There is a natural instinct, I suppose, when you experience something wonderful, to want others to feel the same. “You’ve gotta taste this,” we say. “You’ve got to see this!” And I enjoy sharing things from around the world. But these are the obvious things. The guaranteed positive response. The Eiffel Tower, example. The Vatican. I feel blessed to have stood beside the Colosseum. Floated in Venice. But it’s not a surprise really. I expect people to like these photos.
Winter in Minneapolis. Not the expected destination for travel. But there is beauty. And I see it. Maybe it’s all just a reflection of the people I’m with, but the light!!!! The beautiful light of this city. One that I claim. This is something! I shared the image with my French family. When she replied, in French, how beautiful she thought the light was, it made me feel special. Not just because I took the photo. But that she could see it too. We were a little more connected. Sharing this truth.
It’s why I share the stories of the places I love, but even more so, the people. When I wrote this poem about my mother, The Truth about you, I did it because sometimes I just can’t imagine the incredible luck, the pure blessing, of having such a mother, and I just want everyone to know. To see it. To see her. So pardon my repeats, as I keep spreading the news. The joy. The love I have for my mom, my city. This world.
The light is coming in from the window. I hope when you see it this morning, you will know, it’s for you too!
Didn’t we say forever? And believed it at the time. Best friends we promised in the middle of the Washington School playground, underneath the monkey bars. And then beside the swings. But forever came before we moved on to Central Junior High, and we promised again. And meant it. We raced to Social Studies and English literature, and around the block for gym, and then changed again. At Jefferson Senior High School, so close to the imagined adulthood, we vowed again. Threw our graduation caps in the air, along with our forevers.
Yesterday we went to a small village here in France. Driving the narrow streets, built long before they made cars, we winded and turned, and backed up, squeezed and turned some more. With no “rights” or “lefts,” we could only look up for direction. “Somebody’s on top of that hill,” I said. “I think it’s the Virgin Mary,” Dominique said, “a statue…” I wasn’t sure I needed that clarification, but I smiled. We parked, or probably closer to the truth is we abandoned the car.
We started climbing the cobblestone paths. Higher. Higher still. Surely we would see her soon. Above the village now. Gazing over the houses. “Where is she?” Confused, I stood beside the ancient obelisque. Then I saw her. Proudly she stood atop the hill on the opposite side of the village. Oh, she moved, I thought. Because surely it wasn’t me. I hadn’t changed direction…
We’re changing all the time. All of us. And that’s a good thing. It’s the only way we grow. The only way we gain a new perspective. Our forevers get nipped and tucked, and some even abandoned. But it doesn’t make any of them less important, less meaningful. Everything has a time. A season. And each day we have a choice of whether or not to enjoy the moment, to enjoy the view.
Take a look around today. It may not be what you thought, but it might just be amazing.
They say that paper has a memory. Meaning, if you fold it, the crease remains. Perhaps the same is true of the heart.
The limb I found myself wobbling upon yesterday was a bit more unstable than usual, so I gathered in my heart and took it to the paper. It always welcomes me. And even with all of its security, it still challenges me. Dares me to create. To learn. To grow. To find the beauty even in this moment of uncertainty.
I didn’t plan the portrait, I just started to paint. As she came to life, I knew what she needed to wear. My mother would have loved this ruffled blouse. How it gently gathered around the neck and framed the face. She was the queen of white ruffles, my mother. Such a delicate beauty.
And there it was — found — the uncertain beauty of the moment.
My heart is not broken. But it will be forever creased. Remembering and saving all the love. And it is here, in the beautiful folds, that I have the courage to move from limb to limb. To dare the lift of love, ruffle my feathers from heart to face, and let myself fly.
It’s one of the first lessons they taught us at Washington Elementary. One that I keep having to learn.
Mrs. Strand told us to sit in a circle. We wriggled our way next to our best friend of the day. Up and down. Crawling on hands and knees. Maneuvering. Pushing. Wedging our way into position. Mrs. Strand had the patience of a saint. Finally, when we shaped ourselves into something nearing a circle, Mrs. Strand told us the game — “Whisper around the World.” What did she say? (Because in fact, she did whisper it.) She said it softly again. “Whisper around the World.” And because our world was contained within these four walls, we thought for sure we would excel at it.
She would begin by whispering a sentence into a student’s ear. That student would then repeat it into the ear of the next student in the circle, and so on, until it reached the last person, and then that last person would say it out loud. Words were passed, between snorts and giggles. Laughter and spit. And more words. Other words. We leaned in close. Leaned over in delight. The last person said the sentence out loud. Then Mrs. Strand said the actual sentence. Not even close. Not one word was the same. At first it was hysterical. Then we did it again. “This time we were really going to try,” we thought. We never got it right.
I suppose the lessons were multiple. And because we hadn’t yet developed the cynicism that age can bring, we still believed it was possible. If we really tried. If we paid attention. If we asked questions. If we went to the source. Our source was a tall, soon to be pregnant with twins, woman at the front of the class. When she told us something. We heard it. We believed it. “The truth can always be found,” she told us, “if you go to the source.”
I understand today, that even hearing the words is sometimes not enough. I’ve learned to stop and ask the questions. Not just “what did you say,” but “what did you mean when you said…”
Now being actually “around the world,” it’s even more important. Distance. Time. Texting. Emailing. They can all be as easily misconstrued as a passing snort. Maybe it’s naive, but I still believe. I still believe we can get there. We can see the humor in our mistakes. And come together, with all of our ill-shaped good intentions, we can whisper our way to the truth, and be a part of it all.
Our fruit trees had a bad summer. Wait, that could be a mistake…I don’t know if their summer was good or not… maybe they had a great summer, taking this time off. What I should say is that they didn’t produce any of their usual fruit.
This winter, there was a sudden warm up, then cold again, and they got very confused. It threw off their timing. And they took the summer off. To regroup. They are still lovely. They flowered. Greened. Stood tall in the summer sun. Still valuable. Still part of our garden community. I would, will, never stop loving them.
Trini Lopez is the name of our lemon tree by the front door. He has yet to produce a lemon, but again, I love him. He greets me every morning by the kitchen window, with a green so full, leaves so hopeful, that I think, I, too, want to grow.
This patience that I have with our garden, I fear, maybe I’m not that patient with humans. I am quick (I hate to admit) to think people are lazy. But maybe I, we, don’t always know what the person is going through. Maybe they aren’t being lazy at all. Maybe they are recovering from their own difficult winters. Maybe they are slowly, as best they can, growing into themselves. Finding their way to the sun. Maybe they are offering, not the usual gifts, but other ones. Maybe this year’s fruit is a delicate shade. Maybe this year’s fruit is a place to lean on, in the comfort of silence.
You know that friend, (I hope we all have one), with whom you can sit, without words or entertainment. Just sit in the comfort and safety of their company. I want to be that friend. I want to be as patient with love, with growth, as the trees in our garden. I want to give you (and myself) a chance to grow, or better yet, to just be. To calmly, daily, without demand, or judgement, greet those who dare the morning, and say, “Welcome to the garden.”
We’re all guilty of it, for sure – projecting, delaying our happiness into the someday. “Someday, if we just have more time… more money…”. “Someday, when I lose five pounds, get that promotion, change my hair, fall in love… well, then…”. How is then that different from now?
And even for the small things. Watching YouTube, I’m told I won’t be happy until I get this deskpad, or this computer, or certainly everything available at IKEA, not to mention the “must haves” from Amazon. And I will admit I have lusted after the gray wool desk pad from Grovemade – I’m only human… but my work life doesn’t depend on it. I can still create my blogs, make prints, cards, email my mother, do everything I need. So I’m happy. Today. Without that beautiful pad. Today is the someday that I celebrate.
I have to make an effort. It doesn’t always come naturally. Returning from vacation, I can easily slip into old habits, wearing the same thing, eating the same thing, but then I catch myself, and try to live better. Put on the scarf. Light the candle. Eat new things. Enjoy the view. Celebrate the day for what it is – the gift that is given. I have to remember that this, in fact, is my someday. I give thanks, and begin… today.
Two weeks ago when we arrived in New Orleans, just before the whirlwind of Mardi Gras had started, we were, for the most part, alone. Proof of this, we walked up to the Cafe du Monde and got an order of beignets in one minute. No line. Delicious in so many ways. We left New Orleans to travel the south, and returned yesterday to the crowds, donned in beads and noise and purples and greens and golds. The line for the Cafe du Monde stretched around the block. We smiled at each other, knowing, that just a moment before, it was ours. We tasted it without the validation of a long line.
While the crowds marched through the French quarter, we took a drive. I’m not sure what led us to the house where Degas lived for a brief time just before Impressionism took hold — I say I’m not sure, but I have a pretty good idea — our hearts usually lead us — maybe it was the French flag, the statue of the little dancer girl — there was no crowd to follow, no line to get in, just the feeling of creation in the air, and we pulled over immediately. This master of fine art, lived here. Here. Maybe it was just a brief moment, but we could feel it. And it was ours.
My grandparents lived in a farm house. No one will line up to see it, but I remember each door. Each entryway. I remember the smell of damp coats hanging. The creaks of the stairs. The sink full of dishes. The sign on the kitchen counter that read, “I should have danced all night.”
My mother will be moving out of her apartment soon. Some will say it was just four walls. But inside it was coffee and conversation. Wine and dreams. Fashion shows and laughter. Tears of tenderness. Home. Here – no crowds, no lines, but with hearts fully validated, oh, how we danced!