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Friday, November 30, 2007

Through the Pane of Glass – Part 5

21 Days From My Window

Outside my window today the street lies deserted. A stillness seeps into the atmosphere, and I sit here gazing in silent wonder. All the neighbors are gone as though some important business or Christmas sale has called them away in the early morning hours. There is an emptiness left behind, where their cars usually sit in the driveways and the street.

I see four barren trash barrels lying on their sides---empty, cold and dark. Discarded by the garbage men, they wait helplessly on the cold ground. An unruly tangle of pampas grass stirs faintly in a feeble breeze. The flag on the pole rouses only slightly as though snoring in his slumber; and the house with the second Bradford pear tree has added a lone, giant candy cane to the neighborhood’s festive Christmas d├ęcor.

The four trees stand silently, their branches twitching. There is a tension in the air, a sense of anticipation. Even the shadows across the lawn, the street and the rooftops stand perfectly still---waiting for something. The sun shines brightly, but the temperature is cool. Will winter wrap its chilly arms around us today, or will the sun be warm enough to hold him off for a while longer? I shiver, and turn my face away from the pane.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Through the Pane of Glass – Part 4

21 Days From My Window

This morning through my window, the sun shines brightly. The wind has finished his performance, packed up, and headed down the road. The trees and the flag droop quietly in the morning glare as though remembering their late night celebration, and nursing a morning headache. The house across the street has started putting on her Christmas finery. A wreath of red and green hangs on her door, and what look to be red poinsettias flank the green wooden bench on the porch.

Withered leaves dot my neighbor’s lawn like pecans in a banana bread batter. Patches of frosty dew are slowly lightening and the neighbor’s truck stands dripping in the driveway. The neighbor with the wreath on his door steps outside and breathes in the crisp morning air. He does not wear a coat, rather a long sleeved purple shirt and blue jeans. He steps into his car and pulls out of the driveway. Soon he returns, carrying a jug of milk. He looks as though he’s whistling as he climbs the steps. He disappears back into the house to what I imagine is a warm breakfast. And I smile as I watch behind my chilly window pane.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Through the Pane of Glass – Part 3

21 Days From My Window

Outside my window today, the wind blows in great, hurried gusts. It rattles the window, and sends shivers up and down my spine. As I sit gazing through the glass, I see the Bradford pear trees dancing merrily in the wind. They may have missed last week’s Grand Autumn Ball, but today their beautiful, faded gowns are fluttering in an impetuous breeze while they flirt and laugh, breathlessly. Flapping gallantly between the trees, a red, white and blue flag pulls and tugs, trying to get free of the pole and fly. The white tether that binds the flag to the pole snaps angrily in the wind and fights desperately to control its overactive efforts.

Even the older, larger trees, standing solemnly behind the houses across the street are bending and swaying in time with the music of the morning. They have a more dignified air about them, but they cannot help being affected by the strength of this blustery blowing. The street before me is empty. No spectators, no audience will brave this chilly day and enjoy the show. Only the bright yellow sun gazes on from its place in the pale, cold sky. And, of course, there is me, watching intently from my box seat behind the window pane.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Through the Pane of Glass – Part 2

21 Days From My Window

Outside my bedroom window this morning there is frost on the neighbor’s truck. Cold winter has blown his icy wind through the morning dew and left behind a crystal sheet of frozen breath. The street is quiet but for a handful of birds, darting back and forth across the sky. The trees stand, damp and chilly, in the morning breeze. They have not changed all that much, maybe a few curled, faded leaves are relaxing their grip and preparing to fly.

The grass just below the window sill glitters brightly in the morning light. The frost knows it has only moments to capture my attention before the sun melts it away, and the day grows warm. Already I see wet footprints across the neighbor’s yard, where school children trudged out to face the day, and stepped from the curb to the bus. The footprints are dark against the silvery layer on yellow green grass.

Drops of water draw vertical lines down the windshield of the neighbor’s truck, like an etch-a-sketch toy. I blow lightly on the glass. My warm breath gathers on the window pane, and quickly disappears. It is fleeting, this frosty, cold wetness. It will fade quickly in the lightening hours of this morning, and winter will be chased away once again by a fading yellow sun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Through the Pane of Glass - Part 1

21 Days From My Window

From my bedroom window, I can only see a small slice of my neighborhood. Between the red brick wall of the next house and mine, there is a narrow view of my street, some trees, and the sky. The cement is dark and gray, damp from rain that has fallen and rain yet to come. The sky is gray-blue, with just a hint of warmth, suggesting that maybe the sun will peek through the cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon and add a bit of her cheerful self to this dreary autumn day.

Four trees stand framed by my window. In two yards across the street, twin Bradford pear trees wear the same faded green-red-brown dress, as though still waiting for a horse-drawn coach to carry them to last week’s ball. Behind the neighbor’s house a huge tree fills the blue-gray sky. Still green leaves reach over two rooflines, and those farthest from the trunk are turning a rusty brown before my eyes. The vivid hues of autumn are already seeping away into the cold morning air, and the branches sway slightly in the breeze. They are reluctant to release their leaves to the wind.

Just behind the great green and rust colored tree stands a naked giant. His leaves have long since liberated themselves and flown to the ground. His black shiny branches rake the sky like majestic fingers. He seems to know better than his younger counterparts, how to embrace the season’s change as winter strides steadily onto the scene.

Rather than cold and dread, the sight of him on the horizon offers hope. If he can so willingly surrender to winter’s chill, he must know that the cold darkness does not last forever. I smile at his grace and charm. More than any other object, he speaks silently to me, framed on this cold autumn morning by my tiny bedroom window.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Word Clouds Gathering

Like a dry Oklahoma field needs rain, I need words. I need to soak in books, swim through libraries. I need to set my pen to the page and flush out the tap in a torrent of words, to stand in a word-storm and feel the cold icy wind cut right through to my heart, whipping my hair about my face and pelting me with sleet like phrases.

I need to stand silently in a stream of words, shivering in the cold night air, and then gather them up in a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I need to sit on the hearth of a crackling fire, and slowly, slowly let the heat soak in through my skin, while I sort the words, sift through the phrases and let the stories spill out across the page.

I need words to rain down upon my dry, parched soul, to blow through my mind and filter through my fingers, to line up on a page and tell their story out loud, echoing through my body, my mind.

Sometimes, life is dry, barren and oppressive. But even then, I know the clouds are gathering. The pressure is building. The storm will come and pour down a rain of words on me again. Thirsting is never terminal, never a sentence of silence, death. Thirst always comes to prepare me so that I am thankful when the first word-drops sprinkle across the dusty ground and my heart whispers into the wind, “Let it rain, let it rain.”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Silent Muse

Silence is never truly silent. When I am still, the soft quiet noises all around me can better be felt, heard. The wind rustles the leaves, and flutters through the pages of my book. In the distance I hear a woman’s voice, high and happy, like she’s talking to a loved one. Footsteps echo, approach, pass and recede. In the background the traffic rumbles and hums as though music were playing in the autumn air.

Silence can be a hiding place, or a place of discovery. The thoughts and feelings that are drowned out by the day’s noise are suddenly before me in a quiet room, in the absence of a blaring television. The questions line up before me and beg to be heard, demand to be answered.

Even in silence, the world, outside or inside, clamors for attention. It’s not long before a telephone rings or a friend drops by to borrow a cup of human connection. Silence makes people uncomfortable---smothers and suffocates---until they turn on a radio or start a conversation with a stranger. But they don’t know silence as I do.

We sit together in a room while my pen scratches across the page, and silence listens to me. He values my words and keeps my secrets. Silence does not judge, but waits patiently until my flood of words is spent, and then echoes the same words back to me with delight and approval. No, silence is not one to be feared. He is rather, one to embrace, to welcome, to greet with open arms and open heart. Silence cannot frighten me, he is a welcomed friend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Family Jewels

When my mom and her sisters were little, they lived in a sleepy little west Texas town. There was a family in that town that walked everywhere they went. They didn’t walk side by side, holding hands, chatting happily, rather they strung out like a parade winding its way down the block. It was an interesting sight to behold--growing up in that close-knit community---and it left an impression on my mother. I know because when my siblings and I would go shopping with her, she’d gather and herd us through the aisles. It was a constant battle, keeping an eye on all three of us. I know I heard her admonish us many times to not “string out like the Smiths.” (Not their real names.) In fact, I said it hundreds of times to my own little brood as we navigated the grocery aisles or the clothing racks at Wal-Mart.

Ray Stevens is a very funny comedian. We used to listen to his records and laugh until we cried. I can’t remember which it was now, but one of them involved a man trying to win the attentions of Margaret. The whole “It’s me again, Margaret” line became a source of giggling fits for our family. Over time it transformed into, “Is that you, Margaret?” and we say it again and again. A few years ago, my mom and aunts were sitting in a restaurant with my grandfather, when mom made a trip to the ladies room. In a minute or two, one of her sisters followed her. She entered the stall next to my mother’s, leaned over toward the wall, and inquired “Is that you, Margaret?” Silence ensued. My aunt giggled to herself and repeated the question. After a moment of hesitation the soft voice of a stranger echoed from behind the divider, “Um, no.” Since then, Margaret is liable to speak to you from anywhere you can imagine.

Through the years, our family has passed down these little phrases. We all know the stories, but instead of re-telling them, we just sprinkle the catch phrases through our conversations. Things like “Your turn is OVER”, and “Comb your pig-sty hair!”---it’s our way of making sure the memories are treasured, enjoyed, celebrated. From my grandmother, who slipped on an icy road: “Just let me lay here a minute,” has become a phrasal heirloom, and from my sister, when she realized she was outside, alone in the dark comes “I got excited and thought I was scared.” Just the other day, my aunt and mom were shopping for clothes. Mom remarked on a very silky shirt, and my baby brother’s “soft this” took her back to his childhood.

So, my question is, do other families fixate on silly sayings, and repeat them again and again, passing them from generation to generation, along with their background stories? Are all families as entertained by these catch phrases as we are? And if it’s true that other families do this, and we’re really not candidates for the fellows in white coats, how do you describe this phenomenon, this passing of memories through just a few key words--this “phrasal heirloom” thing? What would you call it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Louder, Please

Words were meant to be read aloud. The timbre, the inflection, the lyrical cadence is released only by the human voice. Words in business reports or medical journals are intellectual, and do not suffer from being silently read, but stories, memoirs, poetry---these were meant to be voiced, repeated, whispered and shouted around a crackling fire.

Before there were writers, there were storytellers, patriarchs, bards and wandering minstrels, who sat before great fires, or roamed from village to village dispensing words and wisdom, drama and praise to an expectant crowd. These masters knew the power of a well turned phrase---the effect of well chosen words. If they were worth their salt, their listeners were enthralled and moved with emotion. Children trembled at their whispers and cries. Women fainted, and men were compelled to test their courage on the hunting grounds or the battlefields. Words were power, and those who wielded them were revered.

Eventually, someone put pen to paper---actually charred wood to rock---and writing was born. Today, we record those stories to be passed on in books, letters, even blogs. And still, if we’re worth our salt, the words are powerful. Men, women and children are both thrilled and challenged. But something has been lost in the quiet libraries and waiting rooms of our civilization. Where is the music, the cadence, the inflection? Now the responsibility for releasing those words to their fullest extent lies not with the writer/storyteller, but the one who reads what the storyteller wrote.

“Read my words.” It’s the cry of every writer. But a true story-teller has a deeper, more desperate cry: “Read my words---out loud.”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Blue Luna Poet

I used to write poetry. I had notebooks, full of verses---about teenage angst, love and heartache. I wrote about the daily life I felt down in my bones every day of high school. I even wrote poetry as a young newlywed, before the babies came. Love poems to my husband, lines about the future, my hopes and dreams.

I don’t write poetry much anymore. Not the way I used to---words crying out to be released by my pen. Now I write poems once in a blue moon, as part of a language exercise, or for the fun of simple wordplay. What does that mean anyway? When does the moon ever turn blue?

I love to read poetry, to let the sparse words roll off my mind’s tongue---powerful words, packed with both music and meaning—able to stand alone after the editing shears have snipped their last.

Today, my prose is filled with poetry, lines of metaphor and simile, filled with the music of the daily life I feel down in my middle aged bones. Maybe I should write poetry more often. The discipline of limiting words, weeding out the weak, half-hearted ones, is good for me. It reminds me to sharpen my sentences, prune my phrases and make sure the music in my prose has room to sing.

If I listen closely, maybe I can find the song again, crying to be freed by my pen.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spinning a Spooky Web

Last night was, of course, Halloween, and though we don't go in for the blood-and-guts monsters, or the walking-dead-flavor of fear, we do enjoy exploring the creepy nature of---well, nature.

A year ago, we decorate the house with scary giant bird silhouettes, bird-tracks, and a feathery wreath. The soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds played in the background, greeting our costumed guests.

It made for great memories, and we were satisfied.

Until this year.

Charlotte's visit in late September inspired lots of creepy feelings as we watched her repair her orb-shaped-web---dispensing gauzy threads from her full-figured abdomen. When she caught something in her sticky trap, she scuttled like lightning along the strands, and wrapped it so quickly, a blink meant you missed it. We watched, fascinated, night after night as she went about her spidery business. Sarah was so creeped out, she had to watch from behind the glass of our front door.

When the time came to decorate for Halloween, the choice was simple. Fearsome spiders were our best option.

The spider webbing was sticky, stretchy, and fun. We wrestled it for two afternoons, getting it just right.

By the time we were finished, it looked like Charlotte had invited her brothers and sisters and cousins, and taken over the house.

We hot glued spiders of all sizes to the siding, and crafted egg sacs from styrofoam balls and white knee-highs.

I'm particulary proud of this wreath, I combined black flowers with orange and grey gauzy leaves, and spiders. Hot glue makes beautiful spider-web-like strands, but they're covered by the stretchy webbing you see above.

Here's a closeup of the wreath. Isn't it deliciously dreadful?

I'm sure the mailman appreciated our seasonal mailbox. He still delivered the mail. I wonder if he had nightmares because of these leggy critters? (Don't mind the dirt on my mailbox. Spiders are messier than you might think.)

Larry rigged up two large spiders to climb the door when it was opened. Sarah said she would tell herself every night upon coming home, that the spiders were gonna move---the spiders were gonna move---but they still gave her the jitters when they did.

This centerpiece is overrun with little black spiders, but we decided to not light the candles, because the queen spider built her lair right above the table.

Larry also rigged up this queen spider to lower herself on a thread as the door opened. It was the highlight for our trick-or-treaters.

She dropped fluidly from her perch on the ceiling,

and seemed to wave her legs as she settled into the web below.

She was a big hit!

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