Sunday, April 24, 2011

cultivating your garden

Holidays make me think of my family back east and the places I enjoyed on these special days. One of my favorite times was the sunrise service where my father would roust us at 5am to get us to the beach to see the sun peek above the Atlantic's horizon. On this Easter, a day of life and renewal, I thought about my mother who died last January 2010, and I worked in the yard raking to get ready for our planting mania in her honor. My mother loved her garden and took pride showing me the recent growths of vegetables and her nurturing visions of the soil that she had tilled on her own. As she grew older though, the garden was kept smaller and my brother would help out by overturning the hard ground after each winter season.

I was in India late December 2009, in a small village called Benelim just outside of Goa. It was early evening and I was about to prance out onto the dirt roads where Ken and I would find a good place for dinner. My sister, who I had called to see how things were going in the states, had told me about my mother falling and breaking her hip, and how she was in an intensive care unit. My mind couldn't wrap around this bad news and I was on vacation! The village store where I was using the phone was bustling with activity, noise; our conversation seemed surreal and ridiculous. Children were crowded around the store grounds talking and playing with ruckus. Three weeks later, I flew back east to attend my mother's funeral.

During my mother's service, an old boyfriend came by to pay his respects. We dated on and off for a few years; Nathan attended my college graduation, became familiar with my family and we played tennis together. As a young bright attorney, we often scooted around in his convertible MG attending parties and cultural outings. I was completely bored though, his incessant chatter unnerved me, and the relationship ended where I had taken on a new guy and shortly afterwards left for California.

As my old friend and I chatted for a while in front of my mother's open casket, (we hadn't seen each other in close to thirty years), he commented how I was always the restless sort when he knew me and that I had always wanted to leave the east to find new adventure. He wanted to know about my life in Alaska. And then, we connected; there was an understanding, a mutual exchange of recognition on our how lives had become and developed. He questioned and confided in me that he never left our home town. We continued to talk about his sons and we spoke about travels. The years that I knew him in my early twenties I was aloof and fickle but realized a different person in another dimension at that instance. Our lives had been hallowed out with lots of living and experiences. At the moment I write this, I often look back at that point of talking to him as touching and recognizably human. At my mother's death, this was not the occasion for regrets or anger nor dredging up the past. Time had flown by us almost literally as we stood there in a funeral home. I could touch time's wings at that point. Life became transcendent at that meeting with my friend and his gift of openness and genuine sincerity threw me. To me, this was an relevant convergence and oh sure, I have probably had several and meaningful passing occasions (and more to come), but this was an interval that brought me to see how life can be absolutely spellbinding, astonishing, and amazing. You don't have to believe in anything or even holidays as special to acknowledge the symbolic gesture of forgiveness. It is incredibly powerful. I am in another place now, another world and living in Alaska. Who would have thought this? Not me in a million years.