Friday, June 16, 2017

somewhere in the mix




















I'm remembering being inside the memory care unit where my Dad, Sunny, spent his last two years. He'd always been a walker, a hiker of trails and mountains and then, as an old man his wanderlust proved unsafe for him.

Settling him into this new place broke me open to crushing sadness and grief. Dad didn't seem crushed. There was confusion, yes. But most of the time sitting together, talking quietly, my hand on his was enough. Thank you, hon. I'm so grateful for your help. 

He'd notice a jar of daisies I'd brought from my garden and his joy was near rapturous.

Some visits I'd psyche myself into such dread, my whole body contracting around my fear of "these people" and what was my father doing in a place like this and the ultimate self-focused reaction - Dear God, what if I end up in a place like this?

There was my internal fear cluster and then I'd enter the community room and Dad's face would light up at the sight of me (and Claire, who was my partner through those years). He'd forgotten many things but somehow held onto his children which was somehow crucial to my feelings of not having lost him completely. Next thing, I'd be sitting in a circle of chairs batting a green balloon over to Joe, WW II fighter pilot, or Carol, who always greeted me like we were long-lost friends, Gosh it's been a while, Betsy. 

Even very quiet Helen would play, gently tapping the balloon off her lap.


Somewhere in the mix, I got into the game wholeheartedly laughing and cajoling, rushes of joy when the balloon was saved from hitting the floor. For some brief precious time I was relieved of my frightened projecting head. And though I never completely relaxed into my father living there, or his growing old and frail, or some of the more serious cases who lived there with him, I came to love these people and balloon volleyball, and my father ever more deeply.







Instead of my usual no no, I can't do this I cannot do this, it shifted.

I can 
I have

I'm here playing balloon volleyball with
Joe
Carol
Helen
and my sweet father, Sunny.

We're here.
We're laughing.
The sun is streaming through the window.


xo b











illustration by Michael Collins

Saturday, May 6, 2017

i bring the whales





















After a breath-taking Easter week up and down the California coast, visiting colleges and leaning into the idea of a future new life out west, there was the last day...

The Pacific in front of us, mountains sweeping up the coastline. It was a quiet morning at Point Dume when we spotted the dolphins. Two of them rising up out of the water like parentheses. Like through glass, we count seven dolphins riding the breaking wave. This was enough of a mother nature gift but the surprise surfacing, like a peaceful submarine, a mountain top, is the whale that brings tears to our eyes.

No words. (No pictures even.)

The whale swims north, occasionally lifting its face, rolling to one side with a wave of a fin. Dolphins scout along side the whale and then we see more - two, three, five whales was our final count. Submerged for the longest time then an exuberant spray from their spouts,

a huge exhale. 
___________________________________________________________

Tears and no words feel right these days.

What words for tenderness, whales, and the ever-changing nature of everything?

For children growing up.






Yes, it is the blink of an eye.
__________________________________________________

We say, You had to be there.

We have to be here. 

In whatever space we find ourselves: tears, joy, connection, the deep ache of loneliness or shall I say, the deep ache of being human, watch it, watch yourself, stay.🌀

When I'm not resisting the daily ocean of emotions, I experience the ordinary awe of everything. At night when I can't sleep and go to jump on the worry train,

I bring the whales to my bed.

They moved with ease.
Coming up for air.
Dropping down to the deep.
Then up for air and sunlight.


















xo b


~ Whales by Claire Collins


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Without Sacagawea




















Blizzard Stella Notes:

Blizzards are fun because everything stops. Everything gets very quiet and muted. Cozy fire, eating, naps. But watching multiple episodes of Chopped on Netflix is exhausting. The tension alone...So, in an effort to pull out of our weird indoor stupor, Claire and I went out with shovels and lay in the driveway. Shoveling snow is a major cross fit activity, minus jumping up on boxes while praying that both feet will land at the same time.

Why do people do that?















During the 40 mph wind gusts, Claire had a blizzard riff on Sacagawea.
____________________________________________________________________ 

Act One

Claire: Can you imagine being a soldier in the Revolutionary War? In winter? With deer hair for shoes?

Me: Rags.

Claire: And how about Sacagawea?

Me: Sacagawea?        

Claire: She was 16 years old, a year younger than me, when she took Lewis and Clark on their explorations. And, she was pregnant!

Me: Sacagawea was pregnant when she was helping those guys?

Claire: Yes, her husband was a French explorer and when Lewis + Clark asked if he knew anybody who could help them he said, take my wife. She'll guide you.

Me: Nice guy.

Claire: So Sacagawea was like, let's do this. And then...

Me: Then what happened? To Sacagawea?  [I love saying her name]

Claire: That winter she had her baby.

Me: Sacagawea had the baby out on the trail? With Lewis and Clark? Where?

Claire: Who knows, in a hut made of squirrel skins. She barely took time out. She had her son, then kept on going. All I'm saying is without Sacagawea, there would be no Louisiana Purchase.

Me: Can you imagine if those guys got pregnant?

Claire: Trust me, Mom. Without Sacagawea, those guys would've never made it.





















Wednesday, March 8, 2017

do not wait



















Do not wait for someone to come and speak for you. It's you who can change the world.

- Malala Yousafzai
__________________________________________________________________________

In the spirit of International Women's Day, I'm thinking about comfort zones, particularly in our work lives. They can feel pretty and cozy because it's so familiar. But familiar can turn into a small box with a tiny smudged window.  If you're called to move forward into unknown territory but stay out of fear, there'll come a day when you spread your arms and can touch both walls. 

Feeling cramped yet?

Outside is light, trees, blue sky, cornfields, a skyscraper, possibilities.   

Do not wait for someone to come and speak for you.

Why do we stay inside?

Fear of the unknown. 
Fear of not knowing how. 
Fear of failure. 
Fear of succeeding.

There's so many things I don't know, but I'm curious to learn. 🌀

I will... 
keep writing
make short films
create a dynamic podcast
get my book(s) published

_______________________________________________________________

What do you want? Keep asking,then do 1 thing.

Boxes and fear and cornfields reminds me of a piece I wrote about home and work and resumes. Resumes are only one map of your life. They've always felt like small, finite, frustrating boxes to me.

Here's the end...

Resumes say nothing of blood and bones or the last whisper in my father's dying ear, or my husband's voice on the phone from Los Angeles where he lives and works, more there, than here. My resume says nothing of zinnias in my garden, women weeping over their own words on white paper, my daughter's rise from breast cancer. Resumes say nothing of longing and love. 

xo b

















                     a bed of journals


Sunday, February 26, 2017

the other stuff
















________________________________________________________________

I've been thinking about my last piece called love is a project. A few people left comments on the Facebook page - a good number appeared to have read it. thank you.

I didn't go into detail about the time(s) in my marriage when I thought, we're not going to make it. But I think saying it out loud gave people a chance to nod with me. Maybe that's one reason it resonated. We love the lead in, the beginning, the flush of newness. Yes? Movies show us the couple finally getting together after fumbles and missteps. Then the incredible kiss on the front porch, or top of the Empire State Building, or ___________.

 But what happens after? I want to know how. About love, work, becoming a marathon runner at fifty, moving to live in another country, creating something out of nothing - a podcast, a garden, a painting, a change, any kind of relationship -

 How did you do it? How are you still doing it?

it's the other stuff, the story behind the story.

What bumps in the road have you've encountered? 







When you share the other stuff, I relate. If you tell me you're never pissed off, or disappointed, or worried half to death, or wondering if you made the right choice - something's missing. It's not about upping our misery stories. It's about being fully human with one another. 

Here are my bumps in the road. Tell me some of yours.

Artist friend, Penny Ross, pointed me to the podcast ON BEING with Krista Tippet after reading my piece. I finally listened today to the conversation between Krista Tippet and Alain de Botton about the work of love. I found it spacious and helpful. We're human. We have flaws, fears. We expect people, especially our partners, to literally read our minds. Alain de Botton invites compassion for self and others in relationships, a good enough-ness. He shares this wonderful line: 

I'm quite tricky in these ways. How about you?

Listen alone or with a loved one, then talk about your own trickiness?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/alain-de-botton-the-true-hard-work-of-love-and-relationships/id150892556?i=1000381015722&mt=2











xo b

~ drop me a note, I'll write back.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

love is a project



That first Valentine’s Day, I flew to Los Angeles and Michael met me at the airport with a dozen red roses. His apartment was filled with dozens of shiny heart balloons and one giant pair of lips bobbing in the living room. In the fridge was a small round cake with I Dig You Baby scrawled on white frosting.

On Saturday we strolled the sunny streets of Santa Monica. Michael wore a big straw hat. We held hands and wandered in and out of shops. Two people with a camera and microphone stopped to interview us about an upcoming John Gray video they were shooting. John Gray, the author of Women Are From Venus, Men Are From Mars. The question was posed: How do couples stay together? We smiled, arms wrapped tightly around each other, so certain.


"Talk to each other," we said, "communication is everything."
______________________________________________________

It's been 20 years since that
Valentine's Day. I'd be lying if I told you it's been all balloons and roses, an I dig you baby cakewalk of communication and love. More than I care to admit, we retreated to our corners, unable to speak our hearts and minds. We've suffered losses, setbacks, lugging our old worn out baggage behind us. We've shut down. There were weeks, months, a year when I thought, we're not going to make it. 

Everything is easy in the beginning. Starting a project, or falling in love, and love is a projectthere's an excitement and mystery and the mystery feels good. But somewhere along the way the veil falls and we're standing squarely in the middle. What the hell do I do with this? 


This is when things start to get interesting. 

I tend to have one foot out the door, or at least that's the story I tell.  If you go with me to the movies, I'll be in the aisle seat by the exit. Don't crowd me. I've come to accept this about myself. In my marriage, both feet are in, even if one squirms for the door. Now I accept the squirming foot. My husband does too. Another reason why we're friends above all else. 

How do couples stay together, they asked.

"Talk to each other," we said, "communication is everything."




















namaste.
xo b

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

clean out of time




Looking at old photos while a little gray bird at the window looks at me. And of course, I'm thinking about the Rio Tan business I drove by this morning.

(This is my mind, as you know. Little child, gray bird, Rio Tan.)

How does the Rio Tan work here in Northeast Pennsylvania? Maybe D. Trump come for his unique shade of orange, but not likely. Surely he has a personal sprayer in his ivory tower. 


Mind: Little child, gray bird, Rio Tan, D. Trump? Help me.

It pains me to think of DT for more than 3 seconds, too long. Better to redirect this mind to Mom's meditation book which I read to Michael over our coffee and tea, both of us sighing at the end. Perhaps you'll find some sustenance here too?

Take what you need, leave the rest. 🌠

Faith is not, contrary to the usual ideas, something that turns out to be right or wrong, like a gambler's bet; it's an act, an intention, a project, something that makes you, in leaping into the future, go so far, far, far ahead that you shoot clean out of time and right into Eternity, which is not the end of time or a whole lot of time or unending time, but timelessness, that old Eternal Now. - Joanna Russ

Isn't it amazing how some people contrive to live in the present? They seem not to worry about the future; they seem not to regret the past. "Two days I can't do anything about," runs the saying, "yesterday and tomorrow,"

We love to fantasize about the past and the future: What if Napolean had died in infancy? Where would I travel in a time machine? But we get into trouble when we forget that "the past" and "the future" are inventions; the only reality is the present. Yes, past events contribute to our now; yes, the present will help determine the future. But we can't do anything about them; they are out of our reach. 


It seems, oddly enough, that it's the people with a strong faith who are best able to live in the present moment. Enjoyment of the present; care for the quality of life; these are a kind of reverence, a kind of faith in life itself. The present is valuable, this faith tells us: it is all we have.


Let me swim in the present, reverential and unafraid. 

Let me be sustained by the water of life.

xo b