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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The Before-Math

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It’s important to squeeze the most fun out of a midlife rite of passage. Every drop of day is a chance to lap up the melting butter of existence, especially at the halfway point, or should I say, the half-and-half point (dairy humor).

We were preparing for our guests, spreading sheets and comforters over beds in smooth layers of polished cotton, plunking on pillows and daubing on extra blankets, when somewhere between the prepping and the plumping, I got a spark in my eye and a sparkle in my spirit. Lamenting the recent passing of Eagles singer Glen Frey (I’m a fan) and intent on celebrating the present moment, I began to sing “Well I’ve been runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load, I’ve got seven women on my mind . . .” as my fellow bed making friend began to harmonize the tune with me. It turned into an hour long tribute to the late singer, mixing in alternate lyrics that suited the occasion and some vocal twang whenever desired. Now that’s a way to get chores done!

The trip to the post office was just as bad– I mean good– I mean ridiculous. Picture two gurgling, giggling junior-high aged souls housed in a couple of midlife bodies, simmering, hissing and howling with humor several decades beneath them. Yes, the priming of the pump is about as important as the event itself. And so, I highly recommend a pair of obnoxious loose-cannon attitudes as the beginning fanfare for any large life event.

 

 

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?

Uncanny Valley

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I was hanging out in the “uncanny valley” today. In film terms it refers “to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.” This idea lead me down the dark valley-of-the-shadow-trail of memories including “The Thunderbirds” (you know, those characters jiggling on marionette strings with a clinking drink in their hands), “The Polar Express” (beloved to many, but there is something about the film version . . . just something not quite right), and a new one I discovered called the Lynx chocolate man.

I had always wondered what made close to human but not quite human figures tilt toward the disturbing side in live action film and animation (WestWorld just came to mind), and now, at least I have a term for it uncanny valley. Settling in an unsettling way.

You may be tempted to ask, what does all this have to do with a blog about “thresholds” and “shining bridges”? Simply this. It is a reminder to be truly human. The real deal. All you all the time (working, of course to become the more wonderful true you you really are), and not to get stuck in the uncanny valley.

All the wrinkles. All the foibles. All the quirks. Uncannily you. Beloved you. Real skin, crooked teeth, and all.

And now . . . back to our regularly scheduled program . . . .

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.

Peeking into the Nest

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As spring crawls slowly up the Northwest coast, and a crocus, like a purple hand, pushes soft fingers through the ground, as well as the cherry trees wink pink blossoms at passersby, I make my way in a couple of days to check in on one of the birds that have flown from my own nest. I go to visit my son. He has flown with fairly agile wings south to live in San Francisco, find work, live with roommates, and look for his life. I’ve heard good reports chirped my way so far.

Though my nest is now empty, I look forward to taking to the air to sit in my son’s nest for awhile, not to hover, or look too closely at the fibers and feathers he’s used to create his own domicile. I hope to quell my eagle eyes, and choose a softer view. Look gently, and realize that fledglings are in the process of wing-spreading, not yet in perfect form. I’m also looking forward to stretching my own wings out a bit. Perhaps not arriving as mother bird, but loving mentor, proud coach, guest. This will be a challenge. We invest so much in our offspring, those we look after so carefully for so long. But the song that keeps singing in my ear this season of my life is a phrase by Ram Dass, so simple: “Be here now”.

Maybe that’s the key to every life situation, every change, every sameness, “Be here now”. And so perhaps learn with this, as spring approaches, how to make this newness, this change, this nest-visiting moment a “be here” moment, in all its messy beautiful feather-filled ways.