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Today’s guest poet – Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Sea Spirit

I smile o’er the wrinkled blue
Lo! the sea is fair,
Smooth as the flow of a maiden’s hair;
And the welkin’s light shines through
Into mid-sea caverns of beryl hue,
And the little waves laugh and the mermaids sing,
And the sea is a beautiful, sinuous thing!

I scowl in sullen guise
The sea grows dark and dun,
The swift clouds hide the sun
But not the bale-light in my eyes,
And the frightened wind as it flies
Ruffles the billows with stormy wing,
And the sea is a terrible, treacherous thing!

When moonlight glimmers dim
I pass in the path of the mist,
Like a pale spirit by spirits kissed.
At dawn I chant my own weird hymn,
And I dabble my hair in the sunset’s rim,
And I call to the dwellers along the shore
With a voice of gramarye evermore.

And if one for love of me
Gives to my call an ear,
I will woo him and hold him dear,
And teach him the way of the sea,
And my glamor shall ever over him be;
Though he wander afar in the cities of men
He will come at last to my arms again.

It really pisses me off how the “ghosthunters” on The Travel Channel’s Haunted shows act like such bullies to the ghosts – yelling at them, insulting them, taunting them, having absolutely no respect for the spirit’s intelligence and sensibilities.  I mean, these guys (or overly made-up girls) come into the spirit’s house and try to disturb them, make them show themselves, make them communicate.  Please!  The ghosts are just minding their own business.  How rude.

Trust me, I understand about haunted places and this is NOT the right approach.  And besides, it’s all so fake – it’s like watching pro wrestling!  Disembodied voices, dust motes, and of course you’re going to find cold spots in the basement – it’s a BASEMENT.

I generally believe that most spirits are good – just as I generally believe most people are good.  One of my favorite movie line quotes is from Silverado:  “Might as well think everyone is your friend or no one is – don’t make much difference.”  I know that some are not.  I’ve experienced them myself (like Sam at the White Eagle Tavern in Portland, Oregon, a story I’ll relate one day). I also know that not all of them need – or want – to move on.  If I were a spirit, I’d be pretty darn annoyed by someone coming into house, when I hadn’t asked them for help, and trying to make me change.  (Gee, sounds a little like what we did in Iraq, doesn’t it?)  Then again, I’d also be rather amused – and I suspect I’d mess with them, just to give a good show.  Or I’d completely ignore them, just to make them look bad in front of the cameras – but then they’d just make something up, which is what half of them seem to do anyway.

So, in conclusion, if I decide to hang around instead of going straight off to the afterlife, do NOT mess with me – unless you are invited.

Again, we pause to contemplate the unexpected, yet questionable, wisdom – and humor – of the lowly bumper sticker.  I offer this sampling for your amusement:

Life would be much easier if we came with easy chairs. Birth would not.

Age brings wisdom.  Or age shows up alone.  You never know.

Never knock on Death’s door. Ring the bell and run, he hates that.

Without ME, it’s just AWESO.

If going to church makes you a Christian, does going into a garage make you a car?

I found Jesus – he was behind the sofa all the time.

I poke badgers with spoons.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Can you think on your own or do you need the media to think for you?

Don’t get even – get odd.

Love is for the courageous.

Guns don’t kill people – gaping holes in vital organs do.

If you believe you can tell me what to think, I believe I can tell you where to go.

I’m an agnostic dyslexic insomniac who lies awake all night wondering if there really is a dog.

My idea of a White Christmas is a White Sand Beach.

Look! A Distraction!

Can’t sleep – clowns will eat me.

Life is too complicated in the morning.

Art is everywhere.

Never leap the chasm in two bounds.

People don’t change, they just reveal themselves.

Do you live by fear or by passion?

Remember who you wanted to be.

I am homesick for places I have never been.

The idea is to die young as late as possible.

The worst thing about divorce is not being able to be with my daughter every night.  I miss her.  She’s 13 and she’s (still) wonderful.

The other night, I received the following text from her, at about 10:40 pm.  Her dad was asleep in his easy chair and she was still up.  It read:

“Thank you for everything you have ever done and will ever do for me mommy.  I love you and I hope you had a good night.  I miss you.  Sleep well.”

That’s why I miss her.

Today’s guest poet – Khalil Gibran

Let These Be Your Desires

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself
But if your love and must needs have desires,
Let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook
That sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
And give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer
For the beloved in your heart
And a song of praise upon your lips.

Damn the Millers.  Damn them.  They are back.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you may perhaps recall last year, at almost exactly this time, we had a serious moth problem – I discussed it here.  From my many years in Colorado, and the discussions about the moth crisis last year, I thought this to be a cyclical thing, with the cycle being something like every 20 years.  Apparently, I was mistaken.

They are back with an enthusiasm that portends vengeance.  I thought it was just one or two – no big deal – but then realized that’s how it started last year.  And nightly, their numbers increase.  They flirt with self-destruction in the single bedroom light at night.  Their wings beat the walls and ceiling in the darkness.  They hide during the day, in folds of curtains, in underwear drawers (seriously?!), in shoes, like stalking lions, waiting to leap out upon the unsuspecting gazelle.

Kelsea came into my room last night at 1:30, and stood spectrally by my bedside, as she does when she wants to wake me.  It always works, no matter how quiet she is.  “There was an earwig on my pillow and a moth in my room,” she said sleepily.  The dutiful mother, I got up and killed them both and put her back to bed.  But at 2:30, the spectre was back.   “There are more moths in my room.  I can’t handle it.  I’m freaking out.  They’re flying at my face.  They chased me  out of the room.  I can’t stay here.  Can we call someone?  Why aren’t they at Dad’s house?  Can I sleep with you?”

Of course, she can and did sleep with me, and we both slept well, undisturbed and mothless.  I know they’ll be back today though, and tonight.  It IS creepy.  I don’t know how they get in the house, and I don’t want to entertain the thought that they’re hatching in here somewhere, but it has crossed my mind.  While the weather a few weeks ago was coolish and dampish, it has been hot since then, so I wouldn’t have thought that the breeding/migrating/whatever pattern from last year was being replicated.  I just don’t understand it.

What I do understand is that Kelsea (moreso than I, but I too, to a certain extent) has developed a veritable phobia about these buggers.  I truly thought last night that she wanted me to get out of bed and drive her to her Dad’s house at 2:30 am.  Of course, that will never happen.  She needs to get over it, and I need to figure out how to help her to do so.  When she was very small, she found a skunk skin in the backyard, and from that experience, developed a strong fear of skunks.  It eventually passed, but I tried many things to “cure” it:  stuffed skunks, skunks sweetly portrayed in cartoons, skunk puppets, discussing skunks, songs about skunks – nothing worked except time.

And I guess time is what it will take this time as well.  The good news is that neither of us have seen the following:  “In high populations, however, they have the unusual habit of banding together in army-like groups and may be seen crawling across fields or highways in large numbers.”  This is what the Colorado State University Department of Cooperative Extension says happens sometimes.  Thank you, NO.  I doubt we’d ever recover.

Well, time to go check every crack and crevice in the cottage for the creatures in an effort to drive them out before nightfall.  And to set the lightbulb bucket trap in the kitchen.  Say a little prayer for us.

As I said last month, it feels like I’ve been divorced forever now.  I haven’t, of course.  I wonder why it feels like that?  Pat and I are getting along very well these days.  He seems much happier.  I am certainly happier.  Kelsea is doing well with it – it’s been a long time since she’s had one of those nights, so painful for both of us, where she weeps in her bed, just wanting her parents to live together again.  Our getting along certainly helps.  She will occasionally want a family hug, but that’s okay – we’re still a family, albeit of a different character now.

Pat had family over for Father’s Day (his bro, sis-in-law, nieces), and of course, Kelsea.  I joined them.  It was actually very nice.  I didn’t have to cook, other than my signature devilled eggs, and I was spared Pat’s temper about potstickers not cooking properly.  My brother-in-law did “suggest” that I put away the leftovers – guess some old habits are hard to break.

My sister-in-law and I are dear friends, as much like actual sisters as Pat and his brother are blood relations.  We look alike, have similar taste in food, similar moles, similar outlooks on life.  We haven’t lost that since the divorce, so it’s almost as if I can change my perspective on my family dynamic so that I am just a sister to my ex-Pat, not a former wife.  Our relationship is indeed more brother/sisterly now, which almost feels right.

It’s a strange feeling to know you have been so in love with someone, even someone who you knew wasn’t always good for you, and to have that feeling be a memory.

And P.S. – Pat has been a great dad, and continues to be an even better one.  Kelsea loves him more than anything, and for that I am most thankful.

As we know, according to my Mother, I was born asking where the next bus was.  I’ve never been content in this incarnation, this body, much less in being settled in one place.  In my head, I’ve been planning my journey around the world for years.  I’ve been longing for a life on a tropical island since I was eight years old.

My Mother’s mother went from home to home in the South and Midwest with my grandfather, who would buy land, build a house, live in it, teach school, farm, then sell the place, buy land somewhere, build a house, live in it…you get the picture.  I suppose my grandmother was content with this lifestyle – I never thought to ask.   But I know that at some point, late in her life, she had some kind of epiphany, which resulted in my Mother receiving a letter that started with, “By the time you read this, I will be in Yugoslavia.”  I think she had the wanderlust in her as well.  I have two mental images of my grandmother – one is of her sitting in a chair in The Barn, the last house my grandfather remodeled.  She’s wearing a plaid shirt, her glasses, looking away, looking peaceful.  The other is of her in a trenchcoat, her head covered by a white scarf, walking on a hill at the Acropolis.  Such a contrast, both so lovely.  Both so her.

My Mother was very like my grandmother – practical, peaceful.  On one of our last days together, we talked about the wanderlust thread that runs through the women in our family.  She had it too, always happy moving from house to house, always wanting to go to Europe, to see the Grand Canyon.  Her burning desire for most of her life was to go to India.  She never told me about that until that conversation.  My father was never happier than when at home, and so her dreams of journeying were thwarted.  She never resented it.  But after he died – in fact, while we were still in the room following his memorial service, she turned to her friend Jane and started discussing going on a Caribbean cruise.  (She felt a little bad about that, but she had no reason to.)

She did go on her Caribbean cruise that Fall, and I met her in Tortola and took her and her best friend around the island.  It was wonderful for all of us.  But she never got to see the Grand Canyon.  I suppose now she’s able to see it all, and that’s a nice thought.

Then there’s me.  Always planning, sometimes going.  I am learning that having the right place to call home is a good complement to traveling.  It changes the wandering from an escape, a search for something, to pure adventure and peaceful exploration.

Kelsea daily says to me, “You know what I want?  I want to go to Ireland.”  She fell in love with Ireland, even moreso than she loves Wales, when she went to Europe last summer.  I told her that I never even got on a plane until I was 14, and here she’s been to Europe twice.  She can now say, in an annoyingly blase manner, “I didn’t care for Paris.  I much preferred London.”  To which I snarl, “I’ve never SEEN Paris.” 

She says this is all my fault.  I’m the one who put travel posters (one, ironically, of the Eiffel Tower) on the walls of her nursery.  I’m the one who showed her pictures of exotic places around the world from the time she could sit in my lap.  I’m the one who sent her to Europe to experience other cultures.  And all of that is true.  But it’s not my fault.

It’s something in our bloodline, something that runs through the women just like the shine does, a spark that makes us want to see the world, while having a true home to which to return.  A longing  for a life that is a perpetual Grand Tour.  A desire to meditate with Buddhist monks in Tibet, to beachcomb on deserted islands off the coast of Brazil, to watch breaching whales in Alaska’s waters, and swim with seals in the Galapagos.  To see lava creep down a Caribbean volcano in Montserrat, the moonlight on the Taj Mahal, and the sun shine through the ceiling of the Pantheon.  To climb the hills of Bray, and count each sheep in Wales.

Homer said, “There is nothing worse for mortals than a wandering life.”  I heartily disagree.  My thinking is more in line with Robert Louis Stevenson’s: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.  The great affair is to move.”  (Stevenson died and is buried on an island in the South Pacific.)

In my eyes, our women’s wanderlust is a true blessing.  My mother and my grandmother are smiling.

Today’s guest poet  —  Wendell Berry

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I’ve been living alone (with the exception of having Kelsea part-time) for almost 20 months now – wow.  Over a year and a half.  It certainly doesn’t feel like it – it feels like much less time.  I lived “alone” off and on before I met Pat, but that was a loooong time ago. He and I moved in together when I was barely 22. That was before I knew as much about myself as I now do.  And so, over the last few days, I’ve been doing some self-reflecting, and realize that I have learned a few new things:

I need to live with a dishwasher.  Yes, a fully automatic, quiet-whooshing, dish-cleaning godlike machine.  I suck at doing dishes, plain and simple.  I don’t have the patience.  I’ve tried the whole zen thing, of doing nothing but washing the dish, but it doesn’t work for me.  I have a tendency to adopt the Berea College Dining Hall motto from my Mother’s time there:  “If you don’t scrape it off, wash it off.  If you don’t wash it off, dry it off.  If you don’t dry it off, eat it off at the next meal.”  Bad, bad, bad dog.

I don’t like dust, dirt and pet hair.  It’s true I don’t like cleaning, but I like having the house clean.  It’s a small house, and not hard to clean, but I still don’t do it often enough – really, just when I have company coming over.  And it’s easier for me to bring myself to clean when I am not trying to convince someone else to clean with me – or find myself cleaning when someone else is just sitting around.

I have too many clothes.  I never considered myself a clothes horse, compared to most women, but with very limited dresser space (and NO closet space), I am coming to realize that I have too many clothes; the good thing is that I’m also finding that it’s easier to get rid of things these days.  And I find that liberating.

I get lonely.  This is new for me.  I always used to greedily relish my time alone.  Now that I have more of it, and I don’t have to be so desperate about it, I sometimes, especially late at night, get lonesome – and a little scared.

Having a TV is not the best thing for me.  When I’m home alone, it’s usually on, mostly for the faux company.  That habit keeps me from achieving a certain peace that I feel is at hand.

I don’t like cooking for one person.  I do like cooking for someone else.

I am capable of discipline.  I’ve always known this, but these days, with no day job to go to, I have to enforce discipline on myself. I didn’t say I was good at it yet, but it’s nice to realize that I’m capable of it without a set schedule.

I actually like living with the right people.

I love bright colors in my house.

I don’t really like going to bed early.

I like coming home to a quiet house.

(Even though I don’t love pet hair) I like living with animals – I miss that. It’s good to have a visiting pug.

I enjoy the sense of freedom and calm that living alone brings – kind of a secret smile, a subtle happiness.

I like sitting on the floor.

I am coming to love myself more and more.

June 2010
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