Monday, December 31, 2007

last thoughts on an old year

i have a little new year's eve ritual that i began in high school, lo these many years ago.

today as the sun sets, i'll take my 2007 calendar and read through it - remember the good days and the bad. i'll set it on my shelf with my other calendars from past years. a calendar becomes rather like a companion, i've found, and i am loathe to give them up. i look at them from time to time, retrieve old wisdom, relive old memories of days i thought forgotten, remember old friends.

why the wallow? well, why not? a good wallow is good for the soul, i think... this year i may even drop a few old friends a line they're not expecting - just maybe, for auld lang syne.

may the upcoming solar year be one of peace, hope and abundance for all... may our Work this year be dedicated to the alleviation of suffering, and the Good of All that Is.

and furthermore, the war Must end. blessed be.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

the bigger they are...

...the harder they fall.

for weeks now, i've been feeling the fatigue building in my bones, the kind of bone-weary soreness that only long days spent in bed freed from every obligation can cure. it's a fatigue i've been fending off with baths and naps and teas. since august, i've been running a marathon of family obligations, writing, readings and general tending. i could feel it building, cresting, peaking over christmas. it was only a matter of time, i knew, before some nasty little bug leaped aboard and my body saw the opportunity to collapse.

it's ironic that i should get a chest cold.

do you think maybe Someone is Suggesting i need to stop and catch my breath? ;)

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 28, 2007

my best present

the idea of "a best present" is not something i really like. best and worst, good and better, bad and worse, are such relative terms and there's always a giver behind a gift, a giver with feelings. there's really only one right answer to the question "what gift do you like the best" especially if its being asked by someone whose given you a gift. "yours" is usually what i say.

we had a bit of a bad moment on christmas, and typically, it was precipitated by something involving me. meg and libby - my two youngest daughters, ages 20 and 14 - took it upon themselves to give me a port-a-crib. i was at first perplexed why they'd give me such a thing, and then insulted that they did. (i'm as happy a grandmother as anyone, but i don't need it under my tree.) i thought i was remarkably restrained in the expression of my displeasure - it WAS christmas, after all. they thought i was mean.

have no fear, dear reader - the dust is settled, the tears are kissed away. mother's feelings and children's intentions have been recognized, validated, and appreciated. amends, in the form of a new present, have been offered.

but the ironic thing about all this, is that the two who gave me the worst present also gave me the best. no further is gift is necessary. this christmas, my two youngest daughters gave me the greatest gift of all.

under the most intense pressure, at some of the most pointed provocation, they responded with grace and dignity, kindness and hospitality in a way i could only have hoped they would. my mother in law loves her son, but in her aging, she exhibits the very worst of my mother - a tendency to over-dramaticise, and an in-your-face bluntness that has no regard for anyone else- with the very worst of my grandmother - manipulative, infantile, and deceitful.

and my daughters were right here in the trenches with me. they were unfailingly cooperative, kind, and helpful. libby gave up her bed. meg gave up her privacy. this was as much their holiday as anyone else's, and yet, they were able to set their own feelings, their own wishes and wants and desires aside, not for Beloved's mother - but for me.

yesterday i overheard Beloved ask meg what she thought about christmas, given all the chaos and tumult and comings-and-goings. i braced myself. my children aren't rude, but if you ask them an honest question, they tend to respond honestly.

"are you kidding?" said meg. "it was great."

"best christmas ever?" asked Beloved.

"best christmas of them all," answered meg. "it was great!"

in that moment, i knew that among whatever mistakes i've made and will continue to make, i've done Something Right that will continue to echo down the years and across the generations. there is no better present. ever.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

the most christmas-y of christmases

the stockings are drooping in front of the fireplace, the christmas tree is looking just a tad tattered. the mountain range of presents that extended from one end of the room to the other has melted away like spring snow. the cookie jars are filled with broken bits, the cakes and pies are crumbs. even the leftovers are gone.

as Beloved said, it was the most christmas-y of christmases.

all that remains is to dismantle the decorations, wash the dishes, steam the carpets. a mini-house cleaning, some smudging and saging, and it will be time to settle in for a long winter's nap.

the snow's piled like white fleece at the bases of the trees, drifts over Beloved's jetty like a blanket. come sleep, it seems to say.

and i will.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

how i lost my best friend

my best friend in all the world died a year ago yesterday, after battling colon cancer most of the year. she was diagnosed in february, went through chemotherapy in the spring, and had a remission in the summer. when the cancer returned around her birthday, she decided not to endure a second course of chemo.

although we were supposed to see each other for her birthday, she wasn't feeling well enough. ultimately i had to say goodbye to her in a letter. sent the letter in october. i spoke to lorraine for the last time on november 1, 2006. it wasn't lost on me that it was the Feast of All Saints. i knew as i hung up it was the last time i'd speak to her. just come and say goodbye, i remember i thought as i hung up. just come and say goodbye.

but "i'll call you," she said.

when teh bedroom phone rang on my coffee table Christmas night, it should have been my first clue, but in the mixed up way of dreams, it made sense. i answered the phone and it was Lorraine. we were chatting away when i realized there was soemthing wrong about the whole thing. Lorraine was sounding much too good. "Lorraine," i said, blunt as always, "are you dead?"

i will never forget her words. "you know, annie, the hardest part of dying is staying connected to the people you love."

something distracted me and i had to put the phone down. when i picked it up again, the line was dead. i woke up immediately and saw that it was 4:44 AM.

around ten o'clock that morning, the phone rang for real. i picked it up and it was lorraine's daughter to tell me her mother had died around 5:15 AM.

it was only after her death that i was finally brave enough to admit that i know it is possible to stay connected to the people who you love, even after they are dead. i had had paranormal experiences all my life, had been doing readings for people for some time, but was always afraid to admit, to all of it. some people think im crazy or evil, some people are afraid. my family mostly shakes their heads and dismiss me as just one more eccentric writer. through my friend's final journey, i learned that dying is a process of unconnecting, of relinquishing, of surrendering, but that there is indeed a vital piece of everyone that remains, that burns, that shines, and that it is absolutely possible to stay connected to the people who have crossed.

about six months after her death, right around the summer solstice, i had another dream about lorraine. in this one, we were sitting on a white marble bench outside a grecian looking building. a pack of dogs was frolicking on the hill side. lorraine looked great. she was wearing a grecian sort of toga and gold sandals. she was always a large woman and she was still very large, but she looked happy and healthy and rosy. her dog celtie, who'd died about a year before she did, came bounding over to say hello. i don't remember what we talked about, but i remember what she said right before i woke up.

"i'm here," she said. "you know i'm always right Here."

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

fiat lux

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
- The Old Astronomer to His Pupil...Sarah Williams

in loving memory...
Lorraine Coyle Stanton
september 20, 1947 – december 26, 2006.
fondly remembered. sorely missed.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

love and joy come to you...

...and to you, your waissail, too, and gods send you a happy new year....

and so we turn the corner of the year. from here on out, the days lengthen, the light grows stronger. a fat moon beamed from the treetops, the morning stars were bright. the sky is calm and clear and silent. the newborn Sun rises just a little higher in the sky and daylight lasts just a minute more. only six, seven more weeks at most 'til pitchers and catchers report.

last night, we toasted the Season with mead, the gift of a dear friend, rich with the tang of roses, thick as the heat of summer nights, the liquid compression of light and bud and leaf.

this morning, Beloved goes to serve the poor, and i prepare the last of this Season's feasts. i have no idea how many are coming to dinner. we may be as few as ten, as many as fifteen. it really doesn't matter. the eastern sky above the treeline is very bright and very blue but the light outside my window is still dark gray.

i pour the dregs of last night's mead into my coffee cup. the word "waissail" comes from the anglo-saxon "was hel," which means "be well." in this calm before the storm, i sip and savor.

waissail – be well - my dear friends, my Faithful Readers, my fellow pixels in cyberspace. be well and blessed and loved. may you have warmth on cold nights, full moons on dark nights, and may the road be ever downhill all the way to your door.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!

Monday, December 24, 2007

blow winds blow

...and crack your cheeks...

those lines of lear's reverberated through my head last night as i listened to the winds howl, the rain slash, and stood back while Beloved dealt with his mother, his daughter and his ex-wife. beleagured was the word that came to mind.

it's always easier to watch someone else's psychodramas than to participate in one's own.

this time of year brings out the child in everyone. unfortunately, what frequently emerges first is the needy child, the hungry child, the child who is far more concerned about what he or she is going to get, than anything he or she might be asked to give. this is why my friend Mr. BIQ thinks that this time of year "us all" are involved in petition magic. this is why it is critical that that Child be met by an Adult.

because whether the Child is an inner child or an outer child, that Child must be recognized and validated, accepted and heard, in all its nasty, shameful, disgusting, messy glory. it is critical to do that, not simply for the sake of internal and external harmoney, but because once you get to that place, you have reached the place of healing, where the Magic happens, where Source begins and you end.

that is what i believe the gods/goddessess/powers-that-be want for us. they don't particularly care whether or not we are "happy." all they really want us to be are our Selves.

when the winds blow and crack their cheeks and the Child inside me starts to cry, the Mother of my Self comes forward, and wraps My arms around me, and holds me close. the first Person i take care of is always my Self. and that's why i can stand in the middle of the maelstrom.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

let the Game begin

...and we're off.

i like the timing of the holidays this year. with christmas coming on a tuesday, and the solstice on friday, i got to indulge my Self first, with plenty of time in between for last-minute prep, not to mention the able assistance of two very competent and well-trained Elves. an early thanksgiving and my brother's visit gave me a jump on holiday cleaning and decorating. cooking a turkey dinner for fourteen gave me an opportunity to run through menus, try new dishes, and create three days worth of menus for my mother-in-law's visit.

sometimes i forget how good i am at things like this.

my sister called a few minutes ago. she'll be stopping in tomorrow morning on her way to my mother's with her husband and my nephew and niece. the turkey is roasting, the fruit cake, pineapple upside down cake and pear tea bread are baked. tonight's menu is a mini-reprise of thanksgiving that includes turkey, stuffing, gravy, smashed potatos, baby peas, cranberry sauce and rolls. tomorrow i make apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake (a hit from thanksgiving) and birthday cake. i'll use the leftover turkey to make pot pie for dinner.

the Elves are foraging for the last presents as i write this. my mother in law is snoozing on the couch. even Beloved has gone to take a nap. on this winter afternoon, with the dogs sacked out on the sofa, and the house filled with warmth and sweet and savory smells.... i think i'll join him. ;)

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

blessed solstice

oh, the holly and the ivy - when they are both full grown - of all the trees within the wood, the holly wears the crown...

my favorite carol has a poignant ring to it this year for me... the hollies that were planted on the day of my birth stand inside a garden abandoned and alone. the house that's stood so many years is silent, stripped and swept. no wreaths brighten the doorways, no lights shine. if ever it was time to allow the old to pass away, to die, to be reborn, it's now.

but the cords of memory, of connection, of ancestors cut deep. here, in the deep dark hour before dawn, i weep. never again to pound those back steps, never again to charge through the door. the frame is splintered, the stairs are rotting out. the place is dangerous - it all needs to be replaced.

in blog and email and journal post, i read of emptiness, and yearning. where's christmas? i read over and's not the way it used to be... where's the magic, where's the joy? where's that Thing i used to know?

last year i lost my best friend. this year i lost my Home. what's next, i think, and i shake.

but then the candle sputters and sparks. it flares and momentarily, the tears in my eyes burst into a kaleidescope of color and pattern. i blink and the glimpse is gone. i see that the Magic is right here.

all that i remember and treasure best about the holidays i have carried forward and all that i didn't, i have discarded along the way. there are stockings and presents and food for everyone, and a place for everyone at the table. the sour and the vinegar are tolerated, right along with the bland and the sweet. what i have learned is that there is an Art and a gift in creating the celebration that's called by so many names. but whatever you call it, the Magic is mine to make.

for me, this is part of the magic of this Season, that every year i have an opportunity to create an experience for my children and my family and my friends that will burn like a warm cinder through long dark nights. and when i have passed away, like the memory of last year's lucy-tree, part of my Gift to them will be that Art, and that Magic.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 21, 2007

pixels in cyber-space

one of the many themes contained within the stories you hear batted around this time of year frequently concern the Stranger at the Door. for those of us raised in the judeo-christian mythos, of course, the Story has a particularly poignant cast - any child old enough to recite the nativity knows that the reason the baby jesus had to be born in the stable was because there was No Room at the inn.

but other cultures, other mythologies share similiar pieces of the Story - the Stranger turns out to be an angel or a goddess, or an Otherworldly visitor, usually in disguise. the two that resonate for me the most are that of Mama Pele, who frequently appears to those who would seek her favor as a querulous old woman, and those of the ancient celts, whose customary welcome demanded that a stranger be fed and refreshed before even being asked to state his or her business.

so why am i thinking about these stories?

twice in the last ten days or so, i've been told by one "anonymous" and a certain Blogger-in-Question, that i am "just a pixel on (his) screen, with no reality outside of (his) computer screen."

i was tempted to allow these statements to simply pass. Blogger-in-Question, at least, is wrong, because i was invited to peruse his blog at the invitation of a mutual friend - a friend both of us know not as pixels on a screen, but as a living breathing flesh n' blood human being. the reaches of cyberspace are bigger than BIQ's imagination, but i don't have to prove i'm right all the time.

the reason i decided to write about this was because after i left a comment for BIQ that he didn't like, he not only didn't publish my comment, but made it the very subject of a later post in such a mangled form that only the writer of the original comment would've understood to what it referred.

and i thought only slimey politicians and republicans did that.

surely not a fellow pagan, a would-be writer. surely someone who professed to walk a similiar path as me wouldn't leap to conclusions about a stranger who appeared out of the cyber-night. surely he couldn't have miscontrued my comment to mean "giving is the reason for the season, that (he) was wrong to make personal wishes, and that (he) was obviously an evil hedonist."
because that's not what i said at all. and even if that's what BIQ thought i said, he should've had the balls to publish the comment as it was written, so that others may read it as well, before mangling it beyond recognition in order to tear it apart.

i find it interesting that BIQ would waste such time and effort as a five paragraph response to me personally, and then another six paragraph blog on a mere set of pixels in cyberspace, especially considering my comment was all of five sentences long. obviously he thought my post was meant to sting.

obviously it did. the fact he rushed to such a swift and harsh judgement tells me how swiftly and harshly he has himself been judged. i don't mind he disagreed with me - one of the things he asked for in his orginal post was for "pettiness to be met with maturity."
what's sad is that my comment wasn't meant to sting - it was meant to tweak. a writer - a Real Writer, which is what BIQ aspires to be - needs a tougher skin, or at least the ability to allow what he perceives to be criticism to stand without feeling the need to respond. how's he going to survive reading his reviews on amazon, otherwise?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

silent night

i watched the snow fall late last night. the trees were black, the light was blue. the house was quiet, all was still. i listened to my breathing.

there are Mysteries for which there are no words, that can't be explained and therefore, can't be shared, at least not easily. words are such clumsy things and even though i know a lot of them, they feel like crayons in my fingers, the fat thick ones that toddlers use. this is why i refuse to take so much of so-called Sacred Scripture seriously, let alone literaly - the Inspired Word of God it well may be, but filtered through such limited human brains as to be rendered nearly incomprehensible lo these many years later.

i can no more communicate what i experienced last night than i can explain to you how my car runs or how this computer works. there is no language, there are no words, not even in my ferociously exorbitant lexicon. all i can tell you is that i knew myself Nourished and Sustained and Loved and Known, anchored and fused into the Real, to the infinite and eternal.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

hitting bottom

and so we come to the bottom of the year.

the word "solistice" derives from the latin word for standing still, and for a period of three days or so, at the solistices, the sun appears to rise and set in the same place. it is the time when the whole world holds it breath and waits, to see what happens next. it's the break between the chapters, the pause between the paragraphs. it is the space between the beats.

for me, the winter solistice period always begins on december 19. december 19 is the day my great- grandfather died. he was already dead by the time the sun rose, having slipped away into an opiated rest sometime after midnight. no one told me until i came home from school that day. he was 87. i was 15.

it struck me even then as interesting that the death of the One Who Started It All, should dovetail so perfectly with the time of year. he was old, riddled with cancer, ready, as he told my stepfather, to die. it'd been five years since he had a woman. he couldn't eat or piss or shit or breathe without pain. it was time to go.

for me, this is the an integral part of the meaning of the Season, one that we would so rather much not face. the Old MUST pass away, before the New can be born. even the good stuff of the Old...even the things you think you'd rather not let go.

this cold, dark, brittle season, barren, white as bone is as inevitable in these new england woods as death. this is what we seek to cover up with our frantic holidaying jolly-daying, i think, this harsh and unforgiving granite reality that dares us to be brave enough to confront it, the knowing, that in the end, we close our eyes and fade away like the memory of last year's christmas tree.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

miles to go

the frozen tundra outside the front door makes the thought of running errands today absolutely distasteful. i feel the full force of the call of the ancient african sun under which this DNA took shape. stay inside, it pleads... for the love of all that's human, stay inside. wrap yourself in afghans, cuddle with the dogs. bake cookies if you must. just dont step outside into that arctic waste.

if only. my day begins with a quick stop at the gas station, a visit to my grandmother, then a working lunch with laura to discuss classes and workshops for the upcoming year. i need to pick up libby by 1:45, stop at the drugstore for our prescriptions and pick up a few stocking stuffers. then on to her doctor's appt at three, and michaels the craft store after that. im pretty sure pizza is on the menu for dinner, because i'm off to the cosi girls book group at 700.

the car's already warm, i'm showered and dressed for the weather. zones 3 & 4 are fluffed and swished and swiped, the laundry's together and a list for meg is lying on the table. if i'm lucky i'll steal a kiss or two from baby jake between 130 and 145.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

who's sarah?

judy was kind enough to ask, so i thought i'd try to answer her here. the simple answer is that sarah is a character in my newest novel. my agent liked her so much she wanted me to add some chapters in her point of view, among a few other tweaks. but while i breezed through all the others, i've slammed hard into a wall around these new chapters of sarah.

maybe if i write about her here, i'll be able to write her chapters. i'm not sure if the difficulty i've experienced is simply all the distractions since thanksgiving, or if its partially the result of having to go backwards (ala silver's lure) yet again, and that's just too painful to do.

i suspect its some of both.

i also suspect its the character herself, sarah... who flits like a breeze around in my skull, tempting as a tease, promising so much and delivering on nothing.

My name is Sarah Woodwright. It's not the name I really use - not the name my mother called me, but it's the one you know me by in the story. My father left my mother when I was 3, and I didn't meet him again until I was nearly 26. For the first 23 years of my life, I thought he was dead. It wasn't until my mother died that I learned I still had a living parent. I didn't look for him until a book fell off a shelf and hit me on the head in the library where I work. It happened to be written by him, and it happened to be dedicated to my mother. That's when things started to get weirder than they already were.

All my life I've been different. I realized at a very young age I was a trial to my mother, though I didn't understand why until one snowy afternoon when I was five or six. We were driving home through an early winter snowstorm, my mother, white-knuckled over the steering wheel, me uncomfortable in my snow suit. As we slid to an uneasy stop at the corner where the playground was, I asked my mother who all the children were who were playing outside without coats. At first too distracted by the weather, my mother became quite angry when I insisted I saw children, my age running with gleeful abandon all over the equipment.

Then her face got white, her lips turned gray. Her eyes got very big, and she looked at me wiht something like horror. I thought she was going to say something, to berate me, but she snapped her mouth shut. We skidded through the intersection and when I looked back, I could still see the children, racing merrily in the snow.

It wasn't until I was eight or nine someone told me the story of how a bus full of school kids had crashed into a playground full of children one sunny afternoon in 1959.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

sleety sunday

i woke before dawn to the sound of tinkling leaves. the icy mess on the driveway sent the puppies scurrying to do their business without so much as one errant sniff. im glad i cant go anywhere.

the lamp on my desk makes a glowing crescent on the blue snow outside the window, the sleet scatters across the glass like sand. if ever a day was made to spend lying curled up on a couch beneath an afgan, curled around Beloved and a cup of hot chocolate, today would be the day.

i feel the press of obligation, the call of cookies waiting to be baked, presents to be sorted, wrapped and ordered. there's laundry to be done, dishes to be washed, soup to be started. there's boxes to be sorted, rooms to be cleaned. sarah dances maddeningly around in my head, a siren-slyph who refuses to still herself down long enough for me to write more than five coherent sentences in a row.

or maybe its only me that can't be still.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 14, 2007

happy birthday, libby jo

a two hour delay and a brilliant sunrise heralds the morning of my youngest daughter's birth. born under jupiter's sunny star, libby's conception corresponds with the sale of my first novel. there's a lot of my mother in libby - enough so that i see in her some of my mother's wounded places. it helped me to understand both of them, because in libby i have a child profoundly different from myself, and from my other daughters.

what libby shares with me is a capricorn moon. a capricorn moon suggests a troubled maternal relationship, that something necessary to the child was lacking in the mother. it is a wounding i have tried to alleviate.

like her brother, libby is one of my extroverts. unlike my first daughter who viewed the world from my arms with cool appraisal, and meg, who viewed it with outright fear, libby reached out to the world in the most endearing way from the time she was old enough to look around and coo. imperturbable in her car seat, she rode around in the back of my mommy-mobile, fascinated by her ever-revolving parade of seat-mates.

she had a few quirks though. she wouldn't sleep anywhere but in her own crib - which meant i had to make sure i was home when libby needed to nap. and she didn't like switching breasts in the middle of a nursing. if she'd been my first i would've been bewildered and probably upset by her behavior but since she was my fourth, i just resigned myself to walking around looking a bit lopsided.

the one trait that she shares with my mother in fullest measure, and that manifesed extremely early, is that libby is Organized. she once showed me her daily schedule, broken down by hour and minute. it included things like 6:15 WAKE UP; 6:20 SHOWER, 6:35 EAT BREAKFAST. most were the normal things you'd expect from the ten year old she was at the time. but sandwiched in between 9:00 BRUSH TEETH and 9:30 BED TIME she had a fifteen minute block devoted to THINK.

i tried not to laugh. there's always been a lot of the little old lady in libby. it is the piece of myself in her that i recognize the most clearly. libby, i said, what is this fifteen minutes for thinking about?

libby looked at me very seriously. mommy, she answered, don't you think this world would be a better place if everyone took fifteen minutes and just thought?

speechless, i bowed to Greater Wisdom.

happy birthday, little libby jo, from the mommy who continues to be dazzled by your light.

and furthermore the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

feast of st lucy

st lucy's day dawns pearly gray, but the sky never brightens beyond lead. the smell of snow is in the air, a brooding silence blankets the woods. school is already cancelled.

i may not get to see my grandmother. i didn't bake the cake, but i do have bananas and hard candy, fruit juice and apple sauce. i have her christmas tree, and her boots. i even have some mail.

but whether i get there or not, my recognition of the feast of st lucy doesn't really have much to do with my grandmother. the reason the catholics have so many saints in the first place is because most of them are old pagan gods and goddesses, remnants of ancient beliefs and practices absorbed by the conquering church.

tonight we will decorate our christmas tree. we will lace it with lights, we will drape it garland and cherished ornaments. we will bless it and take pictures of it, will pile up presents beneath it. this year i'll think of it not just as a christmas tree, but as a lucy tree - a reminder of the nascent spark that burns, even at the nadir of light.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

reaching toward the light

this morning was the first one in quite a few mornings that i woke up feeling at all like myself. that weird re-entry feeling, half-sickness, half-soreness, half-energy detoxification, was gone at last. i felt refreshed enough that given the early hour, i have a shot of getting half of what i'd like to accomplish on my List today done.

i have learned not to squander that feeling, that energy, that charge. the first thing i did was write enough words to flesh out the draft of the first chapter, enough words to make me realize i have a time line problem and that probably accounts for why ive felt the following chapters flowing like frozen molasses. i see that what i am looking at is potentially a prologue - a prologue that could change the tenor of the story, a prologue im not sure needs to be written.

it occurs to me i've been down this road before - the task of teasing out the backstory and fleshing it into Story was what drove me nearly insane writing Silver's Lure. but this is just three chapters and sarah is a sweet kid, not a hideous non-being changeling like timeas revealed himself to be.

i draw nine cards to see what advice Spirit offers, and read this message ...
if i am judicious in my use of time, the day holds much potential. i see the day divided, in solid chunks of time, different facets all demanding some kind of attention. this evening we plan to get our tree. tomorrow is st lucy's day - i'd like to bake my grandmother a cake in honor of her feast day. i'd like to clean up some of the boxes we dragged home. i'd like to check my christmas list and see what's left to be bought, ordered, wrapped and sent.

but i think i'll give til eleven o'clock to sarah.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the following is a real letter...

and a real description of real events that occured on the morning of December 7. i wrote and sent this yesterday at the request of Nice Guy Banker.

all names have been changed and expunged to protect the innocent, the guilty and the uninvolved.

December 9, 2007

Dear Nice Guy Banker:

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me this morning. I very much appreciate all the wonderful things you and Great Girl Banker have done over the years to help me take care of my grandmother. Because you two have been so kind and considerate, I have to say I never imagined in a million years I could be treated by an employee of the bank as I was last Saturday, December 7.

To give you some background, due to my grandmother's failing health and the five-hour distance between my home in Connecticut and Home Town, we decided last August to move her to an assisted living facility twenty minutes from us. All things considered, she's doing remarkably well, but we've had to put her house on the market, and last weekend, my husband and I spent cleaning out the place. To understand the enormity of the task with which we were faced, the place has nine bedrooms, two kitchens, two baths, one living room, one dining room, one pantry, two foyers, and an attic - every inch stuffed with a hundred years of memories, keepsakes and trash.

To say this was emotionally trying for me is an understatement, but in the course of it, we found her missing safe deposit box key. As part of taking a break, we decided to visit the bank and just for a lark see what might be hiding in teh safe deposit box. The young lady who helped us was very nice and professional. She made a point of checking my Power of Atty form to make sure I was supposed to have access to teh box. When all checked out okay, she had me and my husband sign the form, opened the locks, and handed us the box. She pointed out a room, told us we could open teh box in there, and left us alone. What she did not say, OR what I in my emotionally and physically overwrought state did not hear her say was dont leave without signing a form. It is not my intention to get this young woman in any kind of trouble, Nice Guy. It is perfectly possible she did explain the procedure, and we ddin't hear her. I don't mean to fault her in any way.

We opened the box and in it we found not gold coins or hidden treasure but naturalization papers, birth and death certificates, divorce papers and other family documents. We decided to take them all with us. We left the box open on the table. We asked for some plastic bags. Initially we considered waiting to close out the box, and were told we would have to speak with Nazi Employee, but then, seeing how busy the bank was, we decided to leave. We waved to the nice young lady. At all times, Nazi Employee was busy at her desk. No one attempted to stop us. No one waved us down. No one shouted STOP THIEF. It was never our intention to do anything inappropriate or wrong. We were in a very emotional place and really needed to focus on what we needed to get done.

We left and went back to packing. About half an hour later my husband's cell phone rang. It was our daughter calling from Connecticut. A lady from the bank had called and she was quite upset. I immediately returned the call. When I spoke with Nazi Employee, I said, " Hello, I understand there is some trouble regarding my grandmother's safe deposit box that I just came in and emptied. What's wrong?"

At this point, to say Nazi Employee launched into a tirade is putting it mildly. In the course of the conversation she threatened me with bank security, the police and the IRS. Or maybe it was the SEC. She was talking really fast and she wouldn't stop and I very quickly realized that she was very scared and really needed me to come back and since I was only across the street, which she should have realized, if she'd taken the time to read the account address, that I would do all I could in my power at that moment to do whatever necessary to rectify the situation. I tried to ask her repeatedly what time the bank closed. She wouldn't stop long enough to let me ask her the simple question that I was asking not to be oppositional but to try and be cooperative given all that I was already dealing with in terms of schedules and coordination and moving men, not to mention deep, gut-wrenching emotions.

So after I tried half a dozen times to assure her i DID understand the necessity of coming back and that I was perfectly willing to do so IF ONLY she'd stop long enough to tell me what time the bank closed... I told her to SHUT UP.

In plainest, purest, English.

Then I snapped the cell phone shut, vaulted down the back steps, and charged across the street. I sat down and waited for her to notice me. Which she did, very quickly.

I asked her who she reported to, and assured her that person would be hearing from me first thing Monday morning. At this point, Nazi Employee turned belligerent. She charged me with disagreeing her on the phone, which I most emphatically was not, she accused me of making her shake, to which I said, "Good." She threatened me in front of a lobby full of customers and bank employees with the IRS, the SEC, bank security and the police. She threatened me that she had a tape in which I told her to shut up. I said, "I'm gonna tell you to shut up again if you don't stop." At that point, after I signed the form, she started shouting and shaking her head, in full hearing of other employees, including the first young lady, "Big mistake! Big mistake!"

My husband and I very quickly the left the building and he was genuinely concerned that she was going to call the police. I could not imagine what I could be charged with except for failure to understand a bank procedure that I did not understand even existed.

Nice Guy, as you and Great Girl know, my family has done business with the Home Town Bank for over eighty years. Just because we are selling our property in Home Town does not mean we wish to sever our ties with the community. Despite the stress of the weekend, my husband and I enjoyed our stay at the Fanciest Hotel In Town so much we are considering purchasing a condo or vacation home somewhere on the island and if we did that, Home Town Bank is the first place we'd come for a mortgage.

Whatever I did that was not appropriate was only done out of ignorance and because we were both so emotionally and physcally overwrought. We never in any way intended to cause such upset. My husband is normally extremely sensitive to these kinds of things and the fact he wasn't shows just how affected we both were. Neither of us deserved to be spoken to and made to feel like criminals.

I truly believe that Nazi Employee needs to be placed in a position where her acute appreciation for detail and procedure can be utilized to its fullest degree, and where her interaction with the general public is none to extremely limited. As far as I am concerned, the young lady who initially handled the matter should be completely exonerated of any failure to describe any required procedure, because I know I was very upset at the time, and was not likely to hear or understand.

You have already been gracious enough to apologize on behalf of the bank so no other communication on this matter is required. If there is a tape of the conversation, I am quite certain that my side of the story will bear itself out. Thank you again so much for listening to me... I wish you continued success and a very happy holiday....


Meadow Soprano

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 10, 2007

one hundred years...

...of history, trash and memory...are all consigned now, to contractor bag, give-away box or moving carton. the house is swept, blessed by salt water, smudged with sage. Beloved posted very clear signs indicating what's to be discarded, and what's to be sent.

it strikes me that the ice storm last night that coated the world in white is a blessing, a Gift from Hecate. it felt good against my face this morning as i gingerly walked the puppies. the grays, the muted browns and greens outside my window this icy morning are soothing, the slickness is like ointment, keeping me cocooned in flannel and fuzzy socks.

the ice has turned to rain - the temperature is rising. in the words of my newest hero, there is a balm in gilead, there is, there is, there is.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 7, 2007

long day's journey into night...

... and miles to go before i sleep.

the lines from the play, the poem, and the melody of thunder road are repeating themselves in my head today. if this cup isn't going to pass away, then the only way out of the fire is through it. but that which does not kill us makes us strong.

how's that for a jumbled mix of metaphors?

the car is warming up, our overnight bags are packed. we have boxes and packing tape and labels. we even have a camera, in the event i can bring myself to memorialize the dissolution of it all. but it almost feels like taking pictures of a corpse.

the moon is nearly back to new. the weather is predicted to be warm, wet and rainy. i can smell the house already.

last year, i lost my dear friend. this december, i pack away and shed the place that when i went there, i knew they'd take me in. for me, for my children, for my brother, even for my mother... that house is our iconic Home. it was built by my great-grandfather. it has never, in a hundred years, been sold.

i wish it had not come to me to dismember, to disperse, to dissolve, this lynchpin. this is a fire i would so rather not walk through. to be present to this experience is to be present to its pain.

last night i had a dream about my agent. he showed up in the middle of a very sunny day while i was packing up the kitchen. he was apologizing that my books had not sold as well as he'd hoped. i remember i smiled and said, oh, that's okay - i just haven't written the right story yet.

and went back to packing.

it would be enough for most people to walk the two-edged sword of memory and necessity. but always i am conscious of this Other, this Presence who peers over my shoulder and whispers from my soul...think of the stories you'll be able to tell. tihnk of them... think of it all.

with a sadist's glee, almost, It dares me dip as fully, as presently, as completely, into the fire of this moment as i can possibly bear, because this is the stuff from which great stories spring. i glimpse the possibility of sunrise at the end of this good night. mother, if this cup cannot pass away, then grant me courage to drain it to the dregs.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

hecate, hecate...

be with me... hecate, hecate, set me free... hecate, hecate, help me know what to keep and what to let go...

hecate is not a goddess i call upon lightly. goddess of the crossroads, of trash and the cauldron at the bottom of it All, hecate's power is that of ultimate transformation. this is her season.

the air this morning is as bitter as hecate's breath, as harsh as hecate's Knowing. under her domain, all sales are final... there are no courts of appeal. outside my window, the crows, hecate's harbingers, are rioting in the trees. i feel a deep chill in my bones.

hecate has heard my plea.

i have a lot to do today - odds and ends, bits of things to accomplish before we leave tomorrow. there won't be any way i can do it all, and so i must pick and choose what i can handle on my plate. hecate's presence will not make it experience of Her is that She brings chaos in her wake. i can't afford chaos today.

i can feel the tidal wave churning - memories of boardwalks and amusements, of fudge and cotton candy, of sand and patten leather shoes. i hear my footsteps pounding up the back steps, and throwing open wide the door... i smell the sand, the salt, the oily pine linoleum of the kitchen. before i do anything else today, there is a child who must given to the keeping of some other, kinder energy before i dare harness my Self to hecate's cart.

already i hear Her whisper in my head.... hecate, hecate, help me See what to take, and what to leave...

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

what happened after that

almost twelve years have gone by since that moment.

by all the cultural norms, you could say it's ended happily. but i know that's a lie. nothing's ended - but perhaps our courtship. nothing's ended, not even our choice. i'm HERE, for the moment, but i haven't ended up anywhere. please don't write my final chapter before i do, i always think.

the choice to marry on the verge of the darkest days of the year, at the darkest time of the moon, was very much meant to recognize that the choice i make today may not be the choice i make tomorrow, that nothing lasts forever and all of us stand perched upon the parapets of time.

the Tower card in the tarot reminds us that what we hold secure, even the very ground beneath our feet, may suddenly open up beneath us when we very least expect it. to live with that razor-edge awareness lends a texture to my outlook that is not always sweet.

and the Towers, they are falling.

this friday, Beloved and i will go to my grandmother's house at the shore, to do the final sorting of her things. the house must be closed up for the winter, her possessions sorted, packed and either prepared to be moved or thrown away.

it is a cup from which i would so much rather not drink. but how fitting that at the darkest time of the year, i go into this Dark Night. the sacredness of hecate, of kali ma, the goddesses of crossroads and of trash, lie like weights around my hands. when the child in me quails, i feel Them in my fingers.

why do i have to do this? why has it come to meeeeee?

Because, i hear the whisper, hard as granite, sure as earth, slithery as serpents over sand, you are the one who can.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

how i met Beloved - part four

anyone who knows me, biblically or otherwise, can attest that i am not a prude. but i am not as a general rule a touchy-feely kind of person. im even less of a touchy-feely person when i've driven over an hour into a place i've never driven on my own before.

the first few minutes were awkward and strained. he sat and watched while i gulped a cup of coffee. i wondered why he was keeping his sunglasses on. he laughed at me for looking up.

you look like a tourist, he said. i AM a tourist, i answered, stumbling along behind.

but i remember the very moment we found each other. we went to the metropolitan museum of art first, to see a rembrandt exhibit i wanted to see. PARK gamely followed along, navigating the crowded marble corridors with sherpa sureness. we reached the rembrandt exhibit. it was hot and stuffy and crowded.

i stood in the doorway and i looked around the room. the real rembrandts were hung at intervals, interspersed with other paintings, done by rembrandt's students. i gazed around the room, painting by painting. the real rembrandts leaped off the walls, as different from the duds as a publishable manuscript is from all the rest.

a publishable manuscript sings. it grabs you by the throat and makes you not want to put it down. so did the rembrandts.

okay, i said, after five minutes. we can go.

we can? PARK asked. are you sure?

of course, i said. i saw what i came here to see.

then he smiled at me, and took off his sunglasses.

we wandered through the impressionists, murmured over monet, goggled at van gogh. we went to the former speakeasy in the village where writers used to hang and he gave me a soft, quick kiss over our first drink. in the cab on the way to dinner, he kissed me again, a real kiss and he didn't laugh when we had to turn all the way around so i could find the brand-new pair of glasses id managed to lose. what impressed me was how meticulously he'd planned everything, how closely he listened to all i said i liked. i'd never had a mini-tour of manhattan planned just for me.

we walked back toward the hotel after dinner. the streets were cordoned off and full of people. i was amazed at how well i could know this person i'd just met

on a crowded corner, he pulled me close and kissed me again. i looked up to see a policeman grinning down at us from the back of his horse. i grinned back.

this is what it feels like to fall in love, i thought.

how i met Beloved - part three

i don't remember much of the intervening days between my acceptance of PARK's invitation and new year's eve. i remember i hunkered down to finish the book. i also had to create some sort of christmas for my kids. the real reason i hadn't gone to california was that i would've had to leave them with their father - someone who was mentally, emotionally and physically abusive.

there wasn't much under the tree for the kids that year, but i didn't have to worry that someone was mistreating them.

on new year's eve, i packed them all up in the minivan and drove them to my mother's. the weather was cold but not too cold - the kind that's most difficult to dress for. i decided on overalls. under the overalls i put a t-shirt, a flannel shirt and a sweater. over top i wore my ski jacket. i figured workboots would be the most practical footware.

over a quick cup of tea with my mother, i told her where i'd be.

and what will YOU be doing at the st moritz, my mother inquired.

nothing, i said. im meeting a friend. i remember i pointed to my clothes. do i look like im dressed for a DATE?

my mother narrowed her eyes, assessing the sin factor of my attire. she leaned forward and delivered her fashion kiss of death. you know, she said, those overalls make you look FAT.

i laughed. i don't care what they make me look like, i said. i don't want to be cold.

with such parental endorsement on my appearance ringing in my ears, i drove off white-knuckled into manhattan. i like to drive in most places, but the streets of new york city terrify me.

PARK, however, used to drive a new york city cab in his youth, and so he had thoughtfully provided me with not only directions but lane changes. i was impressed. i appreciate good directions. i like to include things like lane changes myself if i am savvy enough to know about them. (ask me how to get on and off the tappan zee bridge) i remember as i read through them i felt that peculiar ping. it sounded almost like hearing a second instrument playing the same note.

manhattan was mostly gray and cavernous and empty. i turned the corner in front of the hotel and pulled up into a flotilla of mercedes and jags and bmws in the valet parking line. i looked over to my right and there he was, sitting perched on the stone rail, wearing a black leather jacket and jeans. if anything, he looked more dressed up than i did.

he came around to the drivers side of my mommy-mobile and leaned in and did the unthinkable.


and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!

Monday, December 3, 2007

how i met Beloved - part two

i can't remember exactly what it was that made me cancel my plans to go see PARKPLACE. i remember rescheduling, but those plans, too fell through. i was in no hurry to meet anyone and in even less hurry to drive over 200 miles in any direction.

i had a deadline looming ever faster.

lots of people were taking pity on me. my daddy out in california had sent me tickets for the day after xmas. i was supposed to spend ten days after christmas with him. but shortly after thanksgiving, it became very clear there was absolutely no chance i'd make my deadline if i took ten days off to go to california. plus the girls didn't want me to go.

please, mommy, please stay home, they begged.

so i cancelled my trip.

i remember commiserating with PARK the next morning online. by that time we'd exchanged photographs and phone numbers. he was sympathetic but oddly uncommunicative. i went up to take my shower and as i stepped under the water, i heard the phone ring.

that's PARK, i thought. he's calling to ask me out for new year's eve.

i was right. i called him back when i got out of the shower. you're not going to write on new year's eve, he said. come to manhattan. we'll do times' square. i'll take you to an old speakeasy in the Village - a place writers used to hang out. no strings, no expectations. just be nice.

okay, i said.

how i met Beloved - part one

we didn't expect to fall in love.

at least, i know i didn't. i was living in pennsylvania twelve years ago today, a soon-to-be single unemployed mother of four. my ex had decided to punish me for leaving him by making our divorce as nasty and meanspirited as possible, and the last thing i had energy for was another man. i was happy to dabble in dating, but i knew i wasn't looking for a relationship, let alone a long distance one. i had my kids, i had my writing, and i had a war.

one of the ways i coped was to gather with a group of sympathetic women from around the country every morning at 8 AM in our writing chat room on prodigy. the four of us would chat and drink coffee for about half an hour. it was a nurturing, supportive way for me to begin what were always trying days.

in late summer, early autumn, our space was invaded more and more regularly by a guy whose screen name was PARKPLACE. i didn't like him. he was rude, gruff, and made what i thought were snide comments, the kind that might be funny if you were a mean person. i pretty much ignored him and let the other women talk to him. i was there for my girlfriends.

so i was pretty amazed one day in september when two of the women independently of each other said to me.... i think you should talk to park.

and i said... why?

and they said.... well, you sound just like him.

im not sure whether i was shocked or insulted. BUT IM NICE! i said, when i recovered enough to type.

he's nice too, they said. he's different if you talk to him one on one. you should try it. he's breaking up with his wife and she sounds just like your ex.

so i did. i sent him an instant message the next morning. so and so and so and so said we should talk, i said. why? he asked. they said we sound alike, i answered. well, let's find out, he replied.

so we did. and they were right. our chats were full of what we have come to call EAT-AT-JOE's moments... the ones where the Universe itself leans down and makes it clear you need to Pay Attention, those little signs and synchronicities that make you Aware that Something wants you to Notice.

but he was more than two hundred miles away. i had a book due, my soon-to-be-ex was getting crazier by the month. i had no interest or reason to go to hartford, connecticut, even though he assured me he lived in the most "awesomely perfect place." yeah, i remember thinking, followed by the line from marlowe's faust: and where i am is hell, and where hell is i must surely be. im not getting out of this any time soon.

i did have a little sister finishing a masters' degree at uconn. i'd already driven up to see her once, in fact, coincidentally, in april. when PARK, as i called him then, heard that, he said one morning, almost like an afterthought... well if you come up to see your sister, i'll take you out to dinner.

sure, i thought. like im going to drive up That Hinterland for dinner. but, okay, i said. and then two weeks later my sister called and asked if i wanted to come up.

i'll think about it, i said. the drive from bethlehem to storrs had been long and tedious. i wasn't eager to repeat it. i didn't have much energy between the kids, the book and the war. but my sister is very sweet. she loves me. she was worried about me. she felt a weekend among rowdy college students would be good for my world weary soul. im not sure why.

i'll take you out to dinner, said PARK online. okay, i said.

but something happened and i didn't go.

and furthermore the war must end. blessed be!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

two years ago tomorrow

the light was blue at seven am, and that peculiar hush that presages the first real winter storm shrouded the trees. the air is thick and gray and cold. snow and freezing rain are predicted for later, the kind of icy mix that keeps me home and snuggled between my two puppies under as many afghans as i can find.

two years ago this morning, almost half a world away, Beloved and i obtained our marriage license. no one at home knew we had decided to marry.

together for ten years, we had finally gained enough trust in ourselves, each other and the relationship itself to believe that it might withstand the weight of Forever.

and so, two years ago tomorrow, we went down to the beach at 8 am on a golden hawaiian morning, to a place where a freshwater river runs off a mountain and spills down into the ocean, and pledged our vows to each other before, as reverend koko said, Everyone.

at the point in the ceremony where reverend koko spoke of the two becoming one, a wave - the only wave to do so in the entire time we stood there - rolled like a blessing over our feet. i remember how the sand pulsed beneath my feet, how the light danced on the water.

the three of us wept, even koko, whose tears rolled like the waves over the lava ridges. our witness admitted she too teared up, our photographer sweat buckets. i remember how Beloved's hands wrapped around mine, i remember how i thought to myself, yes, this time you have it right.

i remember how amazed i was by the transcendence of it. i remember how dazzled i was by the grace and simplicity and sheer pure delight of how that whole day unfolded. after the ceremony was over, we walked back up the beach and had our breakfast and contemplated calling everyone back home to tell them the news.

by eleven, i was getting a massage. so what's on your plate for the rest of the day, the attendant at the desk inquired as i signed the slip.

well, i got married this morning, i said, and now i've had a massage. i think i've done enough for today.

i remember how the echo of her laughter followed me all the way down to the pool.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

deep december

the darkest part of the year is here. the solar calendar says its still autumn, but my soul-calendar says winter is here. i heard it in the trees last night, felt in the thin sharp edge of air against my cheek this morning. the birches outside my window finally are bare, a final feast of berries clings to the brittle branches of the spice bush. ice glazes the surface of the ponds, dawn is long and gray. only the wind breaks the silence.

inside this little sanctuary, surrounded by the trees, the world seems silent, still. outside, today is saturday, there's twenty-three more shopping days til christmas. today i go to read cards, then visit my grandmother.

the new england winter doesn't seem to appeal to mama pele - in her incarnation as my grandmother, she is becoming particularly querolous and demanding. its time to offer her more bananas.

or maybe Something Else is at work. maybe my grandmother, too, feels the tug of the cold dark earth, the lure of winter sleep. the weight of ninety-five winters must lie heavy on her bones. but i think, that like hamlet, its the fear of what dreams might come that keep her from any final sleep.

i watch a watery sun blaze golden spears of light. i think i'll bring her a pineapple upside-down cake as well.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be!