Monday, March 12, 2007

Look up

Watching clouds appear, disappear, and reform has been a pastime of mine my entire life. As a child, my mother would peer through the kitchen window and yell that I should stop daydreaming, and "do something." I remember laying there thinking that must be what a dog feels like. They understand the intention but not the words. Her intention was serious, but I did not understand what she meant – "do something." Annoyed at being interrupted at my sky gazing, I’d skirt the side of the house, out of her window range, and find a shady new spot to lie down.

It’s been forty years, and I continue to have my head in the clouds. The Weather Channel is now my channel of choice. Watching the moving path of nationwide precipitation still thrills. The Doppler shows a far reaching pressure system, which will create, dissolve, and build all of my personal favorites – cumulus, cirrus, and lenticular.

I imagine children looking to the sky; lying in the cornfields of Kansas, horseback riding across the plains, or maybe looking up from sunny parks in New York City. It makes me happy to know that they see them too. We’re like a club where we know other members are out there, we just don’t know who they are. Today I’m hoping that God will take a long deep breath and blow some new clouds my way. Wherever I am, I promise to look up.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day, I celebrate the love of someone special and in doing so, pay homage to St. Valentine. Legend has it that Valentine, a Roman Catholic priest in the third century, railed against emperor Claudius II, who had outlawed that any young men marry. Single men make better soldiers and Claudius was deeply committed to maintaining a hearty army of young men.

Valentine, in his effort to support romantic love, secretly married the young lovers. Once discovered by Claudius, Valentine was imprisoned and sentenced to death. And in an odd twist of fate, it was here that he personally found romantic love. The jailer’s daughter, a frequent visitor to the confined priest, inspired his own letters of love. In his last post to the young girl, he signed “From Your Valentine.” I use the same inscription today as I sign my words of love.

Canonizing Valentine after his death ensured that “Saint Valentine” lived on in the memories of those smitten by love. By the Middle Ages, he was easily one of the most popular Saints in England and France.

I know that this is only one of the legends surrounding the celebration, but it’s the one I liked best. This day continues to be an acknowledgment that we have someone special in our lives. When I write “From Your Valentine” I’ll think of that dedicated priest who gave his life for love. We should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

M is for mockingbird

While not a professional bird watcher, I think each of my friends is remarkably like the bird species I watch each day. A myriad of birds gather on branches outside of my window in unusual combinations of color, size, and voice; very much like my circle of friends. Though they are clearly different species, they join together in a cacophony of sound, bird to bird, much like woman to woman.

The mockingbird, which is personally one of my favorites, is so full of life that her voice radiates delight wherever she goes. Her social concentration is so keen that her initial greeting makes you believe that you are the most important person alive.

The mockingbird is drawn to anything shiny and she never leaves home without armfuls of silver bangles, sequined skirts, and silver earrings hanging long from her ears. Eyes darting and chattering rapidly, she twirls amongst the crowd and without knowing, draws the attention of every man in the room. Her shoulders often languish above a wide boat neck sweater and her short blonde hair darts in every direction. With her sparkling attire and swift movements, she often looks like a fast traveling comet. Her trail of stardust leaves most guests sorry for her early evening departures.

She’s as beautiful as a peacock and as charming as a lovebird. Quick to chatter, easy to charm, my friend the mockingbird has turned me into an avid bird watcher.


little prayers

The world is a sight to behold. Each day as I read current events on CNN, I hold my breath. Things are considerably more complicated now. I’m thankful that I’m not trying to figure out the never-ending puzzle of world politics. It’s a difficult task.

I am amused that the daily news has forced a new habit on me. When I read through articles, I have begun to say little prayers. When the young men of war are counted as numbers, I close my eyes and whisper “go in peace.” When kidnapped children are found, I say “thank you,” and when foolish people do foolish things I say, “it takes all kinds to make an interesting world. Thank you for the variety.”

I don’t know when it started. I’m not even sure where it comes from. Growing up my family rarely – if ever – attended church. I have no desire for affiliation or religious community and yet, a new and simple belief has entered my life. I imagine that my prayer is the intention of warmth that pushes at the back of those traveling to parts unknown. I want them to know that another is wishing them well on their way.

People talk about world consciousness. Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. I’m not sure, but just in case, I want to do my part. It’s not much, but each day, as I read the news, I whisper my little prayers.


Friday, January 5, 2007

i never wanted to be pretty

When I was a child, I’d look at myself in the bathroom mirror and wonder about my blank looking face. As I watched Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren on black and white TV, I’d think to myself, I want to be handsome like THAT. I never wanted to be pretty. I’d manipulate my face with my hands, trying to imagine what I’d look like as an older woman. I thought sexy was having laugh lines and sad eyes, round hips, and an attitude. Being blonde and blue-eyed I knew I’d never have the earthy look of the Italians I loved, and I spent hours wondering about that.

Forty-five years later, I see I finally have a “face.” Years of work, family and experiences have created a very public roadmap. Being single at 55 has added more laugh lines.

Some friends have chosen plastic surgery. Others are seriously considering. It puzzles me. Does lifting your eyelids, sucking fat, and inserting plastic implants make your life different? Personally, I’m not convinced. I’ve clearly had a life – and it shows. After all that, why would I erase it?

Attitude and intellect have their benefits and a confident woman is formidable. Yes, my eyelids now resemble Simone de Beauvoir…but I always thought she was one sexy woman. She probably wouldn’t play well to the plastic surgery crowd, but I’m not a member. Perception is everything. I’m not pretty, but I’m still working on handsome.


in the night

She felt like a woman who'd been told she was loved, by a man she didn't know. It had been years they’d been together and more years they’d been apart. She’d never understood how the silence had grown between them. The burning of her cigarette was often the only sound in the room heavy with night. Some evenings when she woke, she could see his outline against the glass of the windowpanes and knew that he had not slept.

He pulled her close as they walked on the cobblestone streets, fog dampening the sounds of their boots on the stones. She kept with his quick pace. With steps taken in time, they hurried towards the town center, hoping to arrive before dawn. She slowed as they turned the corner and saw the lights through the thickening fog. It wouldn’t be long now.

Muffled voices came from the alleyways as they moved closer to the cars. Lights became brighter but those standing in the darkness did not move. She could hear the tires roll across the wet pavement as the fog turned to rain.

With a firm hand he guided her towards the door of the black limousine. With no sound, the back door swung open. Without a glance, she ducked in and quickly pulled the door closed. He stood and fumbled in his pocket for a cigarette, when he remembered it had been years since he’d smoked. She had always had that effect on him.


the birdcage

Francis was 96 years old when he fell in his house. They placed him in a convalescent hospital, which he named “The Birdcage.” Staff said he had to gain back his strength, and once he did, they still didn’t want him to leave. But Francis had his champions and those neighborhood women fought to bring Francis home. He’d often joke about how he’d “flown the coop” and how he was never going back.

Caring for the elderly can be a fulltime job, but Francis was fiercely independent. Neighbors joined together and delivered his meal each evening. As his eyesight dimmed and he could no longer read the newspaper, he’d listen to the radio. Occasionally he’d turn on his TV, which provided a snowy screen, but to someone with limited eyesight, he thought his rabbit ears were working just fine.

Francis was married for 56 years the first time. He never dreamed he’d find love again, but at 97 years old, Francis fell in love. Each day, he’d make his way to the laundry room and there his arthritic hands would slowly iron his shirt and trousers. Nobody can remember a time when Francis wasn’t perfectly dressed – ever.

Francis died this week at 98 years old. Quick in mind and generous of spirit, he was the quintessential gentleman. As we stood at his grave, I could not help but smile as I thought to myself, he’s really flown the coop this time.