this child who once was woman

she laughs at dancing butterflies
smiles at babies passing by
clings to me when brought to cry
this child who once was woman

her zest is sparkling innocence
a love of life without a fence
a mind released from circumstance
this child who once was woman

a singing bird
a playful word
the mirth of anything absurd
she hugs
she screams
she loves
she beams
this child who once was woman

my heart beats glad, she is such joy
reminds me when I was a boy
of times preceding plots and ploys
this child who once was woman

the change, I was slow to see
as fog crept over memories
and here is all that she can be
this child who once was woman

now, I hold her close and dear
do my best to soften fears
not to shed a single tear
make the most while she is here
my wife who once was woman

tio stib

2017

Categories: life journey

Tags: love, marriage, relationships, Alzheimers, dementia, blind poet, blind writer, happiness, joy, fulfillment, blind blogger, aging, partners, life journey

Finding Home

it’s a feeling
fleeting
flying off like a nervous bird
when my heart gets too close
yet memories whisper
and I wonder
what was it
that feeling
what was
home

I know I’ve felt it
the Onenes
of place
of people
of shared meals
and wild laughter
in silent awe
watching the moonrise from a porch
sliding up a far mountain
beaming shimmering light across a silent river
sparkling in enchanted eyes

I’ve felt it
in the garden
in the sweet scent of strawberries
picked by eager red fingers
wrapped in buzzing bees and flitting hummingbirds
in the joy of harvest
in the pleasure of shared
plenty

I’ve felt it
in warm murmurs around the fire
in the clink of glasses
in the evening glow of satisfaction
gained from sweating together
building a shared world

I’ve felt it
in smiles and greetings
in walking through community
in waves to passing friends
in bonds formed
by standing together
through tough times

I’ve felt it
in grief and solace
tears shared
remembering those lost
aching for those
forever gone

now I wander
the frontiers of being
soul seeking
heart hoping
to find home
again

tio stib

2016, 2017

You might also enjoy: Two Rivers, A Friend Passes

Tags: blind poet, blind writer, life journey, home, home again, friends, friendship, Nature

tio stib

2016, 2017

You might also enjoy: Two Rivers, A Friend Passes

Tags: blind poet, blind writer, life journey, home, home again, friends, friendship, Nature

a blind writer’s path to happiness – Fauntleroy friends reunion

Blindness kept me from seeing their faces but the voices I recognized. These were the same voices I’d heard fifty years ago, laughing and yelling as we ran wildly through our young lives. My mind saw their youthful smiles from back when we had all our hair and could walk without canes.

We’d grown up in the same neighborhood of Fauntleroy, a small community on the edge of Puget Sound in West Seattle. Little did we know then just how blessed we were. There was Lincoln Park with its beach, Colman Pool, tennis courts, and a grass field that turned to mud in autumn and became the site of countless epic football games. There was Fauntleroy Elementary School, now over one hundred years old, where we all met and then proceeded on to Denny Junior High and then Chief Sealth High School and first loves, embarrassed dates, first cars, and strange teachers. And, there was the Fauntleroy Y.M.C.A. and the Leaders’ Club, our home away from home, where we learned the value of service and the joy of teamwork. It was a world where we felt safe, where neighbors talked and helped each other, where we ran about at all hours without the slightest hesitation.

It was a world that has passed by.

But, for an afternoon, I was back in that magical place with friends I’d not connected with in fifty years but with whom I was closer with than people I’ve known for the past thirty.

I’ve been wondering what “happiness” was lately, but now, days after that reunion, I realize I spent that entire time smiling. I was with friends again, guys I’d loved, trusted, and shared life’s adventures with. Somehow, with the sad exception of one, we’d all survived our own life journeys to meet up again, now grown men watching our own families grow up.

I’m still smiling!

Leaders' Club Reunion at Nichols' July 2017.JPG

tio stib

August 2017

You might also enjoy: Flavors of Friends, A Friend Passes

 

A blind writer’s path to happiness – Which Mountain to Climb?

Happiness. What does that word mean to me? I’ve been thinking on this question of late. So far, I’ve decided that what happiness is for me is mostly what writing is not. Smiles, fun, good times shared with good people, feeling excited and grateful about life, looking forward to a new day, new adventures.

No, for me, writing, a solitary mentally taxing activity, is not much of any of these things.

Which tempts the obvious question, why do I choose to write if it doesn’t make me happy?

Because some things are simply work worth doing. Some things, like weeding a garden on a hot summer day, may not be pleasant or “happy” in the moment, but the results of the effort bring satisfaction later, sometimes days and weeks later, when the harvest finally comes in. Of course, you must like gardens to appreciate the value of weeding. I confess to liking stories and storytelling, which propels me to write in hopes of creating a good story someday.

Others have labelled such late returns as “delayed gratification.” I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of, but over the course of my life, I’ve become something of an expert in this area. As self-satisfying as this distinction has been at times, I’m now wondering why the hell I put off being “happy” so many times in hopes that my disciplined, focused, often martyr like work would later produce gratifying results. Such efforts included relationships that would have been more wisely abandoned in a matter of days instead of years.

This brings me to another “h” word that has shaped my life-

Hope.

yes, along with being a disciple of the “delayed gratification” mantra, I’ve also ben prone to the “hope for better” syndrome. the irrational belief that if I worked harder, longer, better at whatever, the clouds would part, the sun would shine, and life would be beyond wonderful.

Someone once told me, “there is no hope.” Please, let’s not get into a pedantic diatribe about this four letter word, perhaps we can agree that “Hope” means whatever you or I or anyone else wants it to mean. I think the afore mentioned person’s take on “hope” was that one just can’t sit on a rock “hoping” that it will start raining gold, life reality is that “hope” can inspire us but “Work” is what makes dreams happen. As usual, this is a rather simplistic statement, at least in my experience.

I’d “hoped” to be an Olympic volleyball player and I “worked” for years to achieve this goal. However, there was a fundamental flaw in my hoped for vision. I did not have the physical attributes required to be a world class volleyball player. For those not familiar with the sport, one of volleyball’s defining features is an eight foot net which divides the two opposing teams. In order to be successful at this sport, you must be able to jump high above this eight foot obstacle. As I barely stand over five and one half feet tall, I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to players towering over six feet. Sure, there are short guys who can nearly jump over tall buildings but I was not one of them. Hence, This life choice was not well grounded in reality.

Did this limit my happiness playing volleyball? Ultimately, yes, because I wanted to win as that seemed to be the measure of success and my lack of height often prevented me from winning. Still, and this is a further reflection on my tendency to hang on too long to things that aren’t working, I played for many years “hoping” to somehow defy reality and reach my goal. A wiser man described such acts of futility as insanity.

Which, finally, brings me to the ultimate subject of this post, which mountain to climb?

I’ve come to believe that if I can face a life challenge each day and create happiness in the process of working to achieve that goal, it’s a mountain worth climbing. Blindness has made such choices much simpler as I’ve had to accept that many things I used to do are not practical anymore. I don’t climb real mountains, sail oceans, or play any sort of sports involving balls which i cannot see. This void was depressing for awhile but eventually I followed my wife’s lead and began to simply enjoy the delights of our daily walks, the pleasure of biting into a tuna fish sandwich on toasted wheat bread, the enjoyment of conversation with neighbors. Then, there’s still writing and storytelling, work I do that is not often fun but eventually rewarding.

All said and done, this blind writer is finding his life path sprinkled more and more with bursts of happiness because I’m making smarter choices on which mountains to climb, and, most important, I’m simply enjoying climbing.

tio stib

Jul, 2017

You might also enjoy “Perfection,” “Fishing

Control Freaking

I live a funny fantasy
that I control how life will be
if only I pay constant mind
to details of my daily grind

I keep a list
of things to do
and push myself
to follow through
for if one thing
does not get done
I can’t pretend
I’m having fun

I do all this
to sideline stress
it seldom works
I must confess
and people?
they’re such a mess

for often, every day it seems
I find others don’t support my dreams
they ask that I give up my list
I fume
I pout,
I’m really pissed

so I sit and ponder here
do I give up this list so dear
what is it I really fear

if I stop controlling life
will this result in constant strife
if I slow to let love in
will pain clutch my heart again

the truth, of course
is sadly clear
this game that I hold so dear
simply masks
what I most fear
that love will hurt
if it gets near

tio stib, 2015, 2017

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Where the Sidewalk Ends

A poem by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

by Shel Silverstein, 1974

When I start slipping into seriousness, I turn to Shel Silverstein to lighten up. Reading his poems with kids is better than blowing bubbles on San francisco’s BART train.

Want more fun? Watch this link on YouTube-

Almost Heaven

 

“Watch out! Move it!” I yelled as I plunged my foot, again and again, to the floor of the Land Rover. but the brakes hadn’t worked in years. Add to this, the confusion of driving backwards, which hadn’t seemed so odd when reverse was the only functioning gear I could find earlier in the morning. Sure, Sam had told me about the brakes, saying that the old wreck never went fast enough to need them. But Sam hadn’t mentioned the small hill that led down to Sophie’s fruit and vegetable stand, the same hill I was now careening down, backwards. Nor had Sam shared that the steering box was stripped which made my frantic spinning of the steering wheel pointless.

“Get out of the way!” I screamed.

I saw the post just before the Rover destroyed it.

Crash!

The post was annihilated. Maddy, Sam’s affectionate term for this uncontrollable machine, continued on as calamity exploded behind , or should I say ‘in front of” it. Vehicle and driver, admittedly a gracious label for my role in this disaster, stopped abruptly when confronted by a wall of unyielding cacti, slamming me against the non-functional steering wheel. The engine coughed twice and died. A cloud of steam rose up from under the dented hood.

Dazed, I struggled to regain consciousness. One eye opened to see a blurred head of frizzy white hair and beard in dazzling light.

“You alive boy?” said the talking head.

“Of course not, you old fart,” I heard my mind say, quickly losing respect for Saint Peter. Then I heard another thought, “shut up fool, it could be that other guy welcoming you.”

“Boy?” said the old, browned face as kind hands shook me.

Damn, I thought, recognizing Sam, now aware that I had a lot of explaining to do.

Kaboom!

My head jerked round to source the noise. Behind me, a cloud of dust rose sleepily into the blue sky. The scene below, however, was anything but peaceful. It appeared a tornado had torn through the hut. Mangled fruit and vegetables and broken souvenirs were strewn amidst a pile of flattened building materials. What had once been Sophie’s Stand was now a roadside garbage dump.

In the midst of this chaos, only one thing still stood vertically. The sign, “Sophie’s Stand,” was newly planted in the pile of debris. Looking at me sideways, Sophie’s painted face smiled between the two words. Then, with a death shudder, the sign surrendered to gravity and slowly fell atop what had once been a thriving business. A wisp of dust spiraled heavenward.

“Jeez!” I whimpered, wondering how I could have done all that by merely knocking down one post.

“So sorry,” I heard myself mutter, “so sorry.”

“It’s nothing, boy,” said Sam.

Nothing! I thought. Nothing! I’d just destroyed what had been Aunt Sophie’s life for over forty years. I pushed my face back into the steering wheel and sobbed.

“No problem son,” said Sam, his arm comforting my shoulders, “here, try this.”

I turned my head to see Sophie’s big, brown eyes looking at me. Her bright smile and curly hair lit up the label of the bottle Sam held. “Sophie’s Best,” it proclaimed, and from all I’d heard, it was the best home made hooch in these parts. Folks were known to drive hours to by her magic brew, said to cure everything from infertility to constipation.

I grabbed the bottle and took a deep gulp. What the hell, I needed to drown my sins. I hadn’t visited my aunt in over ten years, I’d missed her funeral, and now I’d destroyed the pride of her life, the famous “Sophie’s Stand.”

I took another drink as my insides warmed, my head beginning to disconnect from the disturbing reality surrounding me. Not bad, I thought, taking another swig of “Sophie’s Best,” as I was led to the shade of a palm tree and plopped into a plastic chair.

Self pity dissolved into a drunken stupor and I found myself staring at an empty bottle. Raising it skyward I saluted. “Damn fine hooch Auntie!” I exclaimed.

Sam pulled a bent plastic chair beside me and sank heavily onto the seat. He raised another bottle of “Sophie’s Best, said,“to Sophie,” then proceeded to drain nearly half the contents, before passing the bottle back.

Like zombies from the afterlife, a crowd of people had silently emerged from the jungle to paw through the wreckage, searching for anything salvageable.

“Perhaps this is for the best,” Sam said, “my Sophie always wanted to give everything away.”

“Maybe so,” I added, quickly pouring more of Sophie’s elixir to drown my guilt.

“Sophie liked you,” he said as I returned the bottle. “You’re the only city folk ever came to visit her.”

“That’s nice,” I answered, trying to convince myself that seeing her once in ten years merited absolution.

“We had a good life, me and Sophie,” reflected Sam, as we watched hands picking through the carnage.

I remembered the visit, years ago, when I’d first met Sam and Sophie, drawn by some unknown urge to know family, not to mention the need to escape town and an irate girl friend who’d just thrown me out of her apartment.

I took another drink and recalled looking up as the angry woman had hurled my stuffed walrus down on me. Perhaps, I’d thought, the relationship has lost its sparkle and it’s time to move on.

Several buses and many miles later, I was dropped on an empty road in front of Sophie’s stand. A young girl arranging fruit looked up at me.

“Sophie?” I’d asked.

She pointed up the hill and I started walking, suddenly aware of fresh air, filling my lungs. I marveled at the flights and sounds of bright colored birds. Turning down a dirt path, I entered a green tunnel of branches and leaves. In the distance was a small cottage. A cloud of butterflies descended on me, floating, fluttering, circling, then drifting away as I entered a clearing. Nearby, a dozen trees hung heavy with ripe fruit. Beyond, a garden stretched in neat rows, filled with plants of all sizes. Watching over all this were two empty rocking chairs sitting under the deep, shaded, cottage porch.

I heard singing. There she was, tending garden, her mop of hair tied up in a bandana, filling her apron with the joys of harvest.

“Aunt Sophie!” I cried out hopefully.

The singing stopped and the stout woman in the calico dress stood up and turned around. A smile exploded across her face.

“Lordy?” she blurted, dumping her bounty into a basket and rushing to embrace me.

I’d never felt so loved.

She’d introduced me to her man, Sam. I never knew if they were married in the eyes of anyone but themselves, and it didn’t seem to matter. What I did know, was they were partners, friends, and playmates. You got buzzed just being around them and their zeal for life.

Yes, I thought, taking another belt of Sophie’s Best, that was a great time, then passed the bottle to the old man sitting silent beside me.

“Well Sam what you going to do?”

I turned to see a cluster of men behind us. They seemed to be waiting in expectation. Sam handed the closest man the bottle and looked them over as the hooch was passed from mouth to mouth. I found myself slightly miffed. I was really enjoying Sophie’s Best and wasn’t in the mood to share. However, being the cause of the mess in front of us, I said nothing.

“Well,” sighed Sam, “this was Sophie’s place, her way to serve the world. Now she’s gone. Seems it’s the stand’s time to go too.”

There were anxious looks between the men, throats cleared and feet shuffled in the dust.

After a long, awkward silence Sam realized the real issue at hand. He looked up and smiled.

He laughed, “youall afraid I’m gonna stop making “Sophie’s Best. Well, I reckon I’ll keep that going until I join Sophie at the pearly gates.”

Then he spoke sharply, “but no way I’m gonna rebuild  that damn stand by myself!”

Eager hands shot up and voices called out.

“No way Sambo!”

“We’ve got it brother!

“No worry man!”

“Vamosa hombres!”

I watched in amazement as a transformation occurred. The sad faced group of apologetic men and the mob of pilferers became a focused army of workers. They  sorted re-useable materials from the fallen hut. Squashed produce was tossed back in the bushes to rot into organic oneness. before noon, what had been Sophie’s Stand was loaded onto a flatbed truck and , gears grinding, The load lurched away.

Finishing our third bottle of Sophie’s Best, Sam and I Threw our chairs on the truck, and followed the community parade.

In an earlier moment,  Sam had decided to relocate the new stand atop a nearby hill. Here the caravan stopped and waited as Sam surveyed the setting. He slowly turned around and smiled.

“Nice view,” he said. Then he crossed himself, emptied a bottle of “Sophie’s Best” on the ground, holy water anointing the sacred place, and proclaimed, “it’ll do.”

The crowd cheered. The work began.

Reclaiming our seats under the shade of a towering coolabah tree, Sam and I resumed drinking. The stage in front of us was a beehive of activity

While it can be justly said that most of the world’s problems have been caused by misguided males, I must  admit that when guys get their act together, they can do a helluva lot of work in short order.

Every one seemed to know what they had to do, and while the men put things back together, women showed up with baskets of food and even the children helped where they could. There was laughter and singing, and people seemed genuinely happy. It was community like I’d never felt in the city and I was touched by how all cared for the old man beside me, bringing him food and constantly checking on him.

By late afternoon, what had been piles of reclaimed materials had become the newly arisen Sophie’s Stand. Fresh produce was being put on shelves and two men on ladders rehung the sign under the tin roof.

Sam spoke to a young man who climbed a ladder with a brush and can of paint. Carefully, the artist added a word to the sign above Sophie’s smiling face.

“Sophie’s Last Stand” the sign announced. Sam grinned and the people clapped in approval.

At that moment, a small boy came up the road, dragging something behind him. He approached and laid a wooden signpost at Sam’s feet. The board atop the post read, “Almost Heaven, population 2.”

I remembered the story. Sophie had told it to me as we sat on those rocking chairs the day we’d met. Seems she and Sam had been enjoying the wonder of life one evening, rocking on their porch.

She’d said, “Honey, this is about as close to Heaven as I’m gonna get. I’m almost there.”

“Amen, momma,” replied Sam.

The next day, Sam had planted a new sign beside Sophie’s Stand. It read, “Almost Heaven, population 2.”

As all watched, Sam stooped and touched the sign reverently. Then he and the boy dragged it to the side of the new stand and raised it up. Two men quickly dug a hole and soon “Almost Heaven” was resurrected. Sam called to the young artist and whispered in his ear. the boy approached the sign and was about to change the “2,” when I heard my own voice cry out,

Wait!”

It was time for me to make a stand of my own. I took Sam’s hand and raised his arm with mine, saying triumphantly, “Almost Heaven, population 2!”

Almost Heaven had a new resident.

There was applause and cheers and a few hats flew into the air, then, people went back to their daily lives. Cars began pulling up. People entered Sophie’s Last Stand seeking fresh fruit and vegetables, some local hooch, and a friendly smile.

If you ever feel like you’re in Heaven, look around. Perhaps you’re almost there.

tio stib

2015, 2017

You might also enjoy: A Mirrored Smile, The Road Not Taken

 
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