ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Home Planet

Archive for February 2011

The River of Dreams

(photo by R.B. Millsap)

 

 

 

In the dream, I rode the river like a magic carpet, floating on nothing more that a scrap of material beneath me.  I lay still, relaxed, stretched out on my stomach with my hands folded under my cheek, lulled by the gentle motion as the the wide, rolling river undulated beneath me.

I studied the scenery as I drifted past the city skyline, past buildings and houses, past schools and playgrounds, past people strolling on paths along the river. With sleepy, heavy-lidded eyes, I looked up through the branches of the willow trees lining the riverbank, gazing into a soft blue sky.

 I was content. I wasn’t afraid of falling in or being snagged by sharp, dangerous things just under the surface. I was, at that moment,  as peaceful and comfortable as I can ever imagine being. I was free.

Of course the irony is that just an hour or so before, waiting for sleep, I had been anything but content. I’d tossed and turned, kicking at the blankets,  restless with worry.  My mind kept pulling at loose threads, deconstructing, mulling over decisions, pondering the charged state of the world, always going back to, circling again and again, each of my children.
 
In the dark and quiet room my ears echoed with the dull pounding of my own heartbeat. My eyes, no matter how many times I closed them, flew open with every new troublesome thought.

I don’t know why it is that the things that weigh the heaviest on us, the things we carry, come alive at night.  When the rest of the world is sleeping, worry lives in me the way  my babies did before they were born, kicking and rolling as soon as I lay down, prodding me, keeping me awake. Forcing me to stare at the ceiling looking back and ahead.

Finally, exhausted, I remembered a piece my daughter used to play on the piano, Debussy’s “Jimbo’s Lullaby.”

It is an odd, shifting, restless piece, constantly changing from soothing melody to a jangle of notes. And then back again. She practiced it for weeks, and still, today, when she’s home from school she will occasionally sit down and play it again. The girl, and the song, were on my mind as I finally drifted off to sleep.

 When the radio clicked on the next morning, and I slowly swam to the surface of a new day, I manage to catch the hem of the river dream as it slipped away in the soft light of morning and I held onto it and as I went through the day letting it play at the edge of my mind.

I found myself, at odd moments, humming the song. The night had not been kind but in sunlight, remembering the sensation of drifting so peacefully, I could release the things that had so disturbed me the night before.
I practiced the lesson of the dream. I gave in. I let go. I let the swift current of a busy day carry me away.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Monday is deadline for HGTV’s “Bang for Your Buck.”

If you've been thinking about applying to appear on HGTV's “Bang for Your Buck,” the show that brings in experts to compare three home renovations to determine which got the most bang for the money spent, think fast. Today (Monday) is the deadline.

High Noon producer Callie Zanandrie is looking for homeowners in the Spokane, Coeur d'Alene area who would like to share their great room renovation story with viewers. If you'd like to participate here's all you need to do:

  • Contact Zanandrie for the show application and cost estimation chart at czanandrie@highnoontv.com.
  • Email  two or three “before” and “after” photos.
  • Email two or three pictures of you and you family.

 

Waking up to an ordinary day

   I flew into my day on autopilot. I turned off the clock radio and stole an extra fifteen minutes in bed. I made a lunch for my daughter and called up the stairs to stop dawdling so we wouldn’t be late. I shoved the dogs out the back door and tapped my foot, waiting for them to finish and come back inside.  I dropped her off at school and drove away.
   

   This is how I start too many days. Cruising without really paying any attention to the horizon.
   

   Yesterday, I took a different route, down a side street I don’t normally travel. I joined the queue of cars waiting to merge onto the busy street that would take us downtown. The wintery morning was overcast and dark, so I could see into lighted rooms in the houses on either side of the street. A movement caught my eye and I noticed a man sitting at the table in his kitchen. He was having his breakfast, munching through a bowl of cereal, looking around the room as he chewed. The way you do when you see without seeing rooms that are as familiar as your own hand. He looked up at the ceiling, took another bite, back down at his bowl for another spoonful, gazed to his right toward the clock on the wall and then to his left at the window and, startling us both, straight into my eyes.
   

   At that moment the traffic opened and I drove away.
   

   I thought about  the man as I went through the rest of my day. He had looked so content. I wondered if the rest of his day had been as peaceful as the few minutes I’d witnessed.
I wondered if he appreciated the splendid ordinariness of his morning. Probably not. I know I hadn’t.


   For all I know, as soon as I looked away he choked on his Wheaties. Or the furnace, with a great shuddering, gasping groan, gave up the ghost. Or the toilet overflowed. Or, his wife walked in and said, “Charles, I’m leaving you. I can’t spend another minute watching you chew and swallow.”
  

   The man had caught me watching him. Did he wonder about the nosy woman in the car? For all he knew I could have driven straight into oncoming traffic, or had a flat tire or run out of gas. Did he wonder if I appreciated my reliable car or the short commute or a life easy enough to let me fritter away time staring at people in houses?

   Ask any of us and we can provide the details of the times when things were bad, when we were caught off guard and left stunned by bad news or bad situations. We can narrate, again and again, the highlights. The awards, the surprises and the days that we got the recognition we deserved.

   But most of us, like me when I’m late for a meeting or the man who sat down to his breakfast, forget that every day we munch and drive and daydream our way through irretrievable moments that disappear as quickly as they arrived.
 


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Some years, love bites.



    It looked like a child’s Valentine, a square of red construction paper glued onto a round, lacy, white paper doily. I noticed it on the floor, one edge trapped under the leg of a chair in the coffee shop.
I picked it up and opened it expecting to see something like “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…signed with X’s and O’s and written in a looping childish scrawl.

    But that’s not what I saw.

    Instead, I read the words, “You can bite me” printed in ink – by an adult hand - and finished with lots of exclamation points.

    At first I assumed it was a kind of naughty little note. A homemade come-on left on the breakfast table, propped against a glass of orange juice or coffee cup. Or, perhaps it had been meant for a co-worker, a secret message left on a desk or handed off under the table in a meeting. A tease to after-hours fun, or a little corporate groping in the elevator.

    But the more I looked at it, the less sweetness I saw. The words, “You can bite me” had been practically carved into the paper. I got the feeling they were written by someone who was angry. Someone whose teeth had been clenched when she wrote it. Someone who might have preferred to carve the same message on the forehead of the recipient. And I was sure it had been written by a woman.

    Whoever she was, she was mad. And she had a point she wanted to make. So, as befitted the day, a lover’s day, she dressed it up in lace and red paper.

    I sat there, holding the little bomb, and tried to imagine who sent it and for whom it had been intended. What on earth had he done to deserve it? And how did he feel when he opened the card?

    Did he sit there, nursing a Venti double-shot and read the words over and over again, mulling over how much trouble she was and how tired he was of her theatrics? Or, did he mentally kick himself, making a promise right then and there to shape up and show the love.

    And what about her? I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall when that card was made. I could imagine her furiously rummaging through drawers looking for a pen that wasn’t out of ink and a glue stick that wasn’t dried and useless. Opening and closing kitchen cabinet doors, searching for those ridiculous doilies she bought last year when she had that baby shower for a friend. Then, after scratching the words across the paper, folding the card and slipping it into an envelope. An angry Cupid, locked, loaded, target in sight.

    Everywhere I look I see Valentines. Most are syrupy and trite. I can’t help but wonder  how many are given  under false pretenses. Pretty poetry and sentimental schmaltz when what the sender would like to say can be summed up in two little words: “Bite me.”

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


  

Love in Plain Brown Paper

Another Valentine re-post. This one was written in 2005 during my first life as a S-R freelancer.


  

February 14, 2005

Real love is the kind we are surrounded by every day

Cheryl-anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
 
 

Chances are you’ve got love, or something like it, on your mind. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Did you buy roses? You need to buy roses. And a card covered with sentimental poetry written by a stranger.

Don’t forget the chocolate, the expensive perfume, something from Victoria’s Secret, a gourmet meal at a five-star restaurant and jewelry. Isn’t that what it takes to show love? Well, one day a year, maybe. But it’s the other 364 days that tell the tale.

The truth is, love doesn’t always come with balloons and words that rhyme. True love usually comes to us just like the groceries – mixed with the necessities and wrapped in plain brown paper.

Love is spread between the peanut butter and jelly in a school lunch sandwich and folded into baskets of clean laundry.

It is carried in a soft look at the end of a hard day and the gentle sound of your name on another’s lips.

Love is scrambled into eggs for a quick supper on a hectic night and sweetens a cup of coffee brought to you before you get out of bed on a cold morning.

Real love isn’t just tender whispers in the dark. It’s pillow talk about unreliable cars, failing hot water heaters, thinning hair, expanding waistlines, ominous medical tests and parent-teacher conferences.

Love is the glue that holds us together and the fuel that drives us to work, piano practice, dentist appointments and soccer games.

Love is the smell of a newborn baby. Love is the sound of a sullen “goodnight” muttered by a teenager who, only moments before, expressed a keen desire to become an orphan.

Love is when you tell the one you chose, “I’m scared,” and they hold your hand. For as long as you need it.

Real love is letting someone hold your hand.

Sometimes love is only visible, like the growth rings in a tree, when we’ve been cut and left with an open wound. And love is the bandage that binds our wounds and helps us heal.

Real love has very little to do with the candy and cards we buy and give once a year. It isn’t in romantic music and movies.

For most of us, love is hidden in the shadows of an ordinary life, when you open your eyes in the cold, gray light of morning and make the choice to stick it out one more day.

Most of us learn to take love where we find it. And when we look, really look, past all the frills and fuss of a made-for-retail holiday, it’s all around us.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Valentine Swan Song

  (photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

    The wind slipped cold, cruel fingers down my collar and teased at the heavy scarf around my neck and it fluttered and danced around my face as I walked carefully down the slushy sidewalk. The afternoon sun was high and bright but the temperature was still bitingly cold.
    I’d been wandering in and out of the shops that line the main street of Traverse City, Michigan,  looking for some kind of token to bring home with me. Valentine’s Day was coming.

    I picked up a few things as I shopped: jam made from Michigan cherries, a postcard, a pair of gloves. But nothing carried the true weight of what I wanted to say.

    Finally, running out of time, I turned off the main street and walked toward the shore of the Lake.


    As I navigated the path, I was careful to avoid the iciest patches. The deep snow formed a high white wall around the edge of the lake and I noticed there were no other footprints. A few cars were parked at the edge and the occupants were protected as they ate their lunches and gazed out at the water, but no one else was foolish enough to get out and face the relentless cold.

    I stood there, open to the wind that poured across the lake freezing everything in it’s path. My face was numb, my eyes watered. My toes and fingers ached.

    The deep azure color of the lake, rimmed by snowy beaches and green hills, flowed up toward the sky in bands of blue broken only by small clouds.  There was a skim of ice on the water closest to the shore and for a few minutes I watched a pair of swans, side-by-side, floating languidly in the frigid water. I remembered reading that swans mate for life and wondered, again, if it is true.

     
     Finally, surrendering, I pushed my hands deeply into my pockets and started to turn away but stopped when the pair of swans moved. As I watched, in a slow, subtle, water-ballet, the pair turned slightly toward one another, long necks gracefully arched, heads pointed down to the water, swimming breast to breast. And for a moment, at least from where I was standing, the space between them formed the shape of a perfect heart.

    Swans live their lives the same way so many humans do, it’s just that our seasons are longer. We court in the spring, have our young in the summer and in the winter, after the young have left the nest, we are content to swim alone, close to our mate for comfort and company.


    My fingers were cold and too slow to bring out my camera and by the time I pressed the shutter the swans had turned away. But I had found my Valentine.


    I was looking for a card or a gift but it took a pair of wild winter swans to show me the way.
 This Valentine's Day, all I really want to say is that when we are winter birds, I will still be here. I will always be the other half of the heart.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

True Love is Truly Ageless

This is a re-post of one of my favorite columns. I am always asked to read it when I have a speaking engagement. I wrote this in 2006 but I've never forgotten the feeling of standing at the window and watching the couple walk down the sidewalk.

Interestingly, I got dozens of phone calls, emails and notes from people who thought the pair I described might have been, or at least reminded them of, their parents. When the column aired on KPBX, the music I chose to undescore the essay was “Real Love” by John Lennon.

 

February 13, 2006

True love is truly ageless

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Staff writer

 

 

 

Standing at the window, high above the busy street, I watched them.

The elderly couple walked slowly down the sidewalk. He was tall. His head was bent low over the woman at his side, and strands of his thin white hair lifted in the wind. Faded, shapeless, corduroy pants, a size too big, hung loosely on his spare frame.

The woman was small. Her head was no higher than the man’s shoulder and her open coat flapped around her thin legs and billowed behind her.

His arm was wrapped protectively around her slight shoulders as she clutched his sweater, and they clung together against the onslaught of the gusts of wintry wind.

There was something about the way they walked, fitted into and against one another, that hinted of a long history as a couple.

I imagined them as they had awakened that morning. Bodies that had lost the softness of youth, grown lean and sharp with age, spooned together in the bed they had shared for many years. They rose to greet the day in a room full of photographs, the smiling faces of mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, newborn babies and fresh-scrubbed children, looking down from the walls.

Their own wedding portrait – perhaps he was wearing a uniform – on the table beside the bed.

I imagined a room and two lives that had seen passion, heartache, tears and laughter. And love.

It’s Feb. 13.

For weeks we’ve seen ads for chocolate and diamonds and all the trappings of romance.

For some reason, in the midst of the sentimental spiel about expensive jewelry and sexy lingerie, the image of the old man and woman popped into my mind.

The idea of love as it is fed to us by greeting cards, movies and best-selling novels is luscious, soft and sweet. Like ripe fruit.

But what I saw in the language of the bodies that moved so slowly down the sidewalk was something else. It was older and mellowed, more mature.

It was real love. Love that has been tempered and forged. Love that, like wine, has opened and breathed. Love that has bloomed.

Forget the candy and the roses. I want what they have.

I’m not naïve. I know there must have been days, weeks, months and even years when the feeling between them waned. When the bonds felt more like chains, and desire cooled. When life was too hard and unforgiving to foster romance.

But love endured. I could see it in every move they made.

As I watched, the man and woman rounded the corner and disappeared from view. Impulsively, I hurried down the stairs and out the door to the corner. But they were gone.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Somewhere in this town, in a room filled with memories, the morning light will fall on the man and the woman.

I can’t help but believe that when they stir, each feeling the comforting presence of the other before their eyes even open; without a word, without flowers or diamonds, they will quietly share what the rest of us will wrap in poetry and pretty paper: Love.

Real love.

HGTV looking for Spokane renovations

 

I got a note from the producer of HGTV’s Bang For your Buck and she's looking for Spokane home improvement stories. Here's your chance to be on TV!

HGTV is looking for great room renovations in the Spokane area to be featured on the hit show “Bang for Your Buck.” If you'd like a shot at the small screen, email Callie Zanandrie at czanandrie@highnoontv.com  and tell her why you'd like to be considered. Don't forget to include one or two photos of the project and the estimated cost of the renovation.

Good luck!

CAM

 

Cave Painting in Jasper National Park

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)   

 

 

    When we arrive at the starting point for our hike, Trevor, our Overlander Trekking guide, gives us all thick, insulated, boots and a set of cleats to strap on the soles.


    Checking that we have hats and gloves, he leads us across a narrow swinging bridge and up and along a trail that traces the rim of the frozen Maligne Canyon in Canada’s Jasper National Park.


    He shows us the trail we will follow at the bottom, walking on the frozen river that flows through the canyon.
    “Just watch me,” he says as we descend. “You’ll be safe if you watch where I step.”


    Stepping gingerly onto the path he makes as we move down into the canyon,  between high walls of stone, we follow a trail of thick, scarred, ice on what just a few weeks before was moving water. On thinner patches, you can, if you stop and listen for it, hear the deep roar of water moving freely below. It is an erie sound.


    Above, where the ground shears away, where in warmer seasons water flows over the rim, massive columns of ice descend the depth of the canyon walls forming layer upon frozen layer. At the tallest formation, the densest frozen waterfall, we stop to watch a pair of climbers. A man stands at the base, feet apart, a rope threaded through the harness around his waist and anchored at the top. He is belaying a woman who is slowly, one toehold, one pick into the ice at a time, climbing.
    
    We walk a bit farther to where the stone forms a dome over us. We are standing in a tall cathedral of limestone carved by rushing, swirling, water and polished by eons of ice and wind and snow. The rocks are coated with fine ice crystals and I notice that just above my head they are decorated by the handprints of hikers who have gone before us. People who, as they passed, put a hand on the stone. The warmth of their bodies melted away the ice and in the  shadowed, frigid, air the prints remained.


    It is a beautiful thing, this ice-walking.  Time and again we stop to take photographs, trying to capture the scale and majesty of what we are seeing. Time and again we look at the images on our digital cameras and are disappointed.


    As we make our way back out of the canyon, I take one more look over my shoulder. I notice again the pristine, crystalized surface of the limestone on either side of me. Like the others who’d come before me, I lifted my hand and placed it flat against frosted surface of the stone. Still and silent, I felt the sharp winter cold drawn into my skin as I exchanged it for the warmth of my body.    When I pulled away the distinct print of my hand, mine alone, decorated the rock.


    I was, in that instant, connected to the past in a tangible way. I imagined a woman who might have passed between the stone walls thousands of years ago and done the same thing - stopped for a moment to give in to the urge to paint the cave with her handprint.


    Seasons will change. The canyon will erase any trace that I was there. But, at least in my memory, the winter walk left a more permanent mark on me.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here