The curiosity of a rose.

She was clearly not where she was meant to be.  And I had the feeling she was as surprised by it all as I was at seeing her there.  

The flouncy little single rose blossom had poked her head completely through to the back side of a tall solid wooden fence, while the rest of her was out of sight, leaning against the front side of the fence as intended, as planted.  

It seemed that at some time in her youth (for nothing larger than a bud could have made it through that small crack in the fence) her curiosity must have won out over her family ties.  And so she thrust her tiny head through to the other side of the fence.  She peeked into the unknown.  She opened herself up to the unfamiliar side of the sun.  And once she was there, she bloomed into her full beauty, apparently quite happy and in good health.

Quincy the dog and I were walking past the fence that separates two neighboring yards a few blocks from my house.  We were approaching from the western (back) side of the fence.  And there she was:  a perfectly formed pale pink rose in full bloom, nodding at us in the slight breeze.  And then we saw the rose bed itself, which was obviously planted on the eastern side of the fence.

The fact that the lovely blossom appeared so isolated, so out-of-place, so singular and friendly, stopped me for a closer look.  She nodded again in greeting.  And she made my very soul smile in return.  (I suspect a flower waving at you is uniquely qualified to break through even the most pensive or solemn frame of mind.)

Q and I soon continued on our walk, but the message and meaning of the diffident single rose stayed with me, and had its way with my heart and mind for quite a long time.

Like most of us, I suspect I have been trading my own curiosity for trepidation lately; afraid to venture away from my side of the fence, fearful of looking onto the other side (or the others’ side).  Perhaps I’ve suspected that the cracks in the fences that define my life – that define me – are to be avoided rather than taken as a visionary opportunity of possibilities.

And yet, this small rose took that chance.  She reached out and through and looked around and waved at strangers.  And in her instinctive way, she bloomed quite perfectly.  She kept her roots, yet found new sun.  And she thrived. 

I suspect it’s the reassurance of the familiar that keeps us on our particular side of the fences in our lives.  I suspect it is our own fears that cause us to create such fences and barriers and separations in the first place.  But perhaps we might consider the curiosity of the rose, the rose who took that chance – that opportunity – that possibility – that vision – of the other side of the fence. 

There is a quotation from Douglas Adams (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) that says this:  “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I was intended to be.”

None of us may have ever intended to go through such global uncertainty, with all its fear and anxiety, its unknowing and unwanted, with cracks in our familiar surroundings and holes punched in places where we believed ourselves to be safe and content.  But I suspect we will end up where we are intended to be.  And I suspect we will be curiously beautiful when we get there.

Celebrating the bruises.

I have a friend who is wonderfully strange and tender, beautiful and wise.  My friend’s name is Mar.  

Not long ago, Mar shared on social media a photo of bare legs.  More to the point, they were bare legs covered in bruises.  They were Mar’s own legs, battered and bruised from moving into a new home.  And they reminded my friend of the good old roller derby days when bruises and bumps were a daily occurrence and much more massive than those showing in that particular picture.  

But Mar was thankful for these latest bruises because of the memories they brought back, particularly the remembrance of being out there, participating in the sport, taking the hits for the team – how it was about throwing oneself into the game, body and soul.  And then Mar went on to explain how the bruising was a personal joy all through the healing process as well – because it was visible proof of survival, and the colors of renewal.  What began in blacks and purples and the hugeness of good sore bruises, evolved and lightened as they got smaller and less noticeable, less sensitive, less intense, and they became the literal visibility and physicality of healing.

I was quite smitten with Mar’s observations, especially when applied to life in its broader sense.  Because I suspect that, instinctively, we try to avoid bruises – the hits and smacks and jabs and injuries that life can throw at us – even though they are, in the end, inevitable.  

And when they do happen to us, I suspect we try to hide them. We certainly don’t often stop to celebrate them as perhaps we should – as proof that we are participating fully in life, that we are engaging it wholeheartedly, without reserve, with courage and anticipation, playing our part unhesitatingly, giving our best.  

Perhaps we simply forget to accept the fact that we may come out of the game a bit worn out and torn up and ragged, with scrapes and cuts and bumps and scars, and with amazingly colorful bruises.  

We are wonderfully resilient after all, you and I.  From kicked shins to punched hearts.  So I suspect that we should be prouder of our bruises.  Perhaps we should find more joy in those color flags that represent our proof of life – our proof of striving, of survival – the brilliant full-color stripes of healing, while the injuries themselves are allowed to fade into memory.

But I suspect there are bruises in life that are more meaningful than others, more significant, more intentional:  like when we put ourselves out there for matters of principle rather than points to score; when we take one for the team and the team is one human being; when we stand firm and absorb the punch that protects any other living being, or another species, or another form or way of life – because it is simply the right thing to do and because we can.

I suspect those are the bruises we should all celebrate most of all – whether they show up on our own selves or on the beings of others.  

Writer Albert Camus believed that we should:  “Live to the point of tears.”  Perhaps he was right.  Perhaps he meant that if we don’t, our tears might be shed in very dark, very lonely places.  

But I suspect that we could at least consider living to the point of bruises.  And to celebrate the bruising … the living, the hurting, the courage, the surviving, the healing and the grace of it all.

A library of found books.

A copy of one of the books I’ve authored was returned to me from a big chain bookstore today, and I felt quite sad about it.  Not because it was returned, but because the person who was meant to read it didn’t get the chance to do so.  It wasn’t found in time.

Big chain bookstores need to do that, of course; they need to shift their inventory quickly.  And they do best selling hot-topic, everybody-is-reading-this, kinds of books.  And it’s lovely to have such bookstores nearby and thriving.

But there are certain books that must be “found,” I think.  They are the ones that need to sit for a bit longer on the shelf.  And then one day, they just catch your eye, and they have titles that intrigue your imagination, and a few opening lines and words that resonate with you personally – your heart, your soul, your state of mind.  And they invite you to stop and lean against the shelves for a minute longer and read just a bit more and lose track of time and place. more “A library of found books.”

New stories to be told.

I hadn’t had a bath in two days.  And the last meal I could remember eating was a handful of chocolate chips (no cookies, just the chocolate chips straight out of the bag).  And I texted to two friends and I called my publisher.

I’ve finished it.  I’ve written “The End” on the bottom of the last page.  I’ve finished writing my latest book.

My publisher will be the one to decide, of course – whether it is a book worth publishing and whether it is, indeed, finished.  But right now, in my own mind, the story has been told and it is ready for the telling to others.

After a book manuscript is finished by a writer, it is a long way and time until it is a “book.”  But for the author, this is a terribly significant and mixed-emotion time – not unlike the semi-sweet chocolate that was my last meal.  It is semi-sweet to be done with the creating and crafting and discipline of writing; and it’s semi-sweet saying goodbye to the characters, to the place of reality where you’ve lived for the past weeks and months and sometimes years; and it’s a semi-sweet feeling of putting down your pen and purpose – your reason for being – even if it is only for awhile.

Perhaps this has been particularly evident to me, particularly relevant, right now – to feel as if I’ve had a place to go and people to be with, and to have a sense of meaningfulness in my life during this actual real time of isolation and confinement.  

And I suspect there may be a burst of art and writing and music, of philosophy and creative science and imaginative thinking, that will be coming out on a global basis, after we have all gotten through this time of self-imposed introspection and, for some of us, a sort of desperation to find purpose in our lives.

But I also suspect that some of this scurry and push in creativity may be simply for our personal need to create an “alternate reality” for ourselves, an alternate place to be and hangout, an alternate us – like children and their imaginary friends or playing dress-up; like theater and the theater of the mind we get from reading; like playing games and make-believe and wearing clown noses.

I also suspect that it is our ability to conceive of and then get lost in such alternate realities that is our human saving grace.  That it is there that we can find the seeds of peace and patience, empathy and humor, and we can grow them, and we can take them out into the world and share them like blossoms and fruits – or even made up into homemade breads and fresh-baked pies.

The natural world has been doing its best to keep us at least occupied, if not actually entertained, during this time – admittedly, it’s been a sort of trial-and-error effort (like a jack-in-the-box meant to be a distraction which actually scares the bejeebers out of the children).  But there have also been sky dances of stars and double rainbows, a cleansing of the earth’s atmosphere and waters, a renewal of forests and the wild things that live there.  And babies are still being born and weddings are still being celebrated and love songs are being sung across the world to strangers.

So I hope all the new stories are on their way as well, and the art and music and dance and the original insights of science and thought.  I am looking forward to adding my own small voice to it, too – my own new story getting ready for the telling.  

I’ll bring more chocolate.

Hatching stones.

The soft grey-brown little dove was watching us.  But she wasn’t moving.  

Quincy the dog and I stood at a respectful distance from the sweet little bird as she rested, perhaps nesting, on the ground.  It was an ill-chosen place for a nest, I thought – on the corner of a driveway, only slightly under a protective bush; deeply shaded, but terribly open, vulnerable.

I know that some doves do nest on the ground.  And their nests can be a hasty affair – just scraps and bits of twigs and grass and pine straw thrown together without much thought or structural soundness.  I also know that doves often simply sit and rest on the ground – so I looked carefully, and I saw the nesting materials clearly evident around her body.  And the fact that she stayed, even as Q and I slowly approached, made me quite convinced that this was, indeed, her nesting place, her home, her stage for introducing her future fledglings into the world.  Not well chosen, indeed.  But it was hers and she was obviously committed to it. more “Hatching stones.”

If I’m wearing pants, this must be Tuesday.

It happens when you stand up fast, and the blood rushes down into your legs and feet, and your blood pressure drops, and you get kind of giddy and things go upside down for a minute, and your ears hiss, and you feel rather stupid.  And sometimes you have to sit back down again for it to all settle into place.  

It’s called “head rush,” but it seems to me that even that nomenclature is rather upside down – since everything is rushing away from your head, not toward it.  But that’s what it’s called, and I would suspect that most of us have experienced it at one time or another in our lives. more “If I’m wearing pants, this must be Tuesday.”

The care and feeding of wild roses.

I always thought they were a gift from my mother.

The wild and brilliant red rose vines burst into my yard, along the front of the house, just beneath my bedroom windows, the very first spring following my mother’s death.  They have been bringing me delight and insight rather consistently ever since.

It’s been almost a decade now.  And I’ve always refrained from interfering with their spontaneity, their freeform loveliness, even their integration with the window shutters and roofline and other architectural aspects of the house itself, as well as their fellow plants that grow and coexist among them. more “The care and feeding of wild roses.”

Mia’s Story.

When I picked her up from the shelter, she was being called Lois.  But on the car ride back to my house, she and I decided that her “new life” name should be Mia.  It was May 13th – five weeks and four days ago today.   more “Mia’s Story.”

Riding the words.

I have a friend who used to ride the rails.  It was back in the 1970s.  And he was photo-documenting the lives of railroad tramps – a culture and lifestyle that was fast-disappearing, even then.  

His photographs are haunting and harsh and starkly real in unflinching black and white.  They tell stories of deprivation and pride; stories of living on edges and in shadows; of the addiction to it all, the blatant freedom and mindset of it; the habitual moving and leaving and never arriving, never staying. 

The work is brilliant.  The photographs are utterly compelling.  But what captures my mind and imagination the most are the words he uses to describe the experience – not the least of which is in the cultural dialogue of the tramps themselves. more “Riding the words.”