to situations new

“Alice” by Amedeo Modigliani

On that specific Pillow
Our projects flit away —
The Night’s tremendous Morrow
And whether sleep will stay
Or usher us — a stranger —
To situations new
The effort to comprise it
Is all the soul can do —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1554)

This poem brings to mind the restless sleep or sleeplessness we might have the night before a new experience, like the first day of school or a new job. Or traveling to a place we’ve never been to before.

But I suspect Emily is talking about death. The specific pillow, the kind we find in a coffin, when death interrupts all our projects. Will we stay asleep in death or will we find ourselves in a new situation, an unfamiliar life after death? There are many “answers” to choose from but there is no way to “know” for sure. The universe is full of wonder and mystery. After years of spiritual struggle I’ve finally made peace with uncertainty, sometime in my 40s I think. Just this. Here/now.

a secret garden

“A secret garden. Made by Barbara Lyn (sic) Chomiak. Seven year old.”

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun — which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
(The Secret Garden)

I’m still poking around through my childhood papers and drawings. My mother was the true bookworm in our family. So many images coming back to me now, like my parents in the evening, my mother with her nose in the newspaper and my father watching television.

At bedtime, my mother read to us, even after we were old enough to read for ourselves. One of my favorite books was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (Apparently I loved it so much I illustrated my own version of a secret garden.) And often my father would start playing the piano, gentle Bach lullabies sending us off to sleep.

Spring is in the air! Time to pick up the pace and plow through some more boxes. Onward!

throwing away all of your possessions once a year

“Autumn in New England” by Maurice Prendergast

If you rake fallen leaves into a pile and then examine them, you will see that each one shows a consummately clean break at the same place near the base of the stem. The fall of leaves is highly choreographed: First the green pigments are pulled back behind the narrow row of cells marking the border between stem and branch. Then, on the mysteriously appointed day, this row of cells is dehydrated and becomes weak and brittle. The weight of the leaf is now sufficient to bend and snap it from the branch. It takes a tree only a week to discard its entire year’s work, cast off like a dress barely worn but too unfashionable for further use. Can you imagine throwing away all of your possessions once a year because you are secure in your expectation that you will be able to replace them in a matter of weeks? These brave trees lay all of their earthly treasures on the soil, where moth and rust doth immediately corrupt. They know better than all the saints and martyrs put together exactly how to store next year’s treasure in Heaven, where the heart shall be also.
~ Hope Jahren
(Lab Girl)

take time by the forelock

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ lion

A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by an almanac, but let the season rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature’s. Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 23, 1859)

Thoreau wrote these words when he was only 41 years old. (He died at age 44.) When I was 41… Let’s just say that after a childhood of ‘finding my eternity in each moment’ I found a way to squelch that way of being until I was into my 40s. But ‘living in the present’ has been coming much more naturally to me in the past twenty years. It’s a blessing to be alive.

This summer has been unbearably hazy, hot and humid. So many heat advisories and air quality alerts. I cannot remember the last time we turned off the air conditioners and opened the windows. I am crazy with cabin fever and going outside offers no relief.

But, I had some good news yesterday. I had an appointment with my oncologist and he found no sign of cancer recurrence! So I don’t need to see him again for a whole year!

Come, autumn. Please! Time to curl up again with a good book. To ‘launch myself on a new wave.’

comfort

7.13.18 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Sometimes I think it must have been much easier to live and die at the time of our ancestors, the Vikings.

When they buried their relatives, they also buried many objects together with the body. This was to be sure that the dead would not miss anything in their new environment. It was also an assurance for the family members who remained that they would not become obsessed with spirits of the dead and constantly be reminded of them because their possessions were still scattered all over the tent or mud hut. Very clever.

~ Margareta Magnusson
(The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself & Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter)

7.13.18 ~ Eastern Point ~ my camera decided to go Impressionistic for this distant cormorant

You might guess from my recent choice of reading material that I’m still struggling with the objects and possessions I inherited from our ancestors. Things started piling up around 2008. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years! I have managed to dispose of a lot of stuff but cannot rest on my laurels. What’s left is stacked halfway to the ceiling in a corner of what is supposed to be the genealogy/guest room. The corner takes up almost half the room.

7.13.18 ~ Eastern Point ~ there are three cormorants in this picture, which I didn’t realize until I saw the picture enlarged on the laptop

Trouble is, life (births, illnesses, travels, weddings, visitors, deaths) keeps happening and I need a good chunk of uninterrupted time to roll up my sleeves and dig in. Now that there is a lull in the stream of summer activities I am annoyed by the droning of the air conditioners. But I since learning about the autism I am aware now that I am much more sensitive to noise than neurotypical people, so, I will wait patiently for some cool, dry, quiet weather to return.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

We enjoy going to estate sales. We rarely buy anything but a few days ago we found a large file cabinet in excellent shape at a great price. It is now in the genealogy/guest room waiting for me to make use of it. After my grandmother died my grandfather offered us anything we wanted in the house. I chose my grandmother’s mahogany secretary which I still have and treasure. Grandfather said he didn’t want us grandchildren to be burdened with all the stuff. I don’t want my children to be burdened either.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

I’m also sad about the changes at my beloved beach. The city has installed a gull repellent system. Every three minutes a recording of a gull in distress blares out from the loudspeakers. There are maybe two or three fearless gulls left on the roof of the beach house. All the laughing gulls are gone, all the different kinds of gulls are gone. I suppose I will never see my friend with the mangled foot again. It’s all too much for me to bear and I’ve been reduced to tears more than once this summer.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

I visited my elm tree, Grandmother Elm. I cannot believe it’s been 5 years since I have gone! I used to visit all the time when Tim’s brother was living with us, the year he died here of cancer. Now she has small stems and branches growing out at the base of her trunk, covered with leaves. When I read The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben I believe he said this was a sign of distress. No other tree in the cemetery was like this. Perhaps she is suffering, too. Still, her wordless wisdom comforted me.

7.12.18 ~ Grandmother Elm ~ Stonington, Connecticut

retirement

5.2.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre with Charles W. Morgan behind it ~ Mystic Seaport ~ Mystic, Connecticut ~ photo by Tim

It’s been a whirlwind here since December, with lots of traveling to visit loved ones, surgery, radiation treatments, and exhaustion (for me), unemployment, an unrelenting cough and a diabetes diagnosis (for Tim). After  a few months of contemplation Tim has finally decided to retire. And so begins a new chapter of our lives.

5.2.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre ~ Mystic Seaport ~ Mystic, Connecticut

We won’t be bored, that’s for sure. One thing we did was visit Mystic Seaport on a weekday to renew our membership. It was an unseasonably hot day and we had a good chuckle over the sign inviting us in to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa. 🙂

5.2.18 ~ Mystic Seaport ~ Mystic, Connecticut

The Draken Harald Hårfagre has spent two winters at the Seaport now and the crew is planning to leave in June for “Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018.” I hope I will be here when the Viking ship sets sail because I missed her arrival. I’m also looking forward to a special exhibition coming May 19: The Vikings Begin.

One of the world’s finest early Viking-age collections is coming to Mystic Seaport. Priceless treasures, including helmets, shields, weapons, glass, and other artifacts are safeguarded at the Gustavianum Museum of Uppsala University in Sweden, Scandinavia’s oldest university. These collections, dating as early as the seventh century, are now the focus of a major research initiative designed to significantly advance our understanding of how the Norse culture evolved. Thematic sections on Viking warfare, trade, the Baltic Sea, a ship burial, Norse gods, and relations to other cultures will employ rare archaeological finds in the discovery of how this maritime society lived more than a millennium ago. This exhibition represents the first instance most of these artifacts will have ever left Sweden.
~ Mystic Seaport website

5.2.18 ~ ship figurehead ~ Mystic Seaport ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Tim has been enjoying more time for his ham radio clubs and activities. We signed up together for a Tai Chi class at the senior center. And I signed up for a Photoshop class. Katherine has been here for short visits several times since we left Ireland. We love our busy and playful little munchkin! Life is good.

5.2.18 ~ Mystic Seaport ~ Mystic, Connecticut

there is simply this moment, as it is

4.8.18 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, North Carolina

Spirituality is life itself. Being life. Being this moment. Not as a practice or an attainment or something an imaginary person does in order to get somewhere else, but just because it’s What Is. It’s the natural state, the ever-present, ever-changing thusness of Here / Now. The part that falls away (if we’re lucky) is the search, the endless search to “get it,” to become “okay” at last… the belief in (and identity as) the psychological self and its problems and the endless attempts to cure them.

As I see it, there is no end to awakening, no end to spiritual exploration and discovery, no end to devotion and celebration and wonder… but what can end (and only now) is the search to fix “me,” to unstick “me,” to enlighten “me,” to finally get control (by understanding how the universe works, by getting The Answer, by finally vanquishing all “my” neurotic quirks and tendencies and solving “my” problems). When all of that ends, there is simply this moment, as it is. Boundless and free.

~ Joan Tollifson
(Facebook, July 18, 2017)

almond self-enclosed

“Almond Blossoms” by Antonio Mancini

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet —
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rose and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)

persistently, abundantly, miraculously

1.22.18 ~ Cork, Ireland ~ Katherine has been taking good care of her beloved Purple Penguin ♡ photo by Larisa

One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in — patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.

And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless —
persistently, abundantly, miraculously —
exactly what it is.

~ Lynn Ungar
(The Way It Is)

After recovering from surgery and the bad cold I then had about a week of feeling good. I couldn’t wait to get back to my chores and even happily spent a morning giving the bathroom a thorough cleaning. It was fun to go food shopping with Tim, run errands together, cook a few meals, do some laundry, and enjoy a lovely long walk on the beach.

Then Wednesday I had my first radiation treatment and it went very well. But the predicted side effect of fatigue hit the next morning and I wound up sleeping most of the day. If that is the only side effect, though, I am grateful. I still feel sapped. Being a morning person usually full of vim, vigor and vitality, I woke up this morning wondering why on earth I felt so sluggish and it took me an hour or so to figure out that it must be lingering fatigue from the treatment. (And why was I looking for the eggs in the dishwasher?)

So Tim volunteered to do some food shopping today. And I am going to make a packing list!

Tim and the kids planned visits to fill the two week period between my 2nd and 3rd treatments! I will be getting my 2nd treatment (at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven) on Wednesday and then going straight to Providence to catch a flight to Ireland to see Larisa & Dima and Katherine!!! And then the next week we will go to Georgia to see Nate & Shea!!! We will arrive home the night before my 3rd and final treatment.

I may be a tired blob but at least these trips will help pass the time and my radiation oncologist thinks they are a great idea. I do hope I get to see Blarney Castle and more of Cumberland Island National Seashore. But whatever happens it will be wonderful seeing the kids again. ♡