Kitchen Friendships

“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell.   This is the first, the wildest and wisest thing I know:  that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” — Mary Oliver

You would think that the continuing saga of potty training our youngest sir (Bogey – he with the bladder of a peanut and a vacant scare which may not bode well for his aptitude), would leave me somewhat compromised in terms of fodder for posts dealing with anything other than the delight and frustration of puppyhood.   Given that my travels are limited to two and half hour intervals, it is true that I haven’t seen much other than what is going on in my kitchen.  But I’m here to tell you, there’s a lot of amazing that happens here.

Bonnie, the remarkable creator of paperkeeper.wordpress.com was here for a couple of days and in effect, holed up in the kitchen with me for the majority of her visit.  True, a better host would have planned sightseeing expeditions in and around D.C. (she left the day of the government shutdown);  I invited her to walk up and down the driveway.  And having her here was an experience in amazement.  Amazement that we started talking at Union Station on Sunday evening and didn’t stop until we said good-bye at Dulles airport.  That the kitchen became the haven for stories sad and delightful, evocative memories and whispered hopes.  There was no better place to be to explore the reality of a friendship that started with imagined dimensionality created by our words and email conversations.   I could listen and see and ask and think and travel around years of Bonnie’s life and she let me be amazed.  We laughed and considered and opined and let the comfort of the kitchen make all of that conversation safe.  It was a  joy to have her here and to realize as I sit here today, that I had so much wonder going on around me.  Perhaps therein is the kernel of truth – any moment which is attended to with sensibilities focused contains far more amazement than we might think.

I will leave Bonnie’s travels to Bonnie – for it is her story to tell.  And she tells it like no one else.  I for one have to go walk the pup.

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For Simon

Did you ever hear the one about the parish priest and the Jew?  Gotcha – there’s no punchline..

Simon (simonmarsh.org) is a parish priest in NW England.  I’m – well you know me by now.  We’ve never met, and yet I can assure you he is as much a part of my heart as any beloved friend.  I don’t remember what prompted us to start emailing each other, but shortly after we did, Simon became ill.  His voice was failing him,  a diagnosis proved elusive and his fatigue was almost taunting him.  I fretted – asking all these questions that you would expect – was he able to eat?  Had he tried chicken soup?  Was he getting enough rest?  How was the quality of the medical care?  He would respond when he was able – without complaint.  His tiredness was teaching him patience, he wrote, his hoarseness provided him time to listen to silence.  He was most frustrated that his responsibilities to his parish were being compromised.  And he worried about his wife Jilly.  Simon apologized for not writing more,  reassuring me through this ordeal.  Thanking me for being a worried Jewish mom across the pond (forget that we are close in age, I’ve always had a strong maternal streak).

Simon has improved, his posts are more frequent and I can’t begin to suggest that I understand all that he writes.  What I feel though is palpable – the love of his religion, the celebration of family, the delight in a flower’s budding.  I suppose one can argue that at core, this is what spirituality is predicated upon in its purest sense, and when I read his words from that perspective, I rejoice.

Simon sent an email over the weekend to some of his friends.  It is no exaggeration when I write that I get a visceral reaction whenever I see his name in my inbox.  My friend – he is well, he is in my orbit and I am grateful.  We hope to meet one day – sitting in some coffee shop somewhere.  Perhaps Andy and I will return to England one day; maybe Simon and Jilly will visit the States.  Who knows what fate has in store.  But there was a reason that Simon came into my life – he has taught me that the heart can hold an unimagineable amount of love, that there are people in the world who see us as far, far better than we really are and that perception impels us to try and fit that image.   Simon makes me a better Mimi.  Because he is convinced that I already am.  What do I offer in return?  I have no idea – for whatever it is, it pales in comparison.

Simon and Jilly are off on holiday.  He will likely not even read this anytime soon, but that’s ok.  I wrote this more for me than for him, a meager attempt at acknowledging the power of a friendship that came from the universe and travels with continued enthusiasm across the pond.

Recently Simon posted Mary Oliver‘s “Wild Geese” and though it came from a different place in his thoughts, it is offered here for him.  For Simon, my friend.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers  itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Wild_Geese_by_Nigel_Kell

How To Hold On And Still Let Go

 
There’s a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver that I’d like to share with you – it’s title is “In Blackwater Woods”

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

 

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

 

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

 

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

 

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have learned

 

in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

 

is salvation

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

 

You must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal,

to hold it

 

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it,

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

Fall is breathing its freshness into the air.  A time of transition – and I’ve never been good with transition.  Once I get to the other side of it, I’m fine – but the subtle and not-so-subtle angina of knowing things must change makes me jumpy.  And yet, fall is when kids go back to school, when the forgiving schedules of summer become more intractable, when we shift our sensibilities to what is yet to be.  I celebrate as my best childhood friend seeks to find her new rhythm now that her daughter has started a new career in a city far from home.  My friend D cries in her daughter’s room after she leaves for her freshman year of college (I totally get this – I slept in my son’s room for two weeks).   I sometimes still wonder where my place is in my own little family – as the boys have established their own married lives and I had to give them the room and space to go about their adult lives – and on a daily basis, their schedules and plans have nothing to do with me.

And all these children/adults are doing exactly what we have wished, dreamed and prayed for – they have become caring, responsible, decent people who are loving and loved.  People who are delighting in the lives they are making for themselves.  These are the times when I remember clearly the words of the rabbi at our wedding, reminding us that we are not lucky, we are blessed.  I think about that a lot.

I think about how I’ve yet to let go of my parents though they are no longer here.  In my heart, my friend Alex never hurt with such relentless despair that she would have to leave this life.  I hold on.

I hold on to being in my junior seniorhood and inwardly jump up and down when my trainer tells me that I can still rock ‘cute’.  Of course I’m paying him, I know that – but there are few adjectives for retired cheerleaders that aren’t totally nauseating (and I only did that for one semester in college).  I listen to a friend as she struggles through a huge life change and wrestles with the idea of letting go of that which is already gone.  And look forward to a wedding this coming weekend when two young people let go of their old lives to begin one together.

Perhaps the salvation is not in the letting go, perhaps it is in holding on loosely.  Not necessarily with the intent to try and reel the past back in, but to able to regard it as a touchstone from which to move forward.  To know that as life proceeds without our permission, that which we love with all our being still remain in some way ever-present.  Perhaps that is how we can move forward and embrace the transitions that leave us breathless.