Monday, January 30, 2017
My maternal grandmother was a battlefield nurse in World War I. When, in her 60s, she became ill she was admitted to the Veteran's Hospital in West Los Angeles. Long before freeways went from Pasadena to those far reaches, my father drove our family over one night a week so my mother and I could visit her. Dressed in my Easter suit, I passed for the minimum age allowed to call on patients. On one of our visits, she was not in her bed nor anywhere to be found around the ward. No once could tell us where she might be. We were apprehensive, as she was nearly blind and had recently lost a leg to diabetes. We waited beside her bed as they screened a movie for the women. I think it was something with Elvis Presley.
Eventually an attendant wheeled her back and I'm sure we hissed our questions at her, trying not to talk over the movie. Where have you been? We were so worried. Etc. Her calm response was, "I've been out cheering up the sick people."
I think of her often, as I knew her and as the young Gertrude Holden of Boston, sailing to France after graduating nursing school at what was then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. In addition to "cheering up the sick people," she was known to have said on numerous occasions, "It isn't Boston but it IS Massachusetts," both of which I have borrowed and quoted all my adult life, probably to the annoyance of those who have listened to me the most.
The thought of her, of her ability to find something of value in what to many of us would seem worthless, the model she was that told me no matter what, if we draw breath we have something to offer others, helps me at times when I begin to sag or doubt. If we are without words, we can listen. We can offer a hand to hold. We can refuse to be discouraged. We can whistle, we can sing, we can be very clear about what matters most, about what is our truth.
I know that hospital ward, which once felt so cavernous, which I would swear reached into distant and shadowy corners on our night visits, would no longer appear so large. I remember the relief my mom and I felt as we caught sight of her, seeming to return again from the battlefields, from very far away, her face, her spirit beaming. I hope some of her lives on in me.
Monday, January 23, 2017
|Art by Rebecca Dautremer.|
|Rebecca Dautremer illustration, JULES VERNE, 2016.|
Multiple decades of living have schooled me. They have enlightened and confused and guided me, taught me to recognize the urgings from which my truth emerges. I have learned, I continue to learn, to attend my soul's guidance.
My mother once told me that when I tried to lie I lit up like a tilt sign. While I knew in the moment she intended to discourage further attempts at dishonesty, I also believed her. While the blaring of a flashing tilt sign may be more internal now than it was then, it is no less present, certainly no less emphatic.
While we find companionship and support in numbers, in reality we always ride alone. In certain respects each of us is an army of one, directed on a unique assignment. Adhering to my own truth while legions would have me join and follow can be isolating. Worse, it may cause me to doubt what I have come to know as my path. It seems part of what we are here to be is misunderstood, for it is impossible, not to mention onerous, trying to explain a state so clear when viewed within and so limp and inadequate-appearing when held to the light of day and critical eyes. We want those who care for us to understand, to trust our self-knowing, realizing they may not.
What any of us is best equipped to do is be ourself. To be that we must first know just what that means. Arriving at that information is a lengthy, possibly lifelong process. Such awareness is hard-won, its value unquestionable. We navigate our days amid the noise of many voices. Know the one that speaks to and for you with the greatest honesty and attend to that.
Monday, January 16, 2017
While I often label color as a nutrient, I know beyond doubt that sunshine actually is. A vitamin D deficiency smartens one up rather quickly to the fact that a human body needs the light of the sun. In my world that leaves color the task of being sunshine for the spirit.
It is not alone in its assignment, for I corral it with its fellows, including beauty by multiple definitions, swiftly running rivers, things that smell wonderful, the love of and for friends and family, silliness, kindness, insight and intelligence, artfully arranged words. Oh, such a long list. For the spirit to be underfed requires cataclysm of epic proportions.
I have long believed that any garment ought to have pockets and to be without them is a failure of aesthetics and duty. In those pockets one can keep and transport the necessary charms, talismans, symbols of spiritual sunshine, available like smelling salts when weariness gains the upper hand.
We have never truly known where the next step of our journey will take us. That we don't know today only suggests there may be additional reasons for gathering to us more closely that which brightens and enlivens, that which lifts our hearts. Vitality fuels our imaginations, empowers and strengthens. The world needs us, needs our spirits, inspired, nourished, hopeful and strong. The world needs, we need, our sunshine.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
|Page header and cover of a French ledger received for Christmas. Today is Saint Agathon's Day.|
I believe January is one of those hybrids, both month and state of mind. As I age, I find that I am happier with more hours of sunlight, more warmth. While I expect that, come August, I will be displeased with temperatures above 105, there is more day to the days. Winter nights, relieved by strings of cheery, glowing bulbs, are bearable. Without them, a sense of isolation creeps in. Shivering, along with watery gray skies, aggravates a nature already listing toward occasional melancholy. And all of this, mind you, takes place in Southern California, not North Dakota or even Virginia where winter doesn't kid around. And, may I add, how much I have always loved the rain. Just a bit less so when it falls in January.
January can feel like a primitive rope bridge strung between the sweetness, the natural or induced jollity of Christmas and the once-celebrated heart-filled red joy of Valentine's Day. Thank you, Dr. King, for giving us a holiday mid-month to release some of the chilly tension.
As I see each day as the chance for a new beginning, the New Year holds no particular promise of transformation to come. December brings a unique shine, associated with stars and glitter, colorful packaging, specific music, greetings exchanged, good wishes, peace on earth. January is the absence of festivity, all possible childlike anticipations too far away to give comfort. If one could find a way to spread the holidayness of December a bit thinner, to stretch it beyond the first of the year rather than using it up in what feels like a week or even just the one day, I believe winter would lose some of its sting. One would feel less bereft. No doubt you are thinking that to make the celebration of December holidays a more lengthy endeavor would dilute them. I disagree. January needs a little Christmas or its own special not-Christmas, its own bit of happy gleam to chase the deepened shadows, the damp, the ice.
I am not glum as I sit typing in my red sweater having spritzed cautiously frugal dots of Chanel #5 so the fragrance wafts from wrists to stuffy nose, singing to the senses. Without inflated expectations of Christmas, I no longer experience the droop that used to follow. Still, January at best is a wet blanket, at worst a bleak expanse. No, it is not a particularly rational response to a collection of days that mean no harm but one's response to stimuli is rarely rational. Keep the fires burning, hibernate if that helps pass the time, fill the hours with laughter and all that feeds the senses. Press on. Always know that something wonderful IS just around the corner. Hello, February. Will you be my winter Valentine?
Monday, January 9, 2017
Monday, January 2, 2017
|Illustration by M. Kelly|
On Christmas Eve, with very little time, I tried to write a follow-up story with the characters introduced at Halloween of 2015. I had pleasing photos for illustration, showing dolls by artist Sandy Mastroni which had inspired the original piece. I had a blurry idea of the shape I wanted the story to take, elements I wanted to include. After a couple hours it was as weighty as an anchor and all I could do was put it aside until either the story or I managed to lighten up. Still waiting.
On FB today, a friend mentioned the challenge of naming characters in fiction, with useful suggestions added to the comment thread, reminding me I have novel-length work just sitting there. That seems to leave me adding Fiction Reworking to my list of Stuff I Would Like to Turn Into Habit. I've discussed the Chair Yoga, plus working with hand weights, plus Art Every Day or So Help Me. Then there's the fact of a daily nap not being an option but a necessity. All this may require me to become more serious about time, about where the boundaries are. Seeing things blocked out, in my planner, for instance, is not my norm. As with time generally, I tolerate, actually welcome, its fluid aspects as I experience them. But I doubt that sort of relationship gets books written.
So. There IS no reason why there can't be fiction. I assume if there can be little fiction, there might be big fiction. What was unthinkable yesterday becomes a possibility today. The universe as I have come to know it is fluent in encouragement. It rubs its galactic palms together at the thought of surprising us with our own most deeply held desires, seeming to wander, whistling, through the neighborhood as we write an episode here, a chapter there, thinking of them as short-short stories. As we humans tend to be greater than the sum of our parts, perhaps the same is true of building a novel using the model of the Add-A-Pearl necklace.
It is a daunting word, novel. For now, I may speak of my Add-A-Pearl necklace. We will know what I mean.