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

sig4

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
sig4

Pieces | Brain Painting

When I wrote Pieces of Grace, it took me months to finish that post. Beyond that, it took me nearly 15 years to find my way through a circuitous maze of understanding that my spiritual path would ultimately lead me to a place of beginning rather than a destination.  A place of acceptance. Acceptance that it is something I must assemble.  Over time.  Even though I don’t yet have all the pieces of the puzzle laid out before me on the quintessential card table of life.  That it’s not going to happen in an instant. And that it’s not a matter of leaving one house and walking in the doors of another.

Instead, as I wrote in that post:

“I have lightheartedly – over the last few years – referred to this questioning, this seeking and these feelings of being a spiritual misfit, as belonging to the church of human kindness.  I have come to see the importance of making intentional choices to live kindly and to have that as a guiding principal.  I find that I look in so many places for guidance, signposts and honestly, just honest to goodness resonance. A sense of place.”

Experiencing my friend’s Bat Mitzvah taught me to pay attention. The pieces? They show up when they will.

So, I read and listen. I pay attention. I remain open to finding pieces that fit. Everywhere I go, I am attuned. I know it when I hear, or sense, a sort of click within me. Outwardly, I kind of tilt my head to the side, like a quizzical puppy, and let my shoulders and chest rise and then fall, and I utter a, ‘hmh?!”.

In those moments, I know I have stumbled upon a piece, a piece that clicks in somehow. And so begins a new part of our time here together: Pieces.

***

During a recent read, an article titled:  Peeling Back the Mask: Reconnect with your Authentic Self, on a site I follow religiously (pun totally intended there, c’mon! 🙂 ) I came across this and heard myself go, “hmh?!”…

” ‘We are our thoughts‘ isn’t just Eastern voodoo wisdom. The word ‘brainwashing’ has a negative connotation, so let’s call it brain painting. Painting your mind with things you love is a surefire way to become a happy you. This is nothing more than surrounding yourself with people, books, subjects and thoughts that make you smile. Be selective and consistent with what you allow in.

crayons soul

 

I realized the resonance I found in this; this is part of the process, this is how it happens for me.  The article caught my attention with its words “reconnect with your authentic self” – and then drew me so that I would find one of the pieces.

For me, the way I see it, I have to be looking, looking for the guideposts along the way. They are there.

What do you paint your brain with?

sig4

 

 

 

A Horse, Of Course

The root word of courage is cor – the Latin word for heart.  In one of it’s earliest forms, the word courage has a very different definition than it does today.  Courage originally meant
To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

It seems that lately, the notions of bravery and courage are all around me, all around us, really. Sara Bareilles, in her song, “Brave” implores us to “let the words fall out“;  Katy Perry sings in “Roar” how she ‘went from zero, to my own hero” and Brene Brown writes in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”

“Courage is a huge theme in my life. It seems that either I’m praying for some, feeling grateful for having found a little bit, appreciating it in other people, or studying it. I don’t think that makes me unique. Everyone wants to be brave.”

Last weekend, I knew I had to get away, get some space, get out of my routine and environment. Shake things up a bit. I sought out a location within driving distance but one that doesn’t hold too many associations or memories. One that would set the stage for exploration and the distractions that come with needing to pay attention on how to get there and where things are and what to do. One that would invite engagement with new people. One that would make my camera as happy as my soul. I drove nearly four hours to the rugged coastline in Northern California, a place I hadn’t seen in thirty years. (I am still not entirely certain how it is that I am old enough to have a nearly adult memory that is from thirty years ago? )

The time away was everything I needed it to be and as things often go, so much more. In the midst of my explorations, I discovered the opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach.  Without hesitating, I signed myself up for the adventure and didn’t give it much more thought.

Until.

Until I was sitting up on top of that beautiful animal, that thousand pound beautiful animal. And I recalled that the last time I was on a horse was in 1991, in the high Sierra’s on a very narrow rocky trail at 10,000 feet elevation. My mind immediately recalled the white knuckle feeling of that day, certain that horse was going to fall off the side of the mountain, with me attached to the saddle. Exhale. I am here to tell the tale!

My inner anxiety showed up and dammit if I wasn’t nervous about whether or not I could manage this horse. Immediately, I began the self talk: “Bon, these horses carry new riders every day”; “Bon, their insurance policy would be astronomical if these horses were dangerous“; “Bon, just be in charge of the horse, it needs to know you aren’t nervous“, “Bon, it’s only a few hours, for crying out loud, you’ll be fine“, and on and on.

I am saddled up on my horse, who by the way is a beautiful mare named Cloud. I am loving this, of course, because, wait for it, Bonnie & Cloud? Get it? Bonnie and Clyde? Close enough. I figure, it’s meant to be. Our trail guide begins giving some instructions to the small group of us, a family of four and me, as to who would go first and so on. I am instructed that Cloud likes to ride last, because, well, she likes her space.  I realize in that moment, that Bonnie & Cloud are going to get along just fine.  I planned this weekend’s get away because I really needed some space, and I get matched up with Cloud, who needs her space? Check.  Then the barn owner says, ‘Cloud knows her job very well, she’s completely reliable and could do this with her eyes closed”  Again, I am totally getting Cloud and I am pretty certain Cloud gets me. Who needs online dating; just sign up to go horseback riding.

Cloud

Cloud

The ride is gorgeous; we follow a meandering wooded trail, fresh from the deluge of the prior day’s storm.  It’s not long before the view opens up and all we see in front of us is beach, ocean, waves and the gorgeous blue sky.

See how far back we are...

Notice the ‘space’ between Cloud and I and the rest of the group 🙂

We make our way down onto the beach and follow along for awhile. My nerves are melting away, replaced with a smile on my face, really kind of a silly grin, that because we are of course, way in the back, no one can see. We have our space.

I am free.

Once out on the sand, we move along at a comfortable pace. We stop, take photos, enjoy the view. Along with people walking along the beach, reading books and walking their dogs. Tiny dogs, tiny barking dogs, tiny barking dogs yanking at their leash who spook a horse over a thousand pounds, who’s rider is an 11 yr old girl. Victory, the horse, can’t take the barking and rears and kicks and the young rider can’t hold on- she’s up and over and in the air and then on the sand before we realize what’s happened. I am behind her parents and they remain calm as she gets up, brushes off the sand, looks to her mom for reassurance and then gets.back.up.on.that.horse. Just like that. And we resume our ride.

I am impressed.

I am thinking about my 10 yr old kiddo. Would he have gotten back on? Would I have gotten back on? I know many adults who wouldn’t have. I tell her mom, riding just in front of me, as much.  I am of course thinking about this as we ride, thinking of how this experience will be part of that girl’s life forever, grateful on her behalf that this is now part of her, something she can can lean on in other moments that scare the shit out of her.  That she saw what she’s made of, even if she doesn’t realize it yet.

I make a mental note to be sure to tell her how impressed I am.

As we make our way back, we are on a pathway shared with walkers and cyclists.  As a couple ride by on their bikes, Cloud becomes skittish and abruptly turns towards the surf; I can feel all of her energy underneath my saddle, and I think to myself, “oh shit, here we go…”  I think about the 11yr old and something in me just calmed, and took the reins and pulled back gently. I think I probably said something to Cloud (and I am certain she understood me!). And thankfully, she opted out of her wild idea to go galloping down the beach. A woman always reserves the right to change her mind.

I exhale.

All the while, in my delightfully solo spot in the back of our little group, I am pondering a difficult conversation I know I need to have, and my trepidation about having it. Thinking about being brave.  Frustrated that I have to ponder it so much first.  Thinking about telling about my heart. Wondering if I should.  Thinking about an 11 yr old girl who got back on the horse. Another cyclist approaches; I turn around and tell the guy; ‘my horse here, she doesn’t really like bikes today…” but he didn’t hear me and  before I knew it, Cloud was jumpy again.  I was prepared, feet in the stirrups, reins in hands and ready to run if that’s what Cloud needs. Sometimes we just feel like jumping out of our own skin. I get it.

She’s cool.

When we returned to the barn, I tell the owner what a great experience it’s been. We laugh about Cloud’s aversion to the bikes; she sees those bikes every damn day.  It reminds me of the phrase we use sometimes when dealing with things we don’t like, “yeah, I know, but I don’t have to like it!”.  I comment about Cloud and say something about what a sweet horse she is; how well we were matched and the owner roars with laughter and says, “Oh, Cloud is not sweet. She’s strong, she’s reliable, she’s great with riders, but sweet? Don’t let her fool you; but, she is brave.

I am perplexed.

My face said it all, I am guessing, because the owner continues: “…that she prefers to ride last says it all. It’s the most dangerous place in the line – the most vulnerable to threat. She needs her space, but she can handle the risk“.

I took this gift, this experience, with me and headed back down to the ocean. I thought about the 11 yr old girl some more. I thought about the match up with Bonnie & Cloud. I thought about the conversation I needed to have.

I thought about what it means to be brave.  

Bonnie & Cloud

Bonnie & Cloud

Everyone wants to be brave.

signature

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

nothing good signature2

The Third Dimension

It’s a common comment among those of us who have been fortunate to have found a sense of, albeit unexpected, community by way of blogging. Finding kindred spirits in the spaces between the keys on our keyboards, by simply joining the conversation, one often started in the quiet of our minds, one that sometimes feels that it is just between our keyboards and fingers. We come across the words of another and find a resonance, something that feels familiar, puts words to something we have felt or experienced but haven’t yet found a way to articulate, or knew that we even could.

It is not news to say, that friendships have been formed, and bonds created, because we dare greatly, in this space. At least, I know that I do. I risk sharing from a place that often finds no other outlet.

To me, blogging is one dimensional at this point.  We write. We read.

If we are lucky our words jump off the screen and into the mind and thoughts of another. Even luckier, when as writers, we find out that our words, strung together like a strand of popcorn on a holiday tree, have an impact on at the very least, one other soul.

Connections are formed, and bonds begin to weave a web throughout blogland. Across miles, states, cities, time zones and even the international date line. We start to recognize each other in ways that both surprisingly and not surprisingly at all, feel so familiar.

Then, with some, we start to go beyond the boundaries of blogland, when we go off blog, ironically. When we realize that our posts, comments and the extra layers of conversation compel us to somehow require more conversation. More than can be contained or conveyed in a comment.

In jumping over state lines from comments to emails and messages, our blogs become two dimensional.

Last year I created my virtual bloggin’ road trip because I knew I needed to know some of these incredible people, I really wanted to take blogging into the third dimension and found the closest way to achieve this, if only virtually. If I could, I would in a New York minute load up my little Triumph and hit the open road, and ring some doorbells.To allow the opportunity for real time talk. In person.

I have just returned home from a trip down the east coast, working my way from NYC through Pennsylvania, and Delaware to end up in Northern Virginia, aka, Mimi’s neighborhood by way of planes, trains and automobiles. I emerged from Union Station in DC, with no need of a taxi or metro because instead, Waiting for me was Mimi and the awesome Karma Truck! Guys, it’s as awesome as it seems!

mimi and bonnie

What a cool moment, seeing her petite but magnanimous self waving at me from behind the wheel as I made my way to her with my 6’4″ nephew in tow, carrying my suitcase like a true young gentleman.  He’s studying at one of my old stomping grounds and I got to buy a poor starving college student a couple of beers at a fancy bar in a fantastic city.

Quick introductions between Michael and Mimi – imagine introducing someone that you are only just meeting?!  Fun! And then quick goodbyes between Michael and I.

How does one describe what happens next? Let’s just say it was awesome. How’s that? Kind of surreal too, let’s be honest, to be inches away, and hear the voice behind the sentences on the screen. The eyes twinkling. The smile on Mimi can light up a room! The mannerisms, the inflection. The conversation that was already real, just got that much more real. And true to form, Mimi wasted no time. In moments, we launched into a conversation that had been started and interrupted on email…Mimi just says, “ok, there is a lot to catch up on. Tell me about…” and off we went. Words flying back and forth. Nodding. Hmm-mmm-ing. Laughing. Agreement. Clarification. More. Stories.  Then, I got to meet Bogey and the Sirs. And Andy. And get a real sense of the amazing person driving that amazing Karma Truck. It was worth waiting for.

In the comfort of Mimi’s kitchen, it was blogging in in 3-D! Face to face. In the same room. Sustained conversation that flowed naturally and freely. I found myself realizing that the posts we have each written and read, are already part of our shared history. As if we had told those stories at that very kitchen table. When the frame of reference predates the time of meeting.

bogey

Bogey – more adorable than I could capture!

At the end of our visit, while taking Bogey out to do his business, I asked Mimi if she had been nervous at all, about my visit. She was not. I was. But not for the reasons you might suspect. Friends of mine who do not blog, expressed mild surprise with  my plan to visit- and stay – with someone I had never met in person. I tried  to explain this community we have, but it’s just not easy. You may have found yourself trying to do the same at some point, and if you have found a way to convey all of this, let me know. Please? I was nervous that in real life, in the third dimension, that I would not be the person she had come to know in the first and second dimensions. That I would possibly disappoint. Mimi has answered that, eloquently and exquisitely, as no one but her can.

friend

This sits proudly in the cozy room where Mimi’s friends settle in for the night

I will gladly hop aboard the Karma Truck anytime, or wave it down with open arms if I see her come rolling down my street! Thank you Mimi, and yes, Friend:Good. Very good.

signature2

We All Carry On

It seems that over the last week, I have heard such heart breaking stories from every angle: a terminally ill young child, an astoundingly dedicated and innovative teacher who gives his heart to his students in incredibly creative ways, and then returns home each day to care for his achingly affected son; a young man raising money for his aunt who has been diagnosed with cancer; a regular person putting a crackled heart back together, a mom who struggles with her own kiddo, a friend who finds out the job he loves is not his anymore.

It goes on all around us; all of us, we each have a story.

And it’s true, being in touch with what is happening around us, really does help us keep things in perspective. How often do we hear about the circumstances of others, and then comment, “well, that sure put things in perspective!” realizing that the (fill in the blank here) we were fretting about really isn’t that bad.  It’s reminded me that it’s not just a matter of remembering that somehow someone has it worse off than we do; it’s the importance of keeping it at the front side of our brain how good we do have it.  Seeing things through a lens of abundance. Remembering that our pity-party hats are the most flattering when worn by the hat-rack. And, it seems that it’s just a good reminder to just simply remember to keep our ears tuned in to each other, our hearts soft for the person next to us; staying with the pulse of all that goes on around us.

Because it’s so very true; we all have holes…and yet, we all carry on.

 

Holes, by Passenger on their album, All the Little Lights

signature2