Thursday, May 15, 2008

on stories

I drove slowly as the country road was winding its way into the distance out my rearview mirror. Fresh flowers sat in my passenger seat; the ones I picked myself just minutes before.

I exhaled.

It was that kind of day, with my window down and traces of the summer to come sinking into my senses; the smell of fresh-cut grass and the way the hills are alive with a vibrant green you can only see this time of year. I love this season. The old has faded away and given birth to what is new and fresh. Life. Summer is around the corner, but if you look for it too closely you will miss the beauty that is springtime. I am beginning to understand that there is rarely anything more symbolic of the human heart and spirituality than seasons; until you have braved the coldest winter you will never come to love summer nearly as much or as deeply.

I flipped my turn signal on and pulled my car onto the gravel road that would take me where I was going; the local cemetery. I have never been to a cemetery that I loved, and in fact, most of them aren't places I would choose to go of my own volition. But in Colfax, you stand at the top of the world and look out over creation and the whole town is at your feet. You can see the sky change its color and watch the moon rise over the horizon. My Neenee is here – my grandmother. I parked my car and made my way to the most beautiful headstone of them all and laid my flowers right under the verse 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

I sat down, leaned my back on the tombstone and closed my eyes, wondering what she would think of the seasons of my life that she has missed, or rather, that I have been missing her. Anyone you ask who knew her would tell you that she was the most beautiful of them all; everybody loved her. When I stop and visit where she was laid to rest, I think about life and legacy and love unconditional. I usually sit and stay awhile, and tonight the sun sinking had set the clouds on fire, and there were colors I had only seen on canvas. I breathed it in and brushed my hands against the cool grass.

I wonder what will become of my story when I am no longer here to tell it. I wonder what will be said, and whether I will be remembered and whether or not I was a friend to be trusted and counted on. When all that is physically left of me is a stone on a hillside, will my memory stir love and will it move people to do things that matter? Will I have moved enough for what matters?

As time goes by, I ask these questions less and less, mostly because I realize that either way, she would have been proud of me. She would call me beautiful and she would touch my cheek and tell me that I belong and that my eyes remind her of the blue of the ocean or the sky on a sunny day. She would tell me to be more present and mindful in the moment and to not wish time away because it dissolves into yesterday so quickly. Some of the decisions I have made would not impress her, and there would be no hesitation in her telling me so, but she would be proud nonetheless. She would love nonetheless.

My eyes and thoughts wandered from one headstone to another as I imagined what their lives were like and who their children were and if they loved and laughed enough. They were doctors. They were mothers. They were life-changers. They wrestled their giants and sometimes they won. They were lovers and fighters, winners and losers.

I am captivated by stories lately, and not the kind you hear from the grapevine or the gossip on the nightly news. I am drawn to life stories: struggles, strengths, addictions and triumphs. I have noticed something in almost every story: there is conflict to separate the good seasons, a winter of sorts, to bring a more full appreciation of the day that the traces of snow will finally melt away to summer.

I like stories.

Sometimes I don't like that they wait to resolve, and I want conclusion or the promise of a happy ending. Then I realize that what is beautiful is today, and new mercies, and this moment and all the challenge and potential that is in it. Right now. That I have the power to change, and to be changed; to love and be loved. That the reason those 'choose your own adventure' books have such a draw is because they were meant to echo reality. We really do choose our own adventures, and we really do have the power to write our own endings and everything that rests between the first and last pages of our lives.

Neenee's story spoke and it is still speaking. More than anything, I want my story to speak of love and wisdom and passion. Of mercy that was not wasted and grace that was not taken for granted.

I drove home newly purposed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

on rico's and cinnamon rolls

Life is so very rich and full.

I know we all have our days when the walls seem to crumble down, and the rain seems to fall heavier than usual; your head seems to hang a little bit lower. I have come to know those days well, especially throughout this last year. But it is so comforting to have a day like today, when I feel successful at work and in my spiritual life and in relationships; comforting to smell the air after it rains and know that summer is on its way. I woke up this morning to a cup of coffee and a kiss on my forehead. I also ate a cinnamon roll. If you ask me, getting out of bed doesn't get easier than that. Work felt fruitful, and I threw my heart into the small tasks at work, knowing that I am appreciated and that I am where I need to be.

Two of my best friends and I laughed until we cried today. Sitting inside Rico's in the cozy armchairs, rain falling outside the windowpane, with oldies echoing off the walls... sipping on a Mexican coffee and talking about life, love and God and how amazing and hilarious it can be to interact together. I am so in love with who we are as a trio; with Adrienne and her stories and tales of adventure from the world of her work, with Senja and the way she quietly tolerates my often obnoxious sense of humor. We quote Brian Regan and Borat excessively and in socially awkward situations. We remain addicted to Pandora and cheap jewelry.

It is so relaxing to be who you are, unapologetically, knowing that you have two people that love you. Without conditions. Without strings attached. No matter where you have been or where you are going. It's like exhaling after holding your breath for far too long.

Life can be far from beautiful sometimes. But I never want to overlook the simple days. When life is good and true friends are few but faithful. When laughing can bring me to tears and friendship can bring me to my knees in gratitude.

When I give thanks, I give thanks for days like today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

on the simple life

It seems I am embracing the country lifestyle I ran away from for so long. At least for now. I do enjoy the city; the glow of streetlights and the sound of traffic on the pavement just after it rains. I especially miss Seattle, with the alleys and coffee house and walls boasting of local art. Oh, how I do love the city.

I have been staying with my family in Colfax, however, and it is glorious.

There is something so beautiful about the simplicity of country life. Maybe its the open space of it all, with room to run and stretch and breathe. Maybe its the way country music blares out of our 1910 barn with the men working in the shop while us ladies sit in the sunshine and entertain my baby brother (I have always loathed country music, but I have found that in the right environment it has the potential to be quite charming). There is a quiet, and a peacefulness. There are birds chirping and a tractor plowing over the nearest hillside. We drink lemonade in the spring afternoons and sit on the lawn in laughter and in silence.

It's almost as if by slowing life down a bit you are quicker to be mindful of the smaller moments, and the beauty of the often-overlooked.