Needles

At the end of February, the COVID-19 vaccine was made available to teachers in my state.

My district went to work immediately, setting up sites and online registration.

The quickest appointment I could get was at a high school gym.

Upon entering, seeing the tables set all around the perimeter, I was struck with a sense of déjà vu, sort of.

Flashback to another school gym. For just a second, I was there in a long line of people. Standing with my mother, my little sister.

To be vaccinated against swine flu.

I’d nearly forgotten.

This COVID rollout was so different. For one thing, masks. Another, no long lines; still not safe. I stood six feet behind one person for a just few seconds in the hallway outside the gym before he was directed to enter. Slight pause, and I was permitted. Someone pointed me to a table across the room. After giving my name and getting my official paper, I was told to sit in one of the six or so well-spaced chairs in the center of the gym. I didn’t think to count how many immunization stations were set up around the walls, mostly because I didn’t have time; I sat for less than a minute before someone came over to point me to one of them. Quick review of my info, protocol of a few questions, and the deed was done. Barely felt it before the administrator tossed the syringe into the biohazard container and congratulated me. She gave me a little CDC card. Moderna. A jolt of cheer in the knowledge that this is the vaccine Dolly Parton funded; she got her shot that same day. A layer of comfort, somehow. I’d just written of Dolly and one of her songs two days before. It’s like being blood-sisters now. Kind of.

From the time I arrived to the time I left: less than ten minutes.

Couldn’t help remembering, as I walked out into the warm sunshine of an imminent spring, all the hours spent waiting in doctor’s offices as a child, getting an allergy shot in each arm every week, then every other week, then at home when my mother was eventually allowed to give them. How my mother’s health issues involved so many hospital stays and doctor’s visits that her friends dubbed her “Pins and Needles,” a double entendre on her vocation as a seamstress.

I walked on, considering my own shadow as it glided along the parking lot pavement, mulling how needles prick the arm only for an instant in the aim of protection and preservation and then are gone, whereas needles in the memory can provoke reactions and pain for a lifetime. I feel the swelling of many stories, there.

But just as I did when I was small, I waited the allotted time to be sure there was no reaction to the injection. Once upon a time, my dad waited with me; now it’s my husband driving my inoculated self home. He wants to drive me back for the last one.

In the end, it’s just a matter of doing what must be done, and going on.

*******

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 14, I am writing around a word beginning with letter n. Amazing, the number of associations and memories threading through one simple, sharp word.

Listen

We know that silence is for the soul,
replenishing what’s extracted
in the grind of daily living

that meditation calms the body
as well as the mind

but

do we realize silence
is a form of listening

a sacred gift, an offering
of ourselves to others, yes,
and also to ourselves

For I find myself

slipping into hidden cracks
of my existence
over and over

just to listen

Rooster crowing while it is yet dark
and all the day long
tinged with urgent longing
not altogether of this earth

Wind in the chimes, unseen fingers at play,
the invisible howling creature under the eaves
out of pain now, and at rest

Listen

birds

Children reading, hesitant, halting
a pump handle scraping until
—there now, there now, there’s the flow

The muted beat of drums, upstairs
my boy recording a song
both melody and harmony,
the rhythms of his heart
translated to keys and strings

same as I translate rhythms
of words to page

Listen

The timbre of voices long-loved
each like a blanket
for wrapping around
and resting within

Listen

Deep in angry torrents
born from undercurrents
surging over
razor-edged
ice-hot stones
of fear and pain
—there, the slashed heart cries
unassuaged
unabated

just love me

while in the sky

geese

House popping and cracking
yawning, stretching
settling back to sap-drenched dreams
of branches and green

much like me, holding a shell to my ear,
seeking the ocean
not necessarily one of this earth
but the sea-response
of my own brain,
echoing

resounding

reverberating

against my soul

Listen

may well be
the holiest of words.

*******

Photo: Listen. Rick and Brenda Beerhorst. CC BY

I enjoy that “Blessed are those who actually listen” photo. I also used it last November to accompany a pantoum poem: The sound of gratitude.

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approachOn Day 12, I am writing around a word beginning with letter l.

Also shared with the Poetry Friday gathering – many thanks to Heidi for hosting the Roundup.

Blue

Dear Blue,

I note that you have been showing up more than usual in my life lately.

You are, in fact, a Presence.

I wonder if this all started with my renewed interest in Vincent van Gogh and The Starry Night. One would assume that the artist’s haloed stars are the magnetic pull here… but what would those glowing yellow orbs be without the contrast of your magnificent backdrop? Furthermore, I am aware that the painting’s recaptured allure coincided with my learning of the blue hour. I believe this is a concentrated effort on your part, that you meant to sweep me completely away with that poetic phrase and natural phenomenon. I cannot explain why, exactly, but I decided that blue is the color of forgiveness and wrote a poem. In it you are the star.

What really makes me stop and take note of your power, however, are the bluebirds. Bits of thrilling color electrifying the drab winter canvas of my backyard, just the jolt of color needed to sustain my flagging spirit. I am reminded that you are the rarest color in nature. This many sightings of bluebirds so close by is also rare; I do not recall seeing them at all in recent years. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention? Out of gratitude to you, I wrote another poem.

As if I needed more reminders, here’s the bookmark an intuitive friend gave me on Sunday:

Oh, to be cloaked with sky, to have wings for flying high and free above our blue planet…! You have stirred a deep and curious longing, now.

I feel I owe you an apology for not typically thinking of you as a favorite color. I now recall that my mother painted the walls of my childhood bedroom light blue, that there were curtains and a matching bedspread of gaudy floral patterns in many shades of blue, turquoise to navy… that brushing my long hair in the dark of a winter’s night set blue sparks popping…that Daddy owned only blue cars until I was in my teens… oh, and how I loved those cornflower and periwinkle crayons in my prized giant Crayon box with the sharpener.

—Periwinkle. Again you’ve appeared in this current dreary winter, the only spark of color in my forlorn flowerpots, a solitary little bloom on a vine. I am wondering now if you are also the color of hope and endurance. I suppose you remember the pet parakeet from years ago, snowy white, with a dusting of you on his wings? His name? Periwinkle, dubbed “Winkle-bird” by my firstborn. We were living two blocks from the beach, then. Warm sand, bright sun, frothy tide spilling over our bare feet, tiny periwinkle shells exposed like scattered gems in its wake…how I miss living near the sea!

How is it that I have forgotten until just now that my bridesmaids’ dresses, handmade by my mother, were a shade similar to periwinkle? “Oceania Blue,” if memory serves me right. Chosen for an August wedding, out of love for the shore where my young soon-to-be husband and I spent hours walking, dreaming, planning…and this sends me scrambling in search of a particular remnant, on the highest shelf in the cabinet.

—I still have it.

A bag of rice from my wedding, in those pre-birdseed days.

Tied with a blue ribbon for thirty-six years, come summer.

Dear Blue, precious, precious Blue. You’ve been here all along. You are now the eyes of my granddaughter.

Here is what I know:

You’re divine.

*******

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 2, I am writing around a word beginning with letter b.

And, because I can’t resist… here’s one of my all-time favorite Sesame Street videos: The Beetles singing “Letter B.” Dedicated to all you phonics teachers out there (pardon the “buh” pronunciation. We do know better…).

Lost

It started with a feeling.

It led to a word.

Lost.

It led me to look for a beautiful book, The Lost Words.

I couldn’t remember where I put it.

I looked everywhere.

It’s lost.

Ah. A theme.

Maybe it’s the dreary January dusk, or the drizzle, or Monday.

Maybe it’s the news. Lost lives.

Maybe it’s growing older and being reminded of things I loved long ago, like koalas, because of a book my grandmother read to me, and wondering how many koalas are left in Australia now. Wondering if there are enough eucalyptus trees left in that charred landscape to keep them alive.

Maybe it’s everything.

So much is lost.

I am not lost.

Just caught in layers of lost, like being wrapped round and round with invisible tulle.

It’s there.

I feel it.

Cocoonish.

That’s what sent me searching for The Lost Words as reading it suited my mood. The book is a glorious creation based on words that are disappearing from the dictionary. Words about the natural world that children don’t know anymore. Lyrical verse, majestic illustrations, making something beautiful of something lost . . . it was calling me to reread it. The very thing I needed.

But I can’t find it or remember where I last left it.

It’s really lost.

Naturally that beckoned lost associations. Lost people, lost friends, lost dogs, lost moments, lost time, lost things. Lost opportunities. Lost relationships, lost trust. Lost vision, especially in the educational world of late. Lost sense, lost direction. Lost ideas that I didn’t write down (although I am better about it now than I used to be). Lost dreams, so vivid and clear — what great stories they would make! — disintegrating as I wake, alas. I can’t seem to hold onto the dream and wake up; too often I am left with odd fragments.

But even in my tulle-swathed, piece-y malaise, never lost hope. No, not that. Never lost faith. Never lost love, because, if it’s love, it’s there forever.

I lost interest in reading tonight. So, I write.

Never lost words, not for me. Not yet. They find me, somehow.

And tomorrow I’ll find that book.

Photo: Lost. gwenole camus. CC BY-SA