Sunday, May 4, 2014

Paris is Always a Good Idea

Paris

- Audrey Hepburn (happy birthday today) said, "Paris is always a good idea."

- For the day I was there, it was, but Naninne, Belgium? She stole my heart.

- How do I manage to move to Naninne?

- I've been traveling Europe and selling my house. At once.

- Life is chaotic. And wonderful.

- Making lists is the only way I can cope.

- Oh my god, then there was Bruges. I loved Bruges.

- Paris was just like in the movies, but being there was duller and it does smell like a toilet.

- The appraiser comes this week.

- I have to pack a house and transfer schools and doctors and everything…paperwork sucks.

- I've haven't felt this amount of possibility spread before me in years. A feast.  Moveable, even.

- I dream every night of painting large canvases of nude women.

- I dream of living in Nannine.

- I'll post in depth when I can. The photos I have to share!

- I am missing my house already; the baby rabbit living in my day lilies, the hummingbirds.

- We begin anew in Atlanta in a few weeks.

- I had sworn I would never return home.

- Never say never.

- Set aside your worn out fears.

- Go!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rituals

One of my daily rituals (I like to call them rituals by the way, it elevates the sense of mystery and intrigue) is to raise the blinds and watch the birds visit the feeder at sunrise. See, how lovely the word ritual makes this (routine, habit, chore) sound? Shift the veil, and really, what I do each week day morning is routine because it is a dance, carefully choreographed, no room for improvisation, or the kids will miss the bus as the toddler tears the blinds to pieces trying to see the birds.

This week there have been slight changes and each has caused me to slow down a beat. The bird song, charms of pragmatic goldfinch, and delicate apricot blossoms; these little gifts give me such joy. February, despite being the shortest month, always seems never ending. Silly thought because we all know February is nothing compared to the interminable nature of March. Cabin fever mixes with one fleeting spring day like today and I start thinking about gardens, bare feet, and leisurely strolls. Yet, there awaits a gauntlet of cold wet muck peppered with tornado warnings to bear before spring shakes her skirts out and leaves her boots in the mudroom. Sigh.

Come with me into the woods where spring 
is advancing, as it does, no matter what,
 not being singular or particular, 
but one of the forever gifts, 
and certainly visible.

Mary Oliver, Dog Songs


Monday, January 6, 2014

First


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Today is my youngest child's first birthday. I can't wait to watch her dive into her first cupcake. My husband requested butter cream frosting and he topped the little cakes with one of his childhood favorites, De Ruitjter's Chocoladehagel Melk. They are very tasty despite looking like mouse poops which freak me out when I find them on the counter.

The older kids taste-tested the birthday cupcakes for breakfast, just in case I would need to make a new batch. Luckily for me, these passed muster. Given I used 2 lbs of butter, 1lb of confectioner sugar, and twice as much vanilla extract as called for, they should taste good. Or at least cause a sudden sugar coma so you'd never notice if they are bland.

Here I could write about how the year flew by, how time has changed so many things, how we forget she hasn't been here all along, but I know you understand these things. Any attempt to express how I feel about my children growing up wouldn't quite be right, or succinct, or even linear. How do I even begin to qualify the way my children make me feel so expansive yet so protective simultaneously? Big and small, give and take, in and out, filling up and letting go… like a heartbeat.

Happy birthday, little one.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Today

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I have been very intrigued by the artists, designers, and bloggers who post everyday. Such dedication! I toyed with the idea of creating a series for the new year, maybe a painting a day, the popular portrait a week of your children, or even simply writing diary style posts each day. Then I woke up from la la land.

Even though I love the idea of painting or writing each day, I would quickly lose the joy those activities bring me if I felt obligated to do them. So, if I do happen to paint a bit or write a bit or snap some photos each day, I won't feel pressured to make more of them than they already are. There would be no need for perfection, or timeliness, or even a decent piece of work. I wouldn't care what people might think of them, because it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of my work. I create for myself and share it when I find time. The important practice is the practice. The doing, for those brief moments, restores me to myself. My authentic self; not the person others need or want or demand I be, but the person I truly am. This includes the self deprecating voice in my head I have housed far too long. One of the most important lessons 2013 offered me and will be the focus, the practice, for the coming year is Whitman's advice, "Re-examine all you have been told…Dismiss what insults your soul."

Thank you to a friend for sharing that quote with me and I'll return the gift to you, with a poem that suits this first day of a new year, by Mary Oliver (of course!).

Today

Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though I'm really traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Manifesto

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Even when you try to opt out of the crazy, it finds you.

See, I exempted myself this year from Christmas; the secular consumption fest, that is. We decided on one gift for the kids, one they will love and will use everyday. I diligently sent in my money for the school parties when asked a few months ago. Since we will be out of town, I decided not to decorate, not even a tree, which with a whirling dervish eleven month old would have been a nightmare, anyway. We've made candy, cookies, and tried to build a gingerbread house, which we gave up on and merrily ate the iced walls, instead. We've all been humming carols, some despite ourselves, and the kids have yet to even mention the lack of all things decorative. Except their gratitude for not being sent an elf on the shelf, which they declared creepy. On the contrary, they both sat down at the same time and wrote letters to the teachers to include with the peppermint bark we made. This seemingly small act is akin to a Christmas miracle. For both of my grade-schoolers to sit, willingly and with moderate grumping (the middle child cannot help himself - he is a champion complainer) write a letter?! Amazing. I admit, I was delighted in the smuggest way possible that they might have actually caught on to what I've been trying to get them to understand with my seemingly humbug ways. Ho, ho, ho, hubris...

Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Diwali, or Festivus, or Ramadan, or Solstice, or Kwanzaa, or Jul, or whatever you celebrate has nothing to do with spending money. Not one of these celebrations require anything more than what you are expected to do, as a human being, for one another. Feed each other, comfort each other, be with each other, appreciate the passage of time, remember the dead, celebrate the living, honor your faith, grow your spirit, let go of the darkness and welcome the light. Stress yourself, empty your wallet, and became a general jerk to everyone you encounter for a month, in my limited scholarship, is not decreed in any of the above rule books. Yet, we become disciples to the descent into the crazy every year.

So, friends, as I gather my skirts of idealism around me and try to teach my children to recognize and celebrate what really matters, I wish you a wonderful and safe holiday season. Thank you for taking the time to join me here and I look forward to sharing the joys, difficulties, ups, downs, in, outs, and beauty of another year with you. Cheers!

www.pneumafox.blogspot.com



Friday, November 22, 2013

One Wolf

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Ah, the beguiling pomegranate, beneath all of her allure and grandeur, she is but a tangled mass of hard won - and fleeting - delight. They were on sale and I couldn't resist.

We've been sick, one a week this whole month, another dropping as soon as one gets better. Ugh, the exhaustion! Thankfully, it has felled us all and hopefully the next virus won't be for many months. I did feel well enough to get out to see an old friend, well, that a might be an overly optimistic description of our relationship, but I have an inability to keep enemies. The whole process drains me so I just move on and never see them again or when we reconnect, and I act as if no bad happened, because I've learned it doesn't matter, if it ever did. I've made too many mistakes and unintentionally hurt people along the way to pretend I am better than anybody.

Anyway, this friend, she was a colleague and eventually my employee when I was promoted. We were both going through major stuff in our personal lives when we met, in fact, we do not know each other outside of the parameters of complete crisis and transformation. At the time, she was in the depths of her alcoholism and spiraling downwards quickly while I was emerging from a painful divorce and clawing my way back into the light. There was a middle ground between our paths, one where we recognized the broken bits in the other. There we formed an odd trust and source of comfort. Reminds of Rilke's epistolary advice, "Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words."

She finally started AA, but I left the company shortly after, and lost touch with her until she invited me out. We shared a lovely breakfast, chatting and laughing as easily as ever. She was there to honor the program's step of amends. When she read her apology letter to me, recanting all of the instances where she let me down or took advantage of my kindness, all I could think of was, this is the hundredth time you've apologized to me. I accepted her apology, but more importantly, told her I had forgiven her long ago. I had forgiven her every time she screwed up, not because I am some incredibly good person, but because I knew I couldn't do anything to save her and to bear a grudge or ill will would have hurt me, not her.

I was glad to look her in the eye and say,"all that is past and gone, clean slate." I truly meant it, but later that evening in bed, all of the memories, the grievances, and terrible situations played out in my mind and kept me awake. I tossed for awhile, trying to re-compartmentalize those few years of the complete bs all of us at that job dealt with. When my mind wouldn't stop spinning, I opened my laptop to write and in my feed was a post that simply stated 'If you call one wolf, you invite the whole pack'. This proverb was well timed and as I pondered how meeting her again brought back to me the whole pack of characters and events we dealt with, good and bad, their emotional grip loosened. The fangs and fear faded back into darkness, again memories and nothing more. I slept soundly.

The next day, my son was freaked out by what he thought was a bowl of blood and guts in the fridge. I laughed and explained they were pomegranate seeds in their juice. He listened intently when I recanted the myth of Persephone, having being tricked into tasting a ruby pip in the underworld, which eternally bound her to Hades for half the year. When she walked the earth, life and light returned, but soon enough, she would have to retreat back into the depths; death and darkness blanketing everything. He found this most interesting but when I offered him a seed, he refused, exclaiming he preferred the light to the dark, thanks. Me, too, baby, me, too.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Whose Other Side Is Salvation


We went for a walk today, into the woods, and found strung high above our heads, the skull of a deer. At first glance, coming across a thing like this, your gut tells you it's a warning. But, on closer inspection, the quiet, the utter silence feels more like a beckoning, a call from somewhere within; a remembrance perhaps. But, of what?

I'm not sure what is going on in the world in general, but in the small corners of my social network, people seem frazzled. Things breaking down; computers, cars, relationships. Even a few nervous breakdowns posted right out there for all to see. People are on edge or exhausted, overworked and under-rested, about to snap. It feels as if everyone is taking in a tremendous deep breath and holding it with no exhalation in sight. I'm feeling this energy, too, mine in the form of some inexplicable need, a weariness, a restlessness. Change is coming, the leaves are falling, the light is different, the stars are brighter, our souls that much closer to our surfaces.

Standing there, beneath this beautiful creature, I realized there is nothing I can do to anticipate what comes next and I think this is the lesson. To let go and be open to what awaits. Trust this incredible universe, trust myself, and be patient. The answers are on the way, the decisions will be made in their own time, the right path marked, as with the leaf strewn path beneath the skull. There is nothing to fear. I believe these set backs and hold ups are happening for a reason. It's time to stop holding on to the rope of the boat that brought us here and step fully onto the new shore.

 In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
 
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
 
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
 
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
 
nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned
 
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
 
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
 
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
 
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.