30 January, 2008

~ Doubting Thomas ~

My husband is a Doubting Thomas. He is sceptical and difficult to convince. When I try to impart some Fascinating Bit Of Information, he closes his ears, his eyes and his mind, turns his head away from me and says, “I’m not listening to you!” which is not at all the most friendly thing a husband can say to his wife.

Last week, I wandered into the front room where my husband and one of my children were sitting in front of the television. “What are we looking at?” I asked as I settled myself between them. They informed me it was some home video program. “Oh”, I murmured as we watched a goat bound away, then suddenly grow rigid and fall over. “What was THAT?” my husband laughed. “A fainting goat” I replied, very pleased that I was being presented with an opportunity to impart a Fascinating Bit Of Information. The Doubting Thomas To Whom I Am Married closed his ears, his eyes and his mind, turned his head away from me and said, “Yeah, right….whatever you say, Aesop!” I protested (as I always do when I know I am right), “No, really! It’s true! I’m not making this up!” and I tried to explain that I had once watched a program about these goats and that the narrator had explained the physiological process of the ‘fainting’ and said researchers suggest the goats appear to have developed this ‘fainting’ as a defence mechanism against predators who prefer to kill their prey rather than have it fall dead at their feet. It was too little, too late. The information I was so willing (and eager!) to share was being refused.


My husband maintains I have earned his disbelief. He says my actions over the years are proof positive that I am not to be trusted. However strenuously I may object, I cannot change his stubborn mind. “Look,” he argues, “would YOU believe you?” He then lists all of the times I have taken advantage of his good nature, all of the times I betrayed his trust, all of the times I shattered his innocence (yeah, at that point my stomach always starts feeling a little queasy, too). For example…

Sitting in the restaurant, waiting for our breakfast to arrive, I watched a carpenter-type gentleman as he made his way to the table opposite us. This gentleman is wearing very wide, very red braces. “Wow, look at his braces,” I said cheerfully to no one in particular, then I leaned over and, in a conspiratorial tone, informed my Best Beloved that firemen wear braces like the ones on our fellow diner and asked if he knew why this is so. When my husband replied in the negative, I let him in on the secret, “To keep their trousers up!” (insert much laughter here) I was delighted with myself for luring my husband so easily into my trap and doubly delighted that the trap was such an old and obvious one.

Not many days afterward, my father called to say he would be passing through town over the weekend and would like to meet us for coffee. “I have a great joke,” he told me, and we made plans to play this joke on my unsuspecting spouse. All week I waited for an opportunity to bring our conversation believably around to the subject of grey hair and when it happened, I pounced on the opportunity to sow the seeds. You might ask my husband about it some time...the story involves grey hair, a hay rake and a bolt of lightning. He may tell you the details and he may not, but he is certain to tell you how horrible both his wife and his father-in-law are for conspiring so fiendishly to trick him.

Then there was the afternoon he mused, “You never hear of anyone having a mule ranch. I wonder why?” I started out to explain the donkey/horse cross-breeding that results in a mule and that a mule is born sterile and so on. I hadn’t travelled more than two sentences into my explanation when I was shut down. I was brought to a complete stop. I was completely and unceremoniously stifled. My helpful, educational words fell upon intentionally deaf ears. I was not insulted so much as I was reminded of my husband’s similar behaviour on the day I attempted to disclose the utterly intriguing success of the lion/tiger cross-breeding I had read about years ago. The resulting cub was promptly named a ‘liger’. On the ‘liger’ day, however, my husband did challenge the validity of both the information I was presenting and the newspaper I was quoting. He actually went so far as to suggest the newspaper was of the tabloid variety. I was completely insulted.

Admittedly, I am descended from a long line of storytellers. Perhaps it is because of the Irish blood flowing through our veins that my family believes there are few truths so perfect that they cannot benefit from a little…..judicious embroidery. If you ask him, my husband will tell you he married into a family of cheats and liars. (I think he’s still sore about the red braces and the hay rake.) With such an attitude, it is small wonder he dismissed my ‘fainting goats’ story without even a moment’s consideration.

This past weekend we were out of town visiting with my brother-in-law and his wife. At one point, my brother-in-law asked if we had watched the home video program last week. I wonder if you can imagine the expression on my husband’s face when his brother laughed and said, “Did you see that ‘fainting’ goat?”

22 January, 2008

~ The age of wisdom ~

When I was half my age, I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t think as I did. I had everything figured out—well, nearly everything...everything that mattered, at any rate. I figured that what I hadn’t figured out was either beyond figuring or was not worth figuring. Now that I’m twice my age, I cannot imagine how I could have been so incredibly naïve. Or stupid. Or arrogant. I figure it was the ignorance of my youth.

I found a veritable cache of photographs not long ago, an entire two-drawer cabinet filled to the brim with packages of pictures from before. Before what? Well, before I had some sense, I guess...before I had lightened up...before I had calmed down...just, you know, ‘before’. At first, I was thrilled to have discovered this long-forgotten treasure, but the further I went into the packages, the less comfortable I felt. Although I recognized the places, the faces, the events, it was as though I was somehow eaves-looking (it’s a word...really Ü) into someone else’s life. There were pictures of children who looked very much like my own children did when they were younger, and pictures of a woman who looked very like I might have when I was half (or even three-fifths) my age. It wasn’t so much the fashions of the day I had trouble understanding (though I cannot believe I spiral permed my bum-length hair and wore a braided terrycloth headband – ack!), it was more that I had trouble with the expression on the face of the woman who resembles me. She looks, more than anything, terribly unhappy, and old behind her eyes.

When I was just out of school, I had Big Plans (don’t we all?). I was going to Go Places and I was going to Do Things. I had been accepted at the college of my choice and I had made ten thousand arrangements for ten thousand different things. Then I changed my mind, cancelled it all and did something entirely different. I took a different path and I became a Mum.

It isn’t that I regret my decision—quite the contrary. I’m certain that where I am is where I’m meant to be. I’m equally certain that the people I have been were important too, that I had to be who I was to become who I am. I like that. I wrote it out and pinned it to my board, in fact: “We had to be who we were in order to become who we are.” There’s some wisdom in that, I think. It may only be my own wisdom, but it is wisdom, nonetheless. Perhaps it is useless to anyone else and contains wisdom only for me. Perhaps, at the end of it all, it is only our own wisdom which counts. Perhaps it is What We Learn which matters.

I have learned something from everyone I’ve met, everyone I’ve loved, everyone I haven’t. I have learned to listen and I have learned to speak up. I have even learned to speak out and how to recognize when speaking out is necessary. I have learned to walk a little slower and think a little longer. I have learned to hear what is really being said, what is not being said, and what needs to be said. I have learned to be more kind. I have learned to be more accepting and more trusting. I have learned to be more real. I have learned that when the pain of holding on is greater than the pain of letting go, it is time to let go.

In a few small ways, I have gained wisdom. Not as much as I ought to have done, perhaps, and certainly not as much as I would have liked. Still, I know more now than I did when I lived the life of the woman with age and sadness behind her eyes.

There’s a difference, you see, between knowledge and wisdom. One can know many, many things and still not be wise. Knowledge is little more than Memorisation of Stuff. Wisdom, on the other hand, is Something Else Entirely. I have had the very great blessing of knowing people who have had deep and abiding wisdom. Some of them have had very little in the way of book-learning but they were wise. Such people don’t simply know things in their heads, they understand things in their hearts. Knowing is easy. Understanding isn’t.

I’ve birthed enough children to know that babies come here knowing ‘way more than we give them credit for. They arrive bearing a wisdom we ought to pay attention to. It is unfortunate that babies arrive unable to speak our language and even more unfortunate that, rather than learning to communicate with them, we immediately set about teaching them to communicate with us. Sadly, we also set about teaching them everything we know, forgetting that they know things, too. As we teach our children, and as they learn from us they also un-learn their own wisdom.

It’s quite tragic, really.

I didn’t know any of this, of course, when I was half my age. I refused to learn from Those With Wisdom when they spoke to me, all the while teaching—and un-teaching—my children. If I had it to do over, my initial declaration is that I would do it differently. Upon giving it thought, though, I am not certain I would change anything. An understanding has arisen from what little wisdom I have gained in the years since I was half my age. Perhaps this is as it ought to be. Perhaps it is The Point. Perhaps we are meant to know less the more we learn. Perhaps we are meant to understand more the less we know for sure.

I’m much cleverer now. I now understand that it would be wretched for everyone to think the same way I do. I now understand that the tenuous balance of opposing forces which keeps the Earth orbiting the sun is the same as that which keeps my life in what passes for order. Now that I’m twice my age, I know less and understand more. Now that I’m twice my age I understand much of what caused the sadness behind the eyes of the woman I was, and I give thanks for the opportunity to have been her.

Once, during one of those marvellous, accidental Conversations of Importance, the ones which just sort of blossom from nothing, my children asked if I wasn’t a bit sad about giving up my plans of Going Places and Doing Things in favour of having “lots and lots of children.” They waited only a moment before I gave them the answer I saw written in the five pair of eyes watching me. “Not at all,” I told them, giving silent thanks for the ignorance of my youth. “If I had gone off to do those things, just think what I’d have missed.” They didn’t even notice Wisdom as it slipped into my heart.

17 January, 2008

~ Thursday ~

I feel badly for Thursday. Thursday kinda gets overlooked, y'know? No one ever says, "Hey, it's THURSDAY, let's celebrate!" No, weekends get all the fuss and bother, Monday gets the 'oh, yuck, here we go again' comments from everyone, Tuesday seems to be when everyone picks up speed and gets back in the groove, Wednesday is right there in the middle, being the hump, the mid-point goal, and then everyone whizzes right through Thursday, all eyes fixed on superfantastic Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Does no one ever think how that makes Thursday feel?


Poor Thursday.

Peace ~

14 January, 2008

~ Consider the lilies ~

January. The dead of winter. The Great Darkness. The Deep Freeze. This time of year is all that, and more, for the people in our house. While The Man Of The House, the one who spent the first half of his life in England and Australia, grouses about the place, complaining that we live in the most inhospitable climate on the planet (I rather doubt this is true, but I have learned not to argue with an Englishman who has a burr in his boot), others of us are happily curled up by the fire reading seed catalogues and garden supply catalogues and lily catalogues. Most of all, lily catalogues.

Lilies have stood front and centre in my life. When I was small, lilies were what you grew when nothing else would grow. I believed, when I was small, that lilies were what you grew when you wanted to frighten small children into believing plants retained some sort of prehistoric memory and were just waiting for the unwary small child to pass too closely by so it could be gobbled up as a tasty, crunchy, yet juicy sort of snack. I can’t remember the origin of that terror, but it was a terror, nonetheless, one I am very glad to have outgrown. No gardening pun intended.

The lilies of my childhood were towering creatures, alive with colour and scent and movement. The sister of some relation or other had dozens of lilies flanking a narrow sidewalk bordering her house and it was both terrifying and exhilarating to risk life and limb running the length of that lily walk. Very Brave and Adventurous Children, that’s what we were. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned to appreciate lilies properly. Perhaps it was because I had grown to be taller than the severe stalks and could look down into the up-facing blooms and no longer had to stare up at the down-facing blooms, so they all appeared far less intimidating. Perhaps it was simply that I had never actually been assaulted by the lilies, and so relinquished my fear of them in favour of admiration. It’s a much more peaceful way to live, really. However it happened, I’m glad it did and I blame my Great Aunt Lillias for it.

Great Aunt Lillias had lilies in abundant profusion. Her back yard was bisected by a stone walk and from that walk to the fence on either side of the yard there stretched a bed of lilies as dense as the lawn it replaced. She couldn’t remember how many varieties of lilies she had planted, for the garden had evolved over several decades, but she knew without doubt that certain of the lilies which had been planted had shared illicit relations with certain other lilies which had been planted, resulting in offspring which had not been planted, but had somehow managed to join the family. Because Great Aunt Lillias is a kind woman, she accepted these illegitimate children and welcomed them to the fold. It was in the lily garden of Great Aunt Lillias that my affection for these flowers budded. Gardening pun intended.

So the love affair with lilies had begun.

As with any obsession...that is to say, hobby...it is always good to have someone to share the passion, so with very little difficulty I recruited my husband. As it turns out, he had already been smitten. Neither of us can remember who first proposed the Lillias-esque lily bed, but it took root in our imaginations. We began with ten lilies. Ten, we reckoned, was a suitable, if slightly modest, number of lilies and from the day we ordered the lilies in the middle of The Great Darkness until the day they arrived by mail, we were as giddy with anticipation as kids on Christmas Eve. It was a great day when I was at last able to tuck them into their new beds. When they finally poked their little noses out of the ground, we celebrated in much the way parents of any newborn would. Because I have a tendency to name things, I promptly named the little reddish nubbins collectively ‘Babies’ and have continued address them as such, no matter their size. I like to think they flourish because of the attention lavished upon them, but I know that lilies grow in spite of just about any ill treatment. In fact, it has been suggested that lilies thrive on neglect, though how one could neglect lilies is beyond me. Either way, the lilies put on a show. Naturally we ordered more lilies the following winter. We ordered even more lilies the winter after that, all the while maintaining that we would abandon our ideas for a Lillias-esque lily bed on the grounds that it really wasn’t practical. The following year when the lily catalogue arrived, the flirtatious maroon-spotted, lime-faced beauty gazing beguilingly up at us from the cover completely shattered all our resolve and we ordered it. Plus half a dozen other varieties, of course. We are helpless, completely bewitched.

It is once again January. The dead of winter. The Great Darkness. The Deep Freeze. After spending several evenings choosing the lilies which would make up my annual ration I wrote out my lily order on the weekend while curled up by the fire. I had each of my kids choose a lily as well. Some of them took nearly as long as I did in the choosing, reading every description and studying every photograph. Some of them chose lilies because they liked the name. One chose a species lily, a plain, old-fashioned, been-around-a-hundred-years variety. Everyone had a favourite and it was interesting to watch the decision-making process. Three and a half months form now, the folks at the lily farm will nestle our new adoptees into boxes to send them off by post and we will greet the newcomers with the delight of kids on Christmas morning. I will take joy in tucking them into their new beds and I’ll whisper their new name to them, ‘Babies’.

We’re nowhere near the point of taking up the lawn to make room for lilies the way Great Aunt Lillias did, but I can see how it might someday happen. Entirely by accident, of course. When my kids chose their lilies this year, they also let me know which ones they want me to order next year. I’ve used the word before...perhaps it is appropriate after all: obsession. .:shrug:. Might as well call it what it is, eh?

Matthew 6:28-29 reads, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of those.”

It is true. Even here, in what some husbands call the most inhospitable climate on the planet, it is true.

Peace ~

08 January, 2008

When I was 19, I saw the sexiest woman in the world.

I was sitting on a Mexican beach in my little red bikini, when up the sand strode an absolute vision. This woman was probably 75 years old, with wrinkles, grey hair, stretch marks, and saggy bits. She also had scarlet nails, crimson lips, a toffee-brown tan, rhinestone sunglasses.....and a leopard-print bikini.

Man, that broad owned the beach!

We all watched her as she passed. Young men were whistling and cat-calling....she was smiling, waving, blowing kisses, and lifting her glasses to wink at them. It was one of the most powerful, most beautiful things I have ever seen.

In that moment, I realised that beauty has no age limit, that age has no beauty limit, and that sexy is a state of mind.

I lost sight of that for years....until I found a picture of me taken that same day on that same beach.....yeah.....

Peace ~