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Entries in gift (6)


A Love Letter

Dear Dylan,

I can't believe next week marks three years since you've been gone. When you called me a few years earlier to confess that you'd fallen off the wagon I didn't realize it was the beginning of the end.  I had always known you as a sober person and I assumed this was an unfortunate bump in the road, but that you'd be back on track, say, the next day.  I didn't know that the wheels were starting to come off.  I didn't understand that all those years when you seemed okay, your demons were still there, under the surface, gaining strength.  I didn't understand anything.

When I think about how absent I was from your life at the end, so wound up in pregnancy and having a new baby, I feel so sad.  I know I couldn't have changed anything for you, but I wonder if I could have just gotten a little bit more of you.  Jackie told me things got pretty bad, that you were in the grip of self destruction and despair, so maybe it's a gift that I don't remember you that way.

I usually think of you when I'm in the car listening to music, but that might be because it's the only place I tend to be alone with my thoughts.  You also always come to mind when I'm chasing a tele-skier down a slope that's a little beyond me (this has become a theme in my life, but you were the first and the most demanding), or when I get on the old mountain bike you sold me when you became a partner in the bike shop. When I go hear shows at Red Rocks you are with me and I can't listen to David Byrne any more without thinking about the time that you got me backstage at the Fillmore to meet him. 

I feel so lucky to have shared the years of friendship with you and Jackie that I did.  I was such a kid when I started working with Jackie that it's a wonder she didn't roll her eyes and mock me mercilessly for my endless follies.  But she didn't.  She laughed with me, and she invited me into your lives and made me the approved girlfriend, an appropriate companion for the things you loved that she didn't, like skiing and listening to jam bands play live shows.  I hope I was good company for the things we all loved to do together too, like four straight seasons of Sunday night potlucks at your house watching every episode of Six Feet Under that ever aired.

I found myself wondering recently, during one of my Dylan reveries in the car, if you're here at all anymore.  The grief we all shared immediately after you died made you feel so present to me.  But coming up on three years without you, you were starting to feel distant and faint.  When Jackie e-mailed me to ask if I wanted the cruiser you gave her it was like a jolt.  When I saw the bike for the first time I laughed out loud for the joy of it.

Dylan, this bike is the most perfect gift I could imagine.  It just feels so you, from the outrageous color to the skull-and-crossbones valve stem caps.  Riding it makes me feel close to you and to Jackie and to all the times we shared together.  It also makes me hopeful for the colorful and inspired future I am calling forth every day.  This bike is the vehicle I'm taking to that place, so thanks for that.

I made this little film for Jackie, but also for you, to show you just how much I love your bike.  Since you loved good design and the coolest people, I'm imagining you and Jerry Garcia and Steve Jobs huddled up in a corner around an iPad watching this.  (You would have LOVED the high-def iPad, Dyllie.  Wish you could have stuck around to see it.)

Miss you so.




Small Gifts

Spring burst forth along Colorado's front range in a riot of prematurely hot days and a sudden profusion of flowers: trees heavy with blossoms, bulbs dripping in color, phlox unfolding a month ahead of schedule.  It is intoxicating and glorious, but I can't experience that without a sliver of underlying anxiety.  I feel unprepared for the headlong plunge into the fecundity of summer, like the whole earth is moving at a pace I can't match.

I am like a gear in an old-fashioned pocketwatch, tiny and fragile, being moved by my proximity and connection to all those around me.  Small gifts are the lubrication that keep our machine from locking up.  Kindness keeps me from overheating as the seconds tick faster.

Will has been overseas for work and a friend I met in my gypsy days but have not seen for years opened her home and welcomed him as she would have me, like an old friend. 

My mother was my date to a friend's 65th birthday party this weekend.  She greeted us and said to my mom, Your daughter is one of my favorite people on the planet.

The new babysitter goes above and beyond and I come home to a clean kitchen.

A gorgeous slab of lemon-fennel salmon arrived in my kitchen just before the afternoon party preparation got the best of me.

Hugs.  Scalp massages.  Cupcakes.

Small things that, in the words of Robert Brault, become the big things.  These are the things that give me room to breathe, the things that make it safe to unfold the tender parts, the things that make it possible to embrace the noisy, crowded abundance of summer.


Funny Noses and Other Signs

I promised myself I would learn Photoshop after my 365. Now FINALLY I am taking Kim Klassen's ecourse, Photoshop Essentials, which I highly recommend if you want to spiff up your processing.Here are some things the nasty little voice in my head says, a lot:

What is the point?

Why does it matter?

How do you know if it's any good?

It's all just sentimental drivel. 

A friend of mine told me recently that she had asked the Universe for a sign.  And not one of those sissy signs, either, she told me.  She had made it very clear that she wanted something unmistakeable to appear.  It seemed like the kind of bold demand that I would never have the guts to make, but she's fearless like that and, lo and behold, she got exactly the kind of sign she was looking for.

I was thinking about this as I drove back to Denver the other day.  Could I ask for a sign?  A sign about whether there is any point to all this stretching and cultivating and expressing?  To be clear, I didn't actually ask for a sign.  To do that would be to invite the possiblity that I would miss it if it showed up.  Or worse, that nothing would come at all.

I walked in my front door for the first time in ten days.  In the foyer was a pile of mail my neighbor collected for me while I was gone.  There was a box at the bottom of the pile, a Christmas gift that had arrived after I left.  I knew it would be from my "secret sister," the blind gift exchange arranged by some of the women I met at Camp Shutter Sisters.  I saw from the return address that my secret sister is Myriam, one of the amazing women who organized Camp.  A woman, I believe, who has a great deal of wisdom to share with me and the world.

The sheer fact that she was paired with me feels like a mysterious gift.

Inside the box was an epic collection of goodies like the wish jar above, and various sparkles and smile-inducers designed mostly to nurture my sense of wonder, play, and optimism.  (Plus, Pema Chodron's Taking the Leap.  Which is the second time in as many months it has been placed in my hands.  Which must mean it is time for me to read it.)  There was also a note inside from her, saying

I know you work hard. I know you have little time alone and I know you have big dreams.  I want to remind you that what your heart longs for is gentleness, self-love, kindness and play.

It was a private, tender collection of small gifts that is priceless to me.  I share the sentiment here publicly both to help me remember it, and in case the nasty inner voice plagues you too.  In case you struggle with the annoyingly earnest, like me.  In case you need to be reminded that to play is to cultivate.


And I do it all wearing the plastic tiger nose that Myriam sent in the box.

This is my unmistakeable sign for the day. 

Thank you, Myriam, for the affirmation I needed to remind me to keep moving, and lighten up.  You rock my world.


Hold The Space

Certain gifts are so much easier to give others than to give ourselves.

To be present.  To listen well.  To accept without judgement.

These are gifts I want to offer to the important people in my community and I hope that I succeed in that, at least sometimes.  But I am not in the practice of offering these to myself.  I am not in the practice of receiving them from myself.

I noticed this, as I sat in the dark with only the sounds of my breath and the the furnace cycling on to warm the house before daybreak.

It's hard, sometimes, to know how much space to take in the world.  I don't know if I've grown lately and am straining against the edges of a container that used to be comfortable.  Or maybe the shape has just shifted and the new corners are irritating me but I'll stop noticing as soon as I form new calluses.

In the dark I can't see where I end and the world begins.  An image of my internal space materializes in my mind, a cramped and partitioned apartment building with lots of doors and not enough light.  That's not how I want to look inside.  Internally I want to be a vast meadow where the breeze ripples tall grass and any sound could echo for miles. 


So far it's worth it, trading 30 minutes of sleep for quiet, dark wakefulness.  It feels like a gift to myself, holding the space for an endless landscape to unfurl inside me, where I can stretch out and breathe.


How Fast to Go

the first rule of Camp

I've been worried a lot lately about my timing.  That I'm late to all the parties.  That I don't even know about the parties until they're practically over.  That this obtuseness of mine will get in the way of ever creating what I really crave.

My mom sent me a present yesterday, one of a long string of books that she has a way of presenting at exactly the right time.  I thought about a book she sent me during my years of avoiding the onset of adulthood finding myself in Asia in my 20s.  I can't remember the name of it now, but it was a series of letters between two best girlfriends in their 20s, one who was trying to start a publishing career in New York and the other who was in the Peace Corps in Africa.  The one who was striving to create a big-time professional career wrote something that has always stuck with me:

I have realized that I am too old to be a prodigy.  So, since I'm apparently never going to be the best or the first at something, I'm just wondering how fast to go.

I get this.  I so get this, especially now, in my own big-time professional career, as I consider whether I could actually be the best at something.  Or great, anyway.  Or is it already too late?

But as I hurtled myself through this week at breakneck speed, the idea came to me that maybe I'm not too late.  Maybe I'm just laying the groundwork for my own party.  Maybe I'll look back and realize that my timing has been absolutely perfect, all along.


Edited to add that I stopped being lazy and looked up the book, Dear Exile.  It's been years since I read it, but I recall it being completely charming.