Best laid plans

A gopher is eating my butterfly plants one tasty root at a time, so I get out my hammer and wait ever so patiently, earbuds blasting Rage Against the Machine for effect and motivation. While I am rocking out, evidently moving in such an unusual way that my neighbor, who thinks I can’t see him behind the dilapidated wooden fence boards, cannot take his eyes off me. Contrary to the logic of my somewhat “shy on stage” personality, I begin to gyrate to the sexual intensity of Zack de la Rocha’s energy, hyper aware of both the ironic fact that I find political rants anything but sexy, and also that my poor neighbor has been lonely so long that me undulating with a hammer is particularly cruel on so many levels.

Apparently my gopher dance has worked more than one miracle, and his destructive little head pops out just in time for me to compose myself, raise the hammer, and begin the swift and powerful descent necessary to knock him silly and save my caterpillars’ home. But my plan is flawed, as I should have known that headphones, an uncharacteristically sexy set of dance moves and sheer resolve would not be enough to help me get beyond just how cute the little guy is, and I accidentally pound a formerly healthy butterfly plant instead.

Lillie McFerrin

Wild

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The only time he wasn’t worried about the future was when she visited. Her stopovers were so infrequent however, that he had never been able to find a pattern; some timing to count on, to look forward to, to fantasize about.

He waited, mostly empty, impatient, merely existing, barely breathing, until she appeared out of Nowhere, took his shaking hand, and made love to him without the slightest whisper. She ravaged him hungrily, fully, silently.

Rising on her haunches, sated, his skin in her teeth, blood dripping seductively from her ravaged lips, she leaped once, twice, and again to reach the next detour out of Forever and back to the place from where she had come.

Lillie McFerrin

The long bar

He was so handsome that she nearly lost her nerve, especially when his eyes pierced hers, but the dare was too enticing; after all, she did love a rousing challenge. As she approached the long, teak wood bar, she chastised herself for such childish folly.

“Excuse me,” she started in, voice sultry and tempting, raising her arms high, breasts plump and spilling out over her corset, her cheeks faintly pink with embarrassment, “but did you happen to drop this cute little teddy bear?”

The next moment took her totally by surprise, as he swooped her up, deftly ascended two flights of stairs, hastily unlocked the mahogany door, traversed the long hallway in seconds, and threw her down on the perfectly made bed only to kiss her long, hard, and deep, his passion rising with each exhale into her expectant mouth.

By now their loyal customers were used to such escapades, having frequented Phred and Mona’s Long Bar for years, continually enthralled by the oft-shocking antics of a couple with such other-worldly devotion that they easily became fools for love in each other’s presence.

Lillie McFerrin

Endeavour

The only activity worth doing last Friday was watching Endeavour, a friendly celebrity flying low (1500 feet) to greet adoring fans from near and far, travel the skies. I was moved beyond belief and expectation to tears; my emotions shuddering inside of me as the modified Boeing 747 and its precious shuttle-cargo passed overhead. A side shot would have been nice, but I settled for what I could get, and vowed to eventually buy a longer lens, since it would have been incredible to get orgasmically close (even via expensive glass) to the star-rubbing beast.

Since I seem to have lost my words lately, I am relying on an unedited poem from my past to convey the power and mystery of Friday’s historic moment:

3/11/97 – Inspired by Pablo Neruda, among other things…

Dragons

There are moments, like pregnant pauses
When white dragons rise to the surface
Unnoticed yet fully realized and threatening

Groaning like a half-eaten mouse
He knows only that he senses something
Her thick lips refuse to speak

Uttering inane phrases to engage his wit
And literary ploys to unnerve his instincts
She strengthens her resolve not to crumble

Smiling all the while at her power
She chases fear with sweet red wine
A most clever elixir of disharmony

Wild, wild woman, untamed by sweetness
Hard won by human beauty
She travels alone, sometimes lonely

Hunt, kill, hunt, kill, hunt, kill, hunt, kill
Smiling while laughing, she attacks
As if he doesn’t know he’s a victim

Ravenous soon after, she feeds in her sleep
On the ruination of the kill, the nourishment
That stokes the pang familiar

Angst rising in her haunches, she eludes the pain
Carrying on as if nothing has happened
To the pristine soul of the untainted girl

It is inapt to deliver wintry anger
Or unleash it in the very pleasure
That created it, two-faced monster

She cavorts demurely with eyes that
Tell one hundred stories, none of them true
All of them honest

She doesn’t belong here; stagnant
She doesn’t belong there; unworthy
Where? Where then?

Leaping toward the chasm, she lands
Hard but safe, alone yet aware
There is more to do than lick her wounds

No time to waste. Red soul is pleading
She must embrace the Scylla inside the wolf
Or risk the slow and painful death of apathy

But there are moments, like pregnant pauses
When white dragons bow their heads and moan
Defeated by love, a power no adversity can quench

By storm

Twelve years ago today she had sat, half on, half off the settee while he spoke to her of love, heartache, and one great loss that had hidden details; nuances he had felt compelled to share with her.

Relishing his voice while simultaneously contemplating the sheer improbability that this handsome, forthright man was opening up to her for any reason other than the fact that he was lonely and perhaps starving for a conversation that did not involve condolences and pity, she had found herself faced with a dilemma: whether to answer his question with a trite and complacent “I’m fine, busy, but fine,” or to reward his openness with her own.

She had chosen the latter, immediately releasing a torrent of pent up emotions and angst over her mother, whose worsening dementia, sudden weight loss and growing despair had kept her teetering precariously on the edge just shy of insanity.

Instead of recoiling at her insensitive sharing; after all, his far more pressing needs should have kept her silent, he had listened intently, his eyes penetrating her soul, so that speaking anything other than truth had become impossible, and it was only then, when she had exhausted her thoughts, that he had offered her his unfettered, unfiltered opinion.

This, she realized while packing for their annual unofficial-anniversary sojourn, is when they had begun making memories together; their souls becoming inseparable after one conversation, after which nothing else had existed but the amazing love that would take them, unexpectedly, beautifully, by storm into the wildest and best ride of their lives.

Lillie McFerrin

This week’s word: memories

Arriving

Wake up, greet the day with wonder, smile, and breathe deeply, effectively locking away the fear, uncertainty, and doubt; useless worries once you learn to feel grateful for every moment. That’s what they told her would make all the difference, would set her path straight and true from here on out.

Over the years she had fallen headlong into these beliefs, sharing them with anyone and everyone she encountered, for she never simply met people, she embraced them; took them into her spirit, even if only for a moment, to connect in a way that said “I see a bit of you and you matter,” so that regardless of any hardship they might be enduring, she had made an honest attempt to privately honor and acknowledge their unique and important journey–thereby enriching her own.

Her incredible strength, the fears she had overcome by sheer force of will, the hard-won self esteem that had included long hours staring at Playboy images just so she could feel herself crumble in sick comparison, only then being able, years later, to take each shattered piece of herself and finally embrace the amazing beauty of women, with their intoxicating curves and complex, swirling emotions–acceptance that had included her own imperfections, and yes, her own beauty.

She had reflected on all of this in the seven minutes between Honey’s (not her real name) act and her own, even repeating the mantra that had rebuilt her: I love my strong, healthy, beautiful body, as she stripped down to her G-string and tassels, imagining the smiling faces of the men she would entertain, and the fun she would have doing it.

Today’s post is part of Lillie McFerrin’s weekly “Five Sentence Fiction” challenge–this week’s word: faces

Lillie McFerrin

If I told you

You will blush if I tell you what he did to me.

If I told you about the way he kissed me, his passion devouring my lips like fine chocolate, you would be okay, your face impassive, colorless.

Even if I told you about us falling into bed, hungry as wild animals deprived too long from succulent, wild kill, you would merely smile at the imagery.

But if I told you about the way he looked at me, with his eyes wide open and tender, with his heart fully on his sleeve, talking to me, loving me completely, you would blush because what came next obliterated everything rational.

It’s hard for me to tell you what he said, to actually say it without blushing myself, but you must know, I have to share this: “You feel like breathing,” he said.

This week’s word: blush

Lillie McFerrin

Assassin

Simple, shy, and unassuming, she was always shocked to read accounts of her escapades that described her as a “cold, calculated killer.” Though admittedly her world was a dark existence, devoid of deep, meaningful relationships, it was anything but dreary. The fact that plying her trade meant keeping out of sight during the day felt as natural to her as the habitual preparation required for every kill: better put, she loved her job.

Who could have guessed that the world could produce such a quiet, stunning creature so physically beautiful that her unwitting victims practically begged her to kill them? She had no shortage of suitors, it’s just that she couldn’t help devouring them at night.

Join the fun that Lillie McFerrin inspires with her “Five Sentence Fiction” prompts. This week’s word is “Night.” Hurry…you have through Wednesday to link up.

Lillie McFerrin

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How dare she!

My readers have been clamoring for a new post (ok, it was only one reader, and he wasn’t actually “clamoring”). Nevertheless, it got me writing…

Without sleep, or morning quiet time, or exercise, or healthy food, or adequate hugs, or a challenge, I look like this darling kitty. I may be exaggerating, but if so, not by much. Do not mistake me for high maintenance. I repeat, with emphasis: I AM NOT HIGH MAINTENANCE.

High maintenance costs big bucks, right? It’s designer clothes, Manolo Blahnik (I had to look up the spelling) shoes, diamonds in various karats, and a host of impressive friends only one level separated from Kevin Bacon. After all, I scream when I have to go shopping, and even louder when I have to take time to try anything on, get a haircut, paint my nails, or have my eyebrows threaded. I would rather, honestly, be doing just about anything else, even cleaning up the scary pile of dishes in the kitchen.

To clarify, high maintenance is falling apart if hubby doesn’t notice the designer clothes, Manolo Blahniks, diamonds, new hair cut, pretty nails, or freshly arched eyebrows– without inquiring about the costs. Complete, unquestioned adoration is required, plus deep pockets, and an even deeper understanding of the important syndromes: the “honey I have a headache” syndrome, the “I’m too tired from shopping and drinking champagne to fix dinner” syndrome, and the “Are you really going to wear that?” syndrome.

I, on the other hand (she says grandly), am quite happy in sweats, jammies, t-shirts with tiny holes, jeans, flip-flops, and various other mantles of schlumpiness. I don’t even care if hubby does not notice how pretty I look in them, and I don’t get headaches (low testosterone works wonders), nor come home too drunk to fix dinner (I have other excuses): decidedly low maintenance, albeit often a bit low on the low-maintenance side, like having blood pressure so low that I can’t donate blood. Perhaps I could go shopping and then give blood.

Ah, but I banter back and forth with myself, and with you, dear readers, while avoiding the honest-to-goodness reasons I DO qualify as high maintenance, the reasons ALL OF US do too.

Life is fan-flinging-tastically measured, and not necessarily to our individual tastes. That dream we had yesterday and tuck away for tomorrow may never happen if we don’t amp up the expectations (of ourselves, of others), and make it happen, or at least delve in far enough to realize, upon careful examination (or trial and error), that it is a different dream we want after all. By not exploring our yearnings, by not heeding our most poignant needs, by not being honest, we are short-changing ourselves, and a host of other people who look to us for inspiration (or for excuses). We must not stand idly by…or life will, in its inimitable and accidentally pernicious way, pass us by.

I have been watching my mother, now 84 and struggling with some dementia, my whole life. If there is such thing as a bone that is lazy, she does not possess it. She worked hard every single day I knew her. I’m certain that even when she was on vacation, she worked hard to keep everything clean and organized, to keep herself perfectly dressed and coiffed. But what I do not know about her, sadly, is what her dreams were. Perhaps they became dreams for others, the inescapable wishes every parent has for their children: that they will be safe, happy, and decent members of society (and that they will come visit every now and again). Did she have dreams when she was a child? Surely she did, but I am quite certain that once she began having children, she relegated them to the past, chalked them up to whimsy, or figured that someday she might get back to them.

Why is this relevant now? Because she is unhappy. Her life is nearing its end, and I’m sure she is thinking, “Was that it?” I am seeing the bitterness that she has always carried yet masked in her busyness, in her caring for others. I believe she never gave herself permission to explore her desires, though she always encouraged me to explore my own.

Furthermore, I believe she didn’t know how. Life threw her many crooked wrenches, and each time it did, she used them to re-build her life as best as she could, but never to her ultimate satisfaction. Her ability to dream; perhaps based on the expectations of her generation, or because she grew up with an alcoholic father, or perhaps even because she never got over my father, was stifled by the story she wrote for herself, the one in which the plot did not include her own satisfaction.

This morning I decided that I am just fine with my high maintenance needs, the ones I listed, and the ones I have kept tucked away behind certain expectations. I may not desire fancy things, but I do crave the kinds of pursuits that speak to me as an individual, not merely as a person playing a role. A mother who takes off for a week to dive into the ocean and take photos? How dare she! A mother who gets take-out because she was so busy writing she lost track of time? How dare she! A mother who goes back to college in the middle of homeschooling her children? How dare she!

Next week I am taking off for the day, to pick up one writer, then another…on a trek to Santa Barbara to have lunch with three other writers, writers I’ve yet to meet face to face. A whimsical, wonderful day for me, despite the responsibilities that cry out for me to stay home and take care of them. How dare she!

The Knitted Tree

Leaving Main Beach in Laguna (Laguna Beach, California), I spotted this knitted tree. Having heard and read about random yarnstorms (also called yarn bombing, urban knitting, guerilla knitting, and knit graffiti) in big cities across the globe, I was familiar with the phenomenon, which Knitthecity (London) defines as “the art of enhancing a public place or object with graffiti knitting,” but I was not prepared for the kapow of energy and unexpected intimacy I felt with the tree and its then-unknown artist. Putting down my beach gear, and hollering to friends and family that I would catch up with them in a bit, I grabbed my camera and began shooting. As I became more familiar with the wrapped branches, I fell into silent revery, the colors beckoning me to come closer, to explore.

If you click to enlarge the gallery below, you will be privy to some of the whimsical and soulful details knitted into the wraps.


As I explored further, I discovered a small plastic bag with something inside. Being careful not to tug too hard, I extracted the note, which contained words no longer legible, as rain or morning mist must have seeped inside the bag long enough to blur everything into a blue smudge. But I could read a name, or at least part of one: M i c h, and silently thanked Michelle (or Micha, Michael, or Michaella) for touching my heart at the end of a day in which I had vowed, just a few hours before, to remember to notice, to breathe deeply, and to appreciate life and it’s inhabitants even more fully than I had been doing.

A day or so later, I suggested to two sets of visiting friends that they should stop by “The Knitted Tree,” having an unidentified urgency in my gut, an unbridled desire to share the magical branches with others who appreciate random acts of beauty. Little did I know (Or did I?) that my next visit to Laguna Beach would have me standing before the same tree, only this time in its naked form. I should have felt sad at the absence, and I was surprised that the emotion I experienced instead was a fresh and unexpected kind of reverence, the kind that comes from knowing that I had serendipitously witnessed a fleeting gift, that I had received a message of hope that spoke to me regarding life’s unending challenges: There will always be something beautiful and unexpected around, literally, a random corner…and sometimes that redeeming or soothing or mind-blowing something will have been placed there by the hands and heart of someone who wanted to make me smile and celebrate my miraculous life.

Thank you Michelle Boyd and Twisted Stitchers for your Beach-umbrella-themed project, for receiving permission from the Laguna Beach Arts Commission to install your beautiful work from July 1-July 31, 2012. On July 25th, 2012, I was deeply moved by your gift. Thank you.

Thoughts and photographs are the creation and property of Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography/Writing