Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Wind

The rush of the wind engulfs the house, window panes rattle as the invisible assault grows stronger. The last few remnants of summer are sent swirling from now barren branches through the cold air. Ominous shadows of sharp slender fingers dance across the ground beneath the street light as tree limbs tremble in the gusts. Leaves and branches clatter over the roof in the darkness adding to the anxiety of the night.

The sounds outside build in rolling crescendos scattering nature’s debris against the brick and mortar, sounding like a barrage of lethal pellets. And then silence for a few moments until another raucous wave attacks. Over and over it repeats the cycle, seeming to never have an end. Rumbling and reverberating around the house. As you search out the front window it is indistinguishable, unseen as it batters the walls of the structure.

 An air of uneasiness fills the room; apprehension about the strength of your sanctuary grows. The domination, the power seems over whelming. The inability to influence, to affect any change or moderation gives rise to increased trepidation. Forced to listen again and again as it over takes the house. Nowhere to hide? No secure corner?

          Time to pull the comforter close and tight, a shroud of warmth and security that will hopefully see you safely through the blustery night - to meet the dawn as it breaks still and quiet.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2 Rocks

A few decades ago I wrote a poem based on an experience I had as a grade school teacher supervising the morning playground. A young man had found a special rock amongst the tens of thousands that lay across the play area. I watched as he squatted close to the ground, careful not to scuff the knees of his “school” jeans. He fondled the misshapen object, holding it up to his eye and then at arm’s length. Pushing it through the air like an airplane and crashing it to the ground. He continued to play with his new found treasure until the bell rang. He moved slowly to the end of the line outside his classroom still holding it tightly in his fist. When he reached the doorway his teacher took it from him. She tossed the rock back into the playground as she ushered him inside, his head turned over his shoulder to try and find it again in the sea of gravel.

The Rock

Patiently waiting throughout time,
Layered textures, smooth yet jagged,
Secure in its lonely place.
Finally lifted from the cold earthy mass,
Flecks of crystals and colors,
Admired by warm young hands...
First a fish, then a meteor, maybe a man or?
Carried home like an egg,
Tucked carefully in a jacket pocket,
Caressed by small fingers,
Desired for its magic...
"That's dirty, go wash your hands!"
Cast aside, back to the earth
Alone again, dying...       

I tucked the writing away not thinking much about it for a very long time. Years later a week or so after my father passed away I was given the task of sorting through his things. That included a small package of the items that were in his pockets when he was admitted to the hospital. As I dutifully spread them across his dresser something unexpectedly appeared among the keys and coins. It was a small rock; nothing special, certainly not a gemstone, not part of a keychain or anything explainable. I examined it for a few minutes; its smooth surface, delicate veining and nondescript shape. Holding it in my hand I tried to make sense of it. And then I remembered the young boy and his rock. This one had succeeded where his had failed. So I wrote a second poem – Dad’s Rock.

Dad’s Rock

Found among his pocket’s contents
Veined with colors and sparkling crystals
Smooth and shiny from wear
No particular shape, No particular value
Why is it here? Where did it come from?
What connects this piece of earth to him?
Calloused hands had held and caressed its shape,
Why? A good luck charm perhaps
Kept tucked in his pocket, for how long?
What magic did it bring?
I’ll hold it as he must have held it,
I’ll keep it safe, as he did
It’s part of him…
Now it’s part of me too…

I still have his rock. I don’t carry it every day, I save it’s for magic for special days. When I do, I find myself drawn to it, holding it tightly in my hand or rubbing its glossy surface. My mind often turns to trying to decipher its mystery to no avail. It is a connection that I will never understand, but one that I will covet as he did. It makes me happy that once he found it and enjoyed its power that it wasn’t cast aside by someone who wouldn’t have understood.

Find a rock of your own… actually it doesn't have to be a rock. It could be just a metaphor for those things in your life that bring you joy, happiness or love. When you find them, keep them close, nurture them, caress them… let them do their magic!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolution

It’s that time of year – the end! Time for most people to reflect on what’s happened in their life over the last 12 months. Time for them to resolve to do better, or more, or less in the coming year and make a list of those resolutions. I wrote something a while back about birthdays to a friend of mine that I think is just as fitting for the New Year.

After a certain time of life some people look at the New Year as not so much about recognizing their experiences over the past year as having just “survived” another one. They take stock of their present situation and measure it against some scale or against their friends’ or against the dreams they’ve held on to over the past year. Most come up short, seeing only the material things or lack of them.

I think that New Year's is the time to look inside; how have you grown over the last year? Did you learn new things, meet new people, celebrate each day? What experiences have you had that you can keep as cherished memories? What do you know about yourself today that you didn’t know a year ago; good or bad? What or who made a difference in your life? What have you accomplished that no one, not even you took the time to pat yourself on the back for achieving? Look at the small things that happened each day – they’re what life is made of – not just the “big” events. Heck, just staying healthy, working your job or keeping a close friend can be a major achievement! What brought a smile to your face? Have you kept in touch with friends – your real friends? Did you step out of your way to help someone, do something that made you feel good, feel alive, feel a part of the world around you?

It’s also the time to look ahead… What do you want to do that you haven’t? What’s new in the world around you that you could or should learn more about? Add to your life’s experience; enrich it in as many ways as you can! Plan to enjoy every day of the coming year to its fullest. Sure it may not happen each and every day, but if you don’t plan for it, it certainly won’t happen. Plan time for YOU! Dream a little – not little dreams – they have no power. Use your imagination, envision the most great and glorious happenings, in them is the foundation for creating your reality. And then do what you can to make them happen!

Celebrate the coming New Year not by counting the past year of lost promises and opportunities. Celebrate it like the day you were born – the day that you had a seemingly immeasurable number of days ahead of you as a gift, a gift of time. Each day’s sunrise after that first one continues to give you that gift – no matter how many have passed. Each new day presents that opportunity for you to grow; in mind, in body, in spirit! So resolve to enjoy each day and look forward to the potential of enjoying a whole year full of new days!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

Brilliant sunshine lit the morning, filtering in through the bedroom windows, slipping between the curtains to announce the beginning of the day. Rolling out from under the covers with some trepidation I could smell the fresh pot of coffee waiting on the kitchen counter. With the cat squinting at me from the folds of the comforter, I threw on a robe and slippers. Wiping away the veil of sleep and the results of too many glasses of wine I shuffled my way to my favorite cup.  A sip of warm acrid coffee brought on a change in the senseless stupor and the realization that it was Christmas morning. 

A quick glance around the living room brought on the assurance that my fantasy of having a surprise visit from St. Nicholas was just that – a fantasy. Hmmm hope against hope… Sitting down for a few minutes I was joined by the cat, weaving her way between my feet. Reaching to her stocking hung precariously on the wall I pulled out a newer version of her favorite toy. Tossing it across the floor in hopes of sending her bounding after it I was met with a most catlike glare and indifference.  She sauntered over to the sparkling blob, gave it a sniff or two and then headed for the back door. Dutifully following her I opened the door for her regular morning trek – shortened the last few days by the snowfall.

The ground goodness was beginning to work its magic, helped by a hot shower. Dressed comfortably in a pair of well worn jeans and my beloved pullover sweater I sat down on the couch again. Another slower surveillance of the room confirmed I was here alone, alone on Christmas day. Sitting back I closed my eyes in an effort to rationalize my way out of despair. I don’t have anyone close to share the holiday with, mostly because of my own short comings.  But then I began to recall some of the things I’d experienced last evening, Christmas Eve. I had put on a playlist that included a number of my Dad’s favorite carols – most in Italian and lay back on the same couch with a glass of wine. Christmas candles flickered in the darkened room and as I drifted away images and sounds and aromas of Christmases past filled my mind. I began to remember some of the most vibrant Christmas eves - we would sit around the living room and Dad would play his favorite Christmas music… we’d listen to all the popular artists until it was time for bed. Once we were tucked away waiting for the sugar plums he and mom would put on Mario Lanza, Caruso or Toscanini singing carols in Italian. I can still hear the foreign words being sung to familiar tunes as I drifted off to sleep. Even after we all grew up and left the house to return on holidays, every Christmas morning I remember there would be the well worn record sleeves of Italian Christmas carols stacked neatly near the stereo. In an effort to recreate that feeling I sat quietly in the darkened living room, lit by only the tree lights and a few candles listening to some of some of the same songs. There is a certain beauty and emotion that those songs seem to have that the English version doesn’t always have.

Immersed in the sounds I discovered that I was not really here alone, after all this IS the house I grew up in. Memories sprang from the shadows of the room of Christmases we enjoyed together years ago. Melting into that were remembrances of other places, other people, other Christmases. Lying out on the top of a sandbag bunker in 80degree weather with a group of buddies, then leaving them behind a year later to land in a snow storm at the old Stapleton airport; sharing part of the day serving food to a group of senior citizens, most not much older than me. A kaleidoscope of images filtered their way in and out of mind.

No, not really alone! Shaking it off I moved over in front of the pc, gave the space bar a push to bring it to life. After reviewing the news – nothing earth shattering or worthwhile, I gave FB a click… no, not really alone. Spent some time on the phone with old friends from Viet Nam and high school, a few emails too - no, not really alone. From my post on FB, “I hope that the day has brought you special moments that will become memories that you will covet for years to come.”  Covet your memories, they may turn out to be all you have for a time, but do not let them become your future.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23rd

The daylight is waning; the perception of warmth is dying with it
Stalactites seem to hang precariously from the edge of the roof
Their incessant dripping halted for the next few hours of darkness
While the craters in the snow beneath them form crystallized cups
Eager to hold the next day’s catch, liquefied by the sun’s radiance
Snow still covers the ground, now in a dusky yellow-grey color
Mimicking the diluted palate that veils the western edges of the sky
The dark scraggy branches of the trees dissolve into the murkiness above
Soon points of light begin to appear scattered loosely across the heavens
Then filling the void between them countless smaller specks come alive
The night sky glimmers and glitters like snowflakes in the moonlight
Turning from the front window the flickering Christmas candles and lights replace the stars
Filling the room with fragrances of pine and cinnamon while tinsel sparkles amidst the needles
Warming the room while foretelling the coming holiday celebration

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Embroidered Crystals

Embroidered crystals pin wheeling their way through the cold night air

Lit by the glow of the street lamp

Eventually finding their way to a resting place

To lie down delicately as their structures entwine forming a blanket of dull white

Then suddenly reflecting the dim light in sharp flecks of icy sparkles

Stepping out beyond the front window to sense their grandeur

Frigid air grabs at your every breath and exposed flesh

But it pales in the presence of the fragile flakes covering the world around you

Hordes of elusive specks blurred by the wind swirl to their destinations

Some to remain to see morning’s light

Others to be gathered up again by the invisible currents and sent sailing away

What grand mechanism, what scheme, what power is responsible?

Humbling to realize the mastery it would take to create this wonder

Each small piece different yet alike in many ways

All fitting into a grand design, a precarious display of strength and invention

Never to be claimed, never to be duplicated, never to be accomplished by man

Embroidered crystals pin wheeling their way through the cold night air….

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hide it with a Smile

Some days aren’t the best days; some days are close to the worst
Some days are brilliant and shining, with accomplishments and satisfaction
Most days are grey and gloomy, with little to show for your efforts
Some days the smile comes naturally, filling you with happiness and laughter
Most days the smile is a costume, a mask to hide behind
I don’t want to talk about it; I don’t want to think about it
Leave me alone, don’t ask, I don’t want to, I can’t tell you… how I feel
How do I, what do I, why should I … maybe if I hide it with a smile?
No one would know, no one will realize, no one but me
See my smiling face? Hear my bright hello? Everything is great, everything is wonderful!
Please don’t look beyond, don’t read between the lines
I am hurting deep inside, I don’t have the answers, I don’t have the cure
Hide behind the smile, don’t reach out, don’t ask
Don’t let them know how frail, how weak you really are
Let them think all is well, show them the fa├žade you’ve worked so hard to create
Suffer inside because of it, you’ll get by somehow, you always have
But what happens when a smile is not enough? When there’s no one to reach out to?
When no one understands because you’ve hidden it with a smile
How can it end? How can you stop? How can you survive?
Should you? Should you hide it with a smile?
Is there someone who would understand? Can you find them? Soon?
Or should you let it die, should you stop, give in to yourself?
Or just hide it with a smile for - another day?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

             I was listening to the proverbial deluge of Christmas carols on the radio during my commute tonight. Most I knew, like Johnny Mathis singing “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, and I was singing along. As the words to that particular song rolled through my head and out my mouth I realized how dated it is. Yeah, I know most Christmas carols come from the distant past, but think about this….

            “Take a look in the five and ten” … find one in suburban America – dare ya! There’s Target and Walmart but they’re a far cry from a “five & ten”. The Dollar store is a sham – everything made overseas and not really just a dollar. I remember rolling down the miles of aisles of Ben Franklin and Woolworths in awe of the magnanimous amounts of everything you could ever want for Christmas as a kid. Or find something you could afford for mom or dad.

            “A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots” … Betcha can’t find anyone under the age of 10 who knows who Hopalong is or was, heck make it 30. And do kids really want cowboy boots and pistols these days? Or have Wiis and Xboxes filled the gap?

            “Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk” …Not too much has changed here except now they talk to you --- err sorry, interact with you, cry, talk, move and respond to your voice…

            Okay, maybe I haven’t heard the “new” carols sung about how wonderful it is to stroll the aisles of Toys R Us to find the newest version of “Call to Duty” and the realistic replica of an M16 or AK47. Or that fashion set for the "Great American Girl".And then fight through the checkout line to find you’ve maxed your credit card…

Maybe I should just stick to remembering the old days… Ha, found a pic from a Christmas long gone by… If I remember right it was a Hopalong Cassidy 6 shooter set with the hat…. and boots too!!!!  LMAO Sing it Bing!?!
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben;
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen;
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
There's a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well,
The sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.
It IS the carol that you sing right within your heart.... Merry Ho Ho

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reflecting on Christmases Past

The activities around the house leading up to Christmas usually added to the expectations, the eagerness for that day to finally arrive. Just after Thanksgiving Dad would begin the yearly search for the tattered boxes of decorations and strings of lights. Once found they were all dusted off and drug into the living room to be accounted for. My brothers and I would be assigned our own box while Mom would put the inside decorations aside. As we pulled string after string of lights from the remaining boxes strands of color would appear. Red, green, yellow and blue painted bulbs the size of my Dad’s thumb, filled the dark Bakelite sockets placed repetitively along the red and green wires. Each strand was uncoiled, laid out along the floor to be inspected for loose or broken bulbs and bare wires before the two prong plug was gingerly pushed in the wall socket. If we were lucky the entire string would suddenly burst into bright primary colors. Dad would survey each string; directing us to change the color scheme here and there, while Mom would admonish us not to melt the carpet with the hot bulbs. Then bundled up against the December cold we’d carry the strings outside and feed them up the ladder to Dad. He’d clip them to the gutters, run them along the roof peak and edges, then down the wrought iron porch supports. We’d have to wait for dusk when Mom would finally flip on the porch light switch while Dad and his boys stood across the street to admire their work.

One evening during the next week we’d all scramble into the station wagon to begin the pursuit for the perfect pine. It usually ended in the old Ward’s parking lot in Lakeside. Once discovered the tree was tied to the roof of the car for the quick trip home. Dad would cut the trunk and set it in a bucket of water on the back porch while Mom fretted over which corner of the living room would be the best place for it. After the usual struggle to get the tree to stand straight while showing its best side, the routine to get the light strings ready was repeated. Eventually they were wound around the tree spiraling down from the top. Appearing from tissue paper wrappings a dozen or so special lights would be added to the strings. Delicate blown glass bubblers of various colors, painted shapes of Santa and Mrs. Claus and my favorite; a painted plastic reindeer with a glowing red nose were placed in prominent positions, replacing their more common counterparts. Then it was Mom’s turn to direct the placement of the glass ornaments; orbs of shiny red, green, gold and silver. Finally she would scattered around the tree a number of family “heirlooms” – simple colored construction paper pasted shapes of trees, stars and wreaths. Some were not as recognizable as others, all the result of young hands in celebration of the holiday. Handfuls of silvery tinsel were randomly tossed among the branches soon to be rearranged to meet my mother’s satisfaction. Last to go on the tree was the topper; a spire of clear leaded glass with a star at its apex, lit from the base. Ceremoniously lighting the tree after dinner we’d all enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with melted mini-marshmallow topping while listening to Christmas carols on the stereo.

Also adding to the excitement was the traditional Saturday baking day. The kitchen would be filled with cooks and their assistants. Assorted aunts and cousins would arrive with grocery bags, cookie sheets, presses and cutters of various shapes and sizes. Eventually there would be dozens and dozens of cookies laid out across the kitchen table; some waiting for young hands to coat with colorful frosting or sugar. The aromas of anise, almond, hot oil and heated metal filled the house. Stacks of pizzelles cooling on racks along with amaretti, canestrelli, biscotti and other Italian delights replaced Santa Claus faces and pressed cookie wreaths. After what seemed like thousands of pans, bowls and utensils were washed and dried they started on dinner. The sugary sweet smells were overcome by the savory and spicy smells of an Italian dinner. Usually there was an assortment of lasagna, ravioli, spaghetti, meatballs, sausage and freshly baked bread. And there was the chance for a small glass of homemade Chianti provided by one of my uncles.

On Christmas morning my twin brother and I would race each other down the hall, anxiously surveying the colorfully wrapped packages that were laid out under the tree, knowing that we couldn’t touch anything until Grandma arrived. Then there was the anticipation of watching for my Dad’s reaction to the small gift that I had struggled to find for him. After days of searching for just the right present I always hoped that it would bring a smile to his face and a punch to my shoulder – his way of giving you a hug. The afternoon brought the usual faire of turkey with all the trimmings, grandma’s gravy – the best ever, and a chance to skim a spoonful marshmallows off the top of the sweet potatoes before they were all gone.

One of my favorite authors wrote, “What if Christmas… doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" I can’t remember much about the gifts of those Christmases, but I do recall the richness of the feelings and the blessings we enjoyed.

May you all have a Christmas to remember, full of generosity, peace and love.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A cold December walk

Slipping out the front door into the frigid night. Subzero air engulfs me immediately, the cold crisp air against my skin is exhilarating.
The first step onto the blanket of white crystals is announced by a seemingly deafening crunch. It continues throughout my journey along unkempt sidewalks. Suspended only when I stop to survey the small foot prints that cross my path. 
I trace the circular path through the spiky bare branches of dormant shrubs along the walkway then bounding off into the shadows between the darkened houses. 
The trek takes me beneath the bare spider like branches that not so long ago held vibrant greens that shaded the path. Only the sound of my steps break the stillness of the night, the orange-pink blended glow of street lights and flickering holiday strands radiating from porches light the way. 
Giving in to nature’s grip I accelerate from a leisurely stroll, the cold reaching deeper inside. I retrace my path, spotting the feathery tail of a young fox as it disappears into the dark along the way. 
Finally stepping inside the doorway to the musty warmth of home, glad for the comfort but struggling to hold the feelings and visions of nature’s ominous presence.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A blank canvas

Cover the walls of your mind with the brilliance of your life...
It's there - old and new, waiting. 
Each new day is a blank canvas, I like the idea of white, brilliant new day and it takes the colors without diminishing them.. 
Splatter it with your favorite colors, flavors, friends, memories and new adventures - forget the small details. Use all you have as your palette. 
Yes some days are grey days but there's a splash of red or yellow to add. 
You smiled at least once or laughed or remembered something or someone wonderful or did a good deed along the way... 
Paint them with pastels or neons so they stand out.. Make them the center of attention even as small as they may be... 
At the end of the day admire your work for a short time and then prepare to paint something new tomorrow. 

The brilliance of your life - it's there - waiting...

Saturday Morning Chill

Morning's sun has given way to grey quilted skies, cold bitter air and the graceful dance of snowflakes drifting to earth. One look out the window brings thoughts of returning to the warm clutches of the comforter you've just abandoned in favor of beginning the daily chores. Too late, you're committed to begin the day.

You force down a sip or two of the bitter flavor and stale aroma of the last cup of yesterday's coffee waiting patiently for a fresher brew. Forced air surrounds you with musty warmth as you watch the delicate feathers of frost begin to reach across the cold window glass. Reaching out to the frozen surface you drag your fingernail through the thin crystalline layer, remembering winter mornings decades ago.

Mesmerized by the ever increasing numbers and size of the frozen flecks of moisture being driven to the ground by the ever present wind the window seems to disappear. Suddenly you feel the bitterness of the cold air, the bite of the wind and the stinging crystals on your face. Your body shivers and abruptly you’re brought back to the reality of watching a December’s wintery morning from inside. Shaking off the trance it’s time to meet the day and the chores to be accomplished.

Friday, December 2, 2011

First Post

Okay, got a domain an a blog setup... now what?!? LOL Lots of stuff to figure out how to make this thing work!!! Wish me luck!