An Ending and a Beginning

When I browse the archives of my posts, I discover the words “starting over” many times. Now, here I am at the end of something again. My project with friend and photographer Donna Hopkins has come to a natural conclusion, a year of photo/poetry collaboration and much more. Her explanation shares all you need to know about our project, so please visit her site to see more photos and the focus of the year-long partnership.

Donna’s photos provided me with much inspiration to write– about aging, parents, failure, friendship, and life. Her photography perspectives gave me an opportunity to consider different perspectives in my writing. I was finally writing for myself. Our book holds truth, pain, joy, and vulnerability of who we are, of what these moments at this point in our lives reveal.

This bittersweet conclusion won’t end our friendship, though. In fact, I am hoping we will leap into another creative adventure before long. We share much in common, and working with Donna is a joy. She brings out the best in me.

So now, another beginning. Creativity connects me to myself, provides a window into who I am.

Let the next project begin!

Time to Think

Houses line my daily walk,
small, some old, a mansion
on the hill, the dog park.

I never veer, so my mind
tucks into itself, stepping
one thought after another.
Bright sun spoofs me
with winter’s bitter breath.

I am the stranger
walking by your house,
waiting for spring flowers,
a revelation, a peek of yellow 
or perhaps radiant rose.

Peppers in my kitchen grow
under lights, lush leafy green,
higher each day. A sign
of what has been planted
and what is to come.

When Doing Nothing Feels Right

I was talking to someone on the beach today.

“I’m getting antsy,” she said.

I paused a moment, thought, and realized I am perfectly comfortable, calm, and present. Our days here are slow and restful. We eat breakfast of oatmeal and fruit on our porch watching this gorgeous water, wander down to the beach with our books, take a walk or two, come back for lunch of salad and hummus, nap in the afternoon, more walks, and then find somewhere to go out to dinner. Tonight we are going to a local restaurant, Coco Bistro. The outside area is filled with palm trees and tiny white lights, tables are spread out to give diners space, and the service is impeccable.

These days, I don’t feel guilty. I am not anxious.

It has taken me a long time to get to this place. David once said early in our marriage, “don’t you ever sit down?” I didn’t. I couldn’t. I felt guilty if I wasn’t rushing around doing something “productive.”

No longer. I love peaceful days filled with nothing.

This time has helped me find a flow, a natural flow, that I need to nurture. I’ve always called myself an introvert, but being here has cemented how important it is for me to spend quiet time alone. Not only do I need calm, I also need an environment that speaks to me. I need colors and textures that make me say, “ah.” Putting this into place won’t be too hard. When I look at how I live, I am halfway there.

For right now, though, I am going to float through the next few days. This feels perfect. Needed.

Lucky me.

Time is Not on My Side

But I do have this day before me. At 70, I am acutely aware of the passage of time.

A few years ago when I was letterpress printing, I bought Susan O’Malley’s book. I loved printing short quotes, and this colorful book drew me in.

Recently, I discovered Susan died unexpectedly at the age of 38. She’d been carrying twins, and they died, too. What a tragedy. That news settled in my gut and reminded me- once again- of our short time on this earth, in our physical bodies. As I spend these two weeks in Turks and Caicos, I am trying to work through her list.

Time may not be on my side, but I will sit and breathe, trying to remember that this is it. As Susan once said, “pay attention to the good stuff.”

A Soothing Break

Turks and Caicos

I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. That’s the word I use because I don’t want to use the word “stressful.” Or “anxiety-filled.”

I believe if I don’t say it, the feelings won’t actually be there. Crazy.

But, they were stress filled and hard. Yes, I’m retired, but I do volunteer. And I’ve discovered that my underlying anxiety, which for the most part stays beneath the surface, rises up when I am in charge of something. For the past two weeks, I’ve tried to manage emails, zoom calls, regular calls, and texts about a topic that means a great deal to me. Each day, I could feel myself getting more tired, stressed, anxious, and finally sinking into myself. Which is what I do when life seems overwhelming.

That seems silly to say when one is retired. Selfish is a better word, given the abundance I have in my life. But how much time in the day does not dictate whether or not you’ll feel stress. And I did. So I practiced my breathing. I took a Tai Chi workshop. I wrote. A lot.

Gradually, clearer thoughts emerged, and I realized I need to take this off my plate. Or at least, I need to play a different role in this organization. Once I made that decision, I could feel the weight lifting.

We are headed to the Caribbean for two weeks, and I plan to walk, read, write, and sleep. We’ve been to the same little hotel before, a place where I see the same lovely faces, walk the white, pristine beach, and find joy in tiny moments.

I am grateful.

Pre-Covid, Turks and Caicos

Fighting Back

I debated about whether to write this. I tend to want to keep some things private. And I don’t want our choices to come across as arrogant or self-serving. But I want to share something my husband did for me. For us.

We lean left, as they say, politically. Until recently, we didn’t advertise that. But last year we decided to put up a yard sign for Black Lives Matter, and more recently a flag pole with rotating flags– one for BLM and one for gay pride. We had been thinking about ways we could take a stand, quietly.

Well, two weeks ago, someone decided to tear down our BLM flag while we were away. I was distressed and angry. Long story, but the sweet lady who watches our cat decided to buy us another and have her husband fix the pole before we got home. Their act gave me faith in people again.

Then this weekend, a woman with a dog knocked on our door. “Did you have a BLM yard sign in your front yard?” she asked.

She pointed down the street to a tall man in jeans, sauntering down the sidewalk WITH OUR SIGN! I shook my head, my mouth open in shock. She empathized, saying “I wanted you to know he just grabbed it and walked away.” These days I shy away from confrontation. Oh, who’s kidding? I have always shied away from confrontation. But I felt myself burning in anger.

David said, “we’ll buy another.” But the anger was still there.

Last night I walked into our living room and heard David on a phone call I didn’t recognize.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“The head of the NAACP of Fxbg,” he said.

Long story short, he had sent them a check, and the man was calling to thank him.

He explained that he had been thinking of sending a check earlier but when the hateful man stole our sign, he added much more to the check and sent it off.

“So there,” David said.

Somehow it really did make me feel much better.

I can’t demonstrate in large crowds, I hesitate to put myself out by writing letters, but I feel self-centered for not taking a stand. This felt right.

We can support people in many ways. So we did.