Flowers on Sunday Go On

November is here; a month the color of ghosts.  Vibrant gold ginko leaves, silver strands of grass, the improbable red of ornamental maples, as incandescent as maraschino cherries.  All these remnants of life lived this summer, the sum of preceding summers brought forward in thick roots and pulsing inner channels – sap, bark and woody pulp.  Not empty husks, these ghosts – but brilliant infernos of nourishment and light that have ebbed away.

I have to start something over, just when all the world is drawing in on itself to rest.  Start over with home.  Start over with love.  Start from up here in the windiest branches, clinging like a leaf that wouldn’t shake loose, where another species of ghosts blow frosty, invisible currents.  These slender limbs are connected to the roots – but those anchors feel very far away.

You understand, don’t you?  I let myself hope for things I know are beyond my grasp.  For love and desire.  For a home.  Hope even for those things, together.  All those brilliant colors, the last remnants of what I wanted to find, something I mislaid summers and summers ago.  But you can’t add the leaves back to the trees, and you can’t cling to the wind-lashed branches, waiting to fly.  You have to climb down.  Go deeper into the woods.  Gather kindling, and light a fire – and start to sing the song the ghosts taught you, calling your companions.

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Flowers on Sunday So Far

Take a bowl of sunflowers, for instance.  Easier to imagine than to see.  Seeing asks so many tedious questions of what is and what isn’t.  Imagination has no such concerns – and rightly so.  Somewhere in the dark of uncertainty, seeing and imagination haggle out a third reality that neither quite anticipated.  And you might not know the deal has been struck until much later.  You won’t always recognize it when it happens.

I seem to be on more solid ground – but barely so.  My sad little one is right here at my elbow, and we won’t insist on too much cheerfulness or optimism.  But we won’t ask too many questions, either, about the quiet peace that arrived with Sunday night, clearing all the flowers away and fixing supper.

We’ll just say, “Phew.  That was really something, wasn’t it?  You did your best.  I’m proud of you.”  And see what comes tomorrow.

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Flowers on Sunday with You

As it happened, my friend stopped by unexpectedly to see how the couch looked in the kitchen.  It looks very sweet, you know.  I put a rough patchwork quilt over the tasteful oatmeal upholstery, so now it is covered in practical bits and pieces that are somehow entirely lovely together.  “I’m in the best spot,” she said as she settled in.  This couch is a hand me down from the estate of another friend, and now a warm, familiar place to continue the conversation.

I put out bowls of the dark, brothy zharkoye, and arranged the pumpernickel I bought for you on a plate with butter and cheddar and pears.  I made tea, and drank enough white wine to find myself telling a story I had been keeping to myself so as not to worry this friend.  I described the garbage disposal clogged with rice; the race to buy a mop and plunger at 10:00 pm on a Saturday night; the rusted out cast iron pipe leaking from water from both drains; the Monday Miracle of the plumber fixing it all.  And by now, to my relief, we both thought the entire escapade was pretty funny.

I’ve been crying all week, and I’m wrung out.  I was crying even this morning.  You’ve never been more absent and missed than you are now – and yet, somehow, still here.  It was a mitzvah that she came over, one of my Chicago girls – to eat dark brown bread and drink a little booze, and understand that nothing is sweeter than the tenderness of beef and onions, in a warm, bright kitchen, and someone to laugh with when the garbage disposal breaks.

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Flowers on Sunday Ago

Things can’t be only good or bad, and everyone knows that. But I find the injuries pile up because they are mine to live with, alone.  For me, that has been the most vulnerable loneliness of adulthood.  You’ll never want for voices willing to give you advice.  But in my life, there’s no one to say, “Ooof. That didn’t go as planned.” And wait with me until I laugh or cry at myself enough to stretch around the disappointments and failures, and see that their price has been strictly limited to nothing that really matters.  And in that moment of encouragement, be the bit of cosmic dust that balances the scales, miraculously embodied in the companionship of ordinary love and loss.

No one really to know the places where the lines leak, and the connections are frayed, except me.  And I am not always the best mechanic.

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Flowers on Sunday More

Putting things away – that’s what you do after you move, right?  For once, I am face to face with every little thing.  The dozens, if not hundreds, of old patchwork blocks – fans and gardens and four squares, pieced together just like life, turning leftovers into pleasure, with time and thread.  The piles of printed pages, containing words as objects:  spellers and dictionaries and my dearest loves, the used exercise books filled with answers handwritten in large, imperfect letters that struggle to wrap themselves around the unfamiliar task of translating into lines and shapes what you can so easily say instead.  Wallpaper sample books from the 1930s.  Ladies magazines from the 1860s. And letters.  So many boxes of letters.

And all the dear little objects that lubricate my imagination – silver coffee pot salt and pepper, bonsai made of pink and green glass, little dancers, a falling nun.  If it can fit in a shoebox, it will have to stay there for a while.  I can’t, after all, even find my work shoes.

But – amid the butterscotch veneer kitchen cupboards and the honey-gold oak floors – I don’t know where to put you.

I thought for a minute you would go on the pillow next to me, under the quilt Pammy and Mom and me sewed with the other weekend volunteers at the Historical Society – a survivor of nearly 50 years, as cozy as it is unfashionable in 1970s primary red, butter yellow and dark, cobalt blue – snoozing between the bouquet-covered sheets, like a drowsy gardener watching the grass grow.

Do you belong in the past?  Is that where I should put you?  The future?  Or the Never Was? And where have you put me? That answer might be too hard.  I guess I still don’t want to know.

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Flowers on Sunday From Here

I kind of like doing the dishes.  I like the warm water, furry layers of suds and the contrast between their crisp voices as they pop, and the slurp of the water in the dish tub.  I like to see the tools restored and ready, my hands saying thank you for a job nicely done as the cutlery clatters back into its trays, and the pottery slides confidently into its stack.  Of course, if I had a dishwasher, I’d use it.  But I don’t anymore – so I may as well enjoy myself.

I can’t describe what I’ve been through – physically and emotionally – to satisfy a demand that upended my life for someone else’s convenience. Yet, the hardest part was this weekend, in my new home.  Because somehow I thought that a place of my own might be a start – just a sliver of possible light – for me and you.  And I guess it was good that I thought that because the mirage of heartbreakingly real hope tempered my despair and fear – and kept the fuel lines open so I could get where I needed to go, burning something deeper and more meaningful than anger.  Something meaningful to my very core.

But.  Not.

These rooms are a paradise of light and air and nothing I have to keep for anyone else if I don’t want to.  I have no idea who I will find here – but her voice will be my own.

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Flowers on Sunday 1982

It almost doesn’t matter what we do next.

Because even though 1982 me is looking straight at her incredibly gifted friend and actual photographer, Myrosha Dziuk (www.myrosha.com), it took the next 38 years for the image on the left to be true inside.

And you should not doubt that you made it true before I believed it.  And it was because you believed it, I finally decided to find out for myself if I could see it, too.

There were so many things 1982 me had to hide from, lest her intrinsic unworthiness be revealed.

Now that I am grey and bald and portly, though – nothing inside is hidden. Those thick petal wings unfold and unfold, as I listen to you make up a little ditty that rhymes with “I like You,” while you rummage for something you need Over There.  Surrounded by your wide, beaming smile, it is easy not to worry – even though I am nervous, too.  Because I trust you wholeheartedly, and risk is what makes trust so sweet.

It is absolutely too late to undo the beautiful thing that’s become of me, since I got to know you.

 

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Flowers on Sunday Still Again

Today we cruised around Lake Mendota in honor of Maureen’s 75th birthday –  an aquatic circumambulation of the 26 mile shoreline on the sturdy and comfy Betty Lou, steered by Captain Jeremy and served by First Mate Tara.  The weather blessed Maureen’s celebration with nothing less than perfect skies and breezes.  Trouble could not find any of us, out there on the lake.  We were going too slow to catch, and camouflaged too well to be recognized, in our floppy sun hats and shades.

In the three hours, I did not hear any stories of situations that will get better.  Nor did I tell even one tale from my own life that I thought would turn out.  Even when our trouble recedes, we know some day it will return – no matter how this particular tale resolves.  Return better armed, or maybe swifter and more stealthy – slipping underneath us like black ice we mistake for only rain on the pavement.

What answer can I give, except to agree that this afternoon was perfect in every possible way – from the Swedish meatballs and glimmers of champagne, to deep stands of cat tails rustling against the shore?

And to know that we share the same hope, as we glide past waterfront oaks and islands of thick waterlily pads:  to be called on to love and to listen to each other tell the story again.  Next time.

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Flowers on Sunday Take Time

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.  – Georgia O’Keefe

My late afternoon nap yesterday turned into about 16 hours of sleep.  I slept through dinner, I slept through all my little nightly things, I slept through waking up at 2 am and 4 am.  My dreams needed to catch up with everything that is happening.  I dreamed the landlady’s cousin was in my room, clucking her disapproval of my things.  And in my dream, I used some profanity that felt really, really good.

I heard your story, and I understand you are finding things out, from somewhere in the middle of your own good time.  Every word broke the surface tension, and there you were – my kind and very dear friend, who lets me fling one-liners around like free money, just to make myself laugh.  Who – as long as we’ve known each other – has always put honesty at the top of the list.  Except about my one-liners.  Because you always laugh no matter how terrible they are – and of course, I know better.

Who are those untroubled people with no harrowing stories to tell?  I don’t know any of them – and whoever they are, I probably couldn’t fall in love with them.

I just want you to feel good, – and know we can talk whenever you want.

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Flowers on Sunday on Monday

I still think of you on Sunday mornings and even though that was never our story, it is still the truest one that I have ever told – if only so I can sleep at night.

The light expands like lungs and air, pressing me into your ghost, before you disappear.  I skim our surface.  My body needs time to trust the feeling: wanted.  And even more time to admit: want.

You took back your tender mouthfuls of I-love-you and morsels of tongue-tied lips, but I stayed.  Stranded here, with only everything I imagined. Telling myself stories, conjuring my little song.

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