The Geese

It’s like that. One day you realize something has changed. For all I know the geese may have been back for several weeks. But last week, I noticed them in all their honking glory.

2015 spring 3My part of the Earth has turned from winter to spring. It was cold yesterday, but it was spring cold. One of those days that surprises you with its chill. You know winter has passed because the signs are all there: the blossoming trees, the tulips and daffodils finding their bloom, the lengthening days, the woodpecker on the telephone pole.

The chill is as cold as a winter’s day, but it is spring cold. A reminder that change isn’t fixed. It has its own rhythm. Change happens over time.

I’ve been trying to come up with a description of my blog, Writing Shed. What it’s about. The closest I could come to was that I’m a woman growing older writing about what a woman growing older writes about. Which means I write about life’s stuff.

The dust seems to be settling for Tom and me. A new reality in which cancer is a player, but not what defines our life. It catapulted us into a more intense experience of life, but now we are settling in again to the mundane: paying bills, daily household chores, grappling with what to do next.

The mundane is also life. We enhance it by making sure to honor the grace of everyday living: the time we spend talking with each other over breakfast; the attention paid to making dinner a meal worthy of leisure enjoyment—and then enjoying it at a leisurely pace.

And then, of course, we have to do the dishes.

I just rewrote a piece that describes how I went from thinking being a married woman was a what that trumped me, to understanding that anything I do is nothing if it doesn’t include me. I get to write my own story.

The piece is based on the period following my divorce in 1974, which was chaotic. I couldn’t figure it out. I wasn’t a married woman, so what was I? I had ended the marriage. Felt that I had escaped it. But I had no real idea of why.

I traveled to Europe alone in 1976 (radical for my background). That was when I decided I was a writer. And when, without my realizing it, I began to shape being a married woman around who I am.

But, as I said, change isn’t fixed. It takes place over time. The dust has to settle.

There is something about the recent before-and-after-the-shark event we just went through that has helped settle the dust wrought by that nearly 40-years-ago seed of change.

I am a writer and a married woman. The shark made me realize that being a married woman has a unique vulnerability. It’s not so much a what I am as a who I am by virtue of loving.

Change is time. Time is change.

I’m a woman growing older writing about growing older. Which is life’s stuff.

I look forward to the geese family stopping traffic on Third Avenue—the adult geese raising their necks in defiance as they usher their fuzzy goslings from one side of the road to the other.

Growing older. Aren’t we all?

Why the Goose Family of Third Street Crossed the Road

The geese seem to be in their winter home—wherever that is.

I just noticed earlier this week that they weren’t flying over our home. For a while, flocks of them flew over heading south. Once in a while a flock headed north. For all I know they might have been the same geese. Or maybe they were part of a tribe that came back to help any stragglers. There is, after all, strength in numbers.

GeeseFamilyI wondered what happened to the Goose Family of Third Avenue—the one whose adults acted as crossing guards as the little ones and mothers crossed the road, stopping traffic in both directions. The guards would stretch their necks and, with laser-like focus, aim their eyes at the cars, giving them no option but to stop so that their goslings could safely make it to the other side. Perhaps, they did know there were sentient occupants in the cars and their eyes were seeking ours, trusting that we would see in them what we have in us—a love for our children.

My relationship with the Goose Family of Third Avenue covered a period of weeks, at the most a couple or few months. I can’t say for sure. I watched their children grow from fuzzy little goslings to feathered young geese crossing Third Avenue in Sequim.

At some point, I noticed that I didn’t see them anymore. I suspect the young ones were ready to fly and so didn’t have to waddle across the road. I suspect they were among the flock that flew back and forth over our property on their way south, and perhaps returning north to be part of the gatherers—those who made sure that any stragglers followed them to the home they make when winter sets in here.

I know nothing about the behavior of geese. I’m just guessing. I do know for certain that those adult geese who crossed Third Avenue were protecting their young.

Take a leap with me now.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Seattle, staying with my nine-year old triplet grandsons while their mother was on a business trip. After dropping them off at school the first morning, I stepped into a Starbucks, intending to spend some time writing.

I noticed the accent of the man next to me when he responded to my question about logging on to the café’s Wi-Fi. A few minutes later, overcoming whatever shyness I do have, I asked him about his accent—where is it from?

He was from Palestine it turns out. I have met Palestinians before as I traveled, but none were as gregarious as he. Others had always been friendly, but carried a profound sadness—the sadness that comes from dislocation.

My new friend was loquacious, as well as gregarious. Clearly, a born storyteller. He had attended a Catholic college in Oklahoma. Think about that—a Muslim attending a Catholic college in Oklahoma. Kind of spun my head around.

Many in his family still lived in Palestine, fortunate enough to be on the lower cusp of middle class as opposed to the grinding poverty most Palestinians live in. When he asked what he could send them, the women said flowers. In addition to being an engineer, he was a master gardener.

He sent them bulbs, disguising the contents’ package with lots of chocolate bars. He had to do that to get past Israeli customs, one of the signs that Palestinians are colonial subjects of Israel.

The bulbs he said were lilies.

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
“If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more [will he clothe] you, O ye of little faith?”
Luke 12:27 to 28

That’s what flashed across my mind—the poetry that originated in this land made deadly with sibling rivalry for their God’s love. As if God’s love is finite so he or she has to choose one flock of humans over another.

I could see the women—his relatives—in a field surrounded by lilies, chattering about their daily lives, savoring chocolate bars. Such a different image when I think of the Gaza strip. A rainbow replacing the cloud of destruction I usually see in my mind.

As my Starbucks’ friend led me further down the path his story took us, I learned that he was on a break from work. He had gone to a meeting where he brought flowers and chocolates to one of the women consultants, and was accused of sexual harassment.

He wasn’t worried, he said, because he knew who he was. He suspected that it wasn’t the woman who complained but rather her boss, who seemed to have a thing for her.

My guess is his suspicions were right. My new friend was cheerfully married with five children. He was a master gardener who knew the mystical allure of chocolate. He was simply introducing the beauty of this moment into a mundane situation. And for reasons that are beyond my comprehension, someone in authority saw fit to turn it into an us-or-them conflict. He saw the look in the eyes of the goose and forged ahead, without regard to the life he might destroy, because the goose family was in his way and he was in a hurry.

And yet, I left Starbucks encouraged, rather than discouraged. I knew that my new friend would be okay regardless of the outcome of his suspension. I knew that he would be okay because, as he said, he knew who he was. And I knew that he would never plow down the Goose Family of Third Street regardless of how much he was in a hurry, for he knew that this moment of beauty could always be found in the mundane.

I call it the grace of everyday living. And that, I believe, is our salvation—taking time to savor the grace of everyday living.

I miss the call of the geese. Other sounds fill the air, but I do miss their call. I wonder when I will hear them again. No doubt it will be a sign that spring is awakening. And maybe there will be a new generation of The Geese of Third Avenue who will stop traffic as they shepherd their flock from one side of the road to the other.

I imagine there are many reasons that the goose crosses the road. One, I am certain, is to remind us to meet its eyes so we can experience the beauty in this mundane moment.

So we can savor the grace of everyday living.

So we can feel loved, knowing there is enough love to go around.

The Grace of Everyday Living

Summer is in season. The summer solstice is two weeks away, but, summer is in season here where my writing shed lives.

When I lived in San Francisco, it would be a foggy day. There might have been other foggy days, but there was always the one that seemed to herald to me a change of season.

Here, it’s the bright morning sun with a cool breeze finding its way into my writing shed. I think the same birds visit at this time of year as other seasons. But their songs sound like summer to me.

Summer is in season.

I love the day that heralds the seasonal change – the passage of time.  It seems foolish to ever want time to stand still – or worse, to kill time – doing whatever it is  we do when we say, “I’m just killing time.”

I did a major housecleaning in my writing shed. Books had been strewn on the floor, magazines haphazardly placed in baskets, old photos stored in multiple places, waiting until I got around to organizing them.

It’s great to find old photos. Talk about visible signs of time passing. I found photos of my stepdaughters taken at the Renaissance Faire, at Fort Point, on Fathers’ Day – the French toast brunch they’d prepared spread before us.

I came upon one of my mother and I taken twenty years ago in front of the Haida totem pole that had been installed in Sausalito as part of a celebration of Haida culture and art. The Haida artists had carved it in its place.

I visited the totem pole from time to time — experiencing  it.

One early morning (I can’t say for certain, but I think it was in the fall), as I sat at Caffee Trieste, I saw the totem pole being carried away on a truck. I knew that the installation was temporary, but I hadn’t known when it would leave. Perhaps it had been there a year, through the four seasons.

I felt somehow privileged to see it pass by me, as if I was in the right place at the right time. I think it would have been much harder on me if I had just gone to see it one day and found it gone.

My father was still alive when the photo of my mother and I was taken, but Alzheimers had already stolen him from us. I had just recently divorced my husband. So it was just my mother and me.

Those were good times with my mother. She trusted me, which she didn’t always do. I used to think it was because I was untrustworthy, not worthy of her trust. But time taught me that that was just the flaw in her tapestry – not trusting love.

But this photo captured a moment of trust. Two women on their own, riding change.

Spring and fall seem like active times to me – times for planting and gathering. Summer and winter seem to me to be more about nourishing and trusting and waiting. Winter is about trusting that the sun will return. Summer about trusting that what you planted in the spring will grow – that you will be able to reap it in the fall for nourishment in the winter.

I’ve gathered a number of baskets over the years since that photo of my mother and I was taken. As I went through my writing shed, divesting myself of stuff I no longer need, organizing the stuff I do need, I emptied baskets. I have five empty baskets — baskets waiting to be filled.

I think that might be what summer is to me – baskets waiting to be filled.