Ancient Thoughts


We humans like to believe that we are sophisticated, advanced, modern. We like to believe that we have left our ancient selves behind. We are no longer tied to the changing faces of the natural world, we tell ourselves. We live in a world of technology and science and modern advances.

Why is it, then, that when the sun sets into the western ocean, so many humans gather on the shore to watch in awe? What is that sense of wonder that comes over us as we watch the golden orb sinking into the ocean?

I don’t know.

All I know is that every time I see the sun set, I want to capture it, to photograph it, to paint it, or to find the words to describe the magic that it seems to be showing us.

We humans like to tell ourselves that we are creatures of reason, of rational thinking, of fact. We do our best to believe that we are subject to the laws of physics, but not to the laws of magic.

We think that we have left behind the primitive worship that our ancestors gave to the forces of nature.

But.

When we step into the arms of the ocean, we humans lose that sense of rationality. The rocking, soothing, calming waves remind us, I think, of cradles and rocking chairs and the loving arms of our parents.

We are magically soothed.

Humans flock to the sea. From every far flung corner of every continent, it seems, we rush toward the sea when we need to rest, to be calm, to find a sense of peace.

Doesn’t that seem to be the most primitive drive? To find ourselves back in the place from where our earliest ancestors emerged? To return to a salt water origin that we all knew before we were born?

There’s just something magical about watching the sun reflect off of the ocean. There is a kind of healing and rebalancing that happens when we find ourselves afloat in the ocean. It’s elemental.

I can’t describe it. I keep trying, but I can’t.

All I know is that there is magic here. Magic that reminds us that we aren’t, after all, so far from our true origins. We haven’t come so far from the first humans who stood on beaches like this one.

We still want to watch the sun set and moon rise. We want to feel the salt wind in our faces. We find ourselves compelled to gather up the most perfect and beautiful of sea shells.

I love this about us. I love the fact that just beneath our carefully applied surfaces, we’re still only one small step away from our most primitive and basic origins.

We still live, whether we like it or not, in a world that is ruled by magic.

Perfect, beautiful, natural

The Echo Chamber


I’m constantly surprised at how insightful my kids can be, although by now I should be used to it.

I mean, they are all adults. They are all intelligent and thoughtful. I should be used to learning from them by now.

But I am still surprised when they make observations that catch me off guard. Especially when those observations make me stop and think about my ideas and beliefs.

My family is made up of a whole bunch of wicked lefties.  Paul and I, all three kids, our son-in-law; we are all outspoken progressives. We share a common belief in all things liberal. We believe that the government exists only at the will of the governed, and that its primary purpose is to provide protection and safety to its people.

We believe in equality. For everyone. All the time. Everywhere. We drive around in cars that have bumper stickers spouting ideas like: “God Bless The Whole World: No Exceptions!”

We think that we are smart and kind and thoughtful and good. We are pretty sure that we are on the right side of history.

So after a Mother’s Day dinner that was filled with political jokes, comments about the Trumpeters, and even a few videos of “The Liberal Redneck“, it was a little bit of a shock to get a message from one of my kids that gently called us out for our closed minded reliance on stereotypes.

At first I was taken aback. I got a little defensive when my child suggested that we have begun to rely on a sort of “echo chamber” where we can share our prejudices and not have to bother with those who disagree.

Then I thought about it for a few minutes.

Eventually, I understood what he meant.

So I answered him, honestly.  You see, I am proud that he trusted his family enough to point out his discomfort. I am doubly proud that he is this thoughtful and deep.

But I don’t totally agree with him.

I think that it’s one thing to try to convince others of the correctness of our liberal views. When that is my goal, I try to use facts, statistics, truth. I try to leave emotion, stereotyping and sarcasm behind.

But when I am relaxing in the comforting embrace of like minded lefties, I think its OK to laugh.

I do NOT believe that all conservatives are cold hearted bigots. I do NOT believe that all Republicans are money grubbing ogres.

I know, love and respect a whole bunch of conservative Republicans who are thoughtful, smart, knowledgeable, kind, generous and fun.  I know, dislike and disrespect a whole bunch of liberals who are narrow minded, rigid and ignorant.  I try very hard to get my information from the most neutral sources that I can find.

With that said, though, I do think that its my duty, morally and intellectually, to call out those who I know are dangerous, xenophobic, dishonest and ugly.  I won’t ever promise to stop speaking out about them.

But I will be more careful of my words and my tone when I talk with my lefty family.

Once again, I owe thanks to one of my kids for showing me that there is more than one way to view every situation in life.

 

Ah, Miss Ellie……


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Rockin’ her Daddy’s hat.

Way, way back, in the dawn of my history, when Paul and I were very young, we used to think about the upcoming weeks and tell ourselves, “I’m glad there is something to look forward to!”

Which means, of course, that there were times when we’d look at each other and think, “Ugh,  there is nothing to look forward to!”

I look back now, at my 22 year old self, and I think, “Are you kidding me? You’re twenty something, and you don’t think you have something to look forward to? You only have your ENTIRE LIFE, you idiot!”

But at 22, I wasn’t thinking that way. I was thinking, “What wonderful adventure is out there for me in the next week?”  I was young. I was foolish.  I didn’t really get it.

And then, at the wise old age of 29, I gave birth to my first child.  My wonderful, beautiful daughter Kate.  And everything changed in an instant.

Suddenly, I knew that I had “something to look forward to” for at least 20 years.  Every morning with my baby was a new beginning.  Every bath time was a treasure. Every meal an adventure.  I was enraptured, enamored, in love, entranced, enthralled.

Life was very, very good.

And then it went on.  Kate’s brothers were born, and the rhythm of my life was set.  I was a happy, busy Momma, and every passing week meant something new to look forward to. There were milestones and holidays and vacations and camping trips.  Birthdays and new schools and sports and plays and music.  Life was one big streak of “something to look forward to”.

And then they all grew up. And they moved away and started their own lives.

There suddenly wasn’t quite so much to look forward to, you know? Life was still happy and full, but the magical moments were gone.

And now, here I am, the full time day care provider for my little Ellie.  Now I am back to the days of making pancakes for someone who will light up with joy at the new taste. I am back to singing brand new songs, and reading exciting new books.

Tonight, when supper was over, I put our leftover coconut rice into a bowl.  I added an egg and some cream and cinnamon. I baked it for 20 minutes.  It smells fantastic.

I will go to bed tonight with something to look forward to.  I will give my beautiful Ellie a bowl of rice pudding for her breakfast tomorrow.

Life is a very beautiful thing.

I Resolve to


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  • I Resolve to:  stop making resolutions.   I mean, jeez, I already work pretty hard at being the best human being I can be.  What else is there to add?
  • I Resolve to: give myself some credit already.   OK, so I am not Martha Stewart.  My curtains don’t match my socks, my hair color isn’t coordinated with my napkins.  But I’m not a convicted felon either.  I guess I’m ok the way I am!
  • I Resolve to: laugh more often.  The hell with it.  I will watch stupid TV when I want to, and I will laugh out loud at Gunsmoke if I want to.
  • I Resolve to: stop telling myself that this is the year when I’ll suddenly become hip/svelte/athletic/spontaneous.  I will NOT run a marathon this year.  Nope. Nuh, uh. Ain’t gonna happen.    I will NOT suddenly decide to fly to Paris to pursue a singing career.  Seriously, dude? Nope.   I will not decide to sell my house and finally buy that bungalow by the beach.
  • I Resolve to:greet January 1st as that annoying day when I have to find the new calendar that I bought in October and transfer all of the family birthdays to it.
  • I Resolve to:look at January 1st as the first day that I have to try to remember what the hell the new year actually is.  AND I resolve to forgive myself if at any time between January 1st and August 31st  I sign a check and date it as 1991.
  • I Resolve to:to be mostly happy with the me that has evolved over the past 60 years.  I resolve to smile at her, to pat her on the back for her herculean efforts at keeping her old dogs alive and happy.  I resolve to remind her that she will never be this young again.  I resolve to put an arm around the 60 year old me and whisper in her ear, “You did a pretty damn good job with those kids, honey.”
  • I resolve, in this new year, to be happy with myself while still trying to learn more, grow more, evolve more and accept more.
  • Finally, I resolve, in this year of our Lord 2016, to cast my Presidential vote for someone who will not disgust or dishonor us, for someone who shares my views, for someone I’d be proud to call my President.
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Something to look forward to


When my husband and I were very young, in the very beginning of our life together, we often found ourselves saying, “I’m so glad we have something to look forward to!”

Of course, we were young, in love, starting our lives.  We had friends and jobs and an entire future ahead of us.  Still, sometimes the weeks seemed to stretch out ahead of us with nothing but work, classes, work and more classes.  We used to need “something to look forward to”.  Something to get our excitement up, our adrenaline rushing, our moods lifted.  It could be a party, a trip, a concert….it didn’t really matter, as long as we could hold it up in our immediate future and get a lift out of the anticipation of the event.

I remember Christmas of 1985.  I was very pregnant with our first child. We didn’t know yet who this child would be.  Male or female?  Dark eyed or light? Happy? Cranky? Healthy or not?  We didn’t know.

But I remember one night, just a few days before Christmas and perhaps two weeks before my due date.  Paul had fallen asleep, but my back was hurting, and so I was still awake.  I lay on the sofa in our little run down apartment in one of Boston’s seedier neighborhoods.  I had a blanket over the mound of my stomach, and my hand was resting on the place where my baby moved.

I had turned out all of the lights, leaving only the Christmas tree illuminated.  I lay there, looking at each ornament, watching the way that the lights reflected off the garland.  I felt myself breathing, and listened to the imagined heartbeat of my baby.  I looked at the lights.  I waited.

“You know what?”, I whispered to my big gray cat, who sat beside me in my midnight vigil.  “I’ll never ever have another moment with nothing to look forward to.”  I smiled to myself, the palm of my hand feeling the gently rolling movement of my firstborn inside of me.

And I was right.

Twenty nine years later, I am lying on my couch, my eyes taking in the color of the Christmas lights.  I can see the pile of wrapped gifts with my granddaughter’s name on them.

“You know what?”, I whisper to my old dog. “I have so much to look forward to!”

Magic Words


Magic book with magic lights

Oh, don’t you wish that there were magic words?

Wouldn’t it be just wonderful to have magic phrases that could bring peace, healing, love, rest?

I wish that our world contained real wizards.  Men and women of such wisdom that they could simply say those magic words and hearts would be made whole again.

In a world that seems to have gone so wrong, I wish that there were special words to make things right.  I wish that I could open an old and dusty book, placed high on a wooden shelf in a long forgotten shop.  I wish that I could turn those ancient pages, slowly, and so carefully.

I wish that I would catch my breath in wonder, and run my finger slowly and carefully under those magic words.

Don’t you wish that with me?

Don’t you wish that somehow we could turn to those around us who are in pain, and that we could whisper those special words that would mend the terrible wounds in their hearts?

I do.

I wish that there were magic words.

I wish that I knew them.

Wishing all of you peace and safety and laughter and love. Wishing you a home without strife, a country without war, a kitchen without hunger, a group of loving friends and family to embrace you.

Wishing you magic words to heal you.

 

It’s all in how you look at it.


 

When I was a little girl, my sister and I watched a Disney movie called “Polyanna”.  In the movie, a little girl (played by Hayley Mills, how’s that for a good memory?) comes to live with a grumpy old lady.  I don’t remember much about the story, except that there was a scene where Polyanna notices a prism hanging in the old lady’s window, and makes a big deal of the beautiful rainbow and all the colors.  The old lady notices the beauty for the first time, and the two of them take apart all of her lamps and hang prisms all around the house.

Not the most subtle of metaphors, but it stuck with me.

This morning I woke up to yet another school cancellation day. I have nothing to do, having prepared my lessons and done my corrections yesterday.  I have baked brownies, made meatballs and sauce, walked the dogs, done laundry, read a kids book for the class.  I am bored. And cold. And crabby.

I want sun!  I want warm breezes!  I want to barbecue, but the grill is buried in four feet of snow.

I look out my living room window, and see nothing but white.  I’m sick of watching snow fall; its making me dizzy.  The garden fence is almost buried.  My walk is only a foot wide, with five foot walls on either side.

The window is filled with icicles, handing down from every inch of the gutter.  Sharp, jagged, icy teeth, making me shiver just looking at them.

I decided to lie down on the sofa so I could fully indulge in my misery.  I wanted to look at the icicles, those threatening, terrifying blades clustered together, reminding me that I am falling farther and farther behind in the curriculum, and that the kids will be distracted little cyclones tomorrow.  I wanted to use the image of the ever growing ice daggers to help me enhance my total crabbiness.

But guess what? When I laid myself back on the pillow and looked out the window, I found myself looking through the beautiful fused glass wind-chime that my son and his girlfriend gave me for Christmas.  All of a sudden, the icicles were shining through the brilliant colors of the glass, and the little bit of sunlight that was leaking through made them gleam like rainbows.

My plan was thwarted; my crankiness went away.

I felt like Pollyanna!

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A Dog and His Boy


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There is just something about a dog and his boy.  My dogs just love our boys.  In fact, they love pretty much any boys.

Now that our sons are grown and gone, we can get the same squeals of delight from our dogs when our nephews, cousins, neighbors or any other boys come to the house.

There’s just something about a dog and his boys.

So I’m sure that my dogs will be very happy to hear that we have a boy, an honest-to-God boy, coming to live with us for the rest of the school year.  He is a sixteen year old German exchange student.  He was in need of a home, and this nest was in need of some life.

I’m sure that Tucker and Sadie will be almost as happy as I will be to have him here.

I hear that he likes to eat.  And as you may know, I like to cook.  Perfect.

Of course, I’m pretty nervous tonight.  He arrives tomorrow.  I have baked chocolate chip bars.  There’s chicken brining for dinner.  His room is clean, his bed is made, and I have mopped the floor.

I want him to be happy here. I want him to be comfortable.  I want him to feel that he is welcome.

When I was his age, I was the student, far away from home, looking for acceptance and love in a new family.  I was lucky.  I found both.  My Tunisian family took me in, fed me delicious meals, entertained me, laughed with me, took me to see the sights. I remember the meals, the conversations, the music. I remember the smell of the summery air, and the sound of the wooden carriage wheels on the cobbled streets outside my window.

I don’t remember noticing whether or not the house was clean.

Still, tonight I am cleaning and organizing and scrubbing.  I have even brushed the dogs.

I know I’m being silly.  He won’t care if there is dust.  But another woman’s son will be coming here, to our house. Another woman, far away, will be trusting me to care for her boy.  She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know that I’ll be kind.  She doesn’t know that the dogs will be here to greet him, with wagging tails and doggy smiles.

So as I wait for the bars to cool and the laundry to finish drying, I think back to my arrival in Kairouan, so long ago.  I think about how easy it was for me to settle into my Tunisian home, with my wonderful family. I want that experience for our guest!

And I look at the dogs, snoozing on the nice clean floor at my feet. I reach down to pat their soft heads, listening to the comforting sound of their snores.

“Guys”, I say, although neither of them moves, “I have great news.  Dad and I have decided to get you a boy.”

 

That Winter Moon


Winter-moon

There is something supremely magical about a mid-winter moon.

It shouldn’t feel like magic, I think. It should feel like a threat.  Like a dangerous, biting creature that waits to pounce. The wind is howling, carrying plumes of snow across the yard.  It feels dangerous out here.  The moon rides high and distant, looking down from far, far above.

But in spite of the icy bite, in spite of the shivering icy fingers that reach for me, I can’t help noticing the magic that shines from that frigid silver face. Magic seems to shiver in the air under the trees.

On a night like tonight, in the darkest part of winter, there is powerful magic in stepping outside when the moon is high and the stars are crisp.  The silver of the moonlight is like dust, sifting down and coating the darkest needles of the pines that surround our deck.  The light is cold and distant, but it reaches into the dark woods, lighting the crust of snow that lies beneath the trees.

I lean on the deck rail, looking out into the forest, seeing the moon’s glow spread out below me. I see  mysterious tracks winding around the trunks of the trees.  Are they coyote tracks? Or deer? Or are they simply the tracks of my dog as she takes her morning stroll?

I don’t know.  I can’t tell from up here, but it doesn’t matter.  The silvery, shivering light of the nearly-full moon is flowing down onto the snowy woods, and the dark shadows of the animal tracks only serve to prove that magic is everywhere on this icy mid-winter night.

There is something magical and strong in the silvery light of a mid-winter moon.

What bucket?


This is the bucket where I keep my list.

This is the bucket where I keep my list.

 

Apparently, everybody is now supposed to have a “bucket list”.  I constantly hear people talking about theirs, and asking me about mine.

Let me just see if I understand this correctly.  As a happy, well-adjusted adult in the prime of life, I am supposed to create a list of things I’d like to accomplish and enjoy before I (ahem) “kick the bucket”.   Right?

OK.  I get the general idea.  Don’t just sit back and wait for adventure, blah-blah.  Grab for all the gusto, yada-yada.

I’m on board with all that.  Really!  I absolutely believe that we make our own happiness, and that we all need to live our lives fully and richly.  We need to pursue our dreams.

I get it!

But here’s what I just don’t get.

Why does everybody seem to think that every item on my “bucket list” is supposed to scare the hell out of me?  Why do all the lists I see involve things like ziplining in the Amazon forest, or jumping out of an airplane?  I’ve read some of those “bucket list” blogs and articles!

People are doing things like riding every roller coaster in the country!   Or break dancing in the middle of Central Park!

That kind of thing is not exactly me. You know? In fact, that kind of thing is the kind of thing that makes me run screaming into the night.

Sometimes an opportunity to do something dangerous exciting comes up in my life, and friends start chirping “bucket list”!  And I start shaking my head and backing out the door, saying “nope, uh-uh, no way, not me”.

And then I feel like a wimp.  Or worse, I feel like someone who doesn’t fully appreciate the richness of life.

But I do!

And I do have my own little “bucket list”. Its just that mine is….well…on the tame side.

Some time in my life, before I die, I want to live right on the beach. I want to walk the shore at dawn, when everything is silent and calm.  I want to sit on my deck and watch a full moon rise over the open sea.

Before I leave this life, I want to take my grandchildren to Disney. I want to ride on Dumbo the Elephant again, and spin in the teacups and eat ice cream at Epcot.  I want to watch the neon lights of the Main Street Parade while holding the hand of a toddler.

On my bucket list I have items like swimming in a lake with my dogs, off of any leashes. Things like growing a successful eggplant or singing the Hallelujah Chorus without looking at the music.

I know.  These things are a little simple, a little dull.

But my bucket list is peaceful.  And it is mine.

People may shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at me, but I don’t care.  My bucket is filled with activities that won’t cause me to kick it, and that’s what really counts!