Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

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…

a ray of sun, a flat grey cat, and winter ~

Sophie the cat came to us about 10+ years ago. So she’s an elder cat — well-versed in the wiles of felines. She knows that when I’m sitting at the breakfast table, and the mid-day sun is slanting over the table, I won’t object to her laying on the table beside me. After all, the sun is warm on both of us, and a grey cat is greyt inspiration…:)

I sometimes wonder if it’s attachment to be so fond of the family animals. There are animals in my life — far far back — for whom I still grieve. A dog; a cat that didn’t even belong to me; another dog that didn’t, either… Their names and faces are fresh, like a beloved aunt’s.

Sophie isn’t a ‘life cat.’ She isn’t as amazing as the cat who lived w/ us courtesy of friends. Grabber seemed to know my every thought. And while she’s certainly as beautiful as (if not more than) any cat I’ve had, she’s pretty well-adjusted, as cats go. She doesn’t have any real idiosyncracies. Perhaps that’s enough to make her idiosyncratic…?

Because cats always come w/ baggage. Sophie is a rescue, a feral kitten born at the site of my son’s camp counseling job. He brought her home 10+ years ago, and she’s been with us since. Several years back, the neighbour behind us shot her; the pellet from what should have felled a racoon instead remains lodged in her flank. The vet told us it’s too dicey w/ cats to operate, since it doesn’t seem to do more than make her gimpy. She can still take a hummingbird down from mid-air, even at 10. Still, she is simply herself — a grey cat, sleeping in January sun.

Something there is, as Auden would say, about sitting in the lazy sun w/ a dozing cat. But I don’t think it’s attachment. It feels more like this moment, expanding outward like a warm golden field. Kind  of like a black hole in reverse…? At any rate — I wish I could send it to each of you. Because I’m pretty sure we need more of it this coming year ~

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