Sunday, February 27, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

birthday

A company wide email sent 'cause I have access to all the addresses.

A book of photography projects from a friend for life.

Beautiful songs from beautiful people.

Sweet, sweet cards.

An authentic Southern lunch, an obstacle overcome on my behalf.

Messages left on voicemail.

Funny emails.

A conversation with my internet provider who told me all I had to do was press a reset button to get my internet back up and running.

A surprise.

A visit.

Everything was just a bit brighter, any worries became less worrisome, music more compelling, a hug more meaningful, smiles wider.

It is my birthday, and I am so fantastically, wonderfully, lovingly, all the good words ending in ly grateful.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

realization

If we are what we believe ourselves to be then I would say that I believe I am here to learn. Everyone and everything around me is teaching me about myself, about my dream. Their lessons flow through this filter I have woven where my judgements, my history, my attitude, my love or lack thereof become as thick threads. The inner dialogue struggles at times with the world outside itself. It has to. We are in this together, right?

Or wait. Maybe not.

Maybe some people want to be the last man standing.

I have found a last man standing in my life and he is leaving. And I am glad. I innately felt a sense of obligation to him when I read his words for the first time. He made me laugh, reminded me of a time. I recognized an underlying anger, a sense of justice, the play of absolute truth and I swam in the ocean of his banter.

I believe myself to be someone who feels obligation, an obsessive duty to gratitude. I tell myself that one must act and not only believe so I try to repair that part of him I attempt to change in myself. Anger. Injustice. My truth.

But between you and me, a little secret maybe.

Don't tell anyone. It could blow my cover.





I don't want to repair anyone. I agree with him in that I have all I can do right here.






Thank you, Adam.

horse trail

Laying in a tent built for one led to thoughts of why? Why am I here? Why did I do this? All I could figure was it was for Slater, Seth and Isaac. Yet I had to consider that whatever I was doing had me in it as well. So I was zipped up in a claustrophobic nightmare as far as I had been in a long time. Far from paved roads, ringing phones, emails, outside anything but those three boys who were jabbering away on the other side of the fire.

Being a parent can satisfy a certain need to listen in on conversations, smile when they laugh and don't know you're looking. Those boys, I had watched them grow, change, become who they were and it seemed like my personal little miracle. There they were calling each other names, fighting over sleeping bags, laughing. I could just see their smiles. It was a nice way to drift off.

It was dark when I opened my eyes. All but the river was still, silent. I tried to tell myself that I could hold it and I did as long as possible but bottomline is when you gotta piss, you gotta piss but you never walk outta the tent without ya' shoes. Tapeworms may cure asthma but I didn't have asthma so I didn't want tapeworms. Thus, I wiggled about in that tent trying to put on shoes needing tying and I don't know how long it took me to get that done but I did.

I do know it wasn't long after that the boys started stirring, one at a time, fumbling around. Isaac wanting some of my coffee which had a hint of chocolate to it. I shared, we packed up, made sure we left it like we found it but better. Not a piece of trash anywhere, even trying to pick up from those before us. An important rule, I said. I had read it somewhere and it made sense.

Last minute teaching is what this was for me. Procrastinator's parenting where you try to cram it all in the end before they stop listening and you wonder if they already have. You teach anyway.

1. You don't need all that shit. No, cell phones don't work out here. You can't check your facebook. You have to look your friends in the face, and it is much better that way.

2. You can build a fire. I can so I know you can. Let's do it.

3. When you don't think you can take another moment you can. You just put one foot in front of the other or you ask a friend to help you. One way or the other you are going to make it or know that you went down trying.

4. There is so much you are not seeing 'cause you are not looking in that direction.

5. You didn't make this. The humans around you did not create what this place is. Know that no matter what you ain't the smartest most awesome everything anywhere. There is something out there your mind can't comprehend. Bow to that.

Enough, huh. What do I know anyway other than those things I am trying to teach myself? I promised Slater that I would take him and you down that horse trail and if I was worth anything as a writer it would be the most draining and long suffering writing you and he ever did read. And he laughed and he couldn't wait for me to write about it. Even said he knew it would be tonight. Thank you for the sweet little pressure, Mr. Goff. Like in that cave, urging me on.

Seth had said that we could either take the horse trail or one that stayed with the river. The horse trail looked shorter from his reading of the map. We did a quick discussion, some nodding. It was agreed, we would take the horse trail to the big waterfall.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: IF YOU, THE PUBLIC, ARE EVER FACED WITH THAT OF A TRAIL ALTERNATE OF A HORSE'S, PLEASE JOHN Q, PLEASE TAKE IT. WALK THROUGH THE FIRE. JUST STAY AWAY FROM THE DAMN HORSE TRAIL.

The path was wide and clear enough so as soon as an Alabama sun came down mid-morning in late May we felt like it was playing a concert especially for us. Obviously horses don't need shade, and their hooves pack down dirt like they are a thousand pound beast carrying yet more weight atop. The ground was stiff and dry and the gradual inclines stung my calves while the alternate would strain my shins. All I could think was one foot in front of the other and before long the cadence of our collective bitching became what kept us going.

That and Seth's assurance we'd find the end soon.

Another small hill, a slight incline.

One of us would stop and say, Did you hear that? Is that water? We'd all listen. It was just the trees in the wind and our heart broke as the sweat dripped and the sun picked up a fiddle.

Everything was brittle.

Slater saw a snake but I didn't notice it 'cause I was getting mad at Seth. He had said at least four times we'd be off that horse trail up the next hill, down around the curve, past that tree, not far now before I started questioning his map reading skills. Slater and Isaac followed soon after.

It was not my goal to be Piggy in Lord of Flies when I grew up but it was the horse trail and the sun and the packed dirt and the hills and everything.

Everything was wrong.

We were never going to get there.

We were going to die.

This was it.

What if we ran out of water?

Why didn't I suggest we stay by the river?

Still we walked.

And walked.

And I don't know how far we walked but when we reached the clearing I felt like Jesus himself had cut out that little path into the trees.

Seth said, I told cha. And we threatened to take the map away from him but nobody else wanted it.



Photograph taken with the new app After the Horse Trail where your subjects are enhanced to look as if they just walked down a damn horse trail.





To be continued..........

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

light

We were losing light fast like when the sun goes down in Perdido. Campers at Sipsey are a quiet group, focused and the few we passed were collecting wood. One lady asked us a question, I don't remember what it was but I do remember I told her we didn't know what the hell we were doing. That was all.

I kept urging the boys to stop. Every circular clearing was scouted by me to be the very best spot. I kept telling the boys, This is it. This is the very best spot. Do you know how dark it's going to get? We have to set up camp.

Slater says just a little further, I'd be notified by either Isaac or Seth.

Sometimes Slater would even grace me with an answer, Seth says from the looks on the map we need to get closer to crossing the river so when we wake up in the morning we can cross it early.

Does Seth even know how to read a map, Slater?

We both laughed 'cause it was obvious that Seth was our best chance in there or out of there. He wanted the job and of the four of us he was the only one with a United States Marine Corp cap. Both his parents were Marines. His choice of read was a history book. Seth was only sixteen years old but he had a seriousness that made him seem like the oldest in the group. Even today, whenever I see Seth I punch him, give him a huge shaking bear hug and rub his head. He hates that but enjoys the verbal sparring it initiates. Seth and I have fantastic political discussions. He is quite learned, that boy.

Anyway, he had the map and the group had already decided he was the guy for the job so Slater made an appropriate argument, and I conceded.

We headed on, crossed a pretty big stream, down the bank and up the other. I had a walking stick, and it was helpful.

Only about two or three miles later did we set up shop under the small, focused, direct light of flashlights in a clearing higher than the trail in case of rain. One tent with three boys and one tent coffin for me. Everyone got focused. Isaac and Seth began gathering wood, I took everyone's water bottles down to the river with the one made to sterilize. It was a slow process and I kept trying to hear if there were any wild animals but I could barely hear anything over the rush of the river.

When I got back the boys were already working on the fire. It was beautiful. It was us doing this.

The first night held stories, beef jerky, pistachios, discussions of the next day's plans, plenty of bug spray and a decision to turn in early for an early rising. Getting out before the heat came in. Seth had said something about a horse trail.


To be continued.......


Happy Birthday to a woman who shows me every day how beautiful it is to live and to love and to give of yourself and to give for yourself. A woman who shows me what aging is, and it is exquisite, wise and caring. It is tough. It is fragile. It is needing and knowing. I don't know how to say thank you to you for showing me that so I just love you so much. One day I'll be able to put a picture here you'll be proud of. I promise.

Gratitude.

Friday, February 18, 2011

descent

The last time we stepped on pavement we saw a state highway overpass and took the trail under it. The books I had read said you always keep your slowest as the lead. I was the slowest but never the lead. The boys took off as if they had just been introduced to their first playground. Me yelling from behind, Wait up! Don't get too far! Don't you leave me! This would only slow them up a bit, let me catch a glimpse of them. The only thing I had going for me were the waterfalls. They would stop and play, and I'd eventually get there with my warnings, Be careful. Watch that rock, it's slick.

But mostly I'd say, Man, isn't this beautiful. Oh my gosh, this is so great. Do you feel that, the mist? Oh, I love this place.

They'd stop their play every now and again to talk to me. Do you see that? Up there, I was up there. Did you see where I was?

I'd smile and nod and end with, Amazing. Fantastic. Please be careful.

The first waterfall had not been far from where we left the car, but I fell in love with it, found the remains of a past campfire and suggested we set up camp, play in the last couple of hours of light and sleep in the misty cove. They wouldn't hear of it. At even the suggestion they took off running down the trail with me following, pacing myself.

On the left was a river. We were hiking against the current, and I was trying to make mental notes, little breadcrumbs in the brain. Interesting tree, a massive wall of sheer rock, a bend we had to climb. Each time I passed a place where others had obviously slept I'd holler up ahead, Hey boys, let's stop here.

No, no, we gotta keep going. Slater was emphatic and had easily taken the lead like when he was three. I had taken him to the mall. We had walked out of a store hand in hand, him pulling, wanting desperately to be set free with me holding on for dear life. Until finally I let go out of frustration, and he took off running down the mall. It's not that we had not done that dance before but I had always immediately chased him. That time though I watched him run and thought he'd surely turn around. In some type of fear based teaching I tried to position myself near a column where I could hide in case he looked back for me but he never did.  He never even slowed up, and at the last moment, right before he got out of sight I took off running after him.

I think the only reason he stopped at Sipsey is because he'd grown a liking to me through the years. He'd wait at an obstacle where he thought I may need help. At the very least he probably wanted to witness me try it. You know, one of those good laughs things where I narrate my fears and insanity for an audience. It makes him grin, and he had a huge grin on his face when I came upon the cave.

He was standing on top of it, facing me with the smile plastered. This is what we read about, Mom. Remember. We gotta go through that. He pointed down to trail as it disappeared into a dark hole.

Oh Slater, can't we climb it? What about up there? Can't you go down the other side?

Much too dangerous, he said shaking his head the grin growing.

He started climbing down the rocks as I was trying to come up with a good argument against a guy who had already surveyed the land. It was a losing battle, and I knew it.

You're gonna have to take off your backpack and drag it, he said.

Oh my gosh I do remember reading about this. It's so thin. What if I get stuck?

You're not. We've already checked it out.

Okay, Slater but if I get stuck and you leave me I'm gonna be sooo mad at you. I pointed the Mom finger at him and laughed.

He laughed.

We were all having the best time and entered the cave with me going in last behind Seth. Close enough that we could hear each other. I maintained a view of him with my flashlight. Water poured off the wall to my right and every few times I would get a solid footing I'd drag the backpack on the wet floor behind me. At times I would have to turn and profile the light getting closer, tilting my head to the lay of the rock immediately above my head. This was not necessarily a place for anyone who needed any kind of freedom of movement which I have admittedly required at times in my life.

What saved me in the cave was it's short span and Slater's voice up ahead. He was waiting, urging me on and I had to get there.


Isaac



To be continued....


Gratitude.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

sipsey

We will always say it was Seth who led us into the wilderness and couldn't get us out. Deep in the thick forest with trails less kept than we were accustomed. None of us had any business being there, and it is only laughable now that I was the one supposed adult of the group. Slater, Isaac and Seth had just finished their junior year of high school, and the biological parents of any child other than my own would have to take responsibility for allowing them to go with me as the chaperon. In her defense Seth's Mom did ask me if I was crazy. In my defense she already knew the answer.

We looked prepared, kinda. We had a waterproof map of the area, shoes of the hiking variety, framed backpacks, means to sterilize and store water and sealed bags of dried food with a way to prepare it. Adventure, I thought we needed it. I figured it would do us all good to walk into the woods, sleep in tents and sit by a campfire for three nights and four days so I scheduled it, studied it and purchased supplies for it.

Doubt? Yeah, yeah doubt would come. The inner whisper would wonder incessantly, Do you have any idea what you're doing? What if someone gets hurt and you have to go get them help? What if you then can't find them? What if you get hurt and the boys leave you there as some horror movie wild hog meal? What about snakes? What if you all get lost out there? What the hell are you doing? The only way I knew to quiet the inner voice which was at times echoed by outer voices of friends and family, primarily in the form of I wouldn't do it, was to laugh, ask Slater if he remembered first aid and watch and feel the excitement as the time drew near.

Isaac dropped his Walmart water bottle on the driveway when we were leaving. It busted, and I could have taken that as an ominous sign but as a group we laughed it off and told him the other would do just fine.


By the time we reached the final pavement, got out of the car and unpacked the trunk I had convinced myself we would live. It seemed that the boys believed it as well. I wish I had a photograph of how shiny and clean we looked that day filling up water bottles with the last drops of city water and using the only remaining bathroom built to be a bathroom.

I knew Slater and I had survived a roughing it excursion in New Mexico and the experience of a more assisted journey with those who knew their surroundings. This time it was just us, and there was a certain thrill to trying a road less travelled on our own. Plus, I felt it was important those boys be rewarded for their efforts and what boy doesn't want to wander off into the woods at times? And heck, what girl doesn't?

Yes, there was a point when one of the boys may have mentioned the instructions carved into a large wood sign with pencil and small squares of paper requesting information such as name, number of guests, duration of stay and license plate number. With all the excitement I quickly filled out the piece of paper and put it in the slot provided. Then the same boy, or maybe it was another, drew attention to the fact we needed to pay and that could be why the small square of paper was an envelope. Darn, didn't notice that so I laughed, retrieved another envelope seeing now it was an actual envelope, folded up a twenty nice and neat and wrote

I am an idiot.
I already put my information in there.
We're from Mississippi and are fixin' to walk into your beautiful wilderness.
Here's twenty bucks.
Shea Goff

In my very last request for defense I will note here that not one boy, not one of them, mentioned there had been a perforated attachment to the little white envelope meant to be removed and placed in the front windshield of the car. We shall all take responsibility for that one although I was supposed to be the adult and literate.


Sipsey Wilderness, Alabama and the last dying breath of my Nikon




To be continued...




Gratitude.



Note to Slater: What a wonderful perspective piece this could be, like the one your Uncle Josh and I wrote about the great Beagle escape. You know you just smiled.

Monday, February 14, 2011

letter

It is the sweetest letter from the kindest man, just so sincerely perfect. Any woman in her right mind would just crumble at the thought of receiving such devotion, loyalty and love. Isn't that what we girls are looking for? Isn't the most rational, logical, sensible thing to do is to go running into the arms of prince charming where we live happily ever after in a castle built for two?

Then why am I not running there and why did I wake up this morning under duress of my own expectations of myself. Fucking Valentine's Day, man. I just wanted to hide out, remove myself from those situations where people needed me 'cause I couldn't handle the pressure and it felt like extreme pressure to do in order to please. And if I'm totally honest right here with you then I have to say that sometimes I just can't take it. I can't take the pressure and no amount of logical reasoning seems to help.

So here I am a walking cliche somewhere between head and heart. Be logical or go with your gut, and I've always been a gut girl and never much liked the thought of being a cliche so I am doubting myself and feeling all whiny and mean and at the very least out of sorts. But then I'm bad at relationships. It's been proven. There are documents.

For right now I'll just hide out, wait until the coast clears, peek around the corner, make a run for the border and remember to be grateful. That is as sensible as I can be right now.

Gratitude? Yeah, tomorrow is February 15th, and it's only four hours and ten minutes away.






I totally suck and I know that.

photolog










Sunday, February 13, 2011

love

There is a stronger hum to the heater now. The brew of the coffee pot is the only other sound heard. Billy Sue has done her business and is gratefully back in bed. Caught up on my sleep I begin to replay the week, the conversations, the reactions.

He is struggling. There is the requisite pause before Hello, a trademark of his. I smile when I think of all his trademarks, all those quirky little rituals that make him who he is. He tells me what he's done and what may have happened, and I try to listen without emotion but there is a certain sadness here. Nothing I can pinpoint, just something weighs heavy or maybe so many things together weigh him down. I assume the latter and simply encourage more talk with less words on my part. Listening, sometimes it can be hard so we don't want to do it. Yet we love so we do.

There is a melody in her speech and this is one of those rare times she actually calls me. She is in heaven, on a waterway, in luxury and you can hear it in her voice. It is so beautiful that somehow it has become a part of her being. She describes to me the last twenty-four hours. The books she has read, the food she has eaten, what it means just to let go. And I think of Slater and Isaac taking that road trip to the ocean, watching them back down the drive, those smiles on their faces, what that meant to them and how it translated as part of my being. Two road trips at once because of the love we share.

Love can be hard I think. So unselfish it becomes about the self. We feel those we love. Their joy is shared, their sadness endured. We lose ourselves, at times, in those around us. Then we may wonder where we are. And what about them? If they ever found out how much they affected us would they not be honest about the sadness for their love of us. How much pressure that would be to lie to even those you love. When would you tell the truth?

I guess the truth always needs to be told and lies of omission are lies nonetheless. Maybe it is the love, that weird, connecting energy between humans, a four letter word, that forces the truth and provides a soft place to land in a potentially sharp dream. Maybe it is okay for those we love to be sad or sick or blocked sometimes. Our love can't fix. It can only be.

Gratitude.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

rendezvous

An old lover, a new meeting.

Something led to something led to something else which led to him.

The search began and then ended with a quick find.

Should I do it, rendezvous with an old lover? It was so sweet before.

Could this ruin a memory enhanced by years apart?

No, it was just that good, right?

Right?



ummmmmmm.....Yeah, always good. Maybe different now. Maybe just a guilty pleasure.

And what the hell, Valentine's Day is coming up and we could consider this a list of potential gift items for your sweet love.

What can I say other than Brockway makes me smile? Happy Valentine's Weekend, me.


Grateful for incredibly wonderful, imaginative and absolutely insane writers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

listen



Haven't heard the CD yet? Well, well, well, you're in luck 'cause someone has been kind enough to share.

And for those of you still waiting on your fabulous prizes, Ellen and Cindy, my goal is to get them mailed to you this weekend.

I think it's good to have goals.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

snow

We don't have time for this. We can't get behind again. Snow? Again? This is Mississippi, damnit. I can't get much further south without swimming. I hereby do declare that if this is not the official last snow Mississippi will see this year then I will have to start my movement, the cause. Global Cooling when we will all be mandated to burn styrofoam in our front yards and roast marshmallows around them. One of those two birds with one stone thing where you not only help the environment but you also get in some family time.

Bring back the old lightbulbs.

I'll admit it. With only about two inches of snow on the ground I left work at 2pm. Total wuss, I know, but Warren lives only a block away, Shenna had called from the interstate crying and I am always a bit worried about the droves of heavy machinery on the roads behind me, in front of me, all over the place. I pushed into hyper speed mode, got a heavy amount of work done in a short time, waved at Warren and opened the door.

Damn. The last time I had looked outside it was an hour and a half ago and simply snowing, nothing worth of note on the ground. Now I was staring out at a white covering with only trees and cars being seen coming from the Earth. So I thought, That happened fast, and I smiled. You really can't help but smile when you see it even though you know it's very close to starting a movement which will take up way too much of your time. Slater ain't even here to burn styrofoam with me.

I opt to take the alternate highway and turn right onto the road separating Tennessee and Mississippi. Immediately after, about a tenth of a mile, I am sitting still on the road separating Tennessee and Mississippi. Inching forward very, very slowly with the people coming toward me inching less, less slowly. They're going out of town a different way. Hmm. I looked at the gas gauge, little less than half a tank. Hmm. I thought maybe I should get gas, thirty-five miles and it's a Civic. Surely. A gas station I have frequented was only about a mile up the road. I thought, We'll see how it goes.

By the time I reached the gas station there had happened an increase in momentum so I went with it in a be like water moving rather than a be like water sitting still dream. Yet it didn't last. It seemed my alternate route was my fellow man's as well. Once again, inching forward very, very slowly except this time there was nobody coming at me on the other side of the road. Everyone was going south so I did a slow, nice little u-turn and headed north. Backroads, I thought, I know how to drive a backroad. That's how I learned to drive.

Headed that way I stopped by the gas station, filled 'er up, bought a six pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes. I know, I know, you don't have to say it, bad, bad. Bottomline is I drank one beer in the two and a half hours it took me to get thirty-five miles. I'd blow into that gadget and not register but kids, seriously don't drink and definitely don't drink and drive 'cause you don't stop with one beer sometimes.

Back in the car I maneuvered around the growing number of vehicles at the gas station, tested the slick parking lot and doubted myself. You've already read here that I don't always make the best decisions or have I not told you that. I mean, seriously, I don't even own a cell phone and made the decision to drive away from civilization. There is a morning radio show played in this area which makes note of something they call Dumbass of the Day. There was a moment where I thought, Tomorrow I could be featured.

Still I headed toward the backroads. An hour into the drive I was back where I had started on the slick pavement separating Tennessee and Mississippi. Each side of the two opposing lines was inching slowly, slowly forward so much so that the friendly people were able to look each other in the face, smile and wave. One guy even gave me a double peace sign which may in today's language mean fuck you but I took it as a benevolent greeting 'cause with Jack Johnson belting out some Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology and knowing I had provisions the only human thing I could figure to do was enjoy.

One guy looked at me through a cracked window and said, Hey, don't go that way. It goes nowhere.

Yeah, you're not going anywhere either, I responded and we both laughed.

I had a buddy that went the interstate and he was so pissed by the time I got home and called him. Ranting and raving his usual banter. All I could do was tell him I was glad he was okay and as close to home as he was 'cause it could be worse. He could be like all those people who had fallen off the road. He calmed down a little bit but not much.

I phoned a check on Shenna who had since made it home and was as happy as I've heard her in days. Something about surviving something will add a pep to your step I think.

Anyway, it was fun, it was nice, the scenery was beautiful and I lived with the only true, treacherous part being trying to get up my own driveway but then again I figured I could walk the rest of the way by that point.

Gratitude.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

short

An old green folder sits behind me atop papers turned over last week. The bulletin in front of me is dotted with random scraps of white penned for some lost reason. To my left is the most immediate array of work yet to be done but only after the emergency placed in front of me. I am surrounded and on the brink of claiming defeat.

It's all relative, I think, and without any warning an old friend with a huge grin walks through my door. He has brought me a book about rafting the Green River and proceeds to tell me the tales of his most recent escapades. And we laugh and have lunch and hug and wish each other well.

Then back at the desk I sit with a sense of urgency now increased, but I know all I can do is the task at hand and it's all relative.



Gratitude.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011