The Barefoot Heart

life in the seventh half of life

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?

I Am Here . . . Even When I’m Not

I’d always heard that the older you get, the faster time flies.

It’s true.

2014 was the year I wanted days filled with making (stitching); marking (writing); moving (walking), and laughing (enough said). I assigned each a color: orange for making; aqua for marking; red for moving; and purple for laughing. I kept my journal in a big 8.5 x 11 sketchbook, one for each quarter. The paper was most excellent – no bleed through at all – but it was big and it was heavy.

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My haptic and visual tracker for 2014, a cloth called Evidence, is not yet finished. It’s big and bulky, and I’m using my sewing machine for a change. Maybe one day soon I’ll be home long enough to finish it. Fingers crossed.

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Last week, I came across a 1959 desk diary. Unused. Because it’s for the food industry, the first 50-100 pages are shiny, glossy pages filled with recipes. I love the look of this book – filled with possibilities. Love the pebbly texture of the red cover. Love the quote at the bottom of each page. Love wondering about the person who owned it . . . and didn’t use it after the first 3 days. I wonder if I could fit my do’s and done’s on just one wide-ruled page.

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Then I spied this little jewel, a 1955 diary from Westinghouse Electric Supply. It’s possible my father-in-law was given one of these, seeing as how he was an electrical contractor. I wish us all a life that’s far bigger than this space allows for documentation.

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I seem almost obsessed with creating a tangible legacy, with leaving some track of my existence. The more I am away from writing and stitching, the smaller and more insignificant I feel. The more time I spend tending to others, the more I disappear. I dread dying and having my tombstone say “She helped a lot of people”, leaving my kids to wonder who I really was. And then again, maybe I overestimate their interest in me. I keep a journal – be it digital, written, or stitched – to prove to myself I’m here. You can just call me Kilroy.

Moving Mother: There are Consumables and There are Consumables . . .

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As we go into the store, I tell her “Mother, we’re not bringing in one more thing that we have to dust or pack.” This – this right here – is what she comes out of the store with.

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Then we go to another store – an antique store – and as we leisurely stroll through, taking our time because the realtors are showing the house – Mother sidles up next to me and says, “I read this book when I was a little girl.”

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Then she opens the front cover, shows me the inscription, and says, “And Miss Mary Lou played the piano when your daddy and I got married.”

I bought the book.

But you knew I would.

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On the way home:

Mother: Miss Mary Lou didn’t play the traditional wedding music, and I thought that was terrible.

Me: Mother, you and daddy got married in the jailhouse. What did you expect?

[For the record: My grandadddy/Mother’s daddy was the Sheriff, and back in the day, the Sheriff’s family lived in the jail, so Mother and Daddy got married at home . . . in the living room . . . that just happened to be in the jail. The sheriff’s wife cooked and cleaned for the prisoners. The Sheriff got paid. His wife didn’t.]

[Another note: Miss Mary Lou played Irving Berlin’s “Always” at the wedding. I knew that part before this outing, and it may not be considered traditional wedding music, but it’s still one of my favorite songs of all time.]

Moving Mother Begins

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We’re having The Big Clearing here at Mother’s house. It’s harder than you might think. I didn’t realize how much I rely on Mother to be the museum for our family, holding onto our history.

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Tuesday night, we found bundles of letters I’d written to her over the years. I’ve always – and I do mean always – been an epistolary kind of girl. I still swoon at the sight of some of the stationery I had and remember using. Swoon-worthy stationery is so hard to find now, you know. I still have an impressive collection of seals. Could use some more sealing wax, though.

One of these letters I wrote Mother and Daddy the day I left for college. Another was penned as a newlywed. One is written from college. My handwriting has changed a lot.

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We found coupon books I created one year when I could not think of a single thing to put under the tree for Mother and Daddy. (Important note: make them cute and clever enough, and they’ll never redeem them.)

These are the easy decision things. They don’t take up too much room, and the decision is already made: they go in the Keep box. This is where we start. With the easy no-brainers.

Starting Is Such Sweet Fodder

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Starting is, quite often, the hardest part for me, and since beginning my daily walking practice, that’s how I start: I walk. I move my body through space. I see parts of this beautiful rock we call Earth up close and personal. It gives me fresh perspectives and newfound confidence. It opens me up and leaves me eager (or at least ready) to start any creative project of writing or stitching, and today I have much writing to do.

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Today we walk this bridge in Daytona Beach, Florida
something I would have found daunting before last year, something I suggest today.

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There are birds

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and clouds

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and even a deliciously ancient tree
right at the end of the bridge . . .
or beginning of the bridge, depending.

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They say that if you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail.
Maybe that’s why I see quilted water

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and shadows of quilt lines.

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There is, as you might expect, a most remarkable view from the top of the bridge.

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There are even quilts of tile
portraying the rich variety of animal life around these parts.
Turtles

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and bald eagles.
Have you seen this?
My daughter, Alison, turned me onto it.
Caution – it’s addicting.

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and my personal favorite: manatees.
I’m going to swim with them this year, you know,
just as soon as I feel comfortable
trotting this swimsuit-clad body out in public.
Manatees are called the gentle giants, and they remind me of Nancy
slow moving, quiet, gentle, always smiling.

Speaking of Nancy, we’re here to move her this week. Stay tuned.

Getting to More Through Less

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I want to be the kind of woman who can live with little. I want to live at home like I do when traveling – everything I need in two bags. Unburdened.

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It’s a matter of trust, really. I want to trust myself and trust the Sweet Spirit of Surprise. Trust that I can find what I need when I need it. Trust that I’m resourceful enough to use whatever I have on hand.

When we visited the beach at Normandy, France last fall, the tour guide invited us to take home some sand. The Engineer’s initial startle was instantly replaced with sadness because we hadn’t come prepared with a container. I smiled and opened to the back of my journal where there were bags of all shape and size, ready. We used a small tiny little bag with a zippered top and ultimately brought him enough sand for souvenirs for ourselves, our children, my mother, and Walter. Ha.

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Three years ago we moved to a small house in a small town. “Will I die without this?” I asked myself as I prepared to move. I didn’t die, but I did spend a year mourning some of the stuff I gave up in the move. We have only 2 closets in the entire house, which means everything is out in the open. Visual clutter.

I don’t want to want more closets. I’m a systems girl – I love the convenience of having things I need within reach. And besides: out of sight, out of mind.

I want less.

And I want to be happy with less.

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Now it’s true that some things bring me comfort and some things enkindle memories that make me laugh and tingle with love. But still.

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I want the space – the orderly space – to breathe and create and think. I want space for possibilities. Too much clutter – physical or visual – causes me to spin aimlessly.

This morning I found a big bag and wondered what if I fill it each week and get rid of that much stuff. Palpitations started. Most of the stuff I’ve needed and might need again some day, and it will be hard to find as remotely located as we are. I make excuses. Parting is such stressful sorrow.

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My mother is moving soon, downsizing. You know what that means: more palpitations. Will I opt to keep things in the family? Will I choose space instead? Will I be able to live with the guilt if I say “No, thank you” because really, around here we have a tendency to hand those things we’re not quite ready to let go of off to children (and daughters-in-law, my MIL did it, too) as a way of holding on less tightly.

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This needs to be the year I finish the projects I’ve started. The year I use what I have on hand. The year I trust myself and my creative abilities.

I will get there . . . I just don’t yet know how.

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