Garden Escape

“Marguerite Gachet in the Garden” by Van Gogh

I have always been one to so easily lose myself, to be lured so very far away, in a painting, a song, a window…

In the years of his cussing at me, I would often detach, escape, into this 1890 white-wooden-framed window… Thank you, Vincent.

I was overweight and often wore comfortable, baggy, masculine clothes. He said dresses did not look good on me. My hair was much shorter then. He said I didn’t look good with it longer.

I was trapped in that marriage, I always (erroneously) felt. From the beginning, it seemed. From the very, very hesitant, “I do” when I was six months pregnant. Twenty-four slow years of the same-old cycle (after cycle), same broken record played over and over.

I wanted to be the young lady in the painting. Mostly because she was far away from the cigarette-butt-and-beer-can scented patio. Mostly because I bet she could hear the birds singing. Mostly because I felt the freedom in the breeze that teased her tresses and hem.

When he finally agreed to leave once and for all, he took the painting. I think he knew…

My daughter wanted to get it back for me. Eventually, I asked too. He said no. This past Christmas, my daughter was going to get me a replica. I told her I don’t really want it anymore, that he ruined even that for me.

But then I realized, I didn’t need it anymore. Because I was now her.

Cussing cacophony
chokes me.
Into my secret garden,
I escape;
surrounded by white flowers
and open air,
I inhale both in deeply.
If his bowl were not empty,
the words would not be
so nasty.
A bottle smashes,
but I know I will only be beaten
verbally.
I run farther
into the open fields
until all I can hear
is the birds’ sweet euphony
soothing me.
The lady left behind

is a statue of stone.
Eventually, he will pass
out cold.
I’ll stay out here a while
longer,
tuck behind my ear
a keepsake wildflower,
run
my fingers
over the soft-tipped grasses,
consider staying forever
on the other side of this glass,
but I can’t leave her.
I head back.
Morning rays have again
made their rounds,
but upon the wet pillow,
a petal has
drowned.


But that was then, and this is now.

Thank you, love,
for the continuous cleaning
of the mirrors of my past,
for your endless patience,
for making me
every day blush
calling me beautiful and princess,
for being my rain and sun
blooming me into
this miracle of
self-love
.

❤️

Pitfalls and Wings

I remember you describing it like trap doors.

That unexpected drop we don’t see coming. It’s one thing when you are watching your footing, placing your soles carefully around the eggshells, having been conditioned, trained, skilled, at moving around in this on-guard, defensive way. It’s another when you’ve just started to have confidence in the spring in your step upon trusted ground. I was outdoors, in my favorite place, when it happened this last time.

A trap pre-set by a predator disguised as a friend. Another very unexpected fall. No problem. I’m used to it. I know what to do. It’s all very logical. Except when I go to grab onto the root to begin the climb, it opens another hole. I unexpectedly drop again. I reach, I lift myself, I lift myself, I reach for the wrong root again and another hole opens… I don’t understand these. They come from deep within my own self. These were not set by him. There is no logic; I’ve tried every pattern. Eventually, I make it out.

And then another pit sends me plummeting.

I’m thinking about these pitfalls today, sitting upon a rock in a favorite dress on a beautiful day, revisiting the scene, the trap pre-set especially for me. I find myself thinking the all-too-familiar question for each of us, so universal, so personal: why me?

I honestly do feel I should have been spared by my higher power. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve done my time. With Trauma. But what sense of entitlement and special treatment is that? Not to mention the whole free-will clause which others can use to interfere with my own hard work and desires.

So I do now reflect on the possible reasons. Does God have yet another lesson for me to learn, yet another trial to overcome? How strong does He want me to be?! And why?… When I think of this, I do not feel like a victim; there is very little woe is me. I actually get a bit excited that He is preparing me for big things. Like I am a chosen one. And if ever I were to be in training or to serve, I would definitely want it to be for Him! I feel empowered. I feel an ego I never thought I had. I always thought I was selfless to a fault.

I did it. I think. Again. I’ve lost, yet won.

Are you proud of me, God?


I think, too, about how much I have control of and how much I don’t. I know how we react is everything, our miseries often self-induced, self-perpetuated, the way we keep ourselves trapped and prisoners; we look down sometimes and see the cuffs and chains are unlocked, and we scramble to re-secure them. Why?

Is it all fear?

If so, are we really trusting God is with us, sees what is ahead? We cannot get there if we keep re-locking ourselves when He keeps setting us free.

My past is my past. I have freed myself from it. I must shake the dungeon dust fully off. Perhaps that is the purpose of these new wings.

I feel the breeze of your and His love…

Thank you for always believing in me.

I suppose with wings,
these pitfalls can

no longer sink me;
I’ll keep my eyes

forward in these skies
and focused
on the portals
to my dreams.

Words and images ©LauraDenise

Lines in the Dirt

I’ve toed a lot of lines in my life. I’ve toed them recently. I will toe them again today.

My spring out of bed has become inconsistent. My sleep, interrupted. I wake to report to that line again, and that is a different kind of waking. To take my shift to relieve my unconscious self to defend my inner sanctuary boundary-border. Again. It’s exhausting. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s not what I was designed for.

I am more than this.

I was beaten when they breached my outer border. But I’ve since recovered. Now I stand resolute at the final white-picket fence, last patch of wildflowers inside. I feel strong again. Weaponless by choice. A pacifist maybe.

The dust of the corporate stampede settles as the hooves come to a halt. And here we are again. At the line. I toe the dirt with my bare feet, my dress hemline soiled. My head is not bowed. I took into eyes. I look to the heavens. I look back into the eyes.

I am passionate. In all things. I used to think it was my blessing and my curse. But then self-love took hold and merged with my faith in loving, divine, individual creation, so now I think, though I’m still on the journey of discovery and understanding and potential, that my passion is only a blessing.

I taste the indignant feelings rising, mixed into the saliva of my mouth. It is not fear that causes me to swallow it back down. There is no fight or flight in me now. There is only strength and unhurried contemplation. I weigh it all. I need to free myself from the weight.

I hear your voice. And I still myself in hopes of His.

It is silent enough inside me that I can hear the whisper of each petal the breeze gives voice to. There is indeed a great injustice here. A war of the world and the self. A war of the ages. And the individual never wins. I feel I was born to take this stand, though I know it will make no difference in the war. It is indeed personal. But it is mostly the morality that is part of my blood, flowing in and out of my heart.

I will bow gracefully. But not for them. For me. For my wildflower patch.

The two-headed serpent will reside among us. Its poison can no longer make me sick. I will see to it that my flowers flourish despite his presence, slithering so deceitfully all around us.

The corporate stampede stand-off I have stirred in my rebellion retreats with patronizing words I pretend I am too ignorant to perceive.

I turn my attention away from them and him, and begin again to love, to mother,

to teach.

The dirt returns to white sand,
the waves resume their soothing music.
I return to showing my flowers
how unique each is
and all they are capable of becoming,
come the May winds….

Words and images ©LauraDenise

Nature Nurtured

toad-eye entrancement
needed memory-loss spell
forgetting those woes 

Forlorn I was,
but Nature won’t have it
for long, 
always intercepting, 
knowing the sure-fire ways
to illicit my dimples;
this time, 
in an unused planter,
my own fairy garden
to behold,

img_7013

and if that wasn’t enough, 
the realization 
it was a family 
portraying love. 

img_7005

Funny how I always see
the romance between 
two fungi touching

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and how there doesn’t seem 
to be such a thing
as a mushroom 
without the merry,
underfoot fairy
tales in toadstools,
though they wouldn’t actually hold
a toad unless they were magical,
but then again, I am the biggest
believer in that, after all…

unexpected growth
merry mushroom family
unplanted smile sprouts

Faithfully, my family
out-of-doors
takes care of me  
whenever I start to feel
forlorn. 

And my pup, of course.

Poems and images ©LauraDenise

Princess Duties

I am not claiming to have a gift,
to be the one sought out
by enchanted beings,
but can anyone else see
the crab in the leaves
peering at me?

Clearly, he has a message,
to have crossed the busy street
from the beach;
does Titan need me
to immediately return to sea?

I hope all is well.
I get up close
to my crustacean friend.
I listen with my eyes
and take heart
to what he’s said…

misplaced habitat
red crab stares from the bushes
nets my attention

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. 

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.

January Fire

Winter in the South means a mix of seasons but the absence of snow. My soul needs the snow though. Still, I find much beauty in the messages and stories that appear in my lens. There is always a story in my lens.

I have been admiring the stubbornness of Autumn. Colors still ablaze that arrived in standardized winter months hold fast, refuse to let go. Soon it will be spring here. How long can Autumn hold on? Will she co-exist with Spring next? As much as I admire her, part of me wants to console her, let her know that it will be okay to relax her grip, to let change occur. I have known such resistance, such unsettling feelings, such pre-nostalgia, such fear.

I am not a fan of change, which surprises even me given my fiery resistance to conformity. Part of me admires the fiery leaf refusing to be classified into a season, to be confined to certain months. Part of me sees a sadness though too, especially paired with the fiery setting sun, similarly seeming to stall in its descent, wanting to stay just a bit longer.

Autumn clings
defiant
or weeping;
its leaves
like the setting sun
seem to desperately
hold on.

Sunrise Chasing

It has been way too long since I’ve gone to the ocean. And it’s across the street! Shame on me! That was my thought (again) yesterday after work, after another week that emotionally and mentally and therefore physically drained me to the max. 

This morning, the call was way too strong to ignore. My soul needed it. Desperately. And I felt a loved one also nudging me. 

I hear the sea calling to me to return,
and your voice, love, imploring me
to let my soul have what it yearns…

On the way to the bridge and on the way over it, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” came on the radio just as the sky was bursting with morning glory. Windows down, music up, singing along, I felt my soul begin again to mend itself. Sometimes, I need the most beautiful ballads, and other times, carrying the same “burdens,” I simply need to lift my voice in songs of praise to my higher power. When I witness the absolute miracles of nature, how can I not?

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Glory to the highest in God.
Lord, I see and feel your presence,
and my praise and thanks, I offer up…

In the past couple of years, I have been in the best place I’ve ever gotten to so far in this life despite (perhaps in spite of) 2020, seemingly so far from the shadows of a difficult past, basking in the warm light of love of late. Yet, I did feel the tickle of that demonic tentacle recently, even took a personal day because I felt like I simply couldn’t make it through the week. The next day, I cried at work from a fresh heart-infliction. Teaching in 2020 has challenged us as educators and stretched us all to our near-breaking points. But we are family at my school, so we gather (6 feet apart) at lunch each afternoon and do our best to laugh it all off. Laughter, I feel, is truly still the oldest and best medicine. 

Thank you, Lord, for laughter;
may that sound find its way
to the ones in these times who most need it.
Let it be channeled again through me 
to make someone’s day
for mirth mask-muffled is still healing.

My other top natural remedies have always been faith and nature. And now the added goodness of the man who fully loves me as me. And all of these were present in me as I sat in the silky sand before the lively ocean, the 70 degrees and plenty of sea breeze also infiltrating my body, mind, and spirit. 

It’s so easy to get pulled down, isn’t it? Down has always been seen as the negative direction. Higher powers in higher elevations, clouds and sky… The weight of perceived burdens and mental inflictions and the things we voluntarily shackle to our ankles is so heavy. The soul is weightless. The wings of humans, invisible. The altar barer than ever. If only we would lay more down. Offer more up. Let Him take more of it, all of it, from us. Why do we cling to it? Why is it so easy to forget that He is always beside us, always with open arms? Why is it so easy to forget how to swim, how to fly?… We simply need not sink or be prisoners of gravity. We can let it get washed away. We can uncage our souls. We can lean on others, even let them carry us for a while. We can open our hearts to love and to receive love. We are never alone. I think we simply choose it sometimes. 

So much inside me rose up this week. To attempt to defeat me. From places of my past maybe. From my own former voice to myself maybe. It’s hard to repel that gray when the cloud rolls in to consume you. It’s trying to take us all though. So shouldn’t we now, more than ever, unmask our hearts and join in spirit to lift each other? 

I plead for the sea breeze to vigorously whisk away my negativities.
I allow the ocean waves to wash away all the rest that is heavy. 
I lift my voice in song and cheerfully praise His glory. 

I raise my hands and pray to be free from this melancholy. 

Words and images from this morning ©LauraDenise