His hand

 

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“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The truth is he does not want to go, on the one hand, and on the other, he is going without question.  I tell him as he complains, that you must go, it is the right thing, and he says he knows, he put in the lines, he owes something to him.  He tells me this is the man who taught him the most about hunting.  I watch him now from the warmth of his truck as his hands expertly work, a test phone crooked on his shoulder.  The old man and his big headed brindle pit bull come out and stand beside him in the cold. 

I shake his hand as introductions are made and we stomp the snow off our boots without removing them as we step into the big open room, fireplace burning high, deer, moose, elk, antelope, boar heads looking down on us.  I sit in the old comfortable homey chair and the cat jumps up on me and tries to purr raspy.  He tells us we can come up and fish anytime as we stand by the fat with baby goat cage, and look at the chickens.  The dog is curious, the she goat wants nothing to do with him.

The work done.  We pull our buffs up over our ears, his with skulls and mine with monarch butterflies.  I pull mine up to my lips, wool handwarmers, under wool mittens, down parka, leggings, windbreak pants, and a skirt over top, two pairs of socks under my winter hiking boots.  It is cold, my lungs ache from the cold, breathing through the buff stops the latent and mild asthma from coming with giant bend over coughs.  I tell him he should wear a skirt, it holds the heat inside my lower half, like mittens hold the fingers warmer than gloves.  He laughs.  He would never. Man.  We walk all the way to the pond where a family skates on the hard ice, the sound of it cracking echoes on the hills.  As we head back I look at him, and he is grinning hard.  I smile back at him, this is great we say together, and he stops then and opens his arms wide, I go to him and wrap myself inside him, I have always loved this, I say.  What?  When you open your arms wide like this and invite me in.  Shut up, he says as he kisses the top of my hat.  An hour later we, somewhat more unzipped return and the old man pays in boar kidneys and other offal I will not eat. 

He wants to go to the flea market, and I go with him, because he is my best friend, because even though I hate the cold and heat and cold, and the smells and the homeless people and the sadness of the sale I go, I go.  He knows.  His eyes on me, he knows.  He helps me in the looking for what I need, holding up this, can you use it to make art, finding old pots to cook his stinking animal glue. 

And when we are in the bookstore, he goes where he goes, I go where I go, he comes to me by the magazines, then by the crafting books, his own in his hands.  He blocks my path, and I say well are we going or what, yeah, he says, after you kiss me.  I smile, he hates public displays of affection.  I know who this is for.  We sit to briefly drink our drinks, I look at his cracked and scratched and blue veined and strong calloused hand wrapped around the paper cup.  I fall in love.  I fall in love. 

We work together on our own projects, making art, and cleaning so art can be made, and coffee brought, and laundry tossed in, and the long weekend, all the teasing and the laughter, he comes to me and sits beside me as I look at the picture I took of his hand wrapped around his mug.  His arm over my shoulder.  This has been a really good weekend. 

I fall in love.  I fall in love.

The Bluster (loud, aggressive, or indignant talk with little effect)

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”

I am going to buy a shotgun, I think I should buy a shotgun, an over-under, I need a shotgun, who knows they may ban shotguns, I don’t know, but I need a new shotgun.  You don’t need a damn shotgun.  Yes I do.  How many do you have now?  He answers a number above one. No I say you do not need one, you are a grown man, and can make your own decisions, but you do not need another damn gun.  You are acting like a gun NUT rather than a gun enthusiast, and that’s uncool.  

You are such a hoarder, I say, you feel like you have to fill the empty void inside of you by filling it up with things, and you need to start living with that empty feeling and know you don’t HAVE to fill it up.

You hate yourself, he says.  I make a mad face.  See, he says, don’t psycho analyze me, I can do it right back.

I am quiet for a while.

Then I say, yeah I pretty much do though.  My grandparents told me that they favored my brother and sister, I know my parents did not always like me very much, I was teased unmercifully in elementary school and high school, and I really only have one real friend left over from college.  I sigh.  And I have had terrible luck in love, I couldn’t even manage to keep a husband, and I am a horrible mother I have discovered in the last year.  Yeah, I do hate myself.

See he says, I was right.

We are sitting in the car, talking, power off, you know, she says, sometimes, I wish you had met the Pirate sooner.  I know I say, he is so much more suited to me.  But there is the Butterfly Effect she says.  Yeah and I am not sure it would have worked had I met him earlier, there are things that I am okay with only  because of what I learned with ___.   She looks at me, waiting.  I mean sometimes I miss the affection, because he was really affectionate and cuddly, and the Pirate just isn’t.  Yeah, she says, I am not sure how I would do without cuddling.  It’s not that we don’t, I say, but it is that it’s not all the time.  Although I do know they say that people that over cuddle do so because they have a basic deep insecurity, I do not say this aloud.  That would fit her like a glove.  But I do say, the thing is, with the Pirate it is real, he is being honest with himself and with me, and I see the difference between real feelings and a facade, and I would never have been able to see that without my previous experience. Also I say, he can be critical, but I see that there is a difference, with ___, he was critical because he actually thought I was beneath him.  Oh yeah, she says, he was an asshole, I hated how judgmental and nasty he was.  With the Pirate, I see how his mom is with him, trim your beard, cut your hair, your stomach is too big, she does it because that is how she expresses love, and with the Pirate he does the same, I don’t let him get away with it, but I see where it comes from, he is critical because he cares.  Anyway I say, he is more suited to me because he is just as happy as I am spending the day outside, because he gardens, and hunts, and fishes and camps and hikes and works his tail off, and loves science fiction, is an artist, and takes real care of his family not for later, but right now.  Let’s go in, I say.  You need to learn how to start that snow blower.  (an older one he is giving her).  

This morning he throws open the door to my room, it’s almost seven you are going to be late.  It’s Martin Luther King day, I don’t have to work.  I marvel at how I am not always the first one up, at how he makes the coffee as often as I do.  The cat is eating the dog’s food, and the dog is whining to get out anyway because he can hear the pirate yelling at Bart to get out of there, that’s Sancho’s food, so we get up. The Pirate feeds and takes him out every morning, and some nights he sleeps on the floor of the Pirate’s room.  He makes some comment about my clumsiness, or laziness.  Okay I say and then strike a pose.  CAPTAIN CRITICAL:  able to make the smallest and most insignificant flaw into the biggest problem in the universe with a single word.  Is that a speck on your shirt?  Or is it a BLACK HOLE?  He is laughing, calling me an idiot,and standing legs spread apart with his hands on his hip, jaw jutted out.  CAPTAIN CRITICAL: protecting all of planet earth from small flaws! 

And in the end, it is that ugly voice that hates me, not me, myself.  I am more the one who loves herself but cannot understand where it all went wrong, in my worst state, it is self hate, in a funny state, it is self depreciation, in the best state it is a note on the irony of the universe.  It is the ego that says, I deserve better, but why have I not gotten better?  Sometimes the answer is ugly, sometimes it is ego based, sometimes it is a shrug of the shoulders and a whatever happens happens for the best.  But in there somewhere is a woman questing for truth, for honesty, for love and for laughter.  

Nothing to hate there.

 

Clearing the Blues Away

The wind is cold as we go out, he has attached a new scope to this old 22 rifle, my job is to site it in.  Meanwhile he has a beautiful 444 Marlin rifle that he is siting.  Someone has hired him to kill a buffalo for meat.  His friend M. was hired to do the same for some Onondagas that have a farm on the outskirts of the reservation, they will go together to the farm.  I am talking to him as I load 22 shells into the 10 round clip, I lose count.  Shit, am I a felon right now I ask him, I lost count is it 7 or is it 8.  I stop and just shoot with what I have in the clip.

The temperature is a surprising 45 as we drive out to see where this farm is, in my old stomping grounds.  We talk about trout fishing as we ride up the curving road along the edge of the creek.  In my head I am recalling the sweet taste of trout pulled fresh from the water, I want to go, I say, right now.

In the afternoon, I wash the dishes as I watch him boiling skulls in a big bucket on the veranda.  I go out and take a few minutes to finish the last of a collage I am making to help raise money for my friends school in South Sudan.  And then I take the cypress knob I bought from some guy at the stone tool show last summer.  I proceed to doodle on it with wood stain pens.  Until the sun starts to set, all peach and pink in the sky.  My legs are cold, and my cheeks and the big toe of my left foot.

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I have spent the better part of the last 7 hours outside.

I can almost feel the blues like cobwebs being swept out of me.

The Blues

It is upon me, the deepest of blue, the blue that returns again and again.  I walk in the morning and in the afternoon before the sun has set, but the sun is not visible, it is hiding behind Syracuse grey skies.  The blues they are upon me.  

I take melatonin and benedryl and still I do not sleep, I am exhausted in the day, and it is difficult to function.  I lock myself out of the house, I forget my work keys at home, I drop things and lose things, I spin in circles trying to remember, remember, remember something?  I do not know.  ]

I am screechy at work.  Students ignore one step directions.  It is so hot, they have the heat set at hell degrees F.  I cannot undress anymore without being indecent.  My hormones then kick in, just in case I wasn’t warm enough.  The Alice in Wonderland life of public education.  I rattle about confused.  All I can do is my best, everything else is just having tea with the Mad Hatter.  The kiln is on, so it is now hotter than hell.  I have no windows to open.  The fan is on, like being in an airplane, and my screeching gets louder.

I hate myself sometimes.

By the time evening comes I open the fridge, I close the fridge, I open the cupboards, I close the cupboards, I open the fridge, I open the cupboards, and nothing appeals.  He tells me eat salad, I had it for lunch, eat cereal, I had it for breakfast.  Make eggs, I don’t want to cook.  I know I am being difficult. My mom tries to help me find a poncho pattern, she gives up, I think she is annoyed, I know I am being difficult.  He makes tilapia and sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms.  It is delicious, I wash the dishes before I go to bed, at 8 he kisses me goodnight.  I fall asleep with the light on.  When I wake I groan and turn off the light.  I wake at 3.  I hear the clock at 430.  

I wake at 545.  He laughs as I stumble into the living room with my coffee.  He leaves for work, kissing my check a dozen times, sweetly.  I cannot wait for the day to end.

I think, he has been in a long distance relationship with her for nearly half the time of our marriage. But I think it only because I met him in January.  Just like I always think of him in September, in July.  I remember how much he seemed to love me then, in his cat in the hat shirt I made him, and his overalls, jumping security in the airport.  When I left, crying as turned, he couldn’t see me, but I could see him, I wish it had been the last time I ever saw him.  Instead of him, watching me, suffering like a legless spider under a magnifying glass while he fucked someone else.

Some days, when I am in this place, I see myself this certain way.  I am helpless against the events the universe throws at me.  My spirit is a Linus blanket, tattered in a heap on the floor.  

I crave sunlight.  I double my dose of Vitamin D.

I watch as the pirate, slowly slowly, melts into the finest man I have ever known.  

After a brief before work talk about the future, I text him,  I realized with the divorce I have no control over my life at all.  So whatever happens happens, I will land on my feet, I always have, I always will.

I would never get rid of you.  I love you too much.

The cynic inside me laughs. 

I spin in circles, trying to remember, remember, remember.  I have no idea what.

 

Uncertainty

I dream I am peering over the edge of a dangerous precipice, I lay on my belly nose in the grass, and look through the cracks in the black and fertile earth and see far down below into nothing.  I am waiting here in this grassy area beneath a tall apartment building, my daughter is younger not by much, and we are waiting to take her on a ride of some fantastical dinosaur like creatures, when we get up to pay they tell me we must go to the large local chain of grocery stores to purchase the tickets.  I send my ex husband off to get them.

And then he is not returning, and she has disappeared, and I am in a deep pit which I have somehow dug for myself that I cannot get out of, I cry out for help and he refuses to come.  I am scrabbling with my hand to get out and suddenly discover a deck of cards we all buried a few years ago as part of some game with the Japanese Californian Punk, and the Willow Witch.  The are pig cards and they oink when I touch them.  I am crying in the dream.

And then I feel the softness of his big masculine hand on my backside.  I wake.

In the darkness I curl up against him, my face against the long soft strands of his beard, he smells manly not of cologne or chemicals but like a man who works, like a man who washes before he comes to bed, like a man who loves nature.  When I am with you, I am home, I say to him.  Oh shut up, he replies but he cuddles in a little tiny bit closer and I can feel him smiling though my eyes are closed.  Sometimes when I am teasing him, or when I feel a lot of love for him, I look at him and I can see this smile in his eyes, but not on his mouth.

I remember suddenly, like stepping from a small wood stove heated room out into a frigid well below zero windy night.  I remember how he planned to leave me, but didn’t tell me, until he had left.  How he surprised me with it.  How could he do that to me?  I ask God, how could You?  How looking back I see all that I missed, but knew, how he denied the questions to my face, again and again.  I feel the smart of tears on my eyes as I turn my face to the wall.

He is turned already so now we are back to back.  I sniffle and after a moment he turns again and I feel his feet brush up against mine, and his hand on my backside through the weight of the blankets, I scootch back against him and he puts his strong biceps tight against me, holding me firmly.  We say nothing and although I think I am awake for the remainder of the night or rather the pre-dawn, I wake only after the sun is up.

Later, in church, my hand on his arm and his arm pressed firmly against his side, I whisper, I like the church in Celebration alot better than this one.  Me too he says.  He says the Apostles Creed, but I do not.  I cannot profess to a belief that I do not have, I will not as some philosopher once said, fake it, just in case.  But I come here with him, because I don’t mind it, and I love that from time to time he wants to be here.  He has gone up to take communion and I close my eyes.  I like Zen better, its quieter, and I can think.  But here with my eyes closed I ask again.   Why did you have to hurt me this much?  What purpose did it serve?  Couldn’t we have fought like cats and dogs?  Couldn’t he have expressed more strongly how unhappy he was?  Couldn’t he have done something besides lie again and again to protect me from the truth?  Couldn’t there have been some overt something?  Why did it have to hit me so hard?  Why did I dig myself into that hole so damn deep?  And damn him.  Damn him.  Damn him.

Later in the hot tub, I ask him, if you were not happy, would you wait to tell me, would you not give me any notice, would you hide your plans to kick my ass out?  I feel the long hurt of it as I wait for his answer it is like a million years are passing.  Of course you would know I wasn’t happy, he says.  I would never do that to you.  I mean, I say, if you are not happy, just tell me.  He is quiet for moment.  I would be happier if you cleaned the stove top.  Ok, I say, so that is all it takes for you to kick my ass out is something so small.  Yeah, he says.  But I am not sure still, I am afraid.  And I know he has not made any kind of commitment to me, and really, I could be homeless next week.

After about five minutes I say, when was the last time you looked at the stove?  This morning, he answers.  Oh, I say, ok.  Did you clean it while I was killing zombies?  Yeah, I answer, I pretty much did.  He laughs.

You know he says, coming over to me, wrapping his arms around me and kissing my cheek and chin 20 times, I am happy.  I love you, I say really quiet and I am not sure he has heard it over the sound of his kisses, the water and Joss Stone’s pipes.  I love you too he says really softly back.

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Outhouse Mind

The way is hard, the snow is packed, and deep, but also thawing so it is a difficult walk.  I come to the brook and it is flowing heavily with the melting snow.  The dog is irritated with being on leash, used after weeks of it, to being free more or less always.  I am feeling both lazy and not, and contemplate the shortest route, but find myself instead continuing on to and to a place where I am sure of being able to free him, at least for a short leg of it.  There is little life, no squirrels or birds, or maybe there is, but I am just completely oblivious to it.  My mind is chewing and chewing.  I am mostly looking at the ground, to make sure my footing is secure.  In fact, I take the whole walk more or less one step at a time.  Looking down until I emerge upon the open field, where I look up and feel a sense of space, and a starkness of beauty.

I find myself thinking about someone else’s poetry.  It is a good thing, this, to have their words in my mind their feeling of restlessness, their feelings of uncertainty, and self doubt.  It takes away the ugliness of my own thoughts, the outhouse of my own mind, and firmly plants some other seed in my head.  When did I stop daydreaming about some book, or some television show, and start daydreaming about the past?  When did philosophy get replaced by gossip and Facebook arguments?  In my day to day.  I like her words in my head.  Suddenly I no longer want my own words in my own head.  I want to be free of it.  It is like I am sitting, on the big hole, with my small body, and I have fallen into my own shit.  I need someone to come in and drag me out.  I think about hanging my paintings on the canvas wall of the studio and having 10 people standing around commenting on my work, and then turning around and commenting on theirs, how it made my own work better.  I remember how I felt jealousy of the girl whose fairies and gnomes lived in brown logs covered with moss, I still try to draw like that, but my magic lives in other artistic realms.  I remember how jealous I was of the girl, whose Italian marbles and expensive carving tools set her apart from my plaster and bins of recycled clay.

But this interaction, this was nutrient rich stuff.  It was manure.  It fertilized my mind, instead of just being my own stinking mess.

This must be, the purpose of sangha.  To fertilize growth.  To take your mind out of the sepsis of your own filth.

I stand on tiptoes, and look out the curve of the crescent moon.

My legs ache, from knee to buttocks, and my lower back, from the work of walking on this dense wet snow.  Calories in, calories out, if only it were that simple, body chemistry does not always follow logic.  I think of that Facebook argument, a little star in my mind says, but wait, boys are genetically different from girls, it is in their DNA.  Her argument is flawed.  I hate interacting with others though, it brings a desire to withdraw.  Ah.  I hear the brook babbling, I listen for it to tell me something, like saying the next song on the radio, it will be some message from the universe about ______.  Then I forget to listen.  The brook is not actually saying anything, and I realize it is like my thoughts, I should just notice them, be aware of any obstacle (is the path flooded from the height of the water, should I pre-empt the possibility by taking this other path?  Do I have it in me, sweating and breathing hard from the effort of this snow, to back track if the path is flooded) but nonetheless, not let it spoil the quietude of my mind.  The brook is beautiful, like a song, I tell someone else, you are not alone in your thoughts flooding your mind, and meditation doesn’t seek so much to quiet them, but to accept them, and the dichotomy, or is it irony, is that by accepting it, they become more quiet, more pure.

The path is not flooded.

I continue on, the sun is set, and the darkness is overtaking the light, but as I emerge from the path, and my feet are once again on solid ground, I feel invigorated.  Alive.

Best of all, is the moments of freedom, from the worn wood, and familiar odor, of my own mind.

 

 

 

the winding of the cuckoo clock

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I wake earlier than I should for the late night, watching the ball drop as I rested in his deep embrace, his firm masculine kiss warm on my forehead, telling me how good I am at hosting guests in our home, how great I did taking care of everything, how pleased he is with me, in some ways it makes me happy to hear this from him, but only because it confirms what I already know, I don’t need someone else to cook and clean for me to make people feel at home and there is nothing special about it, it is part of who I am.  I make coffee and take out the dog, feed the cats and start a load of laundry before I sit to check the internet.  The strings of the cuckoo clock are low near the arm of my chair so I reach up and wind it.  At some point many months ago, he stood over me in this same spot, and in his gruff and grumpy way, informed me that he should not be the only one to wind it.  In other words, you can wind the clock if you want to.  Ordinary.

Mary Shelley said something about life being an accumulation of anguish, and I think as I hear it that though she used it to justify life, it is a statement in and of itself.  Life for me has never been about the accumulation of joy.  The joy has been highlights and nothing more.  But the ordinary, yes that has accumulated as well.  We come back from lunch with his aunt who in her way is showing the kind of meal we should eat while we try to lose weight.  Our mutual resolution, I suppose, though when I ask him what his is, he says, drink more water.  And I adopt it immediately, it solves so many problems.  You can say, I am giving up soda, but still be putting cream and sugar in your coffee, you can say, I won’t eat sweets, but fill up on diet cola, or cola, or carbohydrates, you can say I will eat less and exercise more, the highlights, and the darkness, but the ordinary, yes that is it.  Drink more water.   Ordinary.

We work together scraping ice and shoveling the dusting of snow off the front driveways, and then together he shoveling off the back deck as I shovel a path around the yard for the arthritic dog, who cannot hump across the drifts as he once did.  He grins at me periodically, I think he likes this, me outside helping him do the work of the two houses.  And I know I like the fact that I don’t have to ask him to help, the bane of the American male, he doesn’t need to be bossed or told what to do, he does it.   The dishes get washed and the vacuum run and his bills paid, and I have nothing to think about.  As I lay in bed earlier I thought of this, how we have separate accounts and neither one of us would have it any other way.  I don’t have to think about how his bills are going to get paid, I only have to think about mine.  What a gift this is, one I appreciate more than I would have ever imagined.  The the dog and I do a lap around the yard, he calls out to me, wait up for me and he does a round too, smiling at me and wrapping his arms around me, the brim of his hat burning a line across my forehead as he rubs noses with me.  He goes in, the dog and I go around again.  Joy.

Inside again I finish hooking up my Wii fit to his Wii console, don’t break it, he hollers, in other words, what is this thing and how does it work, will it somehow damage my console?  Then begs a Mii for himself, and tries ski jumping, besting me right away.  Though I love it best of all the games.  I spend the next 40 minutes trying to shed my midsection of extra weight.  I resolve to start walking again, though the injury to my foot has been preventing it, okay, then maybe the bike, the dog stands in front of me, between the Wii and the TV, he knows when I am using this, it means less time in the woods for him.  My heel hurts after.  And I click my teeth annoyed.  Getting old really sucks sometimes.  Anguish.

And in the late hours after he has gone to bed I spend several hours loading music onto my ipod.  Surfing the internet for the biggest CD wallet money can buy, and dream of the day I can get rid of this CD tower, and make room in this house for space.  Yes, space, there is a great gift in making space in a home where there was none previously.  Slowly bit by bit, I open up the space in this home.  I open up space in his heart.  He sat on the sofa and lifted his hand to wave at me, in that cute way he does, his curly hair standing on end and smooshed from sleeping, his face tired and his eyes sleepy.  I wave back and blow a kiss, which he laughs in way that says he likes it and cannot believe I did it, then he pushes it away.  Hey!  I say don’t push my kiss away you are supposed to catch it, I do it again this time he puts it in his pocket.  Okay seriously, I say, you are supposed to smoosh it on your face.  He reaches into his pocket takes it out and smooshes it on his face, then he says there is the other kiss, its a boomerang one, and smooshes that on his face too.  Then he yawns really big, and like a little kid rubs his eyes.   Go to bed, I say.  You just want the remote, he says.  Yeah, I do.  But I don’t really, I really have no desire to watch TV rather I am looking forward to the quiet of the ticking clock and my thoughts.  I look up and see its weights are hanging low again.  I reach up to wind them.  And then reach not for a glass of wine, but instead, for a glass of water.  Ordinary.

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