Sunday, November 30, 2008


I sat curled up against my father's tombstone this afternoon, back hunched against the north wind, eyes shut against tears, with stray gleams of the sun through the clouds warm on my right cheek. I'd been at Momo's for Thanksgiving Sunday dinner, and I wanted to stop by to visit Daddy, like I sometimes do. I'd taken my map with me from the car, to look over the new route I wanted to try going home, and I'd found myself talking out loud about the road numbers and towns I'd go through.

It occurred to me for the first time that this, too, was something I'd be leaving behind me when I moved. My father's essence I carry in my heart, but the place where his bones rest has been a center for me. If I have any home right now, it's at his side, but I can't live always on that windy hilltop. I still walk above the ground, and I have to find my home out here somewhere. But the times when I've felt soul-weary, over-burdened with the claims I place on myself or allow others to place on me, I've been able to get in my car and drive west. Drive to this place where my roots sink into the earth. It's a place where only the most fundamental feelings can live, where I am truly myself, and where everything else is tested, found wanting, and drops away. It's only an hour and a half from Houston.

It will be almost eight hours from New Orleans.

I was offered the choice between relocating to Florida or Oregon or losing my job when my company closed their Houston site the month after my father died. I couldn't leave then. I couldn't leave my family, and I couldn't leave his grave so far behind so soon. It doesn't have that hold on me now. I've risen from those ashes and gone out and onward, as I had to. Life in this world isn't a high plain of happiness we climb towards, where nothing troubles us and we're content. Life is always walking forward, as pieces of ourselves fall away, and are left behind, and as we find new pieces that become a part of us, adding more without replacing what's lost. But I've always been able to come back so easily to where his body rests. Knowing for the first time that I'd be leaving that behind, I hunched against the warm stone, almost hugging it, as I'd hug him if I could sit by his side again, telling him my plans.

I opened my eyes to the silver-gray gravel that covers the ground that covers him. My eyes were caught by one rough pebble. Maybe it was its shape, a small tablet, almost a tiny tombstone itself. Maybe it was the angle of the sunlight that sparkled on it's face. I brushed my hand through the shards of stone, closing my finger tips on this one. I held it lightly in my palm, then squeezed it in my fist. I slid it into my pocket as I stood up. I'll take this with me now, wherever I go. I'll keep it safe. I'll find some special place for it. And when life gets too crowded, too heavy, too crazy, I'll take it somewhere quiet, and in thinking on it, let the world fall away. It won't be quite the same, but it's the best I can do when I can't be by his side.

I turned to the carved headstone one more time, traced his name slowly with my eyes. I promised him I'd come again, soon, at Christmas.

And I promised I'd come and say good bye before I go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Roar of the Wind in My Ears

Normally my weeks are paced by days when I don't have any obligations, and punctuated by things I need to be at.

I feel like, until a week into next year, I've been dropped into the headlong rush of constant engagement. I love the holidays, but not this part.

Rehearsals, football games, parades, concerts, appointments with doctors and the spa, on-line courses, hotel reservations, plane tickets, rental cars, highway mileage, Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, shipping and handling, work on the work days, and friends and family on the days I don't work. The last week of this is a vacation in the desert with just me. Sounds like heaven about now, if I can only get there.

A thought sprang up out of my heart a moment ago, as my soul curled into the fetal position and whimpered, "I want to go home." Over and over again. Has it really been so long since I felt this way that it comes as a surprise, or is it that I've felt this way for so long that the litany has become the constant background of my thoughts?

And where is home, if not here? The hills where I grew up? The desire for home pervaded my mind at times even when I lived there. My mother's house, my grandmother's? Where my family is? I love my family, but I feel so distant from them in some ways, even though there's comfort in the way they're always there. Is home where my heart is? My heart has no home. It's not welcome where it wants to be, and it's so tired of searching for a place to rest. Is my only true home in the next world? I could have a long wait, and I'm not a patient person.

The wind of these days is a constant roar in my ears, drowning out and beating down the small things inside. Things happen all around me at the same racing tempo, and they become not changes but a lack of change. Every day there are new things to do, but every day there are things to do, so no day stands above the rest, a goal to reach, a place to pause. There will be days of rest, I know, unseen now, but found again like warm hollows in a winter field. And in these hollows, treasures lie, of love, of hope, of peace, memories to cherish, moments that are, in their own way, a blessed eternity.

But here where I stand now, the wind rushes past me over a vast expanse, featureless and remote. The wind pushes me, stumbling blindly, forward, across the time from now to then.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lost Socks and Other Slips Betwixt the Cup and Lip

There's been a pattern emerging in my life just lately. A leitmotif, if you will. I've been losing my grip.

No, no, literally, not figuratively. :-)

Things have been slipping through my fingers, falling out of my hands, I've been even more clumsy than usual, and I'm not sure why, or if there's even a reason. The funny thing is, I haven't dropped anything.

In the grocery store the other day, I pulled a bag of chips from the shelf. The one next to it came out, too, and in reaching to catch the second bag, I lost my hold on the first. After a fraction of a second of bobbling chip bags, things came to a stop and I was standing slightly crouched, but with both bags of chips cupped lightly and safely in my arms. A few days later I was measuring spices for a spread I was making, and as I picked up a teaspoon measure, it slid out of my grip. As it fell towards the counter, I caught it up in my other hand. It seems like something similar has happened five or six more times in the past few days, but I can't clearly recollect.

Each time it happens, it makes me think. Think about things in my life that I've lost my hold on. Things that seem to be getting away from me. Things I don't have in hand, and don't have under control. Things I'm afraid I'll lose. This reminds me that even when my grip is tenuous, I can still hang on, and even when I can't hang on, I can reach out again as they fly from me, and grasp them with a grip even stronger. I just have make the effort with confidence and without hesitation. After all, I stumble all the time, but I very rarely fall to the ground.

In the past it's been my habit to jerk away when I drop something. To raise my hands clear and watch it fall. This is because I used to work with soldering irons, when reaching out to catch a falling object could mean a serious burn. I think I've done the same thing on a metaphoric level as well. When I lose control of things and they began to slide away from me, there are times when I've just jumped clear. And there are times when that's appropriate. But there are other times when a quick, deft action can save a situation that seemed lost.

Anyhow, it's something to think about, and maybe an example of the still, small voice that doesn't speak in the tempest, the earthquake, or the fire, but instead through the little things we take to heart. And while we're on the subject of things that seemed lost, but are unexpectedly recovered, I found one of those socks that disappear in the laundry, half of my favorite pair. It's been missing for over a year. I feel like the woman who has twenty pieces of silver and loses one, how happy she is when she finds it, and how she calls out to her friends to be joyful with her. Rejoice with me, for the favorite sock, which I'd lost, has been found!

I think it's a sign. I don't know of what. Presaging other things I think I'll never see again, that may reappear in unexpected places? I don't know.

But I think it's a sign.