This morning the sun just ever so early was shining through the cloud of fog hanging low over the ridge, my view was like that of being above the clouds. Looking out. Tired. Sleepy. Debating. Coffee and writing or going back to bed? Coffee won. And finishing an advanced reading copy of a book about a boy on a quest who turns out to be an angel, and finds his wings. It's a message for all of us. Don't slouch. Don't fear. Stretch your wings. Know thyself and be true.
I walked downstairs and went out on the porch, found the one piece of sky where I could lean way out and look out at the fog. Looked back at the blocked porch where the plastic hangs to protect Mom's plants from the freeze. Where it's actually nailed in. I don't have the tools or strength to take down the contraption made to hold it. It blocks the light, blocks the view. Creates a constant shadow. The living room looks out on grey floating plastic.
Rescue Kevin looked at me sleepily, stretched from his four blankets with heating pad and rose. He favors it finally in the wee hours of the dawn when the cold earth has stirred up the pain in his bones. An old accident. A run in with a car that was never tended. I can tell when it's stiff, when it pains him.
Mama's got a green thumb that Saint Peter would envy. She can bring the dead to life. Grow anything. Transplant. Transfigure. She has tried her best to bring cuttings of her plants to Tennessee. A rose bush she planted thirty years ago. It bloomed this summer. It's still potted and too heavy for me to move. It attacks me when I walk on the porch. The vines now wrapping around and clinging to me. Prick, prick, prick. Probably trying to tell me something in her absence as she visits Cousin Deb. Feed us. Sun us. Trim us. Fertilize. I tell them to hush. That I have words to write. That I have decided to never plant, feed, or nurture anything that will make me bleed. I'm beyond it.
I applaud my mother's gift. I recognize it for what it is. Something incredible. Wondrous. Magical. My entire life, her plants, the yard, the roses, the tulips. My entire life - my mother outside at the end of the day watering, watering. Tending and trimming. Summer grass, winter grass, pear trees. Beauty and bounty. Running roses all along the fence. Daffodils, Azaleas, Iris's, And those really big, huge, orange, Florida flowers. A bush six feet tall full of them.
My hands are better on the keys than in the dirt. I have come to accept this. Truly. Just now.
This morning I turned my palm up, held it in a ray of sunshine falling on my desk. Was mesmerized by the complex beauty of the lines it holds. How many stories residing there. Years ago, many many years ago, cousin Deb and I would visit a palm reader on occasion. Teenagers. Bored with car keys and five dollars to burn. Let's get our fortunes told today, we'd say. Then we would make the dark eyed woman living in some small rental shelter read our palms at the same time together. Refusing to separate and take our turns. We got no secrets, we would say. My life line was never long. Deb's stretches around the world.
I've outlived many friends. I thought of that this morning as I turned my palm this way and that. The lines form crossroads upon crossroads. Which brought to mind my grandmother as I whispered two lines of a prayer. Or maybe it was a country song.
Already old when I was born. Me her late-life grace. Her smiling and saying, I'm just a wrinkled, old woman now, as she rubbed Noxema cream on her face. Me standing beside her all of five looking up and saying, You are beautiful. Knowing it to be true. She of rocking chairs and chocolate cakes, of long fingers, bending my hair gently behind my ear, being pure magic in my universe. Like Mom's green thumb, She nourished me. I was watered by her presence.
Today they say it will climb to fifty and beyond. How my bones crave the sun! A long, bake like a lizard on a rock. I need tending to. My soul.
Lent. It's my season. One I normally feel most akin to. A season to languish and lament. The melancholy and denial. Artist shadow, writer heart. Everything I gave up I've given into. Perhaps this is a different kind of lent. One that shows me something yet anew. Perhaps God's hand holds out a new request of me.
This week. The shootings. No words still. No words. I looked at the photos of those now lost. Slowly. Reading about their lives. Crying. Later that day I took myself to the movie. My medicine to be lost in story and reset.
The Shape of Water.
It. Wrecked. Me.
Reminded me of Big Fish in some stylistic ways. I warn you here. There is nudity and a kind of sex. Should you take offense. I haven't read Fifty Shades and never will. That is not my cup of tea. But the movie is not about these things. I won't say what it's about. But love and monsters, maybe. But to each his own. The story that comes home the one you were mean to see or read.
I sat down alone. Seven other people scattered about in the dark. The movie started. One third way through I started crying. By the end I was a mess. Waited for the theatre to empty. The last to leave I passed the one, lone young girl standing there with a broom to clean who looked at me concerned. "That movie just broke my heart," I said in some kind of gulps. She said something, like, take care. I passed the restroom but didn't stop. I exited through emergency, went straight to my car, drove home to Ashland City sobbing. Went to bed.
The next morning instead of writing I built a fire. Ate creamed goat cheese with strong coffee Went to lunch where a friend said, Well, you must have needed a good cry. I guess. That and something more. Something I'm still pondering.
This mornings reading for Sunday Lent in the prayer book, 2 Corinthians, 6. After a long list of the patience and kindness and unfeigned love of those seeking out and serving God the list continues: "By honor and dishonor, by evil report and good: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
And, it. wrecks. me.
It is something about the fragility of this human life. The beauty and horror of it. The longing to be loved. The desperation to be seen, to be heard. To be known. The tender improbability that any of us have made it. That we are still here, alive this morning.
There's a lone hawk circling. I watch him ride the airwaves. I am above him. This is what I can see from my office window. The brown of the bare trees, the distant ridge. I am high above the little valley. I have room enough for wisdom and understanding. For discernment. I pray for these things in the midst of my troubles and my triumphs.
Last night I had three littles - 9, 5, 3. My sister had given them two brand new BIG lego trucks to play with. I had envisioned a quiet, happy dinner then some snuggles on the couch while we watched a movie. Perhaps pajamas and sleep overs. Fighting over who was playing with what truck and how they were playing with it ensued. Zaza made dinner. Truck parts lay all over the room. The nine year old realized I kept fast forwarding through the movie. Skipping parts. The other two did not. They were still fighting over trucks. Two more ounces of energy I would have put up trucks, passed out baths. With a splitting headache I made their little bowls of strawberries, grapes and blueberries with yogurt on top. The one that Damon little calls his regular mix. Like he's ordering at a restaurant. I'll have my regular mix. Sure kid. Anything for you. As soon as they ate them I was saying, 'Get in the car. All of you. You are going home.' Love, love, love you. Gotta say bye, bye now. Kisses, kisses.
They. wrecked. me.
We don't always know what may show up that hurts or hinders. A bad medical test. News of a shooting. Weonly know that we have the moment at hand. That we are not perfect or far from it. That we will achieve some goals and miss others. That seasons come, stay, leave, change.
We can only hope that little by little we evolve as human beings. That like the complex lines across our palms we thread the moments of our days into the brutal, beautiful realities of our lives with all grace and mercy.
May the force be with each of us as we undertake such a monumental, tiny task.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to sit down with you in a diner and tell you this face to face. But, I blew it. Just freaking blew it. And, it has haunted me ever since.
I want to finally thank you for making the movie, The Razors Edge and exposing me to the work of W. Somerset Maugham. After watching the movie I went to the library and checked out, The Razor's Edge. Then I went on to read everything W. Somerset Maugham had ever written that I could get my hands on.
So, here's the moment I missed telling you this so many years ago the way I would have preferred, face-to- face.
It was cold. A winter in the city kind of cold. I'm a native of the Gulf Coast of Florida and I don't do cold well.
I was in New York for the very, first time with Cousin Deb for the weekend adventure to visit fellow playwright Nancy Hasty. Nancy had offered to open her door to us for a visit. Adventures in the city ensued including almost getting robbed on the streets but then - When your cousin shouts at the top of her lungs in a southern accent, "Look, It's Radio City Music Hall! Mama said we should come see that!" you are just asking for the guy leaning on the wall watching you to get off the wall and begin to follow you into a deserted street. But, that's not the story at hand here. It's all about thou.
So we get up early one morning and decide to take off in search of breakfast. We do what one does in Manhattan - we walk. And because Cousin Deb was in a rush we didn't put on make-up, or get polished up worth anything. Sloppy hair, sloppy clothes. Not even gloss on the lips much less a full monty on the face.
After hoofing in the cold for awhile we look up and see a diner that looks promising. We cross the street and step inside. The place is crazy busy. Absolutely packed. The guys behind the grill are slammed solid. We spot the only empty seats in the place. Two along the wall in the back, left corner. In the process of getting there we have to squeeze through a few tables, one of them being yours. Only at the time we didn't know it. A four-seater, plenty of room, and you are sitting there alone as we jostle the chairs, bump them into the table. I can feel you looking at us as we bang and rattle every chair and finally pass by and sit down only a few feet from you and facing you.
I look at you. You look at me. I whisper to Deb, "Don't say anything, and don't look now but that is Bill Murray."
She looks. She says something. She says it loud enough for every diner in the place to hear.
"No FREAKING way!" Only freaking was not in vogue then so she just went old school. She went old school again, and again, then added FREAK ME!
We ordered. We ate. I tried not to look at you after such a charming entrance and Deb's public acknowledgement of you being so - ummm - genuine and starstruck.
And starstruck we were. It's cute but unfortunate in this case for two reasons. We really wanted to respect your privacy or at least what was left of it at this point. And, did I mention we weren't wearing make-up? Which being older now, needing make-up so much more, I wouldn't care one twit if I bumped your chairs, had on no make-up, was dressed like a bum. Given the opportunity I would take the moment over. I'd tell you exactly what I had thought from the beginning about The Razor's Edge, about how much I loved your performance and appreciated your taking the time and risk to make the movie. (A remake from many years before but one that deserved to be remade and remade well.)
I wanted to tell you that sometimes the things we do that are good and right and that should get more attention, be an obvious success, often go on to achieve things we may never know or realize.
Case in point. I wrote a novel years ago titled, The Gin Girl. A smokey, moody murder mystery set in the Everglades. When I first landed an agent she thought it would get a six-figure deal and an instant contract for a movie. Didn't happen. It was finally published by an unknown Indie, and for the most part other than a few great reviews, went undiscovered. Years of work down the drain. All my expectations and hopes for that great novel dried up to dust.
A few years ago I received an email. One that began, "I doubt you'll ever read this but if by chance you do I'm writing it anyway."
It told the story of this young woman who had to be committed to a psychiatric ward one night and how her mother had brought her something to read, my novel The Gin Girl. She went on to say how much those characters helped her get through that long, dark night. How she didn't feel frightened when she began reading it because she felt they were right there with her and that she wasn't alone. Then she said some other nice things.
I sat there after reading that and thinking - If it was all for only this, this one letter, then it was worth it.
I don't expect my letter to make you feel the same way about making, The Razor's Edge. But it's important to me that I say them. It's my simple thank you for not only doing excellent work in supporting the power of story, but opening up an entirely new world to me, of exposing me to an author that I may have otherwise missed entirely.
I wish I could replay that cold day in New York. You had the most beautiful leather coat, and leather messenger bag. I watched you stand, put on the coat, pick up your bag, and put on your hat as you walked out the door. The entire time that small voice inside of me saying, "Tell him now. Get up. Go tell him now. Stop him now before he leaves. Tell him now. Go after him. Go after him down the street. Stop him on the sidewalk."
I let you - and the moment slip away.
But not this one.
Thank you for the film and the inspiration and Godspeed on your current and future endeavors.
But - Fair warning - Make up or no, next time I bump into you at an empty table I'm pulling up a chair and sitting down. There will be some stories told. Without apology.
*Had to repost the love in honor of Groundhog Day (and Bill of course)
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.