‘Writ in Water’

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It’s the best season for cemetery strolls, so lovely when the leaves are turning, the fall breezes blowing leaves about, carpeting the ground. Union Cemetery, situated along the Olentangy River, is a long-time beloved one, now where John McCullough’s remains reside, catalpa tree branches bending over the grave site.

A distant cousin to Mike, John died in August. He was our mail carrier for many years, a kind and gentle man who often walked his route with Maggie, a neighborhood dog. John, his wife and their twin sons became an important part of our lives, especially after genealogical research revealed John and Mike were cousins, having the same several-greats grandfather. At the funeral, honoring John’s request, Mike read from the McCullough family Bible, discovered on-line during the research project. We are missing John, and will remember his generous spirit.

John Keats suggested this for a tombstone inscription: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ I like that. It captures the ephemeral nature of our brief time on the planet, and somehow makes me grateful to be in a body for the time being. How remarkable, this life, and then gone. But we are here today. Whatever your present endeavors, keep making, keep living, though it be ‘writ in water.’

 

The Wheel*

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Bloomed March 21, 2019

Leo arrives for the afternoon. His mamma’s due date has come and gone, and she’s seeing the midwives.  The two of us play the afternoon away. The three-year-old decides the plastic dinosaurs require a soapy bath, and they receive one. There are card games at the kitchen table, matching shapes and pictures.  Wind-up toys everywhere.

Alicia returns. Midwives found her 3 centimeters dilated! Baby will be here soon. As they are leaving for home, Gary arrives. He and Mike walk the garden paths, inspecting the retaining wall construction, then settle into sunroom lounge chairs for a beer. Gary’s phone beeps and he apologizes, checking the message. It’s his wife, out-of-town with her family, keeping vigil at the bedside of her 94-year-old father.  He is hours from death.

Daily, I check Julie’s blog, missing her posts, which have been regular as rain for many years. Nothing. Bill, her husband, is living his last days with pancreatic cancer. Two to six months are left. The diagnosis was received mid-December.

Kenzie calls on Sunday with news of her pregnancy. She’s the eldest of the nieces and nephews, the first to marry, and now the first to launch the family’s next generation. Baby is due in October.

And this was the week, the interminable week, 35 years ago, that Morgan was admitted to Children’s Hospital, dying 4 days later with heart failure, complications of pneumonia. Her frail body made it all the way through winter, but compromised with a heart defect often found in babies with Down Syndrome, she was unable to gain weight and thrive, and our daughter died on the first day of spring.

We are, all of us, coming and going. The days come and the days go, due dates, birthdays, baby-on-the-way announcements, death days. Play dates, vigil nights. Be present to this day, no matter what it holds for you. Looking out the window of Morgan’s hospital room the morning she died, the spring sun was brilliant. In the midst of losing her, I did see the sun.

*(The Wheel, a Wendell Berry poetry collection. highly recommend.)

 

 

 

 

Embodied

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Cory Taylor’s book was recommended by a local librarian, after I told her I was looking for a good read, and appreciate a well-written memoir. What a gift, public libraries!

As a person viewing the world through an Alexander Technique lens, I am always on the look-out for well-expressed descriptions of what Mr. A. called The Self, the body/mind in which we each reside. Taylor provided an excellent one. She is writing about her childhood experience of body and consciousness:

I never thought of my body at that time as something separate from the bodies of the dog, or the kookaburra, or the mother cat up in my sister’s sock drawer. And I certainly didn’t think of my body as separate from my consciousness. They were one and the same thing, consciousness being a bodily sensation, just like sight, or touch, or hearing.’

We study the Alexander Technique to recover our childhood connectivity to the natural world, and to restore our body/mind integration. It’s a return to our inherent structure and our place on the planet, and does not require adding on something new.  May your Alexander Technique practice bring you the poise of your youth today—–

 

 

 

 

 

Truth

 

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thanks, pixabay! ulna and radius——

Truth-telling. Not enough of that in this present political age. Since I’m not in control of our society’s unleashed lying habits, I’m proposing to start here:

Be honest with myself.

Hmmm. As in, a long, hard look in the mirror?  What I see there these days is my mortality.

You too can stare death in the face with a read of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty. It is not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, but I found it to be bracing and yes, refreshing.  Death is acknowledged. No lies. No subterfuge.

My Alexander Technique teaching studio has two skeletons in daily use, along with multiple anatomy tomes.  Some students are uncomfortable with considering the bones beneath their flesh, and a bit of light-hearted cajoling is required for a engaged lesson of curiosity about the body and its structure.

Facing the truth of death and decay is to embrace living. In a death-denying and truth-negating culture, this can be a radical practice. Let’s begin with some courageous honesty all around, and who knows, we could be contributing to a new cultural norm; telling the truth!

 

 

 

 

Morgan

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the very orchid

May 26, 2017.  At the kitchen sink, washing up the breakfast dishes,  I realize there is an orchid inches from my face.  It bloomed!  It’s been ready to pop for weeks, and today was the day.  Morgan!  Thank you.  Hello.

I see her in all things small and delicate.

She was born May 26, 1984 and had 9 months and 3 weeks to be here.  33 years later, Mike and I are sitting on the cabin porch, remembering the Saturday she arrived in our Oakland Avenue upstairs bedroom.  Mike recalls when the midwives told us Morgan had physical markers for Down Syndrome, I was so captivated to have her next to me, it didn’t seem to matter what they were saying.

We look out over the fields, study the clouds, sip our beers.  Then he tells me a story I had not heard before.  The first Father’s Day after Morgan’s death, he was walking the farm. Along the north fence row a deer snorted and stamped, attempting to distract Mike, and sure enough, there in the grasses was a new fawn.

We see her in all things small and delicate.

 

 

Making

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a dahlia at The Bridge of Flowers, near Northampton, Massachusetts, with Darryl and Sherry McKenney

Make a little beauty each day.

It’s all that’s asked; all that’s required.

Just make a little beauty each day.

In 1988, my father died suddenly of a heart attack, and having lost my mother 10 years earlier, I was officially orphaned. Often I found myself in a one-sided conversation with my parents, and once in a while, imagined hearing back from them.

One of those times a ditty began to sing itself in my mind’s ear, and although the melody has been lost, I do remember the lyric:  Make a little beauty each day….It’s all that’s asked, all that’s required, just make a little beauty each day.

Yes. Making beauty.  A roast chicken, a song, an Alexander Technique lesson, a pleasing arrangement of pottery and pictures on the mantle, a linen napkin under the sterling silver at dinner. A kind word, a lavish party.  A photograph.  A friendship. A marriage. A life you can love. It’s enough.

In this spring season, when the natural world is wild with making, may you be inspired to make a little beauty too.  It’s all that’s required——

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susan and ‘making a dance.’

Thanks, Mom

 

 

 

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Mary Lou Saunders Brannon b. 28 May 1933, d. 28 May 1977. Also pictured: her firstborn, Diana 

Thanks Mom, for giving me a turn on this blue-green planet. I miss you, 40 years gone from us. Happy Mother’s Day.

Down by the Ohio River this past weekend, attending a family reunion.  Of my mother’s 8 siblings, three survive; Aunt Maebelle, Uncle Roger and Uncle Jack. The uncles were in attendance and what a joy to spend time with them, and with a big crowd of Saunders folk; many cousins, their children and grand-children.

Cousin Roger Jr. gave remembrances of each one of the aunts and uncles, and we all kept telling our stories as we ate Aunt Wanda’s brownies and looked at old photos. A picture-perfect day at Raccoon Creek Park, situated on land my Grandpa Connie once farmed. The breeze blew brilliant white clouds through a bold blue sky, the food tasted so good and the hugs were even better.  Trees along the creek shimmered in new lime green leaves. The sound of many conversations wafted around the shelter house. All of us very much alive.

Those who have gone before were present too.  They came to life once again in our stories and our memories. A big Thanks to the ancestors for being there with us—-

*As this is an Alexander Technique blog, I would be remiss to not bring to your attention the lower-left photo.  Head leading and body following, indeed!  Any baby or toddler is the very best of AT teachers, if we would just notice their inherent good Use of Self.