Tag Archives: belief

One Man's Trash…


When we were kids, a person my parents held in highest esteem gave us some Christmas ornaments. They were red balls with Santa’s caps, felt eyes, and faux fur brows and beard. My parents coveted them and would only let the kids hang them when we were dexterous and teenaged, and even then we’d get stern looks before they put them in our charge. “Two hands,” they’d say. When I was finally old enough to hang these ornaments, I did it with fear and self-doubt.

A point came many years later when I was staring at the Christmas tree with my father like we used to do– “dreaming” he called it, and I looked at those Santa ornaments on the tree, waiting to feel that old tingle of being gifted by “kings”…and I realized, in my adult cognition, that they for all intents and purposes were…really really tacky. And ugly. And cheap. We had given them so much meaning, and there they hung, like the emperor and his “clothes.”

“Dad, you know…those Santa ornaments? They’re kind of horrible,” I said.

His face scrunched into a look of disdain, readying himself for fatherly-flung disagreement that truth-be-told, had worn thin as I’d got older and smarter and more dexterous. And then his face softened. And he laughed. “My gosh, you’re right! They ARE horrible.” And we laughed and laughed and laughed and I’ll never forget it. A total castration of royalty, right there in our sun porch.

Still, even more years later, when my parents sold their home of 40 some odd years, my sister and I divided those Santa ornaments up like family jewels. Two for her, two for me. And every year since then, I’ve hung them myself, only recently entrusting them to my own children. Even though I know better than to cling to such things, those Santa ornaments hold some sort of power for me. I think it’s because my parents believed they had power. And I believed in my parents.

Then yesterday, I came in from grocery shopping and my husband was under the Christmas tree with the vacuum. My ten year old son looked at me. “We’ve had an accident, Mommy. The tree fell down out of nowhere and a few ornaments broke. But just think of all the ones that DIDN’T break.” I looked at the re-erected tree and scanned it, making a check list of my most favorite ornaments, dating back to my grandmother’s childhood in the late 1800s. Then I saw my son’s eyes dart to the coffee table and there were the Santas. Both of them broken. And you know, I cried. I did. I wept. I wept because my father’s fingers had touched those powerful tacky bulbs and believed in them. I cried because they were apart of his Christmas “dreaming.” I cried that my mother and father needed to assign power to a thing like a tacky Santa ornament in the first place. I cried that I had assigned them the same power. I knew the person who had given them to our family. I believed in her power too. And now she’s dead. And so is my father. And all that power is either in my memory of them, or died with them, or never existed in the first place. I cried because at Christmas time, no matter how good you are at busting through myths, it’s hard. You want to dream. You want to believe. But I knew that this was yet another lesson in letting go.

So I took a photo, and then I promptly tossed them in the garbage can, smashing them down with my naked hand, perhaps wanting to bleed a bit. They’re just ornaments. They’re meant to be enjoyed and part of their wonder is that they are so fragile. Memories aren’t. The love of a parent is not. I haven’t told my mother yet. I wonder what she’ll say. I wonder if a thing like an ornament matters when your husband is dead and your friends are dying all around you. Perhaps that is why I wept. I wanted that return to childhood where time stands still just for a moment every year, when I wink at those tacky Santas and feel their power. I know the “dream” is in me. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little boost. So tacky little Santas, may you rest in peace. Thank you for your years of service. I’m sorry you had to go the way you did. But I’m not sorry we believed in you.

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Begging the Bear

curtis

Begging the Bear by Laura A. Munson

I went for the smell of wild roses pulsing in the vanilla of Ponderosas. For the June blues and purples: penstamon, flax, lupine, geranium. I went for the ninety-degree heat and cobalt skies after so many months by the woodstove, wearing a shawl. I went for the view from the ridge, to see what my valley looks like, green. I went to remind my horse that I am his leader in a fenceless place. I went for sunburned shoulders.
My horse sees her first. Ups his head, pricks his ears.
“Hello?” she shouts up to me. “Could you wait a moment?”
We wait there on the ridge. You wouldn’t not.
“Say, I was wondering if you might come with me up the trail a bit. Seems like Logan and I can’t ride out here without a bear encounter. Just saw a mama and three cubs. Logan here doesn’t like bears. Doesn’t like the sight of them. Doesn’t like the smell of them. Of course, the whole woods smell like bear this time of year. It’s funny—the bears never used to bother him.”
I take in a clandestine sniff. Smells to me like roses and Ponderosas.
“I want to get him past where we were on the trail. Just so he can face his fear.”
I eye Logan like we are lost twins. Logan has been begging the bear. With more success than I. “Alright.”
We head up the trail, bushwack a minute around some piles of slash. “It looks horrible back here,” I say.
“They’re developing the whole mountainside.”
My Morgan shies at an uprooted stump. I turn him in circles with one reign until he stops. “He doesn’t usually spook.”
“This may sound crazy…but sometimes, Logan speaks to me. He says the bears are different now, since all the development. More…desperate.”
I take in a deep breath. I don’t want my horse to know that I have been begging the bear for seven years, with no success, and the suspense has gotten the best of me. “Do you have any bear spray?” I say.
“Nope.”
We are silent as we round a knoll. The stumps are different here. Not torn up by loggers as much as by claws.
“So this was a black bear you saw?”
“Actually, I think it was that griz sow I read about in the newspaper. They keep relocating her, but she keeps coming back.”
Oh. This is not a bear. This is the bear.
“It’s really amazing how the mama bear works, you know? How she knows we’re here. How she hides her cubs. Then takes her position. Decides whether we are a threat.”
I nod, like I know all about it.
“She is probably looking at us right now.”
I send out a message: We come in peace.
“It was just up here,” she says. “I wish I could understand Logan’s fear. When I see a bear, I just want to stand there and watch.”
My horse stops; saves me from having to respond to her. He throws his head up, nostrils flaring. I fight my joints from locking, drop my seat bones into his spine like a tree to his roots. Logan starts to back. Am I ready for this? Have I finally earned this? Will I be good enough to my horse, this woman, her horse, the bear, the cubs, myself? Will I face my horse to his fear and breathe us through. Or will I lose myself and run?
“What is your name?” I ask her. It seems important, suddenly, to know.
“Ky Hawk.”
“Sounds like a character out of a book,” I say, like maybe she is. Maybe we are not real; just imagined by the sort of person who needs to beg bears.
“My mother named me after her imaginary friend.”
My horse sidesteps.
“Ky? Is Logan speaking to you right now?”
She smiles. “Nope.” Then asks Logan to go forward. He does.
We follow until we are around the bend.
“Well, I guess she’s decided we’re safe. Thanks. I think we can take it from here.”
And she’s gone.
And I hear it. “Didn’t you know?” my horse says. “She is the bear.”

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Raven

Heart_Shaped_Rock

Raven
by Laura A. Munson

I know a woman who frequently finds hearts. In rocks, in the dish suds, in the shape of manure clods. She’ll say, “Laura! Come here.” And I’ll know that I am about to see some mystical arrangement of two curves, cleavage, and a point.
I know another woman who claims that whenever she begins a trip—in her car, on horseback, by foot, a hawk flies right across her path. “That’s how I know we are going to be safe,” she says.
I know a man who says that when he was a boy, his father told him that there was a magic place in the forest where there was a circle of trees. And if he could find it, and stand in the very center of the circle, he would get any wish he could dream up. So he was always walking around in the woods behind his house in northern California, in search of the Circle of Trees. He never found it. But now, as a man, in northwest Montana, he says that he cannot take a walk in the woods without coming upon a perfect circle of trees.
“Do your wishes come true?” I asked him.
“I’ve never made a wish there, actually. I just figure that the circle is, in itself, the proof that wishes can come true.”
I knew a girl when I was young, who was on the lookout for stones with perfect rings around them. “They’re good luck,” she’d say, squatting on the banks of Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin. She would pick them up faster than it took for me to imagine how a ring in a rock could have power; never mind believe in it. I wanted to believe—her bucket filling up with all that luck.
For a while it was blue sea glass. On the beaches of Lake Michigan. Green, white, and amber were abundant. Blue was hard to find. But not for me. Red was almost impossible, but I’d find red too. Then someone said, “Do you know what that is? It’s broken glass. It’s litter. Pollution. How can you find that beautiful?” So I stopped looking. Still, on beaches, I find blue sea glass. Put it in my pocket. Don’t tell anybody.
My daughter finds X’s in the sky. From airplanes. “Look, Mama. Another X. Isn’t it beeuuuuuuuuuutiful?” I don’t tell her that it’s exhaust from an airplane. She can find beauty wherever she wants.
Now, for me, it is the raven. Always a raven with audible winging, coming out of nowhere as if it is the same one, following me, flushing at my presence, performing its fly-by. It halts me. Reminds me to breathe deeply; say thanks.
My husband finds faces in coals. Usually late-night, around a campfire, when the fire has burned down and everyone else has gone to bed, and it’s just us. He is silent, staring. I know what he is doing. I leave him to his faces. I have never seen them. He says I look too hard.
I apologize to the coals. I assume I have not looked hard enough. I assume I should be the sort to see every design in all of Creation.
But I hear the winging; the raven being released into the night. So close I could reach up and let it skim my fingertips.
Breathe. Thank you.
I take a stick and poke into the coals, collapsing the faces I haven’t seen for whatever reason. I do not need to see faces, I say in my mind. I am the fire. The faces are me. I am not Narcissus of the fire ring. Nor an interpreter of Nature’s art. I do not need to see the designs as much as receive them when they come.
And still, there is the raven. And I wonder: are these things offered? Or are they beckoned.

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