Fly Away

26 Jun

My son graduated high school a couple of weeks ago (or is it “graduated from”?  I can never remember.).  As he strode across the Memorial Stadium field –  tall, long-legged, handsome, a high-honors designee –  I felt slightly overwhelmed with a mixture of pride, happiness, and melancholy.  Pride and happiness because Dylan is a wonderful young man who has an impressive intellect, a deep interest in history and politics, a warm heart, and a wicked-good sense of humor.  Melancholy because soon he will be leaving us for his next adventure – college.  All parents go through this transition, whether their children go off to another four (or more) years of school,attend technical training, or take a job away from the community.  Some parents feel a powerful sense of relief because their kid has outstayed his or her welcome, while others have to fight back tears when they think about the big departure.  Obviously, I’m one of the latter.  Besides loving my son, I really, really like him – always have.  Sure, he regularly makes me grit my teeth with annoyance,  especially when he makes it obvious that he knows WAY more than either of his parents or when he chooses not to do something we ask him to do.  But usually he’s great to have around; a fine conversationalist, interested in many subjects, and very funny.  And when he’s gone, who will show me silly youtube videos that make me laugh out loud?  How will I learn about the latest alt-folk-rock bands?  Who will watch over-the-top shows like “Portlandia” with me?  My husband is a dear, dear man but sometimes our senses of humor and musical interests don’t acoincide.  Oh, I know he and I will be okay and we’ll enjoy our life together sans child – walking the dogs, going out to movies, cooking together, sitting on the porch with a glass of wine, and puttering around the yard (me pulling weeds, my husband master-minding the vegetable garden).  But I also know that saying good-bye to my son and accepting the fact of the proverbial empty nest  will not be an easy experience.  I will have to allow myself to feel both the sadness and joy that accompany a beloved child’s flight from home.

So fly away, my fledgling, with my blessing and the deepest kind of love there is.  I know you will soar high.

Learning How to Breathe

26 Oct

What does “learning how to breathe” mean?  After all, everyone knows how to breathe; we start doing it when we exit the womb.  Think of all the  references to breathing in our language:   “Take a deep breath!”  “Exhale!”  “She’s like a fresh breath of air.”  “Don’t hold your breath.”  “Wow, that knocked the breath out of me!”  Breathing; it’s so easy.  Right?

Wrong.  The fact is, sometimes we forget how to really breathe. Stresses pile up inside us and we try to hold in fear and sadness by holding our breath or breathing too shallowly.  I know I do this.  Mindful breathing, on the other hand, releases stress and fear and sadness.   We can be aware of our breathing by paying attention to the feeling of air flowing into the lungs and then letting the breath out, back into the world.   Just… breathe…  Ah, if only it were that simple!

In this third part of my life I’ve decided it’s time for me to learn the art of breathing.  I want to breathe away my fears and judgmental attitudes toward myself and others;  for too long I’ve clung to them like an addict clings to her drug.  I want to “get clean.”

Mindful breathing requires practice, though; lots of it.   Mindful breathing is, in fact, an integral part of the practice of Zen Buddhist meditation. Start by being aware of your breathing a few times each day.  Breathe when you feel fearful or sad.  Breathe when you’re by yourself; driving in a car, sitting in a chair, rising in the morning, going to sleep at night.  Notice, as you consciously, slowly breathe in and out, how your heart-rate slows down and a sense of peace begins to steal into your core.  You might even  feel a spiritual connection to the world both seen and unseen.  That’s because mindful breathing is a sort of prayer; each breath can be a ‘thank you.’

So… just… Imagebreathe…

Tumbling into Autumn

26 Aug

Labor Day is next weekend, and here in north Idaho that means the days are swiftly shortening as we tumble  towards autumn. The first indicator of the approaching change is a tiny shift in the temperature; mornings are brisker,  nights are cooler.  And the angle of light is different; it’s slanted, weaker, paler – not  boldly direct like summer sunshine.  Now, at 4:30 in the afternoon the sun is already meandering out of sight, while only a couple of weeks ago it was still high in the sky and we could frolic on the beach or on the lake until past nine.

ImageTo me, there’s a faint tinge of melancholy in this seasonal transformation because I’m a summer person.   My husband, on the other hand, is eager for fall and its partner, winter;  Halloween, Thanksgiving, riots of color in the leaves, and snow on the mountains, he loves it all.  But as for me, California girl that I am, I perk up in the summer like the eager sunflowers we used to grow in our garden. I love fresh produce, the busy local farmer’s market, paddling with my kayak buddy, sitting on a beach with a friend, having an occasional G & T or margarita. . But winter… Well,  I’m not crazy about snow in my yard, though it’s certainly lovely when it sparkles in the evergreens and dusts the mountains.   I most definitely don’t like driving on icy roads.  As for spring,  I could do without the seemingly endless rain;this is the time of year  locals call the mud-season.

But I’ve mostly reconciled myself to living in the pretty-far north.  I’ve found that the short, dark days of late fall and winter bring their own pleasant rhythm.  We watch more movies, play an occasional board game, read more, drink red wine, bake, make soup,  enjoy each holiday in succession, and – for those of us whose backs and legs can handle the sport, ski.

So come on autumn; I’m ready for you!

A Fortunate Daughter

17 Jun

Some daughters are fortunate enough to have grown up with a father who had “all the right stuff.”  I’m one of them, thank God.  Those almost-magical ingredients include a sense of humor that’s either witty or silly depending on the circumstances; an unwavering sense of justice and honor; constancy; intelligence; determination; and unconditional love for family.

I’ll share just a few good memories:

  • The Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings concert in Oakland.  To this day, whenever I hear “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Be Cowboys,” my mind goes directly to our family rockin’ out to those two legendary entertainers.
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful concert in Santa Barbara.  Back when I was deep in the throes of Beatlemania, I was devastated that I couldn’t attend one of their concerts.  So Dad took me to see a real, live rock & roll band.  How did he stand the screaming girls around us?  It had to be sheer love for his older daughter.
  • Traveling across the U.S. on a family vacation to see historic sites; touring British Columbia, Canada; yearly vacations to Lassen National Park.  The four of us had a blast on those trips; there was a lot of laughter.  And singing (thanks, Laura!).  I’ve had the travel-bug ever since, for which I’m deeply grateful; I’ve learned so much about myself and the rest of the world because of my journeys.
  • As an adult,  going to see Joe Cocker in San Francisco, just me and Dad.  How many women would actually want to attend a concert with her father?  Well, I don’t know; but I loved it!
  • Christmas.  Easter.  Fourth of July.  Happy holidays, all of them, thanks to my parents.
  • Birthdays. Dad and Mom always made me feel special.
  • Church.  The whole family went to church every Sunday; it was the foundation of my values.
  • Ties.   Dad always liked the ties I picked out for him; or at least he pretended really well that he did!
  • Dad’s owl imitations.  I’ll say no more.
dads.jpg (240×360)

Thank you, Dad; I love you.   I’m truly a fortunate daughter.  Happy Father’s Day.

Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes

12 Jun

Remember that old song about “Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes?”  Well, maybe you’re the wrong age to remember it, but I do; and it’s a particularly relevant refrain to me at the moment; for the school year is coming to an end here in north Idaho, and when it does, my teenage son will be a SENIOR.  How this happened so quickly is, of course, unfathomable to me.  So says every mother, and it’s true; our children grow up all too fast.  The little towheaded boy who clung to my finger and loved doing everything with Mommy now looks down at me from a superior height and is only interested in accompanying me if 1) I’m going to buy him running shoes, 2) I’m driving him somewhere he wants to go.  Oh, every once in awhile he’ll deign to go out to lunch with me or even attend a movie with me and his dad  (as long as it’s in a different town, where no one will see him with his parents).  But for the most part, the ‘rents are pretty uncool, and, increasingly it seems, and not especially bright or wise.  Do I miss the good ol’ days when my son thought the sun rose and set on Mommy?  Of course I do.  On the other hand, I do enjoy many aspects of his approaching young-adulthood, like his quirky and clever sense of humor, love of history, artistic sensibility and philosophical bent.  This coming year will be an important one for him; he’ll be working as an assistant yearbook editor, running on the cross country team, keeping his grades up, improving his SAT scores, filling out college applications and searching for scholarships and grants.  It’s kind of a big year for me, too; I’ll be starting a new job, helping my son get ready for college, and trying to adjust to the fact that he’ll be leaving home a year from this fall.

Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes…. I hope we can adjust, bend and grow with them; with grace.

And, Action….

15 Apr

Tendrils of fog drift over Caer Lundein like gray wraiths… Smiling to herself at the thought, Ninyve gracefully side-stepped a pile of offal that had been left to rot in the narrow street. “Gray wraiths… how poetic of me,” she murmured.  A butcher, head down and hurrying to the warmth of his home, heard her voice and looked up.  Ninyve quirked her full lips in a little smile and the man gulped, his eyes widening.  But before he could speak to her, Ninyve shook her head almost imperceptibly and at once the man shifted his glance back to the ground and swiftly went his way.

Ugh; he stinks of mutton, Ninyve thought, wrinkling her slender nose.  One of my least favorite aromas, that. And it has such a tendency to linger in the air.

Ninyve was still thinking about the smell when she turned a corner and came upon a young man slumped disconsolantly against a crumbling stone wall.  Later – much later – she decided that something about him must have caught her eye, for she found herself abruptly halting to stare at him.   But she could never remember exactly what it was; her usually knife-sharp memory seemed to have been somehow dulled.

Still, it didn’t really not matter why Ninyve stopped; it was enough that she did.  The the gods’ great wheel of fate had been set in motion.

A Writing Prompt

30 Mar

Write less than 200 words about a color.  Pick something – an object, a feeling, a person, an animal – on which to focus.  Use a thesaurus for at least 5 alternate words for this color.  Have fun!

Here’s my piece:

Alert, still, the little black cat sits on the windowsill.  Golden afternoon sun slants onto her ebony-smooth fur, picking out an occasional silky strand of silver in the inky coat.  Delicately raising a sooty paw to the window, she bats at a bee that bumbles by outside.  The cat is suddenly alive with energy, quivering like a dusky thundercloud brimming with lightening.  Tensely, she follows the bee with her green eyes until it is lost in the lightless forest beyond the house.  Then, when it is gone, she tosses her small sable head, tipped by a nose dark as coal, and resumes her waiting pose.

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