Dinner, Deck, Downtown (and Jasmine)

050215It should still be my month of praise songs, so I could tell you about the lamb, charred on the outside into a perfect crust. The crumbly cheese we chipped off into pieces and ate with olives and salami. The bright white walls of the house, and the photos of Turkey, and the inky wine I had to go out and buy myself as soon as I could. If it were still my month of praise songs, I would sing to friendship and conversation, to shared meals at wood tables. I would not stop until I praised the dog circling our feet seeking scraps, the radicchio made tender and sweet from grilling. And the deck, how I would sing to that deck. Downtown bright through the trees, jasmine thick in the air, sitting together sharing old stories until it was late, later than we realized. Oh, the song that I would have sung.

May 2, 2015

Praise Song: Live Music

0410151At City Hall, Tibetan monks start building a sand mandala that four days later they will dissolve and distribute, pouring their art into palms to be released to the wind. It is like that with live music–drinks on the table, lights focused, picks moving across strings, and the sound gone at the second it is most realized. Praise the moment of creation, and praise the moment after, when all that remains is the memory. Praise Peter Mulvey bringing his full heart to a small stage on Friday night. Praise how he once was a 19-year-old busking on the streets of Dublin with my friend and how he chose, after that, to go all in. No bets hedged. No alternate plan tucked in his back pocket. Nearly 30 years later he is driving from gig to gig–two guys, two guitars, a new song every Tuesday. Praise the tenderness of his lyrics. Praise the high notes, and the low. Praise the Cactus Cafe, which almost didn’t make it yet still remains, every seat a good seat. Praise the synchronicities that brought us to sit with old friends at a round table. Praise chords, words, rapport, all offered up. Praise how we follow them into the moment, into the song.

April 10, 2015

Praise Song: First Steps

040615Praise how we keep showing up, all of us, the unschooled and the hopeful in our stiff new dance shoes. Praise those first triple steps, the articulation of the feet, the reminder to glide and not bounce. Keep some energy in your arms. Keep the crown of your head toward the sky. Relax. What looks so easy when others do it becomes a confusion of moves — cross over, off the track, a chest spotlighting a partner. Before we began lessons, we thought we were good dancers. A few weeks in, we discovered it untrue. And then we began again. Leverage, compression, a slight give in the knees. Praise the fresh start, the five, six, seven, eight. Praise how hard it is to keep doing something we don’t do well, and how we show up anyway.

April 6, 2015

Praise Song: Children at Easter

Praise the boy in the pew in front of us, his blue glasses held to his head with a strap, his bow tie and blonde bowl cut, praise how he rolled and wiggled through to communion, when his parents finally carried him away. Praise the girl in the white polka dotted dress, with her turned-in toes and messy hair that gave Chris a lump in his throat for a past so far away. Praise the children who took over our house for the afternoon, who made obstacle courses out of hand weights, bouncy balls, and an inflatable balance disk, then ran in circles around the couch. Praise their laughter from the den. Praise their joy at an egg hunt, at guitar strumming and piano banging and tapping the side of a mesh strainer to rain sugar onto a cake. Easter asks for the spirit of children, for baskets of plastic grass and cascarones cracked on the head. Praise a holiday that revels in glory, in youth. Praise our house afterwards, the confetti on the porch, straw on the carpet, the dozens of seeds pulled from out-of-date packages that were tucked into the soil by small hands. Who can say? They just might grow.

April 5, 2015

Kitchen with Four Annabellas

032615Dinner at home for Gary’s visit means chicken roasted with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; salad with the sharpest blue cheese; carrot cake with birthday candles. Maryjean brings Apothic red and canvases. She’s been playing with painting Annabella, seeking the images less posed, more true. But the hair goes from blonde to red, from red to black. We nosh on olives and salami, Swiss cheese cut into little squares, and Annabella watches us–younger, older, shot through Maryjean’s imagination, her brush. Meanwhile, the real Annabella is in LA, doing we know not what, watching we know not whom.

March 26, 2015


021415In 1999 Marla picks me up from the old airport and introduces me to Austin. She sends me to lunch with a poetry professor, deposits me in a workshop in the book-lined room upstairs. She guides me home with Gaye to her enormous condo. She points me north to walk through Hyde Park for a few hours. She tells me where I might live. Someday we will be swapping recommendations for HVAC installations, discussing the merits of two-stage versus variable systems. Someday I’ll be admiring the string of vintage Valentines hanging above her dining room table. It is coming. We just don’t know it yet.

February 14, 2015

Learning Texas

021015The day I moved to Austin with a U-Haul full of books and used furniture, the temperature hit 104 degrees. That first fall I kept waiting for rain, my life having been spent on the east coast and the damp Ohio River Valley. The skies were perpetual blue for a month, two. I was new here. I wondered at the ancient seashells embedded in the limestone, the live oaks holding their leaves through winter. One early spring I walked my neighborhood noting and working to name the flowers, the bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush. My friends had sent news of their new son and I was humming with happiness, everything in bloom. Today that boy is quickly becoming a man, two boys have followed him, and the news from those friends is harder. A surgery, a fight. I gather up my prayers as the spring approaches. And after work I pull to the side of the road at the sight of primrose jasmine. In large bushes and trailing cascades, it still blooms.

February 10, 2015