This is your portrait at age 42:
sitting on your favorite beach
watching the summer ocean curl in,
your hair clipped away
from your bare face,
a few wild strands in the salt breeze,
your luminous smile.
You make the kind of before-picture
where anyone would think, she’s already beautiful.
This is you, by nature,
serene, an artist in wonder,
you, before you leave
what you came here
The photographs in this post were taken last week by my sister, Christine. I had written this poem a bit ago (and never told her), but was searching for a beautiful image to go with it. How serendipitous and ironic that the gorgeous shots I imagined should come from her! When she showed me her photos, I asked her if I could use a few for my next post, but I didn’t tell her about the poem. Surprise, dear sister! And thank you for beautifying my day.
Sometimes it seems that almost everything is gone.
Loss comes, and drains the blue sky and lush greens from our world. We focus on what is gone. Our vision is darkened as if by a veil. We struggle to get back to what we once knew, what was once ours.
But what is gone is no longer real. What is real is what is left.
Yes, loss itself is real, and for serious loss, grieving is a necessary process. But at some point, the fact is that the leaves have curled up and blown away. Our landscape has new space, a space that allows us to see more clearly everything that is still there, everything that is real. Inside illness, we have bodies that still do many things with ease, like hear or see. Inside job loss, we still have our talent. Inside heartbreak, we still have hearts that love.
Through the eyes of gratitude, our world slowly comes into focus, and we start to see simplicity and beauty in our world. We appreciate the delicate branches of a beech tree echoed by the sturdy silhouette of a linden tree. We find delight in three leaves, two beechnuts, and a glass pear.
For all I have discovered in spare landscapes, I give thanks.
A few weeks ago, I did a “mind sweep,” speed-writing a to-do list as long as a roll of toilet paper that included every imaginable thing that I need to do or want to do, from simple tasks to complex projects. Mixed right in there with “scan a million non-digital photos” and “schedule dentist appointment”, I typed, “Admire the clouds.”
Tonight, I’m doing exactly that. The sky is dressed in mammatus clouds lit by the setting sun.
I love the sky. This afternoon’s perfect, uninterrupted blue was startling in its post-storm clarity. Now the evening’s white fluff balls are turning silver, and will soon darken to pewter as the sun drops from sight.
Staring at clouds makes me want to do something, to respond in some way. As wonderful as this is, and as many times as I’ve waved my arms and twirled in a field where I’ve hoped no one can see me, admiring is more than that. It’s the split second when I first notice something wonderful in the sky. It’s the instant before my reflexive smile or “wow,” before the words roll in to dissect the scene into silver, white, stratus, cumulus, dog bone, feather.
Most of the stuff on my mind sweep is the typical life stuff that makes me feel “productive” when I can check something off as complete. So how did “Admiring the clouds” get on my list of things to do? While typing out the list at a maddening clip, I paused for a split second and spotted something incredible outside my window.