Sunday, February 18, 2018

That Perfect Music... and Flight...

Sometimes that's all there is.  Floating in my mind.  Enveloping me in my car.  Pouring through these membranes between speakers set in cushions on my ears.  Filling me with something.  I can't see images without associating songs with them.  Can't see faces I love without tunes filling in the missing pieces.  Everything that matters is always tied up in music to me.  Perhaps that's why it makes me cry to watch my little girl dance with so much emotion. 

I read recently that God speaks through music.  "You know what music is?  God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, every where, even the stars."  (Robin Williams)  And while I'm on the topic of God, I had a realization the other day about a phrase I must have heard about a million times throughout my childhood, but it never really struck me until now.  I made note of it in my phone during the middle of a random day this week when the thought passed through my mind.  And the hallways of my mind are echoing with this notion in my Mom's voice:  God is love.  Such a simple answer.  Maybe that's why I'm always so struck by love songs (the good kind... the subtly good but deeply real ones). 

Music is the place where people pour themselves.  And we can't help but swim in it.  The most passionate parts of us are music.  I get chills hearing the right music.  My OCD grinds its teeth and clenches something inside me when I hear the perfect song to hold the hand of the exact feeling I'm cloaked in... and then I find myself listening to it on repeat for days on end.  It's like the song is around every corner.  Whether it's actually playing or not.

I thought late last night about writing about a particular song that's got my attention as of late, but I was too close to dreamland to get up and type.  It's one I've been listening to a lot after first hearing it while watching figure skating on the Olympics.  It's a Coldplay song with gentle piano rhythms behind haunting vocals.  And it's about a flock of birds taking flight.  Hovering above.  "It's how you think of love," it says.  And it reminded me of a print I made in art school that is part of an autobiographical series I made into a handmade and hand-printed book called Stages (both the performance kind and the time-passing kind).  This particular print looks back and encapsulates how I felt just before I fell from grace and became lost in my young adulthood.  A shifting into a lonely place.  The image in the print is of this flock of birds taking flight, coming right at the viewer, out of a New Orleans balcony window.  It's a serigraph, with deep reddish undertones.  But amid the lively flock emerging is a dead bird, bound and hanging by a rope in the very heart of the image.  But the hung bird I printed in transparent iridescent purplish ink on top of the rest of the photographic image, so it's faint.  Glimmering quietly there, shadow-like.  You can only see that something is dead in the very heart of that emerging flock if you look really closely.  If someone wants to see what's actually there.  It's easy to miss if you don't look long enough.  But it's there.  That print, with the free, soaring flock marred by the nearly invisible dead bird just hanging there, feels like that song.  A sadness.  It hangs.  But also sings.  Nothing is ever black and white, is it?  And every beautiful thing has tears inside of it, doesn't it?  What else in the world can capture a feeling like that besides art?  And what does it better than music?  Maybe only art and music combined, even if only in my head.  But I don't think it's only in my head.  Music is entirely too universal for that.  Thank God for music.  Or is that just redundant?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

That Perfect Re-Emergence of My Professional Self

This past year, I worked a full time year.  For most people, that's not a big deal.  In years past for me, that wouldn't be news at all.  But in BigLaw speak, after so much medical leave and working from a recliner at home when I could even work at all, that officially means, I'm "back."  And I am given important work to do.  And am assimilated into my team.  In real world terms, it means I finally proved to myself and everyone else I could still do this very hard and demanding job of mine after my seven surgeries and all the recovery time that goes with that.  It means people I work with believe in me.  It means I believe in me.  It means my kids get to see what grit and determination looks like.  What getting up when we fall looks like.  And my law firm is incredible.  Not only in terms of the work we do, the clients we have, and the quality of intellect of the people with whom I work, but also in terms of how well they have supported me through my difficult time because they understood the value I bring to the table.  While I work in BigLaw, which is known for being an environment that is the toughest of the tough, this firm is special.  All the high expectations are there, but the support is also there when they see that you're giving your all and have real value to contribute.  So, it's a win-win.  I think those close to me probably all wondered for a while there (me included) whether I could still do this given the physical hurdles I faced.  Whether my professional re-emergence was possible.  It was humbling and scary.  To my core.  For years.  Especially when I'm the sole breadwinner, and I have precious young eyes looking up to me for love and financial support as they grow and shine through their childhood years.  While nothing in life is ever assured, it feels damn good to be back in the swing of things, to be working in my office for full days every day, and to have even earned a bonus this past year for all the everything I've committed of myself to this endeavor during my steep climb up the recovery hill.  And climbing is hard with these operated-on hips, let me tell you.

Last week, I had two monumental achievements... well, monumental to me. 

First, on Monday, I gave a CLE (continuing legal education) presentation to a group of lawyers in my firm.  It was based on the substance of a scholarly article I've written that is being published in June in a major legal journal in my field.  I spoke for about an hour while people either were or pretended to be interested in jury trial rights issues in bankruptcy detailed in my PowerPoint.  I used to speak to large rooms filled with lawyers about all sorts of topics related to my field at various conferences both in Texas and Louisiana.  But I've not done it in about three years due to all my surgeries.  And the room of folks to whom I spoke this week wasn't as large as many I've faced, but still.  I did it, and did it well. 

Second, I attended a dinner meeting of the Inn of Court (a true honor to be a part of) this week.  I've been unable to sit for extended periods for so long that I've also not attended Inn meetings in years.  It felt incredible to attend, and I was moved by how warmly I was welcomed by my colleagues in my field from firms all over the DFW metroplex.  I sent an email yesterday to the seven or so people with whom I sat at dinner at the Inn meeting just to say how much I enjoyed being in their company again, and everyone sent me lovely responses in return.  It's always important to show people you're grateful for their presence when you are.  That stuff matters.  My Dad taught me that, among many other things, when I was a baby lawyer, and his influence and guidance regarding my professional career has been immeasurably valuable.  Mostly, it consists of being mindful and friendly to everyone (because you never know who you're going to meet and how your meeting might be a light or a help for you, the other person, or someone else), being damn good at what you do (this is where the hours of grunt work and polishing of grey matter come in), and putting yourself out there (this is where bravery comes in), so that people know you and know what you're good at so that you become a go-to person when it comes to the things for which you're known.  And then people start to use the word "expert" when they talk about you and your work (who knew I'd become an expert on bankruptcy jurisdiction, for instance?).  That advice has increased my success ten-fold.  It's a pretty simple formula really, but there's a lot of character and discipline that goes into putting into action.  It's funny... I wonder where I'd be today but for the orthopedic quagmire that dragged me down.  It's probably not worth thinking about... "what if" roads rarely are.  Instead, it's better to think more along the lines of being a phoenix that people weren't sure would rise again.  But I'm rising.  Because that's who I am.  And this week, I have concrete examples of forward progress.  Of rising from my ashes. 

And next week, I'm attending a conference for lawyers and judges in my field in New Orleans.  Which takes my breath away.  I used to speak at gigs like this, but I'm not speaking this time... though I'm thrilled to be attending.  I'm the most senior attorney from my firm attending this year, so it's important for me to be there and to circulate.  And it will feel like putting on an old comfortable pair of loved shoes I haven't worn in a while (though, ironically, I don't think I get to wear my trademark heels to this conference just yet because of my hip).  Settling back into the professional public me I worked so hard to build.  And I'm really looking forward to it.  My oldest brother is also a restructuring lawyer (ahem, a fancy way of saying business bankruptcy lawyer), and he'll be there, too.  Which is a comfort and gives me even more to look forward to.  Quality time with my big brother.  Given how different our personalities are, I find humor and odd joy in the fact that we ended up with pretty much the same job (though we approach it in our own unique ways and at different firms).  And then the cherry on top of this cake is that I get to spend the weekend in New Orleans after the conference with some of my dear Louisiana girlfriends, who always fill me up and bring much needed insight, hugs, and laughter into my life.  And I get to be in New Orleans, a city that always sings to me.  It's where I visited my grandparents so many times growing up, and a place I attended so many concerts in my youth... in short, a place that is simply beloved to me. 

Despite all my positivity and talk of rising from the ashes, there's something I'm a little afraid of.  The scary part I keep trying not to think about is that I'm flying alone for the first time in 3 maybe 4 years.  Flying is flying... which is always a little scary just because of the small space and nowhere-to-go-in-an-emergency fact of being in a plane among the clouds.  The normal flying fear, I find, is easily overcome by consciously remembering how cool it, in fact, is to be in the clouds.  And amazing music in headphones and a good book to read (I've definitely got the music and headphones part covered, and I have a book arriving from Amazon today) also create lovely distractions.  But here's the thing... schlepping myself and my things through an airport while still maimed is not something I'm looking forward to.  It's precarious because I am not willing to hurt myself again, and I have to be so careful that I don't.  And it's an embarrassing contradiction to still not be physically independent when this girl inside is so independent.  But if there's anything this broken-bodied journey of mine has taught me, it's the grace necessary to ask for help when I need it.  So, Southwest (and perhaps fellow passengers) and New Orleans hotel staff, here I come... and I may need a hand here and there to make it where I am going.  Some help on my journey onward and upward.  Because it matters.  And I simply have to be me again, and this is part of it.

So it's a monumental couple of weeks for this curly-haired girl with a cane... who happens to clean up pretty well in a suit when she needs to. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

That Perfect Entertaining Thing to do Whilst Others Sleep

I only remember perhaps once or twice a year that I own this set.

I don't know that I take it very seriously, but it's fun to dive into.  And I feel like diving right now.  And for fun, I am going to add some music that seems fitting with each card....

I did a pretty standard tarot reading on myself just now.  The card at the top represents the archetype, a/k/a me for purposes of this reading.  Then there's a set of three cards.  The left card represents the physical realm, the middle card represents the mental, and the third represents the spiritual.

My archetype card for this reading is Fourteen - Temperance.  The book describes Temperance as the character Delirium.  Here's the excerpt from the book for this card:

Always in command.  But bound.  Paradoxically views herself as weak.  As a result, ignores the restraints most people think of as normal.  Coming after death.  Winged.  Tossing liquid gold from one gleaming cup to another.   Power in excess.  Yet calm, self-possessed, contained.

 This one has to be Tori Amos.  Cornflake Girl seems fitting.

Okay... with that foundation, on to the physical: the King of Pentacles.

Belongs totally to the world he rules.  The spirals are not alive, and some are broken.  Fossils.  Body mostly stone and dead matter.  Master of wealth, property, power.  Had to fight to achieve, to protect.  Does not seek out battles.  But not passive.  Torn and cracked crown, but with a fiery light.  Person of importance and substance.  Successful.  Loves life.  Protects what she loves.  Calm but with deep understanding.  (Interesting how the physical card was literally about physical attributes, including brokenness, yet power.)

Here, I'm thinking Iron & Wine.  Woman King.  Unmistakable power, but with bloodshot eyes, and weeping.  And Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem, a single line is resonating in my mind here - ...spoke hushed and frailing hips.... 

And mental: the Six of Swords:

Intellect.  Conflict.  Fenced.  Complicated images - productions of the mind.  Everything in the universe, seen and unseen, fits into some perfect pattern.   Everything with a place in the grand scheme.  Obsession with visions becoming more and more complicated... as the medieval cosmos, with the universe's concentric circles moving in harmony.  We can never really separate intellect from our emotions.  (Interesting again how the mental card was about intellect....)

For some reason, with this one, I'm thinking Hedwig & The Angry Inch.  Origin of Love.  Historical, mythological roots trying to explain how our bodies came to be and love.  Intertwined, harmonic, approaching some sort of logic to describe the indescribable... but fanciful all at once. 

Finally, spiritual: the Page of Cups:

Feminine.  Water.  Above a stream of words.  Water is feminine in the way it flows and shimmers with beauty.  But hermaphroditic, including all qualities, flowing from one thing into another.  Spreading over everything.  Literary stream of consciousness... no judgment.  Experience.  Imaginative, dreamy, reflective.  Allowing feelings or fantasies to flow into awareness without judgment.  (And interesting, once again and finally, that the spiritual card involved water and flowing.)

 I'm going to end it here with Tori again.  This time Reindeer King.  "Crystal Core... you are at the still point of the turning world... The divide, fearing death, desiring life... Ice you were the one most tender with the rivers, you the roof of the waves layer after layer...."  And also Love is the Seventh Wave... "There is no deeper wave than this...."

If you're still reading way at the end of this long, long blog post, I hope it's at least been a little fun to journey through this with me here in my quiet late evening.

Friday, February 9, 2018

That Perfect Bracelet

When I went to Baton Rouge last fall for my ten year law school reunion, I stayed with my most sister like friend, whom I've known since 8th grade when we met upon her move to Alexandria from Maryland.  We bonded immediately on her first day at Brame part-way through the school year, the day we met over red beans and rice in the school cafeteria talking about loving R.E.M. and how awful New Kids on the Block was.  And she gave me an early 41st birthday present this year on my visit.  It's quickly become one of my favorite things I've ever owned.

This girl and I have lived through so much together, even over many years of not living in the same town (though I've especially loved when we have).  She knows every inch of my soul.  The good, the bad, the saintly, the dirty, the perfect, the messy.  All of it.  And loves me for every piece of it as much as I love her for all of hers.  It's amazing how we both sit in awe of each others' strengths... and quirks... and what stirs us.  We've been planning our meet up in New Orleans in a couple of short weeks from now (squee!), and she texted me yesterday out of the blue and asked me if we could go to her favorite hat store after we go to the Fluevog store (this will be my FIRST Fluevog in-store experience... I almost can't believe it, and her first time in person at her hat store... thank you, Internet).  I never mentioned the Fluevog store.  She just knew we'd go.  Just like she always just knows everything without me saying it.  That's also why we kick so much ass at Pictionary together.  Either of us can draw the first inch of a line or a squiggle, and the other will automatically know it's a swing set.  Or a clown.  Or whatever it's supposed to be.  I can read her facial expressions like they were my own.  And vice versa.  Last time she spent the night at my house, we each lay awake in separate rooms unable to sleep, but there were too many people here that night that we'd surely have woken up others if we got up to actually talk that night.  So we just talked with our minds in a way, I guess.  Unsaid things might as well have actually been said between us.  We have a strange kind of ESP with each other.  Always have.

The birthday present she gave me this year is a handmade piece of jewelry from a Louisiana jewelry maker called Mimosa.  And it is the most wonderful bracelet.  I've never been much on wearing bracelets.  Watches, sure.  But I don't remember loving any bracelets ever since I had an arm-full of those hand woven ones from summer camp friends in junior high.  But this one... I find I wear it almost every day.  It reminds me of what is most beautiful in this life, in this world.  I even store it in it's own beautiful ceramic jar all by itself.  And I'm ever grateful for what it represents to me.

We were eating some delicious meat pies when she gave it to me this past October, and I remember getting teary reading the card that came with it sitting there in that restaurant.  Here's the front and back of the card:

I love re-reading this card.  It sums up everything that truly matters in life to me.  (And it's even Irish... I mean come on.)  And Rachel is a beautiful symbol of that.  Actually, Rachel and I are a beautiful symbol of that.  It's the bond that is so lovely. 

I like to text her random photos sometimes when I wear it and stop and think of her, just so she knows.

Like this one, taken just now.  This next one's from not too long ago.

And another from sometime before that.

You get the idea.

So... I love this bracelet and how it symbolizes the me, the we, that we are capable of.

Anam Cara.  💗

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

That Perfect Rain

It can't rain all the time.

But I sorta wish it would.  I mean on top of lingering and dreaming in rainy, pensive moments, which I'm wont to do way more frequently than I'll solidly admit, rain soothes me physically more than I think I realized.  And who doesn't sleep better under a cozy feather comforter with a rainstorm barreling outside (which I'll hopefully be doing shortly...)? 

I've been trying out some new postural experiments with my back.  I've been trying to arch my back more, against what every physical therapist has told me over the years, because I've realized that it makes certain weaker muscles in my low back kick in (in a good way), makes my upper back relax (also in a good way), and feels like that's how my body wants to be positioned.  Always has.  I'm an ever perplexing jenga of a person with the repaired shoulder and hip on my left side (four times on the shoulder, twice on the hip).  With hypermobile joints now in my 40s, which were fun in my youth, I struggle daily as I experiment with my body and try to find sitting positions, standing positions... well, everything positions that don't hurt too much.   Sometimes I win.  Like yesterday when I was on day 3 of focusing on holding my back in the right arch-like shape whenever I became conscious of it.  I remembered that before my surgeries, my back was always arched... more than other people's.  And it didn't hurt.  And I was surprisingly pleased with how I was able to manage my pain some with those new positional efforts.  Today, however, was a losing battle.  I think the arching while working at my desk all day yesterday maybe went too far.  Too much of the same position?  Plus I started my period.  And woke up in the middle of a dream to my nine year old in my face and my alarm going off just a moment later.  And I woke up sore... which might be okay, but I could also just tell it was probably going to go downhill.  I could just feel all the aches rising up in my joints, in my bones as I crept out of my bed and began my morning routine.

It was chilly this morning (so said my phone) when I ushered the kids out the door with their nanny to school bright and early.  She showed up this morning in shorts while I was piling coats on my kids.  Then, when I stepped out on the porch as they left, it didn't feel like the 40 degrees my weather app had reported to me.  But it felt kind of humid and weird.  With cold coming.  Maybe that explains the aches, too.  It was colder by the time I left for my office almost an hour later, and I got a chill while pumping gas on the way downtown, even though I had on long sleeves under my blazer. 

As I sat at my desk working intently on some intense projects today, I could feel the pain building.  And building.  And I'd find myself distracted, sighing loudly to myself in a near futile effort to break the tension occasionally before just deep-diving back into work.  And then whispering "fuck" to myself here and there when I just couldn't find a position that wouldn't distract me from my work for very long.

And then it happened.  Late this afternoon, a heavy storm hit Dallas and began pouring down.  And suddenly, simultaneously, much of the pain lifted.  Took leave of my restless body.  Reprieve... at least for a while.  When the rain began as gentle little pitter patters on my window up on 38 in the sky, I got up and snapped this photo of my view of the perfect rainy gray day above the city below.  I love how subtle the rain-droppy streaks are on the glass in front of the ominous gray surrounding and eating up everything in its path. 

Rain just knows how to blend with my soul... kind of like painting with watercolors.  It comes in with intention, may be harsh here and there, but then it blurs and bleeds things effortlessly together until they feel more peaceful, more flowing, more bathed in color.  And at least for a while this afternoon, in less pain.

It's hard sometimes feeling like I'm trapped in this vessel that dishonors all that I have inside me to be, to give, to share, to love with, to thrill with, to sing with, to create with, to dream with, to intuit with, to connect with, to drink deep with.  Acceptance, girl.  Grace and gratitude for all that is in me. Remember that.  And the rain.  And I can hear comforting thunder rumbles in the distance as I type.

Who cares if my body feels like it is in smithereens if my spirit is ever strong and true?

Friday, February 2, 2018

That Perfect Encore

I am lucky that a dear friend's birthday was close enough to today to justify my buying us tickets as a gift for her to go see Jose Gonzales at the Majestic Theater together tonight.

She and I talked about Jose Gonzales's music one night not too long ago when we had a slumber party at her house and stayed up talking deep into the night.  She had seen him play in New York many years ago when she lived there and loved him.... and so when I saw that tickets were on sale, and they were at the Majestic of all places, I bought them on the spot.  And she loved him again tonight.  And so did I.  And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Bedouine, this lovely singer who took the stage as an opener before Jose.  Mesmerizing and mellow.  Feels like something melting.

Jose was more electric, while being acoustic.  He was an incredible one man show.  How so much deep sound, an abundance of thoughtful lyrics, trance-inducing rhythm, and soul-bending crescendos emanated from a single person in the center of a beautifully adorned stage, I still can't quite comprehend.  But I'm grateful for the experience.  I only cried a little (okay, twice) as I sat there moved and beside myself.  ;)

And he had very minimal lighting, mostly consisting of a lightningesque streak from time to time and spotlights that were sometimes blue.  Sometimes white.  Sometimes red.  And there was smoke curling in them, which kept catching my eye, especially during the more trance-like rhythmic guitar sessions.  They reminded me of times when I (stupidly) smoked cigarettes in my youth but took joy in watching my exhaled smoke curl in sunbeams.  I have vivid content memories of watching that back in the day in college.  It's a deeply good memory, even if toxic... literally.

You may recall I blogged about the encore at a recent Iron & Wine show leaving me (and everyone else in the crowd) wanting.  But not the encore tonight.  I didn't even miss a beat of it videoing it because I was certain it would be the encore since it wasn't played during the main set.  Mikila looked over at me just before Jose came back out, and she said "It's going to be Heartbeats."  And I agreed.  And I readied my camera.   

He referenced "the Knife," the original singer of this song, after he played it.  But it sounded like he referenced the song as a metaphorical knife in that moment because he then followed it with what he called a love song, seemingly in an effort to try to give us an emotional reprieve after the beautiful knife of a song we'd just lived through.  Magnificent.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

That Perfect Musical

I've seen plenty of musicals live in the many years I've had season tickets to the Dallas Theater Center.  My all time favorite live one was Cabaret.  Lord, it was darkly incredible.  Oh, and I also saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Though I must admit I liked the film better, the live show was also such fun.

Hm... this is maybe harder than I thought... there are more musicals I have really loved than I realized when I set out to type this.  No matter.  The inspiration will become clear as I write.

I recently saw the film The Greatest Showman, which is based on the life of P.T. Barnum and the birth of the circus.  Anyone who knows anything about me at all knows I have a penchant for cirque.  Always have.  Though playful in my youth going to the circus with my grandmother, and ever impressed with the elephants who always stole the show, it took a dark turn for me in my own artwork in college and after.

I found myself surprisingly moved during The Greatest Showman.  Certain scenes took my breath away, though I have to say the bearded lady seemed a little overdone (imho... it's my blog, I can say what I want).  And the lyrics to the songs are incredible and lift up something inside of me.  It also reminded me of what life might have been like if I'd stayed the course being an artist full-time.  If I'd created that traveling puppet show I'd dreamed of long ago.  Or some other dark, slightly twisted version of something along those lines.  That girl-artist still thrives inside this broken body with a mane for hair and the lawyer brain.  And I will always root for the oddities, the dreamers, the dancers, the ones with brutiful stories under their drive to shine for a moment with the flashing lights and colors.  Because I am one at heart, too.

What I did not expect was how my little girl who absorbed my very spirit in the womb would take to The Greatest Showman.  I have already cried multiple times watching her expressive improvisational dancing to the music from the film, which makes me love it all the more.  Her dancing embodies how the film and its music made me feel - my inner world presented to me in a dramatic and precious miniature me (and yet not me) before my very eyes.  She is destined for greatness based solely on the musical lifeblood flowing through her.  And this film brings it all out in her in shining glory.  So even though I have loved some other musicals, this one got personal, in an utterly magical way.

(Please let this video work... iMovie is giving me fits....)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

That Perfect Melancholy Cranberry

I can't believe Delores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, has died at the age of 46.  I've felt so sad about this and have been wanting to sit down and write this since Monday when I heard the news, but it's been a shit show of a week, so I haven't had a moment until just now. 

I remember when my girlfriends and I, during my Senior year of high school in 1993, drew names for a Christmas present exchange, and my dear friend, Mittie, gifted to me the Cranberries, Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We? audio cassette tape. 

I adored that tape.  Played the hell out of it.  Still know every word.  And every other Cranberries album I came to own in the years following.  When I was in college, I cannot count how many hours on end I spent driving my old Blazer on wide Texas highways singing along with Delores...  And crying sometimes.  And filled with angst at others.  And feeling beautiful at still others.  Singing all the while.  Her voice is embedded in my psyche, imprinted on my heart. 

When the new Cranberries acoustic album came out in 2017, it felt so personal.  So immediate.  So perfect.  Who knew then that it would be the final manifestation of the rebirth of their music?

I had dreamy plans to hire the Cranberries to play for me one day, I was that moved by the new album.  And that particular dream is, sadly, now only a dream with Delores gone.  But here's the thing that makes that okay.  I know the lives of others don't revolve around me.  I know that.  But I cannot help but be so grateful in knowing that her time here, on this Earth, at the same time as me, was supposed to be part of and influence my life in a deeply moving way.  I feel lucky to have received so fully her beautiful music that stirred me completely; it's like the clouds parted when I heard those old songs reworked again in the newest album.  It wasn't made for me, but it also was, if you know what I mean.  For us, actually.  Not just me.  It was a true gift.  I am able to appreciate the rebirth of that music before her death and see it as a reconnection, an homage, and a perfect ode to the beauty the Cranberries gave the world.  So, I'm grateful for the reminder.  And my obsessive nature pretty much ensures I'll keep playing Cranberries over and over and over and over... absorbing it more fully each and every time.  

So thank you, thank you, thank you Delores, for all your delicious melodies and dreams through the years, and especially most recently.  I've been faithfully listening to your voice every time I turn on music since Monday.  I'll be dreaming my dreams with you. 

(Also, here's a not great, but also awesome faded black & white photo... it's of Delores O'Riordan's house in the Irish countryside that I took from the window of a bus in Ireland circa 1998 when the bus driver pointed out that it was hers.  Slainte, dear Delores, even if only in spirit.)


Sunday, January 14, 2018

That Perfect Clandestine Deep Ocean

"'What do I do now?'  I asked her.
'Now,' she said, 'you step into the bucket.  You don't have to take your shoes off or anything.  Just step in.'
It did not even seem like a strange request.  She let go of one of my hands, kept hold of the other.  I thought, I will never let go of your hand, not unless you tell me to.  I put one foot into the glimmering water of the bucket, raising the water level almost to the edge.  My foot rested on the tin floor of the bucket.  The water was cool on my foot, not cold.  I put the other foot into the water and I went down with it, down like a marble statue, and the waves of Lettie Hempstock's ocean closed over my head.


I was holding my breath.  I held it until I could hold it no longer, and then I let the air out in a bubbling rush and gulped a breath in, expecting to choke, to splutter, to die.
I did not choke.  I felt the coldness of the water--if it was water--pour into my nose and my throat, felt it in my lungs, but that was all it did.  It did not hurt me.
I thought, This is the kind of water you can breathe.  I thought, Perhaps there is just a secret to breathing water, something simple that everyone could do, if only they knew.  That was what I thought.
That was the first thing I thought.
The second thing I thought was that I knew everything.  Lettie Hempstock's ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe from Egg to Rose.  I knew that.  I knew what Egg was--where the universe began, to the sound of uncreated voices singing in the void--and I knew where Rose was--the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids, and which would mark the last good time before the eventual end of everything and the next Big Bang, which would be, I knew now, nothing of the kind."

Those words aren't mine.  They are Neil Gaiman's, excerpted from The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  They encapsulate the feeling with which I'm left after finally reading this book.  I bought it--signed by Neil himself--at a reading he performed and talk he gave at the magnificent Majestic Theater in Dallas a few years ago.  Somehow I'd forgotten to read it then.  But then I noticed it on my bookshelf recently and was moved to read it now.

Drinking deep.  Drinking so deep he's filled with Lettie Hempstock's ocean.  And he needs saving, not dissimilar from Charles in A Wrinkle in Time needing to be saved from the IT.  And as the battle with the hunger birds ensues after he and Lettie exit her ocean, she indeed saves him, and then he hears someone humming a tune "from a long way away," and it's an old nursery rhyme: Girls and Boys Come Out to Play.

"...the moon doth shine as bright as day.
Leave your supper and leave your meat, 
and join your playfellows in the street.
Come with a whoop and come with a call.
Come with a whole heart or not at all."

And that nursery rhyme is one I know, too.  Sort of.  It turns out that it's clearly the inspiration for, and loosely smooshed together with, Wee Willie Winkie (the reference to which I only discovered as I was reading from a children's book my daughter has), in a song called Babylon by an old band called Clandestine that I used to go see play in Austin years ago when I lived there.  It makes me wonder how many other nursery rhymes are conglomerated into this dear song.  I've found two references now in this one song that's always made my heart sing.  Maybe I'll come across other references as time marches on.  In the meantime, I'm loving the ongoing serendipitous connection.  The Wee Willie Winkie reference is in the fifth stanza, and the Girls and Boys Come Out to Play reference is in the eighth stanza.  And astonishingly, and unwittingly, the sixth stanza pretty much sums up this part of Ocean quite nicely.  Babylon was released by Clandestine years before the Ocean book, and I'd be shocked if Neil ever heard the song, but I suppose one never knows. 

As soon as I finished reading Neil's Ocean yesterday, I went and listened to Babylon, singing quietly along, every word by heart, and all the while connecting the dots and juxtaposing the two, drinking in the metaphors.  Filled up with my own deep ocean.

Here are the lyrics... it's hard to find a version of the song to listen to online, of course, if you don't already have it at your fingertips like I do, but it's worth the effort....

"How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
- Yes, and back again.
How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.

Down on the carpet, you shall kneel,
While the green grass grows at your feet.
Stand up straight, and choose the one you love,
And choose the one you love.

If wishes were horses and beggars could ride,
I'd be over the sea with you at my side.
But if "ifs" and "ands" were pots and pans
There'd be no work for a traveller.

How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
- Yes, and back again.
How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.

Up all night, and running through the town -
Upstairs and downstairs, in my nightgown.
Peering through the windows,
And crying through the locks,
"Oh, where is my sweetheart, it's eight o'clock!"

Lavender green, lavender blue
If you love me, I will love you.
I'd skip over ocean and dance over sea,
All the birds in the world can't catch me!

How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
- Yes, and back again.
How many miles to Babylon?
- Threescore and ten.

Come out with me, and come out to play -
The moon, it shines as bright as day.
Oh, leave your supper, and leave your sleep;
Come down with your friends now,
Here in the street."

by Clandestine

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

That Perfect Wrinkle in Time

Reading out loud to someone is such an act of love.  I adore it.  I have read to my children since they were wee babies.  I used to read prose and poetry in speech competitions in high school, which is really a form of dramatic reading up in front of judges and a crowd, and I used to be good at it; won prizes for it.  There's something about having someone hang on your words, as you breathe and speak life and heart into letters formed into words, formed into sentences, formed into deep meaning, all just printed on a page.  It's such a gift to be able to give.  These days, I am almost always on the giving end of reading, when I read to my children in the evening-time or to their classes at school, but the times when someone has taken the time to read books out loud to me... it's pure magic.  Absorbing a story through the voice of a loved one is truly a wonder.  I sometimes dream I'm being read to.  Clearly something deep in my psyche needs that. 

Tonight I finished reading out loud the last two chapters of A Wrinkle in Time to my son.  We've been reading the book a chapter or two at a time for a while now.  Not every day, but pretty consistently.  The only other time I have ever read A Wrinkle in Time, I didn't read it myself at all.  My third grade gifted and talented teacher, Mrs. Maxwell, read it to our class.  I remember loving it as she read it.  Hanging on her words, spoken to us, seated in a circle around her, in her gentle voice.  When I was home in Louisiana for this past Thanksgiving, I ran into her in the Kroger parking lot (I cannot go to Kroger in my hometown without seeing folks I know... ever).  Mrs. Maxwell somehow hadn't aged and still looked exactly as I'd remembered her, and it was this happy run in with Mrs. Maxwell that inspired me to read this book to my kids now.  My daughter wasn't interested in it, and she fell asleep every time we tried to include her, so it became something just Max and I shared after the first couple of chapters or so. 

*I certainly don't want to spoil the story for you if you've not yet read it, but there will be some spoilers in here.  Can't be helped.  So, you've been warned.  I wish you had a Mrs. Maxwell or a me to read the whole book out loud to you, because it's divine read that way, but go read it on your own.  Or out loud to your own child.  Or someone else's child.  Or come and read to me.  I'd happily take another turn listening.  Anyway... on to a few points from the book that moved me to write this.  That's where I was headed.*

I'm not going to recount the whole story here, but the gist you need to understand is the battle the characters have with IT... the Dark Thing... the thing that makes everyone it infects alike, rhythmic, makes them take the easy path... makes them give in to what isn't intrinsically them ("How am I not myself?" -- I Heart Huckabees). 

After the IT had held Meg's father captive for many Earth years, and Meg and her friend had rescued him at long last, he explained:

"Yes.  Nothing seemed important any more but rest, and of course IT offered me complete rest.  I had almost come to the conclusion that I was wrong to fight, that IT was right after all, and everything I believed in most passionately was nothing but a madman's dream.  But then you and Meg came in to me, broke through my prison, and hope and faith returned."

*And speaking of this same kind of real, true life passion, I recently wrote down a quote from my boss at work one day who said something along these lines... not quite as poetically, but still:  "Without obsession, there is no passion, and that's not a life worth living."  This sentiment keeps recurring.... Living passionately is not a madman's dream.  It's the very point of living.*

And now I'm going to, at my whim, chop and ellipses the hell out of passages from tonight's reading where Meg must save her little brother, too, from the IT... my strange run-on quotations may be a little of a jumble, but try to absorb what's there so I can give you the flow of the feeling embedded there:

"'Don't worry about your little brother.'  The tentacles' musical words were soft against her. 'We would never leave him behind the shadow.  But for now, you must relax, you must be happy, you must get well.'  The gentle words, the feeling that this beast would be able to love her no matter what she said or did, lapped Meg in warmth and peace. . . .  'You must eat slowly and quietly.  I know that you are half starved, that you have been without food far too long, but you must not rush things or you will not get well.'  Something completely and indescribably and incredibly delicious was put to Meg's lips, and she swallowed gratefully. . . .  Time no longer had any meaning. . . . 'Please sing to me, Aunt Beast. . . .'  It would be impossible to describe sight to Aunt Beast, it would be even more impossible to describe the singing of Aunt Beast to a human being.  It was a music even more glorious than the music of the singing creatures on Uriel.  It was a music more tangible than form or sight.  It had essence and structure.  It supported Meg more firmly than the arms of Aunt Beast.  It seemed to travel with her, to sweep her aloft in the power of song, so that she was moving in glory among the stars, and for a moment she, too, felt that the words Darkness and Light had no meaning, and only this melody was real. . . .  'What can I tell you that will mean anything to you?  Good helps us, the stars helps us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us.  Oh, my child, I cannot explain!  This is something you just have to know or not know. . . .'  'Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me. . . [a sonnet] is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?  [And w]ithin this strict form [of a sonnet] the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?. . .'  'You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet?  A strict form, but freedom within it?'  'Yes.' Mrs. Whatsit said.  'You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.  What you say is completely up to you.'"

And when Meg realizes she is the one who has to go and save her tiny genius little brother from the despondent, cold, conforming force of IT, struggling with all her might through her terror of confronting the Dark Thing to get there, her guides, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which all gently lead her by her thoughts to help her realize she has something the IT doesn't have that will help her beat it, help her get Charles back.  Meg's heart pounds in her chest as she visualizes the pulsating brain on the dais that is the IT as she approaches it with slow steps, relying on pure faith that she will succeed, still wondering what thing it is that she has that IT doesn't... 

*And it is here that my son interrupted the story and shouted excitedly in a eureka of a moment: "HEART!  Meg has a heart!  IT is just a brain.  It has no heart.  That's why Meg will win!  She will use love power."* 

I don't think I have to tell you how the story ends.  But I will:  it, indeed, ends with love.  If I have been able to teach Max by my loving example through the years to recognize with such purity and excitement that it is the heart that wins before it's even obvious in the story, I swear I can do anything. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

That Perfect Sensational Place in Dallas

I tried something completely new today.  When I started this blog, I intended to write about fun and interesting things.  Maybe even sometimes things to do or must see things in Dallas.  Occasionally, I'd dive into a memory of something or veer inward, but mostly my posts were outward facing.  See, I started this blog because I was trying to occupy myself with creating and focusing on positive... er, perfect... things when I desperately needed positivity in my life.  But then things got even harder (as they do), and I had lots of surgeries and other hard things that turned me very inward.  And lots of introspective postings have come pouring out of me.  More of those to come, I'm sure.  But not today.
Today's post is more akin to the ones that started this whole thing... well, at least kind of.  Today's post is physical.  Sensational.  Oh that's a good word for this.  It's about something purely sensory and sensational.  I actually DO have a place.. ahem, and experience... to recommend.   

I am a junkie for massages.  I cannot understand how any human doesn't want/crave/need massages on a regular basis.  I mean.  Really.  I started getting massages regularly, and out of necessity, when I started having my joints fail me.  It started with my left shoulder in 2009.  I first went to a chiropractor, who also did massage, and only did that a few times as it didn't seem to help much.  Plus the guy sorta creeped me out.  So then I switched to non-chiropractic massage.  I've tried all sorts.  Had memberships at massage places.  Visited spas.  Had medical massage and acupuncture.  During some times on my broken-body journey, I've gone for massages as frequently as weekly.  Other times, I had forced dry spells because my broken parts were too fragile to take it.  Nowadays, I go every two to three weeks for maintenance.  By that point, my muscles are often at their breaking point, and they need some deep release.  Hypermobile joints make muscles work too hard.  Plus Life on top of that.  And I'm still not physically right... maybe never will be... but massages help me be and do the most I can with this vessel I've got.  My current masseuse is really a physical therapist/masseuse.  It's a fully clothed experience, with deep pressure, working out all the nasty knots and hot spots.  And sometimes hurts, in that necessary way.  I first went to him on a prescription from my shoulder surgeon (the good one).  He knows all the names and locations of all the muscles and explains why the pains in my body show up the way they do.  He helps me feel better physically and helps me understand this damn bodily pain that persists.  I'm not complaining.  Really.  I'm about to get to the point of this post.  But I do rely on those massages as much as I rely on water to drink.

I had a physical therapy massage yesterday.  That was necessary.  And helpful.  And all the good things.  But it wasn't new or sensational.

Today.  That was new.  And sensational.

I went to King Spa in Dallas today with a close girlfriend of mine.  King Spa is a traditional Korean spa, known in Korea as a Jjim-Jil Bang.  My friend frequents King Spa and has been many many times over the past however many years it's been since it opened.  This was my first time.  I'm going to attempt to recount what happened chronologically because I'm still sort of in blissful shock. 

First, my friend picked me up and we drove far north, almost to Farmer's Branch, to King Spa.  She paid for us to get in with a Groupon, and the difference we paid as an entry fee was a meager $7.  They gave us wristbands with keys and "gym suits" and sent us on our way.  We walked from there into the locker room, and we were immediately confronted by a nude woman bending over.  I scanned the room and saw that it was, indeed, an entirely nude locker room.  Women just strolling around.  Paying for spa services.  Drying off.  What have you.  All nude.  A few in gym suits.  I've been in many locker rooms at gyms and spas.  Many.  Most women's locker rooms have folks changing clothes, of course, but usually they're more modest.  This was loungey-er.  More casual.  More intentional.  Different. 

My friend and I found our lockers and changed into our gym suits, and then she gave me a tour of the massive facility.  (Let me stop here to explain that the entire place is NOT a nude spa.  There are plenty of co-ed parts where people wear the gym suits.  Or bathing suits if it's the co-ed pool area.  And, by the way, the gym suits are unflattering baggy shorts and t-shirts.  Nothing fancy or glamorous about them.)  We toured everything... the pool area, restaurant area, a sea of recliners, a movie theater, the very many sauna options (hot and cold varieties, each with themes), and also the bar area overlooking the pool.  It was almost like Disney World.  But without Mickey.  And I wouldn't take my kids (though some people do... I saw some).

I warned my friend that she was giving this lovely tour of this massive place to her most directionally-challenged friend (I seriously have no sense of direction...) and that I'd probably still have questions and lose my way through the maze of distracting places, especially as I kept finding myself focused on bizarre murals and other decor choices.  More about those later as we go.

Next, we returned to the locker room.  And it was a When In Rome experience.  After having two babies and seven orthopedic surgeries in the past decade, I've lost any bashfulness I may have ever had about my body.  Though in all honesty, I've never really been that shy.  And I also took twelve semester hours of life drawing (nudes) in art school, which translates to eight hours a week for two years, which also helped me appreciate the human form in a non-sexualized but aesthetically pure way.  And, indeed, though it all sounds weird writing it down (I almost didn't even write this blog post because I recognize this all sounds bizarre-o to us 'Mericans), it became normalized pretty quickly.  I guess that's what happens when you're surrounded by folks all doing the same thing unabashedly.  It's easy to just go along with the flow.

Just off of the locker room behind glass doors and stacks of orange hand towel-sized towels, there was a large, very wet room with rows of showers and bathing areas lining the walls and four "baths" -- three in the center and one at the back of the room.  Three of them were varying degrees of hot (large bubbly hot tubs), and one was cold where women would occasionally plunge for a short time.  I stuck with the hot water, though my friend braved the cold one more than once.  And one girl dived into it, though a sign said no diving.  There were lots of signs telling people what to do and not to do everywhere... so many that even this lawyer was overwhelmed and didn't read them all.  Except the one that said something like "Avoid the Toads," which were hot water faucets shaped like toads spitting scalding water into the hot baths.  So we blissfully soaked nude in the hot tubs with whatever random women happened to be there with us at from time to time until we were getting pruney.  I could even pretty much float on my back in there, like I love to do in swimming pools, it was so roomy.  I loved the weightlessness in the bubbly hot tub.  (I so need to buy a hot tub... that will be another blog post some other time.)  Again, it sounds kinda crazy, but really it was relaxing and peaceful despite the naked strangers everywhere.  Most of the ceiling had these large circular dimple shapes, and I kept finding myself tracing over them with my eyes as I relaxed into the hot water.  And my eyes liked focusing on them better than the back-lit, slightly faded, Venus de Milo staring down at us from the center of the ceiling.  And I wondered if the shiny circular air vents here and there among the circular shapes in the ceiling were really cameras.  Then I decided they better not be and convinced myself to stop thinking about it.

Then I heard about this magical thing called an Aroma Ceremony Scrub.

This.  Is.  Something.  I.  Never.  Imagined.

Essentially, there are these plastic coated pink massage tables lined up in a row (maybe ten or so) behind a 3/4 high marble wall with Simpsons themed glass work above the walls (kinda like the glass partitions between booths at restaurants... but why Simpsons (like Homer and Bart Simpson... really), I have no idea, and I wouldn't have even noticed the Simpsons theme if my friend hadn't pointed it out... it was that subtle), with deep barrels of hot water being filled and refilled between the tables.  And each table had assigned to it a Korean woman whose job it is to bathe, scrub, and massage the women who sign up for the Aroma Ceremony Scrub.  You can choose to get only a scrub or only a massage, but I don't know why in the world anyone would choose only one when you can sign up for the whole shebang.  I expect many people reading this have had professional massages at some point.  And those are typically nude.  With tactfully draped covers.  They're not like this.  They're modest and dark.  This is not that.  But it's also not weird somehow.  Getting scrubbed and bathed by these skillful women was a treat I had no way to expect would be so professional and so relaxing.  The deep respect they had for cleansing and treating the body well was deeply apparent and like no other experience I've had.  A few times, I thought to myself, is this legal?  I also thought to myself about various people I knew, wondering if they would ever find themselves in the situation in which I found myself.  And then I wondered how these women came to choose this as their profession.  And then I thought about how most Americans are prudish -- we're taught to be that way by so many societal norms and pressures.  But most other cultures aren't.  Silly Americans.  But mostly, I drifted off into blissful relaxation.  I won't go into detail about the treatment (this ain't that kind of blog), but I suppose it's pretty much what you would expect an Aroma Ceremony Scrub would be in a place like this.  Except it's 90 minutes.  Nintey.  And they wash your hair.  And douse you with giant buckets of hot water that feel like ocean waves throughout everything.  And it's a hundred times more incredible and calming than you can imagine.  Actually, there's no way I could have imagined this experience ahead of time, so that measure is probably way off.  And here's the kicker, when you finish, they give you a card for another free entry.  They create lots and lots of addicts that way, I'm sure.  From the other women I saw in there getting massages and scrubs, I can say they certainly aren't hurting for customers. 

My friend didn't do the Aroma Ceremony Scrub today as she opted for a regular (dry) massage instead, though she described to me the time she did do the Aroma Ceremony Scrub as "epic."  That's pretty fitting.

When I finished up and changed back into my lovely gym suit, I met my friend for lunch in the restaurant.  We both felt happily woozy after our treatments - she described it as feeling high.  I think we needed to eat by that point, too, and we were uber relaxed.  Good thing I had no important decisions to make right then (which is a break from the norm... and a welcome one).  I had beef and egg ramen, and she had this bright red super spicy chicken soup.  We sat in the most delightful majestic little chairs with pink leather cushioned seats and white ornate woodwork with gold detail on the backs as we slurped up the goodness.  But the chopsticks were smooth metal which did not work with my slippery noodles, and I felt like an idiot using them, so I switched to a fork and spoon, a little let down with my skills, to be honest.  But it was delicious.  And we chugged water.  Lots of it.  And my friend pointed out the bizarre mural in the restaurant area, which I hadn't noticed because I'd been too focused on the wall-sized menu of all sorts of goodies.  And I noticed a weird wall with pumpkin decor near the Sphinx room across the way.  And the menu showed that they had shaved ice that I'm gonna definitely have to try next time. 

We then headed to all the crazy saunas in our pretty gym suits... one had a pyramid theme, with a sphinx outside, which was lovely, but kinda too hot pretty quickly.  One had giant amethyst geodes everywhere.  We tried a few others, and the themes of them are kind of running together in my mind, but they all had varying levels of heat and kiln-like quality, and varying murals or other wall treatments.  In some we sat, and in some we had to lie on the floor -- sometimes on mats, sometimes on large bamboo coverings.  I wondered if my metal cane would get hot to the touch sitting in the saunas, but somehow it didn't.  And then we went in the cold room, where we could see our breath (but I couldn't blow smoke rings, but for some reason I tried), but we didn't stay in there too long.  And then we spent quite a while in the oxygen room, where we laid on mats on the floor, this time with head cushions, apparently breathing in extra oxygen, which seems like it can't be a bad idea.  We only heard one man snoring in one of the saunas, which is surprising given how relaxed every single body in that place seemed.  But we definitely saw lots of people passed out asleep on the recliners and couches in the open areas (good for them).

When we'd had our fill of laying in saunas that felt like lying on a warm sandy beach but without all the sand, we headed back to the locker room for one last soak in the hot tubs and a rinse off in the showers.

All of this took about five hours.  For the Aroma Ceremony Scrub and my ramen, at the end I paid a grand total of about $129.00.  It may be the most well spent $129.00 I've paid in quite some time.  Good thing they gave us free entry return vouchers.  And thank goodness for friends who are comfortable enough with themselves and their friends to introduce them to such a bizarre and sensational place.

*You know you totally want to see this place.  There's even a picture of the toads you're not supposed to touch on that page.  And here's D Magazine's description: (Note, even D Magazine recommends the Aroma Ceremony Scrub.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

That Perfect Profound and Profane

I was just home visiting for the holidays, and one morning, as we were chatting in our pajamas in the dining room, while I sipped coffee and my Dad organized his pressed pennies, he brought up a song he wanted to play for me.  Little did he know it's a song I already knew, but in a version by a different artist.  The song was Hallelujah.  His version was one on violin by Lindsey Stirling.  My version was by Jeff Buckley.  We listened to each other's versions on YouTube.  And then we talked a little about Leonard Cohen, who originally wrote the song.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much my Dad knew about Leonard Cohen.  But then also not surprised. 

But my favorite thing about this conversation and this moment of sharing music was my Dad's observations about the lyrics to Hallelujah.  "Profound and profane," he said.  The combination of those words resonated and echoed, bumping back and forth through the grey matter between my ears, and then settled and nestled down somewhere deep in my heart.  That. 

Webster's defines "profound" as:

1 a : having intellectual depth and insight
   b : difficult to fathom or understand
2 a : extending far below the surface
   b : coming from, reaching to, or situated at a depth : deep-seated
3 a : characterized by intensity of feeling or quality
   b : all encompassing : complete
And "profane" as:
1 : to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt desecrate
2 : to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use 
I told him I think all the most beautiful, most human things in the world have an element of both.  And as I sit here now, I know that the coupling of those two words speaks a truth about what is so moving about that song, and about all sorts of art, music, places, and people I sincerely adore and expresses a notion that is so often hard to put my fingers on.  But it's magnificent.  And I'm so pleased to have the words for it now.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Those Perfect Tears

The other day, I was reading some posts by a work colleague of mine about his wife's diagnosis, treatment, and recurrence of a brain tumor.  It moved me to tears, though I've only met his wife one time, and recently.  And I had no idea when I dined with them at a firm holiday dinner party that she was undergoing chemo and awaiting results regarding recurrence.  She was joyous and charming.  It's amazing what lies inside of us that we don't show to others.  And in one of his posts, he talked about being so overcome with tears that he had no words.  And how the tears were holy tears.  He is devoutly Jewish, so his post had many religious references that I didn't fully understand.  But, he spoke of "the gates of tears" being open and the experience of crying being holy.  That, I intimately understood.

My Mom has told me before, but recently told me again, that she believes crying brings us closer to God.

Holy tears.  I suppose that concept resonates with me.  I cry easily when I am moved deeply.  In those spiritual moments when the entirety of the universe is just so very close.  I think that's what my Mom means.  And, like my friend who found himself with tears but no words at his wife's suffering, that wordless tearful state is one I have found myself in on more occasions than I could possibly recount during my life.  Crying is a release and a relief.  It removes tension.  It lets us get underneath the facade we force when we have to push through other things in life while the unspoken things underneath lie in wait.

Crying is the only thing that evicts the elephant that likes to sit on my chest sometimes.

My Dad tells me I am the most tender-hearted person he knows.  I think having plentiful tears just goes with that territory.  

I've also been told my tears caused rain to fall outside.  One of the most beautiful sentiments. Sometimes, I even believe that to be true.  There have been too many thunderstorms beating on my windowpanes during bouts of my crying for me to overlook.  Serendipitous crying along with the infinite sky.  An unearthly symbiosis that comforts me in those moments.

I cried in front of a friend not too long ago, and I was holding it together as much as I could while hot tears just streamed down my face, and she told me to just let go and ugly cry.  It's a tremendous act of love and sisterhood to genuinely remind someone to stop holding it in when it's leaking out in front of them.

I reminded another friend to cry when he was feeling vulnerable and afraid of doing something important just last week.  And I hope he took my advice.  I have a feeling maybe he did. 

There is nothing more vulnerable than crying.  Those of you who have seen me cry... well, just know I love you.

I also read something that said that we don't cry because we are sad.  We cry because something is more beautiful than we expected it to be.  How profoundly true that is.  Of course we cry when we are sad.  But in light of this wisdom, I think it is because we realize in moments of sadness how utterly beautiful something was, and tears fall as we soak in that realization.  Sometimes we even cry at beauty in the moment.  When we are present enough to fully comprehend it before it passes.  Happy tears, as my daughter calls them.  When we feel overwhelming love.  When we see a baby born.  When we feel relieved at an accomplishment being reached after working so very hard.  When we see a face we have longed to see after too long of missing them.  When we hug someone goodbye and we know it will be too many whiles until we can reunite.  When we hear a song that stirs the deepest parts within us.  Sometimes, tears flow when we don't expect it at all.  I think in those times, our minds are subconsciously focused on some deep swirling beauty, but our tongues have not yet awakened to what it is.  If we sit with the tears, though, understanding comes.

I know it seems odd to be writing about tears just before Christmas.  But, for the record, I know my cheeks will be lined with tears watching my kids open their presents.  Singing Silent Night (always makes me cry...).  And probably other times, too.  Because, as I said, I'm a crier.  And I wouldn't want to be any other way. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Perfect Not A Phone

This is not about a phone booth.  But it was.

I remember phone booths.  When they were all over the place.  It's kinda funny, isn't it, that we carry these cellular devices in our pockets and purses with us literally everywhere these days, and yet I am certain I spent way more hours talking on the phone when they were not nearly as accessible than I do now.  I guess there's a reason we call them mobile devices now rather than phones.  I mean, they are phones, but it's almost like a diminished secondary function.  But I vividly remember when I would have to stop somewhere to use a phone.  Where it was physically located.  Stuck to something.  Where I would actually pick up the receiver ("I'll make you a believer...").  And literally hang it up when I was done.  Physically, on a knobby hook built to hold the phone receiver.

I also remember old melamine rotary phones.  I still have the mustard yellow one that once sat on my mother's night table when I was a child.  It still has the typed phone number (still my parents' phone number, in fact) on some yellowed paper slid beneath a yellowed-clear cover in the center of the dial.  I told my Mom I wanted it in case there were hurricanes and I lost power (when I lived in Louisiana), and so she let me have it, but really I wanted it for sentimental reasons.  I'll never get rid of it.  But I digress.

Phone booths.  A relic of the time when we called each other.  When talking was how we communicated instead of typing.  I deeply miss that.

Apparently I'm not the only one.  There are a couple of competing metaphors in my mind with this one, so I'll just dive into the first one that came to me....

See, there's this phone booth that became special recently.  Because somebody had an idea and acted on it.  And missed phones, too.  Like me.  And it moved me.  I was driving on my way to work this morning, singing appropriately, in fact, as I dodged the too many potholes on my commute ("... I’m driving, here I sit... cursing my government... for not using my taxes to fill holes with more cement..."), and I decided I needed to share this very special booth.

Like flowers on a grave site, someone in my neighborhood did this to an old phone-less booth adjacent to the parking lot where I always stop to get gas.  So I pulled over and stole this little glimpse of it to share here.

In a way, it laments the passing of not only the phone booth as a physical thing, but also the passing of verbal communications we all took for granted, which were once so much more personal and intimate than text on a screen.  Not that text on a screen isn't majestic in its own right (hello, I'm typing this and you're reading this... which is pretty magnificent in the grand scheme of things if you really think about it).  It's just that voices back and forth -- giggles, sighs, gasps, overlapping excited stories, free flowing tangents, pregnant pauses... those are all lost in the everything-typed world in which we now live.  I'm grateful for the ease of communication typing bestows, but I miss the intonation.  I miss voices.  Phones that we had to use because we had no other choice gave us a different kind of richness.  Now phones, er devices, that are forever at our fingertips pretty much forget they can do the same thing.  So these roses mourn the passing of the voices unheard these days.  Because typing. 

The other metaphor that came springing into my mind when I stared at the phone-less booth: all those intonations, whispers, laughs, stories that come pouring out of actual phones... each of these is a precious bloom in and of itself.  Temporally limited, but bright and beautiful in its vocal blooming and fading, crescendos and silences.

Man, we should use our phones more.  I mean, we don't even have to pay outrageous long distance bills anymore.  It's all included.  How is it that the ease and convenience of phones has somehow endangered the existence of actual, real phone conversations?  It's not that I never talk on the phone.  That's not true.  When I do, and when I'm lucky, phone calls last hours.  But they are infrequent, which I lament.  But I am moved to do it more and more.  To reap the blooms that fall on my ready ears and to cast my own voice into the receiver, to be joyfully received.

It's not quite time for new years' resolutions, but I'm beginning to think mine might include more good phone.  There's nothing quite like good phone.  Roses, indeed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

That Perfect Sign

Sometime early this summer a new roadside a-frame sign board popped up on my work commute.  It's gotten me thinking every morning.  There's a little shopping strip near my house I drive through (yes, through, not by) each morning.  It almost feels like the street I'm on devolves for a short stint from being an actual street into a mere turnaround for the shopping center traffic, but it's, in fact, actually the street (even if cross traffic doesn't always realize it).  There's also a little median with some plants in it and a brick walkway alongside the street.  And the a-frame sign board sat on that brick walkway each morning until very recently when people finally didn't need the sign anymore because the shop had been there long enough for people to know and remember it.  Including me, I guess, though I've never been in there.  In any event the sign caught my attention because it was bold and looked like this:
Image result for brass tacks barber shop

Brass tacks.  Every morning on my way to work.  For months.  I always picture old antique chairs - specifically some specific ivory striped ones that used to be in my parents' living room when I was a child with brass tacks lining the edges where the fabric met the wood.  I remember running my fingers over the line those brass tacks made, enjoying the feel of the inconsistent but smooth surface as my fingers rode along their bumpy track.  Small rounded hills with teeny fabric ravines in between.  It's a comforting memory.  Childhood things tend to be like that.

But this sign speaking to me with its bold font at the start of each new day, well, it got my attention, and it got me wondering the origin of the phrase.  And tonight, as I passed it on my way home, I was especially tuned into the concept. 

Turns out, we think we know what things mean when we hear them, but looking them up always gives a little more depth.  And frequently yields something surprising.  (If I'm good for nothing else, it's researching and diving deep....) 

Webster's has a definition for "brass tacks":  "details of immediate practical importance usually used in the phrase get down to brass tacks." And The Free Dictionary lookup yielded this: "Deal with the essentials; come to the point. For example, Stop delaying and get down to brass tacks, or We really need to get down to bedrock, or He has a way of getting down to the nitty gritty, or Let's get down to cases. The origin of the first phrase, dating from the late 1800s, is disputed. Some believe it alludes to the brass tacks used under fine upholstery, others that it is Cockney rhyming slang for 'hard facts,' and still others that it alludes to tacks hammered into a sales counter to indicate precise measuring points. The noun bedrock has signified the hard rock underlying alluvial mineral deposits since about 1850 and has been used figuratively to denote 'bottom' since the 1860s. The noun nitty-gritty dates from the mid-1900s and alludes to the detailed ('nitty') and possibly unpleasant ('gritty') issue in question. The noun cases apparently alludes to the game of faro, in which the "case card" is the last of a rank of cards remaining in play; this usage dates from about 1900."  

So it's getting to the bottom of things... the essentials.  Oh, essentials.  Ah.  Of course, that.  I've written about those at length before in an earlier post having to do with flowers.  So I can't help but go here:  "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."  The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  The invisible, the essential: brass tacks.  Apparently everything leads me back to here.  This quote was even mentioned in a novel I read to my children this week.  I think I'm sensing a pattern.  Or patterns.  But I guess I wouldn't be me if I didn't.       

Saturday, December 2, 2017

That Perfect Supermoon Photo

This is simply the majesty of an upside down and blurred technical error I made on my phone camera tonight, which yielded a drippy supermoon with stardust scattered around and just the right amount of creepy branches and what looks like a dragony-bird thing flying by to take a secret peek.  I feel like there are also spirits floating around in the murky mist, too.  The whole thing feels like swimming in moonlight to me.  If only.  It also feels kind of like the Upside Down version of the view from my yard but without the fear of the Upside Down.  Just searing, dark beauty.  Somehow quickly captured by accident... but just perfectly perfect.  There's magic right before us all the time.