fire will never be water…

One cannot blame the water for doing what water does

Anymore than one can blame the fire
All things of this world are simply what they are
They come and they go
Seeking solace and balance,
Their own sweet place in this odd turn of events
That we call life
Letting go of all they are not meant to be
To be only what they are
Fire will never be water
Air will never be earth
And me…
I am a piece of them all
I am the wind that blows, thoughts drifting through my mind
I am the land, a dusty shell that walks the path only for a while
I am the fire, created in a moment of passion,
Seeking to feed the flame
I am the water, life giving and nourishing, 
Deeper than can be seen
I am all of these, and spirit as well
The breath that comes from somewhere
The knowing that comes from nowhere
And if one by one they each left me…
What would I be then
Would I be anything at all
Or would I vanish in a flash
Buried in the dust
Drowned by the water
Burned within the flame 
Carried unseen by the wind
To a new place 
Not even imagined yet…


ellie894 December 16, 2019

If you would have a heart to love

I retrace my path of yesterdays, a step and two and three

At the edge of where the ocean comes to land

And where my heart is free…


I pause in awestruck wonder…

An enormous hourglass of wood and clearest crystal

Suspended above the terra firma, afloat in a cloudy sky

I cannot see you within, my love

But, my heart knows you are there and I am lost in why…


The sands of a thousand days and more

Have flown and settled here one simple grain by one


A life they make, full and rich with much of this and that

Yet, as I stand outside of it and gaze at the towering mountain within….


I know in my very depths…

My love…he cannot breathe…

For the weight of it all upon him now, he has never any ease


The sands of time are closing in with each and every passing day

They tighten so about him

He cannot rest, or find his way


Infinitely it swirls upon itself letting not a single thing escape

My thoughts, they spiral in a pleading search

Hoping for an answer robed in grace


I am very small…whatever can I do…


Within my reach a gleaming sword stands ready

In silence does it wait

I fear it will be too much for me to wield

I fear I will fall short…

But, for my love

I choose and try

To take it firmly by the hilt

And raise it high

I swing with all I am

And although the glass is met…it trembles only slightly

Over and over I brandish the blade

Against the clear enclosure

Yet, to no avail…

Worn and weary…I fear that I have failed

I drop the steel,

Watching as it crashes to the ground

…my heart begins to weep…

…to cry without a sound…


This trap of holding time

How smooth and cold it is, and heavy with the world,

I close my eyes

While my fingers, feather soft reach forth in gentle touch…

And, with such as that, in less than a whisper

I hear the echo of a break begin…

A tiny fissure runs along the side…


What ray of hope is this!


One single grain of sand slips out

Racing through the air to solid earth

Another follows…and another still…

Until it becomes a healing stream of letting go…


The sandy scars of days that have been crushed upon each other

Swiftly fall away…

The rhythm of my heart begins to beat anew

As the melody of life does play


Soon enough the weight on him will lighten

My love will breathe once more

The morning air of a hopeful dawn

Fresh and simply pure


Time is neither linear or by a circle bound


One needn’t have an hourglass

To forever turn

And so command the moments

Within your heart to always burn


As the minutes and the hours fall

Joy and sorrow, both therein

We seek to collect them each around us

In a vain attempt to hold too many all at once

It is a fearful thing, this holding

And we begin to suffer from the force of it


Let the sand slip easily through

And come to rest where it belongs, upon an open shore

Caressed by tender winds

Kissed hungrily by ocean waves of evermore


If we would have breath to live

And heart to love

We cannot carry the entirety of our days

We were never asked to…


Like the sturdy world beneath our feet,

Moments are intended to hold Us…

Not us to hold them…


Mark the days if you must, my love

But only live them one by one

And let each of them gently go when their now is done…


Time was never meant to be contained within a glass

No matter how beautifully crafted it may be


So, I offer you this…


Gaze sweet and long into the endless ever blue

Warm yourself in the fire of the golden rising sun

Wish for wisdom from your guiding star

Dream deeply in the night for all the beauty yet to come


And last but mostly this, I hope for you to fly…

And breathe in ease and knowing love

I shall always be nearby…


ellie894 January 2, 2018

I Love Spaghetti!

I Love Spaghetti!

She declared to me

I haven’t had it in four long years


My husband doesn’t like it

This spaghetti in a can

I’m going to eat if for dinner


He can have a sandwich

Is that bad…

She inquired of me

Before she flew away…

Not waiting for an answer

Not needing an answer

Not from me anyway

How long it took her to find her way here

Tethered me in sadness

But then…

Her moment of unbridled freedom

Gifted me with hope…

I Love Spaghetti!

I haven’t eaten it in Four years…


I was at the market taking my time when this woman happened upon me. I don’t know her and will never see her again. Our exchange was less than sixty seconds and yet I cannot forget her. She shared a heart’s love and sacrifice with me in less time than it took me to write this sentence…and left me with tears in my eyes…as she walked away determined and smiling…

When was the last time you ate spaghetti…


ellie894 October 21, 2018

Beauty Between Dreams

In fairy tales and dreams we bestow things with life! The most delicate flower and the most grizzled bear take on a contentment or a sorrow that mirrors our own. We cry and laugh with them, as we see ourselves.

I love this spot, just here, where the meadow gives way to the forest. On a hot summer day it offers the respite of cool shade. In the midst of rain it promises shelter. In moments of despair it is safe to let go of my tears. And, in times of sheer joy…I dance as the faeries do…unseen, unbidden, and all the more brilliant for it…

See the timbers lining either side of the path drawing you forward. They have been waiting in that same spot for a long time now. At least three seasons have come and gone. I don’t recall the first day they came to be here. But I do remember wondering why. I decided they were probably meant for the pier, some freshening up.

Winter covered them in a pristine blanket of snow. Spring burst forth with flowers in every hue darting up between them. Summer days are still upon us, dusty and hot and buzzing with dragonflies. The timbers wait. The pier waits. And so, of course my thoughts turn to waiting.

How much of our life do we spend in waiting…all of it, really. I imagine there are a few dear souls that embrace the now so completely that they are exempt from the waiting that fills my days and nights. I have much to learn from them.

As I think again of the timbers, I giggle. To write that they are waiting somehow gives them character and personality. How often do we do that as well, imbue life and voice to things that cannot speak for themselves. Don’t get me started on Toy Story 3! I will absolutely not go there!

When I was a very little girl I had a beloved Raggedy Ann doll. She had shiny black eyes under triangle lashes and hidden beneath her calico dress was a red heart in just the right place that declared…I love you… I never went to sleep without her tucked securely into the crook of my arm, hugged tightly against me.

I imagined that she waited for me as well. When I was away she rested on my pillow ready to greet me with a smile upon my return. I always did return. I loved her so long and so hard that her face began to wear away. I can still see the blue threads underneath. I grew afraid to hold her…that my love would cause her harm…

My dear Mimi came to the rescue with a gentle and skilled hand. The waiting was awful! But soon enough Raggedy and I were back to our nightly snuggles.

Ellie and Jack, Bo and Dobby watch my every move with eager anticipation. Keys mean that I’m leaving them behind. A resigned sadness seems to descend on them that makes me want to stay. Whereas, phone in my back pocket and earbuds nearly drives them through the roof with excitement! Shoes tied…check. Bag of bread…check. Little white rectangle box…aka phone…check. Long white chord attached to ears…we don’t really get it but…it’s something she seems to like…so…check! Aargh! We’re going walking! Right this second! Jaw in paw waiting…all worth it!

A few weeks ago I dreamed of a time and a place spent in a brilliant pause before what would come next. I was taken ahead not left behind. It was the sort of dream that leaves me wishing that I could photograph the images that light up my own night sky. Perhaps I’ll play with my words until I get it all just so and share it…but for now it isn’t ready…

It’s not a bad thing. A thousand times before it has been written – we live in the waiting.

Some waiting is so much harder than others it seems. Maybe. We fight at it instead of resting in it. I don’t know what it is that you wait for…

the reassuring smile of your beloved…

cookies warm from the oven…

the tiniest egg to hatch with new life…

your train to arrive…

a glass of wine to be shared…

the gate to open wide before your eager paws…

a sigh of grateful relief…

rain to fall or skies to clear…

sweet news from afar…

the melody of song to fill your heart…

your best friend to be repaired…

or simply the next breath to come…

Ever so gently and quietly beauty waits for us as we dance between dreams and responsibilities.

In the brightness of a summer day when the stars have gone to shine elsewhere, will you wait with me in the cool shade of a grand and silent tree…

In the darkness of a winter night when the sun burns far away, will you wait with me in the glow of a warm and crackling fire…

In the heart of waiting there is love…always, there is love…

Will you wait with me…


ellie894 August 2018

Thank you to my dear friend G for the photograph of the train station in loving memory of my father.

embers, ashes and a lovely place to swim

I was a little late leaving for my morning walk.  Just moving slowly I suppose. In my left hand swings a now familiar white bucket laden with bread. In my pocket is my phone. I wonder how many times I will pause to capture a photo of something precious or chuckle worthy. My ear buds are plugged in and draped around my neck.  What music will I choose to accompany my steps. I think that I am ready…

The cedar that leans too far because of storm and earth washing away is still easier to climb over than under. The creek is cold and wandering just as it is every time I wade through it.  The dogs are far ahead with excitement as they always are.  But me…
The closer I come to crossing the fence the more ill at ease I feel.  One leg over…then the other… thankfully nothing catches on the barbed wire this time, clothes or skin.  The field waits quietly for me as it always does.  But, in my center there is an uneasiness.  It doesn’t fade with my steps.  What will be waiting for me today?  And, I think to myself…this is not what joy feels like.  Even as I write this, the gnawing place returns so that I’m not certain if I want to continue…or turn around…and go back…

So many things just the same.  Others have changed.  Sorry, I’ve already jumped ahead of myself in this story.

The last few months have seen some new traffic in the place where I wander and wonder.  People, I mean.  A few have always come from time to time.   To fish or to walk.  I’m used to those and the signs of them.  All good.  I will change my course when I realize they are nearby.  After all, they come so seldom and I’m blessed with this space every day. They become enchanted for a while.  They remember how wonderful it is to be here and visit often.  Soon enough the busyness of life sneaks up on them. They go back to the noise and excitement of the worldly places, leaving this one, once again quiet and unpeopled.  

 I almost said empty.  These woods and fields are far from being empty.  They overflow with all manner of life!  The kind of life that is content to stroll or hop or fly or just be still.   Be still and gaze at the light winding its way through the branches and the leaves until it rests on the water in a shower of tiny stars. A faery dream…

The new traffic is quiet and there’s plenty of room of course, so even that is ok.  But, as of late they are building fires in the evenings.  Fire in a place that is not their own…and when it’s time for them to be somewhere else, they simply go…leaving behind an untended fire.   Sometimes the sparks escape the rocks that protectively surround them.  

So, that explains the bucket.  A few extra steps, a smidgen of water and the night’s leftovers are easily put to rest.  On the upside, it doubles as a lovely way to carry bread for feeding the fish and I feel a bit like a character in Little House on the Prairie. Where is my huge sun bonnet? I wonder if Dobby took it… 

Lately when I cross the fence each morning it isn’t with a peaceful heart.  Rather, there is an anxious wondering as to what awaits me.  What may have happened in the night to change things. 

Ugh, change… the never ending wonderful miserable constant in life…

Fire is frightening.  It can run away from you at lightening speed and you’re helpless before it. If you have ever witnessed a fire raging out of control or the charcoaled bits of life it leaves behind, you know how very tragic it can be. Unchecked it has the power to engulf and destroy.  Quickly!  There is nothing easy about fire.   It is both dangerous and mesmerizing. However it comes, as flames licking at the sky or as coals alive and pulsating with energy.  Red hot embers wait for their turn to rise up and take their place among the others.  

There is a hidden mystery in the heart of  Fire. It also has the power to heal.  A solitary gaze into its rich depths is a search for my own.  How many stories have been told while lazing around its edges. The gentle glow of it entrances us, keeping the teller and the listener tucked into a momentary but timeless embrace.  Within it burns the secrets of both togetherness and aloneness. 

When man learned what could be done with fire, his world changed forever! Suddenly, there was a place of great warmth.  A place to belong.  A place to share.  A means to alter food.  Cooking!  Before man harnessed fire there were no pastries with hot cups of tea alongside them, no baked potatoes with melted butter and cheese, no roasted chicken with herbs.  Did you notice how I put dessert first…just saying.  Fire holds many gifts.  We can warm ourselves through and through, body and soul.  

Bejo once told me that she had purposely burned 20 years worth of personal journals. I was stunned! Oh how fascinating I think it would be to read her thoughts!  As time passes, I think  I understand why my grandmother did what she did. They were her thoughts after all. She had every right to do what she wanted with them. One should listen to a friend or loved one while they have the chance. What they kept quietly to themselves is no more important than what they chose to share with you. I had the gift of her in life. What she chose to share with me is the part of her that she wanted me to have. I wonder if tossing them one by one into the flames was healing for her. Did it help her to let go of a past that left no room for the magnificence of the future? 

The Phoenix!  In Greek legend it is synonymous with the power fire has to transform!  It can both take life and restore it!  The  phoenix lives a tremendously long life until one day it simply bursts into flames and is consumed by the fire.  From the very remnants of that destruction, it rises in a brilliant new life.  Over and over again the fire takes away and then restores.   Out of the ashes of pain the phoenix always rises.  The stories of his heart are written in hot coals on the tips of his wings. The edges are singed with the sorrow and grief of the world…but, when he opens them wide and lets the air catch underneath them…he flies.  Soars to unimaginable heights on fresh new wings. Burning away the past. Clearing the way for a beauty as yet unknown.  Indeed, fire is a mysterious healer.

In every ending there is a beginning.  It may be hard to see.  It is so very small.  But it is there nevertheless.  Fire cools.  Ashes are blown hither and yon by the same invisible air that fanned them into flame a short time ago.  Now, there is a place for the tiniest seed to take hold.  

Whatever the seed is destined to become is already written in its heart.  Whether it will be a delicate flower or a towering tree – its roots will search the darkness for wisdom to grow strong while its blossoms and branches reach for the glorious skies.  It is never ending.  Earth to sky.   Fire to water.  Birth to death.   All so beautifully interwoven in one seamless life. 

My days and my walks have been altered. I have been fighting it…at least on the inside.  I didn’t want this change.  I didn’t ask for it…I don’t really like it.  Nevertheless, here it is.  

Now… I have begun walking to the south side of the lake every evening, across the top of the dam.  Water gushes from the overflow pipe just out of sight.   If I close my eyes, I imagine that I am on an exotic island and it is really the crashing thunder of a waterfall.  Occasionally at dusk my bald eagle trips in over the towering pines and dances with his reflection in the peaceful lake so far below.   He is an absolute joy to me!  One day I will write more of him…

The south field is different, as all things are.  Wading through knee high grasses with cows on my right, I reach the peak of this sweet hill.  My only reward is the only one I need…an endless sky all around me.  I am just high enough to be a part of it and no longer simply a watcher glued fast to the ground.  And the sunsets are so so everywhere!  Every color! Every inch! Every lone and brilliant note in a triumphant song!  To my left and to my right, in front and behind, above and even inside of me every last ray of light bounces in glorious splendor…

this is what joy feels like…

yes, much has changed because of others and their fire building adventures.  
One day the busyness of the world will call to these strangers.  Just as it has to the others before them.  They will answer.  And, stop coming here.  Until then, 

The ashes of life have blown aside leaving me with something sweet and new.  I am embarrassed to admit I had forgotten how much I love the south field and the expanse of sky that stretches out before me in glad welcome.  My constant companions swim more on the south side because there are fewer weeds to tangle them up.  Fewer weeds means fewer snakes! There aren’t so many hidey holes for them to tuck away in.  A supremely good thing.  The soft sand of the dam is just as nice a place to rest as the pier and it always has shade!

The very fire that I fight heals me if I will only let go.

 I read this week that healing takes time. It’s true. All good and proper healing does take time. I pray for that, the healing and the ability to wait gracefully until it arrives…

I find it strange how often I tend to ‘forget’ certain things.  Something always comes along to remind me. It’s never gentle either. The reminder is usually bold with flashing neon lights and a good hearty knock on the noggin.  I wonder how I could have forgotten something so simple… or even slept for that matter,  what with the incessant glaring and pounding headache…

I cannot make someone else care in the same way that I do…that…I must let go of.  

What I can do is…

Care for the little ones that fill my lovely world.  Let the fires of imagination burn bright with words.  Kindle the embers of my heart and let them glow from the inside out with love and compassion. Stay awhile to be a part of the sunset. 

Life is full of stories just waiting to be lived…and then to be shared…come sit with me around the fire and we’ll write a magnificent new one together…

in the shining and in the dark

No dreams last night, or at least none that I can recall. I’m a little antsy. Maybe about writing. Maybe something else. Walking in the rain. Trees that fall down. Clyde and Camellia. Creepy crawlers and all grown up. Growing up is when you learn to not run from what’s in front of you. I’m staring more than writing. Why is it always so hard to get started.  

Before dawn, still sleepy eyed I tiptoed out the back door. With bare feet I took the small step down off the back porch in search of the gentle silvery spotlight of the full moon. Sand gave way under my feet. It surprised me at how soft and cool it was. I dug my toes in just a little. Jack and Huckleberry joined me in honoring the hushed silence of the moment. The sweet moon gathered all round me in a lovely embrace. 

She was perfectly wonderful making her way through the trees…as though she was there…just for me. How funny that always seems. When something so universal feels so intimate. Far off, a solitary owl, his call echoing through the woods…to who…to who… and there I was too, as still as anything in the shining and in the dark, feeling…very solitary. 

I wonder, how many stood under the same moon at the same moment. did they wonder too. did they hear an owl hoot. did they feel special in an alone sort of way. a small part of something so much bigger than themselves. did they wish upon a star. did they hum a little tune.  

Or…was I after all…the only one standing in the light of the moon, looking to the stars for guidance and for hope. Saying a prayer for courage and for grace…

As we headed out on our morning walk the sun began rising behind me. Already he was warming the sand that had been so delightfully cool only moments before. My time worn path lay before me lit from within by a fiery glow. This way!  He called.  Ahead, the moon was still high in the sky.   But with every step I took… it faded just a little more. 

 She became transparent…and then…invisible…right before my eyes. what now? how will I know? My silvery rays of hope…The moon is still there in the sky. I trust that she is…even when I cannot see her… I know in my heart…she is there…always…

tomatoes and channel cats…

Tomatoes!  Thick slices of tomato on homemade bread with a touch of mayonnaise, salt and pepper…best sandwich –  Ever.  Salsa!  Enough said.  Marinara sauce seasoned and simmered will tempt the gods. 

The first tomato of the season is a joy!  It tastes of hope and of long lazy summer days stretched out before you.  Fall tomatoes are rich and hearty in a different kind of way.  You savor every bite because you know that soon they will be gone.  And, you’ll be left…waiting once more.  The closer you get to first frost the more you treasure each bite.  

In East Texas you can purchase tomatoes anywhere during the peak season.  But, there’s nothing quite like having your own “tomato guy”.   A scenic half hour drive  through some lovely country will land you at his doorstep.  Yep, right where he lives.  A table waits in the yard.  He’s almost never there.  But his tomatoes are!  They’re piled high in wooden baskets arranged neatly in a row.    A glass mason jar filled with money sits off to one side.  On a nearby tree is a hand written sign with directions.  Tomatoes $5 per basket.  Leave your money in the jar.

They are the best tomatoes I eat all year.  They are worth the wait.  How glad I am to live in a place where people still trust and others don’t take advantage of that.

Yesterday I found myself with a few minutes to write. I stared at the page. I noticed the kitchen waiting to be cleaned. I thought of how I really should go to the market for a few things. Perhaps I should put away the laundry. No no. Sit still and write, I told myself. After all, sixteen paws are napping. So, I stared at the page again. Waiting…waiting for something to happen…

Should I write about September before it’s over? I do love it so. Should I write about cookies? Mmm the world’s most perfect food!  Should I write about Gift from the Sea?  Life and its ways.  I stared at the page. Waiting… 

I cannot force my writing even if I do have a blank page and a quiet uninterrupted hour. The thoughts will come when they do and the words will follow along at their own pace. It is only my job to deliver them. I wonder if I am really a stenographer, taking dictation from the world around me.  The grass calls to me – could you tell my story please of how it feels when the wind lays me down in the field. 

So I am as surprised as anyone when they do come. Words and thoughts divinely intermingle. Like tomatoes ripened on the vine they wait to be harvested and enjoyed. I wonder whether they will be sandwich or salsa or a rich hearty stew.  

The air is soft this morning and the water is as smooth as glass.  No ripples.  No sparkling light.  Just stillness.  Some days that is just the thing.  

 Jack sent the first ducks of the season aloft.  There were two of them.  It is lovely to see two of them side by side whether they swim or fly.  So sweetly together.  I trust they will return.  This is a safe place to spend the winter.  

 I lingered over feeding the fish, slowing it down and drawing it out.  The channel cats seem to like it that way.  Cross legged at the end of the jetty  I look down into the water much the way I stare at the blank page. Hopeful and waiting. 

The perch come racing in first. The water churns with their hunger.  They have crazy Jack kind of energy!  Perch are not good waiters!  But they do make enough ruckus to get the attention of a few turtles.  Hey, what’s going on over here? Free food?   So, now we are joined by the red eared sliders.  They are shy.  Once they get a bite they swim straight to the bottom of the lake with their treasure.

Two channel cats ascend from the deepest water.  Oscar and Felix (in case you were wondering what their names might be)  are gentle giants at an easy two feet long.  No fish tales here.  They really are that big!  They circle and wait, creating a lovely ballet of sorts.  If I manage to drop the bread just right,  a few inches in front of them, they will gather it into their mouths by the feel of their whiskers.  It’s much harder to accomplish than it sounds but well worth the effort.  Sometimes, they treat me to a whale like flap of the tail in gratitude.  Always makes me smile.  

Then there are my pawed ones! 

Bo is absolutely fascinated by this fish feeding thing.  He hangs his head over the edge of the pier  watching intently as the fish come and go.  I wonder what he would do at an aquarium?!  I imagine the staff would frown upon me finding out for sure so I will simply have to guess.    Perhaps Bo doesn’t care at all about the fish.  Perhaps he only wonders why in the world I would be dropping perfectly good food into a watery abyss…

Jack’s interest lies purely in the realm of the red eared sliders.  He salutes them with both voice and stance! Come hither and let me get a better look at you my small friend!  Um, no thank you – they reply.  Jack is perplexed at their hesitancy to join in his offer of  friendship.  And tells them so, Loudly!

Dobby wanders the wooden planks looking at the hoopla from time to time.  Mostly he seems to be asking – are we done yet?  In case I haven’t noticed his pacing, he will come close enough to slobber on me.  Hm, fun for me. 

Ellie makes her way slowly over the water until she finds the right spot and lays down.  When I sit, she knows that we will be staying long enough for her to get comfortable.  Ellie watches the sky not the water.  Ellie watches the horizon.  Waiting…

Just there…out of the stillness…comes a gentle hint of breeze from the north.  Did I imagine it?  Could it be?  Technically it Is autumn now…early autumn I remind myself.  Still plenty of waiting…

A bird begins to sing, pea shooter, pea shooter, pea shooter.  Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me.  

The bread is all gone.  Fish tummies are full.  Time to go.  A stampede of excitement arises after all that waiting around on the pier.  I am careful not to get knocked off…for today at least.  My crew heads down the path.  It narrows and winds just here.  If I am too slow Bo will double back to check on me.  He will wait but only as long as he can see me.  

Back at home… 

Messy morning glories have taken over the garden, waiting for their chance to shine.  The hummingbird feeder is full, waiting for those who are just passing through.  I’m still watering  plants, waiting for some rain.  Books pile up in odd places, waiting to be read.  And yellow spirals are open and empty, waiting to be filled with thoughts…

One cannot rush the days.  No matter how much I  may want something, most things in life are not within my control.  I love autumn! I wait for it all year.  I cannot make the clock spin faster or the earth either for that matter.  Autumn arrives when it does and without any help from me.  I wonder…if it was always here, if it was always autumn, would it mean as much…  If I didn’t have to wait for it through a long dry summer would it be such a treasure to me… 

Many days my thoughts are jumbled and my words are crooked and ill at ease. I fret that they will not come.  But all I can really do is wait.  Wait for them to sort themselves out.  Wait to understand what tomatoes have to do with anything.  Wait for the north wind to come crisp over the water and the leaves to turn as brilliant as a sunset.  Wait…

I will not worry over tomorrow or next week or anything beyond this day.  Instead I will try to wait gracefully for them. There is hope in waiting. Anything could happen!  Anything could be!  Now, if you’ll excuse me I have something simmering on the stove and it’s waiting to be savored…there’s a lovely world all around you, waiting to be loved…

Shh, listen…there on the breeze…I hear you…whispering my name…

asterisks and missing pieces

her heart was rent, her center would not hold – Sarah Ban Breathnach

I have spent the second part of my life breaking the stones, drilling the walls, smashing the doors I placed between the light and myself in the first part of my life. – Octavio Paz

My Dad loves puzzles these days.  The ones made of cardboard that when all the pieces fit just so, it comes together to reveal a beautiful image.  

This morning I have kept the world at arms length.  My quiet side cried out for whispers of grace descending from the tree tops. To write.  To manage a whole thought at once rather than broken into crumbs spilled upon the counter.  They will never be whole again.  They’re fine as they are of course.  Crumbs add a lovely crunch to the top of a casserole.  Crumbs are a feast fit for the birds. The dogs will happily devour every single one of them and ask for more.

But crumbs do not give the beauty of a whole picture.  There is nothing well rounded and finished about them. They are only bits that are no longer part of the story.    

300, 500, 1,000 piece puzzles dumped onto a table look like a big pile of crumbs. But these are different. These have edges and corners. In time and with diligence they will fit together just right.  They will become what they were always meant to be, a lovely image.  For now though, they are a messy pile and where in the world does one begin?  

 I know the rules of the game.  Of course there are rules.  There are always rules, even when they’re unspoken ones.  Edges come first and foremost.  Define the parameters. Create the form. Then and only then can one begin  to get to the good stuff, the heart of the thing.  An image begins to emerge. Pieces begin to fit.  You See Something.  Excitement builds.  I got this.  One piece and then another. Until…

A snag. You’re closing in on completion but something’s missing.  Hopefully all the pieces are present and accounted for.  Hopefully nothing has fallen to the floor or gotten itself hidden somehow.  Yes, puzzle pieces do have the ability to move from place to place without your help.  Didn’t you know?  What follows is a frenzied and all out search.  It can’t be!  It Has to be here.  You’re on hands and knees combing every inch of the floor.  You revisit the empty box…for the fourth time, just to be sure.  

You fight the puzzle.  You fight yourself.  You’ve been looking too hard for too long.  You can no longer see.  

Walk away. Take a break. Give your eyes a rest   Let the puzzle wait.  It’s not going anywhere. Maybe it is…but that’s another story altogether, a fairy tale I think.  When you return the piece shows itself.  It was hidden amongst the others all along.  There in plain sight.  One has to let go to see.  It fits right into its place snug along the edges and hugging all the curves.  The puzzle is done.  The image is complete.  You stand back and admire the beauty of it with great satisfaction.  A momentary victory.  A small oohrah! 

Already your mind races forward. Hmmm. Do I leave it here? After all, it took me so much time.  I should enjoy my efforts for a while.  If I do that though, I won’t be able to use the table.  Hmmm.  I could glue it. Then I could admire it forever.  I’m not much for that though. I’d have to store it or frame it or who knows what else.  Hmmm.  There’s only one thing to be done.  Dismantle it.  Take it apart.  Tuck all the little pieces safely at home in their box.  Put it aside for another day or another person to enjoy.  The time of this puzzle has come and gone.  It lingered for awhile but now it’s time to let it go.  

I’m not much of a puzzle person to be honest. I’d rather be moving about or painting or…writing.  Words are my pieces and writing is my puzzle.  I love to gaze at the empty page. My pen is poised and  ready…when my thoughts catch up to me and the words come together just so.  Yes, yes, that one hugs the others perfectly.  Or, the inevitable scratch out… no, no, that’s not what I mean at all.  

I pause over the messy page not quite knowing where to go next. – I guess I should walk the dogs.  After all they’ve been staring at me for a good 20 minutes now, and wrestling with one another in doggy fashion beneath my feet.  We’ve been soooo good for soooo long.  Seriously.  Don’t you need a break? Aren’t we cute?  You should really stop what you’re doing for a while and play with us instead.  It’ll be good for you.  Promise.  They’re right of course.  They always are.  I let out a sigh of great exasperation at their infinite and all encompassing wisdom that I have to work so hard for.

Shoes on my feet.  Music to settle my soul.  Off we go then.  Trees above.  Dirt beneath.  My joyful four legged companions.  I walk and I wait. I wait for the right words to find me.  Always, they do.

Whenever I fight it, the puzzle, the words, the dailiness of life, it never works out then.  I waste myself spinning ever inwards tightening to a place so small that I cannot see the missing piece.  It waits patiently in plain sight.  It is in letting go that I gently circle forth again just as the graceful curves of a paper nautilus spiral outwards beautifully away from self. Only then does my vision clear enough to see what was right before me all along.

My Dad is the smartest man I’ve ever known.  He was never much of a puzzle person either, the cardboard variety.  But give him a real life problem and just watch his engineering brain take hold and keep on.  He wasn’t afraid to take anything apart in his thoughts or with his hands over and again until he had completely mastered the what and how and why of it.  Still, sometimes the solution evaded him.  Seemingly, he would let go of the whole dilemma.  His efforts turned to bread making or gardening.  Often he would wander through a well loved book, the old fashioned kind.  None of this e-reader stuff.  Dad read books that feel heavy in your hand as they carry you to another place and time. He kept a pencil near when he read so as to make his signature asterisk to mark the passages he found most meaningful.  Oh how I love to come across one of Dad’s asterisks, a hidden treasure to be sure.  

Suddenly the answer was there hovering just within reach of him and he’d go back to the problem now able to fill in the missing piece.  Done! Complete! Whole! 

And then, he put it away.  Dad knew better than to leave a “done puzzle” on the table to be stared at.  He knew when it was time to gather it up, put it back in its box, and pass it along.  He learned all the lessons the puzzle offered him, pondered every piece as he held it in his hands. He knew all too well that the blessing of the puzzle was in the journey of it, never in the preservation of it.  Time to let go to make room for the next one. 

Like me, Dad was never much interested in cardboard puzzles. He was far more fascinated by the ones of real life. But these days Dad works at the beautiful cardboard pieces with a quiet intensity.  He can just manage 100 pieces and even that takes time.  The daily puzzles of his life have changed.  They’ve become something different than they were before.  He no longer solves big things for many.  But, you should see his warm contented smile when he fits that final piece of the image right where it belongs.  And then just as easily, he lets the whole thing go.  The journey of one puzzle beautifully complete. The thrill of the next waiting just within reach…

I love you Dad