Tag Archives: illusion

Observation in Grey: January

23 Jan

cedar waxwing 2

Low heavy sky.

Biting wind and bitter cold.

The emeralds and languid turquoise of

summer reduced to neutrals.

Inside this old house drafts refuse to be tamed.

From a window as cold to the touch as ice

I watch for a sign.

Atop thin tips of willowy branches in a barren bush

a Cedar WaxWing inspects a world stripped of nonessentials.

We are so close our eyes lock.

Each studies the other.

What are we looking for?

What do we hope to find?

Where is the thread that connects us?

Wind gusts, howls.

The ancient Magnolia bends in its breath.

From far away, a dirty plastic bag has filled with bluster and taken flight.

Now it rushes between the bird and me.

Cedar Wax Wing cocks his head, but doesn’t fly.

It’s a stare-down of epic proportions,

one animal exploring another,

each with needs,

each searching,

each starving to death to know.

©bss

Advertisement

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

23 Jan

sister-hood-award

I’d like to thank Irene Waters: Reflections and Nightmares- Writer and Memoirist-   Http://irenewaters19.com  for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the world Bloggers Award. I thoroughly enjoy Irene’s blog; her photography is amazing and the insights she offers about life’s journey are always enlightening.  In the blogosphere, I’m still sort of a Newbie, so receiving recognition for my work, which is really my pleasure, encourages me to keep sharing my heart.

~ ~The Rules ~ ~

  1. Provide a link to and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.
  2. Answer ten questions.
  3. Nominate 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read. Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know they have been nominated.
  4. Include the award logo within your blog post.

~~Questions~~

1.  Your favorite color…. Green

2.  Your favorite animal … I love them all

3.  Your favorite non-alcoholic drink …. Chamomile tea

4.    Facebook or Twitter….. Facebook, I’m still figuring out Twitter

5.    Your favorite pattern …..  Spirals

6.    Do you prefer getting or giving presents…. Giving

7.    Your favorite number … 11

8.    Your favorite day of the week … Thursday

9.    Your favorite flower …. Echinacea

10.  What is your passion? ….. Reading and writing Poetry

There are so many deserving blog sites and so little time.  I’m going to list and link a few of my fem-favorites understanding not all will be able to participate in the nomination process.

http://humoringthegoddess.com

http://secondhalfwoman.wordpress.com

http://tllsci.wordpress.com

http://theempathyqueen.wordpress.com

http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

http://forgivingdreams.wordpress.com

http://thehipgrandmother.wordpress.com

http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com

http://mainstreetmusings.wordpress.com

http://architar.wordpress.com

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings; I assure you, I completely understand time constraints.  : )  I do hope you all visit any link that speaks to you!

*** Please note: the blog address for Wanton Word Flirt has been corrected.  Please explore this delightful site at http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos

6 Dec

the sky is falliingWeather reports zealously predicted the emergence of a winter storm of near epic proportions.  As I listened, I was struck by the sound of rising alarm in the voices of meteorologists who paced like caged tigers, and I wondered again where the days of calm and objectivity had gone, seemingly having disappeared like two old friends descending the last mountain, looking back over their shoulders to companions left behind, giving a final thumbs up to them, as if nothing would ever change, as if time and the world would repeat itself as it always had when the sun rose each morning; but the world did change, and comfort once gained from soothing, consistent voices vanished in a populist culture of serial disasters, each horrible and mesmerizing; each uglier than its predecessor, yet understood to be just another wrung on an endless ladder of adrenaline-driven-drama yet to come.

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst, we drove to the market in preparation of the power outage that was sure to come.  How did we know the power would disappear?  Well, actually we received a text message from Entergy explaining that 8,000 workers were on their way to the area, and that outages were expected to last “5-7 days”.  It seemed more a promise than a possibility.

As we drove, we passed 3 or 4 gas stations, each with long, winding lines and a carbon monoxide fog hanging overhead like another warning, or perhaps, a final obituary.

Inside the store, signs of the new world shrank the warehouse sized building into the likes of a small parlor filled with warring tribes, each combatant wearing armor, his or her eyes straight ahead, and the cold dead stench of fear rising.

The bread aisle was empty.

The water aisle was empty.

no water

A half-gallon of milk cost $4.43.

I had a bag of tortillas in my hand until an old man shoved me and snatched it away; pushing his cart away as fast and hard as he could.  On any other day, perhaps he would have offered to reach it for me, taken it from the high shelf and put it in my hand, or maybe he might have smiled as we passed each other on Aisle 8.  But today he was not himself, or perhaps he had never been more himself until the very moment he stole a bag of tortillas from a stranger’s hand.

It caught me off-guard; for a moment, I needed to step away from the crowd, so I huddled next to an end-cap of nonessentials like cotton balls or hair color.  Narrowing my focus, I listened to the sounds emitted from the surging crowd.  Expecting growls of altercation, I was surprised to hear excitement, like a growing anticipation for an adventure yet defined.  At first I believed I was witnessing the emergence of community, a gathering of like-minded souls preparing to endure shared battle, but the longer I listened, I more clearly I began to understand, and I trembled with the knowledge that what I heard was more akin to observers at a public hanging, or a gathering of the pious howling in jubilation at the burning of a accused witch.

Rich and I left carrying nuts and fruit, a couple of bags of chips and 3 bottles of marinara.  We drove like lunatics away from the crowds, weaving through debris already strewn by the wind throughout back roads and city streets.

Once home, we dug through the Recycle Bin, dragging out empty plastic bottles that we washed with hot, soapy water.  After they’d dried, we filled them with fresh tap water.

We unpacked winter blankets.

We filled a basket with candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches and shared the last piece of pumpkin pie from the back of the refrigerator.  Then we snuggled under the knitted blanket I’d bought at an estate sale from two daughters who didn’t want it, who had valued it at $3.00, never understanding the emotion and time, the love and careful attention their mother had invested in it.

Then we turned on the outside Christmas lights, rolled up the blinds, settled in, held hands, and watched the snow begin to fall.

snow flakes

Anticipating Change

28 Oct

Curving up West Mountain2

It’s dark and damp outside, the product of three drizzling days of lazy rain.  No thunder or drama, just the persistent mist of late autumn on the mountain, the last vestiges of a once brilliant floral floor falling in decay, while the canopy above explodes in blasts of impulsive color.  Crisp air carries the musky scent of wet soil as the temperature plunges, leaving the forest vulnerable to the stark nakedness that will soon follow.

All summer the woods expanded, reaching closer to my door, but now they are shrinking in a slow retreat that will widen the spaces between each magnificent tree and end, eventually, in the white silence of fallen snow.

These are the busy days; the squirrels are fat, darting in and out of hollows and thatched crevices with their jaws stretched to capacity with nuts and fallen fruit.  Foxes move deeper into their dens, and the light twilled sounds of songbirds are overcome by strong, scratchy notes coughed from the throats of crows and ravens.

The steady circadian hum that marked the onset of slow summer nights has been replaced with pure silence, broken occasionally by the howl of coyote in the distance, or the harsh, splitting assault of a poacher’s kill shot.

Black canvas skies feel deeper.  Stars, lit like votive candles, punctuate vast dark fields. And the intensity of light traveling for thousands and thousands of years emphasizes the emptiness above, accentuating constellations described by an array of mythical stories intended to remind us of our vulnerabilities to the wills and powers of the unknown.

images

Between night and rain, the most amazing clear days lend themselves to preparations for winter as I harvest and dry herbs from my gardens,collect seeds, trim baring bushes and fruit trees, cover thinning flower beds with fallen leaves, and thoughtfully redefine the perimeters of our home in anticipation of the uncertainties of the coming winter season.

Inside, I’m refinishing old furniture I’ve drug around for a lifetime and adding fresh paint to faded walls.  I’ve finished quilting my holiday quilt and look forward to hanging it on the walnut quilt holder Rich built for my displays several years ago.  I’m thumbing through old fall and winter cook books in search of comfort food recipes I can revamp and up-cycle into healthier versions of themselves in order to provide my family with sound nutrition that keeps the coziness and reassurance of traditional flavors.

I’m nearly manic in a nesting mode, yet more peaceful and happier than I can recall being for a very long time.  I’m paying attention to every detail in every moment and learning from mistakes I make along the way, but being kind to myself at the same time.

I’m feeling appreciative to this old body that has carried me through all the years of my life in spite of how badly or irresponsibly I treated it in younger times.  I would never dream of altering it, lifting, tucking, cutting off and throwing any part of it away in order to retain some silly semblance of youth.  For me, that would be an exercise in futility, and an insult to the organic process of being born, blossoming,  progressing, then fading and dying in a natural way.  I’ve tended the bedsides of too many hospice patients to waste my time holding on to surface matter, learning from their experiences that joy and satisfaction comes from living life well in the present moment, no matter its length or challenging circumstance.

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa because Rich is retiring, for good this time, at the end of December.  January 1st is kick-off day for our journey together through the Golden Years, no matter what they bring or impose.

on the front porch

90 is the new 30, the frustrating numbers we believe

9 Oct

used car salesman and old lady

I heard it on TV!

40 is the new 20.

60 is the new 40.

Bull pucky!   If you believe that, maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, and while you’re at it, come to terms with the fact that you might be buying yellow bricks from a bunch of munchkins from Planet Oz.

Illusion is the new truth out there, my friends!

What’s real in my house is the troubling personal reality that 90 minutes has become the new 30 minutes and the end results are starting to suck big time since I’m working with what I have and not so much with what I need, or used to have, or think I ought to have.

I remember working like a son of a gun without ending the day with cascading waves of muscles cramps and insomnia.  I remember when a glass of white wine was all it took to unwind. But the fact that it takes 90 minutes for me to do what I used to do in 30 is a fact of life, and as distasteful as it seems, I live around it as I go about the comical but satisfying process of remaining true to myself.  This time-ability-experiential -shift hasn’t changed who I am; it’s only decreased my production levels requiring me to regularly adjust priorities.

Yesterday my dentist was trying to sell me on his idea of how to best care for my teeth, saying his plan would ensure dental happiness for the next 30 years.  I looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“I have no plans to need teeth in 30 years”, I said, to which he replied, “You need to change the paradigm you use to see life.”

I have to hand it to him, it was a great line, but paying $10,000 for a couple of teeth isn’t going to impact anything except my wallet, and honest to goodness, I don’t want to see 95!

Years ago I made a deliberate choice to live my own way.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It turned my entire life upside down, and during the first year that followed, I sometimes wondered if the consequences of that choice weren’t signs that I’d lost my mind.  One the best (and worst) aspects of my personality is an over-developed sense of tenacity; I’m “in it” for the long haul no matter how long or short, how wicked or delightful the ride might be.

I lost friends.  I disappointed family.  I hung in.  I pushed on and here I am!

Happiness is fleeting and situational at best, so to say I’ve been happy ever since would be dishonest, but I have enormous inner peace and intermittent bursts of sudden, unexplained joy.

Eventually my family came around, but there is space between us that didn’t feel as if it was there before.  This was disappointing until I began to understand that life is not intended to remain constant.  The human condition is based on constant evolving change as we grow from single cells into complex beings of great potential.  We accept, we reject, and we settle or compromise.  We break free from the pack.  We stumble and fall.  We get up and try again, or lie face down in the dirt unwilling to gamble on the uncertainty of the unknown.  We grow large or we shrink.  We bend or we break. Some of us try to stay in the same place but the wind blows and the night sky dims our vision, and well known plains and valleys in the geography of our existence evolves around us, forcing our hand.

If we are true to our core selves, resisting social rhetoric and religious dogma, we win!  We get to rub Ben Gay on our swollen legs at night and drink warm milk or pop Tylenol PM in hopes of getting a decent night’s sleep.

We get to have good or bad dreams, and we get to remember or forget them when we wake in the morning.  We get to choose whether or not we want to watch the 5 o’clock news.  We get to decide if we eat sensibly or forgive ourselves for eating chocolate cake for dinner.

We get to keep inching along that long narrow ledge on the steepest side of the highest mountain, and it’s our choice whether or not we leap into the near-blue invisible arms of the sky or sit in place, watching the clouds swirl around us.  We can be kings and queens or the village idiot.  We can shut up, put up and hang on.  Or not.

 

A Glimpse into the Irreplaceable Past

22 Sep

 yardsale2

Sprawling across the front lawn belonging to a 75-ish woman, yesterdays Yard Sale was the result of the mental planning and great physical efforts of two other women, one 45-ish, the other 35-ish. The 40-something gem is a jewel of a woman of whom such a description aptly fits, but the same could be said of the others relative to the fact that one is her mother, and the other, her best friend.

The odd duck in the lot was me, the 65-ish old chick who lives next door to the gem and her best friend.  I was propped up by the presence of my own best friend, Rick, my husband, who attended the foray in the capacity of muscle, security, neighbor, buddy, and loyal assistant.

The day was perfectly beautiful with bright shining sun and a slight breeze, and temperatures’ ranging from the low 60’s to low 70’s.  Having decided to forego listing our sale in the classifieds, the weather proved our best advertisement, drawing sleepy heads, weary of too many days of unseasonable heat, out of their air-conditioned caves and back into the streets in search of community.

It was a very good day to make new friends, which we did, but what impressed me most was the symbology of the items we’d each chosen to sell.  It was a clear representation of the past in a spectrum of odd collections displayed in a mishmash fashion across plastic tables, in acknowledgement of sentimental journeys spanning generations.

Each item we discarded was a piece of our individual and collective pasts.  I can’t speak for the others, but I’d struggled for weeks culling out cabinets and closets trying to come to terms with letting go of objects that represented my past in a genuine effort to simplify the present.  For me, nothing is simply what it appears to be; that small glass bowl with its etched lid is the party I hosted when I was 25 and all my girlfriends were nearly weightless in joy and anticipation of the futures they’d planned.  It was toddlers toddling around our knees, picking cookies off dainty trays and eating them with the kind of zeal only a child can express.

etched jar

The two decorated stacking boxes were freedom at 51, they were inner courage surfacing, lust and excitement coming of age when I felt for the very first time, it was finally my turn.  Putting price tags on them for $2.50 and $4.00 seemed a slap in the face to the most extreme journey I’d taken in my life.

The end tables were tradition.  The handmade Christmas ornaments are hopes I once held for a houseful of grandchildren clamoring each holiday season to help Nonnie and Newt decorate their tree.

I know in my head, none of these items are actually pieces of my identity, only small material representations of dreams I’ve dreamt and discarded along the way as the path turned one way and then another, and each old ideal diminished in the face of a new and far brighter reality.

identity art

But the struggle to release is real.  It’s a mother entering the winter of her life finally realizing she simply must cut the cord and set her grown children completely free to flounder and fall before soaring amongst the stars in the boundless sky.  It’s burying a dead ex-husband and allowing the truth to exist by accepting that each flaw in the relationship helped you learn how to fill the tiny cracks that kept you fractured from the deepest, most authentic aspects of yourself.

It is understanding how embracing the hard times and then letting them go, strengthens your fortitude, making it easier to face the deep unknown.

It’s not a tattered old crocheted blanket; it’s the tears you shed creating it as you divested yourself from longings that, if followed, would deeply affect your children’s lives.  It is not a silly piece of art; it’s your father’s imagination, your mother’s strong hands, your sister’s laughter, your brother’s serious side, a glimpse into the irreplaceable past.

But at the end of the day, hard choices must be made.  Sitting in the shade with new friends and the love of my life, making new friends, placing old treasures into stranger’s hands, I’m cutting loose threads of the past in order to create a clearer path for today.  Even so, late in the day, when a man hassles me over the price of my two decorated boxes, I pass on the deal, deciding to keep this particular symbol for myself.

The seasons of our lives are not loved and respected because of successes we enjoy, nor are they despised and weakened by the challenges we face, but are to be richly honored for moving us each closer to authenticity and the inner sanctuary of unconditional love and absolute peace.

The wise know without the storm, there would be no majestic cliff from which to stand and observe the seemingly random, yet perfectly organized chaos of changing weather.  Without rapids in the river, sharp ridges would not be tamed into smooth stone. Yesterdays’ Yard Sale brought five people together uniting their pasts by sharing and releasing a variety of personal treasures.  These treasures attracted other collectors, and in the process relative strangers journeys’ intersected in an act of true community.

Last night I dreamed I was in a boat that was being carried by rushing currents through a narrow river stream.  Branches from a forest of trees created a low canopy that was ominous.  I could feel my heart beat faster and faster as the water drew my small boat closer to the obstacles ahead, but just as I was about to be hit in the face by a branch, it would suddenly arch toward the sky, freeing my way.  For miles I traveled watching the beautiful spectacle.  My daughters were standing on either side of the riverbed, each peaceful and smiling.  They waved as I passed, then turned and walked away.

I saw my deceased ex-husband on a hill.  He was standing with Rick.  As I approached, he shook Rick’s hand and then faded away.  Rick walked to the edge of the shore, waiting for me; then he slipped easily into my boat.  Suddenly the boat was a ship, and the sea lay open and inviting before us.  And when I awoke this morning, I swear I could taste salt on my lips and hear waves breaking on shore.  Yesterday was a beautiful season.  So is today.

season tree

  And I know tomorrow will be too, no matter when it begins or how long it stays.

Crones in Fuchsia

13 Sep

The bathroom at the end of the hall has no windows.  When I close the door behind me, it can either feel like a moss green and latte cell, or a safe house; whichever depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

This morning, it was sanctuary.

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy no matter what kind of spin I put on it, because yesterday I received a letter beginning with the words: Welcome to Medicare.  My plan was to keep today light to stave off age related issues of insecurity, but if I’d really wanted a retreat day, I would have skipped checking in with my Facebook page, wouldn’t I?

tarot the fool

A friend had posted an article relating to internet security that was thoughtful, and while not alarming, I confess, it fed my paranoid side that is suspicious of rapid change.  Like any animal with a head larger than mine, I don’t completely trust it without a proper courting phase allowing me time to ease into the unfamiliar, rather than busting through its doors.

This morning a Facebook entry hit a raw nerve, sending me into the shadow that Medicare began the day before, and I found myself heading to the room without windows at the end of the hall.

Small windowless rooms, most notably closets, have long been my sanctuary when the big, bad wolves of the world close in.  As a child, I believed I was invisible cowering inside, safe from sharp teeth.  As an adolescent, I could feel myself blending into walls, crouching behind an assortment of clothes that played to the particular role I assigned myself for the day.  As a young wife, closets offered refuge from the raging bull in the other room.  In middle age, I became my own closet, moving in, putting the pieces back together again.  At this stage in life, closets are just another chore needing attention.

dark closet

But this morning, thanks to Medicare and Facebook, the small, windowless room whisked me back in time, and for a moment I crouched in deference to the past that made me the woman I am today. And I covered the crone’s lips in bright fuchsia lipstick before opening another door and entering.

images

 

 

 

Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

cracked earth 1

The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

Keeping Secrets and Caring for Our Shadow Side

19 Aug

top secret stamp itty

It’s a challenge at times, especially when they rise to the surface, refusing to be ignored.  I can push with all of my might, using laser-beam focus, but it doesn’t help a bit.  Mama used to say ‘some things take on a life all of their own’, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single thought, every action and consequence, does exactly that.

A few minutes ago, this was a blank page; now it’s a presentation of my personal beliefs.  Each time I strike a key on the keyboard, the page develops into something more complex than it was when I decided to sit down at the desk. I could stop writing now, but even if I do, I’ve already planted a tiny seed that could grow into a monster, or turn into dust that will simply blow away.

It’s a risk I can’t wait to take.

The world is alive.  Sometimes I picture myself as a tiny cosmic dot hanging onto the bushy outer fur of the world as it races across countries and vast bodies of water, timelines and contrasting poles, picking up speed without breaking stride.  It takes every bit of my strength to stay in place, and not be shaken from the world’s great back like a dog would shake off fleas.

There are days I can admit I am a parasite, and other days I am certain I am a vaccine.  But in either state of mind, I am honest with, and forgiving of myself.  It takes a lot of energy just to talk, but it takes me much more to be silent.  My mind is an ocean churning.  There are dangerous rip tides, under tows and furtive currents to be considered.  There are the whirlpools of life and death struggles playing out beyond eyesight.  My mind is full of formidable forests growing from its sandy floor.  There are centuries old shipwrecks hiding bones and lost treasure.  There are species of fish never before seen. In the sea, I am not at the top of the food chain, I am a little fish in a very big pond; that’s how my mind sees my body, and I can either be lunch or a servant to the brain that owns me.

ocean surge itty

I love the sea as much as I am frightened by it.

For years friends urged me to write a book.  My response never wavered, “Who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?” I would ask.  Yet here I am, shooting off my mouth about my philosophy on secret keeping.  I’m able to rationalize this by convincing myself that no one here has ever lost any money over anything I’ve said.  I’ve never tried to present myself as an expert on anything; I’ve never tried to sell my ideas.  I have sold poetry I’ve written, but I don’t do poetry on the two blogs I write.  I keep blogs the same way I used to keep journals.  Getting older has its perks; I’m no longer interested in what others think about me, and while I know I’m not an authority on any given subject, at this age, I give myself permission to say what I think.

If I have to lie to keep a secret, I don’t keep it anymore; I set the darned thing free.  I haven’t had to do that but a couple of times in my life, but each time I have, I’ve felt robbed afterwards.  No one has ever forced me to divulge anything, but I have been convinced to submit to another person’s will before.  Going against my own values is never good; it’s an act of weakness that makes me ashamed of myself, and I hate feeling that way.

Anything can be a secret really.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy information.  Maybe it was nothing until you decided to elevate it by designating it as a ‘secret’.  Nothing moves a non-issue to the front of the line like good branding.

I have lots of secrets.  If I let them go, I lose part of my mystique, and I’m not about to voluntarily give any of that up at this stage.  I have so many secrets, matter of fact, that I categorize them with indexing ranging from recipes to sex.  (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

Whatever task I attempt, I carry my baggage along for the ride.  I’ve gotten rid of most of what I wanted to get rid of, but I’ve kept an awful lot.  My husband is a fixer.  He always wants to improve everything from a situation to a point of view.  I resist being fixed.  I read a book years ago about Native American philosophy and was transfixed by the whole Shadow Side perspective.  There is light, and there is darkness.  The author explained his ancestor’s respect for the difference between the two, and their understanding of the necessity of each.  Without the light, nothing will live or thrive.  But there are times the light is threatened, and to ensure its survival, man calls on his shadow side to protect it.

light and dark itty

Calling forth the shadow is not done lightly, nor without ceremony.  A ceremony sets an intention; in the case of protecting something as important as a value or the ability to live the kind of life one loves, it is the starting line.  A purification/dedication fire is lit and dancing begins.  Prayers are offered to the Great Ones above.  Finally, paint representing the savage nature of the shadow inside, is smeared across the face.  Then the battle begins.

warpainted woman face itty

The author emphasized the importance of knowing when to pull out one’s shadow and when to put it back again.  To enjoy the acts involved in destruction is to become stuck in one’s shadow. To be stuck in darkness prohibits light.

I appreciate the truth about myself, but it doesn’t matter to or affect anyone but me.   I’ve learned how beautiful the light is, and how necessary it is to ensure its survival.  I’m comfortable with my shadow side too.  The secrets I keep, keep my shadow alive.  I respect any memory that has impacted my life so powerfully that I chose to keep it secret.  I’ve given a name to my shadow side, (that’s a secret too), but I often consult her opinion on issues before I act; I find her wisdom invaluable.  I choose my battles carefully these days, but once I determine a battle is completely necessary, I light a candle, set an intention, ask the Universe for support and guidance, and then I do what I believe is best, no matter the price.

victorious woman standing in low tide itty

Dealing With the Past Everyday, Whether it’s Horse Poop or Ice Cream

9 Aug

I’ll speak for myself, but I know for a fact there is one other person who agrees with my philosophy about the past’s influence on the present. Because of that, it makes it easier for us to comfort and lift each other up whenever needed. Lynette is my best friend although it will 10 years in October since we last saw each other. If I dwell on that fact, I emotionally hemorrhage; so on a lighter note, here’s a photo of us back in 2001 or 2002.

Hugs Lynette and Bev

Most of my followers probably expect me to be satisfied with the silver lining in the dark cloud, but finding satisfaction depends on surviving the storm and being willing to assess (and reassess) its damage. Sometimes it seems we are victimized by outside forces we can’t control; and there are cases when that certainly is true: a serious illness, the loss of a child…but 98% of the time, whatever smacks us upside the head has everything to do with an issue we’ve been trying to avoid. The issue and the storms we find ourselves in rarely seem to connect, but after doing the inner work , we find they do.

sea storm BLOG

I have a past as colorful and choppy as mosaic art; it can also be compared to a Pointillist landscape composed of thousands of tiny dots placed on a canvas in seemingly random order, but when viewed from a distance, each individual dot becomes an integral piece in a cohesive story.

                whole face pointillist

In 2000, when I opened a door, my world changed. I tried to pretend it away, but once opened, some doors can never be closed again. Because I was such a master of hiding the truth from everyone who knew me at the time, when I entered that door, my support system fell away, and I found myself on the journey of my life, alone.

Opening one door leads to opening another, which is exactly what I did. But here are a few interesting observations I made along the way: sometimes what lies on the other side of the door is too beautiful to look at for long. Sometimes what appears to be a diamond turns out to be broken glass. And often we simply can’t make our minds up about which door to open in the first place, so gingerly, we turn the handles, meekly peeking in; but once we discover the secret behind the door, we close then open it again and again,  doing that whole  c-r-a-z-y thing where we keep expecting a different outcome while doing the same old thing.

hallway with doors

The great thing about opening doors is the fact that you find the courage to walk on the tight rope of each individual, unscripted moment of life without a safety net, and OMG!, that’s a powerful feeling.

Although for several years I lost my familiar community of family and friends, I wasn’t actually alone for very long. Wandering the hall of opened doors, there was, at first, only a trickling of equally timid souls weaving in and out, walking close or around me.  But the deeper into the guts of the unknown I traveled, the more lively and heavily populated the crowds became.

Lynette was one the earliest hall-walkers I met, and once introduced, we buddied up for the duration of the trip.

The first door I opened, the biggest one, the one responsible for prompting the entire journey, was a door I kept opening and closing. Even as my ever-changing perception of what was on the other side vacillated from horror to ecstasy and back, I never slammed it shut. After a few years, I decided the best thing to do was to turn away from it.

winding trails

What walking away taught me was that entering it in the first place was the best choice I’d ever made, and that trying to completely seal that particular door would prove impossible in this lifetime. For me, that first door represents the precise group of Pointillist dots that form my legs. Without keeping everything I experienced on the other side of the door in my heart; I would not be able to move forward.

While not quite afraid of the pivotal door, for me it’s like the sea, I have a healthy respect of its power while admiring its seductive ruthlessness, its beauty, and the impulsiveness of unyielding focus. If I pretended the past never happened, I’d be doomed to repeat it.

woman and sea merged BLOG

 

I’ve been working everyday since 1997.  And I’ll continue to work for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to support the world I created having opened a series of amazing doors.

Day one, June first: be kind dear month, merciful, dear season. Refrain from shaking too hard these ticks from your magnificent body.

1 Jun

Sitting in my storm shelter, I wonder if we’ve lost sight that we are part of nature or if self-importance has only inflated our sense of superiority.  The fact that anyone these days, take me, for example, can sit in front of an innocuous computer, and between sips of coffee, (or from a storm shelter), espouse a litany of personal beliefs, emphasizes the dilemma of having more venues to share than actual facts to present. 

Now, enter: personal experience and bias, we all have it to one degree or another.  Next, enter, (take cover), politics and religion, two devilish,( pardon the pun), components in an emerging super storm.

I wish I would, (not could), walk the explicit way of my own words, and see myself as an equal to ants and spiders.  But I am an animal that steps on those I categorize as creepy bugs when they invade my space, apologizing even as their guts squirt around my shoe.   I say I wish I would, not I wish I could, because certainly I could if I’d a mind to.  But I don’t; my bias, my perspective, my pick and choose variety of practical wisdom leaves its imprint across every hour of every day in my little world.  And while I may shake in horror as I do the things I do, I continue to opt to do them.

Today is June first.  2013.  Dawn of the new age.  (Cough, gag, choke.)  In fact, today is the first day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.   I don’t know about you, but not too much changed overnight at my house.  The weather outside is still raging.  It’s the great mirror to what’s going on with people all over the planet.  It’s the duck legs below the waterline struggling while the swan only appears to glide. 

The earth is a seed perpetuating new seeds, or maybe it’s only a dog. 

We, on the other hand, retro-evolving parasitic life-forms, seem to be moving backward in thought, rather than fast-forward; hence the emergence of a super race of resource exploiters bashing our way across mother/planet/seed/dog earth. 

Yes, of course, we have our holy women and wild men roaming the forest primeval prophesizing and recording, but mostly their numbers are dwarfed by frightening numbers of consumer/ticks sucking the blood directly from the foundation they’ve built their homes on.

Dumb?  Yeah, I think so; short-sighted, for sure.  But are we, or let me make this more personal, am I save-able?  While the jury is still out on that one, the signs are imminently clear.  We’ve reached the limit on ignorant bliss…it is time to wake up, to come to the storm shelter and sit peacefully in the company of ants and spiders. To ask ourselves the question: are we living a sustainable lifestyle: emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically and of course, environmentally.  And most certainly, it is time to take notice of what nature is saying, time to listen up as she does her best impression of a dog driven to the cusp of madness by colonies of ticks, and to take action, positive action, to help ensure we survive on the back of this great dog that has begun the process of shaking her problems loose.

Image

Contradictions in Place

17 May

Is it just me or is life full of contradictions?  The sweetest people I know have diabetes and can’t eat sweet things, those with the biggest, most generous hearts have heart disease, and the friendliest folks I’ve ever met, often are pretty lonely in everyday life.  Those with the biggest smiles have been forced to invest thousands in rotten teeth.  And some of funniest people in the world are depressed. 

I’m in a new phase.  I am the consummate observer these days, working like mad to detach myself from the prospect of falling into modern culture’s habit of discounting or discarding the elderly amongst us.  I’m in this phase as a matter of self-defense, being that I am one of the elderly amongst us these days. Populist judgment isn’t the only conceptual ideology I’m detaching from either; I’m dropping old wives tales, cultural mythology, political rancor, mainstream media and processed foods.  (Well, I’m giving that whole process food thingy my best shot anyway.)

I’ve been forced to reevaluate my life once again, (seems its a cyclical process), and as I enter that whole practice of introspection, I realize I’m in the autumn of my existence, but not to worry, fall has always been my favorite season, (followed by winter and spring.)  So I’m looking at it this way: I get  to spend, hopefully, years in my all-time favorite seasons!  Also, how apropos for a person like me who believes in an afterlife, that spring should follow winter’s death.

My mother is 86 years old.  She often tells me the Golden Years are hard and cold.  I hope not.  I’m personally expecting them to be the most introspective years of life.  I’m visualizing a quieter, slower time with a great deal of rocking in my favorite old black rocking chair, staring at the trees off my deck, and spending long hours in the peaceful solitude of quilting.  But the truth is, I don’t know what to expect, no one does. So, under these particular circumstances, the best thing I think I can do is to be aware and not waste precious time being frustrated.  I believe I can save myself a great deal of grief  by watching the signs along the way, because I know that everything is connected.  One thing leads to another, and that leads to fresh opportunities and change.  My observation that life is full of contradictions arose from my introspective space where I concluded a person can be so sweet or kind to others that he ends up giving pieces of himself away, never fulfilling his own need for sweetness, and out of a sense of exigency or self-preservation, his body responds; his pancreas slowing, or simply shutting down.  Maybe the same can be said of one who has dealt with a broken heart, or the person who continually helps others, but never asks for help himself. 

I know this is the truth: the earth is changing.  I see it in the woods where I live.  I see it in the animals here.  We are all part of this good earth, an extension of naturalness under assault.  I can live with as small of a carbon footprint as is personally possible, but I cannot change the velocity of world-speed, or the stealth-like consequences of progress. Still, I have power; I can observe and consider paths chosen and paths ignored, and I can add those observations to the well of learned wisdom I share with others.

My bones are tired; they are swollen and sore from a life full of activity.  Still, they press on.  The person with the greatest heart I have ever known is my husband, Richard.  He has persistent heart disease.  Rick and I met and married in 2003.  I thought our love would heal him.  What it did was make him stronger and more determined to do the right thing for himself. I can’t list everything marrying Richard has done for me; there’s not enough paper in the world, but his love saves me everyday.  

I recently shared my life philosophy with a blogger friend of mine, telling her I approach every day as if it is a vacation day.  No matter how busy I am, no matter how many tasks must be completed, I’m off the clock!  On vacation, you give yourself time to rest, time to heal and regroup before stepping back into the real world.  Vacation is my real world.  I have permission to sit out a day, or a week, or a month, whatever I need because  I give it to myself.  And I watch the signs, follow the trails and mysterious hints nature gives.

Today it is overcast outside, drizzling rain, cool, crisp breeze;  a day best spent tending to inside things … like sitting on the covered deck blowing bubbles.   

Image

Whoo! Hoo! Super Duper Sweet Blogging Award

5 May

Image

You can imagine my surprise!  How great is this?  Recognition from peers is a beautiful thing that inspires, encourages, and affirms we are heading in the right direction!  Now it’s my turn to shine a light on others.  Please take time to explore the blogs below; if you do, I guarantee you’ll walk away knowing a little bit more about the world, others and yourself.

Rules to this award are:

1. Thank the Super Sweet Blogger who nominated you

Mind On the Loose is an amazing woman who inspires us with stories reflecting the history and traditions of her family, her hopes and passions, and a litany of on-going and revolving projects. Her curiosity about the ever-changing science of electronics is quite impressive to a technologically-challenged admirer such as myself. Mind On the Loose provides a welcoming community setting for anyone looking for a place to share.  I hope you visit her soon.

This is the first time I have been nominated for a blogging award, and it’s name fits so well, not because I’m sweet, but because Sweet is my maiden name!   So, many,many thanks to Sabrina, whose mind is on the loose, for including me in this award.  I’m so happy we’re friends, but we most likely would never have even met if it were not for WordPress!

2. Answer five super sweet questions: The 5 sweet Questions are: 

  • Cookies or Cake?     Cookies! (mostly)
  • Chocolate or Vanilla?     Chocolate!
  • Favorite Sweet Treat?     Italian Cream Cake! (Neither chocolate nor cookie, whoops!)
  • When do you crave Sweet Things the most?     3:00 (PM and AM!)
  • Sweet Nick Name?     ittyMac, a combo of maternal and paternal grannie’s nick names: IttyBitty and MissMac.

3. Include the Super Sweet Blogging award image in  your blog post  (See above)

4. Nominate a baker’s dozen (12) other bloggers

Here, we go!  I’m following Sabrina’s example of giving you an idea of what sort of content you’ll find in the blogs I’ve nominated to share this amazing sweet prize!

The Empathy Queen – is a sincere, sometimes heart wretching journey through life and all that means. Pure, straight up honesty and amazing candor expressed humorously, punctuated, when least expected, by a precise and smooth sense of irony.

Humoring the Goddess – Back from a blogging hiatus, this funny, relevant blogger takes a swing at aging in a fast forward world continually changing.  This blog is a wild, fun ride you won’t regret taking!

Meganhasocd, The War in my Brain – A tug-a-war some days, a sail boat ride across a placid lake on others, The War in my Brain delivers a hard message softly, and with humor that always leaves me thinking; which, I believe, is exactly Megan’s intention.

Foreignly – Enlivening Dreams – is written by a student sharing his “ideas about various subjects ranging from humanities to science, but mainly on personal development…”  I think this is a very interesting blog, and being able to communicate with a young person on the other side of the planet is just too cool.

South of Where – is a blog I have only recently explored.  I found it while reading a response comment on an unrelated blog.  It was stumbling into treasure, for me.  At first, I thought I could see my own life in her words, but later I realized it is the author’s perspective that makes hers special to me.

Kmosullivan – is an advocate for women and setting socio-economic, cultural and community bars higher.  I’m drawn to the author’s use of humor and current events, and always enjoy the personal stories Kelly shares.

Writings of a Mrs – is the journey we follow as a woman works through the process of achieving her dream to make writing a profession.  Family photographs, poetry and personal musings bring us along for the ride!

Forgiving Dreams – thoughts on life and living the dream – covers a myriad of subject matter ranging from current events to spiritual musings.  This blog is where living  a Sustainable Green Lifestyle intersects, nicely, I might add, with the fast paced challenges and changes of Corporate World.

World’s Worst Moms – Well, if the blog name was actually intended to represent the truth, I’d have to be the first one to say, “I want one of those!”  Humorous, serious, relevant.

Cranky Caregiver – Grandma says – cracks me up!  If I could take life on like Grandma does, I’d have a lot more pep in my step!  Funny, fun and accurate.

Jenny Kissed Me – JeGlatter  This blog takes me into the space in my head that poets share with both the splendor and the abysses that are part of celebrating and surviving a deeply introspective life.  Her words are so fluid, it feels like I’m swimming.  She is great, not good.

Second Half Woman – follows the journey of a single woman exploring the second half of her life and sharing with gorgeous photography, poetry and personal musings along the way.

5. Notify your nominees on their blog

There; all done!  Thanks again, Mind on the Loose!

For the Sake of the Game

25 Apr

Our first impressions were less than stellar, although I knew from the start I’d love her; I also knew she would never love me, but my belief that we’d meet somewhere in the middle was strong enough to propel me forward through four years of suspicion and cynicism, and the expected comparisons made in such situations. What I could never have foreseen was the revolving door that first brought her into my life and then swept her away while neither of us was actually looking.

She was brash and provocative. She craved attention so deeply that at first I believed she might be narcissistic; but as time passed, I saw she wasn’t, it was something else. We were doomed from the start as unspoken assumptions and judgments, unfair comparisons, and other frailties worked their way through the back roads of our psyches, pulling us in opposite directions, though I believe with all of my heart she wanted to find her way to a safe, shared space as badly I did.

I knew what I wanted, I wanted to teach; she wasn’t interested in learning. I wanted to talk but she covered her ears. I wanted to repair the tattered philosophy of self-destruction she wore like a breast plate against the world, but she was determined to keep it in place.

Ten years later, it’s easier to accept the truth, as painful as it is. It’s easy to say the words, I was wrong, but it is harder to sit with myself understanding that ten years ago, I looked a woman-child straight in the face, accusing her without speaking.

I was the nurse with a strong background in psychology, yet I failed to understand that she wanted to learn, that she wanted, also, to teach. I had forgotten that until a teacher acknowledges a student’s actual presence, nothing can be either taught or learned. I forgot the imperative of listening and failed to bring Zen energy into the center of the volcano; thus, it’s blast was devastating.

She appalled me with her survival skills; I was undone by her behavior. I was offended by her disrespect and rudeness, outspoken as I am. The union of a woman from the south and a Yankee steam pipefitter proved catalyst for trapped explosive air to burst from timeworn vaults of anger, resentment, and simmering sibling rivalry in a near fatal explosion of wills. When the matriarch of the loosely attached tribe drew a line in the sand, everyone, spare us, crossed over. Apparently, gloves were off.

Several years later, we submitted to gravity, falling southward like dead weight, waking, rubbing our eyes from the social and environmental changes that enveloped us in Southwest Texas heat. It wasn’t a single bomb that exploded in the years that followed, but more a series of eruptions that unintentionally helped us define ourselves, singly and communally. During those years, I found myself thinking more and more about the life we’d left behind; more specifically, the adult stepchild I’d never really known. So I followed her across social media fields like a birdwatcher on the trail of a magnificently rare species, hiding in anonymity without leaving an obvious trace.

I admire the gem I will never touch, never have the privilege of wearing. I admire it from afar. I’d reach out in conciliatory kindness if I believed no one would get hurt. But I remain in the company of a wounded man, deeply it seems, so deep everything inside shields the pain. And I am as fiercely protective of his feelings and dreams as I am in love with him.

In the end, if we’re honest, we can admit life is a lot like the game of Survivor; alliances are made and either kept or broken. Individuals silently plot routes for victory or escape. Everyone wants to live even if survival means we lose pieces of ourselves along the way. Choices are made. Promises are kept until ultimately they are broken for the sake of the game.

It was all so perfect…..

12 Feb

It was all so perfect,

….the canal, meandering like a long, flat ribbon in piercing blue, the gentle ebb and flow of water streaming from the sea, splitting Clear Lake, spilling past jetties, filling inlets, rocking yachts and sailboats from side to side; halyards united in a symphony of sound, brass, teak, and double braid rigging stretching in the wind, humming deep bass in gentler breeze.  It was all so perfect, tree lined streets with brick or stone houses rising from pedigreed lawns.  Mail boxes on the curb shaped like Dolphins or Blue Crab.  Three, four, five car garages. 

A housekeeper met me at the door, shaking her head, brown eyes, a mirror of despair.  She led me across cold marble floors, past statues and museum quality art, over the landing of a staircase reminiscent of Tara, flanking walls lined with austere portraits of descendants of deliberate breeding, into a great room, greater than any I’d seen before, with cathedral ceilings rivaling St. Anthony’s in the heart of old Houston, where the neighborhood crowded closer and closer to its front door. 

The only imperfect artifact in the entire house lie sprawled across an over-stuffed leather couch, her grey-rooted hair, buzz-shaved institutional style, greyer eyes, sunken in deep hollows.  The last vestige of color was a fine pink sheen on her lips that snapped to attention in a glorious smile as I entered her line of vision.  

It took all she had to stand to greet me, extending a hand that looked thirty years older than it was, grasping my fleshy, pink skin.  I was almost embarrassed by the contrast, but she quickly closed her other hand around it with sincerity that surpassed disease and social standing, and before I’d set my medical bag on the carved mahogany table, I knew we would be friends.  

On my second visit, she reminisced, taking me down the long roads that led her from the deep woods in East Texas, to the mansion on the waterfront.   She’d been in love since she was14, with the handsome, dynamic, success-driven over achiever she’d married at 21.  They’d grown up together, exploring tall grass along narrow streams of clear, rushing water, climbing wild oak and magnolia trees, and running barefoot through acres of bluebonnet fields. 

He stole a kiss when he was 9, knowing she had no use for boys; but she said she never forgot his audacity, and she forgave him because she loved his mother almost as much as she loved her own.  It was a small, hard-working community with an unflinching focus on family and home.  She followed the only boy she had ever loved, one year after he’d left for college.  Her degree was in Education, his, in Architecture.  She confessed she never intended to work outside the home but changed her mind after discovering she had a flair for real estate. 

My third visit was an emergency response to a pain crisis. Her husband met me at the car, smoking and cursing under his breath. “I can’t make it stop!”, he said.  I patted his hand, pulled the cigarette from between his fingers, tossed it to the ground, crushing it with a shoe.  He led me past a nearly hysterical housekeeper who was rolling rosary beads so wildly, I feared they might burst into flames.  We sprinted through the breadth of the house, entering the master bedroom where I found my friend knotted in a small ball on the right side of a California King bed.

The husband hissed, “The God damned Vicodin didn’t work this time; it’s a complete waste!”  He collapsed on the edge of the bed, jumping up quickly when she began to groan, reaching for my hand.  As soon as we connected, she began to cry and her husband retreated to a far corner of the room. For me, this was rote, me, on autopilot; fixing other people is what I do best.

“It’s going to be okay; I promise”, I whispered while emptying a vial of morphine into a syringe.  I placed a warm, damp cloth on her forehead, turned on her favorite music, then focused on massaging her feet with warm lotion, speaking softly, as if she was a child.  Fifteen minutes later, the pain had not dissipated, so I followed the care plan we’d formulated with her physician, administering her first dose of methadone.  While I waited for its effects to begin, I massaged her hands. 

At some point during the process, her husband left the room.  From a window I watched him pace, smoking one cigarette after another, running his fingers through a shock of thick, dark hair, and crying. 

On my twelfth visit, I noticed a crack on the ceiling where a massive beam abutted the peak of the fireplace that ran two full stories up in the perfect house.  There was a rusty water ring the size of a baseball mitt spreading across the junction of the two, and beginning to seep further down the wall like a dark shadow.

We were sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and bananas, because that’s what my friend wanted to do.  Her eyes followed my gaze.

“I’ve been trying to get him to fix that for three years, but he’s always too busy.”

Sherry died of lung cancer two days later.  She had never smoked a cigarette in her life.  She left behind four beautiful, grieving daughters, two broken parents, two dismayed in-laws, a dozen or so cousins, hundreds of friends and business acquaintances and a devastated husband.  And me, her (hospice nurse) friend. 

Every year approximately 42,000 Americans die from second hand cigarette smoke.  That staggering number includes 900 infants.  Perhaps Sherry’s death was unrelated to cigarette smoke; we will never know.  But every year innocent bystanders are struck down by side effects of another person’s choice to inhale carcinogens, and to blow them out, into the environment.  

According to the CDC Fact Sheet, smoking and tobacco use results in 5 million world- wide deaths every year.  In spite of these astounding numbers, people continue to ‘light up’ believing they can escape the consequences of their decision. 

But what about the stranger, or loved one, standing next to them?  What about Sherry? What about our children?  What about you?