For the first time in many weeks, it’s quiet here. It’s 3:14 a.m. and I really have no business being up at this time of night; tomorrow’s a school day- in more ways than one. I’m home-schooling my nephew, Johnboy, now. He comes over 3 times per week and we put in about 30 hours weekly. I won’t say where he was academically before I took over, but he’s making great progress and he’s got the grades to prove it. 🙂 Before we began, I made him an irresistible proposition: I offered to buy him a cell phone if he wrote me a report on any book from the library that was 300 pages or more. Over the next few weeks, he cultivated a careful 3 page report on Malcom X and I made good on my promise.
There are other incentives! Such as this:
I made him his favourite pie (cherry) the other day. It looks a little beat up, but it did the trick. 😉 (I also made 2 salted caramel chocolate pumpkin cheesecakes and homemade red pepper and roasted garlic chickpea hummus. It was to die for!)
Earlier this evening, things got a little out of hand, as they usually do, and Josh and I parted ways. I really hope it’s for good this time. I’m exhausted from the emotional chaos and I deal with conflict in a calm, peaceful way the majority of the time. I usually just “go away”. I like my quiet time where I can reflect and collect myself (and talk
to with God). But these past few days, I’ve felt this raging sea boiling up in me, because that’s what’s been unleashed on me for weeks now. I just reached my breaking point- I really did. Thankfully, Josh left, taking his things with him.
It’s been hard lately, but I’m eager to explore this new chapter in my life! Even a year ago, the thought of living my life as a single woman was daunting, but I lived the whole winter “manless” and got by just fine. Sure, it was pretty rough sailing for a while! And I was heartbroken. But what I feel now is actually relief. I’ve waited a really long time to be able to focus on me and actually begin a career. (Or, begin to begin a career.)
And now I’m there. I don’t need anyone screwing that up for me! I want to be alone for a good long while. I don’t feel sad at all, but I’m sure those days are coming. Pain is inevitable. I’m just at the very beginning of it all when denial is still at its peak and everything is “just spiffy”. But the gray days are coming.
I’m going to be alright though. I’ve come to a new place where I enjoy solitude- not only enjoy it, but crave it.
I think I’m actually growing up.
Suffering.Pain.Sorrow.Crucifixion.Death.Resurrection.Hope.Love.Light.L I F E
SP/Cross made from popsicle sticks and dental floss
For Shreya. xo
One of my short stories from several years ago.
Her fingers felt like two hot stones that had soaked up the angry sun. The sweat was gathering on her back and Ellie knew that she was racing against the clock. She’d been out there for two hours now; digging, planting, and turning over the dry, crusted earth. She wiped her brow, smearing dirt on her face; mixing it with the sweat that ran down into her ear. There wasn’t even a hint of a breeze.
“Good thing too,” she thought.
A gentle breeze would only have lulled her into the hope of being comfortable. She wasn’t much of a gardener, but her mother (and her mother’s mother) had toiled away in the burning sun, just as Ellie was doing now, and so she felt it was her womanly duties, if nothing else, to keep the grounds. It was her heritage. Her land now. Her large fingers tore at the soil and she carefully placed each small stone that introduced itself, into neat little piles. The smile that was beginning to form at the corners of her mouth, was evidence that she was quite pleased with herself. She squinted and stared up into the sun. The lemon-yellow glow, radiated out from the heavens, wrapping itself around her very heart it seemed. Panting, she let her eyes drift across the canvas of the sky, and thought of the tangy lemons in her basket over the stove. She would take a few, squeeze them tightly into a pitcher (after cutting each in half), careful not to let the seeds fall in. She’d add a few cups of sugar (she could practically taste it now), rushing to the pit of her stomach as if it too were trying to get away from the burning heat.
Ellie wiped her hand on her brown, faded dress. You know the one. A rip there at the hem from rushing through life, month after month; chores and endless lists to check off. A button- missing in the back- directly across from her burdened waist; proof that she’d rewarded herself bountifully after each carefully planned meal. The floral pattern had been beaten away by the unforgiving sun, year after year of hanging out those old stained linens. Why, they must be forty years old by now! Ellie wasn’t aware that she’d drifted off again; her eyes fixed to those linens as if it were the sheets themselves that took her back to her Jonah, and the sound of his harmonica…and her laughter. But Jonah was gone and so were the years.
She wiped her eyes, again streaking dirt across her lid. Her parched mouth brought Ellie’s eyes away from the sheets and back to her tired old hands. Lemonade. Ellie put her packages of seeds next to the neatly stacked stones, and tried to rise. It felt as if the sun had exploded in her chest; her breathing, coming in heavy gasps, and she fell to the ground, scattering the stones as she went. Ellie closed her eyes, for the sun was blinding, and she pulled at the grass, reaching for something (for what, she did not know) something to feel connected to. Even with her eyes closed, she felt the shadow move over her face. Ellie opened her eyes. The sun was hiding behind the peculiar man, causing a cool shade to fall on her. For that, she was grateful. The ripping pain in her chest, seemed to have vanished, and Ellie was wondering who the stranger was that stood before her.
”Can I help you Ma’am?” he asked kindly.
Ellie shook her head, as if to say no, but then nodded her head in confusion. The glow of the sun seemed to make him glow as if he too, were indeed part of the sun.
”Y-yes…thank you….sir….,” she answered; her voice trailing off, barely above a whisper. She looked up and into his eyes. How could it be? Her Jonah was gone, and he looked nothing like him, but his eyes…she could almost be certain they were Jonah’s. Yes. She was absolutely certain that she’d seen them before. She reached up, placing her hand into his waiting one. The man pulled her up; smiling and nodding gently as he did and Ellie let out a breath of summer air, returning his smile, and gently squeezed his hand. The sight of her linens, dancing happily in the breeze, caught her eye. The gentle wind kissed her hair, refreshing her for the first time in months. She could hear the faint trail of a harmonica playing, as many do in the country, and still holding the man’s hand, Ellie looked around to take stock in all that she had to be thankful for. This is the house that sheltered her through the many seasons of her life. The garden there, was her daily companion; patiently teaching her how to grow.
”Are you ready?” asked the man.
Ellie paused, and looked back at the scattered stones. Lying next to them was the body of Ellie Parkins. Ellie saw herself, but felt as if she were looking at a stranger. Dirt streaked her forehead, and a faint smile was still painted on her mouth. Hanging on the clothesline, were those white linens, which also seemed to glow with the strength of the sun shining through them. Ellie looked up at the man, and with one last sigh, she pursed her mouth together and nodding at her new friend, walked toward the shining sun…
I remember driving in Lousiville, Ky one night. It was summer, loud, stereos were bumping- it was a Saturday night and I was out and about in the bad side of town trying to track down my BFF at the time, Olivia; a large black woman with a brood of kids and grandchildren she’d raised. Olivia is pure gold in my eyes. We met in a homeless shelter. I had been standing along the wall “people watching” and suddenly, a burst of music rolled into the room: Olivia was laughing and dancing and spinning around- completely entertained- with a boom box on her shoulder. She was larger than life! I smiled and knew I had to meet her.
We talked after some time and realized we immediately liked each other. We spent the next few weeks hanging out together and passing time- smoking weed out back with many of the residents there. One day, I returned to the shelter and Olivia was gone. They told me she’d gotten her own place. So is the life at a homeless shelter; people come and go- you have to get used to that. Some you see later, some you never see again. It teaches you to love people hard while you have them and let go quickly. That was worked into me many years ago.
As life would have it, I ended up moving into her neighborhood just a few weeks later. For the next three years we were virtually inseparable. She helped me through some very dark times and I gleaned so many good things from her. I have a very special love for that woman. And a high respect.
After some time, we both moved out and we lost contact with each other. I had made up my mind on that particular Saturday night that I would track her down. Very much like a gypsy or nomad, I’ve traveled as a wanderer in this world. Nothing has held me back. Being poor certainly hasn’t. If anything, it’s been a catalyst.
But on that night, I set out in my car purposefully driving to the bad end of town. I knew Olivia had moved to the next state over in Kentucky, so I cross the bridge and drove into downtown Louisville. It was a hot, muggy night.
As I headed deeper into the back parts of the city, I popped open an beer, lit up a smoke and turned up the radio. (Back in those days, it was standard to find me driving with a beer nestled in between my legs- a joint or two always close by. A lot has changed since then!)
People stood out on the corners, openly dealing drugs. They knew others knew what they were doing- didn’t care. Cops rarely bothered the little fish anyway. As I was pulling up to a red light, I saw a black guy standing on the corner. I don’t know what grabbed me about him, but something did. Let’s say, it was destiny.
“Hey, you need a ride, man?” I asked him.
“Yeah, yeah…” he said and he hopped in the car.
Now this isn’t the wisest of things to do, no doubt- pick up a black guy I don’t know in the bad part of town. But at that time, I really didn’t care. I was governed by my instincts and driven with a purpose. I had no idea what my purpose was half the time, but I new that I needed to do what I was doing and that’s all I knew.
“Where ya going to, man?”
“My mother’s house,” he said.
We chitchatted briefly and he told me his story. He had been excommunicated from his family some years before. They had given up on him and pretty much cast him out. I felt really bad for the guy. He went on to tell me that he had only just decided to go and see his mother on that very night, and was in fact pondering the decision when I picked him up. I felt honoured that he would include me in that. Totally.
We bonded immediately. I may have even smoked a joint with him. It’s no big secret that I was a total stoner back then. I smoked 1 to 3 joints every day for 18 years. As a matter of fact, “stoner” is putting it mildly. My Dad had the best stuff for miles and everybody knew it. He was known for that and so I never lacked for good weed. It’s no wonder I ended up being an artist in life. Weed does that. I know everybody thinks it’s so “bad” and it’s a gateway drug and all kinds of other things that they’ve been taught to believe, but I will always be an advocate for marijuana and a person’s right to smoke it. I just don’t smoke it myself anymore and haven’t for years but I’m strongly for it, if the person and the circumstances are agreeable- let’s put it that way.
Moving right along, we eventually made it to his mother’s house. I thought we would say our goodbyes right there but he invited me to come along. Wow. He hasn’t seen his mom in years, and is hoping to be reintegrated back into the family unit and now he’s going to bring a stoned white girl with him who picked him up on the corner. Ok!
We stood outside on the porch and I stole a few glances in his direction. Even stoned, I could see a lot. He was hopeful and meek. I really like that guy. That took guts.
The door opened and a small woman stood before us, small in stature but full of expression and total shock. My mind plays it as if it’s in slow motion- her mouth, open with shock- she was yelling and mumbling and screaming to somebody else that their man had come back. I don’t remember his name now. It was 18 years ago.
She ushered us inside and we followed her to a back room where a woman lay in bed. I sat down quietly on the side of a chair and tried to disappear. I could hardly believe I was there and I felt a bit like I was in a movie. The woman in bed was his mother, who immediately cried upon seeing her son. They embraced and he crawled right up next to her and they just held each other and cried together.
I have absolutely no idea how we got on the subject but they found out that I sang and was a songwriter. What happened next can only be described as something so bizarre that it now seems more like a dream than a memory, but I sang. I sang A Capella, a song that I had written, a song about Jesus. Four strangers sat in the room there- eyes fixed on me- in a semi-petrified state, mouths slightly open. They felt honoured that I would sing for them. I was honoured that they let me.
I sang from my heart and sang especially for that mother and son. It was one of those rare moments in life that you know has been brought together- orchestrated by God even- that will never happen again: A true once in a lifetime moment.
The mother cried again and thanked me repeatedly for bringing back her son. I was especially emotional because at that time, I was separated from my own two children who the system had taken from me years before. It brought me great comfort that I could reunite a mom with her son like that, and I cried too.
I hugged them all and made my way back to my car alone. I smiled all the way home.
“You’re awesome, God,” I said, smiling, tears still in my eyes.
He smiled too.
Ohio River/foggy morning/Lensbaby Composer/Double Glass f/4- natural lighting/5.19.13
I awoke this morning to find our home enshrouded in thick fog. How could I not go out and grab a few shots? I drove down to the local marina with a fresh cup of coffee. I have plans today to do one lesson in each course: Public Speaking, Earth Science, and Health Psychology (no small feat), but when I put my mind to something, I don’t let go.
Mornings like these are my favourites: the world is so still- everybody’s sleeping and completely unaware of the fog. For the past several days, I’ve been getting up early and hitting my PC and BS- that’s not short for computer and “BS” – it’s short for “prayer closet and Bible study”. When I start my days with these things and in this order, everything falls into the right places in my day. My mind is renewed, as is my faith, strength, and hope- challenges become “doable” and I have a promise of success already- I just need to do the work.
When I was praying this morning, I felt the Lord wrap his arms around me and give me a big hug. I know that I’m loved, terrifically; I don’t worry about things.
So I’m off to put a huge dent in my schoolwork.
It’s going to be a beautiful day. :0)
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
I am so very grateful today, for amazing friends (and foes alike) who have dropped me to my knees in prayer in gratitude (and agony), breathing encouraging words into me through emails, chats, and such. I can’t express my gratitude properly, but I feel new life and new love springing out of my heart today, and I can’t believe how fast it’s happened.
To everyone who’s walked me through the broken glass in the past few days, and whispered truth and love (and shared your own stories of betrayal, heartache, and ultimately, forgiveness and love- regardless), please accept my collective THANK YOU. I love you guys, and although I’ve been emotionally devastated recently, every email and talk has been another stitch in my bloody heart. I’ve made it through the storm, and I can see the shine on the horizon. :0)
I know it’s not much, but I often say “thank you” and “I love you” with photos and art. I saw this peculiar string tied around a tree in the forest the other day. I don’t know the story behind it, but it made me smile, and strangely, filled me up with joy.
Thanks again, everyone.
I love you guys.
From the dark and stormy seas
That try to keep
From fighting the good fight
The good fight
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 timothy 6:12