Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Stuff of Life

After five long years and $4600 worth of storage payments, my stuff arrived in Fort Lauderdale and moved into its new storage unit for only one month. This gave me time to discard or donate stuff I knew I would never use. But I would save  a few paintings, books and my writing. The other small but essential things like my hiking boots would mean a fast and easier move. For now, my 400 square foot Essex Gardens home is full like a stuffed old bird at Thanksgiving. I don't hoard or collect lots of things and enjoy living without clutter. Too much of anything disturbs the peace of a place. 

Waking up to a beautiful day, I invited my neighbor, Tina, over to show her the stuff I brought back from the storage unit. I showed her my very old Italian chest of drawers which had been damaged in 1993 in a move from Tucson to Georgia, the legs back then were barely keeping the chest upright. This last move finished her off as there was only one leg to stand on. Now she lies in the middle of the living room floor, looking like a beached whale, tired and worn out.

As Tina and I took a closer look at the damage, I glimpsed a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was one short segment of a Daddy Long Legs whose home had been made in the top drawer. How long it lived there, when it arrived and how it arrived will remain its secret.

As it eased slowly back into its corner home, Tina and I decided to do a rescue and slowly pulled out the drawer and took it outside urging it onto the braided trunk of a palm tree which I later learned was where they like to live..dark places other beasts cannot fit into, nooks where they can hang their web and lazily let their meals come to them.

This reminded me of Thoreau's final paragraph in Walden in which he tells a similar tale of a bug whose egg was concealed under concentric circles for hundreds of years in the trunk of a tree, now made into a kitchen table and brought to life by the warmth of a farmer's tea kettle.

This ending of Walden restored my faith that no matter the travail or duration of time one is held in lockdown over many years of hoping and waiting, there is a new day to come, even for such eight legged creatures. I've had such a life and know this to be true, as with clenched teeth and faithfulness, I came out of my own self made and interminable confinement.

God moves all creatures in mysterious ways, even one faithful and doggedly patient eight legged Daddy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rhythms of Life

I was behind two other cars waiting for rush hour traffic to start moving again. The Boston Pops CD was playing the theme to Superman and I was in a trance, actually enjoying the commerce of industry barely moving along Federal Highway. It was 5:30 and so I had no other choice than to slow down, something I still find hard to do.

It's unusual to find something good about traffic delays; but the tempo of traffic matched the music of Superman, like a metronome beating out its slow steady rhythm. After a long wait, I was back on the road again inching my way home. As I turned on to Northeast 21st Avenue, a large red leaf scooted toward me flip flopping from side to side in natural cadence to another beat, this time up tempo. The interaction of musical phrasing coming from my car stereo matched the seagrape leaf as it kicked up one edge, then the other in perfect timing.

Rhythms are all around us, in speech, in clouds and violent storms. The cadence of living things seems to be orchestrated for the pleasure of some Superior Being, who, luckily for me, passes it on for our human delight. I see these musical rhythms on television commercials and in movies. In theater they're called beats. In literature quatrains or iambic pentameter. Fractals offer a rhythm in the repetitive design of shapes, be they clouds, shorelines or snowflakes, though these are soundless, they nevertheless have their rhythm.

Whether fractals, the jazzy dance of a leaf or the snails pace of traffic, all vie for our attention. There is a dynamic order to these measures of life. Watch a 15 second commercial and count out the beats you'll see or hear. It is the selfsame music that beats in all of us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How and Why Women Do What They Do

It’s twenty-four hours before I go in for a colonoscopy. I’m not anxious, but there is that unquantifiable unknown. Moreover, I feel sad because both parents are deceased and my brothers live far away with busy lives. Though I know I’m a grown up, going in for a surgical procedure makes me feel small and needy. I’ve told close friends who live far away that were it not for them I wouldn’t be having this procedure. They want me to call them and let them know the results. Other friends say they’ll call me and if I need anything to call them. I have to prep for this occasion, so I don’t think I’ll be getting much company.

Then there is my flock at work who are good at hand holding and speaking to God about such matters, all telling me their recollection of how it went when they had it done or making suggestions like getting a tattoo for the backside that reads, “Exit only. Do not enter.” These women – and they are only women – are able to step up to the plate and be there when necessary. Women know how to do this. It isn’t so much what they say as how I feel in their presence.

A while back, I had pain on the left side of my lower abdomen. I thought it would go away and kept thinking that for four months until I could no longer stand my two best friends telling me to go to the doctor. “All right, I’m going,” I said, not wanting to go and getting angry at them for being such busy bodies. When I did go, I burst into tears in the doctor’s office while being given my list of things to buy and do. The office manager wasn’t having any part of it and ignored me. But I felt more alone than ever before. The truth is I am alone.

But the women I know make up the difference. They pull from their homegrown experiences a thing or two and supply you with oxygen, a fresh new thought about how great an idea it is to do this for yourself and later making me feel more comfortable. It’s the being there. It’s the nobility of thought that says 'get up from my desk and go see how she is.' It isn’t all that spectacular. It isn’t voodoo. It’s just the calm reassurance that I count, that I exist, that there is connection between us.

Men simply cannot deliver that. It isn’t estrogen or the x or y chromosomes. It’s something else. I believe many women – hard to generalize to the entire population – have a good heart and an even better brain. “WE ARE THE SUPERIOR GENDER,” my lovely coworker loudly proclaimed. And there it was. Women are the stronger, more passionate, more empathic of the sexes. Why each woman is that way, is less important than that they are that way. Though individual experiences play a part, in my case I took too many hits as a child and after hitting back a few times, decided that I would never be mean, bossy, greedy, arrogant or grandiose again. I would become malleable, giving, warm and loving. It was simply a choice.

Were it not for our connections, one to each other, we would wither and turn inward. The strange thing is the women who befriended me were not even aware of the power they had to calm me down. I left the office feeling better and actually began to look forward to getting the procedure. Life hands us something awkward or ugly and then gifts us something else with a big old smile on it.

Women rock because they are rocks, tender, strong and unflinchingly powerful.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Once Upon a Morning

I wish I could go back in time and be a flight attendant. But for only one reason. I would be back in Panama at the Siesta Hotel with Rex and I'd tell him how much I love him. But back then, as now, I was nothing more than a commodity, a need for him to use me.

I would have told him over and over again how much I loved him. Still, he would have gone back home to a woman he did not love so the children could have their Dad, so he too could be with them. But I write of the dust of ages and this doesn't serve me.

Now cradled again in the void, left alone by my Mother, by Rex and others, a new chapter begins, of writing, of surrounding myself with the gift of beauty, beautiful furnishings, beautiful music, art, literature, homes and especially beautiful friendships, one in particular whose entrance on the stage of my life has yet to be made.

More. I ask for more and within the blink of an eye, more comes. The world is awash with more. More laughter, more fun, more prosperity, more perfume from France, more soap from Santa Maria Novella in Florence, more Venice Simplon Orient Express, more great films, more currents washing the shore line at Tingler Lane.

More dogs too. Dogs who make me laugh and make me walk along Sombrero Boulevard. More books popping with excursions into new landscapes, driven by a mind once not allowed to go there, not allowed to speak the truth, the dead no longer alive inside my mind. Their truth was not mine anyway. So now my truth will out and in the same way musicians improvise their jazz.

It's time to deconstruct the old forms, the old cliches, the old dance, the way all of us really want to do it, namely our way. Tried and true is neither.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything Is Illuminated

"I use my faith in positive and intentional ways when I pray for a loved one, especially if I'm worried or anxious about him or her. My intention in prayer is to experience a positive result so I release any anxious feelings and pray with a sense of peace and positive faith. I become still and imagine only the best possible results. I believe these outcomes will come to pass. As I use intentional faith, my mind and heart are at ease and my trust in God grows ever stronger."

Abraham says the same thing: "Hold them in the best light you can, mentally, and then project that to them. And sometimes, distance makes that much more possible than being up close to them."

I can no longer hold someone hostage by guilting them or making them wrong. I want to see them in the best light I can. I do this by recognizing the oneness in all of us, that separation is an illusion. It takes a moment to focus on that and I do that when I meditate. Then there is no more separation.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Power and Strength of Love

Never doubt the strength and power of love. The love which comes from another is not always recognizable. But when it is real, there is no doubt and the feeling curls around your whole body as if it wants to find a place to get in. Then it goes in deep.

Several times in my life I've felt the real thing. Once it came from my dog and when he figured out that all he had to do was look at me, he used it often. I became butter on a hot dinner plate.

Well into the decade of my undoing, I was dealing with a whole lot of anger and had two new friends who took me under their wings and helped me through the difficult time. When my anger got a hold of me, they took it in stride and let me be, spots and all.

More recently, I felt the same thing when two new friends allowed the sadness I was experiencing after two major losses. When I could barely put one foot in front of the other, I felt the sensation of something powerful holding me up. These spiritual giants were in fact angels.

I've heard the words I Love You spoken when it meant something, from two men, one my son, the other my fiance, the latter for the first time at age 62.

Love has many faces and takes many forms. It's a cloudless day with a light breeze and two palm fronds slapping against each other as I walked by, as if they were applauding me. I knew what that meant. I felt it viscerally. It's the sudden rush of passion for that someone special you haven't seen since forever back home again. It's everything beautiful and wise and whole, it's a connection to all the good surrounding you.

Thankfully, I've been the beneficiary of this love. I feel it where I work and when I'm driving my car and listening to the Boston Pops. I feel it when eating chocolate and when my head first touches the pillow at the end of the day. I know love. I've melted down into it and, touched by its warmth, became someone brand new. I've also collapsed in its absence.

I recommend you never doubt its strength or power. And when you chance to meet it, give some of it away, share it, and slide around on the dance floor with it. Swim with it and nourish your spirit with it. It will begin to grow on you and more and more and more will come your way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Nothing tells the truth as much as the face. Along longitudinal and latitudinal lines, our faces tell a history that words cannot.

Aging isn't what I thought it would be at all. I always wondered what time would imprint on my face, what collection of stories would gather to let people know me and to see for myself who I’ve become. I never wanted to get nipped or tucked because that would not tell the real story. And it’s been quite a story.

But each day I see myself in the mirror, I wonder how it all happened. New lines joining up with another set of lines, like little squiggles a child would draw, appear almost daily. I buy the gels and creams and more new ones appear. But truly it doesn’t bother me the way I know it bothers others. For one thing, I don’t have to look too long at my face. I certainly could use more exercise and stay away from sugar. But I don’t. The only thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t get people looking at me the way they used to. Other than that, I feel comfortable enough in my skin so that what others think of the way I look is inconsequential.

Last week at the grocery store, I saw a woman whose face was radically disfigured. Her lower jaw was set far into her neck and her mouth stayed wide open, like the famous painting of the Scream. While I didn’t stare, I couldn’t help but take a second glance. There was little in the way of movement in the rest of her face. She was middle aged and it was troubling to look at her. When I got home I thought she might have attempted suicide. I had seen a young man who attempted to kill himself with a gun who looked much the way this woman did.

She was probably used to people staring at her and feeling sorry for her. I just went about my business and thought how lucky I was to have everything in place. I got a new haircut a few months ago and it makes me look younger and feel good.

The face is what we see first, then we get to know each other. The latter is what matters the most to me.