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Monday, August 29, 2011

Three Weddings and a Hopeless Romantic

I’ve been to three weddings so far this year. One was held at the bride’s parent’s home, a charming two-story colonial on beautiful grounds. The next was celebrated at a gorgeous venue complete with rose pedals and secret gardens, and the third, which was last weekend, was held at the Tampa Aquarium, allowing the guests private access to the attraction, which by the way was amazing. All three weddings were as unique as the couples taking the vows.

Each wedding conjured romantic images in my mind; Knights on steeds reciting eternal vows; breath-hitching kisses, leading to sleepless nights, where lovers exchange dreamy dialog... “is it the sun or the moon?” It matters not, for the bedchamber’s windows are dark with secrecy and as silent as a fortress, as the hungry darlings, reach for love’s ripened fruit, tasting and touching, pooling like blood into one liquid soul.

Ah me, always the romantic, and thankful for the tantalizing tidbits these weddings have offered; the series of infusions of what has been written of, dreamt of, and sought after by mankind since the beginning of time…epic love.

Seeing those young couple’s eyes swollen with hope; looking as vulnerable as a pair of egg yokes, with their na├»ve minds confident that they were going to be the couple who would never lose the fireworks, was enough to make a believer out of me. I wasn’t about to break their yokes.

Obviously they’re still on that isolated little island called “Us” which protects them from marital disasters, old age, and even death. They’re still drawing from a wishing well, where happy endings are as certain as springtime blooms, and where love never turns as ordinary as a worn pair of gym shoes.

They’ve been raised to believe in Hollywood’s love; where each story ends with a white dress, champagne, and two beautiful people wrapped in a long embrace. Funny how Hollywood doesn’t show the rest of the breath-hitching passions, dreamy dialog, and juicy midnight fruit pickings eventually give way to morning breath, petty arguments, and intimacies scheduled between work shifts, diaper changes, and the flu season.

I would never tell them about the ordinary trappings of love because I believe in the spell of romance. Romantic love is like the holidays, it doesn’t show up every day but when it does come around, it feels new and exciting, dressed in glitz and gold, and shooting off fireworks capable of obscuring the moody glow of the moon and setting fire to the ocean.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind screamed like a lunatic on fire, as it clawed a path of devastation through our tiny Caribbean island, leveling buildings and lives, and rearranging the face of St. Croix forever. Actually, it was the longest night of my life.

I remember the Weather Channel reports hours preceding Hurricane Hugo’s arrival, warning us to take shelter. I was making potato salad, and chatting on the phone with my friend Mary. We were coordinating our evacuation efforts. I wasn’t afraid because I had nothing to compare this too. The strongest hurricane I had ever experienced in the Northeast was a category one, named Gloria, who turned out to be nothing more than a rainy day with a name. The only reason I was evacuating was because a group of us had been invited to stay at a really cool furniture store for the hoity toity. “Bring some beer, and music!” I giggled, as I spooned potato salad into a plastic container.

There were nine of us in all at the shelter, including my six year old daughter and nine yr old son. I use the term shelter loosely as this place was luxurious and way out of my price range. Choosing a comfy corner to call home, we placed our belongings along the wall of the foyer on the marble floor, and then set out to do some snooping. This place was ridiculously expensive, small pieces of art for five thousand dollars, sofas for ten thousand. I spent most of the time telling my kids not to touch anything!

Somewhere between mid-night and the third dance, Hurricane Hugo turned ugly. I remember I had just checked on the kids, they were sleeping soundly in an office down the hall. I was starting to get nervous as the wind pulled at the plywood shielding the windows, causing the nails to squeak like rats as they were pried loose. Heading back to the foyer the building began to shake. A terrifying crash followed…along with blood curdling screams!

The one hundred and fifty foot front of this brand new building, built to sustain winds up to 200 mph, had been sucked outward, leaving only the three remaining walls to hold it up. The wind tore through our fancy shelter like a mob of looters bent on destruction.

Running for cover we hid in the bathroom, and that’s where we spent the night, waiting for the rest of building to come down on top of us. Listening, like frightened children to their parents fight, we stayed huddled together in the darkness, as the angry wind smashed everything within reach.

At dawn we emerged from our bunker shocked and disoriented; it was as though a bomb had gone off, decimating the landscape to such an extent that it was unrecognizable. Hugo had destroyed or damaged ninety percent of the buildings in St. Croix. None of us had homes to return to. But, we were alive and extremely grateful for that.

Why am I telling you this story? I’m telling it because I want everybody to take the threat of Hurricane Irene seriously, and because I know what it’s like to live in the Northeast and to have never felt the bite of a serious hurricane. So, my most precious and dear people, whom I love and can’t spare…batten down the hatches and TAKE THIS THING SERIOUSLY!!


I'm sending out prayers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Late Summer Night's Swim

Turning on the submerged lighting to the swimming pool transforms the lanai into an aquatic dream. I sigh at the sight; it’s as though the Northern Lights have melted, filling my pool with a phosphorescent liquid. I slip beneath the glossy surface, feeling the cool weight of the water as it carries me deeper into itself. Ripples shimmer away from me like lucid sound waves, ebbing into oblivion. Tipping back, I surrender to my aqueous bed, staring up at the black sky and wondering at its vastness. Is there a beginning and an end?

The stars silently glisten, but I imagine if they were to make a sound it would be as whimsical as wind chimes and as holy as an angel’s sigh.

Like a stray leaf, I am floating slowly around the circumference of the pool in a world of my own, a world in-between the luminous serum which buoys me up and the dense soulfulness of the night; drifting like a cloud above my limitations. Time seems suspended as I become one with nothing, cushioned like an embryo in a sultry womb, bathetic and calm.

How is it that I’ve waited so long to enjoy this intimate tryst with myself? Have I forgotten how romantic life can be?
“Ah,” you say, “you need a man to be romantic.”
Oh do I?

Romance is a seductive ritual, reserved not only for couples, but lovers of self. I’ve stirred my infatuation with life; submerged myself in the indigenous, raising girlish goose flesh, as I gently bob without boundaries atop the magical surface of my swimming pool, witnessed only by the jeweled stars, pinned like broaches, to the August sky.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Morning Letter for You

Squinting into the angelic morning, blazing white with promise, a distant dog speaks his mind, as birds trill from camouflaged nests, and the steam rises off my coffee like a smoldering black puddle, rousing my misty spirit.

Funny how each day presents itself to us as though it were something new…an unopened letter from life delivered bedside, intended for your eyes alone, as millions of previous mornings are wiped clean like fingerprints from a crime scene.

Each day billions of souls see themselves as a world within a world, the all important protagonists of a literary novel, alone, yet surrounded by minor characters, whose influence varies like the measure of light at any given sunrise.

Perhaps a banished cave man once sat where I sit this morning, although by a tree rather than on a sunny lanai, and he thought with hieroglyphic images of his lost importance in the world as he gazed into the blond morning light, and wondered at his existence.

We are so aware of ourselves on this physical plane, as hunger drives us to feed, love, with her juicy suggestions and endless yearnings, seduces us to multiply, and then there is pain with its pointy fingers, poking and puncturing our most tender places, reminding us that we are temporary.

We’ve so much to do, kicking off the morning covers and running into ourselves on our way out, spinning like a globe on an axis of our own making. It is today again, and time…for another cup of coffee.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Living Shadows

How well do we really know each other? People tend to hide their deepest thoughts, and conceal feelings that are as sharp as silver and capable of exposing the raw nerve of who they really are.

Some people will dive head first into the depths of love, and then suddenly retreat…because needing somebody makes them vulnerable and the potential for heartache is too terrifying to bear.

Other people never do much of anything…all along wishing that they had. Over the years their regrets form a filmy coating on their dreams; eventually contaminating their weary hearts with negativity and cynicism.

For some, time leaks like a rusty faucet, seemingly lasting too long while passing too quickly; staining their wide-eyed souls with chronic disappointment and numbing complacency. They have withdrawn from life, staying busy with a smattering of trivial nothingness, as they ignore a life that only they can live and the souls which only they can touch.

How well do we really know ourselves? Are we hiding from our dreams, afraid that they may never come true? Are we lying to ourselves, settling for less, because our pasts have been jaded, and to hope for something wildly wonderful is to risk experiencing more despair and loss?

Then there are those rare souls, who wax brave through adversity, and tell the truth, defiantly speaking forth the things that they need to the universe in spite of their feelings of inferiority and fear. They defy the pain, pushing forward in sweaty spurts, facing their demons and slaying their dragons, and as if by magic, serendipitous events change their paths, inspiring them to look inward for even more.

These are those who dare to love, and live, creating light in dark places, in spite of the exorbitant personal costs. These are the souls whose apathy is exonerated and whose exalted lives heal the wounds of hopelessness. They lead by resolution and their works inspire ordinary creatures to reach beyond their fears toward their own extraordinary paths.

We are each a part of the other, sharing common hopes and fears. Our eyes reflect our desperations and our aspirations. Our passions are as endless as our thoughts and as insatiable as the desert floor, yet our hearts are as different as our faces and our motives folded within our needs; ultimately our means will define our ends.

Carpe diem.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When the Chips Hit the Fan

Life is like a game of poker, random numbers and faces, shuffled together in fluky sequences, dealt daily by fate, who greets me at dawn and says, “Good morning Leah, here is your hand for the day, I have only one question to ask….do you feel lucky today?”

I hold my hand close to my chest and slowly fan the cards out. Yikes! It looks dismal. But wait, is that an ace of hearts I see? I stare blankly forward, poker face in place, hoping my ace high is enough for the day and that the stakes aren’t too high.

Life is always a gamble. Hell, getting out of bed is a gamble, because the cards that we’re dealt often seem arbitrary and unalterable. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to face each day…chutzpah and blind faith. This is why it’s so important for me to take care of myself and set things up so I have a good supply of joy. Without Joy I might find myself folding before the lunch bell tolls.

I’m a true believer that positive inner dialog is the key to enjoying a good day. Being in a happy place mentally is like building my house miles away from the edge of a cliff. When somebody, or something, comes rushing in at me it has a long way to go before it can push me over the edge.

On the other hand, if my inner dialog is negative, that’s like building my house on the edge of the cliff. When something unexpected or frightening happens it doesn’t take much to knock me over the precipice, dropping me into an abysmal place, and leaving me to crawl through the darkness in order to find my way out again.

With life’s cards often stacked against me I can’t afford to entrust my day to random twists of fate. This is where the tools that I’ve acquired over many bloody years come in handy. I’m either going to do the mental maintenance before the proverbial chips hit the fan, or after.

Remember…there are no excuses in poker, and no matter how crappy the hand, life requires us to go “all in” before our tender pink feet have a chance to hit the cold morning floor. Therefore, it’s important to keep your head and your poker face on straight.

Are jokers wild or are they just there to confuse me?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

That Which I Feared

That which I feared has come upon me. I have lost my wallet! Losing my wallet is akin to losing my identity, as it holds not only my driver’s license, but also my three bank cards, a variety of credit cards, important receipts, pictures, business cards, and a new book of stamps. I use my wallet like a vault for all things important to me and have never (up to this point) lost track of it. My heart is rattling against my ribs like a rabid ape trying to escape!

Stupid stupid stupid me for leaving so many important things in there!

The last time I saw it I was buying a bucket of popcorn at the movie theater. I had asked for layered butter and an extra cup for water and I could feel the folks behind me getting annoyed with me for taking so long, so instead of stuffing my wallet back into my purse, like I usually do, I crumbled under the pressure of the heavy sighing behind me and walked away with my wallet in my hand figuring I’d put it back into my pocketbook once I was seated in the theater. Somewhere between finding a place to set my buttery popcorn down and opening up my chocolaty raisenets I lost track of my precious red Gucci wallet.

That is the last memory I have of actually having possession of my wallet. I didn’t even notice it was missing until 9:30 tonight. That’s nine long hours ago.

I phoned the movie theater and explained my situation detailing the movie that I went to see (The Help, which btw was great) the time that I was there and the seat that I had sat in. The lady sounded sympathetic and told me that she would phone me back after the current movie let out. So now it’s a waiting game. I know I’ll never sleep a wink if this lady doesn’t call me back soon with good news.

They just called back and they have found my wallet! Thank God!

I’m back from the movie theater where, Vanetta, the honest and top notch theater manager, handed my wallet back to me totally intact!! Thanks for saving my ass Vanetta! Now I can sleep soundly.

Man, there’s nothing like a little drama to get your mind off of other dramas. Up until I noticed that my wallet was missing I’d been obsessing over another drama, unconsciously stirring the dramatic pot, sniffing at the different aromas, and slapping my head trying to get the crazy dramatic recipe figured out. Once I noticed that my purse was missing I forgot all about the drama pot, having an even more pertinent drama to deal with.

Lessons of the day:
Don’t carry everything you own in your wallet.
Don’t let impatient people bully you into hurrying.
Be grateful for things as they are because they could always get worse.
A stirred drama pot never settles…leave it alone!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Skittish Hat Tossing

Standing out in the street and tossing my hat up into the air...watching it spin like a copter blade slicing through the blue sky, momentarily blocking out the omnipresent sun, and then dropping like a dead pigeon at my feet. Thud.

I don’t know what I was hoping for. Perhaps I was channeling Mary Richards from the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show. I can see myself, sporting a carefully planned ensemble of polyester, pleather, and wool, (complete with shiny accessories), feeling brazenly independent, and symbolically tossing my cares back to the gods, ridding myself of inhibition and stagnation.

I could be her; until the director shouts “cut!” and reality smacks me in the face. Then I’d take a big swig of black coffee, shed my New York wardrobe, scratching at all the wooly places because I’m not Little Bo Peep and only sheep and Scottish bag-pipers should wear wool, and head back to my cockroach infested flat with cold water and no heat.

Or perhaps I was giving up, tossing my hat in despair, but I chickened out half way through the toss, because quitting feels like death and I want to live forever. Actually, quitting scares me even more than death.

Then again, I may have been tossing my hat into the ring, challenging life in a no-holds-barred, pure blood and guts competition; although that doesn’t really sound like me. I’m more apt to want to be life’s best friend so she doesn’t get pissed off at me and kick my ass. Whatever it was that inspired me to toss my hat into the sky, it certainly stirred up a lot of thoughts.

For example: lately I’ve been trying to figure out a way of making some big changes in my life. It’s as though I’ve been stacking wood for years and suddenly I’ve realized that the wood on the bottom of the stack needs to be replaced with bricks. Pulling the wood from the bottom will make the entire stack crumble and all those years of stacking will be lost. So, in order to make these big changes I’m going to have to think carefully about how to go about it, take my time, and be willing to lose some of the things that I’ve been leaning on…things that seem paramount to my survival.

So, I guess I was skittishly, but officially, tossing my hat into the ring. Somebody once said, “People don’t usually change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” I’m there.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More Please

As I sat, pushed into a claustrophobic corner, up against a portal with its plastic eyelid half-closed, bouncing through the clouds above a quilt of civilization, a traffic jam of thoughts fought for my attention. My knees were jammed into the over sized magazine pocket in front of me, bulging like a stuffed pita with boring brochures, barf bags, and magazines dripping with banality, fit only for those sequestered into tiny places with no place else to rest their eyes.

My life was in the hands of a radio voice coming from behind a grey curtain as I rode a riveted metal bird invented years ago by dreamers. Yet, there I was, living that dream with all the enthusiasm of a commuter waiting in line at a red light. Ah me…another day of shooting over the country like a bolt of lightning emitting from the hand of Thor. The fact was, a week in Seattle just wasn’t enough.

Seattle’s landscape is seductive, with miles of curvy green hills alluringly posed along the horizon like Rembrandt’s Danae. Ragged cedars, dripping with moss, point their skeletal fingers in all directions, casting shadows and shafts of contrasting light onto the forest floor, invoking throaty visions of Stoker’s Dracula and romantic images of Lancelot and Guinevere.

And then there was Mount Rainier, regally wrapped in a white stole of glistening snow like a prominent lady whose amusement is to stand watch over her lowly subjects. Dominating the view, her beauty demands weak-kneed reverence, for as easily as she inspires worship, she also inspires fear, being one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

All this splendor and yet there was more…sipping a Caramel Frappuccino, purchased for me by the generous and amazing, Isla, at the original Star Bucks, located in the Pike Place Market; lying on a park bench squinting up through a leafy curtain at the Space Needle, eating Fish & Chips at Spud’s on the waterfront while greedy seagulls as big as toddlers stood sentinel hoping for a handout. Shopping at Archie McPhee’s for eccentric anomalies such as, Instant Underpants, (just add water and wait) and Crazy Cat Lady, Cat Food Scented Soap, while laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

These were some of the dits and dots of my vacation. But they are only the icing, because the cake was being with my lifelong friend, Fran, after a numbing thirty nine year separation. Imagine being separated from your best friend for that long without knowing if they were dead or alive, and then being reunited in such a beautiful place as Washington. So you see, words cannot describe the richness of such a meeting, therefore, I will have to leave it to your imagination. Suffice it to say that this was an amazing journey and a part of me will forever be settled into the foothills of Mount Rainier, sitting with Fran on his porch, watching the deer feed on August apples as the sun silently slips behind a bastion of trees.