Scientific Reclassification

Feelings are an assignment of blame or honor to chemicals.
Emotion is a name given to electrical pulses of energy marking time or torment.
Deconstruction of trauma is a math function. Word problem. Brain exercise.
Subtraction of pain.
Addition of love.
Multiply goodness.
Equals a whole person.
Powers to an astronomical degree.
Science is beautiful. Humans are sums.
Peace is knowable. Pain is a number. God is infinite.

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Smile and Burn

Money does not buy happiness.
A smile can’t stop the rain.
But when you’ve confronted the past,
You can smile through the pain.

A smile isn’t an umbrella.
Peace isn’t purchased with cash.
Happiness is burning down hate
And rising from the ash.

So take this fire,
And beat those wings.
Fan these flames.
Embrace the change it brings.

candles

Summer on 20 acres.

Hooks and hay
Legs, arms, hair, feet
Pulleys and rope
Dangle like hope
From these loft floor cracks and old barn rafters
High on sunshine, shade and sugar
Wading through
Summertime sweetness
Ripples
Sparkles
Soft difference between water and air
Swaying, yellow grass grazing the crisscrosses on my overalled back
I won’t touch this ground again with my pink toes
Only with my mind

it only takes a second

from all the way back in 2013. a great reminder:

i just realized that all the pain and hurt that i have felt over the years is not in charge of who i am or what i will be. God is in charge and i will choose to live by his command of forgiveness and peace and live without fear, revenge or regret. to give my abuse a second life by holding on to the past is robbing me of my present and future. that abuse can no longer have any more of my life or health! to live in anger only causes personal suffering. i was driving down the road the other day and i crested the hill. there was a child in the street and my first reaction was to be angry. judge him for his actions, his parents lack of supervision or any reason to be upset with him. a child. and then, within seconds, i chose to put that down and wave and smile and be friendly to the kid. i shocked my husband and even myself. it only takes a second to choose kindness. it only takes a second to choose a better path.


Choosing a good path today! Good luck to you, too!

When I think as Ma

Photo credit: Sean Priest


Any scene that I do lately, when I’m playing Ma Joad, I think of the long line of strong women in my family before me.

The way I stand. The way I stare. The way I clench my jaw in contemplation. Tired, somewhat relaxed, but chewing on tomorrow.

These two women saw the 20th century in color.

gmas
Both of my grandmothers at my mother’s wedding in 1954.

They saw the blood. And the babies. And the dust.
They saw the first car in their town.
The first TV.
The first washing machine.
They watched tears roll down their children’s faces.
Wiped those tears.
Watched rivers rise and fall.
Husbands come and go.

I think of them as I play Ma. How they would hold themselves? Carry themselves? Present themselves to the world? What did they have to do for their families during the Depression?

I know that deep down, they were both scared for their families, wanted the best for their kids. Loved God. Wanted all the things good people want for their descendants. And they just went on. Did what they needed. Hoped they made the right decisions. Cried their own tears.

They are Ma.
I am Ma.
All women are Ma.

Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the first in a series of 5 short articles.
Kathryn is my grandmother.
Above–her home in the 40s. She kept chickens out back.

Kathryn-#1


She washes people’s clothes for money. She is a woman who works hard and seldom rests. She does not tolerate humor or fuss. About kidding around, “There’s a little bit of truth in every joke.” Meaning: jokes are hurtful. Barbed jabs meant to demean and humiliate. Laughter is a luxury. Feelings are downright obscene.

She is a force of will.

Grandma’s hair is yellowish white, faded from stress, time and negativity. She keeps it tight in a bun and hairnet. Her face is just as faded. Her beauty quickly spent on marriage, children and hard times.

She always wears a dress. Not a fancy frock, but a well-worn print. The only days she didn’t wear a dress were those spent in a factory during WW2.

She wears sensible shoes. Always. Black leather with a low heel. The kind that deform feet into fleshy, pink lobster claws.

She has a large, round nose and large, droopy Buddha-like lobes. Those ears have heard ten thousand centuries. Those earlobes were made for clip earrings. She has ten thousand clip earrings. Never wears them.

Hard, metallic eyes that saw her father’s mistreatment of her mother. Those dark beads saw his fortune taken away as well. She saw her comfortable childhood home revoked and replaced by a dirt-floor shed.

There’s a picture of her when she was 5. Small. Golden. Tiny, pursed lips. Serious. Head cocked. Like a dog listening to a child practice the clarinet. Droopy earlobe kissing the receiver of an old-fashioned candlestick phone. Impossible. I only knew her as a crinkled crank in her 80s.

A very handsome young girl. She marries in her teens. Only to quickly lose her husband’s farm to the tax collector. She rears 3 children through the Depression, Dust Bowl and war. She raises and kills chickens with her hands. She milks the cow (the one they could keep from the lost farm). She sews. She cleans (not well). She cooks.

She hardens; she resolves. She is determined to forbid fate from having its destructive way.

She works hard because she doesn’t know anything else. She works hard because she learned that you can’t rely on anyone except God and yourself.  She works hard because that is her pathway to happiness.

She works hard because everyone is counting on her.

If I stop moving, I’ll die.

These are her lonely, driven thoughts. She is an ever-swimming, scarred-up shark who’s tired of the feeding frenzy and bloodbath.

She dies from heart failure.

Christmas is Temporary

From 2014:

Christmas is fleeting. All year long, we wait in anticipation of the holidays and then we complain the whole time. It’s too crowded, cold, busy, expensive, gluttonous, hurried. I didn’t get what I wanted. I gave everyone a present and now I’m broke and alone.

The spirit. The spirit of the holidays. The joy of Christmas. What is it? Is it lights? Is it cocoa? Is it candy, presents, cookies? Is it the promise and hope of magic? But it never comes. We wait all year and it never comes. And then the lights fade and the tinsel is taken down.

Christmas is temporary.

But it’s not. What is it we are waiting for? What is it that we miss every year and chase after time and again? It’s Christ. That’s what we are really looking for and we’re looking in the wrong places. Is it in this tin of cookies? Is it in this neatly-wrapped box? Is it at the bottom of my second cup of cocoa? Is it at my 2nd, 3rd, 7th Christmas karaoke party?

An entire season is dedicated to what started out as a celebration of giving and hope. Hundreds of years have come and gone, each renewing the tradition of Christmas. But each year some family grows further apart. Each year some person grows more jaded, cynical, greedy and Scrooge-like. Each year our eyes grow more narrow and short-sighted. Each year we try to chase our pleasure, fulfillment and that indescribable magic that only caught us as children because we were bright-eyed and open.

Years ago, at the Blue Ridge Mall, they had a display. I don’t remember now if it was all the time or just at Christmas, but I remember it at Christmas. We were in line for Santa and the line snaked by a huge oil fall. It’s a waterfall except they used oil on strings. It’s like a waterfall in slow motion. It was magical, beautiful and a wondrous summation of the holiday experience for me. I lost myself in the endless strings dripping with glowing, hypnotic oil. I felt warm, silly and excited. I drank in the luxury of it all as I waited for Santa. I don’t remember Santa exactly, but I remember the strings. I wanted to reach out and grab them. But instead I swallowed my fingers and excitement over and over again at simply being near them. At that point, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember Mom and Dad close by. I remember my siblings there too. I remember the sounds of cheerful shoppers as they shuffled by and their muffled packages swaying back and forth in their clasped hands. I remember the soft mall lighting and the quiet aromas of furniture, leather shoes, popcorn, clothing, carpet and mall food. I remember feeling safe, happy, joyful. The mood was love. And everyone felt it.

Now, I’ve begun a tradition with my family. We try to see Longview Lake Lights. We’ve been coming off and on for a few years now. And the best part. They have a field full of trees made from lights. Those are my favorite. They remind me of the oil fall. Delicate pearls of light suspended in the darkness, soft purple and blue, hanging on invisible strings melting into the night. For the last couple of years, it’s the most peaceful and the most child-like capture of innocence and wonder I’ve known. I’m five again. I’m eight again. I’m me before all the bad. I’m in Christmas up to my neck and in love with the world.

I wish I could take that with me. I wish I could visit the lights every night. But I can’t. The lights are even closer now that we live here, but even so, I can’t see them every night. But I can look for Christ. I can look for him every day and celebrate his birth. I don’t have to wait for “the day”. And I can try to capture his joy, his love, his intention, his gift every single moment, all year long. I can look for it as I drive, shop, eat and talk. I don’t have to wait all year and miss it. I can look and find it. I just have to be bright-eyed and open. His love is hanging right in front of our faces on an invisible string of light, dripping down and mesmerizing us with the delicate, graceful fall and we just have to reach out and grab it.

Merry Xmas! Happy Holidays! May you find many joys and love.