Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Endings

Like the slithery transition between
sleep and waking, a year begins to slip
into history, taking with it those electric
moments when everything was possible.

Endings bring sadness, finality, no more
chances to shape events, pull from
the distractions in my head the jagged
start-stop of best intentions.

Leaves fall from my tree of hope,
gather on the ground dampness, slowly
decaying into new life, but forever lost
to my mania for fixing what went wrong

with this year’s plan – going for the dreams
and passions that I always knew would not
survive loneliness or bring me comfort. I see them
dangling at my window, through glassy tears.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Thoughts

Just a few lines this morning to say to you all, a very Merry Christmas! There are still a few traces of snow on the ground and it is a chilly 30 degrees, so it really feels like Christmas here in Sonoita.

While you are enjoying your holiday festivities, please send a thought of love and healing to my six-year-old great grandson, James, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. He is in Loma Linda Medical Center where he will get great care and, we earnestly hope, a quick and full recovery. It is a scary time for such a little guy, and for his family.

I was just listening to Josh Groban's Christmas album, Noel, and the song that chokes me up each time I hear it..."There's So Much to be Thankful For." How very true! In spite of the challenging times that come to us all, we are blessed beyond measure.

Warmest holiday wishes to you all!

Nancy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bethlehem of My Heart

I am ready now
for the birth of hope
the advent of trust,
heart standing poised
to welcome the faint music of angels

here is the light of a star
shining down on my persistent
struggle to rejoice in the now
savoring the silken wrap
of love that is my daily miracle

I am ready now
awaiting the grace
the spring in the desert
the promise of the song that will be sung
as long as breath remains

Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Decking the Halls...fa la la la la!

Just finished decorating the tree...a bit casually, I must admit. As I stand back and look, I think it may have been stuffed in that bag one year too often. I reminded myself that once it gets dark and all the room lights are lowered, the fireplace lit, I will say, as I always do...this is the most beautiful tree we've ever had! Makes me smile to realize that I look better with the lights lowered too! Maybe much of life is about perspective, standing back at a little distance and not being too particular about the details.

I notice that my decorations have become mostly about angels. I am intrigued by them, the symbolism, the shapes and styles...all so different but somehow so soothing and peaceful to have around. I don't know about the theology of angels or the truth about them guarding us. I'd like to think so but I'm just not sure. Meanwhile, I plan to 'act as if' we are under the watchful care of the lovely angels that I have collected (or attracted, perhaps?) over the years. What's not to like about that concept?

Meanwhile, the decking of the halls is almost finished, such as it is. Then it will be on to the kitchen, where Christmas really happens! There are menus to plan, cookies to bake...you know the drill. And the music is playing, the wonderful Christmas classics that never fail to put me in the mood. I hope you are listening and enjoying the sounds of the season.

Much love to you all!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homecoming

Here, a gathering of familiar strangers pass
through the mirrors of their own thwarted
expectations of family.

It seems you know them, their faces you could trace
with your fingers in the air, their laughter
like chords of a remembered song,

their tears never quite revealing the discordant
notes they hear, only that it is not the song
their hearts require.

We read into each other’s hieroglyphs
stories of our own deficiencies,
bridges not quite meeting a faraway shore

where the bitter and the benevolent live together
in nominal peace, the truth and its absence
seeming equally credible.

Here is where the book falls open to the place
we always return as a reminder of what binds us
and what draws us apart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finding Joy

Several times in the past few weeks I have been confronted with the word ‘joy’, used in different contexts, but it began the wheels spinning in my head. As I write these words, I am playing the Bach B minor Mass on my Ipod and wondering how music could be any more joyful. (Also thinking that I’ll bet there isn’t another person on the planet who is, at this moment, playing the B minor on their Ipod!) My musical tastes run to the classics and even to the Requiem Mass as inspiration for much of life, including writing. Can’t explain…it’s just me. But I digress.

Most of you know that the past three years have presented Tom and me with some major challenges, mainly his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis. At that moment, it occurred to me that joy might become a thing of our past, not of our future. I was wrong. For me, the experience of living with joy has been greatly elevated by finding it amidst the difficult times and our love has continued to be precious and rewarding through it all.

Discovering that the A.D. was not going to swallow us whole within a few months or even years has been joy beyond belief. We don’t know the course it will take, but for now it has changed our quality of life only a little, and he is still enjoying relative contentment. The heart issues of this past summer seem to be handled, and though we don’t know what lies ahead, things are a bit more tranquil here at the moment. Joy!

Someone recently commented to me that they spend a good bit of time pursuing joy, and find it difficult to sustain. My heart aches for her and for others who seek and do not find. Depression sucks out every joyous instinct in people who suffer from it and good professional help is often necessary. But for most of us, it can become a learned behavior and finally, a habit.

For me, my family and friends, music and poetry have been my great joys, in spite of having walked through my share of valleys. Oh, and my little dogs…personifications of joy! At my most joyous, I doubt that I have ever experienced it on the level that they exhibit when we return from the post office! They truly live in the moment in a way that I continue to strive for, not always achieving. But it is in the shimmering moment that we are most likely to find joy.

I believe that we can find and claim joy in a million small ways every day if we are open to seeing it around us. It often comes along with the experience of gratitude…and let’s face it, we have a lot for which to be grateful. We have what we need, if not all we want.

Joy to the world! The mass is ended. Pax!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Habits

I've been thinking about habits. Habits can be very useful. Sometimes having a customary or routine way of getting through the day can free your mind for multi-tasking, while your hands or body go through the motions of doing what they have been taught to do. I wonder, though, how much of what happens to us is the result of unthinking habits...doing what we have always done because we have always done it -- a kind of circuitous logic that brings us full circle without an awareness of why!

We can probably all subscribe to the goal of conscious living, as in connecting our actions to our thoughts and intentions...being aware of our motivations. It sounds a lot easier than it is, of course, as do most things that are logically good for us. Even when we know that something is not in our best interest, it is easy to shove aside that knowledge and let the habit take over. Some members of my family and I are engaged in one of those very addictive computer games that is a monumental time waster, but so much fun. Being a competitive bunch, it is alarming how hard we play to get ahead of each other, and how an hour can be gone and we have not even noticed the passage of time. It's not a terrible thing to waste an hour in pursuit of some silly fun, but sometimes I sit down with the actual intent to do something completely different(and productive!) and find myself playing that game as though I had no control.

Writing poetry has been helpful to me in forming habits that lead me to a positive outcome -- most of the time. I know that if I don't write, just a few lines, for several days, it is hard to get back in the habit, and then I feel like I've lost ground. Writing for me has become the most productive habit I have ever formed. It gives me an outlet for emotion and creativity and an outlook on life that is more positive. It is my best habit. Don't think I'll ever feel that way about ironing.

All the more reason...

to cling to the barest scrap of love
however unlikely or undeserved
to disturb
our most sacred beliefs,
unravel
our cherished convictions,
examine
our established truth,
be done
with useless arguments.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Friend's Visit

Tonight my friend, Darleen, arrives from the Denver area to visit a few days. Nice, right? Nothing that unusual. Well, here's the story. We've been friends for 40 years and have not seen each other since 1986...that's 23 years! We've stayed in close touch by phone, and of course, email, but still -- how can this happen? Well, you know that life gets in the way sometimes and you mean to make something happen, but somehow years slip away. We were both still in our 20's when we met, with small children and busy lives, but that didn't stop us from having our dreams. In our fantasies, she was Rosalind Russell, playing Auntie Mame on Broadway, and I was Beverly Sills! Forty years later, grown children and husbands with health challenges, we will spend the next few days reminiscing and having some much-needed laughs together. It better not be so long next time!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just Wondering..

Once I remarked to someone that I really loved quail. He responded, “Me too. They are so delicious.” He got the desired response from me – a playful slug on the arm and a laugh. I explained that I loved to watch quail, the multiple coveys of them that live around our house. When they visit each afternoon, I have to stop what I am doing just to observe them. Their Disney-cartoonish way of running, their funny topknots jiggling, is comical and entertaining. But what I really love is the familial, almost tender, way they behave with each other. There is always a lookout, eyes alert to threats darting this way and that. Then a couple of adults pop out, maybe a few more (I assign roles to them like the aunt and uncle, a couple of cousins, and maybe a brother-in-law) and before long there is a great flurry of young’uns…but always, always surrounded by a group of grownups. I know, I know – they’re just birds. But I wonder how they manage to parent so carefully, so watchfully with so many children! It clearly takes a quail village!

Sometimes I wonder if anyone grew up loved and cared for in the right way – or at least in the way they wanted. When the deficit begins early in life, and no one notices, one can carry that gaping wound around for a lifetime. It often takes us down roads we would never travel by choice, searching for the missing piece of ourselves that was never validated or acknowledged. And so we wander, bewildered, well into adulthood, desperate to be understood and loved for who we really are…as if we knew. Get any group of adults together talking about their childhood and one gets the feeling that ‘dysfunctional family’ is redundant. Any TV newscast presents pretty clear evidence of the multitude of disheartened, disengaged children who are growing up convinced that they are unlovable. Why, in a society where miracles happen every day in technology, medicine and science, can’t we care for our children more wisely?

Is that such a bird-brained idea?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cardiac Unrest

I wait alone
in a crowd of the worried and afraid
while they probe your hesitating heart
my own beating a fearful tattoo
willing the panicky taste to leave my mouth

closing my eyes I see you on the table
in my crazed mind an ethereal glow surrounds
a swarm of wizards in masks and tall hats
waving wands of mystery over your draped body
snaking a tiny battleship through your veins

I wait, feeling chilled, dreamlike
for the head wizard to emerge to pronounce
the exorcism successful, the war won,
and imagine you leaping from the table
in cape and tights,

your heart able to beat in my chest again.

It's Not About the Turkey

OK, I admit it. Most years Thanksgiving is all about the meal. It dominates my thoughts for weeks while I plan the menu, the table setting, compare market prices on "the bird" and schedule the kitchen routine. It's not that I am not thankful. It's more that the aspect of gratitude plays low in the background most years.

This year, the volume is definitely turned up. We have had what we laughingly call "a summer of fun" which included four hospital visits for Tom, almost constant monitoring for the mysterious dizziness and fainting that has plagued him for more than two years, and multiple weekly doctor visits to Tucson. The stress level got pretty high around here. At its peak, he had a seizure and we learned that his heart actually stopped for 8 seconds, which led to the implanting of a pacemaker in late August. Ahh, we thought, we fixed him! But no, some of the symptoms continued and our cardiologist (looks like Dan Akroyd...acts a little like him, too!) ordered more tests and determined that an angiogram was needed to check for blockages. The result was the cardiac catheterization on October 8 to implant 2 stents. After an overnight hospital stay, Tom was sent home, and so far he appears to be free of any heart-related symptoms. He is back to walking 5 miles several times a week and I'm getting my exercise by doing the happy dance!

All this to say that Thanksgiving this year is about much more than 'what's for dinner'. My heart is so full of gratitude for the many ways in which we are blessed this year. Our families and friends have been so supportive through the tough times and we have felt their love. Our home in Sonoita is a sheltering haven that continues to bring us joy and comfort. And I have found a new voice through my writing which has given me renewed energy and enthusiasm. So many have supported me in this and I am, well...thankful.

Now, where was that recipe for my favorite stuffing???

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Surprising Myself

Summer is definitely history. This morning was shockingly cold as we let the dogs out, who then wanted right back in. The cool weather is always welcome but we know we will tire of it by March, under the category of "never satisfied for long."

Yesterday, it came to me quite suddenly that I have finally found my life's work. Well, it's about time! Next May I will be 70 years old, and at last I know what I want to be when I grow up. Writing has always been important to me, and I know that I have skills in that area, but the poetry has come as a huge surprise. I just know that I have fallen in love with the form and can't get enough reading and writing.

I'm not fond of giving advice, but my own experience has shown me that I may have something to say to others in my generation. Retirement is wonderful and I dearly enjoy the freedom to design my own days, but it would be a very unsatisfying time of life if I had not discovered a new way to create. I know several things about myself that inform this view: first of all, I have a passion for learning new things, second, my spirit requires creativity in order to breathe. It's always been music, for as long as I can remember. I'm a singer. But, let's face it, sopranos do not go on forever. Poetry lets me sing in a whole new way.

What will you do to surprise yourself? Trust me, it is likely to be something of which you never dreamed. How wonderful!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dawn

As though rising from the ground
it begins to spread its apricot blush
I feel the sacred hush
as all becomes
silhouette

now a fiery orange the background
for the butterfly bush,
filigreed against the horizon
like intricate lace

where later a mass
of dusty-winged creatures
will gather, stained glass,
to flutter and tremble the leaves
with the weight
of nothing.

Watch for the occasional poem

Hello! I've decided I had better get with it and learn to blog. Come with me on a journey of discovery, while I share a few tidbits from my life and learn a bit more about yours.

Today I am holding the final draft of my first book! The impact of that sentence made me catch my breath for a moment. The creation of a book of my poetry has been a year-long adventure, one that has changed my life profoundly.

I will tell you more about how this came to be as we go along, but for now I will just introduce "Sip Wine, Drink Stars -- Poems from the Heart of Arizona Wine Country," available around November 1. More details to follow.

Hey look, this blogging isn't that hard! My very best to you all.

Nancy