Late Summer Collection

One of the things that I treasure about blogging is that it’s simple enough to do–even when the kids are home–as evidenced by these posting highlights harvested from each of my blogs this summer.  I hope you  find a title or two that intrigues you. As always, your voice is most welcome.  Read a post, share a comment/connection!

Pissarro, visipix.com

Summer’s Harvest

~This Vermont Life: The Dog Days of Summer and Until I Moved to Vermont, a tribute to the summer sun in the Green Mountains.

~The Motherless Muse: Days Like ThisThe Writing Cellar and Namesake.

~The Marriage Journey: posts from My Sister’s Wedding.

~The Empty(ing) Nest Diary: The Running Away Thing, Last Days of Summer Panic, and The Wisdom of Fatigue.

~ Two Owls Calling (and the Life Purpose Path):  Thought Anthropologist, Dis-Orient Me, Life’s Debris, The Stream of Love, The Path of Women, The Yoga of Teeth, The Party Gene and Weeding My Life.

Kelly Salasin, Fall 2010

Sun Affair

“The dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You have to ask for what you want.

Don’t go back to sleep.”

~Rumi


I.  Seduction

You have to be patient to catch the sunrise…

Part One:

I wake in the darkness, long before dawn,

and wait

till the sky begins to color

Swaths of peach and pink.

There in the distance

I make out a light-

a ship on the horizon,

a bright star-

but too gold to be either.

I wait and watch that flickering light,

then throw on my coat and boots

running toward the beach to catch it-

The secret jeweled promise of a new day.

And though it seems to try, again and again,

it never shows its face –

painting the sky lighter and lighter

from his hiding place.

Unaccostomed to such early morning adventure,

I return home, sleepy

thinking the day too overcast

to catch a sun

I nestle back into my writer’s perch

a cozy seat, overlooking the Atlantic

in soft pink light

and forget about my questing

Yet in the moment it takes to

tend the simmer of my chai

and place a steaming mug next to my sleeping beauty,

I find the white wall beside my chair

Awash with color.

Gasping, I turn toward the sea and find

a bright orange ball, hoisting itself up

out of the ocean and above the clouds

Bathing my face

in its glorious light.

Those who wake only minutes later

to a world- winter white,

know nothing of this reluctant artist.

Only a thin line of color remains

where the ocean meets the sky

a wink to those of us who witnessed

his spectacular dawn show.

Seduction, Part Two:

Later we catch each other’s eye

Across the day-

sharing “a moment

our morning between us…

At days end, I think of him again,

and notice he’s taken his paintbrush to the sky,

but I turn away

and rush home with milk for dinner

unable to bear such an  unrequited affair.

II.  Lover

This morning I stir again in the dark,

but weary from the early rising yesterday,

attempt, over and over,

to drift back into dreams.

Go see the sun rise,” I nudge my sleeping husband

hoping his action

will quell the need

for my own.

But once the room begins to fill with light,

it is I who leap from bed once more

Simmering chai while quickly dressing

pressing my husband to come along.

I rush toward the beach

mug bouncing in hand,

Casey a block behind.

I move toward the dunes,

but my husband stalls

seeking shelter from the wind

under the deck of a vacant beach front hotel

We sip our drinks from this

safe but sterile perch

until I glimpse him…

Just a nail tip of

of an orange orb

behind the horizon lined clouds.

Casey calls after me about shoes and sand

as I run down the dunes to meet him

And there in full view of my husband

I open my arms to Another’s embrace

Receiving him in my heart

and wishing I’d come alone

Later as I crawl back into bed

instead of starting a day,

my husband rebukes my dawn antics,

for this “crush” I have formed on the sun.

I smiled slyly before drifting off,

wondering how I will leave this lover behind

upon returning to the mountains.

(Funny that we wait

for the Sun to rise

into view,

when it is us

who are turning

toward him.)

III  Quarrel

I wake at 5:30 again

Resenting

the demands of this relationship

angrily, I open the blinds to see if he’s there

mechanically I head to the kitchen to start my chai

and wait,

wait, wait

for him

It’s always him,

WHERE is he?

When will he come?

Will I  make it in time?

And then he mocks my feigned indifference

and doesn’t rise

He leaves behind his studly orange garb

and appears later, higher,

in Regal Golden Robes

in Holier than me  light

Casting his halo upon me

His soft, brilliant healing hue

subdues

and i know,

that wherever i go

he is with me

as friend, not lover

IV.  Stalker

an overcast day

his light is filmy

and i’m exhausted

i want to forget him

go back to my sunless life

enjoy the easiness of an afternoon

can’t manage dawn interludes

but he is always there

and i feel him

pulling at me

even in my sleep

V.  Goodbye

I wake and realize that he has risen

without me.

I feel both relief

and utter loss.

Today I return to the mountains

to a sun hidden behind hill and forest

How will I live without our ocean dawns?

Or is he one and the same

wherever I go

across the Millenium

Gandhi, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha?

How will I know him

without that brightly colored garb

or regal robe?

Can I return to him even if I cannot always stay,

Prodigal lover?

This morning I wake

with those

who know the world only

in winter white,

I have missed the magnificence of

his dawning,

and I know it will

be a long time

before I embrace him again

His love is a gift

a sacrifice

a blessing of light on my life.

Shining, but never joining

me in bed.

Gate of the Morning,

I give thanks

for this new day.

VI.  Home

Who is it that shines in the sky and lights my morning mountain bed?  Bright, white, rising above the pines, reflecting snow?

It can’t be you.

It can’t be the orange garbed painter, the regal robed artist.

You can’t be one and the same.

That beach, those sands, are over 300 miles away.

There is no sea here.

How do you still make it to me?

How large and omnipotent are you?

Unfathomable, inconceivable light reaching, heart touching, morning waking orb?

You are the light of the world.

How can that be?

You are the light of the world?

Impossible!

How can I experience such an intimacy to

ONE who belongs to ALL?

And what about you,

Are your rays that wide?

Sun, tell me.

How is it that you touch me so deeply while touching billions of others at once?

Embracing land and sea, forest and mountain, jungle and desert?

Through rain and snow and sweltering heat?

How can you be so large?

How?

How do I bridge our intimacy with

the impossible span

of your grandeur?

VII.  Awakening

I haven’t just discovered you, have I?

This has been a neverending love story

Why didn’t you tell me?

How painful it must be to wait for me to remember.

My childhood days with you on my back

Mountain mornings of sunshine on my shoulder

Pond dusks

Marshland sunsets

It’s always been you and me and then I  forgot.

We have to cultivate that which we want in our lives.

How can you love such amnesiacs?

“The dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You have to ask for what you want.

Don’t go back to sleep.”

~Rumi

Philly, Foreign & Familiar

Kelly Salasin

In the span of one season, this unlikely sports fan is back in the stands at another professional baseball game– this time in Philadelphia.

Two decades in New England has made this mid-Atlantic city a stranger to me.   From parking-lot tailgaters to street cops to peddlers, the faces and attitudes in Philly are rough around the edges, but the connections are warmer than up north.

The air is warmer too– and filled with water.  My mountain-loving skin finds this steamy heat oppressive but I remind myself that I was once from the sea.

Cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and fries welcome me home.  Philly is a family-friendly stadium that competes with Fenway’s vintage charm with it’s own affordable seats, playgrounds and two dollar kids’ franks.  A ballpark says a lot about a city.

The huxters’ calls in the galleys are more robust than in Boston and yet more subdued in the stands where the attention is on the game. Field facing concessions and standing-room only counters keep all eyes on the players.

Philadelphia gets right into the action with a chorus of boos after the lead batter for the Cardinals slides safely into second. “It’s starting already,” someone cries in self pity, as if the “out” was entitled rather than earned.  Before inning ends, Victorina steals second– and is sent back to first.  The Phillies coach is out of the dugout and the umpire is in his face.  A sense of familiarity sweeps over me with this characteristic intrusion of personal space rarely experienced in New England.

When Ryan Howard steps up to bat, the man behind me calls, “C’mon big boy.”  There’s an emphasis on “boy” that reveals a prejudice barely under the surface.  This is a city close to the Mason-Dixon line.  Given this culture’s worship of big-name players, I can’t figure how racism jives inside their heads.

My own mind flashes to the nice white folks I knew growing up–the ones who dropped bombs like, “I’d never let a black hand in my mouth,” when the new dentist moved to town;  or “I hope I don’t get a nigger roomate,” when going off to college; or  “I don’t want a black man in my daughter’s wedding,” when the fiance brought  home his law partner.

With the election of a black president, I imagine something’s had to change in the psyche of this downtrodden city.   Just before Obama’s victory and after he passed through the town, Philly claimed their own power at the World Series– after 1oo collective sports seasons without a championship title.

I watch Philly take their new place in sports history with each throw of the relief pitcher, lifting him off the mound in their enthusiasm.  Standing together, they rattle the batter into a third out and return to their seats– satisfied– certain of their influence on the game.

A ballpark Liberty Bell rings for every home run and joyous faces are streamed on the big screen while a summer soundtrack grooves.  We belt out “Wildwood Days” and I reclaim this old home as mine.

At the seventh inning stretch, The Luau Girls dance on top of the duogout; and after two years of living among Red Sox fans,  I proudly sing out for the Phillies with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The  2009 Championship is in the air and I can’t wait to see these faces after a second win.

It was the afternoon of the last game of the 2008 Series when I reached back to Philly from my home in Vermont with this impassioned, but uncharacteristic post on a sport’s blog:

Philadelphia is the city of “brotherly love”– and the birthplace of our Nation.It is also home to the Philadelphia Phillies whose win tonight will clinch the Series.I can’t help but feel that this long-awaited triumph for Philly is aligned with the rebirth of Passion and Participation witnessed around this upcoming election.  Let us not forget that what we stand for as a Country is beyond the success or failure of any political party or candidate.  We the people are the ONES who demonstrate what it is to be American:  standing up for liberty and justice for ALL.Let’s reclaim that beautiful tender mission as we head into a new era of global interdependence.  And while we’re at it, GO Phillies!  May their win tonight create a surge in the tide for reclaiming our country’s Spirit with Obama’s leadership.

While I’ve never understood the link between baseball, patriotism, dollars and breasts, I did appreciate the instrumental version of the National Anthem offered by the middle-aged women in grass skirts and coconut bras.  Crossing the Delaware on the Walt Whitman, I felt a surge of pride for this foreign and familiar city.

The Sea’s Lure of the Soul

Kelly Salasin, 2007

Sound of sails in the wind, rigging clanging, lures me down a funnel to summers at the sea–even if the sound is only a flag pole outside the American Legion on the oceanless High Street of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Calls of blue jays and crows become seagulls, and I smell fries cooking in the galley and the seaweed in the bay.  The sun kisses my skin as I slip back into the easiness of childhood—-tossing coins in the boat shed– heads or tails– but they were all his: this curly-haired adolescent boy who somehow enjoyed or tolerated the daily company of my seven-year old preposterous self, and always let me have the nickels I won even though I never  anted  up.   At lunch we’d have burgers– with or without reconsitituted onions– and that’s all there was…

So, why won’t that sound of the sails leave me then? Why does it feel less of an invitation and more of a lure down an alley way of memory?   There’s some place that I need to go, but I don’t want to go, like to the doctors to get an immunization. What is this vaccine I need?  What am I immunizing against?

I peek behind the sails flapping in the wind, but I don’t see anything more.  There’s just the shed and the burgers and the boats.  Tentatively, I head inside, ducking under the dip of the velour rope to access the hidden rooms upstairs.  No youth gatherings happen here in these thickly carpeted spaces with lush budoir bathrooms –gilded mirrors and fancy chairs–in stark contrast to the day to day activity on the docks.

There among the paintings of Commandeers that circle the entire great room in grand fashion, I see my grandfather’s face and those of his friends. It’s my own “Poppop” who taught me to play chopsticks on the piano downstairs. Who knew he could play?  Who knew there were two parts to that favorite song?

I recall the stories of his dancing– the way he twirled and flipped the women under his arms, over his shoulders and between his legs.

I feel my Nana’s drunken affection lavished upon me in front of everyone, holding me hostage on her lap—-the same affection bestowed by my own drunken mother.

At 13, I help out as a “waitress” at the annual meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary Club.  While the ladies enjoy their pie, I enjoy a whipped cream fight in the kitchen–and the beginnings of male/female cellular exchange.

During coffee, the teen staff huddles in the galley, waiting for the “meeting” to be finished so that we can buss the dessert dishes and cocktail glasses– and go home.  Hearing my grandmother’s voice above the rest,  I shyly ask,  “What are they fighting about?”

About our wages,” the tall boy beside me whispers and then uncomfortably explains that my grandmother is raging against the raise.

For  years I mourned the loss of her that following summer; but upon being lured into the past, I thank God that I didn’t have to grow up under her shadow. Her strong male energy and mine would surely combust. Would I have preferred our love affair end that way rather than under the weight of a Mack’s truck’s tires on the Burlington/Bristol Bridge?

In this relief of my lifetime longing for Lila, I am flooded with images: the beauty salon hair dryer in her room… the early uncooked dinners… the screaming… the baths with cousins… the accompanying photos… the powdering of our bodies on her bed…the swan seat on the toilet and the  counter swan that held the cu-tips. What was the swan doing there under our butts and in our ears?

If my husband gets this job, I want to go back to writing.  I want to pull my voice up from anchor (chills.) I want to set out to sea (goosebumps.) I want to unloosen the rigging and leave the dock– the past, the weight of all that family– all the ways their world defined me.  I’ll head off into the sea with “me”… to the sound of my own metal clanging and the flap of my dreams in the wind.

THIS is what the luring is, a luring back into ME!

The strange dream I had last night suddenly makes sense.  That pimpish looking guy, the one standing across from me up atop a runway ramp at a cocktail  party, asks me to sing.   And I do–just like I danced a few bars for that other mother at the beach, or endured Lila’s drunken grasping, or played a song on the piano each time my parents asked or did everything that was ever expected of me because I was the oldest cousin, the oldest sister, the manager, the teacher, the mother. I was the one who had to set an example.

When I open my mouth to my voice, that pimpish guy slips something to the back of tongue, like the tiny yellow valium my Aunt Jean once gave me for a migraine.  I kept it in my jewelry box for years– in case I ever needed it.  I run from this drug pusher, pulling the pill  from my mouth, and then turn back toward him in a fury, only to find that he had a purpose in administering it.

He tells me that my voice, though beautiful, is stuck at the bottom of my self, achored in my gutt– and that this pill will help me pull it up, and release it into its fullness…   and release me from the hold of the past.

Right away I understand; I feel his meaning and know it to be true– I HAD held back.  I DID need untethering, but not here, not with a cocktail in my hand, not where others could watch and observe my undoing. I’ll save that passage for some place private.   I thank him and leave.

I wake then, get dressed and go to work.  Heading down High Street toward the wifi cafe where I search for strategic planning proposals, I am stopped by the sound of sails-and I search for them instead–without even finding a flag.

Peeking around the corner of my memory, I ask, “What? What? What are you trying to tell me?” and I let this sourceless sound echo inside my body, and follow it there– where I find more of me– and retrieve her– the true lure of my days.

Midnight Mile-Marker 63

I want to capture what it is to leave an elevation of seventeen hundred feet– thickly forested, steep, snow bound… and arrive at the ocean’s floor.  It’s mile marker 63 when it hits me.  Suddenly the world is flat.  I feel it on the inside first.  There is a shift in my internal wake, a settling– like sediment to the bottom of a glass; and even if I’ve been snoozing with the kids,  I know we’ve arrived–not quite to our destination– but to sea level.

With a great exhale, I release my preoccupation with the unending Parkway, and begin to take in my surroundings.   Names like Tuckerton, Beesley’s Point, Great Egg Harbor appear and I wonder how it is that I never noticed these characters before– settings for some great work of fiction, tickling my tongue and imagination.

By mile marker 30, the smell of the marsh has found its way to me through the cold air and through the tight seal of the car windows.  As we pass the exit for Sea Isle City, my own tides steady to balancing point– like the bubble inside a level.   Does the body know?  Do the cells swell with recognition at the place of one’s birth?

A hundred and sixty-nine monotonous miles of the Garden State, suddenly warp speed.  Dropping into the teens, a surge inside me rises to meet the sea.  “Hello, again old friend.  It’s me, Kelly.  Kelly Brown from out of town.”  That’s how my grandparent’s neighbors greeted me each summer of my return.

This tide recedes as we move into the single digits.   Racing through Cape May Court House, I struggle to remain afloat in the onslaught of memory…  the light at Stone Harbor Boulevard, the Repici’s roadside motel, the chapel where James and Lynn were married, the road toward my dear friend’s house.

Pulling back like a wave from the shore, I am almost swept up into a sea of grief, just as my youngest rustles beside me in the slumber party of our back seat.   Buoyed on each side by a son, my husband at the helm of this homecoming ship, I steady myself amidst life’s debris.

The boys have their own internal compass for the journey. At exit 6 when we turn off the Parkway and  head east onto the strip of land that carries us to the island, they begin to stir like the tiny clams in the sand after a hundred miles of sound sleep.

I can’t drive this stretch of road, past the sewage plant,  without the smell of fresh lipstick and cigarettes– my mother’s, as she takes a brush to our sleep-tangled hair and rubs her spit roughly against our cheeks– early lessons in the importance of appearance as we’d approach my father’s childhood home.

Once over the draw bridge, Past and Present collide, lifting me into the lap of my soul, tossing me like a conch to the shore.   Shells fly from under the tires as we bounce over the salt-weary roads of “home.” The grocery store where I pawned pennies for bubble gum has finally had a face lift– six years too late for my mother who shopped there even when the rest of us called it the “Beirut Acme,” and took our business off shore.

We cruise into the island town of Wildwood Crest, deep in winter hibernation.   Pulling up to an abandoned curb, the man I love slips out from behind the wheel and opens the gate to his childhood home.   On my right, is the bay; and on my left, the sea.  Straight ahead, just two blocks, is the house where my own mother would be waiting at her late night perch over a bottomless cup of black coffee.   Like some sailor’s wife, her voice floods with an undercurrent of longing as she looks up and greets my return.  “Hi, Kel,” she’d say.

Only now, she speaks in whispers that the ocean brings to me.

You can move away, but you can’t get the sand out of your shoes,” a dockside barkeep used to tease whenever I talked of leaving.   I laughed at his warnings, like the one about pizza and my hips.   Jim’s gone now too, but was once very pleased to know that I couldn’t get pizza delivered to my mountain home.

He appears to me now, an apparition, leaning too far across the bar to pour my drink, a jester-like grin lifting thick Caselle frames from his sun-creased face.

The grains of his words rub between my toes, as the salt and the sea rise up… in me.


Timeless Sea

by Kelly Salasin

I plop right down in the ocean soaked sand, just far enough from the incoming tide, and begin digging.  I use my hands, never a shovel, letting the fine wet grains stuff themselves behind my fingernails.   I won’t go as far as China today.  I’ll scoop just enough to make a castle.  It all depends on how close I am to the surf.   I dig and dig and dig until the underground flow suddenly appears and fills up the hole I created.   Magic!

At 42, this is all mystery to me–still. How does the water come to fill the hole from below? If it’s always there, why don’t I see it until I dig?  How does liquid hold its form beneath solid ground? I’m sure there are simple, widely-known answers to these questions,  but I don’t want to know;  I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of wonder.

Once my pool fills, I set to work, letting the soupy sand trickle from my hand onto the pile of hard earth.   Trickle, trickle, trickle-  my castle grows, taller and taller, until it is time to fashion a tower- a careful drip, drip, drip,  as the tiny drops of soup harden into chips, creating a delicate spire.

I am reminded of a castle in France built ages ago upon craggy rock, the sea rushing to surround it with the tide.  I too am creator, artist, architect, building a cathedral.   I too have spent a lifetime at this holy task, like the children before me, and so too, the ones after me- after I myself am washed away from the shore of this world.  Bridges, moats, and castle walls, all crafted by loving hands, until the tide retrieves them, and we begin again.

It is the summer of ‘63, of ‘81, of 2006.  Time is no matter.  The salt still sprays in the air coating the downy hairs of my face.  The gulls still swoop overhead, the pipers run to and fro in the surf.  The sky is blue or gray or white; the water is warm, seaweed filled; or cold, bringing clamshells to the shore. My feet are sprinkled with sand-the tiniest specks of gray and black and white.   In the heat of noontime sun, my step quickens–staccato– as I dash through the soft dry mounds of the dunes before they scorch my soles.  I am heading toward my car; or toward the music of the ice cream truck; or toward cousins just arrived to join us for the afternoon…

My grandmother has packed peanut butter crackers and lemonade; and later, will surprise us with rootbeer barrels and sour balls.  I’ll watch her mouth pucker, creating  hollows beneath her cheekbones as she studies the crossword puzzle- a sharpened pencil behind her ear.

When we return home, we will shower outside, and she will powder our bodies before feeding us a dinner of fried tomatoes and corn (shucked ourselves in the backyard.)  Our hair, freshly combed, will be damp as we crawl into bed, and someone will protest that the sun is still shining.  “It’s after eight,” she’ll answer, firmly tucking the covers around us.   The hum of the air conditioner and the faint call of gulls will be our lullaby as we sink into sleep, burrowing our way back into the timeless sea- like the tiny purple clams uncovered in our digging.

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