Saturday, May 7, 2011

“Bracken”

I stood back from the edge
            Expert hands
                        direct my legs through the harness
                        check the hooks
                        pull hard against
                                    the rope
The others wait in nonchalance
            Their laughter
                        spilling around me
                        diving into deeper darkness
                        “Test your weight”
I scoot to the ledge
            my hands grasp
                        the rope
                        TIGHT           
My legs sway free
            feet—
                        butting against the cavern wall
                        repelling me
                                    Outward
                                    Into Space
I look down
            my helmet’s light beam
                        bounces—
                                    off rock
                                    disappears—
                                                into the black void
            Suspended in space and time
I feel
            the rope
            make certain the hooks don’t bite my fingers
                        inches
                                    FEET
                                                YARDS
Above me glimmers a pinprick of light
            Shadow embraces me like a long lost lover
I surrender
            to emptiness
            swaying on
                        the rope
                                    I embrace
                                                its braided strength
                                    I accept
                                                its infallibility
                                    I believe
                                                it won’t let me fall
My feet land in moon dust
            expert hands
                        unbuckle the hooks
                        direct my legs through the harness
                        pull hard against
                                    the rope

Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

"Bracken" describes the first time I entered the bat cave at Braken through the shaft from which guano was mined.          

Friday, May 6, 2011

“The Gift of Music”


            Once David’s cousin, Terri (a professional cellist) advised me that if you have to be poor, be instrument poor. I’m not certain when she offered this observation. It could have been as my son, Paul, built his monster drum kit. Perhaps she made the statement the winter I found a sitar for David’s Christmas gift. Whenever another guitar or bass found a home in our house, I remembered her words.
            The advice struck me as funny at the time. I thought, “But how can you be poor if you have music in your life?”  Over the years, I’ve lost count of the instruments that live in the different rooms of our home. My old piano graces the living room. Every time I finger the keys, I chide myself for not having it tuned. We have a banjo, a dulcimer, a mandolin, and a harp because David can learn anything with strings. Paul’s original keyboard still sits in David’s office along with the acoustic twelve string. We have the Peavy amps and cabinet one of David’s friends gave to him along with a Vox.
            Music of all kinds pulsed from our home. At the age of two, Paul asked for a drum kit. We bought him a plastic one, but he played it like the real thing. He asked for drums almost every year, but instead we bought a midi keyboard, and Paul took lessons. That summer, he asked for drums again. David picked up a guitar for him, and then a bass. Finally, the summer Paul turned thirteen, we cleared out the smallest bedroom and bought him first kit. Within weeks, he wanted to expand to a double bass kit, and the room exploded with toms, snares, and cymbals. Practice always happened at our house because it’s pretty hard to move a large kit around. That’s when Paul decided to pick up other kits for “travel.” Every dollar he earned went back into his instruments. Before long, Paul dusted off the keyboard and fiddled with recording his music in GarageBand. Eventually, Paul pulled the earlier gifts of the guitar and bass from their cases, and he learned these instruments, too. Today, he dedicates his life to composing, playing, and producing music.



Although the men in my life are musicians, I’ve never done much more that play a little piano. I’m not talking Jane Austen’s “little piano” for those women could play more than one or two fumbled songs. I tried guitar, but I’m left handed and unless we restrung one . . . As for the drums? I like to tell people that I’m totally left side dominant—I write with my left hand, chew on the left side of my mouth, listen with my left ear, kick with my left foot. The right side of my body drags along only because I cannot discard it. Having the coordination for drums? Beyond any fantasy!
I don’t play any instruments, but music plays an important role in my life. Sometimes when I write, it’s as though the words sing to me. With poetry, the notes float there along with the words. If I’m writing a chapter, I never see the words on the page, but instead view the scene as it plays out before me, I hear the nuances of the characters’ voices, and I pick up the subtle soundtrack of my prose. 
           
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Naptime Thoughts"

           
Mom’s taking a rare, daytime nap this afternoon. When I pulled her favorite green blanket up for her, I told her I’d be outside in my swing. I tuned her stereo to her favorite oldies station, swung by my bedroom for the baby monitor and my journal, and practically skipped out the back door.
           
           Before taking care of my mother, I would spend hours each summer out in my back yard. Every morning, I’d hand water the ferns and flowers, clear bird droppings from the Sky chairs, cushions and hammock, and joyously play in the gardens. After a while, I’d slip into the house to gather my journal and pen, the latest Nora Roberts’s novel, and my iced tea. Hours would slip by with my attention flitting like the sparrows. I’d read a chapter or two, write a dream or two. Koi and Bridget would take turns lounging in my lap for indulgent massages.

            Today, my thoughts landed on how much we take for granted all the little things in our lives that make us happy. Now that I spend so much of my day attending to Mom’s needs, I barely make it out to the back haven. My heart yearns for those easy summer days spent in such lazy pleasure.












Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

“The ‘Unfriend’ Option”

            Opening my Facebook account last year offered opportunities to bond with the other teachers on my campus. Our school, a new one in the district, suffered administrative changes and faculty turnover for several years that left us battered. Teachers, isolated in their rooms with students all day, usually find a common place to unwind and vent. Our younger and newer teachers, believing the teacher’s lounge to be a toxic waste dump, stayed in their rooms during lunches and conferences. Veteran teachers, trying to stay optimistic, selectively surrounded themselves with positive thinkers. And the common place to meet, the lounge, remained relatively empty for the first few years. When one teacher mentioned her Facebook account, she suggested we could all open our own and use it to get to know one another better. It worked like a charm, too. Those sixth grade teachers off in their own wing suddenly had dogs tracking mud through their houses, or kids smirking for the camera. The music and art teachers, off in their own island, now became more than just faces in a faculty meeting. With a few clicks, our fragmented faculty bonded.
            I rejoiced in the pleasure of sending a friend request! Before long, I shifted from present co-workers to people from my past campuses. I loved reconnecting with these friends. There are those people that you enjoy being with at work, but never have the time to meet with after hours. These were the friends that Facebook allowed me to “visit” daily. This virtual tie allowed us to share aspects of our lives and philosophies that isolated phone calls never opened.
            Needless to say, I ventured from current friends and co-workers into the realm of college and high school friends. To this day, several of my closest friends from high school haven’t surfaced on Facebook, but I still check periodically. I made the conscious decision of sending out friend requests to anyone I remembered—even if it included someone I didn’t know well, or even like, back in high school. “People change. They grow up,” I told myself as I sent out or accepted requests.  Imagine my delight to find pleasure in the posts from many of these people. Several charmed me with their insights, made me smile with their wit, and challenged me with their views.
            I made my final venture into friend requests to my in-laws as they opened their accounts. I have a painful history with my husband’s family, but I hoped that sharing through a structured medium like Facebook would help lower some of the barriers. Unfortunately, differences between us became highlighted, and Facebook became just another way for them to leave us out of their lives.
            After more than a year, I began using the “unfriend” option. Did someone make me feel like less of a person? Did they post more negative things about life than positive? Did they make comments that degraded my other friends for their beliefs? I didn’t use the concept of “agreement” with my views as the criteria. I’m a devout worshipper of protecting our planet. I believe in a gentler society that cares for and nurtures its citizens. I don’t believe having more or being the best at the diminishment of others is the way for personal happiness. Finding people that mirror my beliefs isn’t the purpose of this social venture. However, I don’t want meanness. I don’t want people who only post platitudes. I love different opinions, but I don’t want someone cutting down my views with hatefulness.
            One day, I culled down my list. I scrolled down my friend’s list and selected names, shot over to their pages, clicked “unfriend” swiftly. Do I have regrets? No. I’m back to enjoying my daily excursions on Facebook. I’m certain there are people who will use the “unfriend” option on me, but I know it will because of my views and not my nature.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Earl Grey--Hot"

When summer sweated and bubbled the blacktop, in true Texan style, I iced the potion and gulped gallons of it. The flavors, like a wildflower bouquet, changed with my mood. Raspberry for lazy afternoons under the tree, and chamomile for restless nights after downing too much hot sauce.  I used sun tea, in honor of Apollo, as an offering. Oolong and Darjeeling, with their heavier tones, stayed up with me through long summer nights.
Then a cold front drove down from the north, a dervish spinning among the tree limbs, bringing steel skies. Autumn’s warmth retreated and retrenched under the assault, weeping as she withdrew. The explosion of energy left a trail of loss and sorrow. Yet, I sat in safety, hands warmed by the cup I embraced. Steam fogged my vision when I raised the golden liquid to sip. My anticipation of its sweetness steeped me in pleasure.
I practiced my ritual, altered by my daily needs. Today, traces of sugar laced through the hinted flavor. Yesterday, dollops of honey hung suspended in the hot tisane. Tomorrow may lead to a deep brew of Earl Grey—hot, and cut with milk and lemon.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, May 2, 2011

“Kaleidoscope”

            Chunks of experience
                        like cut glass   
                                    swirling and gathering
            sometimes clinking gently into place
                        jeweled piece by piece
            sometimes flowing with flood water force
                        flashes of light forming
                                    Diamonds
                                    Emeralds
                                    Rubies
                        Pricelessly unique
            Then changing yet again
                        Ooohs and aaahs
                                    Motion and Splendor
            Suddenly the light’s gone
                        the flow stops
                                    and the eyepiece gathers more of life
                        for another time
                                    another place
                                                another vision

Copyright 1994 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Just a reminder that life, with all of it's experiences, gives us splendor if we pay attention to it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!”

            The wicked witch’s squished body lays trapped under the farm house, and Dorothy wears the ruby slippers tonight, but remember there’s another sister out there, wanting those priceless red shoes. Before we begin our jubilant boogie along the yellow brick road, we need to remember that the fanaticism fostered within our own Oz feeds and fuels the paranoia and extremism of other worlds. The best elements within our citizens must surface at this time. We cannot show a shortage of brains, heart, or courage as in unity we dance and sing.
           
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

“Writers”


A gathering of common purpose
to create
to express
to daydream

A cacophony of Lives and Minds
singing songs
telling tales
seeking a voice

Different drummers stepping to distant music
from without
from within
with each other


Copyright 1994 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman