Christmas Ever After

Just because I don’t expect people to find silver linings doesn’t mean I don’t have faith that we are here for a purpose.  Mainly, I think, to be good to each other and kind in whatever little ways we can manage.  And yes, to forgive – beginning with ourselves.

Santa came early, and the joy of hearing your voices was an ordinary miracle that I can barely reckon – a kerplunk of love expanding toward a more spacious shoreline, as wide as your smile, always opening my heart.

Your voices, your love.  Miracles enough for me.  This is what I wished for.

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Flowers on Sunday Before Christmas

Yesterday there was a little sliver of dawn at the horizon.  But I am always cautious when that edge begins to appear.  Aware the inky turbulence of heavy rain still looms ahead – a long way to go before you see any more of the road than the amber pinspot of headlights.

Why it feels so good to me to fuss with these flowers, I honestly don’t know.  I worried this week that the lingering bruises of disappointment and my bone-dry fuel tank might have left me stranded somewhere even petals couldn’t find me.

Miraculously, though, the magic held.  It still rained like hell for a while – but somehow I stayed on the road.  I can’t say it any clearer than these pictures – what I can’t stop hoping for, even though I feel hopeless.  It comes back again and again: the urge to open and yield to the unforeseeable, no matter what has gone before.  That was my miracle today.

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Flowers on Sunday from Django

I’ve been listening to the Mills Brother this week – which turns out to be a pretty good way to trick Pandora into playing Django Reinhardt.  That relaxed guitar, pulsing across the darkness, as each note slithers off to finds its companion.  Confident, effortless, brash.  Phrased right to the precarious edge, like driving into a steep curve a little too fast.  The Mills Brothers, on the other hand, glide so smoothly along the precipice, you barely notice how close you are to sailing into oblivion in their luxury saloon.

This was just a terrible, terrible week – though I know yours was far worse.  My container broke, and that’s a fact.  It was something little, but so arbitrary and unnecessary – like all the worst things that find the place you didn’t realize was exposed.  We don’t do silver linings on this blog, so if you want me to cheer you up, well – you are doomed to be disappointed with this particular ramble through my mind.

The best song I heard was one we sang growing up – “The Glory of Love.”  And another one that completely fits the world right now – “Til Then.”  And, “Nevertheless,” which is just true.  I don’t want to hope right now.  I just want to know that I am not alone.  And – when the world is through with us, we’ve got each other’s arms.

I’m putting them on the Playlist page.  You’re welcome to listen.

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Flowers on Sunday in the Winter Light

I had to buy a new camera – well, as new as a seven year old camera can be.  This new camera loves me, and I love it.  We get along so very well.  Just as soon as I say, “Oh, look at this!” it replies, “Yes, indeed!” and off we go.

Usually I try to have something to write you on Sunday night, but the only thing I want tonight is the Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (or, as I thought of it at age 8 or so – the Bologna Club).  So while Lord Peter figures out who put the digitalis in the old general’s brandy (not making this up), I’m going to let Hal Borland speak for me, in a voice I don’t have the heart to find in myself without his gentle light:

No night, not even the Winter night, is quite as dark and silent as it seems.  Go out and accept the night on its own terms, even now, and it takes on new or long-forgotten meaning.  Walk a country road and you can see as well as feel the Winter night, light and alive in its own proportions.

Starlight is strangely brilliant, once you accept it.  The whole sky has its own glow, which silhouettes the trees and the hills.  It comes to life on a slope of frost-bronzed grass.  It is reflected from the frosty trunks of the birches.  It is magnified in the roadside pond, ice-silvered to mirror sheen.  It almost gleams from a rooftop, and it is reflected from a darkened window.  It is a cold, distant light, yet it is light that marks a path through the woods and gives shape and form to the roadside walls and rocky banks.

And though the insects are gone, the night is not silent.  No fox may bark, no owl hoot, and yet the night is alive with sound and movement.  The subtle movement and the infinitely varied voices of the wind.  A leaf scuffs along the road.  An oak tree, not yet completely naked, rustles crisply.  The grasses sigh.  There is the soft, intermittent whisper in the high tops of the elms.  And the towering hemlocks murmur among themselves with a voice quite different from that of whispering pines.

You walk, and you see and you hear, and it is ancient knowledge re-remembered.  No night is quite so dark as it seems, once you explore it; no night is without its familiar voices, once you are prepared to listen.

Hal Borland
December 2, 1951, New York Times
Collected in Sundial of the Seasons (Lippincott 1964)

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Flowers on Sunday Until Then

The shutter failed on the camera this afternoon, so for now the flowers I bought today are for my personal edification only.  I found some real beauties this week – new shapes to wonder at and get to know.  Pink-shelled calla lilies, thistles topped with puffs of golden orange needles, and olive twigs still bending to the wind they grew in, all plunked together with twists of alstroemeria and the dark-eyed punch of sunflowers.  The tea pot and white pitcher are full, and the tarnished Hilton coffee pot found its place, too.

I treated myself to Monday off, and I’m just starting to feel like myself again.  Most days, I’m just enduring what needs to be handled, accommodated or ignored.  Deep concerns are pressed to the edges, holding on Until.  Until there’s a little more quiet, and the patient time to listen.  And the expectation of forgiveness.  This all requires a certain ration of nothing to do.

The stakes have been so high for so many months – and no way to calculate the phantom losses that loom over the days and years to come.  I was thinking I had a choice to make – to let go and move forward, or be anchored to a truth I can’t look away from.  But I remember now.  That’s not the way this goes.  Grief is the companion, and you can’t sneak away from it while its back is turned.  Grief holds the compass to its own mysterious, shifting terrain.  The only way through that I know, to find a truth I can live with from what’s happened – and to let the truth change with time.

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Thanksgiving Day

My word people like the pictures.  My picture people like the words.
I’m thankful for both. Words and pictures, show and tell.  You can read and see the story, although it takes some time, and the ending is always the same. To hope, wait for faith.  I’m thankful for you, more than I can show or tell.

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Flowers on Sunday Before Thanksgiving

I did make some gingerbread this weekend – the first thing I’ve baked since about this time last year.  I baked a treat for work then – Bisquick coffee cake in mini-bundt molds.  They were adorable, and I kept the pan just in case.

The recipe turned out ok.  A little dry, but the ginger and molasses were in the right place, and the batter darkened perfectly from peanut-butter brown to rich, dark chocolate.  A dozen little scalloped cakes will last me about 3 weeks.

I’ve been waiting to eat gingerbread for a long time.  It’s one of the few desserts I actually miss.  The gingerbread we grew up on is long since gone – a 29 cent Jiffy mix, relegated to the bottom shelf for bargain brands and the people who buy them. I remember the burst of sweet spice when we opened the small, blue and white box. The ribbons of cinnamon colored batter slurping into the pastel papers that lined the cupcake pan, the endless 20 minutes while they baked, the eternity while the muffins cooled enough to eat. And the tender, dense sponge dissolving its peppery molasses into ice-cold milk or warm tea. Maybe we were watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus while we ate – or maybe it was Carol Burnett.

So, yes – this was the week.  The week I finally needed to reach back – way far back – and re-occupy some moment of unalloyed pleasure and safety.  A burst of sweetness from a 29 cent cake mix, ginger and cinnamon blooming in the oven, while you stand in the kitchen waiting – and lick the streaks of batter from the bowl.

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Flowers on Sunday in the Window

I guess it is obvious I take these pictures where I live.  Here’s the window over here; my lady-like chintz arm chair over there.  I eat here and work here.  In the dark early hours of Saturday morning, I curled up here and cried – and fell asleep for a while, until I was ready to climb back into bed and dream.

The window is large and bright, but there’s a limit to how much light I can wring out of gloomy skies. So, if you look close, some petals are softer and darker than maybe they should be.  But it doesn’t matter very much to me.  These fragments of time are just about us looking at something together.  Grocery store flowers turning towards each other like a flock of red and yellow birds, flashing their bellies as they disperse into darker branches.  You can see it for yourself in the window light, and know that it’s true.

The worst things happen.  People leave us here without them, and time becomes heavy and real, like shoes made of lead.  The hard part is how ordinary things are still waiting for us. The empty chair persists, but so does the window light.  Somehow, someday, they start to co-exist.  But not yet.  Not today.

 

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Flowers on Sunday Together

The world ends so abruptly.  Suddenly, gravity is palpable, pinning you here, when the only answer you can think of is, No.  No.

Each instance is so particular, no one else’s history is much help.  But we stand here nonetheless, in the spot where gravity left us stranded as well, made us softer – stretched us out until there was another day, and another and another.

Our home ran on tea, brewed in a big brown pot, speckled with red and turquoise buds, with golden vines and leaves trailing between the dots.  Brewed so dark – black as a stepmother’s heart our friend Linda used to say.  For a while, I was buying the same teapot whenever I found a small one.  Their round, brown bellies filled me with memories of certainty and ordinary days.  Maybe all the answers went with the big teapot, wherever it ended up.

I think Marv and Barbara would know what to say – so you would know how dearly they loved you.  I love you, too.

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Flowers on Sunday with Tea

I did a few little things for you today.  Braved the yuppies to buy pumpernickel at Whole Foods.  Ordered some socks for decadent feet (not mine, but someone you would like, who stands all day at work.)  Made tea after dinner, because you can’t start talking without tea.  Coffee is fine for thinking and doing.  But the teapot pours forth amber poetry by the mugful, biting your tongue with tannins, leaving traces of baked sugar behind.  If you want to talk until long after midnight, it’s tea you need.

Now I know why I’ve been craving tea in the morning.  You’re here for a few days, aren’t you?  Oh boy, I miss you plenty – but you know that’s hard for me to show.  So much of me is modeled on the person I thought you were, that sometimes it’s like you’ve never really gone.  Unless I think about it.

We’re in the middle of a really bad storm, and also – there are zombies.  Getting through it – I know you’d say – that’s the easy part.  It’s the after when I could use you, so please – hang around, ok?  Because after all this, it’s us who will have to be the solid ones.  And I really don’t know how to do that.

The pumpernickel was good – dense and chewy, spread thick with butter.  Apple slices and cheese, too, for dessert.  But drinking tea with you, that was the best. I was going to ask for your intercession, but there’s only one thing I really want. Hang around a little while longer, will you?

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