Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Presents and the Thoughts that Count

Every year I twist myself into a moral maze of ordinary human bitchiness that is eventually understood but never quite figured out, if you know what I mean.

I never seem to get what I want. And I persist in thinking I'm going to. I'm talking relatively stupid stuff here, not love, a place in the world or a reason to live. Not good health and no regrets, an end to the war, a fking job. I'm talking pedicure kits and Borders gift cards.

I used to cringe when my mother would groan upon opening another scarf, rose-shaped pin, stuffed animal or rosary. "What am I supposed to do with that?" I cringed because I grokked all too well the disappointment, anger and yes, hurt, that comes from not being understood. Of course, in my family, getting the wrong gift was equal to not being loved. "If you loved me, you'd know what I want. You would have heard me, seen me, listened to me. But you didn't, so you don't."

Really, sometimes the thought doesn't count at all. And that is because the thought was not for her. Or, now that she's dead and I have to claim my inheritance, me.

I could see her point. Old people are living on time and need time and should be given gifts of time. This includes experiences (being taken out of the home); stamps, ephemera: magazines that can be enjoyed and thrown away, for example; wine, food and flowers; massages, gift cards and light sweaters that button down and only if their existing sweaters are stained, which they probably are.

As if the people who love us are actually not people but fairy godmothers. Santa Clauses that read minds and have endless imagination.

Here's another thought I'm grateful to have had. What if we really do get what we give? That would mean I'm the one not reading your mind, not exercising imagination all year, day after day. Now there's a thought that counts.

The thought. Actually, the thought is starting to mean something to me. There's probably a decade coming of the thought being the important thing, maybe less as I'm not all that emotionally evolved, but we'll see. My sister is a good person who, despite our advanced years, continues to see herself as my protector. I'm convinced that this is why she does for me rather than with me. As in, "I'll paint your kitchen. Don't touch anything." Years ago, I'd have shrugged and left her to it. But this year, when she painted my kitchen (and this, I should add, is one hell of a Christmas present and exactly what I wanted AND needed, take back the purple satin pencil case and the pendant of an obscure Irish saint) I was quite desperate to get in there with her and learn all she had to pontificate on, I mean teach me about, the job. So I stayed put and did as I was told, when she told me to do it.

It is not the thought that someone had to throw you a gift you're only going to recycle, it's the thought that they had of you and of their hand stretched out, laden, in your direction. I know this because by the time Christmas, and the gift giving, getting, and worrying, was all over, I'd forgotten that I was ever as angry as I was. The irritation is gone, replaced by humor and a little spiteful but cleansing re-gifting.

Dangerous Book - Episode 23

Episode 23

I like having Billie for a neighbor. She’s kind, responsive and never judgmental or out of sorts. She’s not the kind of person you think would have any problems of her own. Any neurotic worries. Wholesome people make me wholesome. I try to be like them and generally succeed.

Billie doesn’t gossip. I’ve been waiting for her to mention the tension between Kate and Jacob --- atleast bring up his drinking and how angry he gets during a croquet game when he’s losing. Especially when he’s losing to Peter. But she never says a word about other people’s personal lives, so I don’t. I can’t. I’m becoming their friend, but it’s only been a month. Less. I have no right to gossip about anybody.

But I sit with her on the verandah, caught between wanting to talk about Peter, insinuating his name into our conversation whenever possible, feeling embarrassed when I find her turning the talk away from him. He is becoming a delicious obsession. When I can no longer “be good” I go to bed. Love is a narcotic. It takes away the sins of the past. If I can wake up thinking of Peter, I will not think of Marshall or the abort. Funny things, memories. The images that come back over and over are not what you think they’d be. I would have thought the image of Marshall being hit by that yellow truck would be with me every morning. I would have thought the image of me lying with the legs in stirrups talking through the dim noise of the vacuum would be what greets me in the morning. But it’s not. What greets me is the memory from the evening after the abortion but before the afternoon of the yellow truck. Imagine a screen door. Him on one side. Me on the other. My finger tips pressing the dirty mesh... I will let Juniper sleep with me tonight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 22

Sunday night

Back from visit to hospital. Phoebe’s on a tear, hates being cooped up in a cold room and did I bring any socks and why not, what is she supposed to do with brand new slippers?

“When else are you going to wear them?” I asked.

“Christmas!” she barked, glaring at me.

Feel her feet, she said. They’re blue with cold. I held them. I held the good one. The fractured foot had been wrapped, her long toes jutted out beyond the flexible cast. These I tried to warm by blowing on them, but this only irritated her. No, she was not angry with me but with her helplessness.

“I’ll bring you your socks,” I said.

“It won’t do any good,” she said, fractious as a thwarted baby.

We sat in silence for a while. I could tell she wanted to apologize for snapping but at the same time knew she couldn’t help herself. For my part, I just wanted to help her feel better but knew that hashing out her fears wasn’t the thing to do. So we sat in a fog until I asked her who Beau was.

“I didn’t ask you to go snooping around my apartment, did I?” she barked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t think I was snooping. I saw the painting of the cemetery and couldn’t help myself.” I told her about the maps I’d made just that day. “I turned it over to see the date.”

“Dates not on it,” she grumbled.

“So I discovered. But the name Beau is.”

“It’s not a name,” she said. “It’s a relationship.”


More silence. I watched her eyes revolve around the room, at the television screen, at the door to the hallway, the bathroom, every where but at me. Finally they seemed to rest on nothing, on the radiator, the windowsill, already crowded with flowers and cards.

“Beau Dowling,” she said.

“Dowling? The man who died on his birthday?”

She nodded. “Eddie’s father, Robert Dowling, was a friend of mine.”

“The Monnish Court gardener!”

“The gardener.”

“He painted, too. Wow.” And they called him Beau. Not Bo, a Southern nickname for little brother, but the French for beautiful. A word for boyfriend. Suitor. Swain.

“Why did you call him Beau? Was he your beau?”

“He was everyone’s beau. It was just who he was,” she said. “Ask Elizabeth to bring my socks when she comes tomorrow,” she said, dismissing me.

“And how did he come to die on his birthday?”

“He got sick,” she said. “At his party. They said he ate something he was allergic to and died before they could get him to the hospital.”

“That must have been awful.”

People have faces like fraying rope. All the things we hold tight, all the things we tie up and forget eventually loosen and slip free. There seemed to be this kind of an activity visible on Phoebe’s face in the minutes we spent discussing Robert Dowling.

“I wasn’t there,” she said, spitting out the words as if they tasted of bullion. “But of course it must have been.”

As if she had conjured him up, another visitor, Eddie Dowling, walked in. She welcomed him with open arms, literally. He hurried to her, reaching into her bony grasp with familiarity and affection.

I slid away, murmuring a goodbye only I could hear.

“Why do I watch her so carefully?” I asked Billie, much later. She’d brought over a bottle of cold Pinot Grigio and we were drinking it over ice.

“She’s in pain. She’s probably frightened of losing her independence,” she said. “It’s natural to worry about someone you care about.”

“But I hardly know Phoebe. How can I care about her?”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the Butts of Babes

Thanks to Chickory for the cute little eggs from her cute little chickens. Fresh eggs are richer, deeper, more yellow and more flavorful. The difference between these little gems and the big white objects at the supermarket is instantly obvious. Eggy Eggy Eggy. Yum, thanks Chick.

Best Part of the Day - The Beginning

Sometimes the best part of the day is the beginning. Perhaps it's the pink innocence viewed only by looking up or a glimpse of the morning's original intention, which, like most, are well-meant.
An hour later and this sky is gray as a gun and just as menacing. When I was a little girl I asked my father what our souls looked like, and he used the white sheet metaphor: starts clean, sins are the spots that dirty it. Confession was a spiritual laundry day back then. Speak your sins, say your Act of Contrition, your 2o Hail Marys and come out clean all over again. I'm beginning to use these morning skies as evidence of the day's soul---clean and clear and open, if not ready, for what comes.

I try to remind myself, in these moments (all fifteen of them), that whatever worries I went to bed with, or rolled over and nudged awake in the night, do not need to be resurrected for the day. What purpose do they serve? How does putting another nail into my head help me create a new life?

News about a job I really thought I had a chance of getting came yesterday after a relatively brief but obnoxious game of phone tag lasting two days (that's a week in applicant world). I didn't get it, obviously. Added to the weight of what's been a pretty trying year (and I know there are people close to me who have had an even worse year), I felt for a while that I should just let the bilge rise in my throat and cry it all out. But I am not much of a cryer and so switched to some good, old-fashioned self pity. But self pity is passe, isn't it? I was left with getting back on the job boards and the Linkedin and the cookie jar and the busy work and so filled in the rest of the day. A sympathetic email from a good friend almost made me cry.
Just like rain is not far from the silvery pink dawn, tears are not far from my throat.

And again, the dawn comes, blue this time with tinges of green, and I decide that one day was enough to mourn that lost opportunity. Today is for housework and preparation: my sister and brother-in-law are coming. Christmas will be here tonight.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 21

April 22 Monday home early

Although Frederick Monnish was no slave to symmetry (witness the pattern of arcs and circles within the square courtyard), he seemed to treat each unit as a father might a family of jealous children. If unit one got a fig tree, then it’s opposite, unit 6, must have one as well. Rows of azaleas facing north called for rows of azaleas facing south. The one store row of flats that face west must have their own shrubs, also azaleas. Over the course of the court’s 60 years, some changes crept in. Roses flank the front walk and a hackberry has grown up and over Billie and Allen’s roof. At Phoebe’s kitchen window, a small magnolia gives the room a greenish tinge and more privacy than the rest of us get.

When Phoebe asked me to return her gardening tools and pack her overnight bag for the hospital, I jumped at the chance to visit her apartment. Why? Because other people’s space is evidence of their choices and, as such, their souls. Her living room is an excavation site in the making. A museum of miscellany. A goldmine, but of what and for whom, I could not tell in just one visit.

There’s a faint odor of old lady which made me want to open her living room windows. I did open them with some difficulty and shut them again before leaving.

Her kitchen door was blocked by a trash bin too full for her to lift. I emptied this for her. I made her bed, changing the sheets and rolling the soiled ones into a laundry basket I found, after a bit of search, in the hall closet. When the phone rang, I answered it.

Mrs. Moth wanting to know why Phoebe’s door was open. She seemed charmed by my explanation.

“Go into her bedroom closet and take out the blue housecoat. You should find a pair of matching slippers in there, too.” I brought the telephone with me.

“There are a couple of robes here,” I said.

“Take the clean one.”

“With the tags still on it?”

Of course the one with the tags still on it. She didn’t say this, but I know.

“Cut the tags,” said Mrs. Moth. She didn’t say where the scissors were, but I found them, eventually, in a bedside drawer.

I was ordered to pack underwear, a night gown and to select a day dress that buttoned down the front. (Phoebe and Mrs. Moth are the last old ladies to eschew pull-on pants and jogging outfits.) I was to also gather various sundries and toilet articles and place everything in a small suitcase I would find in the hall closet. Whatever book was on the bedside table should be included as well. Also, a bit of knitting in the living room. I was to bring this over to the hospital as soon as possible. I was to keep Phoebe’s house key and return to water the plants except for the African violets. She wasn’t going to be away that long.

“And don’t tell Veronica you’re doing this,” she said in a brisk tone that had the slightest hint of confidence to it. She didn’t want me to know Veronica wasn’t allowed in, but she had to. “Just keep it to yourself.”

Like the good daughter I am, I promised I would and, further, did not try to ingratiate myself by asking why. That would not have been ingratiating and I figured I could find out why on my own.

Phoebe’s things were easily found. Despite, or in spite of Mrs. M’s orders, I packed two house dresses, both fresh and nearly new. My curiosity about them was satisfied when, after some examination, I found they’d been hand made from an old-fashioned pattern. That’s smart!

Phoebe was a reader. On her night table were several mystery novels, an assortment of current novels by middle aged women writers where the conflicts are familiar and the writing clear. But there was also an old hard backed edition of Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I opened it. A first edition!

I packed two mysteries, but left the F. Scott behind. When you’re in the hospital people are constantly interrupting you. Light reading is best.

Her knitting was where Mrs. Moth said it would be. As I rolled the beige ball of a yarn inside a length of knitting, being careful with the needles and the stitches, my eye was caught by a funny little water color painting to the right of her window. I took it down from the wall for a closer look. It was a view of the cemetery, of Evergreen, painted, I guessed, in the 1960s in the very stiff, paint by numbers perfection that epitomizes even the amateur work of that period.

It was much more realistic and studied than my maps and sketches. I recognized from its perspective, the plot where I’d found Phoebe. Her own. There had, evidently, been a crepe myrtle on it once. And there were fewer headstones and no peonies or stone border. As I replaced it, I noticed a date on the back---1959---and an inscription, “I have found my heart in you.” And the name, Beau. I looked around, but did not see any other paintings like it.

I retraced my steps back to the bedroom, adding a cardigan for Phoebe. The art in here was various and all original. A still life in oil of a bowl of peonies, white with faint pink centers in a blue bowl. A photograph of a handsome man. Another of a group of young women, from the same period, possibly the same roll, as she had shown me the day I planted my garden. A wedding portrait, obviously her parents.

Oh yes, the apartment was a biography of artifacts. Who was B.D.? Had the inscription been addressed to Phoebe or someone else? Why wasn’t Veronica welcome? Does Phoebe have any more first editions? What else? What else?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 20

April 21 Sunday

Tonight Prof. S. asked to borrow Juniper for a walk. When he returned her he gave me Astible’s leash, the one he promised.

“She’s too small for a choke chain. I don’t want to tell you how to train your dog, but you know, she’s only eight pounds.”

I agreed, wishing I did not feel the need to control her so cruelly, but the fact was she minded better with the chain.

“Don’t we all?” he asked. “But there are other ways.”

Had a nightmare about Marshall[AG1] sometime early this morning between waking for the first time, always at 3:30 a.m. and the second, get up time at seven. In this one, he left me at the river. On the day after the abortion, we joined two friends of his and went rafting on the Chattahoochee. I had no business doing this. It was far too strenuous and by the end of the day I was nearly in tears. His friend’s girlfriend and I drove home together in one car while the guys drove the other. All the way home, I kept checking the mirrors and turning around, something certain in me had decided they were going to dump us, take off and keep going. That Sharon was going to drop me off and join them and they were going to fly off, leaving me to face the white walls. Perhaps I wanted this to happen. I wanted to be tucked in bed with tea and toast and a soft novel, but I was hiking and pretending I was a Protestant and that the night before had not happened and, by God, I was going to keep pretending.

In my dream the guys did disappear. At a turn in the road we went one way and they went the other. Sharon wouldn’t stop. She hadn’t seem them laughing. I tried to take the wheel but whenever I touched it, it folded and turned to jelly. I woke up yelling, “Wait. Wait!” Only when I woke up, I was not yelling and Juniper was licking my salty face and I felt like such a coward.

Marshall chickened out on me. That’s all. And I chickened out. And maybe we were supposed to. Maybe you didn’t. He did. And you let him? Wait. Wait.

[AG1]changed from Beattie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Arched Book: Getting Hung

Sometime last summer I was asked and eagerly agreed to participate in a collage show at eyedrum, a mixed-use art space in ghetto central...not far from me. It's a rambunctious spot: chain link fence, parking lot clotted with pot holes, perennial political shifts from visual art gallery to music venue, film viewing station. Energetic, hip, young. Everything I'm not, so I'm very glad to be there.

And I am there! Astonishing effort, egged on by show curator Mandie Mitchell, who I knew when she was a punk undergrad at Atlanta College of Art. Last week was a bear. I've got a new freelance gig grading papers for an online writing program. Last week was my first week of grading actual papers, setting them to the rubric and creating templated comments and a time management system that would get them done in the required 72 hours. OMFG. I cancelled everything I could, except the mammogram and the collage project.

The trick for me was to deliver a piece that was a book, because that's what I do, that could hang on a wall. (Anything sitting on a pedestal would likely be stolen.) Fortunately, I've been taking a book arts class at the Atlanta Printmakers Studio from book artist, Rory Golden. He'd created or adapted a structure that would allow him to ship a book in the smallest container but hang in the largest space. The solution to this is an accordion structure.

Rory calls his book an 'arched' book because it literally arches over the space where it hangs.
It collapses into an object the size of its pages.
In my case, I worked on pages folded to 7 by 7 inches. Each page is folded and loops are threaded into the spines of each page.
Then, send a tape through the loops. One tape is as wide as the loops and fits pretty snuggly. This tape is folded between the pages. Then another, much longer, ribbon (or two) is sent over the tape. This is much looser and longer.

These ribbons run from one point/wall to the other and serve as the 'clothes' line, or track for the pages.

A point of felicity at eyedrum came when we hung the structure in a corner and shadows appeared.

This piece, called "Miss Pearl Fooled Me" is not finished.
Pages are made with mulberry paper, a new surface for me and wonderful!
More on that later.
Gotta go prep for a telephone interview. Still job hunting.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 19

I returned to Phoebe immediately armed with a bottle of water which I urged on her and which she took, thanking me for showing some sense. Wannabe heroines spend more time wondering how they'd behave in emergencies. Real girl scouts learn the basics of first aid: how to take a pulse, administer CPR, where to put the cold compress. My mother, when I once had the pleasure of nursing her, called me Cratchett and said if she ever wanted to die before her time, she'd move in with me. Like she'd ever get the chance.

In the surprisingly short time we had to wait Phoebe and I did not talk. I thought we should and complimented her on the plantings in her plot: bulbs—daffodils just passing out as the iris emerged. The plot is bordered by white stones of assorted sizes that might have been culled from the marble and granite pieces of broken graves, and perennial shrubs: two gardenias, a native azalea and four peonies in early budding stage. Dozens of bulbs.

In a plot close by Veronica’s family rested in a space rendered both cheap and cheerful by two folding lawn chairs (one pointing in this direction) and a plastic bunny she'd placed there at Easter. "I wonder why," I said. "Is there a baby's grave?"

“No." said Phoebe. “She just buys whatever strikes her and plants it anywhere. She'd always been a little…" did she say cheap? It's what I thought I heard. I don't think Phoebe thinks much of Veronica. But they're attuned to each other. They depend on each other. Like family.

I was proud of Juniper. She snuggled down into the wedge of Phoebe's arm and rested. It was, if you looked at them, as if Phoebe was her guardian. Yet I could see that Juniper provided the warm comfort, while Phoebe provided the shade. My dog is so simple in her selfishness she is a joy to be with. And Phoebe used her to calm herself. She stroked Juniper's fur endlessly as we waited for the ambulance.

“Whose grave is this?” I asked.

“Mine,” she said. Wistfully, I thought. We sat in silence, until the light caught on the bracelet I’ve been wearing, the one with the charm of the baby’s head. She asked to see it and try it on.

“Is this the bracelet you found in your garden?” she asked.

I’d had the chain cleaned and added some charms of my own that I’d collected or been given over the years: a high school graduation charm from an aunt who didn’t realize charm bracelets were out of style. A little mushroom I’d worn as a pendant during the psychotropic years.

This baby’s head with the now legible March 10, 1960 I cherished as a gift, dispensed by the gods as a symbol. The date was a mildly significant to me; I wouldn’t have remembered it, specifically but I certainly remembered the weeks after the pregnancy test and a warm day in March when I allowed myself to walk among the hobbity houses off East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead and feel desire without envy. Little houses with round doors that basked in the sun like sleeping safe children. When I re-read the journal I kept then, a fragmentary thing that illustrated the state of my mind, I saw it was on March 10 when I took that little stroll, admitted my desires and ran from them.

When I look at the flat gold charm I see the baby’s head and associate the gold wafer thinness of the charm itself with currency, but when I rub it I remember that street so tightly it’s as if I can smell the honey suckle and must be brought back to earth with some acidic reminder about cliches.

Phoebe fondles the charm also and I wonder what incantations she’s pulling out of it. Her strength doesn’t seem sufficient to the act and so she brings it to her lips. “It’s real gold,” I said, afraid she was going to bite into it. This stops her and she grins. A grin from an old woman is a wicked thing. So little meat. So much bone. “I know,” she whispered and handed the bracelet back to me.

“I have my own plot,” I said, changing the subject.

“In New York?”


“Comforting, isn't it?” She spoke in what I now realize was an ironic tone. She was after all, stretched across her own grave. But I missed it then

“I won’t be here forever. Someday I’ll go home.”

And then I don’t know what happened, but I started to cry. The sweet thing was that she was silent and returned my dog to me. No matter how indifferent I seem towards Juniper, whenever I’m feeling bad, she will come to me.

“You wanted it after all, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know what I wanted.”

“In a way,” said Phoebe. “That’s worse.

“Look,” she said, raising herself up, as if she was not in pain after all. “Look. You’re going to have to figure out a way to get on with it.”

She drew a melodramatic breath and seemed to emphasize her point by jabbing at the daffodil leaves. She had not been able to braid all of them. “Fix these, please,” she ordered. I complied and, as if rewarding me, she continued.

“These events…these crimes we make against ourselves…it’s not them, you have to worry about, but the punishment of letting them fester so that takes up your life. What was your sin? You’ve got one or you wouldn’t be so confused. Figure it out. Figure out how to forgive yourself and do it.”

The sound of the ambulance’s siren, which I’d been hearing as an effect against the intensity of her words suddenly turned real and hot. 911 had arrived.

I promised to drive over later with Mrs. Moth, but when I got back to Monnish Court, Mrs. M. was not home. Veronica was and promised she would go over, which she did and was still there later when I finally delivered Mrs. M. and, by the way, met that doctor Veronica has been dating.

The diagnosis could have been worse: Phoebe's ankle was not just twisted but had fractured. This was bad enough in someone my age, but frightening for a frail stalk of a woman in her seventies.

P.S. Returned to Evergreen later for Phoebe’s basket. Note stone with inscription Robert Dowling. Interesting feature: He died on his birthday. Also, instead of simple dates his stone had been carved with a star before April 12, 1928 and a cross before April 12, 1960. How do you die at 32 on your birthday? I wondered. Find out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 18

Sat., April 20 evening

I went out this morning with a sketchpad and Juniper. We fetched up at Evergreen where I let her off the leash and discovered, while drawing, that drawing is seeing. You can't do one without the other.

See the three maps? The first turns out to be only an impression of Evergreen's layout.

My memory of it in conflict with what I really saw as I began to draw. I started with a rectangle and some crosses to mark off the roads, paths and footways. I started large, thinking the paved entry road divided the cemetery in half. But in fact, this road, which begins on 11th St., cuts along the first third.

Then there is a row of rose bushes, which begins on the left of the entry road and finishes on the right. I thought it marked the center of the whole cemetery, but it's nowhere near the center. It's not the center of the cemetery or anything; it's just a row of rose bushes that runs horizontally from the Snowes, across the entry drive and past the Ebinger's crypt to the Martin's raised bed where it ends. It's practically random. Or is it?

I found myself erasing and re-drawing until the paper gave out and then I drew again this time a combination of what I still thought I was seeing and what I actually did see. What an argument! Gave this one up quickly and in disgust. (This is precisely when most adults and middle school children give up drawing---at the intersection of stubborn persistence and surrender. The frustration has nothing to do with a talent for drawing. It has to do with a talent for willingness. If we persist past frustration, we move into the ultimately more rewarding frustrations of hand-eye coordination. We begin to draw what we see and train our hands to follow. It is willingness more than talent that makes a good draughtsman. And what of talent? I think of it as love. The talented one is the artist, the one who loves, who gets there faster, who has more fun, is more playful. The talented one coordinates beyond eye and hand and into soul. But I was just trying to get a bead on the cemetery. I was trying to fix the place in my mind and on my pad.

Finally I stood on the highest plot drew the bones of the third map. See how the row of roses has shifted into its rightful place. This morning it was the horizontal of a cross. Tonight it is a line no bigger than a dash. While I was learning all this, Juniper had made her own discoveries.

In doing this, I spotted Phoebe. After completing the third and most accurate map, I'd gone to investigate the plot where I first saw Veronica and Peter and found Phoebe lying in a neighboring plot. Like Veronica, she had been working. Tending the expired daffodils.

Unlike Veronica, who had been clipping the last of the blooms, Phoebe had been kneeling in front of a head stone braiding dozens of daffodil leaves, rolling them into balls, which she then tucked and knotted into something resembling a chignon.

When I saw her from the nearby path she seemed to be crawling on the plot. She was not; she was writhing. She had lost balance and fallen against the stone, landing back on the ground.

Poor Phoebe was at that level of pain where you pass out when it gets bad and wake back up when it gets worse. She'd twisted or broken her ankle stumbling over the stones that border the gravesite (a family sized plot with two stones.) Of course I panicked for two seconds, actually turning away and then back again hoping like hell I'd been imagining things. No luck. Juniper is more sensible. She ran up to Phoebe and brought her to with a few good licks to the face. Dropping to my knees beside them, I pulled Juniper away then stared at Phoebe as a very young child might. She opened her eyes and rolled them in my direction.

"Get help." She mouthed the words. I hesitated. Looking towards the apartment complex and back again. Truly, paralyzed with ignorance. "Leave the dog," she mouthed. I released Juniper and stood. Energy returned with a force that sent me flying over the chain link fence to the side alley that runs between Monnish Court and Evergreen.

From my apartment I phoned 911 and gave directions.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

3 Day Walk - 5 Day Recovery

Top Ten Things I Learned the Second Year

1. First year was beginner's luck: Great weather, over-training, wide-eyed innocence, no blisters
2. There's no way of knowing how the events of the preceding year will effect one's ability to experience the 3Day. This year we started in Sand Key in Clearwater Beach and crossed the Clearwater Bridge, passing the Oaks, where the Knuckle lived. Had this route been on last year's walk, she would have been out on the sidewalk with her buddies. This year, she was not.
3. I will never look at someone's scowls or bad temper without asking first, "Could she/he be in pain?" Pain is a great filter and it changes everything. To rise above pain and smile is a mark of great strength, humor and understanding.
4. I don't have those qualities.
5. Yet.
6. Pain makes you paranoid, slows you down and tricks you into thinking it's a reflection of your quality, popularity and intelligence.
7. Pain makes you lonely and retards compassion. It deafens you to applause.
8. No matter how slowly you must walk, there is someone behind you. To reduce your speed to theirs is to hurt yourself further. We must all walk at our own speed.
9. I will love it better next year.
10. Just because it hurt doesn't mean it wasn't a victory.

So, not as magical as year one. Well, what is?
Blisters do heal.
It didn't rain.
The temps weren't always in the 90s.
With just 1,400 walkers (far less than 2008), we raised $4 million.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Off to the 3 Day

Why I Walk--- Do you really want these little kids to have to deal with breast cancer?

Everyone from the guys at Fleet Feet, who sold me this year's Saucony/Nike shoe mix (Saucony's are snugger and great for morning; the Nikes are perfect for the afternoon when my feet really are a size 10) to our beloved doorman think I'm gonna do just fine. But I'm the one who knows I ain't been to yoga above twice since the layoff and barely checked into the training teams all summer. I know I can do it, but it's gonna hurt.

That said, I want to thank everyone who supported me in gathering, raising, soliciting, begging for the necessary $2,300 minimum. It's going to a good cause and will be administered by one of the best-run organizations I've ever seen: The Breast Cancer 3Day benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (There, I've finally got the name right!) In 2008, the 3Day series raised $110 million, 72% of which was invested in mission programs and services. The remainder, well below the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Standards for Charitable Accountability (www.give.org), was spent on management and fundraising.

FYI:The 2009 Breast Cancer 3-Day Series includes 15 events in Boston (July 24-26), Cleveland (July 31-

August 2), Chicago (August 7-9), Michigan (August 14-16), Twin Cities, Minn. (August 21-23), Denver

(August 28-30), Seattle (September 11-13), San Francisco (October 2-4), Washington D.C. (October

9-11), Philadelphia (October 16-18), Atlanta (October 23-25), Tampa Bay, Fla. (October 30-

November 1), Dallas/Fort Worth (November 6-8), Arizona (November 13-15), and San Diego

(November 20-22).

My friends, you gave to help me, to honor your daughters, your mothers, your sisters, aunts, cousins and friends, and I am deeply grateful:

Thanks to Janeann and Steve, Serey and Mike, Ralph and Julie, Evy, Cary, Debra, Andrea, Gus, Mary and Mike, Karen, Jean, Pat, Rob and Donna, Marty and Lee, Chris, Patricia, Kevin, Faye and Bill, Jane, Pat (hi Kara!) and George, Claudia and Bob, Patrick, Sarah and Linda, Colleen, Laurie ---- and the Downshifters of Brooklyn.

Thanks to J.Jill at Phipps for hiring me even though I went on "vacation" immediately...the new pink A-line T-shirt is divine.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 17

Monday, April 29

As a result of last night’s game, I’m in. I’m among friends. To push the idea of myself as a foreign visitor, I’d say that last night I was given a green card.

In my first year in Atlanta, I learned how to behave like a proper foreigner. To be quiet and watch without observing too much. To refrain from comparing anything: experiences, traditions, even views —even the color of the sky, to New York. In Atlanta, a popular bumper sticker read “We don’t care how they do it in New York.” It was understandable. Here is a culture no one from the outside cares to understand. A civilization, as the lady wrote, gone with the wind. But not quite. What remains of a culture so dependent on hypocrisy? An economy based first on cotton and the slave trade and then on tobacco. It is laughable to think that an international airport, a large soda company and the introduction of air conditioning could change all that. (And the peaches?) I moved South without realizing any of this, of course. Without realizing who I was or that who I was was where I was from.

In Tuscaloosa among natives of an even older and smaller society, I watched with deliberate patience and was rewarded: Kate and I have plans for shopping, and I will be joining Billie “soon” for a drive to the “Dismals,” a series of Indian caves about an hour’s drive north.

And when the game ended I found them all quite tactful. After the old ladies evaporated into their airless bedrooms, and Professor Sergeant disappeared with Juniper for a long walk, Kate, looking resigned, dragged Jacob home. He was drunk but more cheerful. He had won, beating Peter in a head-to-head poison chase that kept them both away from the bar.

Billie and Allen closed their door leaving Peter and me in possession of the night. We pulled up stakes and hoops, collected the balls, which I wiped clean before replacing in the wooden box where they lived. And when he kissed me goodnight, I’m fairly sure not a single neighbor was watching. I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t have mattered if any had been watching.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Off the Grid: Week - What I Got to See Today

The corner of Boulevard and Freedom Parkway is tricky for everyone at all times of the day or night but most especially the pedestrians, runners and cyclists. Essentially, anyone without 3,000 pounds of metal around them. And for those folks, there's the panhandlers.

If you've lived or visited downtown Atlanta, you know the intersection I mean. Eastbound, Freedom Parkway is just cranking up and westbound is a nice dump into the connector exits or onto International for the drop into downtown. Westbound, it's my favorite open secret way of getting over the interloping connector and onto Piedmont. North and southbound it's a war zone between Sweet Auburn and the hospital formerly known as Georgia Baptist. As an added bonus, the Freedom Park path, a walking trail from downtown to Stone Mt., also runs east west.

Part of what makes the intersection such a tender bitch is the collective attitude of the drivers. And that's odd since many of them are listening to NPR and heading home to Va-Highland, Inman Park, L5P, etc. We're talking small cars with affirmative bumper stickers here. Of course the north-southbound drivers are in trucks and for some reason will not believe that people are actually walking anywhere near the exit ramp, but much less dragging small and medium-sized kids from the elementary school just two blocks south. WTF?

So, I'm heading home from Candler Park where I've finally taken a yoga class for the first time since the lay-off and get stopped at the light where I'm gunning to be the last left over the connector. But it's all jammed up and there's an emergency vehicle stuck way to the west heading east, siren going, nobody moving, whether they can or not. Note: the road game here is to jump an EMT's space and take advantage of whatever fresh real estate is before or after it. But that's not happening to anyone here. Instead, cars and trucks have turned into sullen cattle and no one's giving anyone an inch.

Until this "street guy" who seems quite crazy strolls purposefully, manfully, into the intersection and starts herding cars. At first it's like he's crazy. Like still-in-Saigon crazy only it's not really 1978, it just feels like it sometimes. The man (no longer a guy) is trained to do stuff like this but he's still nuts. But it works. Like, he puts himself in front of this jackass who's gonna try and get his ass through the light no matter what or where the EMT, which has now reached Boulevard and needs to get off the southbound exit and turn around in a hairpin to get north to the hospital formerly known as Georgia Baptist. Note: I didn't know this last part until the EMT loomed into my sideview mirror. (should I have moved?) I, everyone, 8 lanes of sitting drivers, are watching this no-longer-crazy guy choreograph the EMT's northbound maneuver, and, like a headwaiter, bow it on it's way.

I'd have honked in appreciation, but that would have been dangerous. I believe we all felt that way.

When our traffic here finished the job, he sauntered back to his panhandle corner (westbound) and took a damn bow!

And we all went on our way home. And I repeated the line "what I got to see" over and over until I could get up here and tell you all about it... Sometimes it's just so good to pull my head out of my ass.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Off the Grid: Week 20-something

Here's something I know well: None of our unique feelings are all that unique. Every week I'm going to have one day when the image of life off the grid is so petrifying I can't think at all but just boing from bed (an hour later than on other days) to the kitchen, the studio, the path, the internet, the stores and make a couple of crappy decisions because I feel like a failure.

Worked three days at J. Jill, my first at what is not, must not, cannot be a career change but simply a stop gap until I find, manifest, land another real job. A job, or an assignment, that will allow me to spring for the $130 ticket Leonard Cohen's people are charging at the Fox next week.
(Although I must say, that's a hell of a price to pay for a concert, isn't it? It seems very high to me, but the guy's an old guy and something tells me I've long lost track of the price of things like concerts, ball games, etc.)

While at J. Jill, unpacking endless cartons with the other new part-timers, only one of whom was a proper shop girl, learning how to handle the steamer (I want one!), and fold sweaters like a midtown queen, the crusty inner dragon who wants me out of the house was sated. The inner sensible person, soooo nascent, nagged "Buying lunch at the food court will cost you an hour of work."

Yesterday, I learned my paperwork for the online job (I'll be teaching online soon for a college in the midwest, wearing Pure Jill yoga styles) was delayed because the identity proof I used (an old passport) had been expired too long. So I spent the morning sending off for a birth certificate and just for the hell of i,t and because I like self-immolation, I walked to the local social security office and sat for an hour with a lot of people who don't smell very good and don't know this season's J.Jill colors are amethyst, pearl and granite.

While there, a man with teeth the color and solidity of an antique library book, told me "They're trying to hang me!" So the fuck what, I thought. But said, politely (I thought) "That's nice." I mean, jeez, they don't hang in this state.
He was so offended I thought we were going to have a fuss.
"I thought you were kidding," I said. But it was too late, he moved his seat.
I gave his seat to my purse and no one came near me again. And I kept thinking, this is another example of impulse vs. inspiration. When I feel bad, I use my time foolishly by walking in the rain, sitting with people who are crawling with germs and not too shy about sharing them, and ranting inside when I didn't have to. I could have done this online, though you still have to show someone your proofs. I could have spared myself and that silly man a rudeness. I sat there thinking, why are you punishing yourself? What are you hoping to learn from being on the wrong end of a bureaucratic interchange? Maybe that I've lost that ranking we all have as members of the employed. I used to feel left out as a single person. All the marketing, after all, is targeted to those with nuclear families. Now I get to experience the thrilling anonymity of the unemployed or the one claiming benefits (though all I was doing was replacing a lost card.)

Some days, I just want to feel the muck and let it scare the crap out of me. It's a way to test my faith in myself and in what's now clear is a determination to keep making art during the day, not at night when I'm too tired to execute properly. Why I do this, I don't know. That's probably a lesson from another hour in another line.

Dangerous Book - Episode 16

April 28 Sunday

Very early. Coffee and brownies filched from last night’s croquet.

It is the weekend and I am luxuriating in a morning alone. All my mornings are solitary, yet it’s only when I’ve had a compliment of company that I can bask in it, selfishly stretching my legs along the length of this couch. The sun is mine, the smiling dog mine.. This empty page---ours. As I write I am one, but later, when I read this, I’ll be older, different, someone else. And who knows, someday I may have an audience.

Spent last night on the island of old friends, passport stamped, natives friendly. We played croquet, a game of war, survival and the complexities of a surface existence. Oops, I meant to write a social existence. Peter played at romance, I at love. Kate played possum. Jake played not at all. He’s an impatient man and a bit of a bully. I couldn’t live with him, but Kate has an inner pool of calm that draws angry people to her for sustenance, and perhaps their fire warms her.

Billie and Allen lived in their own made up world, reminding me of paper dolls from the 1950s or of the parents in an old reader. Dick and Jane’s parents. Physically alike and turned towards each other. As soon as I saw the happy couple emerge with the croquet set, I ran out to help. Then I ran back in again and changed. I’d put on a knee length dress with a low loose waist, but when I saw Billie and Kate in shorts, I changed into a pair of my own. This necessitated some thought as to a top. I’m past the age where the most comfortable T-shirts can be considered flattering or even passable. My best ones were in the wash, so I made do with a cropped white blouse. This gave me a slightly over-dressed look, but I realized I would probably be the only one to think so. I dithered over jewelry until the absurdity of being so nervous made me laugh.

In Atlanta I lived in a small apartment building and enjoyed knowing most of my neighbors. We’d admired each other’s balcony gardens; walked together to the bus stop or nearby museum. Listened to each other sing in the First Presbyterian Church at Christmas. Some of the old renters had been friends for years. I’d even loaned my apartment to a neighbor for her family’s use during a reunion. I fully expect to experience more or better relationships with this Tuscaloosa group. Yet, I’m aware (for the first time?) of seeming bit older and different. Of coming in on a crowd that was tight and intermarried. And face it, I was aware of an attraction to Peter that confused and excited me. In going out to meet him again among his friends I felt like an actress making an entrance into a play that had begun months or years ago. And in this play, I have a role but no script.

The croquet set belongs to Peter, who bought it "on impulse" at a garage sale, but it’s kept here with Billie and Allen. It is, as he was first to establish, a tournament quality set. Swedish. Since they’ve only had the set a week, the rules are agreed upon by consensus. Jake insists he’s the most knowledgeable because he’s played on a real one-hundred-foot course, or field. He calculated how long we’re most likely to play (two hours) and compared that against the skills of the participants (low).

“We should play teams with six wickets,” he said.

Peter and Allen over-ruled him immediately. His surrender was so graceful, I had to laugh. Something told me he was getting his own way after all. A wink from Kate confirmed that. Bad-tempered yet tactful. An interesting combo.

“My turn,” said Allen, winking at Billie.

“Let me go,” said Peter. “You took last night.” (Had they played last night? Where was I? What had I missed by shopping for tonight? Was this linen romper worth it?

“Tough,” said Jake. “It’s my turn.”

“Tonight we'll play with Jacob’s memories,” said Kate. She'd elbowed him away from the drinks table and was making gin and tonics for all with a generous hand. The brownies and deviled eggs were long gone.

“I’ve been chasing croquet memories for the last hour,” I said. “When Jake set out the course, my instinct was to correct him. As if whoever had taught me to play had to be right. “Maybe it’s only our childhoods that had to be right,” I said.

“They really do take turns,” said Billie.

“We could get the rules off the web site,” I said. "I mean, I already did. I downloaded them.”

“Oh, not you, too,” said Kate. “They’ve all downloaded the rules. They just don’t care.”

“They read them in secret,” said Billie, settling herself into the only lounge chair. She tightened the head of her mallet efficiently. "Have a drink before we start; there's plenty of time."

She was right. There was time to watch Jake and Peter argue over the measurements, rustle up more food from everyone’s kitchen before the guys finally had the field lined up according to memory and Association rules. Before Professor Sergeant and Astible arrived and joined Phoebe and Veronica on the verandah steps. “To watch,” he said. “Just to watch.” But I noticed he communed more with my puppy than with any of us and was never available for a ruling, though we called on him often.

The basics we all seem to remember and agree upon:

There are nine wickets set out in two diamonds placed to fit the space available. At Monnish Court this is practically the length of an official (100 feet) court, but not quite, so we adjusted accordingly. I'd never played on so large a field and had some trouble getting "out" of the start stake and the first two wickets. In your standard suburban backyard and playing with a child's set, there is only about a foot between the starting stake and the second wicket. In tonight's game, this length was about three feet. Our lawn is dry and only appears flat. It's actually full of stones and tufts, and, given the yield of my garden so far, bones and amulets. Play was uneven. But that's the game.

As with life and love, over time you get to know the terrain. Until then, every stroke yields a surprise.

Croquet details we all need to know:

· Hitting (roqueting) another player's ball brings choice.

· The order of play follows the colors designated on the two end stakes: blue, red, black, yellow, green and orange.

· It is war, played to win, to kill and to survive.

· To roach: to chase players, not wickets. Sign of bad sportsmanship or inebriation.

· Poison defeats its pursuers. Poison is what you are when you have played through and “won”. To win in croquet is not your goal, you must kill. The first person finished comes back into the game as “Poison” and tries to hit other balls.

· To be hit by a poisoned ball is to die.

· To hit a poisoned ball is to die. Once you finish the course and also become poison, you are safe to hit poisoned balls.

· The last ball is the surviving ball.

· Surviving is winning.

So. Just when you think you’re finished, you discover you are not. Just when you think you have won, you must play again. Just when you think you have lost, you have not. Because you might still win in the poison afterlife and so must continue. It’s as if the game itself is a form of life–and poison a form of hell. The game is over, but you are not over. Life ends with death, you end with hell. For in the end, we are all either poisoned, nourished, kept ‘alive’ with that corrupting elixir, or we are victims of it. The truly dead do not got through the final wicket at all, do not become poison, but perish on the field.

I have not found heaven yet, but the season for finding it has just begun. There is life in the garden. And that is what heaven really is.

Back to the game. Back to life. Croquet is about roqueting. Bumping into others and making a choice.

Roqueting yields a choice:

  • Player may take two bonus strokes


  • Player may place his own ball in contact with the struck ball in such a way as to send both balls in the desired direction.

This useful shot, called a croquet shot, was dubbed by Kate “lover's ball.” When Billie’s ball lay nestled near a wicket, Allen kissed his mallet head and roqueted her through the wicket along with his own. “Lover’s ball!” she cried. A little later, when Peter sent us both through the third wicket, she called it buddy ball. Whether lover or buddy, the striker has one remaining stroke. It’s a sweet, non-competitive moment used to keep everyone happy until the end, when corrupting influences take over the night.

And, finally, how to croquet:

Place your own ball in contact with the struck ball and place your foot over your own ball (rendering it immobile). Strike your own ball and whammo! Send your opponent where you will. Or, if you’re wearing sandals, where you can.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dangerous Book - Episode 15

I want to go lightly with Peter, as I did not go with Marshall. I want the dizzying happiness--- the kind you don’t even worry about believing in because it’s made up of laughter. Is he a good kisser? He’s goddamn good enough. Good enough to get better, and I am looking forward to sleeping with him. My body’s been in a cave and this is the man who will roll the rocks from the entrance. No, I have not told him what he is waking me from. No, I will not tell him. I have to say I’m embarrassed, or that I feel very very privately about the mourning I’ve experienced. Oh, like there’s some unwritten feminist law that says you can’t let yourself be harmed or even affected by this thing. The rule about abortions: if you’re going to make it a sin, if you’re going to feel guilty and sad, then you shouldn’t be doing it. I don’t know where I got this idea. I have a wisp of a memory, of a woman I didn’t know and will never know, in a bar or at a meeting where abortion was on the table. She threw back her head and its lot of hair and exclaimed, “I’ve had four!” As if daring the room to object. The level of my own shock was so deep I laughed at it. How quaint. I felt I had no right to be shocked, much less disapproving, but my god, I was both. So, no. I will not tell.

And you know what that is, Nora? That’s a little wall. The secrets we keep are walls. Something between you. Not that walls are bad, not that perfectly happy people who live together for years shouldn’t have them, but know what you’re building.

Look how quickly it happens. We meet, we desire, we flirt and skirt and dance and start lying in less time than it takes to suck the lime out of a gin and tonic. We hand each other variations on the truth and see how they play. Even with the best of the romances, the ones we remember fondly, there are lies. With Beattie there were not lies but there should have been. Instead there was a screen door and two fingers touching wire, one body just gunning to be gone, the other an aching basket. This will not be that way. This will not be that way. Repeat three times. This will not be that way.

I know a woman who doesn’t believe a word a man says for the first six months of knowing him. Can he believe her?

Half of what Peter and I talk about is nothing more than showing off. We’re not bragging about ourselves, just displaying our shared prejudices for the pleasure of agreeing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Less than a Month to the 3Day

Most of the 3Day walkers I know are united in finding this year's fundraising effort to be a hard one. Far more challenging than in past years. The goal has been raised to $2,300 and fewer people are walking. My team, which walked about 70 people last year, is walking 20 this month. Many are not walking because of health issues, others simply knew they couldn't raise the required minimum. I'm not the only mammory on the government tit (no pun).

This weekend, I drove down to Dunedin to participate in a mini fundraiser that just a few of us conspired to hold with funds going to just the few of us. Each year the team (Thanks for the Mammories and the SOB's [sons, others and brothers, our guy's team]) runs a series of fundraisers beginning with a yard sale and moving up the intensity scale to a casino night. Smaller groups get together to hold events like ours. Janice and her sisters did the lion's share of this weekend's successful vintage car show thanks to members of the Downshifters of Brooklyn.

The downshifters are car enthusiasts who like to hang out together in likely places, wear black jeans and T-shirts and show off their vintage automobiles, while helping out worthy charities. We gathered sponsorships for trophies from area merchants and services, held 50-50 raffles and the inevitable bake sale this Sunday at Bif Burgers in Pinellas Park, southish of St. Pete. It was a beautiful day. Typically Florida hot but without summer's bite.

Bif Burger owner/manager Troy was the greatest! He just kept on shelling out the cash, buying so many raffle tickets that, of course, he won. But when he won, instead of pocketing his half of the take, he donated it right back either to the team or to the pot. What a sweetie!

Instead of pricing the baked goods, we just asked for donations. Couldn't have done better than that. People were so generous.

Unfortunately, there were too few people on hand to help us reach our desired goal, but we did really well with about $2,700. That's enough to help several of us reach our minimums and take the fear out of the rest. The thing about the 3Day is, once you commit, you commit.

It's kind of like having cancer. There's no halfway and there's no backing out. If you don't raise your minimum, you don't walk. But you don't get the money back, either. In two weeks, I need to pony up what's owing. Today, that's $800. Not sure how we'll divvy Sunday's haul but I know I won't be putting $800 on my Visa card. I'll let you know.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Some days are just a gift. For this morning's walk, my neighbor F., and I waited till mid-morning and walked over to the Carter Center. F, who used to work for President Carter before she retired (lucky girl), said there was an event going on. She made it sound like a little office bun fight in honor of the newly renovated presidential library and, oh yeah, President Carter's 85th birthday.

I guess for someone who attended the Nobel Peace Prize celebrations, a little birthday party in the garden is no big deal, but for me and a few hundred others, a rendition of Happy Birthday, Mr. President, led by a dozen grandchildren and others, was pretty special.

It was lovely to see President and Mrs. Carter looking so chipper. Ditto the Mondales, Reverend Lowery (still funny), Mayor Franklin (still grim) and even the token Republican, Gov. Purdue (still red).

I'd been fretting lately over the lack of 'neighborhood' immediately surrounding my high rise.
there's a price to pay for the view I cherish. Sometimes I wish I'd bought in midtown, closer to shops, coffee houses and people with permanent addresses. But as I strolled through the Carter Center's gardens, I remembered that just 10 minutes away was one of the pretties places in Atlanta. I just needed to remember it's here. Hell, I just need to look out the window and to the right.
I'd also been wishing, just this morning, that I'd kept in touch with some of my former ACA continuing education students. Teaching at that school provided my life with more meaning than any other of my many many jobs and I would like to know how they are doing and if they are still writing. Wouldn't you know, sitting two people to my right and known to F., was a woman from a class I taught back in the 1990s! She didn't say if she was still writing, but she did tell me about another woman she met in that class and how they are still friends.

How often do we get what we ask for? More often than we realize, I think. We just have to remember to remember we asked and remember to look for the gift. It's right there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

DAngerous Book - Episode 14

Thursday, April 19

Peter and I picnicked this afternoon on the Gorgas Library steps overlooking the Archeology department’s dig. We met there to watch Kate boss her undergraduate volunteers as they picked their way through ground on which had once stood Madison Hall, a dormitory burned to the ground by Union soldiers five days short of Lee’s surrender.

“Can you imagine burning down a dormitory?” she asked.

They both looked at me in the accusing way of native Southerners.

“Hey,” I said, “my people were at Andersonville, thank you.” This kind of remark always clears the room, but I’ve learned not to care. Kate actually laughed.

“Then we won’t have to worry about you!” she said and ran back to the dig leaving her notebook and Coke behind. If I didn’t know better I’d say she was chaperoning us. But why would she need to do that?

How close did we get today? Peter and I? Well. I am getting what I’ve asked for. Unhurried wooing. If, indeed, one is wooed by hot dog lunches on library steps. Not when you put it that way, Nora. Put it this way: wooed by knees that touch, by the careful shifting of bodies so that knees are only the first of parts to touch. Voices touch. Thighs touch. And rebound as Kate returns. A little like a dance. Enter self-consciousness. Enter blushes coupled with clean irritation. "I’m going now, " I said after her third interruption. "Got a meeting."

But later, as I was leaving Clark Hall at five, who was waiting for me? Drinks at the Lullwater?

“Will any of your friends be there?”


“Let’s go.”

My own digging for information about Peter’s current state was as delicate as Kate’s search for the remains of Madison Hall. And I know less about what I will find than she does. Here are three archaeological digs going on. My garden, I realize, was one. Unintentional. I chose a space to make a garden so that I could bury my sadness and plant new life. Raise some green girl-ness in myself. A Lazarus activity. And I do this, but in doing it I find a bracelet and a bead. I don’t know what to make of these objects. They have meaning to someone, but not to me. Maybe Ed Dowling buried them when he planted his azaleas. In addition to the bracelet and the blue bead, I also pulled up rotten bulbs. How many people have lived in these fifteen separate apartments over the last fifty years?

When Kate gets down to the particulars of her site, she will (she hopes) uncover objects and parts of objects. Artifacts. (noun: an object produced or shaped by human workmanship; especially, a simple tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest. 2. Biology. A structure or substance not normally present, but produced by some external agency or action.) Unlike the objects I’ve uncovered, she will unearth objects with the potential for historic meaning. She will not polish the blue bead and leave it on her desk. She will not wear the bracelet. She will photograph her finds and set them aside like the pieces of a puzzle. And then what? When do digs end? How do you know when you’ve uncovered everything there is to uncover?

The third dig of course is the one for the human heart. Peter's heart. Nora's heart. Is there a connection between the two? Will there be objects raised from our experiences that will bring us together or will we be two people who spent time digging and found nothing, but got some sun and some much needed exercise?