Melancholy-Like An Old, Empty House

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So, this is what it feels like

          -melancholy.

Like an old, empty house

sitting atop a hill

on a hot summer day.

Inside, it is dead, silent, still.

Like a fever, the heat permeates the walls,

the film covered windows

the narrow stairwell-

meant for the unseen,

like sadness

hiding under smiles.

*

Melancholy, like an old, empty house

where the sun emanates a jaundiced glow

and the dust and ghosts

and memories

sit at the table awaiting tea

to be poured into cups

stained with past regrets.

*

But the time to drink is over

and the thirst that remains

is eternal.

 

Lake and Ocean

Morning

This lake, she is so pretty.

I paddle out to her center

and rest

knowing that she is deep,

born of the glaciers,

springing forth from a time when all was ice.

*

But, with this dear lake, there is nothing to fear.

The years have warmed her

and made her gentle,

yielding

small.

*

She is quite small, a fact I didn’t realize

until I found my way to her heart.

I look around and there is nowhere to go

(I thought there would be places to go

but no

not really).

*

I can paddle out straight in front of me

to the old amusement park.

Or I can veer left and visit Elsa

the charming elderly lady who lives in that cottage with her jaunty puppy.

Or I can head right

into the cove

which is lined with the homes of soft-bellied financial analysts

whose dreams reside in the past

when they were once stars

on athletic teams

from high schools

in towns

with lakes quite similar to this one.

*

Or I can dream of the ocean

whose waves rant and taunt and beckon

and where all I can see

is the horizon.

Complacency

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It is impossible to be unhappy on this beautiful day.

The sky is clear and blue

only blue-the perfect compliment to the newly sprung leaves of verdant green

under whose canopy I sit and appreciate

the gentle breeze and glorious sun

whose rays sneak through this lush umbrella

to kiss my skin

-softly, gently.

*

It is impossible to be unhappy.

Is it not?

*

But the breeze-it lulls me to sleep

a dull dreamless sleep

which I do not wish to enter.

*

I long for a sharp and bitter wind

to jolt me awake.

*

My eyelids are heavy.

My limbs carry the invisible weight of complacency.

*

But it is just so pretty

and comfortable

sitting here.

Just sitting.

It is impossible to be unhappy.

 

A Simple Decision


It was between navy and silver violet. She had to decide which before she could proceed. Anne had no aptitude for design, but Christopher left it up to her. The only thing he requested was that she not replicate her mother’s home.

Anne wished her mother, Lucy, were there to help. She had an eye for decorating. Anne remembered when her parents moved to the house on Highland Street, how her mother chose fabrics and patterns with such confidence. Lucy liked traditional design. Anne knew she would disapprove of the silver violet. It would be so different from the hunter green and mahogany colors her mother selected for her own family room.

Different was what Christopher wanted though, and Anne wanted to please him.

But, did Anne like silver violet? She didn’t know. Sometimes Anne didn’t know her own mind.

Damn it. Anne always needed help making decisions. Growing up her mother was forever telling her to change her clothes, change her friends. She was usually right, although Anne still didn’t understand why her mother would sometimes slap her for her missteps. Anne could never hit Lily.

For Christ’s sake, she was forty-three years old. Why was it so difficult to make a decision for herself? Her seven-year-old daughter could say what color she preferred. Lily would prefer silver violet. She would be upset if Anne chose the navy.

Decision made. Silver violet.

 

Existence

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Like mist over a lake that lifts and dissipates

into the air, so I disappear.

Like spring snow that, once it has landed, melts

into the earth, so I disappear.

Mist, snow, myself- things that last for a moment and then are lost,

perhaps never having existed at all.

These things that skim the surface of this world and then fade into the dark and endless sea of nothingness

or eternity

require proof, a stake to claim that they were,

or that they are.

Sometimes a simple photograph suffices.

As for my shadow self, I need words,

words on a page to prove that I am here

somewhere in this vast place

over which I hover, longing for an anchor

to hold me steady.

 

Today

Today the light shone-the sun beaming through a clear, blue November sky.

As I walked I thought of Mary Oliver and her words:

Do you need a prod?

Do you need a little darkness to get you going?

Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,

and remind you of Keats,

so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,

he had a lifetime.

* From Oliver’s “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” which is published in her collection Blue Horses, The Penguin Press, New York, 2014

But today I don’t need the darkness.

It has done its job.

It has been my constant companion and I am grateful, for darkness has helped me to see this

this beautiful day.

And all I can think is,  “Live.

Live.

It is the only thing you haven’t done;

not really.

Perhaps you tried, but

only in the space of shadows.”

A lifetime should not be reduced to a blot on a page.

The story is elsewhere

on clean, white paper.

written in a pen that doesn’t bleed.

The Chair Downstairs

The chair was out of place. The design was early American, so it did not fit in with the rest of the room’s Ikea aesthetic. We used to keep it upstairs in our bedroom where I paid it little attention-probably because it functioned as a catchall for our laundry and was usually buried under mounds of clothing. But, when we needed extra seating to accommodate guests, we brought it down to the living room and placed it near the bottom of the stairway where it remained, standing there dignified but an outlier, small and stiff, like something an 18th century scholar would sit in as he pored over musty books, straining his eyes to read by the dim candlelight.

Rarely did anyone choose to sit in the chair-I assumed because it looked so uncomfortable. But there was something else about it-a quality of being already occupied, as if one would need to whisper into the air, “pardon me, but mayI have that seat now?” if she wished to use it. At night, when I’d turn off the lights, I’d dash upstairs, not wanting to be left alone in the dark room with whatever sat in that chair. I could feel its gaze though, watching me take my leave, and when I’d wake during the witching hour, I’d think about the living space below and wonder.

Eventually we moved, but we did not bring the chair along with us. Whatever company it kept, I was finished entertaining.

 

A Warm October

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I waited for October’s chill to chase summer away

but instead she brought heat

a sick heat, like a fever.

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I watched the leaves, which should have ignited like flames of gold and amber,

shrivel, die and fall to the ground

then crumble under the feet of passersby who might or might not have noticed

that something was not quite right.

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In my lawn I noticed the squirrels

which should have been busy preparing for winter

forget what was their purpose

unaware that nature, although herself unburdened by the dictates of her own laws,

does not forgive those who ignore them.

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And snakes-I saw two on my morning walk.

One, a baby, I would have crushed underfoot

had I not noticed something wriggling across the pavement.

Another larger green serpent had been flattened by a car

at the end of my neighbor’s driveway.

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Night might well have been day

as I lay in bed, damp and awake.

And that thing that was wrong

began to push through my skin

leaving impressions

like slashes of a beast

on my chest.

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And, as the rest of the world rattled,

here it remained still

quiet

hot

October, insisting

like a ringing in the ears

that something was not quite right.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Last Days

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It’s just me

and you

and

the lake, still like a glass tabletop

the crickets, their song both beautiful and desperate

the sky, darkening a bit earlier each evening.

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At last, just us.

After a season of endless chatter, just us

and

the lapping of water upon the sand

the lonely drone of the plane passing overhead

the watersnake skimming the shore, seeking the sun’s warmth upon his back.

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Everyone else has gone.

They’ve abandoned you.

To avoid the inevitable goodbye?

Perhaps ours is a shared sadness.

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Perhaps that is giving them too much credit.

Perhaps they are just selfish.

Having wrung from you all the pleasure they could get,

they have walked away

without a thank you

without a backwards glance-

you now a distant memory

and, like all memories of years past,

soon forgotten.

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But you and I,

we are good.

Let us sit here together for as long as we are able.

I will miss you my friend when you are gone.

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For now, let us enjoy this perfection of

silence and still

sand and sky

water and me

with you.