Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blue Green Venus and the Stuff They Say

Ninety degrees. He has to mix and pour in daylight. Mixing by hand, buckets of tint, sakrete, stone, he starts the process he cannot stop, he lays the base of who she is.  He tints, he mixes, he fills the 50 pound buckets, he pours, he makes her real. 

He has taken her apart, and put her back together on paper and in steel. He has changed her butt, her legs and twat, three times,  Like the nails, the water bringer, the thought, she is talking to him and  she has stuff to say. He is listening like he always does. The wood, the metal, the steel, the bronze, they tell him stuff, he tells them stuff,  most times they work it out, together. 

Sometimes they tell him stuff before, sometimes after, it is easier before.

Blue Venus. She is, he thinks, blue and modest, it is what he saw in that place where he sees.

He mixes and blue-tints, carries and pours, then leaves her to become what she is.

Turns out she had stuff to say, after. 

He laughs.

She is not blue, she is not modest, she is green and full of attitude.
He knows that when he grinds, polishes and lacquers she will have the final say.

He tells me his story, he tells me her story, as he sees art.

I tell him his story, I tell him her story, as I see life.

Sculpting life and sculpting Venus are close to the same. The getting born-poured-shaped-put together-taken apart-put together-taken apart-hammered out-ground on-chiseled at--buffed up-polished smooth-textures-colors-attitudes-befores-afters, the saying stuff, the not saying stuff and the sometimes working it out together.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Gratefulest Dog and Perfect

It was about four weeks before Papa died. The house and those of us in it, were held together by a fragile thread. Every day I was juggling hearts and trying to keep them from slamming to the ground. Every day  I was trying to hold center when center had gone.

I had stopped to stare out the window and just breathe. The phone rang.
"Honey, I think we have a dog."
I stopped breathing.
"Did you hear me? I think we have a dog. The people behind the studio are gone and abandoned their dog, left him tied up, left him. I'm bringing him home. We have a dog!"
I still had not breathed.
"Honey? Are you listening?"

Sweet Lord. Three years since we'd lost Belle and Zeus, followed by two years near hell. My sweetheart's heart had a big hole that needed filling, and the only thing that would repair it was a  dog. I knew it was absolutely what he needed and absolutely what I did not.  It was as timing goes, perfectly imperfect. I could see the need and feel the impossibility. Now?  No.

The sliding door opened and in he came, a black and white border collie almost stuck to his side.  I looked at him, I looked at "the" dog and I waited. He looked at me and he waited. "The" dog looked at both of us and waited.

I got it out in a whisper.

"No.  We aren't keeping him. Not now.  No. Sorry. So sorry, but no, not now."

He looked absolutely stricken and he had just looked happy.

"But he came to us, he was left for us, right by the studio. Right at my back door. He was left for me... All you have to do is look, and you'll see he's wonderful. Can't you see?"

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. But No. "

I started to cry.

"I know you need a dog, I know you really need a dog. I know he came to you, I understand. But you, you have to understand. I can't love any more right now. I can't ask my heart to take on loving any more right now. I can't bring another being, another spirit into my heart. I can't take care of another living thing, I can't love another living thing. My heart is as wide open as it can be and all of it hurts. I wish I could, I would if I could, but I can't. I.....Just....Can't."

He got up, walked over to the sliding door and out. With the dog. He was angry, he was sad, he hurt.

An hour passed, it is a long drive to the studio and I was sure he was explaining to the dog as best he could, what he really couldn't explain to himself.  He called me. "I let him go."


I felt bad, but I could't feel any worse than I already felt. Bad was bad and sad was sad. End of story.

Three hours passed, the phone rang. "He came back. I let him go. I told him not to come back.  He came back. I took him away again  and he came back. We're keeping him. That's all there is to it. He's ours. His name is Presley, they named him Presley. And Presley and I are coming home."

I walked back over to Mama and Papa's.

It would be awhile, more than a month before I got to know Presley. A month where I was steeped in how the living, die, and we die with them. In sitting vigil,  picking nosegays to place by the bed, in singing and softly holding hands and hearts, in the very gentle, sad, quiet.  Presley did not intrude, but quietly wrapped his heart in grateful and his Dad's heart in his own while my heart was wrapped up in the rest of it.

A few months later I was watching him, wondering about how he lay with his head upside down devotedly staring at  his Dad and me. He had mastered that, just as he had mastered complete devotion to his father, and earnest, grateful and adoring to the rest of us. It was about that time when the hugging started. If I reached for him, he would sit on his haunches and wrap both his paws around my arm and hug me. I couldn't touch him that he didn't hug me. He was hugging me all of the time and hugging everyone else, most of the time, he still is. Except for Mama. He knew instinctively about her paper thin skin, he knew that she required, gentle. Instead he would put his paws delicately on the edge of her chair, lean in towards her face and look at her as if to say, "I love you."  In the last few days he has become her nighttime guardian. She says, "I am going to bed" and he will stand by her side and wait as she puts on her pajamas, he will walk beside the walker as she goes into the bedroom and wait patiently while she climbs into bed and turns off her light. And then he will stick his nose on her hand, say Good Night and leave her safe and sound.

He has befriended the world, the people, the cats, the squirrels, the deer, the other dogs, every creature, every size, every age and every number of legs. He has made willing and earnest a part of his grateful, asking permission to venture to places unknown and high-tailing it back the moment he hears his Dad's whistle. He is kind. When friends come to play he greets them with his favorite toy and drops it at their feet, if they both are catching whatever is thrown, he will catch his, bring it back to them and add his bounty to their own, and if the all-out-one-to-one- chase is on--- he'll pull up and let them have the glory.

He is the consummate Wal-Mart greeter at home, the beach, the sculpture shows, the studio, everywhere he goes. And he lives the way of  kind, earnest, friendly, grateful and perfect.

ABH says to me,  "He is perfect you know, he is the most perfect dog I have ever known."
I said, "I know."

I tell her I've been having regular and frequent little talks with him.
Eye to eye, face to face, nose to nose, I stroke his head and tell him how much he has saved his Daddy's heart and built up the rest of our own. I tell him how we love him and how he has made us grateful.  I tell him life is a  sweet-hard story especially the part about the road up ahead. I tell him that he is perfect and that probably next time he will be a street urchin child. That when that happens he will feel differently, he will think differently, he will be lost differently and he will be found differently, but no matter it will be OK. I tell him that if he forgets the good, kind, sweet, grateful and earnest, that sometime he will remember them again. I tell him that next time he should look for his friends because they will be there and he will know them. And I tell him to keep his eyes peeled for angels because they will always show up when needed, although he may not recognize them by their look. I tell him they may be standing tall or upside down hugging but one thing is for sure they will arrive when the timing is perfectly imperfect, but imperfectly perfect.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Laughing With Mama

My phone rang and I was up the road. I answered because it was Mama.
"I'm not sure who jumped higher, me or it."
"Who is "it" Mama and jumped higher "how" Mama? "
"I went out the back door (Mama's, Papa's and my stories always have/had to start with early history and move through elaboration, sometimes getting stuck in the elaboration) and thought I'd stick some dirt in a pot and pot one of those plants your sister brought me, so I leaned over to get some dirt out of that bag you know the one that was sitting by my back door in the big pot and while I was at it I thought I'd move that bag too and so I started moving the bag and up it came, high as it could, like right towards my face, it jumped right up at me, and I jumped way up too (now you have to realize that Mama moves very slowly these days and jumping, well...) right in my face, high as it could be, all coiled up and right there at me... and I jumped, I MEAN I JUMPED, CLEAN UP and THEN I GOT OUT OF THERE, not the back door, not by it, NO, I went in the front door. (The back door a foot away, the front door 15 yards.) IT WAS A COPPERHEAD. I KNOW IT WAS A COPPERHEAD BECAUSE I ASKED JEFF AND HE SAID SO, a copperhead IN my face. Right up in my face. I got out of there as fast as I could and I'm still shaking, I'm telling you right up in my face!"

"I'm so....sorry..."

and that was as far as I got because the laughter just took me over and wrapped me up in the hooting, tears, and a little snot, it was the kind of laughing when you are sure, absolutely sure you can also hear the angels snorting behind you.
I could tell she was flustered and maybe offended, but I couldn't say a word, I just kept laughing. I could see it. Mama, the snake, and then Mama moving fast, hellbent on breaking a new speed record, moving at a walker speed of light to the front door and safety.

God, it was funny.

"What's so funny?"

"You, Mama, you, the idea of you moving faster than you'd moved in a decade. I can see it now, I can see you jumping clean up in the air and I can see that walker never touching the ground."

She giggled. In her own mind she saw it too, she's pretty good at "seeing."

I kept laughing. She giggled some more. And then it was the all out kind of laughing that would take us both over for the next 15 minutes and the angels would be snorting in waves around us. We have had a lot of times like that, Mama and I, and many have been "inappropriate." At funerals, at concerts, of the like and worse. These last few years, we haven't had enough of "those" times, not enough of hearing the angels snort either, so it made me happy and it made me glad about a copperhead in the flower pot. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Would You Smile a Perfect for Me?

My empathy meter needs a new battery, my heart needs to be recharged and I definitely need something good  in my tea, or maybe peyote in my Special K. A new rule wouldn't hurt either--- no more disturbing anythings at midnight for them to seep in, get toxic and wake me up wrong.
Taking Mama to get her car and wondering if they will have done as promised, and driven it to reset the battery so we won't  fail emissions, again. Thinking I won't be happy if these people who have had our loyalty for 20 years do one more thing to piss me off. Mama is telling me a story about some friends, whose lives are a bit shaken up and so this year they won't be going on vacation. My empathy meter is still set at minus 100. "Well Mama, they have had three fabulous vacations a year for the last 8 years so I think that will be OK, this year without."  Then she regales me with a few more of their problems, and I am thinking about the friends around and close to me, all  in deep and harrowing places of suffering, except the two this week who'd found a seven year cycle ended and a full circle turned upward spiral, the big Grace on the other side of their long challenge. Maybe all the suffering has shut my meter down, sometimes our own hearts draw a line about how much they can soak up and soak in. And missing a year's worth of vacations (who the hell puts s's on vacations anyway) is just not right up there with the rest of it. We get there, and Mama in her Southern grace and beauty and dignity and strength, rolls her little push walker straight in the door me behind her, hoping...
"Oh, we didn't expect you yet, we still haven't driven the car."  (The exact words I didn't want to hear because yesterday I'd planned on doing just that and they'd usurped the privilege.)  My mother's hand reached back to apply a little pressure on my arm. I kept my mouth shut for a minute. They talked, the behind the counter person walked away and Mama knew I was pissed. "Don't get mad, OK? Just give me a smile---could you smile for me?"
"NO." I stomped off. I never stomp off.
I was not going to respond to a request for  a fake smile, the one Mama had expected for almost 60 years, the kind that is the smile you "put on" in public even when you are thinking mean things in your head and saying a "Bless Your Heart" to the person who has pissed you off.  This time I'd revolted, in public and stomped off--- well really just turned on my heel and walked out, counted to 10 and walked back in (the counting to 10 part pretty easy because it was 100 outside and made me count faster.) Some things are not going to change, including a mother who wants you to always be perfect and especially so, in public.  I stood there, I waited, I contributed a few words to the conversation, we left. On my way out, I turned and said, "Thank you Mary, Thank you Sam." Nicely, sincerely nicely. Mama waited til we had made our gracious exit and said, "Thank you for being nice when we left."
Crap, well, and there it went.
"Mama, when have you known me  to NOT be nice when I left and when have you known me to actually MAKE a scene? " I put the pusher thing in the back of her car, put the pillows in her seat and said, "Have a good time."
On the way home I'm thinking about the real versus fake real and how for me it has always pretty much been about the expression of real, being it, trusting it and whenever possible making real, better. I can count on one hand the number of scenes I'd actually created in public, but I couldn't begin to count the "good" real times.
A few miles later I started to pray, don't let anything happen to Mama today, because how awful would it be if she had asked me for a smile (fake or not) and I hadn't given her one.


I need to get my empathy meter adjusted, my heart charged up and quit reading and listening to crap at midnight. Today is going to be another day where I am going to be starting the "I am grateful for..." list any minute, and it will start with Mama,  perfect smiles or no, and then it will move to real.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What the Last Nerve's Grateful Looks Like

There is that saying about people who get on your last nerve, for me, more than not, it is usually about me getting on my own last nerve. Yesterday was about feeling jangly, irritable, pissed off, looking like crap, feeling like crap and deciding everything was crap. I'd left the playground, the giggles and the laughter buried in the nighttime pillow and although my hair was not on fire, I could feel the heat of the slow burn that was trying to erupt at my hairline (the one that was receding or had recessed where the grey had taken over and then washed over the whole of me beyond that.)  I was stuck in start-stop motion, and at least half of the seven dwarves who'd not been invited elsewhere had taken up residence at my house.  Driving down Franklin Street, (and thankfully the students weren't back to campus yet ) I got the nudge to try and shift it, at least make myself bearable to myself and the only thing I could think to do was trudge my way to grateful and throw myself in. So, I stop-started.
I am grateful for... sigh.
sigh. I am grateful for...
All the people I love even when they drive me crazy.
Windows that work on the car since the a/c does not.
Ok. Just windows that work on the car.
That mama's car died with me in it and not her.
That when it happened I was at the gas station that had a/c.
That there are no students on Franklin Street.
(Half full-half empty, stop-start, start stop---Arlo Guthrie, "you can't have a light without a dark to stick in it." )
That I had sashimi for the first time in a year.
That my stomach is only hanging an inch over the top of my cut-offs.
That I can still wear cut-offs.
That my hair is clean and there wasn't as much as usual in the drain.
That D is a Meme.
That Banjoel has always loved me.
That my sweetheart called me beautiful today.
That Etnom will soon be holding out her hand to walk others into new life.
That C has come full circle and that the drop in the ocean she asked for had become the ocean itself.
That sometimes when others mother's-in-law move to town the dark side holds for a day or two.
That Mama wasn't fretting over not getting a social security check.
That K can walk.
That LL is there to support us all.
That I had been born here instead of a country where women were subservient.
That the men of my household had never believed in submissive women.
That the radio in my car is working today.
That I  know who Blue Merle is.
That dmm will climb this mountain of challenge as gracefully as he has climbed the others.
That there is a goddess woman of steel standing outside my front door.
That I could afford J's beer and my mangoes and papaya at TJ's today.
That Gaby Giffords made it to Washington against the odds, again.
That tomorrow will be the hottest day this week but then the nights will be cooler.
That I have a blog.
That I am writing my blog.
That I hear stories.
That I have eyes that can see.
That I have a heart that loves.
That I am surrounded by Earth Angels,  who laugh and snort.
That my being can accept that the awfully beautiful and the beautifully awful are one and the same.
That I can turn some bad-ass grumpy into some big-ass grateful.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mr. Green and the Layered On Purple Serendipity Morning

It was 9:45 and the stores weren't open yet, 3 cars were in the parking lot in an otherwise vast field of asphalt space. I was making my way to the ledge of the fountain to sit and wait for the doors to open, thinking that a little water mist might wake my morning up.
I kept walking. I'd been pretty sure that I was the only person around but clearly one of those other cars  had a passenger.
"HEY. HEY. YOU---!!!"
A WTF bounced off my not quite awake and not yet water misted brain, but my head in spite of myself began to slowly turn around.
She was standing beside her car, flapping her arms wildly at me.
No please, or would you, or could you, just a simple, loud command. I hesitated or at least I thought I did but my feet like my head were moving in spite of myself. At least I managed to point my feet in the direction of the other side of her car.
"SEE THAT?" I wondered if she had any idea she was yelling.
"See what?"
She pointed, to a  long, green insect sitting near the top of her windshield.
I was pretty sure I was in the wrong place, pretty sure that she needed either my sister, or Chiti or the sweetheart to be talking to her, science and I were generally not on well-acquainted speaking terms.
"Well. I don't know. Could it be a praying mantis?'
NO. It is NOT a praying mantis."
"Well. That's all I've got."
The WTF in my head got louder and I hadn't a clue what to say next except for, "I'm sorry. I don't know."
She sighed. She looked at me and looked at Mr. Green, and back to me and then started to explain.
I was thinking I was pretty happy there was something to explain...
"This morning when I pulled out of my driveway I noticed this sitting on my windshield. I just kept driving. I drove 35 miles mostly between 65 and 75 miles an hour on the freeway and pulled up here and it is still here, it made it,  it survived the whole way. So, I wondered what it was."
And then I got it, clear as could be.
"Oh. Well, I don't know what it is by name but I can tell you what it might be as symbol--- the Universe wanted to give you a sign today about life, about survival and about strength, probably your own."
She looked at me and looked at me and looked at me and then a big tear rolled down her cheek.
She sighed. "It has been so hard lately and this morning, it was really hard and now you tell me that this is a sign that I am strong enough."
"You are."
I walked towards her and she started walking towards wherever it was she needed to be and then we walked together. I looked at her closely and noticed that the sun was lighting up her shirt and it was purple upon purple upon purple, just layered plain-out purple. Wow, I had to tell her.
"This morning when things were hard your insides knew not only that you were strong enough but deep inside you, you  could find the happiness again, so you put on purple, a brilliant and beautiful purple which is the color of Divine happiness so somewhere in you, that happiness already resides and you know it and you embraced it like a shield of  strong soft---enough to hold back the hard. You my friend, will be OK."
I stopped. She stopped.
She said, "I knew I was supposed to call you over today, I knew you had to come my way. Thank you."
"No.  Thank you. Thank you for calling me home to your heart and calling me home to mine."
I reached over and hugged this stranger who was not so much a stranger after all, she was just like all of us, digging deep, trying to push back the hard and find a little bit of  happy deep in the sadness, deep in the heart of our softs, protected by the strength we can't and don't always remember we have, but are reminded of in the moments when serendipity  and Mr. Green claim us as their own.