Even in these dark days while we all count the slow minutes of each hour, there are some gifts resting under our fear. Shifting my daily routine from standing resolutely in my classroom to teaching from a wavy screen in my living room first brought me unease, but then I found absolute faith from my students who are rising to meet the demands like champs. I have gained hope from these teenagers, as their optimism buoys me in despair. I depend on them once more to cultivate a symbiotic although digital relationship, as we all face another day sheltering in place. During the other hours, while alone in my own thoughts, I turn to memories of traveling this one planet, navigating the ancient cobblestones and sandy beaches and stone steps and narrow turrets and city sidewalks and dirt roads and roof tops and galleries brimming with the masters and bike paths and mountain peaks all under a busy and brilliant sky.
Red in the white
With the strain and slant of black
These winter days push us to our limits and demand blood
The life the surge of all that we have of all we want of all period
Red splashes across this midsection of our February
There are always days which stay with you long after a season has been folded and packed away. Moments when you felt joy or purpose or transcendence or connection, when nothing stood in your way, blocked your view, held you back or caused doubt or fear to creep in. Summer, for me, allowed for a multitude of such glimpses into splendor. Perhaps you are nodding in agreement because of your freedom days: vacation time to dive in, soar above, or just sway on a porch swing. However you got there, I do hope you felt the divine. Sweet euphoria. And perhaps have garnered a few lessons of your own to remember when the cold wind strikes. Here are mine.
There is a cut-your-own tradition in Vermont with Christmas trees. Decades ago when my family first started to have Thanksgiving here, we’d tag our tree during that long weekend. Then, weeks later, we’d head back to the farm, with sled in tow and saw in hand, we’d try to find our special tree. There were years when we’d have to trudge through feet of snow, and on hands and knees, dig our way down to find the trunk. Frozen fingers wrapped around the saw we’d tug back and forth until it was cut through. Oh those fresh trees would fill the house with everything Christmas. Sweet pine. Cold air and snow. Even the mountain view came into our living room with that smell.
Memory flooded my mind these weeks. Perhaps leisure during Labor Day Weekend allows that for some of us. This holiday, a century old acknowledgment for those who labor around us, building and mending our structures and infrastructures, three days that neatly divide summer from fall, freedom days from the job-filled days, a weekend when 35 million people hit the road or take to the skies for one last fling, or in the case of many travelers, bring their college students to their respective college; regardless, that long weekend filled me with images. It wasn’t all that long ago that I too drove the highways for that task, and although I would say I eventually got better at those goodbyes, I am reminded of a first one, many years ago, made easier by the wisdom of my mother.
Mothers and their daughters. I do suppose one might say, fathers and sons, but for me, as a daughter and a mother, these two relationships have loomed large. If fact the complexity is still unfolding for me, the relationship I had with my mother, the one I still forge with my daughter. Some of my mother’s finest gifts took years to appreciate. Remembering a Labor Day weekend, years ago, me with a SUV packed full with my daughter and her ‘bare essentials’ as a Freshman entering college, and my mother waiting for us in a five star hotel, is certainly one of those gifts.
I am aware that if you are a humanitarian and liberal thinker, you are crying over this week’s terrors, but if you’re a conservative and supporter of our current administration you may be feeling triumphant, but currently I am focusing on creativity and staying clear of politics, as hard as that is for me and yes, it is hard to ignore humans in cages. Instead, I am planning for my work with next year’s students while taking a week-long class with two terrific colleagues. During all this plotting I can’t help but remember my own artistry, which is, of course, writing. The place I go to whenever given a second, an empty space, where I fall so hard whenever I have the chance. So… tonight I thought, why not share bits of that imaginative place?
Interested in reading Chapter 1 of a yet to be published novel? I’d love to know if you are… indeed… interested… and what you think afterwards. Please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add another chapter to the storyline next week if you’d like.
Do you remember when you first discovered Ram Dass’s 1970’s iconic Be Here Now? When you cracked open that journey? I do… only a teen unsteady on which way was up but I dove in all the same.
Those years revolved round myself. Being here now meant more time with an emphasis on present enjoyment. Chasing the next high until reality drifted out of view. Being present was pure frenzy. What may have started as new-age spirituality for others morphed onto immediacy for me and my crew, and even though there was the notion that we, this new generation, care beyond ourselves, to include all the souls inhabiting this one earth, the real focus was on one’s small private world, frequently spinning out of control, fast, then faster. From my vantage, Ram Dass ignited a wave of self-professed hedonists, of which I was yet another faithful fan, who heralded in reckless totality. By the time I reached my early twenties, the party had consumed too many around me; I was lucky to crawl out of the glitter alive. Continue reading