Friday, July 29, 2011

Voices In The Rain

For your Friday reading pleasure, here's a little rerun/rewrite from over three years ago. It's a post that sings very loudly in my mind.


I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.
~Pablo Neruda

I love the rain, I do. No one will ever convince me that we in the Pacific Northwest get "too much rain." We merely get a lot of rain. Sometimes we even get enough. We had great rain the other day. I titled an email to a friend, "It's Rainin' Zen." That pretty much sums it up for me. Rain takes me to a calm place, a place where I can wander the corridors of my mind at leisure. None of this frantic, "OMG, I have to do, I want to, I gotta... oh, and there's that, and... wait, I just...time, time, time... thinking thinking thinking..." No, when it rains, the inside of my head has a much more stroll-through-an-art-museum feel to it. Granted, there's some funkalicious art danglin' from the walls. C'est moi.

The other day I was asked if I have a happy place I go to in my mind when things get tough. You bet I do - several, in fact. Upon thinking about the places I 'go', I discovered that most of them are somewhere in Hungary. One such place is a tiny room at the top of my Uncle Rudi's house in Budapest, 1978. He had turned the room into a mini library of sorts. There was a small sofa in there, a chair, an end table and a lamp, and a wall lined with a book-heavy shelf. There was one small window that was just big enough to add a lighter shade of gloom to the existing gloom. A well worn oriental rug graced the floor and was anchored by stacks and stacks of old Hungarian newspapers. The room smelled like old books, used blankets, tea and as with everywhere in Hungary, that deep sexy lingering paprika scent.

So many places in Hungary reside in my mind as being places that are deeply magical. I think that's partly because when I went there as a child, my knowledge of the language was somewhat limited. So, I never knew where I was going, or going to end up. Such was the case one rainy summer afternoon in 1978. It was pouring rain, torrential even. The power went out and I was sitting in Rudi and Juliska's kitchen wondering, "Well now what do I do...?" Rudi didn't give me much time to think about it. He quietly said, "Gyere ide." (Come here.) I followed him up past the second floor, and further up, up, up the narrow stairway that lead to the converted attic.

I'd never seen the room before that day because they always kept doors shut, and I wasn't the type to go prying. So, when he opened the door and gestured me in, I was completely unprepared. I'd thought it was a closet. Instead, I found myself falling back in time, into an old Dostoyevsky novel. I rather timidly sat on the edge of the sofa while Rudi rummaged around behind a stack of newspapers. Finally, he pulled out an antique phonograph. It was the kind that needed no electricity, just a deft hand to crank it into action now and then. He also had a stack of about a dozen 78's. (Anyone else out there in TV Land old enough to remember 78's?) He cranked up the phonograph, gently set a record spinning, and lowered the needle. What I heard next took the whole experience to a new surreal level. I expected classical music, or maybe Hungarian folks tunes. But no, out came the sounds of some old bluesy American jazz from the 20's & 30's.

So, we sat there for a couple of hours, my Uncle Rudi and I, listening to the fine sound of those scratchy records, the music playing against the hiss of the rain. We didn't speak the entire time, I think my grin said it all for him (and probably translated much better than my shabby Hungarian). It was an afternoon that was absolutely lush in all its texture. It has it's own special box in my memory warehouse and I go there often, paw through it, sniff the old books, smile at my memory of Rudi who is long gone (rest his soul), hang out on the lumpy loveseat, listen to the slow low whine of the blues...

...and keep my eyes on the rain streaming past the little window.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It Needs A Faucet

When Jessica was here we made cards together. Well, separately, but we were in the same room, grooving to the same music, listening to each other ink stamps, tap them against paper, and sigh with either exasperation or contentment.

At one point Jess got up from her chair to look at what I was doing. I showed her the above card that I had just completed.

"Huh," she said. "I like it."

I shrugged, and as if to explain the inexplicable (which, as it happened, wasn't even in question), said, "Well. I don't know why... but it just needed a faucet."

As matter-of-factly as if I had told her that apples are delicious, Jessica nodded and agreed that, "Indeed. Some things just need a faucet."

And that's one of the things I love about Jessica - her perspective. She doesn't question my much abused artistic license. To her, a faucet hanging above a love seat while the Tweedle Twins look on is absolutely normal. Standard, in fact. We decided that "it needs a faucet" would become the catch phrase when we were feeling artistically stuck.

Why? Because that's how creative thinkers roll. We're often accused of being dreamers - as if the word dreamer is a pejorative used to describe someone who has no ambition. Fie! But, I get it, dreaming does imply a rather passive state. So, I prefer to say that we're Imaginers or Creatives. If we're stuck in the bottom of a pit, we'll imagine a faucet, flood the pit and float to the top.

I don't know about you, but I need the far-fetched to bring me back to real. After all, haven't some of the greatest inventions and ideas come from those who think up the impossible and/or improbable? You can bet those folks had an interloping faucet or two.

My life would be very boring if all I saw was the world exactly as it is. I like to fill in the gaps. I don't like blank spots. I'm one of those people who sits at the airport or in a restaurant and makes up a whole fictitious life for the stranger across the room. I like things that are juxtaposed against each other in an unlikely fashion.

I like a faucet in the middle of nowhere for no good reason. Because that kind of thing is a curiosity, and curiosities lead to imaginings, and imaginings lead to creativity, and creativity leads to doing, building, making. And that is never boring. That's what keeps us alive.

That's what keeps things real.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beep Beep!

Good or bad, Life doesn't issue a warning blat when it's about to send something big your way. You'd think we would learn not to be so surprised by the headlights when we continually stand in the middle of the road, but we stand there doe-eyed nonetheless. Understand, I'm neither against standing in the middle of the road (although forward motion is preferred), nor do I have a solution for being surprised by The Universe. It's who we are.

The difference between the evolved and unevolved is how we handle the unexpected. Do we stand there and let it run us over? Do we skip away and watch it zoom past? Do we grab on and see where it takes us? Granted, we often don't have a whole lot of choice. Sometimes we're simply swept up in the Great Street Sweeper and hauled along for the ride. Even then, do we acquiesce or kick and scream?

Two years ago last Saturday I met Steve. I remember the moment as clearly as if it was a scene from a movie I've watched a dozen times. I remember his blue truck pulling up to my house on the river. I remember peeking out the kitchen window at the tall guy who stepped out, two bags of dinner groceries in his right hand. I quickly opened the door and met him on the front porch where we immediately hugged each other. He smelled like sawdust, cigarette smoke, and something sweetly delicious that I've yet to be able to define.

I wasn't looking for love. I was looking for a friend. Life had other plans for me as we haven't been apart since. Life said, "Surprise! This is The One." And even though we were almost constantly together, I initially fought against the relationship, or at least the idea of it. It was all out of fear, considering that my last big life surprise before that was much darker - losing my late mate, John to cancer. I pretty much took a mental stand against Life and said, "Oh yeah? Fuck you if you think I'm going to set myself up so easily again." I didn't exactly kick and scream, but I definitely folded my arms across my chest and did my best to look stubborn.

Steve, on the other hand, seemed completely at ease with the surprise of our relationship. Kindhearted woman that I am, I saw no need to burst his bubble. I allowed myself to be swept up in the ride. It didn't take long before I saw the validity of who we were/are together. It didn't take long at all before I mentally nodded resignation and thought, "OK. I get it. This was meant. He's amazing. I'm crazyinlove."

By the way, The Universe thinks it's really funny when we accept what already is - good or bad. I mean, it totally cracks up The Universe.

What it comes down to, I think, is this:
Use your Life, or it will use you.

Either way, you're gonna be surprised along the way.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Long Distance Runaround

You probably thought I was never coming back. You really didn't think I'd desert you forever, did you? Actually, I could go a little longer without writing (it's been a nice break), but my nephew said he needed something to read. Far be it from me to deprive him of his literary pursuit.

Truth is, I've been sort of on vacation. My friend Jessica was out here visiting for two weeks and we had a great time hanging around together. We did a bunch of eating, we wandered around some, we made some art, and we did a great deal of nothing. Both of us are unaccustomed to doing nothing, so it was actually pretty taxing. Watching movies all day long can be incredibly tiring.

One of the more fun things we did was taking a road trip to Yakima (well, that in itself is no joy ride) to meet up with two other online friends from a group that we're all in. That's a day and a half that will go on my own personal Days To Remember List as Most Fun Ever.

The thing is, until Jessica's trip out here, we had never met "in real life." Until our trip to Yakima, neither of us had met the other two "in real life." I put "in real life" in quotes, because in this marvelous age of electronics, what's real life anyway? Is a friendship that spans seven years online any less of a friendship? I submit no. From the moment Jessica got out of Steve's truck after he picked her up at the airport, we were comfortable and just as close as if we'd been meeting for coffee once a week for the past few years. There was no awkwardness, no feeling of "Oh crap... so that's what you're really like." Part of that is because we are both as real online as we are "in real life." But I also think that a lot of it is because there is a real connection there - and a real connection doesn't care how the connection is made. It just is.

The same was true of the big meet up in Yakima. The four of us hugged and began laughing from the very first moment. There was no distance, no sideways glances from any of us wondering if the others were just as accepting of the friendships. We had a blast. We had a blast and it was over with far too soon. I kept thinking, "Dammit. I want to hang around with these people every single day!" And I do. Online.

There's where the difference is. I don't get to hear their laughter. I don't get to see their eyes light up with humor or tear up when their hearts get tugged. I don't get to make goofy faces at them. We don't get to hug. That's the hardest part, because those are some damned fine hugs. But other than basic physical stuff, the heart of it is as real as it gets.

I've heard other people malign online relationships, claiming they're not real. Over the years I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few online friends. When I tell others about such events, I often get a response of "Wow. Really?! Isn't that awkward?" Not at all. Granted there are some iffy people out there, but aren't there some iffy people "in real life" too? Who among us hasn't stumbled across someone "in real life" who later on turned out to be less than a friend? The trick in any walk you take with someone else is the old adage that, to have a friend you have to be a friend.

Friendships of any kind, no matter the distance, are about being there for the other person, are about making the other person's day or world a little brighter, a little better. When it all comes down, isn't that's what's real?

Monday, July 4, 2011

May the Fourth Be With You

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Happy Independence Day USA!!!

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Please everyone, celebrate as you see fit, but stay safe.
Have fun, but take a moment to remember those
who weren't having fun when they defended your right
to watch the fireworks and eat good food off the grill.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who's That Girl?

Egads! Bring on the psychotropic medication!!! I've become a version of my mother.

When I was a kid, we often traveled from Grand Rapids, MI to Toledo, OH (my mother's birthplace, and still the residence of my Aunt and her family). Occasionally Mom would run into, or make arrangements to meet up with old high school friends. Invariably, as we were driving away, she'd say, "I never would have recognized her!" or "When she wrote to me, I vaguely remembered her name, but I just couldn't place her." At the time I thought how crazy... how could you not remember someone you spent four to twelve years of your life with nearly every day?!

Now, decades later, I can relate. I've had dozens of people from my school days "friend" me on facebook. Some I remember well, but many, eh, not so much. I find myself scouring the pictures they post and thinking that I don't recognize them at all. Sometimes their names have a ring of familiarity, but nothing that clangs loud enough to trigger a real memory. Yet, these people often drop me a line saying how nice it is to "see" me again, and how well they remember me, yadda yadda yadda. I demure and say thank you.

In truth, I almost feel sorry for them if they remember me. I can't help but think, "Oh, poor you... you are in for an awakening." Because, I am not that girl any more. I haven't been for a long time. And that girl wasn't all that pleasant back then. That girl was afraid of everything and everyone. That girl was even afraid of her own voice. Really, who'd want to be friends with that?! Seriously. I didn't even want to be my own friend back then. So, I'm always a little more than surprised when people look me up and "friend" me based solely on that connection. Surprised, but mostly glad. A gal can't have too many friends, y'know?

Well, actually, a gal can have too many friends. There are a few people who've "friended" me that I do remember well. Initially, I'm thrilled when I see the link requesting confirmation. Then I find out that the hellions who were a blast to hang out with back then have turned into mundane, faith-mired parents. They've turned into people who set my teeth on edge just by saying hello. They've turned into people of whom I want to ask, "What the fuck happened to you?! You used to be so much fun, and... you've lost your muchness. What happened?" But, it's not my place to judge. Not my place to question who they've decided to become.

I'm not being snobby. I have nothing against people who are mired in their faith (to each his own), nor do I hold any compunction for people who are parents. What does irritate me is when either of those life choices take away the essential who that those people used to be. Yes, I know. We all change - didn't I just say that I've changed?! I'm talking about people who have completely lost themselves by devoting themselves to something or someone else. Not that devoting ourselves to anything is a bad thing, just that... *sigh*... I'm not going to be able to dig myself out of this hole, am I? C'est la vie - that's what I get for sidetracking myself.

Next Wednesday I'm meeting an old friend for the first time. We've been online friends, living on opposite sides of the country, for years. If you've read my blog at all for any length of time, you'll recognize the name Jessica. Jess and I are kindred spirits. We share a wickedly quirky sense of humor and a keen sense of aesthetic (well, I think so), and place value in many of the same life-philosophies. We "met" online nearly seven years ago on a crafting forum, and the friendship quickly tied itself into an untangling knot. So much the better.

Steve and I discussed the logistics of him picking her up from the airport.
He said, "So, you've never actually met her?"
"But you're sure you'll get along?"

I know because sometimes a friend is just plain recognizable. It's not the history that matters, but the precedence.