When the Geese Get Gone

Yesterday I mowed the weeds roots leaves lawn. All told, it took about four hours and five Pandora stations. I still maintain it is infinitely more enjoyable than cleaning the kitchen. Unfortunately, I didn't land this job in a trade, so the kitchen was still messy when I came inside. Hubs is on a surgical service this month, which means he goes to work for forever, comes home to sleep, and goes back for forever. It's awesome.

Also, if right now you're conjuring Gray's Anatomy as a reference for what "surgical service" means, let me just say this. Residents grab lunch when (if) they can, one at a time, at weird non-lunch hours. As opposed to the entire third year team lolligagging around the cafeteria at noon (or hiding in the basement), gabbing about hospital politics and call room drama as they leisurely chew a sandwich. Residents don't chew. They scarf. And it's a pretty safe bet that if they actually get more than 2 minutes in a call room, they're gonna use it to sleep. Not with, not around. Just sleep. Ahem.

But back to mowing the lawn. Because that's the kind of glamorous material you come here for, right?

My music blared, and the motor sputtered. The kids came back and forth, asking me to adjust their bike helmets or settle a frisbee dispute or find the dog's tennis ball. And when they'd approach yelling their lungs out, until I shut off the motor and pulled off the ear phones, they might as well have been mouthing their requests. I couldn't hear them at all.

So of course it stunned me when a small flock of geese flew overhead and I heard them honking as loud and as clear as if I was in their lane, right in front. And I looked up, watched the geese get going wherever it is they go. My gloves smelled of gasoline, and my hair smelled like grass, and my back felt like breaking, and my heart felt like flying.

And for a moment, I admit, I was jealous of the geese. Of the getting gone, the horizon chasing, the escape to new.

When I hear "I'll Fly Away", I usually think of a small country congregation belting it out in the olden days. It's not one of my favorite hymns. Not even when Allison Krause sings it. But yesterday, when the geese passed by, I paused Pandora and started to hum.
When the shadows of this life have flown,
I'll fly away.
Like a bird thrown, driven by the storm,
I'll fly away.
I know it's cheesey and overdone and maybe that's why I usually cringe when I hear it.

But yesterday I didn't cringe, and yesterday I didn't care about how cliche it all was. I think, when the geese go and I find myself wishing to follow, it's because I was made for more than this. More than for mowing lawns and cleaning kitchens and the redoing of what eventually comes undone. I was made to breathe deep and to spread wings, to escape into new heaven and earth. And there will come a glad morning, when hallelujah by and by, I'll go. When I'll get gone with the geese. When I'll fly away.

Photo Credit - Flickr Creative Commons


On Fall (and on wanting to cry my eyes out)

There are a million things I should be doing right now, and sitting here writing is not one of them.

But yesterday was the first day of fall, and this morning when I went for a run, the road was sprinkled with color. And tomorrow and the day after, I know the leaves will clutter and huddle and shiver, even under the Indian summer sunshine. And by nightfall on Saturday, when we are back again to air so crisp and cold we'll shut the bedroom windows, I know I'll feel autumn around me like a cloak. And the soak will begin, when my favorite season, the dying one, rains down embers of a fire not quite out.


It's beautiful here, and I love the life I've been given to live in Ohio. But it seems like once an hour, I see a street or a beach or a house or a farm or a face I love--all of them in my head, all of them in Maine. And I can't quite cry about it, as if the loneliness hasn't risen high enough to spill over, as if the missing of it all isn't quite strong enough to flood me, to flush out tears.

I do wish I could just cry about it. I wish I could sit under the trunk-shoulder of a tree while we cry our eyes and leaves out, grieving a season past. But I can't. I suppose my leaves are still too green.

Maybe on Saturday, when we are back again to air so crisp and cold we have to shut the bedroom windows, when autumn wraps around me like a cloak. Maybe then, after enough fall days and colors pile up, maybe then I will cry.

In the meantime, I suppose I should get back to one of the million things I should be doing.

A Maine autumn rainbow, captured almost a year ago to the day.

This just in. As I was getting ready to hit publish and go do one of my million things, Dani called me. I went to her room to check on her "quiet time", and she said, "Mommy, remember when I was a littler kid in Maine, and you always sang the sleepy time song to me?"

I smiled and answered, "Of course! I didn't even realize we'd stopped singing it."

And she said, "Will you sing it to me now, when I'm in Ohio?"

And I nodded, and together we sang every sweet word of this made-up song spanning more than five years and twenty seasons.

{It's possible this little development will provide just enough melancholic drip to move my cry-my-eyes-out plan forward.}


The Curse of Abundance

I've been writing here about baseball games and birthdays, orchards and hayrides, the bubbling happy surface, the rising top of a freshly poured soda. It's as real and sweet and true as the first sip on thirsty lips, but it isn't all there is.

Because deeper, in the pit of stomach, I am rifled with melancholy, raw and sporadically terrified.

A couple days ago, during Caed's birthday party, Larry injured his hand. There was enough blood to make my heart race, enough to warrant a visit to urgent care. Even after I knew he would be fine--that the only thing wrecked were his chances to scrub in on trauma surgeries this week--even then, I could not stop the inward screaming.

On the outside, at the top of the glass, I held it together. I served the cake and snapped pictures and smiled, and truthfully, thoroughly enjoyed the party with our family. But underneath, layered so deep, I felt it. Like the bass clef of a song--the part that gives depth to the melody, and you notice it when it's not there, but you still never really hear it, not on its own. And that bass has been growing louder for the past two weeks, and when I tune in, it's loud, so loud, I'm not sure I recognize the song anymore. It sounds nothing like the happy song we've been singing.


I remember, after my dearest friend lost her husband when their son was 11 weeks old,
we looked at pictures from the day her sweet boy was born. And she said, "Those were the happiest days of my life. I had everything, and I didn't know it." She's probably forgotten those words now six years past, but they still haunt me.

I go to the fall festival, and I feel as though I'm watching myself from the top of the tree house, seeing myself traipse through the corn maize, pulling Dani on my lap for a hayride, snapping pictures of slides and smiles. And I shout to the faraway me, "Please know. Know that you have everything, that these are the happiest days of your life."

And I see this fragile perfection, when love is abundant and these treasured lives are healthy and carefree, when their faces beam innocent and trusting, when their father too, is here to see them grow, to sing harmony in this song. Then I see how, in a heartbeat, in just one note, we could all screech and smash into terror and loss and grief and heartbreak. And it makes me want to cry, to fall to pieces in front of the kettle corn stand.

I feel this strange responsibility, having borne witness to the pain that dearest friends have lived, are living. Whether it is the loss of a husband or never having had one at all, the loss of a child or the wishing for one, I see them struggle, and I think that the least I can do is to be immensely grateful. No complaining about how hard marriage is. No jokes about how I can't wait for the kids to be in school all day. No. It's my strange responsibility to be mindful of how blessed this life has been thus far, how I have everything, abundance.


But I think perhaps I have taken this mindfulness too far, and I've let my mind wander from the beauty of the moments here and now to the thought of how very much there is to lose. Is this the curse of abundance?

I know the Christian cliche, how we talk of all of it coming from and belonging to God, how He gives and takes away, how deepest joy is found in the morning He makes, these bright mornings coming so often on the heels of a sorrowful night. I believe all this, and then some. But in the gut of where I live right now, that raw and momentarily terrifying place, I can't tie this neatly up. I don't even want to try to tie this neatly up. I just want to come clean, to name the feelings and to confess how very little I know, especially when it comes to the answers.

This one thing I do know, though. These are the happiest days of my life.


Linked the lovely Madeline Bea's Sunday Creative prompt: Abundance.


Maybe Even Happier

I was wrong.
Apparently there is such a thing as too much kettle corn.

They should put a warning on those 500 lb bags they market as "small":

May result in loss of motivation and extreme laziness. Women who are, or are considering, going for a long run later in the day should not consume in any quantity. Other side effects include napping, crashing, and ruining your dinner.
Today we joined some friends at a fall fun festival at a local farm. As you may have guessed, I ate too much kettle corn. But other than that, it was a perfect afternoon.

After enjoying a horse-drawn hayride, Dani asked, "Why do all da horses have hair? Are dey all gurls or somet'ing?" Then, as we explored the slides and trails in the woods, she passed by a wooden cut-out of Johnny Appleseed, and exclaimed, "Look Mommy! It's Apple Johnny! Apple Johnny! Apple Johnny!"

I have no idea why she was so excited about Apple Johnny, aka Johnny Appleseed. She interjects her enthusiasm randomly.


It was a sweet afternoon, one to remember, to pile up among the others I've charted here.

I think one day, when I sort through the piles, when the kids are no longer kids and come back to line up their memories with these pictures and words, we will all be grateful to know that it was real. That we really were this happy, and maybe even happier than we remembered.


Six. As in Years.

He is six. And I don't mean months. I mean years and how is this even possible?
Last night we celebrated with a small gathering of extended family. It was everything he hoped for, and probably more. Ice cream (dirt) cake, stories and marshmallows by the campfire, and sleeping in the tent with the "boy cousins".
I think back to six years ago, the day he turned me into a mama, and I start to lose it. Words fail and my eyes go blurry trying to explain this miracle smiling back at me.

Happy 6th Birthday, little man.


This Moment

I thought I'd join SouleMama in her Friday ritual of {this moment}: A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

For a post with words today, visit my friend Kelly's place, where I'm honored to be guest posting about faith and fear when the ride is anything but smooth.


Cutiebatootie Goes To School

Guess who finally got to go to school?
Excited much?

Reportedly, her favorite part of school is snack time, with playground time taking the runner-up spot. I'm sure that deep down she really goes just for the academics. She's probably just pretending to like recess the best to blend in with the cool kids. You know, the ones with the Dora back-packs and the light up sneakers.


This morning I was combing her hair, and she handed me the two (mismatched) barrettes she wanted to wear. I clipped them into her fine strands, and she smiled in the mirror. "I look cutie as a tootie," she declared.

Oh yes you do, Darlin'. I might go as far to say you look cuter than a tooter.

Sigh. I love that girl.
(I also love that I now have two whole hours to myself three glorious days a week, but I'll save that for another post.)


Nothing Like I Pictured

I sent the camera off with Dad, asked him to please take pictures. "It's your first father-son trip to see the Tribe play," I reminded him. "It's totally picture-worthy." (And blog-worthy. Don't forget blog-worthy. Because as much as I love the picture of that barn in the last post, Grandparents can't survive forever on my dear diary diatribes and my what-does-that-even-MEAN poetry attempts.)

So he obliged. He took four pictures, even though I would have taken forty (and not just of Fausto Carmona). But I digress.

Apparently, while Dani and I stayed home and read every last Lily book until she fell asleep I couldn't take it anymore, Caed was trying Cracker Jacks for the first time. At a ballgame. (Mythic moment, if you ask me.)

Then, to top it all off, the home team won. Commence the fireworks.

My boys came home beaming. Caed chattered in rapid fire glee, describing in great detail how the Indians beat the team that is higher up in the scores (first in division), and how the big hot dog ran right into the ketchup guy and mustard guy and made the mustard fall over, how his 3D glasses made the fireworks fall right onto his nose. And he leaned in close, lined his twinkling eyes right up to mine and then poked me right on the nose with his finger. "Like that!" he giggled.

I looked over at Larry, and there was no holding back his smile as he watched Caed carry on, now three hours beyond bedtime, about this big league game.

Never mind that the tickets were free or that the seats were fantastic.

The day I found out I was carrying a baby boy, I pictured moments like this. And now, here we are. Here they are, nothing like I pictured, right in front of me. Closer than fireworks with 3D glasses, crisper than air on an autumn evening, brighter than stadium lights in celebration sky.

Nothing like I pictured.
So, so very much better.


Just in Time

Fifteen years ago, to the season, the two of us sat in this barn. He'd been bailing hay in the fields out back, in between appointments with MEPS. I'd been updating plats in the County Engineer's office, paperwork that left my mind way too much room to wander and worry.

We were engaged, and the knot in my stomach was much bigger than the ring on my finger.
Did he pass the physical? Did they guarantee a medical job, like the recruiter promised? When would he start? How would we get by? Could we still get married just before Christmas?

These were my questions.
(Not all. Just some.)

He told me that evening, while the summer sun still hung high enough to be hot. He told me that the medical training had been guaranteed, that he would leave in December, that I shouldn't worry.

And not because he had orders or because we had sign-on-the-dotted line proof.
But because we had red letter proof. Words of promise about provision for today.
Tomorrow will take care of itself, he reminded me.

When I look at that barn, 15 years later to the season, I see how right he was--how very many tomorrows were taken care of. And all of them, just in time.


Linking up my bigger picture moment--a glimpse of this barn over the weekend and a glimpse of His faithfulness over a lifetime.
Bigger Picture Moment

Joining in with Emily as well, for Imperfect Prose.


The Rest of Labor Day

It was a long weekend. And I don't mean the kind that drags on forever, the kind where you aren't sure if you can take the whining for one more minute. I mean the kind of weekend where there is rest and togetherness and hard work and more rest. A weekend of old fashioned fun and meals you didn't have to cook, of staying up too late and getting up too early.

Some highlights:

1) A double date with sister and brother-in-law, a celebration of my birthday and of becoming neighbors. And flowers, from my sister's backyard. The too-good-to-be-true-and-yet-it-is variety.

2) A crisp fall day, a free Pumpkin Spice Latte, and a birthday afternoon completely off to do whatever I wanted. I did nothing but sit and sip and get absolutely nothing done. It was marvelous.

3) A long outdoor run, the first in months, on a newly discovered trail that winds for miles and miles. I returned home to find father and son working diligently in the yard, trimming trees and mowing weeds grass and dreaming up plans for fort building.

4) A visit to a new church, an entire family together, not me rustling up the kids on my own or explaining to strangers that yes, I am married, but no, my husband is on call again. And yes, he really does exist, I swear. In the service, the worship leader read works by Wendell Berry and my heart quickened with hope at how worship extends like water into cracked earth, filling the gaps and turning scorched soil soft again. I left softened, less parched.

5) A spontaneous trip to the farm, cultivated now by three generations of old friends. They didn't know we were coming, but it turned out not to matter. There were enough waffles for seconds, enough farm hats to pass around for the hayride, enough apples to share with the cows, enough branches to climb. But perhaps not enough time. (Caed wished repeatedly that we could live there.)

Sabbaths 2002, X

Wendell Berry

Teach me work that honors Thy work,
the true economies of goods and words,
to make my arts compatible
with the songs of the local birds.

Teach me patience beyond work
and, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of Thy unresting love
which lights all things and gives rest.


Celebrating this gift of rest, a weekend-long reprieve, with the Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


The Same Three Chords

Of course I applauded after Whitman sang a song of himself.
That's what you do when you're 17 and desperate to show up looking literary,
aspiring both to be a girl of three-ton thoughts and weightlessly spontaneous.
(Truth be told, I was neither.)

But really, when you're twice that age, and appearances mean squat because
who's looking anyway, Whitman seems as much a navel-gazer as the rest of us.
And sure he's good, but is he really that good?
There, I said it.

I picked up Leaves of Grass
again last night, and thought so what, big deal,
I'd rather read Mary Oliver
or Wendell Berry
or just listen the voice of the evening trees
shushing the crickets to no avail.
(Who am I kidding? I'd settle for reading anything not Fancy Nancy.)

Sometimes (most times) I'm perfectly happy just to live this un-acclaimed life in all its non glory.
And let Whitman go on in his transcendental scandal, forever changing the face of poetry,
none of it mattering one bit to me.

I have a favorite place, my Walden Pond,
Where I am the least pretentious,
And the most at home in my skin,
Where I'm not quite as prone to make myself the center of the universe,
Where I could sit for hours
And not go mad or ache one bit lonely.

It is
Where my children breathe deep, fall still,
Where his chest rolls like the top of a tiny ocean,
Where I can squeeze only half of myself (even sideways) next to twin-sized slumber,
Barely enough to whisper dreams in her ears
and tuck her in,

and tuck him in,
and carry them both
like catchy little notes in a melody I can't stop humming.

They are the first two
(and their father the third)
of the same three chords
I always play
When I sing a song of myself.


Linking up with Emily (one of my new favorites) for Imperfect Prose on Thursdays.

p.s. I'm well aware of how ridiculous I must appear to infer, via free verse, that the very father of free verse who indisputably changed the face of poetry, "isn't all that." But don't take it personally, Walt, because all the people with opinions that actually matter think you're amazing. So clearly, it's not you. It's me. (I'm just not that into you.)

p.p.s. I cringe whenever I post poem-ish stuff here on the blog. It's as if my 14-year old self says to my 36-year old self, "Staaaahup, you're embarrassing us!" Why is it that poetry feels way more personal and vulnerable than plain old prose, even when the message is the same?

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