The Staff of Life

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After a harrowing journey over steep gravel roads, after morning meditation sessions and before soaking in natural hot springs, you devoured Tassajara bread for breakfast. The cookbook made its way to your kitchen, instructing you in the art of turning gloppy sponge into sweet wheat loaves. Mmm… scrumptious with butter, jam and dark roast coffee.

It’s been a long journey enriched by frequent meanderings and yeasty experiences. Learning that satisfaction lies in a perfect translucent stretch of the dough that proves the kneading is done. Bread has secrets. It takes time. Like a good friend, bread must be patiently tended

Stressed in Space

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I’m about to explode. Despite training in enhanced mindfulness techniques, there’s a tension in my thighs and my toes itch. I’m leaving suspended relaxation. From the ceiling viewing screen, I see we haven’t left the atmosphere.

Hibernating in self-contained pods, we hope to make it to Mars in a self-driving ship. Some billionaire’s idea. What a bad time for insomnia since success depends on no one eating for six months.

This is my sister’s idea of togetherness. She’s a long time yogi. I’m not. Though I’d like the company, I hope no one else wakes up. I need to relax.

The Luck of Three

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His father told him good things come in multiples of three. Then, he left his third son at the crossroads. Taking a contemplative path into mountains and mists, the youth finds an ox, a horse and a royal ring. Riding the horse, leading the ox and wearing the ring, he’s stopped by a bailiff. The man’s skin and bones poverty cries out for help. The youth hands the man the ox’s rope.

Giving the horse its head, he arrives at a castle where the glint of the ring summons the queen. Three well solved quests later, she makes him king.

Don’t You Believe It

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An elderly lady, squeezing tomatoes in a pre-pandemic way, pulls her mask down. “You’re almost out of the woods.”

Whatever does she mean? “I’m healthy.”

“Yes, my darling, but stifled.”

Your father, reading Lang’s red collection with a Grimm smile, would say, “Poppycock.”

Imagining him in the library, a hole in one stocking, propping his feet on a worn stool sets something tingly-strange a-move.

Dozing later, you dream of the tomato woman, who waves her wand and turns you into the fairy tale of your choice. In a surprise move, you choose Into the Woods. Four stories, one price, music included.

Magic Eight

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Magic was in the air the day Maureen’s father retired. A charmed life was how he told it. From that first rabbit he’d pulled out of a hat, he had an itch to travel. He took to the road, bringing his family along from one carnival to another.

Perhaps that’s why Maureen stayed anchored. “When will you settle?” Maureen lit a seven decade birthday candle.

“Oh, someday, maybe.” He pulled a quarter from behind his grandson’s ear and handed it to him.

At eighty, he moved into care, where he roamed the halls doing card tricks. He never grew old.

Happy Birthday

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We sing Happy Birthday,
A gay grid of celebrants, in a non-traditional party,
All five participating squares bathed in screen light.
Quick to smile, slow to mourn this unknown country.

We clap ourselves on the back, no clue where this is going
Or when we might return.
Time's cycles extinguish candles burning bright. Wax drips fluttering
Quite like a guttering flame: always shifting.

We might gather in person soon,
Seduced by the promise of a wild celebration.
But not today.
Quiet when it's over, worrying.

Waiting, our grand hopes scattered, eyeing the horizon,
Watching in darkness for an illusive dawn.

Ornery

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My ninety-year-old mother is getting stir crazy. She says to me:

  • I’m too old to be alive.

I say:

  • You’re too ornery for heaven and the devil knows you’d raise hell.

She laughs. She roars. She can’t stop.

  • My mother said the good die young, the rest are too ornery.

That’s my grandmother, who was herself pretty ornery and died at a ripe old eighty-seven. Ornerier than Mom.

Ornery, it’s a good word. A word for times like this when the world is upside down. Time to get stubborn. Find some beans, seeds and flour. Happy for a quinoa stash.