Friday, October 19, 2012

Hell

istock

Writing Circle exercise: One of your characters addresses Dante's Inferno, or more specifically their own brand of Hell. My character is a mother who has struggled with infertility.


There was never any doubt in my mind that I would be a mother one day and a good one, too. But month after month, a familiar ache in my belly burned deep and I knew that it was not yet meant to be.

Five times I carried a child for as long as my body would allow. Five times the dam was unleashed and my soul poured out rivulets of crimson.

Five times I lay on the floor weeping in what remained of my dreams.

Five times I died.

When Sarah came early but not too early – there was no word for it, for “miracle” would never seem strong enough.

She saved me. She saved my soul from hell.

But I could not, in the end, save hers.


by Allie
(c) all rights reserved

Magical Thinking

(c) zakka

 Once upon a time, I had super powers. A combination of childlike faith and my own superstitions and stubbornness, I could close my eyes and will the lights to go out during a thunderstorm and it was so.

I could (and did) keep my feet from growing beyond a size six, because I cherished my role as the tiny one of the family, the runt of the litter. A size seven simply would not do.

I was able to wake myself from a nightmare by calling upon the name of Jesus and I could heal a sick kitten with fervent intercession.

I stashed lucky pennies in my shoes, wished on falling stars, knocked on wood, threw salt over my shoulder and I prayed. Oh, Lord, how I prayed.

I was small but mighty. A red-headed freckle-faced sorceress in bell bottom blue jeans and a Dorothy Hamill haircut. I beseeched heaven and spoke in tongues.

All summer long I dreamed my secret dreams in hideaways built amongst the towering bales of hay. I believed that one day I would be an artist, and an author, but before that, a junior high cheerleader. I alone had the power to make these wishes come true.

In the freshly plowed fields I found treasures of milk glass and geodes, iron pyrite and Indian arrowheads. I ran through the corn fields until I was dizzy and lost, always magically finding my way back to the grass waterway that led to home. I made boats out of milkweed pods and raced them on the tumbling creek at dusk, imagining them sailing all the way to the sea. I hunkered down with hardback books in my tree house with no fear, high in the weeping willow, where no demons could harm me, where no dark creatures of the night would dare tread.

As I grew older, it was more difficult to find four-leaf clovers, and I saw fewer shooting stars. There were kittens who died and cheerleading tryouts that ended in humiliation. There were boys who chose others over me, and art contests that resulted in last place. There were tense supper table conversations and slammed doors and a hard, dark knot in my belly.

But I had one super power that no one knew about. I could run. One day I would simply go to another place, anyplace, anywhere but here. There, wherever there was, I would do and be anything I wanted.

I was always good at running. In my mind, I simply fled what didn’t suit me. I pretended and imagined and denied the scary monsters in my closet or sitting on the living room couch. If I didn’t like the way things were, I simply chose not to believe it. As an adult, I changed jobs, cities and boyfriends whenever that dark knot flared up, when the burn rose to my throat. For a long time running worked.

When I moved to Nashville I was caught up with a chaotic young man I couldn’t seem to let go of. So I lay prostrate on the floor of my cruddy South Nashville apartment and cried out to God, to the heavens, drawing on all the powers of the universe, to set me free. Within two weeks he had taken a job on the other side of the country. Gone.

I fell in love immediately with a perfect man who was beautiful and talented and kind and as good at dreaming and making believe as I was. My powers, it seemed, were back.

My marriage was pristine, a perfectly round bubble, floating on a powder blue sky. It was iridescent and it was effortless. Weightless and serene. Eighteen years of peace.

There were no highs, no lows. No fights, no ecstasy. Just two people, clinging together, protecting each other from the world, banishing sadness and struggle, conflict and disappointment, anger and rage to somebody else’s marriage. It was eighteen years of running in place.

For almost two decades I drifted in a state of suspended animation, the wound in my belly forgotten. I had agreed to this trouble-free union, an arrangement in which my spirit could not soar but it also could not fall.

Or so I thought.

One August morning, in the wee hours before dawn, the bubble burst. I went to sleep cloaked and sedated, warm and well fed, swaddled, safe and dry. When I woke, it was to the harsh reality that nearly two decades of my life had been only a dream.

Suddenly there were falling fragments all around me, littering the floor, piercing my flesh, breaking my bones, producing pulsing gullies of sorrow from my veins. The ache in my belly rose throughout my body and I was rendered powerless: huddled and spent, naked and unprotected, lost.

I could not, for all my efforts, summon my super powers to save me. They simply did not work. Magic could not exorcise my grief. Stubbornness and faith could not erase my sadness and fear, I could not will away my shame.

And so, without meaning to, or perhaps on purpose, I let go of everything I knew and freefell – freefell into the piercing, terrifying light.

The light burns less than it used to. I’m starting to believe that it’s ok how things turned out, and am slowly realizing that I’m stronger than I ever knew, super powers or not.

I still believe that anything is possible, that I can be somebody special in this life. That we all can be.

The hardest part is waking up.


by Elsa
(c) All Rights Reserved

Dear Maya


 Writing Circle exercise: One of your characters writes a letter to a famous poet. In mine, Ann, an Amish, childless wife, writes to Maya Angelou. Click on the letter to enlarge.


by Allie
(c) all rights reserved

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rings



All it took was one look. Perhaps it was a leer.

She stood near him, but far away in thought, and certainly unaware of him. But men never realize this.

She digs me,” he thought.

Even though she didn’t.

And she wouldn’t dig him if she knew him. Married, children, Republican and Lutheran, all added up to one big fat “no.”

He kept looking, searching the library of his memory, trying to recall some string of words that used to work; words that brought home the bounty, words that lay cozy and warm against the earlobes of someone who needed warming.

St. Cloud was a place where everyone needed warming, but it was June.

His daydream was interrupted by the remembrance of the errand he’d been dispatched to accomplish. Somehow the Ace Hardware had turned into the Caribou Coffee joint, and here he was, looking at the blonde he wanted to meet, while staving off thoughts of what the other woman wanted.

The "other woman," indeed.  “The Wife,” he called her, when she came up in conversation.  

“The wife won’t let me out tonight, boys,” he’d tell pals inviting him to a drink.  “The wife can’t get enough,” he often boasted.

Of course, The Wife just wanted him to pick up a tiny O-ring to keep the faucet from dripping.  The only ring in sight was the one his coffee left on his napkin as he pondered the blonde.

Duty dripped incessantly like the faucet he was supposed to be fixing. The Wife was in his brain, working against him, reminding him that things needed fixing, but all the fix he needed was in a ceramic cup or standing 10 feet away from him.

Linnea Jacobson, he thought. What was it that worked on her?  

Had he shared some deep and sensitive morsel with her? He could nearly taste whatever it was that worked in the old days, before time shook loose the last leaf of a young blood’s savvy skills with the women.

Judas! He thought. He never swore, never even slightly.  Judas! Again.

He dialed home.  The Wife answered.

“Honey, what size O ring?”

Phil M.
(c) all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Angels with Moxie


I had once again been sober for several weeks and was thriving in my new found state. Then came Monday night football. It was the biggest game of the year. I decided I was doing so well, that drinking on this monumental night only made sense.

I arrived at the game feeling fabulous. I had my first drink and it knocked me down a few notches, so I tossed back another. That usually did the trick. It didn’t. Those two drinks not only stole my clarity and peace. They hit me like a ton of bricks. I was stumbling drunk. There was no build up, no entertaining fun part. I went straight from tranquility to apathetic and drunk. I had the foresight to stop before it stole more of my new found harmony.

The following day I felt sluggish and toxic! Based on my drinking history, I hadn’t drunk enough to be hung over, but I had put enough alcohol in my newly clear body to disturb it. I found my thoughts racing all day. The underlying anxiety, depression and self deprecating thoughts were back, with a vengeance. I was so very, very tired of this pattern.

It was a beautiful sunny day in October, I was sitting on the deck of our little lake cabin, surrounded by a collage of autumn colors. The sky was a brilliant blue. It was the most perfect day, but I was depressed and once again journaling away my woes. It was so cyclical..rehashing the same issues over and over. Yet, I would often explore the pattern in this beautiful setting with an inherent knowing that it was a reflection of who I really was.

I looked out at the crisp and colorful view, it was bright, vivid and alive. I listened to the sounds of birds, crickets, and the lake slapping against the bank. It was a constant rhythmic hum. I inhaled the very distinct fragrance of life on Tennessee water; a mossy earthy blend with scents of pine and cedar.  And I knew this collaborative effort that mother nature surrounded me with really was my true self. This is who I was. I was an earthy, colorful goddess…yes a goddess. Not the polluted, heavy darkness that I was sitting with.

As I was frantically trying to write my way to a solution. I suddenly heard “get off your fat ass and quit being a victim” and in that moment I knew I had just reached another turning point. I took this rallying call seriously. I was being a victim and I couldn’t keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.

I’ve always known I have dark humor angels surrounding me. I believe I have divine guidance around me all the time, but it never feels like fluffy white wings, harps or cherubic faces. My angels have moxie, edges and attitudes. And on this particular day they were very bored with me and y recurring story. I was suddenly sure they were rolling their eyes at my accusations that alcohol had stolen my clarity. No, I had done this to myself.

Why did I keep acting like such a victim? I allowed it. Invited it. Alcohol was like an abusive boyfriend. I had found a new life that met all of my needs, yet not believing there was any way I could be happy on my own. I went running back into his neighborhood begging him to give me another chance. I handed over my peace. It was not stolen. I stood there arms wide open and urged alcohol, please come to me.

Here I am, I am offering my clear brain up to you to become fuzzy and dehydrated. Please enter my entire system so that I can feel shaky and uncertain. Tie up my emotions and make me question everything. Insert yourself as a heavy dark fog between me and my higher self, my divine connection. Yes, do all of these things … hurry! Do it quick.

No, nothing had been stolen from me.

I freely gave it all away.

Grace and Beauty




I loved the white hair of the little blue haired ladies at Grace’s Beauty Shoppe, after I had fully shampooed away their silver lining hair rinse.  Those little women didn’t like their pure white hair to be seen but I always marveled at how beautiful it was against their pale pink scalps.

They struggled showing their white, just as I struggle to allow my pure bright light to shine. It’s apparently a universal condition. Why am I, are we, so hesitant to fully be our magnificent selves?

I learned a lot during my days at Grace’s Beauty Shoppe. I never realized the depth of wisdom that I was exposed to until years later and I starting experiencing women’s circles. It felt foreign, yet so profoundly familiar, to be connected in such a powerful and intimate way.

By growing up in Grace’s Beauty Shoppe, I had been a part of informal women’s circles all my life.  There was a sense of deep connection and authenticity in that little community that I have continued to carry deep in my cells. And so it comes as no surprise that the most important moment in my life was a moment of grace and beauty and I was surrounded yet again by a circle of women and one of them, Courtney, just happened to be a hairdresser.

This was the moment that I finally, fully willing, surrendered that I was powerless over alcohol and began my journey into recovery. Courtney the hairdresser whose career was to make women beautiful, was my guide and she gently coaxed the white, the light and the brightness out of my darkened soul. 

And the other beautician in my life Grace, who was my very wise grandmother continues to guide me on this journey which is about far more than not drinking alcohol. She is always there to nudge me into the next dimension of love and life.

by Tammy
(c) all rights reserved

Monday, October 15, 2012

Job Fell





Job fell ... deep into the darkness of his own suffering and pain.

It was a quick and traumatic fall, without warning. He woke that day like all other days. Ready to set about the work God had given him to do. Job was a faithful man, a good man. But that did not prevent him from tumbling down into the endless abyss. It was as if time stood still when he began to fall, his body stiff, frozen in numb confusion as the air was sucked from his aching lungs.

Suddenly all that was precious and dear to him rushed past as he plummeted deeper and deeper into his despair. There was nothing to grab onto, nothing to stop this frightening tumble into a reality that was breaking his heart.

Down, down he went.

He opened his mouth to scream out to God but not a whisper could be heard. Surely any moment he would hit bottom.

The fall continued, the pain seared his bones; it was all but unbearable.

He finally caught his breath and felt it through the agony.

What is it? What is encircling this aching body, this crushed heart; this withered soul?
What is this warmth that surrounds me?

Then I heard the voice calling into my darkness:

“My beloved child, it is I, Grace, who holds you in the midst of this. It is I, Love, who breathes life into your broken soul. It is I, Hope, who gently caresses your bruised heart. It is I who will not abandon you through this suffering.

Fall ... yes, you must.

But remember, no matter the breadth and depth of this pain you will always fall into the arms of my grace, which is sufficient.”


Gene M.
(c) All rights reserved

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chapter 1: Sarah

Red Iris (c) Nel Jansen

Sarah lay down in the wheat, her hair liquid and glistening in the late afternoon sun. The farmhouse, where Mother prepared the evening meal and Aunt Ann hung the laundry out to dry and baby Beatrice played on the mossy slope by the storm door seemed like a memory to her in this moment, so enveloping was this secret place.

Between her fingers, she lightly held a red iris. Samuel had left it for her on the stone walkway before dawn, as he did every morning, and she quickly retrieved it before prying eyes could see. Each day she tucked the bloom (so brazen in color, in size!) into her apron pocket. It nestled there against her belly as she squeezed out her father’s socks and handkerchiefs; beat them against the washing board and hung them to dry stiffly on the line. Mother washed his underthings and breeches, for Sarah was too young to handle such things. At day’s end, she retrieved the flower, limp and crumpled, and squeezed it between the pages of her Bible for safe-keeping.

Now that Aunt Ann was here, she had taken over some of Papa’s washing. He was, after all, her brother. Because of her stout figure and ruddy face – so much like Papa – and perhaps her childlessness, she seemed to him less of a woman. And so, when she left her husband’s farm to visit him, it was Ann who had changed Papa’s bed sheets, she who bathed him when he came down so very ill last year. She could handle the mules if called upon. And she hauled in bushel baskets of rose tinted apples from the orchard without a complaint. Papa said she was nearly as good as having a brother.

Sarah, on the other hand, took after her mother. Slight, fair skinned and dark flowing hair, she had a delicate constitution. Mother had seen to it that Sarah had never been called upon to slaughter a lamb or chicken for Sunday supper. She had spent the bulk of her 15 years divided between two basic tasks: her chores – mending, weeding, baking and washing – and sitting in services on the woman’s side of the church.

Here at her hiding place, her face flushed at the thought of him, of Samuel.

After services their eyes had met, and it was here she had dared allow him to visit her that first time. He had sat with his hands on his knees and smiled shyly, talking of the crops and the weather, unable to look at her, forgetting to remove his hat. Though tall, he was slight and fair like she. To outsiders, the English, they would have been thought brother and sister.

On the second secret visit, he brought her a red iris and told her she was prettier than a flower bud could ever be. They had lain side by side: unclothed, only looking at each other. She allowed him to touch her on the third night. He caressed her soft, ivory curves, admiring her in the moonlight. When they had at last joined themselves, he had let out a gentle moan and murmured praise be, and hallelujah, as a preacher’s son might do upon the reading of the scriptures. This time, he remembered, at least, to take off his hat.

When Sarah grew large, mama did not scold, she said nothing at all. She simply stitched fuller skirts and aprons and slipped Sarah extra bread and cheese after Papa had gone to bed. When Sarah was too round to hide, she had traveled to Aunt Ann’s under the guise of helping her aunt give birth to her first child after more than a dozen years of God withholding offspring. Papa had easily obliged despite the cost, cheered that his sister and her husband would at last have a child.

It was Sarah’s first time to ride a train, her first time to mingle with the English, and she felt strangely shy. Her full cheeks flushed, awkward in her hand-sewn blue-grey dress, which seemed so fine before but now felt shabby. So out of place in her best black lace head-covering, firmly bobby-pinned atop her head, crowning a loosely-wound chestnut bun.

The season turned quickly and fall was again near. The three of them – Ann, Sarah and baby Beatrice – stepped off the train and into Father’s embrace, which for Papa meant an enthusiastic squeeze of Ann’s shoulder, a rare touch between brother and sister, and a broad smile and back-pat for Sarah. As he beheld the child, his cheeks flushed with the joy of it.

“Next time a boy, yes?” he had said, laughing, and both women had simply smiled.

Mother rang the dinner bell. Sarah rolled onto her back, contemplating the wilting plucked bloom, disintegrating, it seemed before her eyes. She closed them and could almost feel the shudder of the earth from the train passing through, rumbling gloriously across the flat lands, to places faraway, to worlds unknown.

The sun slid behind the wheat tassels, golden streams of light piercing the cool wafts of autumn. She breathed it all in, momentarily suspended, moved only by the sound of a baby’s cry.

by Allie J.
All Rights Reserved

Sometimes Dreaming




  (for margaret)

sometimes
i hear them
whispering
above my head

cherubim
i picture them
dancing all
around my bed

bright eyes
bare feet
white feather
wings

sweet breath
soft skin
i hear them
sing

somehow
i feel them
dissonance
a crash of wings
flailing
now falling
tiny
halos
shattering


sometimes
dreaming
i hold them
tight

mending
white wings
i make them
fly

somewhere
inside me
i hear
him
cry
so far away

dark waters
drifting
disintegrating
 in the wake

night is
falling
the voices
fade

somewhere
sleeping
he
turns
to
grey


sometimes
i hear him
whispering
above my head

with cherubim
i picture him
dancing
all around
my bed

bright eyes
bare feet
white feather
wings

sweet breath
soft skin
i
hear
him
sing

by Joan B.
(c) All Rights Reserved

My Encounter with a Fiery Oak

 
Breathe! She shouted to me
as I walked beneath her canopy
of crimson leaves. Why do you hold
 so greedily to one shallow
 breath of life, refusing to let go?
I know that once upon a time
life taught you to be still,
breathe shallow, play dead or
feign sleep,
a useful survival instinct
for possums, rabbits
and frightened children.
Look! It worked.
here you stand, almost alive.
Breathe! She shouted to me,
take a belly breath
even if you must inhale
the poison with the pure.
Now exhale, empty out your lungs,
spew forth your dragon fire.
Let me take the toxins
of lingering memory and fear
deep into my tangled roots,
reaching for quickened streams
of living water to baptize
every demon’s breath.
I will stand beside you,
we are partners you and I,
breathing in, breathing out,
no fear, no hesitation, no holding back.
You are not a small-voiced child,
a slinking possum,
or a rabbit caught in a hunter’s snare.
You are a woman.
Breathe! She whispered,
a low branch brushing
tender across my cheek,
red leaves
dancing like dervishes
as I breathe autumn’s fiery light.
by Merrill F. 
(c) all rights reserved

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who Killed It?



Who killed it? I did. I may burn in hell for it, but I did.

What did I feel? Relief, fear, joy, sorrow, a sick burn in my stomach I was sure would never go away and still hasn’t.

I don’t worry about hell anymore, because I am in it now. And the fire hasn’t burned me up yet.

I am the fire. I make heat sparks waves of light.

There is no antidote for what I have, for what I am.

Once I was a meek lamb, fearful, huddled behind the wooden fence.

Too afraid to climb over, to afraid to jump through.

But now I am unstoppable.

I am on fire.


by Allie J.
(c) all rights reserved

Waking Up


They say that divorce is like a death. But when your marriage dies, you don’t get sympathy cards. There are no flowers delivered to your doorstep. Nobody brings you any fucking casseroles.

People are sad for you and for your loss. But, secretly, they are also sad for themselves, because you’ve proven to them that even the most perfect-looking marriage can fail. And if that’s the case, what is the future for their own unwieldy union?

Your grief makes them uncomfortable. And they secretly worry that what you have is catching.

Unlike a human’s passing, a marriage, no matter how many years it lived, never really gets a proper burial. There is no body to view; no wake to extol what was good about the departed. There is no gathering of family and friends, no loving tribute printed in the newspaper.

Instead it’s just you, telling people – from your mother to the bank teller – that your situation is now changed.

And no matter how much grief you bear, you will never really be viewed (except maybe by your therapist) as a person in mourning.

If you are lucky, you will have dear friends and family who will embrace you, love you, and pray for you until you are through the worst of it. But most of the time you will be surrounded by people who are either indifferent, or who you are pretty sure are speculating that your relationship’s demise was, perhaps, preventable.

You will feel certain that when they say, I’m so sorry, how are you doing?, what they really mean is, Who killed it? Who did this thing? Whose bloody finger pulled the trigger?

When a marriage dies, you are not assigned the status of grieving widow. Instead you are an ex-wife, a single mother, (a cougar, some will jokingly say), a divorcee, none of which sounds as good.

And as much as you try to handle it all with grace, there will be moments when you find yourself revealing to someone you hardly know that the man you loved for more than two decades woke up one day and told you he was in love with somebody else’s wife.

You will tell them that your years of blind devotion to the idea of true, everlasting love turned out to be an epic and monumental failure. You will go on to confess that you are taking lots and lots of prescription medications and that you sleep in the fetal position.

And suddenly in the middle of it they will clap their hands and tell you they are fixing you up with their lonely bachelor next-door neighbor. It’s decided, they will say. When you are ready, of course.

When your marriage dies, whether you were the one to pull the life support plug or your partner strangled it in its sleep, you can’t go back. You can’t be who you were and you can’t not be who you are now.

You can’t keep doing what you were doing, and you can’t undo the past.

So what do you do?

You wake up, you put your feet on the floor and you tell yourself that even though this death has parted you, you are not one half of another.

You are strong enough to stand on your own and you will not come undone, at least not today.

by Allie J.
 (c) all rights reserved

My Own Divine Comedy



I’ve lived my own divine comedy, or maybe it was a dream. Dante imagined his underworld all those years ago with a poet as his guide, now I imagine mine. I am under the protection, such that it is, of tortured playwright and a wry prophetess. Let me take you on a brief journey through my own personal hell, then if wish, you can show me yours.

My reoccurring vision of hell often involves being trapped in a world that is not real. I don’t recognize anything and can’t find my way home. I once had a nightmare some might call the American Dream. The location was suburbia. In my dream, circumstances forced me from my urban 1920s cottage to a newly constructed house in a pseudo utopian village. 

My distress at this move might be considered comedic due to the fact my former home was plagued with numerous pesky imperfections.  Some of the more obvious flaws were: an earthen basement with spiders, crickets and flooding issues, cracks in the plaster walls, and bathroom faucets that, when turned clockwise to encourage the flow of water, then required repeated blows with a hammer to turn the faucets back to the “off” position. There were other annoyances that I seemed constitutionally suited to tolerate, except for the cold winds creeping through the kitchen walls each winter.

Back to my night terror…there were no monsters, rapists or terrorists, just an immaculate house with granite countertops, gleaming stainless steel appliances, an artfully open floor plan and a perfectly controlled climate.  The d├ęcor was tasteful.  A well-intentioned home stager must have scoured Pottery Barn warehouses, returning with every item I’d ever admired in quarterly catalogues mailed to my old address. Had I been more astute with cardinal directions, I might have noticed the feng shui of the furniture. All incidentals were strewn about with studied haphazardness.

My former home had been scattered with eccentric treasures from far-flung travels, as well as gifts from lovers, friends and artwork created by my children. My hands had whimsically placed each sacred object into the litany of my life. But here, in my dream house, not one knick-knack held a trace of my fingertips. And where was my family?

I needed fresh air. Each window was sealed shut to ensure an exact temperature of 72 degrees, so I opened the front door and stepped outside thinking I’d explore my new neighborhood. Bradford pear trees bursting with startling white blossoms lined miles of newly paved streets. My walk was pleasant, but after a few miles I wanted to go home. I turned around thinking to easily retrace my steps. Each house looked the same. I hadn’t thought to remember the name of my street (had I ever known it?), or the numbers by my front door. After what seemed like a few miles, I  stood staring at a row of identical structures. One of them had to be mine. Right?

After days and days of pacing up and down expertly edged sidewalks, I entered a taupe house with white trim.  A family of four was lined up at the kitchen island eating dinner. As they glanced up at me, I mumbled an embarrassed apology, escaping before one word crossed their lips.  I repeated this odious exercise, entering and exiting strangely familiar houses again and again. Soon I was madly crashing through identical front doors and slamming out similar back doors, working myself into a high-pitched panic.  I jerked away, barely able to breathe.

The crack in the ceiling above my bed was a blessed relief. I was home. Planting my feet carefully on the hardwood floor, I walked slowly to the bathroom, relishing each familiar step. The old clawfoot tub awaited me, stoic and stained with rust.  Turning the tarnished faucets clockwise, I stood back as steaming water rose to the rim, then picked up the hammer from the floor and banged away gleefully until the water stopped spewing. Sinking deep into the bliss of a hot bath, I laughed away my nightmare of absurd disorientation.

Some years later I awoke in a world that was unreal to me. It was not a dream, it was my life. I didn’t recognize myself. I, once sent home by Mother Superior for violating dress code with a mini skirt and fishnet stockings, was swathed head to toe in a flowing floral dress designed by Laura Ashley. I had an entire closet filled with such frocks.  Every Sunday I sat in church beside a man who loved me, when what I really wanted was to romp outside the church walls with my children or write pagan poems as ocean waves kissed my toes.

In my Laura Ashley life I could not sleep, I could not dream, I had no appetite. People and places that once gave me joy seemed dim and out of reach. I had wandered into to Dante’s ninth circle of Hell where Satan was eager for conversation. He did all of the talking, informing me that my beautiful dream of a perfect life was as empty as Cinderella’s Disney World castle. Judas was there, making it clear I was in the betrayers club. Who was it I’d betrayed - my husband, my children, myself?  Christ! Yes, Judas answered, looking pleased to have company, you might as well get it over with now.

The fragile thread connecting me to every vow I’d ever made snapped under the weight of my ambivalence. I was sucked into an abyss with the destructive power of a Texas cyclone. Everything familiar was destroyed in the spinning. Swirling helplessly in the cavern of a dark funnel, pinned to a wall of sorrow, I was suddenly aware of a face swirling with me.  Ebony eyes blazed through a tangle of untamed hair. I locked into this piercing gaze with the total fragility of my being, surrendering to the alchemy of this shaman, this savior, this Madonna. All went black.

I survived the destruction of my dream and the breaking of my vows, but I did not survive the memory of the beautiful, wild face of the abyss. This gaze of perfect love broke my heart. I was cracked wide open and sucked inside out. What’s funny as hell is that the cyclone spat me out in the middle of Tennessee, some level of limbo Dante forgot to mention. 

A man calling himself Tennessee helped me to my feet, dusted me off, asked if I had a cigarette and told me I would often depend on the kindness of strangers. His traveling companion, a woman with peacock feathers in her hair, wryly tossed off some comment about a good man being hard to find.  I traveled on with these two as my guides – Southern souls with a sense of the sacred and the profane, an eye for the misfit and at least a little sympathy for the devil.

Perhaps like me, like me you are making your way through this divine comedy called life, never quite knowing what you are looking for but finding some`good company as you tunnel your way toward the light. I highly suggest depending on the  kindness of strangers, laughing often and choosing your guides wisely.

If you’re lucky, they will choose you.



by Merrill F.
(c) All Rights Reserved.