Stoned on Beauty

I saw something intoxicatingly beautiful recently and it reminded me of a book I read years ago.  An old-timey book written in flowery language in the 1800s. The story is a memoir about the author as a young girl living on an island off the coast of Maine. Her father was the lighthouse keeper.

She paints a picture of stark beauty, craggy, with little mosses and tidal pools and primroses that cover the crags with dainty riots of color in the spring. And raging storms that threaten to tear the world to shreds. The rocks and tidal pools are her playground. The wind and seabirds her constant companions.

There’s this one scene in which she describes the sky at sunset after a storm.  The clouds were straight across at the bottom, a deep steely gray shelf across the top half of the sky.  At one end the shelf was turned up, exposing a corner of sunset that was so brilliant, so vivid in its magnificence that she had to turn away because it was more beauty than she could hold. Her senses couldn’t handle that much glory.

The book is Celia Thaxter’s “Among the Isles of Shoals.”

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Posted in beauty, books, emotions, human interest, love, nature, poetry, psychology, relationships, seashore, spirituality | Leave a comment

The Joke’s on Me

So I’m sitting down to meditate, and as is sometimes the case, being still brings up emotions that I’m too distracted to deal with when I’m busy.  If it’s really bad, I defer the meditation for a few minutes, and talk to the Universe. God, Spirit, Cosmos. Whoever or Whatever’s listening.

This morning I let the Universe have it between the eyes. No holds barred. I had complaints.  Justifiable complaints. Complaints about unfairness, about things in my life that are NOT going according to plan. Things that are a great annoyance, inconvenience and downright WRONG. Things that I don’t have a f***ng clue how to deal with.  Things that make me feel helpless. I was wound up!

As I was almost at the end of my diatribe, I heard some sand hill cranes in flight squawking their heads off. They have a honking squawk you can hear a mile away.

It made me laugh out loud!  I had a sneaking suspicion those cranes were the Universe’s humorous way of telling me how I sounded. Squawk squawk squawk.  Anyway, I felt better after squawking and got on with my meditating.

 

Posted in birds, emotions, human interest, humor, nature, poetry, psychology, spirituality | 7 Comments

A Brand New Year

Four faithful seasons equal a year,
one revolution of the heavenly sphere.
We mark our progress by the sun,
one trip around–another year done.

Round ‘n round–the world, she spins…
(as we humans tally our losses and wins)
keeping time to a music her Maker composed,
knowing nothing of all the commotion imposed

as we rush around tending our daily affairs,
stuffing our lives into calendar squares.
One trip around in her heavenly dance
and her tenants are given another chance.

Posted in beauty, Christmas, emotions, human interest, nature, New Year, poetry, psychology, science, spirituality | 4 Comments

A Christmas Ornament

It’s December 1993. My dad’s in the hospital. His cancer’s returned. It’s not looking good for him. I’m at home decorating my Christmas tree. I placed all the ornaments on the branches just so, each one reminding me of something or someone. A kindergartner’s gold cardboard star embellished with uncooked elbow macaroni (who knew), a baker-girl with red hair holding a rolling pin from my mom, Baby’s First Christmas. Lots of memories.

But what I didn’t have was an ornament from my dad. I wanted him to be represented on my tree.  This might be his last Christmas. But he was in no shape to go shopping for a Christmas ornament for his oldest daughter now. Too late for that.

I went to see him in the hospital later that day and I think I told him I wished I had an ornament from him for my tree. Maybe not. It was a long time ago. Pretty sure I did.

Anyway, a nurse or someone popped into his room distributing gift-wrapped packages. “Merry Christmas!” she chirped before popping back out. “You take this, honey,” said dad, handing me the gift. “I don’t need anything.”  It was round like a popcorn ball, wrapped first in a layer of tissue paper, then shiny plastic wrap secured with a little red bow. Nothing special.

I kissed my dad good-bye and headed home. That evening I got hungry and decided to eat the popcorn ball. I untied the little bow and unwrapped the flimsy paper, ready to crunch into it.

It wasn’t a popcorn ball…

It was a small, plump, gold-sprayed pine cone with two perfect little magenta berries sitting on top, the whole shebang hung from a gold string. It was beyond beautiful.  An ornament from my dad.

Did the Universe conspire to get me my wished-for ornament, or was it pure coincidence? Who knows? All I know is it feels real good to see it on my Christmas tree every year.

Posted in Christmas, death, emotions, family, father, human interest, love, mother, nostalgia, poetry, psychology, relationships, sadness, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Six on a Bench

A time-blurred photo, crimped edges, c. 1957
thumb-tacked to a bulletin board.
Six children sitting rag-tag on a bench–
one skinny boy in glasses, pony-tailed me,
four stair-step girls, my little sister off to herself on the
end with eyes cutting left  (keeping a wary eye on a
bee, she told me 50 years later).

We were at a park called Fairyland,
mouths contorted around frozen sno-cones,
crushed-ice balls packed into paper cones,
drenched in sugary syrup in every
color of the rainbow. Your pick.
Mouths careful to catch every sticky drop.
A moment in time as frozen as the sno-cones.

Posted in children, emotions, human interest, nostalgia, poetry, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Sky Full of Crows

Had a rough night.  My woes and the woes of the world seemed to be in bed with me.

When I woke up, the morning was cool and sunny so I decided to take a long walk.  Walk off the bad night.  I ended up at a little neighborhood beach on a big, big lake surrounded by ritzy houses. There’s a pier with picnic tables over the water – a nice place to rest up before the trek back.

I strolled out on the pier and sat at one of the tables with my feet on the railing, looking out at the water. All of a sudden I noticed what sounded like a million crows crowing on the other side of the pier. I turned around and a humungus tree was studded with them, the sky too. They were just flying around, having a good time. Enjoying themselves. Some of them would settle on the tree and one of them would pinch another one or something, and off they’d go. Swirling out into the sky.

The sky was pretty. Not stark blue – still too warm for that – but it was a pretty blue with lots of longish, flat-bottomed clouds floating across the horizon and a few puffy ones higher up.

A little boy about six or seven was leaning over the railing peering down into the water with his little brother at his side. “It’s a bass!” the older one shouted and ran to get someone. By the time he got back, the fish was gone. I asked him if it was big. “Yeah,” he answered then took off, little bro trailing behind.

I sat there a little longer, watching the crows, just soaking it all up, then got up and headed back home.

Posted in beauty, birds, children, emotions, family, human interest, love, nature, poetry, psychology, relationships, seashore, spirituality | 2 Comments

Wind

It’s a windy, cloudy day.
I love wind.
I was just out in the front yard,
under my big camphor tree,
sitting back in my Adirondack chair
looking up at the tops of skinny old
oaks that swayed back and forth.
There was a loose limb dangling from
one like an empty trapeze.
And overhead a turkey vulture cruised
way up high on a thermal.

 It reminded me of a windy day
nearly forty years ago when my girls were
little – maybe two and three.
I took them out in the back yard
with a tattered old blanket and we
climbed into a reclining yard chair
and the wind was whipping the
blanket all around us and we made believe
we were in a boat on the ocean.
I was as excited as they were, hollering
things like, “Oh no, she’s going down!
Hang on, mateys!  Hold fast!”

I’m back inside now, but
I’ve got the windows wide open.
I love wind.

Posted in adventure, autumn, birds, children, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, nature, nostalgia, poetry, psychology, relationships, sadness, senior citizens, spirituality, women | 2 Comments

Quiet

It’s 9:30 at night,
still and dark and hushed.
No sound at all
but twinkling crickets
and the hum of my fridge.

And now a plane,
small and rasping on
its way somewhere,
then once again
the nothing.

What are my neighbors doing
right now I wonder,
just yards away
on the other side
of silence…

Posted in emotions, human interest, nature, poetry, psychology, sadness | 2 Comments

The Florida Room

Just back from  a poetry discussion group at my library. My first time.  I’ve been trying to fill my calendar with interesting stuff to help me get over my latest relationship bust.  According to the Google gods I’ve got six weeks to go until I’m cured. We’ll see.

So we looked at three Florida poems by Richard Blanco. A former poet laureat with Latino roots. Good stuff. Bittersweet with a soothing vibe. Full of revery.

The first one we discussed was called, “El Florida Room.” It was filled with visual delicacies like “lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up against the windows,” and “shadows of banana trees fan-dancing across the floor.”  Yummy.

It reminded me of the Florida room of my youth, a sunny room surrounded on three sides by old-fashioned jalousie windows, in the first home my parents ever owned. One of many small cookie-cutter houses going up one after another south of Miami in the late 50s.

It was in the Florida room that we watched TV,  put up the Christmas tree, had birthday parties. My mom put a table in there, rattan chairs and a daybed sofa. There wasn’t much of a view from those jalousie windows though. No lipstick-red hibiscus or fan-dancing banana trees. Just a bare backyard bordered by a chain link fence, with an aluminum swing set facing an alley that the garbage trucks plowed through once a week.

The Florida room shared a wall with our living room and there was one jalousie window on that wall, pretty high up – above the daybed, no screen. It must’ve been put there to let some light into the living room, which was an interior room.  A dummy window that my mom cleverly used as a knicknack shelf by turning the glass jalousie slats horizontal to hold her priceless Hummel figurines. The ones my dad brought her from Europe.

One day my little brother climbed onto the daybed and reached for the crank handle of that window/shelf and gave it a yank. He was just two and my mom didn’t realize how far his chubby arms could reach. Babies grow.

Down came all those fragile, hand-painted figurines– and they didn’t land on the daybed side. They landed on the living room side with its unforgiving terrazzo floor. I can still hear the wailing. Poor kid. Poor mom. Poor figurines.  A few survived the fall. I have one – a little girl sitting on a fence.

But that was the only bad Florida room memory. It was mostly filled with good ones. One of my favorites was on the last day of school in fourth grade. We’d been let out at noon and I was sitting at a little square rattan table in the Florida room with my kid sister. My mom had made us crispy grilled cheese sandwiches and we washed them down with icy cold chocolate milk right out of the little cartons.

To this day, it remains one of the golden memories of my childhood. A piping hot sandwich, that delicious chocolate milk and a freedom-filled summer full of endless possibilities stretching out before me.

Posted in children, emotions, food, human interest, mother, nostalgia, poetry, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality, women | 2 Comments

Coming to Terms with the Tragic (Again)

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a tough time dealing with all the natural disasters lately, not to mention the Vegas shooting and the rumblings from North Korea and all the other shit going on in the White House, so I decided to re-publish this post I wrote earlier this year. I desperately need the reminder.

I was watching a documentary about the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco, TX last night. I watched as a moth drawn to a flame, knowing this probably wasn’t a good choice right before bedtime. But I had a need to know.

When the actual event took place I was a frazzled, overworked single mom of four trying to hang onto my sanity. I didn’t watch the news back then. I’d heard about Branch Davidian, but didn’t need or want the details. It was just BAD. And I had enough BAD in my life already.

But now I’m retired and my life is pretty nice. The kids are grown up and doing okay for the most part. So I feel the need to know what happened when I was tuned out, and I watch the news and Frontline and PBS documentaries and am getting caught up on what I missed.

I have to take breaks now and then though, because it can be overwhelming. So much of history is tragic. So much of what’s happening right now is tragic. And it affects me. How can it not? The bloodshed, the insanity, the tyranny, the outright barbarity and destructiveness. We humans can be very ignorant, deluded and downright inhuman.

So, how to come to terms with this I ask myself? How do I avoid sticking my head in the sand so as not to become thoroughly discouraged?

This is what I came up with. I’m an idealist. My glossy expectations trip me up. I think things should be the way I think they should be. But they’re not. Maybe man is evolving. Maybe. But humans are very imperfect, and in varying stages of maturity.  To quote Florence Snyder, a Tallahassee lawyer, in an article from Politics Florida, “You can’t take human nature out of human nature.”

That’s just how it is. I can do some things to make a difference, I can pay attention to the beauty when it shows itself, I can distract myself from the ugliness, I can rant, I can try to love, love, love instead of hate, hate, hate. But what I cannot do is eradicate the tragic.

Posted in Christianity, emotions, evil, fear, health, human interest, psychology, religion, sadness, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments