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where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Tag: looking back

retracing time…

WK cake from video

i don’t remember what started it. something like a root being tugged deep inside. some primal mama root, an urge that could not, would not, be stopped. i wanted to grab hold of long-ago time, to loop it forward and back, to get lost in the nooks and the crannies. to turn back to the start of the holiest story i’ve ever lived and breathed. the one that over and over has filled me beyond the brim, prompted me to whisper in my deepest, holiest, truest hours, “thank you for this plenty. thank you, and thank you, and thank you.”

and so, a few days ago, i found myself on my knees, tugging hard at the drawer that hasn’t been opened in quite a long while, the drawer that never really wanted to open, a stubborn pine drawer in a stubborn pine chest. but inside was a box, a blue box, with a stack of 27 cassettes, each one smaller than an index card, and each one holding moments for me that have been swirling to life, ever since i plugged in the old clunky video cam, the one i never much knew how to work.

it’s been dizzying, as the moving pictures have swooped and dipped in and out of the frame, and in and out of focus (no one in this house claims cinematography skills). but every once in a while, when the camera held still, i got a glimpse — a whole string of frames — of moments in time that in rewind and from this perch of a quarter century later (my firstborn turns 25 a week from today) are doubly precious to me as i study each one for the first hints of who these boys would become and how deeply, gently, exuberantly, they were loved.

the moments i’m watching, the ones that have me glued to the itty-bitty lens (i don’t know how to hook it up to any bigger screen so i watch on the just-bigger-than-a-postage-stamp-sized screen that flips out from the camera), map in fine detail this journey into the center of my heart.

there is my sweet boys’ papa, holding a four-month-old in his lap, reading page after page in a whole stack of most-loved picture books, reciting in those homespun meters and warbles and trademark whimsies (the ones parents and children invent, putting a signature twist to particular pages of particular children’s adventures in dramatic reading), the ones that laid down the roots — the foundational truth — that joy could be found tucked between the covers of even the cardboardiest book. and there, two years later, is the sweet boy perched at the top of a step stool, leaning over the butcher-block counter, describing to me in glorious detail the train cake (complete, for some reason, with “strawberry garden” just to the side of the tracks) he and our twice-a-week nanny baked for my 39th birthday. and, back to the one-year-and-nine-months version of that breathtaking child, there he is echoing on cue the words his papa whispers: “mommy is beautiful,” then adding his own improvisational “daddy is beautiful.”

it’s now my new favorite activity, the one i squeeze into all the margins of hours, in between chopping or stirring. while awaiting a call or the handy repairman. i pop in a tape, and whirl back in time, never knowing what precious moment is just around the bend, a moment i’ll watch and re-watch (thank goodness for “rewind”). did i mention i watch through tears every time? and sometimes the tears come so hard and so fast, i need to mop up the spills on my cheeks and the cutting board below.

all week, i’ve left the video cam sitting out on the kitchen counter. once or twice (or thrice), i’ve captured my favorite little sequences onto my itty-bitty iPhone. i sent one such bit off to the faraway legal scholar, the one currently working in washington, filing briefs on critical matters. just in case he wanted to watch his nine-month-old self in heart-melting action.

it’s a bit, um, kooky, i know. but through the magic of moments captured on digital tape, i’ve yet another way to pay even closer attention — to time, to the first seeds of the boys who now talk in complete sentences, who no longer get tangled by S’s and diphthongs (those smack-ups of vowels that prove quite a challenge to the tongue just finding its way through the jungle of words on the long road to talking).

i feel my soul reaching back, leaping forward, in time. if someone offered a master’s degree in the study of new-forming children, in the art of raising and teaching a child, of loving day in and day out, and doing so with godly measures of patience and gentility, i’d be the first one in line. there is a good dose of something akin to aching here, of wishing for yet another chance, of wishing i’d realized the first time around just how sacred these hours were, even though i believe that deep down i never lost track of that truth. and in watching, i never lose sight of that critical eye, the one that has me scrutinizing my each and every move. the one that sometimes wonders if i hit the pause button often enough in those early impressionable years, did i slow down the frames to relish each one, did i realize i could never come back to these moments, to the script as it rolled the first and only time through?

i stumbled in so blindly, back at the beginning. led only by heart and a gravitational pull toward loving. as i watch that child, those children (for eventually, eight years after the start, the second sweet boy came along), as i consider who he was, how we loved him, against the backdrop of who i know him to be today, i am washed over in holy gratitude for the raw capacities — the combined graces of the man i married, and the parents who taught him (and me) how to love — that kept us so unmistakably focused on quietly, gently teaching. and, more than anything, bathing him, bathing both blessed boys, in love upon love.

tape after tape after tape, it’s a whole-body immersion in loving and examining love, in resuscitating moments and hearts and the passing of time. these moments, forgotten in the everyday, live deep in the core of who we’ve become, me and the boys i so love. it’s where i’ve been lost — and found — in this past string of days….

on the brink of father’s day, a day when we celebrate the men who’ve loved us and shepherded us through the wilds and pitfalls, i thank the heavens for the one i so loved. and the one who so loves the boys who i birthed. and for all the fathers among us who teach with gentle and certain abundance. 

have you gotten lost — in pages or film or videotape — in your past, and what lessons did you extract, and if you could do it all over again, what might be the few things you’d try hard to live with more grace? (no need, of course, to spell that out here; i’m just echoing the question i’ve lived with all week…)

going back

i’d not been there in 32 years. even though in so many ways it’s defined who i am. even though my time there resulted in one of the first words you’d read in my bio.

i became a nurse there. and today, armed with laptop and handouts and even an imovie, i went back to the college of nursing that made me a nurse, back to a classroom.

only this time, i was the teacher.

or, more accurately, i was there to inspire the ones who filled the chairs in the room, the ones who have dedicated their lives to the art of nursing, of healing, of listening, of holding hands down long dark lonely corridors, of wiping brows in the night, of handing over a squirmy wet newborn, of pulling up the covers when it’s all finally over, of taking loved ones by the hand and finding a quiet safe room….

i went back to say out loud, and into the hearts of those who would understand, the words i’ve said every time someone has asked me, how does a nurse become a newspaper writer?

the answer is, it’s not so hard really. every thing about being a nurse can make you a wonderful writer.

you know how to walk in a room and soak in everything, i told them, and they knew what i meant. you see, you take in, you absorb in an instant the spoken and the unspoken.

you know to ask questions, elicit story. you put your heart right out there, open it wide. people sidle up to you. they let you take their hand. don’t flinch when you matter-of-factly slide your arm round their shoulder.

you are a master of looking deep in someone’s eyes. you lock gazes like nobody’s business.

you are all heart. all eyes, and all ears.

you gather up stories for a living, as you tend to the brokenness that fills the beds of your hospitals, your clinics, the homes you visit, and, yes, the school nurse’s office.

you are on the frontlines of life at its most triumphant, and its most crushing.

to be witness to all of this, to be the bearer of truth and unforgettable gospel, is, for some of us, a call to be the teller of story, to shine light where there is darkness, to put down words so none of it slips into nothingness.

that’s what i told the beautiful healers, the beautiful writers, who were gathered there in the room of the school that taught me so much. so heavenly much.

a whole semester in listening, among my courseload. how to listen. how to ask question. how to reach out a hand and gather up the whole cloth of someone’s life story.

it’s but one of the tools of the nurse. a part of how she, or he, carries on the art of healing, of making whole.
i loved being a nurse. i loved learning, becoming one.

i don’t don whites to go to work anymore. don’t pass out meds, making my way from room to room, anymore.

but, so help me God, i hope that not for a minute do i wake up and leave my house without donning all that i learned, that i loved, in the college of nursing.

it was a powerful moment to step back into the place that long ago filled my soul.

i pray that those in the chairs today believe what i told them: you have something to say. and you know how to say it.

the world needs the voices of nurses.

we’re listening….

so tired i am, late late at night after a very long day and long week. i’ve a little boy upstairs who wants a back rub, as he settles into sleep the night before yet another big baseball game. i am, as of now, on vacation. i won’t be here next friday, as i always am. but i will meander once i’m home, and then only three fridays till the one in which i take my firstborn to college.
the picture above is one of the frames from my little inspirational imovie. part of my workshop: “writing the heart of nursing.”
little one calling. no more words. just circles on the small of the back of a little about-to-be-dreamy boy….