Musings

There is melancholy floating through the chilly spring air; I’m wondering if it will get warm and stay warm any time soon, but working on being OK with what is.

There are four little mostly-featherless, not-seeing-yet baby birds in the nest now. I feel a sense of mammaness toward them; I check too many times a day to see how they are, what they’re doing. I think I’m falling in love with four little almost-birds.

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I believe I may have come late to this game: Bill Callahan, has sent into the world a new record today. I came across it quite by chance and was immediately mesmerized. His lyrics are smart and lovely. His voice warm and calming. And the guitar on this one, my god, the guitar on this one. Not to mention it may be the best music video ever.

She looked ravishing and age-appropriate in her yellow dress. It was a beautiful night. She stormed across that gym floor and took her place in the long and winding line of diploma-holders moving on into something else in life. Ready to be done, sad to be leaving, curious and nervous about the future.

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In the ending chaos she let me hold her beautiful head, let us have a moment of sorrow and pride there in that elementary school gymnasium. I can feel the lives I have lived seeping into her, her courage growing, her self coming into focus. She is the finest daughter co-pilot a mom could have. Before long she’ll take the damn wheel herself. I love her so.

I think this is pretty great, too, and reminds me of some pieces of my past as I put the finishing touches on eight years without booze. You will never regret it, someone said, you will never regret not drinking. I stand and watch this week as we lower two more fine humans into the ground, feeling how brief the arc of a life, and I know it to be true.

The altered states are nice, for a nanosecond or two; the blessings you will find in the every day, the ordinary will change you, shift molecules, ground and elevate you. Finding a way to be OK with what is, not wanting to disappear from it or make it go away; learning to “investigate things as they are and myself as I am” as the lovely Mirabai Starr has said … this is the beautiful and maddening, hard and worthy work of a life.


 

Born

I have been watching this nest for a while now, at times afraid I was making the mamma too nervous with my curiosity, but still unable to stop myself. The perfect blue of the eggs, the magic of the wondering … when will they be born … what will happen next … sent me back to the tree to the nest over and over until yesterday when I saw them for the first time. Welcome to the world, tiny creatures! How lucky for you to have been born birds.

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Furthermore. I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, too, by this, the very last holdout on the Crabapple tree. For several days now this … late bloomer? tenacious blossom? botanical rebel? has remained the final gasp while the rest of the tree has moved on. It makes me smile every time, that she continues to bloom in spite of …

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And finally, in a week of baby birds born and last-gasp bloomers, of course she is graduating tonight from middle school. She has been there since she was three years old, a pro. I have no idea how Charlotte Central School will go on without her, but time does time’s thing, right? On Tuesday she was given an award for ‘responsible and involved citizenship,’ which, in simple language translates to kindness. Helen Cooper Hood Eyre has so many wonderful qualities, but most certainly it is her kindness, shining like a beacon from her tender soul, that defines her.

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She has been many, many, many things in her fourteen short years on this planet. Off to high school in the fall, driving next winter. Brace yourself world, The Coco is on her way.


Updates

I have, indeed, cured myself of a case of gluten intolerance. I’m far enough out now to be able to say that it’s gone. Through meditation, Reiki (self), visualization and prayer I have created a healthier gut biome and I can eat all the things that made me sick for a time: pasta, bread, pie. Pie! Blueberry this morning for breakfast.

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There is no denying that we are not only entirely interconnected within our own personal biosphere: heart, head, brain, gut, toenails, dreams, fears, traumas, lungs, hands, organs, but that we are connected to everyone and everything around us. Where there is dis-ease in our lives, disharmony in our world, there will be sickness. And though the very well-trained traditional medical community has good information that can help us with some conditions, there are myriad ways to approach and achieve wellness. I have learned first-hand just how powerfully my thoughts and emotions affect my biology. There are many, many lessons to be gleaned when we are out of harmony, internally and externally.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some snack foods; I am addicted to sugar, I probably don’t get enough exercise—I am no guru. But on this path I have come to understand that if we have immense power to cause harm and to do ill, (to ourselves and others) then we have immense power to heal and to correct. With practice, intention, some shifting away from old habits, attempts to integrate new and the ingesting of a lot of humble pie, we have the ability to pave our own road to wellville.

And.

My parents are in the early stages of letting go of their southern Vermont life. They may make a full-circle move back to Saratoga, where we all grew up. This is no easy feat, as any of you who have been through this process know. Mom and Dad built their house together twenty-something years ago. Dad did the carpentry work, Mom made sandwiches, swept up, got the tools, tended to things. Their very hearts are in that space— a place that feels far more like home than any of the houses we spent our growing up years in. Every one of us has watched Mom stand at the front door, waving as we drove off to somewhere else. Thanksgivings, Christmases, sledding, bonfires, wood stacking, long walks on the dirt road. All of us have brought our babies there, now our teens and young adults. I have returned there many times to find solace in hard days. It will be hard for all of us to let it go, but, as the song says … comes a time.

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It’s a simple, sturdy house that sits on some of the most gorgeous land you will ever see. If you know someone with a good heart who is looking for a home on a quiet dirt road, marinated in love on about five acres with a view that will teach you reverence and a stream nearby that sings to you at night, in the beautiful wilds of southern Vermont, let me know.


Granite

I have a folder on my laptop desktop labeled ‘died.’ In it I keep photos of everyone I know who has died in the past seven years or so. Some I came to know in hospice care, some were friends, some parents of friends, some children of friends.

I keep this folder in part because I don’t want to forget those folks, their names, their stories. I revisit it often, saying their names out loud, remembering something about the person. Three deaths, two funerals and a visit to a friend buried in a cemetery these past few weeks have me thinking a lot about how we remember the dead.

I’m curious about the placing of a headstone, leaving a piece of granite or marble on a spot of land where a body or ashes may be buried—something incredibly durable to mark a fleeting moment in time, a temporary life. Funny, isn’t it, that we choose to keep ourselves here that way? That we feel the need to be memorialized in stone, our names and dates of birth and death, a stamp on this world … I was here.

Having lived across the street from one for a time, I know that not many people visit cemeteries. A few came on a regular basis; usually there was an increase in traffic around Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Otherwise, cemeteries are as quiet as you imagine them to be.

I took a careful look at my ‘died’ folder this morning, shuffled the pics around into categories. There are more men than women and there are men of all ages; there are no women who died in their 20s or 30s, though there are several men in that group. My favorite is the ‘lipstick’ generation of women: moms of my friends and women in their 70s and 80s I knew in hospice—the ones who wore their lipstick faithfully up until the very end, the ones who were well-dressed, well-coiffed, often mothers of lots of kids. They were athletic, elegant, game.

I went to Boston for the funeral of one of these women the other day and during the drive I realized that a lot of the sorrow I was feeling had to do with me. The mom of my college friend, Megan, had died; I had known her mostly in passing: on days of drop-off and pick-up at St. Lawrence; parents’ weekends, summer visits. We knew that generation more formally: I knew Megan’s parents as Mr. and Mrs. Mattaliano and I like that very much, the respect inherent in that language; the clarity of space and roles: they were the adults, in charge and getting things done; we were the kids, having fun, trying to figure it out.

Rock climbing in Boulder, 1988.

Rock climbing in Boulder, 1988.

I realized on my trip to Mrs. Mattaliano’s funeral that I was mourning the loss of a part of me as the generation of our parents takes leave of this place and we enter into the spaces they held. I thought of the college girl me and the innocence I wasn’t aware I had then during what was a carefree time of life. I listened to the Grateful Dead on the drive, thinking of the many days Megan and I spent at shows, dancing, camping, being with friends. I thought of the good people we knew, our travels, the dreams we had for ourselves, some of which came to pass, many of which didn’t.

I looked around at the gathering, taking in the new generation of Mattalianos (there are seven kids in Megan’s family; eleven grands): tall young men, athletic girls, moving out into the world. I looked at us, in our 50s now, graying, tired faces, achy bodies, navigating family dynamics as our former guides fall into ill health and die. We are caring for our parents as we watch our kids head out to conquer the world. It’s a funny place to be in the span of a lifetime: right in the middle of two generations leaving us.

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The scales of pain and joy leveled when I ran into a high school friend, home from Jasper, Alberta to celebrate his uncle’s 90th birthday. It made me so happy to see his smiling face, pictures of his wife and kids and the beautiful place where they live. Tony maintains the same joie de vivre he had when we were kids, the same perennially good-natured outlook on life. It was a shot of happiness straight to the heart to see him, to be with him for a short time, to hear the stories of his life.

Over breakfast we talked about our own ideas for a funeral, for our eventual time of death. Tony and I are more of the scatter my ashes, have a terrific party school of thought. No headstone for me, thanks anyway. I hope there is a memory or two that gets passed into the next generation, a story told when the dishes are cleared and the whiskey is poured, about MO’B. No doubt it will be something along the lines of … what a nutcase she was, all over the place all the time. And that’s fine, it’s partly true. What I tell my kids is this: when I die be sure to tell them that I loved this life, that I have loved, loved this world and the people in it. Be sure and do that … tell them that I loved being alive, then slide my picture into the ‘died’ folder and keep on truckin’ on.

Peaceful passage, Adrienne Dillon Mattaliano. March 20, 1935-May 27, 2019.


“When I retired from teaching they told me I could take my pension as a lump sum or in monthly payments. I thought … well, I’m 65, I’m not going to live that much longer, so I took the lump sum.” Mrs. Stouter, 104 years old

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