Friday, November 28, 2014

broken promise ... fulfilled dream

It is the day after Thanksgiving and I am electing to enjoy a welcome quiet along with a return to Autumn's gentle warmth and sunshine. The Husband and Cowgirl are out raking leaves. The bulk of the holiday's accoutrements - the good china, silverware, serving dishes -  have been cleaned and put away.  I finished clearing out my mother's apartment over a week ago and there is little that demands my immediate attention. 

Except for the ironing. 

And that, I believe, is the only promise my mother ever made to me and broke.

Last year we hosted the big family Thanksgiving. Surveying the damage to my grandmother's table linens - cranberry sauce, red wine, coffee and gravy stains evidence of a good and rich meal - I decided to utilize the services of a professional cleaners.  After picking up the cleaned goods, I called my mother immediately from my car. Such was my shock at the cost of an elite cleaning service.  She too was stunned by the price (more than a dinner out at a nice restaurant, slightly less than the cost of my cowboy boots from the Tractor Supply Store) and she told me then "Next time I will wash and iron them for you."

So today I faced a new pile of dirty table linens and I knew This now is mine. 

I have to admit, there is something soothing about ironing. Growing up, the iron board was always at the ready in our basement.  As a child, my chore was ironing pillow cases and dish cloths.  I tried to enlist Cowgirl's assistance."This was my job when I was a little girl." She just laughed at me and then tried the logic "I could burn my fingers" before running off to join her father in the leaf raking.

And that is how I came to spent an hour and a half engaged in the domestic form of meditation known as ironing. 

The tablecloth was the hardest, it being so big and unwieldy to novice hands. I could hear my mother's voice "I'm sorry Lisa."  She took her promises seriously. Yet ironing was the perfect task for me now that so many tasks have been completed.  It gave me the time for my head to synch up with my heart.

What I am discovering in this process of grieving my mother is opportunity to grieve - which really is the flip side to celebrating - the many women who have mothered me throughout my life.  For my mother was not only a very good mother, she was also a really good friend. 

As I sift through old photographs, I am remembering all my aunties: my godmother (self-proclaimed fairy godmother, and she was), the older neighbor who was a mentor to my mother, and all the friends whose homes were second homes to myself and my family. One of the hardest tasks has been to contact the surviving friends of my mother - there are only a handful left - to inform them of her death. After the stunned silence, stories follow about what fun they had together and how my mother was always there for them.

 Her friends all commented upon my mother's beautiful singing voice. If she had a secret dream, I would guess it would have been to be a professional singer.  My mother loved to sing and she knew the words to all the old songs. 

But I cannot remember my mother ever expressing an unfulfilled ambition or dream.  Rather than dwelling upon what she hadn't done, she focused upon what she had accomplished.  "I've lived a good life," she shared with me on what was her last day.  "I did pretty good for a kid who only had one pair of shoes."  And she did.  She traveled the world, she read any book she could get her hands upon, she loved history, art, movies and music. She shared and nurtured that love with me.

My mother did not have a career outside the home.  She was not a professional; she was not an entrepreneur or a ground-shaker; she was independent but she was not interested in changing the world so much as experiencing it. If anything, my  mother was an artist.  Her talent was with a needle and thread, although she excelled at creative cookery honed through years of scrimping and saving. She poured her love and attention into her family and her friends. I cannot imagine a more noble accomplishment: good friend, good mother. She was both to me. 

Just today I read "Grief is love turned inside out."  For me, there is this experience of all that I've known and loved being shaken out of me, spread out and visible with new insights and deep truths revealed. As I reflect upon all the angst and anxiety I've generated in my search for meaning "What do I want to be when I grow up?" and "What purpose am I meant to serve?" I see clearly what my mother's gift was and has always been: be present, be love. 

So today as I finish the ironing, I sing out the names of all my aunties who loved my mother and by extension, loved me.  I am grateful for the nurturing circle of women my mother gathered around me and I am grateful for the continuing spiral of friends who are my extended family.  I know my mother's love lives on as long as I stand in that circle, adding and receiving love to that flow. 

If there was one thing my mother would have been happy I shared, it would be the photos from her glamor days.

My mom was beautiful inside ... and out. She fulfilled the important promises, the ones worth keeping. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Coffee Talk (a 21 Secrets Conversation with Connie)

I know everyone  in the States is busy prepping for Thanksgiving ... but if you want a little company while making your pies or sauces, then I think you will enjoy the conversation I had a few months back with the divine Ms. Connie of Dirty Footprints Studio.

Connie is one of my.all.time.favorite.people and chatting with her about art, family, and practice is always a joy and an inspiration. I f you are really busy in the kitchen (or sitting on the sofa with a mug of something warm and soothing) and would like to hear more, then check out all the other delightful conversations (the series began on October 27 - just in time for my birthday, thank you Connie!)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

a daughter's prayer


My days are filled with tidbits of you.

Things I normally scorn have become sacred relics:
Brummel & Brown spread across my morning host
my face anointed with Ponds cold cream
blue fig body wash to cleanse away my sins
and my regrets.

I lift the white plastic lid from the perfume bottle
and breathe in the scent of bergamot, white jasmine, rose and lily of the valley
incense that brings you immediately to life.

Now I am watched over by the cement gargoyle
you dragged across the country in
that last move.

He resides now in my back garden
his head resting in clawed hands,
wings drooping from the bitter Midwest cold
or perhaps weariness from his task as guardian
and witness to the relentless unfolding of life?

We both seem to be stuck in this moment:
How do we go on?  What do we keep? What do we release?

Packing up your apartment I had hope to find
a message secreted away
a clue to who you are,
how you felt,
words to comfort me in this, my time of need.

But always the mother,
you artfully slip out of spotlight ...

All I find are
my letters, notes and mother’s day cards
bundled together with the same red yarn ribbon 
tied upon every suitcase handle our family owned.

My prayer is that you
carry my words with you,
wrapping them about your soul
to warm and feed you on your journey.

You are the best mother ~
Thank you for being my best friend ~
I love you ~
I miss you ~
I can’t wait to see you ~

Friday, November 14, 2014

treasures (and treasuring)

My life these past few weeks consists of making lists, making calls, filling out forms, visiting notaries, packing boxes and packing boxes ... and packing boxes.

There is so much to do, tending to what is the ultimate move of a lifetime. I know the busyness keeps me moving forward and it keeps some of the grief at bay.  There just isn't much time to sit and feel ... 

Sorting through my mother's belongings, I vacillate between feeling I am invading her privacy and paying homage to the relics of her life. One of her close friends offered me great comfort by saying "She would have wanted you to be the one to sort through her things." 

I am deeply engaged with her memories and it is a sacred process sifting through what constitutes a life. While the work keeps my mind busy, there are moments when I am ambushed by grief (a very accurate description by The Man)  and find myself stalled and unable to conceive how I will go on without her?

All I know to do is hold onto my practice ... meditating with my girl and sketching every day in my journal.  Staying in my own rhythms -  engaged with my own life - while honoring hers by celebrating the details.

In the process of wrapping up my mother's life, I am discovering that the process of letting her go is balanced by this coming to know her in a whole, new way.  I am finally seeing her not just as my mother, but as a complete and separate person ... a child with dreams ...

a wife, a friend, a mother, a woman on a singular and unique journey.  And by taking in the fullness of her life, I am discovering pieces of my own ...


... clues peppered throughout her life, pointing towards me and the person that I am and the person I am becoming. 

I haven't lost my mother ... I'm just seeing our story in a whole, new way.  I don't have to go on without her because she is always a part of who I am ...  just as I am a part of who she was.  


Friday, November 7, 2014

THE practice ... (finally, Friday)

Each month, I try to align myself with the cycles of the moon ... setting an intention for the coming month during the darkness of the new moon and then observing how the moon's passage to fullness amplifies or alters what it is I am needing to bring into my life.

This month, the lesson is pretty clear ... my mother passed away two days before the new moon (with its eclipse) ... so in this cycle, what each day demands of me is nothing short of complete and utter ...

Honoring the darkness ... which will, in time , allow me to appreciate and  celebrate the light.

 Happy Full Freeze, Beaver or Snake Moon.  Time to burrow underground and prepare.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Autumn memories ...

It seems that is all I really can hold onto: the memories ... 

the feeling tone of a moment ...


a day ...

a time alone ...

or together ...


the sensation of the magical entering my cells ...

the entire, sweeping whole of my life flowing before me moment-by-moment ...

with just the briefest of pauses allowing me time to gather them up, and stash them safely in the pockets of my heart.