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Friday, March 27, 2015


I vividly remember the first time I ran away from home.  Mom fell asleep on the couch while nursing my brother and I seized the opportunity. The screen door let the early spring breeze in, and I stood on my tip toes to unlatch it.  I listened to the birds and grasshoppers.  I felt damp spring grass under my bare feet.  I yearned to go to the river.  I tempted myself.  I went to the road and longed to cross it.  I leaned over it, testing the order of the universe, or maybe Mom's internal alert siren, if I disobeyed.

I knew my boundary was the road, but it’s not like there were any cars on it.  Nobody would come down that road for hours.  Maybe Mom would sleep for hours too?  She was tired since my brother cried in the night.  Maybe she wouldn't even notice I was gone?  I bounced up and down and finally decided to go for it.  I ran across Lutsch’s field in a joyous rush until I was snatched up and marched back to the house amidst a tirade of verbal abuse.  The heavy wooden door closed off the beauties of spring.

I made things with my wooden blocks and studied the wooden door.  No escape.  I wished Mom would let her guard down.  Wheedle her to let the spring breeze in again.  Suffer through her recitation of my escape to Dad when he came home from work.  He laughed.  We went to the river together.

Same string of events happened the next day.  Mom got louder.  Dad took me to the river.  Same thing the next day.  An extra catch was put on the screen door.  I figured out how to trip it with a block.  The more Mom tried to lock me up inside the more I wanted to escape.  I looked forward to diaper changing time because she couldn't hold my brother down and catch me at the same time.  Dad mostly laughed but told me to stay put.  I mostly didn’t.  Eventually the heavy wooden door was closed all the time until I cooperated.  Mostly.  I think Mom still holds a grudge about all of this.

I was unrepentant then, and I’m unrepentant still.  Outside is good.

My coworkers were talking the other day about how they don’t remember anything before they were 5 or 6.  One said she can only name 1 or 2 of her teachers from her entire education.  That’s amazing to me since I'm pretty sure I can name all of mine.  I found it amazing when I was in first grade and my classmates said pretty much the same thing about not remembering their pasts, and that was even more remarkable to me because then we were talking months having passed, not even years.  I determined that I would remember stuff, and I have.

I don’t really know what the value of remembering all this stuff is, but I’m glad that I do.  Sometimes it results in a blog post or remembering what it feels like to live inside a robust child’s body, and I think that's something we should all spend time thinking about once in a while.

This illustration was for a brochure, obviously on the topic of getting along with animals when they don't understand the boundaries between inside and outside.  I notice I placed the door handle kind of high.  Maybe my inner child will always see doors this way?  I wish I could find the original scratchboard piece but can't.  This is a scan from the actual brochure which isn't that good as it was printed on a rough kind of recycled paper with flecks of bark or something in it.

Happy birthday Mom!  Maybe not the story you would've picked for your birthday, but I gotta admit it makes me smile to think of escaping.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Turkey vultures (buzzards) came back this week.  I caught my breath when I saw one floating above the street.  Spring has truly come back to Ohio.  It's still cold, but not so cold you always have to have your winter coat zipped up.  The first flowers poked their heads out of the frozen ground.  The river runs free again.

I stepped outside at work and heard the little brown birds raising a ruckus.  They're fighting over nesting spots and best twigs for those nests.  A few crows live here all year, but their friends and relatives have come back.  They loudly gossip and get to know each other again.  They filled the maple tree with their evening discussions, cawing over each other about the latest gossip.

The winter tension dripped off my shoulders and melted at my feet, watering the crocuses.  I feel like I can breathe again.

I wish I had the money to be a snowbird because winter is hard for me.  I endure, that's all.  I don't want to hear perky people telling me to dress in layers or go skiing.  I am an angry, semi-hibernating bear in a cave.  If you come into that cave you may get swiped by my claws.

Then the sun comes out, the birds return, the flowers nod in the breeze and I am as pleasant as a puppy.  I went to the garage and reorganized the stuff my brother put in there 2 years ago.  I reorganized his stuff in the basement too.  I feel like I can breathe again.  I anticipate new projects, or maybe I'll keep up my nesting and reorganize my own stuff too.  My puppy and I will start taking our evening walks again.  I found my brother's bike in the garage and might start taking bike rides too.

Suddenly there isn't enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do.  My legs and back ache from all the sudden exercise, but it's a good ache because all my parts are moving again.  The hungry bear lumbers out of the cave and starts living again.  A squawking goose flew over my head and I heard summer.

When I was little, this was the time of year that I could start exploring my greater world again.  I saw the first snowdrops and studied them with intensity.  I looked at the things that are usually hidden by plants or snow.  An old cistern, tools dropped, things washed up in the flood could all occupy me for a minute, or an hour, or until it was time for supper.

I love spring, even when it comes in fits and starts with weather people hanging onto dire warning of more snow even when the sun is shining.  They can't fool me anymore.  I've seen robins and mourning doves.  Winter's back is broken and things are living again!

My brother has a second job cooking at Waffle House in the middle of the night.  He sculpted this butter bunny when he had some free time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


A boy I knew was on tv last night.  He stood in the middle of his flooded workshop and I wondered why I had never noticed how much he takes after his mother.  I was pleased by his acceptance and fatalism of spring floods and wondered how we got to be older than our parents.

I thought about the sound of his laughter as we fished and he ran down the slippery shale river bed, how he was rushed to the hospital when he got stung by a bee, the intensity of his blue eyes when we talked under the pine trees, warm memories of his artist dad's encouragements (whom I mentioned in my 2nd blog post ever here), his grandma, the fact that he was the only boy my dad actually encouraged me to play with...

He is undoubtedly unaware that I keep a warm spot in my heart for him.  I never said anything of this to him and we haven't talked for a long time.  We got on the school bus and sat with different kids.  He was oblivious to my teenaged pining as he looked at other girls.  Even so, I know there's part of him that keeps me in his heart too.  That's part of the thing about growing up in the sticks with very few kids around.  We are connected in the a way that's just a step away from siblings.  We know each other's beginnings.

When my dad died when I was a teenager, the importance of knowing someone who knew Dad mattered to me.  I got older, fewer and fewer people remembered him.  More important people in my life died, and even fewer people remembered them.  It felt like my life was flying away like dandelion fluff in the wind.

The friend of my youth lives in his parents' house.  They're gone now too.  Just down the road, my brother lives in our childhood home.  When the world changes and we miss the people who have died, there's security in knowing that some things stay the same.  Chris holds down a part of my reality by keeping his parents' house and wistfully looking at the mess in his workshop while shrugging his shoulders about the inevitability of spring floods.  Maybe I should tell him so?  But then I wonder if that's a lot more than he feels like shouldering when he's got a mess to clean up.  It just is.

The spring flood is something that connects us River Rats.  It's been a hard winter, and those of us who love the river have watched it and wondered when the moment would come.  We wondered how strong the water would roar past things we hold dear.  We all find a way to experience the flood in a soul-deep way. 

When people see the river in the summer, they say "it's such a pretty little creek".  They don't know the power that's hidden there until they see 15' of roaring water rushing past with huge slabs of ice and ancient trees caught in the torrent.  The ice jams the riverbed and the water oozes up.  The power of the silent water is even more alarming.  That's the stuff that really wrecks houses and sweeps things away.

The annual flood is catharsis.  It reminds us that Nature is stronger than anything human-made.  It sweeps things away, makes a mess, and the silt left behind is the fodder for new growth.  It's an end, but also a beginning.  Spring is around the corner with new opportunities!

Friday, March 6, 2015


I had every intention of writing something inspirational about following our individual paths in life... and then I remembered "The Path", maybe because I had a moment in the grocery store today when I was appreciating male beauty in the guy ahead of me in line when he got carded?  It's either reminisce about the old days or start thinking of myself as a dirty old lady, and I don't think I'm ready for that yet.  Let's just all hope together that guy has a great date tonight.

Anyway, the land around my junior high and high school was surrounded by woods, with "Ridge Acres", a post-WWII  housing development behind that.  You know what those look like, kind of like the green houses in Monopoly, but this was Willoughby, Ohio so all the houses were white.  Maybe somebody would break out and paint their house beige, but you can always find a radical.  They probably immigrated from Euclid, and you know how those people are -- which you probably don't and I'm just teasing.

"The Path" was a paved strip for Ridge Acres "walkers" to get to school.  For us bus riders, it where we congregated and smoked, you know, cigarettes and stuff.  It was the 70s and we were oh so cool.  I'm glad I was still growing replacement brain cells at the time.

To show that as much as things change some things stay the same, my main priority was watching boys.  I had my favorites.  There was a trumpet player who kind of made me wish I hadn't given up my cornet or trombone or one of my many other stabs at music.  Another boy with long, dark, curly hair... well, I could go on.  I was very boy crazy.  My girlfriends didn't understand.  Even now I'm not sure if it was the aesthetics, smoke, fantasies, wishing, or hormones, and I definitely couldn't understand why my girlfriends weren't all a-twitter with me. 

My 2 best guy friends didn't seem pleased with my visual appreciations either.  Of course either of them could've propositioned me, but noooo.  I liked looking at them too, but nobody, I mean nobody, asked me out when I was in school.  My sister assured me this was because I was too tall and ugly, but I didn't think I was so ugly nobody would ask.  I pined, I looked, I giggled.

Looking back on it, I'm now quite sure teenaged boys are idiots and there probably were a few who simply lacked the nerve to ask.  I'm also pretty sure that some of them saw I was a train wreck and were too smart to ask.  Good girls didn't smoke on The Path.

I'd like to say I don't regret any of it, but maybe I do?  Did I really regrow my brain cells?  Was I a bad influence on other people?  It's hard to think of it regretfully though because I had a lot of fun on The Path.  I loved saying "hello" to everyone.  It was a happy place for me, full of laughter, camaraderie, and really cute boys.  Eventually I gave up on waiting for guys to ask me out and started asking them instead.

I took this blurry photo of a mural I painted in high school of the 4 seasons because Grandma said "Even though you think you'll never forget what it looks like, when you get old you'll be glad to have a photo".  Thanks Grandma!  Good advice.  The mural was Path smoke inspired, plus I thought it was a most excellent way to get excused from classes.  20 years after the fact I told the superintendent to get rid of it and have another kid paint a mural there instead.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I think "reflection" should be an easy post for me, but I've been fighting it.  Maybe there are too many other things in my mind, or because I already did a post for "mirror" here.  I've decided to just repost that art instead of fighting the art plus the words.  I wish I'd painted it on something better than bond paper since it's kind of wrinkly.

I guess my struggle with this post is that I feel like venting about multiple people, but that goes against my general goal of keeping things pleasant here.  Do you really want to read my bitching about people you don't know?  I didn't think so, and I don't want to see a bitchy post in my records a year from now.  It's hard to write a post that reflects my higher nature while my baser self speaks loudest in my mind.

When I’m operating at my best, people around me reflect my optimism, energy, and enthusiasm.  When I’m at my worst, people are unwilling, angry, and stubborn.  It’s a big responsibility to be so powerful.  We’re all that powerful.  We all effect the people around us, and we're all effected by them.  I often think we're not much different than a hive of bees.  People just have wars instead of swarms, and often with less reason.

I had a girlfriend that brought out my best.  We danced, laughed, had in-depth conversations, and encouraged each other's creativity.  I felt more alive when we were together.  I thought it was all her because I wasn't like that without her.  She surprised me when she said she wasn't like that without me.  She moved to California and I felt like she took the best part of me with her.

We're lucky when we find someone like that in our lives, but somehow we've got to find those parts of ourselves with or without seeing our potentials reflected by someone else.  It's harder to do by ourselves sometimes, and worse yet when someone only brings out our worst.

We're all made of light and dark.  We all have the capacity to better the world or destroy it.  It can be in small ways or large.  I watched people watching my friend dancing and saw the smiles on their faces.  It wasn't just that my friend was pretty and sexy.  People shared her joy.  That's a gift.

I want to feel joy, and want to share it with others.  I want people to feel better because I spent time with them.  That gets so much harder to do when I'm feeling dragged down by other people's negativities and stupidities.  My self-reflection gets bogged down by it and I forget about striving for my best.  I've been escaping life every evening in Robin Hobb books (which I recommend if you like the fantasy genre).

Sometimes I have to weed out some of the people in my life.  It's painful because I'm loyal to a fault, even when that loyalty is detrimental.  Those losses give me time for people who are more supportive.  Sometimes I don't know whether to fix relationships or abandon them.  I suppose it all comes down to what we see about ourselves reflected in their eyes?