Tag Archives: images

Two Illustrations from Nature…

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It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.

 

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Ingestion…

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My emotions reached a point of sketching today. It’s pretty self explanatory. I obviously feel like I’m taking a lot in.

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Not all that I am devouring is sharp edged and anxious. I was happy to find green life there, some refreshing blue. And I was happy to be able to count them, to write down their names and identify their ragged shapes. Some of the lines are old friends. Some of the lines are battle weary, old enemies that I have yet to force into retreat.

I am ingesting them all and trusting the one who inhabits my heart with the processing. And I point to my belly as I have the thought, like my daughter does when speaking of her heart, here in the middle. It feels as if you could place your hand there and feel it’s motion from the outside, the tangled bits coming undone and done up again. Green growing Barbara.

On Being Clean…

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First thing this morning I vacuumed the apartment.

That sentence paints a picture, doesn’t it? I mean, what sort of person am I to begin my day vacuuming?

But the truth is, the vacuuming had been rolled over from the day before and the day before that. This morning at eight am just happened to be the moment that I could do it.

Is that still too nice of a picture? Let me paint further. This morning, directly after my son left for school, I realized with a start that there were few enough toys on the floor that I could possibly pick them up faster than two kids could take them out and if I hurried I could get it vacuumed before the day began and then I wouldn’t have to watch my eighteen month old eat particles of day old popcorn out of the shag anymore. So, I cleaned up, yelling every time they tried to get out a toy and after finding my baby french kissing the vacuum cleaner for the second time put him in his crib for the duration.

There, the vacuuming was done!

And what is the first thing my daughter wants to get out? The large bin of small paper pieces belonging to craft time.

“No!” I said. Too harsh? Maybe. I’m pretty reasonable about messes. I don’t try to keep it immaculate. Goodness, I make my kids popcorn for a snack! But, you know, give me a moment before it all goes to pot again!

And now, my jeans, I washed them yesterday. It is delightful having clean jeans. It was delightful putting them on, feeling their snugness, and catching that whiff of fabric softener.

And as soon as we get to the bus stop my daughter asks if she can climb my legs. “No!” I said. It’s not like I thought I’d be able to keep them clean forever, just, well, I’d been wearing clean jeans for less than an hour, you know?

And then the baby wanted to stand in my lap and then, wouldn’t you know it, I splash coffee on them, just a bit, you can’t really tell, but then tonight was multicultural night at school and I fed an eighteen month old fried rice, soba noodle salad, and lasagna in my lap.

It wasn’t pretty people. In the now-immortal words of Queen Elsa I had to “let it go”.

All of this has me thinking. Because in moms group we’ve been talking about ritual and the meaning behind the things we do as a family. And during a collective bout of whining the other night right around bath time I cupped my four-year-old daughter’s chin and looked her in the eye.

“Do you know why we give you baths?” I said, “Because God gave you to us to take care of and because I want you to know how good it feels to be made clean.”

So, tonight I scrubbed the soba noodles out of my denim. And I picked a few cheerios up off the floor.

And I wondered if this is the ritual my heavenly Father gave me to do, this endless cleaning? Like a dirty faced child throwing a tantrum against the inevitable scrub, do I misunderstand the favor? “See how good it feels to make things new, Barbara? Do it again! Feel my joy at making dirty things clean!”

Today I realized all over again that there will never be a moment in my life when, by the energy of my own industry, I will be able to make everything clean all at the same time. Thank goodness! I rather think I need the practice of dependence in this area.

Hmm, I think I might have just given you a spiritual basis for maid service.

You’re welcome.

Eagle’s Point…

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Over Christmas my sister was able to visit us in San Francisco for a few days. The sun was shining and the kids were restless, so we decided a walk was in order.

The sunshine can de deceptive. Especially in my little corner of the peninsula. When we stepped out onto the sidewalk I hesitated. It was rather more chilly than I had expected. But, I decided that warming up over the walk was far better than carrying three children’s jackets. So, onward we went.

We zigzagged our way through the extraordinary houses of the Sea Cliff neighborhood, admiring the expansive fronts of the colonials and moderns, each in turn. The last block of houses before the trailhead is low and modest facing the street. But through gates and between houses you can see stairs descending sharply down the hills, widening and opening up their ornate balconies and tall windows to the sea. The dark blue of the ocean sits cupped in the space between with the muted green hills of Marin across the bay, shouldering down against the wind.

I’ve said before how much nature hides tucked in and between the urban in San Francisco. The Land’s End Trail is no exception. The sidewalk ends, all of a sudden, giving way to cracked asphalt carpeted over with pine needles and the long faded leaves of the overhanging eucalyptus. They call it Eagle’s Point.

It was here that the wind hit us full force. The stoic houses owing us no favors, had given little indication of the wind they were entertaining in their arms. We gasped collectively. And I immediately regretted those three jackets, and all those hats and mittens, too. We walked the dozen yards to the lookout.

We watched the children lean into the wind as they let it push them back. They danced and squealed in a frenzy that at times approached panic. We watched the wind cut short white gashes across the face of the water and bend the cypresses back to such a degree it explained their normal angle as one of generous averages.

We stood as close to the edge as we dared, looking down the cliffs through the clinging shrub to the foaming rocks below, feeling the wind made bold from its unchallenged trip across the wide Pacific. The sound through the eucalyptus was a deafening roar, sounding so much like pounding surf.

But the day was sunny. And the light was bright on our path. There was such beauty in the magnitude of the violence, the trees that bent but didn’t break, the stripped leaves that were surprisingly found superfluous.

I laughed and shouted to my children, “Aren’t you glad to know that there is something so much stronger than you? Isn’t it nice to feel how little we are?”

The baby was in a carrier on my chest, his tiny fists curled into the warmth of my belly. My six-year-old and four-year-old were running down the path ahead, squinting into the wind and laughing. Yes, laughing, but at times nervously.