The Barefoot Heart

life in the third half of life

Tires on Feet are Not the Same as Tires on Cars. I Know That Now.

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I said good by to a pair of old friends this week.
They have been my constant companions since August 2013,
logging in 6,638,362 steps
5,629 floors
2,833.82 miles.

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We went to all the familiar places
one last time.
There were daffodils

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and moss

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big rocks, waterfalls

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and mud puddles.

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all followed by a short visit to the massage chair.

I kept my eye on the treads
when apparently I should’ve been watching the inside.
The treads still look good.
The insides are demolished, though,
all padding and support long gone.
I went shopping when I read that
you need to replace shoes after
300-500 miles of walking.
If you’re a glass-half-empty person,
I guess I waited a little too long.
A glass-half-full person would say
I got my money’s worth.

Spring Dance

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My favorite tree in the whole wide world got all dressed up for me.

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She dances divinely.

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She even self-corsages.

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I just can’t take my eyes off her.

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She’s worth every sneeze

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The runny nose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing to Take Off (Which Is and Is Not a Metaphor)

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As the overarching theme for this year, I choose this as my goal: To Create a Body of Work and a Body That Works.

I want to feel good about my body
to feel like we are on the same team
to feel beautiful
and confident
and strong.
I want there to be more of me
and less of me,
at the same time.

There are several streams feeding this river (like the new face care products and regiment my daughter Alison prepared for me that I started last week), and I took care of one of them during the second week in January when I signed up for 20 sessions with a personal trainer. With the buy-10-get-1-free offer, I claimed 22 sessions with a personal trainer.

Then we left town to move Mother.

This morning I remember the fitness sessions and tell The Engineer that I am going to call and make the first two appointments. Then I set about fiddling with this and that* and become so engrossed in my fiddling that I jump when the phone rings. It is the fitness trainer from the gym, introducing herself and apologizing for not calling me before now.

She gives me her resume, then informs me that the first thing she’ll do is take a personal assessment so she can devise a plan that covers what I need. Then she’ll take my measurements. Then she’ll measure my body fat. I don’t have to weigh because she puts no stock in weight. Okay?

I take a deep breath and tell her that I only signed up for the personal fitness trainer sessions after thoroughly reading the literature and finding that the personal assessment is optional. I tell her that I simply don’t want to take the personal assessment. That I took one before many years ago, and found it demeaning and embarrassing and insulting and depressing. “I know I have things to work on,” I tell her, “that’s why I forked out for 22 sessions with you. And though you haven’t asked me what my goals are, I will tell you that I want to feel good about my body. I want to show it the appreciate it deserves for causing me so little trouble through the years. I want to feel confident again, to gain that confidence by building strength in my body, toning my body, and paring it down. Shoot, I want to feel confident enough to go to the classes at the gym – maybe even take a place in the front row . . . eventually. Plus, honestly, the personal assessment feels more like a tool for you, and I’d rather you craft a plan for me based on MY goals and desires, about what I want to get from our time together.”

I wish I had simply said “I don’t want to do the personal assessment. You can devise a plan that fits my goals after hearing them” or something similar, but the main thing is: I said it. Though it may seem decidedly inconsequential to you, dear reader, it is actually huge because, you see, the culture I grew up in dictated that all decisions about what I say, wear, and do be made based on how much it pleases Other People. And trust me when I tell you that it must please them a lot. This time I didn’t give two hoots about how much it pleased the personal trainer. I spoke up for me and what I want, and I’ve gotta’ tell you: it feels pretty darn good.

Even if I did spend too many words in the explaining.

// ::: //

*This is what I fiddled with this morning:

23Mar15ScrapBowl

Knowing that embodiment being what it is and all, things tend to align themselves with each other with one thing feeding and encouraging something else, I’ve decided that I will build a body OF work by using what I already have on hand. (for the most part, anyway)
Starting with the scrap bowl.
More about that soon.

Winnie the Pooh Should Arrive Any Minute Now

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Like a chubby fisted little boy bearing dandelions, The Engineer brings his First Batch of Honey into The Dissenter’s Chapel & Snug where I sit stitching. Later on, I can tell everywhere he’s been – floors, chairs, doorknobs, countertops – by the stickiness. 

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Offering me a taste, he says proudly, “It doesn’t get more local than this.”

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There’s a special piece of equipment, he tells me, that you can use to separate the honeycomb from the honey. “You’re in luck,” I tell him, “cause I’m in a makeshift mood.” And within minutes, I produce and donate some of my “special equipment” for the cause, and right now, even as I type, the honey makes its way through the cheesecloth separator that’s clipped to the rim of the bowl.

The Engineer, watching the honey slowly meander through the cheesecloth: I calculate we’ll need at least 30 quart jars.

The Artist: Though she wonders if a child’s teacup isn’t more like it, she says nary a word as she wipes down every single surface The Engineer has come in contact with since bringing the bowl of honey into the house. Not wanting to spoil The Engineer’s childlike excitement, she doesn’t shake her head or cluck her tongue. Not even on the inside.

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She Aged Right On Into Her Self

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She’s the only cat I ever trained to do tricks, and trust me: there’s a long line of cats in my story. One year, in what I can only imagine is desperation borne of having absolutely no gift ideas, The Engineer gave me a small stuffed Dogbert. (Yes, like in the comics. That Dogbert.) Every night we’d head upstairs to bed, The Engineer and I, and Pipp would join us. As we brushed our teeth and readied ourselves for bed, I’d say, “Where’s Dogbert? Has anybody seen Dogbert?” Just like that, Pipp would stop her preening (you could almost see her snapping her claws and thinking “Dammit. I forgot Dogbert again.”) and trot off down the stairs, grab Dogbert around the scruff of the neck, then bring him back up the stairs (complete with the jungle kitty guttural growl) and deposit him at my feet with a satisfied smile.

And when she went missing, all I had to do was call out “Is there a Pipp in the house?” and she’d come a-running. I’ve had children who wouldn’t come when called.

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I named Miss Pipp after the protagonist and narrator in Great Expectations because the two lives paralleled in such Big and Important ways. Both were destined to live unimaginably hard lives at the hands of cruel, heartless others until, in an unexpected turn of events, a kind stranger happened along to catapult them into a better life. For Dickens’ Pip, it was an unknown benefactor who brought the good luck. For our Pipp – the kitty with the German shepherd markings – it was my daughter, Alison, who, when leaving for lunch one day about 16 or 17 years ago, spotted Pipp with her head between the jaws of another animal actively performing the death sling maneuver. We suspect it was a loss of oxygen to Pipp’s brain from this brush with death that caused her to have a love/hate relationship with those who would pet her – especially should they go to pet her behind the ears – allowing them a few gentle rubs before scooting away or trying to bite them. She was obviously a little tender and skittish about being touched in the neck area. I think we can all understand why.

In her later years we began calling her Miss Pipp as she commanded the respect of all the other animals, refusing to run from them, refusing to give up her spot, refusing to be bullied any longer. She was tired of that nonsense and would stand for it no longer, drawing her boundaries and honoring them. At bedtime, she got her treats first, and her very demeanor warned others against encroachment – a warning others had the good sense to heed.

Ordinarily a cat of few words, it was impossible not to notice how the sound of Miss Pipp’s voice changed with age, too, becoming louder – perhaps from hearing loss, we don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that if Maxine the comic character had volume, she would sound just like Miss Pipp.

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As the years accumulated, Miss Pipp became surer about what she wanted and with the clarity came a determination to get what she wanted. Take the day she wanted to go outside. “Oh no, you can’t go outside, Miss Pipp,” I told her. “It’s a big world out there. It’s loud, and there are other animals. It’s just not safe. What if you get lost? No, Miss Pipp, you’re not going outside and that’s that.” Eventually the door opened, and because she’d been waiting patiently in the vicinity, she was able to dart right out between my legs. All she wanted to do, it soon became clear, was not to run away, but to stretch out on the bottom step and catch a few rays, to warm her bones, to breath in the fresh air and maybe chew on a blade of grass. When she was ready to come back inside, she let those wishes be known, too – in a volume that went right through closed doors – so the outings became frequent occurrences, and not once did I forget to let her back in. Of course having her very own sentry helped immensely.

This morning in a private service, we wrapped Miss Pipp in her favorite towels and buried her near the spot by the falls she loved so much. She is survived not by a biological litter but by her litter of choice and chance: Phoebe the Corgi, God the Cat, and her peeps: Jeanne, Andy, Alison, Kipp, Marnie, Ada, TJ, Kevin, and Debbie, along with a host of others who came to love this beautiful strange cat who always marched to the beat of a drum only she could hear.

Sighting

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She comes reluctantly when I call. She’s too much enjoying the cool fresh air and the world outside, checking to see who came around last night while she slept. As I tap my food and clap my hands as exclamation points to convey my impatientience to get back inside and make good use of the precious few minutes of alone time when I am free to move unencumbered at my own beck and speed – right then, right that very minute my eyes happen upon this:

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Moving Mother: Relationships

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The move is hard for both of us
in different ways
for different reasons.

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I never lived here, so I feel no emotional connection with this house.

But my mother does.

This is the house she lived in when she retired, ending her working career.
It is the house she lived in when Daddy died
the house she lived in when Walter (her second husband) died
the house she lived in when Clyde (her cat) died.

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She’s held many parties here
Sunday school class parties where her friends did the hula in the backyard,
annual high school class reunions
where friends gather to congratulate each other on being here another year,
family holiday dinners,
annual Kentucky Derby parties,
to name a few.

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As I make lists, assign chores, and push to meet deadlines,
eager to get back to my own home, my own bed, my own life,
I remind myself to be patient and kind
because Mother lived her Second Life within these walls and under this roof.

She and this house have a bond.

determined

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i’ve never exhibited except when invited so i know nothing of the world of submitting for shows, but i recently saw this call for art, you see. the theme is drawing, and they’re open to any kind of drawing: representation or non-representational. when i first saw the notice, i knew in my bones this is a place
for nancy and me to put forth our collaboration. perhaps nancy’s drawings will be accepted here, as in welcomed with open mind and heart and seen as marks of expression, marks of meaning.

i’d finished with In Our Own Language 3, but then i removed 50 – yes: f-i-f-t-y – stitched drawings because i knew it would be better – as in more visually pleasing – if i did. but, let me tell you: it was hard to snip those threads, and harder still to stitch them a second time.

this call for art motivates me. time is nigh. i have only 4 days to stitch the remaining 36 drawings.

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i lost a couple of weeks helping prepare mother for her move. it’s hard to fit my life in sometimes. but today, i’m fortified again. and stitching like you wouldn’t believe. the weather is threatening to tinker with the electric, and if it does, i’m prepare to stitch by candlelight. it won’t be the first time that’s been done.

Moving Mother: Paper Trails

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Though she was a career secretary, Mother detests filing, and today she had to sift and sort through myriads of papers in search of That One Important Document That We Need. The pull on her was visible, and she is determined to be finished tomorrow so she can move on to other things that she finds infinitely more fun. Like organizing the bed linens, for example.

I love the papers. I love the feel of paper so old it’s brittle and the signatures of people I’ve known like my daddy and granddaddy. Love to read and see how things fit together. I find answers to questions I didn’t even know I had.

Mother finds nothing about papers nostalgic or interesting, though she does consider the shredder the best $85 she’s ever spent.

Decades ago, I created copies of our God Forbid Book (as in God Forbid you ever need this information, but . . . ) I created years ago, filled with all the information the kids might ever need to know. That’s now been replaced with a scanned version stored in the cloud to which the children have been given directions and access. There are still plenty of papers for them to wade through, though. I’d never deprive them of that. . .

Growing a Bumper Crop of Wrinkles

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It was this kind of day.
For some of us, anyway

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I worry a lot more about a lot more these days . . .

I worry when I’m tired
I worry when I’m behind
I worry when I can’t get things –
when I can’t get enough things –
done.

I worry that I won’t ever finish
I worry that I will.

I worry when my muscles twinge
when my foot hurts
when I don’t hear from my son.

I worry when the rental checks are late hitting the post office box
when the orange light comes on in the car’s dashboard
when Mother stands up and gets dizzy.

I worry when I have to ask folks to repeat what they just said
I worry when others ask me to repeat what I just said
I worry when there’s a tickle in my throat.

I worry when the words won’t come
when there’s no time to stitch
when the clock strikes hourly.

I worry when the floor’s slippery
when riding in the rain
when my head hurts.

I worry when I worry.
I never used to.
Worry, I mean.

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I’m delighted to be teaching a class
at Woo School
called I AM Story
in which we spend 3 months writing our life stories.
It’s fun and satisfying,
and you’ll surprise and delight yourself,
I promise.
Join us, why don’t you?

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