Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Mourn My Body Past

I Mourn My Body Past
I remember
Racing through the Minnesota grasslands
Playing wild horses with the neighbor kids
Until I fall
Rubber legged
Rolling upon the ground
Too winded to laugh out loud

I remember
Teetering on two inches of wood fence
Encircling the dusty
High school ice rink in July
Watching dirty toes inch
With winged and waving arms until
Sweat trickling down my neck
I retreat
And nestle into the oak tree’s arm
Jagged bark prickling the back of my thighs
As the breeze raises goose bumps
And the Meadow Lark sings

I remember
Evening calf muscles twitching
Red arms burning
Against rough sheets
After a day of pumping bike pedals
Standing upright
Slippery palmed
And panting another journey
Up the hill by the water tower
Working to earn
Two minutes of free-ride flight

I remember
Heart in my hand
Music pounding
Pulsing up my body into my eyes
Light as clouds and air
And love
Until the rhythm and the moon retire

I remember
In capable arms
Groceries and presents
One hundred pounds of feed
An eight-foot Mediterranean couch
Leaden boxes of books
Aquariums with gravel sloshing
Dinners and desserts
A marriage
And a seven-pound baby boy

But now I reside
In my body present
With musical knees
That slow me on the stairs
An injured arm
That will never hold a grandchild in its crook
Painful heels
That can no longer dance at dawn
And a constant pain
That steals my sleep and limits my days

I mourn my body past
But I remember
And I smile
Too winded to laugh out loud

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Moxi Java Sunday

Moxi Java Sunday

By the time I had my mug of Moxi Mocha in hand, I realized I would be sitting in the glaring sunlight by the window. By process of elimination this was the only spot left whereby I could observe the entire shop and yet no one would be able to read over my shoulder. A spy needs to plan prudently. I had an assignment on observation for my writing class and my first instincts screamed, “No! No! Don’t do it!” My instincts can be quite loud and pushy when they catch the scent of guilt in the air. My mother’s voice echoed in my mind’s ear and I shuddered as I sat down in the little wooden chair. “It’s not polite to stare. Mind your own business.” The legitimacy of my mission muffled the memory. After all, real writers who actually get paid must do this kind of thing all the time.

I settled in and absorbed the intense, toasty smell of coffee beans that was nearly imbedded into the very walls. The rumble of a train passing through town filtered into the shop as I cased the joint. First of all, absolutely no one could help but notice the two ladies at one of the center bench tables on the south wall. Around them on the floor, table, and bench were strewn books, notebooks, papers, and notes like some kind of an academic explosion! They looked to be in their thirties to early forties. The one lady had very short, blonde hair, sharp features, was wearing shorts and seemed to be in a perpetual forward lean. The other lady had shoulder length, dark, fluffy hair framing a pretty round face with light eyes. She was all dressed in black and was settled quite comfortably into the bench. They were deeply engaged in a discussion of a legal case record. The conversation was dominated by the clear, clipped voice of the lady in shorts. Twas an innocuous conversation. I relaxed.

To the right of the law ladies in the corner table sat a young girl in a T-shirt and jeans with her dark hair pulled up high on the back of her head in a jaunty ponytail. She was scrunched down over a paperback book she had pulled from her backpack and was taking notes in a little spiral notebook. Slowly. Painfully. She would pause often, look about and linger over her coffee. Her dark eyes confessed that she went to a much more interesting and comforting place. But then she would return, rearrange herself on the bench and hunker down over the book again for a short while. Apparently whatever it was she had to do was no easier to do at the coffee shop.

High spirited laughter caught my attention. The young waitress had a pile of books on the table closest to her workstation in the corner. I was impressed that she had remembered the one and only other time I had been there, and that I had a moxi-mocha with vanilla whipped cream. She knew several customers by name and preference. Each time she was finished waiting on customers she retreated to her table to chat with a girlfriend who’d stopped by. The waitress had light brown hair that was piled in a wild, random pattern above her wire rim glasses, huge eyes, and wide grin. Her friend had short dark hair that radiated electric energy. Her left leg seemed to be practicing a sprint and nearly became a blur as they sat discussing the difficulty in locating research materials in the library. It made me jittery to watch her, so I continued my investigation of the patrons.

To my left in the center of the room two tables were singularly occupied. At the table closest to the workstation sat a charming little lady in her hot pink sweat suit and tennis shoes. Her graying hair was pulled up in a neat bun and behind her wire rims you could see tasteful light brown eye shadow. She had on a touch of rouge and her faded lipstick had probably matched her outfit when she had left the house. Her purse was in one chair and her green backpack was on the floor by her feet. A stack of books surrounded her on the table and she wrote steadily. She never looked up. She never drank her coffee.

Lastly, I attempted to focus on the ambiguous person who was at the table closest to me. My first impression had been that it was a female. I had tried to sneak a couple of glances since I first sat down, but had not been able to make a quick gender determination. The person was sitting in a chair facing me and that made it very difficult to play detective. Occasionally the person did lean over the table to write on note cards and then I could take longer looks.

I had thought it was a woman, but the more I looked the more I was not sure. On the table were two large, hardbound books that were open and layered upon each other, a refillable plastic Moxi Java mug, and two perfect stacks of huge note cards. I had never seen note cards that big before. They must have been five by seven inches! They were bright canary yellow. They were not pink or blue. On the upper right hand side of the table the cards were stacked perfectly, smoothly and evenly. A big, pudgy hand with short bitten nails would pick up one card carefully off the top of the right hand pile. While holding the card with thumb and forefinger, the stack was neatly squared with the back three fingers. After very earnestly taking some notes, the card was placed on the left hand pile and swiftly squared with the now unencumbered hand. An interesting, acquired, single-handed skill, but it told me nothing.

I watched the person write with a huge, thick, black pen and didn’t think it looked like a pen that a woman would use. Leaning and concentrating over the note cards gave me the opportunity to assess; very short, flat, brown hair; a round face with a bulb of a nose; dark, thick eyebrows; rather coarse, rough skin; no make-up, purse, ring, or earrings; and wearing a big, black, plastic watch on the left wrist. Having a huge, barrel shaped, lumpy, wide body I could not determine if there were any specific lumps under the baggy, black T-shirt that were conclusively feminine lumps. Even the big, well-worn, brown, leather book bag with it’s short handles was non-descriptive. When I caught a glimpse of black polyester shorts and the black T-shirt tucked in with a plain brown leather belt, I felt like I had finished a jigsaw puzzle. I could not imagine a woman wearing that outfit voluntarily. Combining that fact with the watch and the pen, I came to the conclusion that it must be a man. I congratulated myself on being not only a good spy, but a talented detective as well. That man had never been aware of me staring, as my mother would say. I was rather enjoying the spy biz!

“Cute shoes!” exclaimed the waitress. She and her friend launched into a new discussion on each of their running partners and how often these partners had backed out of prearranged runs lately. Meanwhile, I hadn’t even noticed the law ladies had begun retrieving all their various supplies. They were scooping and stooping and stashing and sorting. The sun had finally moved just enough to not make my eyes water. A young couple ran in for coffees to go. The waitress filled the shop with the horrendously violent sounds of her machines while they waited holding hands in their own sweet world. Shortly they were out the door and the waitress was back at her table. I wondered why everyone sitting in this coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon was studying something? Another train passed through town and I could feel it through my shoes.

Underneath the light, laughing of the young girls and the drone of light jazz, I picked up the soft, low sound of sorrow in someone’s voice. It was the dark, fluffy lady. She had finished packing up her things but was seated again. Her face had changed. The lady in shorts quickly sat back down across from her and leaned halfway across the table so as to see her eyes and hear the soft sorrow. The dark lady leaned in to confide.

“My best friend in the whole world’s dad is dying of pneumonia...pneumonia... do you believe it? No one dies of pneumonia anymore. She’s devastated...just really devastated”, she whispered.

I sipped at my coffee, wishing I didn’t have so much left.

“She already lost her mother last year from cancer and now this. Can’t believe it...I just can’t believe it. She can’t believe it.” The lady in shorts never said a word. She never reached out her hand.

The pain and futility and helplessness flowed over to me. I did not like spying or detective work. I was invading something private. I couldn’t stop listening.

“He was just emaciated when they found him...long beard...and his fingernails! Oh, and his toenails were really, really long, too. All bones...he was all bones. Hardly any food in the house. They think he wasn’t eating, but they weren’t sure for how long.”
The lady in shorts leaned back in her chair and pulled her chin into her neck.

I finished my Moxi Mocha with whipped cream. I finished it too fast. My burning throat and the glaring sun and the really long fingernails made my eyes well up. Hearing the fear and pain in her voice was like a vibrational arrow stabbing me. My heart spread open towards her. The dark lady sighed. The lady in shorts remained speechless.

If I knew the dark lady I would give her a voice of comfort. I would touch her hand. If I knew her best friend I would let her spill out her anger and sorrow. If I knew her father I would sit by his bed and hold his hand. I would let him know it was okay to miss his wife. But I wasn’t supposed to be listening. I wasn’t supposed to know these things.

If I stayed I was going to lose my tears. I had to leave. I struggled to shut off my ears. As I walked slowly up to the front counter with my empty cup, my mother’s voice chastised me. “See? Warned you to mind your own business”. Funny how my mind’s ear was not as easily shut off.

“Was it as good as last time?” the waitress called to me. I nearly dropped my mug.

“Yes, it sure was. Thank you.”

“Good. I try to make them really good...the same, you know?”, she grinned.

“Every bit as good as last time, for sure. You have a great afternoon.”

“You too”, she called as she turned back to her friend and their laughter.

As I turned to leave I noticed that under the table, beneath the perfect, perfect stacks of yellow index cards, were a pair of pink and white tennis shoes.

I guess a person should trust her first instincts.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mommy and That Baby

Mommy and That Baby

The linoleum under the eating table is cool on my belly. I roll on my side and jiggle my hands way above my head. Snow is on the windowsill, but the sun comes way across the floor to me warm on my arm. Maybe I can touch the big silver leg of the table from here. I am getting bigger. Everybody says that I am getting bigger. It looks like I can touch it. Hard as I can, I stretch and stretch, but it’s too far. Maybe if I roll back, flat on my belly and close my eyes, I will be longer. I roll back and those floor squares are really big in my eyes. I run my fingers around the edges and I whisper: one, two, three, four. I like to count. I do it lots of times. I can count really far and I know this is a square. I know circles, too. I whisper the colors of the speckles: red, black, yellow, white. I want to tell my Mommy, but she’s on her bed. It is better for Mommy not to notice me. It is better to be invisible.

I wish I could tell my Mommy numbers and colors today and she would smile and hear me and tell me she is proud ‘cause I know things. I hope today if she notices me, she sees me good and not bad. I remember sometimes she hugs me all up in her warm soft body and I am afraid to move or breath or make a sound. I want it to last and last. Mommy’s smiley times make my heart big and make me feel warm all over. I think I could fly or sing or do anything! But I can’t. I have to be very careful. I have to watch Mommy. If I get too excited, or I move too much, or I spill my “inside happy” out my mouth too much, then I make her come away from that place where she smiles. Then it’s gone as quick as it came. I don’t want Mommy to notice me too much. I really, really try not to be wild and naughty. But I am a selfish little girl and I forget.

When my Mommy was gone at the hospital, I stayed with Mary up the stairs. Mary and Brack are some kind of family to my Daddy. Daddy gives them money for us to live here. Mommy yells about money lots of times and she wants to move away from here. I am selfish. I love Mary and I don’t want to move away. Mary smiles every day. I can sit on Mary’s lap most times when I ask. She even picks me up and hugs me when I don’t ask. Mary has a little boy who’s bigger than me. Bradley is four years old. I am two forever and ever and I want to be four. Mary doesn’t get mad or slap me when I pull on her clothes to ask her things. Mary says, “ You have to wait until spring, but that’s not far away at all.” I told Mary it’s forever and ever, long and long time ago, since Santa Claus and it be spring really, really soon, right? Mary laughed loud with her mouth open. “It’s only been a couple of weeks since Christmas”, she told me. She picked me up and showed me papers on her wall with squares and numbers and pictures of cars on every page. I like to ride in cars. She pointed to a square and said softly, “There’s your birthday.” Mary has my birthday on her wall. Only my birthday. She did not say she had that baby’s birthday on her wall. It must be our secret. She whispered my birthday on her wall. She didn’t tell me not to tell, but to be careful, I will not tell. I did not want her to put me down. Mary smells nice. I wish I could go up the stairs to Mary right now. Mommy is right. I am a selfish little girl.

I remember to close my eyes and try to reach the table leg. I even try to make my fingers longer, but it is out of reach by a hand. Bradley could reach it. Bradley is mean to me. But I can be brave to him ‘cause I like Mary. She’s the one who told me about that baby. Mommy had it in her arms when she came home a lot of days ago. Mary told me, “They’ll make a big fuss over it, but don’t you ever forget that they love you just the same.” That was a lie. Grownups tell lies. They tell lies lots of times. They think I am not big enough to know they lie, but I know lots of times. They lie to pretend sad things are happy. They lie to pretend things gone. They lie to fool me. Sometimes they sound like they believe lies when they say them and forget they’re not the truth. Mary lies too, and that makes me sad. It does not surprise me, but it makes me sad.

My Mommy and Daddy do not love me just the same. Mommy always pays attention too much or not at all. She sees me good or she sees me bad when she notices me. Smiley times she sees me good and tells me how smart I am. She reads to me for long and long times. If she is really in a good mood she will tell me what the big words mean and I can ask questions and she doesn’t ever get mad about that. She reads her books to me until she is tired or I get too wiggly and wild and make her come away from that place she goes when she reads to me. I watch her eyes when she comes back. Mommy may notice me and see me bad, or she may still be busy in her head and just shoo me away. I always hope she doesn’t notice me. I hate it when she sees me bad. When she sees me bad, she thinks of ways to make me be good. But I never learn. It does not work and I am bad again. I don’t mind being in my room all day, ‘cause I forget to “Think about what you did and how bad you are” and I just play and play really, really quiet so Mommy doesn’t hear.

I play really, really good by myself. If I forget to listen for her feet, she might fly the door open and catch me playing. Mommy doesn’t like me to play when I am trying to learn to be good. But sometimes she walks in like I was never bad and she never talks about it. Maybe she is fooling me, but I don’t care. I like it when she forgets I was bad. But I don’t like to be in my little, brown chair in the corner of the eating room. I am glad Mommy doesn’t have the time to watch me and watch me every second in the corner. I do not like Mommy watching me and I can’t see her eyes, so I turn around to watch her. Mommy gets so tired of turning me around in my chair and having to push me back down in place, so then she grabs my arm and drags me to my room and yells and yells about me and slams the door. I don’t mind. I like my room better than the chair. But I don’t like being in that dark closet forever and ever. There’s nothing to do in there ‘cause I can’t see. I just smell and touch the coats and boots full of winter and try to see under the door for Mommy’s feet. I fall asleep in there lots of times and Mommy doesn’t like that ‘cause I am not learning not to be bad. Since that baby came, I am bad and bad. Daddy did not used to notice me much, but now he notices me bad more times. Mommy tells him the wrong things I do. Sometimes she lies, but I never tell Daddy about the closet. I am quiet and quiet as I can be. It is better when they don’t see me, especially Mommy. They do not love me just the same. They see me badder now. Mommy has not read her books to me forever and ever.

Mary did not lie about the big fuss. That baby must be a really good one. Lots of grownups come over to hold it and talk to it. It can’t talk. It’s a boy baby, but it’s too little to move much. Mommy and Daddy are all soft and happy with it, especially when people are here. Mommy is always nicer when people are around. She is nicer when daddy is home. She is nicer to that baby.

Maybe Mary is just nicer to me ‘cause I am “company” at her house, even if I am little. My Mommy does not treat other kids like company at her house, unless grownups are here. Mary holds me and talks nice to me and there are no grownups there. Maybe it is ‘cause I am a little girl and Bradley is a boy and boys are meaner. Maybe Mary wishes she had a little girl. I do not want Mary to know I am bad, so I am extra careful. I don’t think Mary lies as much as my Mommy does. I am not sure, but I like Mary better than my Mommy, anyway. I am really a bad girl. I am a selfish girl. Mommy will really, really be mad if she knows I like Mary best. She will tell Mary how bad I am and make up more bad things to be sure. My eyes pop open. My skin gets jitters all over thinking how mad she’d be. I sit up quickly and look over at her bedroom door.

The door is open big enough for me to get through without touching it. I walk slowly towards the door running my fingers along the wallpaper. Even though I know I am better off invisible, it makes me nervous to be alone for so long. Mommy is usually busy doing things and I watch her. Even if she is having a sad day and sits in the big chair all day and never sees me, I can still watch her. I really like those days that she can’t see me for long and long. I can sing or twirl or bounce on my bed or talk loud to my dollies while we have tea with my real tea set with the pink roses on. Invisible time is nice and nice. Most times I forget to watch her, though, and it startles me when she sees me all of a sudden. I never know if she sees me bad or good until it’s too late. If I don’t watch her eyes, I don’t know what kind of a day it is. If I don’t watch her I can’t see if the day is changing.

By the time I arrive at her bedroom door, I am sure she’s going to startle me. She could fly through the door, zero her eyes on me and pronounce me bad. She could pop out all soft and happy with that baby. I do not know how Mommy is until I see her. I know she does not know what I think when I am invisible, but I am not sure what she knows when she pins me down with her eyes. Will she know what I thought new today? Will she know I talked in my head and said I like Mary better than her? I stand in the doorway and rock silently from foot to foot, swaying, thinking. I suck my thumb, even though that’s bad, but Mommy can’t see me from here. I listen.

The bed is over in the corner away from the door. I hear breathing. After a while, I pull my thumb out and grab on to the door frame. Leaning my head into the room very slowly, I see Mommy sleeping on the bed. My eyes take a while to see in the dark of the room. She is lying on her side with her arm curled under her head. On the softest feet I come up one step at a time. My eyes never leave her face. I am all the way up to the bed and she has not moved. I wait and listen to the breath of her, to hear if she is awake or fooling me. I watch her eyelids. The eyes are not moving. I know if they slide from side to side under there, then she’s almost awake. The breath is slow and faint and calm. My Mommy is sleeping. I suck my thumb again and rock from side to side.

I know that baby is there, even if I have not looked at it. I can hear it breathing. This time I look at it all by myself. Everyone shoos me away or they hold it up for me to look, don’t touch. They are afraid I will hurt it. They tell me I could hurt it even if I did not mean to. Mommy has a part of her top off and one of the big, soft, cushy parts of her has that baby on it. That baby has its mouth hanging on to her. It smells funny. The hands are curled into little fists. I hold my hand near, but don’t touch. My hand is way bigger. Its eyes are closed, but it is not sleeping. It is making sucking noises and jerks every so often. When it sucks I can see the side of its tongue. Red. The tongue is red. The lips are red. It has little eyelashes and the eyes roll around under the lids. Its head is tipped and I can see up its nose on my tip toes by the side of the roll-away. Inside its nose is red, too. I could look at it long and long. I wonder if they are lying that it will grow up to be a boy as big as Bradley. I wonder if it will be mean to me, like Bradley. It doesn’t look mean. It could change. Mommy changes all the time. I wish it would open its eyes. I would feel better if I could see its eyes. It reminds me of doggies. I want to pet it.

I love doggies. I never hurt doggies. Will I hurt that baby? Why do they say I will hurt that baby? I must be really, really bad. I won’t hurt it now. I know I do not want to hurt it now. Maybe I will hurt it later when it is bigger and mean like Bradley? I am glad it is not a girl. Sometimes Mommy calls me her best girl and she dresses me up in pretty dresses and shiny shoes with straps. She puts my hair up in pin curls. I like my hair curly, but I do not like when she combs it out. Mommy pulls and it hurts and she tells me not to be a baby. I like when she tells grownups how good and smart I am and how, “She talked before she could walk”. It looks so nice up there with Mommy. I want to climb up on the bed and be in that soft, warm place with them. I want Mommy to worry somebody is going to hurt me. That baby gets Mommy nice and smiley lots of times. Maybe I can climb up on the corner of the bed and not wake Mommy. I move slowly and carefully. If I can just get over on the corner of the bed, I will be still and still. I will not move. I will not go by the baby, so I can’t hurt it not on purpose. I will listen to them breathe. I will feel the warmth of them. As I crawl up slowly, I jiggle the bed and Mommy cracks her eye open. Her hand comes out and swiftly pushes me off the side of the bed. Arms and legs flying, I crash on to the hardwood floor and scramble to my feet. I stand up straight with my arms down at my sides and look upon her eye.

“You can’t be up here. You’ll wake the baby,” Mommy whisper yelled through her teeth. “Now, go away.”

I was frozen to the spot. I was waiting for her to drag me someplace by my arm.

“I am so tired. Just leave me alone”, she hissed.

I felt my eyes water, but I know better than to cry. I back up a couple of steps, watching her. I wait. I listen.

“That’s right. You’re such a good girl. You color so nice. Why don’t you go color? Or take a nap or something, okay?” Mommy talked smiley time words. It sounded like a lie, but I didn’t care. I never cared why Mommy sounded nicer. She did not come after me off the bed.

“Something quiet, okay? That’s my good girl. Go on, now.”

I back up slowly, keeping my eyes on her. She settles back into the bed, keeping her eye on me until I scoot out the door.

I spread out a color book on the linoleum under the eating table and dig my fingers in Grandpa’s old cigar box. It smells like Grandpa and crayons. Crayons never get old; they always smell like new ones. Nothing smells like crayons. Blue streaks across the page. I feel wild and happy. No yank on the arm. No chair facing the corner. Yellow streaks across the page. No closet. No mad eyes. Green streaks across the page. First I was bad, then I am good, just like that. Orange streaks across the page. Mommy was too tired to come after me. That never stopped her before. Red streaks across the page. Mommy is very busy with that baby. I stop, up on my elbows. Red. I roll the crayon in my fingers. That baby’s name is Blaine. He has red lips and a red tongue and red inside his nose. If I could, I would sing and twirl around in circles and laugh with my mouth open. That baby must be a really, really good one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

God On The Bus

I didn’t learn to drive until I was thirty. Buses, my feet, and the kindness of friends and family were my modes of transportation. Everyone asked me, “How can you stand it not being able to drive?” I would calmly reply, “How can I miss something I’ve never had?”

One sunny fall day I finally decided to earn my own personal piece of state plastic. Owning that plastic card did not change my perspective on buses; it was possessing that set of keys dropped into my hand by a paunchy, slick-haired salesman with a practiced smile. “It’s just an aquarium on wheels” my father would snort, but I learned confidence, independence, and freedom behind the wheel of my burgundy Pacer. I could go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go, and I could get more than one bag of groceries at a time. I finally knew what everyone had been talking about all those years. Walking and buses became a memory that compared poorly to four wheels.

A year ago I was hearing those lamentations once again. “How will you survive without a car? I would go crazy! I could never do what you’re doing. No way!” All this deja vu conversation was eerily foreboding. I had no reply this time. I truly knew what I would be missing. I was forty-eight, packing up and moving from the Twin Cities to go to Concordia College in Moorhead. “This is my chance for a new start,” I told my friends and family as I waved good-bye.

My new start returned me to extreme poverty, no car, an apartment with uneven floors, startlingly noisy pipes, parties vibrating the walls, broken blinds, and a dirty laundry room. The Coppertone stove and harvest gold refrigerator seemed to complete the time warp back to the late sixties. I scrubbed, arranged, pounded, organized, displayed, and made it home. I started classes but managed to avoid the bus my first year.

The bus. It represented the final loss of independence and freedom. As I trudged the nine or ten blocks to school, I realized how much I missed squirrels. What I did not miss was being beaten in the face by leaves, lashed by sleet, whipped by wind, coated by snow, and worrying that I had frostbitten some exposed portion of my anatomy on my pilgrimage to knowledge. I survived the mild Minnesota winter. Over the summer, the bus was starting to look good to me, in a lesser-of-two-evils sort of way. Another school year was approaching rapidly. Another winter.

I purchased a semester bus pass. It was the full and final admission of my carlessness.

My first morning at the bus stop behind the public library I arrived early. I am always early. As I came around the corner, I was reminded that the bus stop was across the street from the homeless shelter. Three rumpled gentlemen were settled in on the low brick wall that surrounds the library. They were each sitting or leaning on their duffel bags. None of them gave me eye contact. I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, so I asked if the bus had come by yet. The man in the greasy ponytail glanced at my smile from under his cap and said no. His shoulders relaxed as I sat down on the bricks a few feet away from him. Mine slowly relaxed, too. The trees along the boulevard made it a wondrous place to sit on a sunny morning. The grass was lush and damp. The leaves shimmered and whispered. The squirrel entertainment committee performing “Autumn Acorn Madness” took small notice of sedentary humans. Settling into bus-stop-patience came back to me slowly.

I felt guilty for deliberately avoiding the homeless shelter in my walks since I had moved to town. I felt guilty for feeling that prickle of fear when I rounded the corner. How hypocritical. I had been a vagrant and lived on the streets of Anoka the entire summer of 1970. Then I had been afraid of no one. I slept in the park and occasionally on a gracious host’s floor. Hollow hunger. The decadent luxury of sleeping indoors and hot sudsy, showers. I had allowed myself to forget.

I had allowed myself to forget how kind the assorted young rednecks and dopers had been to me. I had been afraid to sleep in the dark. It was safer to sleep in the park by the river during the day and the cops left me alone on bright afternoons. The nights were long. The people of the night were usually high in some form or another, but they watched over me ‘till dawn. Sometimes they even fed me or bought me my own pack of cigarettes. They protected me.All my worldly possessions I carried in my black and white crocheted shoulder bag.  I didn’t have a razor, but I had a toothbrush, bar of soap, underpants, an extra T-shirt, pens, and notebooks. Priorities. If I was starting to feel sad, I used to talk to God on paper until I felt like myself again. Then I would tear up our conversation into little pieces and throw it in the trash. No attachments. I had the soul of a flower-child, despite being a Midwestern Swede from the suburbs. The street people called me “the mad-hugger” or “sunshine”. I took care of people on bummers. I cheered sad drunks. I honestly thought I could see that place that shines inside of everyone. Love breathed through my pores. I was fearless.

The straining roar of a bus drew me back from my reverie and to the corner. The small bus squealed to a stop, the door slid open to the left, I flashed my bus card, and I was in. I sat behind a small hunching man with hair slicked straight back and graying at the temples. Just like my dad’s. As the bus bounced and screeched on its way, I noticed that the tag on his shirt was sticking up on the back of his neck. In black magic marker it spelled “Elvin”. Naked evidence of living in a home. Overwhelmed with a tenderness for him, I wanted to tuck in the tag. The flower-child reached over the bus seat bar and tucked in the tag. Elvin turned around and stated defiantly, “I’m God.”

I didn’t quite believe my ears. “Pardon?” I asked as I leaned forward to catch his words over the bus whine.

“I’m God,” Elvin dared. The gnarled face held flashing eyes and his lips were crushed into a thin line of defiance.

A warmth spread over me. A warmth that lifts your soul like greeting a long-lost friend...where joy stings your eyes and love chokes your throat. And my heart’s eye opened wide and beheld that place that shines.

“I am honored to meet you,” I told him...softly...from the bottom of my flower-child soul.

Monday, August 3, 2009

GA--Hypnosis--Past Life

I am not afraid of death. Have had a few close calls since I was a kid--drowning, tornado, etc. My life never flashed before my eyes and I had no regrets. Just calmly thought--Oh, so this is how I am going to die.
When I think about it--I am more afraid of not dying and being left alive in tremendous pain, to be honest. Like being burned or in a terrible car crash or something like that. But death--nope.
I had my one out-of-body experience when Dagan was an infant (with GA)--awesome! Long story, but I was taken to a place where there were no physical bodies and nothing could be hidden. Everything about a soul was right there to be known--good and bad--and there was such love and understanding. I was taken there so I could forgive and gain perspective--right before Dagan ended up in the hospital. Looking back, I think GA knew he had to get through to me--get my soul in the right place--before Dagan ended up in the hospital dying and we found out about all the heart defects and they told us he wouldn't live, etc, etc. Therefore, I was spiritually focused--and GA and I were never more connected than back then for Dagan. :):)
And years later (maybe 1995?) under hypnosis I spontaneously went back to a lifetime where I had the backs of my knees sliced open so I couldn't run away and was being held down & raped while I bled to death--and I was pregnant big as a house--charming, right? But all I knew was I had been running, then terrible pain in my knees, and then I had pain in my stomach and my wrists. Then I kept skipping to being dead--hehe! (Do you blame me?!) The hypnotist kept trying to get me to go back and gather more information about what in the world was happening and who was doing this to me--but I just kept leaving and jumping to being dead--hehe! Very frustrating for the hypnotist, but hey--being dead was beautiful and peaceful. It filled my soul and lifted me up into such joy I can't even describe it. I didn't care who was doing whatever or why--just wanted to get to the dead part--ROFL!!
They say hypnosis can't make you do anything you don't want to. That was really true in my case--hehe! I think I died at least five times in his office chair that day--ROFL!!
Okay--as long as I told you that much--three of us had gone together to the hypnotist--a girl I worked with and her friend. We wanted to see if we had known each other in France in the 1500s. I had been having dreams about a lifetime back then and apparently many people I know in this lifetime--well, we were all in France together.
Anyways, we were all in the room. The other two girls were sitting quietly in chairs against the far wall while I had my session. It felt like they were supposed to be in there with me. Everything happens for a reason, right? Turned out there was a huge reason why I went to that particular lifetime. While I was being raped and killed over and over in the chair--(chuckle)--the two girls were the ones who were each separately actually remembering what was happening to me. They were both silently crying and staring at me--so each didn't know the other one was experiencing anything. The hypnotist had his back to them, so he never knew that was happening--and me--I just kept running--having stabbing pain in my knees--stomach and wrists--crying and panting in pain--and then became suddenly silent, breathing peacefully, and looking beatific, I guess. I thought it had been quite a failure of a session. I had no idea what they had been experiencing.
After we left the hypnotist--we all chatted about the experience. It was then that they told me and each other what they experienced. (Needless to say--it freaked us all out! We told the hypnotist later.) The girl I worked with--she remembered being a man in that lifetime and that she was raping me. Her friend had been his mother in that lifetime--and had held me down for him.
The backstory they remembered--I had been married off to an older man specifically to have an heir. (None of us had any clue as to what time period this was or where.) The mother had been his commoner mistress for decades and the son was the only male heir--illegitimate, but a male heir. Now that I came into the picture--and got pregnant right away--all the mother's years of working on this man to make her son his legal heir--gone! The son was more my age and had fallen in love with me--and yet hated me at the same time. They had even lived in his house with him and had all the privileges--until I came and they got booted out before he married me. They planned to make it look like I had been robbed and killed. The rape was just an added angry bonus for the son because I had scorned his advances. They remembered that they had been publicly hung later.
They both had their memories separately--and between the two of them that was the story. I only had the physical memory of the pain in my body--couldn't see any of what was happening. But because we all went together in this lifetime--and they remembered and were ashamed and in tears--I could forgive them. It was all about forgiveness.
And a week or so later, as I was waking up one morning, I got more of the story from GA. I think I have mentioned that GA isn't really an angel--but a guiding spirit and I have known him before. Well, in that lifetime GA was my handmaiden or whatever they call them. She and I had practically grown up together--she took care of my clothes, hair and such and we were fast companions and loved each other dearly. When I was given away in marriage to this older man, I insisted she come with me to my new home. She was my only friend.
I used to go on these walks alone by a river and GA worried about me because I was fearless in some respects--or naive, selfish, stubborn, and ignorant, some would say--hehe! On that day GA was secretly tailing me to keep an eye on me as she said she always did. But when they chased me, caught me, and sliced my legs at the knee--the whole time--she stayed hidden in the bushes--watching the whole thing. She was afraid to show herself because she knew they would have to kill her, too. She couldn't move from the position she was in--even to go get help--or she would be seen.
When they left me for dead--GA rushed to my side, crying. I went to that place--like when I jumped to being dead--but I remembered the baby--my innocent baby. I willed myself back into my body. Now I don't know what happened--if I asked GA to cut the baby out or I had gone into labor because of the trauma and birthed the baby--don't remember that part--but the baby lived and then I died. The baby was Dagan--and GA basically raised him in that lifetime. GA exposed the woman and her son and they were hung. Dagan was proclaimed this miracle child in that life, too! ROFL!! But he was very spoiled and revered because of it and grew into a selfish, arrogant man.
Kind of explains why Dagan and GA and I were sooo connected while I was raising him in this lifetime. And why I was so overly conscious of Dagan not being spoiled or selfish--hehe!
GA wanted to be forgiven for not trying to help me when I was attacked. Absolutely! GA is totally forgiven. Made me cry right now to even think GA would need my forgiveness for anything.
My goodness--didn't think I was going to tell that whole story. Oh well. I have always had dreams or visions of pieces of past lives--many years apart, but I have had a few of them. If they are just my imagination--well, if they lead to good things, that's okay with me, too. But with the two girls having visions/memories of the same thing at the same time--and such a bizarre story...and then getting additional information from GA later....???? I'm usually quite the doubting Thomas, but that made a 95% believer out of me. :):)
I asked a long, long time ago that I only have memories if they will help me with something in this life. No point otherwise. People can get lost in trying to remember everything and every lifetime--what a waste of time--IMHO, anyways. It would be like trying to go back and re-live every single day in this lifetime--duh! Unless I can gain some insight to help me on my current path.... :):)

Teddy Bear On The Bible

This is what I remember about my first religious crisis or spiritual epiphany.

I was five years old and in first grade at Northeast Christian School in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. (I went to parochial school for the first two years and then went to public school in Fridley starting in third grade.)

Anyways, when it was really horrible weather we had recess inside. I remember the playroom had a wall that had a long counter with shelves underneath with lots of cubbies for toys and books. The bell went off and we were supposed to put the toys away and return to class. I was taking too long and had to hurry, so I quickly tossed this teddy bear up on top of the counter and rushed to get to class. The teacher grabbed my arm and dragged me back for a good close look at my sin. I had tossed that teddy bear on top of the big open bible on the counter. I thought I was in trouble for not putting it down in a cubby--but it was considerably worse than I ever could have imagined.

The teacher lectured me about how I had defaced God's property, insulted God with my careless attitude, the bible was God's word, I had no respect,....etc....etc....etc. She informed me I was going straight to hell and I had better change my ways. She had me move the teddy bear to a cubby, apologize to God, and sent me off to class.

I was absolutely destroyed! I couldn't stop thinking about it! I had quite accidentally condemned my soul to hell. I had been in such a happy mood, loved school, and hadn't meant to do anything to upset God at all. I knew I'd make more mistakes--I always did. God was mad at me and would probably never forgive me. My life was over--done!

When I got home from school I nervously told my mom about how I was going to hell and why. She just laughed. Poo-pooed the entire incident. Since she didn't go to church except for Easter and Christmas I didn't figure she was exactly an authority on all things biblical--so I went off to my room, crawled under the covers, and mourned my loss of God until I had no more tears and just those hiccupy breaths. I laid there--limp and lifeless. And then I "heard" inside my head--"That's not your God."

Now, those of you that know me have heard about GA (my guardian angel) for most of my adult life. I had no idea where this information that just popped into my head came from--but never questioned it. Looking back--that was probably the first time I consciously remember having one of those inner conversations with GA (not that I was even aware that was what it was at the time--at all). You know how they say something has the ring of truth? My chats with GA have always been like bells of truth ringing--(whether I like what he has to say or not--hehe!).

Anyways, a long silent "thought conversation" took place as I laid there in bed. I was "told" that God doesn't judge only by the outside, but by the inside. Not just by what I did--but why I did it. Only God knows all the whys--knows everything--and that's why I shouldn't judge people only by what I see and hear. I had no evil intent toward God when I tossed the teddy bear on the bible. God knew that. My God is a loving God. My God has miraculous love that is bigger and stronger than all the hate or anger or fear in the whole world. But I was also "told" the teacher was not lying. That is how she sees God and that is who God really is to her--inside. Everybody's whys or insides are different. And only God knows your insides--your secret, safe place. I can't adequately describe how the concepts flowed through me or the intense relief and the love I felt all through my body and soul. The information was conveyed very simply and a lot of it was almost as visuals. But I have never forgotten it.

Seems like I have spent my lifetime trying to regain the innocent absolute faith of that five-year-old who believed she was forgiven. :):)

Soft Breaths

Dagan is napping. Being able to faintly hear his breathing even from the living room, I am once again grateful for this tiny apartment...our new home. Once I have cleaned and arranged and organized, I can make anywhere home. I’ve had practice, so I know this to be true.

Soft breaths. I look out the living room window and squint from the sun. The grass is worn away to gray dirt littered with cigarette confetti on either side of the front steps. Unless I look down, I am level with the tree branches. I love looking into tree branches. The leaves are turning and the wind is winning the battle today. Soon there will be frost on these windows and snow on the ground. But today...the beauty of it lifts my heart. I want to show Dagan the dried leaves and talk of what the earth does when it rests. But the doctors say to keep him in.

They warn me to keep him out of the cold, keep him out of the heat, keep him away from other kids so he doesn’t catch anything, watch him so he doesn’t fall on his chest against the furniture when he learns to walk, watch his fluid intake, watch his salt intake...protect him, protect him...the unspoken battle to keep him alive as long as possible. “The babies don’t usually die from the actual heart defects,” the doctors, the nurses, and the other “heart parents” have told me. “They usually die from complications: pneumonia, strep throat, bronchitis, or even catching the flu. It’s hard for them to fight things off.” I have heard about the “heart kids” with their various defects...dying in their sleep, cardiac failure on the school bus, pacemaker leads breaking inside their chests, dying during surgery, dying after surgery in the hospital...dying, dying.

Soft breaths. I watch the leaves whipping off the branches and dancing across the brown grass. Dying. Too much focus on dying.

Dagan was three months old when they told me he was dying and there was nothing they could do for him. I forced myself not to dwell on it because that was something private between Dagan and God. I concentrated on his life while he was here. I would not let family, myself included, into the neo-natal unit if they were upset...sad, crying, or shaking. I did not want him to absorb our fear. I felt blessed by every day he stayed. I smiled and laughed and sang to him because being sad was an insult to Dagan. It would have been like mourning him before he left. The nurses explained every procedure, medication, and piece of equipment. They even let me watch him alone sometimes. I knew how to read all the monitors, how to check his leads, and even how to slap the soles of little Janie’s feet in the next bed to start her heart when she flat-lined. I’ve always been good in crisis situations. I’ve had practice, so I know this to be true.

But there were times when sadness would well up and grab me by the throat...suddenly without warning. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I would just wave, turn my face from them, and they knew I was leaving to find one of my solitary spots...to cry. I am a private crier. I’ve had practice, so I know this to be true. This was just selfish crying, anyway, and it made me ashamed. I couldn’t eliminate the primal mother, born with Dagan, who lamented “please, don’t take my baby!”...even though I whispered to him in the night underneath the beeping of machines, “don’t stay for anybody else, Dagan...don’t stay for me...stay only if you want to...it’s okay if you want to leave.”

One afternoon Dagan’s cardiologist wanted to see me in his office across the street. He looked me in the eyes, something he hadn’t done much of since he told us there was nothing they could do for Dagan. “He’s dying. You know that?”

“Yes, I know.” It was so obvious I wondered why he thought I didn’t know. I had been there watching Dagan die for an entire week. He had gone into a cycle the past twenty-four hours of rallying and fading to near lifelessness. His skin had a blue-grey color that chilled me.

The doctor presented a desperate thirteenth hour plan. “If you decide to go ahead with this surgery your son will most likely die on the table. If you don’t have the surgery, you won’t put him through any of this and he may be with you for maybe a day to maybe a week on the outside. He’s not in any pain and he could go peacefully.”

“If there is a chance, I have to give it to him.”

The doctor sighed deeply...and the race was on. Emergency evening surgery. Dagan was pulled off all the machines except his IV. I was finally allowed to hold him for the first time since I carried him into the hospital. As they laid him in my arms I was smiling and crying...my joy could not be contained. I had my baby in my arms. The glistening eyes of nurses said good-bye. I would not say good-bye. I kissed his damp forehead and told him I would see him later.

And I did.

Soft breaths. I pace the living room.

Dagan looked so pink after the surgery! Before he went home a week later his cardiologist warned me that Dagan would probably be back in the hospital within a week or maybe a month. He reminded me that all but one of the children born with Dagan’s particular series of defects were dead and had died before the age of two. Most never made it to their first birthday. I threw up in the bathroom while Dagan was getting his stitches out and then took him home.

Soft breaths. He will be a year old in November, God willing.

God willing. Where had my faith gone? How had each day turned into rising panic instead of a celebration of gratitude? I played with him, read him stories, and laughed with him, but there was a constant underlying fear...the long list of potential harms. I had recently joined an organization at Children’s Hospital called “Parents For Heart.” I met fearful parents and the heart kids who were either throwing quickly appeased temper tantrums or clinging with huge frightened eyes to their mother’s legs. Dagan was a happy child...inquisitive, trusting, intelligent...and sick every few weeks. But he was, also, growing up in the typical unnatural bubble and I was becoming more afraid with each illness. Dagan was beginning to back away from new things and people. He was cranky more often. I was quieter and more nervous. I could see our future.

Soft breaths. I pick up Mr. Sock-Man from under the coffee table and his legs and arms flop against my knee as I pace.

Back when Dagan lay dying in the hospital, I was concerned with how he lived his days, not how many days he lived. I didn’t listen to them... I didn’t listen to them. I had been at peace with the situation. His life is a personal thing...between him and God. We all live on borrowed time. I want him to live well while he is here. Better a shorter life that is as normal and happy as possible, than a longer life filled with fear and isolation. God willing.

Rustling of the sheets. Small creak of the crib as he shifted to his knees. Dagan is awake. He is listening. In a minute he will give a small cry if I don’t greet him from his nap. I smile to myself...just to know him. I greet his smiling face and change his wet bottom. God forgive me if I’m wrong...I bundle him up and put him in the stroller. Dagan bubbles with those chortly baby laughs in anticipation as we set off in the cold, sunny, wind to catch leaves and talk to kids at the park and discuss how the earth rests under the snow.

The Corner Cubby

She was curled in his lap like a kitten
He stroked her blonde curls with one hand
As she nestled upon his thin chest
With the other he searched inside her blouse
Their eyes were closed
More from fear than passion
She lifted her rosy face
Slowly licked her lips
And cracked her eyes to kiss him

That is when she saw me
Ambushed by new love
Attempting to retreat quietly
After striding around the library stack
And being suddenly transformed
Into an intimate transgressor
An unexpected voyeur

She bolted upright with hair askew
Snatched her blouse together
Smacking him alongside the head
With her indignant elbow
Snapping his head back
He nearly tumbled the chair
But fumbled his way upright
And gallantly stood to block my view
From her buttoning fingers

I cast my eyes upon the floor
And scuttled off
Relieved to find an empty table
Three racks down
Unloading my backpack
Echoes of haste traveled
Along the wall
Panicked whispers
They vanished
Before I had even caught my breath

I became accustomed
To the sounds
Of tender budding
Afternoon rendezvous
Three days a week
After my Spanish class
And before English 101
I sat three racks down
My table spread with books
Papers and class notes
Straining to concentrate
I learned to filter out
The sweet murmurings
Encouraging giggles
Whispered conversation
Soft low moaning
And the sharp snapping creak
Of the wooden chair
As she shifted in his lap
Followed by the flurry of departure
I’d smile to glimpse them
Cross my sight
Framed in bookracks
Hand in hand

Now spring is hinting its arrival
Final papers and exams
Have become an undertow
I trudge to my table
Three racks down
Spread out my books
Papers and class notes
And pause to listen

So quiet
They’ve been missing
For over a week now
Poised over my studies
Fists bracing my chin
I wonder what happened
To the hope and promises
To the blinding faith
Of new love

As I pick up my pen
And open my book
I feel them like an
Empty pocket

Friday, July 31, 2009

Positives and Hidden Blessings

I was thinking lately about how my life has changed. I mean once you get past the obvious differences--health, transportation, finances--how it has been altered for the better. When you have days (occasionally weeks) where you can be basically non-funtional due to pain or exhaustion or both, you have plenty of time to think and be observant of change. And recently my "optimism" and "positive thinking" has been brought to my attention by several people--hehe! (Thank you all!)

Some of you may remember Karen--met her when I was at MSUM. Karen helped Leah and I with the Everything's Handmade craft business we tried a few years ago. Karen would bring our crafts to her work's annual craft fair they have before Christmas. Anyways, her boss was writing an article on chronic pain for their newsletter--it's a family health center--and Karen said she thought of me. She called and asked me if her boss could interview me--sure. We connected on the phone and chatted for quite a while. Was fun! People seem surprised at how happy I am, I guess. That I have such a "positive attitude".

Made me think about why--and how I feel now vs. when I had been so depressed about being forced to quit college, losing my apartment in Moorhead, and worried about where I was going to live. BUT--students and teachers back then still told me I was positive and always laughing. ?? (They should see me now! hehe!)

Granted, I am especially happy right now due to the fact that Dagan and Leah won't be tied for years to that dreadfully constructed house and I feel like a fountain of joy--but I have noticed that I have changed a lot these past few years from dealing with all the health issues. It was very hard at first to deal with losing my independence--to have my body take over and totally control my life--in major life's path ways and even in the smaller matters of daily living. I had to learn acceptance of this new, limited body--to see myself differently in the physical world, I guess. Wasn't quick or easy to change my self-image, but you can't fight it forever--hehe! Well, you can, but it makes life a pretty miserable trip.

I think a huge part of how I deal with life--good and bad--is that I really have always believed that everything happens for a reason--long before I had a broader view of what those reasons might be--hehe! When I was young I thought that I must have been a really bad and horrible person in past lives and I was just getting what I deserved--so I needed to learn how to go through all these things in my life as positively as I could. Basically, I still believe that is probably true--hehe! But I am not so hard on myself about the past lives. :)

I was much more black or white in my younger days. The older I get, the more I see grey, zebra stripes, and polka dots--hehe! I think I always thought there was positive and negative in everything--but I had to search harder for the positives and used to feel I was drowning in the negatives at times. The more I realized that happiness is a choice one makes, the easier traveling through life has become. I say traveling through because life itself never gets any easier--hehe! But it is not what happens to you in life--it is how you live through it, right?

As the years have gone by and the events have occured and the lessons were learned the hard and slow way--I have finally gained some perspective over time, I guess. Okay, I still believe that the good and bad--the black and white--the postive and negative--they are always there--all the time--in everything and everybody. The hardest thing for me to learn was that the "bad" (the negatives--the traumas--the pain--the sorrow--the failures--the horror) is also a gift--a blessing in disguise. Not just something to flee, to endure, to crawl away from, or try to rise above--but to embrace. In fact, most all the monumental, important lessons are learned because of those very negative things! Very likely couldn't be learned any other way. I feel like I have been learning this lesson my whole life. I have weak areas that I still panic over (like my "losing the roof over the head" fear), but I am sooo much better than I was. And (interesting to me) the less I have allowed that fear to control me, the longer I have stayed in one place and the quicker I find a new one when needed.

Funny--the more I am able to embrace my dark side, the lighter I become! :) The more I face my flaws, weaknesses, blame, participation, and responsibility in all aspects of my life--the more contented I become. It is all wrapped up in forgiveness--of myself and others. And the more I stop fighting against and judging the negatives in myself and others--the more I react with love and forgiveness--the freer I feel. This has been a long process--my own personal spiritual path. (I am 57 years old and I remember my first spiritual crisis was when I was five years old.) I have made more significant progress the past 15 years--especially these past few years as my health totally declined. So, probably the biggest spiritual gift I have been given recently has been all my physical limitations! (Before that--it was Dagan and all of his health issues. He has been a blessing in my life in so many ways I cannot count them all!) And it continues--into my next life--hehe!--till I get it right. :)

So--where was I going with all of this rambling? I was thinking how these past several days, when I have been in a basically non-functional stretch again, I have been feeling sooooo peaceful, contented, grateful, and blessed. This is a common occurance for me the past few years here in Fargo. :) Even tho I might not be able to "do" that much these days, I can just "be", you know? My life has taken on this kind of living meditation most of the time--like carrying a smile in my chest. True--it might be because I don't have to deal with the rest of humanity much--hehe! I only leave the apartment once or twice a month--can pick and choose my visitors--and the same with the people I chat with online or write letters to. :) I have always enjoyed my own company--luckily!! I can still enjoy my arts and crafts--reading--writing--well, here and there anyways--when my body allows it--hehe! :) I can still learn new things--connect with people--have people and a cat I love. I can slowly accomplish things--but even when I can't, I can always work on my soul. And what is more important than that? :)

Rape and Love

[Note: was reviewing the movie on my blog. :)]

The Brave One--interesting to see a woman turn vigilante. I could totally relate to her fear after she was attacked and her fiance was killed. I remember the paralyzing fear after I was grabbed off the street, beaten, and raped when I was 17 years old. (July 11, 1968--I am not good at dates, but I will never forget that one.) I remember the feeling of panic afterwards--of not being safe anywhere--but I couldn't relate to her hate and anger, to be honest. Not even back then. It was fear--and pity--overwhelming pity for their souls. An overwhelming mix of sorrow and fear--but there was a great joy mixed in there, too. But then, I am weird. I don't always react in "normal" ways to events--as people who know me will attest. You'd have to know the whole story.

I totally understand the anger--someone reacting as she did in the movie. As a human being, you can understand why, of course. The movie made me sad. It did show that reacting to violence with violence just left her feeling empty and unhappy with who she had become. Just added more violence to this unpredictable world. She became like them.

I didn't lose someone I love to violence, tho. I had no one to avenge. It was just me--my body--that was hurt. I discovered that no matter what someone does to your body, they can't touch your soul--not unless you allow it. Whatever they do--is on their souls. What I do--is on my own soul.

I have often wondered if I would ever resort to violence to save my own life? I would hope not. Having been in that kind of situation, I don't think so. I think I would be much more likely to become violent to protect the people I love and care about. But I would hope and pray that any situation could be resolved without violence--on my part, anyways. I have a tremendous faith in the power of God/goodness/positives/love--since I was young. It has faltered at times, but has always returned to me. :)

I guess I have to tell you the story--short version.

There were three men in that car. The leader snatched me off the street as I was walking home--drug me into the back seat of the car--two other men were in the front seat. He beat me till I passed out. Drove around in the country where there were no street lights. Played cat and mouse with me. As I was getting dressed--he took the driver's seat and sent the man who'd been at the wheel into the back seat with me--threatening to run me down and kill me if I tried to get out of the car. I couldn't see anything but black night and trees. Then the second man was instructed to take his turn--and the boss turned on the dome light to watch and drive and laugh. And he kept telling me all along that they were going to kill me when they were done with me. I had nothing to lose.

I had never been that close to such empty, lost souls--to such a level of anger and hate. I really had absolutely nothing to lose. I was going to die soon. Was overwhelmed with such sadness for their souls. There was no point in telling them I was afraid or I wanted to live--they could see me shaking and I believed what he told me. I was going to die. I had this overpowering feeling that I was supposed to say something before I left this world--so I started talking. It almost hurt to "feel" them--don't know how to explain it.

I wanted to help before I left--(the "soul comforter" in me runs deep). I talked about how I felt alone, too--about how you can't take love from someone (I was too naive to know that rape has not much to do with love and a lot to do with power and hate)...I don't remember eveything I said, but I know I talked about God and love...mostly about love and how precious it is when given freely...I remember feeling lifted up just talking about it--like I do.

They had all been silent and listening to me as we drove in the darkness. The boss suddenly screamed at me to shut up and turned the radio up really loud. I had done my best. I had opened my heart to them. I sat quietly in the back seat--shaking and trembling--waiting. The second man was huddled up against the door looking pointedly out the window. I had a good idea what was next.

The music pounded and I watched. The boss leaned over and shouted into the third man's ear. He shook his head no. The dark-haired boss struck him hard on the side of his head. I knew what that ring felt like. The sandy-haired man kept his head straight forward and wouldn't look at the dark-haired man--and kept shaking his head no as the dark-haired man struck him several times.

I am crying as I am writing this. Every time I think of the sandy-haired man I am overcome with joy--with love. I wish I could meet him one day to thank him--and to tell him how proud I am of him for saying no. For standing up to that angry, frightened dark-haired bully. For being a man he should be proud of--for taking a stand--for saying no.

If you believe in God or the positive power of love in the Universe--I felt it there in that car with me that night. The boss man's shoulders dropped a little. He didn't turn around again except to turn the dome light off. He couldn't look at me, either.
He let me go. They didn't kill me. He even drove me to within a few blocks of where they had kidnapped me--dumped me off with threats--to kill my family or anyone I told--don't turn around--keep walking.....

I am glad I have been reminded of the girl I was and the unwavering faith I had. I can still connect with that pure part of myself, but it is a little more protected over time and hidden by layers, I guess. But I am still here.

Now you see why I also have "joy" when I remember being raped 40 years ago. Over time the fear grows less and the joy grows more.
I still believe! :)

Six Unimportant Random Nothings about me

I was supposed to think of six very unimportant random nothings about myself to reveal. The hardest part about this task was to think of something most of the people who know me might not know already. You all have heard most of my stories--hehe!Well, here goes:

1. When I was a teenager I once had a job for three days constructing aluminum screen door frames with a screw gun. Worst job ever! Apparently I had been very good at it, though. When I informed the supervisor that I wouldn't be coming back, he told me I was better than any new employee he'd ever had--male or female--not one door frame rejected--and that I was "born to handle a screw gun". I disagreed. Same thing happened to me at a plastics factory where I sat and checked those pop-up liquid soap caps for defects--watched them shuffle past me, in mirror surround, for eight hours a day. I lasted two weeks--not one box rejected--they begged me to stay, too. I have always been very good at boring, mind-numbing tasks. But I vastly preferred jobs where I had to mulit-task!! :)

2. Speaking of....residuals from past jobs waitressing and working Natural Foods in a grocery store...all my condiment bottle caps can never get too dirty or I clean them, I tend to top off my salt and pepper mills, and I group and face my dry goods in my pantry. But--which came first? The jobs or the OCD tendencies? I have to be honest and admit that the tendencies were already deeply apparent. Probably why I enjoyed the jobs--hehe! I'm not like Monk, tho--I am able to ignore things for quite a while--but I can certainly relate to him--hehe!

3. I owned a skunk named Jorj (George) when I was a teenager. Couldn't take him with me when I left home. (Not one apartment would allow a skunk, imagine that!) Sold Jorj to a skunk-loving couple who already had five descented skunks, a cat door for them, all trained to go in a cat box, and had a fenced in yard where the fence went 6-8 feet below ground (they're diggers). They told me Jorj was the friendliest skunk they had ever met! Jorj went to skunk haven!3. I have some very old items I have been unable to part with--besides my year books, Dagan's baby shoes, more normal things like that. I have my cloth doll from my first birthday (from my uncle Ardell), my high school homecoming button collection, my pep club beanie (which I refused to wear at the time), the metal ankh necklace that Alan made for me senior year in shop class, and even the booklets they gave us for "the" movie in fifth grade--one is titled "Very Personally Yours"--hehe!

4. A few of the ladies from Lee Square (the senior building where I both worked and was live-in security for a couple of years before I came up to Fargo/Moorhead to go to college) still write and/or call me--nine years later. :) It was like a big extended family to me. Loved those ladies--and the few gentlement were pretty nice people, too--hehe!

5. I am afraid of creepy, crawly things that fly or have legs getting on me. Hate wood ticks and leeches!! Young boys who discovered that an almost fearless tomboy was afraid of having spiders, grasshoppers, cicadas (on vacation in Ohio) or crawfish, sand crabs (this was on vacation in Florida)--whatever!!!! *sigh*--thrown at her---well, they had a lot of fun and made my life hell! I made sure that this dangerous knowledge did not leak back into my life at home where I had a brave image to maintain. You are all sworn to secrecy!!

6a. I have an almost endless sense of humor. Under certain circumstances some people have considered it to be quite inappropriate. (I have been told as much--hehe!) I can usually find something funny, ironic, silly, joyful, absurd, or sadly humorous in almost any situation--even fender benders, flat tires, being locked out of the house, watching people totally lose their tempers over some inconsquential occurance, ruining my "good" arm from overuse..etc, etc. When I stop laughing--then you know I am in deep trouble. Or you are--if you have thrown a spider at me!

6b. I probably have passed this crazy sense of humor on to Dagan--hehe! More times than with any other human being on this earth--he and I have laughed until we cried with high pitched squeals--often in public places!! Ask Dagan about the penguin card at Hallmark---"I gotta be me!" Oh goodness! I guess you had to be there!

Fridley Fields

I love toads, salamanders, dragonflies, butterflies, turtles, fish...all the fluttering and crawly critters I spent so many hours with when I was a kid wandering the fields and lake by our house in Fridley. I didn't like the green frogs we had by the lake. But I do love tree frogs--saw them later elsewhere. We didn't have any tree frogs. :(

We also had mallards, an owl I could never get a good look at, flickers, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, sparrows, killdeer, a couple of crows, and a bluish black bird--maybe starlings? Garter snakes, rabbits, skinks, thirteen striped ground squirrels--all the critters of the Midwestern plains, the grass fields. Probably a lot more I can't think of anymore off the top of my head.

Things I wasn't quite as fond of--loved to observe but didn't want them too near me--shudder! Little black and white jumping house spiders, daddy long-legs, various other spiders, wood ticks, bats, snapping turtles, shrews, moles, and something that may have been a woodchuck?

Don't know what got me to thinking about Moore Lake and the fields this morning? It is only 19 degrees--but it is sunny out.

I loved being outside when I was a kid. I spent entire summers wandering about by myself--laying in the tall grass fields and watching dragonflies gather on the tips of the wild grass above my head. Laying silently on my stomach next to a ground squirrel hole waiting for it to pop its head out--sometimes I fell asleep there in the sun. After a rain storm, collecting the yellow spotted salamanders from people's new window wells and carrying them in metal coffee cans back down to the lake. Sitting quietly for hours watching a mama mallard on her nest.

I climbed the rough oak tree. Balance walked around the top of the dusty ice rink fence in the heat of summer. Ran through the fields of wild flowers and spun with arms wide. I love wildflowers!!! Even if some of them smell bad--the stems--and the flowers are very small. People think of a lot of them as weeds. But I think of stickers and those thorny green clumps as weeds! Hard on the bare feet, I tell you.

Tumbleweeds! When we first moved there and all the houses were brand new--there were tumbleweeds and sand dunes!

I was so blessed to have lived where I did. Most all of these memories were when I was from 5-10 years old. We moved to Fridley when I was five. When I was ten they were digging up the higher field to build a senior high school--killing so many animals--most of the wildflowers grew there, too. Broke my heart.

After that--it was softball fields and more housing. Nothing is left of the Minnesota grass fields of my youth. The lake--they built a walkway along the "wild" side of the lake--so people can look from a dry wooden planked footpath. There must still be children who touch the earth--that walk barefoot through the mud...push aside the grasses to peer at mallards mumbling contentedly and smacking goodies from the slimy bottom...smell the damp water's edge covered in algae and dancing water bugs...hear the red-winged blackbirds call...frighten leaping frogs back into the hot shallow water...???

May dragonflies follow you and feel safe enough to perch upon your body. May you hear the meadowlarks song and allow a killdeer to fool you. May you notice whatever is outside your door.

Flower Child

Flower Child

I was cleaning cages in the garage. I had to clean half of the twenty-seven cages and aquariums every day to keep the smell down or my folks would start evicting my critters. Various rodents, lizards, and amphibians lined two walls in the garage and a corner of the basement. No animals were allowed in my room. Mine was next to theirs and Mom, especially, was personally affronted by pungent odors. It wasn’t easy to maintain control of the odor because I didn’t have store-bought bedding for my rodents and had to use hand-shredded newspapers. Selling babies to the local pet shop kept me in seed and pellets, but I couldn’t afford bedding. The manager preferred buying his rats, mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs from me because mine were all gentle, hand-tamed, and less likely to be returned for biting. He saved cracked aquariums and gave them to me for free. Neighbor kids brought me their folks’ newspapers and were on trash alert for great stuff like a bruised apple, wilting lettuce, or a pile of carrot tops and peelings from dinner. A couple of moms even wrapped their critter salvageable garbage in waxed paper for their kids to deliver for my “zoo.” Kids always popped in. All those little hands helped keep the babies tame and I taught them how to be gentle with animals.

As I softly poured a hamster family from the ice cream pail back into their clean cage, I heard a small troop of feet come up short by the open garage door. “I’m cleaning right now. Can’t play with ‘em till I’m done, okay?”

As I slid the cage cover on, they all started talking at once. “No. Rita, look! Look what we found.” My heart sank. I turned and saw two kids with hands cupped gingerly in front of them moving forward. One of the red-headed boys had something scooped up in his t-shirt and there were several observers anxiously circling.

“We saved ‘em, we did. From where they’re diggin’.” The foundation for the new Senior High School had begun about a block and a half away, just across the road from Moore Lake.

“You’re not supposed to go over there, ya know. Better not let anybody catch ya,” I warned. They knew I searched The Flower Field after the workmen went home. I was second to the oldest in the neighborhood. Besides, nobody would bother to tell my folks, anyways.

“We were watching from the backyard over there across the street.”

“They shut the machines off. They’re gone- eating their lunch.”

“Yeah! We snuck out. Only on the edge. Not by the big hole, ya know?”

“I didn’t go. I stayed in the yard,” said a little girl in back.

“Me, too. I stayed in the yard, too.”

“They chopped the Mom rabbit!”

“Yeah! They chopped her!”

“Well, most probley it was the Mom, ya know. She wasn’t way far from the babies.”

“It was the Mom,” pronounced the little girl with wet eyes.

“Yeah! Really icky! All blood and stuff.”

“This one’s leg is broke, though, Rita. Can ya fix it?” Hopeful hands raise the baby like an offering. A white bone stuck out of the rabbit’s back leg and the splintering of the wishbone at Thanksgiving jolted to mind.

“You didn’t see a cat or a dog by there, did ya?” I wondered about the facts.

“Lookit! You can see the bone right there.” One of the girls stuck her pointing finger too close.

“Get away. Don’t touch it.” The boy shouldered away from her.

“I wasn’t!”

“This one here’s got a bloody nose.” Another offering.

“Just a minute. Let me get a box for them.” I scrambled up the big ladder leaning against the back wall and found the smallest box I could in the rafters where all the forgotten junk was piled.

“Hey, Rita! Rita! He’s got three more of ‘em in his shirt.”

“Just a minute. I’m comin’.” Stealing an old hand towel from Dad’s rag-bag near the foot of the ladder, I headed back over to the group by the door. They hovered as I fixed up the box.

“Remember,” I warned, “I found those four baby rabbits last week that were way bigger. They had their eyes open and could hop and everything and didn’t look hurt or nothin’, but they all died.” I took the broken-leg bunny from the dirt-encrusted hands. Being ten, I could fit it pretty much in one hand. It never made a sound. I laid it carefully in one end of the box. It just laid there, flat on its side with its legs straight out and was barely breathing. It never tried to move. “Don’t think this one’s gunna make it. Sorry, can’t do nothin’ ‘bout the leg.”

“Here. Lookit this one.” The bloody-nose bunny was placed in my hand. I lifted my palm up and tried to see it from different angles. The blood was just kind of sitting in its nose making little blood bubbles. It was trying to sit up and I saw blood in its mouth, too.

“It musta got hurt inside.” When I set it down there was a little airy-squeak and it pushed its clotting nose up next to the broken-leg one, wobbled and fell over. “Don’t look good,” I sadly diagnosed.

The red-headed boy had inched forward and pulled his shirt out. A clump of bunnies swung in the bottom of his t-shirt hammock. These looked more normal, so I picked them right up, one by one, and looked them over and put them in the other end of the box. “These ones look good, but don’t know if I can save ‘em. Lookit. Their eyes aren’t even open yet. But, I’ll try, okay? But don’t be surprised if they all die like the last ones. Remember -these ones are even littler babies.”

I pulled a corner of the towel up over the three good ones who had curled up together in a ball. That done- I turned, put my hands on my hips and eyed them all good. “You could get hurt over there and I don’t want any of you kids gettin’ hurt, ya know? You hear me? What if you fell in that big hole and could never get out? What if you got chopped up like the Mom rabbit? Huh? What about that?” I stared them into silence. “If you see somethin’ just come and get me, okay? I will go out there, not you. Okay? Promise?”

Heads bobbed.

“You guys, The Flower Field is gone. You’ll have to play over in The Grass Field and The Sand Dunes, ya know. And, you guys stay away from The Big Sand Dune and The Dead End so those bigger boys don’t push you down. You know you can come get me if you need me, okay?”

Heads bobbed.

“Okay. I gotta try and get ‘em to drink something now, so you guys gotta get goin’. You should be eatin’ lunch, anyways. You can come and ask me every day how they’re doin’, ya know.”

With bright eyes and confident hearts, they scattered.

Carefully carrying the box steady, I opened the back screen door. Silence. I scooted through the backside of the house into my bedroom and quickly shut the door. Kicking everything over to one side of my closet floor, I scuttled the box into the corner, hauled the lamp in there, flicked the light on over them, and hunched cross-legged over the box. They had tiny ears lying flat to their heads and they reminded me of newborn kittens. At least I had learned not to use the heat lamp Dad used for his bad back. I, literally, cooked some Mallard eggs the kids brought me last year. My eyes still sting every time I picture the warm, wet feathers shining through the small hole I had delicately picked with shaking tweezers when I checked one of the eggs after it was cool enough to handle. Ignorance is no excuse for murder.

I wondered if the workmen thought about the animals they killed every day. It was spring, 1961, and there were babies everywhere up on The Flower Field where they were digging. Baby rabbits, thirteen-striped ground squirrels, gophers, mice, moles, killdeer, garter snakes, meadowlarks, and skinks were the ones I could think of right off. That’s not counting the salamanders, frogs and toads who wandered across the road from the lake. The best part of my own personal sanctuary was being plowed under. The prairie grass was shorter there and you could twirl and twirl about, arms raised to the sun, amidst the wildflowers. Tiny yellow, clumpy purple, small violet, yellow beady, and purple thistly flowers grew there. There were white flowers that grew in clusters like parachutes and orange daisies we made wishes on while we plucked them naked. I just could not believe that teeming, flowered meadowland was being replaced by a stupid old school. I hoped as many critters as possible had escaped either to The Lake on the one side or to The Grass Field and Sand Dunes on the other.

The bloody-nose bunny quit breathing. Not the one I thought would die first, but I was glad it wasn’t suffering anymore. I wished the broken-leg one would die soon, poor thing. It’s hard to tell how an animal feels when you can’t see its eyes.

I grabbed a couple of Kleenexes out of the box on my headboard, wrapped up the dead one and shut my bedroom door on my way out. I peeked in the living room and Dad was asleep in his chair. Saturday afternoon. I went out the back way to the garage, put the dead bunny in the ice cream pail and covered it. No time for burying. There’d be another soon, anyways, so I went back and stashed the bucket in my closet. Then I located the doll bottle in the basement, even though the last bunnies hated it and had kicked scratches all over my hands and forearms in protest. I needed to find something else. I searched the basement. I scrounged through the garage and quietly through the kitchen, so I wouldn’t wake Dad. In the bathroom medicine cabinet was a bottle of old eardrops with an eyedropper.
Down the drain. Hot water and soap.

“What on earth are you doing in there? That water’s been running for five minutes!”
Mom! I hadn’t seen her when I went through the house. She must have been in their bedroom with the door shut. Not good.

“Nothin’. Just washing my hands. Been cleanin’ cages. I’m almost done.”

“Well, good.” Oh, great! Dad was up. “Money doesn’t grow on trees, ya know. We pay for all that hot water.” He was backing her up. Not good.

I hid the bottle in my underpants. “Okay, okay. I’m done,” I said as I was already shutting my bedroom door.

The broken-leg one hadn’t died yet, so I covered it with some Kleenexes to keep it warm and, to be honest, so I wouldn’t have to look at that bone for a while. It puzzled me why it was hardly bleeding. I tried to give it some warm water where it laid, but it didn’t move. Arranging a t-shirt in my lap from my dirty clothes on the closet floor, I proceeded with the careful task of coaxing the three good bunnies into drinking some water from the eyedropper. I didn’t want to fetch milk for them until I knew whether Mom was working herself up to one of her filibusters or if this would rate as a minor skirmish. She sounded testy.

We moved to Fridley, Minnesota in 1956. We had been living in a duplex in South Minneapolis. My world had been; sidewalks, traffic, squirrels, tall trees, and a fenced-in back yard with patchy grass. I remember when we drove out one day after a rainstorm to see how the house was coming along. I thought the new housing development was an awful place to live. Flat. Sand. No roads- just rutted paths and mud puddles everywhere. Everything had been leveled and lots were paced off with stakes and string. Houses were in various stages of development. Basement holes were dug, cement floors poured, cement block walls were raised, and the dirt was filled back in around the basement walls and window wells when the blocks were dry. The timber foundations were braced for the main floor, the floor bases were laid, and then the outside walls would go up. Our house had gotten to the skeletal wall stage when we came creeping up the rutty road and Mom and Dad pointed out our new home.

Dad was going to park where it looked like the driveway was supposed to be. Mom said it looked like a lake there and he should park wherever he wanted. Always alert to authority, Dad was sure he would get in trouble if he didn’t park in the proper place. Mom said it was all just sand, anyway. There may have been no defining lines yet in the naked suburb, but there were always defining lines between my folks.

I don’t remember where we parked, but I do remember walking a wobbly plank over a mud puddle to get to the stacked basement blocks that formed the temporary front steps, climbing halfway up and Dad grabbing me by one arm and hauling me up onto a vast wooden platform. I stood on that plywood floor with the breeze blowing my jacket, looking through the wooden frame in all directions and thinking this was a terrible, empty, dead place as far as the eye could see. There was not one living thing. Not one tree. Not one blade of grass.

“I don’t want to move here,” I whined, tugging at Mom’s coat.

“Lots of kids will be moving here. You’ll like it.” She smiled.

She was all happy on the way home.

That night she cried. She was afraid the new neighbors wouldn’t accept her. She cried for three days.

We moved.

Mom was right. There were, quite literally, kids everywhere. Every single house had toddlers and babies. Witnessing the magical transformation of the neighborhood was an adventure that mesmerized our puerile minds and convinced us we had moved into a place of eminence and grandiosity. Awe-inspiring machines graded and paved the streets with smelly hot tar and giant roller machines. A procession of giant dump trucks visited the bare yards, leaving mountains of black dirt that the moms had to keep the little kids out of all day until the shirtless, sweaty dads could shovel it into wheel-barrels and scatter the dark, loamy lumps to the staked edges of their property lines. Next came the huge flatbed trucks filled with rolls of grass.

The city planted a slip of an elm tree in everybody’s front yard by the street. The sandy soil was an unforgiving host and most of them died. There were no curbs or sidewalks. Garages went up- mostly doubles. Driveways appeared- with the kind of tar that would burn your feet and sink your kickstand in the hot summer sun. Flowers, shrubs, and trees arrived. The whole neighborhood went from brown sand to green manicured lawns in what seemed the blink of an eye and another suburb of Minneapolis was born.

We lived about a block away from the untouched Minnesota prairie land that surrounded the end and side of our part of the Vern Donnay housing development. We lived on the tip of, what seemed to us, an endless stretch of blocks of houses and on the opposite side was Moore Lake. I lived for summer. My heart and soul thrived at The Dead End, The Creek, The Grass Field, The Sand Dunes, The Big Sand Dune, The Flower Field and The Lake.

Take The Dead End, for instance. The short tar road just stopped on the top of a small incline. The rain had gradually undermined the artificial tar horizon, cracked and crumbled the edges of the road and dropped it off into a miniature, swirling ravine that fed The Creek that advanced across The Grass Field and carved through the base of The Big Sand Dune. The Dead End was my favorite place to be during the thunder and lightning of a hard summer rain. Waiting in anticipation for the dark swirling water of The Drop Off to rise high enough to overflow, being peltingly caressed with warm water, staring into the darkness of the unknown depths, being privy to the rushing birth of The Creek, staying ahead of the creation all the way to the oak tree at the base of The Big Sand Dune, laughing at my footprints in the sand, appreciating the true beauty of wet rocks, floating leaves, wiping water out of my eyes, and opening my mouth to the rain with arms spread wide was definitely worth the random possibility of being electrocuted by lightning. The sun came out and the creek dried up. Left in memory were the imprints of the moving water against the sand and the flattened grasses. I learned about the power of God at The Dead End.

The third good bunny suddenly stiffened in my cupped hand against my chest. Silently the little legs stuck out and it trembled. I hadn’t even gotten the eyedropper out yet. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see what was wrong. Its mouth had opened and the tip of its tiny gray tongue stuck out. I knew it was dying. I just held it, kept it company and waited.

I wrapped the bunny in Kleenex and put it in the ice cream pail. Mom’s voice was louder and higher. The broken-leg bunny was dead, too. I wrapped it and put it with the other two in the pail. The remaining two had damp faces and they felt cool, even with the lamp on them. The bulb was too far away, but after the Mallard eggs I wasn’t pressing my luck. I could still hear Mom in the kitchen. I dashed out and grabbed a hand towel and two baby pins from the hall closet. I put the two in the towel, folded it in half and pinned it to my shoulders with the big baby pins. Cradling the bundle with my left hand, I put the lamp back where it belonged, moved the box and pail to the other side of the closet, sat in the corner and slid the closet door not quite shut. Now I could relax. They wouldn’t know I was here and I had enough light to use the eyedropper. I could hear Mom crying and shouting in the living room. Three dead already. It got hard to breathe and a tear fell off my face onto the towel.

When I was trapped in the house and couldn’t get away to my wild sanctuary, I could always go there in my head. I leaned my head back, propped up my legs, wedged my hands beneath the bunny bundle and remembered saved animals. One of the older girls came over one evening last spring to tell me that there were some birds in a tree trunk beyond her back yard on the edge of The Grass Field. “My mom and dad say they haven’t seen them get fed since yesterday. My mom watches the woodpeckers from the kitchen window- now she’s all sad because they’ll die. I told her I would come and tell you…that maybe you could do something for them?”

There were a few abandoned basement cement blocks on the edge of The Grass Field. Sandy helped me haul one over to the tree and put it on end the tall way. By this time it was dusk. I wasn’t tall enough to see in, but was close enough to just tentatively reach inside the hole. Beaks lunged at my fingers. I snapped my hand back so fast that I teetered the block. They were awful strong and were obviously better off in the tree trunk. We caught some grasshoppers. The birds actually pecked them out of my hand when I held them in the hole. They hurt my fingers, so I knew I couldn’t get any of the kids to help me.

Sandy and I spread the word and the kids brought me all kinds of bugs. Their initial enthusiasm waned in a couple of days, but by that time there were only a couple of beaks in the hole. Those birds ate so violently that I couldn’t believe they were dying in there, but they were either dying or leaving. I wasn’t tall enough to see into the hole, but I could see their heads sometimes and they had feathers. It smelled bad enough that I thought maybe they were dying in there!
That last week I only felt one left, which was actually good because by the second week I was getting tired of catching bugs all by myself and my hands were raw from beak abuse. Coming to the tree with a jar of juicy grasshoppers, I was just about to stun breakfast by snapping the jar back and forth as hard as I could, when I was stopped dead in my tracks. There was a grown bird sitting in the hole - just watching me. It took me a moment to realize it was the last baby, because it was a regular-sized bird, just a little fluffy looking. Seeing the whole bird, not just the bobbing top of the head and the flash of an eye, was enlightening. I wasn’t sure it was even a woodpecker.

We just stared at each other. Then it leaned forward and took off like it had always known how to fly. It flew low along the waving blanket of tall prairie grass and then rose up and circled the tree three times and headed toward The Lake. I let the grasshoppers go. I waded through the grass until I found a level spot without too many rocks, laid flat on my back, stared up the tapping straw walls in the narrow hole my body made, and watched dragonflies and clouds until lunch. Despite my total lack of categorical or labeling interest, I must confess that I searched bird books at the library until I found a picture of that up-close meeting. 

We saved at least one baby flicker last year.

I smiled to myself in the corner of my closet. The two babies wiggled in the towel. They were warm now, so I reached for the eyedropper.

There was a physical pain in my chest when I thought about The Flower Field. Now, even The Dead End seemed pregnant with ominous intent, poised as it was over The Grass Field. I could not even imagine my life without startling a basking skink on a dune and watching it whip its stubby, snake-like body across the sand with its furious little legs pumping; or ignoring the male Killdeer’s pleading, broken-winged, pied-piper performance to walk softly in the opposite direction so as to glimpse the frozen female guarding her grass nest; or sitting on the crest of The Big Sand Dune and looking across the top of the oak leaves; or hearing the familiar rustling of the tall prairie grass that billowed in the breeze like a mom shaking out a clean sheet over a bed; or enduring the rough bark on the back of my thigh for the perfect, perching crook of the gnarly oak tree in The Flower Field; or twirling in the sun amidst the wildflowers.

I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
By some miracle, one bunny lived. The neighbors complained about Juniper for years, because she grazed in their gardens and bore babies under their bushes. She had to live with us… in the housing development. The remaining prairie land was transformed rapidly into more housing and Little League softball fields.

For the past forty years, when life cuts hard, I can still close my eyes and escape into my sanctuary fields…arms splayed, face to the sun, I twirl and twirl…where wildflowers brush my bare toes and baby bunnies are safe.