The Backside




The Backside

A hundred stories blew right by
Unseen by the naked eye, a hundred and one
If you count the one so wind-soaked, water-logged and beat down
There is nothing left to tell
Shreds of truth washed out to sea
Particles of memory swept up in the counter-current backside of the beast

A hundred years from now

Someone will dredge it up, tell it to a crowd of hungry men, women and children
Hovered on the edge of their seats to know about the day the wind raged
History, a fan of repeating herself

At the hair salon
She said the waiting was the hardest part of all
Tell me your story
I’m beginning to try to listen again

Forgetting doesn’t help remembering
Warnings came from somewhere down the coast, farther south
Watch out for the backside,
The tail end
Every cliche, metaphor
You’ve heard them all
Listen up, for once, to talk of eyes and calm

While we wept for Haiti
I wept over Vascular Dementia, ALS and Cholera, hunger and disease
And Haiti some more
The Shirley May, The Mary Margaret and God’s Grace
They made it through, tethered to a wide and weary oak
Simple solutions mock me

Anticipating, we know too much of what we do not know
Wringing our hands over unknown outcomes
And then the shaming began
For the stayers and the ride-it-outers
Who know the nuances of wind and tide
But are certain of not one thing

The quiet dark of the blind preparation
Is a quiet we never knew

Run a bunch of models
Focus on the European One
Fine lines  wear the well-honed edge of a butcher’s knife
Lord have mercy plays on rewind and repeat
In sharp contrast
The Weather Channel, bless its heart
I thought I’d die if I heard one more warning of how bleak my future looked

When the wind blows
Echoes from my childhood
We are slowly prepared by  nursery rhymes
For what’s ahead

When the wind blew
At hurricane force
I sat on my backside

Resting up
No one named the raging storm in my mother’s brain
After one of the gospel writers

There is still a storm that’s raging
Though not at sea
For me
Waiting is the hardest part






The Earth plays her scales in a C minor chord
First string grey demands a solo
Cancels out Earth’s musical noise
Grey, the sound of dormancy
White noise
Dampens each note
Unuttered, silence
Muffled in the shadows of the shortened days
Cut off at the knees, the sun is tired
And so am I
Like a puppet show, the light plays in the snow
The tree limbs sign the words
So you and I
Mute and deaf to the language of the Winter quiet
May hear and see and know
Muted though they seem
The Earth still sings
A winsome winter song
A breaking bough, the percussion
The weight of white
Her breaking point
How beautiful the silence sounds
As the nothingness takes a bow

Salty Therapy And Lessons From The Sea

Spencer Dolphin Watching

It is the end of the day and we are explorers launching our boat, ready and expectant. We leave the hot air of the land for the cooler temperatures of the salty mist that hovers over the water.  We are small, a dot on a spinning orb, looking for a surprise. We are looking for wonder and beauty.

We leave  our lives on shore and transport our hungry souls out into the swirl of blues, greens, and grays. We are hoping for a glimpse of  anything or  of we don’t know what. But somehow we  are certain of where to go for discovery, solace and peace. At least two of us are in need  of a re-booting. Life is heavy. This is the place of floating and watching. Life is lighter out here.

And  light and lightness filter in and through our souls. Our pores are open, accepting all the sea gives. The sea has a way of prying  open a heart hardened by a day. We are  more buoyant when we are on board our little boat. Floating out as searchers, collectors.

A sailboat passes us on our way out. They are on their way in, an extraordinarily handsome sailboat from Canada. We release more of the day’s toxins into the cool sea air. We can breath. And we do. Our journey begins while theirs ends. The harbor is their resting place and the waterway becomes ours.

And I wonder if I could teach my child  what she needs to know of life, drawing lessons only from what we find in the salty sea. Moments into our voyage, we come upon a  shrimp boat returning with their catch.  Gulls  and dolphin gather around them attracted by  the unwanted parts of their catch being thrown overboard. A cycle of life. A recycling of nutrients. It is a study in economics, in hard work, ecology, business, and stewardship of natural resources.

But I find that all I can really focus on, honestly is the wonder, the endless masterpiece of seemless salt, sky and sea. Th rich tapestry, assulting each of my senses. The treasures are palpable.

We would not be here so quickly at the end of day without our motor, but it is time now to turn it off and listen. And to float. White foam tells a story. We hear and see the beginning forming as the frenzied  dolphin force the baitfish onto the shore for dinner. We watch a stunning display of a mammal’s hunting and gathering skills.

There is a connectedness, a synchronicity on the water. The gulls in the air, follow the dolphin and the fish they prey on joining the banquet table of blues and greens. We are turning around, three hundred and sixty degrees viewing this extraordinary aquatic life. I  am awash in pleasure except for the  occasional sting of  a horse fly. There is the reminder of pain on board, an unwelcomed passenger biting our flesh. What a small sacrifice to pay to hear the dolphin blow through their holes with audible  force and might. To witness their play, their mating, their dining. Their very lives heal our weary worn out souls. Tired from fighting the battles on the land.

And we spin around as the waves rock us under the bright night sun. It is relentless in its slow set. And we determine we cannot wait for it to go down. We must return to the toxic heat and pressures of the land, and to our dinner. Our own evening ritual of dinner and conversation draws us back to land. And we bring our appetites, increased by the sea air which stirs a  hunger in our bellies.

There would be math lessons or physics lessons if I were to extrapolate the lessons from the sea. If beauty were not beckoning me to focus on asthetics, tending to ignore science and numbers and concrete factoids for a child to store away. Approaching the dock is timing and speed and distance and I know there must be some physics involved. The wind blows the boat and the man infront of us misses his mark over and over as he tries to fight the current and wind and the elements. His problem solving, patience and determination would be a life-lesson chapter, if I were using the sea as a classroom.

But I am  distracted by a study in the hectic lives of  the Purple Martins.  Of  their colony of dozens dining on mosquitoes and swarming around as they pitch and dive, feeding before they enter their gords.

We are almost home, restored, awash in salt and seawater.  And new memories gathered up in a short trip out to the floating classroom.

Beauty teaches, salty therapy restores and we have taken sweet lessons from the sea. 

All we needed for today, the sea has lovingly offered up to us. And we are grateful explorers returning safely from our aquatic expedition.

The Narrowing

dolphin duo show offsWe discuss the newlyweds in Spain. Their picture has just popped up on Instagram. I confess now this is something I could really long for. I might even really want to do this, go there. They are sitting under a shade tree, white linen table spread like a banquet with olives and wine and cheese and the cured meats. And they are smiling relaxed newly married bliss-filled smiles.

We are riding down the salty creek in our little boat when we stop to visit with friends sitting up on the top deck of their house boat. They are breathing in salt and watching the old lady dolphin swim, rising up above the surface now and then, she smiles at them. And they exhale the stress of their long work week in a thriving restaurant business. Owners never seem to sleep. I tell her “I hope you have a wonderful sunset tonight”. And her response is Elizabeth, you know, I really don’t care. Her cup is full with all that is there. There is nothing lacking in her dusk date with her husband.

And they tell us they are celebrating ten years of being in business with a really big trip. They are going to Scotland for three weeks. I exhale, ah Scotland.  And remember my two trips there. Lovely, they were. Good memories I have. And it creeps up again, this hazy desirous emotion and longing. Should I stay or should I go. In my inner parts, into my day dreams. Into my internal wish list.

There is a well-aged and well-tended friendship in my life. I believe I tell her everything. She has the enormous responsibility of listening to me spill it out, beat it to death, and wallow in it. My stuff. I confess, I complain, I confess some more. I doubt. I dream. And I drop off all my innermost parts at her feet. I am safe with her.

And in her wisdom she reminds me that no matter what we do or where we go we always have fun, in the simple. She reminds me of this truth. We have discovered the journey into extracting maximum joy from some of life’s most simple activities. We are four. We are two couples who though we have had our passports stamped a time or two, are happiest now in the execution of a simple plan. One of discovering that life explodes with God beauty in the trips down the African Creek, the one right here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. And life is beautiful when we pack a sandwich, even bologna, or especially bologna, and kayak out to the wooden cross on the shore of the Waterway.

He came up to me yesterday with the heart of a child. Laid out all of the shells he was collecting on the kitchen table. They were all so shiny. There is a scientific term for the shimmer and sheen, the particular sparkle and shine. But the child in him just saw the shiny. And he pulled out a light and shined it on the splendor and everything glistened in this moment of ordinary.

And then he brings me his two special ones. He is not a mid-Fifties adult, he is a child, wide-eyed discoverer of beauty.

These he says, these are my special ones. Please don’t move them. He has found extraordinary beauty in these two found objects. Because they are imperfect. They are perfect. Barnacles and a  combination of shells have been molded together by the sea  to make a hybrid of beauty. And this is all we will ever need.  This sacred simple.For we are learning to go into the land of discovery of the God simple. The natural wonder of the unexplored. Exploring what is under our sandy toes and sun-burned noses.

We cut the motor on our favorite part of the creek and it seems that all we can see is green lush marshgrass, oystershells and sky. There is so much sky. Have I forgotten how large that canopy of unending sky is.  How could I forget the shades of blues so life-giving even on a cloudy day. And water. We are surrounded by water, sky, and wonder. And then the pod of frisky dolphin show up and we are all children. Each one of us in our human pod of four, is a child filled with a spirit of  fresh discovery.

And we are narrowing. And we are traveling. And we are home.

Oswald Chambers writes:

“If you ask for things from life instead of from God, ‘you ask amiss’; that is, you ask out of your desire for self-fulfillment. The more you fulfill yourself the less you will seek God.”…seek, and you will find…” Get to work-narrow your focus and interests to this one thing.”

Our conversation, the one with my friend Harriet,  turns to Him and any desire we have to “go and do”. It is our term for living. Unless He plans the trip, we decide we don’t really want to go after all. Because traveling on the outskirts of His will, is less than each time. And isn’t seeking Him as children the better way. And isn’t seeing His world as children, with the impressionable spirit of a discovering child the most tender way.

Our conversation, the one with my husband, turns to an older couple who are no longer walking out this earthly life. He reminds me of their routine. He says do you remember how they would get into their boat every night and ride out to see the dolphin play in the surf.  And they died not long after that.

I wrap my mind around age and living simply and death and heaven on earth, the glory in the sacred daily wonders.

And realize that there is beauty in the narrowing, in the simplifying.

We are soaking in the wonders of our Sunday, a day that we marked as family day and prayed would be the beginning of the best summer of our lives. This house we are renting to “test drive” this new town, to see if it likes us and  if the feeling is mutual, has a wonderfully small kitchen. We are bumping into each other preparing our summer supper. And my husband yells, Look, Come See This is Classic.  When he calls out wonder and beauty I have learned to listen, to stop and look. He means business when he sees moments of grandeur.

I walk to the glass front door and see the neighbor’s chickens are out running around  her neighbor’s yard. And we laugh at the sight of chickens out of place. And the variety of the brood, there seems to be one of each. The silkies might be my favorite. And we laugh some more and find surprise in the spontaneous wonder of chickens running around the green lush lawn of a neighbor who carefully maintains a beautiful yard. She just happens to be out of town this night.

And who needs wine and cheese in Spain after this. This most perfect day.

Of ordinary. Of extraordinary.

The vision is wide in the narrowing.


Joining Laura at The Wellspring for her Playdates  and Jen for SDG and Emily and Jennifer