joy, tempered

img_1303I’ve just flicked on the white Christmas lights – there are bright, tiny twinkles on the porch, on the tree, around the fireplace. Earlier, I ran some errands in town and bought groceries at the store where the guys behind the counter know every customer by name. I stopped in at the local bookstore to sign a few copies of my book for special orders. Back home, I filled the birdfeeder and stood outside for awhile, watching the sky change color and waiting for the hungry chickadees to come close. I sat in the kitchen with a cup of tea and ordered a couple of final gifts. The day flew by. It was good, full of reminders of what I love about our life  in this small New England town. And now dusk is falling, along with the temperature; by tomorrow morning it’s predicted to be below zero. Our son Jack, home for this week, is off playing basketball with a friend. My husband is still at work. And there is time, just enough time, to write a few words before I have to start making dinner.

Usually I would relish this moment – a brief pause in the midst of life to gather some thoughts about the meaning of the living. And yet, I’ve been hesitant to write lately. [continue…]

beautiful things

photo 1This quiet morning. My friend asleep in her bed, snuggled deep in a nest of pillows, her faithful terrier molded to the curve of her back. The gentle rise and fall of the covers, her breath coming slow and steady when I peek in to check on her.

Six a.m. My shift. The house is still but for the steady tick of the kitchen clock, empty but for the two of us. What twists and turns of fate have brought us to this moment? One woman engaged in the deep inner work of letting go of life. And the other, me, still here, striving to see this world as perfect, to love it as it is.

I pour coffee, slice a peach, and carry my breakfast to the back deck where the two of us have spent so many companionable, peaceful hours over the last year. The dark trees are still silhouetted against the sky. Clouds at the horizon melt to shades of rose. The sky lightens. In the new light, dragonflies stitch invisible seams through the morning. A blue heron wings by, heading from one secret pond to another.

photo 6My notebook is open before me, the lovely white page. I tip my full heart over and pour myself out. A list takes shape: all the hard, sad things. It doesn’t take long to write them down. Just putting words to these feelings brings a swift, unexpected relief, like setting down a bag full of rocks. Tears come. This, too, is a relief.

And then, as I read through my list, one thing is suddenly, startlingly clear. [continue…]

this (good) life

photo 4A mid-summer Monday morning. After a weekend away, I’ve spent a couple of hours setting the house back to rights. Emptying jars and vases of their dead flowers, vacuuming up the scattered petals, watering plants and deadheading lilies, gathering laundry into a hamper and getting the first load going in the basement.

The kitchen is quiet. Beyond the windows, which are all cranked open to their fullest on this steamy day, cardinals and blue jays vie for turns at the feeder — unaware, for the moment anyway, of the blueberries ripening on bushes just a few feet away. As always, it’s a race between me and the birds to see who will get there first to harvest the small crop. (Usually, I lose. A watchful catbird is already hopping along the top of the chaise lounge in the yard, taking stock of the bounty.)

I must confess I’m feeling a bit unsure about what to write here after a few months of not writing at all. No excuses for the silence, other than that I’ve been busy elsewhere. To offer a full “report” would be impossible for me – and tedious for you. Yet, sitting quietly on my kitchen stool, I discover there are a few thoughts that have been waiting their moment to emerge after all. I can’t say everything that’s on my mind, but I can say this: I feel softened by the season, slowed down in my thinking but perhaps a bit more raw and open in my emotions. Life has been tender and lovely and bittersweet, suffused with beauty, laughter, and tears.

There have been no big revelations, but rather countless variations on this one small truth: joy and sadness are not opposites. In fact, they co-exist, all tangled up together in the same day, the same moment, the same unguarded heart. [continue…]

moments of seeing

photo - Version 2For a while now I’ve been receiving letters from readers asking if I’m ever going to collect my blog pieces into a book.

I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of that.

Would they hold up? Would anyone actually want to buy such a volume? And perhaps the question that was hardest for me to answer: Could I even bear to go back and re-read all those pieces, well over two hundred of them now? For five years I’ve been writing here as the mood strikes me, writing about whatever happens to be in my heart or on my plate, so to speak, without thinking about posterity or publication. Although I write slowly and revise even more slowly, these essays were penned in the moment: snatches of life as it was being lived, my thoughts as they came, glimpses of ordinary days, fleeting beauty, family moments, inner struggles, small revelations.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to sit down and go back to the very beginning. I would read through all the old posts with as much objectivity as I could bring to my own work. And I would find out if the person who began writing here in August of 2009 is someone I still recognize and am interested in today.

The answer is yes – in ways that are both humbling and reassuring at the same time. And so for now I’ll just say that I’m going ahead with this project. [continue…]

26.2 things to be grateful for on a 26.2 mile walk

IMG_1696On September 21, for the fourth time, the members of Team Diane participated in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. And then, as always happens, life came rushing right back in, and I didn’t get to write the blog post I’d planned for the next day. But what stands out in my mind even now, two weeks later, is one over-arching feeling: gratitude. And I realize that even as I walked I was making a mental list in my head. Writing it down just now, it was hard to stop at 26. What was I grateful for? Well, among other things:

  1. You! My dear friends, your words of encouragement and support filled my soul and gave wings to my feet. “Thank you” doesn’t begin to express my gratitude!
  1. You, again. Thanks to your generous donations, I exceeded my own fund-raising goal this year. But more importantly, all the money raised by our group – over $30,000 this year alone — goes directly to Dana Farber oncologist Dr. Ursula Matulonis and her team of researchers, dedicated to finding better treatments for women’s cancers. Together, we’re making a real difference, improving the odds for every woman being diagnosed or treated today.
  1. Team Diane! I feel blessed to be a part of this spirited band of women walking arm-in-arm for a cause that’s touched all our lives.finish line
  1. Marching orders. How proud our friend would be to see that we’re carrying on this work she herself began with such passion. This was the legacy Diane hoped for and the instruction she left us with: To live our own lives fully, and to do whatever we can to ensure better futures for all women with ovarian cancer.
  1. Husbands. You know who you are: the ones who willingly got up at four in the morning and caravanned on the Mass Pike out to Hopkinton to deliver the members of Team Diane to the starting line. And my own husband, Steve, who not only took photos from start to finish but trailed along the route as sweep, ready to offer a ride to any one of us who needed to bail out. Hats off to you guys!
  1. The heavens. They opened, the rains poured down for a solid hour and then, as if by magic or grace, the skies cleared at 6 am. We balled up our un-used slickers, tightened our sneakers, and put our hands together for a “Go Team” salute.
  1. My new chiropractor. “No, it’s not a pulled muscle,” she said a few weeks ago, when I first arrived at her office, after limping with a mysterious hip and leg injury for over ten months. “I’m pretty sure it’s referred nerve pain from your L1 vertebrae, and that you’ll feel better after I adjust you.” She was right. I did. (Still mending, but at least I’m walking without wincing.)

[continue…]