In my mind’s eye…

Blog Change

Change.

Does anyone look forward to it?  Some of the very best things that happen to us can only happen through change.  Yet I drag my feet all the way from the known to the unknown.

Take Gus. He is the most lovely, sweet-hearted, adorable little baby (big horse) I know.  But it’s time for change.  He needs to begin his journey into responsible adulthood, but he needs to do it with someone better qualified to help him make that transition.  Once the trainer has spent some time introducing him to adult behavior, then we can work on it together.  That future where we build a relationship that includes riding?  That’s change I’m excited about. And still I’m dragging my feet to the impending transition—a transition to something great.

Take Vern’s new job. We’re only moving three hours away to one of the very most beautiful settings in Colorado. He will be outside doing work he enjoys. The work I’m doing can happen anywhere.  My friends are close enough to visit. Especially because I’ll be visiting Gus down at the trainer’s (which is only 10 minutes from where we live now, sigh).  It’s an amazing change and such a wonderful opportunity.  I’m certain we’re going to love it.  I’m dragging my feet so hard.

I’ve been reading a book my brother gave me, Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. To paraphrase Gilbert, he says we envision a future and our brains see it as reality. Nearly five years ago, when my then-husband, said he didn’t want to be married anymore, I was devastated. The future I had pictured lay shattered before me in pieces too small to recognize.  Where had I been in that future? My identity had been part of that vision so pulverized that it was now drifting particles of sand. My imagined reality turned formless.

I knew I would eventually feel better and it’s hard to pinpoint when that began.  Tentative visions of a future would worm their way into my mind. I tested them out until some seemed like versions of a reality I was willing to try. It seemed sudden, although it was slow and took years, but I’m happy. Incredibly happy.

So, change. The thing is that, according to Gilbert, one of the reasons we become unhappy in the present is that the vision of the future we imagined is always perfect.  Even when we try to add in things that might be difficult to manage, we make them manageable. The hard things aren’t that hard.  The bad details, even when we try to account for them, just aren’t the same as when real challenges emerge in our present-day moments.  That’s my long paraphrase of Gilbert’s idea that our actual experiences can never match the perfect future we imagined.  Of course we’re dissatisfied at some level.  Our consciousness envisions the ideal.

I think we’re heading for the ideal in just a few weeks. I’m dragging my feet every step of the way. And I can’t wait to report happiness (still) from the other side.

The Red Notebook

red-notebook.jpgSo much depends
Upon

A red note
book.

Filled with my grandmother’s elegant script.
An abbreviated chapter of my family’s epic.

A Midwestern wedding, October 4, 1944, before Grandpa shipped over-seas
Resulting in,
Exactly 24 years later,
Me.

74 years from their wedding day, this page in history feels pre-destined.
That their three-month romance would bloom for 63 years.
So in love. Always.
And make us.

Inevitable?
Magical.

War works in mysterious ways.

Read the red notebook.
My Grandma will tell you.

Incognito (FICTION)

20170218_175605.jpg

Incognito adv or adj [Lt, fr. L incognitus unknown, fr. In +cognitus, pp. Of cognoscere to know—more at COGNITION] (1649): with one’s identity concealed.

“She is traveling incognito to meet a lover.”

The girl’s eyes narrowed as she turned, considering the woman with her head turned toward the window. Large sunglasses shielded her eyes. Shadows flicked across her like action at a movie.

“She has just heard that her mother is ill,” the girl replied. “She is rushing to be at her deathbed and the train moves too slowly for her.”

As if in response to her words, the rhythmic clack of the train’s steel wheels slowed. A “Bahnhof” sign flashed by.

“A ha!” Triumph. “This is the station. Her lover anxiously awaits her. He’ll jump to the door before the train stops.” The boy laughed, “They’ll continue on because people would know them here. Of course they’ll continue traveling incognito.”

“Then he won’t meet her here in the car either.” The girl sucked on her teeth. “You’re tricky. We can’t be sure if you’re right because we won’t see him. People might know him.” Then: “Besides, this stop is just a delay because she’s rushing to her dying mother.”

Both watched as the woman stood and stretched, cat like. She slid her purse over her shoulder and struggled with a small suitcase above her seat.

The boy began to rise.

She pulled the suitcase down. It perched on wheels. She kept the purse and suitcase on her left side and carried a brown paper bag on her right. She took small steps to reach the door as the train slowed.

When it stopped, the woman twisted the handle and the doors gave with a burst of breath. She dropped the suitcase on the platform and climbed down behind it. A white “Kaiserslautern” sign with black letters loomed in front of her.

The boy and girl craned to watch out the window.

A child printed to the woman, hitting her at full tilt and tipping her off balance. She dropped her purse and bag. She flew the child in circles over her head and a tall man in sunglasses caught her from behind. For a moment, the train window framed them: a snapshot. A Norman Rockwell painting.

The girl looked at the boy and his lips almost smiled.

“I guess we were both wrong?” she offered.

“Her lover could have a child.”

“Just drop it. We were wrong.”

She reached for her book, hissing a sigh. She slumped back on the red, orange, and yellow horizontal stripes to read. Her feet were on his seat, opposite her, between his legs. She studied his face for a moment and then, “You can’t stand to lose, can you?”

“I’m just saying her lover’s wife may have died of cancer, leaving him with a young child who adores her,” he said.

“So you just assume everyone lacks morals since you did?” she asked. “Why a lover?”

The boy now sighed. He scavenged for his own book. “Look, it was just a game. And I promised you; I won’t make that kind of mistake again.”

“Did this woman look like her?” She couldn’t keep herself from continuing.

“You don’t want to know what she looks like.”

“I do.”

The train clacked across the rails, first like a roller coaster working up an incline, then smoother.

“Why are you bringing this up? Why now? We’re on vacation. We’ve already talked about this.”

“I don’t know if I should have come on this vacation with you. When we play the Stranger Game, you’re always coming up with clandestine lovers’ trysts.” She looked out at the speeding trees blurred like Monet had taken a brush to them.

“I thought you loved my imagination? Why do you want to spoil our vacation? We’re having fun.” He searched for his place in the glossy paperback.

“See what I mean? If talking about this spoils our vacation, maybe we shouldn’t be here together.” Her finger marked her place in her hard-backed book.

“Too late, my friend. We’re on a train and you don’t speak a lick of German.” The boy continued to flip through his book and settled on a page. He unzipped a taut side pocket and jerky appeared in his hand. “I think this is the last of it. You want some? You can’t get it here, you know?”

“Don’t think you can change the subject.”

“I’m not changing the subject. I was just telling you we’re low on jerky.” He zipped the pocket.

“If you don’t think that seeing exotic lovers’ rendezvous in every stranger we see is a problem, we’ve got a problem.” Her voice pitched shriller.

“We had a problem. We talked about it. It’s not going to happen again. Just because I make up stories doesn’t mean I want to act them out.” He bent the cover back to hold the book in one hand, breaking the spine. “Can’t we talk about this at home?”

“If you think something this serious can wait, then you have a different perspective on this relationship than I do.” The book was clenched between her hands. Damp spots appeared on the cover.

“We’ve been having a good time on this trip so far, right? Right?”

She nodded.

“We went to Paris and kissed at the top of the Eiffel Tower. We saw the frickin’ Mona Lisa. We hunted down the Rodin museum. We’re building memories here. We’re making our own new history.” His eyes fixed on her.

“What does a ‘new history’ matter when the old one won’t go away? When are you going to the one traveling incognito to meet a lover.

“We’ve already discussed this,” hissed through clenched teeth. “If you can’t leave it behind us, I can’t help you.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest, book in his left hand.

The girl fumbled with the pockets in her backpack. A drop like rain darkened the blue polyester. She crammed the book in. The pages crumpled. She focused on her task. “If you won’t talk to me about this now, I’m getting off at the next stop.”

“Honey, you don’t want to do this.” He unfolded his arms, leaning forward on his knees with his elbows, holding his face in his hands, book framing the left side.

“Is that all you have to say? If your next sentence doesn’t address this issue in some purposeful way, I’m gone.”

The rhythm bumped steadily. He leaned back in the seat and crossed his arms again. “I’m not going to have this argument with you; not now.”

She untangled her legs from his and rose. As she reached for her backpack, the track curved. She dropped on the boy’s lap.

Eyes. Green flecks of gold. Dark lines like stars shooting out from the pupil. Red capillaries. She pushed off his chest and stood.

She shouldered the backpack like a Sherpa facing Mt. Everest. His hand guided the strap over her right shoulder. He was standing behind her. She carried her fanny pack in her left hand. She swayed with the train, her steps small.  She jerked the handle and the doors wooshed open. They automatically shut behind her backpack. She jerked the next handle and entered the new car.

She found a seat close to the door and leaned her face against the window.  These seats had blue, green, and aqua horizontal stripes. She leaned back against the slowing motion and reached for her backpack. Her face left a steamy silhouette on the glass.

The boy was 10 pages from the last page he had chosen when he noticed that the rhythm had stopped.  He looked out the window. The girl stood with the “Landstuhl” sign in large black letters on a white background behind her. She was framed in the window: a snapshot for Outdoor magazine.

The trains started up again. She met his eyes—wider now. He scrambled out of his seat. She turned away. The small awning shaded her. Angled to her right, away from the brick stationhouse was a white cow with black spots. It was chewing its cud. On her left was a red-roofed house with red, white, and purple flowers in the window boxes. She was alone. He had the guide book.

She hiked down the stairs and through the dark tunnel towards the bright brick stationhouse. The train’s whistle blew. The wheels’ rhythmic clack faded.

Nebraska Gods

nebraska-sunflowers.jpg

The sunflower leaps out of the prairie
Foregrounded and unique with dozens
Of identical twins bobbing
Alongside the dusty section road.

This Nebraska corner,
At once fecund and desolate,
With its limitless horizon and sky
And limited possibilities.

Before immigrants emigrated here
The river
The cottonwoods
The larks were here.

The river, the trees, the birds
Carried the weight of Willa Cather’s death and happiness:
“part of something entire,
whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge.”

They carried my weight, too,
One warm, breezy, September day.
I looked for Cather’s vistas
And ate lunch in her cousin’s house.

They support my purpose now,
My imaginative setting for philosophy
Written and inscribed here
As the river inscribes the hills.

The landscape bears the burden
Of poppies and people
Homes, hopes, ideas.
Gods holding back no one’s dreams.