Sunday, January 30, 2011

Up from the Depths

When I came from my house through the garden to the car this morning, the bird that sings "Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty" was calling from the top of the mulberry tree. The temperature has taken a temporary turn toward spring-like this weekend, and the birds are looking for love. Last summer I figured out who belongs to that song, but I have forgotten. I always thank them for the "pretty" compliment, though; and when I heard it this morning my heart lifted.

Friday was another of those January work days from hell; and that was just by mid-morning. It went downhill from there. The whole week was dark, really, as illustrated by my daily one-inch-square collage. I returned home from work, late, and turned on the evening news. Harry Smith (I can't like him; I watch CBS for Katie, and she was "off." Why should I have been surprised, given the day it was.) informed me that it was the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle Disaster. I didn't know. As the footage played something bubbled up from the depths of my soul. Sadness for them, memory of the national horror, the bittersweet of passed time. I watched the smiling faces of the seven astronauts; two of them women and one of them a "mere" school teacher, off to send the school children of the world lessons from outer space. Though the seven might have, must have, should have been scared, they looked so happy and calm. They knew that their lives were about to be forever changed with this most excellent adventure, and any fear was so worth it. They were blissfully unaware that their lives were about to end. "Five, four, three, two, one. Ignition. And we have lift-off." And then, 71 seconds into their adventure, the unspeakable. The space ship exploded on the screen again with the memorable smoke patterns that are etched on our minds. I stood all alone in the middle of the room with tears streaming down my face. It was as if it were 1986 again.

A quarter of a century. Where did that go? My family was living in Starkville, Mississippi. Except for the Mississippi part, where we had been living for almost two years, I was happy. I had a wonderful family and was blissfully unaware that that particular brand of well-being was not going to be a forever fact of my life. Ed was at work across the parking lot from our temporary faculty housing, Nicholas was in his first grade classroom, not-quite-two-year-old Emma was down for a nap. It used to be that I watched all the space vehicle lift-offs. It thrilled me every time. But they had become so common place the TV stations no longer broke into programming to show them live. And I no longer looked for them; I could wait for the evening news to learn if they had lifted off as scheduled or if they had been delayed by weather or mechanical or technical difficulty. I turned on the TV that morning to entertain myself while Emma slept, and caught the first broadcasts of something gone terribly wrong. Houston Control was still thinking, hoping, praying that the astronauts would eject and hurtle into the ocean safe and sound. But of course that was just postponement of the inevitable. And I stood all alone in the middle of that room, tears of horror and disbelief streaming down my face.

Memory is a funny thing. Most of the time I experience memory in my head. But sometimes it is in a smell: the gardenias in my garden take me back to high school proms; the smell of a certain brand of cigar puts me back in Wenatchee, Washington visiting my Uncle Ike and Aunt Bertie, riding down the sidewalks in the "surry with the fringe on top"; he of the patch over one eye who smoked cigars with a similar scent. And then there are the "where were you?" events: the personal ones like the death of my father; and the memories we share with the world--the assassination of JFK, 9/11, the Challenger Disaster among them. Visuals of the event; where we were standing or sitting; who was there; what was going on around us before, during, and after; what we felt. It all bubbles up from somewhere down so deep we are barely aware we still hold the memory.

I received a bit of information on Friday afternoon that had the same sort of effect on me. Because I am not sure that it is public knowledge yet, I can't talk about it in specifics. But news of an impending happening brought up those memories of a blissful, not knowing the future, time. Something I thought would be forever, and wasn't. The news shocked me into speechlessness; I had no words even in my head or in my typing fingers. I sat frozen in my chair. The feelings didn't just bubble up, they surged volcanic ash-like from the deepest depths of my stillness. They had no name, only emotion. It was as if I were no longer connected to my body. Memory of a life in the rearview mirror, flashed within me. A piece of my life that I thought had ended 17 years ago, felt more final. Is that even possible? Is the end not the really real end? I guess, like the Challenger memory, all the people we have been stay inside of us. And when something happens to bring those old people and events up from the depths, we have to experience the endings over again. And perhaps each one is more final than the one before. Flirting at the edges of memories brought up by today's information was a vague image that this was not the sequence of events that had been playing out in my vision of the future, either. How dare things not happen as I imagine they will!

Yesterday's warm temperatures lured me out into the garden. I raked a few leaves, cleaned up the garden a bit, let myself dream of spring creations. I checked out the banana tree. The best laid intentions...I had hoped that by not cutting it down to the ground this year, new growth would spring from the slumbering stalks. But maybe its location at the corner of the house was not as protected as I hoped. Maybe it has just been too harsh a winter. The stalks froze to death. Once again, it will have to reinvent itself from the earth. And I looked for signs of emergence. I didn't expect to find much--it is still winter--but there it was. Some kind of bulb has sprouted in various places in the garden. I don't know what they are, and I kind of like it that way. I see the beginnings of something new coming up from the depths--an idea for a project, dreams of adventure, a friendship, a plant--and I have no need to know how it is going to turn out. I try not to name it or make plans for it, but just enjoy each step of development. When I plant seeds and bulbs, I don't chart it on paper so I remember where I planted what. I like feeling like I am planting mystery and anticipation. John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans." I try to stay in the life and avoid too much of the busyness of planning and expectation; what happens isn't always in our plan. In opposition to that, of course, is the saying that if you don't make plans, someone will make them for you. It's a fine line. So I dream, hope, plan a bit, steer where I can, then let it go. Or at least I try.

I could imagine being tempted yesterday to start digging in the soil. In my head I saw a surge of visitors to the garden centers. It has been a cold winter, and the temptation to hurry spring is strong. But there is still plenty of winter left. I contented myself with dreaming a bit. Digging into the depths too soon can stir up what needs to happen in the dark before it's ready to see the light. Maybe that is why I don't respond well to therapy. When I go (which has been rare over my lifetime, though there have certainly been times that might have called for it), I go filled with anxiety. There are only 50 minutes in a session, and what I may need to talk about hasn't bubbled to the surface yet. It needs time to work in the dark. (The definition of Introvert.) And when it is ready, I don't need to talk about it anymore! So I am tongue-tied when I am sitting in the presence of kindly professionals who only want to help. I have had friends and lovers who have, knowing that certainly there is something behind what they see in my eyes, insisted that there must be words that go with the something, and who can't understand why am I so stubborn about spilling it. It is true that sometimes I need someone who loves me to dig. But why can't they just say, "I am here when it's ready to emerge, instead of getting frustrated because I won't just spit it out? Which makes it hard to talk about it when I am ready. And so I don't. And that is the stuff of which relational wedges are driven.

Speaking of friends and lovers that had their place in time, and are now gone from all but the depths, I found myself wondering about mine this week. As the Challenger came back to the surface, so did they. I remember all of those people, from my first-grade best friend Maggie Jo (I named a cat after her several years ago, and can still call up her blond curls bouncing on the bumpy school bus ride) and my first true love Mike in the second grade, through my first and second boyfriends and my friends through the years, to more recent-life lovers and friends. Memories of times spent together bubble up from time to time. My question is, do they remember me? Do they call up my face and relive time? I know that my first boyfriend does (he of the gardenia corsages), because he has told me. I am grateful for that. I guess there are just some things I will never know. They come up from my depths; I trust I come up from theirs.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life in One-Inch Squares

When I was a child I was prone to car sickness. Or I pretended I was. No, I really was! I think. At any rate, the mere threat of car sickness garnered the offending child a free pass to the space between my parents on the front bench seat of the ’55 Chevy station wagon. From the front seat one can look forward to what is coming, instead of sideways to what is going away. Makes you less dizzy. And I speculate now that my parents, who had more height over the metal dashboard, could anticipate the twists and turns and ups and downs in the hilly, winding roads we tended to travel on family vacations. They moved their bodies with the variations instead of letting the curves buffet them about, or fighting against them. Wedged between them, they took me with them. That’s what parents do, anticipate what’s coming up ahead and protect their Small Children from the beating that life can be.

Good friends do that for each other now, I think. But we don't follow their guidance so much. We tell each other what we see coming, but often we don't lean with them and we go flying off the s-curve instead. When we climb back up onto the road, we realize those who love us saw the danger coming. And we wish we had been looking forward instead of sideways. If we're lucky, though we may get hurt, it isn't fatal. My friend Ben used to tell me there is no mistake that can't be undone.

I love anticipation. For the four years I lived in Mississippi one of the things I found hard about living there was the sure knowledge that I could never, ever turn around to the window and see that it had started to snow. It didn't snow all that much any place I have lived, but there was always the possibility when it was cold and the sky was overcast that flakes would suddenly begin falling. Or not, but anything was possible. The sky in Mississippi was always blue, and it was rarely below freezing. Most of the time there were no clouds. A thunderstorm rolled in about 4:00 pretty much every day in the summer; but the sky turned black suddenly, it rained for three and a half minutes and cleared back to blue in the blink of an eye. The sky in Mississippi is flat out boring. And for twelve months a year there is nothing to anticipate. I don't know why they even have weather forecasters in states like that. Complain all you want about the weather in the one-inch square in which you live, but I am telling you variety is a very good thing.

Once, when I was old enough to know better, I actually found the Christmas presents I was looking in my parents' closet for. It ruined Christmas for me that year. I blame my mother for her lack of creative hiding. Perhaps that was the year I realized that I love the anticipation at least as much as the event.

Now I try to enjoy the possible, and resist the urge to get there before it’s time. One of the ways I am trying to anticipate what is ahead is by merely being open to what may come. Looking a little ways ahead to anticipate the curves, and to take a different fork in the road when it seems prudent, is a good thing; to avoid dead-ends and to heed the "bridge out ahead" signs. But sometimes we have to experience the end of the road to know we need to back up and take another route, and that is okay too. What is the danger of living the anticipation while overlooking what is in our square right now? What if we overlook something that is a necessary step to What is Coming on the Road Ahead? How much do we miss by worrying about arriving at the right destination rather than enjoying the view passing so quickly by; how much do we miss by not stopping to dip into that life, the one right in front of us, instead of the one far ahead; by not recognizing the destination is really a horizon, not a boundary? (Thanks to Patti Digh, Creative is a Verb: If you're alive, you're creative, for that last bit. I recommend the book.)

I started an art project a week ago. At the end of each day I cut a one-inch square from a magazine that represents how I experienced that day. My plan is to continue for the 66 days from the first square until the first day of spring. So far I have a couple of ticket stubs, reminders that I said Yes to invitations and the Yes influenced my day. Being January Crazy Time at work, several squares tell of irritation, disjointedness, black moods, exhaustion. Hopefully, as January is only in the rearview mirror and spring approaches (or maybe there will be another snow day!), the colors will lighten. When it is finished it will be an indoor garden of one-inch squares of color and texture--66 days until spring. Even as I anticipate spring, I am mindful of and naming what I am feeling and experiencing--who I am--in each day. What are we made up of if not small squares of color, tone, story, and meaning?

Last week, in keeping with my New Year Resolution, I said Yes to moderating a panel of writers who share a church community with me. They all expressed something I know, too. Joan Dideon said it well, “I write entirely to find out what I am thinking, what I am looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” If we look at the One-Inch Square, and name it--in writing, in art, or just in our heads--perhaps we can figure out what it means, and if we like it or if we don’t. We can anticipate the turns just ahead, and unlike the road, maybe even alter them.

Another thing Patti Digh muses on in her book is what would happen in our daily lives if we divorced the lifetime of history we have with the thing in front of us--the object, the situation, the person, the opportunity--and simply looked at the components of the thing instead, the discrete pieces that make it up, the one-inch squares of line and shadow, not our expectations of what they will form. What if we divorced our perception from the thing itself, if we stopped seeing what we expect to see and saw what we really see? I am still thinking about what that means to me. How much do my choices and my perceptions of my One Inch rest on what I think could happen based on what has happened before. Okay, specifically--getting personal, though I guess you are used to that--how much do I close myself off to the possibility of falling in love again because I have hurt and been hurt by love in the past? Is it possible to live in my One-Inch Square and not anticipate a curve or washout that might not even be there? Can I enjoy this or that friendship in this moment, and not be afraid that it will or won't be something else? Can I anticipate the possibilities, good or bad, then let them go and enjoy the One Inch that I am in right now? Can I see the horizon as an opening instead of a boundary? What history do you need to divorce yourself from so that you can see the one-inch squares?

Meanwhile, in the garden, I see the barrenness of winter if I look at the whole picture. But if I look at the one-inch squares, I see the winter jasmine blooming, the pansies unaffected by the cold, the Lorapetalum I planted in the fall thriving, the red berries of the Nandina beacons in the drabness, the coral bells and Lenten rose hanging in there. They are doing just what they are supposed to do. They are not waiting for a warmer day. And in my window, the coleus I loved so much is growing roots so that it might be returned to the ground in the spring. And the moon cycles through its waxing and waning just like clockwork. They are all saying, "YES!" to their One-Inch Square. Me, too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dust to Dust

I went to the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art yesterday. He was a remarkable human being. It seems like there are some people who should be exempt from physical death: those who make a difference in the larger world, and could continue to do so. Those who speak for us, interpreting the world and helping make sense of it. Those with exhibited potential to do that. Those with better ideas about how things should work who haven't yet had a chance to make it happen. Norman Rockwell is one of those people to me. And little Christina Green who was born into tragedy on September 11, 2001 and whose bright future ended in tragedy in Tucson last week. But no one escapes.

If you read my blog on pretty much any given week, you know that my favorite garden in Raleigh--or anywhere, if truth be told--is the Oakwood Cemetery. I love to walk in the cemetery in all seasons, from the lush green of spring and summer, through the colorful then barren fall, to the cold beauty of the snow. You would think cemeteries are the most stagnant of places. But I find there is always something new to discover--in both the physical landscape and in what my mind conjures up about the former lives of the residents.

It is time to say more.

A cemetery is the great equalizer. Every person on the planet has two things in common: we are each born into the pain and blood of our mothers and we all die and return to the earth. In between anything can happen. Like snowflakes, no two of us are exactly alike. The cemetery is the place where we all come together in the end. In what lies beneath the ground, though the box may vary, we are all eventually dust. What marks the spot above the ground, speaks of who we were in life. And how it speaks.

There are the beautiful, if ostentatious, markers of the famous--locally or globally: statesmen; presidents of women's organizations; early Raleigh landowners with neighbor- hoods now named after them; doctors and coaches whose lives touched many with healing or inspiration. There are the plain white markers in even rows straight in every direction of those who served their country in all the wars from the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as perhaps those lying here knew it; I have not found any union soldiers, but surely they are here) to the present day wars; those who died fighting and those who lived on. The markers in the slave section, those who were not allowed beyond obscurity in life or in death: tiny metal plates bearing only numbers. There are the "unremarkable" people to whom, though they are strangers, I feel a bond: Mabel, who left this life on my eleventh birthday; and Mary, who for 57 years loved the house and gardens that are now mine. And there are the children: many of their graves marked with angels and lambs. The stair-step markers of Annie, Emmie, and Johnnie, and two nameless infants; the children of one family who all died over the decade of the 1860s. How do parents survive such grief? Little Ashley Nicole, who should be celebrating her sixteenth birthday this year, but is forever four and a half. And, of course, there are the legions of ordinary lives. The ones who lived their  days in the usual obscurity that most of us do. Beloved by family--or not; successful in whatever they might have done--or not; living long lives--or dying way too soon; happy--or not. For most of the residents of Oakwood who were ordinary people, how they lived is invisible. But not for all.

There are the sometimes odd markers that speak of who the deceased was: the wife of an architect who designed a house on a pedestal to mark his beloved's resting place; the tree trunk markers of Woodsmen of America; the photographs permanently affixed to the marble. And the beautiful or strange sentiments engraved in stone: "Beloved Dad," "Not gone, merely sleeping." Among the grand, landmark tombstones and monoliths, are the homegrown decorations added seasonally to plain markers. These are my favorites. Wade Edwards--and now Elizabeth--of course has one of the most noticeable works of art in the cemetery. A 15-foot tall angel holding in her bosom a young man. But at her base and around the bench that bears Wade's name (interestingly there are no dates anywhere to be found) are perennial and annual plantings and pieces of garden art: a rabbit and stakes that say things like "Welcome to my garden." More have appeared since Elizabeth joined her son there. Ashley Nicole's mounded grave is a well-tended, year-round garden, with a bench on which I once saw perhaps her mother sitting. Clearly she was loved in life and not forgotten in death. "Dad," whose grave marker is not remarkable save for the seasonal decorations: jack-o-lanterns replaced by a Christmas tree; and a hanging marker proclaiming, "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever." How better could any of us want to be remembered, really? I am watching for valentines. 

I could describe so many...but really I want to share it visually. I invite you to a slide show; just click on the link below. But mostly, if you are able, I invite you to visit in person. Give me a call if you want company. I would love to be present as you discover for yourself this remarkable garden.

Oakwood Cemetery

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Being Ordinary

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways
to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water
in a far-off continent, devote the remainder of my days
to a catalog of restorations.
But this morning, it was a matter
of scones that drew my gaze,
and my feet remained planted in the kitchen.
One must never ignore the instinct
to create is what I told myself,
and soon the counter was stained
with flour, my hands sticky with dough,
the house inked
with the smell of blueberry possibility,
and I knew I was not wrong.
This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering,
my song.
--Maya Stein

I have spent a lifetime thinking if I were only a real artist, a real writer, a real photo- grapher… then I would be somebody. And thinking I should be more interested in/passionate about saving the world, fighting for justice, getting involved in causes. Then my space on the planet would be justifiable. I am glad that there are people in the world who fight for the children, keep alive the rant for taking care of our planet, write great novels, and paint works that hang in museums. But they are no more special than I am; that is their ordinary, not mine. What if I were just willing to open to the possibility that my ordinary is unique, too; that my creativity is just right for me; that I make a difference in my world? What if I were willing to rejoice in the fact that my friends think I am special--as I do them, and let go of thinking that people whom I will never meet need to know I am? What if I were willing to trust that who I am is just right?

With one significant exception, this has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Is it a law of nature that for every good thing that happens in a given period, there must be bad stuff in equal measure? The good was a wonderful evening of fun and kudos at the farcical premier of the “movie” I created as part of my work. The bad began last weekend when I attempted to install a track light over my kitchen bar. After three trips to Lowe’s for missing or defective parts and a fall off the bar stool I was standing on, I got it up. It looks great. It doesn’t work. I spent one entire evening trying to figure out why the wifi service I finally gave to myself wasn’t working on the day I was told it would be hooked up. Then, after an hour on the phone (the new phone I also treated myself to that is making me insane), I learned that they are “behind schedule” and it won’t be hooked up for another week. I was furious when I discovered that the paraments I co-created for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were removed from the sanctuary before Epiphany Sunday. I don’t know how the wisepeople are going to find their way to the Baby without the stars to guide them, but I will not be finding my way to worship this morning because I will just sit there and be mad all over again. I averaged eleven hour days at work and skipped yoga because I had too much to do (exactly why I should have gone) and because of the knee pain sustained in above-mentioned fall. The church bank made a large error that will make the year-end books less than the perfection I strive for before it is corrected in the new year. I lost my work keys twice and cannot find the charger adapter for the new camera I bought a week ago (a Christmas gift from myself, though at the time of purchase I didn’t know it was going to be mostly from myself). Thank you, St. Anthony, for help with the keys; and now about that adapter. I cut my week-anchoring cafe/blueberry scone/journaling time short yesterday to attend a class for new camera owners taught by a guy who spent the two hours telling the class all the ways he is beyond ordinary. I could barely sit through it. And no, I didn’t learn a damn thing. And fifteen minutes ago as I wrote the last words of this post, about what a happy thing it is that it is a new--and surely better--week, I hit the wrong key and lost the whole thing. Not for the first time in several days I think, “What this week needs is a control-alt-delete.”

When not much is happening in the garden that surrounds the confined space of my home, I am aware of the bigger garden cultivated by the universe. My creative notice (and yes, I believe that the mere act of noticing is creative) the past days has been on the sky. As I have made my way to work earlier than usual, I note that the days are indeed getting longer, and even at 7:00 the sky is light. I miss the peak of the sunrises--too early--but my camera and I see what is there. The sky's unique ordinary is spectacular, even without the extraordinary sunrise color. I love digital cameras. I discovered a couple of years ago, as I started using mine more indiscriminately on hikes in the mountains, that I notice more detail when I look for things to examine through the lens. Without the nagging awareness of the cost of film and processing, I snap away. And more often than not, when I put the results on my computer screen, I realize that what I might have overlooked as merely ordinary, and in the past would not have bothered taking a photo of, is really quite extraordinary.

Ordinary: uninteresting or commonplace, with no special or distinctive features. Extraordinary: very unusual or remarkable. Epiphany: sudden revelation or insight.

My epiphany on this Epiphany Sunday: it isn’t above, or beyond, or better than ordinary. The word is extra ordinary. Ordinary in the extreme. What if we were all just willing to be ordinary; our ordinary; our uniquely ordinary? And we can rejoice that some days are ordinary in the extreme; and sometimes we are ordinary in the extreme. But every unique day, our unique ordinary is just right. Some days an odd snow falls from nearly completely blue skies, like it did yesterday; and some days it is just ordinary snow, or sun, or fog, or rain. And it is all worthy of our attention.

I am at Cafe Carolina before the doors open this morning. I need to get my favorite table before James, who has the same table preference, gets here. Most Sundays I don’t mind (too much) when he gets here before I do, but this week--in its less than ordinariness--I need my table. When James arrives two minutes behind me, we joke about it. And as I am turning on my computer before going to the counter for my usual order, Brian approaches with my coffee and water cups, as usual calling me by name, and telling me it is on the house today. It is a hopeful beginning to a new--please God ordinary--week. That is before I lose my post, of course, but I have shaken that off and re-written. It is not the same, and I will spend the day remembering things I left out and no doubt editing it. Or maybe I won't; maybe I will just let it be. I am ordinary. And shit happens in our uniquely ordinary lives. And it's all good.

“It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad [week]. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011


"Don't make resolutions, you will only disappoint yourself." (Comedienne on NPR) Regardless of what one thinks about resolutions, the new year seems to me to be a good time to take stock. What went well in the year past? What is it time to change? What is missing? What do I love or want to do; and what is keeping me from it? Make a plan. Name it resolution, name it intention, name it goals, name it whatever you want, but resolve to do something. There is a saying, I forget who coined it, "If you don't make plans, someone will make them for you." Status quo is the scariest word in the lexicon.

I generally don't fail at keeping resolutions because those I make tend to be intangible. They are not measurable, or even well-defined. I resolve to be awake every day. Someday, when I look back on my life, I may not be able to name great things I have done or recall specific moments, but I want to know that I lived with awareness most every day. I resolve to really see the birds at my feeder, smell the rainy air, touch the coldness of snow and the feel the warmth of the sun. I do not resolve to spend 10 minutes every day looking at the clouds. I resolve to be with my friends in heart and spirit when they are going through difficult days. I do not promise to be physically with them because that would involve their resolutions, their needs, and their desires; and I can only resolve for myself. I resolve to look for ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I do not promise to walk 30 minutes every day or lose 10 pounds.

Those are intentions from past years, and ones that are ongoing. My resolution for this year came to me from my friend Charly's blog this week. Charly is a modern-day nomad. This winter her home is with her daughter in Indiana. (In the summers she works and plays in national parks in the west.) She is engaging in Meet-ups to meet people with whom to be out in the world while encamped in the mid-west. Charly, like me, is an introvert and comfortable in solitude. But she pushes herself in a way that I have not. Just before Christmas she got a call from someone she had met only a couple of times. The acquaintance had unexpectedly been given three tickets to WICKED in Indianapolis--about an hour and a half from Charly. She called and offered one to Charly because she knew her to be "willing."

That word willing attached itself in me like a burr in dog hair. What would it be like to be known as willing? Last year I resolved to be more open. I have had some success--again, nothing measurable, so no failure. I tried I opened to new friendships. I opened to acceptance of friendships lost. I opened my thoughts to the world through this blog. But willing? Willing. I have also resolved in the past to allow myself to turn inward. To say "no" to things and people because I needed to nest. Can I turn that around now? Can I push myself to say "yes!" to invitations, even those issued at the last minute? Can I be spontaneous? Will my friends even ask--they are so accustomed to reluctance and declined invitations. I think it will have to start with me. I will need to look for things to do and issue the invitations to them; and not stop asking just because they say no. I will need to keep finding new ways to be open.

Sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, resolution to engage in something falls by the wayside. It becomes us for a while, and then we let it slip. That's okay. Knowing that it might not be what we needed after all, or that we may not be able to follow through or keep it up shouldn't keep us from engaging. If it doesn't follow a straight path, we can know it is following the right path at the right time.

In exploration of a previous year's resolution to be physically healthy, I joined the YMCA and eventually began a yoga practice. One of the life lessons it has taught me is that yoga is listening to your body and doing each pose in the way that feels right in that unique moment. Sometimes you back off and sometimes you can go deeper. Sometimes a resolution is full and clearly in mind and sometimes it burrows deep in the heart and hides from view. As I wrote the first entry for the year in my journal yesterday, I looked back at those from the beginning of last year. I was dismayed to find that the entries were nearly identical. Has nothing changed? “It was the long years of these same few thoughts that wore tracks in my interior life.” (Annie Dillard) One of the things I wrote was that I needed to stop the verbal diarrhea that I have been writing in my journal most weeks for the past dozen years and do something different with that time. I am resolving that again: to work through some of my many writing books with their prompts. That I didn't do it in 2010 just means it wasn't right yet. And this year maybe it will be, and maybe it won't.

If all relationships or all activities had to be forever to be worth engaging in, we would never love and we would never create. Snow people last only until the air warms; sand castles only until the tide comes in. And yet we are compelled to create them. Why do we feel like so much else needs to be forever to be worth doing? Nothing is permanent; and we don't even have to have the illusion that it is. Just do it. Do it until you stop. Love. Love until love goes. Create. Create until you are tired of it and then create something else. Resolve. Resolve until it doesn't work anymore, and then resolve the next thing that feels important. One of the friends I met through my three months on Match sent an email this week that touched something in me. Not a new idea, of course, but a reminder. And it doesn't apply only to people, but I keep coming back to our need for others to be in our life. A portion of it, slightly modified by me, said:

Some people come into our lives for a time.

They come to share, grow, or learn. 

They bring us an experience of peace or make us laugh or hold our tears. 

They may teach us something we have never known. 

They usually give us an unbelievable amount of joy. 

Believe it, it is real.

If only for a time.

On the first day of this new year I spent some time thinking about relationships of the past few years. Some have ended, all have changed, as is the way of the ebb and flow of the universe. But from all, I have learned important lessons and ways of being. I want to share them. Some won't read this; some of you will recognize yourself; many of you don't know these friends of mine. Perhaps you will find a resolve needed in your own life. To those of you who recognize yourself: Thank you. These are not the only lessons I have learned from you, but they are ones that feel important to me in this moment as I look toward a new year. From all of you I have learned to keep moving forward.

D: See art in life--life as art. Art is in the seeing and the being, not only in the doing.
S: Feel deeply and don't be afraid to show it. Trust your emotions with those who love you.
L: Live wide open. Put yourself out there. Show people you love that they are important to you.
N: Relationship can be a safe place to use your words.
G: Make space and time for making art.
K: Connect with yourself first. Connection with another will come in its own time and when you are not looking.
P: Go where you are led, and take the curves where they come.
K: Question, ask, explore.
C: Do it scared.
V: Grace opens doors.
Rebecca: Do what you love. Follow your dream. Keep sight of it through the nightmarish parts.
Jo Ann: Don't wait, even while you are waiting.
Nicholas: Be tenacious. Don't give up. What you long for will come your way in its time.
Emma: Go boldly and fully.
Mother: Life is not over until it's over. Keep living.