The Sick Bed

I am cold to the bone, wrapped in layers of fleece and down, steaming cup of coffee filling my belly, space heater at my feet, yet I cannot warm.  My metabolism has ceased, retreated.  If my grandmother was here today, she would announce, “It is colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra in January!”  At the time, this made perfect sense and we would all agree.  I sit here, today, cold to the bone, dearly missing my grandmother.

My grandmother’s house was always warm.  It was our place of refuge and the sick house.  Home from school with fever meant a glorious day of grandmother’s pampering.  A bed made on the couch, heavy with blankets, propped up with pillows, a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows or a tiny pimento cheese glass bubbling with Sprite, everything carefully arranged on a TV tray, I was a princess on retreat.

To this day, when I am sick or exhausted, I want chicken noodle soup, gone thick with saltine oyster crackers or cream of chicken soup in a bowl lined with buttered white bread.  I want mini cups of ice cream, half vanilla, half orange sherbet, or rich, thick chocolate pudding, still warm from the pan, eaten with the same skill as in the sick bed, skin by skin, slowly and patiently waiting for the next to form.   I want to smell bread baking, anticipating a hot slice slathered with butter that runs down my fingers, licking every drop gone.

All day long, between naps, I was plied with comfort food.  My grandmother would sit near, rocking in her upholstered chair, updating me on the General Hospital dramas since my last sick day.  Luke and Laura ignorant of the influence on my future career choice as a nurse. In the evening, Marcus Welby, MD and Emergency Room would fertilize my fascination with medicine.  Sick days were always the exception to the 30 minutes of TV a day rule and medical dramas were my grandmother’s favorites, mine too.

Between her favorite shows, while I napped, she indulged in her enormous stack of Harlequin romances.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized her disappointments and loveless marriage could be forgotten for a few precious moments in between the pages.  I, too, learned to forget my disappointments and sorrows between the covers, and often in books as well.

When I started feeling better, I would cast about, looking for a way to ease my boredom, digging through the button tin, smelling my grandfather’s vast collection of Avon colognes, each in a glass vessel reflecting manly pursuits, transportation, sailing, cow wrangling, militia, the usual culprits.  Restlessness signaled my time to return to school.

My grandmother’s house was always my sanctuary, but when I am tired or cold, I miss her to the bone.

My Femininity in Pink

For me, the color pink is fraught with judgement and self-loathing.  Pink is everything I disrespect in me, everything I find weak in femininity.  It is embarrassed cheeks, shame, vanity and shallowness.  Pink is sugar and spice and everything nice.  Pink is everything I loathe about being female.

Pink and I have been enemies from the beginning.  Baby dolls and frills, not for me, these were the soft pursuits of my sister, my life-long adversary.  My sister was pink; she played house quietly, cried easily, and tenderly cared for her dolls.  My playthings were the great outdoors; I climbed trees, moved dirt with my Tonka trucks, and rode around on the back of my dog.  My bike was blue, my room was blue, and there wasn’t a ‘girl’ thing to be found within my bits and bobs.

I was small and mighty, a tiny tyrant, a peanut-sized scrapper.  Often, I was the star entertainment for the men at family dinners; I would wrestle any of my male cousins to the ground, a ten count for five bucks.  It was a killing for a killing.

Despite maturity, dating, marriage to a man, I continue to recoil at the first sign of femininity. It is my first reaction; a modicum of pride and vanity keeps me from a complete rejection of the tools of attraction.  I tentatively apply small bits of paint to my eyes, Monday through Friday only, and polish my nails to a buff shine.  I debate the energy-time- comfort ratio with every outfit selected.  Sporty is a style, and it can be done well, thank you Athleta and REI.  I am a ‘Tomboy’, a category so delicately assigned to me just yesterday by a patient (even though I had a skirt, tights and clogs on).  I can’t dress it up; it seeps out of my cells with every movement.

The femininity that seeps out is quickly rationalized.  My love for flowers is excused by my love for the outdoors.  Flowers grow outside, enough said.  Men also love and grow flowers, again, enough said. Besides, I really love orange flowers, not pink, and roses, I don’t like roses, enough…..

Clearly my childhood messaging run deep as copper.  Even in my middle years, I fight my own judgments and assertions.  When spotting a woman of any age, especially over 30, clad in pink or sequins, I immediately exclaim, “God Help Us!” – knowing in my heart of hearts she is wrought with drama and vanity, dulled intellect and useless babble.  Messaging, messaging, messaging of weakness and self-loathing, this must stop.

It is time to end this adversarial relationship with pink.  It is time to select a new reel, a new soundtrack for my life.  It is time to make friends, or at least acquaintances, with my femininity.  It is time to see femininity as strength and courage, as unity and oneness; to see all women as beautiful.  It is time to find beauty in all that is feminine and all that is feminine in me.  It is  time to stand strong with women, pink hats, pink ribbons, pink hearts, and celebrate the beauty in all of us.

Orange is my Color

I am here, in Music City, the landscape freckled with oranges, yellows and reds.  Fresh from the Evergreen State, with its glacier-capped mountains and cedars large enough to drive a car through.  My head is still saturated with green, the green of moss-covered firs, ferns hanging from gorges, jade glacier ice, and teal alpine lakes.  Oft on the mountain in Fall, the bugs long gone to rest, I watch her don a cloak of beauty, reds and oranges in the undergrowth and sweeps of snow on tiny alpine trees.  It is my favorite time to be on my mountain, my spiritual home.  Now far from home, struggling to love this land, I have found joy in the brilliant weave of color Fall brings.

Orange is my color – it is happiness, warmth, energy and light.  Orange is the color of my heart, the color of song, and the color of joy. A tree gone amber or a field of tangerine bloom catches my breath, sails my soul. I honor orange with a leading role in my closet and a generous sprinkling through my home.

My heart responds with worship amidst the orange towering spires and arches of the Southwest.  I speak to my ancestors and commune with God in the land that surely, I once lived.  In this sacred space, as soon as my feet connect with the persimmon soil, I am with God.

After my first trip to this heaven, I painted my den the color of the sun hitting the red-rocked arches.  It had to be the den, the room I warm myself by the fire, gaze into while cooking, and map out our homeschooling days.  I could not bear the disconnection from my sacred land.  I wanted to feel the expansion of my soul once more, know again the feeling of being in my ancestral home. The den is my room and I painted it the orange.

The orange room became my sanctuary, the room I sought comfort.  As my marriage dissolved, as I lost a baby from another love, as I fought for breath when asthma squeezed my effort, my orange room, my sanctuary, helped me find my center, my peace and my comfort.  The orange of the arches soothed my soul and brought me back home.  Orange is my color.

Scent of a Man

For the first time in my life I am without a man.  I am without a man, a lover, a companion, a husband.  It has been a year since I felt the soft caresses and heard the utterances of love.  It has been a year, yet, I do not miss it.  I am, unperceivably and unpredictably, content and for once in my life, I am enough, not wanting, not needing, but enough.

Contentment, so rich, so new, it wants savoring.  I am drinking it in, present in my oneness, my wholeness.  For the first time, I utter the words, “ I am not ready to date, still transitioning,” and “I don’t want to date when I am fresh in my loneliness,” and “I want to  be settled first, not wanting to soothe this pain with men.”

For so many years I used men as salve, as bandages, as shields covering old scars and wounds.  I needed them in constant flow, unwilling, unable to look at those wounds. But now, after years of hard labor, I have stumbled on worthiness and enoughness.

So, I wait.  I wait and I discover new joys, joys of solitude, of stillness, of quiet.  I savor whole weekends without conversations, without commitments, without compromise.  I devote more time to my pets, writing, long walks, reading, making only food I love.  I devote time to making friends with this new territory, this new-found freedom, finding joys and peace hardly imagined.

The journey of solitude has been my greatest gift to myself, but I fear something is shifting.  I find myself now wondering what kind of man I will meet in my enoughness.  What kind of man will love someone worthy of love, someone already complete.  I find a small joy in imagining, this, wonderment being enough.

Now, as I walk through my home, the scent of man tickling my nose, bringing back the memory of a hand on my back, whispers on my neck, the want in my heart, I wonder if I am ready.  I take a deep breath, breath it in, the man scent, the smoke of it curling through my body.  I hover, over the leaflets from the Macys flyer, opened and scattered across my counter, filling my house with the sweet scent of man, taking it all in and wondering if it is time.  Oh, Macys, you have stirred the beast

Making Friends

I am set on making friends with the south, a daunting task to bend my stubborn soul and to see beauty where I refuse to look.  The trail, as always, is where I do my work, where I untangle the threads of disappointment, anger, trauma, and loss…The trail, as always, is where I weave a new story of hope, strength and courage.

The trail, here, in summer, is hostile and fierce, with its burning sun and air that tears open my lungs, with its biting insects and afternoon rain; it is an unlikely solace.  This is my story, my truth, the yarn I use to convince myself to wait, a little longer.  The real truth, the truth I am not yet ready to know- it is my anger burning, my mind searing and my heart biting.  I am still bathing in my disappointment and grief, not ready or willing to leave it with the trail. I want to soak in it a little longer, use it to fuel scraping the deck and hacking weeds- I need the power of my anger to conquer the years of neglect my new home has suffered.

I tell myself the fall will be a good time to begin a new journey, a journey to shed this cloak of wrath.  I promise myself cooler air, distant sun, glowing trees of orange and yellow, biting things to bed for the season, this will be the right time to ease my soul.  Fall is the right time to put this wrath to sleep for the winter.

So, this is the day, I decide, out on my deck, oversized cup of coffee twice heated, cooling while I take in the fall of the south.  This is the day, the last week of November, crisp air, sun warm on my back, lawnmower in the distance.  This is the day, shuffling leaves, driven by a gentle breeze carrying hints of wood smoke and earth.  This is the day, chattering squirrels, frantic in their final prospect to store acorns.  This is the day, glorious trees, oh the trees, the magnificent trees, oranges, yellows, reds, radiant in the sun, glowing against the cobalt backdrop.  This is the day I will begin my journey.

I know today, for the first time, that I will find peace in this land, in the stillness of this place where I can slow, write, walk, and settle, even in late November.  I am suddenly grateful to be here, today, despite my struggle, despite the difficulties I have found in this land.  Today I am grateful that my new-found solitude has, in return, offered me a chance to settle and find peace.


Disappointment drips off walls

In the cavern my soul once lived

Pushing, I search the dark

For Solace, Light, Reprieve

Stumbling, my will

Struggles, Flickers, Dies

Crawling, pulling

Over boulders of failed love

Straining, the wind crushes me

Messages of worthlessness

Traveling, black icy waters

Lick my feet

Slowly, silently, I slip

Returning to the earth

Without a goodby

Without a whimper

Without notice.