When my alarm goes off, the sky glows with a blue hint of the morning sunrise. Turning off my alarm, I moan internally, wishing for just another hour of sleep, but I roll out of bed anyway. The morning run is part of me now. It is important to the person I am and the person I am becoming. I dress in my old blue t-shirt and exercise pants and tell myself that I must buy better running clothes soon, but not yet. I’ll wait a little until I’m thinner, and faster. By the time my teeth are brushed and I’ve had a drink of water, I’m more awake and ready to head out. Stepping out the door, I realize just how cold 40 degrees is and I’m tempted to turn around and go back in. The air is cold and still smells of last night’s rain. I convince myself that by the time I’ve gone a couple of blocks, I’ll be warm again and that when I get home there will be the triumph of completing one more run. I can do it. I am stronger than my bed and the cold weather and I’ll be back at it again tomorrow.
The Deck Swing at Grandma’s House
Visiting Grandma in the summer, my brother and I would sit on the green-cushioned swing hung from the roof of the covered deck and eat banana, cherry, and root beer popsicles while we watched the hostas grow on the north side of her house. We never sat on the two Adirondack chairs. When you are eight or six years-old, those chairs just make you bend into a “V” shape and soon you lose circulation to your feet. Right about that time is when you suddenly realize that not only are your feet numb, you are in a nearly impossible angle from which to extricate yourself. Only at that age, we just called it “being stuck”. Sometimes we didn’t sit on the swing either. We would kneel on it backwards and peer into the garage window and see what we could see in there. It was full of Grandpa’s old stuff. We never knew Grandpa, but we saw a lot of his stuff. We saw old gloves and tool boxes, fertilizer and old fishing tackle boxes, and old calendars with pictures of girls in short shorts and button shirts tied just below their chests. Interesting as it was to us, somehow we knew that place was off limits to us and we never went in there to explore on our own. The few times we followed Grandma in, it was as though we were entering a dust-laden sanctuary. We could feel old memories hanging on the floating motes in the air around us and we did not want to disrupt them. So most of the time, we contented ourselves with peering through the dirty window and wondering why Grandpa wanted girlie calendars when he had our beautiful Grandma to look at. After we finished our popsicles and were a little cooled off by the shade, we would put our sticks in the trash cans by the garage door and run back to play in Grandma’s hidden garden.
I Am From…
I am from a sandbox in a desert town
A-B-C-D-E-F-G with Big Bird.
I’m from blackberry brambles,
blackberry pie, blackberry fingers.
I’m from Grape Grandma’s flowery dress, purple, white, green.
I am from rain, rain, rain,
mudball fights and fortress doors
caterpillars in jars, ferns in the forest,
frogs, climbing trees, and pine sap on my sweater.
I’m from a bicycle with daisies on a banana seat,
from a wrinkly, winky grandma holding on behind
and letting go,
playing truck driver at the closed gas station,
I’m from doorbell ditching at Buster Brown’s mansion.
I am from salty, sulfur swimming in summer heat and winter fog.
From eating too many sunflower seeds, hulls and all,
getting sick, sick, sick, and cut wide, wide open.
I’m from teachers who spoke Spanish,
books of whangdoodles, cottages, orphans, castles,
and Mrs. Mike.
I am from Swedish fish at Bell’s Market, buying
illicit Sen-Sen to eat in the backyard before
“No Bears Come Out Tonight”.
I’m from friends who tried suicide
and survived. And the ones who didn’t.
I’m from babies, bedtime stories, family camping
never catching a fish.
I am from a solar eclipse, the Pleiades,
wishing on a shooting star.
I’m from puppies, kittens, hamsters,
funerals for old pets.
I’m from China,
tears for my children,
fear of police,
bargaining for scarves,
oranges in January,
shamrocks in February and March,
more rain, rain, rain.
I am from America,
Free to shout,
Free to argue,
Free to play,
Free to worship,
I Am Free to be Who I Am.
The wall behind my desk is scattered with photos of the rusty, red-orange desert stone formations near where I live. I love those photos. If sunrises melted into hard, tangible earth, they would streak across the landscape just like that. A red watercolor with vertical drips that puddled at the bottom and orange horizontal streaks running below the horizon; the blue of the sky so intense you feel the heat of the sand, taste the grit in the dust stirred up by your feet, and know there could not possibly be any orange or red left for another sunset. Until evening comes, when the formations are cast into blackening shadow and the sky steals back it’s color from the earth to create a fire-show streaking across the western sky. Finally all the colors fade and the world is plunged into cooling darkness until morning, when the earth steals the sunrise colors and makes them solid again.
The fallout from the news is sad, the tragedies replayed over and over. The distance makes my imagination expand fear. I look at my children and wonder, is this the world my generation will leave for them?
But as the rescuers sift through the rubble of earthquakes, tsunamis, and explosions, they find sparks of life, dim, but still glowing. Like a small flame they are cared for, nurtured, and carried to a place where they can recover and grow stronger. The rescuers too, are sparks, bringing hope in the washed-out, shaken-up world. They brace their faith and their courage to face smells, unstable rubble, and mud. They keep going, retrieving bodies, dead or alive, for loved ones who wait and wonder.
The drift from the explosions floats on the wind, and anxiety travels with it. But everywhere it lands, we again find sparks; people who say, “we can survive all this, we have done it before.” The sparks of reassurance feed the small flames of faith and hope inside of others. These small flames grow to become fires that fuel a desire to reach out and help one another. The fire of hope works as a “back-burning” tool, helping us to stand up and let our work be counted to make an effort to make a difference; if not there, at the heart of the current disaster, then here, at the heart of our communities, in the hearts of our neighbors.
A world that acts from the heart. I hope this is the world I can leave to my children. Isn’t that in the end, what really matters?
Mark 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Oompa Loompa Union Negotiating for Better Pay and a Comprehensive Health Care Program
Over the last 47 years, Oompa Loompas have become more and more competitive with one another and more and more dissatisfied with their pay and benefits packages which have always been negotiated on an individual or departmental basis. This has created a disparity of income and jealousy within the Oompa Loompa community. Traditionally, Oompa Loompas have been provided housing and clothing tailor made to their unique ethnic body types and received payment in various forms of chocolate, with the darker varieties holding a premium status among the workers. Now, while chocolate remains a valuable commodity, the workers want to receive monetary compensation and health benefits in addition to the customary confections.
The Oompa Loompas have formed a union, called the OoLoo Union, to negotiate collectively for all the workers. Wonka insists that the traditional chocolate diet is the ‘nature made’ diet that is ideal for Oompa Loompas. He says he is concerned that cash compensation for work will create further jealousy and infighting among the community. “Introducing misguided dietary ‘junk food’ such as carrots, lettuces, and cucumbers into their diets will likely cause expensive health problems never seen before among the Oompa Loompa population,” said Wonka.
Union spokeswoman, Lolly Pop, responded by saying, “Our diets should be our own business and not that of our employer. Besides, if we have a good health care plan, the workers will be able to address and manage any health concerns with their doctors.”
Wonka countered, “If the factory suddenly has to deal with sick employees, it may compromise the cleanliness and sterility of the factory itself, forcing a price increase at the same time marking a decrease in quality standards. This would be simply intolerable.”
On another note, the controversy has drawn the attention of U.S. Immigration officials who now want “clear documentation that these short, tubby people are here with the proper paperwork and visas and that they are not taking jobs that could be done by current citizens of the U.S. Otherwise, they will have to go back to the jungle they came from,” said an unidentified agent.
“If things don’t work out here, I may have to close the factory completely and move production overseas,” Wonka stated.
Market analysts are predicting an across-the-board increase in all Wonka products, causing the already premium price of the confections to rise even higher.
*Note: This blogger has no connection to the Nestle company, any Oompa Loompas, or any company or business officially or unofficially associated with Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, Mr. Slugworth, or any other individual with an interest in the Candy Factory.
This post was inspired by a dinner-table conversation with my children as to why Wonka candy seems to be more expensive than other similar candies at the store. This is a work of fiction, please don’t call the factory asking why the Oompa Loompas or Mr. Wonka are being treated in such a manner.
Yikes. There’s no net.
Beginning a new endeavor always seems to involve some adrenaline, making me wonder, who will catch me when I fall? Sure, I’ve got family who will always love me, but I can’t think of anything that has a higher try/fail ratio than being a writer. Oh well, I guess it’s good that there is no actual blood involved. Not sure that actually improves the recovery rate between a fail and getting back up again. Doesn’t matter. Here I go!
- Write something new every day (though not necessarily on this blog).
- Take lots of photos. They help me see things in new ways.
- Revise Ruthlessly!
- Hmm. I think three rules is all I can handle for now.