Friday, May 31, 2013

Staying Grounded

Tomorrow is the first day of June, 2013! I have certainly been neglecting my blog lately! Writing has not been something that keeps me grounded right now.

So what has been keeping me grounded? 

The ground mostly! I’ve been pulling and digging and cutting and raking and moving and cleaning. Living outside means that everywhere I look is a place for organization and beauty. Possibilities are limitless. The boundaries become self-imposed. Each day I establish exactly which area and how much of that area, I will ‘tidy up’. After the Winter, the grounds need to be cleared. Trees shed their extra weight all over the ground. There’s a thick blanket of fir cones, needles, broken bark that I either mix in with the soil or gather with a lawn rake for burning. It’s what I call “cleaning the dirt.” It’s endless, if I want it to be. I don’t. I concentrate on the little patches of gardens that we have established over the years and the small clusters of space for sitting and meditation. We decorate our outside as if each area is a room for inhabiting. With no walls, our living space is endless. So is keeping it neat and tidy. It is exterior decorating as opposed to interior.

I have moved from ‘looking for work’ to ‘looking for work that needs to be done’. I watch for job opportunities for teaching and facilitating and respond to them professionally. I am realizing that there is a great deal that can be done right here on the Island. Homeschooling parents who struggle with the task of educating their children, young adults who leave school before they have completed their diploma, middle school students who benefit from someone to help them through the coursework that simply has no relevance to their lives. I spend hours a week with young people who need help. An old Principal friend of mine (and mentor) once taught me, that if you want to be hired for a job, it’s best to be doing the job first. That makes sense to me. I intend to do the job I want to be doing right here on the island. 

Yoga! I find my daily practise grounds me; to my self, to my natural surroundings and to my purpose. In the warmth of our yurt, in front of the burning wood stove, and facing outside our window, I meditate through the asanas, stretching, flexing, bending, twisting, and breathing. These (and others) are all practises that I want to strengthen in my life and learn to integrate into a neatly woven and beautiful pattern. To become more flexible in my thinking, and to ‘stretch’ my self further than what is typically comfortable for me are concepts that I get to focus on during my asana practise. Becoming less rigid and learning how to twist will help me become less sensitive. I don’t break as easily and others can feel confident in my strength and support. That takes exercise. I want to be strong for others and give compassionately and securely! 

My varied relationships with others, keeps me grounded in my world. Maintaining connections with family members, building friendships, and caring for others around me is gratifying. I do truly believe that we need to take care of each other. Cooking and delivering soup to a sick friend or driving someone to the doctor’s for a treatment or spending an evening with friend who recovers from surgery are all ways of making this little world just a bit more pleasant and beautiful. I am in the process of organizing a group of people to care for a friend who is has serious health challenges. We are trying to help him maintain normalcy of life in his own home, here on Gabriola. There are enough loving people around to make it work. I feel inspired to work diligently in my own small world, and, as I travel, share my skills and talents with others as the need becomes evident.

I am hoping to write more, although I am reluctant to make promises I might not keep! Stay tuned….just in case!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mother's Hands

My mother’s hands were slim and tapered and were soft as velvet. It was a sign of being feminine and petite she used to tell me. “Your manicure reflects the type of person you are”, she used to say. Hers were sleek, softened with hand cream, meticulously primed and precisely shaped.

Mom used her nails as an insignia. They were unusually hard and extremely strong. She would intentionally tap them on the tabletop to accentuate the beat in a rhythm or create the pattern for a rhyme. It was her way of getting attention.

My mother’s nails shone vibrant colours. As the times changed, so did the hue. Red, brown, white, green polish covered the smooth sloping curve of the enamel. Her nails conformed to the era.

Sometimes, her hands looked smooth and supple and I knew she was calm and rested. When she had time to ‘do her nails’ they reflected the attention that she was able to give them. Sitting close to a table with emery board in hand, she strategically placed a Kleenex sheet close by to clean up any mistakes as she worked. The two small bottles of polish sat nearby…one clear for the undercoat and nail hardener, the other whatever colour she had chosen for the week.

My mom grew up wealthy in a time when wealth was unusual for a Jewish immigrant family. Her father provided well for her and her older sisters and mother. As a furrier, his emigration from Poland proved to be lucrative. He got here earlier than most of the Jews of his time, and as a young man, learned the trade of buying and selling furs. He knew how to mingle with and socialize with those of influence and wealth. He knew how to look polished and sculpted and to gain acceptance from a culture that relied on first impressions and that formed opinions based on visual presence. Morris learned to do what was necessary to fit in.

And money was important. Rose, my mother’s mother, wore wealth on the outside of her body. Proudly she walked through the streets of New York wearing furs and diamonds. Her solid, strong, poised body reflected a false pride through her adornment. She wore her wealth with ease, hiding the inner poverty that plagued her soul.  My mother’s mother taught her to glide through her world without having to deal with the inner issues of life.
The Depression crashed my mother’s family’s world. As my mother grew up, manicured fingers and polished nails helped disguise the ragged, bruised and bleeding state of their lives. What could not be displayed on the outside remained buried.

My mother learned to stuff her worries within. “Make sure that you don’t get involved.” “Keep your secrets to yourself.” “Mind your own business.” “Blend in with the crowd.” “Don’t make a scene.” “Present yourself well.” That’s why my mother’s hands always looked so delicate and vulnerable and tense.  So was she. The manicure could not hide what I knew to be true.

Years have passed. My mother’s hands tell another story.  They lay quietly in her lap. The palms face upward and her fingers are spread as an offering to the heavens. She sits upright in her cushioned seat, both feet planted firmly on the floor in front of her. Her eyes are gently closed as her head tilts slightly down.

When I ask mom now what she is doing when she is in this posture, she quietly answers “Nothing”. “Are you sleeping?” I persist. “No,” she says. “Are you thinking, then?” “No,” she continues.
“Then what are you doing, mom?”
“Nothing,” she insists.

I have come to understand what my mother does as she sits quietly all day. She sits content in a state of calm and meditation. She is happy. For the first time in her life, my mother is satisfied to simply sit. She no longer needs to paint her nails and show something to the world. She doesn’t have to be doing something all the time. And she need not present her self.

My mother’s hands no longer shine with colour. They don’t wave the way they used to and the pale dry flesh is blotched with brown spots of age. The skin around the nails is soft and smooth, and the cuticles no longer bleed and crack. She doesn’t paint her nails with bright colours any more. My mother’s hands lay natural and soft. The skin hangs loosely on her knuckles. They are beautiful and real…my mother’s hands. Just the way God intended them to be. Just the way she is.