Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In A Life To Come

Here it is May. The hummingbirds have returned to the mountains of Colorado, my tulips came up, and the aspen trees are getting buds. Ah, spring.

Well, at 8000 feet, the season is a bit misleading, if not completely MIA. The hummingbird feeders are frozen solid in the morning, and there’s still potential to use our sleds. But nonetheless, as Alexander Pope sagely said, “hope springs eternal”. Summer will arrive. Soon I’ll dust off my bike and kayak. It all happens, completely non-contingent upon my will or desire.

This May is riddled with all kinds of changes for me that make the presence of icicles almost a non-concern. My daughter—my baby—graduates from high school this coming weekend. When and how in the world did this happen? I still picture her toddling around, trying to wear her Mr. Potato Head glasses.

Last night, her father and I went to her final choir concert. Singing is her passion, and choir has been her joy for four years. It was a bitter-sweet event. As is the tradition in our small high school, seniors can elect to perform a solo. For several weeks now, we’ve listened to her practice a song and play her guitar in preparation for her performance. She sang beautifully last night, without a hitch, and to the hoots and hollers of her classmates. In August, she’ll leave for college. In Indiana. Why so far away?

Not only is my baby bird flying away soon, but my son—the one who has been living at home for the last year during his cancer treatments—has received the green light to get on with his life too. At 23, he is more than ready for his independence. With the effects of chemo fading into a not-so-pleasant but distant memory, he’s looking forward, too. He recently asked his girlfriend to marry him (she said yes!) and they’re making plans to move to Florida where he’ll start grad school. And this all happens in two, short weeks—just another change to chalk up to May. 

He’s even going to take his gargantuan puppy with him. At a very hairy and shedding 80 pounds (the puppy, not my son), this may be the one change I’m not dreading. But the house will be very quiet soon, and the rooms very empty.

No matter how I drag my feet, life goes on. Seasons change. The landscape morphs. Trees will be in full leaf soon. The earth keeps rotating. I will turn 50 and enter the fall season of my life, just about the same time the aspen trees light up the mountains in a golden blaze.

Change is inevitable.

Besides sometimes jarring our status quo, here’s what else I’m learning about change: It may not always be easy or desired, but it happens despite our dragging feet. And it’s good. So even though I’ll be saying goodbye to an awful lot—my kids and my forties—I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for a new season in life.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Monday, May 5, 2014

And We Connect

Lately I’ve been in a funk with my writing. It can feel like such a lonely business sometimes. You send things out; sometimes you hear back with a rejection, most times you hear nothing, and only rarely do you get the coveted acceptance. Even writing a blog post feels like an echo at times.

Most of the time, I don’t think or worry about it. I just write because I have something to say or a topic interests me-- and I happen to find it fun to manipulate words. But the other day, I received an email response to a post I wrote here about a woman who was born in 1774. The post was about Jane Lea Nixon, who had the unique distinction of being the first white woman born in the Chartiers Valley in Pittsburgh. If you read the post, you’ll note that very little is known about this woman outside her claim to being born white and a female at this point in history (and you might find a picture of an apparition I captured on film, but I make no official claim of this...)

Old St. Luke's-- the church associated with
Jane Lean Nixon.
A gentleman I’ve never met wrote to thank me for this short piece about this relatively unknown woman. She, along with the very old stone church she is associated with, captured my imagination, but for this man, there is a deeper significance. He is a direct descendant of Jane Lea Nixon. Her story was part of his childhood folklore as family members passed on her legend and significance to his family. He told me he can trace the story back to his great, great grandmother, but then there is a gap between her and Miss Jane Lea.

He even went on to mention a minister in an Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh we both know. He now resides in Arizona, and I in Colorado, but online, through a blog post and a church in Pennsylvania, our lives intersected. I was so touched that he contacted me and that something I wrote had special meaning for him.

My friends Jess and Sally write a blog (check it out here) about their travels around the world. Sometimes they share spectacular photos from the top of mountain peaks or from deep forests or sometimes the sweet faces of people around the world. Other times they share haunting stories of poverty, oppression, and abuse. Each installment of their blog invites me to share in the journey, not only visually and cerebrally, but more importantly, in my heart. From across the world, they reach out and share their story so that I can be a part of it. And we connect. Isn't that amazing?

Sorry Sally and Jess-- yes, I shamelessly lifted
this cute picture from your blog. 
Other blog friends share their writing, photos, spiritual journeys, and humor with readers.  The internet really is like a web--a very apt description--connecting us. 

Then I remember why I write. Truly, it’s not as isolated an activity as I'm sometimes tempted to feel like it is. And for this reminder—for the comments I receive here, for the emails I get, for the intersection of lives—I am incredibly grateful. Thanks for being a part of that connection.