A Week of Lessons Learned (and it’s Only Wednesday)

I called my daughter last night to say goodnight. She’s on spring break, and we aren’t, so she’s spending a few days at Grandma’s house.

This morning at Grandma's.

This morning at Grandma’s.

Me: “I know it’s early, but I’m really tired so I’m going to bed and wanted to say goodnight.” [Note that this was 8:30 and I had already fallen asleep reading. The only reason I was awake to make the phone call was the dogs woke me to go outside.]

Sarah: Oh . . . I’m . . . um . . . I’m scared.

Me: What? Why are you scared?

Sarah: Never mind, good night.

Me: No, Sarah. Tell me why you’re scared.

Sarah: Because of the bombs.

I wish I could say that I stepped up and had a brilliant moment of parenting at that time, but that would be a lie. As my heart broke and my arms yearned to take her in a never-ending hug, I tried my best to say the right things; to tell her I understood her fear, but that she was safe and that they would catch whoever had done this.

I tried to say the right things, but the words tasted like dust in my mouth, because in some ways they are lies. I cannot promise to protect her from every evil out there, just as mothers all over the world cannot protect their children from the bombs and bullets that plague them. I cannot protect her from every individual who somehow values his/her personal beliefs over the lives of others.

I cannot protect her from it all, unless I lock her in a cave and never let her out.

Last week I wrote a post called “‘Crood’ Lessons” , where I discuss some of the positives and negatives of the movie. Who would have thought that the lessons from that movie would carry over into this week?

You see, the father, Grug, tries to keep his family safe by keeping them in a cave. He only lets them leave for food. Yet, even the safety of that cave isn’t perfect. When he and his family have to move on in search of something else (in his mind another cave) he learns that its more important to live life than to hide in safety and never do anything.

“Never be afraid . . . follow the light.”

I called Sarah this morning just after I discovered this connection by writing in my Morning Pages. I finally had a metaphor to use to help her. I told her fear was okay, as long as we didn’t let it stop us from living. We talked about the movie. I think she understood.

“What are you all doing today,” I asked.

“Making fairy houses,” Sarah said.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

Life moves on.

As it should.

This week is full of the lessons that we must learn; about resilience and life, about caring for each other, about never giving up, about kindness and strength. This morning I saw this  post on my Facebook feed, posted by a girl named Laura Wellington who was 1/2 mile from the finish when the bombs exploded. The words underneath are hers:

Please help me by sharing this! As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

This post–along with  so many others that tell of kindness in the face of cruelty–reinforces the idea that we cannot hide in a cave and hope the bad things don’t touch us. No . . . we must face the sun, move bravely through life, and battle the evil with our hearts open.

Even if that battle simply comes in the form of building fairy houses.

Today I have this message and wish for you, my readers, my friends, my loved ones. I hope that you live each and  every day with love and joy. I hope that you raise your voices in kindness and together we can combat any darkness that comes our way.

Let’s all stay out of the caves and follow the light.

When the Bombs Exploded

When the bombs exploded, I was not there.

I was wandering through the botanical  gardens many, many miles away. I was looking for beauty and inspiration with my brother.

The daffodils  from above.

The daffodils from above.

When the bombs exploded, I wasn’t thinking about the cruelty and senseless acts of violence that fill our world today. Nor of the acts of cowardliness that are disguised as rebellion.

Because make no mistake, yesterday’s act was the ACT OF A COWARD!

Yes, the person or persons who did this are cowards. They sit back and enjoy the chaos and pain they caused. They revel in the news coverage and in their moment of glory. But they don’t have the  courage to claim or explain their act.

THEY ARE COWARDS!

When the bombs exploded, I was not thinking about acts of bravery or cowardice, or how I would react in the face of tragedy. I was reflecting on possibility and hope and ways to change the world to make it a better, more peaceful place.

Sibling Reflections

Sibling Reflections

When the bombs exploded, I was writing a poem with my brother. I would write one line and then show him the last word. He would then respond and show me the last word. And so on . . .

These were the words we saw:

Time.

change.

Possibilities.

hold?

fold?

fantasy.

world.

toes.

Eerie words in retrospect, because the bomb went off and limbs were lost, and the world changed.

Here is the poem we wrote together:

MIND’S ALIKE

By Lisa and Steve Kramer

Changes come with the seasons but also with
Time.

Moving forward, moving back, always now, always
change.

Yet with change comes growth and unexpected
Possibilities.

Ready to fly, or maybe dive beneath the depths; what does the future
hold?

Should we hold onto past dreams? Or is it time to let go and move forward? When do we know when it is time to
fold?

It often comes back on itself, or maybe makes shapes of
fantasy.

How does one turn fantasy into reality? Perhaps we can’t reach the fairies and the magic, but with focus and intent we can, indeed, change the
world.

It is our heart, it is our soul, it is the solid beneath our
toes.

When the bombs exploded, this was a poem of hope, but now it feels like a poem of sadness. And yet, the beauty of the day remains, and the beauty of those people who helped others outshines the horror of the act. The words of people who were there make me feel that perhaps change can happen. Hope can happen. Kindness can happen.

Beauty still exists.

Snapshot_2013415 (41)

When the bombs exploded, a  poem was just a poem. But now everything is different . . .

because the bombs exploded.

It’s That Magical Time of the Year

There is something in the air at this time of year.

It has nothing to do with the abundance of red and green bedecking the halls and windows of every storefront.  It has nothing to do with the jingling bells and multiple renditions of Let it Snow or Silver Bells  that play on more and more stations starting sometime before Thanksgiving. It has nothing to do with gaudy decorations that fill lawns and windows, encouraging families to hop into cars, loaded up with blankets and hot chocolate, and drive through unknown neighborhoods in search of the biggest and brightest displays. (For a lovely discussion of that nostalgic experience read Tori’s “Right Turn to Sunnyside”)

It might possibly have a little something to do with twinkle lights.

Simple Lights in a Dark Corner

I’m not talking about Christmas tree lights, which of course are the most ubiquitous form of twinkle lights at this time of year. I’m thinking about the power of twinkling lights of any type at this time of year–lights to push off the darkness, lights to guide people home, lights to give people a sense of hope. There is magic in the moment when light breaks through the darkness.

Menorah Lights in the Darkness. Photo by Sarah KramerLee (2011)

Menorah Lights in the Darkness. Photo by Sarah KramerLee (2011)

There is a reason that cultures from the beginnings of time have celebrated at this time of year. The days get shorter, the darkness encroaches. Before there was electricity, before their  light pollution brightened the skies so that we no longer can recognize true darkness this would be a time of mystery and perhaps fear.

Winter Solstice.

People might wonder if the sun would ever return and the darkness ever end. So they created celebrations and traditions to combat the darkness.

  • Romans celebrated Saturnalia, where homes were decorated with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees in honor of Saturnus, god of agriculture. “Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness” (all quotes from Winter Solstice: The Unconquered Sun)
  • “In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.”
  • Jews celebrate Hannukah, the festival of lights.
  • Diwali, a holiday associated with Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism is often called the Festival of Lights
  • Tazaungdaing festival is a Burmese celebration also known as the Festival of Lights

There is a reason that people celebrate light in a time of darkness. To me, the meeting of the two, light and dark hold a sense of crossing the lines into the unknown–they provide a moment of possibility.

Honoring the light

To me, candles in a window hold a sense of mystery, of magic, of hope.

This is the time of year when I feel closer to something that lies just beyond our understanding. It has nothing to do with any religious beliefs, but rather with the gathering forces of nature, where darkness meets light, cold confronts warmth, and the unknown lies just around the corner.

I’ve written before how this is the loneliest time of year sometimes. I also admit, however, that it is also the most magical. There is a sense of possibility that anything can happen in the line between darkness and light. We just need to be willing to find peace in the darkness.

“Meanwhile I am putting up more twinkle lights.” (You’ve Got Mail)

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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Searching for Small Blessings

A house in chaos. A challenging night’s sleep. Ant carcasses all over the floor. An absent partner. A dwindling bank account. Insurance documents that have gone AWOL. Dentist appointments and dance recital photos.

Add them all together, and it feels a little difficult to view the world with gentler eyes. Yet, I am determined.

I sit on my deck listening to the wind, and find a place of peace.

I read the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From the Sea, and find a message of patience:

“To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should like empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”

I search for the moments of blessing from this past week. I suddenly recall I owe belated thanks for two blog awards offered to me this week, despite my disappearance in the blogosphere of late. The first was The Versatile Blogger Award from Zencherry who embraces life with joyous abandon! I always appreciate her comments and her attitude to life. Please go and visit her!

The second award came from Stuart over at bornstoryteller who gave me the One Lovely Blog Award. Stuart and I lead similar lives and face similar struggles as we try to find a way to live our passions and thrive creatively. We even have the same blog design. 🙂 I am truly grateful for having “met” Stuart and inspired by his work and his passion. Thank you for the award.

Now that I have thanked both of them, and recognized the blessing of being honored by people I admire, I am now going to break the rules by NOT passing the awards on. Why? Because of the journey I am on. I am beginning to recognize the value of focusing on the project and creation, rather than on the numbers and the recognition. I find myself drowning and overwhelmed when I think things like:

  • will I ever be published?
  • why don’t I have more followers?
  • why aren’t my stats higher?
  • am I as good a writer as ______?
  • why does _________ get so much attention while I don’t?
  • why didn’t __________ give that award to me?

Those questions lead only to more chaos.

So, I am choosing not to promote more competition by passing on awards. I try my best to honor quality posts by commenting and linking to them and sometimes even recommending them for Freshly Pressed status. I support my favorite bloggers by visiting them as often as possible, and interacting with them on a regular basis. I cannot choose who is the loveliest or the most versatile or anything else, because I have finally come to the realization that blogging (for me) is not about competition or recognition, but about sharing and writing and challenging myself to improve as a writer, an artist and a person.

This new sense of understanding and clarity is a blessing.

Yesterday, I shared my favorite place, the Botanical Garden with my brother, Steve (who you may know as Taochild). We are both at a place of transition in our lives. We are both seeking to change negatives into positives and reinvent ourselves in a world of confusion. As we walked, I felt joy in myself, because I could walk in such a beautiful place, and I have the ability to change my life even when it is difficult.

As we approached one of my favorite places in the garden, a pond that is home to creatures of all types, I began to listen with my heart. The song of the pond was absolutely amazing. We tried to capture it on Steve’s phone, despite the drone of the lawn mower in the distance and the chatter of people who, of course, decided to stop and talk right behind us.

The first place we listened. The Gazebo lies across the pond.

So we moved into the shelter of the overlooking gazebo, and listened. I pulled out my idea notebook and my journal. I handed him the notebook and said, “Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write about the sounds of nature.”  This is what I wrote:

Sproing

Trill

Chirp

Sproing

Kerro

Flutter

Foghorn

I sit surrounded by communication expressed in a language just beyond my understanding. Frogs calling, spring, kerro, perhaps two species searching for a mate. Birds singing trill, chirp, chatter, peep, flutter– a universe of warnings, beckoning, challenges, celebrations. In the distance, the drone of the lawn mower–human intrusion in a world we don’t own. The giggle of a child. Flutter splash, a bird diving for sustenance or simply resting in the collness of the water. The breeze sings, a low rumble in the ears carrying with it the scents and messages of unknown flowers. I am surrounded by the melodic symphony of silence.

Moments like that are moments of blessing.

As I waited for Steve to finish writing, my mind remained open and alert to the moment and I saw this:

Light reflecting on the water bounces up to dance on the rough-hewn wood of the gazebo. It is a virtual song.

After our walk, we had lunch and ate the MOST DELICIOUS FLAN in the history of the world.

The ability to see, smell, here, taste, touch, experience, wonder, live, breathe, write, sing, dance, hope, and dream all are the true blessings of existence.

Even on dark days, it is possible to find hope.

When Doubt Creeps In

Devious Doubt
sneaks in the cracks
whispering perilous prose.

“You cannot succeed!
It’s just a dream!
There ‘s no hope, you know.”

Fractious Fear
joins in the fray
after creeping through the door.

“If you try you’ll fail,
they’ll laugh at you
of that I’m very sure.”

Undulating Uncertainty
oozes in,
leaving slime along the floor.

“You’re doomed, my friend
you cannot win.
You’ve never  won before.”

Calm Confidence
speaks up at last
climbing on the bed.

“That’s a lie!
You know it’s true
that she’s been far ahead.”

Hovering Hope
heeds the call
and adds her singing voice.

“Her past supports
her current dream
and she’s made
the perfect choice.”

The monsters loom,
they growl and groan
they try all of their tricks.

But deep inside
Queen Confidence reigns
and she can take their licks.

The path ahead
remains unknown
the future still unclear
but monsters will never
overcome
the dream she holds so dear.

Once More into the Wild

“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Many thanks to Hilary Clark from Pining for Poetry and Prose for pointing that quote out to me today, as today I feel lost in the wilderness, unsure of which direction to choose. But perhaps the direction does not matter. I just need to take a step and forge my way through the underbrush, embracing and learning from whatever comes into my path.

Words fail me today. I cannot interpret the mass of thoughts jumbling around my brain. I cannot describe the heaviness I feel deep inside.

ONCE MORE INTO THE  WILD
A Prose Poem

An image keeps popping into my mind of a dark forest. Here and there, amidst the trees are doors of every shape and size. Some simple, some elegant, some austere, some intimidating. None of them have windows. All of them have locks.

All is stillness and silence.

Far ahead in the distance there is a flutter of filmy cloth. A lavender curtain decorating an open window. The breeze blows through, carrying on it the tinkle of bird song and a laughing stream. I cannot feel the breeze yet, but I know that if I could it would bring elusive scents of beauties unknown. The window is bathed in golden light, with hints of green. A glittering green vine has climbed over the windowsill  reaching tendrils through into the heavy dark forest; but the guardian trees will allow no breach of color and light.

The window beckons but I don’t see a clear path to get there. I fear the doors that lead to places forbidden because someone could come crashing through to bar my way. I fear the leafless trees that reach their crooked hands toward me, threatening to trap me in a merciless grasp.

And yet I move one foot forward. The window beckons.

A Journey into the Wilderness

[Submitted to Poetry Potluck Week 36–Sketches, Images, and Impressions]

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