August 29, 2010

Blogging, HCB, and Time

I joined Higher Calling Blogs within twenty-four hours of beginning Salt-Rain Tidings. I think that’s equivalent to being handed a sea-diving suit and oxygen tank and being dumped overboard in the middle of the Atlantic.

I have yet to discover if this dumping will result in drowning or a glorious adventure.

I am overwhelmed, thrilled, and maybe even scared by the world which I have suddenly entered. With HCB I have become a member of a community. -Now people outside of my immediate social group can find my blog and read my writing. Already I am meeting wonderful bloggers- and with a click of my mouse their thoughts are laid open to me- I lose myself in their wisdom, wit, heartache, and love.

I am anxious to emulate, eager to share. Yet just when I have so much to say- I have no time to say it. College starts tomorrow (can you hear my heart pounding?) and with it commuting, homework, and a social life even as I remain home and a member of my family (daughter, sister) and member of my church and local community.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds. It is so easy to disappear on-line. You just don’t get on.

I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be scribbling down my thoughts in the middle of the night- and those scraps of paper with lines crossed out and words written over them to remain in notebooks and in piles on my desk- the overflow of an irrepressible writer.

I am confessing. Busyness never means I stop writing. It just means I stop sharing it. Life doesn’t mean I have less to share, it only means that the more my writing reflects who I am the more I feel the urge to keep it within me. I have begun blogging because far too often my writing is completely selfish.

I won’t drown. I just might get back in the boat.

So here- now- I am committing myself to you. -

- For His glory, by His grace -

August 27, 2010

Snow White-ishness

Every summer my neighbor goes on vacation and leaves me in charge of her house. Usually this entails watering her deck plants and her many gardens. This year I am also in charge of minding the little birdies outside, (their bath and feeder), her two turtles, and her cat (huge, orange, and pushy- reminiscent of a baby tiger).

Twice a day I escape from the noise and busyness of life. I slip out in rain, in soul-soaring wind, and in dazzling sunshine and midst the quiet of her serene, deserted house I mind the beasties.

The turtle greats me with splashes. The cat rubs its head on my foot.

I find myself getting cozy, as if this house were a gift- a sanctuary prepared for me. Habitually I sing. The house has seen me in tears, in dreamy reflections, in haste, in leisure, in fear, in worship, and (as was the case today) in delighted joy.

“Hello, you.” The cat annoys me, but I don’t let him know. Instead I scratch behind his ears. In a closet I discover a broom and clean up the mess he’s made. I get him his wet food and his dry food and his water and wait patiently for him to finish so I can rinse out his bowl.

The sky is blue. And in the high ceilings my notes ring like missives of peace-

Sunshine on my shoulders
makes me happy
Sunshine on my eyelids
can make me cry...

I am laughing, because I feel a bit like Snow White. And as such I am allowed a wish: Please, no hidden cameras.

August 24, 2010


My Dad has never had coddling issues. I had barely been behind the wheel four times when Dad had me on the highway for two hours straight going to Michigan- and yes, in rain and traffic.

That experience killed most of my fear. I knew that my new-found confidence would result either in me being a fantastic driver- or dying before I ever got a chance to get my license.

For the longest time I had no reason or desire to drive at all. I had nowhere to go. But Dad said, “You need to get your permit.” So I got my permit around the time I turned seventeen... But I still didn’t have my license at eighteen. However, with commuting to college this semester, suddenly the pressure was on. My college is 40 minutes from home. If I wasn’t driving it, my parents would have to, which would mean Dad leaving work or Mom leaving my four younger siblings and driving two and a half hours a day. Not happening. In Dad’s words, “You need to get your license.”

On roads I was good- really good. Dad, my protector, company, and driving-instructor, found my driving so “smoooooooth” that he would fall asleep on me. Thanks, Dad.

But while I could zip smoothly around our windy country roads, I hadn’t the foggiest notion of how to park. Nor was Dad much help either. His laissez-faire attitude which had been so helpful when getting over the fear of the road wasn’t helpful when it came to the delicacy of parallel-parking.

He took me out to a deserted parking lot where he set up hay-bales. He then sat on them and watched as I attempted to park. He watched, and watched, and then would cry out in horror as the hay-bales would go toppling over, “YOU JUST HIT A CAR!!!” I knew I should feel guilty, (hitting imaginary cars), but Dad was so relaxed in the face of pending disaster I could only grin and quote, “Women, for pity’s sake, don’t drive!

After six failings (and exhaustion setting in) I asked Dad to show me. So I got out. He got in. And I watched--- as he showed me how to park by successfully hitting those hay-bales (eh, cars) and discovering the space was too small in the first place. Thanks, Dad.

So it was Mom, on-line videos, and my grandfather who taught me how to park. Mom also took me to the road test.

It was at 10:00 in Peekskill a half-hour away. We left at 8:30. Mom drove- talking to me, trying to relax me, (my eyes closed, heart pounding, trying not to think about just how important it was to pass this test. College would begin in less than two weeks). We arrived at 9:00, practiced till 9:20, and showed up at the test-site at 9:30. The driving instructor informed us that he couldn’t administer the test because we were driving an illegal car. The previous owner had been out-of-state, and in New York we needed a license plate in the front as well as in the back.

But the man was kind and said he could get us in if we were back by around eleven. We rushed back home. 10:00. I called our car-place (they kindly agreed to do an emergency mounting) while Mom got Dad and went searching for the missing license plate. We ransacked for half an hour before admitting defeat. Dad didn’t know where the license plate was. He hadn’t just forgotten where he’d put it, he didn’t remember putting it anywhere. Thanks, Dad.

But then we got the bright-idea of taking the test on our huge, lumbering 8-passenger Suburban truck. I had never driven the thing before and certainly hadn’t planned on driving it during my test, but hey- the worst thing I could do was fail.

So I drove it over. Talk about a crash course. “Where’s the break! Where’s my turn signal! What does this thing do!”

We arrived. 11:06. The man got in the car. Aaaand… I couldn’t turn the car on. The wheel had locked. The man helped me unlock it. Then the car wouldn’t move. :Eyes darting everywhere:. Ah. That lever behind the car-wheel. ’Still in Park.

We were on our way. The test was a cinch. We never even went into town, only around the residence blocks. The man only talked to me during the test once- during the parking. I backed up into the space beautifully and began to straighten out and he said that was unnecessary and I should just pull out of the spot.

Then he made his one and only real comment: “You have a caterpillar on your car.”

I think I murmured something demurely. In retrospect I should have said something like, “Do I get Echo-Friendly points for cuddly-critters being attracted to my gas-guzzling machine?” But no such thoughts came to mind.

We came to the end. He said, “You’re good to go.” I had passed. With 10 points docked for engine-control: cruel irony for the smooth-driver. Mom asked if I wanted to drive home. Heck, NO!

It’d been a long day. But I was driving to college.

But the real significance of having that license I would learn just four days later when my Dad had a heart attack. His calmness in the face of pending disaster was the only thing that kept me together as I drove the boys to hair-cuts, to church, and my shook-up mother, when she came home from Virginia, to the hospital to see him.

God knew I needed my license that week. Divine timing leaves me awe-struck. God also knew I needed a Dad who would make me get one.

So thanks, Dad. And thanks, God.

August 23, 2010

Day About Town

This morning was gorgeous. And I had the pleasant prospect of being picked up for the afternoon at eleven. The way I carefully chose my clothes and put on makeup- I should have been going on a date. But it wasn't a date. It was a turning-left-at-an-intersection and parallel-parking session with my grandfather. (When stress is inevitable it's important to at least feel prepared.)

We drove down old country roads- past corner stores and stone walls, by the road I used to live on- into downtown Peekskill. I didn't see a yield-for-turning-policeman sign and stopped just in time to miss running into one.

We dropped by an old bookstore- where Nonno rummaged through and selected records to buy... and I flipped through one faded, gilt-covered book after another- weighing beauty against content and at last selected a red and gold 1909 copy of Dumas' The Black Tulip.

For lunch Nonno took me to a Mexican restaurant. As we sat outdoors under the blue sky- and read the opening paragraph of my new book- "On the 20th of August, 1672, the city of the Hague, whose streets were ordinarily so neat and trim, and withal so tranquil that every day seemed like Sunday;" -Nonno commented that Peekskill was like the Upper West Side, and that the Upper West Side was like Paris. Then a truck blared past us and we decided it wasn't so very much like anything.

Back in the car. Parallel-parking. I think I got the hang of it- the last few we did I got down to one movement. Confidence is currently high.

Back through the country roads... looking for a shack Nonno lived in thirty years ago and not finding it. Not even its place- nor the pond which had once been across the road from it...

Do we change the land so much in thirty years?

Driving. Musing... On the relentless march of Time... And singing. -These words from an old Shirley Temple movie running continuously through my head:

The simple things in life
are a-round you ev-'rywhere
right outside your door
why keep reaching for
the moon?

- 8/6/10


- New York City -

We have a love-hate relationship. I think I'm a bit of a city-girl at heart - having spent my first six years in the suburbs of San Fransisco and the rest a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from NYC.

I love the the thousands of smells- [fish... curry... garlic...] -which meld in the crisp, heaviness of the wind. I love all the black trench coats and knee-high boots (the fur ones make me laugh). I enjoy transforming into an extrovert and bewildering people with a wave and a smile. "Hello, it's crowded here, isn't it?"

I love marble. And shiny glass windows. And enormous vases of flowers. I love exotic, renown, expensive, highly-guarded pieces of art. I love plays and ballets. I love mocha frappachinos. And Free Trade chocolate- and canvas sacks sporting their echo-friendliness. I really like black leather gloves. And hats, too. Even if I never wear them. I love seeing restaurant names in Italian, Turkish, and Spanish... and looking up to see the word "Indus" and immediately being transported half a planet away...

And face it, I love sidewalks. I like the way boots and heals clip-clop along. [I fell in love with the way feet sound on pavement when I watched The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge) and listened to Pascal's feet trip along the Paris cobblestones.]

The city, for me, continues to weave itself into my being in an culmination of countless childhood, now adult, memories.

I see Carnegie Hall- tuxedos, white walls, and the mesmerizing piano which marks a turning point in my life...

I see The Cage, known for its amateur basket ball players... across the street from the hole-in-the-wall Mamoun's -famous for its killer Falafel and Shawarma.

I see The Metropolitan Museum of Art--- where when I was little I saw the Egyptian exhibit one too many times and where on my last visit, loosed for hours, I spent my time staring at enormous oil-on-canvass paintings... Death Of Socrates, Graziella, Cypresses.

I see Flora De Mayo where from my first time in the city we went for dinner and have ever since, always ordering the same things. Always spectacular. Always just right. The older waiters recognizing us and asking where our missing family members are.

I see the Botanical Gardens (conservatory, trains, my baby sister in a blue dress), and Bryant Park (where the plane tree leaves hit my head while eating a chocolate croissant), and Central Park (open fields, kissing couples, The Gates -which made us want to write scathing articles)...

I see my Lady Liberty, blazing against the brilliant sky... I remember being six years old and waiting those long hours on the winding staircase, my grandmother rewarding every few steps of progress by popping Mentos into our mouths.

I see Arthur Avenue where we buy coffee Italian ices, where we have pizza New York style, where we go into the corner deli my great, great, grandmother shopped at every week, and where at the cheese store we buy a slab a foot long of heavenly Ricotta.

I see Rockefeller Center where we went ice skating, my brothers dancing with abandon to the rock music, drawing smiles from the policemen... across the street from Radio City where I have twice seen the Rockettes and St. Patrick's Cathedral where my great uncle is buried under the alter.

The breathless exhilaration which I feel when I hear the thousand feet echoing on the marbled floor of Grand Central Station, or when I walk on the damp streets down Madison Avenue and stop to buy outrageously expensive (and positively to die-for) tiny pieces of dark chocolate is almost (though not quite) as dear to me as the bubbling of springs and the musty smell of old books in sumptuous libraries, or the spring breezes which play with white skirts and the pages of books and fast cools peppermint tea.

In my heart there have always been two loves which rage: one which longs for the solitude of the sea side and the quiet of deserted fields, and the other which has fallen for Modernity, which reacts against the romanticism of the pastoral, and finds in the city both a unique form of community as well as a singular sense of solitude.

There is a peculiar watching-and-being-watched aspect to the city. A certain autonomy. Yet a certain annihilation of self.

You can lead a crowd- you can also disappear in it.

They say sunglasses hide your identity. But they also reveal other people's. I think I like my dark shades not so much because then people can't "see" me so much as then I can watch other people unreservedly. I can notice all those things which are so easily missed in intermittent, polite attention.

There are plenty of people to watch in the city. Where else can you find so many cultures reacting, retaining, and creating? I am always fascinated by the thousands of souls- thousands of stories- hopes, dreams, and heartaches which are passing me by. What makes a man do that to his hair? What does that color and cut of coat say about the girl pouring over a self-acclaimed best-seller while paying precious little attention to her steaming knish? They are telling me about themselves - if only I would look long enough to understand.

In this is heart-beat of the city: the flash of the lights, the turn of the heel, the wish of scarves, the long black coats, the exotic hair, the puffs of steam, the blare of horns, and the last refrain of a violinist.

Perhaps it is the the very speed of exchange of the city which both draws me to it... and leaves me so very disoriented.

I always leave the city exhilarated... and then... asking questions like, "Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?"

In the search for identity there is a constant crisis.

The city is like a web page where everything, and every person is an add. If you want to, you can click on them and learn where they shop, where they live, and everything they've ever thought.

But is knowing everything you can know about someone the same as actually knowing them?

In this image-conscious culture I find myself looking for a mirror and finding the world staring back at me.

The city makes me feel defeated. Is it because I realize how small I am? My own insignificance? Or my own potential and lack of initiative? ...My own vulnerability?...

Could I become a protesting, tee-totaling liberal who goes to writing workshops and cafes to read poetry, who decorates her house with strange ceramic shapes (which look vaguely like something familiar), who wears earrings made from refurbished tin and bracelets which support craftsmen in Indonesia? YIKES.

..."Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?"...

Or is it simply a sadness? There they are. Just a hand's reach away. What words could I use to draw them to Him who is the way?

..."They will know you by your fruits"...

I feel my own fruit being crushed under the masses of passing people. All they can see is my long black coat (which looks just like theirs) and my cute heels (which sound just like theirs) and I find when they have passed me and are (and now truly are) gone... that if they saw anything- learned anything- took anything away... it was my smile.

Can a smile preach the name of Christ?

Truly, I have no idea. But I tend to think that when a stranger smiles at a stranger they learn more about each other than the gods they serve.

And so I am sad. And disoriented. And I love the city. And I weep over it, too.

- - - - - - - - - -

I am a member
of a family of strangers
who by common consent
remain silent

I am a participant
in a communal conspiracy
to ask questions
but never give answers

I have sworn
by the clothes I wear
to be silent
in the face of materialism

I have joined my hands
with deniers
though when they prayed
I did not bow my head

Can I stand to be silent
as they fall around me?
Can I continue to live as they die?
Having lived with the dieing
I find myself asking,
is their life somehow tied to mine?

- 2/15/10 - 7/20/10


Today I baked my first batch of French Bread!!! I'd been wanting to make some for quite some time. It was a romantic adventure. (What could be more fun than busying about the kitchen making bread and getting dreamy on the ozone fumes?)

They tell you it takes a good four times to get the knack of it. I still have trauma leftover from the last time I tried making bread from a Secret Garden book I was given for Christmas. I had set the dough out to rise and it NEVER rose... I waited and I waited and the next thing I knew the dog had eaten the dough. [He couldn't eat for three days on account of a distended stomach and got the nick-name "Dough-boy," I got two empty bowls and a fear of stubborn dough. ;)] In addition to this paranoia I had to worry about having had to use deviations on two of the four ingredients- and having added a fifth. ;) So you can imagine what hope it gave me when my dough began rising. Ah! lovely dough! Soft and spongy. :)

Everything was going well till I put my French Bread in the oven. I had been instructed both by my book and by my video to steam the oven when putting in the bread- to literally take a 1/4 cup of water and THROW it in the oven.*** The video showed me the resulting steam. ;)

Well. I threw water in. It steamed. I put the bread in. And the steam was gone. So I quickly grabbed some more water and hurled it into the oven. BAD IDEA!!! I threw it on my bread!! (AAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Thankfully the egg-coated crust was a deterrent and it only landed on one loaf and I kinda tipped the cookie sheet and it all slid off and added to the much needed steam. whew

Around this time my brothers began complaining about the bread "taking all day". Uh, yeah. ;) I told them they should pity women who once had to do it every day. Dad reminded us that that was only French women. ;) [No wonder they revolted. :P]

Well, the bread made it safely out of the oven and looked lovely. I put it on the table along with chicken soup.

a tavola! 'Come to the table. We prayed. We buttered our bread. And the ensuing chorus of mmmmms made it all worth while. :)

Above: a picture of my loaves... along with my beloved Indian steel cups. :)
.*** [In some ovens can be dangerous. Don't try at home. ;)]

- 6/12/10

June 10th, 2010

I wonder about my writing. Have you ever had the indescribable feeling you were being laughed at? Perhaps that is why I laugh – so their laughter will seem intended. …my sister once said she liked – or appreciated – my e-mails to her because it was “the only time she got to hear my voice”… But is it my voice – more true than my audible one? Or is the projection of myself which I want people to see – something my artistry has fabricated? But is that not why writers can sound such depths- endlessly create – and are their creations not, to say the least, reflections of their innermost selves? If this were an e-mail – I would now waver between sending and deleting. And I hope you are not laughing at me.

–L.E Fiore

Walk with Annie

I live a wonderfully blessed life.

After lunch Annie and I, hand-in-hand, set out for White Pond (a pond so large it is more like a lake). We sang Do-A-Dear and then broke out into rhymes about the things we saw as we passed... The sky, the white cherry blossoms, and the mailboxes.

At the lake we went out on the pier, kicked our shoes off, and stuck our feet in the icy-cool water. I pulled out our book, Three Go Searching, and we read a bit... taking breaks to look at the lake, the trees on the other side, the beautiful blue sky, and to drink water and eat tick-tacks and twizzlers.

The sun was hot as we walked back. We met new neighbors and waved at passing cars.

We talked about the characters in our book, our sinful hearts and need for Jesus...

We picked yellow flowers and I put them in her hair. We made wishes on dandelions.

I don't want this to end...

- 5/6/10

Mocking Seas

they are mocking me
those raging seas
breaking on the shore
they're asking me to play with them
they're enticing, "Don't you want more?"
but they are cruel, I know it
they take only lovers in their arms
me they would spit back on the rocks
unloved, so fit to harm


On Ads (and wind-blown hair)

Maybe it's my sheltered, media-deprived upbringing-- but I find ads terribly amusing.

They always stop me dead when I see them in the newspaper.

There is he is... some suave looking guy with a spacy look, his hair all windblown, sporting a striking set of clothes...

Yep. It's meet Mr. Gorgeous- looking like he's just gotten through with his hair dresser, clothing designer, and makeup artist.

And oh, LOOK. He's got a camera! But it isn't the camera that's for sale.... It's just there to show that Mr. Gorgeous is not just brain and brawn-- he's also artsy. (Wow. Wonder if his phone number is somewhere in the really small lettering at the bottom of the page...)

But besides personal recommendations, Mr. Gorgeous seems to be making the deeper, more compelling claim that other people can be as equally attractive by simply acquiring the hunky looking watch in the right hand corner.


I don't really care about the guy's make-up... or clothes... :shrug:

...and I suppose I can get closer to nature by spending my afternoons in open fields writing about the daisies, but...

what I want to know is...

Do you get the windblown hair along with the watch?

But honestly people, don't ads make you mad? They're so incredibly fake. Artificial. Contrived and doctored... Fashioned to deceive. [Favorite video on the subject:]

Am I asking for them to have ugly people on the covers of their magazines?

Not really.

But I'd like it if they were real people...

Real guys don't look like Lord Byron.
Real girls don't looked like goddesses left in the sun too long.
Neither men nor women have personal attendants blowing fans on them all day

And frankly guys, you look girly with windblown hair.

- 5/3/10

Numbered Hairs

Ever thought about how God knows the hairs on your head?

Abstractedly, it's become a cliché.

But have you ever thought about what it literally means?

"Yeah, sure... God knows I have around 100,000 hairs on my head."

But first of all, the number isn't that even.

Second of all, YOU don't even know the number.

Thirdly, he knows how many you have RIGHT NOW!

Pull a hair out for me. Really. Please do. :)



God has already tallied the new number!

And what about all those times you don't know about it? When it gets caught on something or just falls out???...

God doesn't just know "the plans I have for you', and the words before they are on our tongue, and "my going in and lying down"--- he is deeply in tune with our thoughts, the reasons behind our emotions, the slightest change in the beat of our heart, and those minuscule personal details we don't even pay attention to!

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me..."

- 4/28/10


Once you were
words on a page -
a mantra on my tongue
which I mindlessly sang -
a thought which
could not come clear,
except when my apathy
gripped me with fear.
When did you decide
to pull me away from myself?
When did you decide
to draw me to yourself?
When did you give me
something to be?
When did you become
everything to me?

- 4/10/10

April 3rd, 2010

Sarah's home.

Summer came like cinnamon, so sweet... Little girls double-dutch on the concrete...

It'd been a while... There was a lot that needed saying...

Oh, don't you hesitate.

Thankfully the boys skedaddled to the baseball field so we had quite the opportunity.

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song...

We've been cooking in the kitchen, drinking exotic tea, groovin' to love songs... talking girl-talk...

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same...

She burned the chicken cutlets. She says she didn't burn them. But they look kinda blackish on the edges and the house is full of smoke...

Sometimes we got it wrong, but it's alright.

She's barely here for 48 hours. We got an hour to talk. But we're sisters. We can get in a lot in an hour.

Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams, just go ahead and let your hair down...

You're going to find yourself somewhere, somehow.

*Set to the lyrics of Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae.

[my mother's wedding dress]

My mother's wedding dress
once white, is now a faded yellow.
My father's baby pictures
are likewise a muted haze
and as for my grandparents
they slice the white cake
with a black-handled knife
and even Grandmamma's lipstick
doesn't look red.

I've watched movies on the War-
nobody has red lipstick in there, either.
I've seen tanks that must have been black
and uniforms that must have been gray
and nurse's outfits which were a crisp, pressed white
and on one page there were crosses
thousands of white crosses
which cast long black shadows
and shone black letter dates
and as I turned the pages
reading about battles with unfamiliar names
I turned to a page and saw
with amazement and sickening dismay
men walking in uniforms- somewhere, some past day
and one of the men, his hair was red
and I stopped and I saw his face

and before my eyes, the pages transformed
and in the gray uniforms I saw my brothers
and in the white nurse outfits I saw my mothers
and on the thousands of white crosses
I saw only one set of dates
marking the death of someone's beloved

- 12/16/10/ re. 12/19/10 re. 12/24/09 re. 1/29/10

This post is also offered for HighCallingBlogs Random Acts of Poetry.

Salt-Rain Tide

These are my ponderings on a moonlit evening
These are my wanderings in the day
These are my romps in an pine-wood forest
These are my swims in the bay

This is my field in which I sow the Word
This is my upturned face
This is a river both hot and cold
This is a sinner bathed in Grace

This is where in Him I stand
This is where I hide
Here I cry in love and longing-
Here is my salt-rain tide