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

Sleeping in a Bed of Incense

Oh someone is breathing down my back again.  Sending icy chills down my spine.   I can feel them even in my stomach, lungs and heart.  What’s left.

This dark dark week when I feel like I’ve already been sent to my coffin.  There I am in the dark with no escape in sight.   The air even, doesn’t matter anymore.

Yet here I am still playing with words, grammar, syntax.  As though that meant something.  Like leather pants in Berlin when my father died.  Fashion, like you, seemed important then.

The water outside is still running, down the half-frozen lawn, in rivulets around the newly planted cypress.. a golden one, shimmering a bit with chartreuse highlights…… that I planted too late.   I wonder if it will survive.  I wonder if I will see it sometime this April or May, when things will either be done or undone.

I am still awake and the coffee cup is on the desk and the coffee is getting cold and what?  I still taste and see and feel and worry.   About your father, my aunt, the last of the dear ones, the happy ones, the great ones… and my fallen friend so far away from me now.

I see her apple trees, her newly planted garden, smell the corn pudding she is making… see her white white teeth, so straight so almost big, so fine. All of them shaped exactly the same, like in that Philip K. Dick novel.    That perfectly red mouth without lipstick…. tiny crinkled nose… always crinkled because she is always smiling…… those big white teeth are like big white stars.. if stars were white.  You might start a new trend my darling.

What do you do when there is a triumvirate of sorrow, who do you mourn, who do you call, whose hand do you clutch, what tears do you turn on and off on and off… I had to look it up that word and this word and that word and this word and realize English is no longer my language.  Nor Spanish… Ukrainian.  I have no language anymore and soon will not speak.   I cannot speak.  I do not know sign language.  I no longer play music– sound bothers me.   I like almost no one.  I love almost no one.  No, nothing.  I like nothing.  I love nothing.  Because there seems to be nothing.  Because I cannot speak and cannot think or feel.

The sounds  are intolerable.  Door bell.   Phone, the one that still rings like a bell.  Iphone.   Knocking.  Tapping.  Buzzing.  Tings. Bings.   Needles zizzling on papers.  Wheels on gravel driveway.  Alarms for fire gas or electricity.  Sirens.  Ovens.  Microwaves.   Neighbors taking in garbage cans.  Garage doors opening and closing.  Mailboxes.  Mailman, when he stops suddenly to read something on the doorstep.  I can almost hear his breath, his sighs, hear his footsteps on the icy steps, the crunchy grass…. Dryer.  Washers.  Furnace.  That thing is humming louder and louder these days and is about to explode.   Fire drills.  They still have them Tuesdays across the street.  Garbage truck.  Banging on the door. Glass storms.  The idiots who don’t think a doorbell is enough.  Sometimes they have a dried little chocolate cake to give me and if I don’t answer the bell, they bang and bang until I open the door.

I saw that little pound cake the other day, still swaddled in the saran wrap. A few days after your funeral.  Oh how I wanted something sweet, luscious and moist and chocolatey.  Very deeply sweetly rich  and, almost, just almost, slightly pudding like just very very slightly mind you… like the sumptuous cakes that cook created in those far away kitchens in Victorian England.  The “Upstairs Downstairs”  kind of cakes like my mother made.  I cut a slice quickly and shoved it into my mouth… dry, powdery, sweetless, saltless, moistless, denseless, sandlike gluten free misery…..made by those cute little girls supervised by a mother who knows nothing about cakes…… oh I hope they never knock on my door again!

And then I called you yesterday, my friend, who I have not seen in a thousand years because really I think I have already lived two.  Wishing you a happy birthday… You said you were cleaning and washing your hair.   Cleaning is good.  I have cleaned this house often lately as though knowing that soon someone would not be here,  strangers will walk through it, and I fear they will not remove their shoes.

Shoes.  Suddenly I no longer want shoes.  I want to feel the icy floors beneath my feet.  I wanted to walk on the river yesterday but it was not yet frozen.  It looked black and dirty.  I thought I might see interesting animals or birds or even a ragged branch with leaves trailing down into the water like last year.

No, even the river is hiding its charms.  Its denizens long gone.  It only sends icy chills up to me, while I stand there on the bridge and I am searching searching… That bicycle is still there.  The one I saw seemingly floating in the water.  A red white and blue bike. What an ugly trio……  I never saw a bike in the water before and wondered how it got there.  There was no person floating along…  Just an old rusty basket with a collection of dead leaves, and the bicycle emerges and disappears depending on the weather. That big American Flag is still flying outside the antique store on the corner and lately when I walk by, I slap it.  It’s so big and wide, hanging so low, down almost to the ground, and often hits me in the face when I walk by. It seems to be taunting me… daring me to walk by.  So I slap it first.

I don’t know how anymore to get through the nights.  The fear of phones ringing doors banging door bells and cell phones and texts and emails running down the screens like ragged tears ragged fears all my anxiety tangled up in languages I don’t speak or read or understand anymore.

I ran out in my summer sandals and moved the sump pump hose further down the lawn, that thing is gushing again pumping out water for days and days and the whole house is shaking again.   What does it want, this house?  What is it finally telling me?  When will the infernal banging and clanging and animals thrashing against the door end?

Why is the night so long now?  Why is the day full of the same?  Why is there no more sleep and why is it so hard to breathe?

Your voice suddenly got all garbled and tangled up like soggy ropes and then it was thick and low, gurgling like a dying monster.  I thought maybe your teeth fell out.   I remember once when we were in college and waiting tables for that animal, your teeth fell out.   Just as you were waiting on that rabble of leering men who always called you their beautiful stallion.  You had to rush to the back covering your mouth and it was a long time before you came back.  Then you resumed taking their orders.  They always wanted that disgusting fake sweet and sour borscht.  It must have had a pound of sugar in it. Made by that bulbous, sweaty, foul-mouthed cook in the dirty t-shirts.  Years later I still smell the stink of him, his face, his mouth, his words….  You kept talking to me as though everything was normal as though I actually heard you, heard a human voice and I kept asking what was wrong with your phone because you sounded like that child in the “Exorcist”.  It was raining you said, and the phone never works in the rain.

I left you to wash your hair and wish I could do something simple like wash clean vacuum sweep cook or sleep.  Oh how I just want to go to sleep sleep sleep.

I tried dreaming of lilacs, meadows,  clean sheets,  spring flowers… the bulbs I planted.. food, all the delicious things we will eat tomorrow when you arrive full of hope and fun and what what what?   I barely know you barely know anyone anymore barely know the day from night the summer from winter from fall.  Don’t recognize the rivers or lakes my street that I walk on what is this?  Why is it so ugly here?

The sea of cars finally have done me in and I want to crush them with my hands seer them with my eyes watch them explode from the face of the earth, the universe… like land mines……

I want to go out into the half-frozen garden and plant a thousand trees and shrubs. Very tall and very wide. Every kind of tree and evergreens pines junipers cedars …the trees that will cover up everything and everyone and then all I have to do is look at the sky…

I feel you there one state away… I feel you there two countries away  I feel you there 2,000 miles away and only if only you could walk with me now on the frozen river feel how nice and cool it feels on your feet how smooth how you can glide  far away far away from all this sorrow.

I can’t sleep I can’ sleep ..  I am so afraid

The last time I was so afraid was when you got lost and missed your plane and we didn’t hear from you for days and then some angels were here, and they held my hands and we prayed and prayed and prayed and then they had to leave to get some rest and I was alone here in these rooms oh where oh where do I go and what do I do?  I was tired of clutching my throat tearing out my hair eating up my eyes and I went upstairs and found that little carved Jesus the one with the heavy lids covering his eyes, just the right size to put in my hand and hold there.  The wood very old and hard and yet, almost supple.  The carver had made the features very carefully so that it was sad but not too sad, old but still young, strong yet frail.   I remember clutching it, that little man from Oaxaca that you gave me my friend, and found there my little saviour my Balm of Gilead my Ambien my morphine my opium my steaming cup of kindness my salve for my tired wide awake burning eyes.

I grabbed that little statue once again,  like I did last year, and held it tight and went to bed and prayed and prayed  for I don’t know what anymore.  Sleep, death, forgetting, vacuum, emptiness, no eyes in the sockets, no head on my feet…..And I woke early in the morning still holding it, noticed something different about the room, a great calming silence filled the air. The light had not come in yet but there was a very faint fragrance like old wood, dried Christmas trees still faintly chiming, the old ornaments slightly moving as though someone breathing lightly somewhere in this room, making the tired needles fall on the old carpet shedding their fragrant tears… sweet smoke, mysterious perfumes of cedar, bergamot and dying leaves, ashes and tears, screams of pain, and sourness the kind that comes from fear and sorrow and the worst kind of anguish…And I looked at the face that I was holding, wondering how I managed to hold it all night long and the fragrance of the room was still floating all around me and the sad and sorrowful wooden face was no longer sad and sorrowful.

I held it in my hands for a long time and lifted it up to my face to capture that sad and sweet elusive fragrance, something so far away and yet very near like the scents still clinging to the bottles of Shalimar, Caleche, Mitsouko… all of them swirling around the room still breathing through the glass and they mingled with the scents of the candle downstairs still burning, the pine centerpiece still exhaling, scents of old forests dying, and I heard my own breath moving in and out of my lungs quietly but surely still exhaling, and still I wonder and wonder and wonder like someone looking up at the far away galaxies and wondering about those stars how high up how strange how beautiful how exciting they all are… how I still want to see them there up high, when I walk out at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., my favorite time now the dead of night, when everything beautiful is awake and breathing and the sky out there even is crying sighing and what what can I do looking here at this face that someone carved for me years, or was it decades ago?  Words again fail me, thoughts, words, desires of saying something… all of it fails and fails and fails and the only thing left at all is to clutch this face look at these almost bulging lids closed in sweet but terrible repose, filling up but holding back so many tears and tears and tears and wait, just wait for the great release the great escape the great final exhalation of air that one day will quiet all of this turmoil this evil this greed this final corruption that is drowning each and everyone one of us, each and every thing of us, until the day we understand, truly understand the meaning of those tears.




























Posted in Bus Stop Stories, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

When Your Mother Had Holes in Her Socks

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. today.  And I don’t know anymore if today is really today.

What is today.  Not even sure it merits a period or a question mark.  Or maybe just a blank space.   All the things that rhyme with it.  Tokay, Hungarian sweet wine. Maybe it does maybe it doesn’t.   I remember that.  Bringing it to someone’s Christmas party.  Or maybe it was a birthday.  It’s a sweet wine and that does not interest me anymore.

There is a bottle of Sauternes in the basement.  From 1989.  I saw it there the other day wrapped in an old rug someone gave me years ago.  The one with the hunter green background and pink hummingbirds.  I read somewhere that I should have opened it about ten years ago, or maybe five.  It is drinkable now and not to hold.  It was drinkable. This bottle will not get better with age. That alcoholic poet/ waiter gave it to me.  Other than this bottle, 1989 was a good year for Sauternes. The year my father died.

Whenever I look for a recipe for some holiday dinner and I go rummaging through my old “Gourmet” magazines, all the good recipes are from 1989.  Odd.  But true.  As though his death made everything taste better.  As though his ashes enriched the soil, made the plants grow taller, stronger.   The recipes full of interesting, complex and rich ingredients.  And I make it and weep a little.  My father would appreciate that Sauternes.   Taste his own ashes in it.

Sauternes is sweet.  But that is an understatement.  It is not sweet like candy.  Sweet like kisses.  But sweet like air, water, soil, somewhere, that magically produced this grape.  It is supposed to have a hint of apricot or peach or honey.  What kind of honey?  The jar of honey that is standing on the kitchen table smells like insecticide.   That Sauternes is to drink with goose or duck livers.  Foie gras.  The food of murdering souls.

I always identified Sauternes with murder.  Rich, lavish, decadent murders. I think I’d rather just eat a real peach or real apricot.  Or a spoonful of unpoisoned honey.

I always thought you and I might drink that Sauternes with a delicate tort or something less evil, something more divine.

Maybe something dry and ascetic like a Carr’s water cracker.  A thin communion wafer.

Maybe we could just sip it in the open air.  Summer is too hot and spring too uncertain.

A nice cool forest would be nice.  Even a snowy field.  The one we crossed once skiing in the dark or was it early morning?

It might be nice to sip it on a mountainside in Switzerland over dinner with cold friends wearing freezing pearls at one of your dinner parties.  And the snow would be falling on their bare skin and the Sauternes might keep them warm until the fires start and they could open up their presents.

My feet are so cold now sitting here in this ugly little room. The one the engineer built in 1939.  What a time to build a house here on this vacant German farm land.  The religion and codes all gone.  The apple orchards gone.  The wheat rotting in the back yard replaced by ragged Viburnums.

I put on some old socks hurriedly to protect my cold feet.  But I feel the icy floors anyway.  But my socks have no holes in them.  If a sock has a hole in it I just throw it away.  Shameful I know, but that is my one extravagance. Throwing old socks away. Because my mother never did.  I remember visiting her one day.  She was sitting on that old silk couch and staring at me and I looked at her and shrieked.  “You have a hole in your sock!”  And she shrugged as though it was alright.

“A hole in your sock, a hole in your lungs….what’s the difference?”

I have no idea why I am thinking now about my mother and the holes in her socks. That she never bothered to mend.  That beautiful evening dress I bought her that she stuck in the back of her closet.   All “schmatas” she said.

My father on the other hand never had holes in his clothes.  Because he never really wore them.  Buy him a shirt he hangs it up in his closet.  Buy him blue silk pajamas he puts them in a drawer.  He wore an ugly red robe day in and day out that terrorized us.   We thought it looked like a devil’s robe.  It was bloody red like the White House Christmas trees.

The animals are trying to get in the house this morning.  I heard something banging against the back door.  A racoon or possum or maybe a great big bear trying to force its way in.  Instead of checking it out I just pulled the blinds tighter.  It stopped then, the noise.  Just stopped like a bear getting bored with you and going fishing.

There are always weird tracks in the back yard.  Tiny claw like ones and big wide ones like snowshoes.  Big and fat ones like pudgy fingers gardening in the dark.

Like stars collapsing on the lawn.  Like ducks falling down.  Like gnomes walking around.  Like my mother coming to peer into the windows and leaving holes in the garden.  Maybe for me to fall into.

That bottle of Sauternes is waiting. Waiting for me and the moon and some light refreshment.  Something you can eat on the run or in the dark. Something light to take with you while feeling the snow the rain the everything of this night.  And maybe catching whoever is pounding at your door.























Posted in Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 7 Comments