Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How dare we think of January only as a month to last through, as if the unfolding days are not worth their time.  I was a Christmas snob cloaked in my sentimentality of  holiday songs, warm passionate holiday colors and evergreen trees and boughs which adorned my home. Or perhaps I just really really like Christmas. (I am still brushing up piles of pine needles as I sweep carpets, floors and heat vents.)

Oh I know I lamented, refused even, to give into the crisp blues and sparkles of January, but I did.  (I did paint my nails the frostiest blue I could find).  It was time.  With ridiculous stubbornness, I unplugged the building light displays.

But subzero temperatures had delayed family Christmas season outings until Epiphany Saturday.  And while the meal, conversations and football games were more than enough, a true new tradition was born when everyone had left.  Everyone that is, except for my eighty-two year old mother and I.

With a fresh pot of coffee, the two of us packaged and organized Christmas village decorations back in red Christmas storage boxes.  She dusted tree ornaments, most of which had been given to me from her.  We both smiled.  I rewrapped.  Ornaments were retucked in their green plastic storage container.  In an epiphany of epiphanies, I saw spread out before me an organized color-coding of history, memories and a bit of the rights of womanhood.  From my mom.  From me.  From years ago.  Hmm. My excuse of not having the capacity for creativity, high intelligence and organization was becoming very flimsy (yes, please laugh and roll your eyes).

My mother and I packaged and talked until two in the morning.  We also managed to eat half a fruitcake.

Shhh.  I am recycling red and white.  Turns out, I will be early for Valentines Day.  Shhh….

Technically the days are again growing longer.  Every three days or so, almost by instinct or habit or both, I find myself measuring the sunset shadows from trees to snow, partnering with the hands on the clock.  A bit further.  A bit longer the day.  A bit brighter.  Unfortunately the day’s length has little impact upon the temperature; an inviting sparkling hand which tempts a person, “come nearer,” with the bitterest of freeze-dried soul.

I have found a peculiar new passion for January in Wisconsin in grilling experiments and bonfires.    There is something magical about both, in the subzero temperatures.  The night blackens so quickly with the sun disappearing to a mild glow through the wooded horizon.  And then the sky is black.  With a moonless night, the stars are diamond studs lain across black velvet.  There would be no other way to display the universe’s finest.  In the woods, all around you is blackness except the soft blue-white snow and the lights of the house.

And of a bonfire crispy licking at the eight degrees below zero air which surrounds its flames.

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Graduation Clock. When I was young, I enjoyed tinkering with clocks to the point of reading about their mechanics.  This repair was only the scratching of those battery points and their replacement, but I have to admit to a reawakening of the joy…..of timekeeping.

He said, “I’m sorry.” Words I had never heard from him about anything deeper than a forgotten orange juice.  And that even might be giving him credit where none is due.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.

I looked at him, stunned.  He had continued to explain he knew exactly when ‘it’ became clear.  I am not sure when he figured ‘it’ out but it had not been during months of marriage counseling.  During the thick of our battles, he had never been sorry.  Now you could be wondering about what type of shrew I would be, to not admit my faults.  Oh, I have plenty of ‘fault’.  I have plenty of sin and blame to place upon my shoulders.  I have no problem admitting it.

“I remember the night we went out to eat, for a Friday night fish fry.  It was just the two of us.  I messed up.  I’m sorry.”  Now, of course, the survival of a twenty year marriage does not depend upon one night out.  The spark is not lost on one incident.  Through the wretched last years of marriage, through the counseling and battles and attempts, it was an evening to which I kept referring.  We had gone to eat at a favorite country tavern.  It was one of those perfect ‘date like’ couple moments in which your top notch clothes and top-notch preparations are not demanded (because in reality, although a person loves Friday night, you have worked.  Best jeans, please.  Nice outfit.  Smell good.  Look smashing. Yes.  Black tie / pantyhose? Nope, save it.)  In Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry is a cultural staple.  Religious, not religious.  It does not matter.  Fridays are fish night.  A person may wonder at the quality but I assure you that this particular pub has the best baked scallops (and a wonderful whiskey, wink. ) and always the resounding echos of a week’s earned laughter.

It had been our chance at a romantic Friday evening so many years ago.  What happened I really wish not to write.  But it was not romantic and it was not salvageable.

We both began to cry, separated by the comfort of the distance of the kitchen island, a stove top width between us.  In a sappy romantic movie, the moment could have been a rush into each others arms.  A reconciliation.  It was reconciliation for us too, but it was a reconciling of one of the too many moments in our marriage which had been infliction rather than affection.

I let myself cry with him for the first time in three years, the distance he and I have traveled since the divorce. I did not rush into his arms. Nor did I run away.  I physically moved away from the kitchen island to the other side of the room in order to cry, still in the same room yet at a distance.  It was a space of a sorrowful kindness and tears of gratitude.  Healing in the first days of the new year.

Eventually our tears dried.  Managing the details of the business of raising our son replaced the scattering sentiments of our broken bond.  Our marriage was broken but not our family.  We have truly figured out how to be friends.

The beautiful blue white drama of Wisconsin’s January

“I’m sorry” had rung in my head.  For hours I was not really sure of neither how I felt nor of how I should feel.  I was stunned as if hit by bad news but I could not figure out why.  Was this not good news?

It took hours into the following day to realize the recognition of reality.  For the first time he had  admitted to what he had done.  Like a rope flung to another side of time, back to that time in my life, his apology secured a piece of my soul, bridging what I had written about to another perspective.  He had been a participant and a witness to the time when my whole world changed.  I had written journals during those days, trying to clear my own disbelief at the extreme nature of hatred I had felt from people who had called themselves my friends.  I had wrestled with understanding all of them, coupling their actions with justifications. I still held a smidgen of my own disbelief.

What happened to me professionally at that time was the literal icing on the cake.  I worked in a field, in a segment of society, which prides itself by the vows of its own doctrine, to lend a hand to those who had been downed.  I had been through years of a marriage in turmoil and during the last months of my marriage, my professional life and the life I had fell apart.  There had been no one to help me.  There was no hand, not to me, not to my husband, not to our marriage and especially not to our son.  In the months prior I reached for help to only find mockery and no one to help. Not from that part of my life.  Lately a new question popped in my head.

Why did not my friend, my boss, why did she not stand for me?  Why did she not reach out either to those above to assist me or to others around me? Another curiosity to which I no longer need an answer.

But I did find friends. I did. And I did hear an “I’m sorry” that seemed to be one of those blanketed apologies like an all-encompassing blanket property insurance policy.

It covered all damages.

 

His voiced words were like the painting of golden brushstrokes.  It was a moment of kintsugi. My wounds, my scars. I was sorry too.

Kintsugi.

My building, Matthias. Here, in the 1940’s, owned by a local national fox furrier company.  Rumor has it that Ms. Jayne Mansfield selected her furs here.
Me, the brick dandelion

 

Blessings to you.  May my life, to you,….well just know that anything is possible. Healing is possible. Have faith, work hard, believe, love.

Love you. Lots of love.

Stephanie

PS.  Oh! I almost forgot – the January vegetable grilling recipe.  Two red peppers for sweetness and color.  A large container of fresh baby bella mushrooms and a good sized head of broccoli.  Szechuan sauce and a bit of olive oil. Grill in aluminum or in a grilling vegetable basket alongside the meat.

Why do I feel like the adventure is just beginning? Hmm. Stay tuned. X

The Leavening of Gratitude. (132 Shades of Truth).

The Leavening of Gratitude. (132 Shades of Truth).

November 24, 2017

“I know why it happened,” Es said as she raised her head slightly as if the smell of truth had caught her senses.  “The truth needed this particular wind, this particular time.  And now I know the truth.”

For the first time since we sat talking on the rocks, she now looked at me directly.  Her eyes were filled with a depth of sparkling clarity that I had not seen in a long time.  Normally I would have been suspicious of anyone not wishing to look me straight, square on, but I could see, as we had walked along, that hers was a practiced walk.  She had grown used to hanging her head, lowering her gaze in the years that had passed.  She had been judged over and over by unspoken words which betrayed the silence she wore as her protection.  Her body, it had seemed, grew accustomed to the familiarity of that yoke.

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Leavening. I finally made bread.

The baking of bread is a personal victory, one which reminds me of my ex-mother-in-law, rest her soul.  Not a perfect woman, by any means, but she and I did share adventures and I believe she liked to show off a bit to me.  I was the perfect daughter-in-law as I could not hide both my admiration and my irritation.  Today, for Thanksgiving, in her honor, I baked bread.

“All this time.” she added with a note of sadness and resolve.  “There is only one reason they did what they did.”  I looked at her, her words not of the declaration of grand discovery;  her eyes, not of the sudden clearing of fogginess.  No, she had been a student studying finally grasping the significance of a basic theorem.  We both half-grinned at even the moment’s truth.  It needed no bravado except only the greatest celebration – that moment of understanding.

“And now I know the truth.”

Up to that time when her voice echoed those words into the wind, we sat upon the rocks.  I watched the shadow beast crawling in the flowery field below us.  It was easily distinguished from where we sat, its dark body stumbling through the swaying dance of colors which surrounded its every movement.  It could not move undetected among the battlements of flowers and grasses, a shifting outline guarded continuously.

Her eyes had never looked at me directly.  You would have thought that she would have had that far-away gaze people sometimes get when recalling troublesome memories, their gaze somehow flinging those recollections as far away a place as possible.  But no, she never once wished those hauntings further from her nor did she wish to hand them directly to my own eyes.  She kept them and her eyes, downward, and just within her arm’s reach.

The memories of that year tumbled from her mouth in a voice normally not accustomed to telling much of her own story.  At least not more than a few carefully analyzed words.  But the pace of the stories slowed and eventually even her jaw seemed to tire.  She rested her chin upon her crossed arms, themselves propped by her folded knees.

As we sat, the wind regained its power, switching now from the south.  Warmth.  She sat a while longer, now mixing the memories of children, her students, with the stories of the betrayals she had faced.  And then the memories she recounted grew older.  The sufferings of her soul dribbled into the warmth of the wind.  I felt no sorrow for her as I watched her now nor did she expect it.  I felt no confusion from her even though she told me about how confusing that time in her life had been.  I felt no pity for her today, but even I now, wished I could reach back to those times which had grown root in her soul.

Her memories made her eerily calm.  Not much time had passed since the beast which sang to her and mocked her had itself been attacked by another beast.  Es had escaped the clutches of both.  She sat here now with the repose of her own battlefields.  Winning, losing, she never thought in those terms as they had almost become equated with forgiveness and sin.  Which quality partners with which other quality depends upon the owners choice;   she wore the face of one who knew both.   Sometimes to lose is forgivable and not sins are so easily defined.

She would have welcomed my own stories – in fact she would have preferred them – but I wished to listen to hers.  Her voice trembled a bit at the beginning of each as though one needed to wiggle the key.  Her doors had never been opened.  Not once.

I noticed the irony of her, almost as if the moments here on the rocks, had, with intention and with the sharpest of pains made her softer.

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Level first. Victory.

I do not really know if it was the bear of months ago, but I had lost track of how exactly my old birdfeeder was damaged.  For twenty years it had weathered extremes of weather, countless chickadees and cardinals and a few random bear attacks.  There is only so much a simple spring can handle.  

My home is a clear spot among the woods, on the edge of semi-wooded neighboring properties, cradled by the towering of older maples and guarded – I like to imagine – by the encampment of my proud sentinel pine trees.  There is a line of them which grace the skyline with continual green.  I am fortunate to have the responsibility to keep feeding the dazzling variety of birds which visit my spot.  

I finally bought a replacement bird feeder.  Months ago.  Months.  I did not hang it up.  I needed to remove the old damaged feeder.  I could not bring myself to do it.  I dismantled the tray portion.  I maneuvered with psychological strategies to bring myself to fix it.  I moved the new feeder, with all its parts, to the front stoop.  I spent weeks walking over the new feeder.

And then, one day last week, I grabbed a crowbar to pry off the old feeder.  Its mounting screws had rusted to the frame and their heads had stripped.  The next day I grabbed the level to mark the post.  The feeder was hung later that same day.  The birds are back at the other feeders.  (It helps, now that I am maintaining them.)  Such a small personal victory.  I smile every day looking at it.  Oh, the birds still hate the new one, but eventually a hungry chickadee will brave it.

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It was time to walk on.

Es stood up, stretching her legs, rubbing her knees to awaken them.  She turned not to the path, not into the winds which called, carving through the stilled air where we stood.  “Es?  Es, the path is that way. That is the path down the hill.”

Es looked in the field at the shadow beast.  We would never know if it simply stopped wanting to track us or if it had given up, yielding to the hillside upon which we stood.

“You know I never could help, I never could help them.  I was not supposed to.”  She looked at what would be her last glance at the beast.

“All I was meant to do was to bring the shadow beast to the field of flowers.”

With a tear and a smile she pointed to a line of rocks.  I saw nothing except rocks and told her so.

She laughed, still with a tear which made her eyes sparkle even more as if the darkest truth had sharpened the twinkle of her soul.

It was time to walk on.

Thank you. Many Blessings and lots of love,

Stephanie