Dec 31, 2011 — nearing the end of the holiday week of copious extroversion and most ready to climb back into my cave.

I remember when my children were young, there was a popular children’s book, Five Minutes Peace, which featured a mother elephant struggling to find some slice of time to herself. If I recall correctly, even the baby elephants climb into the bath with her, when she retreats to the tub for some quiet. Now, this may be starting to sound like a broken record  (or an old tape, whatever the case might be) but here I am again seeking that place of peace.

A few days ago, I wrote (because I have no voice again) to the woman who leads the women’s writing series, which was so blessedly gifted to me by my children (they do indeed recognize this need in me). I realized that it was probably 18 months ago, perhaps longer, when I spoke with her last about that empty book, which I longed to remain empty of others’ needs and expectations until I’d discovered for myself what it was that I wanted to fill it with. Here I am some years later, my ‘book’ full of dates and obligations.

‘I am so weary’.

As I read through my journal entries from the last 6 months, here at the close of the year, it struck me how often I’d written those words. I hadn’t realized my weariness was so present, so much on the surface, though I’ve felt it both physically (with a respiratory infection that just won’t go away, which causes me to lose my voice time and time again) and emotionally. I suppose I hadn’t made it quite so conscious a realization until noting it in those pages, as the naming aloud of anything will somehow make it suddenly real.

How did I miss the exponential element of having so many children (not to mention step-children) and the toll it would take … of course, always commensurate with the blessings it also bestows.  How is it that bells toll with both resplendant joy and harrowing grief? Where does abundance tip over the edge into overwhelming?

I am so conflicted.

Yesterday, Don and I drove through the lands of a state park, and I noted the sighs involuntarily escaping my lips, as if they were simply a part of my breath in that place, those sighs that radiate from me when entering the darkening forest. Those are sighs of deep peace, of release, of belonging. I am recalling Glenn’s premise that I follow those sighs (those were not his words exactly, but I know that my body sighs when I am experiencing pleasure and he DID suggest that I might indeed listen to my pleasure)

Why is it so difficult for me to follow those sighs? To think of moving from this world full of granddaughters’ love in order to move to a place that makes me sigh? The truth is some part of me sighs in each place, and my heart breaks when I ponder either possibility. The proverbial rock and hard place I am stuck between. Layla’s hugs melt my resolve each time, even as my life calls beyond these walls.

Sometimes I even wonder if I would have anything at all to write about out there? No angst. That’s perhaps simply because so much of my writing of late has been on this one broken-record theme that I can’t recall what truly calls my heart to writing.

I write to express something human into the world. I write to reflect the beauty that surrounds me off the mirror of my own soul, reflecting it back out into this place as more beauty — I hope. I write to discover what is beneath. I write to listen beneath the noise.

Am I listening?

How long it has been since I’ve been to the woods. Already, so much time has passed since Don and I were in the smokies that it seems a distant memory. In that place, the words flowed. In that place, I heard. In that place, without angst, there were also words —amidst the peace, amidst the quiet–words that longed to be sung into being.

At my depths, I know there is something in me that needs the forest for more than mere escape. Something in me that will break into song in that place, like a bird in spring time that has returned to its nesting place.

In my faintest of memories, I recall the feeling of rightness, of aliveness, of deep pleasure and joy, of hope that I have in those places. The feeling of me, as if I move into my own skin somehow, as if some part of me is not asked to step aside and wait, as if it is asked to join me in the dance. In my most distant of memories, I recall the feeling of spaciousness I have in those places, a spaciousness unencumbered and yet full.

And yet, creativity is perhaps too narrowly defined by me, when in truth the whole of my life, across the depth and breadth of my days, is a creative endeavor, into which I pour my energy, my love, my lifeforce, my time.

Sometimes I suspect I am like George, of Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ renown, imagining my life’s purpose has passed me by, when in truth the place where I have been has needed my creativity so much moreso than any book or painting I might create from this well of love inside of me. My greatest works of art surround me.

I have read that attention is like sunshine – full, vital, and affirming – to our children.  The kind of attention a sun gives to the earth is constant, like the kind of attention required of a child when s/he is growing, ‘illuminating through the overcast, shimmering through the haze, eradicating shadows, and overcoming obstructions. It endures, in its infinite, replenishable power’ (Karen Maezen, Hand Wash Cold)

Fully present, loving attention is the ultimate in creative energy bestowed upon a child – or any another human person, for that matter.  I remember also reading in Brian Swimme’s book, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, a similar reflection upon the creative energy of the sun, how it literally burns itself up in the ultimate creative giveaway, how we might be invited to follow its example.

If the loving, creative energy of the universe is condensed in this body of mine as fuel to be burned, perhaps there is no greater expression of that energy than the loving attention I have bestowed upon my children, and now my grandchildren. As a young mother I consciously, lovingly, most willingly made that choice. In truth, I could choose no other as each time I attempted something outside of that role, my love for them drove me back time and again to be at the center of their orbit, shining the full life-force of my light into their lives. It was no choice after all, it simply was who I was.

When I was a mother, that transformation of my body into nurture for the other’s growth was both automatic and quite literal, as my body grew a placenta of nourishment for the growing child and my breasts filled with milk for the infant to suckle. But I wonder, how does that transformation look for the crone?

There are those who have passed this way before me, women who I know only by books for the most part, who have culturally understood the cessation of menstruation to represent the retention of ‘wise blood’, blood no longer flowing for the purpose of birthing and nurturing new life in another, blood now contained, available to the woman for her own growth. Somehow the letdown of milk as an automatic reflex, in response to the cries of another, ceases too. What the crone has to give is less ‘on demand’, more contained in a vessel perhaps, the vessel that has been molded by her life up to the moment she crosses the threshold of the kiln and is fired by the heat of transformation into a shape that dictates what she will now offer and hold.

And there is something here about containers again, like the cup imagery that captured my imagination a few years ago. How can one offer a drink to anyone when there are no walls…like the walls of a cave,perhaps… into which one can pour oneself and by which one can prevent oneself from spilling all over the place, making only a mess and not offering nurture at all.

Last week, at the memorial service I attended for Hugh, I ran into an old friend, who had struggled a year or so ago with a lingering respiratory infection. She said that what finally cured her was rest, deep rest, the kind of rest that she had fooled herself into believing she’d been giving herself but hadn’t until her body made it so.

Perhaps I cannot be the sun after all. Perhaps I am invited to be more like the moon now, waxing and waning, reflecting and turning my face. Glowing and resting. Offering light to see in the dark, and inspiration for dreams.  Silent and cool. Gentle, never over-exposing nor casting harsh shadows.

The moon. Of course. How could I have thought myself otherwise.

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