Gather Up Your Stars

The best thing I read about the stars was in a quote, when I was searching for information on environmental matters, to help save the world, which as you know, cannot be saved anymore. I am sorry to break this news. Go and have your cup of coffee anyway, the coffee is still good, still fragrant, still hot and bitterly delicious. Like life, someone told my mother a long time ago, and she thought he was brilliant for having uttered such a common thing.

It was sometime in the nineteenth century I think, a man in France was given a glass of champagne, perhaps by Madame Clicquot, and raised it to his lips, a beautiful, tall, elegant flute with a very delicate rim. He took one icy sip and shouted to his wife, “Marie, Marie, come quick, I have just tasted stars!”

I would like to meet that man who knew, what it was to taste the infinite, the undefinable, the miraculous. After you died I looked up one night at the sky… though what we have left of the night sky would make Galileo weep… And, perhaps he is weeping still, because we have lit up the world for all to see, every tiny last hollow and dry crevice, every pockmarked street and scarred mountain. A few stars were still struggling to make their appearance, and I thought I saw you smiling down at me. No it did not feel like champagne, but smelled like roses, violets and lilies, jasmine, lemons, and pure water. Those are the things I miss, that I like to breathe instead of gasoline streets.

I woke up very early, turned on the lights and promptly turned them off, then wandered in the garden that is cold and dry and almost cracked in places though the front is drowning. The hyacinths are coming up and the daffodils and some tulips that the rabbits have already started gnawing. I would say “nibble” to make them sound more delicate, gentle and sweet, but then you know how I feel about rabbits. They are devils and I am not fooled by cuteness.

But these stars, yes, I see how champagne might taste like stars, perhaps even vodka or gin. Though gin would be like stuffing your mouth full of Christmas trees. Mine is still leaning against the fence covering up the clematis. I just carried out that tree last month, dreading to get rid of it and keeping it in the house long after Christmas. It was the last thing I remember about you… being there and sighing at that tree….. It stayed green and fresh and fragrant all of late December, January and into February. Yes, I know, but some of us truly love our Christmas trees. The garden is a memory of that festive season and there is no sign of the coming Easter joy, and I am sorry, but that is the way it is.

Easter comes so soon… I can’t explain but it always feels like someone slapping me in the face, over and over and over again…Nothing makes sense, nothing is on time, early or late. It is fifty one day then twenty the next. All the flowers start to come up and then it rains and then it gets very cold like now and then it snows again, and then we have a flood. Tomorrow I hear it will rain and snow and thunder and hail and we may have a few flashes of lightning, just to let us know who is in charge, just enough to terrorize us again in our beds, our kitchens, and bathrooms. Remember do not use the phone or turn on the faucets, stand near the windows, go outside, run the washer or dryer, do the dishes…. cook… clean.. just sit quietly and watch, or if you care, run to the basement and sit in the middle of the room, but don’t let the piano or bookcase from above crash down on you.

One day it was enough, this affair with a cyclone, and I walked out into the garden hoping the lightning would evaporate me then and there. I see the rolling of your eyes. Instead of words you send me meaningless images–little colored faces on the screen– your emojis– I still don’t know what they mean. How could I explain this feeling to you, phone in hand, as I waited and waited and waited and watched and smelled and listened to the deeply frightening, heart stopping, crackling electricity, bolting out in terrifying mile long swords from the ground or was it the sky. Then suddenly it was over and I was alone, in the garden, foolish, wet, and cold, beaten down once again by the air, the void, the abyss. I ran inside, as if the inside was safe.

I started reading that book about perfumes –you told me to try to read about happy things and perfume has always been a happy thing. And,who does not want to smell delicious? Remember Calandre by Paco Rabanne? How I would like just one more sniff. It was that pre kind of smell, that it kind of smell, the young I will never die kind of smell. Like an Edie Sedgwick girl you can’t forget. It was rain, metal, coriander and grass, and made me think, I don’t know why, of Cleopatra’s skin. The lightning smelled a bit like that. I used to know a Calandre girl but she disappeared one day without a trace. Like Paco Rabanne who took her with him.

I should understand by now, that you don’t want to hear about it anymore. The weather. I must promise not to mention it again. Ever. He who makes the stars is toying with us. Testing us. Outsmarting us. Confounding us. Making us travel through veils of tears and pain and what? Like the woman from Moldavia told me yesterday…. “we all have our troubles….” when I walked into the research room looking sad and glum, my eyes swollen from crying. Yes, I am still crying over you, more than over stars.

Yes the house is warm, there is a roof over my head (but today I think it may get blown off….the weather you know…..), the refrigerator is full of food. But how little I cook these days, or bake, or stir anything in a pot. I understand why Jason just drank alcohol for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe a glass of champagne, because he wanted to taste stars. I remember how he sometimes spent all day listening to “White Bird” by It’s a Beautiful Day, and how he loved it with all his heart. It almost sounds like stars, makes my head reel as though I am in space with you, flying finally to the moon. I still hear them in my head, and remember us sitting on the couch, listening to music all night long and the next day hundreds of CD’s were out of their covers and strewn all over the living room and basement floors. And when we finished with the CD’s we went through almost all the books on the shelves, trying to remember something… I even smoked one of those Cuban cigars.

Jason is gone. I remember getting the phone call. Alone, desolate and poverty stricken, on a kitchen floor in Mexico somewhere. I forgot to ask if he had a glass in his hand, like Paul, like you, like everyone I know really they all died, glass in hand trying to taste stars.

I didn’t think this would be about champagne, or gin or vodka or music. I thought it was about the stars and the sun and the moon. Waking up happy. What is that? Sometimes I wish I was a farmer and had to get up every morning to feed the cows and the pigs and the horses.. go and till or sow the crops… Then, perhaps….. I could sleep at night.

I walked in the garden with coffee and tried to find the stars but the snow covered them up. I walked around and around and it started to get cold and probably the neighbors were up and noticed me walking mindlessly in that green robe you gave me what twenty years ago? I have to write and thank you again. It has stood the test of time and is still quite warm, but maybe not. I can’t tell anymore if it’s cold or hot. I should hang it outside instead of putting it in the dryer, but no one uses clotheslines anymore, but maybe we should all start again. Oh mother…… where art thou?! She never answers anymore. She came the morning after she died and I saw her there, in the garden, walking around in a long white night gown… yes I know …, but really when a woman is trying to tell you something she is often wandering around at night in a garden in her nightgown.

My garden has white lilacs, and white viburnum and white daffodils and white Serviceberries and white Hawthorne that someone else planted here decades ago and the idea was to get them to blossom at the same time. April or early May, but it never works because April is not April anymore and May is not May. The yellow rose comes out in May, but only if I am good– really– or it wants to. It is about ten feet tall now and has decided to become a tree. There is a lot of yellow and gold in the garden especially later in the year. A sea of gold and yellow even though I wanted an all white garden –breathtakingly beautiful, silent and serene…. like a pure soul. Pardon my mediocrity and cliches’, but yes, I am thinking about souls a lot lately. I am sorry I know you find that offensive. Yes, I know, why should a soul be white and not blue? I can see blue but not red. Do you see? A red soul would be positively frightening, not to mention ghoulish. But it makes perfect sense in the dining room.

What is it I am searching for in this garden? I don’t know anymore. But I hear you saying “yes, you do.” It’s the sky really. I don’t search the garden anymore, it often feels dead to me like you. The iron trellis has rusted now to a sort of Miss Havisham state. Can I say that? Because she was in an old and dusty room but the trellis is in an old disheveled garden. Now, even after all the cleanup there are hundreds of long snaky pieces of porcupine grasses lying there like after a deluge, after a forest fire… shreds of clothing, dried shards of something like skins of alligators or leopards or wild tigers or swans fallen from the sky. All those environmentally friendly grasses you gave me have become monsters, giant haystacks taking up all the space and smothering the crocuses, tulips and daffodils. Sometimes it looks like an abandoned wheat field. That mop head cypress is very large and a startling Chartreuse color. Whenever you come over you always ask me if it’s dead. When oh when oh when will you learn that Chartreuse does not mean you are dead!

If you don’t understand Chartreuse I will never be able to explain stars. I have tried. I even begged the neighbors to shut off some of their outdoor lights…. nicely, very very nicely I asked them to please give us (but I really meant me.. me.. me….) the night. Please give me back the night!

Speaking of Chartreuse…. I would love a glass about now, because really sometimes I don’t see the need for food anymore. If there was ever such a thing as magical drinking surely Chartreuse, made by Carthusian monks in a valley in France, under pure air and pure skies… from 130 flowers, barks, roots and herbs….was one. Our sad old uncle knew– he used to drink whole tumblers of it while listening to “If You Go Away” in that unfinished house by the water in Michigan. I still remember him sitting there in a semi coma……the pale green liquid in a tall thin glass, sitting on the table next to him….how sometimes the sun lit it up like the northern lights… he let us take a few sips…. He swore it was pure and holy intoxication because monks made it.

I was told I need a vacation and that is true. From everyone and everything. But you can’t escape everyone and everything instead you have to be bombarded by everyone and everything. Like that movie “Everything, Everywhere All at Once”. It left me wanting to spin off into space or fall back deep into the black earth and become a worm. I did like the part about the two rocks talking to each other.

There is no travel agent to go to if you want to see or taste the stars, ride on them, dissolve into them. Be like them. But I heard that if you have an extra $200,000 or so to spare, there are some people, maybe Branson or Musk, who can take you there. They will take you far away on a ride for only the precious few. I dreamed for years about escaping and living in that monastery in France deep in the valley. Searching for that one lonely monk who created elixirs. They made a movie about that too. If someone made a movie about it you know you can’t go there. But the geese can. I see them now in the spring, winter, summer and fall. Just last month I saw them heading back up north and then south again. They changed direction in the middle of their flight. They too cannot make up their minds.

I am lost. I feel encapsulated like a bug in amber trying to get out. I have lost my eyes and ears and tongue and mouth— my throat and stomach and toes and fingers– they are all begging to be released to be rendered numb to see the void to smell and feel and hear nothing but that is impossible because even the void is being extracted by the little chemists in their laboratories. They have created perfumes that smell like nothingness, perfumes that smell like certain kinds of human flesh. I read there is a perfume that smelled of “a young teenage girl’s sweat.” One perfume house requested their chemist to create a fragrance that smells of…a room on a winter’s day in a palazzo in Venice after all the beeswax candles burned down after a dinner party. Luca once said that the perfume Angel was “genius” but the top notes smell like vomit.

I like the one that smells like metal, plastic, rubbing alcohol and ozone, you might think you are smelling creation itself, the shuffling and redistribution of molecules the infinitesimal things that only astrophysicists or cosmologists know. I remember “Metal” and it did indeed smell like some kind of futuristic, clean, and antiseptic voided place, a place where you can smell the nothing in your mind. It was delicious and cold like steel, slightly acrid, slightly astringent, then sweet smoke and sugar to fool you, then fire as though a ghost pepper had eaten half your brains and you could now smell things that are not really there, a beautiful gaseous non substance, atomic like bombs made for human consumption having just enough slightly toxic compounds to make you feel new and clean and fresh as though you have new lungs and hearts and brains and you don’t care that they no longer belong to you. “Doctors and nurses love this” said the perfumer handing me the bottle.

If only I could see the stars. Everything would be normal again. If you and I could just have one more glass of champagne and I could hear you sigh again like that evening over the ruby red tree right there in the living room like a rose bush in winter lit up by the falling sun. Just before you walked up the stairs to go to sleep forever. Had I known you would never walk down those stairs again, I would have offered you a glass of champagne. Yes, icy cold champagne from razor thin flutes chilled in a silver bucket. And we would raise our sparkling flutes and take a sip and it would feel as though we had just been born, just broken through a frozen river with our metallic heads. Just you and me and our numbing icy thoughts, our self-made anesthesia, whirling through our heads like tempests.

I wish there was someone to talk to, to ask, to see, to learn, to drink, to breathe with and pray again wisely, sanely, yes yes yes voraciously…with total, pure, veracity. I wish there was someone here like that solitary someone who lived light years away, perfecting a pale icy elixir made with one hundred and thirty herbs, roots, barks and leaves, and flowers. I think I see him sometimes, in a dream, in a book, in a song, or when I am staring at the sky…. Oh dear holy denizen of the dark and fragrant valleys, the hidden forests, the misty mountains of my dreams, you who dwell in the silence from the most holy and unknown deep, to whom did you cry out — where was your mother or sister or brother or father, where was He——to whom did you run weeping with joy with ecstasy with every bone of your worn out body “Marie Marie come quick, I have just tasted stars!”

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Easter Without You

What can I say? It all came down to nothing this year. Without you. Last night I missed the Good Friday service. I was too tired after cleaning the house. I guess a clean house meant more to me than being saved, and I am not being facetious. It seems that all those years of you telling me that I was free, saved, guiltless, harmless, meant nothing to me. Such is the life of a non-believer who lies to everyone, even to himself (ok herself, call me what you will, it does not matter to me).

And Jane keeps telling me I clean too much, that my house is empty of warm and cozy comforting things. She called it a “death house”. Just a few weeks ago. Before that she said “A is evil.” Then she said I was “the General”. I found that actually flattering. I was never called such a powerful thing before. I would generally call myself a mouse, a little tiny mouse, or maybe a scared rabbit. Just the other day walking around the garden I jumped three feet in the air after seeing a huge misshapen thing and realized it was my own shadow. I have heard that said: “scared of their own shadow.” Well I know exactly what that means. I also now know what “driving me to my grave” means. I know the meaning of many things now.

You would be happy to know that I have not had a drink all week. It’s not that I didn’t want to I just had no time for booze, or shopping, or even eating. All I wanted was a clean house. Since I will never have a clean soul. Clean slate. That would be nice too but it’s too late for that.

I can’t even get the garden to grow. The way I want it. It just does what it wants and has for years now. I thought I planted the burgundy hyacinths along the side path and it ended up in a diagonal line near the back Viridis yew. And they are struggling as there is not quite enough sun there—– they look like shriveled livers. The yews made it though. The $40.00 one has grown one foot taller than the two $120.00 ones. I argued with the garden center experts who tried to explain to me the difference between the root balls and the expensive ones had a larger root ball. Well, the one with a smaller root ball has grown taller and healthier and that is a perfect case of believe what you see on top not what is underground.

I suppose these things are similar to the stories you told me so fervently about your conversion about you being saved and ready to go and be resurrected and seeing Mom again. I have not thought about Mom now for a long time because I can’t wait for her anymore to reply can you? I talk to her sometimes when I walk over to the park and look at her memorial tree, the one I had to go and prune myself with Jane last fall, because the park district here knows nothing about trees and lets things die everywhere. I will not go into that again but you know that sometimes I really loathe living here because the houses are getting taller and wider and the trees are getting shorter and well…… they are actually disappearing like someone gave them diet pills or something, or maybe poisoned the water.

Oh did I tell you? I have stopped being an environmentalist as well as stopped believing in most things…. especially human things. Human things depress me now. They are going into the garbage bin with the banana peels and the onion skins. I read you could even drop in dirty Kleenex and that really disgusted me. But I guess all things break down in the earth. It made me realize I have not scatted your ashes yet. Talk about procrastination. Well that is my dirty little secret. I am the real procrastinator here. The real last minute late one. The one who is saving their soul for last. I have not even read your death certificate because well, if I don’t I can pretend you are still alive. Traveling somewhere. Where did you go? Are you sitting on a star? Flying with the monarchs? Hiding in a peony like a little ant? Sipping on sweet nectar of the phlox? I can’t think of another more exotic bee flower. Oh I need to let you know that something really odd is happening in the garden. The roses have gone HUGE. I always wanted tall, trailing, vigorous, climbing roses. And they are doing that now even though their trellis’s are rotting, rusting, falling apart all around them. The roses are holding up the trellises not the other way around.

And the odd thing is that the roses were really short and lacking solid branches, actually they were almost non existant. And it’s been freezing since October and it’s April 16 and the roses, those red ones that I did not plant…. Well they’ve grown about six feet taller. How? When? During the snows I guess, there is no explanation. I must ask the squirrel gardener or the rabbit landscaper. I do not know who planted them. The original owners….. I have since maligned them, sorry even cursed them a bit because they built a very difficult, complex and wicked house. Yes, my house is evil not me. The water from all the rains is everywhere and the pump is still pumping it out onto the front lawn at a rate of every 9 minutes now. Down, or is it up from 3 minutes last week? I move that hose— it’s a long thick black snake of a hose— well I move it secretly around midnight closer to the sidewalk and it gushes out onto the public sidewalk. When people walk by with their dogs or from their night walks, they think it’s the Apocalypse, a tidal wave, a tsunami on Oak Street. They run like scared rabbits and then in the early morning I put it back towards the house, and the sidewalk dries, and all is still not right again. Because it starts up again. I have told you all this before but really I wonder why God, there I said his name. Or as my priest has often said lately she/he. I wonder what mom would say. “It’s a different world my dear it’s ok just go with the flow….” Well anyway I wonder why God has gifted me with all this abundance of water? What can I do with all this water? Drown? Give it away? I wish I could give it away to those who need it, want it desperately. Take, please take all this water away from me.

The pink tulips that I thought I planted in masses are scattered throughout the garden, done especially for me by those garden designing squirrels and rabbit landscape artists. I also planted some rotting bulbs last fall thinking they would feel sorry for me and pop right up. The blue teardrop black spruce made it too. It cost $100.00 and was only a foot high and I was hoping it would survive. The “Frankie Boy” arbovitae made it too and is starting to be that beautiful chartreuse color. The color you hate because you said it looks sick. You also hated seeing those massive Bald Cypresses at the Botanic garden last fall that were a deep rich walnut or is it hazelnut shade of brown? You said they looked dead and it ended up me wanting to just walk away and be there by myself because what you think is dead I think is alive and what I think is beautiful you think is ugly and I realize that you hate me too.

Alicia wrote a very strange email and posted it to everyone last month. She said she always knew that I had a “magic garden”. I told her once that she could come and visit the garden any time she wanted. And she did. Sometimes late at night I saw her wandering around there.. or after church on Saturdays, while I was making dinner. The kitchen window looks out onto the garden and there she was. Sometimes it frightened me, seeing her there. She is a rather large person and I often thought it was a stranger doing evil things in my garden. She also wrote about having visions, thinking strange thoughts, doing automatic writings about very complex things like siphoning off water from one place to another from one part of the world to another. She said these things came to her in the spirit. Everyone who got that email, I think, thinks she is a bit crazy. But not me. Because I have seen roses grow in winter and I have a rabbit landscaper and a squirrel gardener.

Back to those ashes. It is something I must do. Soon. I think I want to rent a boat, a big beautiful boat and take you out to sea and take a few humans I still like who don’t think I’m evil and I want to mingle both of those ashes. You and mom. Do you believe I still have her ashes? I still can’t believe how many ashes there are. It was that $2,500 casket, I think, those ashes. Here I thought it was blood and bone and brain. Do brains burn? I do believe it was the casket. Like the garden center, funeral homes lie too.

I will take the boat out to the wide open sea and scatter both of you there. I am sure you are tired of sitting on my sun room floor surrounded by your collages and with a bible on top. I thought you might like the bible on top of you. I tried to read it last night and stopped again. Then I read the Lent devotions instead. Then I had to return a phone call and reading the devotions made me nervous as I had also called you to talk a bit and also ordered a pizza and knew that the pizza guy would soon be walking up the very dark path to the house…. I thought he might trip on the black snake hose, get his shoes wet on the path or lawn. So I moved it all and turned on the lights for him and quickly tried to read the devotions. My excuse was I was so hungry. I have been too busy to buy groceries and have been eating that very brothy light soup I made with cauliflower, spinach, carrot, celery and green onions. It has a delicious springlike very light flavor but that is it. It is too light. I still eat like a horse. I had three bowls of it and was still hungry. I thought I should starve myself and just suffer like Jesus did. But you always told me we did not have to do that. Starve ourselves. Whip ourselves. Deny ourselves. Kill ourselves. Guilt ourselves. You told me that for years and years and years. And still I did not believe. I honestly think that the opposite is true. But reading the devotions… they are by a Dutch priest called Henri J. M. Nouwen by the way…… he wrote a lot about loneliness and was very self aware… but I have not read enough yet to give an honest opinion, because honestly he also demands too much. I just can’t do it while I’m still alive. I think I know now what being alive is about and it’s not pretty.

Well I know that I am rambling on here now. Like I did when you were alive and we spent two hours on the phone. This year is different. Last year was different. The year before that too. What year is it by the way? I really honestly can’t remember. All I know is you are gone. The roses have gone wild, The rabbits and squirrels work for me now. I am lost completely now. I can’t feel my heart anymore. I don’t even know what a soul is much less try to save it. And, truly, I am not being facetious because really I do not even know what that word means. I have to look up things in the dictionary constantly. I get bored doing that because really I don’t want to communicate with people anymore. I would like to learn bird language though. But the birds flee more and more from humans. I don’t blame them. They do sometimes look at me, yes make eye contact when I stand shock still like a statue, frozen like Orpheus when he looked back at Eurydice. They seem to know that I am not completely evil because I give them water and clean the birdbath out for them. I have found that birds do appreciate clean water– if they can get it. Otherwise they are quite desperate too and splash about and even drink the filth. Please excuse the spelling and the grammar, the typos… my spell check does not work anymore and since I do not believe in human beings anymore I have no use for their language. That bird though…. it knows, it knows my struggles and I think it can read my mind. I know this and it may be my little messenger, because as fragile, as delicate, as tortured by this human world that these/this little bird is/are/was…. it still can fly away… straight into the sun and moon and the stars and it can tell SOMEONE …. help me.. Help me get away from this earth and get back to YOU again.

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God Ripped Out My Garden But Gave Me Back My Heart

I sat at the top of the basement stairs last night in case the house blew off the ground. The storm was that bad. I can’t say I was terrified but I was a bit worried. Mostly about paper things. All those items that need to be in place before disaster hits. I was not sure where all the mortgage papers and other important documents were. I never did buy a metal safe for them. It’s too late now. I spent all my extra money on flowers for the garden. And, disasters and paper don’t seem to matter much anymore.

The power went off suddenly. All was black and then I did get worried. The sump pump might go off and then a flood in the basement. Then just as suddenly it came back on. The worst thing about the power outages are when the power people have to go traipsing through the garden to repair the lines. One of the utility poles is at the back of the garden. I still can’t believe I bought this house, knowing that, or not knowing. I was not knowing a lot of things back then and not knowing is a lifestyle at this point. So, really, all I ever care about is the garden, and that someone or something will come and trample it, trespass on it, eat it, drown it, bury it, scorch it, poison it, or simply take it away, like a roof blown off a house.

The garden. Because the garden, and only the garden is keeping me alive. Keeping me alive in the swamp and it is a swamp, of anxiety, worry, depression, anger, frustration, fear. Fear is always with me now, except in the garden. Oh. I forgot about the skunks and raccoons, and rats and mice (there are no rats and mice but the fear of them is there). And the crows, hawks, and rabbits. The rabbits were late in coming this year and I was secretly hoping they had disappeared forever from this planet earth. Then they came. At first one tiny rabbit. A baby. A cute little thing that ended up eating every inch of clover among the grass and helped destroy the lawn long before the drought. It’s hard to be angry at the little thing so I left it alone. Go and ravage my garden then, see if I care. Then strange, gangly, wild looking rabbits appeared. Yesterday when I stepped outside to wait for you one of them lunged at me from the bushes. It jumped three feet in the air and honestly I thought it was attacking me. Then two others showed up and started jumping up and down like hyenas and then running around like dervishes in circles. Circles and circles of rabbit insanity. They look like ugly little humans. Starving, sick, demented ones. I stopped caring and stopped using that organic rabbit deterrent to keep them from eating all the flowers– they start on those after the clover. They can have them.

That was a lie. I still care about the garden. But not the rabbits, or the skunks, or raccoons, or the cats and dogs. The garden and the birds only. If the garden and the birds disappeared there would be no reason to live anymore. But, still, I wait for the garden and the birds to disappear. Then where will I go? I hope for that other place that I see sometimes in the dead of night or wee hours of the morning. Dark violet shadows with a slight perfume of rot. The royal rot of gardens. The rot of beauty, green leaves, and grasses, old roses. Ghosts even, ghosts who walk here when I sleep…….. Rain. Yesterday’s rain percolating deep down in the roots of grass. The roots of uselessness. Grass. It is useless. But what a perfume! The freshly mowed lawn that smells like Auntie’s broken glass jello cake, Grandmother’s cucumber salad, Beatrix Potter’s watercress sandwiches for imaginary friends, a sweet pea flower. Total blackness that still reveals different shades of greens and blues that no artist will ever capture on a canvass. And then, when it starts to get light, you don’t want the light, you want to remain in the violet shadows where, when you look down, you see the dew just starting to emerge as though from the tiny mouths of wood sprites. Maybe you could wish yourself into a sprite, a violet, a lily of the valley or even a fat orange pumpkin come fall. Anything but this human body wandering now, struggling on this planet earth to file the mortgage, the will, finish up the tithing, arrange funerals and after parties, and still send invitations for ongoing musical events. That end in meditative musings on the stairways of dark basements.

I sometimes work from before dawn to after dusk in the garden. And then after I am finished I look around and see nothing. What did I actually do? What is different? What is there really to see and hear or feel? What is that scent, that really is not a scent at all. What is a garden, if not a figment of my imagination? A garden of the past, a garden of the present, a garden of the future. Oh my garden! How many dreams I had of you, how many wishes, how many frustrations, how much heartache, how many winds and storms and hurricane rains, droughts and lashings it, and I, have had. And no one ever truly sees what it is, feels what it is, knows what it is. Not a rose bush or pot of petunias, rows of parsley and thyme, cucumbers trailing on a vine. Tomatoes being coaxed into luscious red fruit, wisterias gone mad, morning glories strewn all over carless driveways, nasturtiums that will not grow in sun or shade, dirt or sand, then suddenly burst out like an Arizona sunset.

Sometimes a bird appears and both dazzles and startles me. But they seem of late restless, angry, erratic in their flying, eating, bathing and singing. Sunday morning a bird woke me up at 4:30 a.m. One lone bird singing. Not a robin or a cardinal or a finch. Do finches sing? I don’t even know. Chickadees? I think chickadees make those charming little abbreviated calls, worth just a tiny fraction of a note, not a note at all, something just barely escaping the throat, like a croak-song they want to take back and finish later.. but it flys out of their tiny mouth because the birds, really, don’t know what to sing anymore. You would think I would know by now what bird was calling out at 4:30 a.m. A simple sweet melody yet no one was calling back as birds often do. But call out it did, waking me as from the dead to come back to the garden.

After the deluge, the hurricane like winds, and after I sat in the basement wondering when the house will fall down, it all stopped as suddenly as it began and not a drop of water in the basement. Not a sound, not a mouse stirring, and yes it felt like Christmas, it was that cold. Though it was Father’s Day, all I felt was dazed, numb and sad. Oh Father where art Thou?

I walked out into the garden, fearing what destruction I would see or what startling beauty would be emerging after a month’s drought. Though I watered and watered and watered all these searing hot months, the garden was weak, limp, drab, heartless, gardenless, greenless, blueless, cloverless, scentless, seriously barren like a sad sad woman, seriously mad like a monster, bad like a villain, atrocious like a killer, wounded like a soldier, weakened like a mouse without a house, without a morsel of cheese, seriously sick like a leper, demented like the rabbits who still spin like dervishes and gnaw at anything and everything in their paths… and sad like the birds that this morning sang so feebly, as though anorexic, dying of hunger, thirst, or human cancer. At 4:30 a.m. instead of a rejoicing choir all I heard was a faint whisper of bird sound, a faint tiny heart beat or two, a thump and groan of a green frog lost in the garden, coming here from some distant watery land, and bemoaning its tiny stupid brain blunder… oh dear this throttling life, and the birds even, the stalwart little soldiers of the morning, the jack in the tree box circuses of joy, and all the chirping, flitting, flirting with the sun and the moon and the stars….. suddenly gone.

I walked out with my coffee, in the cup I bought with dear dear Madeline so long ago. Madeline with her Buddhist Wisconsin heart, still strewing all the beds in my garden with her Big Smile day lilies.

All the work of the day before, where was it? The last thing I did in the garden, was walk around in circles and circles for hours, like the demented rabbits, looking and searching for beauty, looking for my own personal paradise. Picking up every pot and urn and rearranging them in every bed, under every tree and shrub in the garden, trying to reach some perfection, create a breathtaking landscape to wake up to, go to sleep to, feed my illusions and delusions. Trying to complete a final canvass that would erase every inch of ugliness from life outside its borders. Struggling to lift that massive pot with alyssum, euphorbia and balloon flowers, and triumphantly setting it down on that plant stand like a crown, and then, already longing to see it bloom not in flowers but masses of clouds in blue, white and gold, and spread out its stems like eagle wings, so I could sail away.

Instead I saw the pot lying broken in pieces, the flowers smashed on their sides like dead swans with broken necks. All the mystery and magic never having appeared. The stand of delicate peach roses thrown to the ground like a stricken ballerina, her skirt in shreds, her flesh and bones scattered in the garden and left for a shocked and disappointed, angry gardener. Looking around how sad it felt that this was my reward for such hard work, for all my prayers and supplications, for trying to be good and sitting patiently on the basement stairs, waiting for destruction or salvation, waiting to be dead or alive, but waiting.

Walking through my shattered garden I saw that the earth was damp but the grass still pale, the flowers wet and limp like newly caught fish lying at the bottom of a canoe, a garden of toads and frogs and fish I have now, swimming to nowhere. And yet… yet… the garden was intact, the trees not fallen, the shrubs not uprooted and the grass slowly turning to emerald. The air fresh and soaked with dew, sweet earth dews of April, May and June. Three months of waiting and waiting the garden was, like I, waiting at the top of the basement stairs for the deluge to end. And I too was intact, still flesh and bone and skin, with eyes in my head, hands at my sides. I walked towards the shards of broken pots and urns, the masses of fallen tangled roots and flowers, and slowly started to gather them up and put them back in the earth again.

Posted in Always the Garden, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Will the Snow Make it Better?

Why come back to a page in a book, or a blog or a pad of paper? Why come back to the scraps on the desk noting things to do like clean, brush teeth, cook, finish an email or shovel the snow? And try to make sense of it? Why not just sit here and watch the snow falling now for almost twenty four hours? I did go out finally, at 7:00 a.m. and barely was able to push the back door open for the snow had fallen and fallen and fallen, but I did get out, out of the prison of the house and the musty smell and the stale air and the smell of rotten chickpeas in the garbage. I didn’t know chickpeas could rot and smell. Or maybe there is a half eaten chicken in there, skin and grease and raggedy little pieces of chicken flesh still clinging to the little bones, the little bones that one night, yes, I remember now, I went down to the cellar and I got out the chicken that was sitting in a pool of amber aspic. I set it down on the butcher block and at first nimbly picked it up piece by piece, broken little wings, and chubby little leg. I heated that chicken really well last night because it all just fell apart it seems and then I just took the entire carcass and started gnawing at it like a caveman. Such a little Amish chicken it was, lasting for so long.

The chicken had that wonderful umami taste and smell. Can you smell umami? Can you feel a tsunami? I can feel a tsunami, yes, I can feel the tsunami of sadness, loneliness and agony of having you gone. From me. Forever. Because yes, I have taken ownership of you now, and you are completely mine. No one can have you now that you are gone. And your goneness my dear dear dear sister, it is all mine.

But it’s too soon to agree you are gone, to believe you are gone, to see and feel and hear you are gone. Actually you are not gone in my ears yet. I hear your voice clear and strong but even there I cannot go. No, not yet, not yet. So that is why I have to go back to the little greasy chicken in the pan, to gnawing little bones, sucking out salty juices, taking a bite out of the chunk of white onion scattered on the bottom of the pan, pulpy, greasy, like a big fat gooseberry, like a big pulpy white grape gone oniony. I ate all the slender, slightly wizened, wrinkled little carrots. They were very soft and very greasy… but gee whiz they were good! It felt good saying “Gee Whiz” like a kid in the 50’s or 60’s, the old sitcoms that now we run to, run run run to the mom in the frilly apron in the kitchen making dinner, the father coming home and taking off his hat and then kissing mom and telling us to go wash our hands and come to dinner……… I thought about making soup out of the big greasy mess…..but I had a glass of bourbon and water instead…. then a second… and then a third…

Actually I started drinking at noon on Friday, right after work. Bourbon with a little water. There was no food to eat that was ready. There was a little brown rice cooked with a Knorr Chicken boullion cube… I lied to myself saying it was harmless and just full of good boney brothy slightly gelatinous taste that would make that brown rice palatable. I miss your phone calls asking me how to make things, cook things, what things mean…. because for some reason you thought I knew some things. We both know now that is not true. I KNOW NOTHING.>

Getting back to the bourbon of which I know just a tiny little bit. If you put enough water in it it won’t hurt your guts because it is not really very good bourbon, actually it’s crap but it was a gift so I drank it and drank it and drank it and my stomach didn’t hurt. Then I called J and she happened to be drinking too in the afternoon, but she had wine. So we both drank and drank and drank and drank. And then all the pent up things that bothered us for the last 30 years all came up and up and up like vomit after clubbing all night and the bed is swirling and swirling and swirling and you know that feeling, after the bed, it’s the whole room spinning and then the ceiling spinning one way, the floor spinning the other way, each wall spinning and also moving up and down and then the ceiling starts coming down on you and then trying to run away you trip over your books and throw up all over everything. Then you promise to never ever ever do it again. And we didn’t and we don’t.

After a while we both calmed down and then after all the pent up energy and the screaming (we did scream, on and on and on but not at each other, at the things we hated about our lives). I love you J because you and I we scream and scream and scream, but not at each other. Like that song with Jeff Buckley and the girl from the Cocteau Twins……. that song about flowers bending towards the sun…. a line that says something like you can be angry with me but please don’t hurt me….

Well enough about that. We both swore a lot. So much that it wore us out and we were both quite ashamed that we swore so much. And we promised never never never to do it again… And…. we…… won’t…. Boy it felt good though. To scream with you over the phone and drink my bourbon and water.

I shoveled a great deal of snow. The path to the house, the sidewalk in front, and a lot of the gravel driveway, and then the path to the back of the house. I forgot now what it is I wanted to say. It’s the snow really. You can be a hundred years old and still love the snow. I thought it would be too much to go out and shovel it. Little old me and a shovel. I thought it might be too cold, too high, too white, too heavy, too wet, too dense. I thought my back would go out, my hands tighten up, fall off, my arms collapse at my sides. I thought my heart might go out. My breath get taken away. I really thought I might have a stroke or maybe just all that bourbon I drank on Friday might come back and kill me.

No, none of that. Because it all happened already. Last April when you died. There I said it. Last April when you died. My darling beloved sister Helene. There I said it. Your name.

What can this snow possibly do to me? What can the rain do, or lightening, or thunder, or tornadoes or hurricanes or earthquakes. Yes they can instill fear and horror and kill me. But then, really, I think I’m dead already….except except except…. the snow the snow the snow. Sometimes, still, I feel just a tiny tiny bit alive… in the snow.

Maybe I should take a little cup of cream outside and mix it with the snow, sprinkle a little sugar on it, dust it with a little cocoa. Maybe I should bury my face in it. Wash my hands in it. No I will not make those stupid snow angels. I am sorry but I never liked making snow angels, ever since that fool we can’t mention ever again, thought I was not very adventurous because I would not make snow angels with him, that time we were walking in the city and it was a very snowy night and he plunged backwards right in the knee high snow thinking I would be impressed at his youthful cheerful spontaneity. Thinking I would think, how cute, how sweet, how absolutely………..stupid.

It’s still falling outside and I must admit it looks breathtaking, stunning, magical, ethereal. Yes my dear we may see angels, or elves, or little Irish faeries, or little dancing creatures that mean us no harm out there….. especially late at night under the moon, that is still quite big and full. Oh, I saw it the other day and I did look out and I do think I saw you in there looking down at me and those big full luscious lips of yours were mouthing out words to me. But….. I was afraid to listen…. and it was quite cold and I ran back inside.

I’m so sad all the time. I have never felt so sad in my life. Honestly it’s true. I have never felt this sad, this afraid, this lost, this hurt, this damaged, this terrified, this anxious, this traumatized, this catatonic, this emotional, this emotionless, this angry, this furious…. no no no. I am not angry, that was a lie. I am too sad to be angry. What other words are there my sister? What other words are there to tell you the depths of sadness that I feel, the abysmal human misery of emptiness…… is this what T.S. Eliot meant when he talked about that little crab “scuttling” at the bottom of the ocean? Is this what Celine meant in “Journey to the End of the Night? I did read that book and it was horrifying and terrifying and I know it was about war. Real horror. Real terror. Real torture and madness and pain. The desolation of Europe during the Great War. How terribly empty of me to equate this feeling with that no? What would you say to me?

There is no one to talk to about it. The only person I can discuss your death with is you. But you’re dead.

I just ordered a pizza. The cheap awful kind from that awful chain, but really it is not that awful. The children who work there… and they are children, are sweet, eager to please, and I hope to God they do not scratch their faces or worse. They are always so sweet and eager on the phone. So terribly polite. It will be delayed as their parking lot has to be cleared, their internet is down. I had to call and talk to them over the phone. The sweet girl, her sweetness just gushed all over me over the phone and I told them to give the driver a big tip. And she said thank you and I thanked her back and….

I have to go back now and shovel the snow some more, to make room for the pizza delivery car, and the little person who will dutifully carry the pizza up the narrow path that I so carefully shoveled this morning. Oh my God Helene if only you knew how much snow there was/is/will be. My entire front stoop looked like it had big swollen snowmen barricading the front door. I have to go out now and sweep them away.

I am so hungry now. So sad and hungry and God how much I can’t wait to eat that pizza, and maybe watch another murder mystery, or British crime drama, or some other detective like story about mayhem and murder and chaos and serial killers and pathetic, violent, evil people.

I can’t think much now sister. I can’t think much, thinking is so very very painful as you know. I can’t think like you did, beyond thinking, beyond dreaming, beyond talking, talking talking. Beyond beyond beyond. I know that you are the moon now and the stars and the sky and the beloved trees, yes our beloved trees. Oh maybe you are the snow this deep deep lush overwhelming beautiful and powerful and totally frightening whitening wash out wipe out tsunami snow….

I just can’t yet. I am sorry. I don’t have the sweetness and light you had, I don’t have the wisdom and gentleness that you had, I don’t have the pain and suffering gone away now that you had, I don’t have the enlightenment that you had, I don’t have the voice, the mind, the power, the brain the all gone suffering you had, I don’t have the melody, the heart, I don’t have the gentle footsteps, I don’t have the yearning in the heart to know all things that we must know, I don’t have the freedom, I don’t have the light or the darkness or the nerves of steel you had, I just don’t have it my darling one…..

I have to shovel the snow now, and clear it for the pizza man or girl. And later maybe later I’ll go out later later and later. And I’ll throw myself down in the garden and fall very softly and lightly on the white white white maddening snow…..


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Trying to capture something in the air, the wine, the heart and mind

One sees a photo of a table, vase of flowers, an empty glass, a single golden napkin ring, in a garden where soon the evening shadows will fall

And somewhere in that photo there are twittering birds… cardinals, finches, robins and elusive hummingbirds… a dragonfly that looks like aunt Cecelia’s antique broach

The twittering has now turned into full blown song, calls of the wild, the meadows and the forests and fields far away and yet they are here in the garden with me

Yes here, in that garden that no one truly knows or hears or
sees, whose heady fragrances they do not breathe because their lungs have
grown withered and old

Sometimes I wander in that sacred place that Dylan Thomas loved so long ago…
Wales, near the sea…the farm, the animals, the daisy chains..

His stallions coming out in the dizzying morning haze, the foxes from the hunt unscathed and braver than brave

In a garden you can see what God meant us to see, what He meant us to be

Go to your garden and sit and watch and listen, go to your garden and breathe

Go to the garden and pick your lovely flowers, vegetables and herbs,
drink in the perfume of the roses, sages, lemon balms and thyme, take off your shoes and feel the fresh cool grass and clover

Rest there in peace and know that God has given all of this to thee

Posted in Always the Garden | 4 Comments

Shall I Try to Reach A Higher State of Consciousness or Drink the Cherry Wine?

I told my sister the other day that I was profoundly interested in exploring my solitude, now imposed on all of us.  I told a friend that I was embracing solitary confinement with sadness but that I was going to try to reach a higher level of being, a higher state of consciousness, a deeper level of thinking.  I said all that and more.

And what did I do?  I had two large gin and tonics yesterday, using gin that N gave me a few weeks ago.  Even though lately I have not felt like gin and tonics, that is more a summer drink.  Have it in July on tax filing deadline day. Have it on a hot humid sweltering day when the rabbits and squirrels lie flat as pancakes on your lawn and they are spread out so long and wide they look like rubber mats.  They are so comical then. Once I stared at a flat rabbit for hours for entertainment.  And then became worried when it did not move.  But suddenly it did and then it annoyed me again as it started eating all the flowers……

Oh the gin my dear!  It was lush and aromatic…ripe with the fragrance of flowers and herbs, the sharp taste of juniper that still seems to be lingering on the roof of my mouth, tongue and lips.  Made me think of monks.  Drinks with herbs and flowers always make me think of monks.  Somewhere in their dark and secret cellars concocting gins, and liquors… Remember Chartreuse?  Uncle Walter drinking tall thin glasses of iced Chartreuse in that half finished house in Michigan? It must cost about a hundred dollars a bottle now, that Chartreuse.

I have binge watched “Midsomer Murders” for days now.  Only with John Nettles of course.  Yes it’s full of gory murders but it is also full of meadows and forests, old stone walls with two hundred year old hedges, climbing wisteria, roses, and jasmine, gardens full of foxgloves,  larkspur and mullein, cosmos, sweet peas, delphiniums and lambs ears…. the soft silvery lambs ears that have long since departed from my garden…. And yes, it is full of mansions (real ones) and country cottages and priories and a lot of eccentric elderly people drinking tea that they pour out of quirky little teapots draped in cozies and into tiny porcelain cups. Oh how I want to be in those old gardens with the old people drinking tea!

I have tried to think.  After watching four hours of news on the pandemic and the numbers mounting , and the stock market crashing and the people going out to buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper.  You keep telling me they should use newspapers…  What did we use in that outhouse in Ukraine do you remember?   I only remember the walk  along a narrow path edged in very tall horseradish plants, surrounded by Marya’s rabbit hutches….. and you would smoke inside and said it was dark and cozy and you could not smell a thing.

I remember the hills, or as mom used to call them, “mountains”,  the Carpathian hills, when there was no need to eat or drink or go to the bathroom.  Walking was enough.  With mom we walked and danced and sighed and shouted out with delight. Our very own “Sound of Music”.   We are here in Ukraine!  Oh my mother’s joy was so great she leapt around like a mountain goat, climbing up and down those endless rolling hills, like she was seventeen.

I have to say that one of my favorite things was the cherry wine that the priest and his beautiful young wife poured out for us in those short crystal glasses.. and that reminds me of something I heard John Nettles aka Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby say:  “Happiness is having a lot of money, a beautiful wife and an Indian restaurant within a mile from your house.”  Well that day it was the cherry wine.  I never had such good wine.  It was almost sacred.  Like drinking the garden’s secrets.   Funny I don’t think we prayed at all.  The whole day was one long prayer of green and sun and wildflowers on the hills, and that priest, who played that accordion.  He was a bit plump that priest as I recall and handsome.  He had slick black hair like father. His wife looked like a fairy tale out of Grimms, her golden braids piled into a shining crown on her head….. I know.. I drank most of the cherry wine… but, they kept refilling my glass.

And then I remember we left the priest and his wife and children and started walking home to the shabby little cottage of mom’s friend, and the children they followed us waving and waving goodbye. Their chubby little hands… they had on pretty flowered summer dresses.   We were so sad to see them go and they us.. and we couldn’t think of one thing to do to stop from choking.   So we all ran after them almost falling down those lush green hills, oh that soft  and fragrant grass… yes we were tumbling about like big blown up balls …..and started to give them money, more and more money…  all of our great American money that we had in our pockets, purses, and wallets that day. They were so happy with those American dollars and we were so sad to leave the green rolling landscape of our Chekovian Ukraine.  Because we knew we would never see it again.

I suddenly remember the forest where we searched for wild mushrooms, the river by the house where mom was born, the old woman who ran out to greet us and then brought out her best embroidered sheets for us to lay down on, in the grass, while she rushed to catch a train that she would ride for two hours there and back, to get a little food to bring home.  She was rushing off through the fields and kept turning around to wave to us.  She kept turning around and waving to us even though she might miss that train. I think she was going to Mukachovo.  She knew she would never see us again.  I remember that old man who took us to his farm and fed us milk and honey and cracklings with home made bread..and oh boy we really loved all those shots of Ukrainian vodka….. and he sat at the table across from our mother and gazed into her eyes with all the love that he had kept there all those years, for Maria his childhood sweetheart. You and I went to the barn and climbed up the stairs to his hayloft and just sat there.   We suddenly knew what it was like to be in someones dream.

So yes I have been thinking about how to reach higher consciousness and how to live and how to be another person or not to be another person, how to breathe and not worry.  And I have decided that I don’t want to be a human being with higher consciousness.  I don’t want to be a human being at all.

I would rather be a bird, or have birds for companions, and the only reason I would like to reach a state of higher consciousness is to be able to talk to these birds to ask them what they think, what are they feeling, how is the water and the air.  Are they afraid of cats?  And before I become a bird or reach a state of higher consciousness and am able to communicate with them…..  I would like to tell all of you cat lovers out there to please leave your cats inside because they kill birds.  Millions of them a year… and that is a fact.  So please keep your cute little cats that you drool over inside your house and let them eat the rats and mice there.  Please tell your cats to try and reach a state of higher cat consciousness and maybe then they will learn that it is not nice to kill birds……

So sorry, but I have wanted to say that to all of my cat loving friends for a long time now.

That is the only reason now that I want to reach a higher level, to escape the world of two legged beings.  Yes even though they make good tea and wine and there are pretty men and women who play accordions and dance and cook and paint and write poetry and even invent things….. They need too much, they take too much, they destroy too much.  They lie.  I lie.  I lie to myself all the time.  I was lying when I told you I would take this time to reach a higher state of consciousness.

I truly was trying to reach a state of higher consciousness and tried to finish all these books lying about….. but instead of finally finishing the Spinoza, instead of playing the piano, instead of trying to finally understand the Bible, instead of reading Yeats all the way through instead of tackling “The Secret of the Golden Flower” and giving it back to you after five years, and then finishing “Infinite Jest” because your husband wanted to read it too, I watched twenty movies instead.  I drank a bottle of red wine.  Then I drank the white wine.  The gin is almost gone.   I ate two packs of almonds, the whole box of crackers, I finished the box of Cheerios dry like a snack. I ate a week’s worth of cheese in two days.   I watched more murder mysteries and thrillers and then I watched NBC ABC NPR MSNBC CNN BBC and read the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times and the Atlantic and the NY Post and Huffpost and Slate and Vox and I read what all the bloggers said and all the trolls said and ….. I learned nothing much at all.  I just got more confused and scared.

I was walking the other day to the post office and I think I finally reached a higher consciousness.   The air was so much cleaner and though I was feeling sick and dizzy and unhappy and nauseated by this whole damn world… yes I think I reached a state of higher consciousness… there were no cars thundering by on the road, there was no smell of exhaust and fumes and gasoline, there was a tiny gentle breeze or was it a sigh.. yes I think it was that lone robin in a tree seeing me, one of the two legged creatures… sighing oh no not another one…

I tried to walk by faster and give the bird some peace.   I went to the post office and dropped off my three bills:  equity loan, credit card bill and dentist bill… a piece of my tooth has fallen out but I don’t think I will be going there soon to have it fixed…. but those bills it seemed they must be paid… then I saw the sign:   “This Post Office Closed Until Further Notice.”

So much for the bills and the letters and the taxes and the mortgage… I felt a certain relief it was all closed and I just walked home.

Then it washed over me all the silence all the still air and no rustling even of the trees because there are still no leaves.,.. the daffodils and tulips just peeping their green stalks out of the cold dirt… thanks for the photo of the snowdrops you sent me yesterday… I in turn sent you a photo of my big fat chunky glass filled with gin… and lime… the ice cubes looked so pretty melting there like Greenland or Antarctica…Oh my neighbors did tell me that Jewel has run out of limes….. so I must make this tiny thing last for a few more days… if I sliver it I could go on for weeks.

No limes no money no food.. I don’t have much food stocked up maybe enough for five more days… I’m not interested in food anymore I am so much more interested in this air that I felt and the very very faint vast twittering of birds that I heard but could not see because the birds were no longer there… they were already far far away but they were trying to say something show me something sing something and I could almost hear it feel it sense it a new kind of non two legged human feeling I almost thought I saw my own body there on the sidewalk like a flattened rabbit like a rubber mat like a deflated balloon, I walked over my own body as though I was already in the ground like I walk over the bodies in that old cemetery when I walk to the bus stop to work, the old graves just lying there silent and cold and old and uncaring, oblivious to us and our worries and concerns and where to get the next lime or gin or roll of paper, I almost laughed I almost breathed I almost cried I almost ran home to hide in the closet or under the bed or the table and then I heard it loud and clear as though some new born creature suddenly appeared but it was the birds all along, just singing to me just singing as though they were sailors on a ship sailing to Byzantium finally free….as though they were nomads in the desert walking as though they were aviators on the first transatlantic journey as though they were solitary walkers like me as though they were a Greek chorus as though they were Roman soldiers as though they were lying in their bathtubs dying as their fortunes crumbled all around them and they had just slit their wrists as a last resort like that Roman senator long ago for some reason I see his face and it is both crying and smiling and then suddenly those birds are back and you know it is always the birds and the birds and the birds and the birds and why oh why oh why does no one really pay attention to them because they are and have been trying to tell us now for years and years and years… the ships the ships the ships for Byzantium…the ships are going to that golden domed city of your dreams and hopes and passions, the spires shining now in the dawn in the pale grey day and even by the light of the early moon  the ships are sailing… they are sailing … very, very, soon.

Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blue Christmas, Blue Birds, Blue Water

I walked to church yesterday for the Blue Christmas service.  I wore that very expensive coat I bought twenty years ago as a Christmas present for myself, and, at the time trembled as I gave the card to the cashier, wondering how I was going to really pay for it.  I felt guilty at buying myself such an expensive coat when my mother was wearing my give aways.  Though one coat I gave her was perfectly new.  I still have my expensive coat.  It is still beautiful, it is still warm and it looks just like new.  You get what you pay for.

Why I am even discussing this coat or thinking about it I am not sure.  Perhaps it is a remembrance of better times, happier times, when you walked into a room and trailed small clouds of exquisite perfume behind you…. And smelled it long into the night, like you my dear mother dead now almost twenty years… the gorgeous elusive perfume you smelled that day wandering into the old cottage long since abandoned by the beautiful Polish aristocrats who wore that costly scent.  Perfume that forty years later you still could not forget, still pined for, still smelled and dreamed of late at night in the American city far away from those fragrant lands.

I forgot my hat and long soft scarf, the one that is five feet long almost as tall as I am, the one I have to take with me each and every day because I am always so cold.  Very very cold, the kind that seeps deep into your bones.  Like eating ice cream and your brain and eyes go momentarily comatose and bulge out of your head and sockets…like a heart attack about to begin or is it end.. Or maybe you are already dead.  But you must keep walking.

I walked out into the early evening and realized I did not need my hat, or scarf, I barely needed my gloves. I probably could have run out just in my sweater and slacks and not froze to death.  It is that warm in this middle of America City which is often in a deep snowy freeze.  But it was almost fifty degrees yesterday and instead of Blue Christmas it felt like going to Easter Services in April.  So soft too and quiet and spring like… everyone inside having pre  Christmas parties… here and there someone harried and rushed like me– has no Christmas lights or tree or gifts…. a man was still raking leaves.. another just now stringing his lights… how very European…

Oh the walk, both frightening and beautiful.  Strings of tiny Christmas lights on tall evergreens and pines, here and there festooned on very long  winding fences encircling bright green lawns.  Whites, golds, and silvers.  Even gaudy reds, blues, and greens…. Pinks and lavendars, indigos, even those icy blues that feel like cold bones.

The only blue lights I loved were the ones at the Old Ukrainian church one Christmas Eve.  All the tall firs were lit up in icy blue but somehow they looked warm like a cozy house in the forest, they looked cool like the sea in summer, they looked mysterious like a ghost following you home at night, they looked like the kneeling Madonna weeping quietly in the corner during Blue Christmas, because she knew what was to come… even then.

Those blue lights at St. Nicks, and the old church on the hill and the gold cupolas soaring into the sky and the bells ringing and having a Mama —even when you are old the word comforts– and at the same time,  like icicle daggers stab you through the heart when you realize she is gone.

Oh I wish I wish I wish I was making gold chains with you… Ukrainian origami stars, and the tiny red cranberry beads like rubies… It trailed through the Christmas tree like Dylan Thomas’ daisy chains on his aunt’s old farm, it trails through my body and blood like the tear stained girl carrying her parents bones in her arms….

There were only eight of us there and the dear dear music director whose very face makes me smile!  He played the piano so beautifully and the songs were of winter and despair, hope and light, of sharing each others woes and realizing it is like dust really, like mites, like the sand you wipe from your eyes, like the dead grass you trod in the park going home so late at night, like the gaseous air you smell that might be the burning sun.

Someone read a story about her parents trip out west.  How they screamed all the way there and back.  Of gifts given and received, in bitterness and regret, of praises kept hidden, of love torn apart, of grief and tears and vitriol… oh families… how I hate them.

But I remember you Mama, I remember you.  That far away look you had in your eyes… especially the last Christmas just before you died.  I will never forget.  You finally went and sat by yourself in the living room and stared at my Christmas tree, the one thing I took a long time in decorating, creating, wishing it into beauty, into light, into a dazzling spectacle of deep dark forest night.  How long I decorated that tree, how many hours I spent tangling and untangling and hanging those lights and taking them down again and hanging them up again and then once they were all lit…that one little light that went out just in the place everyone would see.  The dark ruby and wine colored ornaments, the burnt sienna ones,  the almost shocking magenta gold ones…. with tiny avant garde stars looking like Basquiat graffiti…. etched like a Cy Twombly, a Picasso, a Miro, Can I say Ruscha?   Ruscha of the blood and guts and chocolate, and Ultra Violet who was his lover, had the foresight to hang out with the right crowd, an Andy Warhol superstar who finally claimed her two million dollar love letter.

Oh the myrrh the frankincense the gold.. oh the smell of the Kings’ beards, the sweat and oil and dust as they traveled miles and miles and miles to the home of the Star King, the Blood King, the Holy King the Tearyfaced King, the Humiliated Angel, the Weeping Jesus in the coffin in Basel, the one lying there waiting to be resurrected from the dead, in the room of red haired Madonnas like deep sea mermaids swimming in ecstatic seas of pain in the twilight and the dolphins and the fishes singing…Mary desperately hanging onto some old planet whose orbit is not over yet.  Oh Jesus of the tear stained face who I still clutch at night and do not care what you or she or he or anyone thinks…. I smell the cedar I feel the breath I hear the beating heart of the one who carved it out of dead wood.

Oh dear Mama there will be no borscht there will be no mushroom ushki or kutya or holubtsi or varenyki or poppy seed rolls or pampushki filled with rose jam… there will be no knee high snow and the crunching of thigh high red boots worn by lovely young girls whose long ribboned braids are trailing like poppies in the snow…

There will be no cherry wine to greet the icy-breathed young ones who knock on your aged door and you greet them gladly, wildly, enthusiastically, your head brimming with gladness with madness with delirious Joy and… yes… Papa is not drunk this Christmas!  Papa was healed by the cold air, the shattering stars, the dead dreams rising like the evaporating salts of the earth… he will not be made to turn into stone,  just don’t look back, don’t look back… don’t look back.

The pastor yesterday sat by each of us… we six destroyed and shattered hearts, and whispered in our ears like a night angel, like the blue lit firs,  like the blue eyed queen, like the snow white maiden who persevered  through poisoned apples… asking us what we need what we want what is making our hearts ache so.  And she prayed next to us her voice barely a whisper but it roared through our hearts like the sea.  And we prayed and we breathed and we lit a candle for our dear ones the sad ones the lonely ones the broken-hearted sick ones……even the evil ones.

I walked home in the winter solstice night even though it was balmy as spring, dark as the desert, feeling the orbit of the earth and even the sun nine million miles away.

I saw the house I saw the darkness I saw the emptiness I saw the dust the moths swimming all around in the still night.. pollinating in the dark making the air flutter with a million silent beating wings….the cardinals and the sparrows are sleeping, the finches, yes finches are still here.. I saw them just yesterday in a field of goldenrod…..   and the geese flew north instead of south and then they did a backwards tango in the sky.

Today my heart was cold again and that tingling in the arm is starting again again that panic in the heart and lungs and soul and brain the deep deep freeze.  Oh how much I wanted to walk straight into the black inky lake yesterday!  Instead of walking to church I was going to head north and then straight east,  through the very rich old part of town with all the old stately mansions and the very delicate lights and the parties and  designer Christmas trees and the Krug and pates and caviars and the massive bouquets of fancy flowers from that new florist who charges five dollars a stem….. and not one but two and three and four Christmas trees in the house…..

Instead, I felt my heart beating so fast and my arms and hands starting to go numb and my eyes glaze over from all the heartache of these last few years….. and then—I saw a single blue bird….. the blue bird of happiness the blue bird of paradise the blue bird of a vast frozen wasteland… there in my garden looking like a pile of empty bones as the gardener once again has cut down everything too soon…. the blue bird was a blue jay trying to drink water from the bird bath covered in a thin layer of ice and underneath a mass of leaves like matted dirty hair.

I was making potatoes and onions and eggs, a peasant breakfast for one, a breakfast for a weary heart that cares not if you live or die from a heart attack, bring it on heart, bring on the attack, bring it, attack my heart this minute, and now and forever hold your peace…

Oh the potatoes reminded me of sitting in a high chair me a big fat baby two years old in a DP camp and the potato queen was already starting to ruin my life with her withering tale of woe…..

And then someone said to go and feed the birds, give them food and water that they may sing and your heart rejoice…  I filled the big red pot with water… my big red pot that every year I made the 1830’s borscht in…. and I carried it outside splashing the floor and the furniture and the carpet and then I decided to do my own blessing of the Son and Father and Holy ghost… oh the triads… the triads of life… the repetition over the heart the door and the window the one two three dance that sometimes is too hard and too long but you must repeat after me:::: One Two Three:::::::: and I repeated it three times for you and you and you and that this water may heal you and you and you and I walked it over three times and it splashed into the crumbing bird bath three times and I walked back into the holy house that was free of all evil now.

I looked out the window and suddenly saw a tiny blue bird and then a sparrow a wren a finch a chickadee…and then a cardinal they all came flying into the garden from nowhere and splashed and frolicked and danced in and out of the sanctified holy place flying in the air, oh how little do they care that the lilac is starting to bud in December how little they care that the air smells like April  that the grass is greening in December little do they care that the irises are starting… There I was at the window staring at these flying creatures that some Big Bang Boom did not put in the air…..and all the sorrow in my head and heart and even eyes vanished and whom do I thank and whom do I praise?  And whom do I revile?  And whom do I sink down to now on my knees and weep now knowing that I will no longer have a care in this world anymore…. because it is Blue Christmas and I have blue water and blue birds flying in and out of the blue lit trees.









Posted in Always the Garden, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

The Blue Whales Are Coming

I sat out there in the garden just a while ago.  And while the world outside was raging in hot winds and fires and pestilence and murders and all sorts of heinous human things, in the garden still, now and then, was a cool breeze, a lack of devil sun, a quiet moment, a split second of what?  I cannot say joy.  There is little joy.  I cannot say peace. There is little peace.  Beauty.  As though beauty was a tunnel you could crawl through to find the calm and peace again.

There was a lack of human being.  Because even one is a problem.  That in itself is sometimes pure joy, pure happiness, pure nirvana.  No people anywhere.  There was a strange tiny bird I had never seen before, moving about in the tree, wondering perhaps if it should go to the birdbath, wondering perhaps if the water is cool and clean.

Late last night a finch flew by.  I never see them at night.  Only in the morning or on bright sunny afternoons flying in and out of the coneflowers in the park.  They love coneflowers.  And my heliopsis too.   Sometime in June I woke up early and there was a finch perched on top of the newly blooming heliopsis, one of the glories of the front garden.  Sometimes they are a bright citrusy yellow and other times like now, they are orange- yellow, deep, almost burnished gold, or some yellow not yet on the color wheel.

And then I realized that little finch was feasting on the flowers, not one or two or three but the entire bunch.  Perched at the very tip and still not smashing the flowers or stems and I wondered how it managed it.  It ate them perched right side up and upside down and even sideways.  So annoying to see your flowers being devoured.  Except when it is a little lemon and black finch.

So the early evening finch last night must have been tired from all the sun.  It was a wretched exhausting evil violent sun.  Terrifying.  I had all these errands to do.  I had all this walking to do yesterday and wondered if the heat, the sun, the hot wind would kill me and I would end up like a fried egg on the pavement.

I hoped to be out by 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. but watered the garden again instead.  Three times in twenty four hours.  The garden though tired from all the sun and heat is surviving even in some cases thriving.  The side entrance is flanked by massive pots filled with blue larkspur, delphinium, balloon flower, blueberry phlox, and mauvy pincushioin flowers.  They look like giant bracelets and rings, assorted baubles from Ali Baba’s caves.  The blues are deep indigo blues.   Cobalt blues.  Baby lavender blues.   Teary eyed blues.  Powdery blues.  Deep sky blue.  Whale blue.

Whales… going back out to sea waving bye bye…. the water they swim in blue, my younger self blue, mom’s cornflower eyes blue.  The way they looked that year in her tan face among her weathered tan arms and that brown dress with the tiny orange flowers and her coral nail polish on her aging toes and fingers.  Yet her face looked so young that year, so hopeful, so alive, as though she would still be here next year and next.  Her hair as yellow as my flowers.

I was at the train station a year later waiting and it was hot that year too, but one day on the platform to go to work, I looked up at the marvelous blue sky cooling us off for one day at least, just for a while, shooting out some tiny breezes for us to breathe, and I saw her there as though she was trailing pansies, as though she was getting up to go, as though she was about to cut me a piece of plum cake, as though she was about to stir up apricots and rice, as though she was walking towards me with those hot, thin, freshly made potato pancakes, slightly crisped at the edges, creamy inside and loaded with tiny nubs of potato flesh, still sizzling a little from oil and butter, as though she was about to breathe again and say hi.  I remember then she didn’t say hi.  She never even said goodbye.

Looking up at the sky, that other vast universe that always looks so appealing when I am at the train station, that always beckons with its beauty,  its remarkable powers of  resuscitation, to feed the soul and body and mind….reminding you of your futile travels and worries and moneymaking ambitions and all the bills you are constantly paying in your head and all the lists of things to buy and sell, recycle or throw out, give away, sew and repair, wash and dust …… the exhaustion of it all until you look up again… And then I saw it. That day it comes back to me clear as the rain that never falls again but I remember it and how I prayed that day.

It rained.  It was not windy.  The rain was so sweet you could almost taste it.  If you should water your garden with that rain it would reward you with lavish and colorful blooms such as you never saw and will never see again. Like that mass of red roses trailing down the house and garage and trellis and white wooden gates of that little town we first lived in.  My mother the beautiful, my mother the great one, my mother the happy one, my mother the soulful one,  my mother the queen of the gardens, the queen of the flowers, the queen of the torts made with luscious milk and honey and cream.  It seemed biblical then.  Detroit.  Fresh off the boat City with imaginary fruits falling off thick green vines.

And my mother is gone so suddenly then. We never had a chance to discuss it all and why we came.  To that particular town that particular year on that particular sea.   Who brought us and why and how.  I remember seeing flying birds and fish and reptiles on an overlook on the boat even then.  Mother was always below throwing up with all the other children and women.  But he and I were flying high like Ahab, catching all the salt and sea and wind.

That beach, now I think of it.  The one here in the new and happy land.   The one that is eroding now.  That beach that we sat on played on dreamt on, full of those Slavic people that I wish would go away.  I was so tired of Slav town, I was so tired of hearing my own language everywhere I went and seeing the sullen tired faces of those coming here to escape the violent bastards there who took away their land and language, their cucumbers and potatoes, their freshly made bread and the good butter and the honey from happy bees.  So then on that beach I did not want to be reminded of where I came from, where you were born, where you learned to speak the tongue that I am now forgetting.  But now I hate it here and want to go back there, but it’s gone.

I still pray in it.  My old Ukrainian tongue.  I prayed before I ate my piece of toast with my one egg this morning.  I have learned to make perfect eggs.  The pan must be very hot.  That Caphalon thing that took me twenty years to learn.  And the butter– just a pat cannot sizzle too much.   I should have had oatmeal but I like eggs better.

Yes my ailing friend too likes eggs.  I can still eat eggs she says.  Scrambled.  With a little cheese and butter and maybe some herbs. Even Steve with all those tubes all over his body can sometimes have a bite.  Either that or chocolate milkshakes.    How I craved a chocolate milkshake yesterday.  Like Maria Callas in that story I heard about her…wanting to stop so badly for an ice cream with her friend, before going home to her silent apartment and the sound of her own death.

But I was thinking about my mother that day at the train station.  That was so long ago but I must remember how the sky looked that day.  The exact configuration of the clouds. They were the mountainous ones.  Or maybe just hills.  At the highest, like the Carpathians.  There was a mass of them but it was an orderly mass as though a procession.  My mother was clearly there and she was trying to tell me something.  I know this for a fact and whenever there is a death and the ones left behind are mourning I try to explain it to them.

So now you have to take your mind, force it even, to go back there.  You can force your mind to do anything.  Feel anything or nothing.  See anything or nothing.  Live or die or forget.  If I can just remember the configuration of the clouds. The color even. The many shades of white.  There was no yellow as I recall but some blue.  Blues and greys and lavenders.  Just hinting at something.  Not a big bold statement of blue like the side entrance to the garden…. oh I wish you could see these blues.

I know now you will never see the blues.  Just like you missed all those purple poppies.   Deep purples and dusty, rose colored purples.  Blue grey black in a certain light.  The purples of sorrow the purples of death, the purples of sadness.  But all together in the garden in that mass underneath the burgundy smoke bush those purples looked enthralling and they had black eyes.  Now they all stand with their poppy seed heads like fading mauve soldiers.  And you will never see them again nor will I.

That Big Smile.  Big Smile– they are now growing everywhere in the garden.  Just a few months ago when I thought summer would be happy summer would be fine, summer would be normal.  I took that huge mass of lilies and divided them into four other plants and planted them all over the garden.   My friend MK brought them to me.  Years ago.  That beautiful happy woman.  So tall and lanky.  Health glowing from top to bottom.    Something of the Wisconsin farm still in her.  Though she was not a farmer…. The brightest smile the blondest natural hair.  Close cropped to show her beautiful Jean Seberg face.  So strange she never quite liked herself, never thought she was smart or pretty.  I remember sitting there in the garden with her, crying over the loss of things….. the big houses rising up all around me…the killing off of the trees across the street… I still remember the screeching birds flying in a panic…straight to my house straight to my roofs and gutters and shrubs.

She was always so calm.  Yet now I know she was panicking inside too just like me. Hiding in that small cottage in the city of knowledge the city of hope the city of culture the city of books and gardens and art.  I remember the wonderful Cobb salad she made for us that day. The lush taste of avocado, the crisp yet tender lettuces she probably picked from her garden. The red tomatoes and all the sweet juices pooling in the plates.  She took us on a tour of the house and for some reason  spent a lot of time showing us her basement and furnace.  She was also a very handy person, who could use a wrench and hammer as well as a knife.

She’s dead now too. That picture of beauty and exuberant health. The strong even white teeth and big smile.   I realize now that she is haunting me almost as much as my mother.  Those two can’t possibly be dead.

She would come to parties but always brought her dog.  She left him in the car.  A big collie?  I don’t even know what a collie is.  She left all the windows open so it was not cruel and got up frequently to check on him. I don’t know why she didn’t bring him to my mother’s garden.  She could probably sense we did not like dogs.

They all have several stems each of the four Big Smiles, with big fat buds, and one opened just a few days ago.  They are yellow but not too yellow. Faded pale yellow with just a touch of lavender and blue. Slightly frilly at the edges like the sleeves of an old-fashioned blouse.    I have her now smiling all over my garden. I should take a picture of them and send them to that monk who sent me a letter telling me she died.  I never knew she was a Buddhist.  Didn’t know she was sick, don’t believe she is really gone.  The Big Smile lilies don’t make me smile anymore they only make me sadder and make me miss her more.

The only thing that kept me going yesterday was seeing that finch and I was almost happy again and now I am trying to think of what else happened yesterday because yesterday I took a very long journey into something and somewhere that I have to finally understand.

The walk to town was very hot but then I liked it.  Liked the hotness liked the adventure of wondering whether or not I would die from the heat…… I wore a scarf and straw hat.  I wore loose pants and top.    I passed deserted gardens… but many stupid men were still working on the big new houses and tiny new yards and there was a bit too much sawing and buzzing… then later the bank it was so dark and cool in there… the tedious business of banking over and then waiting for the bus and the man I see so often hatless and sun- glassless– he was staring straight up at that sky… with a shopping bag sprawled out on the bench as though it was a cool 70 degrees.  Old people do love the heat sometimes.

On the bus there were two young girls.  One had incredibly long legs like slender reeds and they were so young and blemishless, hairless, and the other girl I recognized from the morning route I take to work. Thinner than a reed and blond with braces.  The face bones of a soon to be beauty.  Always wearing barely nothing even when it’s forty degrees…. School is out and they were off to the mall probably as we were heading west.  I suddenly wanted to call out to those girls, to tell them hello or goodbye I may not see them ever again and they reminded me of something.   I worried about them, those young girls with their long bare summer legs going out into the world alone.

The walk home hot and hotter still but I passed the cemetary which always cools me down calms me down and I thought of getting lunch or a drink or an ice cream before heading home,  but I wanted to walk in the park more, and hoped it would be deserted so I could think.  I saw all the bicycles strewn on the ground yet there was an almost deafening silence and then like locusts the screaming began.  Swarms of children like bees everywhere.  The children even were hot and some were sprawled on the benches like sleeping drunks.   But others running around and playing ball. They were near your memorial tree and I so wanted to visit you but walked instead onto the open grass under the searing sun and then I smelled something so powerful so fragrant like gardenias, magnolias or jasmine.  Surely it could not be.  I thought the season long over.  A blooming Linden tree about 15 or 18 feet tall overflowing with flowers.   I ran and stood under it while the boys were playing ball about twenty feet away and one was discussing his  father’s big boat or car, others were talking baseball and I wondered why they were not under this intoxicating fragrant thing that I was standing under.  And then they all disappeared.

I was again in Nabokov’s story, that he wrote of a summer day so long ago…and still I do not know the name of that story where he said everything there is to say about a summer day.  A hot summer day when everything sizzles and stops and stuns and the bees even are in shock and still and the feeling of something stirring in your very brain and heart and feet, a slow disease forming, a frothing of your mouth like dogs, a decay of the mind your feet and heart and very blood disappearing.  I grabbed as many flowers as I could and breathed in to resuscitate myself, to arm myself, to strengthen myself, to anaesthetize myself, to opiate myself, to help ease myself into the tunnel of delirium.  From which I do not want to return.  Ah the Linden smell… I still see that old woman in Berlin again wandering around that open air cafe draining old glasses of Curacao.

I was in the Nabokov mind the Vladimir and Vera summer of 1956  Colorado California Road trip butterfly times.  It was some kind of beauty that he captured the beauty of a summer day the sizzle of heat the terrible heat, the exhaustion of all the dried grasses and flowers and all the falling and decaying leaves from the dying trees…..the smell of it all the smells and sounds of dried things of summers and winters and springs that never came and all the rain and rain and rain.  And in April in the middle of the daffodil and hyacinth season a snowstorm…. yes I have a picture of it here on my phone and I can smell it like perfume.  The heat of 150 summers since the buffalos roamed.  Can you smell it?

I seemed to smell it the blood and bone of it the tiny white flowers of it. The loathing and the yearning and the inevitability of it.  Drowning.  Knowing one day that geyser you dreamed of in the park in 1999 is coming.  But the girl in the blue sweater standing by the waiting car will not be there.

I wonder now why I never discussed this with my mother.  So often she looked at me with that look so quizzical so wanting so needy wanting what?  My company?  My Mind?   My tiny afflicted soul?  My time?  What what what did you want?   She wanted maybe to tell me she had the same dream and that one day I will know what it means….

So I see her now see her in the sky the configuration of it ten years ago I think it would be 2009.  Two years after it hit.  The money drained down the tubes. Work quit. Trying to find my mind my heart my body my soul again.  Trying to dream at home instead of the train station that was taking me to commerce and filthy money and people walking back and forth aimlessly by my desk.  One of them escaped with his family to China.  Better there than here when it hits he said.

It was a procession then a procession up there in the sky back in 2009 and it was giving me a signal.  It was about to start.   I got it just as it was starting to move.  The sky was so lucid that day and the clouds were so vast and white and lavender and there was that something blue.  Like this larkspur.    That makes sense because it grows in large masses now in the driveway, as though some big hole in the heavens opened up and it spilled out just for me.

I am on my hands and knees all day gathering it still.  In the searing sun unearthing the blue treasures with my hands and my hands are getting all bloody and my knees are scraped and bloody too and my face is getting red and brown from being in the sun so much and the larkspur that is growing now like a pool of blue water that some fortunate people can still swim in without loosing their flesh.  Like in the movie “Blue Lagoon”.  Roger Ebert called it one of the stupidest movies he had ever seen but I watched it the other day and it was worth it just to see the blue water and the fresh juicy fruit growing everywhere and how delicious everything looked.  The fish that they speared and cooked immediately over a fire on the white sands how crispy fried delicious and what succulent fish flesh!

I want to swim in the blue lagoon I want to fish and swim again in blue waters under blue fragrant skies that I swear even existed in Detroit Michigan!  I want to eat guavas and papayas and mangoes and strawberries and black raspberries and coconuts and pineapples though I would have to be in three different countries all at once or find a really good fruit market.

So that was it then in 2009 I had a chance… the procession there was easily reached even by my hands and feet and I remember looking up and everyone else was looking down at their ph0ne like they did during 9/11…. I had forgotten my phone that day I hardly looked at it even when it was in my purse I was wondering what they were all looking at they were all so silent.   I remember no one said anything and I thought good now I can read.   It wasn’t until I got to work that all the commotion and screaming and yelling started and still I did not know.

I never know I never know anymore what anyone is talking about and I don’t care because the finch last night and that weird little bird told me all I need to know.  Oh and I forgot I also wandered around in my nightgown in your garden.  I hardly get dressed anymore or maybe I was dressed and then undressed and went to bed and sleepwalked downstairs because you know I hear things sometimes…. I wanted to see what it looked like in the dark.  But your garden is lit up like a circus from your next door neighbor’s garage and house and side lights… there are lights everywhere and I swear I thought I heard your newly planted trees crying.

So I ran back to my own dark garden but it was light and then I saw there was a very bright moon and I wanted to blow out the neighbor’s lights and tell them they don’t need them because the moon is so very bright at least a few times a month.   The night was silver like a moth like a song like an aluminum planet like a star as though you were inside mercury seeing miracles on Jupiter and Mars….it was so hot and late and silvery and I thought I saw a police car and ran back inside and then back to my garden…. because women in nightgowns should not be wandering the streets late at night staring at the moon.

It was so late and time to sleep but I was not sleepy.  It has been so very hot and humid all day and I did not want to go in because now it was cool and fresh and quiet and breezy and the lack of human interference Divine.

I did not want to go in and then it bit me– the mosquito.  All night long.. long after the weeping Chinese neighbor whose husband just died left me…. I sat out and looked around my garden and it got bigger and bigger and darker and I sat there all night because I wanted to be with the fireflies.  I have seen them flashing by in and out of the garden now for two weeks and had to be there among them.  And I sat in the chair in the corner by the fireplace and the lightening bugs kept flying by and I thought I heard them singing and not one mosquito bit me and I know there are thousands of them out there….. as though some one said “Leave her alone this one night”……I saw each and every flower and leaf and stem and even all the blues and lavenders and pinks and chartreuse and different shades of green because your eyes somehow adjust they transform they bend down to meet your every need and I could have sat there all night long……

I still smell the linden blossoms and they should not be out they are a June flower but every thing is either too early or too late… the birds know it the raccoons the possums the squirrels the deer even the rats know it…. the time is coming……soon.

I should have listened then in 2009 I should have let my mind be set free let my limbs relax at my sides let my breath elevate me as I was waiting there on the platform for the train at the station.  It was exactly the right time and place and it was calling to me but I did not listen.  It would have been as easy as soaring over the trees that you do in those flying dreams….

The clouds were in a procession and they changed from fish to birds and fish to birds again and then some big reptilian thing and I remembered wondering why I was seeing dinosaurs in the sky… I remember wondering and wondering what it was but you can be so breathless looking up at the sky at the clouds that become mountains in front of your very eyes…. I should have listened paid attention to the signal the signs the slow elevation of my soul what was left as I stood there on the train platform going to nowhere I should have noticed that the creatures had turned into whales great blue whales rising up from the earth’s seas and they were now in the skies in the far away blue lavender skies and one of them was you my own dear mother calling to me… coming to me finally to say hello and goodbye.











Posted in Always the Garden, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Was it the Scrambled Eggs, the Sun, or Yellowjacket lying on the Windowsill?

I don’t know why but I feel happy again.  This morning.   I did not sit in the chair by the red Chinese lamp brooding.  Staring out the window missing the massive Elms that used to rise up in the air like bedraggled ghosts of forgotten Kings. Their branches like fingers, raised high almost screaming.  Begging.  Total supplication to God in heaven, to blue skies gone, to the blinding neon sun that is always seething.

I woke up like I always do, full of the same worries and sorrows, but today there was something stirring.  Even though the waters are still gushing and all the massive snow is melting from dirty mountains along the sullen streets and sidewalks.  The weather still erratic like a schizophrenic psychopath.

There was a calm and steady presence in my house.  My heart.  The sun was shining, melting everything too soon in dirty greys and yellows, but wonderful and good somehow.  That little shrub I planted in the garden…. so quickly and so late– I found myself staring at it all morning long, as though it was even now growing, somehow healing the scalded streets, the cracked sidewalks, taking up all the drenching rain into small and slender roots, healing my broken heart, even all my secret aches and pains.  Secret even to myself.

I neglected doctor’s orders, tore up the healthy morning list, and scrambled three eggs.  With green onions, tomatoes, and the wrong kind of cheese:  Parmesan.  It had a milky nutty far away smell like a sad cow, and yet I was so very pleased with these slow cooking silky scrambled eggs.  I put a piece of bread in the toaster that was making a rather squeaking noise, and feared a mouse would pop out like years ago when my mother put in a piece of bread and out came a tiny, charred, once living thing.  It seemed a bit funny not sad.  How life can make toast from a mouse.   I am sorry little mouse for your pain.  Hope it was quick and I promise I will never forget you again.

The sun then, it was shining in such a very different way.  It didn’t illuminate every speck of lint, dirt, dust, that the broom and vacuum missed, but warmed the house somehow in a golden way like the Wisconsin woods on a late September day.  There was a tiny bit of honey left that you gave me from your bees, and I put it on the toast.

It was late, very late when we came to your old stone house last year surrounded by the meadows and the wood.  A very cold and almost somber October day.  And now, that tiny bit of honey on the bread tasted like your meadow-sweet, your snapdragons, hyssop and milkweeds, sunflowers and lavenders, pink and white phloxes.  Your trees even, the almost soft, weathered ancient bark, that we wrapped ourselves around that misty autumn afternoon.  The acorns and the leaves, the half-eaten hickory nuts lying on the damp grass.  The leaves and wisps of tiny things like cotton falling on our heads and shoulders, almost burying our sodden feet.  I even tasted the summer roses from your Middle Eastern sweets.  The champagne that we drank from your mother’s elegant glasses, the milky blue bowls you gave us from a dead artist’s box of everlasting wishes…

The snow in the back yard is still so heavy and white and I am afraid again….for the melting floods that will come inside.  In front there is a wide swath of green where the  sump pump has been pouring out buckets of water every five minutes as though from torrential summer storms.  From another city another time another place.   And then suddenly I’m happy again.  Not worried about drowning anymore.

I have been in and out of water for twenty years, seen it gushing from the basements, the ceilings, the floors and walls, the gardens and sidewalks.. seen it burst forth in fury, gush and freeze and gurgle and melt and freeze again.  I have seen my lawn turn into ponds with happy startled ducks and geese and felt my frightened feet running back inside the house again. The water that pours on and on… with no beginning and no end… But one day it will stop forever, so suddenly, and you will mourn it like your dead mother your long lost father, your dying friends.

Still I’m happy.  The breakfast now a memory, and the chest pains coming from the over indulgence of butter, eggs and cream, the sharp acidity of the tomatoes.  I still taste the frizzled onion chars on my tongue.  Oh when will I learn not to eat so much again.  Never, never will I stop the butter and cream, potatoes and milk, puddings and mousses, the tapiocas my darling friend so loved, filled with cherries and chocolate curls, layered with hand beaten custards thick and clotted, delicate yellow, like buttercups growing in the Cotswolds stream.   I will stave off heart attack and gout, stomach pains, ulcers, the cancers  and tumors…

I will have good bones, I will have a happy paunch, a rosy glow in my cheeks like the cherries in grandmother’s basement jars, the fruit a reminder of summers long gone…But maybe they will come again.

I will savour the taste of honey from your garden, from flowers secretly starting to bloom again.  Your trees will be getting taller and stronger, and maybe I will throw my arms around them once more.

But I must wait, wait just a little while longer for February to slither by.  Such an evil little snaky month it is.  And then March.  My own Ides of March will terrorize me, that I know…. Again… like it has for so many years.   Oh March come quick come quick and then begone again!  Forget your torrential rains and winds, your cold damp terrors of the mind and heart, your early morning floggings and lashings.

Oh my legs are so wobbly like an old sailor waiting to see the shore again…

Oh March be gone.  Bring the flowers… the snow drops, crocuses, narcissus.  And then the dark blue Hyacinths, so deep so dark so startling, coming up from the mediocre grass.  They are triumphant somehow like foreign Kings and Queens heralding in a new reign, or revealing once again what we all knew before. Their perfume wafting like the incense before Cleopatra’s frozen tomb, beckoning me with a wave of fragrance to my own waiting door.

And then how quickly the happiness that was so happy can be gone.  In one instant the season changed as I walked from one room to the next.   A simple conversation with a person, perhaps a mother father brother sister or just some distant friend, can suddenly erase all happiness.  All the calm.

I walked over to the window my eyes no longer happy with the water, sky or sun and there I saw a little thing lying on my windowsill.  A dead Yellowjacket.  My new best friend.   Just lying there stiller than still.  It looked like gold dust, ancient pollen, pulverized butterflies and moths.  Was caught unawares sometime in September or that one warm day in October… flying into the window and landing on the sill.  There it was, quietly dying all winter long and I did not know.  Such a neat and pretty, filamented tiny tiger thing, looming bigger than life to my tired eyes…..  Lying in state like a dead soldier.  Its six gold dust legs crossed over as though in prayer.  Meditation. Contemplation.   So almost sweetly, tenderly, lying there and waiting.

Like the mouse the toast the little wasp, like the eggs and cream, and now the eggshells lying empty in the bottom of the trash can.  All of us waiting.  Just waiting to be born again.














Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Potatoes, Pasta and a Handful of Tears

I won’t talk about the weather anymore.  But that’s hard.  Because it makes you feel crazy when one day it’s forty degrees and the next eighty-five.  When your garden suddenly jumps up crazy wild before your eyes.   That happens here.  It happens now, I guess, everywhere.  Today is almost a year later and it is icy icy cold outside. My feet are almost glued to the worn out icy floor in this pathetic little sun room.   This post was written and discarded months ago, but here it is again like another winter, summer, fall, like another outburst of anxiety, fears and tears… But there is one thing I know and that is this: potatoes still make me smile.

It’s difficult not to talk about the weather.   There was snow a few weeks ago!  Now  the daffodils are bright yellow and in bloom all at once. It looks like someone painted the parkways with thick yellow crayons. There are thousands of dandelions where just yesterday it was snowflakes.  All the almond trees, apple trees, pear trees, ….. all of them waving their crazy petals in the wind.  Ah the wind… the wind is blowing and blowing these days….. the windows were rattling so much yesterday I thought it was creatures trying to get in.  The leaf blower demons are back.   The screens are still not up. This is such an old-fashioned little house.  Sometimes it embarrasses me, how one day it’s fine and the next it is tattered and old.  The forsythia, magnolias and even crabs are all parading their wares like gaudy flower girls.  All at once.  Before you know it the lilac will be blooming and suddenly it’s gone.

Just a week ago the fancy gardening place still had all their Christmas greens, those red sticks, acorns and eucalyptus … Today there were miles of purple and orange tulips. The hyacinth just started blooming because April was cold and snowy, and now it perfumes the garden like Cleopatra’s tomb…. but now they are shriveling up like flies and saying goodbye.  Big storm is coming very soon.

I called you today hoping to hear a cheerful voice and instead you told me you had to take 18 new pills and didn’t know how to take them and the doctor was crazy and the pharmacists were crazy and the nurses and therapist and that one doctor especially who discharged you, he sent you home with 18 new pills to take daily without instructions without warnings without knowledge without sympathy without a kind word even. You ranted and ranted so much… I know you are sick… but I couldn’t take it and just hung up.

I called a friend and she said she was sad and depressed because her dog died yesterday. I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t have a dog.  But I know people love their dogs and so I  said sorry and hung up.

I cleaned up the living room again today, after the plumbers came once again to fix the leak in the bathroom.  Then afterwards the water came dripping down from the ceiling all over the walls and the paintings and the chairs and the carpet and the floor, dripping into the basement even. They came again and were mad they had to do the work all over again.  They threw their tools angrily on the carpet and muttered under their breaths…. They blamed me. Told me I should not fill the bathtub all the way up.  They opened up the ceiling and worked for two hours and then went away in a huff without even saying goodbye. And it may be fixed but I am not sure, so I have put nothing back and the house looks like I am moving.   I can take a bath but then immediately run down the stairs and run my hands up and down the walls to make sure water is not falling.  Even though the walls are dry I rub them over and over again with my hands to make sure……. eyes can be so deceiving……The sump pump finally stopped going off in the front and flooding the sidewalk but the next two days we will have another big storm and it will start all over again. Water everywhere is the way it is now.

The only thing left to do was eat something.   There was nothing much in the pantry or fridge.  I didn’t feel like running to the store.  Thousands of May flies are out… or whatever they are, those white little things like nuclear ash from across the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, I remember hearing you say that all of you are being poisoned over there from that explosion in 2011.

There was some pasta left over from the pasta cherry tomato garlic dinner.  There was a potato!  Parsley.  Red pepper flakes.  Salt.  Fresh ground pepper.  Olive oil.  Garlic.

I remembered seeing a recipe somewhere in an old “Saveur” for potatoes with pasta and I thought it was strange then.  But I love potatoes and can always eat them.  I remembered that pizza at that place on Main Street where we went one cold and snowy March.  It had a very thin crust almost like a cracker, and paper thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes spread on top.  A faint tinge of garlic.   Crushed rosemary and pepper and salt.  Just a film of melted cheese.   How we devoured that pizza years ago sitting in front of the big icy window that winter day…. and watched our friend walking by to meet us… while we were stuffing our faces she slipped and fell on the ice right in front of us…. we were momentarily startled but it was so delicious we just kept eating the potato pizza while she got up alone and dusted herself off. I don’t remember her at all but I still remember the taste of that pizza…….those creamy yellow fleshed potatoes slightly caramelized at the paper thin edges…..

I took that one lonely but beautiful potato out of the straw basket, almost crying with joy to have found it there, alone and smooth skinned, pure and whole,  just waiting for me on that cold cold day… like a miner finding gold I felt, like a miner finding gold…… I sautéed it in oil.  It was a russet and I cubed it.  I was too lazy and tired and depressed to peel it.   I might have even left a little dirt on it, maybe a few cobwebs, bits of straw….I stirred for a few minutes and added chopped garlic.  Lots of it.  Three or four cloves and I would have added more but I was too lazy.  Chicken broth would be good… to hasten the cooking and to give it more flavor, but I didn’t have any so I added a little water and covered the pot.  The potatoes cooked up.  A chopped onion would have been good too but I didn’t have one.. When the potatoes were tender I added red pepper flakes and ground pepper and salt and then mixed it with pasta (spaghetti ) but orecchiete or some other shape would work too…. even those little butterfly bow things. Then I stirred it gently and chopped some parsley…lots.. and sprinkled it on top.   I sat down to eat. The potatoes should have been cooked a little more, they were slightly too firm but with a potatoe you can do little harm…. oh it was so earthy, salty, peppery, savory,  tasted like someone’s farm… tasted like my mother’s chicken soup even though there was no chicken, tasted like rich black Ukrainian dirt before the wars….. like the potatoes I used to grow back of my garage when this place was new and fresh and clean and good, and all the trees were huge and I was happy.  The calm, peaceful, and charming elm lined street when one or two cars went by instead of a highway.  I ate those potatoes like a ravenous farm hand, like an 1870’s cowboy, like the starving little match girl.. There were so good, so gentle and so kind… And after I ate every single bite I saw a pool of  viscous liquid at the bottom.  A pool of garlic, water, salt, potato, pepper flakes and parsley.  Mixed in with a handful of tears.  And I ate that too.

















Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 4 Comments