Sunday, December 20, 2009

Into the Light - a Six Sentence Submission




I lie in fresh shade from tall, golden stocks of smooth flowing wheat, its sway quickened by the afternoon breeze, and inhale the tilled pasture that beds me and spreads between my fingers and toes. Above me, a lark weaves dollops of clouds into a searing blue sky and I rest until the distance brings the ring of my mothers cry, channeling me from my demise. Oh let me rest, let me wallow in this nest, but her call is heavy and though my eyes are shut I can see she sits in disbelief, cradled over my open urn. With heavy tears that spew from her cheek into my ash, she picks a chard of bone from my remains, and places it on her tongue.  She swallows hard and cries, “I need a piece of him inside.” She will not let me rest, will not let me wallow in this nest and so, I move, ever so softly, into the light.

Green Monkey Tales © 2007 Shannon E. Kennedy
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kerry's Gift


People often ask how I face a day without my son.  I tell them that just because he isn't here, doesn't mean he's gone.  I knew, almost immediately, that his soul lives on. It wasn't enough, but it was all I had, and I was determined never to let it go.

One day, in confirmation, and in glory of this, Kerry gave me flowers.

For me, Valentine’s Day represents the start of my labor. Kerry arrived two days later, on the 16th of February.

This particular Valentine’s Day, my husband Mark and I wander into a neighboring town to catch a matinee of MILK; a powerful movie that instantly motivates me to be more, contribute more, and grow more as a person.

My intention was to watch all the 'Best Picture' nominated films prior to the upcoming Academy Awards so that my opinion would be an educated one.

Before exiting the theater I stop at the bathroom, where the typical ladies room line has formed. In front of me, a stately woman blends free flowing tears with shallow gasps of air, as she rummages through an over sized purse in pursuit of tiny shreds of tissue. Behind me a woman soothingly strokes her tortoise shell glasses, cradled at her heart.  Her gaze is heavy and glazed in sentiment.

"Great movie, so powerful," we concur.
"Makes me want to do more," adds the woman.
"I haven't done enough," says the other.
"I have to write more," I announce.

I often wonder how Kerry would critique current movies. We shared praise for many of his favorites- Rushmore, Girl Interrupted, Almost Famous, among many others. He was a huge fan of Sean Penn; we watched Falcon and the Snowman together several times.  He was opinionated about politics and a supporter of gay rights.  I am quite certain he would push MILK into the top twenty-seven of his all time favorites. 

In lieu of joining hordes of couples crammed into low-lit, high priced restaurants -we opt instead to go to our local Whole Foods market and pick something up that we can  lovingly prepare.

Mark refers to Whole Foods as “the grocery store with no food.”  I, in contrast, shop here regularly.

Tonight Mark is right, nothing looks appealing. I pick up a package of pre-cut broccoli and cauliflower and toss it into the cart. Two loops later and still nothing but vegetables.

Halfway through the frozen food isle I recognized the women that stood ahead of me in the movie theaters bathroom line.

"Great movie," we gaily reconfirm.
"I have got to do more," she adds.
"I have to write more," I tell her.

I circle back to the front of the market where vibrant hues of cascading flowers are corralled. I am drawn to a bouquet of orange tulips and swiftly scoop them up. The site of this, coupled with my bundle of green and white vegetables, looks all so Irish and I smile at the memory of Kerry's leprechaun laughter, the blush of his Irish potato skin and the shade of his Galway Bay blue eyes.

"27.72" declares the cashier.

Awh, the flowers and vegetable florets...my Valentines Day gift from Kerry!


In life Kerry was fixated on the number 27.   In death it reminds me that he is near; and to see it coupled with 72  triggers my belief that life is a self-evolving circle, a continuously enlarging sphere of interconnected and interdependent fields. Ying/Yang, Sun/Moon, Light/Dark, Heaven/Earth- seemingly opposite forces that move in a tandem of synchronized dance.

My eyes swell with satisfaction as I mindfully swipe my debit card and affirm my purchase with my personalized code and valiant signature.

I clutch my gift at the center of my heart as Mark and I enter the neighboring Chinese restaurant. Together we look over the menu before placing our usual take-out order of one "Happy Family" and one "Perfect Match."

While waiting beside a fish tank of orange coral and clown fish, in comes another couple from the movie theater. They sat four rows in front of us and the women held the spot directly behind me in the bathroom line.

"Great movie," the woman and I state in unison.
"I have to do more," adds the woman
"I have to write more," I declare.

I continue to receive subtle messages from Kerry, especially on emotionally driven days and often, I write about them.  It’s easy for some to dispute my “signs” but none of that matters to me. 

As I push my limits of consciousness, Kerry reminders me that we are more than just physical beings, we are spiritual beings with limitless potential.

Kerry’s true gift, is the knowledge that a vast level of consciousness exist, and that it can be found in a simple act or otherwise mundane moment.  When we open our eyes to our surroundings, relating and interacting to ideas, situations and people with love and kindness we are creating mindful bonding.   These connections seed and nurture our spiritual growth and help roll the self-evolving circle forward.



THE SELF-EVOLVING CIRCLE

The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own. The life of man is a self-evolving circle, which, from a ring imperceptibly small, rushes on all sides outward to new and larger circles, and that without end. The extent to which this generation of circles, wheel without wheel, will go, depends on the force or truth of the individual soul. For, it is the inert effort of each thought having formed itself into a circular wave of circumstance, as, for instance, an empire, rules of an art, a local usage, a religious rite, to heap itself on that ridge, and to solidify, and hem in the life. But if the soul is quick and strong it bursts over that boundary on all sides, and expands another orbit on the great deep, which also runs up into a high wave, with attempt again to stop and to bind. But the heart refuses to be imprisoned; in its first and narrowest pulses, it already tends outward with a vast force, and to immense and innumerable expansions.

 ~ RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Ride With My Father


We share the far left corner of the back row, tucked behind a succession of synchronized seventy-something seniors; a line of ladies with lustrously teased hair, forgiving waist bands, and festive holiday sweaters. Each takes a turn, twisting to catch a glimpse, then signals the next in line with a quick elbow jab to the gut, “Look at him go, he’s really something.”

I am to his right, just within reach; his cane is silenced in the lap of a plastic cushioned arm chair accompanied by a mound of down coats, crocheted scarves and unzipped handbags.

“Zumba!” shouts the instructor as she whips her top-knot ponytail counter clockwise, shimmies her well shaped shoulders and steps left. Her zealous performance is contagious and we do our best to keep up.

“Stretch your hands high, and move your hips, now shake, shake, shake to the right!”

Although he’s famous for having 2 left feet, his stooped Parkinson's posture, quick-step shuffle, and rocking horse tremors infuse with the sharp rhythm and strong Latin beat; he is a dancing machine.

Everything about this is new to us; the music, the movement, but mostly, the shared experience. I don’t have many memories of us doing things together, unless you count being in a car. As kids he took us skiing but I don’t remember actually skiing with him. He’d leave me at the top of a mountain and wait for me at the bottom. If I couldn’t find him I’d know to look in the bar.

“You did great Dad,” I assure him.

“I farted,” he admits.

“I thought you crapped your pants?"

“No, just farted,” he assures me.

“Good for you, way to hold back.”


This is NOT my favorite topic of conversation but discussing his bodily functions has become the norm.

I don’t expect him to master a soulful salsa or samba, but I am catching as many memories as I can. Every hardship holds a cryptic message. My father’s Parkinson’s has slowed him down just enough for us to get to know each other.

***

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Animals


My parents divorced when I was two years old, I have no memory of them being together.

When I’d ask my mother “why,” she’d tell me that he had an explosive temper, that he was loud, impatient, and uncouth; and that us kids made him nervous.

Mom liked to invite her girlfriends over to play cards during the day. They’d drink beer, saving some to set their hair; and our pet parakeet would sip the foam from their glass, and pull the bobby pins from their fermented tresses.

She told us that my fathers erratic behavior made us kids nervous; and about the time he came home early, and angry, and how he embarrassed her in front of her friends; and how my sister Colleen climbed into the attic to escape his  fury, screaming that ants were crawling all over her when there were no ants in sight.


We left Greenwich in the dead of night.  Mom packed everything she wanted, including the parakeet and us two kids, into a 1960’s Studebaker she nicknamed Betsy; and headed to Dallas, a small community in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Surrounded in rural simplicity, we settling into an old country farmhouse on a dead end street that butted up to a wooded hillside we kids called "snake mountain."  Our yard included an overgrown apple orchard and a badly weathered barn with an attached, two-car garage.

A few blocks away lived Mom's aunt and uncle, both of her brothers, their happily married wives, and an eclectic click of cousins.   Their outpouring of hospitality added immediate calmness to our disjointed lives, but despite their efforts, it was obvious our brood was not intact and I, the only one with dark hair, stood out amongst them all as a constant reminder of my father.  

“If you wrap a towel around their head you can’t tell them apart,” my mother would say when asked which one of us kids was Colleen, and which was Shannon.  “They’re only 15 months apart - practically Irish twins."

The only other one with hair my shade was Aunt Pauline and Uncle Zibe’s forever roaming mutt; a scottish-rat terrier mix that folks called by his full name, Blacky Martin.  Blacky was infamous for breaking into people’s houses and impregnating their purebreds.  Every dog in the neighborhood looked a little like Blacky.  Their blood line no longer apparent,  they ended up just like me; with sleek dark hair, and a stubborn, fiercely independent, unruly temperament.

I remember passing Blacky as I wandered down the hill to an old Purina feed store in the center of town. In the back of the store was a large barn where they stored bundles of hay.  They would stack them one on top of the other, creating mounds of soft cushion, perfect for jumping.  I would leap from one bail to the next; sometimes I'd jump so high, I was convinced I could fly. Everything about this place made me happy.

Occasionally I would steel salt licks and wads of hay, things I would need for the pony I was destine to have. I even had a name for him, it was "Chester."

After a report card of all "S's," I dialed my father, stretched the kitchen phone cord to the far end of the pantry, cupped the receiver with both hands, and begged for my faithful foal.

I don't know much, but I know I am his favorite.  I'm his "Black Irish," and my pleading is hard to resist.  His YES is no sooner celebrated, than it is squished when mother gets word of the deal; but I was determined not to let her stand in the way of my fathers devotion and so, with my minds eye in full bloom, I envision a life with my imaginary horse Chester.

In my dreams, I sneak Chester down the serpentine trails of snake mountain, and, into our barn in the dead of night. I ride him across open fields, feed him apples, and, watch his long, scratchy tongue lap at the salt licks, as I brush his sleek, dark mane.  Chester was my favorite thing in the world, next to my Dad.

All was well until I started inviting people over to see Chester.

Camille was new to the neighborhood, having moved from Connecticut; the same state my Dad lived in. Her clothes were much cooler than mine and she lived in a new, split level house. I liked her and I wanted her to like me, so I invited her over for a ride on Chester.


"Do you want to come see my pony?" I asked

"Where did he go?" she questioned.

"He must be off gallivanting," I'd tell her.

"Gallivanting" was a term my mother used often when she spoke of my father, and to me it sounded like so much fun.

"Oh well, Chester's not here right now, but here is his stall, he sleeps here- and this is his hay, and these are his salt lick. He really likes his salt lick."

Sometimes, when I missed my Dad the most, I'd sneak out of my bedroom, down the slippery staircase, and, out the back door to the barn. There, I'd snuggle beside the ever growing mounds of hay, and drift off to sleep.

***

Being “Black Irish” only got you so far.  Colleen was clearly, everyone else's favorite.  She was coined, early on as, the pretty one.  The one with the golden curles, a beautiful smile and a sunny disposition.  She was the older one, and in her own words, “she was the boss of me.” She got to stay up 30 minutes later, she was the first to ride the big yellow school bus, and the one who got everything new.  And she got Davy, she always got Davy, and I got Micky. They were the best part of the Monkee’s. The Monkee’s were bigger than Elvis and better than Lassie.  And we were just sisters, and I was little and she was big. They were the reason we raced each other down our staircase, around the pantry corner, to our still black and white TV every Monday night at 7:00.

I was convinced that, if it weren’t for her, I’d have everything I ever wanted. I’d have her side of the room. Davy’s picture would hang right next to my bed. Davey’s face would be the first thing I’d see every morning and the last thing I’d see before mother made us turn out the lights.

If it weren’t for her I’d have those cool, baby blue sheets. I’d have the bigger pillow, the better blanket; and I’d have her “Bummy,” her best friend “Bummy,” her NOT REAL Easter basket bunny rabbit; but I wouldn’t have sucked him till he turned gray. She hugged the pretty pink stuffing out of him, pulled the tickle from his tail.

Everyone knew she loved Bummy more than me.

Why does the yellow brick road have to hang on my side of the room, from my part of the ceiling? That long, dangling, double-sided sticky tape weighted in misguided flies. I can no longer lie on my bed of mismatched sheets, stretch my legs up high and point my toes or I’ll touch it; and I'll never sleep without my blanket pulled way up over my head, because I know, some day, one of those flies will come unstuck, and land right between my eyes.


***

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing
greenmonkeytales@live.com

Shannon E. Kennedy

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Photo by Joan Harrison