Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I am not a Landscape Artist

I am not a landscape artist. However, this morning the forecast was warm but overcast as rain is forecast later today and for the next day or more. So it was time to clean the leaves from the stairwell and cut back the monster size ornamental grass that flourishes at the top of my basement stairwell.

So I gathered the electric cord and my electric trimmer and got to work zipping through the slender grasses that reach over four feet.
I pulled the rushes into a single pile with a rack and then leaned over and gathered them into my arms to carry them into the woods behind the house where they can decompose naturally and feed the trees.

I felt a teeny something on the back of my right thigh and thought a leaf may be stuck to my pants. But my hands were full of fronds and the footing was leaf covered and irregular so I headed for the woods. All the while, my right thigh felt a slight pressure, as if something was floating over it. In my imagination, the leaf was on the outside of my pants, snagged in the fabric somehow which account for a sense of movement.

I dropped the cuttings in the woods and looked back to examine my pants. No leaf. I put my hand on the outside of my gray khaki pants. I felt something long and slender extending from under my buttock check to the back of my knee. Something moving. What lives in tall grasses? Snakes - green garden snakes or green grass snakes.

My heart raced. My sneakers raced over the leaves, skittering up the hill toward my back door. My hand tried to grasp what I thought must be the snake's head and pull it away from my body. Were they poisonous? Were any of my neighbors home? The elementary school teachers leave at 6:30 AM. I'd heard my next door neighbor's car rumble at 6:57 AM as I'd been in the midst of a "rah-rah" self motivating lecture to get out of bed. No one was home to help.

Wait - no one was at home to see me frantically unclasping my pants and unfolding them to my ankles so I can grab the snake and throw it deep into the woods. My fingers fumbled with the button and the zipper. Standing ankle deep in leaves behind Dave's house, I pulled my pants inside out and down, grabbed the long green intruder into my hand and just before I tossed it into the woods, discovered it was a long frond of grass. How it found its way into my pants will never be explained.

But the reason I am not a landscape artist is easily explained.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Common Courtesy

Everyone understands rules and procedures and laws.
Common courtesy is more of a mystery. "Common" means something you do for family members, good friends, co-workers? Does it include the shoppers at the mall, the grocery store? What about the panhandler on the medium at the red light when even though it is 102 degree in August and the air conditioner in your car is broken, you roll up the windows and stare straight ahead. Or racing to the office with a box of donuts, the fellow who sleeps beneath the awning of the machine parts store on Calvert Street raises his hand? Is it common courtesy to offer him a donut?

We all know where "common" courtesy begins; where does it stop?

How do you decide that one person deserves compassion, consideration, and another does not? How is one person determined to be inhuman? What makes us shift from polite and waving in the Dodge caravan carrying several children trying to merge versus inching bumper to bumper to make sure the Ford 150 pickup truck with gun rack and rebel flag does not merge. Or perhaps it's the tractor trailer or the Jaguar or the 1957 Chevy with historic tags? Why can't we be generous to all? What rears up and pushes our molars together, grits the teeth, pinches the lips, hunches the shoulders?

Why can't common courtesy be "common" for all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

MOB on Mother's Day

When Sara was four and I wrapped her in a towel from her bath, held her up to the mirror and sang, "Here, she is Miss America," I had no idea of exactly how beautiful of a woman she would become. Not magazine cover beauty but rather the type of woman who is beautiful to the bone.

Mother's Day found me in New York City with my daughter, Sara, celebrating her bachelorette weekend. Most parents will understand that this is a miracle. My daughter and her bridesmaids (Gretchen and Bridget) also invited my sister, Pam, and my sister in law, Debra. A true bonding of generations of strong, smart, independent, loving women gathered to rejoice that one of us has found a wonderful partner, a man suitable and worthy of her amazing attention and affection.

I could provide an itinerary of events, funny moments, remarkable moments. But the moment that will follow me is not her surprise on seeing our matching tee-shirts, or her shock that we were taking a knitting tour, or the subtle blush of viewing Le Scandal burlesque show. The moment was small, minor, easily missed by most.

When I was a young woman, my mother would take my hand and hold it out next to her hand, telling me how beautiful, unlined, and lovely was my skin, my fingers. As I aged, I witnessed my hands slowly become her hands; the raised veins and sunspots, the nails with exact same weaknesses. At first I was appalled to see her aging hands at the ends of my wrists; and then after I lost her, I realized the beauty there and how I would now comfort myself, mother myself, with her hands discovered in my own fingertips.

My daughter, without explaining or speaking, took first my left hand and spread it out and looked at my fingers, my nails and then I held out my right. Foolishly, I wondered if she worried how I would look at her wedding with my unvarnished and uneven nails. I was wrong. She was looking at my hands with love just as I have looked at her unlined, strong hands that constantly create loving meals, beautiful crafts, efficient work. Sara did not see my hands through my own critical veil but rather just as the continuation of capable women's hands in our family.

As a mother, seeing my children successful and happy would have been enough, but to be invited into her world for such a milestone event is something mother's do not even imagine.

This mother's day, I was a very fortunate mother.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


"Silence, according to scientific study, is the most terrifying thing for people." Bob Dylan

I've just finished a poem titled Silence that will appear in The Light Ekphrastic next issue.

Many silent days occur in my life between semesters. It makes the transition back a bit difficult; accustomed to quiet (except for Sally barking at the planes), accustomed to no one expecting anything, not expected anywhere -- returning becomes difficult. But maybe it is good preparation. In the end, all will be silence, quiet, solitary.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Checking In

That is what we ask -
just give me a call to check in -
oh, no. too much. Well just an email
or even a txt. When you get

Nothing more. Just a
nod. So I know, my
world has not ceased
while I was walking the dog.

Just a comfort to
stave the 3:24 AM clutch.
Nothing more. While I am
checking the weather for your trip.

Which begins at 8:30 AM
on the same day. And the Atlantic
so unpredictable, like Omaha and
Kansas; or today, Missouri.

Just checking. Always

Sunday, January 9, 2011

As a poet . . .

I wrote this recently after receiving the word "wormwood" in my Word-of-the-day email:

Fragrant Wormwood

Pungent flower dying
on the dining room
table. Wednesday and

the world is
blanketed with wormwood.
Death stinking of

regret, remembrance, and
rind. Rejection nuzzling my
pocket, trigger finger