Friday, April 30, 2010

A Peanut And A May Day

The sweet scents of Spring were carried in on the raindrops of April. It was the first of May and Peanut would make a May altar on this day. Her small hands worked diligently to build an edifice as beautiful as she could imagine it. The simple shrine posed atop her dresser on a filigree pedestal fit for a statue of holy virtue. In parochial school she learned the Virgin was the mother of Jesus and deserved love and respect.

Searching through her mother's cupboards and collectibles she found an array of glassware that would make suitable vases. The ones she desired most had the fancy frills of Fenton. But she knew borrowing one of those would also be borrowing trouble. She chose instead a clear cut-glass vessel with a V shape. After a few adjustments to the lace doily and porcelain idol she was off in search of blossoms and blooms.

A quest for the proper nosegay was like an adventure for Peanut. The three acres called home became her undiscovered territory. First she would have to scale the gargantuan piles of pillage that mottled the landscape. The pithy mounded offerings brought to the property to satisfy the marsh  monster.

These great soil mountains of foundry slag and fill dirt hid precious treasure. The young explorer might unearth a priceless marble beauty; a shiny cats eye blinking up at her while resting in its earthy bed. Hours spent panning for gold in them thar' hills might reward her with rocks filled with the fools fantasy. They were a no account nuisance to an adult, good only for landfill or a stony path. But to a child they were a twinkling treasure.

On this particular day she was in search of wildflowers. Perhaps she would find the felicitous flower with the miniature star in the middle. Surrounded by rays of white the petite blossom was like sun on a stem. Her solar daisy was an effervescent flare rising up through the rocks, hovering above the dark soil.

Maybe a rare lucky tulip would be discovered. Lucky because the tiny bulb survived the great blade of the earth mover, been loaded into a dump truck, and emptied into a random pile of dirt in her back yard. Yet, it stood stately, a proud praetorian guard watching for others to burst through the floor of smutch.

After scaling the heights, she would descend to the prairie pasture filled with wild horses. Her mind conceived the old black cow pony as the leader of the herd; young and studly, unaltered in his natural habitat, pawing and calling to his mares. The pubescence palomino called Ginger, the newest addition to his harem, was the most skiddish. 

At the slightest provocation these great muscular beasts could stampede. With the sound of thunder in their hooves they could grind a peanut into peanut butter. But she knew no fear of the four legged lovelies. Bravely she crossed the meadow and in her vivid imagination she became one of the beautiful wild fillies.

For a few moments she was loose of the bonds that hobbled her. Flying over the turf, wild and free, she felt no need to bridle her emotions. No longer saddled with strife or harnessed by harassment, she was unshackled. Galloping unrestrained, until her breath gave out, she reveled in what it was like to know the beauty of untarnished liberty and salvation.

Nearing the end of her journey, success would require her to master the marsh. A fallen tree was the only way across the swampy bog. She stepped lightly, like a gymnast on a balance beam. One slip could plunge her into the morass to be a crocodile's collation. Slowly, arms outstretched, she placed one foot forward gripping the gnarly bark of the emaciated maple. Keeping her eyes riveted to the top side of the slain timber she moved one foot in front of the other. With the precision of a tiptoe on a tightrope she agonized her way across the quagmire.

Leaping the last few inches to the safety of sandy soil she ran off to gather the last of her bouquet. There in the fancy field grew a clutter of uncultivated flora. Wood violets, gaywings,  daffodils and daises dappled the landscape. Here was the fulfillment of her fantasy.

While plucking the pungent posies from their earthy bed, she lay down amid them, and the scents of spring washed over her like fragrant water. The warm sun became her cozy quilt and gazing up into the blue, she concocted cotton clouds into silly shapes. Natures beauty laid near and its tentacles surrounded her reaching into her very soul. Security settled over her like a spirit snuggling her up and enfolding her in his essence.

This was the familiar stranger that followed her; a guardian, a comforter. She sensed his strength in the horses, his majesty in the mounds that became her mountains, and his beauty in the frilly flowers. Here, in her field of dreams, were no atrocities or abuses, no fledglings filled with fear. Here, she was bereaved of belittlement and more than an afterthought. Peace persuaded her to daydream and soon she was lost in her musings.

The bark of her name pierced the quiet presence of the spirit. Obedience demanded she return to reality. There was no rhyme or reason for the anger in her father's voice, but it was unmistakable. His tongue lashed out cruel criticisms, along with the stench of alcohol. Hands that overpowered small fingers curled around the cluster of blooms, clamped closed, and crushed the beauties to bits. Petals drifted to the ground like innocence falling away. A shadow crept over the light and the demons of dread returned to haunt her.

Later Peanut lay curled up like a soft carnation on a chenille spread. Pitiful pleas escaped her and rose like a broken offering to eternity. Tears dampened the caterpillar fabric and sobs shook the altar of the unattended sanctuary. The doily askew, the vase empty, and the Virgin unadorned, stared helplessly down at her.

As her sobs subsided, a whispered promise like an early summer breeze,  lifted the soft curls of her hair. But Peanut had exhausted her tears and was carried away by her dreams to a fancy field and a familiar Stranger gathering wildflowers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Money Pit

It was a blustery, rainy day in April of 1990. But that did nothing to dampen my spirit. A stew pot of potentiality was brewing in my mind and I had high hopes, high in the sky apple pie hopes.

Raised in the rural and always a country girl at heart, city dwelling didn't do me justice. Country was a part of my soul. It held me together and formed a deep spiritual calm beneath the troubled waters of my life.

The tract where I grew up housed my secret place. A placid place I shared with an elusive Guest. I never saw Him but I sensed His presence. He was the One who listened to my childhood dreams and gathered me to Himself when I sobbed, unwanted and alone. To me, He was the form in a full moon glistening on fields of new fallen snow. He winked at me in the twinkle of a dark starry night, and in the marshes I heard Him chuckle as I imagined he held the cattails that tickled my nose. He was present in the country and the country was my spiritual habitat.
So when I saw the 'too good to be true' listing price and open house in the Sunday journal I was happier than a boggle of boiling bubbles. This was my dream come true. After some trivial convincing, my counterpart and I piled the family into the van and headed out of town to the silent solitude of the country.

The directions were clear as glass and soon we arrived at our destination. Monumental maples lined the frontage and a griege gravel driveway bid us to enter. There awaited a farm house, advanced in years, standing lonely and neglected atop a hill.

Covered in white aluminum it belied the hoary wood rotting beneath. Overgrown shrubs and lilac bushes surrounded the dwelling like sentrys with a secret. Beyond the crypt were three acres of rough and tumble. Infant ash trees dotted the landscape, popping up like pimples on a green giant. Residual machinery leaned on feeble outbuildings that housed memories of the better part of a lifetime. The strings of time gone by played on my emotions and while our tires tore into the dashpot drive I gave my pledge to the broken country house.

Piling out of the vehicle the kids were eager to explore the entanglement of overgrowth as I dug out the machetes needed to hack our way through to the back door. We crossed the threshold and I tossed aside the thought that this house was cataloged in the Realtor's list of endangered species. It was a white elephant.

If the kitchen is the heart of the home this must have been a kidney. Yellow flowered oilcloth covered damp musty barn wood that encased the room and emanated a stench that was something akin to soiled wet rags and stagnant water. Walls were absent of cabinets with no hint they ever existed. A sink hung precariously near a corner of the room supported by a bucket and bizarre plumbing. Water would take a trip down the drain, bank to the east and land directly on the ground outside.

On the opposite end of the room lynched from the ceiling hung an old cinder block chimney with its bottom missing. Where there was once a potbellied stove or similar contraption there was now a makeshift platform precariously propped up against the drooping weight of the rectangular flue. With a large grin and a wink I chuckled to my hubby, "Well, there's plenty of eating room."

Propelled by perennial youth the kids found the upstairs to be an adventure in itself. Like an unexplored cave darkened by the lack of electricity it held its own secrets. Shadows from the past were cast by a single bulb hanging by a thread of black wire that had seen better days.

The thought of squeezing through a hole in the floor left by another absent smoke stack was a tantalizing temptation for my son. I laughed out a rebuke while a scene from The Money Pit played through my mind. I could just imagine my one male offspring counting care bears with only feet and legs dangling from the ceiling of the floor below.

Surely somewhere there was an invisible sign that read "condemned" but the hope in my dream's eye overpowered the obvious. It didn't matter that plaster walls had more holes than a sieve in sunshine, that there were no heat ducts to quack a warm impression, or that a toilet stack loomed like a fire pole in the middle of one of the bedrooms. Deep in the money pit I saw a diamond in the rough, a gem worth restoring.

In the pungent, repulsive soul of the dilapidated old house was a kindred spirit. A country calamity that took me back to a secret place where I shared tea and tempest with my elusive Guest. There in my spiritual habitat was the beginning of lessons learned in the thicket. The God of the country creation taught me about life and restoration. If the foundation is good everything else can be fixed.

As we drove away down the road the little house on the hill faded into the landscape. Sprouts of green winter wheat waved goodbye and harrowed ground awaited our return. With a glimmer of hope in my query I asked, "How long do you think it'll take to put this place back together?" In an answer that was unmistakably agreeable came, "Two weeks." I smiled..."The house is gonna' be great."

Friday, April 2, 2010

When Dreams Die Do They Go To Heaven?

Babies, those little stars that begin with a twinkle in someone's eye. You leave the doctor's reception room proudly bearing a sign that sparkles "Just Pregnant". Your dream takes on the hue of girlie pink sugar and spice, or boyish blue snakes and snails. The toilet bowl becomes your best friend and you fall asleep in your oatmeal.
For nine months I gobbled and growled my way through pregnancy complete with morning sickness and the sleepys. My giant tummy grew according to rule as did the miniature person I carried inside. I envisioned a tiny star pirouetting in pink. While I dreamed, she jumped and kicked. Her movements so incessant that she presented herself bottoms up.
Aside from being breech, she was in all respects a perfectly healthy baby girl. But in a moment all that changed. Because of the clouded judgment of a drunken doctor a tiny life was broken. His desire to party in spite of being on call, his late arrival, and his neglect to do a cesarean put me and my baby through a critical ordeal. In his devil-may-care state of being he literally tore her feet first from my body, stretching her delicate spinal cord in the process.
Being a first time mom, I already found myself on the fault line of unfamiliar territory but with the declaration delivered to me that day my world caved in. My little ballerina would never dance. Cotton candy tutus and taffy satin slippers would be replaced by heavy metal braces and rawhide leather straps.
My tinted pink dream collided with hard, dark truth and fell broken and lifeless at my feet. Pieces cut into my heart like shards of glass. The sense of loss I felt and the harsh reality ahead left me empty and confused. My dream was coffined within dimensions of disappointment and buried beneath the cold soil of sorrow. Mournfully a piece of my heart and soul were laid upon the coffin like one would lay down a spray of flowers; a silent tribute to the death of my dream.
I am older now and since that day I have found the hope and strength to continue to dream. A few have taken root and flourished. Some were a "passing fancy" as my mother would have called them. But none were like the shooting star that appeared incandescent but never danced. That one, rooted deep in hope left me to agonize its absence and ponder its purpose.
But whether fancied or hoped my dreams compel me to look ahead. They define direction for that secret recess within my heart that dares to envision an aspiration. Whether abruptly terminated or timely achieved they cause me to reach for a star and rise to a challenge. And for a time the incense of the image surrounds me and lifts my spirit
In my dreams I find a motive to believe and achieve some great expectation. I realize the remarkable in my life. So, I will keep dreaming. Keep journeying toward those secret aspirations, challenging goals, and more than mere theories that cause us to revel in hope, and frolic in the fulfillment of a dream come true.
And if my dream slips away like grains of sand through my fingers, I will let it go. I will allow it to fade away peacefully and drift toward Heaven where expired dreams rest in the hands of the Dream Maker. And in my darkest night when I gaze up at that heaven I will imagine my dream dancing with the stars.

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