you might just spend two months with a crispy brown yard, frantically planting grass seed, and praying to the lawn god for forgiveness.
Holy crap, Scrubs is real. After the adrenaline rush had passed and the gushing waterfall of fear had been reduced to a trickle, I took a deep breath and leaned back. The previously ignored world outside our curtained cubicle erupted. "You stick the broken leg in 2 yet?" "I gotta drain the fainter in 6." "3 puked again, ya wanna grab some lunch?" "I know, here's the vamp dregs from the neuro--he is SO HOT!" The gum-snapping, glitter-manicured, bad breath-laden crew carried on while I sat quietly watching Him sleep. One of the most terrifying days of my life was just a day at work to them. Perspective is everything.
I never did get to see the hot neuro.
The dog barked madly. The boys came running, "Mooo-om, there's a bird on the ground!" Excitement, worry, fear. I dried my hands on the kitchen towel and let myself be drug to the yard. It was tiny. The fluffy head with bright eyes studied me back as I knelt. "chirrrp." Soft, Almost inquiring. The wing was...not right. And the leg missing. Who knew how, there was nothing left to do but provide peace. My garden gloves stained, but smelling of earth and green, scooped the feathered frailty up. I left the boys and dog behind, promising them I find her a place to rest and get better while she and I knew I was finding her a place to die. An old broken tree limb, ferns quickly snapped and layered into a soft nest. She cocked her head as I settled her, eyes on me. Quiet.
I thought of the fragility of life as I sat on the porch with the fireflies that night. I read two stories to the boys at bedtime instead of one.
This is a direct quote from my horoscope in the Pittsburgh City Paper printed on August 3rd. "Aquarius, you're in a phase when you have extraordinary power to learn from and adjust to the challenges that come from having your buttons pushed by those you care about." Seriously?? Ummm....bite me. And my buttons.
I love to read, rather fanatical about it actually, but after a few months filled with slightly disturbing dreams I decided to experiment and stuck intentionally to a string of lovely summer books. (Rose Pilchner & Maeve Binchy types) Filled with laughter and family, they have afternoon tea by the seaside and settle with a whiskey by the fire in cozy cottages as the sun sets, usually with an old dog by their side.
I still dream of vampires under the floor boards, knife fights with three-armed women, and aliens that suck the memories out of my head with a tube attached to my ear. What the hell?
I set my hair on fire while roasting marshmallows. Twice. What can I say--I am waaaay talented.
Matchbox is from Satan
While I was much impressed that my self-controlled 12 year-old actually saved up $65 for the nifty new matchbox car with a video camera in it (I mean, allowance is only $5 a week folks) I was not prepared for the immediate loss of privacy this was going to entail. There I was, reading on the porch...quiet, little itch, look up--Sawyer is holding this car, looking at me. "I taped you mom!" he says. And flips it over so I can watch myself on the little screen. And there I am, next to the ivy and rosemary, scratching under my boob. Loooovely.
We put an underground fence in for Hazel. (my neighbor....KIDDING!) She's a year old now, half rottie-half shepherd, all crazy pup. I insisted that both my husband and I try the collar out on ourselves (no, not WEARING it, you sicko!) just to make sure we agreed with the level of shock. Whatever you can't do to yourself folks, you shouldn't do to your animals.....well, except fix 'em when they're 6 months old. (although I think my parents really re-thought that one when my sisters and I started dating) So He does it first. "No big deal honey, she'll be fine." Then it's my turn.
I almost wet my pants. Hazel hasn't run off since.
Spray paint is from heaven, simply put. The defacement of thousands of walls is a small price to pay for the absolutely magical ability to take a decrepit piece-o-crap bookcase banged about since college (grimy white with the bottom four inches stained ew-ish when the basement flooded three years ago), and with two cans of "Satin Espresso" create a brand spank-me new darling cabinet that tucked into the 2nd floor bath next to the claw foot tub (which I also spray-painted) and VOILA! Bath Divine.
Today was lovely. 80* and sunny, the autumn breeze sending golden leaves dancing through the air as I sprayed away in the backyard. Unbeknownst to me, this playful draft was also sending clouds of Satin Espresso across my yard, surprising me with a "misty" paint job on the rear porch (whoops) and tomato plants that now look as if someone sneezed chocolate on them. The dog wised up and bolted for the house.
Five hours later I had proudly arranged my bath, done three loads of laundry, vacuumed, watered plants and chopped veges for dinner. The boys walked in from school and I shooed them quickly out the door--they had dentist appointments asap. We dashed to the office where I sank gratefully onto the plush couch to relax with the latest edition of People for 45 minutes while teeth were polished and sealed.
Our dentist is.....rather posh.The eggplant colored walls of the waiting room were accented with a lush moss green that paired wonderfully with the leather furniture, electric fireplace and bookcases housing nifty statues and old volumes of Shakespear. They don't just clean teeth folks, they look elegant while doing it.
In the midst of this splendor, I suddenly realized the little girl waiting with her mother next to me was whispering.....and pointing at me. I smiled, certain she just noticed my red hair or glasses. Then her mother suppressed a look of confused horror and grabbing her daughter's hand, moved to the farthest seat possible from me.
I start down the mental list: deodorant this morning, check. No "bra dysfunctions" baring all, check. (what, this never happens to you?) No dog poo on the shoes, check. And then I see it. My arm....my ENTIRE right arm has been "cloud painted" a smashing Satin Espresso leaving the impression, if one didn't know otherwise, that not only was I dirty....I was downright filthy. I'd had so much to do and yes, I'd washed my hands but I wasn't really paying attention, and I......oh no.
Fighting the blush I knew was raging across my face, I stumbled to the poshy restroom and stared at myself in the tasteful gilt-framed mirror. The entire right half of my face was spotted brown. Down my neck....even a lovely drip-o thing right at my jawline, implying that I was not only dirty, but sticky too. Was that a moth glued to my hair?
There is no handsoap on the planet that removes spray paint. But oh, did I try. Now I was blotchy and dirty. Pulsating red, plague-like splotches covered my face, and a lovely welt had risen on my neck where I had attempted to scrape off the drip with my fingernail...dear God, I was a walking extra for Contagion.
I slunk out to the waiting room and snatched a magazine to hold in front of my face. A handsome man named "Brent" was greeted cheerfully by the receptionist before he came to find a seat. The frantic manner in which he backed away from me, nearly landing in someone's lap, said it all. It was a long 45 minutes. I was a Dirty Girl and there was no denying it.
It's been haunting me. My crack. No, not THAT one--although that reminds me of this Eureka Moment I had the other day after whining about the SEVENTH set of oh-so-attractive boxer shorts I'd had to behold while standing in line for a latte. (like seriously guys, if you're gonna flaunt the skivvies, at least make sure they are CLEAN. *shudder*) To which, my darling eloquent pal responded, "just imagine what you'd be a-goggling if they weren't wearing boxers."
"Dear God, I've been so remiss. Please pour out your blessings on the little man--wherever he may be--that invented boxer shorts. Multiply his fruit....and all that."
Fruit of the loom......um....distracted. We'll think more on that.....
But back to The Crack. Here it is....well, was.
See it?? Check out that ceiling. Mmm-hmmm....they don't come that way in the box. Yes, that is indeed the corner of my living room. Beneith it is a flatscreen inside an antique stereo cabinet named Norman. (you don't name your furniture?) And I have had complete nightmares--in color--of the claw foot tub that resides above that crack and the impending doom that is portended by it's presence. (including the 911 calls elicited by my bedeviled bath involving embarrassing awkward moments with the neighbors and entirely too much flesh) Ahem.
So. While some might say it's charmingly ironic (should you do so, I may stab you), my Labor Day weekend has just become laborious. The crack....attacked.
Now the blissful part of this story is that The Leak that really is the culprit here--has been iced. However, as you are lifting your brewski tomorrow, lounging at your end-of-the-summer bash involving grilled hunks of meat and salads with questionable ingredients....take a moment. While He tackles the living room ceiling, I will be grappling the bathroom floor. (no, not ON the bathroom floor--who raised you?!?)
An afternoon hidden away in my studio. Cool breezes and the sound of children laughing outside as this last week of summer vacation begins. This season of heat has been hard. I am athirst for autumn's relief.
I found a poem I wrote years ago...nutmeg and umber....fall.
Autumn's whispered feet drew near
her cloak of colors grand
dragging nutmeg fingers
through trees and sky and land
curling smoke from chimney sweeps
crisp breezes hold the morn
dying branches grace her wind
black and old and worn
the green of grass fades to brown
burnt umber hues the eve
the spice of apple lingers still
as Autumn takes her leave
Upon my easel is a piece of plywood. It has never hung in a gallery, never been the focus of attention, never even noticed. Yet this board is more important, more tangible than my greatest painting. It has seen my soul. .
Against it I place my my canvases. Gleaming white, they stare blankly back at me, emptiness embodied. I sit across the room tapping my brush against a paintless pallet...waiting. The tornado in my mind, the lists of things undone, the voices of siblings and friends and children must fade. A sip of wine...
A flash. A dream. The music surges and I reach for the plastic tubes of color that litter the shelf. A soft curl of pigment slides into the divot. My hand hovers.
Joy, pain, love....searching, hiding.
Frustration and anger and ecstasy. The emotions of my life spill onto the ivory space, smearing into the images trapped inside of me. The board has seen it all. My sighs of delight at the perfect capture of morning sun; sailoresque swearing at a ruined forest glade. Sometimes I dance when I paint. Sometimes I throw down my brush and leave in fury.
Echoes of every painting I've done are on that board. I can trace them with my fingers. I recognize the color of that ocean sky last year...the black of the cave, the vineyard's emerald leaves. These memories are there--but only for me. It's just nonsense to the world. Like the coffee mug only you know the meaning behind. The last necklace your mother gave you before she died. That picture taken on vacation moments before the disastrous fight you wish you could take back.....only you know.
I wonder at the echoes I'm leaving in my life. In my children, my neighborhood. Do I leave remnants of myself? Fingerprints that stain? On one hand I desperately want to change the world--paint it richer and brighter for my sons....and on the other I would give anything for a giant eraser to rub out my mistakes and impatience.
Is "wettest" a word? Like "completely soaked to the point of saturation in the absolutest sense." (yeah, I know--sue me for "absolutest")
So I used to drive a Cadillac. Ooooh.....you know those hot commercials with the rockin' babe in skimpy attire that make you wonder if you're going to the store or about to orgasm? (usually there is a tunnel, flashing lights, and glimpses of gleaming metal and a stiletto heeled, perfectly manicured sexy foot pressing the...uh....gas pedal....hang on, gimme a minute....whew)
Um, you can scratch those. Now, I have actually had complete strangers stop me and offer me a check for my car--no smack. (they were usually a tad gangsta with seriously blinding bling) My gleaming, gorgeous, two door, low rider, SOLID GOLD pimp-me-like-you-mean-it cadillac....yes, the bank SECURITY GUARD actually personally ushers me in the lot and comes to check my tires. He's like, "you know, you got a paint chip on the bumper?" I'm like, "Man, it's a 1990--she's sweet." lol
There was an expiration date. Didn't they tell you? Your car has one too. It's usually on a really important day. Like your wedding day....or the day you're leaving for vacation. Maybe it's the day you have two dentist appointments (doesn't everyone do this? dammit, get it OUT of the way!), a lunch with a long lost pal (ok, so I drank a shake...stupid novocaine), and a job interview. (pass off the shake stain you drooled as hand lotion.......right...never mind) THAT is the day your car expires.
In two days time, it was over. The right blinker quit working. The breaks began SCREAMING--not squealing like a forked pig--the pig got run over and then they backed up. The driver's seatbelt developed a completely unpredictable ability to unlatch...usually when you're doing about 65. The "gleaming metal" on the outside of the passenger's door came loose--it flapped in the wind like a dying crow until your teeth rattled. The caddie has an awesome air conditioner...the fan stopped. The fan is located somehow behind the entire engine. As in "cash-in-the-kids-college-fund" money just to GET to it--much less replace it. It makes deliciously cold air...that you can feel dribbling over your toes if you do about 70. The dash lights went out.
And the locks would randomly engage. Especially when you were unloading groceries.
The windows....well, apparently there are these plastic clips; they ride in the track up and down inside of the door, attaching them to the gizmo that makes the windows do their thing. They broke. The windows are either up--or if you try to roll them down--they crash with a heart-stopping thunk into the bottom of the door never to be seen again unless you cram your fingers into the slot and physically hoist them up again; a feat only my 6'4" husband has been able to achieve. So the windows are either UP--it's 91* in that lovely August summer in the 'Burg and you redefine "roast;" or the windows are DOWN. Unable to be rolled up until my dear man comes home from work.
There I was, on a broiling humid Monday evening--headed to get the boys, and it began to rain.
Make that, "Dear GOD I am NOT NOAH!!" And everyone is staring. There is enough water coming down from the sky to drown a small army of zebras and both of my very LARGE windows are completely down. Torrents of rain are soaking me--my hair is plastered to my head, glasses fogged, cars hitting "puddles" are sending oceanic waves across my shoulders....
So I went with it. What the hell else could I do? Found some hard core Rage Against the Machine and turned it WAAAY up. I whipped my hair up into a soggy mess on top of my head with pieces curling in the wind, black spaghetti tank straps falling off my shoulders as the mascara smeared across my cheeks. I was HOT. I was "I don't care about your cozy vanilla-scented minivan with your mochachino and booster seats.....I am WET and WILD and ROCKIN'!"
The boys were flabbergasted. They were ecstatic. They whooped and hollered the whole way home. I told them they wouldn't have to take showers.
Liquid white forgiveness. Thick, warm.....it drapes my canvases in layers of love, erasing the smeared and awkward. The crooked, the ugly....the failures. Plaster grace, gypsum clemency. I have canvases that have 3, 4...6 different paintings sleeping beneath the one that was finally accepted, hung, and purchased. The gentleman from Florida that took four of my forest series home with him has no idea that lying under the graceful branches of that shady path is a blackened thing. Angry. Two in the morning and four whiskeys and rage...it slumbers in the quiet of the woods.
I've come to treasure that bottle of ivory exoneration. The morning after, when the tears have passed and the light filters through the curtains....I can start again.
Mistakes. We all make them. Some of the landslide errors I've committed have decimated mountains. Tsunamis that have wiped my triumphs from the map...earthquake misjudgements leaving sinkholes and black chasms in my life. I've wept oceans, mashing palms into my eye sockets till there were bruises....redefined regret. .
Yet we breathe.
The sun rises, the wind blows. Somehow the grass keeps growing and the dog needs fed and you pay the electric bill. We go on.
So tell me....why do I still stumble so? You'd think that I'd learn to leave the light on, to watch my step. Sometimes I feel my snarls are simply hunkered down beneath the bed, festering. Am I going blind? . Where is the gesso for life? Is there a magic pigment that will turn my monsters into ghosts? Take away their claws and give them fluff instead of fangs? I have faced them....I have paid. I am tired.
It's not a quest for euphoria, I assure you. I'd settle for peace. I've known the mercy of the Lord, the compassion of friends...somehow though, the monsters are still there. Perhaps they live inside me.
It's begun to snow again. Alabaster flakes blanket the mud and barren branches....gesso from the sky.
It's funny, Websters defines healthy as: possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality. And yet...I'm beginning to truly believe that your level of "healthiness" is just a direct and somewhat backwards reflection of your level of self-deception. I seem to be surrounded by people who are "making healthier choices"....while they wallow in pits of blackened tar. One friend brags that she spent an hour at the gym working out--and during our 20 minute dialog over the phone, she consumed an entire pint of cherry garcia. Another is discovering "Buddhist peace" while continuing to drown in the suffocating relationship she swears completes her. A fellow artist I know has taken up jogging...because he passes Mrs. Felp's house...and she offers refreshment of a most personal nature.
His wife is thrilled with his new interest in getting healthy.
Life is a maze. We navigate with a slew of handicaps to challenge us. While one might be blind, another has no arms; one limps, one crawls... One has money, another none. Education, experience, hell--just good taste and manners can either put you ahead--or if you are lacking them, behind. So we travel. Questing after a healthy life--after all, health is the "key" to happiness. It matters not the magnitude of financial or relational wealth you possess if you don't have your health. Our media sports laugh-track laden shows that portray deception, ridicule, and exploitation as amusing. Our evening viewing is peppered with advertisements for new medications that have such gruesome side effects as to make one wonder who in the blazes would actually take them. Our salad bars are dripping with thousand calorie dressings, crunchies and toppings which eradicate all validity of wellness from the copious plates being carted by smiling people secretly confused as to why they cannot drop those pounds since they are working so hard to eat healthy.
Exercise, religion, food--has it all become one spiritual quest? Or just a billion dollar scam we all participate in. I suppose it might be...but what are we seeking? Excitement? Satisfaction? Distraction? Perhaps "balance" is the only real "healthy." As each of us indulges our vices, do we make up for it somewhere else? Like benevolent vampires? I wish I knew the weight of it all....does a thriving career balance out a disintegrating marriage? Does giving up a career to "stay home with the children" counteract slim Christmases and canceled vacations? Is being slender worth skipping cheese? (dear God, please say no) Where is the handbook that has the calculated mass of everything? Can someone please write one??
My personal system is called "what would you pay."
My darling mother used to color her hair. And she cut coupons. Buying what was on sale--plus a coupon might save her 3 or 4 bucks! However, the results at times did not resemble those gorgeous Feria commercials. (shudder) There are actually shades of red that should be labeled "Whore in the Store" and "Cheap Corner Hooker Red." One Sunday I asked her, "mum...your hair looks like...well, if I had a magic wand, would you pay me $3 to fix your hair before you go to church?" She looked at me....and then laughed. She swore she'd never use another coupon. What would you pay to have it turn out just right? When you have that horrid migraine, would you pay someone the $15 you'd save to go to the Drugstore, the cheap grocery, and the discount market for everything on your list? That particular day, at that particular time--just pay the extra $15 and get it at one place. Is it worth doing laundry at midnight to spend the evening playing swear-word scrabble? Cutting the lawn in the rain so you don't miss the game? Skip the ice-cream so you can have the brie? What would you pay?
Does sacrifice for iniquity equal healthy?
I'm just like everyone else. I justify, I explain, I rationalize my decisions. I seek to balance my hunger for the nefarious with bean sprouts.
Twenty minutes ago I put Splenda with fiber in my whiskey.
The new year is here. For nearly a week it felt like spring but the cold has returned, shrouding the night in ice and mist. The glitter and twinkle has been packed away in old hat boxes and stacked neatly in the attic. Green and red tablecloths nestled in with holly garland and mistletoe. I'm still amazed at the holiday wonderland that slumbers quietly beneath the eves all summer long. Such magic that in a single day the house is transformed with fairy lights and the smell of clove and spice. The excitement builds...gingerbread houses, foamy egg nog, crystal snowflakes hung from the chandelier.
Perhaps the real wonder is how quickly the Christmas cheer that has surrounded us for nearly two months can be whisked out of sight in mere hours. The house seems to echo a bit.
Either way, here I stand at my ironing board. The old blue cover frayed and stained at one end from spilled coffee on a hurried morning. Ivory damask with a lovely mossy fern pattern lies piled before me. A new season, a new tablecloth.
Tiny flakes of white dance past the window as the hiss of the iron fills the room. Steam rises, the pale cloth smoothing beneath the ferrous plate. The heat feels delicious to my cool fingers.
The rhythmic pass back and forth quiets my scattered mind and I find myself thinking of wrinkles. Sometimes it seems that a significant amount of my time is spent in this quest to eradicate them. Tablecloths and napkins, pants and soft cotton dresses...the crisp white shirts my husband wears to work. Curtains after a wash, the silk scarf I love to wear with my raincoat. The skin about my eyes.
Who decided the lines resulting from decades of laughter should be injected or sanded or peeled from my face? Does it make me look younger...or just that I haven't a sense of humor? Would the world pause if the napkins had furled edges?
I've made no new resolutions this year. Being healthy and loving madly seem to cover just about everything for me, but perhaps I will think more about these wrinkles in my life. Perhaps as they are natural and lovely in their sweet crinkly way...perhaps this is a battle I shall concede.