Monday, December 4, 2017

A Holiday Miracle Comes Full Circle


Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


When you are self-employed, amassing tax deductions is as important as taking out the garbage. So, there I was on December 6th with a car load of donations, the last drop offs of the year. Yeah. Habitat for Humanity was to benefit from a water heater and grotesquely golden-yellow toilet pulled from my sister’s new home, as well as an aging stereo and slide scanner that had surpassed my technological capacities for repair - a gesture that sounds rather like “ker thump.” Goodwill was to receive yet another bag of waist-too-large clothing.  I had my personal trainer, Leon, to thank for that. 


I first paid my respects to Habitat for Humanity.

That accomplished, I began to fidget, repeatedly, with the turquoise turtle-neck sleeve that covered my turquoise-banded watch.  It had snowed two days earlier and I had been forced to take the long way into town; a cross-wise car blocked my closest access route to the highway. That hill should never be attempted in bad weather with a two-wheel-drive vehicle.  All the locals know that.  I had things to do. Year-end deadlines for various environmental consultancies. Holiday cookies to bake. Goats to tend before dark.

Drats. The loading dock was already occupied by soccer-moms, as well as a soccer-dad (impressive), busily tossing engorged black garbage bags of out-grown toys and clothing at blue-vested volunteers.  I’d have to park across the lot and walk 100 feet or so.  I did.

“Would you like a receipt?” one cheerful worker chimed to the soccer-types. “No,” they chorused in unison, barely taking the time to inhale and exhale the reply amidst tales of their children’s recent accomplishments. Oh yes, and the gossip about the not-so-accomplished things other people’s kids were doing.  I sneered. Either they don’t have to work or they had real jobs. 

“Would you like a receipt?” she turned towards me. “Yes, please,” I muttered.  I filled it out. “The white copy is yours.”  I knew the routine.

Back to the car, I thought.  Things to do.  I’m behind schedule. (Whose I’m not sure).
“Go inside. Look around.”  Clear, concise, and pushy. The voiced caused me pause.  I knew that voice well and knew that it had served me well, repeatedly, throughout my life - in big ways and small.

“Go inside. Look around.”  I stood on the asphalt, a yard or so from the car door, keys ready, yet looking at the store entrance. “Open,” it read.

“Go inside and look around.” Then the inner-arguments began.  I didn’t want to go inside. I didn’t need any more “stuff” of any sort in my tiny, under-renovation cabin. I had things to do. I slid the turquoise sleeve elbow-ward again.

“But,” said another part of me, “remember the lottery ticket.”  The lottery ticket?  Yes. I remembered the lottery ticket.  Earlier in the year the same voice had haunted me in a 7-Eleven.

My dream house had been without water for nearly two weeks and the dirty clothes had taken on a life of their own. I drove into town, picked a laundromat, hogged more than my fair share of machines, and wandered across the street to 7-Eleven for some green tea.  As soon as I entered the store, the voice began nagging, “Buy a lottery ticket. The tiki one.” I had never before bought a lottery ticket and wasn’t inclined to do so. What a waste of money.

But there I was, standing in front of the lottery ticket machine. Huh, there is one with a tiki on it, I noted. I bought it (two bucks), scratched it, and figured I didn’t know a damn thing about playing the lottery because by my calculations I had won $100.  I took it up to the woman behind the counter and handed it over without a word. I figured she’d either tell me how much it was worth or ask if I wanted her to throw it out. To my great surprise, she offered her congratulations and placed five twenties in my hand.

Yes. I remembered the lottery ticket.

“Go inside. Look around.”  Oh, fine.

I climbed the steps, entered the door, and walked past the cashiers while at least two parts of me still bickered. OK. Now what?  My attention was drawn to the back of the store - housewares.

I made my way past rack after rack of suits, dresses, and tops. Then bins of infant clothes, scarves, teddy bears, and baseball caps.  Housewares. I walked down one aisle - jars, glasses, mugs, vases, the occasional basket and plate. Around the corner and back again, down the other side.  Christmas-motif jars, glasses, mugs, and the occasional…

I could walk no further. I had been halted against my own volition. A chill streamed into my body and neck-hairs raised as best they could within the confines of a turtle-neck collar. Disoriented, fuzzy-visioned eyes fell, gazing onto the second shelf from the bottom. I forgot to breathe.

There lay a wreath, a Christmas wreath, which I knew personally. My lungs remembered the importance of breathing and forced a gasp.

I reached to take it into my hands. Could I? Was it real?

It was. I felt the straw-interior base, the fiber-fill stuffing, the swatches of multi-colored print fabric, the long red bow.  I rubbed my fingers over the hook, crocheted out of red synthetic yarn.

Some of the patches, mostly the blue ones, were sun-faded.  It had been well-used. That was a good thing.

I turned it over. No price tag. No matter.

I looped my left arm through it, held it tight, and bee-lined for the register. I was going to make sure to get it and get out fast. No one else was going to end up with this wreath this holiday season.

I handed it to the sales lady. She worked there often. I always enjoyed her cheery air, bright eyes, and warm, rounded face. I had yet to figure out her hair, however. It didn’t move. Hair spray?

She flipped the wreath over. “No price tag,” I remarked.

“Two dollars and thirty-five cents,” she concluded.

I was gonna burst.

“Do you want to know the story of that wreath?” I begged, smiling beyond my usual capacity to do so.

“Sure. Of course I do,” she obliged with a glint and a grin, just as I knew she would.

The lady who had been in front of me in line was heading toward the door. The mid-length coat she wore was smartly-shaped. Two other patrons with much laden arms cued at my flank. I was sure they weren’t amused by my efforts to garner conversation.

“My mother made that wreath,” I blurted. “She’s been dead for nearly thirteen years.”

The exist-bound lady halted and turned. 

The sales woman shouted to her. “Did you hear that?!”

“My mother made that wreath. She’s been dead for nearly thirteen years,” I repeated, as much for the benefit of my cranial analysis as anyone else’s.

“Oh my golly. Oh my golly. How wonderful!” bounced the cashier.

“I know each of these patches of fabric,” I added. “There’s Christmas stockings, that’s Easter bonnets…”

The two behind me stared. I could see them from the corner of my eye. Were they in awe, entranced? Or, did they have things to do and greatly wish me gone?

“I feel like I shouldn’t charge you for it - just give it to you!” The lady at the register declared, nodding rapidly, not a hair straying.

“No,” I said. “Please take the money.” 

I can’t remember how I got out of the store.

But then I was heading down the steps and into the parking lot.  The tailored-coat lady kept repeating, “That’s so wonderful. That’s so wonderful,” as she made her way to her car.

“Something told me to go inside and look around,” I said.  “I didn’t want to, but something clearly told me to.”

“Something?” She looked directly at me, her voice begging - no demanding - the correct answer.  “That Something was the Lord. The Lord told you to go in there and find it!”  Her voice was deep, bold, and inspired, yet melodic. I pictured her as the leader of a rightfully-proud Gospel choir.

“You’re right,” I replied. The Great Spirit by any name, book, or declaration was fine with me on such an occasion.

I gave the passenger seat over to the wreath while driving the long way home.  Occasionally I reached over and stroked it, letting the edges of the wide ribbon guide my fingers around the loops and tails.  In my mind’s eye, I saw her at her old Singer sewing machine. The stitches were flawless.  Anything craft-wise she could do.

It had to be at least fifteen years old.  At least.  Cancer had stolen her energy away from such things, especially in the last years of the struggle. Especially after the failed bone-marrow transplant.

I had placed an amaryllis bulb in a red, tin pot in my southern-most window. It was going to serve as my single holiday decoration, whether or not it ever flowered. There were so many chores on the to-do list and I was braving the winter by living within a short distance of a wood burning stove, my only heat source in way-too-drafty abode. 

A Christmas tree just wasn’t going to happen.

I hung the wreath over the right-hand end post of my four-poster bed.  I touched it again, and looked at the crocheted hook. It really was real.

Two holiday decorations.

I sat at my desk, planning to get back to the work deadlines.  Instead, I stared at the wreath, feeling her presence ever more strongly with every memory that flooded back to me.  I soaked in it.  I had all the time in the world.

It occurred to me that I had been thinking about Mom quite a bit lately.
And that’s when I fully realized it.

In just a few days, my eyes would open to the soft December morning light. The first thing they would see, hanging at the end of my bed, would be that multi-colored, partially faded, patchwork wreath.  It would be my fortieth birthday.

I called my little sister.  “Guess what. I got my birthday present from Mom a bit early.”

After a brief silence, she replied, somewhat nervously, “What? What are you talking about?”

I told her the story.

“I’m gonna cry,” she concluded.

Thanks Mom. I love it.

I love you.


(c) 2007-2017/ Jamie K. Reaser
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The Long Nights Moon
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

Tell me one more time, what is it that
makes you restless? The long nights moon
has arrived and darkness settled in for awhile.
This is the season for dreaming.

It used to be that I could count stars with
my eyes solidly shut. I knew the pitched sky
from the inside out. Night was peace.
Night was solitude.

Things changed. I lost sight of tranquility.
This truth-challenged world took possession
of the awake, of my awakened heart.

Tell me one more time, what is it that
makes you restless? The long nights moon
has arrived and darkness settled in for awhile.
This is the season of longing.

I find myself in constant motion, trying to get
to some place that is safe for all of us. Some place
that I can invite you to. Some place that my
heart can rest.

I still believe in dreams. I still believe that we can
turn possibilities into something. I still believe
that there is a place that we can be together.
Awake or asleep, safe.

Tell me one more time, what is it that
makes you restless? The long nights moon
has arrived and darkness settled in for awhile.
This is the season for dreamers.

This is the season for dreamers.



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Bittersweet
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

The bittersweet vines hung there, in the trees,
by the dusk-cast river, orange berries bursting
from papered-sheaths.

I understood bittersweet.

You?

~
Sometimes we walk in circular paths that
make what is new seem so familiar,
sometimes, because it is.

This is our challenge: to distinguish reality
from mystery while never choosing
reality over the other.

You know what it is like when something
that lived a certain destiny becomes something
else entirely because it was loved in
a certain way.

That’s the nature of all things. Or, it could be.

~
When the sun set, I knew that it was still there,
on the trees, but I walked away anyway.

Bittersweet remains.

There is a dear, dear sweetness in that.



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Plant Songs" (a work in progress)

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Faith
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


I wondered if the katydid sitting atop the zinnia
knew that this will be its last day. Autumn cares
something about beauty, but she’s not one to
get attached to things, never to moments.

My garden is telling stories about what has been.
If you listen closely, you’ll notice that they are
stories about faith. That’s what seed planting
is: a practice of faith. That’s different than a
practice of promise, mind you. Pay attention
to that.

What will the waxwings do for full bellies
this winter? They are at the frost-softened
persimmons and those wild grapes high in the
red maple much earlier than usual. Is it
wisdom or foolishness that has them there?

Ah. Now that’s a question, isn’t it?



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Winterberry




















(c) Jamie K. Reaser

Her generosity sets in just as the sun becomes limited
in his givings. “Beauty can persist through seasons
of scarcity,” she says. I’ve been learning to listen to
this voice, learning to see what is ever-present.
Memories can be explored in this way. Sometimes,
that changes things.



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Plant Songs" (a work in progress)

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Moon Poem
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I’m waiting for the moon, impatiently. She 
was swallowed by a cloud dragon who has
not yet given her back to the night sky. I want
to say that this is unfair, especially when she
is full, in her splendor, something that I want
to see so that the world feels right again.

Have you ever waited for things? Precious
things? In that longing is everything that
could save us all.



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Mourning
















Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser


All of our griefs come to us on the last day of something:

An unmet wish,
That which we thought was safe and true,
Someone we had permission to touch.

Now is not the time to close your eyes, but to see
your way into the darkness of mourning.

Here is where we are witnessed by sorrows too abundant 
to dismiss. Here is where we realize that we don’t want 
the broken repaired and the wounds healed. Here is where 
we are initiated into true humanity.

I want you to go below the waters and stand knee deep in 
the ash, and listen to the sound of breath withheld. I want 
your heart to pine for what had been there until it can stop 
living the dream of entitlement.

Do with your knees what they were built to do: to support
you upon the ravaged earth in that moment that you realize 
that grief is a fearsome creature who knows you by name. 
Surrender. Until you do, the gods will not reveal what it is 
that you must stand up for.

Yes, I know that you want me to tell you about beauty, but I’m 
not going to, other than to say that it will be there. It will greet 
you. And, it is possible to accept its invitation too soon.



© 2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)
To be published by Talking Waters Press

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