Norma Sept 2015
Placeholders by Norma Schafer
On 09/25/2015 | 1 Comments
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Summer is laziness, no routine. This week I even slept until ten. Most mornings I’m in the rooftop hammock with a coffee cup planted securely in the folds of my belly. I look at the infinite sky, at mountains almost as tall as God. Cornfields freshly planted, thirsty for rain.

What pulls at me is the memory of Maine. I see Facebook photos of a lake camp. Friends, now grandparents nuzzle their little ones, hoist the boat sail, picnic on the shore, bake blueberry pie, laugh, splash, show wide, toothy grins to the camera. I remember the annual vacation to the white clapboard cottage trimmed in forest green sitting on the rock promontory surrounded by water on three sides.  We called it Heaven. I have my regrets.

I am not there now. Someone else is the placeholder. Another who took the name Wife stands in the tiny pine paneled kitchen, leans against the 1946 white porcelain stove, stirs the pot. The pine is warm with age. Think of honey and campfires. Of cool evenings, dramatic skies. Not much changed except the refrigerator, now stainless steel. I know what’s in it: a half-pound bag of White Mountain ground coffee, a loaf of whole grain bread, a quart of two-percent milk, eight eggs (they will have eaten four), white Vermont cheddar cheese, fresh haddock ready to grill, small red-skin potatoes, maybe a six-pack if he’s jumped off the wagon.

They take seats on chrome chairs, cushions covered in cracked faux red leather, pull up to the Formica table on the postage- stamp-sizescreen porch, two feet from water’s edge.  They look into each others’ eyes (his are cornflower blue, intense and yearning), look out over the lake, eat scrambled eggs and toast spread with wild blueberry jam they got the day before at Reny’s, clean up. If they get into the hammock (that I bought in 2002), they will read some, listen to the lap of waves from the wake of passing powerboats, fall asleep in each other’s arms.

(But let me backtrack.) First, they push the two twin beds together, rotate the mattresses to horizontal and convert the space to matrimonial.  Later they will take the canoe to Johanna’s Island, swim in the cold glacier water. Maybe the nipples of her ample breasts (I know what he likes, I was the anomaly) will get hard and they will hurry back to camp, climb into comfort, make love as the sun sets to the west, but only if he injects himself with magic. They will look up and see the shimmer of water (the lilies are denser this year) on the inlet between coast and island, hear the sound of children jumping from the dock bobbing not far from the private beach. Sigh and wonder what’s next.

The inlet they look out on through the bedroom window stretches into the distance. Infinity lives here, too. Pine forest rises along rocky shore. These are protected waters. Come out the other side and the opposing currents converge, push, pull, swirl. It can be turbulent.

It’s almost Labor Day. They will take potluck to the annual beach barbecue. I ready for my journey north into Mexico’s mountains where weavers create cloth on ancient looms, stain yarns with indigo and pecan shells, where silversmiths craft small fishes they string with delicate beads for neck adornment, where abuelas pound corn to prepare tasty memelas slathered with bean paste.


My journey pulls me like some ancient rite of passage. Each step forward reminds me that this marriage is memory, teaching me to keep and let go.  Each day as I write, the sky opens like a journal’s blank page coaxing me to begin, begin again.




Norma Schafer writes and photographs from a small indigenous Oaxaca, Mexico village where she lives most of the year. Her blog, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC, offers commentary, residency arts workshops and a March 2016 Memoir Writing Workshop with Miriam Sagan.  Her home base in the U.S.A. is Graham, North Carolina.

Norma’s work, “In the Eyes of Mother,” can be found in Issue 4: Mothers.



Photo Credit: Derek Hansen at



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