The House: Nellie

She knew the House was not sentient , not exactly, but it wasn’t just a building made of wood, mortar and nails either. Nellie was never quite sure how to explain the relationship she had with The House, but she knew it was a relationship, nonetheless. Over the decades she had become as much its keeper as it had become hers.  They had become partners of a kind.

il_570xN.783935227_11qyShe sat beside the fire in the private library off of her bedroom suite and contemplated the leather-covered dossier and the slim wooden box, made of wood so dark it was almost black, inlaid with scrollwork that mimicked waves and ocean currents. Miniscule gems of green and aqua highlighted the curves in the wood, making the box seem alive and touchable in a way inanimate objects should not be, at least not here in this mundane world.  Nellie ran her fingers across the design, not ready to open the box and see what was inside. She knew the what of its contents, just not what form it would take today.

The box was here beside her favorite chair on the little table with the pretty stained glass lamp she loved, where she sat every night to drink her glass of wine, write in her journal of the day’s events, read or on the rare occasion, entertain a guest.  On even more rare occasions she 87441c56e055a7deee896d14b6a8221dfound a box, an envelope or a gift for her. She always knew if it was for her or as was more often the case, meant to be given to the right person.  She felt her fingers on the amber drop she wore on a chair around her neck, which was always warmer than her skin temperature could account for. It pulsed slightly when her attention was brought to it, like a hello or a soft caress of greeting. The necklace had been the first gift she had received from The House so long ago and she never removed it. It was as much a part of her as her skin or sense of touch. The necklace had many purposes in her life, but at its core it was her companion and a physical reminder of her duties, which she loved, which was perhaps why she ended up here in the first place, wasn’t it?

It was time again. She had felt the house growing, shifting and making new rooms. It hadn’t bothered her, she had grown used to it and knew that it was getting both itself and her ready for a new adventure. She had felt the energy changing in the air and was herself, strung taught ready for the next step, and here it was. A new box, which meant a new project and if she was any judge (and she was) a new girl. She realized just then, that she might be bit lonely. Beneath her fingers she felt the warm pulse again and knew The House had known and that they were both ready for some company and a little purpose beyond the quiet life she had lived for some time now. How long had it been since the last time they had taken in guests? Fifteen? Maybe twenty years? Oh well, she’s check her journals if she really needed a date, suffice to say it had been some time and she was as ready…for what? Well, for change of course, that’s what they were in the business of, wasn’t it?

With that thought she pulled the dossier out from under the beautiful box and began to read about the first of what she knew, would be a collection of souls in need of a little push in this world.

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Part One, Step Two: Making a List and Checking it Twice

One year ago I signed a new lease. Yeah this was a literal lease for a new apartment but also the more obnoxious and harder to articulate, new lease on …my life.

How trite does that sound? Quite enough I think, lets move on.

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My keys are defiant.

I was looking for a new place in winter, with no time, few options and a decent list of requirements. Like anyone else looking for a new place to live, I had a list of needs I couldn’t compromise on; distance from my daughter’s school, rent,  number of bedrooms (2), decent neighborhood, something that didn’t make her feel like she was seeing the utter wreckage of her mother’s life in the form of an unacceptable living space. Normal stuff.

It occurred to me while I was checking online, making calls and visiting the few acceptable options in the area, that I put more conviction and sense into finding an apartment than choosing a partner. Sad but very, very true.

Why didn’t I have the same list regarding my own requirements and needs? Options that had to be met before I was willing to do a walk-through or waste the gas? I wasn’t going to look at an apartment I couldn’t afford or fit into, that required too much travel or was in the ghetto. Why was I willing to accept the equivalent of unacceptable lodging, in a human being?

Why don’t we have the same kind of list for relationships? Each of us should have a list of nonnegotiable needs that stop us from getting in the car, driving over and “accidentally” forgetting our underwear…I mean, never mind about that, you know what I mean. You and I know better, we need to stop looking where the rent is too high,  where there isn’t enough room for us and the locale doesn’t reflect where we are or where we want to go.

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I decided to make a list because 1) I love lists and 2) I realized I had never articulated my concrete needs to anyone, myself included.

I was surprised at both how hard and how easy this task was. On one hand I knew what I needed. I am old enough to understand what I can and can not accept. On the other hand, paring it down to absolutes seems like cutting my nose, to spite my face. I mean..I/they might change, love is all we need, RIGHT?

This is the short version of my list. I recommend the exercise, if only to see yourself a little bit clearer.

Work It

Yes have a job, absolutely, but this is about more than that. This is about having a work ethic and needing to take part in the world. Give a shit about what you do, have a purpose; please be a contributing adult that is self-reliant and independent.

Be Honorable

I want to believe in you, be honorable. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Whether this is taking out the trash, keeping a date or doing that really important yet difficult task you said you’d take care of, it’s all about trust and belief. Don’t make me have to ask if it got done, I want to believe your word no matter how small the task you have committed to. I’m not your mother and I have no desire to fill that role. If you cannot follow through, take ownership of your actions and deal with the consequences, this isn’t going to work. We’re all going to fail but it’s not the failures that define you, it’s how you deal with those failures.

Get a Hobby

keep-calm-and-get-a-hobby-4Have something you love, that you have a passion for. This keeps you interesting, and growing. This also means you love something other than me and my attention.  I have things to do, and you should too. The time we spend together should be important, not all-consuming. This eventually gets boring. Leave the house, go do something, bring it back and tell me about it.  I want to learn from people who are passionate about things, so please be one of the people I learn from and I will try my best to do the same.

Have a Village

If you are 20, you should have non-family members that have been around for at least 5 years, by your 30’s a decade, so on and so forth. It’s a giant red flag when someone doesn’t have long-term friendships in their lives, it means they can’t maintain them. Friends are the people who hold your story inside of them, they are your living history. They remember you at your worst, best and most silly and they still want to stick around and learn the rest. I should not come before them, if I do I will have less respect for you. I don’t understand discarding people, I see it as dishonorable. Who abandons the people who support them for a new thing, just because the sex if fucking amazing? I mean I get it, but we’re getting sidetracked here. The friends you have are the people who were there before and they will be there after, they are your support team and you need them. They deserve your loyalty. I cannot fulfill every role nor should I be expected to.  I don’t want to be your reason for living, or to be needed at all. I want to be appreciated and wanted, loved even, but not your everything. I want someone stronger than that.

Bring the Sexy Back

Sex is about intimacy, touch, caring, joy and exploration. I need all of these things. I have seen so many relationships die in this arena. We all need intimacy, but being clear about the form and function of my needs is often where I compromise and therefore make my biggest mistakes. I don’t believe in monogamy. I need someone who understands what the term “consensual non-monogamy” means. I need someone who is kink aware and can teach me a thing or two. Be open-minded, curious, self-assured and allergic to jealousy.  Sex is  (very) important but, the best quality version of it, is found along clear communication and trust.

12240888_10154469558055752_8896729158956311971_oThis is my list and I think you should make your own. Your needs are, and should be different. Keep in mind that there are “extras” we would all like. In an apartment it may be hardwood floors, an extra bathroom or a larger backyard. In a person it may be physical traits, or a love of cooking. These things would be great, but aren’t necessary.

What are the things you need? The things you think you can compromise on, but can’t?

When are you going to stop yelling at the 1 bedroom for not being the 2 bedroom you knew you needed in the first place? I mean, really that’s rather silly isn’t it? Yet that’s what we do and maybe this exercise can be the first step towards being responsible for our own bad choices and starting from a better home base.

Location, location, location. Now take out your pens, find a mirror and get to work.

 

 

 

 

R is for Relief

R

re·lief
riˈlēf/
noun
1. a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.
2. assistance, esp. in the form of food, clothing, or money, given to those in special need or difficulty.

I went on a trip to Maine that wasn’t to Portland, which was a first. I went to a meditation seminar, given by a woman who builds and organizes such things for a living, and she needed guinea pigs for a new project she was working on, Robyn, Rosencrantz and I went.

polar bearI have no idea how to write about deep meditation without sounding like I was taking hallucinogens. I can say a few things, it was two days and 8 hours a clip, I felt like the days could be counted in seconds;  my totem animal or spirit animal is a polar bear which is pretty fucking cool; when I imagine a forest setting it is always dark with dappled light, which probably has some significance I’m not capable of parsing out right now. We were asked to bring something we wanted to get rid of or get past, psychologically and spiritually speaking, not the bag of donation I have in the trunk. I brought my perceptions of my place in The Boys life, which has been a problem, my problem, for all of his life.

This is what I dig about both the practice of meditation and yoga, they help change my perspective of my world. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, but at least for me, I see the world differently. If you have ever been through an eyeglass exam, you understand the process of having your face squished up on the little chin rest and the doctor changing out lenses saying, “which one is clearer? 1? or 2? 1? or 2? “ , then you can understand what I’m trying (badly) to explain.

We were asked to picture the things that we perceived as problems, the concepts we wanted to let go of. For me that meant leeches, I don’t leechesknow why, that’s just what my head came up with. Fat, full leeches, all over me.

I am not sure how much is being ready, how much is process and how much is intent, but I am guessing all can be the answer. I needed to let go of this concept of motherhood I was holding on to so dearly. I was comparing myself to a family I wasn’t in a competition with. I was failing at something I took myself out of the running for. None of it made sense. I’m sure that just recognizing that these were issues helped. The end result was such a sense of relief.  I just wasn’t the person I kept trying to convince myself I needed to be.

 

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Wild Thing

 I little story of a not so wild thing…

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She was a wild thing, at least that is what the old man said whenever he caught her before she could eat the treats he left for her on the blue plate that looked like a piece of sky amidst the scrubby grass below the lemon trees.  Wild thing. She liked the way it sounded in his grumbly voice with the lilt of the deep south like syrup. She smiled, face pointed down to her chest, he thought he caught her but often she stayed even when she saw the fat cats creeping along the edges of the orchard, scouting for their master. When he finally made his slow way to her they would settle around her, so fat they resembled small soft rugs, like those hunted trophies some men had in their homes. The citrus scent of lemon, orange and lime would surround her as he stood a few feet away watching her. He would sit upon the old rattan rocker that was falling apart under one of the trees. He left it here for these moments, when she didn’t run before he could make it all the way to this last stand of trees where the grass and trees grew more and more wild as time flowed by. She finished the sun warmed cornbread and pleasantly sweet tangy barbeque chicken he had left under the glass cover to keep the ants at bay. She knew he had a sweet with him, he always did, as a reward for these not so chance encounters. She had spent precious hungry moments scrubbing herself in the cool spring that lay hidden back here feeding the orchard. It only smelled faintly of sulfur, but she had used orange peels and sand to scrub under her arms and in her hair. He had made comments, quiet undirected comments about the funk she sometimes carried like a protective cloak. She didn’t like it either, but it kept people away. Yet now when she came to the shelter of trees, cats and citrus she stopped at the spring. It reminded her of the before time, when she wasn’t alone, but only faintly like the scent of sulfur.

“I appreciate you waiting for me out here girl” He grumbled from deep within his wide barrel chest that hinted at the much larger man he once was.

He bent over with obvious effort and placed the small plastic wrapped square on the cleaned off plate in front of my downturned head. I watched it for a moment, resisting the urge to snatch it like the stolen scraps I often nabbed from forgotten plates on the patios of fancy restaurants along the waters edge.  Here in front of the old man I tried to pretend I wasn’t hungry. We both knew different, which is why he left me the sky plates with their bounty heaped like offerings to forgotten wood spirits. Sometimes he would bring old books filled with tales older than him, of fair folk tricking the unknowing, witches making unwinnable bargains and of clever children finding paths through the thorny brambles of the riddles meant to trap them. Sometimes, like today in the slightly cooler shadows of the twilight, he would lean back in the rocker and tell me of the places and people he and his wife visited around the world. He built and carved beautiful pieces of furniture in his younger days. As he spinned a tale of commissioned grandfather clocks meant for the grand homes of rich men in the North I gently unwrapped the pale brownie dotted with dark chocolate pieces. For once my belly was full, so I lie back in the scrubby rough grass and felt it tickle my exposed arms and legs with one arm cushioning my head and savored the sweet buttery confection the old man gave me to keep him company and listen to tales I replayed over and over in my head when I was away from this quiet place. His deep lilting voice flowed over me like the warm water at the shore where it washed up and over my feet and legs. His voice had become one of the things I trusted, that soothed me just like the oceans’ touch.

The sun set while he spoke and I realized that the sweet treat was nothing but crumbs on my lips and that his tone had changed. He was asking me a question and I had missed the individual words, lost in my content reverie. I looked up at him, with obvious confusion and he repeated the question.

“ What would you say to coming by a few times a week and helping with the cats and the trees? I ain’t as nimble as I was and I would appreciate some help now and then. You know the old shed back by the spring? It ain’t much but if you could see yourself giving me a hand I’d be grateful enough to let you stay there as long as you want. “ His words were like honey over sharp jagged rocks, kindness wrapped in glass.

I knew the shed, more like a shack now, with the voracious growth of the land taking it over quicker than this old mans physical decline. It had a roof and four walls and not much else. We both knew I had stayed in it on stormy lightning filled nights.shed The soft bedroll and boxes of crackers that appeared as if by magic between one visit and the next attested to the farce of my ignorance. The bedroll stayed and the crackers were replenished and I had found myself there more often over the last year or so, even when there was no storm to hide from. He had never said a word about it, but now he was asking for me to openly admit a need I never mentioned either. I wondered for a moment if this was how he had collected the fat purring orchestra scattered around me, tempting them with treats until they were too fat and content to go anywhere else. A quick image of my current situation flickered past me, lying on the ground, belly fat, skin warm and I almost snorted with a burst of giggles. I suppressed the undignified urge and rolled onto my side, looking at him through the, now dry strands of hair, partially obscuring my eyes.  He was looking at me, but not directly, eyes sightly focused off to the left of my gaze.  leaning back, like he didn’t care what my answer was but I saw the tension in his hands covered in paper thin skin, marked with thin white scars grasping the arms of the chair. We had both been alone for a long time and the thought of these bright comfortable nuggets of time becoming commonplace had us both on edge. The time he called the gloaming stretched like taffy between us, a time I knew from his books to be one of shifting and change. It seemed a good setting for the ground that seemed to be moving beneath me, though I knew it was doing no such thing.

I sat up, crisscrossing my legs beneath me. I thought that the serious question that was said in such casual tones shouldn’t be addressed while lying on the ground covered in crumbs. He waited me out, as comfortable with silence as he was with the one sided conversations we often had. He treated me like a skittish animal that might run at any quick movement, which was probably why we had gotten here in the first place. Endless patience for a broken wild creature. I had looked at him often when he didn’t know, spying in his windows from tree branches,  while he puttered about the house that even through the window, seemed empty without his beloved wife.  The house was scattered with beautiful pieces of wood, that he still carved, sanded and polished. I knew from his stories, that he was still asked for precious pieces that took so much longer to create now. He would take the sales once a year or so, not for the money because despite the spartan way he lived I knew he was comfortable and wanted for little. He sold them to know that he was still a part of this world, even if he never left the house, brilliant pieces of himself were sent out into the world to be cherished and passed down from one generation to the next. He and his wife never had children but I thought that maybe his work was that for him, a thing that would live on past his time here, a solid memory. I looked at him and saw the same loneliness I knew was in me. I saw responsibility that might trap me, each kindness building a debt I didn’t know I would have the currency to pay.  My hand found the fuzzy warmth of a receptive cat belly and as his eyes finally met mine I nodded my head, yes.

The stars had begun to peek through as his whole body visibly relaxed.

“ Well that’s settled, I’ll expect you in the morning to feed ‘em. Might even be able to scrounge up some breakfast for you, wild thing.” and with that he used the momentum of the rocker to propel himself upward to a standing position.  The cats made similar rolling motions and got ready to scout the way back home. As he turned and slowly walked back towards the glowing windows just visible through the trees I got up too.

“ My name is Eve, but wild thing is okay too”  the words came from me but surprised me as much as they seemed to surprise the old man, since he startled the slightest bit and turned his head back towards me.

“ Well that seems fitt’in doesn’t it? My name is Jacob.  I’ll see you in the morning, Eve the Wild Thing” He replied with a slight smile and turned, and continued his path toward the light.

path2I turned the opposite way and found the barely there path leading to the shed carrying the sky plate with it’s glass dome. I rinsed them in the spring and found my way inside the small room, and stopped dead in my tracks. The bedroll was up on a small cot, off the dirty floor where I had left it rolled neat in the corner. A quilt that was faded with age and washings now covered the whole thing. A shelf was now above the cot with a collection of books lining it. I walked over and  picked up the small sturdy carving of fat cat that stopped the books from tipping over. There was a small narrow bedside table with a bowl and ewer on top next to the cot. A slightly larger table with lovely, simply curved legs gleamed in the far corner with a single matching chair pulled up to it. On the side of the table that pushed  against the wall there was a small camp stove with a single burner, one pot and a tank of kerosene hooked up. Above the table were two more shelves, one lined with boxes of crackers, dried fruit, oatmeal and a single plate with one bowl, a fork, spoon and knife stacked neatly together. The second shelf held a lantern, two tall wide candles, a box of matches and a small stack of folded white wash clothes.

I sat on the edge of the cot, desperately clutching the soft warm wooden cat, my bare callused feet resting on a round braided rug that was yet another surprise. He knew, he knew I would say yes. I fought the panic to run, to hide, to forget about all of this kindness and warmth that might choke me, lull me into complacency, with tooth and nail I waged a silent war inside my head. I felt my shoulders shaking with the effort not to run into the night. Instead I forced myself to lie down, and wrapped myself in the soft quilt that smelled of lemons and sunshine. I fought against the fear, hating to let it win yet another battle. I forced my eyes closed but didn’t think there would be any sleep tonight.

My last thoughts were of an old woman smelling of that same lemon and sunshine mixture tucking me in and kissing the crown of my tangled head.

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