Solstice 2022

It’s been so cold where I live. The plowed snow has turned into blocks of ice and each footstep down an icy path has to be watched. Last week, following a friend down such a snow-covered trail, I did the splits. She was ahead of me chattering away and was oblivious to my near fall. A man driving a snowplow nearby, applauded my quick recovery.

Yesterday, I drove south an hour to feel the warmth of sun and the busyness of a city, especially busy during the holiday season. This is a season that we have masterfully manufactured and turned into a time of stress for some and profit for others. While there, I went to Barnes and Noble Booksellers to get myself a calendar journal for 2023 and a wall calendar for my daughter. I note the ways that we mark time. My new Jane Austen calendar journal doesn’t show Solstice. I think that it should and I write it in the little square.

Shouldn’t every calendar should show the days of turning. The days where there is a pivot, a change in the light and the dark. Tonight marks the longest night. In Pagan cultures, this has been and is a cause for celebration. The longest night marks the rebirth of the sun. As winter stretches out before us in the northern hemisphere, with Solstice, there is also a rebirth of hope…that spring is going to come. For now, there is a need to contemplate, to release what no longer serves us and to plant the seeds of what we want to grow this year. Planting them in the deep dark within, like the flower bulbs in the garden, we harmonize with the cycles of nature. I wonder, if I lived in alignment with these cycles and let myself be guided by nature’s calendar, might I feel less bound by the man-made pressures of modern living.

It’s a quiet Sunday morning. I sense the desire to pause, slow the day down and give presence to the tasks that I’ve set before myself. And not to be concerned if everything on the list doesn’t get done. To make it alright that everything isn’t checked off the list. Tonight, I plan to participate in a free online Solstice event with Michael Meade, author, mythologist and storyteller.

A poem I wrote as I begin this day…

The days of turning
the longest dark
the deepest inward opportunity
But we’ve created a fantasy world
of distractions, diversions
that distance us from nature’s cycles
And we wonder why we’re
“out of touch” with reality
why we falter in our daily lives
We live our lives virtually
because it’s what we’ve been handed
by those who decide
what entertainment is,
and tell us what we need
At the end of the day,
I resort to such distractions
because “the world is too much with us”

Today, I pray for the pause…I want to slow things down and experience each thing that I do or say as the miracle it is. Anything, everything is worthy of my attention, deep noticing and gratitude.

Blessed and happy Solstice to you. May you find what you’re looking for today and always.

Looking Back, Learning Something, Going Forward

It’s snowing–like the early days when I first moved here to Mount Shasta. The blanket of white is in place and now the snow is falling heavily, coating the tree limbs and sticking to the walkways, driveways and streets. I probably won’t go very far by car today…and if it’s icy, not on foot either. I’m fine with that, for today. I have plenty to do here.

Last week I shampooed the carpet in my dining/office/art studio–an all-in-one room. I was expecting company at the end of December and it felt like a good start towards cleaning and preparation. That and baking pies, cooking meals and freezing them. Then, I got the notice that my daughter’s family couldn’t make it. Their son, my grandson, has three mandatory basketball games scheduled over the Christmas holiday! I thought this was a time to gather family together! I wrote to the coach at the high school. I objected, to no avail. Apparently no one else has challenged this tradition in the sixteen years that it’s been happening.

So, change of plans. I am sifting through my writing to see if it might be of use in future projects. The thing is that I like my writing. I learn about myself when reading an early journal. I witness my predicament as a woman at a certain stage of life. I realize the links this writing has with other women across the planet. I appreciate when I write as if I’m a writer that someone might actually read. I have fun employing metaphors. In rereading something I wrote all those years ago, I recognize the passion I felt at the time.

Here’s an example that took me on a journey. I wrote in third person–it’s been noted how writing in third person gives a degree of security when sharing something that you deem to be very personal.

They were skimming photos of nieces and nephews that he’d known from their past life together. She barely flashed a photo of herself with her new boyfriend but it was enough to hit him like an icy splash of water in his face. It smacked his dream down–the dream of her coming home and resuming family life with him. She noticed his response and felt sad but not like she should fix it.

I wrote this on the heels of my divorce after thirty years of marriage. The divorce was a long-time coming. I chose not to leave while our two daughters were in school. And then I left, gradually, but finally.

A good friend of mine has said more than once that “When your spouse dies, you grieve this very big loss and society expects that of you. However, when you get a divorce, there is less recognition and compassion for this very big loss. ” That would include the loss of your ideals, your dreams, your mate, your growing old together, family gatherings where you can both be amicably present. There can be a sense of having failed and sometimes shame. it’s every bit as hard as death and usually as final.

I had every reason to leave. He played the part of an abusive alcoholic with occasional bouts of sentiment. I played the part of the battered wife who tried harder. We were young, nineteen. Both of us fresh from dysfunctional childhoods, both lacking a real sense of who we were and what we desired for our lives. These many years later, I feel the loss although less potently. I have reviewed time and again, contemplating if there was a point where we could have healed our marriage. I realize that I had sacrificed too much in trying to make it work. Both have to want it and both have to try. There is that lopsidedness that women employ to try to make it work. It’s got to be a mutual effort or not at all. My mom, in her final years, made a wish that I would have someone to grow old with. Her marriage of seventy years modeled the second class and disrespected position that she held within their home. I wouldn’t want that and I don’t think that I want to care for a man in his waning years.

Taking a walk has been a way to gain perspective when I’m facing a difficulty.

Her lower back ached like an old blues song, whiny and deeply felt. Each breath tugged at the ache; a yawn immobilized her. This one-hour walk which had seemed like a good idea, a positive way to begin the new day, had turned out to be a test of her endurance. Why this pain–this relentless sob of pain? It caused her to mark each step; no sudden uncalculated moves.

Reading this early writing, taken out of the context of my larger life, I recognize the struggle of someone (me) who was trying to find my way while clearing out the clutter of other’s ideas of who they think I should be. I had been, like my mother, the woman who endures and stays in a marriage no matter what. Then, I no longer was
that woman.

She wondered what her life had been about as she lay there on the sofa staring out the cottage window–the new poufy-valance curtains she’d sewn defying the ruggedness of her environment. The heating pad warmed the small of her back while the hot water bottle heated her stomach–she was a toasty sandwich in between. And there were no definitive answers. She was as dichotomous as the opposing genders, as sun is to moon, ocean to desert; wizened parent to defiant teenager. Everything she desired she didn’t desire. Grown up while staunchly rooted in a forbidden childhood. “This isn’t good for you!” “But I want it!” tantrums at times.

The story continues until it doesn’t.

“…Growth of a Purpose.”

” I began to have an idea of my life, not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know.”

Joanna Field

Joanna Field was the pseudonym chosen by Marion Milner when publishing her books. Her first book, A Life of Ones’ Own (1934), was a chronicle of seven years of her life as she traced what made her happy and what she wanted from life.

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It seems that some people (how many do you know) appear to be born into their purpose while most others stumble along trying to discover their purpose. And even if you have a sense of your purpose, few people actually get to live from that knowledge. You have to consider “Can I get paid a living wage to live my purpose (or passion)?” Do you wait until retirement years to do what you love and answer the call that you always knew was there but didn’t quite fit in with your parents’ or society’s notion of what was an acceptable profession and/or would earn you a comfortable income?

Human beings on the whole are a study. And we continue to be studied and analyzed and categorized across the various genders, cultures, belief-systems, how we govern ourselves and you-name-it categories. And we study ourselves by other’s criteria typically in the form of self-judgment, self-criticism and self-denial. I have an acquaintance who mirrors this to me on occasion. She reflects on herself and her choices and her dissatisfactions. However, in her reflections she continually finds fault with herself for not landing on her specific purpose or getting to the root of her discontent. In self-criticism, she can’t rise to an occasion of celebrating who she is and what she brings to the table. “WHAT DID I COME HERE TO DO?” she wonders as she wanders through her life, estranged from herself.

I sometimes note that this friend has really good qualities of cultivating her friendships. Is that a purpose? Hmmm. Why not? Because you don’t make money at it or it’s not a profession or a career. However, it is an essential and prized quality, often overlooked as a life purpose. If she could look at who she is as a friend, what she brings to it, how she celebrates others, perhaps, within that there is a life purpose, one she could even make money at if she translates the qualities it takes to be a good friend into something marketable. I don’t like that word a lot. However, as women, and as a single woman, it is important to find what you love and then figure out how to make it into a deliverable service that others want to give you money for.

I tend to witness the “gradual discovery of a purpose” over the course of my life. Someone once suggested that you return to your childhood likes and recognize in that your purpose. What did you lean towards almost organically? If your dreams, hopes, desires, natural tendencies weren’t vandalized by parents or authority figures, perhaps in there you can see where you purpose lies. What I enjoyed doing always revolved around making things–learning to cook gourmet meals at a young age, crafts delivered in the mail monthly that my family enjoyed once I put them together. Playing school–teaching. If I rummage through those early years and into my young marriage, I can see the woman whose salvation lay in how I took the broken pieces and wove and rewove my life through making things, through writing, through painting.

Maybe my purpose has more to do with qualities of resilience through creativity, through art, through cooking and each one of these isn’t complete unless I find a way to share them with others. That’s a key piece of the purpose behind any gift that you may have…how do you share it with someone else. The benefit for me is in the process of creating. the completion of that process is in some way sharing it with others…whether through a blog, through an art exhibit, through a dining adventure.

Valuing our gifts in a world that doesn’t…that’s another topic entirely!

Loneliness and Creativity

Observation on a Buddha Rock

I know loneliness
a rock separated from a streambed
My particular glamour
is less appealing here
Like this displaced rock
am I commonplace
or too old

This rock
a misshapen Buddha
solitary Bodhisattva
witnessing the cleaving
remembering the whole

What dissension shattered humankind
into separation
Lonely and separate as this scarred rock
perhaps once praised for its cool detachment.
Who cares to take the time
to decipher the untold encrypted story

A star has fallen
to the bottom of the sea
fossilized
while a starfish rises
in the darkening sky
experiencing
alternate realities

God is in us–
is all right with the world
Has the solitary rock learned compassion
Is that the panacea for loneliness

by Christine O’Brien

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In her book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, Adriana Diaz guides the artist/reader/ creative explorer, into many exercises that enable creativity. The subtitle of her book is: “Drawing on the Power of Art to Tap The Magic And Wisdom Within.” One of these exercises invites the reader to find a rock. And then, to sit with the rock, examining its many surfaces. To see the rock as a living being and to become in some way intimate to its experience. To draw it from its various angles and perhaps to write about it as I’ve done in the poem above.

We seldom do this, stop and be present with an inanimate object. Who has the time? I certainly didn’t when I had a bustling household with children, husband and pets, a part or full-time job, extended family. I wonder though, if I had taken the time, even once-a-week, if I wouldn’t have been more present, more grounded and more available to myself and others if I had paused to deepen a connection to myself and to something in nature.

I titled this blog Loneliness and Creativity because when I feel lonely and venture into the creative space, loneliness disappears. In the naming and writing of this poem, the feeling of loneliness dissolved into “art.” Have you experienced that? It’s almost magical, in fact it is magic. It’s an alchemical experience. The base ingredients of one’s loneliness, feelings of isolation or separation blend with the pen, the paper, the paint, the brush, the clay, the camera–whatever the medium that you are using–and are changed into something higher and lighter.

I’ve experienced this more than once. And I know that I’m not the only one. When Covid hit the headlines in 2020 and we were told to isolate, I began to post photos on my Facebook page of the beauty that surrounds me living here in the mountains. Those of us who live here see it daily. However, I have family and friends who don’t live here and since I believe that beauty lifts the spirits, I made a commitment to do this. In this way, I connected with others indirectly. And, I also allowed myself to be the witness with the camera who recorded this beauty. And this beauty was a salve for me too.

All of this to say, we each have creative resources. Regardless of what any former teacher or person of influence in your life might have once told you, we are all artists and our unique way of expression has value for oneself and others.

The Written Word

I had “high tea” with an old friend, a man, yesterday. We met at the local art gallery. We were pleased at the presentation of our two unique pots of tea with matching cups on coasters set on a tea tray with a mini pitcher of agave for sweetening our Masala chai’s. He had the black tea version while I had the rooibos (not caffeinated) version. The presentation elevated the art of sipping tea. We felt special. And the whole thing evoked a conversation about an acquaintance of his, a potter in Sebastopol, who at some point in his career visited Japan and returned with the inspiration for a whole new line of pottery with a Japanese aesthetic.

Conversations are funny animals…they start in one place and then wriggle into another entirely different arena. I mentioned that I had begun clearing clutter once again. Not exactly clutter, but I had ripped several pages from a journal dated 2020, not that long ago. I quickly found that on each page was something about which I became curious. This led me to investigate further online, to inquire into why I had thought something was important enough to write down in the first place.

Sorting through my written words, reading them before I decide to discard them or not, certainly stalls the clearing process. There on the same page is a reminder to buy applesauce with a notation of the Werner Herzog film “Where the Green Ants Dream.” I did rent and watch that film and found it to be insightful and sad. But I hadn’t seen the other film, “Neither Wolf nor Dog.” I added it to my list of films to watch.

Then, there were notes from a Permaculture group that I had met with briefly, before Covid. I can let those pages go for now. Then the reminder to “Do something for someone else”– always a good idea. And then to “dress wild.” I wonder if I was feeling too conservative and hemmed in by inner and outer strictures at the time. I don’t think that one took–maybe I added some brighter colors to my wardrobe. Lists that were fulfilled…or not. Tomato plants, applesauce again, reminder to buy a birthday card and book on meditation for one of my daughters. And to call my oldest brother to see if he remembers “the old man” in the neighborhood when we were kids.

As a woman of the age that I am, I wondered on paper about what my job description is these days. Is there an affirmation that I need that might propel me forward in my life…a way to live that is fulfilling to me and helpful to others…I wondered. I added books from my notes to my books-to-read list. And there they were, the directions on how to make a face mask. I pondered in pen if there was a group that embodied artists for social change.

My friend and I duly noted how one can get diverted so easily from an initial task and end up pursuing another direction. How could I resist following the note to listen to an interview by Frederik Skavlan, (a prominent Norwegian TV host, journalist and cartoonist) with Leonard Cohen and his then partner, Anjani Thomas? I told my friend that I’d send him the link to the interview which was quite good. And a link to Pearl, a once-upon-a-time Mount Shasta spiritual icon. In her very late years, there she was reciting a poem about aging and she broke down and cried towards the end of her recitation.

My friend said that when he and his elder men companions meet at another café daily, they discuss what it means to them to be aging. And they comment how they no longer “fit” in this world. And, he also said that they talk about getting rid of stuff. He might pick up something that he either received as a gift or purchased on a whim at one time. He has had it for say ten years or more. It has no particular use other than being novel. He dusts it off, studies it and decides he can’t part with it yet.

I tell my friend that Al Gore was also on the stage in the interview with Leonard Cohen. Cohen had said something like “It’s only catastrophe that encourages people to change.” Al Gore begged to differ on that point…he believes that we are at a critical time on this planet. And that “A course correction is urgent and indicated.” And that we need to employ our foresight to change that course. Hindsight is a luxury that we don’t have in this case.

Later on in the day I listened to four young Norwegian men singing Hallelujah…one of Leonard Cohen’s songs that has global appeal. I find it difficult to easily part with the written word. It takes me down so many tunnels. Enjoy your day.

Pablo Neruda–Is He Ageless?

Discovering Pablo Neruda in every new generation is an adventure in interpretation and application. Sometimes wise words seem specific to a time and place, dated. Then, other times, they seem to be so present that we think they were written for us just yesterday–addressing our current circumstances. We might think that the specific quote or poem must belong to us–our generation, our culture, our humanity as we are today–it is so right on.

I’ve noticed that the most read-across-the-globe of all of my many blogs, the ones featuring anything that mentions Pablo Neruda get the most hits. Why is that I wonder? Is it because he was a man in exile from his native country and others can relate to him? Is it that they too know what it is to love one’s country and to be banished from it? Is it that his words strike a chord of truth and depth that humans share in common. (Poetry can do that.) Is it the emotional impact that is innate to poetry that twangs that emotion within us?

This little poem written by Pablo in his Book of Questions…what feeling does it raise in you? For me, when I pause to sit with a poem, reread it several times, that’s when it reveals a deeper meaning to me.

If the butterfly transmogrifies
does it turn into a flying fish?

Then it wasn’t true
that God lived on the moon?

What color is the scent
of the blue weeping of violets?

How many weeks are in a day
and how many years in a month?

from Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions

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We can only wonder what prompted Pablo Neruda to write this poem. We can take any one of Pablo’s questions and receive them like a Buddhist koan (a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment…Wikipedia).

What is your interpretation of these, Pablo’s questions, within this poem? What was his intent as the poet? Is he pondering the inadequacy of logical reasoning in this human existence? Is he tongue-in-cheek, teasing the reader to think outside the box of logic? Is he tickling the mind to go beyond what we perceive as the truth of anything?

And then, why not? Why doesn’t a butterfly become a flying fish? Anything is possible in the realm of imagination. Where can you go if you expand your thinking and become more inclusive of that which seems preposterous? Then, where can you go if you expand your mind to be inclusive of another culture, race or creed, another perspective, a greater universe?

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I’ve had days, like yesterday, that felt like a year in a day. My daughter and her husband have been fighting covid. A family member had a stroke and ended up in ICU. My Aunt Marie, my mother’s youngest and last living sister, died. And I found out about it on Facebook!

How can we translate the nonsensicalness and inconveniences of life into something that makes it less personal and more palatable…or at least not suffer so much over what is inevitable?

Pablo, for every question you ask, I have at least fifty more to toss at your feet…wherever you have landed. Have you, Pablo, turned into a mushroom or are you a planet that we haven’t discovered yet out there in the vast and unknown universe?

Aha’s: Part Three–Separate Unity

I first heard of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in my late thirties. She migrated between several ashrams, one in India, one in New York and one in Oakland, California. An acquaintance told me about the ashram in Oakland, bordering Berkeley. In search of a spirituality that my Catholic upbringing didn’t offer, one spring day I visited the ashram.

When I think back on this time, I remember myself as a questing young woman. I was married and with children. I was in search of deeper meaning, spiritual solace and a community. There were things that stood out about the ashram. There was the indoor garden, like an arboretum, with fragrant Jasmine climbing trellises. The Chanting Cave was a sequestered room that was pitch dark. Being in a totally dark space, sensory stimulation was lessened. The constant was the recitation of the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” as chanted by Gurumayi. This mantra played repeatedly over 24-hours. Anyone could go there at any time and find comfort and serenity. It felt like a womb to me, protected and cushioned.

Seva, meaning selfless service, was a participation in making meals and cleaning up afterwards. It could mean cleaning the bathrooms or whatever else is on the list to keep an ashram running efficiently. The meals were vegetarian and they were nutritious and delicious.

Although it was communal, it felt like a private experience to me–quiet, respectful, and non-intrusive–as we walked through the halls or prayed or chanted together.

I did spend one overnight there. I had a little room to myself until a woman walked in late in the evening to share the space. She emphasized that her given name was Barbara but she had taken a spiritual name which I can’t remember. She methodically took her stones–they traveled everywhere with her–from a pouch and placed them on the little shelf behind her bed. They were her companions and support. She told me that she snored. All I needed to do if it got loud was to call her by her given name and she would stop snoring.

That evening, settling down for a night’s rest, the sounds rose up from the street below. There was a bus stop and voices congregated and they seemed to be aggressive. Finally, they moved on. Barbara also settled in for the night. Within minutes, she was snoring. Not a soft, easy snore…but a loud and grating one that couldn’t be ignored! After several minutes, I called her name softly. And then again, softly. “Barbara, you’re snoring.” She woke and thanked me, turned on her side and continued to snore loudly throughout the night. In the morning, she thanked me for being “so gentle” in waking her. She got up refreshed and went downstairs for the morning service. I declined and stayed behind in the little twin bed for a few hours more.

The thing about the ashram was that it felt like a safe place to be. Your personal needs were met–food and shelter, if I wanted it…but the spiritual talks, the music, the atmosphere was permeated with a deep feeling of peace.

One very auspicious day, Gurumayi was coming to visit this ashram. When a holy person comes to visit, it is called darshan. I parked the car blocks away and walked to the ashram. The line to get into the hall wrapped around the building and down several blocks. I couldn’t even count the number of people in line and wondered if we would all fit inside the hall. Food was being served. I remember standing in another line to get a tray of delicious food. I walked into the hall. On the floor, there were little mats to kneel or sit upon. I sat with my tray of food. I looked around the room at this sea of humanity. A sudden insight of our separate unity washed over me. We were all unique individuals and here we were, bound together by a common purpose, need, desire or just a shared meal. Whatever it was, it felt profound–that we could sit there together, peacefully, respectfully and connected in a deep way as we anticipated the blessing of Gurumayi.

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What did this separate unity mean to me? We live in isolation in so many ways. There are those of us who live alone and perhaps far from family. We think that no one else feels or thinks as we do. We protect our isolation because we don’t want to be too vulnerable. Yet, that day, sitting among strangers, I felt that deep thread of connection to all of humanity, to all of life. Each one of us is unique and we bring our gifts to the life we are living. And yet, it is so supportive to realize that I am united with others as I walk this pilgrim’s path.

“…The Courage to Start All Over Again”

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been tackling a lifetime of family photos. There are picture puddles all over my living room floor and stacks on and around my dining room table. There are albums that I’ve started and others that are yet to be decided upon. This is truly an intense immersion and not for the faint of heart. It invokes time travel and then grounding back into present time.

These photos commemorate a thirty-year marriage that finally ended in a divorce. They take me through all the stages of my two daughters’ growth–the birthdays, holidays, graduations, sports, scouts, family gatherings, siblings, the feasts I prepared…and then, the remembrance of the dearly beloved departures. These moments in time preserved in photos. And when I see them, I remember the stories that surrounded them. The mother-in-law who held tightly onto her son, my husband and her jealousy that seeped into our relationship. The father-in-law who always had to assert his macho superiority. The ex-husband who danced between his anger and sentimentality. The adorable daughters discovering themselves and the world. My dear siblings, there were nine of us, and our highly dysfunctional parents. And photos of me, young, pretty, naïve , trying to find my way through the chaos of the past and the then present.

There are times that I’m judgmental of myself–were there things that I could have done differently? Were there choices I could have made that would have improved the quality of my life and those closest to me? Yes, there are some regrets. But didn’t I do the best that I could with what I knew? I see how I can fall headfirst into that Pandora’s box of photos and spiral down with that undertow of regret. And then, don’t forget the generational trauma that has been added to the mix. Truly, there’s always that which is bigger than the small picture frame through which I’m viewing my life. There’s always a vaster landscape. I’m not alone on this wild journey. We all have our boxes and albums of family photos, and today there are the digital ones.

It seems like human frailty, vulnerability, happenstance and more are part of the whole. They are right beside courage, victory, endurance, determination, love. In life we co-exist with everything both inside of us and outside of us. There’s so much we don’t know about the soul’s journey. So much.

Recently, I listened to an interview with a young woman who had lots of struggles in her early life. She had been full of self-blame and there was early trauma involved. It touched me when I heard her say that she had cultivated a way of sending a beam of love to those hurting places within herself. Beaming love to those memories, losses and old trauma. I think that’s a good practice.

With all of that said and all that goes unsaid, I turn to the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” And I want to add, bring reverence to your whole experience, make it sacred.

Wherein Lies the Value?

Are there questions that you would like to have asked your parents while they were alive? For me, there are many. However, the questions of the moment would be directed to my mother. I would ask her about the double-strand of pearls that I wore on my wedding day. These pearls were “the something borrowed” from my mother.

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I wore white on my wedding day from toe-to-head. White patent-leather shoes, a white satin prom dress with a lace overlay purchased from Lerner’s on Market Street in San Francisco.  My mom ordered a short white veil with an imitation drop pearl crown from the Montgomery Ward’s catalog.  The crown dipped low onto my forehead.  The white fingerless gloves came to my elbows and, for the finishing touch, I borrowed my mother’s double strand of real pearls.  It was to be a low-budget wedding for two recent high school graduates. 

The wedding day itself went well.  Arriving at the reception, the only thing that was missing was the bride and groom for the top of the cake.  I remember a young man riding up on his motorcycle to the Presidio NCO Club beside the ocean where our reception was being held.  He pulled the plasticized couple from his backpack and unceremoniously placed it on the three-tiered wedding cake.

Perfection, like the double strand of pearls, like the creamy-skinned bride, like the perfect midsummer day by the ocean.  The sort of day that poet’s write about evaporated rather quickly into a too-young bride and groom who didn’t know themselves well-enough to forge a lasting relationship with one another.  Yearning for that perfect partnership didn’t make it a reality. 

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Recently, sifting through old photos, I came across a picture of that long-ago wedding day.  I noted the pearls, the same ones which my mother had given to me a few months before.

“Go into the bathroom,” she said.  “In the second drawer of the vanity there is a beige box.  Get it for me,” she directed from her wheelchair.

I returned with the rectangular beige box.  My mother opened it and handed me the double strand of pearls.  “I want you to have these,” she said.

I teared up as I tried on the necklace. 

I confided to my mother “When I was married, I asked Tom for pearls on more than one occasion.  He seemed not to hear my request.  He bought me a strand of pink and white ceramic beads from a craft show.  The tag read Parrot Pearls.  I guess he thought he was being clever.”

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My mother died in 2011. I wore the pearls for three weeks to honor her memory.

Last year, on a whim, I stopped into a local jewelry shop. My mother had collected a lot of costume jewelry. I was curious if any of it had monetary value. At the same time, I inquired about the value of the pearls.

“They are” the jeweler said, “impostors, a good imitation…not real pearls.”

I must have registered shocked surprise as the jeweler remarked “Sorry to disappoint you.”

Inside of the beige box was the label, Richelieu. It turns out that Richelieu Inc., was a “faux (fake) pearl manufacturer based in New York City, formed in 1933. Richelieu pearls were popular as an affordable alternative for consumers who were looking for inexpensive yet attractive faux pearls.” (Wikipedia)

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So much about my family history had been based in lies and betrayals. Was this just one more lie?

The questions I would ask my mother if I had the opportunity to would be:
Did dad buy the pearls as a gift for you? If so, were you with him when he purchased the pearls? What was the occasion? Did he tell you that they were real? or Did you buy them for yourself?  Did you think the pearls were real? These are some of the things that my inquiring mind wants to know. And I realize that I won’t ever have answers to my questions. Being a writer, I could conjecture a bigger story around these pearls. But I won’t.

Finally, though, a question to myself…Does it matter? Although the pearls aren’t real, the sentiment was–a mother wanting to give something of value to her daughter.


Asking the “Right” Questions

Sometimes, when we inquire into ourselves we ask better questions than at other times. Sometimes, we look to someone outside of ourselves to ask the questions of us. Looking back at a journal writing from 2001 (so long ago already), there were six questions asked of me. I don’t remember the circumstances of the inquiry, but I find them to be interesting enough to share here on my blog. I invite you to use them in your own inquiry if that interests you. I apologize for not being able to give credit to the source.
I wrote my answers to these questions in 2001. I wonder how my answers might be different today.

1. What concept, metaphor or principle is at the center of your life and how does it motivate you?

I do believe, even in times of confusion and uncertainty, that there is a reason(s) beyond what I can see for this earthly existence. Beyond my illusions. Someday, perhaps, we’ll know that this wasn’t for nothing. And, that there are higher ways of being while having our human experience.

2. What do you desire from life. What are you seeking to accomplish, create, assist and support?

I desire inner peace and harmony–a wholeness of the being I am. I seek to bring the wholeness of being into creative projects which foster my own development and the evolution of others–supporting and assisting them, through creativity, to integration and self-empowerment. I seek to actively express my personal glory thereby giving others the same permission to be radiant.

3. What circumstances would provide you with optimum conditions for satisfying your needs and fulfilling your expectations?

An organized base would be a good start. A directed focus. A mentor or guide. An intuitive connection with a higher self. Remembering who I really am. Loving, fearlessly and fully. What circumstances? Sort of an inner state of self-acceptance and trust that I’m being guided and that things are going exactly as they should. Risk-taking while trusting I’m cared for. Small dares to myself. Ultimate feeling of safety at deep levels.

4. What values and virtues do you admire and strive to engender in yourself and others?

Honesty with self and others. Connection to higher motives and my own wholeness. Respect given and received. Compassion given and received. Self-trust. Health of body, spirit and mind. Respect for the earth. Honoring my own presence and life experience.

5. What are the fundamental activities and behaviors that express your deepest intentions?

Conscious self-care: eating healthy, exercise daily, time in nature, studying, self-development, patience with myself, striving to grow, understand and fully accept myself.

6. What do you feel is the particular talent and perspective that you give to any relationship or endeavor?

A strong desire to learn, healthy curiosity and inclusiveness.

2001 Journal Writing

Today, I had a Zoom conversation with three other women. These women are seniors, spanning twenty years in age. It was interesting to me to realize that they continue to ask similar questions of themselves as they strive to make sense of life and their particular reason for being or raison d’être as is sometimes heard in French. The most senior woman, in her nineties, said that she believes that our singular life matters to the universal wholeness while two others seemed to be questioning that since everything is temporary or transient, what is their value over the span of time as we know it?

I offered why can’t it be both? While we are here for this length of days, our energy is affecting the whole. We might be remembered for a few generations if we have children and grandchildren…but then, we are like the stardust distributed across the vast universe. We concluded that we do matter. That felt like a good way to leave the conversation.

People don’t often have opportunities to have these deeper conversations, do they? We are caught up with getting through a day and handling our to do list and whatever presents. However, to realize that we matter and that one gesture of kindness at the grocery store today has made a big difference to the person who you offered to let go ahead of you in line. The homeless man at the post office who held the door open for me and thought that he had to explain that now he has to receive his mail through general delivery. The friend who invited me for a walk and this gesture that makes both of us feel less lonely in the world. I do matter. You do matter. We do matter.