Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

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Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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She had to ask

Standing at street’s edge; waiting for the light.

A dynamic, vibrant, bustling world class city.

Next to us a young woman stands, waiting.

Poised, stylish, together, confident in her own skin kind of way.

An unlit cigarette in hand.

The signature scarf worn in that effortless and elegant way;

the way of Parisian women.

We catch a moment’s contact of eyes

and then return to our impersonal, stoic forward stares.

Waiting.

I sense movement to my left and turn.

She leans in, so subtly in her graceful way.

Parlez vous Francais?

She had not pegged us as tourists.

There was the chance.

She had to ask.

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Non.

But my eyes said more.

Merci.

Merci beaucoup.

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Note Of The Day…

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”  – Jodi Picoult

My mom was just that, soft and nurturing,  yet small and oh so mighty.  We went toe-to-toe in my childhood and adolescence – my strong will matched so completely by her inner strength; a power that I suspect she never quite fully realized.  It’s what I channel to this day as a mother of my own mini me.

To grow old and be like her would be an honor.

My mother lived what unconditional love looks like; she was forever my number one champion and the evening she quietly slipped to the other side marks a most striking contrast; a before-and-after moment in my life, unparalleled by nothing other than the birth of my own child. The stories I could share to make this clear are endless. My mother knew me in ways I am still yet realizing. She saw me in a way I can’t even quite yet, standing here in the middle point of my life.  She accepted me despite my many attempts to push her back, because I always needed one more test to know that she really and truly was always going to love me.

She always passed.

Today marks the day she left our world, sixteen years ago.  There will come a day, when I will know more years without her than I do with her, but thankfully we are not there yet. Even if so, her essence, her spirit really, is etched deep within; she is part of me. If life is aligned as it should be, we do not forget our mothers, and I think that we never stop needing them. At least I don’t, and in fact, the older I get, the more I realize just how much I need her. I wasn’t yet a mother myself when she passed on, and it’s my deepest sadness that we didn’t get to share this profound part of our lives.

Anticipating this milestone, I have been thinking of her more than usual, if that’s possible. Not too long ago, I unearthed a box of old journals – a Pandora’s box of memory and emotion.

In the box, I found – among so much else – something I wrote in October of 1995, while taking a creative writing class. It reveals, and reminds me of an exquisite part of her character, her everyday presence. That look between us in our photo above.  Her gift of constancy; I always knew I was at the top of mind for her.  What I wrote 19 yrs ago  – which turned out to be exactly two years before we started to say our goodbyes, my memorial to a most gracious soul  – is really my post for today.

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Here’s to you mom,

you are missed

in every way,

in my every day.

xo

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Motherhood Measured

A month ago, my son turned 10, and in the time since, I have been reflecting on just how much I have received in the lessons learned in these ten years; for him life and for me, a decade of Momming. Parenting. Learning. Stumbling. Loving. Questioning. Doubting. Knowing. Crying. Savoring.

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I can remember looking at myself in the mirror, when pregnant, staring at that face looking back at me, and telling the woman in the mirror:  You are going to be a mom. You will have this little person who is going to need you. There will be feet running through this house soon. You are going to be a mother. YOU. YOU? You can barely keep a house plant alive, just how do you plan to do this?

Looking back, I recall all of the cliches that have been shared with me over the years. And, they are all true: It’s a wonderful experience. It’s the toughest job you will ever have. You will never love anyone as much as your child. It all goes by so fast, appreciate each moment. You think you are tired now? 

I have had all of that. And more.

…I, for the first time, see myself in another.

…I stop dead in my tracks on some days when I remember that I am not raising a child, I am raising a PERSON.

…I am humbled by this person, and a few years ago I stood back and looked at him and could see him as not just my son, but as someone I would want to know if I were not his mom.

…This person has a sense of humor that rivals many adults I know; the spark in his eye and the cackle in his laugh emerged at the ripe old age of 3 weeks.

…This person has a wise old soul that understands – and articulates thoughts – that make me wonder where he’s been all these years.

…This person has a threshold of emotion that manifests itself outwardly in ways that matches mine, on the inside. I am proud of him for feeling safe and secure to not hold back, hard as it is on some days.

…This person has a brain that works in all directions; its only a matter of time before it’s going in circles around mine.

…This person pushes my buttons, tests my patience, wears me out and turns me inside out.

This person knows me; warts and all. And loves me.

…This person has taught me more than I knew there was to learn.

I know without question that I am a better, stronger, wiser, woman for having this now still little, but shifting – if only barely perceptibly – right before my very eyes, into this amazing person to call my son.

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I have had to learn to dig deep to find the patience in my core, because I want this person to feel safe in who he is.

I have learned to learn to stop and listen and ask, so that he knows that no matter what, he can trust me. About anything. Anytime.

I have learned to say yes as much as possible; and to mean it when I say no.

It is clear to me that no matter how much I dig hanging out, rocking-out or laughing until our bellies ache with my son, I am here to be his parent, not his friend. He has his. I have mine.

I have come to recognize myself in new ways because this person mirrors my best and worst.

I have learned that I love us both more for that.

To the next ten…

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Be Open. Be Receptive.

“The open mind and the receptive heart – which are at last with fortune’s smile the informed mind and the experienced heart – are to be gained anywhere, any time, without necessarily moving an inch from any present address.”

– Eudora Welty

A few mind bending and heart opening finds from around the world found from the front row seat at my own computer screen.
Is your mind open and your heart receptive?

SEE

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14-year-old Zev from Natick, Massachusetts, has taken the photography world by storm with his surreal photo manipulations. Better known by the nickname of ‘fiddle oak’, Zev presents a highly imaginative portfolio of surreal self-portraits, which he created together with his sister Nellie (aged 17). His work seems to mirror the transition from the fairy-tale childhood worlds into those that are way more complicated and still unknown.   Websites: fiddleoak.wordpress.comflickr, and  http://www.demilked.com/surreal-self-portraits-14-year-old-fiddle-oak/

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FEEL

SUSAN SONTAG ON LOVE

The recently released volume of Susan Sontag’s diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980, is a treasure trove of insight — on writing, on censorship, on aphorisms — from the deepest corners of one of the greatest minds in modern history. But besides her extraordinary intellect, what made Sontag a force of nature was also her complex and ever-evolving emotional perception, brimming with extreme self-awareness and keen reflection on her relationships with others. sontagonlove_brainpickings

“Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.”
source:  Brain Pickings 

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THINK

VANISHED: THE SIXTY-YEAR SEARCH FOR THE MISSING MEN OF WORLD WAR II

The B-24, a WWII bomber, is nearly 70 feet long with a wingspan of more than 100 feet. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to find something that big, but in September 1944 a B-24 went down with its crew of 11 in the Pacific and remained hidden there for nearly seven decades. Hylton’s gripping book begins with a modern-day mystery. Did Tommy Doyle’s father, who was a member of the B-24’s crew, actually survive the crash and live a new life with a new family? Tommy’s wife, searching for an answer, located a man named Pat Scannon, explorer, wreck-hunter, seeker of lost WWII gold, who had been looking for the very same plane for the past six years. Combining the modern-day search for the missing plane and the stories of its crew as they prepared for what would be their last flight, the book is both the tale of an exciting scientific expedition and a little-known WWII story.

“I told my agent I wanted to do a book because I just wanted to find out what the hell did happen with Tommy’s dad,” he says. If this West Texas football coach who had broken down crying was representative of any significant portion of the families of 47,000 men lost in the Pacific, then “there was something big, some big epidemic of this particular kind of grief that I’d never heard about.”  – Wil S. Hylton

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Excellent Article on the story, it’s author and the book
I
t’s already downloaded to my Kindle.

Happy weekend. Happy exploring.

Be open. Be receptive.

See.Feel.Think.

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Nothing Good Gets Away

I have worked with college age adults since, I was, well, just barely no longer a college age adult myself.  And while not chronologically that many  years ahead of them; I’d had life experiences that set me apart in ways that felt like light years. Some days, I would hear little pangs within myself; little pangs of envy at what seemed so simple, so fresh, so ready for possibility. I was putting things back together for me, so to speak, and at the same time helping them find their way.  I realized years later how we truly helped each other.

Along with programs and events, my work entailed just spending time, talking, listening. Hearing their worries. It ranged from homesickness, to college majors, which fork in the spiritual path to follow; quiet conversations about where families went wrong and the years of wondering how to cope.  Some made progress; for some the struggle continued. With each student, I would listen; we’d laugh. I knew a lot of stories.

The most consistent lament that stood at the threshold of my office was that of love; it hadn’t arrived, it had gone wrong already, it had shown up and then went away.  It was unrequited; I knew one young man who so painstakingly tried to pursue each of three beautiful young women, sisters,  who one by one all came to attend this same university. As each one arrived in her freshman year, I saw his heart expand with a little bit more hope each time, only to be dashed. I also often witnessed the exquisite joy when two sets of eyes met and never looked away and the great weddings in subsequent years.

I remember a few young women in particular who were just heartsick that the completion of their ‘Mrs. Degree’ was not going according to their much anticipated plans. Having been bounced around a bit, in the love department; I wanted them to realize that there is no rush. That they had so much good in their lives and to not come at this with fears of never and what-ifs.  I ended up coming up with a phrase I ultimately used over and over; if you gotta hurry, you gotta worry. What’s the rush I would ask them. Why the need to fast track this?

I think all of us want to know what’s coming next.

The other day, a friend of mine updated her Facebook status to say:  “Why is waiting so hard?”  I don’t have any idea if she was waiting for medical results, a pizza delivery or the departure day for a special trip.  But her question caught my attention.

I think we all push the envelope in terms of wanting some kind of security in our lives; and for many of us, the security is in the knowing.

We are rewarded these days, by being in a hurry all of the time, and rushing on to the next big thing, rarely allowing ourselves to even fully realize, much less enjoy or savor that which we finished.   TV and media of all kinds reinforce this quick pace and so when things move slowly, or perhaps seemingly not at all; I think it’s safe to say that we all struggle somewhat with not knowing what’s around the next corner; or what things mean, exactly.

We often want it all spelled out for us.

Another way of saying, perhaps, how difficult it is sometimes to just wait. No matter the reason for waiting – news, good or bad, a special day, a blossoming romance to blossom, wondering if we got the job – I love both the knowing and the wisdom found in the words that John Steinbeck wrote to his son more than 50 years ago, with sage advice in the form of an eloquent and intimate letter between father and son, about the importance of not being in a hurry…

New York November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First—if you are in love—that’s a good thing—that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second—There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply—of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it—and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone—there is no possible harm in saying so—only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

Source:  Letters of Note & Brain Pickings

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