fotos: it’s the sky…

When I stop to snap a photo on my phone, nine times out of ten it’s the sky. It draws me in from the park bench or the back deck, from behind the wheel at a stop light…there it is, constant as it is changing.

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new year’s eve…

treephoto

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. 

Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.

-Andrew Wyeth

Well, my friends, here we are again. We are entering into that end of the old year/beginning of the new year holding pattern at the airport of life, waiting to land and disembark into the foggy future. We are ready to let go of the stale air we’ve been breathing all year and take in the fresh sights and sounds of  2014.

I have always liked even-numbered years. I have great hopes for this one. Even so, I admit it’s hard to get excited about the New Year in the middle of the gray Chicago winter. The view outside my window seems to work against that overall “hopeful” feeling I’m meant to employ this time of year.

The first full winter we spent in our Chicago bungalow on the north side of the city, my husband and I decided to stay in on New Year’s Eve. Our house sat at an odd bend on a “cut through” street so though we were snuggled in close to our small, wood burning fireplace in the front room of that bungalow, we were privy to each wild reveller who staggered down the sidewalk and each drunk driver tearing down the street. We turned off the lights in our house once our daughter was in bed and we sat, warmed by the fire, watching the action outside. The snow had been piling up all day and showed no signs of stopping. By the time midnight drew near the snow lay as a thick carpet on the road and the sidewalks. Cars tearing down the road began to slow a little, just a little, sliding along that odd bend and we watched from the safety of our house set back just enough from the road.

When, finally the magic midnight hour had passed, we made ready to get to bed. Just then a car came careening down Manor avenue. We could hear it plowing its way through the thick, compacted snow on the street, cracking under the weight of the car, brakes squealing and failing, tires locking. The mid-sized vehicle hit the snow bank opposite our house, not being stopped by or entering into the bank but, rather, seeming to climb it. It came to rest, for the most part, on top of that 5 foot bank of snow. It was suspended there, the driver and passengers of the vehicle making no move to get out. The driver spent some time trying to back his way off that snow bank but it was no use. The car was taken in by the snow bank, picked up, embraced and adopted. After a short time, the car wobbled a little as doors opened and four men tumbled out into the waiting cold. They were laughing and swearing, teasing the driver who seemed completely flummoxed by the situation. They were most likely drunk and most certainly amused. It surprised my husband and I to see them turn quietly, all at once, and walk away from the car once they began to feel the cold and the falling snow. It was as if a switch was thrown and they were given orders to move from the place.

The night was quiet then, maybe a car or two drove slowly down the street, perhaps a plow or a salt truck, slowing down to see the wrecked car taken hostage by the snow bank. In the morning the car was still there, residing in all the white. It was a banner storm. The tow truck showed up a day later when the roads were clear. We were never really sure of the whole story there. We would invent scenarios in the coming days to amuse ourselves, imagine the conversations that came in the wake of that event.

I don’t know exactly what it is about that story that begs me to write about it today, on the cusp of this New Year. It may be the strangeness of it, the unexpected nature of things, perhaps prophetic to where we’re find ourselves in the coming years as we struggle with seeking out peace and embracing the chaos that’s bound to show up despite our best efforts to stave it off.

It’s life. It’s just like that and we take it as it comes, whether we’re the ones in the car climbing the snow bank or in front of the fire witnessing it. The story stays though. It remains in us, waiting for the telling.

Many happy returns, lovely readers!

boxes…

Everything is transition these days. We’re in a new house this week and I am, once again, surrounded by boxes. It makes me crazy, being surrounded by boxes. I’ve done this moving houses thing now more times than I’d like to remember and there are pieces of it at the start of the process that I actually enjoy or at the very least, pieces I don’t hate altogether.

I love the process of purging, going through all the things we’ve accumulated, tossing things, dusting things off, wrapping things carefully and labeling them in the box. At about the 40th box though, I realize, we have a lot of crap. It’s off-putting and then it’s depressing and then I just want to lay on the couch and play Angry Birds until the feeling of overwhelm passes.

I love seeing the boxes stack up, all neat and orderly. “This is my life,” I think to myself. That stack of boxes is the sum of what we do here and how we spend our time. The trouble is, I always begin packing earlier than I should. Inevitably, the depression seeps in again when I look at the proud stack of boxes reaching up the walls and notice that having this many things packed has no impact on my everyday life. We have a lot of crap and the couch calls me to have a lie down so I do…because the couch is my friend.

It goes on like this for weeks sometimes and I become less motivated, less organized, more inclined toward the couch. It’s my past in the first boxes, it’s the dust and the extraneous stuff that’s been filling in the cracks all this time. Those last few days before the move, those last boxes are my present. Those boxes I’ve been neatly packing, carefully preserving contents, labeling, pondering, those things are all my past, that’s my margin, right there. The closer the move comes the more cranky I become, the more I am forced to live in the present, the deadline bearing down on me. The closer the move comes the more I am forced to place my present life into a box and I question everything then- can I live without this utensil? Can I make do with only one saucepan? Will I need this coat, this razor, this scrap of paper? It goes on like this day after day and the couch calls out but now, I don’t have time for that couch. Now, I’m panicked and scattered, parts of me in boxes, parts of me in desk drawers I’d forgotten about or in the back of the cabinet I’ve been avoiding for weeks. I become stingy with the boxes, cramming as much in as possible. My past is all wrapped up in newsprint and bubble wrap but the present get tossed all together, fingers crossed, hoping for the best. I begin to think, “this box I’ll take in the car with me for protection” to excuse the lousy way I’ve handled the present. The stack of “present tense” boxes, ones that I have to protect because of my sloppy handling, because of my couch lounging and angry birds, begins to out number the past, the carefully wrapped, the well labeled. I bark at my kids and I glare at my husband. I fail to grocery shop. I forget to brush my teeth. I let everything go because this is the transition, from one place to another and the vision I’d had of myself, being the calm and organized author of this move erodes until reality shows the harried and wild-eyed, desperate version of me.

It occurs to me now, sitting in the new house, in this rare moment of quiet surrounded by the boxes, just how inclined I am to treat the present like this all the time. I push is aside, I wrap it poorly, making it an afterthought thinking only of what lies ahead or what came before. The most vital and important pieces, the pieces that make this whole thing work have been tossed into the last boxes, the ones that I think I’ll pile into my car, fingers crossed and hoping for the best. They are the most transient things, the moving pieces of us- the school permission slips that need signing, the checkbook, the toothbrushes, the phone chargers, things we will need to move through the next part of the transition. In the middle of the packing the day before the move Henry saw me in my frenzy and he offered me a hug and I confess in that moment I nearly declined. In fact, I think I did say, “in a minute” to him. The nice thing about Henry is that he didn’t take no for an answer just then, he insisted on that hug and so I stopped, put down the boxes and the lists and the stress and took in that moment because this could not go into a box for later. I wrapped it up carefully, that present moment. I let it soak into me, storing that feeling in my skin and my cells and my frenzied spirit until it filled me up again.  I realized then it’s not the cell phone charger or the permission slips or the checkbook that are the essential pieces, the moving pieces, the vital pieces of us. It is this, this, this and thank God for that.

New

I will say today, Happy New Year and I will mean it with all sincerity.  I think the reason I look to the New Year with such hope and anticipation may be most simply put, because it involves the word “New.”

I’m thinking that I will introduce a new concept this year….  Happy New Month, Happy New Week and Happy New Day.  Now that I think upon it, every moment is new to me.  Perhaps I will begin Happy New Moment…thus taking the time to realize that what HAS been may not be again.  
In this way it might be possible for me to be in that moment; to offer thanks, to lament loss, to christen joy, to breathe deep knowing that another breath comes directly and it is mine as well.    

So I wish a Happy New Year to all of us…this moment, this breath…it is yours whether happy or not…it is yours.
 peace today
Mrs M 

Everything Belongs

Because it’s Sunday and I am a Christian I felt it was a good thing to put some soul stuff out there to you.  Tomorrow, I have something very fun for a post but TODAY…you have to read and just let it sink into your spiritual pores.

This comes from a book I’m reading about contemplative prayer, Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr.

Thus far, it’s my favorite quote and one that reminds me why I am even reading the book.  The focus here is to stay “present” in each moment.  Try it today as you go about your life…it’s harder than it seems but rewarding, I promise:

 “The present moment has no competition; it is not judged in comparison to any other. It has never happened before and will not happen again.”

So when a child pulls on your leg for attention turn and look into his eyes and be fully present.  See his face, every freckle, every feature…hear his words without thinking ahead to what’s for dinner or what tomorrow holds.  Take this moment and be FULLY present to it.