To the New Year

BY W. S. MERWIN

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

Grace

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Before and After

And she’s married. My darling daughter is now married to my wonderful son-in-law . What a full month this has been. What a life this is. I have much to be thankful for as 2013 draws to a close. Perhaps it is best displayed in pictures of the before and after party. The pictures of the during party were done by our dear friend, Mackenzie, at RollinsCole and those will follow. I know they will be beautiful.

A few weeks before:

In the midst of the ice storm that shut down the city of Dallas for four days, my entire family met at home depot so that my dad could buy us all Christmas trees for Christmas:

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When we got that thing home, it was a frozen, solid chunk of pine ice. It sat in our living room for hours, slowly thawing out and the branches began to drop, one by one…

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But it eventually thawed into a beautiful tree…

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A few days after that, my dad had his orders regularized with our church and he was ordained to the diaconate in a special ceremony:

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Then, we had a full-out music fest on Christmas day at my parents’ house, ending with Chris performing the song he had just worked up with my brothers, to be sung during Callie and Jeremy’s first dance two days later:

Then, the wedding. The beautiful wedding in front of a packed house at our church, with friends who came from near and far to be a part of this special day. Then, the party. The dancing may or may not have gotten a little crazy. We won’t know for sure until we see the pictures. But my sore muscles are giving me a hint as to what the answer might be. Then, the after-party at our house the next day. I’m so thankful we got to spend this day with old friends and family who came from far away. And I’m so thankful that the weather was absolutely amazing and that almost the entire day was spent outside. And I’m so thankful that nobody went to the emergency room after trying Donald’s slackline. I’m just so thankful for everything.

Slackline

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My grandma was really good at Ladder Golf

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My nephew was really good at the slackline

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Jasmine was really good at looking beautiful

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And no after party is complete without a good high-kick competition. We all felt like we did pretty good, but these pictures show a clear winner…

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My sister-in-law is the high-kicking queen.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. See you in 2014.

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MOB Here. Hi.

Sausage McGriddleIn one week, my husband will be walking our little girl down the aisle. Hi there. I’m Leslie. I’m the mother of the bride. I may or may not be a little loopy at this point. This morning I was filling my car with gas at a gas station that had a McDonald’s and after I filled my tank, I inexplicably pulled in the drive-through lane and ordered a sausage McGriddle. I’ve never ordered a McGriddle in my life. I don’t know what came over me, but it may just have been one of the best decisions I ever made. Do you know those things have syrup hidden in secret little holes? It was pretty amazing. I think every mother of the bride should get one on her last day of work before the wedding.

Jones CandyThen I got to work and my co-worker and friend handed me these and declared today the mother of the bride day. She said today is all about me. And who wouldn’t want Fufu Berry carbonated candies on their big day?

These months have been full. Full of things that I’ve never dealt with ever before. Good things and hard things. Then, just this week, right at the time when the amount of stuff I still have left to do is more than any twenty people can handle, I got super dumb sick and couldn’t breathe and couldn’t do one more thing and slept a lot. Then, our washing machine overflowed in the middle of the night and we were up until 3:30 cleaning it up and Chris slipped on the wet floor and fell and hurt his back. But that’s just normal life stuff that happens to anyone. It’s just that I’m the mother of the bride and these things all seem extra EXTRA right now.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons, and I’m trying to remember it. I’m trying to remember that I love this waiting time. This time when the darkness gathers and builds in the quiet anticipation of the joy to come. Next year might be easier to remember, but I’m doing what I can with what I have right now. I have 5am, each morning, alone in the dark with only the Christmas tree lights on as I pray the morning offices before the day hurtles me onward. I have the beauty of the Psalms. I have candles and color and feasts and hope. I have friends that write poetic, heart-breaking, truth-filled goodness like this:

Jessica at Ethelweard

and this:

Nicole at A Pilgrim

And I have reminders like this, in the middle of dark winter mornings, as I drive to work downtown and stop at a stoplight, waiting to turn the corner. There is light. It is coming. It is here. It is beautiful.

Downtown Sunlight

Hi. I’m Leslie. I’m the mother of the bride and I am ready for this week. May you and yours be blessed wherever you are as you wait and hope with me.

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Oldth

My house smells like sharpie marker ink being baked onto ceramic. My eyes are burning. This is stage one of an hour at a time baking of sharpie marker ink onto ceramic. I don’t even know how many stages there are going to be in total. Maybe 50?

My dining room has turned into piles of boxes, all of them half-opened with stuff spilling out. Good stuff. Stuff to build a home with, like brand new dishes and blankets and crock pots. The UPS guy might hate us by now. We get at least two deliveries a day. In fact, as I’m sitting here right now in my jammies and bathrobe, all wrapped up in a cozy, not-new blanket, with my Dustin O’Halloran station playing in my headphones, preparing to write, I hear that trusty old truck making its way down our cul-de-sac once more. It stops in front of our house, like it always does and I hear two boxes being thrown on our doorstep as the doorbell rings.

“Callie! It’s for you!” I yell, unwilling to lose the comfort and warmth I have so long sought just to answer the door for yet more boxes. She comes running in the front hall, stocking feet sliding to a stop on the wooden floors, while dancing and singing “It’s my birthday….every day…”

It’s all good. It’s all so good. What a blessing to be so loved by so many, to prepare for the wedding feast of a loving daughter, to know that she is going from love into more love. Even to have burning eyes while she hand makes each of her wedding favors for all the loving people that are coming to celebrate with her.

I have always wanted to get older, hoping that one day I might feel old enough. Somehow, I never get there. I remember knowing that I didn’t look old enough to be able to read when I was little. Sometimes I would play that up, by breaking rules that were posted, thinking I had an excuse if I got in trouble. Mostly though, I just knew that I knew more than people expected me to know and that was a grave responsibility. I remember not looking old enough to be out of high school when I was married and getting dirty looks from the guy at the hotel who tried to tell us he was full when we tried to stay a night longer than planned on our honeymoon. I remember getting dirty looks from the woman at Kroger less than five years ago, when she asked to see my ID when I was buying wine. I know I’ve always looked younger than I am, which can be especially tough on a woman who started her family younger than most.

But lately, I’m really feeling not old enough. Maybe every mother of the bride feels that. I know everyone going to their 20th high school reunion feels it. I think every first-time grandmother-to-be probably feels it. Somehow, I’m feeling that same feeling I felt when I was four. Like I’ve got something to prove because I know I don’t look old enough to be reading. And it feels like a grave responsibility. And every once in awhile, I get defensive about it.

Tonight, on the elevator leaving work, a nice man that I don’t know held the door for me and asked me what floor since I had a big box of food I was bringing home. He struck up conversation on the way down and asked what the food was. I told him it was lunch leftovers, about to be dinner for my family. He mentioned he had three daughters and that he knew how much they would attack the food if he were to bring it home. I said I also have three daughters. And then came the dreaded question: how old are they? I steeled myself before answering him. In my heart, I was prepared for a fight. I don’t know if he saw the look in my eyes, daring him to say one thing. Just one thing. Bring it. I’m ready. But he didn’t even flinch when I said “19, 16, and 13.” He told me his were right behind mine and then the doors opened and he told me to enjoy my evening of good food with my daughters.

Maybe I look old enough today. Whatever. It was nice.

Someday soon these boxes will be gone from my dining room and we might actually get a table in there and invite people over for nice meals that we will eat on beautiful placemats with candles burning. Someday soon my house won’t smell like burning sharpie ink (or a guinea pig’s cage, which pretty much smells like pee ALL THE TIME).

Maybe then I will look old enough.

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Caer Cuadros (or Fall Pictures)

Feliz Gracias Dando, everybody! (I know Spanish. I used to live in Mexico.)

I feel like it’s time for a catch up through photographs. We’ll start with Halloween, where Grace and her friend, Darcy were Big Blue and Big Red:

Big Blue and Big Red

And then, for their second Halloween, they were Grandpa and Grandma (yes, that is blue painter’s tape holding the cotton balls inside the holes of Grace’s knit cap):

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Then Sadie went to the Homeschool Homecoming with some friends (no, she’s not homeschooled and yes, there is such a thing and she goes to it every year and it has the word home twice, so that’s pretty awesome):

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Then Callie had some showers where love and blessings were showered on her by so many dear friends:

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Then Callie and I finished up our six-week pastels course that we were taking together on Tuesday nights:

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Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all Everybody!

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Dangling

I feel as though I’ve lived a hundred lives. Tonight, I dangle at the edge of this one, ever aware of the imminence of the next. As I twist on the end of this silken thread that can only stretch so far before it snaps, I review my past lives while trying to grasp where it is I’m going next. My memories are fuzzy at best, which makes me wonder if the life I’m living now is really just every bit as fuzzy as all the previous ones.

I once took my dad’s alarm clock/radio to a little clearing in the middle of the bushes behind our house in California so that I could take it apart and find out once and for all what was inside that thing. I loved that clearing. It was a completely surrounded area about four times as big as I was, where I could hear and see everything going on outside the bushes, but the outside couldn’t see or hear me. I would take my mom’s broom to sweep the dirt into a perfectly beautiful, pine needle-free floor. It was magical. I’ll never forget the magic of the springs and bolts and sharp things that made up that alarm clock either. But when I discovered that I couldn’t put it back together after weeks of working on it, I left it there in my magical clearing where it would never be found again. I wonder if it’s still there.

I once would sit at the piano in my living room in Oregon for hours at a time every night, working out my emotions through music. I wouldn’t turn the lights on after the sun set. I would often open the windows, even in winter, in the hopes that the boy I was writing the songs for would be out there, in my yard, listening to me pour out my heart in song. And after he saw how true my heart was, he would come running back to me, unable to live without me for one more day. I would sing to him for hours, imagining he was out there listening. When I would go out afterward and find nobody there, I would sit in the cold grass and listen to my love songs mixed tape on my walkman and watch every single car that drove by my house, each time hoping the next one would be him. It never was.

I once had three little girls to care for while living in a 29 foot long trailer in the Sonoran desert of Mexico in the summer. Daytime temperatures would sometimes reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttimes would often not dip below 100. Every evening at 7pm I would start my attempt to get them all settled in for the night, while my husband and the local pastors and the college student team leaders and the high schoolers that came down to help us all summer went out to do the evening ministry. I would wash off the dirt that had accumulated all over my little girls’ bodies and hair, I would give them a bedtime snack, we would read, and play, and sometimes laugh and pray before bed. Other times, it was just a big cry festival between the tired and hot girls and the tired and hot mama. One way or another, they always went to bed with clean, wet hair in their fresh-off-the-clothesline laundered summer jammies. On the lucky nights when it was easy, they would all three fall asleep while there was still light outside. I would go get some frozen M&M’s and a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola from the kitchen and sit outside my trailer in my lawn chair in the dirt. As the sun set, the nightly lightning show would fill the entire expanse of that desert sky. I would drink in the silence and the bigness along with my Coca-Cola and contemplate all that I had and all that I was thankful for.

Tonight I dangle. I feel as though I’m under that massive desert sky once again. My daughter is getting married and that changes everything. It’s all so big and I’m so small. My instinct is to start crawling back up the threads of this web I have woven and hide in the clearing. I can’t see where life goes from here, which makes it hard to prepare, but I think I have to just go ahead and let myself fall in order to find out.

“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before. ”
― Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life

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Light in Darkness

Super Moon

We live by the light of the moon.

We drive in the morning while the sun is not yet up.

The lights on the inside of our car glow a beautiful purple.

We can change the color to green or yellow or blue or red, but we always bring it back to purple because purple is where the heart is. Soft purple light makes the music that is playing in the dark mean so much more.

We put wallpapers on our back-lit screen of night scenes as the sun rises and reflects off the buildings outside the windows of the downtown building that we work in. The windows are everywhere and we can’t escape the day that drives out the night. It gives us life and we know it and we are filled with gratitude for the sun and the work and the reflection.

But we like night scenes on our computers… or almost night, like sunset or sunrise. Or day that looks like night, like when a storm is coming, or like the view of a forest path where the trees are so thick that light can only get through in single lines of sparkling gold.

Or a solitary streetlight glowing softly on abandoned winter city streets.

That’s where our heart is.

When we come home, as the light fades, you turn on twinkle lights on the back patio and you sit in the quiet and you read as the cool air fills your lungs and the glass is tipped which fills your heart with cheer.

You apologize for the smoke and you try to move upwind, but I don’t mind. I let it seep into my skin and it’s more than okay because the moon is out behind the clouds and I want it all. The smoke, the moon, the cool breeze, the clouds…

You.

We go in and the dinner dishes are everywhere. You tell her that if she plays piano, while you do the dishes, then you’ll do the dishes.

I go for a walk by the light of the moon, with ear buds in my ears, and breath in my mouth that illuminates the night. My feet strike the concrete, around and around the cul-de-sac. Under the streetlight, away from the streetlight, all is lit up with a velvety, pale whitishness and then all is a deep midnight blue again.

As I walk back up to the house, I see all the warm colors of home through the open screen door and through the sheer, colored curtains on the living room windows. I open the door to hear her playing music that tells us she doesn’t want to waste our time with music we don’t need. Why should she autograph a book that we won’t even read? She’s got a different scar for every song and blood left still to bleed.

I see you through the open space of the home we’ve built together. You still have on your black pants, black shirt, black socks and white collar as you wipe down the counter of the kitchen that has been cleaned with love to music played with heart and I am reminded once again that this life is a prayer. All of it.

And the music continues. I won’t pray this prayer with you unless we both kneel down.

The kitchen is clean, the music is over, the lights in the house are turned off, one by one, and the quiet that we so desperately long for flows into every corner of the rooms in our house and in our minds as consciousness gives way to dreams once again.

Another day is over.

Another day lived by the light of the moon begins.

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