Christin's Words from Sunshine Hill

If it is to be music
you must be present to it, must offer to it
a profound self-remembering.
-from Altar Music

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One Thing

I just came inside from a few minutes on the hammock. Little Mo and I had just made our migration around the yard, and I’d hooked his leash onto the hammock chain, realizing that I’d need to buy a longer, light weight rope for this purpose. As I lay there with Mo stretched out to his full eighteen inches underneath me, with Rita curled up on her bed in the garage, with Laila out hunting, and with Louie … somewhere, I don’t know where-- I tried to empty my mind for a space of time. Like Martha I’ve been busy with many things--most of them unimportant things or else important things over which I have no control. The sunlight shone through the oak branches. The leaves turn in autumn differently here than in Minnesota. Here the heat gets them. The dryness gets them. They curl and crinkle and turn bronze. In Minnesota the chill brought color even while the leaves still lived. They not only caught the sunlight, they let it through, tinting it.

The hammock was still, and I realized: I’m thinking. I’m comparing different times of my life. Is it because this new time feels so unknown? Am I prepared for this, or am I intent upon recovering past time? I pull my attention in from the oak leaves. You are living in metaphors, I tell myself. The leaves. The dogs. Minnesota. Oregon. Can you live in your own being? Can you be still? And even that is metaphor because right away it brings Eliot’s poetry to mind -- “We must be still and still moving, into another intensity/ For a further union, a deeper communion,/ Through the cold dark and the empty desolation, ... In my end is my beginning.”

During the first six months of grieving, I moved fast. Too fast. So much to do. Plans to make. Trips to take. Visitors to enjoy. Learning to do. A lawn to mow. And now the house to prepare for winter. It doesn’t seem like much, compared to past involvements, and maybe that is what fooled me into thinking that even with things to do, I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t moving fast enough. The family reunion and Krista’s wedding both put me on an emotional high that fostered the illusion that I must have completed the really hard time. But the hard time is the being alone and still. Winter is coming and that feels just right.

Liz told me yesterday that her chemo-recovery therapist told her to slow down. She had no idea she was moving too fast. She wasn’t getting everything done, so how could she be moving too fast? But the feedback monitors told the tale---yes, Liz was moving too fast. Slow down. We’ll never get enough done, I guess. None of us will. That doesn’t need to be a depressing thought. It can be a freeing thought.

Both dogs sleep a lot. They become alert, though, in an instant, when the moment calls them to action. There aren’t a whole lot of things to do. There is now. THIS thing. This song to sing. This room to clean. This sentence to write.

Why be busy about many things when only one thing is necessary? This moment. This stillness. This sentence. This communion.

Love always,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rose and a Bee

Dear Ones,
I’m on a United Airlines small jet, flying from Denver to Medford, coming home from a trip to Minnesota for my niece, Krista’s wedding. Outside the window the clouds are puffs of white between the plane and the mountains. I don’t really know where we are, except that we must be not quite half way from Denver to the little Medford airport. It was hard to leave Liz who, even just as I was arriving, told me that the visit was too short. There wouldn’t be enough time. There’s never enough time--have you noticed? This morning she looked at me and reminded me of that again, that she was right, sure enough--there wasn’t enough time. But she was tired today, not just from the wedding (which was a glorious, beautiful, loving, playful experience) but also from her chemotherapy treatment on Thursday. She’s into her fifth month of weekly infusions. No wonder she is tired.

And, oh my goodness, we did so much in these ten days! First there were the preparations with all those last minute wonderings about what was forgotten or maybe not clear to participants. And would all the bridesmaids show up??? And how would we transport the wedding arch we’d wound with multicolored autumn leaves and flowers? I can’t possibly describe the entire thing--and you’ve all planned or been part of or been guests at weddings, so let your imagination range to its most creative.

The wedding was at Lake Itasca, in northern Minnesota, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The groom’s father works for the DNR at the state park there. It’s pretty difficult to imagine a place more beautiful. Pure Minnesota--the way the lake reflects the trees and sky, the way water lilies line the shore, the way cattails grow along the roads, the way the water tumbles over rocks to begin its over 2000 mile journey to New Orleans.
We thought it might rain--which would have been ok, we admitted even while we wished it wouldn’t, because the theme of the wedding was a combination of autumn color and of life-giving water--the river, of course, as a symbol of marriage--but also of all kind of water: rain, tears of joy and sorrow, birthing water, the water that quenches thirst, ocean water…

Liz, Steve, David, Erika, little Varrah, and I all stayed right in the park (and Krista and Jeffry Karels had a honeymoon cabin there after the wedding). I had a little cabin to myself. Liz and the others were in rooms at Douglas Lodge. On the day of the wedding out came the sun!

Do you remember how John loved yellow roses? (and you must remember how much Krista loved her Uncle John). Well, I was performing the ceremony. Behind me was the wedding arch with brilliant yellow flowers at the very top. Krista and Jeffry were smiling as we went through the wedding words, and then all at once they were looking up above me and sort of poking at each other. I thought they were about to break out in laughter. “What’s up there?” I inquired just above a whisper. “A BEE, on one of the yellow flowers!” Krista grinned. It stayed there during the entire ceremony--and later, Krista told me that she figured it was her Uncle John. Well, maybe it was. Maybe he had his one word to say to them: “Be!” That sums up his philosophy of life.

When the ceremony was over, and pictures had been taken of Krista and her bridesmaids and flower girl up to their knees in the Mississippi, Krista took a yellow rose from her wedding bouquet and set it afloat down the river -- “for Uncle John,” she said. There’s a picture taken by her photographer. I’ll try to upload it once I’m home.

After the wedding Liz and Steve and I drove to their ranch in McLeod, ND. It’s on the very edge of the national grasslands. They have maybe 13 acres and a very old farmhouse. It’s a get-away for them: big sky, breathtaking land, a tiny town that has known Kensinger’s for longer than anybody I asked can remember. Steve’s father, Ken, is leading a project to create a museum so that the history of that place will not disappear. He spent an entire afternoon with me, taking me around to the various buildings and even out into the country where the beginning of the sand dunes of grassland can be seen…the sand HILLS, I should say. We all rode on his “People Mover,” a sort of large wagon (like on a hayride) to which he has attached seats from an old school bus to make it comfortable. He pulls it with a tractor. The wind blows through your hair. The prairie is all around you. I was entranced.

And later: guess what I did! Steve said to me, “Now YOU have to drive the tractor.” My first thought was, “Oh, I don’t think so. No, I can’t do that,” because it was BIG. And then the flash of my own little tractor lawn mower came to mind, and I heard myself saying, “Oh, why not?” AND I DID! So it just goes to show -- something. Something like we can do things we never imagined we could?

Afterwards, back in Burnsville, Liz and I did nothing for a whole day. We both were completely exhausted. I would have liked to see so many of my friends from Minnesota, but just couldn’t--not with my deep desire to be spending as much time with my sister as is possible. Last night David and Erika had all of us, including the newlyweds, over to their beautiful home in Richfield. Liz’s birthday came during all the festivities, and so we had a feast of love and food and family and little Varrah Claire who captured the center of attention.

My Jeff will be picking me up at the Medford Airport. He’s spent a week on Sunshine Hill--I hope it’s been a good experience for him. It turns out he can do his work from there--so he could also keep Rita, Laila and Louie company so they wouldn’t get too lonesome. I was gone a long time.

We are still flying over mountains. What a beautiful world.

September 14th -- morning:
I’m at home now in my writing room. It’s a brilliant day, and Jeff has already driven down the hill towards home in California. Me??--I’m planning to rest all day long. Thanks to Liz and Steve and the whole Kensinger and Karels clan for a wonderful time.