On the Bench

This worn seat holds my time out, the corner I put myself in when I no longer play nicely with others. It holds me in peace as I gaze upon my days with the eye of the beholder.

My family laughs at me for photographing this yard relic religiously in every season.

Here it is in winter, when snow and ice become frequent visitors:

In spring and summer, it provides rest for the weary gardener:

And now in autumn, it gives just the right advantage to look back on time spent in the cycles of the year:

That distance can mean everything.

Nip it in the bud

I’ve seen those eyes before: in high school parking lots and open-air concerts, at parties your “mama told you not to come” to. He sits by the door waiting for another hit of aromatherapy.

I was smart this year and planted it in the front porch pot with the basil as olfactory camouflage. And that is the only reason his supply has lasted this long.

Let’s face it — dude is an addict. He doesn’t even roll in it anymore, just swallows the entire leaf like it’s his last day on earth.

Which it might be if he doesn’t shut up.

Most years I’ve tried to grow the stuff, he sniffs it out and mows down the whole crop like a kitty combine. Later, I’ll come upon yet another sad scene of destruction, plants inhaled down to broken stems, nothing left for a single, solitary . . . locust.

Oh, and he’s too good for store-bought bags. He turns up his little pink nose at the stuffed mice, herbal sachets and smell-enhanced teasers on a stick.

Only the real thing will do. Which is what I discovered this summer growing as a healthy volunteer in my flower bed, hidden in the weeds. Just to be sure, I pulled off a leaf and passed a sample under my sleeping tiger’s snout, causing a miraculous resurrection.

Next thing I know, he’s racing around the house high on life, munching at the food bowl, crazy as a — cat.

So yeah. This explains the all-night howl jams at our house.

He knows he’s busted.

End of Summer As We Know It

Pieces of me keep falling off. Like an overused machine, I find parts to future prospects in the grass. Worn. Cracked. Trampled by life.

My primer is slowly detaching from the body of my youth, as I frantically pump in any elixirs that worked in the past.

I push forward, coughing through polluted expectations, trying to stay within the lines.

Then one back wheel stops propelling along in time so that I waltz sideways into forces of nature, head down against the straight-line winds of loss and age.

Losing precious momentum, I find myself wandering all over my world, cutting short where I shouldn’t, but leaving thickets of doubt to grow unchecked.

Eventually, I’ll end up in the garage, undrained, unwinterized. Obsolete.

Hoping on the spark of a prayer that I start up in the spring.

Photo Friday: Finally

(Apologies to folks on the East Coast.)

There are those of you who have seen too much of this. There are others who have seen too little of the wet stuff.

On this first day of Fall, the rain moving in signals change for me. More than a nip in the air, or the sprinkle of ungreen leaves on my lawn.

It has been a long, hot summer where I live, untouched by hurricanes, cyclones or other whims of the ocean.

This is about as close to water as I can get.

Big Foot’s Got Some Brand New Vans

To me, these vessels are works of art, a masterpiece. I have wanted shoes like this forever. They speak to me of tomboys, denim and badass poets, classic footwear hovering on the verge of preppy. But not quite. Eventually, with worn heels and holes, they will smell of grunge band, fast times and flannel. There is something infinitely satisfying about wearing this symbol on the sidewalks of suburbia.

I have never been in style. Grocery shopping with my mom at our local A & P comes to mind, as I stared at the Dr. Scholl’s display in the same aisle with the hairnets and Legg’s eggs. I was 16 and lusting after those sandals with smooth leather straps (in three different colors!) and a neat center buckle. It seemed like everyone wore them, wooden soles clattering down the high school hallways and clacking nervously under classroom desks. I could only stand by as spectator, fascinated by how the teenage fashionistas kept those clog-like wonders on.

My mother caught me salivating and dismissed my dreams of finally becoming cool despite my bottle-bottom eye glasses and overall nerd status.

“They’ll hurt your feet,” she warned me and that was that. This from a woman whose toes were molded into torpedo points by those hellish heels of the 50s, a style providing countless numbers of foot surgeons with lifelong job security.

“But they are supposed to be good for your feet. They EXERCISE them,” I argued, reading from the box.

“They’re made out of lumber and a tiny piece of leather. You can’t wear those — your feet are too thin.”

And long. Size 10, to be exact. That’s all well and good for a 6’2” runway model, but my 5’8” frame only allowed me to be cast as the family’s personal Bigfoot (a term my father affectionately used for me).

Unfortunately, I possess the trifecta of podiatric woes: narrow, long and flat as a pancake. While my archless-ness might keep me out of a wartime draft, I would gladly endure boot camp than suffer the humiliations of a footwear gauntlet (otherwise known as the shoe store).

Ah yes, the dreaded yearly trip to the small-town shoe shop, where I would gaze sadly at a limited assortment of beautiful styles I could not wear. Right off the bat, my mother ruled out anything remotely cute or trendy, nothing with heels, absolutely no flimsiness or slip-ons allowed.

That left a few sturdy crepe-soled lace ups in geriatric browns and tans. If Velcro shoes had been popular then, I’m sure they would have come in a close second (nothing with flashing lights or wheels in the heels, however). Come to think of it, Velcro would have made the torment go a whole lot faster if not easier, as I sat tensely through the everlasting lacing procedure at the knee of the store owner, who had realized by this point there wasn’t one shoe in the entire store that fit me.

Yes, that’s right. While sitting amongst the piles of tissue paper and lidless cardboard boxes, after countless trips to the back, with me futilely pacing around like a caged animal while my mother pinched my toes, I always heard the inevitable proclamation of my shame:

We’ll just have to “special” order them.

I hate the word special. After what seemed like years, we returned to the scene of the crime for the prize I didn’t want. And the “specially” ordered size 10s wouldn’t fit much better than the store’s one pair of 9 1/2s, except that my toes weren’t as crowded (obviously my mother’s worst nightmare) and I could easily walk out of my new giant boats of leather without untying any laces, thanks to the narrow heels blessed to me by my grandmother.

Now, flash forward to the brand-new Vans, the cool ones here in black and white.

The ones I bought in record time after waltzing into the shoe section of a regular department store, zeroing in on the display model, quickly searching through the well-marked boxes, and finding just the right size (already pre-laced).

I tried them on by myself, no exhausted sales clerk hoping against hope that this trial of patience would soon be over, no mother following me around with her toe-seeking fingers at the ready, and no customer service associate painfully filling out an order form for my mythical pair of perfect shoes.

And the best part? They are a size 9 1/2. Either I have shrunk or American shoe standards have grown large. Oh joyous day, this means there are plenty of other big-footed gals out in the fashion wilderness. I am not alone.

And yes, Mom, I have plenty of room in the toes.

Hot Flash

It can happen anywhere, that hormonal malfunction of the bodily furnace — along the non-refrigerated grocery aisle as I gaze at hot sauce for instance, or while merely contemplating the possibility of self-inflicted exercise, or often right after I pull on my sweater.

No matter. I can take it, I mutter to myself when bedtime rolls around.

But the nocturnal version is a whole other animal — waking up with an unwelcome passion, sweating from the wrong kind of combustion, fanning faster than belles at a debutante ball, kicking off the sheets like a two-year-old.

There is no time to take cover. It roars in with the solar flares of a thousand searing July afternoons, prickling the skin like sunburn, smelling of baby oil and bonfires. I hear the tinny beat of beach radios as polka dots from a long-gone bikini flash before my eyes.

I’m wondering what I’ve done to deserve this. Am I still holding the iron too close to my face? Have I been caught sipping illegal beers during illicit decadent dinners with underage carbs? Is it worth the raging forest fires while getting my fix from strong coffee and good chocolate?

And then it is gone.

I come to my senses only to find my head in the freezer.

Again.

Photo Friday: Moon Dance

My husband called me outside the other night to witness strange companions. Bring your camera, he said. The moon goddess and Thor were stepping it up in the skies to the beat of August crickets.

I have nothing but respect for these two. I bow to his thunderous roars (even when they wake me from a sound sleep) and I plant by her phase.

Try as I might with my poor little camera, I couldn’t capture his zapping bolts. He is too quick for me, hiding in diaphanous cover. But she has glowed in our windows every night this week, a constant comfort in a violent world.

Happy full moon weekend.

Photo Friday: Night Ride

The air was so thick you could drown before you hit the water. Record temps of the day still held onto our skin, as the great inferno reluctantly turned down its flames.

Time for a boat ride.

I hadn’t done this in eons. To slip into the dark room of the lake, friends chatting bravely, soothing summer ballads floating off on our self-created breeze.

By now the busy buzzing of motorcraft had faded away, leaving waterfowl clustered in quiet gossip far from shore.

Only occasionally did we see murky shapes glide by with Christmas lights in front and a fallen star caught high on the back.

Reminding us to gaze up and reacquaint ourselves with old friends.

Photo Friday: Traveling Light

I’ve just returned from a week-long meditation retreat. In front of the center where we stayed, a small pond was surrounded by butterfly bush.

The stunning blossoms attracted more than just butterflies. Meditators couldn’t keep away from the fluttering paradise.

Daily, we gathered around the pool, transfixed by croaking frogs and tinkling waterfall, the flexing of lily flowers and ripples across calm waters. But most of all, the delicate wings of nature’s angels lured us into golden afternoon sunbeams.

Their mating spirals and ministrations to the nectar of life made the depth of meditation that much sweeter. The community and conversation I found that week will remain with me always. The light of peace carried forever.

As a practicing minimalist, I arrived with very little.

I left with so much more.

Photo Friday: Backyard Miracle

For two years in the same spot, a sunflower seedling has appeared, never knowing the hand of man.

And for once, I have had the good sense not to pluck it out as a weed.

Like Jack’s beanstalk, the stem has grown thick and sturdy, trying to touch clouds and outshine the competition.

Its petals illuminate our patio as we dine and laugh and sing the praises of our day.

The willing beacon also cheers us down in occasional valleys we stumble across along the way.

Forever following its father in the sky, this gift from an unknown donor glows from above as we sit in the shadows.

Our own personal sun.