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I do this thing once in a while where I open up a book to a page without looking, or dial through my Ipod without looking, intending that the Universe will flash me a message of whatever I need to hear at that moment. (Sometimes I cheat — if I don’t like the first message, I’ll do it a few more times with different books).

I’ve been dealing with learning to let old habits and ways of thinking go, so that I can enjoy the life that’s spread out before me. So I can savor the banquet. This is what I paged to today:

Every moment is a new beginning for me. We all do a lot of vacillating between old ideas and new ways of thinking. I am patient with myself through this process. Beating myself up only keeps me stuck. It is better to build myself up instead. Anything I say or think is an affirmation. I become aware of my thoughts and my words. I may discover that a lot of them are very negative. I used to approach life through negative eyes. I would take an ordinary situation like a rainy day, and then say something such as, “Oh, what a terrible day.” It was not a terrible day; it was a wet day. Just a slight change in the way I look at an event can turn it around. I choose to look at life in a new, positive way. I enjoy new ways of thinking. (Louise Hay, Meditations to Heal Your Life)

Just this week, I was telling Dani that I finally realized that I needed to stop talking about leaving my “regular” job as having left it — I needed to start saying that I’d started my life’s work. When I focused on the leaving and the ending, I wasn’t looking forward or into the moment, but into the past. When I talked about the old job and called it my “real” job or my “regular” job, I was implying that there was something lacking in my new pursuit — when I don’t really feel that way.

So boys and girls, I think I am finally starting to ‘get it’ — to learn to ask for new eyes, instead of for new circumstances!

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Hello there, outside world! I’ve been M.I.A. for awhile – I’ve been in the trenches, but in the best possible way! I’ve been engrossed with my newest pursuit – art. (I figured I’d share some of what I’ve been up to on here!)

 

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. (Ray Bradbury)

 

  

Last Thursday night, Jeremy arrived home to find the entire kitchen (and other parts of the apartment…) had been colonized by my forays into the artistic realm. I was blaring tango music (courtesy of Dani – thanks, by the way), wearing an intriguing new kerchief on my head to keep my hair out of the gesso, and having an absolutely fabulous time. 

     

He took one look around, smiled, and said, “I’m so glad to see you doing this babe.” It felt good to hear that, and I quickly rescued some of the stuff I was working on from the top of the stove, so that he could make us dinner.

 

 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. (Scott Adams)

 

I was at it until three a.m. Happily, wholly engaged. Completely captured with experimentation and the joy of watching my ideas translated into form.

 

Creativity is a lot like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope. You look at a set of elements, the same ones everyone else sees, but then reassemble those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility. (Rosabeth Moss Kanter)

 

I wandered through the house, scouting out things I could “repurpose” (translate: destroy) with impunity, and I tried things, without worrying how they would look or turn out. I just wanted to see what would happen when I went about it in different ways. It was freeing.

 

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. (Moshe Dayan)

I’ve been breaking out of my shell, and it feels good. It feels good to play, and to create. It feels good not to hear the voice inside that’s always chiding and scolding.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll gather up all my tools and toys and go to play across the street with Dani. It’s like an artist’s play date, and I can’t wait! Life is good – and I feel great.

 

 

Today, the blogosphere proliferates with odes to mothers. I’ve never been much of a joiner, or a follower of the pack, but I felt inspired to follow suit.

Mom,

Thank you for making clothes for my dolls,

For remembering that I like chocolate better than anything,

For supplying me with supper when I’m hungry and won’t ask.

~~~~~~

Thank you for the beautiful ivory quilt you were making for you, but gave to me when I told you how much I liked it (I truly wasn’t angling for it),

For ferrying me to Girl Scouts and CCD, to babysitting gigs and jobs, to friends’ houses,

For loving me anyway when I was thirteen and so angry with you and the world,

For worrying about whether I’m paying attention to the things that need attending.

~~~~~~~

Thank you for helping me to grow a compassionate heart,

For letting me know that it was okay to question everything,

For helping me question everything, even when it made you afraid for me.

~~~~~~~

Thank you for always believing in me, in my writing, in my spark,

For putting aside the common sense that comes so easily to you, and supporting my mad dreams anyway,

For letting me quit eating meat when I was ten and I begged and begged.

~~~~~~~~

Thank you for every little thing that you’ve ever done (I noticed),

For telling me you love me,

For making sure that no matter how things were going in our home, I knew I was loved and wanted,

For wearing holey shoes so that our growing feet could have new ones.

~~~~~~~~

Thank you for every night you spent pacing the floor with me, a colicky baby,

For watching me walk across the stage when I graduated college,

For not complaining (too much) when I pressed you into service helping me with the crafty parts of projects,

For finally acknowledging that my taste is not your taste (you hit the jackpot with the scarves on my last birthday – so glad you went with your gut, and bought for me “what you would never have bought for yourself.”)

~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for all the lunches you made for us, and the little notes and drawings you’d pop into them occasionally,

For making sure that we were fed, and clean, and healthy,

For reading to me, and imbuing me with a love of stories,

For listening to the drivel that I’d write when I was a teenager, and the papers I wrote in college.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for showing me that it is good to make things with your hands,

For giving me the knowledge that we create our own lives,

For letting me create mine, even when it didn’t seem to jive with what you’d hoped for me.

~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for your face – when I look in the mirror, I see me, and all the women who’ve come before me,

For drawing the lines we should not cross, and giving us deep moral natures,

For having philosophical discussions with me in the garage – winter or summer,

For surrendering and showing me how.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for showing up every day, even when you were tired, and boneweary, and wanted rest,

For flying to my defense when I faced Goliaths,

For calling me on all the things I thought I could get away with,

For being patient.

~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for every mistake that you made, and for the knowledge that I can make them, too,

For being brave, and fragile, and human,

For every hug,

For every treat on every holiday.

~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Mom, for everything.

Thank you for everything

Everything

Everything

You ever did.

I noticed.

 

 

Looking back on the fires that made me who I am today, I know now that the person who rose from the ashes of my most difficult times is far more interesting, joyful, brave, and honorable than the young woman who thought she knew what the world needed. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I’ve spent time in the abyss. I’ve traveled dark paths that wound into the midnight-black and charred depths of my soul. And out of that, every time, I’ve soared…eventually.

I’ve always identified with the phoenix, even in childhood. I am entranced by reinvention. By the whole process of burning down to ash, and rising up again renewed and reshaped – in essence, similar, but wholly different.

I read Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open this week. So many of the things she talked about resonated, gave me that “me, too!” feeling of confirmation. I’ve been through several “breaking open” experiences and done my fair share of reinvention. Usually, when I tell people about my life, they counter back with, “And you’re how old again?” I’m an overachiever, what can I say?

When I was first going through the process of deciding whether or not to get divorced, I had the visceral feeling that life was slowly being pared away from me. That I was being laid bare, and that once everything that needed to had fallen away, I might be able to look at myself and see what I wanted to pull from the ashes.

It sucked. It was hard and I cried and cried and cried. I filled pages of journals. I wavered and I despaired. And then, I let go.

At the time, what I’d thought I was letting go of was a marriage that didn’t and wouldn’t work, but what I was really letting go of was my whole self. Looking back now, I can see that my divorce wasn’t really the catalyst for the breaking open, but sort of a by-product. Every particle of my being had been railing against being confined in the “Carolyn-suit” that I’d created and maintained and wore every day, all day long. I could not live an ingenuine life for one more moment.

Today, I’m actually grateful to my ex-husband. I’m grateful that we agreed (whenever or however we do this before we come to the human playground) to be this for one another. I wish that I had been able to look at him during all the turmoil and really see who he was, and remember that he was not only the body standing before me, but the soul who dwelled in it. Maybe I wasn’t meant to, then. I see him now, and I remember who he is. And whether he knows it or not, I’ve gotten some of the greatest gifts from that time that anyone could ever ask for.

I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith – faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I am more awake now, more aware. I still get caught in the everyday trials of being a human being, living a human life in a human world. I still get mad at Jeremy for leaving his socks in a ball when he tosses them in the hamper, and I still worry about whether we’ll have enough money to pay our bills. I still get annoyed by slow drivers and small inconveniences. Some days, it’s hard for me to let go of some of those things. Other days? They don’t even factor.

Today, I feel good about where I am, and who I’ve come to be. I am grateful for all of the trips into the abyss. How can I appreciate the blinding beauty of the light, unless I’ve dwelled in the darkest heart of the pit?

I am grateful that so much of what I’d built fell away, because I am standing here today, on the cusp of embracing my dreams and desires. Of finding out who I will be until the next conflagration burns away all the excess, and leaves me standing naked and whole and utterly, utterly changed.

 

 

One Alice chose to leap from the solid ground and follow the white rabbit, that’s when things got interesting. All the hesitating at the edge of the cliff? Everyone does that. It’s the leap that makes waves, makes changes, makes things happen. Creates the resounding ripple through the universe.

The past two weeks, I’ve felt the urge to mutter, “curiouser and curiouser,” hourly. Things have been really intense, and I retreated inward. I had a lot to process – about the decisions I’ve made –  emotionally, that I’d already processed mentally. Mental processing? Psssht! A snap. Emotional processing? Another matter, altogether.

It’s like I am finally able to sit back and see all the threads woven together now. Things that were coming to an end are buttoning themselves up, and resolution is everywhere. And all of that is GOOD. All of that is also accordingly intense.

I’ve been snappish like an old dog on a hot August day – testy, nasty, and plain-old no fun to be around. I’ve craved silence and solitude. I’ve longed for a hermitage somewhere, where I could go and let the wind blow through my hair, and the sun beam on my head, and let all of this stuff just assimilate itself into who I am today, now, in this moment.

The past two weeks, God (in infinite wisdom, I am sure) has taken the opportunity to make the things that are coming to an end SO uncomfortable that I am battered. And that’s okay. I know that the reason I need the battering is because I am so damn stubborn. I am learning, in no uncertain terms and in a way that I will actually remember later when I’m doubtful, why leaving this job is a good idea. Why it is an absolutely fabulously wonderful plan to go out on my own. Why it is so important, so necessary, to stop all my procrastination and dithering and just embrace the me I was always destined to be. Why it’s so damn important to just get on with it already.

The past two weeks have been bruising and horrid so that there was no way I could ever look back at this and fashion for myself some story of martyrdom – so that I’d always remember the honest gut-wrenchingness of it, and know that I made the right decision. So, I’m grateful. I’m applying salve to my wounds, but I’m grateful for the wounds.

The past two weeks have been liberally peppered with all sorts of affirmation, too – for every instance of negative reinforcement, for every single “Ouch! Quit it!” in the old situation, I’ve been given a balm that grows out of the new situation. People have come forward to tell me how wonderful it is that I am doing this (not what I was going for, but thanks all the same – it’s helped). People have affirmed my abilities. The universe has supported my plans with reinforcement from all angles. And I’m grateful.

I was not in this appreciative and magnanimous mood last night. Last night, I was a terror. I was annoyed, and short, and nasty to be around. I was mean to Jeremy, who did not deserve it, and mean to the cat, who never deserves it. I was not fit for polite company, and I was getting sick of myself and the mood in which I’d enveloped myself. So, I did something smart. I walked out the door, determined to return in a better frame of mind.

I walked out across the streets. It was dark, and cool and breezy. It helped to blow off the head of steam I’d built all day. It was quiet. I wandered down the alley behind the shop. I crossed “Love Bridge” behind the place where the farmers’ market is held, and I went to the river. I went to the water. I sat there, in the calm dark and I just listened to the river rushing past.

I brought my journal, thinking I’d purge some of this bleck out of me. The universe is wily and doesn’t pull any punches – as soon as I started recounting my day and bemoaning my state (whine, whine, cry, cry, poor me), my freaking pen died. I am like the best Girl Scout ever created – always prepared, except today. No extra pen. I had to laugh. I did laugh, out loud. Just me and the river and the biggest spiders I’d ever seen in my life.

So I walked around, and let the peace of it seep into my soul. I checked out the abundant and abnormally-sized arachnid population. I watched them at work. I watched them skittering back and forth, weaving patiently through the night, hoping that somehow (having faith) they’d benefit once all these strings had been drawn together. (If you knew me, you’d know that watching spiders usually gives me the heebie-jeebies. But these were outside spiders. That’s their house, and in their house, I’m fascinated by them. In my house, I’m terrified. Illogical, I know.)

I came home with a measure of peace. I hadn’t found a cure-all, but I’d soaked up some measure of solace. I could be nice. Mission accomplished. I could even laugh at myself.

And tonight, I started thinking about where I got all of the ideas for how life should go, and why – for me – certain things scream of “settling,” and why there’s something within me that just won’t abide it. Why I couldn’t just accept my lot, and be content with what I’d had. Why I’d so often felt like a square peg shaving away at its corners to try to squash itself into a round hole. And I remembered. Thoreau.

Thoreau’s writing has always really hit me where I lived. I couldn’t dismiss it the way I could other messages. It was always like he’d written it all, just for me. So I pulled it out, and I reread it – you know the one – THE passage that got to you. Everybody’s got one – if not Thoreau, someone else.

Here’s mine (bear with it, and remember, that the chaff cradles the good stuff):

To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?

We must learn to reawaken and to keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. (Thoreau, “What I Lived For,” Walden)

Thanks, Henry David Thoreau, for daring to be thought a nutter by everyone you knew. Thanks for writing it all down – all the discovery and the struggle and the enlightenment you found. Thanks for fanning that spark within me – that carpe-diem, seize-the-day, life-is-short, burn-brightly spark within me.

I’d rather be speeding down the rabbit hole into the unknown than standing on the edge, looking down and wondering ‘what if.’ I’d rather be hurtling into life, fully present and engulfed by the living of it than seeping away slowly. I’d rather be doing this than what ‘I ought to be doing.’

And every single time I doubt that, I am going to open that book and read that passage. Seize the day people – take chances, dance in public, go after what you want, wring out the pleasure from each moment. Be a brilliant flame. Light the way for others. Don’t look back. Grab your resolve, wry grin in place, and rush, headlong, deep into the moment.

 

 

I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze

than it should be stifled by dry rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor,

every atom of me in a magnificent glow,

than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.

(Jack London)

 

Ever since I was a little girl, there was a quiet knowing, a small urging deep inside me that whispered, “You’re going to be something special. You’re going to do big things.” I think everyone has that little voice inside them, that inner certainty of specialness.

And that little voice, that inner urging, doesn’t let me rest. More accurately: I refuse to stifle it (for long).

When I was younger, my absolutely all-time favorite movie was Dead Poets Society. I think, honestly, that movie is one of the reasons that I taught high school – everyone cringed when I told them that was the age group I wanted to teach. Why do you want them when they’re already so screwed up? There’s no chance to change them.  They’re past molding. They don’t listen. Etc., etc., etc.

I wanted that age group because they were on the cusp – they stood at a great precipice in their own lives and had to make choices, had to make that leap. All that potential for greatness – it inspired me. I didn’t see damaged kids who were already set in stone – I saw kids who had been through the fire, and who would be heading out into the world, ready to start some fires of their own, to heal the burns of others, to mark it in their way. I saw potential.

What I failed to grasp then, was that I’d come to that precipice again and again in my own life. That I’d face that leaping off point more than once – that we all do.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. (Andre Gide)

Well, I’m standing on that cliff once more, facing the unknown. Knowing that the discomfort of staying on solid ground had finally outweighed my fear of taking that leap. I’m tired of listening to that other voice inside me that says I’ll fail, that I can’t-won’t-shouldn’t. I’m tired of allowing fear to make all my important decisions for me.

All of those “Someday, I’ll….” statements? Well, I’m doing them, now. Someday kept moving farther and farther away. And I had to get real with myself and decide – was I ever going to reach out and grab any of this? When?

Today.

I quit my “regular” job yesterday. I gave 30 days notice. I stood on the cliff, looked out, and leapt. I have no idea what will come of this – but something will! I will have tried – really tried! – and not only invested half of me, while the other part clings to some illusion of safety.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a great adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable. (Helen Keller)

I’ve had to look hard at myself, at my life, at what I believe. I’ve had to point fingers at what wasn’t working. And I had to ask myself, if when I lay down to die, would I be at peace with this? Would I feel that I had come and done all that I wanted to do, all that I’d longed to do?

Yesterday, as I girded myself to make that change, I wrote this in my journal:

God, please go with me as I enter the unknown. I trust You to guide me; I trust You to give me strength against the challenges to come. In trust and faith, I place my well-being in Your hands.  Amen

“Someday” is today.

 

 

Maybe I’m not as lapsed a Catholic as I thought, or maybe there is just something ingrained in me from all the religious education classes I went to for all those years. Maybe it’s just something inherent about this time of year…this is Holy Week – the week preceding Easter, and all those miraculous happenin’s.

Probably not uncoincidentally, this morning I woke up pondering miracles. Reading through the blogs I follow, two of them were talking miracles in one way or another. It spurred further thought…

The dictionary defines Miracle as: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause; such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God; a wonder; marvel.

What interested me, though, was the history of the word – the etymology, where it came from. Miracle originally described something that was an “object of wonder.” That’s important – nowadays, most people figure a miracle happens when tidal waves crush a home, but miraculously the toddler and the dog are found safely suspended in a tree out of harm’s way. There is no denying that is miraculous – but focusing on the big and showy has blinded a lot of us to the other miracles.

I’m talking about the “objects of wonder” – what I think of as the quiet miracles. The subtle ones. The ones you see and notice when you’re paying attention, when you’re focused, when you’re feeling that inner quiet just long enough to see through the eyes of wonder.

When I see something happening amidst a crowd – when I’m the only one who sees it. When I set my busy down long enough to let God get my attention. When I set my worry aside long enough to hear a new thought, to look in a new direction.

I know that I do not take enough time to simply revel, to marvel, at the world around me. When I think about all of it – really think about it, and let it touch me – I am speechless in amazement. At how everything fits together, at how each piece is perfectly within the whole, at the swirling veins on a leaf, at the intelligent look in my cat’s eyes, at the sheer weight of creation.

This week, I am going to seek that inner quiet and spend time contemplating those quiet miracles. I am going to spend time being in love with the world, and let myself get carried away with amazement. I am going to look out through child’s eyes, and see it all new and fresh.

It may be Holy Week for the Catholic Church, but it could be holy week every week for all of us if we let it. If we allow quiet. If we allow ourselves to reimagine our selves and our world anew. To see one another with quiet wonder, to honor the small miracles that we are to one another.

 

 

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

It’s happened! It’s positively momentous! I’ve seen…….my first Robin of Spring!

Every year, I am like a child with this – I wait and wait and watch, and when I finally spot one, it’s officially Spring for me (no matter what the almanacs, meteorologists, and calendars say). I’ve done this ever since I could remember, even as a small girl.

Wisconsin winters are long, and tough. And, there’s something about the return of this bird, with his bold slash of crimson and his lilting song that speaks of promise and secrets, of renewal and rebirth.

Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment. (Ellis Peters)

Every Spring of my life, there have been mornings spent in bed, with windows opened to the fresh breeze, just listening to this song. When I think about them, it’s like I am there again in that moment, smelling the green air, and feeling the wet on the wind.

I feel jubilant today! Celebratory! Mad-cap! I want to go have adventures, and roam, and be outside!

Here’s hoping the rest of you are feeling Spring Fever, too!

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! (Mark Twain)

 

 

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,

and I say it’s all right

 

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

and I say it’s all right

 

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

and I say it’s all right

 

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

 

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,

and I say it’s all right

It’s all right

(George Harrison)

 

This is one of my rock-out-in-the-car-by-myself songs. Where I sing loudly (and badly), and dance a bit, and hope that no one’s really looking (and if they are, who really cares?).

This is one of my feel-good songs, my the-world-is-a-great-place songs, my every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining songs. And I should be listening to it on loop right now, because I need an infusion of that hopeful and bright energy.

Today is yet another overcast day. I am downright hungry for sunshine. Yesterday morning, as I blearily stumbled out of slumber, I blinked several times in confusion, as I tried to determine the source of the glow illuminating my living room…it was sunshine. And yesterday, I got a little taste of what we’ve all been missing, and I want more.

I want to shake off this malaise that’s been pressing down on me. I want to cast off this pall and get motivated to do something, go somewhere, change something, create something.

Prescription? The Beatles – obnoxiously loudly – sung at the top of my lungs until I believe the words I’m singing. Anyone care to join? All together now….

 

 

Suddenly there was a great burst of light through the Darkness. The light spread out and where it touched the Darkness the Darkness disappeared. The light spread until the patch of Dark Thing had vanished, and there was only a gentle shining, and through the shining came the stars, clear and pure. (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time)

By all accounts, I was one of those unsettling children who look out at you from a child’s face, but speak with a tone, confidence, and vernacular far beyond their years. I was what people tend to think of precocious in the classical sense, and not as a thinly veiled euphemism for too-worldly.

I have only ever known what it is to be precocious, and therefore, don’t exactly have the same perspective on many things that others (who weren’t quite as precocious) have. It is now, as an adult woman, that I look and see what that precociousness meant and what it wrought for me throughout my life. It is as I watch children and see them interact with one another, and watch them blooming “on schedule,” or “ahead of schedule,” or “behind schedule” with adult eyes. (Who determines these things, anyhow?)

In retrospect, I see my own journey with some clarity. (Can it ever happen any other way?) I can see how I tended to lack true peers – I could play the game well, and “fit in” with kids who weren’t quite at the level I was, but it felt like a lot of work. I could speak to adults with the maturity of one of their peers, but it came out of a child’s mouth and was often disregarded because of that – and I lacked the experiences of an adult, so that was one more barrier.

You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you. (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time)

I really wouldn’t say that I technically had a lonely childhood, but in some ways, that was very true. I realize now, that my love for reading and my passion for stories and books was partially inherent (I think we all come here with leanings toward talents and interests), and partially cultivated. I soon realized that having a book in front of your face gave you two things: a barrier and an excuse to not have to socialize, and something to talk about if you were made to interact.

When I was doing my student teaching internship, I happened to bump into one of my high school teachers. She remembered me instantly (having taught 168 kids a year, I now know how rare this is), and said that she remembered that I was never without a free reading book (again, having taught, I now know how rare this is).

Those books were my solace, my inspiration, and my shield. I was never really alone – I had a whole cast of characters holed up in my head. I was never really bored – even when I was stuck without a book, I could conjure one of the many stories I’d read to ponder.

I am going through the rest of the boxes I still have at my folks’ house, and I’ve come across some very old friends. I saved two things for last: my books and my genealogy research. Both are precious to me.

I share Einstein’s affirmation that anyone who is not lost on the rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe ‘is as good as a burnt out candle.’ (Madeleine L’Engle)

As I open these boxes, some for the first time in five years, I am transported. I remember the edition of Tom Sawyer that my mom’s parents gave us when I was about ten. I remember the huge, ponderous collection of Shakespeare’s Collected Works that my former mother-in-law gave me for my birthday one year. It has a maroon cover, and Bible-thin pages. I remember the copy of The Velveteen Rabbit my mom gave me shortly before I got married – a story that carries special significance in our house. The Bible my Aunt Margaret gave me for my confirmation. The canning books I bought when I thought it would be cool to make my own preserves (still planning on it, someday…).

The animal and plant guides I bought when I started to explore the complexity of our world… The poetry volumes I purchased as I discovered new voices… Philosophy… Spirituality… Religion… Life Sciences… My “Beach Reads”… Books from the Banned Books List… Classic Fiction… Eventually, I hope to have enough shelving to store / display them in some semblance of “order,” which will probably only make sense to me (which is fine, since I’m the one who’s into them all the time).

Then, this weekend, I came to some of my very old, very special friends. For Christmas, when I was twelve years old, my Uncle Dave gave me a series of books by Madeleine L’Engle, which I fell in love with. I’ve read my copy of A Wrinkle in Time so many times that I’ve loved the cover to smithereens. I promptly petitioned my parents for the rest of the series, and have read and re-read them repeatedly.

I am reading them again now, as an adult woman, whose precociousness, subsequent experience, and continually developing perspective, give me a new appreciation for the gift of them. These were the first books I’d read then, at twelve, that didn’t try to scrub the ugly things clean, in the way that so many people try to for children. They let the ugly be present, and they let the good and the beautiful be present, side by side, and gave the reader enough credit to make sense of it themselves.

Infinity is present in each part. A loving smile contains all art. The motes of starlight spark and dart. A grain of sand holds power and might. (Madeleine L’Engle)

L’Engle couched truths within fiction. I encountered God there, and science. I met with the age-old predicament of what I think of as can-or-should (as in, just because we can, does it mean that we should?). I entertained ideas of cosmic scope, and eternal reach, of infinite perplexity and infinite simplicity.

I lay on the couch last night, following Meg Murry through her troubles, her struggles, her challenges and triumphs. I walked along the path with old friends for a time, covering territory that felt familiar and brand-new at once. I spotted seeds of later-thought within the story – ideas that fueled the genesis of my spiritual questioning and my reasoning.

I lay there, at once twelve years old again, and brand-new to the world with all the wide-eyed optimism and belief in the possible – and at the same time, as I am now at 31 – older, a bit more cynical, a bit more hesitant, a bit more jaded, a bit less hopeful. I captured, for a bit, that sense of who I was when I’d read them for the first time – the wonder they awakened, the daydreams I embarked on, the debates they encouraged.

I like that girl I was, and there are days when I really miss her. In some ways, she was far braver then, than I am now (it helps when you don’t know all the facts of a situation, I suppose – it’s easier to talk myself out of things, or around them, now). Having got that sense of her – that essence of possibility and dreaming – I carry it forward into today. I marry it to my experience, and in that, I attempt to balance naiveté and experience.

I am grateful to Madeleine L’Engle for giving young readers enough credit, for having the guts to put it all on the page. I am grateful to Uncle Dave (and everyone else) for the gift of books – the gift of ideas, really. I am grateful to my parents for encouraging my precocity. I am grateful to my twelve-year-old self for having a courageous mind, and a questing heart, and an empathic way. I am grateful to have these thought-worlds to revisit, to rediscover, to recapture all the selves I have been. I am grateful, because they all contributed, and in this latest incarnation of self, I am especially pleased.

It seemed to travel with her, to sweep her aloft in the power of song, so that she was moving in glory among the stars, and for a moment, she, too, felt that the words Darkness and Light had no meaning, and only this melody was real. (Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time)

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)
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