..with a little help from my friends

Somewhere along the way, I lost my sparkle. Maybe we all do, eventually. Maybe it all goes dull when we look beyond our troubled, tired shores that never change too much.

However, somewhere along the way, I became my mother. She was a fine woman, but becoming her (which was once to be avoided at ALL costs) is not my hope. It isn’t fair to either of us nor my children, but more importantly, it wouldn’t be fair to our Creator Who went to great pains to construct each of us Just So — inside and out, here and later.

So, long story made short, I’m going to walk a tightrope over Niagara.

🙂  Or…

Maybe I’ll write, which is incredibly similar.

Writing is not as important as bringing a child to a blind friend’s apartment for a home-cooked dinner from a very gracious hostess who asked if it was bright enough in the room — it would’ve been, even without the aid of artificial light, for she herself was a sun! However, writing is the most authentic me (such as it is).

I’m not sparkling, yet, but I have hope.  My mom would approve.

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I also ought to avoid word prompts!

I just barely recall both the coal delivery into the sidewalk chute leading to the cellar, and the milk bottle delivery onto the front granite-slab steps (one of which was growing crooked even back in the days of Noah, who used to pahk the ahk down at the boat peeah beside the bridge).

I can’t say I grew up there — I grew up in a number of spots all over that city, as we moved quite frequently (which I miss doing, also quite frequently) — but the apartment to which I refer in the downtown area of an historic seaport city is now a tattoo parlor. I don’t mean an ink shop. I mean a tattoo parlor, atop at least one rowdy townie bar.

I can’t imagine what they did with the rest of the apartment — perhaps the tattooist(s) lives in the other rooms..  or maybe it has become/returned to being one of the town’s old bawdy houses, though it was uptown a bit from the actual noted red light district. (I should request a tour sometime….)

It was (and likely still is) a strangely laid out apartment, insofar as the winding staircase’s top landing met 2 stairs down onto a tiny landing; from there, the bathroom dead ahead was on that lower landing, but exiting from there, one would have 2 more steps down into the kitchen, OR 2 steps up into the living room, or 2 up to the hallway that led past one bedroom to the storage room with the spooky pipe.

If one shook that building-tall pipe, something way below would shake it right back. Cousin and I tried not to irritate the Something Way Below. We mostly were just saying, “We’re just seeing if you’re still there, and if so, saying ‘Hi’ — don’t kill us,” as kids are wont to so brilliantly trust in doing. It had to be a ghost; the lovely but ancient man downstairs in the ancient tailor shop would likely not have been shaking the pipe back.

That hallway also led to the back door. Such unpleasant memories, there, I don’t know which one to pick first. I recall my mom shutting off the vacuum cleaner to spank me for something for which I had no clue. I truly had no idea, but she didn’t believe that, so I got more for “back-talking.” Boyhowdy, those were the days. Those were the days I determined never to hit my own children!

Also, that’s the one spot my father didn’t tear up whenever he broke into that particular apartment; there wasn’t anything there to shatter or up-end; but it is indeed the landing from which we surveyed his kitchen damages. As I say, it led to a bedroom, too.. my mom let my uncle stay there, once (she and I shared the front bedroom, that we may hear a car parking suspiciously quietly out front…), who vowed to protect us from unwanted night-time visitors. In theory, it was brilliant, but he was a drinker… and a smoker. He set the mattress on fire –and wouldn’t wake up! My 4’11” mom had to roll him off the bed so she could drag the mattress down the hallway to the back door to fling outside and go pour water on.

Indeed, back doors were something we always had to have, due (almost solely..) to my father’s alcohol-fueled Nocturnal Ops. We coudn’t afford even a party line (until years later), so we had to be within rabbit-scurrying distance of the police department, but we first needed an escape hatch. Thankfully, there were clues to toggle our sleeping selves into action, like glass breaking and wood splintering. Very adrenalin-friendly stuff, that — as were the pitch black alleyways we employed.

And of course, the top step of the also-winding (but of ancient wood) back steps is the one my hefty cousin stepped right through up to the top of one thigh. I’d thought we were laughing until she screamed for me to get my mother. Oh my, she had scratches and splinters the length of her — not to even mention she could’ve plunged through to the ground two floors below!

Down in the backyard is where my mom met the “granddaddy of all hornets” who gave her palm “both barrels” when she inadvertently grabbed an inhabited clothespin on the line, and it’s where my first and last childhood experiment with puppy ownership had me grossed out and totally dis-illusioned; who knew dogs would eat their own feces? NOT.I.

Very near those front granite steps, though, is where I stood holding my beautiful angora kitty before he got so sick. I was mighty proud of that kitty, especially since it never raided its own litter box, and a drunken passerby decided to pet the cat, but his hand strayed to where the cat’s tail hung down, and he said, “Oh, my, yes — a lovely pussy.” Which is why I can’t stand that word the past 50-some years, no matter who uses it or why. Fortunately, another passer-by intervened.

Otherwise (and, er, other than the break-in at the elderly tailor’s shop below, in which he left a bloody handprint on the glass door before he collapsed from being bonked on the head with a weapon, though he recuperated just fine), it was a great place to live. Probably still is..

😐

(I just realized I have many more memories of this place.. it comes to you too late, I fear, but maybe this place is a book-to-be, it’s address as the title!)

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“O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem..”

Whatever we have seen of love here is, I’m as certain as any mere mortal can be, magnified a zillionfold in God the Father — in Whose image and likeness we are made. Image, yes, in some mysterious Adam-Jesus way — and some perhaps not mysterious way, for the Jesuits tell us that we, too, will behold His begotten Son’s eternal yet human scars of love — o, we will know as we are known, but likeness? How are we like God?

The little reminiscence about Peter giving in to mortal fear (in the post below) made me think of what I didn’t say: That the Lord groans over our plight. And groans with us. We have it in Tradition that the Holy Spirit, The Paraclete, as our advocate, groans in prayer.  And where Mary and Martha and those with them cry over Lazarus’ death, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Scripture tells us Jesus was deeply troubled in spirit. I do believe He groaned then, too, and thus, that day sinking into the water when Peter reaches out and shouts, “Lord, save me!” I can’t help but hear Jesus groan.

We’ve all been in that devastating time when there were no words and there was no point in words: all that escaped us was a groan.  Our groan is of helplessness in the face of suffering and death of His beloved creations. The Lord’s groan is not of helplessness.

I was a few rows from the front one day at Mass when Father B was celebrant. He couldn’t see what we could — a fellow parishioner who had been losing ground, who was skin and bones and whose clothes hung on him, now, balding and yellowed and leaning on a crutch for every painful step in the Communion line. Father B is someone for whom, no one would disagree, there is a quiet spot in between Jesus and Mary with his name on it. When the line cleared and our dying friend became visible to Father B, we nearest heard a groan escape him as he hurried toward the man to save him a few steps. Rushed to him with Jesus, as did Mary to Elizabeth.

And yes, we are like God. In His compassion. Terrible, terrible groans of compassion that could say in all Honesty, “How I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  “Do this in memory of Me.”  “I go to prepare a place for you… and I am coming back to you, to take you to Myself, that where I Am, you will also be.”


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Balms for the senses

I’m afraid I’m not much into symphonies. Oddly enough, I am becoming a big fan of Supertramp all of a sudden. I’d always liked their songs without knowing who they were! As you know, I linked to their “Logical” YouTube vid, here, a few weeks ago, and I realized last night that I have come to recognize their sound.

They’ve produced a great blending of instrument and voice and, as I look them up, provide deep and/or poetic lyrics. (Supertramp did not pay me to say that.) I recall looking up U2 lyrics once and being amazed that they’re so blah. (See there, I just had to irritate somebody, didn’t I? “If ya can’t say sumthin’ nice….” — but I like the U2 sound very much — it gets right to the heart. Hopefully that evens out the jab!)

As I say, I recognized them last night as I drove home from work, and realized how much I love harmonica. Isn’t it a happy sound! Even when it’s sad, it’s happy! My utterly poverty-stricken grandmother taught herself the harmonica and used to play from time to time, and then laugh at herself. We didn’t laugh.

The only phrase in the song last night I knew was the refrain, “Take the long way home” (I presume he is singing of himself). I wasn’t actually taking the long way; I do that on my way over.  I turn down the car radio and/or air conditioning blower as I approach the old mill’s little waterfall, and roll down my right-side window as I drive past. To hear water rushing is to hear a Voice — a quick and real Hello.

Right in the middle of the song an enormous deer crossed the road.

There on a summer night, driving home, rocking to Supertramp, famished and 8 minutes past very tired, a large graceful deer crosses my path! I haven’t seen one in months; perhaps he or she was, like me, taking the short way home. Other earthly reality never moves off very far, though, so I went back to praying for our old mailman who got mown down on his (off-duty!) bicycle and remains in critical condition…

I’ll take all the harmonica and Supertramp and deer (and a crow feather was blowing across the parking lot..) that I can get. And maybe you need the other symphonies. There is surely something Kind, childlike, and very native gently blowing around for everyone, wherever you are.


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When the quiet stops

Sometimes
when a palm is bruised
despite callouses
or a new finger slice appears,
necessitating bandages
worn under the rubber gloves
for a while,
I am reminded
of whom I most certainly am not
and that I was once loved forever —
once and for all, forever..
and I see no little shards
of lightning
in the Blood or the Bruise
we’ve come to share,
but I know they’re there;
I close my hands as I bring them
up to my crownless brow
and soon enough determine
to try again.

8/2/17

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To a favored tree

I like that you’re old-big, and shaggy.
No way I could get arms around you..
I’ll just sit here, close again, listening.
I waited all day for this time with you.
Wanted to see your hot leaves cooled.
Your sudden quiet suggests sap rising.
You’re no sugarer, though; just happy.
July 31, 2017


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Here on the banks..

Thankfully, nuisances here in the Northeast are usually not as toothy and deviously submergible as an alligator. I have trouble trapping things, which results in their mostly having been tickled from afar by Relax, usually more than once.

Presently, our pestiest trespasser in the single is a red squirrel. I’ve named him *Donald.* He is not content to have the back 40, so to speak — he wants every tree, everywhere. The grays (and their pilot chipmunks) will not be allowed what the grays have built up for decades! This red steadily and aggressively advances.

I have bolted into a dead run like a rabbit-teased beagle (sans the 700 city/hunting tags) right out the deck door, down the back stairs, and almost stepping on his last tail hair when he ventures near (and once, “near” was on the very deck itself). This spectre coming at me would certainly spook me into wariness, at least — and it does indeed spook everyone who doesn’t know I’m hot on some rascally red heels — but oh, red squirrels are not dissuadable! Various members of the testosterone set have offered to off him/her. I have not said no. I have simply said, “Not while anyone’s around.” If, in a worst case scenario, this little thing gets into the get-into-able attic and has some baby reds, life as we know it is over!

There is a time of summer here where the mosquitoes own the world each evening. They seem as if they’ve bulked up for this time — maybe it’s their peak, or maybe it’s a “now or never” thing for them, but these poke into your skin with a sound. It’s hard to tell whether they’re the crispy ones, or you are. There’s NO sitting out back in the evenings, unless you are tanked or totally DEETified. I am usually never either of those. Hence, I *miss out* on sharing the space with the raccoons, skunks and any ‘possums we may still have around here. And, of course, the bats who love crunchy mosquitoes.

Our real pests make themselves more known in winter, once the black ants whose land this is have stopped horrifying many sink and countertop (and toileting) experiences. Field mice are so cute. Outside. Inside, the cartoon of an elephant spotting one and jumping onto a chair comes back way too quickly.

My ex-son-in-law constructed a live-release trap for us down in the basement — a big empty putty tub with food at the bottom. Across the top, a taped newspaper with large slits cut into it. It had worked in his childhood home. We checked it nightly, nightly, then every few days. Another few days, nada. We appreciated the effort, though. When I thought to clear out some of the junk in the basement one day a few months later, I ripped off the newspaper and what do you suppose I saw at the bottom? We all felt badly, but that very flat mouse felt worst of all.

If only pests weren’t pests. I’ve occasionally thought of chucking it all for a nice clean pest-free something or other elsewhere.  I’d have to battle DH for that, except that other moments come rushing back. Like the kingfisher’s afternoon, and the beatific water v’s just under the returning herons; the beaver tail slap having spied us on the bridge above, the young Cooper’s hawk, the yodeling young fox, a lowing down near the river’s edge one 2 a.m., the lust-lost moose, the old bullfrog. Tadpoles *caught* and treasured into frogs; the dog plunging in when given the go-ahead (or not!); the Koolaid toast at our first picnic table, to a non-biological Dad on Father’s Day, both of them informing both of us that here on this first Father’s Day with him, they’d decided to call him “Dad” from now on…

 


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