Sunday, December 5, 2010


It seems, according to an NPR story yesterday, that Saturday mail delivery is again being considered for discontinuance. As far as I am concerned, they could have ONLY Saturday delivery; keep all that fourth class mail to one humongous box full. I wonder, though, if house-to-house mail distribution will one day be only a distant memory to my grandson, Max; and completely unknown to his children. As milk delivery, the clinking of the glass bottles against the wire basket announcing its arrival on the front porch, is to me and mine.

Change. It is inevitable, whether we welcome it or not. Change can cause upheaval and challenge, and it can bring renewed energy. The new (to me) yoga teacher led her first Wednesday gentle class this week. I could have not gone. I could have decided I would rather do without than learn a new teacher’s way of teaching. But I went--because, after all, it’s the practice of yoga that is important. And it was okay! Every teacher teaches different poses and puts them together differently. The change was actually a good thing--it gave me new energy. Teachers aside, I have noticed again recently that my body is continuing to respond differently to one pose or another, as it steadily relearns and expands its boundaries, to stretch and open through the practice. What strikes me this week is that the words “prepare for pigeon pose” no longer strike terror when I hear them gleefully announcing the coming torture. 

My co-workers and I heard this week the recommendations for staffing changes. If approved, there will be considerable change to my position. I am choosing to welcome the change and view it as a possibility for new challenges and new energy. I also know that there will be activities required of me that I won’t enjoy. Change is rarely all good or all bad. One thing I do know about myself is that I need some change from time to time. In fact, I need it pretty regularly. I get restless. Last Sunday, after thinking there was no other viable configuration, I rearranged the furniture in my hearth room--where I spend most of my time. It works; perhaps not as well, but it is good to have a different feel to my living. The important thing to me is that I didn’t settle for “it can’t be done,” even though I couldn't imagine it. (What I also know about myself is that I am a visual person.) I took the plunge, even with doubts.

Yesterday was a magical day. I went to the Farmers’ Market and chose a Christmas tree. I haven’t had one for the past two years. I just haven’t felt up to Christmas itself, let alone the hassle and stress of dragging out all those decorations and then having to put them all away. I guess I thought that maybe if I didn’t do Christmas things, it would just go away sooner. The truth is, I have not enjoyed Christmas for many years, as I wrote in a recent blog. Something has shifted this year, though; something has changed in me. I have been having fun with the preparations. I have even thought up some new creations, and resurrected traditions. A winter solstice party. Baking my special Christmas bread. Returning to worship for Advent. And so, a tree.

I arrive at the Market and quickly realize that my $40 limit is going to be impossible, the range being more like $55-$70. I am very particular about Christmas trees. Okay, I am a Christmas tree snob. My forester father always asked the woodsmen who annually brought a trailer-load of trees from the tree farm to the employees and their families, to bring us three skinny noble firs. Noble firs have short, stiff branches in widely-spaced whorls. There is plenty of room between the branches for the ornaments to hang freely, and without weighing down the branches. He put the three trees together in his specially designed three-hole triangular stand; the result was beautiful and unique. I dare say no one else in town (or in the universe) had a Christmas trees(s) like ours. The tree of choice in the Pacific Northwest back then was Douglas fir, their limp branches perfectly trimmed into a dense cone shape. When my own family lived in Mississippi, I insisted on a Frazier fir imported from North Carolina and damn the cost that we could not afford. No pine tree perfectly trimmed into a dense cone shape would do. And cedar? Spare me. Later, when we moved to NC, my family would endure hours with me searching the lots for something that looked vaguely like a noble fir. No Frazier fir, perfectly trimmed into a dense cone shape would do. Yesterday, actually before too long as I whip from vendor to vendor, I find a lonely 6-foot tree with space between the branches. And a $30 price tag. Apparently what I like is considered defective, and priced to sell. Lucky for me. At home, I manage once again to accomplish a two-person job solo, and haul the tree in its stand into the house. I drag the boxes of decorations from the under-the-eaves storage and more carefully than ever adorn my perfect tree with 250 white lights and put on ALL the ornaments, while Pink Martini Christmas music soars through the house.

And then, wonder of  wonders, it begins to snow. Has it ever snowed here as early as the first week in December? I put on my jacket, grab my work gloves and get to my other planned task for the day: cutting down the frozen and brown banana tree, the elephant ear, and the translucent yellow hostas lying prostrate on the ground. As the snowflakes float through the air around me, I pull the coleus, the geraniums, and the rest of the impatiens. Interestingly, there are two perfect impatiens with cheerful white flowers among the frozen ones; and a tightly furled new banana leaf hidden down among the curled and crumpled brown ones. Life protected by death. I am tempted to leave the banana stalk that holds the new leaf, but I know that without the protection from the elements provided by the other stalks, it will be frozen by daybreak. How often, I muse, do we protect a sliver of life from our past when the end is inevitable; allowing that tiny shred of familiarity to keep us from moving on as long as it remains?

More insidious, perhaps, is how often we let the dead past keep the spark of new life from emerging. We keep what is or might be struggling to emerge firmly trapped within the brown leaves of fear, complacency, familiarity, resignation, can’ts and shoulds; we allow ourselves to  distracted by all that is superfluous. We learn to ignore the quiet voice of the One Who is More calling to us to come out, come out, come out. She called to Moses, and Moses said surely you don’t mean me. I have a speech impediment. She called to Jonah. Jonah preferred to risk death than to answer the voice. All wrapped up in their leaves of familiar protection.

Among the very odd tasks that the staff at the church performs (under the guise of “other tasks as assigned,” I suppose), this week some of us hung a 12-foot vinyl banner of a very pregnant black Mary (from original artwork created by my dear friend Dori) from the third floor windows to adorn the exterior wall at the church entrance. (Yes, we broke a pane of colored glass, but it has already been replaced; all is well.) Of course we could have left her rolled up on the top shelf of the storage and sound, free from controversy. But we got her out. The church will probably be in the paper yet again. Mary. A very young girl, called by God to be the Mother of the Messiah. Talk about change! Talk about controversy! I suppose she could have said, “hell no!” After all, what could possibly have been more terrifying, more life-changing, than a tween having a baby (and where the heck did it come from?), let alone THIS baby. It seems a bit much to ask. But she accepted the challenge; and we know the rest of the story.

Ch-ch-ch-changes. Change moves us forward. Refusal keeps us stuck. If life is a process, so is gardening, and so is this blog. Each step on the journey is a continuation of what has gone before. Sometimes the steps are giant leaps, but more often they are barely discernible. For me, writing about it helps me to see it. What happens when there is no more process? In life you die, if not physically, then emotionally. Boredom is not being open to seeing the process; not being able to say yes to change. Death is staying locked in and protected by the dead leaves. Life is learning to say yes, or at least maybe.

“Have a pleasant stay here, and wherever your continuing travels may take you.” (American Airlines) Journeying on. Saying yes to change.

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