Monday, September 15, 2008

Here's a little write I did after my trapezing experience this past weekend. It was so much fun and I hope to do it again very soon.

Imitating Birds:
I nervously chalk my wrists and try not to rationalize. I climb the narrow 5 inch wide staircase, one step at a time and reach for the platform with a few other low hand holds wrapped in white rope. Up I climb with legs wobbling behind me. Like a puppet, I pull them up and force them straight under my body as I balance on the narrow platform with four other feet.

“Ok ready?” He asks as I rake my mind for memory of what I am suppose to do and give him a blank ghostly stare.

“Put your feet up front with toes to the very edge.” I do as he says but dare not glance beyond my toes to the 4 story drop below. I lean precariously off the small wood platform at a straight and severe angle entrusting myself to this complete stranger. I reach with all my effort for the bar sitting far off the 'cliff'. One other hand wraps around the other side of the bar and I’m fit to fly.

“Ready! Bend your knees. Hep—jump!” Straight up I lift as if in slow motion and then fall with the wind whizzing past me and I lose all thought of any meaning. Somewhere in the distance I faintly hear “legs up”. I do as told and before I know it I’m weightless and looking at my feet.

“Hands off!” The command says. Without thinking my hands also fly and I’m looking directly into the eyes of someone else who has a firm clasp on me. Suddenly I feel as if I’m on the biggest human swing and my breath is blown right out of my lungs and I become it—weightless and free. For several indelible seconds I feel an exhilarating love of my spirit and I smile. Before I can lather myself in it, I’m bobbing in a net that feels more like a bird’s nest and my adrenalin has me pumped up much higher than I actually am.

From this point on, I’d be envious of birds drifting in the circular currents of the wind high above the rolling dry, teddy-bear brown fields. I’ve always wanted to fly and this was a big tasty slice of what freedom in the sky feels like. I’m hooked!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Vacation:
It's time to break from the pack and itch at our creative claustrophobia. It’s my time to reflect and dream up ideas that have been sitting dormant and release the angst that has been building up. We reach for expansiveness-- whether it be the great outdoors or a window for our contained imagination. We hope for the best, but know it’s hard to unplug from daily reality.

The only problem with vacations is there are many more ideas and dreams of what’s to be done and accomplished than there is time. Never factored in is down-time and what is finally your time. All the time in cubicles, under hard hats and in suits has gotten you nowhere- not even a confidence booster. So squeezed into small vacations—often only 2 days or into late, late nights is your freedom to create your being and map your essence. It’s where you drop your pin prick of a mark on this fragile space of time—not a big one, but at least it’s something real and original- something to be built upon in the next generation.

Like working with toothpicks of time, we create and build forms, shapes and homes. These house bigger ideas and bigger life forms that seep out into the world and hopefully gain some recognition, influence or notice publicly. We have to work fast and efficiently ‘cause we are working with slivers of time and slivers of budgets just to do what we’re meant to do. Perhaps it is just experimenting at first, which is always risky because it takes so much time to “play” and it often times leads to dead-ends, but you know the impact of what might be. It’s nothing without practice and play. Like a dog hunting down a scent you don’t know where it will lead but you taste it.

Without risk or vacation from the norm, you’re simply a robot of someone else’s creation, which often times, that too, is just a form of paper-white dull play with larger budgets and no imagination. When will vacations be a vital, necessary and demanded part of our standard of living- a life force that has to be revived frequently before we can be an upstanding human being of real purpose?
Lost are the years of stories I captured in my turbulent youth. Two diaries buried in a landfill somewhere after a down-the-street move. Lost is the heartache, teenage angst and angry words spewed out on pages and pages of recycled line paper. Forgotten is all the pain and agony of long-distance loves ripping themselves apart in the middle of the night. Departed is the fear and anger of parents languishing about their spoiled lives. Gone are the days of a fragile, sequestered identity with unexpressed maturity. It was therapy and a voice for the soul. My pen was my best friend when no one would listen and a whipping post when I needed it most.

It’s just as well. With the new blanket and shelter time has created in the wake of all the heartache, there are plenty of stories yet to be written and more waves to ride upon. Once writing, it’s not uncommon to experience a déjà vu or two. Perhaps a few buried treasures will haunt my pen and paper with memories thought to be abandoned. Like a trigger-happy photographer, I capture them all with loud clicking keystrokes.
My Last Meal:
It was squash that I couldn’t stand yet Mom always grilled it up because Dad liked it. Each time she did, we would be in for a long night. My sister and I weren’t picky eaters. We’d eat outside the bread, cheese and pasta food groups, but we were kids and food texture was a big factor in what we eat. Anything too slimy and it wasn’t going down right.

We’d eat the chicken with the strange leafy blooms-- artichokes I believe they are called and we tasted the salty balls that looked like rabbit pellets. Even the cottage cheese which resembled curdled, lumpy, spoiled milk slipped down the hatch. Yet when it came to the squash I just shook my head and sealed my mouth shut. It was a no-go! The last time I attempted to force it down I chased it with milk and gagged so my eyes watered and my throat croaked in reverse. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

While my sister and I took turns distracting our parents with silly questions and bombastic stories, we’d make magic disappearances with the squash. Under the table, I’d first try feeding the squash to the dog. No matter how much sauce was on it, the dog wouldn’t touch it. (You know it’s bad when an animal that will lap up its own regurgitated food won’t even eat it.) When that didn’t work I’d quickly throw it under my placemat.

Then it was my turn and I’d put the parents in a frenzy about an exaggerated rumor I heard, while my sister hid the detested veggie in her milk glass. Another limp squishy piece of squash would be shoved under her chair’s seat cushion. But this was usually a desperate last resort because it was often forgotten for a few days before Mom would come screaming from the kitchen red in the face with a threatening wooden spoon in hand.

For the last few morsels of gooey, seedy squash we would drop it into our mouths- careful to move our tongues out of the way and race to the bathroom- spitting it up in the toilet. One time I tried the sink but that just made a horrible mess and I nearly gagged again just touching it with my bare hands. It feels like yesterday that we would sit at our table plotting the squash escape, but it’s since been the last meal I’ve had to turn down. Luckily squash isn’t in season for many of us.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More little writes....

Photo: Old Porch
“Ooooooowwwhh” he howled from across the field. It was his call to the wild, his call to the cattle to let them know it was time to come in and be fed. He loved those cattle, loved being on the tractor and loved pitch-forking out the hay from the old red barn. Those cattle loved him back and would follow him anywhere with or without food in hand. Admiring my grandfather so, I also tried to emulate him and get the cattle to follow me. “Oooooowwwwhhh” I’d holler. Nothing. No respect. “Oooooooowwwhhhwwweeeee” I’d try again and a couple cows turned their heads in my direction, but that was it. I decided I’d leave the caroling up to grandpa.

“Wanna come see the rest of the farm?” he’d ask leading me into a small farmhouse the size of my room. This is where we lived in the summer. The place was filled with rusty, brown farm tools. It looked like a tool shed to me. “Of course I didn’t have all these farm tools in here. I’ve cleaned it up. Doesn’t it look good?” He questioned. Looking around I saw a vintage old three-seater couch and an antique clock and an old television set. “Where’s the sink and bathroom?” I wondered. “It’s outside in the back.” Wow, I thought, how times have changed within just one generation!

“It’s feeding time. Let’s go feed the cattle! We’ll ride the tractor and I’ll show you where most of them roam.” I was already thrilled and pleasantly surprised by all I was experiencing. I was ecstatic to know there was more in store. The anxiety, freshness and thrill of knowing another side of my family was priceless. At each blink, I tried to photographically capture it all in my memory. “Stand right there grandpa!” I asked. He stood halfway out of the wooden, paint-chipped porch door pleased as punch that this farm was all his. I could see the pride in his eyes and behind his aged skin blended well among the weathered porch door.

Never again
Never again will I pretend
Never again will I shy from the truth
Never again will I blame myself
Never again will I be the only one
Never again will I be cornered
Never again will I be told how I should feel
Never again will I doubt my intuition
Never again will I let you lead
Never again will you be in control of me
Never again will I lose my boundaries
I just don’t trust you
And I have every reason not to

One more time again I see you as faulty
One more time again I see you as foreign
One more time again I lost my intentions

One more time again I will see you as human
One more time again I will look in your eyes
One more time again I will listen with my heart
One more time again I will understand your intention
One more time again I will share a moment
One more time again I will find a kind word
One more time again I will be at your side
One more time again I will fulfill on a promise
One more time again I will be your friend

A bouquet of one more times
makes the heart forgetful for never again
We have to find common ground
A likeness among our differences
A similarity among our separateness
A bond among our individuality
A partnership that requires patience
A future that needs solutions
One more time I try for me
To console the never agains
souring my soul so

Man and Woman in Kitchen
“How do you like your buns—sticky, smothered in chocolate, soft and fluffy or firm and crunchy on the outside?” I can’t imagine having to say that to every new customer that walks into the store.

I thought to myself—I like my own butt firm but my mouth rather have them light and fluffy. But does that mean I am what I eat and soon enough I’ll be soft too? Nah, get the buns I say. They are known as the best in the Midwest. It’s a cultural experience to be here at this famous French bakery in the middle of the city—though I’m not sure how “French” it really is. Looking around I notice there were 15 oversized women and kids lining up behind me and wrapping around the outside of the building.

Hurry up and order! I tell myself while also wondering if any of these women struggle with the same ‘soft’ thoughts I do. If they do, they are definitely good at hiding it. it’s too bad their draped XL shirts don’t hide their bun binges as well. Perhaps they are so overwhelmed at work, being with their stressful families and bored with life that they have given up entirely on trying to fight the urges. It’s likely being in this quaint, warm bakery is their only salvation and escape from their busy, all-consuming lives.

I order my soft buns and wait for my number to be called. I notice those around me are also lip-smacking with anticipation and anxious about their hot and flaky buns. All this bun talk has me staring at their buns! I catch myself in the act just as one lady scrunches her face at me—how embarrassing?! Now I, like the other ladies, am feeling nervous and fidgety.

Discuss the Money Issue
While most families have a photo of Jesus, or symbol of Buddha or Vishnu hanging in their home, my family has a framed dollar bill reading “In God we Trust” in fine print. You walk into the door and head down a long, narrow corridor and besides the Beaver Cleaver delicately arranged family photo you see you see the squared-off dollar. It’s as though the family is run like a Chinese restaurant where the first lucky dollar becomes publicly pinned up next to the register.

From the stories I’ve learned about his prodigy success at 15 years old, that dollar actually should have been a $20 or $100 bill. Within weeks he was making an annual salary and within months it was millions. Numbers were magical to him and it’s all he ever talked, thought or lived for.

Years later it’s the same story and we wonder if the money has not tainted his mind. Surely he has developed some childish, spoiled habits as a result of not reporting to anyone but the dollar. He has little personality and no other outside interests beyond the numbered bills. It’s the game of greed that gets him energized. Gambling with his own ethics and his family’s pride, he bulldozes on—deadpanned—faceless. Forgotten as a man but remembered as a framed fiscal bill.

Enough is Enough
No communication
Lack of conversation
Backward bends
Gone no where
Hidden connection
Vacant inside
Pillow suffocation
Behind a wall

Forbidden frailty
Unseen forgotten
Forever lost
Chipped away
Ebony eyes
Sunken inside

Sludge tugs
At the past
Spit up hope
On the grass
Mowed it down
Hacked it up
Logged it out
Floods uprooted
Washed away
Down river
Into the bay
Needles wash up

Finger pointing
Fighting words
Bruised heart
Red drippingIVs in me
I started this online writing class to encourage me to write-- litterally the fire under my butt is working and I'm doing short writes each and every day. It's amazing what a little discipline and accountability will do for a person.

We have only 10-12 minutes to write based on a prompt (phrase or picture) about what comes to mind. It's stream of consciousness and free-flowing but helps each of us find our voice and build our confidence. Here are a few I've done (starting from beginning and working up to more recently).

A Sound Outside Your Window
It’s a calming rain pouring down from the rooftops in the sky. It’s a romantic cleansing that washes the soul from any impurities and bad karma left behind in the past—piled up like leaves in a gutter drain.

It’s a rapping, a tapping, and a knocking of a ghost reflection unseen from the inside. It’s my deceased grandmother haunting me. “What?” She screams. “It’s at your graduation that I lost my hearing, you know!” her voice trails on—mumbling something about how it’s a shame to grow so old and lose control of everything.

It’s a loud city street noise that screams inside my mind like a megaphone toting auctioneer, a horse race announcer at the finish line or the sounds of blaring Hispanic radio. It’s a nuisance that forces the outside in. It prevents me from being my insular, introverted self. It invades like noise pollution and chokes my thoughts.

It’s the approach of a car—tire treads hitting the rocky pavement of a greatly welcomed guest. It’s a friend unseen since the war. It was an awful war that was always rapping at your ear drums and clouding your airspace with smoke and poison. A friend soon to walk into the door and bring a myriad of memories thought to be forgotten—a rush of exposed secrets and raw pain. A friend I need despite the sorrow it will bring me once he steps at my doorstep and raps at my door.

Describe the Obstacle
Calming the symbol chiming monkey
Turning off the spinning carousel
Turning down the musical music box
Turning off the television set
Refreshing the connection

To rest along side the raccoons curled
Lie comfortably blessed under the stars
To sit still and be the tall trees
To hear insects crawling
To see the crickets rubbing their feet
To smell the mildew and shower soap
To breath in the sunset and approach of night
To caress my body’s cells and organs
To feel inspired by my imagination
To be confident in my capabilities
To be complete inside my mind’s activity

A Pleasant Surprise
I’ve dreamt for it; I’ve wished for it and I’ve prayed about it for over 20 years. Yet I have never heard you say three little words. Finally, today, when I wasn’t looking or expecting it I heard it. You said the simplest of words that mean more to me than anything else you could utter from your lips or any gift you could buy. With all the meaning and impact you could garner, you said “I am sorry”.

Wow! What a monumental relief it was to hear those words and it’s amazing the impact they have on me. My soul quivers with gratitude at the gift given. Steam releases from pressurized chambers inside. I feel cleansed from the hardened build up of years of acidic words and prickly ego-centric, selfishness that I’ve had to swallow.

My heart softened today and double-bounced as if on a trampoline chasing after gravity. You fulfilled on the wish of a shooting star I made years ago. As you told me my mind clouded with reflective sunsets and I lost all concentration. It was a beautiful evening and all other stresses were bagged as I played back your heart-felt words-- over and over and over again. You considered me and I thank you.

Thursday Photo: Woman
Her veil dances in the wind like billowing, lyrical smoke from a peace pipe. The fabric drapes around her blessing the sacred space she steps over. The thoughts in her mind not as sacred and pure as her dreamy virgin white wedding gown. Nerves bite at her stomach and nip at her neck while sweat drips uncontrollably from the inside of her thighs. Is this the right time? Is this the right man? Am I ready for this kind of commitment? Thoughts of her parent’s divisive divorce streak through her mind like nails on a chalkboard.

Her parents approach at each side. There’s no time she tells herself meanwhile trying to rationalize this monumental decision. Here we go ready or not. What will become of me? Will I lose my individuality and myself when we become one?

Can I say goodbye to my childhood fears of together forever? Can I still create my own path or will I have to circle backwards at the dead end of married life?

Many thoughts race through her mind like acts of clinging desperation before a free fall. Fears cloud her vision as she tries to sprint in long strides to the front and be at his side. She knows once she is with him the conversation with her fears closes and a new chapter begins. Already she has witnessed what it means to be a ‘we’ and to collaborate and give and take equally. This is not your parent’s relationship she reminds herself. Her back is to them and her attention and hands in his.