Tag Archives: fear

WE ARE THE SENTINELS

18th February, 2017                   WE ARE THE SENTINELS

 

Each time I was pregnant I would read the section in Dr. Spock’s book on how to cut the umbilical cord. I would read it over and over, trying to remember where to clamp and where to cut. The thought of having to cut the cord held more terror for me that the thought of giving birth, as if to clamp and cut incorrectly would be the fatal mistake. As it turned out, my first child would be still born, some fatal mistake already made.

My second daughter arrived alive and well and with a striking aura of independence which rendered the cutting of the cord somewhat redundant. That said, when a few days later the remainder, still attached to her naval, fell off, I put it in a little box as if to have eternal proof that we had once been so attached to each other. Of course, it too, eventually returned to dust, as will all of us one day. What I was not prepared for was how the bond between mother and child can never be severed, no matter how either may act toward the other over a lifetime. That bond, as ineffable as a gossamer thread, tugs at the hearts to which each end is connected. So when I said goodbye to my girl a week and day ago, a tremor of distress vibrated between us.

We form so many bonds to so many people and places and beliefs during our brief stay on earth. Sometimes these bonds are rent asunder: think of the refugees. But on a deeper level they resonate forever. We are living in an age where, for many of us, the attachments we have to truth and decency and honor, are being sawed through daily by those whose power is fueled by fear and greed. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of New York and the US in general, I also felt the pang of attachment as the plane took off. Not only to my family, but the large part of my life spent there. Also, for three weeks I had experienced being part of the mighty, righteous, resistance movement of millions of citizens and would-be citizens as we found our courage to fight for our attachment to goodness. It isn’t a tug of war; the rope frayed long ago. But as the new administration severed one tie to decency after another, the people immediately forged a new one. And the bond between us that we now know to be as necessary as the umbilicus, will not be broken as long as we acknowledge it and fight for it.

Yet, how easy it is to sever oneself from responsibility. How easily I came through the garden gate here in my Tuscan paradise, and felt relieved to be “away from it all.” How easy to believe that here on this farm I am protected; the fire lit in the hearth for my arrival; the fresh eggs on the table; the joyous greetings from friends and shopkeepers, “Ben tornati!” It is deeply satisfying to be here. To see the light play on the vibrant green hills, the roses already leafing out, the birdsong of early spring, the first brave camellia flaunting its crimson petals.

Here, where the attachment to family and food is still the basic attachment to life. I feel the distance between me and my family, but our bonds are strong, too

All week I’ve busied myself with errands and cooking and gardening. The new couches arrived, made and delivered with an attention to detail that reflects centuries of pride in craftsmanship.

My dear Teddy Bear who is as old as I am, traveled in my suitcase and now sits happily in the library, the bond between us unashamedly recognized.

The weather is so glorious that yesterday I lunched outside with friends, the three of us sitting at the old table, the sun so hot we stripped down to T shirts. And in the middle of it all I wondered when was the last time that any member of the U.S. government or the new administration, or the Prime Minister of England, or the European leaders of the far right, or a terrorist, when was the last time any of them enjoyed the bond of friendship, the connection to nature, the attachment to simplicity?

Once again, I urge all of us who are fighting the good fight, to take regular time out. Turn away from your screens for a day; turn your face to the sun. Feel the gossamer threads that link us to each other, threads as powerful as the strands of our DNA. We are giving birth now to our courage and the labor is long and hard. But we can do it. Even from afar. We are the sentinels.

SEASON TO TASTE

15th May 2016                                SEASON TO TASTE

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One of the many aspects I love about living in Tuscany is the equal division of the seasons. I thought about this again over our Sunday English breakfast this morning, a tradition for us, along with the accompaniment of Vivaldi’s Oboe Concertos. Perhaps only someone living here could have composed The Four Seasons, in which each movement is given equal weight. Here, each season is apportioned 3 months, a measure of time that allows for total immersion into the separate wonders that each season offers.

I had been concerned while in New York that I would miss spring here this year. In New York, as in most of the North Eastern States, spring and autumn gets a brief fling before jumping straight into full blown summer. Autumn, likewise, although extremely beautiful, still lasts but a few weeks before giving way to 5 months of never-ending winter. But when we arrived here mid April, spring was just gearing up; less than 3 weeks into the season it still had another 9 to go and I have been reveling in every one of them.

me&jasmine

The days are warm enough to work in the garden in a long sleeved T shirt, the evenings cool enough for a fire. Sudden torrents of rain are followed by breathtaking light that seems to come up from the earth as much as it comes down from the sky. What joy to watch the lavender send its yet to open spears into the air; the roses burgeoning buds gradually scenting the air as the unfold. The gaura in the rockery is still a teas of wands whose flowers will dance like butterflies right through the autumn.

The garden, which I stated 2 years ago, looks as if it were here forever and is finally becoming the wild place I’d hoped for; a garden that looks un-manicured, even though it takes work to look that way; a place that blends with the majestic landscape beyond its borders.

before the garden


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I grew up on the south coast of England, on the Gulf Stream; a temperate place that also had 4 equally apportioned seasons. I love the rhythm of living inside nature’s time, each season long enough to bask in, yet short enough to make one look forward to enjoying the next.

Earlier today we lay naked on the sun terrace. Now the sky has darkened against which the pink of the roses climbing the arched entrance to the garden seems unbearably tender as the petals shiver against the gunmetal clouds. A rumble of thunder heralds rain and soon we’ll make soup and light the fire.

sculpture

All this beauty we breathe in every day and for us it makes a huge difference to our sense of wellbeing. For, let’s face it, life happens no matter where one lives. Beauty or no, I still had to have a bridge put in my mouth. The surgery to remove the failed implant, along with what was left of the surrounding bone, was a traumatic experience, perhaps made more so by the stress of Z’s illness. Oh, and anyway, let me be honest, I’m terrified of dental work, having had more than a fair share of nightmarish experiences dating back to the first at age 5 with the school dentist. So, couple the terror with the challenge of finding a new dentist in a new land in a new language and you might get the picture. Finally, I started making inquiries with Italian friends, one of whom turns out to be terrified of dentistry also. So, off to her dentist I went.

Wow! We walk the cobblestone streets of Siena to the medieval building that houses his state of the art practice: 3 waiting rooms with Italian designed furniture; 5 treatment rooms, one just for kids; smiling, loving assistants, and the dentist himself a kind, thorough, reassuring man….and he speaks English!!! After a consultation I made an appointment for last Friday and left feeling relieved.

Yet when the day arrived, terror came back for a visit. As always, I like to name the terror: What are you afraid of Maggie? Oh, that’s easy: pain, teeth crumbling because they’re too weak to support the bridge, something awful will happen like the drill penetrating my brain, or my heart will simply stop. Oh…I’m afraid of dying. Why? Because I like it here, because I like being alive in Tuscany and I don’t want it to ever end.

Talking about this Joel last night, we shared how each of us has reached an age where death makes its presence felt on an almost daily basis. It’s a strange presence, unbidden, a shadow that comes out of the shadows. And we cannot mathematically change the fact that we are in the winter of our lives. A brutal season winter; and yet glorious, the world laid bare to the bones and we with it. Shorter days giving way to lazy, cozy nights; the sense that one’s labor is over and each day is an opportunity to be present in that that day and that day only. And so we drove through the glorious countryside to the centuries old city and I thought, well, if today is the day, how lucky am I that it came down to this: well loved and surrounded by beauty.

us

The procedure wasn’t fun. I particularly hated the use of the hammer to remove the crowns…nothing regal there! But the needles went in like feathers and a little potion of something relaxing was offered, followed by 15 minutes of being massaged in a leather recliner while the anesthesia took hold; the room semi-darkened except for soft light that cycled through the colours of the rainbow. As I opened my mouth the dentist said, “Don’t think about the past.” Forty-five minutes later the bridge was in and Joel took me for a gelato.

It seems to me that winter is the season of acceptance; acceptance that everything must end: each petal, each spear of lavender, every tree and field, a tooth, a dream. All will be replaced, as will we. But until then let’s revel in the courageous cycle of spring.

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NB. all photos for this post are by Joel Meyerowitz.