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What Makes A Poem?

The question is the title.
Is it the sentiment?
The words?
The lay of lines?
The rhyme? Now unrequired?

I can say
That
This is the longest I have ever gone
Without seeing my daughter
Since the day she was born.

That knowledge hit my heart
This morning
Like the sharp quill of a feather
And became a poem.

I could
Have written
Those same words
– All these words –
In a sentence or two.

You
Would have read them
But somehow, it would not
have been the same.

Those words,
that feeling,
deserved
a poem.

IMG_6480
Ventanas al Mar, Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the Day: “If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother’s life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the daughter.” — Anita Diamant

Daily gratitudes:
Blooming trees
The mountains today
New travels
Lighthouses
Egg Salad Diabolo with MKL
When Mr. Man is happy to see me

It has been one month since Kelsea flew 1399.9 miles away to the west to go to college. It feels like much longer to me.

I was imagining that with the plethora of communications channels these days, we would be in touch more often. When I was in college, my parents sent me letters, and I called them once a week. Back in those days of yore, we still had long distance charges, so it was always after 8:00 in the evenings, usually on a Sunday night. After all, my father would always call his mother on Sunday nights after the rates went down, something he did until the day she moved in with my parents. Even at the beach, he would walk down to the telephone booth by Mr. Godwin’s to call her at the same time every week.

Today, with email, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, twitter, snapchat, and probably lots of other things I don’t know about, as I say, I assumed Kelsea and I would be in semi-constant communication. However, my daughter is the exception to the rule of her age, and is not a fan of social media or spending hours on the computer. As she pointed out to me, I should think this is a good thing – she is spending her time reading, studying (I hope), playing ultimate, making friends, and exploring her new self, surroundings, and independence.

In an ironic twist of fate, I find that I am communicating with her via the occasional letter (though my first and favorite letter did not make it through the mails) and phone calls. She tends to call me on Sundays, a sweet coincidence, since I never told her about my father’s phone calls. I love to hear about her new life, though I find little to tell her about mine just now, which is okay. I do send her texts once in a while, but don’t want to encroach on her new life. I wasn’t a helicopter parent when she was here, and I won’t become one now that she’s gone. We Skype on occasion, and I’ve been lucky enough to see her space and meet some of her friends through Skype – I do have to be conscious of being dressed in something other than a bedsheet when I answer her Skype calls, since I never know if it will be just the two of us, or me, her, and roomful of others.

It’s hard to find the balance, to know what the balance is. I know she misses me, and I also know that she needs to learn how to manage that feeling. I know I miss her, and I suppose I have to learn to manage that feeling too. I do send her a message every single day – some funny or sweet animal picture  – just so she knows I am out here and thinking about her. Parents have gone through this challenge for decades, if not centuries, when their children leave home. We are lucky to have the open channels available to us that we do, a little luxury that parents long ago didn’t have. I do know one thing though: she is happy. And that’s all that matters.

IMG_3865
Bellingham, Washington.

Quote of the day: “Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.” — Daniel Keyes

Daily gratitudes:
Cleaning up
A Broncos win (after a near heart attack)
A talk with my daughter
Petey’s new rear end
Beautiful Colorado days

Our mother-daughter labor day trip delrailed from its original “Roadside America” theme this year. Kelsea was exhausted and needed some rest. We had an “at home” day, where we did nothing but binge-watch “Playing House” and “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” Then we had a mountain day, where we headed up to Central City, to the Cemetery, which is one of Kelsea’s favorite places, did some four-wheeling, ate battered and fried shoe insole in the form of country-style steak, and today, we had a Labor Day cookout with MKL’s side of the family, and then sat on a bench with a beautiful view and read for an hour in the wind. Not typical of our weekends, but still, our time together was lovely and always the most important part. And here in Colorado, the aspens are turning early, a sign of an early fall.

Central City Cemetery
Central City, Colorado.

Quote of the day: ““Most people say about graveyards: “Oh, it’s just a bunch of dead people. It’s creepy.” But for me, there’s an energy to it that it not creepy, or dark. It has a positive sense to it.” — Tim Burton

Daily gratitudes:
Mother-daughter time
A new set of family
Playing with a 2-year old
Ice water
My truck

Kelsea and I had a lovely weekend together in Steamboat Springs – one of our traditional mother-daughter trips, consisting of too-early morning risings for the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, breakfast, walks, rodeo, naps, explorations, and bad late-night television. We talked and talked. And I got a little weepy on my way home, as it will be hard for me when she goes to college. Rightly or wrongly, she’s one of my dearest friends as well as my daughter. I will miss her.

Twinsies1
Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” — Donald Miller

Daily gratitudes:
How much I laugh with my daughter
Music
Flocks of seagulls in strange places
Open roads
Social and philosophical discussions

Yes, Kelsea really needed a little distance from Colorado, so that’s just what we got today… out-of-state. Fortunately for us, another state is less than 100 miles away.  So we went there.

Wyoming.

We spent the travel time talking and talking and talking.  Mostly about what’s going on in her life, but we did have the occasional bizarre segue, like a debate about the perceived gender of God, and if God were a woman, perhaps we all have really bad weeks when she has her period.  And then about the fact that, yes, to blaspheme is actually a verb.

We were looking for some bizarre rock formations that I had read about on www.roadsideamerica.com a couple of months ago.  My swiss-cheese brain told me it was near the border, but that was as far as it went. So we took a detour east and found some rocks that were inaccessible near the tiny town of Carr. Which also had a great little convenience store.

We debated and declined trespassing on the funky rocks, and turned around to continue our journey. But once we got back on the Interstate, we saw the ACTUAL rocks that we’d been looking for, which we would have seen had we driven another mile or so.  We resolved to stop on our return.

Into Cheyenne, we stopped at the first flea market we saw and poked around for over an hour. It was a good flea market, and we came away with some music for her – I had gotten her an old record player for Christmas, so she’s starting to collect vinyl – and some clothes from my fledgling Ebay vintage store for me. And of course, we got a couple of little things for the house.

A scented china glass conch shell that we initially thought was a salt shaker, but then determined was for potpourri.  Either way, it now lives in the bathroom.

A milk glass covered chicken dish! (The gold perpetually waving Chinese cat was a Christmas present from Kelsea). Both now live in the kitchen.

After browsing and buying, we stopped in at Two Doors Down for an absolutely excellent burger, and played peekaboo with a neighboring baby.

We had an actual purpose for going to Cheyenne – to buy Kelsea a pair of cowboy boots. We braved the wind – one thing we both REALLY dislike about Wyoming is the perpetual wind – and fled into the Wrangler, a longstanding Western store and fixture of downtown Cheyenne.  And I’m happy to say we met with success!

She’s very pleased. And now it’s payback time, because I always make her take MY cowboy boots off when we’re home together.

Our final shop-stop was Ernie November, a head/music shop, where she indulged in a few CDs to round out her growing music collection.  The final music tally looks like this:

Gotta love her eclectic taste in music – she bought Kiss AND Dean Martin!

Time to head home, we did take the detour off the highway back to see the strange rocks, and to get a slightly closer look at the herd of buffalo that we passed.  The sunset was lovely.

And the rocks were REALLY cool.

There were a lot of them, and they created a sort of little maze, complete with small caves and crevices.  But the wind was blowing like cold stink and after scaling one of them, Kelsea decided she’d had enough.

We made a mad dash back to the car, and watched the remaining sunset cuddled in front of the heater.

We’re home now, on the red couch, watching ridiculous television, and happy that we had a few hours in another state of mind.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend, too.

I know that really, every day is special. But today is especially special for me. Why? Because today is the day that my most special and precious daughter arrived on this earth (at least this time around – she’s a very old soul.)

Because some of her friends read the blog, I’m not going to inflict much gushiness and reminiscing on her. After all, she’s 15 today, and you know what that can be like. At least I do. I remember 15 quite well.

The idea that she’s 15 is amazing to me. How could that be? Like an excellent vacation, it feels like she’s been here forever, and yet the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.  I wish I had been (then and now) the one to spend more time with her. I missed a lot of her day-to-day growing up by working so much to support us all these years. But she had an excellent parent in her dad for those many years.  And I do feel that the time we have spent together has been “quality” time, more precious for its scarcity.

It snowed the day before she was born; it is snowing now. That day was a Sunday. Today is a Thursday. But at 4:06 pm on that day, my life changed forever for the better because this strong, smart, beautiful, funny, caring soul decided to grace it.

I can’t wait for many more years of roadtrips, inside jokes, kitchen disasters, epic fails, soul-level hugs in front of endless fields of sunflowers, famous chats, and getting to know one another better as we both continue to grow and change.

Happy birthday, Kelsea, my dearest daughter and friend.

Kelsea and Jack. Machyllneth, Wales. June 2007.

My abstract conversation with Kelsea this morning:

Me: Awww, Andy Rooney died!

Kelsea: Oh, that’s terrible! Really? I’m so sad!

Me: I know, but he was like 92, so it does happen.

Kelsea: But didn’t he just go somewhere or do something?

Me: Maybe. Probably. But not that I know of.

Kelsea: I loved him in those old movies.

Me: What old movies? He wasn’t in old movies.

Kelsea: He wasn’t?

Me: No, he was on 60 Minutes. He always did the commentaries at the end.

Kelsea: Oh, he was the really old guy who sat in his chair and talked about how bad everything was?

Me: Yes, that’s him.

Kelsea: I loved him. Wasn’t he also in some old movies? No, wasn’t he Matlock?

Me: No, that was Andy Griffith.

Kelsea: Oh. Are you sure he wasn’t in old movies?

Me: Yes, pretty sure.

Kelsea: But wasn’t he the one in the movies who was always smiling and trying to take three girls to the dance? Wasn’t that Andy Rooney?

Me: No, that was Mickey Rooney playing Andy Hardy.

Kelsea: What? Oh.  I’m so confused. (Pause). I need some pants.

RIP, Andy. We did love you. And we really do know who you are.

Last weekend, I took Kelsea and Uber-Cool Will to a rock concert.

Yes, I really did.

Uber-Cool Will’s parents had taken them to the Moody Blues at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the beginning of the summer, but I’m not sure you can call that a rock concert.  I was surprised that the Moody Blues were still alive, much less still playing.  They had a good time, but it wasn’t exactly rocking, and they were more impressed with how much secondhand funny smoke they thought they were inhaling.

In other words, this was Kelsea’s first rock concert. She didn’t really want me to go, because who wants to go to your first rock concert with your Mom?  But there was no way I was letting two 14-year old loose in Denver’s Pepsi Center all by themselves.  And so it was take me, or don’t go at all – her choice.  She chose to take me.

I have never been a huge fan of concerts. The combination of extreme noise, too many people, expensive tickets, and bands that are often disappointing when they haven’t been mixed and spliced and torqued within an inch of their life have never added up to a fabulous experience for me.  I could probably count the number of rock concerts I’ve been to on one hand. And having come off of a blissed-out weekend of otherworldliness at Cottonwood Hot Springs, I was even less in the mood.

But Kelsea was super excited and couldn’t wait, so there was no way I was letting my lackluster enthusiasm color her world.  I dressed in my cool clothes, and the three of us were off.  Our goal?

The Foo Fighters.

I turned Kelsea onto the Foo Fighters during the Excellent Adventure Roadtrip.  It took her  a while to warm up to them, but now she loves them, especially because she adores the late Kurt Cobain, and Dave Grohl used to be Nirvana’s drummer, so being in the same space with Dave was as close as she could come to being in a room with Kurt. I just liked a few of their songs.

We were totally in the nosebleed seats, but it was all I could afford. While the Pepsi Center claimed to be sold out, there were definitely some empty seats when things were getting started. Perhaps that’s because we started promptly at 7:00 pm with an unanounced warm-up band: Mariachi el Bronx.

We found a mariachi band, in full sombrero regalia, to be an odd choice for an opening act for a quintessential rock concert.  But a bit of research shows that Mariachi el Bronx, hailing from Los Angeles, is actually a punk band disguised as a mariachi band. Sometimes they play punk (as “The Bronx”) and sometimes they mix mariachi and punk – they consider both to be part of the soundtrack of Southern California.  We got pure foot-dancing mariachi and some bafflement, but I truly enjoyed them.

The second warm-up act (do they usually have two? I have no idea) was Cage the Elephant. If you too are unfamiliar with this band, their style is considered “slacker funk-punk”.

Who knew? All I can say is, there was an enormous amount of screaming and hair shaking, combined with some flailing.  Honestly, it was the first experience in a long time that I could say truly made me feel old. Totally not my thing. I found myself dreading the rest of the evening, wondering how I was going to be able to sit through another two hours of noise, and trying to find my zen.

Kelsea and Uber-Cool Will had, in the meantime, moved to the empty row ahead of me, so as not to be completely associated with an adult, and to feel more like they were on their own. Fine by me. I could still poke either one of them whenever I felt like it.

And then the Foo Fighters took the stage.  As I said, I liked a couple of their songs, but Cage the Elephant had really dampened my enthusiasm.  I am happy to say though, that it didn’t take long for my attitude to turn around.  They put on a phenomenal show. Dave has a gorgeous voice, the drummer, Taylor Hawkins, is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and they were fully as powerful and amazing live as in the studio.

They played for 2 hours and 40 minutes, incorporating only a small break for introductions, and a small break (complete with backstage cam and bottles of champagne) prior to their encores, which included several solo acoustic numbers by Dave.  And by the way, Dave is handsome as the devil and I am totally in love with him in an iconic sort of way.

So I had a blast, and wished I had paid for floor tickets, and am ready to abandon my life and follow the Foo Fighters.  And Kelsea is ready to come with me.

She rocked it. She stood up during Cage the Elephant and started dancing, and never sat down. Not once in 3 and a 1/2 hours.  I am proud to see that I have taught her how to scream “wooooooo” from our many years at rodeos, and she wooooed with the finest.  In fact, her voice was practically gone by the time we left.  (Mine was gone the next day.)

She admired the instruments. She thought the musicians were hot. She sang along with more of the songs than I ever thought she knew.  She smiled. She glowed. She was in her element. The Foo Fighters are justifiably proud of their identity as a true rock band, and Kelsea is justifiably proud of her own identity as a rock connoisseur.  A true rocker.

It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I’m so glad I got to witness this joyful side of her, and that I could treat her to this experience.  And I had a pretty darn good time too.

Perhaps it’s environmentally incorrect, but Kelsea and I went for a drive. We weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves today. So we just went. First we went to see how close we could get to Haystack Mountain.  Haystack Mountain is this weird little pimple on the landscape of the foothills of Boulder. It just rises out of the ground, in the midst of pasture land, and has no discernible purpose. Kelsea had always wondered about it.

So we went on a quest.

We discovered a golf course.  Kind of anti-climactic. The rest of the area surrounding the stack was fenced-in fields. She now has another goal, this one for her 17th birthday – to climb to the top.

We continued on from there, just idling, with me stopping to take pictures.  We went down county roads, and to the edge of the little town of Hygiene.  We cruised on into Lyons and had a tea and ice cream, and sat in a little sculpture area until they turned the sprinklers on us.

Then I took her home. I got weepy saying goodbye.  I haven’t seen much of her lately. Although I am away next weekend, we agreed that we will try to have dinner one night a week at least.

Here are some images so you can share our time today.

Picking up en route from Mount Rushmore…

After a bunch more “Think or Die” signs, we reached Crazy Horse or, more properly, the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Our first experience at the monument was a faux pas in which we saw a white Suburban with 20 kid icons on the back windshield.

We exclaimed loudly that it must be the Duggars, then realized that the matriarch was sitting in the passenger seat with her window down, right next to our squawking selves. We hastily passed by, trying to deflect her icy stare, which we could feel even through her sunglasses.

Neither of us had much background information on the Memorial – Kelsea wasn’t even sure if Crazy Horse was a man, a place, or an event. So we watched the informative video, encouraged by the docents at the Center. The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, was so cool, and his family carries on the legacy of being so cool. We love that they accept no government monies for the project, which explains why it is taking so long. Korczak started working on it in 1948 and it’s far from finished, whereas Mount Rushmore took 14 years to complete.  We’d like to donate dynamite to the cause. We like the idea of being part of blowing something up.  I know that sounds wrong.  But hey.

Korczak’s attitude towards the government reminded me of Jim Bishop of Bishop’s Castle in Colorado, but it was clear that Korczak, unlike Bishop, did accumulate some wealth and possessions in the course of his project.  The part of his “house” that was open felt a lot like a European castle.

You can’t get close to Crazy Horse unless you pay extra to take a van tour, which we didn’t, but the renderings that are used for the actual sculpture are beautiful.

There’s a nice little museum in which I had a minor spiritual journey with a Native American dress.

We got to take home a rock that had been blasted out of the mountain to form the monument.

The spot has its own post office and zip code.

There were some random pieces that seemed unrelated – like Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe.

Korczak’s studio was really cool.  It had the feel of a place that would be ultra-creepy at night.

There was also a hall with Native Americans selling various wares.  Somehow, we both had a problem with that. It felt like we, as white folks, were saying, “Hey guys, let’s massacre you and steal your lands, but we’ll build a monument to you to say we’re sorry and throw in a couple of folding tables so you can eke out a living on our terms.” There is no possible reparation.

We didn’t stay here too long. The vibe felt kind of empty, hollow, not right. But at least they’re making an effort.

So we left and immersed ourselves in one of the most cluttered places ever – Doyle’s Antiques and Stuff, where we were greeted by a goiter-laden donkey.

This place had unbelievable amounts of Stuff (as advertised) crammed in every corner.

and another owner reminiscent of Jim Bishop, based on the random signage.

I barely resisted the giant rooster.  I would have loved to drive back to Colorado with that sitting in the back of the truck. In fact, I loved it so much, I may have to go back for it. Perfect for the front yard. Can’t you just see him peeking over the fence?

I also barely resisted the FREE stuffed pheasant whose head had been eaten by God knows what. We have Kelsea to thank for that tasteful veto, as she was thoroughly opposed to it continuing to molt in the truck for the remainder of the trip.

We did pick up an antique apothecary bottle (free) and a vintage first-aid kit for my not-soon-enough-to-be EMT.

Our last excursion on this busy day was Custer State Park. Even with all the literature, we never did figure out why the park was named after Custer, as it didn’t look like he had much of a positive influence in this area.  But then I suppose that’s a matter of perspective – he was clearly influential in some way, so maybe the positive doesn’t matter.

We took Needles Highway into the park. I couldn’t really figure out why it was called Needles Highway until we got to the tunnels. It’s called Needles Highway because going through some of those tunnels is like threading a needle. We shrieked the entire way through one – and we have it on video. I’m amazed that anything larger than my truck could make it.

Needles Highway is edged by the distinctive rock spires of the Black Hills.  It is also full of idiot drivers who park blocking the roadways so they can get out to see the spires from 20 feet closer, thus causing fuming road rage in certain other drivers who shall not be named publicly.

Craving calm (or tequila, but calm was my first choice), we pulled off the road at a LEGITIMATE parking spot a bit further along, and went for a climb. We each found our individual rocks for peace and sat separately for a while, doing some soul-level housecleaning. It was quiet and beautiful and I released some things into the ancient richness of the Black Hills. I hope they can float with more ease now, and find their perfect drift in the universe wherever the current leads.

Kelsea leapt from rock to rock like a winged mountain goat. I watched her silently, my stomach leaping into my mouth each time she went airborne. As we headed back to the truck, she found a boulder stack she wanted to free climb. She’s a good climber, having spent some time at the climbing gym, and so I didn’t stop her, but as a mother, all my thoughts were, ‘Oh God, what if she falls and breaks her head open like Piggy in Lord of the Flies?’ Of course, she didn’t.

Needles Highway runs into the Wildlife Loop Road, which (as you might imagine) loops around the Park. It’s a great road and took us through a variety of changing terrains of equally matched beauty.

We hadn’t been on the loop for five minutes before we saw a buffalo nomming grass on the side of the road. Then we encountered some anti-social antelope, and another small bison herd in the distance.

Kelsea can tend towards carsickness, so she distracted herself by taking pictures of her shoe.

I did the same, though I was stopped at the time.

And then we came upon the donkeys. I suspect that the park has planted the donkey herds to guarantee any passing tourist an up-close and personal wildlife experience.

Because there was no avoiding the donkeys.

Totally social, tame, hand-feedable, another visitor gave us peanuts to feed them.

The babies were adorable.

And each donkey dutifully checked out each car to see who had the best treats. I love donkeys and haven’t had such interactions with them in, well, ever.  But I han’t been around baby donkeys since Anegada. And a little further down the road was ANOTHER herd, with the littlest baby just getting his legs. They caused a donkey traffic jam.

And one decided to give me a close-in hello.

A few mule deer sightings, and we were back on the road to Rapid City, marvelling at the cool softness of the air and the diversity of the landscape we’d seen today.

We were both starving and went to Botticelli’s Restaurant, which smelled amazing, but was understaffed. Our wait was 45 minutes and I thought Kelsea was going to eat me. She did eat the paper from her straw before her food came. And the food was good, particularly the chicken piccata, but probably not worth the painful wait.

And so Day 3 came to a close.  We have a couple of stops on Day 4, and then we are homeward bound.

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