Cheers to Hemingway and Not Being Hadley

Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris on a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge, and drink gin with abandon.
(Mrs. Hemingway, a novel by Naomi Wood)

Summer, 2021. Taking mid-afternoon refuge on the deck once again. An ocean breeze, a book, and a little Pinot Gris to satisfy the weekend.

To your health, happiness, and good fortune, friends.

Sipping Summer

The Free-Fall Zone

“Sometimes we fall, Sylvia. That’s just the way it is,” Erma informs her friend in a calm yet authoritative voice.

“Oh, I’m falling. That I know. I have bumps, bruises, and cuts. I’m worn, weathered, and yet I am becoming more and more curious about this abyss of time in front of me, hanging over me, and likely beyond me and my imagination. Sometimes I actually welcome the path of the abyss – full of meanderings, gulleys, and hidden impediments. At least I know I’m not tripping over my own two feet. There is a quiet comfort in that.”

Erma, never surprised but always somewhat unsteadied by Sylvia’s musings, sighs. She pauses. She is digesting her friend’s perspective.

“Ah, Sylvia, you describe the free-fall perfectly. You never see rock bottom, perhaps because deep down you know that there is no end to the abyss.”

“Could be, Erma. Or maybe I’m just looking up the entire time I’m falling.”

For now, don’t look down.

We fall into an abyss and automatically we assume an absence of light. An interminable darkness. After all, that is the definition of abyss, right? A Saturday stroll has Sylvia thinking about how others might view her in this abyss of time. Right here, right now, it is not so bad. She has found a place of light.
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“A photograph offers us a glimpse into the abyss of time.”
~John Updike
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Roots of Vulnerability

“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”

“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”

“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”

Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.

She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.

Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.”
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Standing tall and Finding the sun

There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning of something – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.

Read What You Cannot See

Erma reads it, looks at the video clip, and laughs. “I’m fairly certain Emily was talking about how poetry set her free.”

Sylvia, at first nodding in placid agreement, then quips, “Well, you got the gist, Erma. Others might, too, if they read and don’t just look at the pictures.”

Ever the realist, Erma tells Sylvia that she might be hoping for too much. “People want quick, easy, not too much thinking.”

“I know, Syl, but just for today – this last Monday in June – I’m putting aside my cynicism and counting on all of the women who are ready to set aside convention and set themselves free.”

Erma, once again tickled by Sylvia’s newfound optimism, has one final thought to leave with her friend before she heads back home. “From dirty to flirty, lickety-split? I guess that’s not too prosaic, although I’d hardly call it poetic.”
🐦🦚💐🐦🦚💐🐦🦚
They shut me up in Prose –

As when a little Girl

They put me in the Closet –

Because they liked me “still” –

Still! Could themself have peeped –

And seen my Brain – go round –

They might as wise have lodged a Bird

For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will

And easy as a Star

Look down upon Captivity –

And laugh – No more have I –
~Emily Dickinson

Pie is Never Rational

Yesterday, Sylvia was serving up slices; today, the helpings are not as pretty. Crumbled, in fact, but nonetheless fulfilling.

Erma: I can’t believe you are making pies from scratch, Sylvia. You have many talents, but as you and I know, baking is not among them.

Sylvia: You are assuming I am starting from scratch—a mistake on your part. I have all of the ingredients, but I know my limitations. Well, I’m beginning to anyway.

Erma: Ah, so you are cheating a little. I love that. What did you do? Store-bought crust? Canned fruit filling?

Sylvia: Neither of those. I started out making a whole pie. Rolled out the crust. Cored, peeled, and sliced up the apples and pears. Right on track to make a perfect pie, and then…

Erma: Then what? The phone rang? A neighbor dropped by? What happened?

Sylvia: I changed my mind. I decided that I didn’t want a slice or two of anything, so I let go of the idea of an entire pie. I made a whole cobbler instead.

Erma: You do realize that “whole” and “cobbler” don’t go together. You kind of took the easy way out, don’t you think?

Sylvia: Maybe, but I know that what I wanted today had nothing to do with nice and even. Big, heaping, crumbled scoops are what I needed today. I may not be a slice type of woman. Perhaps I need to accept that what I want is immeasurable and imperfect.

Erma: Syl, you are doing it again. You are overthinking. Some days a pie is simply a pie. Let it be a pie.

Sylvia: Not true, Erma. Pie is never simple. Why should I settle for a pie when a cobbler can be equally satisfying and a whole lot more fun to indulge in?! ****************
March 14th, 3/14, is “Pi” day. Pi is an irrational number, but it can only be used as an approximate value. Irrational: unable to be expressed as a fraction.

And there it is… Sylvia and Erma remind each other that they are not pieces of a puzzle in their lives or the lives of others; they are whole just as they are!
Nothing irrational about that.
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There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.

~Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

All rights reserved. 2021.

Hats Off to Fascinating Women

Sylvia has been unusually preoccupied these first few days of March. The end of winter always has her dreaming and reflecting—even more than she ordinarily does! She dreams of places not yet visited, renewed purpose, and endless possibility. She reflects on the many stories Erma shared with her about how women wear different hats during different stages of life. Student. Sister. Wife. Mother. Executive. Housekeeper. And the list goes on. Erma always said that the most amazing friendships between women happen when we take off our “hats” and allow ourselves to be in the moment for and with each other.

When Sylvia happens upon a lovely duo who appears to be mother and daughter, she smiles and approaches them to gush about their obvious fun-loving nature and friendship. “M&M“—as Sylvia lists them now in her cell contacts—laugh; and then M, the beautiful, young brunette who looks ravishing in every single hat, offers, “She isn’t my mom. M is Mom’s best friend. We have become friends, too.”

The other M, the more experienced, mature, and equally lovely lady, adds that they have enjoyed a glorious and heartfelt day of love, laughter, and overlapping life experiences. Both of them said final goodbyes to very special people this past year. A powerful connection, indeed.

Sylvia, after sharing her personal story of loss from this past year as well and engaging in a bit of fun with her new friends, wonders, “What if Erma were here to share this experience? Sylvia is certain her best friend would be rolling her eyes and then nearly wetting her pants from laughter as each woman tried on hat after hat. Sylvia and the younger M would then have reminded their more seasoned friends of this new trend, “They are not hats. They are fascinators.”

Yes, fascinators! An absolutely fascinating connection between women that is sure to become a favorite memory.
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“When women hear each other’s stories, told from the heart, it gives us inspiration to keep on going.” – Elizabeth Lesser
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Fascinating in every way!

Sylvia’s Scraping Skies

Do you see that? Yes, that right there? I’m a part of that. Just an ever-so-small but necessary part of this microcosm. I say necessary because today I’m sitting at a table looking out on this daunting yet somehow comforting urban landscape and feeling that I belong. Lately as I’ve been sharing with Erma before […]

Sylvia’s Scraping Skies

Gifts of the Season

The transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas (with Hanukkah right in-between this year) should be fairly seamless, incredibly meaningful, and perhaps even bittersweet, especially for those who have become acutely aware of what it means to be blessed and live with intention. The anticipated seamlessness between the holidays has been anything but smooth and unfettered though. The intervening days and weeks have instead been marred with more heartache than ever imagined, as the pandemic and its effects leave some sick, others on death’s door, and still others left in the wake to deal with losses (of life for some, of livelihood for others) of unfathomable proportions, the likes of which can barely be handled in even the sanest and most stable times.

Only through loss, grief, despair, and sorrow though have I learned what it means to experience bounty, joy, and peace. The gifts and acceptance of the latter only come when the three former have been endured with grace. I don’t pretend that I have mastered grace, but I’ve definitely cleared a path to it. The steps toward it offer me mild relief when I stop momentarily to be present and appreciate simple abundance. I have more than my fair share; many of us do.

Gratitude. Forgiveness. Order. Peace. Joy. Purpose. In these last few days, I have asked for both the giving and receiving of each; and in their absence no matter the reason, my plea is for grace.

The gifts of the season? Aren’t they gifts that we should generously offer and graciously accept all year long?

Generosity and grace: the presents in presence.

Predictably Unpredictable

As I jump, well, maybe more of a hop into this week and it’s now Tuesday (so that goes to show how I’ve begun this second week in December, definitely not with a jump or a leap now that I think of it because that would require extra energy and enthusiasm which by any given evening sandwiched between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are nearly tapped out), I am looking in the rearview mirror. I do that sometimes, not because I’m going in reverse but more to retrace a few steps and then gain momentum before I put my life in drive, press the gas pedal to the floor, and gun it. Last week was an unusually long week and this week is turning out to be the same -of stops, starts, planning, dismantling, and rebuilding. Admittedly, in so many ways, the ensuing days since Thanksgiving have left me uncomfortably full. So, needless to say, with the feasts of this next fete or two fast approaching, I am feeling the need to purge and cleanse. Right on cue, Mother Nature provides me with the backdrop I need for reflection. (I can count on her most days to set the tone, and today she didn’t disappoint.) The drops falling from the gray sky this morning were pure, white, and frozen; they were almost welcomed as they forced me to slow down, catch my breath, and recalibrate. Mother Nature today reminds me the world’s innovators and inventors obtain a lot of good material and energy from her. (A day like today must have prompted someone to create the washing machine or refrigerator/freezer as we know them- starting off with a whispered, steady fill or a burst of chilled air respectively, followed by a rapid deluge, and then either quickly or calmly drying out or thawing out depending). For the gift of your time and nourishment of my soul in myriad ways, most importantly that you simply show up to read, listen, and share, I’m grateful. Only one thing has been a constant these last two weeks: unpredictability.

Without hesitation, I admit that not having a daily plan or at least an anchor in my schedule often makes me feel like I’m wandering aimlessly. Then, the most refreshing thing happens and I become grounded again – not in a stalled or motionless manner but rather in a calming and re-focused way. I realize that I have an anchor. All of you. My friends. My connections and reconnections. You are where I begin.

So, on this cold December eve, I sit fireside and vow to start again with you to help me navigate life’s unpredictability and accept it as a good thing. Each new day holds possibility – to make a small change, to start anew or to take a step back. To build, to re-build or to sustain. To ignite, to extinguish or to rekindle. Each day is a series of starts and stops and this week has proven to be just that. The important thing is to get up and start again. And with the help and encouragement of old friends, new friends, faraway friends and friends oh-so-near-and-dear, I’ve concluded that starting can be a goal in and of itself. Simply realizing that yesterday had no end and today’s start means carrying on can be satisfying on a soulful level.

Alas, I’m going out on a limb and asserting that the acceptance of and even welcoming of unpredictability can be an achievement. (It’s my tree that I’m swinging from in my own yard- you go out and find yours or I invite you to swing unpredictably with me.) I’m getting up, stirring it up, and firing myself up because the only thing I know for sure is that yesterday is done, and I- no, WE- made it through.

A week of beginnings. Behind us. In front of us. After all, we can’t stop if we’ve never started. Sharing with you my “days in review” and wishing you well, always in all ways.

The only prediction she’s willing to make

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