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.

Lavender Honey

My friend George died six months ago today.

He died as fall was fading into winter. Now, with the waning of spring, there are signs of summer. The lilac blossoms are gone. The lavender stalks will blossom within a day or two. I pass the lavender on my way from the house to my writing shed.

It’s not so much that I miss their scent throughout the rest of the year as that I anticipate it as I see the passage of time in my garden. I know that one morning the scent will be there — a presence. Along with that — the faint buzz of bees. I wonder where they are making their lavender honey.

Lavender honey.

The sound of those words — lavender honey — slows me down. I’ve been wanting to slow down. Not having time slow down, I know that’s not possible, but my slowing down. Taking time to feel that there is time enough, if I let it be.

George’s dying was hard for me. I thought I would be a much bigger part of it because we met as hospice volunteers. I actually think that George pushed me away, as he did many others. He was so sweet and supportive that everyone thought that’s what George wanted—to be up close sweetly supported.

But, really, George kept people at bay. I suspect that for complicated reasons, he just felt safer that way. And so that’s how his dying went. In retrospect, I can see how bravely he faced it; how he marshaled all the forces he was accustomed to using in relationships to carry him through this most difficult of relationships. The one we have with dying.

Contained anger was a big force with George. I suspect that underneath that anger was the pain that people he loved both loved and betrayed him. That’s a difficult dichotomy to live with.

Fifteen months between his diagnosis and his death. During that time, lavender’s presence graced the path to my writing shed. I couldn’t tell you the day I noticed it was gone. Or even if I noticed it was gone. It’s just that once again, I anticipate its presence.

A friend who was a midwife to George’s death recently listened to the music Tom and Rob created that night that George died. She said it captured his breathing as he made his way through his final breaths.

Inspiration means filled with the gods. Perhaps expiration is about releasing them—releasing all those life forces that animate us.

About three months before he died, George wrote and then made a video recording of a message he wanted to leave behind. I watched it recently. Frankly, I can’t remember specifics. I just know that it brought his presence back to me. It’s the presence that isn’t armored with contained anger.

Loving is neither simple, nor easy. Sometimes you have to stand at the precipice of disappointment of what you wanted and what you got—and be grateful. For me, that’s being in a state of grace.

If Tom’s and Rob’s music is any reflection of George’s dying, then he died in a state of grace.

I read recently that grace is the unearned gift.


Lavender honey.

Unearned gifts.