Tag Archives: writing

Heart

“Something strange and rather extraordinary . . .” my mind says. I was poised to avoid writing by trolling the internet, opened my computer, and poof – word processing program loaded.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma.

“Come out here.” My husband calls to me from the backyard. I’ve been huddled in the house avoiding . . . just avoiding.

“What?” I yell back from the door.

“You’ve got to come out and see this.” He calls back.

Everything is soggy, the patio stones shining damp from lingering mist. I give in to my curiosity, slip into my ugly blue rubber shoes, and shuffle out to meet my husband by the garden boxes that effuse last season’s dry bent stems like a tired sigh. “So . . .what?” I reply as I cock my head to look up at his face. He grins broadly and steps aside waving his arm like a magician revealing the trick. There below the crabapple tree the surprise bursts into view. He wraps a gentle arm around my shoulder, “I thought you would enjoy seeing this yourself.” The full, warm, squeezing-heart memories spill in and my eyes mist over. “Yes,” taking a deep breath, I absorb the moment, “grandma loved bleeding heart.” The flowers drip in glorious pink arcs over the feathery leaves.

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Just like comfort food for the mind, memories, especially those of certain special people calm all the turmoil around us. The memories of my mother’s mother do this for me. I can reach back in my mind, walk up to her front door and smell her tortillas greeting me even before I open it. Stepping in to her neat little living room, TV on a soap opera or 1950’s comedy or baseball (if grandpa was watching), the moist warmth of the air saturated with what was cooking just around the corner. I can hear her voice inviting me in for a “little taquito” – fresh tortilla filled with beans that have been simmering all day in a garlicy brine. I would always opt for a tortilla hot off the stove bathed in butter. I can’t describe the fluffy-soft goodness of her flour tortillas, a treat that I have never experienced elsewhere, and to my great sadness have never been able to replicate. I see her hands – they were small but strong, making tortillas; kneading little balls of masa (tortilla dough); “whack, whack” the sound of her rolling pin (made from the handle of a broomstick) forming each ball into a perfect circle; flip, flip, flip the dough circle tosses over each palm in a little dance before landing on the hot cast iron comal.

Sometimes my heart reaches out to the universe and calls to her, wanting to reach out and feel the strength from her hands. In their movement the rhythm of her struggles – through times of war and loss and uncertainty, and her ultimate success – holding her great-grandchildren in her lap.

Her voice parts the clouds and warms my heart – I can hear her chatter in Spanish, it was always so when she spoke to my grandpa or had rumors to share with my mom. The litany of Spanish and a single phrase that I could understand. “She wasn’t wearing a girdle!” tattling to my mother about what she saw at the Legion dance; it makes me laugh every time I think of it. Her way of saying just what was on her mind – something I inherited much to the chagrin of my loved ones.

Looking out over my yard, I rock in my garden swing and sense her presence near. My heart reaches out to her again and asks her opinion of what I’ve done.

“It’s very pretty mi hija.”

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Out of Hibernation

The sun has come out, briefly. Its light bounces rainbow colors off of the heavy frost that lingers at mid-morning. The snow has left all but the shadiest spots and green grass shoots cower flatly on the still cold ground. It’s not over – yet. Winter holds on as the temperature hovers around 30 degrees and a brisk wind shifts the shivering branches on the trees.
“It feels like Wyoming.” I converse with our mutt as we walk around the block. “Let’s get back home and warm up.” He seems to understand and agree since he doesn’t even look toward the long route we usually take.
I’ve come to enjoy winter less and less. I appreciate the change of season, understanding the need for winter’s sleep, but I can’t recall the last time I felt the childlike excitement in seeing the snowfall. Maybe I know my frosty foibles too well – the thump of pain and humiliation as I fall on the ice; the ache of joints and muscles from what seems like endless shovel loads of snow tossed off the walks and drive; most likely what dampens my enthusiasm is the inability to warm up after even the slightest chill – the cold sticks to my bones.
Winter walloped us this year. I can’t say that I blame him since he has been rather silent for a while. I hesitate to complain too much, relative to the winters I experienced in Wyoming, this has been only average, and fortunately, not nearly as cold. Reports from home have come in with ambient air temperatures way down to minus 20 and that is WITHOUT wind chill factored in! Old Man Winter knows how to consistently sock it to Wyoming.
Winter proves that you have to be strong to reside in Wyoming, physically and mentally. A new local friend spent a week hunting with my husband near Kemmerer in late September. When he returned he commented, “No-one is soft out there.” I agree, Wyoming people are tough and strong, but I’ve never encountered kinder hearts. I think that’s the only way that everyone stays warm.
For the past three months I’ve cowered from the winter like the grasses laying low. I cocooned myself in a blanket by the fireplace and stopped. Maybe it’s better said that I’ve been in hibernation, popping out rarely and only as needed. In that time I’ve allowed something worse than physical hibernation to transpire. The bout with winter turned into total mental stagnation – brain freeze. The imaginative production of words slowed down around Halloween, and finally froze up solid sometime in early December – frustrating.
But the sun has come out again. I am like a grumbling bear waking up, (still a bit foggy from the drowse.) Rubbing my eyes, seeing the light, I brace myself against the still sharp chill. I reach inside for the warm heart of the tough Wyoming girl to awaken. Like the daffodils beginning to reach up out of the soil I need to stretch up to the light. I see the trees have fuzzy buds – I know that West Virginia winter won’t go on much longer. I thaw the ice from my stored ideas and go out into the world of words again.

War for Words

I’ve been waging war lately. A frustrating internal battle of wit and words that has me quite literally stalled. Words, or more accurately the right words, aren’t flowing out on the keyboard in the normal effortless manner. Sculpting my thoughts feels more like hacking away at marble with a dull ax, everything crashing out in some crude mass – misshapen and not at all consistent with the vision.

I think I’ve identified the source of the conflict. A confrontation between head and heart, training and instinct, I am my own worst enemy. Trained in the hard sciences, I made a long career in crafting concise documents for public consumption. Less was more, and precision critical in an attempt to place complex problems in clear view of a diverse U.S. audience. The expansive, alliterative storyteller had to be packed into the recesses of my mind to allow the organized scientist center stage.

Now, when I need them both, they refuse to play in my literary sandbox together. I’ve trained myself to disregard one or the other and the toys aren’t being shared. The problem is especially pronounced when I attempt to write about topics of substance where there are facts to share. Piled onto the melee are the typical strife, struggle, and stress of everyday life and the pugilists seem surrounded with chaos.

Oh to bring order to this mess!

Relax – the first word of encouragement from my youngest sister appears to be the keyword in the solution. Relax my mind – take a break, quit banging away at the keyboard only to backspace the words into oblivion. Write without documenting, visualize, and let my mind hear what I want to say. Relax my body – take a walk, practice yoga or Tai Chi or just stretch. Relax my conventions – there are no rules for my blog, it is mine and I can combine expansive, alliterative, creative voice with facts and figures to my own delight or demise.

So, with that, I’m off to the outdoors to relax and enjoy what’s left of a beautiful sunshine filled day. From there I will cultivate the energy to quell the combatants and hone the messy edges of my manuscripts.

Written Wanderings

It seems I’ve always been a writer. Expressing through a pen thoughts, feelings, dreams, making up stories, this was all part of living. Then came adulthood with real work, family, community – and the writing took a back seat to all that seemed important at the time. I was the same person, but part of me was contained in unexpressed prose. I’m happy that this new life gives me time to be a writer again. I have the blessing of words back; I can speak in a familiar way and take you, my reader friend, along for the journey.

So where should we journey? Back to a time not so long ago when I was a child? Living a summer adventure in the Ohio valley, running in the heavy air and damp grass, watching fireflies glow and then disappear in the twilight. Or maybe we will go to Parsons and walk by the river with my tiny hand in the firm grasp of my father’s and listen to the stories of his youth and a simplicity of life that has flowed away like a single drop of rain in the ocean of time.

We could take a journey of the senses – a romp through sights and smells and sounds. Each etched in a memory for me and an experience for you. We can travel together on a textural quest and feel the wild Wyoming wind sharp and bracing against our skin or breathe the hot, dusty, sagebrush summer air.

Come along with me and we can revel in being young and reckless, bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck. Or join me in contemplating the passing of youth and the heft of raising a child – or four – to become young citizens of an ever more complicated world. We may venture to lean on each other in loss and wander the cold, dimly lit paths of grief to reappear in the warmth of humor that was tucked under a memory.

Maybe we will begin along a well-worn road and take a detour to something unfamiliar. It is probable that we will trek along only to careen off of a cliff and fly away to something new. (Oh, that happened today.) Wherever we go, it will be made joyful by a companionship of words.

Where shall we journey, my reader, my friend? So many places to experience together, so little time in our lives to take the quest. Come with me and see new places, or view the familiar places through new eyes, just take a moment – you’re invited, and I am ready – to write.