I put up four little trees, not real ones, but ones
with tiny flickering white lights. I placed two,
each one in a planter, and two side by side
in the same. I pulled down branches, fluffed them.
Sitting for a year in the basement crawlspace
waiting for purpose once more withered
their look. It was cold. An arctic chill swooped
down quickly this day. The morning was greeted
by a blazing sunrise of butter yellow melting into
neon orange, then ruby reaching it’s fingers into
royal purple. That’s the way to start a new
year, this first day of Advent, in a blaze of Light.
But icy cold haze rolled over us. Fog rarely seen
hid the park leaving only a picnic house with its
white painted beams glowing in ghostly
cover. My fingers stiffened bending the wire
branches feigning to be pine. My slippers
absentmindedly chosen not for weather
but for convenience did not keep frozen air
from numbing the tips of my toes. How do
those who don’t know this is the first day of
Advent, those on park benches and under
bridges, live in tandem with this cold? I finish
stepping back into the warm breath of my
kitchen to gaze out at my handiwork for
another season. Lights twinkle and words
from today’s homily pass my way once more.
Stay awake, be aware. My stiffened fingers
begin to curl smoothly again as I embrace a
lusty mug of coffee. I wait, aware of chill that
stiffens and the gift of light and warmth I have
been afforded this Advent, the first day of the year.
Sometimes I wonder
if I see the world
or in reflection
Is your smile a
transcription of mine
or mine of yours
Is what I see that which
clearly hangs in front of me
or rests looking up
in the sheen of introspection
If I could look through your eyes
I’d flip the spin
and fathom why
you don’t just walk by
As flakes twirl and skip
from clouds so high,
As my breath warm with
the thought of you
rises to tango,
I smile knowing you
smile too, maybe at the
thought of hazel eyes
or the brush of my hair
catching red in just the
In quiet, just a moment pause
taken between thoughts
I know you, no words needed.
The elfin crystal owl sat high
not within reach
placed with care away
from little hands
perfectly spotted to cast about
morning sun lambency
as if delicate ice somehow
formed itself overnight
into a winged creature
When the setting sun
made its perigee around the
house and through the
port window above the door
its ray shot through
the lucent bird-body bleeding
a rainbow onto the whitewashed wall
I watched every day
I yearned to capture not the glitter
or the arched colors created in tandem
I wanted to hold the wide-eyed creation
in my child hands
keep it forever
make it mine
prove my affection
I love not to own
not to hold so tight the sun
cannot catch your brilliant cuts
I must learn to let go
loosen my captive hold
only then can we dance
in His radiance
in vivid hues
in perigee or apogee
in our fleeting orbit
When I close my eyes to the end of day,
breathe deeply, stretch to reach
beyond myself, release all that
has cinched my being, I shift
to find you.
The night quiet is filled with
my breathing, a passing car,
distant barks appealing notice
in the chill. In this stillness,
your outline fills in.
I search through the day, arrive
at an entrance to the night quiet,
a place I rest to appease the fluttering
of nonsense, to pacify the pound
of the tattoo.
Now is where I rest, set aside what is
profane to your being, you who
dwells inside. I find you
where dark frightens but is
necessary for release, surrender.
If only a whisper I can hear, if only
a flicker to kindle, I will find you,
fan the flame, amplify your sigh,
for you will not leave me unattended,
I am never alone.
Gina wasn’t an artist. Well, not the kind that would be in art galleries or museums. She created, but in her own way. She was a writer, mostly. She loved to create stories and poems. Sometimes she made jewelry, stringing beautiful patterns of handmade beads into bracelets to encircle her delicate wrists. And she took photographs, on her iPhone. She gave up her big camera with the interchangeable lenses for a big digital camera after she could no longer buy film. But even that seemed too much. The iPhone was always in her pocket or purse. At a moment’s notice she could capture an image. She liked that. Capturing images.
This was one image no one should ever capture. Her laughter rang through the empty rooms of the art museum. She couldn’t help herself. Who in their right mind would think a bottle of hot sauce sitting on top of a toilet paper dispenser could be art? Not only art, but art in the biggest and one of the most honored art museums west of the Mississippi just east of Utah.
But there it was sitting proudly in front of a blue wall that must have been taken directly from a restroom somewhere. Art. Her laughter swelled.
He didn’t say anything but silently stood beside her glancing at her and then to the hot sauce and then back to Gina. She snorted. That’s when she noticed him.
She could see he was smiling. He was taller than she was. Well, almost all men were taller than she was. His blue eyes sparkled and his grey hair caught the canned light from above making it seem like silver curls capping his head.
Gina looked a bit younger than she really was but that was because she dyed her hair and inherited her mom’s genes for good skin. Also, she never sat in the sun. When she was young she was always pasty white, but she hated the hot sun. It gave her a headache. Now, at fifty-eight, she was glad not to have as many wrinkles as most her age. She didn’t know if that’s what made her feel young, or the fact she never had children, or the fact that she just liked to be happy and silly sometimes. But she knew, even if he didn’t, they were probably about the same age.
“Oh, I am sorry. Am I too loud?” Gina looked into his eyes. They were smiling at her.
“No. I just wanted to see what was making you so happy.” He turned away to look back at the hot sauce. Gina turned the other way and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her sweater. Every time she laughed hard, her nose ran.
Gina looked at the tall man. He had a kind face. He held his arms clasped behind him. He wore a blue sweater with grey stripes over a light blue shirt. His jeans were neat and sharp and his brown shoes polished. He was casual, but dressed with care. She liked that.
He turned to catch her eye and she quickly looked towards the hot sauce once more. It was the wrong thing to do. She couldn’t help herself. It was such a ridiculous image, she broke out in huge guffaws. Grabbing her waist she turned to find the bench behind her and sat down.
He followed, this time joining her in her sentiment. Laughter ensued between the two of them to a crescendo that almost shook the blue wall behind the hot sauce. Gina reached into her pocket and pulled out a packet of tissues offering the stranger first pick. Then both wiped their eyes and then blew their noses.
After that, both took a simultaneous big breath filling their lungs, a slight pause, and then equally large exhales. Surprised, they turned back to one another and at the same time started to introduce themselves.
“I’m…” They both paused.
Starting again, “I’m…” and another pause followed by another smile, big breath, and exhale. They just looked at one another for what seemed like blissful eternity.
It was a moment Gina would remember years later as she packed up the bottle of hot sauce in bubble wrap followed by the toilet paper dispenser which she had taken apart and carefully placed piece by piece in the shipping container. It was the last remnant of that wondrous afternoon in the art museum and the last memory of the artist himself, the man with the blue eyes and heartfelt laughter following the cold but lovely rainy day ceremony at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Thank you to my friend, Sheila Lepkin, for the inspiration for this piece. The photo belongs to her. It just charmed me and I had to use it as my writing prompt tonight.
It came today. I knew it would,
the tracking notice told me to expect
its Saturday arrival.
But the day took over. Food prepared
to feed the stomach as well as the soul,
if done properly.
Notes written by hand and on keys fleetingly
tapped, heartfelt and true. Calls made,
clothes laundered, little time for promises.
When it arrived cold had settled with grey
day clouds shaking flakes into air so frigid
only a powder covered the walks.
I knew it would be there when time
allowed. It would wait for me tucked
safely away where no thief could reach.
But I must follow the path, do what is
needed, finish the job. In trust I worked
to complete the day.
Wrapping my neck against the wind,
gloving my hands, my coat and hat
encircled me against the chill.
A walk to the mailbox in tranquility
of winter snow. Hurried steps anticipating
the arrival slowed, then halted.
The muffled calm, snow’s offering. A quiet
accented by glistening white. Icy breath
filling blood-warmed lungs.
One can never fully conceive in expectation.
It takes trust, patience. Stillness. You never
know what gift truly awaits your arrival.
My pastor, Fr. Scott Jenkins at A Church of the Holy Family, and I are writing prayers for a Celtic Mass. It is a once a month mass and will be themed around Advent and Mary and Elizabeth. Expectation, conceiving, trust, and birth are words we having been exploring.
Today, a new book arrived. I didn’t have time to get to the mailbox until the evening following a very busy day. I am always amazed at how the Spirit weaves through my life.