In the Beginning

rocker200…I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there.

I wasn’t at my birth either, though I’ve heard the story and it’s quite humorous.

No, the consciousness that is me, wasn’t actually around until about the time of this picture. And yes, that IS me—I’ve always had those dark-ass gypsy eyes and fake smile.

Life, for me, began on a very specific night. I don’t remember much of anything that came before—only faded recollections of memories too far gone and long forgotten to be anything remotely clear. My existence before that night consists of running watercolor canvases filled with the blur of three dogs, the bars of my sister’s crib, and monster-sized blue bottle flies on a window sill. I vaguely recall the smell of a house whose interior I can’t picture, and the surroundings of a glass-topped fishing lure case I apparently danced on with my black patent-leather shoes. And I remember once remembering the chimes of a cuckoo-clock, which mom said was at a babysitter’s, but I don’t remember the sitter or her house, and only “just” recalled that she had a son I later went to school with.

No, me and the memories that make up me started one dark (though not stormy) night.

We had just moved into a new apartment. I don’t remember where we came from, or the act of moving in, I just remember that night, that place.

The apartment had those old ginormous cast-iron radiators. I was standing next to one taller than me, holding the teddy bear my grandfather gave me—which I still have, upstairs, on the dresser. I stared out the window at the moon. It was huge. Bigger than me, my family, our new apartment. Bigger than life as I knew it. Around me were smells I still remember clearly—and almost fainted at when I moved into a new apartment after my divorce and was hit with similar smells thirty years later. The apartment of my beginning had lots of woodwork. Old varnish, new polish, life absorbed by the grains and held tight in the knots—it had a smell.

And a sound. But the sound wasn’t the wood. It was my grandfather, on his hands and knees, pounding the nails down in each and every floorboard to make sure they were flush and wouldn’t hurt our tender little feet. Our. Because even though I don’t remember her that night, I know my sister was there. Probably sleeping in her crib.

That was the night my life started. With the sounds and smells of my mother making coffee in the kitchen wafting through the apartment and mingling with the smell of  wood and sound of grandpa hammering. And the moon. My moon. The gypsy’s moon that hangs in that sky every night and calls to me with its secrets and wise silence. The moon I’ve gone back to time and again.

I remember so many things, from big events to tiny details, from that day forward. That’s where I fell in the mud as a ghost for Halloween. That’s where I cracked my head open on the sidewalk thanks to Billy and Kong. That’s where the lilac tree lived across the street, Trina had a better tan, a mime lived downstairs, the Cottons across the yard, kindergarten started eventually, and grandma lived across the alley—where she made lovely green ice cream drinks for the adults but wouldn’t let the kids have any. It was where grandma made me sit on the Sears catalog because I was short, and then ran me to Sears for portraits when I fell down the stairs and got two black eyes, because that’s how we roll in my family. I remember a ton. Mostly good. Very little bad. My mom’s 8-tracks (sorry for shredding those), and an album with a fairy tale on the cover or a wolf or something that my mind turned into a fairy tale. I remember the claw-foot tub and being afraid to flush at night because I was convinced the monster that belonged to those feet would come up and eat me. I remember “the vice” (sorry Jen), and the awesome-tube, and hiding behind the couch when the wicked witch appeared on Wizard of Oz. Lasagna and mom’s friends. Climbing in the bathroom window because mom liked to forget her keys. Laying in bed listening to the sounds outside, and the voices inside. I remember…

But nothing concrete before it. Nothing solid before that moon and the sound of grandpa making my world safe.

Sometimes, feeling safe is more important that we realize. It can become the beginning as we know it. Sometimes, we take advantage of or get comfortable with the fact that we’re safe. And only realize it when we reach an end. Sometimes, the moon needs to wink and remind us to appreciate it, or seek it out, or spread it to others. Because even when the clouds cover the moon and the comfort of a teddy bear is outgrown, safety is still there, still whispered, in the quiet presence of memory, and everyone should have a beginning.

Good Night, Moon

“I like to think the moon is there…
even if I am not looking at it.”
~ Einstein

I had a talk with God the other day.

It didn’t go well.

Probably because we broke up years ago and I spent the entire conversation reminding him of my disbelief every seven words. It was a disaster. The nuns back in Catholic school would have crossed themselves, prayed for my soul and then giggled behind my back at the pathetic irony of it. I knew it wouldn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t help. I knew it wasn’t the right entity to chat with…

Tonight, I remembered the rules. Remembered what makes an old gypsy tick.

Leaving four sleeping kids and a snoring Hippie all tucked away in their beds, I sneaked downstairs, grabbed my smokes and a hoodie, and stepped outside. I knew there wouldn’t be natural water nearby (the pool didn’t count). I knew it would be too dark to pick at the gravel on the side of the road and pretend they were real rocks.

But I knew the moon would be there.

It had been shining through the slats in the blinds upstairs, whispering to my insomnia like a secret lover. Reminding me what its embrace was like, how well it listened, how easily it soaked up tears. And I answered its call.

I’ve been all over the grid lately. Circuit overload, if you will. Pick an emotion… I’ve had it. They’ve all been competing for time and space and privacy with my chi. I’m out of balance. I hate being out of balance. I am the great multi-tasker, damn it. I can do it all. Because I’ve always told myself I can. My mother could, therefore I can—heroes are worthless if you don’t try to emulate them, right? But I’ve been off. My chi is all out of shape and my brain is being pulled a million different directions. I couldn’t talk it out because I couldn’t untwist it enough to even understand what needed to be said. I know I have three story lines fighting for pecking order and a petulant muse that will not be ignored. I have friends that need me. Things that are bothering me—some I can control, most I cannot. Totem poles of life and love and longing being chiseled and redesigned on a regular basis. Overload. And I unleashed it all in a rambling mess, paying no heed to the connections that may or may not exist between points—real or imagined.

The moon and I had the talk that was never intended for God’s ears. It listened quietly, never wavering, never blinking. It didn’t interrupt. It never laid blame or got defensive. It didn’t judge. It just was.

And it helped. It calmed the woman and bandaged the twelve-year-old. Because the gypsy knew it could. It would. Because it’s always been there, even when I’m not looking. It’s tangible (sorry God, Catholic school was fun but the science geek wins this time) and it’s the same moon that the first gypsy in my bloodline talked to on a calm night, long ago, filled with crickets and night birds… and overload. It’s the ultimate keeper of secrets. The shoulder that never gets tired of being cried on. A shining beacon of light when it seems dark. And the healer of broken gypsies. When there is no water for your toes, or rocks for your fingers to pick through, the moon will be there. Always.

It’s well past midnight now. It’s Thursday and I’m supposed to have written some pithy question to throw out at all of you for the weekly Garage Talk post. Instead, I will say thank you to something beautiful, just for existing (for the second time this week), go crawl back into bed and fall asleep to the sound of my best friend’s heartbeat, while the moon sings her lullaby through the slats. And in the morning, I’ll post this…

Originally I had “sans question” as the end of that last sentence. But on the coattails of a good night’s sleep, how about we toss this instead: When you’re out of whack, where do YOU go to fix your chi? What do you turn to? Is there a place or a thing that you can unload onto or just be at that will help it all untangle? Not a person—that’s cheating. Pick an inanimate band-aid and tell me why it helps. Why it heals.

Blogging at Midnight

Well, it’s actually after 1 a.m. as I write this, but midnight has a nice ring to it, so allow me my little white lie.

At midnight, the world sleeps—okay not everyone, obviously, but for the most part that statement is true. The streets are rolled up, the shops are closed, the houses are dark, and the children are tucked into bed. There’s nothing good on television unless you luck out and find a decent movie. Books are iffy because your mind wanders and you re-read paragraphs, or have to start over the next day when you realize you don’t remember what you read. It’s quiet. Too quiet. I much prefer when the world is awake. Awake comes with all those lovely little noises that we tune out: traffic and doors slamming and teens playing their music and pre-teens threatening the teens. Even the sun makes noise I think.

The moon is mute.

Saturday’s perigee moon was amazing. The first full moon of the new year—the year of promises and dreams, the year that everyone hopes will be better than the last—and the moon seemed larger than the sky and was surrounded by the strangest halo I’ve ever seen.  Tonight’s moon is almost as big, has an autumn-like orange tint, and while it feels like it had something to say, it’s silent. More silent than it’s been in a long time. And lonely.

Artists and writers have been honing in on that fact for eons. The silence of the moon, nighttime on a whole, and the various ways it hits your introspective mind.  To some it’s peaceful, to others it’s scary. Some see the stars and possibilities they promise, others see the empty expanse of space and feel small and insignificant. I remember many a night when the moon held some mystic quality for me.  A low, seemingly larger moon. A halo moon. A red, autumn moon. Hell, I vividly remember attempting to get quality pictures of the moon as a teenager with my shiny new [used, but new to me] 35mm camera full of manual controls. None of the pictures turned out, but I tried nonetheless.

In the summer, moon or not, I would enjoy the sounds of night birds and crickets and frogs and even the noisy worms that roamed the garden area of the old house. But it’s winter—there are no nocturnal sounds of nature, unless you count the crackling of ice or the uncomfortable shifting of the bare limbs on the trees. And it’s a strange house, so the odd creaking here and groan there are slightly unsettling, though I’m starting to get used to them.  It’s too cold to go sit outside on the porch, so I stand by the window and look out. But just as there’s nothing to hear, there’s nothing to see out there… except that moon. That dreadfully solitaire orb of the ages. It doesn’t hurt your eyes to look at it, like its sister celestial body, but it can hurt the soul if you stare too long.

Maybe I’m just in the wrong mood. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s winter and I hate the cold and we have another five months of it. I don’t know. But I think I’ll close the curtains now, flip through the channels again and see if I can find some Jimmy Stewart. Or crawl into bed and wait for the sandman to club me over the head. Either way, I think I’ve had enough of this particular night sky and overly quiet lunar silence. Good night, Moon. Wake me up when it’s Spring.

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