Oasis

Oasis in dp

I-90 runs through Illinois and just off the Mt. Prospect road exit was a place that meant something to a lot of us that grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. It wasn’t a beautiful place, just a typical 1950’s utilitarian brick and glass, I-could-easily- be-transformed-into-a-minimum-security-prison…or-a-school, design. It was the Des Plaines Oasis, a road side rest stop/restaurant/and well known gathering place for local teens in the wee hours of the night.

Even though you may have never driven I-90 through Des Plaines, you’ve probably seen it. It was the building lit by fire from the flame thrower Carrie Fisher used to torch the Blues Brothers while they made a call in a phone booth. By the time this film was made in the 1970’s, the restaurant had already changed hands from the old Fred Harvey franchise.
Here’s the scene.

They tore it down this past weekend to make way for road widening. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it got me wondering where teens will go now at 3 in the morning to eat waffles and drink gallons of coffee after sneaking out of the house.

Back then, it was the only thing around for anyone under 21 when your munchies sent you into the night in search of a plate of fries and a hot fudge sundae. Everyone I knew wandered through that place at some point on a weekend. Looking at the door in the photo, got me thinking of all the people’s hands that touched that door handle over the past 50 plus years. Friends, lovers, classmates, neighbors and uncountable others; the famous and the civilian suburbanites; they all grabbed that handle and made their way to a leatherette booth where a plastic coated menu awaited their hungry eyes. So many of them are now gone from this world, mixed with the dust of the demolition.

In some less patchouli smelling, eight track dimension of my memory, the words that Izak Dineson wrote in her book (later a movie), Out of Africa rose up again…

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me…?”

All things must pass. Thank you and goodbye, Des Plaines Oasis. You were the scene of many hilarious conversations with friends dear to my heart. And thanks Fred Harvey Restaurant (way back when) for your pencil-stuck-in-their-hairdo servers that let us just hang out when the rest of the world was closed for the night.

Somewhere in the air over where you once stood, there is a shadow of me with waffle syrup stuck on it somewhere. It’s quivering with laughter and humming a song from Tumbleweed Connection.

All things must pass. Gone but not forgotten.

Poetry Day- Elixir … for Valentine’s Day

Yuko heart pic

Elixir

Viscous fluid

once known – that filled our fragile lungs

nurturing as we grew

forming out of nothing-

Fluid breathed that once expelled, left us yearning

for the fullness it offered every open space within.

Expelled and replaced by some

Sad substitute necessitating constant vigil-

Until – one day- again

a breath taken becomes so much more than

all the breaths we took before.

This breath, this invisible treasure –

holds pure essence of another

mingled in its molecules.

We taste on tongue and inhale deeply-

memory of something lost

that fed and formed us

Now back again-

filling every open place

and we are home.

It comes unseen on random breeze

Impossible to anticipate.

Its elixir

Poured by angels

Down parched throats

Anointing each remaining breath as

Worthy food

To feed a hungry soul.

It is no wonder-

Should it leaves us-

Why we gasp and whither

Having lost it twice in one life.

Jar of Wonder

Jar of wonder

I’ve used the last of the lotion I concocted several months back and I can’t seem to toss out the cool jar. It’s squatty and round and it once held a moderately pricey and amazing royal jelly body butter from Savannah Bee Company.

Custom blending makes me feel like an alchemist; scooping and stirring and sniffing this and that to decipher its compatibility with the other bits and bobs. I do the same thing with spices, much to the entertainment of my family. Oh, crap. Here she goes again. It starts as a chore because I’m out of something that I need. Once I get going, I fall into the spirit of the scavenger hunt around my home. Every bathroom has some Bermuda Triangle area of lotions and potions and tiny tubes and bottles from hotel stays and gift baskets that I open and smell. If it passes muster, it comes with me to the kitchen.

I start with something thick and un-tinted like Nivea and add a few tablespoons of it to the jar; then the fun begins. A teaspoon of Curel, another of Jergens another of some cocoa butter weirdness and on it goes until it’s almost full to the top. At the end, I add a big dollop of some perfumed cream with a soft and lovely fragrance like the old Breathe Romance from Bath & Bodyworks which, of course, they no longer make just because I love it. Luckily, I’ve been a miser with my last jar so I save it for mixing like Merlin would have saved his stash of dragon blood for spell work.

I’ve made a tiny treasure of this oft used vessel and now call it my Jar of Wonder and the lid bears some of my artsy handiwork and sparkles like a starry night. It seems so much more lush and decadent with the beauty lid when I go to rescue my indoor-winter sand paper feet and hands.

The point of all this is that when I found the jar empty this morning, my first reaction was the same as it is when so many good things end; a downslide into an inventory of all that once was and is no longer at my fingertips. It’s just a jar for cripes sake. I know this. But, cut me some slack. I live in mid Michigan; the second cloudiest place in America, so my vitamin D sunshine levels are dangerously low in January.

And as it turned out, while I was on my search for ingredients, the more I found, the deeper it sunk in that I do indeed have far, far more of everything of this sort than I could ever need. Even if that means I have a whole lot of a little of this and a little of that.

So, it’s not a 40 oz. vat of royal jelly body butter. No matter. If I had a giant container to mix and stir in, I could probably make 40 oz. of my Wonder Cream and be up to my neck in it for months to come. And is that not the way of all our “I don’t have enough…” stories?

Maybe we don’t have Jay Leno’s garage full of cars and motorcycles to choose from that might match our outfits today, but we can always find a way to get from point A to point B and that was the goal anyway.

Perhaps we aren’t in the throes of big-big love at this part of our lives, but we may have a dozen friends and family members who collectively fill our cup with joy and that is really something.

So I don’t have any royal jelly body butter left, but I do have all this other stuff that, together, works remarkably well.

The point is, when you’re feeling like you’ve just run out of something and you’re going to feel its absence because you have come to count on it, go on a scavenger hunt in your life and see if you might have a variety of things you can notice and celebrate and bring together to make your own Jar of Wonder to soothe the rough spots in your life.

Look around. You just might surprise yourself.

POETRY DAY: Soul Mates

 

Albert Bierstadt-Storm in the Mountains
Albert Bierstadt-Storm in the Mountains

Soul Mates

 

If the soul that was created

the same moment that my soul was made

were to walk in the world with me,

to stand beside me,

look into my eyes,

to put his mouth on mine,

we would burst into blue flame

and the light would make the nighttime day

– a wave would tear through the air

shaking the trees,

rattling windows;

people miles away would turn towards the sound

of joy/pain/ecstasy

and they would blush at witnessing

so intimate a moment

of two strangers.

Golden Time-Moments in the Middle

Oak in the yard November 08 2013

While raking leaves this morning, I noticed the big oak’s leaves had turned their final brittle brown. Forty-eight hours ago, I stood underneath it and took pictures of their blazing golden glory. Seventy-two hours ago they were mostly green edged in yellow.

Andy Warhol. That’s who I thought of while taking a break at the picnic table. He said everyone has their five minutes of fame. Apparently, so do trees. They stand around all summer in their green dresses looking all Southern Belle, swaying with the vapors over every sultry summer full moon and we notice them but we don’t stop in our tracks to take in their youthful beauty.

Come fall, they start to warn us that time is running out and if we are lucky enough, we might be there to witness their precious few hours of screaming glory as they morph through a color spectrum with their final breaths. Imagine that. Three hundred and sixty-four days and for less than twenty-four hours, they get to be at the most glorious perfection that they will ever be. Golden Time. I wonder if elves and sprites hear their song as music. Does it sound like this…

Which, of course, made me think of Baryshnikov. Yeah. That’s how my mind works. This man practiced in private for countless hours so that a few times a year, the world got to see how his body could fly across the boards. Just a couple of hours! If we were lucky enough to have been there to see it in person, the minutes he was on that stage burned their way into our memory. If we are still lucky enough to happen upon a recorded performance, we can relive it over and over, but it will not be the same intravenous jolt you would have gotten sitting in the darkness and feeling a drop of his sweat fly off a fingertip to smack you on the forehead.

The Samurai had a beautiful ritual of writing a brief poem on their death bed to tie a bow around their lives when they drew their final breath. Those who remember us will carry some blazing moment they witnessed with us; perhaps only a few seconds long, that occurred somewhere in the thousands of days we were alive.

Maybe it will be the sound of our voice or the touch of our hands, but one singular thing will comprise that glorious memory for them when they invoke our spirit.  I hope that mine are like those leaves caught on my camera the moment their perfect song was sung. I hope that I can blaze like that, at the least a few times a year witnessed by others, or not. Like my beautiful old oak, give me five minutes of golden, glorious splendor and one witness who holds the moment in a loving embrace.

Zen Monk’s Death Poem-

Empty-handed I entered
the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
Like dew drops
on a lotus leaf
I vanish.

(Shinsui, died September 9, 1769, at 49 years of age)

Mikael Baryshnikov practicing jumps-. Wow. Just wow.

What A Woman Wants

This is a reposting of a piece I wrote for my old blog. Still appropriate as the topic and the truth of it will never become outdated.
KissingTheWarGoodbye_edited

Recently, I’ve heard a slew of conversations about what women want; guys talking, of course.
It’s usually laced with hands being thrown up in the air for comedic exaggeration or sometimes, blind frustration, as if they are painstakingly attempting to resolve a solution for quantum gravity.

Do you honestly want to know what a woman wants? Can you handle it? We’re all adults here and if this is too adult for you then you shouldn’t be concerned with big people things that are real or messy, so go read a crafting blog. OK, here it is.

A woman wants someone who will walk up to her, wind their fingers into her hair and kiss the stupid right out of her. A woman wants someone who will see her when she’s happy, when she’s sad and when she’s pissed off and they will find all of those moments equally adorable.

A woman wants a senseless argument to be ended with your lips on hers and your arms around her making smooth circles on her back while you tell her how much you love her and that this is a moment that will pass.

A woman wants to know that she is enough for you and she wants to know that your heart stops and starts again when she kisses you back.

A woman wants someone who will tell her to open her eyes because you want to see how you make her feel just as you slide into her. And a woman wants to know, without a doubt, that since you found her, no other person in the world except her, is ever going to have a chance to hear you say that again.

That’s what a woman really wants. This isn’t rocket science. It’s the same stuff she wanted when she was 15 years old and the world was not really that complicated.

Not a single one of those things will cost you one thin dime. What they will cost you is a wide open heart and a willingness to be all in; to be there through every glorious, steamy, crazy, beautiful, angry, joyful, tragic and magnificent moment and, it will be worth it.

That’s what a woman wants.

Twerk or Treat

Seriously…what the hell is this costume about?
hall2

I’ve been following a conversation thread a bunch of female writers are having about appropriate Halloween costumes for their preteen girls. They’re discussing the battle for common sense. One had mentioned that she was looking for a monster costume online and had to wade through “sexy monster” getups to find something a seven year old could wear who wasn’t a child prostitute in Bangkok.

Another listened as her own third grader chattered on about this or that being “sexy”. When she asked her daughter what that meant, she admitted she didn’t know. Mom explained that it was dressing in a way to make you attractive so that someone will want to kiss and hold you romantically. That shut the kid down pronto. Apparently, to her child, the word “sexy” was akin to “smurfy” or some other innocuous and kitschy adjective.

I saw this conversation thread while back in my Illinois hometown for my aunt’s funeral this week. The memories of Halloweens past were thick as a hand full of milk duds tossed into a greedy mouth.

Driving from the cemetery, I had to take Wolf Road, going right past my school friend, Merry’s, house. That’s the house where we all played spin-the-bottle for the first time at her Halloween Party; the big event of the season. Costumes required. It was seventh grade. 1967.

I wanted to wear something pretty and girly. Being the athletic, tomboy type, this would have been a major transformation for me given that my closet boasted a collection of competitive swimsuits, a pair of treasured kangaroo-skin track shoes with long and short removable spikes, a well-worn baseball glove, a rock collection and a bunch of freaky encyclopedias that I read like other kids read Tiger Beat.

My mom feared my inevitable blossoming into a young woman. After I got permission to attend the party, the costume search began. I was just looking for something pretty. Not slutty. Instead, she prepared a costume for me. I went to this party- this important party- as George Washington. Powdered wig, ruffled shirt, blue waist coat, buckle shoes. No shit. George freaking Washington. Not even Martha! Though I have seen portraits of her and it wouldn’t have been very different.

MORTIFIED. I was completely, utterly mortified. There would be boys there! BOYS! And the bottle thing! Kissing! Kill me now. No one will want to be kissing George Freaking Washington. I would be the only female not in a girly, pretty, sparkly, gown. I just knew it.

Merry answered the door in a spectacular evil witch costume; hideous warty nose and all. Relief flooded through me that she hadn’t chosen to be the Blue Fairy. A little while later, one of my junior high crushes walked in. He tottered on his high heels, adjusted the hem of the dress and shook out the curls of his bouffant styled wig. There he was; adorable, Kurt. He was a brown haired version of Kurt Russell; startling blue eyes and a soft dusting of freckles on his cheeks. Impossibly, his eyes looked even bluer with the slather of mascara and red lipstick that his older sister had put on him; all the while, laughing maniacally, I would guess.

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The evening took an instant turn for the better. I even got through the bottle-spinning-kissing-stuff and ended up wearing lipstick anyway. Red. It matched my cheeks when everyone clapped afterwards. Kurt and I won the costume contest and I went home feeling pretty good in spite of my initial mortification.

Two weeks from today, I’ll stand at my door and pass out a zillion bags of candy. I’ll see little Optimus Primes, ninjas, Wii Controllers, Dalmatian dogs and the inevitable blur of tiny hooker-pop tarts whose mother’s caved and let them dress that way because Miley twerked her way into their consciousness.

Those little girls will likely need to up the ante every following year on their “smurfy”, sexy costumes. In ten years, when they’re eighteen, what will they need to wear to feel “smurfy”? They just might end up being the same girls entertaining their creepy elderly neighbor guy at the local strip club.

You know, being George Washington that year for Halloween did not inhibit my ascension to female goddess status one single bit. I spent that evening, at Merry’s party, laughing and talking with everyone; guys mostly. Being a tomboy, they were the majority of my pals. In fact, I’ll bet I had a better time at Merry’s party, than the girls who ran to the bathroom every half hour to make sure their makeup was still looking good.

All this stuff went through my head as I drove past Merry’s old house last Tuesday. Merry, she moved out west somewhere. Kurt, sadly, died of a drug overdose before he was twenty. My mom and her nervousness about my emerging sexuality are long gone with the powdered wig and buckle shoes she’d made in an attempt to make me as gender neutral as possible. Sorry mom. Can’t stop the tidal wave.

I really do hope that parents can get across to their young daughters that there will be thousands of opportunities to dress inappropriately and that each time they do, they will spend more time worrying about their outfit than they will spend actually having fun with the people around them. Just like Miley, they should wait until they are twenty one to lose their minds and behave like they were raised in a brothel by crack addicted parents. Then, maybe these parents won’t have to suffer through years watching their daughter’s awkward grasp at becoming the “smurfy-est” girl in school.

Yes, do that, young tartlets. Leave the smurfing to the older girls. Please.

And save me some candy corn. I love those things…
Candy-Corn

Falling into Wonder

leaves

Great blog posts are a little like the holes covered in smooth water on forest pathways where your foot sinks in deep and you’re falling and twisting; adjusting to the shift in equilibrium. Recovering your balance, you might find that you’re facing a different attitude direction now, and the path of your day has changed, ever so slightly.

That makes me think about trajectory. Turning your foot a few degrees in a new direction will not change your world overmuch if you aren’t planning on going very far. But making a tiny adjustment to how you walk through your life can, over the long haul, bring you to a very, very different destination from the one you thought you were heading towards.

Starting out a day with a steaming bowl of Crap Soup with a side order of Unfortunate Circumstances will always set your internal GPS on an expressway to Meltdown City. Reading something that changes your mind, just a little, is a reset move that lets you input a new route for your wreck-of-a-day, putting you on course for a much better destination.

As I wander the Internet, especially on my own Crap Soup days, I love to find myself stuck, neck deep in someone’s clever pile of wonder. Their carefully chosen words and images encircle me like tendrils and hold fast. I can go no further until I’ve drank my fill of what they are offering and when I am released, I am just a little bit different. I have new words now. I have something in my head that wasn’t there this morning and I’m on a new quest to find a little altar in my mind or in my living space where I can put it on display.

I hope that’s happening to others when they trip on a search word and fall, head first into this blog site. I hope they push themselves up and find they have a little bit of something I wrote stuck in their hair and it’s talking to them, like some enchanted leaf; turning their head just a tiny bit and sending them on a trajectory towards more and more wonder.

Even when I am too busy to post here, like I have been lately, I notice that new people are dropping by all the time. I love to get your emails and feedback! I really love that you all tend to come back again, now that you know the way here. There are footprints of nearly 1500 of you on this blog and closing in on 6,000 on the other, over at http://laughingmyrearendoffliterally.blogspot.com/

I’m imagining myself as a wood sprite, positioned in the trees above and watching as unsuspecting visitors stumble in to this joint. It delights me to know when you’ve gone back into the archives and dug out some words that you want to take home with you.

I recently had the weird experience of having someone who was conducting an expensive self awareness workshop at a university be handed a little memory card I had done with some powerful questions written on it. They had a little epiphany and asked if they could copy it and hand it out to their attendees because it was exactly what they needed to hear. Discussions of pending book projects and intellectual property were had. I decided that while I wait for the publishing world’s response to my manuscripts, I would push ahead and get the Three Questions project going. And so, I have dug a new small web hole that you’re invited to trip into. Soon, I’ll have some products (wallet size cards) for the project and you can carry them to remind you of how easy it can be to communicate clearly with others. http://crystalclearmeaning.wix.com/crystalclearmeaning

I’m doing a fair amount of wandering whenever I have free time, reading through your sites too and sharing the gems and shiny things with links back to where you dropped them. It’s always a really good day when I trip over a diamond and fall into a big pool of wonder.

Life is Run by Barney Stinson

I will never (insert horrible thing here)!

After you’ve been on the planet a while, you realize what an incredibly stupid thing that declaration truly is. On a fairly regular basis, I have acted in direct defiance of my own decree and boldly done the horrible thing, simply because I had changed my mind.

Last year, for example, I crossed my own line and got a tattoo. Oh, it’s not like a giant Popeye across my ass or anything. It’s small and it’s subtle and it means something to me. I had previously made a loud fuss about never, ever getting a permanent mark on my body and then life came along and slapped me upside the head, altering my opinion.

I should back up and say that the tattoo I got last year was not my first. It was the first one I voluntarily acquired. I have three others. They are tiny, woad blue dots that a mildly sadistic radiation tech marked right on the middle of my breastbone and then two, equally located on the same horizontal plane on the sides of my ribcage. I needed them for the techs to align the machine as I underwent treatments for breast cancer. They hurt like a bitch. Especially the one in the center as there isn’t much meat right there and I could feel the needle pressing to my bone. Not fun.

The one I got last year is a small, woad blue V and a smaller circle that sits just below the bottom of the V marking the zero point. I had it placed on my left wrist, just at the pulse point. I was in California attending a workshop and doing research for another book I am working on. The symbol means “NOW” in my Sci-Fi character’s native Arcturian (yes…an ET) language. I got it because every time I’d get in the shower, I would see the blue dots on me that kept reminding me of “then” and I was so damn sick of living in the past and the “close call”.

I had been drawing the little mark on my wrist for months as I was writing. One day, while sitting up on Mount Shasta looking at all that wonder, I glanced down at my wrist and I knew that it was, NOW. I dragged my friend, Trisha, into the Small Town Ink shop on the main drag of the town of Mt. Shasta, and she sat with me while John did his thing. When I got home with my new mark, my grown kids found it fascinating. Some more conservative friends raised a silent eyebrow. I’ve also had some women my age, give me a high five and then ask about placement suggestions for their own little tattoos. Never…ever…now.

A few weeks ago, I was holding the four month old kitten that I had brought home when the daughter said, “Remember when you said you would NEVER get a kitten? And that you would never, ever get a male cat because they spray and take over the Universe?” Yes. Yes I do. Now shut up. The little guy (Yes! A male. You shut up too) is a feral rescue from a rural Michigan farm area and however the miracle occurred, he is a completely adorable, healthy and sweet flame point Siamese mix. It’s been ten years since I’ve had a cat in this house. My former cats moved to Michigan with us from Florida. The last one, Sushi, a rescue from the Hemingway House in Key West and famously six toed, died at the ripe old age of 22. Her best pal, Mouse, another rescue, died a year earlier at the age of 21.

When I bring something home, I don’t screw around with the commitment thing. Hell, we had a 6 year old guinea pig here, which is like 200 years old in human years. Which was another creature I once said I’d never have in a house. I love having a kitten around again, especially when they crawl up to sleep on your shoulder with their face against your cheek. Oh, yes. Lucca is an epic snuggler. Lucca adores Matty, the Great Dane; who is doing very well now that we’ve identified her Addison’s Disease and are treating it.

Life is listening and taking notes when we make “I Will Never” declarations. It listens like Barney Stinson. It responds like Barney Stinson, as well: Challenge Accepted. If you’re going to be stupid enough to make never-ever declarations, at least make them about things that you are already, secretly waffling on. Then, when you cave in and do the horrible thing, which you will, unless you’re a Cylon with a pre-programmed mandate, some child that lives within you can happily gloat for having turned you to the dark side.

Here’s the thing about those kinds of declarations; as important as we thought they were when we originally made them, they slip into the sea of forgetfulness that is our brains and even when THE SITUATION is smack in our faces, we will not remember how adamant we were about our position on said situation. Our stupid brain wants what it wants and it wants it now. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, because we just might override our imagined limitations and prejudices and then we can have a snuggly kitten sleeping on us and a small sign from the heavens that reminds us to be here now.

Nom. Nom. Nom. Never…ever… Hey, these words are delicious!

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Lucca and Matty

Lucca napping