Friday, December 31, 2010

New Beginnings

Since Christmas Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about endings and letting go. And the flip side, of course, new beginnings. Focusing on it this way, really understanding that this is the time of year to reflect, to let go, to open to and await the new, has injected so much new meaning into the season for me. It’s been an epiphany, really, which is a bit ironic, given that epiphany is both a regular word meaning revelation, and the proper name given to the official “Twelve Days of Christmas” on the Christian calendar.

For Christians, Jesus is the Reason for the Season. But eons before the birth of Christ, people everywhere observed the season of darkness and celebrated the return of the light on the solstice, and with it, the return of life, hope, possibility. The rebirth of the Sun. The birth of the Son. Hmm… Winter solstice, the Yuletide, The Twelve Days of Christmas, New Year on the Gregorian Calendar are all about endings and letting go, renewal and rebirth.

We talked a lot about the holiday this year when my family and I were together. As non-Christians, some of whom struggle with the materialism we are surrounded with, molded by, and participate in, we questioned, debated, wondered. What exactly are we celebrating and why? And what about all that stuff we wrap so brightly and place under the tree? Are there other ways we could show our love and appreciation for each other? Can we really stop buying things made in China in favor of the handmade, recycled, reused? Are we willing to pay more to support the small business and independent artist? Can we really live without Amazon dot com (sadly, truly, part of the discussion), and for me, even more challenging, zappos dot com? Are we ready to sacrifice gifts altogether? Can we give up the toxic chemically treated and painted wrapping papers? Isn’t being together all that we really need? What about giving more to those in true need? And on and on.

What I really hear, between the lines and specifics, is the wondering, no, beyond wondering, the great desire to live in more consciousness and meaning around this holiday that is on one hand religious, one hand secular, and on another, much broader, deeper, older than we know. I hear us examining our basic ideals and values, throwing it all in the mix; what gives us joy, what heartache; about giving and receiving and celebrating; about letting go and inviting the new in on so many different levels.

Early this morning I dropped my daughter and her boyfriend at the Seattle Airport. As I drove out of the airport, there ahead of me was Mt. Ranier, more splendid than I’ve ever seen and looking almost close enough to reach out and touch; ancient, seeming to rise out of nowhere and nothing as if by magic or brushstroke or some trick of the eye; clear, majestic, snow-covered, superimposed against a fresh, young sky layered with soft, bright, golden, sun drenched clouds. It was so beautiful, both sky and mountain, it warmed me inside; though outside was a frosty eighteen degrees, though the ice on the road made me anxious, though all family had now gone their separate ways except me, who is staying on to take care of their new dog for the week they are gone celebrating with Greg’s family.

Warmed and amazed.

Something really did shift for me this holiday. It’s like a primordial remembering happened on a cellular level and knowing glowed inside me about the true—no matter what tradition you embrace—meaning of this time of year. Something in me opened at the knowledge that for most of human history, for as long as people cognitively observed the heavenly happenings (which I think is much earlier than we can imagine), this has been the turning point, the time, the opportunity for letting go in preparation for new birth. Even my body relaxes as I write this, and I breathe deeper, as I am infused with a feeling of deep and abiding rightness and peace.

New beginnings. I look forward to this week alone in a different part of the country, walking Lola, enjoying the cold, the quiet, finding the new and different to take pictures of, starting to learn Photoshop Elements 9 (a great gift I received), organizing my picture files, writing, doing some art in my daughter’s art space. For some reason that is not yet understood, the new seems to be about creativity. Pretty much never an artist of any sort, I am inexplicably drawn to it, and on a level that feels compulsory. A life-long reader no longer able to read much of anything (except hopefully the Photoshop manual!), it feels almost, on a level that defies articulation, as though its becoming more about images, less about words. A huge shift and challenge for this airy-thinking-Mercurial type…

Tomorrow, New Year’s Day, I think I will do a ritual of some kind to mark the passage. In the meantime, in the spirit of new beginnings, I’ve updated my blog, and it has a whole new look. My daughter created the new banner from a photo I took a few years ago while in Vermont attending a workshop on The Amherst Writer’s and Artist’s method of writing group leadership. It’s one of few photos I kept from that trip. I’d been exploring tiny backroads in a wetlands area as research for my novel and came upon this simple, yet beautiful scene. A perfect image to accompany musing in the moment. I'm still doing some fine-tuning, but it's pretty much up and running. I hope you enjoy the new look!

And speaking of new beginnings: while together here for the holidays, we celebrated my younger daughter, Katie's, graduation from college the week before Christmas. It's been a long haul for her, having to work full time for the last two years to support herself while attending classes. It was hard and she hung in there and I am SO proud of her...

Wishing her and all of you the very best of new beginnings...


Sweet, gentle Lola. Rescued hours before being euthanized, adopted by my daughter and her boyfriend. My companion for the week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Perfection

Oh, the delightful complications of having more than one blog…  For example, I have this blog right here, where I muse, and pretty much pour my heart out, and I have my newer blog, Snapshots, dedicated to photography, and growing as an artist in that arena. (Big step, btw, to use the word artist… .) I still post some pictures here, mostly more personal ones, but for the most part, I haven’t overlapped, because I don’t know if folks out there check out both blogs.

So, apologies if you’ve already seen this picture. But I wanted to post it here also, partly because I love it and think it’s really beautiful, and also, mostly, because I love the title that presented itself, along with its stirring and thought-provoking implications for life.


UNFOLDING

Everything unfolds. Life unfolds. Moments, hours, and days unfold. Seasons unfold, as does weather. A wave in the ocean unfolds. A piece of writing, a work of art, unfold. The universe is unfolding, as are we, individually, collectively, as a species. Journeys, paths, directions, unfold, like maps, revealing the way as they do.

I was struck by many things as I stared at this photo. How simply perfect the flower is. How beautifully it unfolds. The gentle sweetness of its petals, how they curl so gracefully, over time, away from the middle. The way the center is protected, merely a suggestion, a potential, an idea; a mystery until it is revealed. Yet it exists, in its fullness, from the very beginning. Or does it? Do we know if it lies there, perfectly formed, waiting? Or, is it altered, created by the very process of unfolding? And the center itself, the grand finale, once exposed, not only a marvel to look at, but a miracle in itself, lush, nurturing, life-giving and sustaining.

In psychotherapy, the metaphor of an onion is often used to describe how in the process of therapy, layers and layers open and fall away, accessing deeper and deeper parts of our selves, our psyches, our most "true" beings. But right now, I am lovin' the idea of a rose so much more. For one thing, a rose smells oh so much better than an onion (not that it doesn't stink, sometimes to high heaven, lying on the couch, those layers being pried reluctantly off...). Unlike an onion, if a rose makes me cry, it's from the sheer beauty of it, not the overwhelming sting invading my eyes, nose, mouth, sinuses. I like that as a rose unfolds, it stays intact, whole, as it peels itself away, there to hold, witness, help contain, continue as part of the beauty and process.

I "blame" all my current troubles on the dolphins. (Pardon the lack of segue, but don't worry, we'll come back around...) Tongue-seriously-in-cheek, of course (about the dolphins, not coming full circle.) Five years ago, when I challenged just about every fear I had, and traveled by myself across the country, over to the tiny little Bahaman island of Bimini, to live for a week on a very small boat with nine perfect strangers (and swim with dolphins :) , I likened the process then to stepping outside of a box. A very small box that I had kept myself folded neatly inside of, a severely cramped space, where because of fear, conventions, ignorance, fear, ideas of right and wrong and survival, fear, needing to be good, accommodating, selfless (though try as I might, I always failed pretty miserably at this last one), and where I'd stayed most all my life (except a few semi-rowdy teen years), without even knowing it.

The experience changed the entire trajectory of my life. Though I had "worked on myself" for years, it was the first really major step in beginning the process of unfolding in a whole new and very radical way, and the movement, the changing, the stretching continued and continues, many steps along the way, separating from a marriage that I could no longer fit myself into, the biggest, hardest, most painful to date. And I guess it makes perfect sense that having lived so twisted up, so "cramped," there would be pain and struggles and discomfort and uncertainties and imbalance and undeveloped muscles, all that take time, use, movement to grow, develop, become accustomed, made stronger.

I love looking at this rose, and revisioning the journey and process of unfolding as something beautiful and perfect and graceful and right; somehow, in some big picture, and in ways that I'm blinded to. I love that no part is actually cast aside or cut away, that it merely curves itself out of the way, one row, one lovely petal at a time, to make way for the next and then the next and then the next, to reveal, in right timing, the center and core and purpose. And it doesn't stop there, but continues on, the big, full circle and cycle of life. One petal, one bud, one blossom, one millimeter, one gigantic or small or minuscule step at a time.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ramblings: Joy Comes in the Moment

Last night I cried watching an old episode of The West Wing. I mean really, serious tears, so much so that it was all I could do—because I wasn’t alone—not to just let it loose and sob out loud.

It was the last five or so minutes of the Season One Christmas episode. It cuts between two scenes, a boy’s choir performing at the beautifully decorated White House, and a military funeral for a homeless veteran who had frozen to death on a bench at the Korean War Memorial. At the White House, the President, closest staff members, and scores of others, all dressed in their holiday best; at the funeral, four people, including the man’s mentally disabled brother, also homeless, and the White House Communications Director, who had never met the man,but whose donated coat—with business card in the pocket—the man had been wearing. The only narration, the haunting crescendo-ing melody and harmonies of the boys' choir singing "The Little Drummer Boy."

The West Wing is, in my opinion, some of the best television ever created. It is intelligent, fast moving, fantastically written and developed, passionate, engrossing, serious, sometimes humorous. It raised the bar, it was always excellent, and sometimes, like the episode last night, it stepped beyond excellence and into the realm of pure, unadulterated art, with the ability to capture, stun, amaze.

Last night’s tears were really good news. Some thawing happened, maybe is happening? and it felt so good, to feel something other than burning irritation, resentment, anger, to be moved, to experience the kind of aching that accompanies the heart opening, that is so different from the pain that happens when the heart closes up, is walled off, put away in some unconscious and misguided attempt to save itself from the anguish that in reality, it deepens, perpetuates, creates anew. To live so free of fear and self-protection, to have the heart rubbed raw… broken open… again, and again, and again. How glorious it would be to live in that state.

I remember reading a book in my late teens called Joy Comes in the Morning. For me, lately, I’m becoming acutely aware that joy comes, actually, not so much in the morning, not so much at some distant time, when things change, when I am cured, healed, all better, but in random unexpected moments. Walking out of Trader Joe’s to a sky on fire, not just ribbons, but yards and yards of red, pink, coral taffeta thrown against the still, blue sky. A lone pink and white fushia blossom hanging delicately, covered in fresh raindrops against a gloomy, gray landscape. The way my dog prances through the leaf-littered sidewalk; my timid and fearful cat licking my face; a quote, or poem, or even random words that inexplicably move me; a fictionalized television program welling something deep from inside.

I remember my favorite Hawaiian singer-songwriter Lono telling the story once of a couple of big, old, strapping Hawaiian men coming up to him after a performance, tears streaming down their faces, thanking him for his music, for the way that it just hurts so good. Indeed. There is sometimes a fine line between pain and pleasure, between sorrow and joy, and I know the experience these men spoke of, of something touching so deeply, that is experienced as so extraordinarily beautiful, it feels literally like it rips the soul open, and in the ripping, there is such enormous sensation, it is often labeled as pain. I have that experience with Hawaii in general, and with its music, with the Brothers Cazimero, Keola Beamer, and yes, Lono, the first time I heard him perform, tears streaming inexplicably over my own cheeks. Hurts so good. I sometimes think this is my issue with Christmas. There’s just something about it, the mix of warmth, love, mystique, family, candles, fog, music, the sacred, joy, fear, disappointment, excitement, surprise, loss, tragedy, heartbreak; a depth of feeling all intertwined inside, layer upon layer, until I don’t know moment to moment, one from the other, which to trust, how to open myself to one without fear and memory of the other.

It's in the little things. The big, little everyday things. And to opening. Or being opened, for I'm not at all sure it's something that can be decided upon and then accomplished. It's not like I can wake up one morning, decide to be more open, and wala, it happens. It's in that edge, in the intimacy, the intertwining of the two, pain and happiness, joy and sorrow, that are, in fact, not so separate at all. Khalil Gibran speaks of it in one of my favorite quotes from The Prophet:

The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your
laughter rises was oftentime filled with your tears...
When you are joyous, look deep into
your heart and you shall find it is only
that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in
your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been
your delight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Singing in the Dark

In the dark times will there be singing? Yes. there will be singing about the dark times.
~Bertolt Brecht

I immediately loved this quote when I saw it couple of days ago. I can't say why exactly, except that it filled my heart with a weirdly good feeling. Like oh, thank god, it's all okay...it's all acceptable... whatever it is... we will not lose our voices, we will honor it, speak of it, sing about it. It inspired me, it helped me get started writing after being away from it for a week, and it gave me the push that I needed--again--to just write what's true...

...even if it's dark.

I have been feeling so grumpy. And dial-tone-y. And over all, most of the time, really crappy. And in the rare moments that I’m not quite so bad, it takes the barest push, the breathless whisper, a look, a tone of voice, a signal light, an inconsiderate driver, someone talking to me when I long to just be still and quiet, to send me tumbling back over again.

I know that irritability is a big component of depression. Still, it's been a long time since I've felt this acutely/chronically irritable. Sometimes I'm so irritable, I can hardly stand myself. I can only imagine what it's like for others to be around me. It's like I just want to be alone, and left alone... And yet. I know I need to be with people right now. Ironic. So I guess the oxymoronic deal here is that I need to be around people, I just don't want to have to interact with them.

Hmm. Conundrum.

I guess now is as good a time as any to just be out there with all the unpleasant feelings I've been experiencing of late. Along with irritability, there has been some big time resentment. Not that I'm happy about it, or particularly proud, but it's there, so why not come clean about it. In fact, resentment is one of those feelings/words--like tenderness a few weeks ago, and more recently chaos (more on that later)--that out of nowhere showed up and camped on my doorstep until I had no choice but to get up and let it in. An unpleasant house guest shadowing me, both the reality of it and the concept.

Me, resentful? You bet. And at first, when I realized just how resentful I could be, all I could feel was the shame of it, like I'm the only one in the entire world guilty of harboring this noxious, odoriferous, offensive weed. This old, hardened, crystallized anger; the low-grade bitterness which, according to Buddhist teacher Pema Chodren, is the greatest obstacle to experiencing joy. But then something happened, and as I watched it, once again I gained some appreciation for how Life sometimes works. Because I realized that tenderness showed itself first; by some accident or fluke or design or miracle, it was there already, had been there for a couple of weeks, a soft pillow to cushion the full onslaught of feeling at seeing how resentful I can sometimes (often?) be, and it neutralized the shame and embarrassment, freeing up space to investigate. And in the investigation, I got it that resentment, for me anyway, is/was simply, merely, a natural, yet unskillful response to having been hurt. It says nothing about my character. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It simply means there is unresolved pain. Oh, what a relief. And it went further than that. Because tenderness is tender, because it has the capacity to soften whatever it touches, because it's gentle and benevolent, it stretched itself out, gathered up mother, father, sister, lover, in-laws, old friends, and cast them in a new light, and I saw, as clearly as I saw in that moment that I had not intentionally manifested resentment, they had not intentionally, not once, not ever purposefully caused me pain.

 My teacher Isaac harps on this all the time. And it's one of those things I've gotten as a concept. But the morning that all this was stirring so radically inside me, I got it, I truly saw that this was the case. That not one of the people on the short but passionate list of those that have wronged me had done so casually, purposefully, vengefully. In fact, for the most part, it was innocent, and a result of their own pain, confusion, limitations, wounds. 

With their faces swimming all around me, I understood I was experiencing a powerful moment of grace. Will it change anything? Who knows. Nonetheless, it was a lovely note in the middle of a big patch of darkness.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Moving On...

Here's the bummer about blogging publicly. The words end up out there, a permanent, irrevokable record of thought, beliefs, ideas, the truths of the moment. And then when change comes along, when new words are typed that contradict the old ones, it just looks, you know, bad... like I don't know what I'm talking about, like I'm wishy-washy, like I can't make up  my mind.

And maybe what the record reflects is actually more right than I want to believe...

Anyway, the latest change: in spite of what I wrote not long ago about a nice wintery retreat here where I will meditate, write, walk, take pictures, and art and fart (really, I'm so embarrassing sometimes, the way I can wax about things), I find myself on the cusp of "abandoning" my home. I get clear messages constantly that I am not supposed to be here. It's more than the sadness and emptiness and aloneness and isolation and depression (like I should need more...) but it's actual concrete things that happen that tell me that I really need to hit the road.

I had a friend once who ignored a serious feeling of unease as she boarded an airplane. The vibe just felt really bad, and she had a strong feeling to get herself and her son off the plane, though she ended up choosing not to make the waves or look silly. A little over halfway between Hawaii and SF the plane lost an engine. They made it safely to LA (the closest airport at the time) but she never forgot the feeling, or that she didn't listen to it, at the possible peril of she and her young son.

From the time things first began to go sour here, beginning about a month in, when yellow jackets invaded my bedroom, I have had an unwavering gut feeling that I was being communicated with. And the message was: get the hell out of there. Truly, and it felt imperative. You can ask people I've communicated with about it along the way. My sister, Ex, my daughters. It's not that I actually feel in danger... but the feeling, when it's been there strongly, has felt urgent. As in, head for the hills! And yet, because there's no where else to really go, because there are things that I really do love about my home, when things would go smoothly and I'd relax, begin enjoying my surroundings, and think, maybe I really could/should/might stay here, it would be almost immediate cause and effect. Thought, water heater goes out. Thought, water heater goes out again the next day. Thought, rain starts drop, drop, dropping into my hallway. I kid you not. Friends have been here as it has happened and they've been amazed. I'd verbalize my thought, and within thirty, sixty minutes, something big would be go wrong.

It's not that I'm slow on the uptake. It's just that this is major... I bought this house. Moved all my stuff in. And I love being in a space that I've created, with the things, the energy, that I love. Like it or not, it's become my home, where I--most of the time anyway--eat, sleep, write, etc., etc., where my animals and I live.

If I wasn't already depressed, it could be very depressing...

After the rain leak, I never vacilated again about keeping the house. Though I did think that I'd stay until it sells. Now I'm not so sure. I am uncomfortable here. In a big way. As I wrote before, coming home has become really hard. Being here once home, really hard. Thinking about staying any length of time, really hard. For the most part, even though I feel that in general I am starting to do better, I'm very depressed when I am here, in a way that is really difficult to find words for. I don't know if it's the season, which is traditionally hard for me, or the depression, or, simply that I truly with all my being want to be back in the bay area, around the people, things, places I know and love, where if I want I can mingle, or have a photo field trip or take a class or meet a friend for a movie or try Restorative Yoga or buy books for fifty cents at the library sale or go to a year-round farmer's market or sit with a teacher or hop across the bridge to see my daughter or hear the ocean or watch the sun setting on water or see the bridges lit up or the Xmas tree in Union Square. Or, if I wanted, which I usually do during December, because it makes me feel good, I could hit four or five TJ Maxx's or Marshall's, a Cost Plus or two, an art store, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Target all in a single aternoon.

I didn't know how much I would miss all that. And for the year plus that I lived in Oakland after moving out of our home and before moving here, I pretty much didn't do any of that stuff. But I was also in shock, and I think the whole time I lived in that apartment, I was just trying to stay on my feet, adjust to something that seemed impossible, right the equilibrium, stay afloat, grieve, make sense of it all, grieve some more. Now I think I'm feeling more ready to start getting out. To put on my nice Levi's, my boots, actually fix my hair, maybe brush a bit of color on my cheeks, and head out on the town. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration, maybe I will begin a wee bit smaller, say with a butterfly shoot meet up next Saturday at Ardenwood historic farm...

So there's the antidote to the sadness about giving up my new home, the sense of having failed at this adventure; I will be able to start living again in a way that apparently suits me better than small town America where I know no one, the sidewalks roll up at six, there's nothing that attracts me, no where to wear my nice jeans, and pretty much the only place to shop is dreaded, and I mean dreaded, Walmart. And yes, it's the ending of another idea or dream and there is a significant pause here. My depressed mind wonders out loud if I'll ever be able to have a home again, if I'll ever be able to create this coziness, have my own special space, again. Why it looks at it that way, instead of the sunny side, the opportunity to find an even better space, one that suits me far more, is beyond me.

Beyond everything, I really need to be with people right now. When I'm with people, be it staying at Ex's, or with either of my daughters, or when my sister is here visiting me, despair is kept at a distance. When I'm alone up here, it arrives as if my special invitation, like it's waiting as I pull into the garage, and stays at will, until I get in the car and head back. So today I'm heading back, today when I leave my house, I do so knowing I'm in the beginning stages, no, actually solidly in the middle ones, of letting it go, of moving on, of continuing this mysterious thing we call the journey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My New So Called Life

The sun setting on San Francisco Bay. Taken from the San Leandro Marina Monday evening.

I’ve gathered up all my courage and signed up for a Meet Up group. It’s the Bay Area Photography and Exploration Society, and I’ve RSVP’d for their next outing which is photographing butterflies at Ardenwood Farm.

This is exactly the kind of thing that I’ve wanted my “new” life to consist of, and that I love in thought, but not necessarily when it comes to deed, and that I more often than not chicken out of-usually at the last minute. The last time I lost the $298 fee for a photography workshop at Point Reyes that I ended up not attending. It’s the whole group thing, me projecting that they all know (and of course like) each other, me standing on the sidelines, me feeling lost and awkward, fantasizing  knowing that they are all fantastic photographers with smart equipment and savvy portfolios. Of course the good news here is that I don’t need to talk to anyone to take pictures. And we won't be sharing work. In fact, if need be, I can hide behind my camera, and inhabit my own little world; just me and the butterflies. Or, me with butterflies. Oh, and more good news, it’s not going to cost hundreds of dollars.

I’m writing about it because I want to be held to it. It’s a week from this coming Saturday, which is perfect since Saturday is a blogging day. I can - I will - come home and write about the experience. I’m hoping that because I'm telling people I’ve signed up, then I’ll have to go. I also posted it on Facebook. I can’t believe I did that… I don’t ever post on FB, but there was the little button called share and before I could think about it, I'd already hit it.

Hmmm...

It was suggested that I set an intention, so that an “unintentional” intention that might include fear doesn’t accidentally get set. So, here's my intention for the day: to be excited yet calm, eager yet confident, to be me, to have fun, to meet a few people, and of course, to get some good great photos.

Today I also posted my writing groups on craigslist. (check out my website here.) Big step, and another thing I desire in my new life: to grow my writing group business; to expand the one group I currently facilitate, begin daylong workshops once a month, eventually expand to weekend retreats, and heart of hearts desire, week-long writing retreats on Moloka'i. Another thing that is not easy for me... marketing myself...

I did both of these things when I got home today after being away ten days. Every time I leave, coming home gets harder and harder, to the point where I sometimes wonder how many more times I'm going to be able to do it. I get used to being with people, then coming home feels hundreds of miles away from where I want to be. It feels like solitary confinement. It feels like Siberia. So it was good to take some concrete steps, ones that are hard for me right now, but that hopefully will bring me one or two steps closer to the life I thought/hoped/envisioned I want(ed). Because I didn't want the other one... or so I thought; or maybe what I wanted was for the other one to be better, except that it wasn't, and now I'm here... where I really don't want to be either, and where the other one seems infinitely better except that it's too late, that ship having sailed; not that I want to turn back, because I don't, I can't, I wouldn't, I couldn't, except sometimes, especially when I first get home and feel alone in the big middle of the big unfamiliar sea, the thought of home, of sharing warm space sounds so damned appealing.

...though the moutains did welcome me home with a beautiful sunset all its own:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanks-Giving


“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.
~Don Juan DeMarco, played by Johnny Depp


There are so many things about my life today (well, almost all of it really) that if you’d told me three years ago would be this way, I’d have thought you had either gone completely mad, or were from another planet entirely. And now, here’s the latest: snow twice in one week, AND in two different states. Yep. First at my home in Sonora, then on Thanksgiving when we woke to the most beautiful snowfall at my daughter and her boyfriend's in Washington. It fell all morning, a good two or three inches of wet, fluffy, powdery, beautiful white stuff, more than enough to be excited about and grateful for.


In fact, this Thanksgiving there has been so much awareness of what there is to be grateful for. Maybe that's the gift of loss, and having to let go of so much; traditions, ways of being, structures, securities, things that have been usual, customary, counted, on; all that’s been taken for granted for decades. When stripped down to the raw, bare essentials, it is truly simple to see what remains, what has never actually been lost, what is the core and foundation of everything, and the only thing truly meaningful.

Only love.

My teacher Isaac often speaks about the Beloved, which he says is the strongest and most pure love that can be felt. Like the love you feel for your daughters, he tells me, unencumbered by daily life and issues that arise; the purest, most unconditional love imaginable. For the past few years, deep in the dark forest of so much change, the words had no way to reach me. But this holiday time, by some grace or magic, and for the first time in a long while, maybe ever, letting go of agenda, expectations, sadness, grief, and longings has happened, and in their place, has slipped a soft, natural, unefforted, profound feeling of love. Try as I might, I can't begin to describe it. The best I can do is to say it feels like a swelling and opening of the heart, a stillness, a deep appreciation, a vast acceptance, a sweet and gentle vulnerability.

Most often I have found love encased in a solid shell of worry, fear, grief, and leftover defense mechanisms, desperate to break out, but not knowing how. Though my guess is, that just like consciousness, it is ever present, and all that is required is to soften and surrender, to get out of the way. Yet even that seems not to be in our power. It happens if and when it happens.

For the past couple of months, it's been pointed out repeatedly that the healing path for me is all about vulnerability. Just writing the word, I feel the energy of it, of anxiety and excitement, flow all the way to my feet and toes. It might just be the scariest thing I've ever faced; far more frightening than leaving my marriage, going to Moloka'i alone for three months, moving away, because the hard shell is how I learned so long ago to protect the helpless little one in the face of need, abandonment, abuse, and I've dressed it up, fixed its hair, and worn it all these years like an armor. Though piece by piece it seems to be falling away and this weekend I was aware of the tender exposed places, and the love that was there, ready and waiting to fill them up.

When something is rare, it becomes all that more precious. For us, it's time together. It's been ten months since my daughters and I have all been together. Our awareness of that, our joy at being in each other's company, opened something palpable in each of us, and I felt our bond as I've rarely experienced it in the past.

My youngest daughter and I flew into SF late last night, a plane full of others returning from long distances to spend those cherished hours and days with loved ones. Katie was met by her new boyfriend, whose arms she practically flew into she was so excited to see him, and him her, so much so that he parked and walked as close as he could get to our arrival gate. I was picked up by Ex, who drove all the way to the city at night—something he hates to do, the city and the night—so I wouldn’t have to make the long, tiring ride on public transportation.

Another thing to add to the list of all that I am grateful for: that we walked through the dark and unknown separately and together and have come out the other side officially uncoupled yet more grounded than ever in deep love, caring, and respect.







Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beauty for the Soul

After a wild night of pouring rain, gusty winds, thunder, and some flickering lights, I woke this morning to the most awesome sight. Opening my curtains, there was white everywhere; falling from the sky, covering the trees, the road, the birdfeeder, the rosemary, the late season rosebuds. I sat down in the rocker by the window, my body going completely still, and for the first time since I left Moloka’i a year ago—where it happened nearly every day—my soul sang.

I didn’t grow up around snow. And the times I’ve seen it fall I can count on one hand, usually while driving through the mountains and the absolute last thing I wanted to be encountering. But sitting here this morning I just stared and stared, completely mesmerized at the lacey curtain of white descending from the heavens, and I wondered if there’s anything that transforms a landscape like snow does. It is magical the way the sky lowers itself right onto the earth, smudging the line between it and the hills and mountains, gently releasing millions of one-of-a-kind crystalline flakes, brush painting everything in a soft blanket of downy white. And it’s more than just the visual. There’s a feeling to it, especially when it falls as quietly gentle as it did this morning. I could feel it in my bones, and it rang in my spirit; the peace, the tranquility, the stunning dream-like otherworldliness of it.

After two hours it stopped, then turned to a soft rain. It’s surprising how quickly the rain drops melt the snowflakes clean away, leaving me wondering if I'd dreamt it all. But it’s okay. It was everything I’d hoped for moving up here. Plus it looks like it will clear up in time for me to make the drive to the bay area this afternoon.

Perfection. All the way around...

(...well, except that blogger has totally changed how everything is done and I'm having a hard time with it... i.e., pictures no longer fitting in the boxes...  ugh)














Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grieving... Again~Still~Again...

I honest to god do not understand what goes on inside me. And I don’t know if it’s connected to the depression, or if it’s still a part of the grieving process. Maybe both, but based on past experience with each, I’m going to assume, am assuming, it's more the latter.

I don’t get how I can write a post like a did last Saturday, that is full of strength, hope, perspective, inspiration even, or Wednesday’s post, where the suffering of others obliterates the personal I nearly completely, and then do a swan dive wherein for the past couple of days, I am swallowed up by grief again to the point that this morning, I’m having trouble moving more than about an inch at a time, and the waterworks flow like snow melting in spring.

I forget that grief is like this. That it comes in big waves that pound and rip at the shoreline, storms of varying intensity and longevity, before quieting, before receding back once again into the greater, calmer ocean. Either that or I think that surely it’s been long enough, surely two years of its coming and going should have done it, should have rendered me done, healed, should have put me squarely back into the normal category, flung me back into that greater, calmer sea once again. Though in truth, I have nothing to base this idea on, no idea what is “normal” in my situation, if there even is such a thing, which I doubt, because it is nothing if not intensely personal, one-of-a-kind, unique to each and every person that might be experiencing their own something similar.

All I know is that it’s the holiday season again and I miss my home, and being surrounded by family so much that it's overwhelmingly painful. All I know is that right now Sonora feels like the loneliest place on the planet. I know that night feels way, way longer than day. That I feel isolated and thousands of miles away from where I want to be. That I feel way more alone here that I ever did on Moloka’i, that tiny little island in the middle of a huge ocean, even though in reality I am a mere two hour drive away.

All I know is that once again, I question everything, everything, including how in the world I could have made such a wrong turn that landed me so unhappily isolated… though it hits me that maybe, no matter where I am, it’s just that it’s the holidays… and nowhere, nowhere that isn’t our family home, the space that I know and love, that was filled with each other whether we were physically present or not, will ever be enough.

And it’s not even that I am facing the holidays without them, because I’m not. We’ll be in Washington, the girls and I for Thanksgiving, and the four of us for Christmas. And I am so happy about that. But in the past few days, I’ve realized that for me, anyway, the “holidays” incorporate far more than a couple of days. It is the season, that almost mysterious time between now and New Years, when time seems almost to stand still, when the days darken and the sun can no longer keep us warm, that are filled with a strange quality of longing and anticipation; the holiday season that was, I’m realizing more fully than ever now, my favorite time as a family. The tenderness, the coziness, the security of being together, all hunkered down in our cave, preparing for celebration, listening to Johnny Mathis and Perry Como and John Denver, candles burning, cookies baking; shopping together, decorating the tree together, wrapping presents, mailing cards. That time of year that is day by day, moment by moment, warmest, fuzziest, because of family and home.

It shouldn't surprise me, then, to find myself flattened by grief once again. And yet it does. It's the hardest wave I've had in a while. Old traditions have died and been buried and I am grieving them... again, still, and yet again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Is All So Effing Relative

Today I read that 15 percent of US households experienced “food shortage” in 2009. That’s 17 million families, approximately 50 million people, including at least 17 million children. I try to get a grip on the number, but know only that it is staggering. I try for some perspective. I realize it is 13 million more people than live in the entire state of California. So, that would be every person living in the most populous state in our union, plus another 13 million. It’s 15 out of every 100 people, it’s 17 million, 17 million children. And that’s just in our country, the self-proclaimed richest country in the world.

It’s a horrible statistic and reality, one that makes me feel completely helpless, that makes me want to cry, and brings a flood of shame at how I complain about my life. It’s stone cold sobering, and it gives me huge pause. I have no idea how to digest it, much less write about it, much less rectify it with my own life; never mind writing a post about the miseries or revelries, the grief, depression, longings, celebrations, pettiness and pity of said life.

So, I’ll leave it at that. As I lay down to sleep in my comfy bed, in my warm, safe house, with cupboards and belly full of not just food, but good, organic, fresh, healthful food, I’ll think about how completely unfair life is. I’ll imagine what it must be like to live with “food insecurity” (great government term, isn’t it?), how it must feel to go to bed hungry, to get up hungry, to have to find my way to a church or community food bank and hope they’re open and pray they have food, to rock my child, hear her tummy growling, know she’s hungry and in pain, to wonder, to worry, to agonize over where our next food—any food, never mind what I like or prefer, never mind what might be good or healthful, how it might have been grown, what it might have been sprayed with—will come from; and know that I can't begin to imagine it, can't begin to imagine what it must be like to know true hunger, the pain of hunger, the fear of hunger, and not be able to go to the fridge or the pantry or the store; how I can't begin to imagine it when I can't even fathom it... when numbers like that fly beyond me because they are simply so inconceivable.

Fifty million people... and that's just here, in the "great" U S of A. Politics, religion, platforms, ideals, policies, debates aside, it's simply unconscionable. That food, along with air and water, the holy triad of what a body needs to survive, and beyond surviving to thrive, is not an unailiable right in this country that is so proud of its many unailiable, self-evident, natural, and universal rights.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Art Imitating Life... or is it Visa Versa?


Fall is fully here in Sonora. Nothing near the east coast, but our own little version, with leaves of every color, shape and size (the persimmon is by far my favorite – gorgeous corals and oranges), clear, crisp mornings and nights, and the wonderful smell of wood burning in fireplaces. This week we’ve hit 32 degrees overnight, and I can feel winter closing in. It, too, is in the air, though it’s more subtle and mysterious, difficult to articulate. It's a stillness, a quiet anticipation, almost like earth softening herself, preparing for restful barrenness and sleep.

Surprisingly, on good days, anyway, I find myself really looking forward to a long winter here. On those good days, here is my sense: I am here. It looks like I’ll be here for the winter. Maybe, because I’m here, there really is a reason I am here; maybe my being here, though it looks from pretty much every vantage like a colossal mistake, is somehow part of an invisible rightness, maybe being here is actually perfect… the perfect retreat, all winter, nothing to do but be… in my little cave in the almost mountains. Each day my sense grows stronger that maybe, just maybe hibernating here might be not just good, but very, very good; might in fact, be exactly what I need; the next step in resting, recuperating, renewing… and healing.

Here’s how I envision spending my retreat days:

Writing
Meditating (I’m getting pretty good… over 20 minutes sometimes… it’s a miracle)
Walking
Taking pictures
Doing art (mixed media collage)
Eating fresh, healthy food (part of any good retreat… more on this sometime later)
Sitting on my sofa with my animals staring out into the trees

The desire to create has burned inside me for many (mostly frustrated) years, and I am feeling the heat of that flame again, the hunger to give myself over to creativity. In the creative process, you surrender and let go, go out on a limb, take risks,plummet, soar, expose yourself, lose yourself, find yourself. Lately I have found myself reading inspiring blogs and buying books by amazing creative women. Two weeks ago I moved my dining room table closer to a window and turned it over to art. The table is now strewn with paper, paint, brushes, scissors, the current project. It’s a mess and I love it. I can sit and work as I am moved, with no need to get everything out and clean up each time. A whole room, albeit small, and smack in the middle of my home, not tucked away in some obscure bedroom, dedicated to the messiness, the chaos, of creativity. What freedom. It flaunts convention, and it fills me with a feeling that I can't even find the words to describe, except that there's something about it makes me slightly breathless. What symbolism, art in the center of my home reflecting my deeper desire for it to be the center of my life. And collage seems like the perfect thing right now. Take a piece of this, a scrap of that, throw some paint here, some images there, maybe some words. It’s chaos until something does—or does not—emerge from all the bits and pieces. Just like life. Sometimes a thing of beauty is born and it is joyful, other times it is a hugely sad disappointment, you throw it away or paint over it and begin again. Just like life. It is alive. It is stimulating. It transports. Regardless of outcome, it is always, always about the act; the process, not the product, the journey, not the destination.

Just like life. And don't get me wrong, it is a big process this learning to accept what does or does not emerge, this letting go of or redefining the idea of beauty, of outcome, of identity, of what "should" or "shouldn't" be, to not question, second-guess, judge, critique, evaluate.

Again, just like life.

Which has brought me here. For some mysterious reason that only It knows. With, some would say, have said on more than one occasion, an amazing opportunity. No job, obligations, places to be, things to do, people to take care of. As the seasons turn, I will take my que from them. A time to retreat. A time to be. A time to surrender and let go. A time to create.

As in art, so hopefully, in life.

I always think of spring as the beginning. But in truth, it is winter. Fall marks the dying away, then winter the internal resting; the dark, quiet, solitude, where the decay transforms itself magically into the rich compost necessary for creation, birth and new growth. Without winter, spring could not even be a thought, much less a possibility. I feel myself reveling in the anticipation of this wintertime. The fire is burning, the table set...






Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spoiler Alert: It's a Downer

It poured last night. I used to enjoy few things more than a good soaking until a couple of weeks ago when my roof leaked. Now I watch the gray ceiling and storm clouds approaching with serious butterflies in my stomach.

In all my years, from crappy apartments and duplexes to fairly nice houses, I’ve never had rain water dripping inside my house. It was a gloomy Sunday afternoon, in a place where I know no one except my realtor. It unhinged me in a way that was shocking. I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and head to the safety and security of the Bay. But I couldn't... because my roof was leaking.

I’m back to the love/hate relationship with fall. Driving home from the Bay Area late yesterday afternoon, forgetting about the time change, it was almost dark—and already lonely—when I pulled into my garage. Note to self: Drive home from now on in the middle of the day. I was already in a terrible mood. My women’s group is going shitty. Transference and Projection, the psych 101 twins, have thrown us all back into the chaos, abandonment, abuse and pain of early, early childhood. All of us with our humungous mother wounds practically bleeding on the beige carpet, going for each other’s throats, thinking somehow that will assuage the overwhelming, and I mean overwhelming-I need-to-kill-something pain. This morning it was all I could do to unravel myself from the fetal position I’d spent the night in. Then I pried my swollen eyes open and for the first time in years, turned on Beverly Hills 90210 reruns.

You heard me right. Kelly, Donna, Brandon. Smoldering Dylan. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh. The Beach House.

I started watching the show when my oldest daughter was fifteen and she wanted me to watch it with her. Anything to bond with a teenager. In a few months, she’d grown tired of it and I was hooked. Of course it’s fiction, crap soap opera-ish tv, but I envied them their friendships, their urban family. I still do. Same with Sex and the City. That tight intimacy of I’m-always-there-for-you friends. Their midnight calls to each other, Sunday brunches, the arguments and tear-filled reunions; swimming through the big sea of life. Together

I long for that kind of community. I always have. Though never more than now, when I feel alone and isolated so often. I’ve had quasi-groups. A work community I was never quite a part of. Church groups where I clearly didn’t belong. I tried PTA when my kids were in school. It fit about like a shoe two sizes too small. Even in my spiritual community, I more often feel like an outsider, than one who truly belongs. I read people’s blogs who seem to have everything anyone could want: meaningful work, a family their life revolves around, garden, art, friends, community. A sense--an actual fact of--belonging.

Ugh.

I keep trying to make meaning out of this time in my life. When I face each day as a long highway with no stops, nothing to do, see, accomplish. Nowhere to be. No one in the car for the journey. I keep thinking there must be some reason why now, at a time when one would think I’d need it most, I am so un-peopled.

Nothing to do, but be. A serious spiritual opportunity here, I know. And I do better with it some days than others. Some days, I welcome it. Some days I nearly throw my arms around it, pull it to me, and embrace it. It's just that today isn't one of those days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tenderness

Ever since I wrote the word in my last post, I can't get it off my mind. It is with me constantly, like the invisible presence of a new love, and like a new love, it's opened something in me.

When I think of tenderness, I think of babies, puppies, daughters, the delicate sprout of a tiny seedling folding itself out of the brown earth; things that are new, helpless, sweet; things and beings that are pure and untarnished; that are vulnerable, and need warmth, care, and nurturing to thrive and grow.

It never dawned on me what an amazing act it would be to be tender toward oneself. Even though I've bandied the idea of self-love about with the best of them, until recently, until the word tenderness became my new and constant companion, it was always a concept from the head rather than a knowing of the heart. It started a few weeks ago when the idea of radical self-acceptance dawned on me, self-acceptance toward all the things in me and about me that are flawed and imperfect, that make me wholly human, that might be hard sometimes to be around, that I've been shamed for, that I've been ashamed of. And it was huge, this bright new notion, like the shifting of earth's tectonic plates, and it opened a new doorway, and in the past few days something has been melting, and tenderness has flowed in and out through that passage, and with tenderness, automatically streams its counterparts, love and compassion and kindheartedness, and they are all glowing in me, like a soft yellow lamp on a gray winter's day.

Tenderness. How fascinating that it refers to both the hurting and the healing. These places in me have been tender; raw and painful, an achy, bruised, chronic tenderness. And now tenderness comes along... and wraps the vulnerable, innocent one in its loving, caring, affectionate tender arms.

Wow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Changing Course

Is it just me, or does NaBloPoMo suck? I have to say, here at Day 6, I’m not bowled over. The writing is not doing it for me. Rather than arising from some spontaneous and true wellspring inside, it feels forced, unnatural, coerced. When I sit, I wonder what I’m going to write about, instead of going effortlessly with whatever’s on my plate; what’s on my mind. Everyday it feels like efforting; like a big pressure, a cloud over the day, and not the joyful thing that I had hoped for.

So…

Sitting here this morning, listening to that one dang bird—when I feel like I could really use the cacophony—I am wondering… I am wondering if just like in photography, there isn’t a particular style, a specific, distinct way (which includes timing), that I alone am supposed to write. It’s a rhetorical question, of course. I know that over the year and a half I’ve been writing this blog, I have found that; over the course I have discovered and tapped into my own unique mode and rhythm of expression. And finding it, exploring it, practicing it, putting myself out there in it, has been as satisfying as it has been exhilarating.

So…

With the blessings (urgings, actually) of my writing coach and mentor (my wise-beyond-her-years-writer daughter who has so had my back year after year on this writing path), I am officially giving up NaBloPoMo. Already, on Day 6, there has been great seeing and learning. If I were involved in a big writing project, that would be one thing. If I were writing a piece of fiction, or a memoir (which I would still love to do someday… I’ll just put that out there…), a singular entity that requires continuous nurturing, that would be different. And in that case, in my opinion, as much as possible, it simply must be done every day. But for this particular kind of writing, for the purpose that this blog serves, knowing my style and cadence, doing it every day does not work.

I do know what drew me to it. In my depression, I was not writing as much or as often as I wanted, and I wanted to light the fire under myself so to speak. So, as is also in my “style,” I went straight for the hatchet. Not writing enough?? Then you’ll write every single day, by golly. Well intentioned, but a bit ludicrous when seen from some perspective. In my life, baby steps have never really been my MO, though I am learning. A really nice baby step—in fact a very sane approach—would have been to pick two days a week and commit to posting on those days.

So…

That is my new pledge. To post a minimum of two days a week. More, if the urge authentically hits, if there’s more that is bubbling to the surface. But not less. And because I am taking baby steps trying to get more discipline in my life, I will pick two days, say Wednesday and Saturday, that I will post. Ah, today is Saturday. Perfect.

This feels so good. In fact, the breath that I didn't know I'd been holding all week, just let itself out. It feels gentle and nurturing. And at the same time, there is still the intention and the commitment around that intention that I will hold myself to. It is good to meet myself with tenderness, to be able to be graciously open to changing my mind, to letting myself off the hook that I see already isn't serving. It is liberating, to hoist the sail mid journey and to change course, with the wind solidly at my back now, rather than struggling daily against it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photography My Way


New Books~
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting from the Heart

inner EXCAVATION: Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry, and Mixed Media


I got these two books in the mail today and I am so excited. Many times I've tried reading books about photography, and I've never gotten past page one. Most of them out there are dry and technical and scientific. Which, on one hand, photography is. But it's also unquestionably so much more. And here are two books--whose type I didn't even know existed, that I didn't know I was looking for until I found them--that spoke to that so much more. Taking them out of the box, flipping through them, I could feel the energy of excitement and knowing and recognition moving through my body.

I ran across The Shutter Sisters Blog by happy accident one day and felt immediately as though I'd arrived exactly where I belonged. Here's part of what I read about their philosophy:

Shutter Sisters is committed to honoring and celebrating the beauty that women behind cameras can capture. We embrace the belief that we are all creative equals, eager to share with one another our work; our art. It is in that sharing that we thrive and grow not only in our creativity but in all facets of our lives... . A great image is a great image whether it happened by beautiful mistake or meticulous calculation.

Most of the pictures that I take that I end up really loving belong more in the happy accident category. I don't seem to have the capacity, the knowledge, the patience, the whatever, that is needed to meticulously set up a shot. I know that about myself. I know that I'd rather take two or three hundred shots and hope for a few exciting ones (thank goodness for digital...) than to take the same amount of time to set up the shots and take just a few. Not only that, I don't think I'd even know how. And, because of that, sadly, I've been under the assumption that because I don't do it "properly," I would never be very successful. Yet now, here is a blog and a book, with contributors that are both professional and amateur photographers, that tell me otherwise, that honor that there are different ways of accomplishing the same thing, and that there is no one way that fits everyone.

Yipee.

For me, there is a thrill to just shooting that would be lost if I took a more scientific approach. It works for me. It excites me no end to come home after shooting and have so many pictures to go through. It's just how I do things. When gardening, there was never a master plan, as is suggested by all the books out there. I just started someplace and it grew and evolved from there. Same with decorating, with road trips, with so much of what I do.

It doesn't mean that I don't have a shitload to learn. It doesn't mean that I don't crave growth and transformation as a photographer. I want to learn more about light and meters and filters and tripods. I want to experiment with composition, be more creative, step more outside the box. There is so much on the technical side that I need and want to learn. And slowly, it is happening. In my way, in my time. But even more than technical knowledge, I want to discover and then develop my own unique style, and beyond that, to learn and practice the art of photographing from the heart.

I can't wait to get going...

Oh, and p.s. I've created a new blog, Snapshots From the Moment, for my photography. My goal, eventually, is to post a picture a day, and maybe to write about the learning and the experience of taking pictures. To visit the site, click below.

Visit my new blog here!

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who Do You Miss?


Back in Sonora, looking out my big picture window, I see how every few minutes, a subtle breeze comes through and blows dozens of tiny oak leaves from the tree across the street, and they fall like a graceful curtain of gold snowflakes to the ground. Watching it, I imagine what it will be like when snow falls here in the winter. It’s a primary reason I moved up here, the idea of snow, just enough to enjoy the experience, not enough to impact my daily life. Growing up in the Bay Area, snow is not an experience I’ve ever had. Yet I can easily picture it: Sitting with a fire in my big gas fireplace, a soft blanket covering me, dog's warm body on one side of me, cat's on the other, drinking a cup of hot tea, writing or reading a book, plump crystalline flakes falling magically from a gray sky.

As soon as that tinge of crisp edge hits the air, I anticipate fall and winter. It happens every year automatically, my cells light up, and I am like a naive kid looking forward to so much. I’m sure I’ve written about all that I love: the leaves, the cooler weather, the warmer clothes, the coziness of hunkering down, the rain, the first storms, holidays—forgetting each year, with near total amnesia, that the season also brings its shadow side: darkness, and its emotional counterparts: losses, memories, melancholy, missing, grief.

I was reading some prompts on the NaBloPoMo site and one caught my attention: who do you miss, it asked. Who do I miss? I didn’t have to think, because the answer came instantaneously. I miss my friend Tanya. Maybe because it’s fall, and I have so many fall memories that have to do with her. Halloweens together. Fall Festivals. Holiday boutique-ing. How we used to drop our kids off the first day of school in early September, autumn already in the air those early mornings, then we’d head to the local cafĂ© for breakfast. Every year for years it was our tradition. Summer with the kids was over, routine was back, and we’d have a morning to ourselves--finally--once again. We’d spend hours over our food and talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company like really good friends are supposed to.

We met when her oldest and my youngest started kindergarten, and our friendship lasted fifteen years. There aren’t many people in my life now or ever that I remember the first time I ever saw. But I remember her. There she was outside the classroom door, much younger than I, cute, perky, waving goodbye to one kid, pushing the other in a stroller, electric blue eyes, a lovable, insecure smile, and a rare and engaging sweetness. We gravitated toward each other, and our friendship grew until we were almost inseparable; No one made me laugh like she did. Few people forged their way into my heart the way she did. No one was easier for me to be with, talk to. The boundary between us melted away, we saw each other daily, and talked on the phone at least once a day. There was little, if anything, that we didn't and couldn't talk about. We were there for each other,through good times and through hard times, as our families evolved, as our kids grew and changed, as we grew and changed; until, I guess, one change too many, our friendship suffered, and over the course of about a year, it cracked, crumbled, and finally broke for good.

It's been years but I still think of her more often than I ever thought I would. Mostly when the season turns, the days shorten and grow cooler, life turns more inward. The beauty and the melancholy of fall. Two edges of the same sword. Two sides of the same coin. The leaves at their most stunning just before they die.

I could wax philosophical. I could talk about how people come into our lives at certain times, for certain purposes. How few people hop aboard for the long haul, most for a chapter or two. How to everything there is, as they say, a season. And it's all true. And she was in my life for a big and important chapter; a long, enduring season; she was a huge and wonderful part of my life. And... I miss her. Always, but most poignantly, in fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time to Celebrate


Aubrey Huff and his rally thong! ~From Yahoo

I am way too tired to write. I got up at 6:45 to take BART into San Francisco for the World's Series Champion Giant's parade and ceremony. Me, my sister and her boyfriend, my aunt and uncle, and hundreds of thousands of others. A crowd estimated to be the largest ever in San Francisco's history.

BART was overwhelmed. The line snaked all the way out the station, down the walkway, and into the parking lot, with people waiting over an hour just to buy a ticket. We gaped at the line, and headed to Safeway, bought our tickets there, and were back at the station in about 10 minutes, where we boarded a train immediately and were on our way.

I've never been in the midst of so many people in my life. Not in Times Square, not walking the SF Bay to Breakers, not ever. So many that seeing anything beyond the people in front of us was not possible. So many that when one moved, everyone moved, like a big wave in the ocean. So many that if you stopped to think about it, it could actually be frightening.

But I didn't stop to think about it. I didn't think beyond the fun, the excitement, the festive feeling. We walked, we stood for hours, we caught the tiniest glimpses of our heroes. We screamed, we waved, we whistled. We were mobbed, cramped, pushed, shoved, jostled. It was long, hot, exhausting. And... I would do it again in a heartbeat. At a time when there is so much that is difficult, sad, disheartening, wrong, unfair, painful on our personal and collective plates, it was nice to take the time and make the effort to share the love; to support this team that has brought San Francisco its first ever World Series title; to be part of the party, to be with so many other people, across every imaginable spectrum, with one goal in mind: to savor, enjoy, and celebrate; and to thank the team that showed us that dreams can, indeed, come true.

Giant's President, Larry Baer, said it best, "The triumph of this team allows us to flash back and connect to our past, to experience the beauty of our memories and shared experiences with unbridled joy."

As they say in the church of baseball, amen.

















Tuesday, November 2, 2010

WE WON!!!



Well, the Giants are making my first few days of posting easy. I promise, after I attend the parade downtown tomorrow, that I will get on with the more "serious" business of life and blogging!

But for now...

the nail biting, the hair pulling, the high blood pressure, the serious anxiety, is over, and torture has turned to rapture. That incredible moment, with the last out, players running from the outfield, pouring from the dugout, coming together near the mound, high-fiving, fists pumping, huge hugs, rolling around on the ground, jumping into each others' arms, until finally coming together in one large, coalesced, gyrating circle of ecstatic celebration. Their reaction, and the look on their faces will stay with me for a long, long time. Shock, surprise, awe, and then the pure, unadulterated joy. A personal height few of us will ever experience. And on my face, the smile stayed until my jaws hurt, and I stayed up way too late because I wanted to watch every interview, hear every word about what the experience was like for each and every one of them.

This team has captured a city's heart. My daughter, who lives in San Francisco, was telling me during the series that she was amazed by the vibe. She was loving how strangers were talking to each other, how nice people were to each other. She said it reminded her of how people react when something bad happens, how the energy changes, the illusion of separation is erased, and there is a new-found sense of being united. How great it’s been, she said, to walk around without that wall that generally separates the million plus that live in the big city.

I love that baseball is non-contact and non-violent. I love that it is a “thinking man’s” (and woman’s!) game. I love that there is so much history and lore, such romanticism attached to it. I love the anticipation of each pitch. I love all the sensory experiences of the ballpark; the sound of bat on ball, ball on glove, the ump calling balls and strikes, vendors hawking peanuts and cotton candy, the roar of the crowd. The smell of popcorn, hotdogs, garlic fries, beer. The sight of a ballpark at night, with the diamond, the grass, the stadium, the seagulls, all shimmering under the bright lights. The feel of the bay breeze, and the cool San Francisco fog on your face.

And last, I love that baseball is/was maybe the only positive connection between my dad and I. He loved the game, he taught me about the game, he took me to the ballpark, and passed his passion for the game on to me. For most of my life, he was an angry, bitter, confused, toxic alcoholic. Most of my memories of him are painful. But not baseball. And I’m not at all sure I would have come to the game any other way.

I am reveling in this time, and there is a heightened appreciation of just how special it is. Time and again I’ve heard this sentiment, from players, broadcasters, sports-talkers, fans: Savor this. It is a rare gem. It is a gift. It is incredible. Enjoy it, savor it. And to be basking in such positive, joyful collective energy is also an incredible gift.

To a man, from Bruce Bochy, the manager, on down, I LOVE these guys. So many amazing stories. Such fun personalities. So much exhuberation and an amazing collective effort. I am proud of them. I am grateful to them.

Congratulations!! Way to go, 2010 World Champion Giants!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


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