Tag Archives: hope

a whole new world

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Ecclesiastes 2:12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.

I was writing to a good friend on Facebook, and this just sort of spilled out of me.  It seemed like a good thing to repost here, because I need these sorts of revelatory experiences to remind me of where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going.

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I don’t recommend it for everyone, and I wouldn’t have recommended it for me five years ago, but I have settled into a nice little life without making The Group the center of it.

I have a well-rounded set of friends and acquaintances and we rarely lapse into tirades of personal drama. But I have stopped soliciting that, too, and so my communication with my peeps is more about what we’re doing and where we’re going.

My recovery from alcohol is not the neon sign over my head any more. It’s a fact of my life like my adoration of God and my love of good poetry and my obsession with art direction.

The best thing is I don’t feel like I have to compete with people just to be who I am.

I look back on all the angst I felt around the women at The Group, and especially the women in certain cliques, and it seems so strange to me now.

I feel like I have spent great chunks of my life trying to shoehorn myself into places where I wasn’t welcome or even that I didn’t care about, as if that would somehow complete me.

I see it in my romance, trying to get men to accept me who weren’t even worthy of me. I see it in my family, as if they could provide the solace I needed when they were so overwhelmed by their own pain that they forgot I existed.

I went to The Lake with David last week and, for the first time since I’ve been going there, it felt just right.

Something is different with me, and I chalk it up to God changing me when I wasn’t looking. That, and all that TRUE drama in my life has sort of brought me around to a clearer perspective.

It’s really a struggle for me to muster much sympathy for the strident shrew who screeches because she hasn’t accrued an appropriate level of sympathy for her latest self-styled crisis.

Friends are putting their furniture up on cinder blocks at Harbor Town. Hopefully they stacked the blocks five or six high, because the water is thigh-deep there now.

I am happy because I am strong enough to push the lawnmower up the hill.  Even though it takes me three days, cutting the front yard is great for my waistline, and I revel in the personal glee I experience when I think, this body belongs to a 57-year-old woman, and it still works.

My life doesn’t really look that different from the outside.  From behind my eyes, it’s a whole new world.

Wild Geese ~ Mary Oliver

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You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
…You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver

The Laughing Heart ~ Charles Bukowski

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your life is your life

don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.

you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

@Charles Bukowski

YouTube: Tom Waits Reads “The Laughing Heart”

There for the Taking

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Jones Orchard is just a nice drive into the country since they put Highway 385 into place. We, my daughter and I, had dragged her son along that afternoon to pick peaches with us. Elijah is a child of video games and books and the occasional jigsaw puzzle.  He wondered, as I would have at his age, why we were going to pick peaches when we could have bought some at the store and been back home in less than 30 minutes.

We prepared admirably for the excursion:  insect repellent, gardening gloves, a large Thermos full of ice water and plastic cups. Rachel slathered Elijah with sunscreen and I brought along a long-sleeved shirt just in case I was overwhelmed by sun, insects, peach fuzz or the outside chance of a cooling breeze.

What ensued was a memory in the making, the stuff of family folklore.  We had picked the hottest day of the season so far, and had gone out in the hottest part of the day. The Thermos had overturned en route and all our ice water was in the floor of my car. And somehow we’d managed to pick twice as many peaches as we could afford to take home. The guy in charge agreed to keep the ones we didn’t want. It seemed like he was getting a great deal. They were the prettiest peaches we could find among 50 trees.

We brought home 30 pounds of peaches. We’d eaten many, given away many more. Now we were down to the last bowlful, past their peak and facing a moldy demise without prompt attention.

During a summer of feast and famine we were solidly in the famine part. Pennies were scarce in the household, dollars even scarcer. We had slowly, slowly stopped treating ourselves to fountain Cokes and frozen custard.  We were trying to satisfy those cravings with PB&J and cereal.

The pantry was full of odds and ends that seemed mostly unrelated.  There was a Mason jar with a handful of old-fashioned oats, not enough for a decent bowl of oatmeal.  Some freakish sense of frugality had ensured the survival of a tablespoonful of butter-flavored Crisco. It was flanked by half a pound of flour, some sugar and some pancake mix.

While looking through the freezer for hope one hungry afternoon, I noticed a bag I’d stashed the summer before. It was a quart of wild blackberries.

Before moving in with my daughter, I lived near the University in a sweet old neighborhood.  During work breaks I’d walk to school and back to stretch my legs. I was keeping an eye on a clump of wild blackberry bushes growing at the edge of a campus parking lot.  One day when the mood was right I drove over to see them.

I stepped into the blistering sun wearing a dress shirt, jeans, tennis shoes and a baseball cap. I ignored the stares of passersby and picked as fast as I could, dark berries that bruised easily and bled purple onto my gloves. By the time I was dizzy from the heat I had a pailful, which I washed and promptly froze, forgetting all about them. And here they were, remembered on a day when I needed to remember them.

Cobbler takes hardly anything at all to be a wonderful dessert.  And we had plenty of hardly anything at all. But we also had hand-picked peaches, just waiting in the bowl, and wild blackberries.

In our refrigerator, amid two dozen jars of pickled and preserved things, I spotted a lonely pat of real butter.  And we had milk.  Thank God, we still had milk, for cereal and for coffee and today, for cobbler.

I set a pot of water to boiling so I could blanch the peaches, and filled the sink with ice water. I examined each peach for doubt. I melted the Crisco with the butter, and poured it over the oats. I tossed in enough flour to make a pea-sized meal. I padded this out with pancake mix and stirred in milk until I had a nice-sized ball of dough. Flattened out between two sheets of waxed paper it yielded a generous top crust.

I diced up the fresh peaches and sprinkled them with sugar, then added the frozen berries and added sugar to them as well. Something reminded me to throw in a little flour for thickening. This pile of fruit, shiny with its own syrup,  completely filled my old Corning casserole. The crust went on and curled up on the sides, almost running over the edge.

It seemed like a celebration sliding that cobbler into a hot oven. I reasoned that no matter what I did, I couldn’t have messed up such spontaneous bounty.  And cobbler is very forgiving, as long as you add enough sugar and don’t let the thing burn.

And so we were forgiven. The crust was perfect, rustic and crunchy, the berries and peaches singing with juice and sunshine. I may never make another such perfect dessert, because I may never again be so broke and bent toward improvisation. But I hope I remember that I was able to find everything I needed and more — it was all right there for the taking.

©27 July 2010 Stormy Bailey

why not?

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i’m tired of making excuses for myself.

i’m tired of letting people talk me out of it.

i’m tired of letting them infect me with their fear.

i’ve fucked up about as much as any woman can with her life

so what have i got to lose?

5:06pm July 7th, 2010

The Thing Is ~ Ellen Bass

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to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2002.

Sparklers ~ Will Stanton

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There’s an age that’s right for sparklers,
For igniting the dark of the lawn.
Then the afterglow grays on the wire,
And the sparkler time is gone.

I recall one evening grown smaller,
A neighbor from some distant land
Brought three dozen boxes; too many almost
For sparkler-hooked children to stand.

Like small demented blacksmiths
We forged white metal there.
In lances bright with glory
To slash the velvet air.

Glistening and breathless as lovers,
Lawless as swallows in flight,
Shrieking, careening, colliding,
Erasing our bedtime with light.

Except for a single small maiden,
inscribing in letters of fire,
Over and over and over,
The name of her small heart’s desire.

RONNIE, she wrote, and then RONNIE,
Arm weary but steadfast she stood,
RONNIE, new sparkler, and RONNIE
Till the fire was darkened for good.

Well, the age of sparklers is over,
And just as well I would say.
Dangerous, wasteful and surely
Too childish for children today.

Still–it might be nice to remember
When most nice memories are gone,
How your name–if it’s RONNIE–was written
One evening in stars on the lawn.

~ Will Stanton

Sunday Morning ~ Jack Grapes

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Sunday morning. Spring. I wake to the sun lifting one leg over the top of the Ticor Building on Wilshire Boulevard. The new leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window are tinged with sunlight. If only I were a photographer or painter I’d freeze this moment and crawl into it.

Sunday morning. I have to get up but my body wants to drown right here in the bed. Spring ambles up the street waving its arms. A matinee today. I have to be at the theater by two. Yesterday, I find out from my agent that I didn’t get the part I was counting on.

Eat this, they say.
It’s good for you.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.

I eat and concentrate on the window, on the tree, on the sun beginning to beat its chest as it comes over the top of the tallest building.

I drive down Beverly Boulevard, take the curve where it changes into 1st Street, turn on Grand and park right across from the museum. It’s just after ten, hardly any cars on the street. MOCA doesn’t open till eleven. The sun has followed me all the way, reflecting off the Security Pacific Bank Building, glass and steel going all the way up.

I get off on this urban sleekness, especially the unfinished building across the street, another skeleton of steel and concrete. Someone should stick a sign on it, make it part of MOCA, part of the Permanent Collection, and leave it just as it is, unfinished. No clear line where the museum ends and the rest of the city begins. One easy flow, stretching all the way back into our homes, into the very center of our lives.

I walk past the California Plaza sign, running my hand along the chrome and glass, then head downstairs for a cup of coffee and cinnamon roll at the “Il Panino.” There’s a girl two tables over, in the sun. We both drink our coffee in silence, checking our watches, writing something down in our journals.

She’s an art student from Santa Barbara come to see the Jasper Johns. She asks what am I here to see. “Oh,” I say, “the art. Just the art. I don’t care. Just something.”

I AM FIVE YEARS OLD.
I don’t understand anything.
Hot and humid days;
nights, dark and mysterious.
They take me to school.
I stare at the blackboard.
The kid from around the corner beats me up at recess.
Some nights my father doesn’t come home.

My mother shrieks on the telephone.
My pet turtle dries up in the sun.
My uncle dies on the floor in the empty kitchen.
Who is the world?
Why is the moon where the sun is?
If the street goes nowhere, why is it in my bed?
What is the rain that rains just rain,
and why does it rain crows, or bats, or baseball gloves?
How is the pencil writing my name,
and why is my name the name for the thing that fixes tires,
the name for the flag on the pirate ship,
the name for the clown crushed in the box?
Outside, the kids continue to jump rope on the sidewalk,
singing, “A my name is Alice,”
seeing everything, but knowing nothing.

I AM SIX.
The class takes a bus with Miss Cook
to the Delgado Museum on Elysian Fields Avenue.
We’re going to see Vincent Van Gogh.
Later, when I tell my mother,
who was born in Antwerp,
she says to say it like this,
Vincent Van Gough,
and she coughs as she says it.
Van Gough! Van Gough!.
But Miss Cook says Van Go.
We are marched single-file from one room to another,
walking past each painting that hangs just above our heads.

Vincent van GoghI look up at the painting.
I can’t believe what I am seeing.
Everything mysterious and horrible about the world vanishes.
He paints like I paint!
Trees outlined in black.
All those wavy lines, all those colors.
And he piles the paint on.
He’s wasting all that paint,
just like I did before they told me not to waste all the paint.


He sees everything I see.
The moon is where the sun is.
The street that goes nowhere is in his bed.
It’s not just raining rain,
it’s raining crows and bats.
He sees the blood, he sees the faces.
Everything so bright it’s on fire.
Everything so dark it swallows me up.
The man cuts his ear off.
The man leans against the table so sad.
The man dies on the floor of the empty kitchen.


I stop in front of the painting with crows above a cornfield.
The world I see is real.
I bring my hand up and touch the dried paint.
It’s real!
Mounds of paint,
swirls of paint,
rivers of paint!


But it’s not paint.
It’s real.
It’s the world.

“Don’t touch the painting!” Miss Cook yells.
She pulls my hand away.
She yanks my arm into the center of the room.
“Never ever touch a painting!”
She shoves me into a seat in the back of the bus.
It doesn’t matter.
The world is real.
I fold my hands in my lap.
I know what I will do.

I will write about the real world.



Frank Gehry11 o’clock. The girl heads off toward the Jasper Johns. I walk into the J. Paul Getty Trust Gallery and find the Geary cardboard chairs and cardboard houses. “Can I sit in them?” I ask the guard. “They can be sat in,” he says, “but you can’t sit in them.”

“Oh,” I say, and walk into the room with the huge pavilion shaped like a fish. I walk into the belly of the fish. The wood inside is so beautiful.

“Don’t touch the wood, please,” says the guard.

I wander over to the Nauman video. A clown is being tortured on simultaneous video screens. “Clown Torture,” it’s called. Later, in the Permanent Collection, I bump into the girl from Santa Barbara. In the center of the room, a metal sculpture of a man moves his motorized mouth up and down. A silent

YAK

YAK

YAK

This, I understand. I stand as close to it as I can. The guard watches me suspiciously.

Over in the North Gallery there’s an empty spot in one corner. Something was there, but it’s been                 removed. I make a sign for myself and hang it around my neck. I stand in the corner of the Permanent Collection, North Gallery, as still as I can, one arm out in the gesture of an actor about to speak.

Eat this.
You’ve eaten it before.
The next one will be sweet.
The street that goes nowhere is in your bed.
You know nothing,
but you can see everything.

A woman and her little girl walk up to me. “What does the sign say?” the girl asks.

“Touch me,” her mother says. “The sign says touch me.”

So the child reaches out a hand and touches my own.

by Jack Grapes

A New Year

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The sun is crashing through the morning windows as if it were June.

I want so much from this New Year.

I want not to tiptoe through my relationships.
I want not to relinquish my freedom to the musty dank of ancient fears.
I want to fill my path with Light as bright as this January summer sun.

Forgive me all the sins of years, and grant me the hope of a graceful life.
Help me to see myself as I see those who surround me with love.
Bring me to the knees of compassion and tenderness.
Remind me to laugh with my entire heart.

Send me out to give of myself the gifts that I have not yet seen.
Bring me afresh to the wonder of life and those who live.
Give me the determination to forge ahead when the day is stale and empty of inspiration.
Devote me to my promises, my truth, my word.

Fold me in the arms and wings of those who are ever present to fashion of me a being of joy.
Let me never wander from your kindly Sight, or trespass on the ground of squandered time.

Thank you for giving to me all I need before I think to ask.

Stormy Bailey
© 1 January 2009, The CatWirks

Marshmallows

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One time Winky gave me a box of marshmallows.

“Here,” she said.  “These will make your panties too small.”

What she handed me was about the size of a corsage box and heavy as a grapefruit. I looked at the label.

“Handcrafted Marshmallows,” it said.

I wondered about marshmallows that weighed so much.  There must be a bunch of them in that box.  No chocolate or pecans, just pure marshmallows, except they might have had a chance encounter with peanut products.

It was hard to miss the price tag:  $18.50.  I knew Winky must have a good story yet to tell.  I already had a list of questions, beginning with:  “How did you happen to come by a $20 box of marshmallows?”

Williams-Sonoma’s ad agency certainly earned their paycheck.  The box itself was a work of art.  It told all about the marshmallows, how it took three days to make them.  I imagined an apple-cheeked man with a tall white toque, stirring a shiny copper cauldron with a big wooden paddle.

Sometimes when these fantasies erupt, it’s 1932.  But I digress.

First there was a heavy cellophane wrapper to peel off the box.  Then there was a wide cardboard ribbon to slide off.  The face of the box opened like shutters, and inside was another box.  But not just any box.  It was like a small safe.  It had a little hiding place for the marshmallows, which were also wrapped in more cellophane, not once, but twice.

I looked at the block of perfect marshmallow cubes, cut three-by-three like a nine-piece quilt square.  There were two layers of them. I pulled out the first marshmallow that would let go of its family.  It was like nothing I’d ever tasted.  It was light yet substantial, and you could taste something besides sugar and air. This was a marshmallow you could depend on.

As I chewed and chewed, I read the rest of the marshmallow story.  It said you could heighten your marshmallow experience with a cup of cocoa or a pot of chocolate fondue.  Was I supposed to wait for chocolate fondue?  I couldn’t think of anyone who might have some handy, so I took mine straight.  I would think about fondue another time.

Standing at the kitchen sink in near-dark, in my nightie and houseshoes, I popped a second marshmallow.  For just a minute, I thought about the unpaid bills I had on my desk, and the ones that I knew Winky also had on hers.  I thought about other friends and family who lately were adding more beans and rice and noodles to their meals. Here I was, eating a marshmallow that cost over a dollar.  Sometimes life is so wonderfully strange I have to write it down.

© 2008 Stormy Bailey.  Excerpt from “A Day with Gustav,” My Mother’s Sinful Child