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Archive for July, 2013

May my silences become more accurate. (Theodore Roethke, poet (1908-1963)

My husband leads me along a winding, unmarked road in the cemetery—I trust him to direct us out again. There were color-coded lines along the middle before the roads were freshly oiled. Now, I depend upon Jay’s sense of direction. For me north, south, east, and west could just as easily be called here, there, nowhere, and the dark side of the moon.

“How do you know which way is north. . . or west?”

He shrugs, smiles, and looks ahead. His map is innate. Perhaps he understands his place on the globe the way I intuit a new recipe.

We celebrate an unusually cool breeze at the end of July and read the names on the tombstones. I see my maiden surname. I don’t know if these people were related to me or not. The lush rolling hills are covered with angelic shapes, traditional tombs, and huge monuments chosen to stand out, to hover over the others. Yet, we don’t stop to honor the grand and the glorious. The persons buried there are just as dead as the ones under the flat, almost lost markers in center plots: mother, father, or beloved son gone too soon. I consider those lives. Who were they? Who am I to those I meet?

Wasps abound in the grass. They hover over the dates on the tombstones: born this date, died another. Real life includes plenty of unavoidable stings. I just don’t want to be the one who wields thoughtless ones during anyone’s “dash” time on this planet.

I take Jay’s hand. I’m not wearing a watch. My at-home agenda will wait as the silence absorbs me, and we trudge up a gravel hill into the afternoon sun.

listen to your heart

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Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. (Oprah Winfrey)

Water is a symbol for the unconscious. I may not be in a deep sleep, approaching a great sea, but the Y pool brings its own unexpected gifts. I find myself drawn to people who tell me stories, or share wisdom. Some of the facts in the next paragraph have been altered—for the sake of anonymity. The purpose of this sharing is for enrichment, not gossip.

Two women always smile when I arrive. They live generosity. The father of one of the women is being forced to move to a nursing facility. He is neither ill nor feeble. She stands with him, not with the convenience of other family members. I listen, blessed. The other woman cares for her brother-in-law who has a debilitating illness. This does not keep her from volunteer work among other disabled people. The gentle spirits of these women blend into the pool water, mix with the chlorine somehow, and make me richer.

On another day I bring my granddaughters to the indoor swim lanes. Rebe pauses at the shallow end and picks up a water weight. Her imagination continues on land or in water. She pretends to be an instructor, directing me, her make-believe daughter.

“These are really heavy,” she says. “So be careful.”

“How much do they weigh?” I grin knowing that she has no idea how much is too much.

“To infinity and beyond,” she answers with make-believe authority.

“Such a goal,” I think. A few minutes ago I encouraged my girls to go for their dreams. Actually I have no idea where my five-year-old granddaughter gets her ideas. But in the water today, her eyes tell me she is happy. This is female-bonding day: Grandma, Kate, and Rebe. We have plenty of time left before Mommy and Daddy arrive to bring the girls home.

Nine-year-old Kate continues to swim laps, grateful that there are no adult-swim-time interruptions in the indoor lanes.

And the water responds with caresses as gentle as the strokes we create. I celebrate the sweetness of this “now.”

Sure, life on life’s terms continues. This time in the pool is only a respite. I can only pray for my friends who face injustice. A raging thunderstorm makes the drive home slow, as I calm a frightened kindergartener by telling her to count after she sees lightening. If the boom takes a while, the strike is far away. If the thunder comes quickly it has already passed by—and it hasn’t hit us.

“Okay, girls, hit the garage door opener!” I call as we arrive home.

They don’t need to be asked twice.

The troublesome storm continues a little while longer. But the sun has never left. It returns like a good parent.

sail boat

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Every human being’s essential nature is perfect and faultless, but after years of immersion in the world we easily forget our roots and take on a counterfeit nature. (Lao-Tzu, philosopher 6th century BCE) 

A fellow writer and very successful blogger avoids the word, thing, as if it belonged in the bottom of the pit of grammatical horrors. He’s right; ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time another word gives a better description. That doesn’t stop me from saying, “I’m not that interested in “things.” Most people understand what I mean. My second-hand furniture and ’97 Toyota with enough dents to belong in a demolition derby, are adequate for my needs. I don’t require designer clothing to feel okay inside.

Interior satisfaction costs far more than any expensive object. It means tearing up the me-schedule. It means listening instead of talking. Waiting instead of hurrying. It means abdicating the center of the universe position.

Interior peace comes with patience, with recognizing beauty in places that aren’t obvious. A good friend tells the story of her daughter when she was in kindergarten. “Mommy, my teacher is so beautiful!” But when the friend met the teacher she saw a woman with incredibly plain features. Not until the woman spoke and her eyes sparkled with love and enthusiasm, did my friend see what her daughter had experienced—true and deep beauty.

I feel that brilliance in the person of my three-year-old granddaughter, Ella. She has physical attractiveness, almost white hair, saucer-sized blue eyes. But Down syndrome has delayed her development. She sounds out words phonetically, gets excited about the magnetic letters on our refrigerator, yet has never said more than two words together. And those moments have been rare. Yet, she understands and responds with a love few adults have mastered.

I learn from her more than she learns from me. I would have to give up a lot of pride to even consider touching her level of acceptance, her innate wisdom.

Perhaps that is part of the reason why I renounce “things” in such a general way. No one noun covers the entire experience. The world isn’t clear enough to me yet, everything that I need, everything I don’t.

I require further lessons from less complicated folk.

having what you want, wanting it

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Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken. (M. F. K. Fisher)

I wanted to get in trouble when I was in sixth grade so that I would be given a unique punishment: Write 500 words on the interior of a ping pong ball. However, I was sure that the punishment would be changed, suddenly, inexplicably, the second I chose to play the role of rebel. Besides, for me out-of-line felt as uncomfortable as drowning.

Actually, I have no idea what I would have written, probably something based on fantasy. Too many decades have passed to know for certain. I know the real me hadn’t emerged yet. It was inside that ping pong ball—or probably a better metaphor—my egg hadn’t hatched yet. While many people yearn to be young again, give me over-sixty and retired any day. Sure, it brings plenty of problems. I didn’t have arthritis then, and I didn’t need to get up at night to relieve a complaining bladder. Yet, in those days I wasn’t aware that the world held almost infinite possibilities. A zit on my chin signaled disaster. And no amount of logic could have convinced me otherwise.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why I love to get eye-to-eye with my grandchildren, let them know they are not second-class citizens because they are under age eighteen. I can’t spare them crises as they grow older, but I hope to ward off as many unnecessary traumas as possible.

“You are a natural swimmer,” I tell Rebe. Then I ask Kate to make up one more song, on the spot about a topic I give her: rainbows, sports, sunshine. The subject doesn’t matter. And most of the time my poor hearing doesn’t catch her lyrics. Doesn’t matter. My girls need to know they can do whatever they choose to do. They have potential that can break open and grow at any time. They are not the nothing inside a ping pong ball—like I thought I was.

No one is.

cracked-egg

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You can’t wait for inspiration. Sometimes you have to go
after it with a club. (Jack London)

Our street is blocked because of utility construction—gas line work. No parking on either side of the street. Enough noise to get the ears in the neighborhood accustomed to the upcoming Fourth of July blasts. And, of course, there’s the joy of trying to maneuver in and out of the driveway. Sure, I realize I’m lucky. I have a house and a car. More important, I have a husband of forty-two years and three granddaughters. The car may be seventeen years old, but it starts—most of the time anyway.

But, unexpected inconvenience can masquerade as the end of the world. Well, with enough flare for drama, it can. So, at dusk I decide to look out the back window of the house after the workmen have left for the day. Two fawns lay resting in our yard. Their peaceful pose would make a great photo for a meditation page.

I sit at my dining room table in between separate realities: In the front of the house, a ravaged scene, divided into light and blacktopped squares covered with huge metal plates. Signs along both sides of the street read—no parking Monday through Friday from 7:00 A.M. until 5:30 P.M. Rocky rectangles of sidewalk.  In the back yard the two young deer remain on the grass. Plenty of grass nourished by weeks of rain. Green provides a rich buffet for buck, doe, or fawn from the top of the hill to the bottom. City reigns from one window’s view, nature from the other. What I see depends upon which scene I choose.

No season lasts forever. Even construction. Although I have seen more of it in recent winters. Perhaps that isn’t so bad either. Not in an economy where folk need jobs and lines need repair. Maybe I won’t take that parking place in front of my house for granted when the work is completed. It’s possible. Then the deer can return to the front. Of course, they ate all the tulips years ago. There are plenty of weeds, however, to make a fine dawn or dusk meal. Eat, nature, and enjoy.

sign in Albuquerque, New Mexico

closed from Inhabitants of Burque Albuquerque construction

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