Aging into Spring

Aging into Spring

I’ve always been annoyed with those who wear winter gear or worse yet, light their woodstove in late spring.

It is particularly important in Vermont that we hold the season accountable.

For me this has always meant, a light spring-like wardrobe, including opened toed shoes, as well as open windows. If it’s really cold, put on a heavy sweatshirt but by no means where a winter hat or coat. Use a space heater. No smoke!

Was it especially cold this year or have I suddenly joined the ranks of the aged?

I suspect the latter but hope for the former.

A post from May 10th:

The windows are up. The heater is on. I’m wearing a hat & a fleece vest. My fingers are cold. And so, when I pass a flowering tree, it’s more like ooooh, aaaaah, Christmas-light happy, instead of that rapturous, unleashing into the sweet caress of SpRing.

And also this confession:

The weekend before last, I went to the movies in my winter jacket wearing wool socks and closed toe shoes, and I wouldn’t let my husband break down the woodstove.

Winter wins.

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Maiden, Mother, Biker

Maiden, Mother, Biker

It’s still chilly in the mountains, but spring has tiptoed into our hearts at this most feminine time of year… the delicate unfolding of leaf, the first flowering, the bird song. The Maiden.

Meanwhile, on this Mothers Day weekend, I find myself fuming about how much space men take up. The motorcycles without mufflers. The gunshot. The music blaring from the truck. Toplessness! Callous conversation!

How much space do men need?
Does it not occur to them to share?

“I’ve downloaded the Mueller Report,” one announces from the table next to mine. I look up from my book. He and his friends are dressed in leather, sipping coffees.

“He’s a grown child,” the man continues, referencing #45. “He’s never had to work with anyone. It’s always been his way.”

“And he’s used to getting it any way he can,” I might have added, but they weren’t talking to me.

The topic shifted to the Vermont countryside and the route they might or might not take next. “100 or 8,” one suggested.

“It’s a pretty area,” the woman agreed, “but I get to do more sightseeing then you two do.”

“Relaxed attention,” the other man said.

“It’s true,” said the one with the Mueller Report. “I can’t look around much during the week either when I’m driving the truck.”

“It’s the same for me and the bus,” said the other man. “All those little kids on it.”

The Last Snow(s)

The Last Snow(s)

MARCH

I had to give it to it. It sure was pretty.

And still, I would have left town if I wasn’t leading a retreat that night–guiding women (and let’s face it–myself) from the turning point of Autumn, sparse & bare, the darkness unending, to the certainty of Spring, not on the calendar but on the land–and upon waking somewhere south of these mountains, I would have missed the beauty, the soft, soothing motion, the outline of branch and stone and fencepost.

I want to reach back in time and offer this to Virginia Woolf, who filled her pockets with stones and headed toward the river.

No decision should be finalized in March.

~

APRIL

An April snow. Mild to moderate despair. And one more day for the more introverted among us to retreat before the joy & productivity of SpRinG forces us, like a bulb, to open into the world, giddy, with delight.

~

APRIL, again

Turkeys kept being on sale after the holidays, and so each month I was forced to buy another to offset the cost of that original local, organic splurge which I justified on account of my mother’s Christmas birthday.

In the New Year, we roasted a second turkey and ate it every day for an entire week. Turkey stew. Turkey curry. Turkey pot pie. Turkey soup with rice. Turkey sandwiches and salad. In February, another for my sister and her family when they were visiting from the shore. In March, one last twenty-five pounder with my son and his girlfriend. Twice, this winter we sent them back to Burlington with leftovers.

And still, the freezer grew crowded with tubs of broth and bags of meat, until we said, despite the sale continuing into April: No more!

But today, while looking out at another April snow, I defrosted ingredients for soup, and once the pot was warming over the stove, the aroma overtook me, like a time machine, standing beside my mother as she dropped egg noodles into the broth.

Maybe I’ll set out an extra bowl.

Winter Winds

Winter Winds

These late February nights…

Two Owls Calling

I came of age in a Captainless ship. We all went down one by one. Which may be why these wintry nights with wild winds evoke terror inside. Or maybe too, in another life, I perished at sea, and I’m almost certain that’s true because I don’t want to know. Just the thought of it almost extinguishes me, while I write at the kitchen table with the sun rising over the mountains, a wave of light cresting the satiny snow, as the tea kettle whistles and the woodstove ticks and the timbers of this frame raised by neighbors creaks with the last few gusts before the sap on this hill begins to run.

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New Year Outtakes

New Year Outtakes

Welcome Center, Tennessee

EPIPHANY

Like a dog, at my feet, beneath the table, my mind begs, shamelessly, after each & every meal, even breakfast:

“No dessert?”

After a display of disgust, I pat it on the head, and say:

“Let’s go see what we have.”

~

MID-JANUARY

To say nothing seems wrong. To say something, just to say something, seems trite.

What I felt as I drove through a snowstorm in the Blue Ridge Mountains was shock.

“Mary Oliver has died,” said the announcer on NPR, without asking if we were all sitting down.

And just like that a window shut, a door slammed, a page turned, a poem…

Her words came at a time when I was finding myself, and like she did for so many, her way of seeing lit the way, and made it softer and sweeter and whole.

~

MLK WEEKEND

“Friday is the Day of Detachment. Today we tell our children: Enjoy the journey.”

Another dreary day of winter weather, blocking my view & my mood. But after two full days of driving, I am waking up in a place I’ve never been before, to the sound of a bird I don’t know, in a stranger’s bed in Knoxville, Tennessee where my youngest and I have journeyed to celebrate the most powerful thing in the world.

Love.

~

VERMONT BOUND

The Smokies were covered today and we extended our stay to avoid the weather up ahead.

As the sun set in the west and the full moon rose in the east, we drove through the Tennessee town in which Dolly Parton was born, on this very weekend, 73 years ago.

What struck me most about this time in the “South,” almost immediately, was the pause people take, even when passing by, even when brushing shoulders with strangers, to say something kind or to smile, which we’re happy to reciprocate only we didn’t know and so we kept on going or kept it short or turned away too soon, respecting individuation & time instead of the gentility of connection. (I wonder if the North is more heavily populated by introverts.)

“Southern women are nice to your face and then talk behind your back,” our Airbnb host said.

The anomalies & attributes of another person or place are easier to see than one’s own, and so here’s what else we noticed:

Cheap gas! We filled up for $1.89 today (almost makes us want to stay and drive around some more.)

70 mph speed limit. With signs that tell you to stay in the right lane if you’re going less than 70.

BILLBOARDS. (Thank you for banning those Vermont!)

GOD: in the bathroom, on the coffee table and everywhere else along with GUNS & SEX (aka. “Adult” establishments), the bedfellows of PATRIARCHY & OPPRESSION, partnered with fireworks, bbq, knives, moonshine, distilleries & and a string of extravagant Christmas-lawn ornament light stores.

Other EXCESSES: Pedicures & sundaes–at the same time. (I was tempted.) A hunk of cornbread & 2 huge biscuits with your small order of chicken & dumplings. “You won’t starve here,” the waiter said. Price: $5.95

Loads of Arby’s & Hardy’s & Chick Fill A (as well as Waffle Houses & Krispy Kremes.)

Angular mountain ranges & ridges.

“Yes, ma’am.”

~

IN-SERVICE

Today my husband, a highschool social studies teacher, spent his half-day in-service learning how to stop the bleeding. Legs & arms mainly because apparently there’s less success with torso wounds in the classroom.

 

First Storm

First Storm

We lost the ”Grandfather” tree soon after we built the house which was quite a blow to all of us, but the “Grandmother” Pine, so named for being almost as tall as the seed tree just beyond her, is still with us, a dozen years later, though we fear not for long.

Still, this morning when trees fell across this mountain town–upon houses and roadways and cars–She, Ever-Wise, sacrificed an upper branch which in its tumbling cleared the lower branches of their burden of heavy snow so that she remains, sturdy, high above the canopy, facing West.

I can’t help thinking this some kind of Wisdom Teaching—about aging and letting go and most of all provision—but I’ll wait to ponder that until I’ve had supper and a shower, hoping electricity & running water will be restored soon.

(November 2018)

Chrysalides

Chrysalides

I look past the needles that line my belly, the lowest just above the rise of my pelvis, an inch deep, and further still past the needles at my ankle to the plant circling the room where the walls meet the ceiling, the same ivy-like, heart-shaped-leaf that I have in my house, a plant which was once among several left on a small round kitchen table with the words: “Free,” which despite the absence of a green thumb I brought home after a yoga class or was it a birthing class, both brand new endeavors  after leaving the mid-Atlantic for the Green Mountains in 1993 where I discovered at my first staff meeting at Deerfield Valley Elementary that everyone ate something that I’d I mistakenly pronounced as another word for soil.

A Long Slow Color is Green.

These are the words that were carved into thick medallion of wood that hung above the entrance to a place smack in the middle of Main Street, beside a classic Vermont Inn. The oddly named: Klara Simpla housed the bookstore which is what brought me inside the strange smelling shop filled with something called herbs and homeopathics and tinctures, not to mention the yoga and birthing classes (among other offerings) on the second and third floors. There were also two huge chests filled with household and clothing items that were giveaways. 25 years later, I’m still the plaid blanket that I found in that pile is a family classic when we picnic beside pond and I still wear the black, water resistant wind pants when I snow shoe.

A long slow color is green.

Those words from the wooden medallion which hung above Klara Simpla were spoken out loud to me once by the founder herself, the woman who offered her plants to women like me just beginning to find our way on the path to wholeness.

“There is so much to know. How do I begin?” I asked Faye, at the end of an interview she’d surprisingly granted me when I’d first began writing for the Cracker Barrel.

But what really brought my attention to the plant circling the ceiling in the acupuncturist’s office, beyond the fact that the old period building with its hissing radiators reminded me of my husband’s grandmother’s place in the nearby Berkshires (which is how we ended up leaving the southern New Jersey for New England), and beyond the surprise that my surname was all over the building because in addition to housing the acupuncturist’s office, it housed an organization called the Salasin Center (so named for a distant relative that I found on Facebook) was that its dead leaves were left hanging among its healthy ones, and if not a shouting sign of neglect then some kind of statement which I had plenty of time to ponder as I lay on the table week after week for an hour at a time–from sandals to long pants to scarves to wool socks and hats.

With nothing to do but remain still so that the needles in my belly (or eye socket) wouldn’t move, the story–my story–about the neglected ivy-like plant–began to shift, somewhere beneath my personal anxiety around neglect.

When the acupuncturist returned to the room to remove the needles of which there were a total of 8 on this particular visit–including one at the top of my skull, and one at each of my temples, as well as one between my toes and another placed between my bottom two ribs, I finally said aloud what I’d been thinking for so many weeks in a row (hoping to silence it in my head):

“Has anyone ever said that those–(I pointed toward a particularly long line of decaying leaves)–look like a chrysalis?” (I wish I knew then the plural.)

Surprisingly Dan said, “No,” and nothing more.

But my therapist picked up the thread, the very same week, which is something I try to avoid–more than one appointment in the same week–but which has been unavoidable during this health crisis that has so depleted me (while serving as a boot-camp for letting go.)

“This is a very inward time for you, more so than ever,” Carolyn said, as I sat across from her in a room perched above the Connecticut River in downtown Brattleboro; something I had been doing about once a month or so ever since my mother’s death, a span of time easily measured by the age of my youngest son, 18.

“It’s time to retreat, to be unseen, to rest under the covers,” she said, “To let your work deepen inside like the spinning of a cocoon.”

My mind immediately protested with all that had to be done in that particular month–December!–not to mention the day trip I’d imagined to the sea the very next day–on the occasion of my 55th birthday. (I had arrived in Vermont at 29.)

“Does this resonate for you?” Carolyn asked, seeing past the veneer of my capacity, into the grievous depletion of chi.

I nodded begrudgingly.

There was one last appointment scheduled that same day, which is something I never do, but it was the only opening my friend had to trade massage for the work I’d done on her website.

The afternoon though brightly lit, was bitter cold, and I arrived at her house chilled, and even so, I removed each and every layer, until I stood in my underwear and slid, belly up, under the single sheet on her table.

“Are you cold?” she asked, turning up the temperature on the heating pads beneath me.

Elaina dangled the pendulum over the center line of my body sensing the ongoing obstruction of the second chakra–digestion, letting go, family, finances, overextension.

“How is mothering going?” she asked, knowing that my youngest left the nest this very August, a day upon which this sweeping illness presented itself in absurdly symbolic fashion.

“There is a burden on your left shoulder,” she added. “A responsibility that you’re carrying, that is not yours, which means it’s stuck there because it has nowhere to go.”

I told her about the Ritual of Resignation that I had concocted just before Thanksgiving. My therapist had suggested the ritual as an accompaniment to the potent antibiotics to which I planned to surrender, something I hadn’t needed since I moved to Vermont and began using herbs. I filled the prescription bottle with tiny pieces of paper upon which I wrote all the ways I was ready to let go, particularly with regard to my family of origin who I’d begun to carry as a girl.

“So many of your joints are blocked,” Elaina said, as she massaged my shoulders and elbows and wrists, my hips and knees and ankles.

As I write this morning, on the day after my birthday, my hands take turns leaving the keyboard to touch my shoulder tips again and again. The skin there is so strikingly soft, like a baby’s flesh (or what I vaguely recall of a baby), the result of a salt scrub I offered my joints yesterday morning while the sun rose brightly through the trees on another bitterly cold day, on the anniversary of my birth.

So too was my time on the table with Elaina sensual, accompanied as it was by her cat, black, like my own Licorice from long ago with whom I shared a soul connection as a girl in Rockies as my mother disappeared in the bottle. Licorice would drag her paws down my face, and once when recalling this in my therapist’s chair on a guided journey forty years later, I was certain I smelled Licorice’s milky breath.

As Elaina worked on my neck, “Kiki” brushed her whiskers against my left cheek, purring in my ear, and then she pranced across my belly, tenderizing the second chakra, while on the Elaina’s small cd player, a classical version of “Danny Boy” softly played, a song which once eulogized my mother who named her only son Daniel.

After the sunny birthday morning shower with the salt scrub around each joint, my husband drove me to the sea, where I watched from the passenger’s seat, light, moving across frozen lakes and rivers and marshlands and fields, even as my head ached from yet another migraine (a fourth since Thanksgiving week; since the antibiotic?) until I arrived, at the hour of my birth, sensing into the pain of separation–skull crushed by pubic bones–at the open, endless, embrace of Return, understanding in that moment, that the title of my book would be something much larger than I had conceived, could conceive, of the story I’d been spinning several years around a tragedy.

When instead of turning south, we continued along the coastal road deeper into Maine, we passed a tiny pond beside the woods upon which a single skater glided skillfully in tighter and tighter circles.

“He must be professional hockey player,” I said to my husband.

“Such a small pond he’s on,” my husband replied.

“Such elegance,” I said.

And now I recall the moment when I’d fully surrendered to Elaina’s touch on the table, and she asked me to turn over onto my belly, layering heating pads and blankets atop my back, until I grew so hot that I imagined melting, after which she removed the layers, which had grown sticky, peeling them one by one, until I found myself unburdened and light, nascent and raw, like the first unfurling of new life.