Musings: On Red-winged Blackbirds At River’s Edge

Each day as I walked along the Merrimack River last fall, there were a few dozen Red-winged Blackbirds singing in the top of the tree alongside the river. They trilled, they chattered, they called out a sharp “chak chak chak” sound, making certain that all knew of their presence along the river as they formed their flocks each evening, swirling about, diving head long into the marsh grasses and Phragmites like some daring stunt pilots dazzling an audience of spectators. I watched them spell-bound as they careened about along the edge of the river, flashing their red wing patch as they veered left and then right and swirled in to the marsh grasses in a flurry.

12249738_10156338064300122_7052959651026995189_nThey were a loud group, a boisterous crowd, which broke the reverie of the quiet as I walked along the river’s edge. Despite the fact that I expected each day to see and hear my raucous friends as I walked, I was startled from my own mind that often spun like the chattering flock of glossy Red-winged Blackbirds. Once brought to my senses I would stop to marvel at the racket they made and laugh at their antics swooping about in the large swath of Phragmites along the river.

Day in, day out, as I walked past their riverside haunt the red-winded blackbirds did not cease to entertain me. It was just that simple it seemed, that nature provided the stimulus to take me outside of myself long enough to look at my life from a different direction. As the flight of a flock of birds shifts and change direction, so too does life. Typically, the clarions of spring, I wondered each day why this flock of red-winged blackbirds had not made their way south yet. They were still hanging on to the river’s edge, out of season, as if they might risk wintering in the cold New England winter.

And then, one day they were gone. I walked the path I always took, I marveled in the silence as I passed by the large stand of Phragmites usually infested with Red-winged Blackbirds. I stopped and listened for their chatter and trill. I heard only silence. The cold winters of winter had finally sent them south, I thought to myself. Soon the spring would come again and those clarions of spring, the Red-winged Blackbirds, would return. I would wait, as I do in all aspects of my life, for change to come.

Letting Go or Holding On: Part Four

Letting Go and Holding On is a four-part short memoir essay, which is part of a larger creative non-fiction project that I am working on…

Part Four:

“What was it,” I asked myself, “that kept me hanging on to a faint hope that barely had a glimmer of light on the surface?” Was it the darkness in his soul that reminded me of my own darkness? He was a complex man, and I a complex woman. The danger signs had always been there. But it was never intentional. Like two schooners passing in the bay, we each tossed out a lifeline and we became entangled. Entangled and then trapped in some all-encompassing soul drama of unfulfilled emotion and passion.

It wrenched at my sensibilities with all of the weight of the dozens of boxes of books I carried with me each time I moved. There were words in those boxes of books. Words I could not express, but someone else did. There were words in those boxes. Words of love, words of wisdom, words of pain, words of self-discovery, words of social significance. Those were all the words I struggled to share and I clung to them like a lover waiting for her romance to blossom and grow as a rose grows in warm sun.

How does one find the strength to let go of something that one does not possess but holds dear? How does one stop memories that flood the mind like a tidal wave each day, rolling in and out of the heart like thunder across the plain? This existence seems barren and cold without the desired one… Yet there is no basis, is there, for the desire? Is it love or is it the illusion of love that is so attractive? Is it the man or the illusion of the man that is so attractive? These are the questions I ask myself daily and I have as yet to find an answer for them.

And still, I hold on, clinging to the vine of desire as though it were a lifeline tossed over the edge of the precipice while I dangle like a fish on a hook, waiting, waiting, waiting for he who may never return. I covet that which I cannot have and I covet that which I do not need. It is a paradox is it not. The paradox of holding on to things that one may no longer need or want. The paradox of life at any age in which you realize you have unfilled connections, desires and emotions. These are the things that haunt me.

These are the things that I pack in my boxes and haul about with me. They are not my baggage, they are my stuff and they are my dreams. These are the things I allow myself to wallow in, wishing for something more than I have. Understanding that connections made on the map of the universe, must be played out, despite the pain. From these things, I learn every day. And so, I keep them close. All the stuffs and the man. For now. Because I am learning from them. “When the learning stops, I will let them go,” I say to myself. Until then I hold on; I pack them up again in boxes again and again, hauling the weight of boxes of books and rocks and unrequited love with me wherever I go.

The EndMaybe.

Stay tuned for Nesting on the River.

Letting Go or Holding On: Part Three

Letting Go and Holding On is a four-part short memoir essay, which is part of a larger creative non-fiction project that I am working on…

Part Three:

There are times when you meet someone and you just know there is a connection that goes beyond the norm. You feel this person deeply; you connect with them not as meeting a new friend but as though you have known this person all your life. Sometimes that soul connection is just a brief stop in the trajectory of your life, sometimes they are gone within an instant and sometimes they haunt you, leaving you feeling as though whatever the business was you had with them, they left you and the work is not complete. And so it was that I felt this connection with someone I had no business feeling anything for. He was unavailable on a multitude of levels, and in my heart of hearts, I could not let go of that feeling that he would be back for me one day.

The ultimate Cinderella fantasy, waiting for the white knight to return. But this one was not a white knight by any sense of the imagery or emotion. Oh no, he was a long, lean, agile, dark knight built for speed, riding a gleaming black Harley Davidson. Yes, he was agile and self-possessed yet the self-doubt he possessed could be seen in the corner of his heart space that lay open to my empathic feelers. That and his wry, ironic wit that seemed most prevalent to the unvarnished eye that overlooked the myriad of problems he possessed. Not run of the mill problems, oh no. One could not be so lucky. He was the epitome of the wounded bird. All the more desirable to the healer in me who saw him as someone who needed to be healed, someone who needed to be loved.

I remember when we first met as neighbors, I thought “Oh, a biker. I hope he’s quiet.” The connection did not happen at first. You know how that goes. You pick up a rock on the ground and you feel the weight in your hand. It feels off, you toss it back to the ground. However, something calls you to pick that rock up again, because you saw something in that rock. You realize as you look it over again that it is shaped like a heart. You say, “I need this rock. It belongs in my collection of heart shaped rocks.” These are the hearts of stone. The ones, who slipped, rolled or tumbled out of my life, rarely quietly, most oft they would tumult out of my life like an avalanche.

The hearts of stone are all smooth operators. Fine earthly matter shaped and molded by millennia of natural geological forces. These were the eternal hearts of stone. Most often, it felt like these were the only hearts I ever attracted. And I clung to those hearts of stone, packing them all into boxes; I took those hearts of stone with me each time I moved. They carried a weight heavier than in ounces, they weighed on my heart with all of the magnitude of lost and unrequited love.

Stay tuned for Part Four


Letting Go or Holding On: Part Two

Letting Go and Holding On is a four-part short memoir essay, which is part of a larger creative non-fiction project that I am working on…

Part Two:

So there I was, unpacking all of these fancy dresses and wondering why was I still hanging on to them. Chances are at this point in my life, living in a small coastal town on the north shore of Massachusetts, I was never going to have the need to wear one again. And then there was my daughter Juliet, I could always use her as an excuse to hang on to those dresses. Yes, I thought, “She might wear them someday. She likes vintage clothing.”

The thought of paring down my closet comingles with the thought of paring down my body. I hang on stubbornly, wishing I were forty—forty-five years old again; even fifty would do, still rocking those tight little black dresses and spike heels at the blues bar on Saturday nights. Who was that woman, I ask myself now. “She feels like she was some styling soul sister,” I respond to myself, “She was not my self. No she was just a facet of me back in the day.” In truth, I had begun to separate from that self, a few years before I left Los Angeles, but part of me still hangs on to her clothes now, secretly hoping I can slip into a little black dress and head down to the local blues bar for a Saturday night of good times and good tunes. I have a hard time letting go of things. My memories of these times gone by both haunt and amuse me.

A trip down memory lane, a night out in the blues club, grooving to straight-up, white hot road musicians who regularly toured with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and others. Yes, that was I, in my other life sometime in the 1990’s on the left coast. I rocked my little black dresses and spike heels with my platinum blonde buzz cut. I fit in in there that eclectic city of angels. I was even consider more normal than eclectic there in L.A., unlike here at home where I am a bit avant-garde in my attitude and tastes.

“Look at me now I think,” my hair is long and au natural, in multi-colored streaks of gray, blonde and brown. In fact, my hair is so long that it falls a few inches below my shoulders, the longest it has ever been in my life. He liked my hair long. Somehow, I felt as though I let my hair grow with the instinctual knowledge that he would consume himself in it one day. Yes, it was that sort of connection that we had. I knew the hair would pull him in. And it did. A year and half had gone by from the last time we had seen each other and all he could say was “your hair… please don’t cut your hair.” “I won’t,” I told him.

Stay tuned for Part Three

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Letting Go or Holding On: Part One

Letting Go and Holding On is a four-part short memoir essay, which is part of a larger creative non-fiction project that I am working on…

Part One:

From time to time, I have a hard time with letting go of things. Clothes, books, and rocks top my list. My mother’s bedroom set has crossed country at least a half dozen times, it is bound together with nails and wood glue, too dear to me to let go of. There is most recently, my father’s battered and torn Persian rug that the cat peed on a few months ago, I cannot bear to part with it despite the fact that the smell lingers.  These are among the things I have a hard time letting go of, these things, and men.

Yes, these are all things that I tend to hold on to. Did I say men? Oh yes, I did. Men or at this point in time, one man in particular. I have been having a tough time letting go of the illusion of something more with this one. Maybe that is because I am still single and long for a special someone in my life, or maybe that is why I am still single at fifty-eight years old. Because, I hang on to the hope of a man I cannot have. Because, I hang on to the hope of a relationship with a man who is unavailable and not worth my misplaced desire.

These are the things I think of. Fifty-eight and single. Living alone and loving it. Well, loving it until the occasional loneliness sets in. The kind of loneliness that causes me to occasionally hold on to men, men who are not worth my time. I entrust the object of my illogical affections with a string of justifications of why they are still worthy of my reveries, despite the fact that I should have long let go. Never the less, I am drawn to what I cannot have and I am driven, still despite my age, because I am not sure age diminishes the desire for communion with another.

I just moved a few weeks ago and I hauled with me all of this stuff that I have carted about for the past seven years since I moved back east from Los Angeles. First, there were all the dresses that I packed and unpacked again, and squeezed into my closet hoping I would one day squeeze it to them again. “Good luck with that,” I thought to myself. I was almost there, they almost fit a year ago and then I quit smoking on Christmas day. Sugar had become my best friend. But that is different story.

Stay tuned



Reflections: The Bailout Plan

A few weeks ago, I posted a short essay on My Grand Mid-life Crisis Adventure, which ultimately brought me and my daughter, home to live in Massachusetts, although the destination at the time, seven years ago, had been Eastport, Maine. It was the fall of 2008, the economy had tanked and I had been planning our move to Maine weeks before Wall Street had collapsed.

It felt as though there was no choice but to follow through with our move, as my personal economic situation had worsened as did the situation of so many other families living on the edge of poverty.  We took to the road with a sense of humor and deep-down inside a sense of great trepidation. This was our bailout plan, to embark on a cross-country journey and move, that would forever be affectionately known as My Grand Mid-life Crisis Adventure.

The story continues…

The Bailout Plan

There were stacks of packing boxes lined up in a 6’ x 12’ space marked off with red tape in the center of the living floor. I put another heavy 12” cubed box of books on one of the stacks and wondered if I should not try to get rid of more of my books. I swiftly tossed that thought out of the open window of my second floor apartment into the 90-degree heat and mused I would not miss that heat. It was the fall of 2008 and we were preparing for our move from Los Angeles to the Down east area of the northern coast of Maine.

The economy had been slowly sinking for the past few years, and as predicted by many who had seen the economic disaster coming, including myself, the bottom was now falling out. The timing was perfect to move from Los Angeles, where the cost of living was quite high, to coastal Maine where the cost of living was considerably lower. At least that was my frame of thought as I prepared for the 3500-mile trek across country with my 19-year-old daughter, Juliet. Continue reading