a flower in the trash**
A good friend and former coworker gave me an orchid plant a few years ago…four years ago in January, actually, when I returned to work after being out for a week when my mother died.
The plant was in a small dark reddish/maroon ceramic cup and had four broad, intensely green leaves and two vines or stems that were about six to eight inches long/tall and had anywhere from eight or ten flowers on each…I don’t remember exactly…
After a few months of “watering” it with crushed ice a couple of times a week, I found that I just couldn’t keep it watered enough and that the ice just melted and ran straight through the cup and the flowers wilted very soon and the broad dark leaves went soft and then stayed that way.
Not too long after that, I purchased a much larger pot and a bag of Miracle-Grow-infused orchid bark and repotted my little plant. When I removed it from the smaller cup, I found that there were “tons” of root material curled into a huge twisted mass at the bottom of the cup, something that I sadly trimmed away and discarded in the trash…but it had to be done.
And now, four years later, I have seen a second plant grow up from the bark and sprout its own four leaves and two vines or stems with their many flowers, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all, 15, 18, 20…. My morning routine each day at work is to stop and greet the plant on the window sill near my desk. I gently rub the dark green surface of the uppermost leaves, maybe rotate the planter to make sure the flowers aren’t touching the glass, and whisper “Hello,” something that seems silly as I type it here, but seems natural and only right when I do it every morning. I think I probably perform this ritual to honor the plant’s life and the trust it must have in my routine to care for it…and to likewise honor the friend who gave it to me, his compassion and empathy, and to remember my mother, to acknowledge her continued presence and absence and all of the things I could and don’t say about that.
And it is now my weekly routine upon coming back to the office on Mondays to trim/pluck the flowers that have wilted over the weekend…and so we have this post. After I tossed the single flower into the trash a couple of weeks ago, went about my new morning at the desk, and then happened to look down into the trash. I was struck by the color and textures of the wilted body and leaves in its surroundings of the clean clearish-white trash bag…and was reminded immediately of some images that my blog friend, Lynn, has shared with us at Bluebrightly, particularly the ones of leaves and flowers pressed against the inside surface of a green-house’s windows or plastic tarpaulin partitions…the texture and form and light all combining to give us another micro-celebration of awe and wonder at the event and the artist’s eye and mind and heart to find it and capture it so.
How much longer…?
Innocence smiles large as the boys rescue The Cube and ride their motorized scooter and roller-blades about the cul-de-sac, announcing to me in passing that they are on their way to destroy Megatron. Hood up on his sweatshirt jacket, my little one is on the roller-blades and moves awkwardly about, wheel-walking, not rolling, strange dance of plastic and clatter rushing off to secure some imagined zone.
The December sky is gray with fat and heavy clouds; an occasional breeze or gust of wind ripples the overgrown palm fronds and the garbage truck is making its Tuesday afternoon rounds in the neighborhood a couple streets in the distance. My grandson is on the motorized scooter and is wearing orange, star-shaped sunglasses to shield him against the glare of battle in his efforts to defeat the Transformers’ foes. My little one’s enthusiasm for the game is waning as a little trio of afternoon walkers enter and make a circuit of the cul-de-sac – a young mother-girl pushing her baby in a stroller as grandmother walks with her Down’s Syndrome old-man of a son in a straw cowboy hat who marvels at the Samoyed who is sticking his nose and white head through the hole at the bottom of the neighbor’s backyard wall. The cling-cling of the bicycle bell and the metallic crash as the bike crunches into the sidewalk and the garbage truck is still a few streets away.
“Can we go in now?”
“Don’t you want to play two-player on the Nintendo?” he says, as he kneels in the rocks and examines a pigeon feather, “Don’t you want to?”
“No, not really.”
“Dad, can we go inside in 15 minutes?”
He likes to orient things and events and know when they are going to happen. It helps him predict his world. He’s happier and less anxious that way. It settles his mind as the blanket of gray clouds part and roll into white balls with gray bottoms and a mini-bike just ripped and popped down the street behind us, throwing angry and irritating ripples and waves through the neighborhood air.
“How long has it been, Dad?”
I’m reading my new book, The Good Soldiers, between glances up and into the cul-de-sac and at the Transformer warrior-children and vehicles entering for deliveries or exiting for errands and whatnot.
“How much longer?”
“The post is loose on the scooter, Grandpa,” as he sucks the winter snot back into his nose and as the little one, his uncle, my youngest, talks to his dog through the side-yard gate….
“Hi Wilson,” sing-song, puppy-talk, baby-talk, talking-to-my-dog-through-the-gate-talk, sing-song “Hi buddy!”
Crunching gravel, walking scuffing, scraping, and dragging shoes through the landscaping stones. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! A piece of gravel rock on the basketball pole. Ping! Ping! Ping!
“How much longer, Papa? How mucho longa?”
I’m on page 27…For now, no one touched the tape dispenser. Eventually, Cummings would begin swatting flies just hard enough to stun them, stick them to a piece of tape, and drop them alive into his trash can, which would be something that did have an effect. “I hate flies,” he would say each time he did this. What?
“Is it time yet?”
Did you park your bike and scoot it all the way over so Mom can open her door after she’s parked the car?
“Are you done Blakie? Hey!”
“Do you want to go in now?”
Cling! Cling! Cling! “Beep beep!”
“There’s a warning.”
“There’s a warning.”
What kind of warning?
“There was a rain drop.”
And the garbage truck is getting nearer and the little one is dragging his toes across the driveway and he’s got a Kool-aid moustache as he grins at me and says “What?”
“How many more minutes? Dad?” as he stands on the apache-red boulder rock in his one-legged pose with his arms raised like a stork’s wings…from The Karate Kid…and a game of chicken in the roadway as my grandson comes at him on the motorized scooter…and repeated “Yaaaaah!” screams and “How much longer?” asked with a Pink Panther French accent this time.
“Hhow mush longherre?”
“Ok……Blakie!! It’s time to go in!”
***This is a Favorite Re-post from December, 2009.
They are openings and closings in the literal and figurative sense, and they hold stories and and secrets of people and things passing through and beyond, touched by sun and storm, neglected and loved in their simple utility, taken for granted and expected to do what they do as guardians of threshholds and goods, resting places for weary souls, welcoming opportunities for what may come, and barricades against the boogey-man and those who would come and take.
Another collection of images inspired by Mike from Mike’s Look at Life. He is the self-proclaimed and certified President of the Legion of Door Whores and my efforts here are a tribute to his fine work…. I found these doors on my lunch-time walks…all from within a couple miles of my downtown work location in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Thank you, Mike. 🙂
This is another door inspired by Mike, from Mike’s Look at Life. A novice door collector myself, I was looking for something that a connoisseur would approve of…and found this on the backside of a building on the industrial side of Salt Lake City. The bricks were painted in a faded beige and the door was actually pretty and worn, but when I viewed it on the computer, it was too washed-out…and no matter how much I manipulated and processed the photo, it seemed to lack the vitality and old-school charm that it had in “real life.” This pencil rendering is the most justice I could do for it…the texture is there and you can almost feel a splinter piercing the skin of your hands as you run them over the beautiful wood. It appears that the lower portion of the door has been modified to allow the louver panel to be placed in the center, facilitating the exhaust or circulation of air when evaporative coolers are operating during the warmer months…you can see plywood sheets that have been cut and placed on each side of the louvers…very clearly not part of the original door.
3/21/12 1905hrs – SUPPLEMENTAL INFO: It appears that my wording above may have been misleading or otherwise eaily misunderstood…the “pencil rendering” is not of my doing. I did not draw the pencil sketch of the below door. When I mentioned that I was trying to manipulate the photo to remove the washed-out and pale appearance, I used Picassa to add colors and shadows and other effects to the photo…none of them were satisfactory to me…so I ended-up using Picassa to turn the picture into a pencil sketch rendering of the second photo below. Please forgive me if I led you to think otherwise. I haven’t the skill to even begin to draw something as beautiful or detailed as this picture.
On second thought, maybe the original doesn’t look too bad…here’s the way it looks from the dock to the camera to the computer, and now to you…maybe I should leave well-enough alone….
Beyond the Vermillion Border
Swirling beneath the surface or deeply embedded within the spoken word is yet another meaning, an additional understanding or interpretation that is dependent upon the receiver’s frame of mind or point of reference in accepting that word. The paths that the person has traveled in his life will have an impact on the message’s content as well. Often, trusting that the speaker has the same state of mind or set of references that he does, the receiver will take the word for its surface value, not thinking to look into the current that carried the speaker into giving it…or not.
Those additional meanings could also exist because those spoken words were wrought in deception as a ruse, to mislead, to cover wrong-doings and hidden or veiled thoughts. They were presented to protect others or the self or bring unjust scrutiny where it is not needed, diverting inspection from where it is due. Gossip, lies, and rumors bred to undermine, to make others feel secure in their own estimation…to shake foundations and crumble established ways of thinking, perceptions, and values. Visible or imagined circumstances are mated with ill-conceived thoughts and a new ‘truth’ is born. It breathes with a life of its own, spread and passed-along as righteousness…contextual and circumstantial truths that reek in filth and deception until they are discovered and ripped apart with the knife of examination, eviscerated under the light of explanation and detail…but the damage is still done, the seed was planted and doubt has grown, sprouted and thriving in another life with its germinal droppings carried by the wind of conversation and whispered in hushed tones of ‘Have you heard?’
How many of our lives’ courses have been steered aside by a single phrase or the circumstantial pairing of words? What lashes across the back have been felt because of either ill-spoken words or ones that were found to be false? What taste of blood was brought to mouth because of an offense, a broken bone or ringing of ears caused by a violence that spews from hands evil with wrongdoing; might over weakness, forcefulness over fearfulness; the victims’ souls splayed open by the sharp tongue. How many lives and reputations in past and present have been sullied by murmured falsehoods and contrived deeds?
But words also nurture and bind and comfort and heal and uplift and encourage and inspire and lead many from sickness to health and from self-doubt to greatness and success…love-spoken words can be salves that heal our wounds and reveal truths that wash-away the scourge and disease of the bitter tongue…that fortify, that vanquish evil and doubt and failure…and stir to a greatness unimagined. And sometimes, too, these soothing and healing and uplifting and inspiring words are lies bound in sweet hope that they will be believed and acted-upon and taken to magnificent ends…causing the receiver to believe the words and dig into themselves to make them true because the speaker said they were true so they must be true and that makes them become true…and that lie has become truth…and then.
And other times the utterances become opiates that relax our diligence and dull our senses, calmly deceiving and betraying us with Delilah’s alluring promises before robbing us of our strength or resolve, seducing us, leading us into temptation and delivering us unto evil where we ransom our souls and happiness and futures and eternities for ideas and notions and feelings and…in other times and circumstances we escape with and through them, these words, into our fantasies and beliefs, conjuring imaginings and hopes, falling prey to our lusts and desires…whispered in sinful darkness they feed our longings…and we covet what we have not…we resolve to tell stories of deeds done and then, twisted mysteries that complicate and turn like worms in our guts when trying to remember what happened or not as we weave that tangled web. Their partial truths and half-lies stringing us along and telling us in bits what we need to know…in power and ruse against us, controlling and subordinating and enslaving or making us free, causing us to rise indifferent to blood and ties.
Skillfully spoken with temper and might, those spoken symbols can cause us to rise-up in defiance against our natural selves and believe ghastly things about others, to strike-out with deadly consequence or they can inspire us to love and nurture others at the cost of our own lives, can lead us to unbelievable heights and lengths to sacrifice ourselves and others for a cause, sometimes just and sometimes not and so…and someone said that someone said that He said “I am that I am.”
Between friends they are casual, words of comfort and ease, gentle conversation about anything or nothing, rambling and disjointed wonderings and plans and hopes and disappointments and promises to do better and live stronger and try instead of not…and they know the sacred and the secret, the hallowed and irreverent…jingling jangling juggling jumbling jabbering and tossing about in the mixing of anything and nothing and sometimes the learned stumble for a lack of the right one and the not-so-learned has it in picture form and simple and more beautiful and from the earth or the tugging inside the heart and in the hum of nature and in the tick and tock of the silent passing on the pendulum’s path and so…to speak in word form.
What aspect of our being hasn’t been touched by the spoken word? Is there a single step in this labyrinthine effort that is a stranger to the audible thoughts and contrivances of verbal communication? I dare to offer that near every color of life’s prism has been and is painted by and with every manner of uttering by the human tongue – those simple expulsions of breath, twisted and rolled, compressed and urged through the vocal cords, throat, teeth, and lips to become the shouts and screams and soothing whispers and encouragements or curses that propel us through our collective existence.
This is a Favorite re-post from December, 2009.
“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” ~Walt Streightiff
One year already….
I took an unplanned hike this morning, on an unplanned day off in the middle of the week. As chance would have it, I found myself on the trail that I first hiked when visiting the Salt Lake area in preparation for my move from Phoenix.
I have hiked sections of this particular trail about six or seven times in the past year, and only twice now from start to finish. Shortly after crossing one of the trail’s bridges, it dawned on me that I haven’t been to this specific section since I was up here locating the apartment where I would stay until my family arrived a few months later.
There was an odd recollection-quality to being there again, remembering my excitement (and fear) at the coming relocation, my physically being out in the woods and along a rushing stream again for the first time in decades with all my senses noting the sights and sounds and scents of being out there…and the notion of standing on the ledge of time and change and wondering what the next step would hold for me and my family.
The past year has, more than anything else (of course) been one of incredible change and adjustment and prioritizing of resources, time, and emotions. We’ve cried happy and bitter and sad tears, and mourned the losses of a familiar life and loved ones and have hoped incredibly for normalcy in all of the realms of our lives where we’ve missed it, both individually and collectively.
We have also longed to sit again among our entire family on the weekends like we used to do, and to spend our weekdays with and among our long-time and beloved friends and coworkers whose absence still aches in our hearts after all this time.
And yes, we have considered, too, what life would be like if we could roll back time and return to that old and familiar place, to have never left…or to even return to it now, afresh, after being gone for this single and elapsed year…we have wondered so, and have measured our past against our present and our still hoped-for future and we still wonder if it was the right thing to do, while telling ourselves that it was.
And so there I was again, walking under the familiar and green canopy of beautiful trees, smelling the natural and alluring perfumes of forest mulch and wild flowers and grasses riding the cool mountain breezes and listening to the accompanying and ever rumbling stream that was sometimes loud and close and other times quieter and removed, but ever-present, depending on the trail’s nearness to that peaceful and natural water-feature.
I was there, looking for distraction and peace and comfort after a crazy and sad month, hoping for a calm to return, hoping that what my senses experienced on the hike would remove images and texted sentiments and echoes of angry and sad words from my rambling and disjointed mind…hoping again for peace to be restored…and my hopes were answered, in this sense. Peace did come and quiet a portion of the unquiet things in my mind…it was a good hike.
I know I have posted similar pictures many times over the past year, but these images, these snapshots of our local and natural beauty are just too good not to share again, in my thinking anyway.
Yes, it’s been a year, and while I still miss my old friends incredibly, miss having them as constants in my every-day…I’m still loving it here. I hope you enjoy the pictures….
Eleven Miles from Somewhere
Yesterday morning, on my drive home from the store where I had just purchased the week’s food and other household supplies, I was looking at the neighborhoods I passed and at the smoke and steam coming from roof-top chimneys and vent pipes. I also caught sight, through and beyond the clouds, of parts and pieces of the white and enormous mountains that line our eastern horizon. It was and is still amazing and weird and wonderful to find myself in this place in the middle hours of this last day of the year, in a place so new and strange and removed from where I was last year. As I drove those snow-lined streets back to our neighborhood proper, I happened to notice a mile-marker sign that was posted along the road. It said “Mile 11.” Now, I am familiar with state highways and roads that leave their freeway confines and become or pass along the same route as a city street, like US Highway 60 in Arizona that becomes or passes-along on Grand Avenue, bisecting the Valley of the Sun to take travelers on their way to Wickenburg or beyond, and I know of US Highway 89 that takes us from Flagstaff to Page, and to Kanab and Panguitch, and then marks a parallel course to I-15 as it leads north to Provo and Salt Lake, eventually becoming State Street that runs the central length of our city, but I was not familiar with any such state route or US highway that had turned into 700 East as it made its course through the city.
Seeing the sign made me wonder about the eleven miles that had passed on the other side of that mile marker and how many other miles existed in the opposite and other direction, whatever and whichever way that actually was. It struck me as odd, too, and maybe allegorical even, in the processing of what yesterday was and what today is in the marking of time in a year and this present time or era or segment of my life and my family’s lives in this time of crazy and dramatic change. We’ve come to this station and place in our lives, taken such drastic steps to find ourselves in a new state and locale, and work and living and natural environment and our heads and hearts and sometimes emotions are spinning and wondering and looking for something familiar to grasp and hold-on to as we attempt to regain our balance and direction. And here we are then, eleven miles from somewhere, remembering and thinking about the past and wondering about the future, holding-on to each other, leaning against one another in our little relocated family, awaiting the arrival of others and missing those who won’t or cannot join us…and our friends, of course, we remember and miss them too, those precious ones who, even from outside the circle of our family and intimates, loved us and brought us joy and companionship for the past twenty years and more.
So it’s not only us, but you, too, and then, who on this first day of a new year are eleven miles from somewhere. Where are you going, what are you doing, how are you, and we, too, going to measure this year when it’s gone, like we’ve done to the one that is just passed and passing?
The notes dropped softly into the quiet air of the darkened room, falling easily like thick snowflakes on a wintry and wood-smokey night. They slid sometimes in icy wonder up the scales and tinkled down again and pattered along the floor like a baby’s footsteps as he’s learning to walk, all wobbly-legged and unsure, patting his bare toes in sprinkled notes and laughs of fancy and then. They remind the man of a music box that used to sit on the shelf in other babies’ rooms in days and nights of a past that is thin and fleeting. Cars and cars pass and the furnace clicks on and a smell of warm dust and human dander swirls against the cold walls as another tune steps from the stereo and moves him further along and into the night. The muted lights from something moving on the quiet television that glow through his closed eyelids make him wonder for a second why it’s on, but then it doesn’t matter…as the notes keep rising and falling like a tiny heartbeat. A tiny heartbeat that is just below the other notes and endures with its tender strength and doesn’t go away even when the music ends, that one little note that lay underneath and within and kept on with its steady, un-fading ping ping ping ping, and then, that heartbeat. There is an Indian running swiftly in tinkling notes of raindrops and teardrops of gentle cadence, a rushing of golden tango-notes like freckles falling on a fair and tender face, and a person dining alone in a happy sadness that isn’t sad, with a movement and sway that comforts and soothes in its quietude. They are notes in their touching caress and the passing of the minutes and hours of a night that lure the man into a wakeful sleep where his heart beats slow and calm and there is nothing else, just the song.
“Climb a beautiful mountain for me.”
I set out early and found that the sun was already risen and over the far ridge by the time I got out onto the trail. Although I had passed the trail-head probably half a dozen times or more, I had never been this particular way before. A steep path and rocks and scrub oak with their tiny, shiny acorns greeted me and caused me to wonder at the endurance that I had only a few weeks ago when I could and would play racquetball for three hours at a time. The intense climbing soon had my lungs and legs burning as I continued up the trail. Above and beyond me, the foothills and mountains rose in their way, causing a beautiful backdrop of scenery for my hike.
By the time I seriously needed a breather and had reached a relatively flat stretch in the trail, I came across and older man who was also catching his breath and admiring the view. We greeted each other cheerfully and commented on the hike and the scenery. He asked me how far I was going and I responded that I didn’t know yet. I’d never been on the trail before, I told him, so I was just going to walk until I needed to come back. We stood there for another five minutes or so as he told me the names of the reservoirs I would encounter on the trail, which way to turn if I wanted to go to such and such a place, etc. After another couple of minutes of talking about the area and the trail, he introduced himself to me by name and said it was nice to meet me…on a hike out on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Welcome to Utah.
We parted ways and I continued on my morning hike. I soon found the first reservoir the man had mentioned and took the easternmost trail that skirted the lake and was up against the gaining mountain. I sloshed through the soggy, rich black earth and new grass and then found the dirt and rocky trail that led off and into the forested heights onto and along the mountain.
As I marched up and down the trails and looked at the hills and mountains around me, always searching for a good spot for a photo, I thought about my life and family and choices and preparations and how I would share with my Little One how to find the words to describe his feelings when he was alone or amazed or overwhelmed by whatever life was bringing him.
I thought about perspective and problems and turmoil and how the squirrels left behind a pile of shredded leaves and husks after they got the seeds out of a pine-cone. I pondered the folding of the mountains into cups and ridges and rocky slabbed sides on their ever reaching heights. I thought about pleasures in life that remain and don’t, about what today is and has been in the past several years, and about what the future holds for me and my family. I thought of those words again that I’d share with my Little One that come from the core of our being and know pain and suffering and joy like the heights of these mountains, of a close communing with the heart of a loved one, and the peace that comes sometimes when looking out over mountain ranges that help define perspective.
And then I remembered the words of a friend of mine when he said, “Climb a beautiful mountain for me.” Here you are, Sir Byron. And thank you.
Yes, I Spoke of You
Yes, I spoke of you when the scratching of pen and the tapping of keys were my voice. I called on our histories and the unborn worlds that became ours when we became what we did in the friendships of our time, the friendships of our time in the workaday part of our lives, the part of our singular and collective existences that formed when we joined in that common purpose of answering the call and sending help as we did and then.
I did speak of you as I recalled the image of you standing on the flight deck of your floating city and felt the peace of your First-Mover in the Pacific sunset, as I recounted the shaded and glimmering crystals sent from that wayfaring soul to your shared and beloved tree-hugging figure-skater, my noble mariner friend with a heart reaching ever outward from your chosen desert home toward that “known region where nature’s god kisses and nurtures its inhabitants with a clean respect and calmness and ease of simpler life amid the beauty that consoles an aching heart.” I spoke of you when I shared those thoughts of hope and dreams and inspiration and risk and the cost of pursuing those things that rile and soothe the heart and soul, when I weighed the future against the present and sought determination and resolve, those words echoed in my mind about seeking the success in those things, for nobody sets out on a venture to fail, you said, they strive and make things happen in as much as they are able. Thank you, my friend. I spoke of you….
I spoke of you, too, who guided me in my learning, and told me to just say “10-4” when six-thirty-four-king told me that he was “ten-seventeen to six-hundred for one-oh-five with a ten-forty-two and had ten-thirty-one to complete before going ten-seven…” or something like that. “Roll Fire,” you said, “Do this, do that, stop thinking about what they said and just repeat it before I hit you with this parrot. Check your messages, answer the phone, type and talk and don’t say that number again or I’ll smack you, you know I will, and yes, you heard him correctly, clear for his sergeant like he asked, get a dog and the air-craft and send a message to the Radio supervisor and quit thinking, you do fine when you just do….” And, god, did I ever tell you “thank you?” Did I ever thank you for your mentoring that allowed me to achieve and advance and reflect again on life and responsibility and accountability for self and others? Did I ever tell you how you were there for me in the dark night of my soul, those rough days and long weeks of wondering and how? Thank you, dear friend, from my beating heart to yours.
We were and are members of a menagerie of faces and eyes and paths walked together and then, as we sat for hours and became part of each other’s existences, our forevers. Our friendship spilled-over one day, yours and mine, in the sharing of words, the sharing of a sentiment from an unexpected source. I looked at you in your hazel eyes and wondered at the depth of your question on that August day, those months and months after the changing of courses in your life and mine and others, too, our babies in a same and similar place with one left behind…and I wondered at the depth of your question, I did, when you said, “But how are You?” I was touched then as I am now, again. That was the drop that pushed this over. That was the day that I looked at you anew. Please thank your mom, again, my friend, for those Christmas cookies…and cheesecake…and you. Yes, I spoke of you.
And you, too, with the blueberry muffins on a Saturday morning in a frightening time where peace was found in words and phrases and reflections and then, I spoke of you.
I saw the end of a particular time drawing nigh and wondered why, in this passing life, that our various paths didn’t cross and intertwine outside of our workplace, why life was so busy and busy and we remained contextual friends. We never walked the back-nine together, never had that soda together on a Thursday afternoon that was the only afternoon in our uncommon weekend days, never traded mock and practiced blows in a dojo on your side of town, or met for coffee or pasta at your favorite north-side café…we never herded our collective mass of kids to a playground or park and watched the birds dart and dive in the light of the waning sun, never sat in our favorite bookstore over a cup of Joe, and never took the city’s train together to the museum or ballpark or…we remained as we were in the confines of our own gothic and cinder-blocked fortress of a workplace and laughed as we would laugh, poked fun and commiserated, and mourned our collective and individual losses that mounted in the passing years. There were rare hugs and frequent jabs, smiling barbs hurled with gentle hands and eyes that earnestly watched to make sure they weren’t too rough.
And time has passed as it does and will and we come to these moments that are fewer in number and falling down…and what didn’t happen didn’t and won’t, and distance will grow between us and our laughter will resound in our memories only, and sometimes they will be cut short by tightened throats and misty eyes and we will wonder at ourselves and each other and the falling sand. We will wonder how we might cherish the remaining moments so they will be sweeter in their detail in the tomorrow of our tomorrows where they will linger like a sweet perfume that is heady and strong in the first reckoning and then fails with the continued ticking of the clock…like a passion, hard and urgent, that wanes with a changing thought or an unexpected breeze.
I spoke of you, my preacher friend, when I wondered at the purpose of friendship, when I marveled at your tender father-soul and felt my own heart breaking in vicarious love for your grown baby who is fleeing in time with the clock’s wind, up and away from you. I cheered and cried for you and your quivering chin when you thought nobody was watching, and I relished in the magic of words and inspiration. I spoke of you when I understood that we are friends only because we are, and our spirits are made deeper by that connection and then, by that fibrous reaching across time and space and experience and lived lives and we are not so different and we are…as your gentle heart chastens and encourages me.
And I spoke of you on that November Sunday morning when “I was just sitting there reading something on the computer or studying the board to make the proper chess move and a friend walked in and gave me a Bavarian crème donut…and the smell was rich and beyond my morning grasp of words…rich sugary and warm with chocolate icing and then…wrapped in waxed paper and held with simple paper towels from the work kitchen dispenser…and it was so simple…so real…an emotion and a donut.” Those other moments we shared in heated conversation about things being right and not, about how contradictions flow with an inordinate ease in bureaucracies of might, and how one person gets something that another person can’t get and we have to be careful in our caring and our pressing that might go too far and your gentle innocence and quaking heart compelled me in new directions, caused different words to be uttered up a chain and out into the ether where they were wasted and gone and consoled nobody…and I tried…and spoke of you on a Sunday morning.
I spoke of you when sparked and fiery brands fell from the covered sky onto your tormented soul and the barbs sunk deep and your misery was wrought in twisted words from angered minds. My heart stumbled in memories of vermillion pathways and sought solace and strength in those hedges and byways. I spoke of you when I uttered that “Visible or imagined circumstances are mated with ill-conceived thoughts and a new ‘truth’ is born. It breathes with a life of its own, spread and passed-along as righteousness…contextual and circumstantial truths that reek in filth and deception until they are discovered and ripped apart with the knife of examination, eviscerated under the light of explanation and detail…but the damage is still done, the seed was planted and doubt has grown, sprouted and is thriving in another life with its germinal droppings carried by the wind of conversation and whispered in hushed tones of ‘Have you heard?’” So, I thought of you when I found the regal words from an uncivil time about how we forget the words of our enemies and remember the silence of our friends…so I spoke for you. And I wonder what glorious shades and rainbow hues will show forth on your wings as they unfurl from your chrysalis-like hideaway? What new spirit lives with resolve and unconcern for those dropping barbs and stumbling blocks of chatter and sway?
And now I speak of you, of one and all, named here or not, and reflect upon our unchangeable past and unknown futures, the beating of our hearts that separate and move in different directions now that things are done. I embrace you in my heart of hearts and thank you for enabling all of those other worlds to be born in mine, those multiple universes of thought and emotion that only came with your bidding, that only came with your bringing them to exist within me and the lives that we have shared. These words are few, yet weighted with a love and emotion that knows no name other than “friendship,” and I thank you for who and what you’ve been to me in our times passed and passing.
The Unsent Letter
I wanted you to know that I love you.
I wanted you to know that I still love you.
I wanted you to know that, even with everything that has happened between us, and even not between us, but between those others who we loved or love, that I still love you.
I wanted you to know that there is a piece of my life that is missing because you aren’t a part of it like you used to be.
I wanted you to know that even when my words have been infrequent or nonexistent, my heart still speaks; it still loves you and misses you.
I wanted you to know that even when you’re gone, I will still love you.
I wanted you to know that I will still love you when I’m gone, whenever and however that might happen, or whatever that might mean.
I wanted you to know that even though you’re gone, I still love you.
I wanted you to know that I haven’t taken you for granted.
I wanted you to know that I haven’t been uninterested in you and your life just because I haven’t asked you questions about you and your life…I was giving you space.
I wanted you to know that the others still ask about you, still think about you, still wonder about you.
I wanted you to know that it’s not too late.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I wasn’t what you needed me to be when you needed me to be different than I was.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t grow or change fast enough to make the difference that you needed me to make.
I wanted you to know that I was there when you thought I wasn’t, but I didn’t know how to make myself more known to you.
I wanted you to know that my anger was really sadness…or shame, but I didn’t know how to express it as such.
I wanted you to know that when I seemed to be distant and unconcerned, I was really hiding inside myself because I was hurting, too.
I wanted you to know that I never meant to hurt you…even though it appears that I didn’t try hard enough in meaning to not hurt you.
I wanted you to know that there were times that I was selfish and wasn’t thinking about you and others, and I’m sorry for being that way.
I wanted you to know that I know the past cannot be undone and that some things cannot be fixed.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I did what I did.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry that I hurt you when I said what I said and wrote what I wrote.
I wanted you to know that I will understand if you can’t forgive me, if you don’t forgive me, if you won’t forgive me.
I wanted you to know that I still love you.
I wanted you to know that what you did to the others hurts me, too, and I don’t know what to do about it.
I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you made yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year, I still love you.
I wanted you to know that regardless of the decisions you make right now, or tomorrow, I will still love you.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t protect you when I should have.
I wanted you to know that I’m sorry I didn’t speak-up for you when I should have.
I wanted you to know that I don’t expect you to be like everyone else; I love you for who you are.
I wanted you to know that I don’t like the distance that exists between us, the obstacles of time and place and not-talking and isolation that have grown like fences and rivers and mountains and dotted lines on maps…like boundaries that split and divide us.
I wanted you to know that I love you, still.
I passed around the block again today after dropping-off the little one at school, after I watched him walk over to where the morning line forms, place his backpack on the ground and then walk-wander out onto the playground obviously looking for someone to approach and greet for the day, offer something some comment or something and then begin his day with companionship or something…and there was nobody nearby so he ran further out into the playground with head and eyes up and still searching for a familiar face that would be welcoming of him and his morning presence…and he couldn’t find one…as he looked around and peered back at me across the way…looking for someone and finding none and looking at me or in my direction again…and there were no kids by me…and he walked about slowly, heading back to the line-up area and probably glad that the bell rang telling everyone to come in from the yard and get in their places on the concrete and line…and was it a relief? I don’t know. He’s alone inside himself and around others sometimes and a lot of times. It resonates with me, somehow. He was alone amidst dozens and more of kids, his peers, classmates, age-mates and then. I don’t know if he was lonely, though. I don’t know if he’ll be lonely for the three hours that he’s there today, as it’s early-release day…that thing that comes once a month and rescues him from the classroom and whatnot of being at school and around and among those that he doesn’t really relate to, somehow….he sees their faces but doesn’t entirely know what their expressions mean…he responds to their anecdotes by telling something of his own that may or may not have anything to do with what they were talking about…I have a helicopter. He’s in his gray-green hooded and furred parka with his Transformer’s backpack and his pocketed blue jeans and green and black Sketchers tennies that used to light-up when he walked or stamped his feet and his gray eyes search the bricks on the side of the school wall and I see his hooded self turn and talk to his teacher who is bending attentively to listen to him as she continues to look around, not like his teacher last year who would fix her eyes on and attend to only him or whomever when she was listening and talking to him or whomever, and I wondered what it meant this morning, did he start the exchange or did she? Is he telling her about “wouldn’t it be cool to find the sail-shaped spine bone thing from the back of a stegosaurus?” or something like that, or is it that today really is early-release so it’s ok that he doesn’t have a lunch today unlike last Thursday when I didn’t pack him one because the calendar from his teacher wrongly identified last Thursday as early-release and she had to call me on my cell as I was watching the time as I wandered through the book store so I could go get him and rescue him from the confines and duty of school when he really wanted to be home on his own computer or talking to his dog or asking for more taquitos and “Can I please watch Tom and Jerry and the Magic Ring because that’s what I always do when I’m eating taquitos.” He turned and looked for me again today as he was making that last round of a corner and into the school…and waved. He does that sometimes…not always…and I never know when he’s going to do it, so I always stay and watch until he’s inside and beyond my sight, or beyond where he can see me, just in case. It would be sad if he turned to wave goodbye and I wasn’t there. What would he think?
Questions about Love
How do you know that you’re loved? What tangible something can you label as being a sign or indication that someone loves you? Or is it not tangible? It’s a feeling, right? Is it that knowing or sensing what the other feels for you? Is it the comprehending of their appreciation, your importance, their need for you, what you know in your homecoming, what you sense in your going-away, or their homecoming or their going away? Is it real? How enduring is it? What things or events or forgetting or betrayals can damage that love beyond all repair or healing? How temporal is it? How can one/we say it will last forever? Will it be the same in its enduring? How will it change with the passing of days and months and years? How will the love of today resemble the love that you/one had a decade or more ago? What trials actually make it stronger or weaker? What little ‘nothings’ or ‘somethings’ will make it stronger? How does it fade when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it grow when there are no trials or challenges to it? How does it stay the same or remain constant when there are no trials or challenges to it? How do celebrations make it stronger? How does participating in others’ love make yours stronger? How does participating in a second love make your primary love stronger or weaker? How does loving your spouse make your love for your children stronger? How does your parents’ display of love make your own love stronger, both as a spouse and as a parent? Does an atheist sense and feel love the same way as someone who believes in God, or a god? Does an atheist sense or feel love more on a gut or human level and a believer more on a supernatural level? Does a Christian experience love the same was a Muslim does, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Jew, or a believer of any other religion or belief-system? If a Christian and an atheist fall in love with each other, does the Christian love the atheist more than the atheist loves the Christian? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker? Does the love of a potential God make any and all of your loves stronger or weaker than the loves that you would experience if God didn’t/doesn’t exist? How does the possibility of suffering in Hell make one’s love for God stronger? How do you actually ‘love’ a god who threatens you with an eternity of suffering in Hell if you choose not to believe in and ‘love’ him/her/it? How do we choose to believe or love? We can decide to be ‘committed’ to someone or something, but how do we decide to actually ‘love’ someone or something? Doesn’t love either happen or it doesn’t? If one has a poor relationship with one’s parents, or father in particular, how does that really affect one’s ability or willingness to accept and love a potential heavenly father? How do you know when your parents love you? How can you tell that your mother, mom, mommy, or ma loves you? How can you tell that your father, dad, daddy, papa, or pa loves you? And your siblings, how can you feel their love? If you’ve been estranged or moderately distant from your siblings for the majority or entirety of your adult life, do you really still love them? Do they really still love you? You don’t know each other, so how can you say that you ‘love’ each other? Does having a shared set of parents and childhood mean that you’re ‘supposed’ to love each other? What does it mean if you don’t ‘feel’ that love? Is the love you might/do feel from your siblings different than the love you might/do feel from your best friend? Is the love you feel from your siblings different than the love you feel from your best female or male friend, when you’re a male, or when you’re a female? Do you feel love differently when you’re a guy or a girl? Isn’t infatuation really the same as love? Can love grow out of infatuation if it’s not the same thing? Can love grow out of hate? Is there really, or actually a fine line between love and hate? Are they actually so closely related emotionally? Do you feel love differently when you’re a man or a woman? Do you feel your mom’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your father’s love greater when you’re a boy child or a girl child? Do you feel your mom’s love more than you feel your dad’s? When you’re an adult, do you still feel the love that you might have felt as a child from your parents as strongly as you did when you where younger? How do your adult experiences as a parent affect the love that you remember feeling for your parents when you were a child? How do your adult feelings of love for your parents affect the love that you have for your young or adult children? Do we dare love our in-laws in the same way or more than our own parents? Is it ever okay to identify more with them than with our own parents, or is that a betrayal? If we think we love our in-laws more than we love our own parents, does that say more about ourselves or about our parents? What if we can’t stand our spouse’s parents? What if we can’t imagine how they could possibly love their parents? How do you measure the love that your spouse says they have for their parents against the strength of love that they say they have for you? How do we claim to ‘love’ people when we don’t really like them? How can we say that we actually love someone when we don’t like them? How can we not like someone when we say that we actually love them? Is it even possible to love someone if we don’t like them? Is love like belief? Do we love the idea of love without actually loving the way some people believe in belief without actually believing? Is it possible to love someone without them knowing that we love them? Or, can we love them without letting them know? Is it possible to be loved or to feel loved without knowing who’s actually loving you? Rather, do we feel or know it if someone loves us but leaves no outward indication of that love? Does love leave a mark or a track somehow? Is there some type of electromagnetically-spiritually-staticky-kind-of-powersurge-kind-of-chemical-something-or-other that one can sense or know when in the presence of someone who loves them? When we ‘feel’ that someone loves us, what are we actually feeling? Is it love or desire or lust or infatuation or like or compassion or similarity or dependency or co-dependency or co-survivorship or co-spirituality or oneness? Is it possible to be co-spiritual or ‘one’ with someone and not love them or be loved by them? Can you share ‘soul-mate’ status with someone and not love them or be loved by them? If you love your same-gendered soul-mate does that mean
you’re gay? Do gay people love as intensely or as deeply as straight people? If you’re straight and come to love a person who is gay, does that make you gay, too? Isn’t it possible to want someone so strongly, or intensely, physically that we think we love them? Or isn’t it possible to be so intensely wanted by someone physically that we think they love us? If someone treats us like shit, how can we still love them? If someone kills, abuses, or treats our child or children poorly, how can we still love them? How can we even like them? Does a parent who leaves with their children to prevent/stop physical or emotional abuse of themselves and/or their children by their spouse/partner love their children more than the parent who doesn’t leave to prevent/stop the same abuse by their spouse/partner? Will the children of the parent who left with them love more strongly than the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? Will the children of the parent who left with them love their parent more strongly than do the children of the parent who didn’t leave with their children? If we were abused or neglected as children and missed-out on something like ‘true-parental-love,’ is our measure of any kind of love ever accurate following our childhoods, or will it only be experienced in the extremes? Do foster children love the same way biological children love? Does a foster child who gets adopted feel love the same way a biological child feels love? Does a foster child who ages-out (turns 18yo) of the system without having been adopted understand love the same way another foster child does who did get adopted? Will the love of the aged-out foster child be as strong or as enduring as it would have been if they had been adopted at some time? Do the adoptive parents love the adopted child the same way they love their biological children? Do adopted children love their adoptive parents more than their adoptive parents’ biological children love them? Do people who cannot reproduce biologically and adopt children love their adopted children the same way parents do who were able to biologically reproduce? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they love one of their children more or less than they love another or the rest of their children? Should parents admit, even to themselves, that they like one of their children more or less than they like another or the rest of their children? If we had a crappy childhood, but had a dog or cat that we loved and felt loved by, will that pet-love be a reliable or appropriate measure to compare other non-pet loves to if and when they occur? If we had a relationship that started with both of us ‘loving’ the other and things went sour along the line somewhere and our love came to nothing or came to be something so far removed from what we had at first understood to be love, how does that tainted ‘love’ effect any subsequent loves that we might come to know? Will the subsequent love be more real or pure than the first one was, even though, at its inception, that other love was understood to be real and pure? Do we measure our friends’ love for us against what we know of love as a child or as a sibling? When there are social power differentials between the people in a relationship, does one actually love the other more? Does the lesser-powered person love the higher-powered person more than the reverse? Is this like a child-parent love, but twisted somehow into whatever it is? Does a preacher love his congregation more than the members of his congregation love him? Does a child love a teacher more than the teacher loves the child? Does a priest love God more than his God loves him? Does God love Satan and his fallen angels? Do Satan and his fallen angels actually love anybody? Can an evil person love other people? Can an evil person feel love from another person? Do the answers to these two questions depend on the definition of this particular ‘evil’ and the context in which it exists? Did Hitler actually love anybody? Did he sense Eva Braun’s love for him? Did she actually ‘love’ him? Did she know everything about him and still love him? Did the serial-killer ‘Son of Sam’ actually love someone? Did he sense anyone’s love for him? While a psychopath doesn’t or can’t empathize with others, are they capable of sensing love for themselves? Did Adam love Eve even though he didn’t get to choose her? Did Eve love Adam even though she was formed or brought to substance from one of his ribs…and didn’t get to choose him as her mate? Did Adam and Eve still love Cain after he killed his brother, Abel? Did Cain and Abel love their wives the same way Adam loved their mother, Eve? (Don’t ask me where Cain and Abel got their wives; that’s another essay.) Did Adam and Eve love God, even after he had them chased out of the Garden of Eden? When our babies look at us while they’re nursing or being fed a bottle, can we know their love for us when we’re looking into their eyes? Are they capable of loving us or knowing that we love them…or is this pre-verbal state or place where love actually begins and is undefined and is pure and has no measure? If Abraham really loved his son, how could he put him on the altar and be prepared to sacrifice him for God? Is it right to love God more than we love our children? Is it right to follow the rules that our church has established, to love our church, more than we love our children? If our church tells us to stop ‘fellowshipping’ with our child because they no longer believe the things that the church teaches, should we choose our church over our child? Does love allow us to dis-fellowship our children, or should this be a sign that we should dis-fellowship our church from ourselves because we love our children more? Would God’s love for Himself demand that we turn our backs on the children we love if they no longer love or believe in Him? Does God still love a person who was brought-up in the church and got ‘saved’ when he/she was a child, and then reaffirmed his/her love for God and rededicated himself/herself to God and his service when he/she was an adult and then slowly came to doubt and no longer believe in God and His word, but instead believes that the notion of God/god is a myth, does God, if He really does exist, still love that person? And does God, if He exists, love that person as much as He loves a person who never questioned or doubted His existence, but lived and ‘loved’ Him faithfully? Do Christian parents love their Christian children more or less or the same as they love their atheist children? If we perceive that we are loved by a certain person, but that person doesn’t actually love us, are we still loved because we perceive or feel that we are loved by them? And if someone actually does love us but we perceive that they don’t, are we still loved? Does a person who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which wasn’t horrible, love the person as much as someone else who loves another person in spite of knowing the worst thing about them, which was
horrible? Does a serial-killer’s mom love her serial-killer son as much as another mom loves her son who isn’t a serial killer? Should a serial-killer’s mom still love him? Should anybody still love him? Does he deserve love? Given that people often don’t get what they deserve and just as often get things that they don’t deserve, should the serial-killer be loved? Should/does Jesus still love the serial-killer? Should God forgive the serial-killer? Should/does Jesus still love people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Should God forgive that person who murdered his girlfriend’s children? Was Jesus’ blood shed to wash-away the sins of serial-killers and people who murder their girlfriend’s children? Really? Is that the ultimate in love, to be God/Jesus and have your blood shed, or to give your life to wash-away the sins of people who have done absolutely horrible and disgusting things and that if they believe in you and the cleansing power of your love, they will be forgiven and join you and the other believers in your eternal heaven or paradise? Really? Does the horrible sinner who has a lot to be forgiven love God more than the average sinner who has only an average amount of sin to be forgiven? And does that super-sinner then know or sense a greater love from God than the average sinner? Does God love the super-sinner more than He loves the average sinner, given that He’s forgiven/forgiving more of the super-sinner’s transgressions? Does God love the prodigal more than He loves the one who never left? If you fell in love with someone forty years ago and then split apart and married someone else, and that someone else died or left you somehow and you reconnected again with that first someone with whom you had fallen in love and fell in love again, would this second ‘being in love’ be as strong as it was those forty years ago? Would this second time really even be falling in love, or would it be falling in love with the totality of the memory of having earlier fallen in love? Does a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, experience a different intensity of love than he did before he went to war? Do the children of a soldier returning from a war in which he killed people, up close or from afar, love him/her as intensely as children love their soldier parent who didn’t go to war or aren’t soldiers? Do prostitutes love their children less than people who are not prostitutes love their children? Do prostitutes who later get married experience a different intensity of love than do people who were never prostitutes and get married? Does marrying someone mean that you love them more than if you didn’t marry them but lived with them for the rest of your life? Do parents of an only-child love their child more than parents who have multiple children? Does an only-child love his/her parents with a greater intensity than do children from multiple-child families? Does an only-child love his friends more or less intensely than do children from multiple-child families? Does an adult who was an only-child love his children any differently than a parent does who came from a multiple-child family? Do only-children feel cheated by their parents from experiencing sibling-love? Do single-sons feel cheated by their parents from experiencing true brotherly love, or do single-daughters feel cheated from experiencing true sisterly love? Is love the same to me as it is to you? Does my feeling of love feel the same as your feeling of love? Can I know love the same way that you can know love? Will or does the list of questions about love ever end?