the park: old men in their requisite tweed hats with black dogs and bright green tennis balls on the grass, next to enormous marigolds and roses. They all smiled. And then I sat on the world's most uncomfortable park bench, trying to break the world's hardest stale bread. Ducks. Geese. Pigeons. Seagulls. And one uninhibited swan with a dirt-slick belly all crowded around me, awaiting the goods. And I delivered. My hands still hurt as I type—feeling bruised and scraped—from breaking such hard bread. I laughed with beck then kris delmhorst as the swan tried to chomp my rock bread. A lovely moment. My ornery swan friend soon left to take his place in the parking lot, lying next to a parked car, as a british midlands flight took off from the nearby airport. The plane flew right overhead and I felt like if I stood up really tall on the bench, I could touch its wheels. It really was a scene. Then home. Kids in the street with their football. For the second time since I've arrived in belfast, I inadvertantly received their pass, and my old Roosevelt soccer instincts kicked in: I caught and passed back, and I was on my way. spiderman was out today too, three feet tall in his ridiculously big mask. His spider eyes sunk to his chin, I'll bet. But he was convincing nevertheless. And I nodded knowingly: he's out to save our lives.
it's been a real weekend. last week this time, i was in bed with a box of kleenex and books i was too tired to read, and this week i am wearing lipstick and my hair is brushed. thank God for healing. thank God for weekends with friends.
yesterday, jenna, trevor and i drove up to castle rock--my favorite spot from the trip in may. the day was sweater-cool, and i sat on the familiar cliff with toes hanging over the edge. we all sat for a long while and talked about horse whispering and diving seagulls. and then we walked on, avoiding nettles and admiring the solitary silver ash amongst the green trees. we saw my horse-friend, star, whom i befriended last time. she remembered me, i think, or at least my shirt, which she nibbled.
i got to meet trev's family, as we all squeezed together in the tiny caravan. they're a great bunch and laugh loud. in such a small space, we even managed to pelt each other with a harry potter bouncy ball in an adult version of the universally-known game, catch. (if you did not catch, you had to sing.)
much tea. much coffee. many, many sweets.
today it was church and sermon about airplanes, books, and black & white dogs.
the coffee was good.
it was the first time i've ever prayed God save the queen.
and now, james is downstairs listening to the new beck record, and i'm considering some warmer clothes. we're heading out to crawfordsburn in a bit for a beach picnic with jenna and trevor. my fingers are cold.
you should have been at the lucy kaplansky show the other night. she is incredible, and her profile very much resembles frances mcdormand with a perm. speaking of actors from fargo, there was a man who looked exactly like the rich father at the show. susan offered a prize for whoever could spot a william h. macy look alike. i couldn't find one. next time.
lucy sang loads of songs, about everything from september 11 in manhattan ( this is the land of the living) to honeymooning on asteroids, but there was one line in a song that moved me and has stayed with me: what i lost returns with love in time. her words have become my prayer.
and now i'm going to find a sweater.
not much to report from here today. it's a brighter grey than yesterday, and no rain.
and we'll go hear good music tonight: lucy kaplansky and susan.
so. i think i'll take a nap.
the end for now...
it's nearly midnight. by the time i go to bed, it will be september 26 here. for the rest of my family, there is a bit more breath-holding. they've got six more hours of wait until what may be release, a permission to bring out the sackcloth again. maybe we'll cry and look at pictures. maybe we'll relive the blue skies of the day, five years ago, that we became fatherless and widow. i don't know. but i'm in the future, it feels like, and i'm waving from the other side of midnight, saying "hi mom. hi peg, cath, eileen...he's missed over the atlantic as well."
september 26 is the lonely drone of a steam locomotive.
i wrote the following three years ago, on a plane to california, mostly. it turned out to be the first thing i ever published. and it turned out to be my first fruits of grief released to other eyes. and so it only feels right to offer it up again, flawed little piece of writing that it is. it's a tealight in a paper boat placed on the atlantic to my family. i hope it floats...
[note: dumb blogger apparently has a word limit per post (who knew!) so i've posted it HERE.]
it's around nine am. i've been awake for about an hour. this must mean that i am feeling better. i am breathing through both nostrils simultaneously, and i have woken up not cursing the sunshine or the fact that it is one pm and i've missed half the day. this is good news.
yesterday was a good day of shopping at city centre with james. and i was able to purchase a handy little power cord for THREE pounds (you hear that, curtis?) and now i am officially wired with my little laptop, on which i am typing right now. so, i am back online and with instant messenger as well, so it's almost as though i never left...
it's nice to be back. it's unspeakably good to have your own laptop with all your own familiar thingees--almost like marlei's all-healing, yellow, cozy blanket.
today has started off sunny--blindingly so. one dog is barking and there is quiet birdsong amongst various choking car-starts. the kids must be at school, because i hear no yelling in the lot behind the house and no annoying icecream truck. there must be a local ice cream addiction here, because this damned truck comes by several times every day, blaring to the point of distortion the battle hymn of the republic. (the glorious call to ice cream??)
susan, james, and i plan on spending the afternoon in crawfordsburn [read: local hangout of cs lewis, jonathan swift--the writer, not my former chordant mate--van morrison, etc.] where we'll have a lovely pint or two. and i have heard rumors of a possible waterfront walk. nice.
oh yeah, forgot to mention: anne made dinner last night. and no one (i don't think) died.
(and an extra special thanks goes to marlei for her all-healing yellow, cozy blanket.)
if i ever get offline (i am basking in the glory of a dialup internet connection), james and i will head into city centre this afternoon for a wee adventure of some sort. it's been nothing but adventure so far. dinner with susan last night, and we watched the 51st state (a must see, with both samuel l. jackson AND meatloaf in liverpool for crying out loud!) before playing a round of shithead.
nothing but fun, even when ill.
behold, the healing power of totties and cardplaying with friends.
i'm writing between coughs, and it's really quite humorous. thank james stewart for his kind heart, as he is sharing his modem and ibook with me right now. we all love james stewart, webmaster extraordinaire...
and now off to dinner.
here i am.
sorry for any hijacking fears i inadvertantly caused for some of you, but the truth is that i am having internet connection issues (computer-booting issues at that) at that new house. so. i've been offline (and believe me, it's been painful) for over two days now, and after developing the shakes and trying to get an internet connection from the television, bedroom windows---anything with the semblance of a screen--susan has offered up her computer right now. *whew* i was worried i wouldn't make it.
today is sunny and warmish, which is good, as i am experiencing the one-nostriled breathing indicative of a coming cold. lots of tea. lemon. orange juice. echinacea. aspirin. and sleep. i will be fine.
i received my first international call this morning from sparrow. she was also my wakeup call. (yawn.)
new york was fantastic and relaxing, aside from my brief, unintentional, unguided cr-v tour of spanish harlem and the bronx, all by myself (i was never supposed to go into the city.) follow signs to the lincoln tunnel, vicky's sister lisa told me over and over. and i did follow them, and then i passed them. and then i crossed the george washington bridge. and then i was lost. oy.
and then i was found. and there was much merriment in weehawken, nj that night.
and then vicky sang photographs all night, and i had a fully-clothed bathtub phone conversation with brian.
i spent a night with megan in medford, nj, where my car is now living. we reminisced about high school, and i dreamed of all the people i would have liked to have forgotten about. even in my dreams, i was still unpopular. and they still had bad hair.
well, my nose is runny and my tummy, empty, so i shall sign off for now.
i'll be here.
pee ess: the words are coming. the reading is here. spent a quiet day with the poems of alice walker and rilke's letters. perfect.
[vic: send a photograph of you.]
has anyone ever said these words to you: i understand completely?
rare, powerful words. takes a lot of trust to believe them, honestly.
but. i believe you.
erie is rain, three days in a row. mom finally roused me from the peach-room bed with a cup of bitter coffee (in the crate and barrel glass mugs eileen gave her) and i'm sinus girl, about to drive to nyc, about to drive to vicky.
slowly, i'm awake.
it's late and breezy in this very peach room. the windows are opened wide, and i'm listening to the oddly familiar night sounds filling my childhood bedroom. time out of time here. now. if i close my eyes tight enough, i can almost make myself believe that my father will be waking up in a few short hours, shaving in the bathroom, just like the eighteen years of perpetual 5:30 am buzzzzz and old spice i suddenly remember so clearly. but no. it's only me and my mother and two old cats now. and mom will get up and make the coffee tomorrow, as she has daily done forever, and i will sleep til the last possible moment, when she'll wake me. just like always.
it's calm now. and i hear crickets. no cicadas here like nashville, so everything sounds subtle, muffled even. the wind will pick up again though, blowing in a possible storm off the lake. who knows. everything here is lake effect and unpredictable. ask my mom. she knows.
the above is one of the many proverbs of the obvious that my sister, peggy and i enjoy coming up with. others? it is always good to buy a snickers bar.
yeah. this is what i do in erie, pa.
actually, i have had a full day of play. bobby and i threw sticks and stones and pinecones from a lakefront cliff this morning, after eating peanut butter sandwiches on the park bench. we played cars, re-enacting the aforementioned stick/stone/pinecone throwing adventure. we built block towers and knocked them over. we ate hotdogs on the living room floor: a picnic.
now, it is early thanksgiving here in erie. and i'm on my way out the door to pick up my mother and aunt mary helen for the occasion.
kids are screaming for me outside. i am finally popular.
leaving nashville in a bit. room is a mess. did i forget something? nah, i'm bringing all of you with me.
and i'm so tired. note to self: no more denny's coffee at midnight. (though staying awake with sco was tops.)
my next few days:
today: erie, pa
monday: nyc and vicky.
and i'm taking you with me. all of you. wait, i said that already. see? this is why i write lists.
"this is my first night as an unemployed girl," i said to my friends yesterday. congratulations! they replied, toasting.
yesterday was lasts and firsts.
today is lasts and firsts once again, and we're all breathing that way i think.
we can all stop planning what we're going to do to commemorate terrorists and trade towers and fear and heroism, pentagons and endless tickertape. we can exhale and say it's been a year. we've survived. it's really been a year. and here we are. we are anniversary survivors as well.
i feel like the dogwood tree next to my father's grave. i know full well the permanence of death, and i do not have to look far to see immense grief, but there is a constant season of bloom despite. blooming as resurrection.
we're all dogwood trees.
i spent the morning with the orange-rising sun on my back and goosepimples on my arms, as i sat outside with tea and anne bradstreet. she entrusted her tears to God's bottle. i typically bottle my own, sell them like books to whoever will buy.
you cannot expect authentic prayer to just enhance your life as it is, a merton-inspired sparrow said yesterday, and i'm gulping.
i think about my desire for wholeness, and my motives. sometimes wholeness is simply fodder for good--better--writing. do i really want to upset the status quo in my life? do i really want to risk anything? most times, not really.
then i think, oh shit. i am risking. everything really and this is not melodrama. but then what is everything?
love goes risking everything she's got julie once sang. there goes love. i'm risking everything i'm afraid of. everything i balk at. and for what? a story of redemption on paper? hope? a veil lifted?
i believe in the wall of God right now. and i believe in climbing. and i believe that i only know how to climb through words.
but i'm afraid of heights and hard falls.
becca says that there is no difference, really, between flying and falling if both are sustained by grace.
i believe despite my unbelief.
for perhaps the first time ever in my life, i have experienced something like social butterfly-ness today.
(i think this has something to do with my leaving the country.)
a quick run-through of my incredibly full, wonderful day:
9:00 am: breakfast at provence with kristina. cafe au lait, chocolate croissant, and conversation.
11:00 am: horseback riding with sherry. then, cracker barrel for lunch.
4:00 pm: margaritas and goodbyes with karen and sharon.
6:00 pm: andy's art show opening and simultaneous welcome-back-to-nashville greetings for jenna.
8:00 pm: continued jenna celebration at the green hills grille with julie and kenny and andy and laura.
11:00 pm: lure marlei out of bed for late night tea and cocoa at starbucks.
12:30 am: blog (if i can somehow stay awake).
hmmm, i don't believe i have eaten anything healthy. at all. unless chips and queso counts. (it was spinach queso.)
today was a string of pearls.
from riding dakota through late-summer woods (dodging trees, jumping over logs of course) to taking in the energy of new art on walls, i felt loved and alive today. i got to be the girl in dirt-caked boots and freshly pressed shirt in the same day. i got to laugh and cry with dear ones. i experienced the most natural part of transition, of season-change: friends are carrying me over the threshold of all things new. this is grace, i think.
i had my first mug of cider today.
autumn has officially arrived, therefore, despite the persistent 90-degree days.
i am thankful...mindful, even.
12:47 am vicky calls. she has just had her first guinness and her first gimlet. anne drinks, she calls them. i am proud.
1:00 am annie goes to bed...
(but we're just friends.)
julie lee is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and her music is so good. her voice, her songwriting--she is a balm. (really.)
and now, julie has her own website. so go look: click me, please
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dearest friends jenna and shannon today.
and. latest finding balance article can be found HERE
(note: have you told all your friends about finding balance yet? shame on you! go on, now...)
pee ess: check out katy raymond's article on addicts and balance as well. good stuff.
i just got home from mccreary's pub in franklin. another goodbye. this tiny pub has become the hub of goodbyes during the past week or so. and driving home tonight, i thought once again, i feel very much at home here. it's strange to think and feel such thoughts when on the cusp of goodbyes for awhile. for awhile. with all this transition, i am definitely grasping a deeper sense of home in nashville. and i'm finding home in marlei and constance and dana and julie. rachel. kim. vicky. all these amazing women in my world are teaching me what home looks like. what i have to return to.
atlanta. i'll never get my words around it, i don't think. marlei and i had the absolute best of times, sitting at various outdoor cafes and restaurants with our cafe au lait or wine. we walked. we talked. we watched movies about greek weddings of epic proportions. we laughed. that's it: we laughed. a lot. time had no hold on us; neither of us wore watches. we simply followed our muses, who were uncannily in sync with each other, and we celebrated the goodness of life. of friendship. i felt my soul top off. and we were accompanied loudly by the anthems of coldplay and rosie thomas and ivy. over and over. by the edge of the ocean, we can start over again.
we should have brought aspirin, though. or alkaseltzer morning relief. (note to self for next time.)
and now, i must go to sleep. get up at 6 tomorrow, and head into work for the last five days of employment for awhile.
time is on your side now coldplay promises.