The Gap

“The heartbreaking gap between the way we were and the way we are…”

Just a book-review excerpt that got me thinking in my post-ending emotions…

Endings and beginnings, and after that and before. The way we were, the way we are, the way we will be. The way I was, the way I am, the way I will be. It’s what I would write about if I were brave enough.

Where in our timeline that gap, those gaps fall… that is what shapes each of our stories. Some look back on the glory days with the most fondness; some cannot even look back, the pain too excruciating. Some realize the missed opportunities; most never do. Regret can infiltrate nostalgia and release its toxins directly into the heart. The way we were, the way we are… sometimes the greatest heartbreak is the lack of gap, when we are static, when we are trapped, when we are still in that situation; it’s what broke me once, realizing decades later, in that inconvenient moment of denial ripped off, raw, it was the same as it always was.

I was trapped for half my life. Of course, no one ever truly is. But we might as well be, for the layers of boulders we submit to, allowing ourselves to be entombed. For me, I ironically stayed for my children, for if we left, I would have to send them back regularly without me. I chose to never let them be without me as their protector. I was aware of the light fading from the start, as I finally gave in to the vows. I saw the single sun ray through the avalanche the whole time. I chose not to move the rocks.

The way we were, the way I was… I look back on her now sometimes. Through windows. The one-way rainy panes of pain. I wish I could reach her. To let her know about today, who we are now. I know she will never lose faith, but oh those years… so many…. Yet, it simply is true: who we are now, we could never be, if we weren’t the way we were then. If I had the power to spare her, I don’t think I would. Well, maybe I would. To think she could have known happiness all those years…

In my late forties now, I have only just begun to become who I am. The way I am… it is the present. I could never be me until now. You never can be, I don’t think, without self-love. And you really have to be free first for that to happen. I honestly never really had the time or energy for myself; all I knew was survival mode. Crisis mode. Selfless mode. Sickness mode. There are always genuine pieces of us intact through that all though, I feel. Our souls that predate our mortal lifespan. The girl in the panes… she doesn’t realize. She just doesn’t. She and I are so different. Yet, we are the same. I feel myself still in her. The soul. The dreams she is loosening her grip on, yet always retaining fierce faith.

Sometimes, we deteriorate from the way we were. We chase what we think is happiness but always open our arms and hands to find nothing there. We keep chasing. We are still empty and our time is up. Or we succumb to the tomb. We had it once and lost it. We will never reach for that ray and remove the first rock. For others like me, all we have known is the rock cell. My story does not begin at birth. My life is just now starting. My future… well, I am confident that I will devote part of it to searching for such self-tombs, removing a rock from each. I think there is a universal rule that one is the limit. The rest must be done from the inside. I think I have found my way though, whispering, singing, and dropping notes faithfully through those single rays. And I wouldn’t know about these tombs without the experiences I’ve had. I visit my own from my past, and release a butterfly within; I feel his hand then slide into mine, and his sunset-silhouetted kiss in what I’ve come to know as love, makes my own flutter up inside. Again.

“We’re going to be more than alright,” I whisper to my past self through the hole. Then we head to his old tomb before heading home. Through the gap, in hand, we see my poem.

Dynamic Art

The things we edit…

When it comes to my photography, editing to me is not perfecting, so I suppose I should call it altering; it is transforming creatively the tone, literarily, though that often comes from color changes, cooling or warming, fading or imbuing, really a canvas with my technology as the brush, though you would be surprised with the media I use, an old iPhone about to give out and whatever standard editing app it came with.

My lab is my mind’s eye in reverse, creating what my soul wishes to express, I but a medium myself. I play until the aha moment, always knowing that is exactly what I was looking for. Each starting photo, a message itself I collect from nature. Sometimes it speaks as is, especially when it is lit. Sometimes it lends itself, whispers, “Do with me what you may, May Child; my metamorphism is in your trusted hands. Make me the more you believe I am.”

Sometimes I feel the nature challenges me in this way to keep going beyond and beyond, rebirthing new ways, not godlike, but godchildlike, spending my days attune to the spirit in the petals and breezes, in the rays and the blades, in the insect and the web. I create with images I creatively capture, crouched down and over the barely noticed, shrinking further than Alice into the macroworld, still infused with wonder, perhaps even more so. With each alteration, a new message, perhaps divinely inspired.

I do my duties in the world so I can retreat––into the yard, into myself, into the absence of voices except my inner one and the whispers from butterflies and the birdsong, and I listen and listen for The One as I visit my many companions of the natural realm. Often, I bring heaven down. To earth. Though I find enough evidence that it is already here. All about us. And as much as I avoid the humans, I know the greatest purpose here is to love one another. My purpose the same but from afar. Bringing light and hope to you is how I try to do my part. 

The things we edit… 

Often, in relation, we edit by removing blemishes, by cropping out all the real, showcasing our best fake versions of ourselves and our lives, for behind the cameras lie the whole truths. We compete. We turn the cameras around onto the shells of our selves, lose the nature and others, snapshots of ourselves as the universe’s center, lenses in reverse yet outward, for our inner selves are not the focus. 

There are pieces of heaven in each of us. Because we were each made the way He intended. What we make of ourselves from what we were given: that is the welcomed art of continued collaborative creation. Excavate the light within. Keep painting with your truest inner discovered colors. We should never settle for being done when we are each and all continued masterpieces in progress. May we never fade permanently to sepia or still life; though both of these are essential to the process. 

I still believe we can beautifully alter all of this… 

All words and images on this site ©LauraDenise

Event Horizon

Part three of an unnamed work in progress. Here are parts one and two: My Star and A Coat of Sunshine

Time to talk about the song.

When my son last visited, he played this song a lot on our Bluetooth speaker while he and his girlfriend and my daughter stayed up all hours playing board games (while I tried to sleep in the master suite of the ranch on the other side of the door). It’s a song he really feels, like the movie. At the first notes, when it comes on the radio now when he is not present, I immediately change it. To “control” my sadness. I try to avoid thinking about him and his sadness and his addiction, him as Bradley Cooper in the movie. It just hurts too much.

It was the mention of the movie and allusion to the song in passing on social media that stemmed this writing spree in me though. I connected with a fellow English teacher-poet on Instagram where I usually just post and go without actually socializing. I am one to put a song on repeat for hours, for days, to feel, to lose myself in the zone, to somewhere it seems I am being led, but only hitting repeat on max volume on my earbuds and a lot of patience simply lingering at the portal is necessary. To let myself feel without thinking for once. For a long while…

I listened to the soundtrack while sweating through yard work. Then I watched the video… and cried. What a sad movie. One of his favorites, of course. I could never remove the movie from myself now. I didn’t know that that Instagram post I “ran across” by someone I did not yet “follow” would lead me here, to pouring out prose, whether or not I post it or lock it up. I knew it was going to mean something though. I believe strongly in paths crossing for reasons.

I need this. To let my fingers fly free across the keyboard in prose again. To feel the release that comes from that and also through music.

I connect the most in songs to the non-words, the soul eruptions that exceed alpha-translation. That is what pain and love is, after all. And the fall. For me, it is the rise of the wailing “uhs” and “ohs,” and in voices like Lady Gaga’s and Calum Scott’s (“Dancing On My Own”).

In “Shallow,” that point is the moment of free fall. And free fall… could end or not end in a limited number of ways, albeit in limitless places, could be initiated or not initiated for so many reasons, could be the beginning or the end. For me, regarding all of this, it is that push to the edge at the end of my marriage, when I could no longer breathe, and my panic-attacked heart raced as if it were going to give out once and for all. The 2:42 point of no return is when I leapt, screaming on the way down that I have had all I could take, not being able to see the bottom, leaping entirely with the final no-turning-back point of faith, faith I would crash through the mirage of the surface into the “anything more than this.”

I am happy to report, it was the best jump I ever made. The one that saved me. I didn’t want to have wings. I just wanted to crash through it to the other side. Full speed. Once and for all. 

I am also keenly aware that others feel that same desperateness and take the leap to leave this life altogether. The song’s narrator makes it clear she will never meet the ground though. I feel a need and calling to string nets for every jumper off course. So they are forced back up and can only pass through the same portal as me and her, only with faith and courage. In the more that is here in this life.

May angels escort each at the edge. To safety. To life. 

Peanuts in the Cobblestone

When I was a child, I simply and casually went with the flow. I don’t think that’s common, but maybe it is for the good middle children, as such was I. Even when my parents announced their divorce, I took it in stride, felt it was best for all. Mom said it would hit me, affect me, someday. It never did.

In grade school, maybe sooner, I discovered the joy of being funny, of making others laugh. I’ve never shied away from a performance; I’m quite comfortable on stage, enjoy being the center of attention, the life of the party. Later in life, I believe being a comedian became a defense mechanism. But at the same time, I did and still do truly like making people smile. All people. That is not to say, as I will have come to learn, that I was ever actually an extrovert.

I think humor became a defense mechanism as an adult when I began hiding my personal life, all of those pesky elephants that kept trying to escape from the horrific circus of my home; we never discussed those giants, inside or outside those walls, as families tend to not do when alcoholism and addiction and denial are involved.

Eventually, my smile became that wall, and evolved further into a fortress, as many smiles do, I suppose, separating inner and outer worlds. Eventually, I even kept the fake one on at home. In front of the children anyway. And to avoid upsetting the alcoholic. I made my alcoholic’s life as cushy as possible. I became a liar, to everyone. To myself. I lost myself eventually, as spouses of alcoholics often do, I suppose.

It must be my nature, it seems, to be a peacemaker, a people pleaser. At work, I still go with the flow; I’m the one you can give the difficult tasks and people to. I don’t complain. I don’t resent. I am intrinsically motivated. I make do. I succeed. As resistant as they are, I relentlessly try to make my teenage students smile.

Where am I going with this as I sit on my patio watching the sun set, filling a blank screen with a supposed “nature essay?” As I recount my life, as I flip through my mental album, I search for the point in which nature infused my soul. No epiphany comes to mind. This seems essential as an essayist. To reflect on those pivotal or deeply seared moments. 

I was very regularly exposed to nature as a child, so I am happy to give my parents partial credit: dad took us fishing and camping, we went to week-long summer camps each year, we were sent outside to play as a lifestyle. It became natural then for me to take my own family camping and on nature walks and outings as a lifestyle. And as my nest becomes emptier and my tie to one alcoholic dissolved, I am finding the ability, the freedom, to be able to be present in nature’s moments, more so than ever before, even as a child.

I do have twinges of near epiphany when I think about how many miles I rode my bike as a teenager. Alone. How those wheels and that wind set me free, how I escaped and left my siblings and parents behind, chose my own direction, traveled in and out time. Myself and the outdoors were all the company I needed. I discovered peace. I discovered healing. For as long as I can remember, I also remember not fitting in, feeling a sort of detachment. It is still how I feel, content in my surroundings but still an outsider looking in, bored only in the company of others, never in the company of myself. Especially when I am surrounded by nature.

Never before until now have I had the accumulated experiences I have to see all that I see in the overlooked daily wonders, gifts, and blessings so abundant all about me in the natural world. Perhaps I see myself in these stories that each petal and leaf and shell whisper to me. Perhaps these are the missing pages of my album I collect on the shore, in the trees, in the clouds. Perhaps it is my nature, that deep connection. Perhaps my home. Maybe going with the flow in all of my memories is because I always have been, even before my birth, from the soulline of Mother Nature and the universe.

Maybe I really search only for the light in my lens for myself. But I faithfully reflect the rays as inspiration and positivity to you, because of all the things I remember, I’ve always liked to make people feel better. And maybe each of these clues, each of these messages, each of these revelations are the manageable peanuts I am meant to open one by one, left by those invisible elephants of my past.

All words and images ©LauraDenise

Fungal Reflection

I don’t usually like to know the scientific facts about the subjects I find and photograph in nature, even basic identification. It spoils the wonder and mystery to me, the thrill of all my imagination hatches, the magic, the mysticism, the fantasy, the tales, the divine creation we think we know all about. These are my discoveries; I am the first explorer to ever lay eyes on the new species. Instead of sketching them in my diary, I photograph them; I am both from the future and the past. 

I couldn’t resist though peeking into the portal of cyberspace regarding this spectacular mushroom variety I haven’t seen before (I don’t think…). “Puffballs” they are, supposedly common. And of course, as reading when you are a born lifelong reader tends to go, I read a bit more… They have a poisonous “Death Cap” doppelgänger, well imposter anyway, being the most interesting fact to me. 

These I spotted underfoot between my car and classroom back door going into work the other day. To photograph them meant anyone could be watching and definitely would wonder even more about me. Of course, I risked it all and got down low and took the shot. It was too intriguing in and of itself but also because they were paired and the morning light and shadows were beautiful. I love couplets of anything in nature because I am a romantic. I also champion the overlooked or undervalued in nature, especially weeds and fungi. 

Where to begin with what I could spin from this encounter and image souvenir?…

Two as one
connected, 
shadows merging,
agreed to be
shared,

to increase
the surface area
so the darkness
lightens
in lichen-like
dual-stabilization:
paired.

One absorbs
more sun 

than the other
but feeds
its partner
the light
not so directly;

at times
they reverse roles
when the other 
needs
to shrink
into safety
awhile
and be protected
temporarily.

The world passes by,
so many times before
both cruelly and unknowingly
treading upon them;

others of their kind
turned poisonous,
but these two
remain true
to themselves
and their commitment,

not letting others’
judgement affect 
their joy
or quality of life
and above all
love,

testament to
there being someone
for everyone
and such a connection
vital,
to feel that touch,
to trust…

or maybe I am seeing 
too much 
in these balls
of mushroom puffs
I stumbled upon

on my way
to work
this morn. 

Cloud Sails

Nothing perpendicular nor parallel nor artificial about the clouds, the only construction in how they are always self-shifting, in motion, morphing into pictures and infinite undefined shapes. No straight lines to not cross nor borders boxing in the imagination, already dissected and discarded by the non-hands of mortal science “experts,” the angels that form them, sunset color them, exercising their talents even in heaven, a role for every soul based on their former heart’s passions, now freed from binding form themselves. How can one ever look away from the clouds?

Why must I ever be called from this intriguing trance? What non-essential obligations must disrupt my lackadaisical, free-roaming, playfully-romping musings? How long can I get away with this get-away, setting dream after fantasy after dream asail on these departing wisps and puffs of hope? I wish I could say what I thought about all day, but the elusive intangible keeps flitting from capture; no, not flitting – much slower, matching the amoeba motion of the white ink blots. Leave me in peace with such ungraspable endless possibilities of these Rorschach mind concoctions.

I hear someone coming. Dragon and Pegasus swoop down to scoop me up, but today I think I’ll hop onto Sea Turtle’s back. “Take me away further into that endless perfect blue, my friend.”

Is it wrong that my favorite companions are clustered water droplets?

Words and images ©LauraDenise

A Hummingbird Visit

I was sitting out on the patio this morning after the rains, writing, or attempting to, taking a typing break, messaging a friend about my struggle to get back into prose writing; I think my DNA has morphed since being rebirthed back into a poet. I was realizing that my own nature photos have come to be my writing prompts, how poetry flows out of me, but prose tends to resist the dance, or maybe it is that my poetic muses hog the dance floor, not to show off but because they can’t help themselves when they feel that music rising up from within.

Then a hummingbird flew up to me, looked into my eyes, and darted away.

For whatever reason, it moved me to tears. I was so giddy, absolutely thrilled about the special encounter. Hummingbirds have previously been so elusive, always in and out of my peripheral or having disappeared up ahead before I can really get a good look. I heard its arrival before I saw it, those loud pulsating wings startling me before I could realize what was happening: a messenger sent to me. And a writing prompt.

I did not capture the bird in my photographic lens. It would have been impossible to react that quickly. I’m actually quite glad I witnessed the experience directly, eye to eye. I have no proof it happened. I personally have no proof hummingbirds exist at all. But it left me with the hard-to-describe feelings and emotions and soulful connection that nature is to me. It was Mother Nature saying, “Oh dear child, write your stories, with or without the photo: it’s all within you.” Okay, maybe that last part was my friend’s words, which have also come to nest within my heart.

In the memory of those wildly beating wings that left my heart the same, I am reminded that spiritual encounters have such effect. When I feel the celestial presence in those silent, soulful moments, in nature, in my faith, it is usually imprint-less in every concrete way. No evidence. No souvenir. No artifact for the museums. But the miracles still happen. And I wonder if that’s the condition of miracles. They can only be felt, or seen in the absence of any other witness. And it seems to me from the undeniable intensity, that feeling is the most reliable sense we have been so lovingly implanted with. That abstract sixth sense. The invisible thread that ties us to where we came from and where we will return to, that ultimate home that exists without concrete proof. No picture of the beyond, except the gateway in the clouds, golden-lined. Except in the bud on the verge of opening. Except in the ray that reaches through the dark wood. Except in the display the sunset paints. Except in the lyrics of the songbird. Except in the ancient secrets of the sea’s wise waves. Except in the grandest mountaintop view of a minuscule piece of the universe. Except in the wings of a messenger, a hummingbird on a Sunday morn.

As long as
I can feel,
I can write
about nature,
about my faith,
the two inseparably
entwined.
With or without
the photograph.
With or without
even my eyes.
With or without
rhyme. The reason
is all I need:
I was born
with a sixth sense
that wildly beats,
like a hummingbird’s
wings in me.

Clues & Pieces

Reinvention of the self,
a mosaic,
from pieces forged
and discovered–
some to be polished,
painted,
others best with
the coatings of
dust and dirt.

Have you found yourself? 

I’ve been rethinking this concept lately. For me, I have never really been looking for myself but rather my home, that place where I feel completely welcome, where I am already accurately and wholly known, where I can be completely, freely me, where I’ve been missed, where it makes sense, where it feels just right.  My soul has always been restless.  As a girl and teen, I always felt different, in a sense, like I couldn’t really relate to others. I think because I was always thinking, philosophizing, dreaming. Feeling seemed to be my superpower–not in sensitivity but in depth. I have always thought and felt too deeply about things. I have always been an old soul, have always felt like I’m just not in the right time period or realm. 

An example of this–well, I think I wrote a poem about it once. Let me grab it… Here it is:

Freckle Constellation

This group of freckles
on my forearm
has me mooning,
time-warping
to childhood…

Funny how even then,
felt like these freckles
meant something,
seemed like
a constellation,
a coding,
a knowing,
a piece of
the puzzle
of me.

Funny how even then
when we would travel
at night in the station wagon,
I pondered if the street lights
spelled out a message that
you could only see from
a distance…

Funny how even then
I would get lost in my
own philosophical thoughts,
felt a bit out of sorts
when others seemed
so content splashing in
shallow waters
when I was so anxious
to explore the
depths of the sea.

Now at 44, I find myself
mulling over those same
mysteries, a calling to me,
a profound knowing that
there’s not only so much more,
but somehow that so much more
involves me,
and not passively.

Do I believe in destiny?
Perhaps partially.

I feel like I was born to love
but also to defend,
sword in hand…

I wonder how my story
will end.

I look for clues
in the freckle tattoo…

(04/06/18)

Yep, that definitely fits right in with my current contemplation… I think it’s a combination for me of looking for my place–my home–and also myself. For a while now, I’ve just assumed that I would not find this internal place and peace in this life, and that was okay with me; I have always intended to make the most of it. But lately, I am finding that I am actually getting very close. I am finding along the way pieces of myself. I just don’t know if it is a mosaicking process of creating myself or if it is a collection of clues that lead to myself. I like the idea of both. 

This all came up this evening because I was looking at some pictures of wildflowers I recently took, lol (see what I mean about getting lost in thought?…) Wildflowers speak to my soul, plain and simple. The meeker, the smaller, the more tattered, the more beautiful to me, the stronger the pull, the more complex the silent stories… White/ivory flowers have the same kind of spiritual effect on me. Framing fragile, wild “weeds” in the first or last rays of the day… that is my soul in a photograph. Just something about it… a piece, a clue, for sure. 

I have a very strong connection to nature. It’s where I prefer to be. It’s where I feel I belong. I would rather watch the clouds all day and all night than do any of those things others like to do. That makes me a freak to some, I suppose; my family makes fun of me for it. While most flocked to tourist attractions over spring break, I lived the dream: poetry, photography, and nature. At home. Lots of pajama time. Lots of coffee and tea. (Hence the abundance of posts on Sunday, my last day to indulge in my hobbies before work began again.) Although I am rather socially fearless and can easily be the life of a party, I would rather be home alone doing my own thing. I think I would be quite content as a hermit, preferably a writer in a small, cozy cottage amidst diverse nature. 

So wildflowers are a clue along the trail of myself, or the trail home, or a piece I choose to include in my “me” mural. 

past the flower beds
I seek colors of the wild
to appease my soul

I sit for a while
let my inner light visit
no place like this home

(double haiku)

The morning after writing this post, I discovered my friend’s beautiful video capturing one of his “children’s” books (with his gorgeous artwork and inspired by his dear chickens). It made me cry. And the timing and relevance…so special. Please do take a moment to be moved. Please do yourself the favor of enjoying more of John’s work and soul: https://mylifewithgracie.com/2021/03/20/a-read-beside-me-book-video/