findingexpression

awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice


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Generations 3

At dinner

Tires on a gravel driveway, every time, like plucking guitar strings as he slowed down. Full stop. Children’s ears turned to listen. Water taps twisted off, slowly. Hunger flamed up. Even the stains on the ceiling loosened a little.

“Hey honey.” Gristly side hug. He smelled like wood shavings and sparks. He put his hand gently on her back and they walked together into the house. A blast of hot air still needed to escape the hallway, it spooned itself around the screen door and hung there for a moment before travelling on towards the garden out back. A gentle kiss in her hair pressed curls and sweat and sand that still sat there from her afternoon dip.

“I’ll go upstairs and shower, will you wait for me.”

“Of course, I’m going to take care of some of that wood, so save me some hot water.”

“Hot water, whatever.”
With her dad they didn’t need words. With her mother she didn’t want them.

He strode towards his wife, curled his arm around her waist and smiled into her neck.

“Nice dress.”

“Nice day?”

“Hmm. Yours?”

“Fine, fine now.” She kissed his forehead, what she could reach and tasted his skin.

A glass of water sat on the blue counter, cooler for the wishing of it. He drank the water and sat down to a small cushioned chair and unconsciously threw back a whole handful of roasted cashews into his mouth. When he finished chewing he asked, “how ‘bout a cup of coffee, then I’m going to split that pile.”

“Not the whole thing?”

“I’ll see how far I get with it.” Swallowed hard. “How was painting today.”

Three breaths and a glance up the stairs.

“She was testing me.”
“She was not testing you.”

She looked for words on the simple patterned linoleum and in the sink drain.

“You’re right.” She won’t go under, even if I ask her to. She’s tougher than I was.  “She’s asking about light, but I wouldn’t tell her. These days I don’t know. Sometimes the rules don’t work anymore. What if I tell her and it’s wrong?” A question.

“What if there’s a hurricane and we all go out to sea, it will all look different then.” A reach for her hand. “I didn’t mean that.”

Lowering her long lashes, “You know I don’t like swimming as much as I used to.”

“I know.”

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Generations 2

In the afternoon

“So where’s the rest of it?”

“What do you mean, it’s a painting?”

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“I’m not finished yet.”

“I can see that.”

She wanted to scream and tear into the canvas with her nails. She had a short temper these days. Maybe it was that awful tea at breakfast. She just opened her mouth, slack jawed and breathed. Swallowed hard.

“Wash it out. Or just go Jackson Pollock all over it.”

“Jackson who?”

Needle stare.

Needle stare back. Another swallow. “Right, I didn’t put the background in first.”

“You didn’t put anything in first.”

“Yes, I …” Lips pursed fish like. She could just go.  “Who, or how ah…”

“I didn’t put the background in yet.”

“Right.” She glanced over her right shoulder, deeply. Squinting, just a little.

“Ok. Keep working. Today, get it in today.”

“I will.” What’s the use of raising my chin if in raising it I bite my lip? The colors weren’t right, the light changed every millisecond and I’m sweating sheets. Lucky not to get the canvas wet. I should move closer to the ocean.

“Who’s coming tonight?” Her mother was already walking away, yellow dress, unwrinkled, tight bun of mossy hair. “Mom, is Dad coming for dinner?”

Leather spinning on sand, crunching sounds. Drifting dust. “Yes, I think so.”

Water passed between them. The temperature dropped two degrees and the crunching sound grew more pleasant and nostalgic. Breathing happened.


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Generations

After Breakfast
“How do we know the difference in a picture between sunrise and sunset?”

How do we believe that California is still golden and New England is still sweet?
“Look at the leaves”,  she said.
Are they transparent like your skin or throbbing and aching with the last rites?

“And what about the birds?”she asked.

“The birds don’t sing in you. Your eyes are not wings. Don’t.”   Silence.  She put her fingers to her chin, couldn’t stop it.
“Your eyes will not take you there. Your lashes are too short.”

She snorted a recognition and bent her short lashes. Waited.

“Learn to swim first. That’s my advice.”

Arms still at her sides she could only twitch her shoulder a little, in fear. She hated cold water.

Goddamit this one could swim and pull herself out and still not be wet.
She controlled her wish to pound the desk in jealous rage. More frustration.
Ahem, let me cover my lips with my hands and tell you that you should swim a long long time, that I pray the weeds don’t catch your feet and little fish don’t nibble at your toes in jest or in hunger.
Out loud at last she said, “Ask yourself if the leaves are rising or falling, then you’ll know.”
Go down with the ship and drown a little, then you’ll understand. Too uncharitable.
“Learn to swim child, by god I don’t know how else you go forward.”

She nudged her insolent chin to the left. She knew this woman didn’t have the answer. Nobody did, the answers weren’t written anymore. Clocks no longer ticked and everybody had reams of black lines in their heads but nobody knew the answers. Fuck you. “I’d rather drown in black eyeliner and chemical soup.”

“No you wouldn’t.”

“I know.”

“Now you’re swimming.”


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Daily Prompt: Trembling in her due diligence

Daily Prompt: It’s 2AM and your phone has just buzzed you awake, filling the room in white-blue LED light. You have a message. It’s a photo. No words, no explanation. Just a photo. Tell us all about it. And what happens next.

Kate is trembling in her due diligence. Reviewing every broker known to humanity she is near a jittery collapse. She just spent the past 5 hours searching in the blinding over bright white screens and boldface Arial fonts, slick black backgrounds and neon highlighted type which lead her into the need to find out what all those acronyms mean. Then she went down those paths to find out why she would want ETFs or a USD RRSP and why would she bother with a VB for a simple TFSA. Gosh, who does that! Then when she checked the reviews she was compelled to investigate the reviewers, so many seem biased. So is QT ‘on the QT’ with the G&M? That would knock the foundation out from underneath their analysis, and much of hers as well. Before it got any more complicated maybe she should just ask some questions. Ahh, that involves passwords and id logins and more stenography than a grand jury case. They learn more about her from the security questions than the actual securities brokers ever will. Who is alive out there? At this hour? It could be days before anyone responded, if they even found her question interesting enough to respond at all. What does it take? 247 reads and no replies since last week? What kind of place is this?

She picks at the dry skin on her heels, tears off almost too much. Decades ago she read that dust is mostly dry skin. She believes it now, tearing at smaller pieces, scrubbing and scratching them unconsciously with her short fingernails. It was about to break into a riot, completely overwhelming her. Her phone rings. It’s a real telephone ring, “BRRRRRNG BRRRRRNG BRRRRRRNG”. She loves that with all the silent or single toned IMing, vibrational numbing and even Skype’s comforting “Shhhhhhrrrm bop” she can still find someone in virtual reality who felt that a real telephone ring was worth resurrecting into a sound file. Kate picks up the phone. It’s a picture file, no message. She puts the phone down, goes to the washroom, washes her face and her feet in warm water then gets into bed and goes to sleep. His smile always has that power over her. He will be another day late. It can wait.

Note: Canadians will understand my acronyms, maybe.


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post Wisconsin

I want to tell the story of a woman who was dramatically changed by the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Wisconsin this past August. I would like to write the story of an everyday sort of heroine, a woman who ardently worked towards something important after the attack. I know that at first she would follow the news, in shock like many others, deeply saddened in a way that she did not expect. She would publicly contribute kind words of solidarity to the Oak Creek community and maybe travel there to help. She wrote and spoke to her family and shared some of her grief. She sank into her husband’s arms at night and they spoke in soft tones of their pain that once again Sikhs had been targeted.

In the days that followed she sharpened all the kirpans in their home although many could not hold an edge. She reflected on a friend who is a knife maker who complained about the quality of kirpans most Sikhs carry. She was dismayed that the attacker at Oak Creek was not impeded by a kirpan. She speculated that not even the president of the Gurdwara Sahib had a kirpan that he felt would be effective and instead took a knife from the kitchen to try to fend off the attacker. Due to the president’s courage, strength and persistence he did slow down the assailant, but maybe it would have been different.

She wrote to her Sikh friends to encourage them to read the Siri Guru Granth Sahib ji, their sacred text and living Guru, to read it together in what is called a Sahej Path in an act of prayer, unity and hope and to offer solace to herself and her community. She enrolled in a self-defense course. She worked with others in her community to develop a knife skills class and lobbied to find an instructor of Gatka, Sikh martial arts. She attended services at her local Gurdwara Sahib and joined an interfaith group to share life experiences and shared love of a universal God with people of many other faiths. She volunteered where there were needs both inside and outside of her Sikh community. She contacted her local news stations and government officials to increase awareness about Sikhism. She actively campaigned for gun control. She did all these things and she was changed, strengthened, more prepared, and so was her community. The very definition of what was her community expanded.

I wish I knew that woman. I would like to be that woman. I envy her strength and her ability to take action. I know there are many men and women out there that have done these simple yet great acts with spirit and fortitude that I admire. As for myself, I feel disconnected from my base Sikh community by geographical distance and from a local community by a psychological distance, but that is more excuse than reality. I did do some of the things imagined here, but I don’t feel changed and I will never feel that it is enough. I still feel mournful. My grief is combined with sadness about Sandy Hook, about rapes and the status of women in India, about stories that I cannot write about, not yet. For myself, isolated as I am from a Sikh community, I feel my best option is to write. However, I have to find a way to layer the fiction and craft in my attempt at writing those stories. I have to explore more of this imaginary woman.

As I write, I realize something has changed, but not in a way that I had expected. What has changed is that finally I am writing and writing publicly. I am not so bold as to call it courage but certainly it is hard for me and has taken me a long, long time to be willing to allow others to read my expressions, my attempts.

A wise friend once told me that among women our gift is sharing our vulnerability to help others; it conquers fear and makes us more free, more open to new possibilities. Perhaps I will never be the passionate heroine, boldly fighting injustice, but I am more open to the possibility of re-defining what is my community and the possibility that through this we all can be strengthened.

Resource
http://www.sikhchic.com/current_events/oak_creek_in_memoriam highlights stories of real life courage


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All that comes to mind are titles

I have been reading some other blogs these days and people have captured wonderful quotes; inspiring, gritty, thoughtful. I admire those who can remember quotes or author’s names, whole poems, or stanzas at least. I used to think I had a good memory, photographic at times. I can still sometimes ‘see’ things to confirm my memory, but being able to ‘see’ the grocery list or someone’s phone number has limited use. My memory is mostly empathic; I remember the feeling about something. I am right now trying to remember what was so funny and interesting about what I wrote in my mind for this blog last night. I was too tired to get up and write it down. I am remembering only mountains and valleys of thoughts and something about narcissistic self-loathing being a genetic trait. But what was really on my mind, the unstoppable gears grinding on something I wanted to go away, like the tune from a bad pop song, were titles.

All that comes to mind are titles. Titles, titles, titles, as if we start from the beginning. There is no beginning, as much as we try to find it, as much as we want to restart from there. No, titles don’t take me far enough into it, they are just playthings, little balls we toss and toss or roll in our hands, squeezing them but they never pop, never land. Re-starting, landing, that’s what a friendless person of my age wants. The bitterness has not set in yet, there are still dreams, illusions, even a little hope of magic left, but we can’t seem to find enough of it.

Contemplating the iron blades of the just-too-high fence I dare not sit upon it to climb over into the well tended garden that does not belong to me, nor do I wish to look down at my sinking boots. I am looking for definitions, but I don’t want to be defined by this mud. I reach for the letters of others’ titles, holding onto the serif of an ‘s’ or a ‘t’, wanting to bring them into my own hand and let them grow new branches, branches that grow and grow and breath deeply the air and sunshine and make something entirely new. But I am just looking and blinded a little by the grey bright sunlight of late winter. The wind is so strong in the trees. The blowing snow is creating new topographies. So how is it that I am in the mud on this freezing day? This bright day. This blinding day that leads me only further into it….

I describe this place, the mud in front of the fence, because it is the place that belongs to me. I forever see the garden ahead of me but I can only spin around, making mud in the ground, never sinking, just turning against the wind when it stings my face.

So this is a beginning, always terrible, unscripted, too serious and disconnected. Am I supposed to think this out beforehand? Would it bring me to a different place, or just set me down for a while longer, thinking? No sustainability, no way of moving forward, no insight gained from looking back. The only teacher here is this mud, telling me something through its persistence.