Monday, May 26, 2014

Living in the Moment

Living in the Moment

Willa snugged her cap down on her head, checked her pockets to make sure she had tissues and her inhaler then opened the door.  She was heading out for her, doctor mandated, daily walk and wasn’t feeling it today.  The arthritis that had kept her sleepless most of the night was still complaining this morning and she was feeling stiff and cranky.

She hoped she was seeing the last of the cold weather.  Winter was determined to keep its icy fist clinched until the bitter end. Spring was due in a couple of days and it was in for a chilly reception.

She started down the driveway in what she knew was not really a hardy stride but at least a determined one.  At the end of the drive she turned right, wanting to get the longest hill out of the way. Laboring up the long slope she had to stop and catch her breath. When she had finally crested the gradual rise, she stopped again to ease the gripping spasms in her back. 

The frigid air threatened to make her bronchial tubes seize and she considered using her inhaler but instead forced herself to breath slowly in and out through her nose. She knew this would warm the air before it entered her lungs and calm the twitching.  

Truth be told, she loved her walks. Especially when it was chilly and she had the roads to herself. The feeling of isolation and disengagement was freeing. Her small neighborhood was tucked into a rolling wooded area. This time of year the stark tree branches did little to veil the houses from passersby but in summer their boughs reached out to embrace the homes, like leafy green cloaks. 

While Willa walked she tried to “stay in the moment.” That was the term bandied about these days for, “Pay attention”, she thought.  It wasn't always easy.
Sometimes the twinges in her knees or the complaining muscles in her back, bound her too tightly to the moment. Sometimes letting her mind wander was better.

She had always heard that, Wisdom comes with age, and she supposed it did.  She could manage the budget, put together a fair pot of soup and identify most of the plants in the garden.  All things she had learned through observation, experience and practice.  Age had also given her the sixth sense of intuitiveness, a trait often lacking in the young.  She was not sure if the trade off was fair but having only the two options; living or dying, she would try to make the best of what was behind door number one.

She had moments when she still felt like her awkward, insecure teen self.  Then, all she had wanted was to fit in.   More often than not though, she was content to be the quirky old woman she had become.

But, thinking back she remembered how her legs could prance her up and down the stairs in thoughtless abandon, never consciously taking the steps, just moving of their own volition. She remembered how her nimble body moved on the dance floor, synced in perfect rhythm with the music.   She had felt free to take risks then, her youth insulating her with a blanket of innocence and making her blind to the existence of consequences.

Ah, but here she was, not being in the, moment, not noticing that the robins had returned from wherever they go in winter. They were looking disgruntled and curious about the less than welcoming temperatures.  She was not noticing the timid tree buds just starting to show themselves on the crabapple trees.  She was noticing, that the vise gripping her back had loosened its grip.

She had walked her mile out and now turned to retrace her steps.  Finding the daunting hill of before, nothing more than a gentle slope that nudged her along her way.  She looked forward to getting back home, that warm place where her mate of so many years waited, where she would find her comfortable chair and a hot cup of coffee.

That’s the thing about moments, she thought. When you are old, there are moments within moments, one leading to the others like pearls on a string.  That’s a good thing about getting old, you get to choose which moments you want to live in.

Carefully climbing the last two steps into the house she opened the door and heard, “How did you do?” she enjoyed this moment and said, “Great, I made it the whole two miles.”

As she pulled off her hat she wondered, where do the robins go in winter? 

Diana, for the Poplar Grove Muse

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bad Babies

April was National Poetry Month.  I wrote a poem a day as part of NaPoWriMo and this was a poem in response to a prompt to find a photograph and respond to it.  I didn't so much find this photo as remember that my husband had once taken a series of photos of our children's dolls strewn around our yard. Today I found the one you see here-- part of that series, and perhaps much tamer than my poetic memory.

Bad Babies; Photograph in Black and White

This spring rain reminds
me of the seasons our little
girls left their dolls under
bushes outside,
balding Barbies
and the strange water-filled
ones, mostly naked, unblinking
pleasantly tolerating their
tortures,  their abandonments,
their still, solitary adventures,
regardless of weather,
in tree-root hovels
in the fairy forest yard.

How you captured
the mystery of your
girls and their girl things
never asking, exactly,
the dark questions behind
their careless kidnapper ways,
Why blindfold?
Why this one sitting up, alert-
The other face down in the
Dirt?  What happened here?
And instead,
walked the muddy
ground, pulled back leaf fall,
snapped them where they lay,
at the end of their stories or
forgotten mid sentence for supper
or at the beginning
we’ll never know.  Always the
patient observer, amused
and bewildered, you
took notes before mowing,
left the bad babies alone in case
their sweet, terrible mothers might
some day remember and return.

Beth Lodge-Rigal for the Poplar Grove Muse 
Photo by Dan Lodge-Rigal

Monday, May 12, 2014

Invoking My Snail Self

Sunday, for the first time in too long, we took a leisurely hike together as a family. I do love the weekly hikes the kids and I take, but there is something so nice about my husband joining. We are whole, just us, and together we name wildflowers: Fire Pink, Shooting Star, Chickweed, and move snails from trail to safety.

This was my Mother's Day wish- to walk, just walk, however slow we needed to do so, together. There was so much to see, so many flowers to name and snails to move, that our time passed before even a quarter of the trail had been explored. Like so many moments I hate to leave, the calls of what needs to be finished or started were ever present, and so the voice telling me to hurry us along began. I suppose that voice does serve a purpose, but I hate her all the same. She can so quickly lose sight of the moment, and project snark and worry.

So hurry we did, back up the way we came instead of finishing the trail. No longer was there time to name each flower, snails could not be sought or saved, and chatter turned to whine.

I marched ahead and cursed Mother's Day for making me feel like our day had to be perfect, for packing in too much as always, for needing to breathe and not being able to find a solid breath.

And I waited for my three to catch up to me, I noticed the same snail we'd seen hours before had moved less than an inch. Oh to be able to move that slowly! Though I wonder- would I wish for it if I was able? Does she see the top of the tree or the rocks below and worry that she'll never make it in time? Or is she content to go at her pace- much like the three I love who always seem to be.

We made it home with plenty of time to spare. I held my breath through vacuuming and dusting, bathroom wipe downs and dinner prep. I lit candles, simmered oils, blasted Tori Amos, tried some yoga, avoided opening a beer too soon, and finally, after some time and a great deal of effort, returned to center.

This week I'm going to invite my snail self to be more present. I'm going to make sure my calendar includes things like dinner prep, morning walks, it taking at least 20 minutes to get anywhere. I'm going to remind myself these people I love are worth too much to rush, as is my life, and make sure we do a redo hike soon! One where we have all day to move as slowly as we can together.


Monday, May 5, 2014

2 short pieces about 2 very different cats

The Walk On

She was a walk on
over a dozen years ago.
Half grown,
and so hungry
that she let down her guard.

She meowed loudly and long to attract attention, came inside
and scarfed Sally Puff’s cat food from the blue bowl on the floor.

She has stayed all these years.
She still hunts birds and baby rabbits in the spring
and mice in the fall.

She can’t give up seeking her own food;
her ancestral callings urge her.
But she is purringly glad for the sunny spot on the bed in winter
and the cool kitchen tile in the summer.

Sometimes she longs to be petted,
but she cannot bear human touch for long--
she twists and spins away after a few strokes.

She sets clear, firm boundaries with the dogs
who have come and gone during her long tenure.
She smacks them on the nose if they get too familiar,
but she will rub against them and even nap with them
if they understand their place in her scheme.

She is patient with our slow understanding.
She sits by the door and looks up at the doorknob
and then back to the nearest human.
She waits for her psychic message to be received and acted on.

And when she wants back in,
she looks through the window
into the kitchen
until she catches someone’s eye
and the door opens for her again.

She maintains her dignity
and her solitude
and her mystery.

Where did she come from?
And how did she know to choose this house?

Cat Dreams

You fat, furry, softly breathing pile of gray catness
sleeping in a square of sunlight on the rug on the floor by my computer.
What are you dreaming about?  Most of your life is spent in sleeping
so your dream life must be rich and full.  Your life is your dream life mostly.
You go outside on occasion but I don’t know what kind of business you conduct. 
I sometimes see your housemate, sleeping underneath the birdbath or camouflaged in the garden border and she still occasionally brings in a baby rabbit or a young bird or mouse.  She is short haired, a ragged, motley tortoise shell cat who had at one time, before she found us, to make her own living by what she caught.
But you, with your long gray fur and your lovely green eyes, you look like you have descended from a long line of cats who didn’t have to work for a living.  Your ancestors’ food was provided for them, I think.
I wish for one hour I could live in your body and know your world directly.  I would know what you dream about and why you breathe and purr so quietly inside that fat, gray, furry self that you are.

Veda for the Poplar Grove Muse