Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

grieving for Carol ~

Once again I am wishing I believed in an afterlife where I would reconnect with people who leave me too soon. Leave irredeemably. Permanently. That hard word forever. But I don’t.

Once again I wish I had had more time. More jokes. More stories shared. More of her. But I didn’t.

And once again, I am breathing. Breathing in for her husband, who was there with her to the end. Breathing out for her sister, who is the only one of 3 sisters left, now. Breathing in for her many friends, each of whom has lost someone rare & precious. Breathing one breath at a time, wishing words could save me.

Death is the ultimate rejection, I remember hearing once. I never see it like that. Too many moves as a child leave me looking, still, to see if I might bump into a familiar face. If someone is really just gone for a bit. Just around the corner, up ahead.Some fragment of my childhood clings to me still, and the sense of maybe? still hangs around.

But she isn’t coming back, the adult in me knows. And she had a very short, hard final year. I should be happy she isn’t suffering. Only a bit more than a year ago — not two — she was fine. Just a rasp in her voice. But as of last night? The voice that was stilled far too early by ALS is gone completely now. And I’m sitting here. Breathing. Remembering, once again, that grief has no logic…

time — that queen of bees — flies ~

If time were a bee, she would be the queen these days. At least for me. These days, she is slower than the frenzy of summer bees, storing up for winter. She is less hectic than early spring bees, tending the new hivelings.

And she’s altogether okay with just hanging out, eating honey. Time is done w/ the royal jelly thing now that she’s queen — that was then. Now? It’s all relative, this time thing.

There’s something incredibly freeing about retirement. Paradoxically, you don’t have to be a grown-up, now that you’re an elder. All those years when I worried I shouldn’t wear jeans? I wear them daily. The times I wore high heels (but not for decades…)? The briefcases and portfolios? Not any more! All that’s behind me.

I don’t have to get up early. Or go to bed so I can. I don’t have to blow-dry my hair, or match my socks! It’s great!

Now, like the queen, I can eat honey. I don’t anticipate any workers materialising, but that’s okay. What would I use them for? It’s enough to practice drawing birds at the breakfast table, having time for the epiphany of seeing the triangle shape in a mourning dove’s head-on gaze. I’m perfectly satisfied singing goofy songs to my dogs…So I’m not bringing in $$. So what? I’m certainly bringing in happy. :)

The other day, for instance, I was able to take off for a late lunch w/ my sister, sharing our plates w/ her runny-nosed three-year-old grandson. And having great fun while doing it. Another day, three of us had a conference call for a sister’s big birthday. And tomorrow? Who knows! That’s half the fun ~ I have no idea what might come.

There’s enough time I can squander it: sit on the deck in the late afternoon sun, make dinner instead of taking the Christmas tree down on time. I can read — both pieces of ‘literary merit’ and sheer schlock. (I happen to like schlock, just FYI.)

But it isn’t really ‘wasting’ time. What I find is that because I have this priceless commodity, I have the time to take time. Take time to listen to my grand-nephew tell his grandmother, in his inimitable 3-year-old dialect, that ‘you ahn‘t pwetty; you both aw gawjus.’

I can take time to do some things for free, like writing an article for a local social justice group. Or send out holiday cards this year.

Is any of this earth-shattering? Of course not. But it reminds me that each moment is priceless. And sometimes, it takes to understand that ~

 

Sofía the sparrow, Barney the blue jay, Fiona the finch, & others ~

One thing you learn when you draw birds: you’ve never reallyseen them previously. How different each one is. I thought I knew the birds on the deck — I can even distinguish a few from each other. But I recognise them by their behaviours, not how they look.

Now? I am seeing their differences… Their fat round winter-puffed bellies, the tilt of a head, the way a woodpecker darts at the birds to either side of her perch.  It reminds me, all over again, that nothing is simple. And everything is connected…

There’s one woodpecker I know by both behaviour and looks: it’s the young male from this spring. He’s not very bright — hence the ‘behaviour’ recognition. One of his favourite pursuits is pecking at the post the seed cylinder hangs from. (I told you he wasn’t too bright…) But he’s also less brightly coloured, even though a male. He has the tell-tale red blotch on the back of his head, but his black&white always looks a bit dull, as if he washed his clothes w/ something that faded grey onto them.

And there are fat sparrows (some may have done steroids!), lean sparrows, long-bellied sparrows and I haven’t even gotten to the blue jays, cardinals, finches, titmice…

There’s an entire family of cardinals, two seasons worth. Males & females & young males. I can even tell one of the young males from the others. The finches I’m still learning — they’re less individual and more a flock. :)

Each different. Each similar. And yes, I know I see metaphors everywhere. But it really does seem kind of like a Buddhist thing. You know what I mean?

words of encouragement ~

A woman I’ve never met made my day yesterday. Actually, she rescued from the the flu blues, as well as a bad case of the Eeyores (woe is me… life is sad…eat worms…). Not to mention a spiralling why do I bother?? mindset… And to repeat: I’ve never met her. Wouldn’t recognise her if she whacked me on the butt.

But she’s my new publisher, and deserves a huge round of applause. Her impact on me is proof positive that small gestures on our part can have large impact on others.

In the publishing business — especially poetry — much of the contact is done by email. I have actually met very few (two? three?) of the people who have published my work. But that’s true for much of my life these days — increasingly, it is online.

I spend hours daily on email, connecting through FaceBook or LinkedIn or Google+. There are people I think of as friends — not simply peers — whom I’ve never met: a lovely dog-lover & fellow teachers in Massachusetts, a dear retired professor in Mississippi, an artist & fossil expert in Ohio… Such is today’s network of friendships, the ersatz sangha I belong to. Nice people, friends of dear friends, with whom I’ve struck up ‘virtual’ — but real — friendships.

But my publisher doesn’t have to be nice to me — she already accepted my manuscript, and she could ignore me until there’s actual work to do. Instead, when I send her an email updating her on the progress of various manuscript submissions to this & that journal (bad…uniformly NOT GOOD), she sends me a cheerleader of a letter. Tongue firmly in cheeck, she reminds me that if this was easy, everyone would do it. And somehow that helps.

What helps even more is her belief in my work, which feels like a belief in me, the person. The sad-eyed Eeyore heart behind the brave shell of a writer. We’re such fragile, self-absorbed folks, writers. I’ve been known to tell a classroom of writers — of any age — that everyone in the room (myself included) believes that what they think & have to say MATTER, or they wouldn’t be writing it down! That asserted, it doesn’t mean anyone else will want to listen. Or that they won’t  (worst possible scenario!) LAUGH AT YOU! (Cue evil laughter…)

I happen to know that Sammy (my publisher) is always busy. Probably frantically busy, as most folks involved w/ writers are. She juggles a life (even writers are allowed one), her writers, the publishing biz, her own writing, interviews, advocacy… the list is long and literate. But she still found time, late the other evening, to write a new-to-her writer a note of encouragement. And she didn’t laugh once.

How many times daily could I make a difference? How many times might eye contact, a smile, a word of genuine thanks, a note of appreciation, smooth the wrinkles from a rumpled day? And how many times are we too busy to even notice, much less take the moments necessary?

Here’s to Sammy, and words of encouragement. I’m tearing a leaf from that book. And the words don’t even have to rhyme…

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