You and Me Together

Clouds spread like spilled cream and filled the little valley of Rice Cove, North Carolina in early October of 2003. Two weeks earlier, I had transmitted a first tentative electronic hello to the world: a blog post using dial-up and flying blind.
Clouds spread like spilled cream and filled the little valley of Rice Cove, North Carolina in early October of 2003. Two weeks earlier, I had transmitted a first tentative electronic hello to the world: a blog post using dial-up and flying blind.

IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, (nearly a decade), on a mountain top in Rice Cove, near Asheville, North Carolina, when I first heard the word “blog.” Such an ugly little word to have become the source of so much joy, learning, sharing, revelation, satisfaction, and friendship. Blogging uncorked an artesian bubbling up in me that has been seeking the air ever since. Ten years from that first quavery “is anybody out there” post, whatever else I might do with the rest of my life, a passion for writing every day has become the sustaining, joyful core.

Almost everyone who reads this has a similar story to tell about their own blogging journey. We are a small cohort within the blogosphere that’s  unconcerned, unaware, or disdainful of the concept of search engine optimization. We’re high touch bloggers in a high tech medium. Together, we learned how to fly.

Strangely, writing online has given me a practice which has now become the backbone of writing WBOIF (without benefit of instant feedback). If I had a platform to continue blogging, whether a passionate advocacy, or something to share or teach about writing, or nature, or travel, then I wouldn’t quit for anything. Hear me, Elizabeth, Richard, Dave, Wally, Mira, Deanna, Denny, Kathleen, Dick, Gully, Susan, Meg, Loretta, Charlotte, Verna, Cheryl, Whiskey, and Kate? But I believe the next decade for me is on the page; in my scribbles, not the screen.

And so, this is my last post. Sure, you say. You do this at least once a year. Not this time. It’s like molting or morphing; I don’t know what exactly, only that something fundamental has changed,  a natural, organic process, and very comfortable.

I appreciate and salute you. Let’s celebrate ourselves. 

You and I, we’re not tied to the ground

Not falling but rising like rolling around

Eyes closed above the rooftops

With eyes closed we’re gonna spin through the stars

All the way to the end of the world

To the end of the world.

Dave Matthews, from You and Me, the Dave Matthews Band

Turn the music up way loud, feel it, and smile.

All my love.

Article of Faith in a Season of Storm

The last hanging plant I bought was a sensuous, carnelian-colored Bougainvillea. Long tendrils draped and scattered tender petals all summer long. It hung on a wooden contraption lovingly made by my late step-son that, I swear, looked like a huge crucifix built from 4×4 treated wood. Darryl had drilled into the hard wood and installed strong hooks for plants and bird feeders. A tough Christmas cactus hung there, too, along with various bird feeders.

That was 2004, the year Hurricane Ivan made landfall at our near neighbor,  Gulf Shores, Alabama. From our gate, up in the mid-to-north section of Escambia County, it is 43 miles to Gulf Shores. From downtown Pensacola, the distance is only 33 miles; about the same from vulnerable Santa Rosa Island.  That skinny little necklace of land is the gorgeous piece of real estate known as Pensacola Beach.  Any time I drive over the bridge from Gulf Breeze to the beach, a bolus of fear forms in my belly at the sight. That thin barrier island so crowded with high-rise hotels, restaurants, jet-ski rentals, bikini shops, bars, condos, private homes, a school, churches and people everywhere is sandwiched between the placid sound and the unstoppable Gulf of Mexico.

When Ivan hit, Buck and I were in Scotland on the tiny Isle of Arran. My spotty blog archives from September and October of 2004 describe that time. I’ve unearthed an Internet Archive copy of the Pensacola News Journal’s special Hurricane Ivan report here. I never did find the lovely Bougainvillea. The crucifix-looking wood pieces were twisted and partly smashed. Weeks later I found the Christmas cactus container, but no plant. We did find a small, but potentially lethal coral snake in the garage. Lots of things were misplaced, displaced, or replaced.

The middle of hurricane season is upon us. The rest of the country has seen terrible wildfires, floods, and odd land storms that have taken out power for millions of people for days.  So far, our little patch of ground has remained calm. We’re grateful for the almost daily brief thunderstorms that bring just the right amount of rain and ease the high summer temperatures.

A few days ago, I bought another hanging plant. Its true name is  Zebrina Tradescantia, but that ubiquitous purple-striped plant that will grow for even the most black of thumb is commonly known as Wandering Jew. I always liked them. I respect their hardiness and inclination to grab hold with a rootling and call a place home.

For a person who has eschewed gardening for the past 9 years,  I went a little crazy at Publix the other day. I came home with an instant herb garden: Italian parsley, thyme, basil, dill and oregano. There is a space under open wood steps that connects the second floor deck to a ground-floor concrete patio. Grass sends runners into the soil there. Weeds flourish, but the lawn mower can’t quite reach in to mow. It is only a small space, maybe two feet by four feet, maybe a little bigger. It wasn’t much of a commitment to stick those little herb plants in there. But they looked optimistic, and inexplicably made me so happy, that I went to Home Depot the next day, and bought two “Sunpatiens” — a sun tolerant variety of New Guinea Impatiens. They are loaded with pretty white blooms. I also bought two tiny pots of Asian Jasmine, and a great big hanging Wandering Jew.

Yesterday, I went outside in the hottest part of the afternoon, got out the post hole diggers and made a space to move the black iron bird feeder/plant hanger from its place too far away for me to see well from inside the house to a new home inside the fence close to a back window. The ground was harder than I anticipated. Isn’t that always the way? An hour later, sweat dripping off my nose in a steady stream, my hair a frizzy dark cloud, the feeders were cleaned, filled and moved and the Wandering Jew became a housewarming gift for the birds.

When I eventually staggered back inside and got a look at myself in the foyer mirror, I had to laugh. My mother’s voice was clear as a bell in my head: “Mary Beth, you’re as dirty as a pot!” I dove into the pool, my body temp instantly reverted to its mean. I was cleansed and revivified.

The space under the stairs looks nice now. I went out this morning and said a few words to the herbs and flowers. The five-lined skink Buck recently rescued from the house is living there. He spent so much time evading us indoors, I really think he knows me and my habits better than most people. He knows that I may be half a bubble off, but am not mean or dangerous.

Storms come. One may come this season. It may break my sweet Wandering Jew into a hundred pieces and spread it all around the woods. If it does, I know that one day I will walk and find bits of purple pushing their way up from the forest floor. After Hurricane Ivan hit, and we cried over the loss of more than 300 old Longleaf pine trees here, we planted several thousand container-grown seedlings. They were randomly hand-planted to look natural, not like a commercial plantation. These days, those trees are twice my height; some three times.

That Wandering Jew hanging plant is an article of faith in a season of storm.  Despair can take root, but so can hope; so can resilience.

Woman at the Counter, Versions 2 and 1

Note: Version #2 is first.

2. There was only one customer, a woman,  at the counter in the post office when I walked in today to mail a couple of books to a friend in California. I never did see her face, but judging from her jeans, t-shirt and dishwater blond hair pulled back into a pony tail, and other physical clues, I am guessing she was somewhere between 28 and 35.

The main thing I noticed at first was that her voice was soft, quavery. She seemed to be asking the clerk, (a calm, straight-arrow, professional but friendly guy who has been there a long time), how she could rent a post office box and how much they cost. I zoned out while he gave her all the fine print details.  I thought of my virtual friend, a new blogging buddy, a fine young writer who is just about to give birth to her second child. I thought about the serendipity of how birds of like feather seem to find one another to give and receive encouragement and to meet each other wherever we are on the pilgrim path of writing.

Sometimes I think everyone on the planet is a writer, that we are all celebrating the joy of the struggle of expressing ourselves with pen, ink, paper, keyboard, and voice. Tells you what a lovely bubble I live in, no?

The woman’s voice penetrated the vapor barrier of my thoughts. She had come to a decision. “I’ll take the year — no, if I do he’ll get on me — I’ll take six months.”

If I do he’ll get on me.

My spine straightened. I felt a miniature electric drill twisting its way up into the base of my skull.

Note: Version 1 is what showed up as type on the page when I used the Plantronics Calisto Bluetooth headset to speak this post for Dragon to turn into words. It’s painfully obvious that I have a lot of work to do to learn how to frame my thoughts into type-ready speech, and clearly, Dragon and I are at the beginning of the learning curve. The gibberish that resulted is somewhat amusing and undeniably weird.

1. There was only one person in the post office when I walked in today to mail a package for a friend. She was a petite woman somewhere between 28 and 35 years old I never did see her face. I was there to mail the book to a friend that California does not have the baby at night I wanted to share with her what my favorite children’s that had for children of all ages.

She wore a pair of jeans and T-shirts, had newtons medium length blondish sort of hair and the main thing I noticed that her voice had kind of a quaver to it she was she was asking Kerry about the cost of opening a PO Box. In his usual gentle friendly way he was explaining the options. Space it seemed that she was looking at the possibility of six months or a year the cost for the year as it is. Pointed out was more reasonable the risk of the discount at least I think that’s what I heard , and she was weighing whether to buy open a box and pay the fee for six months or to pay for a full year. I could hear the tension in her voice and I could see it in her body language she kind of shifted from one site to the next. FnallyR she said well I think I’ll take the year and no he’ll get on the inside. Let’s make the 669. I felt the kind of an electric Jerrell feeling up my spine a tiny little electric drill, she’s this is that this is really bad for women she went off to the side to fill out paperwork I came to Canada sent a letter to indicate and actually two books and I thought how lucky KVS how lucky I am to be in loving relationships relationships with our partners and and also am reason you are comfortable comfortable financially to the extent that we can could make that decision of whether to rent the box for a year or rectify for six months and certainly not fear going home and having someone get FACT that some mountain biking I talked about this and he he thinks it probably had more to do with justify family finances and her her thanks anxiety about that O

Gleaning

Gleaning — a word that evokes images of fields ripe unto harvest, Talmudic law, feeding the poor, intellectual dumpster diving and a great word for how it is we find what we need to sustain us. I’ve been a gleaner of ideas almost my whole life, never more so than now. I am a gleaner of words.

I saw a guy in Las Vegas who scoured city-provided trash receptacles along the Strip for the mega-ounce grain alcohol, fruit, sugar and ice drinks that come in huge souvenir plastic containers. He gleaned a real score: a more than half-full hundred-ounce container. Judging from his reptilian roar of pleasure after turning up his head and downing a big slug, there must have been a lot of booze in the bottom. Gleaning is a prettier word for this than scavenging.

I’m glad to know gleaning is alive and well out in the bounteous food bowl of California, where volunteers gather to glean the fields after ht harvest and fill up the food banks with lettuce, tomatoes, artichokes and other beautiful food. Urban community gardens have brought gleaning for food to the cities and the suburbs, a lovely sharing.

We’re all a mosaic of bits and pieces we have borrowed from others. Bits of dark; bits of light; reflective bits that help us see the whole.

Shape Shifting

Leafy Shadows move on the scored concrete floor

Dark butterflies find their way

Steel birds rumble the valley

The hawk is always hungry.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?  (from Landslide, written by songwriter Stevie Nicks)

When the Writing Prompt is “Objects”

“Huntsman” - Victorinox Swiss army knife with ...
“Huntsman” – Victorinox Swiss army knife with knife chain and belt clip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rory is a Swiss Army knife created by a drunken evil genius. He is a whirligig of moving parts and a thrower of dice. He corkscrews into the hard crust of the world. He uses the digging tool to scoop out the warm heart of the earth. He is a blunt instrument: loud by temperament, silky smooth by devious intent. It costs him to put a lid on it. Rory is a human screwdriver, violently opening people in places far from where he sleeps, then filing his teeth, cleaning his nails and folding himself up into a shiny package for the corporate board room.  He slips himself back into a well-tailored pocket, ready at a moment’s notice.

When the Writing Prompt is “Trepidation”

It takes W.D. 45 minutes to an hour to get around to what is really bothering him. He brings me vegetables from his garden as a good trade for my listening ear and several cups of coffee. He wears pointy-toed boots if he’s going to town or to the bank after we visit. Otherwise, he wears beat-up old hunting boots and sits down on a porch chair to take them off before he crosses the threshold. Buck says he likes to come as early as I’ll let him so he can have me all to himself while he talks. Then when Buck strolls out from the bedroom, they can have a little visit, too.

W.D. comes in all bluster and hey miss beth, our newspaper in one hand and several plastic sacks of just-picked vegetables from his garden in the other.

He talks about his garden, about stories in the day’s paper and what’s wrong with the guv’mint and all them durn crooks we got in Washington. He talks about his beautician wife, Betty Lou, and the few old ladies left to come to the beauty shop, and who broke their hip, who’s in the hospital, and whose funeral he just went to.

He talks about taking Betty Lou fishing for brim and shellcracker that are bedding and how it did him good to see her catch a few.  I refill his cup. He swivels around on the kitchen bar stool, goes to pee, comes back and sits down again, says “I got to go,” but I know he hasn’t quite had his say.

I’ve learned to just be still and listen as he winds down and gets to it. If he’s brought some purple hull or shell peas, I’ll snap or shell them into a pan while he watches my fingers.

I see what’s on his mind building in the fine tremor of his wide, stubby old fingers. Worn denim sings when he slaps the palms of his hands on his thighs. The sclerae of his brown eyes are red with spidery veins. I notice this as I see his eyes fill with water. We exchange a long look.

“It ain’t good, Miss Beth. I don’t have no energy. I ain’t worth a damn. I think the cancer’s coming back on me.”

He has a knack for timing it just right. Just when he is about to break down, Buck comes into the kitchen from the back of the house, opens the refrigerator and pours himself a glass of cherry Koolaid.

“Morning, W.D. You get some of Beth’s good coffee?”

W.D. makes a quick swipe of his face with his shirt sleeve, gives me a hard look, and just like that, he is all shaped up, full of shit as a swamp owl.

“Sure did, Buck. I brought her some purdy young squash, too, but you cain’t have any, ain’t that right, Miss Beth?”

I reach over and give his hand a quick squeeze. “That’s right, W. D. I’m going to eat every one all by myself. Hey, sweetie, look here what W.D. brought me.”

Buck oohs and ahhs over the vegetables. His wise eyes see it all, but he wouldn’t hurt his friend’s pride for anything.