Transitioning

I find myself once again sitting alone in an airport. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to leave last Thursday, with my over excited 9-year-old and my almost as excited husband. But, on Wednesday, as I transitioned from professor to person on vacation, my father made a larger transition—from life to spirit.

Transitions have been on my mind all day. Whenever I fly long distance, life takes on this surreal appearance. This morning I was with my mother, tears falling down my face as I admitted that I felt bad for leaving to head on this trip.

“I want you to go,” she said. “Dad would want you to go to.”

Now I sit in San Francisco airport, with the clock telling me that I have transitioned through time—in that usual bizarre way when time passes and yet you go backwards.

Now I sit in transition, waiting for the connection that doesn’t come for hours.  It is quiet here, for the moment, as I sit by my gate where nobody else has gathered. It’s that between time, before a new flight comes in and another flight goes out; before the transition into the next moment of reality; before the next moment of life.

How does one transition from the celebration and sadness of a life lost far too soon to join a celebration of another kind, with a loud and boisterous family that only knows a part of you?  I’m trying to find my holiday spirit, but the black ribbon pinned near my heart reminds me of a gaping hole—of a family that was once whole but now has a rip in it, just as the ribbon has been torn. I don’t know how to put on a “I’m going to Hawaii” smile when it just reminds me of all the trips I didn’t get to take with my father, and all the transitions yet to come.

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I know that life can’t stop, and that a life without transitions isn’t a life well-lived, but sometimes, just for a moment, I wish I could just freeze time and make everything stay the way I want it to be.

Do you ever feel like that?

Celebrating Autumn, Celebrating Change

I woke this morning and tried to snuggle down into the warmth of my covers, but words formed in my head that demanded attention. A scene for my book  that I didn’t want to lose.

I jumped out of bed and grabbed my laptop. The cover held the chill of the morning air, on this–the last day of summer.

I began to write.

The bustle of the morning surrounded me. Nathan returned from walking the dogs. Sarah got up and began her normal morning routine which consists of babbling every thought that comes into her head while juggling the tasks required to get her to school including food, clothes, tooth brushing and (because she forgot to do it yesterday) bag packing.

I paused just long enough to make sure everyone stayed on task.

The school bus pulled away with my child safely aboard, and Nathan said, “Breakfast?”

“Sure,” I said. But that was as far as I got. My ideas flew across the keyboard. I couldn’t be bothered to stop to make a choice about food.

I eventually decided on yogurt mixed with Grapenuts and my usual chai.

Nathan made me stop long enough to say goodbye.

Several hours and about 4300 words later (a full chapter, a chapter revision for my instructor, and the beginning of another chapter) I came up for air and said, “What happened to the morning?”

Since I had an errand to run before Sarah’s return from school, I pulled myself away and headed out the door. I decided to treat myself, and exercise my body, with a visit to my favorite Botanical Gardens which you have met at other points on this blog, from other seasons. While I missed the high summer beauty of this place, since I was out-of-state for most of the summer, I haven’t  been disappointed by the change occurring as the fading blossoms of summer meet the growing glory of autumn. I forgot my camera on my first visit there last week, but remedied that today.

As I drove toward the gardens, I suddenly realized how lucky I am in this ever-changing life I lead. I still can feel overwhelmed by some of the questions and concerns that pop into my head, such as:

  • How do I deal with the fact that I never know quite how much money I will make from one season to the next, because there are no guarantees?
  • My disappointment that one of the projects I was most excited about, a program to promote literacy through drama, might not happen because of cutbacks in funding.
  • The question of whether or not I’ll ever find an audience for my book, or if it will simply be another project I complete and tuck away to gather dust.
  • How do I pay for all of the events and conferences that I need to participate in if I want to make connections and grow as an artist/writer/educator/speaker?

But, despite those thoughts floating in my head, I realized on the drive that I love the journey. I love the fact that I could give myself the afternoon off. I was able to treat myself to a ginger carrot soup made out of fresh ingredients at the Botanical Garden’s cafe. I had worked hard all week, and though I have more to do, I am able to say “now is the time to walk in nature and feel the sun on my face.” I love being able to set my own schedule which includes writing a list on a yellow pad everyday and then crossing it off with a sharpie. This some kind of visceral pleasure in seeing those lines cross off goals that I achieve on a daily basis.

I found myself smiling during my walk, and the smile wouldn’t go away.

Today I realized that I will forget about all my worries and celebrate the changes the my life brings. It’s an adventure, and I always find away.

I hope you join me and enjoy the beauty of change.

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The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)

Seashells.

“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)

 

I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.

An Intellectual Dilemma

An abstract view on the importance of knowledg...

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I read.

I learn.

I absorb knowledge like it is air or food.

I question and challenge. I recognize flaws and lies. I even can recognize truth, especially truths that resonate inside me.

I, like many others, see the problems that exist in the world. Whether it is war or hunger, the destruction of the environment, prejudice, loss of wildlife, or any other of the multiple challenges that the world faces. I see them. I understand them. I want to help solve them But . . . that leads to my dilemma.

The Dilemma: knowledge and understanding are not enough. Understanding and desire to make change often push me into a tailspin of despair, because I don’t have the gumption or the commitment or the energy or the something to actually make the change. Maybe this is an excuse, but it is my reality. It is my tragic flaw.

I share my knowledge. I ask others to challenge the status quo. I encourage people to think differently or to question assumptions. But that is not enough.

I am trapped in the world of the “Takers”, to borrow from Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, and I do not know how to break free.

This is my true intellectual dilemma. This is my challenge, and it may be too great to achieve.

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