Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Promise in a Glimpse

Today I threw open windows in my home as the first crisp morning of autumn arrived.   It took me back.

Rough, harvest gold and forest green verigated shag carpet beneath my tightly-crossed legs, clad in shorts for the first time since winter truly settled in.   Chalky, textured dry-wall against my back.   An attic fan, mounted in the hallway ceiling outside my bedroom, spun its massive blades and whined, drowning out the everyday evening sounds within our home and the new noises outside my opened window.    The first whirs after the flip of the switch were what I imagined a helicopter would sound like and the sudden intake of air from the opened windows around the house were so strong the house seemed to inhale and gain some momentary altitude.  That intense pull created my favorite spot of refuge, my temporary hiding place that I could only enjoy for a only a few weeks of the year.   As long as the attic fan's blades spun, the full sheers which hung at my small bedroom window would billow out completely and create for me a perfect hidden sanctuary behind their spread folds. 

 I believe it was the first time in my life I knew what it meant to truly savor something.   Delicious food was plentiful on our table and so it had the mark of the ordinary for me.   Mama's green thumb and the natural beauty of our tiny farm meant that even the glories of my surroundings could be ignored.   Climate, however, makes itself known in the delta, especially in my homeland of the Florida parishes of south Louisiana.   It is the great equalizer, exerting power over everyone regardless of race, class, or creed.   Even the residents of the mightiest air-conditioned mansions would have to eventually make their way out into the thick, too often breeze-less, air of a summer day in Louisiana.   It would leave its mark on us all, as it bore down on us, heavy and damp.  Even at night, the setting of the sun brought darkness, but only a slight change in the temperature, obedient,  servant of the humidity.

The oppressive summer climate became a character in any story that unfolded in our lives, the ever-antagonist, against whom we all struggled to maintain our composure and some sort of physical dignity.   In my childhood, spring and fall were distinguished mainly by the presence of Easter eggs and fried chicken in one and the falling of pecans and simmering chili in the other.   What they both held in common was that relief they granted.   Not just relief, though, that first crisp air of fall was a reprieve to me, granted at a time when I was uncertain I could bear the unrelenting heat any longer.   On those day, windows normally closed were thrown open.   Sounds were magnified as flies buzzed against the screens and birds chirped their approval of this weather change.   Everything was crisp where before it had all faded into a blur, like the horizontal waves of heat visible above all the black-top roads we travelled.  The sun could warm without injury, its rays seemed to gently pass through bone, as if they warmed my very soul. 

Winter in south Louisiana was an ugly affair, as it still is, after the gaudy sparkles of Mardi Gras have been packed away.   Grey and damp, without the hope of snow's white beauty, it was as dead as nature can seem without really breathing its last.   Spring brought a reminder that grass and tree leaves were meant to be green.   Just as I did in autumn, my senses were awakened to what could be, to what really should be.   There was a cycle and a rhythm, even if I had lost sight--or even--hope of change or relief.

Twice a year, that rounded-out fabric of my window resembled an elaborate skirt of a ball gown and created a tent into which I could escape.   The special breezes and cool temperatures were as rare and exotic to me as a fancy dress, or especially, the occasions at which they were required.   It always seemed as if there was a yell or some chaos on the other side of the attic fan's noise and it should probably have my attention.   I claimed the opportunity for an excuse, though, and would bravely wait a few seconds, with my breath held, to see if anyone came barging into my room.   Most of the time, though, I was left alone, unaccosted, as I settled down with a book or my journal.    I could savor what I had learned was only a short period of time, a burst of joy and peace in the midst of trials.   I could take hold of the moment and soak in every bit of it.  

Darkness, loud noise beyond, but me, safe and soul-settled, at peace within a gauzy whiteness.   The outside blurred, as the previously harsh realities of that world, were now, as I looked through my sheer shelter.   Cycles, reprieves granted in the midst of strain and suffering, reminders of promises we have forgotten.   Savoring, appreciating the glorious, because it is just that, a glimpse of glory, all the more appreciated because of its rarity in this world.

Glory billowing around me, a flutter of time.  A sharp intake of air that reminds me I am alive, that beauty and comfort exist.    It is not hyperbole to say it is a desperately-needed reminder right now, a promise of a new season and a future.   Heavenly.   It is good for my soul.   It is well with my soul.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

My Birthday Buddy

Hard to believe this picture was taken 8 years ago!

Today was my tenth birthday without Mama.   I've written previously about how Mama made me feel special just for being born.   I wondered if birthdays would ever be special again and there have been a few rough ones over the past ten years.   Today, I decided to remember what I had written about it being a day baptized, so I focused on the celebration of Clare's baptism birthday.   Eight years ago, she was baptized in Christ and today, we celebrated the day as birthday buddies.

I spent the morning grocery shopping and preparing our meal.   I needed a crock pot meal since we had a busy evening with mass and a meeting at church.   I tried my stovetop spaghetti and meatballs in the crockpot and it turned out great.   I made some other special foods, like these chocolate-filled raspberries which were a big hit with the children.   We used the good china because life is too short to not use the good china!

I also made King Arthur Flour's Flourless Chocolate Cake.   It was delicious!   The kids savored every bite.  

We had candles in the cake for my birthday and we lit Clare's baptism candle while we talked about memories of that beautiful day.   She was also able to see her godmother, Leslie, after mass tonight.


My evening ended with an e-mail notification that Regina had created this photo and tagged me on facebook.   That was worth checking in for: those dearest to me, in times good and hard.   There are pictures at births, weddings, and funerals.   All those pictured have been with me through it all.   What a blessing!

...And...the song we listened to several times today--the current favorite of Clare and Thomas--"My Doorbell" by The White Stripes:

Speaking of Birthdays in Your Forties...

I happened upon this interview from charming British artist, writer, comedian, Noel Fielding.   In this interview, he discusses turning forty.   It is so true.   It also made me think more about social media, especially Facebook.   Facebook, Instagram, Twitter--even blogging for those whose main purpose is to build an audience-- just seem to encourage/tempt a perpetual state of being in one's thirties, as they are described below.  I wonder if social media may alter normal stages of human development?   There's a thesis for someone.  

"In your twenties, you're trying to work out who you are.  
In your thirties, you're trying to tell everyone who you are
and then, your forties, you don't care."

It was almost automatic the day I turned 40 last year.   I still care deeply about people, but I just don't worry so much what they think of me.   I'm still working on it, but several things really changed.   I became less frightened of my own personality and temperament, meaning I became more likely to speak my mind.   I tend to the sarcastic in humor and I worried about being taken the wrong way when everyone around me just seemed so sweet.   I stopped saying "yes" to extra things I didn't want to do and to things that took too much time from my priorities right now: my family and my health.   If I declined politely and with those explanations, or others such as a conflict in schedules, it wasn't my place to worry if someone was offended.   I am still limited in what I can do, so I don't feel guilty about choosing carefully.

My health issues have meant that I was isolated some of last year.   I learned much about myself through that whole experience.  It's difficult to adequately express the love and gratitude I feel for friends who kept in contact, just to ask how I was feeling or to offer help and encouragement.   It is overwhelming to feel so loved by them.

My fortieth year was a rough one, but I learned a great deal.   I hope I'm a bit wiser, and more caring and empathetic.   As I face my first year at home without a child with me during the day since 2004 and this new chapter in my life, I can only imagine what my forty-first year will hold.   I'm concentrating on all that I have to be thankful for and that list is quite long.   Here's to all there is to come and thanksgiving for the good and the grace to have borne the rough.


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