Lately, thoughts and ideas have been scattered like wispy seeds of a dandelion flitting around trying to make sense of myself on the deep breath of a wish
A week later streamers hang on the patio vibrant, yet tired a trampoline hasn't been reassembled and probably won't return to its spot in the backyard She's thirteen now we've long stopped synchronized wahoo-wahoo-wahoozie mother-daughter bouncing of summers long past, my hands intertwined with her silly little first grader fingers Gifted wine bottles line up one behind the other I sip from a new coffee mug and finish the last two homemade Mexican wedding cookies baked for a birthday A lone striped gift bag didn't get folded, hot pink crumpled paper peeks from the top A new sparkly evening bag invites possibilities and wonderings about unknown adventures How many more trips around the sun?
drone off and on off and on their outer selves hold tight to a blade of grass tree trunk iris leaves we don't remember planting the front door frame under the porch as if they've been invited they were time tellers before I could read time signaling a long hot day hanging back on my favorite swing long hair dangling in the dirt rocking myself into a bright summer haze eyes closed big toe digging into the ground giving myself a little push nothing to do inside nothing to do outside too hot too boring all I could do was swing back and forth back and forth if I were a cicada I'd sing with them droning off and on off and on complaining about the heat the sun summer almost wishing for cooler weather then realizing I'd have to stop swinging I leave the shell of my former self on the swing pull myself up and head indoors for a drink of water the cicadas continue their songs reminding us this summer heat is temporary
I must have been born with a magnetic plate in my head that attracts flying objects, magnetic or not. If I believed in alien abductions, I’d blame it on that too, but I save that one for my pinkie toe and other stories. Stay tuned. Ever since I can remember, anything launched into or sticking out of the air, finds me. The top of my head. My ear. My face.
The last day of eighth grade, brothers in our friend group, the only ones with access to a pick-up truck, invited us to their house to fill water balloons after our end of school year celebration. Officially, even though it’s summer break, we’re Freshmen. Fish. Stinky Fish. Why do they even call it that? Not wanting to be left out, I tagged along. I wore my favorite jams shorts printed with tropical fruits and a tank top. My new summer outfit.
I was supposed to go home right after school to watch my younger siblings, but I convinced them to stay put and not tell Mom where I ventured. “I won’t be gone long and I’ll be home way before she gets home. Don’t tell!” I took off with a friend and made it to the party house.
The plan was to fill the balloons, load them-and ourselves-into the the bed of the pick-up and drive around town catching the new unarmed sophomores unaware. My bestie had a crush on one of them and on one of the drivers, so this was more of a flirting opportunity for her than anything else. Summer teen romance with a side of a third wheel.
We filled buckets with water and loaded them with water filled balloons. The brothers got inside the truck cab while the rest of us climbed up the back and sides to find our places. We drove around, our pent-up and hopeful for high school energy oozing out of us hollering “Ninety! Ninety! We’re the Class of Ninety!” No one heard and no one cared. Except for us. And those sophomores.
We made our way to the only park in town. That’s where we found them. They walked toward us and then, “Fire!” We all scrambled for water balloons and began to aim. Mine didn’t ever go far. Not only do I not throw like a girl, I can’t hold on to any type of sports equipment and water balloons weren’t any different. The others, faster and with better aim launched balloon after ballon at our opponents. They didn’t need my help throwing them, so I started grabbing as many as I could hold and distributed them to the others.
With nothing in their defense, the sophomores devised a clever plan. Evenings had been rainy. The unpaved parking area where we sat in the truck bed was…muddy. They picked up handfuls of mud. Sticky, clay-like mud that holds its shape when cupped into the palm of a hand and shaped into a ball.
“D-u-u-u-ck!” One of the guys yelled.
I sat near one of the buckets, so I didn’t see the commotion. I kept handing out water grenades. “D-u-u-u-ck!”
The girl in front of me ducked. I didn’t.
Everything went black for a split second. I reached for my glasses, but almost couldn’t find them. “My glasses, where are my glasses?” Still unable to see because I kept my eyes closed, I felt around for them. I took them off and noticed mud where the lenses were supposed to be. My face throbbed. Chunks of mud decorated my new outfit.
I’m not crying. I’m not crying. I’m NOT crying.
The truck peeled out and we were back on the street, pitched mud balls hitting the side of the pick-up. Most of the other kids laughed and pointed while I tried to figure out if the lenses to my glasses popped out or broke.
“You look like a raccoon!”
One of the girls, in between laughs, asked “Why didn’t you duck down?” I didn’t think I needed to. They aimed for her, not me.
“I’m going to get in so much trouble,” I managed to choke out. I pulled chunks of mud off my glasses and found the lenses. Mud clung to my hair. When I almost figured out what happened, a bucket of water came at me.
“Why did you do that?” one of the girls fussed at one of the boys.
“I was just trying to help her get the mud off,” he explained.
“You didn’t have to dump the whole bucket of water on her!”
Some of the mud washed off. Still intact, I wiped the lenses with the bottom of my tank top. I held my composure, but throat tightened. “Just take me home now. I’m going to get in so much trouble.”
I climbed out of the truck and walked up the driveway. One of my sisters ran outside when she saw I was home as I headed to the water faucet in the backyard. I gave her a look and put my finger up to my lips. I turned it on and hosed down my hair. I was already drenched. I put my outfit in the washer, cleaned myself up, and put on my responsibility cloak.
I heard about high school freshman initiations. I watched them in movies and read about them in books. I didn’t know they existed for summer breaks. Later, I managed to laugh about it, but I still have that taste of mud in my mouth.
When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”John Lennon
My morning run lures me into a cul-de-sac. Any extra steps to increase mileage and a closed ring helps. As I approach the turn-around, I notice a Little Free Library, the fifth one in my neighborhood. Note to self, I’ll come back to add more books and scope out what’s there. I’m on a run today, so I make a mental note to return tomorrow.
A surprise downpour the next morning keeps the sky thick with clouds. Better to rush out the door once it’s over before the sun burns the clouds and sweltering temperatures begin to rise. Humidity can choke you soon after a summer rain, even if it’s early. I’m on a mission to the Little Free Library.
I approach the area, which has three entry points. The first one, where I see the little blue box of a library tucked into trees has a saucer swing waiting for a youngster to climb into. Squish. My shoe sinks into the mud. Do I keep going? Might as well, I already started along a path. Regardless of which direction I go, more mud will stick to my shoes. This section is set up for littles. A split log creates a bench where a colander waits for someone to sift for acorns, leaves, bits of twigs. Two tiny Tonka trucks are positioned on one edge of the path.
A labyrinth! Yes, I did gasp, and no one was there to hear me.
It’s a transition space between the kids’ area tucked into a dense section of trees and the garden, complete with an entry. By this time, my shoes are so thick with mud, I tread carefully so I don’t slip rather than get caught trespassing. Is this space public? I can tell it isn’t part of the house next to it because there’s a clear distinction between the lawn and this space. Is it an HOA project? It looks too natural to be tended by an HOA. An HOA would’ve ripped the trees out and made sure the bench was anything but wood. Don’t want to be liable for anyone getting a splinter.
I enter the garden area where small bird baths are nestled around wildflowers and wind chimes gently sing in the breeze. Benches and rustic garden treasures complement the plants. Steps lead back to the sidewalk in two more areas and an iron owl greets me as I pass by. I stop for a few photos to share with the ‘tween who wishes there were more places to explore because living in a subdivision is so boring. I have to prove it’s worthy of exploration.
I make my way back to the sidewalk and two people with garden gear appear from one end of the garden. They wave hello. I approach and ask how long this small gem of a space has been around. About ten years. I’ve lived in the neighborhood going on twenty, but cul-de-sacs don’t seem to have much more beyond them. Except for this one. The gentleman introduces himself and I ask if the HOA tends it. “No, I’ve been doing this since I moved in,” he motions to his house across from the garden. “This is my hobby. I wanted to set something up for people to enjoy.”
I don’t know if I enjoyed the garden more than I enjoyed finding it. In an age where people practically shout to get noticed on social media, other people do small things. I’m guilty of spending more time on social media than I’m proud to admit.
Finding this garden taught me a few things:
- Expect the unexpected, especially when you’re not looking for it.
- Go in a different direction, whether or not your step count depends on it.
- Little things make a big difference.
- You can enjoy good things even if life gets a little muddy.
- You’re never too old for a surprise.
- You can change the world by focusing on what’s in front of you.
- Doing what you love benefits others.
Mrs. Garza! he whisper-yells hand raised, tests await commands to start You got a baby trash can? Trash can? I moved it to the front hand sanitizer box of tissues bathroom sign-out sheet He mumbles, looks around making sure no one hears or at least he tries I walk to his desk You got a baby trash can? a little tiny trash can? You see, I got sunflower seeds eat em when I'm bored I don't wanna put em all over the table, you know... Yeah, I know, spit I get it I eat them on long road trips so I don't fall asleep while I'm driving Testing binder in hand I walk to my office looking over my shoulder letting everyone know I'm sort of watching Yank, yank, yank, yank Use paper towels that's all I've got take a bathroom break if you need more Psst... Mrs. Garza thank you He sets his desk as if breaking bread computer plugged in- he forgot to charge it a bag of sunflower seeds slouches agains the testing divider paper towels stacked and ready pencil scratch paper testing ticket Today you'll be taking... Crack! He snaps the first seed
for a break is valuable but when you stop what do you do? does the mind wander too much? why is it hard to refocus? start again, build momentum why stop? is it to observe? try something new? look for something, or let something find you? rather than restarting, it's time to continue this thing that sustains and feeds me, consider words that want to be said, that need saying was the stopping meant for listening? how do you bring everything together?
I have always set two alarms. One for 5:30 a.m. and one for 6:15 a.m. I figured out the latest I can get up, fly by the seat of my pants on a jeans and school t-shirt day, is 6:30 a.m. I have to skip my morning pages, although I don’t like doing that, scald my throat glugging my coffee, sweep in whatever food fits into my lunch bag, and get going. I can make it to work on time and look (mostly) normal. This isn’t ideal, but having tried it a few times, it’s acceptable.
Recently, I’ve (sort of) given up my morning alarm clock. Most nights I still toss and turn, but it’s been so much better. What has worked is setting the alarm for that latest possible jump out of bed our you’ll be so late time. My I’ve-hit-the-snooze-button-for-an-entire-hour-it’s-time-to-suck-it-up-and-get-out-of-bed-already time. One alarm. 6:30 a.m. I wake up at 5:00 and sometimes go back to sleep. I wake up at 5:15 and sometimes go back to sleep. I wake up at 5:50 and decide not to go back to sleep. It’s almost like I’m hitting the snooze button without the annoyance of an alarm clock beeping. Except it is annoying. But it isn’t a heart stopping I’m going to rip that thing out of the wall annoying.
If I start tossing and turning in the middle of the night, rather than counting the number of hours of sleep I haven’t had, I tell myself I can “sleep in” until 6:30. All will be well with the world. On most days, I wake up a little past 5:30 and get up without any snooze button calculations. I turn off the alarm so it doesn’t wake my husband while I’m getting ready, even though he has an amazing ability to sleep through it. This is a much calmer process. I’ve finally learned how to wake up without an alarm. Sort of.
tart and sweet flavor and stain a round mound of crushed ice packed into a paper cone on a hot summer day macerated, fill and sweeten a layer between white wedding cakes, the top tier saved for that first year anniversary shared two weeks later after the honeymoon because it was so darn good why save it? two fresh ones kerplunk! into a sink full of dirty dishwater escaping the dysfunctional sieve of a hand while another plops their neighbors into a waiting mouth
of oranges sprinkled with salt sticky sweet juice dribbling down a chin of memories well lived some uneventful bursting with simplicity some saved for savoring later when the mood strikes of time held on an analog clock holding still in good times or bad placeholders for stealing moments to write contemplate create of stories interwoven across miles initiating laughter provoking thoughts ideas resonating with souls unleashing frustration distraction confusion affirming realities and struggles inspiring hope and kindness through shared Words