Reflection

Writing a letter to the public about my brother’s death used to be outside my realm of possibility. I can be very timid; once, my high school English teacher used me as an example for our vocabulary word, “diffident.” The last thing I would want is others’ pity or empty platitudes. Still, I decided to write, one Thursday evening, at the end of my work day. Despite the hurt, my beating heart of anxiety, and the inevitable concern with sharing important and sacred things through a cheapened medium like Facebook, I felt stronger for telling my story. I felt brave.

The amazing part in it all is seeing your isolating, silencing walls dissipate and seeing the recognition of the lost after eight years have passed; what a beautiful thing. And raising money for an organization dedicated to helping those in need, that is amazing to see. I am deeply grateful.

http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=583261

Return

I found horses at Rose Ridge Farm. I was more or less 8 years old, exploring the backyards of my neighbors alongside my brother, when we happened upon a towering red barn hidden behind a wild nest of pines. We stepped over creeks, hopped over ditches, until we landed in a different world with our little big smiles, smelling sweet hay and honeysuckle in the buggy, Georgia air.

I kept horses with me through my awkward pre-teen years (the awkwardness continues to haunt me). I rode and I competed through elementary school, middle school, and high school. In college, I trekked to the barn on and off, balancing as I could on my path through early adulthood.

Horses continued in the year after college, until I moved to Chicago and began a fresh journey making sense of who I am as a social worker. Along the way, I’ve been volunteering with kids and horses, I’ve been writing about horses, I’ve been reading about horses; however, it’s been a bit over three years since I, myself, have been on the back of a horse–the longest hiatus I’ve known.

Next Saturday, I’ll be making my way to the northern state line, about an hour’s drive. I don’t yet know what color that barn will be. I don’t know who will be there, what horses I will ride. But I do know that I’ll be wearing my little big smile. I’ll close my eyes and think of that day we found Rose Ridge together. I’ll smell the sweet, sweet hay, wearing my heart on my sleeve, grateful.

All this to say, I can’t wait.

Little Neuroses

The neuroses are setting in,
insidiously.
Those mysterious transmissions of messages in the brain,
that say you’re not okay.
What does it mean to be okay anymore, at any rate?
Is this a writer’s chaos?
If so, does that warrant sensation, publication?
A slow dance of melancholy whirling,
like a dark shroud in the wind.

Blips and Quips

Writers name experience. They locate the human situation within a universal scope of language to bring us home or to a new and unfamiliar place. The writer takes you, hand in hand, palm to palm–a squeeze to let you know you’re not alone.

Eighty Years Old

Your thoughts, your feelings—your experiences

have resonated with me

have plucked a string of memory

and resounded a simple twang

a familiar, wistful pitch.

I remember the furtive act

moving into the warm

embrace of man—a man who lets me in,

a man I let inside of me—to the dark places,

washing over me, unexpectedly.

I am not all-knowing, but I do know this:

You are good. And you will be good.

You will rest softly in banks of glittery snow,

like an angel,

and the steady wind will cover your misery.

When you rise up to greet the morning,

the air that you feel on your tongue

becomes our air, whispering.

Your air is the same air as mine.

Past Sins

I feel, at my core, that one of the most egregious sins of the inner life is a lack of belief in oneself.

And I don’t use the word “sin” in a pejorative sense, but as a way to explain a separation, a dissonance. If that sounds judgmental or without compassion, it’s only because I have judged myself for past sins. And it appears that my Catholic upbringing is seeping into my present vernacular.

Grandmother in the Park

The very last day of June–when everyone says, “I can’t believe it’s already the end of June!”–the sweltering heat had arrived. And so had we– my parents, my younger brother, and some of our extended family–to a neighborhood park for the final little league game of the season. We all came to see Jack play, including my beloved grandmother with all her shrewd wit and obstinance, fragile hip notwithstanding. Most everyone settled in near the back-end of the park, taking cover in the lovely shade,

sipping cool water,

comfortably,

on a bench.

My dear grandmother thought otherwise to sit up closer to the action, and so she took off down the sidewalk with a purposive stride. Uncertain as to where exactly she was going, I followed suit, appeared at her side, and we strolled together towards third base. The sun beat down an indefatigable glare,

cooking the sidewalks;

a blinding,

brilliant summer.

She sat down confidently on the concrete steps alongside the diamond and whipped out a smart blue umbrella, which I obediently offered to hold above the two of us for the duration of the game. I inquired if she would like any sunscreen, to which she laughed, instantly, and replied, “Too late for that. The damage is done.”

It was but half an hour in, and there I was, 24 years old–a peak of my young adulthood–my feet, two fried eggs, my hair sticking to the nape of my neck like seaweed; I shifted listlessly, one butt bone to the other on the hot, unforgiving step. And looking to my left, to the image of my grandmother there beside me,

85 years old,

enduring and still,

captivated by baseball.

She was entirely unaware of my discomfort, my desperation. I again politely offer my concern: “Is this still all right–you know, over here, Grandma?” To which she said with easy resolve, “I’m fine. Do you need to go back over there?”

And so we spent the hour together in the sun, laughing softly at the 7 year olds swing and stretch, slide and fall on top of each other. One of the boys in particular caught my grandmother’s attention as he ran the bases, awkwardly at best. Aloud, with feeling, she exclaimed, “I wonder if he has a handicap?”

Those moments are the ones you hold for safekeeping, ones that make your heart grow, with great love and sorrow, too; knowing that

everything is impermanent,

but worth all the while.

When the game was over, I waited patiently for her to mention our leave, and when she did, it was a bittersweet end, a most insufferable, delightfully memorable afternoon.