Last Day/First Day

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The thermometer on the back porch says it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit when we set out on an afternoon walk with Bella on the last day of the year 2013. Fortunately for our thin blooded coastal North Carolina living selves there is not the faintest whisper of wind and the sun is shining brightly on this frigid New Hampshire day. I share Bella’s doggie-zen enthusiasm as I breathe in the sharp cold air as we walk from the wood shed out into the white landscape.

I stop to take the above picture and Erik says
“Mom! An owl!” It has flown over my head and I only see it from behind as it glides away over the snow covered garden. It looks off white in color. Erik had been looking in the other direction and had gotten to see it’s face.
“I think it was a barn owl.”
I think of barn owl faces. Their dark eyes and white face a disconcerting mask that betrays no emotion, at least not one recognizable to humans. This was probably the one I heard last night as I was brushing my teeth for bed. I had stopped mid brush and looked out the window. There was no moon or streetlights and I was unable to make out even the silhouette of the nearby hills. My little mammal heart shivered at the thought of that owl perched somewhere watching, it’s bird heart beating in steady alien-like tolerance of the deep sub zero cold. The myths surrounding owls as harbingers of death seemed completely obvious and reasonable as I curled up under the electric blanket.

Today I just smile and marvel at the complete absence of sound it made as it flew over. A winter’s day here is so quiet anyway, there are no leaves to rustle, no outside voices besides our own. If Erik and I were mice, his warning would have come too late and owl would have got me.

Later, sitting on stools and drinking tea in my uncle’s warm kitchen, we discuss the owl sighting.
“It could have been a Snowy Owl. They’ve been coming down from Canada.”
“It was a light color, but maybe not pure white. It all happened so quick. Erik saw it’s face.”
“I think it was a barn owl.”
My uncle is a woodsman, that is he manages people’s forested properties and often works alone in the woods. He once told me he would never get a license to hunt a bear. ” Oh no. I don’t want to ruin my karma. You leave me alone, Mr Bear, and I’ll leave you alone.” His eyes twinkled.
Now he smiles, the laugh lines around his eyes crinkling up
“Well, I think seeing an owl, especially a Snowy Owl, on the last day of the year, that would have to be a very lucky sign.”
I suppose it depends on which mythology you choose.
Polish= An owl is the ghost of a married woman.
Japanese= An owl is good luck, an ancestral spirit
Native American= Symbol of death, unlucky or a spirit
Old English = Unlucky omen
Roman/greek – Symbol of wisdom
Modern day- An owl is wise
Target= An owl is very trendy and looks good on clothing, cups and kitchen appliances
Me= owl is a very unique and fascinating life form. You leave me alone Mr. Owl, and I’ll leave you alone.
But maybe you don’t get to choose the mythology. maybe the mythology chooses you.
Anywho….Ha-ha….Sorry. =)

Sonya says: Nevermind the last day, it’s the first day of the year that matters, and whatever you do on that day is indicative of how you will spend the rest of the year.
On the first day of 2014 I spent the day driving away from New Hampshire, outrunning a monster snowstorm. Dad, Erik and I stopped for the night in N.J. and we all shared a room. The next morning dad said,
“You must have been having a nightmare. You screamed in your sleep.”
“Yeah, mom. You woke us up.”
“Did I?”
I am embarrassed and a little creeped out because I’ve been doing this a lot lately.
I can’t often remember the dreams, but this one I do.
I was back in the room at the farm, not facing the window, filled with a sense of dread. A barn owl sat outside on a Mapletree branch, staring in, compelling me to turn over, raise the shade, and look it in the eyes.

Cliffhanger at Gate 13 part Dois

This is in response to the Daily challenge Cliffhanger. If you are joining this story already in progress, you can find Part 1. in the previous post.

“Yes, I’m still here, but they are starting to board my flight.”
“Please just stay there. I will be there soon.”

“Now all passengers sitting in zone 1 are invited to board.”
Crap. That’s our zone. Since when have they started boarding planes front to back? It makes no sense.
The Brazilian woman’s eyes haven’t left my face. She is biting her lip.
I can wait a few more minutes.
He has now reached concourse C and is counting the gates as he passes them.
I feel like I could be in a spy thriller. I’m picturing maybe a suave dark latin man (in a fedora) as the owner of this voice. He might say:
“The plan has changed. You must now take her to the last bathroom on concourse D. Give your left shoe to the attendant. She will understand and give you further instructions.”
Or maybe he’s the bad guy. A Donald Pleasance looking guy who will have to kill me once I’ve seen his face.
“And now we welcome all passengers to board.”
Come on, come on.
“Ok, I am here. I am at gate C13. You said C13, yes?”
I’m scanning the crowd. There are several men who could be him, all with cell phones to their ears.
“Yes, we’re sitting right here. What do you look like?”
He chuckles. “Well, I am an old man in a black coat. I have glasses and a moustache”
There he is, looking totally at the wrong gate.
I stand up and wave my arms, getting some curious looks.
“Ah. There you are.” We are both still on our phones as he approaches.
The Brazilian woman looks unsure. She smiles hesitantly and they speak briefly in Portuguese. It occurs to me she has never seen this man before.
“Maybe she was a mail order bride.” G. says later when I tell him.
The moustached man turns to me and takes my hands in his.
“Thank you so much”
The lady now smiles a big smile and pulls me to her and kisses me on both cheeks.
“Obrigado, obrigado!”
I feel myself blush.
“No problem. Good luck.”
“Now we must go to our flight.” he says, and they start to walk away.
Then she turns back and embraces me again, kissing both cheeks. People stare at us.
“Obrigado!”
Then they are gone in the crowd.
And they are final calling our flight.
I shake Erik. If only I could sleep like this.
“Hey, wake up, kiddo. We gotta get on the plane. You missed everything! I just got kissed by a Brazilian woman.”
He stretches and stands.
“REally”
Yes, really! You mom totally just saved the day. And while wearing plain old mom underwear, no less.”
He just smiles.
And that is how I, knace, was kissed by a Brazilian woman on the penultimate day of 2013.
The End
O Fim

Cliffhanger at Gate C13

This is for the daily prompt titled Cliffhanger.

“Introducing the first high performance line of underwear” my son is reading in his best Sylvester Stallone/Vin Diesel imitation from the SkyMall magazine as we sit waiting to board a flight from Charlotte to Hartford, CT. “Only $18.00 a pair, mom. I definitely need these.” Normally I would find this funny, but I’m feeling overheated and grumpy and tired.
I’ve been flying my whole life but I still feel an unpleasant clench in my stomach when I am told my flight has been delayed due to a mechanical problem. My brain immediately plays a lightning fast montage of plane crash news stories from over the years. “It was determined a loose screw was the cause for the right wing engine to fall off the jet bound for Chicago, sending the dc whatever plummeting to the ground” a male newscaster voice says solemnly. I always scan the faces of the flight crew for signs of nervousness when I board these delayed planes. “It really is fixed, right?” I want to ask them, but don’t.
And the flight to CT has been delayed for just such a problem on this sunny winter’s day. The gate is packed with holiday travelers. The flight to Miami at the gate next to mine has been overbooked and they are calling for people to give up their seats for free tickets. I fidget in my chair and give my son a non committal response. He puts the copy of Skymall in his backpack.
I try to relax by playing mah jong on my smart phone.
Some mindless matching is just what I need to keep from picturing a mechanic standing under the plane scratching his head, on the phone with tech support saying “I guess it’s fixed….yeah. Although there should be one more screw. Huh. Oh well, good enough!” And it also distracts me from what awaits me in cold snowy New England.

I sense someone has sat down next to me and feel a light touch on my arm. I turn in my chair to find a pair of worried brown eyes staring into mine. They belong to a black woman, in her thirties if I had to guess and dressed for a warmer day. She begins speaking what sounds like Portuguese, gesturing with her hands that flutter about like birds. I tell her in English I’m sorry but I don’t understand her. She looks around the gate nervously and then, undeterred, starts again, a rapid torrent of what could almost be Spanish but with more Sh and Ow sounds. I shake my head. She pulls out a piece of paper and shows me a phone number with an area code I don’t recognize.
I try my rusty college Spanish and ask her if she wants to use my phone to call that number. Yes! She gestures to my phone. I hand it to her.
She hands it back.
I hand it back again saying “It’s Ok”. It’s the one phrase a Spanish instructor once told me everyone in the world understands. She seems reluctant but slowly dials the number. She appears unsure, as though she doesn’t often handle smart phones. We wait while it rings.
Someone answers and she begins speaking Portuguese, but after a minute or two thrusts the phone back with an almost desperate look on her face. I put the phone to my ear.
“Hello?”
I hear a man’s voice, with just the slightest hint of foreignness
“Hello! Can you please tell me where you are?”
“Um, I’m at the Charlotte airport.”
Yes, but where exactly at the airport? Were you on the plane from Rio?”
“No, no, I’m at gate C13 just waitng for a plane to Hartford and this woman-”
“Listen, I’m going to come to where you are. You must not move and do NOT hang up. Please!”
Ok, but…
They’ve just announced that anyone who needs special help may begin boarding flight 1523 to Hartford. I turn to my son who, despite all this excitement, has incredibly fallen asleep with his head tilted back, Gilligan hat pulled over his eyes.
The woman, who I have now come to think of as Brazilian, stares expectantly into my eyes as though I alone am going to determine her fate.
“You are still there?” the man’s voice asks.

Wait, who am I again?

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Today the first assignment for the Zero to Hero Challenge is to introduce myself and maybe explain a little about me and my blog. I feel like I did that on my About page. When I first started writing this, I went almost a year before I even started reading other blogs. I just wrote about something on my mind and left it for some theoretical future reader. Now I spend a lot of time worrying about whether I’m going to offend someone. It’s becoming more of a stress as opposed to stress reliever. I keep telling myself if I lose every single follower of my blog that will leave me where I started, which was a perfectly okay place. So I just need to take a breath and write about what I want to write about.
For the most part.
Maybe.

Today as part of this introductory post I decided I would add a picture of me so those of you who actually read this can be disoriented by the difference between photo-me and any mental image you may have had.

And I’ll just add for my future readers, that this picture of me was taken in December of 2013, in the 45th year of my life. It is a “selfie” which is what we call pictures we take of ourselves with our cell phones. I took it because I had just that day broken down and bought my first pair of readers (because my arms aren’t long enough for me to read what’s on the pill bottles anymore) and I was practicing my severe librarian look. I repeatedly told my dog Blossom to Shh! and she wasn’t even the teensiest bit impressed.
Those colored lights in the background are from my Christmas tree.
Fun Fact: If you leave your Christmas tree up all year round, it makes holiday decorating a snap!
When I tell people I left my tree up all year, it’s almost as if I’ve just admitted I live with 100 cats, or in a nudist colony. They seem genuinely shocked. I mean, is it really that weird? It’s just that last year after I took the decorations off I kept asking G&E to put it away, and they didn’t. So, like so many things in my life, I decided to just go with it and enjoy the lights all year.
After all, if it had really bothered me that much I could have taken it down myself.
So here’s to another year of pretty lights, and hopefully better, braver writing.

A Tribute To Gorey Alphabet Story

Gorey ChristmasIt is not often I find someone who also appreciates the wonderful weirdness of Edward Gorey, but the other day gapark at Making Life an Art posted an Alphabet Story inspired by Gorey and I accepted the challenge to come up with my own. It was harder to do than I thought. Like gapark (who, by the way, lives my dream job as a Librarian!) and Edward Gorey, I cheated with the X. Hubby was disappointed I couldn’t work X-ray or xither into the story, but, alas! It stands as follows:

After buying Christmas decorations for Gustav, Hedwig idled, just killing little minutes now on pricnciple; realizing suddenly that ultimately vile work eXhaustion yields zilch.

I encourage you to come up with your own!

p.s. Merry- happy-joyous to you and yours! It’s now officially Christmas 2013 here on eastern standard time and I’m off to the kitchen to make sweet rolls.

Love, ~K

Close Call

I work in a hospital lab and at least once a year and unfortunately sometimes more than that, a phlebotomist from the emergency room will hand me some tubes of blood taken from a child that has been found unresponsive in a pool, sometimes some other body of water, but mostly, it will be a pool. I suppose sometimes the child lives, but from my experience and memory, mostly they will not.

My co-workers and I shake our heads, trying not to visualize, trying not to think of the unspeakable pain a parent must feel when this happens. We inevitably ask “How did it happen?” perhaps to quickly insert the details and circumstances away in the “I will never do…Please God, let me never ever do” file: A busy birthday party, an open dog door, a toddler forgotten for just a few moments or other children left to watch a baby for “just a minute”

I always feel a particular pain, and my heart speeds up, because I remember
once when Erik was four I was visiting my grandparents in Florida. One of their neighbors I was friendly with had a pool attached to the house, all screened in. She had invited me and Erik over so Erik could play with her son who was the same age.

It was a beautiful spring day and I didn’t have a bathing suit with me but Erik “swam” (He hadn’t had swimming lessons yet) in his shorts. While J and I sat by the pool talking and enjoying glass of wine, Erik and L. bobbed around in the shallow end. We were right there, I always remind myself, right there.

To this day I’m not sure what made me look over from the chairs where we were sitting involved in our conversation, but I did, and saw my four year old in the middle of the deep end. He had somehow bobbed his way over there and I think he had already gone under once or twice. His head was just out of the water and he was staring at me, his eyes wide with fear. He was making no sound. There was no splashing, nothing. Just a terrified child about to drown while his mother sat nearby chatting over a glass of wine.

I don’t remember saying anything, I just jumped in and walked across to the deep end and violating life saving rules I’m sure, reached over and pulled Erik to me. We sat on the edge of the pool and Erik clung to me, shaking violently. He didn’t cry or speak. I don’t remember how long we sat there until J said. “Wow, you were really calm about that.” On the outside maybe, but on the inside I was feeling as though I had just stepped back from the most deep and horrible abyss into which a parent can ever fall.

So when I hear people ask the question “How can these things happen?” I know exactly how they can. I’ve asked myself a million times since then “What if we’d gone into the kitchen to refill our wineglasses? What if, What if?” It’s all too quick and easy, and very quiet, the destruction of many lives.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/daily-prompt-daring-do/

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Touch

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When Geoff and I moved to N.C. the first time back in 1993, we were driving through the town of Richlands which is a farming community just down the road. It must have been this time of year because the cotton was brilliant white in the fields, like a dusting of snow- all ready for harvesting. I had never seen a field of cotton ready for picking before and I made Geoff stop and pull over. I got out and went over to a nearby plant to touch the white fluffy bolls. It seemed really weird that cotton would just grow this way, like I could just pick it, dip it in some witch-hazel and rub it on my face. I also couldn’t help but think, as I still sometimes contemplate today when I see the big cotton picking machines, what a hard life picking cotton by hand must have been, especially if you had no choice in the matter, and no hope of change or escape.
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/daily-prompt-textures/