Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters

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Maybe I’ll Turn Into A Skeleton (& Bodies are Absurd)

The first song I ever wrote started with these lyrics:

“Maybe I’ll turn into a skeleton

My guilt can fall out through my bones

Skip my heart, nothing to catch it on the way down”

That was around the time I became obsessed with skeletons.

my cheap mood ring. I think this color means I'm feeling like a pillar of strength via lioness love (but the diagram didn't say that?!)

my cheap mood ring. I think this color means I’m feeling like a pillar of strength via lioness love (but the diagram didn’t say that?!)

You know those tricks people have in nervous social settings, like picturing everyone being naked? Well, my own trick is to picture everyone walking around just as their skeleton.


We all have a skeleton underneath this skin. No matter your skin color, your weight, or your ailments, those bones are there and I feel as though the world would have a lot less problems if we were given the chance to live out life without the messy stuff around the structure of our bodies.

Maybe guilt would even disappear through us… memories too… if the heart wasn’t in the way, pumping all that (now unnecessary) blood.

When I wrote that song, I was going through a period of time where the thought of being only made of bone was appealing. No more tears. No more blemishes. No more pain. No more self-doubt. No more nerve endings, reminding me of the comfort I didn’t have. I could hardly eat and I was losing weight- surely I’d reach skeleton status in due time. 

And though this is a very bleak snapshot of time for me, there is beauty in this, too.

my fridge, featuring: skeletons doing yoga, a skeleton bus, a skull, a beer label, etc.

my fridge, featuring: skeletons doing yoga, a skeleton bus, a skull, a beer label, etc.

Someone very important to me recently said something along the lines of, “Without suffering we wouldn’t grow.”

Someone else also reminded me of the absurdity of life.

And lately I’ve been enamored with the thought: Bodies are so damn absurd. (And maybe suffering is, in fact, the most beautiful and poignant way to become who we are supposed to be.)

They are!!! We’re souls, and we were given a body. We didn’t choose our hair, our eye color, our teeth, our skin quality, our birth marks, our gender. As life goes on we can alter some of these, and some painful things might happen to our bodies. We might acquire attributes we never wanted. We might lose part of our bodies. We might even feel as though the body we were given is a burden; not beautiful at all.

In my own life, I learned that all of these things are okay, and that my body is beautiful. I learned it only because of the time when I wanted nothing to do with any part of myself that wasn’t just a skeleton.

And I can tell you one thing: boy am I glad I didn’t actually disappear. Now, instead of the withering away aspect, I look at the image of a skeleton in a way that gives hope. After all, in the most basic of ways, the last thing we’ll ever be is a skeleton. It’s the most sturdy part of our body. (science experts, even if this isn’t accurate, throw me a poetic bone here!) When I went into my most recent interview for work, I stood up straight and thought of myself as a skeleton… brave and somewhat unbreakable. My twin sister and I have adopted the skeleton theme in our relationship, based on a magnet I used to have with two skeletons holding hands that said, “Till death do us part is for quitters.” In marriage, maybe not. But in true love, absolutely.

and then Meredith did this for halloween.....

and then Meredith did this for halloween…..

and she kept those gloves, like a badass

and she kept those gloves, like a badass

AND TURNS OUT!!!! I’m so happy that I have skin, nerve endings, and even a heart. Somewhere along the line, after the suffering, I remembered my ability to feel and love. I don’t want to lose that. But I do want to remember how I got to this place… and the image of the skeleton is what symbolizes that path.

There’s hope for us yet. There’s the thought that maybe we’ll be held, maybe we’ll be cherished, maybe the f**cked up and absurd things that have happened to our bodies and self-image are okay- part of the journey- and maybe we can hold and cherish someone else. Surprises happen all the time.

this is the background of my phone

this is the background of my phone

And one more thought: I’m sure bodies are bit more fun to cuddle with than skeletons.

Though I’ll always think they’re lovely.


my favorite earrings

my favorite earrings

Lou (the bag o’ bones)

p.s. and here’s a very fitting song: my favorite Dr. Dog ditty.

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A Green Summer

Russell is a dear friend of mine from back home… the desert in New Mexico.

He has captured the landscape of my memories in way that helps me be away from it- every sentence rings true, every word is poignant and representative of where I’m from. Funny enough, what happened to the desert this summer is reminiscent of what’s happened in life.

Good things keep happening – and it’s getting easier to read the warning signs.

A Green Summer

by Russell Pyle

Living in the desert has its obvious challenges, not least of all is the constant search for water.

All living things residing in desert climes face this similar fate; for a creature can exist for quite

some time without food, but water is the stuff of life. It would seem that nothing can survive long

without it. The desert, that ever changing and surprising landscape, holds so many secrets of

survival that nothing is ever as it seems.

New Mexico, like much of the great southwest, depends on monsoon rains during July and

August to buoy yearly rainfall totals. Rainfall throughout the rest of the year is lackluster at best,

and there have been many late spring months where residents of Albuquerque and beyond

have felt the emotional toll that a dry fall and winter can have on a body and mind. Not only do

the rains hold the key for physical life to continue and flourish, they provide a vital service to the

mind and spirit; invigorating, revitalizing.

So it is with great anticipation that the desert awaits its drink. The months of April and May,

casually letting loose the clouds on much of the rest of the country, deny the southwest their

respite from up to 6 months with less than an inch of precipitation. June comes in with a deeply

draining sense of hopelessness, until the last weeks, when a cold breeze begins applying itself

to the west. Then, sometime in early July, late in the afternoon, big bellied clouds roll in off the

volcanoes in the west, catching against the Jemez, Sandia, and Manzano mountains, and piling

up in great towers of darkened cotton. All at once they drop their payload, often for 45 minutes

at a time, then breaking away allowing the sun one last glimpse of the earth before clocking out

from it’s shift. Not to worry, the great cumulus clouds will return tomorrow, and they are

efficiently punctual.

The desert that greets the sun the morning following the first monsoon rains is not the same as

the one from the day before. Small green ground cover begins to appear in what was only one

day ago a great brown ocean, the cholla and prickly pear cacti start showing the faint traces of

flower, and blue gramma and buffalo grasses begin the short journey towards shedding their

seeds and perpetuating their survival. As the days pass with their daily downpours late in the

afternoon, the burnt landscape begins its seasonal transformation. And the desert knows

exactly what it needs: summer rainfall late in the day or overnight is far more beneficial than the

late morning or afternoon. During the peak heat times of the day the rain can evaporate so

quickly that it won’t make a difference if it makes it to the ground, and often won’t make it to the

ground at all. Rain late in the day and at night allows for the rain to hit the desert floor and soak

in, nurturing the soil for as long as it can.

Watching the walls of water spread out in the distance is a captivating experience. As the

thunderheads migrate eastward, great sheets of rain paint the horizon below the clouds different

shades of slate, gray, and charcoal, based upon the intensity of the downpour. These screens

stretch for miles and miles, blanketing the distance but inching ever closer towards the

volcanoes on the edge of Albuquerque where I bear witness to their unfurling. The volcanoes

are the best place in Albuquerque to watch a storm: they provide a complete panorama of the

city edged against the great Sandia Mountains to the east as well as the vast expanse of

nowhere reaching North, South, and West. The city in the valley below sparkles in the twilight as

lights turn on to greet the coming night. Why are you people in your homes? Why are you not

outside to catch some of the life that will soon be spilling out of the skies?

Water hitting hot, dry ground has always produced one of the most aromatherapeutic smells in

the natural, or unnatural world. As a child I remember the smell of the first rain drops hitting the

dark macadam of the city streets where I grew up. A sweet, slightly metallic odor rises as the

water mixes with the oils on the blacktop. The heat causing the cold drops to create small

geysers of steam that dissipate about a foot off the ground, releasing the familiar, long-awaited

smell before soaking the earth and morphing into something a little more sickly-sweet, losing the

metallic layers in the process. I never thought there was a better smell until I experienced the

rain hitting dry dust instead of the tar of industry – sage, rosemary, and desert willow instead

of grass and the old mulch of far-fallen leaves from the previous autumn. Equally earthy, but

much more natural, pure, cleansing. The ground of my youth was polluted by an overabundance

of smells that overwhelmed the olfactory system. In contrast, the desert smells mix menthol and

camphor, clearing the nasal passages and calming frazzled nerves quickly. The air is thick with

a dusty scent in accompaniment as the parched sand and dirt fly into the air with each new

strike of the raindrops.

While this process repeats itself for two weeks every summer, every ten years or so an anomaly

may arise like the cumulonimbus clouds towering the horizon. During this type of year the

monsoons stay not for two weeks, but stretch from the end of June till the middle of August,

enveloping most of the summer in a perpetual forecast of moisture. The year I arrived in the

southwest, 2006, was one such year. This year, 2015, has been another. In fact, the rains began

in the beginning of May and have not quit. Rain has not shown its face every day, but more days

than not have been marked by puddled gutters and wonderfully smelling desert plant life. When

looking west towards the volcanoes a great green country greets the eye, beckoning. Driving

through the region, north through Colorado and west through northern Arizona, the same site is

present. Ten-year water numbers are vastly improving due to the amount of water falling from

the sky. Rivers rise above their banks throughout the area and the Rio Grande, running mere

blocks from my home, and is high and muddy on a consistent basis; a tell-tale sign of extreme

runoff. The desert has changed before my eyes: once a barren, desolate patch, promising a

harsh and unforgiving existence is now a healing factor, stitching the wounds of my year and

applying a needed salve.


The desert is analogous to life in many ways. St. John had his long dark night of the soul, but I

feel like what he was describing is better termed as a long walk through the desert. Periods of

extreme drought followed by an outpouring of growth and beauty. Creatures that have adapted

to the harsh life offered by the desert have one constant instinct: get water, stay alive. Again,

this is analogous to what humans need throughout their lives. There must be a constant search

for that which gives life, that which sustains. When I am parched from these things I dry up and

become emotionally dormant, unable to grow and show the world the beauty that is my true

identity. On the converse, when I find and drink the water of life I flourish and bloom, my

winsome nature becoming apparent not only to the world around me, but also to myself.

Finding the well can be difficult, and from time to time the water dries up, leaving me to search

for a new drought. Fortunate for me there are dowsers as a guide: exercise, connecting with

nature, exploring spirituality. Unfortunate for me, there are also springs that promise to quench

thirst, and seem to do exactly that at first, only to reveal themselves to be a poison. Or they are

actually feeding the side of me that takes away life.

Consider the Cherokee legend of the two wolves: A grandfather explains to his grandchild that

he has two wolves fighting within him. One wolf is malice, anger, shame, and pain. The other is

love, compassion, peace, and contentment. The child asks, “Which will win?” The grandfather

replies, “The one I feed.”

I see that there is water that will feed my beauty, and there is water that will feed my pain. There

aren’t always clear signs hanging from those wells that hold poison, but I have always felt that

there are signs on the wells that give life. So I continue to search through the desert, drinking

greedily when I come to the latter.


A western hike through the volcanoes this week shows the signs of the dry season to come:

gold-brown patches have appeared amongst the green, and the walls of water that once

dominated the sky are no longer. It will be a while before desperation creeps back over these

lands, but it is inevitable. Like the amazing Rose of Jericho, the desert will crawl into its dusty

brown turmoil, looking dead until the next season of monsoons hit, allowing it to bloom for only

another moment.

the site I couldn't believe, taken from the plane

the site I couldn’t believe, taken from the plane


Thanks Russell, for your words.

It’s pretty amazing that your arrival to Albuquerque brought the rain… while my departure did the same, ten years later.

Cheers to the change and growth- and to finding our healing water, always.


Lou (who has the desert in her veins)

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9 Acceptable Love Songs (A Rare Find)

Happy Monday!

Let me just say right off the bat today: I’m not really into love songs. The whole notion is rather foreign right now, but that’s okay.

I thought I’d go ahead and share nine songs that have meant something to me… but that skip all the gooshy drama. They aren’t full of ridiculous promises or praise. They even bring up some interesting dilemmas or doubts.

These songs have found their way to me in different forms. Some were shared with me by others, some I stumbled upon on my own. Thanks to anyone who’s showed me music. It means the world to me. And an extra thanks if it was a gem of a love song.

Here they are. Enjoy! And let me know if you use any of these on your next mixed tape for that special someone. ;)

1. Deer Tick- These Old Shoes

“It was a no-go for this hobo.”

2. John Prine and Iris DeMent- In Spite of Ourselves

“Swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs.”

3. Mason Jennings- Butterfly

“I still have my doubts about you.”

4. Gregory Alan Isakov- She Always Takes It Black

“You’ll love her when it all goes dark, you’ll love her even after that.”

5. Angel Olsen- Hi-Five

“Are you lonely, too? Hi-five.”

6. Shovels and Rope- Boxcar

“Let your pretty mama go up in smoke.”

7. Tom Waits- Long Way Home 

“Watch your back, keep your eyes shut tight.”

8. Over the Rhine- All of it was Music 

“We swung an ax to bruise it.”

9. Dr. Dog- Do the Trick

“I could lay each and every brick.”

Love (song),



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“Challie” – An Ode to Home


By Melinda Wilder

The man who pronounced his name Challie

And bought bread from me-age 18- was there

I saw him in the grocery store

The girl who dated my friend sophomore year

Can’t remember what school she went to

I saw her in the airport

That guy who made my friend cry on a date

And wears ridiculous hats

I saw him at the brewery

Now I head back to a place

Where no one is a memory

(Only of the short term)

Nothing takes me back

But Charlie was the sweetest old man I ever knew



Lou, who sat at the very back of the airplane, and wrote this poem on her journey back (from) home

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RAMBLE (& I Love the Way You Walk Away)

this is up at my sister's house... I filled in the word, she drew the picture. oh, and notice my mom in the top left corner.

this is up at my sister’s house… I filled in the word, she drew the picture. oh, and notice my mom in the top left corner.

It’s the most romantic word I can think of.

RAMBLE: to walk or go from one place to another place without a specific goal, purpose, or direction; to go from one subject to another without any clear purpose or direction

I’m a rambler.


I ramble. Both in life and on this blog. Sometimes I feel that my purpose and direction is hazy (the grey matters) and there are days I wonder what in the world I’m doing. What are all these words adding up to? Where are my steps taking me?

Burnin’ this bridge cause I need the light

For to see my way in the coming night

(Blitzen Trapper, Love the Way You Walk Away)

Then I remember my favorite word and smile because it doesn’t really matter. Having no real direction or purpose at this point in time is working out. I can’t explain why, but it is. I’m happier than ever. Not in that annoying and sort of manic, “I’m so happy, but I have a crazy sadness hidden behind my eyes,” type of happy…. but a calm and content level of enjoyment with my life right now.

Right now I’m in New Mexico. I’m sitting in the house where I grew up. I’m on my dad’s laptop. I’ve taken about one hundred photos of the sky and mountains. I’ve seen all the people I’ve missed. And I’m realizing… right now, I’m not supposed to be living here.

I even said out loud, “I’m going back home [to Wisconsin] on Wednesday.” Which was a surprise, given my little rant on home the other day. It took being back in my hometown to realize that I’m getting used to my new surroundings. I find comfort in what I’ve had around me every day the last five months. And to tell you the truth, I miss my friends in the Midwest. I didn’t realize I had a routine going on. I didn’t realize I could almost always count on seeing such-and-such person at least once every week or so. I love this part of my life. The new is just as important as the “old”… something I didn’t think was possible or realistic.

I took a hike in the foothills during my time here and I thought of one song the whole time:

This song reminds me of one person in particular. Yet, it doesn’t make me cry anymore.

A brand new coat of paint

on this brokedown palace couldn’t compensate

for the things I never really said to make you stay

cause I love the way you walk away

(Blitzen Trapper, Love the Way You Walk Away)

Instead of feeling unwanted with an idea like this, I now feel whole. I feel that watching someone walk away can be downright perfect. I tried for the new coat of paint on my home… aka… sprucing up my old life to make it something that would keep me. No matter what I did, the words to “make me stay” weren’t said. I now realize that the biggest mistake wasn’t the lack of effort there… the biggest mistake was the way I let it weaken my sense of self worth.

And it turns out, walking away was the best thing I ever did for myself.

The best friendships I’ve formed recently have been with those who have walked away from a certain aspect of their life. Everything was turned upside down. It’s these people who I feel connected with and also very free from. We’ve learned and even EARNED a level of solitude that should be respected.

When I listened to the Biltzen Trapper song on my hike, it made me smile, because now the lyrics mean something so different. I think, “Yes, I love the way you walk away, because you don’t need me and I don’t need you. Yet, the moments we do share are unlike any other. And guess what? When I think of you or spend time with you, it’s because I value who you are as an individual. I also know you value me as an individual.”

“All I heard was the stars as they spoke to me

an ancient tongue, speaking loud and true

telling me all the ways that I’m losing you.”

(Blitzen Trapper)

All I’m saying is, I don’t know where I’m going. I’m rambling.

This blog is all over the place… rambling. I even ramble on and on in conversation. Sometimes I hear myself and think, “Just be quiet, Melinda.”

Also, all I’m saying is this:

I appreciate the other ramblers I know. I appreciate when people walk away from me and into their own lives. I appreciate when these people let me do the same thing. I also now appreciate those who let me go, no matter how it was done. Those scars fade. My burning bridge really did help me see where I was going.

Here’s to the journey… the wonderers… the ramblers.



Lou (who just might walk away, but will always come back)

p.s. in true Melinda fashion… here’s a good and depressing song that I absolutely LOVE. Enjoy.