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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Curmudgeons Love Cake

When I close my eyes I feel the same, certainly not 55, or even 45, or 35…I feel like me. Like I’ve always felt. The passage of time is a slippery illusion, for we know that the all-present “now” is what really exists. It’s all that has ever existed. Yet, life has housed me in a body that has somehow been snared by gravity, time’s very real shadow.

Simply put, our bodies were born to die, hence the crow’s feet perched at the corners of my smiling eyes, the stiffness in my knees, and my aversion to amusement park rides that spin…I still love rollercoasters!

Of course why we die is a great mystery to be revealed once we arrive on the other side of the invisible curtain, so while we’re here we philosophize, taking studied guesses at where we’ve come from and where we’re going.

I started where life birthed me, with all the blessings and nightmares of a classic novel, and I moved forward, one blood-churning step at a time. It all seemed so difficult back then, yet there was undeniable beauty there too; breath hitching, all encompassing, nail biting, rapturous beauty. And here I am now, with my life etched on my heart, the hieroglyphics of Leah, the story of a girl, now a woman, but with that same girl’s heart, still walking that bridge through the fog, not knowing what lies on the other side, yet migrating forward under life’s curious spell.

But today is my birthday; a personal holiday of sorts, invented by someone with a cake addiction and an obsession with age. My birthday supposedly marks the passage of time that I’ve spent walking this planet. I feel as though I’m about two thirds of the way over the bridge. Where I’ve been seems so irrelevant to me now, like last Tuesday’s lunch…who can even remember? It’s where I’m going that seems to matter the most to me.

I’m grateful for feet that love to dance, and bifocaled eyes, eager to witness the unfolding of another year. In spite of what our youth-worshipping culture may believe, I still hunger for more of everything: love, adventure, laughter, and knowledge. Age doesn’t dim the light within; it makes life’s rewards so much richer.

I didn’t invent birthdays. Actually, I’d rather forget about marking my years like an old dog peeing on a tree, and if it weren’t culturally expected of me I’d hide in my room until the day was over. Okay, enough of the curmudgeon routine, who am I kidding…I’m a sucker for cake and presents! With that said, Happy Birthday to me! (Donning pointy party hat and blowing feathered noisemaker) It’s my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ageless Dance

The sky is changing moods, blowing calm white rivers into currents over blue, swirling into deep pools, rising against thunderous cliffs and sending the sun into exile.

I skip.

Not really.

But I have a mind to; for the wind is stirring the leaves, who thought their days had ended, yet now they believe themselves to be birds with pointed wings and focused beaks, slicing through the air like eager messengers bound to tell the tales of love.

I long to keep up with them.

But no, I reserve my energy, and watch, as my irrepressible soul twirls down the middle of the road, met by a partner who knows my steps and takes me there.

The world is watching, but no one sees, as I follow barefoot and alive.

Heaven graces us with a tango, bequeathed by wasted poets, teased by love’s eternal flame.

I’m gone.

Dip me now my darling; kiss the white line of my neck.

Your face is masked; your soul stirs me.

Leave me when the morning sings and evening takes his final bow.

Leah Griffith

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who the Hell is Calling?

So, it’s 4:30am and I’m typing away my thoughts to you. I actually woke up at four and tossed and turned for a bit; my mind was restless, writing random lines and veering off the straight and narrow. I pulled it back on course, a huge ship, with much too much uncharted sea, and then my phone rang.

Little dog, who was sleeping within the folds of blanketed comfort next to me, barked out a lame warning, sort of a burpy half-bark, just in case I missed the ringing, making certain that I was awake; although she herself was unwilling to respond to the pre-dawn trilling of reveille.

With a huge family and close friends peppered around the planet the last sound I want to hear in the middle of the night is that of a ringing phone. A nocturnal ring sounds more like an air raid warning, screaming of an impending blitz, so I keep my phone a safe distance from my bedroom requiring the sound to work harder to reach my ears, dulling the alarming sensation of being rung awake. But in the blank slate of morning silence the ringing easily found my ears, jarring me into a state of, who-the-hell is-calling? And I-hope-the-kids-are-alright!

There was a certain tension between connecting my feet with the morning floor and reaching the phone, that was as tautly strung as a tightrope. Practicing the art of funambulism I traveled along this rope all the way to my cell phone, keeping my eyes straight ahead lest I look over the edge and see my children in various stages of murder and mayhem crying out for dear mother to save them. “Mummy!”

Caller ID showed that my son had placed three calls to me in the last five minutes. My mind was reasoning that these were merely pocket dials that he hadn’t intended to make, but my heart was racing. I phoned him back and he answered on the second ring; a flat tire with no jack; he found the jack; no need to come, sorry for waking you Ma.

I wanted to tell him that I was relieved that he was alive! and that he can call me anytime and I’d be there…no matter what or where, and that I missed him because he’s been working so much lately and that I hate that he won’t be here for Thanksgiving because of it. I wanted to reach through the phone and hug him so closely that I’d never forget how it felt, but instead I calmly said, “Okay son; I love you.” and then I disconnected.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Insatiable Doppelganger

You shrink at the feet of desperation, that excessive tyrant who pushes you into a stinking alleyway where your desires, like a gang of delinquents, are waiting to overtake you. Their anemic eyes are shadowed by lack; their greedy hands rifle through your pockets, turning them inside out onto the filthy ground. Angry at finding nothing they demand everything…the sun, the moon, passion's pulsing lifeblood that feeds your lean soul.

You cower at their grandiose demands until you’re but a thread of a person; a deflated worm desperately inching your way below …to that familiar hole, moist with the rotting remains of what might have been and needs to be. Your isolation cocoons you; binding you in Havishamian veils tattered by time and choked expectations.

Living underground, where blindness inspires introspection and melancholy morphs into madness, you cut a deal with the traffickers of delusion and hysteria…those needy street kids who blame you for their lot. Casting crumbs, they scramble for the loot, skinny hands and knobby knees colliding, rumbling like malnourished Crypts vying for turf and dominance.

You’re astounded with their naivety, and feel foolish for being afraid, for believing their threats. You wonder how you came to such a state, becoming an insatiable doppelganger, craving the universe, yet blind to the nonpareil treasures gifted to you by life; winking like stars in the know, silently waiting for your appreciation…as you dwell in the dust, languishing in an empty hole.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tucked in and Tamed

I’m inside here…somewhere. My stream of consciousness is as deep as the eyes of God and as shallow as the peppery dust on a city sidewalk.

I study the things that move around me; big things and pointy things; things which are totally out of my control. Some drop downwards like the guilty eyes of Judas, and fly upwards like the surprised soul of the newly dead.

Other things rise faithfully, like the sun on a wintry morning; all silvery white with promise, yet without enough heat to thaw fear’s frozen grip from my pale throat.

And then there are other things that randomly appear, a rainbow on the tail end of a storm, a glad omen, dressed in candy stripes, like a parade flag heralding happiness. I like these the best. Happy rabbit trails with tea parties and grinning kittens.

I keep myself inside myself, tucked in and tamed. I dream from this place and hunt and love. My body obeys my commands, a nod of assurance to move forward and take the risk, or to draw back and RUN! Sometimes I dare myself to dance like a sweaty harlot or prompt myself to pray like Mother Theresa with her bony hands tangled into a holy knot.

I wonder at all of it, the thoughts, the emotions, the dreams, and drawbacks. I wonder at my choices; for I’m not exempt from surprising myself, disappointing myself, and scaring the shit out of myself.

The day is long with ruminations and labor, the night with its epiphanies and nightmares. Who can say what a thought amounts to, or how far a word can go…and this body!

My consciousness is wavy, like the heat that rises at high noon from a tire-flattened carcass in Death Valley, and its content is invisible to all. I speak therefore I hide. I hide therefore I speak. I am not my mind. I am not my words. I am not my body. I am.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's On!

It’s a pretty day for living and I’m ready to take the stage. I’ve been quite sick for over a week now, but I believe today is different. The fog has lifted and my body feels like its old self again. I’m no longer aware that I have lungs. One needn’t feel their lungs, or their heart, throat, and ribs. These things should remain silent throughout the day, quietly attending to their tasks.

So I feel well, and I have a beautiful day at my disposal. It’s a working day for me but my job is often so pleasurable that I don’t even consider it work. I look at it as living. It wasn’t always so. I realize that I’m blessed right now. Poor. But Blessed.

My oldest daughter and I have a bit of a debate going on. She insists that my writing isn’t really work because I’m not being paid for it…yet. I tried to explain to her that one day I would be getting paid for the books that I pen right now. It’s a lot like a cabinet maker who spends months building a grand piece of furniture. Is he being paid for that piece as he builds it? No. But once it’s complete he will place it in his shop and wait for the right customer to come along…and then he will get paid.

She didn’t buy my argument and was dogging me; basically trying to get me to admit that I’m a contented slacker engaged in a happy hobby. Okay, she didn’t call me a slacker…but she implied it.

All of my life I’ve worked at various jobs. I’ve been an office worker, waitress, and factory worker. I’ve sold cars, candles, and Christmas decorations. I’ve been in human services for over a decade and spent the last three years of my life living away from home like a soldier. So now, thanks to a very supportive husband, I’ve been given the opportunity to work at what I love. I don’t know how long it will last but I intend to enjoy this gift and use my time wisely.

I shouldn’t let my daughter push my buttons. She got me so upset yesterday that I threatened to disinherit her. She simply rolled her eyes…seeing that my most valuable asset to date is the antibiotics prescription that I just got filled.

You wait and see kiddo! Someday I’ll be cruising on the Caribbean, with my good children, gorging on shrimp and cream puffs, while you’re clocking out for lunch and eating your words!

Be nice to Mummy. *grin

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Out of Control

The eagle had landed; her rolling talons gripped the Florida tarmac, screeching while grabbing hold of the spinning earth. I held my breath for a brief moment; tucked snuggly between my two gentlemen seatmates. I got to chat to both of them although they never acknowledged each other. I was the female partition between two alpha males, which made me wonder if they didn’t speak because there was some sort of macho competition going on (although that’s hard to imagine seeing I had been up since 2:00am and looked like a rumpled pigeon) or were they just being shy. Either way they served in taking my mind off my cold and the last dragging miles of a very long journey.

My husband and I had gone to Massachusetts to visit family. This is where we both grew up and it had been nearly seven years since our last visit. My in-laws have been migrating to Florida each winter for the last eleven years, so we’ve been enjoying our annual visits with them in the Sunshine State. This visit was different. You see my father-in-law is fighting cancer, and had recently started his chemo treatments. I don’t need to remind you of the long and complicated list of side effects that chemo can cause. My father-in-law was steadfastly engaged in fighting off these pharmacological assaults on all fronts.

It took two stays in the hospital to get these renegade side effects under control. During which time his family stayed closely by his side. I’ve been a part of this family for over thirty three years, and feel every bit a daughter, but there was a little wiggle room in there where I could observe the family and witness the culmination of a lifetime of love being devotedly ministered in a ten by ten foot hospital room. The synchronicity was natural, a step ahead of verbal cues, flowing from hearts motivated by love. It was amazing.

I was acutely aware of the loss of control involved in dealing with such a serious illness, loss of control for the one fighting the illness, and for the family at his side. There is a certain raw tension that pulls at the heart when someone you love is in distress, a fight or flight impulse, only there is nobody to fight and no place to run. One must simply deal…and trust. My father-in-law flowed within this reality; teaching his family how to be brave and vulnerable all at once.

I watched my mother-in-law wrestle with this reality as she also dealt with the ever-changing necessities of daily living. These demands seemed red-hot with urgency, as though the burner had been turned to high requiring her to keep a constant eye on the pot.

There were a few intense moments along the way but the one which sits fresh in my mind was that freak October Nor’easter! We had to drive to the airport in white-out conditions. With each gust of wind, the autumn leaves, acting like cupped hands full of snow, would pummel our windshield with snowballs. It was like being ambushed by a mob of unruly school boys.

Having finally made it to the airport we were notified that our flight had been cancelled. Okay, I called before we left and the airlines had assured us that, short of four feet of snow falling, there was no way in hell that they were going to cancel our flight. Hmpf!!! ^%$$#@$^%$!!!

So, we set off, once again, through the blinding snows, and building drifts, dodging nervous drivers, and deadly limbs, all the way back to suburbia. There was no control to be had when facing Mother Nature’s fury. I had to be brave and vulnerable…just like my father-in-law.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the warmth and safety of the family home, contently snuggled into my bed, sipping on hot tea while watching something mindlessly entertaining on television. This is where the needle scratches across the record…………….!!!!!!!!!!! There would be no TV watching, tea drinking, or warm cuddling because there was no power!

We had no car, although even if we had it would have done us no good. We had no heat or lights. We had nothing. I felt the prickly feet of fear marching through my constricted arteries like an army of spiders wearing spiky golf shoes. You can always count on fear, being of an opportunistic and maniacal nature, to be the first on the scene during any crisis.

I quietly lay beneath the covers, listening to the wind whistle through the trees, praying that none of the oversized oaks that stand sentinel around my in-law’s small ranch would fall and crush us. I also mourned the loss of morning coffee, a hot shower, and the Florida sunshine that, had we caught our flight, I would be basking in on the morrow.

I awoke to the chill of the morning with bright sunshine sneaking in through the sides of the bedroom shades; its soft lemony stripes crisscrossed my blanket, making me wonder if the snowstorm had been a bad dream. My icy nose told me otherwise, so I quickly dressed and made my way to the nearest window.

As Juliet said to Romeo, “Ah me,” having found no suitable words in the King’s English to otherwise describe the inexplicable joy and rapture of being in love. The view had stolen my breath away, transporting me to a place where I was neither cold nor afraid. I could only stare in awestruck wonder as the scene somehow compensated for the disruptive nature of the storm.

Using my cell, we borrowed a car and swiftly made our way through our Rockwellian neighborhood to the nearest McDonald’s. The line was incredibly long but we waited with unflinching patience enjoying the blowing warmth of the car heater.

When we returned to the house Mikes’ mom was sitting in her chair enjoying the snowy view. Handing her a mug full of coffee, she eagerly wrapped her cold hands around it, and sipped at the hot liquid. I watched her, wrapped in a blanket like an ancient seer, calmly enjoying her modern breakfast in spite of all that seemed to be falling apart around her. She could control none of it…and she was at peace with this knowledge.

I doubt my mother-in-law realizes how loudly this display of stoic acceptance spoke to me. Each time I look at her photograph I fill up with emotion.

This trip has taught me a lot. It taught me how control is but an illusion, and how love, the most powerful of forces, somehow makes up for our lack of control. It also taught me that no matter how old we are there are still lessons to learn and that some of the toughest lessons may visit us in the winter of our lives. I still have so much to learn but of one thing I’m certain; I’m incredibly honored to call my in-laws Mum and Dad.