The Flights of Motherhood

Today is Mother’s Day. A wonderfully garlanded, beautifully decorated day. Filled with big fat bouquets of bright spring flowers, dewy with sweet sentiment, and big fat boxes of chocolates and deep-dipped love, reminding ourselves and the matrons we honor what a daring and delightful thing motherhood is . . . and was.

Like many robins this time in spring, I am a new empty nester. The waxy crayon-scrawled “Hapy Muthers Day” cards created at school and posted on the refrigerator are long gone. The special brunches and outings of this day are left to glances back and forth between my husband and I ocularly asking, “wanna go out today?”

And though my dear son and daughter and law sent me a wonderful thoughtful beribboned gift, and I know I will receive a sweet sweet loving message from my lovely daughter as well, there is something about waving to the sky and the flight patterns of long-flown children that is so different than huddling and cuddling then waiting for drippy undercooked love-laced pancakes in the nest.

So to all those mama birds who have waved their twittering, free-flying offspring off into the world, I salute you! The bridges cross back and forth in and out of our feathered lands, so in the meantime, blow kisses from afar and listen joyfully to the sounds of familiar migrant birds . . . .

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Collecting

 

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As our little group gathered into a bouquet of faces that represented so many poignant things to me– constancy, enduring relationship, shared history, valued friendship, unique interpersonal alchemies– I realized once again the value of intentional collecting. Not just once, not just twice, but over and over again.

Collecting for a milestone celebration (like a rite of passage), collecting for a documentary movie night, collecting for good food and the sharing of current creative projects– can naturally lead to eventually collecting for support during a health crisis, or collecting for a time of guidance, or collecting for some cheerful encouragement amid the long term difficulties of aging. But it seems to me, the key for intentional collecting is making it a practice. Not a droll, dull, gotta gotta do it practice, but a lovely, can’t wait to see them, this will give my soul a breather, this is gonna be great! practice.

As I looked at this lovely collection of women in a warm honey-toned living room on a winter’s day, celebrating my 50th year with no-holds-barred dancing and breezy, contemplative walks, I realized that these are also the faces I hope to see when arthritis sets in and loss is the topic of the day. And we’ll only get there if we practice. Practice, practice, practice! Making hot tea together alongside heaps of Mulberry paper and cardstock to create notes of appreciation to the givers in our lives, singing show tunes and gnarly old hymns at a yearly apple picking gathering, or seeing each other for my 50th or her 40th or our 20th year together.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on collecting for a very long time . . . .

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.

 

 

 

A Rite of Passage of My Own

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I’m feeling the anticipation of crossing a midlife threshold. THE midlife threshold. I’m sure in my hopscotch days I imagined this birth year moment to be gilded with starched antique lace, and celebrated with hands that pass around ribbons of candy that stick together, petrified, at the bottom of a glass bowl. 50? That’s sooo old. I know  back then since I even considered 40 nigh to the grave, 50 was for sure beyond the pale.

But here I am. And glad of it! Really. I’ve anticipated this moment for years. Because it’s now time for my rite of passage. The threshold events that I’ve lovingly crafted for the adolescent and the young adult will finally be pivoted in my direction. I’m ready to metaphor and simile my soul into some turning-the-corner memories that hopefully will loving me launch me into elderhood. No, really, it’s a positive thing!

Won’t you come along with me?

Swamp Lanterns

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Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a plant called, “skunk cabbage”. You may know it, as it sprouts up in other parts of the country as well. It appears as a yellow sconce of slick petals housing a small “wick” of seeds. It can be quite startling passing by a “barren” patch of a mud hole for most of the year, then seeing these “surprises” pop up as a roomful of yellow lights, populating the ground with color.

The other name for this plant is “swamp lantern”. I prefer this name. I think it represents the plant more elegantly, and truer to its form. A thing of beauty. A thing of brightness. The unexpected emerging from the thick and lightless.

For those of us who traverse often or not so often, through the mud, we are grateful for swamp lanterns as they appear- yellow and bright, a sudden burst of glow from seemingly out of nowhere. This metaphor can reach into so many corners. A loving, energizing phone call or email in the middle of the day. The peeking out of the sun, creating seams of light on hems of dark clouds. A kind gesture, simple and human.

May swamp lanterns appear in the muddy places throughout your week. And may you, yourself, be a swamp lantern as well.

In Passing

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Just a couple of days ago, a dear friend crossed one of the two ultimate thresholds; in his case, death. I think one of the most refreshing things I have ever heard, came from him during his last days. So honest. He said, “I really don’t know how long this will go on, hours, days, weeks?” He was truly present for the unknowable threshold that was unfolding. We sat with him. Enjoyed some well chosen words, planned on returning the next day with some requested tulips and chocolate, and then he slipped into unconsciousness, ultimately moving on to his next adventure. I wrote a poem about this moment I would like to share with you.

 

It is here.

 

You always wondered how you would go.

At a gas station with heart in flames, the ticking stopped,

then down for the count, a quick and simple death.

 

Or outliving your spouse, wandering the lonely halls

of forest and bedroom, your own soul, wondering

how you would manage as you slowly trickled away.

 

I’m sure in childhood, like the rest of us, you were sitting

in a rocking chair, on a porch, in some soft form of robe

or blanket, slowly disappearing into a long, long sleep.

 

But here you are. And even on your death bed, you say,

“I really don’t know how this works, how long I will go on,

will it be hours or days or weeks?” And you smile as we offer

you a tomorrow of flowers and chocolates alongside a book to read.

 

“That sounds lovely”, you say, then words slowly slip

from your veins and you go very quiet; and life slowly

drips from you body and you go very still; and now the

soul slowly seeps from your self, and

 

it is here.

– by Gina Marie Mammano

Being here. That’s all we can truly ask for every moment. May we all be here right now, together.

“Living Simply Through the Day”

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photo by Ginny Schneider

 

I’m reading Tilden Edwards’ book, “Living Simply Through the Day”, one of those “simple gift” kind of books we stumble upon unexpectedly. The author reminds me early on to have a “clear commitment to holy simplicity,” “a deep acceptance of ourselves”, and to “enter each day with a naked confidence”. I don’t know about you, but I feel washed by these clean and simple statements.

It’s funny, when I read “holy simplicity” I automatically think of priestly robes, glowing with embroidery and halos, or destitute monks ambling the streets of Assisi. But really, I think it means, set-apart simplicity- the simplicity that alludes us in the traffic jams of daily life. Another way to put it might be, a remembering; that life is a series of open moments, not a solid, unmoving, pre-determined wish list, or a clattering clutter of must-bes and regrets. Open moments. Possibility-moments. Clean air, winds of change, fresh breeze moments.

“A deep acceptance of ourselves” is a tough one for me, and maybe for you as well. Wow. A deep acceptance goes beyond tolerance or avoidance, it means actually loving and deeply caring for your own state of being, no matter what it is.

And “to enter the day with a naked confidence” just stretches me beyond anything I’ve ever known. It means I can confide in the day. Look at it as an intimate friend with all the joys and troubles it places in my lap. It means fear can be a forgotten tag-along, left sorrowing at the back gate. It means stepping out “con” “fide” with faith that the universe is my ally and life is my friend.

May you live beautifully, simply today.