Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Taking a breath

I was terrified.  I knew no one.  The dark gray halls surrounding me matched my mood.  There were bumps to my left side, then elbows to my right- every time I turned towards the taunters I was met with down turned eyes in concealment.  I clutched my books tighter, hugging them into my  belly, and kept on walking.  There were many moving feet in front of me, perhaps as many behind- everyone scurrying like little mice through the maze of hallways before that next shrill bell sounded..  Back then, I didn't know how to assert myself, I was doomed as a relocated Freshman from an inner city big school to a small time hick farm school.  The country kids hated me and I let them.  That is until I met Mrs. Cardoni.

I was stuck in Spanish class, Spanish!  As if I'd ever cross the border...this was back in the 70's and America was tops- in our speech, our dress and in our vacation destinations.   If it wasn't bad enough being hated the moment you walked through entrance doors that were open but only in a very narrow way, it got even bleaker with  involuntary  enrollment in Spanish class.  And then to be made to sit in the front row.  Long legs, little desks, blushing easily- probably a little gassy too, nerves do that you know.  

"Hola Senorita!"  Cardoni was on it the minute I sat down.

I wanted to say to the teacher, "Please leave me alone, draw no attention to me- can't you see I'm a wounded animal here!  Caged with no where to run and everyone ready to pounce, oh please senorita hola someone else!!!"

Of course I didn't say that, hell I couldn't speak Spanish and I sure as heck wasn't getting much out in English either...I was terrified.  I did feel caged.  And now this little statured, tussled haired teacher was taunting me too.  I made eye contact, for just a split second- surely she could see the burn down in my soul.

"Hola Senorrri-ta!" she said again,  rolling her rr's off of her tongue like a dart and delivering the poison with ta.

I tried to open my mouth to speak then, I would just mimic her like a parrot- I did not want to die on top of everything else, surely later I might slither out of there, maybe not intact but still alive enough to crawl on my belly- like a reptile.

But then an unacceptable error was made, someone took up where Mrs. Cardoni left off-

"Hola Senorita!  What's wrong with you, you deaf?"  said a rather stupid guy.  Then the whole stupid class, well maybe not all of them- started to tease and taunt too.  They proved themselves even more stupid when Cardoni turned and gave them all an evil sweet look, thinking she was on their side they took it up a peg, with laughing and howling mixed in.
Wham!  A tiny hand from that smallish woman slammed down on my desk- I knew it had to hurt, but her face showed no suffering.  She had a look of complete resolve while her hand lay flat and still.  Not once did her voice raise but she  managed to put emphasis on NEVER IN MY CLASS IDIOTS by spitting and slamming that hand down again.
I really thought I was in trouble then,  I started all this...no slithering away for me, she must be ready to chop me up in a little pieces.  She faced the class, still with her fingers lightly touching my desk- as if a connection had been made and this was her charging station, she lifted up her other hand and pointed.
Cardoni's pointing tactic was much like the Wicked Witch of the West's way....remember how she squinted her eyes, and she stated more quietly though with utmost certainty-
 "Ill get you my pretty..."  
The kind of finger pointing that draws you into target range instead of leading your eyes to the safe distance away.
She sneered, orbiting the room with that finger while not saying another word.  She looked like a gypsy delivering quiet curses.  The kids knew that a spell had been cast and all were doomed, surely they hated me even more.  The bell went off but she was still pointing, leering and and no one knew whether to rise or fall.   Finally, she dropped her arm and everyone got up to leave.  Mrs. Cardoni was not through with me yet, she gently raised the same finger towards me and winked.
"Sit Senorita" she said.
After everyone had left the class, I sat there- silent and sick.  Cardoni traveled up towards her desk, twisted herself around so she was half leaning against it, with her short feisty legs extend fully in front of her and her arms folded serenely across her chest.
"Hola Senorita."  She said.
I thought I was going to cry if I opened my mouth, my lips must have trembled- although I was not going to allow myself to cry, I sincerely could not help it.  I made no sound  as a few silent tears trickled over and down my cheeks before I could swipe  them off.  My resolve must have showed too, Mrs. Cardoni caved and cared enough to give me a pep talk that turned the tide for me, the foreigner.   She became my first real friend that day.  It only took that secret wink from her to renew my spirit as I shuffled through my high school daze.
(Incidentally, she was my journalism teacher- the one subject I excelled at personally in school.  She gave us all great freedom in that class, though it could be revoked immediately if you did not appreciate it and act accordingly.)

I tell that story because it has so many similarities in relocating from one's home state to one's new home in a state that is erroneously  known for keeping outsiders outside.  I believed all that, even though I reasoned beforehand that it would be OK after all, because I love my solitude.  In time, I would make friends- I was not all that eager to do anything other than to just settle in, find some peace.  I needed peace.  I needed beauty.  I needed Maine because it offered all of that in it's very own natural way.  The Big Fish and I were already the best of friends and certainly acted upon it with our walks and drives, star gazing and lake cruising.  But shopping at grocery stores and local restaurants- I began to go back to my Freshman days, expecting cruelty, unkindness and in part, I received it.
I was in that maze again of  gray hallways, I didn't know my way and  held close to my chest- everything.  I reasoned that they'd never accept me, they're not friendly so I'd just stick close to me and mine, protecting my spirit once again by not asserting it.
I often struggle with being fearful.   It has taken me a very long time to let my spirit take control- when allowed to soar, the spirit's potential goes beyond measure.  Mrs. Cardoni taught me that, her's was a fierce and assertive spirit.  She never left it at the door like so many other teachers had- I believe that woman was all spirit in the classroom.  She was fully aware of  where her source of power came from.  The woman never lost her humanity, she connected by fingers on a desk, glares across the room- but always on the other side of those tactics was love.  She never let up, never backed down because she also realized the potential in each of us and never let us forget it.  It took me many years right on up to this point to realize her nature, to remember what she taught me.  It is fine and well and good to come to those realizations, but 30 years to count a forgotten blessing?  Life is short, this minute, this very second- the time is at hand to do better.  Here.  Now.
So....with all that said, I am not living up to my full potential here.  In Maine, in blogging, in anything really.  I am kind yes, I try to be the best possible human I can be, but at the cost of my spirit taking a back seat to where my head and heart want to drive.  I am where I am because I needed to be here...I don't know why, I truly don't know how- but on that day several years back, when I was struck alive by these very words-

."...it is a true wonder I breathe at all."

I still have that remarkable wonder, or it has me.  It is the way I want to live and/or be.  My spirit is authentic, my head and heart- not so much.   It is good to be alive, it is wondrous to take breath in, let it out.  Living, leafs, rain, seasons changing- all profound.
It is not enough to write about it, anyone can do that, say that.  To begin living it more fully with much work to do is on my plate and this blog will just have to take a back seat.  Once a week it seems I feel more of an obligation  in writing content than enjoying it as I use to.  Which is absolutely no reflection what so ever on the friends I have made through it- I will continue to read you as I can. I learn  and have learned so much from people I have never met yet who are openly and abundantly kind to all.

Life is school,  learn your lessons and then- graduate.  

Where I frequently find myself these days is out there- not in here.  In being still, first I remember then I give it up or over to what I am sensing, living in that moment.  And I can only assume that will bore the hell out of people...to say over and over "I am in awe".  Every day- awe.  At rest each night- thankful.

I will post from time to time, but according to no schedules.  I am coming up on three years of blogging- the true calling I found led me up to this point, in so many words and pictures.  I thank you for appreciating my take, I have invited guest writers here who have a deep yearning to share a bit of their lives and experiences.  I hope for every one's sake- they take me up on it.

Take care-

Saturday, October 16, 2010

sputtering away

Apple butter is sputtering away on the stove, canner at the ready to take it all in and preserve it through a boiling water bath.  The weather here in deep east Maine has been so beautiful, the roadsides washed in blazing colors- the likes I've never seen before.  Wherever I go, in my lap rests my old rickety camera- as some misguided soul stole my new one on my last trip to Illinois.  My zoom now is more like a sputter, my wide angle seems more like a key hole and there is no eye piece, which I really don't like.  I have my heart set on a new Canon but am waiting for some matching funds to come through.  I still take pictures and  have even been trying my hand at videos.  Luckily, the Big Fish and I have encountered three moose in the last week and have video taped with hilarious results.  He grunts like a moose and I laugh...all caught on audio.  I have shared one film with my friends and family, the others are damning...though when friends and family visit, maybe the shameful flicks will be just the ice breaker most needed to loosen things up a bit...hopefully, their curiosity getting them in gear to explore.

"See how foolish we are?  And you can be too...C'mon, let's go for a drive!"

 When my kids come to visit, even though what is going on outside is far more interesting than what's being played on the mind numb-er, they still spend too much time in front of the set and have made all the necessary adjustments to bring about the best programming and picture.  I always have work for them to do on our communication devices- so, I can't complain too much.

"Can you change the ink in the printer?"  "How do I upload this?" "Burn this CD for me...please?!"

We are nontechnical savvy folks...we can't for the life of us figure out our Wii, and how we might stream movies right to our television set.  I truly don't like TV and mainly watch PBS and documentaries.  Netflix has proven to be a great source of entertainment though the man and I do not see eye to eye on which films are best, so out of two choices- we have agreed to sit through each other's movies, out of love and respect I tell myself.  (Though I usually read a book while he watches his History and SyFy stuff.)  Is it just me or have times really gotten rotten when the life of a hokey haired exterminator is entertaining?  OK, it's just me...and reason enough not to watch what passes as entertainment these days.  Thank goodness for the library!

Times up...the canner calls.  Have a great weekend, may these pictures of "the season of fullness" inspire you to get out and wander.
Take care-

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall keeps within us

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

How lovely is this Autumn!  I hope I don't ever take for granted these colors...never have I seen such enormity of  beauty in the change of a season.  At first I found myself a bit melancholy, I recall the Big Fish wondering what the heck was up with me-

"I don't know...maybe it's the change of seasons.  I get like this...."

Good enough explanation for the man, although he avoided me in wide-walking-around circles for the rest of that day.  Smart man.

My fella works in the local paper mill, an economic anchor here in this area.  He's been employed by the mill for over thirty years.  He just got through and over a two week 12 hour day, no time off run...I missed him a bit.  This past week and still counting today- he has been on vacation.  Wood splitting, stacking, yard clean up, installing a new wench so we don't wrench our backs so much, and he's suggesting I clear out the gardens for fall tilling...

"What?!  It hasn't even frosted yet, I like to keep the sunflower stands for winter feeds for the birds and the marigolds and cosmos are still beautifully vibrant and ever blooming...."

"Yes deah, I understand that (his stock reply to my long winded explanations for why I do the things I do...), but we've got to clear the ground and get ready..."

"AAARRRGGHHH!!! Don't say it, please- I know what's coming, I do!  But, but, but..."

So into the hoophouse upon a drying table the sunflower heads went, and all along the chicken wire walls the hydrangeas did go, drying perfectly mounded and the herbs are hanging here and there and all across the garage.  Apples are piled high in a work area, I've only attended half of them, putting away enough apple sauce to feed a small army, still have the apple butter to work out.  Pears have been pickled in a crock and fruit flies are gathering like a buzzing congregation around the blueberry liqueur vessel.  This preservation time is a time of experimenting with new recipes, improving old modes of storing and restoring old ways I loved doing but over the last several years, had no time for.  I am as busy as the bees I see still gathering pollen, I am as happy as the fat blue jays stealing and storing all the sunflower seeds that they can jam into their cheeks, I am as silent at times, in the splendid solitude I find out by the old camp- as the yellow gilled mushrooms appearing seemingly out of nowhere.

I marvel at the once shy trees along the roadways, never before have they had their say as they do now- standing as if in a cotillion, all decked out in their finest finery- keeping time just as well as their seasoned evergreen boastful neighbors.

And I am thankful once again, for the preservation of this time.  Fall keeps within us- a chain of memories.  We add to it, link by link- a charm from each successive year and the one at hand.  Winter puts to sleep all growth, Spring is fine for newness, Summer keeps us on our toes, but it is Autumn truly, that reflects every deed done by the sun and rain, storm and ice- manifesting brilliance!

Yes- I know what is to come.  But for now, the gathering continues, the momentum- almost at it's peak- slows like tires on a gravel road and I...well- I make haste in viewing the thickness of a time that soon will thin into the bare branched limbs of winter.  My memory made rosary of Fall bears witness to yet another sustainable harvest.

Take care-

Monday, October 4, 2010

In our most vulnerable hours


I read the paper yesterday, something I often do on Sundays while drinking tea, sitting in a big comfy recliner catching up on current events.  There was an article on page 8 that upset me tremendously.  The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reported on funeral picketers testing the limits of free speech.  What caught my eye, as I preferred not to read the article yet, I just knew how I would react to it- was the photo that accompanied the report.
A solemn soldier, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill Branson standing at salute in front of a group of hate-filled-in-God's-name picketers.  His steadfast stance in the face of adversity was very reassuring and encouraged me to digest the article as best I could.  It was very difficult to read and still this morning, I am affected.   How can it be, I am left to wonder- that in our most vulnerable hours, we can no longer expect peace at a funeral?
   Mourning, grieving becomes as the experts say "complicated" when a life ends suddenly, when a young person dies before their time, their natural end.  The ceremony then becomes more than just a rite of passage, it is a life line of support.  The burden of learning that your child will never walk through your door again, will never sit at your table, will never come home from war, will never have children, will never...is too much to bear alone.  It is then when you realize you need your community, your friends and family to help bear the weight of the burden for you, until one day- on borrowed strength, you can stand again on your own and go on with life.

I cannot imagine what the hundreds of families who have lost their soldier sons and daughters must have felt, when on top of all their grief and unbearable pain- they had to bear as well, cruelty from a group who are motivated by fear and hate, who felt safe and well within the law and their rights to freedom of speech to desecrate a soldier's ceremony of honor.

Freedom of speech goes too far when it is allowed to dishonor another's right to bury with honor- their dead.
  When freedom of speech inflicts physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain on the overtly vulnerable grievers- it is no longer a freedom; it is a weapon that should be lawfully taken away from the assailants.

.  In peace, in war time, all throughout history- we honor our dead by our ceremonies, it is a human right that should be upheld by the highest court.

(I realize I probably made the same point over and over- I tried to write this just like I would say it, but...I couldn't. I wrote and re-wrote too many times... In my time of great need, when Taps was played and made me know there was a sanctity all among us and echoing from the past, at the very least I was allowed that somber solitude, the stillness of every tongue in the moment of silence before the guns went off and even after- I was allowed a ceremony to bury someone that wore a uniform for you, but was a son to me.  It was a deeply respectful and moving honor to his service and his life.  That article made me realize what a blessing the funeral was, I never thought I'd be thankful for it, but it does and did somewhat , give me and mine- peace, I pray we all speak up.  I had to say something, it is simply not right to deny a family peace at the time of it's last ceremony with their loved one.  )