Rose-Gold Solstice Tears

 

I am typing this morning on a rose-gold laptop, meant to be unboxed ritualistically with Solstice. 

But when my husband arrived home last night with the new purchase, I took it in my arms and said:

“Where is my old computer?”

Stunned, he said nothing at first, and then sensing my distress, replied: “They told me that it was on its last legs.”

He then proceeded to list all its ailments; of which, I was intimately aware.

Still, upon grasping this finality, I sat down on the stairs, with the box on my lap, and surprised us both.

I cried. I cried out loud as I had (or had wanted to) once when I watched from the curb outside our apartment as the tow truck pulled away with my friend.

That silver Mercury Lynx, a relatively unattractive car, without a single upgrade, did its best to transport me and my belongings to college and back home on weekends and vacations; and soon after, between homes with my younger siblings after our parents’ marriage came to a reckless end.

Sometimes I drove them to school, or to birthday parties, or to Easter egg hunts or out Trick or Treating. Later, when addiction split the 8 of us in half between parents, the Lynx provided for long-awaited reunions and adventures, near and far–the beach, the boardwalk, the Chinese restaurant, the pizza parlor, the historical village, the science center, the art museum, the zoo, the ballpark, the Berkshires.

That car accompanied me on solo trips too, riding the ferry across the Delaware Bay where my great-grandparents lived, and years later it brought me back to sit with my Nana in the hospital in her final days. (Or maybe that was the Honda.)

That little lemon of a vehicle from Ford took Casey and me across the country and back during our first winter together, spent in the Rockies, and the next winter, it went with me to my first teaching job; while long before that, it traversed the island and over to the mainland with friends on roadtrips to the mall or to concerts or back and forth to the waterside restaurant that I’d managed in the summertime.

I’d sobbed inside that car, after hours, to and from the restaurant in early July my first love proposed to another.

I sang at the top of lungs, “Somewhere over the rainbow,” on my drive home after graduation to which my mother, inebriated, never arrived.

I talked myself through difficulties and decisions; and from time to time, I thought about veering off my path to head somewhere unknown without telling a soul.

Despite the sputtering of its faulty carburetor, I learned to drive in that car with its manual transmission, and it became a part of me and my agency, of who I was, and who I wanted to be.

I can still see the Kermit the Frog decal on my back window on the morning my little brother helped me attach it. I can hear my little sister begging for some of my pizza goldfish from the back seat. I remember the tin of cookies between Casey and me that were baked for our two-thousand-mile journey to the Rockies, but which we opened before we’d left town. There was the cassette tape that I made for that trip, introducing him, to his dismay, to my childhood icon, John Denver, whom by the drive home, several months later, he loved too.

I began wearing glasses in that car, just at night.

Casey crossed the room and took a seat beside me on the stairs and patted my back as I wept.

“I started my book on that computer,” I said, and with that added realization, I cried even harder, leaving him a bit perplexed about the absence of joy given the expensive purchase on my lap, or maybe he understood completely, having loved me for so long.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m more attached to places and things than I am to people. Most of my photos, even the ones that I took when I was a youthful traveler, are of light and angles and objects, rather than familiar faces.

Maybe the experience of so much loss, so young, made me withdraw from the transient nature of human relationships.

“This new computer is a stranger,” I said, putting the box down beside me so that I could tuck my head under the railing of the stairs and lean my head against the wall while tears trickled down my cheeks.

I find myself there often of late, under the railing, shrinking life’s uncertainties I suppose, as I open into all the unknowns, no longer needing to be strong or clear or directed in this empty nest of ours.

I’ve felt deeply into this emptiness since August. I’ve grieved and been ill and wondered what the point–of me–was.

My entire life has been defined by care. In large part because I was born female. And because I was born the oldest. And because everything around me fell apart and someone needed to pay attention. And finally, because I chose occupations and careers that centered around the capacities cultivated in the face of tragedy and loss.

Even yesterday, while skating alone out across the frozen Retreat Meadows, I watched to be sure another skater returned from beyond the grassy mounds before I took another pass myself.

And still, I sense that I’ve reached some turning point, some great letting go, some tentative acceptance of an invitation–to lift my head out from under the railing and claim the space which was always meant to be mine.

This costly, rose-gold laptop is a necessity, I tell myself, much like a car. It’s how I get to work and back (even if I earn less now than I did when I was in school.)

My very first laptop was delivered much like this one, at the door, but unexpectedly so by a friend who had refurbished it, and thrusting into my arms, said:

“You’re a writer. Write.”

I left the classroom to do just that.

But Writing and I began our affair, decades earlier, just after my first year at college when my family fell apart, and I needed someone to turn toward too.

In journal after journal, I wrote to myself or to some larger aspect of myself, or to consciousness itself–through college and backpacking across Europe, to marriage and moving to Vermont, to becoming a mother and leaving the classroom.

Together we transcended relationships, locations, identities, vehicles, and even computers.

At first by accident, and then tentatively, I began submitting articles and essays until I felt the stirrings of a book.

“What will I write about?” I asked Casey. And in the absence of subject, and so ever-practical (and ever-so prematurely), I investigated the ins and outs of publishing, which pointed me toward something called “a platform,” ie. Facebook, Twitter, and blogging which fortunately or unfortunately better suited my need for self-direction until I was no longer submitting, in favor of writing what I wanted, when I wanted, in live-partnership with readers, ie. fellow soul seekers (but without a paycheck.)

You could say I’ve wasted many years here on Facebook, a decade, in fact, come 2019.

Or you could say that I’ve honed my voice and found new avenues of full-hearted participation.

Though I haven’t attempted to publish, I have written through three memoirs since that nascent stirring. The first in a single summer. The second during a school year. (Both shelved until my capacity for the craft matched my vision.) The third, written through again and again, over the course of what is now several years—the lifespan of a laptop that has lived past its time.

“They called it vintage,” Casey said, explaining how it wasn’t worth repair.

Earlier this month, he drove me to the sea, and there, at the hour of my birth, the largest or deepest essence of my book was revealed, like the small, but solid figure at the center of a set of nesting dolls.

“The beings that were un-manifest want to help,” an intuitive said just yesterday of the babies that I miscarried long ago.

And for the first time, since holding my newborn son in my arms, I felt the grief of those losses return, and something else–the gift of reconnection–and the space to occupy it.

And now, I discover that I have christened this laptop along with whoever is inclined to read something this long in the season with so much to do.

May this rose-gold light shine the way forward with all the accoutrements that accompany success.

Greedily, or better yet, full-heartedly, I want Everything—meaning, purpose, healing, publication, outreach, travel, income and wellbeing.

Thank you to each set of eyes and each heart and mind that helped me better understand my place in what amounts to a decade of live-journaling in this shared constellation of LOVE. Your light nourishes my own.

May your wishes rise in the dark in the certain embrace of Light’s return.

May it be so.

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Ode to August 15th~The Blue Lady

 

I became a mother this week on a day much like today, but I don’t remember getting wet. What I do remember is my acute embarrassment.

“Please don’t use the sirens,” I said. (Doctor’s daughters don’t do emergencies.)

I don’t remember if Casey rode up front, but I do remember asking if Mary could join me in back. It turns out they were relieved to have a midwife on board.

I watched as the farmhouse and the barn and the Deerfield River feathered from view as we approached the town where I’d moved to teach school two years earlier; but I don’t remember much else except for the mountaintop.

As we bounced over Hogback, I looked out at the three-state view, while the young EMT, fearing a delivery, attempted an IV into my hand. But she needn’t have worried. I had already told the baby to wait, and although my contractions had been steady and strong since my water broke at dawn, I hadn’t experienced a single one inside the ambulance.

“How far along are you,” my sister asked when I called that morning to apologize. She’d sent her 9-year-old on a plane to visit us and I had promised not to go into labor during his stay. “First babies always come late,” I reminded her, so eager was I to see my nephew.

“Well, it must be early labor,” she said, “You’re too calm.”

When Mary arrived shortly after that call, I asked if she’d would wait to examine me, so consumed was I by contractions.

When she finally did check, there were three surprises.

“You’re 8 centimeters already,” she said. “And something else.”

The something else was what resulted in several phone calls to area hospitals and then the ambulance ride.

“I am not going out on that stretcher,” I told the EMTs when they arrived in my kitchen. “I don’t want to upset the neighbors.”

Casey had just come in from hanging the diapers on the line, and before heading out the back door, I pointed to the doughs on the counter. “Will you put those back in the freezer,” I asked, feeling a pang for the meal we would never share with our birthing team.

“I bet this is a boy,” I’d joked to Mary in the ambulance, given that I had been told by more than one intuitive that this baby would arrive “after” my due date and would be a girl.

She later told me of the third surprise, that instead of a head, she’d felt testicles.

And although I hadn’t experienced any contractions on the ambulance ride, she later told me that my labor had indeed progressed. I was fully dilated by the time we arrived in the emergency room.

“She’s in labor?” the front desk nurses said, as I was wheeled past them.

“She’s still in her street clothes,” two others said, as they looked into the examining room where I had been deposited.

I looked these women up and down too and had thought them ordelies, but one would turn out to be the surgeon, who did her own examination.

“Small,” she pronounced.

“Adequate,” Mary countered.

“Unproven,” she said.

They stood at the foot of my stretcher disputing the capacity of my pelvis.

“Calm,” Mary offered, of my demeanor.

“I’ll give it two hours,” the doctor said. “But the results could be tragic.”

They looked from each other toward me.

“Can I have a minute?” I said.

I motioned to Casey to join me in the bathroom. I closed the door. I kept the lights off.

I had miscarried twice before. Bled through the early months of this pregnancy too. Had Braxton-Hicks beginning at 5 months. Had planned a home birth because I’d fallen in love with a midwife named Mary who told me that she took my little baby home with her each night in her third eye.

I had felt so peaceful there in our little farmhouse beside the mountain. The morning’s cloud cover created a cocoon as I labored at the edge of our bed, the skylight overhead where we watched the stars at night, the door to the balcony over the brook open to the air, and this blissful feeling between contractions that my mother told me I’d find if I paid attention to the spaces in between.

All gone.

“Remember, you and the baby want the same thing,” my mother said, having birthed 9 children without a single miscarriage or epidural.

She was a Christmas baby like my great aunt, while I followed on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her grandchild was apparently arriving on the Assumption of Mary, two weeks before he was due.

I opened the bathroom door to bright lights and urgent faces, remembering my bare feet on the soft pine floors, Mary kneeling in front of me, pressing her thumbs into my shin, lending exquisite relief during a contraction.

“I’ll take the c-section,” I said.

And then I remember the very last contraction I experienced.

“This will sting,” said the anesthesiologist who arrived in the operating room with a nurse and his long needle while the surgical team scrubbed like I had once done with my father and to whom I had just recently said, just as he had said to me: I never want surgery. (We would each have surgery this week within 48 hours of the other.)

“Can you wait a minute,” I said to the anesthesiologist, laughing at the absurdity of his warning about the epidural. “I’m having a contraction.”

In the end, they had to yank the baby out of the birth canal so ready was he to be born through me instead of removed surgically.

Protocol would not let me view the delivery, but they did let me see him for a flash before they whisked him to the examining table under the bright lights where they pronounced him healthy.

Protocol also prevented me from holding the baby until the anesthesia wore off.

I’d only had anesthesia once before. Wisdom teeth. I had barely come to at the end of the day when the same day surgery room was set to close. A friend arrived to drive me home while I continued to doze, and she nursed me through the night, ice on, ice off, so unable was I to rebound from the drugs.

Casey called the next day. I was furious. The restaurant had given him my home number. He was calling for a job.

Now Casey accompanied our baby to the nursery while I was sewn up on the table and wheeled over to recovery where just like before my rebound was slow.

I woke this morning feeling similarly drugged, to the sound of rain and a heavy cover of clouds, and although I wanted to rise and write before walking up to Sunday scones at Whetstone Ledges Farm, the absence of light made it difficult to stay afloat, and so I slipped back down under the surface of consciousness again and again.

“Do you feel your legs yet,” the nurse asked, as she covered my shivering body with more blankets. (To this day the last two toes on my left foot are numb.)

When I finally did meet Lloyd, he was wrapped tightly in a blanket with a knit cap on his head. I put up my hand as the midwife approached. I wanted to see Casey first.

We had become parents, apart from one another, instead of at home in on our own bed. Casey held our baby first, for more than an hour, after I had carried him inside for 8 months.

I don’t remember if the rain lifted that afternoon when I held my son.

I remember feeling that this was Everything.

I remember knowing that nothing would be the same.

When I fell back to sleep this morning, I dreamt that most of the tomatoes on the vine in our garden had ripened, just in time for Lloyd’s return to celebrate his twenty-third.

His name was meant to be Lila, after my grandmother, who died tragically at the age I am now.

I don’t know when it occurred to me that Lila and Lloyd share two L’s.

Twenty-three years old.

The twenty-third psalm was read at her graveside. I think of it every time I walk the road past the silent repose of the Whetstone.

I like the version Bobby McFerrin sings.

“Beside the still waters, She will lead.”

Lloyd has surprised us lately, wanting to be home for his birthday.

It’s unfathomable that he doesn’t live with us anymore. That the flesh of my flesh is not mine forever. That neither of us would want it to be so.

He was here last Christmas too, for an extended stay, during which we joined with old friends around a fire as the sun set over the waters of the Retreat Meadows.

We were deep in conversation when I felt a swoosh past our circle of chairs, and my eyes followed a woman who, with a flourish, removed a dark cloak.

I lifted phone and zoomed in to capture the beautiful blues and creamy whites of her wimple and habit but I couldn’t make out what hung from her neck and around her waist.

Her presence seemed to rivet me alone, and I could no longer focus, despite the company of my son and my oldest, dearest friend.

I stood up and crossed the space from the fire to her table beside the waters.

“The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa,” she said, pointing to the medallion that hung from her neck.

“My sword,” she said, of the beaded rosary that dangled from her hip down her left side, “To fight Evil.”

I shared my family’s Mary connection with her, including Casey’s birth on the Feast Day of the Mother, and my mother’s death on the same day.

“You are a Marian family,” she pronounced, and I smiled, thinking how some people enjoy certainty and others the questions.

I returned to the fire, taking a seat across from from my friend with whom I attended the same Catholic Highschool. She had recently given me a nightlight that had belonged to her dear mother, and I almost thought to discard this plastic statue of Mary when after plugging it in, the bulb sparked and went black.

But upon removing the plug from the statue, I saw three small words under its base:

House of Lloyd.

Later, as the light faded in the sky over the water, the woman in the dark cloak stopped by our circle, asking: Is this the one born on Assumption of Mary?

She looked directly at Lloyd saying:

“You are consecrated to Our Lady.”

It was he who saw the Blue Lady shimmering on the land alongside the Whetstone Brook upon which we would later build our home.

“The Blue Lady is here to help you,” my therapist said, years earlier, after the birth of my second son, when I arrived in her chair riddled with grief over my mother’s early death from cancer.

“It’s blue like the light over Uncle Lenny’s bar in the barn,” Lloyd said, of the place where he was almost born and where he watched his little brother come into the world.

He hadn’t known the word: fluorescent.

I hadn’t been sure about the purchase of the land upon which we stood together, until I was told to whom the land just across the pond belonged.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

On Turning 55

Michael McGurk

If 50 was raising the timber frame; 55 was me climbing the timbers & tacking an evergreen branch to its peak. (That happened. There was no photo.)

“50 is the old age of youth,” it is said, “And the youth of old age.”

And it’s true. The fifties are all that.

Or is it just me?

I lost Lila at 55. She had more than a dozen grandbabies by then. But with time’s passing, it seems impossibly young to have been taken.

My older sister died last summer at 55 too and just a few years before her—my aunt.

My mother had 2 years on the 2 of them, alive until 57.

Which is to say—While the sun is shining, I’m making hay.

Good Things Come…

651d184b026fb7ecd9f9e6575e822f6bI know many an artist (and other women folk) who rise in the wee hours to their craft when they can’t sleep, but not me. The last time I got up from bed to write was on the eve of my 50th birthday, almost three years ago; and now tonight, with the Harvest Moon lighting up the house, and rising inexplicably in me–memories of Steamboat Springs, 1986, when I taught preschoolers to ski.

I looked good on my application (a college graduate who’d been skiing since the age of 10), and I passed my PT exam with flying colors (because of my meaty thighs), but during the slope side screening, I took a tumble, so unaccustomed was I to deep powder after years of riding the rocks back east (even though I’d been introduced to skiing in the Rockies, more than a decade earlier, when binders had cables, and Copper Mountain was a new thing.)

Good things come.

That tumble didn’t cost me the position, but it did place me with the bottom group of students through much of that winter.

Each morning, with my education degree and high honors, I’d carefully place those rugrats on the rug in the snow at the bottom of the hill, and soon enough, one would fall, and take down the others, and mittens would come off, and someone would need to pee, and someone wanted his mama, and everyone would cry, including me (well, maybe not, but I wanted to.)

Eventually, after the New Year, I moved up to level B, just every once and awhile–to the rope tow.

Do I need to say more than: Rope tow?  Remember leather mittens?

I’d place a kid between my meaty thighs and let the rope yank us onto the track and up the hill, and hope that his skis didn’t cross mine and that we didn’t tumble before we made it to the top where we’d just as awkwardly let go of the rope and then hop out of the way before it knocked us over, and then we’d ski, together, like a kangaroo and her joey, down the tiny slope to the pile of whining kids on the rug waiting their turn.

Good things come.

At the tail end of winter, a boy from Texas, who had never seen snow before, liked my class so much, that his parents requested a private–and not with a specialist, but with me. Which excused me the rest of the week from classes.

This little four-year old Texan and I spent our day skiing all over the mountain. Like free. We even ate lunch on top of the mountain, in the grown up cafe, a table for two, instead of down bottom, on the cafeteria tables, with snotty-nosed kids and rubbery grilled cheese sandwiches. (I used to eat three of those after skiing with kids between my knees all morning.)

By the end of the week, that boy, who had never seen snow, skied better than me. That’s the way it was with those little fuss pots, once they got over missing their moms and loosing their mittens and needing to pee.

546872_10151458941438746_766586566_nGood things come.

Each morning, I’d roll out of bed, take some Ibuprofen for my hangover, pull on my turtle neck and my ski bibs, and walk down the mountain from the condo that I shared with 4 other beach friends, including the twenty-one year old college drop out who followed me west, and who is still sleeping in my bed tonight, all these years later.

“Don’t go,” he says, as my rising stirs him from sleep. “Let’s have sex instead.”

Back in the day, in between my day job on the mountain and my night job in the restaurant, I’d skip dinner just to make him happy, but now this Pisces moon is stirring memories in me so I leave my old lover in our bed and head down the stairs to the moonlight on the floor of the livingroom.

524958_10151458924138746_1209171228_nGood things come.

Just before I’d report to the ski school, I stop at the vending machine in the hallway for my breakfast–a Cherry Cola (for the fruit), and a pack of peanut butter sandwich crackers (for the protein.) Then I’d check in at the front desk to get my slip for the day.

On that little sheet of green paper would be a list of names up to 9!–and the letter A, for the rugrats; or B for the rope-tow kids; and always more names than you wanted to see on one slip. But then one day, unexpectedly, come spring, it said neither A or B; in fact, that day and every day after that, as the sun grew stronger, and the days grew warmer, there would only be a few names on my list–maybe 3, or 4 or 5, but no more, and always the same letter: C.  Sometimes C-1 or C-2, but then later, C-3 and 4s.

Every day in March was sun glasses and mountaintop views and having so much fun that we forgot about parents and who needed mittens as we inched our way from the lift to a beginner or intermediate or expert run, hollering in song…  “Walk like an Egyptian.”

Good things come.

Later, my boss told me that the administration was so impressed with my positive attitude all winter (meaning I hadn’t grumbled like the rest of them when I was  handed sheet after sheet with the letter A or B) that they thought I deserved to coast out the spring season with C’s.

Good things come.

Paige BradleyI’ve been having a strong sense this week and particularly today–that good things were coming, even though today was one of my hardest days, with the full moon accentuating all of life’s blessings and challenges.

There’s something promising in this autumn air along with the renewed prana.

The moon has shifted across the sky, and my livingroom is now dark instead of filled with light, and moths keep crashing into my screen.

Good things come.

I’m ready to coast.

Me & my A’s at the bottom of the hill, Steamboat Springs, 1986

“Ready to die”

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-v1_at_8001.jpgMy son returns to college this weekend so I’m thinking about death.
Mainly my own.
How everything good ends.
And how life is such a trickster.
Sucking us in by love, disarming us of our defenses, distracting us with the infinity of doing, and then VOILA–death! Ending. Finality.

Having a family is the worse (or is it “worst.”) Simply because it seems so permanent. Particularly in the trenches. Like the diapers and the feedings and the messes will never end. And when they did, I was HAPPY.

But now, I’m 51. With a second foot into the decade that took the lives of my beloved mother and the grandmother I adored.

Plus it’s winter. A particularly hard and cold and frozen week of January in Vermont. The darkest time of year. And in Paris, a bunch of people were butchered.

“We’re ready to die,” said the terrorists.

A friend relays that he had a moment on his mat this week where he felt that it was okay to die. Really okay.

I had that once too. On my knees. In the garden. Rain soaked. My hands in dirt.

What if we woke every day with this aim?

Without saving any love or expression “for later.”

To be ready TO DIE in each moment.

But not like this:

answers to the: 11 questions to ask while shaping a memoir

Holly Sierra
Holly Sierra
  1. Why am I writing this story?

    Because it asked to be written.

  2. Why am I compelled to share it?

    Because I saw a gold-leafed binding.
    Because I like to be helpful.
    Because I want to alleviate suffering, mine and others.

  3. What is the message in the telling?

    Life transcends story. Life is steeped in story.
    The story is both personal and divine play.

  4. What shapes the story?

    My personal loss. Our common heart.

  5. Who are the readers?

    Those interested in the story and the transcendence of it.

  6. How does this work align with my life purpose?

    To explore, speak, shape & celebrate the truth in the story and beyond it.

  7. How does this work transcend any measure of outer success?

    Damn it. I don’t like this question.
    Truth serves truth, I suppose.

  8. What is rare about this offering?

    It is my singular dance with all that is.

  9. What justifies the amount of time I have devoted to the work?

    I don’t like this question either.
    Truth, art, expression–the dance.

  10. Who am I in this story?

    A seeker. A child of God. A motherless child. A princess. A queen. A woman.
    Myself. In communion with the Divine Feminine.

  11.  Where will you begin and end?

    With the Divine Feminine:
    At the moment of my deepest loss (at 14);
    and in the moment of sweet self-compassion/revelation (on the eve of my 50th birthday.)

~The Yoga of Lila

11 questions to ask while shaping a memoir

  1. Holly Sierra
    Holly Sierra

    Why am I writing this story?

  2. Why am I compelled to share it?
  3. What is the message in the telling?
  4. What shapes the story?
  5. Who are the readers?
  6. How does this work align with my life purpose?
  7. How does this work transcend any measure of outer success?
  8. What is rare about this offering?
  9. What justifies the amount of time I have devoted to the work?
  10. Who am I in this story?
  11. (What questions do you ask yourself?)