I Love

I chose, on purpose, during my darkest times, that love was the path I wanted to travel.

I’ve chosen this over and over, even though choosing that wasn’t always easy. I knew how hard it would be. I knew I would lose as often or even more often, than I won.

But I spent too much of my life around others who didn’t risk, who lived in fear, who didn’t know how to love.

They were in constant pain, too. They weren’t avoiding pain by choosing to wall their hearts off. They just suffered another kind of constant pain, without any of the joy that love brings.

I love with my whole heart, and when the love ends, no matter the reason it ends, I’m devastated with my whole heart, too.

I just sink into both of them fully. There is a gift and a beauty in both the love and the pain.

I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way, even when the moments of loss and pain make me feel like my heart is being ripped out.

The moments of joy, and the amazing warmth of connection carry me through to the other side of my darkest moments, when I can reopen myself to new love again.

And that love I lost? Those memories? They are still in my heart, waiting for me to heal, so I can enjoy them.

Eventually the pain those memories bring up at first, gets replaced by the warm glow of the beauty they held when I was part of their moments.

I want to look back on my life and no matter what else has happened and no matter what else I’ve done or not done, I want to be able to say “I loved deeply, and I was loved in return.”

~ cj 2016.01.11

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Torn

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Torn in two
missing you.

~ cj 2016.01.05

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Heartbreak

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The greatest heartbreak of my life is that
no matter how much time I am given
to love what I love,
it will never,
can never
be enough.

~ cj 2015.12.10

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Want To Live

I haven’t lived here in a long time.

I *haven’t* lived here in a long time.
I haven’t lived here in a *long time*. 
I haven’t lived *here* in a long time.
I haven’t *lived* here in a long time.
*I* haven’t lived here in a long time.
*I haven’t lived here in a long time.*

I want to live where I am for a long time.

I want to *live* where I am for a long time.
I *want* to live where I am for a long time.
I want to live *where I am* for a long time.
I want to live where I am for a *long time*.
*I want to live* where I am for a long time.
*I want to live where I am for a long time.*

I haven’t lived for a long time,
but I’ve wanted to
want to live
where I am
for a long time.

~ cj 2015.08.24

“You will always have some excuse not to live your life.”

–Chuck Palahniuk

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Inside Me

Powder Mill Pond

When I am filled
with the largeness
and largesse
of you,

intense,
in my space,
inside,

not even the skinniest
whisper of a space remains
anywhere in me
for the fire of my fear,
or the smoky smoldering
shadow of my doubt.

~ cj 2015.08.18

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Storm

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A bad dream
woke me this morning.

In it,
you announced,
without your
“hey there”
kind warmth,

“We need to talk.”

My fear froze me,
and my pounding heart
held me still
in a place
I never want to be,
listening
to a stranger
dressed up as you.

The clouds that exploded
in the air behind your words
blackened my sky,
and struck with such
blinding force
that it threw
my whole being
helplessly forward,

bringing with it
the small miracle
of breaking my
fear frozen spell.

Once I was
the smallest bit free,
I fled to a place
where I hoped
this new stranger,
full of swirling words,
wouldn’t destroy
what remained of me.

That’s where I
found myself,
wrapped in the
broken-hearted morning
of dream-damaged awake,
a shaking survivor
of a violent fear storm.

~ cj 2015.07.12

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Glorious Hope

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The sun still rose
on the day he and I
had to say goodbye,
confusing me.

She must not have seen
the painful storm
raging in my heart,
or she would have hidden
her shining face
behind blistery,
broken-hearted clouds.

Or maybe she exactly knew,
and showed up to remind me
that hope of a glorious dawn
was still fully alive…

…the kind that will fill the sky
with all the colors of heart warmth,
lighting every morning
of a life of days
when he and I don’t have
to say goodbye anymore.

~ cj 2015.06.21

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Waiting

Waiting
for no one
to come home.

~ cj 2015.06.16

waiting for no one

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Witness

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I would ache
if a day
slipped into night
without notice.

So here I stand
at the ready,
hoping I am
prepared enough
to bear witness for
whatever,
if anything,
appears.

Always,
almost always,
I am delighted
by the sky’s
gifts of unique.

Over,
daily over,
I accept
that I will never
fully capture
the glory,
especially not
at days’ endings.

How can I,
when the world,
my whole world
so often
gets filled to the brim
with stunningly colored
delicious magnificence?

But I must try.
I am drawn,
compelled
from my core.

So here I am,
my eye to my lens,
waiting,
patiently waiting,
determined to do
my humble best.

And then?
The sun!
There it is,
burning through
thick darkness,
a force of fiery,
a last moment
sneak appearance.

Unstoppable brilliance,
radiantly rallying
before it hunkers down
under a goodnight
horizon.

As I capture
whatever I can,
my breath draws in sharply,
and I am filled again,
yet again,
forever again,
with the giddy wonder
of bearing witness to
such exquisite
glorious
gorgeous.

~ cj 2015.05.21

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A Poem Begins

a poem begins as a sense
of something off kilter,
a moment bursting with
lost and confused,
a deep need to have
some unfleshed
and often painful say
that my voice doesn’t dare
speak out loud.

the words force their way
from my fingertips,
tumbling out of hiding,
immediate, insistent,
jostling for position,
organizing themselves as they go,
until they are each
satisfied with where they’ve lined up,
and proud of what they stand for
in community with the others.

my eyes are compelled to read them
over and over,
until I cannot miss
what I was missing,
until I’m worn out with so much more
than enough of my feelings,
until the peace of knowing
they’ve done their best
settles in.

Then I leave them behind
to speak in my stead
so I can return
to breathing again…

…until a poem begins.

~ cj 2015.04.13

Inspired by this quote from Robert Frost

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The Magic is Gone

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my breath catches
behind the rising
lump in my throat
choking off all
my best words,
leaving them stuck
and flailing
for air.

I am helpless
to do anything
but blurt and stammer
and spit out
the few that remain.
And when they run out,
I re-queue and repeat
them again.

I struggle to think
on my feet,
to move
and reach,
trying my best
to hold on
to every last
meaningful thread.

But there’s more
weighing on me
than I have strength
to carry.
I feel my knees
fail my legs,
and threaten to
buckle.

All that gorgeous light
fades so quickly
I have barely the time
to gasp and tear up.

I utter words
I hope I never recall,
and sink down
where I stood strong
just a sunset before.

Then it ends,
the magic is gone,
and the dark
muscles in.

~ cj 2015.04.12

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The Miracle of Healing

I have to look
quite closely now
to find the seam
where you carelessly
cut me to the bone.

You cracked me wide open,
letting my guts spill out,
exposed to your toxic dirt.

Still hungry
to hurt me,
your greedy hand
reached in to grab
what remained
of my heart
nearly ripping it out
of my tender chest.

Finally,
somehow finished,
you left me for dead
and sauntered off,
seeking others.

And although it took
more than a little
sweet time to heal,
I’ve grown back together,
stronger from your wounding.

So here I am,
alive and bursting with well,
bearing eager witness to
the precious joy I found
on my journey
back to life.

Your poisonous selfish
no longer infects me,
and finally,
freely,
I can feel love
in another’s touch,
without being
painfully sensitive.

Only a tiny
pink ribbon
scar
remains.

And sometimes,
like today,
it itches,
but I am not bothered.

Instead, I smile,
and remember learning
as a little girl
that itching is just part of
the miracle of healing.

~ cj 2015.04.03

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Take Good Care

Take Good Care,
I told you,

and I left,

because
your heart
wasn’t there,

and you didn’t
take good care
of mine
when it was.

~ cj 2015.04.03

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A Plea From Management

Dear heart
what are you feeling,
that you’d beat my chest
with your fists like that,
when he has yet to kiss me?

And oh my,
then there’s you,
Miss busy brain.
I thought at least you’d
have some sense,
but ’tis not appearing
even close to the case.

Instead you’ve spent days
overheating your space,
whirring and stirring thoughts
of all he and I could do
and might be,
as if you had some right
to knock me off my own feet
like this,
so soon,
and without fair warning.

I see how the two of you
have dragged the rest of me
unwittingly along,
when I wasn’t looking.

Today I discovered
you’d given me away
through my eyes,
making them spill over
with missing him tears,
when we hung up the phone.
Why would you do this to me?
I’ve only been near
the kindness in his eyes
a few times.

My eyes aren’t the only part of me
you’ve got under your spell,
my heart and head.
You’ve tingled my spine,
and you’ve made my ears ring, too.
Did you think I wouldn’t notice?

And more than once you’ve warmed,
well,
the two of you know quite well
what you’ve warmed.
And now that I’ve brought it up,
you shrug my shoulders,
and turn my cheeks
a blush bright shade of pink?

Since he showed up at my door,
a momentary guest
meant to be here
for only a week,
you’ve let my face,
without a bit of restraint,
nearly split from all this
non-stop grinning.

You started this
while he was here
and you haven’t let up a bit,
having a raucous party
laughing yourselves silly
when he calls.

Where are you going?
I’m not done talking to you yet.
There’s more I need
to get off my chest.

Once my palms got slightly sweaty;
and I know you’re the ones behind
making my legs go rubbery weak
when he softly said goodbye
the other day.

And heart,
don’t be coy.
I can see you trying to trip
my head into falling
over my heels.

But then, worst of all?
You’ve opened my mouth
and removed every filter
I had in place,
leaving my words to spill
into his ears
nearly unhindered,
wide open exposing
who I am
and what I already feel
for him.

Were you trying to be clever?
Or are you really this
hopelessly high school?

I’m wise to the two of you,
and I’m begging you
to just settle down.
I’d like to point out,
in case you hadn’t noticed,
that he doesn’t live here,
and, like us,
he’s starting life over.

There is no need to
overwhelm me,
you two.

Hm.

I see.

There’s no use in me
wasting my breath on you,
is there.

The evidence
proves quite clearly
that I’m not getting through
to either one of you.

It’s abundantly apparent
that neither of you care
a single wit
that I’ve only just met him.

How can I tell
you’re ignoring my pleas,
my reckless heart
and defiant mind?

Because just now,
while I’m pleading with you
to show some restraint
and take care of me,
you mocked my authority
by making my hands
write this poem.

~ cj 2015.03.26/30

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I Will Miss

I will miss

The hikes that would have left us breathless,
under the dark skies our eyes would have adjusted to;
the planes we might have boarded,
to exciting destinations eagerly awaiting our arrival.

I’ll miss
the pictures we wanted to shoot,
the music we’d listen and dance to,
and all those wonderful things we were going to
learn from,
and were excited to teach, each other.

And, too, I’ll miss
the holidays we would have shared,
with our families,
who would have met;

the delicious meals we wanted to cook for,
and the treats we wanted to feed to, the other.

There will be silence
instead of the laughs
we’d have shared,
and for sure would have treasured.

What fun
all those blue skies,
gorgeous sunsets,
and sometimes stormy weather…
cool summer swims
and hot fires…
oh what fun that all would have been.

I already miss
the tantalizing tenderness
that was going to tingle our skin,
and the rest of each other’s bodies
we were eager to explore.

I’ve missed out
on the glances
we’d have shared
as we fell in love…

…all that giddy fun of
the future we might have had,
on the promise of a ride
you wanted me to just get on
and go with…

I will miss all of what
could have been
because of what happened instead.

And that I will not miss.

~ cj 2015.02.25

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Never Ever

No one gets to
treat me
like you did,
again,
and over again.

Not even,
especially not,
never, ever again,
you.

~ cj 2015.02.18

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Sublime

Sublime

Sublime
transports
the night time
on criss-cross clouds,
to a pastel platform
of peachy pink,

suspending time
for just
a moment
to gather the sun
and leave darkness
where I stand waiting,

anticipating it’s
serenely blushing
arrival,

both of us innocent,
hopeful
of what is yet to be.

~ cj 2015.02.15

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Sigh

I sigh when I’m soothed,
so softly satisfied.

I sigh, pulling in
needed breath
to ready for what’s next.

Or I sigh
to shake away
what I don’t need anymore,
and maybe just
never did.

I sigh when I’m smiling;
I sigh when I’m resigned to my tears.

I sigh,
tip over,
sink into,
just where I am.

My sigh creates
space,
a span,
a breath,
an expansion of time;
a way to have a tad longer thread
to the moment I don’t want to let go,
or to give me the air to push forward.

Sometimes when I sigh,
my lungs fill with belief
that it’s exhaled from me for one reason.
But when the sigh passes,
and I breathe to the next,
I see it was about something
quite contrary else.

Often I sigh when I am out enjoying the sky.
And perhaps I am only indulging in fancy,
but there are moments my whole being
feels the sky sighing with me.

I am not sure why I’m sighing now.
But whatever the next moment brings,
I will be grateful for the sigh
that gathered the breath of this one.

~ cj 2015.02.05

This is just the inkling of a beginning of a new song.

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Far Better

Far better it is
to trip and fall,
then to feed fear
all your strength,
leaving you too weak
to try dancing
to the music at all.

~ cj 2015.01.21

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I Am Her Master

This isn’t a poem. It’s not even an essay, really. I haven’t written much lately, because I knew if I did, my tears would cloud my vision, and my whole chest would clench into a ball. I knew it would hurt to breathe, and I would hate the moments I spent doing it. It’s a good thing I don’t have to see to type, because I was right about how I would feel; I was spot on about what would happen if I opened up and let this out.

I have been struggling for awhile over sweet Sophie Sue, my doggie. She’s been struggling ever since she was attacked by my other dog, Maggie. I ended up putting Maggie to sleep. Maggie’d had several strokes. She’d also gone blind and deaf. She’d been growling for a few weeks, and I will forever regret that I didn’t realize something was amiss sooner, before she did something horrible to Sophie Sue.

I will admit, Maggie was always a troubled animal. I will also admit, that a selfish part of me felt like I gave her a good life in spite of it, and now I felt like Sophie and I deserved to just be able to hang out together, without all that trouble.

I had no idea what was in store for me, or for Sophie. It’s been a helluva ride. She got infected, her immune system went into overdrive, the sedation made underlying kidney disease bloom out in the open, she got constipated, and got an enema that made her poop blood for a week. She stopped eating, she was shaking and limping. Her veins started collapsing from too many IVs. I almost lost her; I came so very close. But then? I didn’t.

Her kidney’s are failing, and no one knows how long she has. But she’s finally a little stable now, and certainly doing much better than she was. Her kidney blood numbers aren’t in normal range, but they’re better. I have no idea if this will go on for a day or a week or a few months. My world has narrowed to my daily care of her; pills and subcutaneous fluid…making sure she gets up, moves around, goes out, and enjoys when she’s awake.

It’s given me a lot of time to reflect, and staying here, hunkered down, has given me time to really get things in order for whatever is next in my life. I didn’t make next year’s plan at the end of the year like I usually do, because how can I? Should I plan based on having her? Or plan based on her being gone?

This situation has been a priceless lesson in appreciating limbo, in staying present to the moments I have. But still, my heart is broken, and I don’t want to think about what’s next.

This crisis also caused me to focus on my connections with others. It’s made me see clearly who’s in my corner, and who’s not. In the middle of all this, I leaned on someone I really needed to lean on, someone I considered close and important to me…only to discover in a way I could no longer ignore, how fragile the connection was – it couldn’t at all take the weight of my leaning.

So in the end, on Christmas of all days, I decided to just step away from that person, letting the whole situation go the way it had been trying to go for awhile. I thought letting go would cause me paralyzing pain for awhile, but if there’s any blessing at all in this trying time, it’s that I was already in so much pain, it didn’t matter if I had to take on more. I’ve been so consumed with Sophie, and then so busy getting my life in some kind of moving-forward order, that I haven’t had the heart or head space to pay front and center attention to that situation or that pain. So by the time I’m through aching from all this, and through the other changes I’m making right now, I’m pretty sure I’ll be past mourning for the loss of that connection, too. It’s already been far easier to stay clear of than I’d imagined it would be, and I’m already feeling like I’ve dodged a bit of a pretty sure bullet by letting it implode when it did.

So…back to the real content of this post…I haven’t been writing, because the pain of all this has been so intense that I’ve been running to my piano to soothe me instead.

A few days ago, though, my vet said something to me that rattled me, unexpectedly, to my core. She said “Sophie sure is lucky to have you.” And since then, I can’t stop thinking: “Is she?”

And for SURE I didn’t want to write about that, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep it in. I could feel it bubbling and oozing under the surface. I also knew writing about it wasn’t going to change a thing about it for me. In fact, the black and white of writing, has torn yet another piece off my already ripped up heart. I can’t focus on it, or let myself feel it fully enough to write a carefully crafted poem or essay, so this is what I’m putting out instead, and at least I’ve started getting it out.

I hope you know, too, that I am always so grateful for those of you who take the time to read what I’m thinking about and sharing here, especially now.

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I am my doggie’s master. I own Sophie Sue. I’m in charge, in every meaningful way, of what happens to her each day, of what she eats, what medicine she takes, and what she does. I choose where she goes. Wittingly or un, I choose how much pain she tolerates, and for how long. My choices determine how safe she is in my car, my yard, my house, around other animals or people.

I have a good deal of power over how long she lives. I am in charge of choosing to put her to sleep or of choosing to keep her alive until nature makes that irreversible decision for me. She doesn’t get to decide anything much at all about her life, other than basic instinctual responses.

The truth is, I’ve always harbored some small delusion in the back of my head that somehow Sophie had chosen to be here, has picked me out as her special person, has graced me with her beautiful presence, when she could have graced another. That isn’t true, though, and I know it. I bought her; that’s why I have her. I bought her, after the breeder took her back from the people she’d originally sold her to. And she would have been the same with anyone else as she is with me, if they treated her well. I’ve always felt so honored to have her, but the truth is, she doesn’t have the ability to go anywhere, and she never has. She has to stay with me, because I own her. I am her master.

It doesn’t feel right to have power over another creature, especially now, and especially over her.

I’ve had many moments during her life when I’ve felt un-redeemably horrible about the things she’s had to bear because of my other dog’s attacks, and because of her immune disorder. I haven’t felt worthy many times, of having her in my life like I do.

It hurts that I can’t ask her what she wants, or get her to tell me how she feels. I have to guess when it’s not clear. It aches every single moment when I know for sure she’s hurting. I can’t avert my eyes, I can’t avert my thoughts. When her ears are pulled back, or she limps, my mind, my heart, go to dark places of empathetic pain. The deepest parts of my heart drown in remorse-filled guilt over everything I’ve done wrong by accident or ignorance; guilt and pain I can’t shake when I’m awake or when I’m asleep.

I lose sleep worrying about each moment I can’t tell how she is. I constantly twist the worry over that big final decision I’m terrified I’ll have to make, into knots that torture my stomach. I let it grow so much mass that it turns into rocks weighing down my heart. It is so loud, that it threatens to drown out the joy of the moments I do have with her, and I have to constantly guard against it.

Should I let her go? I can’t make myself stop thinking about it. Why am I doing this to her? Am I “doing” something bad to her? And why can’t I stop thinking like this either?

I monitor everything she does. Is she wagging her tail? Sitting up in the car? Snuffling the bushes? Snoring without shaking? Is she having a good enough day today? She’s sleeping a lot more, and participating in her life a lot less.

Is she just going through a rough patch the past few months because of her age and all she’s been through recently? A rough patch she’ll come through if I’m patient?

After the vet said this, it crossed my mind that even if she comes through it, it’s not like she’s going to get to the other side of it, and exclaim “Wow, Mom, thank you for sticking with me! It was all worth the trouble!” She doesn’t get the reward for dealing with this.

I do.

Only me.

All me.

Two days ago, this hit me with a pummeling force. Glaring, brutal recognition came crashing in on me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

This is for me.

What I’m doing to her, what she’s going through.

It’s for me.

Not her.

What does she get for this? She gets to exist. But then my cruel brain reminds me that she doesn’t care if she exists. She doesn’t know. She is who she is each moment, because that’s just who she is. The beauty of her is how zen to the moment she is. She doesn’t plan or regret. She doesn’t set intention or have goals. She just has instincts. She exists. Until she doesn’t. And she doesn’t care when ceasing to exist happens, because she doesn’t understand what it means to exist. She just does it.

When she wants the window down in my car, she paws the door, and it goes down. When she wants to pee, she goes outside. When she wants to be pet, she paws me. When she wants a door open, she paws the door. She eats when she’s hungry, and poops when it’s gone through her system. She doesn’t think about how her morning was. She doesn’t reflect on a particularly good bit of steak she just ate.

She’s not aware of yesterday or tomorrow. She’s not even really in touch with today. And she doesn’t care if she stops being here tomorrow or 3 months from now, at midday on a Tuesday. She simply cannot care.

But I can. And I do. Desperately.

I don’t know what to do about how I feel; I want her. I want her here. For me. She is my woobie, my buddy, my pal, my company in my silent house. I want to pet her and snuggle her and hang out with her and listen to her snore and hold onto her tail when she’s in the seat next to me, and see her round the corner looking for me. I want to look in her beautiful brown eyes, and laugh at where she sticks her face or how her ear curls against her little bed basket.

I want to take photos so I never forget, and she never leaves my sight. I want to post photos of her so my friends smile, and take her places so strangers smile. I want to see her wag her tail. I want to experience her looking for and finding me…and then plopping down nearby.

I’m the one who will know if she isn’t here. I’m the one who will miss her with my whole broken heart. The quality of my life will be significantly reduced without her tail wagging and her sweet snoring and her soft snuggly heart-filled body covered in fur.

As it turns out, I will do a lot to keep her in my life. I will take her to the vet nearly every day for almost 2 months. I will give her pills, and IVs and subcutaneous fluid. I will cook her lamb, and hamburger and noodles and rice. I will get her fajita meat and play-doh cookies. I will buy her a coat and diapers and training pads. I will make sure a heater is pointed on her, there is always food available, and her water bowl is always full.

I will monitor her and medicate her, because I cannot stand when she suffers. I will compliment myself for hanging in there with her. I will be angry at myself when I make a mistake. I will sweat every little detail of her care and her condition. I will call a vet on Christmas Eve, at 10:30pm, when something’s gone wrong with her. And I will show up on Christmas morning so he can take care of what went wrong.

But are the vets really taking care of her? Well, I suppose they are. But now I’m being honest with myself. Who they’re really serving, by taking care of her, is me. She is my neurosis, my psychosis. I am not hers.

I know when the vet said “She’s lucky she has you”, she meant it as a compliment. She appreciates how much I love Sophie and how much I want to see her get better.

But is Sophie really lucky she has me? Sometimes she limps. Sometimes she shakes. She’s pretty tired. Every day, twice a day, I stick a needle in the skin on her sweet back to leave a bubble of fluid under it. I stick no less than 10 assorted pills in the back of her mouth in a day.

Of course she’s tolerant of it. Of course she doesn’t fuss about it. I anthropomorphize this and assign her the human traits of patient and sweet. I tell her she’s a good girl over and over, and caress her like she’s my child. But she doesn’t have a choice, does she. She can’t say “What do *I* get for what I’m going through, Mom?” She’s not going to whine and cry and say “Let me go, would you!?”

I want to thank her for the gift of her life being in my hands. I want to thank her when I have to stick a needle in her, or stuff a pill in her mouth. I am so grateful when I coax her to eat or come with me when I leave, and she does it. I appreciate that she is bearing all of this for me.

But she isn’t really doing that by choice, is she. She exists to please me, without a say in the matter. I am her master.

I got her a collar when I first bought her. It said “Who rescued who?” That says it all. I didn’t rescue her. She rescued me.

All I can do for now, is take care of her as best as I can, so her tail wags as often as she can happily wag it. And I hope with my whole heart that I can master being a good master; the kind of master who will honor her for serving me by letting her go when being here for me hurts her more than she should have to bear.

~ cj 2015.01.06

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Be Safe

IMG_7699Oh my heart’s
dearest pain,
no need to worry,

I’m safer here,
running far,
driving fast,
going where
I’ve never been,
and don’t yet
know the way.

I’m safer here
on my own,
worlds away
from where
you try to be
my make believe
hero.

I’m safer here,
even when
completely lost,

and I’m safer than
I’ve ever been
when I’m on,
or I’ve been
put out of
your mind.

Be Safe?

Tsk, tsk,
no need to tell me
such a thing,
and no need to worry,
nor pretend you do.

I’m doing exactly
what I need
for my heart and I to
Be Safe…

…from you.

~ cj 2014.11.29

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Leaving Limbo

This was never Limbo to me,
and as my heart heals,
I discover the will to
refuse that
lie of a label
I let you use
far too long
to describe how
you left me
holding and hanging
while I painfully
tried to bend backwards.

But I see how refusing
to give it this label
or any other,
does not make
getting out from under it
less awkward and clumsy
or painfully real.

Whatever it was
I am leaving this game
even if I fall trying,
even if I move so slowly,
you hardly notice I’ve
cleared this,
until I’m finally
standing tall
on the other side of
your unbending bar.

~ cj 2014.11.26

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Tender

you cannot
cut
and cut
and cut,
again and
over again,
feasting
without regard,

and then
expect to
come back
and find more
tender meat
to filet from
my raw naked bones.

~ cj 2014.11.25

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Still Stuck Sitting Still

imageso many things we could have said,
I could have said.

so many ideas for how to get through
this moment.

and yet,

we are still here,
I am still here,
still sitting here,
here sitting still,
still stuck and stunned
into silence

not able to move.

~ cj 2014.11.25

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Waves

Last Friday, I went to composition lessons. My teacher gave me a book. The idea was to listen to the CD, and learn to play the music, with a focus on noticing the patterns. Then the goal was to take some of the music I’ve composed, and see if I could change it into some of these patterns.

She came up with this, after I shared how I’d started my very first composition…by taking a pattern from the end of a Mozart piece I was playing, and creating something new.

Last Saturday, I accidentally double dosed myself with ADD meds. And likely coincidentally, last Saturday, I played piano for 8 hours.

I played some of the songs in the book, and I had a blast with them. But then, instead of doing something with one of the patterns, what happened instead, was I created this song. And while I was creating this song, I was doing a lot of other things I’ve never done before so purposefully.

Here are just a few of the new things from that day. I wrote music out for the first time ever. I purposefully created patterns. I strongly imagined what I wanted the music to be about, instead of playing and letting the music tell me what it was about.

When I shared a rough iPhone recording with a girlfriend, and didn’t tell her what I’d imagined, she completely guessed and described exactly what was in my head. (She should get a gold star for that!)

The links here are better recordings than she suffered through. I used my Zoom recorder to create them, and they were created after a few more days of playing this song.

The song is still rough, but so are the waves. They are created in the moment, with an ocean of force behind them, washing over us. They’ll drown us if we’re not careful, but they can save us, too. They can carry us into the shore when we’ve gotten out too deep, if we don’t fight them.

SLOWER VERSION

FASTER VERSION

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IMG_6469

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Lonely Has To Sleep Elsewhere

IMG_6548This past Friday,
I moved into my smallest bedroom
and gave my big room
to a weekend guest.

Too many rooms
to choose from.

I could have slept in
one with a larger bed,
but it was so neat in there.
I didn’t want to mess it up
with me,
and all that follows me.

My smallest room reminds me
of my first apartment.

I had a big green bedroom,
much larger than my childhood room.

And I had another tiny side room
with windows,
and barely enough room for a bed.

I never went in the big room
except when I passed out drunk
one night.

And I have the fondest memories
of the sunny small one.
It was even blue,
like my little room is now,
so that’s the one I chose.

I thought “This bed
will be too small”,
as I climbed in
when I’d had enough of
my day.

I slept there that night,
and another
and the next
and so on.

It’s been four nights now,
and my guest left
after three.

But I haven’t moved
back upstairs to the
big room,
and I’m not going to.

I’ve slept better
on that bed
in my smallest room
than I have anywhere else
in many years.

That small room,
that single bed,
they are perfect.

And given a moment of thought today,
there’s no doubt about why
this has always suited me,
then
and now.

There is only enough room
for GoGordy,
my doggies,
and me.

Lonely has to sleep elsewhere.

~ cj 2014.10.28

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I Think You Knew

image

There you were, a curious spirit standing apart from the others, watching me.

When I noticed you, you came towards me immediately, bright eyes shining with hope.

We’d only just met, yet you chanced getting closer, wanting to catch my scent, wanting to trust I meant you no harm.

You tipped your head wondering, and then you leaned in, deciding to believe.

You made it easy to lean in too, and I couldn’t stop myself. I kissed your velvety sweetness and sighed. I stayed near, my eyes closed, my whole face grinning from breathing near you.

The two of us stood still in that sparkly sun moment, enjoying pure pleasure, learning each other.

I felt myself shimmer in all the best ways.

I knew, and I think you knew, too. There was nothing else I could do. I reached inside, and gently handed my heart to you.

I tipped my head with wonder at the curious spirits we both were, coming in close, full of bright hope, and trusting it was safe to fall in shimmery love.

After awhile, I had to turn from that sparkly sun moment. But my whole face kept grinning from breathing near you.

And I think you knew.

~ cj 2014.08.27

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I Am

image

Take Care,
he wrote.

I am,
I replied.

Finally,
I am,
I thought.

Finally,
starting now,
I hope
I am.

Then, I added
Thank you.

I added it
but I don’t know why.

Perhaps it will be
a final tip of the hat
to my heart killing habit
of pain-denial polite,
formed flawlessly
by a lifetime of
failing to
Take Care
of me.

Then,
from my heart
I did think

Thank you.

Thank You
to the hearts who do
Take Care
of mine

They carried me
to the moment when
he wrote

Take Care,

and I was
able to say
from my
finally healing heart

I am.

And from now on,
I will,
I must,
I am resolved to

always

Take Care
of who

I am.

~ cj 2014.08.15

Thank you Christine, Cynthia, Mary Jane and Amy for your care this week. It carried me through.

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Resolve

Resolve.

Such a perfect fit.

conflict, solution, strength, determination, grit

a noun, a verb, a new favorite word I’ve added to my growing list of powerful words I’ve fallen in love with

It’s not likely a coincidence that it followed on the heels of the last word I fell in love with – matter.

This song showed up at a moment in my life when I’m realizing I’m going to need a lot of resolve to resolve who I want to be with where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through.

I can hear my composition lessons showing up in it.

I can hear my life in it, too.

…the pull to resolve something discordant into something more harmonious, without losing its interesting element.

Such a perfect fit.

Resolve.

~ cj 2014.08.10

I’ve also created a Facebook page for my piano compositions.  http://bit.ly/fbcjplays

Screenshot 2014-08-10 11.15.08

Screenshot 2014-08-10 11.15.31

 

Posted in Essay, Music | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Disregarded Matter

20140522-IMG_0214

There are two kinds of people who don’t matter enough to themselves.
One of them gives a whole heart away without regard to the cost.
The other treats that person’s heart with the same disregard.

What a pain-filled matter love becomes for that disregarded heart.

~ cj 2014.08.06

Posted in 21 And Done, MM, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Same Sky

image

You are alive,
growing,
a leaf,
a branch,
a ring at a time,
stubbornly rooted
in an earth of
your choosing.

I see now
that I was
but a colorful streak
of dusk-time fun
splaying and twisting
through the same sky,

changing
from white
to yellow
to pink,

helplessly
spinning,
crying,
look at my
colorful love,

trying to touch you,
giving my all
to distract you
from falling darkness
neither of us
wanted to face.

I entered,
then exited
your life,

my heart-light
dissipating,

my colorful love
disappearing
from your sight,
imperceptibly
at first,
but then
unmistakably.

the essence of what
I was to you,
a light show
for a moment of life,
fading into nothing
that really mattered
to the whole of
your grounded
lifetime.

Oh for me
to have stayed,
but that isn’t
what the world
could give me.

I am not a tree,
and you do not want
to be with a trail of color
that streaks through the air
on wings made of clouds.

When night fell
it was clear
the best we had done
was make each other
more beautiful
and interesting
for the moment
we were in
the same sky.

~ CJ 2014.07.27

image

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A Moment

a moment
when a thing was said
and another was felt

time stopped

so an ear could hear
and an eye could see

so a heart could open
firmly and fully

and let what is true
in that moment
and perhaps always was
soak all the way
into the middle

let everything then
and everything now
soak in

let all that could never
and all that would never
and all that wasn’t waiting to
be

soak deeply
into the middle

where there was
no time left

where it was
no longer time
to ignore

the moment had come.

it was a painful moment.

it was a perfect moment
for a door to close
finally and firmly

salty and flooded
lost in a moment
but not for long

because a moment later
when eyes adjusted
it was clear
the door closed
finally and firmly
wasn’t trapping a heart
inside walls

that closed door
had finally and firmly
left behind
a dark world of waiting.

and now in a moment
new ears could hear
new eyes could see
a new path
flooded with light
flooded with all
that was perfect
in that moment

a heart opened up
to all it could feel
was waiting to be

and it was in that moment
as a heart opened up
finally and fully
ready for all
that was waiting to be

it was in the moment
time started again.

~ cj 2014.07.23

I’ve written two versions of this piece. Here is the other version: A Longer Moment

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A Longer Moment

a moment

a moment
when a thing was said

when a thing was said
and another was felt

when a thing was said
and another was felt
time stopped

time stopped
so an ear could hear

time stopped
and an eye could see

time stopped
so a heart could open

time stopped
firmly and fully
so a heart could open
and let what is true

let what is true
in that moment

what is true
and perhaps always was

let what is true
soak in all the way

soak all the way
into the middle

let everything then
soak into the middle

and everything now
soak in

all that could never
and all that would never
and all that wasn’t waiting to
be

soak deeply
into the middle
where it was
no longer time

into the middle
where there was
no time left

to ignore
the moment had come.

it was a painful moment
it was a perfect moment
for a door to close
finally and firmly

finally and firmly
salty and flooded

salty and flooded
lost in a moment

lost in a moment
but not for long

not for long because
a moment later

a moment later
when eyes adjusted
it was clear

a moment later
it was clear
the door closed
finally and firmly

the door closed
wasn’t trapping a heart

it wasn’t trapping a heart
inside walls

it was clear
that closed door
had finally and firmly
left behind
a dark world of waiting.

and now in a moment
new ears could hear

in a moment
new eyes could see
a new path
flooded with light

a new path flooded
with all that was perfect
in that moment

in that moment
a heart opened up

opened up
to all it could feel

to all it could feel
was waiting to be

and it was in that moment
as a heart opened up
finally and fully
ready for all
that was waiting to be

it was in that moment
time started again.

~ cj 2014.07.23

I wrote a shorter version of this piece. Here it is: A Moment

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Impossible Destiny

There is so much distance
between where I am,
and where I dream of being.

And I may never get there.

But maybe,
but maybe,
you’ll hold me
for tonight.

So I can dream
I’m there again

and maybe,
and maybe,

hold tight to how it felt,
with so little distance
between where I was
and you.

~ cj 2014.07.21

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Genderational Relations

A lifetime of men who couldn’t see who I was

because a lifetime of women
blinded them and shamed their broken hearts

because another lifetime of men
couldn’t see who they were

and on and on it goes

while I lie awake in the dark
so alone

wondering about the women
my shame has left
my own boy blind to

because a lifetime of men couldn’t see who I was.

~ cj 2014.07.21

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Truly Home

a year ago today
I stood in my brother’s
driveway,
barely able to
stand waiting
to see you come
round the corner.

be safe,
but hurry, hurry
nearly hopping
up and down,
cuz I didn’t wanna
wait anymore.

then suddenly,
just like that,
no more waiting.

my childhood friend,
my heart’s companion,
there you were,
curly red hair,
shining in the sun,
big wide grin
squeezing your eyes
nearly closed.

there you truly were,
standing next to your truck,
standing next to me.

a bridge instantly
built in our eyes
spanning our lives
between years ago,
tears ago,
scuffed up recess,
and that moment of now,
when we felt
simply beside ourselves
together again.

I was so tired that night
but wide-eyed awake.

I couldn’t sleep
especially
not in that chair
stuffed full
with memories of my dad
who had died
a mere year before.

no matter how
comfortable it was
to recline,
there was no peace
in it for me.

and there you were
unbelievably lying
in the same room
with no space
for anyone else
in the world
on that couch

but maybe me?

if barely that.

but I trusted
you’d make room for me
I trusted
if I came to you,
you wouldn’t let me
fall over the edge

so in the dark of the night
I snuck over
and found your arms
wide open
and your heart
pounding like mine.

my well placed trust,
my heart sweetly cared for,
you held me tightly
in that skinny space
even after sleep
won you over.

and now wide-eyed awake
and scuffed up again
from our recess
I wish I could say
wait wait

I’m in no hurry
for that
year-ago night
to be over

I am simply
beside myself with
my heart stuffed full
of our memories

standing here
nowhere near
standing next to you

with no way to cross
that beautiful bridge

to that dark night
in a skinny space
and those heart pounding
moments safe in your arms,
where for once in my life
I knew what it felt like
to be truly home.

~cj 2014.07.10

Ode To A Grown Up Gordy

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On A Wing And A Dare

20140616-IMG_5314-2
I cried out to the sky one beautiful eve
how do I get from this heavy moment
to the one where I’ve made my dreams true,
when so much debris is piled on my path?

The sky sighed, oh dear, my troubled angel,
why fight your way to earth-grounded dreams
with rusty tools, digging, and a broken-down plow,
when you can lift up your eyes to dreams that live high
and breathe in the air like you’ve been blessed to do.

Climb onto my wings and trust I know where
your highest dreams wait. They are ready for you
once you choose to look up and dare to believe
you don’t need to dig; you can fly.

~ cj 2014.06.22

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How To Avoid Getting Burned

How to Avoid Getting Burned:

Reduce your sensitivity, or
Reduce your exposure.

Sounds easy,
Feels impossible.

~ cj 2014.06.20

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Uprooted

What isn’t planted deeply enough, tended to with plenty of loving care, and carefully sheltered from possible harm, is ripe for uprooting or being blown away in the winds of a storm.

How much can be weathered may not be obvious before it gets hit, but there’s no mistaking the damage from what was missing once the storm has come through.

Only foolish hearts leave what they love exposed to the elements, ignoring the warnings of weather, while banking on luck to survive.

~ CJ 2014.06.17

uprooted trees

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Staying Still In Front Of A Hill

20140522-IMG_0129-2
I am staying still in the dark silence,
alone,
looking at nothing but an up hill,
covered by an empty sky.

After so much disappointment,
I am not sure I believe anymore
what I’ve always believed;
that what matters,
what’s beautiful in life,
must live just on the other side of where I am now;

and that I will absolutely find it,
if only I have the strength to let go of my fear,
if only I have the will to keep searching.

It is so very late,
and I have grown tired of all this hunger,
and the loss I’ve suffered on my journey.

I am sick of working this hard
to reach what I think is the top of a hill,
only to find myself wiped out,
and staring angrily at so much waste,
or incredulously at yet
another blasted hill.

So I hesitate.
Who can blame me?
Me, full of let’s go and always on the move;
I stay still where I am.
I am weary.

And this feels like such a big hill, why now?

I hesitate.
And I keep hesitating.

I stay still for so long, I fear I can not move again.
I stay still for so long, I suspect I’ve given up.
I stay still and I wait
and I wait.

What else is there to do
when I am this weary and so lost?

I stay still and quiet in the dark,
and I am afraid of this,
but I will confess,
I start to prefer staying still

I stay still and quiet in the dark,
and although I am afraid
of what will become of me
if this is true,

I will confess,
that I begin to prefer staying still

…so I stay still and I watch.

I stay still for so long,
that my eyes adjust,
and I begin to see in the dark.

Do I see?…I blink…I do see!

Is it possible?
What matters, what’s beautiful,
is right here, all around me?

How did I miss this?
But Wait.
What if I am playing a game on myself?
What if there’s not really beauty,
What if I’m choosing to believe I’ve found what matters,
because it is easier than moving again.

I am not sure what to do with these thoughts,
so I stay still some more.

I stay still for so long,
that my heart opens to the possibility
that the reason it’s beautiful where I am,
the reason I think what matters is right here,
is specifically because that’s what I’ve decided to believe.

If I believe it’s beautiful, it is.
If I believe I have what matters all around me, I do.
My happiness doesn’t depend on anything
other than deciding to find meaning and beauty,
to truly love, exactly where I am
even when I’m standing in front of a big old hill.

I have finally, finally found
what I’ve been searching for all this time,
by staying still until I accepted
what was always right there for me to see;
that what matters is what I decide matters.

As I stand here, in the silence
alone,
it doesn’t seem so dark anymore.

And I even think I have the strength to move.

So I have decided to climb the hill in front of me after all.
But not as before, because I was searching.
Not as before, because I believed I had nothing where I was,
but instead, because I have nothing to lose.

I already have what matters under my feet,
in my heart and all around me,
because that’s where I’ve decided
to find beauty in my life.

Up the hill I go,
without all the weight of that longing.
Up the hill I go,
just for the grand adventure of seeing
what’s on the other side.

Hey, maybe I’ll get lucky,
and find another beautiful hill
to stay still in front of for awhile.

~ cj 2014.05.27

Here’s the uncropped wide version of the same photo
20140522-IMG_0129

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How To Have A Jazzy Life

Jazz is all about musical improvisation. Only one mistake is possible, and that mistake is made when the players fail to take a next step, play the next bar, find that next beat that blends the step taken just before, into the one chosen next.

Great jazz and perfect improvisation are created by taking whatever is played by another, or by ourselves, and making the very best of it, even when it’s tricky to do. It is not created by stopping the show, or by standing back and pointing it out as something negative. Nor is it created by running away from it, or roasting it in the harsh light of judgment.

Whatever has happened, whatever has been done, it is all made perfectly correct by how it is treated, by how it is incorporated into the experience.

If we want a beautifully unique piece of music, or a richly textured life-path full of wisdom, the ideal choice is to take what we’ve judged doesn’t fit; what we weren’t expecting or didn’t want, what wasn’t in our plan, and find a way to shine a favored light on it.

If we give every surprise a chance to perform as the perfect pivot point, an exquisitely wonderful turn of events, in a way it wouldn’t have been able to do if we’d pushed it off to the side and dismissed it, or spent our time hating its existence, there won’t be any mistakes for us to regret, and we’ll see there’s nothing to forgive.

Creativity is beautifully employed when we open the space in front of ourselves and others around us, to focus on the fun of designing what’s next, in light of what’s already been played.

And the sooner we perfect the skill of improvising, the more time we’ll have to dance to the mistake-free jazzy music we’re making out of the surprising way life inevitably plays out.

~ cj 2014.05.27

It isn’t lost on me that improv is often comedic in nature – isn’t that what humor is all about?…doing something fun with what wasn’t fully expected. And who wants to listen to a boring, predictable piece of music, jazz or otherwise. Obviously not me.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

image

Such a quandary; when to stay put and sit in peace to wait, and when to leave, because too much reasonable time has passed.

It is my single greatest challenge, especially when it’s something my heart cares deeply about. Is the best yet too come? Or am I being a fool watching life go by?

I’ve been punished greatly for waiting too long, and I’ve missed out on special moments for leaving too soon.

The night I took this photo, I was pondering this very topic, as the sunset faded to blue and grey.

I decided to go, but then, as I was putting my cameras and tripods away, I looked one more time at the horizon. And that’s when I saw the most beautiful rose colored clouds appear, just below some gently feathered grey ones. I was grateful I’d waited and looked.

Tonight I stayed out a little longer than I normally do, too, and again, I was rewarded.

Those two nights? Perhaps I can add two more tick marks in favor of waiting, because of them. But beautiful as they were, I am no closer to solving my quandary.

When to stay put, and when to pack it up and move on; I’m not sure I’ll have the answer before my own sun goes down.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as long as my time is filled with beautiful moments that my heart cares deeply about. And perhaps that’s what hope is all about – that whether i stay or choose to go, I keep on believing the best is yet to come.

~ cj 2014.05.21

image

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Protected: I Hate These Moments

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Lightning Bolt Reminder

There I was, on my back deck last night, commenting to the sky about the lack of a visible moonrise… okay fine… I’ll admit, I was complaining … and while I was at it, I’d brought up and was swirling around how hard it was to get good lightning shots the previous night… (it was REALLY hard!) Anyway…I was doing this while I was taking photos of what WAS there last night.

It was actually pretty interesting as well, even before what happened next. But admittedly, I was doing far more complaining than focusing and being grateful for what was there.

Mother Nature in her own unique way, apparently decided it was time for my pissy attitude to change, so this lightning bolt is what she showed up with.

Not only was it time for me to stop whining about the past (even if it WAS only the previous night). I also apparently needed to be reminded (once again), that there is ALWAYS something interesting and beautiful and wondrous going on around me, even when it’s not what I initially thought I was going to see, hear, or experience.

I’m a lot more likely to notice it and find value and happiness in it, if I’m open to focusing on and appreciating the present, rather than wasting my energy and time complaining about what happened before or isn’t going according to my desires.

Over the past month I’ve really been gaining an appreciation for the things that fall apart, or don’t go according to my plans. Nothing like the metaphor of a lightning bolt as a shocking reminder, eh? And what I really treasured is not only did she ‘fork’ over the lightning bolt, I was lucky enough to capture it with my camera. Perhaps looking at it next time I’m complaining will make me sit ‘bolt upright’ and pay attention. (I couldn’t resist the groaner puns.)

~ cj 2014.05.13

Lightning Bolt Reminder

Lightning Bolt Reminder

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Light

One light came on,
as another faded.
As life turned out,
there was no reason
to fear the dark.
~ cj 2014.05.08

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What Today Wants

Blocked? Am I blocked if I have nothing to say about what happened in my head, in my heart, in my life, today?

Perhaps using my words is not what today had in mind.

Maybe today has heard enough of my voice lately, and wants to hear my music or watch me take photos instead.

Or today may want me to spend it with friends, catching up with their lives and they mine.

What if today is exhausted from all the busy in my head, and simply wants nothing more than to be a day lived in silence…

…A day spent resting and reflecting…a span of 24 short hours, that I use to remember how beautiful it is to be alive breathing.

I am not very good sometimes at listening to what today wants to be. But I am getting better at this with every new today that shows its face.

So after awhile spent considering it, I’ve decided today feels like it’s quite set as one I soak in for what it is, without saying a thing about it at all. At least not for today.

(PS Don’t let on that I wrote this. I’m gonna pretend I’m blocked…for today :) )

~ cj 2014.05.06

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Finding My Way In The Dark

Blood Moon Total Eclipse - 2014.04.15 (9724)
Finding my way in the dark…

Such an appropriate metaphor for me right now.

This photo is a single long exposure of the Blood Moon total lunar eclipse on 2014.04.15.

To do this, I put my camera on the manual bulb setting, start the exposure, cover the lens, move the camera, take my hand off the lens, move the camera again…etc…I do it all in one shot, no adjustment editing allowed.

The game for me is to get it as even as possible exposure-wise and as even as possible moving across the frame. I have to keep the target in focus, too…all without being able to see what I’m doing through the viewfinder.

In other words, I’m finding my way in the dark.

Usually I have to move pretty quickly, too. And sometimes there are ‘extra special challenges’…In this case, the manual focus on my lens broke that day!

I’m not perfect; as you can see, the left-most instance of the moon isn’t as light as the rest. But I’m definitely getting better at doing this with moon photos.

I’m not perfect at this in my life either, but hopefully I’m getting better at finding my way in the dark there too, even when I have to move quickly, and even if there are extra special circumstances.

~ cj 2014.04.17

Here are a few other examples from that night of me playing around with the moon…

Blood Moon Total Eclipse - 2014.04.15 - Leaving a Trail

Leaving a Trail

Blood Moon Total Eclipse - 2014.04.15 - Olive the Moon

“Olive” the Moon

Blood Moon Total Eclipse - 2014.04.15 - Skipping Ahead

Skipping Ahead (time of shot is actually 3:20am, not 2:20am)

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Intersection

I am

a moment of sweet pity
in a parking lot
on a Saturday night;

a half day of
homework
with a friend
who’s learning
what I used to love;

a place to stay
the night before a race
I am not attending;

a stranger’s home
for a month,
but only to sleep
after long days
he’s spent working
in town,

and then

on the way out,

nice to meet you,
thank you,
goodbye,

and good luck
with your endeavor
to be a destination again.

I am
a neighbor
called to discuss
where to put a fence
I don’t want,
so I am safe
from intersecting
with her angry dogs.

And

I am
a meal on
a weeknight
where I am asked
why he should explain,

when it was me
who caused the collision
by mistaking myself
for a destination
in his life.

How did I miss that

I am
no one’s destination
like I used to be
when I was young
and loved.

I became
no one’s destination
when I couldn’t take
the pain anymore
of being
the favored destination
for somebody else’s
damage.

I didn’t realize
my refusal
would change
my entire
construction.

How did I miss this
when everyone else
clearly sees

I am
an intersection
in the lot…
with their fence…
at that restaurant…

…even in my own empty home.

I am
an intersection,
for them,
for him,
for you.

And nothing good
comes from stopping
for long
in the middle of
one of those.

~ cj 2014.04.13

I went to a book reading this week. After the reading, I asked the poet who’d read, how long she worked on her poems. Two, three months, she said. (It showed. They were rich, textured, beautiful!)

Not 10 minutes, not an hour, or at most, half a day like mine.

She says she is not shy about getting them out there, and then revising them later.

When I was writing this, many other ideas for writing about intersections and destinations were colliding in my brain before I’d even published it. When that starts happening, normally I just save the piece in draft and don’t publish it, thinking I’ll come back to it later.

But intersecting with her this week has inspired me to go ahead and publish this. I’ll save the other ideas for another piece or I’ll edit this one later.

Thanx for caring enough to read what I write. :) I’m glad my world has intersected with yours.

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Giving Me Permission

I take photos of things other than the sky; I do! But for now, I like taking sky photos best.

So I let myself take them, as much as I want, whenever I want.

It is my gift to me, to try to make amends for all the years I spent denying me.

The truth is, I almost always give myself permission to do what I like, even when I don’t understand why I’m doing it…perhaps ESPECIALLY then. I rarely try to manage it, or push myself into doing something I don’t want to do.

What I’ve learned by doing this, is that if I give in to myself kindly and authentically enough, if I silence my own naysayer, eventually what I’m truly up to inside, reveals itself.

And that’s when I get the important gift of understanding me and learning my own value.

I trust that if I give myself permission like this enough, I will never fall into the hole of an unhappy life full of denying me again.

~ cj 2014.03.29

Plus, I’ll have a bunch of sky photos, and maybe even some bad-ass photography skills!

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Mattering

Back then
it was easy to convince myself
that I mattered.

But contrary evidence
presented itself
over and over
that I didn’t.

So when I couldn’t
convince myself anymore,
I walked away
from all that mattered to me.

And now,
not that it matters
anymore,
to anyone,
maybe not even me,
it’s pretty easy to
convince myself
that I don’t.

~ cj 2014.03.30

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Being Present

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Although it seems there’s much to attend to,
while being present for the one who is leaving,

there’s not a thing to attend to that matters as much
as being present to the one who is leaving.

~ cj 2014.03.26


For a moment, I thought this was all I had to say on the matter. And it is, of course, perfectly fine to stop reading right here. But I couldn’t stop here, because when I thought I was done, it turns out I’d only just started.

You see, when I thought I was done, it suddenly became very important to me that you and anyone else who reads this knows: It was not by accident that I used “being present for” in the first part, and “being present to” in the second.

Perhaps it seems trivial. The wording is quite similar; and it would be easy to interchange them:
‘being present for’
‘being present to’

…but they are quite different in my heart.

To me, ‘being present for’ is what one does for another. When a loved one is dying, and leaving us behind, there seems no end to what needs attending. We care, we show up. And even though we may be completely lost inside, because they are leaving, we make ourselves extremely busy being present for them. It doesn’t feel like there is much else we can do.

But when I think of ‘being present to’ someone who is dying, I imagine needs ceasing to exist, or at least my notice of them. All that attending busy-ness loses its importance. I picture becoming an empty vessel with a wide open space inside, where someone I care about feels welcome and heard. Being present to them is honoring all that they’ve been, and all that they are in that moment, as they are doing the hard work of leaving. It feels like a deep understanding in me that, even when they are gone, they will always be a part of me and everyone they’ve touched. I want to allow myself to experience the essence of them, even when I am afraid, or I’m not sure I can stand the pain of it.


I meant to end this piece after I explained my different meanings for those two phrases. But then, for fun, I looked up the etymology of the word “present”. Perhaps it is just late, far past any reasonable bedtime, but each variation, and how they could all mix together, felt profoundly beautiful and rich in symbolism; perfect for writing about right here, while I’m writing about being present.

So I continued….

A ‘present’ can be a noun, an object, a ‘gift’. Pronounced another way, it is the act of giving something to another.

I smiled when I thought “I can present a present.”

And I can present myself to someone to be present for them.

Or I can give them the gift, the present, of being present to them.


And then I realized, I wasn’t done with what was on my mind, so I tried being present to this moment of writing. And I gave in to where my mind wanted to go…back to the memory of the night I learned how to be truly present to another. Even though I tried not be present to it, that’s really what this piece wants to be about.

So here it is…here is the heart of it.

When my dad was dying, at first I was very busy being present for him. I wanted to fix this; I wanted to help like I had so many other times. At least I could make him comfortable by attending to his needs. I felt like doing something was what I had to offer, and I did as much as I could. But very quickly, I understood, I wasn’t going to be able to fix this. He was really leaving me. Suddenly all this attending didn’t really matter that much. I felt empty. And lost.

Later, in the dark of that night, heart-sick, sitting in the chair next to him, watching him breathe, I tried something different, because there wasn’t anything to do for him. I tried to put myself in his place. What was it like to be in his bed, in his wasted, broken body, having to do this hard work of leaving? How would he find the strength? What was he feeling, what was he thinking? Was he aware, and was he afraid?

I crawled into bed with him to get close, because I wouldn’t have many more chances to be near him. And then I saw his eyes were open!

Hi Dad, I love you.

I love you, too, he said.

Am I your favorite daughter?

I’ve asked this question for years. He’d usually say some version of “You’re my only daughter.” So I’d press him. But am I your FAVORITE daughter? Sometimes the answer was “Sometimes”. Eventually I could get him to at least say “Of course, don’t be ridiculous.” Occasionally, he’d give in and say “Sure”, like he did when I was a little kid, and he wanted me to stop bothering him.

But this time, for the first and only time ever, he quietly answered

Yes.

I made sure I was looking straight into his eyes when I was talking to him, even though he was looking at the ceiling.

Once I felt able to hold back my tears, I continued.

I am sorry this is happening to you. I wish I could fix this, Dad. Is there anything I can do for you?

He was quiet for a long time…so long that I leaned way in his face to make sure he was still awake. And breathing.

No, he finally said.

He went quiet again, and I thought he was done talking.

But then he said
You’re here, and that’s enough.

He was right. I WAS there; I was completely present to him. And I understood in that moment, being present to him was exactly enough.

I stayed there, looking in his eyes. I thought about all that he’d hoped his life would be. And I thought about all he’d been through…growing up in the depression, going to war, his serious illnesses, his broken back, how he’d beaten cancer…twice. I thought about all that he’d sacrificed for me and my brothers, the demons he’d fought, the weaknesses he hated in himself. I thought about his disappointments, his fears, the forever heartbreak of losing his wife so young. I thought about what a smart man he was, what a savant he was with words, how meticulous and fastidious he was, how kind he was to everyone who took care of him. I thought about all the things he liked, camping, fishing, being with his brothers, hearing from mine. All that he was flooded into me, and I understood him. I felt the heart, the essence of him. And I truly, finally, let go of everything I thought I needed…closure, his understanding, answers, apologies. All of it.

I had no idea how long we’d been looking at each other like that. He’d been unreachable in the past day or so, even with his eyes open. But I spoke again, hoping he’d at least hear me.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you so much for everything.

A long pause.

You’re welcome.

Awhile later, when part of me hoped he was now sleeping, I said
I’ll never forget you.

You’d better not, came the reply.

I laughed a little, and I kissed his forehead.

I said
I’m tired, can I sleep here with you for a little while?
Such a long pause this time.

And then
Oh, sure.

In that moment, I realized he was present to me as well.

For the rest of the time he was leaving, I tried to be as present to him as I could. I absorbed everything I could about him, I held his hand and quietly looked in his eyes as often as I could. I tried to make sure he knew I was completely there as far as I could go on his journey with him.

Like I’ve said before in other things I’ve written, he was holding my hand so tight that last night, it hurt. And when I got up to get his meds (be present for him, attend to him), I let go of his hand. And that’s when he left me, and living without him here began.

I am so grateful that I slowed down and really talked to him, held his hand, looked in his eyes, tried to be present to him. His gift of accepting that from me, the memory of those last days with him, is still a part of me, even though he’s gone.


As I finish this up, I finally see what I was meant to see from writing this piece. My Dad wasn’t the only one who got a present when I was present to him. I did.

I got the rich gift of those last days, and I got the gift of knowing how to be present to another.

It isn’t always easy, when it seems there is much to be ‘present for’, much to attend to, to every day. But now, because of the gift of that time, I remember more than I did before, that there is nothing to attend to that matters as much as being present to those who are a part of me, while they are living.

Being present to another is honoring all that they’ve been, and all that they are in that moment, as they do the hard work of living. I want to allow myself to experience the essence of them, even though sometimes I am afraid, or it is painful. Those who are close to me have touched me deeply, and they will always be a part of me. The gift I want to give them in return is to be an empty vessel with a wide open space inside where they feel welcome and heard by me…I want to be present to them.

And, although I have more I want to write about the gifts of “being present to”, ’tis enough for now, because I have other things to which I must attend. :)

~ cj 2014.03.27

P.S. Here’s the etymology I found for “present”

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=present

present (adj.)
c.1300, “existing at the time,” from Old French present “evident, at hand, within reach;” as a noun, “the present time” (11c., Modern French présent) and directly from Latin praesentem (nominative praesens) “present, at hand, in sight; immediate; prompt, instant; contemporary,” from present participle of præesse “be before (someone or something), be at hand,” from prae- “before” (see pre-) + esse “to be” (see essence). Meaning “being there” is from mid-14c. in English. As a grammatical tense, recorded from late 14c.
present (v.) Look up present at Dictionary.com
c.1300, “introduce (someone or something) formally or ceremonially;” also “make a formal presentation of; give as a gift or award; bestow,” from Old French presenter (11c., Modern French présenter) and directly from Latin praesentare “to place before, show, exhibit,” from stem of praesens (see present (adj.)). From late 14c. as “exhibit (something), offer for inspection, display;” also, in law, “make a formal complaint or charge of wrongdoing.” From c.1400 as”represent, portray.” Related: Presented; presenting.
present (n.1) Look up present at Dictionary.com
“this point in time” (opposed to past and future), c.1300, “the present time,” also “act or fact of being present; portion of space around someone,” from Old French present (n.) from Latin praesens “being there” (see present (adj.)). In old legalese, these presents means “these documents.”
present (n.2) Look up present at Dictionary.com
c.1200, “thing offered, what is offered or given as a gift,” from Old French present and Medieval Latin presentia, from phrases such as French en present “(to offer) in the presence of,” mettre en present “place before, give,” from Late Latin inpraesent “face to face,” from Latin in re praesenti “in the situation in question,” from praesens “being there” (see present (adj.)), on the notion of “bringing something into someone’s presence.”

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Dirty Girls

I absolutely loved watching this scene play out Saturday morning at a restaurant where I was eating breakfast and talking with one of my best friends. (Pictures at the bottom)

These two little girls were in a play area outside the window. From a distance, the one looked pretty girly. Pink parasol, pink shirt, little skirt. Even her nails were painted to match.

The other girl, not so much. She was sitting right in the dirt, up against the fence in her tomboy clothes. She wasn’t really paying much attention to the other girl’s efforts to get that parasol open all the way. Instead, she seemed to be watching the other kids in the playground.

When you look a little closer, you can see the parasol girl wasn’t just dressed pretty. She was also pretty filthy and scraped up, muddy legs, bruises, dirty shoes. The other girl was drinking something and had an unattended dribble of it on her face.

The girls were hanging peacefully in the same space, but they weren’t really talking to each other. I didn’t know if they knew each other before that morning, but it seemed like they did.

Eventually the little parasol girl mostly succeeded, and propped that parasol on her shoulder. The other girl looked up at her. The parasol girl showed her something or said something, and then she walked away.

The little girl sitting in the dirt didn’t try to go with the parasol girl. Instead, she just watched her leave. And then she cocked her head a little more towards the rest of the playground, going back to watching all the other kids.

Maybe she was busy with something else inside her head, or maybe she didn’t have the heart to deal with whatever teasing might happen if she went over to play with the others. Maybe she just liked watching from where she was.

I looked like that kind of little girl, sitting in the dirt.

I never owned a pink parasol. I did have dolls and Barbies. But they spent most of their time in the trees, waiting for rescue from emergencies only one of those Tonka trucks I wanted to play with could handle.

I didn’t paint my nails, I chewed them, even when they were full of dirt. I chewed and picked my lip, too. My shins were filthy, scraped, bruised and scabbed looked like that parasol girl’s, but they were as skinny as toothpicks. And most of the time, I wouldn’t let anyone see them.

I had a hard time sitting still, so I don’t know how long I would have sat in that dirt. But my head was always full of thinking, and I didn’t often get too close to any of the rest of the girls. When I did, I was always looking for the kind of girl who didn’t notice how dirty and beat up her shins were. I was always hoping for the kind of little girl who would take a break from the rest of the kids to come over and hang out peacefully in my space, even if she was doing her own thing.

And I wouldn’t have even minded her having a pink parasol, cuz that hang-onto handle would have been handy helping the Tonkas rescue those useless dolls from their tree-stranded tragedies.

~ cj 2014.03.23

opening parasol

blocking her face

propped parasol

showing off her parasol

walking away

looking up zoomed out

Close up Looking up

looking away zoomed out

close up looking at kids

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No Bone Picking

I’m not close enough to your bones
to even notice if there’s meat
to pick off them.

You’re not my kind of dish anyway.
I like the sweet,
the salty, the creamy.
I love to savor and enjoy.

I don’t get near the tough cuts,
and I run so fast
from anything that smells rotten now,
that I’m never close to those kinds of bones
for long enough to notice what’s there.

So if there’s meat being picked off your bones,
perhaps someone a little closer to home
should be suspect.

May I offer you a mirror?
And then, as I was saying,
I must run.

~ cj 2014.03.21

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Waving Goodbye And Crying

When we were little, we’d leave my grandma and grandpa’s house, and they’d stand in the doorway, waving goodbye, always smiling.

My whole childhood, it was my grandpa and grandma, waving goodbye to my mom and dad and us kids, all of us grinning like crazy.

But then my mom died, and then my grandpa died, too. I was left with the memory of the last time I’d waved goodbye to them.

And for the rest of the years, it was my dad, and my grandma. And for the rest of the years, waving goodbye wasn’t a time for smiling.

My dad didn’t like my grandma. She was mean to him for marrying my mom. So they didn’t visit each other anymore after my grandpa died, even though they lived very close. They’d waved goodbye to each other forever and pretended they didn’t care. But I saw them both at least every year.

Waving Goodbye To My Dad
Each time I visited my dad, he did the same thing my grandma and grandpa always had. He stood in the doorway and waved goodbye when I left. Sometimes he even did this when I went to visit my grandma for the day. We’d make a joke about it, but inside, I wasn’t smiling.

But my Dad wasn’t like my grandma; he was soft and couldn’t hide it. When I left to travel back home, he always cried when he was waving goodbye.

When I was a little girl, I’d found him near death twice, so for the rest of his life, I was afraid every time I waved goodbye, I’d never see him again. So even grown up, I always cried, too.

Some years ago, I went through all of his life things with him, helped him pack up, sell his home, and move into a new place. It was time, but when we pulled away from his house, my childhood home, it was so hard to wave goodbye to it, that we both cried.

I visited him for several years after that. He was happy in his new place, for the first time in all the years since my mom had died, and although I was sad when I waved goodbye, it was a little easier not to cry.

But then, the year after I’d broken my own back, he broke his, too. And he needed me. So I went up there five times, taking care of him, rescuing him, checking up on him. He was so sick that year, with one thing after another, that it took all I had in me to squelch my anguish, and wave goodbye each time I left. The time I had to leave him in the nursing home for rehab was nearly unbearable. But I had to go, and there was nothing for me to do, so I promised him I’d see him again, and my whole heart hoped hoped I was telling the truth.

I’d cry for days, even after I was home, filled with good reasons for being afraid I’d never see him again.

At the end of that year, he was doing better when I visited him. And when I left, he hugged me goodbye, and whispered in my ear “Thank you; you saved my life.” That time, we both cried so hard, we couldn’t even wave.

Almost two years ago now, my worst fear came true, in the midst of so many other of my worst fears coming true. I got a call that my dad was dying. So my son and I went to be with him, to take care of him. He held my hand so tight at the end it hurt. We said I love you to each other as much as we could. And when he died, I told him I’d miss him forever.

In the viewing room, when I got to see him that last time, I played piano for him, and for me. And then, for both of us, I waved goodbye one last time.

Waving Goodbye To My Grandma
Then, there was only my grandma.

My grandma wasn’t easy to love, but as I got older, her and I grew closer. I taught her it was okay to say I love you, and I miss you. And when I visited, and I left, she would wave goodbye. One time, she even cried.

A few years ago, she couldn’t see anymore, and she kept on falling. So not long before my Dad died, she move into a new place.

I visited her there the day of my dad’s funeral with the rest of the family. It was the first time I’d seen her that visit, because I’d been with my Dad. She asked if I could come back alone, but I couldn’t. We had to get on the road; we’d been gone so long. So I waved goodbye, and I promised I’d come back, and like with my dad, my whole heart hoped I’d told the truth.

So many things happened the year my Dad died, and I didn’t get to see her again until the next June. It took a long time sitting there with her, before she knew who I was. She asked when I was going to come back, but she forgot what I said. She remembered to wave goodbye just a little, though. And she smiled, but I knew what was coming, and I cried.

I didn’t want that to be the last time I waved goodbye to her, so I went back a month later. She had just turned 102. I’m not sure she knew me, but she touched my face and my hair. She thanked me for saying happy birthday. When I left, though, I’m not sure she even knew I’d been there.

Two days later, I held her hand, too, just like I’d held my Dad’s. I told her I’d love her, and I’d miss her forever. And then she wasn’t there to wave goodbye anymore, either.

So now there is no one to stand in the doorway for me, waving goodbye to the child I was and the grownup I am. There is no one to visit and no one to cry or smile, missing me when I leave. I am not afraid I won’t be able to wave goodbye one more time, because they are already gone. I am left with “I love you” and “I miss you” forever in my heart.

Waving Goodbye To My Son
And now it is only me, and my beautiful son.

When he visits, I hug him as hard as I can. I’ve lost him before, but I don’t want to lose him again, now that he’s back in my life. I tell him I love him, and I can’t wait til the next time. Oh, my, how I treasure the man that he is.

I am like my grandma. And I am like my dad, too. I try not to be afraid I won’t see him again, but he’s all I’ve got. So sometimes I am.

And when we part, my son and I, because I’ve spent my whole life waving goodbye and crying, that’s what I do.

~ cj 2014.03.20

Posted in Essay, Writing | 3 Comments

The Best Ever!

Nearly every day,
often more than once,
I stand outside
with my camera
pointed at the sky.

I’m taking photos
of everything
I possibly can.

Sometimes there’s
so much beauty,
I need two cameras!

And at least once
every time,
but probably
a hundred times,
my whole heart
is filled with awe
and whispers,
or says out loud
and sometimes
shouts
This is The Best Ever!

I can only imagine
how many times
I’ve written, said,
shared, thought
some variation of…

…this is amazing,
insane, crazy,
gorgeous, ridiculous,
beautiful,intense,
stunning,spectacular,
amazing, stellar,
wild, perfect,
incredible

There has never
been a better
sunset
sunrise
moonset
moonrise
cloud grouping
sky glow
storm

Ever.

Maybe I’ve said that
as many times
as there are stars!

All of my friends
most of my acquaintances
and plenty of strangers
have heard this from me, too
because they all need to know.

I try to water it down
just a little
so they don’t
stop believing me,

so I’ll say
This is
“one of”
The Best Ever…

but it’s my little secret
how many are included
in that group called
“The Best Ever”.

A few times
I’ve thought
I’m going to stay in
and work,
sleep,
hang out,
or be inside somewhere
doing other things,
because I was, after all,
just out there
with my camera pointing up
at another sky that was
The Best Ever.

If it’s all grey
Or conversely,
when there’s not a cloud
to be seen anywhere,
I’ll look out and try
my very best to convince me
to do something else
because surely it won’t be
The Best Ever
today.

And that moon?
Well, every month,
he does the same thing
doesn’t he.
He wanes and waxes,
goes half and full
and starts over as new.

I try to believe
I’ve already captured
The Best Ever moon, too.

But I know better,
because when I look through
all the photos I have
of sunsets, sunrises,
moonsets and moonrises,
cloud groups,
sky glows, and storms,

I clearly see
no matter what time of day
or what was in the sky

every single moment
was completely unique

just like every single moment
of my life.

So whenever I
try to tell myself
just stay in,
I go out.

And it’s always
the right thing to do
because tonight’s sunset
and just now,
the moonrise?

Yep,
once again, it was
The Best Ever!

~ 2014.03.20

I would have posted The Best Ever here, but you can see the problem with that, right!?

Instead, you can see some of my sky photos on Instagram: http://instagram.com/cjromb
or on Facebook http://facebook.com/OverMyHeadPhotos

Posted in Photography, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

There Is No Such Thing

I’m not broken enough anymore
to believe I can fix me,
by fixing what is broken in you.

I’m not lost enough anymore
to believe I’ll find my way
by telling you how to head
where I think you should go.

It’s not that I’ve fixed myself
And it isn’t that I’ve found my way

Instead, I’ve finally learned
the only way to get over
being broken and lost
is to stop believing
that anyone,
including me,
is.

~ cj 2014.03.18

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Mean Teachers

The most meaningful
lessons I’ve learned
from mean teachers

are the ones
they didn’t mean
to teach me.

~ cj 2014.03.14

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Living to Laugh

Somewhere in 2009 or 2010, I saw the YouTube video “Jizz in My Pants”. My (now ex) husband and I had gone to dinner at my son’s place, and my son shared this video with us. It’s the silliest video; have you seen it? OMG, I laughed sooo hard!

)

By then, over a million people had watched it, and the response video “Puke In My Mouth.”

)

When I saw this video, I was going through a pretty intense, unhappy time in my life. I was working a ridiculous number of hours (80-96!) trying to save a business structure and a marriage that couldn’t be saved. I was hyper aware that this was the first time I’d laughed about anything in awhile. Me, not laughing. Holy crap, what had happened to me? My own laughter felt so awkward, it kept ringing in my ears; I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The very next day I suddenly realized the brilliance of that video, of Lonely Island, of comedic ventures in general! FAR more people agreed on what’s funny, than they agreed on pretty much anything else. At a minimum, they at least agreed they liked to laugh!

That’s the day I decided Laughter was the intersection of humanity I wanted to play in. At least if I got run over, I’d go down with a grin on my face.

It took me quite a few years to extricate myself from the unhappy place I was in. I went through some pretty nasty bouts of anger, sobbing heartbreak, desperation and stay-in-bed depression between then and now as I dug in deep to sort my life out. But once I started processing all that, I found when I WAS laughing, it was pure and complete. I noticed I was child-like unaware of anything in those moments, except the hilarity. As long as I was laughing, it didn’t matter whether I’d created it for myself or found it somewhere else.

I genuinely, whole-heartedly laugh a LOT now; I’m guessing it’s fairly obvious from a small amount of time on my Facebook page, or interacting with me. I truly don’t mind laughing alone at all. In fact I stood outside in the dark tonight laughing at a photo I’d taken of the moon that looks like a silly face. It’s okay if I’m the only person who thinks something is funny, too, but it’s far more fun when I’m not the only one laughing!

There was a piece on The Really Big Questions, which aired on NPR tonight. The show was about people sharing with others. (I’m not sure which podcast contains what I’m referring to, but they were both wonderful…well worth listening to!)

The Joy Is In The Giving

Sharing With Strangers

They’ve done experiments where they share money with people. One group is supposed to buy things for themselves. The other group is supposed to buy things for others. Then they survey them to see who’s the happiest. The people who have bought something for others report being the happiest. People who share have a higher sense of happiness and satisfaction in general. Money isn’t what I want to share with people, though. Instead, what I wanna share with people who cross my path is a smile. If we have a laugh? Even better! If I had a part in someone else laughing? I light up from head to toe when they tell me about it. And, to my core, I appreciate and value the people who make me laugh.

The day I found George Takei’s page on Facebook, he became an instant hero for me. Surely you’ve seen it? I haven’t been to it yet without laughing about…well, without laughing about nearly everything ON it!

What a treat to find such an excellent role model, and what a fun article someone wrote about him on Your Tango! http://www.yourtango.com/2014209910/oh-my-10-reasons-we-love-adore-george-takei-lgbt That’s where I found my sparkly new, favorite quote. It PERFECTLY sums up what I think about life and laughter:

“It’s really hard to hate someone for being different when you’re too busy laughing together.” ~ George Takei

It gets to live in my heart right next to another daily repeated favorite I’ve been using to measure against whatever’s going on in my life: “Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive, is too small for you.” ~ (David Whyte – Sweet Darkness) – (To see a copy of this poem, go here: http://kathleenflenniken.com/blog/?p=1642)

To me, when I’m laughing is when I feel most definitively alive.

Thank you George, for the gift of laughter you’ve given millions of people, and for how much you’ve inspired me in the process.

~ cj 2014.03.12

Posted in Writing | 3 Comments

Whole Enough

I am not whole in the way
I view you to be.

I cannot yet
sit
still
and allow

simply being

to wash over me.

Although I can,
I do not like to stand
on my own,
isolated,
uncomfortable,
alone.

I do not like it,
even though I receive gifts from it
every time.
Gifts are there
when I experience and accept,
and gifts are there
when I wiggle, squirm, cry, rebel.

I am uncomfortably easy
with those who are searching
in the way I am that day.

And when I dare to look,
I cannot miss
how deliberately
I sometimes choose
to be with those
who declare it all foolish,
because they won’t dare to look.

I am not yet able
to get all I need from inside myself
even though I see it is there,
just on the other side of now.

But in those moments
when I am not angry with me
for failing to be whole,
I am slowly falling in love
with who I am discovering
myself to be.

I am richly textured and openly colorful.
I am often fearless and chase wildly after
any chance to learn and experience,

even when it aches deeply
and especially when
it might make me laugh
until my sides ache.

I am starting over
unexpectedly,
and I am learning
to embrace it
with gusto.

I am alive,
and full of hope.

I am trying my best
every moment
of each day to be
present and
whole.

And yet,
I feel unsteady,
and I apologize for my clumsiness
at life,

because I have all that,
I am all that,
and I am clearly on my way….

but I don’t feel whole
like I view you to be.

I do see it right there, though,
just on the other side of now,
because I am at least whole enough
to know these two things:

No one is completely whole,
even when I view them to be.

And I am whole enough for now
because I know this.

~ cj 2014.02.09

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

That Was Easy

Such a simple answer
to the coldness
on that side of the bed.

I have a heated mattress pad.

This morning it occurred to me
to switch that side of it on,
and then slide my hand over there,
imagining the heat comes
from someone I deeply love,
someone who’s only
momentarily missing.

I did that.

I didn’t have to wait very long.

Now the coldness is gone.

~ cj 2014.02.04

Posted in 21 And Done, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Brave

Click to see short video clip of blue sky, white cloud, tree-filled stills.

It’s easy for me to be brave, when my chin is up, and I’m looking at the sky.

~ cj 2014.02.02

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Sincerely

image
Blown away by the moment this breeze blew through.

~ cj 2014.02.02

(photo taken on 2014.01.31)

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Big and Little

20140125-IMG_6720It’s surprisingly hard to tell the difference between what’s big and what’s little in some moment.

Figuring it out is a matter of gaining perspective, getting some distance or passing time. (Photo from 2014.01.25)

Posted in Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Good Boy

frightened boy
kneeling in obedience
until your freckled knees bled
while they committed their sins
to your tender bare flesh

biting your lips
and hating your tears
and heading
right
straight
to hell
every
single
time
for doubting God’s plan
and their right to hurt you.

over and over they lashed you
you damn little brat
filling your sassy mouth
with lava-grit soap
and pulling your ears
until you shut-the-hell-up
with that begging for mercy
and listened for once
to the righteous wrongs
of their anger

you sacrificial black lamb
you’d better just take the whippings
they judged you had coming
and let them pummel you into piety
with their insatiable blame.

they were forced to slap you in secret
and shame you in public
because how could you be so naughty
you hardened heart heathen
that you deserved this
for making them hate
their own wretched lives

and then look what you did
you little man-baby
you lost control of yourself
when they made you wait

why didn’t you go
when they told you to
and where did you come up with
such a piss poor excuse

all you have to say
for your sorry self is
that for once
for just a few moments
you dared to forget and have fun?

how stupid could you have possibly been.

how many times do they have to beat some sense into you
before
you
catch on
that you’d better never let that happen again
you bad bad boy.

you swear you don’t know the reasons
your prayers go unanswered
but you promise
with everything you have
forever and ever
to try harder next time.

And by God,
you’re a man of your word,
so you’re going to spend
every
moment
of the life you were given
if that’s what it takes
to learn how to be
that good boy
and that good man
they know damn good and well
you’ll never be.

and that’s where you are
my childhood friend,
when I find you again
a long lifetime later

kneeling under the weight
of everyone else’s wounds
while your own heart bleeds
from paying for all those sins
you’ve learned the hard way
must somehow be your fault
waiting patiently for
some sign of forgiveness
for all you couldn’t possibly have done wrong.

and trying every moment,
just like you promised
to be that
good boy
they’ve damaged you so much
you don’t even realize

you
already
always
were.

~ cj 2014.01.26

My lifetime later friend,
I will hold you in my heart
with everything I have
forever and ever
because that is all you will let me do
to make up for what has gone wrong.

You are the most “good boy” man
I have ever met.
And I am grateful
that for once, you dared to forget
and chose me to have fun with,
even if only for a moment.

I can never forgive them
for what they did to you
and I hope someday you heal enough
from a lifetime of the punishing damage
they did to your tender heart
that you can believe
you deserve to be always loved.

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Color Blind

we do not see things the way they are

I spent a little time last year with a friend who was colorblind.

“That’s a sad affliction”, I’d think, while I was photographing a gorgeous cloudless sky.

“I hate that he’s missing out on the beautiful colors of this”, I’d feel, when I’d take a picture of a bright yellow flower.

I became rather fascinated with his colorblindness, I will admit. I realized he didn’t know what he was missing, but I wondered endlessly about what he DID see.

We talked a good deal about it; my curiosity was a bit incessant. He was open to telling me about it, and each time it came up, we had a willing, interesting exchange.

When I witness skies like the ones in the photos below, my heart twinges for someone who is blind to the colors I see. But I did begin to see patterns and shapes faster, because of those conversations, and that’s added dimension to the colors I saw before.

When I was thinking about being colorblind, it occurred to me that there is much we don’t see, don’t even know about.

I am rather fascinated with how people, including me, miss so much about our world and the people in it. I know I can be quite blind to my own true colors.

I will admit that when I realize I am seeing things differently than another, or I begin to see something I didn’t see before in myself, my curiosity is strongly piqued.

What a joy when I find another who’s open to having a willing, interesting exchange. When someone is unwilling to have that exchange, so we can learn about each other, my heart twinges for what is missed.

I’m grateful to my friend for the conversations about colorblindness. I notice things I didn’t see before. I appreciate everyone in my life who engages in conversations about things I’m not seeing or want to see, too. It’s added a rich dimension to my life that has definitely enhanced the color of it.

~ cj 2013.01.17

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Posted in Essay | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

POS-itive Sayings

20140101-IMG_8495“It’s hard to be satisfied with life if you’re not satisfied with yourself.”

When you read it, it seems so simple, so true. Impossible to take action on, yet ridiculous if one doesn’t get its obvious message – quit being dissatisfied with yourself. It begs the question – should I be dissatisfied for being dissatisfied with myself? What are all these self-help books for, if I’m already satisfactory?

After I got done thinking that about this particular saying, something bigger crossed my mind. What crossed my mind is that it doesn’t matter how many of these I see or read or print or share with my friends or write about, if nothing tangibly changes for them or for me.

We can read all we want about letting go of anger, fear and sadness, loving ourselves, taking risks, opening up, etc. but until we change our minds and take tangible action, until we actually just LET go of the fear, sadness, and anger, until we HONOR ourselves, GIVE ourselves A BREAK, LOVE ourselves, RISK getting hurt, OPEN our hearts, STAND our ground, NOTHING is different.

Or maybe we DO change, because as another saying goes “The only thing that is constant is change.” Maybe what happens is that we go down one of two paths.

On the first path, maybe our opinion of ourselves goes down. We judge ourselves even worse than we judged ourselves before. We participate in our own isolation and feelings of low self-worth because not only are we angry, fearful, sad, closed, alone, and down-trodden, we must like it that way, right? That’s what we say to ourselves, because otherwise, wouldn’t we be DOING something? I mean here’s everything we NEED, and we’re not budging an inch. What is WRONG with us, doomed to live around all these happy people when the world WE live in sucks. And it’s trying to actively kill us with all this positive stuff we can’t seem to ever be fully on board with?!

OR

Maybe each one of these is another brick in a road, another light on our path, another member of a swelling choir, a beautiful chorus enlightening us, waking us up, filling us with the air of love and life so that when we’ve heard enough, we finally open our own mouths and join the swell of the song, moving forward, taking a chance, hoping those around us will keep us from going over the cliff edge. Perhaps we become the example that helps the next person who’s been spending time reading success stories, happy sayings, self-help books, talking to their friends, listening to positive podcasts, or printing out and pinning up happy sayings, like

“It’s hard to be satisfied with life, if you’re never satisfied with yourself.”

In the last 48 hours, although I think the decision has largely been coming for awhile, I chose which path I am now going to stay on. I might trip and get trampled or get a sock stuffed in my off-tune-singing mouth, but I’m on it.

Happy New Year to anyone and everyone who reads this. :)

~ cj 2014.01.02

P.S. pos-itive – I separated pos out of positive because POS also means Piece of Sh*t. haha. I made myself giggle with that one…soooo easily entertained.
P.S.S. – Yes, I’m sure I’ll still be writing pain-ridden, suicide-sounding, desperately heartbroken poems and essays…cuz writing them makes me happy. :)

Posted in Blog Post, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Simply Rich

Such a beautiful sunset, rich in simplicity. A few sweet details, more than enough to make it memorable.

It was what I needed most…pure, clean, easy to be present for.

I focused on what it was giving me, literally and figuratively.

And I let it move me through, from where I was then, to where I am now, grateful for its simple, colorful company at the end of a day I’m not entirely sad has set.

~ cj 2013.12.22

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Posted in Essay, Photography | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Shattered

20131208-IMG_198820131208-IMG_200920131208-IMG_1993

Beautiful,
but so very cold
when I touched it.

Misleading,
it turned out
to be nearly hollow.

Everything
inside it
drained out
as soon as I
tipped it a little.

I took some photos
so I would remember,
then shattered it,
and went in search
of something
solid
and warm.

~ cj 2013.12.09

20131208-IMG_2044

This is a block of ice that I pulled out of a little gulley created by the rain in a tarp. It was frozen on the outside, but still full of icy cold liquid on the inside. It was heavier than I expected, so I accidentally poured it all over myself as I was setting it up on the ledge. Icy cold, and now a perfect analogy.

Posted in Photography, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bleeding Freedom

I picked at myself,
mercilessly
digging ragged nails
deep into my flesh,
an endless cycle
of scratches and scabs
and scars.

I needed something,
anything,
to dig into me
deeper than you did.

I made everything bleed,
little places,
small cuts,
secret sores
you could not see,

and gaping gashes
you callously ignored,
even when they turned
everything white
to unbleachable red.

I tried to protect
my sensitive skin
with an armor of anger,
but it was too soft
to defend me
from your
heartless slashings.

And when it all stung
more than I could bear,
I fled from you,
stifling my sobs
in triangular corners,
while you judged
my salty tears
to be unworthy lies.

You busied yourself
handing down
searing sentences
that compelled me
to be who I couldn’t.

My painful pleas
fell forever
on the deaf ears
of a man-boy whose
helpless pity
for his momma’s
manipulative tears
and unreasonable reasons
had long ago
weathered his skin
into impenetrable
callousness.

All those years
covering the sores
we ripped in me,
unable to resist
new wounding or
fend off
toxic infection.

I served my time
as best I could,
my skin tearing
and wearing so thin
there was little
left to gouge,

until one day
stinging from
a nasty gash
I knew would kill me
if I stayed
in this filth,

I crawled into
my corner,
unable to stifle
my ocean
of salty sobs.

I hid in that dark,
digging my
ragged nails
into what was left
of my flesh,
trying to make
something,
anything
dig into me
worse than you had.

And like a miracle,
I found a way
to make the tiniest cut,
with such perfect precision,
that it
finally
bled out my heart,

and freed me.

~ cj 2013.12.03

Posted in 21 And Done, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Looking Glass

Ah, it’s been such a long time
since I’ve seen you here.
How are you?
How have you been?

Oh, good, good.
Just fine.
Going well.
In fact, things
are looking
magnificently up.

I feign earnest
and glance upward
as if magnificently
were actually up there
shining down on me.

I must be going now
I chirp.

I hear this come
from my mouth,
as I begin to slide away
averting my eyes
to the side
so I don’t catch myself.

The Chirp & Slide
I think.
I should make up a dance.
and off my thoughts race,
beating me out the door.

But I won’t let me go.

I stand in my way
and lean straight into
my own line of sight.

And then I continue to speak
while glaring
right
at
me.

Oh, is this so?
Do tell me more.
What have you been up to?
I’m curious where
you’ve been keeping yourself.

I looked for a spell,
but couldn’t find you.

Well, that’s the question,
isn’t it.
What have I been doing?

I begin to think
I’ve cornered myself,
which makes a
prickly sweat rise.

I don’t want to lie
like I’ve been doing
for so long.

So I pause.

And I decide
I’ll tell the truth.

Why not?
I shrug.
There’s a good chance
I won’t hear,
or if I do,
most likely
I won’t care.

You see…
here’s the thing…

…I squirm.
…I clear my throat.

yes, yes, do go on.

Well,
I’ve been so very busy
spending nearly every moment
for quite some time now,
especially it seems
again lately
just doing what
little I can…

And then I quickly whisper…

…(not to give up.)

I try not to slouch
as if some dignity
will help this along

and then,
while I stand there
helplessly failing
to contain myself,
some foolish bravery
blurts out the rest…

…but I’m very often
nearly certain
and to be honest
unspeakably frightened
that it’s going to take
far more to stop myself
from it
than I have left to give.

And then I flee
from the truth
I just told
while I’m still frozen
in the looking glass
eyes wide
mouth open,
from the shock of
the truth I just heard
coming from me.

Perhaps I shouldn’t
have asked.

~ cj 2013.11.28

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

I Can’t Do This Alone

I thought I’d do anything
to be happy with you,
rather than being Alone.

What I really want, though,
is just to be happy,

and there’s nothing
I can do Alone
to be happy with you.

~ cj 2013.11.27

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

My Wish For You

Sisterhood at ZilkerMy Wish For You

May the moments between this one,
when our paths crossed,
and the moment you leave this world,
be filled as often as possible
with child-eyed playful wonder.

~ cj 2013.11.15

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Peace Filled Grace

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Peace-filled grace carries you gently
across my evening sky.

A glow shines from your colorful heart,
soft, undeniable.

Shaped in each moment
by what can be seen,
and by what never will,
you appear,
as you float by,
to be at ease with it all.

No worry about the coming dark,
even though, for now,
you’re on your own.

Soon enough,
my eyes will lose sight of you,
and I cannot know what is next
on this journey for you.

Maybe you’ve been here before,
and you’ve come back now
to show me how to travel
with peace-filled grace
and a colorful glow in my heart,

…at ease with it all,
even when I’m on my own,
and I cannot know what is next
on this journey for me.

~ cj 2013.11.15

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My Proposal

No one else is going to let us carry on, like this, together,
so let’s just carry on together, like this, without them.

~ cj 2013.11.13

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Am Lonely Tonight

I am lonely tonight,
will you stand here for me?
So I can sketch you in colors
of the sunset and sea.

I’ll tell you a story
or write a breaking heart poem
if you’ll sit here with me
so I’m not all alone.

I’ll share some sweet chocolate
and pour us glasses of wine
so we can raise a fond toast
while you’re make-believe mine.

Let’s wait until dark,
before we walk on my land,
so you won’t see my tears
while you’re holding my hand.

I’ll find some matches
and get candles lit
while we pad our tales
with interesting bits.

I’ll laugh at your jokes
and always show you a smile
I’ll be who you want,
if you’ll stay for awhile.

I’ll make a fire
And we’ll watch it burn
While I open my heart
for little return.

I’ll play my piano
in the glowing red light.
This song is called Longing,
and it’s perfect tonight.

I’ll invite you upstairs
to my deck for the view
Then quietly ask
May I lay down with you?

I’ll look shyly away
so you can’t awkwardly see
how I dread lonely nights
spent with no one but me.

I’ll prove that I’m worthy,
while I continue to grin,
if you’ll kiss my mouth
and forgive me my sin.

I’ll give myself up
and get down on my knees
And I’ll let you touch me
however you please.

The release that I give you
will soothe you to sleep,
and you can rise in the dawn,
with no promise to keep.

As you drift off to dream
you’re holding me tight,
while I lay awake aching
Cuz I am still lonely tonight.

~ cj 2013.11.11

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , | 5 Comments

My Man In The Moon

2013.10.20 - Won Moon of the Day on 2013.11.10
What I felt when I took this photo is still with me when I look at it now.

First thing in the morning, the sun was rising while the full moon was setting. The sunrise was beautiful to be sure, and for a moment, I felt torn between the two. But only for a moment.

I admire the sun and all the beautiful performances it puts on, dancing across the day stage of the sky, playing with the clouds from sunrise to sundown. But I can’t look directly at it without being blinded. I can’t see in the glare, so I miss things. And if I stay too long in it, I get burned. I end up connecting with the clouds instead of the source of their light, because I know I can never get close to it.

When faced with the choice, it didn’t take long to reason it out. I knew I’d have more time with the sun that day. And I quickly realized I’d have far more opportunities for sunrises than I would for moments where the full moon was departing at the same time like this.

So…the moon. Ah, the moon; I’d made my decision. I turned to face him, a mysterious man I’ve always been attracted to, but with whom I’d only recently made friends. He has a singular, striking beauty. And there he was in that moment, showing his wide open face.

You’d think he put on a fairly standard show each month, colors limited by his outside light source, because he gives off none of his own. I always imagined him as having just a few faces, a few phases. Up at night, down in the morning. Once in awhile I’d see him in the middle of the day, and call him Paper Moon. But I wouldn’t let myself ponder his presence. ‘Thumbnail Moon’ was my nickname for him when he was crescent. Sure, I’ll admit, when he was full a few times? I let my guard down, and howled at Barton Springs Pool, with the others that loved him.

If I looked at him for more than a few moments, I always found myself filled with the ache of longing for something I’d likely never experience. I was envious of the fortunate few who got to approach him in the past and jealous of the even fewer who got to touch. It made my heart pound to imagine, so I resisted these thoughts, and I put him out of my mind.

But in my new life, I am committed to the pleasure of focusing on what attracts me. And one night, there he was. So I looked. And I gave in to my attraction.

By learning how to take photos when he’s around, I slowly started getting to know him. And for the past few months, I’ve been indulgently enthralled with him. Perhaps you’ll understand why, and see what a perfect fit he is for my life, if I spend the time telling you who he is to me, and what I’ve learned from him.

There is so much more to him than I imagined. Even though he’s closer to me, he’s not as predictable as the sun. He doesn’t blind me by shining in my face. Instead, he plays a gentle game, always delightfully fun. And I find it deliciously tantalizing that he’s going to require some time to get to know.

Maybe he doesn’t get to be the one who determines when it’s day or night, but he rises and sets on his own terms.

And while he’s at it, he changes what he looks like, too.

Sometimes he’s out in the middle of the day, split in half and seemingly transparent.

Other times he glows so bright at night, I can turn off my headlights on the last few roads home and still see my way clearly, despite the shadows he casts through the trees.

I like when he seems to wrap clouds around himself like a warm brownish blanket.

A few days ago, he looked like he was exhaling as he was falling to the ground.

I enjoy him when he’s misty mysterious, barely showing his face, and appearing in spurts in my photos, as if he’d hopped across the sky.

I even love him when he’s moody, scowling behind dark clouds. And of course I understand completely when he disappears during a storm.

And more than anything, my heart skips a beat, when I catch him, as I did in this photo. There he was, kissing the sky goodbye, sneaking out like a blushing lover, in the first light of dawn.

One of the things I love about the moon is that I can see not only who he is, but what else he illuminates with his gentle glow. Sometimes it takes a bit to see what he’s willing to show me, but if I look long enough with my eye, or my camera, it always appears. What shows up is always interesting and often quite surprising.

I value how, most of the time, he uses his light to enhance other things around him, rather than overpowering them. He doesn’t force his way through things, or burn what stands in his way. In fact, often his light makes ordinary things shine with a unique beauty I wouldn’t have noticed they had, without him highlighting it for me.

Occasionally he’s so bright, he washes out the surrounding stars, and I can’t see much else. But I love those moments, too, because he shares the stage with other things that walk out in front of him, using his brightness to create silhouettes of things like clouds or birds. And it grants me an opportunity to play along, because I can put what I’d like to see in front of him…branches, or maybe buildings…and I can see just their shape.

I photographed him once recently, when he politely shared the sky with Venus. They looked like they were walking together towards the horizon, illuminating everything around them on their way out. What a gentleman he was; he let her go first. I grinned at that thought.

Getting to know him has opened up a beautiful new world for me. At first, I thought perhaps I would read about him to learn more; I like to learn. But isn’t he, by revealing his mysteries slowly teaching me not to race to the destination? By learning by observing him, I can enjoy the journey.

Then I thought perhaps I would start a journal to analyze him; I like to understand. Where does he rise in the sky, what does he look like each time, when does he show his face? I like answers. But why analyze him and take away all the mystery?

So I decided to just leave things as they are, to go at their own pace. Like I’m learning to appreciate in other areas of my life, I’m going to sit back and appreciate the mystery of him. I will delight in the memorable moments, like I had taking the photo at the top of this post…moments when he gently, slowly, patiently and sometimes surprisingly, reveals himself and his world to me.

May I say more about the photo at the top of this piece? I’d gotten up early to see him leave with the rise of the sun. I was pretty sure he was going to be there, because I’d had the delightful surprise of seeing him there the previous day. And there he was. Sure he’s mysterious, but I told myself perhaps he couldn’t resist an encore, knowing how much I’d enjoy seeing him again.

It became an easy choice to turn my back on the sun. I stood facing him, with all my attention. I held my breathe, hoping with my whole heart the bird flying all around would do me the favor of crossing his handsome face before he set. As you can see he did, and fully prepared, I took his picture. And then I took more, enjoying each moment I had with him immensely, as he gracefully and quietly said goodbye for the day, allowing the sun to finish blazing its way onstage.

That was a treat of a morning I won’t soon forget. Right at midnight last night, I found out this photo is the second one of my moon photos that won a Moonlight of The Day feature on Instagram. While I was sitting there basking in the fun glow of it, the brightness of the parallels between my life and the moon rose in my awareness like a full moon coming up over the horizon.

I realized that while I’m slowly getting to know the moon, and learning how to photograph him, that I’m also learning the value of slowing down and paying attention to other things in my life that I’m attracted to and care about. Doing this in both areas is revealing things to me that I was moving too fast before to see.

Waiting patiently for revelations, coming to slow understandings…learning, for the first time, how to walk, or even just stand still in the face of it, instead of running all the time…the graceful beauty, the gentle intimacy, the warmth without getting burned…the explorations that are possible when there is no fear of a harsh light glaring down…have all been extraordinary parts of the path I’ve been on lately.

And I’ve been stunned by the generosity of others willing to reflect light in the way the moon does, so I am able to see existing silhouettes or have an opportunity to create my own. Those moments, these lessons, that generosity, like the moment I took this photo, are unforgettable.

My Man In The Moon has been gently and beautifully revealing what’s there for me to see. When I believe, and I patiently wait, it’s definitely worth it.

What a perfect symbol. As it slowly reveals itself to me, I see more brightly every day how the treasure of my new life, and the wonderful people in it, are even deeper and richer from the moments spent waiting. It’s always interesting, often surprising, and definitely worth it.

~ cj 2013.11.10

As you can imagine, I have many more photos of the moon than this. I hope you enjoy the ones I’ve selected here. Some of them were mentioned above, in this piece.

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Leaving The Vets’ Alone

He bent down with a few scraps of toweling
to wipe up an accidental puddle,
bringing him eye level
with one of my tail-wagging doggies.

He patted her and smiled just a little,
then murmured something to her
that I didn’t understand.

He saw me watching and straightened up,
still trying to smile just a little.

He was gripping a sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

Our eyes met, and he knew I’d seen.
I imagined murmuring some bit of kindness
but my words felt zipped up inside me,
so I just smiled back a little instead.

He seemed uncomfortably torn between
leaving the vets’ alone
and desperately wanting to be
anywhere he could stop
this damn southern smiling.

I saw the pain well up in his eyes
as he finally left,
forgetting that puddle and those towels.

I had nothing left to do,
so I followed him out the door.

When we got to our cars,
he watched me struggle with my doggies,
while I watched him,
and struggled to find my words.

We were both still trying to smile,
but I looked away from his pain.

I didn’t want him to see
that my smile of comfort
had changed to gratitude
for my own momentary fortune.

And I didn’t want to think about
the devastation I’ll feel when
I am leaving the vets’ alone
gripping my own sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

I climbed into my car,
and held tightly to one of my
tail-wagging doggies,
murmuring kindness to her
that she didn’t understand.

When I looked up again
I saw him climbing into his car,
still holding tightly
to what was left of his smile,
and that sandwich baggie
with an empty little collar
zipped up inside.

~ cj 2013.10.26

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Last Pound of Flesh

I have gone hungry already,
and I will go hungry again
because you thieved from me,
wrapping what you took
in juicy lies
that you thickly
layered on me and then them,
but mostly on you,
buttering them up,
so you could stand
to eat them yourself.

And now, you are getting the
last pound of flesh
you can take from me.

I tape it shut
in bloody butcher paper
as I am forced to let you
stop by one last time,
coldly sauntering up
to snatch it
off my nearly empty counter,
as if it were nothing other
than your given right
to thieve my last morsel
without paying a shekel of due.

All your curdled
self-loathing
projected toward me,
contorting the truth
so it looks like my fault
you’ve stolen from me,
as if to convince
I should starve.

It is just as well;
My mouth is too dry to eat
and my lips are sealed shut,
clamped down in
a teeth-grinding grimace,
my gut churning
with anger and ache.

I lose my appetite
as I remember those meals
when my foolish heart
gorged on misplaced fatty trust
and sugar-rot love.

By time I discovered
your poisonous lies,
you’d helped yourself
to so much
I had little left
to protect me,
so your hatred-sharp blade
forced me to
cut off some more.

And now, here I am,
hoping I don’t see you,
as you snatch away
that last heavy pound.

I have gone hungry already,
and I will go hungry again,
but my gut wants to live
through this moment.

So I insistently whisper
that this is the ransom
I have to pay for my freedom
and no matter how bloody,
it must be done.

And then I stand up,
and I push myself forward.

I cut off that last
pound of flesh,
what else can I do?
And I lay it out
so you can take it
from me.

And then I gather
the strength I have left,
and I cut my ties to you, too,
a ruinous thief escaping
into a dark night of lies
greedily devouring
his ill-gotten treasure.

And once you’ve taken
my last pound of flesh
leaving a severed mess
in your wake,
even though I am tired
and trying to calm my empty gut,
it will finally be quiet
so I can rest here alone.

I have gone hungry already,
and I will go hungry again.
But healing will come
and I will grow back
all you’ve taken from me.

And when I have recovered
from this bitter end to it all
I will rise up
to dine in the sweet peace
of my freedom,
this last pound of flesh
a ransom I went hungry to pay,
worth it to reclaim
my appetite for life.

~ 2013.10.12

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A Way To Be Free Of The Mess

It’s time to clean up
and put away
everything that hasn’t
already run out or broken,
so I can be free
of this mess.

I always think
I’ll replace
what’s run out,
and fix all
that is broken,
as soon
as I find the time,
or as soon
as I can afford it
again.

But for now I cannot
because my life
is a mess,
and I am what’s broken.

So while I clean up
and put away
what I have today,
overwhelmed by all
that is broken or gone,
I begin to think of it
another way.

If I fix and replenish
won’t I just have more
that isn’t broken or gone
to clean up and put away?
And won’t I also have more
that can run out or break?

So maybe I won’t
fix whatever is broken
or get more of whatever
is gone.

Because if I don’t
for long enough
until everything
runs out or breaks,
I won’t have to clean up
or put away any more,
and I will be free of the mess.

~ 2013.10.12

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Consuming Moments

The darkness consumed the last light of the day yesterday, as it exited in a mass of fiery yellow-orange clouds. The color spread everywhere across the sky, eventually turning pink, and then grey, while I captured what I could with my camera. I was riveted, as I often am, unable to take my eyes off it. But no matter how much I didn’t want to let its beauty out of my sight, I was unable to stop it, even for a moment, from continuing towards nightfall.

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I thought of how a sunset is the flaming out of a day. Its exits the stage of time, leaving behind its singular day in history, its unique exiting footprint, never to be exactly repeated. Sometimes it gracefully glows as it quietly departs. I imagine it royally blushing as if it can’t help itself.

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Other times it seems to huff out in a roiled, but playful, jumble of varied colors and clouds. On particularly moody days, it stubbornly scowls its grey disapproval. And then there are the exits like last night, joyous, and colorful; when it twirls off stage in an insistently flashy blaze of glory. It spreads its arms out in every direction, trying to make sure when it’s forced to go, it won’t soon be forgotten.


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But no matter what its method, soon enough it is always consumed completely by an impatient night, which will not be deterred from arriving. The next morning, a fresh day that’s never been seen before, relentlessly pushes its own moments forward. I don’t know where it gets its energy, but it shows up filled with the juicy promise of time…time…where everything happens and anything can. It often arrives with its own glow, bursting out of its seams and rolling the night back….and then it immediately takes up the task of continuing the cycle, consuming itself moment by moment, as it marches across the stage to its own exit coming soon.

Despite my efforts to be present, to live in some moment, I am unable to stop this helpless consumption of time. No amount of meditation, or conversely, cursing, makes me strong enough to grab onto even a single moment of it. Perhaps I can create an illusion for myself to the contrary, but the truth is, I cannot possess it for even a second. I am forced to consume the next, because this one has expired, and the next, and the next, until I am one day no longer aware of my consumption of moments…until I am no longer consuming those moments…and until, at some undefined time in the future, there may be no one remaining to consume them. Even then, moments will continue to consume themselves, relentlessly…just as they do now, as they do while I’m writing, as they do while you’re reading.

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I do not know when, or why, I started thinking of time in terms of moments being consumed instead of as simply ‘passing’. It feels more honest. What if I hoped it would create a new urgency in me, at a time when I found myself often hoping they’d hurry up and go away, wishing they’d eat themselves alive on their way out. For a long time, I struggled to care about so many of those moments, that perhaps changing my view of their disappearance was an attempt to compel myself to maximize each one of them, even the ones I don’t like when they’re here. I don’t remember the origin of this change in my view, but it has been in my mind this way for at least a few years. Sometimes thinking about it this way stays quietly in the recesses, and other times it fills every inch of my awareness with its insistent truths and frightening ramifications.

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As I stood there in the silence that surrounded me during the sunset last night, I will admit, I felt quite challenged and saddened by some of both the unexpected and expected moments my day had been filled with. But I was also humbled and grateful for some treasured moments when friends came forward in different ways, reached out, showed up at just the right moment, and gave me some of their own moments as an offering of connection and care. They made the rest of the moments more bearable.

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The moments I played some new music, the moments I loved on my doggies…the moments my work went well…they are moments I loved. They are moments I understand deeply were served up and had to be consumed along with the others I wasn’t so fond of. And then the sunset had its own glorious moments, making up for what it could with a grand display and then making a most extraordinary exit, showing off its brilliance as it consumed its last moment on the way off stage.

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I spent the remaining moments, before I found my dreams last night, writing my previous piece about the bird of paradise in my garden, and reliving the sunset by looking at the pictures I took.

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In the background, though, on a deeper level, for some reason, I kept catching myself thinking about consumption in a variety of ways. It kept me up quite late, and when I began this piece today, I certainly intended to give my hands the space to pull what I was thinking about it out of my head, so I could look at it more tangibly, and perhaps get it off my mind.

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But what I wrote to start with is completely different than what you’re reading now. What you’re reading now didn’t show up until the moment I went to put what I thought was going to be an opening paragraph containing a brief explanation of why consumption has been on my mind. It was going to preface a list I wrote describing why I continually consume, why all of us do. Obviously that’s not how this piece turned out.

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I will save that list and my consumption musings for another moment in time. Instead I will trust that this is the right thing to post now, because what’s most important for me to wake up to, to process, to write down, grasp and sometimes share, seems to have a way of showing up for me at what usually turns out to be the right moment if I let it…just like my friends do.

And often, once I get what I’m thinking about and want to say out of my head, I discover I understand it better and am able to accept letting go of whatever there’s no point in hanging onto, whatever I cannot solve. Hanging onto those things is like trying to hang onto my moments.

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When I read where my writing unexpectedly took me today, I’m aware that I haven’t discovered anything new. I know I’m not communicating anything people don’t already know at the core of their existences. It’s not a new concept; but having a strong visual in my mind supports me on my own journey as I continue to try to accept, with all its ramifications, that time is a precious, non-renewable resource, marching moment by moment across a stage.

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Time is the most critical resource being consumed by each of us, and while I can’t do anything about this consumption, I do want to make the most of what moments I have.

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What if my moments line up in such a way, that I exit my life’s stage in a blaze of extraordinary glory? At the very least, I’d like to say Tata! in a most colorful way. And between now and then, I want to live in such a way that when I’m out of moments, I’ve left good memories behind for, and been valuable to, the people whose lives have intersected with mine. I want my arms to have reached out far enough in a meaningful way, that it’s not soon forgotten, just like I won’t soon forget the sunset from last night.

~ cj 2013.10.09

20131008-IMG_8258I hope the moments you consumed reading this, and looking at the photos were memorable for you. And speaking of friends, in case you didn’t already know, the moments of connections with my friends and the world around me are really the moments I cherish the most. I am always, always humbled when you take the time to read what I write and reach out to respond.

 

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Bird of Paradise

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A bird of paradise solar-powered light was one of the first things I bought when I reclaimed my garden, a particularly painful place for me. For several years, I avoided it because it made my heart ache and caused me to question whether me leaving my marriage and my previous life was misguided and mistaken. It was a place of regret, where I’d stumble in my conviction that this was the direction to go.

At some point, I managed to realize that it didn’t matter whether I regretted it or not. It was what I had chosen, and there was no going back. And then I reminded myself over and over that when I chose to leave my marriage, I chose it because I couldn’t stand the darkness of what was going on in my life anymore. And what has happened since I’d left it was continued proof that I’d made the correct decision. Re-evaluating, looking back, was just keeping my face turned towards that darkness I had rightfully chosen to leave behind. I was facing away from the light I’d said I wanted to find.

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Eventually I began to turn around, look out, find myself. And although I would have never initially said it mattered, one of the most important parts of that process is turning out to be reclaiming my home, my space. It was and still is a brutally slow process. There have been so many setbacks, from little potholes to massive unexpected canyons along the way, that most days, including today, I’m still unsure if I’ll ever get past all of it.

But even if I never get past all of it, avoiding places in my home and heart is going to narrow the chances of it. So as I can, I’ve been traversing what I find I’m avoiding. And at one point, that included my garden.

This past spring, right after a grueling mediation and before my divorce was final, I decided it was time to give new life a fighting chance to blossom. I wanted to dig out the weeds that were choking everything in my life, and I decided the garden was the perfect symbolic place to do that. I wanted to sit in peace back there, and I hoped that doing so, would somehow bring me more peace in the rest of my life. And I enjoyed getting dirty and sweaty working it all out.

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One day while I was out there planting new plants, and setting up ways for them to get the water they needed, I was looking at the butterfly garden decoration my (now ex) husband had put in. I wasn’t ready to give it up, even thought it hurt to look at it. But I did decide I wanted a light to illuminate that area. It would take attention away from the butterfly, and it would make it brighter when I wanted to be still and relax.

So I went shopping for one, and the bird of paradise solar light is the one I bought. It wasn’t an extravagant purchase, but I liked it because it was unique. A bird in paradise, I remember thinking; I hoped that description would eventually be true. And when I looked at the picture on the box, it gave me so much pleasure that I resisted throwing the box away, even after I’d installed the light.

At the same time I’ve been getting past everything I discovered was going on, and all that’s happened since, I’ve been trying to transition to a new life. I’m hoping to starting an additional career soon, and I’ve got some hobbies I’m extremely passionate about, including music, writing, and photography.

One of the things I’ve become fascinated with is night photography – leaving the eye of the camera open for so long, it eventually shows you what’s really there. And it usually shows you what there is to see in an unexpected, beautiful light. When I’m standing there, with the shutter wide open, waiting from moments to minutes for the camera to find what is there, I always think about how similar it is to what I’ve learned it’s important to do; keep my eyes open and truly look for that’s there, even when it’s not obvious at first. And I’ve discovered that often when I do see it, it shows up in an unexpected and often beautiful light.

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I don’t think about what’s inspiring me to take a picture. I see it, I take it, and then somtimes later I get more understanding of why I was drawn to it. Besides photographing in the dark, I love photographing known lights at night as well. The moon, streetlights, city lights, reflections off the water, building lights shining on other buildings, and most recently, spotlights at a local music festival….all of these have been showing up in my pictures. With the lights at night, I think it’s my photographic way of saying that seeking the light, facing it, leaving my eyes open towards it, is how I’m going to find my way through a dark part of my life.

So back to my garden. I’ve tried a few times to take pictures of this bird of paradise solar-powered, take-my-space back garden light, but I just couldn’t get it right. And I didn’t want to stay back there long enough to truly see what there was to see, so I’d mostly given up. I saw it had turned on every night when I returned through the garden after taking sunset pictures. But I just let it go.

That changed last night. Finally I was able to sit there long enough to find my way on the camera and to patiently wait for the pictures to reflect what I saw in that light.

I’ve been divorced for six months today, and today is the last interaction I’m legally obligated to have with my (now ex) husband. What an interesting coincidence that, in the same way I’m learning how to capture the light with my camera, even when it’s dark, I’m figuring out how to face forward so I can find the light in my life. It’s unique and it’s beautiful, and just like that bird in paradise solar-powered lamp, it’s all and completely my own.

~ cj 2013.10.08

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Cold Front

cold front

When the clouds moved in,
I wanted to wallow in,
complain about,
how suddenly chilly I was.

I wasn’t prepared,
it caught me unaware;
I’d left my coat at home.

When the cold descended
I ached to whine
about my frosty fingers.

They didn’t want to wiggle
when I told them to.

But then I looked up,
past my bitter misery
and discovered
the beautiful light
that cold front brought with it.

~ cj 2013.10.01

As always, there is more to this than meets the eye. Sometimes the weather going bad is perfectly beautiful if you can just lift your head to appreciate it. Last night, when this happened, was such a perfect moment to experience that weather, and be reminded of this lesson.

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A Fun Piece of Team Work

My housemate and I hung out most of the weekend, running errands.

When we started the day on Saturday, I was hyper aware that I never just hang with someone like that, running errands, and “having a day”. We’ve been living together since January, and I definitely consider him a very close friend. But we’ve mostly done our chores and taken care of things on our own until this weekend.

turtle in the road

down to the wire

clouds in the air

I will admit, I truly miss that kind of easy day-to-day do-things-together connection with someone, and I’m hoping we do it again. It made errands more enjoyable, and as it turned out, it unexpectedly gave me some fun memories, too.

water in the park
At one point, we went for a walk at Zilker, both motivating the other to get a workout.

new heart rate monitor
He’d already helped me work through a decision about a heart rate monitor watch.

purple wheat plant

While we were walking, I showed him the other side of the Longhorn Dam. People fish with poles and nets there, and I’d had fun the last time I’d looked over that wall. I took a lot of photos, which thankfully doesn’t seem to bother him.

fisherman throwing his net

net in the air

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net hitting the water

net hitting the water

net swinging

crawfish he caught

fisherman giving his catch awaysteps

Then he sat down on some steps I’d noticed.

Branch dangling, rock in the air

I looked up and saw a branch dangling from a tree in the sun.

Rock near the water

He picked up a rock and tried to knock the branch out. I was pretty sure it was up there on fishing line. I admired his persistence at attempting a task that seemed unlikely to succeed. I started taking pictures of the rocks mid-air. He found more rocks.

Then he suggested I take pictures of them hitting the water. I didn’t get what he meant at first; I didn’t see how I could get the tree and the water in the same shot, so I clarified. He just meant the water. He got bigger rocks. He told me when he was throwing. I started shooting the water splashes.

Rock on impact

last splash

He managed to hit the branch eventually, which made it swing. I was able to get some cool sun-reflective pictures of the fishing line holding it up there.

fishing line dangling

As you can see above, I got some great shots of the rocks mid-air, too, and some most excellent shots of the splash where the rocks hit the water.

Eventually, he ran out of rocks, and we needed to continue our walk, which was the reason we’d come out there. I laughed at the holes left in the ground, where he’d picked up larger rocks.

rock holes

rock hole in the ground

Pretty quickly, I realized what a gift that time was. It was completely unplanned, and it was an absolute memorable blast. I got to do something I loved (taking pictures) and got to try something new that would have been hard to do by myself (getting pics of the rocks mid-air and the water splashing).

We laughed, and I, for one, forgot about everything else for awhile.

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We worked together nicely as a team. I saw the stairs, he sat down to enjoy it. I saw the branch, he tried to hit it with the rocks. It didn’t matter whether he got the branch or not; it was just fun. He suggested the water splash pictures, and when I didn’t understand, he clarified nicely. He helped create the opportunity, while I took the pictures.

yellow flowers in a blue sky

It was a nice experience to work fluidly with someone when both people were trying to make a difference, without a bit of thought about ego or getting credit. It was also completely unplanned with no need to control any of it. I’m in the middle of writing about how little control we actually have over our lives, so it was a timely experience.

bee in a flower

Yes, it was just for fun, but the wonderful experience of the teamwork, and the complete spontaneity made it quite memorable. The whole day, with all its moments, including this one, still has me smiling now, two days later as I’m looking through the pictures. I hope they’ve made you smile, too.

~ cj 2013.09.23

Posted in Essay, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Golden Beauty In The Rain

yellow flower 3

These yellow flowers have shown up in my garden, growing wildly without my permission, without being planted there. They are far more beautiful than what I’d put in that spot.

yellow flower 4

I’ve certainly learned that I miss beautiful moments in life if I always try to control what surrounds me, so I left them to do as they pleased.

yellow flower 1

Over the past few weeks, they’ve rewarded me with a good deal of unexpected joy. I’ve headed out to my garden more often than I was, just to see them. Their sunny disposition is making a garden I still struggle with emotionally, a happier place to visit. I like to take pictures of them, and they seem to look their best when I show up with my camera in the waning light of the day.

yellow flower 2

This afternoon, it was raining hard. I found myself worrying about how they were doing, and then felt compelled enough to check on them. So carrying my umbrella, and my camera, I headed out to see.

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The rain has impacted them; I see that immediately. They are each bent, with their heads down for now, protecting what’s precious inside. I noticed their petals have some creases and folds, most likely from the pelting they’ve taken.

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The rainwater is dripping off them and soaking into the ground beneath, a gift they will appreciate tomorrow.

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And maybe it’s my imagination because I want this to be so, but they seemed more beautiful than usual, their pretty green backs holding them up on delicate, fuzzy green stems.

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I look closer, and stand back up smiling. I’m quite positive they’re shining more golden, colored by the weight of what they’ve gone through.

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I head back inside, because for now, there’s not much I or they can do, but hunker down. We cannot control the rain. And the truth is, they know and I know, the rain was needed, even though we’re both finding it a bit harsh to survive in.

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Maybe tomorrow, the sun will shine again, and we can begin to find uses for the gifts of this downpour. I will hope for them, and for myself, that we make the best of what we have.

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But if it chooses to rain on, I know in my heart, at least for now, these unexpected beauties and I have what it takes to weather the storm.

~ cj 2013.09.20

Posted in Essay, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Magnetically Drawn To Sharing

The Sun Before it Set - 2013.09.16

I am finding myself magnetically drawn to sharing pictures I took on Saturday evening of the two accidents I was trapped by, for an hour, on I-10. I want to share my thoughts on this magnetic, somewhat morbid, urge, although I haven’t decided whether or not to share the pictures. I am hoping by time I’m done writing this, I will have some clarity on the matter.

May I tell you what happened? This may take awhile, but I hope you find it worth the time you’ll spend reading it.

I was driving from Austin to Houston, a trip which should have taken 3 hours, but took me 6.5 this time. I make the trip regularly, and I often catch myself paying attention to things other than exactly where I’m going.

I was in a creative space until right before these accidents, lolly-gagging and stopping along the way to take pictures. I was busy wondering what was going on inside of me that I’d created the foundations for around 6 poems and essays already on that trip, after creating another one at about 3am that morning. I’m always creative on Friday afternoon, so I was noticing that I was a day late. I was chewing on and processing a large life ah-ha that had unfolded in a text conversation with a close friend that afternoon, making my departure from Austin several hours late, but well worth the delay. And I was making the observation that none of the pieces that I’d just created drafts for were related to that afternoon’s ah-ha, despite realizing already what a pivotal ah-ha this was going to turn out to be. In summary, my day was pretty intense and my attention was quite distracted from my destination, before these accidents happened.

So now it was sunset, the time of day when, even more so than normal, my attention is absolutely, completely riveted on the sky above me, to the exclusion of nearly everything else that isn’t related somehow to it or its reflection.

A minute before the accident, I’d pulled over on the side of the road to take a picture of the sky, as the sun was getting ready to set. It was already beautiful, and I knew it was going to be a good one. I was only pulled over for a few moments before I got back on the road. Very, very soon after I pulled back on the highway, I saw what turned out to be the tail end of a horrible car accident. I witnessed the remainder of the rollover and the car stopping.

I was suddenly aware of car parts, interior content, and debris flying all over the road. I was scared, but somewhere selfish inside me, I saw that I was going to be trapped by this and it would cause a worse delay in my arrival in Houston. So I followed the truck in front of me right off the road, down an embankment, and onto the frontage road. Then I stopped just past the car accident, where I didn’t think I’d be trapped by the ramifications of it.

Quite a few people ran to the car, and the police were there in record time. I did not go over there, and even right then, I knew why I didn’t. I’ve been the primary witness to more fatal car accidents than seems reasonable, and I felt the memories of every one of those sear painfully and immediately in my heart.

Then it occurred to me to do what I always do…take pictures. So that’s what I did.

I have spent a lot of thought cycles trying to figure out my obsession for taking pictures. I am not sure I’m completely clear, but I do know that, at least in part, my pictures are meant to bear witness and help me remember what I’ve done and where I’ve been. And surprisingly often, they serve unexpected purposes beyond what I think they’re going to.

Several realizations have already come from my picture taking on that trip. First, me pulling over may have kept me from being part of the first accident. There is no way to know. And it’s also crossed my mind that perhaps if I HAD been involved, the person who was in the accident would have been more or less impacted than they were. There is no way to know that either.

Second, my pictures are a disturbing combination of the chaos in front of me on the ground, and the beautiful sunset unfolding, a sunset absent of care about what was happening on that ground. I specifically avoided showing the traffic or the accident in the majority of those sunset pictures, as if joining the sky in a desperate attempt to ignore what was happening on the ground and my helplessness to alter its course.

I also wonder sometimes if my picture taking enhances what I’m experiencing, or conversely, helps me avoid being fully present. Repeated pictures of exactly the same thing show there was something far more than a desire to simply record it. Was I trying to force myself to stay focused?

I think in this case, it’s fairly accurate to conclude from the combination of my pictures, intermixed with repeated pictures of the same thing, that I was struggling to fully accept the realities and the possibilities of what was unfolding in front of me. I can see myself giving in to avoiding it, intermixed strongly with a determined attempt to continue facing it.

Third, because I think I need to see it in writing, I want to admit here that I didn’t see the full accident. I remembered pulling off the road for the pre-sunset picture, but I was baffled until last night about why I didn’t see the full accident. I should have; I’d been back on the road long enough. And I was absolutely close enough at the moment I DID begin seeing it, to have witnessed the entire thing.

My pictures cleared up my confusion. My pictures showed me exactly what I was doing when I should have been facing forward. I was taking pictures in my rear view mirror of what I’d just pulled over to take pictures of a moment earlier…the sun beginning its descent behind me. Besides realizing what a close call that created for me, I am significantly dismayed right now at how proud I often am for seeing things others don’t. I am embarrassed at taking compliments, as if I have this talent. Perhaps I do, but the cost of that is missing far more important things I can make no excuse for missing. What a brilliant example of the dangers of looking behind for too long, and at important moments when we are best served facing forward.

I’d like to return to sharing the events of that hour. I was taking pictures of the sky, taking pictures of the first accident. A policeman approached to ask what I was doing. I said “Watching.” Then after a little hesitation, I said “Taking pictures.” Then after a little more hesitation, I added “I have to.” He said “I wish you wouldn’t.” We looked at each other. I said “I wish I wouldn’t either.” Another moment. I added “I won’t take pictures while you’re getting the person out of the car.” He said “Okay”, looked at me a moment later, and then walked away.

I wanted to yell after him, ask him why they weren’t taking the person out of the car, why everyone was standing around, cleaning up the street and talking to each other. But I was too afraid to ask. I reasoned that if the person were dead, they wouldn’t be letting other cars and trucks crawl past the scene would they?

This drew my attention down the road, where I noticed that now there was a gap in the traffic jam caused by the first accident. Then I saw a man had driven down the wrong lane on the frontage road. He stopped in the middle of the road, jumped out and ran toward the policeman who was just talking to me, gesturing wildly towards that gap. The policeman got in his car immediately, racing down the road towards the gap. Soon, emergency vehicles were approaching from many directions.

At some point, another man pulled over on the frontage road, got out and donned his volunteer fireman apparel. I took pictures of him, too, while I worshipped his heroic willingness to approach the mess I imagined he was about to witness.

As I zoomed in on that gap in the jam, I saw there was a second accident. A car was firmly under the body of a semi.

Then I hesitated. I wasn’t sure what to record, what to witness, what I was willing to see. Part of me wanted to drive off, to run. I was in front of the first accident. I could escape. Part of me couldn’t move from what I was already watching; I was back to being nearly frantic because they still weren’t getting the person out of the vehicle from the first accident. And part of me needed to see what had happened down the road. That part won, for several reasons. So I got in my car and went back down the frontage road, now putting myself between the two accidents instead of past the first one. I’d trapped myself in the mess, when I could have escaped.

The vehicle from the second accident was extremely damaged, too. The drivers’ side was completely collapsed, and by all rights, that person should have been injured. Instead, the young man was standing on the side of the road with the driver of the truck, talking to someone on the phone who probably cared deeply about him. He didn’t appear to have a scratch on him, although he was clearly shaken. I wonder if he realizes how another accident was so differently playing out just up the road from him.

A tow truck came and pulled the second car out from beneath the truck. The tow truck, the semi, the police, with the car driver, moved up towards the first accident, but everyone else was still blocked. Then they blocked the frontage road, right in front of me. And that’s when we all found out why no one was pulling the driver from the car. They were injured beyond transport by ambulance to a local hospital. A helicopter came right across that beautiful sunset-filled sky, landing right on the road. They quickly moved the driver to the helicopter, and it headed off in the other direction towards Houston within moments. I continued taking pictures.

Another tow truck came. The drivers from the two tow trucks worked together to get that first accident’s vehicle on that second tow truck. It took some doing, but they got it. I continued taking pictures.

People were free to go. I stayed behind and continued taking pictures. I zoomed in, I zoomed out. I was riveted, immobile. Eventually, I got in my car, compelled by knowing my friend was waiting for me in Houston, and compelled by my hatred of being trapped, which I suspected I would be by all the traffic now in front of me.

The trip didn’t continue problem-free. Outside of Katy, a large number of emergency vehicles were coming down the frontage road. I was now in 6 lanes of traffic, and saw they were all slowing down. I could have exited right when I saw this, but I made the split second decision to stay put, convincing myself there was no way 6 lanes would all be blocked. They were. It took 45 minutes more to crawl 4 miles past another accident, which I was selfishly thankful was cleared by time I got to the place where it’d happened.

Finally, finally, I got to the exit I was supposed to take. I took it…and was so busy being relieved that I distractedly turned the wrong way onto a 4 lane one way road. 4 lanes of headlights glaring at me. 4 lanes of people blaring their horns at me, likely familiar with people like me, not paying attention to where they’re going. I turned safely around, and managed to arrive where I was going, 6.5 hours after I’d left Austin.

It’s been a bit odd since I arrived. That trip exhausted me. It upsets me still, and the pictures I took made it worse, even though I think I needed to see what was in them. At the same time, I feel quite fortunate because I see all the intersections in time and space that could have changed the outcome of this to something way beyond a 3.5 hour delay.

So back to my desire to share these pictures. I do understand it, now that I’ve told this story, now that I’ve thought this through. It isn’t that I need the attention. I can find plenty of other, more pleasurable ways of getting that, if that’s what I seek. I’d rather make you smile than trouble your heart or bring tears to your eyes.

I’m not particularly interested in shocking anyone. I’m guessing my general behavior and attitudes are enough to accomplish that anyways.

I’m not inclined to warn others about what can happen to them if they make a mistake, nor am I in the mood to preach to others about how lucky they are that this wasn’t them. We all know that, don’t we. And we get our own reminders of it all the time, without me pointing it out.

Maybe this story accomplishes a little bit of all of the above reasons…but I think the reason is really a combination of other things.

I believe the reason I want to share them is the same reason I shared the stories of my marriage falling apart, my dad passing away, losing my grandma. I think, even though I wasn’t involved in these accidents, that I was still hurt, jarred, and frightened by them, because of my past, and because of these accidents. I am aware that I am grieving what I saw, with a background of grieving other losses.

I have found it extraordinarily healing to share my stories. Besides finding my own truths by writing them down, I have found sharing lifts the weight of them off of me.

Perhaps I should convince myself it’s not appropriate to share them, but I am a shining example of crossing the boundaries of appropriate without always realizing, and largely without caring about them. Perhaps my selfish desire to find healing is greater than my concern for boundaries of appropriateness, but I know I am not alone in this.

When I reach out to others who’ve share their stories, reading them, telling them I care and I’m thinking of them, I can tell they are grateful that each of us who has done so, is a part of what is healing them, lifting the weight off them, too.

I want to be one of the collective voices that serve as examples of how healing it can be to reach out to a community, even when we don’t always know each of its members well.

I want to be an example of openness when something troubles me, whether or not I can understand or explain why it troubles me, and whether or not this level of sharing is always acceptable to others.

I often say that I think part of what makes us feel isolated, even with all this open communication technology, is that we tend to believe we are obligated to tell everyone everything is okay, when it is not always.

We seem to believe it conveys weakness to open up and admit, to reach out and share. When everyone responds to this perceived pressure by only sharing when things are good and seem positive, or by lying when they are not, we not only succeed in isolating ourselves, but we become a part of the reason others feel isolated, too.

It took me awhile to get to the bottom of my magnetic urge to share the pictures I’ve taken. But I realize now that I’m done writing this, that I am already helped, just by writing and then sharing this story, without sharing the pictures. And I hope if you’ve read this, that my example of being willing to process it, share it out loud, and admit seeking comfort from outside myself, can be an example to you and others in support of what I believe….That it helps us all to do the same.

~ cj 2013.09.16

The picture I’m including here is the one I took in the moments before the accident, when I’d pulled off the road. Did taking this picture keep me from being in the accident? I can’t begin to know.

Posted in Essay, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Blossoming Into Themselves

BlossomingAll this unique beauty in these flowers, growing in the wild, blooming in the woods.

If I hadn’t come by, it’s likely as not, no one would have noticed them. If I hadn’t been watching, who would have taken their picture and shared it with others? I felt a bit proud, like I’d done them a favor. I felt like a steward, my duty fulfilled, by giving them worth.

But only for a moment, until I walked away and glanced back to find them unaltered. They were still there, living exactly the same, even though I’d left.

They didn’t question who they were, and they weren’t wondering who I wanted them to be. They didn’t ponder whether they’d pleased me or not.

It didn’t matter to them that I witnessed them. It mattered only to me, the person who was touched by what they were already being.

From the beginning, they’d blossomed on their own in the wild, wholly unique. And they will be exactly themselves, without apology or exception, for as long as they live, because that’s what they were born for. They will do this, in spite of, not because of, anyone…including me.

So arrogant I was, believing my presence, my preference, my approval, gave their existence value.

I was the one who received the gift by noticing them. They had already blossomed, perfectly and completely whole, without any gifts of recognition from me.

I am not their purpose, and it is not their path to do or be anything for me.

All this beauty in these flowers…they have a unique purpose to which they are perfectly suited. And because they have blossomed into themselves, that purpose knows exactly where to find them…growing in the wild, and blooming in these woods.

~ cj 2013.09.16

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My Privilege

I heard Jacki Lyden on NPR say this to Dave Zirin yesterday:
“Dave, thank you so much for joining us.”

Dave said this back:
” My Privilege. Thank you.”

So different, isn’t it, from the usual ‘My Pleasure’?

‘My Privilege’ caught my attention. It made me smile.

It made me think about all the times others deserve to hear ‘My Privilege’ from me, when they show up in my life, when our moments intersect. They deserve to hear this, if we’ve intersected for awhile, only once in awhile, only once.

Hearing ‘My Privilege’ made me like Dave. It made me want to know him.

Most of all, it made me want my friends and loved ones to hear from me that it is My Privilege to know them. It is My Privilege that they have granted me mercy, given me answers, paid attention, spent their time, assisted me. It is My Privilege that they have shown me kindness, generosity, loyalty, patience, friendship, love.

Thank you, Dave, on NPR. It was My Privilege to have this intersecting moment, where I had the moving experience of witnessing your grace and respect.

~ cj 2013.09.16

Here’s a link to the story on NPR. It’s a piece on a large fine levied against one football player for hurting another football player on purpose. That football player didn’t treat the other player like it was His Privilege at all.

What a special piece of irony that this reporter’s interaction with the newscaster was so different from the fined football player’s interaction with the other football player.

For Rich NFL Players, Do Fines Matter? NPR

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I Matter

It only took me a minute or two on the 17th to write Existing. I suppose it was ready to be said without much hesitation.

But after I was done, I waffled back and forth for quite awhile before and after I posted it, trying to decide whether to use the word ‘exist’ as the core concept, or the word ‘matter’. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

So here’s the piece again, only I’ve changed a few words so the core concept is ‘matter’. I made this new version, because existing and mattering are different. I made this new version, because mattering is more important to me.

I Matter
***************
You treated me
as if who I truly was
didn’t matter
so completely
that who I truly was
stopped mattering
when I was with you.

When I left,
you still treated me
as if I didn’t matter
so completely
that I found a way
to matter to myself
instead.

And now,
all that you meant to me
when I was with you
has stopped mattering.

~ cj 2013.08.20

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Existing

You treated me
as if who I truly was
didn’t exist
so completely
that who I truly was
stopped existing
when I was with you.

When I left,
you still treated me
as if I didn’t exist
so completely
that who I truly am
found a way to
come back fully.

And now,
all that you meant to me
when I was with you
has stopped existing.

~ cj 2013.08.17

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Arrivals

Cold-platform standing,
silent tears, stinging
from the brisk walk-by of him,
him, like the others;
misuse-me men
that I’ve given my heart to
for a lifetime of years,
without their understanding
or mine.

I let them go by as they’ve pleased,
giving each one many chances,
this trip, another trip,
always the same,
while I try to brace
against the freezing breeze
of their coattails
blowing past me,

leaving me,
holding my tattered sign,
leaving me,
shrinking back into my lonely,
leaving me,
disappearing in the bustling silence
of being ignored.

There they go
greeting another,
or heading off on their own,
while I comfort myself
that this is still
the right place to wait.

What kind of girl would I be
if I chased him or the others,
insisting they open their hearts
to travel with me?

It isn’t the first time
I’ve waited this way,
believing I’ll be seen,
if I wait long enough,
turning my back
on other arrivals
clambering for my attention.

I keep my hope warm
telling myself this time,
like all the others,
was just a cold miss.

My hope has always kept me
standing there,
until today,
until now,
until this very moment,
when I realize how near
to freezing I am.

As I vigorously rub the frost
from my heart
my attention is drawn
and my eyes are wide-opened
to a blinding truth
that’s been waiting
a lifetime for me to see;

I haven’t found
my fulfilling connection,
because I’ve been
standing on a platform
that only brings in
steely cold arrivals;

misuse-me men
like him, and the others
it’s taken me until now
to turn my back on,
smart enough finally
to let them,
and their coattails
breeze by.

I am pleased to arrive
at this truth,
still strong enough
to head off
on a trip of my own,
where I imagine finding him,
not like the others,
him, a warm, loving man
who has waited his own lifetime
and stands ready to travel
with an open-hearted girl like me.

~ cj 2013.08.05

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Music In Austin

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I love how, when he moved, he became a somewhat transparent figure in this picture, fleeting, temporary…while his music equipment and the insistent beat stayed solid.

It struck me how much this moment was so much like Austin as a whole. The individual people making the music are temporary, fleeting. They play here, and we enjoy them, but it’s an ever-changing scene.

Yet, from the time our love for music swelled to a vibrant crescendo in Austin, weaving its insistent beat through the present, and likely forward to a future we can’t yet see, the association between Austin and music will likely stay solid.

~ cj 2013.08.05

Posted in Essay, Music | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

My Fearful Symmetry

I used to buy so many books, ignoring the “why-aren’t-you-normal” questions from my now ex-husband about what I was going to do with yet another potentially unread treasure crowding our shelves.

How could someone who’s lived such a different life from mine, ever understand how books gave my heart a home from the moment I knew they existed? I hid in them, discovered from them, absorbed and consumed them.

Late at night, I sought safety from the angry outbursts of my family, by hiding in my safe closet and reading the same books over and over in the bare bulb light.

My reading was one of the few things I did that was approved of, and I gladly lived adventurously through Little Women, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They were brave, and when I lived through them, I was brave, too.

I went from a voracious reader to someone who read very little in the past 3 years. Each time I tried to focus on someone else’s words, it ripped me apart or the words bounced off the page, so I gave up. Perhaps I couldn’t take anything new in, until the old was gone enough to make proper room. I knew I did not want another’s words to accidentally open any more painful flood gates. I had all I could handle struggling against drowning in the ones I’d opened on my own.

But I hadn’t abandoned words and books altogether. When my world broke apart a few years ago, instead of purchasing and reading books, I rediscovered writing. And when I couldn’t stand the pain of that, or I’d said all I could say in some moment, I’d wander aimlessly through bookstores so I could still be surrounded by the comfort of words nestled between all those wonderful covers.

One day, I began taking pictures of the titles that jumped out at me, a habit which continued for quite a time. An author’s careful choice of phrase, intended to entice a reader to a story, often also succinctly described that moment in my life. It always surprised me how the perfect titles found me. And taking pictures of them created another diary of where I was on my journey.

I went to the bookstore and took those pictures for awhile, but then I stopped going altogether. Instead, I involuted almost completely into myself, filling all the bandwidth I had for words, with my own outgoing stream. As I prolifically wrote over the past several years, I’ve wondered many times when the words might stop pouring out long enough to let more in. It seemed it would never happen. But recently, it’s begun to slow, and I am grateful for the space of quiet this morning, where something new has finally found a way through my door.

I’ve just spent three weeks in the northern U.S. I’d gone up there to see my grandma again, and while I was there, she passed away. I stayed on, and indulged in some beautiful scenery and a deep level of introspection. I didn’t think I’d reached any conclusions, and as I traveled back home, I didn’t think much had changed for me. But when I arrived, I walked in the door to find out that even though nothing had changed, everything had, because something was different in my heart.

For the first time in too long, I am cleaning up my life. And while I’m at it, I’m cleaning up my house, too. I’ve begun caring about it and the time I have left, in a way I haven’t for years. I am acting on all those plans I’ve dreamed up and blown off.

And I’ve begun to open my heart. It is still deeply wounded, but I can see it healing or forming finally into scars I can live with. I have the energy and strength to face forward now, but didn’t realize how much better I was doing until, to my surprise, I picked up a novel today for the first time in years. It was a novel sitting in a pile with others I’d also surprised myself by purchasing a few months ago.

The novel is called Her Fearful Symmetry, and it’s by Audrey Niffenegger. It is immediately poetic, and there is something in the way the author describes her characters that reminds me of how one of my very best friends describes people. He is conservative and meticulously precise with his words. He would be a brilliant writer, and would charm the world with his words, as he charmed me, if it was the life he chose. This endeared me to her style immediately, as if I’d just come home to something deeply and beautifully familiar.

The book opens with a focus on Elspeth, who is dying of cancer at 44, leaving behind Robert, a man who loves her dearly. He adores her details, her quirks, her habits, yet as is often the case, he doesn’t really know her at all.

The author, through Robert, describes all the feelings I have actively swirling in my own head and heart about my grandma, my dad, and my mom dying. She accomplishes this fully, in only a few pages, completely revealing that nothing I’ve felt is unique or uncommon. Yet her words make me believe I’m special, for having a sensitive heart that recognizes what she’s saying is true.

And in just a few chapters, before the story has taken more than an hour of my time, she’s also already left me longing, ever so slightly, for a love in my life like Robert. Such an extraordinary fete in the face of my adamant refusal to consider getting involved with anyone. She’s made me imagine an infinitely human man who will treasure my complex details enough to hold them gently, while loving the whole of my heart enough to squeeze me fiercely, knowing I’m strong enough to take it…a man who loves like Robert loves Elspeth.

In short, she gave all the correct words to feelings about death and love I haven’t been able to express on my own yet, despite all the writing I do and I’ve done.

No doubt the experiences I’ve had over the past three weeks, and the efforts I’ve finally been making since I returned, have contributed to my feeling of well-being today. But this wonderful book has already done more than its share to help me accept my feelings about the deaths of my family and my marriage, and at the same time has given my heart a little hope for the fanciful feeling of falling in love.

I am so happy to have reading back in my life, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter in Her Fearful Symmetry. I bet it will continue to renew my hope that I can return to my own symmetry, after several years of fearing I never would.

~ cj 2013.08.02

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Receiving Gifts

Last week, after all these years, I finally unwrapped the mystery of why gifts are not the way to this girl’s heart.

It happened as I was explaining the five languages of love to a friend, while getting to know him as we each put them in order of our preferences.

This feels like the right place to share what I realized, even though what I have to say isn’t quite like what I usually write.

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It is so simple to catch the attention of a child with a present. And I was like all the other children for awhile, drawn to any gift offered me.

It gave me a moment to pretend someone who never held my hand or asked about my day had spent time thinking about me.

I could believe for a little while that the givers cared specifically about me, when normally they failed rather miserably at obscuring their preference for my brothers.

But it is easy to bury a hook under colorful paper, and tie it up with a bow that’s been curled with the blade of a razor sharp pair of scissors.

I would grab at the carefully taped moment of attention, forgetting in my excitement the exact way they expected me to unwrap my own demise.

I often failed to unwrap it correctly, usually to background comments blasted in stereo about being a bull in a china shop.

Then I was expected to thank the givers properly, too, despite the blood sometimes dripping from my little fingers.

I tried to show gratitude, I did, in spite of the welts occasionally swelling up on the back of my naughty, runaway stick legs.

Very soon, the precious proof I mattered, dissolved into a poisonous reminder of my innocent transgressions, until gift-receiving became a frightening overwhelm of colors and tears.

My fear sweated off me, as I grew wiser and began to wonder when I’d have the awful moment of surprise discovering the inevitable catch.

The gifts weren’t out of the ordinary for a little girl, although perhaps my reactions were.

If the gift was a doll, I resented her ability to absorb the blows I was taking, all the while she grinned as if encouraging me not to make such a big deal of getting my just deserves. The dolls often ended up in dangerous places, where I rescued them in a way I never was.

If I’d unwrapped a stuffed animal, I desperately squeezed it in the night, personifying it immediately, while I apologized for my grip and the horror it had to witness because of its bad girl owner.

If what was in the box was a crafty kit, I did my best to create something perfect, even though I knew it would never be worthy of praise.

The gifts became permanent reminders of everything that went wrong when receiving them, or with the relationship between me and the giver.

I learned things from receiving gifts, although I’m not sure what I learned was what they intended to teach.

I learned not to discard anything, from the stinging blows I received for ignoring or breaking what they wanted me to continue to treasure.

I learned the value of a dollar, as gifts almost always came with a pronouncement of how long the giver had worked to purchase the shiny grenade that would almost always blow up in my face.

Most of all, I learned that gifts have hooks and come with strings attached to them. I owed the giver, I was regularly reminded of the debt. It’s made receiving gifts of any kind pin-cushion uncomfortable to me.

As an adult, I bristle at letting a man buy me dinner, which causes me struggles as I begin to date again. I hate to borrow anything from a friend for fear I will lose it or break it, or be unable to return it on time. If someone tries to help me out and succeeds at gaining my acceptance, it remains forever on my mind as a debt I’m not always able to repay.

I’d believed my reticence was because of an incident with a boyfriend, when I was 15 and living with his parents because I couldn’t live with mine. He’d informed me, after weeks of buying me albums each time he got paid that THIS week, his paycheck wasn’t mine.

Or alternatively I thought it was because of a gift I received from a priest when I was 12. I’d met him at a Packer game, and a week later, he’d sweetly sent me a gift of Indian jewelry from a reservation he served. I still have it now, along with the article of his murder, mere weeks after I had received my treasures.

I’d never correlated my fierce independence from receiving gifts or help with the other parts of my childhood until the past few weeks, when it was nearly impossible to ignore the gifts I was currently receiving.

During the past few weeks, I had the helpful loan of my housemate’s car, so I could get the desk my Dad had left me last year when he died. My housemate also took care of my garden and my doggie, despite me staying much longer than I had intended.

Another close friend loaned me a tripod, which gave me wonderful moments of escape, where I could focus on learning how to take pictures I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise take.

More helpful than any of them likely know, I had the beautiful gift of understanding, compassion, comfort, and support from close friends and even acquaintances when I was struggling more than I imagined I would with losing my Grandma so soon after I lost my dad.

And then I had the precious gift of spending a good deal of time with a childhood friend, who showed me where I’d lived as a child in a way I’d never seen, and who talked to me about our childhoods in a way no one else could ever understand.

And most of all, I had the irreplaceable gift of the last bit of my Grandma’s awareness. The last four things she said, she said to me. The last smile, the last I love you, the last affectionate touches, she gave to me.

And then I had the gift of several days spent holding her hand, while she accepted my presence, assurance and affection as my gift back to her during her last few days.

And, while this awareness isn’t the biggest gift I received in the past few weeks, it’s not lost on me that another gift I’ve received is learning that in the midst of discovering why I didn’t like receiving gifts, I was also discovering that some gifts are more than worth the pain receiving sometimes brings.
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~ cj 2013.07.30

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Breathe Again

Listening to Breathe Again by Sara Bareilles took me right back to when I first walked away from him.

I wasn’t so sure I’d ever breathe again without that deep seering pain, but I needed to leave so badly, it became worth the risk.

I imagine some part of me will always ache, but I am so grateful for the courage I found to leave, and the belief that I’d find my way.

It’s been a much harder road than I ever imagined, but it was worth it all to breathe this free again.

~ cj 2013.07.25

Below is a video and the lyrics to the song that took me back, straight from her lips to my heart.

Car is parked,
bags are packed,
but what kind of heart
doesn’t look back
at the comfortable glow
from the porch,
the one I will still call yours.

All those words came undone
and now I’m not the only one
Facing the ghosts that decide
if the fire inside still burns.

All I have,
all I need,
he’s the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands,
still I’m searching for something.

Out of breath,
I am left hoping someday
I’ll breathe again.

I’ll breathe again.

Open up next to you
and my secrets become your truth
And the distance between
that was sheltering me
comes in full view.

Hang my head,
break my heart
built from all I have torn apart
And my burden to bear
is a love I can’t carry anymore

All I have,
All I need,
he’s the air I would kill to breathe

Holds my love in his hands,
still I’m searching for something

Out of breath,
I am left hoping someday
I’ll breathe again.

It hurts to be here.
I only wanted love from you.
It hurts to be here.
What am I gonna do?

All I have,
all I need,
he’s the air I would kill to breathe

Holds my love in his hands,
still I’m searching

All I have,
all I need,
he’s the air I would kill to breathe

Holds my love in his hands,
still I’m searching for something.

Out of breath,
I am left hoping someday,
I’ll breathe again.

~ Lyrics to Sara Bareilles – Breathe Again

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Torn Between Aches

I had to leave;
It was time to go.

I didn’t make it far,
just a few miles down the road,
when the ache set in.

Because I could,
I turned around and went back,
indulging in a little more.

But then, I had to take my leave.

This time I made it all the way,
traveling to where I also ache to be.

But the moment I arrived here,
the ache to return began.

I know I won’t last long,
before I can’t stay anymore.

It will be time to go back there,
so I’ll leave again.

I’m not sure if I’ll hesitate and turn around here,
indulging a little more before I travel to where I also ache to be.

But I know not long after I arrive back there,
the ache will begin again.

~ cj 2013.07.29

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Hard Squeeze

If you hold something loosely, it may not stay where you hope it will; you are so right about that.

But the more you squeeze it, in an attempt to keep it where you want it, the more likely it is to sting you, suffocate to death, or squirt itself out from between your fingers.

And if it doesn’t reject the hard squeeze, it isn’t likely something you want to keep…or perhaps it’s already dead.

~ cj 2013.07.19

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Fast Eddie at the Flower Shop

imagePoor Fast Eddie. She was unique and beautiful, and he fell in love immediately. You couldn’t miss that he had…he made no bones about it.

“Wanna have a ball?” He wagged enthusiastically, and showed her his bright green ball. But she? She didn’t want to play around. It just wasn’t her thing.

Not to be deterred, he dropped his ball and opted for another, more direct approach. He kissed her all over instead…and I mean ALL over. She allowed him to do it for a bit, but then began to pull away when she got overwhelmed, looking for higher ground.

In case she didn’t know how interested he was, he tried to hump her, before she could make her escape.

That’s where she drew the line, putting a stop to it. But she wasn’t mean about it. She looked up at me, knowing I’d come to her rescue.

I tried to explain to him that it wasn’t going to work. She lives in Austin, he lives in The Tundra, I reminded him.

He said, panting, “But it’s hot here now, hotter than there!” (Fast Eddie’s informed! He watches the Weather Channel at night with his owner.)

Ah, Eddie, right you are. It IS blazing hot. But that’s a temporary state of affairs, and in case you hadn’t noticed, she’s just not that into you.

You gotta admire his pluck. He ignored the truth of his situation as best as he could. He continued to pursue her, and obviously enjoyed what little time he had with her.

He even blew off his favorite treat, offered to him if ONLY he’d leave her alone, and come to the back of the store.

Eventually it was time for her to go. She was nonplussed and trotted willingly out the door.

But he pulled towards her as hard as he could. His sad puppy eyes watched her leave, while he still wagged hopefully.

His fuzzy head was full of dreams that she’d change her mind and stay behind.

She’s on her way now, exhausted from fending him off. She’s already gone to sleep quite contentedly, snoring gently in the front seat of the car.

I wonder if poor Eddie’s heart has recovered yet, or if he’s going to hang onto the scent of her until the moment another pretty puppy inevitably walks in the door of Fast Eddie’s Flower Shop.

~ a true story by cj 2013.07.18

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It’s Too Late

I hear the bus,
I’m sure of it.

My heart smiles
cuz it’s almost
the perfect time,
and I look up
at my clock.

Oh, wait.
I see.
It’s only 4:03.

It’s too early for the bus,
it’s not time for the bus,
and for a blessed
suspended second,
I excitedly think
“Only an hour left, though.”

But then reality hits home
and I remember.
It’s not too early.

It’s too late.

It’s summer,
School is over.
You’ve gone back home
and you won’t be getting off
that bus again.

My heart stops smiling,
cuz now it’s 4:04
and it’s not a
perfect time
without you here anymore.

~ cj 2013.06.27

To Emilie, my wonderful exchange student. I miss you and already can’t wait til I see you again. It will be the perfect time.

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I’d Rather Be On My Own

Wisconsin Dells, July 1974

Wisconsin Dells, July 1974

I got this photo from my grandma’s neighbor last week when I went up north. My dad took that picture. We look like a normal, happy family on vacation in the Wisconsin Dells, if you don’t look too closely, if you don’t know the story.

I’m 12, almost 13 in this picture. I moved out at 15, and when I left, I didn’t look much different than this. I was too young, but other than food and shelter, I’d largely always been on my own. Moving out just made it official.

I remember this moment, and other moments just like it…me, trying to fit in…me, leaning towards them, trying to be touched…me, trying so hard to understand and be understood…and me, being flatly ignored and rejected because I didn’t fit their ideals.

I’ve always carried the belief that if I’m going to be lonely in a relationship, I’d rather be on my own. I can look at this picture and see where the seeds of this were born. I can look at this picture, and see why I left back then.

And now I can see how I carried the pattern in that picture forward to my marriage. All those pictures of me and him in my head – me, trying to fit in…me leaning towards him and trying to be touched…me, working so hard to understand and be understood…and me, the me I really am, being flatly ignored and rejected because I didn’t fit his ideals.

I understand now how my past set the foundation for years of accepting what should have been unacceptable in my marriage – that constant feeling of being still largely on my own. After trying for 21 years sometimes I felt too old to start over, so it took awhile to make moving on official this time. But now I look at those pictures in my head, and see exactly why I left…my unmet need to lean towards and be touched…my desire to be understood and accepted for me…and my constant current of unfailing belief that if I’m going to be lonely in a relationship, I’d rather be on my own.

~ cj 2013.06.27

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Falling

FallingThere are so many ways to fall,
don’t you think?

An unexpected moment,
an unlikely trip,

a light stumble
into an uncertain space,

a sudden headlong aching
pitching you into a void
you didn’t know was there,

a twirling, whirling spin
into a new reality
you never thought you’d want,

landing you in a place
where common sense
would never lead you,

a falling you can’t resist
despite your best intent,
once the descent begins.

~ cj 2013.06.21

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