Monthly Archives: September 2015

THIS LITTLE LIGHT

14 September, 2015

stone lovers

I received a lovely email from a reader in response to the last post: BALANCE. In her email she told me she has been following the blog for several years and that sometimes she was tempted to stop when it “got too dark.” I’m glad she didn’t, and I’m extremely grateful for her honesty and encouragement. I try to write about reality as I experience it; certainly it’s only my reality and the way I experience it isn’t always on the bright side. So I have often wondered how many readers are put off, or lost, as a result of my “darker” experiences.

I think it was Chekov who said that happy families don’t make for good fiction. I would add that perpetually writing only about “happiness” doesn’t make for a good essay. Nor is it of service to those of us who are willing to experience the suffering that is part of life. I admit that I went through a rough patch for a few weeks this summer. I could have kept my pen capped and waited until I could tell you that said rough patch had passed and how grateful I was for it and how much I learned. But I chose not to. Maybe I should rename the blog “The Whole Hog,” because, really, life is a pig sometime,s and I’m not interested in pretending otherwise.

However, I am happy to report that my return to Tuscany on 6th September, after 2 weeks on Cape Cod, was absolute joy; the miracle of landing safely from two flights; the joy of coming in my garden gate; the blissful embrace of this simple home; the delivery of fresh eggs from the hens down the lane; the gift of groceries from Luana’ the hugs from everyone; the sheer, inescapable beauty of the landscape and the deep comfort of slipping into bed – albeit with out my Joel – gazing out the window to the night sky; the hills recumbent yet pulsing with the mystery of centuries.

omelet

I couldn’t wait t tell you that as much as Cape Cod was familiar and beautiful, it no longer holds me in its thrall. It was somewhat like seeing an old lover, one that had been a grand passion and from whom parting had been a heartache. The kind of lover that keeps a piece of one’s heart for a while, causing it to flutter when a surprise sighting occurs. Then, one day, you see the ex-lover on the street, or at a party and your heart stays still. You are free to love again. Now, my heart belongs to Tuscany.

outside lite

And what a thrill, the day after my return, to find myself speaking Italian without aforethought. It was as though not speaking it for 2 weeks had let that part of my brain absorb, uninterrupted, all that I have learned so far. I spent that day, Monday last, pottering around the garden, surprised and proud at how much it had grown in two weeks; much the way I used to feel when my daughter would return from summer camp. I spent that day and the next two, reveling in my solitude, eating what and when I wanted, playing piano, gathering thoughts about the next essay for the blog and working on a new series of drawings.

Rocks 4

Meanwhile, my dear Joel had gone from Cape Cod to New York for 9 days, for work. We missed each other, but talked and laughed daily via Skype. Life was rich and we were – and still are – excited about Joel not taking on new projects next year. Instead we are planning to travel in Italy and the rest of Europe where we have many friends.

Plans.

On Wednesday evening, Joel’s “baby” brother, Steve, was killed in a car crash. He leaves behind a wife, 3 children, and an extended family along with so many friends that his funeral this past Sunday filled the synagogue and spilled outside. I don’t need to tell you all the details. I’m sure every one of you has experienced tragedy and loss. But I can tell you this: kindness is everything. I can tell you that we must all do our best to seek beauty and light and that even so, there will be ties when the heart is so heavy that beauty and light can only be registered for later use. And I can tell you that I believe we are light and that our light is full of the beauty and mystery of all time.

On Wednesday evening, before I had learned of Steve’s death, I lit all the candles in the house. On Thursday evening I designated one for Steve. When I went to light it, I saw that even without a flame it was already lit. I choose to believe it was Steve’s spirit and that his light, like that of each of us, remains forever. It is up to each of us, for as long as we are alive, to look up and register it.

For Stevie

With love to you all.

BALANCE

September 1, 2015

Bubbles

There are times when it doesn’t pay to read too much into things; like for example, what might it mean that I came on vacation without my fountain pen? Certainly, after nearly 4000 miles of travel and a rough landing, to not find my pen in its usual place in my travel bag made me somewhat cast adrift. Nor does it pay to search for all the reasons as to why I might be to blame for the black mould and mildew crawling up the walls of the vacation rental I had found online months ago; so sure, then, that I had found the perfect Cape Cod house in the woods between a pond and the sea; a place where, after an absence of 4 years, we would continue a family tradition which, for me, began 44 years ago, of summers on this salty spit of land.

photo2

When we arrived on 22nd August and finally made it to the rental with out daughter and her partner, the smell of mould and mildew in the house was so intense we could barely breathe through our instantly inflamed nasal membranes. Like most vacation spots, rentals here go from Saturday to Saturday, leaving us with only one possible house to bunk down in until we had the energy to find something more suitable. We ended up in a suburban house, albeit on a little pond and comfortable beds and for the first week ventured off to beaches and ponds with intermittent stops at realtors looking for home for the second week.

Mold

I went to an AA meeting last night on the bay in Provincetown. The topic was Balance and at one point, as I drifted from listening to someone share, I had to control a guffaw as I remembered that for a good portion of my life the definition of ‘balance’ was getting the amount and timing of enough cocaine snorts to keep me nicely wired for the night, coupled with just the right amount of booze to take the edge off. Now, balance is a shifting menu that see-saws between intimacy and dependency, chores and creativity, socializing and solitude, thought and action, judgment and tolerance, Tuscany and America. Rarely do I experience balance as easily as riding a bicycle. If I had shared at the meeting, I would have said that I have recently experienced a period of mental and emotional imbalance that took me by surprise. The problem with this kind of imbalance as opposed to physical imbalance is that it is much harder to shift one’s weight, and in fact, carries the sort of terror that I imagine falling off a tight rope with no safety net might incur.

Our vacation see-saw has been neatly divided into two weeks: the first in a house and area not of our preference, and this week in a light-filled house on a tidal inlet on Lieutenant’s Island, the peace and beauty of it all gratefully inhaled through every pore into every cell. And through it all, we two couples, Joel and myself, and my daughter and her partner, heroically recalibrated the distance between ourselves and each other and, more importantly, between disappointment and the opening up to new adventures.

Porch portrait

iz fire elli

Unlike the tick-tock of the clock, which demands a balance between seconds, the tides with their six hour spread between high and low twice a day, slow down our inner clocks, at first putting us off balance as we continue to hurtle along at digital speed for a few days before surrendering to nature’s time. And in the surrender, the last dregs of recent distress ebb, salty tears mingling with salty sea.

Wellfleet

I hadn’t been to an AA meeting in a few years, but as is always the case, I got what I needed there, not only in the opportunity to reassess the true nature of balance, but also the chance to reconnect with early sobriety. Just the day before I had shared with Joel that although I had finally given up the decades-long search for, and addiction to, the need for recognition, what I was now experiencing was similar to the first year of sobriety when, along with the relief of surrender comes also the sorrow of it having taken so long as well as the disorienting sensation of a loss of a big piece of one’s identity. I chose to sit with all of this alone on the beach in front of the house, letting the rest of the family take care of dinner preparations while I let the last of my sorrow wash out to sea, the tears turning to compassion for all the decades I spent wanting something that has nothing to do with my true nature.

Moonrise

And surely, part of being balanced is accepting the reality that one can’t maintain it 100% of the time: the volley will end with a ball out of bounds, the surfer will fall off her board, disappointment will temporarily throw us off course, loss, of any kind, will take the ground from beneath us. Then, the best we can do is not to read too much into it but rather, as the song goes, “Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.”….today, for me, with a $12 pen and blue ink!

Blue Ink 2