647: Marriage of Berries

We woke early, and my husband asked if I wanted breakfast, and if so, what I might like: eggs, bacon, grits? This is his gift to me, the preparing of the food, and I understand that. I do not want food, because he will prepare it, we will sit and consume it, and he will rise from the table, content in his gift, and leave the room with its littered table, soiled counters and sink filled with the dirty dishes for me to attend to. The food sours in my stomach as I clean the dishes, the counters and the table.

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After the kitchen is clean again, so it will not attract nasty bugs in the heat and humidity that is Georgia, I gather my baskets and leave my house in the township. I drive several miles to the dirt road where my family, and the family of my family that was before my own family, used to live. This is the place I identify as the place where I grew up (even though I didn’t), and I know that this place is where the wild blueberries and the succulent blackberries grow thickly on the raised shoulders alongside the deeply carved and smoothed red dirt road.  Every summer when school was freshly let out for the heat and humidity, my family would come from the place where were living this time, and join with the family that always lived here on the red dirt road. I would take a pail or a pan and I would leave the house and trek to the dusty shoulders of the dirt road to harvest the bounty that only the birds appreciated when I was not there to claim my share.

Today, in my sixtieth decade, I harvest my share of the bird’s bounty while the day is yet cool, filling my baskets before the sun can sink its claws into the back of my neck. I am careful where I put my feet, my dad’s called warning from fifty years ago ringing in my ears, “Watch out for snakes.” The snakes come to these berry bushes, seeking their own bounty from the birds that also feast there. I must also watch for the ruffled, raised heaps of sand that signal the nest of the imported fire ants, aliens long established here, and also familiar from my youth.

I carefully pick only the ripest berries for my baskets, indiscriminately co-mingling the firm shiny round blue-black orbs of the blueberries, and the misshapen black purple softness of the blackberries, staining my fingers with their red-purple juice. When the baskets are nearly full and the sun has bitten my neck, I return to my home and show my offering to my husband, asking if I should freeze them for later or make a cobbler now. He chooses now.

I empty the berries into a large basin and run the cold water over them, watching the bits of chaff rise with the water. I fetch the large baking dish and use my fingers to oil the bottom and sides with Moroccan olive oil, and then I dust it with sugar, so the berries don’t stick. In handfuls, I sieve the succulent berries from their rinse and fill the dish with gleaming purple richness. I have more berries than the dish will hold. I select a plastic, zip-lock bag for the berries I will save for later. And then I sigh with annoyance, put the bag away, and pull out two shallow bowls to use all of the berries today, as instructed.

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I arrange pats of soft butter atop the gleaming berries, add brown sugar, dustings of ginger and cinnamon. In a bowl I whip with a wire whisk the thin sweet batter than will sink down between the berries and rise up between them with the heat of baking, binding them together, even though they are of two different breeds, two different kinds. A marriage of berries, bound together.

When the cobblers are done, I take them from the hot oven to cool, and the cooling batter pulls away from the marriage of berries, leaving visible cracks between them. These are spaces for the freezing cold ice cream to fill, a coldness that will be served with the still-warm cobbler, a temporary patch in the marriage that will keep them together a little longer, until they are completely consumed, leaving nothing but the dirty bowls for me to wash and put into the dish drainer to dry, and then to put away.

I say I will go again tomorrow to pick more berries for later, but we both know that I won’t.

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607: Independence and Subsidies

 

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It used to be that Americans were independent and took care of their own.

Why is it now the responsibility of other citizens/taxpayers if I fail to adequately plan, provide for, and save for my own retirement (what used to be called my ‘declining years’)? When did that personal failure become a subsidized ‘right’?

Was it when the US government established the Social Security program in an effort to ameliorate the fallout from those grasshoppers who foolishly played and spent their lives away, while the ants prudently saved and stockpiled against an uncertain future?

Now that social security is firmly entrenched (even if the last generations of lawmakers have plundered the fund to help offset their own grasshopper profligate spending) Americans save even less than they ever did – and our performance as a nation never was too good on that score in the first place.

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Yeah, I’d LOVE to have spent my productive years engaged in pursuing my own interests (financially supporting or not) instead of reporting to work – but having proved myself stupid enough to be willing to work, I don’t qualify for any benefits for sitting on my fat behind.

The idea is that people work to support themselves. Each one responsible for him/herself – unless you have turned over your financial future to someone else who agrees to be responsible for both themselves AND you (this is what many women believe marriage is for – absolving them from all responsibility). If you put your care into the hands of another person and they fail to make adequate provisions for themselves and for you in the event something happens to them, well, they failed you.

My first husband did that – he let more than a half million life insurance policy lapse a few months before he unexpectedly died. Thank God I was already a working wife, and didn’t have all my eggs in his little basket, so I had something else to fall back on besides Uncle Sam. Plus, in the past, families cared for each other. When a family member became disabled or elderly and needed care, they were cared for within the family unit – not handed off for the government (really, other citizens/taxpayers) to care for.

It isn’t the fault of the citizens that you failed to provide for yourself – it isn’t even the fault of the citizens that you are disabled, and need assistance. Neither is it their fault if accident or illness befalls you that you didn’t plan for. Yup – it’s a tough break when that happens. Thankfully, assistance is available for those who are unable (legitimately unable, not having simply purchased their disability from an unethical physician) to provide for themselves, but it still isn’t the fault of others that they are disabled, such that others are then required to pay their way.

THAT is what used to be called charity, before charity became a dirty word, and it used to be the province of faith-based people who took up the slack and provided that assistance locally. They knew their neighbors, and they knew who really needed the help, and who needed the harsh life lessons earned by making very poor decisions.

You know, like the grasshopper.

541: Married

Marriage

It feels very new.

Shiny. Unblemished. Stain-free. Clean.

Like a new pair of running shoes – a little stiff and awkward still.

Bright with the promise of new, uncharted miles to be run.

Possibilities. Unlimited horizons. Opportunities.

No hint yet of fatigue, or of sweat. Tears. Pain.

I know those things are there, too, waiting to be discovered. Experienced.

Shared.

That is what marriage is, what marriage means.

Good, bad, easy and hard, exciting, sad.

I am here for you.

Welcome home.

487: Scratching That Itch

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People get itchy. There are things we want to do, and when we can’t get them done, we get itchy about it. It is like the physical itch we get when something tickles, or irritates, and all you want to do it scratch it. Nothing is more satisfying than scratching an annoying itch. Nothing. What is particularly frustrating about annoying places that are itching,  which are begging, clamoring, demanding to be scratched, is that most of them are tantalizingly, just barely, just so close, but just out of reach.

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This is true both with physical itches, and other overwhelming, non-physical desires as well. The physical itches are overwhelming enough, believe me. This includes places on the surface of the skin that demand scratching, and other physical demands, such as sex and food cravings, among other things which are based on the body. My ex-husband sometimes would get this intense expression of near panic on his face, and he would look at me and with a note of utter desperation in his voice, he would ask/demand, “Scratch my back, PLEASE!!” There would ensue a period of intense random back-scratching, following commands of higher – lower, to the left, down – until I hit the spot and an expression of pure bliss would appear, along with a heart-felt AAAAHHHhhhhhhh. It was nearly sexual, that itch-scratching. Seriously. Including the involuntary utterance at the climax.

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Artists, musicians and other creative types who are driven to create are familiar with the itch of inspiration, too. When the muse strikes (attacks), there is this itch to create that just.will.not.go.away until the beleaguered artiste gives in and does it. It is an act of surrender to scratch this creative itch. It is an overwhelming itch that cannot be ignored, and indeed, it is ignored at the artist’s peril. You might cut your ear off, you just don’t know.

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There is an idiom about the seven-year itch that happens in marriages. It actually refers to the restlessness that happens often in marriages when the two partners have failed to be diligent in maintaining the quality of their marital relationship – regardless of the year of marriage in which that state is reached. That is a frustrated itch for the relationship you thought marriage was going to be for you, but were not willing to invest and work for to achieve – and that is just childishness. In that case, scratch your own itch, and get off your lazy butt and re-romance your partner. Duh.

Not every itch deserves to be scratched.

 

486: So, What Is Love?

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I have been reflecting lately on love and how it happens. I do not believe in love at first sight. Instant attraction at first sight, yes – oh, HECK yes. I can fall into want in a freaking heartbeat. But, that isn’t love. I can know that I’m interested in you as an object of my personal desire at first sight, oh HECK yes. But, that isn’t love.

So, what is love? It quite obviously, given the above scenarios, isn’t physical desire – although physical desire is a part of love. A delicious, exciting, inspirational, wonderful, tremendous, amazing part of love.  But, it isn’t love. Neither, by the way, is physical proximity necessary for love to exist. If you can’t be faithful apart from each other – guess what? It isn’t love. Physical desire is a fabulous thing, trust me. I am a dedicated, convinced, transformed witness! But, it isn’t love. And personally, I don’t recommend that you base your long-term relationship on that foundation, either, from bitter personal experience. It isn’t love.

So, what is love? It is a choice made over time, developed with experience of, and careful thought about, the object of your desire. How much time? That varies. Sometimes you know fairly quickly, and sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes it takes more time than you really have patience for, but it is disastrous to rush it. That old axiom about marry in haste, repent at leisure is spot on the money. Unfortunately, I have a bitter personal testimony about that, too.

So, so, so – what is love? It is a choice – to do, and not to do, what? Well, what are the vows you speak when you marry? Whether you marry or not, those are the choices you make when you choose this particular human as your significant other, your heart’s desire, your soul mate, your husband or wife (religious or legal ceremony notwithstanding). That should give you a frame of reference for the choices that you make when you decide to “fall in love,” whether you make the choices consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, in private or before witnesses.

“I, ______, choose you, ______, to be my life partner, to live together in holy matrimony, and these things I promise you: I will love you, I will be faithful to you and honest with you. I will speak truth to you in love; I will encourage your fulfillment as an individual through all the changes in our lives. I will respect you, trust you, help you, and care for you; I will forsake all others and share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; I will remain steadfast to you through the best and worst of what is to come, as long as we both shall live.”

Those statements are not feelings. Those are decisions, choices, commitments, oaths, vows. They are not feelings. Let me say that one more time. Those are not feelings. Feelings lie. They come and go. They are not choices you have made. Feelings are not love.

So what is love? Love is a choice you make, regardless of your feelings at the time. Regardless of how your feelings change. Choices remain – like love remains.

Even if you are not Christian, the Bible (as literature) is still profound, like all great literature that had endured the test of time.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

 

 

470: Ashes

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Angry words, hurt feelings.

Phrases carefully calculated to wound

In trying to understand, to come to grips, to heal, to move on:

I wonder, did I betray you

or did you betray me?

I suppose the honest answer to that is

we did it to each other.

Neither of us was innocent,

much as we’d like to be.

I am sorry for the part I played

in the disaster, and I don’t want to keep sifting ashes,

looking for…….what?

Solace? Absolution? Memories? Forgiveness?

That, I am sure, I will have to award to myself,

after I first give it to you.

I forgive you.

Be happy.