I have been experiencing a tremendous pain in the heel of my right foot, it hurts to walk, to sit, to lay down. After talking to my Mom, HI MOM, I came to the conclusion that it might be plantars fascititis. I already wear good shoes, vibram soles, birkenstocks, and all but a couple pairs of heels are about an inch high because I strongly dislike high heels not only for the pain they cause in my knees, feet and lower back but also because of what they represent through the objectification of a woman’s body. And one day last winter I was out with the pirate and wore a pair of higher heel shoes and he scoffed at them as I slipped and slid over the icy sidewalks and told me, next time wear your Merrills. Love this guy!
I went to the natural food store, which has a giant supplement section to ask them about inflammation and tightness in the tendons and they recommended that I add extra Omega 3 oil into my diet, suggesting a second fish oil and the addition of ground flax seed to my diet. It has been five days and although my heel still hurts I am not absolutely hobbled by it. I added a tablespoon of the flax seed to my oatmeal every morning, and to my pancakes one night and to my soup another night. I am not saying I am cured, and I am not saying that this is the end of it, but I find it remarkable that how much the pain in my foot has been reduced.
I know what it is to be in a relationship with someone who is a true scrooge. I know what it is like decorate a Christmas tree with my child, but I also know what it is like to be angry, sad, and eventually numb to a man who doesn’t want to join us. I told myself it was his culture, until his sister arrived on the same day as the separation papers, in the middle of a snowstorm, two weeks before Christmas, and told me otherwise.
We bushwhack our way up to our Zombie Apocalypse meeting place I don’t want to park in the mud so we find another spot which is why we are struggling through the tangle of grapevines. We cross the lower trail where we have marked a tree with a rock and a Z etched in its surface and clamber up the steep slope to the upper trail. It is a hard push and I get the harsh cold feeling in my lower bronchi that will lead to a coughing fit at the top. I tell him I need a bandana and he scoffs. Okay I say, you will see. At the top my breath is ragged and then I cough softly once, twice and real hard several times. You okay? he asks. I told you. I tell him as I start to breathe again. I should know my own body after 45 years, and he reaches out to hold my hand, which lasts about 15 steps before we mutually let go. I really prefer to walk without it, unless I am feeling scared (Halloween Horror Nights??) or need reassurance for some reason or another (large crowds).
We backtrack on one of the several trails strung across the gravel studded scrubby hilltop until we find the ratty Charlie Brown tree we had seen the other day. He hangs his backpack on a tree and takes out the decorations, I hang garland as he puts wire on the decorations, finally topping it with a star. It looks great I say, as I take out my camera. Wait, he says, we aren’t done. Then he takes two white doves out of the bag and arranges the garland into a shape of a heart around them. And instead of a tree skirt we put apples, carrots and bread at the base of the tree, which the dog is quite curious about, indeed.
I am grinning so hard my cheeks, which are half frozen in the brisk wind, hurt. I cannot stop grinning. I throw my arms around him and tell him, you are so wonderful, you have absolutely no idea. No I’m not, he says, though he is grinning too.
We scramble down the steep slope to the low path and make our way through the swamp and reeds to a bushwhack and back to the car.
There is this kind of perfection in cooking. The slow kind. Yesterday I used the food processor, something I would have never bought for myself, because there is a zen quality, a peaceful quality, a hands in and hands on kind of quality to carefully cutting the vegetables. I love this. This act of cooking. I understand the purpose of a sous chef, but I love the act of creating the food from the beginning to the end. But today, the processor does the stalks of celery in seconds, the onions sliced, I pour them out onto the cutting board and chop them into small pieces. Saute the veggies in butter. I do not have any sage. I call and ask if anyone has it. No. I am not yet fully here in this household. Several minutes later, I have a brand new container of sage in my hands, delivered to my door, via the grocery store. And I cook it all on a stove I could never have imagined owning, it shines brand new in the kitchen, they went out to get it, so I could bake properly for Thanksgiving. I open the windows and bake nothing for the first time, as directed in the manual.
For this new family I feel a deep sense of gratitude.
In the morning, I wake early, to the crispy frosted grass and leaves. The sun is shining and the day promises to be warm. I raise my arms up and stretch in the brisk air. Lovely day. Lovely day. There are no shortcuts for pie crust. I put on Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the heavenly choir fills the air. The dog comes to me and rests his head on my knee. I look into his eyes, he is almost smiling as he “hugs” me in his doggie way. He does this at least two more times over the course of the morning, though I am regularly admonishing him to get out of the kitchen. And as I mix the egg and ice water into the flour and butter, I feel a sense of something, I do not know what, it is profound though, and I savor it. I cannot name it.
For this beautiful animal and his unconditional love, I feel so very thankful.
He comes in from hunting, smiling, cheerful. Last night I said to him, in the hot tub, that he was clearly miserable, so clearly not happy with me living in this place with him, that I just didn’t know what we were doing. He said, I have always been miserable, but with you here, I am this much more happy than I was before. He holds his hands apart like the fish that got away. Later I tell him, thank you for telling me that, he pulls me down on top of him and kisses me. Later still he comes into the living room and places a big plate of sliced apples on the coffee table, but not in front of himself, but off to the side. I look at him, into those stunning green hazel eyes, he smiles. I get off the awful chair and sit beside him. We should bring that small couch in here, he says, it is a good snuggle couch, and put that chair in the office. Okay, I say. I would like that. I go from one house to another, my side dishes and dessert a hit, and get containers for the remains of dinner, when I come in they are talking about rings, and cruises to Alaska. They change the subject upon my entrance, but not quickly, slowly as though to tell me something. Later I show him my board of pins, ‘for the wedding I will never have”. He laughs. But he is quiet too. I don’t know, honestly, if we will ever go there, but I know at the very least, I have his love, and he is my very best friend.
For this man, who is difficult, moody, miserable, and sometimes positively awful, I am so very thankful.
She comes to the door without being announced, he lets her in. She sits in her favorite chair, the cats come to her to cuddle, the dog sits beside her. I pour her a beverage, it is kind of fun to have a drink with my baby, though she is not a heavy drinker, and I have water. After he goes to bed we tickle each others backs, a multi-generational ritual of affection, that I have not had the pleasure of in months. After, I tell her come here, and she cuddles me like she did when she was little. It’s hard huh? I ask. She nods her head as she sucks her two fingers. Harder than you thought, isn’t it? She nods her head more vigorously. But, she says, it is so worth it. I know, I say, and it will get better if you are prepared to work your ass off. I fall asleep while we are watching reruns of NCIS, she nudges me awake, come on Momma, she says. Do you want to drive your car home, I ask her, as she gets in the car I have not owned long, but is now hers, minus, for the moment, the title and registration. Yeah, I do, she says. I feel butterflies in my stomach, as I realize that I am still being the fearful mom, but she has got the driving thing down. It is my tension, not her maturity that is the problem in this moment. Its a good car I tell her. It is a grown up car she says, I see now the truck wasn’t a grown up car, but this car, is a car for a grown up.
I am so very grateful for this child, though she is now an adult, most of the time, she has brought me so much joy, so much worry, so much love, so much angst.
It is late, but I started to straighten the house as we watched TV together, folding blankets, sorting junk mail from bills, organizing my side table, preparing the dishes to be washed. I come into the dark quiet house. I notice how the house looks better day by day, than it did when I moved in. The gorgeous hardwood floors hidden under a horrible cream Berber carpet. The organized area where the shoes were, the cheap cruddy looking throw rugs gone, the kitchen de-cluttered, and more open, my belongings scattered throughout the house, in spots here, and there. I wash the dishes, clean the bit of pie off the bottom of the new oven, note the work to be done, the rugs in the kitchen need a wipe down, the wallpaper torn off and a pale blue wall added, the out dated light fixture moved to the middle and replaced with something a bit more modern, simple fixes. Small steps.
For this house, which I live in, for all intents and purposes, for free, I cannot even tell you how unimaginably thankful I am, for the halved work, for the beautiful space to paint in, sunny, airy, open and the warmth of a wood stove to make it a four season room, for the deer that are in the yard, for the hot tub, for the bird feeders in the lawn, that he loves as much as I, for the herbs and vegetables he has planted, for the sanctuary of my own room, for the slate rock patio, for the sunny front steps, that cured a recent bout of the stomach flu, 36 hours into it (first time I have been viral sick with more than just a cold in literally four years), for his willingness to help me make it the kind of home I want to live in, though it takes a great deal of dragging, for all of this…I am humbled. So grateful.
And for the love of my family, my friends, my Mom, whose birthday was today, for my students, and the cats, and their conditional love and occasional affection, I am full of gratitude.
And there is that feeling, as I clean up my room, organizing my jewelry, I stop and notice it. What is that? I ask. I notice it, this ordeal, I think, has been divine in its making. Long did I think it in the dark hours, with all the weird things, the odd coincidences, divine. I have hated it, and I was destroyed by it, but it had to be, didn’t it? Divine? And as the things happen, as I get further and further away from it, it feels divine. As I sit, at a desk, waiting for my new vehicle to be prepared, this song comes on, and I stop, I listen to every word of it. I cannot believe that only a few months before he left me, he played this song for me, sending it to me by phone, from the concert we were watching. I listen to it, for the first time, with a kind of passive acknowledgment, why would this be playing, here, now, when I realized this morning, that this is perhaps one of the last steps in the letting go of what I had lost. I am grateful for the gifts of things I wouldn’t have without it. And there are good things I carried out of it, for sure, but the greatest gift of all, is how much better my life has become with the after.
In the cool night air, I stand, same place I stood as the sun was rising, and I look up to a blanket of stars, and there, staring me in the face is the constellation Orion. I thought I was free from it here. But I see, it will never be wholly gone.
It is like the act of cooking, it is the process, the act of being whole and present, and putting your self into each moment. They say I am a good cook, but it is the love of the act that makes it so. The wholesome ingredients, the small bits of knowledge, the years of experience, the immense failures taken as lessons, the lack of attention resulting in burned ruins, the pleasure of sharing the meal, and of partaking in a meal alone.
For this life, I am grateful, deeply, profoundly.
Thank you for destroying me, because by that act, you have made me whole.
I loved you, I love you still, and I always will.
I am sorry I was hateful and so terribly angry when you left, see what happened was, that I made the mistake of following you, into the dark.
For the path I made out of this darkness, I am so very grateful. For this new life, of my creation, I am so very grateful.
The fire here, is set on simmer, and the meal promises to be good.
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi
The pirate and I didn’t make it to the Farmers Market this weekend since it is hunting season and he, instead was finding food from another source altogether. We decided while we were out running afternoon errands to go to Wegmans, perhaps the biggest and best store in the area. There was a woman there sampling sausages of all kinds and they were phenomenal. I bought a lovely smokey chorizo and then came home and made dirty rice. I was unhappy with the finished product, but the pirate added his touch and viola. Put two intelligent heads together and here is the recipe:
Dirty Rice ala Pirate and Wench
saute two medium onions, 5 cloves of chopped garlic, three stalks of celery and a green pepper on low heat until soft and translucent. Push to the outside edges of the pot and add a package of sliced chorizo sausage, brown lightly. Stir in altogether add two cups of rice (I used Goya medium grain rice which I absolutely cannot stand but that was somehow the only kind we had in the house) and 4 cups of water and your favorite Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil and then turn down to lowest setting and simmer til the rice is done. Add one 8 oz jar of salsa to your taste (we used medium) and also optional a hearty squeeze of Sriacha sauce for extra spice. mmm
I made my favorite lentil stew for dinner last night. A meal I love but is not and has not ever been anyone else favorite. So unless you adore lentils don’t bother. BTW the pirate didn’t love it, but he liked it enough to have a second bowl.
No Fat Lentil Soup
add one and a half cups of green lentils to a stock pot and put in about 10 cups of water. chop one onion into large chunks and add 6 whole cloves of garlic. simmer for about a half hour. add two large carrots cut into chunks, add one parsnip cut into chunks (opt) and two large potatoes and several stems of fresh thyme. simmer on medium low stirring frequently until the veggies are soft. add about six large mushrooms sliced, a half a head of broccoli chopped (you can add the harder stems when you put in the carrots and potatoes) and about four ounces of tamari sauce. Remove the thyme stems. Simmer about ten more minutes until the broccoli is cooked. Warm, fat free, and rich in fiber and vitamins. LOVE LOVE.
As a good wine must be kept in a good cask, so a wholesome body is the proper foundation for a well-appointed inner ground. ~Johannes Tauler
The day is uncharacteristically beautiful, the wind blowing the wind chimes wildly, as I step into the backyard wearing only a tshirt and my underwear. I love this freedom of living in this place, the freedom of knowing my backyard is not also someone else’s backyard.
I make buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. I know now a recipe made by so many in my family. My brother, with his addition of vanilla to the recipe. I once added a touch of baking powder to mine, along with the baking soda because a complaint of not fluffy enough drove me, I know now it was impossible to please such a person. And I know I will never alter that recipe to please another again, this pancakes are not meant to be fluffy like some frufru dog. Do you want pancakes this morning, I ask. You bought buttermilk, right? Mmhm. Fucking Aye Right I want pancakes. I break an egg in the metal bowl and whip it with that one special metal spoon, and pour in the buttermilk. There is no measurement, and as I whip the white wheat flour into it, watching as the gluten thickens to the right consistency, I see the age spot wrinkled big veined hands of my grandfather and hear the clink of the ringed handle on his bowl. I see my cranky uncle in the knotty pine kitchen of his hand built home, whipping the batter, my mother, my cousins, one day my nieces and my daughter. Even the dog understands the ritual as he rests calmly outside the doorway of the kitchen, knowing the minute I started to whip the batter where he must wait for his share of the multi generational recipe.
Later we walk into a spot we have circled again and again, making up stories about it, stories with a science fiction twist. He now calls it the Valley of the Guardian. He asks can you imagine if the earth started shaking and there was a brilliant flash of light like in the Terminator? And as we sit on the rocks in the sun we note the pile of rocks built into a circle, he jumps up and goes over to it and makes the corresponding sound effects as the pylon emerges from the center of it. This deep sunny circle of rocks is warm his shirt drying in the sun, my jacket tied around my waist, the dog panting as the sun heats the fur on his back. It is filled with detritus of human affairs, broken bottles of beer, a half dozen white plastic buckets, car parts, foam pieces, a colander. It is filled with evidence of animals, a fox tail, scat, a skeleton of a deer scattered, snail shells everywhere.
This is why you are my best friend, I say. Why is that he asks, grinning at me from behind the sun dark glasses. Because we can sit here in the sun eating our apples and doing this and I know you are enjoying it just as much as I am. In retrospect too, I know there is no judgment either, that somehow I am a failure, no matter what I do, a judgment that leaves a bitter taste years later. That, I continue, I can make up some nonsense story about future people and you like my daughter, and a few other creative types, run with it and add your own details to the story. And also from the later thought of a writing desk, that he can protest his fear of turning gay by infection, and still stuff money in the cleavage of a drag queen, with that big grin on his face. Though it isn’t a perfect thing, this, it is like that lady slipper, it is beautiful, singular, and shines in the light of the sun.
And as we wander back, the dog and I far from him, he calls to me, asking something, I respond, our echoes like a third and fourth voice repeating the question from the top of the cliff. I imagine myself as an astronaut on a terraformed surface of the moon. In the small pockets where the water has once pooled a scrubby aspen, and a tiny long needled pine tree, a handful of stunted purple thistle, push through the dust and rock. It must be brutally hot in this place in the heat of the summer sun, and yet amidst the surface of hard brittle fragmented rock there is life. Evidence of aliens, evidence of death, but also there is life. I wonder what the future people see in this valley. Is it filled with trees that are as tall as the cliffs? Will this Valley of the Guardian ever recover from the deep brutal but beautiful scar carved here by man in a quest to quarry rock from the living earth without regard for his destruction? Without regard for the scar it would leave behind? Abandoned but for a few visitors who lunch briefly on the rocks and break things from the curious edges of its chasm?
I crack it open, this book that I no longer remember where I first heard of it, perhaps on NPR, perhaps not. I only know that it exists in the after time, the rift that I realize now will never be healed. I lost the name of the author, the title of the book, and without either, there is truly no way to find such a thing in the search engines of bookstores. Like this science fiction book I once read: Woman on an expedition to another planet, loses her oxygen suit and is saved by aliens who have the ability to adjust her physical body to their allergens, her partner is not so lucky and when she returns to the human world she is forever altered. I wish I could just remember this other book though that sounded intriguing and then by some accident, it comes to me and I add it to my list, which remains unread for some period of time. There is a certain joy in opening a library book, the crackle of the cellophane cover, the smell of other people on the pages, their squashed bugs, the smell of their bathwater and their perfume, and the red splash of spaghetti sauce they were eating while they held their book behind their bowl with the non dominant hand.
“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration–how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” A Field Guide to Getting Lostby Rebecca Solnit
I am not, as I wander in this valley, sometimes the cut is so deep I find myself cold and huddled in the darkness, there seems no way out. A friend by in the way of six degrees of separation calls the beginning of this rift his box of shame, but I am stuck in this rift, in this darkness. And yet somehow the darkness is a relief from having to be bright. Do I choose the yellow and sunshine and the cheerful way of the flighted, or do I choose this damp cavern of sorrow? I say there is this endless quest for meaning but all the philosophy on planet earth can not delve into the darkest depths of this human despair. I frame it properly, I tell the history, I tell the insanity of my thinking, the magic that I find imbued in the journey, he understands this magic in his pagan mind. The philosophy, he says, isn’t meant to though, to delve into that despair. Instead, he says, it addresses those depths of true meaning and then walks away. I want quit of it, but deep down, I know that it is more meaningful than the veneer of joyfulness than the frame of its all good this frame of perpetual happiness, for I cannot feel true joy without this riverbed carved from the rock of my being, this valley of my soul, gully in some places. It has been carved with a flood gate of tears. And like a lady slipper in the forest, the smallest patch of sunlight brings the greatest gift of beauty to me. And my goddess how gloriously beautiful it can be.
“It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.” Thomas Moore
I sit on the steps in the sunlight, arms sore from raking, and I tell the constant yammering of my inner voice to be still now. It fades to the background and I realize without thinking it, that there is something to be said for acknowledging and embracing this darkness. Yes, I am broken, yes I feel I will never recover from this, yes, I still ache in the darkness, and also in the light. But this is no shallow pool, it is a crystalline feature of who I am. I revel now in being lost or of not being, or the transformation of my self, this is who I was once, but that ended so abruptly, and was never reopened, well at least by him, mine is still gaping, I scratch at the scab, it bleeds, the stitches so carefully sewn tear, and it is rent open again. I am lost to this thing which caused my befores and afters. And as I read I recall that day when I was lost in the Adirondacks, not even my dog by my side. How I cried, and felt not sorrow for myself, but fear for my daughter alone, and how I carefully walked back until I found the trail sign, on the ground and took the right path instead of the left. Oh I know lost.
My moral compass led me in the right direction, I have integrity we have already established this. I know that not everyone can say the same. I suppose there must be something though that carries them through their journies, something I cannot or maybe will not comprehend. I ask, is this a sign? My friend of six degrees says, maybe it is just location, location, location. And in this case, the location is a thousand miles from home their own heated separtion. And yet I am home, I just don’t trust that the hearth will warm me, nor that the fire will stay lit.
How can I when I am shivering here, shivering so in the dark and the damp.
I must light my own fire.
I know the answer at least, that I can lit my own fire, and that the damp and darkness matter only in relation to the light and warmth of my own hearth.
In the immortal words of my hero, Tim Gunn, “Carry On”. “Make It Work”.
“Ah, demons, is it?” exclaimed the boy, in his high, reedy voice. “And what of your own? Are they not encouraging you to luxuriate in self reproach?”
“To be sure. When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us. What a luxury that is!” from the Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
My dreams are strange. I dream of plumbing problems, of someone calling for me to come and help them, I have nothing to offer, it isn’t my problem. Alarm bells go off. I dream of going to Australia. Why Australia. I do not know.
I dream of the future people telling me that I will invent important things. And something called compartmentalized barrier breakers. High walls around beach front homes protecting them from crashing ocean waves. A thing of my own invention. Boxes of walls that stop the waves by creating a deep tidal pool to hold the water. Plexiglass like porches where people have tea sandwiches in the grey skies while the ocean laps softly on its edges. I dream this dream again and again. I cannot stop thinking about these compartmentalized barrier walls. You invented it they tell me, you have to make your move, you have to get to work on it. I am not an inventor, I am a dreamer. I have no idea of the physics or the engineering of it. But in my dreams it works, and people live on the margins of an increasingly violent ocean.
I wake pensive, and contemplative.
My horoscope says, keep a dream journal.
I am in fact tired of writing about my past. I am ready for this future, filled with disasters.