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I was taking a walk by myself.  I had my bleached, tall walking stick that I had found on the beach of the Cape.  It was quiet, only the birds seemed happy that I was there on the narrow trail of Greilsheimer’s Woods.  It was my first walk in those woods, and I found the terrain to be quite challenging.  I was not as young as I used to be, and not too old to forget how good it was to be that young.

I was thinking about nothing, nothing of importance, that is.  My mind is always working, and sometimes I just want to turn it off.  For instance, I saw a stone that looked like a frog, and I imagined that it could croak.  Silly me! a stone that croaks.  Suddenly I lost the sun, and  was walking through a bright green grove of ferns under a canopy of ancient trees.  I wondered how they could be so green with so little sunlight until I discovered the small stream that fed them.

That’s when the path turned to an open meadow. I didn’t remember a meadow showing on the map, so I thought I was lost.  As far as my eyes could see, there were little girls practicing face painting.  There were some in groups of four, but most were practicing with one another.  They were taking turns with the designs.  Some were painting face masks of lions and tigers and dogs and cats; others were mastering vines and flowers on legs and arms.  The strangest of all, though, was the little girl who was painting her feet.  All alone, she sat on a giant toadstool near the large, round table fashioned from a tree that had fallen.

She looked so determined, I thought not to stop, but something about her told me to stay.  I put down my stick and quietly sat on a log fallen over.  We exchanged glances, but nothing was said.  I watched while she painted one toe, then all five, the top and bottom and then onto the other.  I heard in the distance a cow’s bell or was it a clang.  There was a single clap of hands and everyone disappeared.

Magic! I thought, the enchantment of the forest, that’s all.  I stood up from my log, picked up my stick and followed the white footprints.  They walked and then seemed to run, they leapt and then kind of shuffled; they led me back to where I’d begun.

“Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean.”  Marcia told me that when she looked into the revealing mirror, she felt the first stanza of the child’s limerick was invisibly written across her forehead.

“It wasn’t always this way,” she mused, “I think it was the invention of elastic waist jeans.”  She shared years past when the tables were turned, continuing in her soft voice, “After he retired from the Army, John gave up his five-mile run.  He did not, though, give up the overflowing plates of Chinese food with double desserts at the ‘Oriental Buffet;’ I preferred the shrimp dishes and jello desserts.  It wasn’t long before he was loosening his belt, buying new pants and packing away the uniform he loved, a bystander to the parade.”

“So how is John now?” I asked.  “He’s like a teenager,” she said, “weighs himself every day, goes to the gym, and counts calories.”

She went on and talked about her retirement.  “Early, without warning”, she said, “I woke up one day and thought, I’m not going to work and began to sleep in.”  Continuing, she told me she  gave up her gym membership and took to gardening.  “That made me very hungry, so I began to freeze Snickers for a snack.”  It was menopause that had bought her to my office.  “It,” she said, “the menopause, was the end of the old me.”

In our session we talked about the day-long cravings for chocolate, the thickening waistline, the drooping bustline; the flashing, intolerable heat.  We discussed her feelings for John.  “It seemed,” she said, “as I started to crave more food, he desired it less.  As my stomach and thighs expanded, his contracted.”

Trying to get to the crux of the problem before the sand ran out of the glass, I asked if she remembered the second stanza of her little limerick.  “So betwixt the two of them, they licked the platter clean.”

“That’s it,” she brightened, “limericks always have a moral; an answer to life’s mysteries.   I have to cook less; use smaller plates and never, never, put the platter on the table.”   “Ah,” I breathed, “another client finds the answer within.”

#33 The Giant

Gina sent me this post today from Nystrom’s Pond.  She was taking an early morning run around the rim of the lake where there is a thin trail, enough for one or two very thin walkers or runners.  She sent it with these words, “STAY AWAY!  I’M SAFE, TUCKED INTO A LITTLE CAVE WITH RABBITS AND FAWNS, SKUNKS AND SNAKES.  THE GIANT OF WHITE’S WOODS HAS BEEN AWAKENED AND I BARELY ESCAPED HIS FOOTSTEPS…I AM SAFE.  THE ANIMALS AND I WILL WAIT FOR THE SILENCE AND THEN I’LL BE HOME.”

“This is incredible,” I thought.  Ronnie was away for the weekend, and there was no one else who knew about the giant except for the woman.  We three had been camping at Nystrom when the wizened lady visited.  We were telling stories and roasting marshmallows when the four-foot eight, hump-backed elder appeared; her long white hair framed her face, an apparition, in the firelight until she spoke.  She said she was tired and asked, “May I sit down and join you?”  We said “yes,” and gave her a stick with a marshmallow.

The story began:  “I was a young girl when my family and I camped on this mountain.  There was no lake then, only a waterfall.   One early morning I decided to wake early, before anyone else, and pick blueberries in an opening I had seen on an earlier walk.  I was hungry for pancakes and wanted Momma to put the blueberries in the batter.  I had my own  tent, so no one woke as I dressed.  Grabbing the little tin pail, I followed the sun in the sky; just rising, I knew it was east, and that was the direction of the patch of berries.

I had been picking for only a few minutes, and the blueberries were so large that my pail was nearly filled.  It’s then that I felt the earth move.  Little animals came running out of their holes and nests and scurried by me.  I saw a cave in the clearing, and dove into it with the skunks, the snakes, the fawn and rabbits.  We were all quiet and huddled together when the earth shook again, a footstep closer.  Of course, I didn’t know it was a giant.”

“What happened?” we three asked the question together.  “For a long time we heard the thud of trees falling, another footstep and suddenly the sound of roaring, tumbling water.  The little animals sat very still, and I was trembling when a white rabbit hopped into my lap.  He let me pet him, and the fawn came over to lay beside us.  The skunks and snakes and other rabbits were in the back of the cave where bats were lying upside down.”

“What was going on outside?” we three asked. “When the sound of water subsided, and we could not feel rumblings any more, the snakes were the first to leave, followed by the skunks and rabbits.  The little fawn looked at me with his deep brown eyes as if to say good-bye, and the white rabbit jumped down and thumped his little back paw, gazing for just a moment and he was gone.  I thought it was a dream.  That I had fallen asleep in that little cave and had a dream until I crawled out.

“What, what, what was outside the cave? we asked.  “The sun was high in the sky, and I thought it was noon.  I picked up my little tin pail and ran to the campsite.  My tent and the big tent were gone;  a pond stood instead.  A beautiful, gleaming, roundly seeming lake.  Footprints in the sand, larger than life, showed 20 toes at least, confirming my suspicion; it was a giant I heard.”

“What about your parents, were they okay?” Gina asked.  “Yes, they, too, had sought refuge in a cave on a high ridge above the campsite, just beyond the waterfall.  They shared it with a mountain lion who had not yet wakened.”

At that moment, the wizened, white-haired lady disappeared, and we thought it was just our imagination until today when Gina sent her note.

Inspired by S. Ersinghaus #43

We built a fairy’s house yesterday morning when mist rose from the river and the sun was hidden in fluffy white clouds.  The early morning serenade of a bird’s song woke us from a fretful night’s sleep, and we dressed before breakfast to build her a suite.

The grass was wet and tickled our bare feet.  We winced when we crossed the stone path to the tumbled-down tree.  Inside its shell of bark was the perfect start for a fairy’s house; a tree house.  We hammered and fashioned stairs using splits of wood.  Next was the platform for the rooms.  It didn’t need a roof, nestled so snug in the hole of a tree, so we gave it a canopy instead.  The kitchen, bathroom and bedroom had a great room effect, but we sectioned the bathroom for privacy please.

Our furniture we carried in a wired wicker basket.  It was miniature and beautiful; there was even a vase.  We decorated and feng-shui(d) and made it just perfect.  A vision of purple wisteria popped in my head, and I thought of it sitting alone in the shed.   I left you to pick some violets and daisies and went to retrieve them knowing you would not see them.

We laughed at our work when the magic was done, and danced near the frog pond, our wits near undone.  We festooned our table with paper red hearts and sat down, so happy, with blueberry tarts.  We waited and waited and waited some more, but fairies don’t come in a morning of sun.  They ride in the evenings on backs of butterflies and light their homes by the twinkle of  fireflies.

#31 Orderliness

#30 Staging

I constantly am in the process of moving things.  I rearrange furniture, rehang pictures and rehash instances.  My plants, if not doing well in the east are moved to the west.  Their protest is short-lived as some die and some thrive.  As a gardener, I walk the yard with heavy-duty clippers, short enough to carry in the pocket of my camp shorts, and an odd-shaped knife that doubles as a trowel.  I can fill a wheel barrel in less than 10 minutes pulling and snapping, clipping and digging.

In summer, the extended yard is my canvas.  Off season, it’s the house.  Albeit one forbidden room, my husband’s office.  Bookcases are stuffed; file cabinets filled beyond opening point,.  In the small, “insignificant space” as he calls it, papers stack in folders, atop desks, in bins and beyond.  He is a king of paperwork and can easily put his hand on any issue he has worked, forbidding me entry into this sacred domain.

In earlier days of our marriage, I would aid his addiction and spend hours sifting through, refining down and rearranging the mess to accommodate my sense of orderliness.  His anger was short-lived as was the improvement and through the years, I have learned to  let go.  My threatening, my cajoling, my promises of moon-lit sex on a sun-kissed beach have been temporarily met with token efforts at downsizing, and I will use them no more.  I have simply ordered a door.

 

#29 Solitaire

#28 The Nightgown

I was sitting in the back yard when it happened.  The low-to-the ground lounge chair had been saturated with rain the night before, and it was still smelled damp.  I was dumbstruck when I saw the flash of white; a long, scraggy animal flashed up from the pond, skipped beneath the hostas, slid around the daylillies and disappeared into the dense grasses.

My headache came within the hour.

We were doing last-minute chores in the house the next day, and as I stooped to pick up the dog’s toy, my shoulder hurt, all the way to my neck, and it radiated into and became part of the headache from yesterday.  I paid no attention to it.  We were going to Newport!  I packed my overnight with the new red nightgown, the black bathing suit with the thin ribbon of bright blue at the bust that made me ten pounds thinner and  my stylish Picasso smock with black leggings for dinner on the deck.

When I breathed in the salt air and warmed in the Narragansett sun of Beach No. 4, I let go of the headache and pained shoulder and neck and walked the beach with a Nikon in hand.  The ebb and flow of the tide soothed my cares as it washed across bare feet; toes dug into the sand, butt relaxed in the bleached, brown beach chair.  I visualized the color or rainbows, felt the wings of butterflies on my cheeks and soon was asleep.

Dinner was grand at the outdoor deck overlooking the Jamestown bridge.  Our table faced the bridge with sunset rays glancing gold, a beautiful site to a spectacular day.

The long, luxurious soak with salts from Israel was relaxing, and the shower selection of rain-forest heightened my interest.  I dried off in the thick white towel, dabbed on some Shalimar and skimmed into the red, silky nightgown.  My headache returned with a vengeance.  I felt the sharp pain in my shoulder.  “Nothing,” I said to myself as I turned the door and entered the room.

My prince of 25 years was already in the bed, a look of love and longing in his eyes.  As I lay beside him, the elephant in the room settled on my chest.  I turned to one side, and he was there.  I turned to my husband, and the elephant came with me.  Pericarditis.  I knew it well.  I took off the nightgown, folded it while my frustrated mate went for the Motrin.

#27 Veritas

He asked that I go into his computer that day.  He was leaving for two days, and there was something wrong with his e-mail.  He couldn’t access it.

I spent the morning cleaning.  It was always like that. He would leave, and I would pull out the vacuum.  Actually, there are two vacuums, one for each floor.  I know that I should start at the top and work my way down, but I don’t; I start with the bathrooms and work my way up.  We can afford a housekeeper, but he never wanted one.  I hate to vacuum, but I look upon it as a sort of penance;  absolution for sins.  I love, though, to wash dishes.  I would never have a dishwasher.  Standing in one spot over the double sink, a spacious window overlooking the entire backyard, hot water, steam as it fills.  I decided to save the dishes for last; meditation.

I finished the cleaning and decided to tackle the internet.   I thought it better to enter the world of frustration prior to the illumination and peace I received from the mindfulness of meditation; i.e. dishwashing.

For some reason, there was no problem accessing his account.  Seven hundred e-mails!   Was this the problem?  I looked into his recently deleted file, and it was beyond my imagination.  How about old mail?  I cleaned that out, and went into his sent file and started to read.  I justified my snoop because of my eagerness to right his wrongs.  Little did I know that I would soon have to confront him with his written wrongs.

There there were, for anyone, especially me, to see:  weekly notes of gifts sent, urgings to come visit, concerns for safety and there was one that even mentioned me!  the bastard.  My investigation took the better part of the day, and it was about 4:00 when I found her picture in some obscure file.  Thank goodness I had a somewhat limited but compelling command of computers.  I used her picture as a screen saver.  The first revenge.

I needed some nourishment, and chocolate is essential in predicaments where your husband is (may be) having an affair.  I took the large Snickers out of the freezer and placed it in the micro wave, pouring myself a hefty cup of morning coffee.  My head was cleared, and I went to the dishes.  I was reminded of Sam’s affair 20 years ago, all events denied by both parties, and the painful years that followed building back the trust I had lost.  He promised it would never happen again.  Hollow words in light of today’s findings.

I went back to the computer.  I laughed at the nonsense of the screen saver.  I was hurt, but he was an old fool, and I would never end the marriage at this late date.  All I wanted was revenge.  The second act was taking the most recent notes and forwarding them back to him so that he would either become totally confused and think he’s suffering from senility or realize that his indiscretion had been found.  I wouldn’t know until he returned.

The third revenge was to confront the other woman.  Doesn’t everyone?  I thought it best, though, to take some time to really reflect on what was unfolding with each click.  I slept on it.

Awaking fresh and motivated, I marveled that it was a perfect day to establish a case for digital infidelity.  Innocent until proven guilty?   I was purely playing the role of Prosecutor.  He would have to defend himself.  Going through the new mail, there was nothing.  It had been weeks since his last response.  I went into his sent file with new insight.  In the Discovery phase, I realized it was he who had initiated the correspondence.  Got ya!  The third revenge was clear.  I would not confront this poor woman, who felt he was too old for him, refused his gifts, and assured him she was safe.  Instead, I would delete all of his files.  In his new mail, I kept only the forwarded three e-mails I had selected to send him, plainly showing his attraction to another woman.  Deleting all of his messages in the sent file, I was going to annihilate his contact file too, but thought not.  However, on second thought, I did just that.

Feeling totally confident that there would be no more of these cyber things, I cooked his favorite dinner, showered and changed into something soft and sexy.  The house was clean and so was his computer.  Revenge is so sweet.

#26 Consumed

The smell of mold tightened her chest; it was hard to breathe and even harder to cough.  She could see the green and black spores climbing the wall of the walk-in safe.   This room was built on slab, as was the stone-floored, wood-beamed room with fireplace that was already consumed.  She looked through the small panes of the garden doors to the room she loved most and cried.   If the rain continued for much longer, the airborne, reproductive spores would find favorable surfaces in  other parts of her vintage, historic home to supply the nutrients; its beams, the Ogee wood frames that held mirrors and pictures, the fabric of the heavily upholstered furniture and drapes, the Aubusson rugs that were framed by wide-board, Chestnut floors.

The six weeks of May into June were beyond the norm; it had rained without mercy, the temperature was 80 degrees and less during the day and stayed around 68 degrees in the evenings; it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity of 80 percent and upwards that was causing all the damage.  She wrote in her diary, chronicling the progress, “After six weeks of rain, my riverfront property resembles the rain forest in Central America I had once toured.”

There were several days of brownouts when all electricity along the Northeast coast, from Canada to New York was shut down by of a rolling blackout that began in Canada.  Nuclear power reactors were immediately closed down, and only those who lived off the grid had some sense of normalcy.   Several days after the failure, the government admitted there was a problem restoring the utility.  Experts throughout the world worked on the problem.  Power was restored to her hamlet about two weeks later, but not before the mold had taken hold.

Christy was an older woman, proud and independent.  Her husband had long ago died, and they had no family.  She was entirely on her own, an invisible woman to those outside her little acre.   Christy’s husband was a scientist who worked out of his home, and she was his soul mate.  When he died, she became more of a recluse, even having her groceries delivered.  Old Charlie took care of the grounds, and they rarely exchanged words.  She was living in a home that would soon consume her with its visible colonies of fungus.  She prayed that the weather would break so that she might open windows and doors to let the sun remedy the situation.  She had plenty of Clorox, and it was her choice for cleaning, however, even at full strength, the liquid burning through rubber gloves and nearly overcoming her, it would not touch the fine, almost picturesque art form created by oxygen and water.  From the outside, all looked normal, but inside, the plaster and wallpaper were taking on the appearance of mottled skin, and it was deadly she knew.

The sun came out that following Sunday.  On Monday, old Charlie came to mow the lawn and trim the bushes.  He found her body on the white couch, next to the waterfall where the sun would have simmered on the rocks.  She was dressed for the garden with a floppy hat and shears in her hand.  An open book of poetry was on the ground.   Initially, he thought  she was resting, and went about the front of the house, clipping and whacking, mowing and pulling.

Returning to the back yard, there were swarms of butterflies, hatched by the warm sun, around his employer.  She still appeared to be sleeping.  He went closer, and the butterflies scattered to the edge of the rose garden.  It was then that he noticed her skin.  Her arms were mottled in green and black.  The design travelled up her neck and onto her face.  She was consumed.