In February my One Little Word journey takes me from Celebrate :: Now to Celebrate :: Love. Its funny how these words are stringing together in unexpected ways. While marinating with Celebrate :: Now I realized that as our oldest daughter nears nine years old, she's half way to eighteen. And I suddenly had that feeling that time collapsed. I have joined the ranks of seasoned parents (aching with nostalgia for what was sweet and for what went undone) who claim to novice parents (exhausted with sand paper eyes, surrounded by the faint smell of spit up that somehow never dissipates, staring back in disbelief), "it all goes so fast." And what I realized is that now is the time, as it always is, to embody what I aspire to create for my family. Time is passing and the openness and magic of our girls' childhoods will flow by us. I also realized that love to me in 2013 feels very different than it did in 2000 when I got married. And to address those two thoughts, somewhat surprisingly, Graham and I have decided to renew our wedding vows. Knowing that I'm a wedding Celebrant and that I love weddings, people have asked me in the past if Graham and I would renew our vows, and the idea has appealed to me, but I never felt like I knew how or why I would do it. And now I have a sense, a feeling, a flash--that renewing our vows may be a way to tell our children the story of who we are as a family... a way to offer extra attention to how we love in our family... and a way to reflect the expansion of what our marriage vows mean to us now... We're going to do it simply, just the five of us in a place that we love. The only thing I'm sure about is that whatever plan we end up with will not be the thing that actually happens. This is an experiment, and the uncertainty of it is something I'm trying to embrace. May we all do something a little uncertain on this day that celebrates love...Happy Valentine's Day!
I wish I had been in LA this weekend where Katrina Kenison sat zazen with Karen Maezen Miller (author of one of my favorite books, Momma Zen) at the Hazy Moon Zen Center and then appeared at Vroman's Bookstore. Instead I satisfied myself with re-reading parts of The Magical Journey and finishing this book review. Every once in a miraculous-while, writers gift us words that point the way toward wholeness. "Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth... You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore..." --Naomi Shihab Nye
The Magical Journey, a memoir written by the author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day, like Nye's poem, does just this. Kenison's most recent book chronicles a passage in her life in which several aspects of her identity “dissolve in a moment” into her life’s broth. She loses her long-time job as an editor. Her second son leaves for a boarding school unexpectedly. Then one of her best friends dies of cancer. And in three clean swoops, life swallows her identity nearly whole. The memoir begins as Kenison, already dear to you if you've read The Gift of an Ordinary Day, explores the inner curves of hollowness that remain after her losses. "Grief and silent bedrooms and the inexorable march of time have all conspired to subtly alter the inner landscape of my being, so that what once was familiar and solid now seems foreign and fragile; days that used to seem rich and full feel drained of life, hard and empty as the winter sky." From this point, Kenison generously shares her journey of faith and reinvention, carving a well-marked path through the woods for her readers. "What would it mean if my purpose, my path, from this moment on were really this simple: to be able to look into the eyes of another human being with such compassion, such acceptance, such unconditional tenderness and devotion? To offer as much love to others as my teacher just gave me." When I was talking with a girlfriend about Kenison's book, her response was, "We really are so untested, aren't we." And it is true, for her and me, at the early mid-point of our lives, loss has appeared only at periphery of our journeys. We have stood at the edge of the woods, while witnessing others being dwarfed by the redwoods, but we have not stood there ourselves. When we sense the shape of it all, the knee jerk response is a tight braiding of fear and gratitude, that could have the unfortunate result of distancing. But Kenison gently, kindly draws us toward her difficult experience, and shows that the hollowness gives way to a new kind of beauty. "Yet this is the way healing begins; in fact, it is the only way. One by one, we rouse ourselves. We view the world through gentler eyes. We show up and do what we can, when we can. And so it is that our own small circles of caring begin to grow, and loneliness and grief are transformed into hope, direction and community." In the end The Magical Journey gifts the readers something special:
"a testament to the fact that meaning and purpose come not from accomplishing great things in the world, but simiply from loving those who are right in front of you, doing all you can with what you have in the time you have, in the place where you are. It's not the doing that makes it special, it's the loving." A fine set of Cliff Notes for those of us who are humbly young and untested: focus on the loving, appreciate what you have, and take it from others, even when you doubt, that it is only kindness that makes sense.
I was at the beach. With my mate. For five days. For the first time since we became the parents of not two, but three daughters. I think this picture documents the one minute I elected to get out of my beach chair.
Celebrate continued to be on my mind...and I caught it a few times during my vacation reading binge, about which you will hear more later. For now, here are a couple of found treasures from my trip to the beach...
Celebrate :: the relationship between celebration and attention
"And it goes on for hours--with Thomas reminding us of the health merits of each dish so we won't become too distracted by their exquisiteness. 'Its amazing, the momentum,' Bouley says, when I catch up with him after the four-hour lunch. 'You just start paying more attention. And at that point you're not just feeding anymore, you're celebrating.'" --Kevin Conley quoting celebrity chef David Bouley, in a Town 'n Country article entitled Haute Health Food
Celebrate :: the relationship between celebration and healing
"I used to think that I would be mature when I could simply be gay without emphasis. I have decided against this viewpoint, in part because there is almost nothing about which I feel neutral, but more because I perceive those years of self loathing as a yawning void, and celebration needs to fill and overflow it." --Andrew Solomon, in his book Far From the Tree, describing why after consideration, he still believes in the over-the-top-ness of gay pride celebrations.