The First Day

IMG_0112The first day, without my mother in the world, was last Friday.  I think my mother’s passing may make me a kinder, more loving person.  She was that way.  She didn’t just like a person, she tried to understand them.  And in that, she found the gray areas between  behavior, heart, and the soul:  they don’t always add up, and good people can do things that baffle the mind.  To cut to the heart, my mom would ask the question “why?”.  She would question aloud with an “I wonder….”.  She tried to look deeper than the surface, into the creation underneath.  And with those words every concept, supposition, and black-and-white answer, would get thrown out the window — knowing people were more complex than a singular action, and the answer may never be known.

She was our best friend, our confidant, our supporter, our cheering section, and our kick-in-the-butt when needed.  And it’s almost like, now that her spirit is free, she is filling us with her essence.  I can hear her saying “c’mon, c’mon now — let’s go, let’s go”.  She was hooked up to oxygen and an  IV and still insisting she had things to do, places to go — something productive, something worthy, something joyful.

And she found joy in many things — cooking, and perfecting her sauce; a “dunk” in the lake or pool on a hot day, or just taking notice of nature around her; and being with family.  She was a shy person, a woman of many talents, but held back by the times she was borne into — she wanted to be a nurse, but was discouraged at a young age; she loved to paint but set it aside to raise children.   Nevertheless, she shone.  And she was always willing to make a home for the stray animals my sister found, or feed a lost soul, or give advice to whomever needed and asked for it.

She was kind in her honesty, something I never mastered.  She didn’t care about anyone’s color, or choice of life companion — she taught us from a young age that it was their soul and spirit that mattered.  And she could see deep into a person’s heart.

Our mom was smart, a force to be reckoned with when something mattered, and loving.   I feel her essence filling me with memories of who she was… who she still is.  My mom is the best part of who I am, might be, and still hope to become and I’m blessed to see her, everyday, in my daughters.

 

Nothing Really Has Changed At All

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I’m not a winter person. And not being a winter person, I don’t go out when it’s cold and experience the day. But now that the warmer weather has come and we were in Vermont for the first of it, I found that I had missed being outdoors tremendously. And so with that being said, I chose the first day it stopped raining in awhile, to venture out.

There is a mountain in back our hotel that is quite monstrous. It is a skier’s mountain but people hike it in the summer. They have accommodated hikers by making switchbacks — those criss-cross patterns that make it easier to scale upwards. Almost 20 years ago, in the late 90s, my husband, our 3 daughters, and I hiked this mountain attempting to make our way to the summit. We were “hikers” then, having the equipment (backpack, water, flashlights, trail mix, etc. etc.). I was also 40 lbs lighter. This hike, so many years ago, resulted in our ending up depleted of all water and food, and exhausted — a couple of miles away from our hotel. This was nothing new. Almost every hike Tom and I ventured on usually ended oddly; this time, all 5 of us were depleted — laying out by some gated-community’s pond, scrounging for bits of peanuts found at the bottom of one of our backpacks.

But this time, I looked up at the switchbacks lazily meandering through the greenery and the wild flowers, and thought “why not?” And so I did. Or attempted to. It looked so easy when I was on the porch of the hotel looking out. I started off by walking up the steps, which in the winter would take you to the base of the ski lift, and wished I had a Fitbit on; I would love to know just how many calories I was burning since my heart rate had picked up quite substantially.  From this place I chose a path – they were well-marked and the green one looked right for me — and so I started the climb. What I had forgotten when looking out from the porch of the hotel, was that switchbacks, while appearing meandering and mild, were not so. All the while you are climbing, climbing, climbing.

My throat quickly became dry, my lungs started to burn, and what was that pain in my hip? That was new. I stopped often to take a drink, take in the view (which spanned over the valley), listen to the birds, and take in the smell of the sweet air.  I forgot how rejuvenating this was. I could “feel” the gentle tug of the earth wanting to pull me backwards if I didn’t continue pushing forward. It was a little unsettling because I really do have enough trouble with my balance on a good day, never mind adding in this level of gravity. I looked down at the walkways around the hotel and they were a bit far away — but I knew I could go a little further. There was no danger of getting lost at this height with everything still in sight. A few more switchbacks and I was ready to call it a day. I felt the satisfaction of having done something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I looked up at the rest of the mountain and remembered our almost 20-years-ago selves climbing up even further. I remembered the sweat, the steep incline. I looked down from my position on the dirt path, having just crossed thru a stand of trees and over a small stream.  My satisfaction took a turn; I was only 1/4 the way up. I hadn’t even made it off the base of the mountain. Not even scratched the surface.

But … I was happy with that, I had decided. I’m still in awe at the way the switchbacks look so calm and gentle from the porch of the hotel. I’m amused at how hard my heart was beating and how ragged my breath was at the small beginning of the climb. And so, almost 20 years separates me from where I once was, and who I once was, and where I am today. It would be a nice, tidy end to this story if I summed it up by saying “oh yes while my body can’t do the climb any longer, my wiser, stronger emotional self meets challenges everyday with strength blah blah blah.”. But this is just not true. What is true is that I’m still learning everyday how to meet the challenge of the day. I am still learning everyday how to adjust my sails to meet the winds. I am still learning everyday to embrace my limitations and to live within them. And I am still discovering who I am (since I don’t seem to like the same things I liked when I was in my 50s). So … I suppose all I can say after all is said and done is … nothing really has changed at all.