To Everything, There Is A Season

turnturnturn

In an act of seasonal defiance — I bought a can of pumpkin purée.

I need to feel, no, — to literally ingest — something that has not arrived yet. The Fall.

In the cradle of my mind, Autumn peeks in through the cracked door, checking on me, the colicky babe of Summer. And, even though the temperatures still soar here in Portland, my bones can tell — change is coming. It’s more than just the seasons. Something is afoot. Students return to the college campus. A warm spice is in the air. I fight the urge to pull the covers up to my chin in the 90 degree heat. More than feeling this shift — I welcome it. If we’re going to be brutally honest, and — I am — I wish this year would just fucking end.

So yes, please, bring on the hay rides, family gatherings, and pie scented candles. I find myself searching for the fast forward button. My mother informs me that next year, by the law of averages, things are bound to start looking up. For the coming New Year — No resolutions. No reflections. Nothing sentimental. Just a clean white page where I can write this story: The year when all good things happened.

It has been suggested that I take my life one day at a time. And, feel free to call me a future-tripper, but, these days, I need something that’s in a higher echelon than “Just For Today.” I find myself wondering — Will I ever know the comfort of “Always”? The older I get, the more my long-legged idealism seems like a cruel joke.

The mere thought of 2015 has real sparkle, even standing here, at the edge of Summer. This year, once full of promise and hope, has become the penny lost under the couch. Once, it shone bright and new, like I had just popped it out from the bank’s tight, paper sleeve. Now, it sits on the dresser, caked with dust, the bronze tarnished to a sickly green.

My expectations fail me, again. And, I realize that I need to do away with all my big plans. Plans are useless. Don’t make them. Give them up and trade them in for something better — something real. In the words of the Book of Ecclesiastes, immortalized in Americana by Pete Seeger and then The Byrds: “A time to cast away stones. A time to gather stones together.” So, which will it be today?

I put down my pencil and stare at the ceiling before going back to the drawing board. No more rewrites. No more revisions. I want a new story.

The ceiling turns red as sun bleeds through the scarlet bed sheet that has served as my curtain for the past year. This is the time. The trees, about to shed their leaves, will stand bare in the cold and rain. Then, with the wisdom of all their years, their roots winding through dirt, sucking up water — they will grow new foliage. A brighter shade of green. Death makes way for rebirth. Me, the trees — we both know it’s coming, even now, in Summer’s twilight. We are ready to let our dead things fall to the ground.

To everything, there is a season.

So, I patiently await this season’s close. Though, I must admit, I find sweet satisfaction in the sweat that beads off my brow as I sit down to my breakfast on this hot, Summer morning.

Pumpkin Oatmeal.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

Advertisements

The 25th Renewal

shhhh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, I have $8.75 in library fees.

During the obligatory-vacay-inbox-check, I was greeted by a friendly email reminder from the Multnomah County Library — I need to renew a book I checked out over a year and a half ago, for the 25th time.

Yes. The 25th time.

I’ve already read the book, twice. I just haven’t gotten around to returning it. And, with modern conveniences, like online renewal, I’ve put it off. It’s not wait listed. There are plenty of copies. Why not keep it? No one suffers and I save myself a trip.

But, for some reason, amidst the joys of vacation, I decided to over think the general concept of renewal — and the art of putting it off. While I lay in the luscious, summer sun of upstate New York, big green leaves fanning me with the East Coast breeze, I got the distinct feeling that you probably shouldn’t set your own renewal on autopilot. Renewal is something special. Invigorating. You can’t just go somewhere to return and reset — it’s a process of internalizing and letting go. It’s something intricate. A little thought. A micro-decision. Lilliputian, really. Something so miniscule that we don’t realize it’s happened until we are renewed. And, while the action of renewal is undetectable, its aftermath — sheer glory.

It’s sort of like vacation — I knew I needed one, but, I didn’t know how badly until I got back home. I lay in my own bed, jet lagged, took a few deep breaths, and for the first time in months I finally felt the oxygen in my lungs. Even in a state of total exhaustion there was a sense of relief. There is a certain pleasure in returning home, to my adult life, after being transported back to a strange version of my childhood for a week and a half.

My first day back to work, I woke up with the alarm at 4:45AM. My body didn’t complain or resist. The dark of morning cast a sweet spell over the streets of Southeast Portland, and the world felt easy and comfortable. As I jogged down the hill on Steele street, the wakening sky hung behind the West Hills like a new canvas. All one color. A clean slate. And, there, I felt it — my renewal. I smiled, alone in the dark.

It’s a worthy practice to appreciate old things seeming new, even if they aren’t. To take yourself away from your default condition is a spiritual experience — an opportunity to return to center with different eyes. And, while we may not be better or worse for our time away, we are undeniably changed. Renewal is just a synonym for gratitude.

This week, my renewal was advanced to me without having to visit the Multnomah County Library website. So, with appreciation, I dig out my library book, a year and a half later. Sigh. It’s time. This book cries out for a new place on a different shelf. I walk to my local library branch and I drop the dusty tome into the big-metal-slot for some other book worm. Yes, please, check this out —  it’s an old book, but, after moving from shelf to shelf, there’s something new and special with the turn of each page — a secret every library card holder knows.

The book sounds a heavy thud as it hits the bottom of the return bin. We had a good run. But, we are not meant to hold on to things forever. And, by letting go, we are reunited with the genuine delight of returning to things that are truly our own.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

 

 

Reunion

Photo Aug 12, 5 27 26 PM

In my childhood bedroom, I sit cross-legged and allow myself to feel old.

It’s been years since I’ve seen this place. Everyone looks a little bit different. The landscape here has changed just enough to make things seem otherworldly. Like, I’ve returned to some alternate universe to find a different version of everyone I left behind years ago.

What has happened here? And, why is everyone getting married?

It’s my family reunion. I get a funny feeling that I can’t shake. I stand in strangely familiar surroundings — an observer and an alien. My awkwardness, performed in a nuanced fashion, is easy to disguise. Once, I was happily impaired as swarms of relatives buzzed around me — a host of inquisitive flies. Today, each encounter is centered. I see a different version of myself reflected in every set of eyes I look into — like watching an old VHS tape.

While standing in line for salad, I wonder if the only thing I have in common with these people is blood. I refill my red Solo cup with raspberry-lime seltzer right beside the keg where my relatives line up for the good stuff. Lager foam spills over the top of their cups and they push off the excess with their index fingers. They all ask me how life is treating me out West, and then, turn back to the keg without listening to my answer. I remember how easy drunken pleasantries were, I used to make them myself, between sips of frothy vodka sours. Maybe it’s me who’s rude these days, but, I’m less concerned with hurt feelings than I’ve been in years past.

The truth is, back West — it’s all unraveled. But here, in front of the macaroni salad — it’s whatever you’d like to hear.

My cousins pull me onto the dance floor at the bar where everyone has headed after a long day of family togetherness. They all do the twist, raising their arms up, cocktails spilling over the sides of their clear plastic cups onto the dance floor. I jostle my hips, stiffly, from side to side. This isn’t any fun sober.

In another universe, drunken dancing would have been the highlight of my evening. Tonight, I just want to go home. I tell my cousins I’m too tired, because I am, and I leave, alone.

I walk home on a dark country road. Another super moon dangles in the sky like a giant light bulb. The road, that’s usually pitch black at this hour, glows a hazy blue. The trees are lower to the ground here than they are in Oregon and the shadow levels us — there is something comforting in the congruence of our size. For a just a moment, we are all perfectly rooted in the Earth.

As I walk up the driveway to my house, I replay the day: As if it were choreographed, a parade of bathing suits, cut-off jeans, and summer dresses weave in and out of mismatched wooden chairs with peeling paint. My grandmother’s voice — caught in her throat at the sight of us all together. Tiny babies. Weddings planned and divorces finalized. Not-so-tiny-babies. Childhood brethren and sworn mortal enemies. It’s more drama than a good soap opera. Characters that move about wildly, without predictable trajectories. I stop to remind myself — everyone’s family is crazy.

Everything looks different through a steady lens. And, I feel it — an era has ended. Time is moving at different speeds. But, eventually — inevitably — we will all meet again. We will stand at the keg, whether we’re drinking from it or not. We will ask each other how things are going, only to realize — we never really cared to know the answer.

Stay saucy,

Sarah

As The Crow Flies

crow

In my world, there are no straight lines.

There is no single road that will take you back to my origin. My time is marked only by people and the smoke signals cast up from the wildfires of my heart. Sometimes the fire burns low — but it hasn’t gone out yet. While things smolder here, I yearn for the heat of my childhood fire. And, like a migrant bird that moves with the seasons, I know where to go.

Tomorrow, I fly East. Back to my home. There, I will plug-in to the people that have kept me lit up for as long as I’ve been gone, down, and lost. Extension cords across a nation. Beacons and anchors.

When I booked my flight, I imagined my trip as the great escape. My chance to flee all the ghosts that I’ve been dancing with for the past few months. I could see it — My mother’s actual shoulder, ready for my tears, instead of my neck craned over my own as I weep into the phone. My father, sitting on the couch, turning inky newspaper pages while the smell of coffee circulates under the ceiling fan. My cousins, making wise cracks on the deck, all with pasty white, Irish skin — reflecting the sun in their two-piece bathing suits — wet hair wrapped up  in old, weathered beach towels. My grandparents, like pigs in shit — surrounded by their clan — we unite, flanking all sides of their home. These people, these moments — they are not meant to facilitate my escape, but, instead, to bring me back to life. They revive my spirit with a power I have never known in my solitude.

These are the real things in life to hold fast to — Family. Love. Home. — You will forget until your crooked lines remind you.

This year has been sobering. I’ve watched myself morph. I’ve watched the people around me walk in and out of shadows. I have new, deep scars that I will wear forever — with pride. And, to my surprise, it’s got nothing to do with the drink. It’s more to do with the fact I haven’t needed one. Yes, crooked lines were drawn, but each end meets its own Mecca.

Sometimes, the breeze off the Willamette River smells like a summer’s day in New York. I hold that air in my lungs. I long for the people that kept me once as a child, who love me still — miles apart. They still follow my path, like the tip of a finger on a map. They stay the course, however deviant. They see, in me, something simple. We live inside each other. My heart knows these people — we are the saviors and the saved.

Kindred — We know the easiest and the most difficult kind of love.

We have come as we are. We accept each other this way — The mess on the dining room table. The 10 extra pounds. The broken heart. The busted tail light. The empty wallet. It’s there. It’s ours. It’s us. On display. They take me. I take them. They love me. And I, — I love them back — their messes and their pounds and their hearts all the same.

So, just this once, I draw a straight line through the clouds.

Metal bird, take me as the crow flies — not to my escape — but to my return.

 

Stay saucy,

Sarah

 

 

 

**ARTWORK CREDIT: Andrew Wyeth, ‘Crows, Study for Woodshed,’ 1944. Watercolor on paper laid down on board.**