The secret

Dear God, where are you now?

Religion is not something I write much about much. Perhaps I did not fall far from the tree. I am probably more like my mother than I realize. I only mention God in my writings if I talk about being thankful for my life or nature. I have strong faith, but I am not religious. I have tried religion in my life. I have also lived without religion. I find God in nature, which probably explains why I spend much of my time outdoors. I am happy with my feet in the dirt or the waves, walking under the trees, delighting in all that grows from the earth. Rain and snow falling from the heavens are the gifts that make me feel warm inside.  

Nature has helped me through this time of upheaval. And I’ve been waking up each morning with a Secret that helps me through each day. I spend a short amount of time upon waking to catch up with the world on my phone. But I limit it, and I’m careful about what I choose to read. After about ten minutes, I put my phone down. I can manage to get the headlines in, which provide me enough to understand that those who have the power to work on our situation are doing that. And the rest of us, our job is to shelter in place and spread whatever joy, hope, or love we can to others.

Once I update, I turn to something mindless, like playing games with my favorite game opponent (also known as Rick) on our computer. I usually whip his ass, which puts me in a good mood for the day to come. I think he secretly is a nice guy who gives me the win to help lift my spirits.

Once we are up, it’s not long before we are out the door finding something in our yard that needs tending to. By mid to late morning, we are tracking dirt into our house. We push ourselves physically, these baby boomer bodies, coming in late in the day sore and tired, and so thankful that we are not ill and able to share these blessings together.

I understand that living in dense cities prevents or at least makes it difficult to find nature. But even just going out your front door and looking up at the sunrise or the sunset or later when the stars are out, and spending time watching the show that nature is always putting on, will do the same as my yard does for me. Quiet, reflective time listening to birds, paying attention to the breeze, watching clouds, looking at what might be growing around you… all of these activities take only the space you’re standing in. Nature just needs your attention.

This morning I looked out my window (after limiting myself to the bad news) and realized that the trees have grown incredibly since I last looked at them from my bedroom window. They were so beautiful, displaying their new spring growth. Five years had passed, and they had grown up without me noticing. It’s all about taking the time to see the landscape around us, whether it be trees or our loved ones. It made me think that this Coronavirus experience, even though it has come at a high cost, might just be about slowing down to notice what we’ve created, what has been created for us and around us, and slowing enough to breathe it in. What’s the point of creating a life, a family, a yard, a career, a legacy— if we never slow down enough to bathe in the beauty of what we have created in our life?

I come back to God. I think if I was watching my children strive hard for their dreams, and I had to watch them racing through their lives never slowing enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor, I’d be having a chat with them. Likewise, I think God is having a conversation with us these days.

My mom had a hard life. I often write about her. She was not a religious woman, but I’ve come to understand that she nonetheless considered herself a child of God. I believe she felt shame for much of her life, which created turmoil around the issue of religion. I have some funny stories about her in her last days with the religious Hospice caregivers that visited her. She gave them a what-for in no uncertain terms. She wasn’t having their prayers… she would join hands, but she’d be saying her own prayer. Her prayer was simple, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God.” Enough said.

So today, when I pulled out a small slip of paper written in my mom’s handwriting that had been in the bottom of my basket for who knows how long, I had to wonder if maybe God and my mom were sending down a bit of wisdom in a hard time. I must have set this aside when I was going through her things a few years back. I can’t think it’s a coincidence that today I would pick it up and look at it.

“‘ The Secret’

I met God in the morning when my day was at its best,

And His presence came like sunrise, like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,

All day long He stayed with me,

And we sailed in perfect calmness

O’er a very troubled sea.

So I think I know the secret,

Learned from many a troubled way.

You must seek Him in the morning

If you want Him through the day.”

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me about God, and so much more. And dear God, I know where you are. You’re with Helen, my mom, a character if there ever was one. And I understand you were joined recently with another lovely soul, Billie Jean D’Anna, goes by “B.J.” She will get along great with my mom.

And sadly, for many here on earth, that party upstairs is becoming the gathering of the century.

Please help all those left behind to find “The Secret.”

I close each day with my mother’s prayer, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God.”

A follow up on the women

A follow up seems warranted to my last post, a weekend for the women. First, I just want to thank again all of the people who sent their comments and likes, and for those who know me on a personal level, their texts and emails. I was overwhelmed and so appreciative of the response.

It only confirmed something I already believe—that there is such a light in the world even amidst all of the disturbing news day in and day out. The topics were universal, death, loss of loved ones, illness, healing, moving forward, who can’t relate? And while the post was dedicated to the women in the world, I probably had more men respond than women. I love that.

I believe in that light within each of us, and I also am committed to the idea that we all share an energy that moves through us and on to those around us. Even though it isn’t something we can see or touch, it is ever-present and quite powerful.

With that belief in mind, the responses meant more than one might imagine. 

To update, my friend Ann’s mother, Janet, did pass last week. And my niece Wendy was diagnosed with cancer, but thankfully with an excellent prognosis. 

When we arrived home last Sunday, even before these events occurred in the following days, I threw myself on the bed and didn’t move the rest of the afternoon. My energy had been drained. As the week progressed and we received the updates, it certainly wasn’t the news I had hoped for.

The light, though, is what I began to focus on. Midweek I took my hike to the pond that rests about a mile from our house. I like to say it’s a pond posing as a lake. But while it might lack in size, it has no shortage of wildlife. The birds in the trees make such a great ruckus, the fish are always jumping, and I love watching the ducks. It’s a pretty cool little pond. 

As I made my way back from the pond, I was thinking about all of the responses I was getting from my FB blog post. I was walking the hills with little effort, feeling almost elevated. I realized that I was feeling the light that so many people had graciously sent along. And I knew for a fact that the goodwill and positive energy would pass through me and on to my friend Ann and her family, as well as my niece.

We may not be able to scientifically prove it, because there isn’t a machine yet to measure what we humans are capable of transmitting. But I genuinely believe that Ann and her family, as well as Wendy, will move through their challenges a little bit easier thanks to the many people who took the time to read the post and respond. 

And one final follow up since our dinner on Friday night, Paul and Lisa and I have been in constant contact due to my post. It has felt like a labor of love. Paul was excited to share Carrie’s photo and support my blog post, and Lisa so generous with her kindness and understanding that the dinner was complicated for me just by Carrie’s absence.

It turns out that Lisa, too, lost her husband some eight years ago. I didn’t know that at the time of our dinner. Rick had more opportunity to chat with her due to the noise level in the restaurant and probably my need to talk privately with Paul a bit. In hindsight, I remember only the light at our table, making it easier for all of us, the same light that had me walking on air on my way back from the pond.

The paintings attached to this post are Lisa’s work. She considers herself a novice. Matisse was once a beginner until people began to love his work. The two paintings I have included are of her mother, Sylvia. Lisa painted these from photos after her death. The painting on the beach Lisa remembers as a great day they spent at the ocean, her mom sitting in the sand enjoying a beer. The second one was a picture she liked of her mom, but she decided to add a hat. I love the hat. Even though my favorite actress Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail” mentions that all hats are mistakes, I must disagree. I can hear Carrie in my mind, and she would have liked Lisa’s artwork as well as the hat. Carrie loved art.

I chose these two paintings of Lisa’s mother in honor of Ann’s mom’s passing. 

A fond farewell to Janet Ryan, who contributed much to the city of Fresno, a small woman in stature who will be leaving a huge legacy. She will be missed.

You can find Lisa on Instagram at FogCItyWatercolor or at FogCItyWatercolor.etsy.com.

An important weekend for the women…

This weekend seemed to center around women, not necessarily by design, but due to the circumstances occurring around me. My boss scheduled our holiday celebration on Saturday night, a great idea after letting the hustle and bustle of the season fade. We were initially scheduled for a dinner party at Spin down in the financial district of San Francisco. At the last minute, there was a double booking, so we switched from ping pong to bowling.

Rick and I decided to splurge a bit and book ourselves for two nights at the Marriott Marquis right in the heart of the city between Market and Mission. We made dinner plans with our friend Paul on Friday night at a fabulous Mexican restaurant right next door. What we didn’t realize when the event was first scheduled, is that the Women’s March of 2020 would be taking place on Saturday, right in front of our hotel. The older I get, and likely also because I now live in such a rural environment, I’m not the biggest fan of large crowds. I cheer on the participants, but you will not likely find me amid the masses.

Rick and I decided it would be fun to be totally decadent and stay in our hotel room all day, order room service, bring our books and computer, play games and not even think about leaving the room until late in the day when the crowds had dissipated. As the weekend progressed, it turned out I couldn’t have been happier with a slow day to process my feelings.

Some of my readers may remember me writing about the passing of my friend, Carrie, a few years back. Our dinner plans on Friday were with her husband Paul, and a wonderful woman Lisa he has recently started spending time with. Even though it’s been over two years since Carrie’s passing, I still find my throat closing and my eyes welling up when I think of her. Rick kept glancing my way throughout the dinner, I’m sure worrying that I might not handle the evening well.

And he was right to be worried. I’m nothing if not emotional, and at times I don’t do the best job of masking my feelings. I could at times during the dinner see myself from a bird’s eye view, completely split emotionally speaking. Part of me still wants to rage at the injustice of my friend’s early passing, and yet here I was being called on to meet this new friend of Paul’s, who I must admit is an undeniably lovely woman. The battle that raged within me quieted quickly as I found myself genuinely enjoying the conversation and the fantastic food, and getting to know this new woman that I could envision as a friend. That’s when I knew that Carrie was not far from us in spirit and was sending her love our way.

We parted ways fairly early as they had another event they needed to attend that evening. Rick and I made our way back to the room to settle in. Rick continued to look at me sideways, probably still waiting for the dam to break. And of course, I did end up crying a bit, but they were just tears that still needed to be shed over losing my friend so unexpectedly. And I’m sure they won’t be the last. But with the prospect of Paul having such a wonderful new companion, there is at least a new light for me to consider.

We awoke Saturday morning, enjoying the comfort of a Marriott bed. They are the best! It was great not needing to rush anywhere. I yawned and stretched and slowly reconnected with the world around me. I knew that the streets below me were probably filling as I lounged. I was happily cocooned 29 floors up. Once I was awake, I opened my phone and received not one, but two disturbing messages.

The first was from our friend Janet telling us that our friend Ann’s mom was suffering from congestive heart failure and that they would be putting her on hospice care. God bless those hospice workers, God’s angels on earth to be sure. We exchanged texts and tucked the sad news in our hearts for continued prayers.

Next, I read my niece’s blog post about her sister’s breast biopsy that had just taken place. Within minutes I was texting my niece Wendy to send my support and love while she awaits the results. We, too, exchanged texts, and I tucked away Wendy alongside Ann in my heart. So much emotion and it was only 10:00 o’clock.

The morning progressed, and Rick fell back asleep, snoozing quietly beside me. I welcomed a few moments to myself playing solitaire on my computer, letting the tears intermittently slide down my cheeks. The thousands of women 29 stories below me lining up on Market seemed to offer up their strength. I kept thinking about what lovely creatures women are.

And I love men just as much, but that’s another post. This 24 hours had been a lesson about females, my friend Carrie, Pauls’ friend Lisa, my friend Janet passing along the news about my friend Ann fearing the loss of her mother Janet, my niece Wendy worrying about breast cancer, my niece Margie, the messenger. I had to take a pause to realize the women in my life are a force.

Feeling my own need for a bit of reinforcement, I texted my sister in law Lorene, not telling her anything about the day, but just saying I missed her. We both typically move at lightning speed, and it’s a toss-up whether we find time for a phone call, usually not. But within two hours my phone was ringing, and I can’t tell you how nice it was to tell her about my day. She, of course, offered her unconditional support, which can always be counted on, but more important than that, it was just good to hear her voice, to laugh and commiserate with my sissy.

I closed the afternoon out, texting also with my friend Colleen, positive subjects about babies on the horizon and our lovely daughters. 24 hours embracing women on the 29th floor of the Marriott, I didn’t even need to go downstairs to where all the action was. It’s a day I won’t forget any time soon.

Our holiday party was a great ending to the weekend. We enjoyed the comradery of my work gang, also headed by an amazing female. I awoke Sunday morning excited to get back home to write.

To the women in my life, past present and future, those who have passed and the new friends I see on my horizon, I love and thank all of you for being the amazing people you are. And to the ladies who marched this weekend, thank you for your efforts and your commitment to making the world a better place.

Apricot jam

Once a year if I’m lucky I settle down long enough to make apricot jam… not just any apricot jam, but my Julie’s jam. Losing our loved ones is probably one of the hardest lessons we have on earth. And while time has healed my broken heart enough to carry on, I can on any given day cry thinking of my dear friend. I wouldn’t even venture to change that. My way of thinking, tears are merely a measure of how much I enjoyed my friend. They come with the territory.
Julie made pretty much the best apricot jam around. And now, thanks to her, so do I. Her recipe, much like she lived her life, cuts no corners. She would spend three to four hours, stirring the apricots to cook them down. The whole process takes the better part of a day, and every minute spent is rewarded two-fold.
Jam day now feels like I’m spending the day with Julie. I reminisce with her all during the day. We watch a few good movies as I stir for hours. This year we watched a couple of cute Amazon Prime movies with Diane Keaton. Julie left me her copper jam-making pot, so inevitably I send pictures to her sons to let them know it’s apricot jam day. And if I’m lucky, we end up laughing for an hour on the phone, just like I would have done with Julie had I been cooking with her. Life continues to delight me as it teaches me that the threads that weave throughout any family tapestry pass down through the generations.
I thank heaven for angels disguised as friends, for copper jam pots, for apricot trees and for children left to carry on such a beautiful legacy.

A good thing going

When I think about the saying “you’ve got a good thing going,” it brings to mind so many fond memories of people and experiences that were such a true pleasure.
Not trying to be negative, but as we all know, when you’ve got a good thing going, it’s only a matter of time until something comes along that changes the game, but for the duration, it sure is nice.
As a young girl, not to mention a young woman, I fought so hard against change, especially if I was truly enjoying whatever the experience was. As hard as I dug my heels in and waged war against my enemy change, in the end I had no control, sadly.
I smile as I think back to that young gal, so doggone emotional. I so easily fell in love with people, and places, and teachers, and coworkers, and you name it. If I’m honest, I would guess that my sad family experience as a child probably played a part. To be graced with experiences and people I truly loved being around, most likely meant more to me than the average person. And depending on how you look at life, that either made me lucky or not. I choose the notion that I was lucky.
I often say, getting older isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be, as there are some nice perks.  And one for me is, that I’ve come to a place where when I see the end of a good thing coming, I can embrace it without the melancholy of my youth.
The end of a good thing starts for me on the horizon, far off in the distance, but I recognize it for what it is these days, and I make my peace long before that cloud ever darkens my skies.  I try to remain mindful that the good thing ending was a gift and I remind myself to look forward to the next good thing which I probably will not see coming on the horizon.  It will just one day be a part of my life that I will at first blush not give much thought to, but that over time will become something quite special to me.
I once lived in a sweet 2-bedroom apartment with an office loft on the marina in Redwood City, California.  (And before I tell this story, it’s important to note that during the last recession we all faced where the market fell so drastically about ten years back, I found myself in a position that I needed to sell my home if I wanted to salvage what savings I did have. I felt so sad to sell my house, and I think that’s what makes this story worth the telling. We just never know what a sad ending can bring us if we just trust in a goodness that is ever waiting to greet us just down the track a ways.)
When we found ourselves needing to make the change, Rick and I decided that if we had to move from our home to an apartment, then by God, we were going to find something we loved.  We ended up moving to a Redwood City apartment, high ceilings with wall to floor windows overlooking the marina.  The masts would glide past our window on any given day, taking me away if only in my imagination.   The swimming pool was a junior size Olympic pool that also overlooked the marina, along with the beautiful architecture of the apartment buildings lined with palm trees.  When I swam there, I felt as though I was on vacation in the Riviera.  Most days I swam by myself.  I came to resent any other tenants swimming when I was there … funny.  I’d hold my breath waiting for their departure, and then I’d welcome my friend, solitude, and together we would swim like playful otters in the water, exercising to a point, but for the most part just playing and floating and stretching and dreaming.  Being a swimmer, I was in heaven.
When we had decided it was time to move on, I knew I’d never experience swimming quite like this again.  And to date, I have been right.  But it was okay to let go, because I knew I could stash away my beautiful swimming memories with the rest of my “good things going” memories, which I’m starting to believe help one become a happy senior citizen (I’ve been told I now can call myself this … I like wayward yogini better.) 
My latest “good thing going” which is literally going, is my dentist of the last ten years or so.  Let’s face it, visiting the dentist has to be on the top ten unfavorite activities for most humans.
Some years ago I met my dentist, Dr. Gary Thodas, in Karen Toro, my hair stylist’s salon.  He was a good friend to her, and was finishing up his haircut scheduled right before mine.  As I listened to their banter I got to thinking, I’d like a dentist like him.  And by the time he left, I had asked for his card, and the rest is history.  Ever since, I’ve actually enjoyed my dental visits.
I could try to put words to his personality, but I think what better describes him is that his Girl Friday has worked with him for 23 years.  And the rest of his staff has also been there for more years than they can count.  That says it all.
He retired this December.  When I was in for my cleaning in early December, Girl Friday could not hold back the tears as she told me that the “Doc” would be retiring at the end of the month.  And as I drove away, I too felt her loss.  Where would I find another dentist that likes to joke when my mouth is full of cotton balls and tubes and multiple fingers from numerous people and God knows what else, and who I love to shoot the shit with when all the drama in my mouth is over, and who also stashes a $20 bill in Girl Friday’s pocket as she leaves to join me for Martini Tuesday, telling her that the drinks are on him (not that he shouldn’t be sorry for that torture earlier, but how many dentists would be?)
This “Doc” has been doing some very nice things for I’m pretty sure a great many people over more years than he’d probably like to count … my definition of “a good thing going.”
Much like the loss of my beloved swimming pool, I close this chapter, cognizant of the blessing I’ve had, and the knowledge that most likely I will need to look elsewhere for the next “good thing going” and that it probably will not be my new dentist, but I’m confident that something or someone will be heading my way sometime soon.
And in my mother’s unforgettable words close to the end of her journey here on earth (well, probably it was the situation, her voice and intonation more than the words that made the words both funny and unforgettable, more later on that)  I say “Thank you, God, thank you, God” for the good thing I’ve had, and the good thing comin’ round the corner.
Namaste friends, and best to you, “Doc” in your new endeavors, wherever they may take you.  You will be missed.

To Old Friends

I always write to music … I may have mentioned that in the past.  Is there anything better than music to deliver a mood, carry us to greater heights, help us feel the blessings we’ve been bestowed, and yes, sadly feel the depth of our sorrow?  Not in my book, probably why there are few movies without music.
I’ve often fantasized about my readers being able to hear the music I write to.  And I’m sure it’s probably already in the works, future blogs will come with their own soundtracks, but at the same time, music is personal, so what I feel when I listen to a song may not be what my reader feels.
Tonight I wanted to select something that would help me write about the wonder I find on this earth … the Alice in Wonderland kind of wonder because that’s been on my mind lately.  I’ve spent some time sifting through my Itunes not really finding the right song, and have finally settled on the soundtrack from Chocolat by Rachel Portman, maybe because I adore most soundtracks as they reach right down into your heartstrings and invite you to offer back your own song, or maybe because the movie Chocolat offers up a supernatural breeze, inviting the viewer ever so slowly to follow along.  If you care to join my personal soundtrack, have a listen to Chocolat while you read.
These last two weeks I have been ever so cognizant of life’s mysteries, and the fact that the longer I live, the more interesting and magically complicated I find my life.  I feel a bit like Alice, that which should beisn’t … that which shouldn’t be is.  I marvel at my blessings, I mourn my losses, and I quietly dance with the universe to the music of my soul (Caravan on the soundtrack … oh my, great scene in the movie).
These last few weeks I have experienced the joy of old connections that might never have been possible had I not stumbled down that rabbit hole, and I’ve fought with the sorrow of losing someone far too early that I felt was a tree that would stand in my wonderland forest for many years.  I have danced at the celebration of our children, and cried for the loss of our children.  I’ve been turned upside down and inside out for about two weeks, and find myself ready to just lie in the grass for a while and watch the clouds drift by.
I reach out to Paul, Taylor and Marisa to join me cloud watching any time waiting for a glimpse of Carrie.  She’ll be there, of that I’m sure.
And Mike and Carol, so glad we all came together down that rabbit hole or wherever we managed to all connect again … a long and magical story of a number of characters, all of which have added their unique and amazing children and in some cases their children’s children, we have all created a story as lasting as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll.  May we add chapters for quite some time …
Celebrating John and Claire’s wedding, bringing so many of us old friends together along with their children and their children’s children … was truly a blessing.
Last week in Tahoe at the cabin, making Minnie’s risotto … I found myself climbing up out of the hole, a bit disoriented as to where I was … wasn’t it just yesterday I sat at her table as a young woman?
Aww, but life passes so quickly.  Cheers to those who have passed … cheers to us that still inhabit this earth … cheers to making the most of the time we have left, no matter how long that may be … cheers to connections that stand the test of time … and cheers to Minnie’s risotto.
Namaste my dear friends.
A special ps to my sweet man, Rick, I think we should dance in Alice’s Wonderland to Caravan.

Fire

(I wrote this post a few weeks back, just now getting to posting it.)
When I started this blog, I was writing on average three posts a week.   Down to one these days leaves so much out of the adventure, so I’m hoping in due course I can find my way to write at least two.  I’m so behind in sharing my journey, and it never ceases to amaze and delight me, and at times frighten the shit out of me, so I do so want to share it.  I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more times, but we humans are much more alike than different, which is why I love to share my story, in the hopes that my readers can find some semblance of connection and hope in my words.
Again, if I was writing the story as I should (although still not sure by whose standards) I would be telling you about my new job.  But NOT happening, even though it’s great and I am pretty excited about it.  Instead …. this week, as I was driving home from our tiny market twenty minutes away (glorious drive through the hills in the pines toward Georgetown) I saw a pretty large plume of smoke over the hills way too close to our home for comfort.
In those first few moments when we humans sense danger, our thoughts splinter in so many different directions.  Wasn’t it my last post I spoke of fire victims? As I wrote that, I was thinking I was safe, different, and lucky.  (What the hell?)   How quickly our worlds can turn upside down, allowing for a much clearer vision that we humans all sail in one ship together.   Vulnerability is a very real part of this human existence, as is loss, sorrow, and grief.
But with that said, part of our journey also includes … hope, healing, love, faith, happiness, and my favorite, the ability to dream.  So, I think in the end, it might just be a choice about what anchor we choose to grab hold of.
As I drove toward our home, heart racing, an interesting reality took hold of my senses.  And this being the closest fire to our home that I’ve experienced, I finally made my list … what to take if you need to evacuate (a reminder I have received over and over again from more sources than I can count, because … wait for it, I live in a fire zone.)  
I will tell you now, we ended up lucky, the fire went another direction and was partially contained by the next day, enough for us to know we would be fine.
What I wanted to share were my thoughts as I stood on my deck looking at my neighbor’s house with the fire behind it looking so friggin’ close.  I love my home and would be devastated if I lost it, but I did force myself to look at the reality that most all we love and enjoy in this life is on loan.  And again, one can look at that as a sad thing or a happy thing.  I’m choosing to enjoy the gifts I’ve been given for as long as I can and feel grateful and happy.  And as for the fact that life can change in an instant, I will continue to plant my head as far under the ground or up my a–, however you want to describe it, as I can and enjoy the grace of each moment that feels good.
My list turned out to be pretty small, which again, is interesting.    Since our children do not live with us, the list starts with our cat, our little box that contains passports and social security cards, etc., our computers, family pics, and my collection of artwork.  I don’t have expensive artwork, but it means a great deal to me.  It isn’t something I could probably ever replace, it’s just from artists that I came to know and love.
What matters most boils down in the end to a very few things, your loved ones first and foremost, and secondly, any precious memories you might be graced to hold on to.  And while we might have some objects we’d like to keep, in the end, they don’t mean anything compared to those we love.  We can always recreate a home if we still have our loved ones.
In closing, I want to thank the tireless firefighters that last week worked hard to save the homes in my area.  I didn’t hear of any losses which is such a blessing.  I have spoken of my dear friend, Colleen, who’s husband, Ron, retired recently from a lifelong career as a firefighter.  She early on reassured me, that in Ron’s opinion, our STATS were good, and that we would be fine.   She also sent me a video of the firefighters working on our fire, the planes repeatedly releasing their fire retardant.
I watched the video over and over again, mesmerized as I watched the planes with each release … a break as the retardant fell, a slowing of the flames, but in the end a fire that I would liken to life, continually reaching for the skies.  It was slowed down by each release, but in no way extinguished.   It was unending, and continued to reach toward the heavens, just as all of nature does.  No wonder …  this earth is a never-ending miracle, and even when we don’t understand or want to accept our losses, they nevertheless (in my humble opinion) are the journey toward a great unknown … just a ways yonder down the road … nothing to fear.
Imagine if we lived each day in complete awareness of what really matters …
Nature … Namaste

Opening Windows

I know I have much to catch my readers up on, and while I feel a bit remiss in not doing so, I just find myself wanting to write about open windows.  I mean, can you blame me?  Is there anything better than an open window after months of hot summer days or cold winter nights, not to mention air so thick with smoke from the California fires?
This past week I have been finally able to turn off the air conditioning and open my windows wide …. WIDE … WIDE.  The fresh air feels just short of intoxicating, filling my lungs not only with such a sweet scent, but I am convinced it also clears my mind of summer cobwebs. I always say we humans can look to nature to see our reality, and I don’t know about you, but I am finding cobwebs everywhere in my home the last few weeks.  Could it be that we humans also gather the same within our souls?
Having been able to finally open my windows, I have felt such a high this past week at times, and I am convinced it has to do with the H20 entering my bloodstream, air that hasn’t been pumped through underground pipes that I don’t even want to think about truly.  Not complaining about air-conditioning, mind you … never … but fresh air is a highly underrated commodity.
My quiet reflective time this week, also known typically as driving, has been filled with such pleasant reminiscences of loved ones both far and near, along with a thankfulness for all that I’ve been blessed with.  What that life could always be filled with a fresh-air bliss …
Aww, but were that so, we would lose sight of the highs and the lows, and I for one, would never opt for that.  The last few months were to be sure filled with some sadness and stress, much of which I’ve already shared in my posts, so I welcome all that is Fall … the cool fresh air, and the change of colors in my garden that I love so much.  I can only hope that any looming sadness or pressure I’ve been harboring over the summer falls to the ground in a few months’ time along with the colorful leaves from my beloved trees.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the beauty of fall, as the colors in the nature that surrounds me change ever so slightly with each passing day.
Here’s to the start of Fall, the passing of another summer, the crops we tended to both in the soil and in our hearts, winter just around the corner bringing a time of rest and rejuvenation, the smell of pine and fires burning (that aren’t bringing chaos and loss to others in the fire season).  I can’t wait actually, but for now, I don’t want to rush this time of fresh cool breezes and the color of fire that will dot the leaves in a few short weeks.  Crazy how much we have to be thankful for.
Sending Namaste to all of my readers, but especially those who have lost so much this fire season.
 
 

Friends

Friends are one of life’s amazing gifts.  They aren’t souls that gravitate toward us because they are part of our family, a work associate, or some other mandatory connection that you happen to enjoy (or not).  They enter our lives randomly, and the connection is immediate. Some call it chemistry, and there is definitely that…  there’s an ease we feel in their company, an absence of a need to try too hard, and in most cases a shared sense of humor.  I’ve never had a good friend that I didn’t laugh with … a lot.
My experience has been that friends come in all shapes and sizes and for all different lengths of time.  Some will only be with you for a specific part of your life, for as long as they are needed.  I have thought of those friends as my outside circle.  My inside circle has always been something altogether different, and those relationships have in most cases passed the test of time. Maybe because I was an only child, my friends took on an elevated importance in my life.  I have been beyond blessed and rich when it comes to friends.
A few days ago my dear friend, Cindi, sent me a text asking me to call.  At our age, it’s never good if a friend texts you asking you to call.  Not to be negative, but it’s usually news they don’t want to deliver via a text.  And sadly, my suspicions were correct, we had lost our dear friend, Carrie.  What compounded the hurt when receiving the news, is that I didn’t even know she was ill.  Life is interesting … some friends leave you for whatever reason with a great deal of drama, and some leave so quietly that you didn’t even know they were planning to go.
Carrie came into my life in my young thirties … our girls went to preschool together.  Our children were three years old in a class with an amazing teacher.  There were four of us mothers who gravitated to each other just as our children did the same.  It was a toss up who was enjoying who more, the kids or us moms.  Between us four women, we had a total of nine children, but this class in particular consisted of my Amy, and then Natalie, Taylor and Stevie, three girls and one boy.  We all shared a few precious years together, but in the last year of preschool, Mindy, who was Stevie’s mom developed brain cancer.  We lost Mindy in a short time.  Losing anyone is hard, but there are a few circumstances that rip your heart out more than others … to name a few, a child dying or a young mom dying leaving behind her kids.
We grieved Mindy’s loss and secretly thanked the heavens above for the reprieve.  Cindy, Carrie and I had been granted a stay … we would enjoy watching our children grow into adolescents and from there adults.  But the lesson would never be forgotten.  Giving birth to your children is one blessing, watching them grow up is quite another. 
Carrie and I lost touch for a number of years as our children were not in the same school district, but about ten years ago, we reunited.  And just as most old friends find, it was like no time had passed.  I enjoyed all her same sweet personality traits, like it was yesterday … the way she told a funny story, giggling all the while telling it, her fabulous sense of humor, and the look in her eye as she finished the tale asking only with her expression for your take on this hilarious narrative she had just shared with you.  They were such crazy life anecdotes about aging parents and the like, and always full of the ridiculous, so it was ever so much fun to join in and share the humor with her.
Carrie and Paul visited us probably a year and a half ago, spending a great weekend with us hiking.  As I piece together this story in hindsight, it was probably after that visit that she became ill and my mom also began to decline.  As our lives went in separate stressful directions, neither of us knew what the other was up to, and it wouldn’t have been unusual to lose touch for months or even a year.  There was just that comfort between friends that when the time was right, we would reunite with stories to share.
And it was time to reconnect, I had been thinking of her for a month or so.  She was on my list… I’ll never think of my list quite the same after this.
Our original circle of four has now suddenly become two … a new reprieve, a new lesson about appreciating the gift of watching your children become adults, perhaps marry and become parents in their own rite.
Cindi said something kind of interesting to me when we talked … she said “I imagined this conversation in your blog.”  She was right, this would make its way to my blog about crossroads, change, aging, loss, health, stress, fitness, yoga, renewal … in other words, life.
To Carrie, wherever she is, I send my love and sadly my regret.  I know she is beyond such earthly cares, but nonetheless I hope she knows.  And to my readers, get on the damn phone and call any loved one you have been thinking about, or text or do whatever you do to share that blessed connection you feel with them.
Namaste
The photo is of my daughter, Amy on the right, Taylor (Carrie’s daughter) in the middle and Natalie (Cindi’s daughter) on the left, and sweet Mindy behind in the big white collar.  Like mother(s) … like daughter(s)…always laughing.

Enough

One of the major themes throughout our two weeks in class has been self-acceptance.  Our instructors have done a fabulous job of teaching us to look at how we speak to others as well as ourselves.  It’s a bit surprising to realize just how much I apologize, for this, that and the other.  In the first few days, our teachers would stop us in our tracks when the words  “I’m sorry” came out of our mouths.  By the second weekend, the teachers didn’t even need to say a word.  If one of us was speaking in front of the group and began to say “I’m sorry” you’d see the speaker’s face flinch as if they’d been jolted with a small amount of electricity.  We looked like a bunch of Pavlov’s dogs.

It’s not as easy as you’d think to stop saying you’re sorry.  Tess, our female teacher, is such a little spitfire, I just love her.  And man, she just peers into your face and asks you, “WHAT ARE YOU SORRY FOR?  WHY ARE YOU SORRY?”  And she means it, she wants an explanation for why you are sorry.  In most cases, I find myself realizing I’m not really sorry at all.

There has been a major focus on the idea of being enough, and accepting that we are always enough at all times, regardless of what we can and can’t do, what we do and don’t have, that we are right where we need to be at that moment in time.  Interesting concept for some of us.  It’s so easy to always have my eye on something I think I want or need, or something I need to change about myself.  And not enough time is spent appreciating what is, right now, just this, just me, nothing more, nothing less, this moment being perfect.

The instructors have definitely gotten their point across in a short time, as  I am finding myself contemplating the concept of acceptance and enough throughout my days.  I think of myself as a pretty confident and happy person, but I have to be honest, I say I’m sorry a lot now that I pay attention.  The hike I talked about in my last post, I spent the whole way up saying I was sorry and thanking my angels.  They kept saying, no need to be sorry.  And they were right.  Why would I need to be sorry to someone else for my fear, and needing to take breaks to catch my breath when I’m not used to a hike like that.   WHY WOULD I BE SORRY FOR THAT?  Yet, there I was … sorry.

Check it out yourself, just pay attention to your thoughts, how many negative thoughts run through your brain in an hour, or a day?  We humans can be damn tough on ourselves.

With this philosophy in mind, I will share a really nice realization I had on Saturday evening when I left yoga.  Part of our homework has been to clean and clear our spaces, both internally and externally.  We were asked to purge our surroundings of unnecessary objects.  Since Rick and I moved in the last few years, I don’t have very many items left that need purging, but I did have a pile of old videos from my mom’s stuff sitting on my dresser.  It seemed the perfect place to start my assignment.

On Thursday night after dinner, I got comfortable and started to play each video.  Some were my kids from their preschool years, but there were two in particular that were films my mother had transferred onto video, and they dated back to when I was a toddler.  It was a collection of images, no sound, myself and my cousins going down a slide at the San Francisco zoo, our parents dressed in their Sunday best laughing among themselves, chasing after us, and others with just my parents and I.

I sat somewhat mesmerized studying the films, yearning to see more, searching their faces and actions for some clue as to how these seemingly happy people became what I would remember them as, two very unhappy and unfulfilled souls.  I finished looking at the tapes and went to sleep that night feeling so sad.

As I drove to yoga on Friday night, I was listening to the Beatles station on Sirius radio.  They were playing a collection all weekend of the Beatles’ top 50 love songs as voted on by the listeners, I’m sure in honor of Valentine’s Day.  For anyone who hasn’t listened to the station, they will put together a collection and then play it over and over all weekend, it just loops around and around.  I came in at the beginning of the songs working down from No. 50.  As I came through the canyon they played Julia, which is a song written for John’s mom, I believe, after her death.

I couldn’t help thinking about my mom, and still feeling melancholy from watching the tapes.  I found myself thinking how sad our life together had been, so much unhappiness and turmoil, and feeling like we had wasted our precious time on this earth together.  The mood hung in most of the night, and when I drove home around 9:30 coming through the canyon, Julia played again.  And then again the next morning, and then again the following evening. Coincidence?  I’m only in my car 20-40 minutes depending on where the class is, Auburn or Roseville.  I’m not sure what the odds are of coming into the rotation at the same place every time I get in the car, but I thought about heading to Reno to do a little gambling since my mom seemed to be in my back pocket.

Saturday morning my mood shifted and I welcomed the song, enjoyed my drive through the canyon and greeted the new day with an open heart.   What would day five of this adventure bring?  It was an eventful day in class, lots of yoga and instruction, but what would be the most important part of the day would come as Julia once again played on my way home (of course it did).

Instead of thinking my mom and I had wasted our time together, I asked myself “what if what we had together was enough? What if it was just what it was supposed to be?”  With that door open, my mind raced remembering what I’ve always believed, that we come here to learn and that sometimes our lessons are hard.  With that thinking in mind, then truly my mom and I kicked some ass in this lifetime.  We’d hiked our own trail straight up a rock hill and parachuted down to the river below.  Just maybe I had this all wrong.  Amazing.

And if all that is true, then it would explain my reaction when my mom did finally pass. Hospice had called early that morning to let me know she was close.  She’s been close for three months, but this day was different and I knew it the moment I walked into her room.  I settled into the big blue chair next to her bed with my book.  I’d pretty much said everything I needed to her in the previous three months, so there was no need for words at this point.  She was already somewhere far away.  I watched her breathing all morning, reading a page or two, and glancing up.  Although her breathing was labored, she was interestingly very quiet.  I could not rely on sound to monitor her.

At some point mid morning, I glanced up and found she had made her way ever so peacefully after such an arduous journey.  I sat watching her for a few moments and once I knew for sure her chest would not rise again, I said, “Mom, I didn’t even hear you leave.” I let the tears come, and after a few minutes, the next words out of my mouth were, “We made it, Mom.  We did it.”

They are interesting words for someone who has just lost her mother.  They were not words prepared or thought about beforehand.  They were the words of my heart, and what I was feeling.  And I don’t know about you readers, but to me, they sound like the words of a gal who made it with her mom to the top of the lookout.

I will close with the words of one of my favorite songs from You’ve Got Mail, hauntingly beautiful lyrics and melody.  For some reason, I do believe,  in this lifetime we choose to forget what we know in order to learn our lessons.  It’s nice when we remember …

“Long ago, far away

Life was clear, close your eyes

Remember is a place from long ago

Remember FILLED WITH EVERYTHING YOU KNOW

Remember when you’re sad and feelin’ down

REMEMBER TURN AROUND

Remember life is just a memory

Remember close your eyes and you can see

Remember think of all that life can be

Remember-

Dream, love is only in a dream, remember –

Remember life is never as it seems. Dream

Long ago, far away

Life was clear, close your eyes”

 

Remember lyrics – Harry Nilsson

http://www.harrynilsson.com/

 

If I walk away from this class with nothing more than this realization, it will be enough. But between you and me, I’m not thinking that I’m done.  Until we meet next week,

Namaste

 
Picture taken on our sunrise hike to the outlook over the American River, Overlook Park, Auburn, Ca.