The Humbling of a Couch

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From a Couch – Sunrise over Miami Beach

It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a month on a couch. It’s been 40 years to be exact. It was because of a new teaching job, my first one, that brought me to a couch back then. It was the beginning of a job in a land I had never been to before. I lived on the couch of a fellow teacher. That’s how desperate they were for a teacher. They offered a couch until I could find my own.

Fast forward 40 years and here I am, finding myself once again on a couch. In the past month that I’ve been on this couch, a school year ended, a teaching career ended, four weeks of caring for a daughter while she recovered from life threatening surgery has come and almost gone by, I met and took care of a puppy, experienced intense heat like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and now, finally, I realize that I have retired. I am not going back to a job. That relief is just beginning to come. The realization of all this came while I spent many a night on a couch overlooking the Miami skyline.

It’s funny how far away this whole experience in Miami is from the life I lead. Yet I find unlikely similarities to the life Erin grew up in. Yesterday she pulled me to her view. “Look at the light,” she said. “Look at how we can see the rain coming. Look at the colors of the clouds and how different they are.” A vivid memory of when she was young was before me. She grew up watching rain approach, clouds change color and move across the sky, and embracing colors of a sky full of sunrise and sunset in clear view. While she may not want to admit this similarity, it’s there. She spent her early years living on top of a hill with a view that went clear across Maine to the White Mountains in NH. Many of us often think that we shed the early life we led. Sometimes very intentionally. Yet here she is, again high up in the sky looking across the land below and seeing a landscape that goes for miles.

Views from a couch can alter the world we see and how we observe that world. Beds are usually comfortable, providing a safe respite at the end of each day. But views from a couch are often due to transitional events. Events that may leave us feeling unsettled, unsure. But this view from an unexpected couch also provides an unexpected opportunity to see life through a different lens. There’s something to be said about putting ourselves in situations that leave us feeling a bit off guard, open, vulnerable. Couches often do that. So during what is only my second real couch experience I find that this vulnerability leaves me reflecting and evaluating where I am in my life. A month ago, with the comfort of my home bed, I was feeling a variety of uneasy feelings regarding the notion of not working and being retired. Let me tell you that those feelings have slowly slipped away into the pillows of the couch I sleep on and the view I close my eyes to.

As we prepare our return back north I find a sense of calm relief and anticipation to start this new life of retirement. I also find myself wishing a person didn’t have to work their ass off for 40 years to experience this. Our society’s work to life ratio is all wrong and I hope that the generation coming of age today can see that more clearly than we and our ancestors did and that they can change that. Because our young families need that. They need their time together so they can develop a more healthy community rather than a more stressed one. I believe the mental health of our future society will depend on this.

May you have the opportunity to slow down, look up at the sky, and enjoy the beauty it has to share.

Buen Dia,

Mary

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Still

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Taking Morton to the Vet in Miami Beach we saw this beautiful building. It’s abandoned. Why would such a gorgeous building be “still” and not in use? I thought the photo  captured an often unobserved stillness of Miami, old Miami, beautifully. Even with all the motion around us that we observe at a dizzying pace we feel a stillness each time we go outside. A stillness, not only in the humidity of the weather, but in the sameness of each day and the area we are inhabiting.

We took Morton to the vet because he had a growth on his leg. The vet removed it and now he has a collar around his head. Morton is learning the lesson of stillness. Not an easy lesson for a puppy or for the providers who take care of him. The first day was emotional for him and emotional for us because it came on the heals of so much. Maybe it is us struggling with the lesson of stillness and the acceptance of it.

Today is a new day and the benefits of being still are not beyond little Mort. Thank goodness. Today is a new day for his mama too and the lessons of stillness are slowly becoming clear to her as well. She’s accepting her need for rest and is beginning to  walk without shuffles. It feels like progress is being made and that feels so good.

Amongst all this stillness we find ourselves again sitting at the infamous coffee shop, watching a major rain storm sweep by, and thinking about the ups and downs of this visit. Like many people around the world we’ve been following the fate and rescue of the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand. They are all now out and safe.  We learned that meditation was used and very well may prove to be what saved them. The value of stillness visibly clear for the world to see.

Not much else new. Still hot. Still humid. Still watching futbol. Still walking Morton. Still caring for our kid. Still sitting in a coffee shop to post. Again, learning the power of stillness.

Take time to be still, you so deserve it,

Mary

 

When the Unknown Opens…

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Sitting in a …..  Sigh. It’s almost three weeks that we are here in Miami. In that time we have taken care of a sick daughter, walked her dog countless times, realized that sad feelings can affect healing, quit a job I haven’t even started yet, and cancelled a much anticipated trip. But with all that and being cooped up in a small apartment in a “too hot to go outside city” I feel relief. Close to tears actually. And so I sit, with my new favorite coffee, in an air conditioning cafe, amongst the heat of a southern city that feels and sounds like a country far away.

And so I sit. And so I write. It reminds me of the countless number of times I’ve told my students, “Writing isn’t just a way to communicate to someone; it’s also how one can release feelings of the heart and head.” So here I sit and release.

To be honest, I’m relieved but I’m also sad. It’s not something any parent wants to experience, watching an adult child struggle with health. But here we sit and watch, often without gratitude because she struggles with the demons that put her here.

I spent a long part of the morning on the phone with my older sister. It’s been years since we’ve spoken so openly. It felt good. She was always someone I could open up to, share my thoughts with, without fear of judgement.

And so I sit and write. And I reflect on the latest book I’m reading, Steven King’s newest novel. I am reminded of the places a good writer can take us. He is such a writer. Besides the gore that he is so famous for, he’s a great writer because he’s a great observer. He notices details most of us see but don’t notice. And then he describes them in such a way as to hold our attention and curiosity long enough to paint pictures in our minds and he does this without sounding pompous. He just tells it like it is.

And so I sit, computer in lap, tiny little coffee in hand and wonder about home and where this journey will take me.

Time to walk the dog. Adios,

Mary

 

 

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Sitting in a coffee shop in Miami. Everyday for a half hour or so when Morton sleeps, Ger and I venture through the midday Miami heat to the local coffee shop. We grab a coffee and sometimes a sweet and then we plug in. It’s a break for us and a break for Erin. To be honest I can’t imagine my parents with me for 2+ weeks. She’s hanging in there like a trooper. But I’m homesick. I know my garden is all weeds. The squashes never got planted. The pool isn’t open. And I’m sure the flowers around the pool are long gone. The mail piles up and our grass is finally getting mowed this week. I have yet to close my classroom. Such are things when you leave home quickly and unexpectedly. These are the silly, worthless things we think about. In the scheme of things, they are meaningless.

So, sitting in a coffee shop in Miami. My thoughts go to Erin and how defenseless she must feel. Sometimes our body betrays us. And there’s not a darn thing we can do about it, except give in to its needs and rest. So she rests and we rest with her. Her apartment overlooks the city and the water. It’s quite beautiful. Almost daily we watch the afternoon rain clouds move across the sky until the rain is over us. In an odd way it reminds me of when we lived on top of a hill and watched storms move across the sky in a very similar fashion. I loved watching that then and I enjoy watching it here.

Life is funny.

Mary

 

Two Old Guys and a Small Dog

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Is it possible that great things can come in small packages?

Leaving a coffee shop in Miami I find Gerry sitting outside in the shade with Morton and an old Latin man. He is missing many of his front teeth. He is a street cleaner. This man, who resonates gentleness and kindness, laughs out loud as he sits with Ger chatting and petting Morton. He looks up at me with such kindness and total acceptance. He appears to not see our whiteness. I feel uplifted, happy. As we say our genuine good byes  Ger says, “He just came up to me and sat down. He wanted to talk to and about Morton. He laughed when he heard Morton’s name.”  For Pete’s sake, if these two old guys, as different as can be, can pull up chairs with each other and talk and laugh, why can’t we? At first glance they looked so different from each other. But quickly it became clear how similar they are. Both laughing, talking, enjoying the breeze and the presence of a dog.

Just be kind today. Say something nice to someone who could use it. Find the similarities in each other. Because what our “world needs now is love sweet love”.

Mucho amor,

Mary

Imagine Peace

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Walking through the world in the heat of a southern summer provides an opportunity to view the world a bit differently. It’s hot in Miami in June. This experiencing of such extreme heat and humidity is a new one for me. One of the first things I notice is that I am moving through this new world slower. Slower pace, slower expectations. The second thing I notice is that I alter my daily routine to accommodate the heat. And the third thing I notice is how gradually I am becoming accustomed to it all and how appreciative I am of the shade of strategically planted palm trees. The streets of all towns and cities should be lined with trees.

Finding myself here longer than expected, my thoughts often go to home and to friends, and reflecting on the continual deteriorating news of our nation. I know I’m not the only one who often feels totally and thoroughly overwhelmed wondering how people of previous times reacted when such take overs occurred in their lands. There has been a new call for civility on the part of  us citizens but no call for civility on the part of those ruling us. After days of reflection I find that I believe that it is not so much a call for civility that is being called for but a call for submission. When the party that calls for civility is the party that has lost civility long ago and voted for the most repulsive, uncivil person to “lead” our country, what else are we to believe?

With those feelings of sadness, I close wishing us, you, some sense of inner peace,

Mary

All Those Who Wander Are Not Necessarily Lost

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Wandering through Miami I find myself yet again sitting in a coffee shop. Been frequenting this place lately, enjoying espresso coffees. I like it.  As I meander through  this city at a rather slow pace, under a canopy of palm trees, balmy blue skies, and downpours of rain, I find I rather like this wandering.

When we are raising kids and working full time the ability to wander gets lost. We don’t wander. We are deliberate. We think things through. We overthink! But here I find myself mandated to wander. My career is done. My kids are raised. I’m 1,000 miles from home. I’m helping my daughter get back on her feet after major surgery. I’m walking her dog, Morton. It’s hot. And we wander. There is something to be said about wandering. I’m breathing. I’m reflecting. I’m rethinking life in general.

Yesterday the air conditioning broke in my daughter’s apartment. At times it’s over 80 in in there and feels warmer because the air isn’t moving. We are hot and out of it. And so we wander the city even more looking at the sights, listening to the sounds, meeting  dogs and the people who walk them. We are realizing that Morton is a very popular dog. We hear, “Is that Morton?!” everywhere we go!

So here I sit. In a coffee shop in Miami. Thinking about my daughter. Thinking about my son. And even though things are not totally right, obviously; I’m here acting as a nurse to my daughter. I feel at ease. I didn’t think I’d like it down here but I am liking it. Certainly not forever, but for now. For now I’m taking in all the beautifully diverse cultures that are surrounding me. I have decided that diversity is a lovely thing.

Mucho amor,

Mary