Fifty-Five Years of Gratitude

img_1235-1(From a work in progress)

 

The heart knew it was 55 years ago that you last went to that restaurant with your uncle. Do you say something to him?

 

Probably not because back then you were a child who was too small to even look out of the backseat of his car and see the snow covered streets, streets with no one but children who had been forced from their home during another Sunday night alcohol fueled rage. Do you say something, hoping he would remember?

 

Do you look at him and realize that back then he was barely more than a teenager himself, so young and proud of his red 1963 Chevy with back then unheard of features of automatic windows and doors. I drove all the way from the city to pick up the kids, your uncle said, so they wouldn’t be walking in that empty field or the swamp.

 

You look at your uncle and realize he’s nearly 80 now. You look at his hands that have had dozens of operations from damage done during the lifespan of a laborer.

 

Yet he still has that boyish smile, the quick wit, the quick temper.

 

But he’s 80 and you’re not eight years old anymore. You have a career, an education, a loving kind spouse.

 

But this is a gratitude 55 years in the making , for taking a child off the street that night, making jokes, buying hot chocolate, anything other than spending a cold winter night alone outside.

 

You can’t say thank you for that to an 80-year-old uncle. You just can’t. You’ve never spoken about it.

 

You reach across the table, take the check, walk to the counter and pay.

 

Nature and Grief

(From my phone)  And I’m here, still.

...I’m trying hard to keep it together. My husband is pulling me off the ceiling sometimes, as I’m finding I’m having chest pains and horrible urges to sob loudly.

When I see her, I will be cheerful and not dwell on the fact that she is most likely dying and going to die an awful death. But in my alone moments, I don’t handle things so well.

Took a short nature walk today and it really helped. Saw a flying squirrel and an ornate box turtle. The poor turtle was stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally, but got free. The flying squirrel froze when it saw a human. I tried to be still, to disturb it as little as possible.

The walking paths were snow-covered, which is surprising since it is still autumn.

Sitting at home, done with grading, waiting for night to fall. Flashes of red from outside. Three male and three female cardinals picking seeds up from the bush in back of the house. Those brief flashes of red are so beautiful and so life affirming somehow.

I stand up to look outside, and they fly away. They must have been able to sense my presence, perhaps see my shadow.

And it helps. And the sunset helps. And the trees and the birds and friends and loved ones help.

But it is impossible to inoculate yourself from grief. At least I think so, if you are a loving person, the loss of a loved one will hurt greatly.

About 13 to 14 years ago, my family and I suffered the loss of many. Some died from a freak set of accidents, some from cancer, some from old age, etc. But it was so many in a short period of time that I was truly overwhelmed and didn’t get a chance to really mourn the loss of most of them individually.

Of these nine losses, the loss of my best friend, Susan, my godmother, and my mother hurt the most. The others I feel bad that I have not mourned them individually; it was like a collective grief.

So I know I’m going to face a lot of pain, and if you love someone, that’s to be expected.

But not something to be looked forward to.

It’s the price of loving people and getting older, surely.

The cardinals have returned, cautiously picking out seeds from the bush behind the house.

 

And I’m here, still.

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On Being a Poet, and a thanks to Chen Chen

poetry  Something the poet Chen Chen wrote on his Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/chenchenwrites) really struck me.

being a functioning person while being a poet: i am simultaneously trying to be less overwhelmed by the world & more.

(Quote used with his permission.)

As a highly sensitive person, a true HSP, I completely relate to his idea that we are sensitive, it helps us be poets, but we can be overwhelmed by the world! How do we function while being a poet?  It’s our sense of wonder, our amazing joy in small delights that are NOT small to us that can help us so much as poets.  I know for me, nothing is small.  I feel all deeply and personally.

How I survive is partly having a career in teaching, where I must be grounded, deal with students’ issues and concerns, grade those papers promptly, listen deeply, plan great lessons, and more.  Teaching has truly grown my heart and mind.

But as an HSP, I have been so deeply disturbed by some of my students’ stories of trauma and loss.  Can that go into my poetry too while not being exploitative or disrespectful? May I write in their voices, for I do listen so closely to my students.

This is another issue I need to and want to learn more about: how to respect the voice of others, share it, and not be appropriating their voices?

I’m learning, for I do have some small gift writing persona poems and dramatic monologues.

Right now this HSP is checking her class rosters several times a day, hoping her classes run!  I’m also thinking about the lessons learned from being in the Rocky Mountains for nearly a week (oh! I am so weak is one big lesson!), and thinking about how much I missed my trees here, back in the flat land.

And I am SHOCKED that I handled the heights of the plane ride and the tram ride up to 9000 feet. In fact, I am more afraid to go downtown by myself than I was of the plane ride or the tram! And I am afraid of heights.

But that’s another story, a story of being OVERWHELMED by all the sights and sounds of a big city, the sights and sounds of a great cultural city that can also truly overwhelm an HSP like myself.  I notice how tall the buildings are, how many people are on the streets, etc. etc. and feel overwhelmed sometimes. Sometimes just so alive by the hum and activities–so much to see, to do, to hear, to experience. The great museums, the great music, all that LIFE!

Best to you all, and thanks for reading.