Bus ride

The  girl with the blue hair

the color of the rhododendrons in my old Oregon

neighborhood gets off at the stop

right before the corner lot where the guy

parked his truck when he didn’t want to pay

for closer parking

The squat building that I barely noticed then

I now recognize as a windowed dumpster

filled with sagging poster ads and

haphazard haystacks of PVC pipes

skirted by concrete and asphalt 

the bed for parking spaces marked by phantom lines

price tags for opportunity

A slim steel box stands sentry near the street

to be fed by folded dollar bills crammed

into its multi-slotted mouth

I recall the guy’s chagrin and our 

skinflint’s hike down the scorched but shaded

sidewalks to the ballpark 

where even the cheap seats cost too much

My bus glides by here every day now and I

am thankful that I wasn’t worth the price

of tickets or convenient parking

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Something complete and great

“At any rate, that is happiness;

to be dissolved into something complete and great.”

 – Jim in “My Antonia” – Willa Cather

Yesterday I agreed to take my daughter and her friend to a book signing promoting the work of a TV heart-throb who is also something of a decent photographer.  This is not usually my kind of gig, but it was being held at a bookstore which also houses the First Draft Pub. I am a sucker for anything which utilizes a clever play on words. But bottom line: the event was at a bookstore. Few things rouse my sacrificial inclinations like proximity to a bookstore.  I also had some romantic notions of spending Valentine’s Day huddled in a dimly lit corner with a book and a strong cup of tea. (I was driving. With children.)

Reminder: You can buy calendars for 50% off if you wait long enough.  (I am often a week late turning the monthly pages anyway.) So, one 2015 calendar, one book, two gifts, and a birthday card later, I discovered that this was not the store location with the pub. Darn! I settled for the adjoining sandwich shop, and at a small table in a long row of small tables, in front of a long row of windows, took out my just-purchased copy of “My Antonia.”  Ultimately, it would be five hours before the girls’ books were signed.  That is plenty of time to read, and as it turns out, reminisce.

My son will soon be reading “My Antonia” in school, and I invited myself to read along. Just in case he wanted to discuss it. Maybe. I, too, was in high school when I first read “My Antonia” – a high school in Nebraska, no less. I don’t remember Willa Cather being presented with sentiment beyond appropriate reverence and appreciation. She was not God; she was not worshiped. She had moved to Nebraska at age nine and left the state in early adulthood. This was my exact journey. I do not know if Miss Cather made any promises before she left Nebraska, but I promised my high school Music/English teacher that I would one day read Cather’s “Song of the Lark.” More than anything I ever studied about Cather, it was this request that hinted at her significance and perhaps that of all young women setting off into the world – even mine. I was, after all, a girl with a song in her heart.

Cather was nearly a century ahead of me in discovering both the harsh realities and secret treasures of rural Nebraska life. Her writing is evidence that my memories are not mistaken. The forces of earth and sky she describes were still breathing life into persevering inhabitants when I lived there, and by Chapter V, the words on the pages had been replaced with my own recollections.

I felt the silty bottom of the Niobrara River washing from beneath my  bare feet as I trudged waist deep against its murky current. I felt sticky sap against the rough bark of  fragrant ponderosa pine branches. (Climbing those pines was something like an act of human Velcro antics.) I smelled the sweetness of haystack straw, its nimble shafts gentle in their pricks to sliding backsides. I felt the lung-biting coldness of a dazzling day-after-a-blizzard.

Despite the aspirations of movie plots, I cannot transfer these memories to my son. He will experience Antonia’s world with only Cather’s interpretation. That will, I am sure, more than suffice.

No ordinary night

Between the covers

Tom Petty lies beside me

Rolling Stone issue

It was a wretchedly extraordinary night. I wonder if I wounded Quotidian when I said I couldn’t see her in her name. Did she slink off like an animal? Did Extraordinary smell blood? She seems to be circling.

In the early morning moment when I was jolted awake by my screeching security alarm, it was no ordinary thing. Even in my son’s voice, which I have known from newborn cry to maturing man. His absent-minded distraction is not unusual these day – a girl is in the picture – but that sacred ray escaped my notice under the circumstances. The screeching was picking up speed, even as my fingers froze.

Then the phone. The calm voice wanted my Password. I’ve never used this password. My brain is packed with passwords.

Before long an urgent rapping on my front door brought me face-to-face with a badge on a blue uniform. Extraordinary is unabashedly mocking me.

 But then Quotidian appeared. At my feet. A tender tan-ish blade-shaped leaf unswept from my porch. She is a fragile and dusty wind-blown traveler. Her ancient heirs are innumerable, but the maiden voyage which landed her beneath my distraught gaze, ended with no fanfare.  She lay there. I spied her.

When the badge was gone, I swept her up with the friends who followed her, and with that simple rite, I obtained my bearings. My faith was restored. We are friends again.

Some things never change…

Some things never change, but then again, sometimes (almost) everything changes. Since my last post over 16 months ago, my life has been touched by nearly every major life-impacting event known to womankind. I thought about listing here all these tragedies, conundrums, and milestones, tempted by the shock value of their individual and accumulated status. But ultimately, that’s not really my style. Or is it? Maybe it should be. Maybe the newly transparent, vibrantly vulnerable woman that is emerging from the wreckage needs to boldly acknowledge my journey. Maybe I need to acknowledge my membership in the various tribes of which I now belong.

No. I just spent half an hour chronicling that tribes list here. At Number 17, it stopped feeling right. So I deleted all of them. But that doesn’t change my desire to put my stories out there – out HERE on my blog – not just in a shocking list, but in meaningful, redeeming ways. Because, despite all that is new, altered, damaged or rejuvenated in my life, my soul is still intact, with many of the same longings, loves and aspirations and convictions. It is truly a near miraculous reality and an evidence of grace beyond my mortal comprehension.

I’m still me, the “woman that never sleeps,” the lover of the quotidian life and the stories that reveal its sacred beauty. I hope you’ll stop by occasionally and join me in my marveling.

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Quite predictably QUOTIDIAN

My friend, Laura, who is almost solely responsible for my participating in this blog challenge, reminded me early this morning that TODAY is my day.  By that, she  is referring to my near obsession with the word QUOTIDIAN.  I told her that I was tempted to be unpredictable and find a different word, but ultimately I’m just too, well…QUOTIDIAN for that.  So, yes, I will take this opportunity to wax once again on the glories of all things QUOTIDIAN, especially the word itself.

I love that the word QUOTIDIAN is itself not QUOTIDIAN.  It’s a “Q” word for crying out loud!  I can only imagine the things my husband could do with this word in a precisely played Scrabble move.  I’m trying to do my part to make it more QUOTIDIAN, as far as common vernacular goes, but that may take some time, as evidenced by the fact that I almost hyperventilate whenever I happen upon it in my QUOTIDIAN reading.

I love that my first (remembered) encounter with the word was when I read an article about a special exhibition here at the Phoenix Art Museum: Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art.  Considering the exquisite details in this era of art, it is particularly striking that a writer would choose the word QUOTIDIAN in discussing it.  But it is precisely because of what is depicted by these artists that makes the word so apropos.   (I have previously blogged about Rembrandt’s associations with “common man.”)  Besides Rembrandt, one of my favorite Dutch artists is Vermeer.  Vermeer excelled at depicting QUOTIDIAN life; e.g., a milkmaid going about her daily tasks.

These type of depictions are especially poignant to me.  I remembered transitioning from the hectic and exhilarating life of a successful career woman to the life of a full-time homemaker and stay-at-home mom.  Learning to embrace the beauty, the excellence, and the blessedness in the ordinary was key to my contentment and my exceeding thankfulness in this role.

Another friend, upon learning of my extraordinary affinity for the QUOTIDIAN, gave me a little book which I carry around with me in my purse., The Quotidian Mysteries – Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” by Kathleen Norris.  Norris is the kind of woman with whom I could have a cup of coffee while folding a basket of laundry.  She “gets” life, and I am reminded of this every time I take her book from my purse and start reading where I left off.  Just yesterday I was re-reading her thoughts on “human love,” which she says, “is sanctified not in the height of attraction and enthusiasm but in the everyday struggles of living with another person.  It is not in romance but in routine that the possibilities of transformation are made manifest.”

Isn’t this true for other areas of life as well?  Several years ago I had a situation with laundry.  My washing machine broke, and with a husband and six kids you can only go about two minutes without a washer.  My friend, Diane, rescued me by offering to do a few loads for me, and in accepting this offer of help, I experienced one of those “sanctified routines.”  It is humbling to have even the best of friends handle your dirty clothes.  I remember thinking, “Well, I really don’t want her to have to wash our underwear…” But we needed underwear!  What is more QUOTIDIAN than underwear?

In another place in her book, Norris says, ” …the aesthetic sensibility is attuned to the sacramental possibility in all things.”  Even underwear?  Yes, and milk and bread, and…

QUOTIDIAN – occurring every day;

belonging to every day; common place, ordinary

You can’t go home

It’s always a sad day to have to disagree with Jon Bon Jovi and agree with your mother-in-law, but here I am.  When Bon Jovi asks with rock-n- roll bravado, “Who says you can’t go home?” who wants to disagree?  Not me.  And yet, when my daughter was preparing to make the drive home after her first semester of college, and her grandmother told her that going home wouldn’t be the same, I knew her MeMa was right.  My daughter didn’t want to believe it, she confessed to me, but before she knew it, she was experiencing all the angst that comes with wondering how things will be when you get home.  Will your friends treat you the same?  Will your parents and your siblings be the same?  Will all those familiar places calm the unsettled yearnings of your heart?  She learned that you really can’t go home – at least not the same person you were before.

As she was making that long drive home, across three state lines and past an obscene number of Subway restaurants, my daughter was anticipating a joyous reunion with family and friends, still clinging to the hope that her grandma didn’t know what she was talking about.  She wasn’t thinking about the fact that she has spent the last six months living with new people, working with new people, studying with new people, worshipping with new people, buying tampons and Top Ramen and Chai tea lattes from new people.  Those seemingly mundane activities can’t help but change a girl.  She has a whole new set of experiences that don’t include those of us back home.  She’s in that terribly frightening but awesomely exciting place in her life where she’s holding onto the fragile threads of change, trusting that they’ll weave her into a life that is every bit as durable as the piece of cloth from which she is being unraveled.  From one tapestry to another, this is the way the Weaver of our lives works.  He does not allow us to hang perpetually on museum walls, but rather proves Himself to be the artisan of living, breathing fabric that surpasses the finest breathable cotton cultivated on this planet.

Of course, my daughter did experience the reassurance of the love of family and friends this trip, and I am confident that someday she will be able to come home without angst and reservation.  Bon Jovi’s words will ring true, and my mother-in-law will be…well, a little less right.  There will be more strands of my daughter woven into a lovely new tapestry than will remain in the old, and she will be beginning to feel secure with the new thing of beauty that she will be.  Even if the Master Weaver does allow times in her life when the dust mites of reality nibble on her front side and the cold walls of perseverance chill her backside, she will know that “It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright.

“What’s your favorite color?”

What’s your favorite color?

 Frankly, I’m appalled at how utilitarian I’ve become when it comes to answering a question that took me half a second to answer when I was three – or 12.  Psychologists tell us that color affects our moods, emotions, and the decision we make.  That’s all good to know, I guess, but over-analyzing anything kind of puts a damper on my quotidian appreciation of it. Evidently there’s some merit to the theories: I’ve noticed I have one answer for what I wear, another answer for decorating my home, and it takes nothing short of a blazing orange Arizona sunset to remind me that it wasn’t always so.  There was a time I chose my favorite color based on raw sensation.  If you had asked a preteen me, “What’s your favorite color?” I would have told you in the blink of your cerulean eye, “Spring green!”

“Spring green” (in case you’re wondering) is a green that hasn’t yet had its fill of chlorophyll.  Like preteen girls, it’s still growing in its greenness.  It entrances a girl with its vivacity and hopefulness.  It’s the delicately pale vibrant green that slits the purplish-brown buds that knob up on tree branches, and then folds itself open to the waiting sunshine.  It reflects the sunshine.  It’s the color that awakes your eyes with butterfly kisses, beckoning them from the lethargic spell of winter’s browns and grays.

In one of the several houses I lived in when I was growing up, we had a room-size rug of short shag carpet that was mottled with hues of spring green and champagne.  It was the perfect realization of spring green.  In the living room where it covered most of a well-worn wood floor, there was a floral and geometric patterned stained glass window high on an east wall.  On clear mornings, whether there were snowdrifts up to the window sashes or crocuses blooming beneath the pines, beams of sunshine would come shooting through that window, pulling the glass’ colors down to dance on the carpet.  And though the carpet’s colors were magically transformed by the quivering burgundy, emerald and gold brought by the sun, they grew even more rapturous.  I loved to lay there in the warmth and color and let the beauty absorb all my preteen angst.

Now that I think about it, spring green could probably absorb a good share of my adult angst.   What about you?  What’s the “spring green” of your life?