Monday, April 14, 2014

On the passing of my mother







She is from a white clapboard house with a wraparound porch, claw foot tub and Dove soap smack in the middle of Macon, Georgia.
From the streets of Madison and Carling, up and down Coleman Hill, where she walked to Whittle School and the Public Library, and boldly asked for a library card at the age of 5.
She is from playing under fig and pear trees, soft scented pines and shiny leaf magnolias, red clay staining her bare feet and the smell of paper mills filling her nostrils.
She is from Berry and Sallie Belle, Wiley, Sister, Doris, Roger and Jimmy.
She is from strong as oxen Shero aunts who farmed cotton and worked in pants plants in Wrightsville, Georgia.
She is from the Depression and Tuberculosis and a family that took in folks who were down on their luck. From fish on Friday and First Street Methodist.
She is from picnics on Stone Mountain, Finchers BBQ, NuWay hotdogs and LaVista Catfish.
She is from poise lessons and perfect posture and words dripping honey sweet from her mouth.
She is from a hair-brained idea involving a midnight double date rendezvous to Aiken, SC, a half drunk justice of the peace, and a 4th of July celebration that included one very busy rotating fan.
She is from moves to Indianapolis, Indiana and then St. Louis, Missouri that took her from her beloved South.
She is from north of the Mason Dixon line where she took it upon herself to soften the edges of every nasal accent in the Midwest.
She is from bacon grease on the back of the stove and dog bowls at the back door
and champagne bottles that toasted births all lined up in a row. She is from Boston Ferns and summer deck parties.
From coffee and cherry chip birthday cake and hands that smelled like onions.
She is from chuck roast in the electric skillet, onion soup mix brisket, Jello salads, massive pots of spaghetti, liver and onions, green enchiladas, asparagus disguised as green bean casserole, sweet tea and Hallelujah banana bread.
She is from “I love you a bushel and a peck” and “Gimme some sugar” and, perhaps most famously,  “Tim Smothers, you will nevah, nevah, evah drive that Aspen Station Wagon again!”
She is from Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, Dionne Warwick, George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Fiddler on the Roof, James Taylor and that Classical Music in the background.
She is from You Are My Sunshine and Everything Is Going to be Alright.
She is from “To Thine Own Self Be True” and “It’s Your Mama.” From “All Is Well” and “It Is What It Is Grandma” and “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.”
She is from dancing jitterbugs across linoleum floors and slapping her knee at every guffaw.
She is from birthday cards and notes in school lunches and throwing kisses and standing at the door until your car was out of sight.
From “psspsspsspss” and “chum on” and “doodlebug” and “Honey Bob.”
And forever and ever and ever, she will always be from shooting stars and fireworks and every smile shared by those that loved her best.

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There you have it. The world as we have known it, all the days of our lives. We were molded and shaped and created from that celestial brew of whimsy and joy and strength.
We have never known ourselves or our world without our mother in it.  I am here, my brothers and sisters are here, because of her.  We are who we are, because of her.

Our mother was a curator of a welcome life.
To live in the orbit of our mother was to always be invited, received, entertained, accepted.
But perhaps above all, to have known my mother was to have been loved.
Her life was a lesson in loving.
What she taught us all was to always run hard after love. In all circumstances, by every means necessary, even when we screw things up or we do the exact right thing--we need love to be what is standing between us and everyone else. When love is what we choose to weave in among the fibers and snags of our everyday life, when love gilds the edges of tired joy or stretches across the chasms of unspoken fears then we become Love lived on purpose and that breathes life and one can catch glimpses of glory come down.

In the wake of my mom’s death, we are sad, yes. We feel carved out and empty and the truth of what we are left with actually aches in ways deep and long, yes.
But this, too, is also true:
There is still life, despite the loss.  There is still love in the world, despite the severing.  There is still light, despite the darkness.

And that gives me hope.

Because, if it is true, that we are who we are because of our mother...
then it means that this whole dance, all of the goodness and light spun dizzy with all of the defiance and angst, all of the ways that we continually fall down and help pick each other up, all of the beautiful and mundane, the fascinating and the trivial, the whole and the half?

It's part of us too, now, tucked away in the obvious and secret places, planted in soil made rich with her love and care for us.

It is through loving and singing with our own children or grandchildren, by partnering with kindred souls or living alongside people that challenge us...all of it ripples on and on and on.... people are continually made and remade because we are in their lives...which means that our mother lives on.

And I pray that one day, when the pictures are pulled out and the chronology of our becoming is on display, the one thing that will have leaked out all over, dripping from the corners of our eyes and the edges of our smiles, is the amazing truth...

that we were loved by her.






Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Here

I’m cooking dinner and
only because the days are getting longer
does the light still filter in
through the clouded window that
needs replacing
The pane is nearly opaque
but not muddled enough
to keep my eye from catching
the fluttering of a bird at the feeder
repositioning himself
to find more seed

While I cut broccoli
the baby sits on the counter
flapping his arms
like the bird outside
screeching with glee
drool dripping like honey
from his mouth
the bud of a tooth peeking
out from swollen gums

I set down the knife  
and sip my wine in the pause
while through the tilted glass I can see
the edges of the room stained
crimson and swirling
catching light

glowing

The rest of this poem can be found over at Elizabeth Marshall's beautiful blog
where Elizabeth weaves wonder and whimsy on a regular basis.
Elizabeth and I collaborated on Adagio: A Poetry Project,
an experiment in writing across the miles, twining words and heart thoughts together.
You can read those pieces here, here, here and here
I am so very thankful for the opportunity to share, once again, with Elizabeth.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Folds of Grace


Some days just ring hollow
as if all the hopes I’ve thrown long and wide just
swirl round and round
slower and slower
from the weight borne upon them
And then there are days
that the black bird returns
flash of red upon his wing
his call creaky like an old iron gate
causing me to squint upwards
into the still bare tree limb in silhouette
the strengthening sun finding new fire
behind it
Some days roll in atop the
pink foam of fitful nights
and the sandy grit bristles hard
against the murky glass
leaving an etched line that will take
hours to polish out
The rest of this poem can be found over at SheLoves Magazine where I am writing today. Follow this link and join me there? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, either here or there.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saving Daylight



I caught sight of it as I passed the window yesterday
down the driveway thick with mud and gathered puddles
Three birds in silhouette
the afternoon sun flooding them from behind
taking a bath

My lips curled skyward
and I stood motionless
for five whole minutes
Because
the audacity

The day before that
you pretended to be Huck playing in the bulrushes
and you brought me handfuls of cat tail fluff
my palms opened to the offering
and you glowed

The dark earth, moist with thaw
has begun its heaving heavenward
pushed from below
until, split open like the body
it becomes broken

Then, today
I turned that last corner out of the woods
and came up on the lake
glimmering with a thousand
salvos of light

And I'm clutching all of it
with an unbecoming fierceness
hell bent on gathering glory
as if it wasn't raining
right round









Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the end, three things remain


This quote appeared on my Pinterest feed a couple of weeks ago and, like a chill breeze that steals in under the warped door frame, it has descended down deep into my marrow. For you see, I have been awash in brackish thoughts of late.

With a few exceptions, I have taken a step back from my online presence the last six months. Five months ago, I gave birth to my third son. Three months ago, my mother began another round of chemotherapy. My withdrawal from the non-stop traffic of the internet was both a conscious and inevitable choice. I do not regret my decision but I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit that, ever since, I have been at battle with doubt and envy.

My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning.

Writing, for me, has always felt like an intimate dinner party, hemmed in by golden light and the clink of dishes, measured in the crumbs stolen away on fingertips and the slow warmth from poured wine. There are the moments of sure knowing just as there are the heavy silences that come from the unknowing. But always, there is the table-- worn and steady, wide and open.

But my attempts to translate that way of being to the online world feel antiquated and stilted, at best.


It feels like sidling up to a busy counter with a bustling lunch crowd. Bread is broken and laughter distilled, yes, but the din of conversation is confusing to this ambivert who simultaneously wants to try new dishes and run out the door, hands pressed over her ears.

I'm sharing my words over at sixinthesticks with the brave Nacole Simmons for
 {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}.
Join me and the discussion in the comments by following this 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Small Acts, Great Love

The house is quiet now.
All day there has been this swirling of vagrant leaves and fluttering of bare branches and it has been enough to make me wonder if all of heaven and earth might just be on the cusp of some arcing change. Perhaps winter’s icy fingers are beginning to crack and splinter in the hidden places. Perhaps there might just be a Spring after all.
It’s in the hushed evening that I remember what I read once about frost seeding. How a farmer can scatter a pasture with seeds while the ground is still frozen. Then, as the soil freezes and thaws, space is opened up and the seeds fall into the space that is created. All throughout the winter, with each new round of bitter cold, the process continues and the seeds become more and more a part of the soil. After each storm, each seed is better positioned to germinate once the temperatures rebound and stay consistent.
It is in this remembering that I think about my fall and winter. I think about how my life has been flipped on its head, how I am mothering an infant once again, how those dear to me are sick and in need of attention and how, right in the middle of it all, I am earnestly practicing the sacred art of balance.
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Click here to read the rest of my words over at SheLoves Magazine.
SheLoves Magazine: a global community of women who love

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

This Mortal Coil


The words pierce through the late morning light that hangs
drowsy and dust filled and glistening
and just like that
there is no way to breathe

Instinctively I fly to touch him
memorize his lips and jowls and fingertips
trace the shadow of his profile
hear the cadence within his chest
be sure of him

Whenever Death runs past
a vale of tears cuts a gorge
right through the center of
all that was known or promised
and we become wild and frantic
for life

I eventually settle and draw in
what is left of the day
seizing moment after glorious moment
like a greedy beggar
my heart keen on wanting it all

As the sunlight stretches long across the room
I feel the pull of weathered thread
that winds then meanders then weaves itself
through the fingers of all my loves
The one that holds us fast to earth
and to each other
has weak spots

I know this
yet I want to pull all the tighter
draw in the goodness so I will have it
always
entwine the bright colored thread fast
around the faded one
to keep it from shuffling off
this mortal coil