Monday, March 31, 2008

What a weekend. From a beautiful Friday night date with my husband to the parade on Saturday that I watched from the vantage point of my son's front yard, to house-cleaning and party preparation. We had my daughter's bridal shower here yesterday. The weather was perfect and we set up outside so that the wisteria was the centerpiece of the decorations. The mosquitoes politely stayed away and even the dogs behaved themselves.
There were lots of friends, little sandwiches, and presents galore. There was crepe paper and fold-out wedding bells and flowers and a cake.
And there was an epiphany.
I was in my kitchen, cutting up fruit for the fruit salad and I was nervous and a little bit stressed and a tiny bit resentful, too. As I worked, I could hear my daughters giggling outside as they put up the decorations and part of me wanted to scream- "Y'all stop having so much fun! This is serious!" I wasn't having fun. All this work- cleaning and shopping and cooking and planning and here I was, in the kitchen AGAIN, and for what? Why? Why me?
And then it struck me. I was resentful because no one had ever done anything like this for me.
Over the years I've probably thrown hundreds of family parties- the Christmases, the Thanksgivings, the birthdays.
I've often joked that as soon as I was able to throw a turkey in the oven my mother passed the title of "Matriarch" to me and I have taken that title seriously.
But there's always been a little voice inside me saying, "Why doesn't anyone ever throw ME a party?"
I think that little voice belongs to a little girl who lives inside me.
On the outside, I may look like a woman old enough to be a grandmother, but on the inside, I am still a little girl who wants to wear a tiara and have her favorite meal and blow out the candles on the cake her mama made her.
Isn't that odd?
I realized all of this and it made me feel a little sad. But it helped, knowing where these feelings come from.
And I think I'm a little clearer now on why I go to so much trouble despite my bitching and my moaning about all the work I do to make nice times for my kids- it's so that they don't ever wonder why no one did that for them. And that's all part of the decision I made years ago when I realized that buck would stop right here with me when it came to the sort of dysfunctional families that had produced me. Or at least as much as I was humanly able to achieve.
It's March 21st and my daughter is getting married in one week and six days. It's going to be a beautiful wedding and I am so grateful she's found the man who makes her happy and that they're starting their new life together.
The whole thing has been a terrific amount of work but honestly, it's all going to have been so worth it. And this is what families do. They make the birthday cakes, they gather the friends, they put out the tablecloths, they plan and execute the weddings. My other daughters are bridesmaids, my son is officiating at the wedding, my husband is paying for things with as much goodwill as he can muster about it all and he's going to wear a tux and be the handsomest man in the universe. We are all coming together to plan and do this thing because we love our Lily and we want her to have the wedding day she dreams of and deserves.
We are going to celebrate. Together. Joyfully.
It's spring. My daughter is getting married. My life is filled with wisteria and birds and bees and all things bridal.
And that's what life is all about and if there's one thing, one thing in this entire world that I've ever wanted it's been to have a family that is loving and joyful and cares about each other to the bone, to the blood. A family where there are no big, scary, dangerous secrets. To be the mama of the children who giggle and laugh as they string up the banner that proudly proclaims BRIDAL SHOWER. To cut up the fruit, to cut the cake, to have the house where the wisteria grows and the birds nest on the porch.
And I do.
And it's amazing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And Then There's This

Four hungry maws, open and demanding to be fed. These new children live in a pot on my kitchen porch.
Aren't you glad you're not a wren parent?
I am.

Mystery Solved Right Here In Lloyd

Remember all those bees that went missing this year?
I've found them.
They're all in my yard, getting drunk on wisteria nectar.
And I'm a bit tipsy myself from the perfume of the blossoms, the way they look hanging from the arbor and the oak trees, and the sound the bees make as they buzz and dip and sip and hover, flying from blossom to blossom. They sound like a small and very efficient machine, these bees, and I wish that I, like them, could nestle in the soft purple petals, sipping nectar and coating my body in pollen.
Lucky bees.
I want to eat their honey.

Friday, March 28, 2008


I'm supposed to be doing something like, uh, cleaning, my posts for the next few days are likely to be quite short. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'd just like to say that being a housewife would probably be the best gig in the entire world if it were not for the fact that there is actual cleaning involved now and then.

When this actual cleaning is required though, I have developed something which makes it SO much easier. I call it the Housewife's Speedball. It goes like this:

Take one shot of espresso. Drink it black and drink it down.
Take one beer. Open. Drink.

Okay. Since it's only 2:18 in the afternoon, it's way too early for that sort of folderol so I suppose I best get back to it, sans any little mother's helpers unless you count the Amazing Power of Bleach which should never be underestimated. We all know, however, not to mix bleach with ammonia, which is another potent cleaning product. Ever. You will be sorry. After you wake up.

And let me say that it's the most beautiful day here I've quite possibly ever seen in my life and darn it! I wish I had my hands in the dirt.
The kind in the yard and garden, that is. By the time it's reached the surfaces of my house it has lost 100% of its enchantment.

Side note:
After doing a Google-image search for "Housewife", I have to say that there are a lot of housewives out there doing their part to keep the entire world very, very happy.
Whoa. Excuse me while I swoon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Further Troubling Signs

I've been reading the Dooce again. I'm up to November, 2005. Part of me feels wretchedly ill about this soul-sucking, time wasting activity and part of me is just so happy that she wrote so many blogs.
But this, this is the worst: The picture I posted of my dog a few days ago? I totally confused that dog, who is DOLLY, with my dog ZEKE.
Dolly is a mostly poodle mix. Zeke is a Yorkie. They look just alike, don't they?
Hello? Can you hear my brain? It's sizzling.
Thankfully, I can still find my way to Publix, buy groceries, come home and cook them.
Tomorrow may be a different story.
Stay tuned.

Am I Insane Yet?

So instead of cleaning the house or making food for this shower on Sunday, I decided that the best use of my time this week would be to strip and refinish a dresser I've been meaning to get around to for about...oh, thirty years or so.
Does this qualify me for meds?
Hey! I've got two more days. Come on. I can do this.
And the dresser's refinished!
Mission accomplished, that's what I say.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's Important

Most of what I write here is of such little importance in the world that I myself can hardly believe it. And it's not that I'm not aware of what's going on in the world to some degree. I read the newspaper. Sort of. And I listen to NPR all day long, but I think I long ago realized that I am not ever going to be any sort of political beast. There are some issues that I feel I HAVE to take a stand on and they're usually of the sort that involve human-rights and equal rights. But the only time I ever demonstrated was to walk in a huge parade of people down Apalachee Parkway for the ERA and that was in about 1975 and let me just ask you this- has it passed yet?
I read things in the paper or hear things on the radio that make me want to scream. It's our right as Americans to take our guns to work? And having them locked in the car is going to make us safer how? They're trying to pass a law to make sure that kids are dressed properly for school? We're making war-talk towards Iran? We can vote on making sure we protect "real" marriage by denying the rights of gay folks to marry?
Oh, come on.
But I never feel like I can do anything about these issues except once in a while peep up and make a little ineffectual speech from this tiny soapbox. I am certainly never going to run for office to try and change anything.
So I live in my little world and I try to do the best I can and I write about shoes and dogs and dogwoods and rain and babies and birth and death and collard greens and our old buddy Jesus- just the stuff I'm thinking about randomly for one reason or another.
But yesterday I got an e-mail from a dear friend whose son has been in Iraq as a Marine for the past six months and it was just the most joyful thing because he's home. He's safe, and as she puts it, with all his fingers and toes, just like when he was born. She sent pictures and I'd love to post one here but haven't asked her permission so I won't but let me just say this- the kid is gorgeous, alive and handsome as a rock star and grinning from ear to ear with his family around him, his gal on his arm. And I am so happy for her that I can't talk about it without crying because for six months this woman, who loves her son as much as any mother on earth has ever loved a son, has had to live with the knowledge that her baby was in jeopardy every minute of every night and day and I'm not sure how you live with that but she did, and she did it with such grace that I am in awe.
Every month on the full moon, she held a gathering for folks who love her and her son and there was always food and something to drink and at one point everyone would gather up under the moon and hold hands and send good thoughts and energy to her boy, all the way across the world. I don't know how I feel about that sort of thing, that sending energy, but I know it felt good to do it and it felt like if nothing else, it was one way to help my friend feel like she was doing everything she could do to protect him.
And she's going to have a rip-roaring party in May for him with all those people who have held him and her in their thoughts for all these months and I plan on being there. It's going to be a big time, a very large time.
I don't support this damn war. I haven't from the very beginning. And of course you always have to follow that up with the statement, "But I support our troops!"
Well, I do. I say let's support them by bringing them home.
Last weekend, one more did come home. He's safe. He's sound. He's enveloped in the love of his family and his friends on a real and physical level. I celebrate that with all my heart and I am joyful.
But even as I write this, there are so many other people, both American and Iraqi, whose lives are in peril because of our presence in a country that was no threat to us and I can't help but think of all the families who are carrying on their lives with a constant, very real sense of fear and apprehension because their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, are off doing a job that isn't ours to do and because they are in danger doing it. I honor them and the ones who are fighting and I say, BRING THEM HOME.
Bring them all home, dammit.
There's a lot more I could say about this and the idiots who perpetrated the myth of the Iraqi threat but I'm not going to do that now. I'm just going to say that I'm happy as hell that my friend's boy is back. He signed up for the Marines against every wish his mother had, he went to war, he did his job, he's home, and she couldn't be prouder or happier. As are all of us.
And I say Welcome home, Sargent. Welcome HOME.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yes, He's Cute But He Scratches Incessantly

I am overwhelmed to the point of paralysis today. I can't focus on anything more complex than doing the dishes and even figuring out what to do with the coffee grounds is a bit more troublesome than it should be for me.

I am having a bridal shower here in five days. In this house. This house that is dusty and cluttered, and what is it about having guests that makes the spider webs suddenly begin to glow like phosphorescent Silly String under a black light? I don't notice the webs until...a guest walks into the house at which point I see them, glowing like neon in every nook and cranny and corner of the house and besides that, am I supposed to clean the mold off the walls too?

And the wedding- it's in two weeks and five days. I keep having nightmares about my house not being clean and there not being clean sheets on the beds for all the many people who are no doubt going to be staying here. One night recently I dreamed that I had arms-full of sheets to wash and there was an entire Laundromat at my house but ALL THE MACHINES WERE FILLED WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S LAUNDRY.
In my own house.

Last night I dreamed the the guests included Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Angelina asked me to examine her pregnant belly (which is actually something I know how to do) and I did, but it was terrifically stressful for me to have to tell her that she was not actually pregnant. The poor, self-deluding movie star!

God, she was beautiful.

But really- should I be having dreams like this?

I don't think so.

Meanwhile, my four dogs need flea preventative which costs as much per dog per month as it would to send four hundred children in Somalia a month's worth of high-protein gruel. I don't even like my dogs, which makes me think perhaps I should just kill them and send all that money to Somalia.

But we know that's not going to happen although what probably WILL happen is that during the bridal shower, during the let's-make-the-bride-a-dress-out-of-toilet-paper portion of the proceedings, people will start scratching their ankles because I haven't bought the flea treatment and before long, there will be blood running from my mother's ankles because if she so much as touches her skin firmly, it bleeds and the blood will get all over the toilet-paper-wedding dress and that will be a bad, bad omen and Lily will cry and everyone will leave before we can play pin-the-boutonniere-on-the-big-picture-of-the-groom game and I'll have cleaned the house and made cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches for nothing.

Okay. Now let's talk about shoes. I ordered the most beautiful dress off of E-Bay for me, the Mother of The Bride, and it got here and it's so lovely and it fits, mostly, but the way I've been eating lately it won't come close to fitting in two weeks and five days and then what will I do? And shoes- what sort of shoes does one wear with a peachy-pink gossamer gown that looks as if it might have been made by magical nuns who cast spells on spiders to harvest their silk to make this thing?

Or rayon. Rayon spiders. But still, magic had to have been involved. And nuns- the color is that innocent, that shy, that demure and chaste.

What kind of shoes goes with that?

Frankly, I think that going barefoot would be the answer and I'd promise to paint my toenails but I don't think Lily would buy that and besides, what would the groom's family think?

Okay. I need to take a breath. I need to go for a walk. I need to start dealing with dust and clutter and spider webs and mold and sheets.

I need to go buy flea treatment.

And shoes. And cucumbers and cream cheese.

And vodka. I need to buy vodka.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Can Someone Tell Me

How the wisteria can be this full-bloomed and gloriously purple and yet, the temperature is going to be down in the thirties tonight?

We've been trying to run out of gas for about two weeks now. Seriously. We have some major gas tank and gas line issues going on and so we're going to have to dig the whole mess up and replace it and that requires the tank to be completely empty. We use gas for hot water, cooking, the clothes dryer and...heating.

And I've been paranoid for two weeks that it would run out at any moment and I'd have to go without hot water, the stove, and heat. The clothes dryer I can live without. I have a dandy clothesline that is hidden by the wisteria in that picture.

And really, I haven't been worrying about the heat so much's spring and that means it's...warm and so who cares about heat?


Well, at least the man is on his way home so if tragedy does befall us I'll have someone to yell at about it.

Wait! I mean, I'll have someone to snuggle with and keep me warm.

Yeah. That's what I meant.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

We laughed so hard we shook the ground.
What a beautiful day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Cruelty of Crucifixion, The Cruelty of Myth

I have spent quite a bit time lately wondering why I am so suddenly just fed up with religion. I've never been religious. I don't think I have the gene. I tried at one point in my life because I needed help badly but it just didn't work out for me.
And tomorrow is Easter and I have SO many problems with that one. Why we need to worship at the foot of a cross with a corpse hanging from it is just beyond me when we have the holy sweet sap of life rising all around us.
I know that the message of Easter is not supposed to be about Christ's death, but instead about his resurrection but it's not tiny empty tombs that people wear around their necks or have put up in the front of churches- it's the cross- not the symbol of life at all but the symbol of how hideously man can act towards man.
The cross is such an ugly symbol. If Christ had come to earth during modern times and been tortured and executed as per God's will, I suppose that little girls would wear delicate silver electric chairs around their necks or the Pope would wear a huge golden syringe across his robes as Christ would not have been crucified on a cross but killed in a more civilized manner such as via Old Sparky or lethal injection.
And it's not just that all of that. It's not just the fact that we focus on the death of a man but it's all the so-obvious lies and mythology that people take so seriously.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..." or so says the Bible. And I have always wondered why it was that God only had one begotten son when he is GOD and could, theoretically, have had as many begotten sons as there are stars in the sky so why the emphasis on this only part? Is it that difficult a procedure to impregnate a teen-aged virgin? I suppose it must be.
And why would a loving god determine that the best way to bring mankind salvation would be to send this only begotten son to live among people and then to have him tortured and killed? Why did this god make man so obstinate to begin with? Why didn't he just CHANGE everyone? Why, in fact, did God make such a flawed product to begin with? What was he thinking?
But of course the Bible is filled with such mysteries and it all boils down to faith, which is ridiculous to me. I could have faith in any damn thing in the world but it wouldn't make it true. And tomorrow preachers across the world will be telling this old story about Jesus rising from the grave, the stone being rolled away from the tomb and how he lived and then died to save us all from our sins but for the life of me, I can't figure out how that would work.
"NO GREATER LOVE WAS EVER SHOWN" says a flyer that I found on the ground this morning when I walked to the post office. It shows Jesus, his crown of thorns piercing his delicate forehead, blood running from his wound, tears running from his eyes and I think, nah.
People show their love for their children in lots of ways that are greater than sending them to be killed, every day, every second. They sacrifice themselves (and some would say that in sending Jesus to be sacrificed, God WAS sending himself, but I don't buy that) instead of their children.
I think that the absurdity of the resurrection story is beyond my comprehension. I think that perhaps it is comforting to many who fear death because if you believe in Jesus, you believe that truly, there is no death.
But I don't believe that. I believe there most certainly is death and that's as much a part of life as birth and I think that most truly thinking people would agree.
So why do we hold on to this myth? Why do we continue to cherish the idea that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins and that this proves God's love and our eternal life and why does anyone running for office in this country have to at least convince everyone that he or she believes it too in order to get elected?
I don't know. And I don't know why it offends me so much but dammit, it does.
I'm sick of wars being fought over religion and children being told that if they tell a lie it makes Jesus sad and I'm tired of legislation being made based on myths like this and it makes me want to scream when I am told that when a loved one dies he or she is up in heaven and that somehow this makes it all right.
It doesn't make it all right. And it shouldn't.
And it makes no sense that any sort of loving god would try to fix the ills of mankind by letting them kill his own son.
So thank you, no. No crosses for me. No weeping Jesus, no rolling away of the stone.
I'll stick with what I can see to celebrate and there's plenty of that around me and I'll spend my day tomorrow not in church in front of a statue of a corpse but in praise and celebration of what the Pagans celebrated which is the holy egg, the holy blossom, the holy spirit of love that we sometimes know if we are very, very lucky. I will celebrate the birth and the baby, the amazing capacity of the human heart to hold a loved one even after death, the act of love, the act of charity, the act of dance and the fact that the light is longer as the earth turns in its orbit which it will continue to do after I die, after you die, after we all die.
Even if we are never resurrected. Even if we don't believe.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Friday Round-Up

When Diane Rhem does hers on NPR, she has a panel of experts. I have a panel of me. There may be "language" in this post, so be prepared.

Although I have a neurosis about making phone calls to almost everyone these days (it used to just be "official" calls like making appointments but it has progressed to dreading even calling friends) I had no problem yesterday calling a new local church which has sent out at least a dozen fliers announcing their opening on Sunday for an Easter service. They guarantee child and youth services and "genuine relationships" among other things. After I got the one yesterday with a picture of the white-man hippie Jesus arising from the tomb with wings on the back of his robed body, I called them and got their answering machine. I left a message with my name telling them that if I wanted to go to their service, I probably would have been alerted to the time and date by the first two or three fliers and to stop already. I got a call back from the pastor this morning and he said he'd take my name off the mailing list, which I thanked him for. I wanted to say a lot more, but was in a rush getting my husband out of town and so I didn't and the son-of-a-bitch got me by muttering a hasty "God bless you" before he hung up the phone.

I have an entire weekend to myself and am looking forward to it with great glee. It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful time of the year here and I intend to spend most of my daytime time outdoors, weeding. This may not sound like much fun but for me, it hardly gets any better. I put a book on tape into the antique Walkman and wreck my fingernails in the warm dirt. To me, that is heaven and no promise of freaking angels sitting around playing harps or sitting at the right hand of God can compare. God's side must be pretty crowded and I'm going to have my yard all to myself.

My daughter's wedding is in three weeks and WE ARE NOT READY. We went out twice this week to get stuff and I have ordered a dress on E-Bay and dammit, it better fit and it better look great because I am having a terrible time with this shopping thing. When I put on real woman clothes I feel like I'm in drag and I don't want to feel like I'm in drag at my daughter's wedding. She and I have such diverse taste in clothing that if she wasn't born at home and wasn't the spitting image of her father's sisters, I'd think she'd been switched at birth for my real child. But really, we're having a good time although she's getting stressed out as the date approaches. She called me today from work, weeping because more of the groom's family is going to be there than ours and she doesn't know them. My husband asked me what was wrong when I got off the phone with her and I said, "She's a bride. She's supposed to be freaking out and she's doing her motherfucking job."
"Oh," he said.
I do understand her anxiety and I have a bit myself but as I keep assuring her, all will be well, and she will end up married. At least she gets to go on a honeymoon.

I think my kids are going to come out on Sunday to dye Easter eggs. This has nothing to do with the resurrection of our Lord and everything to do with childhood memories and a table full of coffee cups with various shades of dye in them and the joy I take in seeing my kids, adults all, doing a childish thing and having fun doing it. I will make some food and we will eat outside under the blooming Bradford pears and that, my friends, is my idea of a holiday celebration.

I'm sure I'll soon find a few words to say here about Easter and religion and how I have no tolerance for any of it. I am becoming the very worst sort of out-spoken heathen and I feel a need creeping up on me to speak my truth as they say somewhere (where they probably also say things like "thinking outside the box" so you know that's a stupid thing to say) but for right now, I believe I'll just glory in being alive on this, the second day of spring, 2008 and living in a place where it all looks like a picture painted by Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light and I'm not kidding.

Happy Spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh Dear

Oh Jeez.
I hate chain letters. Always have. I delete them out as quickly as they arrive. So now I've been tagged. What's that?
And I'd ignore it but the tag came from the lovely and talented writer at
and I can't ignore her because she put me in her blog and, oh dear. I'm honored.
Here's what I'm going to do. I'll figure out what my life in six words would be. I'll write them down. But I am not passing it on. I'll just say hey- if you're reading this and you want to sum up your existence in six words, please do. Comment here if you want to tell us about it or link it to your blog. Downtown Guy? Juancho? Human Wrecking Ball? Lois? Iris? Ample? Jon? B. Boy? Texino? Sally? Anyone. Everyone. Six words.

So I guess these are the six I'd choose to describe my life. So far. As of this moment on this beautiful spring morning in North Florida at the age of fifty-three where the wisteria is showing purple, the dogwoods and Bradford pears are shaking out the lace and the birds are all on Ecstasy.

Got born. Gave birth. There's more?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's The Money, Honey

Part of what I'm going through during this most recent young-elderly crisis I'm having (you can't be middle aged if you're fifty-three and not planning to live until you're one hundred and six) is something I've fought with for many, many years and that is the fact that everything I do is for love. Or, as we say in the real world- for free.
Nothing I do makes money. Nor has it for many, many years.
I, like everyone else in the world, did work as a youngster. I started off filing in a doctor's office at fifteen, worked at McDonald's at seventeen, waitressed, worked as a proof-reader, worked at a birth center, worked for Weight Watchers. Those last two gigs were just one step up from volunteer work in that the pay was not terrific.
But my real work has been the raising of children and the keeping of the hearth. This would make me a housewife, which is something that can be mind-numbingly boring, incredibly rewarding, and hard, hard work. During that time I also spent countless hours volunteering in classrooms of course. And oh yeah, I went to FSU for four years and got a degree in nursing. I helped some friends have babies, I nursed some friends through injuries or illness, I helped midwife a few friends into death. And I did a lot of other stuff either too boring or too personal to go into here. I also kept the yard, gardened, managed to write a novel, wrote gazillions of poems, and sometimes kept a journal. I also kept a husband, which I consider to be an accomplishment.
But none of this earned me a penny. And in our society, the earning of money is- let's face it- the bottom line of your worth here in the planet.
I remember once at party, a woman asked me what it is that I did. I said, "Well, actually, I'm a stay-at-home mom and a housewife," and she literally turned around and went off to talk to someone else.
I'm not kidding you. You usually get the old, "And that's the hardest job in the world!" reply, but this woman wasn't having any of that.
It's hard to keep a sense of self-worth and accomplishment if what you do earns no money. My husband has been incredibly supportive of me staying home with the kids and house through the years and tells me frequently that he couldn't do what he does unless I did what I do, which is kind of him considering that if I hadn't been around, he wouldn't have these children and this particular house and yard to support.
But anyway, not even considering the fact that every family can use some extra income, there's the matter of me constantly feeling that what I do is of no value because there is no paycheck.
And now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have kept my toe in the water when it comes to employment during all these past years.
I would never, ever say that all those years spent washing and changing diapers and helping out in classrooms and shuttling kids to karate, ballet, softball and other activities was wasted time. It definitely was not. But there are no more lessons for me to take kids to. And frankly (and this just goes to show you what a low-down, no-good human being I am), I don't want to do volunteer work anymore. This comes from all the hours of all the unpaid labor I have done and that's just the way it is.
So although I am quite content to be at home and although my kids still need me in many ways and although my I still take a lot of pride in my home and my yard and taking good care of my husband and yes, writing, I still feel that there is something lacking and that something is earning my way in this world.
I look at women who do that and I am in awe of them. I'm not sure, because I've never had to, that I could.
Whereas it seems to me that given the opportunity, almost any woman could do what I've done.
There. I've said it. I feel like a reasonably intelligent chimp mama could have done as good a job as I've done with my kids, or perhaps a better one. My babies are all incredible human beings and I am inordinately proud of them, but I refuse to take credit for who and what they are.
This is because if any of them ever gets arrested for murder or descends into crack-addiction, I will refuse to be blamed for whatever led to this behavior.
Of course, anything a child does is ultimately due to the mother- she gave birth to them and that is that.
I was thinking the other day that it would be awesome if women could still take in laundry for money because I am good at laundry. But of course, that's not really a viable work-plan.
There's still the truck stop. I haven't given up that dream.
Nor the dream of writing a novel that gets published.
But I'm having a harder and harder time visualizing it ever coming true.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Time and Flying

I think what I really loved the most about being on the island was the sense that I didn't have to make any sort of decisions. From small to large, they were pretty much made for me.

Weather nice? Then a walk must be taken.

Weather crappy? Then we must stay indoors.

It's Tuesday? We better eat that grouper we thawed.

I didn't wake up every morning with my old familiar dread, that feeling of I need to do something important for myself, my family, and probably humanity because I'm almost fifty-four years old and I am certainly not going to live forever.

No, on the island I woke up every morning with one thought in mind- drink coffee on the porch, check out the weather, plan accordingly. It seemed quite clear there, sitting by the bay, that my one purpose in life at the moment was to appreciate that beauty and peace that I had been so generously offered. Nothing else needed.

But now I'm home and those feelings of dread are back. Those feelings of needing to get off my ass and out into the world which is the scariest thing I can imagine. I'm so spoiled with my ability to plan my own schedule, take on what I want, avoid what I don't.

But just as I had been given the bay and the water and the sky and my daughter's joyful presence to appreciate, here I know that I have been given this one life with all its responsibilities to attend to, all this potential to fulfill.

Just as it would have been a complete waste of time and a sort of sacrilege on the island to have stayed in bed all day when the sun shone and the bay was calm, it seems a sort of sacrilege to be wasting this life with fear and indecision.

The funny thing is that I keep feeling that if I could somehow make money by writing, my life and potential would be fulfilled. Perhaps it's just an obsession, but writing is what gives my life its shape and form and I can't imagine a life where I'm not constantly weighing words to put down, to give it all meaning, whether here or in whatever other projects I'm working on.
And I can't figure out if that's my truth, my destiny, or just a child's wild dream that it's about time I gave up on and dedicated myself to doing something else.

Although honestly, no matter what I do, whether it's hanging the clothes on the line or putting in the tomatoes or standing in Publix trying to decide between organic carrots and regular, part of my mind is busy with what I'll be writing next. I don't think I could any more give that up than I could give up air or water.

Ah well. Something to think about as I take my walk. It's a beautiful day and I need to get out in it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Do You Think?

I'm about to go to Publix for the first time in ten days. TEN DAYS!!!!
I'm certain that it will be an event much like the one portrayed above.
Aren't you?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Oh Yeah

We had us some fun, us girls from the hood(ie)

And She Plays Mandolin, Too

Besides taking very nice photos and making her mama laugh a lot.

And The Dolphin Led Us Home

So we're back and I've posted a thousand million words that I wrote on the island but couldn't post from there and I apologize but hell- don't read it. This is my blog and I can put as many words here as I want.
There was sea fog when we came home, thick as wet cement and the husband got us back safely with his navigational skills and the GPS and I was so impressed. My daughter and I were sitting in the front of the boat looking for markers we were supposed to be passing and we kept joking about how great it would be if a dolphin showed up to lead us in.
And then- with a great leaping arc, a dolphin broke the water right in front of the bow where we sat, directly in the very center of our path.
It was that sort of week.

Really? It's Been A Week?

It’s Saturday and we’re packing it up. Got at least five loads of laundry to wash before we leave. Then we’ll remake the beds and fold up the towels and put all the food in the ice chest that we didn’t eat and leave everything tidy and neat for the next person that comes to stay.
We’ll shut the door and lock it and leave the house and the little poltergeist (which has teased me a little, but not much) to itself and also the osprey and the gulls and the heron and the hummingbird and the coons and the armadillos and the beach and the pines and bay, which changes its face every fifteen minutes.
At least.
And we’ll go home.
You know what?
I don’t want to.
I’m thinking I could live here. I could learn to grow tomatoes in the sand and the man could net mullet and we could go into Carabelle every few weeks for flour and sugar and coffee.
At least I have a new fantasy. At least when I get stressed out I can shut my eyes and imagine the bay, changing its face, letting the wind dress it in foamy lace.
And me sitting watching it, giving it an audience which it never asks for, never demands, but tolerates.
I’m already sad, imagining myself imagining.
Those dogwoods better be mighty special. The tung trees better be glorious, because this woman is going to need some seducing to get her back in love with real life.

Saturday, March 15, 2008
Dog Island, FL

Only One Voice

Instead of worrying that my grandfathers’ feuding and conflicting voices would be thundering in my blood this past week, I should have been hoping for what has happened:
That I would hear only one voice and that it would be mine.
Which is what has happened, to a small degree.
Instead of a restless week, it has been a restful one. There is more difference there than a casual look at the words would signify.
Enough rest that all the yammering voices in my head could silence themselves. The ones that say “You should be doing this” and “You should be doing that.”
The voice I’ve heard is the one that says, “You could sit right here and look at the bay. You could write this. You could cook that. You could take a walk. You could sleep now, if you’re tired.”
I don’t know that I want to go home.
I like hearing one voice. One voice that is all my own and tells me what is possible if am quiet and there is peace.

The Howard Sprague Syndrome

In the only TV show that got the south halfway right, The Andy Griffith Show, there was a character whom I’m sure we all remember- Howard Sprague.
Howard was a nerdy sort of guy, lived with his mama even though he had to be in his thirties, and seemed to be employed in some sort of office capacity.
In one episode of the show, Howard decided to make some radical changes in his life by quitting his job, packing a suitcase and moving to a tropical island. I don’t remember the details but what I do remember is that after about a week of island living, Howard Sprague, formerly upstanding citizen of Mayberry, SC, had become an unshaven lout with absolutely no purpose in life beyond drinking as much rum as he could pour down his gullet. I suppose the message of the show was that even though everyone dreams of living in a little coconut shack on a beautiful tropical isle with no responsibilities and no schedule, to lead a truly fulfilling life one needs a job, church, taxes, bills and a demanding and dominating old mother.
One must stay busy, in other words, to avoid the damnation of drunkenness and sloth.
This show made a real impression on me, perhaps because I myself am so afraid of becoming a broken-down drunken bum with no purpose in life. I have to say, though, that I was a bit disappointed in Howard when he gave up the island dream and moved back to Mayberry, shaved, put his suit and tie on and went back to work. Couldn’t he have compromised somehow? Gotten involved with the local environmental group and restricted his drinking until after sunset? Maybe he could even have met a local woman, gotten married and raised a family. Home-schooled his children. Trimmed his beard and pulled his hair back into a neat ponytail.
But no, it was all or nothing for Howard although I don’t think it has to be that way.
My daughter and I have managed to eat decent meals and take our showers and go for our walks and she’s worked on a school project and I’ve done some writing but we’ve taken some naps and done a lot of staying up too late and reading, too.
The husband is coming out today and things will change when he gets here, I’m sure. Meals will be more planned out, there will be more laundry and noise and activity and there will be fishing trips and the card games will be more cut-throat.
And then we’ll pack it all up and go home on Saturday and I can’t say I’ll be sorry to be home but I can say I’ll be looking back on this week on the island with my daughter with great nostalgia. We get along so well and it’s been a joy to have this time with her. We’re sitting on the back porch now, me writing, she eating a tangerine and reading and we just watched a ruby-throated humming bird sip from an aloe blossom, then fly away, his heart beating within him a million miles a second while we’re peaceful and drowsy and enjoying ourselves having nothing really to accomplish, no busy-work to do, no responsibilities to fulfill until the husband gets in and we need to go pick him up at the dock.
Despite this, I have no fear of becoming the Howard Sprague who could find no purpose for living on an island and descended into idle drunkenness. I have been quite content with slowing down and enjoying the changing of the tides, the turning of the planet from day to night, the company of my daughter and the rest and relaxation I have been so blessedly offered. Right now I really don’t have many worries at all but am grateful to have looked up to see that hummingbird, taking his sustenance from a red blossom ten feet from where I sit while the rest of humanity goes about the business of being busy in the real world which lays just across the bay from where I am.

Thursday, March 13, 2008
Dog Island, FL

Iron, Not Sulfur (I think)

We woke up this morning to a sunny sky but the wind was having its way with the air and it felt cold. It was perhaps 60 outside, but with the windchill factor making it feel like minus 12. Or close. You’ll just have to believe me.
I’d had some fairly awful dreams involving trying to get off the island and then back and not being able to get online which I have to admit is growing wearisome but it was disturbing to have this small inconvenience insinuate itself into my dreams with such importance.
There was also the dream-matter to be taken care of that involved Hugh Grant and Tim Robbins in my backyard at home, checking out the site for a movie location which was exciting until all my neighbors came out to gawk at them, thus blowing the deal. Of course they didn’t resemble my real neighbors at all, but were more like extras from Night Of The Living Dead, walking all Zombie-like with big blank eyes, the better to take in the celebrities in my backyard.
Damn them.
So I wasn’t in the best of moods and when the phone rang I was quite happy to talk to whoever it was on the other end and it was one of my other daughters.
“Mommy!” she said and I said, “What is going on in the world? Are we at war or anything?”
“Not that I know of,” she said and that taken care of, we proceeded to discuss the books we’ve been reading which is what we almost always talk about and it was grand.
Then my daughter who is here with me woke up in her usual good spirits, boyfriend problems be damned and we lounged around and ate some breakfast and then we did some yoga in the house and then we went on our walk and I bitched the whole time because the sand was too soft and I just wasn’t into it today but we covered a few miles and I felt much, much better when we got back.
Another thing I did today was try to clean that shower and I have realized that it’s not sulfur making our water black and icky but probably iron instead which makes me feel completely retarded because I grew up with sulfur water and if anyone should know the difference, it should be me.
And I learned that Kaboom, although a fantastic cleaning product, has very little effect on iron stains and so the shower looks almost as bad as it did when I started and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
It’s still pretty breezy this afternoon, but warmish, the windchill probably up to about fifty, at least, and the sun is shining on the white-capped bay and the pine trees are just gloriously green against the blue sky and I love the noise of the waves hitting the beach as they froth themselves into a small fury of foam.
The daughter has found a guitar in the closet and is playing it and I’ve got coffee in my mug and peace in my heart and that damn Hugh Grant and Tim Robbins can just find another place to film their next movie.
I’m using the place I live to film my own movie, thank-you very much, and don’t need a bunch of sound trucks and generators and craft-services people running around like crazy while I’m trying to figure out the differences between illusion and reality, dreaming and being awake, iron and sulfur.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Dog Island, Florida

When The Sun Is Not Shining

The daughter is suffering a little from boy-trouble, and her heart is, if not broken, a tiny bit cracked. This girl has a naturally sunny disposition and she is almost always cheerful and happy, so it’s painful for me to see her unhappy and unsettled and in so gray a mood.
It has been overcast on the island today, too, and that doesn’t seem to be helping. We took a long walk this morning on the bay and Gulf beaches and through some swampy parts of the island and we saw lots of shells and birds and raccoon trails and a man wading in from his boat, hauling something, a battery perhaps. There is always something to see on the beach and yesterday we saw a tiny, dead bonnet shark and also an incredibly prehistoric-looking fish, perhaps a gar, dead and lazily swishing back and forth in the movement of the bay tide, it’s tail looking exactly like that of a platypus, only less fleshed out. We saw him again, today, still there, with less meat on him than he had yesterday, but that tail was still there to wonder at.
But my daughter’s heart wasn’t so much into it today and it’s odd, the sparkle having disappeared from the water and from her smile at the same time.
Being her mother I wish, of course, that I could make it all better and take away any pain she may ever feel, but I know I can’t and she does too. This is the child who told me when she was about twelve that my kissing of her boo-boos when she was young hadn’t really helped them at all, but she had understood why I did it and hadn’t wanted to hurt my feelings by telling me.
She is nothing if not a realist, but in the sweetest way possible.
And I can no more cure a case of low spirits than I can bring the sunshine back from behind this dark curtain of clouds it’s hiding behind but I can be here to listen if she wants to talk and I can tell her that her life is going to be completely full of love and wonder and adventure but she already knows that. Just as she knows that she’ll have to go through some pain to get there at points along the journey.
And just as we both know that the sun will be back out tomorrow and if not then, perhaps the next day and that even under a cloudy sky there are treasures to be found on the beach, mysteries to be wondered at.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Dog Island, Florida

A Plethera of Goods

I kept waking up this morning and looking at the clock, chiding myself that it was time to get up and then reassuring myself that it was “really” an hour earlier than the clock said, or at least within the body clock of my very own body as we just went on Daylight Savings Time two days ago.
I finally got up and felt extremely sorry for everyone in the world who’d had to get up and get to work or to school before their internal clocks had come to terms with the change and guilty that I hadn’t because guilt is my default emotion.
After some coffee on the back porch I decided to go through the desk in the bedroom I use and throw out a few things. This desk had no doubt been the one used by Captain Farnsworth, Ret. Navy, now deceased, the head of the family from whom we’d bought the house nine years ago. When we bought the house we inherited not only the furnishings and appliances, but also a pantry stocked with canned goods, a refrigerator filled with condiments, cabinets full of every kitchen requirement including a garlic press and a waffle maker, closets of stacked and folded sheets and towels, jackets and flannel shirts, a cabinet full of paper goods, baskets of beach toys, a liquor cabinet with liquors both strange and exotic, bathrooms full of everything from Band-aids to fingernail polish remover, a bookshelf full of mysteries, and many small dubious appliances like space heaters and heating pads. The Captain had kept all of the warrantees and instructions for every device he ever purchased and this material is mostly what I threw out today. A toaster, an air conditioner, a humidifier, a hand-held mixer- all of these things had their paperwork in order, even if these things don’t still actually exist. So I threw them all out and also the filters for his pipes and a typewriter ribbon and rotted rubber bands and a lot of other junk that we’ll never need and that I am quite sure, at this point, that Capt. Farnsworth will not either.
We’ve thrown away or used all of the canned goods that were left behind but many of the spices still take up space in the cabinet. I throw them out a few at a time but there always seem to be more, lurking and caking each time I open that cabinet. I think there may be some tea up there, too, that belonged to the Captain. It’s hard, somehow, to throw out perfectly good tea, even if you know it’s over ten years old and apt to taste a little, uh, tasteless.
But this is Dog Island and everything here has been transported by boat and so is rendered more precious and is not easily replaced. I don’t think I’ll ever need Everglades Seasoning, but one never knows.
Of course we’ve added to the stuff here, over the years. I’ve brought over strings of lights to decorate with and wind chimes which annoy the hell out of me if I forget to take down before I go to bed and a boom box and some CD’s and pictures and books on shells and birds and we’ve had to replace some of the appliances and so forth, so now it’s a mixture of the Farnsworths’ things and ours, too and there are an awful lot of things.
But things are merely things and I am glad to have a garlic press when I want one and glad that I didn’t have to buy it and bring it over and when we sell the house, I think we’ll leave a lot of things behind as well. It would be just as much trouble to take the things back across the water as it is to bring them here and how many garlic presses does one need?
And just as I know that no one can truly own a tree (and here, on the island, that lesson is learned quickly as the water rises and kills the trees or the storm comes and pushes them over) it’s good to remember that we are only borrowing this spot for awhile and paying to do so.
The osprey flies by, the pelican dives into the bay with a clumsy thunk, the coons raid the garbage and I wonder if they are descendents of the same critters that shared Capt. Farnsworth’s life here and I think they probably are.
We do not own them and we sort of own the beat-up old couches but I won’t be here forever to use or see any of them forever and sitting by the water on a March afternoon is a good time to reflect on all of this and remember to enjoy what I can while I can and throw away that which I don’t need and will never use.
I am enjoying myself so much and perhaps we shall have waffles tomorrow and I will be grateful to the captain for bringing over something which I never would but am glad to use once in a while since it is here already.

Monday, March 10, 2008
Dog Island, Florida

A Belly Full of Mullet, A Heart Full of Sunset

After we got to the island this afternoon and hauled all the bins and the cooler inside, I put everything away. The food in the refrigerator and pantry, the clothes in the closet and drawers.
When the empty bins had been stacked on the back porch, I started a pot of mustard and collard greens that I’d brought from the garden at home.
While I was doing this, the man and the daughter were at work on the rickety stairs. They took scrap lumber and measured and cut and nailed until the most dangerous steps were replaced with sturdy, tidy boards.
I read some from a New Yorker magazine and then, as they sawed and nailed, I drowsed on the couch. It was an amazingly beautiful afternoon, the sky clear of any clouds, as blue as a cornflower, the water smooth and pewter behind the house.
Finally, the steps project finished, the man prepared to leave. I made him a sandwich and then we all piled into the Jeep and made our way back to the boat dock.
The man wanted desperately to net a few mullet before he left- a trip to the island without catching a fish of any kind? Impossible. Ridiculous. And so he threw the cast net a few times off the dock and got one mullet. One beautiful, silver mullet which he cleaned on a board with a knife he had on the boat. A group of spring-break college students showed up and started cast netting too. They immediately gathered four fine, fat fish and we traded them one of those for several pinfish that that man pulled out of the bay that they could use for bait as they were fishing for something larger and more familiar to them than simple mullet.
We sadly kissed Daddy/Husband good-bye, he cast off and took off for Lanark to go on home.
We brought the mullet home and I covered it in a shallow pan with evaporated milk and set it in the refrigerator. We went down to the bay where the light, as always right before sunset, was of that variety that glows and covers everything from the pine trees to the water to the sand with an almost celestial meaning.
We sat for perhaps forty-five minutes, watching the sky turn from demurest pastel baby blues and pinks to what can only be called psychedelic. It was that sort of gaudy golden, orange-red light, streaking the sky and the dramatic clouds and the water, too, so other-worldly that if you painted it quite faithfully, no one would buy because of the joyful garishness of it, and would be relegated to the walls of a motel with the name of Howard Hohnson or Holiday Grinn or Stay-A-While or something like that. It looked like something from an illustrated book of the Rapture and it was all ours. The osprey took off from his nest for one last fishing trip, his mate calling encouragement as he swooped and whistled his way across his part of the bay. Finally, when the tiniest sliver of a silver moon hung like a smile above us we came back into the house and I fried the mullet, heated the greens, made a pot of cheese grits and a small pan of cornbread.
That mullet- two hours out of the water, soaked in milk and fried in flour and corn meal and salt- was the tenderest, whitest, sweetest meat you will ever want to eat. We ate it with Crystal hot sauce and fresh lime squeezed over and scraped the backbone with our teeth to get every bit of Gulf water goodness.
My only regret at this moment is that the man wasn’t here to enjoy it with us. I have to say that in the great lottery of love, I got lucky. How many men can buy the beach house, fix the steps, catch and clean the fish and then have the great and gracious grace to do all of this and then go home without having a bite so that he can go to work tomorrow morning?
Not too many I’m thinking.
And I’m mighty glad he’s mine.

Sunday, March 9, 2008
Dog Island, Florida

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Life Is What Happens When You're Busy Making Other Plans

Or so said John Lennon and darn it, he was right.
We woke up this morning to rain and a very brisk westerly wind which would have meant a miserable trip across the bay. If you don't HAVE to, why do it?
So we spent our day here in Lloyd, doing yard work which was a very good thing since our power went out for about nine hours and we couldn't have accomplished much indoors. The power went out yesterday, too, which was understandable as there were tornadoes about five miles down the road and I hear that transformers were shooting flames out their butts, but that outage only lasted for about four hours so WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THAT?
Who knows? When I called our power company, the lady was so incredibly nice and apologetic that it was hard to get huffy and demand to know just exactly what was going on and I didn't, even though her politeness seemed like nothing more than a company policy and strategy to divert and diffuse anger. I suppose it worked, although I really did want to tell her to come on over and bring a generator when she asked if she could do anything else for me before we ended our conversation.
Oh wait! I did tell her to bring over a generator and she just laughed and said, "Oh, I wish I could."
The man cooked most of the dinner on the grill and I lit the kerosene lamps and the gas log fire and called up a child or two to complain, bitch and vent, and then ta-dah! Back came the electricity and our lives were all just fine again. Light, TV, heat, wireless internet. All the things we count on so much that we don't even know it.
When this house was built, electricity was just a gleam in Ben Franklin's eye (okay, that's a lie but still- it hadn't yet been tamed and put into small household outlets) and they got along just fine without it.
And we would have gotten along just fine without it tonight too but it's nice that we didn't have to.
And so tomorrow, if the seas lay flat enough we'll be well and truly off to the island where we also have electricity and I suppose I'll live without internet and maybe I'll really get some writing done and my daughter and I will have a very, very nice time.
Well, that's my plan.
Who knows what'll really happen?
I'll let you know how it works out.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Fruit of The Tree of Good and Evil

It’s my youngest daughter’s spring break and she wants to spend it on Dog Island playing her mandolin and taking walks and relaxing.
And being with her mama.
Which of course makes the mama happy although I’m having a little bit of anxiety about staying on the island for that long.
I should be looking forward to it, I know. It’ll be a beautiful time of enforced rest and relaxation but that sort of thing doesn’t come easy to me.
I come from two very diverse stocks. Speaking botanically, I would compare my two bloodlines to a mango being grafted to a Macintosh apple, perhaps.
My two grandfathers could hardly have been more different if one had been raised on Mars and one on Pluto.
My paternal granddaddy was by trade a lawyer, but at heart, was a musician. He lived the high life with lots of money in a big house and loved nothing more than to entertain, drink lots of whiskey and play music on his big old grand piano, singing the hits of the twenties, his eyes twinkling, his drink never far from his hand. By the time I knew him, he was divorced and remarried to his secretary- a scandal in those days.
My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, was raised on a farm, knew the value of a dollar, a good day’s work, and he had a beer once in Germany and didn’t like it and so didn’t ever have another. Even iced water was suspicious in his mind- water straight from the tap was good enough for a real man, although he did occasionally enjoy a small ginger ale at sunset.
I never heard that grandfather sing, although he did do a sort of pursed-lip, tuneless whistle while he labored in his yard, pitchforking the compost, or while up on a ladder, trimming palm fronds, or working in his woodshop, making plain and very solid furniture, built without gee-gaws or fancy trim, but guaranteed to last lifetimes.
The man did not fool around in any sense of the word, arose at the crack of dawn and stayed married to the same woman for about a million years.
I’m sure it seemed that long to her, anyway.
The two warring bloodlines that make up my DNA do not lead to inner peace and a sense of tranquility, let me just tell you and going to Dog Island certainly brings out this dichotomy within me.
When I’m on the island there’s the one granddaddy saying, “Hell, there’s nothing else to do, crack a beer and crank up the boom box,” while the other granddaddy is hissing, “The sun is up, you should be too. Eat a healthy breakfast, go take a walk and pick up trash while you’re at it. Then come back and write the great American novel.”
Well, actually that granddaddy would never tell me to write the Great American Novel. He’d have me tearing out the rotten kitchen floor and replacing it, then moving on to the steps that need repairing.
So I’ll be on the island until a week from this Sunday, trying to placate each inner grandfather and probably not doing a good job for either one. As hard as I try, I can’t let myself relax into the joy of the moment OR motivate to get anything of real purpose accomplished.
Which is a real shame because if I start to have a good time, I’ll feel guilty and if I do actually put my nose to the grindstone and work on my novel and take my walks and maybe try to do something about that fiberglass shower enclosure that’s black from mold and sulfur water, I’ll feel like I’m missing out on the good times to be had by simply enjoying the beauty and peace of the island.
Either way, I’m sure I’ll be happy to come home because the dogwoods will be in full bloom by then and God knows I’ll have a lot of blog reading to catch up on and a few blogs to write because my little external modem device doesn’t seem to work anymore, meaning I can’t get online, which will only add to my frustration.
But I’ll give it all my best shot and try to satisfy both of my old dead grandfathers who, despite their long being in their respective graves, just will not quit telling me what to do in no uncertain terms.
And I’ll try to remember that why I’m really there is to be with my daughter and that every moment with her is precious and irreplaceable and if I can’t get those two old men to shut up and leave me alone, I’ll try to remember that I also have grandmothers in me and I think they would understand, not be so bossy, and love me for being the best mother and woman I know how to be, and that I am certainly trying as hard as I can.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Some Days

It's one of those head-exploding days. Or maybe heart-exploding. Possibly just leg-exploding.
Hard to say when your head's about to explode.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

South of What?

The beloved blogger Juancho's post yesterday on Motor Touring got me to thinking about some things. Mainly, what it means in these days and times to identify as being a Southerner here in the United States of America.

I know what our reputation is in the rest of the country and perhaps in the rest of the world. We're all a bunch of redneck hicks who are malevolent racists who drive trucks with well-stocked gun racks in the back and a Confederate flag on our license plates.

Okay. That last part could actually happen if The Sons of Confederate Veterans can push through the legislation they're proposing to offer a vanity plate with the stars and bars on it although it's not looking like it'll pass.

"It's about heritage, not hate," they say, which is what they always say but that's such a crock of shit that I won't even give it the dignity of a response except to say that so are white sheets with slitty eye holes cut out of them if you look at it in a certain way.

A hateful, crock-of-shit way but yes, there is heritage there too.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah. I'm a Southern woman and wondering what that means. It's hard to define. Virginia Southern is completely different from Georgia Southern which is completely different from North Florida Southern which is light worlds away from being South Florida Southern which is not really Southern at all.

The media certainly loves to stereotype the South, but I doubt I'd fit into those stereotypes and neither would most of my family or friends.

We don't (sadly) wear cut-offs that say Dixielicious on the ass (had to do that, Juancho) and we don't hate people because of their race and we use fairly good grammar and we don't marry our siblings or even our cousins and we don't eat grits at every meal. Mostly only breakfast.
We go to the dentist, we are sometimes insanely left-leaning when it comes to politics and we enjoy culture as much as the next person. Of course that culture may include smoked mullet, raw oysters, Bud-Lite and bluegrass.

Or it may include sushi, a crisp Cabernet and the symphony.

The point is, we can't be pigeon-holed any more than any other group of people.
The village I live in, my community, is a very mixed place, racially, economically, politically, and just about every other way I can imagine. We have college professors, musicians, preachers, (there must be two dozen churches within a ten-mile radius of my house), store-keepers, business owners, construction workers, artists, state workers, mechanics, school teachers, food service workers, farmers, possible drug dealers, AME'ers, Catholics, Pentecostals, atheists, hippies, professional business people, and of course me- the one remaining housewife in the world, at least for this moment. We are the descendants of slaves and plantation owners. We are the sons and daughters of Yankee carpet baggers and poor white sharecroppers. We are Mexicans, here to work and learning the language. We have nothing in common if viewed from certain angles, but when we meet at the post office we smile and hold the door open and say, "How you doin' today?" When I moved here four years ago and began to walk for exercise and to explore, it was a common occurrence for people in cars or trucks to stop and inquire in a concerned manner if I needed a ride.

I believe I am probably known as that crazy white white who walks around these parts and I sort of like that.

And maybe that's what I like about the south in general. We may not actively celebrate diversity but we certainly do find it interesting and generally tolerate it. In my experience, the unusual and the eccentric and the border-line crazy person are not looked upon with disdain in the south, but with curiosity. We may talk about these people (or be talked about if we are one of them) but that's fine. Talk is what we do. Talk is what we enjoy. And when we talk about someone who has, um, shall we say- differences? we very frequently add a "bless her heart" to the end of the conversation as a sort of smoothing over of the karmetic waters which we may have roiled or perhaps just as a sop to the idea implanted into us by our foremothers that we should always "be sweet," which is another thing about the South that I love. We try to be sweet, most of us, most of the time.

Being born a Southerner is no more of an accomplishment than being born a citizen of the United States but I take comfort in the fact that I was. My grandparents on my mother's side of the family were all Yankees although they moved to the South before they began raising their family but I still feel the uncomfortable tug of those Yankee roots sometimes. When visiting the family farm up in Pennsylvania I feel like the veritable fish out of water. I look around the rural area and all I see is extremely neat and tidy white houses with extremely neat and tidy white people and I am so grateful that Granddaddy moved to Chattanooga in time for me never to have to live up there. It's just not where I feel comfortable.

Where I feel comfortable is right here in my old house in North Florida with its three porches to sit on and talk with friends who have come over for beer and supper.

I feel comfortable living in a community with people of all colors who live in houses of all colors. I love the fact that on some Saturdays churches have fish fries in the little park by the post office and I can buy a fish sandwich which is a piece of fried mullet between two slices of white bread and there is always hot sauce to put on it. I feel a great sense of comfort studying the gravestones in the little cemetery I discovered in the woods nearby where the oldest person buried there was born in 1821. I love the fact that there's a house down the road where there are three flags flown daily and proudly and they are: the American flag, the State Flag of Florida and a gloriously colored rainbow flag. It is right next to the junk-dealer's house where there are goats and chickens and an alpaca in the yard and I often wonder how that works out, but it seems to.

I choose not to literally fly a flag but I suppose I do, in a way, when I put on my walking shoes and hit the road. We all fly our flags in one way or another.
Mine says that I'm the crazy white lady who walks and yours may say you're the gay person who lives next to the junk dealer's house with the alpaca in the yard.

Amen. Let's all get along and show a little Southern pride by not throwing our trash on the road.

And oh yes- bless our hearts.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Back Home

It was a perfectly splendid trip to the island. We got one of the best sunsets I've ever seen on Friday night and of course we had no camera. But the picture above is one that my daughter took a few years ago and it will do.

As usual, there were a few problems: one of the toilets in the house wasn't working, several of the cold water lines were clogged, the oven is broken, and the steps up to the house are...well, let's just put it this way- if you're a big person, don't carry anything heavy up them.

But besides all of that (and that is typical, believe me), everything was just lovely. The heater did work, as did the electricity and the other toilet and the refrigerator was fine. Once when we got there, the refrigerator had broken down and it was the nastiest mess you can imagine. But there were no refrigerator-related tragedies this weekend.

The man caught some nice grouper on Saturday and we took a two hour walk that afternoon. It's so hard to judge distance on the beach. "Let's walk up to those houses," you say, and then an hour later you realize that those houses had to be three miles away, but it was perfect walking weather and we saw lots of beautiful birds and the sand was firm and all was well.

Cards were played, delicious dinners were eaten and cooked. We stopped in Panacea on the way over and bought shrimp, oysters, and a few stone crab claws. Need I say more about that? We'll be eating oysters for a week, so if you're reading this and within driving distance, perhaps you should come and help us get rid of some of them. I'm about to go out in the garden and pick spinach to make some sort of Rockefeller dish.

And thus, it was a very good weekend and we laughed a lot and I didn't bitch too much, although this is my blog so you'll have to take my word on that subject. I didn't talk to one other person besides my husband the entire weekend, and that was just fine by me. My little external modem thingee would not work with the phone line and so that was a bit of a problem. I jonesed. I'll admit it. But I kept thinking about things I'd like to talk about here and I realized something- this blog has become one of the delights of my life. And that writing is more of a joy to me than I can even begin to say.

So now we're home where the azaleas are blooming and there are cardinals at the feeder. I saw a dogwood flowering on my way home and I just feel like the luckiest woman in the world at this moment with my beautiful old house and my wireless internet.

I guess I better go unpack and start some laundry. And pick spinach and see if we have any artichoke hearts in the cabinet. I'm glad to be home, although it was mighty hard to leave the island this afternoon. It was an insanely beautiful day on the island and I'm already a bit nostalgic, thinking about what the sun is doing there now, dropping down towards the water over the west end of the island and wondering whether the osprey is out looking for his dinner.

Hopefully, we'll be going back soon. And in the meanwhile, this different part of North Florida paradise is fine with me.

I hope all is well with you. I truly do.