the power of the yellow

Is there anything more intensely yellow than forsythia in full bloom? All of a sudden, it’s just there, like when the leaves on the trees literally appear overnight as in the blink of an eye, buds one moment, full green leaves the next. And it is an arresting yellow too, everywhere rich and full of promise of what is coming next, even with the shades of blue and white appearing on the lawns and pink on the trees everywhere, this yellow is like an exclamation point after every word, the thing that grabs all the attention right now with such enthusiasm…

I am driving home and notice the forsythia bush in a neighbor’s yard, grab my camera when I get in the house, and walk back to see what it is that wants to be captured here. First, the beautiful ball of yellow so like the sun and literally radiating in every direction…

then coming closer, letting the ball just fill the field of the lens, still feeling the impact of yellow being primary and central…

and closer again still, aware now of the spaces in between the shapes of color, the yellow clouds floating and suspended in something bigger….

and then finally, zooming in on a single open blossom and the perfection of the moment revealed in the purity of color and beauty of form and then getting it, that here are the wings of a thousand individual whispers all coming together to create this big roar…

I think about how yellow is the color of the third chakra, the energetic center located in the solar plexus of the body. No coincidence the naming of the ‘solar’ plexus to capture the energy of the radiating sun, as this is where we hold and transform the energy that allows us to leave the world of ‘safety’ and move forward into something unknown. Like the sun, it is a burning in us, that exclamation point of enthusiasm to consciously move into the willed activity that is uniquely ‘me’ and in concert with all the other unique ‘me’s’ out there too, in a way that allows us to all truly radiate together…

These days of seeing the forsythia in full bloom are short and sweet. It may be just another sign of spring and renewal and growth, but the power of the yellow reminds me that we can be willing participants in this renewal process and getting out there radiating who we are is necessary and vital to the roar of new life….

settling back in with Kush

The week’s warm temperatures and bright sunny days bring spring fever into house AND some unexpected angst too. My parents arrive with Molly, home for spring break and the house is now full with two dogs, two cats, two kids, two parents, and two tenants. Doors opening and closing, in and out, communing with the gorgeous days, and I suppose it is inevitable that Kush will get out, I have caught him a few times in the past few days tentatively exploring the porch, bold in his venturing out into unknown territory….

He and his sister Desi came to me at nine years old last May, indoor cats always, and declawed. And for the better part of this past year I have never worried about them getting out, they just never tried. And they now seem fine with all the new commotion, even with Maisy, my parent’s golden retriever who was here at Christmas and already a familiar presence. Except I notice that Kush has that look on his face, it is a look of annoyance and affront and of simply, being pissed off. I note it and file it away, as he is still hanging out with us, not going into hiding like he did the first few weeks living here, when he was clearly quite upset with his previous owner Joann for leaving him here in this new place. I am simply not prepared for the shock of realizing he isn’t here the next morning, not in the kitchen stalking and asking loudly for his breakfast as he does each day. He is gone. I can feel it. I know he isn’t in the house, that he is not simply hiding, and that he must have gotten out the night before. I am beside myself. After 24 hours I call all the authorities and flyer the neighborhood, walking and looking and calling. Nothing. By the third day I am sure he is dead or gone for good.

I am locking up the house the end of this third day and on a whim, decide to open up the front door, and there he is, sitting quietly at the edge of the porch looking up at me and not making any move to come inside. I call to him, “Come inside Kush”, and he does, without any greeting or indication of being happy to see me. That simple.

I notice he is considerably thinner and when I put some food down, he can’t eat it fast enough. But still, there is no warmth, no gratitude, no purring, no indication that he is happy to be back. It is Kush, and I know this too shall pass, his crankiness of having to work through another transition. It doesn’t take too long, a few days, and as I write this he is curled up beside me in the way he does every morning when I am writing, when all I have to do is say ‘Kush’ and he begins to purr. He is asleep and I call out his name and yup, head raises he looks at me with the annoyed look that only Kush can give.

I am humbled by knowing that settling back in with Kush is a transitory thing. He clearly knows what he needs and how to take care of himself, no illusions there. And I’ve noticed that he has become a little bolder with me since he’s been back, like batting me gently with a paw at mealtime if I am not paying attention to his soulful hungry gaze. Our relationship has evolved. And I think, if he disappears again, I won’t be so traumatized or distraught, thinking he is suffering or dead. I will know that he is doing exactly what he needs to do, and that my aching heart will trust…

spring cleaning with Rilke

The doors and windows are open and the breeze comes in to fill the inner rooms of this temple called home.  I am feeling the call of spring cleaning, to open what has been closed.  I read a poem by my favorite poet Rainer Maria Rilke this morning which taps the flow of this awareness,

The inner – what is it?

if not intensified sky,

hurled through with birds

and deep with

the winds of homecoming.

and the question is, where to begin??  On a purely physical level, I have to resist the urge to open every drawer, cupboard, and container of space that harbors something saved.  I am feeling the urge to purge it all and create space for the birds to fly.  Spring does this!  So I begin with the freezer.  And HA!  I find the container of ‘winter beans’ saved from the batch made in February (making winter beans…Feb. 3 post) and bring it out to thaw….

And I realize that as I have been slowly cleaning out my bins of winter vegetables this past week, I have settled into a pattern of making vegetable stew, always some combination of onion, carrot, potato, and tomato as a base, and then adding other things that are there.  The other night it was I started with sautéing onions and carrots in some olive oil with fennel seed too.  Then added chunks of other root veggies 3-4 small medium yukon gold potatoes, a medium rutabaga, plus about 3/4 large can Italian plum tomatoes cut up w/juice and some vegetable broth, starting with about 1/2 cup and adjusting as required.  Oh yeah, the leftover garbanzo beans, add those too.  Add a liberal splash of dry sherry, some salt & cayenne pepper…cook on medium high heat until bubbling and then add some fresh organic green beans and cover and simmer until soft but not mushy.  Adjust flavors.  Yummy sauce.  That night I also prepared some pesto chicken sausage, each one cut up into chunks and sautéed in some olive oil, which the non-vegetarians sharing the meal that night could add to this stew.

So, I find myself wanting to make another stew.  I have many of the same ingredients but this time I think to bake it like a lasagna, a sliced sweet potato, thinly sliced onion, some kale, fresh green beans, all layered in a baking dish, alternating with the now thawed beans in the rich sauce that I can just barely remember the taste of, and top it all with the last of the marinara in the jar on the fridge.  Baked in a 350 oven until it is all bubbly.  And oh my, it is sooooo good, so wonderful to be treated to flavors barely remembered, discovering them all over again…

And isn’t this the way with spring cleaning too?  Going through things and finding something forgotten, the feel of what it was originally almost gone, a new feeling coming in to replace it based on being here right now?  And oh, then having to be discerning and with resolve, knowing whether to give it away or to save and re-use.  And then, having the discipline to follow through with re-using or re-integrating right now instead of waiting for another day…flowing with the spontaneous accomplishment of seeing something in a new light and initiating the experience of it now.  I find another Rilke poem,

After such long experience let “house,”                                                                    

“tree”, or “bridge be dared differently                                                                       

Always whispered to destiny,                                                                                    

finally and at last say it out.

To untangle daily creation,                                                                                        

which all differently endure,

we make ourselves a constellation

out of the known figure.

giving birth

Twenty one years ago I gave birth to my beautiful daughter Molly.  As I sit here and reflect on that moment I realize every nuance of every moment of this blessed event is etched in my memory, as is the ‘story’ that follows her to this day….

She is late.  I have made many trips to the hospital only to be told to go home and wait.  We are fortunate to be in the care of a group of midwives who deliver in the birthing rooms at St. Vincent’s hospital just down the street. My parents have arrived days before, and we are all now waiting it out together in our Manhattan loft.  Well, not all.  My brother Rob isn’t here yet.  He has been coming up from Washington to help prepare the baby’s room and be part of the process, feeling very connected to this child in his proclamation and ‘knowing’ that the birth would happen on his birthday.  We’ve had many laughs about this, his absolute conviction, the self-assured way that he assumes this important role.  Smile. Well, after two days of labor it seems it is finally the day and no surprise, it is March 24 and indeed the day of Rob’s birthday.  I am already at the hospital with John and my mother and my father is waiting in the loft for Rob, who arrives by train from Washington.  And this is where the true and amazing story begins.  My dear brother, not fond of exaggeration in any form, swears to this day that the clock over the reception desk at the hospital says 9:02 as he walks through the door.  And it was at precisely 9:02 that Molly finally arrived, riding a flash of blue light into midwife Carol’s arms.  She is red with drippy skin from being inside too long, and Carol, musing, says quietly to my mother, “It’s almost as if she has been waiting for something…”  Hmmmmm.  And what I see and feel and remember with every cell in my body is the look on her face when she is given to me for the first time.  Part grimace, but mostly knowing smile.  Eyes closed but fully present.  It is still one of the most blissful moments of my life, experiencing the spirit of Molly in my life so clearly and completely right then…

And that knowing smile is there more often than not!  I will find her nestled in her blankets dreaming of who knows what, with the knowingness just beaming out from her precious little body.

And so now twenty one years later, I reflect on the journey she has been on in her quest to remember the secrets of her knowing, the joy of watching her fill her heart with her remembering and launch into the world anew.  And of course, it is no surprise again that her passion for Spanish, and the cultures of Spanish speaking countries, has developed right alongside the very same passion of her Uncle Rob, as well as their mutual passion and talent for music.   I look at this photo and do wonder what transpired between them when he held her for the first time twenty one years ago….smile smile….

Today I am filled with the joy of giving birth and realize that I am blessed to feel the joy of giving birth in some way every day and then blessed again to be able to share that joy with so many people in my life…

Happy Birthday Molly!!  Happy Birthday Rob!!

resilience

These first few days of ‘spring’ have been nothing less than spectacular.  It is easy to be seduced by the balmy air, warm sun, and colors appearing overnight.  To feel like it is time to put new plants in to the ground, to begin the growing season, anticipating fresh food.  And the killing frost that is so characteristic in this ‘zone’ of New England is still right around the corner and it is hard to remember this.  I wonder about the episodes of strange out of season weather of the past year that might continue.  I wonder how this might impact the natural cycles we come to rely on for growing and harvesting food.  I wonder about what kinds of changes and adaptations to our expectations about availability of commodities we now take for granted, might be necessary and needed…

I am now thinking about the painting I recently found buried in an old portfolio.  I’d forgotten about ‘her’.  I made this painting when I was seventeen from a photograph I had taken on a Caribbean island while vacationing with my family and it comes back to me now, how arresting her beauty seemed to me at the time, against an otherwise simple background of relative poverty…

Looking at it now I am remembering the fierce and proud look on the woman’s face that carries with it an energy of resilience I am appreciating now in way I couldn’t appreciate then.  She is beautiful, wise, standing on the dock in port and looking out to the sea.  I wonder now at the source of sustenance and hope in a culture and climate that had very little of anything ‘fresh’.  I remember the barely stocked shelves of the local grocery store, a few tins of this and that, a few loaves of locally made fresh bread, small and flat and like not other bread I have ever tasted.  Isolated and surrounded by ocean, it never occurred to me then like it does now how much life depended on that sea providing…

So in this moment I see and feel the energy of resilience and elegance and acceptance that she has carried through all these years to share with me now.  The elegance of a resiliency that ‘knows’ that one can’t always depend on what one think one ‘knows’ to be true, and that there is a certain and clear hope in this resilience, too.

pussy willow

So, even just saying the name ‘pussy willow’ evokes the sensuousness of something soft and mysterious.  I cried out in pleasure at seeing a bouquet of the most beautiful pussy willows I have ever seen on the porch deck of a friend’s house yesterday.  She quickly pulled out a few branches for me to take home and I was transported back to childhood innocence…

I am remembering my absolute fascination with these unusual blossoms that signal spring, how I used to literally pet them, hold them to my cheek, feeling the living energy of something burgeoning and beautiful at the same time.  I remember my grandmother sharing this enthusiasm with me, stopping at a roadside stand to buy me a bunch when they would begin to appear.  And it is not lost on me now that the color of the furry blossoms is exactly the same color as my two beautiful adopted cats Kush & Desi, their luxurious gray fur that is the result of being part Siamese and part Himalayan.  They are stunning, this brother and sister who came to us in May and are now an indispensable part of this family.  I realize that not only are they always near, but that I always have a hand stroking one or the other wherever I am sitting or resting in this house.  They typically don’t let me take their picture and seem to know to move when I have the camera poised though I have managed a few.  No, it is almost as if they reserve their presence for touch alone, as if that is where the truth is….And isn’t it precious how the minute I place the vase down, Kush is over rubbing his nose against something ‘familiar’….

Anyway, I could wax poetic all day about this, but will simply offer some photos instead.  Oh, Happy Spring!!

living wall

After fourteen years I am finally realizing my dream of restoring the great ‘tavern room’ that was once the center of my 160 year old home.  A space that has been untouched in over 100 years, the demolition phase involves stripping copious amounts of old horsehair plaster off of wood lath and exposing the core structure once again.  Now completed, what has been revealed is one of the most beautiful walls of hand cut lath I have ever seen.  I mean, I gasp in pleasure and surprise at this revelation.  It is a living breathing wall, full of character and movement and I wonder that it has been hidden under plaster all these years….

I go in and stand in front of this wall, thinking of how I might preserve it to be this actual finish wall instead of covering it with new finish material.  It challenges me to consider the difference between ‘seeing’ the wall and ‘feeling’ it and imagining the energy generated in this space even with a new gypsum wall board cover.  The final plaster surface may be calm and serene, but the energy supporting it is alive and always moving.   I consider this difference too as I look to the adjacent wall that has factory made lath from a later date, perfectly identical straight lines, perfectly static in comparison.

I do recognize a certain beauty in the factory made lath wall…

..the aesthetic that is bourne out of the efficiency and abundance of the industrialized and mechanical genius of our times, lines of attachment balancing relentlessly even rhythm of the identical pieces.  It can be appreciated in and of itself.  In the end though, I suppose it is a matter of opinion as to which is more beautiful.  I turn back to the random beauty of a section of the original wall…

organic and flowing and creating connections between wood and plaster in a completely unique way, while the other is directed and single sighted and well, simply more static.  I contemplate the hidden  energies of a space and how they can inform the whole, more clearly recognizing their role and relationship to perfectly harmonious proportions and surfaces inscribed and imbued with texture and color and character.  Seemingly an informed architect all these years and I now feel like I have stepped back in time to something important and elemental in this process of creating places to BE.   This living wall is a teacher after all, allowing for a memory of beauty hidden as ‘support’  to integrate with the beauty of the surface skin that breathes and holds all the parts together.  Both feeling and seeing matter, however that may manifest….