Friday, April 8, 2011

Key to My Heart: Bank of America, Omens, and The Legacy

We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds’ feet is unknown. Here we go alone, and like it better so… Virginia Woolf, as quoted in Touched by Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison

So everything’s ajar. I know you know what I mean. It has been one of the toughest winters for our family. Wet madrone doesn’t burn. Neither does wet mildewed madrone. Or the rotted centers of tan oak trees. But it is what we have, my husband and I denying the light rain sheening our coats, his rusted chainsaw blade, the dank rounds splitting themselves for us on the 200 yard roll from the upper hill down into the yard. If you cram an arm load of kindling in and get the stove hot enough, something eventually burns. I spend the week weathering the keen fungus stench that greets my nose every time I rummage under the tarp. My son calls me back to the deck rail to show me both the slim half inch grey-black marbled snail he’s saved as well as the glittering spit arc of the tiny refugee’s trail.


To the sound of the hail descending on our skylights at 3 a.m., I fight the jade zone of my 40s: a new vague dread that the chestline’s going dromedary, the recipes more savory in the next kitchen over, the grey choking out the auburn in my hair, a growing anxiety that my poet’s fastidiousness for lighting on just the right way to say it might serve me better in the courts of the underworld or if I could afford a magnificent charger and a velvet cape to wrap around my shoulders. Except I live in the woods and I know better. What prowls around in the dark out here is best left unidentified and free to wander while I sleep.


Predators aside, worse than wet wood is the thought that the bank might not work with us (after a year and a half of losing our paperwork, they gave us a no verdict on the government home loan modification program), that even this spongy, wet heart of tree is something we are renting from an establishment that could take it all away. That my husband’s been working two jobs in two cities for naught…that the colossal effort to raise the kids alone in his absence will not pay off since we just may not be able to turn the house over to them in their futures.

But friends near and far have been reminding me to stop the noise in my head. Duane says Beauty is free (attributing the statement to Barbara). Bonnie says Read Byron Katie. Sandy says Stop by my studio to see Rapunzel (and other sculptures in process). Elizabeth funnels me CDs brimming with chanting. Lydia pours me never ending coffee in her kitchen, shows me the petite purple purse hearts in her yard to get me out of my head, sends me home with dry wood. Jerilynn sets before me colossal bowls of beef stew. Sydney ferries my daughter to and from, takes her an extra night or two to lighten the load of three children. Aunt Rose brews me cups of strong Irish tea. Dad and Robyn take the kids, Friday after Friday. Beauty is free, and the tiniest of omens have come to my rescue.


Like this one, that came shortly before we got news we’d not be getting help from the bank… I’m sitting across from my husband on our first date in months at Coffee Catz, crying, a miniscule envelope containing a high dose Ibupren between our steaming mugs that was doled out by my periodontist for a surgery I survived that morning. My husband glances down, asks quietly, What is that, the key to your heart? I can’t even muster a smile.


But sitting across from his blue eyes, I notice I’m still absolutely in love with him, and so, I stop my complaining and he has the kindness not to go off about how hard he's had it earning money in two cities with two full-time jobs to pay for a home he barely gets to visit. We part ways—he to call the bank and negotiate, I to pick up our daughter from her violin audition.


Later, when my girl and I stop by The Legacy, run by an all-volunteer staff, where you can walk in with a quarter and walk out with an elephant sized ball of yarn (and if you don’t have a quarter, you can walk by and find a yard or two of fabric from the free box), my daughter picks out an innocuous rubber stamp along with a bag of plastic greenery and flowers for a movie she’s planning to make with her friends and says, Mom, what does it say on it?


I hold up the tiny rectangular stamp. It takes some squinting, but I make out the light pink raised outline of a key, the old-fashioned skeleton kind, bordered by the words, Here's the Key to My Heart. I laugh. And buy it, along with a tiny cardboard heart box with lid (also going for 25 cents)for my husband.


At home, I sneak down to my cabin, cut out slips of paper and write on them all the things I love to do with my husband, starting with the simplest and of late, most impossible to have, Spend time with you.

Further reading: Loving What Is, Byron Katie Further Listening: Any of Snatum Kaur’s Chanting CDs www.snatumkaur.com

12 comments:

Liz Brennan said...

Thanks for returning to your blog, Tania. Hidden messages are everywhere, if we look for them, even at thrift shops. This story really touched my heart!

Jeannette said...

Oh Tania...what a wonderful piece...you have put feet in the forest at the woodpile in the wet cold of winter, snails in the hands of children who wait for housing economic crisis to pass and parents to get home from work....The Legacy..yes...of course there was a little love message for you at the Legacy. So not only a face on the troubles felt by so many, but hearts too. Thank you.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Liz...and for listening...as always. Hope to see you before the daffodils are done.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks Jeannette; my humor is gradually returning with spring. The Legacy has lifted our spirits more than once, and they've tolerated, many a time, the careful counting out of change from our various piggy banks, dumped out across the counter. I also love it that they support the senior center.

Lisa said...

Thank you for this post, Tania. My husband and I are going through our own B of A nightmare right now. And thank you for being so gracious and telling your story so beautifully. Sending positive thoughts your way.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Lisa, thanks for stopping by. I hope we both can look back on this year and be able to report that B of A did right by both of our situations. I think someone should put together an anthology of stories of families across the states struggling to keep roof over head, food on table, given the mess of this "foreclosure chapter" in US History.

Michelle said...

Tanya,
I saw a link to your blog posted on facebook. I am really glad I checked it out. You are a very eloquent and moving writer. You have a beautiful voice. I never knew... Thanks for your story. Your cousin, and newest fan, Michelle

Simon & Susan said...

Love it! What a great idea with the slips of paper... I need to remember that one for myself! Love you Tania....

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks so much Michelle; I owe you a letter. You've been on my mind. You are sweet to stop by here and read.

Ethel Rohan said...

Tania, yet another honest, beautiful and moving post. I'm so glad you can find joy and consolation in the signs and give some order and meaning to the chaos around us. I too believe in signs and guideposts and find such great hope and comfort there. I'm sorry you and your family are struggling and I send you all love and light and a HUG. XX

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

S & S, love you back...couldn't get through it without all those times we've spent as families downloading, normalizing the fray by laughing.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks Ethel, for the love, light, and the hug. We'll take all the love and goodwill, so generously sent our way. To writing and thriving as always.