It’s rare to shop with one of my kids but I had two of them with me, having fun knocking around Farm King. I find it surprising that life’s pleasures creep into places like this, wandering around a large warehouse looking at everything from boots to chain saws to chicken feed. But there we were, and it was one of those things I had the good sense of mind to enjoy as it was happening, not after, when it was too late.
The clerk at the checkout was killing my buzz. She was crabby, even though the boys were chatting about things I thought any normal person could at least crack a smile over. She refused to relax her frown muscles or even acknowledge their efforts. I paid for my stuff, and even while I was swiping my card thought about how a few minutes from now, in the parking lot, I would complain to the boys about miss crabby pants.
Robb had to pay for his stuff, so I stepped out of the checkout lane to allow him to step in. That’s when I heard him to say to the cashier, “Been a long day?” She wasn’t his type, so I knew he wasn’t hitting on her.
“I’ve been here all day, and I was supposed to leave in 30 minutes, but now that’s not going to happen.” She went on for a minute about tired feet and being nonstop busy all day.
Of course she was crabby. I probably would be too. Before Robb was done with her, she was smiling and telling us all to have a good afternoon.
In the parking lot I said, “I admire what you did in there, son. I was ready to complain about her.”
“She’s just tired,” he said.
And this is why I love being a mother. Because that wasn’t my voice coming out of his mouth. It was his, reminding me of things I’d probably tried teaching but apparently haven’t completely learned myself.


IMG_0083The peepers around the pond out behind my shed are the John the Baptists of spring. They begin trilling every March when the ice thaws and continue on for a couple of weeks, day and night, heralding the advent of a season we have heard about but not yet seen. A season’s coming that is capable of far more than the cold prison of winter we know. The frogs admonish me to prepare myself. Pay attention. They chirp with insistence through sub-freezing nights, and despite the lingering raw, cold days of winter’s last stand. I love them for being hopeful when all looks brown and bleak. Their singing will continue until about the time spring makes its full robed appearance, and then they’ll mature and quiet their song. I won’t hear them again until next March.

Ushered in after The Big Thaw are red-wing blackbirds and robins whose distinct calls send me back to childhood, tumbling through grass, sifting dirt to create pretend worlds, my existence confined to a small, safe cosmos. All of the birds I grew accustomed to feeding through the winter – juncos, cardinals, finches, titmouses (or titmice?), come by less often and soon I’ll stop buying seed until it frosts again.

The grass is slowly greening, but I read somewhere that it won’t fully explode until the first thunderstorm. Something about lightning releases the nitrogen in the air priming the ground to better absorb the atmospheric gift which ignites the explosion of life we see after that initial jolt from a cosmic battery.

Even with my aging eyesight I can see little knots on each tree’s bare branches. I know buds are expanding, their casings growing tighter and tighter until one day the only room left will be out in the open. When my lilac is in full bloom, I can smell its heady aroma all the way across the yard and into my kitchen.

It won’t be long and the hummingbirds will return, zooming overhead like little Jedi fighters, jockeying for position at the nectar bar. I never tire of hearing the helicopter whip of their wings, or seeing the glint of their iridescent feathers in the sunlight. Sometimes, one will light on the post just outside my writing window. I marvel at the pulse of their quivering little bodies, the tension contained in that compact space, looking as if its little body might explode from excitement.

No part of me understands why spring isn’t everyone’s favorite season. Fall depresses me. Even though it’s beautiful, everything is dying. Winter is a thing to endure, though living in the country helps me appreciate the muted colors and sounds around me. Summer’s a fabulous time, especially for a college professor who doesn’t have to ‘work’ during June, July or August. But summer is the kid everybody likes.

Spring starts the world again and something about being new and getting another chance speaks to my sensibilities. It’s all coming, though not here yet, and one thing I’ve learned in my time on this planet is that the anticipation of a thing is often just as good, or even better, than the thing itself.

On Turning 50

IMG_4472October 8, I turn 50.

That doesn’t even sound real.


I might be half way to dead, but I’m probably closer. I’ve joked with my kids that I’m going to reach 105. I aim to make their lives as fraught with my presence as human will allows. Besides, it will likely take me that long to render paybacks for all the gray hair they’ve given me, times four.

I’m not ashamed of turning 50, nor am I depressed by it. I’m rather delighted with the achievement and think of it more as a beginning than an ending.

Here’s something — my birthday lands on the day of a full blood-moon lunar eclipse. It’s the second in a four blood-moon succession, a “tetrad” in science-speak, that began last April. Before the 20th century, three hundred years passed between tetrads. That means Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, Queen Anne, George Washington, Napolean, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to witness this type of thing. The event will peak in the early morning hours of October 8, the very time of the very day when I was born 50 years ago.

There’s more — my birth name, Cynthia, was an epithet in its Greek origin for the moon goddess, Artemis, born on Mt. Cynthus. In fact, the Greek Selene and Roman Diana, personifications of the moon, were often called Cynthia. Even the Christian meaning suggests moon-ness with its “reflector of light” translation.

I don’t know what all of these coincidences imply, but I find them fascinating.

I’ve also been thinking about how, in Leviticus, the Bible speaks of the practice of Jubilee, the every 50 year observance when slaves are freed, debts are forgiven and the mercies of God are particularly manifest. In commemoration of my 50th year of life, this is a celebration I can get behind.

In a way, my Jubilee may have already begun. Life has arrived at a stripped down place. My kids are grown and mostly on their own. I’m single again and on my own. People I loved have died or disappointed, fallen away. I’m making good progress in my quest to become debt-free, and as I sit on this precipice of time looking back 49 years at a wildly tumultuous and disadvantaged past, it occurs to me that it is just that — passed. I ache a little for the sadness and the loss and the travail, but I am the sum of my experiences, not the victim.

What lies ahead? Maybe I’ll feel like writing again. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find love. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go on solo adventures of discovery where I unearth far more than I ever dreamed. I might even stay put here on my little acre in the trees, doing as I have been, waking each day to the marvels and beauty of an ever-changing creation, grateful for the solace and balm this heaven affords.

But I’ll live this next year spying life through the lens of Jubilee. Every moment will pass through that filter and I’ll be searching to spot the good. October 8 this year is a big one on the celestial calendar, and it’s a big one for me too. I’ll set out to chart new territories, map the landscape of this ever-evolving self, and I’ll be flying solo — finally, finally, finally feeling as free as I’ll ever be.


It is not made of glass…

“Work in the perfect confidence that: 1) it is going to be harder work than you have ever done; 2) it will not yield its secrets easily; 3) it will drive you a bit crazy until it surprises you and even then the surprise will have other complications that will drive you a little more nuts; 4) it will open with perfect simplicity like a flower in sunlight in the first fresh morning of Spring, and then close on you like an iron door manned by six guards of the inquisition–and, 5) all of this being true, you cannot truly hurt it. You can only make it necessary to do it again, get into its little dark grottoes and work it, and let the opening and closing and the secrets and the falterings take place knowing that you cannot hurt it. You absolutely cannot ruin it. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You cannot permanently harm it. It is not made of glass, but of LANGUAGE, that sweet and glorious possession, that is there like a guiding spirit, wanting to give you everything. Just be worthy of it and don’t expect it to dance on command. It needs to be courted, gently cajoled and caressed. Trust the beauty of it, and don’t over worry it. It WANTS to yield its treasure. You only have to be patient, and quietly stubborn.” ~Richard Bausch