Sometimes I write

 

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Sometimes I write because my heart is too full and the desire to set beauty on the page feels like a song rising up, unrehearsed.

Gratitude.

Last night, I stood among faces I knew from long ago, the ones that filled my high school classrooms, sifted through halls, this colorful blur of velour and Jordache jeans, standing tall, yet awkward, spinning combination locks right-left-right, hip-checking grey/green lockers closed, arms laden with textbooks, covered in brown paper, scribbled with hearts.

I remember you. You touched my life, whether or not you knew you did.

We were tumbled together like this haphazard mix of pretty aquarium stones – not because we chose one other, but because we lived in the same small town, for the same 4 years – the town with the pretty white church on the long triangle of lawn, where each June, all would gather to eat strawberries, this annual Festival marking the close of one school year and  the beginning of summer –  something delicious to mark time passing – so sweetly, juicily, stickily.

Yet, our town seemed split across by railway tracks, this jagged old scar, littered and gravelly, overgrown.  On one side, there were these white Quaker stones sitting low, almost invisible in the block-wide field where the town clock once stood and the giant Sycamore, shedding its papery brown/white bark.

These remembered lives.  This litter of Life passing.

It is gratitude I feel for having grown beside you  – during years I was not yet the woman I am now (and still becoming), but the seed of her, I’m guessing.

Thank you for nurturing me while also toughening and strengthening me, through times marked by struggle, mostly the hidden kind.  I didn’t know then, what I know now.  That none of us felt like we fit in.  Even the cheerleaders, even those who lived in wedding-cake mansions on Chester Avenue, even football players who scared us with big bellowing voices, even the field hockey beauties, in their black and gold skirts, and pony tails swinging – no one felt at ease, as though she belonged.

How I wish I knew that back then.  How I wish I did.

Yet, perhaps that is the way it must be.  Perhaps we aren’t to know those things, when we are young and not yet fully-grown. Perhaps the discomfort is necessary and crucial for our lives’ unfolding.

Honestly, I don’t know.

Yet tonight, having returned safely to my home, here in Chicago, my heart full – to have been welcomed back, embraced again, by those I knew growing up – to have danced and laughed and eaten cake with them – all that remains is gratitude – this overwhelming gratitude that unlocks my voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home coming

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One hour before my 30th high school reunion

When I let myself remember and feel the good, it brings up the not-so-good too.  To be here, back in the suburban Philadelphia town I grew up in, from 7th grade to 12th grade,  I am feeling is this sickly sense of dread, of why did I do this to myself, when I told myself I wouldn’t.  (“I’ll never go to my high school reunion. I mean, never. I’ll never go back”)

I am scared to be with people I knew 30 years ago, when I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  When I held feelings down and deep inside, this gurgling-green, invisibly waged  war I caused, this self-destroying, controlled battle – that is bulimia and perfectionism.

Coming home, I reluctantly greet that sad & broken girl again, and it unsettles me, but I am not that girl.

Tonight,  I hold that fearful girl I once was,  in loving arms.  And I let myself remember her.

 

 

 

 

What if?

What if you  could draw a circle around your whole life, as though you were some giant dragging your walking stick behind you, pulling it through gravelly dirt, just to see if you could?  How wide would your circle be?  Would it even be a circle?  Could you then, do you think, make yourself stop and put down the stick and instead just walk that one cleared line, slowly, deliberately, as though in some sacred meditation, tracing its uneven curves, stopping, turning, peering every so often to look far into its center, trying to take it all in – all this you’ve known, all this life you’ve lived – suddenly right there in front of you – held within this fragile line of your own creation?

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One beautiful life

And then, oh!  How your senses deceive you! And what at first seemed fixed and touchable, is miles away and fathoms deep and still changing  – yes, always-and- ever-still-changing!

A vista so vast – leaving you breathless, in awe – yet still wondering, always wondering at the beauty that is one’s life . . .

Not sure about the lipstick

Day 10 - Not sure about the lipstickSometimes I put lipstick on to walk the dogs.

Sometimes I put it on here at my desk (I work from home, by myself.)

Sometimes I put it on before my first mug of coffee (wearing my pink bathrobe, my hair not yet brushed)

I learned this “beauty trick” from my Shalimar-scented grandmother Gloria – the one who was an actress and dancer and popcorn lady at the Somerville movie theatre.

When I was a girl, I would sit at my grandmother’s  kitchen table, box of Kleenex next to me, to “mmmwah” lip-kiss marks on.  I’d try out her frosted pink shades, the waxy orange-apricot ones (yick), the dramatic glossy starlet-red ones.  Always, I’d land on some deep shade of berry pink, as my favorite.  My grandmother would agree with my choice, and let me wear the lipstick for as long a time as my visit with her.  (In those days, my mom allowed me only to wear clear gloss or Vaseline.  And yes, I’m seeing the parenting-pendulum swinging wide in the opposite direction )

Like me, my grandmother put lip stick on all the time, not just when leaving the house.

 “I’d look dead without it” I’m remembering her saying.

Lipstick stains on coffee cups and Carlton-brand cigarettes were my grandmother’s signatures, known to all who loved and knew her.  Lipstick added to her glamour, her mystery, her could-have-been-movie-star  aura, which she maintained even after her stroke, during the years she lived in a nursing homes, and the staff called her “Hollywood”.

I’m beginning to rethink lipstick.

On Sunday, reader & friend Dan D. watched my video diary of The New Blank Page Project, which was posted on Facebook.  His comment to me:

“Not sure about the lipstick”

After reading his comment, I re-watched the video.  I could see how my lips looked painted on and not painted well.  The color was uneven and looked silly, clown-like almost. Seeing myself  the way the world saw me, the way people who love and know me do, it made me wonder and question:  What do I want them to see when they look at me?

 Vibrancy. Human-ness.  Passion.
Genuineness. Trustworthy-ness.  Beauty.
Kindness.  Love.  Open-ness.  Understanding.

What does the world see when it looks at you?  What do you want it to see?


With gratitude to reader & friend Dan D. for inspiring this reflection.  Dan and I marched together in the Moorestown high school “standing band” – he played the drums while I played the clarinet.    I think we may have dated once (or at least considered it).  Dan lived on the same street I did, in a blue house with white trim (I think).  His house was closer to Strawbridge Lake than to downtown.  I sauntered by it pretty much everyday while walking the family dog, Annie, to the Lake after school.  Annie was a rescued black lab/wolf mix (according to my hyperbolic mom who loved her and “her spooky yellow eyes”).  Annie used to dumpster-dive at the WaWa (yes, that is really a store in New Jersey : “Mama, I love WaWa!“) during solo (escapee) walks in the opposite direction of Dan’s house. Their cellophane-wrapped bagels with cream cheese were favorites, eaten whole, of course, plastic and all. Annie was a street-smart wolf-dog with a stomach of steel, but that is another story . . ..

I walk more slowly

Ollie & the Collie (and my mom & me, too) on another day this spring before my folks left for the Cape. [Off-leash walks can be better, albeit against the Park District rules]
I walk more slowly in the mornings and evenings because both dogs are older now.

At first, I was frustrated, the walks no longer providing any kind of cardiovascular workout, and the duration of walks extending from 20 minutes to 40 or more, as the dogs stop and sniff across the same distances.  The former show collie trots her practiced prance while the Ollie with his bum knee does his best to keep up, racing his short legs as fast as they will go, wide grin present, so steadfast!.  But too often now he trails so far behind us, that even on his retractable leash which stretches at least 10 feet behind, we need to stop and wait for him to catch up.  And then we rest and let him catch his breath.  Sometimes I have to carry him (and mind you, he isn’t a light dog, despite his mild-mannered appearance.)  The show collie gets jealous and piss-y, barking at me, which is just the way it is and has to be.

There is a storm coming today.  The morning the wind sounded like the ocean, pushing invisible waves through the new leaves and back.  The twirl of green maple tree seedlings, spun like confetti, landing across mowed grass like well-played lawn darts, seed pods first, arrow-ing straight into moist ground.   We used to call them helicopters when we were kids, and we’d pick them off branches, tossing them up and watching them twirl. We’d twirl them even when they were brown and crisp.

I closed my eyes, while walking slowly, imagining myself on The Shining Sea Bike Trail in Falmouth, the spot just approaching Surf Drive, past the nesting osprey, and the pond where 2 swans return. The tall grasses there make the same sound, like the first movement of a symphony, leading the heart of the listener into the space where crescendos reign, and salt water pummels rock while children race waves, and squeal for the water’s icy sting, and sea gulls laugh, that raucous and obnoxious way they do, for peanut butter sandwich crusts and corn chip crumbs.

A maple seed pod hit me sharply on the eyebrow, like someone flicking me awake.  I smile and head for home.

I walk more slowly for there is much to savor, and I am growing old.

Day 7 - Maple seeds