Thursday, December 1, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I have a teenager now. Hard to believe he turned thirteen today. He begged me to let him stay home from school in order to celebrate this milestone properly and, of course, I acquiesced. We spent the morning lazing in our pajamas and then headed to NYC, our favorite spot EVER. I had the privilege of taking him on his first trip to the Guggenheim. I was excited to show him this New York landmark. I knew he would love the architectural design of the building (after all he has the Lego model!) and the unique feeling of the space itself. And I was right.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
I cried my way through last Monday. HUGE hiccuping sobs that seemed to come out of nowhere even though I knew their origin exactly.
I wanted to go back. I wanted to be where I was seen and heard and felt in a way that every moment felt like home. The hours with the boys at school felt so lonely it was excruciating. The week seemed to crawl by with no amazing staff to make my meals, no teachers to guide me to create works of art, no friends by the fire at the end of the day to ask me what I'd done or how I felt. Simply back to the grind, making lunches; helping with homework; driving to soccer practice, music lessons, the orthodontist; permission slips; Parent Night; laundry; grocery shopping; the usual day to day.
But then Friday night I attended a fundraiser for Girl Power 2 Cure in Washington, D.C. and I met some amazing families who are struggling with the loss of their beautiful daughters to Rett Syndrome: little girls who were born perfectly normal, but over time lost their voices, lost the use of their legs and their hands, began having trouble eating, having seizures. They are trapped inside their own bodies with NO WAY OUT. All tests and studies indicate that they are perfectly normal, and in fact in many cases, above average in intelligence. So it seems that they are completely aware of their plight. Worst disease ever. Robbed of life before they really started.
Instantly I regained perspective. It's easy to feel lonely or angry or scared or sad when we have experienced something as wonderful and sacred as Squam. But we got to experience it. That's the beauty. There are a lot of little girls out there, like Sarah, who would give anything to be able to walk the rocky paths, swim in the lake, talk and paint with their friends by their side. And so we'll go back again, even knowing we might flounder for a while when we return home, because those moments are so precious, so tender, so joy-filled that it would be worse not to get the chance to experience them at all.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Several Squam Art Workshops ago Elizabeth and her crew put a book in our totebag. A book that chronicles the history of Rockywold-Deephaven Camps where SAW takes place. I admit, I never read it. I put it on the shelf and it sat there with lots of other books and remained unopened. But this year, someone (I’m assuming it was Elizabeth during her opening night remarks, but my memory is shot at this point so I can’t be sure) spoke of it and of the two women, Alice Mabel Bacon and Mary Alice Ford, who began the story that would lead to this camp and eventually to the experiences we all had there this week.
So I came home Sunday and read the book cover to cover. And I was blown away.
I was stilled by their story. The dedication they had to this spot, yes. But also their dedication to serving others, which they believed was essential to living our best life. I was impressed with their vision, their tireless work against prejudice, their belief in tradition and creativity. Their celebration of nature and their understanding that Squam Lake and the Rockywold-Deephaven Camp was a place where families and friends would come year after year to relax, reflect, reconnect, and rejoice. A place where nature would provide spiritual grounding. A place that would be near and dear to so many hearts for decades to come.
One line in the book jumped out at me, a way the camps have often been described, champagne in a tin cup. A place so simple yet filled with the finest bubbles--beautiful scenery, cool mountain air, a clear lake, loon song, coyote howl, warm fires, good healthy food, sturdy docks, a generous and attentive staff, solid cabin walls, stepping stone paths built by many hands a century ago. Spaces to create, to laugh, to cry, to commune, to sit in silence, to meditate, to find yourself broken open. Spaces to put yourself back together again. A place of belonging and inspiration. Frank Perkins, the camp manager during the 1980s, greeted the guests with the words “welcome to your spirit’s home”. Oh, yes, Frank, you could not have been more right.
I finished reading the book and then dug through a box to find a copy of an email I had written to Elizabeth after returning home that first year. I had explained to her that coming to SAW was not simply about the art classes, but also a stretching and pushing myself in a direction I had never gone before. Deep down I knew I would discover something about myself if I could only be brave enough to journey alone to that beautiful spot. So many people have been transformed there during the last four years. I have read beautiful blog posts and emails and letters retelling stories of shifts and changes in many lives, some small and some tsunamis of epic proportions. My own life has gone through a metamorphosis. Sometimes so painful, difficult, and emotional I would think I couldn’t take another step. But I would keep the memories of each of my SAW experiences in the forefront of my mind, remembering the way I had felt seen, heard, and accepted; felt the connectedness with nature and my fellow humans that Alice Mabel Bacon and Mary Alice Ford were intent on creating when they birthed the idea for the camp at the turn of the century--intrinsically knowing this was how I wanted to feel all the time, in every aspect of my life.
And this year in Brae Cove I felt it once again, surrounded by women who get me I was reminded of something I know in my heart: life is simple--take risks, love deeply, create beauty, serve others, respect nature, be brave. I believe there are two women, gone from this earth for many years now, who would be so proud to know Squam Art Workshops has taken up residence in their beloved camp. A place where we let out our hearts. And let go.
I think from now on I'll be drinking my champagne from a tin cup.
Monday, August 15, 2011
And so I headed north to Providence and found her there; the woman who had already walked through the flames and knew just what I needed. She knew how to provide a sanctuary. A respite. Without being asked. A place where I could read and sleep and dream and talk and talk and talk and talk and walk and talk some more. Where we could eat if we wanted to--and whatever we wanted to! Nap if we wanted to. Snuggle beautiful dogs. Feel the breeze. Write. Stretch our legs. Sit in silence. Maybe take a shower. Or talk some more. Intuitive and comforting and safe.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
I have a technique for discovering the real person.
It goes like this,
using a sharp instrument
make a 4-inch cut in the chest wall,
divide the muscles,
crack open the rib cage,
remove the heart.
Memorize the valves and arteries
Maybe then you will understand
what makes it tick.
Who it loves.
Why it suddenly stops
as easily as it started.
I think I will have elective
open heart surgery
to discover the real me.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
My friend Jamie and her friend Jamie are launching an art auction for Alabamians affected by the Aril 27th storms.
All proceeds will be donated to the Alabama Red Cross Disaster Relief for Countless Crises. There is also the option for auction winners to have their donation to the Alabama Red Cross to be placed in memory of a specific person killed on April 27th, 2011.
Spread the word.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The siren, she drags me to her deepest depths
and crowns me like a king
with starfish and conch shells
and the blackened teeth of ancient sharks.
Her seaweed is sharp and bitter,
though she wraps me in it
like a cherished cloak,
and anchors me tightly to her dark and murky sea.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Knock. Knock. she says, holding her breath for a split second
before continuing the task of changing his diaper. Muttering, vampire,
into the waiting silence. Vampire State Building.
She laughs out loud at the absurdity of life.
One morning she could be folding laundry, watching Matt Lauer
climb the sides of Kilauea, mesmerized by fiery lava blasting a frothing sea.
Never imagining catastrophe and ash would soon rain down on her own city,
an armageddon attack turning a beloved space briefly into a war zone.
A different kind of eruption, leaving her husband cracked and spitting,
the molten shell of a man she never wanted.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I like to remind you each birthday how we worried the night you were born because it was snowing hard, and we didn’t know how we were going to get Grandma so she could watch Evan because Grandpa was stuck in a snowbank. (in his Bruno Magli shoes!) And when we were finally able to get going, we slipped and slid all the way to the hospital. And then you were ready to meet us, and I was pushing so so hard but you were sunny-side up, you wanted to come into the world face first, looking at it all, instead of looking down at the floor. But gosh darn it hurt, with your hard forehead banging my pelvis.
I cursed a lot. Sorry about that.
But I finally did it and you were out and in my arms. And despite the traumatic birth, you were so perfect looking. Such a beautiful little face. No conehead at all. Daddy and I like to say you’ve always had a hard head. You don’t give in easily, which I secretly love. You fight for what you believe in. I love that you laugh really hard and you also cry really hard. You embrace every moment of life like it was your last. That is an admirable quality, even when it drives me insane. I have learned so much from you. And that personality will get you through many tough times--it is enormous. You live your life out loud, and I know it sounds cliche, but you draw people to you like moths to a flame.
I am honored and humbled to be the person in your life you call Mom. I treasure the rest of your days and can’t wait to meet the man you become.
Happy 10th birthday, Charlie Boo.
I love you.
Mrs. Pontrella sang it to you the other day when I brought cupcakes to school, but you know the truth, you are my sunshine.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
All I Have to Do Is Dream
Sometimes I imagine I am still sitting
in my lemon yellow room on Alberta Avenue
dressing paper dolls in their fancy clothing--
two-dimensional Betsy McCall visits Pollyanna
under the bright lights of an imaginary Victorian circus tent
or I am slowly sifting through a shiny tin of glass buttons
letting them drop jewel-like through my fingers
as my grandmother pushes her foot down hard
on the sewing machine pedal
speeding through her stitches like a race car driver
laughing at me and my cousins,
the girls all prancing with abandon
dancing in our underwear and Nan’s fancy hats and pearly beads
to Sheb Wooley’s “Flying Purple People Eater”
and The Everley Bros. “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, side B.
Lifting the lid on that little black box
carefully, as if it were a treasure chest,
to flip the record, change the 45, push the needle back again.
Giggling while we switch positions, fall
into the beanbag cushions of each other’s laps
sure of our bodies, our nimble limbs
skin on skin, hands, feet, bellies, intertwined
unafraid of warm human touch, soft caresses,
proud of our budding breasts
and bloodless thighs.
We have not yet met the snake charmer
working at the corner store, the one with oil-stained hands,
and the sickening smell of Wild Turkey and Merit 100s on his breath.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
I need to tell you a secret.
It is of the utmost importance--
I can sense that you will understand completely.
There is something leeching out of me.
I cannot tell my family,
and I don’t think they have noticed yet.
They will only make fun of me more
than they already do. They call me Dory,
like the little blue fish in Finding Nemo.
The way something shiny distracts me from my tasks
and I veer off course without looking back
forgetting all about the wet laundry laying on the hardwood floor,
or the half-eaten meal
cold on the counter hours later,
or the car running, door open
and me tearing break-neck down the block
chasing the doe who stumbled
into our suburban neighborhood unannounced.
I am simply making sure the police don’t succeed
in using their tasers to stun her.
I know what that feels like, and it isn’t pleasant.
But anyway, I have deviated too far from the subject at hand
(surely more proof of the pudding).
Let me get back to this substance
that seems to be oozing out of me.
I first noticed it seeping from my scar,
which is the very reason I know you will understand me.
I believe our scars have fallen in love.
It is not clear how they met, but I have been told
they are planning an exorbitant wedding
and are contemplating naming their firstborn Moe,
which I think is an imbecilic idea.
But we have plenty of time to convince them of that.
My scar is S shaped and about six inches long.
It is a bluish-gray color, swollen and dimpled.
I try to avoid looking at it
because it reminds me of a caterpillar crawling
along my belly. I am sure at any moment
it will pop its furry head
out of my collar to tickle my chin.
I swear I’ll bite its head off when it does.
Anyway, again I digress. This green and viscous secretion,
which at first was just a trickle
around the edges of my scar,
is now beginning to gush
soaking my clothes so that I have to change them
several times a day,
not just my shirt but my underpants and sometimes even my socks
when it has begun to pool
in my favorite black boots,
the ones I got at Kmart with a coupon.
I am hoping that due, in part, to the impending nuptials
and the possibility we will be grandparents soon,
you might consider having a word with
that tiny white X on your chest, the one
right above your heart,
to see if you can find out what is causing this mysterious flow.
I am trying to contain it as long as I can
so my family won’t recognize my discomfort or even notice
the witch is back.
She is not riding her broom this time, but her cauldron
is full of hot sauce and something that looks suspiciously
like a cat with only two legs and one ear.
I am convinced you understand my fears and will do your best
to help me in my finest hour of need.
Or at the very least, maybe you can write a play
about our scars
and their fairytale beginning.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
May the Morning Ice Melt In Time to Explore Their Present
Snow and ice abound
surrounding our homes and our hearts.
An icy landscape we can’t seem to escape.
This wintry mix
If you want to know the truth,
it brings me to my knees.
But the girls,
the brave ones,
they shine brighter.
I feel a melting inside
when I breathe their air
see their joy
feel their love.
I pray they feel it, too.
leaving us to rejoice
in the sun.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Who were you in my dream?
Were you the owl flying so low over our car at dusk
or the red-tailed hawk in the tree on the lane
eager to show us how easy it is to fly?
Were you the snow-covered brook
murmuring past the house that Ira built
waiting for us to notice how ebb and flow
still smooth the stones even through the thickest ice?
Or were you that gentle curl of birch bark
lying near the path,
reminding us again how life comes full circle?
I keep asking but you don’t answer,
who were you in my dream?
Sunday, January 16, 2011
My mother has always used religion to explain our lives,
lists of things we couldn’t do
commandments and punishments
sprinkled here and there with peculiar exaltations.
I’ve never felt like I quite measured up to their expectations--hers or God’s.
I seem to remember sitting
on the tiny wooden chairs
in my Sunday school classroom,
the accordian doors closed
protecting the pulpit from our too-loud voices.
While we made tombstones out of Playdoh
to roll away on Easter morning,
I examined the paintings of Jesus
staring down from the walls around me--
wondering how it was possible
that I could have been made in the image of God.
Feeling not so much like a photocopy
but instead like a fax of a fax,
so that even the outline is an approximation.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
sometimes I can feel the ferocious woman pulsing inside me
waking wild eyed from sleep
to face a brand-new day
ready to explore winding roads that line the earth,
wearing corduroys and cowboy boots,
saving conversation for strangers on diner stools
dancing fearlessly in a crowd of revelers,
strobe lights glittering above me while I move in slow motion,
never tiring of the buzz and the beat
diving into the ocean,
swimming deeper past fish and coral and sunken ships,
remembering every sacred breath I have taken.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
For Katie and Jesus
Here is evidence they existed:
the tilt of his head
her black-and-white dress
a red necktie
40 pairs of high-heeled shoes
love notes from a piano bar
a glass of champagne
a room doused with gasoline
ardor engulfed in flame.
and only love remains.