the pragmatic side of my brain says, “of course. this is logical,” while the other side is grasping onto the silky threads of hopeful and wishing to call mr. rogers – does the other side have cell service, i wonder.
it’s in looking back that it is easier to see the gradient shading of end and beginning, one into the other. it is easier to recognize the softer side of transition or, at the very least, the survivability of it all.
sam sifton wrote, “everything is going to be all right.” i believe he was talking about food and preparation for the thanksgiving meal. that is his wheelhouse. i prefer to generalize his words – they were sent to me by a dear friend and i am going to apply them to life and hold him to it.
and so we walk. and we look for signs. the smallest of goodnesses. tiny reminders of value. the way the sun punctuates our walk, the way blue sky makes us feel.
and we look up. the tops of the trees look different than the trunks. not stalwart and thick and steady, those branches much more fragile. yet there they are, existing in the wind and storm and warm days, rooted, all the way down.
but this is redundant. and i have spoken of the tide washing out and then back in before. the tide turning. i have metaphorized change and loss, in efforts to – maybe – temper them. but, in truth, they are raw and lay on the beach of our hearts in all the elements of our lives.
i wrote – a while back – to one of my nieces the words of my sweet momma “growing old is not for wimps”. she wrote back, “living is not for wimps.” so true. just when you think you have a little bit of it figured out…whammo! it seems that the universe may think that arrogant.
and so, we will try not to be assuming. either way. not assuming good, not assuming bad. no assumptions. just walking.
in the age-old tale of things-are-often-not-as-they-appear, this beautiful almost-transparent white moth flits from lavender bloom to lavender bloom. in certain moments it is even hard to see, its translucent wings disappearing and then glinting in the sunlight. against the dark background of the deck, it is easier to see as it feeds on the nectar of these deep purple blossoms. it’s a cabbage white butterfly. and it is likely responsible for the tiny holes in the tomato plant leaves. it’s fortunate we do not have a cabbage patch as these little guys have the capacity to destroy it. such a beautiful little creature and so much potential for destruction of goodness.
i’m writing this (ahead) on a rainy sunday morning and it’s too easy on sundays for my mind (and heart) to jaunt over to the things-are-not-what-they-appear heading.
this translucent butterfly has specific markings (a black spot on the upward front side of its wings), a specific size just over an inch, markings that depict the gender, making it easier to identify and, if necessary, prevent or eradicate the damage it can do to a hard-earned crop. if it were to look like any other butterfly – or say, a beautiful monarch – it would be much more difficult for gardeners to recognize the peril, much more difficult for farmers to stand firm and work at keeping the crops safe that they have nourished so carefully, for so long, with so much dedication.
sitting on the deck watching this butterfly flit about, the sunlight catching its gentle wings here and there, i never suspected it might be at the root of the problem i am experiencing late in the season now with our cherry tomatoes. under a cloak of not-knowing and not-asking-enough-questions or googling enough, i didn’t know to point at this gentle creature. but the act of googling has given me information. i can look for larvae on the tomato leaves and examine the damage with a plan for it.
were it to be a full field of cabbage, like out in the county here, it would seem imperative to act upon this. a whole field of cabbage – a field of potential abundance – can be destroyed by the existence of something that people might never question. research says an infestation of the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar can destroy all cabbage growth, and prevention is said to be imperative to avoid the ruinous nature of such an aggressor. that way “you’ll have less work and damage later on.”
this butterfly has been here since the 1860s so its presence seems pretty solid and unshakable. i guess you have to pay attention to damage being wreaked around you in your tiny tomato garden, delve into it, gather information, ask questions and stop the quiet chaos from happening.
it’s easier when the wings are transparent, when the markings easily identifiable and when the community of gardeners and farmers are seeking the goodness of the cabbage field.
described as “too vigorous”, creeping bellflower, gorgeous purple flowers and all, is considered noxious and invasive. i know people like that.
as a matter of fact, the other day while we were strolling along the lakefront, we passed someone i know who is quite bellflowerish. without hesitation, i immediately began an animated conversation with david, complete with hand gestures and enthusiastic arm movements, my face intent on his as i told him the non-story and he stared at me, knowingly.
there are just some people who are best avoided.
had we stopped, even to exchange pleasantries, the conversation would have shifted to mining. this person mines for details, details, details, for gossip, for information. too vigorous, noxious and invasive, masked by curiosity and feigned intense interest, this person has always been a miner. avoidance is best, just like creeping bellflower. it looks lovely and inviting, beautiful purple flowers standing tall, but it will reseed – your newsy news – and spread it all out in gardens near and far, your personal story strewn all over, regardless of soil, aggressively spread like a weed.
the most robust plant can produce up to 15,000 seeds annually and self-sow in the wind. bellflower can overwhelm other, less aggressive, plants as they strive to co-exist. they are tough to eradicate in a gentle garden.
beware. creeping bellflowers will run over you and your garden.
i will, henceforth, describe myself as “plush and jammy”. i also like “untamed and unbound” but i fear that my children would scoff at me, their almost-63-year-old mom “untamed and unbound” making them roll their eyes, but only for a moment or two so as not to waste too much time thinking about it.
plush and jammy sound like menopausal words so i pretty much adore their use on a lovely bottle of apothic. to be real, jammy, the opposite of earthy, refers to the fruit-forwardness of the wine and plush…well…it’s polished and opulent, soft, silky, round. earthy wines remind one of fall leaves, wild mushrooms, the forest floor aromas – which sort of sound like me (or the me i want to be), while jammy brings forth a syrupy sweetness that is not acidic, berry goodness. i may have to reconsider my descriptors.
untamed and unbound are the joey coconato words, er, the joey-coconato-wannabe words of wine. it is not necessarily a perfect pairing of words and merlot, but apothic stands in righteous pride with the words and i respect that. you have to LOVE those tags. it’s what everyone wants. it made us buy the wine. and, the wine was delightful, though we artists are not wine snobs.
we have all been subjected to questions like: what words would you use to describe yourself? we wrack our brains, trying to come up with adjectives that are accurate, responsible, fun, creative, that give clarity to who we are without being trite.
mine…i’m going with: a plush and jammy, aggressive and earthy, fermented and generally non-acidic, untamed and unbound logophile.
not being a real true climber, i’m not sure if the above statement is really true. what about the “hit. climb. hit. climb.” of ice-picking your way up? what about crampons? what about ropes and aluminum ladders perched against the icy pitch?
i do, however, know this quote has good intentions.
we are hikers. trekkers. i/we have never used a rope or crampons or ladders or ice picks to get from point a to point b. and watching a mountainload of everest and k2 videos, documentaries and movies hardly makes us experts in the area of climbing. we are not even novices.
but, in terms of the metaphor of this quote, i can relate.
surely, climbing a mountain with nothing to grip onto would be nearly impossible. all organic. all analog. i’m sure alex honnold would agree that if there is nothing at all to hold, with either his hand or his foot, that would make free-climbing such a face a feat of the imagination. there has to be something. some overlap. some crevice. some tiny blip of rock. something.
so. enter the rough. or, in the case of the metaphoric quote, rough times. how would we ever get to the top without them? would we actually recognize the top? would we appreciate the top? would we scale the uphill were it smooth? could we?
or did some smart-ass mountaineer quote this just to mess with us?
clearly, the men and women who have climbed everest with all its personality traits, its twists and turns, its icefalls and crevasses, its sharp ridges and its deep snow have dealt with all of it. they have not turned away as it was too smooth. they have not turned away as it was too rough. they have persisted.
and maybe that there is the point. despite the rough, the smooth, the easy, the hard, the oxygenated, the death zone, the chilling cold, the sun heating the seracs, the avalanches, the perilous altitudinal affects, the glorious summit stands ready.
the mountaintop. it’s there for anyone who just keeps on going. through it all.
we went to a concert a week ago or so. it was a group of us and we were all excited about going. the band we were going to see is creative, talented, sincere and full of energy. what’s not to like about that?!
we caravanned in three cars. well, we dan-a-vanned, actually, with dan leading the way. he is a GPS guru and, if you can keep up with him on the highway, a great person to follow going somewhere.
we got there, full of anticipation and excitement. sat in seats one row from the very top, able to look out at the whole audience. many of us have gone to concerts together before; we try to do fun stuff especially as the winter sets in. we laugh a lot and that is a very good thing.
the concert started with an infomercial….on video and a live push as well. i thought perhaps that was it….one infomercial is plenty when you have purchased tickets to an event that is not a fundraiser. but that wasn’t the case. with the exception of two warm-up artists who played maybe 3 songs each, the whole first half of the concert was full of infomercial preaching and over-done talk-talk.
by the time we got to intermission, it was easy to be annoyed. the first half of the concert was over. we hadn’t seen the band we had come to see yet and now we had sat through what seemed to be agenda….i have yet to figure out why this was so. what symbiotic relationship is there between these infomercials and the band we were there to see? do these organizations host the whole concert tour? do they underwrite the concerts in venues of their choosing? do they play the band’s music? no matter how dedicated the band is to these efforts, was it appropriate to take up most of the first half of this concert with this rhetoric? i was sitting in my concert-seat trying to figure out this stuff. is that where the band would want me to start?
so now, here we are, at the second half. and i have to say, i am not “feelin’ the love.” it took me a good portion of the second half to get back to open-hearted listening of this concert, to actually hear the music and embrace it.
because: the band concert i had come to see was colored by the first half of the concert.
and then – there’s life.
wow. i can’t think of a better metaphor than this concert.
WE are colored by the first half, the first part, the beginning and middle of life as we step into the Next of life. “of course we are,” you say aloud to me. cognitively we totally get it. we shouldn’t bring into Next what colored us from Before. we have to draw the line in the sand. lessons – yes. anger, frustrations, disappointments, prejudices – no. each Next is a fresh start. for that matter, yes, each new day is a fresh start.
d and i have been doing a meditation that was offered free with oprah and deepak. it has been about awareness and making every moment matter. now, i am all about moments (that whole thready thing and all.) but awareness is a much bigger responsibility than we realize. it’s so much easier to react than to stop for a few seconds (or however long it takes) and be aware. sometimes i find i should Stop longer than i stop. awareness can be slowww in arriving, particularly if i stubbornly hold onto all the negative stuff. we sometimes cling to that stuff as if it were a lifevest.
now…i am thinking: in those moments, when i can feel myself reacting (strongly or negatively or angrily or with preformed disposition) to something, i realize (metaphorically) that i am at the (in-real-life) concert and i am looking at the second half through first-half-eyes. it is becoming an amazing tool for me to stop and think – what about the first half of the concert is getting under my skin for this Next? am i aware that the second half can be even just moments after the first half? it’s not always years or decades that separates Before from Next. it can be minutes. it’s shocking how blind we can be to what we carry forward, one minute to the Next.
the Next is full of good and hope and moments and not-what’s-lost-but-what-is-still-there-ness (thank you, ptom). stepping over the limen, the threshold, is necessary. leaving behind the first half of the concert, the part that colors us and clouds our clear-eyed-hopeful-stepping-into the second half, is absolute.
“…in the nighttime of your fear…” the lyrics of this hymn jump out at me. how many times have i been awake in the nighttime…wrapping my arms around fear of some sort. how many times have i been awake in the daytime with ‘the nighttime of my fear’? being awake with fear makes every muscle aware, every hair stand on end, every emotion close to the surface. and the fear doesn’t have to be physical…sometimes it is fear of the unknown, fear of change (no! really?), fear of differences that set you apart. any way you slice it, fear becomes visceral and, as carol used to always say, you can taste the adrenaline. in these moments, there are voices i pine for, people i want to be near, reassurances for which i yearn. how many times have i told david i wish i could just talk to my sweet momma. how many times have i asked my dad aloud – hoping for a sticky note to float down from heaven – for his words of wisdom. i’ve asked my brother wayne for car and fixing stuff advice; i’ve asked my friend richie for a tad bit of his sense of humor in a tense moment. the list of people on the other side extends out, in ever-larger concentric circles, as i realize how much i miss their words of wisdom. the faces of my life. and then, often in an awakening moment of grief, i realize that there is indeed wisdom and reassurance all around me.
the ukulele band rehearsals are at our house in the summer. most often outside on sometimes-warm-sometimes-cool summer nights on the patio, last night was inside with impending storms in the area. i had broken my little baby toe earlier in the day and was limping around a bit (and maybe whining also.) betsi and jay offered advice, carol and helen grimaced with me, remembering breakages of their own, david jokingly spoke of designing steel-toed flip-flops. a posse of people making my little toe feel better. there were conversations about dietary/lifestyle changes, inexpensive backyard solutions, growing herbs, new albums out, nitrate-free bacon, up north… really, anything you might want some solid talk-talk about was possible. the faces of my life. “…we are pilgrims on a journey, we are travelers on the road. we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load…”
in conversation with susan or linda or jen or heidi, we talk about loss of a parent or we talk about children growing up and away or we talk about where we are in life…they have been there when i’ve cried…they have shared tears with me. they have laughed with me till it hurt. powerful moments of empathy. with david, the sharing of raw emotion, the frustrations and the bliss of being “too close”, the tears and the laughter are full spectrum. the faces of my life. “…i will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh i’ll laugh with you…”
we were standing on the opposite side of a stream from where we needed to be. three times while we were in the mountains this was where i found myself. (well, metaphorically, i suppose that would be countless times, but who’s talking in metaphors?) the first time, david crossed over, using stones and a wayward log that had fallen. even now, my feet tingle thinking about it. he quietly told me that i could do it and reached out his hand to me so that I could grasp it as soon as i was within reach. his eyes, unwaveringly gentle and reassuring, convinced me to work with the fear i felt and move forward. “…i will hold my hand out to you..” one of the other times becky, david and kirsten (the girl) had already crossed the stream. it wasn’t a huge chasm, but it was enough to make me think about going the “other way”. and yet, it was their faces on the other side that helped the nugget of fear i felt go away. the faces of my life.
” …i will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through…” our time on this beautiful earth is forever and fleeting. both. this journey is filled with design of the universe and gorgeous wisdom and warm reassurance. the faces of our lives. on this side and on the other side. they will hold us in ‘the nighttime of our fear’. they will hold us in the moment. we are never alone.