Church

stained glass

Returning to my childhood church should have been simple.

Memories, routines, rituals from so many years ago return. Your body remembers what your brain has forgotten. Cross, kneel, dip. Eyes down, hands at your heart.

There’s comfort in it, of course, until you come to the parts where you get things wrong. Because it’s not all the same after all. I’ll never forget how I shook the last time I tried to take communion. The rules had changed, my hands were in the wrong place, exposing me for the fraud I had become.

Some things can’t be fixed by confession.

 

Posted as part of the September Story A Day challenge, for which I have come to embrace being a day late (and also probably a dollar short).  The day 3 challenge was to write a drabble, or a 100-word story. Go ahead and count them – it’s really just 100 words. You’ll find more (and infinitely better) drabbles at the 100 Word Story site.

Image via Pixabay.

Posted in Challenges, Flash fiction, Stories | 3 Comments

On Holiday

sprayer.JPG

I try to be cute, making little rhymes like Fezzik in the Princess Bride.

Unfortunately, I am not as cute as he was.  Imagine, not being as cute as a 7’4” wrestler.

“Look,” she says, pointing a chubby finger at the sky, “an airplane!”

“I prefer to remain,” I say. She rolls her eyes.

But she forgives me, as little girls will. Grabs at my waist and pulls me to the swings in the playground. Demands my attention as she fills pail after pail with sand at the beach, never making anything, never needing to. Cheering madly at the ridiculous relay races held between baby pigs at the state fair. Raising her sad eyes to me each time I say it’s time to go home, wanting to blame me for the ending of another day, but not quite being able to manage it.

Our holidays are always too short, for her and for me.

Already I can see her getting older, her small child’s frame stretching into a young woman’s, gaining an inch, and then another, outgrowing clothes, and games, and someday even me.

She can’t imagine it, won’t hear of it.

“I will NEVER be bored of you!” she says, and means it. “Now can we go jump in the water sprayer?”

I’d rather stay dry, so I try to distract her with a rhyme.

“What if I was elected mayor?”

She rolls her eyes again, and pulls me to the water.

 

 

Posted as part of the September Story A Day challenge, on which I am still running a day behind. 

Image via Wikipedia.

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Weeding

Thistle

She had just weeded the garden.

Of course, nobody would believe her. Or care.

The flooding, of course, was much more important.

But somehow it mattered to her.

That morning had been cool, cloudy, a bit breezy. And she finally had her act together enough to do something about it. Found the ratty shorts and banged up t-shirt where she left them last time she’d been in the garden three – no, maybe four months ago. They were actually clean, too.

Found her work boots, too. They weren’t so clean. Caked in old mud, there were twigs and leaves stuck to the bottom. She took them outside and knocked them against a rock until the chunks of dried dirt went flying off in all directions. One hit her forehead.

At least it wasn’t my eye, she thought, blinking away the dust.

Found the tools. They were sort of where she thought they’d be. Dirty, but not terrible. They’d do the job.

He’d always said that she should take better care of her tools. Had some idea of a bucket filled with sand and oil that she should store them in. It had never developed into a full fledged fight, but it came close. He wanted her to set it up. She thought if it was such a good idea, he could do it. He said she wouldn’t use it anyway.

Remembering again.

She put the tools down and went back inside. Sat at the kitchen table where she had left her coffee.

It was cold.

The pot was still almost full – she could never finish a whole pot of coffee on her own, but even after he’d left, she still made a whole pot. Every morning. And every afternoon, she’d dump a half full pot of coffee down the drain.

She emptied the mug of cold coffee down the drain and checked her phone. Nothing. Like usual. She thought about making herself another cup, but instead went back outside.

Some of the weeds were as tall as she was. They were actually pretty impressive – spear shaped leaves covered with long yellowish thorns. At least six bulging, spiky bulbs on the tops of the stems, each with purple tufts emerging. Halfway between a flower and a threat.

Thistle, a voice in the back of her brain said.

Oh stop, she told the voice. Why would you know what that thing is called?

As she picked up the loppers, she noticed bees on a couple of the purple flowers. Were they flowers? She supposed they had to be, if bees were interested in them. She hung back a minute, waiting for the bees to do their business before she took the thing down. No need to aggravate the local wildlife.

While she waited, she looked around. This thing might have been the biggest of the weeds in the garden, but it was hardly alone. She could be out here for hours and still not finish the job.

That’s what you get, she told herself, for leaving things alone. But she knew that after today she probably wouldn’t be out here again for more weeks. Months. Whatever.

There was too much else to do. Not that she would necessarily do it, but it was all just too much to think about.

She’d tried. Really. He hadn’t seemed to think so, but she really had tried. It just wasn’t enough for him, and (if she was being honest with herself) it wasn’t enough for her either.

She thought about just leaving the flower/tree/threat to the bees and going back inside, but just then the bees buzzed away, as if they’d decided they didn’t want to be another excuse for her inaction.

Fine. I’ll do it.

For the next two hours she cut, pulled, cleared. She scraped up her arms and legs, gave her thumb a nasty puncture with a thorn on one of the other giant weeds – this one not nearly as interesting looking as the one with the purple flowers. She was getting tired, sweaty, overheated, wasn’t paying as much attention. And now her thumb  hurt. Maybe it was time to stop.

She looked around at the garden. It was better than it had been before, though still not quite good enough.

Tools were scattered around – she hoped she would find them all, but if not, it wouldn’t be the first time. Just the other day, taking the garbage out, she’d noticed a pair of shears sitting under a hedge, covered with rust.

He’d have had a field day with that.

So she gathered the tools, trying to remember where she’d been working and what tools she’d used. Put them back in the shed. Wiped them off, at least, before setting them wherever there was space.

Dragged the bags of weeds to the garbage. Probably she should be composting them or something.

There was always something she should do.

All told, it was only a few hours of effort. She really shouldn’t have cared so much.

But not ten minutes after she went back inside – not even enough time for her to get in the shower – the breeze died down, then the skies opened up and rain started coming down like she hadn’t seen in years. It was crazy. At first it just came straight down, but then the winds picked up again, and it was like something out of a movie. It rained and blew and rained and blew and rained and all she could do was stand by the window and watch.

The walkway from her house became a stream, then a river, then it merged with the driveway, then everything was under water. The wind drove the rain against the windows, and it made such a racket that she didn’t hear when the phone rang.

She finally noticed, but didn’t get to it until it had stopped ringing.

It was him.

Why had he called? He hadn’t called in weeks.

She stared at the phone, at his name, at the picture of him that she kept meaning to change, or delete, or something.

She jumped slightly when the phone buzzed. New voice mail.

Should she listen to the message? Call him back?

She went and made a second cup of coffee, debated getting in the shower, thought about throwing the phone out the window and letting the waters take it away.

Sipping from her mug, she went back to the window. It was still raining. According to the clock, she had been back inside for about three hours.

That was yesterday. The rain still hadn’t stopped.

It would continue for another three days. Slowing sometimes, but never stopping, until the day it finally did stop.

The place where she had been weeding was pretty much washed away. Everything was pretty much washed away.

She did listen to the message, eventually.

He just wanted to make sure she was OK, because he’d heard that there was likely to be a flood.

She would have known that too, she reflected, if she ever bothered checking the news.

But she didn’t.

Behind his voice, in the background of the message, there was a dog barking. Apparently he had a dog now.

Call if you need anything, he’d said.

Instead, she just sent him a text.

‘I’m fine. Thanks for checking.’

 

Posted as part of the September Story A Day challenge (a day late in starting, I know) with inspiration from Chuck Wendig’s August 26 Flash Fiction Challenge, Behold The Idiomatic! My mix-and-match idiom was A Change is Lost. I didn’t use the exact words in the story, but you get the idea. 

Image via Wikipedia.

Posted in Challenges, Flash fiction, Stories | 16 Comments

Frame

duck

Why yes, that is a giant rubber duck. Why do you ask?

(Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge Frame. And because giant rubber ducks are cool.)

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Write

write picture.jpg

So I guess I pretty much took July off.

I didn’t plan to, but you know what they say about plans? Well, they’re right.

We had a little health situation in my family around Memorial Day weekend. Everyone is fine now, but it was definitely a reality check. The immediate aftermath was a little like if you were to take everything that you’d been thinking about and working on and toss it up in the air and just stand there, waiting and watching while it all flutters about and lands wherever it’s going to land.

We’ve been sorting through the stuff that landed here and there, putting it all back into some kind of order, finding our footing. It’s going to be OK, and I’m starting to get back on track.

Next on the agenda: Get back to writing. Laser focus. No more procrastinating.

So last week, packing to go out of town for a work training, I thought it would be good to take some writing books with me. One of the books was given to me a few years ago by my husband. I’d forgotten that when he gave it to me, he included a lovely note – that’s what the picture above is – telling me how much he’d liked this particular book when he first found it, and encouraging me to read it. And to write. Generous and supportive, and the picture on the front of the note was exactly the sort of thing I love.

“So do it,” he said. “You know, write.”

And I will. Next week I am running away from home, hiding out in a cabin in some woods. Just me and my computer. My only job the whole time will be to write. I hope – no, I plan to finish the book I started last year during NaNoWriMo, and to play around with some other stuff, and to get my feet firmly back under me.

Wish me luck. And good luck to you, too – with your plans, and with everything else.

 

 

(Stretching the definition of a challenge? Me? I suppose so, but I promise that my focus and intent are quite narrow.)

Posted in Challenges, Miscellany, Stories | 9 Comments

Look Up

clouds1

Posted in response to the WP Photo Challenge Look Up, this is what I saw one day when I looked up at the sky from the parking lot of my veterinarian’s office. Apparently there is a perfectly logical explanation for this kind of cloud formation, and it doesn’t have anything to do with spaceships. I don’t remember anything about the logical explanation, though, because I prefer to imagine that it was a spaceship. Maybe some day I’ll get the real answer.

Posted in Challenges, Photography | 3 Comments

Mary Ellen Mark

Mary-ellen-mark-1

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) was an award-winning American photographer and photojournalist who specialized in photographing people, particularly those on the fringes of society. She worked for major magazines (Life, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and the New York Times) as well as doing portraiture, advertising and unit photography for numerous major motion pictures. The 1984 documentary film Streetwise (directed by her husband, Martin Bell), grew from ‘Streets of the Lost,’ a Life Magazine assignment to photograph Seattle street children. The material was later used for a 1988 book, also called Streetwise, and several later projects that followed up on the children in both ‘Streets of the Lost’ and Streetwise.

Mary Ellen Mark 2

Her work is by turns glamorous and profoundly troubling – particularly the photos of street people, children, and the dispossessed. When you have seen her work, the word that comes to mind is ‘unflinching,’ which is to say that while you might flinch, she never did.

Mark, in her own words:

  • “I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.”
  • “I just think it’s important to be direct and honest with people about why you’re photographing them and what you’re doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.”

You can find photos by Mary Ellen Mark here and here, and here you will find a 2012 interview with Mark and Martin Bell, re-published after her death in 2015, that includes photographs and clips from Streetwise.

(Top photo via Waterjunebug via wikipedia. Middle photo via Devyn Caldwell via Flickr.)

 

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Angels

Partners

Taken today, using my phone, under the kind of overcast sky that can make statues look like they are glowing. Posted in response to the WP photo challenge Partners.

Posted in Challenges, Photography | 3 Comments

On the Hill, Behind a Door(way)

Today I bring you a few pictures, including several doorways, one door, a bunch of rubble, and a sad story.

 
Just as I have mentioned that I have a soft spot for urban decay, there is also something about a building in the process of being demolished that is  fascinating to me – especially older buildings. (Here’s another one.)
Don’t get me wrong, I take no pleasure in the demolition of a building that could (should) have been saved. But what is revealed in the process of demolition can be remarkable and weirdly beautiful. 
 
It’s a chance to see inside a building that you might otherwise never have seen. And it’s not just the stuff you would have seen if you had gone inside when it was still whole and functional. 

 

If you catch the demolition on the right day, at the right time, you can also see the structure, bits and pieces of how it was put together when it was originally built, as well as subsequent additions and changes.

The foundation is visible, you can look under the floors, you can see inside jagged broken walls, look at plaster and lathe and brick and tile and twisted rebar and everything. (If you don’t get chased away. )
There is also something about these places that appeals to the little kid me, the kid in thin, cheap sneakers and dirty shorts with nothing to do but explore.
 
This is a kid who is brave enough to climb around in a pile of demolition debris, who can see worlds in the empty spaces and piles of brick and lumber. 
She can imagine all kinds of adventures in a place like this, which could be anything because it has stopped being what it was. This kid who loves the disorder and chaos of it all – she will spend the whole day here, if she can. 
 
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that there is another reason why a building that’s on it’s way to oblivion is so compelling to me. Looking at these spaces, the way they are halfway here and halfway gone, is like looking at something out of a dream, or a fairy tale.
 
Take, for example, a door, freestanding, almost floating, with nothing around it. It’s slightly surreal, like something magical and maybe a little scary could happen if you go through.
 
Snapping back to reality, it’s worth noting that the recent history of this particular building – a church, built around the turn of the century – is very sad, and the saddest part is what happened to it over the course of several years. 
 
It was owned by someone who didn’t live in the area and was not up to the task of owning an old church. Neighborhood people and preservationists tried to save it, but it ultimately succumbed to death by a thousand cuts. First was a series of demolitions, intended to save what could be saved (therapeutic demolition, a term I had never heard before) and then they just took down what was deemed beyond saving. Which was everything.  
The church bell was saved. Today, it’s a vacant lot.
(Posted in response to last week’s WP Discover Challenge – The Story Behind a Door – this is a variation on something that I posted in 2011, at another blog, in another life.)
 
 
Posted in Challenges, Photography, Stories | 5 Comments

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier exhibit 1

Like many people, I first heard about photographer Vivian Maier around 2010. This is when photographer John Maloof started posting her pictures online and they – and her story – began to go viral. Some six years, five books, two documentaries, countless news stories and dozens of exhibitions later, her work and her story are no less fascinating.

Maier was a photographer who shot literally tens of thousands of pictures over the course of about 50 years, but whose work was entirely unknown until after her death in 2009. Now referred to primarily as a street photographer, from the 1950s through the 1990s her subjects included landscapes, street scenes, as well as portraits and candid (likely even surreptitious) photos of both people she knew and strangers on the street. She also made audio recordings and shot 8mm film.

Vivian Maier exhibit 2

She worked as a nanny, and was a very private person who does not seem to have been well known even by those who did know her. Virtually nobody saw any of her photographs during her lifetime. Towards the end of her life, she had shot an astounding number of photographs and accumulated a huge quantity of prints, negatives, and undeveloped film canisters. She rented space where she stored boxes and suitcases filled with her work, but at some point became unable to pay the rental fees, and the boxes and suitcases containing her work were sold at auction.

John Maloof, Jeffrey Goldstein and others have brought her work to the public eye, and other researchers have tried to learn more about her life and her history. For now, what is best known is a significant sample of her remarkable body of work. Unfortunately, I was unable to get permission to include any of her images here, but for those who are interested, I encourage you to click here and here to see some of her work. It really is quite remarkable. You can also get information on the documentaries that were made about her here and here.

 

(Photos top and middle by Thomas Leuthard via Flickr, taken at the exhibit Vivian Maier – A Life Uncovered)

(Under the heading of ‘Better Late Than Never,’ I am also going to include a pingback to last week’s WP Discover Challenge, Analog, because Vivian Maier was most definitely of the analog world. Can you imagine what she might have done with a digital camera in her hands?)

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