Saturday, January 29, 2011

faith, weeds, and dancin' shoes

The Christmas after my husband died, my daughter, Adrienne, sketched the pond on my sister-in-love's farm and wove in the lyrics to "I Hope You Dance." I recalled a minister's comments about the Israelites who sang and danced after they crossed the Red Sea. The drawing and these words transported me to the memory that follows.

Daddy would occasionally take us to the old church of his childhood for dinner on the grounds. This was preceded by three hours of finger-pointing, hardcore rhythm and blues, hellfire and damnation preaching. A couple of sacred harp songs - a cappella since musical instruments were banned - were thrown in for good measure. A tiny one-room building, the church was dark inside, as was everything about the experience. Even as a child I could recognize a proper metaphor.  

An ancient wooden pulpit scarred by the fists of preachers who pounded out the cadence of the message stood at the front. Behind this, a wood stove hid in the corner. The preacher, in a hoarse rapture of agile condemnation, kept a folded handkerchief in his left hand at all times to wipe the sweat that poured down his face as readily in December as in July. The only moving body in the place, he never saw a need to stoke the fire. Perhaps he thought the huddled bodies before him were slain in the spirit.

A center aisle separated the six rows of pews, men on one side, women on the other. As a child I was allowed to sit with Daddy. My job was to poke him in the ribs ever so politely when he began to doze. He said that I had the sharpest elbows he’d ever encountered. In the summer, between his naps, I would trace my finger around the picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that decorated one side of the cardboard fan – the building’s only air-conditioning - then flip over to the funeral home advertisement to see how many words I could make out of “mortuary.” Wooden shutters that served as coverings in lieu of proper glass windows were open. I hoped that air might pass through before we all passed out. Two hours into the sermon, I allowed Daddy to doze, my elbow reserved for when he began to snore. I figured he needed sleep more than the endless rant.

During those naps, I sneaked glances out the window. A butterfly lit on a spirea bush and occupied my thoughts for a while. But I kept one eye on the small, filled-to-bursting AME church across the dirt road, waiting for them to sing. That congregation made a joyful noise that shook the walls of the little church. No terrible, vengeful God visited them but rather a loving Father who was waiting for them in a beautiful heaven.  

Daddy continued to visit the old church alone, mostly to take Uncle Will who, at 98, had been forced to relinquish his driver’s license. We found him a year later up a ladder. He hammered away as Daddy tried in vain to talk him down. The old man said the old place needed a new veranda. He died at 104 of, as a cousin reported, "nothing serious." This sweet, jovial man never had a bad word for anyone. Raised in a small community saturated with a vitriol born of fear and poverty, he chose a different path. His smile radiated the joy of his choice and lives in me today.

The last family visit to the old church was in August before I entered eighth grade. The boiling sun, hot as the preacher’s message, bounced off the asphalt. Daddy knew I didn’t want to attend. He glanced at me through the rear view mirror and said, “Honey, this is probably the last one of these trips we’ll make. I never wanted you to grow up in this place.” He paused before continuing, “. . . too much inbreeding around here, nothing for young people.” I understood but wondered why he continued to come.

Almost fifty years later, the scene we encountered that Homecoming Sunday morning remains vivid. The elders flanked the wooden steps where the preacher stood, Bible in his hand, barring the door of the church. A thin, pale woman with mouse-brown hair, her voile dress limp from the heat, stood meekly in front of the minister. Several children slumped behind her, heads down as they stared at the ground. The oldest son, however, glared defiantly at the preacher while the youngest daughter drew pictures in the sandy soil with her finger. We couldn’t hear what was being said but I saw Daddy’s jaw set as the woman and her children walked away, their heads bowed. I thought she was crying. When Daddy walked over to talk with one of the elders, Mother sat down on the edge of the front seat, her spike heels resting on the only clump of grass she could find, and I retired to the back seat, fanning myself with an envelope.  

I glanced sideways toward the front at my mother. She practiced a frugality born of necessity. In her latest effort to save money, she had purchased guaranteed run-free mesh stockings for me. At 5’9,” I towered over everything, always dreading the moment at family reunions when some uncle would announce, “Well, Vancene, if you’d just put a brick on her head, maybe she would quit growing.” No bargain in my book, these stockings that stopped several inches short of my garter belt were now torturing me. The unyielding, scratchy hosiery tugged against spring-loaded garters, irritated my razor burn, and spawned a wicked case of prickly heat rash. As we sat there in our mutual discomfort, the preacher headed our way. Mother mumbled something that I couldn’t understand when he approached the car. 

“Well, good morning, lovely ladies. Get out and come on inside.” He squatted down next to me and said, “My goodness, haven’t you grown.” I remember his hand resting on my leg a bit too long. My insides churned with disgust.

My father walked up at this moment and tapped the preacher on the shoulder. His usual smile absent, Daddy said, “We aren't going to stay. I need to check on Uncle Will.” The two men walked away for a minute to have a conversation that, strain as hard as we could, Mother and I could not hear.   In a minute Daddy returned, climbed into the driver’s seat, and cranked the black Chevrolet. Mother and I quickly pulled our legs inside and remained perfectly still and quiet, lest we break the spell. We rode in silence for a while before Daddy spoke. His eyes focused on the horizon, he said, “Celeste, don’t ever forget what you saw here today.” As we drove, he told us the story of the woman we had seen leaving.   

Her husband had deserted the family eight years earlier. Pregnant with five young children and no means of support, she had kept her family together. She worked without complaint in a variety of odd jobs: ironing, hoeing fields, picking cotton . . .  her children always in tow. A local lawyer and several male cousins had recently told her that she could, after all these years, divorce her absent husband. She would be eligible for financial aid that would bring relief to her family. Upon discovering the divorce, the good men of Pilgrim Home, with the complicit support of their women, branded her an adulteress and promptly shunned her along with her six children. When the story was finished and silence settled over us, contempt burned inside me. Contempt for those who shunned this woman. Contempt for the coward who left her. 

Forty years later, I returned to the rural community. Alone. A widow with grown children, I had set out on my own journey. As I turned onto the dirt road that led to the church, I saw that no vestige of the tiny building remained. A matted clump of briars and blackberry bushes hid any remaining rubble. I drove onto the church grounds and parked beneath the oak tree I had once climbed. Its drooping branches had shaded countless dinners on the ground, keeping cool fried chicken, lima beans, potato salad, banana pudding, and a multitude of homemade cakes and pies . . . sweet moments of grace in the lives of farm families whose fates turned as swiftly as the south Georgia weather. 

I slowly opened the car door and stepped out into the heat. No dark messages or sad memories remained, nor judgment of any who had come to this place for sustenance. 

This day I thought first of a friend as I stared at a dandelion that bloomed in the middle of the broken bricks. I recalled her gentle admonition ten years earlier when I'd sat in her kitchen as she prepared a family dinner and shared my frustration about a difficult relationship. Kay stopped peeling potatoes and looked up at me with a gentle smile in her eyes.

"A wise person told me once to be grateful for everyone, for every encounter, for every experience. Each is our teacher. Some mirror good choices, others the consequences of bad ones." She paused before continuing in her slow Selma drawl, "But each one guides us."

I looked at the old graveyard beyond the rubble and remembered a conversation with a friend soon after my father died. A retired military officer who had served in Vietnam, he spoke briefly of experiences he did not frequently revisit. Then he told of taking his children to the cemetery after his own father's death. They stood in front of the grave and he pointed to the inscription on the granite slab. "I looked at the dates of his birth and death, Celeste, then at the dash between. That's our life, one small dash . . . a whisper."

I smiled when I recalled an afternoon in Florida a year earlier. Overwhelmed by the challenges that faced me, full of questions, I placed my glass of sweet tea on the table and turned toward my friend. "Oh, Mel, I hope to goodness you won't look down from this porch someday," I gestured to the walkway below, "and watch men in white coats lead me away, me drawlin' my last words, ' I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers'."  We laughed that afternoon, as only those who have walked separate but parallel paths can.

Finally, an evening in the basement of a church, when I told my story to a roomful of families affected by alcoholism, surfaced. I had looked at the faces before me and said, "I came to feel that, if I looked into a mirror, I would see no one, much like a vampire dependent on the blood of others for existence." Unwelcome words to people desperate for a solution, a quick fix, but I had earned the right to speak them. I had given years of my life to another's disease and lost myself in the process. I told them that reclamation had been a painful slog. And recalled a conversation with a mentor. "There really is something to be said for the unexamined life. But if the price of personal growth is to be diminished [insert sigh] then so be it." In time, these words had brought me through my desert places to peace.

On that August afternoon, in the solitude of the old churchyard, I stood in silence and gave thanks for those who once populated my life. A minister's remark surfaced, words about the Israelites who sang and danced after they crossed the Red Sea. "Celebrate instead," she'd said, "before the crossing, in faith." Stirred by the journey that had brought me to this place, I turned and stared across a sea of red clay marked only by ever-changing shadows of the clouds that floated above. The weathered AME church and outhouse I recalled from my childhood were long gone, replaced by a freshly painted building.   

Inside that sanctuary, playing a concert for one - one left standing only by grace - the pianist rehearsed "Part the Waters” and I lingered once more among sandspurs under the hot sun. Surrounded by whispers and shadows, I raised my arms and danced.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the name of the room is Remember

I love January's solitude:  early mornings wrapped up against the cold, evenings under a throw with a book or journal.  Time to listen, to review the year that has just ended, to claim its truths…a time to winnow, separate the wheat from the chaff.  The days are spent sifting through drawers and closets.  The mornings and nights, sorting thoughts, reframing perspectives.  My energy reserves seem to rise to the task at hand but only if I guard my time.  I am not drawn to large gatherings, never more so than during January.  Solo time with a close friend or two but no parties, please.  I have a date with the cosmos.

Frederick Buechner's wonderful words resonate:  The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.  But again and again we avoid the long thought.  We cling to the present out of wariness of the past.  And why not, after all?  We get confused.  We need such escape as we can find.  But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need - not all the time, surely, but from time to time - to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings, and to where our journeys have brought us.  The name of the room is Remember - the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.

During one of my explorations, an old journal surfaced 
and I revisited memories long-shelved but evocative, like a song or a scent. 
I wrote of "black and velvet-blue invisible bruises"
of being "crushed, fermented, aged, poured out"
of  "a broken and contrite heart, shards, only shards"
And recalled "a soul-sick wounded warrior, bloodied and weary, the battle over."
An emptying.

In time the rawness softened but even now, the words pierce my heart.  Letting go brings lightn but the work - both physical and emotional - devours energy.  Perhaps this is the genius of the process.  I am compelled to sit, to be still.  To let the pain of deep sadness wash over me, until I am filled to bursting.  To wait in silence, wait all the way to quiet joy. To pray, not because I understand or because I have power, but to open myself understanding, to tap into a source of power greater than I am. To dwell for a time in my room called Remember where time distills, not diminishes, pain.

Inside the old basket on my desk, corners of napkins and torn receipts are filled with scribbled notes
that cover stacks of yellowed pads. I lift one and begin to read my scraps of truth, the piecework of a life small bits of gratitude resting on top of angry, spiteful words. Written in the pre-dawn hours, the only quiet moments of my day,  I commit fears and dreams to a life of cerulean blue

Piece by tattered piece, I re-read old words and, with the red fountain pen, record a few in a worn leather journal, this my only legacy. I light the pieces of my past and watch  tiny flames spiral into a rusty metal bucket, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and sit - emptied and quiet - in the candlelight. Listening.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hunka Hunka Burnin' Tabby

I didn't plan to write a blog tonight. 

I'm catsitting these days. Harley, a small calico with a purr like a motorcycle, is curled up on a pillow, sleeping. Snuggler, a large tabby, is a bit s-p-e-c-i-a-l, if you know what I mean. All appears to be squared away. First, I need to send a report to my daughter and her husband.


Dear Scott and Adrienne,

Hope all is well in Roanoke. Miss you guys. Cats miss you, too. They're looking forward to joining you in Virginia soon.

Speaking of the cats, Harley is sitting next to the computer as I type. Snuggler is curled up on the sofa back. You'd hardly notice the singed fur if you didn't know where to look.

Not much news from Birmingham. Gray and drizzly, today was a good day for cleaning. I worked in the kitchen for a while. After I finished the pantry, I started on the bookcases. Took a break, treated myself to some hot tea, and savored the aroma of my favorite Archipelago Havana candle. Put out the fire on Snuggler's belly. Then I started dinner.

Now that I think about it, I haven't lit a single candle since the cats have been with me. But this afternoon, that delicious scent tempted me. Wish you could have been here for tea and cookies by candlelight. So least until Snuggler leapt onto the desk

She landed on her feet. You would have been so proud of her prowess. She seemed almost coordinated. You know how sometimes she jumps and misses? Not today. There she stood, straddling the jar candle. I noticed a bright orange-yellow light emanating from her underside. Brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, "fire in the belly." I slowly reached below her and doused the candle flame. Then I saw more light. Bright. Flickering. 

Snuggler just stood there with her fur on fire as I tried to reach underneath. Wow, Scott, you were right. She does NOT like her stomach rubbed.  I guess she thought I was trying to pet her, bless her heart. Dug her claws into my arm, then jumped onto the floor. Headed for the kilim rug in the living room, with me in hot - sorry - pursuit. One lunge and I pinned her. You would have been proud of my dexterity.  No burns on her skin. I must admit, however, that, when she rolls over, the scent of burning cat hair is still with us. 

Oh, well, nothing exciting to write about, so I'll close. Harley's now on her favorite pillow and Snuggler is staring into space. She appears to be having a thought. Or maybe she's constipated. Not sure.

Love you...looking forward to a visit.  

So, dear readers, let's not tell Patrick and Leslie.  

I might never get to babysit my precious granddaughter again.

Monday, January 24, 2011

chutzpah, humility, and the weather

Ah, the weather.  That old stand-by conversation opener of the Sunday School fellowship time and cocktail parties alike. In my childhood home, only the minister and the family doctor outranked the David Reeves, the television forecaster in Macon, Georgia. I could understand concern over tornadoes and even fear of being trampled at the Piggly-Wiggly in a tussle over the last loaf of pre-snow bread. But atmospheric conditions were an obsession in our house.  Before every car trip, both channels (yes, two...this was B.C., Before Cable) were checked and the more extreme report accepted. "Better safe than sorry, honey," Mother would announce.  She stopped just short of calling the National Weather Service before football games. [Note: She did, however, call Bunny Waller before every movie to inquire about the National Legion of Decency rating. This seemed patently unfair since we weren't even Catholic. Didn't the Baptists have enough rules in place?]

During my sojourn in Kinsale, I threw caution to the winds which arrived sporadically in January. Slapped a hat on my head and ventured out. Never caught a cold. Patsy's Corner, home of the world's most incredible lemon meringue pie, was just around the corner from our cottage. In this building, William Penn once drank tea and journaled. He would've eaten pie, too, if Patsy had been cooking back then.

People-watching is one of my hobbies. I found the small eatery a perfect perch. And I learned something during those January afternoon visits. Try this. One rainy day, find yourself an out-of-the-way table and observe how people react to the weather. Some whine. Others launch tirades that would scare small children. But, sit long enough, and someone will come in, run fingers through wet hair, and smile.  Note the casual flick to banish the droplet of water that landed in the middle of the scalp, then trailed down the face. Consider hiring such a person. At the very least, offer the empty chair and have a chat. Adaptability, not to be confused with wishy-washy-ness, is a highly desirable characteristic in a companion or employee.

Some, however, move beyond adaptable. I call them "The People of the East Wind", those whose strong reversals catch us off-guard.  The subject of column by Birmingham writer Elaine Witt, the late Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was a complex, exasperating man to the end. He had fought for states' rights. Opposed desegregation. Later he reversed his stand, this reversal, according to colleagues on both sides of the aisle, was, at least in part, sincere about-face. Championed the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. And worked for legislation to provide greater opportunities for blacks and ethnic groups. His public conflict had its roots in the culture of his birth and his own story of interracial relationship, much of which was buried with him.

Elaine posed this question: “How does one make sense of the whole of this man?” Citing mathematical logic (Godel’s incompleteness theorem) as the source of her conclusion, she almost lost me but I am glad I kept reading. Her conclusion rests at the top of my list of epiphanies: “We can lead lives that are consistent but incomplete or complete but inconsistent.” 
Closing thoughts 
The word "chutzpah" in Hebrew has negative connotations...impudent or shameless.  The Yiddish equivalent has a more positive bent, "gutsy audacity."  Interestingly, the Arabic word with the same derivation (or cognate, just learned a new word), "ḥaṣāfah," means "sound judgment."  I like to think I fall into the "cheeky but somewhat sound" category.

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.  
Bernard Berenson

friend's take on Berenson's words: 

"But...why not a week rather than a year, eh? 
We learn new things every day...."

The courage to change and the humility to admit mistakes...a win/win.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

patterns and second chances

"Then he read the words of the scroll slowly, first in Japanese and then carefully translated into English:

'There is really nothing you must be.
And there is nothing you must do.
There is really nothing you must have.
And there is nothing you must know.
There is really nothing you must become.
However, it helps to understand
that fire burns, and when it rains,
the earth gets wet. . . .'
'Whatever, there are consequences. Nobody is exempt,' said the master."  
Robert Fulghum

Moving day and the skies were washing us with a cold rain.  Hurried trips in and out the door, a last walk-through, then into the car for the ride to the new apartment. Once there, the dance reversed, through puddles into the back door.  First the bed, then tables and a dresser.  Piece by piece was dried and moved into place.  The clock ticked as pictures were hung and accessories tucked into familiar spots. The two photos on the refrigerator secured with magnets, the transition was complete. Minus one shower curtain.  But all in all, not bad for a morning's work.

We returned to my car and talked briefly before the other car arrived. The door opened and she got out. Standing tall, erect.  I watched her daughter take one arm, the son, the other.  Watched as these three entered the front door. Quietly, with dignity.  A family.  A real one, with good and not-so-good memories, exhausted by the tension of relationship made more difficult by the fog of Alzheimer's. Tears streamed down my face as I sobbed, "Oh, mama, I'm so sorry I couldn't give you this.  Please forgive me."  

It had been just the two of us.  One bound by fear, the other by sheer fatigue.  No walk into a pretty room filled with bits of the past.  We had arrived with boxes she had ripped open the night before and emptied.  An entire night of re-packing.  Holding her as she first beat me with her fists before falling asleep in my arms.  Beyond feeling.  All ran together:  the packing, the move, the drive and the awful leaving. I held her and said, "Love you, Mother."  There would be another leaving in a few weeks.  The fear pounded her until, in a moment of fury, she knocked out a lady with a right hook that I daresay no other former president of the African Violet Society could claim.  The "your mother does not play well with others" call came, ending with a "come get her now."  

As I watched my friends escort their mother inside, years of recrimination washed away with my tears. I had done my best. No where close to good enough.  But two women, as disparate as a mother and daughter could be, made their rag-tag, messy journey.  Shared a few quiet moments before the ravages of the disease took those.  I could not reach this creature who was both tender and maddening. I looked on helplessly at the lost woman in assisted living.  The angry one in geriatric psych. The all-too-briefly content old lady in a nursing home, flirting with older gentlemen, smiling up at me when I came into her room. I smiled too. Especially the day I found her wearing her long grey sweatshirt gown. With a gold lamé bed jacket (not hers).  Two different slippers (neither of them from her closet). Chandelier earrings (definitely not my mother's). Large tortoise glasses (you got it).  

"Mother, that's quite an outfit." This woman who had taken great pride in her appearance beamed.

"I just put it together this morning. What do you think?"

My reply: "Wow!"  My thought:  "Must have taken most of the morning to scrounge all this from other rooms."

Or the day we walked to the day room and Mother waved at the formal draperies and said, "I love what you've done to your living room, honey."

I was "honey" long after my name left.  Then I was simply a hand to hold.  But two memories stand out, seminal moments in our relationship.  

I sat down on the edge of her bed one Friday evening, straight from the airport.  On assignment in North Carolina, I flew home on weekends to see her.  This evening she was peaceful.  I leaned over and kissed her and she smiled up at me. "I'm so sorry I can't be with you more, Mom.  I'll be in North Carolina for a few more months but I'll come every weekend."  

"Honey, don't you worry."  She was smiling sweetly.  This woman for whom faith had arrived in small portions late in life looked up at me.  She patted my hand and said, "You don't need to worry. God is right here with me and He's taking care of me."  She was no longer alone with her fears.  

The second moment came a month later.  Slipping rapidly away, she found conversation difficult, just a few words occasionally.  But this morning, she looked into space and said, without emotion, "We smothered you to death, didn't we?"  Waves of shock washed over me.  'Yes', I thought. 'You did.  And you knew.  You always knew. Yes, yes, you did.'   But I looked down at this withered woman who had been and would remain a stranger to me, and said, "Mama, you loved me with all of your heart. That's what's important."  

Mother. Mom.  Mama.  We danced back in time together through the disease.  Beyond emotion. Into the arms of love, a higher order not bound by mood or feeling.  And this week, anointed by tears from heaven,  graced by another family's journey, the two of us entered into the circle of a greater dance. 

"If you do not join the dancing you will feel foolish. So why not dance? And I will tell you a secret: If you do not join the dance, we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for trying. If you dance badly to begin and we laugh, what is the sin in that? We will begin there."   Robert Fulghum

Sunday, January 9, 2011

give me a minute, please

I said to my soul, be still, and wait.  
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.  
T.S. Eliot

We have marked the passing of another year.  
Gratitude for this gift of journey mingles with the grief of loss.  
I recall days of discovery and still nights, 
the soul dancing in the dark.  

Years ago I copied a Sanskrit poem into my journal:

Although I conquer all the earth,
yet for me there is only one city:
In that city there is for me only one house;
And in that house, one room only;
And in that room, a bed.
And one woman sleeps there,
The shining joy and jewel of all my kingdom.

With time, in silence, 
waiting, waiting
I came to know
I am loved
Just as I am
The shining joy and jewel of all God's kingdom
And so are you
Everyone of us 

I just received an email from Saks Fifth Avenue.  Neiman-Marcus does not stoop to solicit my non-existent business.   Saks, however, took aim, sadly missing the marketing mark, but pointed me to "top-rated items and why people love them."  In the mood for a bit of foreign travel, I journeyed to their website and, since inquiring minds need to know, I browsed the list.

First up (do they have my age on file?) was a jar of cream brandishing five out of five stars in all twenty-three reviews.   More homage than description, the blurb touted the "nutrient rich Miracle Broth, created through a 3 to 4 month biofermentation process…the results, often called miraculous, speak for themselves."  I am promised "softer, firmer, creaseless skin"…and fast.  But here's the caveat.  This $230, 2 oz. jar of youth is in such great demand, that, alas, "a customer may order no more than 6 units of this item every thirty days."  

Let's see.  Six times $230 equals (wait, doing the math)…oh, my… $1,380 per month.  Perhaps the shock of viewing the bill freezes one's face and  renders it smooth as a baby's bottom.  [Note: The eye miracle comes out of another jar. Note, also, that neither promises weight loss.]  So I could pay my mortgage, and then half again more toward the principle, each month, or I could buy the cream.  I could give up food and gas in exchange for the elixir.  Weeks later, looking down at my cold, lonely body, people would say, "But doesn't her skin look soft, firm, and creaseless!!!"  

Our barter is time.  We trade time for money in order to sustain life.  To feed the family. To pay bills. To help someone in need. I remember coming home from work late one night.  I hadn't seen the sun in days. Left home in the dark every morning.  Spent each day in a windowless cubicle.  Returned in the dark.  That evening, I served up cold leftovers and ate standing at the kitchen counter, still clad in my coat.  Fell onto a chaise, numb and spent. Spent.  Like the slow dawn of a cold gray winter day, an awareness settled over me.  I was thankful for my job, for the roof over my head.  But my time-bank book was out of balance.  No time for recharging.  For people.  For life.  I woke up the next morning, still in my coat, with a crick in my neck and a new perspective.  I couldn't make  time but I would be a better steward of how I spent it.  

So, how did I spend my Christmas vacation?  Making memories.  A worthy purchase.  Satisfying.  And now the New Year has arrived.  January is my time to winnow, a celebration of "less is more" after the wonderful clutter of Christmas.  I love this time of shedding.  In the dark of winter, a lightness settles within. Here's the really good part. My creases and I are quite content.   I am forever young inside.  The heart counts each new day a beginning.  Life is good.  LIfe is gift.