Category Archives: Published
‘One Last Poem’
‘One Last Poem’ is a prelude poem to a poem I wrote for my mother. She is the one my first book is dedicated to, signifying the love I feel for her, even though she is no longer on the same plane as those of us who are ‘living.’
She carried me inside her womb for nine months and cared for me until I could care for myself. I cannot imagine early life without her. I remember being heartbroken when she had to go to the hospital for a week. I was only three or four years old and cried on the back doorstep.
She was my proem. She was my prelude. She was my preface, my introduction into the world. She was my promise. She was the one I could run to for a hug anytime of the day or night, until I could not.
She was the one who rocked me after I fell down the basement stairs as a small child and comforted me after I tried giving our cat a bath. The poor kitty dug her claws into my arm and scalp like a climber’s pick into ice. I realized in that moment that cats did not like water.
Mom was the one who took me to coffee hour each week with the neighbor ladies. I was too young for school. One neighbor had two Siamese cats who were wild and crazy curtain climbers and howlers. Another neighbor cared for her own mother and auntie who spoke in thick Scottish brogues. I could not understand a word.
Mom was the one who celebrated each family member’s birthday with gifts and a cake. She was the one who made and placed our Easter baskets on the dining table early Easter morning. She was the one who boiled the eggs. We drew lines on them with wax and dipped them in food coloring added to vinegar water. The Easter Bunny, depending on the weather, either hid them outdoors or in the house. Rain and snow were never conducive to finding eggs. After being discovered, the eggs rested in a dish on the dining room table until they were all eaten, a week or so later.
Mom was the one who took me with her each week to her hairdresser, Maurine, who always had the latest McCall’s magazine. She handed me scissors to cut out the paper doll and dress her while she fixed Mom’s hair. Occasionally on a hot summer day Mom treated me to an icy soda pop at the lunch counter in the five and dime.
Mom was the one who held my hair with one hand on my forehead and her other hand under my belly whenever my stomach became upset and vomited its contents in the middle of the night, on countless nights. She was the one who soft-boiled an egg and dry toast to settle my gut the following morning.
She was the one who prepared all the family meals and presented them on a tablecloth covered table, in their special bowls and on their special plates. She ensured our meals were nutritionally balanced from all the food groups with much variety. Home-canned fruits and vegetables fed us all year long until the following year’s harvest.
She was the one who sewed tiny Barbie doll clothes on the sewing machine to be sold for our Camp Fire Girls’ fundraiser. She must have had the patience of a saint. The clothes turned out lovely, even though she hated to sew. I understood why after taking home economic classes in Jr. High school. Nothing I sewed years after turned out. I finally gave up the practice.
She was the one who helped me study for tests by quizzing me the night before. Good grades in school were very important in our home. She was the one who drove me to Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, and all other activities after school. She was the one who joined the PTA. How she made the time for it all, I’ll never comprehend.
She was the one who ensured we visited the cemeteries on Memorial Day as a family. Arrangements of flowers, homegrown purple or yellow irises, or pink peonies, depending on which were in bloom, arranged in a coffee can with water, found a new home at each family headstone, along with some family history for our impressionable ears. It was a full day’s outing. It always left me feeling sad when I was young. That was before I fully understood that the soul was eternal.
She was the one who contacted the Tooth Fairy when it was time for him to fly in through the window and leave a shiny nickel under the pillow in fair trade for a recently lost tooth. Of course the nickel would be spent at the candy store…
She was the one who packed the brown wicker picnic basket for Sunday outings and for the July 4 celebration every year. She was the one who filled bread bags with homemade popcorn and quart-sized Mason jars with ice water when we went to the drive-in movie theater in the summer, a very special treat. Six of us poured into the family station wagon, sleeping bags laid out in the back, the littlest ones already in our pajamas.
She was the one who made chili (and packed extra crackers) and hot cocoa for our winter outings to the South Hills to inner tube down the snow-covered mountain somewhere behind the ski lodge.
She was the one who didn’t like to play board or card games, but couldn’t stop herself from answering a game question out loud from the kitchen.
She was the one who made Christmas the most special holiday of the year, fully expecting all of her children to be there every year. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She was the one who wrapped all the presents when we were little and made a tradition of oyster stew with canned smoked oysters along with her own special twist on the recipe for Chex party mix. I can still smell it baking.
She was the one who looked like a princess when she wore her blue chiffon floor-length formal for an especially special evening of dancing with her prince on New Year’s Eve.
She is with me always. I can feel her spirit nearby and appreciate her for sharing her love so freely with me. She’s in my heart and in my voice.
Each new sunrise offers us a precious gift: to live in the moment. It is here where we come to understand how utterly beautiful all of life truly is. Every day we have a chance to begin again. We can start over if we so desire, by choosing to create a different story, with one single step into a brand new adventure of our own choosing. The power lies completely within our minds and bodies.
With gusto I read the book, recommended by my sister, entitled One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. He shows and explains how anyone can take one small step, even metaphorically speaking. After that first step it’s easier to move forward into the second one. Maurer’s book has helped me understand how, when I break tasks and dreams down into small parts, I can accomplish much, including new beginnings.
Watching a sunrise is one of my favorite activities at the start of a new day, especially when the early morning light begins to filter through the feathery gray hues that are clouds and turn them into swirls of pinkish orange. My widened eyes cannot keep up with the transformation of the ever-changing sky mural. It has been known to leave me breathless.
Each of us has an opportunity to transform ourselves on a daily basis, like the sunrise, moment by moment. Too easily we allow ourselves to fall into a pattern of living in the past, even the recent past, ruminating on memories of that which no longer exists in our immediate circumstances.
Memories are great when they bring us joy and learning and information to share, but sometimes we live them so habitually, we forget to be present. Just as easily, we are drawn into the future, thinking too much about what has or has not yet happened or worrying needlessly about our to-do list or an unknown outcome and asking the unanswerable question,
What if instead we focus on right now? Eckhart Tolle wrote the book, The Power Of Now, where he shares much wisdom through his personal experience. He writes about how he finds himself in a place of greater awareness and living in the present, and finding peace in the process. His philosophy is and always has been available to us. My sister-in-love (I like the sound of ‘in-love’ much better than ‘in-law’) read this book and liked it so much, I had to read it, too. In following Tolle’s advice and choosing to live in the now, I have found that peace he speaks of.
What if we stop what we are doing for a moment, close our eyes, take a deep cleansing breath, and think about…nothing? Nothing at all. Just be in the moment. Now. Allow your body to relax and rejuvenate in that long, slow breath. It may even cause you to smile as your muscles peacefully unwind. Ahhhhhh…perhaps another…
What if we begin to appreciate the deep learning thrust upon us through our different life experiences? We all have much to share through lessons learned and insights discovered, and have come to this life to do both equally well. What if we ask ourselves, “What am I here to teach?” “What am I here to learn?” Then let it go. The answer arrives as we allow ourselves to become more receptive to signs and nudges that guide us on our journey.
What if we begin to notice the way the yellow leaves on a quaking aspen shudder in unison in the crisp autumnal breeze, as if they inherently know to embrace the moment? Do you think the leaf worries about tomorrow?
What if we begin to see the perfect calm water of early morning drowsily awaken to its first wisp of a wave created by an unknown creature swimming just under the surface? Do you think the water frets over yesterday’s waves?
Each new day is full of miracles. On a continuous basis, moment by moment, we have the choice to begin again. I always love a new adventure…Oh, look at that gorgeous sunrise!
Copyright 2014 Patricia Westbrook All Rights Reserved
Steel and Fire
Stabbed in the back. Thrown under the bus. Sold down the river. A pointed finger. Deceived. Betrayed. A lie. Ratted out, even though you are not the one who did it.
Hoodwinked. Mislead. Not realizing what was happening until too late. Tricked. Bamboozled. Taken for a ride. Dragged through the mud. Toxic. It feels the same no matter what you call it. Metaphors upon metaphors.
There’s a way to prevent it, though. Find your voice and speak your truth. This sounds easy but is not always as simple as it seems, especially when there could be ramifications and consequences for the person on the receiving end, you. It could affect your future or a relationship. Perhaps it already has.
Instead of preventing the outcome you didn’t seek out or see coming, you stay silent and learn from the experience. You find out who your friends are. You realize who you can trust. You choose to change by not allowing yourself to find yourself in a position of exposing your back toward an invisible enemy. You even might become guarded with the wall behind you and the door within your immediate sight, like a gambler cowboy in a western movie, knowing the outlaw gunfighter will crash through the swinging bar doors any second. You prepare.
Steel and Fire pushed me toward a different level of creativity. The idea started with a poetry exercise and suddenly became of the most easily written poems I’ve ever done. It needed no rewrite, no tweaking a word here, changing a word there.
It was complete as written, a rare occurrence. Most poems have taken months (or years) of writing and putting them aside before rewrite after rewrite and then some.
I wasn’t timing myself, but I’m sure this poem only took minutes. Sometimes the fewest words affect a reader most deeply.
I’ve worked and played toward my dream of becoming a published author and am enjoying the feeling of completion thoroughly. I look forward to sharing more of my poetry in 2015, right around the bend. The holidays are closing in quickly…
You can find my poems in my recently published e-book! I’m too excited to sleep!
Here’s the link for my e-book:
My print book will be published very soon!