I have a bad habit of explaining my poetry, and I will continue that, but first, I’ll take you on a scary ride of how my train of thought ended up here. Hold on, it’s a twisty one :shock:
This post was originally going to be to refer you to a post compiled by Eli Pacheco at Coach Daddy where he asked bloggers how they would upgrade themselves – in six words. (If you have some time, check it out… there were some great contributions. Mine is #46)… “accept what will be; no worries”. Hold this thought…
In the past month, I’ve had to say goodbye to two of my pets. First, my seventeen-year-old Yorkie-Poo, Bulwinquel. Then, a few days ago, I lost my beloved cat, Cybil. She was fifteen years old and had been in kidney failure for over a year.
When I started writing this poem, it was to deal with the grief of loss over my pets. Then my mind wandered a bit farther back, over the landscape of this year. I half-joke that I’m done with 2015, but I don’t think it’s done with me. This poem ended up being more about another loss I’ve been dealing with: in January, I made the decision to end my 18-year marriage. Until last week, we were living in the same house which has been… well, miserable.
I won’t go into details as to what led to this because I have kids who might happen upon my ramblings here someday. There were several factors involved, but one aspect, I wrote about last October in a poem that was particularly difficult to share. Sharing that poem forced me to see things I chose to ignore for years.
This brings me back to my six-word contribution and this poem. The death that trails behind me are my pets, my marriage, and the idea of what I thought my life would be eighteen years ago. I failed. I don’t like failing and stubbornly tried to deny this failure, but the first 3/4 of this year has been coming to terms with it. It’s a continuing process.
I have spent a lot of time thinking (obsessing, really) about things I have no control over. It’s a daily thing to remind myself not to worry about tomorrow and to instead, rely on faith. I have no idea what the future holds. I’ll find out when it gets here.
This isn’t supposed to be a depressing post. I’m okay really. I’m working on a photo-inspired story but was too busy to complete it for September as I had planned. I’m not going to jinx it by saying when I think it’ll be done. I’ll just leave it at “soon.” :)
Thanks for hanging on to this thought train. Now, relax and have a beautiful Thursday!
Recently, I went for a walk in the evening to clear my head. I emerged from my thoughts long enough to look up and notice the illumination of the clouds in the eastern sky. I snapped this photo with my cell phone:
I walked a hilly cul-de-sac and upon heading east again, I looked up, anxious to see how the sunset light show had changed. I thought maybe I would be blessed with an even more beautiful display. I was surprised to find this:
In the span of seven minutes, the glow had disappeared. The beautiful display obviously intended to be brief, and only for those who paused long enough to take notice. Of course, this got me thinking (and dashed all hopes of clearing my head, haha.)
It made me wonder how many moments like this in life I miss because I’m wrapped up in the unimportant stuff that I allow to consume me… those worries that seem so large. The funny thing is, these thoughts that occupy my mind are often things that no amount of obsessing over will resolve because the variables are completely out of my control. I’m finally starting to learn that maybe, just maybe, being outside my head is a happier place :)
Sometimes taking notice of things around me takes a more humorous turn. I’ve told the kids countless times not to leave their cups on the table. Aaaand, their cups are always left on the table. One day, within forty minutes of each other, I took the following photos:
That day, my younger son got home from school and refilled his water cup. After he took a drink, I showed him the photos thinking maybe he would see why he shouldn’t leave his cup on the table. He did turn a little green so I got all smug, thinking my point had been made and the table would now be cup-free.
Nope. Cups are still left on the table; the only difference is, they each use 5 cups a day instead of 1. Oh, and they always leave fresh water in them for the cats- “because it’s cute.” (Um, no it’s not…)
I haven’t posted poetry in a while, so I figured it was about time. As I’ve done before, I’m going to share what I was thinking as I wrote it.
When I looked at the lake, it occurred to me that the reflections of the clouds and trees on the rippled water looked almost like an oil painting on canvas. As I often do, I drew comparisons and related this to me and my life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at an oil painting up close, but I find it fascinating how what looks like nothing more than blotches of different hues of green can suddenly turn into a beautiful tree when I take a couple steps back. This is exactly how my life is right now. I’ve been in the trenches of difficulty for most of this year and I had been submerged in darkness and hopelessness. Up close, I failed to see beyond the mess that is “now”.
It’s only been the last couple months that I have been able to take those important steps back so I could see that, although my life seems to be just blotches of colors, it’s the beginning of so much more. From a distance, I can envision beauty emerging at some point in the future.
Two months ago, I had an epiphany of sorts… a life-changing moment that happened in the midst of the ordinary. In the timeline of our lives, it isn’t often we can identify those moments at the exact time we breathe them, but here’s the story of my moment.
I sat on the sun-baked rock clothed in Capri pants and a t-shirt. I didn’t hike to the waterfall to jump in; I came to clear my mind and watch the crazy people leap into the murky unknown. And the pool of water had turned an icky shade of brown after the last monsoon storm. My mind never slowed as it ran through all the things that could go wrong. You could slip off Lloyd’s Log and bust your head open. I mean, the log was probably named for Lloyd after he did just that. Lloyd’s body could have still been there for all I knew. The old log could break and impale you as you plummet into the water. You could over or under-shoot the leap and break your legs on rocks jutting out that are obscured by the muddy brown pool. You could belly flop and drown after the wind is knocked from your lungs. The list went on.
I held my breath every time a child leaped from the carved log and exhaled each time their head bobbed back to the surface. In between, I’d shake my head and wonder why the parents didn’t protect their children. If I had a child, I would never let them do something so dangerous. I scanned the dozens of people around me and tried to match the offspring. I grew bored with the game when the string of unmatched jumpers grew too long for me to manage.
My attention turned to the children and the way they would just jump, arms spread wide, legs tucked, into the unknown. They had no fear. I wondered what it was like to not be restrained by the shackles of consequences. How did it feel to experience flight, even for just a few seconds before plunging into the water? I puzzled over how an anyone could jump without knowing for certain it was safe. But they did. Some hesitated, but eventually they leaped. I imagined their eyes squinted closed, but still, they jumped.
I looked down at my faded brown pants and the realization came to me: at least they came prepared to let go. In that moment, I saw my street clothes as an outward representation of my abundant supply of fears. A more alarming thought surfaced: I breathed, but I didn’t live.
On impulse, I unlaced my shoes and set them beside me. I peeled the damp socks from my pale, hardly-seen-sunshine feet. I stood and took a deep breath before walking toward the water. I gasped as the shock of cool water met my hot skin. Thigh-deep in the unknown, I considered turning back. But I’d gone this far. I continued until my feet no longer touched the bottom, then I swam toward Lloyd’s log. I shimmied up the submerged log and crawled up the crudely-carved stairs. With shaky legs, I stood on the last step. Things that could go wrong began to cloud my mind, but I jumped before they could paralyze me.
I didn’t hit my head on the log. The log didn’t crack and I didn’t break any bones. Lloyd’s corpse didn’t reach up and pull me under. I wasn’t afflicted with flesh-eating bacteria. The silt washed off my skin in a warm shower.
The thing is, my outward appearance is no different than it was before, but the moment I leaped from Lloyd’s Log with my arms stretched like a bird in flight, I lived.
This story is fiction but was inspired by some real thoughts and introspection that I’ve had. At church on Sunday, they talked of faith. Faith is often believing in something we cannot see or prove, and trusting that the outcome will be for our good. Fear is the exact opposite of faith. When there is fear, faith is a risk. Like the character in this story, I tend to see all the harmful/dangerous things that could come from any given situation. I recognize that I need to lean on my faith more.
Still, I did not leap into the nasty murky water from a carved log. There are certain things I couldn’t work past… like, where do all these beer-drinking people go to the bathroom? Oh, I knew….
Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it. What follows is the photo he chose- FOR MAY! (yes, I am that far behind), and then my story. His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should :)
She leaned her bare elbows on the iron railing. The still-warm metal transferred a day’s worth of heat to her skin. The sun had set about an hour ago; she’d watched it sink below the horizon.
“She comes out here every night.”
Ingrid heard the whispers behind her, annoying like gnats swarming in dusk air.
“It’s like she thinks he’s coming back.”
She closed her eyes and bowed her head. They didn’t know what they spoke of, but she let them think what they wanted. Her momma had always told her that gossip was like a raging wildfire. Truth only fanned the flames until all that remained were embers glowing among the ashes of destroyed lives.
“It’s sad, really. At her age, to be tossed aside like that; I heard he found someone else.”
Ingrid turned to face the women behind her. “Sadness… joy… life brings some of both, doesn’t it?” Ingrid smiled as their eyes widened. The yellow glow of the lamplights did nothing to conceal their reddened cheeks. At least they had the decency to be embarrassed, even though it wasn’t because of what they said, but rather, that she’d confronted them. She gained some satisfaction in their discomfort as she watched them scurry like roaches seeking a dark corner.
Alone again, Ingrid returned her attention to the canal below. Specifically, the boat tethered to the railing. That boat wasn’t much to look at on the surface, but it held the answers to many of her life’s questions. She felt that if she spent enough time in the presence of the boat bearing her name, mysteries of life would be revealed to her.
As a young woman, she’d dreamed of a simple life spent on the countryside. She’d imagined growing her own produce, maybe even a small vineyard where she could practice the art of making wine. When she first met Gary, she thought he’d shared her dreams. She later realized he had his own dreams of owning a boat and living on the water.
Fifteen years ago, he bought a canal boat and named her Ingrid’s Sunset.
“You bought a boat? Without talking to me about it first?”
He’d held her hands in his. “But honey, she’s perfect, just like you.”
She shook her head. “The wood needs refinished, the leather seat is weather-beaten, and it’s taking on water. It’s a wonder the thing floats.”
Gary grinned. “Give me time and you’ll see the beauty too.”
His excitement had softened her toward the dilapidated vessel. For a few years, he did work on the boat in his spare time. The leather seat had been replaced and the leaks plugged where the floor boards remained dry. His attention drifted, though, to bigger, more elaborate boats. He wanted to travel the ocean and knew the canal boat would never get him there.
Ingrid stared down at Ingrid’s Sunset, the irony, bitter in her throat. Like the boat named after her, she could only carry him so far before he realized he needed more. Like the boat, she had been nurtured and cared for in the beginning. Without thought, she’d let go of her countryside dreams and adopted his dream as her own. She’d believed him when he told her she’d always be his co-captain.
She closed her eyes to the grit carried on the warm breeze. She despised this place. It served as a constant reminder that she was trapped in the nightmare of living in someone else’s dream. For nearly two years, she’d spent her evenings with Ingrid’s Sunset looking for answers, searching for direction. Abandoned, she lingered in the purgatory of realization… unable to let go of his dream, yet unable to pursue her own.
“It’s getting dark.”
Ingrid didn’t turn toward the voice behind her. “It’s been dark for some time.”
“I have to go home soon so I can make sure mother gets her nighttime meds.”
“Sarah, you can go. I can see myself in just fine.”
“You know I can’t do that,” she whispered.
Annoyance filled the wrinkles scrunched between Ingrid’s frowned eyebrows. She knew the rules and had no regard for them. However, Sarah was no longer bound by them. For six months after Ingrid’s breakdown, Sarah had been the caseworker assigned to monitor her re-acclimation, or whatever it was they called it. Basically, Sarah hovered to make sure Ingrid didn’t go off the deep end again. After six months, the state department of mental health services deemed Ingrid able to live on her own in society with medication. But Sarah continued to check on her every day.
“Why do you still come here?” Ingrid asked; gaze fixed on the tethered canal boat bobbing in the water below.
“The water calls to you.”
Ingrid glanced over her shoulder. “What do you mean?”
“You come out here every night, as if you are waiting for him to return. Even though you know he isn’t coming back, I fear you’ll answer the water’s call.”
Ingrid studied the deep creases that spanned the length Sarah’s forehead. Under the street lamps, the pale skin stretched across her cheekbones looked thinner, almost crinkly- like wadded tissue paper. She suspected painful stories settled in each of the furrows. “You think I’m going to drown myself?”
Sarah shrugged. “Maybe not intentionally, but once the water wraps itself around you, I’m certain it will suffocate you. I’ve been left before and I know the lure of needing to know why.”
Turning back to the canal, Ingrid looked into the murky water. Instead of her reflection, she could only make out mottled patches of reflected light. “I used to dream of the countryside.”
“You should go there.”
Several minutes were swallowed in silence before Ingrid broke her grip on the railing and took one step back. “You keep saying that. I’m thinking maybe you’re right; maybe it’s time to move on.” She turned to Sarah and noticed her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “You want to come in for a snack before you go?”
Sarah shook her head and glanced at the watch strapped to her wrist. “I have some things I need to do yet tonight.”
She didn’t ask the time, but suspected it was later than she thought, as the canal walk had grown deserted. “Goodnight then.” Ingrid smiled. “Thank you for everything.” She felt Sarah watching her as she strode away from the canal. Once she passed through the archway to the gardens, she stepped aside and ducked behind a flowering Texas Ranger shrub. Peeking through the space between clustered branches, Ingrid watched as Sarah kneeled down at the railing. Even before the first rope slithered from between the rails and dropped into the canal, she knew what was happening. Ingrid could have stopped her, but didn’t. When the third and final rope disappeared, a lengthy exhale escaped.
Sarah stood and brushed her knees off before reaching into her pocket. Ingrid squinted but still couldn’t make out what she held in her hands. She gasped when she saw the first flames flicker. Again, she could have intervened, but watched in silence as Sarah tossed the flaming object over the railing.
“Goodbye, Gary.” The words slipped from between parched lips, like a breeze whistling between bare branches.
Ingrid stared, transfixed, as the first tendrils of smoke drifted skyward. In the periphery of her consciousness, she sensed that Sarah had disappeared into the darkness outside the lamp-lit walkway. A hint of a smile tugged at the corner of her lips as the wisps grew into billows of black smoke. She knew this would be her last visit to the canal; the hold on her now broken.
Just as leaves bud in the spring, Ingrid felt the first stirring of life in her once-dormant soul.
When I started this story back in May, I stopped writing just before where Sarah was introduced. I finally realized my hesitation with the story – the ending I had in my mind was too obvious. That’s where Sarah came in. Instead of Ingrid coming to the conclusion of letting go and moving on herself, Sarah helped her along. A part of me thinks that Gary might actually have been stored in that canal boat, possibly under the seat (hmm… perhaps I’ve thought about this waaaaay too much!) but I left that open… Ingrid’s goodbye to Gary could have figurative or literal, depending on how you- the reader- choose to see it.
Thanks so much for reading!
Emilio – you want to try another photo for September? Hey, I could have a story by Christmas, haha! Seriously though – I’ve missed writing for your photos :)