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Sleigh Bells, read at the LaPointe Cousins reunion

Cousin Molly spoke of how we honor the memories of our loved ones like Great-uncle Charlie by passing on their names though we call our cousin Chuck instead of Charles or Charlie, by the recounting our memories of his humor, his light-footed dancing, his love of the ladies ( though he never married) and in my poem Sleigh Bells. (I didn’t catch that my iPad had shortened the name!). I read in a lovely shaded yard and was happy to share, even happier to sit back down after.

I realized that as happy as I am to be a poet, I am still reconciling the new and the old me as I continue to grow into myself. Insecurity and anxiety are part of our family legacy as well as the characteristics we fondly recall. I fight the impulse to duck my head and hide, to stand my full height among our family tree branches. I hear my mother asking if I have done the best I could. This wasn’t always true but it is something I strive for every day. It is all any of us can do. So thank you, those who listen and connect with my words. Thank you for being friends and family who support and care. That is a true legacy. Here again is my poem about Uncle Charlie.

Sleigh bells. 12-20-18

Echoing distant yet hauntingly close,
the ringing of sleigh bells
tickled my ears.
It’s been years since Uncle Charlie passed
yet I saw him tall against the snowy hills,
bundled thickly in woolen winter plaid,
vigorously shaking those big brass bells
a smiling imp of mischief,
his grin from ear to ear,
those famous Nelson ears,
a family legacy just as his humor.

Always ready with a joke for his great nieces and nephews,
urging us on to a second cookie
or helping of ice cream
as if daring mothers to deny his hospitality

which though they may have wanted to,

they never did.
He’d grown up on a fruit farm
when horses were standard transportation,
those bells part of his holiday celebration,
waiting for us to ask questions
so he could tell stories
of how it used to be.

The bells rang again
as his sleigh flew from the barn to the lane!
Merry Christmas, Uncle Charlie!
He’d have a great ride, I was sure
as my heart lifted high as the moon in the sky.
Old memories rose pungent from cedar and snow
as clear as stars hung from holiday thoughts
It’s true what they say,
all hearts do come home
at Christmas!

Monday Musings

Mondays are for new beginnings, for wiping away the weekend remnants and clearing the path for progress into the new day, the new week. Elbows deep in suds and dishes, washing machine thrumming behind me as clothing magics it’s way to cleanliness, my mind begins to muse, pondering wandering from thought to thought like a child in a flower dotted meadow picking a bouquet from the biggest and brightest.

Yesterday’s dishes pass from rinse water to the drying rack, sturdy, sunny plaid every day china mixed with crystal wine glasses, from an evening supper on the porch with friends, carefully distanced. but jubilant in a way, celebratory. We rarely use the good china, properly displayed behind glass in the mother’s cherry hutch. They watch us pass them by in the hustle bustle of daily routine, two retirees who live quietly, covidly responsible. It struck me as a little sad, making last night’s memories more poignant and beautiful. I was glad we had shared the evening, talking about life and dreams with sangria and lemonade. those precious moments held within delicate crystal rims glinting in the fading light.

And that’s the point of all my musing, that every day is worth celebrating and using the pretty goblets, no more waiting for a special occasion, today is special enough!

Grief vs Joy

Grief struck first,

a punch to the gut sucking air from my lungs.

I gasped and struggled to breath normally

but normal had disappeared.

Behind my brittle mask,

I made the rounds of the lost and bewildered,

supporting those in pain,

the lost and bewildered, like me.

I stumbled through the motions,

my soul a flutter of ragged ribbons,

salted by a sea of tears,

scoured by winds of sorrow.

I cannot see my way, much less tomorrow.

I am bruised, bone deep,

spun in a funnel of forever darkness,

lost in a tunnel of spiraled sadness,

devoid of star or moon to guide,

alone and burned by absolute cold.

Joy returns in fragments of memory,

sparks of light that refuse suppression,

fighting for expression in faith, in hope.

Walls collapse. Water released cleanses

and strips me bare as a newborn babe.

I am fragile and exposed,

raw but still breathing, still standing.

I somewhere turned a corner,

surprising myself with a desire to survive.

Slowly, I reach to rejoin life and community.

Fragile and tenuous

yet as strong and sticky as spider silk,

a bridge is built, strand by strand

upon the foundation of pain,

reaching beyond again and again,

trying to gain the other side

where peace resides.

Each day rises relentlessly,

forcing me beyond yesterday.

I am forever changed,

my balance decided on a whim

by two sides of a coin

spinning within.

Happiness is too far a star to reach,

too complex and complete for comprehension,

yet glimmers of warmth penetrate

and comfort me.

I have begun to heal, to feel.

This is victory, a small, determined joy

snatched back from grief,

held tightly between clenched fingers

and a heart learning to let go.

Drunken Penguins

Like drunken penguins

we stagger from side to side

in a merry dance down uneven winter paths,

laden with buckets of warm alfalfa mash

for horses edging past their prime.

They pick their way daintily despite their size,

wary of snow and questions hidden beneath,

nickering greetings with tossed manes and nodding heads.

Routine runs on its own clock, following sunrise and sunset.

We are the expected guests bringing dinner,

stumbling forward with awkward grips of grain,

welcome back again.

We are the faithful despite our unsteady gaits,

bright scarves and striped mittens.

We note the changes as day slips into night

on its way to a tally of years.

We watch the passing of seasons,

the waxing and waning of life itself.

Our prayers run the gamut of thanksgiving

for foggy puffs of breath in frigid air

to sorrowful petitions accompanying

souls no longer there.

Seniors, feeling their oats,

spin and turn in pirouettes,

graceful snow angels in midfield,

dark furred beauty against white swirls

as we, the funny humans, roundly wrapped

against weather and bundled from frost,

turn and tipple our way back to shelter,

boots squeaking beneath unsteady feet.

We are the faithful,

alert for what may come,

grateful the harvesting sickle and scythe

have passed us by.

Our errant thoughts scatter with relief,

plucked like a pierced fall leaf,

caught in the needled branch of spruce,

before sweeping onwards and up,

high enough to catch the cusp of a newborn moon.

In the dark we are alone with our hopes and dreams,

just you and me, waltzing our way back home

in woolen tuxedos, dancing with happy feet

through diamond dusted snow.

Blizzard of 2019

It was a blizzard of family

driven by excitement and anticipation,

arriving in a flurry of faces

above arms heavy laden.

The party began whirling

around boundless cookies and wondrous dips,

circling around conversations

while playing musical chairs.

Upstairs was sanctuary

holding chaos at bay,

a refuge of silence a world away

from the chorus of voices

raised in good cheer,

dry throats quenched with lime sherbet punch,

fine wine or beer.

Down in the cellar, chill and still

red car raced yellow

in a black figure eight,

young hands learning controls

their elders once held,

faces mirroring the same joy in each

regardless of years.

Spinning tales

float through the air, drifting,

memories mixing story with truth,

with love.

Goodbyes echo

in pockets of quiet,

as families hug their way home

wrapped in warmth

and love that endures,

year after year.

We sit, just us,

piecing together the evening

one whole between the two.

One wine glass shared,

two hearts aglow

with the blessing of family,

savoring, remembering

in the quiet peace that follows

the footpath of the storm.

Rainy October Days

Gray, rainy days seem to automatically slow ones pace. Projects that require dry weather get postponed with a shrug that acknowledges nothing can be done about it so you move on in a different direction. Today, in the snug warmth of our home, I hit a wall and was unable to move forward.

It started with the rain. Then driving across the Grand River I thought about how often she had written about rivers. All kinds of rivers. Sultry, steamy, southern rivers hung with branches laced low with moss. Cool, northern rivers with secrets that carried you away or towards something. Just that quickly I was deluged with sadness, grieving for the loss of my friend, our friend.

Last week, she laughed with us. Drank her coffee and ate three chocolate chip cookies as usual. Wrote with us. Shared with us. Said goodbye as if next week was for certain. It wasn’t. Now our writing group and small town community join her family in remembering her and mourning her.

I listen to the rain hit the steel roof, steadily drumming, matching the sadness I feel. I’m just going to sit here a while and remember Katherine. She was quite a woman!

Sunday

A day of peace,

floating disconnected

from the business of the past.

Raindrops cling to black mesh screens

released from quiet gray skies,

my world washed clean of yesterday’s dust.

I’m ready to reflect

on last week’s goals attained,

releasing the self-induced stress

I carried.

I heal from the migraine,

the physical price I paid

but in the safety of retrospection

the cost was worth the pain,

the achievement worth the effort.

Monday drifts closer, gratefully not yet here,

the organizing of the day and next week

approaching but not imminent,

not near enough to threaten

my sanctuary Sunday.

I savor the kiss of coffee on my tongue,

the gift of homegrown melon

a benediction for my breakfast.

I write the feelings of my heart and soul,

as aware of the morning news

as I am the chatter of squirrels

muted in the background.

I am profoundly grateful

to be here in this moment,

loved and loving,

this my sermon to guide me forth

when life demands I leave

my holy place.

One more cup of coffee

before I put the china in the sink,

ready to face life with a wink.

One more cup to aid digestion and reflection,

nursing my psyche through realms

of peace and seas of tranquility.

one more cup of savoring

simple things and angel wings

while my heart sings,

thankful.

Steal me away from the humdrum and boring,

from responsibility and chores

that stifle and provoke me to snores.

Throw the bike into gear!

Let the tire spray stones

fan-tailing a trail behind us,

leaving the drive, the farm and the house

in our dust.

Take me down

narrow country roads dappled in shade,

clouds racing the bike overhead.

Let colors bleed together and blur,

the cycle a whirring of parts

stretching forward to answer my need.

Let me inhale green mown fields and corn tasseled high,

depths of brown soil dredged furrow deep.

Later I will sleep

but now I am wide awake, aware,

so alive, so high we fly,

so close, you and I,

almost as one!

Take me to a lake small and nameless

but cold and clear, reflecting sky blue,

room for two and a bottle of dew.

We’ll lay our faces up to the sun

and tickle our toes with grasses below.

Let the wind blow,

tangling hair and knotting dreams,

where everything is what it seems.

Take me! Take me now

before the world swallows me whole

and I cease to exist!

Take me away!

Keep me from fading

between black lines on gray paper,

the minutiae of minutes

threatening to consume my soul,

to suck me dry.

Ride with me!

Now!

One moment

One glance
where eyes meet
and hearts quicken.
One breath
an eternity
of sharing.
One smile
paired with its twin
hers to his,
knowing.
One dance,
embracing
within the music
only two may hear.
One love
melting two hearts,
speechless between beats,
infinity linking two souls
in a unity of one.