Leaves {Turn} A New Leaf

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I went to the Renaissance Festival for the first time when I was nineteen. It was strictly off limits, even to the imagination, when I was a child because my righteous father (who had never been) told tales of the salacious nature of the event and the abhorrent behavior of all in attendance. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I followed my curiosity to the infamous event. I found the outrageous price of everything beyond the gates the most sinful part of the whole thing, but the cleavage was, in fact, impressive and the feeling of walking through a woodland village was worth the crowds and aimless quality of our whole experience. The thing I took away from the fair that had an impact on the rest of my life in a way I never could have guessed, was the handcrafted silver owl ring.
Fast forward three years. I’m back in my hometown, everything I had built upon leaving, now seen in reality. A life collapsed, my mind recoiling while my body went through the motions of keeping things afloat.
And then he shows up.
I knew Jesse in high school. We met when we were fourteen. I became new friends with all his old friends as he was silently transforming into a boy wise beyond his years, who knew the rest of us weren’t ready for the things he was discovering. So he just kept it all to himself. He was strange. Awkward. Didn’t say much. I had a messy relationship based in teen angst and drug addiction with his best friend. Jesse helped us get together, staying characteristically quiet about his own feelings for me. I was charismatic. Chaotic. Smart and mouthy and a tomboy who felt it useless to try to find a place in the teenage beauty hierarchy. Jesse never told me how much he appreciated that quality. He ended up dating my best friend.
Because of situations that arose from my activity with my boyfriend, my parents transferred me out of district for my junior year. In a fun twist, my boyfriend’s mom moved their family to that district at the same time. I only saw Jesse a handful more times. He visited me at my new school and got in trouble with the principal for standing on the school mascot statue out front, and we were all asked to leave. Most notably, he was there when I ran away and stole his mom’s car to deliver me to my planned hide out, where we shared the devastation of seeing his girlfriend, my best friend, for the last time before she moved out of town. We held each other and cried. Who could have guessed how often we would do that in the years to come?
We didn’t see each other for five years.
And then turns of fate brought us to pause in our hometown at the same time. I was in no position to start a new relationship but, long story short, he was everything I needed and he knew that. I didn’t fully understand what I felt for him, almost immediately upon reuniting, something I had never felt about anyone before. I told him it couldn’t happen, I wasn’t ready, I was a mess and I would just drag him through it. He had a trip planned to the west coast and he didn’t know how long it would take. He told me he would come back for me, but if I still wasn’t ready he would go on his way and who knew when we would see each other again? You can’t put a spark on a shelf and have a fire later.
He left. All I could think about was him. We talked every day. He made the fog in my life seem to clear, but I was afraid to jump into anything, especially anything that meant letting someone else take care of me at a time in my life where it was vital for me to know that I could float on my own. He was back three weeks later. His first stop was my house. What followed was a sort of organic fusion, and I don’t think it was conscious for either of us. It was just natural to be in one another’s company and it felt like it had always been this way. Nothing was stated, nothing assumed, we just were.
It was the end of August, after a handful of fairly serious shared experiences, that we realized, and spoke aloud, what exactly our bond was. Summer tipped gracefully into its usual, golden pre-winter attire, and found us taking hikes and long evening drives, lying about on sunny afternoons and spending hours at the skate park. We even spent time with one another’s parents and even they acted like it had just always been this way. There are a multitude of places my mind goes at each season’s turn, and as this summer fades I return to this place. I lost my job not long after Jesse returned from the coast and it was my first stretch of joblessness since I started working. You know the feeling when you have a couple days off in a row and twenty four hours seems endless and doing nothing is a luxury? My life transitioned into that place and as Jesse and I blossomed I realized I had never loved or been loved, with the exception of my children, in all my life. Everything from before seemed so dull and lifeless and base. It was like just being in his presence opened up this wealth of knowledge whose existence I had never come anywhere near.
I remember telling him I no longer believed in the permanence of love. I saw it as a formless, floating sort of thing, like smoke drifting from a constantly shape shifting flame. We were sitting on the orange leather couch in his parents’ garage and I said, “I feel like we should tell other people, ‘I love you right now,’ and only tell our children that we truly love them.”
We had spent night after sleepless night talking, sharing every minute thought, and just looking into one another. We had developed this habit of just staring at one another for a while and one of us would ask, “What are you thinking?”
Later on the night I made my statement about the transience love, we were in his old room, his head in my lap. He looked up at me and just stilled, his mossy amber eyes gentle and inviting. I knew what he was thinking, but I was afraid to say it. Instead I asked, “What are you thinking?”
His response was so comforting…It’s hard to put into words how it felt. Not quite comforting even, but comfortable. Like I was coming home in a way I had never been able to in all my existence. Every facet of my life is peppered with, or altogether steeped in some sort of horrible shade. All shapes and sizes of trauma, abuse, emptiness, disappointment, total lack of love, security, trust or ease. When he answered me I felt relief, like this was the beginning of what I had always been so desperate for- a place I could truly relax, knowing I was safe, knowing I belonged.
He kept his eyes locked onto mine and said, “You know.”
I did, and he felt it, but it was one of those moments where crippling self doubt crept over the knowledge and made me afraid to say something stupid; to say I knew and be mortifyingly wrong. I couldn’t say it out loud. He felt that too. He could read me like a book, even then. But he waited. Silently challenged me to try, to trust myself.
I smiled a little. “Do you love me right now?”
He said, “I just love you.”
At the time I didn’t even understand how full bodied and true a statement that was. If I were to say, “I left him x number of times,” I would have to sit down and really think through the last four years. I ran from his truth and his peace so many times. But every situation in which I left had three things in common- One, as soon as I was gone I knew I couldn’t live without him, and my thoughts were always on him because, Two, he just loved me. And Three, I was always running from an opportunity I saw only has a threat. Out of that pure love he challenged me again and again to rise to the occasion. To burst out of my old skin and be the person he saw me keeping down, denying in favor of whatever was easier. We’ve all heard the phrase “brutally honest,” but never had those words been so thoroughly defined. His truths were like crushing blows to the skull. Like knives to the gut. Like looking into the eyes of a boa constrictor and thinking, “So this is how it ends,” as you feel your ribs give way. PC was not his MO. “Putting it nicely” was not his thing. And what I couldn’t appreciate was that he loved me enough to trust I could handle the things he was saying. That he saw me as someone who, even at her weakest, could catch the meteors he hurled at me and hold on while they burned down everything I thought I knew.
He almost lost me. I didn’t think I was as strong as he already knew I was. And now I’ve never been so thankful for anything as I am for my crushed skull, spilled guts and punctured lungs. We’ll leave phoenix metaphors out of this, because even my cheesy metaphors can’t do justice to what my husband did for me.
And now, summer is winding down and in my mind I’m back on my sun dappled street, outside the little brown house where I restarted my life, experiencing that weekend-off feeling and remembering those eyes on my soul, sizing up my potential. Jesse met my little, tattered family and knew he was home. No matter how hard I fought, how far I ran, how lost I felt, he was there, whittling off the useless bark and taking whatever undue retaliation I dished out. If I had tried half as hard to help myself as he has always helped me, we would have known years ago that I’m bi-polar and progress would have been a lot easier to make. We tell ourselves that ten years from now we won’t feel the weight of how things all started out, hell, maybe even five years out, but right now it’s like a long storm has stilled its raging and we’re finally piecing things back together.
I never took that owl ring off after I bought it, except for one of those times I ran off. Jesse found out I was planning to leave, I don’t even remember how, and he said, “At least let me take you myself.”
I agreed, but he also told me I should let him have my owl ring, so he could at least have something beautiful to hold onto out of all this. I really didn’t want to, but I felt guilty and agreed. I regretted it the whole time we were apart, although it wasn’t the greatest of my regrets from the moment I watched his car disappear around the bend. When we reunited I asked for my ring back. He was upset, I’d told him he could have it. I felt it was unfair to keep a relic of something you still have. As begrudgingly as I had first parted with it, he returned it. We both have a deep appreciation for owls, and it came to be “one of those things” that’s a deeply meaningful shared detail. That ring was a lot more to us than just a band of silver, in a lot of ways.
That year I scoured the internet, in hopes of finding a ring similar to mine. I used any and all keywords I could find, discovered all kinds of unique sites I’d never heard of, and found a lot of cool jewelry, but it seemed my handcrafted piece had no equal. Until, some time after I had given up hope of fulfilling my quest, but habitually continued the search, I happened upon a ring almost exactly like mine. It was glorious. It was fortuitous. I was ecstatic! I ordered it, intending to give it to him for our anniversary, but I couldn’t wait.
We were married that winter. His parents gave us their original gold bands that they’d replaced years ago as they grew older, but had always held onto. It was a deeply meaningful gesture, especially since it was my father in law’s idea, and he’s the prototype of the hardworking, emotionally distant male who is chronically disappointed in his sole heir. (Secretly he liked me. I always knew it!) We wore them proudly, but over time it just sort of came to be that we wore the owls on our left hands. It has become a symbol of affection to make a fist and rub their little silver faces together.
It was always going to be him, strolling in with a deep seated and well justified hatred of all mankind, yet carving out a space for the one person he thought could go against that belief. That first night we came back into each other’s lives we walked from my house to the river and sat on the bank hurling stones into the racing sludge. I tried to skip mine, impossible on that water, but he grabbed all the biggest rocks he could find and launched them like Zeus hurling smiting thunderbolts. I tried to argue with him on behalf of humankind. Ironic, considering what I’d just, and really always, been through. Years later I realized he hated everything because he was such a sweet and benevolent person, but no one ever seemed to prove worthy of the depth of his ability to love.
This is the first year in a while I haven’t faced the prospect of winter with some sense of dread. I can appreciate this autumn as a time of relief while rich colors wash over the land. This time four years ago was when I first happened upon “Wild Geese,” just flipped a book open to a random page and there it was, embodying everything I needed to hear, and when I shared it with Jesse it was like a piece of understanding of all things that we held between us. Right now, however, the wild geese are headed out, and the world goes on. Tarantulas come out in late summer here, and ticks start to consider leaving us alone for a bit. The air thins and no longer insists on being quite so soupy. And my head is full of images of my first meeting with deep, life changing love, and my place in the family of things.
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Destined

One can imagine

That there existed a rock and,

Compelled by a motherly urge,

She transformed herself into an egg

From which sprung a small feathered beast.

But as for the other

great rhetorical query,

There is a definite answer.

While love

And positive input,

The creation of beautiful memories,

And wholesome foods

All work together to form

A perfectly constructed

And warmly lined nest,

None of this is any match

For the tenacity,

The strict adherance to balance

The sheer violence,

Of nature.

All life leading to,

And made of,

all death.

“People My Age “

I will never understand
Your inability to love.
Your wastefulness.
Your lack of gratitude.
Your inability to appreciate the shimmering details,
the small things
right before your eyes.
Your boredom.
Your insistence on misery,
for yourself
and everyone around you.
Your unwillingness to speak to your children
like real people
for any length,
or at all.
Your falseness.
Your lack of substance
and the way you fill in the gap with lies
and pretense
rather than effort.
Your facebook.
Your self obsession.
Your self loathing.
How you can be so self obsessed when you hate yourself
so much.
Why you just follow along,
with
all the trends,
the meaningless music,
the constant tv
and ever increasing
commercial breaks.
The sexualization
of everything.
Sluts.
Pretending that allowing
everyone to look at your
everything
is owning the skin you’re in.
Make up.
Shapewear.
Controlling the people you claim to love.
Not allowing your child’s other parent
to parent.
Letting your child be the parent.
Children and technology.
Children who can’t speak,
use a toilet,
use utensils,
but know how to operate a cell phone,
the remote,
a game controller,
netflix,
their parents.
Lack of imagination.
Schools catering to unparented children
because otherwise there would be no one
to cater to.
The “______ Lives Matter” game.
You don’t understand
that no lives matter
equally.
That all you have is you
and your limited perception.
That, as long as you refuse to acknowledge
how limited your knowledge and experiences are
you can never grow.
All that matters
is already right in front of you
but you insist
on pretending you’re headed for another life,
a future
you imagine
but that is in no way connected
to your present actions.
When did living like today is the last
boil down to
a frat party?

Daily Dose- Bottle

via Daily Prompt: Bottle

I nearly drown
Way back then,
My head held under the surface
of years
of your inability to cope with your own shadows.
You struck fiercely
Out of fury at your own brokenness.
You inflicted the kind of misery
That made eighteen years seem insurmountable ;
Absolutely not worth pushing through
To see what comes when dawn breaks.
For years afterward I would tell myself
What a childish fallacy
That perspective had been.
Life outside your walls was magnificent,
Smooth sailing freedom.
What I couldn’t know,
Recognized too late,
Was that my demons should have been faced immediately,
Not left in boxes in dusty corners of my mind
To grow
Into beasts that fill all corners,
Gaining strength beyond my own,
waiting, until their victory was guaranteed,
To stage their coup.
What I didn’t realize
Was that my demons would not simply pause,
Tamely allowing their vessel control.
They quietly pulled the strings,
Hiding behind all my seemingly innocent desires and motivations
Until it became impossible to ignore any longer –
The Truth
That my younger self bottled up
And clutched tightly
On nights when the end seemed more promising
Than endurance.
She knew
What I wanted to forget.
She knew
That some stains are set deep
In the fabric,
Some stones
Can’t be chipped out of the foundation
And no matter how wide open
The future seems,
Sparkling before me like a crystalline sea,
You tied a stone around my being
That no matter how fiercely I paddle,
How desperately I try to stay afloat,
My soul will be drawn to the ocean floor
As if by magnetic force.
My younger self knew, too,
That survival was an option,
A definite possibility,
But unlike my featherweight counterparts,
I would require significantly more emotional muscle
To perform the same mundane daily tasks.
“Normal ” for me,
Would be a struggle,
A dogged attempt to keep my head above water
Across a never ending sea,
And to give in to exhaustion
Would be the end
Of all I worked so hard to gain.
You see, my younger self had a tangible enemy-
You stared her down with shifting eyes,
Controlled her every move.
Your opposition was obvious.
But your pitiful girl
Grew into a thing that forgot
To fight.
I find myself wondering, was it worth it, after all?
Can I learn to see the unseen forces
Guiding my actions,
Enough to overturn the mutiny,
Like you never could?
Do I know who I am,
Apart from the demons?
Do you wonder the same,
As you stare at the phone,
Knowing it won’t ring,
On a day your daughters have only escape
To celebrate?

He Came Back From The Future To Save Himself

The American dream is only
For immigrants
And the blind;
we’ll take this boy from his home
To awaken new realities,
To show him the truth
Beyond the misery of “hometown.”
How disappointing
That true happiness is so often
only known by the most broken.
Did you know
That underneath rock bottom
Lies simplicity?
Either that or religion,
Depending on how capable
You see yourself being
Of becoming captain
Of your own destiny.
What good is a dream
If you wake and live
The opposite of your desires?

The Inspiration of Seasons

Art offers the promise of entrance into some secret club, where minds are sharper, emotions both more raw and rich, and the word “we” holds a private magic, vague and exclusive. The written word especially, for me, bears profound enchantment, as though each letter was selected with me in mind and I want to tattoo all of them onto my soul.

Perfect poetry has that ethereal quality, each shimmering word carefully selected, like stars plucked from a decadent indigo canvas. I can get stuck in one of two ruts in my own writing, because they’re comfortable to me, but may become monotonous to hypothetical readers.

One is the pleasant dream/afternoon sunlight  motif; a place of golden light and gossamer curtains. Hope and regret. Memory and slightly bored peacefulness. A place where cats sleep on warm wooden floors and flowers bloom in pots on the windowsill. Leaves, in their most majestic attire, flutter through crisp, cloudless skies that are always scented like something familiar, and snow transforms the world into a secret hideout, where only the brave venture.

The other mental room in which I often write is vast and cluttered, like a living trinket box. Floor to ceiling shelves, desktops and chairs are stacked with post cards and tattered envelopes, sparkling rocks, empty pill bottles, bones, half read books, journals with pages torn out, scribbled on and crossed out, burned and thrown to the floor. Photos of terrible memories and mementos of failed friendships hang on the walls and litter the floor. Everything is mania inducing inspiration;  bittersweet, harrowing, unquenchable, eternal- these are the words that live here. This is a room I enter alone and cannot leave until something is exorcised, lest some part of me remain trapped there. I loathe interruptions when I am here, and what comes out of this place is for me and me alone, raw and uncensored because nothing can help me if it isn’t brutally honest. I share only because it may help others, or at the least entertain, and then my plight is less useless. The danger in this writing is recognizing the thin line between purging and wallowing.

Little hurls me headlong into one of these two spaces more than the change of seasons, or happiness; the latter simply because it has always been such a foreign concept to me that it is still nearly always bittersweet. All of this is the thought behind a new category, posts inspired by the change of seasons.

Now, with summer looming like an ominous wave, exciting only to schoolchildren and teachers, and our return to an old haunt (the place of the bus’ marooning), my mind spins through memories of summertime sadness. Thunder storms and the scent of lemons, old days on a dirty lake and my first whirlwind of freedom that nearly ruined me for good. There are older memories, of hedgerows and imaginary games, the “family rug” and treehouses I built for my dolls out of bamboo placemats on the rungs of bar stools (though my parents left out the word “bar.”) These are the most bittersweet memories, because my days of innocence and wonder were spent isolated in a dark and vile place, ruled by fear and contempt.

This summer offers second chances and triumph; malts and the rebirth of the M.U.T.S. bus. I have nothing to lose, and everything to remember.

Daily Dose: Unmoored

via Daily Prompt: Unmoored

They told me,

When I was young,

That the dock was the only safe place.

No life preserver

Or boat

Could serve at substitute for the semi solid wharf,

Despite what I saw others act out;

Flying across the water

Or pushing it aside with their bodies,

Gliding,

Weightless.

“Weightlessness is sin, ”

They impressed upon me.

” The cruel spirit

Of hatred and vengeance for the wayward,

Would never put more on you

Than you are able to bear.

But He built you weak

And He built you fragile,

And He built you wicked, and to untether

From the pier of misery

And righteous fear

Is to lean unto your own understanding;

To selfishly profess

That you are your own master

And challenge He

Who had his son tortured

And put the blood on our hands. ”

What they failed to mention was

The beauty of the open sea,

Made all the more breathtaking

In contrast with its fearsome power.

They never mentioned

How  the waters were teeming with life,

Unimaginable shapes and shifting colors

That may have burned awe of a majestic creator into my mind,

In place of paralyzing fear.

Unmoored, at last,

Adrift amidst alien scenery,

I see the futility

Of life at the end of a rope.

What then, is your faith,

Having never faced the Power you give your life to,

Out of horror at the thought

Of facing the Power?

Your anchors be damned,

Any and all.

You think you’re in control-

Wages, dreams of wealth,

religion, and grave plots;

Waiting to rot,  like the salt encrusted timber

You lash your soul to,

Until the day

It’s taken back by the sea.