The Dragonfly

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We didn’t expect to find it, so late in summer, with fall only some wind gusts away. My son caught it, called us over.

We didn’t expect to find a dragonfly hanging from its own death. We didn’t expect to see a dragonfly the moment it was born.

Its head seemed still attached to what it had once been. So slight one could almost imagine them already separate.

It was still attached or else its new head was resting against what once encased its old one. It may have been a thread. It may have been some sticky substance. I like to think it was a goodbye.

At first we weren’t sure it wasn’t dead. My son thought it lifeless as we stared for so long and nothing moved, its body as still as the grass it hung from.

We laughed and thought how funny for us to be sitting here staring at a dead dragonfly for such a very long time.

We laughed, and then it moved. Twitched its head. I could see it. I watched it. Life was coming into it. This brand new being.

I couldn’t move. I wouldn’t move. We were watching a dragonfly be born and I would witness its first flight.

We waited and we watched. There was talk again of perhaps it really was dead and then it would twitch and silence us.

Slowly its wings which were bound together as one began to part. Only slightly so that we weren’t quite sure, but yes, they seemed a bit different than one minute ago.

Another twitch.

More waiting.

The wings suddenly opened.

And then more stillness.

My son started to get restless and walked to the other side of the puddle. My daughter stayed with me but her eyes moved to distance cries in the sky.

For me, I would not look away. I had to see this dragonfly be born. I could not bear to think I would miss its embodiment the moment we walked away.

Liquid dripped down its long body. Small round drops the size of a child’s tear fell from its tail to the mud below. It must have been some sort of liquid from the metamorphosis but it looked like a baptism to me.

The kids are tired and the sun is hot. We’ve been waiting and watching and their restlessness is wrapping me up in it. Just as I think we will have to stand and go, it moves. Its head moves from side to side. The whole dragonfly starts to shake and its head lifts and its wings move and I realize this is it, that it is about to take fight and I catch my scream in my throat as it lifts off and flies.
We watch it swoop and zag, and then disappear.

*******

Today we went back.

We walked back to the puddle that was our pond before the rains stopped. The exoskeleton was still there, hanging from the blade of grass. I gently tore the blade and walked it back to our car.

We will keep it. It will remind us of the day we watched a dragonfly become.

Books

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I love memoirs.

As I live this crazy life, as I ride the bumps, take the sharp curves, marvel at the beauty, weather the hardships, as I cry and laugh and pause, I wonder and wonder how we all do it, how other people do it, what their triumphs and weaknesses look like.

People’s stories I want to devour.

I am the woman who finds it a great joy to sit at the foot of an elderly person and become the well that they pour their memories into.

Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more I say.

Since January I’ve read 8 memoirs, all written by women. And they have all given me something; They all now live inside of me. Isn’t that the magic of a story, whether fiction or a life, when it embeds itself within you and changes you, shapes you? Makes you look at things differently?

I brought in the new year with What Falls From The Sky.  I love this book, love the space the author imposes upon herself by going a year without internet. In that space she rediscovers her religion. I think of her and that space and try very hard to create some for myself and dream of what will fill mine.

That space is also explored in The Burn Zone, an exploration into how one falls into a cult. Even after pulling herself out, the author’s life is deeply changed with all the meditation the cult leader had her do and encourages the reader to “invite stillness,”  the one thing she took from her horrendous experience that she didn’t want to lose. I have those words written in chalk upon a small blackboard that sits in our living room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached for my computer only to see those words and I just sit still instead.

From A Life Of Her Own I’ve meditated on the bigness of it all, this human journey, the chapters that veer and the ones that come back around. This memoir showed me that no matter how perfect or successful a life seems we all have our struggles, our deep terrible losses. Such a good reminder in this day of cropped lives that fit so neatly into little boxes.

Inheritance was a profound read to me as an adoptive parent. What makes us who we are? Who creates us? What defines us? What is nature to us, and where does nurture erase, or blur those lines ?

Sick was a page-turner for me. I am now completely terrified of ticks. I also realize how important it is–especially for women–to demand care when you know you need it.

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone is a book I desperately didn’t want to end and will probably read again. My goodness how flawed we all are. How deeply we all want to be loved. How random life can be and how “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

I just finished Love You Hard. My God, this book. Another I did not want to end. It’s a tragic and beautiful meditation on love. As the author listens over and over and over again to her husband’s memories as he tries desperately to reassemble his past after a horrific brain trauma, she writes, “The story of his life is now imprinted on my soul.” Just as her story is now imprinted on mine.

And of course I had to read An African Love Story. This memoir sent a deep longing into me to experience Africa in a way I never can. In this expat life we live in bubbles, are dropped in, sealed off,  and as much as we try and make air holes we are still encased, watching from within our own worlds, worlds away from the one we are in.  While it is amazing in its own way, to see the world and live for a moment in time in places I only dreamed of, I would do anything to take a time capsule to spend just one day as Daphne Sheldrick, in the wildest parts of this country, surrounded by elephants. To see and experience Kenya through her eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenya

_YGN3020Sometimes you need to reach up and take hold of a hand that is offered.

I’ve missed this space.

It’s been almost a year since we landed in Kenya. It’s been almost a year and we are headed home, back to my island paradise. 

I have so much I want to share. I have so much I want to get down, capture, to remember. I’ve been wanting to write…

It’s been a hard year. A wonderful year. A year that has taught and tested and will be wrestled with for a while. 

So many words and so many stories and such full days and such tired nights and I’ve felt so far from this, from myself…..

…and then….

I got the loveliest message; I was given a hand to bring me out of my head and back into the world to write, and share. 

A poet. A poet named Joel reached out and gave me his hand.

He wrote for me. Inspired by me. And now I am inspired by him. 

Thank you, Joel.

Thank you for your hand, and this beautiful poem. 

 

The Whisper (For Sabrina Lloyd)

Sometimes the world calls us out beyond ourselves, it leans over the fence of our comfortability, gets right down next to our ear
and whispers,

‘There is more. There is always more for you.’ She heard it, the call, the whisper, the invitation. Not just once,

She heard it again and again and again.

So she left what once was,
dreamed of a different life,
walked a different way,
one not bound by expectation.
This woman walked the globe,
Became a Mumma, not once, but twice, She has left place after place,

Moved from comfort to the uncomfortable Over and over.

And you would think by now this should be easier,
But it never is,
This walking out into the unknown, Or settling into the ground, Giving of oneself to that whisper.
No body made a blueprint, or a map.
She was given a compass though,

deep inside,

the direction to move, if not the path to follow. She makes her path, carves her way forward,
Like the blind woman,

she has learnt with a new sense,

to be guided and inspired. So yes, it may not be easier,

but would you have it any other way? When the wind came and whispered,

would you have ignored her,

told her to move on and whisper in somebody else’s ear. You cannot, would not, have not

And so it is now and it is always now,
the choice to embrace once more the call and the adventure.

It is now and always now,
when the pain grows in ones feet, even as the heart knows,
even as the lungs breath,
even as the world crumbles,

It is now, ever now that one must listen, again to the whisper,

but more,
listen to the inner calling, the inner voice,

For this is the voice that has been whispering all along, You can trust her. Yourself. You can trust her. You can wrap yourself around her soft edges. You can stand on her strength.

You can hold yourself open and believe that everything, everything, everything, everything comes together into the one glorious human that you are. Your past, your present, your future. You are threaded together, all together to be you. Trust her. You can trust her.

– By Joel Mckerrow ~ 9th April 2019 ~ Melbourne Australia

 

Home is where….

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We’ve always traveled with all of our things. Our home shut up in boxes, shipped across oceans, unloaded and unpacked, bringing our memories and comforts with us. This is the first time we have traveled empty handed, leaving our home intact upon our island. 

It’s an interesting feeling to try and settle somewhere while leaving your home in full bloom seas away. 

In this new age of minimalism, of having less, maybe we need the little we hold onto even more? I have certainly shed with each incarnation, boxes falling by the wayside, things stolen, discarded, and I fully embraced Marie Condo’s wisdom of keeping only that which sparks joy. 

But it’s so much more than joy. It’s our life, tied up, sewn into, bound in our things. 

Some mornings on the island I would wake up before my very early rising children and sit as light sprinkled the dawn and I would be so moved by the beauty all around me. What we, what I had created. Little things, like the plants I nurtured and loved that grew alongside of me. Plants that are still there, being tended to by a friend. Plants I could not let go of.

The rugs I bought while living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as a young actress, so free and so wild, softening the floors beneath my feet.

The yarn painting hanging above our bed that I got at a Huichol Indian retreat on new years eve 1999, when everyone worried the world would end and I danced in the dawn.

The small metal sculptures of a man and woman I got in Santa Fe with a friend that sit upon our bookshelf. The same friend who would take me to Belize where I would meet a boy who would become the man that became my husband. 

Our things are our memories. 

It’s why I keep this blog, to remember. 

Now I sit in Kenya without my memories next to me, connecting me, threading me to my past. 

I am happy they are still on that mountaintop, waiting for me, for us. 

But my feet feel lonely. The walls feel bare. The bookcase sits empty.

 

Nesting

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This tiny bird has built a nest outside our bedroom window. For two days I watched her fly up with bits of fuzz, twigs, slowly building it. She’s in there now, laying her eggs, or perhaps they have been laid and she is with them, waiting.

We’ve been in Nairobi for just over 2 months now. I feel like this little bird, building our nest, the fragility of this expat life, just hanging by twigs it seems until we abandon it, leave for the next building up. Suspended time. 

I miss my island. Of all the places we could have landed though, Kenya is a soft one. 

We live in a valley surrounded by gardens, in a compound of twenty gorgeous stone homes. We have neighbors to borrow milk from. A playground where kids gather. A community to feel safe in. 

We had a monkey in our bedroom. We now keep close watch on the windows. 

It’s colder than I expected. Even now that the sun is stronger and warming the days, the evenings and nights can ride on a crisp wind. 

My daughter just had a week long school trip to the foot of Mount Kenya. She went on safari, helped a local school paint a mural, planted a garden for a woman and her child from a nearby village. She came home talking of the milky way and poverty and sunsets over mountains.

My son is over-the-moon to be here and loves the African way of life, with people coming and going and drivers and gardeners and guards and I watch him soaking up every moment. 

It’s funny how they surprise you. I thought it would be my son who missed the tranquility of home. I thought my daughter would spin into the chaos like a dance. But it’s she who watches the stars and thinks of currents and snow covered trees and he who is swirling. 

And me, I am this little bird, tending to my nest, keeping everyone warm, hanging on. 

Tender

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I left my dog at his new home today. The lovely people who asked to take him have been waiting anxiously, their arms looking to pet and lead. I’ve kept hold, not wanting to let go.

I finally had to let go.

He needed to be in the home that will be his forever now. 

My dog now lives on a beautiful vineyard here on our island, overlooking the sea, his backyard rows of purple grapes and blueberry bushes. 

The goodbyes have begun. The letting go has started. 

This ex-pat life. This moving life.

So much letting go. 

I tell myself this time it will be different. This island is still ours, we will still come home to it. I can see my dog, no longer my dog, whenever I come home to my island. I have been welcomed there, at his new home. 

But this time, this beautiful crazy time alone on this island with my children is winding down, and will never look the same. 

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This island is full of artists who open their studios for tours.

I love to take the children to a pottery spot at the edge of an apple orchard where you can watch a woman’s hands shape clay. 

I love to take them to the weavers and watch their eyes get wide as the threads move in and out. 

Last week we took our first tour of a lavender distillery and learned the process that gives us the drops we scatter upon our pillows each night. 

Recently we happened upon a new gallery opening up, walls filled with explosive color on canvas. The kindest man walked us through each painting and when hearing my daughter is an artist he insisted we meet the artist of the work. He explained she was recovering from a stroke and tending to plants in her greenhouse below. Following him down a rocky path, past an ivy-hugged home, we came upon the glass house and met the lovely woman behind the work we were just admiring. 

What happened next was so beautiful, touched me so deeply.  This man’s tenderness to his partner was so sensory I felt I could reach out and touch it.

He explained to her, in the softest voice, that we had come to see her work.

He gently took her hand and walked her up and out of the green house, introducing us while smiling at her the entire time.

Life long loves and he was lit up completely looking at her as if they’d just met, and just that moment fallen in love.

He said he thought it would be lovely if she could come to the studio and do some art with my daughter, and would that be okay with me, as it would make this artist so happy to make art with my daughter.

Of course, I said, we’d love to.

And then he took his love’s hand and as he walked her through their garden he stopped to show her a new flower that had bloomed.

I watched them watching a single red rose blossomed in a sea of white roses, completely lost in their tenderness for each other and I thought, this, this right here is the most beautiful thing I have seen on this island. This is what I want to take away. To walk in that kind of tenderness. 

With my family. 

With my friends. 

With myself. 

I am holding onto the tenderness as I think of my dog, being gentle with my deep sadness. 

This letting go of this amazing two years.

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Parts Unknown is my very favorite show. It’s been a companion to me this last 2 years as much as my sweet dog has been, filling my nights with companionship. Night after night after night I have gone around the world with Bourdain. Night after night after night he brought me so much joy with his adventures.

__________________________

Let’s look to our neighbors.

Let’s all be tender.

Help someone.

Give them a smile.

Be patient in a store.

Be kind.

We are all trying.

We are all just trying to get through sometimes. 

Next stop Kenya

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In only a few weeks we will turn the page and move to Nairobi. 

I wondered how I’d feel when the time came to pack up and leave my island.

I am surprised at the ease I feel. 

I am surprised at how ready I am. 

I am leaving a very different woman, than the woman who came to this island. 

I feel the island launching us into the next chapter of our lives. 

I hear it whispering  it’s time to go. 

One friend has already left. Another is planning on leaving in the fall. 

Even my willow branches have begun to fade and fallen leaves lay scattered on the hardwood floor. I cannot tell you how much I look at those curled up leaves, leaves that grew against all odds, and feel like this is all so meant to be. 

I met a lovely woman who ran a shop on the island. She and her husband move around the world every 5 years just because they want to. I asked her, as she was selling the shop and they were getting ready to leave for their next adventure in Australia, how she felt leaving here when she loved it so very much. She said,

“Just because we love it here doesn’t mean we won’t love it even more somewhere else.”

I am riding those words all the way to Kenya.