Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Scents and Senses

Called by the scents of cinnamon and clove, I rush toward Christmas and the few shopping days I have left. These days are just icing on my cake since I finished all the necessary shopping weeks ago.

Wassail on a cold winter's night will warm the body and fill the air with the fragrances of Christmas. It is time to make this divine potion and my aunt's oatmeal fudge cookies. My husband is craving my sister's butterscotch haystacks so I will add these to my list of things to do. Good snacks for a road trip. Oh, if I could have his svelte body and eat the carbs he seems to crave. Some days his van resembles a rolling convenience store! :)

Our landscape is shining now with a lighted tree and tiny lights sparkling among the junipers and shrubs. Draped in ropes of evergreen garlands, the courtyard walls gleam in white lights while each post is tied with a red velvet bow. Poinsettias and gold grasses dress the entryway in Christmas cheer. A wreath I made 2 years ago accents the door and adds just the right touch. Mistletoe will complete the vignette and give us a place for stolen Christmas kisses and giggles.

We have lovingly brought home each ornament for our tree from places we have traveled or from shopping moments along the way when their beauty simply overwhelmed us. We began our collection long before we even married, when days and nights together were then bridged by Delta jets. Those days were hard ones. We had love and hate relationships with the airports and jets which brought us together yet were party to our cruel separations. It is more than a blessing for us to now enjoy our Christmases without the dread of each holiday's end. Instead we welcome winter's slower pace. We are eager for the cold nights by the burning logs where we will make plans for spring's garden while eating hot soup and drinking cups of hot chocolate and mocha. We are happy to see the New Year roll in. There is no "end" in sight - only beginnings ahead.

I am bothered during this season as I contemplate loss. I think of all the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, the children; think of the lovers and the friends, all those who no longer have the opportunity to share holidays with someone they love. I think of the men and women who have lost their lives serving this country, fighting a war which seems to have no end. I am angry and sad at such unnecessary loss. For all the loss, for all the unmet needs, for those who are lonely or afraid, hungry or cold, for those who ache with loss my heart is open and full.

We will find some blankets to carry to our Union Mission this week. I read an article that the natural disasters this year have created a deficit in local donations. Shoes, socks, blankets, gloves, jackets, warm underwear - all these are needed by someone who has nothing.

To all of you who read this entry, I send happiest holiday wishes. So, here is to wishing each of you a Very Merry Christmas!

Felix Navidad

Sunday, December 04, 2005

An Unlikely Gift

Sometimes we must let go and let those we love live the lives they choose, silently and with respect for the choices they make. Respect - not agreement or admiration, but an honoring of choice - is an understanding that we can never stand squarely in another’s shoes and can never fully comprehend the complexity of the life being lived, the motivation, or the needs. What seems one way may in all confusion be another; what seems pointed and straight can be crooked and circular; what seems one color may be a conglomerate of many; in fact what “is” may not be at all.

Oh, the challenge to let go when it is one’s mother – our first opportunity of real intimacy: the first person we come to know, need, and love. The one we thrive with and die without. The one we mimic, learn from, cry with, laugh for, coo to, feed from, and touch. This woman who teaches us about love and life, about men and relationships, about personal strength and choice - the woman who teaches us most about being woman. She is our heart, our role model, our protector, our strength. Letting go is made even more difficult when she is old, frail, unsteady, undernourished.

It is so painful to watch my mother continue to choose neglect and deprivation over joyful abundance and the nourishment of her spirit, mind and body as she holds on to her life partner of more years than I care to count. She is miserable in the wake of his wrath, miserable in the absence of him. This woman who said she loves my sister and me more than life itself once again remains in an unhealthy environment as we plead for her to leave, a plea we have made since childhood. We open our lives and homes to her; we push for her to tackle the conflict differently this time – to walk away. Walk away from the pain and torment and weariness, walk into love’s embrace where nourishment awaits her. Leave the chaos and choose tranquility. Do it differently, this last chance for life where she is now standing. It is down to the finish line now – and we are the cheerleaders, dressed out with pom-poms and megaphones. We sing support, call her name, dance in animated rhythm as we chant the refrain “Come to us, where you are wanted and loved!” We cry in our pain at seeing her so frail and virtually alone in these, her last days on earth. We hold her, comfort her, caress her, support her – reminding her there is another way of living. She has a choice – either coast, either daughter, both willing to nurture her to better health and provide her with a home and a life which has promise – even at this late age. Both eager for her, both awaiting her agreement, a commitment to life and to love. Sadly neither will receive her.

How in the world did my sister and I learn from this woman to choose men who are kind and temperate, who are generous and good? Men who are loving and sensitive, men who wear integrity and honor as comfortably as the skin on their backs, who share in our lives, nurture and support us, defend and respect us – these are the men who sleep in our beds each night and kiss us each morning.

With the role model she provided how did we learn that women ARE valuable? How did we learn that husbands can and should treasure us instead of abuse and neglect? With a father who has no inclination to nurture, no disposition toward gentleness or respect, no ability to discern what another might need or want – or for that matter even care - how did we understand the role of men in a healthy partnership, the true and fair counter to our femaleness? How did we eventually find the extraordinary men we married? Perhaps we were looking for exactly what was missing in our lives – the very man we both needed and could find NO WHERE as children. If the gift of this selfish, abusive, angry, hurtful man’s presence in our lives was a passive dedication in us to find everything he was NOT, then we have much to thank him for.

Who would have thought the pain of our young lives could have brought such goodness into our later years? My beloved is the richest blessing of my life. Would he have been my husband had I been anyone else’s child?

I must allow my mother to be who she is – choose the life she feels compelled to choose, while accepting in some way that what I wish for her is simply not the life she is meant to have. I am sad that she does not have the courage to make different choices, but her life is hers, and she is not a young and inexperienced woman any longer. She has lived many years on this earth - she knows what she is doing. She sees the options in front of her, acknowledges other possibilities are available.

I can’t change her life, but I can change my own. I can make peace with her choices in life by accepting her will. This will offer me powerful freedom to live in peace with my own choice - to let her go.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Red and Yellow, Green and Gold

What is it about autumn that fills me with such comfort and sadness at the same time? I notice this most as I stand in our courtyard looking out over the gardens, eyes caught by the burnt red and apricot leaves of our smokebush, its spent blooms now looking more like pieces of hay than the pink puffs of mimosa they mimic in summer. At once I notice a feeling of longing inside, something on the verge of anxiety, but then all at once a feeling of satisfaction and comfort replaces it. Back and forth I seem to shift between sadness and a comforting sense of deja vu. Is it my youth I grieve, when schooldays brought me out into the crisp fall mornings much earlier than I would have preferred? Or is it something still unknown to me, an autumnal event which beckons my emotional memory but leaves my consciousness behind? No matter, autumn is my favorite time of year, passionate in its colors of hot flames and burning embers...seducing us into winter's long sleep.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Soothing Comfort

The year has been a hard one; so much change to navigate. Threads which once kept me safely rooted were pulled and stretched as I stumbled once again down rocky paths. Settling into this new home kept me slightly off center. We have nested now with our birds; they feasting on seeds and nuts while we feast on nature. These evergreens shelter us all from unknown elements.

Getting ready for a long winter's nap our summer flowers sway in the breeze from the lake; dahlias taller than we are hang their heads in the wind. Tired from summer's push, the swirling butterfly plants rest their heavy branches on the ground. Our feathered friends search for manna to savor and store for the cold, wet days ahead. We do a similar ritual with vegetable soup - making extra portions for the freezer. The rains flirt with us as autumn greets these shorter days and longer nights; the drizzle of fall and winter keeping our flora lush and green in this, the "emerald city."

Growing new roots has meant vulnerability - trusting my environment enough to open myself. I must be nurtured through tentative beginnings. I watch my husband gardening, see his hands open the tightened roots to encourage attachment to the new soil which will host them. It is all the same. We must open ourselves to the nutrients surrounding us - so we can become our full selves and flourish.

The kindness of strangers is debatable, but not so the kindness of my beloved; he is always there. For 5 years now he has been as certain as the light of each new morning. Yesterday he painted my toenails because it hurt for me to bend my painful hip. Some days he dries my hair because my arms ache if I hold them in the air too long. He takes such gentle care of me, the way one does when handling a valuable treasure.

Burying my face into his shoulder keeps me plastered so close to him at night he sometimes senses he will fall from the bed. He worries that he might disturb my sleep so he tries to slide us over quietly instead of asking me to move. I am learning more about love each day. His is an unselfish attention. Will I ever be as generous and as kind as he?

Monday, February 21, 2005

We Merge and Separate and Merge...

It is an ever-growing journey to intimacy, a place where we both become one and yet remain individual, coming together and moving apart, connected by a thread all the while. We travel like competitive winds in one moment and harmonic chimes in the next. Two wholes combining to make a separate and unknown union; east meeting west, cultures and traditions, habits and experiences, heritage and genetics all mixing into a fascinating portrait of loving embrace.

Here we go......east and west at every turn!