Every now and then a book comes along that is so beautiful in language and imagery that you find yourself slowing down over words and sentences to savor the rhythm and tone that runs across the page. Such is the case with The Morning Light never passes us by.
Brian Lisus is a first time author, but he is certainly not a first time artist. He decided to write this incredible novel after hearing an audio book and immediately visualizing his own story set against the beautiful classical music that his instruments create. You see, Brian is a violin maker. And he takes his journey into his craft and weaves it within a story about a man on his journey into his life.
I met Brian because he posted a heartfelt writing about his experience with the Thomas Fire - the massive fire that swept through our town back in December. I reached out to him then to ask if we could include his thoughts in a book that I am created with a friend about the Fire and, in our interactions, I shared that I am an editor. And we met. And I edited a few pages for him so we could see if we were a match to work together. And I am so glad that we did. And so honored that I was able to work on the book with him. Because, truly, it is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a very long time.
Please consider reading this book. Go to Amazon and buy the paperback or download the Kindle version. And more, wait a few weeks and buy the audio version as well. For, you see, what this talented man has done is taken his story and surround it with classical pieces played on instruments that he created. He reached out to musicians that have his cellos and violins and violas and he brought these instruments into studios and captured the resonance of his artistry.
This book is special. There is nothing like it out there. It is rare in its story and symbolic in its message and rich with music.
I think you will love it!
I recently joined the photography club here in Ojai. I did not seek them out to join them, I kinda fell into them. I had gone to speak to them about this amazing book the I am creating with a friend. A book abut the Thomas Fire. An anthology about hope and connection and the coming together of the Ojai community as well as a book about the devastation and trauma of the Thomas Fire. We are collecting writings - poems, prose, reflections - and photographs (some of original artwork) that document the fire experience from the flames to the ash to the regrowth that is happening now - on the land as well as within the community. It will be a beautiful book.
And so I went to the photography club meeting to talk about the book so that these artists could submit photographs and images of their art for consideration for the book. And I ended up staying for the entire meeting and realized that I miss this. Taking photographs like this. And interacting with other artists who have that desire to capture - once on film - now mostly digitally, those moments that most resonate or that excite the eye, or that capture the essence of something rare or true.
And so I joined.
One of the cool things about this group is that, each month, a speaker/great photographer comes to speak about their process and their art and then they rate our work. And each month there is a theme. And May's theme is black and white. So I took some shots that knew would translate well into that lovely tonal image that no color other than the silvers and blacks and grays and white create. And then I manipulated them to create just the contrast and depth and shadow that I wanted them to have. And then I submitted them.
One is called Feet. The other is Sun Cat Dog Bed.
And then I went back through old photographs that I have. Ones I took over the past few years, a revisiting of old images and memories, to see what else I could work with. I made only one of them new. Changing the almost lack of color of winter grass covered in ice to another black and white image of coldness and shadow.
And then the other few I left alone. Kept them full and lush with color and the original perspective. Because I like them so much.
And now I am seeing the world with an even more careful eye. Looking at the form of an image and not just its subject. Balancing the weight and the line within the frame. And then the possibility that comes with taking what I now have and working it through my emotional response. Do I want it darker? Should it be cropped to isolate just one piece of the whole? Or does the original hold true the intention that I meant to capture in just that moment with the moment was real.
I am so excited about this.
I love this photo. I am not sure who is more intense at this ball playing interaction. I mean, Nava is in it, you can see it. She is right there. But my husband. He is in it, too. His face, the position of his hand, his stance and his gaze. A gaze that goes deep into Nava's eyes which are, in turn, locked on him.
I heard once that dogs don't look directly into people's eyes. Nava never heard that. She stares right back into us. Always with love, frequently with excitement and, as in this photo, often with an intensity that borders on obsession.
What is so fun about this ball playing mixed with obedience and some mind games and often a battle of wills is that she focuses on him. My man. She certainly is aware of the ball but it is the connection to my Husband - or to me if I am the one playing the game - that is so amazing. She watched our eyes. And she takes in our body movements. She sees when we lean in, or take a step or turn slightly and she knows then, exactly where the ball will be sent. She runs before it's even left the thrower, unless we make her stay, her legs shaking in anticipation, until we release her to chase her prey.
Nava has always loved to play ball. We've been playing with her since she was an oh so cute and sweet smelling puppy. And always she was focused. She of the working breed is working at this ball game we play.
I went back through my old posts, to see when else I have written about...not my dog...perfect that she is I write about her all the time....but specifically about ball playing, and I came upon a post from two April's ago. About a fight at the dog park. That started with a ball. I thought I'd share it again today. It's intense. Like my dog. And scary.
We have evolved now from parallel play at the park, that is written about in this past post, to only being there if we are alone. There are two parks. One for the small dogs and one for the large ones. We use the small dog park a lot. The grass is in better shape and there are no deep holes left by dogs who's owners don't think to fix the damage before they leave (yes there is judgement here).
We go early in the morning. There is a white German Shepard named Travis who is often in the big dog area and he will run up and down and up and down along side Nava, on the other side of the fence as she works her ball chasing and catching and retrieving skills. I am basically exercising this other dog each day. He is obsessed with my dog in the same way as Nava is obsessed with her ball.
She honestly does not even notice he is there.
Ok, so here is the past writing - Fighting At The Dog Park
I knew the minute the ball left the plastic ball thrower that I should not have thrown it. It was not Nava's ball. It was Meng's. An awesome reddish colored dog that is as focused on playing catch as Nava is. They have played at the park together many times. Well, not played exactly. Both focused on their own game of get the ball rather than on each other, still they are great together. Leaving each other alone and working hard at their ball retrieval.
Men's ball is blue. A blue rubber ball that fits neatly into the chuckit that his owner uses to toss the ball the length of the green that is the fenced in dog park. Nava is partial to tennis balls. Once yellow but quickly a dirty brown that blends into the grass of the park. And wet with saliva so that they don't fit quite as well in the cheap chuckit knockoff that I got at target for $5.49.
I bought two of them. One is still in the plastic and hidden in the kitchen cabinet. The other - the one we use - is broken as of day one but still great.
I used this cheap chuckit wannabe to pick up Meng's blue ball, settled against my foot in the grass, and toss it for him. I've thrown balls for him before. But always with my hand and so Nava does not respond in the same way that she does when a ball is propelled from the plastic ball thrower that I throw the tennis balls from.
So I throw Meng his blue ball and Nava takes off. Meng close behind. I knew - before the ball actually left the thrower - probably before I even raised my arm to toss the ball into the air - that I should not be doing this. But my body did not catch up with my mind and the ball is sailing through the air before I can stop it.
Nava takes off. Meng close behind.
Nava gets there first, the ball quickly settles between her teeth only to be dropped in an instant when Meng catches up. And barks. And bites her side. Not quite a bite as a deep scratch, I discover later and see merely pulled hair from her skin and a raw red mark.
So Meng bites her side and Nava turns, fast in response. She is not a fighter. At all. Unless she is provoked. And this was provocation. And so she turns fast and they are in it. Hard. Teeth bared, deep barking from each other them. And in the time it takes me to make it across the park to where the ball first landed these two, once friends and now not, dogs are connected in an altercation that proves hard to break up. They are attached.
Both myself and Meng's owner are in it with them. Calling their names. Putting our legs and our ball tossing tools in-between them to try and break them up. I lean in to grab Meng's collar to see if I can pull them apart that way but they are too intent on each other. Nava has what I thought was Meng's neck between her jaws. Tight and hard. This is not good.
And then I pour my hot water on their heads.
It is hot water and lemon. With some cayenne pepper and stevia for sweetness. It is delicious. I had brought it with me to the park on this morning because my husband was with me and so I was able to enjoy the sweet warmth rather than have to be the only one tossing the ball to Nava. But I had taken over on the ball tossing, the carry cup of hotness still in my hand. And I had not dropped it throughout this dog fight.
And so I poured the hot water and the dogs separate. Both wet now, with the water and the remnant of each other's mouths on their fur.
Another dog park friend checks out Meng. He has a new collar around his neck this day. A thick, brown leather piece that Nava had sunk her teeth into. Deeply. You could see the marks made by her bite. It was this collar, not Meng's skin that my dog kept hold of for the entire interaction that these two had. A good thing as the marks in the leather were deep and defined. Meng was unscathed. And within seconds they are both over it. And chasing their own balls once again as if nothing has happened.
Meng's owner and I stand together and talk through the event until we are ok, too.
I only go to the dog park in the mornings. With only a handful of other dogs there who don't pay attention to her as she works hard at our game of ball. I know these dogs well. And sometimes, when we have worked the ball, for quite a while, she will play with them the way dogs play where they know each other and understand each others personalities. And whenever the play escalates - even though it is still only play - I pull her away to our ball game again. Though the other dog owners are fine with that intense interaction, I do not want her engaged in a way that riles her up.
It's not fair to her. Because she is so powerful. And because she is a Doberman. And so can easily be blamed if something does go wrong.
I text Meng's owner the day after the ball fight. Is he fine? I asked. And he is. As is Nava. And I will make a point of having them play at the park together again. Parallel play. Each chasing their own ball. Focused not on each other but on the task at hand that is their job at that moment.
This is a mommy and a baby heartrock. I found them both yesterday morning when I was walking my perfect Doberman. I was thinking about babies - I had just babysat the past two days for a quite delicious baby on one of the days and a now one and a half and running around and oh so cute toddler on the other - and I looked down and there they were, nestled right next to each other among many other, non-heartrock rocks. I picked them up and put them in my pocket and then added them to the collection of heart shaped rocks that I have on the window sill in my kitchen. And that was it.
Until later yesterday when I was driving home from a really lovely day in Santa Barbara where I first got my new computer fixed. The operative word here is new. The space bar and the period were not working on the keyboard which I learned has been a problem with the new - and thin and sleek and light - Macs because, to make them so light and sleek and thin means it is very difficult to protect the keyboard from dust and grime. Hence a small bit of said dust got under the spacebar and alas, it did not work. Nor the period. But it got fixed with a bit of forced air from a can which the Apple Genius said I must purchase of my own for future needs.
Funny story, I was dictating to Siri about my space bar and my period not working and she kept making a space and putting in a period rather than writing "spacebar" and "period." She's funny.
So, I did that, and then I went to this amazing consignment shop where I actually sell a lot of my clothes and instead - just to shake things up - I bought these quite extraordinary Alexander McQueen pants. And a few other things that I need.
And then I met my middle daughter and a friend of hers and we spent the afternoon at Earth Day. We ate yummy food and listened to good music and sat in the sun and walked around and held a HUGE boa constrictor and met some great people.
I came home and rearranged the clothes in my closet to make room for those necessary pieces I just acquired. And then I started this writing, the night before the Monday morning that my writing is shared with you, because it was on my mind.
So, the Golden Trimester.
I want to say it is a lie. But that is not true. There is such a thing as the Golden Trimester, but I remember, and this could just be me, that it is not a trimester in length. It is much shorter. And I do not think it came right when I entered the second trimester. Which is what it is. The Golden Trimester is the second one. The first one is the: I am newly pregnant and - as was the case with the same middle daughter I just had this lovely day with yesterday - I spent a lot of time "coughing in the toilet" as my two and half year old son would call it while I struggled through my morning sickness.
Trimester number one was also the trimester of being really tired. Like really. And achy because things are stretching that have never stretched before. Like a uterus. And breasts. Like pre-period achy breasts but more because they are also growing. So they are heavy. So achy and stretchy and heavy and tired and possibly a bit of toilet coughing. And hungry.
And as you get close to that twelve week mark you can see the outline of gold in the distance. And it is beckoning you along to what is promised to be the best trimester. The Golden one. But alas, it does not come at quite twelve weeks. If I remember correctly it came at more like fourteen or fifteen weeks.
And then, at sixteen weeks it was gone. Poof.
This could Just be me again because I was one of the biggest pregnant people that I know. Truly. I am not kidding here. Short waisted and small boned (not tiny boned, but small) my babies showed up on me quite early. Like first trimester early. And so my theory is that I was a second trimester baby carrier in girth during my first trimester and so became a third trimester baby mama at about week sixteen - right in the middle of what should have been the Golden Trimester.
Let me take a bit more time to talk about how big I was... in my belly. My feet did not swell, my rings still fit, my face stayed thin (I'll skip the keyboard analogy here) but turn me sideways and I could not fit through a door. I got stuck in bathroom stalls because the doors open inward and so I had to face towards the back as I opened the door. I did not fit under the desks at my law school and so they had to bring in a special table and chair for me at the back of the room. I was stopped in the street at around six months with a well you certainly look like you are ready to pop! Nope...three more months to go. The entire third trimester actually.
So you can see that the Golden Trimester (notice I keep writing this in capital letters - to give it the reverence it deserves) well, it was fleeting.
This is not to say that I did not love being pregnant. I LOVE being pregnant. Truly. I mean, a life is in my belly. With a personality that comes forth even before they come forth. It is, by far, the most amazing experience of my life being a mother to these first in my belly and then babies and then children and then adults of mine. And worth ever bit of every thing that went along with it.
Well maybe not the clothes.
Because back in the nineties the maternity clothes - they sucked. At least they did where I lived. There were bows and bears - on clothes for me!?!? And god forbid you were able to find a diaper bag that did not have little animals on it. Cool, trendy, good looking maternity clothes were not easy to come by back then. And, considering the fact that clothing is my art form, well, this was not good.
But everything else, worth every second.
This is our cat. This is his I will tolerate you taking a photo of me face. He is really my son's cat but he is our cat because he lives with us. But he is so my son's cat. His personality is my son's. Except without any worry or anxiety. Like just a really chill version of my son who is really chill in his own right so you can imagine how laid back and easy going this cat is.
Phoenix is now fifteen. We got him when he was just a kitten. We thought he was a girl. A friend of my son's brought him over and said he was a girl so we just assumed that he was. Then my kids went off to camp and while they were gone our sweet girl kitty's balls dropped. I wrote to my son at camp Phoenix has balls! It took a while to remember that he was a boy after that...
Speaking of balls, we had a pet rat once, too. Well my daughter did. The daughter who, after we got her the rat said wanting a rat is more fun than having a rat. This rat was one of our last pets. Except for the three other dogs, a snake named Scratch and Phoenix.
Well this rat, he was very sweet. She named him Sweetie. And she would play with him a lot. Then one day his balls dropped, too. For anyone who does not know this, teenage boy rat balls are about the same size as their head. My daughter wouldn't hold him anymore. We had to get him neutered. It costs double the cost of buying him in the first place.
Many of our pets ended up costing us - it was worth every penny but still worth noting.
Scratch, our snake had a respiratory infection. That was a huge vet bill. I didn't realize he had this, I thought he was making noises when I came in to feed him because he was hungry and happy to see me. But then I was told that snakes don't make noise. I left the vet with a ten day supply of syringes filled with antibiotics that I had to inject in his neck - which looks just like his body but closer to his head. He got better but then escaped from his cage and got lost in the walls of our house. We found him a year later.
As I write this I am remembering that all of our pets were a bit quirky. Like our first pet, a Standard Poodle names Ruckus, he had a problem with drinking water. He drank incessantly and was really sloppy about it. I brought him to the vet, I was worried he had diabetes as a symptom in dogs was drinking a lot. The vet called me and said he's not diabetic, he's inefficient. Turns out his tongue was not attached correctly and he couldn't lap the water. The vet told us to let him drink our of the toilet. Which we did, and which all of our other dogs - and our two cats - learned to do, too.
Ruckus also ate socks and underwear and tubes of diaper cream.
Then our second dog, Gabby, she was blind in one eye, which we did not know until she turned a year old. Weimeraner's have these amazing blue eyes when they are puppies that turn a golden color at around a year. So this first year both blue eyes looked fine and we just thought we had a goofy puppy who fell off curbs and ran into fences but then her eyes turned gold and one was not right.
We brought her to the vet to get her eyes checked. You may ask, how does a vet check a dogs eyes? Well, they cover one eye and drop a dog biscuit in front of the other eye. With one eye she looked down as the biscuit fell, with the bad eye, she just sat there. I called her breeder. She's blind in one eye, I said. This very strange woman offered to take her back and give me a new dog. I was like, what the fuck????!! No thank you, I said. I love my dog. Just pay for all the vet bills.
Then we had Ophelia, our Ragdoll kitty who we hoped to breed but she had a flipped uterus. She also almost died when she had her first rabies shot and we learned she was allergic to most vaccinations. More vet bills.
We had birds. We got a bird named Jill. She loved my son. But we wondered if she was lonely so we got her a boyfriend. His name was Buddy. Jill wanted nothing to do with my son after that. Our cat, Ophelia, would sit on their cage and swish her tail back and forth when we weren't home. They lost their feathers due to stress and we gave them to our babysitter. A much calmer life for them both.
And we had bunnies. First Calm who was this lovely black bunny that was so sweet and clean and well behaved and would hop around our house and never make a mess. Until he hit puberty and we HAD to get him a girlfriend. We named her Whore Bunny but called her Clover. They had babies. She taught him bad habits. They eventually went to live with friends.
We had giant goldfish. This was a miracle really. I never cleaned the fish tank. A massive fish tank. With cats and dogs and bunnies and birds and a rat and, which I haven't even mentioned until now, an aquatic frog and gerbils ...well, those fish just had to make due. They did more than that, they thrived. Their names were Conan and Raphamon. Every now and then we'd see a bit of orange swim by against the glass and then disappear again into the mucky water. When they died we finally got to see their size. They were basically individual salmon steaks. We kept them in our freezer until we could give them a proper burial. A whole separate writing.
Our first Doberman, his name was Mac and he was huge. His quirky thing was terribly sad, we thought he was just this easy going, didn't care that he was a Doberman kind of Doberman but, in actuality, he had a heart condition and died right before he turned seven. Broke my heart.
When he was one and a half he dated the girl next door and they had twelve puppies. She lied to him and told him she was spade. Bitch.
We took a puppy, A dog named Tank. I thought she was going to look just like her dad, my Doberman, because she was the biggest puppy. But she ended up looking like her mom - an Australian Cattle Dog. Except a much fatter version. My theory is that she was a Doberman in a cattle dog body. A big, massive Doberman stuffed into a small cattle dog body. You get the idea.
And of course we have Nava, my perfect Doberman.
But back to Phoenix. The incredible hunter-who-could-probably-kill-a-wild-boar if-need-be cat.
So his hunting. We have been feeling really badly about this lately because he has been bringing in a lot of birds and we realized that we are kinda helping him with this. You see, we have this fountain outside, a really cool one, very modern looking, square and low to the ground. And our cat, smart cat that he is, he crouches very quietly right next to the side of the fountain, his body pressed up against the concrete. And he waits. And the birds, they come to drink and play and flap their wings in our fountain because it is hot where we live and so this is so great for them and then my cat gets one. So basically we are setting up these birds for slaughter.
He hunts quite a lot. And not just the birds we are supplying him with. Mice and Rats and geckos. He is amazing at it. He sometimes brings them in dead. I do not consider them gifts and since he eats them pretty much completely, I am thinking they are not gifts as far as he is concerned, either. They are meals. My nephew believes he has a trophy room.
Usually, though, what he catches he brings in live. And then gets bored and we are left with a traumatized mouse running around our home while our now not interested at all kitty is sleeping on the couch or on the table near the salt lamp. He loves being near the salt lamp. Good chi I think.
This post is about a dog. But really it's about more than a dog. Still, the dog part needs to come first, it sets the stage for the message that comes later, in act two.
This post about a dog is not about my dog. Though this photo that I have included is my dog. I love this photo. It was taken this past Saturday when my husband and I went to the beach to walk our beautiful and perfect Doberman. I love how alert she is. And focused. And him, too. They both are so into this game of ball that they play together.
It is a different game than my ball game. My game consists mainly of throwing the ball with my ball chuck thing. But my husband, this is an art form for him. He has Nava so focused in and so intent on working. He has her sit and stay and long down stay and circle around him to the left and then the right. She high fives and low fives and goes through his legs and then he'll have her wait and he'll place the ball down on the ground a ways away and then call her to him. She comes and sits right there in front of him but you can see that, though her head is facing up at him, there is just the slightest pull of her eye to the right where the ball sits on the ground. And after he lets her get the ball and bring it back to him for me he will throw it so far down the beach and she will run with such grace and sometimes pull the ball from the air as she soars above the sand. They are awesome together.
But this post is not about them.
It is first about this other dog that we found on the beach a week ago. We were there with Nava and as I sat on this great shaped-like-a-bench-with-a-back-and-all rock this sweet dog came over to say hi. He had a harness collar and lots of tags. I expected the owner to show up next but no one did. And so we looked around. And asked around. First this couple who had just showed up in their camper for a day at the beach. Standing with them we called the numbers on the tag and got the dad of the guy who owned the dog. He didn't know where his son was but would try him and call us back.
Then we talked with this other guy a ways down the beach who said this sweet pup - his name is Kona - had been at the beach since the day before. He said that a surfer girl had tried all the numbers and left messages and no-one called back and so this kind man took Kona in over night for a sleepover. They ate hotdogs and Balogna together.
We tried the dad again to let him know that his son's dog had not been with his son since yesterday. And while we talked, with dad and with the sleepover man and with the couple with the camper, Kona stayed right with us. Playing a bit with Nava and standing close for love. And then jumping into my car and curling up in the back seat. My heart was full.
And then camper couple said they wanted him. That they had been wanting a dog and obviously this owner had abandoned his dog and so we gave them some food from bags we had in the car and left Kona with these new people.
And then on the way home, the owner called me.
How did your dog get lost on the beach last night, I asked him. And why did you not stay to find him? He answered that Kona ran away a lot, searching and hunting and doing dog things and he could not find him and needed to go home.
And I felt uneasy, it was already almost 9:00 in the morning and he had not been back at the beach looking for his pup. Who came when called for me so would have come to this man, too. Right?
But I did not know this man and I did not know this dog except to know that he was a loved dog and a well-trained dog and who was I to judge even though I was.
We had to leave the beach, I said. Kona is still there, someone else is watching him and I believe will take him to the humane society when they leave. It was a white lie. A partial lie. A not wanting to tell the truth but not wanting to really lie lie. Because I wanted Kona to stay with this new couple. I was mad at this man on the phone who made excuses. I didn't want him to have his dog but - and this is what this post is really about - it wasn't my place to make that decision. To control this.
I wanted to. And I still question if I should have. Should I have said that we had to leave and someone else took Kona to the humane society already? Should I have said that so that this man would not even go to the beach to see if he could find his dog?
I struggled back and forth, after the fact, for days. My husband said it will be what it is supposed to be. This man either went to the beach and found this couple and got his dog, or he went to the beach and did not. Or he deciding just not to go to the beach.
And now it is nine days later and I still think about this. On two levels. I think about Kona, sweet and scared, and I wonder where he is and is he safe. Because of these moments he was with us, I love him.
And I think how are we to know, in these moments when the story is unfolding around us, when we need to step back and let the action take place unencumbered verses when we need to play a leading role in the story?
It is a judgement call. And for me it is an energetic reaction that sits in my stomach and tells me where to walk next. And usually it tells me the right way to go. Though sometimes I don't listen and head down the wrong path despite myself. But then, every once in a while I get stuck in the crosswalk, not sure which direction is the right one. My intuition tells me two things. Always for a reason, but I cannot uncover the lesson that is being taught and so I get stuck.
I am stuck there now, after the fact. For nine days I have been standing right in the middle of the intersection replaying my choices over in my mind. Just as I played them the second I got off the phone with this man.
I wish I had said that Kona was no longer at the beach, I think. But then I circle back to was it my place to decide if this man deserved his dog? And I think no. But then I get mad at him again and I am back where I started. It is a tricky thing knowing when to step in and when to step back.
But here's the thing: if we assume that it is not our place to control the outcome of something that is outside of ourselves do we lose our humanity?
And as I write this, my lesson becomes clear. The word I am using is wrong. Control is the wrong word. The word is participation. This is where I was stuck. Because we really can't control anything can we? We think we can, we want to, but we can't.
What we can do is participate. Show up. Be in it. This is the lesson I needed to uncover. That we need to participate but that the outcome is not a sure thing. The outcome is out of our control. Yes, I think this is what this was about.
And so now, though I still will think about Kona and hope that we see him on the beach, perhaps with this couple that wanted him so much or perhaps with his first owner who loves him in his own way, I am feeling a bit less hard on myself. I participated in this dog story. In the best way that I could in the moment I was in.
I missed last Monday's writing. I realized this on Wednesday morning when I was sitting in the shower. I love sitting in the shower. I make the water really hot, much hotter than it would be if I were still standing. And then I sit. And I lean forward to let the hot water hit my back and then I lean back against the tiles. And I do this a few times so that the hot water is pressed from my back against the surprisingly-cool-considering-the-temperature-of-the-water tiles. And soon they are finally not too cold for me to lean against. The heat off my back warms the tiles just enough. And I sit. For a long time.
So there I was. And I started to think about my next writing, thinking that it was coming up soon, but quickly realized that it was not, and that the reason why I thought it was is because I hadn't written one in a while. And then I thought fuck, I forgot my Monday morning writing.
I had missed writings before. Not very often, five times I believe in all this time. And when I did miss it, I always wrote as soon as I remembered. Like when I first starting writing this writing and it was a Sunday morning writing and then it became a Sunday night writing and then finally settled into Monday morning as those Sunday times were just not working out with life and my children were around a lot and there was weekend stuff to do. When I missed my writings back then I wrote right away and acknowledged the delay
And a few times I forgot the writing altogether, not because of anything like a weekend event or a conflict in time but just because I forgot. My most recent time doing this, before this time this past Monday, was six weeks ago.
And again, each time I forgot, I wrote right away to explain why I had missed the writing. Each piece explained the delay and re-committed to the process once again because the intention was still very clear to me, in that energetic way, that it was important to adhere to the structure I had created.
And so I wrote a Monday on a Wednesday, or a Monday on a Tuesday, or a Monday morning on a Monday night writing and all was good. I was back in my groove.
Until this past week. This time I did it differently. Because this time, it was different. I could feel it. It was not just about missing the writing and then going and doing it. There was a message in this one. And I needed to sit in it and listen to it.
And so I did.
In the still hot water of my shower meditation, I sat in the discomfort of it. And then over this past week, as the urge to write something pulled me to fill up the space that held my Monday musings, I sat in it still. It was hard. I had this burning, well not burning but very strong, desire to write something and put it out there because I was worried. About not doing what I had committed to doing. And about whether anyone would wonder where I was. And about whether I would lose you by missing a writing. Because even though I write for myself, I write for you, too. For this connection with you. And so I worried that I had disconnected. And so I felt badly, too.
I sat in the discomfort of all of this and I sat in this worry. And in my sitting I took the time to reflect on what was really happening. And question what I was to learn here. And figure out what the next best step is. And this is what I figured out.
I love my Monday morning writing.
And the plan is not working in the way that it was. This is not to say that I will not write my writing each Monday. It is a Monday morning writing after all, and I likely will write each Monday still. I've got a lot to say.
But if I don't write, this is ok, too.
Because what this is about is the awareness of what I am doing. It is about being present to the choice to write. The structure that I created, that commitment to have to write each week, it worked for as long as it worked. This structure, it created the rhythm for my writing and was the foundation I built my words on. And was right for me for quite a long time. But not now. Now what is right is that I write, but if I don't, well that is right, too.
This is the mindfulness of it that I am noticing and honoring. There is importance in this. This is a message from the universe that I need to pay attention to.
I starting writing this piece on June 26, 2016. Well, not really writing it, I put the title down - I Am A Shadow Dweller. Because I was dwelling there then. And I added a photograph, not this one, but one of me. I'll include it at the end. It captures that shadow looking feeling that I am, today, going to try and capture in words. So the title and the picture and then I saved it. Because the words, they... well, they were hidden in the shadows and I could not see them clearly enough to put them out here in this bright light.
But this past weekend, I started thinking about this again. This shadow play place that I love so much. Loved so much. Because I do not love it so much anymore. I like it still. There is a familiarity in this shadowing place. A welcoming and a safeness that is provocative and inviting. So maybe love is the right word. But before there was also a beckoning and that does not happen so much anymore.
Perhaps this is why I am able to write about it now, because it is not the place I love the best.
When I loved the shadows most I loved them because I felt them the most. It was a time in my life - there were many times in my life - when I was sad. Deeply. And with that sadness came a loss of feeling most other feelings.
Yes, there were moments of joy and happiness. Moments I would see my children and love them deeply. Moments when a run in the woods with my dogs would fill my soul and still my heart. But these feelings were not ones that I was able to access at these times when sadness was my constant companion. And so I loved him. (He is a him) Sadness. I loved his darkness and his warmth. I loved his lush breath and the way that he enveloped me in a cocoon of softness.
I loved him because I felt him.
When I was sad - and was it really sad? - my days were days of deep depression, when the only feeling that I really felt was the feeling of him. And feeling him, this was so much better than feeling nothing. And so I would enter the shadows hungrily and I often did not want to leave. It felt good in here and I did not care that the light outside, she had gifts to offer me.
My shadow play was not always with me. He led me inside occasionally when I was growing up, but only held me in his arms once for any significant length of time back then. I was living in New York and dancing at Tisch at NYU. I was a dance major without the ability to dance having had surgery on a toe that was fractured and chose to disintegrate rather than heal. It was a defining moment in my journey as a dancer because I really did not want to be one anymore and so this injury, it was an opportunity to shift direction. Still it was sad - ah that sweet space of despair - and I sat in it for the entire time I lived in New York before heading back to Massachusetts to finish college.
And then there were no shadows for many years. Until postpartum nestled into my bones followed by a winter wonderland of seasonal depression that lasted fourteen long years of October-thru-April-I've-just-gotta-get-through-this-winter-and-things-will-be-fine and then two more long years of transition and introspection and self-discovering and growth that could only have happened within the shadows of my mind.
I got a lot done in this shadowy space. In this time spent in this place of darkness that is warm and knows me well. And that, coupled with the truth that the deep emotions that live in the shadows were my only emotions, well... why would I not want to sit here. In these shadows that held me gently.
And then the light crept in.
It was not like the shadow space was not still inviting. It was not like that feeling of sadness that offers an intensity of emotion was not still tempting to sit in. It was not that I did not sometimes - do not sometimes - still miss standing complete in shadow.
It is that it is lonely here. For when I stood in shadow I stood alone. For along with keeping out the light my shadow sentinel kept out all others.
And so we made an agreement.
As I write this I have this lovely image in my mind. When I was back east I took a walk on the Appalachian Trail. Not for long. Just a short bit of trail but the sunlight was strong though still low in the sky and the shadows played against the warmth of this light. It is this image that captures my shadow play now. An intermingling of light and dark. Of light and shadow. And I can play in the coolness for a moment or more but he will not be my only friend.
I think about writing about my mom. But then I don't. My first instinct is not to. I think I am not brave enough. But something is calling me now. For when I picture time having passed and writing about her later on I feel this feeling that I am missing something. That there is significance in writing now. That the vulnerability that comes with this writing of passage is important. That I cannot miss this even though I do not know what this is.
Because the feelings are hard and because my mom will read this. And my dad, too. And while these words are an honoring, they are also words of challenge and frustration and this is hard to share.
This most recent need to write about my mom comes on the heels of my visit last week. The culmination of a week with my mom ending with my reading aloud to my dad the writing my sister and I wrote about him created a lacking feeling. That my mom needed a writing, too. That this was this something I had to do.
And so on the plane on the way home I started this. I wanted it to be a writing that was light and joyous and honored all the good that is my mom. But instead what came out was fast and raw and I knew that this early writing six days before a writing was due was necessary because I needed time to sit on this. To reread and revisit and rewrite if need be. This one. It is hard.
You see, my mom has a form of dementia that makes her lose words as the language center of her brains dies. As I write that sentence it autocorrects to worlds. Lose worlds. Appropriate as she is losing worlds, too.
For along with language comes the loss of comprehension. And the loss of knowing. Names lose their meaning. Friends become unrecognizable. Events fall away and moments drift by and often times she is not quite sure.
And this is hard. As her daughter. For along with the loss of all these things and more that I am sure I still don’t know there is an accentuation of those things that have always challenged me as her daughter.
And then, yesterday, I read this beginning of this writing to my husband. I started writing about my mom but don't really want to/am worried about sharing it/maybe I shouldn't I said to him. And then I read it to him and he said it is beautiful and you need to finish this.
So here I am.
Mother/daughter angst is hard to explain. Not in the general sense but in that intimate way where the smaller nuance of expression can turn a daughter's head around but from the outside really, what is the big deal. But as the daughter, standing in this daughter place, the challenges are there, the triggers continually happen, the actions and reactions find that familiar rhythm that is as old as I am.
This past week with my parents was a beautiful week. Being with them is necessary. And it is important. And it is filled with love and joy and fun. Lots of fun. And along with this it is filled with the hard fact that my mom is struggling. A lot. And I am, too.
I am usually a better version of myself when I am with her. I am patient. But it is a sad patience because it sits in this place of detachment. A necessary coping because without it I cannot stand in compassion and caring.
This past week the place I created to support and love my mom as she journeys through this awful disease abandoned me and I stood in the rawness of having to respond without my boundaries on full alert. And I behaved badly.
I could not disengage and I could not be kind. I heard the edge in my voice as I answered her questions and felt my body pull back as she sought to encircle me in love. And each time I saw this, in the moment that I was in this, I spoke small words to myself to step back and regroup and remember that this is not about me at all, really and so step up as the best of myself so I can be the best me for her. And then the next interaction would happen and I was deep in it again in that dark way that is so not fair to her because it is so not how I want to show up for her.
I thought I did not care. My coping of my lacking was to tell myself that this was ok. That I had closure and completeness. That the lack of an emotional connection with my mom being this elusive thing was just what it was and was ok.
But then, I as write this, I see that this is not true. That there is grief and loss in this. That the disconnect, whether in this most recent interaction of impatience and frustration or even in the more accepting dynamic of caring and nurturing, still is a detachment from my mom. And so a loss of mother.
I did not see this until just this moment.
My mother-in- law died in December and we had her memorial service in January. I wrote a piece about her and read it aloud at the service. And, as I walked up to share my words, I started to cry. This surprised me. I did not think I felt the loss of her until I was there, standing in the loss of her.
This feeling I have, right at this moment, writing this writing, this is that same surprise. That there is loss here. That I miss my mom. Even as she is still here with me.
It is important and it is good that I see this now. I hope I can hold on to this.
I'm here with my sister, the little one. Not that she is little. She is an adult. Like me. And my other sister, too, who is the older sister and so the big sister. We are all adults. But this weekend we were little again. Even while we were not.
I am here with my little sister, as the big sister went home. She left yesterday and the little sister leaves today and then I leave tomorrow. We are leaving from our parent's home in Florida. This is the first year that they have spent at their new apartment that they just bought so that they could get away from the cold and the snow and the storms of the New England winter.
So my little sister and I are writing this together. Which we do sometimes when we are together. Because it is fun. And makes us laugh while we write some pretty awesome writings. We have very similar perspectives. And the same sense of humor. We write great together.
Ok, so let's get started.
We were going to talk about this door thing. We were going to name the writing A Door Metaphor, which is a really nifty rhyme and talk about why the wrong way is often the easier way. Like it's easier to eat badly, it's easier to not to exercise, it's easier to not work hard.
We started thinking about this when the sliding doors in my parents porch kinda place that looks out over the water got all twisted up. Now, these are not the kind of sliding doors you are thinking of. These are three panels on each side sliding door kinda things. And each door is on it's own track and each door can move. And so they can get all tangled even though they shouldn't because if you push to hard they easily move too far passed each other - which is the wrong way - and it's really hard to get them back.
So we asked.. why is it easier to move them the wrong way and have it be so hard to move them back the right way?
So let's talk about food and the fact that we had key lime pie every night. But we don't want to say that key lime pie is bad or that eating it every night is bad. It's not good to say that things are bad, it's just when you pair this with six baskets of bread and full meals, and some snacks during the day, let's just say we are feeling a bit sluggish this morning.
Ok, being little.
It was just the original five, the nuclear family that our parents created. I was coming down for my birthday and invited my sisters to come with me as my birthday present. So we could all be together without the focus veering off to our children or husbands or any other distractions that happen when the rest of life comes along, too.
It was nice like this.
We went to the beach like we did when we were little and our dad woke us up early - like 6Am early - to get to Jones Beach before the crowds and then we would leave at around noon to head back home and go to the local, community pool.
He did not wake us up that early this time. He wanted too but, though we were little, we are really still adults and we said no.
We sang in the car like we did when we were little. We sang show tunes. Fiddler on the Roof and Godspell. And listened to Hamilton because no-one but my little sister knew the words.
We played ball in the street like we did when we were little. With a Spalding. We don't like this spelling because we call the ball a spaldine, or spaldeen and so we think it should be spelled like this. We played catch and we played this game where we have to bounce the ball one more bounce each time we send it to the other person. So one bounce, then two, then three....
We hung out on beds - one on the floor because this place doesn't sleep more than four. So my little sister slept on this foam mattress thing that my dad's dog loved because he got to sleep on it, too.
We held hands as we walked around this really cool, old Florida neighborhood rather than the built up and mall-like stores and restaurants that line the highways now. We held hands as we walked and talked.
We went out for every meal (hence the key lime pie) and shared plates of food.
And we took lots of pictures of the five of us as we squeezed in for a selfie while we walked along the path outside my parent's home or jostled for space on the bed.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Dog and Cat lover.