The cost of a margarita


7 hot flashes (one during, one afterward, one before bed , 3 while sleeping, 1 when waking

Note: Price does not include tip = 3 night wakings to pee (aided by the presence of young adults in the house with competing needs for entertainment & sleep.)

Recipe for a Fresh Cucumber Watermelon Margarita
muddled watermelon & tequila
lightly sweetened with MacArthur maple
served with watermelon/cucumber club soda on ice
garnished with garden basil & lime

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Muse Waking

Make an offering of your life.
Outside the narrow confines of other’s approval.
Risk judgment. Risk ridicule. Risk adoration.
Let it all be. Beyond you.
Let your life pour like a drink, quenching the thirst of the parched earth.
Pour and pour and pour until you and the earth and all others are one.

~

Problems give way to clarity, pave the way for new beginnings, force long-needed change.

~

Resentment is lazy.

~

You are not here to be your family’s cup of tea.

You have a purpose beyond their pleasure.

The challenge is to love them (and especially yourself) while displeasing them.

Even Jesus disappointed his mother for Christ’s sake.

~

“Go away! I’m too tired. Leave me alone,” I say, when She arrives like she has of late, composing, even before my eyes are open.

And then I take it back, too afraid am I She won’t come back…

The heat inside rises like a wave up the breadth of my back and over the curve of my breast up toward my face.

The air condition in the hotel room, set low, is no matter. There is a steady fire beneath me.

I consider pouring cold water on the mattress like we did on our pillows when the sticky nights kept my sister and me from sleeping.

But water is no match for the child with the chemistry set inside; though I have taken to cool showers before bed and sometimes upon waking during the night.

Some nights she plays just a little; other times she is tireless; and I wake like I do today, barely rested, but hewing closer to Her because there is less of me.

“There! Are you happy!” I say aloud.

I’ve listened and written, dutifully Her servant these 36 years.

“Please come again.”

First journal entry, August 22, 1982

~

Language has power.
Be discerning.
Our words, like our lives.
Are prayers.

Ode to August 15th~The Blue Lady

 

I became a mother this week on a day much like today, but I don’t remember getting wet. What I do remember is my acute embarrassment.

“Please don’t use the sirens,” I said. (Doctor’s daughters don’t do emergencies.)

I don’t remember if Casey rode up front, but I do remember asking if Mary could join me in back. It turns out they were relieved to have a midwife on board.

I watched as the farmhouse and the barn and the Deerfield River feathered from view as we approached the town where I’d moved to teach school two years earlier; but I don’t remember much else except for the mountaintop.

As we bounced over Hogback, I looked out at the three-state view, while the young EMT, fearing a delivery, attempted an IV into my hand. But she needn’t have worried. I had already told the baby to wait, and although my contractions had been steady and strong since my water broke at dawn, I hadn’t experienced a single one inside the ambulance.

“How far along are you,” my sister asked when I called that morning to apologize. She’d sent her 9-year-old on a plane to visit us and I had promised not to go into labor during his stay. “First babies always come late,” I reminded her, so eager was I to see my nephew.

“Well, it must be early labor,” she said, “You’re too calm.”

When Mary arrived shortly after that call, I asked if she’d would wait to examine me, so consumed was I by contractions.

When she finally did check, there were three surprises.

“You’re 8 centimeters already,” she said. “And something else.”

The something else was what resulted in several phone calls to area hospitals and then the ambulance ride.

“I am not going out on that stretcher,” I told the EMTs when they arrived in my kitchen. “I don’t want to upset the neighbors.”

Casey had just come in from hanging the diapers on the line, and before heading out the back door, I pointed to the doughs on the counter. “Will you put those back in the freezer,” I asked, feeling a pang for the meal we would never share with our birthing team.

“I bet this is a boy,” I’d joked to Mary in the ambulance, given that I had been told by more than one intuitive that this baby would arrive “after” my due date and would be a girl.

She later told me of the third surprise, that instead of a head, she’d felt testicles.

And although I hadn’t experienced any contractions on the ambulance ride, she later told me that my labor had indeed progressed. I was fully dilated by the time we arrived in the emergency room.

“She’s in labor?” the front desk nurses said, as I was wheeled past them.

“She’s still in her street clothes,” two others said, as they looked into the examining room where I had been deposited.

I looked these women up and down too and had thought them ordelies, but one would turn out to be the surgeon, who did her own examination.

“Small,” she pronounced.

“Adequate,” Mary countered.

“Unproven,” she said.

They stood at the foot of my stretcher disputing the capacity of my pelvis.

“Calm,” Mary offered, of my demeanor.

“I’ll give it two hours,” the doctor said. “But the results could be tragic.”

They looked from each other toward me.

“Can I have a minute?” I said.

I motioned to Casey to join me in the bathroom. I closed the door. I kept the lights off.

I had miscarried twice before. Bled through the early months of this pregnancy too. Had Braxton-Hicks beginning at 5 months. Had planned a home birth because I’d fallen in love with a midwife named Mary who told me that she took my little baby home with her each night in her third eye.

I had felt so peaceful there in our little farmhouse beside the mountain. The morning’s cloud cover created a cocoon as I labored at the edge of our bed, the skylight overhead where we watched the stars at night, the door to the balcony over the brook open to the air, and this blissful feeling between contractions that my mother told me I’d find if I paid attention to the spaces in between.

All gone.

“Remember, you and the baby want the same thing,” my mother said, having birthed 9 children without a single miscarriage or epidural.

She was a Christmas baby like my great aunt, while I followed on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her grandchild was apparently arriving on the Assumption of Mary, two weeks before he was due.

I opened the bathroom door to bright lights and urgent faces, remembering my bare feet on the soft pine floors, Mary kneeling in front of me, pressing her thumbs into my shin, lending exquisite relief during a contraction.

“I’ll take the c-section,” I said.

And then I remember the very last contraction I experienced.

“This will sting,” said the anesthesiologist who arrived in the operating room with a nurse and his long needle while the surgical team scrubbed like I had once done with my father and to whom I had just recently said, just as he had said to me: I never want surgery. (We would each have surgery this week within 48 hours of the other.)

“Can you wait a minute,” I said to the anesthesiologist, laughing at the absurdity of his warning about the epidural. “I’m having a contraction.”

In the end, they had to yank the baby out of the birth canal so ready was he to be born through me instead of removed surgically.

Protocol would not let me view the delivery, but they did let me see him for a flash before they whisked him to the examining table under the bright lights where they pronounced him healthy.

Protocol also prevented me from holding the baby until the anesthesia wore off.

I’d only had anesthesia once before. Wisdom teeth. I had barely come to at the end of the day when the same day surgery room was set to close. A friend arrived to drive me home while I continued to doze, and she nursed me through the night, ice on, ice off, so unable was I to rebound from the drugs.

Casey called the next day. I was furious. The restaurant had given him my home number. He was calling for a job.

Now Casey accompanied our baby to the nursery while I was sewn up on the table and wheeled over to recovery where just like before my rebound was slow.

I woke this morning feeling similarly drugged, to the sound of rain and a heavy cover of clouds, and although I wanted to rise and write before walking up to Sunday scones at Whetstone Ledges Farm, the absence of light made it difficult to stay afloat, and so I slipped back down under the surface of consciousness again and again.

“Do you feel your legs yet,” the nurse asked, as she covered my shivering body with more blankets. (To this day the last two toes on my left foot are numb.)

When I finally did meet Lloyd, he was wrapped tightly in a blanket with a knit cap on his head. I put up my hand as the midwife approached. I wanted to see Casey first.

We had become parents, apart from one another, instead of at home in on our own bed. Casey held our baby first, for more than an hour, after I had carried him inside for 8 months.

I don’t remember if the rain lifted that afternoon when I held my son.

I remember feeling that this was Everything.

I remember knowing that nothing would be the same.

When I fell back to sleep this morning, I dreamt that most of the tomatoes on the vine in our garden had ripened, just in time for Lloyd’s return to celebrate his twenty-third.

His name was meant to be Lila, after my grandmother, who died tragically at the age I am now.

I don’t know when it occurred to me that Lila and Lloyd share two L’s.

Twenty-three years old.

The twenty-third psalm was read at her graveside. I think of it every time I walk the road past the silent repose of the Whetstone.

I like the version Bobby McFerrin sings.

“Beside the still waters, She will lead.”

Lloyd has surprised us lately, wanting to be home for his birthday.

It’s unfathomable that he doesn’t live with us anymore. That the flesh of my flesh is not mine forever. That neither of us would want it to be so.

He was here last Christmas too, for an extended stay, during which we joined with old friends around a fire as the sun set over the waters of the Retreat Meadows.

We were deep in conversation when I felt a swoosh past our circle of chairs, and my eyes followed a woman who, with a flourish, removed a dark cloak.

I lifted phone and zoomed in to capture the beautiful blues and creamy whites of her wimple and habit but I couldn’t make out what hung from her neck and around her waist.

Her presence seemed to rivet me alone, and I could no longer focus, despite the company of my son and my oldest, dearest friend.

I stood up and crossed the space from the fire to her table beside the waters.

“The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa,” she said, pointing to the medallion that hung from her neck.

“My sword,” she said, of the beaded rosary that dangled from her hip down her left side, “To fight Evil.”

I shared my family’s Mary connection with her, including Casey’s birth on the Feast Day of the Mother, and my mother’s death on the same day.

“You are a Marian family,” she pronounced, and I smiled, thinking how some people enjoy certainty and others the questions.

I returned to the fire, taking a seat across from from my friend with whom I attended the same Catholic Highschool. She had recently given me a nightlight that had belonged to her dear mother, and I almost thought to discard this plastic statue of Mary when after plugging it in, the bulb sparked and went black.

But upon removing the plug from the statue, I saw three small words under its base:

House of Lloyd.

Later, as the light faded in the sky over the water, the woman in the dark cloak stopped by our circle, asking: Is this the one born on Assumption of Mary?

She looked directly at Lloyd saying:

“You are consecrated to Our Lady.”

It was he who saw the Blue Lady shimmering on the land alongside the Whetstone Brook upon which we would later build our home.

“The Blue Lady is here to help you,” my therapist said, years earlier, after the birth of my second son, when I arrived in her chair riddled with grief over my mother’s early death from cancer.

“It’s blue like the light over Uncle Lenny’s bar in the barn,” Lloyd said, of the place where he was almost born and where he watched his little brother come into the world.

He hadn’t known the word: fluorescent.

I hadn’t been sure about the purchase of the land upon which we stood together, until I was told to whom the land just across the pond belonged.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Winds of Change

I wake in the dark to buckets of air thrown in my face and I cannot place myself…

Wait, Yes, I can. I am back home, my second night here after the trip south (3 states, 5 younger siblings, 4 different beds.)

Why is it that the return home rather than the journey itself always displaces me?
And who is throwing air in my face?
And if this is my familiar, why can’t I orient myself in this space?

Which way is my bed facing? This is a question that arises in the middle of the night after returning from any trip, and it doesn’t make any sense, because my bed has faced the same direction for some time now. East.

Lately I wonder if I have worked my brain, like my eyes and my heart and my knees and my hips, too long and too hard, and so, in stubborn refusal, it won’t produce the simple things like a well-known name or a common word or a knowing of where I am in my own space, and furthermore there are moments– waking moments–when not only the date but the day and even the season completely drop out from under me.

My oldest has been secretly worried about Alzheimer’s. He’s apparently checked the list of indicators and tells me that I am surprisingly in the clear, except for one:

Social isolation.

I remind him that I am introverted, and a writer and that isolation is necessary for my work.

“How will we ever know if you’ve lost your mind,” he once said, somewhat anxiously, in the face of something I said in all seriousness that sounded outlandish to him.

I imagine it is his own tendencies and preferences for thought over people that concern him and also the way his mind like mine opens into realms others deny.

“The loss of smell is the first sign,” a friend tells me. Her mother had the disease.

My sense of smell has always been pronounced, but I sniff upon waking today and wonder–Is it fading?

Should I turn the bed south again?

Lately, the orientation feels all wrong although east is the direction upon which we’ve long settled as it lends itself best to the utilization of space and to waking.

Maybe this disorientation is a sign that I’m ready to go. Move one. Begin Anew.

As an army brat, I’ve had detachment disorder to dwellings, even this one that has been around the longest–almost 15 years–unthinkable after a childhood of more than a half-dozen schools.

My boys have the opposite inclination, toward stability; they never want to let this place go. They don’t even like it when I change the furniture around in the room.

It may be that their leaving (my youngest goes to college next month) alongside my long-delayed letting go of parenting younger siblings is what has untethered me.

It may be that this home is the only place where I’ve ever felt at ease enough to truly let my mind go, at least in sleep, so much so that I delight in buckets of wind thrown in my face even if I don’t know where I am.

Muscle Tone

I passed a young woman in the market this afternoon.

Her skin was so evenly colored. Her muscles so toned.

I wanted to stop her and say:

“Your skin is so evenly colored and your muscles so toned!”

But she appeared to be in a rush.

“She’s decades younger than you,” my husband said, surely relieved that I shared my thoughts with him and not her, and thinking I needed encouragement.

But I wasn’t mourning my youth. In fact, there’s a very good chance that I am kinder to this skin that’s grown mottled and to this musculature that’s grown soft than this beauty is to perfection.

Someday (soon) the gentleness of age and the blush of youth will meet each other inside young women, like those waves that approach each other from opposite directions as they soften toward the shore.

We’ll look on the Aged then like one does a favorite book or sweater, more Beloved because it’s worn; and so Known, we will Love into ourselves–in all ways and shapes, infirmities and strengths and age–even more.

M is for Motherhood & Menopause & Mystery

Yesterday, while holding an infant, I simultaneously experienced a heat wave—2 currents crossing in the same body—Motherhood meets Menopause.

By my age both my grandmothers had a dozen grandbabies around them, and deep into their own Change, I’m no longer surprised that they were grumpy, particularly in the morning, or drunk, particularly in the evening.

I understand their proclivities, resentments, depressions even while I abstain from more than a few ounces of spirit, not wanting to stoke the fire inside, particularly in sleep; and neither wanting to anesthetize it, so necessary is heat to Transformation.

We are such a mystery even to ourselves. Mystery with a capital M and mystery with a sad face, taking up so little space beyond our bodies—these objects of attention, adoration, derision & violation.

There is much to talk about and we have waited long enough.

These Currents Rising are directing the Change, not just within us, but among us, and Around the World.

Madness


She inspires me. She may be mad. She may not even be expecting. But she persists. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Winding small piles of straw on the narrow beam under the drip edge beside each cross beam. And each day, her work is blown across my porch and into my hanging baskets. But she doesn’t give up. She doubles her efforts, then triples them. The debris grows. Eventually, some of her work begins to take shape. And then the spitting begins. The mud. The moss. Across my porch. Until finally, one of her SEVEN simultaneous attempts stays put just as I rehearse the emptying of my own nest–my second son away at camp (and soon to fly.) Her efforts–so late in the season–like mine, at 54, attempting the delivery of a third child, the conception of a work of art, began 7 years ago. Straw. Spit. Mud. Moss. Another revision. Another revision. Persist.