Family · inspiration · reflections

The Breakthrough

whump-whump-whump-whump

The helicopter overhead was distant–the propeller’s thumps a low murmur seeping into my mind, stirring up dread, thick and suffocating.

I stood inside my grandmother’s old house and gazed at the peeling yellowed paint on the walls and the layers upon layers of dusty photographs covering every inch. In one black and white photo, a young pig-tailed girl’s face beamed, sitting on her father’s knee, her face forever frozen in mid-laugh. In another– a girl in her teens, blowing out the candles on the cake, her father resting his hand on her shoulder.

A splintered mirror on the wall reflected an older woman. A woman now startled by the creases circling her hollowed eyes and the raw bleeding wounds dotting her scalp.  The wounds my mother gave me.

Hot red anger flashed as my fingers frantically tried to cover them with tufts of matted hair– but there were too many, they just grew and grew, and bled and bled.

whump-whump-whump-whump

A soft breeze blew the front door open, rustling the photos about like leaves.  I shuddered as the leak of fear dripping in my mind ran cold. A rush of wind swelled and the hardwood floor beneath me groaned, each floorboard lifting one by one, rippling like waves. I turned to look out the window.

It was coming.

Lazers of red light pierced through the tiny holes and cracks in the floor, casting blood-orange spots around the room; the thundering pulse of the propeller almost on top of me now.

I opened my mouth to scream, but only a raspy gasp escaped my lips.  The photographs began to flutter and fall to the floor, forming tiny swirling tornados that danced and circled around the room; the blackened edges of each photo curling unto itself until each one disintegrated into a thin gray dust.  Vibrations rippled through me, my body nothing more than an empty shell as the helicopter’s relentless chant filled my ears.

whump-whump-whump-whump

Bracing for impact, I shut my eyes and turned away, the taste of choking dust filling my mouth. It was outside the window now–a spinning black steel spider hanging from an unseen web growing bigger and bigger until it was inches from breaking through the glass.

Suddenly, it stopped to hover, frozen in mid-flight; as if the web’s sinewy thread was pulled taut. I felt a hand on my shoulder. My breath stopped.

It was my father.

Dad. Dad!

Dad?

I searched his face, unbelieving. He was young again; his face smooth, his smile warm and knowing. A sparkling white light radiated from his eyes.

Don’t be afraid, he said without moving his lips.

I will help you.

Watch me. I’ll show you.

Churning back to life, the helicopter continued its path toward the window. I closed my eyes, imagining it tearing through the house, shards of exploding glass, wood and metal showering down, consuming me in flames.

Look, my dad said. Here, look.

I opened my eyes.

He stepped in front of me and raised one arm, his hand shielding me from the spider. In response, it reversed, the broken shards of wood and glass flying backwards with it.  The thundering pulse of the propeller a soft murmur again as the helicopter vanished into a small black dot swallowed whole by bright blue sky.

I sucked in the air and a sweet coolness spread across my face, into my lungs and down my spine.

Silence.

I was standing on the precipice of the tallest mountain. Below me, an endless sea of jewels, sparkling blue and green.  I drank in the beauty as it flowed through my veins.

I floated. I was free.

My dad grabbed my hand and smiled. We were back in my grandmother’s house again.

Do you see?

I looked down, wisps of my hair were swirling to the floor like feathers. I tenderly touched my head. My wounds were gone, replaced with pink skin–warm, soft and new.

I do, Dad.  I see.

Thank you.

I looked out the window and into the bright light.

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inspiration · reflections

Our Unbreakable Bond

The cemetery was full of swaying trees and bright sunlight; the dancing rays sparkling within the reds and golds of the leaves. Gazing at the rows of gray stones, I felt a gentle stirring of peace blossoming from within, spreading around me with its warm embrace. I stood alone on a grassy hill and listened to the wind.  I wanted to hear the voices of those who had passed on. Those buried in the ground were dust and bones now, their spirits set free a long time ago. Still, I wanted to hear my father. I closed my eyes.

“Hey, Mom!” my son yelled from a distance. “We found him!”

I smiled as I crouched down on the cold ground next to my son. He read the name of the tombstone aloud with excitement, “Ralph E. Stairs.”

“That is your grandfather,” I said with a heavy weight in my voice.  “My dad. He died 20 years ago this month.” My fingers traced the dates etched in the granite.

“Wow! So you were pretty young then, huh?” my son remarked, then ran off to the next row of stones before I had a chance to tell him more about my dad; the incredible grandpa he had never met. How could I express what my dad meant to me or the person he was? Will my son ever know? Will I continue to remember?

When I was a young girl, my father was my entire world. The phrase “Daddy’s Girl” originated the day I was born. The man who raised me was an unique dad. He was sensitive to our emotional needs, and he always took the time to be present with me and my brothers. He enjoyed doing things with us, whether it was coaching our Peewee baseball league (I was shortstop), shooting hoops in the driveway, or sitting on the front porch chatting with us on a warm summer evening.

He was a slight man, tall and thin. His personality was one of quiet support, and he was very gentle in his ways. There was hardly a time when he raised his voice to yell and he never laid a hand to spank. He raised us on two things: love and respect. He disciplined us the hard way, by somehow convincing us that doing the right thing was the only thing. It was expected of us. If we dared to screw up (and we often did during the teen years) nothing would be more damaging then the moment our dad would peer over his glasses, sigh and sternly say, “I’m very disappointed in you.” This was the worst punishment we could ever face.

Being his only girl, he went out of his way for me. If I needed a certain piece of piano sheet music, he’d drive with me all over the state to find it. If I had a baton competition two hours away, he’d be there in the stands, his eyeglasses reflecting in the lights. As long as I knew he was there to cheer me on, I could do anything. He was my constant support. In many ways, he was like a mother to me; nurturing, loving and proud. These were the traits my own mother lacked. When I was sick, he would come home from work with some ginger ale and rub my back until I felt better. Every night, I would say, “Good night, Dad! I love you very much!” as he tucked me in. I’d wait for him to say, “I love you, too” so I could close my eyes and safely dream.

During the last years of his life, I was just embarking on my college adventures. I was an awkward, shy teenager, unsure of my place in the world. I began to see my dad as a man, separate from me, with a past of his own. We started to have deeper conversations about life’s pain, sorrows and regrets. When I told him about my fear of leaving home, he discussed with me his time in the Navy, a young man fresh out of the Bronx, full of excitement and fear when he was shipped out to sea. We talked about family and death. His own beloved father, my grandfather, died at 53. He told me how hard it was, growing up poor in New York, having to make dinner with his brother and sisters while his mother worked all day and night as a waitress. Being so centered in my own world and consumed with my own problems, I realized I didn’t know much about my dad’s history.

Now, I would give anything to sit on the front porch with him again and have one last conversation. I would ask him more about his childhood. I would ask him endless questions. What was he afraid of? What made him happy? What did he miss? And did he miss me as much as I missed him?

I would tell him about his grandkids. Did he know that my son loves soccer? And that he has inherited the same gentle, loving, sensitive spirit? Did he know that my daughter is a dancer and loves to sing? Did he know that I met and married the love of my life? Did he know that I wanted him to walk me down the aisle? Did he know that I graduated college? Did he see any of this? Was he proud of me?

Standing at his grave this week, I knew the answer.

I slowly brushed the leaves away to reveal the date: Nov 17 1991.  “Hi, Dad,” I said aloud. “Hope you’re doing okay.” I stared at his name and imagined his face again. I could see his blue eyes twinkling at me, the sides of his mouth curving up into a laugh. My dad and I were sharing a secret only the two of us knew. “I miss you,” I added as I walked away.

As we pulled out of the cemetery, I noticed the blue eyes reflecting in the rearview mirror–piercing, knowing, twinkling.

My eyes. My dad’s eyes.

My Dad
reflections · Uncategorized

Radiance at Last

Over at Absurd Old Bird, Val Erde has challenged readers to create something using her painting below as inspiration. Here is mine.

Val Erde

Radiance

Churning mud strips
flesh and bone

Pulls down
Earthly trappings take hold

But oh!

Gradual clearing
the Lightness is Here
always

Touches and soothes
emanates from every pore

As colors shine and twirl
the Mosaic awakes and breathes
constant

This thread, this pulse
to echo in our dreams

Rest, Dear One

Rest

reflections

The Thread

I am running through a deep jungle. Bright blurry shades of green mix with sharpdaggers of sunlight as I frantically leap to dodge the twisted roots in my path. Fear grips my heart, soaking into my bones and saturating my vision until the jungle transforms into a jumble of shifting shadows. I glance behind me into the thickening dark, not yet willing to face the thing that is chasing me and for a moment, I feel a sense of comfort. I am not alone in my escape. I glimpse an elderly Chinese woman running just behind me, her face contorted, her lips frozen in a half-scream.

She motions for me to hide behind a large boulder. I obey and we are side by side, gasping for air and leaning against the smooth coolness of the rock.  I realize she is clutching at something. A fine silky red thread is spilling out between her shaking fingers.  One end of the string trails away from her heaving frail body and disappears behind the boulder, into the jungle and the thing beyond. The other end of the string snakes its way to back to me and is firmly wrapped around my wrist. I peer down at the worn thread and notice the small indentations, cuts and scars it has left on my skin underneath.  Her tired eyes tell me the weight of this thread is heavy, but necessary. She lays her warm hand on mine and smiles.

Her eyes suddenly widen and her smile is gone. The red thread goes taut and her wrist is yanked violently behind her. “Hurry! Run!” she gasps. “It’s coming again.”

I stagger to my feet and we both begin to run, the thread thicker and heavier now. We reach a rushing river with a series of long white tunnels stretching across. I must choose one to safely lead us to the other side. If I choose wrong, the thing will find us merely by following the red string. The old woman grabs me by the shoulders, the weight of her hands pushing down, her fingers digging into my neck. “Don’t go the old way,” she hisses. She points to a clump of leaves next to the river and I see it: A single white tunnel hidden behind the bush, much narrower than the others. A shaft of soft white light glows from inside.  “Go on,” the woman’s voice commands. I step toward the tunnel and the red thread stretched between us begins to unravel. I hesitate, panic rising in my throat. “Go on,” the woman whispers.  I take another step and the thread breaks, softly slipping away from my wrist. It falls away and vanishes. I open and close my hand. I feel light.  I laugh. I am free.

This was a recent dream of mine. It seemed incredibly strange and vivid enough to stay with me into the next morning. I thought, how odd to be dreaming about a red thread and this woman. How did this make any sense? But it kept popping back into my thoughts.

Later that day, I was sitting in my car, taking my mother on errands, the usual daily humdrum, when I turned the radio on.  I heard this female artist introducing a song. She said it was about the ancient Chinese belief that all babies are born with a red thread of fate. Some say it connects us with our “soulmate”.  And this thread can be twisted, it can be stretched, but it can never break.

Have you ever had things happen which you can’t explain away to coincidence? Signs that someone is trying to tell you something important? Well, this was that something. I had chills when I heard about this thread of fate on the radio, the day after I had that dream.

I think my dream was sparked by a fellow blogger’s post that struck a chord with me, Lisa’s post, The Line Between, on her blog Woman Wielding Words. About how things seem to connect us with looping, repeating, invisible lines, like a web of sorts.  Within the collective unconscious and woven into our deepest dreams, I can see this is true.

After my red thread dream, I am beginning to see more clearly and understand the patterns in life we all must face, learn from and resolve. The most painful and raw of our emotions tend to follow us, no matter how hard we try to shake them loose by avoiding them or running away. Our relationships with each other (and with ourselves) are a direct result of how we deal with these innermost fears and demons.  Some believe that these deeply ingrained patterns in our relationships can go back into other previous lifetimes. Perhaps they are replayed time and again until we make the decision to choose a different path and therefore finally achieve a positive outcome.

My mother and I have had a tumultuous relationship our entire lives. It seems we keep pushing each others’ buttons until we both grow weary and bitter. Yet, we keep doing it. Why? Can’t I see that things won’t change if I choose this old path? Fear keeps me from trying something new. Our old habits may be destructive, yet we oddly feel they’re comforting. What if I approached my mother in a different way? What if I allowed myself to see things from her perspective and allow those old feelings of bitterness and resentment wash over me and drip away, releasing their grip? What if I broke that red thread that binds us? What if I chose to be free?

Actually, we have no problems                 
we have opportunities for which we should give thanks…
An error we refuse to correct has many lives.
It takes courage to face one’s own shortcomings
and wisdom to do something about them.

–Edgar Cayce

reflections

It’s all in your mind

Blooming lotus in peaceful mind...
Blooming lotus in peaceful mind Image by Thai Jasmine via Flickr

What is love? What is life? What is time? Please tell me. What are the words you choose? Are there words that can accurately convey these concepts? Well, we try to come up with them. But in my experience words are so limiting and often fail miserably at communicating such subjective and powerful ideas.

It’s like trying to describe to someone what it feels like to jump out of an airplane.  You could say, “It was awesome, dude!” Or you could be more specific and say, “All I could hear was the wind rushing and my heart pounding.” In any case, I’d be willing to bet the only surefire way I’d understand what it was like was if I took the plunge myself. And that experience would no doubt leave me with different impressions than others. Maybe I’d see a glimpse of heaven. Maybe I’d squeeze my eyes shut and cry “I want my mommy!” the whole way down.  This is what makes the human experience so fascinating. We are all constantly filtering what we experience and applying it directly to our own personal state of being. Continue reading “It’s all in your mind”

Humor · inspiration

Yoga Love

threesome_yoga_tree_pose

Back when I didn’t know a thing about yoga, just the word itself would conjure up images in my mind. Mostly of New Age-y people wearing chakra jewelry and chanting Om while twisting themselves into pretzels. Continue reading “Yoga Love”

Humor

Resolutions for Slackers

New Year's Resolutions postcard
Image via Wikipedia

One of my friends had a brilliant idea (go, Debra!) She said that this year, she was giving herself a fighting chance at New Year’s resolutions. She would set the bar much lower, making damn sure she couldn’t fail.  As a matter of fact, she had already succeeded at most of her goals.

I immediately loved this idea of brutal honesty with a touch of stark truth. Two things this stubborn Mainer is all about. Besides, it’s a rare win-win situation for a perpetual loser. Continue reading “Resolutions for Slackers”

reflections

There’s Always Room for Hot Cocoa

Change is creeping into my life. And I like it. The trees are dull yellow and orange, the pumpkins on the porch are frosty and there’s an extra blanket on my bed. The candles on my kitchen table are lit. My warm, fuzzy slippers and mug of hot cocoa are calling me.

Fall is the most wonderful time of the year. It means the school days have settled into a routine, Halloween and Thanksgiving are around the corner. There are chilly morning soccer games to be watched and footballs to be tossed. Hay rides and baked apple pies. Sweaters and fleece jackets. What’s not to love?

Oh, yeah. “Snow!” my husband reminds me. And ice. Bad driving conditions and heating bills. Christmas shopping. *shudder*

But you can always stay inside by the fireplace, (if  you’re lucky enough to have one) snuggle with your kids under a blanket and watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Fall is short and meant to be savored.

And there’s always room for hot chocolate.

Heaven in a Mug

Make mine with double the whipped cream, please. Okay…and a slice of hot apple pie on the side with a little french vanilla ice cream…

inspiration

A Girl and Her Dog

Princess, me and my brother (who recovered nicely from his first impression of her)

I have had the Marley and Me movie for awhile now, sitting in my DVD collection, collecting dust. I kept telling myself to watch it, but I knew I wasn’t emotionally ready. I had already read the book, (like everyone else on the planet) so I knew about the heart-wrenchingly sad ending. I could barely get through the book without weeping, so a movie would surely push me over the edge. And crying is something that once I start, there’s no stopping the floodgates. I honestly didn’t think Kleenex made a big enough box.

I knew deep down that the real reason was I never truly had a chance to grieve for my own dog.  My dad brought her home from the pound when I was seven and she was “my dog” from the start. Princess was young and energetic, with soft brown fur and gentle eyes. One of her ears stood straight up at attention, the other flopped down to the side. She was a mutt, a mix of Collie and, my brothers and I liked to think, wolf.

At our first meeting, my younger brother was petrified of her and ran into his room to push his dresser up against the door. I was in love. She was my best friend from the start. I recently found the very first picture of Princess in an old photo album. There I was, standing in our kitchen in my pink pajamas and Dorothy Hamill haircut, wrapping my arms around her and grinning like crazy. I was beyond thrilled that my dad had brought her home to us, rescuing her from the cold and lonely streets.

I spent every waking moment giving her hugs and kisses. She slept with me at night in my white canopy bed, peacefully curled up on my legs. I would drift off to sleep feeling her warm, soft heaviness at my feet. She was my constant companion, my security blanket, my guardian angel.

When I was feeling blue, I’d take her for a walk. Sometimes her sheer enthusiasm for walks would be enough to snap me out of my funk. We’d go to the nearby playground at dusk. I’d unhitch her leash and off she’d run, dog tags jingling in the shadows. We’d sit together in the field and look at the stars. Those moments were some of the most content and magical of my life, Princess  by my side, doing nothing but simply enjoying the peacefulness together. She understood me like no one else. With her, there was nothing but acceptance and love.

As sweet as she was, Princess was also tough. In her early years, she had managed to break every single cable leash that clerk at L.L. Bean’s swore were unbreakable. She’d be out in the driveway, sitting in her doghouse. My brothers and I would jump on our bikes and zoom off, only to turn to see her galloping after us with a grin on her face and a broken leash dragging down the road behind her.

When I finally went off to college, my parents told me she would sit by the door where my bags were, her head down, waiting for me to come back home on the weekends. It broke my heart to leave her even for a week.

By the spring of 1991, she had become old and frail. She had arthritis in her legs and soon she didn’t have the strength to stand up. I rubbed her hot swollen legs for hours trying to comfort her. Maybe if I did that enough, she’d be okay. My dad told me with tears in his eyes that it was time we called the vet. I had never seen my father cry until that day.

After she was gone, the house was heavy and silent, almost suffocating. Later that summer, my dad told me about a dream he had. He was in a huge gorgeous green field and Princess was there, bounding over to greet him. He said it was the most vivid dream and seemed real. Not too many months later he would die as well. The grief for my dad was all-consuming and looking back, I don’t believe I ever had the chance to grieve for my sweet girl, Princess.

Now, almost twenty years later, it was time.

As I slid the movie into the DVD player I thought, “Can I handle remembering her again?” I felt a sudden chill.  “And, if I do remember her, will I then have to finally let her go?”

I sat curled up on my couch alone and watched Marley and Me. At the end it happened. The tears came. My body went limp as I sobbed. I could feel the pain of loss bubbling up and releasing in waves almost too big for my soul to handle. I heard Owen Wilson utter the final lines of the movie:

“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?”

Princess did just that.  And finally, I can say that no, I don’t ever have to let her go.

reflections

My Zen

The tiny bright ball of energy was whirling in front of me. It swirled and spun while even smaller dots of yellow light zipped around the ball like moons orbiting Jupiter. I was mesmerized. All I could do was observe it in my mind’s eye. The light was growing bigger and bigger, suspended in space in front of me. There was no thought. There was no time. There was no “I”. Nothing existed except for that ball of light. Continue reading “My Zen”