Mar 20 2013

a whirlwind time
{scintilla day 8}


Describe a memorable experience that took place
while preparing or eating food


It was one of those crazy humid hot summer days in late July or early August. One of those days when the air just hangs on your skin like an extra set of clothing. By early evening, my family had gathered on the front porch because it was just too hot to be inside, and rain was on the horizon. My cousin, who was a year or two older than I, was staying at my grandmother’s house, just kitty-corner across the street. He had come over to spend the day hanging out with my brother, probably playing G.I. Joe or War or some such thing that the boys were always playing back then.

I’m sure that we were all drinking Pepsi, because that’s what we drank every night back then, one of us would walk around the block to the corner store and buy the eight pack of tall returnable glass bottles. And then most nights, to go along with it, there was either popcorn or some sort of candy. On this night, it was M&Ms, the biggest bag you could buy, divvied up between the five of us. (Me, my three siblings and my cousin). We held them in coffee cups, because you know, you always had to be certain that no one got more than their fair share.

I don’t think my dad was home that night, he worked trick shifts, so his scheduled rotated every week, one week 7-3, one week 3-11, one week 11-7. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to adjust to that change every single week. No wonder he was always falling asleep at the kitchen table…but that’s another story.

I remember little else about the evening until it happened. The wind picked up, there was thunder and lightning, and we sat there on the porch enjoying the show and the cooling temperatures. And then the rain came, and the wind picked up even more, and my cousin started to get scared and wanting to go back home to my grandmother’s house. We told him to stay put, and I don’t really remember why he felt the overpowering need to leave just then, but I do remember that he grabbed his M&Ms and hopped on his bike to scoot across the street at almost the exact moment that what I can only describe as a mini tornado came zooming down the street. I’m sure there is a technical name for such a thing, a whirlwind or dust devil, it wasn’t very tall, maybe eight or ten feet, but it looked exactly like a tornado funnel. And even though it was small, it was powerful.

I had never seen anything like it before that night, and I have never seen anything like it since. We generally don’t have tornadoes here in western New York. It traveled straight down the center of the street, and you could see leaves and branches and debris swirling around in its path. My cousin zoomed across just in time to avoid it and the giant chestnut tree that came crashing down right behind him, blocking my grandmother’s car in her driveway, but somehow managing to avoid doing any real damage to it, or to my cousin.

He made it onto her porch and looked back over at us and we looked back over at him and I’m certain that we all had the same mouth-wide-open, holy crap! stare on our faces.

He was okay, and the tree, though a major inconvenience, hadn’t actually destroyed anything. But his M&Ms were gone, and so was the cup. We all searched for it the next day and never found so much as a shard.

Apparently, along with her temper, Mother Nature has a sweet tooth.




this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 28 2012

a story
{scintilla day 11}


Tell a story that you haven’t told yet.
Give it a different ending than the one that really happened.
Don’t tell us where you start changing things. Just go.


It was midnight when I got off the train. My first trip to New York, in the days before cell phones and the mobile devices we all carry with us everywhere we go these days.

I’d spent the entire trip reading books and writing poetry, seated alone in an almost-empty car, wearing my favorite vintage dress and the old men’s overcoat I lived in back then. I carried with me an almost-empty purse and little else, being too young to care about something as silly as planning ahead. Being too naive to think about it. Blind faith is a beautiful thing.

I was on my way to meet someone. An invitation that, looking back, should never have been accepted. As much as anything, I was excited to see the big city. I grew up in a tiny rural town of 10,000. New York was about as foreign as I could imagine. And suddenly, I was there, standing in Grand Central Station in my shabby clothes and uncomfortable shoes, and there was no one there to greet me.

Too late, I realized that I didn’t even have a phone number for the person I was supposed to be meeting. Nor did I have an address. Somehow, I had left all my common sense back home on the dresser. Blind faith may be beautiful, but it’s not very practical.

The station was fairly quiet at this time of night, though not deserted. I wandered back and forth, eyes frantic, looking. Surely, he was there, somewhere, looking for me. Surely. I passed people sleeping in dark corners on the floor. People that clearly lived in those corners. At one point, I noticed a man lying in the middle of the floor, unconscious. He didn’t look drunk or homeless or derelict, he looked like something was wrong. What crowd there was walked past, never looking down, rushing by, stepping over. I stood there, staring.

Finally, just as I was about to scream and find a guard or someone who could help, another stranger stepped in and took over. I never did find out how that story ended, but I was glad to know that someone cared enough to stop and help, that I hadn’t stepped into a completely callous world.

By this time, my internal panic alarm was ringing loudly in my ears. Drowning out everything but the fact that I had come to this giant city with no idea where to go. That I was a fool for being there in the first place. Who was I kidding? I continued to wander back and forth across the lobby, trying to look far more collected than I felt.

“Excuse me?” A kind voice from behind turned my head.

It was a young man that had been on the train with me. A young man I had noticed, because he was dressed like a skinhead. At least that’s what we called them in those days. A young man I had been a little wary of, primarily because of his appearance.

“You look lost.”

I almost started to cry right then, but somehow I managed to hold back the tears and explain my situation. He offered to wait with me, or to try and help me figure out what to do. He was kind. He kept me talking because he knew I was freaking out. I wasn’t fooling anyone.

After a few minutes, I told him I would be fine, that it would be okay, that I didn’t need any help. Of course, I did, but I wasn’t about to admit it. He accepted my answer politely, and while we didn’t have any further conversation, I felt him hovering nearby, watching over me.

A while later I went to find the ladies room, and when I returned, he was gone.

A little while after that, I got on another train.

The one that would bring me back home, none the worse for the wear, but most definitely, a little smarter.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 27 2012

{scintilla day 10}

it is winter it is summer it is spring
all green and hope and
blind sun
squinting through branches
more bare
than picked over

it is bird call and free fall
moss and shadow
growth that forces its way
in and out
of yesterday’s

it is
fuel for the fire of tomorrow
seed for the next generation

fecund with promises promises

that will all






it is winter it is summer it is spring




this post is part of:
the scintilla project. see more here
Today’s prompt:
Talk about breaking someone else’s heart,
or having your own heart broken.
dVerse poets Open Link Night, join us!

Mar 26 2012

23 things: words
{scintilla day 9}


Write a list of 23.
(I chose some of my favorite words).


rapscallion and serendipity


monkshood and ranunculus


zephyr and perpetual


desiderata and flibbertigibbet


bivouac and supercilious


harbinger and possibility


ramshackle and luminary






this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.


Mar 23 2012

simple pleasures: gardening
{scintilla day 8}


What are your simplest pleasures?
Go beyond description and into showing the experience of each indulgence.


The sun beats down on my back.

Birdsong fills the air with anything but silence, yet it feels quiet.

Bees buzz and hover, always, always in search of nectar.

Joni Mitchell sings Blue in the background,
which somehow never makes me blue.

Usually, I sing along, loud and without caring how I sound.

Sometimes I just listen.

Sweat pours down my spine, off my brow.

My hands are dirty, I have leaves and seedpods in my hair.

The wide open expanse of sky lifts me up, opens me,
my mind soars.

Tiny bits of life, all cradled in their own little microcosm,
become my focus.

A seedling that finds a way to root in the most unlikely of places.

The ant hill that has destroyed my thyme.

Life, bursting forth without fear or politeness.

An ache begins to spread up my legs. Knees creak and quiver.

But I never stop until my soul has had enough.

Until I am restored.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 22 2012

{scintilla day 7}


List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, etc.


If you had asked me this question when I was a teenager, the answer would have been: none.

I never fit into any of the available slots, too smart to hang out with the cool kids, too cool to hang out with the smart kids, too shy to hang out with the popular kids. I was not into sports, not into parties, not into chess, or designer clothes or smoking cigarettes out by the fence. I was the proverbial square peg. My senior year, when everyone else was wearing Calvin Klein jeans and high heels and curly, permed hair, I dressed like a hippie in torn jeans, gauzy shirts, Jesus sandals, hair long and straight and parted down the middle. I had learned just enough by then to allow myself that much.

I belonged to the tribe of angst as a teenager, this is when I started writing poetry. This is when I learned to enjoy being alone. This is when my heart was broken for the first time.


If you had asked me this question when I was in my early 20s, the answer would have been: I AM WOMAN, and yes, I would have roared.

These were my feminist years, learning what it meant to be a woman in the world, the unfairness, the injustice, the constant thread of sexuality that ran through every interaction I had with men. I spent months, years, reading sociological studies, learning more and resenting everything I read. Resenting men, resenting the fact that I was not one. I never learned to be coy or charming, never used my gender in my favor, never stopped fighting the unfairness of it all.


In my mid-twenties I joined the tribe of mother. And then I understood the true difference between men and women. And yes, I’d love to be able to say that parenting is the same for men as it is for women. But it isn’t. And I’m not saying that men don’t make fabulous parents, or that they are inferior as parents. My own father was the best one a girl could ever have. It’s just different. As a mother, you become protector. Teacher. Moderator. And more, so much more.

But when it comes right down to it, you are a she-bear. And then you will REALLY roar.


If you had asked me this question when I was in my 30s, the answer would have been: artist, mother, wife, reader, business owner.

This was the decade of doing, too busy to have much angst, too tired to complain. I accomplished. Whatever needed to be done, this is what I did. I was happy with who I was, happy with where I was, and there was always something that needed to be done. These were the years of too-little sleep and not enough time. There was always someplace to be, a deadline on my forehead, a child that needed tending, a house that needed care, a husband that needed time, a life that needed living. I wrote very little in these years. I put all of that on the back burner and let it simmer.

I belonged to the tribe of family in my 30s, and this is when I started to be comfortable with myself.


If you had asked me this question when I was in my 40s, the answer would have been: invalid, daughter, seeker, and finally, writer.

In my early 40s I was sick for a year. And though it all worked out in the end, turning out to be something fixable, it was a lost year. I learned what it’s like to be invisible, that there are two pronunciations to the word invalid. But this year taught me a simple, valuable lesson: to appreciate the fact that I am alive.

My parents started aging in these years, and I came full-circle as a daughter. I spent time care-taking and appreciating everything they gave to their children.

I stretched beyond what do I want to do with my life into it’s time to start doing something. I started writing again, unfolding those pages one layer at a time, testing, exposing, learning. I brought along all the tribes I have ever belonged to and we had a big party. One that went on for years and made a big mess, and in the end, only the strong were left standing.

I belonged to the tribe of hope in my 40s, I came home to a place I hadn’t known I missed, and words became my companion.


Now, as I am ready to enter my 50s, I have come to understand that the tribe I truly belong to is that of humanity.

No matter how we try to section ourselves off into groups, we can’t escape this simple fact.

We are all here, in this one tribe, together.

The tribe of grace.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.


Mar 21 2012

{scintilla day 6}


Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else’s.


i have faith in

a sun that rises,

a love that grows,

a heart that repairs,

and a life that

takes and gives and

keeps coming back

for more.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 20 2012

{scintilla day 5}

spring comes
on the day
when i rise
to the surface
of the pool
that was winter

gasping for air.

the sun
warms my face
as i pull
myself up
hand over hand
clinging to vine

and veracity.

the grey ghost
regrets his decision
to give up
the reins
a week early,
but in the forest

the vulture







this post is part of:

the scintilla project. see more here.

Today’s prompt: Show a part of {your} nature that you feel you’ve lost.
Can you get it back? Would it be worth it?.

 dVerse poets Open Link Night, join us!


Mar 19 2012

it begins here
{scintilla day 4}


What does your everyday look like?
Describe the scene of your happiest moment of every day.


every day starts with this cup.

the reflection is always different,

some days there are flowers,

some days nothing more than grey skies.

but always, there is something

to see.


this post is part of the scintilla project. see more here.

Mar 16 2012

i beg your pardon…
{scintilla day 3}


Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.


I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometimes….

It’s winter and I am on the couch reading. I don’t remember the name of the book, one of the countless number I devoured as a child, possibly one by Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Carolyn Haywood, or Louisa May Alcott.

I have no idea where my brothers and my sister were at this moment, perhaps I was home sick from school. It’s just me and my book and my mom and her dust cloth. Lynn Anderson serenades us and my mom sings along. She has a pretty voice, my mom, and she sings as if no one is listening.

The smell of Lemon Pledge drifts through the air.

I feel safe and warm and cozy.


My mom cleaned our house from top to bottom every single day when I was a child. Dusting, vacuuming, mopping. Every. Single. Day. She also made our beds, given that none of us could ever achieve the “you could bounce quarters off that” requirement with our bedspreads. I look back now, and I don’t know how she did it, how she kept up with it all. I don’t know why she did it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I know she did it because she loved us.

We all had our own little chores to do, but they were small things, taking out the garbage, drying dinner dishes. My mom did all the rest, cooking dinners, ironing (everything, including sheets and underwear), and all that cleaning.

My dad worked hard, too. Trick shifts they called it, rotating his schedule between A, B, and C shift every three weeks. One week 7 to 3; the next 3 to 11; the next 11 to 7. He never caught up on his sleep, never had time to adjust to staying up all night and sleeping during the day, because the very next week it would all be reversed again. There were many nights when he fell asleep at the kitchen table, which, of course, we all thought was hilarious.

My parents both came from not-so-perfect childhoods. Truth be told, that’s quite the understatement. But they both worked hard to give me and my siblings a better one. Writing this now, it all sounds a little bit Leave it to Beaver-ish. And in reality, it wasn’t. As we all got older, things changed, times changed. Like all families, we had our ups and downs. But just the fact that this was the goal says a lot. And I’m certain that it was far, far better than the childhood that either one of them experienced.

They each gave everything they could to their children, always. And that is still the case today.


All it takes now is a Lynn Anderson or Loretta Lynn song, and I am back in a clean, cozy, lemon-scented world, my mom’s voice playing over me like a blanket. And that’s a pretty good place to be.

So smile for a while and let’s be jolly…