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Dream: The Box
His father had given Billy a big blue box. It was placed under a bright light making a blue wash spill onto the walls of the room. Father instilled in Billy that inside was a great treasure and he was responsible for it. This created anxiety for Billy; the box was awkward to take with him, yet he was afraid to leave it alone. Billy resented his responsibility even though he now owned a great treasure. His life seemed impoverished. It detracted him from social outings with friends. He found it hard to explain his new preoccupation
“Like, how much more stuff can you drag around?” Laura shouted as she passed the gigantic RV. A stab of hypocrisy pricked her. Yesterday, her sister chastised her again for keeping and moving her boxes of stuff from place to place without ever unpacking. The brown cardboard mountain was her symptom, her manifestation of a problem, an understanding of herself. She had packed up her things and forgot to live, lost track of her life. In a way, they could represent hope, yes (?) to begin again. Laura couldn‘t relinquish the boxes. They seemed like the cornerstone of her existence.
On the drive home from church, when I was 7, my sister, 11, I watched her pouring out Milkduds from a small box and eating them with a smile. I begged for one. Please! She kept eating, not sharing. She made quite a show of the last Milkdud; shook the box. I ramped up my pleading. "Oh, here," she said handing me the last one. I could hardly believe it. I popped it into my mouth and chomped, and experienced a mouthful of soap. She laughed. "April Fool!" she said. Even at age seven, I understood the implications of premeditation.
Here is a fail proof remedy for depression or the blues: go to the nearest dog park. (You don't even have to have a dog.) There is more joy per square foot of a dog park than even an adventure park or Disneyland. Everyone you see will be happy to tell you about their dog and many related stories. There are laughs abound and nary a complaint. There's space to roam and get exercise, tables to rest and observe and a hundred or so inquisitive little friends with wagging tails and wet noses that want to get to know you.
Jennifer's life didn't seem her own. All normality evaporated in a searing discovery of the "other woman's" phone number appearing more than three times a day on her husband's cell phone bill. Shocking. Unbelievable! A betrayal of the most intimate trust. But Jennifer was immobilized by the trauma. Of course she confronted him; but he invalidated her qualms. Stymied by indecision, she cleverly diverted the mailing of his phone bill to her new post office box. Each month she poured over the evidence. It was irrefutable; outrageous! yet she still needed evidence of something bigger to make her leave. Why?
Me: Cubed, parts 1-3: My underneath side is warm and well, grounded in earth brown. It heats up my center and preserves an interior comfort. In contrast, my backside gets stuck frequently in yellow alert mode; it flashes a caution: excited negative feeling! I rue this part of me. It's taken half a century to learn to calm down before speaking or acting. My saving grace is my developing wisdom side, which can splash cool blue over the excitement until it drip dries and is subdued. I have learned with chagrin: the less I do or say, the better.
Me: cubed: 4-6 One side is green, my get going side that delights in newness. My mother once said I was too strong for my own good. Or, maybe I have a weak attachment to status quo. I have a polished, reflective side that mirrors your colors. I can say what you need me to say. I can be the receiver of your story. I have enough goodwill to pass along. Finally, I admit to the ego-driven, neon pink, striving side: Look what I wrote, what I painted, look at me! Alas, all my parts work best together.
Husband and I were driving west from Las Vegas to our new home in Colton, CA. A column of smoke rose in the sky that could be seen for miles. As the road curved, I watched the plume appear on my left, then my right. Brushfires are common in CA, but new to me. Closer to the house, we seemed to be circling the smoke. “Gads! It’s near our backyard. Quick. Grab stuff; Let's get out of here!” Neighbors were spraying their shrubs. So we did, too. Next day, I took all our important documents to safe deposit box.
Life in a box: our homes. These shelters that provide comfort and protection are also lockers in which to keep all our possessions safe. We spend time, effort and money on our homes so that they represent our own uniqueness and us. We surround ourselves with layers of fabrics and colors and interior décor that magnify the contrast between inside and outside (unlike primitive peoples that live in huts or tents.) The constant investment of time and money into these structures is also an emotional and mental construct that amplifies and serves to uphold the pretense of it all.
Sister and I relished what she had found under Dad’s bed. It was my mother’s jewelry box. We reminisced Mom in her various outfits each adorned by one of the necklaces that we were thrilled to see again. They brought laughs and memories of cherished times. We could see her as she appeared in church and how smart she looked in her little black dress. We remembered her in her tasteful yet flamboyant style and how she treasured individuality. She died a year ago; her clothes had been given away. This found box of memories was a treasure.
My sister-in-law from Japan visited us when my son was 11 years old. She wanted to treat Troy with a Japanese bento lunch box. We had the required plastic container and the list of groceries needed. My dear sister awoke at 5:00 am the following morning. She prepared spinach, sausage, a folded egg omelet, rice and relish pickles. They were arranged for color and spacing. Exquisite. When I awoke I took a picture to commemorate the occasion. It was a piece of art. Little Troy felt like king. This is the daily routine of mothers in Japan.
The contents of a locked box: A heart wrenching poem (17 yr old style) lock of my own golden brown hair, picture of me and date before the senior prom, Free Press clipping of the (heartthrob) right linebacker, class of 1970. A graphic description of the first kiss by same linebacker, torn for safe keeping from my diary. I'm thankful for attics and keepsake boxes that preserved the slice of life-- 3 years past climbing trees and prior to college: Full on luxury of total self-absorption. Eventually all are saddled with responsibilities. Can you remember the mindset of youth?
In summers long past, Dad, sister and I drifted on an inland lake, the sun beating down on our shoulders. A soft “glug, glug” sound accompanied us as the aluminum boat rocked on tiny ripples. My sister and I held on endlessly to cane-fishing poles and stared at the bobbers in the water, while Dad sifted through his tackle box to find yet another hook to replace the last one lost in the false-alarm-fish-line-entanglement. Dad spent the day tending to his girls; re-baiting and re-casting our lines; such a nurturing father. Thanks Dad.
Next to my side door, there sits a shopping bag. Inside is an empty shoebox, and the receipt / permission to return--until decision time deadline, tomorrow. The glorious, high heeled, platform, hip, black, patented-leather shoes are waiting upstairs near my full-length mirror. Generally, wardrobe issues only arise for interviews and funerals. BUT—these might be the shoes that carry me to my 40th high school reunion. The shoes seem foreign. Even the angst feels foreign. I've reverted back to seventeen years old and thus concerned about being cool! What do these shoes say about me? Is it true?
Oh, the glories of sewing. The fabrics are sublime: color, pattern, combos; in short--JOY. Alas, seamstresses are a dying breed. It costs more to make half a dress than to buy a whole one ready made. But there is the creative process that is engaged in the vision of the finished product. Pattern and fabric is an individual, expressive choice. And the risk! All the energy and effort could become a heap of scrapes. My sewing box jingles and rattles as I gather my tools and courage; assemble the pattern onto the brilliant fabric and take the first cut.
War is different today that in yesteryear. History tells that during the WWs American soldiers AND civilians sacrificed. The shortages and the demand for common effort made everyone live the war. Today we have war in a box. Views of it come via television only occasionally. We are allowed to forget that people are being maimed and are dying; forget to question it, protest it. Doesn't "Rules of War" sound like an oxymoron? It's as if men pretend there is a code of ethics in killing... as if killing can be conducted in an honorable way--if one follows RULES.
Square shots of stretched smiles
so much happiness to see
Remember when, remember then,
sift through the piles and see
backwards not forwards
no grimace, no tears
in any one of those years
look at me, smiling, posed
click! the camera goes
I miss the snap of truth,
some woes, to interpose the view
of sliced life, boxed and shelved
and again someday reviewed.
Photos. I have boxes of them. They're too precious to get rid of. They survive every cull, yet are never viewed. They won't mean anything to anyone else. I secretly dislike going through anyone else’s pictures.
A Michigan weather ritual: wardrobe shifting occurred every spring and every fall. In our small house, the only storage was in the attic. Mother would pull down the ladder and ascend toward the big storage boxes. We’d stand aside while they tumbled down the rungs. For me, it was like an off-season Christmas. All the coveted clothing that made my older sister cool finally became mine. I loved hand-me-downs. Or maybe I just liked being the winner while thinking my sister the loser those days. Sister was always in the one up position, except wardrobe day.
We celebrated mom's forty-seventh birthday the winter we all met in Park City, Utah for winter break. One of our favorite memories was watching Mom try her hand at skiing. "It looked so easy from the base of the bunny hill," she said. Her feet kept slipping out in front of her as she tried the tow rope. She had to stop; she was laughing so hard she had to pee. Later, Dad sent me out with $30 to buy mom's gift for him. What a find: a music box that played her favorite song, "Send in the Clowns."
The inbox is the space on the desk
that cradles the rest
of the work undone, mounting
in a pile that unwittingly sullens
your will to finish your work
while time dully ticks by
and you hope there's relief in
some thought or insight or rescue
coming from somewhere or nowhere
time, responsibility, an hour of space
in your life you spend worrying
instead of living, downtrodden
instead of bliss. Look at the pile
it has no power, just papers in a basket
no more than simple little tasks, one
by one, get them done,
check them off the list.
When I was 9, I attended the perfect summer camp. Cabins encircled a playing field; it had a beachfront and wilderness. Midweek, it was our cabin's turn to head for the trees and camp out. We were accompanied by Ralph, a big Labrador. Under the trees, we sang as we wove lanyards. Later, teams assembled foods to share for dinner. I opened the boxes of ingredients for unbaked brownies. Out of character for me, I shaped a brownie into a turd and placed it by Ralph's tail. It was giggly fun for a time, until..."WHO DID THIS?" brought me terror.
Dream: I was shopping in Men’s Apparel at a department store. On display were miniature men in clear glass boxes. They were wearing the fashions of the day, one in a suit and tie, another in jeans. These were not dolls; they were real live tiny men, about a foot tall, trapped and alone in their tiny squares. About seven of these displays were dispersed, under spotlights, in the spacious upscale clothing area. Their expressionless features were fixed. One, dressed in stylish pajamas, went to his bed and lay under the spotlight. He was unable to close his eyes.
The job box: life boxed in with the Inbox, the work to do list, the nine to five hours, the Monday through Friday walls, the tiny sliver for lunch that never seems like yours. Full time boxes have opaque walls, so that you forget what is outside, all the things you would be doing if you weren't in job jail; a form of total denial. Part time jobs have transparent walls, where you torturer yourself each hour while on the job because you haven't forgotten what you are mindfully giving up to earn money so that you can enjoy life.
I requested the secretary to order another box of business cards. I felt vulnerable when they weren't forthcoming. I know this organization. They start advertising for one's replacement in the Sunday Free Press as the first hint that things are "off." I started asking for a review of my wages thirteen weeks ago; STILL no response! I gave a sigh of relief when I finally felt the box of cards in my hand. But now I feel a bit vindictive and smug having found a better job. I enjoyed writing my brief letter of resignation. What goes around comes around.
The downsizing challenge: It's astounding how much stuff is packed into a home. Only a move can highlight this uncomfortable revelation. All that stuff has to go somewhere else. A column, from floor to ceiling of fresh, flat boxes is intimidating and may not be enough. It's psychologically inundating. Think of it: every drawer, every shelf, every cupboard, everything hanging in the garage, or up on the rafters, all the stuff in the attic: backshelved projects and keepsakes. There is a creepy shame to be reckoned with; affluence and greed and dreams and life and denial--we are over-stuffed.
The tool box makes one feel prepared. It says, "I can handle this. Show me the problem and I, with my trusty toolbox in hand, will fix it." My husband has gone overboard. As if, more tools will make him more handy. He has a tool box in a corner of virtually every room. Quick draw tool man. Like speed is of the essence to a household problem. I should get a siren. And a stop watch. And some gold stars for his forehead for every time he beats his own record. I'll video it. Watch for it on Youtube.
I have no boxes today; no confinement by hours, appointments, lists, or expectations. I have the luxury of unplanned time, enjoyment without walls. It's the difference between looking out the window at a beautiful scene and letting the sight and imagination feed your other senses and being there in person and letting the experience feed you. If I pay attention to each sense and each minute and I don't let my thoughts carry me away, I can expand the day and make it last longer and be richer. May all sentient beings find peace and know the causes of peace.
Books are like slim boxes stuffed with ideas and thoughts. A thinking woman's treasure trove. Pure creativity, magically using text on paper to conjure up an image in the imagination and a movie in one's head. Even nonfiction is clever in putting thoughts in order to make new revelations. I am consistently overwhelmed when looking down the isles of libraries or bookstores, at the great depth of deprivation my little brain knows. Each book offers knowledge about life or some awakening experience. I think of all the books I haven't read; a mountain of knowledge that will pass me by.
My friend Shirley is quirky. She had 3 cabins full of stuff to get rid of. She invited her friends to help with a driveway sale. It was hot; we suffered in effort to hang and display TONS of stuff. Buyers came, we settled at a table to supervise, and Shirley brought us tea. There was a cardboard box full of red plastic things. “Shirley, what are these?”
“Oh, that’s my toy box,” she said. “Those are dildos. You can each have one. But, they have to be sanded first.”
We were wide eyed--flummoxed; “Bring us the sandpaper!”
Boxes can be artistic creations. One Christmas, I traced a pattern onto pearlized white cardstock. A centered, two by twelve inch rectangle would form the perimeter. Extending out from this rectangle were 7 appendages above and seven below. The appendages were shaped like a single whitecap wave. The strip was secured into a circle. Each appendage encircled the one next to it and formed rounded interlocking petals on the top and bottom of the box. Beautiful. Intricate. A handmade, thus thoughtful gift, right? But, a giftbox is a container made to open. Emptiness doesn’t say Merry Christmas. Now what?
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