You Are My Story

Do you ever think about the cubic feet in which you spend your time?

Sometimes I think about the space that I occupy the most, and feel fortunate, indeed.

My frequent dwelling space is the footprint of our little house: a subterranian level (the basement), a ground floor, and a second floor. I’m not counting the attic because I hardly go up there.

Within this tri-level space is a nook which is our bedroom and its ante-room. I would consider these two portions my hub, and that little niche pictured is my place of all places.

All of my best things are there, and many of them you know.

The prism that I told you about hangs in the window behind the chair, throwing rainbow orbs around the room most mornings – best time of day.

Just to the right of the crystal hangs the epic hawk-in-flight photo that was gifted to us by my youngest sister, and under that remarkable rendering is the cache of yarn that connects me to my other sister, who helps me crochet. My sisters are in this space.

And there you see the bison portrait from Bryce Canyon – best animal ever, and I told you all about that, too. Well, then there’s the gothic window frame strung with lights because – if you think like me – home is church, too. Next is the great-grandmother spider plant, started from a sprout given to me by the art teacher at our school, long ago.

Beside the plant is the zen fountain – sculpted of burnished copper and resplendent with aqua dragonflies. It offers a babbling brook in sight and sound, right here in this room. My colleagues at school endowed me with this peace.

And of course there are books supporting all of that.

I ask you –

is there anything better than a bookcase full of books?

Well that’s a whole tale on its own right there.

So, back to the gold chair which is the worn out one that sat in the corner of my parent’s livingroom way back when, and then saw some time in my oldest brother’s home too, before it found its way to us. Sure it’s threadbare and softened with time, but when you tilt back with a good read, you’re cradled as in a hammock hung from a big old tree.

So that’s all the stuff in this airy alcove.

But there is one thing more:

you are here, too.

You have been here all along.

Can the way you have touched my life be separated from who I am and how I experience things?

It cannot be.

You are part of me, too.

You are my story.

And we all know –

there is nothing better

than a good story.

It’s Still Us

Senior Cut Day – 1978

We hit the ground running – forward focused – not keeping track of where each other was going, spraying out in all directions for colleges, careers – somewhere, anywhere, – determined to not look back.

In hindsight, we were probably all hoping to find friendships pretty much like the ones we were leaving behind.

Years smoothed into decades, and here we are – not too far away from half a century later. Not all of us keep in touch, but a meaningful some of us still do.

Curiously enough, the virus has enabled us, or compelled us – to talk even more. Maybe we have new time on our hands, and certainly the kids getting older has afforded us extra hours to fill, and wouldn’t it be nice if we have grown a little wiser to realize that this is a thing worth holding onto – this friendship.

We hop on a Zoom meeting once a month or so, and in that space there is quick comfort and familiarity.

Her giggle is still the same, her sound effects are still hilarious, her wiseness remains the calm voice of reason.

We laugh and and joke and reminisce.

We see each other now, but woven into that view is how we knew each other then; it’s all melded into an admirable notion of who we are to each other. Not many have the privilege to receive or bestow a perspective that is layered with time like that.

We tell each other how we were back then.

“What? I did that? Are you sure? I don’t remember that!”

“Well, you did and you were!”

We fill in the gaps and laugh some more.

It never gets old – even though we are kind of getting that way.

We make bridges to guide each other over the years we were apart, having gone separate ways for decades, pusuing careers, meeting spouses, discovering ourselves. How fortunate we are to be navigating a circle that still embraces each other as it comes around again.

We catch up about jobs, retirement, family, kids. Who’s moving out, who’s coming back, and how they are doing. We muse aloud about when to step in, and when to step back and let them figure it out – those kids. It’s a grand comfort to learn that my thoughts are often their thoughts, and my challenges are lighter carried on the shoulders they offer me, rather than just my own.

The time we shared back then was an investment we didn’t even know we were making.

It was a frenzied collision of fun, spontaniety, and drama. It opened up a space that – over time and through living – has become a treasured cache of who we are as individuals, and who we are to each other. Not many know us as well as we know each other.

This fellowship is irreplaceable by virtue of the sheer amount of time it has remained intact, substantive, and life-giving. And in spite of the years and because of those years

it is delightful to find

it’s still us.

The Washing of the Mask

Call me crazy, but I enjoy the ritual of washing my mask. Scrubbing my cover-up in a sinkful of hot soapy water each evening offers a few minutes to mull over the day, and do one small thing to set myself up for a good start tomorrow . No matter how tired I am, it’s something I don’t mind doing. I kind of revel in it.

In its own way, the washing of the mask has become a reassuring reminder that –

I am still alive.

I am healthy.

I am going to need a clean mask tomorrow because I still have a good job to go to.

It has been instrumental in gifting me my healthiest winter ever.

It is a tolerable accoutrement that I don’t mind wearing nearly as much as I used to.

I was worried about these new accessories. As primary grade teachers, we were all worried about them. The children were going to play with them, refuse to wear them, or be distracted by them. In reality, other than the occasional “Please pull your mask up,” the whole thing has been a non-issue.

No different than a pair of eye glasses or a hairband, really.

So, these days, we have one more thing to do each morning. We choose a face covering to wear. This is important, because – at least in the primary grades – a cheerful mask can make a reality that is a little scary a little less so.

Be it polka-dots, camo, floral, or paisley, wear it in style, and remember to wash it tonight.

Embrace

we only have today

and that will never change

to fret portending clouds of gray

to scurry ’round and rearrange

for what might happen up ahead

instead of living here instead

is losing now

so might you see

the present is

the place to be

so set your worry on a shelf

and cease that stealing from yourself

by squinting yon when you’re in now

is ceding time – so why allow?

revel in this moment here

invite yourself to stay

for in the end

it’s crystal clear

we only have today

Seasonal Order

Four times a year we pay homage to life-sustaining predictability by lauding the new season en masse. Our neighbors host the equinox celebrations and we the solstices. Each event requires a festive gathering replete with food, drink, and some sort of primordial fire, be it a host of candles on the table, or a bonfire out back. For our solstice tributes, we convene around the fire pit.

Last summer’s pinnacle had us grilling branzino on the coals then sitting around the groaning board until late evening, savoring fading rays of the longest day. The more recent winter solstice found us huddled in early dark of winter, closer to the flames than six months prior, not for food this time but for warmth. A couple of raucous toasts for good measure, a genial cheer to the coming of the light and then back inside for blessed warmth. Yesterday, we ushered in the first two minutes of spring with a virtual face time toast, mindful of social distances, but heartily refusing to let our quarterly tradition lapse for these vexing circumstances.

As the fates of equilibrium would have it, two of us prefer winter, and the other two – summer. No matter what the season, someone is always delighted to be upon a chosen one, or at least headed in that direction. Two of us celebrate mums, waning light, and falling mercury, and the other two exalt courageous crocuses, dinnertime daylight, and peeling parkas in relief of too many layers.

It is a gift of uncommon grace to share life with those who help you notice hidden beauty in unpleasantries such as an annoying outside temperature or too much precipitation or the wrong kind. The accidental joy in discovering a silver lining there makes drudgery bearable, and even downright fun.

Yesterday we toasted to coming around again – marking time with seasons of delight and seasons of – well, not so much. To that and to the rhythm of life.

For all of it, I am grateful.

I’ll Drink to That

It was a day that packed a lot of living into it – a runaway train of urgent circumstance and no time. Yesterday we tore through reams of copy paper spouting from nearly over-heating copiers, preparing for a month of no school. We swirled through too few hours, some with bated breath, others near hyperventilation. In the end, we handed over our charges to dubious – somewhat tentative families, bolstering both with confidence about the unfamiliar partnership that lie ahead. It is likely that we all breathed a collective exhale when the last child waved good-bye for a month.

Having each been in buildings teeming with life all day, my husband and I willingly risked dinner at the local pub – the threat there minimal compared to the daily dousing of germs in our classrooms. We descended underground on deeply worn slate steps to the local rathskeller, centuries old – a warm, cozy cave. Coolness gave way to warm-subterranean lighting, a heavy low-beamed ceiling, and crusty stone walls corralling chattering families around tables, sharing meals. Neighborhood characters at the bar dotted the foreground, enjoying hot meals in a place where you can know everyone or no one, and still be a part of it.

The pace and urgency of the day slid off my shoulders and dropped to the floor as we set at a side table near the wine cages and ordered meal and drinks. I am always proud to be a teacher, but today particularly so. We were handed a tall order, and we did what we needed to do. Faculty, staff, and administration prepared and outfitted over 300 primary grade students for a month of distance learning in 24 hours, and we did it well. Our community looked to us to take charge and make them feel okay about what was about to happen, and we did just that. I am privileged to be a part of what happened yesterday in my school and in my profession. We made a stressful circumstance possible, manageable, and positive.

Teaching is so many things. Yesterday, teaching was ministry.

I’ll drink to that.

Heart Rocks

I used to take my dad’s hammer out to the backyard to look for good rocks to crack open. Scratching through the leafy detritus in the woods behind our house or in the azalea bushes which held promising specimens among their gnarly roots, I would heft a few hopefuls onto the driveway and strike them repeatedly with the hammer, the vibrations coursing up the wooden handle into my arm, sharp metallic strikes splitting the air, assaulting my ears. Eventually, a crack would fall open to reveal the core. Some offerings would be just what one would expect, much the same inside as on the outside, rusty brown gray with flecks of earthy color here and there. Others revealed the surprise I was hoping for. Nondescript smudged buff exterior belied a spectacle within, as if someone had taken a snow globe and poured its glittery crystals inside an ordinary rock, hidden from all but the most curious excavators.

I recently surmised that rocks might be my favorite non-living thing, and memories of driveway geological forays gives me reason to note that my fascination is not new. Along those lines, my family was recently persuaded to accompany me to a rock and fossil show at a local convention center. There I settled on two specimens out of thousands to take home: a swirling, speckled orb of Ocean Jaspar – reminiscent of a dappled planet, and an egg of butterscotch-burgundy Carnalite – both harvested from Madagascar.

Returning to the show the following day I roamed the banquet, this time choosing 14 polished hearts – one for each of my students.

That Friday, the day before spring break, I invited my students to choose a heart rock at the end of class. They oooh-ed and aaah-ed, looked, touched, and each closed fingers around a small, dense parcel of earth tucked in the hollow of their palm. Perhaps unnoticed by most, it was a brief encounter with Mother Nature, offering herself to anyone who cares to notice beauty in an ordinary rock and the comfort of a smooth stone in hand.

The March I Never Hated

I am a different person than when I started.

For blogging for the entire month of March without missing a day, and for co-leading a “Spirituality of Knitting” retreat to close it out, I am changed.

Through my weekend retreat, I learned how women are changing the world one stitch, one blanket, one shawl at a time. Needle crafts are meditation in motion with a gift of warmth for someone in need at the project’s end, and hours of mindful focus for the crafter in the process.

Through my month of blog posts, I learned how to notice more and to think differently. I learned that I have stories in me that had never been told – that I knew not were there.

I dream at night now.

I crochet now.

I have a friend in Cambodia, now.

All for the gray, gusty, teaser month of March.

For the first time – ever, I don’t want it to end.

Thank you fellow crafters, for all you have taught me and shared with me.

Thank you fellow slicers, for all you have taught me and shared with me.

Some of you inspire with what was once a blank page, and others with what was once a skein of yarn.

I experienced humanity at its best, and I had the good fortune to be a part of it – twice.

My best March ever ends today.

Go ahead and ask me about today,

but don’t ask me about yesterday because I was a different person then.