A bouquet is defined as an arrangement of flowers. Often given as a gift or carried by a bride on her wedding day, a bouquet has come to signify thoughtfulness and beauty in one form or another. Bouquets tender our souls and our spirit and come in all forms and sizes. I would suggest that bouquets also come in any form of kindness or tenderness when flowers are unavailable.
Yesterday, and on other days when completely isolated, I received phone calls from friends just at the right time when I needed some comfort. Their voices carried caring, solace and laughter—bouquets of kindness. I would posit that holding a hand, hugs, smiles, a soft or strong shoulder, a listening ear, and withholding judgement to name a few are also gifts of bouquets during difficult times.
Last night I received via text, a photo of a few wood violets with the words: “This reminded me of you.” A very simple and thoughtful bouquet that lifted my spirit and quelled loneliness.
There are heroes on the front lines in hospitals and behind cash registers in grocery stores and others delivering mail etc. who are deservedly getting accolades and attention for their service and sense of responsibility. However, it’s easy to forget at such a dramatic and chaotic time, that small bouquets of concern and virtual hand-holding can and do ripple into rivers of kindness and grace for all.
Looking at my calendar, (an old fashion desk calendar with photos and sayings), there are many events cancelled—my 50th high school reunion is a big one that was supposed to come up this month. It’s been moved to October. Birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged, albeit in a more subdued manner; a book club meeting lost in space and sundry other to-be occasions never even recorded. However, I find myself marking in the (mostly) little stuff like COVID-19 isolation begins; my last food shopping trip; tree smashes car; Lucy calls to check in with me; Barbara texts hello; Carol from Maine and I reconnect and chat. Last I spoke to her and saw her was on a serene lake in Maine three almost four years ago; Mary is sending videos of groundbreaking but never acknowledged female artists; and Roger from grammar school posts a video of a virtual road ride through Branch Brook Park showcasing its Cherry Tree blossoms in all their splendor—all the more magnificent due to the road minus tourist traffic. This Sunday park drive brought to the forefront shared childhood memories and reacquaintance. Rather small recordings in our pre-pandemic world, yet significant post-pandemic and isolating in place. Also recorded: my first Zoom meeting with a bunch of right-brain fun and creative artists of a certain age trying on the look of “computer-savy;” my first self-haircut along with a tornado watch and sad passings of friends’ loved ones. All in a three week period that feels like a lifetime. Time is fluid now.
I want to remember the significant insignificant details which usually float into the ether except for this journaling and some Facebook posts. Life is in the details and paying attention takes time and silence. For these moments of remembrance and connection—I am grateful.
Friends. Our link to Angels and our better selves. They walk with us through the darkest nights and celebrate with us and for us when the sun shines. Sometimes they even lift us when we are in the shade and cannot see the light. We laugh, we cry, we grieve and we birth together. And in the most difficult of times, we honor death together. Despite all disagreements and even some drama, we are better humans because of our friends and friendships (including the animal and plant world).
Today I am grateful for all my friends, past, present and future as well as friends (strangers to me)who love and support each other around the globe. I am honored and blessed to be walking this walk with many friend-souls every day. In particular, today is the birthday of my soul sister and Jaguar kin, Vicky, who has repeatedly shown and taught me the true meaning of generosity of spirit and materials. She asks herself, over and over again in the most demanding and difficult situations, “What would love do here?” and for the most part meets herself in that field. And countless other souls besides me have experienced this/her unconditional love through her work and life.
In lieu of celebrating together during this pandemic, and in lieu of grieving together for those who lost loved ones at their last breath, I honor this moment within the grace and mystery that life offers to all of us. AHO.
Every once and again I ask for a sign from a dearly departed friend who watches over and for me from the other side. I was looking for some small sign to show our forever connection and it had to be through a clear symbol that I would be able to easily recognize here on this physical plane. And VOILA—today I got it! While slicing a blood orange, its juice spilled out onto my countertop into a perfect heart-shaped stain. I was thrilled! I’ve been gifted with these hearts before in so many forms on the beach, on leaves in trees, in tar on the street, in cloud formations, and each time, I am enchanted beyond belief. As she lay dying, closing in on a decade ago, my friend said to me “Watch for the signs—I will always be with you.”
I am taking great comfort in all the small and creative ways people are reaching out to each other and connecting. I learned that friends and families are staying connected through virtual dinner parties where everyone is making the same food/dishes in their own homes and sitting down together virtually and at the same time to share the meal. How amazing is that?!? I too have been part of a virtual happy hour where we were all texting and sharing our individual concoctions (it’s a very creative cocktail and appetizer crowd on any given day, viral isolation or not) complete with laughter, jokes and photos.
Artists, musicians, readers, puzzle-enthusiasts and countless others are connecting and challenging each other while fostering creative solutions to what otherwise could be dire circumstances. i’m not downplaying the real hardships here—simply pointing out some healthy responses to this novel infection. “Out of chaos comes creativity.”
the boisterous clink of glasses
resounds via text
Yesterday morning, over a breakfast quesadilla and too hot hot sauce– a discussion took place on sadness, particularly how it looked on my face. 2018 was particularly sad year in terms of loss. So I turned to one of my favorite sages on this and other wisdom– Kahlil Gibran in his seminal work: The Prophet. Thus his writing on joy and sorrow:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain”.
I confess to really not understanding this. How can sadness be contingent on joy or vice versa? And yet I do understand–the greater the love–the deeper its response (sorrow) when that joyful love is perceptively lost. Perception is the key.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
The takeaway here is that sadness is truly an act of love–damn that it just doesn’t feel that way. So I’m learning not to push it away, and instead invite it in for conversation.
walking with sorrow
around the corner
a begrudging friendship
if not for sorrow
Lunch discussions at the studio have been lively lately amongst my group of women-artist-friends. We come together regularly and irregularly, each with her own brand of self-expression as well as an enormous overlapping of support, encouragement and enthusiasm for each other’s visions.
The opportunity has come up recently for us to enter our work (individually) into a local show that is to represent a cross section or survey of women artists in our area. It is to be displayed at a respected gallery in town. Along with the opportunity comes the angst of “Is my work good enough?” Taken one step further it morphs into “Am I good enough/Am I worthy?” Rest assured at this point, the artists involved are all dedicated, passionate and hard-working. Several have won prestigious national awards and accolades. And yet the angst, or internal emotional strife, is a rampant virus that can cripple even the best and strongest of us. Eva Hesse, a ground-breaking sculptor and pioneering artist in the 1960s questioned her work, her vision and her right to create. Her close friend wrote her in a now-famous (with spicy trenchant language not included here): “Stop (thinking) and Just Do”—Sol LeWitt. Today we admire and celebrate her courage, leadership and movement of art onto a different and higher plane.
The most difficult part of artistry/self-expression is dealing with a brutal self-critic. The rest is simply about observation, patience and practice. What is so wonderful about working in a community, classroom, workshop or with a group of artists-peers is that when you have discussions like this—the realization sets in that we are not alone with Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure. And when we see that our peers are surely worthy of brilliance and respect, we therefore begin to understand and feel that we too are worthy. Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure are merely tools for objective observation, learning, growth and elevating our craft. It may just well be that angst is as important and misunderstood a process as creation itself.
Last night, two dear and thoughtful friends braved torrential downpours and milky fog to pick me up and take me to a charming and intimate Mexican restaurant in a nearby town. One friend drove along unfamiliar, dark and winding rural roads (with a smile), so that two of us could drink some hard cider with our meal. After an appetizer of extremely hot chili pepper poppers and a warm and easy dinner—they ordered a crispy and flaky ice cream-filled dessert with a candle on top that we split. Our waiters and restaurant staff dimmed the lights and joined in a heartfelt rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
My gracious companions are well known for showing up and supporting for their friends this way and more. What made it extra special for all of us, was that the restaurant staff unexpectedly and enthusiastically joined in, enjoyed and shared in the celebration. They were born in Mexico and may very well be part of the 200,000 Dreamers in our country whose fate is yet to be determined by DACA legislation. This local restaurant is popular, a great value and a tremendous asset to our or any community. Last night they were our friends.
“How would you say this more simply and more haikuey” –
“Spring Sunset Gold-Yellow Song Upon The Sky Trumpeting Daffodils?”
How would I? (turn this observation and string into a haiku), is the question asked of me about eight years ago when it was queried, and almost five years since she passed and crossed over the rainbow bridge. I may have tried once, however I was none-too successful. She was my favorite poet, even though she hardly wrote any tailored or even casual poetry. Her words just flowed into “raspberry and tangerine images.” Ours was a forty-year correspondence with a shared love of nature and the arts.
I rediscovered the question on a sticky note in her very distinct handwriting this morning and decided to sit down and finish the conversation. I hope that I can do her proud and know that she is smiling anyway.
For Robin, forever friend – I miss you and your words:
daffodils trumpet sunset’s golden song ~ a listening sky