Dear Jay Beagle–
You most likely don’t remember him, but he remembers meeting you.
The first time he met you was at an arena in Newark. Max and I traveled up to New Jersey to see the Caps play on the road. We made the trip up and back in one night because Max was playing in his championship hockey game the next day. You were on the ice warming up before the game and my little guy had wormed his way into a restricted section to watch–a lone Caps fan in a sea of Devils fans. He banged on the glass and when he thought you were looking at him he told you, so earnestly, about the championship. Maybe you heard him, or maybe you just saw that he desperately wanted to tell you something. You flipped him a puck, pointing to make sure all the New Jersey fans knew exactly where you meant it to go. Max carried that puck in his hockey bag the next day for luck. They won. That puck now sits on our mantel and Max tells the story over and over.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday. Thanks to a magical gift, Max and I had tickets to see the Caps play your rivals the Penguins. Our tickets were right behind your bench, right on the tunnel that led to the ice. As you all marched out onto the ice, so many of your teammates were doing what they do to get ready, getting their head in the game, eyes intensely focused forward, seeing nothing but the ice, blocking out the arena and making only space for the game. It was thrilling simply to be so close. Yet everytime you came out, (or for that matter went back into the locker room), you, Jay Beagle, you high-fived my boy, or bonked him on the head with your stick. Every time you smiled at him. All eight times. Yup. We were counting.
You may not think it was that big a deal Jay Beagle but I am saying that it is. For you did something magical. You, with all your NHL hero status, you took a minute to with your eyes, your hands, your smile to see an individual in a thumping, throbbing crowd. You saw him there with his face all painted red and his sign and his mardi gras beads. And then, with a simple gesture you told him over and over that he mattered. You let him know that his energy, his presence, his excitement meant something to the world, that it changed things. And with that gesture you changed the world. For Max. For me. For every little boy who wants to grow up to be like you one day.
You are a very young man Jay Beagle, just 26 years old. You don’t make nearly what your superstar teammates make. And yet you are wise beyond your years and richer than those whose salary dwarfs yours. You know something that many old men do not. You know that the most important gift you can give is your presence, your acknowledgment. You know that seeing is indeed everything. If I was your mother, I would be very very proud of you, not for your NHL contract but for who you touch now in that role. I would be so proud of how you noticed that little boy who just wanted to touch your hand.
Jay Beagle, thank you. As a hockey mom, I hope all those little boys reaching out their hands across the years, to touch you, to touch the possibility that they too might one day play on the big ice rinks, I hope they all grow up to be wise like you.
I came upon this poem in early December and wrapped it around myself like a cloak all winter. As soon as I heard it it sounded as though I knew it always, like I knew this place always, these cliffs, this coast.
And now I offer it to you, a gift for the new year from a beloved Irish poet who is gone too soon. Below see the link to hear him speak it in his own words.
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
~ John O’Donohue ~
For at least 5 years now it has been my New Year’s ritual to pick a word to guide me through the coming year. It is a word I hold dear, whisper upon waking, and hold close to my heart. It is a word that serves as a compass when I am not really sure what I am doing anymore. When I can’t remember what I want, I touch that word again and remember–“Oh yes….this…” The words are always different and yet they keep calling me forward in the same direction each in their own unique way–each of them pulling me forward on my path, one foot in front of the other.
I have come to put a lot of power in this word I choose. If I don’t take good care I can get superstitious, even neurotic and fret over the word, fearful that I may inadvertently welcome in suffering I don’t want, or hard times I don’t need. It can be such a big thing to pick a word. Words after all have so much power.
Imagine my delight when I started school this fall and it became a practice to pick a word for the day, a designed created mood, a word that is (to quote my teachers) “big enough to live in”. I embraced the practice as eagerly and as joyously as I embraced my New Year’s ritual. I practiced living into a word each day, sometimes calling on my yearly word, sometimes picking something new my heart needed. However it went, I remembered something that I always knew and often forget.
The word itself is not a magic word, but rather an inspiration to reach deep in my heart and live my life awake. It is not that I am calling forth the word from the world but creating it myself in every moment. I remember that my word does not represent how the world meets me, but rather how I meet the world. If my word is peace I don’t expect the Universe to deliver peace to my door, but rather I commit to meet whatever comes with peace. In doing so, I create peace, a joyous peace to live in. I am awake to all the peace around me, (the sleeping child, the flower that knows no fight) and when it isn’t there, I am awake to the possibility that I can create it right here, right now.
This year I am living into the word Open. Open, like openhearted and vulnerable. Open, like ease and simplicity. Open like welcoming. Open like doors that unlock, paths that unfold. Open like embracing whatever comes my way, faithful that the lesson in it is exactly what I need to learn.
This word business is a practice. A practice in which (even after years) I still find myself a beginner. I fall down and pick it up again. I will need to remind myself: Are you open to life? How about now? How about now? One year I posted a sign on my front door so that I would see my word as I left out the door. This year I will say it to myself every time I touch a door. I am making a tag for my key ring. My dear friend Edamarie made me a necklace this year out of an antique keyhole. I will touch it and remember to open up to my life so that my life can open to me.
What it your word for 2012? What magic will you create for all of us? What energy you will be for this world?