The rite music: “Suddenly I See”

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Ginny at 18.

At Ginny’s second rite of passage, there was a song I knew I had to include because it spoke to me and into me the words I would have wanted to hear at age 18. As I listened carefully to the lyrics, I realized that it was actually describing my daughter and who she is right then- not a hope or a wish, but a present reality. It made me deeply smile.  Finding the right words to explain the soul or character of another person can be indelibly satisfying. What do you “see” in your child?

“Suddenly I See”

by KT Tunstall

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palmSuddenly I see (suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me?I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girlShe fills up every corner like she’s born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you’re trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on her wordSuddenly I see . . .She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see, yeah, yeah (suddenly I see)
(That’s me in the bottom right-hand corner back when I was wishing for a song . . .)
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Me (the girl with the large feathered hair, bottom right corner) in my teens. I guess the “feathered” theme started early!

Second Rite of Passage Reflection: Ginny, the most memorable moment?

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“When I try to pull moments and events from my 18th rite of passage in order to categorize one or another as the most impactful or the most important, I can’t really. You see, they’re all woven into one experience and to separate them would be to unravel the thread and see something different altogether. So I was stumped, I couldn’t think of what would be the superlative moment; I didn’t know what to pick without picking all of it. But as I started to let the question settle in me the answer reverberated back in patches of color and sounds and gestures that conformed into many shapes, women shapes, Karmyn and Nancy shapes, Mom and Sharon and Jessie, Maril and Tricia shapes. Yeah, they were the best part. I guess I realized that I loved them not only because they were a part of my heritage, my mom’s support that was passed down to me, but that they represented a wonderful, colorful, real diversity of women.

Lately I get paralyzed with the idea of becoming an adult. Suddenly the freedom of choices and opportunity to trail blaze that so enthralled me when I was younger now stare me down and dare me to make the first move; and I feel like I’m shrinking. Like I’m going to implode. Sometimes the pressure around my head and heart is so tight I feel like I’m fighting my way through a birth canal that’s too small, and it is pushing me out regardless, as each approaching season brings another contraction, another inch closer to entering a new country- I don’t know where. I feel trapped by the bifurcation of where I will “inevitably” exist and live in for the next forty years. I know that this is hyperbolic, dichotomized, falsely, I hope, but it still feels that way a lot of the time.

But more than the events and projects, spontaneous dancing and art making, it’s the handful of women around me that gives me courage and better yet, a passion for my adulthood to come. They’re all so different, so dynamic and wholly themselves, creating life around them and for themselves that in their adulthood reflects their own unique passions, pursuits, and persons. Of course they, like everyone else, carry their younger selves in them still, but they didn’t get stuck at 18 or 20, they took her with them and stepped forward through one day at a time, and then they arrived-or rather are still arriving-at this other country called adulthood. It’s their specific and unique lifestyles and personalities that show me that my own life can and will be fashioned into something courageous, beautiful, and my own.”

– Ginny

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Second Rite of Passage: Ginny’s choice, a Quaker Clearness Circle

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I had asked Ginny a few weeks prior to this rite of passage, what offering I could give her at the event?

“A Quaker Clearness Circle!” was her reply.

Now, granted, not every 18 year old asks for one of these, or even knows what one is, but Ginny had seen it done before and was impressed- not like “wow!” impressed, but im-pressed, pressed upon, touched, marked by it.

“I would love to give you one of those,” I replied. “What question would you like to bring to the group?”

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Quaker Clearness Circle or “Committee” is a group of people chosen by someone, in this case, Ginny, to focus on an important question the asker would like to explore. It could be regarding job choice, a move, readiness for marriage, or as Ginny was wanting, assistance in deciding on entering The Mission Year program, where she would voluntarily live in community, serving the poor on the south side of Chicago.

The committee is asked to only ask questions that will help dig deeper into the question. No answers are provided. No answers are expected. It is the gift of community companionship in the form of engaged questions, often with the asker facing away, so that body language isn’t an influence. It is an interesting process. I’ve done it twice now, and it is indeed a rare and priceless gift.

We bestowed this present upon Ginny, and couple of hours later, we ended the Quaker Clearness Circle and the rite of passage. Questions, and questions, and questions. Answered by more questions. Young woman asking a question. Older women fine-tuning it with more questions. Answers in the form of questions. And silence. Thick, heavy silence. Food for thought. Comfort food. Heavy, rich, amazing comfort food and room to digest some of it on the way home. . .

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Second Rite of Passage: games and rosaries: now, it’s Ginny’s turn

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Sunday. After breakfast, it’s Ginny’s turn to present.

“Ginny, how many pieces of paper are needed for your game, ‘fax machine’?”

“There are six people, so booklets of six pages each.”

We began to play.

“Write down a random phrase, pass it to your left, read it, draw a picture about what you read, pass it on, draw a picture about what you read, etc. until we’re done.”

Let’s see, it quickly degenerates. “Climbing Mt. Whitney while eating a mooseburger” becomes “an angel climbs a volcano with an offering- a winged cheeseburger.”

Seriously . . . .

“Tell us what your other activity is, Ginny.”

“About a year ago, I made a rosary of beads to pray for my friends. I was inspired one day when I was in Saint Peregine’s chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano. As a matter of fact, this is one of the original beads I chose for my friend. The colors makes it look like flames are coming up at the bottom. She is a passionate person, so the flames describe her, but the bead is also transparent, like she is. You can see through it. She has been going through some hard times with her family, so this helps me remember to pray for her  . . . choose beads that represent a person, or a situation, or a place in your life and put it on the wire. I use the rosary for a keychain, but you can bend it anyway you like. It’s pretty flexible. A friend reminded me not to forget to choose a bead for yourself.”

And so that was our assignment.

I see a caramel colored bead I choose for our family’s current transitions. A blue, red, and white one for Ginny herself, for passion, for purity. A teardrop shaped one alongside four others- remembering a family going through a tough separation.  A rosary strung for those loved near and those loved far away.  Sunlight on the beads. Crystals and clay. Pearls and wood. Brown and gold and aquamarine blue. The weekend will soon be coming to an end. Only five lovely ladies left, plus one, newly entering the realm of the tribe, the realm of long histories, insatiable  laughter, tempered wisdom, and a healthy mix of childhood dancing with middle age and laugh lines.

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Second Rite of Passage: place, space, and grace

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The variety of abilities in a group of women can be astonishing. Gather up a group yourself and ask the question, what ten things can you teach me, from juggling to car repair and everything in between? Trust me, astonished, you will be.

Speaking of which . . . our next offering was from the teacher in our little group. We gathered once again around the fireplace. She offered up a quick writing exercise to warm us all up and then we began.

“I like to do this with my high school students. It gives us a way to understand where we come from. If everyone can do a first draft and then rewrite it to keep or to give it to Ginny  . . .”

A pause. We think. We write. We tell our stories. We are given a prompt that includes asking for a detail about where we come from, something that matters to us, and who we are. This is what we came up with:

“I am from every country in Europe through scratch farms in Oklahoma, one women general stores in Montana to California for the promised dream.”

“I am from pepper trees, flaming bouganvilla, and eucalyptus that peels off in three different colors.”

“I am from wallpapered halls, big wheels, basements with pipes you can swing from, and long days at the Little League field.”

“From a carousel of seasons, absorbed one minute in hot, sticky thunderstorms and the next in the frigid arms of sleet- the cruel child of a marriage between  snow and ice.” . . .

“I know that crystal clear nights matter as do the warm summer evenings . . . “

“I know that I am under the trees, performing rituals for the birds and playing a flute in a long white swing, hearing a voice in the wind.”

I think we done good. Don’t you?

What would you write?

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Second Rite of Passage: you think this is all fun and games?

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My ingenious friend, Sharon, decided to mess with some parlor and board games to create some fairly relevant gaming fare for Ginny to play with. In the spirit of community building, why not tweak Trivial Pursuit with categories such as “Famous Women” or “Oscar Wilde”? Why not make musical chairs more magical by saying to the chosen player, “you are the president of a college, and you got to tell us what your requirement is for us to get in whether it’s white socks or bacon snarfing. Everyone else, if you fit the requirement, get up and move to a chair that’s empty. If you’re chairless, you’re out of college!”

We also tried our hand at a game called, “Preferences,” where we get to know each other a little bit better by trying to guess which order one another’s “preferences” might be in categories such as “Famous Quotes”, “Food”, and “Potpourri”. I don’t know, if it were a bout between “applesauce vs. barbecued ribs”, “Rachel Carson and Jane Austen”, who would come out on top? I just hoped the ugliness wouldn’t leave a mess on aisle 5!

The best part was, we got each other wrong. We get each other right. We laughed. We guessed. And the guest of honor got to know us all a little bit better. The point of community building, right?

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Second Rite of Passage: sizzles and twists

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That Saturday, so much juiciness was packed into that luscious recipe of a day, that we could barely hold more, but we did!

Behind the kitchen counter.  Maril held brown gift bags adorned with flames of purple and pink tissue paper flaring out. “Your mom asked me to give you the gifts of the stomach,” she said. Then out came a set of measuring cups and spoons. A cookbook with pockets.

“I’m going to teach you to make a meal that you can serve to all your friends!” And there it was: community in six courses. Rosemary lemon roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, mushroom gravy, sautéed yellow squash, and apple pie.

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For an hour or so in the kitchen. Ginny was trailing her at every turn for worthwhile instruction in the arts of steam and butter. “Squeeze two lemons over the chickens, then stuff one of them inside, and leave one in the pan. Sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper over them. Put them in the oven.”

Time ticks on quickly, then resounds a ring. “Ginny, present the meal!” The feast is laid. One more beginning cook starting out on her culinary journey.

The table is set around a collection of beautiful hand-collaged plaques. Wine, anyone? Not for you, Ginny . . . yet!

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Second Rite of Passage: a keepsake

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The next rite of passage offering was gifted by an artist. A chance to play in fields of color; a chance for our hands to dive and swim in mulberry paper and magazines.

On the table, made of oilcloth, Ginny was told to pick out a palate of colors: gossamer blue, feathery green, spring sprout, geranium, Grand Canyon, gentle eggplant, sedate lavender, and jungle trail. Those were the choices she made. The palette was set.

Each woman was given a wooden plaque. “There are a few rules to creating a community art project,” Nancy announced. “And I want to remind everyone, though each will be making an individual piece, it is about Ginny and her palette.”  It will all be unified in the end.

On the table is a sea of wrapping paper. Painted paper. Pictures. Words written 80 years ago in longhand on old letters. Maps. Mod Podge glue. A large well-used paint brush.

There is placing and choosing. Picking and tearing and reconstructing. In an hour or so, we were finished. We then are asked to share with Ginny our decoupaged gifts to her.

“Mine has a swirl in a sea of pink because when I think of Ginny, I think of whimsy. But I chose the words, ‘wonder’ and  ‘a sweet white dress’ in handmade scrawl because there’s also innocence and wonder about her.”

“I chose a plover, because they dig deep. Ginny digs deep.”

“I made a river, because Ginny forges her own path.”

“Mine contains a cross and the quote: ‘when the eagle soars in the endless blue, its shadow races after, far below. Yet space does not divide; bird and shadow are linked. So each act-each choice and consequence.”

“I’m going to bawl. I wrote ‘raised to the light,’ because I know Ginny’s history and I know, she’s been continually raised to the light. When we were meditating, I had the image of a plant twisting upward, to the light, like Ginny.  There were some hard years in her past. She stands before us today, a miracle—a child raised to the light!  I included green growing shapes, and a thrust of color upward.”

“Deliberate. I want to do things in a deliberate way,” Ginny saidregarding the purple and white collage she made with the bits of deckled paper going over the edges.

“Explore. I see the maps and the possibilities and the feather-leaf as light as flight. Explore.”

Nine plates of color, meaning, and collaged interpretations of what Ginny is to eight different women. Soon it will be a centerpiece for tonight’s dinner table.

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Second Rite of Passage: a word, a bird, and a hand massage

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As I mentioned, the bulk of the weekend were experiential “gifts” from all of the women invited to Ginny’s second rite of passage. This was the best kind of present as it left an indelible mark of the giver’s presence in my daughter’s life. Here’s a taste of the first offerings as reflected in my juicy juicy journal:

“After a while, a migration was made into the den, the place of last night’s nest. Karmyn quietly encouraged us to open up our chests and hearts to the new day. A stretch towards the sky. Then a train of massages, back, then back, then back. Shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. Gentle music of peace and old time hymnody. Partners scattered in twins across the room. Almond oil. Aromatic lotions. A time to massage the hands of one another. Sharon’s hand slips like a fish in and out of mine. Rub. Squeeze. It’s amazing- the topography of hands: muscles, bones, freckles, gradations in skin tone. The rich smell of thick almond lotion pasted on hands. A joyful swish of Karmyn’s long hair and a blessing, and the movement moves on. . . .

Scattered on the ground are: “Birds of North America”, Tricia’s birding journal posted with stamps and stories, poetry and quotations, and blank white stickers.

“When I was in Belize for three years,” she says, “there was not a lot to do.”

She took up birding. It helped her make the jungle her home. Neo-tropic birds. Memorable moments. Calls that called to her, “I think you’re pretty! I think you’re pretty!” she thought she heard one bird say.

She reminds us that the books tell us that every bird has a color, has a call, has a place and asks us to find three things in us to share that make a place a home.

“A potted plant to care for. Photographs of the old life and the new. A local textile for the bed.  Mapping out the geography of place. Sinking deep into the history of where you are. These are a few. And then, find three things we want to look for in a relationship, just like the characteristics of neo-tropic birds. The plumage is not the most important. Look for compassion in the eyes. Have the same migration path. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Laugh. Laugh together. Laugh with and at each other. Laugh. Then think of three things we must do, our life lists, like a birding life list, three things. Kayak at night. Full immersion in the local custom. Hike every trail in the Sierras. Plant a garden. Those are a few. There are so many more.”

These were the things we were to chew on at local restaurant. So much to share with one another in the world of journeying women. What might be your contribution? What journey would you take the rest of us on in that bright hour?

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Second Rite of Passage: blessing the nest

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It was a full evening. A very full evening. (I was still feeling that coconut cream pie . . .)

We trickled into the room where the nest would be set. A special resting place for Ginny that night that would be the equivalent of a quilted “nest”. Patchworks and crazies draped over the couches down into a cozy spot on the carpet. Color and color and color and color. We would tuck her into it that night and say a blessing over her.

“Ginny, I want to read to you Marianne Williamson’s quote: ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure . . .'”

“Ginny, I bless you with the gift of good sleep. Ma and Pa Ingalls talked about doing the ‘work that belonged to that day,’ and then resting. Good sleep is a blessing- the ability to sleep deeply and peacefully, and it’s something I pray for you, Ginny!”

“I give you the blessing of confidence and knowing who you are, gifts and foibles alike.”

We closed down the sun with best quilt of all: the quilt of a blessed sleep.

Good-night, Ginny. Until tomorrow . . . .

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