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The first foxgloves are in bloom.  Each year it amazes me that one week they are just a mass of green leaves and the next their bloom stalk springs up and this a mass of pink, white and purple fireworks.  It seems like it happens overnight, although I know it doesn’t.  The geum blooms still hang around weeks after they started and now the Oriental poppies join them in the rose garden.  In my back yard, the blue ajuga spires a a beautiful foil for the cabbage-like leaves and bright pink flowers of the Japanese primrose.  The primroses are almost done flowering, but there is just enough of an overlap to create a gorgeous scene.

As I walked through the garden today, I realized how much I adore the riotous, wild, overspilling landscape that arose from my plantings. In early spring when there are gaps, old foliage to cut back, and overgrown plants, I wonder why I made certain choices and crammed so many plants in such a small space.  However, when the flowers pop open I remember.  The exuberant cottage garden look suits me, just like the short, short hairstyle I resisted most of my adult life.  At the core I am not a formal, tailored woman.  I appreciate different styles in the landscape and in other people but most of them are not for me.  I am a messy woman who loves convertibles, getting dirty, and doing things differently.  I am a klutz, I spill things, and I fall down a lot.  I injure myself when I’m in a hurry.  I’ve never met a blank piece of paper, open landscape or clean counter that I didn’t want to immediately fill up.  Over the years I’ve learned to embrace these things as I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change them.  (Some may say I don’t want to change.)  I only hope, and work, to not become a hoarder or let my garden get out of control.  There is a thin line between exuberance and chaos, creativity and insanity, messiness and sloth.  I’m walking that line slowly and with trepidation.  I hope I don’t trip.

A Good Day

I’m feeling every one of my 54 years today. But it’s a good weariness. I was able to do a little of the lifting and moving I do fifteen years ago. I walked 15,000 miles, not even officially exercising. I got to be in the sun and see the latest plant arrivals. There wasn’t the pressure of the telephone, although I realized I really am not a good communicator. There was a beginning and an end to my duties. Put the plants away. When there’s no more plants, you’re done! Yes, there was more to do after that but I easily knocked something off my to do list. When was the last time that happened? If I broke my to dos into small segments it would work but I don’t have the time to be that detailed in my list. Yes, I felt like I succeeded but I still made wrong assumptions. I just want to have some fun. Let’s attack the day and all the things to do, the utter chaos of a garden center in spring! Let’s celebrate with a beer when we’re done. We made it. I want to feel that camaraderie. I want to hear “well done” and “thank you. “. Then I’ll be able to go put up my 54 year old feet and relax.

Words, Only Words

Is it possible to run out of things to say?  To write, more specifically?  What is writer’s block?  Is it the lack of anything to say or the lack of inspiration?  Or could it be that I have censored myself for too long, afraid to offend someone, anyone?  I can’t write because I’m afraid what I want to say will offend someone, will make me lose the place that I have gotten to.  When I am writing for my business or for a magazine, putting something into writing that I have not before may make me lose that job.  I don’t want to lose that job.  I like that job.  So I keep trying to write what I think everyone wants to read, not what I want to say.  If it’s my opinion, my writing-can I not say what I want to say?  Does the public want to see the nun drunk in a bar?  Does the public want to hear the stripper preaching about God?  Does anyone still want to hear about God?

Sometimes I long to shout from the rooftops, “Wake up world!  Stop hating.  Stop arguing.  Be at peace.”  Then I think, no I will offend someone.  Someone will disagree with me.  I know that because those people that I know and that read what I write are diverse.  Someone will disagree with me.  Is that bad?  Why should I fear that?  I fear that because of the way I see people acting.  People calling names, casting doubt on a person’s character, intelligence and judgment.  I don’t want to be called names.  I don’t want to be called stupid or naive.  Okay, maybe naive is okay.  I want to be on the winning side, but only if the winner is gracious.  I don’t want to lose people’s respect.  I’m going to anyway.  Why don’t I just say what’s in my heart?

Spring Love

Bright cool sun, lemon yellow like meringue pie.

Full of promise and energy

I remember love and desire

setting off alone, together.

Nature, breeze in the trees

birds singing.

Talking, talking, then kissing,

then….

Innocent, more childlike than adult.

I thought I knew so much

but I didn’t.

Before my heart was broken

before I learned how cruel a lover can be.

Before I knew how far I could stray from my central being.

Brashness and courage.

I remember you.

You smelled like Old Spice and sweat.

Musk and smoke.

Your beard a little rough.

Your hair soft and curly as I ran my fingers through it.

I know now that we were never meant to be.

We wouldn’t have made it.

But on that spring day, bright with promise

ripe with pleasure

fully present

I loved you

and I still believe

you loved me.

I still remember the day in high school chemistry class when one of my female classmates, Rose Hubbard, declared she wanted to be the first woman president. It was 1978 or 79. I had no doubt we would have a female president and I figured there was a decent chance it could be Rose. Looking back, I can’t believe it’s taken nearly 40 years for one of the two major parties to nominate a female candidate for president.

Growing up I believed I could be anything I wanted to be. My mom was a full partner in my dad’s family’s business, women’s lib and NOW were big, and I took a class called Herstory. I worshipped Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Golda Meir.  It was just after the hippie era and our high school was new and somewhat experimental. When I started high school we had classrooms with walls that moved to make them bigger or smaller and bean bag chairs instead of desks. Our campus was open, we could leave at lunch and during an open period.  It seemed anything was possible I just had to dream it.

By the time my brother graduated, six years after I started high school, it was just like any other high school-stationery walls, wooden desks and closed campus.

My life moved forward: college, career in the family business, marriage, divorce, remarriage, step- children. I registered to vote as a Democrat to find that my parents were Republicans. My first husband held more influence in my life than I should have allowed. When he said he wouldn’t tolerate me being a democrat, I at least had enough rebellion left in me to switch to non-party affiliated. Therapy and my second marriage healed me and I became truer to the person I was at 18, but I’m still an independent.

I am following this election year with interest. Finally, a woman is running for her party’s nomination and she stands a chance of actually being elected.  She isn’t a vice presidential candidate or a nominee from a party that doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of actually being elected. (Please, let me say here that I admire all of the women that have ever run or held a political office of any kind.  It takes a lot of guts to stand proudly before the nation and let them tear you apart, knowing that if you cry you’re viewed as weak or if you are aggressive you’re labelled a bitch.  Their courage kept the goal of a female president in sight.) When Hilary’s nomination seemed certain, I told my husband I wanted to watch the Democratic National Convention. As it was, I was only able to catch bits of it. We were leaving for vacation the night Hilary accepted the nomination. So as we drove to the airport, I watched a recording of her acceptance speech on my phone.  As I watched, tears streamed down my face and I could not explain to my husband why I was in tears nor why I cheered and raised my fist in the air as I watched the graphics on the screen of the montage of past presidents and the shattering of glass.

As I tried to explain my emotion, I was reminded, as I had been for several months, of John Denver’s song about the Challenger disaster-“They Were Flying for Me.”  John Denver wanted to be on that space flight. Christie McAuliffe trained and flew with the astronauts as a representative of the people. She was a teacher and she was supposed to return and teach us all about her experiences. She died, along with all of the crew, before she got that chance and Denver wrote from his heart:

“She was flying for me, she was flying for everyone.

She was trying to see a brighter day for everyone.”

and

” And I prayed I would find an answer there, or maybe I would find a song, giving a voice to all of the hearts that cannot be heard.

And for all of the ones who live in fear and all of those who stand apart…”

I know Hilary is running for me. For me and every woman in America. For every woman who’s heard someone tell them they couldn’t do something because they were a woman. Because finally, there is a presidential nominee that looks and acts like me, complete with breasts, estrogen, and yes, a vagina.

It shouldn’t make a difference.  It shouldn’t matter so much. When the US citizenry elected Barack Obama, I thought “Thank goodness we’ve finally elected a black man.  Now we can elect a woman.”  Now I have a much better understanding of that election night emotion and celebration.  And Hilary isn’t even elected, yet. There’s a chance she won’t be elected. I believe she’s very qualified for the job but not everyone agrees.  There are those who think she’s a liar.  Republicans don’t want to see 4 more years of Democratic leadership and some people don’t want to see another dynasty. Am I going to vote for her because she’s a woman?  Yes, yes I am.  And I don’t care if you think that’s silly or dumb because it’s not any worse than voting for Trump because he’s a man.

 

 

 

 

Gregg

My ex-husband is dead.  He died 18 months ago but I didn’t find out about it until last week.  Strangely, I had thought about him, something I hadn’t done very often anymore, unlike the years right after our divorce.  Funny also, that my present husband, Mitch, asked me that evening if I ever thought about Gregg.  I told him I did sometimes and I had thought about him just that day.  I confessed that a few years ago, when I was going through a time of personal questioning, I “Googled” him and learned some interesting things about he and his siblings.  Also, I learned that his dad passed away.  Mitch decided to check him out online, another odd thing.  Mitch told me to brace myself, that he thought Gregg died.  Gregg was only 3 years older than me.  How could this be?

Since learning this, I have been completely self-centered.  I have not shed a tear.  I am not sure what to make of my emotions, but I am disturbed by them.  When we divorced, I felt that I had both ruined Gregg’s life but also freed him.  I was a strong-willed, spoiled woman that couldn’t be tamed.  However, I allowed myself to become a shell of myself in my relationship with him.  I believe that I allowed that to happen because I did not want to stand up for myself.  Ours was not a healthy relationship.  I accept responsibility for my part in that.  I do not regret divorcing Gregg.  It was the best thing for me.  Was it the best thing for him?

Gregg wanted to be a preacher, a minister.  Most denominations do not allow divorced men to become a pastor.  So, in effect, I took away that dream.  Gregg was bi-polar.  He had a psychic break and that was the event that led to our divorce.  I could not see myself being able to handle that in a relationship that I felt already turned me into a different person.  I didn’t believe that he would stay on his medication.  I asked for assurance.  He could give me none.  It was selfish of me.  But at that time, I felt beaten down and I couldn’t find the strength to help him.  I could only help myself. That haunted me for years.  But is it inconceivable to think that I could affect his future so greatly?  That the loss of me meant that his life was miserable?  Certainly not.  I don’t have that much power.  You can say I wronged him, but what happened from then on was up to him.  We either give up or we make lemons out of lemonade.  So I chose to believe that his life turned around once he was outside of my toxic environment.  We spoke once after our divorce, via phone.  I was scared.  He sought to ask forgiveness and to make amends.  Sort of like a level in a 12-step program.  I mean that with all respect.  I thought it was a good thing for him.

Now, reading between the lines of the obituary, I see that he never managed to overcome his mental illness.  “He was a man of extremes”, it said.  The family stated in lieu of flowers to donate to nami.org (National Association of Mental Illness).  He looked great in the photo attached to the obituary.  He was handsome, thin, and smiling.  I guess the smile shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I do remember him smiling much of the time.  Many people told us we were a handsome couple, but I didn’t believe them.  I don’t consider myself pretty.  We were both very overweight.  But he was handsome and clearly not overweight in that photo.  And he appeared happy.

But if he was truly happy, why did he die?  Did he develop an illness?  Did he kill himself?  What happened?  And into this thought process that should have meant feelings of sadness and compassion, I wondered, “was it my fault?”  Did I cause this?  Did I ruin his life? Did I cause his death?  Could I have saved him if I had stayed with him?  What arrogance, for me to think these things!  Probably in the grand scheme of things, I was only a minor blip.  The woman who did him wrong.  The one he could easily forget.  Or did I secretly hope that I had broken his heart completely?  That life never was the same again?  Again, I know I do not have that power, but being so selfish and arrogant, those things crossed my mind.

I was surprised when I mentioned this to an older work colleague, that she asked, “Did his family not think to let you know he died?”  That was one thought that did not pass through my head.  We did not have a good break-up.  It was fast and clean.  Kind of like amputating your foot.  Nothing left but phantom feelings of a limb.  My lack of communication with the family was brought up.  My ignorance of his illness and what to do, I regretted.  Gregg himself commented on my family’s making fun of a mentally ill member of our extended family.  I hadn’t seen it that way, but he had.  Obviously, I was not the best person to be a part of his life.  My family situation seemed to be too stressful of an environment for him.  He believed it was too stressful for me and we were planning to move away when he snapped.

Another perspective could be that he was trying to separate me from everything that I knew, a common pattern of the abusive.  I would like to state now that Gregg never hit me.  I believe his words to have been verbally abusive.  I was fearful.  When I remarried, Mitch commented about how I would flinch or cry at unexpected times.  I focused on verbal abuse until I decided that I did not want to be a victim.  I did not want to identify myself as a victim or act like a victim.  I wanted to be whole and free.  So I forgave and moved on-slowly, painfully, and with trepidation.  Yes, I looked back.  Yes, I questioned myself.  I took on strong female role models.  I tried to be fierce.  I tried to be confident.  The truth is, I am not and it is not because of Gregg.  In my innermost being I am shy, scared, and self-loathing.  The trouble is with me.  I came to that conclusion within a year of our divorce.  I remind myself of that periodically.  I allowed it to happen because I did not fight it.  “We are only victims if we allow ourselves to be.”  McCarthy Green.

So why now, after all this time, does Gregg’s death unnerve me?  Is it because he died so young?  Is it because I don’t know why he died, but am making an assumption (true or false) that he killed himself?  Is it because I lost all connection with his family and that I was not informed hurts me?  Is it because I feel responsible?  Is it because I do not know how to react?  Is it because I am curious?  (gossip)  I have not cried.  Instead I am in this strange place of not reacting, not feeling, not addressing my issues.  Should this be a time of innermost contemplation?  What should I feel?  What should I do?  Is it because he died far too young?  Or is it because someone that was an integral part of my life for 8 years is now gone and his passing leaves a hole in my life and that makes me sad?

The Swift Ballet

Some of my most treasured memories revolve around nature. Many of those involve birds. From the hummingbirds in my back yard to a very special day spent with my dad watching hundreds of ducks land on a small pond, I have had profound and fascinating encounters with these amazing winged creatures. Birds are the dancers of the animal world. I love dancing and watching dance performances.
Several years ago, Janell Bennett, owner of Sybaris told us about the chimney swifts that performed an engrossing nightly ballet before roosting in the chimney of a local residence. Mitch and I went and watched them. It was amazing. We only watched one time but I tucked it away in my memory. I was saddened to learn later that the house sold and the new owners capped the chimney. Certainly understandable but still sad.
Nature is resilient and I’m sure the birds found a new place to roost. I’ve thought about them occasionally over the years. Tonight I had the privilege to once again watch that dance. As my parents, sister and brother-in-law and my husband and I sat down for dinner at Luc in downtown Corvallis, I noticed a large group of birds that looked like swifts. They were flying around a chimney in the building that houses the Whiteside theater. I mentioned to the table that I believed they were swifts and that they would eventually fly down and roost in that chimney.
If you have witnessed this phenomenon you know the the swifts gather, fly around and flirt with the chimney for quite awhile ( an hour or two) before they dive into the chimney. It is amazing and fascinating but not something you need to watch for the whole time.
So all through the dinner I periodically checked to see what was happening with the birds. We got our server involved. There were several false alarms that the birds were heading down the chimney. We thought we weren’t going to get to witness the fly in. It was disappointing to think we wouldn’t get to see it after all the build up. By that time there were two of the servers engrossed as well. We paid our bill and as my husband signed his name on the credit card slip, the swifts began to descend. A sense of utter amazement permeated the air as 8 adults watched the swifts descend into the chimney to settle in for the night.
Normally that would be the end. In this instance, however, there was a slight variation. There was a small contingent of birds that hesitated as the rest of the swifts entered the chimney. We guessed that they might be younger birds or that they were the scouts or choreographers. Whatever their position, they were last to swoop in and during that last dance the unthinkable happened-a crow broke up the group and lit on the top of the chimney. He sat on top of the bricks, daring the swifts to try to get past him. By this time we were in our car, still with a view (although awkward for me) of the chimney. After a few minutes, the small band of swifts dove directly at the crow and made it fly away. The remaining birds quickly regrouped into a funnel shape and descended into the chimney, safe for the night. Mitch and I headed home, thankful that we had once again witnessed this beautiful ballet.