The Hippie Girlfriend

She’d always ask him to tell her a story, and he could only come up with one. Her. At first, it would be endearing, how they could stroll and feel each other’s skin graze upon one another, the light air, a spring morning. It didn’t matter when, maybe him sitting at the counter with a fresh cup of coffee, she might walk behind and let her fingertips play with the hair of his ponytail while she found her chair across from him – both carrying morning smiles. The room could gradually fill with laughter as the two shared stories with each other, how remarkable it might be that ‘we are both sitting here right now’ and our lives have traveled so many different directions until this meeting. She might point to his eyes and he would speak to her braids, hers being a part of her life he could remember going back many many years, and as lovely as ever today. He could look into her eyes and think to himself there really is nothing more in my life than I need right now than this moment itself. And he would be afraid to tell her that for fear she might run away. She might reveal the same to him later on that ‘if you knew what I was thinking’ you would run away so quickly. They would smile at each other again and think just how lovely this moment could be, let’s hang onto it forever.

Both would then take a moment to pause and imagine time, look into one another’s eyes for a moment and realize so many decades had gone by, how blessed may we be to see such light in each other’s eyes … effortless, only spontaneity.

Theirs is a happy reunion, decades later when it seemed the planets had aligned in such a way to allow their lives to intermingle in a manner profound, that each day would be spent talking about how magical these times are, and how such a quiz upon our lives seems so confusing, yet simple. The coffee would be shared through the morning, and she would teach him how to cook again, and they would laugh at how easy the process was for both him to put together a meal and her to understand that someone might care for her, and she might care for someone as well.

He would go upstairs to ready himself for a morning walk and brushing past her room notice a sundress hanging in her bedroom, thinking only to himself, I don’t know if anyone could ever look so lovely as she will the day he might be graced with her presence in some outdoor venue in the week’s ahead. He would tell her that story, and then she would return with one of him standing in her doorway with a book bag and strap around his shoulder waiting for her to open the door. Utterances that came out of their mouths were words like charming, and elegant, and real, and now.

They took that first walk together in the snow at a familiar childhood island, where trails of walkers well established took them around the perimeter of the water. She broke the trail for a moment to show him some cut up wood whose faces of circled slice looked like turkeys with their rings and ruffled edges. He thought for a moment whether he should just agree, but then upon further glance he realized she was right, and the markings were a perfect playground for a thanksgiving treat. This walk seemed to hold a special promise having brought two lives together whom hadn’t known one another’s paths for years, yet could remember a name, a time, a memory like it was yesterday. By the time they reached the car, the crisp air of a late winter morning frosting cheeks, he thought to himself, and he wondered. They had been together now for less then a day, and he was about to say good-bye. (Should I kiss her? Should I ask her for a kiss?) His mind was running fast, and he felt like a teenager. He smiled and held her close, and she didn’t resist. He asked if he could and she said yes. That morning, in the parking lot of a childhood memory, the two young lovers embraced and shared a kiss, one that would send shivers through them both not just in that moment, but in decades of time that had been lost with one another and now found again.

We all wish to believe stories like this will go on and time allows chapters to be added, moments to be reminded, and new memories to be created. Thus will begin a retelling of a lovely chapter in the life of ‘the hippie girlfriend.’

© Thom Amundsen – prologue – 5/2021

This Sunday Morning

We are starting to contemplate what it is we have done this year, one so very unique to our world, our lives, our state of mind. I think we all began the year in much the same way, dealing only with our personal needs and always aware of the world around us. Some of us championed resolutions, a few of us cleaned out chapters of our lives, and many woke up and believed it was just another day in succession of many. Why wouldn’t each of those directions make complete sense as we imagine our day today.

It is Sunday, a day that at the start of the year I had begun returning to Mass after many decades of sporadic holiday attendance, I was liking the opportunity and its meditative balance on my life. Then a few weeks later, I was not. I was not alone. This time it wasn’t because of lack of interest, none of us could. On top of everything else in our lives, we were now asked, suggested, mandated to isolate ourselves for the safety of others. I remember in the early weeks of shelter at home, I would run off to the grocery store, a limited activity, and as the sun was setting in the west, I would look at the horizon and imagine zombies beginning to line the hills. Everything was so quiet, no one except for people like me getting groceries or essentials milled about. The moment was eery and unsettling.

Eight months later, I have become a rather good cook. I seldom would make meals in years past, except for the occasional breakfast, or an intriguing recipe, or holiday foods. In the last year though, I used to want to emphasize I hadn’t gone out to eat for weeks, turned into months. But then I had to come to terms with the fact that no one had. When I get out of rehearsals for high school theater, I would often stop for a bite to eat. Now those little moments were part of my grocery run. I’ll call it a win, because the food is better and the advantage is a healthier body.

This summer I needed to go outside. Thankfully we have the woods, the hiking trails and just the open country for walks and bicycle rides. I remember thinking in the early days of Covid19 what if someone a quarter of mile in front of me sneezed while I was bicycling into a head wind? That really went through my mind, much like taking my dog to the dog park and worrying about other people wanting to pet him, and thereby bringing their germs into my home. Nobody knew, some of us cared, some thought it was and still do believe it a hoax. I’ve seen the numbers of people who have died, not by choice. I have been a believer from the beginning.

Our lives are all unique and yet we live them quite similarly to one another. We need a good sleep, a warm meal, a favorite book or piece of music, a companion nearby. All of this sounds rather normal right? The thing to recognize is there are many that do not have all or any of the opportunities or lifestyle habits I just mentioned. There are people who are alone and haven’t sometimes the strength to endure this rather unprecedented and certainly sad and frightening time in our lives. This is a time of year when often we are suggested to raise our awareness of those less fortunate than ourselves. Now more than ever.

We do come upon that time of year in America where we will celebrate the holiday, the essence of family being together to share the love we all have created in our lives. Many question our ability to have feast in that manner of tradition and we find ourselves quietly confused, making different plans. We do come upon that time of year in the world where we celebrate the truth of universal love in however manner our cultural strengths bring us together. What is important is we do remain focused on what will alleviate some of the anxiety and disorientating nature of this temporary period of our lives. Acts of kindness and a simple element exist.

There really isn’t anything traditional about this year moving into the holidays except for perhaps one common denominator: Love. We all know kindness and the smile it puts on our face, the safe remedy an emotion provides our need to feel.

This is a Sunday morning, and I am in my comfortable chair with a favorite music playing, my dog wandering about checking on me thinking of his next walk in the coming hour. I’m sipping my coffee and looking forward to watching a ball game this afternoon. Tonight I will plan the week ahead. Life remains normal as long as we can allow ourselves to realize there is goodness during this temporary period of our lives. Though we must be conscious of the reality being we are not alone, all of us in our circumstance hold an energy lets us know we are together miles away or nearby.

When we can, as long as we are able, reach out, for there is something substantial being passed upon one another than simply memory not realized. We all exist together, kindness and love being symbolic of that grateful nature of our humanity. We can this year celebrate with an even stronger recognition than during a normalcy we haven’t known yet taken for granted for quite some time.

Love. Be Kind.


© Thom Amundsen  11/2020

My Dear Friend, Our Inspiration

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Coffee with Antonio Elias

Ah summertime. It is true. Many times in our lives, as a teacher, we would like to retreat toward that which would make life easier. Perhaps we choose to fall into a string of Netflix series, or our favorite crime show rather than take care of the busy work of maintaining our home, both the physical and mental. I’m guilty of that as I find myself in mid-summer, recognizing only too soon a school year ahead, whereby my focus will be on new students, new projects, new ideals. I feel fortunate that I have moments of clarity that are provided in my world to allow such priority to return.

Not a day ago, I was imagining the coming year, and felt great trepidation, a sometime normal response from a teacher sitting on their deck on a hot summer day watching the birds. The sun finally dropped, and I moved from the natural habitat of a backyard to my home, and turned on a baseball game, watched a Netflix series, flipped on my favorite crime show. Are you following the pattern? The reality is, I was actively trying to ignore the coming school year, knocking at my door as it does every summer right around the end of July. Today is July 27th, such perfect timing to have a coffee with one of my favorite alumni. That young man on my left is a former student who by his own actions  truly helps me and many of my colleagues recognize exactly why we chose our profession as teachers.

Since graduating high school in 2013, I have been fortunate to enjoy a coffee with Antonio at least once, maybe twice a summer. To give you a little background, this gentlemen was an exceptional student in the classroom, earning a modest scholarship to help solidify the start of his post-secondary education. Once out there, he realized a world existed that he needed to adjust to rather than let it mold him. He made difficult choices, took on wonderful challenges and today finds himself reaping the rewards of genuine effort and perseverance in ideal and dream.

When I first met Antonio he was a student in a writing class I had the honor to teach. We over the course of the semester became friends, he shared pieces of his life that were remarkable to me given the current state of our political demographic. I showed a movie in class once, and he later came up to me afterward, and in his polite demeanor, looked at me with a nervous smile and said, ‘Mr Amundsen, this movie, it is about my life.’ I was stunned. What began from that day was an opportunity.

I am grateful this young man was the product of a burgeoning English Learning program at Shakopee High School, whereby he would touch the lives of many over the years to come. I could not speak upon his merits without lauding such an incredible EL team that guided his education along with many other students under their tutelage the entire way.

Fast forward to today, a young man who has given graduation speeches both in our high school, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, taken on non-profit projects that have only been met with success to together with a partner starting a challenging Spanish language only podcast that supported honest discussions around social justice and education. Currently he holds a position with the largest school district in Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools,  that continues to support growth and success in measures that are designed to provide educational and societal benefit to student and family alike.

When I first met Antonio, his main goal was to finish his education so that he could provide for his own family. He wanted to be that person to right the wrongs, or simply engage people’s lives in a positive direction. As we drank coffee today, it was evident in his smile and candor that that work in progress continues forward, as does his own idyllic outlook on life. What a delightful annual conversation with an intriguing and optimistic young man. I continue to be grateful to his willingness to share his life choices, and have an ongoing dialogue together around purpose and philosophy.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

photo permission – Antonio Elias

Looking The Part

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Wonder the curling fingertips,

the adamant task

drawing locks

security

in the presence of life.

 

Check austere provisions,

a smooth swiff,

filling jars,

a man pacing the room,

always in a wonder of how.

 

A picture of human interaction

“I’m going solo”

spoke a gentleman java guide,

off to the focal point

where lives intermingle alone.

 

Yet, interaction, a game,

or is it truth

that sets aside

an intellect

beyond the comfort zone.

 

The breeze outside

wafting wide open screen,

leaves, dance in

unison

the humanity of life.

 

Would one wonder,

if the hand swiping a sallow

brow

similar to their own,

a night before when alone.

 

A line of laptops

give quiet indication

we have all been here

before,

in certain wander we atone.

 

Sweet is the humanity

of discrete passion

for the moment,

the privacy

yet Vicinity wills love.

Sights in a Small Town Cafe

Java Moose

java moose in grand marais

I watched the lines continue to grow,

all wanting, waiting, wishing,

yet I never knew the latter,

especially by expression,

I only managed to maybe gather,

their reasons to be seemed rather

the same as mine and yours.

 

Not your typical cafe I might add,

the people wanting much more,

than the usual scenario

-to see and be seen-

to more be understood,

to be in line with a certain

pleasure,

beyond the usual fare.

 

In a north-wood cafe,

the goal is not to stay,

yet it seems the rains have made it that way,

so the lines have increased,

though the attitude remain the same,

we are all part of this universe,

and today is just another day.

Coffee, Please

Coffee Shop

summer brew smells and delights for everyone to taste

we all arrived at different times all wanting the same ideal

perhaps a latte, summer cooler, smoothie, I will preference

a hot black coffee

please

we are your neighbor, business woman, lunch breaker, visitor,

we will talk about  a lot of the same things all day long

everyone repeating themselves, imagining their unique

take on virtual reality, that world we all stroll through

brought to attention with the sweet aroma

of dark roast, medium brew, chocolate, or perhaps

DECAF!

(seems almost sacrilegious)

little does it matter though once the dialogue begins,

once the wardrobes arrive,

once all of the interactions teeming to notice one another

settle into the comfy chairs and the hardback postures.

I like to imagine people’s lives while sipping my coffee

black

no cream please, leave the sugar out, I think it is a healthy dose

of fresh-brewed

obsidian.

always please remember

to tip the barrister.

Finding Peace

dunn

dunn brothers coffee

Polar opposites,

same wavelength,

parallel universe

finding an excuse.

~

Want to recognize

people have habits

means little to me

so why bother them.

~

On the street corner

he stood resolute

looking only ahead

alone we might exist.

~

I studied biology

felt dissected again

when all of the I’s

came out to play.

~

If we use rhythm

carve out a path

for God’s sake

please stop the lie.

~

The electoral poll

is a stateside secret

on the planet round

a laughter prevails.

~

I’m sitting down

mind travel sky

physicality static

remains the same.

~

travel for miles

search for vacancy

when will YOU truly

make an appearance.

~

This energy begins

a routine exam

forever again,

a new search within.

Crowd Noise

painting by Debra Hurd

painting by Debra Hurd

While saxophone serenade melody,

glance across the room, and the world is alive,

with activity, purpose, longevity,

we all seem to want a similar drive,

waiting for the sunset,

while just realizing the crisp morning of a summer day,

we are living without any regret,

sharing our lives together with coffee and a gentle sway.

The rhapsody of that surreal breeze,

listen, can you hear the emotion of that chord,

the fingertips strum soft the lines,

that music, that interlude, such a marvelous journey.

While the noise of an active hustle creates

a steady rhythm of ‘hello who am I’

the eyes wander the room,

we all have our lives,

if only together, we might sing the words,

that suggest universally we can play the saxophone –

we might listen while the jazz plays our song.

Sunday Morning Ambience

Coffee nearby,

always seems a staple,

how we begin a new

state of mind.

We could recognize ourselves

as just part of the game,

yet,

there seem to be so many games afloat.

How do we choose,

the path,

when Frost spoke of least resistance,

how do we now return to his wall,

to decide just why we did

venture upon that side of the story,

argument, debate, cathartic

uprising in the mind.

Sit alone among the same,

sipping coffee,

a little tease of Guatemala,

here in my hometown,

where I can pretend,

by the click of simple keys,

I am going to take on a personal sojourn,

today is only one of many,

Sunday morning ambience,

leaves my soul with choice,

passion, desire, wants,

I want this today,

just let me figure it out on my own,

relax, sip, glance,

a sweet smile inside remains pensive,

those around need not know.