Planets

The Boy and I
walking under
the evening sky:
he notes the bright, bright star
glittering high

not a star, say I
that’s Jupiter

and that’s Saturn,
right over there

I take out my phone
open an app
hold it to the sky
aim at these ‘stars’

up pop the planets
on the fly

—oh, the awe
in The Boy’s eyes—

he shows me his watch
I didn’t know
he’d set its face
to the solar system
planets positioned in orbits
line by line:

I know where they are
but I didn’t know I
could actually see them
in the sky

—what app is that??

SkyView, say I

in an instant
The Boy has downloaded it
and is turning every which way
phone pointed
at the night sky

Mars is right there
by the streetlight! he cries

I LOVE this,
says he,
by and by

I watch him
with a sigh
remembering how
he first fell in love
with planets
around age five

The Boy’s solar system artwork, created for me about twenty years ago.
It remains taped to the back of my bedroom door.

River dream

I cannot say, Child, what you might be experiencing within, but I can tell you I dreamed
that we were sailing along a river with green overhanging boughs
and that the waters before us were only troubled by a succession
of indentations made by tiny feet running rapidly across
—a little Jesus lizard, there in the recesses, trying to catch
or, on second thought, cavorting with, a dragonfly which shimmered and skimmered
away just as the swan drifted into view, its white feathers transforming as it neared,
changing from white to gold flushed with crimson
and then the eagle, gliding low over the glimmering water, huge, like life itself,
its curved yellow beak closed, its sharp eye affixed on us, not on the hunt,
merely acknowledging our presence
and so we drifted on and I didn’t even realize until the shore loomed
before us, rocky and steep, that we’d been riding in a little wooden boat
that navigated the river by its own power, not ours, to land us
right where we needed to be, and that we’d be able to navigate
this embankment, too, for there amid the stones and earth were steps
perfectly placed for our climb.

Cincinnati – Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum ‘An Unreal Moment, and a Gift.’David Paul Ohmer CC BY 2.0.

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with thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community
for the place to share Slices of Life
even when they are but dreams

Filling the bucket

Bucket of Sunshine. gfpeck. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Dandelions represent the return of life, the rebirth of growth and green after a harsh winter, and a display of abundant strength and power.  – Lena Struwe, Director of the Chrysler Herbarium

At my school this year, every staff member is writing notes of encouragement and gratitude for each other. We are calling this “filling each other’s bucket” – everyone has a colorful designated bag for receiving the written messages.

I couldn’t think of better symbolism than this bucket of dandelions. Or the quote.

All too often, we never realize the collective abundant strength and power we have.

It is in the giving that we begin to experience it.

Car trouble

It is deafening, the sound.

I turn to my husband: “What’s the matter with the car?”

He’s driving. He looks perplexed. “What do you mean?”

“That droning sound. It’s so loud.”

“Oh, that. It’s just the road.”

This is a man who once worked at a major auto parts store. Granted, he took the job because he needed one if we were going to get married, long, LONG ago, when he was twenty-three and I was just turning twenty…he jokes that all he knew about cars at the time is you put gas in them.

Ahem. How much has he learned since?

“It’s NOT just the road! My car doesn’t make this noise on this road! We’re not on a steel drawbridge or anything.” (Anyone who’s ever driven across a metal draw on a bridge will know what I mean. It’s a loud, hollow, wiggly sound, directly related to the sensation in one’s stomach).

This droning sound changes with acceleration and deceleration.

“I think it’s your tires.”

Eventually he checks his tires, after I say the noise is so unnerving that I won’t ride with him anywhere else until he does. I am imagining blowouts, being stranded on the roadside, swerving in traffic when anything could happen… although I looked at the tires myself and thought they had okay-looking treads (confession: I am clearly not a car-ish kinda person, either).

He gets four nice new tires.

I happily climb into the passenger side to ride with him to… I forget, actually…when:

drrrrooooOOOOOOOONNNNnne

“IT’S STILL MAKING THAT SOUND!” I exclaim (shout? holler?).

“Well, it’s not AS loud,” he says, driving right along.

“YES IT IS! Something’s not right. This sounds like go-carts I rode as a kid. Only louder.”

He then informs me his friend tells him it may be a hole in the muffler.

He still does not seem to be concerned about driving this car.

I do not understand it.

At all.

And by the way, the tire-changing establishment told him, when they loaded him up with the four nice new tires, that he needed some brake work also.

I am getting suspicious.

He gets the brake work done and mentions to the establishment that he (and in particular, his wife) still hears the droning sound.

The establishment says: It’s probably something in your transmission. We don’t do that kind of work. You will have to take it to a full-service auto repair.

But they fix up his brakes quite nicely, graciously throwing in a couple of coupons, which is akin to throwing a cup of water on a raging bonfire… moving on, however…

Of course the droning continues. I ride with my husband to the grocery store. This is when we encounter two beautiful, fly-masked horses trotting along the backroads, completely unattended, but that is another story. I’ve begun to feel like imagery of potential harm and disaster is practically screaming at me with every turn. We manage to get home (apparently the horses did, too, as we would have heard otherwise from friends…in the countryside, news travels fast, especially if it’s bad).

I look up all the possible things that could be making the droning sound.

One of them is bad wheel bearings.

“Did the tire-brake people ever say anything about your wheel bearings?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, they checked ’em. Said they were fine.”

Something is definitely NOT fine…and it better NOT be a bearing.

Today my husband takes the car to a full-service repair, local, privately-owned, folks who’ve been in the area forever. Reputable and reliable.

A few hours later, a call: It’s a bearing….

Alrighty then.

As soon as the bearing is repaired and we are allowed to get that car, I will be riding with my husband straight to the former tire-and-brake establishment to have, shall we say, a discussion.

And I better NOT hear the tiniest hint of droning along the way…

Car Trouble. Jan Tik.CC BY 2.0

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with thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge. Life is full of challenges, is it not. The writing challenge, at least, is a welcome one…

Spreading poetic wings

This is my first attempt at writing a ghazal (pronounced “guzzle”) a medieval Persian form of poetry with ancient Arabic roots. Traditional ghazals have themes of love, longing, and loss. They are often sung. Couplets are typically comprised of autonomous lines and the final stanza sometimes contains the poet’s name or a connection to its meaning (mine being either “from France” or “free one.”)

I have entitled this ghazal “Relationships.” Is it romantic? About a married couple? About colleagues? Or… what? You decide, Dear Reader…

For the record, I find this form incredibly challenging. I am still working on it (hmmm. Same can be said of some relationships).

Relationships

We yoked ourselves in this chosen journey
We get old, in one another’s way 

Passions burn like inspirational fire
Tongues burn cold in another way

A heart weighted with iron and ire
Can be a heart of gold in another way 

Narratives are sometimes cardboard boxes
Packaging people to be sold in another way

Your words cannot cage me, for I’m a bird set free 
Your truth is yours; I hold it another way

Bird in Hand 3mollycakes. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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with thanks to Wendy Everard on the last day of the March Open Write at Ethical ELA, and to all who provided poetic inspiration there over the past five days

with thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March

Relationships are the fabric

In my planner for February is this quote:

Relationships are the fabric of our lives. They should be treasured every day, but sometimes we get caught up in the stresses of life and forget to express gratitude to those we love most. How can you show more appreciation and kindness this month?

This notion of relationships as fabric captivates me. Fabric is made of woven or knitted fiber. Some fabrics are delicate. Some are strong. Fabric can tear. I remember a skirt I bought as a teenager when I started making some steady money of my own. High-waisted, flared, houndstooth, almost ankle length. Tons of fabric. It hung in rippling folds, fabulous in its 1980s way. I adored it. I was wearing the skirt, and hadn’t had it long, on the day I knelt in the floor to pick something up and inadvertently stepped on it with my high heel, which tore right through the fabric when I stood up…rrriiiiiip.

A six-inch tear in the lovely houndstooth, to my horror. I might have cried (I cannot recall) but I wasn’t ready to pitch the glorious skirt.

I brought it to my mother.

She was a seamstress who worked for a major department store. She tailored men’s suits, fitted bridal gowns (“these girls want the dresses completely remade”), and took in sewing at home. Many a night she spread fabric across the kitchen table, pinned patterns, marked and cut the cloth with sharp scissors, a rhythmic snip-snip-snip. She made several stuffed animals, like mice and precious long-eared bunnies with a wardrobe of changeable clothes. Her work was stellar; everyone said so…

“Mom, can you fix this?”

I handed her my voluminous, mutilated skirt.

She considered the rip, held it closed with her fingers, puffed on the cigarette clamped in her lips.

“I can try.”

She fixed it. Not like I’d imagined. The stitching was bulky and obvious. “I had to go over it more than once,” she explained. It looked as big as a train track to me. Like the garish stitching on the Frankenstein monster’s brow.

I loved that skirt. I’d paid too much money for it to just throw it away. Maybe I was expecting magic…

I wore it anyway, hoping the long folds in the natural draping of all that fabric would hide the ugly scar. Most people never noticed, but I knew it was there.

Relationships are the fabric of our lives.

Fabric can tear. It can be mended, but it won’t be exactly as it was before the ripping.

So it is with relationships. We wear the scars in hidden places. How much could be avoided by careful attention and mindfulness in the first place…especially if we value a relationship…

Sometimes we get caught up in the stresses of life and forget to express gratitude to those we love most. Show more appreciation and kindness…

This goes a long way in preventing the ripping, the unraveling.

In every relationship, great or small.

The thing about relationships:
they never really end. They are
with us, always within us, inextricable as the
silkworm’s thread to silk fabric,
forming the infinite intricacies of our
days, our stories, our lives
.

Photo: A Symbiotic RelationshipFouquier ॐ. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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with thanks to the Slice of Life community at Two Writing Teachers
and the relationships forged by sharing our stories

Awe: The blue hour

In continuation of a series of posts on my guiding word for 2021, awe, I am celebrating the power of poetry.

For who among us was not filled with awe, listening to Amanda Gorman reading her inaugural poem?

Once again, we experience what words can do to inspire, unite, and heal.

Poems also paint a vision. Of things remembered, things hoped for things, things imagined…

Much as artists do on canvas.

Last year Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” took on a special significance for me. I wrote about it in The portal. For me, “The Starry Night” has become a symbol of looking beyond.

Van Gogh painted it while in the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. He didn’t paint what he saw from his windows, but what he imagined, maybe what he dreamed for, hoped for, in the innermost part of his suffering heart. Perhaps it was an act of faith.

All those blues and the night remind me of “the blue hour,” loosely defined as the time when blue wavelengths of the subhorizon sun paint the landscape at dawn or dusk.

Perhaps this had a hand in my recent spontaneous sketch of my word for 2021, awe. I depicted it as a sunrise, or maybe a sunset.

So now I ask myself: How is it that I imagine a rising or setting sun as “awe” in a metaphorical way? I think of van Gogh’s starry night, the blue hour, and the imaginings, the hopes, of my heart…which have turned into a prayer for the repairing of relationships. Does love not conquer all? What inspires more awe than that?

And so I wrote a poem.

I wove some of van Gogh’s quotes into it:

A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke

There is no blue without yellow and without orange, and if you put in the blue, then you must put in the yellow and orange too, mustn’t you?

Awe (The Blue Hour)

awe


on the blue hour
at the falling away of day
and the coming of the night


with hope of stars

givers of dreams

singers of songs

awe

that there is no blue
without yellow and orange

like the crackling fire
in our souls
beckoning one another
to stop, come and be warm

instead of passing by

in wisps of smoke

tendrils of wrongs

awe

in electric-blue currents of memory
love survives
by anchoring itself
to the last blade 
of living grass

awe

the color of forgiveness
in the blue hour

-F. Haley, 1/18/2021

-Walk in wellness, friends. Live and love deeply. Forgive. Keep your heart open for awe.

One of my masks

My original sketch of “Awe,” where the landscape spells it. Look for awe, and it will reveal itself.

The Starry Night version. The blue hour. How it all connects.

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-shared in the Poetry Friday Roundup. Thank you, dear Laura Shovan, for hosting.

and with the Two Writing Teachers’ weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you all for continually illustrating the power of words, ideas, and shared stories.