Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Epic of Mythological Proportion

Homer, Mikael, Goofy, Nancy, Athena
Disney Marathon 2009

I was chatting with my *ahem* favorite nephew last night. He asked, "Why don't I ever see posts about the family any more? How am I supposed to keep up on gossip and juicy secrets?!" I never realized I was his sole font of family propaganda. He then suggested I write about his wife. Of course possessing a largish quantity of the Black family smart ass gene, he suggested sharing a humiliating story of her spending a night in drunken debauchery, but I actually do like his wife, so I won't go there. However, not wanting to disappoint my *ahem* favorite nephew (funny... something always gets stuck in my throat when I say those two words together), here we go.

Let me start by saying, if ever two people were destined to end up together it would be a boy named Homer (my *ahem* favorite nephew) and a girl named Athena (my favorite niece-in-law). For the unenlightened, in ancient Greece, the poet Homer was the author of both epic works, Iliad and Odyssey. (It should be noted that in some circles it is contested that he wrote either or both.)

The Odyssey is sort of the sequel to Iliad, and centers around the main character Odysseus. Indulge me if you will and I'll give you the extremely abridged version of the story. Odysseus is husband to Penelope and father of Telemachus, and long thought dead after heading off to fight the Trojan War (which lasted ten years), and then taking ten more years to return. The story begins on the island of Ithaca as Penelope is entertaining various suitors. Athena (aha!), Odysseus's protector, favorite daughter of Zeus, and Goddess of War (busy girl!), visits Telemachus (now a grown man) and suggests that he might want to search for his father, convincing Telemachus that he might not be dead after all.

Finally escaping from the clutches of various snares (suffice it to say, never ever piss off Poseidon!), Odysseus makes his way back to Ithaca, disguises himself as a beggar, and goes to see his son. Upon convincing Telemachus that he truly is his missing father, Odysseus kills off all the suitors (Athena has a hand in arranging that too) and then reveals himself to Penelope, convincing her that he is her own dear husband returned from beyond.

The citizens of Ithaca want Odysseus dead. All of the men he lead to Troy died and now he has killed off 108 eligible suitors - two generations of Ithaca lads have fallen as a result of Odysseus. Athena once again intervenes and convinces both sides to call off the rumble, and Ithaca is a peaceful place again, concluding Homer's Odyssey.

So you see? It gives me goosebumps. Two innocent kids, given weighty names - very unusual names at that (my nephew was named long before the Simpsons was even thought of) bump into each other at, of all places, Disney World (my nephew having recently returned from his own seafaring odyssey with the Marine Corps), fall madly in love, wed, have two children, and by all appearances are utterly happy together. What are the odds?

My favorite niece-in-law lives up to her name. She is at once kind and obviously fiercely determined... the kind of gal you really want to be on your side. She's a wonderful mommy, and makes a perfect partner for Homer (as he puts is, "she laughs at all my corny jokes even when I know they're dumb"). Most importantly, her sense of humor is just wacky enough that she fits in with my crazy family. I couldn't be happier with my *ahem* favorite nephew's choice (as if he had any).

So there, Homer... happy now?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Do The Write Thing

"See what is invisible and you will see what to write."
~Love Song for Bobby Long

In between cranking out orders for cards, I've been working hard on my novel. It feels strange to even say that... "my novel." Speaking it feels at once pretentious and determined, but it feels good too. More than just creating, writing is a form of therapy for me. It puts things into perspective, orders events, and allows me to travel at whim (albeit only in my mind). If I think about it, I've been writing forever - it's only now that I'm letting myself write with a real sense of focus. It's like walking long distance. The muscles are already there, they just need to be flexed and toned. So, while in some ways it feels completely natural, it's hard work and requires a great deal of tenacity. The birth process of anything is almost always painful. Sometimes it's painful in an "oh my fucking god, please make it stop" way; sometimes it's painful in an almost pleasant itchy way; and sometimes it's just a tug or a low throb.

Writing is also a conundrum - while it does in many ways take me outside of myself, it is also a merciless intruder into the very deepest core of my spirit. Someone once said, "You can't write what you don't know." So, writing stems from experience and re-visiting experience, even the nice ones, is at the very least bittersweet. I understand now why so many writers are alcoholics. It can be maddening.

all my life
where there's white
I have words
so I write"
~Jane Siberry, Seven Steps to the Wall

But I love it. I love it the way one falls in love upon seeing a stranger in a crowd and instantly realizing that he or she could spend the rest of their life getting to know that person; I love it the way a mother loves a restless crying child through a dark night; I love it with all the tenderness of nursing a dear one through a grave illness; I love it with all the glittering joy at seeing a loved one smile and knowing it's meant just for me; I love it whether it succeeds or fails. Writing is a relationship and it may be my most serious relationship yet, but I've fallen hard now and there's no denying the bond.

This is a lover like no other. At times we frustrate each other. At times we fall into a deep passion that denies the existence of anything else. At times we step around each other as couples do in a long term relationship dance, touching lightly, lingering in a gaze. And we never get to spend enough time together - there simply is not time enough in a day for this tangle of heartbeats.
"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."
~Henry David Thoreau

I can do this.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

All That Glitters

Okay, all together now. What's that four letter word... starts with an 'S'... not acceptable to say in some company? Yeah... S N O W. I woke up to a couple of fresh inches of it on the ground this morning. Now the sun is out and the world is sparkling like Zsa Zsa's jewelry box, Dahlink. My advice today? Always look on the twinkly side.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's The Pits

I wasn't going to post another blog about my dogs just yet, but I'm having trouble biting my tongue. Once again pit bulls are making the news and being maligned as vicious killers. For anyone who's been under a rock lately, I have two pit bulls, Nino and Smoke. I have never met two sweeter love hounds than these guys. Years ago a good friend of mine and her husband had three pit bulls, and they were the same. The biggest threat was that you might drown in a sea of exuberant slobber. I've known others... I could go on.

Yes, my dogs are very strong. They like to jump up and hug and if I'm not prepared could easily knock me over. "Walking" them on leashes is comedic at best. When Smoke wags his tail he can and will knock anything and everything off the coffee table, or use your knees as a whippin' post. Still, I've never, even for a second, felt threatened by either of them. When strangers approach, as long as they know I'm not bothered, they wag their tails and can't wait to meet a new friend. When we're out walking, they're the ones happy to greet other dogs as I stand by idly waiting for the sniffing contest to end.

Yesterday my friend Kim and her two young daughters came to visit. I'll admit some concern as I'd never seen the boys around children. I needn't have worried. They were so excited to see the girls and get loved up by them. The girls, one of whom was definitely smaller than either dog, were unafraid as they petted the dogs and allowed them to give their slurpy kisses. It was a proud moment for me.

Don't get me wrong... I've seen Nino's protective stance when he's with me. I have no doubt that if he felt I was threatened, he'd protect me at whatever cost. Having wrestled with them, I know the strength of their jaws and paws and would never want to see someone be on the receiving end of their fierce aggression (if it came to that). But they are wonderful, loving dogs and unless I was incapacitated or utterly backed into a corner, they would never use that power.

Mean animals, especially mean pit bulls, come from mean people. Get that fact straight. Judging an animal by its breed is like judging a person by his or her ancestry. I get tired of the raised eyebrows I receive when I tell people I have two of them. Mean comes from mean. Love comes from love. My dogs were raised in a loving home by Mitzi and Garret, that much is very clear. They are now in an equally loving home. And boy howdy, do they know how to show the love. We could all take a lesson from my two furry lads.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

That's Where We're Going

We're gonna run crazy
Like the dogs in the yard
We're gonna fly tonight
We're gonna sleep all morning
We're going out of our minds tonight
That's where we're going
That's where we're going

~Paul McCrane, Dogs In The Yard

I've been busy today! Lots of designing and creating to do, since I have about 4 different projects that need to be done... not to mention the plethora of cards I need to work on for my own personal use. I don't mind a bit. The sun came out this morning, bright n' early. I got some chores done (laundry, sweeping, wood hauling, etc.). I spent an hour or so outside cleaning up some of the more recent slushy mess and watching the boys frolic in what's left of the snow. I tell ya, between the seemingly constant snow and resulting melt, mud, rain, and river silt, I've determined that I might as well give up trying for clean floors... just ain't gonna happen. Do I care? Nope. I don't eat off of the floor anyway. The dogs do, but they don't seem to mind. I can handle the social stigma too, since I've never been widely known for my housekeeping skills and hardly anyone ever sees the place anyway, and if they do, well... I'm presuming they've come to see how me n' mine are doing and not to inspect the status of my far less than sterile domicile.

Anyway. I found it only slightly ironic and amusing that during the entire time I spent on the above card, my canine buddies were out in the yard growling, wrestling, and howling up a storm. They see the snow that slides off the roof as a huge threat that must be barked into submission. At one point I looked out the window to see what the ruckus was all about, only to find them arguing over an ice chunk (as if there is only one!). They get pissed off at each other and then 10 seconds later can be found licking each other's... well... never mind.

But I thought... wouldn't it be wonderful if we could give ourselves over to our animal sides so openly and unabashedly? I often find it so sad that we've evolved (devolved) so far away from our more feral instincts and proclivities. Imagine if we ignored the clock and ate, slept, prowled, played, hunted, bathed, made love... whenever the mood struck. What if we didn't worry so much about what the world would think if we were caught with mud on our feet and hands; if our breath didn't smell perfectly minty; if we let go with a primal howl when something bothered us; if we could go alpha on someone who annoys us without having to apologize (instead of saying, "Sorry, guess I'm just in a mood...", say, "Hey, it's my nature... deal with it...") and still be friends moments later. What if we could show unconditional love and affection to anyone we didn't feel threatened by? What if we could run crazy like the dogs in the yard - live without the constant social niceties and boundaries? What if we could just let it all go for a fucking minute?

Freedom. That's what. Unhindered freedom.

Some of you are thinking, "Poor dear, she's been living her godless life in the woods too long." Don't even try to deny it. But just because I have these thoughts doesn't mean I follow them. Maybe I just haven't been in the woods long enough or deep enough. 'Cause I really do wanna run crazy...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It All Goes Out the Window

I had lofty plans of what to write today... tomes in my head about the beauty of my two dogs; about life in the woods; about Scott and his son turning four fallen trees into a tremendous pile of firewood, and how I love watching manly men doing manly things in manly ways; about how very comforting it was to have gone to sleep alone the other night, feeling kind of lousy, and then waking to find myself wedged between Scott on one side and two warm sprawled dogs on the other (Talk about body heat on a cold rainy night! Talk about a sense of security!); there was something in there about cooking too; and artwork. I had a head packed full of stuff when I went to sleep.

And then I woke up. Up in the loft I have a window on my side of the bed that looks out on a big pine in my side yard. Typically as soon as my eyes open my gaze falls on that. This morning was no different... except that the tree is completely white. Again. Again! So far I've got a good six inches of the stuff and it's still coming down heavy. Now, all I want to do is leash the beasties and go for a long walk, or maybe get a good sled and harness them.

...The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

That's the new kid on the block... Smoke. He's a gorgeous beastie! Mitzi and her son Garrett brought him over yesterday and we had a great time watching Nino and Smoke run crazy by the river. And it was great getting to spend time with Mitzi, Garrett, and our mutual friend, Jose Cuervo (because you know, every event needs the blessings of the tequila gods!).

Father (Nino) and son (Smoke) seem happy to be reunited, although Nino is just a tiny bit bent about the usurper of my undivided affection for him. He's learning quickly though that my heart is big enough for the both of them. It's best that he does as my silly heart fell all over again the minute Smoke came through the door. He's got his daddy's spirit in playfulness and affection. They both eat up love faster than you can say Scooby Snack.

If the measure of a good child is the loving, nurturing environment he or she is raised in, the measure of a good dog is even more so. Obviously, both my pups have been well loved. So, thanks to Mitzi and Garrett for launching their sweet, open-hearted dogs in my direction.

Without further ado... got me some doggies what need walkin'!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


What could be better than loving a dog? Loving two dogs!!!

Yep, one just isn't enough for me. Really... who would ever accuse me of not doing something to excess? So, today Nino's son, Smoke is coming to live with us. I'm so excited! I can't wait to watch the boys run crazy by the river... can't wait to see Nino's excitement.

A few weeks ago Ms. M, Nino's former human familiar, emailed me and said they also needed to find a new home for Smoke. She was planning to put an ad on craigslist. As I read her email I looked over at my sweet Beandawg, and said, "Nuh uh! No son of yours is going to go live with some stranger who might or might not give enough love." I immediately emailed back and told her I wanted him.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"
"It's a lot of work!"
"You don't know what you're in for..."

Oh, but I'm sure. And since when did I ever back down from any challenge? And since when was my heart not wide enough open to have more love to give? It's in reaching out that we receive what we need.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Shortly after dusk last night the sky cleared. As the sky darkened myriad stars came out. I tried to sleep, but the raging bellow of the river called me. So, I grabbed the flashlight and the pup and picked my way carefully down to the river bank. It was magical. To stand in the dark next to the fierce rush of water and look up at the massive pines silhouetted against the blanket of stars covering the deep purple velvet of the sky, was such a powerful, deeply stirring moment. I felt at once, restless and renewed... and utterly reverent.

This morning I woke to brilliant sunshine. It's as if Mother Nature has finally acquiesced and curtsied in obeisance to the coming of Spring. I can practically hear the Earth yawn as she loosens her grip on the still sleepy, but impatient child. Up, up, up! Time to get up! Let's go, let's go! Walk with me...

Walk With Me

once there was snow here
now wildflowers
jump up to meet me
blue eyes mirror the sky
and we greet with a smile
it is warm, healing
this laughter
in the Spring's embrace
you grin too
there are wildflowers
begging our attention
walk with me

~Barbara A. Black © 2009~

Friday, March 20, 2009

Brave New World

In Search of Spring

Happy Spring Equinox! The Robe Valley is celebrating with heavy rain. The snow is melting fast and the river is thundering. I love watching the daily changes out here. Though some think it would be boring to live in the middle of nowhere, with no TV reception, I'm never bored. There is always something new to see and discover.

In reconnecting with old friends and telling them my life's stories (especially about stitching up my own thumb yesterday), I've heard the word brave bandied about (again). One friend wrote, "You are real and alive and feeling and strong and brave and an evolved person and your writing shows that. It resonates with me in so many ways and it challenges me to dig deeper and go further into my thoughts and feelings." It goes without saying that I'm honored and touched by such sentiment, since in the words of a lovely song from RENT, "My only goal is just to be."

As I walked in the rain this morning, smiling at the little green things striving toward life in the melting snow, I pondered the word bravery.

Dictionary.com defines it as so:
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: boldness

The Merriam-webster.com thesaurus gives these synonyms:
Courage, Mettle, Spirit, Resolution, Tenacity meaning mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. : courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty; mettle suggests an ingrained capacity for meeting strain or difficulty with fortitude and resilience; spirit also suggests a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one's own or keep up one's morale when opposed or threatened; resolution stresses firm determination to achieve one's ends; tenacity adds to resolution implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat.

In light of the above definition and synonyms, I probably am brave, though I never feel I am... at least no more so than the green bits stretching toward the sky in attempt at survival. They don't know why they do it; they don't know how they do it; they have no clue what's coming next; they go purely on impulse and instinct. Me too. My perceived bravery is only me stretching and reaching, fighting for existence in the moment (caring little about what the future might or might not hold), and striving "just to be." We all have that in us... we want to grow and blossom and make the world a better place.

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Going Bananas!

Max: ... Gretl, why don't you sing?
Gretl: I can't, I've got a sore finger.
Maria: ... what happened to your finger?
Gretl: It got caught.
Maria: Caught in what?
Gretl: Friedrich's teeth.
~The Sound of Music

I damn near cut off the tip of my left thumb this morning. As it is, I don't have health insurance any more, so I numbed it good with ice and gave myself a couple of stitches. Am I a gypsy or what?!

Now I am just fine and dandy and taking a break from the kitchen... again. Yesterday my neighbor gave me half a case of overly ripe bananas that he picked up on his dairy run. So, I've been baking up a storm! Just pulled three loaves of banana nut bread out of the oven. Then I mixed up batter for Drunken Monkey cake (I named it that, it's my own invention), using bananas (of course!), and whisky soaked raisins and walnuts, and some basic cake components. Smells divine in here! I'll top the cake off with whisky cream frosting. Anyone in the neighborhood, please stop by... there's plenty to eat! I'll put on some fresh dark bean - sorry, but I drank the remaining shot of whisky... medicinal purposes, don't ya know?!

It's a good day to do all this as we seem to have finally segued from snow to rain. It's been pouring since I woke up and the snow line is quickly receding. Now, if you'll 'scuse me, I have to take a loaf of fresh banana bread over to the fine folks who are my neighbors.

Kurt: I haven't had so much fun since the day we put glue on Fräulein Josephine's toothbrush.
~The Sound of Music

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Sea

I love the way the photo above turned out. I just took it half an hour ago - a pic of the pines in my side yard - and manipulated it a bit in PaintshopPro. Rain and warmer temps (38 degrees and climbing, woohoo!) are quickly melting the latest snow.

As previously promised, I'm returning to the conversation I've been having with a friend on spirituality. Her questions and comments are below in cream and my responses are in sage (one must err on the side of aesthetics when discussing spirituality). I've edited her part for content somewhat, but her points are still firmly intact.

Some things we can agree on like religious dogma, and asking questions and not finding answers … looking for solutions via theology … I am not sure that those who find spirituality… via systems either through religion or others, whether you have a term for it or not, have found the "answer". They may be appeased at some point, but I would bet there are still issues.

The definition of Theology is "the study of the nature of God." So, using that definition, I was incorrect in labeling my thoughts on spirituality thusly. But, you obviously got my drift anyway. I do believe I've found an answer - at least an answer that works well for me. I wouldn't be so presumptuous or ostentatious to think that it might do well for all others - in part because some of those others might not be ready to hear it, just like some kids aren't ever ready to deal with the notion that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
Think of it this way - a physically disabled person learns to adjust by relearning how live within ... those boundaries… but still limited … without the full freedom one experiences "normally" and are still considered "disabled ." When one depends on their own spirituality, they are limited. They can be effective, vital, and productive, but they are still lacking the fullness which was intended. By spooning in a lot of concepts… one's spirituality will always be changing… It's an ethereal experiential spiritualism that never finds an end... This is what I would call a disability.
I love that analogy! Having lived with a paraplegic for 9 years, I can totally relate to what you‘re trying to say. Allow me to tell you a story, and I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with it, but maybe that will come out somehow in the telling (likely, since it's what popped into my head when I read your bit). It's a story that a good friend of John’s told at his memorial. Susan, Chris and John all drove to the coast in CA one weekend. The park they stopped at had a campground, but the beach was 1/4 mile away over massive sand dunes - impossible to traverse in a wheelchair. John had told Susan that his whole reason for the trip was to see the sea. Their car had been having some issue, so Susan and Chris walked off to find some help. When they returned, there was John's empty chair and drag marks leading off into the dunes. Susan was in a panic. She was certain that he'd been hauled off by thugs or a wild animal of some sort. She and Chris followed the tracks... they went up one dune, down another, up again, and on. Finally they crested the last dune and down on the beach, sitting calmly by the sea, was John. Susan ran up to him and all but screeched, "What the fuck?!" John turned to her placidly and said, "I told you I wanted to see the sea." She said, "But... how the heck did you...?" He smiled, held up his hands and said, "I walked." The man had scooched himself on his butt, using his hands to propel himself 1/4 mile over dunes. He did the same for the return trip.

I never once saw him as being disabled. Truly. In my eyes he was more powerful than any "able-bodied" man I've ever known. He didn't just adapt to his situation, he transcended it. Disability is in the eye of the beholder. Being an emotional cripple was more of a detriment to me than his paralysis ever was to him.
(Side note from Barb: This is perhaps the most telling story of John's tenacious "adapt or die" spirit. I often think on this one when faced with challenges in my own life.)
Innately, spiritualism is fulfilled by experience. Let's say for example - if you weren't in the woods, could no longer write, could not do your art, did not have your dog, Scott was no longer part of your life, and you were locked away in prison without even a window to look out of - would you still have the same spirituality that you have today?

Well. As a matter of fact... on February 2nd I was picked up on a warrant that was out on me that I didn't know existed. (Classic case of guilty until proven innocent.) I spent 9 days in jail waiting for a 5 minute court session. So, this is something I have not only thought about (you're not asking me any questions I haven't asked myself), but recently experienced. So, my answer is yes, I would still have the same spirituality. I've had so many friends and family saying, "I would have crumbled!" Yet I never did. I didn't cry a single time. My very first thought, once I got beyond the surreal experience of being booked, was, "I'm still me. This does not change who I am. This does not dent my spirit." And it didn't. It's the old axiom of "wherever you go, there you are." The girls I did time with were in awe of my composure, but I would just look them straight in the eye and say, "I know who I am. Simple as that." A couple of them asked where that grit came from, so I talked to them about my beliefs, talked to them about where I came from and how I choose to live my life. My words had an effect. I've since heard from them and they are striving to make their own changes. It's the best reward I could never ask for.
Second question :) Is contentment all there is? Is that the bottom line?Well, I did differentiate between contentment and complacency. No, it's not the bottom line. I think that in some ways my soul will always be a bit restless, but not in a bad way. It’s the same as my mind being restless in wanting to learn new things. However, the turmoil is gone. At least for now, for me, that is more than enough. That is stellar.
Last question: Do I make any sense at all? hahahaha :)
Absolutely! Discourse like this is... what's the word... enthralling! It's been 17 years since I had a conversation this good (and that was with a 12 year old boy). And it's true. My gypsy spirit totally digs getting into discussions that challenge my mind, that take me outside everyday mundane tasks and make me explore. To be continued...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Och Aye

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was going to post some further discourse between my friend and me about spirituality (it's really lovely to have a discussion rather than an argument, or even a debate!). Then upon waking I realized that it's St. Patrick's Day. This realization being preceded by a ridiculously funny dream in which I painted Scott's truck bright green (the color of this font, in fact) whereupon he got pissed and chased me around the river with a shovel. So, I'm belaying the spirituality gig and have decided instead to tell you my all time favorite St. Paddy's Day moment.

March 17, 1997... I was working as a receptionist for the Theology Dept at The Catholic University of America (There's some spirituality for ya! Oy.). I had become friends with two priests from Ireland who were students there. The two were fast friends and were as different from each other as pancakes and bowling balls.

Willie was a fast talking lad from Dublin with such dazzling Irish good looks that I called him Fr. What-a-waste (yes, to his face). Rather stocky in build, he had long, thick, dark hair that was so curly it fell in tiny ringlets around his face, and eyes so twinkly bright blue that they were the very definition of mischief. Whenever he'd walk into my office in need of something, he'd begin with, "Bahrberah, m'dear, m'darlin', me angel...." (How could I resist?) And, without fail, upon leaving he'd say, "Okay then, love ye t'pieces... miss ye already." I swear his middle name was Charm.

Paul, on the other hand, was tall and lanky, towering over Willie by nearly a foot. He also had the classic dark brown Irish hair, but cut short in the most beautiful waves. His soulful brown eyes belied his deliciously dry wit, which he delivered with such lugubriousness that it was an absolute delight. Raised in Belfast, he had the most lovely, deep baritone, Nuurthurn Ay-rush accent and spoke sooo sluuuwly n' cairrrfully that his words carried a sense of calm.

To watch Willie and Paul interact (and they were nearly always together) was better than any comic skit I've ever seen. Even if they were discussing a serious topic, just to listen to the variations between them was a hoot.

Back to St. Patrick's Day, 1997... I was sitting at my desk organizing student files. Willie and Paul walked in, brightening my dull day immediately. Then, without greeting or preamble, they began to sing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. Their singing voices were nothing short of glorious. They sang it in it's entirety, in harmony, then did an about face and walked out without a word. I was stunned, completely floored, blown right out of my socks, utterly enraptured. I think it was a good five minutes before I could even move, and I know I had a huge grin on my face the rest of the day. I never could adequately convey to them what their serenade meant to me. I only know that had I not been married at the time I would have done my level best to destroy their vows of celibacy.

Conversely, they once sang Danny Boy for me and had me in tears for nearly a week. They were that good. But, because of them, St. Patrick's Day has a special place in my heart (which is 1/8th Irish), and not a year goes by that I don't think of my lads from the Emerald Isle on this day. So, tonight I will raise my wee dram of Irish whisky toward Ireland and toast the health of Willie and Paul... here's to ye lads...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bed of Nails

Yesterday in an email a friend asked me about my spirituality. First off, I admired her boldness and bravery. There aren't many of us who will so willingly bed down on that mattress of nails. Secondly, although I know how I feel about what I believe and don't believe, I've never actually been asked (nor have I forced myself) to define it. It took me several hours and a long walk in the snow to finally come back and pen a (hopefully) decent reply.

In pondering what I would post here today, I decided to post her original query and my response. Many of you already know where I stand, but for those of you who don't and/or are reading this for the first time, here's the caveat: This will not be a smarmy post about God's love and my personal relationship therein. Neither exists for me. This is also not my attempt to Christian bash. What you believe is up to you and I am here neither to judge nor change that. Either you're secure in that belief or you're not. So, if what I say rankles you... well... you've already been warned. One final note: Pray for me all you want, but do it quietly... over there. You cannot change my feelings on this. I've done a lot of soul searching and I firmly believe what I believe without compunction or regret.

Now then, what follows is the question my friend posed and my answer to her.

"Got a question for ya :) Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Maybe I should ask how you define "spirituality". It seems that today people are all over the map on it :)"

Oh boy. Why don't you ask me something difficult?! I actually read your email hours ago and have been pondering the response to this question since. Trying to define spirituality (especially one's own) is like trying to thread a needle while wearing boxing gloves. (Apologies to Fairground Attraction - although they actually sang, “It‘s like threading a needle with boxing gloves when you try to talk about love.” Which to me implies that you‘re trying to push the boxing glove itself through the needle. Anyway!)

My definition: Spirituality is the act of centering oneself using metaphysical means.

My own spirituality has gone through many metamorphoses - and yes, I do consider myself a highly spiritual person. That being said, I do not believe in any traditional god, nor do I subscribe to any religious dogma. Having grown up a Christian, I came to a point of questioning and not finding adequate answers that I 'gave up' on the idea of that god. Besides that, it turned out that I absolutely could not make myself believe that Christ is God (perhaps because from my sardonic viewpoint I see it as an overly abused notion). I looked into other theologies and none of them answered my questions either. I bill myself as a polyatheist (a bit of wordplay on those who claim to be polytheists), and say that there are several gods I don't believe in. As smartass as it sounds, it's really quite true. So, I invented my own "theology"... my doggereled dogma having run off under the light of the moon one night.

Still, I am a highly spiritual creature. You can't be surrounded by the natural beauty as I am and be spiritually numb. I think that what others see as a singular god, I see more as the ghost in the machine, a universal energy - the interconnectedness we all share with each other and everything that surrounds us (picture an intricately woven tapestry, if you will). Yes, that's a somewhat buddhist approach, and that probably comes closest to my belief system. I do firmly believe in karma, that the things we put out "there" come back to us, whether good or bad. I believe that each of us have a reason for existence... the life we're given is a path (I often refer to this idea on my blog) and that people cross our paths at certain times, and while seemingly by coincidence, never without design. The events in our lives are like the variations in a path along a nature trail - sometimes rocky, even precarious, sometimes dark, sometimes full of sunlight and warmth, there are nearly impassible woods, wide open fields, danger lurks, beauty charms... regardless, we each have a specific journey - destination unknown. (This is where I also argue against the idiom "half the fun is getting there." I say, "No. ALL the fun is getting there.")

So, there you have it... the crux of my belief system. I'm attaching two articles (
A Gypsy, A Dog, and a Mountain and 10 Things for 2009) that I wrote as a sort of support of what I've been trying to say. Or maybe in conjunction with what I've been trying to say. Right or wrong, I can only add that my spirit has never been as content (while never for a moment complacent - which used to be the case) as it has for the past couple of years.

Can't wait to see your response!

Take care,
The Wayward Gypsy

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Barb of Green Gables

I shoveled my driveway this morning... again. It seems March is in cahoots with Mother Nature and they are doing their level best to keep me on my mountain. As if the issue needs to be forced! I don't mind. The snow just adds to the scenery... although at this rate, I won't be planting my herb garden until August.

I wanted to test the road, so Nino and I took a short trip to the little store 1 ¼ miles from my house. We often walk there - it's lovely traipsing down the road through the forest. Going to
Green Gables General Store always feels like taking a trip back in time. The structure itself has been there for over 70 years and still has wooden floors and a fire place, complete with a sitting area and checker board, and a front porch with wooden chairs next to the ice machine. It's the kind of place where you find locals to Robe Valley sitting, sipping coffee, and shooting the breeze at any given time. When you walk in the door, whichever worker is on duty will greet you (by name if you've ever bothered to introduce yourself), will comment on the weather, and will ask how you are. It's a place where you can go to find conversation if the quiet of the woods is too much. Just a small place, the store sells camping essentials, some basic food, beer, cigarettes, fishing tackle, and... it's the last chance for espresso before you disappear into the wilderness. It's the kind of place where, when you hand them cash they don't look perplexed and credit cards are still a hassle to run. I love it there. I find any excuse to stop by, even if just to buy a pack of gum.

Whenever Nino and I walk there, he just hangs around outside without being tethered, often plying locals with his charm, or sniffing for other animals and marking his territory, or just sitting and pondering the big green trash bin with obvious greed. If I take too long yakking, he will come to the door and paw at it, much to the amusement of others. They'd let me bring him inside, but then I'd never get him back out again. As it is, my pup is all too aware that one can purchase individual doggie treats for good boys. This is a savvy dog - he knows that good behavior will end with him getting to figure out which pocket of mine his treat is hidden in.

Life in the woods... the rustic charm of it all... I've always felt like I was born 150 years too late. Now I know I was born right on time, I just had to find the right place. I'm home.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Enough About You; Let's Talk About Me for a Minute...

It is a cold, rainy day here in the foothills of the Cascades. It's after 1 p.m. and I'm still in my jammies. Can't remember the last time I just lazed around without getting dressed right away. Blame it on my new facebook addiction (thanks Kim, Wendi, and Tonto... you couldn't have just gotten me hooked on heroin instead?!). I've been having such fun connecting with people from my distant past - many of whom I haven't heard from in 20-30 years. It's brought up a whole host of memories and even spurred me to go through old albums and shoeboxes full of stuff.

I received one note from a friend requesting that I list 25 random things about myself that might or might not be known. I've decided to post them here as well, so here is the list in its entirety as posted on facebook.com:

25 Things About Me

1) I was born on November 17, 1961. I was two weeks late. My Mom was so convinced that I was never going to come that she told my Dad to stop for coffee on the way to the hospital. Halfway through the cup of coffee I convinced her it was time. I was born an hour later... Dad always insisted there were claw marks on the tree outside of St. Mary's Hospital. My older sister was such a little hellion that when the doc placed me on Mom's chest and said, "Congratulations Mrs. Black, it's a girl!" she cried and said, "Oh god... not another one!"

2) Although my name is Barbara Ann, the Beach Boys song came years later. But don't hesitate to sing it to me... cuz I ain't never heard that before!

3) I was once the Belinda of the Day on the Bozo Show. My little brother couldn't figure out how I got in the TV and how I was ever going to get back out. When I was very young, Festus from Gun Smoke was my hero... I dressed up as him for Halloween when I was 6.

4) My Hungarian Grandmother has always been my hero. She was the only one who ever stood up to my Dad on my behalf. Pretty impressive considering he was 6' and she was only 5'1".

5) My Mom used to punish us for sassing by putting a dab of tabasco on our tongues. I got revenge by learning to love spicy foods.

6) My Dad was a verbally abusive alcoholic. About a year before I was born he started AA and his sponsors became my godparents. They were wonderful people and Mrs. K played a big part in my childhood. She was the only one I could ever talk to about my Dad's alcoholism. Sadly, he started drinking again when I was 3 years old. It's my first clear memory... him coming home drunk and my Mom being pissed. He never stopped drinking again and died of lung cancer when I was 20.

7) I once dreamed of being a nun. Serious! Of course, I wanted to be a nun like Maria Von Trapp and marry a handsome captain.

8) I used to be afraid of and intimidated by absolutely everyone in the world. I always felt like an outsider. Even with the people who I knew loved me. This did not change until I was 36 years old. I still often feel like an outsider, but now I don't give a rat's ass, and I'm absolutely not afraid of anyone any more.

9) I was 10 years old when I went to Hungary for the first time. I went with my Mom so she could meet her half brother - she had never met him before. The experience changed my life... through the darkest times, it helped me to know that there was a big world out there.

10) I went back to Hungary by myself when I was 16 years old. Imagine letting a 16 year old travel that far alone these days... to a communist country, no less! At the time, I was a bundle of inner turmoil and I think it saved my life to live in a place that felt safe to me.

11) I discovered poetry in Ms. Champion's english class. She played a recording of Sandburg reading his own poem, Fog. In a few short words I was transported out of the classroom. I remember feeling startled when she stopped the record player and started talking again. I knew right then that I wanted to be able to write poetry, that I wanted to convey words in a bouillion cube of thought that would yank at the sensibilities of others.

12) I took piano lessons from the time I was 6 years old until I graduated high school. Mrs. I was another one of my heros. I lived with her and her husband for two months in high school when my Dad was at his worst.

13) I love Winter... especially when it snows. I never really do get sick of snow. I always feel more alive the colder it is. I also love the darkness of Winter. Abundant sunshine actually bothers me... gives me headaches, and leaves me feeling uncreative. No wonder I love the Pacific NW!

14) I've been in love with Eric Clapton since I was four years old. I think he's been the only constant in my musical life.

15) I have always, always hated wearing skirts or dresses. I tried to fake it and pretend I could dress up, but I was never comfortable. I think if I'd been born back in the Wild West days, I'd have been one of those goucho wearing women. At least. (Yes, Wendi... I too remember the days of kneeling and having to measure the length of skirts!)

16) I've always gotten along better with men than women. I've always found this odd because I used to be so terrified and intimidated by any man (I thought they were all like my dad). But, men have always made more sense to me than women - their ways of dealing with things much more in tune with how I felt things should be dealt with. I used to joke that I'm the only female misogynist in the world... I find most women to be too prissy, manipulative and duplicitous... but I do have female friends. I'm just really selective. Don't everyone send me hate mail at once, ok?

17) I once had an erotic dream about Fonzi, years after Happy Days was off the air... he was an amazing lover!

18) I was a nanny for a wonderful family for 8 years. They lived in Chevy Chase, MD (just outside of Washington DC). We're still close and the boys have become fine young men (I'm certain it was all my fault). While I was with them, their mother was diagnosed with and died from breast cancer. It was one of the hardest things I've been through, but it was the beginning of my own awakening and realization that life was too short to worry about so many things. She taught me how to let go of stuff that hurt and how to push through my own resistance.

19) During my time as a nanny, I met and married my ex-husband. He was a nice enough guy, but we were totally wrong for each other. He had no imagination and no real interest in life outside of the television. Since I left him (in 1998), friends have come forward and said, "What were you thinking?!" Still, if I hadn't been with him, I wouldn't have met my best pal, Laura. Everything is for a reason.

20) I never had children (just never happened) and I only felt like I was missing out for about a year... and I think that was only because there was so much pressure to have children once I got married. I can quite honestly and selfishly say that I'm happy I never did. I really love my freedom and autonomy. However, I think I would have been an excellent mother if it had ever happened.

21) I occasionally have prophetic dreams. The most intricate and accurate one predicted the birth of my nephew. In my dream I was serving dinner to old people in a church basement (yeah, cuz that's so me, huh?). I was carrying an armload of empty plates back to the kitchen when the phone on the wall rang. I answered it and it was my younger brother, John. He said, "Hey, I was just calling to tell you I'm a dad! I have a son!!" I happened to look up at the clock on the wall and the time was 11:32.

When I woke up I looked over at my ex and told him about my dream. I said, "Wouldn't it be funny if Linda had the baby today?" Just then the phone rang. I answered it... it was my baby brother. He said, "Hey, I was just calling to tell you I'm a dad! I have a son!! He was born at 11:32 last night."

I still get goosebumps over that one.

22) I once very clearly heard my Dad's voice after he died. I was working for a produce store in Grand Rapids, it was early summer and I was working outside potting flower urns. I wasn't even thinking about my Dad, but suddenly from behind me I heard his voice, "Hey, Punkin'" I turned around and there was nobody there, the parking lot was deserted. But I know what I heard.

23) In 1998 I was working for the Theology Department at The Catholic University of America in DC. CUA had just lept into the 20th century and gotten internet connection. My supervisor said, "I don't care what you do on the web, just figure out what it is. Have fun!" I ended up in a chat room for people who loved books. It was there that I met the great love of my life, John Johnson (see picture below). He had me at "So, what is this? The bored hausfrau's club?" I was pissed and laughing at the same time. We quickly developed a raport and I was absolutely enthralled with his virtual voice. Not long after we fell into a 6 hour phone call. He told me all about life as a paraplegic... I told him all about life as an overly sensitive soul who feels too much, too clearly. It was completely apparent to me that no matter what else happened in my life, I had to meet this man! So, two and a half months after meeting him online (and never having seen him face to face), I packed up two suitcases, two boxes, and my sewing machine and hopped aboard a Greyhound headed West. I never looked back. John was as amazing in real life as he was in the virtual world... no... he more amazing in real life. He changed my life.

in October of 2006 John was diagnosed with cancer and died in May of 2007. He died in our bed at home with just me there holding his hand, which is what he wanted. I miss him more with each passing day. I miss his quick wit, his laughter, his deep baritone voice, the scent of the back of his neck, his handsome dark brown eyes... everything. If I was told that I could have him back for five minutes, but that it would mean the end of my own life, I would do it without a moment's hesitation.

24) From 1998 until this past September, I lived in Kirkland, WA (a suburb of Seattle). When my lease was up I started looking for other places. The further out of the city I looked, the further out I wanted to be. I finally found my cabin in the woods. I've never felt more at home in a place than I do here, next to the solidity of the mountain with the sound of the river rushing by. I've never been more content, nor have I ever been so creative. This place was calling my heart from way back when... I know it was. I love the wildness of it (I've seen bears!), the rustic beauty, the laid back atmosphere, and the fine people I've met.

25) I've never really been a dog lover. So, imagine my surprise when Scott brought Nino home to me and I fell madly in love. My sweet pit bull adores me as much as I adore him, and his unconditional love has healed something in me. He's managed to paste together the shattered remnants of my broken heart in a way that no human could. He's my best pal, my guardian angel, and my constant companion. He knows my moods and what to do about them before I do. I've never met a more sensitive soul.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back in the Day

Through facebook.com I’ve been connecting with some old high school classmates. I graduated in a class of over 450, so there really aren’t many people I recall knowing then, much less remember now (30 *gulp* years later). I did manage to connect with one gal whose company I always enjoyed and whom I’ve often wondered about over the years. She turned me on to her partner’s blog site: The Amazing Force of Gravity. Hilary is a gifted writer and I get the feeling she’s a bit of a kindred.

Anyway, I was reading her most recent post and she posed the question: what two items from your childhood or youth would you like to see again and why? My response was “In the words of John Mayer, ‘Whatever happened to my lunchbox?’ I'd love to see that again... and the big pink stuffed dog that my dad brought me from somewhere.”

I had planned to pose the same question on my blog today, and hey… if you feel like answering it, g’head. Then, per Scott’s request (and my way of thanking him for coming to my plumbing rescue), I began baking my Grandma’s famous Hungarian cake, Dobos Torte. Can anything that fills the house with the redolent scent of coffee, butter and sponge cake fall short of being classified as phenomenal food?! As always, any time I make anything Hungarian, I get a nostalgic tug back to my childhood. So, making the cake seemed to fit with my state of mind after reading Hilary’s blog. It also made me realize that the things I loved most in my childhood, the things I’d most want to revisit, can only be found in my memories.

These are things, the moments that I’d go back to (before I turned 18): Any time spent in Grandma’s kitchen; ice skating in my backyard with my siblings and assorted neighborhood pals; swimming at Linda Park pool; building snow forts; being held by my dad and smelling the mix of turpentine and tobacco on his skin; being Belinda of the Day on the Bozo show; hearing my Grandpa Black’s laugh; watching my dad paint or draw; watching our Springer Spaniel (JB) play with a log in the yard; every moment spent in Hungary - but particularly the day I took a little boat to an tiny island on Lake Balaton with Laci & Marika, where Marika and I spent the afternoon making clay sculptures; lying in bed and listening to my Mom & Dad and Grandma & Grandpa Black playing euchre; getting lost in my piano playing; the first time I read Alcott’s Little Women; sledding down the neighbor’s hill; watching Bugs Bunny with my little brother after school; my big brother protecting me from a neighborhood bully; the moment I discovered Sandburg’s poetry; and afternoons spent with my godmother, Mrs. K. But mostly? Mostly I’d like to go back and tell that little girl that it was all going to be okay someday… more than that, worth it - that these moments would stick with her along with the harsh ones, that she‘d end up being a decent human, a woman of joy no matter the circumstance, and that all the bad would only refine her.

Joy is not in things, it is in us.
~Richard Wagner

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dream Girl

The sun is so dazzlingly bright today that it's almost unbearable... so beautiful that it's almost surreal. Helping that feeling is the fact that it's glinting off the icicles and refracting into rainbows on my cabin walls. All this follows the intensely bizarre night of dreams that I had; dreams that were utterly outlandish, but felt entirely real - real enough that I kept waking up thinking, "Oh, so I'm still in my cabin after all...." So this is kind of turning into a lost day for me. Lost in that I can't seem to gather my senses and parlay them into something workable; into a creative flux rather than a contemplative one. C'est la vie. Not like I don't have a ton of laundry to do, and how much imagination does that really take, eh?

For the past week, in many of my dreams, I keep seeing the same woman. I've never seen her before and I have no idea who she is. We haven't spoken yet, but she keeps appearing. She doesn't seem very nice - the first time she showed up she walked by, yanked my hair, and kept walking. The second time she simply stood about 15 feet away from me and glared. She's shown up about 3 other times now, each time giving me a less than congenial, ineffable look. The feeling (on my part) is always one of curious bafflement; a feeling of "what did I ever do to you?!" But I have no idea who this mean-spirited oracle is or what she wants from me. She's not ugly, nor particularly pretty. I would guess her age to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 years old. She stands about 5'4", slight build, has her short blond hair cut in a boyish style, green eyes, and always wears dangly earrings. Typically she's wearing jeans and a jean jacket. If you've seen this woman, tell me who she is! Better yet, ask her what she wants!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Great Manner O' Things Wi' Be Well...

It is another glorious day here in the snowy woods! The sun is shining and the snow is practically glowing. I managed to break a pipe in the well pumphouse, so I had to melt snow to make coffee this morning. I'll rough it, but I ain't goin' without my bean! Scott has gone into town to get parts to fix the thing, so all should be well (pun intended) soon. In the mean time, gee... I get out of doing laundry and the dishes!

By the way, friends finally cajoled me into putting up a Facebook page, so if you're on facebook.com, feel free to add me as a friend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lunar Landing

There is nothing quite so uniquely beautiful as a full moon on snow covered trees. Cold as it was, I was outside for hours last night. I just couldn't take my eyes off of it... like trying to tear myself away from Van Gogh paintings. The entire scape was varying shades of blue and silver. What unspeakable glory... the scent of fresh snow on the pines, the squinching sound as my feet mashed it down, and the inimitable vastness of the stars.

It made me wonder at the idea that, in this vast universe, we manage to find just the right people at just the right point in time on our paths. The souls we need to connect with show up as if unbidden. And yet, my wack gypsy theory tells me that our souls reach toward other souls without our even knowing it. We hear each other's crying, laughter, whispers, dreams... at a level we're not even aware of. We answer each other's call, not knowing that it's what we're doing.

This is partly my own pensive rambling, but it also stems from a long conversation I had with a friend last night (while I was outside staring at the picture perfect corner of my world). We landed on the topic of people who come and go in our lives at just the right time, and the reasons some flit and alight only momentarily and others stay and make a home in our hearts. Either way the effect is indelible.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

White Out

It is March, isn't it? I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of snow thwumping from the trees onto the roof. Between the snow from the night before and most of today, I got about two feet of snow! Of course, Nino is thrilled. We've already been outside for the requisite snowball toss n' fetch (and eat). It really is pretty, but I feel like I should put up the colored lights and plan to open presents.

But maybe that's because today is a gift, as was yesterday, as will tomorrow be. There's no present like the time.

Speaking of time, between the time change and the full moon, my circadian rhythm is in a tizzy. I feel as though I'm trying to recover from a lost weekend of heavy tequila drinking with HB or Timothy! If only I'd had so much fun that I didn't know about.

Still, the weather once again plays fiddler to the dance of the muses and I've been in fine creative form. I wrote a new poem last night (See Scribbles on the Wall on the sidebar). There was something about the hush in the air after the newly fallen snow that felt as though something or someone was whispering my name. I lifted my face to the sky and waited for the expected stirring of the steaming cauldron that burbles away with my soul gunk. I did not have to wait long. Not at all.

On Saturday I fell into a two day email conversation with a stranger and found a soul that makes me feel as though I just returned to my favorite neighborhood pub. It's odd, this ethernet and the relative comfort of anonymity that comes with it. However, that very anonymity makes us feel a connection that we don't always feel in the "outside world." Mom always said that the internet would be the downfall of civilization as we know it. In some ways, I heartily agree. And yet, without the silent vocals, the hearts and minds that get linked in the clatter of keys being struck, where would we be? Where would I be? Who would ever hear my voice or yours, if not for the words scattered like so many dandelion pods across this great universal meadow?

Let the silence roar.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chop Wood. Carry Water.

Often, when faced with a challenge, one of John's favorite phrases was, "Chop wood. Carry water." Meaning, throw yourself into essential tasks. Stick with basics, but be productive. I found myself hearing his voice saying that this morning as I hauled in some fire wood, and found myself thinking, once again, how right he was. If there's a regret that I have, it's that I could never make him understand his impact on those who met him and knew him. He never understood what a force he was, but maybe that was best.

As I sat with my neighbor last night, we got talking about John. I found myself at a loss to adequately describe him. Adjectives kept failing me because they sounded so trite trying to describe such an extraordinary life... words like amazing, inventive, funny, intelligent, talented, direct, intense, tenacious... I kept trying to paint a verbal picture and couldn't get the light just right, couldn't get the colors perfect... I could tell it ended up looking like a Picasso given my neighbor's somewhat perplexed facial expression.

Who the hell was he? He always said, "I'm just a guy in a chair, trying to make it through." But that's not good enough... that doesn't explain what it was about him that yanked my soul into another dimension, doesn't explain the footprint (well, tire tracks) that he left on this earth, doesn't explain why so many who knew him would say, "He can be such an asshole, but I love him." And who am I that he was ever mindful of me? That I was allowed to spend any time at all with him? That I was gifted with such an incredibly rich love? Who was he? Nobody special... just a guy, really... but oh, how I miss him. Oh, how I wish...

The grief is never gone, see? The weight of the loss is never any less heavy. I just chop wood... carry water....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sew What

I was going to post earlier, but I got sidetracked. It was pretty earlier so Nino and I went for a walk and hooked up with a friend. Then I hauled some wood in before it rained. Then I did a few other chores, then went to visit my neighbors.

Interesting. I was just talking to someone earlier today about how the current state that we're in can be compared to the Great Depression that my grandparents and my parents talked about. I noted that what was different then is that people knew who they were dealing with and people looked out for each other. Now it's all run by commercial conglomerates that don't know any of us from a fruit fly - you don't pay, you're screwed. I mentioned that people could get a job for a day doing anything without having to go through 10 interviews, testing and background checks, and then get paid at the end of the day. As we talked, I thought particularly of my Grandma who took in sewing and cleaned people's houses.

And then.

My neighbor asked me if I would hem her husband's pants. While I pride myself on being a decent seamstress, I've never really done that kind of work before. But, why not?! So I did it. When I brought the finished product over, she mentioned that her sister's husband also needed some pants mended. You just never know. Not that this pays the rent, by any stretch, but it's better than nothing at all. It keeps me feeling industrious at the very least. Plus, I felt my Grandma hovering somewhere near and could hear her saying, "Nuh. How 'bout dat?!" While I'd like nothing better than to emulate my Grandma, it always takes me a little by surprise when I do, when I accomplish something that I know was a result of her influence on me.

I recall all the times in my youth that I'd ask her to fix something for me... mend a zipper, hem a skirt, alter a shirt... and my Mom used to save all the family mending if she knew Grandma was coming to visit. The woman, along with so many other unlauded abilities, was such a skilled needle worker. I used to be so envious of the way she'd sew by hand, without even seeming to concentrate much, and her stitches were perfect. She could mend almost anything.
I don't think Grandma was ever aware that she was teaching me, except for the time I asked her to teach me how to cook Hungarian. The rest of the time, she was just being. I know if I could sit with her today and point out all of the lessons and skills that she passed to me, she'd be utterly humble about it. She'd pass it all off with a wave and use her classic, "Oh... vell...."

I wonder what we teach others without knowing. I wonder what we give each other just by being. We don't always get to know, but it's worth being aware and vigilant, don't you think? I do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rain It On Me

I'm tellin' ya... this unemployment thing is scary. Something's gotta give in this world, and boy howdy, soon. Anyone want to buy some cards from me? Hawaiian shirts? Pleeeeeze! My children need kibble. Serious. Oh, and I'm almost out of bean too... y'all don't want the world to know what that's like, do you?!

The warm temps and heavy rain are finally starting to melt the snow up here in the woods. I can actually see some ground on my property. Another day of this and I'll be able to open the back gate and maneuver the steps down to the swollen river. I can't wait. One of the great things about all the extra time I have is that it affords me opportunity for really longs walks with Nino. There's that glorious sense of awakening that presents itself with the coming of Spring... the sent of snowmelt in the air and the yawns of growing things... heavenly. I keep an eye out every day now to see if my tulips are going to come up or not. Here's hopin'!

In other news... I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I've got the best neighbors in the world up here. I wasn't looking for good neighbors when I moved out here to the woods, I didn't even consider what my neighbors would be like (presuming that everyone would keep to themselves like they do in suburbia). The fact that I've found friends, kindred spirits and totally generous souls is such a boon that I get all warm and glowy thinking about it. Whodathunkit? I realized yesterday that it was a solid thing when I dialed their number, Reg picked up and without preamble said, "The fuck do you want?!" I roared with laughter and said, "Now that's a sign of real friendship in my book."

When I got arrested, I had Nino with me in the truck. My greatest concern was what would happen to him. The only phone number I had with me was my neighbor's, scribbled on a post-it note, and fortuitously left in my purse from when I went to Florida (Vicky fed Midnight while I was gone). I handed the officer (who was kinder than most) my keys and begged him to please call them and ask them to pick up my truck and my dog (the alternative was that he'd impound my truck and put the dog in the pound - certain death). They did and took care of Nino (and Midnight) for the duration. Not knowing them all that well, I was a little shy about walking over there when I got out, but I was met without judgment or expectation. Reg, a dairy delivery guy, keeps me in milk, cottage cheese and ice cream (white is my favorite food group!). One time as he loaded up a crate full of stuff, I made the flip comment, "Gee, if only you sold toilet paper too, I'd be all set." I no sooner got home and the phone rang. It was Vicky saying, "Were you serious? Do you need TP... because we have a bunch and I can bring some over." I assured her I was okay in that department. But, folks just don't get any finer.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Double Talk

I've said it before, haven't I? You just never know where you're going to be or when you're going to have some kind of influence on another person's life. That's why it's always best to be exactly who you need to be at all times. Circumstance should not be allowed to change the essential spirit within each of us. This idea was brought home to me again. It's a lesson that I never mind repeating - not that I'm too dense to learn it the first time around, but because we all need refresher courses now and again even in the things we know best. Even the most gifted people practice.

The other night I got a call from my roommate of a few weeks ago, Rhonda. She was (unreasonably) in jail for doing dumb stuff while under the influence of alcohol and getting caught at it. She is not a bad person, far from it. Her sense of humor was one of the things that kept me going. Both of us were usually unable to sleep and as such had many fine conversations long into the night. I read her stories out of the AA pamphlets that she brought back from "class," and we sang old Motown songs to each other, talked about family, about life, about everything. Her sense of sarcasm is rooted in the practical and it is an absolute delight (think in terms of a female version of Fred Sanford). Ultimately, she has a loving, giving soul.

During one of our late night chats, she said she knows what's right and knows how to do what's right, but when she gets in with the wrong crowd, it's all over with for her. She made mention of her Mother who lives in Baltimore and how great a mother she is. I told her that maybe she needed to go stay with her mom for a while and just be surrounded by that kind of love, rather than hanging with supposed good-time buddies who just get her in trouble. She reckoned I was right. The day I left I gave her a big hug. She had tears in her eyes. I told her again, "Go get loved up by your Mom and be good to you."

The other night she called at about 1:30 in the morning (she must think I still have insomnia - not far from the truth really). It was so good to hear her voice. She said she'd been doing very well, had been out for 3 days and was looking to get into a treatment program. She said, "I really want to get through treatment and then I'll be allowed to travel and go be with my Mom. What you said really meant a lot to me and I've been thinking hard about it."

I'm honored that my words carried such weight. I'm again stunned that I was at the right place (which felt so very wrong) at the right time (I wouldn't have met Rhonda otherwise). This is why I can't regret anything that happens. Take away one element and what gets missed? What crucial bit to the puzzle gets lost under the carpet? I'm not suggesting that anyone spend time in jail as a means to reaching out to others.... may the gods forbid. I'm suggesting that all of us count for something, no matter where we are, no matter what time it is. We count. We're here, not for a singular reason, but for reasons. I had a choice: I could have hidden in a corner in a despondent state, or I could gypsy up and be regular old Barb. I chose to rally the gypsy and it made all the difference, clearly not just to me, but to others as well.

Make your choice. Make your stand. Make it matter. Be the best you wherever you are.

there's only us
there's only this
forget regret,
or life is yours to miss
no other road
no other way
no day but today
~RENT: No Day But Today