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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Did she know what I was up to that day?

9-22-11 Prompt:  It has always intrigued me… Did she know what I was up to that day?

    It happened one spring day, when the grass was as green as an Irish landscape after soaking in a week’s steady rain and warmth of the sun. 
    But today was overcast,.. because it didn’t work, he had thought, as if the heavens were joined with him in his disappointment.
   However, backing up, on that special day when the grass was green and hope filled the air, and the lungs of this man held breath for possible success…The day where it was his adventure out to see, yet failed.      He wondered, had she been there? Did she know?
   I thought she was far away, he thought.  Only later did he learn of her probable close vicinity.
He racked his brain wondering how she knew. .. Or did she?
   I tried steadily for weeks, to keep it a secret. No one should know. This was my mission, my project.  If it worked, I would let the public know. If I failed, no one would be the wiser.   And wiser all would be, if I had succeeded.
   He looked a her from across the café bar. She sat at the opposite end. She looked too poised, and had glanced many times his way. He noticed.   

   Did she know what I was up to that day?
   I don’t want her to know…unless the experiment becomes a success. Then, she would believe me to be brave, …and smart. 
   A stranger she is. I didn’t want to be strangers. Not any longer. I had wanted to be able to introduce myself by now. And more. But since it failed…I failed, I have to wait.
  What if I don’t have a chance now? No, if she does know, surely she can’t hold it against me for not being successful. She should think me gallant for my effort.
   Hm. She may think me an idiot and fool.

   The man took a sip of his water. Second serving, in a clean glass, no ice. He set it on the placemat, upper right hand corner so its round bottom met the edges precisely.
   He glanced up from his bowed head, to the end of the bar. She was smiling. At him. She waved.
   He began to meekly raise his hand, yet was interrupted.  Someone passed him so close his shoulder was almost brushed. A chill enveloped around him from the closing café door.
   The someone was another man and her eyes followed him…the stranger walking toward her. Her smile reached out to the stranger’s face.
   The man at the opposite end of the bar wanted her eyes to see him, wanted to feel her smile, for him.

   Oh, she must know what I was up to that day, he thought. “What can I do next for her?” He mumbled to himself, lifting steaming soup toward his lips. He kept his head bowed and imagined an empty field, with a track and his new machine to help the world. “This time it will work,” he said, as he delicately patted his lips with his napkin and returned it, centered in his lap.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

09-08-11 Prompt: "Time passes," she said. "You'll see."

9-08-11  Prompt: "Time passes," she said. “You’ll see.”

  She held my hand with her hands. Her frail and boney hands, with blood vessels enlarged in streets of their own. I wondered about her circulation. Really, I did. How did her vessels make it to 108 years?
She looked at me, a fawn self to her old dearness. I twitched in my chair. Luckily my short blue jean cutoffs had frayed and I could play with white cotton strands. Normally I liked the residents at the nursing home, however, this visit was out of scope. … out of school and it made me nervous... She somehow saw into me.
  Coming every Tuesday and Thursday to practice observation to finish my occupational therapist degree is what drew me here. But now, this very day, with Sadie Marie, I am a companion, not an intern, and she is 86 years my senior.
  Why I wore my cut offs and not a dress, I wondered.

  “You’re still fresh, child, like a strawberry with green near its top. I’m the old oak. Think about it. I came from an acorn 108 years ago.”

  I laughed. “Oh Sadie, you were not an acorn.”

  “You know what I mean. Don’t try to fool me, Sara. I see you. I watch you. You come in here with the others, young and with sparks. But I see you. You’re not one of them. They are all academic. This is fine. It’s good in fact. Your whole group will be fine OTs. But you, child,  study us. You find us intriguing. You linger, helping the most critical, watching their breaths when they talk. You notice what brings them peace or agitation. You look into their eyes and get what they need before they ask. But still,” she hesitated, while I thought this was normal for all of us, and to a point, it is.  Sadie continued, “You look beyond that. You watch us as if you are watching for answers, answers to questions only you ask in your head.”

  I waited for her to talk more.
  “Why you hide behind your youth and exhibit a paleness, I don’t know.”

  “What?” I asked.

  “You hide, Sara. You observe and hide yourself. I’m telling you today, you can’t do that your whole life. You have too many questions, you have too much life in you. Time passes. You don’t have forever,” she said, “You’ll see.”

  “I do see that.”

  “Yes and no. One day you’ll understand deeper there is an end. All seconds are important and how you spend your time and with whom is important.”

  “I see that, Sadie.”

  “Well, I’m telling you, you need to see it more.” She reached over, twisted her back and reached far for her water.

  “Let me get that for you,” I said,.

  “It’s your day off, honey, just relax and visit with me. And tell me, Sara,” she said, “--why’d you wear those shorts in here? They’re too short.”

  Frankly, I thought that was none of her business. In fact, my life was none of her business and why she thought she had the right to tell me what to do, I don’t know. “Sadie—I’m playing tag football after I leave.”

  “Football?! My words. You’re an angel, a delicate creature, why are you playing football?”

  “Because I like it.”

  “Well every bump and bruise you get now, you’ll feel it later. I’m here to tell you.”

  Sadie was telling me more and more. “I know, I know. There is an end and how I get there is important.”

  “Your darn tootin” Sadie said. She aimed to set her water back and I took it before she twisted too far.

  “Can I get you anything, Sadie?”

  “You can get through your life intact, in peace, and happy. Do you know what makes you happy, child?”

  “Sometimes. Sadie, who’s the therapist here?” Although we both knew OTs are mainly for the physical, we went beyond it into thoughts and being.

  “Life’s more than what is seen. That’s all I’m saying. What makes you happy, or what draws your attention is good for your heart. Or more.”

  “Yeah, it’s the or more I wonder about.”

  “I know dear.” She looked at me and smiled.. “So why football?

  “Because it’s fun and I need fun. Otherwise I’d only be thinking.”  

  “I know honey, I know.”

  Then I realized, I liked being here, with Sadie Marie,… she felt familiar to me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A (real life) visit with a banjo player. :)

"Bill’s Banjo"

         On Tues, August 30, 2011, I had the honor, and pleasure, of having a friend phone and ask if I was busy. He was downtown and had his banjo in hand.
        “Of course come over!” I replied. I set aside a pile of paperwork and books. Studying could continue later in the day and the next appointment with a client was in an hour. This was an opportunity I delighted in.
         Below is what I felt when Bill was present and playing his 1890’s banjo he had just finished restringing:

            He sat in my old grandmother’s chair. It hadn’t been used like this ever---well maybe, I’ll never know. She would be about 100 if she were still alive. I can’t ask Grandfather this either—he would have been about 102 by now.
            Bill held on his lap and in his tan hands, an instrument from the 1890’s—a banjo. With Mother of Pearl and abalone, the shiny green and blue within ivory-like inlays, glistened and marked frets, in the dark stained maple neck. His short-nailed fingers on his left hand traveled over the four newly strung gut (not metal) strings on the upper neck’s notes, and his right hand danced its magic stroking the strings over the round banjo’s pot.
            The muscles in his forearm pulsed, and moved with the strumming. The rhythm of his head matched to the excreting joy and tenderness of the moments.

            He played Chicken in the Barnyard. This one could have made anyone smile. J
            Next, it was Wild Horses. This tune reminded me of wagon wheels, canvas covered, night fires and long grassy fields.

            He labeled and pointed out parts to educate me. The bridge, neck, and new calf skin frets. He noted, goat skin could also be used; it was usually animal skin in those days. Plastic strings were more recent.
            The 5th string began later down the neck. He said it was more of a drone note/not an octave. The frets, were marked by the shiny Mother of Pearl and abalone, at 3, 5,7, 9 and 12. This is typical, yet sometimes may be different. The twelfth, he said, is always octave. (I’m not sure what that means.)
            Bill said someone playing a banjo, plays higher if playing with a fiddler.  

            Back to another tune. The Big Scioty. This had lyrics, although unsung, he told me it was a story about the underground railroad in Ohio.

            I asked why is the neck dark; what kind of wood is it? Bill explained it was maple, stained, and he noted, they usually did this until 1901…then the whyte ladyie was made. This banjo had unstained maple and therefore was lighter. If I remember correctly, he also said this banjo had thicker wood at the pot, under the pulled skin and rim. The thicker wood made the banjo louder. They wanted it louder, so larger crowds could hear the music.

          Another tune is played, Jack-of-All-Trades. By hearing the music, I imagined a laughing card player, cigar smoke and women in wistful scarlet red and blue silk dresses. (I suppose my memory banks went into childhood television I watched---lots of western movies and shows seen.)

          “Hammering on and pulling off” Bill said was the official language for the playing.

          A little history on banjos: In the 1890s  W.A. Cole in Boston had a banjo company. He worked beside, or with,  A.C. Fairbanks. As relationships sometimes go, these two eventually parted.
          The fret boards had ebony over them that the inlays were put in.
In the back of the pot,  a Dowel was put in. (Or was Bill talking about the neck put through the wooden circle/ that the dowel rod was next to….
           I may not have followed this part accurately:  This old banjo Bill played on, he had to restore. He is a banjo enthusiast, to say the least. He can play them and has rebuilt many in his day. Anyway, he said usually he could take the dowel rod out (relatively) easy---and pointed to a bolt or screw and plate. On this old banjo, however, the dowel rod was put into a drilled slot (this is usual) yet instead of being able to drip hot water to loosen the (gluey) substance to extract it, this particular dowel was in put in using a different technique. Apparently, the builder used a rod cloth with pine tree resin to anchor the neck into the pot. Who knew. …  Bill did. It was not so easy to get pliable.
          Used to, designers used single spun metal to encase the wood. Nickel silver. When they wanted it louder, they double spun the metal around both edges, top and bottom. To get it even louder, they figured out to thicken the wood, and shoe attach to the band above and below without the wood screws. (metal screws were in the wood at even intervals on this one aound the pot. I think.)
           As noted above, the Whyte ladyie was very loud…it had the thicker wood design.
            Oh play another tune!
            And Bill did. This time, it was Sallie Ann.
            It didn’t take long before another image immerged within my mind. I saw a lady in white, dancing in a daffodil field, yellow and green colors blurred, twirling, holding a parasol to keep the sun’s heat at bay, only now, she could care less, as she was twirling it around over head and down to the waist with a swoop. She danced with the late summer breeze. A nearby man resting on a blanket smiled.

          It was a lovely visit. My studies had a beautiful intermission.  Thank you, Bill.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Prompt: Words given: Stew glutton desert colony philosophy elixir savvy nirvana

From a group meeting, Jan. 14, 2010. It's words given to us this time. "20 minutes, use as many as you may...write." :)

   Of all the places on earth, the biplane had to crash land in the desert. Walking was not an option in a day of 120 degrees heat. The night at 98 felt like nirvana for this Scottish man. His white skin began matching his face's growing rusty bristles. Usually soft, the beard now felt like thorns. Thorns of a cactus he lusted to see, as perhaps water or meat under its skin could be had.
  His mind began to drift, looking for palms and an oasis heard within stories of youth. His mind questioned to remember--were they fables or truths? Could there be hope or was it certain death? How far off course had the sand storm put him?

  The first night was frightful. Feeling decreasing sanity and bewilderment, he thought of squeezing his socks to drink his own perspiration--something else he had heard stories about. He sipped from his canteen, each spoonful measured and received as an elixir from the Gods.

  "You're a glutton for punishment. This serves your death, sir." He heard words ring in his ears.  Yes, this is what she would say in her madness to him if she could see him now.

  However, the Scot genteelly spoke, quietly and precisely to the illusion of his lover clearly envisioned in his mind. "My lady, my philosophy has always been and always will be that life is an adventure to be lived deeply through each season, with passion and salt. Salt to season, as within the most delicious stew from lambs meat, fresh garden carrots the color of the setting sun, potatoes infused by the earth's calming nutrients, and onions where in the core is the pearl." By the end, he muttered to himself with a slight smile.

  The man, now lost of his savvy presences of surrounding riches, sat under the plane's wing, looking at his reserve canteen and dried beef. He spoke up. "Not the combination I need nor want now. Not salt to make me more thirsty, not toughness to make me chew harder, ah, but a dreary reminder-- Instead of salt of the earth to nourish myself, it is but salt in my wounds I feel, cut open from this treacherous twist of fate. I will not to win at crossing the desert, yet lose the prize, lose the game, and perhaps my life.... and Rebecca.

Friday, September 2, 2011

prompt: The only seat left was next to a strange old woman 5/12/11

  The only seat left was next to a strange old woman, but I had to take it. What else was I gonna do? I had to get out of here. So I tucked my head low and chin tight and wiggled my way past her knobby knees.
  “’Cuse me” I said. I put my tattered book into the seat. Its cracked binding long ago showing white like her hair and its pages were not staying together…kinda like her knobby knees. I tried not to look. That’s not where a man like me wanted to go.

  Her eyes were more gray than blue. I wondered what she went thru in her living.
Unlike most little old ladies, she didn’t look up. Didn’t say hello son, how are you? She didn’t smile and show her dentures, or even grin. I’m certain she has dentures.
  Well, honestly, how many on this stinkin’ bus are going to grin? Maybe they’re gettin’ out of town like I am. Had enough. And enough is enough.
  I put my bowling bag in the overhead. Its worn out leather looked like I felt. Guess I scraped it too many times … after too many beers. It made me smile. Didn’t have my lucky bowling ball in it now though. How I managed to roll two days of clothes in it, I’ll not know either.
  Of course, my ball’s not so lucky. How I cracked it last night, I can’t remember. This morning, it looked like a geode split in two.
  And Gracie. Hm. She ain’t had no patience for me lately. No woman of Grace these days.

  “Every one sit down please,” the driver said.
  “Geez…how long have I been standin’?” I shook my head’s fog and closed the hatch.

  “Three minutes,” the old woman said. Or at least that’s the sound of words that came from below and beside me.
  I sat and straightened my jeans. Patted off a splotch of dirt. Must have gotten it from somewhere last night. Probably in the alley. Yeah… Behind the bowling alley…in the dark alley. I let out a small laugh and noticed the old woman’s head tilted my way. Her eyes were closed. And her mouth. A woman’s mouth closed. Now that’s a sight to see. I laughed again. I saw a fold begin in her eyelids and one cheek crunched upward in her wrinkles. She was peeking my way.

  The bus rocked once as the emergency brake was released and it was put into low gear.
Outside the window, I saw the fog lifting.
  Concrete bus station. Empty already. People couldn’t wait to get whomever on the bus for out of town and pull out to leave.

  "This is the last I’ll see of this town."
  I must have spoken out loud. The old woman turned my way and looked right into me. I mean she looked right into me.
  “Leaving huh? Hope it’s for the better.”

  Me too, I thought. I didn’t say anything to her, just nodded. I softened and I didn’t know exactly why. There was something familiar in her eyes. I had seen eyes like that somewhere else. Somewhere…
I turned to look out the window. Oddly, my chest felt tight and my throat felt strangled.
I rubbed my palms on my jeans. They were so damp I almost made mud where the dirt was.
I took a breath in and turned to the woman.

  “You goin’ and coming back….or just goin?” she said.

  “Don’t know.”

  “Don’t know huh?” She said without judgment; it was as if the unknown was somewhere.

  “That’s right.”

  She turned away and looked straight.  I picked up my book from beside me.

  “Walt Whitman?” She asked, turning my way again.

  “Like him?”

  “Yeah, I do,” I said.

  “Hm” was all she said back. And then, “Why you leaving son?”

  “No reason to stay.”

  “Reason waiting for you wherever you going?” She asked

  “Not really. Dunno.”

  “Hm.” She took out a tangerine, peeled it without saying a word. Tore her napkin in half and
offered me some plugs.

  I took it—it smelled fresh.

  “Well,” she said. “I’ve traveled near and far. There’s always something waiting wherever we go.”

  “Yeah,” I said. “There’s something left behind too.” I felt myself open up and started thinking of Gracie. Don’t know why we fussed. Don’t now know why I left in such a hurry.

  “I like buses,” the old woman said with a smile. “They give us plenty of time to think.”

  She opened her satchel and pulled out a book. It was Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. “He’s good.” She said, and she bit into a plug.

  The juice sprayed onto her finger and she wiped it off.