The wound

 

I used to meditate in the garden each morning, perched on a hill overlooking the meadow, while feral Dipa watched from the safety of a tree. After a month of mornings she jumped in my lap, and quickly down – up and down again. I kept my eyes closed and made no effort to touch as Dipa did her getting-acquainted dance. A wet nose against my cheek was her good-morning kiss. That became the ritual. Soon Dipa was the first to arrive.  Kathryn, my landlady, called her Amber, but I’d been thinking of a Buddhist teacher named Dipa Ma when the cat first kissed my face, so I gave her a name to reflect her moment of trust. That was four years ago.

This morning I settled at the table on the patio and reached for the computer mouse as a white pink substance began to drip on my hand. I turned and found the goo pouring from a gaping hole in the cat’s neck, drip dropping on the table in thick rivers of infection. The sight of it made me weak. My first thought was to find someone else, anyone else, to deal with it.

Dimas, the gentle-hearted gardener leaned on his shovel, shaking his head. “Not me,” he said, as I pointed out the problem.

I went to a man fixing pipes in the pump house. “Do you know what to do for cat wounds?” I asked. He barely looked up as he muscled a wrench around a connecting joint. “Nope.”

I was beginning to feel like the Little Red Hen from Isabella’s Russian folktale.

“Not I,” barked the lazy dog.

“Not I,” quacked the noisy yellow duck

I knocked on Kathryn‘s door, the cat’s official owner.

“The vet is closed today,” she replied,  “nothing I can do. Besides she won’t let me near her, she runs away.”

“Not I,” voiced the grey haired neighbor.

As if to prove a point, Kathryn moved toward Dipa who promptly ran away from everyone. I surrendered to responsibility against my will and came back to the computer, typing treating cat wounds in the Google window. Hydrogen peroxide and bandages were a solution I could manage. Dipa was sunbathing on the picnic table, safe and alone at the edge of the forest when I found her. I slowly placed bandages, gauze and hydrogen peroxide on the bench. The cat sat perfectly still as I cleaned and dressed the wound. Bandages filled quickly and were repeatedly changed. Finally, I stopped, no more I could do. After lathering my hands, I went back to work on the porch. Dipa abandoned her distant post, followed me up and began nudging my hand with her nose. I stroked her fur between sentences, “You’re going to be alright dear. You‘ll be fine.”

Kathryn pulled her car up, unpacking groceries from the trunk.

“Thank you for tending the cat. You’ve done all a vet could do. Now I’ll have to call you the cat whisperer. Really, Amber looks good.”

What irony, I thought. Kathryn was a doctor! A doctor! She actually liked nasty-body-blood pus-oozing infections. She’d been trained for it, spent years in school, while the sight of body secretions made me weak. I had to lie down, breathe deep and try not to vomit. And “I” was the one treating the cat, possibly the worst qualified person on the planet! What a sense of humor the universe has!

Age appropriate

  blk & white

Gib and I bought a BMW before we drove to LA for Thanksgiving last year. We needed something. My car was pronounced dead and his was an old Honda Civic without shocks or creature comforts. Well, some creatures found it comfortable, like the mice in the pole barn, but I never did. Anyway, the Saturday before we left we found a beautiful Beamer the color of the sea. It stood out like the amazing machine it was. I am a sucker for beauty in people and machines, so I was sold. But it is definitely a guy car! We got the sports package. I don’t exactly know what that means, except it has performance tires that hug the road and make it hard to steer. The inside is black, the dashboard looks like it belongs in a private jet and the seats have more positions than a thousand piece puzzle. My neighbors have named my car, Jumping Jack Flash, which is a good masculine name and suits his spirit. 

Gib drove to LA, feeling manly, he had found his inner stud and its real world reflection. The car responded by doing whatever he wanted and more, while I declined driving. But it was supposed to be my car, so when we got back to Portland I got behind the wheel. The thing is, the car and I really never got to be friends. I even asked the dealer to take it back but everyone agreed that with enough time I could learn to love it. I do admire its beauty and capabilities, but in real life, it’s beyond me. 

It’s like when I visit my son, Clay. At home I can manage because my life is simple. I write on the deck under the tree with pad and pen in hand, then type it into my very old version of Word Perfect and send it off, but when I visit my son, he owns the best of the best in computer technology. He is the graphics king and uses machines and software I have no right being in the same room with. Honestly, I don’t even know how to turn his system on. Well, that’s how it is with the Beamer. It should belong to someone who understands it. 

When my daughter told her friends I had a BMW, they shook their heads and said, your mom? That just doesn’t seem like your mom. I definitely have a classy elegant side that loves fine things, but fine machines are a tad beyond me. And why am I bringing all this up now?…because Kristen has borrowed my car to go to Seattle. She likes to borrow my car, and has NO trouble seeing herself in a BMW at all. That means we trade. When she takes my car, I drive her 1989 Volvo which has 300,000 miles on it. It is elderly, friendly, white, needs a new transmission, has torn seats, and is basically as comfortable a car as I could imagine.

Kristen’s car is sort of a Clydesdale’s mare, while the BMW is a high-strung thoroughbred. He wants to run fast and does. I spend all my driving time reining him in, which is not easy, because he tricks me. I think I’m going down the highway at 55 and look down to find it’s 80. That car is just like a spirited horse, and horses always know when someone inexperienced is on their back, and will throw them off or take advantage of them every time. 

The Volvo on the other hand is a feminine spirit. She putts down the highway with aged integrity, not pushing in line or showing off like Jumpin’ Jack Flash. She is, in a few words ‘age appropriate.’ I also like her because she is not precious like her brother. The BMW shuts down in snow, refusing to leave the corral. If I coax him out, he slides in the ditch and says, I told you I don’t like cold feet. Put me back. The Volvo on the other hand will fight to make it up the driveway and succeed. She’s wise and snow-worthy. She’ll also allow children to stand on her roof to pick the plums, cherries and apples along the road, while Jumping Jack would not lower himself, for fear of scratching his perfect surface.

 Jumpin’ Jack is not thrilled to have me on his back. He’d prefer a 30 year old jockey with growing testosterone levels, but for now, we have each other and need to co-exist. He’ll be back in my driveway soon, a target for bird poop and cedar branches. I even found a slug on his windshield last week. That really pisses him off because he knows he should live in an upscale neighborhood with his own paddock, not be left to rot with an old girl who fancies broken down Volvo’s.

The Key

suffolk-houseCrocuse and snowbells reached for the sun in the shelter of a broken foundation. Red-winged blackbirds made a racket from the branches of an ancient elm, as I surveyed the vacant property where the farm used to be. A stray barn swallow dove and swirled in the distance as if protesting the destruction of his home. I sat among the rocks where the milkhouse once stood and felt, for the first time, the fragility of life.

I saw myself as a young girl heading for the chicken house to collect eggs and being stopped by mean-tempered geese. I remembered bedding down my horse for the night after a dusty afternoon ride, and looking wistfully at the runners of the horse-pulled sleigh stored in the loft. Looking in the direction of the now missing barn, I remembered wrestling giant silver milk cans as big as myself, as I rolled and pushed them into place for the collection truck.

A great sadness welled in me at the impermanence of life. Everything I valued and loved about the farm, and the people who made it real, was gone forever. The only place it lived now was in me. I cried long and hard for everything in my life that was dying, but most of all for the farm and all it represented. It had been my safe place. The only one I had. Now it looked like a giant wind had picked it up and blown it all away.

I knelt near a pile of broken cement to admire the snowbells, and noticed a glimpse of silver wedged beneath the soil. I dug it out with my fingers, cleaned off its encrusted surface and discovered the long silver key to the kitchen door. I pressed it in my palm, turning it slowly in my hand.

Aunt Ethel was yelling at me through a closed door. I’m going to lock this door and you can not come in, do you understand? I was just big enough to see through the window and was devastated by her intentions. Every Friday she mopped the floor, and every Friday I forgot her instructions and went parading across the wet surface in muddy boots. She was determined to keep me out, and I was just as determined to be let in. In my youthful fury, I braced the offending boots against the front porch wall and shook the door for all I was worth. I couldn’t bear to be locked out by the one woman who cared for me. I yelled, screamed and pounded to let her know. Finally I fell in an exhausted heap against the door.

After what seems like hours she relented and came outside. I was so crestfallen I could hardly speak. Don’t lock me out anymore, I sobbed, I can’t bear it, not from you. We reached an agreement that day about muddy boots, kitchen floors and love.

Now some forty years later, I stood with the same key in my hand and was glad to have it. Actually, I was more than glad to have it. The child in me was literally beaming. I tucked it within the silk lining of my jacket as a treasured reminder of another life. She can never lock me out again, I told myself, because I’ll always have the key.

Creativity

paint-swirlMany people envision their ideal writing room as the retreat house I live in.  It is removed from the distractions of the city, looks into a forest of trees through a wall of windows, and is so still I can match the beat of my heart with the ticking clock. There is an abundance of light to balance winter’s grey and every piece of furniture pleases and comforts me. This has been my nest for four years now, a space that healed me when I fragmented. I saw too many clients in the city and had no resting place. I was the surgeon of the heart who dug deep into hemorrhaging spirits and torn dreams. I removed abscesses and lanced tumors. The colors of my days were drop-dead blood-tired red. The flood of clients that moved through my office door has been reduced to a select few who come by word of mouth and are willing to travel to the country.

 It was a day in March, two years ago, when I pulled a chair to the edge of the bed, propped up my feet and talked with my husband about imagining a different future. Maybe a film, I said. Perhaps I can share my work that way. I called friends who are filmmakers and had long discussions. In the end, we decided against film because there would be too many people involved and too much money out.  We found audio accessable, affordable and easy. And so we began in a friend’s sound studio, which sits at the top of 300 acres of pristine land on Ross Mountain. My conversation with Dennis, the owner was endearing. Yes, Karen, come! Ross mountain will give you its magic and you will leave yours in return, a perfect trade. 

We birthed three hours of material from months of editing and discovery. We’d found a new direction, and it grew. We hired website ladies who gave us the idea of a blog, making podcasts and breathing life into an old manuscript which was gathering dust in the closet.

This space has housed that kind of birthing, as well as the stagnant times when I question my life and abilities, cry at my altar and wish to be released from something that restricts my heart, something long lasting that defines my existence, but can not be named. 

My work here is almost over. I feel a stirring to move on – a hunger to rejoin humanity. The gypsy in me is packing her bags. Next I want to write in a house with other people where we can visit, lunch and inspire one another to be more. I am ready to reach again into theater and community.

Soon, this space will hold my leaving and a greater leaving still. The where of that destination I don’t yet know, but I imagine a villa, bicycles and the Mediterranean sea. I will spend half my time in Portland and half my time in sun. I envision a warm place where I can put pen to paper and hear my written voice.

Tall Grass

cottage2I loved lying in the tall grass as a child.  I loved the way I could hide beneath waving stalks of green blades moving in the wind like a song. I lay near the pond and looked into clear blue sky for hours. I loved that the sky had no boundaries, while I was snug, safe and invisible.

I wondered in that long ago far away place, if I would ever grow up. I wondered if my young body would ever take the shape and form of a woman, if I would ever move beyond mucking out the stables and become one of the people who drove by our house with great purpose and destination. I imagined that all those people in all those cars had busy important lives. I imagined them going to Senaca Lake to spend the day playing on the water, or to a cottage where they would do mysterious business things, while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and strawberry sundaes. They could do that; they could eat whatever they wanted, because they were grown up and drove cars.  I decided that I would never, ever, pass an ice cream store when I was grown up and that I would eat chocolate ice cream cones all day long, because no one could stop me.

I examined the mud on my feet and the number of scratches on my legs from climbing the barbed wire fence as I pondered my future. This was interrupted on Fridays by my mother’s insistence that I go with her to the beauty parlor. It was her attempt to make me ‘more’, but it didn’t work. The stylist was very serious, how would you like your hair done today? Perhaps a little something off the forehead? Did you like what we did last time?

Do whatever you want, I’d tell her. It doesn’t matter to me – and it didn’t, because as soon as she was done, I’d run back into the woods, shake it all free and lay down in tall grass.

Forest visit

sparrowFasting makes the veil between the worlds thin, so more is revealed. I am on my sixth day now, full of curiosity and readiness to see what is delivered. My morning has been beautiful. I slipped on my old grey sweater, pulled blue jeans under my dress and laced hiking boots. What a combination, very odd and very me. I am grateful to be able to walk along the hillside, pass into the woods and be swallowed deep inside her belly. She always feeds me and is gentle. I feast on a million shades of green and listen to the songs of the birds and the buzzing of a single black and orange bee. How grateful I am for this gift of time and communion. I could be stuck in a cubicle, in front of a computer, in traffic, in a bad marriage or in the bloody wars brought by the last administration. How fortunate indeed.

I walk the road until I come to the log that blocks my path, always a good place to rest or turn back. But today I notice a chainsaw has cut the base of it, preparing to move it elsewhere. Climbing over the top, I notice the entire lower trail has been cleared and widened into the road it was intended to be, even the basin impossibly dense with blackberry bushes has been cleared. Just a matter of time now before the owner claims his forest road and I am left without my sanctuary.

I move back over the log and retrace my steps to a small dirt clearing. With sun at my back, I am able to sit for an hour being quiet and letting the forest feed me. Fasting and age allows a stillness that is not available to the young. Their bodies demand so much of them. Run here, do that, keep going, climb higher. It takes a kind of skill to sink into the womb of the forest.

I look down at my leather boots and blue jeans, and at my dress and silk slip peeking out around my knees. I love the colors, fabrics and textures. I love the deep inner quiet I feel, and for a few rare moments, am truly happy to be the spirit housed in this body.

Farm life

2-horses

A brightly colored mural hung above the stable door, as I led my white Tennessee Walker, Nashua, out of the warmth of her stall and into the day. The mural was a product of my oldest sisters journey into the world of art. It was an abstract something, I didn’t know what, but I liked it, because it lent bright colors to an otherwise dull wooden barn.

I threw a western saddle over Nashua’s back and listened to the prancing of my sister’s horses, who were eager to be let into the pasture. My oldest sister, Mary Ann had a palomino named Lightning, named for his color, and my younger sister, Kristen, had a pinto named Nippy, because he was rude and liked to bite people. A horse named Nashua was a big winner at the Kentucky Derby last year, 1955, and I dreamed big, so I gave my horse a name to live up to.

Small ice cycles formed in my nose as I tightened the synch around Nashua’s girth, slipped my boots into the stirrups and grabbed the reins. I tucked a muffler around my neck and pulled a wool cap over my ears. I was amusing myself by blowing clouds of moisture into the air like cigarette smoke, when I saw Tubby’s big Oldsmobile pull in the parking lot. My parents had a restaurant nestled into the rolling hills of upstate New York, and Tubby was the cook. He was showing up for the breakfast shift.

Hey, Tubby, I yelled. Tell Mom and Dad I’m headed to the farm and will be back tonight or tomorrow. The body of Tubby’s car rose a foot as he lifted himself out. Without a glance in my direction, he raised his hand to let me know that he’d heard  and would tell somebody inside. Uncle Tubby, as he was affectionately known, was a retired army cook and his delicious military size portions were the reason the restaurant was so successful, that and the fact that my parents never stopped working. They had little time or energy to see how five kids passed their days, so at age 11, I ran wild and did exactly as I pleased.

I inhaled the fresh smell of snow as we made our way past a marshy clearing and toward the dirt road beyond. The crunch of each step left a well marked trail. Morning sun was peeking out of heavy clouds and the steam from each breath we took rose before us. We made our way over fallow fields, which would be impassable in another month. I knew from experience that a spring thaw would sink the horse fetlock deep in mud, her hooves making big sucking sounds as she worked to free them. Nashua made little grunts and snorts as she labored up the steep incline of the hill. Cars knew better than to drive this road in the winter. They had no chance, but a kid and a horse could make it every time.

The smell of leather and pine filled the air as sweat formed on Nashua’s hard working back. She made her way up the road stumbling, but always catching herself on the cinders and frozen gravel that clung beneath the snow. Once on top, a full mile was cut from the five mile journey by crossing a neighbors acreage. He was not a friendly man. We rode carefully along the encrusted bank of his land, around abandoned crops and under maples rich with sap. Barren branches held droplets of water as the day warmed and the sun rose in the sky, making a distinct outline on hanging branches and snow crusted thickets. Audible sounds of melting snow trickled near by as  birds chirped from tree to tree. We continued past the broken stalks of last years wheat, until we came to the main road. It wouldn’t be long before I’d see my uncle’s cattle pastures and hay fields. I brought the horse to a trot, eager to arrive.

sun-in-snowThe pond came into view on my left, and finally the buildings themselves. My uncle was standing in his heavy winter coat and cap, his hands in leather gloves, twisting and turning large silver milk cans on the platform for pick up. He was radiating good health and cheer as he caught my eye and waved. I watched him make marks on a clipboard, and hang it on a wooden peg before going back inside. Aunt Ethel was sitting on a three legged stool squirting the faces of six cats with warm milk from a cow’s utter.  They licked and pawed it into their mouths with looks of delight and satisfaction, then gathered around an old blue bowl which had been filled to the brim with cream. Ethel unlocked the last cow’s head from the stanchion, and sent her with a pat on the rump to join the rest of the herd. The last cow, Daisy, twitched her tail in response and lumbered down the stair into a fresh bed of straw.  Each cow had a distinct personality and names given according to their birth month.

Fur lined boots met my aunts bare knees, as she pulled against her cotton dress, found the hem of her apron and wiped the milk from her hands. I’ll be damned, she said. Look who’s here. Come into the house.

A large silver boot jack in the shape of a bug was attached to the floor, and  helped pull tight boots from layered socks. We hung our coats on the screened porch and shook the weather from our pants before entering. Glenn and Ethel had been up since 4 and were ready for a cup of english tea. The front door opened into a kitchen of ticking mechanical clocks. A french marble clock set on the kitchen mantel, above a gentle fire. Next to it, was a brass and glass regulator clock, a woodcased steeple clock and a Seth Thomas pillar and scroll. A multi-colored parrot screamed ‘Hell-oooo from an open cage, as my uncle moved to place a fresh log on the fire. Ethel had wallpapered the ceiling with brightly colored lilacs, and painted kitchen chairs a deep lavender to match. A nine foot hall clock stood next to an imported pianoforte in the living room, while an old school clock ticked above the free standing sink.

I counted the ticks and tocks of the clocks, as I lathered my hands and reached for a towel to wipe them dry. The smell of black tea filled the room, as homemade preserves and bread were added to a table set with blue willow china. We ate and shared news, until it was time for Glenn to transform himself into the manager of the Chemung County Airport. Excuse me ladies, Glenn said as he pushed back his chair, and delivered his cup and saucer to the sink. Time to go to work. He disappeared through the living room into the bedroom.

I looked at Ethel as she drained the remaining tea from her cup. Glenn was my father’s brother and Ethel was, to put it mildly, a thorn in the side of my mother. My mother was an astute business woman and spent considerable time each day tending her appearance, while Ethel was the only woman in town to get her hair cut at the barbershop. She wore a bright red coat she closed with a giant silver safety pin, and completed the outfit with black rubber boots. Make-up was out of the question.

Finish your tea, she said, Time to see what the future holds.

I obediently drained the liquid from the cup,  twisting and turning it, making patterns that I hoped would be many and varied. It took skill to use my teeth as a strainer and keep the leaves out of my mouth, but I’d had plenty of practice. When we were both ready, we turned our cups upside down on a napkin, gave them a few seconds to drain, then righted them again.

You go, she said, read for me first.

I gazed at the images left in the cup, the way one looks at cloud formations, and let my imagination soar. The best thing about this game, was that we were never wrong. Everything we saw was in the future so we could never be wrong. We had full permission to say whatever came to us, without being discounted or judged. It was something we always did after morning tea, in the same way my uncle always reached for a fine cigar after dinner.

I see lots of birds cold from winter, I told her, looking at huddled little clumps of tea.  They are ready for spring to come, so they can play in the cornfield again – and here is a letter coming in the mail, and a visitor, a man with a hat is coming to visit you very soon. A square grouping of leaves looked like a rectangular letter, and another resembled the profile of a man in movement, one knee raised as he walked. The letter part always seemed to be there. The postman drove in the yard most days so that perdiction was a sure thing.

The man with the hat is kind of skipping, I continued. He’s a happy man. You’ll like him. It will be a good visit.

Delightful, she said, smiling and clasping her hands together.

My uncle made his way through the kitchen in a tweed jacket, dark pants and cordovan shoes. He smelled of shaving cream and fresh straw as he bent to hug me goodbye. I loved nestling my nose into the warmth of his neck and lingered as long as I dared. In a moment, he was gone, the heavy spring on the door slamming it’s wooden frame back into place.

Alright, said Ethel, continuing our game. Let’s see what you have now.

She reached for my cup, curled her weathered fingers around it and studied its contents.

OH, my goodness! This is good news!

I perked up, sitting on the edge of my chair. What is it? What, what, tell me!

Sledding, of course. You’re going sledding.

She bent forward and showed me an outline of a steep hill, and what appeared to be seated people flying down the face of it, loose tea leaves spinning in their wake.

Yes, yes, I see it, I replied. It’s definitely sledding.

She closed her eyes for a moment in dramatic silence, then pushed back her chair and walked to the pantry. I have just the thing, she said, popping her head from behind the door. I waited in suspense, listening to drawers and cupboards being opened, searched and closed again. Finally she came out, delight beaming from her eyes, something hidden in the fist of her hand.

What is it?

Close your eyes and open your hands.

I did what I was told, while she placed something glass and cold in my right hand.

What is it? I asked again, opening my eyes.

Gold leaf, she whispered, full of intrigue and mystery. Gold leaf. We’ll paint your name in gold leaf across the top of your sled.

She unscrewed the cap. Golden glittered paint oozed from the small brush in her hand and dripped back into the bottle.

We’d better get busy painting this afternoon so your sled will be ready when you need it.violets

After tea and fortunes we went into her room and settled on top of the bed, where rays of soft morning light made intricate patterns as it filtered through lace curtains, coming to rest on a linen table cloth and rows of potted violets. I nested in her arms, pulled up the patchwork quilt and listened to radio shows, as I drifted in and out of sleep. A row of my uncles calfskin shoes were paired near the foot of the bed, all meticulously polished and ordered. I fought to stay awake.

The leaves don’t lie, whispered Ethel, again. Shall we paint your sled purple first?

Another Time

school-deskIt was cold in the winters where I grew up, in upstate New York. Cold and snowy. There was a one room schoolhouse on the corner near my Uncle Glenn’s farm. That’s where my older sister and brother walked to school. I came later. I had an expanded two room school house. When I went to school, you knew what grade you were in by what row you sat in. There were three rows in the ‘little’ room, housing grades 1, 2 and 3. There were three more rows in the ‘big’ room; 4, 5, and 6. After you made it past the 6th row, you were shipped by bus to the village, which was not something to look forward to, because your dog could no longer go to school with you.

Every Friday the Bible lady came and told stories on a felt board. On Wednesdays we sat on top of our desks, rocked them back and forth like wooden horses, and sang songs. The rest of the time was reading, writing and arithmetic.

I was hopeless with numbers, so I’d line my body up perfectly behind Johnny Horton, hoping to become invisible. Other times, I’d stare out the long length of windows that covered the east wall looking at broad leafed maples, studying the heavy length of chains that held our wooden swings, and waiting for recess. It was difficult to sit in school with a vision of my aunt pulling a fresh lemon cake from the oven, and cats pawing warm milk into their mouths at milking time. There were trees to climb, tractors to steer, ponds to skate and horses to ride. What the heck did I want to be in school for?

My Uncle Glenn and my father, Doug, started the Elmira airport. Glenn managed it, while my dad offered bi-plane instruction. They began with a  quonset hut, an open field and a pioneers love of flying. My dad dressed in leathers, loved dipping down into tree tops and doing daredevil rolls in the sky. Glenn did the business part. He wore tweed suits, fine leather shoes and a broad brimmed hat. I can still smell the oils he used on his shoes and see them lined up in his closet like beautiful little soldiers waiting their turn. Cherry-bowled pipe smoke lingered in the air when he passed.model-t

I’d wait by an old apple tree near the school house for Glenn to come home. I wanted to ride the last mile on his car. As he turned the corner, I’d make a run for it, leaping and landing on the running board. He’d slow enough to reach out and grab me. We’d ride home that way, smiling, laughing and visiting through the window. Me, with rolled up jeans, bare feet and dirty face in the summer: fur lined boots, winter coat and same dirty face in the winter. Blonde braids trailing the wind.

Boots

old-man

I saw an old pair of boots today sitting next to the free box in the laundry room at the ashram. My heart leapt. Oh, what lovely boots!

They smelled of earth, wild strength, and animal. They were leather, worn and marred, a statement of a well-walked, well-traveled country life. I slipped my foot inside hoping they would fit, but they were too big. Just as well, I thought, I have a pair just like them at home. They are irreplaceable. I thought about my husband and slipped my foot in one more time. They don’t fit me, but maybe he would like them, maybe he would wear them. That way I could still see them, and have them beside me as we walked wooded trails. But no, too small for him as well. Besides, he is a city man with little use for country boots. And so I left them, like I was leaving a kindred spirit, like I was pulling away from an old friend I could not invite inside.

My daughter was in the art studio putting the finishing touches on my book design.

Kristen, did you see those wonderful boots by the free box?

She stopped what she was doing, lowered her head and shook it hopelessly from side to side.

I knew you’d like those ratty old smelly things, she said. I would have stuck those in the trash years ago.

Kristen does not have much country in her. She is the fashion conscious model on the cover of Elle Magazine. What she wears matters very much. She has trained her daughter to have her careful eye and gift for beauty. Isabella, however, has been known to slip a gear, propelling in my direction. I want to wear Carharts just like Ma, she says. Poor Kristen feels she has been cursed by an unjust God. You want to use Ma as your standard for fashion? Isabella! God help us all!

I left the boots in the laundry room by the free box. Maybe someone else will find them and be overjoyed. Or maybe Isabella snatched them up when no one was looking, and is wearing them around the house as we speak. Most certainly Kristen is questioning her lineage and pulling out her perfectly fashioned hair.