Lock of Hair


Flying Buddha & Buddhist Monk: Pinterest

I teach a meditation where you actually intend to think. It’s fairly simple. Once relaxed in a seated position you intentionally recall as many memories from your life as you possibly can. You hold none for more than a second or two, just enough to know what you’re remembering, then you drop it and look for another. One of the purposes of the meditation is to demonstrate there is no thought that can’t be pulled up and dropped just as quickly. That many thoughts, which at one time, had immense emotional charge to them can be picked up and put down as easily as thoughts that have no immediate effect on you at all.

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I practice this meditation often, especially when I find myself giving thoughts more power than they likely deserve. I was engaged in the meditation several months ago when the memory of a shopkeeper I’d worked for in the late seventies came to mind. I hadn’t thought of her in decades and the sudden recall of her brought a wonderful warmth to me. I’ve found things that still possess an emotional charge are always worth exploring. They are magic jars I stumble upon in the back of my mind that possess some understanding about myself. I never stumble onto them unless what they have to give is exactly what I am looking for in that moment. It was obvious her memory struck a cord and so I spent more time thinking of her when the meditation was complete.

Florian hired me for her haute couture dress shop on High Ridge Road when I was sixteen. I was a dirt-under-the-nails tomboy, the daughter of a farm-raised mother with seven children, mostly boys. There was not much attention given to the feminine in my house. Most days my mother was buried under five feet of laundry waiting to be washed and three pounds of spaghetti looking for a pot of boiling water for dinner. To me, Florian was a pink flamingo in my chicken coop life. I knew nothing of high heels or the right baubles for the right occasion, as she’d say. Working for Florian was an education in all things womanly.
“Don’t slouch, dear. You look more like a sloth than the lovely young woman you are. Stand up and hold your gaze level with anyone’s eyes. Just do it softly, not as if your gunning them down. Think, I see into you, not through you”, she’d school me as she stood in her Evan Piccone suit. I often felt I was in training to be a film star, as there was something a bit larger than life about her. “Never be afraid to look at people or have an opinion. Your ideas are just as interesting and deep and delicious as the next person. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, you should make a life out of using it well.”

Florian taught me to tuck my blouses into my panty hose to avoid shirt wrinkles beneath my skirt. She’d pass on her dress shop wisdom as we worked to set up displays, “You can tell a well-made blouse at a glance by the buttons. If they match the color or the fabric of the blouse, it is likely a more expensive shirt”. A great tip when quickly perusing the Goodwill racks, I’ve found. She had a way of buttoning up a shirt on its hanger that seemed almost Zen to me. She never rushed, even when we were busy. She really enjoyed the clothes she sold and relished their quality. Her focused way of moving through life utterly captivated me.
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Growing up with six siblings everything we did seemed rushed and everything we owned looked a decade old within a month of its purchase. Florian cared for things that would be intimately connected to her body as a gardener might tend her roses. When I think back on how fascinated I was by her style I realize she was my first Zen master. I had to slow down and breathe to keep up with her. She taught me to think of myself with reverence and care. That what touched my body should feel good to me and make me feel good about myself.
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I’d watch her walk down the center of the shop, moving with the grace of a swan, her arm aloft lazily, as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. I’d mimic her stance in the employee bathroom as I practiced different ways of seeing myself, other than the poor, awkward teenager I’d always thought I was.

“A little blush to the chin, nose and forehead make for a more natural appearance”, she’d note, as she applied her makeup meticulously. “Makeup is meant to enhance your beauty, not mask it.” She offered me her compact once and I practiced applying foundation. Another time I laid the eyebrow pencil too heavily and she called me Groucho Marx for a week. I wasn’t simply fond of her, I loved her and how beautiful she made me feel about myself. She had no children and I was as feral as a cat when I first came to work with her. When I look at the timing of our meeting I realize it was as perfect as one of her cashmere sweaters.
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Women flocked to her dress shop to partake not only of her clothes but her special joie de vivre. My home life, post my parent’s divorce, was a rocky place to be. Florian provided me a stable and very feminine haven that I would allow few other adults, at that time, to give me.

“Spend your money on classic pieces”, she’d advise as she held a pencil thin skirt in front of her before the mirror. “They’ll last a long time and you can get away with cheap trendy stuff thrown in for flare and style.” When the shop was slow she’d pick out an outfit and have me try it on. It was the supreme game of dress up. I don’t think I was comfortable being a girl most of the time. I spent more time acting like a boy, so to this tutelage I arrived like a fat sponge. I took everything she’d give me. Though, in looking back, I see now what I wanted more than anything was her confidence as much as her panache. She commanded a room even when that room was teeming with people who had demands.
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I looked her up on the internet after these musings, but only found her obit. A wave of nostalgia mixed with sadness rolled over me; like the passing of a great silver screen icon of old. Not very old, just my silver screen old.

We often think of meditation as escaping our thinking and separating our spirit from our human history. I have never found much richness in that. For me, meditation has taught me not to fear my thoughts or anything in my life. Not to be afraid to let my story rise and fall like flotsam on the ocean, for inside my thoughts are many of the stories I am using to create myself. Some of these stories serve me, while others do not. Meditation allows me to discern what to let go of and what to keep. Florian is a story that serves me, I think, as I lazily tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.


This piece was inspired by an exercise sponsored by blogger, Holistic Wayfarer on memories of our past that can be found at https://holisticwayfarer.com/2016/03/31/bonjour-texas-summer-1966/

Some wonderful pieces worth a read, I promise. 

Images from a Train: Train Yards

Passing through the loading areas of train yards is a bit like passing through a graveyard. Stories that once were, now wrappers blowing between empty coal cars. I wonder who comes to work in these lonely spots? Who sponges the graffiti and loads the tankers? Nothing moves upon the gaveled lots and so much seems left in shadow.

We all travel in circles of others. People who are connected to us by locale, family, religion, and work. When I look out the window of the train I see many lives I have no association with. Hands covered in train grease and punch clocks that mark their hours. A hundred years ago we lived in towns where we knew everyone and what most people did. I look out at these yards of old train cars and filling stations and wonder are there really ghosts moving between the rails? Is there nothing in the shadows or do I simply lack the eyes to see?

Jockeys: Flash Non-Fiction

Image pulled from The Mind Unleashed Facebook page

Image pulled from The Mind Unleashed Facebook page

The deep secret of the divorce. I stole a pair of my exes jockey shorts. The ones that are actually like shorts. Gray cotton soft, gentle waist band and my ass looks great in them. Even the flap in the front seems to flatten my belly. I love that flap. Like the secret door to a magical mystery tour. I wear them to bed or dance Zumba topless around the house. The naughtiness is in the theft and that they’re the wrong sex for my wide hip need. My friend thinks it’s odd, but I challenge she simply lacks the courage to step out of the feminine box. We tell men to find some estrogen, well I dig the testosterone rush when I slide them on. Sexy and charged is what they give my lazy Sunday’s reading the paper.

They remind me of him, in the way he liked my style. My need to be only me. For many reasons, I needed to let him go, but his jockeys still belong to me. It’s the part of the story of us that still lives in my jeans.

(Work in progress from The Writer’s Church in Boulder. Hosted by Marj Hahne and inspired by “Pink Pantsuit” by Nancy Simpson)

Watchtower: Flash Non-Fiction

Jefferson County Public Library: Photo by Noelle

Jefferson County Public Library: Photo by Noelle

The cover is creased, obviously from repeated reading. Part of it torn and only the “Watch” of the Watch Tower pamphlet is visible now. It’s an old edition. Fifteen years maybe and faded. It was stuffed in the back of a bus station rack carrying flyers for local attractions. Clearly no one manages the display much. No surprise given the half asleep ticket agent unable to stay awake for the next turn in the romance novel she’s reading. The station is dead. Not even a station really. A large closet with a bench where you can wait for the Greyhound coming out of New Orleans bound for Raleigh.

The pages crackle a little as I peruse drawings of happy Christians dotting an eager missive. So many sinners and only so much time. Reminds me of how often, in my youth, I sought spiritual happiness in pews only to feel an intruder. I like Jesus. Many beautiful teachings, but I never fit in with Christians as a religious devotee and I failed to believe in original sin. Not a small road block on the religious highway. You don’t need a savior if there’s nothing to save you from. Still, having grown up in a loving Catholic community I found myself lingering in the pages. It is not the equivalent of being black in a white community or gay in a straight one, but there is definitely a kind of outsiders vibe in many places in this country where you aren’t part of the populace if you aren’t right with Christ.

As I flip through images of Sunday pot lucks and food drives I feel that familiar hunger to belong to something. It’s a feeling that has lead me to a number of attempts at community churches that last long enough for me to know I love the people, but little of the teachings. That’s when I catch my hobo bag and head for the spiritual train yard. The last page shows Christ dying on the cross. It is not an image I’ve ever cared for or even the point, I think, of his life. He was never about death, always about life. I rather liked the image from my childhood church on Easter Sunday. A wooden cross covered in chicken wire, standing about six feet tall and placed at the alter. Half way through the service children were invited up to place the Spring flowers each family brought into the cross. Within minutes it would be transformed into the most spectacular floral site. Yellow chrysanthemums, pink carnations, lavender crocus, blue bells, and lily whites. It’s the only image of Christ that moves me and it has never left me. Rising like crocus from a winter’s death.

The pressured hydraulics of the Greyhound sound off on the cracked paved lot. The romance drops and as suddenly, the clerk pops up, checking the time. She announces the arrival, as if I could miss the only sign of life, but I realize this is her whole day. This moment, announcing the arrival of the single bus to pass through town and to finish her vending machine sandwich. I feel the deepest sorrow for a woman I know nothing about and who likely deserves many things, other than my pity. I watch her for a moment. Is it not true that the crocus rises at the darkest point in winter? I smile at her. It’s possible she is just now coming through the mulch. I leave the Watch Tower on the bench. People’s spiritual journeys are unique and curious things. What is a memory for me, may be a beginning for her.

KBCO: Flash Non-Fiction, Episode 1

Re-posted from Meditation Masters Facebook page

Re-posted from Meditation Masters Facebook page

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the music. I didn’t tell the others either. I like music, right? It was easy to capitulate to endless KBCO. I’d make it okay because there is no music I won’t listen to, but here we are. You looking at me and me looking at you across the therapist couch and all I can say is I’m sorry. I’m leaving you, not because of the music, but in a way it is about that, isn’t it? I’d be pissed, too that there wasn’t a chance to show me you could do Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Except we both know you couldn’t. I’ve got that bad habit of picking men that only do their thing – and I follow. It’s not their fault as it isn’t yours. You didn’t tell me to be putty picking up your patterns. I just did it. I should’ve made you listen to Buckwheat Zydeco and Willie Nelson or told you folk music sort of sucks when I’m happy. I want KC and the Sunshine band or maybe some Barry White. Or forget all that 70’s shit and let’s just fire up the Awolnation or Atlas Genius. But that look would come over your face and you’d wander off to a bookstore or coffee shop or down to the basement. So I never turned it on. Stupid really, you were gone anyway. Don’t you see? You were never there. I was afraid you’d leave. You wouldn’t love me, so we stayed with endless REM and Fleetwood Mac until I was ready to chew off my own self-imposed chains. It wasn’t intentional that I had no faith in your ability to hear my tunes. It just became obvious that whenever I sang my own song, it seemed to be a tune you didn’t want to hear.

Work in progress from the Front Range Writer’s Group, Marj Hahne host