I suppose it all takes time. To see the ordinary. And to appreciate it. Those of you that follow me here, have come, I hope, to know my grandparents, my mother, my schoolmates, and teachers. Some might say “just plain folks.” And that’s probably true. But maybe that’s the real beauty of it all. To find the spectacular in farmers, housewives and receptionists. To see the extraordinary in the daily living.
And in seeing them, it helps me see myself. Helps me find the gratitude of the day given. Of the toast for breakfast. The smell of coffee. The hand that reaches out for mine.
I am reading the book, “Love, Kurt (The Vonnegut Love Letters). I have this book, only because I have a special friend. Last year, together with our husbands, we went to Stillwater, MN. My friend and I stood in the bookstore as if before the Christmas morning tree. So many gifts in front of us, we had a hard time deciding. We each settled on our present. I loved her choice as much as mine. This year, she gave her book to me. Those simple words don’t seem to give it enough meaning, but I will tell you that it fills my heart. It brings me back to a laughter filled day on brisk streets and slow choices. It, for me too, is a love letter.
In the book, Kurt Vonnegut writes with his young pen, to his young wife, “Angel, will you stick by me if it goes backwards and downwards? Holy smokes, Angel: what if I turn out to be just plain folks?” Tears fill my eyes. I imagine we’ve all had the worries. Will I be special enough to be loved?
It’s these memories, of course, that give me that comfort. That give me the yes. My heart is packed full of the love from these glorious and plain folks. And I have loved them. Love them still. And I am one. Proud to be living with these extraordinary people. It is plain to see, they, we, are more than enough to be loved.
It’s easy to think it’s beautiful at first glance. The perfection of the unused pastels. Pristine. Untouched. And I will admit I open the box slowly. Remove the padding. And let it sink in, all the possibilities. But for me, this is not the real beauty. No, things have to get messy to become beautiful. The pastels will lose their perfect shape as I stroke them against paper and canvas. The colors will cling to my fingers and get wiped on pants legs and on cheek bones as I bring the painting to life. I’ll be covered in the evidence of creation when I bring the finished product from the studio to the house. Viewing the colors still on my face, my husband will call me a warrior. And I proudly smile, because I am. I joyfully give my all.
I suppose it’s the same with love. With life. Some will never risk getting hurt. Never take a chance on anything. Never using the pastels of their heart. Not me. I want to get in deep. Covered in the evidence of experiencing it all. Even the shattered pastel has the ability to color. To create. To make something beautiful. Your heart is going to feel it, sure…but oh, the colors — the glorious colors of scattered love. It’s not to be missed.
I wake to this sun, labels peeled, middles cracked, rubbed uneven, and joyfully covered in love’s evidence. It looks like an imperfectly beautiful day.
My brother had already left home by the time I was in the fifth grade, but there was a part of me still trying to get his attention.
They passed out the forms at Washington Elementary to sign up for the Punt, Pass and Kick competition. I can’t say that I was a football fan, but I folded up the paper and put it in the pocket of my no-brand jeans. I had no real intention of asking my mother to sign it. That would be admitting something to her that I wasn’t ready to admit to myself.
I found his old football in the garage. What it had gathered in dust, it had lost in air. I licked the needle of the pump for my bicycle tires (I don’t know why, but I had seen him do that) and tried to squeeze it into the ball. I placed the small kickstand under my feet and I pumped and pumped and pumped some more! The needle popped out. The ball was still deflated. And I was on my way to be.
Ever hopeful, I decided to still give it a try. I couldn’t quite reach the regulation laces with my fingers. I cocked back my elbow and gave more of a push than a throw. It didn’t spiral. It tumbled. I had no tee to attempt an actual kick of the ball, so I decided to punt (no pun intended). I tossed the ball slightly in the air and swung desperately with my right foot. It felt like a brick as I hit my shin against the flattened leather. I tore the sign-up sheet into tiny bits and through them in the burning barrel by the driveway.
It’s a difficult lesson, one that I’m still learning. People can only love you for who you are. You can’t force it. Or even win it. You just have to be yourself. And that’s still no guarantee that they will love you. But if they do, love you for who you are, how glorious! How beyond punt, pass and kick fantastic!
And never is it more true, than with yourself. The thing is, there’s no permission slip for that. You have to find your own way to selfcare, to self love.
A few summers ago, here in France, my brother-in-law found an old American football. With his son, he was playing catch in our backyard. He threw it to me. Without thinking, I placed my long fingers on the laces, and threw a perfect spiral back to him. “Where did you learn to do that?” he asked in surprise. I smiled and said, “I guess I just found a way.”
I am loved.
I began using the paper purchased this summer at the Fontaine de Vaucluse. It’s handmade. The mill sits right next to the river. It is the most beautiful, accepting paper I have ever used. I suppose because it’s natural. Nothing to fight against. The paint goes on so smoothly and becomes a part of the paper. And the most amazing thing is I’m low on paint. I need to reload. I’m down to my most average. But even this paint takes on a whole new life when combined with this paper.
And the paper is far from perfect. No, in fact, that’s probably what makes it so special. You can see, feel, all the flecks that go into it. The scraps of life and growth. Beautiful!! No shame of imperfections.
Maybe it’s too simple to say, but I’m not sure everything has to be so hard. I think we need each other. And I’m pretty sure we can bring out the best in us if we want. So I come to you daily, with my humble, most average of self, and ask you to join me. You, the imperfect paper. Together, we can make something beautiful. Together, we become!
Returning from my walk yesterday I hit the button on the remote to open our gate. Nothing. I hit it again. Still nothing. I thought the battery died. I punched in the code on the backup panel. Nothing. I did take one split second to look around, as this had happened once before in my life.
It was on Jefferson Street. My mom and I lived in the white condos. There were three sets of four. Identical. We lived in the middle. A friend was dropping me off at night. In my defense, we were laughing, and I wasn’t paying attention. I got out of the car. Opened the door. Walked up the steps quietly, to not wake my mother, or Agnes who lived below us. I tried to turn the handle. She locked the door? She never locked the door. I had no key. (Of course there were no cell phones in these days.) I was about to knock when I saw a huge plant in the corner of the stairwell. “Did Agnes put out a…” My brain kicked into gear. Wait. Was this the right building? I stepped back into the driveway. I was in the first building. It was a little late to sneak, but I tiptoed to our driveway, and slipped into bed.
I went in those doors a million times, but this was the only instance we talked about. Laughed about. Exaggerated the outcome. What if someone had woken up? The ending changed again and again. The gift of imperfection!
Standing outside of our gate, I thought certainly I hadn’t made the same mistake again. After all, our houses here don’t even look the same. My friend texted me at that moment. She was having a stressful day. I told her I was locked out of my own house. We laughed. She said it sounded like a blog in the making. I called my husband. The electricity was off to install a water heater. He brought a ladder. I climbed up the gate. Pulled the ladder over. And climbed back down.
When we retell this story in years to come, it will be the day that Dominique helped me break into our own house.
My life is connected with a series of joyful imperfections. There would be no story if the path was always clear. If the doors were always open.
Our Wi-Fi is currently shut off because our provider had the wrong address on our account. They changed the address but took that as a “move” and shut off our service. It won’t be re-installed for days. I’m using the data from my cell phone to power my iPad to write today’s blog — once again being asked to hike up my skirt and climb over life’s gate!
All the wonder this living can bring!!!!