Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ice on the porch garland at 503 S. Jefferson Avenue.

After several starts and stutters, it seems winter is here for a while and the snow and ice are welcome additions to offset demolition and boarding-up activities in the immediate neighborhood...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

[three shopping days left]

the snow falls carelessly
covering crowded streets
as people rush
frantically searching
through past conversations and
all of the objects in their world
for the one perfect thing
that brings back a moment
reminds of an interest
tells a story
to be consecrated with paper and ribbon
and handed to another
so no matter what the new year brings
in its rough hands
this object becomes a talisman
to touch
to remember
that someone else’s life
is richer
because you exist

503 s. jefferson avenue, saginaw, michigan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cats. Birds. Snow.

“ 'Course, I'm mad about animals, but raccoons and cats become a little bit boring. I mean, for too long a time.”

“Little Edie” Bouvier Beale

The snow threatened all morning and began to come like sawdust blowing off the edge of a workbench before becoming hardened little shard then flurries of feathery clumps that began to stick to the sidewalks as we discussed house things with our neighbor.

The coming winter has been apparent for some time through a few bitterly cold nights and morning frosts and flurries and even the stray cats that abound near our intersection have begun their search for someplace warm to deliver kittens and avoid freezing.

Then – night before last – came the birds: When we got home from work in the dark it looked as if the leaves on the maples in front of our house and down the block had turned black instead of falling. When getting out of the car, the leaves took flight and circled the houses low making dissatisfied squawks before settling back into the trees…

Between the cats and the birds, the snow is a welcome change.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Last Things

There is something about the light of a Michigan autumn that is hard to describe. Everything seems older and more settled in some way and things stand out more clearly... And then - suddenly - you realize that there can not be many more such days because the canopy of red, orange and gold that filters everything is getting thin. Then a stiff wind blows all night and by morning the autumn is gone. That morning the light begins to look more blue and gray and we suddenly miss the autumn light we barely noticed was there the night before.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Arson Watch 2010

Arson watch since 2007 has been more about a gathering of friends and neighbors to actively dispel 30-years-out-of-date perceptions that the neighborhood we live in is a hot-bed of violent crime than to provide some kind of civilian safety enforcement crew.

The reporter from the Saginaw News who joined us was surprised to hear that single women walk their dogs alone at night here without issues. But they do… In this neighborhood we gather in each other’s homes for meals and company. Most everybody here knows most everybody else. Once we locate a family of Cleavers including Beaver we'll just about have the full cast of a perfect neighborhood. Well. A complete cast plus a few wandering individuals with shopping carts. But still…

Arson watch isn’t the product of paranoia. It’s not the flashlight-wielding offshoot of a fear that our neighborhood is going to spontaneously combust. The patrol does not look to catch an arsonist. Rather, the patrols by keeping an eye on susceptible buildings show the neighborhood to be cared for and looked after.

On our first night we had eating, walking, driving or hanging out one of each: Tana, Arik, Roderick, Christy, Eric & Kaitlin, Mark, Tom, Rick, Chummy, Quinn and Wes and self. A watched pot never burns, I suppose.

Photo by Jared Hamilton of the Saginaw News

Friday, October 15, 2010

Breakfast at the Savoy

On a rare and coveted Saturdays when - between errands and work later in the evening - there is time for only one meal in a day that might end sometime within minutes of the next morning I like to scoot for breakfast at the Savoy on Franklin a few blocks from home.

Tangerine Formica-topped tables of various shapes, 6 or 7 types of chair, random groups of photographs showing a more architecturally wealthy Saginaw before old buildings became illogically undesirable, sideboards, coffee urns, massive columns half buried in the wall leading up to an olivey-brown tin ceiling. This is the kind of place that always smells of enough to eat and demands either a chatty table mate or a good book; this morning, I chose the latter.

I ordered my favorite breakfast of solid biscuits (a lot like Aunt Lil’s) napping under thick, peppery sausage gravy, and a couple of eggs on a bed of crisp hash browns all washed down with hot coffee and settled into my current favorite book, “Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place At The New Orleans Table” by Sara Roahen.

Her stories reminded me of frequent-as-we-could-manage trips down to Galveston with my mother – just the two of us – with their packed lunches, bumming along the seawall ducking into shops built on pilings jutting into the Gulf and offering everything from lunch to the shells it might have come from. I remember hours of beachcombing at beaches that have lost most of their tidal pools and personality in the storms since 2005. As siblings and responsibilities made such trips more challenging we were left to remember and grin more than pack and run.

Mostly, though, I think I value the apparent hiding from time these trips represented. Everything about them from the food we packed to the random pebbles we chose to carry with us as we stumbled into the next photo opportunity seemed peppered with a sort of reckless, lucky-to-have-made-it refugee joy.

With my mother there were always photo opportunities that I think might have sprung from few of them in her own childhood combined with a passion to only remember what is good whenever possible. Despite times when that damn camera seemed such an irritation, I have to admit that I now love the pictures and videos and I am aware in myself of a near-genetic need to record everything wonderful before something else crowds in and a bit of happy history – a look, a particular moment of sunlight and leaves, a random thought – is gone forever. My mother chose a camera; I just happen to favor words.

On one our family trips to the coast in 1993 we discovered shrimp Po-Boys at Pier 19 in Galveston; they were a lower-case epiphany. Such simple food with their tiny, melt-in-your-mouth fried shrimp that likely came out of the Gulf that morning, citrusy tartar sauce and a long toasted bun resting in a nest of hand cut fries. That first sandwich satisfied and at the same time spoke of more, always more, because the Gulf would never fail to feed us on one hand while it terrified us on the other.

I realize sometime after that Po-Boy I tended to remember family trips and personal excursions as a series of smells and sounds punctuated with food. Food became the tethering point of memories; start with remembering the meal, and the entire trip could be brought back and loved all over again.

All of this came back as I sat over my plate at the Savoy reading Ms. Roahan’s stories of family cafès, local personalities and the foods that pulled them back into existence in her memories. I found a kindred spirit and a new loved author.

This was a wonderful find since I live in a place far enough north that the storms of 2005 had very little impact and even the recent oil spill in the Gulf is just another news item over which to rail at corporate and governmental failings because it does not involve General Motors and its local impact is not as immediate.

Having grown up much farther south, such news items are so much more personal to me. The storms of 2005 were the beginning of the end of so many things that seemed as though they would go on forever. That year levees broke, whole neighborhoods vanished, casual meeting places like coffee shops and cafès and Galveston’s Strand were drowned and a world was interrupted.

Much like a stroke or heart attack, the longer the interruption lasted, the less life would return afterward. In many cases the interruption has become permanent; things and places and people have died and I still have a catch in my throat for things I remember that will never be the same.

After 2005 and the record storm seasons since many things are gone irrevocably only to be temporarily revived through photographs taken and sentences written. The last item of note I came across regarding Galveston’s Strand was in an architectural preservation journal: Due to the repeated storm waters seeping into the masonry and corroding the cast iron facades of its buildings the Strand is on a short list of immediately endangered districts.

Sometimes – in the present - when I need to go back I cook dishes like gumbo that includes okra and file powder because I love them both, but with no seafood because it scares my neighbors. I cook, and I read and remember over quiet breakfasts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Many Waters in the Fall

When my mother was younger she would skip school and drive north toward Tawas Point turning off at Wilbur Road toward Lumberman’s Monument with friends to enjoy the woods. Just down the bank of the Au Sable River from there was a place called Iargo Springs where she and her friends sometimes also spent time.

This last place has been very special to me since the first time I remember my mother taking me there as a child. There is an observation deck overlooking the Au Sable as it placidly, gently kinks through green marshes hemmed in by stands of now-shimmering orange and gold trees.

The best part of the Springs, though, is gotten by a descent of something like 300 stairs to a place where moss covers everything sitting still too long with mayapples and plantain poking through getting ready for next spring.

Crisscrossing this way and that under board walks and small decks are whispering ribbons of ice cold, crystal clear water tripping over fallen trees and stones to meet the river.

I was glad Arik, Tisch and Roderick and I could make this trip to the Springs, Tisch, especially, since she seems in need lately of a break from a world that sometimes pinches a personality that deserves more space.

As we wandered I was reminded there is no way to view from this place anything to do with modern conveniences. Iargo is entirely given over at this time of year to the spicy scent of fallen leaves mingled with the musk of wet bark and mossy stones mingling into something deep and ancient; in my mind this is the smell and feel of continuity where time is not a threat, but more of a thread that everything hangs on waiting for the next thing to begin.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Finding things.

I had just had breakfast with a girlfriend who insists that she will die alone surrounded with cats. I had tried to tell her that she was wrong, that she was a beautiful woman who just needed to accept the fact that her life ran in a timeline she did not yet recognize and that she would find her someone one day, but not soon, maybe.

I headed to the mall afterward to use what I thought was a “safe” bathroom (gruesome mistake, by the by), and noticed an unusual couple while wandering in a stupor recovering from the restroom break:

He was maybe 5’ tall, wearing a putty-colored cardigan and seeing the world through exceptionally thick glasses that made his eyes seem huge. She was shorter than he, a stooped little thing who moved uncertainly forward in her red sweater and white canvas sneakers as he and she wended their way through the mall chatting with lots of pauses and grins.

Watching this couple caused me to stay at the mall for almost an hour walking at a respectful distance behind – pausing when they paused, sitting when they sat, walking when they walked. I could not help but wish that this had happened before breakfast and not after so my girlfriend could have been with me to see these two people who were perfectly contented in their later years on what had all the appearances of a second date in spite of the fact that one of them had a hump and they both had mustaches. Happiness is not trendy and love does not have easily recognizable traits. They rarely look like one expects them to, and they seldom makes sense to someone not sharing in it at that exact moment. No matter who one is or what one does to attract or avoid – they have a way of finding one, in the end and if allowed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

We have had an odd summer of cool nights followed by weeks of scorching weather and now it seems that a near-permenant twighlight has settled on the district as we wait to see when the leaves will turn and fall, when the first snows will come and what plans the city has for the apartment building next door to us...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Miss Mary's Birthday

This is the first year of many, many past when Miss Mary is not at home on Sheridan for her birthday and this cannot help but make me a bit sad. Her visits this year to our house - car bouncing a little too fast down the street and stopping suddenly enough in our drive to leave her dog, Muffin, wedged somewhere under the dash - have become more and more rare. Her stamina weakens as we watch and  sometimes she seems very confused.  Her lenghty unplanned visits to various hospitals for assessment leave me hoping the medical staff in her life find a way to give her a few more years at home to be her fiesty and sometimes scary self. I'm getting less done lately with my fingers crossed, but I think it is a worthy effort...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Howards End

I just finished re-reading “Howards End” by E. M. Forester. Once upon a time I thought that this book was about social classes, social injustices, antiquated relations between men and women… Reading again, I find the book is about the concept of home and how the Basts, Wilcoxes and Schlegals find, make or lose home.
Mrs. Wilcox’s house – Howards End – with its ancient wych-elm leaning protectively over it and a vine covering part of its walls was more than mere real estate, more than the inheritable value of the dirt upon which it was built; it was her home and being comfortable with both her person and her home Mrs. Wilcox was able to extend this sense of home to protect her family and loved friends.

After her passing, the Wilcoxes do not realize that they have lost home even though the deed to the property is comfortably, legally in their hands. The Schlegals’ childhood home is had on a 30-year lease and the land owner has decided to tear the house down when the lease expires so the family is left on the edge of having to make a new home with no experience at having done so. The Basts are on the edge of vagrancy with the loss of any penny.

All three are followed either to a new sense of home, or to the edge of society where they fall off and disappear forever. Pick this one up, do: You will not be sorry.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Splinters and Fragments.

A fellow artist and friend on Facebook posted a very interesting link that got me thinking: Could Saginaw’s incredibly strict building codes be worked around or through to construct creatively-designed, green-friendly houses or studios on a tiny scale?

There are major challenges that must be overcome before building a new structure in Saginaw’s inner city districts becomes the first choice to pursue:

-There are too many housing units to be sustained by the city’s current tax base or population.

-The current economy and number of empty homes make it more affordable to buy a house than to build one.

-The city’s building codes are some of the most strict in the Mid-West.

-The average lot size in the city is too small to build on according to current codes.

The current rate of demolition in Saginaw will in a very few years dramatically decrease the number of housing units in the city and create a massive number of empty lots that will need to be addressed as well as making it more possible to acquire several connected lots to offer a larger building site.

We will one day perhaps be able to see interesting comtemporary structures popping up in our inner-city, but a major concern between now and then is the fact that so few of the buildings being demolished are being properly salvaged. Habitat for Humanity is granted deconstruction rights to a very few properties (two at the present out of hundreds being leveled over the next year.)

These two homes out of hundreds being deconstructed by Habitat contained very little historic or architectural detail that could be reused and – interesting point to consider – the lumber being salvaged is not permitted for building use in the city because it is not graded. (Or so I have been told.) Said lumber may be virgin-growth timber of a superior quality to that being sold in today’s lumber yards, but since it is not graded/approved, it cannot be used to build a new home. So why salvage it? To build an amazing rose arbor or dog house?

Seven homes in the last 30 days were demolished in my immediate neighborheed. Each one is now just a scarred piece of land studded with wood splinters or fragments of brick where homes once stood for 80 to 100 years and these scars leave a vaguely uneasy feeling as one walks or drives past them.

Among these was a very charming black-and-butterscotch-painted house on the corner of Thompson and Weadock that was structurally sound but in need of all mechanical systems. The home was torn down while the dangerous, partially burned structure next to it on Thompson still stands due to its taxes being semi-current. Nothing was salvaged from this home prior to demolition.

A properly boarded (translation: not dangerous to the public) house on Hoyt near Weadock associated with the family of Jesse Hoyt (red and white carpenter gothic built mid-late 19th century) that - again – needed new heating, wiring, plumbing, etc., was torn down when a home several blocks away on Owen standing wide open with a collapsing roof and no siding is left standing. Nothing was salvaged from the Hoyt home prior to demolition.

One lot over from the Hoyt home (on Hoyt) stood a massive, brown Dutch Colonial home whose roof and foundation were failing (the back corner of the home was being held up by the tree that had destroyed the foundation). The home had a large porch whose roof was supported by sets of slender turned columns and wonderfully detailed windows were set into the front of the house. Inside were heavy moldings, built-in cabinets and a very detailed stairway reminiscent of the one so prominently featured in the film “Grey Gardens.” Nothing was salvaged from this home prior to demolition.

These are but three examples among many that have prompted reactions ranging from bewilderment to anger from area residents that more is not being done to make these architectural elements available to home owners in the area instead of crushing them and dumping them in a landfill.

The city has multiple programs to assist rehabilitation of historic homes, but it is interesting to note that even a rough estimate of the cash value of the architectural details being treated as trash by the city’s demolition program could easily equal the grant dollars available for home repair. We do not seem to be coming out monetarily ahead when these programs are pitted in opposing columns.

The owner of 519 Millard had to spend thousands of dollars on new porch elements. My own home was purchased whilestill missing multiple detailed windows, a fireplace mantle, vestibule door and other features that will have to be tracked down and bought or remade a great expense. All over the city homeowners are actively hunting for items and purchasing from warehouses as far away as Grass Lake and Detroit architectural elements whose manufacture today is cost prohibitive.

The city is throwing such elements away faster than they can be documented when in most cases a single afternoon of volunteer effort (by volunteers who are more than willing to sign any needed indemnity agreement for the city’s peace of mind) could make these details available affordably to homeowners in Saginaw that need them through Neighborhood Renewal Services or Habitat For Humanity’s Re-Store.

Is it possible that some of these resources could be used in new ways to help address some the city’s rapidly increasing inventory of empty lots? Could creative compact housing or studios be built of said materials at some point in the near future? Would the city be interested in partnering with an architectural school to see a text project begun? Could some of these materials somehow be made available to residents in need of specific details in a way that could assist in offsetting demolition costs or that could support the overhead of a salvage warehouse in Saginaw such as the Architectural Salvage Warehouse of Detroit (a wonderful not-for-profit to check out)?

The situation begs questions that will have to be voiced respectfully by many individuals to the proper city authorities if a solution is to be reached before these resources are gone forever and the subsequent empty lots become the result of a decision to be questioned by a new generation who were not here for the deliberating but will not hesitate to ask why those who were present in the now did not do more while there was still time.


(House formerly on corner of Thompson and Weadock)

(Dutch Colonial that was demolished without salvaging)

(To see the original story that was posted on Facebook and prompted these thoughts, go to NPR’s site and look for “In Japaz, Living Large In Really Tiny Houses” by Lucy Craft)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tom, Dick and...Larry?

He comes to the Redeye every day. Usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon: In the morning he always comes in wearing a baseball cap, carrying a tiny yellow umbrella and a McDonald's bag containing two breakfast burritos. He orders a large milk, takes his things to the back of the coffee house, sets them on the bench and proceeds to the bathroom where he will spend a half an hour in subdued yelling and hand washing. Then he emerges, picks up his milk and McDonald's and leaves for the day.

In the afternoon he comes in (usually sans umbrella and in a different hat) to order an iced coffee with no ice.

I think what strikes me about this man - Larry - is that he never varies from his routine and life still seems so interesting for him. I suppose it is the value he places on the simple elements of his day that make his life so contented. Now it is time to pause and think about that...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Sides to Every Story

Weddings are noted in art and literature as wonderful opportunities to observe the human animal in some very raw moments and we were all coming to Houston for a wedding not really knowing what to expect.
A few of us were arriving on a Tuesday before the wedding and expected a quiet evening before the others arrived, but there was enough to do that even the quiet had a chattery quality to it and we waited for the others to arrive because there were still so many small but important details to be sorted out with only days and hours to the wedding.

A set of grandparents would arrive, then another with a precious aunt in tow, then a van with a trailer; grew up Amish but had been adopted in her late teens. The maternal grandfather was not there with his new wife and the maternal grandmother was to arrive with her “friend,” Whitey, a little later. (We had been told that the grandmother was struggling against lung cancer to make the seeing of her granddaughter getting married one of the last things she did.) So it was unspokenly clear that between the recent Amishness of the bridesmaid and the separateness of the maternal grandparents there was still some sort of recovery being worked out.

Friends of the bride and groom arrived by plane, by cars of their own and one even arrived in the bed of a pickup belonging to a stranger because he would rather hitchhike than miss his friend’s wedding. So the groom’s parents’ house was filled with layers of generations that each had their own reasons for being present: Some were there because in some way they were saying goodbye to the children they had raised, some because this couple was the first in their set to make a move toward something they had considered and they wanted to see it from the first to determine if the risk was worth taking themselves, some for the adventure, and one – at least – because she wanted to see with her own eyes that in some form her life might go on beyond her own time.

Each day to the wedding had its own random pattern that meant all of these varied people who would never have known each other under typical circumstances were forced to adjust their various comfort zones and scruples to share meals with each other and find commonalities to discuss. One would enjoy alcohol and another would try not to be offended by it, one would try not to take umbrage that the person nearest them firmly believed there was a heaven they were certain enough of that they were unconsciously resigning others to a hell that was possibly less harsh than one they had already been pulled from. A miraculous balance that was at first awkward and then unnoticed governed these meals and will be one the marking things I take from the event.

On the evening of the wedding rehearsal we all made our way to the chapel the chapel to get an idea of what would take place the following day. The grandmother of the bride had not yet made it, but was supposed to be present that night at the chapel. The proceedings held for her, but in the end had to go forward so the service coordinator could get back to her family and we all learned where to be at what cue and whom would signal to whom at the appropriate time. It was getting to the end of the run-through when a very slight woman with short grey hair, a gentle, warm smile and wearing a summer dress slid into the room and into the last pew just in time to hear her granddaughter sing with two of her sisters and conclude the rehearsal.

The grandmother cried in frustration at missing so much and the groom’s mother – not quite understanding that the tears were for more than just the rehearsal – reassured her that she was there for the most important part. Before everyone headed back to the Groom’s parents’ house for a rehearsal dinner the maternal grandmother introduced herself as Sharon.

When Sharon was complimented on her earrings it came out that she was very fond of jewelry and used to manage the jewelry department of a Macy’s back home in Wisconsin. Except…Sharon did not say that she used to do so; she said she was on leave and hoped to return to work very soon because she needed to stay busy.

It was not time in Sharon’s mind to talk of things in her own life in the past tense. She had enough to think of in her very short present; let those who would outlive her sort such things later.

The wedding day came humid and clear and everything that should have been ready was so. Tuxedos and dresses and stained glass did what it is that tuxedos and dresses and stained glass are supposed to do on such occasions and the wedding could not have been better.

It occurred to Sharon as she stood in the entry to the chapel that her own mother was fond of saying there were three sides to every story – his, hers and what the rest of the universe saw – and that this would be the advice she would pass on to the new couple.

As the evening wore on with its dancing, eating, laughing and the many goodbyes that marked the start of something new I thought to myself that it did not do just now to worry too much about the future and that maybe the groom’s mother – my mother – had been right when comforting Sharon at the rehearsal: She had, we had, been there for the best part and the future would have to be someone else’s to watch for.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Love is a place." First Lady Rachel Jackson

When all is interrupted
After the last Good night,
Things are not ended, but moved
Beyond time and darkness and light.

Until then there is just what we have,
Perhaps not to see the other shore
Perhaps just to stand there waiting
Quietly amazed there is more.

To see life through what it is made of,
To love it while it is,
And then, still loved, to lay it aside,
Would be a fine-great gift.

Time is given as it slips away –
Too precious to be an often-waste.
When all of life is each moment,
And love,
"Love is a place."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things You Inherit.

Stomach pain became a hospital stay which became a panel of tests which became a recommendation to Hospice care which rapidly became a series of voicemails, texts and calls between my mother, her sisters and his grandchildren to communicate his passing.

He didn’t raise them. He didn’t go to school functions. He didn’t walk them down the aisle. He didn’t behave much of his life like a father is expected to and the position of “Dad” belonged to someone who was there and shared those relevant moments in their lives. But he was still their father and it was hard to pinpoint exactly what caused the pain they felt.

They didn’t miss him as a human being, or not enough to explain that depth of hurt. I think it was that they now had to accept the hole he left in their childhoods was irredeemable; what they regretted more than his passing was what they never had with him. They missed what never was and now could never be because his life was over and all that was left were a mobile home, a few vehicles, a little bit of cash in his bank accounts and a blind, fat little dog named Pixie who was the last love of his life.

After a home was found for Pixie, there were things to go through that a stranger could not be expected to deal with so two of the sisters went to the trailer to sift and remember and decide after touching - each object having once been important to someone - which things should be held, which should be passed on and which should be discarded.

Everything, every canned good, walking stick and small appliance he owned had written upon it in fine-tip black permanent marker the word, “Got,” and a date.

In the process of sorting it was discovered that he seemed to buy certain things in sets and that these things were tucked in random places and never taken out of their packaging. There were cards, letters and photographs that had survived changes of address, and one in particular – black-and-white with scalloped edges of a baby born in 1958 – that had been handled often enough that it was almost falling apart.

It was simultaneously comforting and heart-breaking: He had obviously thought about them enough over the years to buy gifts for them and look at their photographs, but did not give these gifts or tell them that he loved them as often as he could have because he did not know how.

Everything he ever “got” was recorded, but how would he ever record or contain what he had lost? How could someone who could only joke when he should have loved express sorrow for not being a part of a daughter’s life? His life seemed to have room only for laughter and regret: In the last couple days when even Pixie knew something was wrong and sat at his feet whimpering, he turned to my aunt and said, “I am sorry I was so mean to you,” and she replied, “You did okay, Dad.”

I couldn’t understand why I had been asked to write an obituary but had been given no deadline until I was told the sisters decided against a public funeral because of who might randomly show up. I envisioned the type of person who could inspire that kind of decision: The kind of people who had maybe had a disagreement in the 1970’s over a forklift, or a foreskin. I am not really sure, but whatever it was, they haven’t spoken since and my mother and her sisters didn’t want these people dropping by unannounced to say whatever they felt they had to before the family could get out of the way.

To stubbornly hold to what we think is important, our small noses that are slightly turned up at the end, to be territorial over our families and possessions, to sometimes love in secret because people should just know they are loved when we harass them, to desire to give but to sometimes not know how, the need to make laughter when tears might be more natural, knowing that stories are important and that simple things are what life is made of: After all things have been said and there is nothing left to divide, these are the things we inherited from the man who left a larger void than a presence in our lives.

I was told as a boy that people start over by being Born Again and I have heard you can never really go home once you are grown because childhood is a one-time thing. I have witnessed a lot since then, and have noticed that some people just start over and when they find they can no longer go home they make a new one. So I imagine my mother and her sisters standing at a gravesite taking note of the passing of a man who had so much influence – but at the same time so little involvement – in their lives and waiting for the childhood they remembered to reconcile with the lives they have built for themselves.

The gap is too large and as the afternoon wears on I know they will finally stop trying and will turn and go, instead – two north, one south – taking their inheritance back to the homes they have created for themselves when childhood got too small to hold the lives they needed.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I have learned that drunk Democrats sound a lot like sober Republicans and wonder if the reverse is true...

Monday, May 24, 2010

All in one's perspective...

"My mother gave me a completely priceless life."
Little Edith Bouvier Beale

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lilacs and Lullabies

“Earth gave us all the satisfaction we asked.”
Virginia Woolf, Reminiscences

It has been an odd kind of spring that has promised to warm, but then gone back to ice, and wind and unseemingly long dark nights that give way to frost on young leaves.

Lilacs have come bringing with them so many memories of other springs when a grandmother sat in a backyard swing with her arm around me - back and forth, squeek-squeek, back and forth, sigh-and-smile - softly singing "You Are My Sunshine" and talking of future evenings that would be lit by fireflies.

I can bring those evenings back (with a suddeness that sometimes brings tears) as long as the breeze has a hint of lilac left on it...And when the last hint is gone, all such memories are soflty folded away for another year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Keller Williams Red Day

The sky was roughly the color of the flakes of slate that once made up the roof of the Hill House but lay now on the ground at its foundation. Well. Lay in the mud at its foundation, is more accurate because it was pouring cats and dogs. Or ponies and sheep...or radiatiators and wrenches, or...

And in this weather were tromping a little over a dozen Keller Williams agents, friends, family and a random little person. They had all come out to help get the new neighborhood garden started by planting perinnials along what would one day be a fenceline and gate arch but was today just a field of mud under pouring rain.

The effort was one more wonderful contribution of neighbors in the broader sense of the word coming together to help boost the gathering vitality in a pocket of one of Saginaw's wrongly-dreaded East Side neighborhoods. And, Surprise: The rain was the worst thing to befall any of them, and even the rain couldn't dampen grins in the mud...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

All mothers give up something to be what they are...

 “When I try to see her I see more distinctly how our lives are pieces in a pattern and to judge one truly you must consider how this side is squeezed and that indented and a third expanded and none are really isolated, and so I conceive that there were many reasons then to make your mother show herself a little other than she was. We lived in a state of anxious growth; school, reports, professions to be chosen, marriage for the elders, books coming out, bills, health – the future was always too near and too much of a question for any sedate expression. All these activities, too, charged the air with personal emotions and urged even children, and certainly “the eldest,” to develop one side prematurely. To help, to do something was desirable, not to obtrude diffident wishes, irrelevant and possibly expensive.
So your mother, whose sight seemed in some ways so clear, took it upon herself to be what people call “practical”…”
Virginia Woolf, Reminiscences

Friday, April 23, 2010

There are things we can describe, sketch or photograph so that another can hear them, touch them and know what it is that they are...but there are some things that we cannot begin to contain in a bowl made of words or images; then it is only possible to describe how precious they are to us and hope that someone will take the time to try to understand before it is too late. And even as spring unfolds it seems the year is going to be a single, long struggle to describe things faster than they disappear...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Timothy's Birthday Book

There was a time when I was not sure how many of my little brother, Timothy's, birthdays I might be able to spend with him so - for his 10th birthday - I created a book that incorporated snatches from some of the stories I had read to him when he was small enough to fit beside me in a creaky, overstuffed rocking chair.  The binding is made of acid-free boards covered in handmade marbled paper and with brown silk quarter binding on the front cover. Also on the front cover is an amber cabochon carved hollow from the reverse with my cypher, held to tte the board with a pair of sterling silver straps and surrounded by a band of silver wire wrapped in silk interspersed with seed pearls. Behind the amber are two lilac seeds from the bush our mother planted in our grandmother's back yard on the edge of Bay City, MI. The spine of the book is held together with stitching of waxed linen thread detailed in brown silks. The text block of the book is ma,de of watermarked hand-laid paper from England and the pages consist of my own illustrations to the stories that Timothy grew up hearing with a page here and there headed by the date of a birthday in his future from his 10th birthday to his 21st. Under each date is a question I might have asked him had I been there for that birthday. The book was made seven years ago and is beginning to show wear...SPM

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Whatever happened to the concept of homesteading in reality?

Debbie Besanson shared a concern in her comment to the post a couple below this one regarding keeping young people in Saginaw. The standing-but-delapidated buildings in Saginaw and keeping the young here are indirectly linked. But they are linked. I read an article in a Detroit publication recently that profiled a young couple who were using the incredibly low home prices in their Detroit neighborhood (All below $1,000) to attract other artists into their district to build an enclave of working artists. Together they have also taken over the working of an empty house and lot to make a working experiment in urban gardening and studio space.

If we want young people - artistic or not - to stay here there must be an incentive to do so in spite of the current economy.

The city has possession of a powerful bargaining chip to boost young population here in the form of buildings it sees as expendable.

In all of the articles and interviews on urban blight I have heard and read in Saginaw, I have yet to hear one that seriously explored solutions that made an attempt to actively attract residents. Efforts so far seem geared toward not scaring away possible residents; what seems to be consistantly missed is that current young residents must be retained in order to see real population growth in the city.

I am not in the market for a house, but I would be terribly keen on seeing (and helping promote) some kind of homesteading program in certain neighborhoods of inner-city Saginaw that helped attract young couples and artists into putting sweat equity into properties that are currently borderline to being uninhabitable and that are currently not marketable.

It would cost the city less to place a building/home in the hands of an interested party for a very nominal sum of money and see a new resident move there or an existing resident not leave Saginaw than it would to tear said building/home down. Would the now inhabited structure not bring tax revenue to the city over time as it is improved? Just a thought.

[Rich Life]

when i lived in houston
i thought vacation meant leaving the country
for two weeks
asking the natives
where they ate
because they knew where to find the best food

living in saginaw
vacation means going to detroit for the day
asking bag ladies
and that guy who pees all over Woodward
where they sleep at night
because they know
where to find the most amazing buildings.

brush park, detroit, michigan

Monday, March 22, 2010

Empty Lots or Empty Houses: Assets or Liabilities?

A recent article in the Saginaw News (Red Tape Delays Using a Back Hoe to Make Historic Saginaw Houses History, 3/20/2010) discussed challenges in the demolition of abandoned 19th century homes on N. Jefferson (Saginaw’s Northeast Side) in order to make way for a “Green Zone.”

As a resident of the city of Saginaw who lives amongst abandoned buildings, I want to know: How is the proposed “Green Zone” any different than the multitude of empty lots already in existence in Saginaw? How will such a zone positively impact perceptions of our community? How will such a zone attract much-coveted new residents into the city? More importantly, has the future impact of extensive demolition of possibly historical structures been thoroughly looked at, or is this just a temporary fix?

I want to know – I think anyone living in the city has a right to know – what city leaders see such activity achieving in the next two decades (as opposed to the possible short-term changes in perception within the community that will only impact the next local elections).

How will more empty lots be useful in revitalizing the city’s challenged neighborhoods?

Senior citizens who own the homes they have lived much of their lives in are now in danger of losing said homes to foreclosure due to back taxes. These senior citizens are vital heads to be counted in the census this year and they have been productive residents of this city in their prime earning (and taxpaying) years. How will widespread demolition boost the quality of their lives?

Monies at the city’s disposal for neighborhood revitalization are only available to individuals with a household income of less than $19,000 on the stipulation that they own their home, the home is properly insured and all taxes and water bills are up to date. If one’s income is above $19,000, there is a good chance one does not need assistance in repairing one’s home. If one’s income is below $19,000 and one’s house is in desperate disrepair then it is highly unlikely that such things as keeping the house properly insured or the taxes current are even a blip on the family’s radar. At that point food and heat in the winter are much bigger issues.

Another concern with the above mentioned funds is that they might possibly only be available if the homeowner agrees to have his or her house re-sided, original windows replaced, original banisters replaced to meet current code and the removal or covering of lead-bearing elements (which could include original woodwork that has been painted or varnished). What is left of the historic aesthetic of a once intact house is then difficult to find. The charm and personality that attracts so many to live in an old home have now been removed making the property less appealing inside as well as from the street.

It would seem that the way in which grant/stimulus monies are being governed and property taxes are being levied in some cases are going to lead to more properties on the city’s dangerous building list. So it would seem the demolition of structures currently on the dangerous buildings list will only make way for more structures to be added to this same list as the elderly are forced to move elsewhere and those who desire to live in the city’s historic neighborhoods cannot get access to funds required to keep their homes from falling into decay. When will this cycle end? What will happen to Saginaw’s inner city neighborhoods over the next decade? What will happen to the city if these neighborhoods do not recover viability as residential districts?

It is possible that any city official or resident could reverse the questions I have asked to demand how empty structures could be any more of an asset than empty lots. The individual turning those questions back would likely win a prize at a high school debate meet. But this is not high school. This is not a debate meet. This is the community we live in and it is time that any inhabitant – official or resident – in any of the city’s challenged neighborhoods needs to look seriously across the street or over the back fence before making decisions that are irreversible.

Much of Saginaw was built up from a wealthy economy that will never be seen in this region again. What has been bequeathed to us from that era is all we have to leverage our community into its next cycle of life. These buildings are only here until they are demolished. The wealth will never again exist in this region to build such structures as the home of the Castle Museum, the former Bancroft Hotel, the Potter Street Station (second only in size to the great central station in Detroit) or the homes on N. Jefferson referenced in the recent Saginaw News article.

Detroit is pitted with areas that were once bustling residential and business districts which might now – after years of systematic demolition – fall under the description of “Green Zones.” These former neighborhoods aren’t terribly green; rather, they appear barren, desolate and depressing with absolutely nothing to recommend them to new residents or business owners.

It is worth looking again at our possibly dangerous buildings and considering whether it might not be worth removing front steps and boarding windows and doors to make structures less of a risk and provide time (and city cooperation) for/with residents to attempt to provide solutions for the structures within sight of their own front doors. Demolishing these structures now and thinking about the future of the districts they once stood in at a later date seems irresponsibly irreversible.

There is no easy fix for neighborhoods whose hearts, for one reason or another, have stopped beating, but one thing is indisputable: Empty buildings have a greater chance of attracting new businesses and residents than do empty lots.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Could I have a side of decaying opulance with that, please?"

Sarah and Paolo like things that are a little urban, so it was time for them to get a tuck-and-roll daytrip to Detroit under their belts. In taking this trip with them, I was reminded again of some of the things I love about the gritty, grungy, slightly tarnished beauty of Detroit.

We began in the morning heading south in I-75 allllllll the way down to 9 Mile Road to exit there into Ferndale to look at the bustling few blocks of business street that intersect Woodward and remind me of what I think Hamilton Street in Saginaw could be in another twenty years with the right people keeping busy there.

Then we headed south on Woodward pointing out the ramshackle remains of the old Ford plant and the bright specks of craft tile that pop from every other facade in Detroit. We turned right on Warren to go to the Architectural Salvage Warehouse and looked at piles of flaking, splintering design possibilities.

Next came Showcase Collectables in what was once China Town, then we headed downtown to Bagley and the Michigan Building.

I had driven past and - once-upon-a-time - had peeked inside what is now a parking structure as a child and wanted to take Sarah and Paolo to see the repurposed space. After driving around the buildign without recognizing it four or five times we finally parked near the blown-out remains of some one's car windows. We were let into the back of the building by a friendly security guard in the lobby.

Ten or so steps through a narrow, twisted little hall and out a steel door and we stood under what was left of something incredible:

Barely 8-9 feet above our heads were baroque wreathes, faces whose expresions had long ago flaked away, crumbling egg-and-dart patterns and fragments of marble veneer. Walking forward toward light pouring in from the side of the building we were suddenly in a space that soared four stories upward to an amazingly ornate cieling that seemed to have columns hanging from it instead of supporting it; the cieling seemed to float like an art installation over what was now a parking garage. Visible through the steel eye beams and seemingly-too-slender poured concrete columns holding up three levels of parking was the cieling of what had once been the auditorium of the old Michigan Theater. Even after having been closed since the mid-1970's and converted to a parking garage it cannot help but be impressive in a way that inspires goose bumps.

Friday, March 12, 2010


This Lent thing is officially over at my house. I can totally appreciate the idea, have tried it since...well, whenever it started, but the headaches, and (so Roderick finally told me last night) the irritability coupled with always feeling tired are gettgin in the way of work and that can't happen now that it's possible to get around, lol. Ah well. I suppose it was worth the try, anyway.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


We all want to be loved and to proclaim our love.
Lucky # 03, 09, 13, 27, 3, 38, 41”
Fortune cookie from Pasong’s

The Madonna swung through Dawn’s today with her friend, Ruby. Ruby is ten years old, her knobbly ankles are the palest salmon pink, she has a patch of white hair across her chest and nipples for miles.

Ruby is a pit bull of dubious ancestry and impeccable personality that wore a black hoodie with its sleeves cut off and a flowered vintage belt from Mexico around her waist and a really great necklace made out of coin silver and about two hands full of red coral beads.

The Madonna lost one of the few people she regarded as a friend about a year ago. She obviously has a lot of love to give Ruby in the wake of that loss and she is not stingy in giving it.

“She gets excited when you tell her she’s pretty,” said the Madonna. Don’t we all…

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An addendum to assist harassment.

Being somewhat vaguely connected to certain things, it had not hit me until this morning that I had accepted a dinner invitation with a group of friends and neighbors in Bay City for this evening that might be a problem for Lenten aspirations. It was.

I had counted on Terry to have one of his wonderful soups and thought I could plead some impending medical proceedure and get away with only eating soup. No soup in sight and I got a ribbing from Brian about eating solid foods. Well, that's all there was and I don't like being a pain in the posterior oriface, so I dug in, enjoyed and start over tomorrow on no chewables. And no more dinners out until Easter.

Dinner was great and the roast beef, in particular, was very tender and flavorful. (Though a couple days on fluids could have factored in.) When asked how the meat was prepared, Mark just gave all and sundry a look that said either, "I'd have to kill you if I told you," or "I did something inapproriate with that meat and you don't want to know." Well. It was good, anyway, and the company was, as well.

I sat in the window at a smaller table with Bowen, Michael and Wes. The last making references to boredom that inspired me to say:

"Well. I have a whisk that could change your life."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent. Interesting.

There is a lot of ongoing research into a couple different possible projects in teh neighborhood that are just full of redtape slowing things down, so it was refreshing to get a text from Iris on Ash Wednesday asking me to bring my violin and join her for a musical lunch at Dawn's.

Dawn asked what I was giving up for Lent...I hadn't thought about it. I pointed out that I am not Catholic. Not even vaguely. Dawn pointed out that it was a spiritual excercise and not really tied to a denomination. So here's what I've decided to ry this year:

For the fourty days of Lent I will give up solid food. This is a big deal to me because I love to cook - and of course eat - and will still be cooking for others, but I thought it could be an interesting experience to keep a notebook during this time (surprise).

At fist I thought I would just record what I was grateful for whenever I was hungry or when I would normally have sat down to chew. The notebook went like this:

Dog food. (Don't ask.)

Hardly productive. So, instead, I have decided to take those times and set them aside as special moments of focus on the world around me. Instead of a steak, a sunset. Instead of a scoop of ice cream, a pause to look at a snap shot of the Madonna over her cofee cup. (Notes will still be taken, and in a notebook decorated with her hands collaged on a background of reclaimed wall paper.) So far I have been surprised with what has happened to the way I see things and I am only a couple days in; so we'll see what happens.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Closure of the Jeannine House

I was saddened to recieve this notice this morning and can only hope that a new comunity will form in time to keep the house running as a desperately-needed benevolent force in a challeneged district.

On Sat, Feb 13, 2010 at 5:04 PM, jeannine house wrote:

With sadness, the Jeannine Coallier Catholic Worker announces that it will close its doors on March 1, at least temporarily. We simply don’t have enough live-in community to manage a house of hospitality and the money in our account at the moment won’t even pay the heating bill for the rest of our equal-pay contract.

For fourteen years, the house at 721 E. Holland in Saginaw has operated as a home for women and children in temporary need, and closing it has been an extremely difficult decision. We are working and praying that another community will step in so that we may re-open sometime after May 30 and so carry on the compassionate and nonviolent legacy of the late Jeannine Coallier, for whom we named the house.

If you know of people interested in becoming Catholic Workers in Saginaw, please have them call or email one of us. (See below.) Alternatively, if you know of a local non-profit agency or church that would be able to use this beautiful home in some way that serves the people of Saginaw, please let them know to call one of us. Web presence is found at,, and

We are all so thankful for your financial and emotional support and friendship over the years and thankful also to Jude Thompson for her years at the house. As the Irish would say, "It was a great ride." Blessings and peace to all,

The Jeannine Coallier Board of Directors

Janice Coty, 989-921-5822 (
Renaye Fewless, 231-825-0182 or 231-878-2587
Clif McQueen, 989-799-0679 (
Amy Seaver, 989-792-0051(
Rosalie Riegle, 847-492-1856, 847-644-2281 and 989-389-7660 in the summer (

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Madonna's Gifts

“At every tick of the clock, in every inhabited part of the world, and unimaginable richness and variety of “history” falls off the world into total oblivion.”
C. S. Lewis

The snow began quickly falling like sifted flour over the neighborhood just a minutes before 8p.m. a week or two ago and we trundled down from the warmth of the attic to let the dog out for a trot. As I opened the door I was struck by the fact that someone with small feet had come up our driveway to a point just past the back door, turned around and retraced their steps back down the drive and to the left up Millard toward Warren.

The night was cold and whoever it was had been in the last few minutes because the prints were already blurring away into the falling snow. I walked beyond the last couple prints beyond our door and noticed something different on the falling-down porch connected to the kitchen:

On one of the hooks that supported awnings in a better time in the house’s history was hung a drab-green-enameled, battery lantern with an aluminum handle that had a large white light on the front and a red one at its top and bottom. One of the red lights was cracked and the switch was rusted in place. There was nothing else to indicate someone had been near the house and the tracks went no further.

Once back inside the house we came to the conclusion that there was only one person who might have left such a gift and I had to make sure in that cold night that she had not gone to squat someplace and freeze.

We went back out with the dog and followed the almost-erased prints up Millard across Warren toward Weadock. If she had gone left on Weadock, that meant she was warm and mostly safe; if she went right on Weadock, then she was in the basement of a partially-roofless house that had been empty for the better part of a decade and some thinking would have to be done.

When we got to Weadock, if was obvious she had gone to the left and warmth so we went home and took the Madonna’s gift into the kitchen thankful that our roof was whole and the attic was a warm place from which to watch the weather as it wiped the neighborhood’s features clean for another day.

A Rosary of Naked Indian Trees

We left Houston in a white minivan headed toward the Mexican border with Jim and Linda Hendrix for a visit to their home in Coatapec. I was thrilled to the point of needing extra stops to use the bathroom that we were finally going to Mexico.

Growing up in Texas, I had a very distinct impression of Mexico mainly informed through dogmatically proud Texans waffling on about the history of the Republic and by watching too many John Wayne films with my dad.

Mexico, I thought, was arid and full of sparsely scattered adobe structures where women in long braids bent over babies and calla lilies while men wearing large hats hearded cattle from the backs of little spotted horses.

The Mexicans I knew never seemed to fit into the impression I had of the place they were supposed to come from, so I was looking forward to eliminating the gap between what I knew and what I thought I knew.

It took a bit to get through the border because the Mexican authorities had to be convinced that we were not making the trip just to sell our vehicle in Mexico and avoid the importation tax that was then about equivalent to 150% of the vehicle’s value.

Once across, I could see no difference in the countryside. I set myself up for a disappointment and focused, instead, on chatting with Linda about her collection of orchids and trying to find out about where we were going through their young friend, Pepe’s, broken English.

We drove all day only seeing a few fist-fulls of other vehicles, all headed north and we were stopped once for an inspection by machine-gun-sporting policemen. We only passed one gas station all day and Jim wisely stopped to make sure the tank was full before continuing south.

That night we pulled into a small, white-washed stucco motel that had a small café built on one end and when we went inside to have a late dinner I noticed that the café with its rough tables, light yellow walls and white vinyl floor was spotlessly clean.

I don’t recall what was on anyone else’s’ plate, but I remember what I ordered: Chicken boiled in its own stock and with cumin, cilantro, mild peppers, onions and tomatoes until the meat fell off the bones and corn tortillas cut like noodles were added at the last to soak up all the liquid. It came plated with mild goat cheese shredded over it and black beans with pork on the side. I had never had the dish before, but I make it for myself every now and again with a grin.

After dinner we all went to our very sparse, very clean rooms and slid in between sheets that felt slightly damp in the cool of the intensely humid night.

The next morning we woke early, went to the café and had a breakfast that was ordered by everyone at the same time, but came out one plate at a time as the woman serving us cooked each person’s food.

We were on the road all the next day and, in the afternoon, the land began to become more green and the fences actually grew because they had been made by hammering stakes from a tree whose name meant naked indian; when the stakes were pounded into the ground they leafed out and each fence became a line of trees connected by wire.

Finally getting close to Vera Cruz we turned inland to Jalapa where every driver made his own lane wherever he could find space to squeeze a car – many of which were forty to sixty years old if a day – and working our way out of town we headed further into the rainforest at the foot of a volcano to the smaller town of Coatapec and the Hendrix’ house.

The next days were full of seeing, tasting and going everywhere and meeting everyone the Hendrix’ knew and Sunday meant a full day of church in the concrete building with its crude wooden benches where they met.

A tiny woman named Maria was the first to arrive. She lived more than an hour away, but she was always the first to arrive and the last to leave on Sundays. She was very old. No one really seemed to know how old; Maria herself was not sure, but could remember the Mexican Civil War… After her came Pepe and Manuel, their parents Pepe and Marga and all their extended family ( I remember a cousin my age named Hugo and many aunts and uncles).

After church ended in the late afternoon, we all went to Pepe (the older) and Marga’s house to eat. The living space was on the second floor and we quite filled it. Over the next few hours we ate fried stuffed squash blossoms, rice, beans, pulled meat, cold fruit (I learned how to say naranja – orange) and drank an amazingly refreshing mixture of pureed melon, tapioca, sugar and cold water.

Everyone laughed, shared stories that included a lot of large gestures and became comfortable in each other’s space. I felt mostly complete in that group and felt that they had a wealth that I could not begin to understand but could appreciate nonetheless.

Jim always had deeply penetrating eyes that could twinkle suddenly as his white-streaked black beard broke to reveal an infectious grin. Solidly built, full head of hair and gentle in everything he did, he had the appearance of the best kind of rabbi.

For the first time all day, I had broken away from the group and went over to the small window to look out over the street. Turning back to watch the room, I could feel my face warming into a slow smile and Jim walked over to lean his back against the wall beside me.

Now you have seen Mexico,” he said as he also surveyed the room, seeing all and loving equally.

And I realized: Mexico had nothing to do with beaches, volcanos, fields of coffee trees, noises, smells or a different language. Mexico had everything to do with the people who happened to live among these things and I couldn’t help but reflect – even as a teenager – they were incredibly resilient, resourceful and more full of the joy of living than almost anyone I had ever met in my life who supposedly had more to give thanks for. The world grew considerably that evening in my understanding.

The concept of diversity has come up a few times recently in the life of the neighborhood in committee meetings for events coming this summer and over coffee with neighbors.

I didn’t have a close acquaintance with the word “diversity” on that trip to Mexico. It wasn’t nearly so popular a button to push then, I suppose. I got a sense of what was to become my understanding of that concept later in life, though: I had been caught off guard and out of my own bubble of experience so that – for the first time in my life – I simply saw the world as it was. No nagging desire to change one little thing to make the view into what I perceived to be perfect. No judgment upon the differences between their lives and mine. No question of any kind; just sight of what was and an acceptance that did not require a developed tolerance.

Diversity, then, was not an action taken or a tolerance exercised by individuals temporarily in control of a situation. Diversity was, and is, a delightful fact of humanity. The world is diverse in the same way that the world is in color and surround sound; maybe it takes a rosary of naked indian trees leading into a rainforest full of strangers to open one’s eyes properly. Maybe, but I think one moment of unguarded sight could be easier to find than that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Life as a Freak Show

This blog is in sad need of updating and many of the "Up-dates" are of things that happend some time ago, so they will be back-dated accordingly. In the meantime, I am at Dawn of a New Day sipping coffee and have learned this:

Sometimes life is reduced to a bag of flaming Cheeto's and your dreams can become realities before you know it, so pack a change of clothing. Just ask Linsey.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Places Called Home

“We had come home and if home was not what we had expected, never mind, our need for belonging allowed us to ignore the obvious and to create real places, or even illusory places, befitting our imagination.”Maya Angelou

Her husband worked at the hospital around the block from my house and said there was no such thing as a Lesser Cathedral District and she chided me for having given her faulty information as we sat having coffee. Looking out the window at passing traffic, I reflected: I knew it existed; I lived there. The neighbors all lived there. John lived under a porch there. Lorie walking through with all she owned in the bags she carried about with her was acquainted with every stray kitten there. We all knew it was so. I thought about trying to convince her that what I knew to be so was so, but – instead – I let it be. We had our coffee and she told how she once took plywood, cardboard and a steak knife and built a fireplace where there wasn’t one before. It occurred to me that a woman like that would figure out what was so on her own; she would know it was so when she saw what had been made there for herself because faith is, after all, a very tactile thing at times.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Grandmother's Eyes

“She had that spontaneous quality of aliveness which illuminates people who have already done a lot of their dying, and I think I am beginning to understand the truth of that.”
Madeleine L’Engle, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother

From the first moments that I can clearly remember, where ever she was – and that was usually the house at 3910 Smith - it felt safe. She is gone, after a fashion, but I will always remember: A house near the river that smelled of popcorn and clean laundry in the winter and lilacs and fresh-cut grass in the summer, the sounds of the evening news and passing trains and – always at the center of all – her blue eyes and warm smile. I have never gone back to the house after it sold; I suppose that way I can believe nothing has changed.