Monday, October 19, 2009

The Whip-poor-will

Will I?
Will you?
Will power.
Will it all away.
Will it wither without will?
Will we weather this too?
Will we whittle it down to nothing?

Will we wade on
wondering what we we do?

Will we wait until the
wailing's through?

Will we wax before we wane?

Will we give it what it takes?

Would we want to?

Would I?

Would you?



Wednesday, October 14, 2009


For W.O. and everyone who came before and after him.

You used to ride a Harley. You rode a Harley when we met. You wanted a Harley when we met. You worked on Harleys. You wanted a Ducati. You bought a CBR because you liked to ride fast. You think motorcycles are stupid but your tattoos and everything else about you tells a different story.

I wear a size medium motorcycle helmet. The salesman was surprised. "But you're so little," he protested, because it didn't make any sense to him. "I have a big head because I have a big brain," I explained. I'm not sure he understood.

We rode fast and then we rode slow. Mostly we rode hard and then we crashed. When you think about it, we didn't really have a choice. It was get on or get off, so we got it on. And then we got off.

Looking back on all of you, I laugh at myself. I am nothing if not predictable. I miss each of you. I miss all of those opportunities to score some leather pants. Each and every single one.

When you contacted me the other night, it had been over a decade since we had last taken a ride. I am glad to be reminded of the person I've always been. I am glad my last name rhymes with a brand of hard liquor. I am glad you found me because it made me remember and find myself again.

I ride slower now. I think harder. I am less dangerous and less raw. Upcoming turns are not so scary so I don't need to take them so fast. I've accumulated the requisite amount of gravel beneath my skin. I call them scrapes now. Just like you did.

I hope you are all riding fast and hard and then I hope you get to ride slow too. I hope you all hang up your helmet at the end of the day and thank the entities who need to be thanked for the opportunity to ride another day.

And then I hope you wake up and do it all over again because our roads are long. Because each day presents an opportunity for our memories to imprint some hard tracks in soft asphalt. And because it always feels so fast and so good.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Sitting at the impressive dining room table, enjoying my breakfast, I could not put my finger on what it was that felt so good. There was the cross breeze that played catch with itself from one screen slider to another and the harmonious banter of sisters who have known each other too long. But also, in the background of a crisp bite of apple was the sound of sea hitting shore.

Up close, it's a violent sound. Nature's drumbeat hits hard upon soft sand, relentlessly letting us know we are too small for this world. Build what you will, it will not stand in the wake of these ancient tides.

But from my vantage point, a half mile away, eating my apple, I am comforted by the sounds of currents bigger than me.

A few years ago I was at my lowest so I turned to a good friend and told him, "I am not ok." And he said, "Let's grab a six pack and go for a ride."

I let him drive and we wound up atop a tightly winding section of road that ran along the Delaware River, featured in many a BMW commercial. We got out of the car and set down our beer on a precarious piece of a precipice before dangling our feet over the barrier that separated us from the steep stony cliffs of a crazy river bluff to watch the sun start its beatific descent.

"You know," I said, "Not many people would bring someone as suicidal as I am to the top of a mountain with booze. Just saying."

He shrugged like he wasn't worried at all and started to explain how many years of river it took to create a gorge so deep. I listened and tried to imagine how long it would take for a single drop of water to cut through a mountain.

Nothing in my life seemed so hard. Grave can't compete with gravity.

And so I continue to be humbled by the big things that make me feel so small. I finished my apple, put my plate in the dishwasher and stepped out on the deck and cocked my ear to the ocean.

I asked it big questions and got no answers. But still, tonight, I hear that steady crashing, telling me I am small, asking me to be bigger.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Indian Summer

We wheeled my dad to the beach today. Because we are taking our summer vacation in October we were able to score one of those big homes, adjacent to the shore. So it wasn't a far trip- a smooth ride in the wheel chair across a paved parking lot. Then a fairly straight but bumpy boardwalk until we had to tackle the first set of stairs. Mom helped Dad to stand up, grasped his hand and slowly led him up a steady ascent. The sun is strong here but because it is October it is not too hot. My diffusely pregnant sister took the beach chairs and I clumsily heaved a heavy metal wheel chair up twenty seven stairs. We all paused and took a rest at the top of the dunes. Splayed out before us was the majestic view of the Atlantic ocean, a delicious sea breeze, and a second set of twenty seven stairs that led down to some empty white sand.

If I were to tell you about a Native American man right now, you would think I was taking creative license with this story, you would roll your eyes and not believe me. So I'll simply say that we met a Native American man at our resting place and he was resting too. He explained that he had health problems and that he tried every day to get to the beach, but most days he had to rest here, at the top of the dunes. He said that he tried every day, and some days he made it all the way and others he just stopped and enjoyed the view.

I'm sure my mom and dad smiled and said something polite. My sister was already way ahead of us and I just kept going with my father's metal wheelchair. Eventually we all made it down and settled into our first beautiful day on the beach.

Because it was October, we were able to sit and enjoy the sun for much longer than we could in July. And, yes, the Native American man made it down the second set of twenty seven steps, walked past us and we nodded our collective hello.

"I'm so happy he made it," said my mom.

And we all murmured agreement.

I'm so happy we made it. I'm so happy we made it to this beach. That we can carry heavy things, shoulder our familial burdens and make friends with Native American men. I'm so grateful for this October sun, powerful enough to color my skin, kind enough to give my family a gentle reprieve to sit and watch the tide come in. Thankful for all those who offer us help along the way and inspired by the humor we bring to it all. Some days we make it all the way. And we always enjoy the view.

Friday, October 2, 2009


These days I come home and do a crossword puzzle every night. It's important that I finish today's puzzle because tomorrow's answers are always just around the corner. It gives me great satisfaction each morning to pick up the paper and peruse my last night's predicaments. Mostly I get it right, proud of my ability to tease out the rara avis that can be tonight's only right answer. But I'm more astounded by the rows and columns I've made fit in the wrong way. It's amazing that I've picked out the exact number of letters to form words that fit with other words, creating a whole block of right answers to the wrong questions. Isn't that always the way?

Most nights I watch Jeopardy. I don't form my answers in the form of a question and I don't use a buzzer. This makes me faster than the other players, smug when I get it right, dismissive of the very question when I get it wrong. Who would know that? Not me. Not anyone.

I turn off Wheel of Fortune now. They just put the answer out there, uncovering it one letter at a time. There is no challenge in slowly revealing one trite phrase after another. It's a waste of time and makes me die a slower death. It is an insult to the very concept of the wheel of fortune.

Then I usually cook a little dinner. Depending on how committed I am to bettering myself, I will either pair something high in protein with a leafy green vegetable or a bottle of wine with a take out menu.

In the mood for betting, I'll check out the neighborhood poker game. I haven't taken the whole pot just yet, but I play even-handed, waiting for my moment, winning over the sweet local boys with my smile and my new earrings and lip gloss. I rarely bluff. It's just not in the cards right now.

Occasionally I'll make something clean, or whet someone's palette. Once in a while I'll take out the garbage. To make room for more, of course.

All this is to say that things are still for me right now. But that's to be expected. One must hold the thing still to bore a hole in it. I am ready to be boring my way through tonight's puzzle to tomorrow's answer, today's seed to tomorrow's root, from today's tonight to tomorrow's morning.

I salute all of us being still and boring our holes.