Friday, January 27, 2017

Dear Old World...

Dear Old World,
You're such a contradiction...roses, tea time, hot water, friendship, kindness, love...
Lies, undrinkable water, rubber bullets, tyranny, corruption, disregard...
How can it be reconciled?
What does a person do?


Just a couple of weeks ago, my 24 year old son was lamenting our world and then asked,
"I need to find some uplifting fiction."

Since we were talking on the phone, I just decided to Google it right then and there...
the number one book on the list:
Anne of Green Gables.

I laughed out loud.

I'd been reading this book every night for a few months with my younger daughter, 10 year old Caroline...and, indeed, I found it to be my very favorite part of my day.
It was a respite.
A haven.

Sweet Anne just melted my heart every time.

First off, you need to know that Anne is an orphan who lands at a house in the darling town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island as a mistake. An adult brother and sister who live on a farm and are both unmarried had put in that they wanted a young orphan boy to help with chores on the farm...
But when Matthew comes to the train station to pick up the orphan boy he is surprised to find a little girl of about eleven years old.

Matthew is shocked to find this young girl...and shocked more when the train official says, "I asked her to go into the ladies' waiting room, but she informed me gravely that she preferred to stay outside. "There was more scope for imagination," she said."

Right there on p. 15 we meet Anne and we find out an important clue into her heart.
Imagination matters.

It had been a long time since my imagination was summoned, but Anne called to it like some sort of Emergency Broadcast System and it found its way back home.

Turns out that Anne's imagination was her defense against a difficult world. 

When Matthew meets Anne she immediately showers him with all of her thoughts.
She shares her plans if he had not come, she shares about her carpet bag and she shares this tidbit:

"Oh it seems so wonderful that I am going to live with you and belong to you.
I've never belonged to anybody - not really."

That sentence caught in my throat as I said it out loud.

I have had the privilege of belonging for my entire life.
So many many children ache for it.
I'm crushed to consider Anne's plight...even if for a moment.

Anne is so full of life and light that her conversation with Matthew is a comfort to all of us. She points out the beauty of cherry blossoms. The fun of not knowing and asking questions, the joy of having a companion to notice things with...she continues:
"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? 
It just makes me feel glad to be alive - it's such an interesting world."

She is on the look out for kindred spirits...and she finds them, plenty of them, in some of the most unlikely people, including a crotchety old woman and darling, shy Matthew.

Always be on the look out for a kindred spirit...they are all around. 

Anne makes plenty of mistakes...
which lead to this gem:

She is stubborn, super smart, over dramatic and hilarious.

She's reflective, which in turn helped Caroline and me to consider this:
"What a splendid day! said Anne drawing a long breath, "I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it.
They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one."

Never have I pitied those who haven't been born for the loss they have endured for not living my wonderful day...but after that, I started to consider what amazing days came before my life and how much I may have missed...more than that, I stopped to gratefully cherish this day right now...
it will never come again...
those babies are missing it...
and it's pretty incredible.

But, it was the very last chapter, The Bend in the Road, that sealed my Anne Adoration.

Anne has won a scholarship to college. This is a very prestigious prize since at the time very few women go to college.
But, as life does, hard things happened.
Precious Matthew, her biggest fan and best encourager, passes away in a shocking way.
Marilla, Anne's adoptive mother and Matthew's sister, is ailing and looks to be unable to care for Green Gables. Marilla, seeing no other solution, puts Green Gables up for sale.

Anne will have none of that.

She changes her plans and works to find a way to work as a teacher nearby.
She will stay at Green Gables with Marilla.

"I shall give my life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return.
When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road.
I thought I could see along it for many a milestone.
Now there's a bend in it.
I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does.
It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla.
I wonder how the road beyond it goes - what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows - what new landscapes - what new beauties - what curves and hills and valleys farther on...

...Anne's horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen's but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would blossom along it. The joys of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams."

Anne's ability to handle the bend in the road with her one-of-a-kind grace and graciousness were just the lift up my heart needed.

Watching her think through the options and adjust so nimbly was a great reminder.
We are capable of so much goodness.
So much kindness.
So much belonging. this world where so much difficulty lies, what books have soothed your soul?
Spoken to your spirit?
Nourished the aching parts?

For Caroline and me, it's been sweet Anne.
With an "e".

Enjoying the pearls in our days.
How about you?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My One Word for 2017...What's Yours?

Happy New Year!

It's 2017...which makes Y2K look kind of cute.
Remember all that craziness?
For those of you too young to remember, our computers weren't going to be able to handle moving from 1999 to 2000...we needed Y2K kits and preparation.

Now, 17 years later, we have different craziness.
Other worries.

And a brand new deck of 365 beautiful days.
Aren't we lucky?

Right this minute, think of the many people who wish for just one more day...
and you have a red carpet of days rolled out just for you.


There's this thing going around Twitter asking you to choose a word for the New Year.
#One Word2017

This word is to serve as a guide, a motivator, a touchstone...a rudder for the year.

As a lover of words...this is a nearly impossible task.
Last year, I skipped the hype...too overwhelmed at the thought.

But, this year, my word found me.

Remember Naomi Shihab Nye?
If not, read this blog post about this lovely soul right here.

In preparing to meet Naomi, I listened to a beautiful interview with her on a podcast called On Being.
In it, she reveals a beautiful interaction with a student.

Naomi had traveled to Japan for a poetry-teaching trip.
Before every class, on every chalkboard, she would write something on the board up in the corner:
“You are living in a poem.”
She wrote this as a subliminal message.
She wouldn't spend time discussing it...she had other more important things to share...
like poems or poets or observations or ways to seamlessly include poetry in your life.

But she wanted students to consider it.

In the On Being episode, Naomi thinks out loud:

"When you think, 
when you're in a very quiet place, 
when you're remembering,
when you're savoring an image, 
when you're allowing your mind to calmly leap from one thought to another, 
that's a poem.
That's what a poem does."

After her trip, Naomi received a letter from one of the students in Yokohama, Japan.
Reflecting on Naomi's visit, the student gifts her with this observation:

"Here in Japan, we have a concept called Yutori.
It is spaciousness.
It's a kind of living with spaciousness.

For example, it is leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you are going to arrive early, so when you get there,
you have time to look around...

...and after you read a poem, 
Yutori is...
just knowing you can hold it,
you can be in that space of the poem
and it can hold you in that space...

and you don't have to explain it,
you don't have to paraphrase it,
you just hold it...

...and it allows you to see differently."

And, BAM.
In that minute, Yutori captured me.
Hypnotized me.
Like a song that gets stuck in your head, Yutori would not get out.

Maybe it's because my life is busy...
and spaciousness doesn't seem like a very common part of my life.
Maybe it's because I often feel distracted when I want to be present.

Maybe it's the world I live in...
constant constraints...
a series of reasons why it can't be done...
why it is impossible...
always feeling like I am pushing against walls...

the idea of spaciousness has stuck to my heart like a sticky leaf.


One of my favorite phrases for teachers 
and parents
and mostly myself...
is Emily Dickinson's:

I LOVE to dwell in possibility.
Soak up possibility like it is a warm bath.
Anything is possible.

I believe it, completely.

So maybe Yutori is just a reflection of that.

Spaciousness makes room for possibility.

All I can tell you is that living with spaciousness, I feel different.
Willing to linger...
...and that is what I need in 2017.

My heart knows it intuitively.

So, my gift to you is this precious word.


I hope it offers you the comfort of enough...
more than enough.
The gift of feeling that anything is possible.
The treasure of a peaceful heart...
and a willing mind.

Roll it around in your head and let me know...
and if that's not the word for you...
test out a few others.

Share with me the word that finds you.

Until then, let your head find some open space and rest.
Let your heart find comfort in plenty of room.
Stretch out...
you're wanted here.