Why is it we celebrate the ten's place, the decades, the 20's, the 30's, the 40's, etc., as remarkable? The eras of our lives squished between twenty and thirty, forty and fifty. A ten year span. Our 20th birthday. Turning 30. Hitting 40. Over the Hill at 50. Passing 60. Reaching 70.
What about all the minutes of each hour, hours before lunch, life after noon, dinner with friends, the sunset, the twilight, the pulling back of sheets and fluffing up the pillows. The kiss on the cheek, the book on the nightstand, the car lights in the driveway, the darkened room filled with tossing and turning to settle to sleep.
These minutes, hours, days and weeks sandwiched between the bookends of 20 and 30, 30 and 40, 40 and 50...matter.
This is living. A living daily planner. The pages of your life. They deserve your attention. Don't leapfrog over them on your way to someplace else.
Consideration. Your days deserve consideration. May I suggest a recap of today's news. In the quiet of the mind, resting on a pillow, tucked into bed, take a moment to review your day. A cool drink of water from the glass beside your bed.
What you ate for breakfast. The soap in your eyes in the shower. The pants, the sweater, the shoes you chose. The time on the microwave as you closed the door on your way out. The bike, the bus, the car ride down the dirt road, the gravel, the highway. The traffic. The people you passed along the way. The music on the radio. A day you sang along or a day of deadlines straight ahead.
The smell of the coffee in your cup. Did you sit and savor or grab it on the run? The first class or meeting or customer or face that you greeted with a smile or a grimace. Are your hands swinging at your sides, or clenched tight into fists buried in your pockets? The growl of your stomach mid-morning. The crick in your neck or the ache in your back. Shifting in your seat or shuffling your feet, rolling up your sleeves, tugging at the hem of your dress. Glad to be exactly where you are or wishing you could be anywhere else?
Your sack lunch or drive thru take out or skipping lunch entirely. Your phone messages, your sent mail, your In Box and Outgoing. A sense of accomplishment crossing out an item at the top of your list or adding one more at the bottom. The satisfaction of a job well done or frustration that nothing ever gets done.
There is a mindfulness practice for this. I tried it.
As you walk through the day, consciously describe out loud, exactly what you are doing. As in, I am sitting on a stool in the kitchen peeling a navel orange into eight sections, picking off the pulp and throwing it away. I am biting into the fruit and the juice is running down my chin. I rub my cheek with the back of my hand.
About two seconds after I wiped the juice off my face, and rinsed my sticky hands in the kitchen sink, I rather crabbily stated out loud that...
AT THIS RATE I WILL NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE!!!!
So I tried one more time at mind-full-ness.
I did an exercise to build memory cells in the brain. To exercise the brain cells that remain, and to possibly engage the old creaky cells into greater flexibility. Mental aerobics. Cerebrum sit-ups. For this exercise, you must name everything you see as you walk through your day. For example, table, chair, lamp, painting, garbage can, dish and plate and spoon.
Let's just say that the dish ran away with the spoon...while I struggled with a serious case of brain freeze. Try it. All those everyday items lack labels when you must say them in rapid fire succession in an instant. You know that lovely little rotating rainbow pinwheel that spins on your computer screen?
That was me. Spinning out if control. Not only mindful but full of mind.
So mindful of the couch and the light switch that I walked into the...the...oh yes...the wall.
As I age, I can recall the tiniest details of my past, but the present occasionally escapes me. And as I age, I am more miserly with my time, and i DO like to rest with it.
I was sincere, back there at the beginning. There is comfort, in taking the time, at the end of the day, in a quieted mind, to recall where I go, who I meet, what I do and don't, what I am sorry for and that for which I am blessed.
I am blessed to empty my mind, at the end of another day, and to fill up my heart with that simple gift of...
Just one more.
The dish is right there next to the spoon in the drawer...
by the..by the...
...or you can just keep your utensils nailed down in a safe place...
...and leave your mind free to wander...
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
There are no showers for you. No special clothes to distinguish the responsibility you carry. No one opening doors, offering you their seat on the bus, or hefting your packages to the car.
You have chores. A room to paint. Furniture to buy. Shelves to put up. Tasks and errands and lists.
You are the lighthouse. The night light.
The steady beam that keeps everything running smoothly and soothingly as you ride the mood swings and feed the cravings and you feel the earth begin to tremble underneath your feet.
At first, you simply play the part. Act as if you know. Try to comprehend. Well meaning friends warn of life changes ahead and you nod and smile on cue. The truth of it all lies only in the light in her eyes.
Then, one night, one lazy ordinary night, stretched out on the sofa in front of the TV, she places your hand across her stomach and waits. Under your hand, your baby moves. Your. Baby. Moves.
You move too. Closer to the secret, yet a mystery at best.
The pace quickens. You start to think of how your life will change and what you will need, and what you will miss, and what you may never have again. So you adjust. You shift in your seat. You narrow your focus. But your eyes never leave her face, as she is your travel guide for this part of the journey, and she is pointing the way.
You hear the heartbeat. You attend the classes. You study the ultrasound. You put a name to the blurry little face. Yet it all seems slightly out of reach.
As the final weeks approach, she stands in front of the mirror, the outline of her rounded belly before you, and for the first time, you believe. That this part you have played, these steps you have taken together, will lead to your son. Your little boy.
The child within you, the one that never leaves, smiles.
You ready your heart.
To make room.
Hold and cuddle and be tender together in these precious moments before you must learn to share in the sandbox all over again.
There are no special celebrations for the father-to-be.
Just goofy T-shirts and elbow nudges and dumber jokes.
But I promise you, that as night follows day, the gift you are about to receive, and the love you are about to give, will come when you hold him in your arms, and say, for the very first time, face-to-face...
I'm your Dad.
Your first Father's Day is straight ahead.
...Just before eyes closed and the coming of sleep...
...on the journey from HERE to THERE...
Chapter 4: A Left Turn On Main
Thursday, April 11, 2013
I was channel surfing and landed ten minutes into a movie on HBO, "Being Flynn". The page synopsis: Based on a true story of the life of writer Nick Flynn. We met, Nick and I, as he stood behind the barred window in the intake area of a homeless shelter. A dreary scene, and I looked away, eager to shut it out, but the narration pulled me back in. The story is dense, dark and demanding of your attention. It is not easy on the eye, nor restful to the psyche. It is, however, powerful and straightforward. The cratered journey of a young writer, struggling to find his voice, amid the chaos of a family shattered and spent. Putting his first words to paper, an unfinished manuscript, read too soon, thus misread, and the guilt and responsibility of a loss that was not his to bear. Guilt that would shadow him, inflicted by another writer, his own father.
While the closing credits rolled, I flipped open my computer to Google Nick Flynn. An interview with the writer and the director outlining the genesis and exodus from real life to cinema. The author, Nick Flynn, outlined his atlas, his map to his written word, from one poem to a book of poetry to his novel, to the film and his subsequent work, The Reenactments: A Memoir, which includes his commentary on another father and son, Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, the designers of an exhibit in the Museum of Natural History at Harvard University. Fifty decades of life's work dedicated to perfect reproductions of flowers, ferns, flora...in glass.
My next search, the Botanical Gardens, Museum Of Natural History at Harvard and what appeared...the images, the "glass flowers". I do not have the words to describe them. They describe themselves. (Google Search: The Glass Flowers Images)
It is difficult to imagine two men so focused and obsessed with perfection. Flowers and foliage frozen in time. Every detail researched and delicately reproduced. Fossilized in glass. Like footprints or insects, locked in amber. They accomplished the extraordinary. They overlooked the ordinary. Air and Time.
Museums maintain obsessively perfectly controlled atmospheres to house ancient artifacts. Without this control, fluctuating air temperatures, humidity, chemicals and pollutants slowly devour what safekeeping has preserved.
The Glass Flowers are crumbling. An effort is being made to limit the damage, but once the process begins, it is impossible to reverse.
I think this must be true for anything we try to fix forever in permanence. For the writer, Mr. Flynn, his memories, his very real life, is now preserved on film. But the truth of it is, he has moved beyond it, to a different place, and as in most film making, the story is amended to make it more satisfying to the audience. What is vastly more important is the story we tell to ourselves, with the kindness of forgiveness and the knowledge that everything changes, no matter what we do.
The Glass Flowers and "Being Flynn" are works of art. But Nick Flynn, Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, you and I, are works of life. Extraordinary and mindful that what separates us from permanence is every breath we take.
What does connect us are the stories and the intersection of our lives unbeknownst one to the other. That I would meet Nick Flynn by way of his life story on HBO, because of a headache and a handful of remote, and that my searching for Mr. Flynn would lead me to his book, The Reenactment: A Memoir, to Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, the wonder of the Glass Flowers housed in the Museum of Natural History at Harvard University, takes me full circle to a day when I walked beside my son, on our way to his wedding in Harvard Church, the Museum nearby.
The fact that Nick Flynn writes at all, is testament to his need to write, as natural as his need to breathe.
The Glass Flowers are a testament to a true love and devotion to detail, but the living garden is as natural as our need to breathe and a less desperate effort to hold onto what does not and never will belong to anyone.
Just about the time I think I am in control of all I survey, I take a deep breath and am very glad that in truth, I am not. Life will and should be, full of surprises and unexpected guests.
I have a butterfly encased in glass on a shelf in my studio. I love to hold it close and to marvel at the intricate patterns on its wings.
But I have to admit, that seeing a Monarch, perched on the edge of the yellow columbine in my garden, in the early morning light, stirs a deeper feeling in me.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Name that tune.
What song would you pick for your opening number?
For the day you were born?
A song to keep as your permanent ring tone.
Something to hum each year on your birthday.
I know what I'd pick.
by Robert Palmer
And at the end, as a closing statement,
a final bow, an epic epitaph, a musical montage?
The inimitable Sir Elton John...
...from the Peachtree Road Album...
"Answer In the Sky"
I am after all the author of...
The Yard Yetis-A Gardeners Tale...
...about to walk bravely through the tall grass...