Saturday, August 18, 2012

On Waiting

Inside of the dash and scramble, the glory and anguish, the blaze and murk of gloom - within this story we are writing as we breathe and love and hate and dream, are moments that define us.  Much as ink on parchment....

The rasp of my charcoal seems loud in the room as I sketch the arch of the brow.  Black dust drifts across her cheek, I blow it away.  Bars of afternoon sunshine trace lazy patterns on the floor, shifting as the curtains billow in the breeze of the open window.

I am waiting.

Waiting is a hiatus.  A pause.  A breath held.  I find few things tell me more about a person than watching them wait.  The ability to wait with elegance is a component I believe supremely important to a complete childhood upbringing, it's the foundation of civilized life as we know it.  Waiting to speak, play, ask.  Stand in line, raise your hand, take your turn.  Waiting, if carefully nurtured, gives birth to anticipation; delicious appreciation of the moment achieved.  However, if not practiced regularly with self-control and discipline, it can spawn rage, frustration, and an acidic impatience rooted in self-centeredness that will slowly eat away at any joy you hope to hold. 

For waiting is like the air.  As the seasons and the sun and death and summer rain....waiting is inevitable.  From the moment of conception, we wait.  For dawn, we wait.  For dusk.  For first kisses and true love and bended knee, we wait.  For winter's end.  The bread to rise, the light to turn, the children to sleep....we wait. 

What do you do while you wait?  My mother told me once, never to pray for patience.  For such a prayer was the unleashing of disaster in your life; the upending of plans and goals--messes upon hold-ups upon delays--all which would, in the end, lead to patience.  But a lesson of cost, be careful.  I've never prayed thus, but still chuckle with friends about one day writing a book titled, "Living In The Two Percent."  For by golly, if there is a 98% chance that all will work out just fine....I am in the two.  Every.  Time.  And honestly, my closest friends laugh, cringe a little...and agree.

All is not lost, however, for within the hospital stays and duplicate paperwork and broken plans, I have found indeed almost a....kinship with waiting.  Perhaps it is that this world is endlessly fascinating to me.  I can be mesmerized by the dust as it frolics on the wind and have spent an afternoon on my knees in the damp soil, taking pictures of the bleached skeleton of a tiny bird.  The bones were like ivory threads, knit together with such artistry, such symmetry, their grace nearly took my breath away.  Loveliness left in death's cold wake.  I was waiting for the boys return from fishing that day; I never would have found those ossien beauties if I hadn't been stranded, time on my hands.

I've written some of my best work in the doctor's office.  Composed poetry while in line at the bank.  I carry pencils and charcoal in my purse, napkins and the back of old lists becoming my canvas when the waitress is lagging or the train late.  I'm not claiming a passive acquiescence at all times, trust me--there is a storm abrew once in a while--but I find conquering my internal turmoil, my desire to demand and shout, to be strangely cathartic.  Proof somehow, that I may not be able to control the world--but I can control my response to it.  The way we wait defines us, much as my chalk defines the shape of her eye, the curve of her cheek.  Within that exercise of the art of the wait, I find peace.  Time I wouldn't have had to reflect, contemplate....time to ruminate and wonder and muse. 

The art of the wait.

....I've been thinking about the patience
of ordinary things, how clothes
wait respectfully in closets
and soap dries quietly in the dish, 
and towels drink the wet from the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.                                     

                                          Pat Schneider

Sunday, August 12, 2012


The air is that delicious shade of amber when night hovers just beyond daylight's reach.  The cool of the eve is wondrous after the scorch and scrape of August sun.  Somewhere between a siren's call and the battle anthem of summer, the cicadas song echoes through the trees, reverberating in my mind as memories of previous summers flit and dart like a movie reel spliced.  That sound accompanied my first kiss.  My first heartbreak.  There was the smell of funnel cakes and carnival lights and breathless anticipation...

Tonight I sat on the front porch with my grandmother.  She's visiting for a few weeks, enjoying the great grandsons while the weather is warm.  Ninety-six years she has walked the earth...yet so small.  Almost some strange humor as my six foot frame curls into the twin of the chair she seems childlike in, not even five feet tall.  She's wearing long johns beneath her clothes; a bizarre and slightly odd commentary on the fragile straps of the gauzy sundress that barely makes me presentable in this humid heat.  How age changes things.

Oh, how it does.

The light in her eyes is fierce, strong as her mind repeats the loops it has grown accustomed to.  I believe the passionate moments--be them lovely or terrible--carve the deepest grooves in the records that play as we age.  I wonder, as she tells me again of meeting my grandfather, my eyes tracing the lines that web her cheeks, the curve of her ear....I wonder who I will be, what records I'll play.  For her, a widow with three young sons before she was even twenty, one of the records she plays was being desired by my grandfather despite the hungry mouths she brought along, "that wild Cates boy."  His fast car swept her away, and his monthly check when he was gone in the service kept her afloat along with family.  So much tragedy, so much hunger.  Starvation for food, love, security....a time in history we, so blessed, will never truly understand.

And now, so small, so weak...she tells me how the men still want her.  I smile.  I even smile with a wink and a chuckle and she grins back.  She shifts in her chair, pulls at the sleeve of her long underwear, and shakes her head softly.  She reaches out to stroke Hazel's back and asks when my husband, whose name she often forgets, will be home.  Sometimes her persistence that "someone is out there" or that "he was looking at me" can be frustrating, life is demanding enough without adding in constant reassurances and appeasements.  But I've begun to think that she clings to this idea because to fully admit that no one really "wants" her anymore, would be to somehow lose meaning...purpose.  She wrestles with being a burden--yet in the same scrappy moment, I think she thoroughly enjoys the 'hand and foot treatment' she receives.  She knows it not, but in a world of fragmented families, to be tucked in with a kiss, and have breakfast laid out each morning....I can only pray I am loved and cared for one day, as she.

It's difficult at times, being stuck in the timewarp she resides within.  My parents are stunning in the years of care--years of bacon and eggs, duplicate loads of laundry, 'please-don't-touch-that' and cleaning up the spills; the privacy they've sacrificed is beyond calculation--I fear at times my mum hedges on the edge of sainthood.  This level of care isn't easy, but I enjoy the opportunities I have to give my parents respite as well as challenge my own family to the joy and discovery that it is to live with an elder.  Lessons in patience, movement on shuffle, hours of quiet.

The crickets have struck up their serenade and the streetlights are glowing softly.  She's begun to repeat herself, in that record-skip way she does, as I lead her inside for the night.

I wonder what my records will be....

Saturday, August 4, 2012


A strange summer, this year.  The heat seems almost a physical threat; its blistered fingers wrapping about my throat with crushing force.  An igneous embrace complete with stale, febrile breath, as if Mother Nature has finally burned out in a most literal sense.  The scorch is wearing indeed, I now dream of rain and long cool baths (instead of aliens beneath the floorboards and vampiric neighbors, perhaps this is an improvement, yes?)  I fear the tempers of the entire nation are on edge--the complaining, whining, and groaning reaches a nearly audible peak by late afternoon, even the residential pool has begun to evaporate as whimpering children look on.  While this is somewhat predictable, what I have been surprised to observe, is a seeming landslide of irrational and risky behavior as well, choices that defy all intelligent reason, absurd sophomoric recklessness.

Is it a fever?  Have the calescent fumes incinerated that part of the brain that pauses....calculating the depth of the water, before plunging off?  I've found myself on several occasions with my mouth hanging open in shock, stunned into speechlessness.  Flirtation with affairs and unemployment and bankruptcy.  Negligent and mindless treatment of the major life stabilizers--those pillars that corner the foundation one lives upon.  Not just careless driving, but damn near propositioning disaster--naked, down on one knee.

I have argued, I have warned, I have begged...and in then end, I frankly have been enraged by the simple selfishness that seems rampantly out of control.  Please don't misunderstand, I can be queen of Land Selfish from time to time, we all battle our self-preserving flesh on a fairly regular basis, but I try....isn't that the key?  Trying?  I keep in mind, my pie.  Yes, you read that right. 

I have a theory about a pie.

Pie me.  Me, the pie.  I'm not particularly concerned about the flavor of such a concoction, but of the pieces contained within.  For you see, I am not just Chantel.  Being Chantel would be easy. (now that I think about it, perhaps coconut would be a good match...ahem)  Being only Chantel would liberate me to eat and think and prioritize based purely on the tastes and whims that catch my capacious fancy!  Ambrosial--but fairly unsustaining in the long run.  This pie has other pieces.  Sawyer's mother.  Brennan and Noah's mother.  Also in this pastry of delights resides Jason's wife, Don and Sandra's daughter, and  a sister or two.  But it doesn't end there.  Smaller slices, mind you, but still substantial with crust and cream filling, are the Douglas and Duffy and Dieck's neighbor, Agnes' best friend, the Man Cave/crash pad Manager, and don't forget the annual Soup Party Chef. 

When I choose.  When I decide.  When I risk.  I am risking them all.

I am indeed Chantel--lover, painter, author and chef.....but my life is shared with many.  We all are blessed to live in a world of immense choice.  Every day the menu of life seems to grow larger.  Beyond appetizers and mains and desserts, I swear we're in the process of creating cocktails and bites and nibbles.  Choices topped with frosting and sprinkles.  What we can do with our time and money and freedom is nearly endless, but it is imperative such is done with clarity.  Consideration.  There are moments when sacrifice is essential.  When self-control may divide heaven from hell.  Where ever you go, whatever you do....

Remember your pie.