Troubled Waters

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Sunrise Thursday. The pull of the day threw the covers off my sticky body. The desire to escape the weight of worries, the seemingly endless sound of sirens, and the unforgiving concrete drew me to the water.

Finally! A cool morning was at hand. The sand was cold beneath my aching feet, providing immediate relief from a few punishing days of running. The tide was out and the wind was up, giving the waves a bit more vigor than usual. I walked along past my ankles, enjoying the ease. The beach was nearly deserted and still, except for the sound of the surf.

My mind is restless. I  am living with a sense of foreboding that I find difficult to escape. Mother Earth has always been a release valve, a respite for me, a place to gather thoughts and make sense of things. Since the mountains are far, I must find peace at the beach for now.

Sunrise Friday. Repeat. When I go to work, I tell Laura that I walked in the water. She misheard me and thought I said that I walked on the water, a phenomenon some attribute to Jesus and a well-known passage in the Bible. Others use it as a parable or a metaphor for rising above the negative material realm into a more fully realized spiritual self.

Sunrise Saturday. One more time. Before the day got away from me, I wanted a few moments of getting my feet wet. I appreciated the lack of noise from my fellow amblers. Perhaps we were all on edge. Waiting for the great national implosion.

Sunday. Another trip. But this time I run to the water and down to the pier. On the way home, I run through the quiet streets which are a few blocks removed from the noise of the boulevard. Ideas dance in my head.

The Sunday paper was chock full of the topics I thought of writing about, but  the writers, reporters, essayists, and editorials said it better than I ever will. However, I’d like to share one that was particularly compelling. Derek Black, a former white nationalist, wrote an essay entitled “David Duke is My Godfather.”  You can read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/opinion/sunday/why-i-left-white-nationalism.html?_r=0. One line that stood out to me was the last sentence of his essay:  “It is the choice of embracing or rejecting our own people.”

This is the thing that has bugged me the most. People-supposedly godly people- simply rejecting and judging everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their view of our nation and their view of religion (for some they go hand in hand). For example, on my way to a writer’s workshop Saturday, I saw a church sign that said: “Make America God’s Again.” I asked myself, “Whose God? Does it mean the Fundamentalist Christian God of hell-fire and judgement, the one that thinks we are all sinners? Would I be among the many who could be persecuted because I don’t believe exactly as they do? Would they create laws in this country that will blur the lines between state and church so they can make America God’s again?”

I texted my oldest son the quote and his response was “Cool.” I was surprised. Then he said: “Depends on what you mean by God’s I suppose. Love your neighbor, turn your cheek. Nice God.” I told him that I had a more negative reaction called “Fear of Religious Right.” His response: “Ah, lunatic God. No wine and cheese parties.”

I like his way of thinking.  I told him that if every house of worship had that sign ( Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc), then I think it would have the feel of less ‘lunacy’ and more love.

Sometimes I feel surrounded by others with a singular state of mind when it comes to their faith. Because they feel “right” in their beliefs, they assume I am just like them. I respect their beliefs but I don’t necessarily share all of them. And I am not sure they hear the harshness of their comments about times when they encounter situations where they may feel out of place, especially when it’s not Christian. They tell me they feel as if they are in “another world”. Then I share that I attended a predominately Jewish university as an undergraduate and that my experience as a non-Jew opened my eyes to newer perspectives and understandings. I hope their silence means that I gave them something to think about.

In essence, it comes down to active listening to others who may not agree with you or at least have a different perspective and experience. Derek Black says as much when people have asked him for a way to change the minds of Trump supporters. He states: “That kind of persuasion happens in person-to-person interactions and it requires a lot of honest listening on both sides.”

I cannot imagine living in a world or nation that is not diverse. There’s a richness to the various layers of our humanity and increased opportunities for deeper personal connections. We need to find a way to rise above the insidiousness that has made its way into our nation.

I’m leaving soon for another walk in the water, this time with a friend. I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth L. Samuel, Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia:

Every child wants to belong to a parent. Every individual wants to belong to a country. Every loving person wants to belong to a partner and a family. Every believer wants to belong to a faith that affirms and values who he/she is in God.

 

 

Speaking Up and Speaking Out

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Thanksgiving. A favorite holiday and this year a welcome respite from the cruel vagaries of the world. I had many conversations yesterday, of course. Two stand out because they are the inspiration for this latest post. In an exchange with my oldest son, he asked me if I had been writing lately. When I told him that I have been too overwhelmed by current events, he encouraged me to express myself. Later, after dinner, I was talking with one of our guests and sharing my fears. Wisely, she reminded me that those worries would be released into the universe. Instead, I would need to remain hopeful.  I hope this latest musing is a positive beginning!

When I woke up this morning, I made my usual cup of coffee and then took it back to bed with me. Instead of reading the news like I have done every morning for years, I read a few chapters of a Louise Penney mystery (http://www.louisepenny.com/). Lately, I have straddled the line between the need to stay informed and the increasing anxiety, the nerve racking fear and the crushing depression of national shifts that I cannot stomach. I have been wanting to write posts for weeks now, but I have been afraid that I may slip into overwrought opinions about the presidential campaign, the resulting election, and now its early aftermath. These days, taking any public stand is risky business and an invitation for uncivil discourse and cruel judgement. But this is something I cannot avoid; I feel as if I might burst from lack of self-expression! Admittedly, I want my opinions to be thoughtful. Perhaps this is why I have kept quiet in my posts lately. I feared being less than meditative. Plus, I refuse to be categorized, stereotyped, or labeled as a particular ” kind of woman” when I openly state my feelings or express ideas that may be considered “non-traditional”. But I also refuse to bow to the obscene practice of the monolithic grouping of people. This idea has been publicly played out in order to stoke fear and to provide a false sense of renewed power to those who have felt marginalized and silenced for decades. I believe the cause of this splintering is based in the unrelenting greed of those whose silver spoons are still in their mouths. The ancient practice of Divide and Rule has cultivated a sense of distrust and hostility between and among our citizens in order to lay blame on -take your pick- feminists, black and brown people, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc.

Hate, condemnation, suspicion, and negativity are easy paths to follow. They hold the deceitful promises of a return to the “good old days” (to which my stepdaughter once queried: “What do they mean, segregation?”). It is hard for me to fathom a return to a time when laws suppressing the rights of others in any and all forms will become the new normal. I have seen it being chipped away in seemingly harmless ways (i.e. new voting rights laws, women’s health care), and it is up to us to remain vigilant in the face of further future repression.

I believe that our purpose here on earth is to make it a better place to live. To not only raise up and help others, but to also take care of our precious resources in order for future generations to enjoy its unique beauty. We cannot dismiss other people as less worthy because of where they’re from, how they  choose to worship, or whom they choose to love, or because they don’t look like us. It is simply wrong.

They are many people that I have met and know in my life who do not share the same viewpoints as I do. We agree to disagree and can also thoughtfully engage in discussions that help further an understanding of each others’ perspectives.  We may hope to change another’s mind but no one is interested in changing laws that would suppress another citizen’s constitutional rights. Everyone has a story or two to tell that has helped bring them to their own set of beliefs.  These personal tales of tragedy and triumph are essential to listen to and understand if we are to grow together and make the world better and more free for everyone.

I’ll close this piece with the grace I shared at the Thanksgiving table. Many thanks to Mary Luti, UCC Pastor and seminary educator (http://www.ucc.org/devotionals_by_mary_luti) for this gift to my email ‘s inbox yesterday:

for it’s an immeasurable gift to say grace with one eye on your neighbor, to give thanks with joy complicated by concern, to count your blessings while repenting your sins, to know yourself in a muddle, trying to be good. It means you’re awake and not sleeping, alive and not dead. It means God is poking away at you, and you’ve let God in.

Moving Out of Comfort Zones

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For nine years I have been living outside my comfort zone. Previously, I had a steady vision as to how my life would proceed. But now I realize I was wearing rose-colored glasses most of the time! In August of 2007, my life’s plan was wildly disrupted and I was thrown into the turbulence of divorce. It was as if the earth had opened up and I was being swallowed whole into circumstances that were beyond my control. I spent the next five years in various states of unease and hardship as I navigated my way into an independent life. Along the way, however, I enjoyed moments of great peace, joy, grace, and a growing sense of inner strength that surprised me time and again.

As much as the independent life I had created brought contentment, it was unsustainable. In fact, it was becoming uncomfortable as the responsibilities of single home-ownership were beginning to become more taxing and overwhelming. Additionally, my boys needed to move forward into their own lives. The adventure was finished. I had done my job.

I am now literally in a whole new zone. I’ve said it before, I know! The climate makes me sweat profusely, and at times I think there are way too many sunny days. There’s a whole lot more traffic and this place seems so BIG to me.

Yet within this seemingly vast concrete jungle, there are delicious bits of paradise. (The paradise that brought people down here in the first place, the paradise that is at risk of getting lost for so many reasons). I have the comfort and contentment and continuity of a healthy partnership. A partnership that doesn’t pass judgement and is consistently patient and supportive, undemanding and full of humor! And, for the past year, I have spent many of my days way outside my educational comfort zone- teaching in positions that grew my brain cells and tested my creativity as an educator. It has been exhausting and exhilarating! But most of all, it’s been a gift. I found my community once again. A place which accepts and embraces me in all the ways I hoped.

In the nine years that my life turned in an unexpected and vastly different direction, I have learned a lot about myself and about who I really am. I have met and continue to meet some truly outstanding and amazing people. People whom I never would have crossed paths with if not for that dastardly day in August all those years ago.

Moving forward is a path that is rarely straight. But if you’re willing to allow the way to unfold before you, the detours may bring you unforeseen adventures!
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Moving from I to We

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Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries, weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise to find the surface. ~Truman Capote

Dear Readers: Please read this post I wrote four years ago before reading my latest essay.

Moving from “WE” to “I” 

I am a big fan of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert.The first book of hers I read was the best-selling, Eat, Pray, Love, even though I had heard of her work through other essays and in previous books, particularly The Last American Man. I will confess I have read the former a total of three times -once a year from 2008-2011!  The book came along at just the right time in my life and, although our journey’s were not exactly the same, I could identify with many aspects of the pain and eventual healing Ms. Gilbert had experienced. However, when her next book, Committed came out, I avoided it like the plague! I did not want to think about even entertaining the idea of getting married and I was convinced that if I read it, I would somehow quickly jump back in the game. To affirm this notion, I would routinely drive by a friend’s house (a common route into town) and see her latest man’s truck parked in her driveway. I would physically react each time, unable to fathom even the thought of someone else regularly taking up space on my property or in my bed. I loved my independence; I loved the idea of not having someone to come home to every single day. And even though the boys were settled with me, it never was the same scenario as having a partner in my home.

I watched as other women and men I knew go through separations and divorces. Some became unmoored in their new status. Getting through the day -or dare I say- the year, was just about all they could handle. Others seemed to relish in being single and were perpetually dating, often finding themselves in troubled or serial relationships.(All this in a small town-very surreal.) I was grateful to be both independent and in a relationship that provided me with the safe distance we both needed.

Life continued. I faced the good, the bad and the ugly and grew to cherish the life I was making. The love I had for my now- husband grew stronger despite the distance and we made the most of our reunions together. Always on the same page when it came to our future, neither one of us felt compelled to marry just yet. But our commitment remained steadfast.

An old friend TB once said “Relationships are like sharks, they must keep moving forward or die.” Living separately at a long distance is unsustainable (never mind expensive) if you want to build a life together. For me, that is what marriage means. Yes, it is a legal contract bound by particular laws. There are benefits to a legal union, like being next of kin in health care decisions for your spouse, for example. However, those laws mostly come into play when the marriage is coming undone. For some, it is a religious contract. Depending on how you view faith, those laws can either serve to fully express your union as equals or repress and oppress at least one of you.

I am at a point in my life where I have let go of the false beliefs of needing a “soul-mate” or in thinking that I need a man to “complete” me. The former is a specious sentiment espoused by popular culture. It leads people into thinking that there is only one person in one lifetime that connects with your true self. We need to release that idea. Instead, how about intimacy? And I am not talking about only sex here. I mean the kind where being naked with someone is more metaphorical. It is that place where only you and he (or he and he or she and she) live and talk and breathe. It is a place where it’s nobody’s business but yours. And frankly, my husband and I do not need to complete one another. Yes, we have a life together, but we also have our own selves and our own inner life. If  you know that and respect that about one another, I believe it can be a healthy, supportive and loving relationship. No need to lose the I and replace it with We; it’s possible to have both.

I have Elizabeth Gilbert to thank for this post. Yes, I finally read Committed, but only in the last week! I felt I only could write this after I read her perspective on marriage the second time around. Again, while our journey’s were not the same, I could identify with the struggle in moving toward it once again. Ironically, I was more ready to read it after I got married! I also recommend The Signature of All Things and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you want a compelling saga with a strong female lead character (and then some), read the former. For understanding and embracing your creative self, read the latter.  ‘Magic’ was a Christmas gift from Jenn  (and recommended by Emily) who both serve as loving reminders that my writing is worth doing and pursuing.

 

 

 

Fairies, Genuises and Other Magic

 

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On Friday afternoon, while writing my latest post, I received a Happy Anniversary notification from WordPress. I had forgotten that I began this blog four years ago with the intent to find a forum that would tap into my love for words and the wish to empower and inspire not only myself, but others.

The last four years have been a journey of self-discovery and self-recovery. Writing has helped me to process the emotional trauma and abuse that I lived with not only in my first marriage, but in its aftermath. I could never have fully and truthfully written about those dark times until they were safely in the past. Most importantly, I discovered that I can write across all genres and subjects, with poetry being one of my favorite ways to express myself.

Interestingly enough, I found the space and time for writing when I had more responsibilities than I do now. I was always juggling bills, home ownership issues, full-time work and being the rock for my sons as they left adolescence and moved forward to young adulthood. At the same time, the pull to create was strong-perhaps stronger than it has been in this past year since I moved away-both literally and figuratively- from my “old life” into this new one. But as think about it, I might not have had an “old life”. Maybe that was my first marriage. Maybe what I call the “old life” was something else. Not a transition to my current life-that would diminish the eight years I spent between marriages. As I probe a bit deeper, I realize the life I was living was one of hope and courage and great emotional challenge. I had to prove to myself that I could live independently, fully, creatively and most of all, joyfully. It was essential for my sons to see this as well-especially that last bit. My former husband wanted nothing but for me- as he said- “to scratch, crawl and suffer”. I didn’t want to prove him wrong; I wanted to take that provocation, that rock in the road, and move it.

I suppose I could have spent the last year writing daily observations of my latest incarnation. But I think that would have gotten in the way of the creative process and transformation that was-and still is-occurring. I needed to be in it just as I needed to be in the dismantling all those years ago.The words needed a sabbatical as I settled into being here. Most importantly, I needed to learn to let go of my boys and trust they would be fine without my daily presence. It has been hard, but we’ve done it.

In a week, I begin to get busy once again. Work and other commitments will pull at my energy. At the same time, I know I have released more of the grief that I was sitting with for the past year. It was a necessary and healthy process. I hear the Writing Fairy knocking on my door once again and I am ready to let her in.

 

 

Discernment in the Din

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The Secret of Change Is to Focus All of Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New~ Socrates

When I lived up North I never took the landscape for granted. In times of trouble, the view from my kitchen window or my upstairs bedroom created a soothing escape. Long expanses of green,wide open white, bold colors, or the gong of spring peepers-it didn’t really matter- each season offered a sight for my sore eyes, music for my ears, fresh air for my lungs and a slower beating for my heart. Now I have to work harder to find a quiet spot in the most densely populated area in the state.

I will admit that adjusting to my new physical surroundings has been one of the biggest challenges to living here. Strip mall landscapes replace the trees and swamps -ugly monstrosities offering plenty of nothing. Car dealerships, fast food joints, car washes, big box drug stores, coffee shops and fast food joints all competing with one another for your attention and hard-earned cash. And the signs! Oh the signs! I’ve told my husband that this area must be the only place where both strip clubs and churches use the same flashing neon advertisements. They’re completing distracting, flashy, and in no way enticing in their invitations to “Join us”.

I am unused to this cluttered busyness and heavy traffic stopping and starting along six lane boulevards. Of course, I would be giving a false impression in stating that the New England area lacks crowded highways and clogged main streets during peak travel times. But given where I worked and lived, those areas could easily be avoided and shortcuts were always available. Moreover, a trip to a more urban area or strip mall sprawl was an occasional occurrence.

I fear I will never adjust to the noise and traffic density beyond the walls of my house and its verdant park view. At times, I identify with the Grinch in the scene where he’s holding his ears as he thinks about the “Noise! Noise! Noise! from Whoville on Christmas Day. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsMlsDgMXJM)

Changing my mindset is the key to changing my attitude. Some of what I am currently experiencing is part of a universal adjustment to a very major life change. For now, I cannot change where I live. So I’ve tweaked my routine. I bookend my daily commute with quality music delivered by a hip local radio station.  My current occupation is located on a bucolic campus where the only sounds I hear are birds and the youthful loquaciousness of students. I get outside whenever possible. I have set goals to explore the local quiet spots and venture beyond my own environs to seek them out.  My husband and recently kayaked through some lush mangroves which offered comforting green tunnels,tranquil waters and a kind of hush that I haven’t experience since I moved here. Simply lovely!

Building a new life takes time. I will continue to miss key parts of living up North-my boys and closest friends, my faith community and the mountains. And when the need has arisen, I make a plan and get on a plane. I’m learning to trust the process and allow my new life to unfold and reveal itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Meantime….

Do you ever notice your shadow when you’re outside on a sunny day? I’ve never paid much attention to it; perhaps because cloudless days are fewer in New England or perhaps because I no longer have that childish wonder at the sight of it. On a run last week, I noticed the full and extra long length of mine and it got me thinking about my current life’s path.

I still remain surprised that I live in a place of palm trees and low lying land. I drive to work as the sun makes it debut (it rises just a bit later on this side of the Gulf) and wonder, “How did I get here?” (A line from the Talking Heads “Once in  a Lifetime” comes to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98AJUj-qxHI.)

Then I start to think about the  2016 Lenten theme of my faith community up North. “Walk with Me” is the one for this season. Admittedly, I missed the deadline for getting it published in the booklet so I decided this post would be an alternative means to share some thoughts.

I am old enough to know and accept and embrace that life’s path is never straight.  Even if you operate under the illusion of the straight and narrow, sooner or later you wake up to the fact that you actually may be going nowhere. (Again, cue another Talking Heads classic “Road to Nowhere”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0.)

It occurs to me that the precursors to the seismic changes in my life came about on walks with friends or other loved ones. I distinctly recall a question posed by a friend back in 2005: “Are you spiritually hungry?” Realizing that I was in fact in great need of fulfillment, I entered a community that opened my heart, mind and spirit and, in turn, helped my sons gain some safe ground in a time of severe turbulence.

Then I think of the long walks I took with my husband before we were even dating. First, a morning  hike in the woods and later, a longer walk on the beach (the very same one we were to be married on years later!). Intense, open and honest conversations took place that day in late 2008. Our lives were never the same after that time together; we began a journey that overcame distance and trying times in our independent lives.

A steadfast and true walking companion will always be Emily. My heart warms at the memories of Sunday afternoon ambles in the bird sanctuary with her dog Blaze. These trips were never wholly planned; usually a text or call to drop whatever and go. Things were shifting both in small and large ways during those times. Mother Nature allowed for openings in the clouded spaces of our thoughts and worries.

Surely, I would be remiss if I did not speak of those wondrous mountain hikes with my youngest son (joined on occasion by Emily and older brother). I have written about all of them in previous posts but in looking back, I believe they were symbolic of a relationship that had come full circle. The rough patches were behind us; we could manage the toughest and steepest paths knowing the reward was waiting for us at the summit.

Still, there was something larger at play, I think. A force or spirit or a higher power that reminded us to stay present because it was present. The moments became richer and sweeter as a result.

So here in this new place and space, I bring my full self. Each day is different; I feel as if I am in a tremendous labyrinth with many paths I can follow. So I do. I remain open to new possibilities along the way, knowing my journey and my destination are one and the same.

Gatherings, Gratitude, Guidance and Gumption

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Photo courtesy of D. Jacavanco (jacavancostudios.com/blog)

I’m writing this piece looking out at my new back forty; a verdant park is now my backyard instead of the long expanse of grass and thick woodlands. The journey to my new life is at once complete and just beginning. We were married in late June on the beach with the roar of the Atlantic and soft tunes of a love song in a circle of friends and family.

 The day was picture perfect-the bluest of skies, the warmest of suns and greenest of grasses. The party was held outside in the backyard, a culminating celebration and the best way to say goodbye to my house and land that survived loss and was revived by love.

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The boys had moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of town earlier that month. We had time to adjust to being apart before my own big move a thousand miles away. Although I had been in the house alone before, it was never so empty. I had trouble sleeping, not out of fear but in the sense of knowing it was permanent. It was difficult to work with all the emotional upheaval that comes with making five life changes at once. I was saying good-bye to everything.

I went for one last big hike in the mountains with my youngest during that time- a necessary reprieve from the planning of the wedding and packing whatever I needed to bring.

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I said good-bye to my therapist- a woman who provided me with strength and courage  for a decade and helped me get back myself.

So, two days after the wedding, we hit the road with everything I had- and all that I needed- packed in the car. Books, clothes, photos, paintings and two cases of wine arrived safely  three and a half days later.

And, two weeks after the wedding, my house was sold. My husband and I are  at last making our own home together. At times, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. The climate is different-and I am not just talking about the humidity! I will leave the details of my observations for future posts; they are stories unto themselves.

Until then, stay tuned!

Bittersweet Good-byes

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Credit: www.youtube.com

 

Some good-byes are unexpected

Seeming to come out of thin air

A sudden, tragic death with no chance for a proper farewell

 

Still others we wait for in agony and tortuous anticipation

A diagnosis with a termination date

Time to prepare, yes

But is there really enough time?

Each minute is precious

Each day a gift

Time for truths to be told

At last- the final moment- permission to leave and be released from pain

 

And there’s the relationship existing long past its expiration date

You take a step towards tossing it out

But the grip of fear holds you back

Starting over, being alone are the vises that lock you in

Then the hammer comes down and you are at once relieved and reveling

A warped dance of grieving a false love

and the  idealized version created for appearances

Mourning the idea and plowing the depths of sadness

Tending to it and then letting it go

 

Then they are the Someday good-byes

Ones you know will happen in life’s ebbs and flows

Children leaving the nest

Ready to tend their own gardens

You’ve given them the seeds and the soil and the rakes and the hoes

Their minds and hearts will continue to be sown

They are seedlings with strong roots

 

Each farewell challenging on its own

Each wrought with the messiness of change

Each allowing for transformation

And the the beginnings of a new day

 

Day 26. Can you sense a theme this week?  Preparing to leave this place is an exercise in quiet intensity and healthy sentimentality. The corners of the house have been poked and prodded. Old items-keepsakes from way back-have been rediscovered. The attic-though sparse- had its own treasure trove. The kitchen table has old photos scattered about. They haven’t moved for days. I’ll revisit them before I reorganize them and put them away.  Others are well-packed in albums and stored in a bin. Thanks for staying tuned in!

Recollections and Reflections

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We’re taking a journey to the past

Deliberately digging

Rediscovering ourselves

Who we were back then

The cache of moments revealing treasures hidden away

Tiny Instances and minor flashpoints of lives in one place 

School times

Christmas times

Easter tides

Carnival rides

and Halloween’s candy treats

Snow days bundled up- oh  those rosy cheeks! 

Summer days, freedom days, no shirts and bare running feet

The world looked greener then, full of promise

The present is a place of demarcation

The time when the bond of bygone times bears fruit for the future

We stand together at the precipice, hearts pulsing

All systems go for the epic Act III

 

Day 24.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conscious of time as I have this week. Shortly, this house will be a part of our past. The boys will go together to their own place and I with my beloved. Honestly, it is very exciting, despite the work of packing up and getting rid of things.