It’s easy to confuse darkness with worry. I’ll admit I can drape myself in it — in those wee, small hours of the morning. I make the coffee just a little stronger. Force the croissant past the lump in my throat. Still, it can cling, those worries that come only from loving someone.
But then I walk into our office space. Surrounded by windows. And the light! Oh, how the light streams in and bounces off of my work. From paintings to poems, it says, “Look here. Right now. There is light.” And joyfully, I believe in it. I believe in the prayers said under my grandma’s quilt. I believe in the hope that each morning brings. I believe in the beauty of now. There is no “down the road,” only looking at the length that stretches from my heart to my hands. And they both know what to do. I smile. And begin. In this glorious light.
Some said it was in the way, my grandparents’ kitchen table. But for me, for my mother, it was something to lean on. The stability we craved.
The legs were at an angle, protruding just a little beyond the table top. You could kick it. Bump into it. Throw groceries, suitcases, all of your worries, on top of it. It was never going to crumble.
It took a while for my mother to get her legs beneath her. But she did. Oh how she did! And not just holding her up, but at that slight angle – that confident stride. Maybe they saw it in her first – the people of Alexandria. “Oh, I saw you walking yesterday.” “I see you out walking all the time.” “Aren’t you that lady that I see walking?” And when she answered yes to them, maybe she started to hear it herself. Yes. See it in herself. Yes, I am that lady.
I suppose we all have to become the stability that we crave. Table by table. Step by step. The sun rises with one question, we rise, and say simply, joyfully — Yes!
I was only six when I was walked into the library of Washington Elementary. The door opened and it hit me immediately, the familiar scent. I didn’t have the words for it then. The knowledge. Certainly it could have been explained away with paper, and time. The aging, a slight dampness to it all. But I had smelled this before, this comforting familiar. And I needed no explanation, because I was home.
This welcoming scent – it was the same as the entryway to my grandparents’ home. Coats lined the wall. Dampened with work and story, they welcomed anyone who opened the door. They said, come in, you and your heart sit down. It was there I learned to trust. Trust in those who made the effort. Trust in those who worked hard to create something. Create a life.This library of coats. Of living.
When Mrs. Bergstrom, my first grade teacher, let go of my hand, I wasn’t afraid. She set me free in this open and beautiful world. There was life all around me. Book after book. Page after page. The words brushed against my arm, warm and worn, as the sleeve of my grandfather’s coat.
Some might say it is only nostalgia. But what is nostalgia? For me, it is not wanting to live in the past. No, for me, I see it as proof. A living and palpable proof of how it feels to be open. It is a reminder of how glorious life can be. A documentation of the extraordinary doors — the doors that let you in, the ones that set you free.
I don’t know what today will bring. But I know what it feels like to be open. I need no explanation. I brush against the familiar, and walk into the sun.
I don’t remember which pronoun we used. I have to choose one now to write this story, so I will say he, and respectfully hope that that’s correct.
My mother’s cousin was born a female, but lived as a man. Now, see, I’m not even certain that’s the right way to put it, because I’m sure to him, he was born a man, and lived as a man. I want to move beyond my clunky way of describing him and get on to the heart of the story.
This was long before support groups. Long before anyone thought of being politically correct. Long before people spoke of gender. Certainly no one ever heard of fluidity. These were farmers. They spoke of farming.
And he was an excellent farmer. The hardest worker in the family. My mom spoke of how he saved the family farm. I only have one image of him, and that is leaning against the barn. Overalled. Tired — I pray from working.
I was too young to judge, to be unkind. I hope we all were.
I bring it up because it occurs to me, at some point in our lives, we have all found ourselves, leaning against the family farm, tired, wanting only to be accepted for who we are, the work we have done, praying for the kindness of fresh eyes and open hearts.
Tanned and weathered by the heat of so many summer suns, I stop, under today’s and think, what a glorious time to grow.
Perhaps one of the biggest dangers of social media is the act of comparison — comparing your life to what you think is the life of the other person on the screen. And I say, “what you think” because you really don’t know how the other person is living. You just get this small glimpse of perhaps what they had for dinner. You might see them in their best outfit. On vacation. Their best photoshopped image. And even if it is “real,” it doesn’t change your life. You decide if your life is big or small, happy or sad, empty or full – and believe me, you will probably experience all of these – more than probably.
The birds in our yard love the cherry tree — and I don’t blame them. Cherries are delicious. Someone told us to hang cd’s from the branches, and it would scare the birds away. The cherries are all gone. Turns out they were not afraid, but perhaps even enjoyed the music while they ate. You just never know. I imagine the fun they had in the tree – their own social gathering place – singing along to the shiny objects. I could waste my time and feel bad about not eating cherries, but nothing would change, so I’m going to be happy for them! After all, they sing for us every morning.
Remember, you will not always be the biggest bird. You will not always be the smallest. Find the joy in both. The grace in both. That is the cherry on top!
Maybe it was different. Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe we just didn’t hear about it. But what I remember of the news is this — riding in the front seat of my grandmother’s car. Windows open. The smell of earth. Bare legs stuck to the seat. Grandma’s house-dress waving in the breeze, and the flap of her upper arms. The news we listened to was only this — The Farm Report, and Paul Harvey. The voices melodic. Familiar. Simple. And we were saved.
I was washing the breakfast dishes. Looking out the window. Contemplating, agonizing, over this morning’s news. I opened the window. “Please just drive,” I thought. Drive us in open-earth-smelling air away from all this heartache. This killing.
I looked down below the window. “Uncle Wally” (the baby walnut tree) was standing strong. The tulips, looked dry, a little watering needed. The roses — full bloom, nothing to do but enjoy. My “farm report.” My heart calmed to a simpler time. I wish it for everyone.
I will not take up arms to fight arms. It is not my nature. It is not my belief. I can only offer my humble words. String them together, and possibly you can find some comfort in that. Some release. Some hope. Maybe, if we all could do that for each other — be the voices of common sense, common understanding, maybe we could all be saved. Maybe it’s too simple – but I pray it’s possible.
When Paul Harvey signed off, he always said, “Good day…” Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought his voice raised up a little at the end, as if maybe it were a question. And maybe it was. Maybe he was asking us to be better, to be more human, asking us to please, make it a good day.
Today, I will ask myself, and ask the same of you, “Good day…?”
There is an intimacy to this life that I don’t want to miss.
We were visiting Burano, Italy – an island near Venice. It is known for its lace work and brightly colored homes. These homes are stunning. I even painted them. But it’s funny, I have this memory that is even more vivid. It was morning. We were strolling the near empty streets to find some coffee. And there was an older woman sweeping her front stoop. Just an old woman, with an old straw broom. But never “just.” This was her home. Her life. A life she dressed for. Already in a skirt and apron, she cleaned her front step to prepare for the day. In this tourist village, where people spent all their vacation dollars to see these brightly colored homes, she had a life. A life she cared for. Dressed for. And lived. And how lucky I was to see it!
I want to see it every day. With neighbors and strangers and family and friends. I want to see it on the news. Feel it. These are people. With lives. Each one special. Intimate.
There is a connection in the simplest of things. If we can see the broom. We can see the hands. If we see the hands, maybe we can feel the hearts. If we can see the hearts, then maybe, just maybe… our world – OUR world could open its morning doors, step on to the front stoop and feel safe, feel loved, feel alive. I won’t believe it’s “just” a dream.
It was in thick cup. White with a pinstripe around its rim. Heavy. Sturdy, I thought. Probably could withstand a drop or a toss across the room. After I tasted the coffee, I understood why.
Church basement coffee. It was never the best. Even before coffee became a lifestyle, I think we all knew. But then we had better. Delicious coffee. Robust. Full. Flavored. There was no turning back.
I suppose it’s the same with everything. Especially people. I think back to the way we treated people in Junior High, and I cringe. I assumed life would change dramatically as we got older. But some still seem stuck. Childish. Bullies. Name calling. I’m over it. As we all should be. I’ve tasted better. I’ve been liked better. Loved better. And there’s no turning back.
Are my standards high? I hope so! I hope yours are too. Let’s not waste our time with mediocrity. I want to be better. At everything. Mostly at being a good human. And I think we help each other achieve that by raising the bar. Let’s get out of the basement and live! Fully flavored lives. Robust even!
The cup has been flung. The bar has been raised. Good morning!!!
When visiting Dominique’s mother, we relive everything with her, for the first time, every few minutes. Of course she knew me, but time has taken that away. Yesterday she asked Dominique, “Is that your fiance?” “My wife,” he answers. She claps her hands – “Marvelous!” I smile even as I type this. She apologizes for not getting us a gift, and in two minutes we go through the same conversation. And it’s still marvelous!
It’s ironic, I suppose, that her forgetting is a wonderful reminder.
Our first kiss is long gone, but not our first kiss of the day. We’ve had countless croissants, but today’s is fresh. This day is one we’ve never experienced. Words align themselves in different order. Paint grabs hold the canvas like never before. Trees bloom again in our yard, for the first time this spring. I look around. Clap my hands together! Marvelous!
Thank you, Lucie.
We have a dessert here called Café gourmand. It varies from restaurant to restaurant, but usually consists of an espresso and a small selection of tiny little delicacies. Perhaps a Crème brûlée, fondant au chocolat, tart, or a biscuit. It is so satisfying, so delicious, so delightful, proving once again, it takes so little.
I had just gotten my first job. For Christmas each employee got a box of fancy chocolates and nuts. I didn’t have the money to indulge in something like that. Nor did I have the money to give such fancy gifts. I enjoyed the beautiful packaging for just a moment, then sent it off to my grandmother for her Christmas gift. She sent a note back in the mail. I knew it was from her immediately, without looking at the return address. I recognized her handwriting. (Proof of something so much bigger.) She thanked me for the gift, and said, “I will only share these with a select group of people. And when you come to visit, I will share them with you, and then you will know how special you are.”
I had spent nothing, and got everything in return. Let’s do the small things for each other — offering petite tastes of kindness, joy and love. So filling. So delicious. So delightful!