Begin Again

at each day’s sunrise

little red boy comes to dine

begin again now


The pc sits in front of a window, covered by miniblinds with one crooked piece, right at eye level.  Three feet away, through the window lies another world off the patio, in the brush.  It is a natural space, maintained by landscapers-though they seem indifferent to the human trash that blows around; the water bottles, plastic trim from windows, broken glass, bags.  The couple hundred feet of native trees and cacti are watered by drip irrigation, occasionally visible under the layer of dirt and noted by the wet puddles twice a day.  The birds don’t mind the communal bathing and sipping.

I had been hoping for more variety in the birds that would come around since we moved here a year ago.  I was leaving out kitchen scraps and the seeds of vegetables and fruits, but mostly attracting bunnies and big birds that I know,now, are Thrashers.  They are bullish and brave.  And voracious.  Sometimes, they tap on the sliding patio door, complaining of late offerings.  Last week, I decided to buy the $5.00 bag of wild bird seed at the grocery store, thinking those birds would be happy and that I might get lucky and see some smaller birds. There’s some activity and peeping from a low mesquite tree on the east side of the building. I would hear the rustling and chatter on my walks around the parking lot waiting for the school bus to arrive.  One day this week, I heard the same chatter out the window and set the blinds to spy, without being seen by the new visitors.

It’s hard not to give them personalities and names.  It’s like my private, little Downton Abbey.  Showtime will shift as the sun comes up earlier. I’ll have to make an effort to take time to appreciate this little theater when it is going on.  I am sure there is a lesson to be learned (for me) about the beginnings of a day.  I’m in my 50s now, you wouldn’t think I need to learn this, but it seems I do.  I also think there is something to be had about the opportunity to take advantage of these little vignettes in life, to start something new, add a little something, just to ensure I keep going.

This is my year of new beginnings, of adding little things, of flexibility and compromise… little ways, not big promises and no dashed expectations.


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When Less Is Not Really More, or Enough.

There is a lot to be said for cleaning out the clutter by the time you reach a certain point in your life.  Maybe about the time all of your kids have flown the nest. Maybe you made a big career adjustment, pared back to protect your spare time and the much needed periods of rest and retreat.  Perhaps you have encountered a big, ugly health crisis and leaning towards minimalism was inevitable anyway.

Whatever sent you down that path….selling off the big pieces of furniture and making a choice to do well with less….every now and then comes a realization:

Shit, I needed that ______________.

We can’t host a birthday party in this 1000 square foot apartment.

No way can we do Thanksgiving here, we have 4 glasses.

Nuts, that step ladder isn’t ours anymore.

We can’t go to the charity gala we were gifted tickets to, because our “evening wear” went with all the extras we were willing to live without.

Seems our quest for living with less was rudely interrupted by how much it would cost to scramble and make that happen. We are left with two thoughts. One is that stuff and access to stuff separates people in this world. The other is that choices present unintended outcomes, sometimes not immediately realized.

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The View From Where You Are

Mountains seem so far away as you are driving across a valley. Every mile reveals a new perspective and then a thousand more, with each bend in the road. The clouds are never the same, trees obscure your full view, and colors come to life as you travel nearer to the mountain that stood still while you moved.

From a distance, the mountains beyond are visible. Your final destination a mere plot on a map.  Signs indicate how far you must journey until you reach the named spot. The closer you get, the terrain’s secrets appear.  From afar, the colors blend into lush reflections of light from an endless sky. With the earth’s interior pushed up against gravity, rising, allowing the inevitable gawking and use of destination. There, where surfaces will change daily and where light will present a different scene and depending on the behavior of humanity, it can exist in perfect harmony with all that meets its boundaries.

So is the journey with cancer. The destination set for cure. Each bend, every possible obstacle vying to obscure your view along the way. Your course set, bags packed with commitment and strength you aren’t sure where you found. Timelines will reveal where you’ve been. Notes will remind you what was cause for fear. Photographs will detail the you, before cancer. If you are a repeat traveler, you have pocketed a journal full of medical terms,unproven myths, and known effects….tools you unknowingly packed, just in case.

Today we came close to the mountain, stared at the craggy sides of the rocks.  Watched the sun laze over and reveal open spaces where once were dense, heavy hills. It’s been a long haul this past year since the diagnosis. Much of what is difficult to process is still quite fresh, evident in the pain that occurs in my stomach when I find myself in a hallway on the ICU floor. The days I stood in between the very real fear of losing life and by mere inches, finding a warrior inside to face a very long journey to a cure.

Today we learned the difference between the care and treatment of cancer with insurance and the alternative. The details stand to only offer a reality check. We peeked around the mountain, to the other side, just to see what might lie ahead…..just in case we are sent to travel that way, instead of this. We found the rocky, unimproved road of care with Medicaid. We heard the disappointing clunk and graveled roadside stop.

It will be our job to pack up dignity and sandwiches. There will not be time to stop and search the skies for explanations, that time is now. We have garments of iron, strong as the will to live.

We will always have far off skies.

And you will always know where to find us….at the bottom of that mountain.

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What She Saw

What she said.

She was right.

She didn’t have to see me, didn’t need to stare at my fraying edges through the steam off her cup.

How long can a person go on tripping over stones and bumping into things?

I keep myself knitted together.

Tough as nails.

Tongue in groove.

Like so many staples on a corner pole.

Somewhere underneath all that crumbling armor, buried not so deep and bearing little resemblance to the shape of a girl. There are pieces of me in a terrible state of disarray.

Once in a while, there comes a wind that howls over me. Keeps me from sleeping and wafts the smells I remember but can’t quite name. Faces I can’t call to. Places I would rather be.

She brings me a warning to look up, there’s a train coming on this track.

She was right.

She didn’t need to see me.

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Living What You Can’t Imagine

There they go, those people with their dramatic events.

Those lives that hug the leaf stained curbs,

that read like so many novels written with drunken pens at the beach.

You, with your delights and endless adventures.  The excursions, the lengthy automatic replay of giggling and seeing puppies in clouds where bombs once flew.

Under the last firefly of summer,

Before the wet leaves of October,

with crayons instead of fingers and your neighbor’s excess zuchinni harvest where your guts should be.

There, in the sparkling stream – for the few moments that its brilliance lights up the night, you swear to a life different from your own.  No more leaving candor at the door.  Drag it all along with you to every moment for all of the pretend hours you have left.  Living in an imaginary time frame, a deadline only for the most pious and true. For only those that can adhere to a philosophy and beg stars to fall for them.

And what if? What if you knew? What if you could imagine the rest of your days and assemble your character… the person you now think you should be.

There would appear a flaw large enough to crack the universe in two.

Can you not just live the life you have? Be brave enough to claim what you know, not what could be?  Your character is as tightly woven as it can be and a life imagined does not appear as colored threads against the pale pattern.

It is just that…..imagined.

Stop imagining you are dying and live before you leave.

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Mall Walk and Roll

The days in the desert Southwest can get long.  The heat of the summer sun is absorbed into every block that forms fencing here.  The asphalt behaves like a sponge and spends the night hours releasing heat into the atmosphere.  Everyone needs to get out and walk. Everyone in this house certainly does. We don’t tend to be creatures of habit and the need to change things up is strong around here. Thinking about getting enough walking steps in to feed husband’s pedometer is a challenge.  Walking a mall seems like a good idea.  The environment is controlled, relatively safe, free of obstacles and there’s a food court to end it all. We each have our own needs and challenges going to the mall.  I’ll speak for my own, thanks.

I hate heights.  I also hate the consumerism that drips off the walls in a mall.  I have a serious aversion to the constant eye contact by strangers as they walk past me.  Here we are, this motley crew……one of us is in a wheelchair, wretching and drooling and enjoying the heck out of every bumpy tile and the elevator rides.  One other of us is clearly a cancer patient, hairless, thin, a little wonky in his brand new Chuck Taylors. One of us wears a hijab.  And me, I am doing my best to cling to the inner wall and avoid the view of the edge of the walking space that plummets to the ground 15 feet below.  There are a lot of perfectly normal people walking the mall.  Not shopping, like really walking.  Talking with their walking buddy and annoyed that I am walking against their path and hogging up the space against the display windows.  We passed some of them more than once.  I got more annoying to them each time.  My pace wasn’t satisfying anyone in my group.  I wasn’t keeping up and my only distraction was the size 0 couture in the windows.  “Dang, those shoes are high.  Holy crap, where’s that model’s pubic bone? No one wants to see butt cheeks! Why is that blouse $95.00?? Is that a Belgian Waffle stand?? Why do I keep seeing people falling over the edge of that glass wall in my little theater mind?”   Can you see how hard mall walking is for me? I abandoned them in front of the Hollister store and made a beeline back to the food court. It gave me a chance to sit and watch, which is different from walking and watching. There’s nothing mindless about public spaces to me  So many faces to greet, configurations of families, languages, smells, behaviors. I write book after book in my mind.  Make lists of what I see happening.  As my mind settles, I remember that shopping malls are a mecca for special needs groups…whether the social/agency built kind or the family style kind. My guess is that most wouldn’t think WE are a family…there isn’t a whole lot visually to make us look alike.  Our interaction might, but one would have to pay close attention.  The wheelchair gathers a lot of attention and curiously, it garners interaction from others with crutches and walkers the most. Finishing our Greek salad and fries, the young lady (and I assume, her caregiver) stopped to ask, “How old are you?” She got a gaping stare in return. “She’s almost 15.  This is Addie”, we answer on her behalf. “Can she walk?” “Nooooooo.”  Her caregiver motioned for her to keep moving.  That felt like a very incomplete interaction. We all recited “bye!” as she walked away.

Disabled young folk have the privilege of asking those kinds of questions and are entitled to respect when it comes to an answer. I welcome conversation. A question about Addie’s disability is far more socially normal than staring and telling children not to glare. Children naturally would like to know what’s going on. Why doesn’t she walk? They often want to know if it’s because she doesn’t want to. Was there an accident, they demand details. I usually start with her name.  She has a name.  I give them the short answer….No, she doesn’t walk with her legs, but her wheelchair helps her so she can go places.  Yes, she goes to school, like you. (Antecdotal evidence to me that the typical kids are NOT interacting with special needs kids in the average school….otherwise, they would have some social ground rules down pat…..”Hi, I’m Bobby. I go to ______school. I have friends there in wheelchairs, too. Do you like Sponge Bob? I’m getting ice cream.  Bye.”)

Today we are walking at Good Will.  It should be better for me, anyway.

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I May Need a Moment

I looked back, in as many ways as I could –
studied the way the the world looked with you there,
the way you were, the way I was, the way the wind blew.

I noticed it then, the smell still lingers.
All that anguish and love, poking out from everywhere.
Walking around with precious things in pitch black darkness.

All I had then, was all I have now.
I couldn’t give it away, It wouldn’t let me go.
You couldn’t accept any part of me as I was then, you certainly
wouldn’t now.

Rough ground demands shoes, hard rain requires shelter –
It’s been a tough time, I may need a moment.
Not yours, this time. I brought my own.

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