Thursday, March 23, 2017

Letter to Bees


As I sit in my backyard, bare feet nestled in soft blades of thriving green, the hum of your wings fades in and out while you take the time to visit one bloom and then another, pressing your faces into the little purple trumpets for a taste of early spring pollen. You wander inches away from my unprotected skin, leaving me to my own devices as I leave you to yours. We are both content.

I'm not sure if I was ever afraid of you, as little girls often are. Perhaps there were times I was worried by the small, quick insect capable inflicting pain that at times unexpectedly circled my head, but I recall holding still for the occasional sweat bee traversing my nine year-old arm. When my sister was stung beside Great Grandma's gooseberry bush, I was more fascinated than horrified. You've never stung me, except, of course, the time I stepped on one of you, which was entirely my own fault. Some days, when the sun warms my skin and you seem to be everywhere I turn, I rather wish I were more like Beatrix Potter, able to render you soft and intricate in watercolors. Maybe English bees are simply more willing to pose for portraits.

Your friend always,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Press Room Flowers

A gentle cross breeze meanders in and out of doors and windows while I work this morning. Unseasonably warm, but none of us are complaining. I bend the paper, letting this tame air ease between the pages. The stack drops briefly to the table. Tap. Tap. Pages settle into alignment. I slide them into the machine and tap them in place once more.

“You ready, Toby?” I whisper to the machine.

His motor continues rumbling his monologue, which I carefully interpret to be an affirmative.

Leaning back from the safety sensors, I push both hands underneath the work surface, pressing twin buttons and holding them in place, while the blade of the machine slides down with a soft swoosh through the paper stack and thunk reaches its limit and thunk returns to starting position. I sweep the paper trimmings into the recycle bin beside me, thin ribbons of waste tumbling into their confinement. My process continues, repeating. Jog the paper into a neat stack. Tap. Tap. Register the paper in the cutter. Tap. Tap. A gentle but excited murmur. “Here we go, Toby!” Swoosh. Thunk thunk. Slivers of paper tipping over the edge and tumbling, tumbling down. Then gone, and I reach for the next section of paper, only to find I’ve finished already.

“Thank you, Toby. I’ll be back soon enough.”

My feet carry me across the press room floor along a weaving line between machines, paper stacks, and rolling tables to the bindery station, my own space in this planned chaos. Here, I perch on my rolling chair, old enough to have plastic wrap wrapped around and around and around the seat, trapping in the exposed orange foam. Here, I shape the brochures in careful thirds, pressing each fold into sharp lines with the tool in my hand. We call it a bone, and I cannot help but imagine the years of hands that have held it, tilted and pressed it into paper creases. The bones wrapped in their own skin strangely similar. In reality it is something akin to a tongue depressor but plastic and thicker in the middle because of the years of wear on the edges rubbing against paper. As I near the end of my brochure pile, I glance over to the clumsily made metal flower I taped upright on the desk weeks ago.

The shrink wrap system had partly broken that day. The metal wire that heats to melt the plastic together was hanging down, a limp and partly severed appendage, when I went to package a finished job. I stared at it, the broken wire. It twisted at an odd angle, no longer straight, strong, and shining. “You poor, baby.” I rub my hand against the metal blue casing surrounding most of the system in an attempt at comfort.

As a coworker clocked in for the day, I called her over. “Sarah, what do I do?”

My comrade in arms looked at the wire for a moment, frowned, considered pushing it into place with the end of a pen, and finally said, “Let’s ask Kyle. He usually fixes it.”

Kyle, a gentle man nearing retirement, smiled as he accompanied us to the heart rending scene, despite the inconvenience. “Sarah, could you unplug it?”


He reached under the device and retrieved a cardboard box, two sides of which were labeled Shrink Wrap Parts in bold swoops of a Sharpie pen. Talking to us as he did so, he unfastened the old wire, blackened and bent. “I don’t know what this could be used for now. Probably something.”

“We could make a flower out of it,” I offered.

He twisted the pliers to the left. “Sounds like an art major thing to say.”

I shrugged, watching him unspool the new wire while he continued in a conversation with Sarah which I can no longer recall. The shining strip of metal reached nearly from one anchor point to another, barely too short.

“Here. Make a flower out of this.” Kyle handed me the failed wire.

It rested with a gentle weight in my hands as so many sticks had throughout my childhood. I pressed and it bent without breaking, so I set about my task, bending and straightening, wrapping and twisting, until a flower as crude as a child’s fifth finger painting emerged, but a flower all the same.

I reach out and gently touch the edge of one wire petal. Smooth and cold, it contrasts to the stacks of paper I’ve been handling my entire shift today. My shift. I should get back to work. The job ticket, this lovely orange sheet of paper with the standard instructions from above (that is to say, Amanda’s office upstairs), dictates that the finished brochures be packaged in three groups of one hundred, so I count. I count in piles of ten until each stack is ready. I slip them into thin plastic and melt the ends together to seal them in. I place them on a blue table to my left. Before I’ve even turned on the heat gun, I’m singing ballads again, and while plastic tightens around paper in reaction to the hot air, the Lady of Shalott looks out her window to see the water lilies bloom.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

In Which I Am Simply Human

Wind and leaves sway their lullaby above my head as I slowly wake up. The cygnets have drifted back to their mother on the island in the middle of the pond, no longer waiting by the fencing that encompasses their world for me to hand them clovers that grow out of their reach. I hear them faintly muttering to their mother and other siblings as I stretch a little, eyes still closed. Music continues to play through my earbuds, one of which has fallen out of my ear and into the grass I rest on.

The kingdom of the morning star
can pierce a cold and stony heart. 
Its grace went through me like a sword 
and came out like this song. 
Now I'm just waiting for the day 
in the shadows of the dawn.

Gray Havens' "Shadows of the Dawn." It's just after the song I was listening to when I drifted off. But has it only been the length of a song, or have I been asleep the whole album and it started playing again? I put the question from my mind and inhale deeply, the grass, dirt, pond, and gentle summer air, smell like sweet colors that fill my mind. The grass murmurs as someone leaves the concrete path and approaches. I know this pattern of steps, the soft chuckle.

I stretch, smiling, and open my eyes. Seeing him smiling down at me, my own smile broadens. "Hi."

"Hi." The laughter gracing his shining eyes tickles his voice as well. "Were you asleep?"

"Not just now. I was thinking."

"Sure you were."

"I might have been sleeping for a while beforehand."

He chuckles again, pulling a leaf out of my hair. "Let's get going, Silly Woman." Taking my hand, he helps me to my feet.

Evening autumn chills have wrapped themselves around my fingers like strips of cloth as I leave him at the door, worry prodding my heart with icy fingers. He's sick. Just a cold, but I still feel lost, unable to help him recover. Instead of going straight home, where I can make cocoa and wrap myself in a blanket, I wander along paved paths while the chapel bells sing songs. Eventually I make my way towards the glowing sunset. An illusion from the distance told me the sun had set the fog to a red glow, but no fog exists to greet me when I reach the cliff's edge. I lean on the fence and gaze down at the water, its strange surface a mix of dancing textures, waves that dissolve into the shore and ripples that resemble the wrinkles of a fluttering silk cloth.

I drift away with the breeze, back up the path, leaving behind the people hammocking, chatting among themselves. When I am behind the library, I pause. We've sat in the grass here together, he and I, talking about various universes. This evening, I see something I have repeatedly overlooked when the grass was green and vibrant: a well worn path. Without consciously coming to a decision, I find myself following it. I place one foot at a time, not rushing myself when it's even a little steep. I've learned caution from a childhood of running through fields and walking along ledges beside creeks. I gently lower myself down large rocks similar to the those at the cliff point I just left. At the end, I stand on a flat slab that overlooks the lake below. I feel different here, more myself than work has allowed me to be in a while. There is no fence here. No fence to protect me, but none to confine me.

I sit down, alone but for the occasional owl call and cricket symphony. The sun continues her near completed journey, settling ever so slowly behind the tree blanketed hills in the distance. As I trace senseless shapes and patterns in the red clay dust that covers the stone, I study the almost twinkling cities in the distance and the reflections of lanterns on the lakeside docks. Watching the water so late at night, I understand the writers who came back again and again to ink. It's so dark I can hardly imagine ever seeing through it clearly, but even as I accept the obsidian depths, remembering my mother's inks and pens with which she does not write, but draws, the words to paint the universe, I cannot help but notice how much clearer the reflection is in this black mirror. Eventually I take my camera out and try to capture a fragment, but none of the pictures satisfy me.

After a while, I return up the path again, find my way to my room, curl up with a blanket, and make cocoa for my roommate and myself. The night passes gently, and I fall asleep in a deep pile of blankets.

The next day, I wake in a cocoon of warmth but manage to force myself to get dressed and out. I see him at lunch, still miserably ill. He eats quickly, and I walk him back to his place again. Again I wander to the cliff behind the library. Today, I notice a path that enters the trees. Curious, I follow it until I find a place to sit. There I build a small fairy house in the base of a tree. Inside, I place a sun-bleached snail shell. The rest of my time on the path, I take pictures. There's something about light that touches the human soul. So many stories from all around the world, and light is almost always a force or symbol of good.

Before I go back to my room again, I sit on the stone slab for nearly half an hour, staring out at the lake and surrounding countryside, far away but somehow close enough to see. Despite the chilly weather of late, I am warm in the sunlight, warm and content. Absentmindedly, I reach up and touch my hair. My fingers encounter a stowaway there, a yellow leaf. Its edges are jagged and must have caught in my hair while I was hidden away along the forest path. Although I am not certain why, I give it a gentle kiss before I return it to the trees.

Standing, I stare out one more time at the vast segment of the enormous garden I am a part of. It's not the perfect garden, the Garden of Eden, but it's still a garden, brimming with life, beauty, and the fantastical. How wondrous. I brush the dirt from my jeans and sigh happily.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Song of Polyphemus

My days were simple.
Care for my rams and craft cheese.
Simple. They were simple.

My people are more
than savage killers and thieves.
They are more than you.

We had a prophet
many, many years ago.
He spoke. We listened.

 He told me “Someday
the man Odysseus, will
steal your gift of sight.”

This man I pondered.
I considered and wondered
whom this man could be.

Strong? Of course he is.
Impressive? Oh, he must be.
Smart? Certainly so.

But my life passed on.
The prophet died, and his tales
ebbed from memory.

My rams. My kinsmen.
These filled my days, and I was
content in my life.

You. You came and stole.
You demanded I give more.
You told lies, small thief.

You and yours are not
the same as me or my kin.
Your blood is bitter.

Did they deserve more?
Was their leader truly good?
No, Thief, you are vile.

But you refused to
lay down and die easily.
You tricked me, Mortal.

You filled me with wine.
Bitter falsehoods you fed me.
My mistake: I slept.

Searing pain. My screams.
You wretched worm of mankind.
Oh, this white, hot pain.

Have you had your eyes
stabbed out with a burning stick?
No. You have both eyes.

You robbed me of mine.
My sight. My dear brothers’ trust.
You stole these from me.

Taunt me. Shout at me.
I hear you. Poseidon hears.
He will avenge me.

 And these, my dear rams,
I will tend with my last breath,
but not near as well.

Rest is my freedom.
I dream and my eye still sees
the pastures, the rams.

You could never take
everything from me, Thief.
You can’t take my dreams.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Night Pondering

What lingers in the dark?
What muffled horror?
What passing chill?
What monsters stand
and wait
and listen
for coming feet?

Warm breezes pass through screens.
This, a whispered calling,
a gentle summons,
peaceful, humble,
brings me,
camera in hand,

Far from fields of barley,
late night coyote calls,
star freckled sky,
and solitude.
I exit
and on sidewalk step.

No roaring night life here,
no drunken people,
no speeding cars.
Slam on the brakes.
not of feet
but souls.

I wander,
and breathe.

A yellow lamplight stands,
glowing of long past,
sad memories
for which I was

Lens open,
I gather together
stray pieces of light,
parts of shadow,
and dissmissed colors.
Now still

Illuminated trees,
reflections on water,
a lonely wooden bridge.
How different
the world is
in obsidian hues
with the faintest
kisses of light.

I pause and

In the darkness of night,
when fear writhes in hearts,
fevered nightmares come
from within me.
glowing stars
light the way

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Of Weather, Piano, and Accidental Caffeine Dependency

A year ago, I was a polar bear sliding across the icy terrain of my yard. This year, the weather has been just as temperamental, alternating between the usual freezing temperatures of early March and the warmth of late spring. I prefer the latter. Walking to work in the cold is never fun for me, but I do recognize the beauty of the cold, for if not for red tipped noses and ears, I might not remember to love the kiss of the warming sun on my cheek. On the days when the weather has been pleasant, I walk for about an hour. It's a learning experience in some ways. I'm able to examine myself apart from the constricting world of concrete and right angles, where I am just me. I have learned and been reminded of the following.

  • Wild flowers in late winter make me laugh with joy.

  • I have a habit of addressing the animals I talk to as Beautiful. (No. They do not talk back.)

  • Finding an armadillo makes me ridiculously happy for some unknown reason.

  • Downhill was made for running down with reckless abandon.

  • God's magic and miracles are everywhere, from the enchanted threads of spiderwebs to the ground that supports the weight of my overflowing heart.

  • Outside heals wounds I don't remember I have.

When I'm not outside, I tend to be easily found near a piano, having finally begun learning to play this year. I've been a singer for years, but the piano has always held an enchantment for me. When I was a child, my mother would play piano in our house very rarely, but every time she did, I would hurry over to her as fast as my little legs would carry me. Sometimes, I would sit on the piano bench next to her until I couldn't make myself hold still any longer, but more often, I would dance, imagining a prince or just spinning in endless circles to the point that I either sat down or fell over from dizziness. She would play more often at my great grandmother's home, or my aunt would play. After they left that piano, I would scramble onto the bench and try to play like they had, my feet swinging in the air. Short, disconnected melodies would stumble from my finger tips, but as time went on, I seemed to create more dissonance than harmony, and I eventually left the piano to itself. Even my attempt to teach myself to play when I was in junior high was short lived.

This past fall, I was brought back to the piano, largely by Wolfe. He was a new friend who one day mentioned that he was going to go practice piano, and on a whim, I asked if I could come listen. Eventually, I would regularly join him when he went to practice. As he learned on YouTube to play new pieces of slowly increasing difficulty, I sat on the floor in the corner of the practice room, my head leaning back against the wall, and the piano wrapped me in its familiar voice, singing its ballads and lullabies. Wolfe has told me that he probably would have eventually stopped practicing if I hadn't been coming to listen. Without him, I likely would never have considered trying once more to learn the songs of the piano. Currently, we're taking a beginning level class together, and I am loving it. I find myself increasingly fond of three four time, waltzes in particular, but other pieces as well.

I have officially fallen in love with the piano once more. My sister was apathetic as to this development. However, once I mentioned to her that I was hoping to eventually be able to play theme music from our favorite anime (in particular Mikoto Suoh's theme from K Project), she took a sudden interest in my progress. I look forward to being able to play it for her eventually, but also to be able to play it myself, feeling the motion of the sound and letting it flow through me like electricity through wires.

Also of recent interest, I ran out of my usual morning herbal tea in early January. Mornings, cold ones in particular, tend to be rather hard to face without a warm cup of tea. In the face of the void my herbal left behind, I utilized a box of black tea for the rest of the month. It wasn't too different until I simultaneously ran out of the black tea and gained more of my usual herbal. The Monday I switched back was merely groggy at first, but eventually I became convinced that either my skull was attempting to liquefy or some kind of heavy gremlin was doing its best to wrap its jaws around my head. By evening, I had a low level migraine that was barely fended off by the caffeine in soda. The next day was marginally better, but still painful. That Wednesday, I decided that if my skull was going to throw a temper tantrum, I was not going to give it what it wanted. Thus, I have quit caffeine all together, including black teas and most sodas. I'll likely return to my previous ways in a few weeks (oh how I miss my usual dark sodas and the occasional black tea), but I don't plan on drinking black tea every morning anymore. Coffee is an absolute no. I refuse to start that habit. No matter how lovely it smells, I cannot abide the taste.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Last month, I was sitting outside enjoying the warm weather, when a spot of color on the grey rocks caught my eye.

Most of my friends consider wasps to be generally evil and best dead or non-existent. To a point, I understand them. The stings are painful and being allergic would make the matter even worse. As for me, wasps have never bothered me. I respect them and leave them alone, and they return the favor. One journal entry from my junior high years details a class period in which I did my best to dissuade a wasp from flying through an open window, lest he be slain by my excitable comrades (I had named him Charles), and in some ways I am quite the same as I was then.

This wasp in particular was rather calm, choosing to walk rather than fly, which allowed me some interaction. I sat down and placed my hand beside him. He slowly crawled onto one of my fingers, crossed to the next, and then disembarked, a quiet and peaceful greeting. I pulled my camera out of my bag and took a few pictures of him as he roamed the rocky expanse. He was not threatening to me, physically or mentally, so I lay down on the ground watching him walk, the movement of his feet, the tilt of his wings, and his restful pauses. When I was forced to leave and continue my day, he was still there, and I cannot help but wonder what he might have told me if I could have understood.

Nearly a week later, I was lost in a train station of thought, not quite ready to board any train in particular. Contemplations, ideas, and dreams bustled about me, pushing, ambling, or simply standing in place as I was. A pondering waved as it passed and, not seeing where it was going, crashed into a rushing thought. The two of them fell over on top of memories of the wasp, which had been sitting cross-legged staring at the ceiling. My love of watercolor stopped to help them up, and there I was able to focus on the four of them, follow, and board the same train. The destination was an image and the desire to paint it.

I worked on it on and off for about a month, not because it was overly difficult or large, but because I was occupied with other activities as well. When I finally finished, I was excited. Yes, I messed up several times in several places. I almost gave up when I was working on the fire. But my wasp is so close to the image I had in my head that I don’t mind the smudges, smears, and regretted decisions as much as I might otherwise.

A flaming wasp in the rain to “cool,” but "cool" is not my intent.

A wasp is more than an annoying or even threatening bug to be slain on a whim. Sometimes, such actions must be taken, but not always. What is it like inside one's head? I imagine that sometimes a wasp must be awfully afraid. They live in a world so much larger in comparison to them than we do. How can such a small creature hope to survive in an existence teaming with giants and ogres? But wasps continue anyway, even striking fear into the hearts of their enemies. They are natural warriors with armor and weapons that they are never physically able to set down.

Humans really are small too. On some scales, we make about as much difference as wasps do. So why bother? Many people don't, but there are a few who are born warriors, much like wasps. They put their hearts on the line every moment of every day to push back the Darkness, everything from their own rage to the all too real nightmares of others, and they burn; they burn with a stunning light. The light and fire they carry within them has immense potential for destruction, their own as well as others', but they choose instead to protect. However, burning and fighting with such intensity wears on them, and often they long to stop their flight, to land, but the armor is part of their DNA, an exoskeleton. Even when they land, feet on solid ground, they can never take that armor off. So they fly, they fly through the darkness, inner light burning brilliantly, even when the sky lets loose torrents of rain, even when they feel infinitely small.

These are the Christians who pull us back on our feet when we fall, look us in the eye, and tell us it’s not the end of the world. They’ve been where we’ve been, and they’ve helped so many people before us. They remind us that sometimes we do have to fight.

I am not a wasp as much as I am a bee: fluffier and less likely to attack. Not everyone was designed to be a wasp after all, but we can still make a difference in our terrifyingly large world, even if that difference is only to a single flower.

Merry Christmas.
I’m so grateful for all of you, warriors or not.