Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Returns

                                   *sea glass from a San Francisco beach

When my brother died, unexpectedly, a little less than a year ago, our family went through a metamorphosis which led us down to the ocean.  No longer could we hold onto our dreams until tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow.  We felt the sudden desperate need to focus on the immediacy of today and with that, we decided to do something that experts in grief counseling would advise someone never to do.  We made the huge decision to rush one of our "when the girls leave home" dreams into reality.  We bought our beach home.  It felt like something that we had to do at the time and we are filled with gratitude by the fact that we were able to bring our dream into reality at a time when we desperately needed it.

So much has changed for us over the course of a year.  But with the sad, with the grieving, with the pain, came some very good things, as well.  And as I begin to emerge from the fog that a sudden shock will cover the lens of life with, some of the diversions which helped to bring me to today will remain with me into many tomorrows.  One of those diversions that became a form of meditation for me, is sea glass hunting.  I cannot begin to express the pleasure that I have gained from the hours that I have spent walking the beaches, over the past months, and collecting sea glass.  The tiny shards of colorful glass that the ocean transforms and then returns to the shoreline, allow me to fixate not only on what is lost, but also on what returns to us after the initial adjustment which occurs after a change.
When Mark and I took our four Angels up to San Francisco, last month, we found a beach that was covered in rocks and sea glass.  It was absolutely amazing!  When we treasure hunt down here in Southern California, the beautiful bits of sea glass are becoming more and more rare, but the father up north you travel, the more and more plentiful the remnants become.  The photos above picture some of the sea glass that I collected during our trip to San Francisco.  If you multiply that amount by six, you will get a better idea of how much glorious treasure our family unearthed.  We came home with pounds of this beautiful bounty, along with the special memories that we shared as a family on our treasure hunts.  Those wonderful memories will be something that we will be able to return to, over and over again.
                                   *seagulls in the sun, San Clemente, California

My four Angels have now taken an interest in sea glass hunting along with their dad and I.  I love that this is something that we will be able to share and enjoy together for many years to come.  Mark and I are planning another trip which will also involve scouring the beaches for treasures.  I know that time will bring along with it many, many changes but if we have something to which we can all return, the difficult times will be much more manageable.

As I was sitting here writing this, I could not help but wonder.  What are some of the things that you do in order to weather the changes of life?  What do you find yourself returning to?  I know many people turn to God or spirituality and that is huge and important, but what kinds of things do you do to distract yourself when life becomes too rough?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leaning into Each Other

My husband and I took a long walk along a somewhat hidden, yet very well-known beach, this past weekend.  We were searching for a new place to comb for sea glass.  The beach that we had been treasure hunting along for over the past nine months, seems to have exhausted its supply and so, the time had come to move into some new territory.  

New territory...This is something that I/we have been slowly leaning into for the past several years.
-When Angel Daughter Number One stretched her wings in the direction of college, I leaned in.  

-When I learned that I was going to have to live with a chronic illness that had taken up residency inside of my body, I leaned in. 

-When my beloved brother passed away unexpectedly and my family was forced to look into the face of not only loss, but also biting betrayal, we all leaned in.  

-When we found out that we would have to fight an overwhelming battle to see our nieces, my daughter's cousins, we all leaned in.

-When our second Angel Daughter moved into her first apartment and began her college journey, I leaned in.

-When Angel Daughter Number Three and Angel Daughter Number Four started driving to high school together, my husband began the loss of his job as the primo-carpool driver and full-time father.  He leaned in.

-And when my husband and I were suddenly faced with the terminal, fast-moving cancer which was quickly ravaging the body of our beloved fifteen year old cat, Harley, about two weeks ago, we leaned in even farther.  And on Monday, we made the heart-wrenching decision to end his life peacefully and humanely, by putting him to sleep.  So, so, so sad.

We never found any sea glass on the new beach that we ventured down to.  Seems we will have to keep searching for the perfect territory on which to hunt.  We know that a good treasure hunt takes time and patience.  But as we were walking along, Mark spotted this rock.  He knew what it was right away.  But it took me a few extra seconds to metabolize its symbolism.  Mark began shifting the rock around so that I could get a better look at it, but when the idea that it was a large heart stone struck me, I asked him to leave it as it was.  For its placement, its shape, the way that it turned up directly on our path, let me know that everything was as it should be.  It reminded me that even when the territory changes, when the path curves or when it's time to search someplace else, as long as we lean in and trust, we will find a way to continue on.

As Mark and I continued our walk along the sand, we talked and laughed and took in all of the beauty which surrounded us.  He told me that he knows we are getting older, but that he still feels like he's in his twenties.  I giggled and reminded myself that I can still remember all of the reasons that I fell in love with him and knew he was the one, twenty-eight years ago.

And as we held hands on our way back to the car, we leaned in even closer.  We leaned into each other.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

And Love is What Remains

A couple of weeks ago, while the weather was still wintery in our sweet, little beach town of San Clemente, California, Angel Daughter Number Four called me from the pier to let me know that there was something that I needed to see.  She was quite insistent that what she was calling about was worth the outing.  She reminded me to bring my camera.  Mark and I hopped into the car and when we met up with our youngest, she was proudly standing in front of this temporary artwork.  Unfortunately, we had just missed the artist, but some of his work still remained, undisturbed.
AD4 explained to us that the man who had created these fleeting works of art, did so with nothing more than a broom, a dustpan and the sand which had been tracked up from the beach on the soles of people's shoes.  No stencils, no chalk, no cut-outs.  He calls himself the "Sandman at Play" and his medium is nothing but sand.
As we stood there in amazement, people went about their business taking little, if any, notice in the drawings that were just below their feet.  I found myself cringing as I watched one person after the next walk through these lovely designs.  But then I realized.  I realized that if the Sandman had become so adept at creating drawings out of nothing but the sand on the sidewalk and a broom, he meant for them to be temporary.  He knew that his work would be viewed only by those who were fortunate enough to be passing through at the time that he was creating his drawings.  His vanishing sand-sketches blending back in with the pavement, returning to what had been before he arrived.
How circular and beautifully crafted our lives truly are.  We begin from something that is seemingly not here, but then it is, and then we are...We move through our lives, artfully, connecting with others here, leaving our footprints there.  When it is time, we move on.  Yet there is always something we leave behind even if that something is no longer concretely tangible.  By being here, we changed something.  We touched someone.
The Sandman left this short message behind before he disappeared back into the crowd with his broom and his dustpan.  And it reminded me.  It made me realize that when things are done right, even after the artist has moved on, and his design returns back to its organic state, there is something of it that will always remain.  There is something of us which will always remain.  To me, that something is love.

And love can never be erased.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sky Paintings 2/ You're Beautiful, Yes You Are

                                   *San Clemente sunset, January 11, 2009
I am ever fascinated by the absolute fragility as well as the transitional properties of nature.  It seems that the world itself, is one giant canvas on which the most magnificent images are created, day after day, night sky after night sky.  Yet there are times when life becomes so overrun by the minutia, that we forget to pause, to stop whatever is seemingly so important at the time, to take in the gifts which are so freely bestowed upon us.  We forget that each sunset is one that we will never have the chance to witness again.  Each sky painting, each ocean wave, each reflection in a pond, is only a fleeting work of art and unless we pay attention, we will lose the opportunity to study its momentary beauty forever.
                                   *Dana Point, California
As time passes, I find that I am becoming much more aware of how quickly things can change.  I am much more in touch with the fact that I will only have a certain number of sunsets to take in, or cloud pantings to interpret, or smiles to trade.  I know that each one is unique, and I know that I want to absorb as much of God's goodness as I can, while I am still here.
                                   *sunset over Catalina Island
Therefore, I look for the colors.  I allow myself to feel the emotions that each natural work of art evokes.  I stand in awe of how enormous the Pacific Ocean truly is and how expansive the sky above it spans.  I breathe.  I breathe in the salty, sweet-smokey aroma of bonfires at dusk and the mild, maritime breezes during the day.  I listen.  I walk quietly along the shoreline, taking in the rhythm of the waves, the laughter of children as they dodge in and out of the surf, and the call of the seagulls as they cry out for food.
                                   *sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Basking in the solitude of a private moment is part of what we are meant to do while we are here.  No matter how difficult or overwhelming things sometimes get, we should never forget about the things which can move us to the brink of tears.  The perspectives that can break our hearts open.  The artistry of nature that reminds us that we are not alone.  Never alone.
                                   *Catalina Island from San Clemente, California
And although there are times when we must go searching in order to find the beauty beyond the chaos, it is always available.  It is always worth the effort.  And sometimes, it is just beyond the fringe of all the craziness, waiting for us to notice that it was always there in the first place.
                                   *San Clemente Pier, January 12, 2009
The scenes might change, the colors may transition from red to orange to yellow to blue, but allowing yourself to witness, really witness them, now that is a gift that you can always accept freely.  And it is a gift that you can always give to yourself.

Notice the things that speak to your soul.  Take in as much radiance as you can find along the journey.  Allow the artwork of the Universe to merge with your own spirit.  And remind yourself, as often as you possibly can, that you, too, are an intricate part of the beauty.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Learning to Expect and Accept the Changes/Happy Birthday, AD2

                                   *Joshua and Angel Daughter Number Two
Looking back on how far my Angel Daughters have come allows me to reflect upon how much each one of them has accomplished in a little bit less, or a little bit more than two decades of life.  To me, each one of them is a miracle.  A living, breathing, individual, each within their own right.  A product of the love that Mark and I felt for one another and the family which we hoped to someday create.  And when I look at Angel Daughter Number Two, I am a bit awed by the fact that I was just a year younger than she is now when I met the young man who would become my forever love.  And that the two of us, together, would create a family where there once wasn't one.  When I look at my four daughters, not only am I able to ruminate in all that they have become, but also, what I have become.  Now that they are transitioning into young women, our growth which has been intricately connected throughout the years, is loosening a bit.  Each one of my girls is learning to fly solo after spending their entire lives as a part of a group and whether I like to admit it or not, so am I.  As my Angels establish themselves as distinct entities, I must encourage myself to reexamine my own gifts and talents.  As I support each one of my Angels in their own endeavors, I must also learn to support new interests and possibilities for my own life.  In some ways, it's like giving birth all over again, only this time, the result will not be a tiny baby.  It will be a freshly preened set of wings which will contain new colors and new directions with which to take flight.  
Yesterday was the day that I gave birth to my second Angel daughter, nineteen years ago.  Happy birthday, baby!  Bringing AD1 into the world was a whole lot scarier and life-altering than was my experience with AD2.  Allowing AD1 to leave home and go to college was also a lot more anxiety-ridden than watching AD2 make that transition and somehow I suppose that allowing AD3 and 4 to spread their wings will be subsequently less traumatic for me(Sorry, my oldest Angel, I really only wanted the best for you).  But that is how life goes.  Something can seem extremely scary until we finally take the leap, and then we realize that it's not as trying as we thought it might be. 

Hence the leap from stage to stage of our lives.  Seems as if just when we become somewhat comfortable with one phase, the next one sneaks up on us and takes us by surprise.  Regardless of whether our life paths make us parents, or career people, or something else, the challenge is always in taking the leap and having the confidence to know that we will survive it.

Happy nineteenth birthday, sweet girl.  In this last year of your teenage years, I hope that you will look back on all of your accomplishments and know that there will be many, many more.  And regardless of where the path leads, always remember that wherever you are, that is exactly where you are meant to be.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's a Dog Life

Angel Daughter Number Four is one of those individuals who was born with a twinkle of absolute delight in her eyes.  She tends to live her days on the sunny side of life while spreading infectious joy to everyone around her.  She is my little sparkle and she can always make me laugh.   So when I heard her telling her friends, in the back seat of the car, that "she understands now, why dogs love to do this" I just had to turn around. 
And there she was, leaning her head out of the window allowing the cool breeze to flow through her hair, smiling, with a look of pure joy on her cute, little face.
Still giggling as a result of the adrenaline rush, she told her friends that they needed to try sticking their heads out of the window, too!
Then she caught me taking pictures of her, and the look above is the one that I recieved.  But I can take it.  I'm tough.  I have four children!   I can take it because I want not only for myself to remember these moments, but for her to remember them, as well.  Don't you ever wonder what it would be like to actually have someone document certain moments of your life.  There is so much that we forget.  So much minutia, so much that passes by without a second thought.  For me, it is a gift to be able to hold on to the little moments.
AD4 forgot about my picture taking, once again, and went back to her pure enjoyment of the wind blowing in her face and hair.
As quickly as the idea had occurred to her, she was finished and back to her more serious fourteen year old self.  But no matter, as long as the little girl who can relate to why a dog enjoys sticking his head out the window still comes out to play sometimes, I will be around to remind her that life is, indeed, joyful.

Happy,happy  fresh beginnings!  May the coming year bring health, love, joy, growth, found treasures, exciting journeys, old friendships, new friendships, family that loves and supports you, peace in the middle east, peace for our country, peace in your heart.

And can I just tell you how deep my gratitude for you truly lies.  I am thankful for each and every one of you.  The comments that you leave for me are like salves for my sometimes wounded heart.  Thank you...
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