Light and Dark

As the joy of the holidays subsided, the dark days of winter took hold.  Truly, the last few days of 2016 brought death to a close and disconcerting distance.  It stepped in and stayed until as recently as last week.  And still, it lingers.

I’d pulled my black leather pumps from their shelf high in the closet.  I’d arched my inner soles into their uncomfortable embrace.  I’d released my tired, swollen toes from their pinch at the end of the day.  But I’d yet to return them to their box; death would not let me store them away for the next black dress event.

There was another, and another.

A year of new life was marred by the loss of three precious ones.

Death is always waiting in the wings – but I’m comforted by the thought that their spirits fly in the wind that catches our breath and reminds us we’re alive.

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Light of Our Lives

We are each responsible for our own life – no other person is or even can be.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Seems like a no-brainer,

but easier understood than lived.

Often we navigate our lives based on the obstacles or openings others put in front of us; in reaction to.

But what if we created a whole new point of origin?

If our bright spark of an idea lit off a streak of light that started with us and branched out into a candelabra of possibilities?

You [YOU] are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

                                                                                                             Matthew 5:14-16

Here’s to all of us who claim our light. Who don’t wait for others to light it. Who open the gates of our cities, our hearts, for commerce, for community. Who bravely hang our lamps for all to see, for all to benefit from their light. Who give glory to God through claiming and utilizing our gifts.

Here’s to all of us who found businesses because we see a need and push our knowledge and creativity to fill it. Here’s to those who reach out of our comfort zone to bend the parameters of our career, broaden it. Here’s to the ones who leave the comfort of a steady paycheck with benefits to become our own bosses. Here’s to any and all of us willing to take a chance on our dreams.

Here’s to all of us claiming responsibility for our lives.

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Wavelength

There comes a time when you see your mother as a being separate from yourself.  It’s not as an infant when you realize you exist outside her body.  It’s not when, as a toddler, you assert your independence.  The tumultuous teenaged years don’t do it.  Even becoming a full-fledged adult doesn’t do it.

She will always be your number one fan, miracle-worker, therapist, and helpmate.  She will always allow you to be self-centered when you come calling because you are her world.  She is your MOM.  (No Pressure 😉 )

But there are moments when she does something on an even more amazing level of awesome – perhaps even sublime – in which you see in crystalline form what a perfectly human and beautiful individual she is.

The first time this happened was when I was an early teen.  My parents, consummate do-it-yourself-ers, were in the middle of some household project that necessitated the transit of a long ladder through our tiny kitchen.  One inadvertent swing of the ladder swept the decorative items off one of the display shelves surrounding the window.  A crystal-clear unicorn, whose knobs and nodules captured and refracted the sun’s rays into rainbows, shattered against the stainless steel of the sink below.  I heard my mother scream like I never had before: a desperate, anguished wail.  She cried as she gathered the pieces.  This was another thing I rarely – if ever – had experienced with my mother.  These were not the welled-tears of sentimentality; these were big fat gobs of grief.

Being a young person, with no framework within which to place this, I asked my mother what was wrong.  She explained that the unicorn had been a gift from her sister when she had lost a baby.  Four years prior to my birth, my mother had delivered my would-be sister, stillborn.  This was my first encounter with this information, with this grief.  While I now had a framework, it was shaky.  I knew it was tragic.  I knew my mother hurt.  But I had no idea to what extent.

Years later, as a mother myself, now accustomed to grief, but still not of that magnitude, I sat with my mother in the parking lot of a botanical garden.  We stared out the windshield at the glass squares of the greenhouse.  ‘A woman in my writers’ group has written a memoir about her family, Ma,’ I said.  ‘About her journey through love and loss.  She had a stillborn, too.  Much the same circumstances as yours.’  There were some eerily similar details in their stories, though my mother never got the legal vindication that this woman did.  ‘Would you read it?’

I didn’t know if I was overstepping my bounds, if I was being too forward, pushy.  Was I dredging up feelings that my mother had gladly put to rest years ago?

‘I suppose it might be good for me,’ she said.  ‘Therapeutic.’

Months later, I took my mother to the launch party for that book: Breathe: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict by Kelly Kittel.  The day before Mother’s Day, we spent the afternoon of the launch together.  Ironically, though we were celebrating the ubiquitous holiday, I saw my mother as ‘other than mother’.  Hearing her speak to Kelly and share her story, I saw the profoundly deep wellspring of strength my mother’s been drawing from all these years.  I saw her as a woman, fighting a soul-crushing battle and winning.  I saw her as someone – like myself – who has been curled up on the floor crying, but she got up!  She went on.  And gave me the best, most important parts of herself.  All while, unbeknownst to me, she was suffering a tremendous loss.

It was hard for me to not insert comments or explanations as she spoke.  I felt the intermediary between these two women and wanted to help forge the link.  But the link between these two women had nothing to do with me.  It was in their tragedies and victories, their similar experiences with death and inextinguishable life.

I saw my mother as a distinct individual, a woman with her own suitcase of memories and maladies, a human being with a suit of armor and the soft underbelly of a mother.

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Photo by John Butler

No Longer Negative Space

 

The way light shows through the gaps in a loose stone wall.

 

Unless you approach at a certain angle, you miss the open spaces – circles, angles, different shapes brilliantly back-lit. Looking down, it’s a solid mass. Standing even with it, a barrier of boulders. If you get down on your belly, study it head-on, the passageways are there. Light spills through the windows of opportunity, possibility. Against the bright backdrop, even the cold, dense masses of each individual stone etch beautiful silhouettes.

 

But you only see the relief if you look from a certain perspective.

On the level.

With a discerning eye.

Bringing the bright background into crystalline focus, letting the dark foreground fade into a fuzzy blur.

 

photo from an article by Joe Silvia

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