Archive for September 2009


September 26, 2009

What is it about the ocean? 

I woke up in a funk this morning.  I was feeling fragile and working hard not to begin the day in a mess of tears.  There was no reason.  It’s grief or it’s happiness or it’s fear or it’s gratitude; doesn’t matter.  In those moments, I struggle to stay present lest I be lost in emotion.  Then in other moments, I am so present I get overwhelmed.  There is no balance between grace and the horrors of this world.  Grace always wins. 

I had the good fortune of being near the ocean this morning.  Sky and water bouncing into each other in a dance of fluid light. Soft sand still warm enough for bare feet, defying the coming of fall. Waves, the constant motion,fall09 069 a lullaby. I had an urge to fling myself onto the ground and make angels in the sand.  I think it was a desire to hold the earth and sea with gratitude for its gifts.  There is an indescribable peace in such moments.

When I was five, my sister Debbie took me into the waves at York Beach.  She was twelve.  I worshiped her.  The waves were solid, bone-numbing they were so cold, huge.  Debbie took me out to where they were breaking and held me in front of her. She would yell to me “here comes a rumbler, get ready!”  I was terrified and thrilled as a wall of water well over my head crashed with enough force to knock us both backward.  We tumbled in the white water.  Sometimes, she would hold onto me all the way in and we would end up in a heap on the shore.  Most of the time, we got thrashed violently; held down and spun like seaweed so that we couldn’t tell which way was up until we were thrown onto the sand.  I learned to surrender to the waves.  Fear gave way to thrill once I realized that eventually, I would crash onto the beach, find my breath, stand on solid ground. 

I realize now–this memory, which I love so well, is part of what binds me to the ocean.  On the surface, it is me and my beloved sister playing on a summer day.  It is innocence and laughter.  It is me trusting my sister, without question, enough to allow her to hold me facing waves: scary and uncontrollable.  It is learning to allow the ocean to cradle me as it overpowered me.  It is understanding that eventually, it would deliver me to solid ground.

Deeper, this memory, like the ocean, sustains me. I am drawn to both.  At the beach, I cannot be trapped in my head.  There is no will or need to cope or to seek or to struggle.  Some part of that five year old surfaces and I am trusting and innocent and allowing the ocean to carry me.  I see now that it was up to me to determine how long I waited on the shore and recovered my breath and balance before I went right back into those waves.  I see now how it has become a metaphor for life.  My anguish, my questioning…the tender ache of life’s bittersweet blessings…grief, happiness, fear, gratitude:  I am learning again to trust that each wave will eventually return me to solid ground as long as I surrender to it.



September 19, 2009

The summer I was 19 I worked at the lake.  My on-again, off-again high school boyfriend and I were “off”.  I was home from my first year of college; immature, drifting around in my life.  I often worked from 4 pm until 2 or 3 am on the late afternoon, dinner and evening booze cruises aboard the Tir Na Nog.  I loved that job; making tons of cash while making sure the tourists were having a good time.

I was surrounded by new friends…  There was the work crew: Melissa, Maura, Chris and Mike plus Dave the captain who kept us entertained with stories from his life at sea.  I secretly had a crush on Dave.  He was at least 30 years older than I was.  He was exotic and carefree and secure enough in his life that he seemed eons beyond the boys I was meeting.  There was the gang of locals, Kendra, Tony, Jay, Marcy, Nicole and Mike,  home from college and playing hard.  We would spend nights on Mark Island in Jay’s parents’ summer home; making huge pasta feasts and water skiing until it was beyond dark, then swimming and hanging out on the raft as the moon rose to greet a perfect summer evening.  There was the crowd of hockey players, Steve and Bobby and their buddies,  who came on the booze cruises and then invited us all to their place on Rattlesnake Island for horse-shoes and rowdy parties.  I got punched for real by some hot-shot player for the Washington Capitals who thought it would be fun to show me how  hockey players fight.  That began an all-out brawl which I escaped by stealing a canoe and paddling back to the mainland.

Careless and carefree, my biggest problem was choosing what to do for fun when I wasn’t working, which was fun.  In August, a few weeks before school began again, I met Liam.  He was visiting his family for a few weeks before heading off to seek his fortune in Alaska.  He was 17, scrawny and tan with long, soft curls I envied.  I had been hanging out with his sister all summer and he came to a gathering at my house one night.  He was confident but not quite cocky. He was  quiet, though aware of his charm.  Immediately smitten, I eventually ignored my duties as hostess when he invited me to star-gaze on the lawn. 

We spent hours lying in the grass. The conversation was as big and endless and deep as the sky, punctuated by friends coming and going, sharing the view and some laughs.  I remember the thrill of lying shoulder to shoulder, laughing, loving the moment without acknowledging it.  What did we talk about? It seemed so important at the time. As it got late, I got chilled from the damp of the night.  I knew he was leaving soon and was reluctant to break the spell of the evening sky.  We got quiet, realizing that this fun, unexpected connection would end almost as soon as it had begun.  He leaned over me then, gave me a sweet, sad kiss.  He got up silently and walked away without looking back.  I lay there for a while longer then went inside to say goodbye to the last of  my lingering friends and make my way upstairs to bed.  Bittersweet.

I awoke the next morning with the sun streaming in.  Grabbing my glasses, it took a full minute of staring around my bedroom to realize I was not still dreaming.  Every surface was covered with daisies!  Scattered across the floor, atop my dresser, the windowsill, tucked behind the mirror on the door, burying my blankets, woven into my hair…simple, cheerful daisies. There was a note tied to a posy which had been tucked under my pillow.  It said “Think of me whenever you see daisies.  Know that you have been loved.”  I never saw him again.

dropping stones

September 11, 2009

IMG_0845This morning, sitting in my quiet house with a cup of tea, I heard the church bells from the church on the corner tolling over and over.  At first, I thought it was the bells from the Academy up the hill, calling the kids to class, but that bell happens earlier in the day and only rings once or twice.  This was persistent.  The slow cadence was sad and ominous.  Then it occurred to me: it is September 11. 

I sent a prayer in that moment.  Blessings to those whose grief is tied to this day.  Peace to an endless conflict with eight years of countless victims.  Gratitude for safety and abundance in my own day-to-day.  I sang a song.  I remember…

That bell signaled the rhythm of the day.  It has been a day of reflection on grief and change.  When I have these moments of consideration, I imagine that I am swimming.  As I swim, I carry a bag full of burdens; stones which weigh me down and threaten to drown me.  As I meditate on a circumstance or acknowledge a care, I imagine dropping a stone into the depths.  Usually when it lands, it kicks up some emotional sludge and muddies the water so that I must stop swimming for a  minute lest I be lost.  Eventually, things settle again and I can resume swimming. It is easier as I drop my stones, easier as I release my worries to the universe with the faith that eventually the water clears and things right themselves again and I can swim unburdened. 

  I had a very long conversation with my former husband about our children and our co-parenting and our hopes for the future.  I told him his resentment is a burden for me.  He told me he is sorry for that.  I let go of that stone.

I had someone ask me if there is any possibility of reconciliation with a lost love.  There is not. I re-read letters he wrote to me and then I put them away for good.  I let go of that stone.

As I was cleaning out files and putting papers in order, I came across journals written two years ago, when my world changed so drastically and so suddenly that I am still catching my breath.  I cried tears of compassion for the woman who wrote those pages as she tumbled about in an angry ocean of grief, illness, uncertainty, loss, anger, exhaustion.  She is me, yet removed enough that I can read of her pain without experiencing it again.  I cried tears of relief that I can see the scars and remember the injury but that I know the healing and the lessons and the blessings.  I did not drown in that ocean.  I am a powerful swimmer.  I let go of stones for every circumstance and every fear that did not come true in those deep and despairing days.

And tonight, sitting in my quiet house with a cup of tea, I wait for the mud to settle and the water to clear.  When it does, I know I will move forward with intention and integrity into the blessings of this journey.  They often arrive on unexpected currents.