Categories
Life People

Lobster

The National Today calendar tells me today is National Lobster Day. This reminds me of a video I saw recently about a lobster fisherwoman, Virginia Oliver.

Ms. Oliver lives in Maine. Along with her son, she fishes for lobsters three days a week from May through November. She first began fishing for lobster when she was a child, with her father.

It’s a nice family story, a tale of generations and traditions, the type of story that’s easy to enjoy. There’s more to it, however.

Ms. Oliver is 101 years old. Her son who fishes with her is 78.

If you ask her, Ms. Oliver makes it clear that she does what she does because she wants to, because it’s what makes her happy. Her response to the idea that she should stop? Laughter. Lobster fishing is hard work, sometimes dangerous, but she can’t imagine her life without it.

So yes, the story is about family and generations and traditions. It’s also about tenacity and perspective, with a little bit of good humor thrown in. It’s about not letting age define you, of paying less attention to the number of days behind or in front of you and more attention to the one you’re experiencing right now.

Living that way isn’t always easy and isn’t necessarily the right course of action in every situation. Still, it’s hard to argue with success.

Here’s to Ms. Oliver and her approach to life. May she have many more trips on the boat, out on the water, with her son by her side.


Categories
Life People

Photograph

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it would be like if I had no photographs. No family pictures, no holiday photos, no moments in time captured forever in a two-second snap.

It wasn’t so long ago that photographs were a rarity. I have a few photos of my great-grandparents; one that is formal and posed, a scene from their wedding day, and a handful of others reflecting daily life with the family. I also have two or three of my great-great grandparents, but none from earlier generations. All together, the photos I have fit into one thin envelope and represent a tiny fraction of the days that my ancestors spent on this earth.

In contrast, my life and my children’s lives are captured in countless pictures. Halloween costumes, first days of school, family pets – chances are, there’s a photo somewhere. Even the ordinary moments -the ones around the breakfast table, or in a car, or on a sidewalk – none of them obviously noteworthy but still, at that time, calling to be captured, are available to me.

I’m glad to have these records. There are some that I truly treasure. I like the visual reminders of happy times and everyday life. I appreciate being able to see the people I love, at all the stages and days, especially those people who are no longer here.

I remind myself, however, that the lack of a photograph doesn’t mean the moments and the people didn’t exist. That, in fact, generations of people have lived full, complete, purposeful lives without photographic evidence of their days. I must be careful not to equate the ease of taking a picture, of grabbing an experience and making it repeatable anytime I want to see it again, with the value of what is contained in the photograph.

The moments that make up our lives – the laughter and tears, celebrations and failures, love and connections – are what is real. It doesn’t matter whether any of them are captured forever in a two-second snap.

Here’s to memories and the people within them. They are all meaningful, even when the proof is only in our hearts.

Categories
Family Good Life

Potential

My father loved going to garage and estate sales.

Most every weekend during the last few years of his life, he built his weekend schedule around his sale tours. Each time I visited him, he’d have something new to show me. Sometimes, it was a large item, such as a rug, or a painting, or a piece of furniture. Other times, it was less significant, a trinket or bauble that caught his eye.

He especially loved to collect fishing poles. When he died, he left behind two large racks of poles, everything from basic and new to those that were weathered and experienced, full of memories of water and fish and hours at the pier, or on the boat, or in the salty surf.

I don’t remember ever going to these sales with him. He preferred to shop alone; he had a plan and didn’t want to be distracted. Still, I enjoyed the tales of his discoveries. I shared his feelings of eager curiosity and optimism about what could be found. He saw these excursions as a treasure hunt of sorts, a means of discovering something useful and precious, sitting quietly unnoticed in the grass, or behind a door or on a shelf.

Yesterday, I stopped into a local resale shop. While not exactly the same as a garage or estate sale, it had a similar vibe. It was full of items with previous lives, things that once served a specific purpose elsewhere and were now ready and waiting to serve, once again, in new roles and environments. I walked through the aisles, stopping here and there as I noticed something interesting. Sometimes when I paused, I found myself holding my breath, just for a second; a heartbeat of anticipation and hope. I wasn’t standing in the midst of riches and jewels, but it felt like a treasure hunt just the same.

Here’s to the things that once belonged, the pieces with memories and the still-useful items, and the potential of discovery on a Saturday afternoon.

Categories
Entertainment Life

Answers

Tonight, all will be revealed. Maybe.

I, like many others, have been watching Mare of Easttown. The finale is tonight, and all signs point toward a riveting episode.

We’ve already gotten some answers; it turns out there are more than a few questions in Mare’s world. The seemingly most complicated one, however, remains unsolved. For now.

Even if we have the answers, I can’t help but wonder whether that will truly be the end of the case. The way things have been set up, and the way things have played out so far, suggests that a nice, neat ending isn’t guaranteed.

But then, that’s one of the reasons I like the show. It’s real. It’s unpredictable. It’s believable.

Sometimes, life gives simple, obvious answers. And sometimes, it leaves as many questions at the end as there were at the beginning. Different ones, perhaps, based on what’s been learned or what has happened. But not fewer.

I do have my theory, suspicions about certain characters and their involvement in the mystery. I hope we get closure on the actual whodunnit tonight.

If we’re left with new questions, however, the kind that require us to look within ourselves to find the answers – or, alternatively, to admit that we don’t have them – that would be okay. That would be in keeping with the story itself.

Here’s to Mare and the people of Easttown. Thank you for giving us an interesting, gritty, suspenseful, emotional ride, along with most (but maybe not all) of the answers.

Categories
Life

Plans

I’ve restarted the process of thinking beyond the immediate future.

During the past year, most of my planning thoughts centered on today, tomorrow, maybe the next week. There wasn’t much need or opportunity to consider action or circumstances beyond that timeframe.

Occasionally, I’d envision eventualities; I’d think about a holiday or an important date, and I’d do the necessary things to prepare. But the combination of limited options and general uncertainty narrowed the process. It was best not to think too far ahead or make too many assumptions.

Now, however, that perspective is changing, bit by bit. I’ve found myself having random thoughts: What can we do next weekend? and Is that meeting next week or the week after? and I’d better get started working on that thing that’s happening in a few months. I’ve also started thinking about ideas, not just about actions. I find myself musing about the What if? type of stuff, the things that I intentionally pushed aside during this past year of cautious waiting and forced patience.

Planning is hopeful; it assumes that something is possible. It doesn’t provide guarantees, but it does create a framework of optimism. It’s nice to once again feel that little tickle of potential, that shiver of anticipation.

Here’s to plans for the future, big and small, important and trivial, and the hope that powers them forward.

Categories
Life

Ugh

Where I live, it’s been raining. A lot. I can’t remember the last weather forecast that didn’t include a chance of showers. Each morning, I wake up to overcast skies, gray and dim.

I keep telling myself to be glad for the rain. It’s keeping the hot weather at bay, refilling lakes and rivers, and the plants are thriving. In a few months, the sun will blaze and sizzle, day after day, and I’ll sweat and complain and count the minutes until summer is over. These days of clouds and water are a good thing. And mostly, I do appreciate them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not also experiencing a bit of ugh as I look out the window. And I’ve noticed that, when I go to choose my cuppa each morning, to pick the one that captures my mood and reflects my thoughts, they all look very much the same. Bland and blah; functional and utilitarian. I don’t see a lot of inspiration on the shelf.

Still, each of my cuppas has a fond place in my heart. Each of them is like a warm and comfortable sweater, the kind that reminds you of words like snuggly and contented and peaceful. No matter which one I choose on these days of ugh, it feels like a friend, one that accepts me and my bleary-eyed, early-morning imperfections and wants nothing more than to accompany me on my journey to wakefulness. I can select any one of them, and we sit together at the table and make our plans and contemplate the hours ahead. And slowly, the ugh evaporates, just a bit, and the day begins to look brighter, regardless of whether the clouds have gone away.

Here’s to appreciating the rain, even when it leads to feelings of ugh. And, here’s to the things we count on to make the ugh a little more bearable.

Categories
Life Nature

Weeds

It’s nice, having a backyard garden. We ate some of our tomatoes last night at dinner, and I’ve been adding kale to various recipes during the past few weeks (the only good kale is cooked kale). Watching the plants sprout and grow and offer their bounty is rewarding and fun.

The thing is, however, that the planned plants aren’t the only ones that grow in the garden. Left to its own devices, a bit of dirt, combined with some rain and sunshine, can quickly become a home for random stalks and leaves, bits of nature taking over the neatly-arranged rows and productive patterns.

And so, it is necessary to engage in the never-ending process of weeding.

Pull some here, pick a few there. Some days, the end result is a clean garden, nice and neat everywhere. Most days, it’s only a small patch, one area under control for the time being, soon to be back where it started but weed-free at the moment.

I confess to feeling a little guilty when pulling the weeds. They’re simply growing where nature planted them. I’m the one who’s ending their journey, telling them that they’re not worthy. And, I quite like some of them, especially those that flower and climb, offering bright cascades of green and lush tangles of color. They remind me to be humble, as they quietly grow without my involvement. I am an observer, a participant – not a creator.

In the garden, however, coexistence doesn’t work very well. The weeds use up the resources. They block the light and invade the space, preventing the vegetables from growing properly. If the goal is tomatoes and cucumbers and basil and peppers, there must be a choice. I must take action. The weeds must go.

Here’s to gardens and plants and the fine line between wild and free, planned and productive. May we all have the good fortune of enjoying the special things they each have to offer.

Categories
Life Nature

Bounty

“For ourselves, who are ordinary men and women, let us return thanks to Nature for her bounty by using every one of the senses she has given us.” – Virginia Woolf

Categories
Life

Firewood

Where I live, the days are warming up. Our days of fireplace flames are likely over for a while.

I’m still collecting firewood, however. During last winter’s freeze, when we were without electricity, the fireplace was an important heat source. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan well enough, and we had to ration the wood at the very end.

At one point, I went out in the backyard and gathered the sticks and branches that were on top of the snow. As I did, I remembered the Laura Ingalls Wilder story – I think it was from On the Banks of Plum Creek, but it might’ve been from Little House in the Big Woods – about Laura and Mary staying home while Ma and Pa went to town.

In the story, a blizzard sprang up unexpectedly while Ma and Pa were gone. Mary and Laura considered how they should manage the situation. They had heard of people freezing, stark stiff, in blizzards, because their fires had gone out. So, they decided to bring firewood in from the pile outside. That way, they could keep the fire going in the house without continually risking the journey outside in the howling, snowy wind.

They got a little carried away, however, caught up in their worry and the rhythm of going back and forth from the woodshed to the door. Ultimately, they brought the whole pile of wood inside.

When Ma and Pa got safely home, Laura and Mary explained about their fear of freezing stark stiff. Ma and Pa laughed at the situation, even though they appreciated the intent. They agreed that Laura and Mary had been wise, but Pa also said something along the lines of, “Next time, girls, don’t bring in quite so much wood.”

Each day now, in the mild spring weather, I gather a few sticks and branches from our backyard and put them in containers on our back porch. I figure that, by the time winter rolls around again, we’ll have enough to ensure our fire keeps going, even if our firewood supply runs low. At some point, of course, the containers will be completely full, and I’ll stop collecting. No need to go to extremes.

Some might think it’s a silly thing to do – in fact, I sometimes chuckle as I toss that morning’s collection into the bucket. Is it really going to make a difference? Is this ritual even worth my time? But then, I remember how it felt to worry about our firewood supply last winter, and I empathize with Laura’s and Mary’s perspective of better safe than sorry. And I tell myself it’s okay, as long as I don’t get carried away.

Here’s to being prepared for whatever life brings, as well as being wise enough to know when enough is enough.

Categories
Holidays Life

Honest

It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S.A.

Today, the phrase “Happy Mother’s Day!” will echo across the land, perhaps accompanied by flowers and candy and handmade cards, sparkly gifts and family dinners. It is a day for celebrating moms; 24 hours dedicated to glorious motherhood.

I’m grateful for the recognition; I also struggle with it. It seems a bit dishonest to pretend, on this day, that motherhood is entirely magical. Yes, there are magical moments, but in my experience, motherhood is truly a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs, twists and turns.

I am beyond happy to be a mom. I adore my sons. I delight in their presence and marvel at the intelligent, kind, funny, wonderful adults they’ve become. They make my heart sing.

But. However.

As much as I am and have been and always will be a loving mom, an adoring and appreciative mom, a mom who sometimes can’t believe that she has the great good fortune of having these beautiful boys in her life, I must be honest. I also am and have been and will be, on occasion, an exhausted mom. An angry mom. A confused and scared and bewildered mom. An impatient mom; a mom without answers. An imperfect mom.

I’m also a daughter. I love my mother dearly and will spend time with her today, celebrating the good in our lives. Our roles have switched, however. I am now the caregiver, the mother figure, and the strain of this responsibility has changed our relationship. I no longer think of my mother as a provider of safety and comfort and warmth. Instead, I worry about how to provide these things to her; how to ensure that she’s as happy as possible, that she has the things she needs and that she feels loved and cared for, even if she’s no longer capable of fully participating in the experience. At times, the grief and guilt and resentment are overwhelming, damaging my perspective on what it means to be a daughter and what it means to be a parent.

Today, I also think about the people I know who’ve had (and are having) their own motherhood struggles. Some of them want motherhood with all their hearts but have been unable to realize that dream. Others have experienced the devastating loss of a child and now have only memories. I know of friends whose children have medical or emotional or educational challenges, who anxiously worry about their children’s future, their safety and their potential. Some of my friends are like me, caring for their moms as they age. Still others have found themselves caring for grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children whose parents can’t or won’t parent them, filling a gap, taking on a role they did not necessarily anticipate. And, some have lost their moms and are now coping with feelings of being adrift or alone or simply missing the person they loved.

So. Therefore.

If you choose to wish me a happy Mother’s Day today, I’ll gratefully accept. And, if you’d like me to return the salutation, I’ll cheerfully oblige.

If, however, you’d prefer to offer something like “Yay For Us, We’re Hanging In There This Mother’s Day!” or “We Are Awesome, Watch Us Getting It Done This Mother’s Day!” or even a simple “Let’s High Five This Mother’s Day!”, that’s okay by me. And, I’ll offer you whatever message works for you in return.

We can strive for perfection yet still accept our flaws. We can be happy, we can be joyful and grateful and merry; we can also be sad and frustrated and overwhelmed. We can be mothers who are real human beings, full of real human feelings, doing the best we can to do the best we can. We can be good at that, and that is worth celebrating.

Here’s to an honest Mother’s Day.