cardinals


nana has been sending a lot of birds these days,

and i’m sure it’s because she knows i need them.

it’s always unexpected, though i should

expect them by now, they cross my path

when my mind is blank.

i don’t believe the dead are watching us –

i’m sure they have better things to do

but i know that nana still sends me love,

and i know that sometimes love is

what i need to keep myself in this world.

red wings flit and flutter in front

of my car as i drive to work,

to meet friends, to run my errands –

it doesn’t matter what i’m doing –

it is springtime and

they are there and i feel like

i’ve gotten a hug from 20 years ago.

shipment


the distant hum

of the highway lullaby is

the song that sings in the

back of my brain,

the tune that plays

behind my dreams.

passing trucks lull me to sleep

like they always have,

from some not so distant road

sometimes blocked by soundproof walls.

this is my natural habitat.

i have noise in my head and

motor oil in my nails,

pollution in my lungs

and city skylines on my skin.

i know too much

yet nothing at all,

and the times when the world makes sense

seem arbitrary.

but i can take it on,

i’m made from tougher stuff

than you can see –

and my skin is thick with scars.

the passing trucks

carry fear away

into the distant night,

and i exhale.

where do i hang my hat?


i’m getting to that point in moving where the lighting feels funny and voices echo uncomfortably around the spaces. my apartment is transitioning from being mine to being another’s. i feel the energy shift, the warmth of home draining away, dripping into boxes of things to be opened in the next place i’ll call home. the same things in different places – but its never quite the same.

good or bad, every home i’ve had has been an entity unto itself. there was my first apartment, the top floor of an old, creepy, crumbling house, across the street from george washington’s headquarters. there was my apartment in the basement of a building, with that distinct ‘something is illegal here’ feel. i lived for two year’s in a friend’s house, a place he had rebuilt before moving in. my favorite residence was the hippie hut, the first floor of a two family house on a busy suburban street in new jersey.

the timeline of my life is marked by the places i’ve lived. each place had it’s own spirit, it’s own breath. the walls that have known me have seen my secrets, have felt the bang of my fists and heard my moans of pleasure. the places i’ve lives have become part of me, intricately woven in to the events and emotions in my life. a song, a scent, a certain breeze can bring these memories flooding back, and i dance through all my kitchens in a single thought.

the idea of home settles thickly in my head. i know i have wandered too much, rolling around to avoid the moss. but i also know that, while the walls are fleeting, the photos on the walls are forever. i hold my memories tight and keep the pictures clear. the truth is, home is wherever i land, and every place i’ve ever been.

the importance of having horseradish


a simple, ugly root was at the heart of a quest i had last week. i sought horseradish. for three days and four supermarkets, i bravely hunted. i was misguided, led astray by seemingly friendly produce managers and left empty-handed among the kumquats and ginger. but i waged on. i needed to have horseradish.

sure, i could have caved and bought the pre-made, jarred kind. i could have made far less work for myself. i could have skipped the mission, the peeling of the tough skin, the chopping of the tough flesh, the watering eyes as i prepared the pungent root. but, when it comes to cooking, i am a purist. and real, home made, painful horseradish on easter sunday goes beyond being a recipe – it’s a tradition.

it’s hard to explain why it is so important to me, why i put irrational stress on myself over a simple condiment. nobody else wanted or expected it, i was not following through on a promise or the whim of another. the desire, the need, was all mine. i don’t ask anyone else to understand it, i only ask those i celebrate with to enjoy it. (although, this year’s batch is more potent than usual, so enjoying it may be a lot to ask!)

my love of the bitter, burning herb must be in my blood. it’s been served at every family easter i can remember, and i proved myself capable of handling such delicious pain at an early age. it feels like home, tastes like family. it is an unusual and powerful connection i have, deeply rooted in the love from which i grew.

the horseradish is merely a symbol. it burns, makes me red, makes me cry. but every tear it brings to my eye brings me back to every easter of my youth. back to the red faces of my father and grandfather, piling obscene amounts of horseradish onto hard-boiled eggs, daring each other to go further, eyes streaming with tears. i remember the warmth of childhood easter, the new dresses and the hunt for the plastic eggs filled with treasure.  i feel the grass between my toes, jelly shoes slipped off in haste, while i blow bubbles and spin in the sunshine with my sister. i smell my grandmother, feel the mix of smoke and estee lauder perfume in my throat. i relive every beautiful moment.

now, more than ever, it is important to me to feel that connection. it’s been almost two years since i moved 300 miles from my family, and getting together for the holidays doesn’t always work out. i miss my family, i miss visits to new york, i miss home. i do what i can to bring myself closer to the ones i love, to keep my memories fresh and the spirit of familial love alive.  i take what i have learned and am passing it on, proud of where i have come from, using it all to spread the love.

i have been so lucky to have such great people, here in my new home state, with which to share my strange traditions and abundance of holiday food. we have had a few fun, filling, and memorable holidays, complete with silly stories of collapsing tables and plenty of beers. and there will be many more holidays, and more traditions of our own, as we grow and have our own families.

it’s the small things that keep us connected, that tie us together.  i’ll always have horseradish in my heart.

we used to laugh a lot but only because we thought that everything good always would remain.


march 2007

it’s chilly and clear, and tonight i’m alone in the snow. i’m closing my eyes, moving around the table, the monopoly board, the campfire, the circle of kids holding hands and giving the gypsy a quarter because she loves them. i hold my arms out and spin around in the gazebo, through heaven and hell, at the edges of theater balconies and woods overlooking the twin towers. smoke fills my lungs and beer fills my belly, i lose, i win, i connect. i hear the songs, feel the embrace, smell the ocean. i think of warm summer nights, fueled by coffee and lit by the stars. i think of my youth.

there has been magic. i have shared moments – unexplainable, unspeakable, beautiful moments. i have been in a room that was glowing with love. i have laughed until it felt dangerous and i have cried someone else’s tears. there have been nights of connection and primal understanding. i have been understood, truly and wholly. i have answered the questions right, slid down the slide, swum naked. there have been misses and what ifs, mistakes and mayhem, foibles and fables. i’ve been medicated and sliced open, inked and scarred. life has stolen my crown, but i’ve always had an army to fight with me and get it back. i have known true friendship.

i have been blessed with amazing people to love. the miles stretch the strings, but my heart is strong and the knots are tightly tied. the hands are reaching out to mine, seeking my touch as i seek theirs. time flows but does not erode. this is the family we choose, this is the love we celebrate, this is forever.

the power of plastic


‘wildlife treasury cards’ came up in conversation today.

http://www.atlaspicturecards.com/Wildlife_Treasury_Cards.html

remember those? chances are, most 25-35 year olds (or so) recall the green plastic box and the animal photo-and-info cards that came in the mail – a bundle wrapped in plastic that i always wished was larger – every month or so. they were fascinating to me, the geek child. i read the cards and studied the pictures, absorbing the information like an antsy child in need of distraction. ohwait. . .

so, i reached out to a few friends, to question them about their recollection of these cards. brian had a second-hand set, and clearly remembers keeping gumby in the box, for reasons unknown. adam said he used to keep his stash of random and stale cigarettes in that box when he was 13 (he’s smoke them out the window in the attic when he thought nobody would notice). my sister, kate, and james all recalled them. we all had clear memories of the cards, the box, the packaging. i realized i had struck on something important.

the things that are said to define generations are major, traumatic, important. global. the sort of things that you don’t really understand until you grow up and look back — wars, presidents, headline news — it’s all above a head that’s only three feet off the ground. being aware of a world outside of our immediate lives doesn’t come early or easily. but the the things that imprint themselves in our minds are not what the magazines and textbooks remember.

what defines us, what unites us and keeps us laughing, even over beers in our late 20’s, are the smallest things. the cereal commercials, the trendy clothes, the stuffed animals. the magazine subscriptions and the lunchtime snacks. we are what we lived, our memories lie locked within juice boxes and toy chests. we recall the warmth of innocence in bright plastic colors, in blocks that always fit together and dolls with perfect figures. a simple shared happy memory of a toy or a fast food commercial speaks volumes and oozes with comfort. we are the collected details of the lives we’ve lived, a sum of the bits and the way we each see the world.

i guess it’s all about perspective. at what point did politics become important to you? when did you notice and care about career success, environmental issues, war? is it any wonder that the stuff that really matters gets discussed at bars at two a.m.?

‘hey, man, remember the snorks?’