Monday, March 31, 2014

History of Tears

Every place I’ve ever visited has dropped a pebble in my pocket, history dripping like tears from their thick skins.
Everything I’ve Ever Known- Amy Christman

History of Tears                                                                                                                 
I have always known my mother’s tears, at times felt like I was drowning in them, tears that could appear on demand. Nobody could work up to a good cry like her.

Tears to persuade, to evoke sympathy, to beg us not to leave, but made us want to flee, tears that kept her permanent victimhood intact, tears that cried wolf once too often.

The second anniversary of her death was in February. I’ve had no tears for her- only hope in my heart that she is at long last at peace. Hope that her chaotic, fear-based way of being is no longer a part of her. I knew that death would be her only way to rest, to find peace and, hopefully, joy.  My wish for her is that there are no facades on the other side of the veil, no masks to wear. Let those spinning plates of appearance, pride, hurt, and secrets float off into the beautiful beyond.

I wish all good things for her. She deserves them after a lifetime of choices that wouldn’t allow her to trust the right people, choices that called her fears to her, choices that resulted in a rigid belief system.  A lifetime believing love was finite, that if those of us who loved her, and there were many, loved others there would never enough love for left for her. But there was always love, Mother. Always and still.

Rebekah for The Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Picture Can be Worth a Thousand Words

A Picture Can be Worth a Thousand Words

I have had the good fortune of discovering a group of word loving photographers that enjoy sharing their work and their creative processes, via Facebook. I look forward to this daily “Photo Challenge" that helps me look at words and pictures in a whole new way.

In this challenge, a word or phrase is assigned to each day of the month.  The object is to share a photograph that you feel represents your visual interpretation of that word.  The process makes you think about your perception of the word and why that word triggers a particular memory or association.  What is even more interesting is seeing how others perceive the same prompt.

Following are some of the photos that I chose to share with the group and some of my thought processes in choosing that specific picture.

Photo Challenge February 21-Tiny
This is a tiny hummingbird, perched on the trellis while he surveys his kingdom.

I chose this picture because when I heard the word “tiny” I thought of this little guy. He was the tiniest of all the hummingbirds last year but the bravest, he protect his feeders from all intruders.

In March, it happened that we ended up with two words for each day.  We could use just one, both separately, or for an extra challenge use both words as a prompt of one picture.  

Photo Challenge March 10-Fantastic realities
Sue, the t-rex at the Field museum in Chicago is a, fantastic reality.

For March 10, I decided to go with just one of the prompts, “fantastic reality” because this phrase made me think immediately of dinosaurs. It is hard for us to imagine such creatures ever existing but the reality is, they did, and are fascinating.  Who better to represent them then, Sue?     

Photo Challenge March 18-Minimum~A shape 
I can barely see the SHAPE of this cat. It was showing the MINIMUM amount of itself to me as I walked by. 

During a walk on March 18th I took this picture of a cat hiding behind a bush. It seemed to fit the two prompts for that day.  It was showing the smallest amount of itself, while still keeping an eye on me.  The cat is a very distinct but hidden shape in the picture’s center.

Photo Challenge march 20-Blue~landscape
This is a picture of a mockingbird (I think) set in a blue skyscape. Reaching a little there but this is one of my favorite pictures so I wanted to use it

When I think of blue, this picture comes to mind.  I like the blue of the bulbs against blue of the sky. It is a skyscape rather than a landscape but I felt it suited the meaning of the two prompts together.

Photo Challenge March 17- Old~lucky
This OLD pocket watch belonged to my husband's grandfather and the OLD chain and fob belonged to my grandfather. What a LUCKY, happenstance we were able to put the two together.

The last picture I would like to share is the one from March 17th.  I was having a hard time with these two prompts.  As I gazed around the room I had been sitting most of the day, this vignette suddenly presented itself. It was the perfect marriage of the two words. 

The people that participate in this challenge are an interesting, diverse and talented group of people, from all over the country.  They offer insightful comments are endlessly supportive and enthusiastic. We share our love for words and photography.  What a joy it is when we can combine the two.

Diana, for the Poplar Grove Muse

Sunday, March 16, 2014


“Bark!  Bark!  Bark!  Bark!”

She is awake.  I hear her.  She is barking!  She makes me smile as I hurry upstairs, turn on the light in her room and say, “Emma Grace, hello!”

She is standing in her crib, in her princess nightgown.

I tell her that I’ve brought her some new clothes that she can wear to school and that she can paint in them and that it will be OK if she gets paint on these clothes.  I ask her if she wants to look in the box that I’ve brought.

She says, “Yes.” And I lift her out of the crib.  She slept late this morning.  It is nearly 9:00.  She is moving from California time back to Indiana time.  She’s been on vacation with her extended maternal family for a week on the west coast.

When I lift her down, she wants me to take off her wet nighttime diaper.  She says, “I have to wipe my butt.”  I hand her a wet wipe and she efficiently wipes her bottom and hands me the wipe.  I cross the hall to dispose of the diaper and wipe and wash my hands.  When I return, she has pulled a pair of underwear from her drawer.  She holds them up and says “Monkeys!”  Indeed, there are monkeys on the panties.  She takes such good care of herself.  She puts her underwear on and tells me to hold up the clothes that I have brought.

She looks at each outfit and chooses a purple tunic dress and blue leggings with little gathers at the hem.  She has her own sense of style and even though she is so little, she seems to know that life is too short to wear boring outfits.  I help her take off her nightgown and she dresses herself quickly.  She is such a competent almost three year old.

I open the drapes so she can see the rain.  It has rained so little this summer that rain seems exotic and rare.  I say a little poem that I taught her last spring when she was at my house on one of the last really rainy days.
                                Rain on the rooftops,
                                Rain on the trees,
                                Rain on the green grass,
                                But not on me!

She joins me on the last line…”But not on me!”

I love this grandchild with a love and presence that I think can only come when one is a grandmother.  Emma Grace is the last child of my only child.  She is the last little kid I will ever hold that is related to me by blood and DNA.  She is the last love of my own life and she breaks my old heart open in a new way.

And Emma knows that I love her madly and completely.  We have had a special soul to soul connection since long before she could talk.  I cared for her two days a week for one semester while she was in transition from a day care situation that didn’t work for her to a full-time nanny who loves her and appreciates her.  And in those days we spent together we sometimes made each other laugh wildly just with funny faces and nonsense sounds.  We looked so deeply into each other’s eyes that we recognized our true, hilarious selves.  It was like we both saw how ridiculous it was for our vast spirits to be looking out at each other from these small bodily identities.  It made us laugh ourselves silly.

And now, even though she has lots of words to use, we both still most enjoy a sense of the absurd.  She is tickled by all things that are slightly “off” and unexpected.  She delights in telling me, “There.  That’s done!” when she puts the top of the box of buttons back on upside down.  She smiles at her joke and looks to see if I get it.

She loves to paint at her easel.  I tell her, “Emma, you and I are painters.”  She nods.  It is so.

In the afternoon, she tells me that the toenail polish is upstairs in her mama’s make-up box.  She takes me by the hand, upstairs, and shows me the box.  I take the box to the bed and she opens it.  She picks one color for her toenails and another for her fingernails.  She sits against the pillows and holds very still while the polish is applied and while it dries. 

After I have spent the day with her, I fall asleep that night with Emma images in my mind.  The way she laughed when she did a somersault, her deep concentration and dexterity as she strung buttons on a cord as a gift for her brother Jack.  The way she talked back to Dora when we watched one of Dora’s adventures on TV.  And just meeting her eyes and laughing together.

Emma needs a grandmother like me in her life and she is a grand gift to last all the rest of mine.

Veda for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, March 10, 2014

Evening Prayer

The house creaks a tired sigh startling my mind, which is also tired and creaking. Broken from my reading zone trance, I hear a car pass down our suburban street. Alarms sing out in the distance; the refrigerator hums. It seems these noises only exist at night when our home is no longer filled with giggles, whine, and stomping feet that forget not to chase other stomping feet about.

It’s getting late. The clock on the far side of the room reminds me, and so I leave the nest I’ve built on our worn corduroy couch, kiss my husband, who will still find many hours in this quiet to write, and move slowly from room to room to check on our little world. The lights are off, the turtles have clean water, and breadcrumbs have not been left to gather on the counter until morning. I check the lock on the basement door, the sliding glass door, the front door, and climb the stairs wondering how long it will take to fall asleep. I wish for it quickly, so when I do wake hours from now, I’ll be rested enough to rise before the others, and have time once more with this quiet peace before our day begins again.

The kids’ lights are still glowing, although they have been asleep for some time. I move into the first room slowly to keep from stepping on Lego bits and Barbie shoes. The girl is snoring slightly, her body spread wide across the bed. Stuffed friends surround her. I stop, like I have for four years now, and listen to the constant rhythm of her breath. 30 seconds pass and my heart finds calm. “Goodnight sweet girl.”

I move just down the hall to the much messier room where I will step on Legos because the floor is made of them it seems. Here, among piles of blankets, in a mound on the floor, I know my boy lies buried. I pull back the covers and pray he hasn’t smothered himself. Warm and sweaty, I find my boy and listen again for reassurance that all is well. His breath is low. I lean closer, closer, until my face is almost pressing against his. Warm breath greets me, just like it has for the last eight years I’ve preformed this ritual. I whisper, “I love you, my sweet.”

I move on to the two large orange cats waiting on my bed, who are ready to settle in around my legs as soon as I lie down. I turn on my bedside light, a simple post with rod iron leaves, and my eyes find the addition of new treasures left there for me to love. A small plastic Santa hangs from one of the leaves. Next to him, a florescent pink pipe cleaner man holds a sparkly purple heart. On the table, little hands have added snail shells and acorn bits among the stack of books I hope to get to someday.

Pushing back the comforter, I climb in and bring it over my ears. I’m too tired to read and force myself not to check my phone one last time. I lean over before the cats can get settled and turn off the light. As my mind drifts I search one last time for clues that all is right in our world. The click of keys, little snores, refrigerator hum, cat purring, a stir from the bedroom down the hall. My eyes close in this quiet peace, my breath can settle; I’m ready to rest.

~Kelly Sage

Monday, March 3, 2014

Whoo Hoo?

She stands in her kitchen in Texas, getting ready to cook some supper, having earlier opened an e-mail from her friend in California which contains an MP3 attachment of his latest banjo tune.  Musically, this one rollicks an ascending scale, then tumbles back down the line of notes, suggesting a phrase. It might announce a chorus. What comes up for her is a tickling refrain: “Whoo hoo.  Ba-by”. 

As she leans against the counter and listens some more, she hears in her own “Whoo Hoo” the sound of a train whistle and figures this could be a song about a train.  And then, (in the way I recognize a song writer might go about catching her song), she remembers an old story from long ago about a baby being thrown off a train in a suitcase.

She finds the story of the Iron Mountain Baby. In the true story, an old Civil War vet walking along Big River, under the trestle of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, Southern railway, discovers a suitcase with a crying, bruised baby inside, and takes the infant home to his wife.  The valise with a baby inside of it had presumably been tossed from the train passing overhead a short while before.

 As luck would have it, in the true life story of the Iron Mountain Baby, the baby lives, and is adopted and loved by the elderly couple. 

As luck would have it for the songwriter, the real-life wife of the man who finds the baby is named Sarah Jane.
Sarah Jane.  Rhymes with train.

A song is born.

There is a folk ballad written at the turn of the 20th century about the Iron Mountain Baby, but today’s songwriter took a fresh shot at it and so wrote Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby  lyrics here:

This whole musing arises today from my having caught a few minutes of a PBS concert featuring the multi-talented Steve Martin in his role as Grammy-winning bluegrass banjo picker, and his collaborator, the songwriter Edie Brickell.  Their collaborative project (2013 “Love Has Come For You”) has met with rave reviews and, if you listen to it, you might agree. 

The story behind The Iron Mountain Baby song is, in my otherwise pretty boring life, something I get excited about.   For many a songwriter, the images and words that come forward spring from the music itself.  The thrumming, ascending, descending melodic lines suggest something…a whiff of an image, a picture: passing train, a baby.  This then can trigger a memory or another association that feels true and compelling.  

By following the bread crumbs, the whistling call of “Whoo-hoo?”… Edie Brickell wrote a mouthful of words that tells a wild story of baby rescue, yes…but also of a woman’s fierce protection of her foundling child.   

The gift of this little story for me is the reminder that any act of creativity starts with whisper sometimes…a tap on the shoulder.  “Whoo-hoo?”.  

“Whoo-hoo?”  I ask myself. I ask you.  What whispers do you follow and what do you let waft on by each day in your search for your song?

I know I’m listening in a little more closely today to all the melodies whirling by.  Mindful of paying attention also to the pictures they evoke .  I make a note to myself to follow the breadcrumbs or hop that train to the story, the song , or the poem that lies just around the bend in the tracks. 

Listen to Edie Brickell and Steve Martin: Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby

BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse