From the Road, Kansas City

The old house was easy enough to find off of Interstate 70.   The language used to describe this particular Air BnB was “secluded” or “semi-secluded.  I hadn’t questioned my choice much until I was driving earlier and the thought occurred, Do I really want to be semi-secluded by myself in Kansas City? 

I arrived, tired…, after eight, just as the evening light turned blue  The drive from Bloomington, while manageable, was long and the summer heat made impressions on my skin, hours of time over 100 degrees.  The house was advertised as cozy, just off the interstate, all accurate.  The front drive was on a slope, with an old fashioned clothes line stuck crookedly in the lawn.  I walked through a screened-in porch housing a wet ‘smoking couch’ and used the key pad to retrieve the key from the lock box.  As I opened the first door, a second door to my left with an opened combination locked blew open.  Behind a flimsy bead curtain the opened combination lock door revealed a pathway of paint-chipped wood stairs down to a basement crammed with old junk.  A turned over wooden dresser, a white baby carriage, trunks, old lamps…, the rest was left up to my imagination as I hurried up the second set of stairs into the house.

I stood, back in time, next to the lime green stove and fridge and wood paneled cabinets.  The furniture clock above the sink was no longer working and two glass roosters stared at me, each out of one eye.  I knew at that moment I was not going to sleep that night.  On the white board next to a broken rotary phone, written in black marker “Welcome, Allison,” followed by some scrolled symbology-little doodles that looked like diamonds and triangles with eyes in them.  The hosts also wrote, “let us know when you arrive.”

All logic in me knew that I would not be killed this evening, only haunted by the unlatched door.  And a little spooked by the other locked door at the end of the living room…, and the way the ceiling fans were not regular-size but miniature and rainbow colored, like each of the bedrooms were for children and never changed.  A rainbow sticky horse lined one wall, dust bunnies collected under the bed.  And each room had large metal floor grates with eye views directly down to the basement.

I called the owner to let her know I arrived, and let her know the basement door was open.    In less than ten minutes she arrived, rapped her hand on the outside door.  I answered her knock, said hello.  She moved fast past me, slid in and clicked the lock on the basement door.  Her long grey hair smelled of smoke and old water.

“Sorry,” she says, “that basement is really creepy, all of my grandmother’s eleven-room farmhouse is stored down there.”

As quickly as she slid in, she slid out, waving to me from her car parked at the end of the driveway.   I stood blank in the doorway next to the locked basement, still feeling that eerie energy, now with the picture in my mind that this woman’s grandmother is trapped down there.  I don’t know if it was better knowing what this house was sitting on top of, or not.  But all night, all I could picture is the ghost of this woman’s grandmother floating around in the basement running into old wooden chests and bureaus, knocking them over, begging to be recognized and out let out of the rotting basement.   Maybe I should have left the door unlocked.

Allison for the Poplar Grove Muse

 

Buried Treasure

I was at a party last night, a rare event for me, a woman who prefers solitude and quiet nights at home with the dog and a book.  But I went to honor the birthday of someone dear to me and found myself in a room surrounded by family and friends, people I’ve known for a long time and many others I had never met before.   I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in my own skin – the hard earned result of years of inner contemplative work, especially the Conscious Feminine Leadership Training of WWf(a)C.  I used to be such a people pleaser, playing the role of a happy, confident person, appearing interested in others and their small talk in shallow conversations.  I would nod and smile a lot, my radar always out for how they were perceiving me.

Last night was different.  Mostly, I avoided small talk.  Small talk has always felt a bit off to me, but until recently I didn’t understand why.  The truth is that it is much easier to feel intimate and connected with people when there aren’t a lot of words getting in the way.  Small talk is meant to help us get to know one another – what we do, where we’re from, who we know.  But the thing is, none of that is really who we are deep down.  I am tantalized by the depths.  What I really want to know is: What do you love?  What breaks your heart?  What truths do you hold down in your bones?  What do you dream of?  Long for? How are you learning to love yourself?

The problem is that questions like these really throw most people off as conversation starters, and they make awkward-feeling follow-up questions to normal folks’ laundry lists of career histories, the way most of us have come to identify ourselves.  But I have trouble answering questions like, “So, what do you do?”

Well…um…to be totally honest?

And how many times do we get part way into our answer only to realize that our questioner’s attention has drifted off?  Like mine did when a man spent fifteen minutes going through his latest iphone photos like a third grader doing show-and-tell with no main topic.  In the past, I would have pretended to be interested, asked questions, made enthusiastic faces, all to make sure that he liked me.  In other words, I used to trade my authenticity for the approval of others.  I no longer live with the burden of trying to be polite, instead I do my best to be real.  And I no longer put my self-worth in the hands of unskilled others, instead I do my best to hold myself and to listen.

I realize now that I was always so uncomfortable with small talk because I thought I had to bend the shape of my self to fit the questions that were put to me and to try to be understood.  And I always felt disappointed in the shallowness of those interactions, as if it were my conversation partner who lacked an ability to reach down to their soul’s core and present that to me, giving me permission to bring mine out as well.  But the truth is that depth is in the ear of the listener.  So, instead of filling up the space with witty comebacks and funny slings, now I simply lean in to listen.  I listen deeply, past that litany of career moves and seemingly disconnected thoughts streaming from a stranger’s camera roll.  I listen for what it is you love, what you long for, what truths are coming from those stories you carry down in your bones.

 

~DRH for the Poplar Grove Muse

Dear Mom

(Dear Women Writers and All, I’ve decided to share a personal correspondence with you today.  Perhaps it will give you a window into where I am this week, where I come from, and how very grateful I am for my family connections.  Peace and love, Glenda)

July 3, 2017

Monday morning

Dear Mom,

Has it really been a year since I made the trip from here to Dearborn County Hospital on a Sunday morning to find Daddy in Intensive Care, and you and a dozen other members of the family either waiting your turn to go in and visit for a while, or standing by Dad’s bedside, keeping him company?  Sometimes it seems like it was just last month—it’s so present, right there in the forefront of my memory—Daddy trying to keep things light by joking with the nurses or teasing the grandkids; you looking worried, clutching one of your hankies, praying.

Other times it seems like it’s been way longer than a year ago, that week he spent in the hospital, and a couple of weeks before when Reta and I were at your house on Father’s Day weekend. That was the last Rook tournament that we played with the two of you.  Daddy often bid more than you thought he should, even though he usually made his bid—much to Reta’s and my chagrin!  You two were formidable partners to pair off against!  I remember that last tourney well—you beat us like a borrowed mule (as Daddy would say)—or maybe two borrowed mules!  And it’s not that we were greenhorns at the game, or incompetent; we’re both pretty savvy when it comes to playing cards.  Guess you were sitting in the lucky chairs, or maybe we didn’t whine enough. I think the tally was ten games to four!

We were so glad when they moved Dad into a private room—not only because it meant (supposedly) that he was improving, but also because we could be more relaxed about hanging out with him.  It was more visitor friendly than the Intensive Care Unit.  And Daddy seemed more chipper, at least for a couple of days. Then his appetite went downhill, and he became less and less talkative— seemed apparent that he wasn’t feeling well.  It surprised us when his doctor told us on Thursday that he’d be ready to go to Vevay for rehab either Friday or Saturday.  We rearranged the Saturday family reunion we’d had on our calendars for a few months; instead of a picnic at Markland Dam’s shelter house, we’d congregate—eat, drink, and be merry—at the Vevay Rehab Center.  Everyone was looking forward to Dad’s release from the hospital and our summer Baker get-together.

You and I have talked several times about that last Thursday afternoon we were with him before we headed back to your house.  How we kissed him good bye, told him we loved him, that we’d see him on Friday.  Hindsight has made so many things clear that weren’t clear at the time.  We would’ve made different decisions if we had known that Daddy wasn’t going to live through the night.  I would’ve been more forceful, probably downright contentious, when talking to the doctors and nurses.  Maybe I could’ve bullied them into paying attention to our concerns about his belly, his appetite, his mood.  I do realize that even if I had convinced them to check him out further, the result may have been the same.  His body was shutting down, and even the experts may have been helpless to change the outcome.  Still…I wonder.

And I know you wouldn’t have left the hospital that evening if you’d had an inkling of what was to come.  No matter how exhausted you were, no matter how much you trusted the doctors (or God, for that matter), you would’ve pulled your chair closer to Daddy’s bed, held his hand, traveled with him as far as you could through that last difficult night.  And I would’ve been there with you—through the good, the bad, and the ugly of it—if we hadn’t been assured that he would be leaving the hospital by Saturday.  Hindsight.  Yes, we would’ve been there every minute with Daddy if we had only known what was coming—you and all of us kids would’ve been there.  And I believe that he knew that, too. Somewhere in his heart and mind that held all his best memories, his biggest love, his strongest family ties, he knew.

We miss him so much, Mom—all forty-some of us that called him George, Daddy, Pop, Dad, Grandpa, Papaw.  We know he wasn’t perfect—he never claimed to be (as far as I knowJ)—but he was perfect enough.  You two were so fortunate to have loved and liked each other for nearly three quarters of a century, and the rest of us were lucky to have been under that umbrella of family love with you; still are lucky to be under that umbrella with you.

This year hasn’t been an easy one for you, and yet here you are, still being Mom and Granny and Polly, still welcoming us into your kitchen, still being plainspoken about your beliefs and opinions, still being the woman that Daddy loved.  You’ve proven yourself to be a strong woman, Mom, even when you weren’t sure you could find the strength you’d need to carry on without Daddy.

Now if we can just whip them into shape at the cemetery!  I called them again, by the way.  Left a message on the answering machine that it’d been nearly a year since Daddy had been buried there, and that I was disappointed that the gravesite still hasn’t been leveled and seeded with grass.  Seems like there’s been enough dry weather and plenty of time since I called a couple months ago, asking them to check it out, to spiff it up, to make it look more presentable so that the next time you dropped by for a visit, you wouldn’t have to face a double whammy—Daddy’s tombstone and the unkempt look of it.  I think you and Ronnie (and everyone else who’s been part of the mowing brigade) have done an excellent job tending to your yard at home almost as zealously as Daddy would’ve if he were here, but I’m afraid he’s going to come back and haunt us, or at least haunt the cemetery caretakers, if his gravesite continues to look neglected.  He so loved a well-kept lawn.  His name on the tombstone and the lumpy, patchy ground in front don’t match up.  We’ll be vigilant though, and if the workers there aren’t up to the task, we’ll give it a facelift ourselves.  (Picture Daddy peeking out from behind a nearby tombstone, nodding his head, grinning that cock-eyed grin of his.)

I’m grateful for all the time I’ve spent with you this past year, and intend to continue to block off a few days every two or three weeks to point my Subaru your direction.  Believe me, my visits are as good for me as they are for you.  I slow down when I’m at your house—it’s a welcome respite for my body, heart, and mind.  Okay, enough of my rambling—you know how I am!J  See you soon.

 

Love,

Glenda

Tails and Tales from Iona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mythical Creatures you swallow your tails

entwined for eternity,

the never-endingness that is Iona.

 

I can no longer tell where Iona stops and I begin.

We have become one,

forever linked in our mirror images.

 

I am released into

the rocks, sea, sand, birds,

water, sea, and sky.

 

I have let go of corporeal me.

Here I am all spirit,

a light being like

a Sufi spinning into pure energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sister Delphinia

Sister Delphinia is blue. Every day she sits on the stone bench of the Chapter Room to confess her sin, the sin of lust. All-encompassing. All-consuming. It is her only sin. It’s not that she is otherwise pure. Put simply, there is no room for any other sins. She lusts after the color blue, craves it, wants to embody its brilliance.

When she joined the order and chose Sister Delphinia as her name, Mother Superior failed at dissuading her from using that name. Alternative suggestions were met with a firm no. And Sister Delphinia being a Taurus stubbornly clung to her choice and wore Mother Superior into acquiescence.

Her love of blue did not make Sister Delphinia a purist. She loved all shades of blue. The cerulean blue of the sea, the marble blue of the sky, the steely blue-gray of the water on a cloudy day, the shimmering silvery blue of the shoreline where the sun kissed the waves, and the azure surface of the bay on a calm day. Sister Delphinia’s favorite Spanish word was azul, the word for blue.

She was a woman behind her time. Had she been born in the twentieth century her favorite book would have been Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She hated her own dark brown eyes, which went from brown to obsidian when her emotions ran high, which was often. She would have thought she had died and gone to heaven if she could have been part of the Blue Man Crew, covered in all of that lovely blue paint.

She thought of herself as a blue blood although she came from no royal bloodline. It made her smile, smirk actually, just to think of it.

Although her love of blues was universal, there was one shade that scared her, the schizophrenic periwinkle, which couldn’t decide if it wanted to be lavender or blue. She felt periwinkle was an agent of the devil, trying to lure her to the dark side of purple.

Sister Delphinia knew that, in truth, her greatest sin was not actually lust. Her greatest sin was that she didn’t truly believe lusting after blue was a bad thing. Blue was so pure, so innocent. She imagined Mother Mary always wearing pale, pearly blue. What could symbolize more purity than that?

So she kept on confessing day after day after day. Hoping against hope that she would not go to hell where there would certainly be no blue. And for Sister Delphinia that would be Hell, indeed.

 

Rebekah Spivey for The Poplar Grove Muse