I hope I don’t live long enough to see Major League Baseball change the game from nine innings to seven. Can you imagine what that will do to all the statistics? I gather that people aren’t staying until the end of the game anymore. The stands empty out after the seventh inning stretch. People go to take a few selfies and post on Face Book. “The game is too long,” they say. What? When I went to Ebbets field we stayed to the bitter end, and often, bitter it was. I love being involved in all nine innings. The game was never too long. Now everything is too long because it is not about the present moment but about being on the move to the next thing.
It’s quiet at our house right now before Christmas. Family is arriving tomorrow. This year we have a smaller tree, one in a pot to be planted after the holidays. It’s small; we have to carry it. I think about the tree my dad cut down from our woods when I was growing up. One year he decided it would only have blue lights, and I recall being a little disappointed at that. But that’s he only disappointment he ever gave me, so how lucky was I? VERY!
When our kids were little we purchased our tree from the Boy Scouts. The lights that I bought way back then started shorting last year—they were old—so I threw them out before disaster happened. Now we have little ones, which match our little tree, and which are safe.
Christmas traditions change, but they also stay the same. Memories through the years, and new memories being created. Very grateful!
It’s been a week since my last post. Since I try to post every other day, what’s with this mini gap? It is not due to lack of silence, solitude or simplicity in my life, but perhaps because lately I’ve had a comfortable mixture of activity and the 3Ss. In other words, time to BE, which for me means time when I don’t have to DO or THINK, and time to DO, which means time with others.
Sometimes I can’t believe how content I am in doing, or, shall I say being, nothing. In part, it is an age thing. Like any # 3 on the Enneagram, I have DONE stuff in my life. Now the challenge is to be. (Search Enneagram and learn about yourself, what number you are.)
Saturday, however, was not a being day. I attended a United Church of Christ Super Saturday event in Connecticut. One workshop was about dementia. As the leader went through the stages of dementia (in which a person a person lives backward to infancy), I was reminded of many incidents and situations with my mother toward the end of her life. I was surprised, and pleased that my siblings and I didn’t think of Mom in terms of dementia. We accompanied her in letting go, enjoying the way she was at the present moment. Dementia isn't the only story.
Four years ago my mom took her final breath, died, passed away. There are myriad ways of saying it. Died feels final and clinical; final breathe softens it. For me, however, passing away feels more like what my mom did, but I want to add ‘to a better place’, whatever that means? I don’t know, no one knows, but many of us believe that something beyond this earthly exist, and that it is good. Christianity declares it, and those of other faiths, as well as agnostics and atheists, have a sense that death is not final. For many believing that death is a big black hole is too frightening. For everyone, there are the memories.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our 2004 Camry with 175,000 miles showing on the odometer. Jim and I are on our way to Pennsylvania to visit Emily, Tony and our grandkids. On the way we’ll stop for lunch at my sister’s. It’s a particularly a poignant time for me, because she now lives in the condo that was Mom’s home from age 80 to 90.
Um, it just dawned on me that for the last seven years of Mom’s life, we drove this very car to visit her. Longevity comes in many flavors.
I’ve picked up If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, a gem of a book by Brenda Ueland (1891-1985) that I put down for two months before I went to Scotland and became involved in family and Camp Fisher activities. Now my life is my own again and I’m settling into my home version of solitude, and into my writing..
I love Ueland’s message, blunt and unconventional. Just listen to this!
“But the great artists like Michelangelo and Blake and Tolstoi—like Christ whom Blake called an artist because he had one of the most creative imaginations that every was on earth—do not want security, egoistic or materialistic. Why, it never occurs to them….So they dare to be idle, i.e., not to be pressed and duty driven all the time. They dare to love people even when they are very bad, and they dare not to try and dominate others to show them what they must do for their own good. For great and creative men know what is best for every man is his own freedom so that his imagination can grow in it’s own way, even if that way, to you or to me, or to policemen or churchgoers, seems very bad indeed.”
That’s enough to ponder for the rest of the summer, or year, or a lifetime. Of course we’re not all great artists, but that’s not the point. We all have a creativity, imagination, spirit, whatever you want to call it, to nurture and express, even if only to ourselves.
What resonates with me is the permission Ueland’s gives me, all of us, to be idle, to be free from the duties that we feel the rest of the world is pressing on us. In that idleness, experienced in solitude, we are free, free to create, but also free to let go of the judgments we have about other people. When I dare take the counter-cultural stance and go to the cottage or travel alone, I satisfy my own good. It may appear selfish, but I think of it as being honest, which is essential for inner peace, and that I dare to assert is the ultimate goal of all of us..
Where do the memories of my artist dad fit into all of this? As my sister said at the gallery opening of his work, Dad was disciplined. It’s a given that to be good at anything we have to practice. But Dad also took time to be idle. Again I’m reminded of all those times when I would see him sitting in a chair in the woods. Sometimes he had a sketchbook with him, but my recollection is that he just sat. I wish I could ask him what he was thinking, what his process was. But maybe the memory of him ‘perched’ there as I, absorbed in my play, ran by, is enough. Dad and I, both in our imaginations, working things out. Dad, the grownup, thinking. Me, the active ten-year old, active, my thoughts and actions working simultaneously. Now, sixty years later, I’m more in my head although I get many of my best thoughts while walking. Regardless, whether sitting or walking, I am idle and alone.
Florence is not silent this spring, nor during any spring for that matter. The woman who renewed my Amici degli Uffizi card, told me ‘Oh, you’ll notice a big difference when you return in the fall.’
Easter Monday brought out not only the tourists, but the Italians. I’ve never seen any line at all to climb the Giotto’s Campanile, but there it was, a long one yesterday. Of course, if you’re not in line when it opens at 8:15, there is always a wait to climb the Duomo. There were crowds in the piazzas and on the streets, but thank goodness there are plenty of restaurants with plenty of good food. “You can’t get a bad meal in Italy,” so the saying goes.
Another silence breaker is construction noise. The Baptistry, taking its turn for a deep cleaning, is completely covered with scaffolding. Major repairs are still going on around the apse of the Duomo. As I sit on the terrace of the Bibliotecca Oblate, I can hear repair sounds coming from the street between me and the Duomo.
I love these sounds of life. I resonate with the tourists; I wonder if I will walk by a student who is finding her-Self. I love these stone buildings; they exude stability, hope, and possibilities yet to be imagined by those by pass by, for the first time, or after a life time (not finished) of visits.
Florence wanderings: first 24 hours~
Today is opening day for the Red Sox. No, I’m not going. It’s too cold to sit in the stands, and besides the game is at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Memories of opening day 1955 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. A friend and I had sent for tickets and taken the train from Connecticut to New York, and then the subway to Brooklyn. We arrived early to see batting practice and all the pregame activities, but when they didn’t open the gates to let us in, we knew that the game was going to be called before it even started.
Any Dodger memory is worth of telling as far as I am concerned. But the Brooklyn Dodger memory supreme for me happened that day as my friend and I were heading away from Ebbets Field. Standing there in the rain was Jackie Robinson, looking around for someone.
“Do you think they’ll play tomorrow, Jackie?” I asked.
“I think so,” replied a rather preoccupied Jackie.
“Who are you looking for?” bold me continues.
“I’m waiting for my wife.” And with that he put his signature on the little piece of paper I handed him.
I wish I still had the autograph, but memories are really better.
My friend went back to Connecticut. I called my grandmother, Brooklyn Dodger fan supreme, and spent the night with her on Brooklyn Heights. The next day she and I went to the opening day together. That was the beginning of that magical year!
I’m working away on my memoir: writing, deleting, writing, deleting. That’s the way it will go until I settle on the major theme, the coordinating color. Right now I have a clothesline of ideas but so far they don’t make an outfit. As best as I can figure, the book will be about my search for solitude as I live into my seventies, and the effect that Mom had on me during the last two years of her life.
Writing that helped clarify.
Yesterday I attended the memorial service for my friend Denny, a friend for 45 years who died at age 90. Evidently she happily faded away, which is what all of us would expect from her. I remember Denny telling me that when she was a little girl she noticed that she often felt sad. “So one day I decided to pretend to be happy. And you what? I started being happy and I’ve been happy ever since.”
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4/30/15 Finishing up VG.