Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Town Branch


[inspired by Poetry Thursday]

The Town Branch

We were drawn there.
Pulled by -- oh, I don't know.
Probably by hearing Mom yell,
"Stay out of the branch!"
But we went
whenever we weren't
forbidden to do so.

The small trickle of water
had worn its way down, down,
down into the earth,
a whole five feet deep
in places.
It did that next to the road
just before it passed through
the large culvert
to come out the other side.

In other places
a worn footpath
ran along beside it
in the summer sun.
The town branch
was like that
where it passed under
the railroad trestle,
another semi-forbidden place.

Something else
must have pulled us.

Kids in another part of town
used to catch
near the branch.
But we didn't.

In the summer heat,
the trees along the edge
shaded us,
so it was cooler.

It had mud.
That was always
a plus.
With a stick and mud,
we somehow always found
ourselves entertained.

It was a backdrop,
more dramatic
than the open,
grassy areas,
even darker than
the close-together trees
past the picnic pavilion.

Leaping across the
small stream of water
was a stand-in
for crossing a mighty river,
or a force-field,
or a canyon.

Maybe it was just
that we saw
everything else
as so plain,
so flat
and constant.

And the town branch
flooding in the spring,
always moving
through our world
but not staying put.

You know,
I don't think
I ever
followed it
to see
it either
joined another
or left town
on its way

And now
I see
that after all
was the one
who left
the town branch

(The town branch really did wend its way throughout my small hometown, flooding the same few houses every spring, largely harmless in other places. And I think my mom mostly wanted us to stay more out of the mud, or closer to the house, than anything really about the water, itself.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spring Reading 2007


In case anyone is curious, here's what I've been reading this spring. These are pretty much in order starting in late February.
  • Chill Factor (Weather Warden Book Three), by Rachel Caine [fantasy]
  • A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park [fantasy]
  • Priestess of the White (Age of the Five: Book One) by Trudi Canavan [fantasy]
  • Last of the Wilds (Age of the Five: Book Two) by Trudi Canavan [fantasy]
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, Illustrated by Brett Helquist [youth book, but a fun mystery anyway]
  • The Horizontal World: growing up wild in the middle of nowhere by Debra Marquart [memoir]
  • The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
  • Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
  • The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
  • The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
  • The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
  • The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman [mystery]
I normally don't plow through this many books unless vacation is involved (WAIT until you see that list!) but there were extenuating circumstances this spring. I had a cold in late February (home nursing that left time to read). I took a trip in early March and needed books to read on the airplane and in the interminable waits at the airports. And I've had a cold in May that has dragged on forever, keeping me "resting" as much as possible - lots more time to read.

I haven't picked out my next book yet, but I have a big stack to work from. I am never without at least a few books waiting for me. I'll have to let you know what strikes my fancy next.

Let me know if you want to know what I thought of any of these.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Not So Simple


[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings.]

Here's the deal. I understand simple. I like simple lines in furniture. I am not fond of the Victorian-style of muchness. You won’t find my life full of brocades and tassels, nor gilt and diamonds, nor even flashy clothes and jewelry.

I don’t need millions of dollars to live my life. I don’t need five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, nor a staff to organize, clean and care for my home.


As much as I understand simple, I just don’t have a real affinity to simple. How so? Allow me to put on my nerdy hat for the answer. I looked up “simple” in a dictionary. Among the definitions:

  1. easily understood. I am definitely complex. As Shrek said, "I have layers. Like an onion."

  2. presenting no difficulty. What! me be difficult? Ha! OK, you got me. I don’t strive to be difficulty – it just happens.

  3. plain. I grew up where everything seemed plain. I wanted “distinctive” and “classy,” certainly not plain or common.

  4. basic. There’s nothing wrong with the basics, but I somehow want a twist, a spark, something unique. The minimum is not quite enough.

  5. uncomplicated in form, nature, or design. I ask too many questions to be considered uncomplicated.

I wrestled with “simple” in the last few days. I though of creating some fiction, but I realized that “simple” and I needed to come to terms. And I believe I have come to understand my relationship with simple.

Simple isn’t necessarily boring. I do take comfort from the simple pleasures of:
  • listening to birdsong on a summer morning
  • nursing a cup of herb tea or cocoa while reading a book
  • soaking in a hot bath
  • a hug from my wife

And with a small twist, "simple" calls to me in ways like these:
  • a single slice of pie for breakfast
  • wearing sneakers – red ones
  • body lotion that smells like tropical fruit
  • putting together just the right words into a poem

I am a not-so-easily-understood, somewhat-difficult, distinctive, unique, complicated person who has made peace with her not-so-simple life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Do It


Do it.

"Excuse me?" I ask,

looking up from my book.

No one is there

so I dive back into the novel.

Do it.

I can't believe

I'm about to do this.

But I answer the teacup on the table,

"Who me?"

Yes you. Do it.

"Do what?" I ask.

And I begin to worry about myself.

Talking to a flower like this.

You know. Do it.

"I don't know what

you are talking about."

And I check to make sure the server

is not watching me.

But I must admit,

the teacup is more interesting

than the plot of the book.

Do it.

I finally pay attention.

"OK," I say. "Really.

Do what?"

What you want. Do it.

I sigh.

What does it mean? Do what?

Change jobs?

Take the vacation?

Start the novel I'm afraid to write?

Contact the friends I lost touch with?

Is it telling me

to run for office?

to get a checkup?

to pay my bills?

I sigh again.

"Please tell me," I say.

"What thing should I do?"

Do it. Order pie.

[A poem inspired by this week's prompt at Poetry Thursday, "imagined dialogue in poems"]

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Thing One and Thing Two


[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

My dad, a doctor, took us to the Rockies on ski trips. I was a good skier, even as a kid, especially for someone who grew up in the middle of the flat, flat (did I say flat) midwest. I took lessons, but at least one day each trip I spent skiing just with my dad.

One year, my ski-with-dad day was a little more memorable due to the weather. There was snow coming down, but it was a little on the icy side. And it was windy. In fact, the wind was blowing UP the mountain, right into our faces.

After a break in one of the shelters high up on the mountain, we decided to head down. For a while I was OK. We stayed near the trees wherever possible, to help block the wind. But there were areas where there were no wind-breaks. Although my hat was pulled down as far as it would go, and my goggles took up a large portion of my face, there was nothing to protect my cheeks from being stung by the upward-blown ice pellets. My face hurt and I was getting grouchy. And whiny.

My dad was trying his best to deal with an 8-year-old approaching a mid-mountain meltdown. My dad's pockets were usually stuffed with all kinds of things "just in case". This day there were two things in that pocket that I remember very well. Thing One was a surgical mask. It was paper and blue, and it had elastic to help hold the thing on my head. There was a piece of metal that helped shape it close around my nose. My face was so small that the adult-sized mask covered nearly all of me. And it definitely kept the sting off.

There was a problem, however. The problem was caused by Thing Two in my dad's pockets. Thing Two had most likely lived next to Thing One for some time. Thing Two was prunes. Energy snack, emergency rations, agent of regularity. The problem was that Thing Two caused Thing One to smell. That's right, the paper surgical mask smelled strongly of prunes.

Now if the mask had smelled strongly of something else, say something like chocolate, there would not have been any trouble. But prunes were not (and are still not) one of my favorite aromas. There are worse smells, certainly, but my 8-year-old self was tired and not in a charitable mood. So even though the mask would have kept the sting from my cheeks, I refused to use it because it smelled like prunes.

I did make it down the mountain. A serious amount of the way was spent going down sideways and backwards (side-slipping and an admirable backwards snowplow). My poor dad must have been so relieved for us to reach the bottom. I know I certainly was. I believe that hot cocoa went a long way toward restoring my spirits.

I was cheerfully back on the mountain the next day and the next year.

And now I'm the one who carries things "just in case". I always carry a bandana (in all seasons of the year). But in the winter, unless all the weather forecasts agree on bright, warm, and sunny, you can be sure I have one of those fleece turtle things with me, in case my cheeks need protecting. And somehow, I don't think I've ever carried prunes with me onto the mountain.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Second Chance


[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings.]

To me the idea of a second chances are about regret. I had trouble with this because I'm just not a "regrets" kind of person. For better or worse, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been. My wife hears me all too often say "get over it" and "what do we do about this NOW?"

The title of my blog is from my favorite poem (you can see it in tiny print in the sidebar). It is definitely about accepting and going forward.

I heard this on the radio once: "There is only one name on a tombstone." It definitely strikes a chord in me.

So, instead of tying this theme to regrets, I list some of the repeats that I look forward to, whether common or rare:

  1. Long soaks in the bathtub.
  2. Two-week vacations when we are not reachable by phone or e-mail.
  3. Soaking up the sun at the beach.
  4. Fantastic fine-dining as a special treat. (I think lovingly of a trip 20 years ago to Locke-Ober in Boston when my uncle treated his favorite--OK, only--niece to one fantastic meal. I also remember a trip 4 years ago to Quebec City when my wife and I ate at Aux Anciens Canadiens. In both cases the beyond-excellent food was remarkable, but the top-notch service made for stand-out evenings.)
  5. Skiing down a hill with perfect snow (preferably before my legs scream at me that I'm too out of shape to be doing that).
  6. Walks in the woods.
  7. Sitting with my wife in front of a blazing fire.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stay out of the Water


[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

When I was a little girl, my parents took us on vacation to Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The first trip was when I was about 10 months old. It took us two days to drive there in the family station wagon.

The next year we again rented a cottage on the beach. We went in early June - after school was out in Illinois, but before school was out in Massachusetts. It was like going from summer back to spring. The spring flowers were blooming "again" and everyone could stand to wear long sleeves again.

My parents planned some sight-seeing, but most time of most days was spent on the beach.

The older kids knew the rules about staying out of the water unless an adult was around to watch them. At not-quite-two I didn't know any rules, but my siblings kept a close eye on me. As it turns out, however, they had help.

Now in the backyard at home, my parents had a small sandbox for me to play in. So playing in sand was not a strange concept to me. But there was definitely something different about the sand on the Cape Cod beach. Every night, the tide came in and went out and it left stranded at the high-tide mark a pile of seaweed. By the time we emerged ready for a day on the beach, it was probably somewhat dried.

And scary.

I would not go near the stuff. And since it made a line parallel to the shore, it effectively cut me off from the water. I would watch my older sibs step over or through the stuff, but I wouldn't cross until they kicked a patch clear for me.

I'm told this worked for at least a couple of years.