Tag Archives: awakening

A Cornerstone No More

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I’ve had serious writer’s block as the past nine months have been challenging, full of emotion, a time to recast and reset patterns that have become destructive, a time to pull up every plant and look at the roots to see if they’re healthy for replanting or need to be tossed away.

I’ve been reading Elena Ferrante’s incredible tome of four books about a friendship that has lasted 60 years. And it’s hitting close to home. My “best” friend and I nearly made it, except that she died last year at 59. And we had had a terrible falling out five years ago. I’ve had a lot to think about and look back upon. A lifetime, in fact.

At 60 now, I finally feel like I can let go of a lot of shit, to put it bluntly. And that includes people who have been toxic for me. I’ve always been a giver, but after giving my entire life, I now know that I’ve chosen takers all too often, and as a giver, it’s time to set some boundaries because the takers won’t. One of the roles I’ve played, and am giving up now, is that of a cornerstone for people.

The problem with being a cornerstone in peoples’ lives is that they come to expect that you’ll always be there, strong and whole without chips or broken pieces, securely in place with cement all around, never worn down smooth from constant use over the years.

I admit I wanted to be a cornerstone for a lot of people. It brought gratification, acceptance, approval, love even. To be there always for someone gave us both strength. But it held huge responsibilities and guilt at times. When we moved to Italy 16 years ago, this same friend sobbed on the phone and said, “How can you move so far away and leave me? You’re my cornerstone.” Talk about guilt.

And when the cornerstone crumbles just a bit, changes position and becomes jumbled among other stones and bits of brick, who’s there to pick up the pieces? Where’s the cornerstone for the cornerstone? Not from the people to whom I’ve been one, apparently.

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My original post as I wrote it was full of details about this person or that, those who had “wronged” me with their selfishness, those who never called me to ask how I’m doing, those who have gotten pissed off at me if I don’t call even when I’m in a difficult phase of my life. Ahem.

I realized that it sounded whiny and that I was feeling sorry for myself. I’m not. On the contrary, after the horrible break with my life-long friend who accused me of all sorts of terrible deeds that I had done to her, it was the kick in the ass I needed to let go and change my behavior. It was actually a gift, though a painful one.

I’ve learned a lot about life from building fires every night in our wood-buring stove. If you keep messing with it, trying to make it light more quickly by fussing and trying to control it, it won’t light. The best thing to do is let it catch by itself and then watch it glow and eventually brighten into a beautiful, roaring fire.

So, the cornerstone has been put away in a safe place where even I can’t get to it. It can crumble on its own, wear down, eventually slip away. And I won’t have to take responsibility any more for making sure it holds.

And I truly appreciate even more the other two wonderful friends I’ve had for over 40 years. One I met in junior high, the other when we worked together in our late teens. We’re always there for each other even if we don’t talk or write for months. I know now it’s because we’ve never considered the other to be a cornerstone, rather we’ve been more like gentle wild grasses that bend in the wind, grow and die with the changing seasons, then come back greener than ever, breathing with life, sometimes with surprising gifts, caressing each others’ hearts with brilliance, color, and love.

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Faded memories no more

August 19, 2014

I’ve just reconnected with my dear friend Russ from 42 years ago. Little did he know what a gift he gave to me today.

ninaMy mother would have been 86 today, and I wish she were alive to see these old photos of me dancing my heart out with abandon, especially since I was ballet-trained and normally very disciplined. (These photos are stills taken from a very old film.)

 

She loved my dancing, supported and encouraged me, and she was there when I fell from grace.

Russ sent me a link to a dance recital from high school back in 1972. Memories of that night flooded back to me. Dance was my life, my breath, my soul. I went professional for one year before realizing the competition was too stiff and the pain too great. I came home from New York a little bit broken, but I knew I had made the right decision to quit. I continued dancing for years and now wonder why I don’t anymore.

Memories fade, what the body could do fades, the desire fades. After enough years, even the belief that one could do this—actually did do this—fades. I never felt good enough, always feared that I wouldn’t live up to expectations, knew that I didn’t have what it took to be a real dancer. Sometimes I wonder if it happened at all, was this person truly me?

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I have photographs of my “dance career”, but even they seem unreal, posed, photos in frames on the wall that became wallpaper that no one ever looked at anymore.

But seeing an actual film of myself dancing with movement, soul, grace, and (gulp, dare I say it?) some talent, I knew it was me and it was real. We can never go back to another time, the past is the past, it’s over and done. I’ll never be that young, lithe body again, I’ll never feel on top of the world again, dancing with such freedom or suspended en pointe holding an arabesque for endless seconds. That chapter is closed.

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And yet. Russ, you gave me back a part of my life today and made it live again inside of me. I can say with all honesty that I’m filled with joy for what had been. Seeing that chapter open for one moment has allowed me to close it once and for all without regrets. I am truly grateful for this gift of my past life, which I can now reintegrate into my present life emotionally, if not physically.

At her finest...

At her finest…

Mom, this is my gift to you today. You did well with your love, and these small moments are a tribute to you. Miss you so much.

Weekly photo challenge: Beginning

‘Beginning’ can evoke emotional and powerful feelings…but sometimes a beginning is…well, not quite what we thought it would be?

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Breathing again

The greatest gift this birthday was the full moon, which brought my mother to me in its silvery light. I’m breathing again three years after her death; this is the first birthday I’ve wanted to celebrate since then. It’s just like her to know this and send the full moon to me.

P1010978Two years ago, I posted a piece about the gifts she had given to me on various birthdays (My birthday gift to you). This one tops the charts, for it’s the gift of getting my life back without the black hole that became my heart for too long. Life does go on with its pains and losses, joys and discoveries, and above all, with all the richness of color and living things that surround us if we take the time to look.

To breathe again is to take in the world and realize that this most precious thing we call life has been given to us…not to waste or rage against or try to obliterate. My birthday wish this year is the hope that the millions of people who don’t even come close to having what I have will be able to breathe one day and start to live.

Why?

Why not?

When I was younger and full of spunk, that was my answer.

But that was before society crashed into my psyche and started asking why I do nearly everything I do. Why do you do that? What were you thinking? What was your motive? What do you suppose happened? What will you do in the future to change?

I’ve apologized for so many things I’ve done, small and large, until I feel like I’m going to break. Self-esteem has hit rock bottom off and on for 50 years. And you know what? I don’t know why I do a lot of things. And I’m tired of explaining, justifying, apologizing.

I finally remembered something my mom said years ago, and it’s my mantra now. “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

This is my philosophy from now on. Why not?

Upside down kitty(Downloaded from FB, photographer unknown but want to credit whoever made this wonderful photo!)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Reflections on the Vltava River, Cesky Krumlov, in Bohemia, Czech Republic.

The sky smiled up at me

The sky smiled up at me

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

This week’s photo challenge is about merging two diverse entities. This photo is not photoshopped. I took this photo through one of our wrought-iron gates looking out onto the morning light in the trees.

Through the portal

Awakenings…or I took a walk with a bee

It’s the small things one notices, and then the certainty. The season has changed. Spring is here, but it’s only just awakening.

Beginnings ripple throughout the countryside and suddenly there is color and sound and flight where there had been darkness and snow. I wonder if plants do have a secret life, secret from humans, that is. I just bet, when they’re flowering and leafing, they feel as excited as we do during our own awakenings.

I took a walk with a bee this morning. No kidding. I had gone down to the creek for my morning walk, and on the way back I started collecting sticks from the forest floor. They’re the best kindling for our fires as they’ve fallen naturally from the trees and have gathered lichen–great material for a fire starter.

So there I was, walking along holding my sticks, and I realized I had been hearing a buzzing sound for a few minutes. I looked down and sure enough, a brown, fuzzy bee was kind of hopping along just in front of my feet. The forest floor is oozing with moss and other strange mucky things from the recent rains, and it’s producing some beautiful white and purple flowers.

This little bee was ecstatic, jumping from one oozy mess to the next, then to the flowers, then back to the tips of my boots. She stayed with me for about 100 meters. Once in awhile I got ahead of her as she fell, intoxicated, into another patch of flowers. Then, she was back, hopping on my boot.

A breeze funneled down the path, whispering through the trees and making the world around me shiver. We reached the fork in the path, and I looked down just as she took off from my boot. We went our separate ways.

As I walked back up the hill toward our house, I thought, huh, I just took a walk with a bee. Well, it’s spring. Stranger things can happen I suppose. When I rounded the corner, I said, yep.

Revisiting old souls

Decided to re-post this piece from two years ago. I love this history…hope you do as well!

All Souls Day (November 1 or 2 depending on the time in history). The day of the dead. Time to visit cemeteries and pay respects to ancestors and loved ones, integrating the past with the present. Life is a cycle of birth, living, decline, and death. It is a gift to be cherished, and the dead are to be honored for the life they once gave.

An excerpt from my book, The Field Stones of Umbria, describes the history of this day, as well as Halloween:

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth (in some countries, it is the Day of the Dead). In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralla, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and this probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse, meaning All Saints Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve, and eventually, Halloween. In A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.