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QUINTESSENCE

The Dissonance of Change


MORNING POEM
by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging—

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.


I have just spent the last six days in the company of my daughter, a new MD, on a cross-country drive from Seattle to Cleveland - where she will begin her surgical residency training. The interesting thing about road trips is that changes in life circumstances - the process of shift - are richly reflected in passing landscapes. The pitch and roll of mountain ranges and valleys, the changing color of dirt and rivers, vistas opening to prairie then to lakes, the populating of wilderness by farms, and those wide, cultivated acres narrowing to industry, cities rising upon concrete overpasses, the towering downtown skyscrapers... These are all echoes of personal relocation.

All we travel through echoes what we feel inside the midst of great shift. One known thing gives way to a new and unfamiliar thing. The translation between experiences gaps. We stand, stranger in a strange land, "grokking" as Heinlein would have it, the essence of all that looms before us. There is real dissonance in change. We thrill to the adventure and call of new challenges and stimuli: and we step back, trembling at the edge of our comfort zone. The new world is both attractive and unsettling at the same time.

Yes, we grow when we adapt and challenge ourselves to conquering unknown circumstances. But we also experience a poignant sense of loss stepping away from our established lives. The known is familiar, perhaps even beloved; the past represents the most grounded we have felt in recent memory. What lies ahead is a question, and the potential to fail, to find life wanting, or severely disappoint ourselves is achingly real.

Arriving in Cleveland entailed a profound geographical shift, a cultural shift, and an immersion in learning to navigate on the fly. Nothing is known: not routes nor directions, location of services or grocery stores - not even whether the nod in the elevator is ritually feigned or sincere. Does one say hello or keep a respectful peace? Mistakes abound. Amusement frequent. Surprise and alarm a daily occurrence. All of this shift: the dissonance of change. What is familiar, surrendering to the strange.

Moving from one part of these United States to another is difficult. The goodbyes to friends, paperwork hoops, proofs of identity and legality, even the establishing of credentials - finances to vehicle licenses - it's all just huge. But here's the fun thing: every step in life that enlarges personal boundaries in fact enlarges the self.

So, hang on little tomato, as Pink Martini sings it, and grow. Let it be in your nature to be happy.

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Riding the Dream

"Riding the Dream," Cross-Country America, 2016

This week's post is in special honor of two extraordinary guys. My first husband Kenneth Grunzweig, and, his best friend, Perry. Ken died of lung cancer in 2003. A lifelong marathoner and long-distance cyclist, his unexpected illness and death was a shock and a terrible loss. Perry had been friends with Ken for most of their San Francisco years, and he is the godfather of our daughter, Kate. On May 7th, Perry and his fellow adventurers embarked on a cross-country cycling challenge: Los Angeles to Boston. Perry is riding in honor of Ken, an incredible tribute to their friendship.

Briefly, here is an excerpt of Perry's letter to his cycling mates, friends, and our family:

As an introduction, my name is Perry. I am 68 and Durango, Colorado has been my home for the last 20 years.

This bicycle thing got a hold of me at a young age when I ordered a new 10 speed bicycle from Birmingham, England. Shortly thereafter I achieved my Boy Scout Cycling merit badge and it was all down hill from there, so to speak.

The seed for a bike ride across America was planted by my very best friend and bicycle buddy, Ken. He and I were on a three week self-contained bike tour from Missoula, Montana to Jasper, Alberta. We were resting somewhere in the Canadian Rockies, looking at our 50 pound bicycles, when Ken said to me, " Ya know Perry, we could take a credit card and a change of clothes and motel our way across the country without all this shit we are hauling with us." We shared that dream and talked about it every once in awhile, but sadly, Ken died of lung cancer before we could make that ultimate ride.

Ken died, but the dream did not. So with Ken in my heart, and with a photo of him front and center on the head tube of my bicycle I am going to ride our dream in his honor and in his memory.

My efforts to ride across America have been recognized by a private philanthropist, who, upon my successful arrival in Boston, will make a donation to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (lungcancerfoundation.org)

My family and friends have been very supportive, some are amazed, and some think I should have done ride this 30 years ago.


I know you will understand when I tell you how moved I am by Perry's undertaking and fundraising in Ken's name. How deeply honored my kids and I are by Perry's tribute. Indeed, this ride is just the thing Ken would do. When Kate was born, he made her a tiny personalized American Express card. She had his heart, his wallet, and a ticket to her dreams, he said with a chuckle. Often, especially on a family camping trip, Ken would muse that his real idea of roughing it was the "nearest Hilton in the woods." In a summer during high school my son cycled with an adventure group across the country - porting his gear and supplies, camping coast to coast - something he would have done with his father had they the opportunity. David is cheering Perry on. We all are.

I know Ken will be Perry's guardian on his adventure. Keep him out of trouble and make sure he has fun. Ken, always funny, deeply loyal, adventurous, and courageous, knew how to cherish and protect the ones he loved. He also knew how to have a good time - even if he had a famously terrible sense of direction and zero skills as a camp cook, the man could be counted on to bring a great wine. He was the wit and laughter of the party. As you may know, Ken is the central subject of my 2008 memoir, THE GEOGRAPHY OF LOVE.

So here's to you, Perry. You've got the Rocky Mountains over your shoulder by now. And here's to the end of lung cancer - to all cancers. We lose too many of those we love too soon.
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A Crooked Letter

Olive trees shading a stairway to The Acropolis, Athens

PRAYER 26
by Eva Saulitis

Why? Why is a crooked letter, my mother-in-law used to say. She held
no truck with useless inquiry, superstition. Buck up. Be present.
Suffer

no fools, no dogma. When she died, I sleuthed her shelves. She read
everything - Buddhist philosophy, AARP magazine.
The Art

of Loving, Hawaiian poetry, books on aging, Asian painting,
and dying. She stopped short of a PhD in English lit, took acting. No

shrinking violet, she wore tennis whites on Sundays, permed and dyed
her hair various reddish shades, waited for her husband weekdays with

wine glasses frosted in the deep freeze.
You little ingrates, wait till your
father gets here. Protested his pollarding of her ornamental trees

in the garden. A closetful of peacock-hues to counter his muted same-same.
Years after he died, we found the glasses, the bottle of cream sherry still

frozen. She never gave his clothes away.
You better know how to laugh
at yourself, she said. Afraid she'd take me for the shrinking violet, the

suffering fool, tucked into the shade of a summer day,
why, my crooked
angel, I kept quiet, secretly studied her takings, finger along the spine of books

and facts. Her sons sang her past the last breath, hospital bed on
the living room's shag. In the mail we got her Hiroshima prints, a 1950s lamp,

a volume of bad Hawaiian poetry, costume jewelry, one conundrum - wooden
statute of mother Mary praying. To her tough and inscrutable hide, I offer up this day.
- 1.11.2013


Our days are a carousel of change and chances. We feel we are at last approaching some hard-earned purchase on the slope of our lives, only to lose our footing on the hard scrabble and helplessly fall away. We try again, we work at it, we latch on, and what happens next always surprises us. This haunting, intimate poem by Eva Saulitis, poet and biologist from Homer, Alaska, is from a book of poetry titled, "Prayer In Wind," published by Boreal Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. The book's flap copy reveals to the reader:

"After a devastating diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, biologist and poet Eva Saulitis found herself gripped by a long buried childhood urge to pray. Finding little solace in the rote 'from the fox-hole please Gods' arising unbidden in her head, she set herself the task of examining the impulse itself, waking every morning in darkness to write poems, driven on by the questions: What is prayer? What am I praying to? What am I praying for? Who is listening? Each day's poem proposed a new and surprising answer as, over two years, she traced the questions back to her origins..."

What is comprised by this book of 58 numbered "prayer poems" is nothing short of a deep and openhearted song to living. To ancestry, geography, context, accident. To all that connects us to the earth and to one another; to the small stories that make us the quirky, eccentric souls that we are; to what we leave behind in the hearts of others and what we keep from those we love. It is never not the right time to pause in our ceaseless climbing and look out from where we find ourselves. Take in the expanse of life, the shadows of the forests left behind. What beckons on the horizon.

Ask of life again, Why?

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Life With Soap and Needles


I see you washing my handkerchiefs,
hanging at the window
my worn-out socks,
your figure on which everything,
all pleasure like a flare-up,
fell without destroying you,
again,
little wife
of every day,
again a human being,
humbly human,
proudly poor,
as you have to be in order to be
not the swift rose
that love's ash dissolves
but all of life,
all of life with soap and needles,
with the smell that I love
of the kitchen that perhaps we shall not have
and in which your hand among the fried potatoes
and your mouth singing in the winter
until the roast arrives
would be for me the permanence
of happiness on earth.


- "Not Only the Fire," Pablo Neruda, THE CAPTAIN'S VERSES, 1952

This stanza, from a longer poem by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, is subversive, subtle. The poet moves from love note to his lover into an intimate song to the same woman, the woman he has made his life with - "little wife of every day." I think often of this phrase and its aching tender recognition of the dignity of daily life. The hours, or perhaps years, past the fiery affair filled by the plain, sweet mundane. Neruda's recognition of his own joy in the simple wrenching domesticity of his life asks me to consider my ordinary tasks today.

Today's list of things to do is nothing fancy. My heart is not in them but is instead thinking of words and pages, the revising and editing I've still to complete. At the top of my list, dealing with bills that are due, then gathering the last of the tax data, followed by a trip to the post office to forward on packets of mail to my kids. A drop off at the dry cleaner, the return of an item to a store, and oh yes, getting in a work out. A chunk of time. A chunk of time not writing.

I read the list again, slowly this time. Where is the love here? In everything. Dropping this passport in the mail for a trip to South Korea and Japan will thrill the recipient, the tax help marks a new graduate's first professional job, the rose-patterned dress to return nonetheless reminds me of spring. I think of my family, their dear faces, the laughter and moments together. Aren't these humble tasks Neruda's "worn-out socks," the "hand among the fried potatoes," my celebration of "life with soap and needles"?

Hello chore list, little wife of every day. There is life to be lived here.
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Nothing Is Lost

Wedding Day, February 18, 1989

Permit me a moment, will you, of reflection and tenderness. Share with me the memory of a great and kind man. On this date, twenty-seven years ago, I married Kenneth Grunzweig. Were he still alive, tomorrow would be his 73rd birthday.

There were many years between us. As if Ken traveled the world once, and then traveled it again just for me. Ken's charm and brilliant wit were legendary. His inner grace and his capacity for compassion and loyalty endure in the hearts of those who knew him or called him friend. Since his passing, in 2003, I find comfort in the knowledge our children tenderly honor him; and that they have lived their lives in a way he would be proud of. I am grateful for the beautiful imprint of exuberant joy he left upon our souls.

The hidden pearl in the oyster, a marriage is nurtured in mystery. Its secret intimacies unique to its ways, and redolent in this sensuous imagery from Barbara Howes.

A LETTER FROM THE CARIBBEAN
by Barbara Howes

Breezeways in the tropics winnow the air,
Are ajar to its least breath
But hold back, in a feint of architecture,
The boisterous sun
Pouring down upon

The island like a cloudburst. They
Slant to loft air, they curve, they screen
The wind's wild gaiety
Which tosses palm
Branches about like a marshal's plumes.

Within this filtered, latticed
World, where spools of shadow
Form, lift and change,
The triumph of incoming air
Is that it is there,

Cooling and salving us. Louvres,
Trellises, vines -music also-
Shape the arboreal wind, make skeins
Of it, and a maze
To catch shade. The days

Are all variety, blowing;
Aswirl in a perpetual current
Of wind, shadow, sun,
I marvel at the capacity
Of memory

Which, in some deep pocket
Of my mind, preserves you whole-
As a wind is wind, as the lion-taming
Sun is sun, you are, you stay;
Nothing is lost, nothing has blown away.


There is grief. Disoriented yearning. The stunned understanding of wordless truths life sings deep in our souls. My love letter to this man, my warrior of fierce heart, became the memoir published by Broadway Books in 2008, "The Geography of Love." This was our story, the landscape of unforgettable relationship. And his story, a road of stunning loss, and courage. But where does the wounded heart turn?

DECADE
by Louise Gluck

What joy touches
the solace of ritual? A void

appears in life.
A shock so deep, so terrible,
its force
levels the perceived world. You were

a beast at the edge of its cave, only
waking and sleeping. Then
the minute shift; the eye

taken by something.
Spring: the unforeseen
flooding the abyss.

And the life
filling again. And finally a place
found for everything.


Something new roots slowly: a raw unfamiliar perspective. One that is not grief. Dark and strong as steel and forged from loss, yes. But also rare, intricate and fine. Frost on a windowpane. The human heart, a dragonfly in amber. Through the years I have grown stronger in my conviction that all living energies are connected, and nothing is truly lost. Memory, indelible if fleeting, will always find us. . . a scent in the air. We have only to know love.


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Legacy

Ancient Greek Temple, Sicily
MIDDLE AGE
by Robert Lowell

Now the midwinter grind
is on me, New York
drills through my nerves,
as I walk
the chewed-up streets.

At forty-five,
what next, what next?
At every corner,
I meet my Father,
my age, still alive.

Father, forgive me
my injuries,
as I forgive
those I
have injured!

You never climbed
Mount Sion, yet left
dinosaur
death-steps on the crust,
where I must walk.


My birthday was a few days past. This poem came to mind because as Lowell writes, there is that thing that happens when we are grown and we arrive at the age of someone important in our lives. Particularly at times of significance in their lives and in our memories of them. I remember turning 23, thinking "This is the age my parents had me and they became a family." Here am I, just out of grad school, wrangling debt and a bicoastal relocation, and barely mature enough to buy a new car, let alone be responsible for a small human. And then at forty-five, the age my father died, thinking, "But I've only begun to live honestly, to figure it all out." What tragedy, I thought, to exit life before reaching completeness. Whole. Defined somehow. And now I've reached another milestone, the age at which someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer and in that year lost that battle.

Would I be ready to face mortality? Right now? To understand life might end, here and now, as complete or incomplete as it may be? Would I be ready to look at all that I love and those I love...and yield? It's a strange and unsettling emotion, living on; walking in the footsteps of time past the last step of someone loved. Lowell writes, "dinosaur death-steps." The hulking enormity of legacy.

I imagine it's not a bad thing to realize we can't take time for granted. Nor is it a terrible thing to assess where we stand in that rainbow reach of dreams and ambitions. Certain things fall away, other things fall in. In truth, it is more important to me now to seek deep certainty about the world. To grasp this thing - life - and the precious people I share living with. I feel responsible, more so now than ever, for the ones I have brought into this world, and the ones I have buried. Did I get it right? Learn what I needed to learn to make the most of this gift?

It is critical now to excise the redundant, the superficial, the waste, the stupidity, the shallow, the ignorance. Yes, it is possible to live life at the level of a so-called reality television show. Lights, camera, drama. But after this scene, or the next, after the entertainment value is extracted, does the beating heart have anything to add to the wisdom carried forward into the next day? The day after that? Each year I am more fully sure that life - whether we live months or decades or a century - stands as witness to the present. Everything about life is in today. This day. Everything that will fulfill us, sustain us, define us - exists in today. Alongside all that is meaningless space garbage adrift in that galaxy between our ears.

On this birthday, the footsteps I walk sing this to me:
Live, live, live, live, live.

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Late Summer

Priest Lake Moonrise

MONDAY MORNING, LATE SUMMER
On the fence
in the sunlight,
beach towels.

No wind.

The apricots have ripened
and been picked.
The blackberries have ripened
and been picked.
- Robert Hass, from the poem "Cuttings"

I've been looking at accountability. Mine. I've been looking back at posts about writing and creativity, living and making meaningful choices. Have I done the things I said I would, made the changes I want, pursued priorities that matter? At times it feels like a win to simply slow the busyness, delete the detritus that clouds quiet moments.

How hard in this modern world to make space for clarity. Space reclaimed from work/life schedules, from cleaning out our physical surroundings - or it might be all in our heads. The important thing is this: without inner clarity we lack a life map to navigate where we are to where we want to be. Mapping begins with honest assessment, checking in, and acknowledging our choices.

Each of us has a place, a person, a time, where the world slows and life opens, and we look deeply at the mechanics of our own happiness. We understand with profound certainty the desires and needs that guide a life well-lived, a life examined. Our life.

This is part of a post from August 2013:

"The opening of the chest, the heart chakra - the deep breathing and calm rhythms of a lengthy period on break - profoundly alters the mind as well as the body. When we step out of the box, the stress-filled, demanding, unrelenting responsibilities of the 24/7, we begin the restoration of the soul. The wide empty stretches on life's blue highways are far and few between. We live in a plugged-in, high demand, ever-changing, stimulating world. Down time, wayside adventures, lags in scheduling seem to have disappeared. We are "on" and plugged-in every moment of the day: pinged by messages, alerts from work, urgent global news, the carousel of social media even when we sleep.

Peace. Where do we find it?

Thoreau championed "disconnect and rediscover" for the human soul. And indeed, I found it interesting to watch my family - traveling to a rustic cabin on the lake shore with four smart phones, two laptops, three iPads, two iPods and one Shuffle - slowly adapt to silence. From initially trekking down the trail to the nearest wifi spot for internet signal, to eventually, mournfully, accepting the one half-bar of cell service off the lake, to at last letting the devices sit in their cases, untouched. This withdrawal from the digital world was painful and amusing - catching ourselves automatically engaged in a pointless click to check email, Twitter, FB. The urge to plug in releasing ever so slowly; replaced by naps sunning on beach towels, guitar on the deck, long conversations by candlelight at the picnic table. The luxury of delving into not just one chapter, but an entire book. Board games and cards, a crackling fire and mellow whiskey.

We relearn the nurturing quality of quiet. The giving earth. Taking in the whole of life. Lulled to deep sleep by the waves lapping the lake shore, the creak of wind in the trees. Awaking with bird calls in the dawn.

We disappear to the cabin every year, coming from wherever we are in the four corners of the world, from whatever education, work, or travel schedules occupy us, ready to find our way back to ourselves. We reconnect not just within, but together. And when the last spider is slapped with a sandal and tossed out the door, when the last huckleberry has made its way to a pancake drenched in maple syrup, the final pot of camp coffee poured to the dregs, we pack up our beach chairs and return to the world.

Halfway down the road to civilization the electronics buried in our duffles ping on, buzzing and downloading in a frenzied burst and we have to laugh. The world. It doesn't wait, and it doesn't matter."

This weekend I am headed north for two weeks to the remote quiet shores of Priest Lake once again. At the lake, I will find silence. You will find me on the deck at sunset, feet propped on the rail, a mellow scotch in hand. The evening star rises over the lake, bright against the rose-colored Selkirk Mountains.
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Synchronicity

Ostia Antica, Italy

For whom and to whom in the shadow
does my gradual guitar resound,
being born in the salt of my being
like the fish in the salt of the sea?

- from "Songs," Residence on Earth, Pablo Neruda

I was born on the 22nd of September. Today is the 22nd of July - the day my first husband, Ken, passed away...and birthday of my second husband, Greg. Reverberations pass through our lives - touched by this one number, 22.

A strange and mysterious, sad and joyful tumbler of emotions accompanies every July 22nd for me. I am twinned in both my past and my present on this one, extraordinary day. Acknowledging loss while acknowledging joy, aware of what is missing and what is found. Greg was aware of the synchronicity of these dates before I was. We had just met; Greg had read THE GEOGRAPHY OF LOVE and he texted me that day, wishing me peace and comfort, as he knew my son and I were out at Ken's gravesite. Greg never told me that day it was also his birthday, which speaks to his sensitivity and respect for Ken's place in my life, although later it caused me some remorse as his birthday should have been something to celebrate. If only I'd known. Would I have believed it? Would the shared dates have shaken me?

Since our marriage, Greg and I, as well as my children, dance in the complex realities of this date. We've embraced it as uniquely ours. The anniversary of Ken's death is etched on July 22nd, Greg came into life on July 22nd, the 22nd day is the day of my birthday in the fall...it seemed natural that going forward we would chose the 22nd day of any month as our choice for important events and decisions. We married on the 22nd of April. My daughter schedules major exams for this date (she is taking one today), and my son releases new music projects whenever he can on the 22nd.

How fitting that last night my beloved Ken was spoken of in the course of a writing workshop I taught at Auntie's Books on memoir - and I came home that same night to share and celebrate the class with my dear Greg. Today, Greg's birthday, is full of joy. We celebrate the doorway that opened between our lives and loves, and the powerful synchronicity that is for us, the number 22.
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Come to Order

Human judgment can be divided into two broad types: intuitive and rational. When it comes to selecting what to discard, it is actually our rational judgment that causes trouble. Although intuitively we know that an object has no attraction for us, our reason raises all kinds of arguments for not discarding it, such as "I might need it later" or "It's a waste to get rid of it." These thoughts spin round and round in our mind, making it impossible to let go.

I am not claiming it is wrong to hesitate. The inability to decide demonstrates a certain degree of attachment to a particular object. Nor can all decisions be made on intuition alone. But this is precisely why we need to consider each object with care and not be distracted by thoughts of being wasteful.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.


- "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Declutttering and Organizing," by Marie Kondo

This small book (it is quite compact) has now sold over two million copies, a #1 New York Times Bestseller. What that says to me is that Americans are buried in stuff, desperate for guidance, hungry for personal organization, and stymied by the conflicting messages of "keep" or "toss." As I am an organized type by nature, even as a child my toys and books were boxed or alphabetized, I initially read this book out of curiosity. But half way through I realized I was learning, finally, how to really make decisions about the things I own without falling sway to the usual tired aphorisms such as "Waste not, want not," or "You might need/fit into/get back into this someday," and the ultimate trump card - "But I plowed so much money into that!"

Arranged into fun and cogent sections, with titles such as -
You can't tidy if you've never learned how
Storage experts are hoarders
Selection criteria, does it spark joy?
If you're mad at your family, your room may be the cause
Komono (miscellaneous items): keep things because you love them - not "just because"
Don't underestimate the "noise" of written information
An attachment to the past or anxiety about the future

- Kondo's book explains the deeper principles behind why we keep things, how best to organize them, ways to treasure them (proper storage), and finally, how to live firmly in the present in our day-to-day relationship with things.

I found my personal Waterloo in Kondo's section regarding books (apparently common enough to require its own section). While not so tenacious I finish books I do not like, or hang onto books I'm not sure I'll ever read (and have felt that way about for more than a year), I do keep the majority of books I buy. I consciously curate my book choices, in terms of personal esteem for the work, or with an eye toward collection completion (for example all the works by a favorite author, not just the few I enjoy). I collect print, not e-books (I like the physical beauty of books, and dip into pages at random), so the storage requirements for my books are impressive. Kondo suggests we consider things we own in multiples (e.g. sports equipment, clothes, books, music, toys, etc.) in terms of the pleasure they provide. This nudged me to rethink my approach. Unless I am investing in a complete collection for its future resale value, what is the personal value to me of the complete set? If, say, only one of three books by a certain author brings me genuine pleasure maybe I should let go of the others. The result would be fewer books taking valuable space, and of those books, having the ones I love.

I recommend you take a look at this spunky, practical little book. It is terrific. Kondo genuinely understands the complicated relationships humans have with things. The feelings tied up in objects - the obligation we feel to retain family heirlooms (my husband an I are currently discussing a certain unusable - to us - wood Norwegian cradle), the guilt over past purchasing mistakes (my sister bemoans the trend in jeggings), fear of an uncertain future, and its twin, an intrinsic appreciation of the value in a buck, and that perennially hopeful assessment that borders on wishful thinking (sure I'll be a size 4, go camping/river rafting/repelling again).

Kondo respects the true joy an object can provide. The principles of decluterring are not just to lighten the load (although that has undeniable merit), but to absolutely love and appreciate what we choose to keep in our lives. Now, today.

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The Good Life

My children at the beach with our dog, Scooter

THE GOOD LIFE
by Mark Strand

You stand at the window.
There is a glass cloud in the shape of a heart.
There are the wind's sighs that are like caves in your speech.
You are the ghost in the tree outside.

The street is quiet.
The weather, like tomorrow, like your life,
is partially here, partially up in the air.
There is nothing you can do.

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair
and appears, on foot, unrecognized, offering nothing,
and you are there.


We stand in the tracks of tangled footpaths among dreams, ambitions, regrets, loss. At every vantage, we take in the long view. There is something about our hearts that needs the wideness of the unknown, the promise of discovery around the next bend. Mark Strand's line, "like tomorrow, like your life,/is partially here, partially up in the air," reminds us we exist in becoming - in shift between hard realties and bright imaginings. Partially here, partially up in the air.

In a week marked by deep suffering and wordless pain for our own communities and others around the world, of shocked disbelief, and moral agony, I find unexpected comfort in these lines of Strand's last stanza:

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair


The ability of life to rebound, for wounds to heal and the human journey to continue - mindful of events that have occurred - moves me. I don't know if someday the world will end on a high note or a whimper, but life continues to seek what is good. We must rise. The celebration of The Fourth of July blesses the founding anniversary of our nation, symbolized in part by family gatherings and communal celebrations. In the wake of all that has been tragic and awful, let us lift one another, step forward, and stand strong in community.

The following is from my very first post, July of 2010:

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, playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes of the wheel, ratta-tatta-tat down the block for an ice cream. Hot afternoons at the city pool, sleepovers under the stars, lemonade stands in red Flyer wagons. The boom of thunder and the salted tar smell of cool rain as it hits a hot street. The vacation trip to the beach. Crammed in the family station wagon packed to the gills, counting state license plates...

Life is forever "partially up in the air." Choose faith. Choose joy. Choose optimism. Find time for yourself and those you love.

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