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This was (and probably still is) one of my sister (inlaw)’s favorite songs. (I call her my sister (inlaw) as opposed to my sister-in-law because I’m no longer married to her husband’s brother, but she and I are more like sisters than he and my ex-Pat are like the actual brothers that they are. Generally, we just introduce each other as “my sister” and do the explaining later. I guess that kind of makes us like sister outlaws. And we both have some outlaw in us anyway.) Gracious, I am parenthetical today.
My sister (inlaw) and her husband are now living on the road, which is a perfect retirement lifestyle for them. As life currently stands, I don’t get on the road as often as I used to, but I am blessed with a partner who loves road trips. My first “big date” with MKL was a drive. While I didn’t know it at the time, this trip was kind of a test (though I suppose every early date is.) MKL is a car guy. He loves cars. When he is stressed, he lapses into “carspeak.” It relaxes him. I have learned a ton about cars from him. He knows his stuff and he explains it well. We do have a happy agreement that sometimes, he will go past my point of comprehension and it starts sounding like “blah blah blah” to me; at that point, he can stop talking or continue talking, but we both know I won’t be understanding anything. He gives me a warning when he knows he’s about to start going “blah blah blah.”
While he didn’t need a car girl, he was hoping to find someone who enjoyed the road, and who was enjoyable to be in a car with – hence, the test of the first big date. If I had cringed about high speeds, or whined that I wanted to get out of the car, or been a total bore, or not shared some love of music, I don’t think we’d be where we are now. But I do love the road, love to move, love to drive, love to see all kinds of things, love the sound of his voice, love our conversations, and love (most of) his musical tastes. We drove for something like seven hours that day – up to Leadville to see the reclaimed molybdenum (isn’t that the best word ever) mines (which look like beautiful rice paddies now as opposed to the alien public swimming pools they used to resemble) over to Buena Vista (now one of our favorite spots) for lunch at Casa del Sol, and then following the Arkansas River to Canon City and back up to my home north of Denver.
We are excellent travelling partners on the road of life.
My wanderlust has been in high gear this year and due to finances and work, I haven’t been able to indulge it much – our lovely trip to Anna Maria Island in February, and I think we made one trip to Cottonwood Hot Springs (but that could be my wishful thinking) before the fire there – and that’s been it. So I am super eager to get away for a few days, see new places, revisit places I haven’t been to in decades, and spend time with MKL. This will be our first road trip in my truck, which has seen me (and Kelsea) across the country and back, and has proven herself a faithful steed.
I won’t tell you where we’re going, so the pictures will be a surprise! If I have internet, I’ll try to talk to you from the road, but if I don’t, then I’ll see you when I get back!
I am blessed to work across the street from the marvelous Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. The Tattered (as we so fondly call it) has tiptoed in and out of my life in Colorado up until now.
Decades ago, ex-Pat took me to Denver early in our dating years. At that time, the hip, trendy place now known as LoDo was still a long stretch of abandoned warehouses that served rail freight companies once upon a time. There were no sidewalks, only weedy and cracked asphalt streets. He boosted me up onto one of the old concrete loading docks because I wanted to see what it felt like up there. Homeless people were sleeping in ragged heaps in the deserted doorways. It was very quiet. There was a dangerous feel to the place. The two holdovers from the area’s glory days were Union Station, Denver’s railroad depot, and the Tattered. Entering that magical bookstore was like being transported into a fantasy come to life. It felt old and full of treasures, with creaky wooden floors and cushy deep chairs. We didn’t stay, as Pat wasn’t a fan of bookstores, and I suspect we were in search of champagne, but our brief visit remained bright in my memory.
Even though Boulder is only 25 miles distant from Denver, it was not a place I went often, until I started working downtown. About six years ago, I tried taking Kelsea to the Tattered, and I couldn’t find it. It was as if it had vanished. I thought I knew where I was going. I even looked it up on Google Maps. But it completely eluded me, and I decided that it must have gone the way of all flesh – or of many independent bookstores – and closed. The updated Tattered Cover, locate on Colfax Avenue in a former record store, was a disappointing shadow of my memory.
In some secret space of my mind, I believe that it had hidden itself from me on that day, using a building-sized invisibility cloak. I didn’t need it then, and so it was not available to me.
A year later, I stumbled upon it one lovely blue Saturday when I was downtown, after I had turned my life upside-down. I wandered around inside, completely bewildered, because I knew that I had been here before, and I knew that, the last time I looked for it, it had been gone. But yet, here it was. And here I was, baffled, but delighted.
After a cruel turn of events, when my life again capsized, the ropes I tossed out pulled me to this job across the street, where most days, I have the pleasure playing with words, and I am privileged to call myself a writer. I still make the distinction between the writing job that pays, and my own writing, which doesn’t, but I am a writer regardless. A dream come true, even if it is not right now exactly how I would have dreamed it.
The Tattered has played a large role in my courtship with MKL, which really started from another of those lifelines I tossed out back when I was drowning two years ago. We work at opposite ends of the 16th Street Mall, and so we have lunch together nearly every day, which has allowed our relationship to bloom in a different way than if we were having only weekend dates full of playing and passion. We have had a chance to talk more than most couples do when they are dating, perhaps more than most couples who have been together for many years. Tattered, where they now serve soups and sandwiches, coffee and tea, has been one of our favorite destinations, and the staff all know us there, and think we’re adorable. When one of us shows up without the other, we usually have to explain.
This morning, I stopped in to see if I could find an impulse card for him. None of the cards felt right today, but I did. I had been feeling anxious, as I have been feeling for some days now, and being in the Tattered soothed me. I found books to add to my “Desiderata” list, along with a sense of peace and quiet delight.
I have gone there to shed tears and to find silence. I have felt heartbreak and joy within its comforting walls. I have listened to favorite authors, found friends, and reveled in the feel and scent of books.
If a place can be an anchor, the Tattered is one for me. Not an anchor in the sense that it keeps me from moving. An anchor in that it provides me with a sense of timeless security, of stability. It reflects my past and my future, breathes whispers of my parents and the places I was raised, and reminds me that there are always new words waiting to be discovered, some of them my own.
I stepped too close,
found myself looking into a dark hole
that held my future
which looked like nothing.
The edge of that abyss
that is called depression
When hope feels as hard to find
a shards of glass in moving water,
and light is as faint as the echo
of a match blown out,
that edge crawls with seductive whispers,
Never forget that depression lies.
A Frozen Spring
First a winter that would not cool, and now a spring that will not warm.
Snow flies thick as fruit flies on old bananas in summer,
Heavy flakes full of the icy tears of angels crying for the lush heat of heaven.
The cold crushes spirits, makes us walk with heads bowed
not in prayer, but in submission, or perhaps penitence,
as we watch our world disappear in a swirl of unforgiving white.
I am still, crumpled in despair by a garden
never to bloom or so it feels,
the only heat that of my blood as it pulses slower, slower,
through my fading body.
(Note to readers: Even though National Poetry Writing Month officially ended yesterday, I realized that I am seven poems short, so I am going to make up for the missing verses. Besides, I’m really enjoying writing poems again.)
The shadows surround each parked car,
swallowing hoods and fenders,
lurking in front of darkened headlights,
stealing away as my eye
catches their evil.
and have a Mexican stand-off
in the middle of the street,
dashing off angrily in opposite directions
when I approach.
A dog barks deeply
the sound lingering
in my backyard,
spreading out thickly through the
cool, damp, air.
I do not have a dog.
It is snowing in May.
I tremble from exhaustion,
fumble with the light switches
curl up in a soft bed
and live inside my dreams.
Across The Bar
At a certain time of afternoon,
The sun spills across the tops of the mountains
peeking out beneath a layer of cool woolen clouds,
Bathing lucky in souls in rapt light
Turning the ordinary into gold
And each of us – briefly -
I once gave you a two-headed coin
to protect you from fates that hurt you.
Now, you choose to hurt me with your words,
And I am thrown into the River Styx,
I do not want to be here,
trying to breathe.
I hope the ferryman
will accept that coin as payment.
Please ask him to take care
not hit me with his oars
as you pass by
for I have been hurt
The Fiddlehead Ferns of Fate
The passionate young man in overalls
has aged gracefully.
He tends his garden as he tends his children,
lovingly and in such a way
that each progeny,
be it flesh and blood
or root and leaf,
knows that it is treasured.
The wildness of soul is –
For now –
Expressed in a mystical empathy with beautiful beasts
and in decadent desserts.
He has danced in the pouring rain
and judged the quality of absinthe in a dim cafe
and always remembered a single promise.
A man of such heart
the cool and wonderous touch of fate
found in another’s hand to hold
as he passes through
this sun-dappled world.
he finds it
somewhere admist the ferns.
A Writer’s Spring
In a different realm,
the road to the future is paved with words.
They spiral before me on a natural path,
scrolling and spilling.
Spirits tell me
Some words will be kicked aside
and some will be embraced,
but just now,
no one knows which will
It is finally time
to take pen in hand
down the path
toward a writer’s spring.
Under A False Sky
The gondoliers drift idly by
Singing sotto voice for the tourists
As they ply their poles and their trades
Through the blue waters of the canal.
In the square, statues come to life,
If you watch with care,
And buskers play and sing for coins
With carefree abandon.
A wandering wench sells masques
To help you partake in the pleasures of the city
In safe anonymity.
And the sky changes from cerulean blue
Blending with muted gold
Drifting into midnight blue
As the square lights brighten to the darkness.
You can almost forget
where you are.