Monthly Archives: November 2012

Shared History

Sculpture near Columbus Circle in Manhattan

The table is placed diagonally in the dining room to accommodate all.  The china shines and the silverware glistens.  Soon, everyone will arrive.  Today, the broken bones and black eyes of youth will be forgotten.  No one will mention the jealous, spiteful, sometimes vengeful actions that, through the years, have hurt everyone so much.  The traffic tickets, reckless car crashes, histrionic behaviors are relegated to the recesses of the mind.

When the soup is served and the house is filled with the alluring aromas of what is baking, boiling and simmering in the kitchen, pleasant conversation will fill the room.  We will sit and smile and say grace on this cold but sunny Thanksgiving day.

 

 

 

 

 

Legacy of a Seaman

Winter Sky

I am the daughter of a seaman.  I see my father carrying his duffel bag out the front door in my earliest memories.  He picks me up and hugs me tight.  I giggle and hug him back.  When he puts me down and shuts the door, I am inconsolable.   My mother is left to explain that he will return soon—before my birthday, after Christmas, probably sometime in January.  My mother gives great hugs but they are not the same.  January?  January is months away.

My daughter left this afternoon to return for the last few weeks of the fall semester of her senior year.  She is a good student who received an academic scholarship and will graduate with honors.  I am proud of her and so happy that she has succeeded in this first phase of her life away from us, her parents.

After she packed the car with bottled water, clean clothes, laptop and books, she came back to say goodbye.  I kissed her and held back the tears until the car turned the corner.  I really don’t give hugs.  It makes me feel uncomfortable, awkward and besides, I think she would feel the same if I embraced her.

 

 

This is Home

More of Sandy's wath.

This was someone’s home.

On this Thanksgiving morning, 2012, I cannot stop thinking about all those left homeless in the New York/New Jersey area.  I am ambivalent about the “home for the holidays”  atmosphere this season brings.  I find my idea of home is challenged.  What is home?

This is Home

On this spinning, orbiting planet, home is anchored by gravity.  Its incessant pull makes it hard to wander too far from earth’s dense core.     This is home.  So, we all have a notion of home like we all have a heartbeat, but, unlike the singular purpose of the beating heart, home has a multitude of meanings.

Home can be a place, a structure:  cement, bricks, wood even the thin metal sheets erected haphazardly in the South African ghetto.  We go to this place for sustenance—to eat, to rest before we venture out again.  Home is comfort, a place of dreams and love and sex.  Home is acceptance and family except when it is abuse and dysfunction.

At night, in the darkness, home has no boundaries, no gravity.  We can get lost flying through galaxies into the lacy depths of a Milky Way. Then, our home is the universe.

Home.

 

Out In Front

This sycamore tree in front of our house weathered Superstorm Sandy.

I love the regal beauty of this tree.  I’m sure it keeps our house 10 degrees cooler in summer. A few of our neighbors have commented that they thought for sure our sycamore would fall in the storm.  Others have said that trees this tall shouldn’t be near power lines.  I have seen the damage caused by uprooted trees and fallen branches.  In our neighborhood, the most damage was caused by trees. We are having a tree expert come and evaluate our sycamore.  I’m hoping he will find it healthy and safe.  The tree has been on my mind since the storm and, so, I wrote a poem about it.
 

 

OUT IN FRONT

The sycamore stands contained

by the curb, living politely in front of us.

Its roots haven’t erupted pushing the slabs

to swell and crack.  No, unseen they grow.

Down deep into the earth they gather

strength from the darkness.

 

Atop this base, a trunk, vertical, reaching

skyward, supports limbs branching

to create cool, soothing summer shade.

Yes, it sheds its gray-green bark.

Oddly, this happens in Spring. It seems sick

But it isn’t dying.

 

Tall, it stands high over our three story

house. Slightly tilted up top but leaning

in different directions, balancing

its dense, rigid weight.  It is king

of this place, laughing at human fears,

outlasting the flowering adolescents

 

planted generations later in hopes of

being more manageable, short, stout

with symmetrical branches shooting

out from slender trunks that do not shed,

branches ripped from their joints by gale

winds, branches that collapse in heavy snow.

 

Not so our sycamore.  Storms prune

its branches and remove the dead leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Other Home

Image

Last weekend, my husband, Bill, and I went to our upstate home.  We left on Thursday night.  It was a dark, moonless, starless night heralding winter.  The gas shortage brought about by Hurricane Sandy was at its apex.  On Long Island, lines were over 100 cars long at the gas stations that had fuel and the electricity to pump it.  We drove about 50 miles north on the New York State Thruway and then stopped at a rest station where there was not one other car at the gas pump and filled up.  It was easy and stress free and that about sums up our experiences upstate.  When we arrive at our house, I can feel stress roll out of me.  It is almost a physical feeling. 

Our house is in between Athens and Coxsackie.  Here, we are closer to water than on Long Island but the lake our house sits above and the Hudson River nearby are nothing like the wild ocean.  Even the Hudson River with its currents that flow both ways is much tamer than stormy ocean surges.  Here, there are vistas composed of fields and farmhouses and the Catskill Mountains are blue in the background. 

We are safe here.  It is beautiful here.  We have a roomy, comfortable home and good friends here.  And yet, it is not home to us.  What is missing?  Family is not that far away.  Is it the ocean?  The pull of the tides and the lure of a life moving fast in the great New York City area are hard to give up especially for Bill and me. We grew up in the City and sometimes find even our suburban life on Long Island a little slow, a little dull.   And, of course, the ocean all around us is limitless.

Aftermath of a Superstorm

Connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island, this bridge is sometimes called New York City’s necklace.

How alluring the ocean is again.  How hard to believe it could be so cruel.  The sunlight reflects off the moving surface and glitters on the horizon as it moves in lulling motion beyond the land.

My cousin died during Sandy’s wrath.  He lived in South Beach, Staten Island, a low lying area near the mouth of New York Harbor.  My mother’s family lived in the area for almost a century.  I never heard of it flooding before, but the direct hit of this storm combined with the effects of the full moon were a recipe for rolling surges of salt water covering nearly half a mile. It pushed its way into my cousin’s basement and he went down into it to salvage what he could.  Just then, another surge rushed in filling the basement entirely and shoving its way up to the first floor.  He couldn’t get out.  He drowned.

We went to his wake, crossing over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on a sunny, windless day.  I thought I could never love an ocean view again, but that is not the case.  The beauty of it is still beauty.  Only now, I am filled with heartbreak as well as wonder.