rise to meet the new year

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety--

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light--
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how i start the day
in happiness, in kindness.


i i i i i i i i

i sat here tonight until the very last bit of flickering flame turned into smoke.  i'd like to say i did that every one of these last eight nights - i'd sure like to have done that every one of these last eight nights.  the nights were busy and a couple of times we didn't light until after nine.  twice we only lit one menorah.  the first night i couldn't find the one that was given to us as a wedding gift (the next day it magically appeared); tonight i was missing a piece for one of my favorite menorahs and so we lit without it.

the story goes that in ancient times there was a dispute about the lighting of the menorah.  the school of hillel supported lighting the way we do today: one candle on the first night, increasing by one candle each night until we light eight candles on the last night of the holiday.  the school of shamai supported lighting eight candles on the first night of hanukkah and decreasing the candles by one each night until lighting only one candle on the last night of the holiday.  i've heard this story three times this week and i had never heard it before.

i'm so glad hillel won that one.  

of course i can't do justice to the rabbinic interpretation - but i will be so bold as to offer my own.  when we increase the light in our menorahs each night, we increase the light in the world - it's as simple as that.  we must always, everyday all year round and especially in the darkest times, do our part to bring light to the world.  we must never ever succomb to the darkness.  we must illuminate the way for those who can't find a way - because sometimes we, ourselves, will need someone else to light the way for us.  it is our sacred obligation to bring the light, to spread the light and share the light.  to be the light.

it's as simple as that.



these photos of the sunflowers growing in paige's garden remind me that i really was in california last week, that it wasn't just a dream.  that the wind was blowing through the valley and we were picking raspberries and snap peas off of the vines and eating them before dinner while lucy was saying that if we had a garden she would eat "way more" fruits and vegetables.  (note to self: let's just build a fence to keep out the deer.)

i need the reminder of the west coast air and the light and the peaches off of the tree before breakfast because we are home now, and the last three days has been all about unpacking and laundry and labels and repacking and saying the things that you might want to say to your children - about friendship and homesickness and good choices, about putting yourself out there and trying new things, and about the sharing of razors and how cheese makes their bellys feel - before you send them off for more weeks than you care to count.  

it has been thirteen hours since i measured them against the doorjamb with a pencil while being careful not to "mess up" their hair, and thirteen hours since they tried to pose for pictures and devolved into silliness; thirteen hours since we had to coax the dog out of the car.  it's been thirteen hours since they drove up the drive, and i am alternately loving the clean bathroom and hating that their beds are empty.

tonight dave and i went out for dinner to our favorite restaurant where it's hard to get a table, even on a weeknight.  but we went anyway, and there was this little hightop at the back of the bar - we sat there last summer on the night our children left for camp - right next to the wood-fired oven and the prep stations.  we were distracted by all of the goodness but we were together.  alone.  together (did i mention alone?) for the first time in more than a month, and it was all hellos and reintroductions and holding hands and early summer vegetable soup with a poached egg and plans and ideas and steak tartare and a whisky smash.

i was full before the end of the meal and we told linda we couldn't possibly have desset but she brought some anyway; a scoop of chocolate-mint sorbet that we forced ourselves to eat.  the chocolate was the tiniest bit bumpy, like it gets when you melt it from a bar and then chill it right away, and the mint was subtle and steady throughout each bite.  it was the sweetest part of the night by far - the gesture, the indulgence, the act of savoring the evening and the light and this day that is the beginning of something, the being together.



i don't even know if i remember how to tell a story, it's been so long since i've written more than thirty words.  but my head is overflowing with pictures from our travels, with labels and laundry and packing children for camp, with summertime, and with questions about living this life.  so i think i ought to try.

in the beginning, when i was writing over at typepad and my kids were little and they napped and i typed while they slept, i remember my brother asking me, "who are you writing for?"  there was no audience then, it was just me - writing to, for, about myself - the most self-indulgent kind of writing, i suppose.  but it was a practice and i loved that.  there are things better written, i think, and puzzles to be worked out this way.  at least for me.  

i kept a journal - in longhand - during our travels this month.  each evening (sometimes the next morning) i wrote the story of our day in fine sharpie marker on the pages of a moleskine.  i pasted in each day's ticket stubs and trail maps with washi tape, and i remembered the melody of writing.  the cadence of telling a story.  i remembered my voice, scratchy as it may be.

so we'll see.  it's a practice, like kindness and gratitude and yoga.  and we'll see.



a few new tulips paintings are up on my website.