Category Archives: Moments In Time

‘Club Heaven’ by C. Imani Williams

I was solo as I entered Heaven, an after hour gay dance spot on the northeast side of Detroit, MI. A rare find in a city that didn’t offer much to the black gay, and trans populations. Totally closeted I hadn’t approached anyone about where Black lesbians hung out.

Heaven was a cultural gem that stayed under the radar.

Creating Community

Folk don’t give too much of a fuck about Black gay folks today. In the late 70s they sure weren’t dealing with the “funny faggot” issue. The Black power era was not inclusive of all its brothers, and embraced even fewer sisters. By 1992, Heaven was a staple for Detroit Black queers, who enjoyed the sanctuary of a “for us” space.

Seeking Safe Space

I was quietly bi-curious and Heaven was a place for me to check things out. Anonymously. I always went alone, with the exception of a couple of times, when I left  a straight house party in search of more music with a str8 friend, who was used to queer crowds.  Her dude was a house dee jay. I doubt if any other of my str8 crew would have accompanied me. I felt like a spy on a queer ass mission.

I Needed Heaven

The music was an aphrodisiac, House does something to me. It’s spiritual. I get high off the rhythm; I ride that bitch, no alcohol needed. Back when Heaven was open, I was still drinking, especially if I was partying. The fact that I’m an alcoholic hadn’t quite kicked in yet. With thirteen years of sobriety I look back on that time and see a lot of places where I was overly confident and sometimes just plain foolish.

This night though, I was full. Not drunk, but still floating from the music and the long island iced tea I’d had earlier. For five dollars you could dance at Heaven from two am till five thirty. Sometimes, the music played longer and daylight was on the horizon when patrons exited the club. I’d decided before heading out that evening that I was going to ask someone to dance. I didn’t’ know the protocol.

No Facebook Live To Capture The Vibe

As I walked in the walls were sweating from the energy in the room. Queens walked around dressed in miniskirts and six-inch stilettos. Others opted for platforms. Faces beat, in all that heat. There was a party going on!  The music was hyped and folk were taking up every inch of space.

As usual there were not many women in the house. By women, I mean lesbians. There were a few but mostly the crowd was gay and trans. This was their spot and I was grateful to be allowed to enter such a sacred space.

I Watched With My Heart

As I took in my surroundings a young male couple hugged in front of me. I guessed them to be in their late teens. They were all over each other, as if the days between meeting at Heaven had depleted them, and this was their opportunity to breathe again. They kissed, as the shorter one pulled the taller one back into him as he leaned into the wall. I watched them feeling all kinds of things.  I noted to myself that there was nothing wrong with feeling that way about another human being. Their passion was intense. I’d heard of people fucking through songs on the low. They weren’t that deep but they were close. He turned his man around and made him claw the wall he’d so eagerly backed into. I was digging it.

Well, Hello!

I looked up and saw “her”.  A couple of inches shorter than me, me she stood about 5’2” and had curly hair. Somebody with Indian blood was close in her family line. Deep dimples dotted her chocolate skin as she smiled chatting with the woman next to her. She was working her jeans and her Guess fitted tee, very nicely.  I didn’t know if they were a couple but I was feeling the music and decided, that I was going to make my move soon. Generally you don’t ask someone to dance at a House spot. Everyone is on their own thing. Dancing alone, partnered, and in groups. But I didn’t know the etiquette rules for bi curious folk.

There was a lot of good feeling going on. Drag Queens on platforms dancing sexy above everyone on the dance floor. The fog machines were pumping as people danced under the many strobe lights.

Heaven Made Me Feel Free

You could literally feel the stress of living black and queer in a pro-hetero, homophobic, community falling off through the hypnotic music. It helped folk deal the constant racism and oppression of a straight thinking community. Layers of bullshit were removed at Heaven on a weekly basis. It was a spot where black queers found acceptance and nothing but love.

Thank you, Ken Collier

DJ Ken Collier brought his musical gifts opening the door for many Detroit House deejays. He inspired and groomed Detroit mix masters both women and men who have made huge names for themselves, with thirty plus years on the tables. Detroit’s “Godfather of House” Collier defined entrepreneurship in the arts for an underground movement that pushed through to become a genre staple for across the world.  Respected until his passing in 1995 for bringing some peace and good time to people who deserved a break, even if, it was only once or twice a week.

Understanding this, I over stood the passion of the two young men slobbing each other down, and feeling each other up as if their lives depended on it. It did. As for me, I got that dance and Dimple’s phone number.  

Copyright 2017 by C Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Over-Reacted’ by Gloria Christie

She had invisible sharpened cat claws that scratched me bloody. I had known her for every moment of her life, and still…I can see her wicked smile every time she hit a vein. Oh, sure, she was the favorite one. The one who wouldn’t eat even as our mother begged, but the one who was adored for her small size as Mom called me that ugly, disgusting word –“big”. The one who got the permanented curls while I got the butchered bangs.

Yes, I was jealous. Of course, how could I not? And she knew it. I can see her inside of my mind, standing in our mother’s shadow. That smile as she watched Mom take anger out on my psyche. That smile as she feigned a headache, and I was handed her chores.

Mom handed out the labels that I squeezed myself into. I was the smart, big one. She was the petite popular one. That meant I had to be the clodhopper hiding in the corners of solitude with saddened eyes, afraid to step out, while she had countless friends and countless good times.

She had invisible sharpened cat claws that left me shredded, even though she was not as smart as me – Mom said. Each claw had a honing instinct that reached deeply into the spot that would hurt the most. Yet, any retribution was forbidden. It was my job to accept the abuse even as it drained my life blood of self.

She got what she wanted or else she took her teenage tantrum self to her car and hit the speedometer, breaking ninety and more. Once, I talked back, and Mom slapped my face. The humiliation stung worse than the pain.

At a time when I was counting out slices of bread at college, paid in full by my years-round job, Mom was buying her a house. I was jealous with the anger than simmered always, its stench unbidden.

Distance has its advantages, yet she reached across my self-imposed crevice and tried to get the federal government to invite me into their cells for punishment of an uncommitted crime, one never even considered. She reached across the canyon of my separation to get a restraining order barring me from our father’s hospital bed. Why? “Because I like to.”

She called my largest contractor repeatedly unbeknownst to me, causing them to pull away from my “unstable” business, which fell into the space between us, crashing on the rocks of her entertainment.

After a surgery, so needed a cane to walk, but refused. They found her lying on the sidewalk unable to rise. A concussion. “Use a cane for stability”, others urged. But no, she did not want to, always did what she wanted, and so she did not.

She fell again. Another concussion and two black eyes. And she fell again, another concussion. This time with convulsions. Another fall, and now there was brain damage.

She lost her short-term memory, but her short-fuse anger remained. Furious with me for imagined slights, “pissed off” and not speaking, which was a normal state of being, the two of us, and one I rather relished. Then, the text.

“I over-reacted.”

Two words, an apology that verged on the miraculous. And then, my world as I defined it in relationship with her shifted. The past tense had a new context, one that felt strange in my mouth. Now, I must feel my way in the darkness of this newness, of the formerly cat clawed person brain damage had shaped into something neoteric.

Copyright 2017 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘An Open Letter On Cinco de Mayo’ by Imani Williams

In 2005, I like many others celebrated Cinco De Mayo in Southwest Detroit. I did the street festival and ate at Armando’s. My feet were burning from wearing new sandals on hard concrete I was full and tired. I called my Cool Cat when I got home. I had no idea it would be the last time I would ever speak with my Daddy. His power was out and he’d called DTE to explain his bill was paid.

Daddy’s words, “I’m sorry for not being much of a conversationalist baby, but I’m having problems with this candle,” will forever ring in my subconscious. The phone line went dead. I called back three times and tried to lie down.

I was restless, something was wrong. I jumped up, grabbed my keys and purse and hit I-75. I made it to Southfield in 15 min. I could see and smell smoke as I drove up the I-696 service drive. Firetrucks and a Channel 2 news van took up the length of the block. I think I almost passed out from fear. After parking behind trucks, I walked up the block as six or seven firemen hoisted Daddy into an ambulance. I followed the ambulance to William Beaumont in Royal Oak, they couldn’t handle his injuries. A few hours later we were at Detroit Receiving. I waited alone for five hours to before I was called up to the burn unit.

Complications from the fire and several surgeries over three weeks took a toll. I knew when I walked into his room in the Burn Unit of Receiving Hospital at the end of May, that he’d taken a turn for the worse. The nurse shared that he was unresponsive when given a shot. I’d gotten to know the staff and this young man knew what he was talking about. The doctor confirmed a stroke and my heart dropped again.

We did hospice at Receiving and Daddy held on a couple more days as not to transition on my birthday. He passed away on June 2, the day after my 41st. I haven’t celebrated Cinco De Mayo since. Southfield Fire Dept. and the staff at William Beaumont and Receiving Hospital Burn Unit, will forever have my gratitude for being empathetic And professional. This year I stand in solidarity with my Mexican Sisters & Brothers by writing this letter. I am not here for laws that criminalize and throw people away for wanting a better life. My Cool Cat was a humanitarian with a big heart. I honor that spirit.

Copyright 2017 by Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

Featured Image Courtesy of the Author

‘Snapshot’ by Gloria Christie

CLICK

Standing beside the blue velvet chair, so smooth under my fingers. So pretty. Music filling the room. Bluegrass. Grandpa playing his mandolin, Daddy playing the violin. Aunt Mary playing the piano. Chording. I don’t know what that means.
The music vibrates through me. My family playing faster and faster. Laughing.
“Turkey In The Straw.”

CLICK

Dust-smelling upholstery. Riding in the back Grandma and Grandpa’s tan coup. Bump. Go. Bump. Go. The tires hitting each seam in the highway.

CLICK

Sitting on Grandma Christie’s lap. On one side of the great round table, so huge it covered the room nearly wall to wall. Cleared after Sunday’s dinner. The dishes done and put away.
“Your necklace is pretty, Grandma.” They are cool beneath my little fingers.
“You can have my pearls when I die.”
“When are you going to die?”
“When you are sixteen.”
She handed me a tiny set of pink kitchen appliances.
”Grandma, you don’t have very good toys.”
“It’s that or nothing.”

CLICK

Grandma on her knees. Me on my knees beside here.
“What are you doing, Grandma?”
“I’m dividing the iris.”
“Why?”
“Because they get too crowded and won’t grow right.”

CLICK

Walking through Grandma’s front yard, past the little hollyhock tree. The smell of cedar.
Stepping down two little steps between the tall bushes blocking the road, blocking the dust.
Grandpa’s big milk can, smelling of fresh milk. Getting the mail.

The first time I stayed over, it was fun.
The second time, Grandma was angry about something.

CLICK

Grandpa always brought us a little surprise. Raisins in a tiny box, most often.
Dinner was blackberry pie from the thorn bushes and melting vanilla ice-cream.

CLICK

Walking out to the barn with Grandpa. He was eating Tums. I couldn’t have any. They are medicine.
Sitting on a stool. Watching him milk the cow. Enjoying him gently tease me.
Asking Grandma why she had so many cracks in her tongue.

CLICK

Watching Grandma Make biscuits, pulling flour from a brown-sugar colored half-gallon jar. Knowing we would cover them with real butter and sweet molasses.
Watching her put away her Fiesta dinnerware. A riot of color.

CLICK

Sitting at Grandma’s makeup dresser. Carefully lifting the glass lid to the powder jar. My mother yelling at me. Grandma saying it was alright.

CLICK

Going up the dark stairs to Aunt Mary’s room at night. Coming back down, saying I was scared. Grandma’s no nonsense, go back upstairs now. I did.

CLICK

Grandma and Grandpa coming over. I begged her to come out and play with me. Daddy saying she didn’t feel good. Her over-riding him and joining me.
Pushing a boundary too far. She takes a little switch off of a tree and switches me. It hurt. I still love her. I knew why she did it.

CLICK

Sitting in the kitchen for breakfast, next to her huge iron wood-burning cooking stove. The eggs are over-easy. I say I can’t eat them. I say my daddy can’t eat them either.
Grandpa said: Think of all the starving children in China.
I did. And decided I didn’t care about the kids over there.

CLICK

Grandpa taking his rifle and going down into the woods to hunt squirrels. He was well into his 70’s.
He said: Don’t watch me clean them, you won’t be able to eat them.
I said: Yes, I will.
I couldn’t.

CLICK

Going up to Grandpa, where he lay on the sofa. Sleeping?
Little kids big whispers to my little sisters, Susan and Mary: Is he asleep?
He opens his eyes.
Grandpa said: I wasn’t asleep. I was just resting my eyes.

CLICK

Going up town with Grandpa. Hitting the rounds of his friends. The grain elevator. The general store. He puts me on the counter and buys me a 7-Up! All of my own. I don’t have to share it!
Entertaining myself with the water-cooled pop machine. A marvel.

CLICK

Grandma’s rose-patterned dresses. Grandpa’s suspenders and hat.

CLICK

Heart attack. I don’t know what that is. I just known I’m sad. I miss him.

CLICK

Feeding Grandma ice-chips. She was dying of something. I don’t know what. Driving six hours home. Aunt Hazel comes running out of her house, crying. Grandma died. She waited for me to come say goodbye.
But I was only seven. She was supposed to live until I was 16.

CLICK

Nothing. A black dark screen. All my child’s memories of them are over…..

Copyright 2016 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Cool In The Summer’ by Gloria Christie

The little boy ate grasshoppers. I watched him closely as he captured the near-flight bug leaps in mid-air, the ease a testament to his practice. Then he looked around to see if we were watching. And we were. He had the goofy look another first-grader recognized as “not-too-bright.” But he grinned, the corner of his smile nearly reaching the ear, one on each side. I could see a haircut done at home by a mother too tired to care the result. Its mud-brown uniform, save from even the smallest light. A cowlick surrounded by sweat beads.

He put the bug into his mouth, a moment of undivided attention. Then he sucked its guts out. Ewwww. He tried for another show, but his audience didn’t care. I watched him wander away, alone, my six-year-old self cold with disgust. About eating bugs and “not being all there.”

I had to visit my cousin’s school that day, just one room living on a square of donated land, not much bigger than the building. One of a thousand like homes to educating the rural masses. I’d rather play. Danny, was just five days younger than me, but that made me the oldest. Forever.

It didn’t matter if I went to school with my cousins. I liked mine the best, though. Danny’s paint curled away like cracked mud. People “took care of ours.” A community blended young to old, not-quite-poor to poorest. Danny’s bored me. I wished I could tell time. Without that secret, endless truly was.

My aunt’s two-tone green sedan pulled up outside the school window. I heard the tires crinkle over the rocks. And out the dirt-streaked window, I could see Aunt Frances and Mom laughing. They always did. The afternoon heat was climbing through the weeds vining up a forgotten trellis, small dust eddies puffed before the car, their windows rolled down. Laughing.

There were five boys in Danny’s family: Milton, Lyle, Billy, Danny, and Rex. Oldest first, youngest last. Lyle could jump up on a horse from behind, just like cowboys in the westerns we watched Saturdays on the black and white TV. I rode with him sometimes. Their house was little, little. Parked on land rich with sandstone formations. Cool places in the summer.

Aunt Francis took care of Grandma Moody who had a wonderful little trailer. But Grandma was sick. She was afraid to go to the hospital, because she said that’s “where people went to die.” Grandma made popcorn balls for us at Christmas, but they weren’t any good, not a real present. She was always crocheting, a new cap and sweater for each new cousin, 26 in all. She smelled of sick.

Danny and I made potted meat sandwiches to go to the sandstones, but his dog was there. And it changed the taste of the food, to one I didn’t want. We didn’t have to take the little kids, because they were too little, and “might get hurt.” I thought they would probably fall into a hole or something, they didn’t “know any better.”

We couldn’t play in the house, because Uncle Clarence worked nights in the creamery in town. Great big skulking boys making no noise. A quiet house. Wrong. I wished Lyle was riding their horses. I don’t know where he was, maybe down by the persimmon tree. They didn’t have a creek like we had, a place to haul pebbles from to the driveway. But they had sandstones, cool in the summer.

Aunt Frances’ boys all drank Pepsi-Cola, in bottles “from the time they were six months old.” But they didn’t have any cavities. I did. They didn’t even have to put half water in theirs.

When Mom honked the horn, we had to run, racing back among the dry grass, beyond spring. “A dry year, this year.” The car inside breathes hot and boring. Just like the last days of the school year. I didn’t want to go back to Danny’s school. I didn’t like it. No place to go where it was cool.

Bugs don’t go to Heaven.

‘The Beat Goes On’ by Gloria Christie

My second-grade teacher asked to borrow my wooden ruler, and I knew someone was destined for pain. That someone was a miniature criminal who could not stay seated in the first-grade row just to my left. He was a beginner. I knew the ropes.

And I was secretly glad he was getting paddled, because for once, it wasn’t me. I got in trouble at home — a lot. (But never at school.)

As I sat in my desk I could hear the thwack, thwack, thwack of his punishment over Miss Stillabauer’s knee.

That little boy came from the poorest family in the school, transient farmers. His sister, named after a desolate city, was a sullen fifth-grader who without a word made me want to turn away. And the oldest daughter, named after one of the characters in The Wizard of Oz, spent her free time combing her chestnut hair. I thought she was beautiful.

My mother had just learned to drive and volunteered to give any child a ride. The day of the boy’s reckoning, she scooped up the whole family in her screaming turquoise Nash and headed down an unfamiliar gravel road. We all sat leaning forward to watch the road peter into dirt.

Without warning sister elder said, “My dad ran over our little brother with his truck. He said it’s our fault, because we weren’t watching him.”

The entire car fell silent. We knew this was a Big Thing. But I had to ask, “Did he die?”

“Oh yes,” she said. I listened to her voice for any emotional markers. But she sounded as she always did.

Now I understand that their feelings were invisible. The little boy beaten with my metal-lined ruler was acting out kinetically. Sister younger was sitting on a rickety stack of undead furies. And sister elder interred her grief on a remote formation built of past torments, already a calcified monolith.

FYI, I’m never going to die. No, really. I’m pretty sure of that now. I have no proof to the contrary. But just to make certain, I celebrate each of my birthdays for a month.
Last week as spring blossomed her way past the cold, three people I knew passed away through that opaque curtain most of us fear.

And I find myself thinking more frequently than usual of my youngest sister, Barbara. She and I shared a bed, because in wood-burning families, it was the warm thing to do. It occurs to me how closely our hearts beat, how comforting that was. When I most miss her, she comes in a dream to remind me of her laughter or her wit or her integrity.
At the inner-city high school where I taught ninth grade, many of my kids lived in unrelenting grief. Occasionally they stepped into the safe space I was to share their sorrows, just as that child of years ago had.

Grief is a heavy weight almost too heavy to move, but we do.

Copyright 2016 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Enigmatic Sparks’ by Gloria Christie

They are enigmatic flashes of light in the night’s heat, sparks of little spirits that lift my heart for some reason.

My first sighting of these natural engines of energy reminds me of the promise of another summer’s hope. So much I attribute to the diminutive, luminescent firefly.

Yet they seem to flourish under the weight of such anticipation. And with each arrival of the evening, I continue to watch for the fireflies to blink into my existence. To lift my spirits and to remind me of other lights in my life.

One of my good friends recalls how her just-older brother used to put a firefly in his mouth, making her laugh at his back-lit blinking teeth. And then as he, too, laughed, he released the little beacon back to the night. A cherished memory that brings her brother back to life for a few moments.

It appears that fireflies take oxygen and transform it into light via their special light organs. That’s how we should power our cars. And rather than appearing randomly, lightning bugs fly in unique patterns called, “optical signals.” But scientists still cannot explain how these light-emitting creatures manage their on-off switch.
Where I grew up just outside of a small town, in firefly-filled nights, the sound of quiet is absolute and calming. At times I could stand beneath a sliver of new moon and hear nothing. Oh, the occasional distant neighbor dog’s lone bark might interrupt the stillness, but that was all.

And integral to that quiet was the liquid dark that flowed from horizon to horizon, adorned with a multitude of stars, soft lights against the true black. No artificial city lights. No honking horns nor fire sirens. No staccato of car beams. No cacophony of dogs. Just silence. Just the quiet. Just peace.

Now homes hum to the tune of our electric meters running ever faster. And it’s not good enough to turn off an appliance; now we have to be rude and unplug them. Of course, that initiates electronic lights flashing for immediate time-change attention and disconnects us from cable and might even cause the silent alarm to go off.

No, even with the TV and radio turned off, we are assaulted with the air-conditioner’s compressor, the refrigerator’s motor and the hum of various semi-sleeping electronic devices. Every time I take out my toaster, I wonder how much energy it will manage to suck down as the toasting bread ticks ever browner.

Apparently in the not-too-distant future, every person will have seven digitized items. OK, that’s a cell phone and a pad, a laptop and a tabletop, a fake book and a… What else could we have? Maybe we’ll carry a miniaturized, personal microwave?

Maybe our cars will be so light and energy-efficient they can fold up and fit in a pocket? Or maybe we will tote around inflatable personal pods to catch a quick nap, necessary after all that digital effort? Or not.
Maybe we will take a little time for the silence. Maybe we can find a moment to sit outside in the summer night’s breeze.

And then the coming of the magical fireflies, as they light our night, can engender reminders of what is really important.

We can remember the other lights in our lives, the other remarkable beings who live in the homes near and not-so-near. When life is dark, we are not alone.

Copyright 2016 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘The Ghost Of An Autumn Long Past’ by Gloria Christie

I dreaded passing anywhere near it. But of course, I must, because it stood between me and my one-room school. It was The Tree That Would Never Die. The dreaded tree was a lone charred guard, a recalcitrant survivor of lightning that stood silent in the center of a field.

My dad tried to burn the deadened tree down – twice. Planting and harvesting hay would have been easier. But The Tree seemed to feed on the fire. And come summer when the field surrounded it with purple alfalfa blossoms, The Tree always shot up sparse green starts.

Other than that, this school thing was panning out. The day before Halloween, I wore a black dress with little witches and ghosts on it to school, one my Aunt Mary had sewn. And on Halloween everyone would dress up in costumes created with clothes on hand and creativity, for we had never heard of ready-made ones.

But first I had to take my little sister down to The Tree That Wouldn’t Die and collect some fungus that grew freely on limbs it cast off. My sister was visiting school with me for Halloween, and we were going to do a special crafts project that involved fungus.

I dreaded going down to The Tree, especially because the day was already fading by the time I got home from school. And twilight had hit by the time we finished and were back at the house. Unfortunately I left my mother’s kitchen scissors at the tree. She made us go back, for surely the melting morning frost would do them no good.

We raced across the field before night claimed us. And just as my hand reached for the scissors, an eerie sound froze us in place. I was so terrified, I couldn’t move – for the first and only time in my life. Paused in place, we were easy prey for The Tree. Suddenly adrenaline kicked in. I grabbed the scissors with one hand and my little sister with the other and we flew home.

The next day in full costume, we bobbed for apples and drank homemade cider. And during crafts, my little sister managed to spill a can of varnish in her hair. I have no idea how we ever got it out.

Halloween night came, and we piled into a hay-filled wagon. It was the night where monsters hid in the shadows and zombies stirred in mausoleums. At each farmhouse we all shouted, “Trick or treat!” And smiling neighbors filled our paper bags with popcorn balls, made-from-scratch cookies and more apples.

It was so cold I could see my breath, but we were bundled warm. And as we headed back to the school, as few magical snowflakes floated down upon our cherry-red cheeks.

These days, I do the haunting. I haunt a store that has returned from the dead this past August. I Love A Mystery, a niche bookstore with blood dripping down its awnings, was starving to death financially. The big box stores have sucked the life out of independently owned stores of all sorts. And E-books have done their damage.

We patrons of I Love A Mystery were grieving her passing after over 11 years of life, cringing as she sold off pieces of herself at fire sale prices. A bookshelf here. An antiquated game of “Clue” there.

Then at the last minute, like The Tree That Wouldn’t Die, the store resuscitated herself with a new business strategy and the support of many dedicated patrons. Just in time for Halloween.

Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Coin Of The Realm’ by Gloria Christie

I could barely wait until Dad stomped outside, his boots soaked with spring’s dew. “Was there one? Did you find one?”

Spring is the time of buds’ promises fulfilled into flowers and for newly-minted baby calves. It was these babies I awaited impatiently. This morning I was rewarded. Yes! Dad found a new baby calf! Our cow, Oogie, had calved during the night.

Each morning Dad walked round the pastures seeking out the calf that had mysteriously relocated itself from inside its mother to our outside world. One of the most heroic events of a lifetime, I understand. The birthing of oneself.

I jumped up and down with delight at the news of the new calf, even though I couldn’t yet go look. You see, people can’t go near a new mother of the bovine persuasion. I had to wait until she was ready to show off her new baby, swaying with a cow’s sizeable grace up the worn path her pristine calf in tow. The baby’s legs worked all cute and wobbly, its pink nose frosted with mother’s milk.

It occurs to me we are in something of a rebirthing process ourselves right now. Each is thrust into this new world where the ground once terra firma moves beneath us. And the world swirls like a movie run too fast. When the earth slows for a moment, we find that some of us are lucky. And some of us are not.

What is going on anyway? Fire-breathing relatives of the dragons in my fairy tales books have awakened. And these Great Dragons of Greed have come to reclaim our gold and much of our certainty. And as they move about, our earth shakes. When they make demands, our world spins.

Before the dragons awoke, mothers were the CEO’s of their homes and fathers went out into the world to earn money. Now sometimes, even two full-time and two part-time incomes come up short. And if everyone is always working, who leads their babies up the pathway and home?

The sly Great Dragons tell us it is quality of time spent with our children, not quantity. But I wonder. What if we respected parenting and home-/hearth-making demands — whoever is responsible — father, mother, grandparent, good friend or some combination of all?

The Dragons of Greed have sucked all the money out of our homes and our 401(k)s, out of our gas tanks and our yearly salary increases. Now jobs can disappear with a slip of pink paper and half an hour’s notice.

Once we speculated about how to spend our free time as the work week shrank from 40 hours to 37 ½. But now productivity is up. We either keep up on the dragon’s treadmill or fall beneath into its gears, only to be replaced by another hungry for any work at all.
So where’s the opportunity?

Well the Great Dragons of Greed are never satiated, because they don’t understand the great satisfaction of other currencies. We enjoy family and friends, beneficence and kindness. Rewards come when we work as a team in a small business or just shop there. Gold is a helping hand or putting hand to pen or paintbrush.

Surprisingly the shaking earth forces us to seek firmer ground, whether that’s in three-generation homes or questioning whether necessities are necessarily that. Will we invest in a real community or feed our dollars to the dragons? We might watch a child’s first steps, assured of spring’s return.

Creation is spring’s gift. And it can become ours. Just as we greet the baby calves of spring, we can recreate our own lives into something far more alive.

Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Words Can Change Our Worlds’ by Gloria Christie

My 7-year-old self walked aimlessly about a yard bereft of trees, neighbors hidden by the distance. I understood that walking could not carry me into my dear Grandma Christie’s arms ever again. But I had nowhere to go, anchored as I was to this ashen earth.

Grandma had gone into the clouds and changed from her rose-covered house dresses into a long white gown. And I gathered from Sunday school that they rode donkeys wherever she had gone. But I doubted that she would prefer that ride over the padded seats in her green Studebaker.

Without warning, a flock of hummingbirds interrupted my thoughts and surrounded me. Magical. A charm of hummingbirds, they are called. And charmed me they did, as well as comforted and delighted me. The charm of birds fully encircled me like angel hair envelops a Christmas tree.

Grandma loved cardinals. Could she have directed the child-sized hummingbirds to comfort me? I wondered. The birds lingered for a few precious moments, then disappeared, leaving me less burdened by my grandmother’s death.

The birds have it right: a congress of crows, a company of parrots, a ballet of swans, a watch of nightingales and a wake of buzzards.

I grew up in the country of eastern Kansas and went to a one-room schoolhouse. For show-and-tell, my parents finally let me take dad’s Japanese rifle, the one he brought home from World War II. I struggled against its weight, but the effort was well worth it. And sure enough, it elicited the anticipated ooh’s and aah’s.

But then Cheryl Moyer opened her big cardboard box. And my Japanese rifle was forgotten, because Cheryl’s box contained the huge dead horned owl her older brother shot hours before. Certainly not part of a charm. No, owls come in wisdoms. We were at once fascinated and fearful.

I have contemplated why we deferred to the power of guns. I grew up around guns. Dad is a natural sharpshooter. On brisk falls days, my mother’s brothers, gun enthusiasts, sought out deer. Today “gun” is an abstract word in an abstract world. “Gun” translates into power, winning and/or skill. In that little schoolhouse, the magnificence of the horned owl, paused in flight, enthralled us. Not its death.

We knew death. Mothers killed chickens and dressed them for dinner. Men butchered big, soft-eyed cattle bound for the freezer.

The kids in my school saw the release of life. We understood the carnage a gun renders upon a body. We recognized the coppery smell of blood and saw the real price of a bullet. The words “death” and “gun” had concrete meaning to us.

I knew a young man who was shot in the face. It was a hunting accident between a classmate’s father and another’s brother. The victim recovered, but the shooter was unable to liberate himself from his terrible guilt.

Today we throw away words as if they were worthless, but each emits a positive or a negative charge: stupid, good job, enemy, thank you, evil and hero.

Words can channel fear into a raging river of hatred. They can engender respect. Or they can change our worlds.

When I was a high school junior, five words strung together did just that. I sat in my vertically alphabetical desk, against a putrid green wall, a color forced upon all past students of a certain age. Mrs. Michaels roamed her English classroom as she often did, but this time she stopped at my desk, bent forward and whispered, “You should write for television,” then continued down the rows of desks.

Those words were like a trolley pulling me toward a platform destination I reached before branching out into other adventures. Thank you, Mrs. Michaels.

Words do matter. Rhetoric has the potential to wound or to heal or to heal wounds.

I had never seen a charm of hummingbirds before my grandmother passed away. Nor since that walk in the yard. But their charm comforted the little child I was. And after all these years, that memory still elicits a smile and a positive healing charge.

Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.