Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Sea Glass

What is it about those little gems on the beach? The weathered pieces of glass that have traveled unknown distances and landed on the sand right where we walk? They seem to call to the sun, asking it to reflect just so for a moment, so that I can notice the tumbled history before me and add it to my collection. Each piece feels like it has a multi-layered story to tell.

Sea glass is fascinating to me because its beauty is dependent on its imperfections. Sea glass wears its experiences and obstacles for all to see. The rougher the seas were, the more sand and grit it encountered, the more beautiful it is.

Are we all like that? Do our difficult journeys add to our beauty? Do they soften us, round us out and make us blend just that much more to our surroundings? Do we speak to those around us without saying a word because of the sculpting, soul-shaping things we've seen?

We have an antique milk bottle filled with sea glass sitting on our kitchen windowsill. I like the connection between the two - the milk bottle tells of times gone by, but it survived its journey fully intact. Each piece of sea glass was broken away from its original form at some point, but it is now more stunning than it ever could have been when it was whole. Its difficult journey turned it in to a more perfect imperfect being.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Missing Moanie

I can feel him watching me from across the room. It's crowded in here, and there is tension. His eyes bore through the sea of people right to my soul. He wants me. I know it.

I feel awkward and shy. It's been years since I've had this kind of attention. It feels almost invasive. I push my hair away from my face in an attempt to do something. I glance down and pretend I don't see him, but he knows. He knows a lot.

I want to run away from this guy. I don't need him. Or the complications he'll bring with him into my neat and organized life. I want to run. But I just can't escape his goddamn eyes. They are hauntingly beautiful. I am repelled and magnetized all at once. We start to walk towards each other. I have no choice. My soul is leading me to him.

We meet in the middle of the room. I think the room is a gymnasium. Or is it a ballroom? Either way it is where people -- children or adults -- gather for a party. It's crowded. I begin to realize that there was no way I could escape this guy. He knows exactly what he's doing. He does this all the time.

I start to feel an overwhelming sense that perhaps I do know this guy after all. At least he strikes me as viscerally familiar. Like some stranger I had shared an intimate moment with when I thought the world was big. But I can't remember any details about him. Maybe I met him in a dream?

Some piece of me can recognize the telltale odor of his skin and his confident stance. And of course the way I wanted to run but couldn't. I've been here before. Have I heard warnings about this power of his?

"You know, you really should just walk out the door with me. It's no use resisting," he whispers in my ear. I can feel his warm breath on my cheek. I'm not scared as much as I am shocked by his narcissism.

"I have a life you know. I can't just walk away from everything." I am play acting though. He and I both know he has me.

"Then just dance. Dance with me and we'll take it slowly." He has adjusted his tone and his body language to meet me. He knows exactly how to manipulate me. He gently pulls me close and the music is so so sad. I'm going to have to surrender to him. I already know it. I'll be leaving with this stranger and trusting him with my life. I am weeping. There's no telling when I'll be back with my family whom I love with all of my heart. I'm leaving with this man.

We are embracing. He leans in so close and says, as if I hadn't gathered, "My name is Grief. I'll let you go when I'm finished with you. For now, let's just dance."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Swap Shed

I live in a rockin' good town. I love this damn town with all of my heart. It is HOME. It's on the ocean and is lined with beaches rocky and sandy. There are two great locally owned ice cream joints, an art studio for the kids, lobster fishermen, great schools, decent bars, a Revolutionary War Fort where they hold reenactments, and a bike path which runs right down the middle of the whole town. The town is safe and friendly.

Most people in this town will give you that distinctive New England nod when you pass them on the sidewalk. It's not quite a wave, but it's definitely contact in a sort of "I'm reaching out but I don't want to crowd you" sort of way. I love that familiar greeting.

This great town has architectural brilliance from centuries ago, it has people with deep souls and a passion for community, and it has a (sadly unique) lack of big box stores. It is imperfect because it is real, which adds to its perfection for me. I love this damn town.

This, my ideal town, has one other thing that I love secretly. It's our swap shed, located at the town dump. That's right. I said the dump, as in diapers, rotten food, old tires, and crap galore, but stay with me.

I have to preface this with the truthful statement that I am not a hoarder of any kind. I have no problem throwing away my old crap and I see other people's crap for what it is. Yard sales give me a rash.

But, there's this really quirky, tarp covered corner of our dump where you can hand a nice older lady all of the still decent things from your garage or your attic that you're not using anymore, and she'll TAKE them from you so that you can purge without the accompanying guilt that usually attaches itself to you when you throw away something that "someone might be able to use." No matter what. The bike pump you replaced? The slip 'n slide that kills your lawn? The ginormous bin of Lego's that held no fun for the children even though it held several thousand dollars worth of you trying to promote a hobby that didn't involve a screen? Bring them all here and just drop them off.

When I bring my kids to the swap shed, they get all confused and think they've died and gone to heaven. Roller blades, rescue heroes, beanie babies, chalk boards, Simon, and bean bags live here, just waiting to be taken home. My kids actually drool at the swap shed.

I think I may be creating hoarders by allowing my kids to partake in this modern version of dumpster diving, but I'm not sure I care. The stuff is free. Free I say! And we sometimes bring it back for a second (or third or fourth) generation of swap shed living. It's kind of like the animal shelter for toys.

I do love this town. I even love the dump. Is that weird?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Gives?

The margin between being bored and being overwhelmed is, for me, about the size of an ant's baby.

In utero.

Why is it that I can't seem to strike that balance? I'm either out of my head bored shitless or I'm over-committed, stressed out and flaking out on all of my obligations.

I start school tomorrow, and I have nineteen shiny new fifth graders who are depending on having me fully present. I'm passionate about curriculum development, so I joined that committee, as well as the admissions committee. I auditioned for, and got a part in, a local theater production. That's a new one for me, but the time commitment is insane. My daughter's in that with me, but her rehearsals and my rehearsals don't line up. Thank god for the pizza joint across the street from the theater. They'll get to know us real well in there. We'll be like their very own Norm.

My son is a budding soccer star, and someone's gotta bring the kid to the field (and cheer for him every once in a while). There's laundry to do ( and yes, it needs to be folded too - rude!) shopping, lunches to pack, papers to grade, marriage to tend, bedtime stories to read, dog to walk, phone calls to return, and SHIT! A girl could lose her mind.

I choose NOW to take on this damn Bloggedy blog that I seem to care about all of the sudden. What the hell is up with that?

My timing is just super.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Skeletons in the Closet

My husband Peter is the youngest of three. His older brother was an addict and an ass, a middle child smashed between the rocks that are his dashingbrother and his smartsister. I never liked him.

Peter tells stories about having to clean up his older brother's drunken puke when Peter was nine and Dan was twelve. Dan had been babysitting. When their parents returned home from their party, Peter loyally hid and protected his passed out brother from the wrath of their parents. He learned to enable when he was nine.

Dan gave me the creeps because he couldn't look me in the eyes. In my more compassionate moments I could feel his pain and it moved me, but he was so guarded and manipulative and inaccessible that my brain told my heart to not sweat it. "It's not worth the energy, " my brain would whisper. "And besides, you'd better keep your distance because this guy's unpredictable. It could get ugly."

My heart is so easy to sway really, and my brain had its number. It's the heart's greatest fault: all it takes is a whisper and I'm yours. So I swept compassion away, labeled him a loser, and I moved on.

Despite Dan's addictions, he managed to function sort of. He got married and had two kids (poor, poor kids) and was fairly successful at his job. They lived in Florida. I always thought that being around him was something akin to how I picture Purgatory - lots of shouting, undermining, out-of-control behaviors, but he and his family pressed on.

Sometimes he'd show signs of health. He called one night to tell us about watching the shuttle take off from his back yard. He periodically apologized for his bad behavior, having been to some sort of 12 step meetings. These times gave us the tiniest bit of hope for Dan. But it was still the kind of hope you feel when you buy a scratch ticket. That "wouldn't that be so cool if it actually happened" kind of hope.

Our phone rang at 4:30 am.

I can never bring myself to answer the middle of the night calls - I know enough to know that I can't stomach them.

Crying, rocking, yelling.

"Who was there?!" "In the face?!" "All alone..."

His car had been vandalized twice and he thought he knew who had done it. He'd been drinking all day and the cops wouldn't help him and so he was gonna' go get the fucker himself. He rallied some punk friends and decided to go see what he could see. He knocked (pounded?) on the suspected vandal/neighbor's door, and that's the last thing he ever did.

In Florida you're allowed to "protect your castle" if you feel threatened in any way. No need to call for help, just shoot to kill. You're protected.

So Dan died alone with a couple of bullets in his head on his neighbor's porch.