Sunday, October 29, 2006

Love In Its Own Good Time

On the occasion of your 80th birthday, Dad, I sit to write you. There’s so much to say, and yet so little. First and foremost, I want to say how fortunate I feel for having you as my father, and for so much longer than you had yours! There was a time (do all children do this? I don’t know) that I wished for another father. If you ever felt that from me, I regret it. And I make it my business today to say that I am grateful and certain you have been the perfect father for me.

During a writing session with my students several months ago, I found myself writing thanks to you. (I mentioned this writing when you were in the hospital, said I wanted to share it with you.) The writing was nothing special; I have thought I would ‘make it into something’. I don’t want to make it into something. I want to just say what turned up, because it was a revelation: revelatory. The sequence went like this:

First of all, he gave me life. My stature, which I’ve come to love--and lately, come to flaunt. He gave me thick hair, a natural wave enhanced by damp or muggy weather. He gave me hazel eyes, and how I love the changeability of that: no same same brown for me! He gave me this daily surprise, this mystery. And my widow’s peak, another mark of distinction. And no doubt, my creativity... My god! My father gave me my creativity, that quality which I value most of all. That aspect of me, of life, that enlivens me--how many times a day? That essential that keeps me youthful, vital, continuously challenged. For too long I have cheated him of thanks. This can’t go on much longer—soon, it may be too late. He gave me fearlessness. To take something apart with the confidence that I can put it all back together again. He gave me a healthy respect for alcohol, sufficient not to be cast in its spell. He gave me beauty, the love of words, and ingenuity--the capacity to figure anything out, to conceive creative solutions. Creative: you see? There it is again. Inventive, inventor, he gave me a sharp and intrepid mind, unafraid to wander into unknown parts to find a resolution. I am woven with this thread, this inheritance, and so I fashion from infinity each day a new creation.

As I said, nothing special, as far as the writing goes. But what’s in there I wanted you to know.

For so long, for too too long, I focused on whatever in life I wasn’t happy about. Dad sawing up the Christmas tree, Mom hitting and hollering at me, friends “ditching” me. I thought I needed a better father, a better—at least different—mother, or better friends. But what I really needed, and finally got, was a better point of view.

To always see the good: I’d seen people do this. But to live that way?!

Well, that is Love’s way, and part of the story of “Love’s Freeway,” my newest creative (ad)venture. It is my idea of a beautiful way to live. And my intention.

I am eternally grateful for all my involvements and reading and such that have woken me up. That have smartened me up, you might say. Particularly when it comes to you and our relationship, which has come so far in the past—well, I’d say five years, especially. I do regret, and deeply, Dad, any time or any way that I ever left you feeling anything less than the best. Seeing the good in you makes me see (and sad) that in focusing on the “bad” for so long, I cheated myself of a lot of good that was right there sitting beside it. So many people tried for so long to love me—you perhaps chief among them—and I wouldn’t permit it. I was too intent upon, too busy grinding my axe.

Well, I have no more axes to grind—not with you or with anyone else. I am a happy—joyful—and fine person who knows well now (at last!) how to love and how to receive love, right to the bottom of my heart. There’s nothing more meaningful, nothing more joyful, and nothing more painful!

As selfish as it is, I’d like my parents to live forever. We treat you like you’ll both be around forever. And you will be, but not in body. As you’re all too aware of late, the body has a limited “shelf life.” Every day and month and year I’ve had to love you both, especially since this opening of my heart, since this “smartening up,” has been a priceless gift. I’m sad I wasn’t able to do it sooner. It makes me greedy for more – for forever, say! I know I can’t have that, and I wouldn’t want to keep you from your Glory. But whenever it is that you must go, please tell me you won’t have a speck of doubt about my love for you, and please tell me that I haven’t disappointed you. I feel I could’ve been a much better daughter to you, over all those years of looking past the good. There’s no getting those years back. But to my eye, what’s REALLY GOOD is that we’ve both—all—lived long enough to make it here. Here to know and to feel love that always was and always will be. Here to say: Dad, I couldn’t have wished for a better father than you for me. Here to say: Dad, thank you for giving me my life, my creative passion, my ingenuity, my beauty, my stature, my great hair, my widow’s peak! Here to say that whether I’m with you or not, whether we’re talking or not, I’ll be loving you to pieces every minute of the rest of your life. Well, and mine too, for that matter.

Happy birthday, Daddy-o. You’re the best.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Broccoli and Brake Fluid

This morning I awoke to an image in my mind's eye of cold, limp broccoli on an almost cleared supper plate. I stayed with it awhile to see if I could ressurect the feeling I had as a little girl of sitting over it in a dark dining room (or so I remember it), while the rest of my family was off enjoying their evening--that special slice of day between suppertime and bedtime. I tried to remember how it ended; I've never stayed with this memory long enough to play it through. Did my mother come, take pity on me, and sweep the plate from the table? Did I hold my nose and swallow bites whole, washed down with what was left of my milk? Did I wrap my limp and smelly punishment in a napkin and take it to the toilet?

I must have eaten some: that was the point. "Broccoli is good for you." Surely my mother said that along the way, because that was the point. I was sitting there long and late because I was refusing to eat something that was good for me. Now as then, my mother is wont to overcook broccoli. Or so I say; actually, that is in dispute. She calls done what I call over done. The flavor changes: we all know this, yes? Take broccoli past green and into the pallor of gray, and you have rearranged its chemical makeup. This results in a new taste, which sure enough I could taste this morning as I revived the moment bodily. That little body. That will. That...knowing, steamrolled. The fact is, that broccoli tasted awful. She might as well have been asking me to eat food sprayed with skunk serum. That it might've been good for me (and this is for sure debatable, because boiling or steaming a vegetable to such a pallor leaves behind scant nutrition for the body's use) was altogether beside the point. It looked bad, it tasted worse, and everything in me was saying "uh uh."

It has happened to all of us, no? We must do something 'for our own good' because someone else says so. In grade school, we must straighten up and fly right. Stand in orderly lines, sit nicely in orderly rows. Cause no disruptions in the classroom. Make good grades. Then we learn to be good citizens, neighbors, employees. We are versed in what it means to be a good Catholic or Jew or Muslim. And good parents: well, they see that their children eat right, right?

"Eat your vegetables."

It's no wonder that by a certain age, we are substantially--however unconsciously--confused. We have been well conditioned, over many years' time, to override (the turn of the stomach over that broccoli, for example), to stifle, to act in spite of our...what to call it? Our core, native, true promptings, let's call it. We are taught to ignore what we know. Know in the gnostic sense: that which we know without learning or training; that which we know though we can't say how we know it. We become expert at ignoring what we know. And we suffer the consequences.

This knowing, Love's way with us, will always do right by us if we allow it.

Last week I allowed it. My car, which by the way is on its fourth front axle in eight years, started this unsettling grip and shudder business on hard turns a couple of weeks ago. One day, I screwed up my courage (with visions of facing my mechanic, Tony, with yet another bad axle, and a sinking doubt that he'd swallow this one under that original warranty too) to kneel down and check the universal joint boot on each side. Nothing. No cracks, no signs of damage or wear. Whew. But still the shudder, the gripping. And damned if it wasn't growing more pronounced with each passing day.

I decided to relax. To employ denial. To reason: "This car just cost me $800 in April. It's only October. It's not time for another big expense." And I took my turns more gently.

Here's where the brake fluid comes in.

I was driving (a long, straight stretch), thinking not at all about the shudder or its implications when, like a sudden breeze through an open window, there it was. There they were, I should say. Three words: power steering fluid. It was as if (though I was driving alone) someone had leaned over and whispered in my ear. Power steering fluid. At which point I thought of the gripping, the shudder, and decided, "I'll check the fluid." I remembered a half-used bottle of what was for all I knew steering fluid in my trunk. It turned out to be brake fluid; eons ago, before this car I think, I needed to up the brake fluid level. Which confirmed, actually, what I had been suspecting. I knew a little about brake fluid, but I knew nothing about power steering fluid. Prior to that whisper in my ear, power steering fluid had been but the vaguest of notions to me. Something overheard once, perhaps. Perhaps while walking through the shop to the front desk to pay Tony.

You may have gathered that I am not a twice a year need it or not, check the tires and brakes and fluids and such, kinda gal. I'll blame my father for that; he was our resident master mechanic, master plumber, master carpenter--all-around brilliant handyman. Everything got taken care of, everything got fixed, and most often we knew not how. Somehow out of all that, I sit here with the attitude that cars should just run. Ha! Until the gas tank starts leaking onto the driveway, or the axle joint starts grinding and seizing up. Until certain things happen that I just can't ignore.

I pulled out my Owner's Manual. I opened the hood. In a foreign quarter (I do check the oil, fill the window wash), I located then dusted off the reserve cap and removed it. I read the indicators on the short dipstick. I wiped, dipped, and looked again: bone dry. Twenty minutes and two dollars later, I returned from a refreshing walk to and from the neighborhood Auto Parts store with my solution. Within three days, the unnerving symptom had subsided, and by the end of a week, I felt like I was steering on satin: that silky smooth glide! It felt like a new car.

All because I relaxed my grip, because I ceased to resist, which left me open to knowing. I had released the "oh no, not another..." visions of big problems and their accompanying stress and expense, and quiet, calm space had taken their place. Into that space came my answer. In the absence of the static, of wringing thought over thought, I could hear it. I heard. I listened. I acted on what I heard.

How well Love knows its way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mile Marker

It's been awhile, I know. But trust me: I've been making tracks on this Freeway--quite the scenic route, to say the least--and I've been accumulating mucho evidence of Love having its way and...well, it's been rather piling up. So I pulled off to set up shop and begin production.


Yes. Phase two, after the birth of the blog a month and (almost) a half ago. But I'm getting to that.

First, I want to thank 'eezngrce' for the recent extremely thoughtful comment. In particular, your words:

"You forgot, which is our vast and endless human story. We are the great forgetters are we not? We forget. We lose contact with still awareness, with our inherent essential beingness..."

Your words excited me. "Yes, yes!" I thought. "That's it exactly. We forget." That's the reason for Love's Freeway, and for whatever comes down this pike. Phase two, for example. But hold on; I'm getting to that.

Make no mistake: Love's way is no utopia. Sometimes Love's way is to take a life. A limb. To cause devastation, to raze, to smother. To level, in mind, body and/or spirit. I have not intended to paint a myopic, one-sided, or sugar-coated picture here. Love's way includes many an "ugly," painful, trying mile. Yes, sometimes one must lose one's mind in order for Love to get its way. Or lose one's home or cat or spouse or breast. I will expand on this another time, if need be. But for the moment (since I'm really hot to talk about Phase two, as you well know), suffice it to say that resistance that blocks the flow of that "inherent essential beingness" blocks Love's way. The result of that block is all manner of unhappiness, all manner of illness. And these can be, if we're listening for it, the great awakeners, great gifts. Reminders that we've forgotten.

I've long taken comfort and cues from Nature, which is supremely adept at giving Love its way. Nature expresses its "inherent essential beingness"...well, naturally. I've said it before: trees tree. Ducks duck. The moth moths. I've never seen a moth trying to bee or bird or duck or tree. Moths moth, and that's all. And it gets even more specific of course. Monarchs monarch. Snapdragons snapdragon. Sycamores sycamore. That's all. They never stop and ask "How'm I doing?" The horsechestnut tree never inquires, "Hey, whadya think of these chestnuts? Pretty good, huh?" Because trees tree. They live outside the realm of dichotomous thought, of the duality of good or bad, right or wrong. They simply express what they're here to express, without pause and with no need for applause.

We (humans), as expressions of the Natural World, are capable of this as well, capable of living outside the realm of the duality of good and bad, right and wrong, expressing what we're here to express, without pause and with no need for applause--purely, truly. But ha ha, and alas: as 'eezngrce' reminds us: we forget.

The scenery, the images I've posted here thus far are intended as reminders. Such exquisite, arresting evidence of Love's way, which in a busy day you might very well pass and not even notice, walking around your world, I've deliberately captured, close up, for just this purpose. I defy you to look deep into the throat of a bearded iris and tell me it doesn't embody the pure, true expression.

And at last, this brings me to Phase two.

I have capture hundreds of such images, offer hundreds of such reminders. And am adding to them almost daily. (Like I said, lots of evidence has been piling up.) So I've set up the shop, and gone to town transforming these images, these captured evidences, these often breathtaking reminders into a goodly supply of original, handmade note cards. And as of today, they are officially available for purchase. And when I can get the elves busily at work with card production--at least the elf or elves with web design skills--over to the computer to build our website, it will be my wholehearted pleasure and fulfillment to feature them there. Phase three will include enlarged, matted and framed (or unframed) prints as well, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Watch for a future mile marker to announce that.

Why am I joyful about this?

Because sure: words can be wonderful reminders. Words can inspire, instruct, inquire, involve, incite--do so many things. But how much more preferable and pleasing it is to 'get it from the horse's mouth.' I'm happier to let the evidence (not mine, Love's) speak for itself. Plus, the concrete fact of these cards means the Freeway has just expanded to reach wider and farther than it has up to now. It will reach into anniversary and birthday and wedding celebrations. (One card has already been purchased for a wedding gift, one has honored 26 years of great leadership and community building, one has appreciated a dinner host.) It will reach into reunions and graduations and reconciliations. It will provide bridges for forgiveness, for ardor, for apology, for tribute, for--of all things-- love.

Am I excited? YES, I am excited!

Witness the evidence yourself and remember.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Road Sign

This is
The Truth