God winks

Often, when we look back at our lives, we will see strange coincidences that came at meaningful times in our life. That person you met, show you watched, book you read, something you overheard that serendipitously was just what you needed in that moment. My pastor calls these God winks. It feels like someone is watching over you and caring.

Of course, these could be just coincidental. But they are important, pivotal, coincidences.

Emma Thompson puts it this way:

I think books are like people, in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them. After my father died, the book that sort of saved my life was Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Because of that experience, I firmly believe there are books whose greatness actually enables you to live, to do something. And sometimes, human beings need story and narrative more than they need nourishment and food.

Emma Thompson in @oprah’s O Magazine.

The most important thing is having the eyes to recognize the impact and the willingness to be open to change and growth.

God winks are everywhere if you develop the eyes to see them.

With friends beside you.

I recently read the book, Remarkable Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt with my book club. It is a wonderful book of, among other things, the friendship between a 70-year old widow and a giant Pacific octopus. The main character has her own group of friends who have been together for decades and call themselves the Knit-wits because they started with knitting in common.

One of my book club members, the youngest (as she often reminds us) asked at our meeting, “Are we the knit-wits?” I smiled. I have known this group of friends for decades. We raised our children together and now are delighting in grand parenthood together. We’ve weathered storms together, celebrated each other’s victories, and helped each other through loss. We meet religiously every week to catch up with each other. What a delight it is to have ‘through thick and thin’ friends.

I found this sweet friendship poem I offer here to them.

A Friend

A person who will listen and not condemn
Someone on whom you can depend
They will not flee when bad times are here
Instead they will be there to lend an ear
They will think of ways to make you smile
So you can be happy for a while
When times are good and happy there after
They will be there to share the laughter
Do not forget your friends at all
For they pick you up when you fall
Do not expect to just take and hold
Give friendship back, it is pure gold.

Gillian Jones

A very buzzard homecoming.

Recently, I pulled down an old scrapbook from my junior high days to show my granddaughter Lily who is just that same age now as I was then. It contained many ‘treasures’. Among the many letters and cards from my late grandmother was one talking about the buzzards coming back home to Hinckley, Ohio, a phenomenon which I remember amused me. Imagine celebrating buzzards!

She wrote:

It should cheer you somewhat to know that the buzzards returned to Hinckley, Ohio, on schedule on March 15th. It is always a comfort to know those gorgeous creatures ‘do their thing’ each year, as anticipated. It would be a bit discouraging to prepare pancakes and sausages for 35,000 eager folks, and have no buzzards to join in the celebration!

Oh, how I loved her, her humor and wit, her warmth and love, her writing style. I have always felt such a kinship with her and reading over her letters makes her feel so close.

Her letter got me thinking. First, about buzzards. Sure enough, a quick bit of googling shows that buzzards are still returning to Hinckley on schedule and have been celebrated since 1818!

And then about the cyclical quality of nature. The monarchs go south and then back. The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano. The elephant seals come back to Cambria. We humans who love animals mark their going and celebrate their homecoming, yes, even the buzzards, and note the steady passage of time.

And finally about how those we’ve lost stay with us even after they’ve gone. Lily has a freckle on her right hand which I’ve told her is her Nana freckle. I load it up with kisses often when I see her. When I’m gone, I hope that freckle will remind her of how very much I loved her. My grandmother and I were separated by thousands of miles, but our letters exchanged helped us stay close. Those letters remind me now to pause and share bits of life, simple moments, with the people I love. Those moments become the memories and precious treasure later.

Even the ones about buzzards.

(I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the lead picture with buzzards. Lol)

Bird chirping weather.

Every day this week, I’ve woken up to birdsong, which is a particularly delightful way to pass from dreams to reality. I’ve been working on the garden—planting, pruning, weeding, trying to make a pretty space. Birds singing out there make me feel like they approve and they’re calling me to the adventure of creating ‘our’ space together. It’s a party out there, and I’m both the host and an invited guest.

Those singing birds make me feel so hopeful.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all …

By Emily Dickinson

I’m spring

As I age, I have a new appreciation for those poets like Dylan Thomas raging against mortality. I do not want to go gentle into that good night. I like it here.

Here is a new variation on that theme I enjoyed:

Sorrow Is Not My Name

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

A generous window.

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

~ from Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2005)

Loving what’s mortal

As we age, there is loss. That loss is like a presence that follows us relentlessly like a shadow. No avoiding it. No pretending. We are mortal. The people we love are mortal, perhaps imminently so. This is part of the rules of engagement. And while most of us avoid thinking too much about it, poets like Mary Oliver offer life instructions:

To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes, to let it go, to let it go.

I honestly don’t know which of these three rules is the hardest. Right now, they each seem nearly impossible. But having the courage to follow these instructions feels like the answer.

Her full poem is below.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983.

Just as you are

Mr. Rogers had a gift for seeing each child he encountered as an individual, a neighbor, someone worthy of respect just as they are. No need to impress him, or to put on an act, or to pretend. He accepted children. Period. No strings attached.

How wonderful.

Do you feel you are enough, just as you are? Sometimes our families, friends, or societies give us the message that we aren’t. That we need to be thinner, richer, smarter, younger, more attractive. Something different from what we are. That we must think the same as they do and fall in line. It’s exhausting.

What a gift it is to accept people, including ourselves, just as is. No one is perfect, so why pretend we are? We each have strengths and weaknesses, things we’re working on and things we’ve got sorted. Instead of finding flaws, we can look at ourselves and each other as complicated works in progress, with value just as we are, giving ourselves and each other ‘the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.’

Thankful for the whole everything.

Yesterday, I was minding my business, making a quick salad for lunch. As I peeled the sticker top off the little plastic tub of cherry tomatoes, I was caught by surprise. On the back of the sticker was a picture of a man and a scan code to learn more about him.

It turns out Gabriel Bizarrón helps to make sure my tomatoes are bug free and have the right nutrients, He is working toward a degree in agribusiness. Gabriel is one of the many people responsible for helping me have a delicious healthy lunch, and I’m thankful for him.

Which got me thinking about all the other people in the chain of bringing these tomatoes to my belly, and there are so many. Stopping and imagining all the hands and minds that went into bringing my meals into existence, and being grateful for each of them, was quite a fun exercise. There are so many! What a wonderful invisible web of people there are behind the scenes to bring each of us food, clean water, electricity, and so on. Not to mention being grateful for businesses, like this and like Snapple with their hidden quotes, that take time to make their packaging inspirational. It is staggering once you start thinking about it, and really no end in sight, because each ‘thankful for’ leads to another, infinitely.

What a wonderful world!

Compassion for animals.

Apparently, today is World Penguin Day which reminded me of this delightful story about penguin JinJing and the man who saved his life. Each year, this little penguin swims 5000 miles to be with his friend.

So much is beyond our understanding including heart-warming stories like this about the bonds between a wild animal and a human who showed them kindness.

Enjoy this video.