Monday, December 24, 2012
Last night, we took some time to visit the Sandy Hook shrines that have blossomed on the corners near the school. The gifts and words come from all over the world. I wanted to share some pictures with you, but what I can’t convey is something I never expected. The scent was incredible. So many candles and flowers combined to create a fragrance that was as strong and powerful a blending as all the tributes and messages of love.
Yesterday, as I went about my errands in town, I could feel the blanket of sadness and pain, but hovering above that sorrow is another aura that is so healing. It’s a million thoughts of kindness and love that are really palpable. You can almost reach out and feel the hugs and hands holding all of us.
I cannot begin to imagine how hard it is for the parents and families of the little angels and the heroes who died to now have to pick up the pieces and go on. As I wrap presents and bake cookies, I think of how it must be almost unbearable for them. I found this message from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the guardian angel of hope, about crossing over:
“As I tell the souls who have been harmed by a terrible disaster, murder or massacre or devastation... the wounded will not remember words, nor philosophies, nor politically correct psychological b.s. The souls will remember kindness, tone of voice, soft eyes, the sweet or mild touch that asks for nothing in return.
It is so much simpler than some might imagine. Just be there. In your own way, long distance, up close, in prayer, in contemplation, in person, by proxy. Be there. It will be enough. And more than enough.”
So, I just wanted to let you all know that we can feel you with us and to say thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
Friday, December 21, 2012
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Last Friday, I had just come in from my morning barn chores when at 9:30 the phone rang. It was the school superintendent, an automated message saying there was a lockdown at all schools. I told my husband, and the phone rang again. It was a neighbor saying the rumor that there was a shooter at the high school. My heart started pounding, and for a half an hour, we frantically searched the Internet and TV to find some more information. Then, the news began to rush in, the reality of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a few miles from the high school. We could hear sirens and helicopters. Friends began calling, crying, showing up at our house to stare mesmerized at the television while the horror was revealed.
At one point, I had to take the dog outside and I stood in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and noticing, almost as if for the first time, how beautiful it is here. I looked all over the East Coast to find a safe community with good schools when we moved here eight years ago. Now, I reflected that this hideous violence was a random act, and while it could have happened anywhere, it happened here in this place where we are. I wondered what the meaning of it would be for us, my daughter who is 17, my husband and myself. I also knew that it was too soon to understand why we were about to be a part of something so tragic, but that eventually, it would have a meaning and would be something that changed our lives.
It’s impossible to describe the last week, so I will only focus on the moments of kindness and compassion that we have experienced. My daughter’s teachers and the school staff have been so brave and sensitive and caring, especially as the kids went back to school on Tuesday. One great source of comfort for my child was the K9 Comfort therapy dogs that were here to cuddle and distract everyone if they needed a moment to compose themselves and find strength. My daughter has provided solace to her friends and classmates as they struggle to overcome their fears and now, as they attend wakes and funerals, and I am so proud of her. People here are wide open, vulnerable and so loving.
At every turn, there is a reminder of what happened. Little shrines and handmade signs dot the country roads. On the main highway, there had been a recent construction project and the big lighted signs that once said “Roadwork ahead” now say, “God bless our angels. Thanks to our heroes.” It’s been hard to get around town with the media and the visitors from all over the country. There were seven camera crews hovering around the high school when I picked up my daughter on Tuesday afternoon. If I drive to the grocery store, I wait and cry as the funeral processions pass by. When I go to nearby towns, total strangers see the little sticker with the rooster that is our town mascot on my car, and they stop me to give me hugs and offer condolences. I am so proud tell people that I live here.
We struggle to decorate the tree, send the presents to our family in California, try to act like everything is fine and normal when we visit my mom at the nursing home. This morning, I got up at 5 am and made a huge casserole dish of bbq turkey meatballs for a teacher appreciation luncheon being held at school. We carry on, and each day, receive an email update from the high school principal that begins and ends with these words:
Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example to the rest of the world. Be strong, Newtown.
Monday, December 10, 2012
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “enough”. I read Wayne Muller’s thought-provoking book, A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough, and it struck such a strong chord with me. The pace of the holiday season seems to be racing even faster than normal this year. It’s probably more noticeable to me since I have been forced by my limitations still imposed on my right arm to go slower, do less, not strain. So everyone around me appears to be flying by while I wander around picking out gifts and deliberately weighing how much I want to do to maintain the holiday spirit without feeling exhausted.
Muller says, “Enough is not a relationship; it is played out in this moment and the next, and the next. We can only experience a sense of enough when we are fully present and awake in this moment…. The farther we get from this moment – the more we project outward into next week, next month, next year – the less and less we can truly know about who we will become or how the world may have completely reshaped its way around us.” He also points out that as we grow older, our needs and wants change so that our desires when we were young are almost unrecognizable to those we experience later in life.
This is certainly true for me. I was in New York City this week with my daughter, and I could feel the same happy energy and enthusiasm flowing from her that I had myself when I was in my twenties, living in the city. She can’t get enough of the excitement and glamour. What I wanted then when I was a diehard New Yorker has no resemblance to what looks like the good life to me now. By the end of the day, I couldn’t wait to get home and rub my hands on Silk’s furry neck and snuggle up on the couch with my velvet puppy, Stella. I was overwhelmed by how grateful I am for what I have and how it is truly more than enough.
We had old friends come to visit last weekend. They are very urban and sophisticated, and seemed a little disoriented to be here. “I had forgotten how rural it is,” my girlfriend commented as we stood in the way back looking at the bridle trails blocked by the trees that fell during the hurricane. I had a feeling that she was torn between wanting the peace and serenity and thinking that it would drive her crazy.
As we fed carrots to the horses, I told her that I often think about one of my favorite quotes from E.B. White: “ I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I guess at this point in my life, I’m going to concentrate on what it feels like to just do enough and not too much.