when the going gets tough

tough goingWhen the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.

When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.

When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.

When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.

When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth. [continue…]

“thank you”

cranes“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” ~       Meister Eckhart

If you had visited my friend Lisa last week, the first thing you would have seen upon entering her living room is a large bright mobile hanging near the window – a thousand and one paper cranes strung on thread and suspended from a curved branch.

The cranes were created over the last couple of months by visitors to the Hilltop Café, a small coffeehouse at the farm up the road from the Pine Hill School, where Lisa has been a beloved kindergarten teacher for many years. Anyone who came into the cafe this winter to eat or grab a coffee to go was invited to pause for a few moments to craft an origami crane and send healing thoughts Lisa’s way. The result: the beautiful wall hanging in her living room. Love made visible.

The phrase “it takes a village” comes to my mind many times a day lately, for that’s what we have here, a village of caring friends and thoughtful strangers who show up in all sorts of ways, and who do what they do in a spirit of love. There have been months of beautiful dinners, massages, flowers, stories written and pictures painted and cards sent; donations large and small from across the land; photos and memories shared, housecleaning, rides given, family and friends arriving to brighten the days. An abundance of much-needed, much-appreciated assistance, care, and concern.

No one can change Lisa’s diagnosis. And there’s no denying the challenges she faces each day: pills to take and transfusions to endure and a new port to contend with. There are side effects to every medication. There is the unknowable future. There is no cure. [continue…]

the shape of a year
and a book to win

booksIt’s snowing again, for the third time in a week. In New England, and certainly here in our part of New Hampshire, it’s a season of enforced respite from the comings and goings of our busy everyday lives. We can fight the weather (not much of a contest there!), or we can embrace the challenge of an uncompromising northern winter, layering on fleeces and wool socks, planning ahead, slowing down. I choose to acquiesce to this season of storms, keeping more food in the refrigerator, making pots of soup and chili that last for days, shopping less, driving less, snowshoeing more, writing more, reading more, gazing out the window more.

IMG_2045This morning, it’s pretty wild outside — a bitter, relentless wind drives vast, swirling curtains of powder across the meadow and sends silent clumps of snow crashing from tree limbs. With the temperature dropping steadily and the snow already hip deep, it would be easy to view yet another four or six or sixteen inches of snow as an annoying inconvenience. But I’m seeing this latest storm as a muffled blessing, an invitation to stay put today—no place to go and nothing to do, at least until the roads are cleared.

Looking up from my stool in the kitchen, I spot the empty bird feeder swinging in the wind and a sturdy cardinal, all puffed up and hunkered down in a nearby snowdrift, bright as a jewel against the blanket of white, patiently waiting for his breakfast. We all need to eat.

cardinalI slip on Steve’s tall black boots to trudge out and fill the birdfeeder, scattering some extra nibbles along the top of the snow-covered stonewall — a sunflower seed buffet for the squirrels and the jays. A pair of chickadees arrives before I’m even back to the door, the two of them too hungry to be shy. I stand there quietly for a moment, close as I dare, to watch them take turns plucking seeds from between the wires. But my fingers are already numb with cold. I’ll skip the long walk today.

IMG_2034Back inside my cozy kitchen, second cup of coffee in hand, I pick up my book.

More and more these days, I want to close my computer, silence my phone, and steep in the silence. [continue…]

to love like a grandmother

grammie s“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.” ~Derek Wolcott

I was not the best little girl. Shy, bookish, solitary, dreamy, not athletic, a bit chubby, I was certainly no trouble-maker. At school, a year younger than most of my classmates, utterly clueless about fashion, part of no clique and always two steps behind on the latest trend, I kept my head down and my mouth shut, hoping not to be noticed. At home, where repercussions for misbehavior were swift, I did as I was told and tried to stay out of the way. I read a lot. I wrote. I colored, painstakingly, in a beloved, finely drawn coloring book with my colored pencils. I sat contentedly on the floor of my bedroom, making tiny dolls from wooden clothespins and sewing clothes for them.

But the truth is, at my grandmother’s house, I pushed the limits. When my brother and I were little we spent many weekends with our grandparents, who were happy to give my young, overworked parents a break. My grandmother who, at the age I’m remembering her, was just a few years older than I am now, seemed to me at once frail, elderly, and immortal. She was tiny, less than a hundred pounds, with feet the size of a small child’s. Asthma sometimes forced her to lie down on the couch in the middle of the day, wheezing with each breath. Her heart was weak. She was always in and out of the hospital, for gallstones and kidney stones and I don’t know what else. And yet, because I’d never known anyone to die, it never occurred to me that someday she would. [continue…]

in awe of the subtle

ice fairyI am perched on a stool in my friend’s kitchen, looking out at the same mountains I see from my own kitchen stool on the other side of town. A reverse view. On the sill above the sink, a row of single paperwhites rising out of cobalt blue jars. Beyond the tiny star blossoms, on the other side of the window, a few flakes of snow dancing through the air. And then, in the time it takes me to type a sentence and look up again, the storm quickens, the dance becomes a fury, and the solid, slumbering mountains disappear behind a swirling veil of white.

My friend sleeps in the bedroom down the hall. When she awakens, I’ll be here. We’ll have a late breakfast together, drink tea, listen to the wild wind and watch the snow fall. I suspect there is comfort for both of us in that.

A sentence sent by another friend over the weekend about sums it up: “Sitting silently beside a friend who is hurting may be the best gift we have to give.”

Sitting silently is something I’m always happy to do. The gift, needless to say, goes both ways. We are all hungry for silence. To dive down, to find the beauty in a moment’s passing, to inhabit time with a breath, to be fully present to another’s beating heart, is both an act of perception and imagination. I love that even a time of stillness can be shared through the gift of presence; that silence, too, speaks a language of caring and connection. [continue…]