Memoir, Menagerie, Musical Monologues

The Spaces Between

Living in the gray spaces
Between dark and light
Living in Liminal leys
Between the lines
Living in the twilight traces
Between day and night
Living in the graces
Between spaces and times
Living in the changing faces
Between the blinks of your eyes
Living in the embraces
Between inside and outside

Living on the threshold
Between the aged stones
Living in the darkened hall
Between the ghostly moans
Living inside the call
Between the numbers on the phones
Living in the bitter cold
Between flakes of ice and snow
Living in stories yet untold
Between the notes of the song
Living inside your soul
Between right and wrong

–Manderley Swain
3/14/21

I wrote this during a breakup/reset period with one of my partners. We’re both intense people in relationship. We both have trauma behind us and within us. During this time, we committed to remaining friends. We agreed that we could not un-know or un-love each other. We hoped that we might take this time to learn each other’s contexts and needs better. And we did that. But in between the new relationship energy time and the back to good time, we struggled with love and longings we could not unknow or unremember. We lived in the between spaces, waiting to be whole again. It was bittersweet and tragic and beautiful.

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Memoir, Musical Monologues, Uncategorized

The Author’s Kiss

Stories born
Upon his lips
Revealed and written
In his kiss
Sensations spiraling
From his fingertips
Dreams come true
In unbridled bliss
Paragraphs and pages
Distilled to this
She spent forever after
In his kiss

A poem for our anniversary. Every anniversary. In his arms. With our favorite stories. All told in his kiss.
April 29, 2020

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Memoir, Uncategorized

Stories in Her Face

The last days of Grandmother’s life were hard, though at times she was herself again–you could see the familiar sparkle in her eyes. But mostly she was confused, existing, waiting, lost somewhere inside herself. We kept her as comfortable as we could, hoping to see any sign of her old self. She gave us that for a brief moment, when her brother, Buddy, came to visit. She knew him instantly and was so excited to see him. It was such a joyful surprise for all of us to see her so happy. 

She soon lapsed back into confusion, trying to tell us things but the words would no longer connect in her brain and came out all mixed up. She fought sleep like a small child would, not wanting to miss anything. Eventually rest came, if only for a little while.

 As I sat with her, watching her sleep, I noticed patterns in the fine lines and crinkles in her face. The wrinkes seemed to flow in paths and patterns all down her face and around her features. Like the glowing spirals and brush marks around the stars in Van Gogh’s most beloved painting, those lines in her sweet face told her story. I thought about the many stories she lived and told over the years. I wonder how many stories remained untold.

Although she didn’t live a life of high adventure and epic tales from far away lands, her stories, her moments of joy and sorrow were as meaningful and compelling as anything Hollywood has ever adapted to film. Grandmother’s stories were often about the little things in her life. Simple things that became building blocks of a long life filled with happiness and hardships, love and loss. She lived through decades, observing some of the most incredible moments of history.

Reflecting on the lyrical, swirling stories in her face, I find that I am not quite as dismayed by the inevitability of the lines that will, all too soon, appear on my own face. I will try to wear them with the contentment I saw in her. Now I see echoes of stories in the faces of everyone I meet. I find myself wondering more and more about all the untold little stories that built those lives so far….

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Madness, Memoir, Uncategorized

The Stuff of Memories…

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The memories that come while grieving can cut like knives-no matter their beauty or how deeply cherished they are. Dividing up her life, their lives, their own memories among us is both loving and painful. They live on through the stories attached to these mementos. But each new item I pick up to sort out renews the realization that she is gone, that my childhood home is going to be gone and in someone else’s hands, making some other family’s history and memories.

It’s strange to think of other people living there, repainting, remodeling, refurnishing and changing it. Loving this home that I have loved. Knowing that they cannot see or experience it through the same lens. Those daffodils by the creek, the clover and violets and strawberries. That tree whose roots made a perfect seat that placed me right in the middle of the creek but not yet in the water so I could have the perfect vantage point to watch the tiny little fish dart in and out of the shadows underneath. And there is that play of light on the rain-washed driveway at night, not to mention the particular scent of the fresh rain on new grass–it won’t smell that way anywhere else.

For now, for me, memories and stories are intertwined with objects and places. I truly believed, going into this process of sorting through and cleaning out my grandparents’ house with my family, that I wanted no more than ten or twelve special items. Now, I cannot believe how many odds and ends I have picked up and been unable to put down. None of it really would have much, if any value to anyone else. But all of it is priceless to me, at least for the time being. These simple and ordinary things hold dozens, maybe hundreds of memories and stories. Some of them I don’t remember until I touch or hold the item. Many come rushing back to me just standing in a given room or outside in the yard. I fear forgetting even one of them when I can no longer visit my childhood home. I am afraid of losing them, like losing old friends.

The joys and sorrows alike are all parts of how I became me, of how we all grew as a family. Leaving home now feels like cutting away a safety net that has always given me the courage and confidence to run across tight ropes and fly on the trapeze in my life’s strange little creative circus. It’s terrifying in many ways. A new adventure in other ways. I hope to hold each object up to the light like a little crystal ball and write down the visions I see there. Perhaps in this way, I will preserve the memories so I can let go of the ‘stuff’.  Most of the stuff. Some of the stuff.

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