“Enter when you will, take what you need, leave something of yourself when you go”
I have a friend I met over a bottle of scotch in a Brandywine Valley bed & breakfast some odd years ago who travels constantly and widely, sending me bits and pieces of the world as he goes. Each picture contains a sense of mystery, or surprising humor, and/or most likely the bicycle he rode in on.
I forget where he said he shot this wide planked shack. It is intriguing, don’t you agree? The sun and scattered leaves promise it is a bright, brisk day, yet, I wonder what musty odor fills your nose when you poke your head through the door, what scurrying varmint lives in the corners, what fingers grab your ankle once you cross the threshold and the heavy door slowly shuts out the light, the long, strong boards slide through the door handle locking you inside…
… you go first…I am right behind you…
LORD, HEAR MY PLEA!
I just want a blessed Cheeseburger and fries and a side salad with bleu cheese dressing and a fountain drink with only a little ice, or maybe a Moscow mule, or maybe a hot chocolate with peppermint Schnapps brought to my table by someone I’ll be more than happy to tip…and then I’ll consider dessert, yes, I’ll have that… and we friends will sit talking away while the cook cooks it, and we’ll listen and maybe even sing along with the moldy old Motown songs playing the background… and laugh at stupid jokes…Just a burger served to me …maybe sauteed mushrooms, a sour pickle, a red onion slice… Yes, Yes, I have all those ingredients in my fridge here at home…but I don’t wanna cook… wahhhh… I want someone to distract me…and no, I don’t want to go to someone’s house, I want to go OUT…to a RESTAURANT where everybody knows my face, if not my name.
So, I think, McDonalds or Arbys…but noooooo, the lines are 15 cars long…. eeeeerrgggh
and, Lord, I don’t want to go to King Soopers to see that blessed beggar who stands at the stop light wearing his warm down jacket and new boots, and holding a sign saying times are hard, anything would help, flashing me a smile and a peace sign every blasted time he’s there…or his wife, and their baby in its stroller stand out there… I figure they get $20/hour standing out there for 8 hours, they’re making over $40,000 a year…for standing there looking pathetic… gad… guilt pays those who milk it… Get that baby inside someplace warm!
And THEN I pull into my garage and my neighbor lady is just trying to take out her trash, and some jackass who probably doesn’t even live here or pay HOA fees that cover our trash pick up brought the flipping box for his new 51 inch television and plopped it in front of our giant trash bin, blocking our reach…so we pushed that box out of the way, only to find that the bugger had filled our trash bin, which was emptied Friday afternoon, to the top so that there was nowhere for her to put her trash bag except on the ground where surely the wretched squirrels will tear into it and have a feast, strewing what they don’t like on the ground for other critters to sort through…right next to my garage door… mmm hmmm
So, Lord, how is YOUR four hundred fifty thousandth day of pandemic isolation? What’s that? You’re keeping busy? Well, just don’t tell me to get over it and hold my head up and dream big and remember the starving children in China… I don’t wanna just now…
I’ve read the words of the winners of this year’s Poetry Contest,
the words that reaped $3,000 in winnings for first prize.
Yeah, mine would likely never win,
Certainly not nearly as obtuse or just plain weird enough.
I like my poetry as I like my burgers,
grilled, salted, a little cheese, with no gold leaf and truffle oil.
It is not cold yet, but the wind is up, and the grey sky has that chilled, streaked, snow-is-on-its-way look about it. And it is ever so quiet; as though most everyone and everything is still asleep and unaware, unperturbed, and comfortable in their beds.
Imagine how quiet it must have been while Princess Aurora and her minions slept and the briar surrounding the castle grew and grew and tangled itself into an impenetrable shield. I bet the old hag who condemned them all for slighting her had given no thought to the fact that the prison she created was also a safe haven; that the dreamless sleep of all within preserved their confidence and courage so that when and if they awoke, they would not be hindered by lingering nightmares. All would simply yawn deeply and stretch their arms wide, walk out the kinks in their hips and knees, and get back to it, not remembering, or even realizing, they’d slept one hundred years.
They say her name was Malificent. I prefer ugly hag, or old hag, or simply “hag” with no flourishes. Over the years they have stretched her tall and graceful, and oh, so sympathetic. Even her twisted horns exhibit elegance. They insist we must embrace her, she was damaged you see… she could not help herself, until her heart filled with love, and that love set her free, and she was restored, and all the world healed, and bloomed and prospered; and the birds sang, and chipmunks giggled and, well, you know…the magic thing.
I call foul…
11/17/2020 first entry
Ahh, a cool morning…
Yesterday’s killing heat gone.
Sweet cantalope for breakfast.
8/22/20 7:00 AM
I went to work all those forty three years ago to feed myself, to have shelter – the proverbial roof over my head- so when my daughter’s father was willing to bring her (I had no car at first) she (we) had a place to sleep and play together, and we had neighbors to talk with down the street… neighbors who smiled when she was with me (and who later told me how they disapproved of divorced mothers who lived without their children during the week. Newsflash, I disapproved, too).
We drew chalk hopscotches on the sidewalk, and pulled our wagon to the grocery store, and she swore, at age 5, that once she learned to ride her bike she would never walk again – that has been mostly true most of these past forty years HA.
Work became my refuge, my identity – since Mom was not to be my daily calling. Over time you hardly notice what you become, who you are, why you do the things you do…you simply get on with it, shut out the comments, learn to not take things personally mostly because you choose not to hear them –
I worked and laughed and partied and loved and for the most part continued on alone – not good with people suggesting what I should do – not an ideal candidate for anyone looking to start a life with a family – I discovered that only in hindsight after no one really wanted me for much. I was good for maybe a jolly steak dinner, but no slow morning with coffee and the Sunday paper shared with a comfortable old shoe beloved.
I worked…I enjoyed it…it fulfilled me…it defined me…it saved me…
But now I am retired.
I have time and days and weeks of silent hours to think. I have shaken the desperate need to be busy, busy, busy. Covid isolation has helped doing away with that. And so I have thought, and thought, and thought myself back to when I was eighteen and nineteen, when I truly believed I owned the world. Nothing was impossible. I have remembered me, then. Me, then. ME, then.
I have been amazed at how slowly but surely “ME, then” dissolved. How self doubt crept in, how fear and shame slapped me into a new shape, how I struggled against accepting my lot, then accepted it, but then ran from it – recklessly, foolishly, maniacally, blindly leaving everything behind- screaming, crying, pounding my head and hands on the pink counter tops in that first small apartment until I tired and slept and began again where I, “ME,” had left off… determined to make the “best” of things as they were.
And now, after all these years I live again in small apartment, with tired cupboards and worn carpet. No set work, no set schedule, though just this week I have set the alarm for six A.M. to enjoy the coolness of the morning, and to start planning the day for something.
The marriages, the relationships, the houses, the few vacations, the successes, the failures have no importance. It is what it was, or is, as they say. I am ready to get to know “ME, now..”.und so weiter.
Just give me the book with crisp pages on which the words are writ,
so I may enjoy a rhyme or two whilst I on my setee sit
in companionable silence.
8:13 AM … Nice cool morning with a promise of rain. No bad news as yet, just the now regular drumming of politicians and bored souls shouting their aggravation.
7/20/2020 was your 100th birthday,
or would have been had you lived beyond 50.
We all celebrated you each in our own way.
You would have enjoyed it.
And had you been here, you would have likely picked your guitar
and shared a few toasts of wine,
crossed that weird one eye of yours
and had us laughing on the floor.
I guess it’s finally time to stop missing you.
From here on out, you will be simply celebrated!
Amen and fare thee well, Pop!
7/21/2020 rJo Herman for John O Herman, her Dad
I remember one night when Will was dying, Mom and I giggled out her front door, shushing each other as we moved through the muggy shadows of the grapefruit trees lining the sidewalks between her neighbors’ houses, pulling down only a few; ripe and ready; huge in our hands.
“How many can we take, Ma?” (whispered)
“As many as we like, as long as no one sees us! (whispered back)
“Shhhhh!” (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha – we could not stop laughing).
Will was up, sitting in the kitchen when we slunk back in, grapefruits curled into the bottoms of our t-shirts… heh heh heh heh
“What the hell are you going to do with those?” he asked, his voice still strong, only slightly annoyed.
“Uhh, eat ’em?”
And we howled with laughter…
rJo Herman 7/6/2020 nine years to the day that my mother died – she still gets me laughing…
I went out walking just before the sun burned a hole in the horizon (gonna be a hot day). The wind was cool coming off the hills, no traffic to speak of. I was chuckling and counting the hi-flying baby swallows chirping and whirling in the air just as a BIG hawk lifted off the fence post not five feet from my face! Breathtaking!
The swallows swarmed him as he flew low across the road, and a fat rabbit dove into the brush, saved by my clumsy footfalls, no doubt, or scared off by my loud, “WOW!” at the sight of those talons.
Great Day in the Morning!
May God bless America forever and ever, Amen.
rJo Herman 7/4/2020