Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I suppose this is something I should do daily, but here goes:

I am thankful for:
  • The rain
  • I am able to see bits of the sunrise from my bed
  • My healthy children
  • My true love
  • Feeling less blue
  • Time to regain my balance
  • A man who does the dishes
  • A daughter who fills my heart with pride
  • A tall, tall son who still wants to hug and snuggle with his mother
  • My down comforter
  • My sweet French cottage
  • My new car
  • The ability to pay all of my bills and still have a wee bit of money left
  • All of my books
  • My mother and the fact that I still have time with her to right all of my wrongs toward her
  • My sisters
  • My brothers
  • My students and all the lessons they have afforded me
  • Their parents and all of the lessons they have given me
  • Love
  • My trials, for they make me strong
Thank you.

A Simple Life

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

While in Carpinteria a few weeks ago, I found myself in my favorite antique shop. Just like thrift stores, I always get a little tickle, a foreshadowing that I may find something brilliant. On this occasion, I found a sweet vintage tablecloth. This is the same store in which I found an Asian print vintage tablecloth, which I think is kind of rare. I just had to have it, and I use it often.

As I was paying for the new, old tablecloth, the storekeeper asked if I used the tablecloths. I looked at her quizzically, 
"You mean, do I put them on the table?"
 "Well, yes. Do you just collect them, or do you use them?"
Of course I replied that I indeed use them, even with my 15 year old son in the house. I purchase them because they are lovely, because I like to look at them. It made me smile a little inside, that I did not find these beauties so rare that I could not put them on my family table. On the contrary, it is the sweetness and simplicity that attracts me to these little lovelies. 
I am careful with them, and launder them with care. I also hang them on the line. And do you know what? Every time I hang the tablecloths on the line, or any laundry for that matter, I always, always, look back and admire the cloth moving in the breeze. I love hanging laundry on the line. I love laundering and hanging lovely tablecloths that cover our family table. Of course I use them, these are the things that comprise a simple life... 

Autumn in The City of Angels

Monday, November 24, 2008

It is autumn in the City of Angels. The leaves on the Liquid Amber trees are turning color and falling to the ground. This morning at least, the heater has gone on to take the chill from the night. It will be off in a few moments. As soon as the sun peeks over the horizon, the chill will evaporate. You may need a sweater when you leave the house, but it will be in a pile on the back seat of your car by 9am. Chances are, it will be 85 degrees by 11am. Yes, it is autumn in Los Angeles.

This does not mean the mood of autumn is absent. One has to search more deeply for the signs of the earth's preparations for it's winter sleep. I have found, living in this climate, that one must look more inside oneself for the transformation of the seasons. In the Pacific Northwest, the change is more obvious, the leaves turn and fall, the rains begin and the feeling to retreat into one's home comes quickly and without question.

Here, where the sun shines more often than not, I must look for the small signs, the silent transformations. The shift of the breeze. The silence of the evening as the sun sets early over the Pacific. The quietness of the garden, once bursting with growth, now grows, but more slowly, quietly. One must grab the sweet air, just before the periwinkle blue of the sunrise ignites into a bright orange and pink. Just before the heat of the sun penetrates the bedroom curtains.

I love the contemplative mood of autumn. It is a time to put thoughts to rest, allow new impulses to ripen, and to develop patience for all to unfold in due time. When I was thirteen and fourteen, I would take the bus to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It was a long ride and I am surprised my parents allowed me to take such a long journey alone. My father was a bus driver, so I had a free bus pass and my parents had implicit trust in the Rapid Transit District. They would say,  "Just sit behind the bus driver! You will be safe there."  So, I would board the first of three buses and make my way to the Norton Simon.

It was there I fell in love with a painting. I mean head over heels in love. I would sit and stare at it for hours. I would fill notebooks with the subject's back story, why she appeared sad, what she was contemplating, perhaps she had just lost a baby or had been jilted by a lover. There were many stories, as I visited her often. 

Once, when we lived in Hawaii and were visiting Los Angeles, I went to see my old friend. She had been hanging in the same place for as long as we had been friends. She wasn't there. I fell into a panic. I began darting about the museum in a fright that she had been sold, or worse, delegated to the bowels of the Norton Simon, never to be seen again. I finally asked a guard and he thought maybe it had been moved to the far west wing. As I peeked around the corner, I could see her dark, melancholic eyes and forlorn stare. My heart beat returned to normal and I felt calm.

 I visited her on Saturday. The spring and fall are lovely times to visit the Norton Simon. The gardens are mild and bustling with dragon flies, and a gentle breeze slips over the garden sculptures to greet you. She has been moved again, but not very far. I always see her first, and then I can move on to the rest of my favorites, a few by Pissaro and Franz Marc, The Chestnut Gatherers, and finally, the Raphael. This visit, my companion and I sat in front of a great still life and embarked on a very serious discussion of how on earth this Flemish painter could have gathered all of these fruits and vegetables in one place. What season could this be? How could there be berries, gourds and pears? Where those hops in the corner? And if the melons and carrots were this large and ripe, how could the gooseberries still be fruiting? Futile contemplations, I know. We finally agreed that the grapes must have come from Italy with the figs, and the gourds were dried and from the previous season. There were also musings that the female in the painting was very likely an enchantress, and therefore, able to conjure such a bounty of fruits and vegetables of varying seasons to fill her table.

Nonetheless, here in Los Angeles, one must find rituals to bring autumn to it's fullest. For me, it is the museum, the smell of the paintings, the silent whispers of the patrons, these are my signals to turn inward, to plant the seeds that require maturation, to nurse patience and resolve. What are the signs that signal a change for you?   

Calling All Angels

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tomorrow I am in need of all angels. Every last one. I have heard that for the most part, angels sit around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for us humans to ask for help. So, here I am angels, asking for your assistance.

Please swoop in, like a flock of sweetly singing birds and fill my heart with calm and assurance. Let me me speak only truth, let only truth be the victor. Hover over each person involved and spread your golden, pink hue to our words, thoughts and decisions. Let me be brave and true, graceful and compassionate and open to the what the higher truth of this matter really is and should be. Calm my nerves and grant me articulation and justice, please, let their be justice.

 So, if you are not using your angel tomorrow between  8am-12pm, could you send them my way. I promise to be kind and send them right home. I will owe you, just call and I will send my angels your way one day too.

Thank you, angels. I will see you tomorrow.

I Miss The Sound of the Rake

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I think the air has cleared a bit here in Southern California. My heart aches for those who have lost everything. I find it hard to imagine what it might be like to leave your home and find later, that all is gone. I suppose this is why one struggles to live in the moment. To live for this moment, this day. We hear this advice so often and yet we all know how difficult it can be. I have fleeting moments of this experience, and I must agree, it liberates the heart, allows it to soar.

This moment, I sit in the quiet. The distant conversation of late waking birds, the silence of a neighborhood in the mid-morning. Off in the distance I hear a leaf blower. When the resident arrives home with the setting of the sun, their yard will be clean and tidy. I will be the only witness to this cleansing ritual.

 A few autumn leaves tumble from their precarious perch, wafting slowly to the ground. This sound is more profound than the motorized rake. I miss the sound of the rake. The tin scrape across the crisp grass or concrete fills my head with visions of chore day. My brother and I were in charge of the yard work on Saturday morning. I would hold the large black bag as he shoveled in fragrant grass clippings and dry leaves. He always worked the lawn mower, while I raked the clippings. I miss the sound of the rake. I think I was afraid of the lawn mower. I believed my father when he told stories of rocks flinging out from the blade, ready to take an eye out. I left the dangerous work for my brother. I was willing to risk the few splinters of the weathered rake handle. No flying stones or ill-fated rocks. I protected my eyes, looked away when the mower approached me...

I can still smell the grass, the reluctance with which we approached our chores and the tin scrape of the rake. I miss the sound of the rake.

To The Sea and Back

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perhaps, I put too much hope into the sea and the effect it has always had upon me. Perhaps, I did not stay long enough at the shore. I felt as though I had to will my burdens into the silky waters. At one point, I was begging the sea to take my troubles. I left, hoping for the best. I have heard that the 40 year mark in one's life indicates, geographically, at least, you are as far away from the spiritual world as one can possibly be. A sad thought. Yet, this is how I have been feeling the last year or so. I consulted a person who has deeper connections to the spiritual realm than myself. She assured me, that even though I feel far away, all of my angels and helpers and guides, are there. It is just harder to hear what they are saying. This has been my experience. I ask, but the voices are whispered more softly, or maybe my head is so full of living and learning that I cannot hear over the din.

My resolve is to clean house. Not my sweet little French country house, but my real house. I suppose it is time to clear away the cobwebs of doubt and regret. I need to unearth the bright and shining treasures that have illuminated my life; the golden orbs that have propelled me thus far. Over the next few weeks, I will be scrubbing and sorting, resting when I need to. I will attempt to keep only that which is necessary. I feel as though I am off on an archaeological dig. I know there have been joys that have filled my soul, vistas that have brought me to tears and words filled with love and deep kindness. I can not wait to see them again.

To the Sea

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I am off to the sea this afternoon. I planned it after a difficult meeting, knowing it would be easier to shed any residual heaviness at the sea's shore. It seems as though I am able to release my burdens at the foam, the meeting place between sand and sea. I am a visual learner. I always have been. Perhaps, dropping my burdens at the shore and watching them pull away from me in wee increments, until they are one with the greatness of the Pacific, convinces me that I need no longer bear them upon my shoulders.

I fear I may have to spend far too much time at the shore. For the sake and the health of the sea, I will monitor my deposits. When I return, I hope to be lifted in spirit, fed in soul and in possession of a clearer viewpoint.

Off to the sea!

Autumn Mornings of Long Ago

Monday, November 10, 2008

When my children were young, we lived along the Williamette River in the Pacific Northwest. Our days were spent baking bread, making homemade play dough and collecting milk from clanking glass bottles the Mennonite milkman left at a our door. I would bundle my wee ones in coats, hats and mittens, rubber boots and head out for the morning. We would walk along the river and visit the ducks and Canadian geese. The children would climb and explore, get wet and muddy and breathe in the cold autumn air. Their noses would turn pink and run from the cold, but we did this ritual daily. Living in the world. Touching the slimy shore of the river, pushing through the dead blackberry brambles in search of a fairy ring or toadstool.

Eventually, we would make our way back along the river toward home. Our small home seemed so warm and inviting despite it's simplicity. The bread would be ready to eat, the jam from our summer canning provided a sweet reminder of the day spent in the strawberry field so long ago...

With tummies filled, we would all retreat to our cozy beds and read stories and snuggle in the dim afternoon. This is where my children came to know Stuart Little and Pippi and Charlotte. I would tuck them in, snuggle the flannel sheets and down comforters to their chins and softly close the door.

In the chaos which I now try to wade through, those days provide me with a touchstone. A knowing that  I am capable of quiet and contentment on my own terms, at my own hand. This is a bit of the life I seek again. It seems so far away as I watch my daughter and son drive off to high school in Los Angeles, so far from the shores of the Williamette River.

While the World Sleeps

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I have been spending many nights listening to the night sounds of my sleeping family. Sleep escapes me most nights. Tonight, I am blessed by the soothing sound of rain. This is a treat in Southern California and always welcome. I peer out the window and watch the rain wash away the grime of the day and am comforted in the thought that L.A. after the rain is simply, radiant. The mountains loom to the north, scrubbed clean as the cool sea breezes beckon from the west. No, there is nothing like Los Angeles after the rain. 

My new freedom has removed the desperate need for sleep. I normally yearn for sleep, so that I can have a productive day, free of fog and yawning. There is a sweetness in having time, time to nap, if need be. A time to push through the sleepy day, in search of the veil of darkness to rest, to slumber. Or, as in the case tonight, to listen to the night breathing of my loved ones, the rustle of their night covers, the sighs of their slumber. 

Charlie Kaufman, what are you thinking?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I went to the cinema this afternoon, seeking lightness and glee. A little something superfluous and filled with resolve and happy endings. Something in Central Park in the spring, perhaps. An ending in which the characters find love and closure from the daunting feelings of loneliness and confusion from the first half of the film.

Oh, Charlie, what was I thinking? Instead, I spent over two hours filled with art imitating life, imitating life, imitating art, and on and on...

Do not get me wrong, the film is fantastic. It is moving and thought provoking and takes a toll on the mind trying to put everything in chronological order. Except, I do not think there is a chronological order. Similar to life, the time speeds up, slows down and then seems to go in reverse. There is revelation followed by confusion, followed by more confusion and less and less revelation. I couldn't cry. I thought I would. I tried to cry, but the tears never came. I was Caden, losing the use of my tear ducts. I think I could not cry because it felt so close to where I am, to cry would be to run from the theater, wailing. So I guess I should be grateful for the faulty tear ducts. I was able to stay seated until the last fade out. My head still hurts a little from following every nuance, every hyper-realistic sound effect, every repeated reference, ensuring continuity of every word spoken. To listen this carefully to one's own soundtrack is daunting. No wonder my head hurts.

Synecdoche, New York

Can You Hear Me?

Sometimes the universe forces one to reevaluate one's direction. It is hard to listen. It is hard to act. At times there is no other choice but to listen. I vow to listen. I vow to act. Wish me luck.