Backyard Sunday

IMG_3531I lay flat in my small, urban yard and heard the cheering fans at Camden Stadium, the young urbanites at the bar at the end of the block, and the occasional radio rolling by in a car. I sank my body into the slate footstones, trying to unfurl the tightness stored in large quantities, imagining the Earth’s warm core seeping into me. Listened. The chorus of birds sang to their young, caught in the interstices of the cacophony of the city. The new leaves and pink and white buds on the crab apple tree were splayed with sunshine. I sat up and dipped my brush into amber, sapphire and emerald watercolors. The paper was fresh and white.

Buddy, my black and white cat, meowed to come join me and I opened the door. He settled comfortably under the tree, hoping the birds wouldn’t notice him. Suddenly, Buddy decided it was his chance to jump into the neighbors yard and try to find that orange tabby that lives somewhere in the alley. Yikes! Buddy is a rescue, with no claws and two teeth. The tabby outweighs him by at least 10 pounds. The orange tabby probably eats rats bigger than my cat. I ran out the gate, captured Buddy, and threw him back inside. He was indignant, but saved from his own intentions, as we all need to be at times. I went back and completed my painting. It was a glorious Sunday.

hell and God’s right hand

“I am traveling

through the fires of hell

to God’s right hand,”

said Dan.

I knew little of his journey, but

one time he told me,

“Dad would

knock us upside the head,

beat the shit out of us.”

Then Dan joined the army.

I do not know more of his passage,

how Charon ferried him across

and how he bribed his way out

pass Cerebus’ three heads.

But

here and now,

we are

in this church of light,

learning to sit

and stand

and move in space,

learning to hear

and see

and touch

all over

again.

 

Knit Together

IMG_3378 

I love trying new things and a knitting and crochet store just opened in my neighborhood. [www.thatsthepointneeedlecrafts.com]The yarn is seductive. It’s achingly soft, with marvelous colors, from muted, natural colors to bold, primary colors, which are actually used sari fibers spun together.

The store offered a free lesson; I couldn’t wait. I had learned some knitting when I was very young, but had long since forgotten it. I recalled swirling in the navy blue ice skating skirt my mother knit for me. Lace doilies lay across tables in my grandmother’s house, crocheted by my great-aunts. The white doilies were as delicate as snowflakes.

Recently, I saw sculptures made from crocheted yarn in the Visionary Arts Museum. [www.avam.org] A mathematician friend explained that crochet actually makes hyperbolic arches. [http://crochetcoralreef.org/crochet-coral-reef-book.php] After knitting a bit, I realized the art is mathematical, and not just because of the shapes, but because I needed to count stitches so as not to lose any. Also, my knitting wound itself into a shape somewhat like a DNA molecule, which I was assured, was normal.

As I sat practicing my knitting, women stopped by to shop and chat. One of the pleasures of knitting or crocheting is that it can be done while engaging in conversation. The women were around my age, middle aged or somewhat older. They fondled the yarn, discussed patterns, techniques, and the perfect needle.They were professional women from a large variety of fields, from computers to teaching to non-profit management. They also had a wide range of interests. I even met one woman who also did aikido!

I went home satisfied and excited. This week I plan to learn crocheting.

Peri-menopause: For Barbara in Texas

IMG_3372Peri-menopause, the time in our lives from regular menstrual periods to one year after the cessation of periods, is a trip, in all senses of the word. For some of my friends, it is a time that they hardly take note of, nothing much changes. For me, however, it is a time with wildly fluctuating moods, changes in temperature regulation, and bizarre effects. As my friend Barbara put it, peri-menopause is something that no one talks about. Certainly, it was not discussed when we were growing up. Only recently, among certain women, is it now considered an okay topic for discussion, albeit, a little risqué.

Firstly, the good effects. I have always been a slender woman prone to feeling cold. I go out in a down coat when other people are in their shirt sleeves. I think I was meant to live in the tropics. At the onset of perimenopause, I’d get hot flashes and find them extremely pleasant. Finally, at least for the short time of the hot flash, I felt the temperature the same as everyone else. I could take off my coat or jacket or whatever extra layers of clothing I was wearing at the time. In later peri-menopause, I found I had trained myself to regulate my temperature somewhat by increasing the heat in my hands and toes. I also found I’d learned to relax my body somewhat, even when I was tense. For both of these, I used techniques learned from martial arts and yoga. This relaxation of muscles and temperature regulation is somewhat related, which is why they are sitting together in my paragraph.

Somewhere around the first few years of peri-menopause, I got tired of dyeing my hair and let it go gray. It was a relief, since dyeing was both an expense and time-consuming. Then, I found that I could be invisible whenever I wanted. It was like having a magic cloak that would make one disappear. People pass me on the street without looking at me, or even giving any thought to my presence. They will continue their conversation, their thoughts, whatever gait and posture they had without interruption. I could observe them carefully without their ever noticing me. I could listen in to conversations. (Yes, as a writer, I am perpetually nosy.) If I wanted to be visible, all I have to do is walk/stand purposefully and speak up. Like taking off the magic cloak.

The gray hair also allows me to call others “dear,” to speak at will to strangers and get them talking, and to immediately create an authoritative presence at work meetings. I can coo and make faces at babies and parents would smile, understand and tolerate me. People trust me. What a mistake..haha. This is particularly fun when practicing martial arts with those who don’t know me. What do they see? A tiny, old lady. She’s probably fragile. Then suddenly they are on the floor and I am giggling.

Another effect of peri-menopause was wildly swinging moods. One minute I’m crying and the next I’m laughing hysterically, or singing at the top of my lungs (in my car). It also brought some of the worst depressions I’ve had. These might have been partially due to the fact that peri-menopause coincided with a move from NYC to Baltimore, along with a change of jobs. I found myself with a new roommate (my new husband), a different job, and a city where I had some strong acquaintances, but no friends as yet. I also found I couldn’t paint as I had been doing, due to space considerations. That worked out okay though. I decided to join a writer’s group that met regularly to help each other with writing. After that, I started pottery with a marvelous teacher, who became a good friend. But then, I had another devastating depression. This was followed by nearly two years of feeling okay, but numb. I wasn’t creating and cared little about the things that had formerly seemed important. I sat in a comfortable chair and read, mostly escape literature like mystery novels. I felt little energy for martial arts or exercising. I forced myself to keep up somewhat with the martial arts and also, to walk. I couldn’t seem to do the simple domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and gardening that had given me pleasure. (Actually, I did add to my notebooks some poems, stories and drawings, but I didn’t realize I did it at the time, and the output was much less than usual.) This was the scary part of peri-menopause; I thought I’d be like that for the rest of my life, that aging meant that I wouldn’t have the energy or passion of previous times.

Now, I think I may be at the tail end of peri-menopause. In any event, I feel like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, or Sleeping Beauty finally awakened by passion into life again. In retrospect, I think the time of calm numbness may have actually been a time of contemplation of my values, an evaluation of where I had been, and an assessment of where I wanted to go with the remainder of my life. I feel more committed to this world and more dedicated to acting on my own ethics. I am going through a period of great creativity. At some point, I may experience a time of less energy or creativity, as my creativity naturally waxes and wanes over time, but I’m merrily riding this wave while it lasts.