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Canine

“You have to give him a name, Maddie.”

“If he has a name, I’m sure he’ll eventually tell me what it is. Giving him one is just presumptuous.”

 

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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Hearth

The woman pointed to the stone hearth and Maddie sat, waiting for her to speak.

The space in the cottage was small, filled with any manner of things that would make it look as though it were the perfect Hollywood set as noted in a screenplay as “Int. Crone’s Cottage, night.” The only thing missing was the cauldron that should have hung over the flames in the open fireplace.

“Warrior child,” the woman said, and Maddie closed her eyes briefly. This woman was, perhaps, the only person in the world who still saw Maddie as a child.

“Warrior child, you’ve come a long way. What do you seek?”

“Grace,” Maddie said. “And peace. And hope.”

“These things. Are they lost?”

Maddie hesitated. “I hope not.”

 
 

Warmth

The last bit of summer was drifting away, the light faltering, colors turning to bronze and gold before the inevitable cold started to take hold.

Orange leaves on the dirt path, dulled by the coming darkness. She paused to look at her compass. She wondered if she’d ever get used to this, this constant reliance on outdated technology. Would that she could just carry an iPhone like normal people.

She slipped the compass back into its pocket and felt for the dagger at her hip. Still there. The path lead her forward.

Ahead, she knew, was a small cottage, older than any could possibly guess, where the woman lived. The hearth was warm there, she remembered, and the woman wise.

 
 

Woods

A small branch snapped under her foot and all other sounds, the night sounds, went quiet.

“Careless,” the voice said to her, not quite angry, just shy of taunting.

She stopped dead. It had been a very, very long time since she’d heard that voice. She began to fall.

 
 

October 1, 2017

I was shocked to realize this morning that it’s been five years since I did a full slate of October Thoughts. Five years.

In that time, I’ve written about soccer and little else. What a ride it’s been: a World Cup Final, three NWSL Finals, an MLS Cup final, CCL, the US Open Cup, and more than a few ill-advised road trips.

But somewhere, a little over a year ago, I basically stopped writing. A few words here or there, but nothing more. Maybe a little depression, more than a little frustration, and a complete forgetfulness about why I starting writing in the first place left me with no words to say.

Things started creeping up on me a few weeks ago. October things. If you’re not an October Person, this might not make any sense to you. And that’s okay. Theoretically, I know there are February People out there somewhere. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they’re out there. Maybe they’re ashamed of all the pink and red and heart-shaped things. Whatever. Everybody has their thing, and it seems a significant number of people are predisposed to October things.

Homemade applesauce, stuff that’s bat-silhouette-shaped, things that smell of pumpkin spice. October things.

It started in the mid-’90s, when I was circling Lake Michigan in a blue Ford Econoline van with a handful of friends. We spent a lot of time in Wisconsin which, in my humble opinion, is quintessentially October at least three months out of the year. Stunning fall color, sharply-steepled churches on hilltops (seriously, Google image search “Wisconsin church” and you get every picture-perfect October church imaginable), and tons and tons of small town harvest fests and whatnot.

We started making a list of our October Thoughts for the Day, things we could wax poetic about during the month of October, things that make October…October.

If you’re an October Person, you likely have a list of these things tucked away, even if it isn’t written on paper. It’s a little file in the back of your mind filled with sights and scents and sounds that elicit a specific response.

A lot of my October Thoughts were formed in childhood and memories of that time are triggered by a thousand different things. I think it’s probably the same for most October People.

So, as we wander deeper into October, I’d invite you to look back to your childhood, back to a time before everything got so complicated, back to when a white sheet was nothing more sinister than a ghost costume.

Remember the magic. That’s your assignment for the entirety of October.

 
 

Little voices

A few weeks back, I woke up with a little girl in my head. Not really a voice I could hear so much as a dream that had faded to barely a whisper.

I knew her, this little girl I’ve never met nor ever seen. I knew her.

I was barely awake and, as is usual, I reached for my phone. It was already buzzing in my hand with a text from a friend excited to tell me about a podcast he’d just listened to. It had been about a state hospital in a town near where he’d grown up. The little girl had been in a state hospital, but not the one he needed to tell me about via text message at 6:30 in the morning.

I turned the lights on, stumbled into the bathroom, and turned the radio on in time to hear a story on OPB about the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. “You’re kidding with this, right?” I’m certain I said the words out loud.

Every family has a few stories that are rarely if ever told: scandals or embarassments swept under the rug or boxed up neatly and stored away on the shelf in the hall closet behind hatboxes no one ever opens.

I hesitate to put this little girl in that category, but she was definitely a story we did not tell.

Born into our family in 1946, she was a beautiful child with a terrible malady, a disability that meant she might not live through the night, might not live through the week, would certainly never live to adulthood. I don’t know that her mother ever saw her as it was believed to be kinder to whisk her off to a residential hospital to live out the remainder of her life.

I’m told my grandmother would visit her, this beautiful child, at the hospital where she lived. It was feared that if the little girl were brought home to live, and she died due to the complicated nature of her illness, her caregivers might be charged with a mercy killing. She lived just over two years.

So, after waking with her in my mind, and with the morning’s other nudges pressing on me, I started making inquiries: first to the editor of the local newspaper in the town where she’d been born, then to the state hospital system in California, and last to the cemetery where some of her closest relatives rest.

The newspaper editor was kind, pointing me to an online archive hosted through the county library. I pored over pages of old newsprint, neatly scanned into the website and fairly easily searchable with key words, but found no sign of the little girl.

The state hospital contacted me to direct me elsewhere, explaining that what I was looking for was not within the services they provided. I’m not entirely convinced this is correct, as even a basic study of hospitals (and asylums, and poor farms) from the early part of the 20th century shows many services overlapped in state-run facilities.

The cemetery director was more conclusive. “We have her,” the email said. The director agreed to take a walk out to her plot the next morning to see if a marker had been placed for her. There is no marker.

I woke up May 15 with her in my head. Three days later, I’d know the place of her interment (or, possibly, inurnment), the date of her death (July of 1948), and her birthday.

May 14, 1946.

***

I don’t know what I’ll do with the assortment of info I found while looking for her, or what I’ll do to fill the holes where so much is missing. I might just wait for the next voice.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

How we start to fix it.

He’s the one that talks me in off the ledge. I never expect it, but the text will always come when something happens that brings me low.

“How you holding up, kiddo?”

I’m a mess, I tell him. The world weighs on me. How do I gather the strength necessary to fight back, to protect my friends, to even get out of bed in the morning? How? The clouds are heavy.

His kid is a year and a half old now. A beautiful child with a smile to light the world.

“How do you raise a kid in the midst of this?” I ask.

“You read him Where the Wild Things Are and Owl Moon. You hug him. You kiss him. You teach him to be kind and thoughtful. You pray for him to follow through on the lessons you provide.”

That’s just the beginning.

Teach your children tolerance, teach them compassion, teach them justice. Read them fairy tales, let them believe in dragons, and unicorns, and werewolves. Let them find magic in the world.

Teach them to look out for the kids who are alone, who may be scared. Teach them to befriend those kids. Teach them to stand up for those kids.

As they get older, encourage them to be curious. Teach them that learning and knowledge are both their greatest weapons and their biggest responsibilities.

Travel with them. Show them the world is larger than their backyard.

And this one is hard: teach them, simultaneously, that while they may be the center of your world, they are not the center of the entire world.

A lot of us are learning hard lessons right now. Let’s make sure our kids are prepared for the world we’ve shaped. We’re going to need them to help us fix it.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized