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Hidden

You hide

from me

I look within

I look without

I wait

for some whisper

some assurance

you are shrouded.

But even your non-Presence

is a throbbing Presence to me

You are the Mysterious One

I cannot control

compel

but your very absence

is like a beguiling aroma

that beckons, lures, invites

but I cannot find you

nor can I anymore

use trite expressions

and explanations

Take your name in vain

by my easy answers.

So I am here

wondering why you are hidden

Wondering if you will ever emerge

in my life again.

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You

Like a stubborn shadow

you are there

My soul ducks

hides

tiptoes around

so careful not to make a sound

And still I can see

the shadowed grey

of your outline.

I stand next to a roaring train

to drown out

the feel of your steady gaze

on my back

And I feel nothing

but then the train passes

And I can feel you have not left.

To move toward you

Is to confront the hideous fears

that snap against my soul

red eyes, fangs dripping with lust

I shudder and turn away

I cannot.

But then I realize

my soul

is like a river coming to slow terms with winter

first around the edges

then creeping slowly out

until it defies even the torrent of life

rushing through the middle.

What now?

The monster or numbness?

But really

I have no choice

because still I see

that you are following me

You are saying a word to me

that makes my eyes tremble with tears

and I want to

I don’t know if I can

but

I want to

because you are You.

Junior

One cat is dying

and a new one is here.

I remember how much patience

and gentleness was needed

to restore you to life.

I remember how much God taught me

about his love for me

through my love for you.

I remember the times

when you would let your guard down

and forget to be scared

and let me love you

I try to take comfort in the fact

that you would probably already

have died on the streets

had I not taken you in.

You were such a tough little cat

despite all your fears

You made some big moves

in your life—with and without Grey.

You will always hold a special place

in my heart.

I have a new one

not a replacement

he couldn’t be more different

He’s not afraid

he’s fearless

and courageous

and loved me right away

But maybe God holds special too

the ones that have to be wooed

that are fragile and scared and uncertain

Maybe he holds those close to his heart

because they need a little more protection

a little more love

I’m so sorry you are suffering

I’m so sorry I cannot be there

the one human you trusted

at the end of your life. 

The sea shell box

I just can’t get used to

this thing

that happens in life

of losing people

animals

of things that I care about

I know new gifts come

but I’ve always had problems

with releasing the old

to make room for the new

I can’t even sell things

at a garage sale

without thinking of them

in the years that come.

I remember

the box covered in sea shells

with the red velvet lining

It was one of my first

jewelry boxes

as a girl

I treasured it

and kept my treasures

in it

So many times

I tried to downsize

and part with my treasures

But I kept that

seashell box

with the red velvet lining

But one day

I tried to be strong

go through all my possessions

be a minimalist

discard sentimentalism

be strong

determined

confident

Put away childish things

So I gave it up.

I am an adult

I am almost middle aged

So why do I still think about that little seashell box?

Does it represent the person I have in my mind

I will someday be?

Does the fact that I still think about it

indicate that I will never be that person?

 

 

I am Gypsy

What would it be like

to never have the chance

to make a good first impression

Because your impression was made hundreds of years ago?

What would it be like to never be welcomed

not in school

not in the hospital

not in the city

not in church

What would it feel like

to have people clutch their bags a little tighter

when you walk by

because your skin is dark?

What would it feel like

to be turned down for a job

because they “lost” the paperwork

you had filled out twice before?

What would it feel like

for people not to want to touch you

because they think you are dirty?

What would it feel like

to have people hate you so much

they would build a fence around your home

to keep your contamination enclosed?

To threaten you, to call you names,

to allow you to live in broken down shacks and filth

while you stay warmly comforted in your house

two streets away?

What would this feel like?

It would feel like being

the most despised people group

in Europe.

It would feel like being

gypsy.

.

 

The last time

I will remember you
the way you were
when we were last together.
Pony-tail smartly bouncing
legs vigorously
eating the cratered path
as we walked
into the pink-clouded
Sierra Nevada evening.
Perhaps you were not joyful
but you were not sad
as you chattered on
about future excitements
past funny stories
moments of pride
for children’s important choices.
You spoke about the future
with expectation and hope
and I could barely keep up
with the quick stride of your legs
as if your determination and focus
would keep you safe on the path.
I did not think
anything strange
but then
you quietly excused yourself
from a planned family dinner
slipped into your room
at 6:30 p.m.
and did not emerge until morning.
I thought that strange
but the memory
of your vigorous walking
your confident, stalwart manner
caused me to brush aside
my query
and turn to
my own concerns.
And now
I can never ask you
what you were really thinking
on our walk.
Did you know?
Even then,
had you decided?
Were your words
a rehearsed script
in a meticulous plan?
Or were they
a hope
a prayer
for what could be
what you wished
might possibly be
had the darkness
stayed away?
I will never know
and so I choose to remember
the jaunty movement
of your pony-tail
embraced by the mountains’ fading glow
as the real you
the you who was
kind
sacrificial
loyal
brave
the kind of friend
everyone wants
everyone counts on
and everyone loves.
The kind of friend
whose loss
leaves me
disorientated
and with
a heavy stone on my heart.

Travel writing quotes

“Truly evocative writing flows from the writer’s ability to open the inner self, to dig in and explore what the senses reveal.  Setting down personal impressions can be a risky, vulnerable activity.  But confident writers are willing to be held accountable for their perceptions.  A writer’s self confidence endows the prose with an irresistible quality.”  L. Peat O’Neal

“The secret of the travel book is to make essayistic points seem to emerge empirically from material data intimately experienced.”  Paul Fussell

The Merton Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”.

Shadowy descent

“You’re not my friend,” he said dismissively.  “I mean, don’t get my wrong, you are a cool girl and all, but I don’t have friends.”  He said this defiantly, as a matter of pride, as if to create more of a safe barrier between himself and me.

“Well, I’m you’re friend, and my friendship is available to you should you want it.”  Just then, Willard breezed into the kiosk area.

“Hello Foster.  How are you?”  Foster didn’t so much as turn to look at him.  With a grunt of frustration and an ounce of sarcasm, Willard elaborately turned to him.  “The proper response is, ‘I’m fine, Willard, thanks for asking.”  Foster’s face twitched imperceptibly, a flicker of annoyance or anger, I wasn’t sure.  The awkwardness hung heavy around us, although in truth it was probably just myself who was internally writhing in the agony of how wrong things felt.  True to form, I became obsessed by the need to do something, anything to relieve the tension that crept through my shoulder blades and made my heart hammer insistently on my rib cage.

To my surprise, Foster didn’t leave, but stayed there making the occasional quip.  Was it his need for the leftover pastries? Or was it to taunt Willard?  Or was it an inherent need for some kind of connection with humanity?  I wasn’t sure, and I was convinced Foster wasn’t sure either.

That incident, although awkward and tense, proved to be enough of a  small fuse to incite a bigger fire.  The next day I received a call from Willard.  “The situation has escalated, ” he informed me calmly.  As he related the fact that Foster had asked security that Willard never speak to him again because he wasn’t sure what he might do, I felt an anger build inside of me.  “So security has made a deal with him, ” Willard concluded.  “He is not to come out to the kiosk and get anything free, nor speak with you during your work shift.  That his end of the bargain, and in return I will never acknowledge him or speak to him.”

What kind of insanity lurked beneath Foster’s hostile exterior that convinced him Willard was something of a threat?  What was the real issue?  It was at this point I realized that Foster’s issues went beyond “wounds from his childhood”.  Other people had a lifetime of rejection and little love, but did not end up hovering on the edge of social paranoia like this.  Oh, how I desperately wanted this story to have a Hollywood ending.  I longed for an epiphanic moment where love would break through Foster’s steel fence of suspicion and isolation, and he would step forward into further healing.  I pictured him becoming a successful screenwriter and playwright, and we would keep in touch, him telling people that my care and compassion during those dark days “was a lifeline” to him.

But that seemed to be a Hollywood fantasy, and instead I was locked into a dark drama that was growing darker by the day.  I forced myself to look at the truth that had stayed quietly in the back of my mind, content to wait until I found the courage to examine it.  I had to come to terms with the fact that Foster was using me, using me for my phone, for my connection to the coffee kiosk, using me as his payment plan, his Target.  He saw people in terms of a one way bank account, withdrawing whenever he could, but never depositing.

And yet, there were glimmers of something else, but something very small.  When I saw him reading the paper, I went over and asked him if I could borrow the front page.  “Take it, it’s yours.” he said.  That “thank you”, he uttered softly when we came back from his court hearing.  Perhaps these said nothing else but that he was a human being, capable of giving a little.   So, how does compassion fit into all this?