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My family of four was walking the long Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris headed to the brasserie La Coupole for a late lunch. The street was closed to traffic and I wondered if it was for a market until we started to pass large open-bed trucks on the side of the road draped in rainbow flags. As we got closer, the street came more and more alive with the gay pride parade in formation. The presence of riot police in heavy gear reminded us that this peaceful demonstration of self-acceptance might meet the same violence previously demonstrated by opponents of France’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage.

We enjoyed our leisurely lunch at La Couple though the atmosphere suddenly seemed stuffy compared to the fluid motion of the parade passing outside its windows.  At a table across from me, I watched a wealthy-looking French woman highly skilled in the art of disapproval. When the curry my husband ordered arrived, it was presented by an Indian man dressed in an ornate footman’s costume.   We were sitting inside, in the past, while the future of France was roaring by outdoors in full color with a loud base line.

It was good to re-enter the energy on the street after our lunch as we stopped to watch on a street corner. I was moved to witness gay Jews walking under a rainbow chuppah in a city that some decades ago would have twice marked them for persecution.  From out of nowhere, a single soap bubble floated by and hovered in the air between a well-dressed older man and myself. He blew at the bubble, which was headed straight for his face, and it popped on cue. We smiled warmly at each other, fully enjoying our private joke, in perfect communion with each other and with Paris’s dual talents for play and progress.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”– Rachel Carson

My eleven-year-old daughter is away from home on her own for the first time on a school camping trip. When I woke up this morning I immediately thought of her being outside, part of the beautiful April morning outside my window. I decided to head right out for an early walk to virtually share the morning with her. Two of our cats even came along, trailing after me for half a block before disappearing into a neighbor’s bushes while jays and crows competed to see who could make the most noise from the treetops.  Spring is unfolding yellow and green carpets everywhere, covering the remaining grey and brown bits of winter.

As each season lets itself go into the next, life is asking me to begin letting go of my daughters as they enter new stages of their lives   Kissing my nine-year-old daughter good night last night, alone in the bedroom she normally shares with her older sister, I realized how the routines that seem so obvious they are invisible will someday shift as quickly as the seasons.  The plants and trees which go through such changes every year seem to be showing us how to get ready, how to let go with grace, and how to prepare to be dazzled by the beauty that unfolds.

Beginnings

“Out at sea the dawn wind

Wrinkles and slides. I am here

Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.”

– T.S. Eliot

I walked down to see the water today where Casco Bay opens into the Atlantic. The sea was cloudy, a brownish-green teal with white-capped waves and deep streaks of blue currents.  It was still winter by all obvious indicators. I wore a coat and boots. Snow covered the ground. But there was an element of becoming that was not present before. Winter, a season of endings, is itself coming to an end.  The spring equinox is just two short weeks away. My Canadian neighbor has tapped his maple and is boiling down sap in his driveway.

I made a point of walking this morning to soak up some much-needed vitamin D in lieu of buying it in a bottle.  Not only did I get my vitamins, but I came upon an entire flock of tufted titmice eating berries from a hedge. Their tiny bits of grey and yellow color dotted the bare branches filled with purple berries. As usual, I found myself wondering why I don’t walk everyday.  There is so much not to be missed.

Owling

“We live by the sun

We feel by the moon

We move by the stars

We live in all things

All things live in us”

      – Stephanie Kaza

February is for owls. Last February I took my two daughters to Plum Island in Massachusetts where we were lucky enough to spot a snowy owl sunning itself on a dune, a visible trail of owl prints in the sand revealing the path it took to the top.  This year, we stayed closer to home and decided to venture into nearby woods on a clear night with a full moon. As we approached, the woods that seemed so familiar by day were unknown by night.  We admitted to being a little scared. What if there were wolves on the prowl?  Stepping out of the car, I immediately noticed how truly silver the moonlight was, as if we, and everything around us, had acquired a thin silver plating.

We came prepared with an app on my phone that made owl calls at our command. We played with it for a bit, enamored by the technology and missing all the wonder around us, until my youngest daughter wisely pointed out that we could make owl calls ourselves. The gadget put away, we finally entered into the stillness of the woods and made our plaintive owl calls into the night. The calls were so much fun to make that we had to force ourselves to stop and listen for a response. My youngest heard it first – a low, rhythmic, almost humming hoot, far away through the woods. We were in conversation with an owl.   Later, walking back to the car, we avoided the iced over puddles we had noisily crashed into on the way out. We walked in perfect silence, huddling close for a hug at the end – a moment of pure magic shared between us.

Daydreaming

Though I had intended to head straight to my desk to do some work this morning, on my way home my third grader’s bus stop, I passed a neighbor walking. She inspired me to remember that I too am a walker, to get outside, if even for a moment. I took the shortest, simplest walk, literally up and down my street, for which I am very grateful.

The walk opened up a space and time in which I could miss my grandmother, an emotion that had carried through from my dream last night into my waking life. In my dream, I was at my grandmother’s house. Everything was there just as it had been for my childhood visits: the clean yellow towels stacked neatly in the linen closet, her oil paintings on the walls of every room, the clear glass jar of buttons with the sewing supplies. I was grateful to have the chance to see it all again, but even while dreaming, I remembered she was no longer living, that only this house remained. I felt a beautiful, deep sadness at her absence from this place that was hers.

During my walk, I daydreamed about recreating her house, though it has long since passed to new owners, the items within sold, discarded, given away, each to their own lot. I imagined visiting thrift shops trying to locate the exact amber glass lamps that had stood on the side tables and the extraordinary wall hanging of a rooster made of dried beans.  It was a lovely fantasy, to bring these materials objects back together in reunion. We cannot go backwards though.  My grandmother’s house, as it was, is gone. My grandmother is gone too – and I miss her.

Snowy Woods

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.”

                                    – Robert Frost

I took a short walk in the snow-covered woods this morning, alone among the bare brown branches and the brilliant light. The snow in sunlight was a dense, opaque white, full of reflective diamonds. The snow in shadow was the quiet gray blue of softness itself.

Far above my head, the trees clicked against each other in the wind and let out an occasional groan. I stopped to stare at the beauty of even the most humble bit of bramble, the elegant design of its branches, thorns and showy red berries perfectly displayed against the completely white background. I thought about Robert Frost wondering “whose woods these are” and wondered myself how we came to think that any of us owns any of this. Signs of fresh digging in a hole left by the root bulb of a fallen tree suggested the real owner to which I deferred.

On my way back, I passed the field where my retriever had his last run back in April. They say we never know when we will go so we should live everyday like it’s our last. I don’t know how, but I think he did know. He ran the field to feel the joy of his muscles in action, the rhythmic pounding of his paws against the soft spring earth. He breathed in gulps of fresh air, full of the thousand living scents of spring. To me, this field will always be his.

“The cure for grief is motion.”

– Elbert Hubbard

I walked up and down my long street over the weekend as if in a trance. With each movement, the stone of grief weighing down my heart swayed a little, making it ache a little bit more for the children and adults lost to violence in their school in Connecticut last week.

I had hoped to write a December blog entry about the quiet, calm, peacefulness of this dark season, but this year the dark has manifested in a much more treacherous form. Now is not the time to sit snug by the fire. Now is the time to change the world. What happened in Newtown happened to all of us. The voices of pessimism that tell us that we can’t protect our children are wrong.  This is the time for real leadership and action.  Please join me in honoring the lives of those lost and of our own children in working to prevent such atrocities from ever occurring again.