Mirages — or, the Power of Forgiveness

FORTY-FIVE

Great accomplishment seems imperfect,
Yet it does not outlive its usefulness.
Great fullness seems empty,
Yet it cannot be exhausted.

Great straightforwardness seems twisted.
Great intelligence seems stupid.
Great eloquence seems awkward.

Movement overcomes cold.
Stillness overcomes heat.
Stillness and tranquility set things in order in the universe.

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In my house, near the door, there is an old mirror that I gleaned from my parents’ camp house in Salisbury Cove, before it was torn down sometime in the fall of 1999. The mirror is chipped and faded: covered in scratches, you can hardly see any reflection but light. Tucked in one of its corners is the mantra: to err is human, to forgive divine.

For a few years now, I have posted this mantra in two places: by my front door, and on the wall of my studio-workspace. I look at it multiple times each day and think about what it means for that specific day and time. For the most part, I seek forgiveness of myself: for my mistakes, for my actions, and sometimes, for my speech.

When I returned from Austin last week, late on Tuesday night, I found my home changed. No longer was it the comforting, cozy space that I had left. Instead, it was a comforting and cozy home in which I live alone, on 10 acres, far off in the distant lands of Maine. After ten days in the light and love of friends and discovering new love, I came to Maine changed. I realized that I have a powerful and profound sense of positivity, and this is something that I can hold in my heart as a true strength, despite any and all adversities that are flung at me. However, as in all things, it is valuable to take time to reevaluate circumstances and belief systems when they are presented with alternative truths and/or realizations.

About a week ago, I took off on a road trip to West Texas with my best friend of many years. We camped in Marfa and in Presidio, Texas, and we drove through Big Bend. On our first night out in the desert, we made bean tacos in a community kitchen and camped in the parking lot of a place called El Cosmico. We drank tequila and smoked cigarettes whilst wearing hoodies. We laughed and we cried, but mostly laughed. We stared at stars. We talked about friends and lovers and life and husbands and divorces, change and acceptance and the present. It was, to me, one of the highlights of our friendship. The next night, we met a gaggle of strangers and later left them to perform some rituals in the dark that involved prayers for presence, prayers for strength, prayers for forgiveness, and a genuine desire to strive to be happy. In the darkness of the Chinati mountains, with a frog chorus behind us, we lit some words and some photographs on fire, we stamped them out from this world into the next, and we drank more tequila and laughed and cried and told stories to each other and thanked each other for the other one’s time.

Upon returning to Maine, I was forced to reevaluate that positive attitude that I am so proud of. I realized that maybe I was missing some things, or kidding myself, somehow. I realized that the vision of myself as an axe-wielding, blizzard-braving woman who lives in a cabin in Maine was missing some huge pieces: namely, the love of old friends and the love of one who sees your darkness and wants to walk with you, anyway. In Austin, I was almost constantly struck with the beautiful merging of those two relationships, for my friend-family in Austin not only have loved me for years, but recognize my darkness and choose to love me, anyway. Perhaps this is the mark of true friendship: something I have been lucky enough to find here, as well. And in a mystical universal bonus, I found one old friend who wanted to hold my hand and gaze into my eyes and love me and walk with me. When I think about those ten days, it is with utter awe that I reflect upon them, for I feel like my large and open heart, one that keeps growing as time goes by, was rewarded a million fold by those who already lay within it: my friends, my loves of my life.

In this cabin, late at night on a weekday, as I sit in the light of an old brass lamp and listen to music on a tiny speaker, watching the crackle of wood in the wood stove, I am almost constantly reminded of Jackie’s kitchen with its loteria cards, of Rodi’s laughter in the West Texas desert, of Chuck’s maligning of roses in his living room vase, of Angel’s tarot trailer, of Cody’s garden and the stars that shone out above him, of Bob’s studio and his knowing smile, of Julie’s tears and honesty, of Martha sitting in her office in her purple silk shirt, of the movement and changes of all the people who formed my family of friends for twelve years. It is the history of our lives, the mystery of the wending and waving paths of life, that forms our concept of love and life and friendship. While I have loved my time here, and I truly have: having grown from a broken and bent version of myself to the stronger and resilient and more prone to humor version that presents itself now, I have done so with a sense of resolute solitude and independence. However, whilst in Austin, not only did I realize that I ran away from my life of many years, from my family and friends, but that I was a critical part of a net, a spider’s web, of people, who would never really let me go no matter how long I stayed away. So while I felt truly alone, which I did, especially in the fall-winter of 2012, all my loved ones regarded me from afar with love, kept the net close and strong, and waited with love for me to visit them again.

There is a great comfort in change and realization and personal growth. There is a message in this from the universe, and that message is the one tacked up on a piece of white paper, written in blue pen, decorated with squiggles and eyeballs and hearts: to err is human, but to forgive, divine.

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Formidable From A Distance

Still glaring
from the city lights
Into paradise I soared
Unable to come down
For reasons I’d ignored.

Total confusion,
Disillusion
New things I’m knowin’.

I’m standing on the shoreline
It’s so fine out there
Leaving with the wind blowing
But love takes care.

Know me, know me
Show me, show me
New things I’m knowin’.

Wind blowing through my sails
It feels like I’m gone
Leaving with the wind blowing
Through my sails. — Neil Young

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham

Age & Aging

The Dream Garden – A Glass Mosaic Mural by Maxfield Parrish & Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1915

I left Maine six days ago to start this journey across the country.  It feels so far away: like I am drifting. Me and my purple suitcase are attached together, detached from all other things. I feel as if I am floating through time and space, tethered only by the places in which I sleep at night, and the writings here and in my paper-and-pen journal.
As I have been traveling these last six days, I have realized a few things. The first is that I need stability and my own place to live. I moved out of my old house in the middle of May, and since then have been staying with friends and family or house sitting. At first, this was an adventure that I was ready for. I sold all my belongings save the 12 boxes of prized possessions, and was thrilled by feeling freer and lighter than I had for years. I still feel free and light but my understanding of what that means has changed from a relative position vis-a-vis possessions to desiring lightness inside my heart and mind. Part of that is the attempt to cultivate a sense of peace within myself that has nothing to do with objects: just being observant of the passing of time and place around me. However, it has come to my attention that I am ready to have keys again. I have no idea where I put my keys as it has been so many months since I have needed to use one. I am ready to settle into my winter house and create a little, temporary home there and reflect on the changing seasons and my new place.

Maxfield Parrish lived in rural Vermont in a beautiful house.

He loved theatre, and often staged beautiful plays at his home that starred his friends and family.

The next thing that I have been thinking about is age and aging. Lately, I have been feeling my age. I looked in the mirror yesterday and started making funny faces at myself, as usual, and noticed these large wrinkles that stretch across my forehead. Now, when I am not making funny faces, those wrinkles are invisible. But how often am I not making funny faces? I noticed the permanent wrinkle between my eyebrows. I noticed the grey hair that is everywhere now, especially since I haven’t colored my hair in four months. I notice the way I feel around younger people. I feel like I am counting my experiences with more importance. I feel like I am more contemplative than before, and that I am less likely to try to foist my opinion on to others. I feel like I have learned a lot but also have just lived through a lot. I feel tired and reflective, as if I am spending many hours of each day reaching and looking back into the parts of my life that have been neglected for a long time, trying to suss out meaning where I have usually neglected an analysis.

Louis Comfort Tiffany created new forms of glasswork for this mural. It is the largest glass mural in the world.

One of the things I keep coming back to is the experiential gulf between people. Someone you know and even love can be so similar in age to you but yet have not shared even a handful of the experiences that really carved out the person that you may be at the present moment. That isn’t to say that you can’t share experiences and learn from each other, but I think a sense of perspective may only be created through multiple experiences, good and bad, that provide you with an understanding of what is important, what is doable, what is a waste of time.

The Dream Garden – Detail

I turn 32 on this birthday, this Christmas Eve. When I think about my birthday this year, my dream is to spend it in my little house with a friend or two. I hope to have candles and lamps burning (I hate overhead light especially in the coziness of winter) and to drink a glass or two of wine. I hope that it snows, and that I can watch the snow falling and later, go walking in it when it is dark and everyone is asleep. I hope to walk down to the harbor and look out at the water, at the few boats that will remain in the water at the end of December, and walk home. I hope to have a cozy blanket on my couch and be able to stay there until Christmas is born the next morning. That is what I wish for, nothing more and nothing less.

I do not feel old, far from it. I feel very young most of the time and people tell me almost constantly that they are surprised that I am almost 32. I blame the hair dye, crazy outfits and desire to smile at everyone and everything. People often tell me that they notice my smile first. I count this as a win. When I say that, however, I realize that now I have been on the planet for 1/3 of the time I will get to be here, if I am very lucky. I plan to not leave till I am about 97, as long as I have all my faculties and can walk around and knit. Now that I know that I have been here for 1/3 of my life, and I look at all the experiences that I have had, the hardships endured, the beautiful things that I have seen and felt and appreciate every day, I feel older than some of the people who are around me.

The reality is that I lived life to the absolute fullest until about a month ago, when I decided to stop. When I say lived life to the fullest, I mean running around like the proverbial chicken with her head cut off, running from this to that. Pressured by a desire to succeed, I did. I succeeded, and I did not understand the meaning of the word no. I did everything I could all the time. And that, in a lot of ways, is a great thing. I know my capabilities and strengths and weaknesses and know now that I will always be ok; I will always be able to take care of myself. But I am tired. Tired, tired, tired. I have to stop rushing; there is no rush. All we have is time, granted it passes very quickly, but it is, really, all that we have. Time to stop and think, time to drink tea and eat soup, time to walk and listen to music, time to create beautiful things and tell people that we love having them around.

The Dream Garden – Detail

Since the age of 28, when this process of realization began, I have seen myself rush headlong into many things. I have seen myself make a decision that was absolutely critical to my happiness, despite the social rejection of that decision. I have seen myself take on everything that was thrown at me. I have seen myself adapt and change even when I shouldn’t have. I have seen myself dedicate my life to others while neglecting myself. I have seen myself run, run, run, desperately afraid that I would miss something, or something would miss me, if I didn’t. Desperately afraid that “it” wouldn’t happen, while not even knowing what “it” was.

The Curtis Center at 6th and Walnut in Philadelphia – Home to The Dream Garden

When I got shingles this summer and was forced to stop, I started thinking about age. I started thinking about all the things that I have done and wished I had done, and about all the things that I thought I would have had at this point. And then I realized, wherever you is, there you are. And all of a sudden, all the madness, the running around, began to slow down. The spinning began to slow and eventually stop. Friends helped me with this, helping me understand that I was still rushing around, still making plans where none needed to be made.

The Dream Garden was designed to inspire wonder at nature and a sense of solitude in the viewer.

This tour of my country is so beautiful because I get to see lots of people who I love, I get to do whatever I want to do in some of my favorite cities, and I get to spend some serious time thinking about this and other subjects. By the time I go home in a few weeks, hopefully I will be ready to stretch and unfurl this new me, the one that will be slow and dedicated instead of rushing around scared. The one who will spend time every morning appreciating instead of stressing. The one who will age gracefully, quietly. The one who will not look too far in the future for plans, but try to stay in the present and notice people, places, and things of beauty. I feel like this trip is my last for a while, because the task at hand is to practice being still for a while and watching the world by walking within it, instead of running, driving, and doing all the time.