bucket list

photo copy 6On Tuesday afternoons this past year I’ve been a traveling yoga teacher, lugging a bag full of straps and foam blocks and lavender eye pillows to a small elementary school in a nearby town.

My students, a dedicated handful of regulars, are all in their sixties, including the school principal and her now retired husband, who once taught English to my son Jack. We work gently together, accommodating a tricky hip (mine), chronic back pain, osteoporosis, balance issues, and the inevitable assortment of aches and injuries that are simply part of the territory now that we are no longer young.

Last fall, on the first afternoon I arrived at the school to teach, I was surprised by a few sudden tears the minute I walked through the front door. It hit me – suddenly, although certainly not for the first time — just how far down the road I’ve traveled from all that transpires each day in this tidy, welcoming brick building.

Everything I saw brought back a memory: The box of lost-and- found baseball caps and tangled sweatshirts, the collection of canned goods for the food pantry accumulating in the foyer, the children’s bright artwork on the walls, the sight of a lone L.L. Bean backpack forgotten in a corner, the distinctive smell of kids and chalk dust and used books and half-eaten lunches.

The question rose up hot and fierce as a reprimand in my chest: “Had I loved my life enough?”

The honest answer? Probably not. [continue...]

How to savor (another) freezing February morning

IMG_3754“If your daily life seems of no account, don’t blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its treasures.”  ~ Rilke 

O
pen your eyes in darkness.

Listen to the heat kick on.

Snuggle more deeply into flannel sheets.

Say a prayer of thanks for the roof over your head, your warm house, the hot shower that awaits.

Turn your gaze toward the feathery frost on the window pane.

Allow moonlight to wash away sleep.

Watch stars wink out, the sky lighten by degrees, a scrim of rose etch itself across the mountain.

Rise with the sun. [continue...]

A Religion of One’s Own

IMG_9798The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant, twenty-five years ago this winter, was get in my car and drive to Harvard Square to buy a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  I am a book person, a life-long reader.  And so my first response to anything new or challenging in my life has always been the same: go find a book on the subject.

For a few years, as I became a mother to first one son and then another, I read my way through an entire shelf of parenting titles.  I read books about every age and every stage, about attachment and achievement, discipline and diet.

But the book that finally set me on my own path, both as a mother and as a person, wasn’t a parenting book at all.  It was a book called The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life by a writer named Thomas Moore.

Most of us have a handful of books we consider seminal, books that make such profound, deep, and lasting impressions that we remember, even years later, exactly where we were and how we felt as the words landed in our hearts.

I was in a lawn chair at my parents’ house in Florida, savoring quiet. [continue...]

Dear Older (Love, Old)

sonata - Version 2This is the first in a series of letters between me and my friend, author Margaret Roach, on the challenges (and joys!) of aging. I’m Old (just 55) and she’s Older (facing 60 this year). Who knows where it’s going, but since the subject keeps coming up, and we’re both writers…well, you get the idea. Listen in.  

Dear Old(er),

Yesterday afternoon, I spritzed on a bit of Sonata, and then I drove downtown to the lawyer’s office and signed my last will and testament.

I can tell you, seeing those words next to my own name at the top of the page was pretty strange – about as stark a reminder as I’ve had that, yes, the day will come when I won’t be here.

It’s funny how I can get so caught up in the minutiae of  my everyday life – the emails that need answers, the dishes in the sink, the bills on the desk, my annoyance at someone I can’t change or at something beyond my control – that I lose sight of the big things.

Such as the fact that although time and space are infinite, I am not.  No matter how I spend it, my own time will run out. There aren’t too many absolute truths in life, but this is one: nothing lasts, not even me.

Which is why I got up this morning and helped myself to another generous spray of Sonata, the nicest perfume I’ve ever owned (handcrafted at a tiny perfumery in Maine using all natural ingredients) and the only one I’ve ever loved.

The perfume was a Christmas gift from my dad.  Five years ago.  As you can see from the photo, the bottle is still full.  Yep. In five years, I’ve allowed myself to use my favorite perfume exactly twice.  Both occasions were formal weddings, so I felt they justified a bit of extravagance:  dressy necklace, expensive perfume. [continue...]

On walking the labyrinth, 2014

labyrnthYou take a step forward, and another, still not sure you’re on the right road.  And yet, there is something deep inside you urging, this way.  The child-in-you is afraid. You look around for confirmation, for some wiser, older “adult” kind of person to nod “yes.” If only someone else would fall into step beside you, someone who could take your hand and tell you who you really are and where you’re meant to go. Instead, every morning you wake up and set out once again, a fumbling beginner on the path of awakening.

The road is full of travelers. (You think: Does everyone else have this all figured out? Am I the only one who’s lost?) You can – and do — follow in another’s footsteps for a while.  But ultimately, you have to find your own way.   This life, this trail through the wilderness, is a creative journey: your own.  It’s full of unknowns; no map or guide is going to tell you what’s around the next corner.  All you know for sure is that the view isn’t ever quite what you expected.  The plans you make?  No guarantees, no promises.

And so you have no choice but to proceed on faith.  Little by little you learn to trust:  the murmurings of your own heart, the wisdom in your own two feet, the forces at work in the world that are larger than you.  What you need, you have.  [continue...]