I used to be a cowboy and I used have a horse. Not a real horse, but an ironing chair that moved up and down a steel rod, stopping at chosen heights, with four feet splayed out for balance. It had a small back with a curved place behind it to tie on my “reigns” (Dad’s belts). I yelled giddy up and drove my spurs into the belly of the make believe stallion that would rare back, whinny and gallop away. I used to run away from Indians (straight shot) from my parents’ bedroom, across the hallway (huge boulders) and into the living room (a place like the Grand Canyon), and jump on my “horse” like they did in the Westerns I saw on TV. I would rock the green vinyl-covered chair back and forth in a mad gallop away from the Indians to safety. I could raise and lower the chair (big horse/pony) to accommodate my imagination. There were some pretty dangerous situations played out in my living room. Once, I was almost captured by the “Injuns” and my trusty dog growled them away. At another time, Daniel Boone, himself, showed up to slit some throats on my behalf and touched the front of his coonskin hat in a nod to my continued saved life. I outran rattlesnakes by day and slept around campfire by night. I could swing my leg around the neck of my horse and glide off as if I were a ballerina sliding off the back of my partner. I would run for cover behind a huge rock (sofa cushion) and kill at least a half dozen Indians with my cap gun so I could live to fight another day. It was a hard life, being a cowboy alone in the vast landscape with everyone wanting to kill me. Thank goodness I was saved many times when my mother called me to supper. Hey, a cowboy has got to eat.
I said I didn’t have a real horse, but I was a real cowboy.
Today, I think about my mother and what she heard and saw me perform. Was she happy her little girl had a good imagination? Was she amused I thought myself a cowboy? Did she silently laugh as I played out scenarios, victorious in my battles with the Indians? I’d give anything to know these answers. Was she proud of me for being victorious? Did she ever play such games herself? Did she see herself in my play? I’m guessing she did. My mother was maybe a semester away from graduating with a bachelors in teaching History and close to having enough hours to become a nurse. Then she decided to move to where the action was (LA, California) and became a script girl for MGM Studios, hanging out with people like Jackie Cooper (I have the picture to prove it) and was friends with Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny, et al) and his wife. She met my dad one night at the Palladium Ballroom in 1945 and was married two weeks later for a total of 58 years until her death.
I have a picture of her, about age 4, on the rooftop of her childhood home with her big sister, Eleanor. She is singing out loud and proud. She was unencumbered. She was unaware of any judgments. She was singing from her soul. She felt it. It was real. (Maybe she was a cowboy, too.)
This is how I see her, even today. A rebel, my mom. I try to live up to that, but a cowboy only has so many lives.
My path was littered with all kinds of leaves in various stages of life and death. “Nothing lives forever except love,” my mother’s words echoed in my ears. I began my hunt for the colors of life.
Green grows early and strong – ever hopeful! It is work and responsibility. It is alive and beautiful and energetic. Green stays. Green is unaware of what is to come.
Green yields to yellow as the months give way to the year. Yellow is mellow. It has learned and is wise. Yellow is giving and warm and smart. Yellow is getting tired.
Orange is different. It is showy and signals the unexpected. Orange flies in the face of conventionality. It brings the surprises in life.
Red! Ah, red. Red is the FIRE in life. It is exciting and thrilling. It begs for attention. Reds bring passion to life. What are my reds?
Brown. Death brown. Loosed from home, its heart falls gently toward Mama Earth while carrying with it what was.
#fall #lifepath #fallcolors
While hiking over the wild river trail, I crossed over leaves, sticks, and (surely) ticks and snakes. I stopped to give two thirsty passer-byers water bottles from my backpack. My load became much lighter. As I plodded on, I wondered if God might not give each of us a backpack at birth. Some, I thought, might arrive with heavy river stones in their backpacks from the very beginning of time (karma).
As we live life and tackle problems, overcome addictions, begin new and better habits, help others, reach goals and forgive our fellow travelers (and even give some rocks back to God), our loads seemingly become lighter. For others, maybe there’s nothing in the backpacks given us at birth and they’re light as a feather. Only our journeys can fill them. That, too, is karma.
Those of us that find our backpacks empty early on might not start filling them up until much later in life. I’m not sure what is better: “Do you want to suffer now or later on?” Those seem to be our choices as we will all suffer at some point. Because we’re human.
Since some of us had light backpacks given to us at birth, we had beautiful, magical childhoods. We had love and safety and enough money. But when death hits our families, when lovers and friends move on, and when passions fade and nothing new finds its way in, those loads can become so heavy that there seems to be no way to hoist ourselves up. We have entered “the darkness” and it’s foreign to us virgins. We go off kilter. We dive deep. We get lost. But we’re older and shouldn’t we know better?
I can’t give you a magical way out and tell you how to lighten your load. You have to find that out for yourself and, my dear, I’m still looking, though I found a once-heavy backpacker to follow.
After my dentist appointment this morning, I drove by, for the first time in 30 years, the house where my first love and I lived. Seems like another life. Did that really happen? So many memories. Some so sweet & special, I only dare to remember them when I feel strong.
Not a lot of bad memories floated up, but a few of the worst times in my life happened in that house. While going through the breakup, I remember thinking that this is what people must be describing when they speak about having a nervous breakdown. It’s a terrible weight loss program. I’ve never felt that before or since, even with the many family deaths I’ve experienced. What compounded the whole incident was that I wasn’t out to my family and only out to a few select friends. That was extremely hard to get through. I felt so alone.
It’s a testament to us humans that we are so resilient and willing (or not) to try again.
As I drove away, I wondered what made me want to drive by that house again. Maybe it was Adele playing softly in the background. Maybe it was because I took a right instead of a left out of the dentist’s parking lot. Really though, I’m thankful. She was and is a great person and we’re friends today (aren’t most lesbians friends with exes? If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have this rich tapestry of wonderful people in our lives). Both of us did good for ourselves. It all worked out.
I’m truly grateful.
#nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #eatingpoetry #poet
Harper and Scout
For Harper Lee
4/28/26 – 2/19/16
She assembled me inside her mind
then wrote me onto the blank page.
She adorned me with a bowl haircut,
overalls, and dirty fingernails.
She installed in me a razor-sharp tongue, blinding intelligence, and unquenchable curiosity.
In my center, she placed a soft heart
stitched together with sympathy and understanding.
I was created a good girl
with big eyes and loads of courage.
I was glad she made me strong
so I could hold my own with the boys
I craved to be around.
She named me Scout.
I would be both questioner and observer.
She made me suspect grownups and their intentions.
I only gave respect when they deserved it.
I was outspoken but always honest.
I was a “handful,” they’d say of me.
I was her creation –
part tomboy and part mystery.
My wise father came as a present she gave me.
He taught me that evil exists in the hearts of men,
but the empathy that grew inside me meant I
would find that I could walk in another’s shoes
and understand their stories.
She made me, certainly,
so I could give courage
to other little girls.
©Lori Ziegelmeyer poem
©Lori Ziegelmeyer mixed media art work
Image Source: Everett Collection
I used to call out in the middle of the night for my mother when I was four or five. It was intense, sincere and frightening. When I first started this nightly pattern, my mother would rush down the hallway and ask me what I wanted. I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I had yelled for her, but I knew she had whatever it was I thought I needed. She would tell me to lie down and go back to sleep and that she was just down the hall. This continued for a couple of weeks, best I remember. I woke up many times screaming her name with tears streaming down my face. She would ask me what I wanted from her bedroom and again I couldn’t tell her. I continued crying out but she finally ignored me and it stopped.
The day before my mother died was a beautiful sunny day in early June. I was relieved to be out of school (teaching) for the summer, and the family had been able to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day. She walked outside and around the house early that day but by evening she was resigned to the bed. Music was my mother’s passion, her life balm. I put her favorite piano player, Erroll Garner, on the stereo and turned it up. I took her hand while she was lying in bed and danced with her for over an hour. She smiled at me and tapped her toes. She loved it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. The next morning she was slipping away so I turned on Erroll again because hearing is the last sense to go and I wanted her to hear her favorite piano player as she eased out of this world. I crawled in bed next to her while my nurse niece and her nurse friend tended to her meds. I want to believe I felt her soul leave her body about 20 minutes before her last breath. She wasn’t afraid – she had great faith and she was ready to let go of her earthly presence. When I felt her leave, a lightness washed over the room. I sensed a huge void. I felt immense relief (mine or hers?). Unspeakable sadness. Unbearable quiet. My niece and I cleaned her up before the funeral home came to collect her. I stayed in the backyard until they left. I could watch her die but I couldn’t watch them carry her out of the home she lived in for 47 years. During the funeral I found myself completely at ease. I leaned heavily on God and my spiritual beliefs and knew my mother was where she needed to be. I honored her soul’s choice to pass at that time though I felt like a forty-four year-old orphan. I didn’t dare cry much because I didn’t know when I would be able to stop.
It has been over twelve years since her death. Recently while trying to go to sleep, I thought about the times I used to yell out for her in the middle of the night. I recalled the frightening and intense feelings from fifty years ago. I missed her in that moment like never before. What happened next both startled and comforted me. With my eyes wide open in the pitch dark room, I saw bright, tiny red and blue lights dance and swirl about four feet away. I knew it was my mother, her soul, and I watched as it was torn into two equal pieces. I instinctively understood that I was one of those pieces. I felt she was reminding me that she carried a part of me with her. We would always be together.
I knew that her earthly departure (leaving her family) upset her even though she was stoic about facing her death. In that deep dark night, I knew instantly what she was trying to tell me: to live the best life possible and that I would always be a part of her, death be damned. If I had any doubts before, this made it crystal clear. She left a part of herself with me and she didn’t want me to forget it. What I couldn’t understand as a child I could live as an adult. There’s no need to cry out for her, now or then, because she is and always will be with me.