Singing in grape jelly air

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I took out my camera for the first time yesterday, first time since Mexico, because I noticed that my sedum was growing inside a grouping of tulips, both plants simultaneously pushing up through the soil, although the tulips were near spent and the sedum was just being birthed.

My camera has been on a shelf because the more I played with it, the more I realized how inadequate my skill set is, how little I really know and understand this form of art and I became frustrated with my lack of knowledge and how clumsy I felt with my failed attempts to interpret what I was seeing. It was almost easier when I didn’t know what I didn’t know, when I was willing to be a novice, or an inexperienced photographer and was thrilled with each lucky shot. This is the exact opposite of what I recommend to growing writers, but it is real and something to be reckoned with. 

So it was a powerful moment for me when I ran inside the house to grab my camera.

I had been sitting outside on one of the first glorious spring afternoons we have had in some time, weeding. Rain had hit Colorado for a few days and the soil was damp, making it easier to pull the weeds out by their roots. The sun was that perfect temperature of warmth, and the air still held moisture, something I celebrate being a creature of the humid northeast. Days of rain are some of my favorite moments, rare here compared to Boston. The sound of drops on our roof and the scent of water on asphalt, the bleak sky, encourage and provide permission to slow down and write or read or just watch television. Spring rains are the best, mid-wifing the embryos of nature, emerald green lawns, shoots of perennials returning for another visit, and the abundance of weeds trying to crowd them out.

When I spied the sedum pushing herselfDSC_0265 up through the middle of my purple tulips, I got that feeling I get when seeing something ordinary that is nevertheless extraordinary to my eyes. I must try to capture it. I am present, and my blood surges with new life as if I am seeing something that no one else can.

I began to wander in my garden and checked out my peonies which have not yet provided any intense blooms in three years. I had meant to transplant them last year, but forgot so though there are buds on both of them now, I suspect they will droop and die before blooming once again. Then I DSC_0251saw the ants.

Many, many years ago, my very first house was in Walpole, Massachusetts and when I naively ripped out many of the plants in the garden, with a desire to begin all over again, my new neighbor caught me before I pulled out the peonies. “Don’t you know what those are?” she said subdued shock. “They have the most lovely pink blooms every year.” So I was chastised and they were saved, and I loved them until one day I cut a few blossoms and brought them inside and ants began crawling out everywhere.

Ants love peonies. While I looked at the tiny buds, one little guy busily scrambled back and forth like he was in heaven. Maybe he was.

I pointed DSC_0261my lens into my tulips that were at the end of their glorious bloom and was fascinated by their insides, protected by petals, parts that are not seen unless one seeks to look inside.

Nature rocks my damn world. She brings me to life.

I am enrolled in a course to learn about this beautiful Nikon, and to immerse myself in art for a week in October. The week-long course is in Santa Fe and I have been longing to take it for the last two years. Finally, I have the money and ability to make the time.My pictures cannot possibly capture the fragrant glory of plant life but this is not because I haven’t yet mastered my equipment. Yes, I must take this class to better perfect my artistic voice, but even then, nature will sing outside of the camera lens. Her pitch is not meant to be fully captured.

The air smells like a mixture of grape jelly, apple blossoms and violets and the fragrance of freshly mowed grass mingled with air almost foggy with spent dandelions makes my heart sing and swell with glorious joy. Spring is here. Spring is singing.

I’m singing with my camera too. Maybe off pitch, but it’s still my song.

 

 

Posted in dream, growing up, Inspiration, leap, The art of living, The creative process, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Boston Marathon Inspiration

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The day she ran the marathon the weather was horrible. I had hoped it might just mist, a light drizzle that kept the runners cool, but this was a full-on storm. The rain never ceased and at times, it was a complete deluge, the kind where you can’t see too well, the rain is coming down so hard. The wind would be a headwind all the way into Boston.

Five years ago my daughter was running strong and less than a half mile from the Boston Marathon finish when the bombs went off. I ended up running against the runners that didn’t know what had happened yet trying to find her, hysterical and frightened, terrified that more might be coming. I was panicked that my daughter was alone without her phone and might be afraid or in danger. When we found her, she was still running and confused, angry that we were stopping her until we told her people had been hurt, likely killed and then all the glorious joy and excitement she had felt left her body and she deflated. We walked out of the area as fast as we could fielding phone calls and text messages until her now father in law, rescued us and drove us home.

Shocked, aware that we had been spared and others had not, the full weight of that day yet to come.

And it came in waves for days, weeks, months after that.

I hadn’t been worried about her at all in 2013.

But I was this time.

The weather was a ripe recipe for hypothermia, for pushing back any hopes for a personal best running time and kept some of the crowds away, crowds that have an enormous influence on screaming the runners home on the best of weather days.

But I am her mother and I hold both of my daughters worries and fears about what could go wrong so that they do not have to.

I worried that her drive in to the city to catch the bus to the start point with her running friends would be treacherous and that the wet roads might hide patches of ice. I worried that she would encounter traffic and miss the bus and not make it back to the start on time. I worried that she would not feel as positive and confident, but would succumb to the negativity that would be a death toll in an event this difficult. I worried she would become hypothermic and that worry amplified as we watched the wheelchairs and elite runners from inside the station where her father-in-law is now the fire chief and call after call came over the radio with hyperthermic runners before they even reached Mile 10.

How in the world would my daughter make it running outside for over four hours in this climate wearing soaking wet clothing?

We tracked her on the B.A.A app and went outside periodically to cheer on the wheelchair and hand cycle participants and then came back inside to warm up until our app showed her about 20 minutes away and we went outside until she arrived. Hannah spotted us and an enormous smile lit up her beautiful face as she stopped for less than five minutes to take off her rain poncho, grab her energy bar and was off again. I did not even notice the rain. Yet.

Nor did I notice the rain when we took the train to Boston to see her again and walked towards Boylston, just shy of the finish line.

We cheered on the runners, most of whom were runners for charities, the ordinary men and women who decided to do something extraordinary and did not give up despite epic conditions, the worst marathon weather in 30 years. The rain came in sheets with a wind that pushed it almost horizontal, but still wave after wave of runners ran down Boylston Street until our tracking app told us she had just turned the corner and we all watched for her. I saw my glorious girl and screamed HANNAH and her smile lit up the universe and I cried then, then I could finally exhale my worries and finally replace an old, frightening experience with a positive memory as my daughter ran right by us to the finish line to collect her medal. A medal that she earned. Boston Strong. Boston Proud.

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We were meeting her at the Westin Hotel and had to backtrack down Newbury Street to Arlington Street to cross and that was when the headwind hit us and the rain and wind really let lose, though we didn’t think it could get any worse. All of us were dripping wet, soaked to the core at that point, any part of us that was not inside rain boots or hat or jacket now saturated and with the relief of Hannah crossing the finish line, I could finally feel the wet, the cold, and all I wanted to do was strip off the cloying, soggy material.

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We had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery, just making our reservation after a quick run to the car to change our clothing.

And then home to her house, where I slept, slept for over ten hours, slept in relief, slept in joy, slept in exhaustion. Proud of my amazing child.

I thought of all the runners, ordinary people like my daughter who had decided to take on an incredible challenge and do something extraordinary and I asked myself, “When was the last time you did something extraordinary, lady?”

And I realized it’s been too long, far too long since I took on a personal challenge of my own. I don’t know what it will be yet. But I do know it’s time.

 

Posted in Inspiration, love, Mom reflections, The art of living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Banana Peel

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Yesterday was a tough day. Days when we feel sorry for ourselves always are. Like you, I have my damn demons and they all decided to torment the fuck out of me in the afternoon. You know the saying, “don’t kick your opponent when he’s down?” Yeah. My demons don’t play by those rules either.

Injured body. Traveling husband. Beautiful weather while laid up. Boredom. No food in the house. Exhausted.

I cried. No. I sobbed. I mean I cried so hard, I had to sink to the floor (and when you are down one leg and one arm, that’s no easy feat). I let it all out. I cried so long my eyes are still red this morning. I feel asleep with a stuffy nose and the hiccups we get after hysterics.

For all you yogi manifest-ers out there who like to pretend we should not feel sad, fearful or pissed off, I’m here to tell you something: Bullshit.  Sometimes things do suck and sometimes we should sit in this sucky space. Because when we let ourselves succumb to the emotions we are having, we get to possess something extraordinary when we come out on the other side.

I went to bed and slept all night. Solid as a rock.

And I woke up thinking, enough of this shit, girl. You’ve been down before, you will heal. I woke up ready to move forward. I accepted that I needed to let myself express those icky emotions first so that I could be real.

So I got out of bed deciding that I would put on my hiking boots, the ones with ankle support and walk the level path in the open space nearby and even though my injured arm decided to cramp up and the pain was horrid, I remained determined.

I was walking by the sink on the way to make some coffee when I spotted something extraordinary almost hidden beneath the dirty dishes and food waiting to be composted. It was the inside of a banana peel. A banana peel. And it was shining like some rare diamond in the trash.

I lifted the peel out of the sink knowing I had to photograph it, the inside showing the lines from the knife used to cut the fruit inside were dramatic and seductive. There was a message here I decided to explore.

The peel faded into our kitchen countertop so I placed it on the wood island and I saw that the inside of this peel looked more like wood grain than a jacket designed for fruit. It wasn’t until I finished playing with the photo edits that I took a step back and realized that inner passion and excitement had taken over the fear and worry I had gone to bed with.

If our soul was hidden beneath our skin and we could turn ourselves inside out, showing the world our real selves, our real wounds, our real fears, our real beauty, would we do it? Would you recognize your friends? Yourself?

Would I show you the knife marks from all the times others had hurt or disappointed me? Would I show you my unprotected underbelly and trust that you would care for it? Would I let my extraordinary and playful inner child take your hand? Would I let the unmasked version of myself stand in front of you without apology?

I’m not sure. But the older I get, the more determined I am to try.

I imported the picture of the peel into Snapseed and began my favorite part, the editing process where I get to decide what I want to emphasize and what I want to say with my images. No picture is ever taken and shared by me without an accompanying story. Sometimes I don’t know the story until I’m done with the editing, sometimes I discover there was really nothing I wanted to say and I delete the image, sometimes I am touched in the limbic portion of my brain and I only feel something deeply without the ability to use my words.

For me, art is like that. I never begin a writing or artistic project already wedded to a desired conclusion or outcome. The very endeavor is a seeking of what is lying underneath my banana peel, hidden, but real and deep. And important. Needing expression.

Funny how we human beings can go to bed in tears, feeling insignificant and lost, and then wake up and find inspiration in a banana peel.

Isn’t life fucking fabulous?

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Time

IMG_2736I’ve been here before. The place where I cannot move quickly, where the television is tempting and the couch calls, saying, rest, my dear, rest. Life slows down because my body calls uncle and the gift of time, the very thing I have been lamenting I don’t have enough of, is presented to me complete with a pretty bow. And yet I cannot settle into this space I have so longed for. I took a fall and now have an elbow that doesn’t flex enough for me to floss my teeth or cut my food. My foot is stuffed inside a bulky boot to stabilize the ankle and I’m aware that this could have been so much worse, so much, but that brings little comfort right now.

I began full time work with one of my favorite clients this February and two weeks into it I could see it was not the right fit for me. I was exhausted from being on my feet all day and being pulled into a thousand different directions. The evidence was clear, and clear quickly, that I am in a different stage of life now, space that requires I lower the intensity, slow down and devote full attention to the things I love instead of squeezing everything into the moments left over. After speaking with my client, we agreed to bring me back to contract work once my two weeks notice for the full time gig was up.

And though the letting go and telling my employer about my longing to return to part time was difficult, I felt I was releasing air after holding my breath for weeks. Turns out the certainty of steady employment and financial security was not what I most valued in my life.

It was on my last day as an official employee that I slipped and fell while making minor changes to the front of store displays. A turn to the left, a misstep and a fall onto the concrete floor and I knew it was not a minor fall. The barista helped me up and I instantly, and painfully, realized I could not put full weight on my left foot or my right hand. An urgent care visit confirmed that I had badly sprained my ankle and elbow.

My magical gift of time had arrived, but it didn’t look anything like my fantasy. I had hoped for freedom to do lots of yoga, push my body back into shape and walk in the woods before returning home to write or draw. My idea had been to devote some brain time planning the direction of my business. My idea had been to lower the stress. Minus one foot and one arm, these things became elusive. 

But taking the job had taught me something important, that to me, time is the most valuable freedom I have, and I don’t know how much of it I have left. This crystal clear clarity in my priorities would not have been as apparent without my time being eaten up by other obligations. My children, my husband, my inner spirit, my extended family–the need to be present with these people, to be present with myself outweighs the worry and uncertainty of running my own business.  I can live with the worry of what work comes next. I cannot live without time.

Before I made my decision about work, I fantasized regularly of a week on the beach in Sayulita, doing nothing but reading and writing, eating, drinking margaritas and swimming in the ocean or watching sunsets before dinner and waking next to the man I love with the sound of waves crashing. I needed to lower the intensity. I needed space in my brain, the kind of emptiness that creates magic.

After I fell, I sat propped on a chair with a dripping ice bag on my ankle, realizing that my elbow was actually beginning to hurt more than my foot and feeling grateful for the young employees of the store who were doing everything they could to support and encourage me. The reality of my situation slowly crept in.

The gift of time I wanted to give myself might not look exactly like what I had envisioned or come when I had planned, but I think the universe was telling me to slow the fuck down and I just hadn’t listened quickly enough.

I had intended to drive to Basalt the next day to work with two clients and meet with a potential one but as soon as I tried to straighten out my arm for the x-ray, I knew without a doubt I would not be going.

And, I cannot lie, though I had been excited about this trip, I felt relieved.

My body needs a rest.

So now I have time.

 

Posted in growing up, The art of living, Truth, Uncategorized, Work | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Totality

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Darkness enters in the middle of the day on a Monday afternoon and we stand still. We stand, some looking up at the eclipse, others, like me, watching the darkness creep across the horizon, dusk coming just before noon. Street lights and sensor lights on homes turn on and the wind, which had been blowing hard enough that we added stakes to our shade shelter, died down. Quiet.

Totality never entered my vocabulary until a few weeks ago.

My husband had been excited about a day trip to view the eclipse in totality for weeks. He had researched a spot to experience totality that was a drivable distance and that might have us avoiding the inevitable traffic heading home. He settled on Alliance, Nebraska. We had a cooler full of goodies, even a camp stove to make my coffee once we arrived at our viewing spot because his plan was to leave the house by 1 a.m. and drive the almost four hours at night.

I’m a sleep whore, and the thought of just 2-3 hours of sleep was worrisome, but when you love your partner and he is this stoked, you jump in with both feet just to watch joy unfold. I slept the first two hours or so in the car, waking when he turned off one main road for another and we were suddenly in a deep soup of mist and fog with a defroster that couldn’t keep up with clearing the way unless we raised the temperature.

There are many kinds of darkness.

I wrote to a dear friend a few days ago and confessed, “Janet, I think I’m depressed,” the very confession providing relief and a lessening of tension.

There has been a darkness in my universe since last November, and Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night,” runs over and over in my mind. I think of how I’ve raged, raged, against the darkness and I am exhausted. The older I get, the more I long to save others, dogs running loose in the middle of the road, friends who are suffering, family members who have experienced trauma. It’s hard to watch this social nightmare unfold, knowing that my influence is so limited.

I told this same friend that I have been unable to write and feel I’m starving without some form of artistic expression so I’ve turned to my camera and try to be patient with my still-learning fingers as they attempt to capture what moves me.

My words drop like lead and I sit, hands on the keyboard, knowing that I am holding back from all the things I want to write about:  the state of our country, the increase in racism and anti-semitism, fear over losing protected land, the awareness of time moving more quickly, the knowledge that the aches and pains I experience now will likely not be resolved, but will instead become woven into my older life.

I suppose I can write about these things, but they are dark and heavy words and they are far different from the light-filled seeking sentences of my past. 

The eclipse, totality, lasts mere minutes but is powerful in its brevity, both for the erie creeping darkness and silence, but also for the sudden brightness, as if the darkness was a joke, or it never even happened. There is a dearth to the light, a flatness, an oddness to the shadows, when the wind quiets, and the temperature drops and I am grateful for my sweater, scarf and long pants. But the creeping darkness is followed by a new day, a new dawn, a new beginning.

There were moments where we could not see the light, but it was there.

Dare I be so optimistic again?

In the days that follow, many talented photographers share their images of a sun covered entirely by the DSC_0327mood with a corona so bright that even though it is safe to view without glasses, the light is sharp and hurts. The light comes, as we knew it would, but it startles in its suddenness and everyone gathered applauds and we wonder, did this really happen? I experience a complex series of emotions and realize I have been taking photo after photo of the faces of those I love and the shadows and coming darkness. I could not capture the oddness of the light that is almost monochromatic. There is a startling lack of contrast.

As I later edit the pictures of the faces of my husband my daughter I feel something different, just a tiny tug of a memory, and it is joy. Peace. Behind the darkness was a shining glimmer of life, of what matters.

So I, too, let go for a moment of the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Saying Yes

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We had work to do in the morning so after lingering in bed for a bit, we rose and got to it. I had some stories to frame for a trade publication, he had calls and in between working I did the laundry. The sun was fighting from behind the clouds and the weather called for a high of 69 so we decided we would quit around noon and enjoy the day.

Both of us have had things on our mind and the opportunity to call a day ours has been rare so Friday’s gifts were not unappreciated. Our individual businesses, learning to strengthen our partnership and marriage, the frightening political climate and its creating of an alter-reality has had us in between joy, anxiety and sadness. The life we share is good, but the big picture world is uncertain, our ideals about things we hold most dear shattered. Every social gathering touches upon this and it is important we talk and share and learn we are not alone, but it is also an intense burden that we are all learning how to carry with grace. We are all tired from fighting injustice and the moron that pretends to lead us and from the necessity of saying no, no this is not acceptable, so Friday we decided to say yes. Yes to us. Yes to what we have. Yes.

The prayer flags on our porch and the wild grass that borders our patio were beginning to blow and I worried for a minute that the wind was picking up, but we still went about the business of putting on our bibs and jerseys, grabbed some power food and water and set about to ride. Today was a gentle, easy, ride for Rob, but his easy rides are ones where I push myself just a bit.

Not too long after we left and turned to begin our first short climb, I was sweating and I felt the wind and I fought fear’s fingers. My heart picked up speed, but I took a deep breath because I know this is muscle memory and not reality, this is my body reminding me of that other time, the one where the wind shoved me a few feet into the road and the time when after fighting head, tail and cross winds, crazy winds that made no sense, I told my husband I was done and he rode back to get the car. After that, we argued about my need to take care of myself and his desire to ride and I cried and he felt badly and then we came closer once again to who we are, who we will be, in this marriage, as a couple, as best friends.  The wind will always be unpredictable here in Colorado, and I’m trying to befriend her uncertainty and gain the strength to appreciate her playfulness, but my body reacts so quickly to her arrival that it takes time to lower the alert and trust in myself, trust in what I know, trust in what I want.

Rob can grow frustrated with my fear but he is learning patience with something he himself does not understand and today he made sure to stay at a pace I could keep up so I could find that beautiful pocket behind his wheel where the wind could not rock me. I love him for this, for the way he hears me and instead of telling me why I should not panic, his actions say, “I’m here.” His very presence lowers my heart rate and I ask him, “Is the wind really that bad or is it my panic?” and he tells me calmly, “It’s just because we are going faster that you feel it more,” and I loosen my hold and release the tension in my shoulders. I try to smile.

The ride feels good and when we return home, all sweaty and lightly touched by the sun, we sit on the porch and take off our shoes and decide to clean up and go for a motorcycle ride, the smell of the air seduces us with summer in March and the sun is bright and the pine trees in the mountains call us and I am feeling that loveliness again, the one of letting go, being in the moment, the one where every image shines like diamonds, almost hurting my eyes, and each inhale takes in life and joy and pain and we are moving fast on the motorcycle and yet time stands still, the memory encased in a space where all senses are engaged and I will not forget.

As we head higher, the temperature drops and the clouds block out the sun, but instead of feeling cold and asking Rob to stop so I can add layers and my scarf, I breathe in the sharp, clean air and feel ALIVE.

We ride through the mountains and then down Boulder Canyon, a ride I don’t think I could ever stop loving, ever stop feeling awe over, the light as it hits the canyon walls, the redness of the rock, the sharp angles and the organic way trees hold on in the craziest of ways, the climbers, the runners, the cyclists, the way the world comes together in a random moment and the way the road twists and turns–they fill, no they feed my soul. I smile.

We complete our day with a margarita on the outside patio of the Rio, bad margaritas and worse food, but blinding sunshine and people watching and then we walk the Pearl Street Mall holding hands before getting hungry for sushi. We share the chef’s choice of sashimi and the salmon is like butter.

Before heading home, we stop in my favorite place on the mall, the bookstore and though I have three books waiting at home to be enjoyed, I buy three more. There is pleasure in my hands as I hold each book and I anticipate the inevitable transportation of each story, the knowledge and awareness each one will heighten, the emotional journey I am sure to take and I smile. I know that when I get home, I will open each book, explore a page here and there and I will see which words speak the loudest to me at the moment and I will begin.

Our ride home is cold and when we hit the spot on South Boulder Road where the air smells like swamp and is at least 10 degrees cooler and moist, I smile again. It has been a very good day, a dance where we are perfectly in step, so familiar, and our feet are buoyant.

I smile. We are almost home.

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A ramble about going somewhere

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We have a train that runs through town here and in the warmer months, when the windows are open we can hear the whistle blow and sometimes that whistle blows loud and long and other times it’s a short sharp warning and I like to hear the rumble of the train cars as they roll along the tracks. Some complain about the sound, but for me, the sound is comforting, like a distant lawnmower on a summer afternoon or a football game on the television on a crisp autumn day. The train has been somewhere and is going somewhere and it has not yet arrived.

Like me.

And now, even though the windows are shut tight against the cold winter air, we have the sound of owls. I woke up this morning and though I had not looked at my watch yet, I would later learn it was 4:30. My husband turned towards me and whispered, “can you hear the owls?” It sounded like courtship and the sounds were comforting.

I don’t know much about owls. I know that when they fly, the breadth of their wings is spectacular and wide, and I know that children dissect owl pellets to understand the food chain, astounded at finding entire skeletons. Owls like seclusion, and they like to be left alone. I, too, like my share of seclusion and moments where I don’t like to be disturbed. I like living in a place where owls nest. I like living in a state where owls, coyotes, deer, marmot, elk, mountain lion, bear and moose are accessible.

I moved to Colorado in 2010, feeling pulled as if by a magnet, only knowing that I wanted to be in the midst of the mountains and live more life outside and wanted to surround myself with others who felt the same spiritual peace when immersed in the woods on a hiking trail. I was 51 and my move was the biggest adventure of my life with the exception of the birth of my two extraordinary daughters. I felt so young and free driving through the density of Ohio, Illinois and Indiana and when I hit Iowa, the rolling hills and endless miles of farmland, burdens I hadn’t even known I still carried were lifted and I began my new life weightless.

That drive across the country in 2010 reminded me how vast our world is. The road was always changing.

I moved to a townhouse at the base of the foothills in Boulder, and walked, ran and hiked daily. Sometimes more than once a day. My best thinking has always been while silently moving along a dirt trail and one day soon after I moved, I huffed and puffed my way up the hogback across the street and came to a high point where I sat and looked east, across the plains, seeing for miles and miles. Life slowed and I inhaled.

I can be anxious and self-calming has been a lifelong learning experience. Sitting on a rock that day, hearing only the wind, without a flock of others bearing down on me, I understood how my move had gifted me with more than mountains. My move had dropped me into the midst of nature, and her glorious silence, her immense skies, and the animals who lived just outside my door. I had not known the full power of the daily presence in vast outdoor space to soothe my soul.

When my previous marriage of 18 years had ended, I began hiking alone. Those hikes involved a smashing intensity of purpose and a desperate attempt at letting go of depression, anger and fear and included chaos in my head at the start of each solo journey. I was once a fast and steady hiker and the only thing that held me back at times were steep slabs or rock with nothing to hold onto for balance or rickety ladders that led up a rocky too difficult to climb.

I’ve slowed down. I needed to slow down. I liked slowing down. I see and hear things that I once was oblivious to.

My brother, his wife and their 16 year old granddaughter were hit by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day who was driving without her headlights on. Rich has two broken femurs, countless other injuries, was intubated for almost three weeks, remains unconscious, and his wife lost her spleen and their granddaughter has a head injury.

My brother almost lost his life in October after heart troubles led to a near fatal allergic reaction.

We are not close, differing in world view, politics, and lifestyle, but he is my brother, my first childhood playmate, there is a bond that distance, time and difference cannot eliminate. He is a kind and gentle soul and has had more than his share of difficulty and I think, he has cheated death twice now.

The pain I hold in my palms, as tenderly as possible, is the ragged pain of my parents. You cannot know real fear until you have children.

My parents have, in three short months, been notified twice that their son’s life is being threatened and have endured seconds, minutes, days, weeks, an eternity of fear that he might not make it.

This is not the natural order.

I recently returned from a business trip to Salt Lake City. The trip was to provide training at a trade show and the work was both rewarding and exhausting. I was walking back to my hotel for a quick mediation break, a moment of quiet before the evening’s events. As usual, my brain was full and my head was spinning with the conversations of the day and what was to come, when an unusual sound pulled me from my thoughts. I heard a pounding sound, but couldn’t place it until I noticed a woman a few feet in front of me. Her clothing was dirty and torn and she did not wear socks. She held a large rock in both of her hands and was using it to flatten a can. There was a bent and wobbly shopping cart next to her that held what looked like the beginning of her day’s work. She did not notice me when I walked by.

I only got a few feet past her before I turned around. I could not un-see her. I could not pretend she didn’t exist. I approached her with a $20 in my hand and she did not notice me standing next to her so I said, ‘excuse me’ twice before she looked up. Her eyes widened and I imagine mine did as well because at that moment, we were one person. We were both wearing our suffering.

Her eyes filled with tears, but I could feel a growing full-fledged sob in my throat so I turned around and cried my way back to the hotel.

I was profoundly reminded that we are all connected. We all touch the same earth. The owls, this homeless woman, my feet, your feet.

I can remember many tear-driven hikes and moments in the mountains where solitude and the earth provided me with something human beings could not. The branches of trees, the scent of pine needles, the musky undertow of decaying leaves, the impossible blue sky and the sound of the wind singing comforted and tethered me to my own life.

I have not been sleeping well and this troubles me, but the sound of the owls remind me how large this life thing is, how we all run together like water colors bleed together on paper and it grounds me in the universe, as did the eyes of a homeless woman on the streets in Salt Lake City.

Like the train that runs through town, I have been somewhere.

As have you.

 

 

Posted in Grief, love, Mom reflections, The art of living, The creative process, travel, Truth | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I thought I knew you: A letter to the other side

the-divideDear Friends and Family that are Trump Supporters:

We are standing on opposite sides of a canyon and no amount of reaching across this divide helps us to touch. The walls are slippery and jagged and our heels are dug in and so we look at one another from afar, wanting (maybe not wanting?) to bridge the distance. I am in profound pain, angry at times, and confused. I thought I knew you.

Though we, of course, shared differing priorities, I thought we shared a life philosophy. Isn’t that what drew us together? Today I’m bewildered and befuddled and the water that I once thought clear is muddy, so murky that seeing the earth below is impossible.

I might love you but I don’t know who you are any longer. I don’t know how to talk to you. It’s like we are each floating in separate boats on a wind-torn lake with the wind pulling us in opposite directions, the details of your face harder and harder to see as you move away, until I’m not sure if it was even you I was looking at to begin with.

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know how to talk to you or bridge this divide, this space where both of us have our feet planted solidly on different foundations and so this written expression might be messy. Forgive me if it is.

I’m not certain if we can ‘agree to disagree’ or ever understand one another. But maybe we can each find a way to communicate our emotions so that we have more information. What comes from there is anyone’s guess.

I recently had a conversation with two people who are polar opposites from me politically. I was testing the water. They were people I don’t know. I was testing myself, I think. I was trying to see if I could hear.

One was a woman who had called Hillary Clinton a baby killer because Hillary is pro-choice. This woman told me that she viewed everything in life through the lens of the bible and that abortion is murder. Another was a man who saw his insurance rates go up and did not believe that access to insurance is a human right. He did not believe we should take care of those that cannot take care of themselves.

I believe a woman has a right to chose what to do with her own body and I believe this vehemently. I believe that we should offer a hand up to those in need. How could I possibly argue my position with these people?

You want me to listen to YOU but you don’t want to hear ME. How will we bridge this gap?

I’m writing this on the assumption that you want to know what I think despite your own silence since the day after the election. Engaging with strangers has been practice for talking to you, someone I actually care about.

I cried myself to sleep on election night. Many of you told me that my emotions, my personal response, my feelings of loss were over the top.

The earth shifted. I mourned mightily. I had believed I lived in a country that was making enormous progress towards liberty and freedom for all, a country that would not tolerate hatred. I believed that the majority of those I held near and dear supported the rights of every human being and who would fight against injustice and would protect our natural resources. People who believed that it is better to build bridges than build walls, people who would not tolerate or excuse a man who mocks the disabled and women and who throws twitter tantrums. I believed that most of the people I knew were intelligent, thoughtful human beings. I believed we were finally ready as a country to elect a woman as President, not a perfect woman, not as a token female, but that we were ready to appreciate and elevate a woman who had spent her entire life in service. An imperfect woman ready to do the job that needed to be done.

I was wrong on many of my assumptions.

The bar was lower than I thought possible.

The hypocrisy and the nastiness Trump brought to the table was horrifying, yes, but what was most disturbing was the support you provided him. The way you said things like, we need a change, he says what he’s thinking, he’ll surround himself with good people, and so on and so forth, excusing every single disgusting action this man took.

This experience was more painful for me than 9/11 in some respects. Why? Because after 9/11, we had each other. We held hands across the horror. We stood united against transgressions against human liberty, regardless of skin, gender, religion. We stood together.

This wasn’t a hockey game where my team lost or I didn’t get a job I had hoped for. This election was a loss of all I hold near and dear as a human being. Do you understand that? I want to talk to you about this grief, but whenever I open my mouth, you say things like, get in line, get behind our President, get over it, and do not attend to my feelings of incredible loss. You do not listen. I cannot and will not normalize this man’s behavior and I cannot and will not blindly follow any human being. I thought you were smart enough to do the same.

I was blind to people I personally knew, blind to thinking that any of them would support a man who mocked the disabled on public television, has no respect or understanding of women, has lied over and over again and uses rhetoric that is meant to create ‘other.’ Rhetoric that is meant to divide us. Did you know Hitler used the same tactics? He thinks Mexicans, like my husband, are criminals and rapists. Trump cannot acknowledge when he is mistaken, has never apologized for his mistakes, corrected his lies, does not display an understanding of grace and humility, and has no desire to learn to understand the daily workings of the United States government. Trump thinks in tweets without context or content. He attacks anyone he believes has wronged him. He states that he knows more than anyone else, despite his utter ignorance about our very Constitution.

This is my opinion. And maybe you don’t really care.

What am I to make of you now? How am I to reconcile who I thought you were with the man you worked to put in power?

I walked into dangerous conversations. I could not believe this nastiness really existed. I found myself so angry at times that I almost stooped to their level. I’m teaching myself how to speak up, how to stand up, how to use my voice. But it’s messy.

Did you know that I, like many women, have suffered abuse, harassment, and sexism, culminating in my divorce mediation hearing in 2014? Massachusetts alimony reform laws ignore the contribution of stay-at-home moms and do not protect these women. My ex husband made six figures. The experience was sexism on steroids. We do not advance as a society when our words are pure hypocrisy and bullshit. I sat outside in a public lobby while my ex and his group of attorneys reclined in leather chairs around a conference table. But these things mattered little compared to the experience of my youth, my life as a girl. They were just one more layer.

It breaks a woman a bit when she grows up under the majority judgments and rules of men in a society that lacks the sounds of women supporting one another. Some of the fractures we endure when younger, take decades to heal. Unfortunately, women contributed to this as well. During my youth, society viewed sexual abuse or sexism through the lens of “what did she do to bring this on,” or “maybe if she wasn’t wearing a low cut blouse,” or “she was drunk, what did she expect,” and so on. When I was younger, my voice fell silent because I was afraid to be blamed and in fact, I DID blame myself. It must have been my fault. I must have done something wrong.

I never told. I didn’t fight back.

Today, I do have a voice. It is wobbly and uncertain and gets pretty emotional at times, but I’m not going to stop using it. I can’t.

When you request my silence, I am newly assaulted.

I announced on Facebook that those that supported Trump were not welcome in my life, and I wrote those words because my first instinct had been to just write in a fit of rage, “F*!k you Trump supporters.” I figured that it would be wiser to try to express myself a bit more maturely.

Those words were my first attempt to say something I continue to struggle with, but just as I want a President who can take a breath and consider that he might not be correct or might have made a mistake, I, too, need to walk that talk.

I could have chosen my words more wisely.

My anger and frustration are borne from your blind devotion to this man. I have not heard you denounce his policies on the things that are the glue that holds a society together as human beings. I have not heard you denounce these things. Does that mean you support his efforts? Will you speak up? Would you speak up for me if my rights were threatened? My children? Your neighbor? The barista who serves you coffee? The person sitting next to you on the subway?

Do you have my back?

I’ve heard people say, “I’m not a racist. I’m not a homophobe. I’m not a climate denier,” but when push comes to shove on fighting for these things either by calling into question a cabinet selection that wants to eliminate public education or pretends the involvement of Russia into this election is not an issue, I hear crickets.

I want to hear you. I want you to hear me. I struggle to reconcile the friend or family member I thought I knew but who has voted for a man who represents everything I find reprehensible. The distance between you and I is deep and traumatic and yet what I hear is ‘get over it, move on, let it go, wait and see.’

When you say this to me, this is what I hear you saying: Let go of your values, your hopes, your belief system. Stop fighting, lie back and enjoy it.

And I have to say, no. No, I will not.

I will not and cannot be silent. I was silent when I was a young girl in situations I could not handle. I was silent because I was young and frightened and I could not find my voice to shout, “Stop. This is WRONG.”

But I have a voice now. I’m older and wiser. I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe is right, even if it means a bitter divide with those I love. I have a larger vision, and it is not one that only surrounds my life or those I love, it is a vision that wants everyone to be treated with respect and human kindness.

I was raised Catholic, converted to Judaism, and have a lot of the Buddha in me today. I’m a religious mutt.

Do you think you could tell me what you are feeling for real? Tell me how you are navigating the decision you made with the person you believe yourself to be. Help me understand that you are still there and you can still see ME despite our different life perspectives? Help me understand that you give a shit about my values. Help me see that you are not just advocating for yourself.

Appreciate the pain I’m in even if you don’t understand.

Do you even want to understand? Because if you do, the first thing you need to do is understand that for me, and millions like me, this experience is akin to grieving a death.

If my activism is an affront to you or my values seem silly to you, then maybe we are at such an impasse that we need to let go of one another for now.

We have a country divided and yet we talk about building walls and getting cozy with foreign evils. We have a man in power who sits in an ivory tower lining his own pockets and fanning the flames of hatred.

I find the likelihood of a backwards slide into a past that was not kind to women, religious freedom, sexual preference and civil rights abhorrent. I thought it would be to you as well.

The silver lining? I and many others like me are mobilizing. We are learning how to get involved and are ready to shoulder the responsibility that you have, with your vote, shirked. We are awake now. We are ready to battle for human justice and to protect our planet. The bear has been poked and will not be going back to sleep for a long time.

But, I so wish you were next to me and that we were fighting together.

 

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Awake

dragonfly

Dragonflies come to life by bending their abdomens and cracking the skin below their head while twisting into an impossible position. They emerge head first and upside down, spending hours waiting for their new skin to harden. Only then, if they survive, do they spread their wings.

This metamorphosis usually begins in the dark of night and ends before dawn. That they survive this vulnerable stage, when they are easy prey, is astounding.

I love dragonflies. I had one tattooed on my shoulder in 2012.

According to multiple sources, dragonflies symbolize change in life and perspective, and represent emotional maturity and understanding. When I got my tattoo, it was because I was in a period of enormous life transition and I wanted to capture the moment. I was changing my perspective about myself.

Dragonflies awake and take off, shaky at the beginning, sometimes falling to the ground, but eventually flying off. The ugly shell they awoke from is left behind.

Over a year ago, I bought an extraordinary book, Dragonflies by Pieter Van Dokkum that I suddenly felt drawn to read. I curled up on the couch last Sunday while my husband watched football. I put my phone on the coffee table upside down and fought the urge to take it in my hand to engage in yet another conversation or argument. I needed a break, a quiet space in my head. I needed to learn how to conserve my energy for the inevitable fight I know we will face in the coming months and years.

I’ve never had the urge to jump out of an airplane or wake board or anything that involves the precariousness of feet not on the earth. When I was a little girl, my most common nightmares involved falling. Dreams where I fought the free fall, always awakening before my body hit the ground. Dreams where I miraculously halt the momentum and suddenly land safely on a mountain or inside my room before bolting awake.

But during the past few weeks, I’ve had the strange experience of floating above, drifting in space, sometimes while sharing drinks with friends, sitting next to my husband on the couch, or during yoga. It’s a moment where I have the sensation of both being beyond this world, holding it at arms length, while also being so emerged in the present moment, one that says, “You don’t belong here. You have important work to do.”

Metamorphosis?

Dragonflies begin life submerged in water, as nymphs. Once they are born, they do not live in water, but instead survive off the bounty found there. They are considered ferocious to other insects and small fish around the water’s edge. They are carnivores.

The nymph bears little resemblance to the beautiful fairy like creature she will become. There is little to hint or suggest the extraordinary colorful or ethereal and strong wings. There is little to suggest to the untrained eye that anything beautiful and powerful could possibly come of this.

I’ve thought of that often these past few days.

These past few months, have not been beautiful. I have felt absolutely powerless as others say to me “If you are feeling frustrated, you should go to the hairdresser or buy a new pair of shoes,” or “You must not be a good Christian woman (which incidentally, I’m not. I’m a Jew)” or “Tickets are cheap, time for you to move.” I’ve listened to people tell me that words are not a big deal; we all say things we regret. I’ve been told, to quit whining, respect the new President elect, and to just get over it and give him a chance.

These comments make me shudder in disgust or pain but also simultaneously are awakening something powerful and strong and brave. These words return me to my young self, a woman who had bosses that felt comfortable grabbing her ass or stealing a kiss or older men who felt it was their right to take advantage of me. A young self that did not feel powerful or brave. A young self that felt ashamed and dirty. A young self that didn’t fight back because the social climate was one where if something bad happened, it was the woman’s fault. She was suspect.

The worst, the absolute worst, for me as a grown woman today, and the hardest thing to reconcile is the silence by the President elect’s supporters in regards to his racist and sexist rhetoric. By their seemingly blind and fervent acceptance and defense of men who believe in conversion therapy or don’t believe grabbing a woman is sexual assault or who honestly believe words do not have the power to hurt. By men who do not publicly denounce the KKK.

Words have more power than a punch. And the pain from them can linger an entire lifetime. Silence in the face of injustice hurts too. This I know.

Ugliness.

I wonder if my floating is forecasting the casting off of an ugly shell? Is it possible that out of all this division, ugliness and anger, something beautiful and powerful is trying to be born?

I think, I hope, I must believe, yes.

I cannot see beyond the ugly shell we are all entangled in right now. I don’t know how yet, my vision is not clear. I don’t know how this gap will be bridged. But I do believe that something extraordinary has the potential to grow. I do believe that when we are done twisting out of this hard shell, when we are done hanging upside down, when we are done trying out our new wings and stop floundering on the ground, that we will begin to soar.

Because this is our only option.

 

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Reaching Back and Leaning Forward

cosmos-bees

Every fall I write about the ‘yearning’ I experience in September. Here’s this year’s ramble.

I sit in the backyard listening to crickets while cosmos gently sway in the wind, sometimes becoming weighed down by bees nosing the scrumptious center. The light and long shadows of September are here and with them comes nostalgia, a sense of all that has passed and all that is to come; a tender and heartbreaking joy.

The shadows are longer and the contrast stronger, and the lawn I just mowed smells green and grassy and brings memories of football on a television and my favorite flannel shirt. I am pulled backwards in time. I might be looking at our wildflowers, but I am not there.

I am walking across the street from my old home in New England and the maple trees that line the field are red and capture diamonds from the sun. Crisp, sharp air fills my lungs and lures me to eat apples and chop onions for chili as summer fades from view. Or it is August and my final summer in Waterville Valley and I am driving on Route 49 listening to the Indigo Girls and singing Get out the Map at the top of my lungs with the windows open wide or I am a child kicking through the leaves walking to school in new shoes from Tom Mcan.

Summer leaves, but she bears riches in her arms with the gift of Fall.

I am cast both into the future, sensing the longer shadows of my own days and the movement of time and also into the past, a past that comes to life every September. I am a young mother who swaddled her newborn baby and left her to nap outdoors in her carriage on a fall day so she could rake the leaves or a grown woman with her camera snapping pictures on drizzly day trying to capture the impossible beauty of Autumn trees, red, yellow, green, brown bark. I am alive.

Leaning into the future, I see treasured moments. I can almost measure time or feel it’s passing, like the way wind passes through me on a mountain summit. One daughter is married and has moved into her first home with her new husband and another is embarking on a longed-for adventure with her first apartment in the city.

They are moving through their lives and weaving a future and I cannot separate my great grandmother, grandmothers, mother and all my aunts, nor myself, from the steps they take. We hold hands, somehow we hold hands. I sense the time when I will not be a part of their physical world, but we will still hold hands. Some divides are impossible to cross, but the past runs in our veins and merges then with now. It always has. It always will. My words will linger in their ears forever just as I can still hear my grandmother’s voice whispering “Live your life, Rob, live your life.”

Melancholoy. Yearning to return to the woods of Waterville Valley to breathe New England fall air while wrapped in wool, returning home with a cold red nose and a peaceful soul.

Reaching back and leaning forward.

Fall is the consummate contradiction. I long for the past and feel peace in the present.

The length of the shadows is an embrace from something I cannot name, but that feels like the soul of everyone and everything that has come before me. Early evening sunlight reaches for me and I close my eyes, enraptured, and I feel all the moments, I see my entire life. I understand in a way I could not when young that this moment, the one I am in right now, will pass all too soon, never to pass again, and I know it is the simple ones I’ll wish I could reach back to.

Moments like watching my husband sleep. I touch the space on his forehead where his hair meets skin and I am so in the present, so aware of all the scars and barriers that could have kept us apart and yet did not. Knowing we are on the greatest adventure of our lives as we age together.

Reaching back and leaning forward. I am alive.

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