Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To take a step without feet...

A little something from my friend Rumi with which to say goodbye to a year filled with:

... joy... trees... pain... clouds... anger... flowers... hilarity... daughters... lakes... thunder...
challenge... sunshine... friendship... softness... wind... shouting... snow... remorse... silence...
leaves falling... songs... birth... self-pity... rocks... politics... rainfall... kisses... hard work...
laughter... hills... bravery... worry... the ocean... divorce... daffodils... sunrise... hugs... guilt...
dogs... goodness... nightfall... rainbows... god... bread making... mountains... music...

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet...

Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Not a party

It wasn't a party. No, it definitely wasn't. It was more of an old-style "at home" without the Victorian dresses and endless talk of the weather--and of course we took mulled wine instead of tea!

Some favorite moments:

Fred singing a sultry rendition of Joni Mitchell's Twisted while we all clicked our fingers to the beat.

...My analyst told me
That I was right out of my head
He said I'd need treatment
But I'm not that easily led
He said I was the type
That was most inclined
When out of his sight
To be out of my mind...

Anne reciting from memory The Cremation of Sam McGee:

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee...

Other choice fragments of the evening: Gary getting lost down the Labyrinthine mind of Louis MacNeice...Lizzy playing "Snowflakes" and Joy playing "Rhapsody"...a little recitation of Coleridge and a touch of Edward Lear...Lizzy reading my childhood favorite "Somewhere" by Walter de la Mare...Joy doing her best Eddie Izzard impression...the funny tale of how two of my favorite people--Gary and Fred, that's you! x--found each other eventually after a disastrous first not-meeting that gives new meaning to the term "blind-date"...great conversation...lots of laughs...

No, no, it wasn't a party. I had to cancel that, but somehow it didn't seem OK to let Boxing Day pass unmarked, so it was just a gathering of four or five friends, a little mulled wine, and yummy, quirky food including the newly invented Boxing Day Pie.

If all this sounds like your private idea of hell, you had a lucky escape, but if, like those who gathered, you think it just might have been rather wonderful, all is not lost. We're planning a redux evening with a reading of The Importance of Being Earnest.

As host, I'm shamelessly bagging Lady Bracknell right now (Bagging, geddit?):

"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever."

Download your copy of Oscar's masterpiece here, and choose your character. If you're reading this: you're invited!

Oh! Oh! Oh!

I have been invited to an Epiphany Party. I was musing aloud about what such a thing could possibly be when Joy came to my rescue: "I expect it's a gathering of people who stand around going, "Oh!" and "Oh!" and "Aha!" she told me with a wicked glint in her eye.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"O, O, O!"

What a lovely surprise I had this Christmas morning; a Secret Santa left an Obama plant on my doorstep! It's definitely one of a kind. The pot is made of chalkboard, and there's a piece of chalk tucked into the ribbon. Growing on the twigs are pictures of Obama, including one of him sitting under a portrait of Mohammed Ali and one bearing the slogan: "Pointy headed professors for Obama!"

Is someone trying to tell me something about the shape of my cranium? Hmmmmm?

In the middle of preparing for their own holiday, someone had an idea, put it together with great care, and snuck it onto my doorstep so it would welcome me on Christmas morning as I took out the trash. Whoever you are, your thoughtfulness and fun smiled my world. Thank you! x

It's been a tough old lead-up to Christmas in many ways, but it's also been full of little lovelinesses. My mum arrived from England only to end up in the hospital. I had never been inside the doors of Parkland before, and all I can say is I've fallen in love. Expect to see a post soon on how to become a "Friend of Parkland." I watched people off the street wearing blankets receive the same courtesy and care as the best dressed and sweetest smelling of patients (that's you, mum!).

Parkland is your basic Ford model of hospital, not your Honda Element. The wheelchairs are metal and have no cushions, and my mum spent most of her first day alongside rather a lot of inmates from the county jail who were chained to their trolleys and wearing nifty striped gear.

The eventual journey to a shared wardroom was a hoot. Mum was parked on a clearly labeled "launch pad" to begin her trip, and as Joy explained, grinning, to her Gran: "In a few minutes, they'll push a button, and you'll shoot up through the ceiling!" The journey was, thankfully, a little smoother than that.

Here are some Santas--secret and not so secret--that I want to thank this Christmas:

The doctors and nurses of Parkland. Mum is safe at home, having a snooze after the Christmas morning unwrapping, thanks to you.

My daughters. Joy and Lizzy, you have been incredible, shopping till you dropped on Christmas Eve and helping get the house warm, welcoming, and Christmasified for Gran's return. You worked all day after hours spent at the hospital the day before. Not a complaint was heard though I know you were exhausted. Your silly jokes, nutty songs, kindness, and endless patience with the process kept us all going. You are the two most beautiful people I know.

Our secret policeman. I don't know your name, but you snuck Lizzy and me the secret way from Parklands emergency room through to Children's Medical Hospital ER and out the other side because their canteen was open late, and they had cheese! (Texas hospitals--and not just the public ones--are where vegetarians go to starve!)

Anne Savidge. My hero, my friend. You stayed with mum all day Christmas Eve so the girls and I were free to get ready for Christmas. Joy and Lizzy didn't get Thanksgiving on the right day because I was in a different--posher!--hospital with a dear student. Though there was never a word of complaint on either occasion, I was determined they would get their Tofurkey dinner on time this time. Thank you for helping make it happen.

Though I run the risk of going on and on and on and sounding like a very bad speaker at the Oscars, I have to say thank you as well to all the lovely friends who stayed in touch with me through some of the scary times during the last few days and who sent messages and made offers of help. You are all my Christmas.

Finally, to my lovely secret santa, whoever you are: THANK YOU X

"O, O, O: Merry Christmas!"