A Hundred Whiles Ago

Leo is on his way to my house, with sister, Vivi, and their mamma. We will play in the garden all morning, and his 4-year-old-Self, along with my 63-year-old-Self, will delight in games of hide-n-seek, stories to read, and adventures with The Tuesday Morning Friends. (see above photos)

And so life under a pandemic’s terms continues. I have always cherished these playdates, but this spring and summer, they have become a primary event of each week. Life simplifies. What was I doing before that was so important? Seeing friends, meeting up with students, being social. Writing. Preparing for OSU classes. Life is quieter now.

With the exception of weekly jaunts to the farm, travel stopped. A godson’s graduation, a visit to my sister, a trip out west, gone. My OSU teaching contract has not renewed due to the pandemic’s financial toll on the university.  Much has been lost.

Gained? Peace. Ease. At yesterday’s Alexander Technique Online class, I found my pace and speech slowing as I directed the participants through an Inhibition practice.  A colleague responded, ‘The timing was just right. It gave us the time we needed.’

Playdate Postscript: Leo and I were trying to figure out how long it had been since the dinosaurs were last given their baths. We couldn’t decide, until Leo said, ‘It was a hundred whiles ago.’ Yes. That.

Wishing for youa hundred whiles’; all the time you need and more. Riches of the best kind—–

 

 

‘Writ in Water’

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It’s the best season for cemetery strolls, so lovely when the leaves are turning, the fall breezes blowing leaves about, carpeting the ground. Union Cemetery, situated along the Olentangy River, is a long-time beloved one, now where John McCullough’s remains reside, catalpa tree branches bending over the grave site.

A distant cousin to Mike, John died in August. He was our mail carrier for many years, a kind and gentle man who often walked his route with Maggie, a neighborhood dog. John, his wife and their twin sons became an important part of our lives, especially after genealogical research revealed John and Mike were cousins, having the same several-greats grandfather. At the funeral, honoring John’s request, Mike read from the McCullough family Bible, discovered on-line during the research project. We are missing John, and will remember his generous spirit.

John Keats suggested this for a tombstone inscription: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ I like that. It captures the ephemeral nature of our brief time on the planet, and somehow makes me grateful to be in a body for the time being. How remarkable, this life, and then gone. But we are here today. Whatever your present endeavors, keep making, keep living, though it be ‘writ in water.’

 

Time Travel

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the very woods

Mike and I, along with my father-in-law Dick, are planting pine seedlings on the hillside. It’s a perfect and sunny day. Dick announces it’s time for a break. We stretch out, the three of us, in the field, Dick’s hands behind his head as he leans back, surveying the countryside.

Time folds in on itself.

I’m walking through pine woods, the ground a soft carpet of pine needles. Rounding the path down the hill to Watercress Gully, a breeze kicks up and ripples the pine boughs to my right, with a sound like gentle ocean waves.

I was there then. The hills were pasture fields. I am here now. It’s a forest. Fully present. Then. Now. Then gives me now. Because of then, there is a now.

Madeleine L’Engle called it A Wrinkle in Time, and as a 10-year-old avid reader, I devoured this fantastical tale. I never imagined experiencing a ‘tesseract in time,’ as L’Engle coined it, but on the beloved hill, time travel did happen, courtesy of two words, ‘fully present.’

On the hill, and nowhere else, planting seedlings. Walking the hill, seedlings towering overhead as full-grown pines, time becomes elastic. Alexander Technique students report this altered sense of time in their lessons, and as a teacher, I have learned to have a timepiece close by because I, too, lose the quotidian sense of time when immersed in the work.

There are many paths through the woods. Find your path to full presence, and be refreshed. The tyranny of time will subside, and aliveness will be yours to savor.

The Wheel*

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Bloomed March 21, 2019

Leo arrives for the afternoon. His mamma’s due date has come and gone, and she’s seeing the midwives.  The two of us play the afternoon away. The three-year-old decides the plastic dinosaurs require a soapy bath, and they receive one. There are card games at the kitchen table, matching shapes and pictures.  Wind-up toys everywhere.

Alicia returns. Midwives found her 3 centimeters dilated! Baby will be here soon. As they are leaving for home, Gary arrives. He and Mike walk the garden paths, inspecting the retaining wall construction, then settle into sunroom lounge chairs for a beer. Gary’s phone beeps and he apologizes, checking the message. It’s his wife, out-of-town with her family, keeping vigil at the bedside of her 94-year-old father.  He is hours from death.

Daily, I check Julie’s blog, missing her posts, which have been regular as rain for many years. Nothing. Bill, her husband, is living his last days with pancreatic cancer. Two to six months are left. The diagnosis was received mid-December.

Kenzie calls on Sunday with news of her pregnancy. She’s the eldest of the nieces and nephews, the first to marry, and now the first to launch the family’s next generation. Baby is due in October.

And this was the week, the interminable week, 35 years ago, that Morgan was admitted to Children’s Hospital, dying 4 days later with heart failure, complications of pneumonia. Her frail body made it all the way through winter, but compromised with a heart defect often found in babies with Down Syndrome, she was unable to gain weight and thrive, and our daughter died on the first day of spring.

We are, all of us, coming and going. The days come and the days go, due dates, birthdays, baby-on-the-way announcements, death days. Play dates, vigil nights. Be present to this day, no matter what it holds for you. Looking out the window of Morgan’s hospital room the morning she died, the spring sun was brilliant. In the midst of losing her, I did see the sun.

*(The Wheel, a Wendell Berry poetry collection. highly recommend.)

 

 

 

 

Idleness

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graphics courtesy of pixabay

1.the state of being inactive.Syn.  Dawdling, pottering, shilly-shallying

2.disinclination to activity. —Syn.  slowness, indolence, slothfulness

Webster’s New World Thesaurus was fairly upbeat with its ‘idleness’ entry until ‘indolence’ and ‘slothfulness’ made an appearance. Here we enter into the realm of judgment and the expectation that incessant activity and productiveness is a preferred mode of being.

Easter Sunday was a rare day of, yes, I’ll claim it, indolence.  The positive spin would be ‘rest.’  The massive and very dead ash tree along the Rt. 296 lane had finally been removed and Mike was tired.  Our social life found us happily out late the night before, celebrating the season with long-time friends.  The plan had been to hop in the car the next day and get ourselves to the hill, but after sitting on the back porch in perfect bliss with our morning coffees, we concluded a trip to the farm was altogether too much doing.

Or as my godson Lyle used to ask, when I picked him up from preschool and proceeded to run errands, ‘Diana, could we please stop going?’  Yes, Lyle, we could.  What a fine question.  We do not have to keep going.  Stopping is a very good idea.  Essential, really.

We live in a world with very few pauses, and I write this week to encourage the finding of spaces, moments, hours, even a day, to quit with going and doing.  This Easter Monday finds me refreshed* following a rare day of do-less-ness.  Wishing for you the same—-

*Thanks to Beth C. for her delightful uses of the word ‘refreshed.’  

 

 

Time Constraints

 

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The confined quarters of a computer screen are no match for the spaciousness of the long view over open water.  On pushing off from shore, breath deepens, and the gentle swells rock my little boat.

With wide spaces all around, the morning sky of puffy clouds overhead, the cradling waters beneath, expansion and well-being are a precious given. This was the first paddle in over two years. Long overdue! But once on the water, time’s dimensions altered and it was as though I had never left the water’s sweet embrace.

We live by time’s requirements and I would be the first to acknowledge the benefits to communal life.  Agreeing on the importance of the clock allows our shared societal enterprise to work, at least reasonably well. However, we pay a price.

John Dewey, in his tome, Art as Experience, describes space and time as ‘significant values of the very substance of all things.’  He goes on to say, ‘Space is room…a chance to be, live and move.  Lack of room is denial of life, and openness of space is affirmation of its potentiality.  What is true of space is true of time. We need a ‘space of time’ in which to accomplish anything significant.’

May you give yourself time and space today ‘to be, to live, and to move.’