Tuesday, July 28, 2015

wandering past the creation story

I love creation stories, those tales people told/tell to explain how it all began. When I worked in a local museum I developed programs that told lots of different creation stories: how the town began, why the city became known as a Queen Slipper City, the childhood of it’s famous residents – all the stories that helped explain creation of this or that. But my favorite story was the one I told about the creation of the world itself.

All cultures have ancient creation stories designed to tell how their people came to be on that land, designed to remind us that the earth is a gift and that we were not always on it and so, it seems implied to me, we might not always be. An important story for many in the Northeast is The World on Turtle’s Back, the story of how Sky Woman fell and was rescued by the animals in the ocean who created a place for her to live on the great sea turtle’s back. The animals and the woman worked together. The world grew and still floats on that great turtle through the universe.

That’s a powerful story that was somehow more meaningful than the one from my tradition about a lone creator populating a garden with disobedient children.
I loved that story. Something about it spoke to me. I told it during my History for Half Pints programs to pre-school and kindergarten children. I helped students plant seeds on a soil mixture attached to a paper turtle shell so they could recreate the story. I asked older kids to imagine being there at the start of things and to draw and write about what it might look like. I was given a stone turtle necklace and have little turtle statues scattered around the house and garden. I regularly included that story in the bedtime ritual with my own little girls.

I haven’t worked for that museum in almost a decade and my own little girls are in high school now. I think of the story every time I put on that necklace, but haven’t told it in a while.

Last week we were in the Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine wandering around a section we hadn’t visited on our last trip and stumbled upon this.

The guide we ran into later says she calls this rock formation the whale and when I heard that I worried that I would stop seeing the turtle there – the power of suggestion is so strong. But I still see Turtle, and my girls see Turtle, and my husband sees Turtle. Our long connection to the creation myth overpowered her image of the barnacle-clad giant.

Here is a reminder of our earth’s and our people’s origins; here is a reminder to care for that tenderly built little place on her back that so many worked together to build. What a gift it was for my family to wander by.

NOTE: There are many versions of the story, all with different details but the same core message of creation. You can read one here.

I wanted to make this post a part of the great community of bloggers who join every Tuesday to share a Slice of Life. You can go there to get a glimpse of the lives of other writers/thinkers/teachers/creators. I haven't participated in this community in a while, and it is nice to sneak back in.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

anxious gratitude

I have this overwhelming sense of gratitude for my husband this evening. He’s not home. I’m home alone, in fact. I was supposed to be with him this evening, and his family, and was looking forward to the outing. For the first time ever I was going to watch the Boston fireworks. But then the day came.

Some holidays are still pretty rough for me, even though it’s been almost 3 full years since we lost Mom, and nearly 5 since Dad died. I did think it would be easier now.

This holiday was always a big gathering at the house with almost everyone making the time to get together, so it’s a time when I really do miss the way things used to be. And that meant anxiety. The panic attack started at around 11am and worsened when I found out that the trip to Boston planned for the evening had turned into a major adventure involving several stops. My stomach is lurching with the memory.

I made it through a quick visit to my niece’s house to see her new baby and didn’t come anywhere close to crying until we were in the car headed home. But I couldn’t cry because my daughter was in the back seat and I knew the visit had inspired her own emotions and did not want her to worry about me. But at that point I knew for sure I could not continue on with the Boston adventure.

And Greg knew before I even told him. And he made it easier for me though I know he wished I could share the family fun with him.

Anxiety is not easy, and it’s not getting easier with age. But I recently feel more comfortable with this part of me. I think I owe a lot of that to sharing more with Greg and some of my friends. The relief of being honest is near joy. Just accepting that anxiety is a part of me makes me a little less anxious. The best part is feeling like I don’t have to be ashamed or to try to “toughen up” and do things that I just don’t feel up to doing. It’s not that I want to be left alone to hide away in safety, never challenging myself, but by allowing myself to say no to some I am better equipped to take on those I choose. 

And I could not do this without a husband who loves even my crazy because it is a part of me.

This sign was up in the yard weeks ago, but seems to fit today.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

word collector

I was walking out of my sister’s office this morning past several quotes printed in bright ink and mounted on matching cardstock. My nieces, who work there also, have scattered inspirational words all over the office and I thought, “We are a family of quoters”. And for the first time, and it’s weird that this was the first time (is it really the first time?), I thought of how it all started with our Dad.

I was at my parents’ house about once a week throughout my adult life, and more often as they got older. Several times a month there would be a clipping of a social commentary cartoon from the newspaper or some inspirational words from the church bulletin posted on the refrigerator or laid out on the table. He cut out things that made him laugh or seemed especially relevant to something going on in the family. A lot of times his clippings were personal, cut out specifically for me or one of my siblings. Given that there were so many of us, it was always amazing that he knew which words would speak to which child. When it came time to create photo boards for his funeral several of us naturally, without even talking about it, collected quotes that made us think of him and helped us to show our love and gratitude for his life.

I’ve been writing words I collect from my reading on the White Board outside my house for 5 years now and today was the first time I really connected that work to my Dad. He was the reason I started the board in the first place (the first word was simply “Hope” after his cancer diagnosis) but I didn’t give him the credit he really deserves. My Dad wasn’t a big reader (well, he did read 2 newspapers every day) but his word collection showed me the value, the power, of words strung thoughtfully together and shared.

And now that I’ve thought about it, I realize the tradition in strong all over my family. My sister has words to inspire relaxation posted around her beach house. My brother peppers his conversation with  poignant quotes remembered from his reading. 

And here is the wall of my daughter’s bedroom. Her grandfather would be proud.

So, here’s a clipping for you, Dad. I don’t need scissors to collect my words, but I’ll share them just like you.