Monthly Archives: June 2010

tenderness

Tenderness is an interesting word to me. Affection is part of its definition as is delicate, gentle, sensitive. Once I had a character say, I’ve known love and I’ve known passion, but tenderness is best. There’s someone in our writing group. She comes in quietly. She talks little, but she has distinct presence. She often brings something unexpected. The first time I wrote with the group, afterwards, she gave me a book of poems, and said, Welcome to Taos. Another time she brought cake which she couldn’t eat, but which she wanted to share. She gives thoughtful prompts: am I a man who dreamed he was a butterfly or the butterfly who dreamed he was a man? Several of us wrote off that. As we were listening to others share, she tore a page out of a notebook to give out. It was information about Taos County butterflies. Their names were wonderful: skipper, dustywing, cloudywing. She reads quietly when it’s her turn. Her writing can almost be Zen in its simplicity. Heartbreak has been in her life. Somehow she personifies  tenderness, fragile, worn at the edges by life, but there….

What do you know about tenderness? Why is it so unique? Is it its gentleness in our increasingly noisy world?

Advertisements

hey, dad

My father was a peddler at heart. He made his living (and ours) as a captain in the merchant marines, but he would buy all kinds of things (clocks, beer mugs, straw hats, even a pontoon once) and bring them home with the idea of selling them. They always ended in our garage or on shelves in the kitchen. One time he bought a truckload of local watermelons and set himself up as a one-man roadside stand on the highway between our home and another town. My mother was embarrassed. My father was sunburned and didn’t sell any. He was always picking up excess lumber and building materials as he drove around town. Then he’d drop them off at whatever child lived nearest. He had grown up on a farm, and a spring garden was in our back yard every year, as well as as many fruit trees as he could plant. (Since he merchant marined for a living, our mother was the farm hand.) He’s been gone a long time out on that eternal sea. I wouldn’t mind him driving up, walking into my house in his long-legged, restless stride, and then showing me what was in the back of his truck just once more.

shepherd

They tell me she’s using the pillow that hung from a cord on her doorknob as a purse these days. That, and the zipper case that holds her Bible. Since the pillow has a Bible verse on it, the news comforts me a little….I like to take it as a sign that the Lord, whom she always believed in, is looking after her. She likes to have both of them with her. They have a wheelchair for her on excursions. It tires her so much to walk very far now. Otherwise, they tell me, she’s healthy. I’m on a kind of sabbatical, so I won’t see her until August, when I return to Houston. I left her easily, the on-going changes in her having made me tired and impatient. The Lord is my shepherd, says the pillow. I hope so. And I need some shepherding, too….

Do you have a family story, maybe lovely, maybe not? What an interesting and often exacting conundrum life is….

oil

I’ve joined a writing group here in Taos. Everyone brings a saying or quote. We throw them out. We write from the prompt of one or more for 30 minutes. We share, but no critique, just what we liked in each other’s writing. I love this kind of writing, gentle, explorative, safe, and so often, revealing. This last week, the oil spill came up in several people’s writing. There was everything from rage to prayers for us and the earth. Last night, at a dinner party, the spill came up again. Again, rage and blame. What can we do? What if people just met one evening and did a candlelight vigil for the Gulf? One of those same time all over the place vigils? And there are always petitions to sign, and congress people to write. Being here in Taos, where nature is so vibrant and where space has been protected from development because of the Pueblo, I wonder if the Pueblo Indians are still keeping guard over the earth. That’s what I’ve heard; that their religion is the earth and sky and that their life is around loving and celebrating both. But there aren’t very many of them, and modern life is making inroads into their culture.

I wonder what it’s going to take to get people to let the powers-that-be know that enough is enough? We have to begin, no matter how hard, to be more in harmony with the place that sustains us. So what do you say: pick an evening, get a candle, make a sign that says “enough,” call a couple of friends, and stand vigil for just a little while for the Gulf and for the earth…..