There was nothing streamlined or steady about the world today.  It woke up big and bold and unapologetic of its beauty and depth; eastern reds & yellows extending pinks & purples to the west.  Trees dancing to a light-no light melody; notes heavy against their glimmer.

today was a day to be reckoned by the soul; a sky not to be trusted.

daybreak, midday & dawn teed up in conversation…

the world is so available today

double-down on love early

twice-cry at 8am

be broken-hearted by 10 and find disappointment at noon

get downpoured at 3; early-evening laugh 1,000 times

regret lean & little,

invert hate with compassion

The world has insight…

let the sunrise fill you up and release your breathe like the sunset; don’t keep track of strangers, enemies or best friends (nor acquaintances or people you have loved)

Just be. And be better.  And then see what the sky says.   

*journal thoughts from 7.31.19

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My grandmother always used to say…

“It’s too bad people think of dandelions as weeds.  Because if we didn’t, we would recognize them as flowers.  And we would allow them to grow and spread their beauty in the world.”

Her words reverberate in my head as I read the news article that was printed in the Omaha Herald on November 14, 1979, the day following her tragic death.  My grandmother is the 56-year old victim who was killed in an intersection on her way home from some early Christmas shopping.  She had been out gathering gifts for her grandchildren.  The back of her small Pinto was filled with wrapped packages, including a small teddy bear for me, her first granddaughter.  This gift, and the gifts for her growing number of grandsons welcomed the police officers, firemen, and coroner as they arrived at the scene.  Somehow these offerings miraculously escaped the crushing impact of a front trailer that left the small Pinto utterly flattened, as evidenced by the newspaper photograph.  My grandmother’s body remained pinned for over an hour before the trailer could be lifted.  Louise Rowe was pronounced dead on sight at 5:08pm on November 13, 1979.

The open church lot across from my childhood home resurrected glorious fields of dandelions every spring and summer.  There was always something more joyous about giggling and galloping across that field during those months, when the vast green could magically turn speckled with vibrant pops of yellow.  Suddenly being assigned “the extra-left-fielder” in the neighborhood boys’ baseball game was a welcomed delight.  Their boyish banter became murmurs as I tossed my glove to the side and picked flowered bouquets of dandelions to deliver to my mother.   Cloudy days didn’t exist in that field when the dandelions were flourishing.  On a day consumed by dark skies, I could dash across the street to find a thousand rays of sunlight lying at my feet. 

I was only 2 1/2 years old at the time when my grandmother was killed.  My budding eyes and ears soaked up several vivid memories of this event in my family’s history.  I remember the uncomfortable drive from Cedar Rapids to Omaha.  I remember the frantic trip to the mall to quickly outfit all of us children for the upcoming funeral.  And I remember my own mother’s sadness.

My mother was 33 years old when she suffered the loss of her mother-in-law.  33 years old when she retrieved the phone call from a relative stating that her husband’s mother had been killed.  33 years old when she had to wait in silence for my dad to arrive home and deliver the news of his mother’s unexpected death.  33 years old.

I never quite understood why the church had hired such a ferocious groundskeeper to tend to that open field.  He always seemed so angered by the surroundings we all had been “tolerating” for the past several weeks.  I would kneel upon the couch and peer out our large picture window whenever I saw him coming.  Into the shed he would go and out he would come, perched high upon his tractor mower ready to flatten the landscape, spraying chemicals behind his horsepower.  And in an instant, it was as if the dandelions never existed.  From across the street, I would whisper goodbyes to my galloping fields, flowered bouquets, and mini-rays of sunlight and think of how saddened the church-goers would be on the upcoming Sunday to find their field so depleted of joy and happiness.  This act dampened my youthful spirit.  But I quickly learned of the dandelion’s habit of resilience. I would watch them swiftly resurface with fierceness in the following weeks, determined to be noticed.

My mother struggled to let go in the midst of helping her husband and children grieve the loss of a mother and grandmother.  She and my grandmother had developed a special bond.  One of womanhood and one of motherhood.  While strong in her own right, my mother had found comfort in knowing that she could lean upon my grandmother’s wisdom and life experience as she continued to raise me and my two older brothers.  She found herself  lost when struck with the realization that this would no longer be the case.

Through her long journey of mourning and healing, my mother recognized the importance of keeping my grandmother’s words alive.  My grandmother’s message about dandelions became my mothers’s message and she shared it with me often.  And while I made a commitment as I grew older to always admire the dandelions that spread across the fields in spring and summer, I never cherished a dandelion more than when I found one growing out of the cracks of my front doorstep…

I was 24, living in a loft on the corner of Park Ave and Larimer Street in Denver, Colorado.  It was a corner that, depending on the time of day, might be considered a little rough in nature.  It was not unusual for my mornings to begin with a request for change as I hustled out my front door.  My neighbors were the homeless.  The “kick-out” time from the shelter across the street usually coincided with my “head-out” time for work.  This particular morning was overtaken by the kind of the rain that can soak the earth and reach the deepest of roots.  It caused me to pause under the small awning that covered our street-level doorstep.  I needed a moment to tighten my raincoat and pull the hood over my head before dashing across the street to the parking lot where my car awaited me.  Suddenly, out of the cracks, grew a somewhat stifled voice.

“Gotta cigarette?,” I heard from my lower right.

“Nope, don’t smoke.”, I coldly replied with my eyes and body faced-foward.

And it was only because of the increasingly heavy rain that I paused a moment longer.  To avoid the inhumane silence, I followed up my previously shivering comment with, “Ugh.  What a dreary day.  Sure wish I didn’t have to go out in it.”

His raspy voice cropped up for a second time, “Don’t ever waste a rainy day.  There will be plenty of sunny days.  Run in it.  Enjoy it.”

I knelt down.  I touched his hand.   “You’re right,” I said.  “Thank you for reminding me.”

I slid into the seat of my car and let the gravity of the moment take hold.  I had finally been wise enough to meet my first dandelion:

A dandelion is a person whom, at first glance, you overlook with predetermined judgment and ignorance.  You resist them because they do not fit in your landscape of beauty and your first instinct is to remove them from your sight and surroundings.  

But when given a chance for a different perspective, a dandelion is that person who defies their predetermined label and shines with incredible radiance.  They ground themselves with their deep roots, bare their lion’s teeth and send you a message that can be spread for miles.

Dandelions are the unanticipated, prodigious flowers of the earth.  They are masters of survival.  And when you find one, you stop dead in your tracks because you realize how dangerously close you came to ignoring a true beauty.

I sat in my car and sobbed along with rainclouds.  I prayed that our collective tears would nourish all of the dandelions I had overlooked in my life.  My insight sprouted right there in the parking lot.  I realized that, somewhere along the way, I had abandoned my childhood nature.  I had forgotten to giggle and gallop.  I had forgotten to gather bouquets and surround my feet with rays of sunlight.  I forgot the true beauty of the dandelion as I became the ignorant groundskeeper in my own life.  I finally understood what my grandmother had been trying to tell me all along.

If you look back through history, you will discover that there was a time when dandelions were appreciated as flowers.  It was not until later that society began to deem them as a nuisance~a weed.  I find it unfortunate that we chose to begin limiting their potential.  Because when given the time to mature, a dandelion transforms into the most enchanted and miraculous being…its yellow petals develop into heads composed of tiny seeds attached to roundish, fuzzy structures shaped like parachutes. When the seeds mature, wind currents blow the head of the dandelion apart and the seeds are able to travel for miles.  You remember seeing this as a child, don’t you?  When you stood in awe of “snow” in summer?  Or when you actually served as the dandelion’s wind?  You leaned in close and exhaled.  You used your own breath to circulate new life and spread beauty.  We all experienced this as children, perhaps we have just forgotten…

Ever since that rainy morning in Denver, I have been on a search to discover all of the dandelion fields my grandmother left for me.  Every encounter with another human being is an opportunity for me to learn all of the lessons she didn’t have the time to teach me when her life was cut short on that mid-November evening.  But her words remind me that when I am too quick to judge, when I get too caught up in my own view of the world or when I allow others to alter my perceptions, I deliberately opt out of some of her most valuable lessons.  And perhaps the more devastating truth is that I run the risk of never breathing those lessons forward to another person, place, or time.  This is not a risk I am willing to take.  Not anymore.

The words from my first dandelion never left my heart.  I have always been a hopeless romantic when it comes to my love affair with humanity, and I absolutely believe that we all have the capacity to make our world a better place if we are willing to pay attention.

“It’s too bad people think of dandelions as weeds.  Because if we didn’t, we would recognize them as flowers.  And we would allow them to grow and spread their beauty in the world.”

Don’t ignore the dandelions.  Search for them.  And spread the sapience.

The way an overcast sky can find itself mixed in a straight shot of sunlight is enough to remind me that I am only as alive as I am present to the earth’s gestures.

Within the blink of this month’s eye, spring reminded me that the trail behind my house would go from razor-white and bare to lush and stocked-green. It warned me that I would find myself deep in the groove and style of summer — habitually risking the beauty of winter’s wisdom.  Spring told me to be cautious with the motion of time; it asked that I not miss the moment when the trees create warm-weathered shadows instead of charcoal-chilled lines…

the day turned over to summer that afternoon,

and the pond came alive again.

sunroof slides, concrete time

and raindrops buried deep and between.

so let me own our patience

and you can streamline our thoughts

from midday to midnight.

This piece is less about seasons and more about instances of the mind.  The ability to pick up on the simple & deep movements of this world is a gift I am learning to grow within myself; at times, I need to silence my need for a path or a way and, instead, take note of the every day minutiae that exists all around me.

The fine points of this world are what keep the seasons of our heart and mind moving forward, regardless of the weather they bring.  Details are life’s enduring miracles.

Don’t quit before the miracle.”  -Anne Lamott

 

 

The archives of life are just so beautiful.  We are a series of problems, solutions and resolutions, I think —
influenced by the characters and settings we are willing to let in.

The pages we write for ourselves rest on shelves; the change in our fonts eager to be noticed.

2wice yesterday, I was reminded that

time never lasts that long, nor long enough

it only twists and tides

carrying us into the next chapter…

The museum of my life
holds all of my journals, glass-cased.
Nothing to rewrite,
only moments to re-love.

SERENDIPITY: *a resignation to an unpredicted & spectacular life, a dichotomy of intentional happenstance (otherwise known as ‘breathe-takes’)

 

It shows up in a friend’s swagger, rooftops, parking lots and chords.

Honoring one of my favorite life concepts means that sometimes…

I commit to committing to nothing,
and resolve power through silence.

I reconcile the unsaid,
and forgive in anger.

I lift out-of-strength, 
and unrest to wake up.  

 

The thing about serendipity is that you first have to release its potential through your authenticity, compassion and grace.  That is the only thing that can bridge it towards its second truth (of which)…
can only be discovered when you are brave enough to step into your journey, unprotected.

Serendipity rarely vacations in the bookends of joy and challenge.  It searches for you in the space between, offering you a re- of light and reminding you that there is always a next beginning.  In these moments…

sunlight will finally catch your syllables,
and the fractions of your being will turn over from crazy to brilliant  

The walk is how I know I am approaching the space of a final draft and publishing.  The rhythm of my work before that moment goes a bit like this…

Countless hours are spent in my writer’s notebook.  I fill it with quotes, images, observations and thoughts.  Most of it, if not all of it, is complete crap—my guilt and self-doubt are constantly embarrassed and apologetic of my forced hand…

I am so sorry, my dear pages, that you have to hold all my horrid and half-formed thoughts.  

I literally have to beg my journal to stick it out with me, promising that something will surface that is worth our time and existence.

When I am wise enough to sit my ass down and do the work, something always emerges that intrigues me or annoys me enough – something that simply won’t “F-off” and forces me to wake up and come alive.  I lift the idea, place it on a new page in my notebook and brace myself for the hurl.

The next handful of my writing is complete and utter suffering.  It is straight-up puke on paper and it is as awful as watching a child projectile vomit and knowing you will be the one wiping it up and gagging.  There’s just no better way to put it – this stage of my process is gross and messy and requires a ton of clean up.  The horrid and half-formed thought that started as just a “jot” in my notebook gets bigger and badder and takes forever to get better.  I grow snippy and impatient (and the hubby spends more time in the basement) while I wait for the piece to resemble some sort of recognizable and healthy form.  Once I detect a linguistic shape, I lean in and listen very closely because I know my loyal friend (my notebook) is getting ready to talk back to me.  Her whisper is the moment of my writing process that I am most terrified of missing—it is a beautifully disguised act of love.  It is the moment when she tells me to leave.

I listen, because I have learned to, and completely abandon my writer’s notebook.  I never, ever go back to the stained pages of my original idea.  I never, ever pick my pen back up from this draft forward.  I honor what my notebook is telling me…

You have cleared the path. You don’t need me anymore and, quite frankly,  I need a damn rest.  

I take several deep breaths, put my shoes on and go for a walk.

A few hours usually does the trick — sometimes more, sometimes less.  The next draft could give a damn about the total number of minutes I will spend putting one foot in front of the other.  I have taught myself to let go, lose track of time and trust that I will know when to come back home.

With every footstep, my next draft gets written right in front of my eyes and every.single.time I believe I am witnessing a miracle.  I, also and always, wonder whether I am brilliant or crazy as I watch my words being written on the world itself.  My writing shows up in the sunlight, on the trees, above the clouds, within the rocks, under my feet…sincere words, original sentences, authentic paragraphs and honest story all leave the abstractness of my heart and show up in the physical world for me to hold.

I cry, I laugh, I skip, I dance, I sing out loud.  And those actions are not metaphorical, believe me– an outsider watching me in this stage of my process would most certainly deem me crazy over brilliant, and I don’t care, because emotion and movement and song and dance are the only ways I know to express my gratitude for the gift I have been given.

There is only one lingering step left in my process…type up my walk, enter the joy of discerned revision and find the means to publish.

 

Something has been missing for quite some time.

Our life gets completely off the rails, upside down and inside out.

Most days, we are nothing short of a hot mess with absolutely no time to repair all that has been lost.  If the dog isn’t peeing all over the house, then we have certainly left our son at the bus stop or forgotten that we still have no food in the house.

Luckily, we have years logged up & steady on the track.  We avoid to-do-better lists and late-night nexts.  We know those things will never cut it for a love like ours.

Cadence is our search…

We listen for a kick-drum and silence the rest.  Rhythm brings us home.

I remember the avoided call – the one he knew not to answer.  My syllables would challenge his plan.

He knew I would tell him how much I loved him, how much I missed him and how I couldn’t wait to come visit California-coast-style the following week.  His plan wouldn’t know what to do with my unwavering friendship and excitement for riding shotgun in his red convertible with sun on my face, wind in my hair, Gwen Stefani in my dance moves…

I remember the accepted call – the one I knew to answer.  His plan would challenge my syllables.

I knew he would have told me how much he loved me, how much he missed me and how he couldn’t wait for me to come visit California-coast-style the following week.  My plan wouldn’t know what to do with his unstoppable guilt and fear for not riding driver-side in his red convertible with sun on my face, wind in my hair, Gwen Stefani in my dance moves…

His mom’s voice would meet me on the other side of the line, instead.

I cancelled my flight, unpacked my bags and began missing you. 

I have missed you every single day since June 5, 2005.

Your life will always be worth every moment of my own.  You give me all the reasons to double down on love — with sun on my face, wind in my hair and Gwen Stefani in my dance moves.

Fiction is NOT my jam, but what the heck.

Prologue  –  Providence

“Espresso for Joe.”

This is when the floods came.

Whenever Reem found herself swirled in coffee order shout-outs, she shivered memories of americanos and espressos by the thousands.  She found herself tilting her head, partly to drop out details of the past, and partly to mourn the loss of her sleek mid-twenties body and porcelain skin that could attract attention without even trying.

Decades beyond her, he was in the sweet spot of aging when they met.  With salt and peppered hair cut tight around the ears and a frame chiseled with zero percent body fat, his 6 foot vertical confidently accepted head turns of all kinds.  A novel personality and impeccable charm was the cherry on top.  Reem had heard stories of sleeping in savannahs and west coast meanderings.  She had read his poetry.  The stories of Africa had intrigued her from the get-go.  Technically, she too, had traveled there.  Her parents had spent two months in the Serengeti awaiting her arrival and her name would reflect their adventures.

Mid-sip, she recalled his competitive genius.  Playing the role of renaissance man was always the win.   It came easy for him, after all — schizophrenic tendencies had gifted him the ability to play a fake compassionate.  Reem would later discover it also gifted him a self-proclaimed pass to do the unimaginable.

Regardless, she took notice and it would be many long-hauled years before she would learn to track the confusion.

Four letters and a continent would be the pulled thread. 

Cue the fire, the flood and Chapter 1…