A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Annual occurrence, with the additional pressure of McDonald’s.  Somehow a fast food chain can activate itself to flip its golden M arch into a busty golden W, but I can repeatedly miss the boat.  March 8, Steph.  Every year.  It is International Women’s Day. A day in which hashtags drum upon hashtags and postings pop and feminist ideals highlight the media.

………………………………

Mensch.

I walked into the courtroom with a first glance at the clock.  Scheduled for 9:30, I had arrived with a comfortable cushion of thirteen minutes or so.  The circuit court judge, the court reporter and the clerk of circuit courts were already seated.  Their casual talk was easily heard but I could not now remember nor would I have ever been able to remember exactly what they were saying.  Upon seeing me enter, they too checked the clock.

The three made note of the time and my presence by glance.  With the judge’s instruction and invitation, I walked through the gated area to one of the two desks before the bench.  The three excused themselves, disappearing into what I imagined to be chambers or prep rooms behind the judge’s bench.  In the more historical courtrooms of the courthouse building, this room would be larger.  But I was thankful this morning for the smaller space.

It was shockingly modern in a historic building and about as non-Perry Mason a courtroom as would ever be imagined.  Yet, the conveniences of technology and the necessities of security envelop me.  Entrances and exits are tightly spaced with safety glass and security scanners.  The deputy whose presence in prior versions of this case unnerved me, was now comforting.  Large screen televisions dotted spaces in front of  empty juror chairs and lined the edges of ceiling and wall behind the gated area.

The judge himself and the circuit court staff were seated physically close to me, with each station equipped with individual computer systems.  They were labyrinths and mountains in this small world.  I was comforted by the formality of the distance between my desk and those of the court.  As I looked around, I imagined each step in that room was weighted with the different meaning of placement.  Step too close to the next gate, the one which separated plaintiff and defendant from the court officers, and it would have caused the deputy to stand.  One step further would have caused alarm.  One step.  Four steps behind me, back through the gate, and I would have no longer been a plaintiff.

But I had minutes.  I decided to walk the room because there was no one there.  I studied the thickness of exterior walls.  I had heard that the building is constructed as a brick veneer which means that the structure itself is not masonry or brick upon brick, but a wooden frame with stone facing.  If so, the framing would be thick, at least a foot here on the first floor.  The windows are proud, turn of the nineteenth century, three part windows with the upper most being a lovely leaded transom.  The interior doors leading into the room match them.  The sashes of the windows are thick, well-maintained, corded and clean.  The foot thick wood sill is polished warm, tanned oak.

I prayed.  I was nervous.  I waited for the last minute cancellation of the defendants ( a tactic I have since learned about, from the beginning of this process).  I looked out the window into the traffic, thinking of how ridiculous prayer would be, at a time like this.  I thought, as I watched delivery trucks and loggers, of how ridiculous would be the notion to ‘give it to G~d’ at this point.  This was a court of man, I rationalized.  G~d would have no place here.  I kept thinking of how thankful I was, learning my lessons during this process, a process which had begun in April 2017.

Eleven months passed as I watched those cars, blurring by the windows.  I am a landlord.  In April 2017 my then tenants in the residential space of my building paid me with checks from a closed bank account.  They had then refused to pay utilities which, up until now, I had kept in my name.  (Yes, that is correct.  I learn my lessons hard.)  The months from April until the court eviction of August 1, 2017 had been a succession of lessons for me, lessons as tough and bombastic as the blockheaded and egotistical notions of my own ignorance.

There is no ‘nice guy’ to the law.  There is the law.  And that is nice.  Odd, isn’t it?  The law is law.  In April 2017 I wrote my then tenants a letter to either pay or leave.  I gave them thirty days.  (I thought I was nice).  I might have been nice but it was not the law.  My tenants knew law.  My tenants also knew about how the law is enforced.

From April to August 2017 I was in court four times.  I did not realize at the time, but the court was moving fast.  I read about state statutes, about notifications, about legal wording and about the law enforcement and service professionals who I needed to employ in order to proceed to the next step.  The Five Day Notice to Cure.  Fourteen Days Notice of Termination of Tenancy.  The Court ordered Eviction.

In August 2017 I earned, from a court of law, an eviction.  A court ordered eviction is now part of the record of my former tenants which will surface on their records.  That, and the court declared they owed me $3049.

Evasion.  I am not sure, but I believe, as I stare out the courtroom window, that my tenants may have evaded the law, but me?  Who was I kidding.  I evaded me.  And that may not be law, but it was my lesson.

The judge reappeared.  I scampered from my observation point at the window, to the plaintiff’s desk in time for the traditional “All rise.”  (I do believe I heard the deputy chuckle.)

As the case was re-introduced, one of my former tenants walks through the door.  He is late.  I proceeded to outline my request for an increase, an amendment to the monetary judgment due to damages, cleaning and the additional expenses.  I have photographs.  I finish speaking.

It was my former tenant’s turn.

At first I did not listen.  I remembered my thoughts at the window.  How silly, I thought, to pray before court.  I do not expect G~d to save me.  I do not expect G~d to give me a positive result. In the minutes my former tenant spoke, I remember the first time in court.  I remembered learning, as he spoke in court, that people may say anything about another person, about me.  I remembered the first time I heard him say things about me that were not true.  I remembered how it stung.

Still, I did not realize the significance.  I had sat there, emotional, on the brink of tears.  I remembered thinking ‘How can he possibly say these things?  How can he lie?”  I had begun to defend myself, my character, to the court.

In my memory, I cringed at the thought.  Here I am, today, listening to the same voice.  Nothing.  And again I thought to myself, why would I believe now, to give this – this situation here – why would I believe now, to give this to G~d?  Why would I be so, so arrogant and so blatantly self-serving, to give this situation, to G~d?

I had given the documents, my exhibits, to the court.  The court accepted them.  I had enough copies for the defendant and the court.  I could have been clearer and more exact on some of the dates.  I listened. (Ok, I interrupted once.  Advice – don’t do that.)  But by and large, I listened.

The judge and the court officers left to decide upon my request for amended judgment.  The defendant and I left.  I stretched, walking to slurp at the water fountain. (Plus, I liked the comforting sound of footsteps upon the marble floors in the hallway. Such an old building! I imagined, with the silly hope of its history, secrets to seep onto my skin).  I welcomed returning to the comfort of the empty room, with the structure details still in my head and thoughts of why on earth would I “give it up to G~d”.  I sat again at the plaintiff’s station, my own desk for possibly thirty more minutes.

With me, in my seven dollar chantilly pink faux leather tote that looks like ‘the bomb’ of an outfit with my twenty-five year old black leather coat and an equally pink faux fur stole (three dollars, thank you), I had packed extra paperwork, my weekly schedule, to complete during any wait time.  “Thank G~d” for my schedule which I never quite follow yet by which I feel totally guided.  I smiled.  “Thank G~d indeed.”  I had been praying all along as I reasoned about the silliness of prayer, here, in court, by myself.

 

The court awarded me an additional $450.  In order to collect the nearly four thousand dollars, I now need an attorney.  The money is a significant sum.   Greater is the lesson of  finding kindness in an increased knowledge of the law.  Along the way I found expertise and professionalism of others to a level of which I could only aspire.

In that courthouse, a building which I have passed by my whole life, I realized the truth of others lies and the warning, the reminder to myself, to never allow theirs to become  truths of my own.  I regret I had not learned these lessons earlier.

The court awarded me a resolution I sought but had not earned.

………………………

My son arrived home from school hours later.  He grabbed a broom to knock icicles off the eaves.  I stood in the doorway, watching for Wally, as we recounted our day.

He smiled that smile. And I remembered.  I remembered standing in the windows of a courtroom earlier.  I shut my eyes remembering the wonderment of giving it to G~d.  “Why should I pray in a courtroom?” I had thought as I had uncovered my stacks of attachments for my court exhibit.

I remembered months.  Then, I did not.

You see, the wind came up, through our woods. My ears tingled, tickling my eyes to open.

“You are welcome,” the Wind breathed in my ear.

Thank you.

Love, lots and lots of love.

And a kiss. (for luck, just saying.)

~Stephanie

 

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

The vying of moon, buds to burst, sentinel pines and soot-stained stars and stripes.

March 1, 2018

Majestic.  The sky’s contest, a vying among the then waxing moon, the awakening buds of a virile maple, my ever-diligent sentinel pines and, of course, my old stars and stripes.  Which one is the prouder?  Which one is the most apt frame for bluest blue skies?  Majestic.  And a heady question to delight my eyes and tantalize my mind.

Nope. You haven’t missed a holiday. (At least I don’t think so.) I just liked the picture, my old flag with white stripes now stained with dirt blown through trees and the soot of smoke from bonfires.  Even though the metal clips are now replaced with unceremonious yellow plastic ties, it flaps through the breezes, royal, even if its permanent perch is the four by four post of my deck back in the woods.

I have stories to tell you and a promise to keep as I was thinking about writing.  As I wrote in my head – which I do a great deal of the time – I noticed how “nifty neato” it would be to tie things together with the proverbial “I awoke from the dream.  It had all been a dream.”

Um no.  I promise to never ever write that ending or those words.  That story line has to be the prayer of writers “Please, no matter what, please let me not resort to the ‘it had all been a dream”) We are, life is, my story, is not a dream.  Well, actually it sort of is. (Could I write any worse?)

‘One with the trusses.’ I had been wrong.  Higher up was easier.

The tempest of Wisconsin weather renewed my attention to the structure of the roof.  With earlier warmer temperatures, the roof scupper on the east side of the building had drained water.  I apologize for my attention to the roof, but I will not apologize.  The entire roof, 6800 square feet, had been replaced three years ago.  The roof is surprisingly peaked, not flat, supported underneath, in part, by four dramatically handsome 1923 steel Triple Howe trusses (I am still unsure about the type, but I believe I am on the right track).

After that thawing, the weather turned brutally cold.  My roofer, whom I almost have on speed dial in order to call through my panics about the roof, calmed my fears.  The new roof, although huge and with thick insulation (11 to 12 inches – R35 – thank you very much), is surprisingly light in comparison to the load of the old roof upon these same trusses and the roof’s supporting and stabilizing exterior walls.  I had time.

A longer thaw arrived five days ago. I turned up the temperature on the heaters I have placed near the roof drain pipes at the point in which they drop from the ceiling to the second, then first floor, and finally near the last larger six inch pipe in the basement which leads to the storm sewer in the alley.  I had bought two rolls of heat tape to attach to the east side drains which lead directly from two spots in the roof to the inside of the building.  I never had any freezing on the west side drains, but the east side I needed to prevent another ice build up as had happened last year.  Last year, the scuppers – the drain pipes which flow to the exterior, would spill off the water as the snow and ice melt.  A good fail safe to have, but not how a properly maintained roofing system should perform.

Four days ago I could procrastinate no longer.  The thaw was going to happen.  I needed to attach the heat tape.  It is one thing to climb a ladder to remove framing around the trusses but quite another to climb high enough to wrap electricians tape around the roof drain then attach the heat tape.  The end of the tape needed to go as high up as possible on the drain pipe, under the plywood decking, without actually touching that wood.

At first I allowed enough heat tape to extend upward.  I could not make myself climb higher than the first elbow in the pipe.  The piping’s elbow had iced the prior year, my roofer reminded me.  I climbed the ladder just high enough so that by stretching I could wrap the tape to secure the heating tape.  That particular drain pipe suspends above a clay-tiled closure which housed the old piping.  When you are above it, you can see straight down, two and one half stories, from underneath the roof to the basement floor.

Scared? I was oddly petrified. I hugged that ladder, proud with every wrap, yet scared.  And I knew I still had the worst to do.  I hadn’t wrapped from the elbow up to the roof, the most critical piece.

Two more days went by.  The day of the thaw.  I climbed, hugging the ladder.  I had forgotten or missed that there were old wooden rafters below that section of pipe.  My 18 foot ladder would not fit unless I aimed the ladder’s top into the spaces between those two by eights.  I aimed the ladder.  I walked the ladder.  This trial and error rearranging the ladder to fit in a spot I had not considered both drained and disgusted myself in myself.  But I had heat tape to attach.

I climbed.  Nor had I figured that I would need to go higher on the ladder.  Seemed like another obvious point, but I think I thought I could stretch a bit more to cover the last foot and a half of drain pipe.

I squeezed myself between the rafters and the ladder. I realized I was no longer looking up at the rafters nor a foot away from them.  I had pinned my body against the truss and hugged it.

I looked down.  I looked at the expanse across the tiled closure.  I hugged that truss.  Being higher up was easier.  I smiled.  I had ‘made it’ across the two and one half story drop.  I had left what I thought would be the most difficult because I was so scared of going higher.

No, Steph, no.  Smilingly, I reprimanded myself.  How thankful I was, that I had not wrapped the beginning part, the highest spot.  I would not have realized or appreciated it.  I had been terrified each step across the closure.  Here I was, higher up by at least two and half feet, but not reaching.  I was hugging the trusses.

 

 

Look closer.. the sunlight dances with the breath of ice crystal fog.

It is a non picture sort of picture, a Wisconsin day of snow among a line-up of such days, in a little piece of woods, in a non adventure of adventure.

I do happen to own two buildings, the youngest of which is a ninety five year old brick former armory and technical school, with the intent of really making my business a profitable one.  It could be a rather snobby existence but the business ownership and the creative processes are the personal passion.  I have a dream!

But the biggest adventure has been the adventures of nonadventure.  (Did I mention I am a huge fan of Yogi Berra-isms?  A sample, in case my references are dated, is “It isn’t over until it’s over.” Sigh.  Beautiful. True and succinct.)  Like these line-ups of Wisconsin snow days I have been recovering from years – no a lifetime – of, well, to state so politely, turbulence.  Of violence not of my own making.  Of harshness.

I love photography but rarely would I share, purposely, a nonpicture picture.  But to me it represents the beauty of my adventure as it really is.  Nothing about buildings (although I love them), but an adventure about building days upon days of nonadventure wholeness, a softness not of the pillow variety but a softness of the touch of persistent wind and softness of gentle determination.  A loud silence of ones own thought.

That and once in awhile a good belly laugh. (If I am going to be adventurous, I might as well write the book on ‘happy adventure’.  I mean, why not?)  So, please give me the adventure of walking through the woods during winter.  Let me walk down the road in a blizzard with the dog, my jacket wide open to feel the bite of winter wind upon my usually sheltered skin and my mouth just as wide open, scooping up snowflakes, giggling as I call after Wally, my dog.

I have nothing against the trips to Barbados and condos around the globe, but I think for ninety percent of us, that is not life.  And life gets pretty grey (and not in those ‘Shades of Grey’ grays either.)

 

 

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The above pictures?  Adventures of inspiration.  My annual experimentation with poinsettias and colors.  Softness and growth.  Adventures differ from person to person but that is itself a starting point.  Launch yourself into active observation.  Give yourself time.  Give your brain a chance to breathe.  Learn to make decisions.  Learn to think without stress.

 

So, I am on an adventure.  My own kind.  Depending upon how you look at it, I am either resetting or maybe, I finally found my path.  Oh, I do not think I messed up like ‘look at all the years I wasted.’  No, I think it took my lifetime to realize how greatly I wanted that path.

 

During a snowstorm on a Monday night with 1983 soft techno, instrumental vibey music videos with pre-digital art videos, with the smell of a cup of coffee I had spilled, and with the sounds of my son’s voice and the sight of Wally at my feet, I begin my nonadventure adventure.  Softly. Purposefully.

Lioness 101

Seems fitting, to choose a Monday adventure that which scares, yet calls to my heart.  To be lucky enough to have a chance to choose.

 

Lioness 102.

I have a long way, a long long road before I ever begin to write decently.  But that’s another point of my adventure – I have learned about myself.

The first thing I have learned?

I never give up.

(giggle).

Love.  Lots of love. And a kiss.

~Stephanie

Small Enough to Stand Tall

Small Enough to Stand Tall

For fifty cents, without guarantee, there is the possibility of a blue plastic alien…

February 3, 2018

Happy February! Happy First-Saturday-in-a-new-month! (The days are getting longer and I have been graced with fresh snow this morning.  Combined with Saturday itself, does life get any better?)

Today started, as many do, as “Tall Enough to Stand Small” and I am still uncertain as to which way is better.  As the days progress, and I continually debate about many life paradoxes, I lean toward the preference of feeling small to stand tall.   Days upon glorious days in which the only spectacular declaration or happening is the fact that I can say I am still here.  Marvelous!   I can walk in the moonlight, in the woods, feeling the strength of legs, torso, spine – feeling tall enough to walk with a bit of swing and a prideful chin.  In any instant I only need to look to stars and moonlight or the outline of majestic pines in reassurance of my own smallness.  I am but a speck, a drop, a piece of dust,  a mere mite alive for a flicker. My flicker, my flame. Me.

And, a small flicker is enough.

 

The steel trusses at Matthias. I am cutting away those lower boards, the old ceiling rafters, and the old framing around the bottom of the trusses.

The Brick Dandelion.

 

I confess that I never thought about being single for any length of time after the divorce.  I find that revelation about myself a little creepy.  I have been divorced for almost three years, in my fifties, working a daily job for an insurance company and creating my own business.  Again, uncomfortably I have realized that I never planned to create my life for me.  Not this life anyway.  My son grows more and more to be well on his way.  As a mother, I cycle through countless tears and joys as his growth signals successful parenting from both my ex-husband and I while also affirming the distance of his experiences in another impetus of life paradoxes. As a parent, I could not be prouder, happier and sadder.

But every day I thank G~d I got to be a mother in my life.  I got to be a mom.

(Please insert a big sigh, a sniffle and a grin.)

 

 

After the extreme upheavals of the past seven years, I am only now turning life into life by creating one worthy of the label a ‘journey’ (I know its one of those ‘ew’ words, but…)  And I have to admit to the happiness in my vacillating behavior worthy of being twelve, seventeen or once in awhile, a fifty-two year old woman.

……………….

 

 

 

 

I blame his “I’m sorry.”

With those simple words, cushioned by the safety in time’s passage, I did see, really see, without a smidgen of fear or doubt, that I had lived through some horrific times.

I blame his “I’m sorry” for a forgiveness within myself, in a strength of words which overcame any residual quest to unearth the culprits’ evils, to smear the bowels of their souls on…..

Oops.  Sorry.  Welcome to me. At twelve. A bit visceral. A bit?

“I’m sorry” could be its own chapter in my speck of life.  When faced with the truth, the settling of my continual churn, I finally declared “Enough.”  The truth is that I was finally ready to hear “I am sorry” both from him and from myself.

Ugh. Enter the period of my life in which I finally – again finally – decided to create my life as much as I had created for my world around me.  I gave myself permission. (Ew). I needed to learn to be my cheerleader.  Really?

Somehow being my own critic and naysayer was both more fun and cooler.  There’s something magically dark in the twisting of oneself. But in a days worth of both dark twisting and positivity, in the choice between how to spend time – fifteen minutes – I could no longer afford my usual plunge into the shredded pool of my own confidence.

Well actually, I could.  I can multi-task, remember?

I could, but – again in the most selfish way I have ever felt – I do not want to. (Huge gasp here).

I do not want to.

I cannot continually pull myself out of that cesspool.   I do not want to constantly search for the ladders all the while wondering why it took me so much time and energy to swim in the first place.

Ugh, Steph.  Cmon. Steph. Swim.

And I wished to live my life not as their victim.

I do not want to.

In the past weeks, I gave myself permission to want.  I want me.

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The dance of winter

I had always dreamed of spending a winter caretaking the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  What it would be like, roaming the halls, checking pipes and windows and the roof all winter, throughout blizzards with winds that roll across great lakes, meeting to tap at the windows and doors.  What it would be like, to write and read and walk all winter long…

I had forgotten that dream until this last snowstorm.  Seven or eight inches depending upon how you measure and my driveway was not plowed for a day and a half.  Honestly I have a jeep and an old 95 pickup truck which I am sure I could have bombed through drifts. But why?

I may never live the Grand Hotel winter caretaking dream but for two days Wally, Poesey and I rejoiced at the blowing snow circling around us in the woods.

“Permission Granted” was the original title to this article.  I am finally internalizing my own permission to take care of myself – all of me – my brain, my body, my soul, my ‘squad’…my beautiful flicker of life.

The Story of Es.

“Look,” Es tapped me on the shoulder. She had lifted her shirt to show the wound from the shadow beast.  The ooze of blood had disappeared with a curve of red and pink.  Only days before the wound looked battle-torn but now, as Es assessed her condition, she seemed pleased with the mending of new skin.

“Do you think it is a serpent or a flower?”  she asked, her eyes dancing while a finger traced the slice on her stomach.

Es laughed.

“Maybe it is the dance of both…”

All my love,

Stephanie

The Reality of Pies, A Year Later and….Toilet Seat Repair

The Reality of Pies, A Year Later and….Toilet Seat Repair

December 10, 2017

When I am really lucky, I get to write while my son writes.  He, his homework.  Me, writing or accounting.  Today for me, it is writing. I have recovered from my Thanksgiving overdose in which I ate the entire bowl of leftover stuffing and an equal overdose of pie baking which lasted for an entire week.

Some of the best work I can do for my business is really in the taking care of myself.  And oh my have I been learning!  So, in the lessons of my extreme pie baking marathon from Thanksgiving to Advent, I also came face to face with reality.

It was the painful realization that what had mattered to me a year ago had only been important to me.  I have had a few of those experiences – when the day, the hour of an ‘anniversary’ comes along.  I had waited for a sign of a moment to share in the reverie  of both the experience of a year ago and for the time which had passed since in an awareness as the aging of that epic harvest of wine.

My answer came in the painful silence of baking pies and a year’s passing which makes no sense to anyone else.  To me, both held…well, held me.  But is that not life?

I do realize that I draw the last drops of meaning out of these nothing moments and I know I am overly sensitive but these events caused me to remember the vow to myself about how I wanted to live.  In the baking of pies and in the once hopeful memory of a year ago, I remembered my lessons of “twenty-five thousand times”.

 

In ten days I baked two pumpkin pies, two pecan pies, two cherry pies, one blueberry pies, one peach pie, and the finale dutch apple pie with the finest homemade pie crust you have ever tasted.  I was in baking nirvana.

My mother’s recipe, touched up by me:

PIECRUST

2/3 cup lard

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons sparkling water, ice cold.

Enough for two pie crusts. Combine flour and salt. Cut mixture with the lard until you get a pebble looking mixture.  Add tablespoons of water one at a time (that is the official wording…it always ends up being four tablespoons.)  I think the crust is better with the sparkling water.

…………………………………………..

We had walked past the beginning excitement of new direction with its energy barely being contained, yet we had not arrived at that point of tiring, a soreness of the mind in which one numbs all senses in order to make progress, one simple step after another.  Our journey had felt as though the path, once obscured, now reached up to our feet to guide us.  We never hurried, we never stopped.  We kept walking.  I had been unsure if I had ever experienced quite a journey.

The path had been simple with stones flattened by time, laid in perfect succession for us, the travelers. Es had remained focused on the path ahead of her.  I had seen her, rarely looking  to the horizon either left or right of us.  I had never seen her alarmed nor her gaze to catch anything to steer her interest away from the stones which lie directly in her feet’s course. 

“This isn’t right,” she had turned to me.  “This isn’t right.”  For the first time we had stopped.  My heart had started to sink.  I had felt a heaviness in my limbs that I had not felt since we escaped the Shadow Beast attack.  But I had known she would not hide what she meant nor would she sugarcoat it. 

I had braced myself and the heaviness of what I was about to hear; my mind locking down its own protection to what I already knew was coming.

“We need to go back.  I was wrong.  I need to go back to the beast, to the shadows.”

“No, Es, no. What would you hope to accomplish? Why do you need to go back?”  And I had to add with all superiority and with equal amounts of silly, phony authoritarianism, “Don’t you remember what they did to you?  Don’t you remember?”

“Going back is the mistake.  Going back is wrong.”

There. I had given my vote and opinion in declaration to the winds.  Es would consider my words but I had known nothing would counter her intuition.

“Why would you go back?” I asked with expectation of an answer of philosophy.

Es turned to me with total comfort and conclusion, “I don’t know. All I know is that this, this is wrong and I need to go back.”

I had not meant to groan –  at least aloud – and if she had heard it, Es had made no mention.

………………………………..

We had begun, to climb, the retracing, the agonizing reversal of our path.  Where the path’s stones had risen to hold our feet, they now teetered as our feet had landed upon them. Where the path once had sloped indistinctly with unnoticeable tips and slants, it had then seemed tiring and wearing upon our legs and our spirits.  Our energy had dipped.  Es had checked on me.  This reverse journey had shown to be difficult for us both.

All the distance, all the positive energy of the path since we had left the Shadow Beast in the field of flowers, we had returned it as an insult to the energy it had given us.  By returning, we had destroyed this relationship with our path.  We had not realized, but we destroyed our energy. 

The beast had been recognizable from the hill.  Among the flowers of the field, its dark body stumbled, turning and twisting just as we had left it.  Es was committed to her dream, to an image held in her mind, to the promise of the dream and a mission only she could feel.

“What now?”

“I don’t really know.”

“Please, Es. Please, Es. No.” But even before I could finish those five short words, she had descended to the hill’s foot.  I had followed her to the edge.  Es shook in fear as she took her first step in the field of flowers.  I would not go any further into the field with her, but stood again on the edge as I had when she had escaped the first time.

“Es, please.”

Her mission emboldened her with a resolute happiness of responsibility and duty, in a way I would have never understood.  I had watched.  Her presence had become apparent to the beast.  Its movements stopped.  The air was void of bird songs, but had held the wind which brushed the flowers in announcement of Es’s arrival.

Es had paused.  She was close to the beast, standing less than an automobile length away.  She had known that the beast acknowledged her.

Es had stretched out her hand to the beast.  I had imagined being by her side.  I had imagined what it would have been like, to feel bravery while shaking uncontrollably.  I had imagined what it must be like to have been that stubborn.  Her expectation of the beast had been clear.  And although she, with the naivety of simple right and wrong and her own blind egotism, had seen no alternate outcome, she stood.

And the wind kept brushing the flowers.

The beast had moved almost to what had looked like an assessment of Es.  She had smiled at it, then had held out both her hands. Later she would tell me that she had seen the beast moving closer to her under the brushing of the flowers.  She had noticed the darkness now camouflaged under the soft petals of field flowers.  She had stood, waiting.  The beast, she would recall, had twisted among and back toward itself, folding inward.  It had reached out to her, under those petals, but her feet did not move.  By this time, the beginning, the head of the shadow beast, was only the point in which darkness overlapped the sky.  It had folded back again, among and into itself.

I had watched with mild alarm, an orange level alert if you will, as the shadows had folded over and over upon themselves in a beast of beasts and a shadow of shadows.  At the time I never had thought that perhaps Es would have joined the beast.  She backed away from the shadows, it caught up in itself.  It began to move again, shifting, sliding and folding its large body bending the flowers as it rearranged the shadows under the petals.  It never really moved any distance.  It never traveled further although that fact took us a long time of observation to realize.  The beast itself had been an ominous companion of ours.

Es had stepped with me up the hill.  “Can we just sit for a bit to watch them? she asked me sadly.

My agreement had come in our shared silence.  “It was at that moment I had known once again, how wrong I was.”

 

 

“As I had stood with my hands outstretched, as I saw my hands outlined with the dark body of shadows, my skin, I wondered what I was doing.  And then I realized I was wrong.  Again.  Again I was wrong.”

“I did not feel gentle.  I had stood there, holding my hand out.  I had thought of retracing our steps.  I destroyed a path that had risen up for our feet.  The trip to return had not been gentle.   And that is a contradiction.  As I stood watching the shadows fold back among  itself I realized I had made a mistake.  Either of egotism or self-righteousness, I made a mistake.  I was wrong to return.”

“I had felt….like a trespasser to both the shadow beast and the field of flowers.”

“I had had a dream.  I had dreamed that someone called to me for an adventure, for fun.  I dreamed of the perfect fun.”  Es smiling as though the dream’s memory were a reality only meant for her mind to play with and distant enough for her to never experience.  Her skin may never wear that adventure, but her soul would.  Her spirit recognized it.

“I had dreamed of the perfect fun, of someone reaching out to me to pull me up.   Instead of taking the hand of adventure, I had turned.  With the permission and invitation of adventure, I had turned to pull them.  I had scooped them, the smallest ones.  I had been strong enough to grab their hands to share my adventure.”

Es smiled.

“I had then turned to the shadow beast. And in my dream I had found a strength I did not know I had.  I turned to the shadow beast and held out my hand.  I had helped them.  They had only needed my hand.”

After all she had been through and after she had wished for so long to have the hand of adventure, to have the hand of fun and life extend to her, a reciprocation of her life’s karma, as she had her whole life without any extension back to her, she chose not to take the hand of life but to pass the others to it.

“In the dream I made sure they were all safe.  And adventure..” Es grew silent, her voice breaking a bit.  “Adventure pulled me too.  Adventure’s hand extended to me, had rejoiced in me, and held me fast.”

“I had watched the others, the small ones and the beast.  I watched them smile.  I saw the beast smile.  In the dream, I had fallen asleep in the arms of adventure.”

………………………

Ah, but such is the life of a dream and its dreamer.

………………..

Sometime ago I estimated it took me two years worth of forty times per day or twenty five thousand times before I became proficient.  That is what my work now has taught me.  Twenty five thousand times it taught me.

I love creating my life.  I love the challenges of entrepreneurship, motherhood and womanhood – of life!  Some of the best lessons I have ever had have come from my current job.  I remember starting again in the insurance field after an almost two decade absence and in a role I have never had, in an environment I have never known.  I always hear how a person should never give up on their dreams.  Then the motivational speaker swipes ahead to the examples of Walt Disney, Edison and Oprah – all memorable, all geniuses, and all – well, huge!

No doubt they are inspiring but sometimes those examples leap too far.  I’m no Edison.  I’m no Oprah or Disney.  I’m just me.

But I did have inspiration.  I have worked at my current job for a hair longer than two years.  In that time, I have grown due to my job.  I had figured along the way that my progress was due to doing the same exact function every work day, for at least forty times per day for two years.

That, my lovelies, calculates to twenty five thousand.

These past weeks I began to apply the lesson for myself.  Why just be staggered by a large number?  Why not do something for myself with it?  I began to apply my “twenty five thousand” standard to my business, to everything.  Writers block?  Write five hundred words and I would bet you will want to write a thousand.

Have a huge mess to clean up? Um, do something about it every day. Might take two times two years, but you will never know unless you try.

Feel like giving up?  Ok.  After twenty five thousand times.  Then you can.

The only task I have not found which fits this model is fixing a toilet seat.  I finally replaced the toilet seat.  It is not a hard job but there was something symbolic about it which interfered with getting it done.  But its done now.  It may be one toilet seat, but how many times have I worked through a building problem only to realize the answer was there all along.

And, it may be one toilet seat but I believe I have worked through thousands of screws, thousands of toy assemblies and countless little projects. (Including a birdfeeder that my feathered friends still dislike. Hmm…..)

Es looked at me.  “I realized I no longer need to destroy myself.  I had realized I do not need to violate my own gentleness and my own vow.  I remembered that I did not need to trespass my own life of peace and my own vows.”

For the first time Es reached out to me.  

“Please, would you help me get up?”

Love and Blessings! Happy Advent!

Lots and Loads of Love and a kiss to boot,

Stephanie

 

 

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.

IMG_9433
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.

IMG_9377
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.

IMG_9406

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

 

It was Reformation, Batman. 

It was Reformation, Batman. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation
Hallowed Wings of Reformation

“Slow down,”  He would say.  “Just slow down, Missy,” He would repeat to me, with the most gentle motion of a hand slicing air which seemed to stop the currents of time if even for a breath in ones mind.

I remember, Father.  I remember.

This past weekend I heard a prayer which I had loved from the moment I first heard it not many years ago.  I decided to not forget it again.

“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger;  and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You.  For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

The understated mum
The Understated Mum

From the date of my father’s birthday through Halloween to my son’s birthday always feels like a cornerstone of time, a marker of the changing seasons.  In Wisconsin it is dramatic shift of necessity.  A person has to release summer.  A person has to open ones coat a bit to feel the chill in the magnificent ability of the earth to decorate itself with white.

Or, you could grump about it.

Halloween was always one of his favorites, my fathers, and his students’, even his students’ children too.  Giving out candy?  Children in costumes?  My father’s bliss.

The mum plant by his grave, once jammed with beautiful dusky rose pink blooms, now stands naked, its green and brown exposed since the pastel frivolity has been nipped by morning frosts.  I missed that dash of light color as I walked toward his stone.  “Seems like everything goes too quickly, huh, Pop?”

There is a funny thing about mums though.  Underneath, in the green and brown nakedness, were buds.  Buds.  I could feel my cheeks burn with shame that I could have ever grumbled at the missing blooms.  It was the most beautiful and uneventful sight.  Ever.  On a Sunday.

 

Lights
Lighting the Darkness, the Truth

About Es.

“Es! Stop! You don’t need to scream. I can hear you.”  But the wind kept howling around us and she kept screaming in response, hoping to out blast its fury.  

We had made our way for quite some distance, steadily and without event on the path which seemed to rise up to her feet while the beast of shadows labored with its darkness just far enough away yet near enough.    Just when the path might have become monotonous, the grade started to slope upwards.  Not steep enough for us to need to use our hands, but it was steep enough to feel that semi-pleasant burn of a hill climb in our thighs.  It was the first time the beast did not flank us.  We watched for a bit as it headed in our similar direction but it would not climb the hill.  I could have wondered more about the beast but the slope of the hill and my unused muscles demanded more of my attention.  Watching and wondering the beast for Es would have to wait.  I was not sure I could make it up the hill.

We kept hiking.  The path never got steeper and seemed to never hint at leveling off at a pinnacle.  With determination Es stepped.  The path had changed from the softness of green covered earthiness to the harsh crumbles of stone-pummeled stone, yet the way cleared with each step she took.

When the wind began to whistle through the rocks above our head we realized there were no more rocks above us, only along side.  We had reached the pinnacle as the wind now howled, enveloping us.  Es shouted about the beast.  

“No,” I nodded back.

Es shouted again to me. “I have to tell them.  I have to tell them what happened.  I have to tell the truth.”

“Es,” I grabbed her shoulder.  “Es, you do not need to.  They already know.”

We looked at each other with disbelief.  I, saying words which I did not necessarily believe and she, with a gaze of shock.  The wind howled again, switching direction as quickly as it seemed it could.  Before either of us could respond to the other’s gaze we began the descent.  There below us, further out and further away from us , the beast’s darkened slithering body crept through the flower field.  We watched it as we moved to a rock perched beside the path.  There we sat, blanketed by stones, watching the dark shadow.

“People already know?”

“Of course, Es.”

“They already know what happened to me?”

“Maybe not specifically, but you are not the only one who has been hurt like this and anyone who has been hurt recognizes pain in another.”

“People already know I was fired?”

“No, but they do know that what happened is not what it seemed to be.  People know you.”

“People will know how it happened?  Will they know how cruel it all was and I never knew it was happening?  Will they know that I had not had an evaluation in six, maybe seven years because I was ‘that good’ and I was friends with everyone?”

I stared at her.  I watched her eyes.  I had told her beforehand, I had warned her, but she had wanted to teach so intensely and she loved children so much and…she was smart.  But she had not been wise.

“Do people know how it was done to me?  Do they know that I was caring for the children of the same people who were going to fire me, at a staff Christmas party, swimming with their children, while they were meeting to fire me? Do they know that ten days prior to being fired I was publicly praised by my friend, my boss, about what a great asset I was to the school? Do they know we, and other female teachers, went out for drinks to celebrate that same evening? Do they know that upon request from my friend, my boss, I wrote the Common Core curriculum for mathematics, language arts, art, and computer science?  And then I was fired?”

“Do they know about the months of intensifying, bullying behavior as I was going through a heartbreaking divorce?  Do they know how I reported the bullying behavior of one teacher with students?”

“Do they know about required staff meetings, study sessions,  in which my Jewish heritage was made fun of?  Do they know how they laughed at Judaism?”

With this proclamation, her tears began.  She continued with the next nail.

“Do they know how I told my friend, I kept telling her about what was going on.  She was my friend.  Do people know she continually called me ‘weird’?”

“Do they know how my life was shattering, that my nineteen year marriage was disintegrating?”

“Do people know I was sexually assaulted in the same year? Do they know I told my friend, my boss?”

“Do people know, that when I was fired, I thought of my father? Do they know that  I said nothing during the meeting.  I had nothing to say.  Do people know that I had already told everything to my friend who was my boss? Do people know I ‘took the fall’ for the lack of student skill development from other years?  Do people know that I was blamed, that within three months, I was the blame for skills that should have been taught two years prior? Do people know that I took the fall for a mother not knowing her child had failed a mathematics placement exam?  Do people know this mother was a part of the same group who decided to fire me? “

“Do people know that I was never asked, not once, by any of the group who did fire me or any official, any leader, about any events?  Do people know that no one, not once, wanted to talk to me, ask me directly?  Do people know I was never warned?  Do people know about,” and her voice broke, “that a fellow teacher – in front of children – hummed the Bridal March to me?  Do people know she laughed as I began to cry?”

“Do people know?  Do people know how I was threatened?”

“Es.” I said to her flatly, as flatly as I could.  “Es, people know it never quite added up.  You don’t need to justify.”

“I have justified my whole path. All of these years.”

Then she tore at another “nail”.

“Do people know how….”

But she stopped. We were looking downhill when the blackened outline of the shadow figure caught our eyes.  Its movements had always been, if not beautiful or graceful, at least steady.  Now it seemed rather confused, as if a shadow can possess such a quality.  The more we watched, the further we seemed to be away from it, as if our attachment was a stone to be thrown or the know of a safety rope.

 

Facepainting
A Garden Variety Mask.

Me. Lady. Now.

I had this brainy idea to paint my face for Halloween or Hallowed Eve or Reformation – whichever you decide to celebrate, if you should choose to do so.  I am rather fond of celebrations, personally.

After writing about my Saint Paul trip, I must admit to being hit rather hard with a realization.  Along that trip I had visited a Catholic church, having been raised Catholic.  I had visited the synagogue out of reverence and a continued curiosity at a piece of my heritage.  My faith was still poking me, wondering if this is me or this is me.  I had treated my faith like a Goldilocks quest.  The significance of these habits played with me in the days to follow my return home.  How long have I sought to justify not only who I was but who I am?  Everything I write, everything I do, my life I have bent for that sole purpose.

I have been rather confused by that realization.  How undeniably spoiled I must be, to trivialize life and yet how dishonest I have been to call that justification, itself, to be of any meaning, any significance?

Stephanie.  You are better than that.  Stephanie!  Your path is not and should not and you better not, be one of that type of justification.  Because that… is just an excuse.

(Insert moment of pout).

But I had not put the pieces together until today (technically, yesterday).  I had been stopping my own growth with the reference point of not what they had done to me or what I have experienced in my life, but really I had been stopping my own growth by justification.  I am not justified.  Those experiences do not entitle me.  Those experiences do not pardon me from development.

“Do people know, that I believe they made up things about me? Yet, some of those same people had called me the kindest person they ever knew?”

“Es, I am pretty certain people know, even if they do not know.”

“Do people know that despite my marriage counselor, my soon to be ex-husband and my attorney’s advise to file a lawsuit, I chose to forgive?”

“Do people know that I packed my whole computer lab and all my teacher supplies in one night, through the night because I was so scared?  Do people know how I cried?  Do they know…how I drew comfort, through hours of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Amazing Grace and Hebrew chants?”

Es sniffed a bit, wiping the tears from her eyes.  We watched again, wordlessly, the shadow beast in the flower field.  It stumbled, slowing, uncertain of its own direction now not being able to see ours.

Es turned to me with the warmth of a slow grin and the eyes now of a gently justified soul.

“Do people know how I had driven three youngsters in my Jeep every morning to school?  They were young, very young, from preschool to kindergarten.  The teachers from the primary grades had gathered three car seats so that I might legally transport them.  Each morning I would swoop in and each morning they would hop, backpacks and all, from house to Jeep.  Every morning, for ten minutes, we were transported, pretending that as we arrived at drop off in back of school, along with all the other students, we were landing safely in our jet airplane….if only for ten minutes…”

Sometimes, we would even pretend it was the Batmobile.

Thank you and Happy Saints Day!

Love.  Lots and loads of love,

Stephanie.

#reformation #love #thesaints

The Owl Dress.

The Owl Dress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

 

She escaped.  Es, unaware of her placement in the shadows of cross hairs of crossfires, dove into the clay;  its chocolaty thickness reminiscent of her Jewish grandmas old-school malteds.  Clamping her lips tighter and tighter she nuzzled into the nether regions of the earth.

Safe.

Each of the warring sides believed in the justification of their snares.  Es had not even seen it coming, the battle to ensue.  They were two distinct entities, each with their own placement in her life like alternating cans of corn and sweet peas upon grocery store shelves.

I had yelled for her to stop. “Es, please don’t. Es. Es!” But she had already known.  She had ducked, then dove.

Es had been readying herself for the battle.  She was determined not necessarily to defeat but to weaken so that no harm would ever come to another from their hands.

……………………………

Weeks have passed.  Call it ‘writer’s block’.  I would not call it that, but the phrase sounds intelligent enough.  Weeks have passed in which I have felt I could not get anything right.  It is an over exaggeration and really among the possible worries one could have, I decided to latch myself to the ‘not getting it right’ boat.  But to remain purposely in its safety seemed to block my own current.  As the saying goes, “do not forget how much you love to swim.”

After months of court battles, city battles, financial concerns, and inner life questioning, any extra time to latch seemed justifiable.  That may not have been the wisest notion I have ever had but I realize this time gave me a peace I had never known in my whole life.  It is a peace to savor, a peace to live in, a peace upon which to build and mostly, a peace to share.

(Peace, like love, is not like pie.  There is not a finite number of slices. Hmm. I had some learning to do.)

…………………………

I saved for the dress – for a dress, really.

The owl dress is beautiful with a silky soft georgette overlay upon a similar printed nylon shell.  Oh, I know ‘nylon’ is not the attractive word, but it is what it is.  And it is fabulous fabric, hugging ones skin underneath while the filmy overlay catches even the slightest body movement and slightest wind.  Upon the fabric is dyed midnight colors of owl feathers and softened, swirled owl faces.

I walked through my routine, unplugging lights and examining walls, realizing that one day I will trade my overalls at the Matthias Building for my dresses.  There would always be days of work jeans but I knew for the first time I could let those days go.  I could really replace those days with the days to come, with days I had only imagined but not felt, days like this one, wearing a midnight owl dress, dyed with the colors of deep ink feathers and clothing a body who, herself, had been carved from the haunts of nighttime.

……………………….

We had been walking along, pleasantly breathing in the valley air.  So thick the air with smells of green growth one could imagine it always smelling this way and could not imagine it ever smelling any differently.

I begged Es to stop.  “Please Es, I need to sit.”  She smiled, pointing at a granite ledge poking through the grasses of the hillside.  Odd that the stone should be there but for once I would not analyze its peculiarity.  I just wanted to sit.

Es waved then continued her study of hilltops, birds flying and clouds passing.  How old was she? I chuckled to myself.  As I sat I realized our walk had paused in a bowl formed by hills of granite exposed by wind and hidden slightly from ones first glance by waving tall grasses.

The warmth of the sun baked through my thighs as I sat. I closed my eyes to raise my face to the sky.  My hair blew gently, tickling my neck pleasantly.  Peace.  I could still hear Es, her giggles at whatever discovery she was making.  Peace.

I think I opened my eyes when I heard her gasp.  My ears would have ignored a jet engine but not her frightened gasp. I looked at her and she at me.  I saw the beast before she had;  her body had frozen as one is trained to do when you feel the eyes of a grizzly or a mountain cat upon your skin.  “Stand still. Don’t move.  It is your movement which attracts the hunter.”

Es had not even seen her predator.  But she knew she was in its cross hairs.

“Es.” I trembled.  “Es.” I stood. “Es! Es!” I bellowed for both of their attentions.  But the beast was a beast of many and would not be distracted.

…………………………

Es had forgiven them years ago.  It was all she had which itself was perfection.  The only way to learn of the faith of forgiveness is in the state of forgiveness.  Unconditional forgiveness is the foundation of ones faith, not to be bartered or sullied or especially not to be expected or advertised.  And the cost of forgiveness is within oneself not to words or beings.  At the time, forgiveness was all Es had.

For years she fought the memory of those few months which turned decades of her life upside down.  She reasoned with invisible justifications like shadow boxing in rounds that never heard the bell nor felt the slam of a knockout.

Over and over, for years she would wonder why they had done it to her. She could only imagine what they had said among themselves, to each other as those telephone calls or care to her would never come. She would never hear explanations because there were none.

…………………………

When Es fell the first time, the blow caught her off guard.  She expected it to be some joke and looked back at the face who had dealt the first hit.  Her face outlined mockery in thick, no-nonsense coloring book style lines.  That face, that body, that heart had known how to hurt.  The seasoned mixture of her glee at my shocked expression showed years of practice.  This was no accident, Es realized.  This woman joked meanly for pleasure.  

I wished for Es to stand up, take a swing at her.

But I knew better.  I watched as tears filled her eyes. She would rather take that blow than return in kind.  Partially because Es knew she could not match the veil.  No, Es was not that kind of fighter.  Nor was I.  Still, as I watched, I wished for both of us that she would have swung.  

Es rose with tears in her eyes, puddles gathered on lower lids that could easily yet be explained away for anyone close enough to notice.  Of course her attacker knew she would never strike back.  She had known Es would never return fire.  It took us both years to understand that the woman had known that fact.  Es was the one person she could attack with full knowledge she herself would be safe.  Safe from Es and safe from any question from anyone else.  This woman was given the trump card of cards.  She would never be questioned and never be accused.

No matter what she did.

Es was horrified at this realization.  Later she would hear it, in the voice of mockery at Es’s family heritage.  And the joining of laughter of those around her.

Es remained silent.  She never cried out for help.  Not once.  I watched as they turned away from her.  At one point during the fight, Es lay in the mud.  The woman and those around her ate their lunch.  They stopped the fight.  Never offered her a morsel, a crumb to eat.  No water to drink.  They seemed amused that although to the world they called her comrade, now they made sure she did not and could not eat with them.

She had been hungry.  They had refused her.  She had been alone in the mud.  They mocked her.  And when she was fallen,

she kicked at Es once more.

The one friend who could have helped her, came to her. She too had watched the fight but when she hovered over Es, she asked Es

“Do you know how weird you are?”

Es said nothing.  Her friend did not reach out to help her stand.  Es watched as they ate.  In the dark of night Es heard their steps approach nearer to her.  Now they came, all at once.  It was a remarkable sight, the many against the one.  Es was weakened, assaulted in every way a woman could have been.  She lay in the mud.  I watched as they came back, their bellies full of feasting but wishing more.

“Es!” I cried out. “Es, please!”

On and on.  Es would not stop.  She would get up, swing with varying degrees of strength, missing most of the time, once in awhile landing a strike square on.  But they would nip at her.  Her feet were bloodied as they bit and lashed.  Es was unreasonable.  We could have walked away, but no.  She chose to fight.

“Es, please.”

She never answered me. But I waited. And I prayed for her safety.  I had never seen anything like it in my whole life.  Fruitless fighting for the beast of decorated righteousness.  But it was more than that.

Not one.  Not one saw anything wrong with their attack upon her.  Not one.  Not one reached out.  Not one.

It changed.

The woman and the others….changed.  I saw them look at her a bit differently, softer maybe.  Es saw it too.  The drying blood of her wounds crusted on her skin.  The attacks had ceased. Es stood in her mud, a body length away from the woman and the rest.  I froze at the sight, my mind racing forward with imagination wondering at what would happen.  They would not expect her to reawaken the battle and she would.  They would not expect her to remember the unforgettables which they had already forgotten.

As Es brushed off the dried blood.  Her wounds, I saw were not completely healed.  New blood trickled upon her skin.  The woman and the rest smelled her perfume, a delicate iron protein signal for vulnerability.

“Es,please…”

As quickly as was the brush of dried blood, the trickling of new blood and the awakening of the woman and the rest, was as quickly as the moment the earth seemed to turn.  Behind the rocks stalked a beast larger than the woman and the rest.

Sometimes I would wonder at Es’s collection of memories.  Es knew the beast and the beast knew her.  As quickly as I recognized the possibility that she had summoned a compatriot, as quickly as my body sighed in relief for the first time in ages, was as quickly as I became aware that this was no compatriot of Es’s.

“Es!”  This time I screamed.  “Es!”  For the beast was coming for her, the smell of her blood awakening both the beast and the woman with the rest.

“Es!”

The beast with the fury of truly, I do not know of what, came, outstretched arms, clasping into its own dust storm for Es’s flesh.  The woman and the rest, greedily clawed at the same air, not wishing to share the prized prey they had beaten, dirtied and outnumbered.  But in the storm of dust and rubble and in the sounds of too many noises of greed and territorial roaring, Es dove.

As quietly as she had fought and as quietly as she ever was, in the middle of the greed and revenge, in the middle of misjudgment, lies and false righteousness, she escaped.

Es, unaware of her placement in the shadows of cross hairs of crossfires, dove into the clay;  its chocolaty thickness reminiscent of her Jewish grandmas homemade old-school malteds.  Clamping her lips tighter and tighter she nuzzled into the nether regions of the earth.

I stood dumbly.  “Es,” I whispered in silent prayer. “Es.”

We left them there, the beast and the woman with the rest.  They stood fighting over mud in the middle of dirt and noises of greed.  They never realized we had left.  What they had prized all along had simply and quietly…

Walked away.

Es looked like hell.  And I never ever say that word but there was none other to describe.  After all this time it had taken another monster, a bigger beast, with a hunger as equal to the woman and the rest, to free Es.

“Come on,” she finally said.  “No Es, we cannot get back to the tree this way.”

“We are not going back.”

Es smiled through dried clay and blood.

“We are going to find Wind.”

Lots of love and loads of peace,

With tears and smiles,

Stephanie

(mwah).