Letter #6: Postcards From You

Dear Gramma,

Last night I was enjoying the quiet of the wee morning hours.  I could hear Terry snoring in the bed as I sifted through a box of things my mom gave me.  There was a book of things I wrote in first grade that I can’t wait to share with my class.  There were cards from my first few birthdays.  I traced your signature on the cards you sent me and I traced Grandpa’s name, too.

Underneath the stack of birthday cards were items my mom brought back from your house, including the postcards you bought on our trip.  The backs of the postcards were blank and I sat in our office staring at their stark backs.  Tears welled in my eyes because those postcards will always be blank.  I sunk to the floor, wishing for your words to trace with my fingers.

I flipped the postcards over and ran my fingers across each glossy image of the places we’d been together.  It occurred to me that it was exactly three years ago to the day that you took me on that crazy bus tour for my birthday.  We had such a good time, didn’t we?  As I studied the postcards, I remembered the day we visited Novi Sad.  Do you remember when we stopped on that bridge and I asked you to take a picture of me with the beautiful buildings in the background?

You took this:

I asked if maybe you could take another picture.  One that captured the buildings and especially the clock tower in the background.

You lined the camera up carefully and took this:

I laughed and asked if you could possibly take another photo with the buildings in the background and preferably my entire head.

For a third time you lined the camera up really carefully and clicked the button, confident that you’d certainly got a good shot that time.  Do you remember how hard we laughed when we saw this?

And then our bus was leaving so we never did get a decent shot of that clock tower.  Gramma, you were so good at so many things, but you were an awful photographer.  Just awful.  And I’m so glad because each time I think of that bridge in Novi Sad, I remember how hard we laughed that day and how relieved you were when I banned you from taking photos for the rest of our trip.

Later that night, we ordered banana splits for dinner in the hotel bar.  The bar was closing and you asked the waiter to take our picture.  We ate and talked well into the wee hours of the morning.

Thank you for taking me on that trip.  And thank you for never sending those postcards to your friends.  Three years later they have come back to me, reminding me that the things we saw on our trip paled in comparison to the time we spent together.



The Windows Are Mornings and Evenings

Two nights ago That Laura and I went kayaking on Whiskeytown Lake.

I am a clumsy kayaker at best.  My fat little boat yawed back and forth as I slapped my paddle into the water and tried in vain to keep up with the other longer, sleeker vessels.  Truly it’s a wonder Laura doesn’t completely disown me out there.

We paddled out to Boulder Creek and then a little further around the lake.  The moon showed its milky, round face as the sun slipped from the sky.  The mountains changed from green to black and even the bright colors of the kayaks faded into shadows.  I watched the sun settle behind the mountains and for a second the lake was quiet.

I sat in my kayak, eating dinner, watching the moonlight stretch across the water.  The Color Green by Rich Mullins was the soundtrack in my head.  It is my absolute most favorite song ever on the planet.  You should listen to it right now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Rich Mullins was a beautiful writer and as I sat washed in moonlight, I thought of the first verse.

“And the moon is a sliver of silver

Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop

And every house must have it’s builder

And I awoke in the house of God

Where the windows are mornings and evenings

Stretched from the sun

Across the sky north to south”

For all the times I accidentally bump into other boats, for all the times I paddle so much water into my kayak that I’m soaking wet, this is why I love kayaking on the moonlit lake.  I feel like I am looking through the windows inside the house of God.

I Am From

I was introduced to the work of George Ella Lyon at the NCWP Summer Institute.  That night I tucked myself into my dorm room, plugged my earbuds into my laptop and was mesmerized by the richness of  George Ella Lyon’s voice.  I listened to her poem Where I’m From over and over again that night.  And then, like all writers do, I tried to emulate her.  I plumbed my memories and tapped away at the keys, deleting and typing, deleting and typing until the lines left on the screen felt right in my mouth. These are those lines.

I Am From

I am from hopscotch chalked on sidewalks, from Schwinn and Barbies.

I am from the top of Sleepy Hollow Loop, picking Poet’s Shooting Star for my mother.

I am from dandelion seeds caught in my curls, a faded image captured in the pages of my red photo album.

I am from jumping barefoot over salty waves, gripping my grandfather’s steady hand.

I am from the Wheeler nose and Betty Jean’s dimpled cheeks.

I am from the never-ending goodbye and Christmas stockings, stitched with care.

I am from the empty tomb and undeserved, infinite grace.

I am from Redding, scorched into my skin on sweltering summer days.

I am from Saturday morning sweetmilks and strings of golden taffy.

I am from pink bikes and purple lips stained with blackberries by the river

I am from poetry and my mother’s lullabies.

I am from beeping EKG’s keeping time with my heart, keeping time with my beautiful life.

Letter #5: Signs

Dear Gramma,

Another cycling season has come to a close and I thought of you often as I rode up hills and coasted through the plains.  I rode through places so beautiful, I thought my heart was going to burst from all that splendor.  You were always interested in the world around you and I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the places I’ve seen from my two wheels.  I wish I could show you in person.  Sometimes Heaven feels so far away, such a long way off.

On Easter Sunday I rode with Uncle Jon.  We rode behind the hills you loved so much and came upon this cactus farm.

Pete completed his first century in May and here we are with the three Shastas: Shasta Lake, Shasta Dam and Mt. Shasta.  We had so much fun together and I wanted to call you so badly that night.

This one is from the finish line in Portland.  Do you remember my childhood best friend, Julie?  She cheered me on at the finish line.

And let’s face it, I will never, ever race in the Tour de France.  However, the LiveStrong Chalkbot is rolling out messages of inspiration all along the course.  This one is from my friend, Lynn.  Yes, I know how lucky I am to have such thoughtful friends.

The world is a wonderful place and I wish we were traveling it together.  But for now it is enough that I carried your sign in my jersey pocket and carried your spirit in my heart.  I love you, Gramma.