Indiana Spring

loving cows

Northwest Indiana is mainly pancake-flat with some gently rolling hills tucked around corners waiting to surprise. Driving a twisting road recently admiring the freshly-turned, neatly manicured fields which will transform into seas of corn stalks in just a few months, I was swept away by the beauty of Spring in the Great Lakes region.

Decorative grasses and a windbreak alongside a white frame farmhouse bent sensuously to gusty winds; forsythia bushes, untouched by pruning shears, were dancing flames. My car window was open and a pasture filled with black-speckled bovine exuded the earthy aroma of manure and sweet hay.  Red-winged blackbirds dotted fence posts and mallards tilted with a wind wall to reach a blue pond sparkling in a farmyard. First blooms on trees and shrubs along the road, shades of red, purple, delicate pink and white, provided a sudden splash of color relieving Winter’s grays and browns.

The spring-soft air tousled my hair and reminded me once again why people fall in love this time of year.

(originally published on Blipfillypicklepoo.blogspot.com on 4/16/2011 – edited for this publication)

Aging-ish

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My blue jeans are just a little snugger over my hips in the mornings and the face I see staring back at me in the mirror is a little less fresh and dewy than it once was.  My focus seems to have shifted startlingly while I wasn’t really paying attention.  Birthdays used to bother me only insofar as they were usually forgotten by people I had hoped would remember.  I think at one time I believed I would never be any older than 9 and I would always have a sense of “belonging” in the world – if not owning it – as I did when I flew down the street on the green Schwinn I shared with my sister.  When I turned 20 years old, my Uncle Mikey shared a now-sobering thought with me.  He said, “It feels like it takes forever to get to twenty, and the next time you look up, you’re fifty.  So enjoy!”  I remember that comment being accompanied by a big hug and followed by a bigger laugh….more than 20 years ago!  It seems like it was just yesterday.

*****

Years ago I was with a group of pre-schoolers (my favorite age of kids to work with) and was feeling like quite a youngster myself as I helped several children to build LEGO airplanes in the block area of a classroom.  Everything was going well – lots of giggles and helpful comments among the builders – when a very charming little guy asked me, “Whose grandma are you?”  Pierced straight through the heart (I don’t think I was 30 yet), I sputtered, “I’m no one’s grandma; I’m not even anyone’s mom!!”  The boy responded matter-0f-factly, “Then why do you have them cracks in your face?”  I experienced a twinge of alarm before I realized he was talking about the “character lines” on my face.  Not knowing what to say, I went over to see what was happening at the puzzle table.

*****

Sitting at the lunch table with a group of 4- and 5-year old children, I was witness to a conversation they were having about what they were doing for their mothers for Mothers Day.  Deja asked me if I had any children, and when I answered that I did not, she asked if I had a dog or a cat.  “Yes!”, I said, “I have a dog.”  Deja smiled sweetly and said, “Then you are a dog mom.”  Brenda, another child at the table, made a disdainful face and stated, “That doesn’t make her a mom; that makes her a farmer!”

*****

Aging itself isn’t what bothers me.  I shudder to think of the opportunities I have let slip by me in my efforts to grow up.  Yeah, it’s somewhat daunting to see the lines that have appeared on my face and the not-so-stray strands of gray that highlight what used to be decidedly chestnut brown hair.  The thought that I would ever look like an “old lady” never entered my mind until recently.  What does bother me is the nagging pull in my gut that I haven’t “lived up to my potential”.  No graduate degrees, no children, no book deals, no exalted titles.  Going in one direction with certainty will, eventually,  inevitably find me wondering what might have been if only…  It is not a question of regretting my choices (well, not most of them); it is a sense of sorrow  – the loss of what might have happened on the road not taken – of wishing I could do everything I ever wanted to do and having the time and energy for all of it.

*****

I was helping out in a classroom of 5-year-olds whom I had gotten to know fairly well.  The children in this class were a joy to be around.  The schedule had us heading out to the playground and, as I moved toward the merry-go-round, twenty children followed me.  They piled onto it and began asking, even begging, me to push them around “real fast”.  After several attempts to honor this request only to have kids flying off or maintaining only a tenuous grasp on the play equipment, I had to be an adult.  I told them in a semi-stern voice that, if they wanted me to push them “real fast”, they would have to find a spot on the merry-go-round and hold on very tight. Talk about raining on their parade.  They perceived this a very unreasonable, but, seeing that I meant business, they eventually got themselves positioned for safe fun.  I began to push them in a circle, very slow at first and then faster as the kids began to fuss about it.  Then I was running as fast as I could without killing myself,  The kids were flying!  As I stepped away to watch  and listen to the kids enjoying themselves, a child named Rudolfo, who was right in the middle of the merry-go-round, yelled, “Miss Frances, you run like a teenager!”  I don’t care how loud the teachers were laughing – that comment made my day and Rudolfo is a child I will always remember.

*****

In my head I can do flawless back flips down a hallway, create the next BIG THING, raise incredible children, foster world peace, write a book worth publishing, cure cancer…

and

in my heart there is a dreamer who will probably always be nine-years-old.

Hostile Pasta

cooked pasta shells

(Image courtesy of bloatalrecall.blogspot.com)

Never trust a noodle

plucked from a boiling pot

Do not test it with your tongue

It’s always way too hot

Forget the wooden spoon

acting as buffer

the water tucked inside the shells

will surely make you suffer.

A belly full of pasta 

a wine-assisted grin

An ice cube pressed upon my lip

to soothe the blistered skin.

The Hands that Hold Us

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The hands that held us are gone.

Hands that gently washed, dressed and fed lots of sweet babies.

Hands that held us, provided occasional righteous stings to little bottoms, applauded our triumphs and gave us a needed push.

Hands that cooled fevered brows and held back hair from the faces of children needing to give back their meals.

Hands that held “The Hobbit” in one hand, a white mug full of coffee with cream in the other, while keeping a passel of offspring— scattered across the living room floor cuddled in blankets— in Tolkien’s thrall.

Hands that kneaded dough for countless loaves – delivering warm slices of hearty bread soaked in butter to hungry mouths.

Hands that worked away from home – gone for days at a time – to financially support us.

Hands using chalk on a big blackboard to explain math or religious teaching – each equally mysterious.

Hands that knit afghans, washed a million diapers, ironed sheets and sometimes even boxer shorts.

Hands that quietly traced a cross on our foreheads at bedtime.

Hands used to shepherd children through the world’s challenges – crossing streets, maneuvering through crowds, learning to drive a manual transmission.

Hands that could tap out the rhythm to a recognizable tune on the table top.

Hands that signed permission slips and co-signed promissory notes – with trust and trepidation.

Hands that let go when we were ready to take steps – big and small – on our own.

Hands that waved to us … on our first day of school, from the audience during a dancing competition, as we left home to find our fortunes.

Hands that pulled us in close for a reassuring hug …when we were young… and, perhaps more importantly, when we were older.

Hands that grasped our own – squeezing when words were no longer possible – to say “Thank you!”, “I love you.” and “Goodbye”.

Four hands are gone, turned to ashes too soon.

Four hands that produced 16 more

…hands to hold us when they were gone.

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Behind

(originally posted on 4/16/2011 at Blipfillypickle.blogspot.com – my other blog)

He had gotten to church later than usual and slipped into his regular spot just as the service started.  The plaid jacket he had worn on the walk to church that early spring morning was now too warm and he shrugged it off at the same time trying to find the correct spot in his missal.  His coat slid off the pew and as he bent to recover it, he caught the light, fresh scent of citrus. Standing he noticed the person in the seat in front of him – a woman of average height and slender build.  Her shoulder length chestnut hair was flecked with gray and caught carelessly in a tortoise-shell clip which seemed to be slipping.  The clean smell was definitely coming from her.  He noticed her shoulders and the line of her back and wondered briefly how it would feel to put his hand on the small of her back.  She wore a pretty blue and white print dress that, while appropriate for the setting, did flatter her figure – at least from the back. Shaking his head to get focused on what he was there for, he found his spot in the book and began singing along with his fellow churchgoers.  He closed his eyes to better concentrate on the service and became aware of a sweet alto voice singing harmony. Tilting his head in an effort to locate the voice, eyes still closed, he realized it was coming from the lemony-smelling woman in front of him.  His eyes popped open and he was again distracted from the service as he noticed the way her silver earrings hung from her earlobes and moved as she sang, the gentle curve of the side of her neck and how she would occasionally scrunch her shoulders up and then drop them back down or reach up to massage her neck.  He had no concept of her age – it’s hard to tell that from behind  but he found himself checking , unsuccessfully,  to see if she wore a ring on her left hand. The entire congregation sitting brought him out of his thoughts and he too sat, a little heavily.   It had been such a long time since he had really noticed other women – his wife of 25 happy years had died suddenly several years ago and he had just moved through life in a daze – one day melting into the next. The fog had lifted little by little but colors were still muted in his world – until this morning.  He was surprised and mildly embarrassed at his inattentiveness to the service and again shook his head admonishing himself to pay attention.  As he listened to the readings he had a passing thought that he would definitely speak to this woman in the church social hall afterwards.  That seemed to settle him and he concentrated on the service until a thought came unbidden to his mind…. “I wonder what her face looks like.”

Christina’s World – Andrew Wyeth

“Wonderment”

Calvinandhobbesstarrywonder

Calvin and Hobbes “Starry Wonder” – b. Watterson

When was the last time you got up in the middle of the night to go outside and  look at the stars, dug into dirt with your hands and let worms squirm through your fingers, watched a baby discover her hands or listened to Beethoven’s 6th symphony?

Do you ever marvel at all you accomplish from the time your feet hit the floor in the morning until you tuck them back under covers at day’s end?

Does the constant beating of your heart, the involuntary, unconscious work of your lungs, your flawless ability to (usually) stay on your feet when walking ever make you stop in awe? Are you astounded by the people around you – each person a unique universe with likes, difficulties, talents, scourges, facing the world each day just like you?

If not, why not?

The wonders of the world exist in every thought, every choice, every interaction – in your home, in your head, and outside your front door.

Some sites of wonder: (Please click on them – they are worth it)

Hubble Telescope gallery

Georg Solti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra 5th movement of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony

Louie Schwartzberg – Happiness Revealed

TED presentation: Wings of Life

Superhero

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It must be good rearing and/or relatively sound mental health that keeps me suitable for society most of the time.  Day after day I complete the mundane tasks of life – bathing, dishes, grocery shopping, work, laundry, cooking, taking the dog out, paying the bills – giving no clue to the world around me that I am anything other than a regular old human being.  There is nothing particularly attention-getting about my appearance or demeanor, although I think I might have a killer smile.  Aside from that, I get up in the morning, do stuff then go to bed so that I can complete the cycle the next day and the next…

But, while I’m doing the stuff…

a commotion is taking place – brilliance, bravery and benevolence along with staggering baseness explode between my ears.

In my head I am…

  • ten feet tall!
  • saying cruel, hurtful things
  • Martha Stewart without the record or the money.
  • a champion for the underdog.
  • rolling down my car window and really letting a “bad driver” know what I think.
  • finding the cure for cancer.
  • composing a symphony and have perfect pitch.
  • able to fly and  perform amazing acrobatic feats flawlessly.
  • daydreaming of revenge.
  • endlessly patient.
  • sending that graphic text.
  • shrinking.
  • fluent in languages other than English and Pig Latin.
  • having a full-on, glass-breaking, furniture-snapping, “there will be hell to pay” tantrum.
  • participating in karaoke night – sober.

That the roughly 3-pound computer encased in my bony head is able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, what behaviors are/are not appropriate and can weigh the risks of each possibility considered  – and politely wait for my decision – fills me with awe.   I’m a superhero!  Because I’m just a regular old human completing the mundane tasks of life.