Monday, February 28, 2011

At Our Fingertips

Being alive is our invitation to act in fresh, inventive ways. All it takes is concentrating on our inner vision in combination with external reality. The components for accomplishing any task are at our fingertips, awaiting discovery.

Our burdens are lightened when we understand that all situations are resolvable - no mystery need leave us in the dark for long. Just as surely as we each exist, so exists every element we need to solve any problem or chart any new course. 

- from *Mom's Meditation Book

Does this mean that recruiting a family member to walk the dog in the pouring rain this morning was as close as my fingertips

And no, I am not giving Chewy the finger. Pinky promise...

*The Promise of a New Day

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Family Portrait

On a day like today, Pearly and I would pull out our lounge chairs and slather on the baby oil. Oh yea. I'd have a bottle of beer plunged in the snow next to me, insta-cooler. Pearly usually drank diet something with something? 

Our tops came off so "the girls" (as everyone calls them these days), could get a breath of fresh air. If it was really sunny, it all came off. Except for a hat. I do love hats.

Yes, after a long winter in the village of Plainfield, Vermont, at a very groovy college called Goddard, a sunny day like today would bring all the lovelies and all the crazies on campus out into the light. We'd turn our faces to the sun and hold still, like we were posing for a family portrait.

ain't life grand?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Claire's Girl #3 (Yea, I Can Fly)

I'm thinking about the lone beaver I spotted at the river on Wednesday. 
It looked like a piece of wet wood drifting, but then it wiggled, slapped its tail, and dove under the dark water. I stood still, tracking with my eyes, praying for it to re-surface. And it did, popping up in the tangle of the fallen tree trunk; the one Michael tumbled off of back in October, rising up out of the water with blood streaming down his face. And a shocked grin.

Back home, I pulled a favorite book,  Animal Speak, off the bookshelf to read up on the spiritual and magical powers of beavers, I kid you not, but ended up on the bat page instead. My eyes landed on:

Changes and transformations are blessings.

Thank you, Ms. Bat, for that. 

Skimming down the page I read:

Sometimes bats are a symbol of facing our fears...It becomes a symbol of promise amidst the sometimes chaotic energies of change. It reflects the ability to move to new heights with the transitions. Yes, our own flights may seem fluttery and jerky, but we will be able to fly.

I flipped to Beaver, page 253: 

Water has long been associated with emotions and dreams...If beaver has appeared in your life, it can reflect an opportunity to build upon your dreams. 

I immediately jotted down one of my mathematical equations:

River = emotions + dreams ( + facing bat fears) x building upon dreams (to the tenth power) + beavers squared? 

= Flying, (albeit fluttery and jerky.)

I suppose I should run the math thing by my friend, Laurel, the math professor, but I know what she'll say: equate away, good woman! 

Nary a photo of a beaver or bat on file, so I thought, Claire's Girl #3 would be just fine for today. She's like Double 0-7, but way cooler. She's all sassy and bold, nothing fluttery or jerky about her.

Yea, I can fly. Wanna make something of it?

*Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eat What You Want

Dad and I drove up the mountain to see his family doctor, Dr. Alice McCormick. It's the kind of country office where they say, bring your new puppy in! (he'd come along for the ride) I brought Chewy into the small waiting room for a quick visit. He barked a couple of times just to let them know he was there. I encouraged Dr. Alice, Jean, and Joyce to just ignore him. Chewy stopped his barking, sniffed the rug and licked Dr. Alice's black clogs. But that was after, when we were getting ready to leave. 

Earlier, Dr. Alice said, "Well, you are doing really well. You look great, Ellsworth! But you're still on the thin side. What are you eating these days?"
"Eggs and toast, soups, organic turkey, apples, peanut butter, bananas, kale!" Dad said, "And when my son-in-law cooks, oh my! That's good."
"You're coming up on a birthday this summer," she said, looking at his chart. (His 85th.)
"Coming up on it," Dad said, smiling.
"That means you can pretty much eat what you want," Dr. Alice said.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Look Well

"Look well to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In it lies all the realities and verities of existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day, for it and it alone is life!"
- a Sanskrit verse

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

That Is Not My Story

I wrote in my journal this morning about feeling holy. I am divine. A holy spark. I’d read this somewhere and thought, let me try it on, see how it feels. 

I felt holy for about three minutes. Then the dog laid his head on my knee and began to whimper. And Claire, sweet Claire, came in, rumpled from sleep, sighing about going to school. 

I made oatmeal. The dog needed walking. Claire needed a lunch packed. Nothing difficult, not like people being shot in the streets of Libya, or the man lighting himself on fire in Tunisia, the fruit seller who sparked a revolution. No, nothing like that. 

My life is charmed, luxurious. Divine. But I felt the spark sizzle out, a drop of water from an icicle had landed on the ember. I was a crabby woman, spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread. I felt Claire reacting to me, oh no, Mom’s slipping. I tried to pull myself back. 

What is it that I’m looking for that I don’t already have? Maybe the holy spark is the peanut butter. And the dog whimpering. And Dad lifting the lid off the pot of oatmeal I’d made for me and Michael and Rob, saying, “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll try some of yours this morning.”
He always makes his own and now he wants some of mine? 
So protective of my pot of oatmeal. Nothing holy in that.
“Go ahead, Dad,” I said, “Have some. I can make more.” 
But I felt let down; another person, dog, wanting. 
My brother, Rob, got up from his seat and said, "Where's the oatmeal, Bean? I'll make you some."
"No, no! Eat yours, it'll get cold.
"But I want to," he said, "I want to make you some oatmeal." 

This is so embarrassing, my crabby unholiness, my divinity lost under a pile of winter coats in the laundry room. Three minutes?

By midmorning, I was home alone, writing at the kitchen table when this shot through me, Maybe I should write about one-night stands and how much I love vodka. That would sell millions of books. 

But that is not my story. I am so grateful for that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Men Hear It Differently: Part Two

If you read yesterday's post, Men Hear It Differently, it had a bit to do with saxophones and small penises, and communication between the sexes, or more to the point, a conversation between me and my husband and how occasionally our messages get garbled during transmission.

Over coffee/tea this morning Michael said, "Well, I forgot my wife is a writer."
"What do you mean, honey?"
"Well, I read your post from yesterday and..."
He is smiling.
"I guess I was hoping for a bit more irony."
"I heard from a few people," I said, "John wrote that he was very happy to be a guitar player and Kerry wrote that she and Sam had ironically been listening to a John Gray tape, you know Men are From Mars, on their way home from Boston and..."
"You've got to admit that root-toot-tooting your horn sounds way different than practicing. I'm a serious woodwind instrumentalist," he continued, big grin.
"I know, honey. You're a serious, multi-talented woodwind..."
"Root-toot-tooting is like me being upstairs in shorts, you know, Little Boy Blue Come Blow Your Horn..."
"I sensing a theme, sweetie, some deep-seated kind of..."
"Or Buster Brown in little white socks," he says, laughing.

[read "Men Hear It Differently"/ Feb. 20, from glorious Toronto!]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Men Hear It Differently

A funny conversation with my husband yesterday...It went kinda like this: 

"I really should go into the office and get some work done but I really want to practice," Michael said.
"Okay," I said, That's a good idea. Go into the office for a little while, then you can come home and root-toot-toot on your horn before we go out."
"Honey?" Michael said, " When you say root-toot-tooting on your horn, it makes me feel like you're my mother and I have a small penis."
"You're kidding, right?"
"I know you don't mean it like that, the root-toot thing," he said," but you know how women say 'men don't understand us', well," and he's smiling now, "Women really don't get how men are wired. I mean, you say things to be helpful and to seek clarity and I'm smart enough to know that's what you're doing but there's still that part of me that hears something completely different. Men hear it differently."
Now I'm smiling.
"Michael, I'm pretty sure most women would agree that we are clueless as to what goes on inside men's minds. I was just offering some encouragement, suggestions."
"And I gotta tell you...your penis wasn't even on my radar."
"I think because you've been a Mom for so long, and then all those years as a second grader teacher, you just can't help yourself," he said.
"It's not a bad thing," Michael said, "I just get it."
"You mean like 'Billy, finish writing in your journal and then you can go draw spaceships with Dylan?"
"Yea, it's kinda like that."

We are smiling.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

To See Takes Time


...A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower- the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower - lean forward to smell it, maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking - or give it to someone to please them, Still - in a way - nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

- Georgia O'Keefe "About Myself" catalog statement, 1939

[Watched a gem of a movie this blustery afternoon simply titled, Georgia O'Keefe, starring Joan Hall & Jeremy Irons. Got it out of the library!]

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Spite Of Something

Grace means more than gifts. 
In grace something is transcended, once and for all overcome. Grace happens in spite of something; it happens in spite of separateness and alienation. Grace means that life is once again united with life, self is reconciled with self. Grace means accepting the abandoned one. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful vocation. It transforms guilt to trust and courage. The word grace has something triumphant in it.

- Yrjo Kallinen

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wrapping Her Arms Around Him

This is Ellen, our mail carrier. She was delivering mail yesterday when she came upon Dad stuck in a snow bank near our house. 

"I'd decided to sit down and enjoy a bit of sun. But then I realized I couldn't get up. So, Ellen came along and came to my rescue!" Dad said, laughing. 

I witnessed the save when I glanced out the picture window in our living room; there was Dad sitting in a snow bank. And then, Ellen, wrapping her arms around him and pulling the old man up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What You Know To Be True

Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice, ask questions, be curious, see what you see, hear what you hear, and then act upon what you know to be true. 

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Beginning Of Us

This heart is a tad dusty and a little out of focus, which happens to love on the best of days.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day which is a funny, mixed-bag holiday for me since it's the day I got married to my first husband. I was a baby, twenty-two, pregnant with my first baby, Jesse, and honestly don't know what I was thinking. It's not like I had to get married. But I did. We did. 

Having Jesse was a no-brainer; she was destined to be an amazing teacher for me, all kids are. But it didn't take me long to realize that marrying her Dad probably wasn't the best idea I'd ever had. I won't go into particulars, at least not today, but suffice to say the whole damn thing got very messy until me and my girl ended up living solo in a skinny railroad flat on Teeter Street where we'd soak in the tub together and make up stories about our smelly, kind neighbors. 

We did okay.

So, yesterday I was flipping through a big, black binder called "The Book", and lo and behold, I opened to the page of sketches (un-revised!) I'd written about different Valentine's Days over the years. It was a warm pocket in the day, reading it out loud to Michael when he came home for lunch. In what's felt like a dusty and out of focus time in our marriage, it was a gift remembering 

the beginning of us.

Valentine's Day 1997
Santa Monica, California

I am greeted by Michael, my new love, at the LAX airport with a dozen roses. He is wearing a denim shirt, his hair is still long, still on his head. No beard. He has an innocent face, big, blue eyes, fair skin. His apartment is filled with red balloons; hearts, lips, I LOVE YOU balloons. He has an ice cream cake that says I dig you, baby!

I am swept away. Take me from my life in Pennsylvania, I think. Except for Jess, don't take me from her. But right now I'm in sunny California where people are long-legged and blonde and everyone is rollerblading with ease in short shorts and small tops. I am short, dark-haired, small-breasted, with a slightly crooked front tooth. I worry that I shouldn't have left Jesse alone with an 18 year old as her "babysitter". Not good parenting. I am across the country, drinking wine. I never drink wine. I am on the beach and driving up the coast to Neptune's Net, to Malibu, where Barbra Streisand lives. We eat shrimp over newspaper and drink cold beer. I am swept away by the ocean, sunset, this courtship. A plane draws a white heart in the sky over the Santa Monica pier. I think it must be just for me, for us. The ferris wheel spins at the boardwalk. Palm trees sway. We walk the streets and go into shops filled with beautiful things. I want beautiful things. I want straight teeth. I want a new life. Someone takes our picture outside the camera shop. Michael is wearing a straw hat. I am wearing the amethyst necklace he had made for me. He has his arm around my shoulder and we're both smiling at the camera/

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Time Will Come

Love After Love
The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
-Derek Walcott

xoxo b

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Things To Write About

This is the 350th post of This Being Alive. Hard for this writer to believe. 

There's so much to write about, some days I feel stumped, silenced, only able to post a photo, and a quote, maybe a poem. 

Things to write about like the email reminding me to wish a friend on Facebook, Happy Birthday...the only problem being she died ten days ago.

Or Dad's trip to visit my brother in NYC and how he got himself a little turned around when he got off the bus, ending up at Gate 222, two floors up, while his bus came in at Gate 23. My brother, Pete, was frantic, not knowing where to begin looking. 
I had said to Dad before he left, "Do you have your cell phone?" 
He said, "Yes, hon."
I should've followed up with, "Is it turned on?"
Dad finally turned his phone on and was united with Pete in the midst of Port Authority. Still.

I could write about how I strive to be open-hearted in my marriage while I hold my husband's hand to the fire over things I've dubbed hurtful. That's, as we say in my family, a sticky wicket. 

The snow falling in thick flakes, is a story, even though all I've been dreaming of is getting my hands in the dirt and moving things around in my garden.

One daughter grown, another growing up, a grandaughter who calls me Bean, wrinkles to surrender to, or not. There's the friend's husband who went to work and was told, "You're done. Sorry. And no, you can't go back to your desk. You'll be escorted from the building. We'll try to send you your personal items." God bless Corporate America.

There's that.

I could write about long walks by the river, reading in bed, a hot bath, tea. Or slipping upstairs to curl up with Owen, old orange cat, still in the witness protection program ever since Chewy, the big-eared dog came to live with us. Remember Chewy?

Closing my eyes, I can still feel my cousin's brand-new baby, Quinn Claire, curled up asleep under my chin, the two of us breathing together way back in October, which feels like five chapters ago, at least.

And always, there's the missing my mother thing.

I have a small black book where I keep a list of happy things:
finding a turtle in the road
getting a massage
teaching yoga
talking to Jess
sitting in front of the fire
writing my blog tonight
laughing while hugging Claire
the sound of Michael's saxophone
watering and weeding the garden

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Moose Bed

"So what's this?" I asked Elizabeth.
"A moose bed, Bean," she said, tilting her head at me with a how could you not know that look.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Nose Touches Down

I am dreaming of pushing up storm windows, sliding screens down, clicking them into place. Spring air drifting in, winding through the house, under beds, into corners, sniffing out stale air. 

Under the rock by the Japanese maple, I spot the cluster of purple crocus with dusty orange antennae poking out. 

Kneeling deeper for a closer look, my jeans soak up two circles of wet mud. I drop all the way down, fingers spread over the earth, until my nose touches down.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Krishna Blue Sky

Dad passes me in the kitchen, turns and says,

Just be
Be not this or that
Be like the white clouds
the Krishna Blue 
Just floating
Going nowhere
in the floating - the flowing
The blossoming!

All is right that seems most wrong to clever egos...

then carries on his way to the round table; jar of almond butter in one hand, bright orange clementine in the other, half-smile on face.

(Rumi? I will find out in the morning.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

While Growing

I don't know what to write about today. The wind is crazy cold, temps dropping...

How about that feeling of walking around restless, circling like a dog in search of her spot? What to do? Where to turn?

Towards the light?

Some days it's hard to hang out in the not knowing.

Note to self: Practice growing while not knowing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Ability To Worry

Monday morning...

I found an old letter from Dad which he'd written on the back of a xeroxed sheet of paper called ~  

Symptoms of Inner Peace. 

Here are a few symptoms to be on the look-out for today...

A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experience.

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

Frequent attacks of smiling.

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.

and my favorite...

A loss of the ability to worry.
(this is a very serious symptom)

- Saskia Davis/ 1984

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Clock Chiming

"We got a dog,"I told Penny.
"Oh, I saw him on your blog," she said.
"He's brought a lot of happiness to our family."
"I know, living things do that," she said, "but now, for me, a living thing can be my clock chiming on the mantle."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

That's A Relief (in 2 parts)

Two students braved the icy roads to come to yoga this morning. 

Actually, there were three: Robin, Ella, and me.

I'm a student too.

That's a relief.


Some form letters are positively kissable:

Dear Ms. Jackson,

We are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent mammogram are NORMAL. 

That's a relief.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Enjoy What Is Beautiful

I'm blessed to have the most wonderful readers. You give more to me than you'll ever know. Like my friend, Katie (okay, she's my first cousin's smart, funny, beautiful-on-the-inside-and-outside daughter) who included this quote in her comment from yesterday's post. Some days I can't say it any better...

So, right back to you, sweet Katie. And the rest of you sweet, shiny hearts.  

Just for today, I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once....Just for today, I will be unafraid. Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.


xo b

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Deep Kindness

"Occasionally I write with both hands, asking a question with my right hand, then answering it with my left. I don't do it often, but when I do, I am always surprised by my left hand's voice. The writing itself is like chicken scratch, but legible. The voice; soft, direct, kind."

[from a June 2, 2010 post]

This morning I woke in the dark. I rose, got my journal and tiptoed into the living room. I lit a candle. And started writing. At the end, I asked a question with my right hand...

I am so nervous these days. How can I let go or drop this?

My left hand fairly leapt at the pen.

Time will heal you.
Give yourself a giant break.
Just be in today.
That's it.
No work worries.
No health worries.
No regrets.
No unkindness to self.
Deep kindness.
Try it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Ordinary Life

Yesterday we drove through the ice and snow to celebrate the life of our friend, Vinny. 

The memorial service was held at an old inn. Maybe fifty people were there. Vinny's wife and two daughters sat in chairs up front. His daughter, Stephanie broke down in sobs when she was invited to come up and read the letter she'd written to her Dad. Someone else read it for her, a love letter to a father from his daughter; we sat and held the space for her grief. And ours.

Vinny was a busy man, rarely idle. He laid tiles and wood floors (in our house!), did plumbing, electrical work. He could fix anything. He and his wife, Loretta, worked and lived together for many years. They were literally together 24/7. I don't know how Loretta is going to go forward, but she will.

Vinny never walked the red carpet. He didn't cure cancer. He had a noticeable scar across one cheek; a buck had crashed through his windshield many years ago, kicking him in the face. A face that always wore a grin...He loved his wife and kids above all else.

After the service, we came home, cleared the driveway, and climbed into bed. Claire snoozed. I thought about Loretta and how she wouldn't be able to rest her face on her husband's chest anymore. I pressed mine closer to Michael's.

When someone dies, it's a huge loss. We grieve; sometimes for a long time. Sometimes forever. But I am reminded again: 

Loss creates space, if only a sliver. New space to wake up to this most wonderful, tender, ordinary life. 

With gratitude.