Friday, October 3, 2014

mary to the rescue

Cosmos, 2014
Crabapples, 2014
Rayon Vert, 2014
The Swan

"... Of course! the path to heaven
doesn't lie down in flat miles.
  It's in the imagination
     with which you perceive
        this world,

and the gestures
   with which you honor it."

Owls and Other Fantasies, Mary Oliver


It was the discussion that held our attention for an hour or so.  As she articulated her feelings about god and the bible and explained how she'd wrestled within the black and white lines of her faith, I saw how she had found love there.  In many ways I was listening to myself-only from ten years earlier.
The mirror was uncomfortable to peer into and I wanted to turn away- but knew I couldn't because we'd just had a discussion about tolerance and she had kindly listened to my views on things.
The kettle of emotions was stirred and all I could think of was Mary Oliver's poem from earlier that morning and hoped she'd understand that while we see things differently, there is beauty in both perspectives.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

an assignment

"Children are a blessing, a delight, a wonder.  They're also a minor cataclysm."
                                                                                                      - Esther Perel
                                                                                                         mating in captivity


From left: Mr. Ninja and Mr. Cook, age 3 and 6

Mr. Reporter, age 11
Mr. Tailor, age 13

Because the assignment needed to be completed and submitted by the next morning.
Because dinner was over and we wanted a pause before washing the dishes.
Because we needed to sit for a bit and ponder over the question.

We turned to ten years of carefully catalogued snapshots
stored in little files on the computer-
and not dictionary-sized scrapbooks on the bookshelves.

Because I'm camera shy- and he isn't.
Because the days are long and the years are short.
Because he thought about it- and I didn't.

We could remember the significant milestone of Mr. Cook's sixth year,
fall into giggles,
and be grateful for it all.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Turtle

breaks from the blue-black
skin of the water, dragging her shell
with its mossy scutes
across the shallows and through the rushes
and over the mudflats, to the uprise, 
to the yellow sand,
to dig with her ungainly feet
a nest, and hunker there spewing
her white eggs down
into the darkness, and you think

of her patience, her fortitude,
her determination to complete 
what she was born to do-
and then you realize a greater thing-
she doesn't consider
what she was born to do.
She's only filled 
with an old blind wish.
It isn't even hers but came to her
in the rain or the soft wind,
which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.

She can't see
herself apart from the rest of the world
or the world from what she must do
every spring.
Crawling up the high hill,

luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin,
she doesn't dream
she knows

she is a part of the pond she lives in,
the tall trees are her children,
the birds that swim above her
are tied to her by an unbreakable string.

-Mary Oliver

Isn't it curious how the little ideas do come to us, eventually, whether "in the rain or soft wind" as Mary Oliver writes, or a gripping tug with enough force to take our breath away? I'm interested in the quiet ones- the impressions that return one or two times before we decide that they are worth playing with- worth moving our bodies into action.
pruning the hydrangea, Sept. 2014
For the last year I've had some guilt about this space.  Not wanting to say goodbye and also knowing that there wasn't time to write, I chose instead to do nothing here.  I stopped reading from the blogs on my reading list that regularly took hours of my time each week and instead poured over the origins and insertions of the muscles of the body.  I immersed myself into the foreign language of human anatomy and physiology along with the other eight students in my class and together we learned how to feel with our hands what our eyes couldn't see.  We learned more about our habits and weaknesses- and how to let go of our fear as we asked for help.  We learned of our capabilities as our determination, efforts and hard work showed us a glimpse of who we are.  One instructor expressed during the first few months of school that massage therapy school is sacred, a concept I hadn't yet considered, and after seven months, we learned the truthfulness of her words.

After graduation day, we all dispersed like the seeds of a dandelion onto our new life journeys and I settled into additional continuing ed classes and employment.  The guys in our household started school again and suddenly, for the first time in fourteen years, I have six hours on Wednesdays and Fridays all to myself. And I am here- tending once again to the neglected garden of this space.


If I were a turtle, I imagine I'd enjoy the comfort in knowing what I needed to do each day of my life. The grounding and steadiness of being one with my surroundings- not knowing where I begin and the pond ends- is easy.  I lived a life like that once.  Today, I prefer the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of a dream and am grateful for what's been found along the way-weeds and all.  My face and hands have been dirty and tired- but at least they've seen and felt what it means to be alive- to be human. And that's something worth writing about.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

-Beth






Saturday, July 13, 2013

what if...

Ever play the "what if" game?  I've read and have probably been told that doing so isn't such a good idea.  The logic follows that so many of the events that happen in our lives are beyond our control that to get lost in this little game can often cause a great deal of pain from regret.  Although the other night, when I was picking up Mr. Tailor from work, we got wrapped up in this game on the car ride home.  And this time it wasn't so much of a game as it was a moment of reflection and wonder that went something like this:

My parents were only thirteen years old when they met each other for the first time.  My grandfather, David, worked for the Mesa Arizona school district and so when summer time arrived, he and my grandmother would often pile their six kids into their car and take them on long trips around the country.  By the time dad hit the age of eighteen, there wasn't a state in the continental US that he hadn't visited.  It was on one of these summer trips that my father met my mom.

It was a Sunday and my grandparents decided to keep the Sabbath day holy by attending a Mormon church in Tampa, Florida, even though they were only passing through.  And as it happened, my mom who was also thirteen at the time, was sitting in the pew either behind or in front of my dad.  They took a liking to each other and committed to writing letters - which they did for eight years, until they were married at the age of twenty-one.

My question to Mr. Tailor was simple.  What if my mom had been too tired to go to church that day?  She could have easily spent all of Saturday fishing with her dad and been completely tuckered out to even consider church the next day, let alone go.  Or consider my father's parents- I'm sure they were experiencing some fatigue of their own after an extended road trip- not to mention the fun they must have had wearing wrinkled and dirty church clothes to greet complete strangers.  But they went and I was born ten years later.

This story gave me Mr. Tailor's full attention as he quieted in thought.  Then I proceeded to tell him about how I'd met his father.  It was a Memorial Day weekend and my youngest sister, seventeen at the time, was getting married.  The wedding was held in our little home town and Mr. Tailor's dad was part of the wedding party and a roommate to the groom.  That's when I met Mr. Hero for the first time and four months later, we were having a wedding of our own.

So I asked Mr. Tailor the following question: What if my sister hadn't married Roger that day?  What if Mr. Hero had been sick and couldn't stand in as best man?  Or what if he'd hit it off with my other sister, who'd originally been his blind date for the weekend?

"Then I wouldn't be here." Mr. Tailor wondered out loud as his smile caught mine.

On the blind date w/ my sister, Betsy.  She wasn't buying it.
A few days after the wedding.  Mr. Hero and his other roommate, Andy,
 giving me a lift to the shuttle for home.

There certainly was no guarantee from the beginning that any of these unions would work out. Everyone was so young back then and willing to take the risks involving the matters of the heart.  Since January, Mr. Tailor has had his own heart swept away by a young beauty who makes his face glow every time he mentions her name.  She is sweet and bright and has enough energy to keep up with his seemingly endless supply.  He could easily apply the "what if" game to his own life- to the point where the two of them came together- and he did.  They're still young yet, and have lots of time to get to know and understand each other.

Mr. Tailor and Claire

It's a little unsettling to think that the major events of one's life have depended on the presumably insignificant ones.  But I guess that's how the ball tumbles sometimes.  And while thinking about the "what if's" on this night, alone with my son, I couldn't help but feel an immense gratitude for the significant "what is".  And left it at that.