A Tale of Two Tulips

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hSnow still covers the ground, but the tulips are out in full force at the grocery stores. Tilted buckets spill over with vibrant bouquets, repeating rainbows of mixed hues. Those prim tulip buds always catch my eye. They’re so self-contained and demure, but destined to fling open petals in a bawdy display of extravagance. Who can resist?

So, a week or so ago, I wound up with two different bouquets of tulips. I placed one in a vase in the kitchen and the other in the family room.

In the kitchen, the bouquet of purple tulips remained upright day after day, retaining pursed buds and straight stems. From a distance they exuded vitality, but as the days passed, a closer view revealed petals and stems with brown and crumpling edges. They never opened, simply drying and then dying in that nascent state.

In contrast, the mixed tulips grew more and more undisciplined in the family room. The prim buds transformed into bold and blowsy blossoms. Only slightly contained by their glass vase, they sprawled in a burst of color, stems akimbo, petals flung wide revealing previously hidden centers with new, unexpected splashes of color. Then, bit by bit they scattered soft petals onto the table below.

The contrast between these two bouquets struck me and turned my thoughts to aging.  We are a culture that values youth, the budding potential of tulips. Yet, there’s clearly something off in a bunch of tulips that doesn’t fully bloom: Though each purple bud retained its “youthful” air, its potential was never realized. The buds never transformed, and we’ll never know what color lay hidden beneath those tightly furled petals.

I wonder if, when we seek so hard to cling to the vestiges of youth, we avoid the glorious blossoming as well, in all its potential messy exuberance. Something to keep thinking about…

Insomnia and Poetry Postcards

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Sleep doesn’t always come easily to me. To be more precise, I typically fall asleep in a heartbeat, but wake in the darkest hours of the night unable to sleep any longer. My eyes pop open and I’m alert, my mind racing with churning thoughts and worries. Ironically, one thing that can help me relax and get back to sleep is to mentally compose a story or a poem. I’ve even caught myself tapping syllables on the underside of my pillow. I’m not sure it’s a good sign that my mental writing efforts help me drift to sleep, but honestly, I’ll take it! Ironically, recently I’ve been composing insomnia poems in my mind during my wakeful hours. Here’s one of my latest:

Insomnia

In the deepest dark hours
night shifts and moon-born
silent shadows stir and stretch,
oblong on old pine floors, then
melt into inky corners, where murky
nocturnal thoughts slumber fitfully, and
invite them to fully
awaken

©Molly Hogan, 2019

I’ve also been remiss about thanking all those wonderful poets who participated in the New Year Poetry Postcard Exchange. My refrigerator is practically strutting! She’s covered with all sorts of poetic goodness and fabulous images. We’re both delighted with the make-over, and I can’t tell you how much those postcards perked me up during the darkest winter days. Thank you, thank you!!! Here they are in all their glory:

I’d like to pretend that my delayed thank you was deliberate, but it’s really just a happy coincidence that the New Year Poetry Postcard organizer, Jone, is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. You can find more poetry at her blog, Check it Out.

Surprise Visitors

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hAfter seeing my sister off, I pulled up our driveway at 11 am, weary to the bone, anticipating throwing myself onto the bed and into oblivion. It had been an amazing, rich, full weekend, but I was now officially and utterly exhausted. As I crested the top of the hill, my foot slipped off the gas.

Oh, no! Whose car is that? 

I tamped down on a slight sense of panic. Noooooo! I was just sooo tired. The idea of entertaining anyone was simply inconceivable. I was peopled out. I parked the car and sat for a moment, gathering myself.  Finally, I took a deep breath and headed inside.

There in the family room was my husband, Kurt, and his friend….and his friend’s wife. I’d only met her once before, and I realized instantly that I was not going to be able to say a quick hello, make excuses and go take a nap. Instead, I summoned up a smile and offered tea.

Later, as we sat and talked and drank tea, my fatigue retreated slightly. The four of us chatted comfortably about this and that. Gradually, I found that I was actually enjoying myself.

Suddenly, Kurt’s friend blurted out, “Hey! You’ve got bluebirds!”

“What? Where?” I asked, my head jerking.

“Look!”  he pointed. “They’re right out there.”

I peered out the back window to see flashes of blue amidst the thicket of rose bushes. We all crowded the windows.

“Wow! There are a bunch of them!” Kurt said.

We looked out, trying to count as they flitted about. There were at least three or four, maybe five. Bluebirds…harbingers of happiness and hope! I snatched up my camera and hurried outside.

As I approached the corner of the house, I slowed down, leery of spooking the birds, hoping they still lingered. I had rushed out without a coat, and although the air was cold, the sun warmed my skin. I suddenly realized it was quite a beautiful day.

Rounding the corner, I looked out across the backyard into the trees and was surprised by the variety of movement. Birds were everywhere! There were multiple woodpeckers, tufted titmice, goldfinches, and chickadees climbing tree trunks or flitting through the branches. And then…there! There was a bluebird. The others were no longer in sight, but this one flew out to the field and swooped in and out of low-lying brambles. I stood in the winter sun, content to watch, each flash of brilliant blue sparking a smile on my face.

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After a few minutes, the bluebird flew to a nearby tree and then, as I held my breath, it came even closer. It lingered for a short time, moving from perch to perch, then suddenly flew into the backyard and out of sight. Although I waited for a few more minutes, it didn’t return.

Warmed by winter sun and flashing blue wings, I slowly headed back inside to our guests. I was still tired, but more comfortably so now, for offsetting the weight of fatigue was a deep and quiet gratitude for the joy of surprise visitors.

 

 

Morning Pages

 

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Morning Pages

What words will emerge
when I set pen to paper,
before the sun arises
and my eyes clear and focus?

When doorways are ajar,
what silvered light slips through
like dawn on the horizon?

In that liminal state
between sleep and sentience,
will I brush against
another world?

©M. Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Laura Purdie Salas at her blog, Writing the World for Kids. She’s celebrating the publication of her newest book, Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations, and inviting poets to contribute equation poems on a padlet. What fun! I just contributed my idea: spider web + dew = masterpiece!

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Random Thoughts on My Birthday

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I turned 52 years old today. I couldn’t settle into any one thought, so I decided to share some random thoughts from my day:

  1. Birthdays are funny when you’re older. Somehow I tend to round up about halfway through the year anyway, so I’ve been saying I’m 52 for months now. I’m always surprised when my birthday arrives and I realize I’m staying the same age I’d already been thinking I was. Pretty anti-climactic.
  2. After reading Billy Collins’ poem Cheerios, I opted to search through some February 5th trivia. How is it that I’ve never done this before? Here are some “interesting” facts that I culled from a site called PopCultureMadness:“February 5th is “Weatherperson’s Day, named after the birthday (Feb 5, 1744) of early US weatherman, John Jeffries.” Perhaps this explains my obsession with storm watching and potential snow days?
    “1958 – A hydrogen bomb, known as the Tybee Bomb, was lost by the US Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, and was never found.” What!?!
  3. I wish I’d appreciated my skin more when I was younger.
  4. When I was young, I never believed I’d live to be older than 17. Weird, right?
  5. I bumped into this poem today and loved it. I’m clearly in the profit zone!
    After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa
    By Robert Haas
    Fiftieth birthday:
       From now on,
    It’s all clear profit,
       every sky.
    (click here to read the entire poem)

  6. I have the best team! My co-workers, knowing that I generally avoid baked goods and high fat products, celebrated my birthday with a boule of bread and Maine wild blueberry jam! Yum!
  7. My sister’s birthday is on February 2nd, which is Groundhog’s Day (definitely way more fun than Weatherperson’s Day!) When I was young, I just couldn’t stand to watch her celebrate and then have to wait three more days to open my birthday presents. In addition to being a greedy little thing, I must have been a total pain in the rear, because my parents let me open one present on her birthday every year. I cringe a bit every time I remember this. Sorry, Beth!
  8. I suggested gelato for dinner tonight. My husband thought we should eat food before that. Sigh. I’m still not sure how we’ve made it through almost 30 years of marriage.
  9. Nothing starts the day better than a beautiful sunrise. Today’s looked like this:birthday sunrise.jpg
  10.  I am one lucky, lucky lady in countless ways. Feeling grateful!

During the Storm

After much hype, last weekend’s winter storm finally arrived and landed firmly in mediocrity. On a happy note, it was still potent enough to encourage me to linger indoors, look out the window, and write.

During the Storm

Swirling, twirling
snow-traced gusting wind
whips and worries
through the huddled garden
rustling baptisia pods
into whispered reminiscences
of spring

©M. Hogan, 2019

Tabatha Yeatts is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, The Opposite of Indifference. She’s sharing poems by Marilyn Robertson and Phillis Levin.

Techno Wizard–NOT

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’ll just say it and get it out of the way. I am not tech savvy. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. I can do the basics (mostly), but anything beyond that and I’m essentially lost.

Unfortunately, my phone has been getting a bit quirky lately. First, with no warning, when I tried to forward photos through Messenger, the screen language switched to …Croatian? Russian? I’m not sure what language it was, but it had letters in it that I’d never seen before. I checked all my settings, but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It was there to stay. But, hey, I figured I could live with it because I already knew what to click on to choose contacts, send, etc. I might even become iphone fluent in some unknown language. Silver lining!

But then this past Friday, I clicked on my camera and the entire screen turned black. I pushed the button to try taking a photo, and that worked. If I clicked on the photo icon, I could see the picture I’d just taken. But when I clicked on the camera again, the screen turned black. There was no way to figure out exactly what I was taking a picture of. This was less than ideal. I couldn’t even figure out a silver lining.

I happened to be near the cell phone provider’s store on Sunday, and noticed their parking lot was essentially empty. This is a rare occurrence and one to take advantage of, so I decided to pop in and ask for help.

I walked in the door. The store was empty of customers, and the three men working there jumped away from a small  huddle around a computer. Hmmmm…I wonder what was going on there?

“Wow, you guys looked guilty,” I said, laughing.

“Only because we weren’t at the door to welcome you and invite you in,” replied one of them swiftly.

I gave him a skeptical glance, but decided to let it go.

“How can we help you?” he added, moving away from his friends and to my side.

“Well, my phone is acting up,” I said. “The camera won’t work and when I try to send a photo through Messenger, the language switches to Croatian….or something.”

He looked at me quizzically. I held out my phone and clicked on the camera.

“See?” I asked.

He took the phone, looked at the black screen, clearly puzzled, then clicked around for a minute or so.

“I’ve never seen this before,” he finally said.

“Great,” I mumbled. That is so NOT what I wanted to hear. How much is that deductible again?

He clicked around the phone for a minute more, then handed it back to me, saying, “Oh. You just need to update your phone.”

“But I don’t want to update my phone,” I said.

“Well,” he said, patiently, “that’s what you need to do to fix this. You are three updates behind.”

“I know,” I said, “but I don’t want those updates to mess everything up on my phone. I like it the way it is…except with a working camera and no Croatian.”

“Well I can’t guarantee the updates won’t do that, but if you want your camera to work, you need to update, ” he repeated.

“But I really don’t want to update,” I said again.

“Okay,” he said, taking another tack. “Have you tried turning it off?”

“Um. No,” I replied, a bit sheepishly. “I never turn it off.”

“You never turn it off?”

“No,” I said, “I’m convinced it’ll make me provide it with some weird password to get back in, and I won’t know it.”

I think his sigh probably triggered seismic recorders, but he remained pleasant and restrained from rolling his eyes. Heroic, really.

“You really should turn it off at least once a week,” he finally said.

He took the phone back and checked something. He looked at me, even more askance.

“You don’t even have a lock or password on this phone.”

“Okay,” I said, “but I’m going to turn it off right here, so you can help me if it goes crazy.”

“Okay,” he said, resigned to his fate and no doubt regretting that he was the first of the three to offer to help me.

I pushed the button on the side of the phone. Nothing happened. I looked over at him.

“I need to push it for longer, don’t I?” I asked.

He simply nodded. So I pushed the button again, waited a moment, then watched it turn off. I pushed the button again to turn it back on. The screen popped up. No password required. Yay! Then, I clicked the camera button and… Hooray! No black screen!

I laughed. “This is great!” I said. “Thanks so much. Now when I leave, you can go back to your co-workers and say, ‘OMG, that lady was ridiculous. She hasn’t ever updated her phone and wasn’t even completely sure how to turn it off!'”

He laughed and walked me to the door, though I noticed he didn’t deny it. He really had been a nice guy, but I’m sure he was either entertained or appalled by me. Or both. He was, no doubt, happy to be see my quirks and problems leave the store, and I was just as happy to have my phone working again with no update needed. Win! Win!