Loving you is a prayer, my own form of worship, a blessing whispered silently over a candle in the dark. Loving you is an Amen sung out by old ladies with Sunday hats and soul soaked voices. Loving you is a dance that rises up from someplace ancient, a drumbeat, a psalm. I don’t know where it comes from, or where it will carry me, or why I was chosen to be the one. I am so imperfect, and gnarled and tired and worn out. I know this love, so simple and clean, can not come from me but bursts forth from life itself. It is Love loving. It is Life living. It is the breath of God.
This is where I go, deep in the woods, deep into the water, deep into my heart to find stillness. To find the silence that can only be found here, the silence I notice when the rock hits the water. To stay.
I dreamed this place. I dreamed these words. I dreamed this moment once upon a time. I dreamed tomorrow too and kisses by garage doors as goodbyes are said and sighs are uttered when love decides its time to go home. But now there is nothing but hello over and over and over again. hello to the sky. hello to the water. hello to the rocks on the shore.
It feels as I thought I have been here for thousands of years. It feels as though my roots are sunk in this soil, as though my branches are these arms that wrap around me and keep me safe, as though this sky my sheltering place.
In the glassy stillness of the water I see a reflection–I whisper to myself as the sunlight makes the water dance “This is what love looks like.”
My dearest Jackie, who breaks all the rules, brought me a birthday gift tonight. This rockin’ Celtic T-shirt fits me like a glove, and resonates at exactly the same frequency of my little Irish soul. I am never taking this shirt off!
The words around the heart say: Like all things that are precious to us, we tend to keep our emotions under lock and key. Love itself is far too beautiful a gift not to share with everyone.
After a dinner of perfectly grilled kebabs, kick butt fish stew and the best carrot salad this side of north Africa, after a homemade ice cream cake that beat any other I have ever tasted, we sat in a circle and they, my beloved tribe helped me to create my list. My list of things to do before I turn forty. What’s beautiful about this exercise is that in adding an item to my list they pledged to do something (big or small) to help me get it done, to be my a co-conspirator, an angel to assist me, to hold my hands and jump feet first with me into the wild and messy river of my life.
In the spirit of love for them, in the spirit of my love for this life, I embrace this to do list, this plan. I hearby pledge to wrap my heart around these items and sink into the joyfulness of them.
- Take a kayak lesson on the Potomac
- Learn to throw a pot
- Perform at an open mic night
- Sing a duet with sweet Andy McD
- Learn to Irish step dance
- Go see Step Afrika
- Take Max to see Sweet Honey in the Rock
- Start to build my Goddess garden I have been dreaming of
- Paint my living room and hallway
- Create (and dare I say perfect) a gluten-free pizza dough recipe. (Homemade pizza and Eric’s homemade bread are the only two things that will tempt me off my healthy gluten free path. This gets me 50% of the way there! )
- Explore acupuncture and my calling as a healer
- Start that girls’ (age 8-11) knitting club I have been talking about
- Ride a roller coaster
- Stay a night at the Purple Fiddle
- Learn to swim
- Run a 10K
- Learn to count to ten in three African languages
- Finally master the f’in F chord
- Teach Max to knit (my sweet boy added this to my list, saying he would help by doing the learning!)
- Go out to hear live music at least ten times (this is an easy one which just makes me feel productive!)
- Figure out how to live migraine free
Wanna jump in with me? What do you think I might do in this crazy wild messy year before I turn 40? Lets do it together.
Thirty nine years ago today, with the gentle brush of an angel’s wings, I was shepherded into my mother’s arms. I have been held ever since. Passed from one love to another, handled with care, handled roughly, given space to move and wiggle and grow but always held. When I am at my loneliest, and I sink into empty silence I can feel the web of hundreds of hands, the ones who held me then, who hold me now, who I hold keeping me afloat.
This year I have learned many things but most of all this: My life is not a landscape to be overcome, nor is it a mountain pass to survive. My life is a wild and rushing river, but it is not meant to be forged or crossed; there is no “this side” or “the other” there is only in, as in with both feet, swept away. Sometimes it is wild and rushing, sometimes it is calm and peaceful, often it is murky, usually messy but always it is exactly what it is at that moment–nothing more, nothing less, until it changes again. And it changes, around every bend it changes. I have often waded in the shallows, clinging to the shores, searching for a bridge that will carry me over but there is no over. There is only in.
Last night at the stroke of midnight in the arms of music and laughter I was carried again into another year. The current will carry me away some place wild and wooly or unexpected I am sure, no matter how I cling to the scenery I just passed.
The other day a friend looked me in the eyes and said, “Trust your life”. What other choice is there?
So here’s to jumping in with both feet, to getting wet, to stopping attempts to cross and instead to lifting both feet up, laying back and trusting the water.
Originally posted August 16, 2007
At last, on Thursday, I rise before the sun. Lisa stumbles down with coffee in hand and drags me out of bed. Together we pull the kayaks into the water, though first we inspect them thoroughly with flashlights, making sure there are no sleeping spiders to tickle our feet. And then with few words we push off onto an ocean of glass and mist.
The lake is still. Only one lone bird is awake and singing. Fog hangs down silent and heavy over the pines—the distant shore but a watercolor—an idea of a forest—a memory of one long ago.
As I move silently I half expect the Arthurian lady of the lake to appear and whisper something wise, perhaps ancient mother secrets of creation. My paddle dips into the water. But the ripples disappear almost instantly as we glide glide glide along the lake, paddling to the middle. The eastern sky is becoming blue now and then from behind the Monet pines fingers of orange reach up, like a hand offering hope. Then the great globe rises brilliant and true—a drop of primary color oil paint on a watercolor masterpiece: brilliant, garish, warm.
We sigh, Lisa and I. We break our silence to talk of metaphors of God and sun. I point out that every ancient culture worships the sun in one way or another because of moments just like these when a dark night instantly becomes day. More birds are in the sky and trees now waking their children and their neighbors with hymns to this hope—this promise that we have one more chance to live. The mist is fading fast, giving way to a brilliant day of blue skies.
I breathe in the smell of pine and cedar and whisper thank you. It is late before we beach the boats. Activity has broken out now on shore. I enter the cabin to see my child raise his head and smile—“Good morning, mama!” I pick him up and wrap him in his blankets, snuggling him in my lap. “Yes,” I breathe into his little ear. “it is”
I don’t often write about my job here on this blog.
Its very important to me, my paid work, but it’s not the kind of thing I talk about here.
I don’t blog about politics or income inequality or the financial markets even though I think about these things all day long. When I decided that I wanted to blog, I very consciously decided that I would keep my “professional life” and my “writing life” separate.
But every now and again those boundaries start to blur. After all it really is just one life. And its mine.
When I count my blessings, when I sit in gratitude, when I think about the abundance in my life, I am thankful for my work.
For starters, I get to spend my days fighting for justice for working people. I get to join my skills with the skills, courage and smarts of nurses, janitors, security officers and public employees as we work together to build a better life for our kids. I feel passionate about my work. But the blessings don’t stop there. I adore my colleagues–they are some of the smartest people on the planet. They are also some of the kindest and most loving folks too and I cherish the fact that when I walk into the office, I get to spend the day sharing ideas, dreaming up schemes and being creative with them. My mentor and boss is the cream of the crop–He pushes me to be my best self. Over the years he has become a brother and dear friend. Really. My work situation is ideal.
But really…one of the best things about my job…is that once in awhile I get to do something like this.
I still can’t believe they actually pay me…Will someone pinch me please…
I am home now. Home to the simpler pleasures of my life. Home to the splash of the kids in the pool, to the sweet kisses of my boy, to the heat of a summer that snuck up on us while we were waiting for spring. Puerto Rico allowed me to hit a kind of re-set button, to hole away and devout myself entirely to my paid work, to do some different things and in the absence of routine or ritual to see what was really important in my life.
I came home hungry for the simple things–for Max’s hugs, for trips to the grocery store. I came home hungry for the rumpled sheets on my bed and the sound of the birds outside my window.
Somehow all the other stuff that I had been feeling this spring just felt so far away and I was grounded again.
Last night, after a spontaneous dinner with my across the street neighbors, I went to the local American Legion Hall. My friend’s band was playing at a luau party and pig roast. It was a private affair for American Legion members only but I was able to get in by saying “I’m with the band”. Even in an American Legion hall it still held cache.
We drank $5 pitchers of beer and cut up the dance floor. At 38, I was the youngest one there. Most of the couples cutting it up were well into their 70s and I just basked in the glow of them. I wanted to talk to them to hear their stories but as they gazed into each others eyes I knew that they had no time for me, they saw only each other and the lives that stretched out behind them and the lives that stretched out before them for whatever months, years or decades they would have together.
Later when the band broke down, I stole away for an impromptu gathering at a new friend’s house. I was exhausted, all but curled up on the sofa, listening to the music played live as a child would, having it lap over me and all but lull me to sleep. But it felt right to hear it wash over me. It was right, just as my life is right, exactly as it is.
If it seems I have fallen off the face of the earth this week, I haven’t. Its just been a busy, crazy, wonderful, falling down nutty week–full of activity and drama. There was hockey to watch and sob over, live music to go see, a sweet 6 year old boy to cuddle, and an amazing party to plan. I can’t wait to tell you about this last one but its got to happen first. I am almost afraid to speak of it, for fear that I will somehow attach some expectation to it that will just ruin it for me.
I remember when Juan’s Tio Gordo and Tia Fidelina built their new house. It was a spectacular house in a modest village–two stories high with balconies dripping with bougainvillea. People came from 5 villages away to see it, to celebrate its birth. We too went down to Veracruz for the house blessing. The event was bigger than a wedding and wonderful in all the ways that happy occasions are but I personally found the rituals around the party were more delicious than the party itself. There was the shopping for the perfect ingredients, the purchase of a big spoon worthy of a witch’s cauldron, to stir mole for 500 over an open fire. There were two nights straight of cooking, grinding corn, cooking mole over coals, forming tamales by hand. There was the afternoon setting up the stage for the band. And then the magical party itself.
Its gonna be like the next few days. It started today as we passed emails around, solidifying our plans. Tomorrow Odette and I will rise with the sun, get Max off to school and we will start to shop and then chop. All afternoon sisters will come in through our front door wielding knives and will join us in the chopping, the wine, the singing. Then at 6 we will take our food to store in a big industrial fridge at the photo studio where we will work to set up our fete. Ten of us will drag tables and lights and music equipment around and transform a photo studio into something else. When we wake the next morning there will be more cooking, more running to the liquor store, more final preparations. And then there will be a party. A party for a very special woman, my housemate Odette. A simple and beautiful person who walked through our magic door and changed all our lives in ways we cannot even begin to explain, ways we are all still trying to understand. Bands will wander on and off stage, bread will be broken and wine will flow and in the end, we will have raised money for her girls, preparing them a home for a someday soon reunion, building them a family to walk into, preparing them a place of rest.
Thinking about it all I just feel giddy and grateful.
What are you looking forward to this weekend?
Awww…yeah…I’m so smitten with my community, is it true. I couldn’t help myself. Had to post about ’em. But…aren’t they good y’all, these friends of mine? They are so talented but more than that–they are so damn fun.
I love that I have friends that sing and play for me. I love that I get to hear these guys around a campfire, in my living room and around the corner on a regular basis. I love that music, played joyfully is a part of every day in our life in one way or another.
I am a lucky girl.
And did I say it already…these guys– they really do rock.