Love Letters Straight from the Heart


I went crazy and cleaned out a drawer in tall chest in my bedroom recently. The top one that held old pairs of glasses, part of my rock collection, two very small baskets, an old Blockbuster card.

Tucked away back in a corner were the signature blue airmail envelopes containing love letters from my then future ex-husband. They were way sweeter and way more articulate than I remembered. I met him when I worked in a hotel the summers of 95 and 96 on the Isle of Mull in Scotland on a work abroad program. He was the barman and I worked in reception. He was English. Well, he’s still English; he just was invited not to be my husband anymore.

Our tryst had begun my second summer there.  I had gone back to America after that to return to work and school. He stayed in Scotland to finish out the season at the hotel before going back down to England for the winter. He missed me, longed for me even. His bed was empty and cold. He loved me more than he could express. One envelope even had S.W.A.K. on the back flap. At the end of one letter he had spelled out love with tiny x’s. Sweet. Tom, you sweet, sweet man who wrote sweet letters, if only that had been our whole story.

And there were the letters from Robert. Ah, Robert, the brother of one of my co-workers at the hotel. Instant cosmic connection. Old souls reunited. Letters on thin blue onion skin paper. Pale words penciled in tiny script, five pages double-sided. Saying everything, saying nothing. Words of guarded love, words of universal love unbound. Memories of our time together that first summer I was on Mull, when he told me I had the brightest aura of anyone he had ever seen. Books, gifts, presents sent.

The connection was so strong that when I was back home I knew when he was sick. He knew when I was feeling down. We met twice when I came back the second summer. Our connection scared him his sister told me, old scars still raw. But I was not the one who caused them. He ran like a scared rabbit. Oh, Robert, if there had been an us, there never would have been a Tom.






Rebekah Spivey for The Poplar Grove Muse   


As if wire and pinewood
unspooled to a vanishing point
along the foamy shoreline
could keep the drifting dune
in place.

As when gulls fly inland, summer
people leave, every season has its
storm. I see you letting go at the edges
looking out beyond everything
– steel waters, sobering skies.

As if we had more time to make
ourselves known to the world,
to one another, assume we’ll remake
what floats away—our lives in surges;
our tattered windsocks, our weathered homes.

As we ponder this together on the lip
of the last wave, our feet disappear
in clutches of cool sand. We hold hands,
brace for balance, seek safety in interiors.
Our fragility affirmed, we promise return.

Beth Lodge-Rigal September 2018

The Vanity of the Seasons

Fall has always been my favorite time of year, even when I was a small child. I love the brilliance, the crispness, the change from the heat-formed, clinging odors to sharp and pungent ones. I like to see the squirrels busy getting ready for the coming winter and the trees doing the same. Of course, I regret the passing of summer, as I regret the passing of each season, but I rejoice the most when it’s autumn on its way in.

I was also born in the fall…in September, so I suppose that may play a part in my love of the season. However, as I’ve reached old age, I find myself with mixed emotions about what another fall means to me. If I were religious, I’d give any deity thanks for my still being around. Since I’m not religious, I’m just glad that I am here. But here’s the rub: I’ve found that there are more associations and reasons for regarding seasonal changes with a bit of a jaundiced eye than there ever were when I was younger…or, at least, ones that I am more conscious of than when I was 30 or 50 or even 60.

Let’s get right to today’s reason. Everything I read about older women seems aimed to make me even more aware of oldness. Whether it’s telling me it’s okay to be old or telling me it’s not okay, but here are the ways to make me seem younger so I’ll be okay. Or that it’s okay, get over it. Or that it’s not okay and I should get over it. Or that I don’t exist as a real human individual anymore, get over it. But it all stems from being categorized as “old” and “other”.

I’ve pretty much been “other” most of my life…just being a female made me “other”. Not quite accepting the full role of women as defined in the 50s and 60s made me a little more “other”. Deciding not to have children made me “other”.  Refusing to wear heels (and I’m very short) made me “other”. Being determined to have an academic career made me “other”. Wanting to drive a semi-truck when I was kid made me “other”. Not being a sports fan made me “other”. Still, these were all choices that I made and don’t regret, although I’ve spent a lot of time either defending, explaining, or both, these choices. But there are things that have made me “other” that I didn’t choose, and it’s those that stab at me now, some of which have become more obvious as the world has seasoned me.

And it’s that age thing that I’m thinking of right now…the age is not choice, but how I am in it mostly is….and I am finding that vanities I have thought don’t matter do matter now. The change from summer into fall is a good example. I’ve always liked clothing that was a little different, but comfortable (thus the mention of high heels above), but kind of reflective of who I think/thought I am. And this year, as the coolness of the season whispers its arrival, I found myself feeling relief…why? Because I didn’t have to search for clothing that would be cool enough for our Indiana humid summer heat, but which would cover up my wrinkly upper arms! I could not believe that all-of-a-sudden, I cared about wrinkly arms…what the heck??? Yet, I am looking forward to warm long winter sleeves. I don’t care about my wrinkly face…I refuse to wear make-up; almost always have, hate that greasy stuff, including lipstick, anywhere on my face. So let the neck sag and the eye pouches puff and the lips narrow…no seasonal change can do much about that, and it’s an otherness that is part of my self-definition.  Bare ankles? No problem! Bare toes…well, there are those socks I love with my sandals…and my toes get cold really easily. More otherness. Socks in the summer season…why not? But those arms…no, no, no! Sometimes, at home alone, when they are bare, I get an accidental glimpse of them, and the hanging flaps where muscle used to be (and to be honest, a bit of fat) just stop me in my tracks and I look away at what I think is ugliness, even if my reflective self says “so what”…Ugh. No amount of self-talk has convinced me to go sleeveless, or cap-sleeved. Nope. No way. Forget it.

And oh, are there remedies for this. Plain old exercise and weight lifting are supposed to do the trick. 50 pound barbells. 50 reps. Seven days a week. You don’t have barbells or belong to a gym? Then just heft a couple bags of flour in each had…those big bags. Or put a rod up in your doorway and do 500 pull ups. Or get down on the floor, careful of the creaky knees and do 1,000 push-ups. That, old woman, will get rid of those creepy upper arms.

Don’t want to exercise? Have we got a solution for you ! For just $99.95 plus shipping for a 5 ounce tube, we have this miracle cream, made from secret herbs that will do the trick. All natural, of course. Just rub it on (ignore that herbal odor…just put it on on a day when you’re not going to wear anything but a bra, no other top). In ten days, bingo! No more crepe! Arms toned like a 20 year-old !  If  it doesn’t work after 10 days, sorry. You can’t find us anywhere to get your money back.

Or, we have these magic bands. Just wrap them around your upper arms every day and the heat from them will melt that extra skin away. Just be careful of burns.

The arms still sag and wiggle and mock me. Most importantly, they mock my vanity, my vanity about not being vain. They mock my attempts to just accept my almost-76-year-old-body. And, most importantly, they mock my attempt to like all seasons equally…because of them, I just can’t like summer as much as its three siblings. Sorry summer, but that’s just how it is. So I’ll bid you adieu today. Maybe next year we can try again.

Fall, my favorite, bring it on and know that this old other has an arm up her sleeve as well as a few tricks and treats.

Bev Hartford for The Poplar Grove Muse