Monday, January 30, 2012


Last night, I dreamed I was a child again.
In a slightly surreal back garden, suffused in glorious hyper-real color and light, I explored all those nooks and crannies that I know so well.  It was full summer, and the heat was heavy and oppressive, even just past daybreak. I slipped out the back door, and breathed deep, filling my lungs with hot air, and smelling those familiar summer garden scents of lavender and lilac. I ran my hand over the plaster sailing ship which inexplicably hung on the verandah wall forever, feeling the dust and cobwebs which were an integral part of it, and brushed off one of the leaves of the elephant ear plant permanently flourishing in the huge iron tub.  A spider ran off the leaf and up my arm, and, dream-calm, I shook it off. I left the shade of the verandah and stepped into the insta-burn sunshine, feeling the joy of the morning silence,  gazing up at a sky that was unnaturally blue, and wishing I could fly. I reached for the old Hills Hoist rotary clothesline and took a run off, lifting my feet and, eyes tightly closed, I let it spin me around and around, flying after a fashion.  Baz, a favorite old black and white cat, watched in slit-eyed disapproval from the garden bench, but no-one else came to stop the forbidden spinning and I tilted my head back and felt the hot breeze kiss my face as I flew. Deliciously dizzy, I ventured into the shade of the cotoneaster tree, an oasis that I considered mine alone. The branches curved to form an umbrella and the interior was cave-like, always cool and dark.  My sitting branch beckoned, and I shinnied up, feeling the worn-smooth solidity of my favorite spot in this favorite garden. Without needing to look down, I fiddled with the familiar crochet and macramé branch bracelets that branded the branch as my own.  I was possessive of this space and rarely invited friends to join me there. The wildest of my wild dreams formed as I sat, hidden, on that branch, and even in this dream I felt the adrenaline flow.
My dream pulled me further into the back garden, even as I yearned to remain hidden within the cotoneaster branches, and I stood in front of the peculiar quince tree that was the inspiration for several ghost and horror stories that I wrote (and hid) as a child. A twisted wreck, stricken with some unknown ailment, but somehow remaining alive year after tortured  year, it was a horror of a thing. Jet black branches, convoluted beyond belief, blackish green leaves and fruit that was born dead, falling almost immediately to the ground where a mushy, rotting carpet formed.  The hot breeze moved the decaying leaves and they dream-whispered audibly, crying for relief, just as I wrote all those years ago. I patted the dry trunk as I moved on, sending up a silent prayer that it would recover or die. This was a garden of life, a blooming, gorgeous abundance of wild fertility, and the weird and horrific quince tree seemed to me the story of life gone horribly wrong. It reached out and stroked a gnarled branch finger along my cheek as I walked away, and I felt the familiar old rush of affection.  I grasped it for a brief sympathetic moment, stilling the pain and shushing the cries. But I know that there are many ways to scream.
 I sat on the old swing, hearing its constant squeaks and groans,  and felt the familiar splinters of the old wooden seat digging in. The metal frame was burning hot from the summer sun, and as I dreamed that reality, I felt a weird comfort in the burn of the frame and the scratchy seat, and a passionate gratitude for this moment of reliving. From the vantage point of the swing, I could see it all. There was the pampas grass swaying in the breeze, the deadly beauty of the wisteria, looking so romantically lovely, and plotting its next strangulating attack on the abundantly blooming lilac, her rival in purple.
I dream-wandered through the huge and endlessly productive vegetable garden,  lined with lavender bushes that were smothered with bees, the torment of my real summers. In dream-land I called for their attention and apologized for the few that were sacrificed to my hatred of school sport.  A foot swollen to double its size could excuse me from pretty much anything. They buzzed a non-acceptance and watched me beadily as I passed by.
I drifted into an almost wakeful state, and forced myself back, finding myself in the front garden. I sat on the front fence with Mandy (Amanda now, but that’s not the way I feel her in my heart) and once more we sang Scarborough Fair as we sat in the sun.  Young and beautiful in our hopes and dreams.  Carefree.  Artists and dreamers, both.
And I woke up satisfied and yearning, a child and an adult, still smelling the lilac and hearing the music and feeling the freedom.  The house itself doesn’t hold many of the joyous memories for me, but the garden is my heart.
It’s funny, but when the screaming quince tree was finally cut down, many, many years after it should have been, the garden was not the same anymore. It was too lush, too fertile, too alive, too one-sided. In the mind of a child of dreams and wild imaginings, the screaming quince maintained the balance, and I lost some of the intense passion I had for the garden.
When the quince appears in my dreams and trails its horribly blackened and brittle fingers down my face, I feel comforting and comforted, loved and loving, understanding and understood, and I welcome the sweet, rotting scent and deathly, twisted beauty.
God, I really must find a therapist!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

All those little things

Ok. Today,  I have learned a little something about interpersonal communication and how to handle conflict. In theory anyway! ;o)   I have learned a whole lot about American government – one of the most freakin’ complicated and involved subjects I’ve ever come across. >:o(   I have done a ton of laundry, worked out, knitted a few rows of a pretty cool scarf while watching Judge Judy, (do I want to change my major to criminal justice and work in the court system??)  crocheted a new edge of a cool poncho thingy I found at Goodwill. :0)  I have done my guitar practice…can now play Scarborough Fair without 30 second pauses between chord changes, although still can’t hold strings down hard enough to get rid of that muted sound, especially with the finger I once stuck under a mower. (Really?? You’re not supposed to do that?? Well, go figure!) I have vacuumed, removed a layer of dust from various surfaces, walked the dogs, watched two episodes of Family Guy, including my favorite (“that’s right, Mr. Giraffe, get all the marmalade”  Hahahahaha!!)  I have cooked a 4 oz steak and a cool mixture of peppers, onions, mushrooms and zucchinis without setting off the smoke alarm. I have written a paper, read a chapter of my textbook and dyed my roots. (Not that they really needed it, you understand, but …. oh never mind!)  In my mind I have already started my next art project, courtesy of a very cool photo taken by Mike last year at Ogunquit. It is so summery and beachy – it will hold the rest of the winter at arm’s length very nicely!  Maybe I’ll actually put paint to canvas tomorrow!
Tipsy is sitting with me as usual, curled up and purring, and I’m ready to veg out and watch Project Runway.  It has been a pretty good day. Yep, it’s the little things, right??
Happy Australia Day, folks!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Don't Know Me

So, this is 2012 which brings with it my 50th birthday!  As it approaches, I find myself in a contemplative mood, gazing back at the past and peeking cautiously into the future.  What is next and what is next and what is next?  
Such a good kid.  Quiet, dreamy, amenable young Lois, always practicing the calm and inscrutable face she still uses to this day to hide fires or pain inside, but the day-dreams belonged to a colorful character who stormed impatiently within, full of piss and vinegar and ready to take on the world. Dreaming of the day that she would finally change her ugly name to something musical and exotic, perhaps Isabella or Angelica,  learn to ride a motorcycle and travel the world alone, meeting life head on in an inferno of dangers and passions and colors.  Funny that one of the things that seemed so imperative to my freedom, was to throw out the oft heard rule that one should never wear blue and green together. In the wildest of my dreams my clothes mattered, and were predominantly blues and greens, comfortably blending, just as in nature, just as I knew they would. Even now, it’s my favorite color blend, and embracing it can change the colors of the world around me, can change the face of a day.
I peeked at pictures in the National Geographic magazines in the library, and in an era where it was unheard of, I longed to pierce my nose, to tattoo my body, to dress in vibrant and exotic clothing. I yearned for color in my world, and waited impatiently for my own time.
My mother assures me that I used to say that all I wanted as an adult was to be a wife and mother. I don’t remember saying it, and I don’t remember feeling it, so it must have been an extension of the much practiced calm, inscrutable face, used often to throw people off the scent of my secret truth.
I dropped out of school at 15, went to work full time, and dated Neil, a complete ass who my mother hated on sight. It had begun!  And I felt the simmering passions build to a slow boil. At 16, and living alone in a tiny studio apartment, I ran a little crazy, and loved every wild and free moment of it. I saved money and dreamed of the travelling wild life that was surely just around the corner now . . .
And suddenly, I was a wife and mother.  With that calm and inscrutable face now as permanent as any tattoo, I attacked my new role with vigor, trading my dreams of exotic African travels and colorful body art for the terrifying responsibilities of decent parenting.  I made mistakes, some small, some big, but they know I love them fiercely, and I hope that’s enough. That even now I would die for them, or kill for them.  I told them to embrace an adventurous spirit, to do what felt right for them, but I think they have sometimes concerned themselves with how I’ll feel about it. I hope they don’t do that anymore. I hope they live the lives they feel in their hearts. And I hope they tell me, proudly, even if it’s something not  in my vision for them, and that will make my heart sing!  They are the four lights of my life, and I have never regretted a single moment of those wonderful years, and I have a secret tattoo in my mind…
And now they’re all off and away, living their lives, and even as I still worry for their happiness and safety, I am dreaming again. Not of Africa now; that feels a little too adventurous for my 49 year old spirit.  I am restless in my soul for the things that I didn’t do, and not so certain what it is that I want now.  In art and creation, I find some fire and passion, and my restless spirit rests easy awhile.  And yet my staid and conservative studies are leading me down a road which has as its destination an administrative hell, and it makes my creative spirit take to the skies and fly, fly, fly away. . .
But I am doing the sensible, responsible thing.  The thing that is the correct thing to do. The thing that lingers sternly and irrevocably at the edges of my mind and burns at my gut, and shrivels my soul.
School starts up again on Tuesday and I will immerse myself in a math class and an interpersonal communications class.  I must do the vacuuming today, and get rid of the film of dust I see on the TV. And I must go and buy some chicken and tomatoes at the Stop n Shop, and plan the healthy dinner that is a part of the 2012 resolution.
And I will wear blue jeans and a green shirt and I will dream.