Archive for November, 2007

A Message for Jim, pen and ink, November 2007, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

The first time it landed on Jim, he said he thought it was his brother David.

David was 15 months younger than Jim. His little buddy, his pal. David died of leukemia when Jim was seven.

No one talked about David’s death then, and Jim doesn’t talk much about it now. But if you meet Jim, you’ll notice a sadness in him. Like when he laughs, he never really gives it all up to laughing.

Yet he gives it up to the hummingbirds.

The first time is 1997. He sits on the front porch while Dee and a friend splash in the wading pool. A hummingbird zips in and around the feeders above Jim’s head, lands on a low branch in the giant catalpa. Jim stands, walks to the tree, reaches his arm toward the bird.

“It flew to my finger, just like that!” He is going on about it over the phone. “Dee held out her finger, too, and the hummingbird hopped from me to her.” He is almost out of breath. This is the most exciting thing that’s happened since Dee said her first words.

I didn’t believe him. Dee told me all about it when I got home from work, but still, I couldn’t see it really happening. If you’ve ever seen a hummingbird stop beating its wings and land in a tree, you’ll know what I mean. You want to shake your head. The idea of those tiny wings not flitting their 80 beats a second — there’s something unnatural about it.

Earilier that same year, Jim found a hummingbird, lifeless, on the floor of his workshop. He figured it got overheated in the skylight trying to get out. He picked up the bird, ran to the house and yelled for me to bring sugar water, quick, in a bowl. He held the tiny limp body cupped in his hands while I held the bowl. He dipped the bird’s beak into the water. “Drink, little bird,” he said in a little bird voice.

After a few dips in the sugar water, the bird’s beak opened then closed, opened then closed. Jim opened his hand. The bird sat, looked around, launched. Whirrrrrrr, into the sky.

“I’m pretty sure it was the same bird,” Jim is telling me the day by the wading pool. “I see,” I say, although I don’t really.

One Saturday the next summer, the hummingbirds fly around our yard like neutron dive bombers. Jim is watering the Spanish Broom; I’m weeding around the Butterfly Bush. A green hummingbird lands on a prickly pear cactus flowering brilliant pink-purple. Jim drops the hose, walks to the cactus, extends his arm. Plop, the hummingbird hops from the plant to Jim. He turns to me, smiles.

My mouth is open.

There are three more hummingbird messengers. Once a hummingbird comes to Jim after landing on the young cottonwood we’ve planted. Another time the hummingbirds hover around a feeder in the lotus before one lands on Jim. The last time is this spring, ten years after the first instance. We are preparing to move.

Jim has his head in the engine of the ’57 Chevy Apache; he is trying to start the thing, which has been dead for a year, so he can drive it to the new place. A hummingbird lands on the hook where the hood latches. Jim looks up, puts out his finger. The hummingbird hops onto him. 

By now this has become almost ordinary, yet I still look on as if I’m witnessing a miracle. Even more extraordinary, Jim moves his hand toward me, I put out my finger and the bird hops onto me. It is tiny, so tiny I can barely feel its weight. I feel its tremble, or maybe that’s mine. Jim says the bird has come to say good-bye.


One day last May shortly after we moved, Jim called me on my cell, excited.

“They’re talking about hummingbirds on Native America Calling,” he said. “Should I call?”

Native America Calling is a radio talk show where listeners call in to talk about issues and themes pertinent to American Indians. That day the theme was the importance of the hummingbird to Native cultures.

“Call,” I urged. I had just pulled into work, had a meeting in 20 minutes.

I stayed in my car, tuned in to the public radio station. The host had a panel that day — a well-known artist and a tribal elder. I listened to one caller, then another. I listened as long as I could; Jim didn’t come on.

Later that day, my phone rang. Jim. He told me they eventually put him on the radio. He told them about the many instances where a hummingbird, or several hummingbirds, landed on him. The host asked if he was Native. “No,” Jim told him, “but I was hoping you could help me understand, what is the meaning of these visits?”

The host asked the panelists what they thought. Both said it seemed extraordinary, nothing either one had ever seen. Jim waited. The host told him something silly, like, “They must think you’re sweet.”

“They didn’t believe me,” Jim said to me on the phone, dejected.

“I know,” I told him, “it’s hard to believe if you don’t see it for yourself.”

Read Full Post »

        On The Road, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

On The Road, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

In September 2007, I finished reading On The Road. It was the day the book turned 50. I have this thing for Kerouac. I consider him the James Dean of writers. I guess I’m easily swayed by myth.

On The Road didn’t sweep me off my feet like James Baldwin’s Another Country or Giovanni’s Room. And it wasn’t understated and elegant like John Williams and Stoner. The book dragged in places. The relationships were passionate but doomed. And I couldn’t understand why Sal clung to the inconsiderate, egotistical Dean like the stabilizing, wagging tail of a kite.

The story didn’t find ground for me until I found myself sweeping across the yellow prairies of Nebraska, pounding through the arid, western Colorado desert, and driving over the mountainous Continental Divide. I like Kerouac because he was a boundary buster. He helped other boundary busters – the artists, writers, poets, and musicians of his time – find their voices. He changed the definition of writer.

There has been a lot of hoopla over On The Road in the last year. Primarily because the 120-foot, $2.4 million dollar scroll he wrote it on (over 20 days in April of 1951) is touring the country. But Jack didn’t write On The Road in 3 weeks. He’d been gathering, composting, scribbling in a pocket notebook, and dreaming about it for years. He was a disciplined writer who sat down between travels and wrote with a vengeance. He had been living this story a long, long time.

On the eve of the book’s publication, Kerouac was so poor he had to borrow money for a bus ticket to New York from Joyce Johnson, his girlfriend at the time. When the book became famous, he’d been done with it for several years. And after he hit it big, Johnson recalls mobs around him at parties: “Women wanted him to make love to them and all the men wanted to fight him.”

         Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.     Dreaming Of Summer, reading on the deck, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Summer 2007, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

One of the best Kerouac accounts I’ve seen is the Audrey Sprenger interview by Jeffrey Brown that aired on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, September 5th, 2007. Sprenger takes an honest look at Kerouac, beyond the myth, to see the writer as he was:

I think the continuing popularity of the book stems from the fact that Jack Kerouac was brave enough to defy social convention and comfort to do quite a radical thing, which was to simply be in the world and write about it. He was a deeply, deeply disciplined writer who was committed to documenting America every day as it was lived by people, and I think that he really captured the ways that people lived and spoke. And that is what he was committed to as an artist, trying to develop a new way of American writing which would be evocative of how people actually lived, whether or not it followed the rules of grammar or literary convention.

  -Audrey Sprenger, Sociologist, interview from On The Road, Kerouac’s 50th Anniversary Celebrated

Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.   Why I Love Reading, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

Kerouac died young, in 1969, at age 47. Was it alcohol, stress, Benzedrine, fame? Perhaps a deadly combination. We may never know. But On the Road continues to sell over 100,000 copies every year. I count myself among the minions.

Not all reviews are favorable. Suzanne Vega wasn’t a big Kerouac fan even after her Book Of Dreams. Herbert Gold didn’t give On The Road a good review at its release in 1957. But I tend to fall in the same camp as Kerouac scholar Douglas Brinkley, and can get behind what he says in a 2002 NPR article by Renee Montagne, Kerouac’s On The Road:

If you read On the Road, it’s a valentine to the United States. All this is pure poetry for almost a boy’s love for his country that’s just gushing in its adjectives and descriptions. You know, Kerouac used to say, ‘Anybody can make Paris holy, but I can make Topeka holy.’

I’m saving the best for last. Like the writers before him, Kerouac wrote haiku. He loved to do readings in Jazz clubs in New York. You can hear him recite Some American Haikus (a few of my favorites: the bottoms of my shoes, nightfall, in the morning frost) and read the history of his recorded haiku at Kerouac Speaks. It’s a gift to hear a writer step inside his own voice.

Jack Kerouac, On The Road, Summer 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved. 

After decades of never making it past the first few chapters, I’ve finally completed On The Road. And discovered Kerouac’s haiku in the process. It only took me 30 years. Who knows what my blocks were to reading it. Every book has its time.

I’ll end with an excerpt from Part III:

In the spring of 1949 I had a few dollars saved from my GI education checks and I went to Denver, thinking of settling down there. I saw myself in Middle America, a patriarch. I was lonesome. Nobody was there – no Babe Rawlins, Ray Rawlins, Tim Gray, Betty Gray, Roland Major, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Ed Dunkel, Roy Johnson, Tommy Snark, nobody.

I wandered around Curtis Street and Larimer Street, worked a while in the wholesale fruit market where I almost got hired in 1947 – the hardest job of my life; at one point the Japanese kids and I had to move a whole boxcar a hundred feet down the rail by hand with a jackgadget that made it move a quarter-inch with each yank. I hugged watermelon crates over the ice floor of reefers into the blazing sun, sneezing. In God’s name and under the stars, what for?

At dusk I walked. I felt like a speck on the surface of the sad red earth. I passed the Windsor Hotel, where Dean Moriarty had lived with his father in the depression thirties, and as of yore I looked everywhere for the sad and fabled tinsmith of my mind. Either you find someone who looks like your father in places like Montana or you look for a friend’s father where he is no more.

    –On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, November 29th, 2007

-related to post, Kerouac Goes To War

Read Full Post »

By OmbudsBen

Yesterday Part 1 ended with my newsletter story “Coffee Muggings,” about the misappropriation of coworkers’ coffee cups. Little did I know, that was one of the more peaceful brew-hahas the stimulating bean would initiate for me. This was back in the years B.W. (Before Wife), and for a while I dated a lively young woman, more given to night life than morning’s tranquil pleasures. Still, as I got to know her better and we enjoyed more movies and meals together, we soon were getting a jump on our weekends by waking in the same place, too.

Which is when I made my next caffeine-fueled discovery.

For as extroverted as she was the rest of the day, as much of a dynamo as she could be when we went out evenings, mornings were an introverted affair — it seemed she waged a painful battle with wakefulness. I, on the other hand, happy to have made a new friend and mind alive with the prior evenings events and conversations, would wake ready to quietly say hello and pick up anew.

She might manage an answer or two, but her replies were decidedly monosyllabic, until she finally turned to me, impatiently brushing hair out of her morning face and plaintively whimpered, “It’s not fair! Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee!” before she collapsed face down into her pillow.

Well, that was easily remedied.

So I began making coffee for her, which brought me to the second discovery. After she had visited my place several times, we spent a night at hers, and I woke the next morning, ready for her to begin the coffee ceremony for me. Unfortunately, we had plans to be somewhere, and the demands of the morning were already upon her when she woke.

As I smiled and asked, “Is there any coffee?” she answered, “Yes, it’s downstairs. Why don’t you go make some?”

Which I did, and found mildly amusing, but my women friends shook their heads in warning. And they were right. It was the first whiff of inequity, a sort of coffee-colored blotch on the early relationship, and proved a kind of Rorschach test in reverse. For if some find love reproduced in the ink blots, I saw the opposite. Subsequent events outlined a distinct incompatibility, and we were soon waking apart, a move I’ve since learned was well-advised. And it was coffee that spilled the beans, as it were.

I do not drink coffee first thing in the morning. While it may be starter fluid for some, it is more the oil of my day. I rise and brew a pot for us, deliver a cup to my wife and reserve the rest for my thermos. She wakes slowly, and just as no blossom greets morning suddenly, her transition from somnolence to sentience is never abrupt, either. It seems a gradual emergence, and she takes in her coffee like a flower drinks in sunshine — thirsty flowers, especially. Once she gets started she downs a cuppa far quicker than I, drinking it while it’s still far too hot for normal human consumption. The marines may be known as leathernecks, but gauging from my wife’s ability to down a cup shortly after it stops boiling, the lining of her throat would well qualify for the few and the proud. She leaves me in her dust — or her grounds, perhaps.

My grandfather had a trick for drinking it while hot — he poured a little into his saucer. His wide hands would grip the saucer between thumb and finger and he lifted the disk carefully to his lips, blowing across the thin flat surface of the quickly cooling coffee, and winking at me as if sharing a good trick. I wish I could share a cup with him now, I wish I had a chance to hear him talk about FDR or Ike, the price of crops or telling jokes on his friends. (“What goes va-room, screech! va-room, screech! va-room, screech!? Denny Brighton at a flashing red light.”)

I wish I had a chance to visit my great-aunt Florence’s farmhouse kitchen again, with the smell of its wood stove, the thin-slatted white wainscoting, and her deep, full pantry. Even as a child, I felt transported back in time. I wish I had a chance to taste her coffee again, however thick it was, and however it “stands up” against the latest trendy blend. It could be that a good cup of coffee can be made just as much by the company you have as by the country of its origin.

I bring my thermos in to work with me, and do not pour my own first cup until I’m sitting at my desk. Now is the time I want the mind engaged, to be alert, aware. For me, my cup is still akin to Bobby, the companionable little dog, loyal nigh unto death. I like to recognize my mug, my boon companion, right away. If they ever invented a vessel that wagged its handle in recognition, I’d be a sucker for it. And microwave ovens are a blessing for me. Top it off and warm it up, and back to work I go.

In fact, my faithful cup is cold now. It’s time for a break.

About the author: OmbudsBen once traveled to the island of Java in Indonesia and ordered a “cup of java, please.” His traveling companion was quite amused by the blank stares the request drew, everywhere. While the Javanese are familiar with the term hamburger, and our word catsup comes from their word kecap, if they use slang when ordering a cuppa joe, it does not involve the word java.

Since then, he has met with similar rebuffs involving Vienna sausages, French fries, and Chinese fortune cookies. He found some consolation in a Belgian white ale. You can read more about him by clicking here.

Read Full Post »

By OmbudsBen

I’ve known a lot of women who rely on coffee for ignition. A kind of starter fluid, rise and grind. In my experience, it’s enough to draw a tenuous gender distinction, so long as I draw it carefully, or at a safe distance. Of course coffee can be starter fluid for men, too, but in my family the percolation prerequisite (the perc perk?) is less dire for men. We’re early risers by nature. As a kid I was a morning paper boy and would no more have dreamt of having a jolt of coffee first than sticking a fork in an electrical socket.

It was different for my mom, who wakes like a tightly closed flower and isn’t going to open up until she’s got a little boost of caffeine running through her veins. Hoping for the best perhaps, but caffeine-fortified for the worst. I grew up in a medical household where one of the jokes was that the first IV of the day should be run from the coffeemaker upstairs to our mother. She might have tried it, too, but as she was the only one trained to start an IV, she wasn’t taking any chances with the rest of us. Not without having a cup of coffee first.

We brewed ours like everyone else did, out of an aluminum canister labeled “coffee” with a black plastic lid and kept on the kitchen counter next to three others for flour, sugar, and salt. After Mom had her first upon rising and most of us had a cup with breakfast, we were good to go, and I don’t think we gave coffee much thought after that. It was, at most, break fluid. You complained if it sat on a burner too long and cooked down to the consistency of 30 weight oil, but none of us ever thought to ask whether our beans came from Guatemala, Kenya, or Sumatra.

I now live among people who believe that coffee is more than just a plant, a product of agriculture. One of them told me that the word bean doesn’t do the fruit of the coffee plant justice. Beans are kidney, pinto, lima, and string. The elixir of coffee is finer stuff, more powerful; it is morning’s complement to an evening’s cocktail.

My grandfather would have scoffed at distinguishing coffee as separate from beans. He was a farmer before managing a grain elevator, one of the gray prairie spires that gather our corn, wheat and oats. His simple linoleum-floored office, with metal furniture and desk, kept coffee simmering on a burner, as a social gesture for local farmers. It was a place to do business as well as share a cup. They’d formed a cooperative, and I imagine sharing a pot of coffee was an extension of that, discussing the price of commodities and the events of the day as they sipped thin coffee. They were a dry-humored bunch of leather-skinned old farmers who told jokes about each other, and who grew the grain that may well have gone into sandwiches you’ve eaten.

So their coffee was more a social beverage than a starter fluid, meaning what they drank was weak by our standards. I suppose that way they could sip it frequently during the day. Or maybe after a few hours of cooking down on the burner it wasn’t too lethal, I’m not sure. But Grandpa wasn’t fond of thick stuff. My great-aunt Florence, on the other hand, favored a potent pot. “That Florence,” Grandpa said, “brews a cup of coffee you could stand on.”

Florence, I believe, resented the notion. I never heard Grandpa say it around her, but she complained about thin restaurant coffee to me once. “Just a spot of cream I added,” she groused as an aside, “and the whole cup turned white. It was too thin for cream. What that coffee wanted was milk.”

I left home as a young man, moving to a distant city, where the notion of coffee as sensory experience had escalated far beyond the kitchen counter canisters of my youth. My peers debated refrigerated or frozen, bought fancy grinders and coffeemakers that ground beans just before brewing, and they considered the qualities of foreign beans like the French discuss wine. My coworkers debated which vendor purveyed the best coffee; one disgruntled employee in accounting vehemently refused to drink the trendiest blend, a pungent brew he likened to the odor of camel droppings. (How did he recognize the scent?)

The topic of office coffee gathered so much steam we had a mini crisis over the cups, and I wrote a humor piece, called “Coffee Muggings,” for our office newsletter:

It’s Monday morning, and after the week’s first crawl to the office you’re approaching your goal – a cuppa hot coffee. But just as you near caffeine paradise, good humor is snatched from the jaws of java heaven as your very own coffee cup, the one your lips are accustomed to, is nowhere to be found. It happens, and there’s nothing to be done except snap at your boss or snarl at your secretary, or maybe blame Housekeeping and plot revenge. People seem to fall into two distinct camps on this. Some, like joyful beagles, go through life befriending all, eager to share any old coffee cup they have. For them, the trauma of separation from one’s coffee cup elicits nothing more than knit brows and a quizzical smile. Others are like Greyfriar Bobby, the Scottish terrier loyal nigh unto death, and a coffee cup is a treasure, a true friend lost in the moment of need.

This is a friendly plea from the terriers to the beagles. A number of cups are “missing in action” and the woeful howling emanating from our kitchen some mornings is a sorry sound. If you haven’t a cup of your own, please use a plain tan cup or one of the unclaimed castoffs in the far left cupboard. It may save on churlish morning manners – some bites can be worse than their barks.

And that was just about the cups, the collection of motley travel keepsakes from the Grand Canyon or Wall Drugs, South Dakota. Cups with heat-sensitive logos where the Phantom of the Opera would appear or some corporate logo would be revealed promising a solution to our temp employee needs, until the heat-sensitivity wore out and the poor phantom lost his disappearing act, looking a little bit sheepish.

Stay tuned for “Coffee Rorschach – Part 2,” where the author talks about the perils of caffeinated vs. non-caffeinated dating, his coffee habits, and how he prefers his coffee today.

About the author:  OmbudsBen once traveled to the island of Java in Indonesia and ordered a “cup of java, please.” His traveling companion was quite amused by the blank stares the request drew, everywhere. While the Javanese are familiar with the term hamburger, and our word catsup comes from their word kecap, if they use slang when ordering a cuppa joe, it does not involve the word java.

Since then, he has met with similar rebuffs involving Vienna sausages, French fries, and Chinese fortune cookies. He found some consolation in a Belgian white ale. You can read more about him by clicking here.

Read Full Post »

The Wedding Gift 1991, Desert Rose Franciscan place setting and teapot, blue linocut print © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

There’s a tree outside the window near where I sit. I don’t know what kind of tree it is; it’s almost winter and the branches are bare. But I notice it has what look like buds on the thinnest limbs — although, how could that be? Maybe these are bud placeholders, dormant points where new life will come in spring.

I worry as a writer whether my mind can capture and hold the names of trees. Here, I’ll list the ones I know: Cottonwood, Catalpa, Oak, Maple, Plum, Red Bud, Blue Spruce, Apricot, Apple, Peach, Cherry, Russian Olive, Ponderosa Pine, Juniper, Globe Willow.

Growing up we had a Sycamore tree that grew in a round-topped formation. The seeds of the Sycamore hung like itch-bomb ornaments, which we plucked and threw at each other or exploded on the sidewalk for fun.

When you go to a restaurant, do you notice the color of the plate on which your meal is served? Is it red, and if it is red, is it brick red or candy apple red? I sometimes check my fork to make sure there’s no dried food in between the prongs, but I usually miss whether the handle has a beaded edge or a plain one.

I can tell you that right now I’m drinking coffee and steamed milk out of a Starbucks to-go cup, the medium size (although I don’t remember, is that tall or grande?, because grande makes more sense to me, yet it seems Starbucks considers it a tall).

The point I’m trying to make is, you’ve got to have detail when you write. You’ve got to be awake to what is around you.

Do this. Sit down, take out your pen and notebook, and do a ten-minute writing practice on “What’s in front of me.” If you need something more, empty out your pockets and write about what you see.

And if you’re ever at a loss for a writing topic, use “What’s in front of me.” It will remind you to be present to your surroundings. The more you wake up, the more detail you can call on when you write.


Pieces Of Becoming A Missus 1991, black linocut print © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I feel loved when I feel appreciated. When people show up for me. Is that an act of service, showing up? I feel loved when I feel connected to something bigger than me. Like watching the Swenson-Lee family of 10 from Minnesota on Extreme Makeover – Home Edition. Their father died in an auto accident 5 years ago, their mother and her boyfriend shot and killed a year ago by a deranged ex-boyfriend who stalked the mother, first stabbing her in an attack, and finally killing her, the oldest daughter witnessing both her mother and father die.

I could not believe the courage of this young girl. It’s strange but I felt an all-loving god when I watched that show last night. Like a giant angel was hovering over the entire family and the sister that took her nieces and nephews in, treating them like her own. I cry every time I watch that show. I feel loved when I see people helping other people.

I feel loved when I walk through the woods. The smell of earth, a drip of rain, moss on a rolling stone. Yesterday, driving the Rebel along the parkway, as soon as I turned on to Theo Wirth, all I smelled was forest. The Eloise Butler Wildlife area is 100 years old this year. A vision of preservation and beauty. Thank goodness Minneapolis was raised on an elaborate system of parks, lakes, and Mississippi River trails, green city space.

I feel loved snuggling close, eating popcorn, watching a movie under a warm blanket. I feel loved when a person shows gratitude for my gifts, for the things I am able to give. I felt loved when I visited my family a few weeks ago. For all of our differences, there was so much love in that room the night I popped out of the birthday box for Mom. I feel loved when my friends give me a hug and say they are glad to see me. Or they have missed me.

I do like touch. Not in the same way I used to. I no longer equate sex with love. Sex can be a part of love. Sex is not love. I am talking about more loving touch: a kind gesture, an acknowledgement with the eyes, a touch on the cheek. I feel loved when Mom calls me Honey, or Liz calls me Shug, or when I listen to an old voicemail from my step-dad that begins, “Hey, Shug, I just wanted to talk to you before you leave…”, the Southern accent warm and comforting to me.

I feel loved when I listen to my saved voicemails, a chosen few, one from each person who is important to me. I save them because, once in a while, hearing the voices of those who love and care about me is enough. It lifts my spirits. I don’t have to be next to them. I know they are always with me.

Love is more of a feeling for me. I don’t really care about material possessions. I value time with loved ones. I feel loved when my opinion is considered. I feel hurt when I become invisible. As a girl, I tried to be invisible. To wrap up in the tiniest ball I could muster and disappear. In the loneliest of times, I thought I had succeeded. I feel loved when people really see me, deep down, for who I am, not who they imagine me to be. I am vulnerable, insecure, sometimes fearful and needy.

There is strength in vulnerability. This is the wisdom that comes from living. To be vulnerable is to be strong. Don’t believe them when they tell you it makes you weak.

Kindness and love, no, they don’t make you weak. It takes more courage to stand up and admit a mistake, to make amends, to tell someone you disagree with that you’re sorry and you love them, than it ever does to cut ties and disappear. I’ve run a fair time or two. It leaves a vapor trail. I try to show up, to do what I say I will do. I don’t always succeed. And if I can’t show up, I have to make amends.

I feel loved when I connect with the people that are important to me. I feel loved when Liz washes and folds the laundry, or Mom or my brother makes a home cooked meal for me. I guess those truly are acts of service. People do these things out of love and care. When I lived alone all those years, I felt loved when a friend would call to check on me. I used to think I could disappear into the woodwork of that old Northeast apartment and no one would find out for weeks.

I thought I might die old and alone. But in the end, I decided to take the risk of living, connecting, being hurt, opening up for others to see. I am flawed. And vulnerable. I don’t want to hide my weaknesses anymore. I feel most loved when I allow myself to fail.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, November 26th, 2007

Read Full Post »

I feel loved when I hear the words, “Hi, you.” That’s what Jim sometimes says when he answers my call on the cell phone. They sweep me off my feet, those simple words, and if that were all he did for the rest of our lives together, I think I’d be happy.

I feel loved when Em comes up and hugs me. She reaches the top of my waist, hugs tightly, then pats my back with her little hand. I am surprised by her capacity to love, how did she get so much room in her tiny body?

I feel loved when my family gets along, no quarreling over sharing the peppermint bark or which movie to watch on the computer or who gets a skirt and who doesn’t. No bickering over your turn to cook or I’ve cooked all week. Mine is a need for harmony, and more than that, optimism and kindness.

I realized after staying in bed most of yesterday that I rely on others to make me feel loved, rely on the smooth humming of those who live with me. When Jim gets sick, as he was Thanksgiving night, with bad pains in his lower abdomen, I feel unloved, or overwhelmed, unable to carry forth. It’s not how I want to be, I want to be a strong, loving partner, but sometimes my strength comes too much from the strength of those around me.

I’ve been reluctant to write about love, reluctant to look inside my heart and ask, What is love? Love isn’t gifts, I know that. I love touch, but more than touch I need words. Simple “Good morning,” “I love you.” Even if “I love you” is doled out every few intervals, as long as it’s said with a lift in the voice, it takes me with it. On a trip to lovedom. Dumb lovedom.

Love, love is. I remember the movie Love Story. Larry watched it sitting on the orange beanbag in the den. It was past my bedtime, but I crept behind the bar separating the kitchen and den, and I watched to the end. Love is never having to say you’re sorry. The next night I crawled into bed with Mom and told her I thought I had cancer. I guided her hand to my chest and showed her the small lumps in my breasts.

“Oh,” she laughed, “those are breast buds, the beginning of boobs.” I cried, partly from humiliation, partly relief. I thought I had the same kind of tumors that killed Ali McGraw, thought my tragedy greater than hers, me younger, me real, me not loved by a handsome Ryan O’Neal. Never knowing love and knowing in the soul inside my heart what this meant, loving to the point of not needing to say you’re sorry.

Only later did I find out that I feel loved when after foul words are spilled, my beloved can tell me that he is sorry.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »