Monday, December 28, 2015
Our size or shape. Our infirmities. Our diagnoses. Our age.
Our income or material possessions.
Our pasts, our wounds, our disappointments.
Our previous unwise choices.
Among the usual suspects.
Over the hill.
THINGS WE ARE
Made of starstuff.
There are days when I honestly feel that the size of my feet may be a crime against humanity. Same for the way I seem to order (?) my life by piles, my tendency to procrastinate, the slow speed at which I move. I am not, you are not any of those things, regardless of the fact that they do exist. That is all they do, exist. They are not us.
There is a tendency among most humans to view our flaws (by our definition) as being, at best, only slightly less horrendous than a rip in the space/time continuum. We are fully capable of punishing ourselves for varying from an ideal. The parts of us that show carry most of the blame. Likely we have been struggling under those burdens for a lifetime.
What we are is capable of learning to love, with mad passion and without reservation, ourselves. It is no longer acceptable, not that it ever was but that didn't stop us, to go picking about with tweezers and dental probes among the moments and incarnations of our pasts to find the hurtful, humiliating, couldn't-you-just-die parts and feasting on them. They happened, they are not us, we are not them. Exposed to time and the elements, even granite turns to dust.
No matter what there has been, each morning delivers a new day. Each of those days carries us further from the past. It is so much harder to shine when we labor under our own imagined shadows.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
With one of her favorite holiday magazines beside her, should she need inspiration, Ambulancia sniggered and snorted at the photo of an impossibly lavish cracker, saying in her poshest voice, "Oh, Ree, did we include the Faberge eggs in the crackers this year? I may have forgotten them. We'll need to start over." Her sister answered, "Yep. Forgot them. I guess they'll wait for next year." Snigger, snort, heh heh. "A witty motto, plastic charm and, my favorite, the paper hat, will have to do. I love when we all have on our hats. Nobody thinks they're too silly to wear. We know the best sports, don't we?"
|NOT the sisters' Christmas cracker.|
"I feel a bit selfish," he told Ellington and Henri, who had joined them, "having the company of you guys while your parents have to be off in the Black Hole of Calcutta or some dismal place without you at Christmas. Lucky us, I wouldn't trade." His genuine kindness, his enthusiasm for having the fellows to balance all the female influences on every matter, always made the brothers feel they were as good as at home.
Turning off the lighted decorations, Mrs. Charpentier rounded up all the siblings, each carrying a small, paper-handled bag of presents to be dropped off. The first year their father asked if they needed a ride to their friends' houses, the girls clapped with delight. They also jumped, just a bit, and may have let out a shriek. Christmas was so much fun.
With the mysterious packages, some of which were exceedingly lumpy, patterned paper wrapped around the contents like a second skin, exchanged, following rather extended chats on front porches and some familiarly shrill exclamations, all were back in the car. It was officially Christmas eve, the sun had set and lighted trees filled front windows on every block. Following their tradition, they stopped to get hamburgers to eat en route while they rode through the evening, visiting their favorite neighborhoods, the ice cream family's mansion lit up brighter than a Hollywood premier, the towering deodar trees beneath which all cars drove with headlights off.
"I remember the first time I was able to fall asleep on Christmas eve," Mrs. Charpentier said. "I was so disappointed when I woke up. I felt as though I'd lost Christmas, I'd lost the child I had been. But I was wrong. She's still here," she laughed. "You girls and your father helped rescue her from having to be too grown up." She blew kisses toward them all. "Thank you," she said.
"Being able to fall asleep when it's Christmas," Sireena said, "I can't even imagine. How awful that must have been for you." Her mother nodded.
As they wound their way home, the children examined the presents they'd been given and thought of what they would do before going to bed as late as possible. One thing they loved to do and not just on Christmas eve was lie on the floor under the tree in the darkened room and look up through the branches at the lights and they way they were reflected by ornaments and tinsel. It seemed like a wishing place, a fairy place of pine scent and candles. There would be carols playing softly and everyone knew, not just believed but knew, that the best things were entirely possible.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
|Vintage Christmas ephemera.|
"The trappings of Christmas must be perfectly executed," Ambulancia declared to all within earshot, which included passers-by who looked up, startled, and quickened their steps. "I know perfection when I see it. I just can't say ahead of time what it will look like." This bit of last-minute holiday drama concerned traditional crackers presented to each guest atop their dinner plate at the Christmas table. While her mother suggested the manufacturer's decorations were quite festive and would disappoint no one, Ambulancia, joined in protest by her sister Sireena, insisted on what she referred to as "tarting them up" with trimmings that would render them extravagant works of art. Nothing less would do.
Once again, tulle became a material of choice, along with double-faced satin ribbons, gold German Dresden trims and ornaments, Victorian scrap images, sequins, glitter, cotton batting fruit and birds and additional bits of scissored crepe paper. Fortunately, the girls always created in their room, their atelier as they called it, so the already tidy parlor with its slightly strange but mostly wondrous tree would remain undisturbed.
As had been the case at Thanksgiving, Ellington and Henri's parents found it necessary to be "away" at Christmas, some muttered explanation about a distant, aging and slightly gaga relative or some precarious businss assignation in a wintery, remote locale which, they were sure, would cause the boys hardship. It was no hardship at all to stay over with their best friends for the entire vacation. They rolled up their sleeves and tested the glue guns for readiness.
Though it may have seemed to the untrained eye that the sisters procrastinated, plunging into last-minute flurries of holiday preparations in general, that was not the actual truth. They had made all their gifts weeks ago, wrapped them, helped decorate the house, baked, gone to the movies twice with the brothers and eaten lunch in a downtown coffee shop. They were not idle nor forgetful. it was simply that when Ambulancia opened the box of Christmas crackers, she felt her heart sink just a bit and could not bear to think of that happening to their guests. "Presentation," she exclaimed. "Delight the eye, create anticipation. Much of Christmas is anticipation. We will not disappoint."
To be concluded on Christmas Eve.
Monday, December 21, 2015
|Angel by Anatoly Timoshkin.|
Aglow with an inner light, achieved in paintings with great skill. Achievable in life by finding a brave and gentle and loving path through whatever a day holds. A lifetime's work and no easy task.
In a recent dream, most of which is forgotten, a long-time friend referred to me as luminous. I could think of no compliment I would treasure more. Aspirations of luminosity.
To be the beam that reaches darkest corners, to be a source of warmth for any spirit too long in the cold, to illuminate, to brighten, to carry or be the lantern so that others aren't left behind, that is what this Timoshkin angel suggests. Serenity, contemplation, knowing. This week brings the year's longest night, when we all might wish winter on its way. It brings memories of childhood Christmases when, as now, the lights were what I loved most.
May we continue to fan the flames in each other and ourselves, keep the fires lit against all that would have us fearful and lost. Especially together we are so much greater than the dark.
Monday, December 14, 2015
|Gustavo Aimar illustration.|
Waters for which there are no charts, roads without signposts, sealed rooms, locked chests, diaries written in invisible ink, we, like the Tardis, are much bigger inside than we appear. We are stewards of realms real and imagined, explorers for the ages, inventors, students. What I know to be true for me is that I make it up as I go along. How could I do it otherwise when each moment brings new possibilities? I gobble up information, ideas, images and offer them a home within. We are capacious creatures, our castles of self containing too many rooms to count. For whatever knowledge we seek or skill we wish to master, there is space. We cannot outgrow a curious mind, a questing spirit.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Monday, December 7, 2015
|A bride's red shoes.|
|Red platform shoes from the 1940s.|
|This was the indicated link.|
As I've mentioned before, I don't feel that making other people hear about our dreams would qualify as good manners. Therefore I won't tax you with the dream narrative, other than to say a friend took a group of us to a hodgepodge of a book store and before any of us could leave we each had to buy at least one pair of red shoes.
Even if only in theory, no longer so much in practical life, I have an abiding love for red shoes. In a happiness hierarchy for manufactured objects, they might top the list.
I can only guess at the workings of the mind when suddenly overloaded with information impossible to digest, to process. What I can say is that the past week brought (as of this writing) two nights of dream movies that warmed and gladdened me, that restored balance when we'd all been tipped overboard, that gave me what felt like real time spent with a friend I see too seldom. In addition, I was offered the delight of red shoes, tucked under counters all over the dream shop, the Easter egg hunt-style search for the right pair or two, an enormous squash that held pages to a mysterious manuscript and the fact that I was, as I always am in my dreams, younger, stronger and much more able-bodied.
What I assume is this, based on no scientific evidence at all: rather than shut down in a state of no-thought, my mind, and possibly yours, took me by the hand on a Lewis Carroll adventure to places where the nonsensical made sense. It took me to spend time with favorite people and things, safe places, sunny or happy or curious places for which I was absolutely present. If there is some over-arching order to our lives, my sleeping mind drove the getaway car that rescued me from the latest unthinkable events and delivered me to a version of home, home for the heart where I wasn't teetering but steady, from which I could step in the day not fearful but comforted. Wearing new red shoes.
Monday, November 30, 2015
(Truth in advertising: this is a reworked vintage post. I was 10 minutes from deadline and, well, there it is.)
Henry David Thoreau said, "Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." For today, perhaps many days, that is part of my story. Disquieting news arrived from more than one direction and, even though I feel I've found my way through part of it, bits of me have wandered off.
When lost, panic is pointless. What serves us is a version of treading water, staying in place, yet not idle. And companions, as they might be called, such as flat tin boxes of watercolors or polychromos (is it not a graceful word?) pencils. As I became lost while going about my life in my own home, I, in the only true preparedness I can claim, had emergency supplies on hand, including, in no particular order: a blank envelope, a pencil, a very fine-line waterproof pen, scissors, a glue stick, a sheet of white card stock, a Prismacolor Sunburst Yellow pencil, something red, glitter, color photocopies, paper for drawing, a good eraser, a rainbow ink pad, alphabet stamps. Bottled water and dark chocolate are also recommended to keep one company for the duration.
If there is a trick to what Thoreau described, it is to be lost long enough for awareness to sidle over and sit down, let us get caught up in its story and realize that lost is not who we thought it to be.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
|Ellington confronts the turkey, with thanks here.|
From their existing and not insubstantial stash of new and salvaged crepe paper, the girls made nut cups for all the dinner guests, an assembly that included but was not limited to one grandmother, two honorary uncles who baked the best pies, an older cousin who made them all laugh and first-time visitors their father invited for "it seemed the thing to do." It was a tradition with him. Some came back, year after year, while others appeared only once. Regardless, they were always a perfect match for the party and the girls loved every exotic, aromatic and/or glittering facet of them. Away from the holiday season, they often exchanged postcards, for which the girls insisted on using fountain pens.
|An Ambulancia/Sireena holiday nut cup. Source.|
Monday, November 23, 2015
|Pete, the fastest one-man band.|
No matter how small the acreage of our fiefdom, we are required to be, among other things, the chief financial officer, social director, tech guy, scheduling secretary, chef, animal wrangler, medical intuitive, boundary-setting parent and guru. And that is if we are only answerable to and responsible for ourselves. Increase the population and the list of jobs we must fill balloons to the size of a lesser moon. We tend to forget that we do, in fact, do it all.
On newspapers in the old days a reporter who took his or her own photos was called a combo man, a title I can claim for the occasional feature I sought out on a whim, no time to schedule a photographer. Nothing quite like a bright Saturday morning, a classified ads list of garage sales and my husband's Pentax on its rainbow strap around my neck. We have all worn many hats.
What necessary life positions do you fill on a daily or less frequent basis? What is required of you, or do you require of yourself, to keep the wheels turning? Imagine the length of our CVs as we might apply to be the captains of our own fates, if we did not already claim those titles.
Friday, November 20, 2015
|Gloria Swanson, because this image is articulate beyond words.|
“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”
― Tom Robbins
There are moments, more would be welcome, when we see or think we see behind, beyond the veil. Generally no more than glimmers that feel like visual intuition, I experienced such a moment this week, the fleeting sight of how things are, how they may be in the future. Not solid enough to allow description, the aperture opens and closes leaving behind a knowing, a confirmation, an almost-missed nod of assent that what one seeks is possible, perhaps even at hand. Surely I am not the only one who is aware of this.
It may be the result of a current meditation course. Some of the old caulking was loosened and things began slipping through the cracks. It was an enlightenment I wanted to grab quickly and firmly with both hands. It could not be held.
I've met the non-ordinary before, we are not strangers. Listening to a program excerpt by shamanic teacher Robert Moss on active dreaming, he said, "The world around us will speak to us in signs and symbols...everything is alive...find extraordinary messages in ordinary things."
I think we all possess magic. I believe we are dulled, bludgeoned, by simply trying to keep up with the everydayness of our lives, let alone the monstrous events that slide between us and the sun. How not to be pulled even further from center, how not to react but to remain grounded, even hopeful no matter what, there's the task. Perhaps it is to keep us going that we are allowed the rare peek beneath the circus tent. The acrobats! The aerialists! Derring-do without a net! We ARE made of the same stuff as they, aren't we? Or did we lose the talismans tucked into our palms and pockets before we were propelled earthward? Existence can be a weighty business. We need to believe that nooks of impossible lightness, of goodness, remain, exist, that we have not spent all our tokens, worn the good off all our charms.
These chance sightings of sudden radiance are not corner-of-the-eye manifestations, the sort too-easily dismissed as imagined. They are real and looking us in the eye, just not for long. If the soul keeps a journal, I register them there, do my best to digest what nourishment they bring. I think upon them, then think some more. Mostly I trust, I believe. I do not plan to stop.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Adjustments and revisions
Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. ~Faith Baldwin
The ability to change our minds has to be one of the great gifts of being assigned life in human form. There is no rule or requirement that we continue to be who we were yesterday. If we can't change our spots, we can alter the way in which we judge them.
Revisions, adjustments, reconsiderations and about-faces are not signs of uncertainty but of awareness. I know discomfort is quantifiable and our wish to escape it, universal. Nothing else works quite as well as doing something - or everything - differently.
Think of these words as a kiss on the forehead, a blessing to go forward with a growing suspicion that not all of this is engraved on non-returnable marble. We are allowed, without being fined for littering, to leave ill-fitting notions, opinions, by the side of the road. Many of them will reappear to haunt and hector when we are vulnerable, but their visits will grown less frequent, their forms less substantial.
It may be foolishness taken to the extreme, but I have grown to believe that life, and our untidy, idiosyncratic ways of living it, are not meant to be sources of chronic disappointment. Whether we find happiness because of or in spite of our circumstances, a measure of peace and optimism is the goal.
Regardless of what you've heard or where you heard it, there is no such thing as too old to change. A feeble excuse at best, I can no longer even sell it to myself.
Monday, November 16, 2015
|House and Garden magazine, December 1969.|
|Inside H&G, Dec., 1969, a Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas. One of her collages on the wall above. Source.|
Once upon a time I had a well-traveled, frequently-moved stash of December issues of all the house lovely magazines of the day. Decorations, recipes, wrapping, homemade gifts. Revisiting them each year was a source of inspiration and comfort. I'd collected them since the end of the 1960s, through the 70s and into 80s. Each year around this time, I'd pull out the stack and wander through them, one by one.
As I write this on Saturday, November 14, I recall how life's harder moments were softened by the sight of Christmas lights, thoughts of package wrapping to come, extravagantly decorated cookies that reminded me of those my mother created when my brother, sister and I were young children. It was the early 1950s and, until Martha Steward introduced us to the art, perhaps in this century, I'd never seen anyone but our mom paint frosting on cookies. A woman ahead of her time.
Too many changes of residence, not really so many in the larger picture but enough that shifting stuff from place to place lost its luster. and one November day I realized that my mood-lifting magazines weren't with me. Earlier this year, an artist friend wrote to tell me she'd found on ebay a copy of the now-fabled and rare House and Garden December 1969 issue with the Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas and how it was all that she remembered before her copy had gone missing. Trust me when I tell you these are photos we would all look at through magnifying glasses, wanting to capture each shy figure or nuanced grouping. I was delighted for her and I wish there had been two copies.
I enjoy Christmas most by looking backward, at my own celebrations and those of others. I still harbor dreams of stumbling into the shuttered shop or flea market booth where all manner of extinct gift wrap nestles in dusty cellophane, for sale at its original price. When our hearts ache for any reason, we know instantly what will ease that sadness. Mary Engelbreit and Martha Stewart, with their ribbons and color are perfect companions for me today, offering a place on their pages where all is merry and bright. No more news, maybe fewer tears. I do not believe it is shallow to find solace in beauty and memories of joy. I believe those things exist exactly for that purpose.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Angelou, Basquiat and fear
|Illustration by Jean-Michel Basquiat.|
I want a magic charm to keep up my sleeve. I want rows of charms, worn bandolier-style like a Girl Scout sash with amulets in place of badges. I want pockets for my ammunition in case life breaks out in forms too unexpectedly unwelcome.
Blog writers whom I follow as consistently as I can, which could be defined at the present as not very, confront daily events that would leave me shell-shocked, immobilized. "Don't compare pain" is advice carried from various recovery group sessions. Still. Most of us are given circumstances that we are expected to endure, for it is not within our power to change them. Once the whimpering, in my case, stops, comes time for the winnowing. How can I see this (or these) differently, what CAN I change, is there peace to be found within discouragement, certainly within multiple imperfections?
Definitions can be adjusted, the word imperfect changed to read ideal. How much are we handed that is ideal? Life is a make-do business. Mostly. Am I frightened or am I resistant? They are not the same. Am I capable of evolving, of becoming the flexible, adaptable creature that survives growing older with optimism and good humor? Can I believe in myself and my work when connections to the numinous suddenly feel thin and fragile?
Certainty would be a fine thing, certainty of the good outcome, unfailing trust in resilience and the transcending of all which is irksome or unsettling, guarantees of safety, of wisdom, of ability. Wish for the moon, then go back and read the contract. The word guarantee does not appear.
When I feel, because of orbiting planets or undulating chemistry, that I am flimsy and vulnerable, fear starts to wriggle in under the tent or over the transom. I forget that I am both wave and particle, solid and gas, earth and sky. I become foggy and forget the only thing we can count on is change. I lose the grasp on my gifts, that I am one among the great shape shifters, the mind changers, the course adjusters. I am most frightened when I fail to remember who I am.