Nov 27 2010

48 x 24

Today is my birthday. Most of the time I don’t make a big deal out of this day, I see it simply as the day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow. But this year it is bugging me, a little.

Bugging me because I am now 48 and my son is 24 and that makes me exactly twice his age.

Why is that bugging me? Part of it is simply the implication of aging that comes along with it, but I think the other part is me, thinking back to when I was 24.

Back then, being 24 was so much different than being 24 is now. And I wonder about that, too.

I got married (the first time) the day after I turned nineteen. And then a few years later I went to college, and while I was in college I got pregnant with my son, (you know about green m&ms, right?) and he was conveniently born during January break, and I went back to finish my last semester when he was just a few weeks old.

Thank goodness that my mom was able to care for him while I was at school, and then later, at work.

And at the end of that semester, when I had a photo in the student art show and my husband and my tiny baby son came to see me there, at the opening, he threw up all down the front of my brand new suit. But now that I think about, it was a really ugly suit.

In that year, the year my son was born, I had a baby, graduated college, bought a car, got my first job and bought a house. It was a big year, a year filled with change, the year I turned 24.

And this year, while he was 24, my son graduated from college and got his first job. But he’s not married and he didn’t just have a baby and he still needs to buy a car and buying a house will probably come much, much later.

Times change and I look back at myself and I say, “how did we do it?” Times change and I look at my kids now as they embark on their lives and I say, “how will they do it?”

But it will be the same for them and for their children and on and on and on.

We all do it, we get through this life and we walk through all these milestones and we make our mistakes and one day, we are twice our children’s age.

So on this day as I turn 48, I am thinking about 24 years worth of life. His and mine, all bound up together, the parts of mine that started when he was born, the parts of his he has yet to experience. 24 years of laughter and tears, hope and disappointments, love and joy and so much wonder. All that growth, for both of us, marked by the endless, uncaring passage of time.

The spring after we moved to this house, when he was one, we planted a row of trees along one edge of the property, tiny little twigs that would grow up to be pines. Over the past couple of years, for unknown reasons, they have all died.

But I am thinking that this might be the year to plant new ones.

Originally, there were 12.

But this time, we might have to go for 24.

Jul 24 2010

the taste of limits

Today it rains. It is hot and it is sunny, and then it is hot and it rains.  A cycle of weather I must live with.

It is has been so hot, for weeks now, that I stay inside. I want to be outside, I want to sweat and dig in my garden and pull the ten million weeds that call my name each time I open my back door. They mock me, these weeds. Point and nod as I walk by, I hear them: bad gardener, lazy girl, indifferent caretaker.

I give them the finger and go back inside.

The best time to weed is just after it rains, roots are easier to pull from soft, wet soil. I should go out there and do that right now.
But I won’t, it is late already, I need to make pizza for dinner, and tomorrow, I have an art show.

But if I could, I would go out there, right now, and start pulling. And when I finally finished, sometime next Tuesday, there would be a mountain of weeds, a foothill of dill, a backache, and a giant sense of accomplishment. Funny how something so simple can make you feel so good.

Next weekend, I am going to my friend’s house so she can teach me how to make pickles. She is 84 and has lived a life filled with extraordinary amounts of pain, both physical and emotional. And yet, she giggles. A lot. One of these days, on a different day, I will tell you her story. But she called me this week and she said, “The cucumbers are early this year, we have to get going on these pickles.” These pickles that I asked her to teach me how to make.

She is housebound, and most likely bored, and if I could, I would go and spend every day with her, so she could teach me all about 84 years worth of living, and how to make pickles and also how to crochet those amazing doilies. But for now, I had to tell her the pickles would have to wait, I have a show this weekend, I cannot go there until next week, when it is August.

I am going to learn to make pickles.

Sugar and spice,

salt and vinegar,

time and life.

Jul 2 2010

what lies before me

When I run, I break everything into thirds. If I am planning to go six miles, I focus only on the first two. Once I have made it that far, I focus on the next two. I know that once I cover those, I will be two-thirds of the way to my destination, I will have already gone twice as far as I have left to go, and then the last two seem easy.

On days when I struggle, I split just the segment of path directly before me into thirds. If I make it to that first tree, then I can make it to the next one, and then the distance to the last tree will feel like nothing. I have covered more miles than I ever thought possible by breaking them into thirds.

And if my life ends up covering a fairly standard number of years,
I am now in my middle third.

The first third was a bit of a struggle, there was so much to learn, to figure out, so many mistakes to make that caused sore muscles, injuries, time waiting to repair. Sometimes I just wanted to stop. Sit down. Give up. I hadn’t learned discipline. Or tenacity. Or patience. I hadn’t settled in for the long haul.

I am past that phase now, and glad of it. I am warmed up, I have my stride, there is a rhythm to my days and I move along at an even pace most of the time. I am on the straightaway and can take time to gaze around me. I am no longer worried about whether I can make it. I’m moving close to the halfway point.

And as I move on, further down this path, this path we call life
that we live and breathe and burn through so quickly, I wonder if the last third will be the easiest one, not downhill because that hurts my knees worse than anything, but leisurely, graceful, steady. The one where I feel that I could go on forever.

Well, okay, maybe not quite forever.

But at least just to that next tree.

Jun 26 2010

training wheels

Forty-seven is a strange age, not exactly old, but not really young, either. And of course, that is why it’s called middle age.

But with this age, this middleness, come revelations, realizations, determination.

Life speeds up as you get older, but your body slows down.

I want to run more and more and more, but am able to do so less and less and less. I want to stay up very late to finish a book, but my eyes start to droop around midnight. I want to spring clean my house all in one day and have energy left over for dinner. I want to stay outside playing until it grows dark and someone calls me in.
I want more. More time.

I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, I just want a newer bicycle. One without any rust or scars or missing spokes. One that lets you pedal backwards when you want to, in case you missed something. I want to understand life before it’s too late, while I still have time to enjoy it. I want to appreciate, while I still have the strength to pedal.

I have wobbled and wiggled for 47 years, trying to maintain my balance. Now I think I am ready to pare things down, remove that extra set of wheels, pick up speed. I want to fly down a hill with the wind in my hair, or coast past my house with my hands waving high in the sky.

I want to let go. Of things, emotions, barriers, clutter. All that clumsy baggage that keeps me from gliding along, bumps and potholes that make for a very rough ride. I want the life that I have and the life that I want to become the very same thing. I want to ride into the sunset, keep going all night, and circle the sun at dawn. I want to race time with one eye on the prize.

I have no illusions, I know I will fall. Plenty of times.

But that’s okay, I plan to get right back up.

Unless, of course, I break a hip.

And then I’m going to cry like a baby.

Jun 10 2010

stretching my legs

Today I am over at the lovely Liz Lamoreux’s place,

be present be here,

with some reflections on aging, stretch marks,

and living in the moment.

I would love it if you popped over to say hello…

: : :

And while you’re there, be sure to scroll down and see the photo

of her gorgeous newborn daughter, Ellie Jane.

Isn’t that just the sweetest name?

Jun 6 2010

time out of mind*

My hair is a mess. I see myself in the reflection of my monitor and I laugh. You think I don’t, but I do, I laugh out loud because I am always forgetting what I look like, somehow I expect to see the 20-year-old me when I look in the mirror, but that girl is gone, out galavanting somewhere, she has better things to do.

It isn’t a matter of time, the years have passed, I remember them. It is a matter of mirrors. I have always wondered if you feel the same on the inside when you are eighty. I feel the same, in the core, the kernel of my being, as I always have, but I look in the mirror and someone older stands before me. I know I am in there, I know that if I strip away the mercury that lies beneath the glass, I will see all the way to my center.

I am not inert, I change each day, time moves through me, and I am not afraid. I am not chained to the notion of youth, I understand, I accept, but I do not cheer time’s passing. I don’t regret it, either. Minutes tick away on the clock whether we watch them or not. They pass us by or embrace us. We get to choose.

I can think of time as the enemy, it is easy to make time the bad guy. But time has no emotion, it cannot be cruel. It just stands there, a pillar of salt. It is just time.

It forgives but never forgets and moves forward but never returns and we stand on the sidelines and cheer or watch or turn our backs, but it keeps on playing. It is just time.

We are on time, we are out of time, we need more time, we take the time, we take a time out, time is on our side, time waits for no man, we try to put time in a bottle.

It is just time.

Time bursts all our bubbles, time stops us short,
time thinks a mirror is envy.

It is all that there is and all that there isn’t.

It is just time.

* title from Bob Dylan’s album

May 25 2010

out of focus

If I take my contact lenses out, or my glasses off, this is how the world looks to me.

My vision is bad, really bad. I started wearing glasses when I was in fourth grade. And each year, they got stronger and stronger and stronger. For I while, I worried that it would just keep getting worse, and I would end up being declared legally blind. Finally, when I was a sixteen, things leveled off.

But even before that, my mom used to say that I saw the world through rose-colored glasses. And while I liked the sound of that, I had no idea what she meant. When I turned thirteen, she gave me a tiny little pair of antique spectacles that had red lenses. She gave them to me and she cried… saying that she hoped I would never stop seeing the world that way.

Through rose-colored glasses.

It is fairly easy to pull this off when you are young, easy to be optimistic, open-minded, innocent. Easy to look at the world with wonder. And I know what she meant, now. At thirteen, I was dreamy, a romantic, trusting. I was naive, in the way that it is okay to be, when you are young.

There was a period of time, right around then, when I started getting up really early just to watch the sunrise. I think this was also right around the time I started writing poetry. And I am not a get up early kind of girl, but I did, for most of the summer that year.
Just because. I still remember those mornings, the way they looked. The way I felt.

But as we get older, cynicism starts slowly moving in, one book, one sweater, one box at a time. It takes up residence in our hearts, in our minds, and it can be hard to kick back out. We stop doing things we love, just for the sake of doing them. Time gets in the way, the lack of it. Life gets in the way, things go wrong. Our way of looking at the world changes.

I still have those glasses. I’ve held on to them all these years. I pull them out every once in awhile, and peek at the world through rose-colored glasses once again. Just to remind myself to be optimistic, open-minded, to look at the world with wonder.

I can’t feign innocence, those years are gone. I can’t pretend that everything is always coming up roses, especially on days that are filled with weeds. But I can refuse to replace that naiveté with bitterness. I can refuse to be jaded.

When I grow old, I want to be the old laughing lady. The one with the rose-colored glasses, sitting in her rocking chair on the porch each day at sunrise. I want to greet each day with wonder. I want to end each night with hope.

My vision hasn’t changed all that much since I was a teenager.

My view of the world is still blurred around the edges.

But the light looks really pretty, doesn’t it?

Tuesdays Unwrapped

May 16 2010

breathing space

Dust. It collects everywhere. On shelves and witches balls, in corners and my mind. It is pervasive, invasive, persuasive. It makes me want to give up, cry uncle, sing defeat.

I can’t keep up with the dust, so I’ve stopped trying. I let it sit there and ruminate on my blind eye turned elsewhere. Waiting. Dust knows we are enemies. In fact, we literally are, I am allergic.

But it is deeper than its own thin layer, dust. It is a sign of inertia. The battle of life, age, entropy.

Dust is dead. Dead space, dead air, dead cells. The opposite of life.

I watch it float through the air trapped in rays of sunshine, trying its best to look pretty. I feel it settle down around me, all the while making snide comments on my laziness. I smell its musty, fusty, dried up scent, just reeking of neglect.

Dust is illiterate, but I read the words that I draw in its layers and cringe at their implication. Clean me. Notice me. Take care.

It is not my fault, this dust, it is something that happens. We can remove it, daily, weekly, monthly, as often as there is time, but it will always return, unwanted visitor, benign blanket, ambivalent disguise.

I tackle dust, every so often, when I can’t tolerate its presence any longer. I wash and scrub and eradicate this evidence of days gone by, of life’s slow and steady passing. I make it sparkle.

We both know it is a losing battle.

But we pretend for a day, or at least an hour,

that I am victorious.