Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Can We Learn From A Toddler?

I wanted to share this photo with you in the hopes that it will do for you what it did for me. 

Six under two, including two sets of b/g twins
First let me  tell you about this happy gang of toddlers. If you have visited my Facebook page you might recognize that two of these little beauties are my grandtwins, Claire and Jonah. The other four are the gorgeous offspring that belong to friends from their parenting group. These little ones are so close in age that they play easily and are able to do most of the same things. Their moms and my son, a stay-at-home Dad, often take the group to local parks, playgrounds and petting zoos, and though it looks like chaos looking for a place to happen, by all accounts a good time is mostly had by all.

This photo was taken on a recent excursion and when I saw it I literally sucked in my breath and let out this huge sigh. I couldn’t nail down a single feeling – there were so many that the picture called up for me:

--complete and utter innocence...the beauty of these little beings who are learning at such an extreme pace to prepare themselves for all that is ahead of them, and the fierce feelings of protection that are felt by all those who love them.

--the purest trust that any of us ever experience...the feelings of safety and comfort being with a parent for whom you are everything, the center of the universe. Even if we did not experience that as a child ourselves, we have a second chance at a healthy and nourishing parent/child relationship.

 --the magic of being with a toddler when he/she discovers dozens of new intriguing things in a day. Life is utterly fascinating! Just try to be a jaded, blasé adult when there is a toddler around. Pretty much impossible. When was the last time you spotted something new that took your breath away?

--and the FUN! Yes, it is the most difficult job on earth much of the time, and so relentless! But in these moments when your very soul is engaged with this small one and their completely natural experience of joy and excitement, your own laughter and delight is their gift to you. It can heal and restore your exhausted energy.

And then they spill their grape juice in your lap! Ah, so it goes. There will always be good days and not so good, but what this wonderful photo says is that the privilege of raising a child insures that every day is Thanksgiving Day!

I surely hope that these little ones can grow up to be BFF’s! And I wish for us all moments that allow us to channel our inner toddler at least once a day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Storm On An August Afternoon

I am beguiled by the late summer wind,
warm and weighty with promise of rain
just over the hills to the east, insistent,
determined to wash away our dust
in a rusty flood.

A disturbance of birds, sensing a change,
thrusts upward through bear grass and mesquite,
leaving the risky earth behind. Their wings
beat through the heavy air taking the color
from the sky into their soft breasts.

Lightning tattoos the bruised horizon
and I feel it skim the curve of my spine
like the tip of a spear, creasing my skin,
a lover’s kiss, wonder transfixing me
to the distant shadowed hills

and the clouds, oh the clouds,
how dark and deep, they whirl
above and lift the leaves and grasses
to fling themselves weightless
into the impossible light.

The meadows who wear their golden
dress all year now display in velvet jade,
the vibrant shade full of earth’s best dance
while each blade leans hungrily into the chance
to quench its thirst.
Who could bear not to be here,
with this memory on this summer’s day?
Here, where my heart pounds as each raindrop
falls like a tear on the sere and dusty ground,
greedy and always wanting more.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Unexpected Gift

Alert the media! I finally have something good to report from the dark side of 70. I’m a generally optimistic person, as anyone who knows me can attest. But I admit to feeling a bit disappointed in this aging thing. Clearly I have some health issues, as does my husband, but I’ve noticed lately that my mental attitude sometimes slips from its usual sunny seat by the window to the top of the basement steps. We don’t actually have a basement. That’s my metaphor for where I go emotionally when things aren’t going so well. I begin to dwell in trivia, the more trivial the better. I feel dumpy instead of stately and elegant. (I was, I suppose, hoping to be taller) and all my shoes are ugly. That kind of trivia.

So what’s the good news? My seventies has presented me with a collection of women friends who have enriched my life beyond anything I can describe. I’ve always had great women friends, some for forty years, but distance, family and jobs kept our time together very limited. Since moving to southern Arizona six years ago, little by little the most amazing women have shown up in my life. It’s a gift that I cherish. More than that, it’s a gift I need.

These women are unique in their own right but they are alike in some important ways. They are all extraordinarily intelligent, artistic in many different ways, interested and curious about the world. They love to laugh, sometimes at themselves, which is a great uniter among friends. And each has such a core of kindness and compassion that those who know them feel valued and affirmed. I love that we encourage each other’s wishes and dreams and fearlessly speak truth to each other.

I should mention that we are all in the same neighborhood age-wise. That means we are all, more or less, in the same stage of life and have experienced some physical and emotional wear and tear. (That would make us all laugh and someone would say “You got that right!”) While none of us has escaped challenges and disappointments, to be sure, we care deeply about important issues in our community and the world and still have much to offer the causes we care about. And opinions. Oh Lord, lots of opinions! We just want to contribute on our own terms. We’ve earned that right!

We’re mostly all married, or have been, some more than once, and clearly those are the central relationships in our lives. But we seem to share this female bonding desire which fills a need outside of marriage. When I spend time with these women, I feel heard and understood at a different level. It feeds me. It makes me feel significant in ways that the dismissive “senior citizen” label (like all labels) tends to undermine. When we spend time together, over a glass (or a bottle) of wine, I feel my strongest self come forth.

I know that older women can become invisible if they are not connected to an enthusiastic cluster of friends and a couple of important causes they care about. My friends and I would never allow any of us to become invisible. Even though magazine articles and TV programs bear such titles as “How To Be Fabulous after 50”,  they don’t mean this long after 50. It is clear that I am now in nobody’s target marketing group except for pharmaceuticals and insurance to cover “final expenses.” We’re pretty much on our own to discover ways to still be fabulous, and we are long past caring about fashion trends. Comfy is the word that comes to mind!   

It’s not the easiest time of life. Everything seems harder, whether it’s opening a jar or realizing that if it weren’t for doctor appointments you’d have no social life. Still, I think I can handle it ...with a little help from my friends.