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My collage for the month of February, 2015

One of my guilty pleasures is making collages for a calendar at home that I put together for each month. I was low on blank calendar pages and so Matt went to Kinkos and made copies of my blanks (the ones with a calendar grid that I can number and decorate) and so now I’m set for the coming year. Another thing I like to do is to write collage poetry. I find words and hyphenated phrases at random in magazines or old newspapers, the kinds I have stashed by the woodstove, and make a list on graph paper. Then I write a poem, often without knowing the subject of my poem when I start. Some of them end up becoming collage love poems. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d post a few of my collage love poems, which I typically keep to myself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Sweet Rackety Trapeze

The rarefied leader had a crush
Ǎ la Lloyd Dobler, donning a trench,
Truck farmer with deep disciplines
(But wouldn’t cut his hair.)

Voice falls with dreams of a girl
Who shall go nameless—the very brightness
Of her jaw, jutting out, folded and bent,
Shy and wild in her youth on a lush half-acre.

While holding his breath, half-swallowed
Self-flagellation dripped upon the pressures
Of depth, she characterized azaleas,
Succulents and strange sea shapes.

I know the dichotomy: the scorpion and frog
Hypothetically compatible but tenuous;
Peeling the illusion, seduced and salted
And silly me, always in that sequence.

Let’s say that the writer, busy with real work,
Is quick to volunteer without fuss
A series of secluded failings…
My sweet rackety trapeze

Gripping, if unshaped, what seemed truer:
Daddy’s girl swimming in open water
Made a dive into cold and darkness—
My own exile, a smooth curled fortune.

I have a long history like a mermaid’s tale
Too deep to reach the surface
By my generosity, I might otherwise lose
Sometimes forget the career had legs.

Lonely, that’s not me at all, apologetically
Rugged little netted berry, dressed in lingerie,
I stopped fumbling, feisty tiger lily
With a braided crushing puppy-heart line.

I relaxed and roamed with modern twists
To find a language—it’s the only thing
We have—just let it emerge
Unexpected, a sexy, wounded Cusack

Gave me a kiss in the living room
The pillow ticking sounded like instruments
Size of marbles pooled in schools of creatures
That darted into nooks and crannies.

He was getting dreamy, radiant
Freshly hairy palette that would convince me
Not solely to thrive on tea and cat naps
But honor, the deepest dive.

What I wouldn’t give, to relive it
And be catapulted from the sofa
Stumble forward, almost hitting
Hot woodstove, ricochet and splatter
Into the dog’s bed, bar-to-bar I swing.

LCS

Matt and I went on an adventure yesterday at a nearby tree farm and cut our own Christmas tree. We hiked up the steep hill to the high point of the farm and it was worth the trek in the bitter cold to find the perfect tree. Of course, he wouldn’t wear a coat, and I overheard several people on the trail (everyone else wore parkas, scarves, mittens, hats, ski pants, etc.) exclaiming in shock at the sight of him, “that guy is tough!” “That’s my boyfriend,” I said, “he thinks he’s impervious to the elements.” I dragged the tree hauler up the steep trail following his lead.

When we got to the top, it was worth it. A beautiful expansive view of the tree line on the 15-acre farm. He and I tromped around in the snow for about 20 minutes before we found what we agreed was the “perfect tree.” He cut it with a saw we borrowed from the tree farm. Then he hauled it.

MattHaulsOurTree20141207_145818

Despite both of us freezing our ears off, we had fun and it was kinda romantic being out there in the crisp December air, picking our tree together.

"I carried the saw."

“I carried the saw.”

It was also the first time I strapped a Christmas tree to the top of my Subaru, an adventure in itself. We decorated it last night while sipping eggnog and watching Jim Hensen’s Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas (1977).

Poet’s note: This brings a conclusion to my role in the Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge to raise funds for the literary press. But there is no time limit or deadline on making a donation. If you come across these posts after January 2014, please do consider making a donation to the nonprofit literary press. Readers may also want to see the work of the other poets participating in the challenge on a month-to-month basis. Their work, and more about the project, can be found here.  Thank you all for reading!

A Finger in Every Pie

For months, since July, I keep dreaming of a muscular guy
Who wakes me up talking; I see strong-willed arms wrap,
The kind with sleeves like loosely-rolled maps, ‘round my
Waist. He’s brought a chair (literally, it’s a ladder-back)
He collects furniture and information—a curious mind.

With each segment of the dream, I get an added sense
Of who he is, but not superficially speaking. I can feel
That he radiates warmth like a woodstove, an intense
Drive, deep and unwavering affection; it seems real.
Not one to be pushed around, he’s got presence.

By morning, I remember words exchanged
In my dream (he comes alive one-on-one); for
Example, he talks of how he would rearrange
The world, and he defends opinions with ardor.
I love a good mystery; he’s a problem-solver.

Other people move around us in this recurring dreamscape,
If they get too close, he gets cagey; the familiar—that’s
What he values most: constancy. When we make our escape,
Onto side-paths, if we’re stopped, he’s an artful negotiator,
Adept at fitting in (where I stand out), he loves a debate.

In fact, it seems to me, based on vague interpretations,
This man invests pride in his work, an interruption of his will,
Restless, a veritable expert at smoothing over altercations,
With a mischievous humor, well-developed sense of smell
And easily bruised ego, leonine and loyal in his actions.

In my dreams, I feel whiskers tickle the nape of my neck,
He craves intimacy, calm energy and doesn’t chase me;
Instead, he makes slow, deliberate advances, little checks
To mark his progress; a stubborn streak, natural-born vitality,
What qualities draw me to him—headstrong and passionate.

The dream man is full of contradictions, e.g. deeply
Rooted in his comfortable lair, his instinctual thirst
For safety and all that’s earthy—he learns quickly,
Perseveres; but he’s changeable, easily immersed
In the news of the day, odd people and water.

When I look down to examine his hands, I see the fiery lines
Hard-scrabbled and stable, his love for adventure, the outdoors,
An ability to handle equipment, gear of all kinds, the art of tying
Flies to fine fishing line. His agile fingers lead a sensual tour.
But for all I know, outside of dreams, he’s got a finger in every pie.

                                                                                

                                                                          ~Leah C. Stetson

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The full moon yesterday drove me to tears. It’s the sort of energy that turns me into a wounded animal or cursed character from Greek mythology. Normally, a full moon in Aquarius sends me jumping for unexpected joy, since I was born with a triple blast of the cool, breezy and sometimes hurricane-like gales of Aquarian air.  While I’m “Aquarius Rising,” I’m a watery Pisces (Decan 1), which makes me stormy. Truly, I get most creative during thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. Living in “Thunder Town,” where the radon in the granite and abundance of lakes and ponds attracts frequent thunderstorm activity has helped me to be productive and prolific as a writer, for the most part. (This past year has had its share of dry spells and strange weather.)

The incredibly beneficial Grand Water Trine with Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune in the three water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), with a cosmic “jackpot” moment the week of July 16-19th, was especially golden for those of us born in Decan 1 Pisces with Feb. 23 or 24th birthdays (like mine!), or born in the first few days of Pisces (Feb. 20-25th) more generally. Last week, when I got terribly upsetting news about my poetry manuscript, I thought, “Where’s my cosmic jackpot?” Then I had a wonderful meeting-of-the-minds with a fellow literary nerd, and thought, “Hmmm, perhaps THIS is my cosmic lottery ticket!”  Yet, I was wrong.  Someone yelled “Bingo” prematurely…and we all know that’s a ‘no-no.’ Thus, I had a few epiphanies during this blowhard of a full moon. Ugh.

Summer 2013 is odd in that it has not one but two full moons in Aquarius–one on July 22nd, which dared people (go on, I dare you, see what happens) and the second one on August 20th.  The August full moon is supposed to be aspected with far fewer challenging or oppositional energy for those of us with Aquarian traits (or Pisces, for that matter). I’m hoping for a creative splash of full moon energy to make up for the suck-the-life-out-of-you whirlwind we just had yesterday. Late August could heighten or inspire some cutting-edge ideas.

swimwear19565Fortunately that Grand Water Trine I mentioned has wonderfully magic effects that last into next year, with Jupiter in Cancer (for those of us Pisceans) until July 2014.  This is happy news, especially for my fellow mermaids & mermen looking for a true, soulmate love. But this is just the beginning…we have a whole year of this dreamy Neptunian influence. How lovely! Grab your retro glam swimsuit and pose like a ’60s pin-up girl at the beach. That’s the Pisces way.

If you want a video podcast of your August horoscope, check out Kelly Rosano’s podcast series. I like her. This one’s for Pisces (August 2013). You can find the others at her All Are One Youtube Channel. 

I am glad I don’t suffer bufonophobia, a fear of toads, because a gang of American toads (Bufo americanus)  live under my deck. They come out at night and sit, fat as golfballs, one of them the size of a baseball, in the moonlight. Their posturing reminds me of the T-birds and the Pink Ladies in “Grease” at the drive-in.

Careful not to step on them when I stand in the yard, I let my dog enjoy a few minutes of midnight sounds, smells and shadows, with caution. The toads barely budge if she sniffs their bumpy bodies. She doesn’t like toads, luckily. I’m nervous about taking a step, worried I might squish one, anticipating the inevitable movement—but a toad’s test of wills (or staying power) beats mine every time. 

My imagination takes me back to Wind in the Willows, Toad and Frog, and the Riverbottom Nightmare Gang.  The child in me imagines Toad and Frog riding around in their small motorcar. The ecologist in me wants to set up candid cameras under the deck and film the toads’ daytime activities.  This is their breeding time (March-July), when they emerge from their burrows to eat at night and mate. It is more likely that the underside of my short deck is dull by day and hoppin’ at night. I’ve been kneeling down beside my deck and nervously extending my arms beneath the deck, which is less than a foot height-wise, and very dark, trying to take snapshots with my camera.  No success.  Along patches of my seep, nicknamed “Fern Gully,” I’ve observed toadlets, baby toads, crawling along the muddy wooded floor. They are small, about an inch long in body, not counting legs. What’s amazing to me is that toad eggs can hatch in a matter of days (3-13 days) and the toadlets grow to adulthood in about a month. I’ve become so obsessed with the toads beneath my deck that I’ve felt compelled to write a little poem, a work in progress, below is an excerpt.

Echoed in the cricket sound effect
Chirp of your message on my cell
Toads crawl out from under the deck
Hypnotize females fat as golf balls.
Music producers of Nature’s studio,
they mix melodic tunes, as you do;
stuck close to a crew of black tadpoles
when younger, then tripled in mass,
that dark-throated hunger
and explosive mating instinct
unique to the plight of your kind.

Just got the full poem accepted into an international lit mag and so I’ve taken down the poem in full here.

-LCS

See my Guest Post: It’s Dating Season for Toads on the Familiar Wilderness’ series, In Your Backyard here.

Over the past 5 or so years, I taught a series of classes for nontraditional students. It was a program called “Success in College,”  a three-credit class for a local university, and it offered nontraditional students a chance to build their confidence before going to college. It was fun and rewarding to engage these students in a positive way and later to hear and see “success stories” happen in my other college class, English Composition, which I taught in the fall semester for 4 years at a community college in southern Maine. Both classes were fun to teach.

While teaching the “Success in College” workshop series,  my students took the Myers-Briggs personality questionnaires, and at one point, I joined in taking it. It was really not a surprise to find out I was an ENFP, the “Champion” personality, since I’d taken it in my 20s and was an ENFP then, too, and once in high school during a leadership training workshop experience for teens. (LOFT?) ENFP stands for Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling(based) and Perceptive. Charlotte Bronte was most likely an ENFP, too. She’s one of my favorite authors of all time. (I dressed as Jane Slayre, a vampire-slaying version of Jane Eyre, for Halloween last year. I was very fond of my red slayer boots.) 

The Champion is one of the Idealist personality types. And I’m no stranger to the behaviors of a Champion! My mother and step-dad are both ENFPs, like me, so I have seen and experienced the exciting drama, the high energy, the vivacious spilling-over-the-top sensation that is everything that interests a Champion. Like my mother, I write. I speak. I teach. I aim to inspire, to engage, to empower others. I love to improve things, to protect them, to champion a cause (or two, or three or four.) And I put my whole self into a cause as if my very life depended on it. This applies to my job (writing about protecting wetlands), my family and friends, my personal writing projects and even raising a rescue dog. (And my dog is definitely an extrovert. No assessment necessary. The vet said my pointer-dachshund is a “nanny” personality type, which means she likes to play nanny, to raise things, even weird things, like acorns and rinsed-out tuna cans, in her doggie bed.)

Sophie-Bea in her former modeling days

When I was asked to go to some employee training workshops to improve myself, I thought that was cool  since I’ve taught this kind of workshop myself, and attended them before for other jobs in the past.  Some people think these kinds of seminars are boring but I like them.  Topics like “dealing with stress at work,” which is different for everyone and for me (ENFP) is described like this:

“The Champion is usually a bundle of energy, but they can become exhausted if they are overloaded with work. They also will experience stress if their values and principles are violated and they see others in the company being hurt by policies that kill the human spirit. Then they become hypersensitive to what is going on around them. To regain their equilibrium, meditation will help (or in my case, swimming!) Kindness and support by others, but not patronization, will help them get back to normal.” – according to the Keirsey personality philosophy. I’m certainly a passionate type, so whatever I do at work, it’s not exactly subdued. It is especially interesting for me, as an extrovert, to work with a lot of introverts. My boss, all of my co-workers, are all introverts. So I’m sure sometimes they think I sound like a martian, when I’m just communicating in an extroverted way, and they receive information in an introverted way. There is something to that!

On a personal note, this insight into women in relationships based on personality type, e.g. Champion – for me, it’s right on the nose. Check out the sections on dating and mating based on your Myers-Briggs personality, regardless of your personality type. If you don’t know what your Myers-Briggs personality type is, I think there’s a way to find out on the same website. It’s certainly helpful to understand about yourself in a working environment and for those looking for a new job or figuring out what they want to do for a career after college.

Every now and then I catch a NATURE special featuring the weird mating rituals of some animal, like the koala in “Cracking the Koala Code” or mountain lions or prairie voles. I’ve already written plenty (far too much) about prairie voles, and that whole chemistry topic is nothing new. What I’m interested in is this topic of “dating down” that I keep seeing in blogs, or *gasp* crappy dating advice from over-eager dating coaches, who even encourage this twirpy and negative spin on dating. We all know what “dating down” means…in the usual context, it makes me think of some line from “Dirty Dancing” when the arrogant waiter tells Baby it’s okay if she’s “slummin’ it. We all do that sometimes, Baby.” (She was in love, dammit! And Johnny Castle aka Patrick Swayze was a stand-up guy.)

Osprey at Wolf’s Neck Farm. Terry Chick photo.

But I got thinking of another way to read the “dating down” concept:  what if it’s down to the bones of the dating rituals, or more accurately, the mating rituals. What it’s really about is dating down to the animal within us. When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was part fish and part otter, full of fur and snout and salt water. (My mother affectionately referred to me as her little raccoon, or otter, because I washed my seafood before eating it.) My dad’s a Grizzly Adams-Dirty Harry cross, and in my dreams, he sometimes appeared beside a bear, or AS a bear himself. I realized I was raised by some kind of bear-man, who identified himself as a lone wolf, and now I see him as part-wolf, part-bear, and still part Dirty Harry. My mother always said that the osprey was her totem animal, and she was always a bird-mom, in the best and worst possible ways, feeding us hors d’oeuvres and making nests for us, wherever we moved, which was often, circling in the same general territory, never straying too far from the Sheepscot River in midcoast Maine.  Our family land, now a Chewonki Preserve, has had an eagle’s nest for many years, along with osprey nests, and I grew up with a strong sense of responsibility in protecting our heritage and the wild things that depended on our land ethic.

One day when I was a teen-ager, a mountain lion showed up in our backyard, close to the Sheepscot River. I made sure that my cat was inside the house and together, my cat and I watched the mountain lion creep over the stone wall terraces like a duchess descending a grand staircase. She was well-camouflaged against a meadow of lilies, a strong tawny blonde, and purposeful in her movements. I never forgot her. Over the years, I have grown to accept that I transformed, at puberty, from part-otter part-fish girl into a part-otter part-mountain-lioness and as daughter of an osprey-woman and a wolf-man, I have those animal traits, too. (If you’ve seen “LadyHawke,” then you can picture what I’m talking about.) I am protective and territorial of the land that I nurture and call home; I move through each day with purpose but I don’t show off, surrounded by the lakes and natural beauty. Yet I am still playful and never lose my sense of wonder, or love for the water.  

A female mountain lioness stakes out her territory, and then allows some males to approach. Most of the males are chased away, mauled and intimidated into submission, but a couple will remain, to tough it out. They compete for her affections, but it’s really more about chemistry—as she picks the mate no matter who wins the battle for dominance between the toms. It’s up to her, ultimately. Then after she mates with the tom, he’s allowed to stick around. This is a pretty big deal since mountain lions are not like lions in Africa—with a whole pride. And dare I mention kinky otter sex? That’s probably better left up to the imagination. Otter sex is not for the faint-of-heart, lemme tell you. Only Scorpios could really even imagine going there as it’s worse than shark BDSM. Ask a marine biologist. I’m not at liberty to say.

So what’s the take-away from this post? Date down, you might be disappointed. Date down to the animal, you might find the right mate, someone who echoes your instincts and brand of wildness. Or you might get mauled.

My bank, Key Bank, has a giant red poster hanging in the lobby that suggests it’s time for me to schedule a “Relationship Review.” I thought this was a special running in consideration of Valentine’s day, but alas, it is simply an annual service.  A few months ago, I was in there to make a deposit, and the teller said I absolutely had to meet the investment bank manager guy, who was there once a week–and yes, I looked fine, and oh, yeah, he’s single. So I met him. We flirted. We exchanged business cards. We hardly talked financial business, so I was not sure if he was hoping for a date…or a client. Later I looked at his business card and saw that his number was 1-888-KISS-2YOU, and I thought, huh, I wonder if their marketing department meant to have their Key Bank Investment Services branch contact number sound like a romance hot line. He was nice looking and he had a lot of gadgets. I told him that I had a busy schedule but didn’t have a blackberry or a watch–I just flew by the seat of my pants.  He seemed impressed, or desperate to save me, since he tripped over a chair to shake my hand. And I didn’t call him. But I remembered the phone number, and the flirting, when I saw the poster about the “Relationship Review.” I ducked into the office of the branch manager and asked her if this Relationship Review thing would improve my love life? She laughed. She said, “I’m not laughing at you, Leah, but you’re right, it does sound like that would be a benefit, one would hope!” According to Key Bank, they have “Relationship Managers” who conduct annual “Relationship Reviews” with their focused clients. Not every client, not the distracted ones who go about their life willy nilly, but the focused ones. Apparently a “Relationship Review” assesses the level of risk and how involved a bank customer really wants to be with her bank (and vice verse). If you’re looking to have a good relationship, based on Key Bank’s standards, you’ve gotta be focused. Distracted is a deal-breaker.

Let’s pretend that my “bank” is my “boyfriend,” and so I’ll call him my “bankfriend.” My bankfriend doesn’t want to be involved with a girl who launders her money, bounces checks or has bad credit.  That’s okay by me as I’m a goody-goody.  A couple of years ago, I bought my house–in part thanks to my good credit score, after I went through my credit report and corrected errors. (It took time and effort.) My bankfriend wants me to be responsible and thrifty, but also to treat myself well, like during my birthday week. I have been in a committed relationship with my bankfriend since 2006, when I started my current job, and so I’m no stranger to commitment. I don’t use the drive-thru window; I go inside the bank to make deposits, chatting up the tellers and sharing a secret now and then. (Key Bank tellers like the “kiss-and-tell” kind of customer, and perhaps that’s why their number is 1-888-KISS-2YOU.) As my bankfriend will tell you, I don’t have intimacy problems.  Whenever I go see my bankfriend, it seems that everyone is happy to see me, and they say my name with conviction and a promise…almost like a lover. It establishes a connection, this little weekly ritual with my bankfriend.  I look forward to seeing my bankfriend each week, and building on a common desire to grow my little savings account. We speak candidly and I am open about my passions–my love for my environmental writing job and nostalgia for Acadia, an adventurous past, and my new-found joy in raising a rescue dog. My bankfriend knows I’m a passionate individual–driven by my desire to protect wetlands and to write about the wet world. In short, I’m focused. Though, I’ll admit I get side-tracked with the occasional blog post about relationship reviews.

Today I won a shark trivia contest over Twitter. The prompt was, “Name a shark species that is directly threatened by climate change.” I made a case for the bull shark, which depends on coastal estuaries, rivers, mangroves, freshwater wetlands to nurse their young. Rivers and coastal wetlands are disappearing, in part due to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. I won the trivia contest with my answer. It got me thinking about other endangered species…and their impediments to survival. For example, there is this article about the gray wolf ‘Single white male wolf seeks companionship. Must love the outdoors.” (For article, click here.)

If I were an endangered species, I might be the rare sawfish. Why? Oh, indulge me. 🙂 The sawfish live in saltwater and freshwater habitats–freely swimming from one to the next and back again. Its versatility is part of what makes it so unique, and I do love to swim in both freshwater and saltwater. The shark-like smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), for example, which can go into freshwater, as well as shallow waters of bays and estuaries in the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean, is technically a ray. (For more about this, see my past Strange Wetlands blog about Sharks in Wetlands.) Listed as an endangered species, the smalltooth sawfish has become extirpated because of changes to coastal environments—namely losses of wetlands, such as the Everglades. While I’m not from the Everglades, I was conceived in Florida…so who’s to say that I don’t have that in common with young sawfish nursed by their parents in the freshwater swamps of the Everglades? I did grow up on the coast of Maine, swimming in shallow coastal estuaries of the Sheepscot River, in similar habitats as preferred by sawfish. I have a prominent nose (it’s genetic) & strong sense of smell as shared by sharks & rays, and I don’t have the best eyesight, same as for the sawfish, who likes muddy waters. (In high school, one of my favorite perfumes was called “Ocean,” and friends thought it smelled like low tide mudflats.) Sawfish and I both like to eat crustaceans, especially lobster!

Little is known about the courtship behaviors of sawfish except that they seem to couple up once every two years. (This is somewhat true of me, too.) Despite their unusual appearance, they don’t attack people; sawfish put up a fight once hooked (by a fisherman) and this is probably true of me, too, to some degree. Take this with a drop of saltwater. Allow me to cut to the chase: I’m no sawfish but I do feel like a rare creature most of the time, swimming around, looking for a mate, someone who shares my versatile interests in different environments from the sea to the lakes & rivers, someone who’s capable of swimming upstream, against the current, against the odds, to find me. Single female rare lake-dwelling ocean-dipping sawfish seeks companionship. Must love to swim.

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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