Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Song is About Me

I feel so vain.  It took at least seven tries to settle on this self-portrait.  Glasses on.  Glasses off.  Different angle.  Oh, that double chin.  That smile looks so fake.  Gee whiz, my eyes are closed.  I realize that all these messages are negative.  My relationships with others are based upon character and virtues and not looks.  So why is it so important to me to present as nearly a perfect image as I can possibly get?

My efforts to ground myself spiritually and to know God deeply will eventually help me move passed this self absorbed veil.  There ought not to be any apologies or excuses necessary for my extra pounds, wrinkles or age spots .  I am what I am.  True beauty is from within.  And with the help of God and those who love me I will continue to better understand just what thwarts my progress toward living fully.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Behind the Brick Facade

Ignorance is bliss. I know nothing about engineering or architecture, yet I can't help myself from collecting photos of buildings, mostly brick buildings. Brick buildings of my youth include the bank with smooth rounded veined marble pillars.  Somehow my cheek would find a way to access the coolness of the rock.  The ceilings high making the building hollow and echo.

Perhaps my affinity for brick, aged buildings comes from after church Sunday visits to Auntie and Gene's in Portland.  There was always lots of food.  Not the meat and potatoes that graced my table at home, but fresh produce from the farmer's market and pickled vegetables. I developed my sense of culinary adventure behind that brick facade.   Often we would bake short cakes to go with fresh strawberries or blueberries. I would walk down to the tiny store around the corner with my big sister to get a carton of cream that would be whipped into sweet peaks of delight.  Auntie's was the first place I had a taste of loose tea, mostly milk and spoonfuls of sugar.    Family stories, secrets between adults in French and food.  Auntie's was a place of constancy and love.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Light Within

The thin curve of my upper lip,
The nose that looks like the milk man's.
Bit by bit,
Learning to love it all
Through the Light within.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Acceptance Is the Lesson

It sounded like a shot. My eyes quickly scanned the expanse of glass before me.  I saw nothing, yet I knew it was only a matter of change time and a change in temperature to discover the damage.  Thirty minutes later, there were two small hairline cracks.  

Timing is everything.  If I hadn't been on the road at that moment.  If that car that passed me hadn't decided to take the same road at that exact time.  If I had gotten the car inspected last week....

I remember that many things happen that are out of our control. Acceptance is the lesson here.  It was just one of those unfortunate series of events. It isn't even winter yet, when the sand trucks leave boulder sized sand grains on the road.  Perhaps this does not bode well for my Sue-Baru and her new owner-me!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Loving Through Images

Thumbing through stacks of photos while visiting my childhood home recently, reminded me just how important it is to preserve and treasure family history through images.  I found images of my father as a pudgy five year old in knickers with a pageboy haircut. In another photo my mother at about the same age, smiles in the direction of the camera the blue of her eyes lost in the black and white processing.  There were decks of newer photos too.  My mother was the photographer,  that is when she remembered the camera. She captured mostly holidays or special occasions.  The composition of all her her photos were problematic, the subjects rested on the bottom eighth of the photo showing the tops of heads, while most of the square print was wall and ceiling.  Standing in the middle of my old bedroom, holding the image of Auntie and Gene with their smiles running off the edge of the photo made me smile. Suddenly, I recalled that despite protests (my mother painstakingly took forever to snap a "bad" photo) she continued to be the family photographer.  When I was old enough, I  wrangled the camera from her. From then on I was absent from family photos.

I have a friend that takes self-portraits almost daily.  I stare her image. How does she do that? I couldn't. I thought. She holds all that she has become until that moment in the image. All the joys, the lessons and the pain.  I realize for the most part, I remain absent from photographs.  Although said to be photogenic, I do not like to like to have my photo taken.  Hyper-critical, whenever I am forced to be in front of a lens I hide behind the torso of another and peek. Just little bits of me show.

What would happen if I began the practice of a self portrait a day?  Would I come to discover the light within and learn to accept myself as I am?  Does how I look really have much to do with all the "inside" work?  I could learn to love.

One day my daughters may discover the series of self-portraits and hold them tightly and view them as gifts to be treasured.

Be Like a Fern

Every clock displays a different time.  On days when there is no work, no appointments does it matter?  Responsibilities with time constraints  ruin this plan for me.  I am conditioned to wake up just before the alarm no matter the day, eat on schedule despite my lack of hunger and go to bed before a certain hour.  

Does not the old time farmer adjust his or her internal clock to the cycle of nature?  Generally, I find that during this time of year I long for the comfort of soups, stews and good long books while wrapped under the weight of blankets. Generally,  adjust to the natural seasonal cycles quite easily.  It is during the minute to minute attempts to empty my mind and connect with the Spirit when my mind wildly winds around the constraints of time and doing.  "The mop. The floor Wish I could find that book.  Where is it?  Supper.  I've gotta use up carrots? Chickens.  Bring the scraps. Moldy bread.  Over fridge. When was the last time we...." Rather than the present, I think about the tasks of the future.  It is all about time and my tendency to multi-task.  Touted as a super human feat among woman everywhere, multitasking is the demise to my mindfulness.  Out of necessity, I have been doing it for decades now.  I must retrain myself.  To be.  Quiet, hushed connections.  With this my spirit will grow  in beauty and show up in the most unlikely places, just like those ferns.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Running on the Edge

Always running on the edge of time each morning, I glanced at the clock in the car. "'Enough time  for a photo?" I wondered.  Today, I slowed the car to a halt yanked on the emergency break, quickly pulled  the cell out of my pocket and captured the sunrise photo that had momentarily caught my breath.   A short distance down the road passing Northeast creek, I contemplated another stop.  Engaging with the natural world as I careened along asphalt roads and cars comprised mostly of plastic, makes for a series of difficult decisions during my fifteen minute commute particularly in the morning when I am bound by the clock.   Does time contribute to the order of the world?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Holding Pattern

The runners threaded through the blueberry barrens aflame with the colors that autumn brings while the crowds  gathered on the edge of the field to cheer the participants. Some were bundled for the brisk air while others ran in shorts and tank tops, cheeks rosy.  I think the chill took everyone by surprise this afternoon, although it shouldn't-it is nearly November.  My winter clothes are still folded neatly in some plastic tub somewhere. The weather in Maine has been unseasonably warm, until today.  For weeks now I have pieced together a wardrobe  rotating two skirts and a few tops with a jean jacket to cover my bare arms in case it turns cooler.   As much as I like summer, there is something comforting about scratchy wool sweaters that require layers beneath, thick cozy socks and scarves-how I love my scarves!  With the change of seasons, I get this impatient itchiness to slow down, yet I still race from meeting to meeting and appointment to appointment-waiting for hibernation.  There are stacks of books to be read by the warmth of the fire, knitting projects to contemplate and crusty, yeasty breads to slide out of the oven.   I will be ready for fall as soon as I find that tub of cold weather pants, tops and sweaters.  For now, my wardrobe will consist of layers of summer. Right now, I'm in a holding pattern while everything around me changes.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It was about this time of year when my husband and I learned that I was expecting our first child.  Often, I felt a  spine tingling sensation  the same I felt when rising up the crest of a hill and careening into the air of nothingness, an abyss.  Parenting certainly was an unknown.  I had never been one before and I had a mere nine months to prepare.  I wanted my child to have every advantage.  My body was supporting another life.  An appointment was made with a nutritionist, I did not ingest anything that might harm and I walked each day.

My pregnancy was unremarkably remarkable.  It was in the warmth of a late spring day that I began feeling a tightness. I was in labor- a slow labor.  My husband and I arrived early, my in-laws going about their morning routine. They lived nearest the hospital.  My father-in-law had been working for hours already hauling wealthy and common folk's trash to the dump.  He had come home to take care of some billing and was sitting in his plaid rust colored chair, peering over his spectacles as we trudged through the door.  My mother-in-law, drying her hands on a dishtowel cleared the couch and fluffed up some pillows.

The T.V. was forever droning in the background-white noise for living that did not seem to require attention.  That day I was in labor and I felt I needed attention!  Raquel Welch as a cave woman did not amuse me. "Turn that thing off, " I insisted, "I'm having a baby now. Here!"

Normally argumentative in a traditional controlled way, my father-in-law turned off the T.V. and all was quiet for the longest time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mothering Big

A decade ago, I made one of those death bed promises that I don't regret, "I'll take care of him, don't worry Ma,"I reassured as I referred to my brother choking back tears.   My mother had always taken care of all of us.  Despite the miles that separated as I grew into adulthood, I knew that she was only a phone call away.  She was there during my most troubled years as a young wife with young children and two full time jobs.  I worked day and night with little sleep or rest.  During periods of great joy mother was there to celebrate births, little dimpled hands wrapping around her gnarled fingers as she rocked and cooed.  She had a great capacity for love. She was always there for me.

For nearly thirty-two years I have mothered.  When life is care-free it is easy to remain filled with love, hope and great joy.  It is during those times when you fear that you will fall to your knees collapsing under the weight of stress, anxiety, frustration and anger that living in the shadow of the most perfect mother becomes challenging.  

It is not fair to compare myself with my mother really.  We live in a different time. Parenting feels a bit more challenging than when I was a kid.  I rode my bike everywhere, the phone was connected to the wall and I could not go far in having a private conversation.  Life today seems more complex and tenuous.  Is that only because I am an adult and a responsible one?  Mothering is a complex job.  Certainly not for the faint of heart.

After my work is done on this earth, it is my fervent hope that  my children will look after one another.  It is in the act of mothering that our children begin to make connections for how they can move about the world nurturing in big ways.


Monday, October 21, 2013


My mother's arms stroked figure eights in the salty sea.  I never saw her swim conventionally, but she would sit with her legs extended facing the shore as though reclining in an easy chair. I was always fascinated with the fact that the salt content in the Atlantic intensified buoyancy and made it easy to float and dog paddle despite the swells rhythmic and sometimes unpredictable.  Unlike a lake with the placid quiet waters, the Atlantic was always teaming with energy.  Unlike my mother, I liked to gaze out onto the line of blue smudge and imagine swimming to a far off island or building a raft with drift wood pieces lashed together by seaweed.

My great grandfather, his brother, his son and his grandson (my uncle) were all lobstermen.  With a house for three generations at the mouth of the Saco River where the ocean and muddy waters met, my ancestors woke in darkness and spent their day surrounded by shades of blue and green hauling lobsters into big crates to bring to market.

Bobbing in the water, I shaded my eyes against the glare of the sun as it danced off the surface, I swear I could see my grandfather the lobster boat's engine softly purring, muscles tightening from the strain of the lifting the trap, his face thickly lined from the weather.  If only it were true.

(I spent most of my childhood on the beach at Camp Ellis where my family's homestead stood.  I met my grandfather when I was a newborn.  He died the day I was to come home from the hospital.  Growing up with stories of Grampy helped me to develop love for a man I never knew.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Heading Home

Ribbons of asphalt,
Cars gliding back and forth
Like performers in an orchestrated dance recital.
Mounds of yellow and rust,
Fall trees bend forward.

Gentle winds
Colored leaves applaud
And say,
Welcome home!
Welcome home!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Island Dweller

An island dweller am I,
The crashing waves lull me to sleep,
But by day
They infuse a rhythm,
On this little spit of land,
Hands weathered by the harsh winds
Pulling the day's catch.
Salty air,
Like strong coffee,
Senses awakened,
And filled with gratitude.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Through the Eyes of a Child

While the neighborhood boys poked frogs with sticks, I preferred to sit back and observe.  Hours were spent on the edge of the asphalt on Dearborn Avenue where little piles of sand would build up in mounds.  Streams of ants would march in single file intent on task completion.  Lugging a grain of sand from place to place was hard work and I marveled at the sophistication of a community working together.

Perhaps I have only seen three praying mantis in my life because of their incredible nature to act like the stems of a leaf and blend or because of the uncanny ability of children to be observers. Throughout my adulthood, I have been graced with the privilege to be with children and learn great lessons through their display of  wonderment and excitement.  If we are quiet, patient and observant, we can view the world through the eyes of a child.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Most of the time, I am absent from the moment-thinking ahead to the next hour, the next day, the next month.  A flurry of should's and a long list of do's. I know what I need to do.  I must force myself to write a contract and and stick to a few basic goals for health and balance:  Pray and meditate.  Drink water.  Walk.  Eat in moderation and think long and hard before a morsel passes my lips.  Pretty simple, huh?  Then why do I find it so blasted difficult to do?  The great procrastinator is at work.  More than half-way to one-hundred in years, time is apt to run out for me.  You'd think I'd have this self-care stuff figured out.

When I was five years old, it didn't take but a gold star stuck between my eyes to alert the whole neighborhood that my day in school was worthy of rejoicing.  It still takes so little to motivate me even in my mature years.

Herein lies the problem.  Like every other mother from here to Kalamazoo, I busy myself taking care of others.  Now, I know how to do that!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Fear is a feeling that has been my companion for a long long time, along with worry.  I come from a long line of worriers and anxious folk.  This is just one conversation I had with myself just the other morning.  Today I can just laugh about it. I think this is a common scene among Baby Boomers.

Oh gosh, I think to myself as I'm gripping the wheel at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock on my drive into school.   I've got to write that Thank-You note. Wait.  Did I write that note and give it him already?  Or... did I just think about it? Nah, I wrote it and gave it to him.  I think.  Wait.  What would the parents think if they received two thank-you's?  They'd understand.  They're busy people.  No, I can't let anyone know.  Sometimes, I's hard.  I'm losing my memory. I worry about early onset, you know.  I used to be able to remember everything. Things are just a little fuzzy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Each Moment

This is a portion of a letter to my brother:

The gardens are preparing for sleep.  We ate breakfast on the porch watching the leaves of the nearest tree tumble to the ground.  Gold finches visit the sunflowers heavy with seed.

We push through another season.  Time a blur akin to racing for the next connection, rushing on the airline's mechanical walk-way.  Everything a blur in our frantic pace.

Slowed down the joy of contentment and gratitude seep into every atom.  Each moment deserves attention.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lessons for Today

Due to the generosity of a friend, I was able to go to Green Acre Bahai School this weekend to study, pray and reflect.  Not surprisingly, it was just what I needed.  My vision is clearer and I have some spiritual goals in place.  Thankfully, I gained insight.  I need to be patient with myself and my human condition.  Sometimes my vision will be blurred and other times I will focus on trivial matters that are not important to my spiritual development.  I will stumble and fall, but I will pick myself up again. The importance of consistent effort cannot be understated.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


The soil must be pure and fertile to give life.
Clinging to what is solid and true,
The vine has endured tests,
Through constancy of spirit,
It lives,
Despite itself.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Journey

As a kid, I talked to God all the time.   Now, I just can't seem to do it.  I pray, mostly when someone asks for help. I seldom pray for myself.  It is clear that I need to work on my relationship with God.  It receded as the tide when my parents died within three months of each other.  Interestingly, I cannot talk to my parents either.  I have lost my anchor and my rudders.  With determination, I will find my way to port.

Through the kindness of a dear friend, I am on holy ground where all souls are seeking the truth for themselves.  I have spent so many, many days here in transformation along with my family.  Alone, this is my journey-one that I must work and sort out by myself.  Presently, I feel empty. Dead.  Perhaps I need to feel the emptiness to appreciate the full bounties of God's love for me, while discovering my spiritual potentiality.

 Where do I begin?  How do I find my way?  I pray that I do.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fried Chicken Dreams

We knew it was bad for us, but we ate it anyhow because it was what we packed on our annual excursion up to the White Mountains.  Auntie would get the cast iron skillet hot and her husband Gene would dredge the chicken in flour, salt and pepper and perhaps a few secret ingredients. Certainly, the basket was filled with other goodies, most likely from the farmer's market, but I don't remember.  All I remember was the fried chicken and the years that I saw the crumbling nose of the "Old Man in the Mountain" through a thick fog.  Some years the foliage was so brilliant that we would pull the car over to the side of the road and just gawk with a chorus of "Ooohs and aaaahs."

Only as an adult do I now realize how important those traditions and annual family outings are to children.  Those are the memories that after all these years make me smile and wish I could recall all the fine details.  Auntie was a spontaneous free spirit who engineered a good number of my childhood memories, including dreams about her fried chicken.   Most importantly she loved life.  I just hope a little of her rubbed off on me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One Day Fearless

Fear was my father's constant companion and its' dark shadow casts a chilling message that I hear to this day, "Be careful you might get hurt," or "Get off that ladder, you'll fall."  I take few risks physically and I think of myself as a klutz.  As a mother, I did not want my children to lug this message-a heavy burden with them into adulthood. Watching my children carry a confidence and an understanding of their physical strength and capabilities helps me to keep my mouth shut, most of the time.

One day, I do remember playing football with the neighborhood boys.  We hadn't begun to play yet, when two brothers started hurling insults about my weight.  I think I was about eight years old, in that chubby state that I never seemed to grow out of for long.  They always seemed to be picking on me and reminded me how inferior I was to them, since I was a girl and a fat one at that.  My backyard afforded just a big enough flat surface at the bottom of a slight slope of grass to play football.  I remember the heckling and frustration I felt as a result.  Normally, we played touch football, but we had collectively decided that we would allow tackling.  Determined and fearless, I  had a plan to tackle hard.  The youngest brother who really was a bit of a wimpish bully was carrying the ball.  My focus was to wrap my arms around his legs and trip him up.  That will send him and his brother a message to not mess with me, I thought.   The next thing I knew we both hit the ground with a thud, my nose taking the brunt of the impact.  In like motion and timing, we quickly got to our feet,  leaning forward while cupping our hands to catch the stream of red.  He ran home wailing.  I quietly stepped inside my house as I glanced out the window both teams had quickly dispersed and the back yard was empty.

Telling my father about the tackle, he applied a dry compress under my upper lip to stop the bleeding. I was prone on the couch my head propped up by pillows.  My father was patiently explaining what he was doing and why.  I was mesmerized.

"This is how they do it in the locker room," he shared, his voice seemed to be filled with pride.   That day, I felt a special connection with my father.  During those hours, he cared for me we never spoke of fear because we had it all under control. We were both fearless.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This Moment

My friend began laughing, "You.  Shy?" Describing myself as shy is akin to admitting that I can sit down and eat my weight in ice cream in one sitting.  I wish I wasn't so painfully shy in crowds and with people I do not know well, but I am what I am.  As I lean against the wall busying myself with a cup full of water, I watch others in the large room effortlessly move from person to person and group to group.  Someone rushes passed me, I am unnoticed as though I  blend in with the wallpaper.  My eyes shift along the perimeter of the room searching for a clock.  This has to be over soon, I mutter to myself.  I wasn't always this way.

It is dark when the alarm goes off.  My girls still asleep, will only rouse when the first light pierces the night sky.   I am curled on my side, just resting and waiting for daybreak.  Every morning is the same.  The gentle cooing of the birds is often the first thing I hear in the morning as I shuffle my way to the coop.  Once I open the door,  a spring of wings and feathers is released and they flood toward me.  Some begin pecking at my broken boot strap that hangs loosely.  Some mornings, I talk.  Some mornings I move through the mental list of chores for my hens in a silent monk-like state. Mostly, I move slowly and deliberately so I don't step on a bird.  They depend upon my care.

By the time I return into the house, Rex my dog has ambled out of bed and is ready to give kisses, to go out and to be fed.  Before I rush off to work, my large lap dog will sprawl across my lap, while one cat curls on available lap space while the other sprawls against my shoulder like a fox stole.  My morning has been punctuated by crowds of creatures with the only alone time recorded to be while showering.  Yet, I am in a state of peaceful acceptance for who I am at this moment.  Time might as well stop.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Unsung Heroes

At first, I wondered what was the big deal-the park being closed due to the government shut down.  Why is this any different than any other off-season visit to the park when we walk across closed gates? Although the politics of this nation locked Acadia and sent the bulk of the rangers home, it is that the safety of throngs of fall visitors cannot be guaranteed.  Yes, this is our park.  Yes, we have a right to enjoy all that this area has to offer, but frankly, the fact is that people do stupid things.  No one intends on falling and breaking a leg only to be rescued from elevations and sharp drops that necessitate a litter to be suspended by ropes and pullies down the face of a mountain.  This operation can only be orchestrated by an army of trained people.  Unfamiliar with the fury of the Atlantic and a mix of storms, spectators have been plucked off the shore and flung into the sea and tossed about like leaves in a whirlpool.  There have been drownings.  Yet there have also been rescues through the heroics of our Acadia National Park rangers and volunteers.  I am privileged to live where I live.  If I choose to venture into the park for a walk, I will use every precaution and a bit of common sense while  repeatedly mouth the words, "Thank you.  Thank you." Our rangers are unsung heroes quietly overseeing the safety of thousands and thousands of visitors each year.  Sometimes, it is only through loss that we recognize all that we once had and enjoyed.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Worship

In a cranberry bog
Hunched, picking
Garnet jewels,
Nestled amongst
Miniature tree-like

A bountiful harvest
New England berries,
Giving thanks
For all
That is good,
On this