I know you hear me, Gabriel


Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It was so much easier when I was seven years old, and my mother was God. My writing deemed inadequate, she authored all my book reports herself. To be fair, I had a lot to endure back then, dropped into the chaste land of catholic school after two cozy years in progressive education. I was skipped over second grade at her request. So, while I was busy dealing with painful penmanship and peer pressure, she feigned a third-grade beginner script. No one knew. At least she vowed to let me draw the cover art.

Long gone are the days of construction paper and pushpin reports, though all the epistles still sit in a box in her garage. I save my archives too. Snippets of daily life, fragments of profound thought, just because I like the way it sounded at 5:22 in the morning, other files reveal writing prompts wandering without context. Some are faint memories like blurry Polaroids with jotted notes on the white frame, yet many are concise compositions of spirited prose. No matter, I keep them all. I’m allowed to. They are nice to have just in case I need something for something, like stuff in the kitchen junk drawer, only they don’t require as much space.

I click to open one, then another, cutting and pasting chosen bits of each file to a new missive. In an attempt to piece together a complete essay, I keep reworking the sequence until it somewhat satisfies a particular call. When I think I have a sort-of-fits draft – despite being dissatisfied, in denial, and anxious to meet a deadline – I print it because, on paper, it can be refined with a pen well after the power button is pushed and the screen darkens. I say a prayer to Archangel Gabriel for guidance with the words, my editing skills, and progress, then fold and tuck it into my purple Filofax planner.

There it sits for several hours, possibly a day or two. In the meantime, duties requiring the daughter, mom, wife, cook, cleaning lady, and artist are met, switching vocations to fit the immediate need. Then, when I am alone with myself, I pull the sheets out to read the sort-of-fits draft.

No.

The original idea was interesting but much too grandiose for my beginner-level skills. I realize this after review of the first cut-and-paste paragraph. For all the elements to work cohesively with authenticity, such a daring piece needs genuine depth. I have to disclose my faults, examine them with a penitent heart, measure, and categorize. That’s a bit more soul searching than I feel equipped to handle at the moment. Best to save it as penance for a later version of myself.

Something suddenly clicks, and I must scrawl it out before the thought disappears, and the moment passes. I turn over the sort-of-fits draft to begin on clean white sheets. This time it’s fresh. There is the urgency I can actually see in the chicken-scratch, misspelled words, maniac surge, and get-it-down-fast sloppiness that starts to surface. As long as it can be deciphered later, it’s okay. I’ll keep writing until the train stops.

At some point, a theme emerges with a single sentence. It seems to come from a place deep within, a sudden divine intervention. I like it. I planned on finishing the trade show submission and cleaning the bathrooms, but the words and phrases are coming in a fury proclaiming their space. I slice the banana, squeeze a sentence along the edge. Sprinkle the granola, arrow a phrase to the top. By the time I sit down for breakfast, the commandment of thought cuts diagonal across lined paper grabbed from a telephone pad since I ran out of room on the reverse pages of my sort-of-fits draft.

This feels right.

I turn on the laptop and hustle to change out of pajamas. No need for a shower, I did that yesterday. I grab something decent to wear so I can at least feel presentable, not like I just dallied out of bed. My heart rate is a little quick, might be the coffee, and I slip into clean underwear and jeans. The sweatshirt I slept in is minimally wrinkled, so I keep it on but add a bra with a quick swipe of my husband’s handy stick deodorant. Checking on the laptop, damn, it’s still booting up and I am filling the sixth piece of paper as the epiphany continues. I run back to the bathroom to comb my hair and figure I can brush my teeth later after finishing the first mug of coffee, though I might make another pot.

Finally, a pristine white screen displays and the ritual can begin.

Where did it start? The missal of thoughts and words, arrows, and snippets scalloping the perimeter of the pages need to be assembled into a fresh file. My keyboard is greeted with a smile and a sigh – I did number all seven pages. If organization was an Eleventh Commandment, I would undoubtedly be absolved of all my other sins. The title I can worry about later, sure it will surface after at least eight hundred words if I offer another quick prayer to Gabriel.

Clicking the keyboard is structured now. Read a section, pause, reflect, type. In need of a thesaurus, I open a browser window to procure the aid at my fingertips. As each page is completely consumed, I compulsively scribble over the entire contents with a bright color gel pen like a huge checkmark, then rip and stack, rip and stack, until the sheet reduces to a pile of perfect little squares before dumping it into the wastebasket. Onto the next.

The whole morning continues as a heightened sensitivity to the mundane. I get up to make that pot of coffee and forget to brush my teeth. Breaks are taken with a mindless scrolling of social media after another page is studied and saved. Then my read-through is interrupted by the phone. It is my mother at 11:31 am. It’s her third call within an hour.

“So, what’s new? What are you doing now?”

“No, nothing’s new. I’m just working.” I casually avoid on what since she’s always quick with finding a stone to cast.

My thought and place now lost, I begin the piece aloud from the first line again. It’s getting there. Honestly, it’s progressing a lot faster than the sort-of-fits draft did. The essay might wind up like all my other PC files, but at least it has a purpose. The voice inside wants to be heard and professed, but the right words are needed for the sermon. I listen and learn; my faith strengthens the message and method. It is always about balance – the persistent taming of extremes effects a catharsis. To struggle with powerful mediocrity, I hope, will help me find the conviction to change things that I can while gaining wisdom to recognize the disparity.

The phone rings for the fourth time. My mother’s shrill voice radiating from the handset is unavoidable, but I keep typing despite the interruption. She proceeds to cite a recent confession from a friend.

“Did you hear what I said?”

Yes, I did, but this business of betrayal will not get the rise out of me she is hoping for. Although, I will store the verse, should there be an opportunity to make engaging conversation later during her evening lament. I am blessed; it is never about me.

At some point, I remember I didn’t brush my teeth, so I jump at the opportunity for another break. Welcoming the stretch of my legs, I mosey downstairs to deposit the empty coffee mug in the kitchen sink. The sun is out again, it was very cloudy before. As I pass through the dining room, my eye catches the gold-foil edge of the birthday sentiment from her on the table. The cards are always from Franciscan Missionaries heralding a healing mass from a select saint. Though I envision the missionaries believe her people are in desperate need of divine help, the reality is with every three-dollar donation she submits, they simply send replenishments. My former bedroom at her house is filled with bags upon bags of cards, more than she can ever use. But she will not allow me to give them away, nor sinfully throw them in the garbage as she might want to cut a flower from one to paste inside another. Quietly they congregate until she needs something for someone, a wish waiting with a prayer to be said.

My dalliance is interrupted by the cat’s loud summons from upstairs. Time to get back to work.

Returning to my place in front of the laptop, I realize hours have passed between glances at the screen and my last frenzied leaf. Starting at the top, I judge the assemblage. Choices continue to reflect the accuracy of perceived moments. Each persistent sweep collects redundant words, an exchange of emotion here and there, and sentence swaps, all to correctly capture and clarify. But enough, for now, my focus is waning. I know my limitations. As requested, the title revealed itself about nine hundred words ago. Time for a day’s save and print. The real reflection will come later after I say another prayer to Gabriel then fold and tuck it in my planner. This time I will let it sit at least two days to honor the weekend. I neatly rip the last note and deposit the squares in the trash.  

It is 5:03 pm, still time to switch pews with the cook and the cleaning lady, so I start dinner and polish up a bathroom before my husband returns home from work. Over the next couple of days, my vocations will shift again to dutiful daughter, wife, mom, and artist if time allows. Then, much later, when I am alone with myself, I will pull out the sheets to read this draft with fresh eyes. I already know how I will deem it to be.

Yes, better this time.

Thank you, Gabriel.

-SMF

 

The Solstice

My tender limbs seek relief.

Not from a foretime’s impetuous work weeding the beds,

A different, deep, enthralling ache bellows from my core.

I only long to be with him.

To laugh, beam in a concert of rapture,

Indubitable joy in hewed lines on our faces,

Burrow tight dancing to phantom music,

Sit under a canopy of magnolia inspirit with sweet fragrance,

Touching fingertips, softly embracing possibility.

Such afternoon of unencumbered bliss,

A yearning so urgent,

My lashes wet with anticipation.

Yet, there is pause.

Does his mental palace brim with equal urgency,

Thus grounds for the sudden stir within me?

If an invisible tie should bind,

Where shall I find reprieve?

Truth portrays brighter than fiction.

Maybe this is nothing,

Perhaps he is everything,

The solstice awaiting our return.

~smf

 

 

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars. 

Jack Kerouac

Nesting…

1) As you wake up, offer self-compassion. Take deep breaths of gratitude to soothe your heartbeat as you rise. Think of at least one thing to be grateful for each new day and focus on it for several moments. Open all the window shades, pull the curtains away. Let the light in.
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2) Shower daily and put on clean clothes, even if that means changing into a fresh set of pajamas! Hygiene is paramount. One thing I introduced to my self-care routine about a year ago is finishing a shower with a cold-water rinse. This has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, wake your body up inducing a higher state of alertness, and incur a more robust immune response because it increases the number of white blood cells in your body. I started with a few seconds and now stand under a cold shower several minutes each morning. For me, it even reduces headaches and body aches almost instantaneously as well as ease in breathing, especially during allergy season. Happy cells renewed in your body will thank you! Brush your teeth, then drink some water.
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3) Hydration is also essential. Treat yourself and drink water in a fancy glass. Another part of my morning routine is drinking hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. This jump-starts my system with a hefty dose of vitamin C and aids in digestion before that first cup of coffee.
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4) Whether swept into waves of a pandemic or simply grounding our spirit to embrace daily challenges, meditation provides the key to balancing harmony within. Spirituality comes in many packages, and it is up to your intuitive guidance to find what works for you. I was raised Catholic, and prayer is a meditation I do every day. Rosaries, mala beads, there are different ways to count prayers in world religions. Just taking a few minutes sitting in stillness, observing your breath, and blessing the chakras can help quiet the mental chatter and balance energy inside for better flow.
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5) Music energizes, comforts, inspires. Play music all day in the kitchen or whatever space your work takes you.
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6) Sustenance fuels you up. Prepare healthy meals by grabbing a few ingredients from the pantry and search for a new recipe to try on the internet. If you are financially-able, order take-out from a local small business who is hurting right now with all these closures. Pay it forward and leave an extra tip for them too.
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7) Connect gently. First, check-in on the heartbeats in your home. Offer compassion to another by texting someone you love or calling at least one friend a day. Reach out and have actual conversations, making genuine connections. Know that we are in the first days of rewiring community and local consciousness.
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8) Keep healthy boundaries so you can be physically aware of your space, and know when to turn off work and spend time taking care of yourself and your loved ones. Refrain from working in bed! Let everyone designate their space in the household, we’re going to be like this for a bit.  Take little breaks throughout the day. Unplug from your work, and try not to let it drain your energy. That goes for social media and online messaging, too, as you may find it hard to disconnect once you get hooked in. You don’t need to be bombarded by the media scene. Make that commitment each day to just unplug and surrender.
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9) Get up, stretch out, make some tea or coffee. Have a snack. Do some breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation. Continue to check in with yourself and your mindset. This will help you remain present and keep track of time. Or take a nap. Allow your body to stop and rest as needed.
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10) Weather permitting take at least one walk or bike ride daily, play, hike, get a healthy dose of natural vitamin D. Dance, create, read, write letters to people, do the things you have wanted to catch up on. Make movie-time 4-6 pm.
We are being called to clean up. This time we have to clean house before taking on a new life. The road ahead is full of challenges – and opportunities. We will learn a way to create better human spaces through all this. Let’s use this time-out to start fresh and begin with a consciousness of self. It all starts from within. – SMF

 

as she looked into her past,

she noticed that the road

she had traveled was

no simple straight line.

her journey toward fully

loving herself and the world

was full of forward and

backward movement,

twists, turns, detours,

and even some pauses.

at times, she doubted her progress,

her potential, and even

her power to change.

but today, with the

wisdom of experience at hand,

she knows she could not have gotten

to where she is without every

movement she has ever made.

from inward by yung pueblo

 

watercolor by Marcos Beccari

 

Renascence

Observed from a distance below the surface, she is concealed by inky blue, limbs kicking free, ripples surround.

Head submerged with a beacon of sun, befall the baptism.

She surfaces from the spotlight and swims to the short berth where a companion awaits. Not so pure the mix and live with anticipation, Golden wags wildly seeing her after playing obedient guardian of the towel. 

She dries, dancing on the dock in excited reunion with her best friend as he jumps, laps, and butts into her legs like a baby doe. The truest young love, anyone can see. The observer feels alliance even from afar.

Missteps in time, now she is facing the lake floor, quietly floating away, a flat balsa lifeless and calm.

Golden is wild, barking bravery wasted on the dock of departure. Moments lost for any words, thoughts, apperception.

Sight within, another birth to parlay.

The observer is wet too.

~ SMF

watercolor by Marcos Beccari

Now

Now

The knot in my stomach tightens

Squeezing tears, dripping

Like a drenched towel left on the clothesline in the rain

Twisted in clenched fists.

I’ve missed you so much

Just as you miss him now

But you are still here, yet not.

I often force myself to remember

That playground looks different now,

I don’t recognize it with all the modern greens,

Smaller, less inviting than when we went there,

Tammy in her stroller, I pulled the chain down

Securing her in the metal swing

Now a ghost at that park.

Remember when we were in our own world, playing with dolls,

In the park, in the living room, on the kitchen table,

I need to hold onto those grainy colored snapshots

For that person is no longer here.

Now she sits alone in the kitchen listening to melodies of his native tongue

Understanding better than when he spoke to you.

And you cry as I cry,

Gripping pain, face twisted and squeezed,

You said you wish he would visit you in this desolate place

While I just want you to return to see a pretty sunrise,

Or a red-breasted robin singing in the yard.

But I know you cannot, will not,

Allow yourself such pleasures.

Angry words burn in my head as I realize we are the same

Recognition,

Guilt and loss, a penance

Boring holes too deep to fill with empty words.

SMF

 

The early dawn speaks in moody color

Awakening with a recollection of my lunar mother

As she flew to my throat, this master of disguise

Determined to soften, to illuminate a vernal path of light

Wealth in blind faith, I will follow.

 

Nocturnal luster flutters forth, and I can see clearer now

Enchantment from the shadow depths

Change is apparent as I question purity at hand

Intuitive birth beginning from a mere thought

Wealth in blind faith, I do follow.

 

Spoken words from within rising to my lips

A collective emerges

Under the velvet moon we rise, voices void of sound, rich in color

Drawing innermost shadows to the canvas

Wealth in blind faith, we follow.

 

Searching for balance and beauty, a portal sought

In realms of truth and trust

Passage to where though? dare I ask

Uncertainty reigns under the velvet moon

But wealth in blind faith, I still follow.

 

~Sonya M. Fitzmaurice

 

From this morning


Snow flutters like glitter in the wind, so pretty in the rising sun. I see this through my kitchen window, and my mind wanders.

A new year is here. Time to review and renew, embrace, and embark. A new list of intentions, not resolutions, because these are a way of living, goals set into motion to promote well-being and life itself:

Everything I do needs to be from my heart. Feel passionate about things and go ahead, even if it is out on a limb, out of the comfort zone. Be true to myself and my spirit without regret or fear.

Keep looking outside of the box and try new things, experience new friendships, and be happy every day. Take chances.

Give of myself every day with kindness, help, generosity, and love.

Keep my inner core strong and calm, yet embrace and release any emotion with complete abandon to cleanse my spirit and move forward. Live in the moment. Always forgive.

I can feel my heart beating quickly. It is a glorious day outside despite the howling wind.

I take a deep breath of the energizing life force and enjoy each day as a gift. May I expand my awareness so that nothing escapes my attention. Amen.

~ SMF ~