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QUINTESSENCE

Trusting

“Then the real work of motherhood will begin,
the job of waking into each morning, trusting.”
“Planning the Future,” Dorianne Laux, What We Carry, 1994

Sunshine floods the room and the dog rests near the door, blinking in his sleep. The rains that washed away the colors from the mornings this last week are gone and we bake in light - clear, warm, yellow light. If July had a feeling, it would be eight o’clock on this morning.

Today I am aware of the odd dissonance of mothering in heart only. My children, nineteen and twenty-one, are out there in the world, making their lives. Strong, capable, passionate and independent, they are eager and open to what life may bring. I wonder, do they ever think of me more than two thousand miles away worrying about them? As Dorianne Laux writes, one mother, among many, “waking into each morning, trusting”? I trust in their innate sense of self-preservation, in their intuition about themselves and others, and in their ability to weather the waves that pound, as well as uplift. I find that my beingness as a mother is not affected by what age they have attained, nor by any distance. My mothering is hobbled from action and placed into faith.

I embrace this beautiful Friday, hoping that for my children the day is beautiful where they are too. If I could make it so, I would. My love is an anchor, a pin dot on the map on which we three are joined. Wherever they may be, whatever they may be doing, my love anchors a place for them in the universe. The fact that I love them is the first intention I place in the world. The second intention is that this should be enough somehow, always. Read More 
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Finding a Photograph

“She can’t see
herself apart from the rest of the world
or the world from what she must do…”
- “The Turtle,” Mary Oliver, Dream Work, 1986

I found a photograph of my daughter in this book of poetry this morning. I was searching for the poem, but the picture found me. It is a joyful photograph. She is about four, her blond hair in two curly braids, and she wears a big smile and a red sweater with two Scottie dogs on them, black and white. When did I put this between the pages of this book? It is almost seventeen years old, this photo. And then I think, smiling at her colorful sweater, of how she loved that sweater and the little red plaid skirt she wore to preschool. Of how we had a Scottie dog even then, or at least the picture of one, before it occurred to us to want one.

Perhaps predestination is always at work in our lives, like a Polaroid of ourselves that slowly seeps to color from the blank whiteness of childhood into an image of ourselves fully formed. The picture of our future selves there, yet hidden as time fills in the pattern, the colors, the smiles and the objects at our feet. I am both comforted and terrified of this thought. The comfort lies in the faith that my good will somehow find me, regardless of how I screw up, miss turns, run into walls. Life’s goodness has been preordained. The pattern of me, this me, here and now. Like Mary Oliver’s turtle in the line of her poem, I climb the same hill continually under the silver moonlight, practicing my faith in the future. I am the turtle. I am tied to my children, to the trees; even the birds above are tied to me, as the poet says, by an unbreakable string. I believe this. So it is a question of courage.

I set the photograph of my daughter on my desk. A gift from a book of poetry I gave to my husband the year before he passed away. I inscribed it, “My love, Keep this near for that moment of sunshine or sunset, and all the moments in between.” The date is May, 2002. Perhaps he put this photograph in the book. A bit of joy he treasured, contained in the fearless smile of our daughter in a fire engine red sweater, the belongingness of two years of age there in her smile. Her family. Hers. His. Home that travels in his briefcase, when home is far away. I look at the little girl in the Scottie dog sweater and my eyes brim, knowing a small exquisite truth. Home has just come home to me. Read More 
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Delight in the world

“But something in me has diminished.
A door the fates once opened
has been nailed closed and plastered over.
The white dust covers my hands.”
- “Patched Carpet,” Jane Hirschfield, Given Sugar, Given Salt, 2001

This morning I stand with my cup of Earl Grey tea in front of the window beside the bored dog. The squirrels he chases from the yard are high in the trees. The birds, the brown wrens, red-breasted sparrows, and yellow finches have sought shelter on the woody branches under the broad leaves of the rhododendrons. Flower petals for umbrellas. Rain is pooling on the patio, dripping from the eaves. The skies are pouring rain, the earth lush with a fierce green, a frenzy of spring energy pushing toward the low gray skies.

I’ve taken an orange from the fruit bowl. In my deeply empty mood, the intense color has caught my eye, although I was not truly hungry. I cut into the skin with my thumbnail, slip my finger under the skin and pull a quarter of the peel away from the fruit. A spray of citrus oil springs from the fruit, catches my chin, my eye. I blink, stung. The intense aromatic bite of citrus fills my nostrils as I dig for the white thready inner skin, pulling the fruit apart with my thumbs. I put a slice of the orange on my tongue and bit it in half. Suddenly my mouth is having a party! Summer barbecues, French vineyards, air shows and Florida beaches. I look in wonder at the small orange in my hand in unexpected joy. How could this fruit be so complete an experience as to transform this wet day, the unimportant moment, and me within it? I am abruptly perfectly happy, the juice of the orange on my chin, full of the taste, the color, the smell, even the texture of this delight.

I begin here. I will find joy, in itself without boundaries, wherever I can in this life I lead. See if I can open the experience to encompass my whole being. Finding joy might be one small step, so plain and ordinary. Delight in the world, here in my hand.  Read More 
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First Day of Summer

Welcome summer! Collect your flip flops, grab your beach bag, and throw in a basket of great books to indulge in. These are the slow days of simmering heat and sun. The pastimes of childhood call. Riding barefoot on a bicycle with a playing card clothes-pinned to the spokes of the wheel, ratta-tatta-tat down the block for an ice cream. The hot afternoons in the pool, sleepovers under the stars, lemonade stands in red Flyer wagons. The boom of thunder and the smell of rain on a hot street. Count state license plates on a drive down the road, the family station wagon packed to the gills for the vacation trip to the beach... Summer is playtime on the planet! Find time for yourself and those you love today!  Read More 
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