Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Grandfather's Gift

Morris Pettit, my Grandfather, would have turned 94 today. I always tried to ensure delivery of his birthday gifts on the actual date because, in spite of his unfailing patience in every other aspect of his life, when it came to opening presents, he just couldn't wait. His own timing for deliveries, however, has always seemed perfect.

At the end of his memorial service last month, a member of his church came up to me as I was packing up items from a table of memorabilia and said, "I always admired your grandparents so much. I remember telling your grandmother what a marvelous example their marriage was to all of us. She told me, 'Well, it's easy if you're married to an angel!'..." I smiled, and thanked her, and she walked away.

As I returned to my task at hand, a tiny box fell out of the wad of tissue paper I was holding. I had been through all the items on the table many times in the weeks before the service, and had never seen this box. I opened it... and inside was a tiny cherub. Surely, it was a gift he had purchased for my grandmother and stowed away for safe keeping. But it landed in my lap instead, just when I most needed an angel.

To me, it's proof that the gifts will always keep coming, if you are open to receiving them...

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"The mountains are calling and I must go." — John Muir

Visualization can be a powerful tool for coping with grief, stress, anxiety, or pain. One commonly prescribed technique, if you are dealing with heavy emotions, is to visualize yourself in a place you have been: a locale where you've felt optimistic and at peace with the world. Tahoe is my happy place, it is sacred to me, and I often visit this particular vista with my mind's eyes. Imagination isn't always enough, though; sometimes a pilgrimage is in order.

Pilgrims make their journeys for any number of reasons: as a way to seek out moral or spiritual higher ground, as penance for sins (imagined or real), as a sign of devotion, or in the hopes of some relief, some cure, miraculous or otherwise. Or maybe (if you're really whacked) all of the above, all at once. Which explains my presence in this spot, at this moment.

Lake Tahoe embodies a mythically majestic landscape, borne out of the earth by tectonic plate shifts, long-extinct volcanoes, and snow; it's a place where matter and magic mix. I've felt the alchemy here: the somber weight of losing a loved one and standing on the dock, pushing off that barque towards its long journey elsewhere, the star-encrusted bliss of a love-laden kiss, the precious gold of memories. Injuries survived. Milestones. Rites of Passage. Treasure found. Joy.

Dear Universe, I no doubt have plenty of karmic comeuppances headed my way, but please, here in this moment, grant me solace and serenity. Mom would have turned 69 today; she loved this mystical mountainscape and always insisted that "believing is seeing." And though I am but a humble pilgrim, I still believe in miracles...

Friday, October 5, 2012


In June, when I wrote about folding in, I imagined a calm, controlled, and dignified process of shutting out the world's chaos. But the world, apparently, doesn't work that way. What happened instead was more of an implosion, as though someone lifted the lid of my vacuum sealed jar-of-a-life and the walls suddenly shattered into a million splintered shards. A pile of fractured hearts. A cosmic collapse.

Time to pick up the pieces, right? Or, as certain of my by-the-bootstraps friends would say, "Snap out of it." Sure, I can paste on the courageous smile and nod my head "yes" — while my heels are teetering off the edge of the big black hole behind me. I reach out into that void... and there's no one there. Sometimes, you just have to drag your own sorry self out of some of those big bad places. I know a clean sweep is in order, but I'm still fumbling in the dark for a broom.