A Tribute to a Lady

My Mother A beautiful lady. I've always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.
My Mother
A beautiful lady. I’ve always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.

 

It used to drive me crazy as a teen.

“Tell me what you think, Mom. What should I do?”

Mom would set aside her paint brush, focus her dark eyes upon mine and shrug.

Her comment was always,

“It doesn’t matter what I think; it’s what you think that counts. Think for yourself.”
Brush strokes filled a canvas.

Think for yourself. Three words that held power. Wielding clout to the choices I made.

It was my responsibility to stand at the crossroad and choose the right path. Successes and failures were mine alone to shoulder.

Mother insisted I decide my fate. There were moments in life when I begged her~ tell me, guide me, shield me, and help me. Anything, as I stood alone at the intersection called Life, and clutched an empty suitcase.

“Buck up,” she’d say, “Life’s not a party and it sure as hell isn’t fair.”

Her words, sage lyrics spoken from the heart of a beautiful, brave woman. A lady who learned late the skill set necessary to navigate through the unpredictable forests of life. She understood I was ill prepared, too fearful to fly. So she pushed me.

When lost, my mother’s words take the helm and whisper, Think for yourself. I promise you, the answer is within. Automatically my compass resets.

The Universe sets us down, gives us what we need to deal, in a lifetime. A talisman of courage when we cower, a nudge to stand tall when another breaks us down, the sparkle of beauty amidst ruins and light to shine through darkness.

This Mother’s Day I honour you, Mom. I learned to fly.

On Being Thankful

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This weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving; another opportunity to pause and remember all the blessings in my life. First, to family and friends. Even apart you stay an important part of a life story. I raise the first glass of Pinot Grigio to you!
There is my dear one; an excellent athlete and a gentle spirit. One day you will understand that the world doesn’t care about whether you run the 8 minute mile; rather that you kept trying to improve yourself on the track of life. (An aside rant- One day a curriculum will question the standards of a system that fails a child who runs a mile in 12 minutes! Both will be thankful for the lessons learned. Keep trying to improve; in the big picture that is all that matters.)
To my kids; you make me proud of who you are and who you will continue to evolve into. You stand up for right; you care about others, you are kind. We raised you well.
To my family; thank you for being there. Kind of like that 12 minute mile. We limp along, moving forward; sometimes we struggle through to strengthen our hearts. We circle the wagons when one of us falls off. Everyone needs to belong to something and someone’s clan!
To friends~ I’m grateful for each of you. Your laughter, stories and your mischief reminds me that together we are all better people. We enrich one another.
Raise a toast to the laughter, the fun, the struggles, the tears, the joys and the words; all moments to treasure. I wish you a gorgeous day with those you love and care for and I thank you for sharing and caring in my life.
x

Wings

Flying 2

 

“And the voice spoke even more deliberately: ‘…but remember what is under the ocean of clouds: eternity.’

And suddenly that tranquil world, the world of such simple harmony that you discover as you rise above the clouds, took on an unfamiliar quality in my eyes. All that gentleness became a trap. In my mind’s eye I saw that vast white trap laid out, right under my feet. Beneath it reigned neither the restlessness of men nor the living tumult and motion of cities, as one might have thought, but a silence that was even more absolute, a more final peace. That viscous whiteness was turning before my eyes into the boundary between the real and the unreal, between the known and the unknowable. And I was already beginning to sense that a spectacle has no meaning except when seen through a culture, a civilization, a professional craft.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars

I am not such a fan of plane travel.  It puzzles me how a  large, heavy, motorized tin can structure can trick the elements to soar.  I am skeptical of the physics. There are rituals, I hold to. I listen to the little things like the sounds of the engines. Are they humming through scales as smoothly and effortlessly as a master conductor guides an orchestra? I want to view the pilot, the uniform. Is it crisp, polished? The pattering steps I hear scampering the ramp. Are they solid, confident? The last pilot scooted through the parking lot seated on top a unicycle. Flare mixed with spunk.

I want some spark, some attitude in my pilot.

Once on the plane , I fall back into the seat and cross my fingers. The engines warm up as they pace through the tests. We taxi the runway. The engine’s thrust pulls, slowly, then faster  and faster, until we meet the bump that lifts the metal dream ship, wavering for a second, fighting with the wind, finally pushing skyward.  I pray to Sky God cradle me. Air borne. The familiar everyday further behind us. My eyes turn skyward. I pause, silent.

Rocketed, climbing higher, pushing through layers of batting. Mastering the elements, we pass through stormy, wispy white layers.  The earth below appears far away, the roof tops disappear, insignificant. The landscape spreads like a quilt. “Rest,” the sky whispers. “Dream.”

Glancing through the arched window I glimpse a spectacular stage. There is such glory to behold. Emerald green patches of land sparkle below, the glaciered prominence of a mountain’s summit, the mix of watery blues edging the greens and inky blues of painted skies. I imagine wings. Glorious wings to fly.

It is peaceful here. Pressing a cheek to the window’s glass, the chill  seeps in, penetrates my skin. I press my eyes to sleep. Oh to be winged, soaring through the  wispy clouds, playful, peeking from a fluffy mound of  snow white piled high. Who goes there? Winged archangels, chubby cherubs, old souls. 

Glorious, gone. Home. Now I walk the earth with my eyes turned skyward. 

Flying 3

A Hug

“Ms M! Ms M!” the little boy’s voice calls out.  I turn and face a child standing at the end of the shop’s aisle, ball cap pulled down low to the brow, red tee and shorts, summer kissed skin.

“It’s me!” he says.  His big eyes twinkle, his smile wide and gappy; little fists clench together.

“It’s you!” I  gently reply.

He rushes forward, throws his arms around me, and looks up; sweet little rounded face.

It’s been three years since I taught him. I remember this child, a goer, always on the move.  Some mornings he shook me awake!  A thinker, a doer; building structures to navigate all across the carpet, surrounded by wooden blocks or hundreds of  Lego bricks.  Some days, castles stood lining the perimeter, other days building straws reached up, a tower to the sky.  Lego ships and rockets peeked out, partially hidden behind a book or from beneath a table, safe, waiting for another opportunity to play. Each afternoon as our time together came to an end, he’d pause on the landing, throw his arms around me; a hug good-bye.  Until the next day.

Some days, when it came time to work he would say, “I can’t,” or “I won’t.”

“Yes, you can and yes you will.” I’d reply, leading him to the table. Cross, the little head would lower, eyes narrow, as his small fist tightly gripped a crayon or pencil. Slowly, he realized, he would, he could.

“You did,” I’d say each time.  Our eyes meet; we leave each other with a smile.

He wanted to read and his excitement was to the moon when we finally found a reading series he connected with, the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.

http://www.pigeonpresents.com/books.aspx

Teaching was a passion; every day an opportunity to laugh, learn, and play; to create memories. Truly, the biggest pay off is hearing a little voice call out,

“Ms. M, Ms. M, it’s me!”

Along with a hug.

It’s you, thank goodness! You made my ordinary day so much better. Your heart remains open; your sweet child’s face filled with joy.  Thank you for reminding me that it’s the positive connections we make with others that count most in life.  Lucky me, your teacher.

 

Gratitude

Beauty

Gratitude. Years ago a thoughtful neighbour brought me a clump of peony roots, dug from her colourful garden, divided for another.  On a walk, I pause to admire the show of beauty blooming so splendidly in her garden.  My eyes covet the peonies, the genus Paeonia, buds wrapped tight, stalks gently holding the shy, unfurling blooms.  Some garnet, pink, and as if this isn’t enough beauty to behold, two weeks later, the white flowers show, shining through the dark night.

On the cusp of autumn, she placed three small bundles at the doorstep. They patiently wait, still, wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, for me to discover.   Cradling the bundles, I take them to my garden, gently hand them to the earth.  Planting the woody clumps into the soil, I wonder at the magic these simple bundles of wood and roots would conjure.  Seasons changed, the little woody clumps slept snug underneath an earthen blanket.

The following spring the roots anchor, stalks push through the soil’s surface, evolving into small bushes covered with compound, deeply lobed leaves. Three garnet peonies bloom on one of the bushes. Two weeks later, the second bloom opens to reveal the purest white petals. Years later, these small clumps have mothered five beautiful bushes.

Gorgeousness. Some believe peony compounds have the power to heal.  Inhale their fragrance, touch the soft petals with a finger tip, breathe in as your heartbeat slows under this intoxicating spell.  I wonder at such beauty.  

Ancestry

The ad captures my attention~ discover your past, your family’s story.  I begin a quest to discover the history of my family, to know their stories. Regrettably, it never occurred to me to enquire about family when I had the chance.  The relatives I knew kept silences and secret whisperings locked away.

An ancestry membership started me on a journey to discover my past, to discover the men and women whose spirit, hard work, and resilience contributed to my DNA.  Like Alice, I fall down the rabbit hole to emerge in England.  Perhaps this partly explains the allure of floral and chintz.  I cannot pass a vintage thrift shop; I must enter and wander the aisles, linger with the china tea cups and saucers.

Cabbage roses capture my attention. Closing my eyes, woodland hares and rose bushes come into focus.  A calico cat peeks out from behind a stone shed, its stealthy body poised, yellow eyes set upon a morning robin, watching as the bird alights atop the country garden’s netting.  Sweet peas inch up the strings, their perfumed fragrance intoxicating, carried on a gentle breeze.

A paper bag princess, royalty eludes me! Instead, I discover a fascinating world, its simplicity steeped within the doctrines of the Church of England and the land.  I am descended from working class people; tenacious spirits, the farmers and carters beckon me to pause and pay respect.  The great, great, great-granddaughter of hardworking men and women who tilled the beautiful pastoral lands around Shropshire, England.  I wonder if an everlasting thread connects us still. At times, their presence fleeting, their faces mirrored back. Perhaps these old souls smile when they view my humble garden, the sunflower seeds and tightly rounded sweet peas unfurling from seed coat jackets.  Maybe they tenderly gaze back from the faces of those I hold dear.

I stop to study the women’s photographs.  I note beauty and grace, the comforting resemblances to those now here. Standing tall, their proud high foreheads face the camera.  Beautiful dark eyes share the untold stories, the stories of strength and courage.  These courageous women, many sent to work as domestics while still children, some missionaries in China, others interned. Many grieved babies lost to consumption and disease.  Many lost husbands.  All had mouths to feed.  These tireless women, their beautiful, haunted eyes beholden to the emotions, sorrow and joy. Beholden to the land and the seasons.

When in doubt, I imagine these women sending forth heart beats fueled by a fierce strength and unrelenting resilience. Loyal to family, sheltering one another throughout life’s storms, imagining the opportunities, if only wealth or education had happened along their paths.  They forge on, some daring to dream of a future with opportunities and choices for those waiting in line.

Discovering a family’s past, uncovering the mysteries and facts, I set my compass down.  It is an honour to gently sift through the stories, unveil the lives of ones so true.  I take away their gems and stones to polish and shine.  I gather strength from their life stories.  I cherish who I am.

 

 

 

Under A Blood Red Moon

Love to my way of thinking, is the emotion one feels when they meet someone who makes them be what they want to be. We feel love toward someone who shows us the light, who pushes us to become what we have always wanted to become but may have never realized. We love the person who makes us love ourselves.” 
― Mina HepsenUnder the Blood Red Moon

http://www.space.com/25250-a-tetrad-of-lunar-eclipses-starts-in-april-video.html

Nasa explains this breath-taking phenomena better than I do.  Please click on the link to find out all to know about the early morning total eclipse of the moon.

Under A Blood Red Moon 

I awake at four a.m. and gaze out through the unveiled window.  It is the moon that captures my weary attention.  It hangs suspended, a brilliant white light, full and heavy, in an inky black sky. A wispy cloud passes by, as if a wayward remnant from a beribboned banner cut.  A silken piece left after the  announcement that the greatest show of the universe is unfolding.

In the Bible, it is written that God uses the moon and the stars to send signals to earth.  The moon held power over the people.  It brought about their fears and swayed imaginations.  Superstitions surround the topic of the moon.  Beware~ those who sleep under a full moon run the risk of insanity or blindness. Worse yet, the magic conjures to turn one into a werewolf; fear not, you are safe from harm.  This occurs only if the lunar event  falls on a Friday.

I have slept under the blood-red moon, awakening too late to view the total lunar eclipse or tetrad.  I catch the last stages of this spectacular lunar event.  For a few minutes I am able to glimpse the shadow of red, surrounding the edges of la luna.  Our collective hearts beating back to one another.

During a blood-red moon, one is viewing every sunset and every sunrise around the earth at the same time. It appears as if earth’s reflected back by the brilliant moon light.  We, the human population, are given a brief opportunity to view each other’s worlds, however fleeting the moment.

It is impossible not to be awed by this spectacular celestial event.

If you missed this lunar event, mark your calendars for October 8, 2015 when once again the earth will experience a total lunar eclipse.

Full lunar eclipse. Moon 5 photo 3

Iron Goddess Mercy

Mercy    

 

 

The quaint teashop in the village drew me in through the door.  Upon entering, I notice the tidy order to the space.  Inside, a peaceful calm exists compared to the bustle of the shoppers outside. Golden canisters, nestling exotic teas, neatly line the aluminum shelves.  It is as if they are watchful, standing guard over the quiet room. Sunlight streams through the windows, illuminating the glass vessels and teapots.  I am here for a purpose, on a mission to search for a tea memory.

 

This memory formed from a story that began many years ago.  It began like this. At least once or twice a month, my father would gather my sister and I up.  It was Saturday, our day to visit Vancouver’s China Town. There was great excitement as we readied for the celebration ahead.  We would lift our best dresses from hangers and step into them. Twirling through the kitchen we would spin, our socks leading us through pirouettes and turns. It felt like a party.

 

My father, handsome in a white short-sleeved shirt, copper toned pants, and brown brogues would lead us to the car.

“Time to get out of town, girls!”

Along the way, he would stop at a candy factory to buy us a bag of Rock Candy. The candy was beautiful to behold and even sweeter to savor, the sugar and crunch divine.

 

Swinging the car into an alley within the city, my father would inch it along the narrow, darkened lane, shaded by the shops and buildings.  Garbage cans lined the edges of the alley.  Men in white undershirts with aprons tied at the waist stood and smoked or laughed behind the row of restaurants.  A child peeked through an open window, curious about the little girls riding in the long, shiny car. A dog barked. The car would park and rest in a reserved stall located behind a garage.

 

Scuttling along the street, we would follow our father until we reached the door of a small restaurant. Entering, an ancient man would shuffle over and lead us to a table at the back of the restaurant. This is the same man who would one day hand me a wooden abacus, the very same one that he always used to calculate our bill at the end of the luncheon.  I still have it, tucked safely within my grandmother’s china cabinet.

 

The men would be waiting, seated around the table.  We filled the empty spots.  My sister and I sat silent and watched the waiters carry platters of exotic food, our senses overwhelmed by the sights and the smells.  The men would laugh and drink, catching up on business.  Our father would order us ginger ale.  We never knew the names of the men.  We never spoke except to one another.

 

A tureen filled with chicken soup arrived, the chicken feet with claws floating in the broth. The men would laugh as my sister and I politely declined to sample.  We waited for the rice and sweetened sauce of tomato beef. A waiter would pour us tea. The hot, sweet tea soothed. It was the tea’s unique aroma that arrested me.

As the meal came to its end, I would wait to discover my fortune, tucked away inside a curved, fragile, almond shell.  Carefully, I crack the shell and unfurl the thin, white scroll to reveal a truth.

You are an adventurer traveling on the highway of life.

Time passed and the meals in China Town ceased, dining out with my father came to an end. Perhaps I became interested in new events; perhaps my father became involved in other interests.  Still the fond memories of being in his presence stay.

The woman in the teashop smiles and asks,

“May I help you find a tea?”

“Could you? Let me describe it to you,” I reply.

“I know the one,” she says and reaches behind her to lift a golden urn from the shelf.

“It is an oolong tea.  Iron Goddess Mercy.”

The woman lifts the lid from the urn and offers it to me.

“Inhale,” she says.

I know in an instant that this is the tea of memory, a tea with a fitting name, Iron Goddess Mercy. A name that signifies indefeasible strength infused with kindness, compassion and grace.

Today the rain is relentless in its torrent.  Spring is hiding behind the edges of the forest.  It is a day for Mercy.  I fill the aluminum kettle with water and place it onto the stove’s element awaiting the water’s reluctant boil. I lift the tea tin from the shelf above the stove and open the lid, inhaling the leaves inimitable odor. Next, I place a small amount of the tea into the waiting infuser.  Placing the infuser into the teapot, I pour the hot water over the furled and balled leaves.

“Wake up, Mercy,” I whisper.  The lid rests upon the teapot; I know to give her time to mix magic.

I pour the tea into a mug and slowly sip the sweet flavor.  The rain steadily falls outside the window.  Inside, in this moment, I am warm for I have found my tea memory.

 

 

 

 

 

Layers

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Layers

When I recall my father I remember is eyes, the long almond shaped lids, their colour and clarity.  His eyes were the darkest green, unnatural actually, animal like in their brilliance and sparkle.  His hair was raven black, combed straight back from a high forehead.  These attributes were his best features along with an attractive expression.  He had youthful good looks and boyish charm which others found appealing.

“Never trust a man with a weak chin line,” my mother would later comment.   I would have to agree, she would know.

There was a presence about my father when he entered a room.  Aware that he possessed beguiling charm, he would captivate the crowd.  To say he had presence was an understatement.  My mother would sew her clothes from curtains and remnants, my father would have his suits hand measured and stitched by Modernize Tailors in Vancouver’s China Town.  Some claim that a great suit can make a man and it certainly was my father’s motto.

“Roy dresses better than the President of the company,” my mother would comment.

My father had aspirations of becoming a President of a company and reputation was everything.  He studied the look of success, choosing the basics of style for the era of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Suits made from the deepest navy blue cloth, burnished browns, or charcoal slate were his choice of fabrics.  He was slim and of regular height, the careful lines of tailoring made him look taller, the hand stitched jackets fitted to his strong frame, padded through the shoulders.

The pants were straight, pleated, and hung perfectly from his waist.  It was my father’s shoes that I admired, his brogues.  I would watch him as he slowly twisted the lid off the tin of shoe polish, gently pushing the soft cloth into the polish and applying it to the leather, the polish sliding across the top, back, and sides of the brogue.  After a bit, he would take out a clean cloth and polish the shoes to a brilliant gleam. It became my job to polish and shine his shoes placing them on the mat beside the basement door.

In his closet hung wool fabrics for winter and lighter mixed blends for summer.  Sometimes, I would enter his bedroom and open the closet door.  The suits would be neatly lined up, colour blocked, hanging in wait from wooden hangers. The blends and the tweeds beckoned touch; there was a luxurious depth to them.  The distinct scent of cigar drifted away from the clothing.

When my father began to vanish, he’d take items of clothing piece by piece as if they were evaporating.  Was he trying to trick us into thinking that he was still present?  Perhaps he was momentarily off course, his compass a suit in the cupboard, a direction finder for when he found his way back home.  I would realize he had finally left when opening the cupboard, it would be empty, the biting scent of cigar, gone.