Monday, March 30, 2015

The Mice of Life

It is 5:17AM on a bitter February morning and I should be sleeping. But, like too many nights, I am awake and hungry for a little pre-dawn breakfast. I set up my little work space with the comforting process I know so well. Small glass bowl, whisk, spoon, preheat the pan.  I make the usual - Pamela's pancakes soaked in some of the last drops of maple syrup Dad always bought for me. In fact, when I lived in Tennessee he would bring me a gallon once a year or so, as he knew that I love the dark amber sweetness.  This, he could do for me, and know I would love it all the way to turning the bottle upside down.  So, so good. I used to eat these little beauties and talk with Dad about life, as we so often did in the wee small hours. Tonight, I am alone with my thoughts.

I stoke the wood stove and gently puff the coals back to life enough to create a flame again.  It goes out. Rats!  Again, I patiently puff it back to life. It goes out again. *sigh* Okay, this is turning into a process, so I might as well sit up for a while with the damper wide open. 

It is one of my favorite times of the day - rather, night - to sit and contemplate, well, nothing. I just sit and look at my home, co-existing peacefully with the furniture. I turn on one dim light, waiting for the fire to provide a warmer glow.  Wait - what was THAT??!!  A tiny tail disappears under my couch. Uh-oh.  I have an unexpected guest, I see.  I become the hunter.

Well, not really the hunter, though I'd like to claim that.  Nope. Not me. I just sit and watch the poor little fellow, amused at what must surely be his horrified panic.  By now, in my mind, he is already dressed like the little mouse in The Aristocats and speaks with a delightful rasp, crying,  "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!" as he scampers about. In and out of our bathroom, under the couch, to the fireplace, behind the TV...ah hah! I see him no more.

I think I am smarter than he is and grab something to place over him, should I get close enough.  I am too nervous and step slowly. As if he would attack me, right? I laugh to myself,  "He really is cute."  It seems he found an escape, to be investigated further in the light of day, behind the bricks.  How clever.  How small yet insidious, that he could sneak into a place I could not see and wreak possible havoc in my toasty warm home.

This leaves me to ponder...what other "mice" lurk about in my life unseen, until stillness and peace have a moment to breathe?  It's not like I have many of those moments these days working full-time while being a wife and Mom.  I silently vow to make more of them, as I suspect they will prove fruitful. These mice, left untended, can do far too much damage.  

Songs need room to breathe before they show themselves. Poems need a bit of, what is it my friend Marla calls it? Margin. She says we all need a little margin in our life to be comfortable. So true.  A clean border to see the beauty in a space - of time, of life, within a room - margin. I promise myself, in that moment of peace, to make more of that.  

Maybe then, I can evict some not-so-cute mice to see the beauty all around me, and perhaps even within me, more clearly.      

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Our Stars

There once was a kind hearted old gentleman, a King, with his bustling partner in crime - the Queen - helping him move about the world from chair to chair to chair.  One for recline and sleep, one for the torture of needles and pills, one to drive him about to the various doctor's chairs. Thankfully, one chair was to sit and eat the scrumptious meals prepared for him by his Queen with the silvery crown.  That was possibly his favorite, though his meals grew smaller and smaller, and harder to move from palate to stomach. 

My Dad, King of the house, was fighting the good fight.

His second favorite chair was quite likely his "Cadillac of deer stands" built for him by my brother.  How he loved the thrill of bagging and tagging - especially when accompanied by his sons or daughter.  In their hunt for the Christmas venison roast, he lay in patient wait as my brothers drove the deer to him in later years. This was after driving him to the stand on a Four Wheeler - his concession in order to continue this noble quest.  How he loved "deer camp" with the boys at my sister's home on the ancient family farm.  The beautiful stillness of this rolling countryside is a haven for the weary heart.

During deer season this past year, we had a beautiful Thanksgiving, a gorgeous turkey and all the trimmings, with duties shared to help Mom.  No longer do we all pile in to mooch a large, gourmet meal she spent three days making.  Home baked bread for sage stuffing scenting the whole house, announcing the festive occasion. A turkey fit for a king, and we the kingdom children, all gathered to celebrate. Creamy white mashed potatoes dripping with gravy. Butternut squash slowly simmered, full of the molasses goodness of brown sugar. Perfecting the table were the crudites and cranberry jelly, in the ubiquitous shape of a can, and black olives - one for every finger of those who love them. Yes, this was a complement of diversity, now considered the new traditions. Sweet potato-cranberry bake, the scalloped corn we cannot live without, as well as the green bean and fried onion casserole, dearly loved. The pies, oh the pies...what heaven in each bite! But....

One thing outshone it all.  The golden spirit no longer seated with us.  The King we all sought to hold court with, in the past year more than ever. We knew time with him was dwindling like a fading sunset over those treasured hills.  How we longed to have him stay just a few more earthly seconds! But, the glorious golden time turned to the red, then purpling dusk. So, we are left to behold the beautiful stars in the night sky.  They, our memories, shine in the sometimes moonless night, as we walk without seeing the ground beneath our feet, still awaiting the sunrise to clear our path once again.

Then, someone pulls down a star to light our way. It is in their tears, their hugs and cards, the laughing memories, the newly learned treasures others hold close, that bring us a fresh view of this gentle man.  These stars light our path until we see him again, some distant day.

He looked each of us in the eye on his last day of this wonderful life, reminding us, "Your time will come...and your time...and your time...and your time." We know he will be there smiling, free of pain, with welcoming arms of thanksgiving.

Our stars.
Our memories.
Our future.
Our Dad.