Archive | August, 2013

A Web of Time

27 Aug

pastDuring these late summer days, it feels as if I am returning from somewhere. Suddenly, my eyes lift and I am in a vaguely familiar wood, walking in well traveled shoes. The road appears unturned, yet becomes crossed with webs of memory. The shape and turn of the lane so familiar, but the wood is so different. Like walking through a spider’s web, the strands of memory tickle and brush my skin so subtly, so invisibly the eye cannot see to wipe them free. Time is a vast web of connections, of stories. You walk a place and all the while, never thinking of who you might be upon your return.

For now I can see a small white chapel upon a mulched hill, round the bend among a shaded wood. I am in the part of this journey where I have to make peace with things. For to be sure, I have been ignoring something diaphanous, spread wide in the corner of my memory. And his near decade presence in my life will have to be acknowledged just as the excruciating ten minutes it took for him to leave. This weekend, I return for the first time to the Maryland Renaissance Faire and it will be more important than I had imagined. For I haven’t walked this road since his leaving. This place and its significance is so much a part of my core self that I can’t leave it behind, can’t stuff it in a memento box, can’t pretend I am that person anymore. Part of the person he left is still part of me, and to see her there without him must be seen.

Many years ago, when we met, our love of all things historical united us. Celtic, Medieval, Renaissance, even 19th century Japan . . .we walked our characters through the love of learning culture of the past. Perhaps we shuffled our exterior identities so much that we neglected to cultivate the ones underneath the armor and the frills. Our first visit to the Maryland Renaissance Faire over a decade ago, yielded an image: the two of us standing in a tiny white chapel, arms linked, as if we had just been married. Subconsciously, I may have known then that we would eventually fall in love. But intertwined with that knowing was also a tiny flame I could never NOT see…the distant light of his leaving. I think I knew that all along. Maybe that belief caused the demise in part, I’m not sure. But we cannot keep what we most desire, what we would gladly die for, for it will be the ruin of our souls.

We went to Maryland only three times, but countless other festivals and faires. Our garb and it’s details were the outward expression of this inner passion. The second visit, nearly a decade after the first, after marriage, after a home in the idyllic neighborhood, before changes that began to push us apart, was the happiest for me. But I saw in his eyes a yearning for something I could not give. And I let it destroy what was left of my self esteem and my light. The last time we went to Faire, I stumbled through the park in a haze. I felt so very tired, so very old. Dried up, used up. I felt like a wrinkled blossom next to a lush blooming bush. In separating myself from him that day and walking the park alone while he sought the fragrance of other blossoms just flowering the vine, I made up my mind to finally embrace whatever it was that I needed. Because I wasn’t getting what I needed and knew that the only person then who could give it  . .was me. I let go of him that day and began to hold on to me. I didn’t know it then, but we were already walking a divided path.

So in a few days, I will walk into the white chapel…alone. And I will try to reflect, send him love and light and then walk out again wrapped in the power I know is within me. Saturday night, I played  Ouija with friends. They sat across from each other, hands poised on the plancet; I sat to the side to watch. We had already switched places among the three of us, after questions of the past, of paths we three seem to be re-walking. They began a query down one line, a past life where my two friends and I knew one another in the 6th century. And before you wonder, it doesn’t really matter if its authentic or not. Sometimes insight you get from others is just as important as ideas perceived to be supernatural.

Were we related? my friend asks.


She presses on. Were we warriors?


Were we our current genders? I interject, seeing a possible story emerging in our close group.


My thoughts fall to my friends who have been on a defined spiritual path much longer than I.

Were any of us priests or priestesses? I ask.

The plancet begins to move among the letters, their hands gently following along.

Y. . .O. . .U. . .

My friends’ faces turn to look at me. My mouth drops open in surprise.

It didn’t matter to me whether these answers were their projections or otherworldly, whether to the  rational world our requests were answered by self-confirming subconscious wish fulfillment. All I knew is that someone there, spirit or incarnate understood me to be a spiritual woman, one of power and self-possession. One who can approach and commune with the Divine. That gives me pause. For truly, I do not feel comfortable in owning that way of being until I can learn how to see it without ego, without emptiness or doubt. It means reclaiming the most neglected part of Self, but one that is deepest and most true.

This weekend, I will step back into the past, into a space that was witness to the most powerful love I have ever felt for another human. But I hope to emerge with a deeper love, one that holds it all, the then, the now, and the will be as this road of memory stretches beyond the space a mind can hold and into soul.

It’s a Human Thing

18 Aug
Robert Clarence Beard

Robert Clarence Beard

“I love mankind, he said, “but I find to my amazement that the more I love mankind as a whole, the less I love man in particular.” — Dostoevsky

One of my male students questions me.

“You haven’t seen The Notebook?” He lifts his eyebrows, incredulously.

“No”, I say.

We are discussing the significance of rain as a symbolic motif.

“That’s a chick flick”, a girl beside him says.

And he blushes, all 235 linebacker pounds of him. I interrupt her.

“Tell me about it. What is the significance of the rain in the scene you mentioned?”

With real passion, he begins to describe how romantic the scene is, how it shows a rebirth of emotion, a washing a way of misunderstanding. I smile. He’s going to be a good man, I think. He may be embarrassed to be this vulnerable in front of all these other kids, but he is willing to put it out there and to connect. I admire his parents. They’ve taught him the basis of something that many men do not know… how to be a complete human.

Before I crack into this rant, I will state that my assessment is logically flawed. I know I’ve made a sweeping generalization. Kind, intelligent, courageous men do exist in the world, those who respect balanced women. They understand their inner selves in an intimate way. But they are not plentiful, in my opinion. And they populate my world like Saguaro of the high desert. . . tall, proud sentinels filled with promise for a traveler scoured by scrub and sand. Their shadows, dark and cool on a stark dry landscape.

And honestly, I’ll admit a recent bend toward cynicism, finding a dark irony that has squelched my perpetual Pollyanna attitude toward post divorce connection. But after online forays into the dark waters of dating and random encounters with the opposite species at watering holes and in other natural habitats, I’ve concluded that the vast social inequity between the sexes is much worse than I had previously believed. In fact, it is a mass hypnosis that needs a Universal thunderclap to wake the crowd.

Sunday, when I was driving home from an Irish session at Albemarle Ciderworks, an acquaintance of mine passed me in his sports car. All flashing sunglasses, his braceleted hand was poised in the window jamb; a girl sat co-pilot in the passenger seat. Without full knowledge of the details of our acquaintance, my view here might seem petty and selfish to some. But he represents a type of man that I have come to loathe and of which I have had quite enough. This small seemingly unimportant incident was the final card that crashed my house of faith in men. He is supposedly broken up about a recently ended relationship; his habit, though, is to hide any evidence of romantic attachment, serious or otherwise while it is occurring from the public, especially other women. I once ran into him at an event, quite by surprise, and he texted me within five minutes that “he was on a date…but not that kind of date”. One can see the picture here, I’m sure.

When he texted me later in the evening to say he had passed me on the highway, tried to get my attention and wished me good luck with school the next day, it sounded friendly enough. However, when I awoke at 3 am so angry that my stomach was in my throat, I realized something about this kind of man. It’s not that I want to be one of the “girls”. Believe me, I don’t. Our year long acquaintance revealed to me early on that he isn’t someone I’d ever trust in a pair bond. What makes me so angry is in a way. . . I want to be him. More specifically, wielding the power and control his type represents.

I want the ability to snap my fingers and have any number of beautiful young companions to keep me company at a winery, a concert or a theater event or even a trip to Europe. I have to go places alone. He gets to go with whomever he chooses and pretend he’s alone. That makes me envious and angry and those sorts of negative emotions do me absolutely no good.

As a woman, I’m furious that I’m not socially allowed to cultivate a string of beautiful young men, all clamoring to be with me, adoring me, trumpeting my wisdom to the world when all the while I’m selfish, petty, and juvenile. Maybe I am selfish, petty, and juvenile, but I don’t really know or care at this moment. I’m a human woman with a connection deficit and I’m sick of walking past local restaurants I frequent while he’s there drinking wine with a different girl every other afternoon. I tire of his ability to be so seemingly glamorous, so impeccably dressed and coiffed, almost too cool to even sweat. As his “friend”, I’m tired of his droppings, his toss off texts that pretend to care about my life when clearly a physical presence on a regular basis is required for genuine friendship. I’m not even talking about a possible romantic relationship; simple friendship is where human connection begins. I am starting to hate men because of him, because of the type of man he represents and I don’t need to develop that kind of callousness.

I don’t need a reminder of what being shallow and play acting at depth can get a man…everything. It isn’t fair, but there is seemingly nothing I can do about it.

To hold women at arm’s length, to dribble texts like bait and pretend to be interested in them without actually spending any time or effort or making personal investment in them and to play passive aggressive juvenile social media games to sustain this type of relationship is about control and power. It’s mean, cocky, and spiteful. It’s a form of emotional abuse. I don’t accept this treatment and other women shouldn’t either. Kind humans make consistent time for one another if they want to sustain a connection. Or they are kind enough to leave a person be. But to tell the truth, I haven’t run into many men who are also kind humans. As a matter of fact, I can name on two hands the men I have met in the last two years that qualify as human beings, most all are married.

I have to let go of the anger, and remember my worth. I need to remember what Grandaddy taught me: I am enough. . . irrespective of male affirmation. As a single woman in mid-life, though, I’m tired of men’s pity. I’m tired of taking handouts. I’m tired of letting assholes inform my sense of self worth and personal authority. It’s time for me to be the director of the connections made with men in my life. I will not defer to a man any longer. If a man has an issue with me being the initiator or the one who has enough courage to be vulnerable then so be it. I’m not some pathetic cougar bar fly in search of my youth.

I am wise.

I am beautiful.

I am smart.

I am strong.

I don’t have time to wait on emotionally handicapped, puerile, vacuous, weak willed men who will judge me for the functionality of my womb or the size of my breasts or the failed relationships I’ve had because it took me this long to realize how awesome I really am. Because if I have to hear just one more time as I walk in to a coffee shop or a grocery store or a restaurant bar

I love a redhead

or any other flattery as they smile and then walk away without even attempting to ask if maybe they might join my hair and the rest of me for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or a chat about a really great book or poem I might implode.

Bring it or get out of my way. Man up for Christ’s sake.

I refuse to play games. I refuse to pretend to be less to make you feel more. I refuse to pad another ego or organize and motivate a lazy jerk who knows if he drags his feet long enough I’ll be the mule and do the work.

No, not again.

Not ever.


Begging is for those with an empty treasure chest of a Self.

I’ve contemplated for too long why smart beautiful women seem to get nothing and smart beautiful men have it all. I’ve wondered for too long why I have to follow in the dance, on the street, at work, in life. I’m done with the social construct that says I must compete with younger women for a man of any age. They can’t hold a candle to my wisdom and I work hard and am fitter than most of them. While hiking in Yosemite, I met an 85 year old lady who is raising her 15 year old great grand daughter. So, if I want a baby at 50 or older, I’ll have the brains, the energy, and the money to care for one. A man who can’t let go of his genetics for a quality partner is on an epic ego trip.

Therefore, I’m ready to act. To creatively address this inequity in ways that might raise a few eyebrows or incur some harsh judgments. But I don’t care. If it’s at peace with my core, I’ll do it. For that is the only conscience to which I need to be reconciled. Should’s and shouldn’ts have no power over me any longer. That is the very definition of courage. This isn’t a dating thing or a sexual thing…it’s a human thing. And that’s what I haven’t gotten much of from the world of men. . .anything human.

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Robert Clarence Beard on his 105th birthday (8-18-1908). He taught me my worth. It is my job to remember it.

Emerald Bay

To Be. . .Past, Present, and Future

9 Aug

Classes start Monday. The halls will fill with pubescent chatter and social posturing. The bells will order life for ten more months. This year I moved to a new classroom, actually an old classroom, the first one I occupied ten years ago. When my assistant principal came to tell me last year that I had to keep my door shut and locked all day due to new security measures, I lost it.  With no windows, no air exit vent, no window in the door, no cell service in a concrete block bunker of a classroom across from the auto shop, I had to have a new room. There was no natural light available to me for ten years. Many days I would arrive in morning darkness and leave in evening twilight, my movements and bathroom habits carefully controlled by the ordering of the bells. It messed with my mind.  It isolated me. Aside from the kids, I was alone. I lived in a fluorescent adolescent Inferno.

Today, when I finalized my plans for next week, I gazed at my new work space. It looks much the same as it did ten years ago with the new addition of pictures and wisdoms from my traveling, from this journey of mine. Previous students who are now colleagues have been stopping by all week.

I remember this, they said. Wow…I remember this.

And the smiles and the knowing nods I recognized. I too remember this place, this way of being. In many ways I have now come back home to a way of being that would have been if I had never met my former husband. Yes, I was married. Yes, he left me suddenly. Yes, that’s what sent me on this journey …no, I never thought I’d be back where I am today.

My computer screen blinked at me, the beginning of notes for AP literature. Archetypes and the journey. I add in my notes from How to Read Literature Like a Professor, their summer reading assignment. It hits me then, that all the writing I have been doing has been part of a Quest. I set out to find something, to write about the road and thought, “This will make me a writer again, not so much a teacher.” I wanted to be someone different when I returned from Ocracoke and I was. I was a writer and blogger, a traveling lass on a mission to find a new life. But as the author says of the Quest pattern, the mission fades. It yields to the true object of the quest. To find oneself. The search for the grail yields in favor of self knowledge. That is the ultimate boon.

I’ve been feeling incredible guilty these days for not keeping up. Two posts a week about my wanderings on the road was the routine for months. But today, I realized that writing about travel isn’t what all of this has been about. It’s been about finding an authentic self. I naively printed business cards, advertised this space as a solo woman’s review of the road. That’s not what this turned out to be. It turned out to be about finding me. Many of my previous students have remarked that recently, maybe the last three to four months, they have seen the old me that they remember, someone who used to exist over a decade ago. A deep look at that assessment shows me they’re right. I am now becoming more fully what I would have been if he had never appeared. But then again, if he hadn’t, would I have gone on this incredible journey?

So I’ve decided that I need to change this blog into what it really is. A place for me to write and to publicly share my journey. There will be times I’ll want to write of the road. That’s okay, maybe you’ll want to read about that. Then, there are times where I need to write of my inner life, my emotions and maybe you’ll want to read about that. And maybe a poem will erupt like a flame, and maybe, just maybe I’ll want to share a letter, or part of my new novel that is slowly steeping like tea in a warm pot on the back burner and you’ll want to read about that. I’m making no promises here, except this. I’m not the same and now this space needs to change.

I laugh more easily now and cry more easily, too. One of my students who graduated many years ago stopped by yesterday

“You’re still here?” she said.

And then she hugged me and began to cry. I knew why. I am a reminder of who she used to be. She introduced me to her 14 year old son, the one I have a baby picture of tucked into a box in my school closet.

“This is Miss Kelley”, she said. “She was my favorite teacher. Maybe you’ll have her when you are a senior”.

He nodded, silent and smiling, her emotion prompting a protective but yet tentative attention.

“You know, I have something of yours”, I said. “Hold on”.

I went to the closet and pulled out a poem and a coat of arms she had created nearly fifteen years ago. She smiled, her face twisting into bittersweetness, a biography poem in Courier font, typed long ago. She began to read her former self. Her voice choked with emotion.

“You keep that”, she said as she looked at me with teary blue eyes and a smile. And I nodded. “That’s old”, she said putting her arm around her son “That’s old”.

But I knew this moment was priceless. When someone places a forgotten stone in your palm, one worn smooth by your own thumb, you understand. . .there I was.

Here I am now.

Yes. The journey has been worth it.

She hugged me hard and turned to go.

I have wondered what my purpose is. I’ve been searching for so long trying to find what I’m supposed to do and what I think I’ve realized is that I should be thinking about just how to be. It isn’t about doing. I think I know my be-ing now . It’s just not one thing, it’s a lot of things. But one thing I do know, I am meant to share this “being”, how I see the world, how I see myself and hopefully this will help others to grow and learn about themselves. The more they know themselves, the better the world will be. That’s the type of teacher I was. That’s the type of teacher I am. That’s the type of writer I want to be.

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