Presence.

I had not seen a deer on the beach before. And she was alone. The deer in my and my neighbors’ yards were usually in groups of three, sometimes as many as six.

      My pup and I were sitting on a log about forty feet from her when she saw us. I had Lyric sit at my feet, so as not to scare her. She looked at us for a minute or so, then stepped elegantly in to the gentle waves of the incoming tide. She walked out into deeper water, up to her belly.

     Was she washing something off? She walked out further, and appeared to be swimming. Was something wrong? She moved her head back and forth.This looked and felt wrong.

     Lyric tried to run down to the edge of the water where she was.

     “Come Lyric. Let’s let her be, she won’t come in if we stand here.” I knew I was talking to myself at that point. Lyric returned to the spot on the shore closest to her a couple more times.

     We walked about 10 more minutes in the southeast direction of the beach. The wind was getting colder, I turned around and Lyric galloped to catch up with me.

When we got near to where the doe had gone in the water, I saw a dark shape floating about fifty feet or so out. It was her body. Lyric knew something was wrong. He ran down to the edge of the water and looked out at her.

   Why would a doe drown herself? I was numbed. I called to Lyric as I walked back the way we’d come. He came to me, then ran back to where the doe was floating. He came when I called him and we kept walking.

   What could I have done?

Perhaps I did it: witness. An act of nature, a peaceful ending. What were the chances I would be a mile down the beach from the entry point, at 1:15 in the afternoon on this particular day?

A couple days later was my birthday. A marvelous day, one of the most memorable of my life. My cherished friend, Terra Lea, came over, got us a delicious lunch of fish tacos which we ate at Fort Casey State Park, walked our pups on the seemingly endless beach, chased our pups, and talked. A witness and celebrant of my special day.

To be present for someone else. Perhaps no action is required except your presence. I bet you can list a myriad of occasions when you have witnessed for someone else, perhaps not even aware of it at the time.

Ah yes, be present. Be the light.

Courage, Risk & Zoomies

Courage.

Really? Sometimes the actual instance is more accurately described as “What was I thinking?” “If I had known this, I wouldn’t have ____.” “What? No one told me that.” “If only I had _____ first.”

My son was telling his beloved partner about his mom’s adventures – listing how I had lived in Italy, walked on the Great Wall in China, gone to Chichen Itza, graduated from college at age 46, performed at scads of open mics, done a weekly radio show for years, and worked with incarcerated teens.

Adventures? I hadn’t thought of it that way, yet he was right.

When my remarkable daughter, super son-in-law, and I were celebrating my daughter’s successful surgery at a Mexican restaurant, I ordered the cactus salad as I had never heard of such a thing. I didn’t like it.

“Mom, you always do that – try new things and half the time you don’t like them.”

I started to dispute that, then realized she was right. I had not seen that about myself. I realized I like to try new things, yet then saw I don’t want to miss out on anything.

     As you can see, I am getting to the synopsis of my life: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Wonder pup, Lyric

     I have a five month old puppy asleep at my feet, his name is Lyric. Hopefully, he will sleep for a while longer. I had NO idea the constant vigilance, consistency, and patience required with a puppy. At this point, you can imagine I have revisited the first paragraph questions several times in the last 3 weeks since Lyric came to live with me. He is a sweet, smart and patient soul. Thank goodness.

      Ten months ago, I had enough of where I was living, so I did a ton of work, spent so much more money than I anticipated, sold my condo, and moved to where my heart called me: near the ocean. Yee gods and little fishes. Courage? Yup. Risk? Oh yeah.

      I didn’t think about it in those terms until I found these rocks. My dear and wondrous harp teacher, Harper Tasche, had a bowl of engraved rocks at his wedding some years back, inviting all attendees to take one or two, which I did. I had long since put them away and found them as I was packing and sorting in the prep for my huge move.

     The many challenges of this move have been intimidating. The unexpected issues have been overwhelming. The list of expenses has grown. The extent of needed repairs and unmaintained items seems endless. Yet, I followed my pursuant heart. As I have done so often in my life, even without having the words for it. (Did I mention sleeping on the floor of the Luxembourg airport one night in November while waiting for a flight, and the next night being locked outside and huddling up on the cold pavement until the airport reopened in the morning?)

     All righty then, Lyric and I just got back from a walk on the beach, he ran zoomies in and out of the waves, I picked up a couple agates, and listened to the waves as they foamed up on the sand.

As Tom Rush would say, “No Regrets.”

I Forgot I’m a Genius

A favorite caveat of mine over the years has been, “How hard can it be?”

The two story, split-level 2,324 square foot home my family was living in at the time very much needed painting. I said, “How hard can it be?” It took me two years, I got it done.

     Play the harp? “How hard can it be?” I went to Dusty Strings, rented a harp and bought a teach-yourself book. Yes, I did make progress, yet I needed a teacher and found the amazing Harper Tasche, who’s been with me many a year patiently teaching me. It has taken me decades, I’ve done it.

     Over the years, in watching people, in being involved in the legal system and social work, I noted that Justice is like Truth, it depends on who you ask. There’s a loaded one. I could ask the prosecuting attorney, the parent of the young offender, and even myself, “What is justice in this case?” and get three very different answers.

I came to realize that we each choose a belief system. We can accept the one handed to us by parents, adapt it as we go to school, get married, enter a workplace, or a social community. Yet our beliefs are still a choice, even as they change.

Autumn Snohomish River. Photo by MDessein

‘Freedom comes in many forms’ is one I am just stepping into. Living in America, I definitely appreciate the freedoms I have to live where I choose, vote for whom I choose, work where I choose, and so many others. The deeper personal freedoms I am learning about are my freedom to say no when asked to do something, my freedom to simply be for a while, not listening to the ‘Mary, you should be doing xyz and being productive,” from my inner critic, and my freedom to be kind to myself.

A wonderfully generous contractor was here at my home yesterday helping me resolve an issue. I offered to help him with a literary project of his. Then I smiled and offered to play the harp for him on a family occasion. He smiled and said nothing.
“Everyone needs a harpist at some time or another, they just don’t know it,” I told him.
Indeed, don’t we all need a comfort, a balm, a beautiful experience to soothe us, to celebrate, or to enhance a moment we are in?

In packing and sorting recently, I found my graduation cap from the University of Washington-Bothell and the commencement program. Out of a class of 450, I was one of the top 20, the cum laude graduates. In telling my son about this, I remarked, “I forgot I was a genius!” He laughed for a full minute. “Mom, how could you forget that? I’m using that line!”

Graduation!

Are there times you have forgotten or had a stellar accomplishment pushed aside as the river of life had you surging along with family, work deadlines, financial obligations, neighborhood friction, local and national politics, and the list goes on. Remember your stellar achievements~

My daughter’s Siberian Husky had 11 puppies two months ago. Gorgeous little creatures. I’m getting a puppy!
How hard can it be?

It’s About the Light

The leaves drift and drop from the trees each fall. It is often thought the leaves falling is due to the cooler weather. Simplistically, it is more about the decreasing amount of light as the days become shorter, the chlorophyll which give the leaves their green color breaks down, and the leaves change their color to the many magnificent oranges, yellows, golds, scarlets, amber, rust, and crimson.

It’s about the light.

When I was afraid to go upstairs to my bedroom as a 5 and 6 year old because it was dark and I could not be sure there was no creepy thing lurking. There was not light in the stairway or upper room until I got to my bedroom.

How many times have I been stopped by my own fear and uncertainty? When I didn’t think I could see enough? So it didn’t stop at age 6!

Hydrangea. Photo by MDessein

Ah, when did I not see when I was the light? As my children have become autonomous, amazing adults, I sometimes look back and wish I had known better for times they were in distress and uncertainty. I tended to react to the event, their behavior, and circumstances rather than look at the bigger picture, possible actions, and then respond. Yet, they are both still speaking to me! and I look forward to each time. For the most part, they remember when I stood up for them, taught them, played with them~

Mukilteo sunset. Photo by MDessein

Michael Strassfeld is an author, a rabbi, and thinker. One of his thoughts captured my attention, “Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”

Be the light.

When I’m gone, you’ll need love

Legacy. An interesting word, yes? A gift left in a will, a bequest; something handed down from the past, such as the legacy of ancient Egypt.

I was taken in finding a crafted box with a clasp, in my china hutch as I was cleaning things out. I opened the box, to find it lined with a silky fabric, and therein a thick book with a warm brown leather cover. In opening the cover, I see my grandmother’s name, M. Dessein, embossed in gold on the page and the date of 28 Mai 1908. It is a prayer book, in French.

Beautiful pictures, a ribbon marking a page, small prayer cards in various pages. Also in the crafted box, two hand-written letters. Neither had dates, however, they referenced a trip to France. One written in French from my grandmother’s sister and one in English from my grandfather. My grandfather Alfred, who died seventeen years before I was born. Grandpa Alfred. He signed the letter ‘your lover.’ Grandmere made a trip from Seattle to her birthplace in Langres, France in 1927 with her firstborn child, my mother, Josette. Grandmere was anxious to see her family again and introduce them to her beautiful three-year-old daughter. There is much to be said there, however, back to my topic.

Grandmere’s prayer book. Photo MDessein

Do you think about the legacy you are leaving and will leave? And to who?

“So lately, been wonderin’, who will be there to take my place? When I’m gone, you’ll need love, To light the shadows on your face.”

So in my going through my little hall closet, which a water leak in the wall has forced me to do, I find the Wedding Anniversary memory album of my parents’ 40th anniversary in 1984. Quite the shindig, to be sure. It was at my house, I made a triple-decker wedding cake for them, a soft orange with deep orange trim. Twas a beaut, if I say so myself.

Do I throw that album away? A lot of the people in the pictures are long passed away. My two children live in other states, my son was two at this event and my daughter wasn’t born yet. Is it part of their legacy?

Ah, when I am gone, my children in their 60’s (!) looking back – at memorabilia, their lives, their children, perhaps grandchildren. What am I leaving them? Is it already a done deal?

“If a great wave should fall, It would fall upon us all. And between the sand and stone, Could you make it on your own?”

I wish I could ask my mom questions, ask my dad what he would do differently. Ask my grandparents what they think I ought to do next. Ask my great-grandparents how they would approach a huge life change.
Have you had similar wishes?

“And maybe, I’ll find out, The way to make it back someday. To watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days.”

Is my legacy a combination of what was left to me to now pass on? Is it how I raised my kids and therefore all done? Is it how I have moved through the world and helped others? Made a difference? Protected someone? Or simply when I held the door for that family at the Post Office?

“Runaway with my Heart. Runaway with my Hope. Runaway with my Love. I know now, just quite how, My life and love might still go on. In your heart, in your mind, I’ll stay with you for all of time.”

This song I’ve been singing to you is “Wherever You Will Go” written by Aaron Kamin, guitarist in the band, The Calling, in 2001. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlMLzg7ZKYw
It speaks to me of legacy, love, and support.

My mortality has been brought to mind by finding all kinds of family artifacts and the people who once used and lived with them. I haven’t got this figured out. Yet I know my father loved roses and Mom loved raspberries. So do I.