There’s so much content running through my brain as well as content already contained. I’d like to invite you, dear reader, into my world of Busted Flip Flops. We’ll explore observations of life, musings about becoming Mom, Cherry Pearl the snorting pug, weird dreams, recipes, movies, ’80’s nostalgia, picking up strays (the furry and the non), and unfeigned poetry. Watch for weekly upcoming posts as these beach reads begin to build and form like, well, a castle in the sand...
One death at a time
For I can’t bare more
And they say you are at peace
And this may be so
But watching the breath leave your body was gut wrenching
You are surrounded by rainbows
And there are more songs I cannot listen to
Lingering too long on your exit is a death sentence for presence
Fuel for suffering
All the days of your life cherished
All the days in your absence regretted
Let us grieve not in solidarity
But space in between
Just one death at a time
Splayed out like veins from wrist to hand
like neurons transmitting in the body
or spacetime in the cosmos
An elaborate (sinuous) network, arrangement
from dampened sodden earth
to root to trunk to canopy
The muted sky shines white
through the bored holes in the leaves
they dance ever so slightly
to the rythm of July
And the mangroves below intertwine
like so many fingers
in a connection
cool north wind
wisps gently around the brick corner
welcoming autumn’s first dance into the air
and on cotton-covered skin
the red swing beckons for gliding conversation
amid a back yard of years of soil tilled by hand
now a green landscape which to run and gather memories along the edge of blue grey horizon
this is how I remember the beginning of the season at their house
before their driveway goodbye waves floated solely into the chasms of my memories
Written in the midst of the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, April 2020.
This place a kind of ghost town
like the emptiness of your heart
from the isolation
and absence of embrace
chairs stacked away
and the pastry cases bare
We walked these streets when you were little
and twice while he was alive
You rode the carousel but I
never saw him ride
I like the quiet
this solace to
So I have a space to linger
where there was
But you are always better
I should have been writing them down all these years.
Starting as a parent volunteer, moving into assistant teaching, then co-lead teaching while preparing to receive my certification in Upper Elementary Montessori education in a classroom of sometimes dozens of 4th through 6th graders, I have witnessed some humorous stuff.
This one instance comes to mind first. We’re all sitting in morning circle, on the beautiful but worn Moroccan-style rug, all of us cross legged and sleepy-eyed after the long and desperately needed winter holiday break. Everyone is taking turns sharing about their vacations. One child in particular, a body-shy preteen railing against the imminent course of womanhood, starts to bawl as she tells us that her beloved guinea pig died the day after Christmas. Horrified and empathetic, we all sit in awkward silence as she wipes her pouring tears with the sleeve of her pink and black K-Pop hoodie. Seconds which seem like minutes pass. Some are looking down at the rug avoiding eye contact. Others are looking at each other like deer in headlights.
All of a sudden he breaks the silence. Our self-professed “Ginger” kid who claims to be stupid but is really intelligent, witty, and popular with everyone. He’s also the cause of at least two wrinkles on my face and some inevitable strands of grey in my hair.
Expressionless yet with a firm voice he blurts out, “One time my hamster exploded.”
The uncomfortable silence is almost immediately replaced by laugh-out-loud laughter and oh-my-goodness-are-you-for-real chit chat. Even the girl in despair is laughing now, her wet cheeks raising up into a rare smile.
Turns out the hamster survived after the explosion but later died of complications. Or something like that. I didn’t catch the entire story as I was relieved and amazed at how this one statement changed the entire classroom’s mood within seconds. It was like that scene in Steel Magnolias when Sally Field’s character M’Lynn is breaking down after her daughter’s funeral asking “Why Why Why did this have to happen?” and “I just want to hit something!” and no one seems to know what to say. Then the delicate disposition is bashed when Olympia Dukakis grabs Shirley McClain, pushes her toward M’Lynn and says, “Here, hit this!” Just like in the classroom that morning, the mood is quickly shifted from that of somber and intense, to sheer hilariousness and consolation.
Then there was the time when one of our more sheltered, extremely religious students openly told me during our small 6th grade reading group that he’d found out about the-birds-and-the-bees from YouTube. “My parents did THAT?” he exclaimed in horror. He then looked at me up and down. “You and the other teachers do THAT!” he said with raised eyebrows. I told him for the love of god please don’t picture me in that way and if you have questions go ask your parents. But, thanks for the heads up!
I was glad he found trust in me to even reveal this probable pent-up secret. When he eventually moved on to middle school in the building next door, he called out to me whenever I was near, telling me he missed upper elementary and our little virtuous environment.
I wish I could remember more of the hilarious stories and phrases that were coughed out over time. I know there are so many. But weeks, then months, now over a year has passed since I’ve been in the classroom. And like my own life memories, those are just as foggy.
I wonder if my students remember those instances (or some of the lessons we toiled through). Perhaps if not right now, then one day.
Yeah, I have a feeling they just might.
I sat under a Traveller’s palm
and taking photographs of birds
a fresh warm March morning as it were
The Red-bellied Woodpecker and Northern Mockingbird
flitted from branch to rooftop
in search of seed and worm
Was that also a Cardinal I saw?
Or was it a Summer Tanager?
Its deep red body hiding behind oak leaves
then flying away with the breeze
And the sermon of the day
crested on my shoulder
let it be and go as it may.
Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. And most of what occurred had not been planned.
It was a gorgeous Florida winter day– one of those days that feel like heaven. Not a drop of humidity, or searing sun rays, or biting cold. The gently warm sun mixed with cobalt blue skies and fresh cool breezes kept the skin wanting more and the eyes closing in pleasure. A long bike ride was the only thing I’d planned because I knew the weather was going to be heavenly and I had no work or appointments scheduled. Just me and my bike and the trail. But right before I left I had a strong instinct to message a former coworker to meet along my trail ride for a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop. He immediately responded that he was excited to meet up with me. This coworker was an integral part of my sanity during our Covid-related lay off and unemployment benefit fiasco.
I pumped the bicycle peddles hard so I could make my route before meeting my friend. There were other bikers on the path, sometimes in my way (I wanted to soar instead of putz). Even the bugs had no time to fly away from my racing speed (there were some caught in my hair, some on my sunscreen-covered lips). I breathed deep and let my frustration flow away with the breezes. As soon as I entered my favorite park, with its many windy trails underneath the hammocks of oaks and cypress, I felt the emanating presence of god. I have never been a religious person. But I let god, as I’ve come to know this feeling of love and light and peace and gratitude, wash over me and flow outward.
I couldn’t stop looking at the tops of the trees, or inhaling the scent of orange-blossom. I even turned my headphone volume lower to hear the birds singing and chirping in the late morning.
My meet-up went well. It was so nice to see my friend after so many weeks. We sat under a pagoda, sipping our coffee concoctions and swapping stories of our latest accomplishments, work drama (his, not mine), and relished that we were both free from our old job that although had its many teachable and fun moments, a sheer relief to be unbridled by the stress and consumption of it all.
On the ride back I went through the park again, and stopped at the butterfly garden. There were yellow and orange butterflies flitting about, big bumblebees visiting each blossom that hadn’t been there just two weeks ago.
When I arrived back to my neighborhood I stopped at a neighbor’s house, as my son was doing some light yard work there as a side job. We talked about school and friends and the future week’s plans as he gathered pine needles and dusty mulch and I draped my arms over the chest-high fence. We made a date to run errands later and get dinner out.
Teenagers can be a moody, emotional mess at times. And you might not know which you’re gonna get. Today he was in a wonderfully light and playful mood, devoid of the usual school stress and pulsating exhaustion. He drove us to Home Depot, where I’d planned on purchasing a screen for our back slider, so I can let the breezes in without the critters and insects. He rolled the large platform cart along the aisles and I playfully asked if I could ride it as he pushed. I felt playful, too. We finally found the particular screen door (it was the last one left) and he questioned why we needed a cart so large for this light door and that he could just carry it, no problem. I was grateful he was there with me as these types of errands always seem to stress me.
We had dinner out together in between our errands. The conversation never lulled, there was no iPhone in sight, and he opened up to me without prodding or hesitation. We sat there fully present, chatting and laughing and eating like so many parents of teenagers don’t always get to do. Fully present. That’s what I’ll tell him to do next time there is a lull in conversation with his girlfriend. Sometimes you don’t have much to say. And that’s ok. Just being present is what is needed. In that moment, at that table, there were no distractions. I felt heard and appreciated and not an embarrassment as us moms can sometimes be to our teenagers. Just living and breathing we are dorks.
Our last errand before home was yet another home-improvement store, this time to buy an anti-squirrel bird feeder and seed, so I can invite more birdsong onto my lanai and into my life. Once again it was playful and helpful and not at all the chore I thought it would be.
When we arrived home he brought in the screen and promised to help me install it tomorrow. I don’t know how I’ll cope when he one day flies the nest. It’s too daunting to imagine. How pointless. We have today, whether planned or spontaneous.
For an hour tucked under the warm bedding of before get-out-of-bed time there is so much to learn. Knowledge awaits. While the daily distraction of a smartphone can hinder quietness and interpersonal relationships, it provides a multitude and myriad of sources to ingest information. There it is, on my bedside table, fully charged.
As I scroll down the morning newsfeed, one I realize has been personally created for me by an AI somewhere above the hills of California, I am invited to delve into non-fiction sci-fi, tech gift ideas, political upheaval/ridiculousness, recipes to promote healthy aging, sports articles I wish I cared about but don’t. There is so much information at my indexes available 24/7. I don’t always start my day perusing said chosen articles but on days when I don’t have to rush the morning routine, I browse as the sunlight slowly brightens through the blinds.
The first article to grab my attention is one about all the monoliths appearing around the world. Why haven’t I heard about this? I’m intrigued to find out how the monoliths got to these remote areas, what materials they’re made of, and the conspiracies surrounding them all. Turns out it may be a prank by a calculated performance artist. Or aliens.
I skip all the political articles for now because I really just need some fluff to enter my brain before coffee. So I check out the one about last night’s supposed spot-on performances by some SNL cast members impersonating the political ridiculousness. It’s amusing and relevant and I appreciate the talent. I then scroll on to digest some rather thought-provoking content.
A few weeks ago a song entered my brain, one I hadn’t listened to in probably decades. So I downloaded The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” into my iTunes library. I listened to that CD with my brother during various car rides and in our friend’s garage band he-shed. This morning I stumble onto an article about that very album. The band’s inspiration was part Richard Pryor and part self-reflection. Goofiness and funky beats amid the time of evolving hard-core rap. This read filled me with unexpected appreciation and some inspiring tips to relay to my son, who is deeply interested in making a living in the arts.
I give myself an hour, because I need a time limit. There are other activities and chores to do. Plus, coffee. I click off my screen and walk to the kitchen with a little more information in my brain. In olden times/when lip liner was in, I would have to purchase multiple magazines and newspapers to gather all that info (there is something about physically turning the pages and smelling the printed pulp though, right?).
So I find the fitting and the fluff, all within minutes, a hand’s reach, and before the drip and hiss of the coffee maker beckons. My brain is satiated for now.
In a dream I saw them
as clear as light
All the flowers of my childhood
The greens and golds
I walked past at midnight
Wispy dandelion seeds swept along cedar
by youthful breath
with knots in their stems
Distinct as the flowers of my adulthood
White and exotic and some
Others only peeking long after
sun gone to slumber
Reds and yellows and umber
Some I cannot name
yet some the same
As those in the garden of
My eyes wanted to see it. Needed to see it.
The safer-at-home order has its ups and downs. However because I long to spend more time in my home and away from noise and crowds, it has not been a real stretch for me. That said, being confined to a space for many weeks, no matter how comfy, lends itself to the brain desiring a slightly altering experience, even if just a few miles from home. And exercising cautiously outdoors is good for the soul.
The sponge docks are a little mini-European getaway. Founded by John Cocoris and his hired Greek sponge divers and their families in the late 1880’s, this little corner of west Florida is the sponge capital of the world. Sponges of all kinds, plucked from the gulf waters, specialty shops, Greek restaurants, and a rescue aquarium are some of what the five senses experience. I spent countless, beautiful moments with friends and family here over the past two decades. It remains one of my favorite local places, as well as in the world.
I made my trek by bicycle on a morning I knew there’d be few people out. The spring air void of humidity and the blue skies with an occasional wispy, puff cloud an extra enticement for the journey. There were a few times during off-season when the docks were quiet and fairly empty. But I had to see them now, had to experience this usually bustling town breathing in its silence.
And I had to take a lot of photographs.
The only open bakery, which is usually teeming with people.
Besides me, this lady was the sole patron.
I trekked back home with two Tsoureki loaves. Buy one, get one free.