Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the month “October, 2014”

Learn from me, you will find me waiting for you!

Write It Down

Illustration from the book "A Year and a Day" Illustration from the book “A Year and a Day”

Life has seen me standing hungry by the fence
and fed me with a fig from its trees
seen me naked under the sky
and clothed me in a cloud of its cotton
seen me sleeping on the pavement
and housed me in a star on its breast’
Life said: ‘Learn about me, you will find me waiting for you!’
I said thank you to life, for it is a gift and a talent
I learned about life with all the hardship I could
and it taught me how to forget it to live it

— Mahmoud Darwish, from “Perfection is the same as imperfection,” A River Dies of Thirst.(Archipelago Books, 2009)

Source: metaphorformetaphor

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“An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality…” — Daily Prompt

Doppelgänger Alert


You step into an acquaintance’s house for the first time, and discover that everything — from the furniture, to the books, to the art on the wall — is identical to your home. What happens next?

(Thanks for an intriguing prompt idea, Lourdes Mint!)

YOU’RE WELCOME. But really PERHAPS I should refrain from suggesting prompts that I don’t already have a ready, clever response to. 🙂 I never responded to the last one they used. (Shame on me!) This will be quick and dirty, so that I don’t twist myself into a pretzel over it… Here it goes!

*     *    *    *     * AS IT HAPPENED, I accepted her invitation, even though we were never particularly friendly. It was almost like we fit the same slot in the community, so similar in so many ways, she felt redundant to me. Maybe I did to her as well. But it seemed that circumstances brought us together: both our husbands, supposed novelists, gone for months on an Alaska fishing boat, while we had several small children and pets in each our care. And we both worked as second grade teachers, though at different schools. She was also right across the street, in a house just like ours, so it was hard — seemed pointless — to say no. We had the teenage girl nextdoor to me, whom we both knew, watch the kids. The idea was dinner and a bit of light conversation, I suppose. I brought dessert. That’s where it started.

“Oh!” she said opening the door, glancing down at the pie in my hands. “I should have made it clear this was an all-included event! I actually made pie, too. Tell me yours isn’t cherry.”

“Okay, but it is,” I said passing it to her. “So now you have two.”

“Weird again. And funny too, but I have this same coat,” she said hanging it on the rack.

“And weird yet again,” I said. “I have that coat rack.”

As I turned away from the entrance, the first thing I noticed were two small flames, candles at the table. “Nice,” I thought — I’ve always considered it a mistake to not have candles for dinner guests, any dinner guests. Then I began to look around — that polite, non-appraising look you give to others’ homes, no matter what you are seeing, what you are thinking.


But then my eyes fixed on a print of a photograph taken of Kandinsky in Odessa, something you don’t see every day and which most people, seeing my framed copy on my wall, assume is a photo of my grandfather. And then, noticing that David Bowie’s Warszawa was playing, a bit quirky as dinner music goes, but a definite favorite of mine, I felt a sort of vertigo coming on.

And then the other striking, no — impossible — similarities between her belongings on mine, flew at me like a flock of big black greasy birds, angry at being surprised. The leather couch that cats had used as a scratching post, the bamboo blinds, the cactus garden at the center of the see-through acrylic coffee table that I was always banging my shins on, book titles too, lamps, the tea pot, her vacuum cleaner (left out in the open, like mine), the little hand weights next to her television, the indoor-outdoor rug in her kitchen, the cats coming down the steps, just about everything I laid my eyes on — SAME AS MINE.

At that point, I think actually waved my hands in front of my face, let out a sort of yelp and maybe an obscenity, and collapsed backward into a chair.

“Oh my, oh my gosh, what … ?” My host looked genuinely stunned, frightened. “Are you OK?”

I started to laugh. “Wow, yes. I’m just exhausted.”

“We can do this another time,” she said. “I mean it, really.” She looked scared. And I suddenly felt mad.

“No, let’s just do this, whatever this is.” One of the cats jumped on my lap.

“Blanca!” she said. “Down.” And then to me, “Sorry. The worse your day is, the more all-over-you they are.”

The tea pot began whistling — a perfect D sharp, like mine. “Excuse me,” she said, rushing toward the kitchen.

“Blanca,” I called out.  “That’s ‘white’ in Spanish, right?” (My white cat was Mr. White, but still.)

She nodded and appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking as though she were about to explain, but I interrupted” “And I’ll bet you’re brewing ginger tea, my favorite. OUR favorite.”

“It is ginger, as a matter of fact, but I’m not really sure… . I don’t understand what’s going on here, really.” She looked me right in the eye and I saw nothing creepy there, nothing that might begin to help explain this inexplicable thing that was happening nonetheless. I she were a creep, then OK. I could deal with that. But if not, then what?

She was not a creep. I just felt it, sure as Blanca on my lap.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Please pardon me. Please.”

“It’s OK, but really, if you don’t feel up for this … .”

“I’m fine.” And dinner was fine, even as we dined on a Wolfgang Puck dish (a Vietnamese salad) that was one of my go-to recipes for guests, even as every outdated song that came on — I suppose it was on shuffle, as mine always is — was another from my own, rather singular (I’d always thought) collection. We talked about the regular things: our jobs, parenting, being married to aspiring novelists/actual fishermen. I was relieved to find that the doppelganger effect did not seem to extend to every aspect of our lives.

After cherry pie, she walked me back to my house to retrieve her children. I knew she would see what I saw, something I neither dreaded nor looked forward to. I simply had no idea what could be done.

In any case, her face registered nothing as she entered the house. She just gave me a quick hug and they were out of there before her kids had even buttoned up.

For months she and I only waved to each other as we happened to pass each other coming and going. Then one day, I found her sitting along in our neighborhood park. Assuming this was as rare a treat for her as it was for me, I was prepared to just keep walking after our usual cordial but distant greeting.

“Would you sit w/ me?” she asked. We sat for a long time without saying anything. Then finally, she cleared her throat and began to speak.

One time, on her way home from an evening class in grad school, she explained, she had passed herself driving in the other direction. “It didn’t just look like me: IT WAS ME! Same car, same hair and face, same everything. And as I stared at her, I finally caught her eye. And we both just kept staring until I almost hit the car in front of me. Shaken, I pulled over, rolled down the window, and watched the car for as long as I could — as she, the other me, just kept on going to wherever it was she was going. And at one point, she too rolled down her window to give me … a thumbs up!”

I sat there, not knowing what to say.

“A f_cking thumbs up!? I mean, what is that supposed to do for me? What can it mean? What does it even begin to explain?”

I almost said, “at least it wasn’t ‘the finger,'”  but I knew it would’ve been worse than off. “Well, what did you do?” I finally managed.

“What did I do? What could I do? I did nothing. I’ve told no one, until now. And you know why.”

“Because of our weird doppelganger experience … .”

She laughed, not looking at me. “Well, yes, but no. It’s bigger than that. I just decided that unless I accepted that there could be an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality, then I would go crazy. So that’s what I did. And recently, as you might imagine, I’ve had to do it again. And so there you go. How about you? Have you managed to square the whole thing with yourself?”

“I think so,” I said. But I was trying not to forget her words, didn’t want to think of anything else until I could write them down. They could help. They would help. They were already helping.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

We both sat for a while saying nothing.

“Someone’s burning leaves,” she said. “I thought that was against the law. Anyway, I better go. Nice to see you.”

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. “You too, I said,” smiling. “I’ll spare you the thumbs-up,” I added uncertainly. She laughed a little and said “thanks,” rather absently, turned and walked away.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

When I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. They said it was as though my bed was encased in a protective bubble — they didn’t find me until the next day, after the rescue mission was called off. I had apparently slept through the entire thing. I remember almost nothing of this, except these words: “No Godly explanation for it,” which my grandmother, who took care of me from then on, said almost every day until she finally passed away. By then, I was in college — as far away as I could get — and had been able to cut my ties with the story. But the story had never cut its ties with me. I always felt odd (possibly evil), ashamed, frightened: the reluctant citizen of a world where things happen that have no fathomable explanation.

Art has helped, music too, humor, all opportunities for “laughter and forgetting,” LOVE, but there will never be anything like words — for me — when it comes to finally getting a grip.

So, when I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. There was indeed “no Godly explanation for it” — EXCEPT THAT SOMETIMES, OLD LADY, there HAPPENS TO BE an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? So you can just stop giving me those sideways glances, like I’m the devil’s spawn. There was and is no Godly explanation for it, so you can stop looking for one. And RIP.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

Yeah, I think this will work for me. Thank you doppelganger. Thank you Words for once again coming to the rescue.


Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition IV,” 1911



Bob’s TBT (or “LOVE is love is love is love.”)


unidentifiable-on-a-stickThis is late, “Addicted to Purple,” but Bob had t0 give it a little lick to realize what it was….

“TBT for my FB friends from Gun, CO. Remember ‘Glory Potts’? A red head, American (but w/ parents in the CIA), here from Bangkok for just one winter?

Seems OK to share now (just searched her name — nothing), but — for those of you who don’t already know — she taught me MOST (ahem) of what I know about sex. Still pays off today, even though, you know…  🙂 and you know :(.

Anyway, look at what I found: ‘I’ve GOT you and me on a stick!’ she said,  as she presented me this ‘belly button lint pop’ just before she left. Made from what she claimed she’d collected during our time together. I KNOW!! MY GAWD, how I wanted to gag (especially since she was sucking on it before she passed it over). But now? Well, I gave it a little lick just now. Not really. (Really.)

But maybe I’ll carry it around in a little pouch, sleep w/ it under my pillow (or put it under his old pillow …. *sigh*), hang it from the door frame like mistletoe? Something.

Glory be! What a girl.

LOVE is love is love is love.”


[For those of you who don’t already know: TBTs are photos from the past that people on Facebook post on Thursdays (Throw-Back Thursdays). It took me a long time to catch on.]

Swidden: “All of it burns”

Pretty+Flames+2-7-2007+3-36-23+PM+2816x2112There is always “burn” here now.

Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./

To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./

There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/

We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./

But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./

Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/

There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./

After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./

I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./

And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.

NOTE: I found this old poem-like thing in my files and decided to post it because I’m often too tired to think (see Sarah: My List of One). I guess it’s pretty weird, but I wouldn’t post it if I didn’t like something about it. In any case,  I’m happy to report that I am warm enough again … have indeed gone on (& can cry now if I must). No more pies. CREDIT: I pulled the background for the photo from the blog of Lao Bumpkin, who writes a lot about slash-and-burn agriculture.

“In times of change, LEARNERS inherit the earth, while the learned …”

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” ~ Eric Hoffer

Just this for now. I can’t decide whether it stokes me because I identify with the learner or it depresses me because, even though I would never describe myself as particularly “learned,” I am haunted by the realization that what I think of as “the world” will be unrecognizable to my children when they’re my age or even when they’re in their teens. Or perhaps it’s already happened?

Of course it is already happening… .







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