Vanish from here, unworthy thoughts, Unburnished deeds, sad misconceptions. Vanish from here manipulative words, Harsh judges, unspoken times. Bring instead the laughter of children Raised on streets that cater to their steps, That cherish and rejoice in potential. Bring back the souls wrongfully taken, Before they were ripened by age and wisdom. Vanish from here, bitter pursing lips That refuse to speak what needs saying. Vanish here, and in your place, leave Society growing in flourishing in common cause.
Music, poetry and writing are the methods of following change in the U.S. Music uses repetition, rhythm and where it helps, rhyme. Rhyme is difficult because it has to further the message without over simplifying it. The movement of the blues and jazz, of black hymns, of swing, put such energy into music of the common man that we needed the sixties events to sway us into all of the rock genres. We had radios. That’s nothing in today’s world but in the sixties and seventies TVs and radios became cost effective to own. It was a social revolution. The process of miniaturization was on the development tables. We had seat belts in cars. We didn’t have to rely on a newspaper that was out of date before it was printed. No, words of the doings of man seemed rocketed to us. And we sang songs and danced to welcome the changes.
At the time I was in college studying music performance in the 70s, there was a dispute over the role of modern music (as it’s now labeled). We studied the classics, progressive, gregorian chant, romantics, baroque, and folk music through the ages. Plus we had our own style emerging in direct response to our environment. The music of the sixties and seventies was so powerful that it swayed a huge portion of the population into a passionate response. There were messages that were so powerful they couldn’t be spoken with the same impact. We demonstrated, stood up for rights and believed we could achieve them. We saw West Side story on the TV with Leonard Bernstein conducting. We wept tears at a story that Shakespeare told so long ago put into our world where racism was real and the South was dangerous. Times changed quickly. Things that seemed my parents had always known suddenly exposed themselves for what they were, new and changing to meet the demands of the entire population of the U.S.When I graduated in 1975, Native Americans were about to be given the vote if they lived on so-called government “reservations.” In 1976, Title 9 came into being giving women a new outlet in sport. It was a real challenge. In 1977, I was in the last basic training class of only women. We wore the Woman’s Army Corps insignia all the way through basic, and it was retired with our graduation. Standards changed and people changed with them.
Poetry and music lyrics share similarities, and they both deviate in how they are used. The tools are there. California Dreaming is said to have a simple set of lyrics, but the concept was new. The method of delivery was new. The fact that the idea was accessible was also something new. We’d seen and heard Elvis. He outlined the status quo for us. We saw John Wayne who was the ultimate macho man. We learned from the music that the Beach Boys sang. And there were many new lessons. We didn’t have to stay in one place for the rest of our lives. We could travel and that concept brought on a period of extreme social change, and because of the Kennedy brothers being murdered, the image of Jackie’s son saluting the flag covered coffin, the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr, the music we heard was portraying both sides of our society, good and ill.
We knew more. We questioned our roles as women, becoming a stronger voice for the right to be more than in the past. Men had to choose an image that the TV wanted to suppress, macho or stupid were portrayed as the two options they had. The TV hyped Jackie Gleason and John Wayne. But there were strong elements there too ; The Smothers Brothers and Laugh In. Intelligence in both sides of our species. Only the messages mattered. I watched those “Commie Pinko Shows” with my parents and we loved to laugh at the mixture of music, jokes, skits and just plain fun. It was hard to believe that that was dissident thinking, it’s still hard for me to believe. It seemed like the John Stewart Daily Show, a representation of our world with humor.
My generation talked. My mother’s generation talked and we communicated. That was strange. For many many years when I needed a wise best friend, my mother was the one to turn to, she always had a song for an aching heart, a melody for an infant, a poem for a toddler. She’s still my best friend. But, I digress, we were talking about love and (deep breath) sex. That was new. We were talking about current events and we knew them because of the TV and radio. We talked about, sang about, and demanded social change. For a little while, things did change. It looked like the dreams of the 60s were coming true. I was all in favor of a nicer kinder world, like the one Stevie Wonder sang about. I loved his lyrics, music and optimism. I loved Peter Paul and Mary, and Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow, Shawn Phillips, the Who, and the what, where, and why.
Then came the period of the 80s and our social progression and ethics changed. We became more egocentric, the accumulation of things by adults became more intense. Money was the important thing. Do unto others before they do unto you. You saw the black rage at society with rap because of the inequities that life provided them, again with rhyme and a strong bass, words so powerful that they broke your heart, angered you, or made you sorrow. You had grunge begin in the white population in protest of materialism, surely there had to be more to life than this existence, and suicide took some of the best artists. You saw alcoholism appear strongly in music where it had been mostly in prose before that time. Drug addiction was still referred to with stealthy whispers, “Only that kind of person does drugs.”
Then the internet took off. We could afford computers at home that had more power in each case that the huge rooms of data banks from the past. They improved every day. Technology doubling itself, faster and faster. There was a rebooting of the seventies material in the 2000s, issues that had been laid aside, brought their messages back. It looks simplistic but it represents who and what we are today.
Poetry is complex with people finding a voice in a nearly forgotten format. It isn’t always clear in its message, it requires thought and the interpretation doesn’t guarantee that you understand what the author meant. But the reader’s message is equally valid. Old dusty professors will always come up with a different interpretation that those studying under them, twenty to forty years younger. Time changes our outlook. Music simplifies the message. Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait is straight forward and the music heightens the experience so you don’t forget the simple words. Puff the Magic Dragon was and is a story for the imagination of the young and old, not a drug message. Where have All the Flowers Gone is a song about the repetition of the mistakes that we repeat as a society. The Beach Boys was about having some fun and not becoming too serious to soon. “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tack and they’re all made out of ticky tack and they all look just the same.” A protest about the loss of creativity and the sameness that felt forced upon us.
The audience and the message have to concur before fame occurs. We have something to say, audience needs to want it. Music and writing are two vehicles to send a message that will leave footprints long after we are gone. The amazing thing is that because of the internet, writing and music are marching around the world demanding to be read and heard. Cuba allowed some old English rockers to perform in Cuba and they wanted to go meet fans who could have been jailed for listening. They performed for free. Imagine that. Classical music is performed for free on the streets and plazas of the world. Day concerts of Beethoven, so that the music lives on. Bach is used to heighten our knowledge of math. So is Mozart. Wagner introduced a social message that helped bring on World War II and the quest for supremacy. What a powerful medium emerged! Tolkien took Wagner’s message and wrote a message of opposition and unity in the face of evil. There was a cartoon, Wizards, that took a cartoon audience through the message that Tolkien took four lengthy novels to write. Before Tolkien was Dickens with his eternal belief that we have to believe in the good of people, that good would overcome greed, that good people would be rewarded. There was Plath who suffered from severe bouts of depression, her poetry was part of her therapy. She needed meds. We all have a little bit of all who have come before and while poetry-blind as the times may be, I know a revolution of poets just waiting to emerge. Just check in on LinkedIn.
It isn’t the written word alone that is swaying thought, it’s the combination of music and attainable art, attainable word, dance, politics, social ills, and the acceptance of change. There is nothing simple about it. I find myself singing the damnedest things at strange moments. And behind all of the musicians, writers, politicians, do gooders and tyrants are the messages that the common human needs to hear to preserve their sense of self. There’s nothing simple about lyrics, only that when analyzed out of context and condemned as primary, elementary, simplistic, and even moronic, aren’t. But the analyst is a fool to think they can control the reception something gets. We’re evolving, and we demand the right to hear ourselves reflected in art.
It’s raining outside, and I can’t say I’m sad about it. So many places in the US and Canada are suffering from drought. I like the rain, although I can’t go to a ball game or to the fireworks tonight. My grass is green in July and the air is mild. I can go and splash in the puddles, jumping up and down like a kid as the neighbors call for reinforcements and my husband shakes his head. My garden is blooming and I haven’t had to set a sprinkler yet. I’m saving money by watching nature at work. The little green frogs climb the side of the house for the bugs at night, and the fireflies are hovering just over the grass if they are males and about six feet up if they were females. They prefer nights and I prefer them to the mosquitos who hunger for flesh.
I have movies that I love on the Fourth. 1776, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Forest Gump, anything not to violent but that represents history. There was a great show on Edison and how his lack of mathematics eventually worked him out of the electric business. They rarely mention the things that he did to Tesla, although he wanted to be the genius to think of things, he didn’t want to be a team player. So, we ended up with General Electric and Westinghouse which were a very important part of my upbringing.
I’ve been to the fireworks in Washington DC, Chicago, Akron, Minneapolis, St. Paul, San Francisco and I love the color, the sound and the smell of the different chemicals. My son and son in law buy from local legal firework stands and make safety a part of their private show in our driveway. They even make me put my shoes on. Sometimes we have been in the mountains when people start firing their fireworks off and you can see them for miles. Traveling in the US is something that became Americana in the time right after WW1. My dad learned to drive a Model T by accident when he took the brake off at the top of a hill, or that’s one story he told. He said his father was angry, really angry.
I served in the US Army and marched in parades on the Fourth as a member of the 6th US Army and 1st US Army. Marched up and down the coast of the Pacific, and visited a lot of places that needed music on the Fourth. I’m pleased as punch that we entertained so many. Music is a passion of mine. It builds an energy that is transferred to an audience, as long as you play the right notes.
But the biggest part of being a patriot, is a series of behaviors that my parents modeled for me and I tried to model for my kids. Voting after studying the platforms of the candidates, that’s number one. Helping my neighbors if I can. Donating to food banks, clothes banks, and charities. Paying my taxes and telling the truth about what we earn so that schools, roads, police departments, farm subsidies, the military, etc. can do what they are supposed to do. People who put their faith in God to solve problems instead of following up their words with actions really take away from our society. I honor the President of the US with paying attention to his policies, writing him with my opinions, and being respectful of him or her. Respect and politeness, saying please and thank you, not gossiping or lying to make a point are all standards of behavior that I was told were American. I taught school because it was a job with the honor of working with the people who would run my world when I got old and grey.
Our country was founded by a group of people as different as if they were the same. They shouted and argued but they also acted. They found people who could find ways to communicate to represent them. Granted there were problems, but the American way was to find a way through them. Injustices still exist that shouldn’t anymore. I hope we work our way though them soon. We were promised an awful lot growing up. I want everyone to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Enjoy the fireworks tonight if it isn’t too dry or too wet. Happy Fourth of July.
I’ve been married now for almost 36 years. For our anniversary my husband and I are going on a cruise to Mexico and Honduras with the intention of learning more about the Mayan Ruins. It was a great culture, one marked wit all of the traits that civilizations develop. I’m bringing my cameras, so there will be photos. The last time we went was in 2006, on the Grandeur of the Seas. We ended up with two photos that really showed the spirit of the people. I’m glad to be going, we’ve gone through so much in the last decade that time seems to have slipped a bit for both of us. We survived a recession when my husband gave support to those we love who lost or couldn’t find a job. We survived a mortgage that we had with Countrywide, and the change that made it a Bank of America mortgage. We kept our house, my two children married (not to each other of course), and one is now a proud homeowner. The other now has his dream job, and should soon be able to find a home for his wife and himself in the next year. But we’ve spent the last decade trying to do everything we could for family, and exhausting as it was it was worth the effort, and I think we forgot about the two of us.
Our differences have really accentuated themselves recently. We find things that prickle under the skin and have to stop and shake our heads. It never bothered us to be different before. We just had not taken the time to talk about these things. Little things wedged themselves between us, you know, the three things that most couples deal with. Children, even grown ones, money, and time. Those three things can become doom scenarios in a relationship.
We decided not to have a doom scenario. He had a week of vacation last week that we spent together. I decided to become the romantic one. My husband decided to become the practical one. We talked about all of those prickly things. He made me dinner, I did the laundry. He pruned up the yard as I raked the magnolia leaves. He told me he liked the flowers I picked from my garden. I told him he was handsome. We went out to dinner. We walked the dogs together. All of these little bits of time spent talking. I told him I was worried that he wasn’t happy. He told me that he thought I wasn’t happy. We laughed. We made sure that as we walked or dined that we talked about each and every thought that was in our heads. In the end, it was the plain old boring things that you don’t have time to think of that made us both look at each other again. We’re partners, equal, willing to depend on each other.
Love isn’t that mad passionate wave that excludes people. Sex is nice (well, of course it is). That isn’t love either. Love is having someone there who isn’t trying to change you. Love is understanding that you will grow differently, but there will be so much to share. Music surrounds us both, and we find that our tastes have become more similar. Art surrounds us. Our families surround us. Our willingness to make a family less about love and more about the people that we surround ourselves with. Love is an adventure. It’s willing to take the wrong turn, but with a map to get it back on course. It’s the willingness to not give up. It’s the companionship of years of changes.
I’ve changed over time. I’ve kept the things that are the essential me alive though. I keep my silliness to bring a smile to his lips when he’s angry at the world. I’ve learned to understand that he needs to vent. He knows that physically I can’t keep up with the house. He doesn’t care. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to write. Dishes can wait until one or the other of us have the energy to do them. Usually it’s him these days. He said I don’t ever have to lift a hand to the house. He also likes working with me on the house when I can. We are at the point in life where we realize there is an end coming. It doesn’t frighten us. We just need the time to be together, the two of us.
A quiet room when the house is just us, and we sit and talk about the world. We read together, watch John Oliver together, and the house is tranquil. Our moral compass heading is identical. But the biggest change came this past week when he told me that he’s looking forward to the adventures we have coming. He wants to spend that time with me, exploring the world, taking a class together, being happy. I think that is what love is beyond all else.
Love is when something happens, good or bad, and you want to tell that person first, before all others. That sharing bond of excitement or sadness bring you close and then closer. I want time to be gentle enough so that we can walk to the finish line hand in hand and know that the greatest gift we ever had was each other.
The Nursing Home
A thin drab youth with brown lanky hair slipped into a dark room leaving the door partially open. Someone slept noisily on the full-sized bed. He coughed lightly.
“Boom boom, boom boom,” came a muttering from under the faded quilt. “Boomboom, that’s what it sounds like. Listen, boy, you can hear it if you listen.”
The boy turned his head to one side and listened. There was quiet.
“I don’t hear anything, grandpa.”
“Then you’re not hearing well. I can hear it, like a man with limp or a wooden leg. Boom boom, boom boom,” the voice snarled. “I don’t even need to open my eyes to tell he’s coming for another attempt at my treasure. Listen. Boom boom, boom boom.”
“Grandpa, I think that’s your heart. Remember mom told you not to listen to your heart?”
“Boy, if you start listening to that woman you’ll never be a proper dragon. You’re still a sapling, an odd body, not fully grown and your breath smells like that nurse here. Listen.”
“Grandpa, I come every day, even when it rains and we never see a man here.”
“I showed you my watch, boy child. Gold it is, gold like the tears in my eyes when you deny your heritage. You are descended from dragons, from me and my ancestors. Your mother doesn’t count. She’s a frightening woman, not a proper dragon woman. Shh, someone’s coming. Hide on this side of the bed.”
The boy scurried to the window sill side of the room. He stood quietly watching the door. He wasn’t afraid of his grandfather, but the nurse was another thing all together. With a scratching sound of over starched cotton, the door was thrown over and the light turned on.
“Woman, turn that light off. You know it bothers my eyes. Have you no respect for age?”
“Now, now, dear, how are we after your nap? Oh look, our little friend is here to see us again. I do hope he’s being good. Do you want the red gelatin today or the green?”
“I don’t want any gelatin. It’s nothing but sugar. Grandson, did you know that they used to make gelatin from old horse’s hoofs?”
“Now dear, that was during World War II, during the bombardment. We learned about that in school back when we were a mere slip of a lass.” She drew a needle and vial from her apron and proceeded to the edge of the bed. “Just put our arm on this side of the blanket, dear, and let us take your blood sample for the doctor.”
“You were never a mere slip of anything, Nurse. I’m not putting any of “OUR” anything near you. The doctor has his own blood, let him sample it. See, I told you boy, he’ll come. Listen for it. Boom boom, boom boom. He’ll take the treasure with him and I’ll have nothing to give you.”
“Oh, don’t be a silly old silly, we’ll scare our grandson. I know he’s not supposed to visit us without his mommy but we don’t have the heart to throw him out of the building. It wouldn’t be good for our health. We need our young ones.”
Grandpa pulled the blanket down below his eyes. He kept his nose under the covers.
“We had the sniffles last week, young man. We’ve been keeping a kindly eye on us so we recover in a timely fashion.” Nurse Peal blinked at Grandpa.
“Darn it, Nurse Peal. Don’t scare the boy, he hasn’t molted to his true character yet.”
“And what are we turning into this week? Are we still a dragon?”
“Boy, don’t get old. I forbid it. You’ll end up in a place like this with your teeth falling out and your bald head shining and scaleless. Run along, Nurse, we need our quality time. Just run along.”
The nurse took grandpa’s wrist and listened to his pulse. Jabbing his arm, she took a large sample and put it in her pocket.”The tea trolly will be along shortly. We always like to have tea with us. You could join us if you like. Wouldn’t you like that, young man? Now, dear, we’ve pulled the blanket out from the bottom of the bed. Let us make you all nice and snuggly. We’ll just let you know when the tea is ready.”
The boy nodded quietly and followed the nurse to the door. She shut it behind her with a sweet smile.
The boy turned to the bed and whispered, “Grandpa, you are going to get us in trouble. I thought you said that the fact we were dragons was a secret. She’ll tell on you and that doctor will want more blood samples. She’ll hide the tea trolly from you. Mom said I should make you behave and if you don’t she’ll make you leave this place and SHE’LL take charge of you.”
“Are you still afraid of your mother, boy?”
“Well, no, but sometimes she’s not very nice to others. I don’t want her to be mean to you.”
“Is she still making you eat oatmeal every single day? Making you go to school? I had an old friend who was a teacher in a middle school. He had a great job, teaching literature and scaring the head lice off of student’s heads. Just placed the tip of his claw on their head and they ran off screaming. Screaming lice, what a hobby. I forgot his name, but this bookstore owner called him The Black Dragon. She was all about trolleys with tea in the afternoon. It seems to be a woman thing.”
“Did you know any other dragons, Grandpa?”
“There was The Reluctant Dragon. You could never get him to commit to doing anything. He wouldn’t fight, He read books and filled his head with philosophy. Nice chap, but he was a vegetarian. Not a proper diet for a dragon. He and St. George wandered off into the forest after staging a badly acted drama. The critics were harsh. Then there was the Blue Dragon. Oh, she was a looker that one. Your head was never safe with her after…well, you don’t need to know that at your age. Most dragons were called by their colors or their location. They kept their magic names to themselves so people couldn’t have power over them. They had names like Strong Heart, Pestilence, Snort, Long Tooth, most of them boring names. My name, however, was a magnificent name. Did I ever tell you what it was?” There was a pause. “Speak up, boy, speak up.”
“No, grandpa, you didn’t.”
“Ah, I must remedy that. I was known as the Red Dragon of Dreadful Temper Tantrums.
My mother hid away from me when I learned to fly because I would fly into a fit demanding gold, diamonds, dwarves, swords and jewels. I loved the depth of color in my jewels. Once I was given and item I put it in the corner. Then I would sing to it.”
He cleared his voice. “Ahem, ahem. Do, Re, Do, Sol, Mi, Sol, Ti, Sol. Gimme, gimme, jewels for my soul.” His voice rang out as large bells ringing and clanging together. “See, boy, singing to jewels made my soul happy.”
“What about your eggs?”
“I’m a male dragon. I don’t have much to do with eggs and you will find out about that much later.”
The door squeaked open. Nurse Peal’s face peered into the room. “Are we alright in here then?”
“Of course, woman, now go and leave us alone.”
She pulled her head out of the room with a heavy sigh. “Don’t let the old fool give you a hard time, boy. Tea trolly should be here soon.
“Now, boy, let’s make you a dragon name. What do you fancy? Your egg was yellow, you know. It looked like the sun rising in the East. Your mother kept it well polished and warm. Warm eggs mostly grow up to be large dragons. What should we call you?”
“Grandpa, I’ve been thinking about that. How about the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn?”
Grandpa looked startled. “Why I like that name. My grandson, the Rising Son of the Eastern Dawn. It suits you, boy, it suits you.”
“How will I know when I start to grow my wings?”
“You’ll start to growl, grow and argue with your teachers about how to swing a shield to protect yourself from a sword.”
“One of the girls in my class has a sword made of plastic. She runs around smacking us boys when we try to play cricket or soccer. I don’t like her very much.”
“A girl dragon or a girl knight? Girl dragons are dangerous, but girl knights are worse. They try to make you do what they say when all you want to do is stand around the corner looking after your wealth. They’ll take your coins if you look away. Sneaky creatures, girls.”
“Did you have a girl dragon as a friend?”
“Well, not exactly. I had a wife dragon, a suitable dragon, a pink and lovely dragon.”
“Didn’t you have a maiden to tie up like in my book?”
Grandpa chuckled. “I had two tied up. Both wore princess outfits and screamed such a lovely screams. But I never ate them. Those knights would sneak up on me.They’d steal the princesses away. Boom boom, boom boom. Did you hear that?”
“Grandpa, you are being silly. That’s your heart carrying on. Don’t tell anyone your heart is carrying on or they won’t let me come visit anymore.”
“If they don’t let you come visit me, I shall eat them alive. No, raw meat isn’t good for us. We like our meat nicely cooked on an open fire. What do knights call that, a B something.”
“A barbecue is what Daddy calls it. He says that he isn’t a dragon though. He says dragons only eat raw meat and if I argue he’ll send me to bed without a cooked supper.”
“I’ll have a growl with him and show him better. You tell him when you get home tonight. I’m sure I can bring him round. He’s the reason your mother won’t show her dragon wings, you know. I think he’s a tall dwarf, or a politician. Sometimes they are both. So, what did you learn about today in that school your mother forces upon you? Did you learn about war or spears or something fierce?”
“Nope, today we learned about the teddy bear. He looks like Winnie the Pooh, but a president got him in a crate from some firefighters that were putting a fire out in the United States. He was all singed and burned and they put lotion on his fur to make the burns better. Children saw him in the zoo and their moms bought them soft bears to keep them company in the dark. I have a bear, but his name is Arnold.” “Well, that is a very good name for a bear, I think. You must guard his well. I think he must be one of your treasures.”
Their heads were close together, by this time, and secret words passed between the two.
Nurse Peal and mother stood outside the door, watching and listening.
“I don’t know what we will do without my father in our future. How’s he really doing, Nurse? I know you keep track of what the doctor says.”
“Don’t worry, dear. I drive him crazy using we all the time and he’s really a lovely old goat when you go home. He does love his grandson so. They like to change what he’s going to be when he becomes old. He told the boy, last time, that when he could escape from here he was going to live in the sky and be a star.”
The two women looked at each other and tears formed in their eyes.
“GRRRRR,” called the boy in a loud voice.
“GRRRRR,” the old dragon answered.
February 2nd, 2015 was an incredible day for me. And today, well, today is even better. I’ve looked at all of the comments, reread them, and I’m in the process of following all of you who found me. I will be on all of your sites to read your thoughts as you have graced mine. I will take the time to learn from you, think about your messages and enjoy.
This is short, but I seem to have a lot of reading material to go through and some new ideas that I will be posting soon.
Thanks again, to all of you.
I have a word in my pocket, Joggling my mind, filling my empty shoes. Don’t be too quick to rectify a word, The brain teases you along. I had to use a tacky glue to bring cohesion to my mind, Indolently lazy, I surf the pages of my dictionary, Proofing my new words, giggling when I find obscurity. Enthralled with words my life passes my reflection In an uncanny reflection of my mother. Some might wish to know whether my dreams are real, But I just dance the moments I have, Swayed by laughter and good friends.
I never thought to see a blizzard warning in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I never thought to see it as a 100% Blizzard warning. But here it comes, Josiah. In Virginia we get ice, lots of ice. You see the government shut down with only an inch or two of snow, but the truth is the ice underneath causes such havoc that cars become objects of physical laws. They bash each other, smash each other, and sometimes they put you on TV showing your ineptitude. Yes, snow is coming.
The stores are sold out of everything. We had done our shopping earlier in the week, made sure I had the drugs I need to survive, and picked up the bag of salt or chemical melting agent a week before the weather channel could make up its mind. My niece, Jessie, sent us pictures of the Walmart with nothing on shelves three days prior to the snow warning. Silly Virginians. We’ll have tropical storm powered gusts of wind. We’ll have cars abandoned along the highway. You won’t find me out there though. I have a book to read, embroidery to finish (the tapestry), hot chocolate (and peppermint schnapps), and a lot of writing to do.
I love the snow. I am looking forward to breaking our little plastic shovel on mounds of wet snow. Perhaps I’ll even make a snowman. I used to do snow angels. I was a fairly bad shot with a snowball. I tried to break a broom over my brother’s head when I was sweeping snow and he tried to take the broom away. I was in snow love mental exclusion mode. I just wanted to sweep. Dad was angry about the broom, not so much worried about my brother’s head and my ego. I think he collapsed in laughter when he went back inside. He laughed a lot when we were out of view. I think we should have had cameras, but no one would believe the simplicity of our life back then.
For Mother’s Day, several years ago, my darling husband bought me a pair of Welles. They even have the seal of the Queen and the Scottish National Arms. Keeping Up Appearances is one of my favorite shows. I know several women like Hyacinth. My husband dodges neighbors in fear for his immortal soul. I have the boots standing by, and I have Hyacinth recorded to watch this evening. We even have enough popcorn for a month. Yum.
Snow brings such quiet to the world. The intense silence is broken only by the idiots who are out shooting ducks in our protected wetlands. They can have a stand and shoot into the preserve, killing with a dozen shots aimed at a small bird that just wants to eat duckweed. I hate that. There is a stand just 6 feet off the shore of Leesylvania State Park that allows them to park at the lot, take the path to the stand, wait for low tide to walk out to the stand, and BLAM, there goes the neighborhood. The ducks are so beautiful. I hunt with a camera. I have no need for a weapon although I am fully trained by the USArmy. I found a wounded duck last winter when I was walking the dogs. The cold of the Potomac River was all that was keeping the poor thing alive. It had been hit in the gut and still had escaped. Death was following it. I tried my best to make it more comfortable, moving it out of sight into the long grass. I tried to put pressure on the wound but it was too much damage. The duck was gone by evening. I’m pretty sure the foxes found it. I found footprints that seemed to confirm it. I tried. Sometimes you fail in what you think is an imperative order from a higher place. I don’t mind hunters who are responsible and actually eat what they kill. They have to be one shot hunters, making it count, keeping numbers down of species like deer or the Canadian goose who, just like Minnesotans, moved south and decided they could stay all year. They’ve few natural enemies, just the foxes.
I’m off topic. Yesterday night, I found a friend that I have been looking for, for at least thirty years. I found her on Facebook. Life didn’t turn out according to our high and mighty plans when we were in college. It’s been an adventure. I wrote her about the oncoming blizzard. She lives in Northern Minnesota and is much more acclimated to snow.
The quiet is soothing. No one is going in and out of the house for now, so my husband can sleep all day. UPS will probably not be open tonight. The governor has already declared a State of Emergency. Sand trucks line the roads, their drivers asleep waiting for the 24 hours of panic that will ensue.
Three nights ago, my husband was on I95 when FedEx passed him. The driver had not secured the tandem trailer and it suddenly detached itself. FedEx zoomed past, but the trailer fell in behind my husband’s set of trailers. He accelerated, but then a small car zoomed in front of him and hit the brakes. Fortunately that was the moment the trailer started to slow down, sending a firestorm of sparks across five lanes of traffic. But that isn’t the exciting night for him, two nights ago, in the muck of the ice, it took him from 5PM EST until 1:15AM to go from Dulles, Virginia, to Burtonsville, Maryland. That’s right outside of Baltimore, he got stuck on the ramp leading to the UPS building. He wasn’t alone. Drivers were passing trucks on the shoulder moving in and out, breaking and leaving no space for accidence. Eric said his truck jackknifed on the turn due to one of these cars. His truck was sent into the shop in December because his ABS wasn’t working. Nothing was done. Then the traction control went, and so did Eric, right off the metaphorical cliff. So he’s been driving a tractor that he red tagged. So here he was, knifed on the exit ramp, and we both learned some really cool things. A fire extinguisher will give you the same results as using salt and sand. The drivers were taking turns helping each other up the hill. It took Eric three hours without the Traction control. Finally, a salt and sand truck came up the ramp close enough to Eric that he benefitted greatly. He called at 1:15 to let me know he was still alive. I now call his tractor the Widow Maker. He’s not going to drive tonight, there is no sense when you can’t really get anywhere anyway.
You can feel the anticipation. The dogs keep running to the door and wanting out.” Sniff, Sniff, Yarf,”they call. They chase the shadows of squirrels around, focusing on laughing more than killing. They love the snow. Tigerlily will catch snowballs and Foxywiggles will bury herself in the snow and then explode back into the world. She tastes the snow flakes.
I grew up with Charlie Brown and tasting snowflakes is very important. I’ve done the magnifying glass bit. I learned that the reason snow is a noise suppressant is the spaces between the flakes, the hollow middle that when compressed loses its ability to shun noise. Snow, an open airy pile of beauty, will suppress noise because of the space between the “stars” or flakes to be more correct.
I used to have small children to play with in the snow. They are grown now and have little patience for an old woman who still dreams of being 8 years old. We lived next to the world’s meanest neighbor when I was a child. He was so scary that no one would go into his yard to retrieve a baseball. Our parents had warned us about being respectful at all times or else. So when it snowed, I would shovel his walk, but never would enter his backyard to do his back yard path. I would shovel the front and the back where the garages were. I never let them know I was doing it, I just did it, like a jack frost character’s nemesis. He finally caught me and laughed. He had just bought a snowblower and was looking forward to moving snow with great zeal. We worked out a deal. I could help on the steps and such, and he would use the snowblower on all the flat places. He was a lovely old man. We became friends and didn’t need to lose any more balls. The brothers of mine had become more interested in basketball. They moved down the alley to a garage with a hoop.
Minnehaha Falls freezes in the winter. The water sneaks small amounts of water underneath the ice and snow layers and the look of watching the water cascading underneath the gigantic icicles and churning its way back under the ice at the bottom and heading to the Minnesota River. The Mississippi boats that go up and down the river freeze into place waiting for the coast guard to come to their rescue. Traffic backs up on the Franklin Avenue Bridge and the Lake Street Bridge. Horns get honked politely. Dogs and children try sliding from any mound no matter how small or tall it is. We would walk on the snow ruins created by snowplows and human endeavors. We dreamed that we were polar explorers. And we had the view of all of the snow forts on the way to school, we could escape a rout by readjusting the path with boulders of snow from the street. We had ice balls, not just snowballs. It was our secret weapon.
My oldest brother was in charge of us. Four little ducklings all in a row, and we obeyed him. He has an air of authority about him, slightly Eeyore like. He had a wicked arm with a snowball and because he was so tall, he was the early warning system.
Our school had iron rails around the grassy spots, and in winter, the iron rail became the subject of bets. There was a pail of water just inside the door of the school kept there for the idiots who licked the rails and let their tongues get stuck. I must confess to licking the rail, but I never froze to it. I guess I was moving too quickly?
Snow. I left the curtain open in my bedroom this morning. It’s open now. As I sit here doing all of the writing on my schedule I feel like a little girl waiting to use her boots in something besides puddles. Snowy days give me inspiration to write. They give me a force of calm and serenity which I lack daily. Snow lets me slow down and just be happy.
I’ve missed the snow that I grew up with, being from Minnesota and all. I miss watching the kids skate on park rinks and frozen rivers. Last winter I was in Minnesota for a party in honor of a woman who was dying of cancer. I got snowed in like I always do. I watched the skaters on the Mississippi up in St. Cloud. I had no camera with me to catch the moment, but the lights on the rink, clearly marked as a safe zone, have stayed with me. So much energy being consumed. Hats, mittens, scarves, hockey gear, and more, all a vital part of the vision of happiness to me. The fields harvested and the bales of hay covered with white as the fog sneaks in. The barns with their yellow glow of warm calling to milk cows, it’s a wonder I ever left the state. I was smitten by the idea of a world calling to me out there. I think that wanderlust might be a virus.
It still hasn’t started snowing. I catch my breath each time I look out of the window, hoping, waiting. I’m like a little kid wanting that miracle of snow, needing it. Sitting on an uncomfortable cold chair in a classroom that is gradually warmed by the breath of all the students hoping for snow and early dismissal. I’d always list the homework for the day on the blackboard. “No excuses, if you don’t do your homework, it won’t snow tonight.” And then the first snow flake arrives. There is a flurry of pencils noting the homework, kept simple because playing in the snow is more important. Assignment books are initialed and the world fidgets. Squirming and turning their heads made me just aim the desks at the window and have done with it. Creative writing time. “You are a snowflake, please, tell me of your life.”
It was cold, windy and cloudy when the word came down. Here, today, snow. But last night the skies were clear and I could watch the moon travel from east to west through my house. Almost a full moon, but brightly lighting the rooms as I wandered with insomnia. Stars as big as a marble, blinking 5 billion years ago. Morse code? Aliens might love snow. Heaven knows, our climate needs all the water it can get in dry places. I wonder if aliens would understand that a snowball fight is just as ingrained as finding a stick and pretending it is a sword or rifle. Rocks on the ground beg to be picked up and thrown by small boys. They can’t help it. Ingrained instinct and environmental influences make sure the aggressive side of our nature reinforce itself in each generation.
I am wordy today, and off topic or on a new topic, I find it hard to focus. Snow.
I’m just waiting.
Woven strings hanging on walls in castles tell us the tales of knights, kings, queens, hunting, war and the need to protect against drafts in large buildings. I’ve been to museums in many places and admired the time and effort to achieve these beautiful tapestries. Then I went to Morocco. Somehow the guide brought us to a carpet dealer. I think there were relations or crossed incentives for each carpet that could be sold to a tourist. They were beautiful, colorful, all handmade by members of what they told me was the Berber tribe, desert people. I am a sucker for a well presented adventure, so we bought one. It was golden, and it became one of the wedding gifts for my daughter from us. It also inspired me.
I was at a fragile state in 2014, both mentally and physically, and I wanted to leave a footprint of who I was in case anything ever happened to me. So I started my own embroidered tapestry. It’s 40 inches by 48 inches on monk’s cloth. It tells a tale of what I love and who I am. It isn’t finished by any means yet. I’m embroidering every single tiny square with flowers and bushes. Add to the gardens and moving up you will find the lighthouses, great lakes and finally arriving in space; beautiful, colorful outer space. I need to add my home, my dogs, more gardens, some fish. The Potomac River and the Mississippi are sure to turn up somewhere. There is no pattern to rely on, and some of the stitches are better than others. It makes for a contrast of the changes in my life. Sometimes I am well organized and a perfectionist. Other times I give a lick and a promise, and just make sure something is on the canvas. The contrasts are so me.
I have to finish this before my reunion in 2019. I started it at the one in 2014 where I was mocked for taking on a project like this. I thought I could finish it in a year, but it has to be done for the next reunion. If nothing else, maybe it will show how my life has twisted from promises of finishing things to finishing things. I have a book to finish this year as well. That will be on the tapestry somewhere I’m sure, somewhere where the fairies and gnomes live in my heart. My dad used to say, “Annie has only one foot in reality, and she hops a lot.” He was right. There will be a hopping Annie with a jump rope and a bit of tar on her knees in the tapestry as well.
A life is worthy of a tapestry. All lives are worthy of the woof and warp that give us flavor. If I could create a tapestry of the world, I would need a much bigger monk’s cloth and a lot more time. I would create the lines of peace and friendship I hope to see develop more fully in the world. I would take the violence, hate and prejudice and cut their threads from the pattern. The three sisters of the fates would be as cousins to me as they weave their patterns. Perhaps I could convince them to cut those threads that I chose to cut as well. Perhaps, but today I will work on my tapestry and try to make it as truthful as possible. I may even become an antique someday and the tapestry, too.
Are there threads you would wish to see on my creation? I’d love to hear from you.
This morning the sun shown on a grey receding cloud, and the winds didn’t arrive. I’m sure they will later, but for now, my small dogs are not pretending to be kites when they go for an outing. My garden is finally, and officially, dead. Well, some of it will be back in the spring. I love perennials, they are repetitive, tough, colorful, changing and much less work. I water them, feed them and ignore them. That’s also my recipe for orchids and african violet care.
The annuals of winter are frosted leaves on a forest floor, snowflakes (if we ever get so lucky), and neighborhood children still in the snowsuit phase. The laughter they give sounds like pearls, or tinkling icicles, or even perhaps, silence. Silence of a winter fog makes the world shake. People rush for their covers, but not me. I like to stand outdoors with the wind in my face, a sweater, sometimes even my shoes on. It’s bracing, something some will never understand. I grew up in Minnesota. Winter was magic. It was pure, untracked (until school kids and dogs created trails), and I felt at home. The cold has always been a sign of peace for me. Trouble goes indoors, fighting takes too much energy, and there is hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane.
I like the end of football. The pause before baseball is only momentary, but that pause gave me skating, sliding, and skiing. I watch other people have fun doing these things these days. The contemplation of the rules of winter never bothered me when I was young. Coat, hat, gloves, scarf, hood, layers of layers beneath the overcoat, lined boots and double socks were my attire back then. San Francisco was tempting wonder which had all of these things within a few hours drive. Virginia was an even greater surprise. My first winter in Virginia, it was in the 50s, like this year. There was no ice, snow, bracing air and I wondered that there was a place on earth like it. Then came several winters of note, two with the high mounds along the community roads that reminded me of snow forts, snow ball fights, walking the ridge to see if we had to touch the pavement on the way to school.
So, what did I do for Virginia snow? I shoveled sidewalks for fun. I was one of the first out the door, if it was light enough with a broom. I actually had to find a shovel to buy. It was bright orange plastic, easily shattered and didn’t live long. It was a needed winter sacrifice. It took me until April to find a good sturdy shovel that would last.
My husband hates snow if he has to go out. He drives a truck, with two trailers usually. He can plow through the snow, but it is amazing at how many small cars rush to get in front of him only to panic because they can’t see, found ice or found fear. Huge brown truck, itty bitty cars. SUVs are worse. They think they can outrun and out perform anyone else on the road. Some are 4 wheel, but not all. They forget that for an SUV to stay on the road, all four feet should be on the ground. I meant four tires, but you get the picture. I loved the old commercial of the “living” SuuVEE giving instructions on how to survive. I loved teaching when there was snow. Feet up, fire lit, eyes on a new book or grading papers that all too often I had fallen behind on. I kept the TV on a music channel. My boisterous children went out to play and returned an hour later for board games, cardboard box castles, and dragon attacks. The dogs were the dragons, my daughter a princess of the castle, and my son a knight in shining armor. My daughter saved the dragon, the castle and my son laughed. He always laughed. He was golden sunshine, but my daughter, she still is her own mystery. Snow.
I have so much to do to be ready for snow. It’s a good thing it isn’t in the forecast yet. I have the removal of the holiday decorations, cleaning, sorting, throwing and napping. The naps are most important because I dream of winter. My past is filled with winter memories. My father leaving at 3 am to make ice for the city children to skate on. It had to be freshened every night to create a safe place with no toe holds dug in. My first ice skates that had been in the warming trailer for over a year with no one claiming them. You rolled up socks and put them in the toes so they wouldn’t slide on your feet. Sliding on ice in the street on the way to school. Stomping through slush that made me feel like a giant. My high school hockey team making the playoffs one year and the band going to play to support them. My mouthpiece and horn never did warm up completely. Walking to college classes with a -20 degree F wind. The campus closing for an entire two days because of 30 inches arriving with wind and a bad attitude.
I’ve been told I live in an alternate universe from the rest of the world. That’s okay. I was always a bit of a dreamer. No, not true, I was always a dreamer. Winter didn’t require friends to make me happy, it just did. It still does. Sleeping dogs and a feisty cat keep me company when I am alone. One catches snowballs. One tunnels. Frankie, the cat, lifts her toes as she walks onto the deck and turns with a sigh of disgust. She doesn’t like cold feet. I lift her, hold her close, and she and I watch the birds. First thing in the morning is the bird food. Then the cat and dogs find their feasts in ceramic bowls I made with love for old friends now memories. They like the bowls.
The sun will set before I am ready, tonight. I’ll keep an eye on the weather channel. I’m hoping for a winter wonderland.