Be the Light: We Can Make a Difference

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Thank you, dear readers, for this space to pass on two blog posts I’ve read this week about how we can be part of transforming this country, and the world, into an inhabitable place of love rather than a fearful place of hate.

And I would be remiss not to also say VOTE! It’s our privilege and our responsibility. 

From my writing teacher, mentor, and friend, Christina Baldwin: How Apology Works.

Apology requires that we have the emotional maturity to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ even when we are not 100% sure we are 100% to blame. Training in this maturity begins in kindergarten as children are coached through ambiguous social interactions…

“…Again and again we race past opportunities that could help us heal and choose instead to cause more harm. To compound tragedy, it seems quite clear that Justice Kavanaugh has no idea he missed his chance to cross the divide of privilege and pain in this country; that he could have called Senators to their integrity, rallied bipartisan support for his entry onto the Supreme Court, and most importantly, stood as a surrogate in the shattered places in a million women’s hearts by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ And we, the battered citizens of America, would have been shown a model for opening dialogue toward relationships of amends. He might even have shown the president how to behave.

Read the post here to see the words Justice Kavenaugh might have said that could have had transformative powers rather than those he did say that widened the chasm.

Justice Kavenaugh missed a huge and public opportunity. But how many opportunities do we each miss every day? From another author whose blog I read, Heather Lende (author of “Find the Good,”): The Light of Trees and Grandmas.

He was really nice to her, and spoke gently and slowly, and took the time to point her in the right direction, even though there was a line and he was in the middle of ringing me up (and I was late for a meeting.) She was so appreciative she smiled with a beautiful bright light and thanked him earnestly and walked toward the produce section…

“…Did you know that elders played a significant evolutionary role in safe communities? You know how after fifty-five or so we don’t sleep as well as we used to? Turns out that was good for the clan, or the tribe, or the village. Grandmas like me shouted the alarm when there was danger in the night. And don’t you think that now is a good time to be extra awake and pay attention, and call out to the lights all around us when we see and hear them in the darkness– the kind gestures, the well chosen words, the pleases and thank yous, and how can I help yous that shine us on the path to peace and justice and how we want to live with others in this world we share? Isn’t it the least we can do?

Read the post here to see how a grocery store clerk seized an opportunity to be the light. And how the author passed the light back to him.

And as Heather Lende reminds us, there is always Mary Oliver:
“Go easy, be filled with light, shine.”

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

—Mary Oliver

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All Souls’ Day: Remembering My Mother

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She’s been gone six months and eleven days. It seems like forever. It feels like she was never here, that I was never buried in caregiving, that she was never driving me to the brink. That I didn’t lie in my bed at night crying, promising myself that this was not my forever and not believing it.

But I’m revising my memoir again, attempting to reduce it by 40,000 words before I pay an editor to read the rest of them, and I remember. She was here. She was driving me to the brink. And I miss her.

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Yesterday I finally cleaned out the rest of her dresser drawers in preparation for giving away the bedroom furniture she and my father got when I was in junior high or maybe before that. That’s when I got the dresser they bought used when they started living married, three years after the wedding when my father returned from the war; but maybe it had been stashed in the basement until I got my own bedroom. I still have that dresser and I want to use it again.

My mother was quite the collector of jewelry, very little of which I remember her wearing. Some pieces still have the price tag attached. Some that people, including me, made for her. Some of it may be her mother’s. Sometime, while she could still see and write, perhaps with the help of her favorite paid companion, she went through it all and wrote notes on many pieces, so my sisters and I would know its origins. She never got rid of any of it.

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I didn’t know she had a “love” of horses (or what it means in quotation marks). I think there is much I didn’t know about her. And I wish I had known the questions to ask.

Along with dozens of scarves and piles of my father’s plain white handkerchiefs, it fills the four dresser drawers I crammed it in when I cleaned out the other seven drawers for my own use. I touch each piece, most still in original boxes, as I put them in bigger boxes.

This is what I miss: her being young and acquiring this jewelry. When she went to church and concerts and her favorite restaurants and traveled with my father. When she wore necklaces around her neck rather than her dark glasses to cover her regular glasses outside; instead of her hearing aid remote; rather than the pendant to call for an aide to help her in the bathroom.

This is what bring tears: when my father bought jewelry for his love and sent it across the ocean to her, longing to be there himself.

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This piece of jewelry was in the box with this note, but since she is wearing it in the photo above–taken, I believe, before he went overseas–it does not go with the note. Unless the story I thought I knew is inaccurate. I wish I could clarify it with her. I wish she would have remembered if I had asked.

This is the mother I miss: the one who every year at Christmas wore the clip-on holly leaf earrings I made in fourth grade art until she lost one, or it broke. Insisting she loved them, until I finally understood one year that it was me she loved.

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I put the two stuffed boxes in the basement, then go back and get out her multi-strand pearl necklace. I don’t know if the pearls are even real, and I can’t picture myself wearing them. I just need her close by.

“…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.”      —Mary Oliver

 

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Adventure Log: Roadtripping in North Carolina

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I traveled across North Carolina this month on the blue highways (well, highway is stretching it for some of the roads), from Asheville to Raleigh via Burnsville and Sparta (near the Virginia border). I visited family, longtime friends, and saw beautiful countryside. You can read the words and see more photos on my post “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Here is the photo journal.

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Leaving Seattle at sunrise under the crescent moon.

 

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I love kids soccer, especially when a grandson is playing! Ethan scored two goals. Memories of his father and aunt and times gone by rush in.

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White Duck Tacos on the French Broad River in Asheville.

 

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Hooker Falls on the Little River in the Dupont State Forest.

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The Bigs and their parentals.

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The Little River is an old favorite. It runs through Elkmont Campground in the Smoky Mountain National Park, the place of my first solo camping adventure after many camps there when my children were young and not so young. It was also a place of my mother’s heart when she was a young woman.

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Triple Falls

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Heart rocks did not abound here, but we did remember Nana.

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From the Bigs’ backyard near Weaverville.

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Max answering the hooting call from his grandfather down in the holler across the road at sunset.

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Scored a visit with my big sister who just happened to be at nearby Montreat from her home in northern Virginia.

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The Toe River near Burnsville.

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Sharing my friend Katherine’s soul place on the Toe; I’m not the only one who has left Raleigh. She lives in Celo, a communal land trust community established in 1937 to care for the natural environment.

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Toe to toe on the Toe with Mama.

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Road trip! Traveling north to Sparta to visit Norma, another friend who has left Raleigh.

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Dancing clouds led the way.

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Sunset from Norma’s front porch.

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Sunrise from Norma’s front porch.

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New artwork at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, my former church home and employer. They finally got new pew cushions!

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Before I moved away, I served on the committee planning for this work by artist Catherine Kapikian. It’s the first time I’ve seen it. Designed by the artist, it was executed by members of the church community and depicts the radical inclusion and values of the current church, complementing the ancient history in the stained glass.

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More time with friends.

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A Place at the Table is a radical restaurant concept to feed fresh good food not only to those who can pay, but also those who can’t. There are 60 such restaurants. Read about it here.

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A walk at Lake Johnson greenway out friend Vickie’s back door.

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You’ve heard of bikes that can be picked up and dropped off; Raleigh also has electric scooters! (It’s a little scary, both for drivers and, I suspect, riders.)

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Back into Seattle at sunset…

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…under the nearly full moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Log: You Can’t Go Home Again

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I lived in Raleigh proper for eight years, worked in the city longer than that, and lived in the county that contains it for two decades. I’ve been gone six years. Although this week’s visit was my third, I was nearly completely lost. I guess you really can’t go home.

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After making multiple wrong choices on the maze of interstate interchanges coming into the city, the next morning I can’t make it from my friend’s house where I’m staying to my favorite café where I wrote my first blog every week—two blocks from where I worked for eleven years—where I’m meeting friends for breakfast. The street names are familiar, but the map in my head of how they connect is completely gone. I drive in circles with no idea where I am or how to get where I want to be until I happen to come to the street the restaurant is on, the name of which I had forgotten. The remainder of my time in Raleigh, I depend on Siri.

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It doesn’t help that there are new traffic circles (the first ones went in shortly before I moved and have now multiplied like rabbits); many new buildings; new businesses in old buildings; and torn down buildings.

My favorite blueberry crunch bagel at Café Carolina is now mysteriously too sweet. I’m reminded of my mother grumbling that foods aren’t as good as they used to be, declarations I rolled my eyes at in their predictability. The café and that bagel are among the very few things I have missed since I’ve been gone. I don’t have to miss them anymore. The Panera Bread and its cinnamon crunch bagel, where I write many a blog post now, have become home to me.

After breakfast I wander into the number one place I’ve longed for the past six years: a sweet boutique grocery store called The Fresh Market. I note the new signage as I approach it. I’m lost from the moment I walk in the door as the picture I’ve carried with me evaporates. It’s been completely reorganized; nothing at all is familiar. I wander for the three minutes it takes to quickly walk the circumference and I’m out the door. I don’t have to miss that any more. Of course the FM scone I loved has been long gone, the reason I settled for the blueberry crunch bagel in the first place.

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I mention to my friend that though the Nissan dealership washes my new car for free, I’ve missed the car wash where I used to get my Honda CRV washed, hand-dried, wiped down inside, and vacuumed for $10. She tells me it went out of business. Don’t have to miss that anymore.

Before I head to the airport on the last day of my visit, I drive to the last two beloved places: my dear house and the historic cemetery where I watched many a sunrise before I went to work.

My neighborhood is barely recognizable. More houses have been renovated, some torn down and replaced. New neighborhoods surround the old one. My house looks mostly the same, other than yard improvements I saw several years ago. My prized banana tree—that the new owners moved—is a thriving grove. The front door is still Global Purple, and that makes me happy. The lawn is still weeds. Then, as I drive on by, I realize they have removed the fence with the purple window pane door my son Nicholas built for me. It was my pride and joy, and that makes me sad It’s not mine any more.

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I expect property values have gone up and I wonder for a micro-second if I should have hung on to 609 Edmund. The wondering doesn’t last long, though once home I check the city deeds records online and confirm my suspicion.

The last stop is the Oakwood Cemetery. Old friends there are right where I left them. There are some shiny new stones scattered among the ancient ones, but otherwise at least one neighborhood is unchanged. I can breathe there.

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Heading out of town on the way back to the Charlotte airport, after making wrong turns on what I thought would be a simple Siri-free drive to Hwy 64, I decide to drive through the first neighborhood, in Apex, my family owned a home in when we moved to North Carolina in 1988. I get lost somewhere between a new Costco shopping center and where the high school Nicholas attended was but now is not. I never get to the house, but end up in what was a decrepit tiny town but is now super cute.

I love the friends I had when this was my home. I felt loved and cherished spending time with them again, just as they always had made me feel. I miss what we had then. But, like me, they have moved on with their lives and the lovely evening we spend together is more time travel than reality. I look forward to hosting them at my home someday (some have already been). I will lavish hospitality on them as I share my new familiar. But while I will continue to visit my grandchildren at the other end of the state, I will not return to Raleigh. I am a stranger in a strange land there.

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My American Airlines flight flew close to Mt. Rainier in the glow of the setting sun before making a wide circle over the entirety of Seattle and its islands as the moon cast a ribbon of light on its waterways. I usually fly American, but only one other time in the more than 40 years since I left home, do I recall it taking that same long eye-popping loop. We were 40 minutes early. Maybe the crew was eager to be home too.

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“Are you home?” my seat mate asked as we touched down. “Yes,” I said. “Oh, yes.” Good and truly home.

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