Listen to Your Art

“Listen to Your Art”

In April I said goodbye to my friend of 25+ years – she left earth exhausted and without words.

The last 7 months I’ve heard and seen the realities of grief – of my own, of those who also love my friend, and of those who have lost a love I didn’t know but have shared their grief with me – Grief and reconciliation and the need for healing are rampant in our world.

Less than a month ago, my daughter asked if I’d travel to Amsterdam with her since no one else had the same work time-off. I texted my German penpal, asking if she’d meet us there, too.

An ocean away yet my penpal responded within minutes, “I’m in.”

Today I went all over Amsterdam with my daughter and lifelong penpal – we went to the Banksy exhibit @mocomuseum , and later in the day, I biked Amsterdam’s streets with my daughter who I taught how to ride a bike; chasing her down a golf course fairway holding onto her bicycle seat, yelling, pedal! go! and with my penpal who as children, we were introduced by our parents – a gazillion letters ago –

Life is fleeting yet friendship is like the light that decided to show up on this #Banksy work of art right while I was taking a closer look –

Present yet sometimes flickering and sometimes seemingly out of reach – True friendship is a two-party contract that stands up to the tests of time; showing up when least expected and in ways, more moving than I, pre-grief, could’ve imagined “I’m in and here to stay. I’m tucked safely within you; securely fastened within your heart right exactly where the real magic lives.”

And listen here – pinkie swear –

We’re taking care of each other’s hearts and art forevermore.

IMG_0468II

I know deep within my heart that she would’ve liked this if she were alive to “like” my art.

I was listening then, and I’m listening now.

That has not changed.

Befriending the Unfriended

45 days ago I was unfriended.  Not by choice, but by death, by lung cancer. After Julie’s death, I pretty much quit facebook; taking it off my phone and only replying to notifications. If Julie’s gone, who else cares to see my story and images – why post and why engage when my most encouraging yet objective critic isn’t online? She’s the only one outside of my immediate family who’d never actually unfriend me. Doesn’t everyone else use this platform to stalk and to scrutinize each other, why provide the material? Boy did I needed a kick toward positivity: do it for hope – do it for all those you love who remain – do it for your faith!

Last night when letting my dog out, I looked up to see two doves on a telephone wire with an incredible cloud show in the background. Two “old” birds just hanging out, enjoying each other’s company for no real reason. Not worrying about what everyone else is up to or posting selfies at the latest and greatest location, but truly together, taking in nature and feeling content. Julie called this goal, “a relaxed joyfulness.”  The wave of grief, my annoying sidekick these days, knocked me for a loop. It hits so randomly, ugh.

IMG_9392boost

 

Yet, today, less than 24 hours later, an envelope arrived on my doorstep from my dear high school-befriended-again-via-Facebook friend, Jon, and his wife who live across the country in AL. What on earth could this be!? Inside, a handwritten letter (side-note: Jon, the fit I find with my camera, you most definitely find with your pen!)  explained why I’d been given a hand-crafted work of art by Jon’s friend, Nizhoni Thompson.

Through your kindness, Jon and Wanda, I’m inspired to resume –

“wandering the world, seeking the sublime, capturing creation, glorifying God”

befriending the unfriended; restoring power when the Lights have seemingly gone out for good.

Snapseed-1.jpg

 

We only get one shot – let’s make it beautiful

for us and for others.

 

 

From the Flight Deck

I prayed on the way to pick up my lunch date,

Please God, give me the emotional strength to wheel her in a wheelchair.

Amen.

I arrived at her house.  Lasso-ing her 40-foot in-home oxygen line, she looked beautiful as she secured herself to the portable oxygen machine. Her hair looked freshly fixed and her makeup impeccable.

She gathered her supplies.

1 portable oxygen tank

1 car power adaptor for the oxygen

1 extra battery for the oxygen tank

1 long cord for the oxygen tank

1 handicap parking placard

1 bottle of water

And her purse.

Without mentioning her newly rented wheelchair, she said, let’s go.

The captain had spoken.

I didn’t question her, and we took off – wheelchair-less.

We drove to the first restaurant, and I pulled my car up to the valet, so she’d have a short walk into the courtyard to sit. An easel holding a sign, Closed Until 4 saved us from the rigamarole of car-exiting and restaurant-entering. We discussed other lunch place options and quickly decided, Lon’s, a hotel restaurant with a patio to enjoy the day’s sunshine.

I drove a few minutes in the direction from which we’d just come and pulled into the hotel’s parking lot.  The valet, busy with other customers, didn’t help us, so we sat in a holding pattern, watching and waiting.  We didn’t want to exit without knowing we had an easy way to enter.

I parked and exited my car, but left the car running – we were dependent on the car to power the cord charging her portable oxygen tank. I approached the valet, questioning if they were open.  He asked, hotel or restaurant?

Restaurant, but we need effortless access -the shortest distance to the outdoor seating. The valet pointed toward the valet parking lot and directed us: Go in there, park your car and take the side entrance to the restaurant.

So that’s what we did.

We gathered all of her belongings, and we walked side/side, slowly into the patio area, about 10 feet. Out of breath, she looked at me with the look I’ve become so familiar – that’s all I’ve got.

I told her to sit down in the nearest seat, and I left her to check-in.  Finding the hostess, I asked if it was ok for us to sit at the table where my friend sat. The hostess said,

Of course –

The valet called ahead and told us that you were arriving.

Sit wherever you’d like.

The hostess led me out to the patio where my friend sat and gave us two menus.

The crew looked out for us.

We ate lunch while the mesquite tree overhead sprinkled its leaves on our table.  She blew her nose, she coughed, and she checked her oxygen.

She requested a to-go box for her leftovers, and we sat in silence. We both surveyed the beauty that surrounded us. The sun began to shine over the top of our table’s umbrella, illuminating her face and making her eyes twinkle.

She said to me,

“Know that I plan to visit you when I’m gone, a lot.”

“I know you will. That’s why I’m creating our place where you will visit.”

*******

An eternal gift, from the flight deck, announcing she’s at ease making her final approach,

and I need not worry.

I can rest assured, she’ll be using her wings with no need for pre-board, and most definitely, be wheelchair-less with wheels-up in the garden that I’m preparing for her landings and take-offs.

Cross-check.

IMG_8211

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

IMG_7761

 

Privacy, Please

She kept her personal life close to her heart; for if she revealed too much, she might be exposed to scrutiny, or worse yet,  feel vulnerable and out of control.  These discomforts only added to her pain, so she opted to shut out friends who tried to get too close. We wanted to help, but we knew that knocking repeatedly would only cause her more grief.

The few allowed in are weeping

now that she’s died too young and is permanently sleeping.

We, on the outside, wish we could’ve done more, but respecting her wishes,

we find comfort, trusting that giving space to people who prefer privacy is often granting peace.

And isn’t the gift – to rest in peace – what we desire to give to

those who’re in immeasurable pain?

Not everyone has an open-door policy, and that’s ok.

Respecting others’ wishes –

IMG_4162“Privacy, Please”

Let her rest in peace.

It’s All Practice

“When you workout, you don’t pinnacle – you don’t finally make it – instead, you keep moving; keep practicing, working, building, learning, aspiring.  It’s cyclical, not linear.” – MDS

I began practicing hot yoga about 10 years ago, and at that time, I had no idea it’d become such an asset.  I added yoga to my training, since it was gentle to my joints and body, and mostly, because, through its practice, the yoga trained and calmed my mind.

I’ve called on my yoga often during these 10 years – broken relationships, empty nesting, injuries, worry, paranoia, doubt.

I’d assumed we’d all heard, “breathe in through your nose…hold…breathe out through your mouth – breathe in the good, and with every breath out, let go of what has no purpose, what doesn’t serve you anymore.”

But although we benefit every second of our lives from breath, we seldom spend time practicing it.

We take for granted our breathing, often not recognizing and celebrating our breath’s consistency, dependability or power. It just happens, but if we’re believing that we’re actively participating in life, rather than life just happening to us, then we embrace the circle rather than the line of life.

We need the oxygen that the Earth gives to us as much as the Earth needs the CO2 we breathe out – a cycle, that we all on this Earth create, together.

So you can only imagine, how at this time, I feel when I see and hear my dear friend struggle for each breath, as the lung cancer  tries to take up space in her airways. My friend yearns for the days when making a bed or preparing a meal weren’t huge feats, and I wish, with all my yoga practice breathing, that I had the capacity to breathe for the two of us – her to me and me to her – but that’s a cycle beyond my power and control.

So when I’m trying to breathe calmly when I see her struggle, I listen to our breaths and trust in the present -the right here, right now – the gift of breathing in and out, side by side, together.

Inhale, we’ve come full circle, exhale.

It’s a culmination of a lot of practice. You taught me. I taught you.

img_1940

So-n-so

In 1971, on my parents’ 9th wedding anniversary, my mother readied for a celebratory dinner with my father.  In the front hallway closet, I was peacefully playing dress-up in my older brother’s winter coats.

Needing to shower, my mother peeked her head into the closet, telling me she was headed upstairs to shower and instructing me to not play with a particular older girl from our neighborhood,

“If s0-n-so should come by, do not play with her.”

Well, sure enough, while the shower sounded from upstairs, So-n-so showed up at our front door. I can vaguely remember So-n-so’s face, but I distinctly remember she was always taunting me.

I cracked the front door and peeked outside. There she stood, her “grown-up” self,  waiting for me to answer.  She summoned me with a plastic baggie,

look what I’ve got

I still remember the sight of that plastic baggie – a sandwich-sized bag full of bright red, gum ball sized red hots.

My mother’s words filled my head –

don’t play with so-n-so, she’s trouble

but those red hots were just that – red hot – and boy, did I want some.

So-n-so opened up the baggie and in went my hand – Pop! into my mouth went one of those glorious gum ball sized red hots and instantly, I choked, gasping for air!

My mother came running downstairs, dripping wet in a towel – her bare skin still wet from the shower – she picked me up, turned me upside down and shook me until the red hot dislodged from my throat. She scolded the girl, telling her to leave and not to come back!

Boy, who’d think after all these years, with memories of such a dramatic scene, I wouldn’t have learned that when someone hurts me, I shouldn’t open the door and allow them inside to repeat the abuse.

– Avoid temptation – no matter how fun-loving, adventurous or red hot a person may seem – if we allow dark, shady, negative people into our lives, they will feed us with toxicity , pain, and torment.

Fact.

Listen to the warnings, and at every age, stay away from red hot So-n-so and gum balls – they cut and suffocate you.

IMG_9887

“Red Hot”