Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks Giving

Another tequila sunrise
I recently revisited an article that a Hospice nurse had written.  She compiled the five most common things said when a person is close to their death.  I won't list them here, but certainly we all know that "no one has ever said they wished they spent more time at the office".  And indeed, this was one regret that was shared by, not surprising, most men.  They regretted not spending more time with their children and feel they missed out on all the most important moments in the life stages in their children's lives.

But the one that really struck me was that many people said they wished they had chosen to be happy.  Really?  As though, in this final moment here on this earth, all these people recognized that happiness is a choice.  One can simply choose to be happy.

From the day I met Dave he had told me "I choose to be happy for the rest of this life."  And these are not empty words for him; he truly does wake up with a smile (most days) and tends to turn the bad in his day around and finds the positive in it.  He chooses, every day, to be happy.

I love him for this.

I have never stated it this way, but I realize that I am a person who also chooses to be happy. I have always labeled it "grateful."  Because I truly am grateful for so much in my life and in my every day.  And it is this attitude that seems to allow for the worst experience to become an opportunity for growth.  The little shitty things in the day become a "test" ... "OK Mary, you going to cave to this shitty little thing or you gonna take this and understand what's in it for you?" ... and with this decision, to take the bad as a chance to recognize my mistake, I try to grow from it.  This, in many ways, is choosing to be happy,  because ultimately that shitty little thing has become something to be grateful for as I navigate the "test" and move on.  The belief that things happen for a reason opens a whole new approach to the negative.

I just need to state that I understand I am blessed because I have the ability and the resources to be able to look at my life like this.  There are those who walk among us who have been dealt a lousy hand in their life. I never take for granted all that I have.

On this eve of Thanksgiving day I hear many people stating what it is they are thankful for.  I know that no one feels this only one day in the entire year, but it's not such a bad thing to take this long weekend and really note what it is we are grateful for, happy for, in ones life.

And so, I'm going to share just a few of the things on my gratitude list today:

Today, I'm glad it's raining.  It's pouring actually.  A part of me wishes it was snow, but that makes traveling treacherous for everyone.  And because it's so miserable out there I really don't feel the need to go for a trail run ... my knee is hurting me anyway and needs the rest.  So this rain gives me the permission I need today to take it easy.  I can stay inside and bake and cook my contributions for the family feast tomorrow.

I'm grateful for this little thirteen year old dog who is smelly and has ugly fatty tumors popping out more and more.  Who has a lot of joint pain and moves slow and hobbles across the room at times.  But she has been here for me through some of my darkest days.  And even now, as arthritic and crippled as she is, if I ask her to go for a walk she lights up and with a big smile she will journey out with me down this camp road.  I have needed her company on some of these days, and she offers it freely with no conditions.

The last few days I have been a bit .... shall we say, moody?  There is much in my life to be moody about; feeling a bit homeless and out of sorts with the house still under construction, trying to navigate the wishes and routines of working within the practice of  another person after running my own private practice by myself for 16 years, not being able to find anything when I want/need it.  But this morning I also realized that some of this sadness is, once again, related to Jim.  He creeps in when I'm not really expecting it.  This morning it's been nice to label it as, "OH! the grief beast is here again!" And I know it's OK, it's OK to still grieve the loss of this man.  But today I am also incredibly grateful to him.  He taught me how to really love.  He showed me that it didn't have to be perfect, or pretty, but if it was honest and open then love would thrive.  And because he taught me how to love another human being so deeply and completely I was able to recognize it when it knocked on my door this second time.  I knew what I should feel when I told another person, "I love you".  And I am so grateful for this, and to know that I did not turn away from this gift of Dave Lovejoy who has walked into my life and understood that he and I could choose happiness for the rest of these days we have together.

I'm grateful that I have never bowed to what "should be done", and always listened to my own spirits calling.   And today, thanks to Jim, I live by the code, "no regrets."  When I know these days are done for me I want to be able to look back on it all and know that I took that risk, I said yes more than no, I played as much as I worked, I stopped and took the time to connect with others and that I chose to be happy.

Today, if more tears should fall, I will be grateful for them, for all that they mean to me and all the love that flows with them.

Perhaps being happy really is a choice we can make.  And, perhaps, it really is this simple.

Loving you all back ... and be safe in any travels you embark on today,

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Lake

Sunset, Great Pond
I have not spent much time on lakes except to be invited to go "upta camp" in the summers with friends who have camps on the various lakes in Maine.  I love the feel of swimming in fresh water .. it's silky flow through the hands, it's bathwater temperature and the fact that you don't have to shower after swimming in fresh water; there's no salt, stickiness to flush away down the drain.

When I was young I would go to the lake with the family sometimes and delight in leaping off a dock, inspecting the outrageously huge dock spiders and cringe thinking there were snapping turtles somewhere beneath me.  Times when a boat would pass by close to shore the other kids swimming would leap up shouting, "A WAVE! A WAVE!".  I would stand up perplexed ... where was the wave? This was a young girl who had learned to body surf before she learned to swim.  I'm sure in today's world this could be considered some kind of child abuse, but the fact was, my dad was an amazing body surfer and taught all 5 of us the joys of catching that wave and riding it all the way to beach .. until your nose scraped the sand!  So when the wake of a passing boat went by I found it a tad difficult to get excited about "the wave!".

Sunrise on Great Pond
This fall we have been living here at the camp on Great Pond, and I am gaining a whole new awareness of the changes of this landlocked body of water and all it's flora and fauna.  The sun climbs over a distant hill and ignites the sky in the early  morning with fuchsia colored clouds, while the tall pines on the distant knoll stand  back lit and silhouetted by this amazing morning light.  In the evenings we get the reflection of the setting sun behind us bouncing off those hills with the pines turning bronze and gold.  There have been more than one time when in mid-conversation with someone on the deck I have had to stop and just proclaim, "OH! WOW!"  and  all conversations would stop while we all  looked out over the water and watched the day recede in a brilliant display of changing colors.

Unlike the ocean the surface of a lake is not in constant motion; it's at the whim of the wind.  Yesterday I looked out and saw white caps on the water and realized the wind was blowing a gale.  In this little inlet the trees weren't really moving much, but the white caps told me there was a mighty wind out there.  A few hours later the caps were gone and the lake's surface was calming down.  By the time the sunset the water was like glass and reflected the rising moon as a perfect mirror image.  I have loved watching the moon through her cycles on this lake.  With no streetlights here or neighbors who must "light the night" with their porch lights burning all night long the moon's silver light flows across the water and seeps onto the floors of the cabin.  I wake frequently, just to see the moon dance.

I wrote about the Loons call in my blog, Wildness, on June 11.  Spending three seasons on this lake I have come to appreciate the many voices of the Loon.  Their communication system is as intricate as my family of Crows that I fed, observed and loved down in Falmouth.  Last spring Dave and I came up to the lake to open the camp for his mother's arrival.  We decided to spend the night, a little get away for us back then.  Late that night I was unable to sleep so I hauled pants over my sleeping shorts and walked out to the point.  I sat gazing at the reflected image of the stars in the lake; tiny fire crackers of light above and below me ... and I heard it ... a Loon?  But it sounded so different, the call was not the lilting, octave break of a Loon.  It was deep, guttural, masculine and aggressive.  The males come in to the lakes first in order to establish territory and wait for the ladies to arrive later.  This was the males territorial voice I was hearing!

During the summer there is that haunting sound as the mated pair talk to each other through-out the day and night.  And I now recognize how that song becomes a warning screech if a boat comes too close to the nest or the young one is separated from the parent.  Late summer we began to hear the call over head, not from the surface of the lake!  It appeared that the Loons were testing their wings and helping the fledglings get stronger for the winter migration to the sea.  They would fly past the camp for short distances at first, lengthening this flight over the course of a few weeks.  I could swear the call of the Loon over head as it passed was joyous as this water bird took to the air and spread it's wings .. literally .. again.

This morning the lake is steaming, warning of the colder air temperature as winds from the North begin to descend on us, bringing winters first frosty breath.  We will be moved out of this cabin by the time the lake has frozen.  Moving to a small and intimate town in the mountains.  I'm looking forward to this next step.  It's time.  It's time to take on this whole new life.  It's time to be in the mountains that will become my back yard now.

Sugarloaf Mountain
It's time.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I've found myself thinking a lot about this transition I've leaped into and how it has me experiencing life in three distinct ecosystems ... all beautiful but very different; the ocean, the lake and soon, the mountains.


Having grown up on the beach there are sounds and smells that instantly take me back to the care-free days of being a little girl in the summer.  The cry of a seagull that ricochets  off the buildings and careens down streets of the Old Port in Portland.   Storms on the ocean were never just wind and rain, there was always the background noise of crashing waves against the rocks or the sucking and tinkling sound of those storm waves receding from the beach as they drag sand and beach stones with them.

After these big fall or winter storms the beach would be carpeted with  Surf, or Hen, clams that had been hauled out of their deep-sandy holes just off shore only to be thrown up onto the beach and abandoned as the tide pulled away.  At those times my siblings and I would head down to the beach with plastic white and blue buckets banging against our shins as we picked these clams, the size of a diary farmer's hands, from the sand, inspecting them for their liveliness (if they pull their shell closed tight when lifted they're still very much alive) and drop them into our buckets, leaving the dead ones for the gulls who skittered ahead of us.  Taking our prizes home we'd wash them as best we could, dad and my brother would shuck them and mom would make them into clam chowder.  This is a very big, tough clam so they are only good if chopped up fine and put into that stewing broth of milk, butter, and potatoes.  

The Maine coast has it's own unique smell.  The west coast beaches do not have this ripe, salty-brine aroma to them.  I don't know what it is, the cold waters harboring more life and thus more decay at their low tides?  Maybe.  But that smell of rotting seaweed is so sweet to me,  so much a part of beach combing, body surfing and long walks on the beach.  Many years ago my good friend from Boston, who went to acupuncture school with me, moved up to Portland to begin her practice in the same office suite with me.  Rather than being competitors we were a wonderful support system to each other as we learned how to market and grow a private practice.  Nancy found a little cottage on "my" beach  where we would frequently meet to go for walks together.  One day after a big storm there was a lot of detritus left rotting after a particularly low tide.  Nancy gagged and said, "God, that is such a horrible smell!"  This might have been the first time I realized that not everyone likes the smell of rotting seaweed! 

Or the time she and I were walking that beach in a pea-soup fog, unable to see more that 2 steps ahead of ourselves.  With the tide low we couldn't see the houses that sit high in the sand dunes, nor could we see the waves that we could hear lapping somewhere off to our left.  There were no landmarks of any kind.  I told her how much I have always loved walking in the fog on a beach at low tide, without the ability to see forward or backward it was really a moment of being very present; unable to see the future or what lies ahead and equally blind to where we had just come from, thus no past behind us.  The only thing that existed in the gray mist was just her and I and the next step taken in the sand.

I'm trying to be present like this now as Dave and I work on renovating this big, old house, as I enter into an established practice that belongs to another acupuncturist, as we live beside the lake and commute thirty minutes to and from our small town in the mountains.  Unable to see the future we keep taking steps without any land marks to guide us, just our own knowing that this is the right direction for us to be going in.

Loving you all back,

To be continued ... THE LAKE

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Wedding

Dave's niece made our wedding cake.
The wedding was September 13th.   A Friday.  Yup, Friday the 13th.
But as my good friend, Eva, told me, "NEVER be afraid of the number 13!   One plus three equals four and four is the most stable number in the Universe; 4 legs to a table or chair, 4 compass directions of our earth."
I liked her reasoning ... and the fact that she was one of a few people who didn't make a negative comment about this date.

Besides, it's my sisters birthday and she has had several Friday birthdays in her life time and she's not an unlucky person at all!

Though, it did rain.  Poured actually!

For those of you who don't know Dave, he's a very accomplished outdoors man.  He has the ability to make everyone camping with him comfortable at the campsite, so the boy is fabulous at putting up a good tarp.  He is known in his circle as "the tarp master".

So, with the help from his brother, Steve,  Dave put a tarp over the deck where we were to be married and we had white umbrellas for those who couldn't fit under the tarp.  It was actually pretty sweet.  And quite honestly, Dave and I never really noticed the rain.  Our reception was to be the next day.  With, possibly, 200 people attending.   I felt that if it had to rain it was far better that it happen on the wedding day and not on our party day.  And it was beautiful on Saturday September 14th.  Thank heavens!

Dave and I had agreed we didn't need the traditional maid of honor or best man.  We just wanted the ceremony to be us, our friend (who is a minister), Bill Gregory, and witnessed by our families.   But, between the two of us we have five grandnieces,  so we decided to have five flower girls!  I spoke with the families about our wishes and everyone agreed that this would be wonderful.  The girls could wear whatever was their favorite dresses, there was no color theme.  My oldest grandniece, Linnea, wore her "flower girl" dress to the family Easter gathering last April and let it be known that this wonderful white, full-skirted-satin-sash dress was her flower girl dress.  It was sweet and I was surprised that she was already considering her role for the wedding five months away!

Linnea is Jerry Sanders granddaughter, and at Easter Jerry was very ill with the cancer that would consume him within a very short month.  Linnea understood all that was going on and told her mother she understood about cancer and death because of Uncle Jim.

Last May, when Jerry passed, friends and family gathered for the weekend for making dinners, being present and participating in the grieving process with the Sanders.  It was a time with lots of tears, laughter, sharing good food, singing and dancing and honoring the loss of the wonderful energy and spirit that was Jerry Sanders, or, Bee Bah, to his grandchildren.

Linnea had been gifted with one of Jerry's favorite caps that he had brought back from Alaska.  Every so often she would take the cap off and, with tears in her eyes, offer any of us to "smell it, it smells like Bee Bah."  I did this with Jim's hats too, quite honestly, it seemed to be the only clothing that had maintained any sense of his smell, so I totally  understood what Linnea was doing.

It was one of these evenings that Linnea called me over and said, "Aunt Mary, what do you think of my being a bridesmaid instead of a flower girl?"

"Wow! Linnea, talk to me about this."  She looked up at me and from under the brim of that cap and said, "Well, I've been a flower girl a couple times already but I've never been a bridesmaid." Then she sat back, waiting for my reply!

Here we are mourning the man who,  for this little girl, the sun rose and set on and yet she was thinking about this upcoming wedding.  I realized that if this was something she could look forward to, be excited about and perhaps help in some tiny way to get through this difficult time .. then of course she could be my bridesmaid!  When I told her, "yes, I would be delighted to have you as my one-and-only bridesmaid" she leaped up and ran over to her mother to tell her my answer was yes!

So,  we had four flower girls who danced and bounced out ahead, throwing flowers ... over the railing into the water, at each other, or just up into the air.  And I had one bridesmaid, who stood 4 feet tall, wore white, looked absolutely adorable,  held my bouquet for me, and was very grown up.

It is one of the many cherished memories from this weekend long celebration when Dave and I united our families as well as our large circle of friends.

Loving you all back,

PS ... we also sang Happy Birthday to my sister, Jayne.