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Three Yellow Balloons (For Boston)

Three yellow balloons drifted away.
This city that took much of my naiveté
Lost some of its own innocence today.

My old city shines and celebrates.
This day is a vacation day, a play day.
Everyone is your new friend,
The chill of a New England winter
finally shaken off our shoulders.

Music plays at the bandstand,
And the Charles sparkles with
Little jewels from the sun.

It is Race Day.

Runners start far away, but still
the streets are lined with people,
cheering on strangers.

We set up chairs on the roof of a brownstone,
Bask in the almost-forgotten sunshine.
Skip class. Skip work. Skip under the blue sky.

Runners start arriving
At the foot of Heartbreak Hill.
We yell and shout and clap and encourage
and find our favorites to root for.

The runners struggle on with an end in sight,
A goal
Worked for and earned with sweat and time and pain
and pride.

And then

Everything changes
In an instant
In a blast
In screams
In silence
In leftover puddles of blood.

I see
three yellow balloons
drift into the air
above it all.

Just floating.
Released by the hand of a person whose life will never be the same.

Goodbye, balloons.

Goodbye.

Wyncie Bouge was 3 years old and had a smile that could light up the world. I did not know her. She died yesterday.

Wyncie, her mother Megan, her grandmother Janice, and her two-week old brother Emmett, were in a head-0n collision on a road in Springfield, Tennessee last Monday night, on their way back from dinner. The driver of the other car, who died in the collision, crossed over three lanes of a four-lane highway to hit their car. Janice died that night as well. Emmett had a broken leg. Megan has many broken bones, but she will recover. Somehow. In some ways. But her life, and her husband Brandon’s, will never be the same. Megan has lost her mother.  I know that pain. And now Megan has lost her daughter. That is a pain I hope never to know.

Thousands of people from all over the world were praying for Wyncie’s recovery. I was stirred. I was moved. I was praying for a miracle. I felt the sense of spiritual connection with all these people in a shared prayer. I truly believed that Wyncie’s recovery was possible.

And she died.

I am, and always have been, a spiritual person. Non-traditional beliefs have been a part of my make-up for as long as I can recall. Reincarnation. God as a spirit of the universe, more than as a Divine Father. This is the first time that I had felt the pull of God as a divinity that can perform miracles. Now, I am disillusioned in that idea.

I know that people say that God has a plan, and that there was a purpose in this. Really? What? What is the purpose in a joyous, beautiful little child dying a senseless death? I can accept that she brought joy and light into the lives of the people she touched in her short time here. But that more confirms my faith in my own non-traditional beliefs than in the Christianity that I felt myself touched by during this past week.

The whole premise of faith is belief in things that cannot be seen and cannot be understood. Some will say that this kind of tragedy is sent to test our faith in God, and that this sort of miracle does not always happen because God in His wisdom is meant to remain a mystery to us. But that doesn’t feel like a loving spirit to me, and I believe the spirit of God is love. I believe that part of our purpose here on this earth is achieve an understanding of God, of that spirit of divinity, and to reflect it in our actions towards others.

I continue to pray to the Great Spirit, God, whatever name you chose, to bring peace and comfort and strength to Megan, Brandon, Emmett, Wyncie, and all their friends and family. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Because I know that Wyncie, in her little joyous soul, would want them to be happy.

But I will never understand.

wyncie-slider

I choose to remember the days of light. 

I choose to remember the sun shining off silver.

I could remember the confusion, horror, fascination, and fear.  I could remember the devastation that an empath feels on such a day.  And of course, I do remember those things. I remember them viscerally.  They are likely contributing to my bout of depression.

But today, I will choose to remember a day, years and years ago, when I emerged from a subway station I had never been in before – one of my rare forays into the New York City subway system – and looked up.  It was a bright and beautiful day, full of sun.  And I looked up. And up. And up. Yes, I knew I looked just like a tourist, craning my neck, bending half backwards, trying to see the top of those silver pillars playing with the brightness of the day.  But I didn’t care.  I was amazed and wonderous. And oh-so-touched with joy that I was finally standing at the feet of this sterling place that I had only before seen from the air or a distance. I just stood there, letting people bump around me, with a goofy smile on my face. A goofy smile that carried to my eyes and exuded childlike joy and  light itself and that made all the rushing bumpy New Yorkers who had to interrupt their steps soften just a touch and not mind quite so much having to rearrange their hurried pace.

I remember going across the street to the old church, St. Paul’s Chapel.  It was closed, but I wandered around the graveyard, as graveyards are favorite places of mine, examining the headstones, and soaking in the peace of the place.  I was amused by the incongruity of something so historic in the shadow of something so modern – these crumbling, weather-worn stones side-by-side with the sleek, silver, glassy skyscrapers. I remember how hot the afternoon was, and how I sought shade and shelter in the cemetery. I was not taking many pictures in those days, so the pictures are only captured in my mind’s eye.  I wish that were otherwise.

Today, the interior of my body aches and weeps and quietly wails in memory of losses. It is how my spirit works. But I am going to choose to remember the sunshine of that day, and other days, and days to come.

Image credit: mikesierra

My daughter was at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” here in Colorado last night.  So was my niece.

Thank God they weren’t at the midnight premiere in Aurora some forty miles from home.

Like much of the world, I awoke to news of the mass shooting in a theater not too far away, a similar crowd to the one my darling girl was a part of last night.  This morning when I left for work, she was still sleeping peacefully. I kissed her sleepy little self and told her I loved her.  I don’t think she’ll mind if I share her Facebook post from about 4:00 a.m. this morning. She must have found out about this after she got home.

“I, much like thousands of other people across Colorado, went to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. But while so many of us were sitting comfortably watching the movie we were all so excited for, at least 14 people, who were expecting a night like mine, were killed in a mass shooting in another midnight premier at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado. My heart and thoughts go out to all of those who were injured or who lost someone in this senseless act of unprovoked violence. There really are no words to explain what happened this morning…”

I wish she had awakened me.

It breaks my heart, and as a parent, it terrifies me.  MKL and I were driving through the Columbine neighborhood a week ago, and I got very quiet.  I can’t go near that area without remembering the pain and terror and permanent destruction of lives and hearts and families that happened at Columbine High School.  Ever since Kelsea started school, an incident like that has been hovering in my fears that live in that place in your brain that you can’t let go of, but can never bear to face.

Last night struck too close to home.

You can’t protect your children from insanity.  You can’t lock them away so they’ll be safe forever. Life is unpredictable. And sometimes it is indescribably tragic and agonizing. And so often, so random. All you can do is, sadly, play out scenarios with them – “What would you do if…?”  – coach them, and hope they never find themselves having to actually experience those moments, and put those practice scenes into action.

From the empath’s perspective, I am trying hard today NOT to go to the place where I feel the overwhelming pain of those who lost someone, or the staggering fear and panic of the people who were there.  That’s my automatic response. But I don’t want to do that.

Today, I want to just say a prayer for those people, and for my own daughter.

As she said, there really are no words.

Today’s guest poet —  Alfred Noyes, with my favorite childhood poem.

The Highwayman

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding–
Riding–riding–
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He’d a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He’d a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle–
His rapier hilt a-twinkle–
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter–
Bess, the landlord’s daughter–
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened–his face was white and peaked–
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter–
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I’m after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o’er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching–
Marching–marching–
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord; they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
“Now keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say,
“Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way.”

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding–
Riding–riding–
The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.

Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight–
Her musket shattered the moonlight–
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him–with her death.

He turned, he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon, wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy’s ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding–
Riding–riding–
The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter–
Bess, the landlord’s daughter–
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Today in 1985, Maybell, Colorado, reached a record low temperature of -61 degrees.  You may not think this is overly noteworthy, but Maybell, Colorado, holds a special place in my heart, and since this is, after all, my blog, it’s noteworthy to me. 

A long time ago, in what right now does seem to be a galaxy far, far away, when Pat and I had only been together for about three years, we took off over the fourth of July to escape the heat.   We headed towards Dinosaur National Monument, which means we were really running TO the heat, as opposed to running AWAY from the heat, but that wasn’t our intent.  We always liked to take the backroads when we did driving trips, and didn’t really plan a detailed route, just took whatever turns looked inviting, and stopped at whatever little roadside motels looked cozy.  On this particular trip, we took a long (perhaps 12-mile) dirt road that stretched from Maybell to Meeker.  That road was iconic in our minds, and forever after, if either of us saw something that made us think of it, we could say to the other “Like that road!” and the other would know exactly what was being referred to.

The road seemed like it went on forever.  It was a gentle dirt road for the most part, just a few washboard spots here and there.  The day had been hot and dry and in the late afternoon, the sun turned everything a rich shade of gold and green.  We stopped and walked into a field of waving wheat and let it stroke our skin.  We caught sight of a mountain lion chasing something through the tall grass off the side of the road.  A herd of elk patiently wended its way down a grassy hillside.  The roadside stream would cascade into unexpected little waterfalls.  Aspens rustled in the breeze.  A creature the size of a pterodactyl flew directly over the roof of the truck encasing us in a massive shadow, and we turned to each other and said “What the HELL was that?”, but couldn’t find it when we stuck our heads out the windows.  We agreed that it was as if we had passed into another dimension, another world, another universe.  Time slowed down to a luscious crawl and we luxuriantly dreamed through it, trying to hold onto it, savor it, live only in that feeling, that moment, endlessly.

Ah, the road.  That’s why Maybell has made my history book. 

But back to business.  For you more practical, less romantic history buffs, here’s the further scoop on today.

It’s Clark Gable’s 109th birthday. 

Of course, he’s dead NOW, but he would be 109 if he were still alive.  While not one of my favorite actors, he is responsible for one of my favorite movie scenes – the hitchhiking scene in “It Happened One Night”.  Catch it if you can.  

He’s most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind.”  We GRITS have all been able to forgive him for not having a southern accent when he played the role.  But Vivian Leigh complained about his bad breath during their kissing scenes, which detracts from his charming image. 

Gable was devastated by the death of Carole Lombard, his third wife, in a plane crash after three years of marriage.  Though he married twice more, he never really recovered, and is buried by her side at Forest Lawn.

It’s also Boris Yeltsin’s birthday – he would have been 79.  Since I rarely choose to get political here, I will just say that he was my favorite drunken, dancing world leader.  Not my favorite world leader, mind you, just my favorite drunken, dancing one.  How can you not retain a trace of affection for someone who once played wooden spoons on the balding head of Askar Akayev, the president of ex-Soviet state Kyrgyzstan?

Skippy Peanut Butter was also born on this day in 1933.  What the Skippy website doesn’t tell you in its history timeline, is that in 2008, they deceptively resized their standard-sized jars by adding a large dimple in the bottom of the jar, while keeping all other dimensions the same, so the trusting consumer, looking at what appears to be the same jar they’ve bought for years, was actually getting 1.7 oz. less for their money.  Not the peanut butter’s fault, but still just not cricket.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or “Mounties”, known for always getting their man. 

Also known internally as “The Force”, they are immortalized in modern-day cartoon culture by Dudley Do Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, one of my childhood favorites,

and in modern-day film by Nelson Eddy, who had a propensity to sing to Jeanette MacDonald when he was in Mountie mode.

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry after its 27th mission, killing all seven astronauts aboard.  I remember the day.  I wept.

Rest in peace.

On a lighter note, today is Hula in the Coola Day, a day for those of us who have been too long away from the warmth of the sun and the sound of the waves to cast off the trappings of winter, wrap ourselves in sarongs and roast pigs and have a luau.  I can do the sarong with no problem.  I am awaiting delivery of the roast pig, but I think it’s going to take a while.

And finally (though in a way, not unrelated to the previous holiday), today is Robinson Crusoe Day, a day, according to Chase’s Calendar of Events, to be adventurous and self-reliant.  I firmly feel that every day in the years to come is Robinson Crusoe Day for me.


Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

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