Hold your babies tight

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I was going through some old memory cards yesterday and I came across some shots I took of Little Lonely and T last spring.  I think it was the same day we scouted for a place to take her headshots.  Afterwards we went out to eat and I snapped these after dinner.  I’d forgotten about them, actually, and looking through them I can see why.  None of the images is perfect on their own.  They don’t work independently of one another, I can’t frame any of them.

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But there’s something about all of them together that I just love.  It catches the two of them and the way they are together that settles deep into my heart and connects me to the both of them and then to my own mother too.

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I was five when my mum went back to work.  My dad stayed home with us for the next four years.  My parents were really ahead of their time, you know.  When you’re little you don’t know your parents are radical, because they’re in charge of teaching you what’s normal.  Looking back now and I just feel profoundly lucky for all those years with my Dad and how he got me and my brother pocket knives and helped us make spears and build igloos.  But that was later.  The first few months were tough, I missed my mum something fierce.

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I remember waiting for her to come home one night, my face pressed up against the window, looking out on the trees outside (our nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away).  It was pitch black out there but warm and bright inside.  The lights from the living room reflected on the window and only disappeared when I pressed my forehead all the way to meet it.  The surface of the glass was cold and smooth against my skin.

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I willed her to come home to me.  My longing for her was so intense it burned a hole through space and time such that I remember it still.  The longing was mixed with a new feeling: cold resignation.  I accepted that she was gone and not coming back until the headlights of the car could be seen coming up the hill through the trees.  So I stood there, waiting.

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And, of course, the headlights did eventually shoot through the inky black of the night and bring her home to me.  And then she was in the door and the warmth of the house and she held me close and told me she loved me and missed me too and everything was fine and life went on.  I got used to Dad being the one to fix scrapes and wipe tears and I got used to the ways he did it that were different than how mum did it.  But I never forgot that long night when I first realized things had changed and wouldn’t be going back again.  And honestly, I think there’s a part of me still standing at that window somewhere waiting for it to all go back to normal again.  To live a life where nothing that goes wrong can’t be solved by my mother’s arms around me and her voice in my ear telling me she believes in me and won’t let anything bad ever happen.

And when I’m with LL and T for moments at a time I feel like it has gone back to normal.  And nothing bad can ever happen ever as long as I can just stay here where it’s warm and cozy.  And I’ll be safe.  We’ll all be safe.  Forever and ever and ever.

This is the real reason to have kids, you know.  To be reconnected with that, with the cycle of life and love and connection.  To be cast out of it in childhood is inevitable and returning to it is uncertain.  But it’s possible, and I can tell you now that returning to it is just as sweet – and maybe more – than having it in the first place.

Let Love In

My nephew ran at me yesterday with a joyful cry of “Auntie!!!” and jumped into my arms for one of his patented silent hugs that go on so long he has to shift his head and burrow it into the other side of my neck to stay comfortable.  I could live in that hug, just rocking him back and forth.  I’m there right now, and let me tell you, you guys, it makes everything better.  Yeah, yeah, eclipse season, yeah yeah, Mercury retrograde, whatever.

Every night I text my little girl, Beth, (she’s not really a little girl, but she will always be so to me!) five things I’m grateful for, and last night, among other things, I texted her about T’s hug.  You know what she wrote back? “life IS beautiful!  It sounds as though today was one of those magical moments when the stars aligned and you were able to truly witness and take in how loved and genuinely cherished you are.”  I didn’t see it that way until she wrote it, and when I first read what she’d written I balked.  Surely T’s hugs aren’t about me, surely they’re about how great he is!

But waking up this morning and I can see she is right!  Here she was, telling me she loved me and that she was happy I was feeling loved and my first impulse was to reject what she was saying.  It’s like she handed me the best, most beautifully wrapped present with everything I’d ever wanted inside and I just waved her off, saying, “no really, I couldn’t!”  WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

Don’t do that, you guys!!  It’s every bit as important to let others love you as it is to love them. Love is not some puny, selfish, grasping thing that sucks up all the light and leaves us gasping on the sand like beached whales.  Love expands, love embraces, love includes.  There’s enough for everybody.

So let love in, my little Winter Squashes!!  I’m gonna.

Golden Hour

I was out the other evening location scouting with my nephew and his mum.  She’s got a new album coming out and needed some promo shots for it.  We wanted to find a good spot during golden hour, that magical hour just after sunrise or before sunset, when the sun hits the horizon, slicing through the atmosphere in such a way that the light refracts all glowy and full of wonderment.  It turns average pictures into something special.

I felt like we found it, but I always feel like it’s a good spot and a golden hour when I’m with my nephew.  That sounds cracked ’cause it’s so corny, but it’s true.  Last year at this time I was pretty depressed and taking a meditation class during which I was reminded yet again how important it is to stay in the present.  I observed how easy that was to do around him.

Lately that seems more and more important.  There’s a very brief window of time here before he begins to develop a sense of time.  Until then he lives like a goldfish, with no memory.  Well, not no memory, of course.  He remembers who I am and greets me almost every time by smiling big and running at me arms outstretched till I gather him up wordlessly and hold him to my chest, rocking him back and forth.  It’s our ritual.  I hope for everyone and anyone reading this you’ve got one like it somewhere in your life and someone to greet you at the door in just such a way.  It’s the best, most precious thing imaginable.

And it’s disappearing by the second.  Trying to hang onto these moments is futile.  Already T is wriggling from our grasp, putting his hands in front of his face, saying, “no pictures!!”  He isn’t interested in our need to capture this moment, bottle it, try to hold on to it, but he is aware, on some level, that we’re trying to.  Right now he still sees it as an interruption to his flow.  He would rather be collecting leaves and sticks and stones and handing them to me asking me if I want some “mac and cheese.”

He isn’t interested in “capturing the moment,” he isn’t even aware it’s disappearing so why would he want to hang onto it?  Why would we?  Thinking about this the other day I saw for the first time that my “good” memories are as poisonous to me as my “bad” ones.  When I’m down and feeling blue I’ve grown accustomed to comforting myself with memories from my past when I was happier.  But thinking about how happy T makes me the other day and how sad I am that he is going to grow older and change and probably not remember any of this it struck me suddenly that a happy memory can be just as toxic – maybe more – than a bad one.

It’s obvious, isn’t it?  How it can have escaped my notice I can’t say, exactly, but there it is.  Every time I remember a past love, a long ago triumph, or an old revelation it’s like I’m trying to prove to myself that my life is about that, (proven – though past – happiness) not this (current sadness). But holding onto a happy memory from the past creates a barometer of what your life “should” be like.  It becomes a perfect example of something perfect.  Which, of course, is imaginary.  Only a Capricorn would believe anything could ever really be perfect.  Used in this way, a happy memory becomes toxic because it’s so easily used to show us what “failures” we are in the present.

But the real problem with allowing your memories to dictate your current emotional state is that they will.  In other words, living in the past, no matter how happy, is still living in the past.  It’s not now.  It’s not happening now.  And, the truth is, maybe it never really even happened the way we remember it.  It’s a fact that the more we remember something the further away from the original moment we get.  It’s not like a film we just rewind and replay over and over again. Every time we remember something we recreate it.  It’s not a file we access, it’s an event we recreate.

Which speaks to some larger truth I think I’m only just beginning to grasp, to be honest.  Because to re-create something we first need to create it.  I think I’m only just now beginning to perceive after years of reading and studying this phenomenon how very much I truly am responsible for the creation of my perception of things.

It would be a mistake to think that understanding this necessarily translates into the practice of it. If I’ve learned anything from T it would be that only the practice of it translates to the practice of it.  But it’s a start.

Vitamin T

The trouble with astrology is that it’s primarily, as Rob Hand puts it, a diagnostic tool.  Once you’ve figured out your problem (or problems, as the case may be) you’ve still got to deal with it.  Oh sure, there’s a whole host of things you can do to alleviate whatever situation you find yourself in and astrology can help you figure out what they might be.  Heck, if you’re into that sort of thing you can even go to a Vedic astrologer and get yourself prescribed some remedial measures – wear gemstones, pray to a specific God, what have you.  But at the end of the day no astrologer’s going to fix you, because astrology can’t fix you, it’s not what it’s there for.  I’m sure this is why Nick Dagan Best created his tagline, “be your own damn guru!”

The point is, at the end of the day it’s on you to walk your path.  Ain’t no one gonna fix you but you.  Or in my case, me.

I’ve suffered from depression most of my life, and studying my chart combined with a boatload of therapy has left me with the impression that nothing’s going to help me so much as creating some sort of philosophical discipline.  Fortunately with Saturn going through my 9th house and Jupiter transiting my Saturn right now I’m in an optimal position to take up some spiritual / philosophical training.  My mum (naturally) found this crazy amazing meditation course for me that’s non-secular in origin, been going on for decades all around the world and is just generally pretty fantastic.  So I’m three weeks into an eight week course and so far even when I hate it I’m getting results, so I’ve got to say thumbs up.

We’ve been focusing a lot on creating awareness of physical sensations and the breath as a way into the present moment.  This stuff isn’t completely unfamiliar to me, I’ve read a few books by Thich Nhat Hanh and been to a couple different Buddhist mediation classes, but practicing every day (or at least trying to!) is a whole other ball of wax.  Often it’s really just torturous, to be honest with you.  Especially since really what I want is to transcend my problems and difficulties (cue strings) and this practice is about engaging with them openly and honestly.  Blech.  Seriously, whatever happened to just repressing crap like normal adults?  Oh yeah, that’s why I’ve been depressed since I was eleven.  FINE.  You see how it is, three minutes in my head and I’m dying for a way out.  No wonder I watch so much TV

So anyway, I’m teaching myself to pay attention to the present moment, to be in the now, not the past or future and to concentrate, really concentrate on what’s actually physically happening right this second.  We’re asked to approach our meditations with a “child’s mind,” no matter how often we’ve done it to engage each time as if it were the first time.  Which is making more and more sense to me, as something I’ve noticed is that whenever I’m with my nephew, T, the practice comes naturally.  His focus is so intense, so absolute, so genuine and whole that for moments at a time I will forget about everything else but what it takes to roll a train across my leg.

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Rumi said (about the Sufi’s), “A short time in the presence of the Friends is better than a hundred years’ sincere, obedient dedication.”  I think I know just what he means…

Trimming the Christmas Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about the 4th house and family matters lately.  With Saturn transiting my Moon which is ruled by Venus (which Pluto is conjunct right now, thank you very much!) which also rules my 4th house, I guess it’s only natural, but I’ve noticed that every time I’m with my family I’m really really happy.  It’s an area in my life I’ve worked really hard at (no joke, with Saturn retrograde in my 4th house natally…) and it’s really been paying off lately.  Having a brand-new baby nephew hasn’t hurt either…

Tuesday night I trimmed the Christmas tree with my brother and sister-in-law and baby t.  It’s the first proper tree the three of us has had as adults, and the truth is we probably wouldn’t be doing it now if it weren’t for him.

Who makes everything better, not just Christmas…  but Christmas for sure is WAY more fun with a child.  Who knew?  It’s like we’re reliving the best times of our childhood whilst we invent his.

I mean look at him – it’s not like he’s going to remember any of this.  But my brother and Jules and I are really super excited about our tree.

Jules really wanted white lights while JP and I would have prefer colored (we all had colored growing up, but Jules always wanted white whilst Jeremy and I are pathologically nostalgic about our childhood Christmas).

Jules won the light fight though, mostly ’cause she’s super organized and on top of it and did all the shopping at Target and JP and I are pretty much just trailing in her wake.  Here she is (sorry the pic is so blurry) wrapping the garland around the tree.

Actually, it’s not just my shaky hand and dim light that makes the picture blurry.

Jules is also just super fast.

Like a birdie.

And what do you know, the white lights look really pretty…  Something I’m feeling really hard during this Saturn transit is that the past is always there to be remade, recreated, and reinvented.  We can rework even the crappiest scenes from our childhood until they help us make sense of who we want to be in such a way we’re grateful for them.  In this way every moment is precious and golden, and the ones that come easy are just cake.  Gorgeous, Glorious Cake.

Christmas Future, my Little Chickadees!  Always present, never here!  I don’t actually know what that last part means, but suddenly I just feel real good and happy…