babies

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When I was a little girl, I was quite the avid collector of dolls and stuffed animals. I enjoyed having my bed and arms full of my prized possessions. My earliest memory of such is a brown Barbie doll (she was African American, but brown to me). She was different from my other Barbies, so I would tuck her under my pillow at night. I wanted her with me always. I felt she was special because she was exotic compared to. 

When I was around the age of six or seven, I was given a remarkable gift from an elderly friend of my grandmother. It was a crocheted doll with brown skin and curly black hair. Sister Ineze made her for me, as my grandma called her. I, of course, gave my doll the same name, and dubbed her Nezzy for short. She was my pride and joy for a long while. She even smelled like Sister Ineze, which to me smelled like vegetable oil and old lady perfume. I know now that it was the hair oil she used on her tiny curls that I smelled. Her skin was dark and leathery, and her teeth were gleaming white against it. I felt about her gift to me the way I had about my brown Barbie – so exceptionally special. 

I could never bring myself to part with any of my dolls. I was the type of child who ascribed emotions to inanimate objects. I believed they could feel, just like I felt. Around the age of 9 I recall my bedtime ritual being quite the ordeal. I was mindful to keep all my babies in my bed with me. I would tuck them in meticulously, and be sure to have them covered up for the night. I’d often leave myself a tiny square of space for sleeping, to ensure they would all be cozy. If I had found one on the floor the next morning, I would feel badly. I suppose this was the flicker of nurturing in me. I have seen it in two of my daughters, as well. I’d find babies tucked into socks as sleeping bags, or shoes as cribs, and snicker at how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

When I left home at 16, I took my dolls with me. I still find this odd behavior for an angry, hell-bent teenager, but I wonder if I felt I would be abandoning them, had I left them. I had them tossed into the hatchback of my car for the next year and a half. I felt compelled to have them with me, no matter where I went. Most had no clue I was carrying around a decade worth of dolls in my back seat. In fact, my little foreign tin-can car was often full of my most valuable belongings.

Since as far back as I can remember, I had an innate need to keep all my precious things with me in one place. I have since chalked it up to the fallout from a broken home, and then having two homes to shuttle between. I felt trepidation at the notion of not having something I needed with me. I lived out of totes and backpacks, back and forth mid-week for years. So my most valuable things stayed on my person, just in case. And it metaphorically translated as baggage that I would have to learn to unpack later on when I found my very own home. 

I still have those dolls. My girls have played with several of them through the years. But now I have real babies to tuck in and keep close. And I still have some baggage, too. But I’m untucking all of that and attempting to put it where it belongs. I don’t have room enough to keep it with me. 

 

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breeze

04CB4B1A-BDFF-4055-8AFE-3BF6B70108C2I feel a cool draft blow over my hammock before realizing the temperature is dropping. It feels like someone left the back door open and all the AC is escaping. This summer has been baffling, but I’ll take it. 

Cicadas are sounding off like an emergency broadcast system test. They are especially clamorous tonight. I can’t imagine how a creature so small in stature can create that magnitude of vibration. It’s manufactured by membranes on the belly, which means they were fashioned with a built-in set of strings. This reminds me of a theory I once heard about Lucifer, and how it has been suggested that he was also created with instruments for organs. I guess he wasn’t initially designed for destruction. He was first wrought for worship like the rest of us.

I’m thinking of my own set of pipes and wondering when. Have you ever missed your own voice? But first, I must learn how to breathe. Then, how to form words. And then, in time, how to whistle those words with fluted breaths into melodies. It is a process, I suppose. I pray it all returns to me. 

“Come back to me, Song. Like a new season, I’ll welcome you right in.”

There’s still a slight breeze blowing thru the sunflower leaves. It looks like their underarms are being tickled, as their heads bobs and sway. There is air twirling through there; there is air twirling through me.  I must always begin and end, here, in the garden. It is my Eden. It’s where God started with us and honestly, it’s where the most subtle of miracles happen. 

 

good day

He shuffles towards me with a steaming mug of coffee, per his Saturday ritual. He’s also intentional to fill my favorite mugs. I’m still in bed, declaring my laziness to anyone who might be wondering my immediate plans. Moments before I was telling him the wild dream I had, with all of its rabbit holes. He patiently listens to every wacky detail, just like he does with our seven year old when she tells dreams. He listens like a confessional. Any other would have trailed off by now, as I’m mostly just laughing at myself.

I smell a sweetness in the air, and I guess rightly — French toast. A thin veil of smoke is revealed by morning light through the dining room windows. All the accoutrements of an idyllic Saturday morning, served up in porcelain and stainless steel. I take note that I am especially happy and thankful. A phenomenal night, now lapping over into morning. I savor it all with a gulp of hot caffeine and a grin.

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Last night was chock-full of bubbly toasts and celebrating. One of my dearests, rounding out another birthday year. Such sheer delight to retreat to nearly 70 years prior, and pretend we were all ladies of high fashion and manners. One of my girls was gracious enough to draw black lines on the back of my legs, and attempt victory rolls in my hair. I spent the evening tickled by how much fun dress up is when you’re middle-aged. The entire affair was visually and relationally satisfying. We mustn’t take ourselves so seriously. Perhaps this will be an overarching theme in my 40’s. 

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Before noon today I hollered for all the kiddos to gather up and go with me for a day trip. There’s an enchanting outdoor museum we like to frequent a couple times a year. It’s become a tradition, yet still feels like a novelty. We’ve seen all the antique displays and collections several times over, but there’s just something about anticipating our favorite exhibits. It’s reassuring to find them still there, perfectly preserved. It’s a comfort to think that not everything is changing with each passing season. I wondered if I could place today inside a display case, too, and if it would stay this good? I can only hope so. It was a very good day. 

welcome

D74E7221-AE79-47BE-8553-1B16306D8903Had a little stint of sickness that proved to be more severe than I realized. But I’m mending now, and finding it much easier to breathe like I need to. Sure is easy to take something so unconscious for granted. I’m aware now.

Had a revelatory moment in the midst of everything. Pretty significant, actually. And I was able to flesh it out in the time I’ve been quiet here. Sometimes the words are too wild and alive to be caught in any form. Sometimes you stop saying, and you start doing. That’s where I’ve been the past couple weeks. I’m relieved, actually, to find my actions sprinting ahead of my intentions. It’s a welcomed change since I’ve become so accustomed to failure. 

In the time I’ve been taking things in, I’ve decided to reopen my blog after a 4 year furlough. It’s bittersweet. I became reacquainted with the cyberspace, and after a moment it felt familiar again. I think it’s unsettling how I have to reintroduce parts of myself, to myself. I’ve been doing the grueling work of integrating, however. This is all part of that: getting back to what and who and how. 

I’m still uncertain how honest I’ll be here. There are calibers for each canon. But I am quite convinced I’ll be sincere in every musing. I crave the realest of realities and find myself disillusioned by illusion. Not to suggest that I haven’t fooled myself a time or two. I simply mean, if given the option, I’m choosing the real thing — no matter how gnarly and unmanageable and messy. 

I could write all day long about flowers and birds and other whimsical pleasantries. But, I also have stories that are quite sorrowful. And days that are woefully melancholy, despite my brimming and beautiful life. I think the goal right now is to stuff as much of me as I can, back into the life I once wore so contently. And all while grieving and releasing, and making room for the new norm. 

So, welcome.

I love good company. 

words

E898B3A2-FD96-4357-B45A-8A856A06F6F6I have a torrent love affair with words. It’s 100% true. They hold acreage in my heart, and it’s always been this way, long as I can recall. I can’t imagine another way. So, give me all the words and I’ll get lost in them like a labyrinth. Hedge me in; I’ll hunt through like a word search. Every which way, I’ll try to make a way with them. Let them lead me out with sentences, and paragraphs, and stories. Let them take me where they’re going, because that’s where I want to go.

Confession? Sometimes I see fonts. (At least I didn’t say dead people) I hear the words, and in my mind I type them out accordingly. Typography. Maybe it’s the designer in me, but I often see the words I hear. I sort through phrases and assign them placement for print. I arrange, rearrange, add emphasis and hierarchy. It’s a canvas of black on white, but they bleed like watercolor once they are parsed perfectly. Such beauty in running words.

I imagine lyrics like freehand, with flowing strokes in italics. Envision the poet stitching together the fragments, piercing the fabric of the soul, then pulling the threaded theme taunt. They gather all the ideas, emotions, and heart-renderings into some magnificent patchwork, then tie it off with melody. It’s like cursive quilted into music. And it’s a language that makes perfect sense to me, though the underside is mangled knots. How I adore words and notes.

Now, consider staccato shouts, in bold caps and harsh block letters. They aren’t pretty at all. They don’t roll off the tongue, but rather, are forced out of the heart and mouth at gunpoint. They topple out of and onto. Hit like an anvil on the head, just like in the cartoons. And then we see stars, all slack-jawed and bewildered. Those are heavy things. Things the heart hurls. They don’t make much sense on paper, but erupt out of that very place of trying to make sense. I know too well.

As for my own words, they mostly look like scribbles and doodles on gum wrappers, or the back of receipts. Traced over several times because of shoddy ink pens, then crumpled up and thrown into my purse for later. Or they’re written on the back of my hand, where all immediate things go until I wash them away. That’s how my words look to me. And that’s just fine for now. As long as I have them with me. As long as they are mine.

cackle

570E4E1F-48C4-4188-B683-87CE63E99772It’s a strong coffee kind of Thursday. I was up into the wee hours catching up with an old friend. This is the friend whom I first spotted meandering up to our pink and blue trailer that one summer, at the awkward age of 13. She had 2 younger brothers in tow. We had that in common. We were also both sporting the same neon bathing suit, with the sides attached, and our pasty bellies exposed. Seems it was fashion fate.

Isn’t it something how we find similar souls on this great suspended ball, and then adopt them as our own? See little flecks of ourselves, our stories? Discover that our lives were meant to intertwine in a divine way? That was us, some decades ago.

And so we retold the same tales that put us into hysterics then, and still do now. And we cackle, instead of giggle like we once did, as old crows cutting up over embarrassments long and better buried. Yet, somehow we still feel like gangly preteens gawking over our most horrifying memories.

It’s good to hang onto those friendships from whence you came. It’s a grateful reminder of where you’ve once been, and how you aren’t there anymore. But it’s uncanny how we can step into it for a moment, even 900 miles away, and all my fingers and toes in years gone, and see how silly those memories look on us now. We’ve outgrown it. Thank God, we’ve grown.

turning in

DEEBB70E-AF1A-409B-87DF-808D7CBFC2B0The day winds down and I’m sticky from my labor. My skin is clammy and my hair pasted behind the frame of my fogged glasses. I feel the day’s work in my feet. My gait is different in the evenings. I shuffle a bit with slowed steps that are bearing what feels like twice my weight. The body begins to turn in with sundown. Like a morning glory, or poppy. Nyctinasty.

My hens are roosting but still panting. They’ll nestle into their necks eventually as they cool from the scorch of mid summer. But I see this rhythm in my garden, my critters, my people. We are evolved enough to know to tuck in each night.

As my last outdoor chore, I snip lettuce leaves the size of palms, then curly kale. Next, tender mesclun and aromatic herbs, and toss them into a steel bowl wider than me. I perk up amongst the leafy greens, suddenly astonished that I don’t have a soundtrack playing in my mind this particular moment. There’s always a song in my head, cued up for every mundane task. But it’s just nocturnal noises and my little girl’s inquisition as she strokes the back of a cat. And she asks me what my favorite color is for the hundredth time, knowing full well it’s green. It’s just the way she initiates with me. She must always be asking the questions, and I must supply her an optimal answer.

The finger-smudged storm door flings open like it knew I was coming. A gust of north wind took the latch off years ago but nobody seems to mind enough to repair it. I’m hauling in the harvest on my hip, about to call the day done. I go through a mental checklist in my mind of what I accomplished in my 14 hrs thus far. I’m measuring progress. And not just what I can physically see, but much of what I cannot. That’s much harder to quantify. I just know I did what I could, with what I know, where I am, and whom I am. And now I’m folding it all up like a note-to-self for tomorrow. I’ll tuck it away with the rest of the day, and put all my efforts to rest, and nestle into the night like I was meant to.

wait

37019953-BD41-44E0-8F0D-C804B948D812Watching the sky, waiting on the rain. I’ve spent many mornings like this. I’m told it’s coming. Forecasted. Most of the time I can smell it, and I usually feel it in my wrists before it arrives. Maybe that’s an old wive’s tale, but I am a wife who tells tales, so maybe it’s true for me.

I find myself looking upward for most of what I need. I know I can’t produce it; my only hope is if it falls from the heavens like manna. But I’ve been told it’s coming. And I know it in my bones, like my joints know of coming rain. My insides know that what is required for life and Godliness, is laid up in clouds of glory. My dry bed begs for a blanket. Cover me.

I hear a distant rumble and consider how heaven always declares. It’s always announcing its appearing. And how does one storm calm another? How does His storm break into mine and bring stillness? It’s the kind of storm I want to be caught in. He wrings out the clouds to sustain and revive. All that’s been sown into me, panting to be saturated by splendor.

But this particular morning, I’m still waiting for the spill over. Watching the bare sky like Elijah of old once watched. Wondering if I’ll feel a bit of heaven on my fallen frame. Feel a bit of glory in my bones. Ahhh…it’s here.

float

E3BE47D6-6886-46FC-8BDB-CD608B5596AD.jpegI already feel heavy. Just yesterday I spent a swath of time floating weightless on my back, feet dangling into the warmth of the lake water. I saw clouds and rays through the sliver of a gaze. I listened to life with ears submerged and it sounded like that place between a dream and waking up.

My hair sprawled out behind me like a sea creature. I took deep breaths and filled my lungs, and for a moment, nothing bore weight. It all gravitated upward. But the moment I go vertical, the burden rushes in and returns, pulling my feet back to the earth like the magnet that gravity is.

So I consider — how is it that stretched and sprawled out is the way to stay afloat? Upright, I’m treading. Horizontal, I’m buoyant. I imagined how long I could stay on my back if lost at sea. Could I survive suspended there indefinitely? It’s as if we were designed with built-in life preservers. But it only deploys when we lay ourselves back and surrender to the deep. Then suddenly we’re not consumed by it, but rather held by it. Such a phenomenon.

And how do I stay postured with bulging heart toward heaven this day? With life in my lungs, inflating me, propelling me into weightless wonder? I feel a bit lighter already, just considering the miracle that is surrender. I only wish I was better at it.

pull

43FAC05F-D660-422E-97A4-80A9D9B6FA69It’s just after daybreak and there’s a muted grey in the air. I’m racing against the sun. Who will get there first? I plop myself down in front of a disheveled bed and assess the damage. Crabgrass thru and thru. My arch rival, next to squash bugs and Japanese beetles.

I hear the cicadas warm up in unison like the string section of a symphony. It’s just a sound check. They’ll play the entire movement tonight when the curtain draws back with dusk.

My back is arched and I’m feeling it already. Using two hands to pull with all my might, these cursed, webbed roots. They grow up and inside the ground cover and I’m forced to peel it all back, then pull. And isn’t that just the way it is? Peel back? Pull? Isn’t the hard work of sorting wheat and chaff a bit like surgery? You’ve got to get right down into the guts of it. Get to the marrow. And then put your back into what’s gotten into you.

I’m dripping from my forehead and I wipe it away with a dirt-freckled arm. I arch my back and find a moment of reprieve. Sigh. This is hard.

The blackberry bushes are nearly bare but for some scattered late bloomers. I feel generous; grab a handful and leave the rest for the birds. Actually, I’m just weary. Can you find yourself most generous in weariness? Too tired to cling to what you feel is rightfully yours? I can honestly say I’ve been there with my Maker. “Too exhausted to fight you; just take it.” And He makes good on bone-tired pleas.

Now I’m seeing clusters. Grapes, once tiny and green, now plump and a dusty purple. They’re ready for me. And now I think He’s being generous. Generous with the lessons and the parables. Lavish with the fruit and provision. Gracious with every gift that cultivates – pests and weeds, included. It’s producing within me. It’s working for me. It’s all for good.