Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Doorways and Sacraments

Ruth called the other day.  It happened to be Pregnancy and Infant-loss Remembrance Day.  It also happened to be the day, four years ago, that her own little Rhys left the world on the day he was supposed to be joining it.

I look at Jonah and imagine her little guy being almost his exact age.  It feels like, "Didn't this just happen?  Can it have been that long?", because being that he was a baby when he left his family, my mind pictures him as still being one.  Then I look at Jonah and realize how long four years really is.

Ruth told me that she wanted to come throw pottery.  She had never done any before, but it was beckoning to her.  I think pottery does that for a lot of people.  It certainly does for me.  I got her started with wedging the clay; kneading it in a circular fashion to homogenize the texture and press out air bubbles.  She said it was very therapeutic to work out her feelings on the clay.  I laughed; my mom always said the same thing about kneading bread dough.  Mom always said the madder she was, the better the bread.

 I gave Ruth a beginning lesson, then let her go for it.  I stayed near by and helped along the way.  Though Ruth hadn't cared if a finished product would be had at the end of the night, we managed to get a little crooked bowl out of our efforts.  I had her make a flat, organic shape for the top of the bowl and cut a hole in its center to create a flower vase.  It might be nice, I thought, to have when this day comes around next year, and each year thereafter.  She can take that little vase she made with her own hands and place flowers in it to honor Rhys.

When we were done, Ruth and I sat on the studio stairs together, which is pretty much the worst place in our house to sit, as it blocks the doorway to the rest of the house when you plunk yourself down there.  We talked and nursed our littles and did the mom thing, which often feels more like the traffic cop thing.  Our chatting drifted from topic to topic; our kids, our lives, Rhys.  Never too long on Rhys;  I think there are some places in a mother's heart that, after a while, are not fully entered too often.  We stand at the doorway and look inside, but we don't really go too far in, and we don't stay long.  Maybe you can call it healing.  I think it is more that you realize that there will always be a place in there that hurts.  That some wounds only close, but never quite heal.  It is a pain you know will likely always be waiting.

We looked down at out feet and laughed at the clay splatter there.  I don't really know why, but it felt sacramental in some way.  Like the whole night and the talking and tears and pottery could be distilled into that one image; our clay splattered feet.  I took a picture.

We took the long journey from the house to her car; long because of how much chatting we do along the way.  The kids ran up and down the sidewalk in the dark giggling and chasing each other.  We always take forever to say good-bye because it is so hard to figure out where to pause the stream of story telling and commentary to pick up on another day.

When I got back into the house I tidied up the studio and assembled her little vase, and then sent her a picture of it.  That night when I headed off to bed, I washed my feet and legs, and it seemed more important than usual, like wiping tears from a child's face, or the dust from the picture of someone you will never again see in this life.  It felt almost sacred.

At Rhys' memorial, his father, Steve, asked everyone there to take a challenge.  He said he didn't want his son's legacy to be a tragedy.  That he was awestruck by the number of people that had found them after sometimes years without closeness, to reestablish a connection and offer love and support.  He said that is the legacy he would like Rhys to have; that because of him, lost family and loved ones would be reunited, old wounds healed, hurt feelings forgiven.  He asked each of us to seek out someone in our lives that we had lost closeness to and, in honor of Rhys, reconnect.

You know what the nice thing about a legacy is?  It goes on and on.

Wouldn't it be lovely to share in Rhys' legacy in your own life?

Standing at the doorway,  I'm remembering our four lost little ones. 
They were not stillborns like Ruth's, but in my heart they were our babies.
Some hurts do get easier with time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I counted this year and figure it has been 16 years since we started "doing ARTrails".  It is our annual pilgrimage, my once a year communion with Art (plus cheese, grapes, crackers) and nature.  Art, with a capital A.

When I was a small girl, one sure way to get my attention was to utter that word.  I knew I wanted to be an artist almost as soon as I could tell which was the front side of my underpants (which actually took a disturbingly long time).  In fact, for me, my only 'life mission' that predates that of Artist is that of Mother.  I have been blessed to become both.

I have always painted and sculpted -since high school, and on since Guy and I were married, now going on 20 years- but honestly, I have done more art in the past 2 years than in the prior 18 years combined.  Up till recently I had let myself believe that having children precluded me from doing much art, and to be sure, having SMALL children did, but now that the larger cretins can mostly wipe their own butts, and even help with the wiping of smaller butts in the vicinity, I have claimed a certain amount of midnight oil to grease my artistic wheels.

Going to ARTrails is my Mecca, it is my holy pilgrimage.  And I mean no blasphemy in saying that.  Art fills my soul the way music or nature do for other people.  I marvel at the scope of the human imagination and the skill of the human hand.  I am blown away at the things artists think of, and how they then execute those ideas.  I am inspired, I am in my temple, my chapel of candles and sweet bells.  I have, (I will say it) been moved to tears by art.  Not snot-dripping-down-my-chin tears, but more than misty eyed, for sure.  Because Art is the very act of creation.  It is the story of the universe, from the beginning of time, and it is the story of God.  From the first man that knew to  grab a cold coal from his spent fire to sketch a bison on a cave wall, to the child that is so bold as to try to capture his small human experience in a time capsule of paper and crayon, Art has brought people and cultures and time together.  It is for all who have eyes or hands to feel with.  And no matter what you say, no matter if you think you can't make art yourself, I think there is art out there somewhere that each person could see themselves or their lives reflected in.  Art imitates the very act of Divine creation, and as a child imitates his Father, the artist in a humble, hopeful act, echoes God.

And going to ARTrails, seeing the art an inch from my nose, laughing and talking with it's creators, is so moving and enriching for me.  It makes me believe I can become better; better at Art, and then, knowing that is true, I believe that I can simply become better at whatever life asks of me.  I come away filled with energy, ideas and resolve.  I am renewed.

Cheryl at Nichibe Pottery 

This year's pilgrimage was not without its less savory moments.  We took the Littles and the Middles, leaving the big boys at home.  That meant a whole day of telling Jonah all the things you tell a rambunctious 4 year old boy when in a studio full of blown glass.  It had its very stressful moments. On the flip side, we got to spend the entire day with Francine, which is like Christmas.  I got a private lesson from generous and kind Cheryl at Nichibe Pottery to help me with my first firing to take place this week (more to come on that!).  And just before driving home we saw sweet Willow, who is a woman that deserves a post all of her very own.  Our two baby girls played together, really played, and it felt like a full- and gorgeous -circle moment.  It was also the first time Willow had met Natalie, since Nat had been in the NICU when Willow was at the hospital as my doula, and out of respect she had decided she would not see my baby before I got to have her with me.  She said she wanted to meet Natalie with me holding her in my arms.

Well, that night she did.

Even though Jonah was a poop all day, Francine loved on him sweetly.

Hugs goodbye are always hard.

Tired baby, and full tummies at Jalisco's in Santa Rosa.  Yum.

 How I love this place.