darkness and light

I came so close to hitting him, me in the Jeep, him on foot. He was black, the night was black, his clothes were black, the streetlight sputtering into nothing. I stopped at the stop sign and when I turned to my left to check for traffic, there he was, in the middle of the street, standing thisclose to me, stopped right outside my driver's side window, just inches away, staring, surprised. The weak light lit his wrinkles and, no doubt, mine, and I waved him on, my heart skittering off in different directions. He disappeared into the darkness with just a step or three, and it was only much later I wondered if he was real. If he was a ghost. An angel. We'd stared into each other's eyes and each taken a breath, a big one, and I'd said to him through the closed window I didn't see you, and I could see in his eyes he understood and trusted me enough to walk on by. We were the only people on the road and then he was gone.

A shared moment.


"We'll be drinking margaritas by the sea, mamacita."
                                           ~ Louise / Thelma & Louise


suddenly i want the big paintings in the house gone. they take up too much light and too much space and the rooms feel toosmalltoocrowdedtoosmooshed. i want less and less and less, except for the small stove that is on its way here. which, in truth, means less in the kitchen, means the tossing of things, the rearranging, re-figuring. means one bowl cakes made from scratch and less store bought. means finding my way back to caring for me.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, which we shared on Wednesday:
the blinds across my glass door are broken and cannot be raised more than a couple of feet from the floor, and i cannot find an affordable replacement online, and certainly nothing in this town. they are opened to stripes of light and getting in and out of the house is an annoyance. i feel enclosed, but it is what it is, and it is fixable, just not today, not this weekend. it explains the no-big-paintings mood, the ache for more sleep. it is a lonely november and the yard is full of leaves, brown, still damp from rain earlier this week.  the air has a bit of chill but the door is open behind those blinds and my feet are bare.


Sunday, the first day of Advent, is cooler. 
the month is winding down, as am i. i've spoken to one person, for one short conversation, in 4 days. i move the furniture around and cannot get it right. tell myself i need to scrub the kitchen floor, but don't. use candles in the rooms where lightbulbs have gone out. let the laundry pile. i fall asleep early and awaken after midnight. i should be a poem.


i lost a thursday night in the traffic coming home from the christmas parade, and only found it later when my brother mentioned something about the cowboys and i realized i'd missed the game. the air stayed warm until it didn't, until just a few days ago, when the wind showed up with winter on its breath. it was loud and blustery, and sounded like rain, and i dreamed a big black bunny was sprawled across a bed in my house, his smiling eyes following me around the rooms.

we are almost done, this year and i.


"I need a holiday, a very long holiday"
                                   ~ Bilbo Baggins




advent day 1: gray

sleepy and soft and home sweet home.

katie's stairs.
(they will always be katie's stairs.)
the cat rubs hellos and i-miss-yous when she passes by.


the season begins with silence.
late morning, gray november sky.  teases of sunlight.
wind and leaves, a closed door.

i am full of dreams when i sleep and when i wake. 



we can't handle the truth

november begins with the return of my brother, disappeared for 12 days,
depressed, suicidal.
returning shaken, crying.
my hands are empty and ache from the trying. 
there is nothing more i can do. 

Baseball runs over football, done with a bang, over at last. Cool air pushes against warm. Rain threatens. I turn the radio on and Steve Earle bumps into Jim Reeves, George Strait eases into Led Zeppelin. October gives way, and November begins with still warm days, the cat hiding half awake in the monkey grass, fallen leaves a roof over her head. Her fur matching the leaves, her eyes matching the grass.  I could've walked back into the house, tracked down my camera and taken her picture, but it would have ruined the moment, and, especially lately, I am letting the moments just be.


it is time for a change.

it is time to stop insisting we wear a uniform called woman or artist or mother or republican or unmarried.  it is time to stop.  time to start.  time to listen.

labels is labels, not the music.


i sleep hard without midnight awakenings, or i don't sleep at all. in the mornings, all the aches i took with me to bed are waiting.  i bang my knee against a chair, i drop a can of coke from fingers not yet ready to grasp the new day.  i am bruised outside and in.


Last night the neighborhood wolf dog escaped his yard and flew under the streetlights - I knew it was him; he is bigger, moves differently and faster, and my god what a gift to watch him go. The other animals ran toward him or away, fights almost started, owners shouting. I could hear them as they circled the streets, closing in.  Skyecat climbed to the third floor porch and watched from above. I came back into the house and watched the last of this year's baseball, then turned off the tv and the lights, reading, as always, by the light of the Kindle. The close-by sound of an owl from the backyard, once, twice, scooted the cat back in.



summer autumn

wednesday 's roses.

The step from August to autumn is a slow one around here. September's honeysuckle becomes October's honeysuckle and sprawls just the same along the bridge and the sides of the creek; the trees are still green and leaves fall only because there are moments of wind and rain. Never mind what the calendar says, seasons are births that come in their own time. Spring pushes against winter's envelope, tearing small holes that let blossoms fly through, but winter pushes back, always, always. Summer is always early, spring exhausted and willing to give way, autumn's birth gentle, gentle, a late baby here in Texas, warm long past the time we expect. Winter arrives with a surprise, with a fast drive through a cold night.

but today is autumn, and the temperature cools and warms and cools again - i wear thin sweaters under changing sunshine, and let my toes go bare and chilly in the mornings. they will be warm by afternoon.  a continuation, a movement.  the season of pumpkins and roses. the dragonflies have disappeared and the cat's breakfast was a butterfly.  i was too slow to stop her.

the days and stars turn.
i was once a scorpio, but some say now a libra.
i stay silent and laugh to myself.
continuations, changes. 


the shop around the corner?
it doesn't get much better.


the week i ate moonpies for supper

Katie died on a Monday morning and by the next Monday Lilycat was very sick.

I almost think I don't need to say more.  That it should be obvious I needed something stupid and comforting and quick to eat, something that would take me back to my childhood. And maybe that's all that is needed.  At least about the moonpies.  Maybe.

But right now it's Sunday afternoon late, and I'm sitting in my office, Lilycat still sick, though she managed to sip some water this morning, and eat a few treats.  I cancelled the weekend trips to the vet, and chose instead to just stay close, to talk sweetness to her, to cajole and beg and pray. I want her back to her Lilycat self.  And I think that's what all this is about.  The power to do something.

This time.


There towards the end, we missed shopping.  Not the spending of money, but the singing in the car as we drove from place to place, the rolling our eyes at stuff that just wasn't pretty, the girl company and giggles and deciding where we'd eat. The manager at Marshall's with always a smile on his face and a hug for Katie. The Target run-through that always took longer than we planned. The Ikea we never got back to. Checking the backsides of rugs because we always liked the backsides more than the fronts. The gossip. The complaining. The laughter laughter laughter.

On good days she'd come down for tv and movies, making herself as comfortable as possible on the floor, on rugs layered backside-up, big pillows to prop her up, white blankets. Skye cat always loved her better than me on those days and would lay next to her, head bumping her first to make sure Katie knew she was there. As if she didn't. Her husband would check in, bringing this hour's medicine, checking her temperature.

I kept small diaries about her - here, online, where I could type fast and get it out, and in 2 notebooks. Just small sentences so I wouldn't forget.

november 22:
she told me today, said it was worse than she'd thought, said she had X amount of time left, and then added that she'd changed her mind about not decorating for christmas, that she wanted to look for new lights, maybe tomorrow.  this could be the last christmas, she said.  we talked and we laughed and i made myself not cry when the nerves under my skin were trembling, because she didn't need any more of that.  her husband came in and sat behind her on the couch, taking her in his arms, and their dog scooched up close against her legs.  rainy daylight through the windows. a family portrait.


november 27:
she has so much anger, she told me.  i have no answers.  we are searching for a swear word that sounds gentle, that she can say with a smile, that won't scare the dog when she says it and some of that anger flies into the air.  i'm not sure such a word exists.

she's having night sweats and is in pain, ready to get the show on the road to see if the chemo will at least help with that.  she wanted cokes, so i took her some, and stayed, and after we talked for a while, we fell into laughing at the total absurdity of life. she is now at her aunt's house, thanksgiving-ing with her family, xanaxed and pain-pilled up.

the pear tree by the staircase has gone all golden and yellow
and begs to have its picture taken.
broken camera in hand, i do so, sun shining through the leaves.
it's funny how just a step up or a step down
changes your perspective on the world you see.


december 7:
sunday evening.
her baddest pain was some kind of infection, now mostly gone with the help of antibiotics, which, as antibiotics can do, are killing her appetite and making her belly feel bad.  she on-purpose missed one yesterday morning just so she could eat, and she could, even if only a bit, and she came downstairs and we watched silly family feud episodes all afternoon because steve harvey.  and then a movie and then it was night and the day was gone, but it had been one filled with laughter, with another friend who picked her up to feed her chick-fil-a, because at this point she needs to get down what she can with no guilt and no worries.

this afternoon i grocery shopped and bought her buttermilk (her mom's advice, which i served to her in a champagne glass, and which seemed to help) and added my own medicines - white tulips, ginger ale, animal crackers, ice from sonic.  her temperature was up again and she is continuing to lose weight.

tonight my gut is kicking a bit.  understandable.  it was a hard busy week and dealing with the lawyer re: getting my mother's house moved to our names is just as frustrating as i'd thought - though michael had made me feel i was worried over nothing, he was wrong. it's not a big thing, just a thing. it was a fibro week with christmas rushes, and i hurt, but it was not the way katie hurt; i kept comparing myself to that pain, and i was always the winner.

barkley cat has gone missing,
and though he drove me (and skye cat) crazy,
and i ran him off a thousand times, and wanted him gone, i worry.
i hope he is okay, that he has found a home


december 21, winter solstice:
i told sarah today and in her reply she said "Katie has always been like a star glimmering behind your words, a beautiful smile in the background, a bit of love. Sometimes when I'm reading your words I see the two of you sitting together in sunshine, and I think you are so lucky to have such a friendship".


2015. These words are in my notebooks and I haven't the heart to look just yet.  I found the above words from 2014 on my computer. i'd forgotten i was writing here.

january 18.  the cancer has spread - she knew before christmas and sat still with the knowledge, just she and robert.  the next step is oral chemo.  

june 16.  she & robert home yesterday from 3 weeks in arizona.  she felt bad the whole time, and made the decision to call it done. since i last wrote, she's been through ups & downs, a change in the type of oral chemo, moved her studio.  she was feeling bad when they left, and perhaps it was the altitude that made her feel worse, but she says she will talk to hospice on monday, before her appointment with the oncologist on tuesday.  i feel the jumpiness under my skin.  

while she was gone, michael had her car repaired and repainted - small damage from a falling limb months ago.  he feels the helplessness we all feel, the need to do what we can, which is different for each of us.  i cleaned the back porch, bought a new cushion for the old chair back there, looked in vain for plants for the empty pots. i meant to hang white lights, but she was home a day early, so it can wait.  it's hot, and there will be mosquitoes, so she'll probably use the porch less this summer, but still. you do what you can.  

i slept hard and dreamless last night.

september 2. she looks, at long last, like she is sick.  her face is the face of pain. and at last, at last, at last, we broke down together, sitting on the couch, holding each other close, crying. 

you have been a gift, i told her.   

this morning, awake at 3:30, i tossed in the bed for an hour before getting up.  now, almost 6, the news read, the weather watched, toast eaten, i am shaky.  my belly upset.  i type these words as her husband takes their dog for a walk, stopping first to see how i'm doing.  when i tell him i couldn't sleep, he says it was the same for them.

she was gone in 10 days. 
into the mystic.
farther than the moon, her husband tells me.


Katie Wintters Langham, aka the lovely, lovely katie
1971 - 2016  

photo above: a long ago conversation.
she in rainboots, me in flipflops.
texas weather.
do you see the tiny heart?

and the moonpies when? the week lilycat got sick. 


to mend, perhaps to dream

dusting also. and that smear of white paint still on the glass.

the light of morning points out all the stuff, and in the light of morning you think you'll get to it later. when the night's aches lessen, when the book you're reading comes to its end. by the end of the day, in the still heat of the day, when your feet are up and the first cicada interrupts the silence, you'll think this weekend. it will wait.

and then the weekend comes.

and goes.


mending my soul
walking into the night, into the summer night
into the surroundingness of cicada song
into the muggy starlight
it's all one, it's all one.


Three crows walk in circles around the old oak tree, and I think to myself ritual, I think to myself of dogs and cats circling before laying themselves down, I think of the story told in my father's family of a distant cousin who circled and circled in the yard, circled hard, thinking, before killing himself. Circled so hard he left his trail in the red dirt, a circle carved by thoughts. An old story, before my father's time, but I refuse to judge. Perhaps he was mending in the only way he knew how, perhaps his thread broke and he came undone. A thread breaks into the tiniest of pieces, and sometimes, despite a world full of perhapses and maybes and all the king's horses and all the king's men . . . well, you know. Sometimes the wind blows away those pieces before you can begin to put them together again.

A fourth crow appears and they all fly away.


the heat of day stays on my skin and in it,
a fever carried into the healing night,
gone by morning to begin again.
gray sky to blue.  



july all fall down

heat then wind then gray skies and baby bits of rain. earlier this week the whoompf of fireworks, the following morning the rumble of thunder. this morning sunshine, heat coming later, breezy breezes blowing through the open door.  leftover leaves and camellia blossoms.  my standing place.

i was gonna say more but no. it all falls down.
i think that's enough.  




The temperature has at last climbed into summer. The heat of the days welcome the crepe myrtle trees, suddenly fat with blossoms - white, pink, purple - hiding the last open spaces of winter, the spaces spring's watercolors couldn't cover. The red dragonflies return, also the orange daylilies, and the sweet willingness to do absolutely nothing settles over us, summer laziness relaxing bones and minds and hearts. The evenings overflow with muggy breezes and mosquitoes, and summer nights bring the cicadas' songs. The cat winds her way to the third floor balcony, summer sprawling dark and hot around the house, sliding up the stairs with her. I read to avoid thinking about things. All fiction and kisses and mexican hot chocolate.

a memory: 
once upon a time there was the way the sun fell through my mother's windows, puddling on the back of the couch of my young childhood.  i would sit backwards, books settled into that light, and get lost in their stories.  i still see the little ballerina in my memories, pink and white tutus glowing across the big pages, dust motes dancing - summer memories if the color of the remembered light is to be believed. late afternoon.



the secret art of storytelling

build a wall, nails, screws, wood, light switches
paint it
surround yourself brush in hand
inhale exhale stroke color dribble spatter
the second wall will spring from the first
keep your distance until it calls you
more paint more brushes more color
more smooshing parts of your soul

2 parts white
1 part soul
1 part silver



from then to now and back again

one night a long while back. winter.  reading.  kindle.

I can't remember the book.  I think it's one I'd borrowed from my local library, but possibly not.  I didn't highlight this quote, just enlarged the words and took the picture and kept reading.  I think it's maybe from the Fire and Thorn series, but I'm unsure, and I apologize to the author of whatever book it was.  It was just something I liked.

I liked the idea of all those secret tunnels.  Hidden pathways.  And though I knew at the time what here was and what there was, I like, all these months later, not knowing.  I like here being anything and there being maybe everything.  Anywhere.


there is no rain today.  there is sunshine outside and inside, on the television, theoden has become the king we always knew he was.  i am writing, just writing, no sentences, no stories, just a list of things i see:

gray velvet
the blue green of my mother's table
the light brown of cardboard
black moths
white ceiling
one granny smith apple

digging a secret tunnel from words to painting, i think.  i have been sketching.  making lists. watching the wind.  small time journaling.


collecting moments.

january 31: i bought beer, lemons and bagels at the store, only there because katie mentioned my fridge was empty, unless you counted the cokes and pickled okra.  i do, and they were supper more than once last week, but she was right, and we headed out.  we talked about the perfume of coffee, and never mind that i'm not a coffee drinker, i wanted to buy a bag of beans just so i could smell them in the mornings.  i didn't.

may 1: sunday morning.  may.  the churchbells are ringing it in, accompanied by a woodpecker on some tree somewhere out there in the chilly sunshine.  april was poets and rain and tornadoes and stuff i can't talk about.  i paint walls to the sound of baseball games and movies on the television, breathing out the thoughts that scare me, breathing in the brushstrokes and nothingness.  with every flood warning, i toss things out; the house empties bit by bit.  i think in images i've yet to paint, and read instead of walk.

there is a cardinal nest in the cherry laurel tree, the mama cardinal's tail feathers still against the storms.  a skill i envy.




Too many things do.

She now needs help to get onto the bench and so, that little chair.  In real life, it's a pale blue. She has new stairs she's not yet talked herself onto - I think they will stay white.  She can no longer jump onto the bed or the couch, but can pull herself up, and in truth, some days she manages to get into the house through the high-up open bathroom window, but I've never seen her do it.  She's just suddenly in the house.

She must have one big jump in her every so often.

She is becoming a lap cat, and I try to ignore that Maggie also did that, right there near the end. She sleeps more and she needs more warmth next to her, and sometimes  . . . and sometimes . . . well. So many of those sometimes.  It is what it is.  Just aging, I tell myself.  I can relate to that.  I'd like to think that every once in a while I have one big jump left in me.


i leave the door open for the wolf.
he never enters, just stands and watches, then turns away.
headed for home, away from the rain.

this morning's birds were the brown ones, the ones with stripes; i can never remember what they're called.  one stood at the open door, just like the wolf, lucky that the cat was sleeping.

these are the things that change.  once where there were owls there became hawks, and now there are crows.  next door a new baby is almost here.  it is june 1st in texas, 4 something in the afternoon, and the temperature remains in the 70s.  my air conditioner is mostly broken, and so far it's mostly been not needed.  the rain keeps coming, though, a change from last year continuing on.  i come home at the end of the day and i feel different, the air feels different.  the days slip by.  the world is too hard and life too fragile.

but. there are those big jumps waiting for us, jumps we'll make.  a small cat has taught me that.



a new door

It’s a loosy goosy house, this house of mine, one that lets winter’s cold air in whether you want it in or not, but still, every morning, the first thing I do is open the front door. It’s made of glass, more window than door, and I can see out whether it’s open or closed, but to open it, and leave it open, is to bring the new day inside.  And in the way of things, let the old day go.  Yesterday can escape. 

I let heat out the door in winter, and I free the air conditioning in the summer.  In the spring blossoms from flowering trees find their way in; in the fall windblown leaves scatter across the floor – moons and stars under my feet.  The rain blows in all year long.  

"Happiness sneaks in
through a door you didn't know you left open."
 - John Barrymore

This morning, from my morning pages:
across the street, a neighbor is mowing his lawn early against the humidity that will only grow worse during the day, and next door the new neighbors are arguing with each other, slamming doors and speaking in loud sarcasm.  i could close the door and hush them all, but i can smell the honeysuckle blossoms along the creek and there is a cat sleeping next to my thigh, and so, no.  i will sit a while and write down the morning.

one thousand blackbirds
lift in flight at the sound of
one door opening.
                                                                                            - Kelly Letky


It is almost June, not yet summer, and my map brings me here.  This new place may be my summerhouse with the doors thrown open to whatever summer brings or it may be permanent. It's too soon to tell. I need a change, somewhere new to run to.  My name at the top of the page.  I plant my flag at the top of this mountain I have been climbing for too, too long, and take a breath.  I will take a different path down.

Paths and doors and maps crowded with words and tears and laughter. Empty pages and houses teetering on the edge.  Crows and prose and poetry.  St. Exupery's stars.  Still here for me, at this new address.

Let us see what happens.
No rules.