reporting from my arctic cocoon, where the mercury hovers at a brisk -3, which the weatherfolk tell me feels something akin to -19, which explains why nary a bird is in sight and the bumps on my flesh are reaching architectural proportion…
if you propped up a camera at my house and did something of a time study, clicking the bulb every five seconds, it might appear that i’ve not moved in five days. the hide of the couch has given way to the rounds of my bum, the blanket lurches off to the side on those rare few occasions when i rise — for a drink or a nibble or a night’s sleep in full recumbent position — awaiting my certain return, where it folds itself just so round my knees and all of those knobby parts that protrude from the human equation. i am the very definition of “to cocoon,” or better yet, “to slither into dormant state where the turning of a page is perhaps the most taxing of movements.”
and so it goes in a week when you’ve intentionally left the calendar unmarked — not a doctor’s appointment or deadline in sight. all you’ve to do is hunker down with the ones you so love, the ones whose appearance by your side becomes rarer and rarer as the years and the miles pull you to faraway points on the map.
just yesterday there was an actual moment — an hour or more — when four of us were all nestled in the very same room, all under blankets of our own choosing, and all turned pages (or, truth be told, clicked through screens), while the logs in the fire crackled and hissed and occasionally whistled. it was — we were — the very picture of post-pioneer home entertainment.
i’ve been hunkering down with three glorious friends — john mcphee, john o’donohue, and my newest friend, robin wall kimmerer, a plant scientist, potawatomi, and poet who is taking my breath away by the paragraph, with her brilliant collection of essays, braiding sweetgrass, a book that’s been lined up in the queue between bookends that sits atop my desk, but only just now shoved its way to the front of the line and into my lap. i take turns with the three of them, as if in deep conversation with friends across the kitchen table. i read mcphee, draft no. 4, a collection of essays on the craft of writing that reads something like a masterclass, for whole chapters at a time; it’s that good that a whole hour can sweep by and i’ve not moved saved for the scritches and scratches and exuberant stars i’ve penned in the margins.
it’s the rarest of times, the depth of the pause that comes in this bend in the year, the days wedged between christmas and new year’s. and, by golly, the weather outside is playing right along. i trudge outside only to dump seeds for my hungry feathered friends, the ones i worry about, especially when there’s barely a flutter of wing and i imagine them barricaded and seed-less in the places they hide to keep out of the cold.
it’s a rare refueling respite. a time to curl away from all that pulls at us, all the other times of the year. it’s what makes these days holy to me. unfettered, unbroken. a time to breathe in the same air as the ones you so love. a time to lay a soft palm on the arm or the shoulder of the one who turns pages beside you. a time for whispers and glances, and heart-melting meeting of eyes.
it’ll be over today, when the tv roars to a tiger-ish roar, and the football teams clang helmets, and the boys i love — along with a few of their friends — haul in spicy hot food and decibels to match.
perhaps i’ll begin to turn my thoughts toward the cusp of the new year coming, the one about to be birthed, the one i will once again fill with hope and dreams and prayer. i will pray for peace, and for gentle ways to rinse the land. i will remember those who’ve stitched this past year with kindness, defiant kindness, a kindness that refused to submit to the ways of the loudest and most churlish among us. i will count my blessings, one after another, one sweet soul after another. for it is in the sweet souls who surround me that i find those rare shimmering lights, the ones that keep me from slithering into the muck. i’ve needed those lights more than ever in this past soul-tattering year. needed reason to rise above the least common denominator, needed scant outlines of hope that the darkness would pass, the dawn might certainly come.
oh, coming year, come on us gently, come on us with occasional radiant light….
i pray you’ve found quiet or noise in the proportion that best suits you. and i pray for all of us that the year and the days ahead are gentle to the heart and the soul, and that one or two of our dreams come tumbling true.
for what do you pray in the year just up around the bend?
Bam, you’ve done it again. I’m just reading through my emails in front of my huge iMac monitor, in my living room, and there you are, so I know it must be Friday. The week has been a string of identifiable days…Tuesday? Thursday?…but you in my inbox means it’s Friday, and that’s a comfort in itself. But as I said earlier, you’ve done it again. Your words are warmth, jewels that glow with connection with me. I tear up at their perfection. “…rinse the land.” “…soul-tattering year.” “…heart-melting meeting of eyes.”
These phrases bring tears, they’re so succinct, so perfect. And the personification of your bookfriends, all jockeying for position between your bookends (“Me…pick ME!”)…bam, it’s just all sheer comfort and joy for me.
You know you’ve been my blessing this year. Our new friendship has added a rich new component to my life (much like my discovery of Penzeys Spices did…you’d love this company and their CEO’s mission to urge people to cook to love, and to combat the “slithering into the muck,” as you so perfectly described it, bam).
My 2017 has been so enriched by you and your words. And what do I pray in the year just around the bend? I pray that my four dearest ones will continue to find their way in this increasingly unforgiving and darkening world…that they’ll strive to be the light, to be healthy components in their worlds, ones that bring the hope, maintain the decency, offer the tender heart. I pray that my dear husband will continue to enjoy good health as we start another year “just the two of us”, even more so since our son and his family relocated a thousand miles away, including our only grandchildren, one of which we raised for five years, in our mid-fifties. Now we can embrace being actually our age, and enjoy the benefits that come with the knowledge that we have responsibilities only to ourselves as a couple, and can make those sweet little dreams come true, hearkening back to our start, back in ’75, when we enjoyed adventures together with more imagination than funds. As many people reminisce, those days are often the sweetest in their memory…when life was just starting out, and all they had was love. I pray that my wonderful 91-year-old mom will be around for next Christmas, that she will enjoy her current good health and sharp mind. The loss of her in my world would be one I know I’ll have to someday face, but it will change things in the most profound way, I know that full well. I cherish every daily call with her, every time one of us calls the other with news of an interesting movie to watch, or a news brief we’d just seen. I am so blessed, bam. I pray that I’ll be able to find a balance in life, where this week which you so beautifully characterized as “cocooning”, will annually be one where I cozy up with my Tom, not having an item on my agenda, not worrying that I should be getting my post-Christmas ornament orders shipped, which I’ve done every Christmas for the last two decades. I pray that I can slow down and savor more than I have in the past. I pray that our country will continue to have a grass roots groundswell, orchestrated by plainfolks like you and I, that will insure a better road for our nation, especially with the upcoming 2018 elections. I pray for peace. Always for peace.
Thank you, dear bam, for all that you offer. It comes from you so generously, so graciously. And we, your friends around the table, are so very grateful. Happy New Year, dear friend. Stay warm, stay snuggled, stay ensconced in the thick of love this week.
OHHHHHHH, B! love your words which burst from your heart like the finest of geysers. your description of these days, the string that melds one into another and leaves us dizzy with calendar dis-orientation….your kindness…
your prayers hit all the sweet spots. for your four growing angels, for your beloved, for your mama. your fine-grained appreciation of these days, the ringing of the phone, your mama’s voice on the line with news big, small, or anywhere in between. it makes me think more deeply about my own mama’s unceasing presence in my days…..
as i sit here at the kitchen table, feeling like i’m inside the snow globe, as the football blares and the cream-cheese-laden foods are inhaled atop chips (family hit recipe, devised by legal scholar: slide chips, sprinkled with chili powder and cayenne pepper, into 350-degree oven for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with lime juice, and listen to the hoots and hollers!), i am as sated as sated can be…..
bless you for enfolding us, all of us, in the deep beauties of your bottomless heart…..
I, too, have been cocooning. I’ve stepped away from the noise of worldly affairs and have steeped myself in the quiet comforts of home and hearth. I have savored this special time with my far-flung nestlings, the littlest of which is with us until tomorrow night, when she’ll jet back to Boston. I, too, am turning quiet pages, toes tucked beneath a cozy blanket. Our woods are filling up with snow as I write, and my heart is at rest.
From my little cocoon to yours, I’m sending a flurry of loving thoughts. xoxo
sending love, sweet angel. love that your littlest nestling is still among you. can’t wait to hear what pages you’ve been turning, and what threads you’ve been picking and choosing and pulling through hoops……
….. “soul-tattering year” .
A description that, sadly, captures it perfectly.
I first read it as “soul-shattering” – and, even more sadly, there were times that that also would have applied.
Antidote = more of the week you are describing – for us all!
tatters, shatters, either way it tore us to the core, from one angle or another. and thus i am all the more grateful for this quiet corner where kindness means everything. love seeing you here, dear joanne. sending a very big, very long hug. xoxoxo
Socked (as in soft thick woven snowy cotton of grey and white fluffy threads of yarn) in Michigan woods with my own pile of books and three plays to read. Add a crummy cold (from my granddaughter who is absolved already) and I am in congested heaven. No one wants to be near me…so I retreat. 🙂 I am happy that “new” begins in few days. We bring our tattered belongings and histories to a turn of the calendar year. We pause for Hope’s celebrated entrance. For she is the best guest we could look for. I am happy to entrust her with my dreams. May your new year dance with Hope throughout.
Beautiful, beautiful, inviting in Hope to our table, our unending circle, our midst…..
So sorry you are congested. Happy you’re deep in the woods, under pages…..
I’m curled up at home after lots of Christmas travel. I’ve got a bit of Merton (a recently favorite), Slowing Time (naturally!) and the same book of blessings by John O’Donohue. His words bring me back to myself after a hard month. I’m meditating on his blessing for a New Year, wishing it for myself and everyone else in 2018:
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
Oh my gracious!! I cannot believe we are both sitting here inhaling the same words! I’ve just pulled Anam Cara off my shelf to re-read, as I can’t bear to let go of his wisdom and spirits! He and I shared a birthday, and it was also the day he died, so I feel an eerie kinship with him. Thank you, dear Ivy, for bringing him to the table in full color!!! Xoxo
And just this afternoon, I was just “sitting” with him and Krista Tippett as they discussed Beauty (which presence of makes us feel more alive) Thresholds (edges where realities collide and how we transition is the all) which is in Tippett’s book Becoming Wise. He must be out in the world for us today for a good reason. May we listen thoughtfully. Love this triad. I can’t think of more “beautiful” companions.
I love this. I first stumbled upon him via Krista Tippet’s show. He had the most lyrical voice, and the recordings of him reading bits of his poetry are breathtaking: https://onbeing.org/programs/john-odonohue-the-inner-landscape-of-beauty-aug2017/
that voice….i can hear it before i even click to the link (once upon a time, i got to spend a whole long glorious day with J O’D, who was as kind and glorious as you would hope he would be…..). but i will clink to the link to swim in that glorious voice and the soul from which it flowed……
Bam dear – Had an extended and lovely conversation with my visiting Cousin today and then turned to “catch up” on the glories of your thoughts
and I marvel at the number of words here that echoed so many words contained in that conversation… we must have conjured up similar observations and hopes through cyberspace telepathy or our hearts are
being conditioned by a Grand Master who is resonating to so many seated
around your table. I just ordered an essential book on the process of counseling (non-fiction again) and am moved to follow in your stead and
obtain Braiding Sweet Grass for the sheer joy of being mesmerized by
the lilt and light of a gifted writer. I miss being “transported” by lyrically profound thought and dancing to that tempo…..so I think I, too, will hunker
down and reap the harvest of cocooning and hibernation. It is 6 degrees
this evening and what better occupation to warm the heart…. A most blessed
2018 to you and yours for vibrant health and the fulfillment of hopes.
ah, dear Gentility, may Braiding Sweetgrass carry you as a seedpod on the wind into those lovely and lilting places the new year promises! i might need to trace robin wall kimmerer’s authorial roots, and find her earlier work, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, described as “an extraordinary celebration of smallness and the grandeur of life,” in which she is our pathfinder into the world of mosses, yes mosses. she’s got lilt all right! here is just one passage, this one considering flight, as we star-streak across the skies, ignorant of so much around and below us…:
“Between takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun’s glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own.”
and may your 2018 be blessed and gentle, too. and may we see more of what’s before our eyes and all our senses…..xox
a beautiful friend brought this bit of loveliness to me, and i am bringing it to the table. it’s from Noelle René, a writer and blogger whose work can be found at Mamasté, themamasteblog.com/
“I resolve to believe
that humans are hurting, hopeful beings
And that being human deems us worthy of relationship, grace and love
And that being human deems us worthy of sharing meals together, teaching and being taught by one another, seeing and being seen…
I resolve to believe that I am worthy of being seen
of being known
I resolve to believe that you are worthy of being seen
of being known
I resolve to share more meals with you
I resolve to believe that god is love
And that love is kind
And that the sharp edges of the religion I was raised in is just that
— the edges
and that the core, the depth, the intent, the body (and the god) beyond the edges is stunning
I resolve to believe that friendships come and go
and like the ocean, ebb and flow
and like the ocean, I have no control
over their tides
I resolve to trust gravity
and who it pulls towards me
and who it pulls away
I resolve to believe that my body
and all it’s slight curves and edges
and worthy of good food
and good exercise
I resolve to believe that love is victorious over death
and that resurrection has come
and is coming
I resolve to wait in the empty space that death leaves
and know that parts of me will die in this space
and that parts of me will come to life in this space
I resolve to believe that my darkest days are behind me
and still to come
I resolve to believe that my best days are here
and still to come
And that healing comes slowly
and all at once.
I resolve to believe
in our hurting, hopeful humanity
in our god.”
thank you, Noelle….