Tuesday, June 26, 2007

sunset ...

my grandmother ...

The last two months have been really difficult. Faced with the prospect of early retirement I found myself wallowing in self-doubt and agonizing over what I should do with my future. Every action I took was painful and I often felt victimized by my own life choices. What if I hadn't chosen this career. What if I had never moved to the city. What if I had ...

Throughout this time I have continued to try to look at the opportunity, face the things that scare me, and realize that the future is undefined. But to be truthful, in the midst of change the life lessons I have collected thus far never seem to be enough to push me forward.

Three weeks ago we were back home and went to visit my grandmother, who was celebrating her 92nd birthday. My grandmother was an extremely talented, beautiful and accomplished woman. Her paintings were detailed and full of life. She was an meticulous musician. Her butter cookies were so paper thin and delicate that you could see the light from the Christmas tree shine through them as you held them up to your mouth. She was an avid naturalist. Up through her late 80s she could still find and hike every trail in the N.Cal mountains and tell you exactly where and when the rarest of the wild flowers would make their fleeting appearance. She wore beautiful clothes and had striking blue eyes that contrasted dramatically against her dark hair. She had a wonderful grandmotherly voice with which she told fantastic stories of Indian princesses and the guardian mountain. And she was unhappy and full of self doubt.

My grandmother, who had so much to be proud of and to celebrate, never rejoiced. There was always something that could have been done better by someone else. A lost opportunity that could have changed the course of her life. A love that was never accepted as true or unconditional.

On Thursday my grandmother was moved into hospice. As the attendants came to help her into her new space she turned her head and said "you tricked me." I believe she was referring to the belief she was going to have to go back to the hospital. But I also wonder if it was a statement about life. "You tricked me." I thought I was going to get well if I had the surgery. I thought I was going to be able to hike in the mountains forever. I though I was going to be in love. I thought I was going to paint. I thought I was going to travel. I though I was going to .... I thought I was going to be happy.

During our visit my grandmother shared that she wished she had listened to her grandmother when she was younger. "She knew so much about history and life, I should have paid attention and asked her to share her stories." As she said this I thought to myself - my grandmother knows so much about history and life. She has shared so many stories with me. She has shown me so much of what can be accomplished. It is from her that music flows from my fingers. It is from her that I can see colors and textures in the sky and translate these onto canvas. She taught me how to tell stories. She taught me how to appreciate the outdoors. But most importantly, she taught me why I need to celebrate and why I need to rejoice in myself and rejoice in my family and friends.

There will always be someone who is more accomplished, smarter, prettier, brighter than I am. There are always going to be moments that I look back on and say - what if? But there is never going to be another opportunity for me to live this life. This one where I can be happy without regrets and qualifiers. This one where I can look upon my family and friends and say wow. They are great! Where I can look at myself and say wow. I am great!

When I have children I will tell them about my grandmother the Indian princess. I will sing to them the songs she sang to me and point to the sleeping princess as we drive by Mount Shasta. We will hike in the woods and I will uncover the shooting stars that are nestled in the pine needles. I will hand my children paint brushes and show them how to paint flowers like my grandmother showed me. And in my memories and those of my children I will celebrate my grandmother's life. And I will say wow. She was great!

Monday, June 25, 2007

a house made of straw ...

When I was little my father used to always tell us the story of the three little pigs. First pig, straw house, kaput after the first huff. Second pig, stick house, huff puff, gone. Third pig, house of bricks, huff puff, huff puff, huff puff....nada. The wolf is still blowing for all I know. The moral of the story is that if you build your house of bricks it won't be blown down by a big ugly rabid dog.

The obvious metaphor to life aside, is there real a reason why we don't build our homes out of straw? Sometimes in life you need to think outside of the box to truly see what opportunities exist. Here is an example from a friend of mine:

As I continue to explore the feasibility of building a straw-bale house , I want to plant a seed/paint a picture. Think of the barn-raising scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Now see yourself in the picture, only you're hoisting straw bales into position in between dances. Or, allowing for bad backs, administering water or prepping the BBQ for any other free labor I can wrangle. Think of it as an eco-friendly weight resistance workout.

There is a huge part of me that wants this plan to come to fruition. I'd love to be able to dance around the bails as each block is stacked. I think the plans look great and there is something truly liberating about the idea of moving to a town where this idea would be feasible. But at the end of the day, I think I might not be able to be that little pig. I guess I would always wonder about the big bad wolf and when I could expect my house to come down.