Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

poetry 2

photo via google

I’ve been working on a book manuscript for ages. Recently, however, it’s taken on immediacy, as I want to get it in the mail today. There’s one rather large problem: no title.

Yep, I haven’t a clue what to call this labour of love, craft, frustration and confusion.

So I did what any artist these days can: I crowd-sourced. There are some of the best of poets on my FB, so I sent ’em a message, and asked for input on the titles I’m considering.

What did we do before technology? When people moved in wagons — or even trucks — half-way across the country? How did we feel connected? Letters — as I mentioned before — are wonderful. But they take time. And telephone calls are clunky when there are more than 2-3 folks.

photo via google

photo via google

My friends are all over the place, of course: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri. On vacation here & there, too. And all over the place for titles, as well — only quasi-agreement. But that’s useful too.

What I’m learning as I study beginner’s heart is that even ‘no’ — or a negative of some sort — is helpful; it’s informational. Response of any kind provides clues to what I think/ want/ should do. My husband says to imagine how you would feel if you didn’t have to do something, or if you did. That’s a similar kind of clue.

Hence the crowd-sourcing. My wonderful writer friends confirmed that some of the titles I considered were clunky. Or too ‘poetic’ (the kiss of death for real poets, I assure you). And since they’re all reasonably familiar w/ my work, they had other suggestions, all helpful.

A very dear old friend — gifted in her own write — contributed several useful insights. And it’s all going to require time to digest… In other words? The MS probably won’t get out the door today, after all.

And that’s just fine. The whole point to consulting a crowd is to get lots of opinions. Now I just have to figure out how best to use them. A task best accomplished by applying seat to chair. 🙂

photo the author's

photo the author’s

I’m huge on writing, as you know if you’ve read almost any blog post of mine. What you might realise, however, is that I’m huge on letter-writing, as well. In fact, I actually bought a life-time membership to the Letter Writers Alliance. Which then sent me a darling membership card, now pinned onto my bulletin board.

So recently, when my aunt posted that she thought of me when she read a James Baldwin story, recently, I sent her a card. Just a note saying that it really touched me that she took the time to post the comment(I’d posted a shout-out on Baldwin’s birthday, the 2nd of August).

Her one-minute comment prompted my 10-minute note, complete w/ pretty card (she so deserves one!), my bee seal w/ my name & address, and a flower stamp. And pretty washi tape (with birds — sooo Portlandia!) to secure it all.

And that prompted a half-hour phone call yesterday, from her to me, where we just reconnected.

As she notes, we see each other a couple of times a year, at least. But there are always her 3 daughters, often my 3 sisters, my niece(s), her granddaughters… It’s a crowd, and far too happily crazy for us to talk about old times.CarolDeborah

My aunt Carol is the closest I have to an older sister. As a baby, I lived w/ my mother, my grandmother, and Carol while my father was in Korea. Carol is one of my first memories, up there w/ my mother and Grandma. The picture is taken at Grandma’s, when I was about a year old.

When I was little older, I was in her wedding as a flower girl. From then on, I was at her house, visiting my Uncle Jim’s family — his mother was like a 4th grandmother to me (along w/ my own two grandmothers and my great-aunt Bonnie). Sometimes I would stay for more than a week. She would load up on colouring books & crayons — new ones, each time! — and I would sit happily in the floor, colouring away.

My other aunt (I’m fortunate to have TWO wonderful living aunts!) is also very dear to me, but as I hit my tweens and teens, I spent a great deal of time w/ my aunt Carol. It was Carol who taught me make-up, baby-doll pjs (her hand-me-downs made me feel absolutely elegant), the lotions and potions so many American girls still love. Music (although I never quite caught her fondness for Elvis…), books, just about everything.

Carol & DeborahWhat I didn’t want to talk about w/ my mother I could take to Carol. She’d listen. And as her own three daughters grew, I would babysit them as she had me, although I’m pretty sure I was neither as patient nor as loveable! Years later, one came to me for help w/ college. Another exchanged info on doctors. And each time, I would be grateful I could give to her children the way she so often gave to me.

This is a convoluted way of saying: small actions bring HUGE dividends, folks. I had noooo idea, when I posted my Happy Birthday, James Baldwin to FB that this blog would result. But here’s the deal: it was also the tiny amount of time it took to send a card, stick a stamp on it. Let someone I love dearly know that I often think of her.

Take that moment. I can’t tell you how grateful you’ll be that you did.

 

 

 

Old friends….what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph

I spent today w/ old friends, one of them the closest I come to a brother from another mother. 🙂  His wonderful wife — someone I would love for herself, even if she didn’t love G — and their three funny, smart, imaginative daughters. And I remembered once again how nice it is to have  history — the right kind! — with folks.

I’ve known G for more than 40 years. He introduced me to my husband. I set him up with each of my sisters. We even tried to fix our (divorced) parents up! Finally, we gave up, realising that we are as close as brother & sister without someone getting married. His wife is a dear friend in her own right, as I said, and their three girls are great fun to visit with. We go waaaay back.

2012 four sisters

photo the author’s

Lately I have given a great deal of thought to friendship, the family we make for ourselves. Because that’s how I think of my dearest friends, as family I have chosen. Who have accepted that choosing, and chosen me back.

Certainly I have family who are dear friends, and I don’t take that — or them — for granted. My nieces & nephews phone/ email/ FB regularly, and I talk to my sisters frequently.  I have a couple of cousins I hear from, as well. People I can talk books, music, politics with (that’s not everyone, believe me!). And of course my sons, my  DIL, my beloved. All of these are friends, as well as relations. We too have history.

Philbrooks_-_Loggia_-_Garten_5

Philbrook loggia ~ commons, wikimedia

But my history with my friends is freely given, freely written. No one drove me to my BFF’s, as we learned how to share, how to listen, how to negotiate those first fragile months of becoming friends. No one’s mother told G to ‘be nice!’ to the new kid at school (I met him my first summer at TU).

Tomorrow, I’ll see G, his wife A, and the three girls again. We’re going to brunch at a much-loved local museum, where they’re having a Monet exhibit (an artist I love). The girls will insist that we walk the gardens (hurray!). Later, G & A & my husband & I will exchange the looks old friends share when their young ones have fun. Mostly, we’ll remember when we were younger, crazier, and be glad we’re all still together.

It may be one of the best things about learning beginner’s heart, this recognition of how important all the faces of love are. And that history makes that the richer.

 

photo the author's

photo the author’s

In my dream last night, my mother was– once again — as she was when she was ‘herself.’ For those of us who suffer the horrors of Alzheimer’s, this is no small feat. It was years after my  mother’s death before I saw her as this picture shows her, and not as a skeletal shadow, silent in a bed far too large for her.

I don’t dream about my parents — or any of my much-missed departed — very often. But last night, my mother & I were at a dear friend’s house in Hawai’i, and my mother was her once-upon-a-time ebullient self, charmed by bright flowers and umbrella drinks. And my friend J’s 2-bedroom villa w/ lanai, surrounded by papaya and orange and lemon trees, somehow became a huge mansion, w/ suites for many visitors. Each room filled w/ people I know and love, almost none of them family.

2013-04-23 10.00.58

photo the author’s

I met my friend J through her daughter, one of my dearest friends. I’m actually smack dab between them — about 15 years up/down from each. So I don’t think of J as a mother figure. I do think of her home, however, as one of those rare places where I was immediately comfortable, and didn’t worry EVER about ‘being myself.’ And yes, you heard correctly: I ‘t feel that way only very rarely. And almost always only w/ family.

Digression: I believe in dreams. Whether you think they come from some ‘source’ (in which case my family would call them visions), or from deep inside our own complex knowings, I believe they speak truth to us. So when I woke up, recalling that my mother, in this dream, looked just like me when she turned away, I wondered what I needed to learn.

I know I’m at risk for Alzheimer’s. All four of us — my three sisters and I — live an uneasy truce w/ this knowledge. I’ve told my husband & sons my wishes should I progress badly, as my mother did.

That didn’t seem to be the root of this dream. I am a lot like my mother, and I don’t always acknowledge this. As with even the best of mother/daughter relationships (and ours was very very good), there are aspects of my mother I really don’t want to replicate. So some of my dream is acceptance of my own flightiness, my love of frivolous material objects (tea sets, charm bracelets, nice linens…). My dislike of confrontations, my silliness w/ children & animals.

via google

via google

But what about Hawai’i? And J? And my friend S, her daughter? What about the big house on the small island? What’s the point I’m supposed to get??

Dreams don’t speak linear logic. They have a language best listened to when you’re half asleep, obviously. So I’m trying to feel my way back to the centre of my dream, like Hansel &  Gretel following white stones in the dark. Feeling their way home.

And what I think is this: when I woke up, I missed my mother. Desperately. Because your mother will always love you. She’s loved you through diapers, through bad report cards, through teenage and bad choices and her own decline. Even at the end (and maybe after…?), she loves you. And your politics —  that in my case are so tightly wound through every thread of my beliefs — are fine w/ her. As they are w/ J & S, who loved me before I even knew it.

The other people in the house? The same. And that’s saying a LOT, because it was a big-ass house! 🙂

Seriously — I think my dream may well have been that simple. I miss my mother. Often. Because she loved me. And we all need that. Even grown-up grandmothers, whose own kids make fun of her deep love of them.

If you still have even a tiny shadow of your mother, grab her. Wrap your arms around her and inhale her, the way we do babies. She won’t last forever. But the love will.

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