The Gathering

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“Rothko Sunrise” by JohnTaylor Wildfeuer

Breakfast: a sip of blue and alpenglow, followed by a swath of mango-sky and mountain melt, then finished off with a sorbet of sunrise.

Mmmmm . . . couldn’t be better. To begin the celebration of midlife with this kind of smoothie seems the perfect antidote to the common middle-aged ideas of endings, closures, winding-downs, and finishings. This feels more like a great big beginning, with the natural world concocting some sort of eye tempting breakfast drink to start my day. To start my life. Before I gather with my co-conspirators in celebrating my second half, I will gather myself.

What have I collected in this body of mine over the past 50 years? This body of information, this body of experience, this body of work?

What poetry of life has been gathered into this one perfect being I call “myself”? (And I use “perfect” in the ever-complete-in-each-moment sense. Every moment is a chance to be once again perfect or complete. Anyway, I diverge).

What juicy phrases and phases, unique mixtures of life, love, work, wildness, and companionship have created this cocktail of me?

I will sip on this.

 

 

 

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Christmas at “The Outpost”

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This year, I am celebrating Christmas at what feels like “the outpost”. Miles away from our closest friends and family, I sit up here in these colder regions wondering what the holiday will look like. I mentioned to my daughter the other day, bemoaning this circumstance, “I’m missing the sparkle!”. “The sparkle” representing those gatherings where the tinkle of laughter, the way the candles glow on wine or punch glasses, or the wintry magic of holly flutes a descending staircase.

Not this year. Travel costs and body reparations post surgery forbid it.

But, “the outpost”, I discovered the other day, is a great place to re-play (and I mean emphasis on “play”) old memories that still have some juice and giggle to them. I turned on a copy of an old Christmas “album” and sang along, full voice. My husband, a willing audience, got to hear the tales of sisterly shenanigans of long ago, interpreting and misinterpreting the holiday song offerings as they played on the living room stereo: stomping around the room to “The Little Drummer Boy” a la Harry Simeone Chorale with my faithful oatmeal canister as drum-drum-drum, my sister imitating the rich male voice that rings out “Rise up shepherds and follow!” with its own weird and unusual consequences of doing so (family loyalty forbids me from sharing what happened next, although, I must say, we heard the familiar words from my mother at that point, “why is your sister’s hair wet?”) And hearing “All I Want for Christmas is You”- a song that can drive some people crazy in high-voiced pop familiarity brought me merrily back to my experience over a decade ago of Christmastime in New Zealand . . . warm weather, an outdoor park concert, and holding my “adopted” nephew in my lap, eventually falling over in a heap of people due to overly excited children in the vicinity amongst a crowded field of picnic blankets.

Some years, it seems, are just meant for cherishing what’s already come. New experiences may arrive next year, but this year, it’s about re-viewing, re-living, and re-playing with the old. The toy box of the past has baubles worth revisiting and giggling about.

Second rite of passage: imagining your contribution

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Round two: everyone contributes! My job? To create a fun container for people to place their delectable and teachable offerings. And so, what to do? How to begin? Take one artist, one experienced game-player, two teachers, one journal-writer, a dancer, and a culinary dabbler and throw them into a big wide corrugated cardboard box (not really). Shake ’em around a bit, throw them onto the table like so many dice, and what do you get? All sorts of possibilities!!

Well, I didn’t do that exactly, but I did metaphorically! I invited the rite of passage mentors/participants to think about what they might like to teach Ginny. Since the theme was “building community” I asked them to think about a fun activity that might help Ginny learn to create a sense of community where she was soon moving to.

Some took off with great ideas from the get-go. Others needed a little gentle massaging, but what did I get in the end?

An amazing community art project we all engaged in and gifted to Ginny. A first hand view of building a seven course meal for a friendly gathering. A lesson in meaningful journaling. A frolicking twist on traditional game-playing. A literary brainstorm on sharing personal history with a crowd. And a jaunt into morning meditation and hand massage to promote self-care, care for others, and welcoming the day. Could a collection of mini-workshops be more diverse, engaging or interesting? I think not!!

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First rite of passage reflection: collecting rite words

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a place for inspiration: afternoon light in a chapel in Plain, WA

On my search for the “rite” words to inspire me and others on this creative journey toward a meaningful mentored celebration for my daughter, I wish I would have come across this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

But I didn’t. There were pale samplings of written fare that spoke about painful rites practiced on girls over the centuries. There were interesting menstruation rituals I looked at quite shyly. And there were more luscious ceremonies like those in India where girls are given a new sari, sprinkled with fragrant water, and donned with a crown of flowers. But none of these were traditions embedded in our own experiences, our own culture (and at times, I admit I was grateful). I was looking for something not beautiful and borrowed, but something that resonated in the caverns of our own sense of places and spaces, here, where we are living.

Our culture, or at least my culture, didn’t have a precedent for rites of passage, so creating my own seemed like a good place idea. Perhaps my daughter would pass our new traditions on to her own daughter someday, and on and on until new traditions became established, familiar, even cherished ones. When you start from scratch on most anything, you have to  brush the top layers away until you get to rockbed. And rockbed for me was touched upon by asking these types of questions: what kind of gathering would allow for the sharing of stories to ease the pain of being alone in the adolescent years? what gifts of wisdom would be most worthwhile to Ginny? how can I craft an experience that allows her to walk away feeling loved, affirmed, and more clear-eyed in gazing at who she truly is? how can I provide a fun and exuberant release so our time together is not excessively heavy?

These questions and thoughts were the touchstones to ponder. They would help form the new words I’d be sculpting from. I would eventually collect and add others on: symbol, feasting, keepsake, music, blessing. I would look to these key thoughts to be my inspiration to hold closely in the desire to share extravagantly with my daughter the riches of being a woman at the nascency of this rare and precious journey.

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hand painted peace flags dancing in the wind

Rite of passage licorice pizza (oh, yeah, records!): what were you spinning at 14?

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All right, all you readers, followers, and passers-by on Shining Bridges! This is your chance to share your most memorable song at age 13, 14, or 15! We’d love to hear it! Think back to those days in junior high or high school. What song made your heart beat a little faster, tickled your adolescent fancy, or felt like whenever it came on the radio, or played on your turntable or cd player it was “your song”. If you know a few of the lyrics, post those as well. I’m sure it will give some of us a knowing smile. And I’d love an explanation of what this song meant to you . . . (what fun this could be hearing from folks at home and friends from other parts of the world . . . and genders . . . yes, guys! We’d love to hear from you, too!)

And, if you’d like, include a song you know now that you would have loved to have heard at that age; perhaps it would have encouraged, motivated, or given you a new perspective on things- shifted your internal paradigm a bit and made it a bit shinier!

Bring it on! Let the sharing (and the music) begin!!

First rite of passage: mentoring notes from a bookish mom

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

Speaking of mentors, here’s a reflection by a “wise woman” invited to Ginny’s first rite of passage. Every now and then, I’ll post the words of a participating mentor to show the diversity and creativity that can  be found in the unique contribution of each person at the event. The first is from Valerie, a dear friend, and lover of all things bookish!

“It was such a privilege to be a part of Ginny’s Rite of Passage! Even so, I was filled with a sense of responsibility and some self-doubt . . . I wanted to do something consequential and yet it had to be within my capabilities. After giving it much thought I turned to my life’s passion: books!

The books I gave to Ginny were somewhat thematically similar, mostly dealing with becoming a woman and finding one’s identity and voice in society. I didn’t necessarily turn to the classics but sought out those books that had affected me viscerally when I was a young woman. It was fun for me to brainstorm and list my favorite books of all time and to see how diverse they were. I did not purposefully choose both male and female authors and authors from various cultures and time periods but this is what surfaced, much to my delight.

Like everyone else I had been given a small drawer to what would be Ginny’s communal chest of drawers. I carefully lined it with pages from an old book (I think it was a romance for those of you who might shudder to cut up a book!) and then I typed up the names of the books I was giving her and why, printed this out on parchment in a teeny-tiny font size, and then rolled it up like a scroll and placed it in the drawer.

As you can probably tell, I had a lot of fun with this and that would be my advice to someone who was preparing a rite of passage gift: tap into that which gives you joy- that is where your wisdom resides.

Here’s part of what I wrote on that tiny scroll”

“Books are dreams you can hold in your hand; dreams are books without pages.”  – Sundaira Morninghouse, Writer

Up next . . . the importance of symbols . . . .

 

A first rite of passage: gathering the women

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three generations of “us”- Ginny, mom, and me

I want to lay down some history here. The story of creating a first rite of passage for my 14 year old daughter has a long and rich beginning, so I’ve decided to spend the first 8 or so posts breaking it into bite sized pieces. Taste and enjoy!

Who to pick? Who to pick? So many lovely, intelligent, wise women. Who to pick? Who to pick? So many interesting, fun-loving, enlivening, historied women. Who to pick? It was Ginny’s first rite of passage (and mine as well), and the criteria was slowly starting to form in my mind.

  • She has to be somebody Ginny enjoys as a person.
  • She has to be somebody Ginny looks up to in some way, conventionally, or unconventionally.
  • She has to be someone that Ginny could learn something from.
  • She has to be someone who loves Ginny- who really loves Ginny.

There were women who could fill out that list from so many places: close family, long time friends, spiritual mentors, women from our arts group, etc., but I wanted to limit myself to 9, including me. Not all the juicy, wonderful women I knew could participate in this round, but I knew that these amazing women in Ginny’s life could be included in another way that she would also deeply cherish (coming up in an upcoming blog entry!)

So I began with choosing my mother. Having the three generations of Cornett/Mammano/Schneider girls, growing together from the same family tree, all together at this event would be very special. And feeling held by her closest predecessors, would be a kind and loving act. I next thought of Ginny’s godmother, Tricia. She knew Ginny while I was housing her in my maternity clothes, she carted her in a backpack around Victoria, BC at 8 months, and she had been rooting for her with so much vigor and intention throughout her growing years. My thoughts then went to Sharon. Dear, dear friend who knew how to live out intellect, playfulness, and soulfulness, and had done just that in Ginny’s presence. Karmyn was always a favorite with both of my children. She knew how to embrace life with all of the joy, energy, and enthusiasm a human being could muster. She would definitely teach Ginny something valuable.

Her “Auntie Maril,” an honorary aunt in our little world embodied place, grace, and a combination of refinement and homespun beauty. She was a woman who was often an encouragement and a comfort in our lives. Next was Nancy. Through Montage, an artist’s group I have been a part of for nearly two decades, Ginny had been exposed to the incredible beauty, love, and wisdom of Nancy and her husband, Drew. She admired Nancy’s skill and creativity and would enjoy having her as part of this gathering. And last, but definitely not least, our friend and a-couple-of-neighborhoods away neighbor, Valerie. At the time, Valerie was somewhat of a newcomer in our lives, but I had known since the moment I met her that she was quality. She was a bright, funny, strong woman- an inspiration and a voracious reader! I now had my nine . . . I just had to ask them . . .