What I Know of Leaves

As a child, I loved autumn – the fallen leaves, raked in piles on my lawn with their musty scent always thrilled me. I remember my Dad and I raking the leaves from around the entire yard to create the largest mound possible before plunging into the mountainous pile.

I still find great pleasure in the autumn leaves, but I haven’t jumped into a pile of them in quite some time. Perhaps I need to do that again. But these days I find myself admiring the colors and shapes of leaves. I enjoy the crunch of dried leaves beneath my feet as I cross the lawn and I still love their earthy scent. I enjoy watching the squirrels scamper through them as they seek to hide their treasures.

I think the leaves are my favorite part of the season. They seem to pair nicely with jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and hiking boots.

Upon the wind, they gather and play
dancing and swirling as though
they were a sign of youth and vigor
instead of the dying of another season.

Laying one upon the other
Shifting and stirring,
rustling with
each footfall and breath of the Earth.

Hues changing, ripening
with intense beauty and fading
into the background with age.

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End of (my) summer reflection…

It’s that time of year again, for me anyway, when I start back to school (work). So I thought it would be good to take some time to reflect on my summer and my thoughts about the upcoming school year.

My summer started out with me feeling vaguely apathetic towards the break. I am usually much more excited to escape the daily rhythms of life as a teacher. The idea alone of sleeping in is enough to bring a smile to my face – hey, getting up at 5:30 a.m. gets tougher the older I get. However, this year I’d managed spontaneously to decide that I wanted to take a position as summer camp director for a nature camp. At the time, it seemed liked a fantastic idea. I’d get to spend time in nature, have some structured activity to my summer, and earn some extra money. But as summer approached I became extremely apprehensive about the prospect of giving up three weeks of my “me time,” the idea that I would be in charge of 35 children and a few teenage volunteer counselors, and that a whole host of horrendous trauma inducing events could potentially occur to myself or the children I was in charge of. (Yes, my anxiety was highly involved with my imagination pertaining to the potential traumas, but that didn’t make them any less real in MY mind.)

As so often happens with my well-intentioned spontaneity, I had begun to regret my decision. What had I gotten myself into? Surely someone was going to suffer a broken bone on my watch, or worse yet, a fishhook injury the likes of which the world had never seen before, or even a snake bite, and don’t get me started on the thought that some child might wander off and drown in the lake. Aaaakk! I couldn’t handle the pressure (self-imposed, yes, but still), how was I ever going to be able to do this?

My first week off from school I spent preparing for the following week that would be the first week of nature camp. I had plenty of activities planned. The campground owner thought I had great ideas, and things would go very well. I wasn’t convinced, but I was going through with it, ready or not.

The first week of camp was a good week. Everything went well, and there were only two bloody noses the whole week. I can handle bloody noses. As long as it isn’t my blood, I’m usually good to go.

After the first week of camp, I had a week to myself to decompress. It was a relief to have made it through the first week of nature camp, and I felt more prepared for the remaining two weeks I’d have later in July.

Then there was a week of vacation with my husband at Rehoboth Beach. Vacation was good though my moods fluctuated frequently. You never think of anxiety and depression fucking with your vacation time – a time when you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun – but mental illness doesn’t give a shit about that sort of thing, it does what it wants when it wants. Despite that, we still managed to eat several delicious meals out, enjoy kayaking, take two boat rides (an eco tour and a sunset cruise), take a day trip to Assateague, see two plays at the local theater, have dinner with friends, and take two separate nature/bird watching hikes. All in all, we still had a great time.

Upon returning from vacation, I had a week to prepare for the next two weeks of nature camp and the arrival of my two younger cousins. They were going to be visiting and helping me as camp counselors. I was extremely glad to have their company and their help.

The final two weeks of nature camp went fairly well. Only one small glitch with an unhappy parent caused me a significant deal of stress and anger, but in the end, things worked out. I managed to please the majority of campers and their parents who were supportive and kind. I even managed to have some fun in the process.

Looking back on the camp director experience, I think it went well overall; however, I would hesitate to do something of that nature again. On the other hand, it was wonderful to have my teenage cousins visit for two weeks. And we’ve made tentative plans for a visit again next summer.

Following the camp experience, my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a trip to Cape May, NJ. It was an amazing weekend getaway! We went to a crab and beer festival, took an ecological boat tour, did a small bit of hiking (it was exceedingly hot), and again enjoyed some amazing food.

The past two weeks have provided me with some down time for which I am extremely thankful. I’ve spent my days wandering local parks, taking pictures, reading, and writing. I’ve visited all of my favorite downtown coffee shops and just generally had time to mentally relax and feel like I’ve had some much desired time to myself. All topped off with a visit from my mom this weekend and a trip to the Mt. Gretna Arts Festival.

I went into my summer rather apprehensive about what was in store for me, but looking back (as is usually the case), I didn’t need to be so worried. I’m very grateful for the summer that I’ve had.

A lesson I should currently be applying to my impending school year; I’d like to say that I will, but I know myself better than that. There will be anxiety. There will be stress (self-imposed and otherwise). And there will be challenges. And even though I know that I am strong and capable of handling all of that…it still worries me.

I haven’t been sleeping well the past few nights, and I’ve had several stress-dreams, so this afternoon I’m doing something special for myself. I’m going for a massage. I haven’t had a massage since our honeymoon ten years ago, and I’m excited by this opportunity.

So here’s to the new school year:  may it be filled with fun, amazing students, opportunities for growth, and a sense of fulfillment.

 

 

 

Fair Warning

Relationships should come with
warning signs,
but what’s the fun in that?

Knowing how it would be
lacks discovery of self and
each other; things you might pass
up if you knew.

Putting our best foot forward
then taking two steps back,
a dance, fluid in motion.

Mistake,learn,and hopefully
forgiveness and redemption;
running away and holding tight

seemingly opposite ends
of the spectrum. Fair warning!

You’ll always be
searching for the right way
to save each other.

Nancy…

(a.k.a. my anxiety)

And that’s what anxiety does
seeping in slowly,
imperceptibly at first.
Maybe it tickles your insecurities…

Then suddenly spirals downward into panic
lighting fire to everything in your path
because if you don’t, then it’ll just be
destroyed anyway, so what’s the point?

It sits on your chest and burns it’s way through
like acid eating away
and you can’t break free. You wrestle with it
and it pins you to the ground, all the while
crying, “mercy!”

Even when you can’t take it anymore
it persists in gnawling at your bones.
And when you think it’s finally through with you…
it comes back for round two.

The scortching burn firing through
your veins, searing each and every
nerve along the way,
shock collar of the damned.

And when it ceases, it merely
spits you out into a vast ocean of lost
and alone,
no matter how not alone you are.
It clouds your vision and continues
to churn within your stomach.

And this, is what anxiety does.

Our Table

Come with pieces barely whole,
pieces no one sees, pieces that
crumble beneath the lightest touch.
Come as you are; bring yourself to our table.

Open the jar of broken hearts, the box of anxious
self-doubts, and a tin of numb; break off a piece
of not enough, while I offer up a cup of tea steeped in
memories and missed opportunities.

We dine on meager makings of mistakes and disappointments
burnt to a crisp, as we rewind the unraveled threads.
Our meal may not be scrumptious or savory, but
our gentle communion shall sustain us through
even the deepest of despair.

Here is where we come to be made whole,
poultice our wounds, give thanks,
find love and strength and mercy, all.

We each bring bits of brokenness to the table; bone weary,
figuring our parts, laying bare our deepest fears, worries,
hopes, and dreams. There are no wrong answers;
nothing is inappropriate for this gathering.

Our repast where all are welcome
even in silence to sit; come, share if you wish, be
unburdened, you’ll always find a place among us.
Come in darkness, leave in light, our table’s always open.

Better for the Pain

and yes, I still miss you
because there were things
that used to be just the two of us
you got me like Henry got Tommy in Goodfellas

because there are still things left to say
for me, anyway. not that they mattered
to you when you threw it all away

and yes, I’m still hurt
by all the things you didn’t say
like – “goodbye.”

hurt, by the way, you couldn’t even see
where I was coming from,
after years of knowing what makes me tick

and yes, I’m still angry
that you made me second guess myself
that you let me believe it was me

still angry because
it has kept me from being
irrevocably open with new friends
slower to trust, quicker to pull back
that’s not who I used to be at all

and yes, I’m still glad –
glad that you walked away because
if you stayed, I might have had to be the one
to walk away. I’ve never been strong like that

…still glad that you saw how things were changing
and knew it was killing me, maybe I’m better for the
pain? Maybe I should thank you for having the courage that I didn’t?

But maybe, I’m just not there yet.

Bone Tired

Bone Tired 

late night talks
meant for convincing
you to stay

I’m left wrung out
and in need myself
of soul’s nourishment

though it pains me
I must break the dialogue
sequence for self-repair

feeling I could sleep for ages
that I’m slowly melting
into my surroundings

the warmth of numbness overtakes me
as I stumble forth into the garish light
the day is young and promises to be long

my physical presence is solidly here
but my thoughts linger with you still
though you’d rather push me away

Forbearance

Forbearance

my body vibrates with anxiety and caffeine
like tiny hummingbirds fluttering just inside my skin
instinct cries out to fight or flee, but
experience, the wiser of the two,
calmly suggests, “wait and see.”

I lean into it, allowing it to wash over me,
a continuous lapping wave persistently worrying at the shore
sweeping away loose grains of sand
and shifting coastal landscapes in my mind
rolling me inland awaiting the return of the mighty sea

as moon tugs tides astray
I rest upon the jetty
discovering creatures seemingly stranded among the rocks
taking comfort in their innate certainty
that nature taking course will raise high the tide yet again
granting safe passage whence they came

Visions Speak Louder

 

THE HIGHS: 

Energy crackles through my veins

forking lighting ‘cross the night sky

frantic, frenetic, and all consuming fire

burning bridges; caution whipping in the wind

like a white flag of surrender.

Impetuous failing desire to create

jumping from thought to action

and word to deed with the speed of light

inattentive to space and time.

The sum total of one word: unconquerable!

All at once or not at all. Racing against time

knowing full well the ship can hold no more

but still, taking on water faster and faster, more and more,

and more and more.

The bailers flee in fear of sinking with the ship.

At the peak of the wave

there’s a crack and all comes crashing down.

THE LOWS: 

A grand view of despair and

mighty upheaval. Murky gloom hangs upon my shoulders

cloaking and drowning

each thought in every passing minute

tumbling beneath the waves.

Watching from the ramparts looking

down upon the battle –

life for life.

Mercy has no place in this war,

It is the ultimate sacrifice, but for nothing.

No honor, only shame and defeat bear the victor

upon their shoulders.

Useless and motionless, stagnating among the decimated remains

of those who’ve passed before only too willingly.

Throwing themselves upon the pyre as though it had been foretold,

a prophecy of neglect and self-loathing lingering in the soul.

 

In Absentia

Sometimes I must burrow away;

Take a break from creating.

My hand is forced by unseen

torments made powerful, only in my

mind.

This is the curse of in absentia.

I emerge revived; throwing off the weight

of heavy blanketing fog over mind and body.

Creativity circulating and coursing

my veins once more; I am restored.

Cocoon of paralysis shattering

sending me sprawling, kicking and screaming,

back into existence.

And for now, I win.