Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Blindness Blindness.

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I’m a visual person and so grateful for the gift of sight. Something happened recently that served as an exquisite reminder of what a wonder it is to be able to see. I mean really see the world around us. From the miniscule to the monumental. From the fine grains of sand beneath our feet to the infinite stars that dust the midnight sky above our heads. And every extraordinary remarkable astonishing breathtaking thing in between.

What was the catalyst for this reawakening?

Recently, my Big Sis (aka BS) had a cataract removed from her right eye, the worst of the two afflicted by the disease. Her ability to see had grown increasingly dire over the past several years. Both close-up, and from afar, things were cloudy with a slight chance of rain.

Needless to say, our family was delighted, and quite frankly, relieved when the first cataract was removed. She was halfway to having her vision fully restored. Her eyes had been revised and she was given a shot at second sight.

Despite the challenges of our relationship, I love BS dearly and couldn’t wait for her to see things. But what I quickly realized was that her vision might have been restored but her ability to see had not. Her eyes were functioning physically but she could not see.

At a family dinner a few days after the surgery, she gushed exuberantly about all the things she could now see so well, the unbelievable things that her cataracts had kept hidden from her these past few years. It was such a marvel, a revelation beyond revelations.

The list was endless and exhausting. Dust on furniture, dirt in corners, scratches on vehicles, wrinkles on faces, blemishes on skin, grey in hair, cracks in walls, nicks on floors. On and on it went.

At first I found it rather humorous. But humor quickly changed to dismay, as this list appeared to be growing with each day that her vision improved.

And right now, as I write this, I just feel sad.

We live in such a lavish and graciously abundant universe. There is so much to see. So much awe-inspiring wonderment surrounds us. Although this particular wake-up call and reminder from BS, whose focus these past few weeks has been off-kilter and categorically on all the wrong things, was disturbing I cannot point the finger at her without pointing three back at myself.

In searching the darkest crevices of my heart, I know I’m just as bad. We’re one and the same, and not because we share DNA. We both lose sight of the big picture sometimes, and that has nothing to do with being sisters.

Far too often I have indulged in focusing on the flaws, the imperfections, the defects and deficiencies. I’ve been on faultfinding missions of epic proportions. I’ve only seen the lack and scarcity. Not enough. Half empty. I’ve squandered my vision carelessly. Recklessly. Audaciously.

And worse yet, I’ve taken it for granted.

I’ve chosen that impaired perspective over seeing the bounty and the plenty. The cornucopia. The beautiful. The splendor. The kind.

And most importantly, the good.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Garden of Little Big Things.

DSCN0818I’m big on the little things. The small, unexpected delights that make you smile. Or grin like a fool in love. Stand on your head and spit nickels. The unplanned moments and spontaneous incidences, with their elegant perfect brevity, that takes you by surprise. Then there are all those transitory things that are so easily overlooked or often passed by completely. Those are quite simply, the best. When you raise your head and say, ‘thank God I saw that.’

I also believe in everyday miracles. The tiny wonders that make you grateful.

This summer I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the innate generosity and enduring tenacity of the earth, quite literally beneath my feet. It began with a compost box in our backyard. Actually it began before that. With delicious winter meals of roasted squash and crispy green salads populated with grape and cherry tomatoes.

DSCN0834Little back story. Our house is built on a rock. A massive boulder that ascends heavenward less than ten feet from the back door. Steps have been cut and built into the rock so that you can climb it with ease. At the top it levels off into this lumpy grassy knoll in spring that is parched and stripped of color in summer and then mushy from the relentless rains of fall and winter. Always a farm boy at heart, E refers to this as his Back 40, but unlike his Annapolis Valley roots, where food crops grew in abundance, this little piece of paradise is canopied by Garry Oak Trees and shadowed by the Douglas Firs that tower like looming sentinels in the park that butts up against our property. We soon discovered, our first summer living here, that growing things to eat would be a challenge at best. And far too often, downright heartbreaking.

Like the early settlers and pioneers of the New World, E and I persevered. We were inspired by a deep yearning to sow good seeds, tend to them with loving kindness, watch them flourish and burgeon so that by summer’s end we could enjoy the harvest season, nature’s bounty, the abundance of Autumn. Surely this is what Mother Earth intended, even for gardens grown in difficult settings.

DSCN0971E persevered. I gave up.

Through tenacious experimentation with planting various and sundry seedlings, grew understanding, wisdom and respect for what we had in our Back 40. First and foremost, we accepted that it was different from any other garden we had ever grown. It did its own thing, for the most part. It was a maverick. In many ways, it was a mirror to our own natures.

Eventually E figured out what grew. And what didn’t. Blueberries for example, love the rocky ridged beds that E built and filled with enough earth for them to take hold and produce an abundance of juicy berries. We have over a dozen bushes now of different varieties, including pink blueberries. Who knew? On the very top of the rock, where the trees don’t block the sun, big bouquets of petunias grow beautifully in cobalt blue and burgundy glazed earthenware pots. And a variety of tall elegant grasses do well on the sunny slopes that flank the steps. In the long narrow bed that clings to the side of the rock, just outside our kitchen window, a grouping of succulents with tiny pink flowers that bloom in autumn have taken occupancy. I am a blessed woman.

One of the things we have grown to appreciate the most about this wild horse of a garden are all the things that grow naturally, without any help from us. For the rock knows what it needs and what it wants. Like all the wild flowers that grow in the tiny pockets in the rock. Purple things, little mysterious gems that pop up everywhere all year round. I don’t know their fancy Latin names. I just call them beautiful. Then there are the daisies with their sunny smiles that hang out on the side of the fishpond with the orange spiky lilies, red hots, the scraggly fuchsia bushes and overgrown grape vine. And of course, there are the clingers and hangers-on. The pale green lichens, the mossy carpet bits and the small-scale succulents.

DSCN0735The birds love it here too. Plus, they also do their share of planting. Without them, we wouldn’t have the pink and yellow funny-faced snapdragons.

But of all these miraculous things, the most wondrous of all, are what E calls “the volunteers”, a phenomenon of sowing and reaping that occurred for the first time this summer. One that took us by surprise, and delighted us, beyond measure. And to think, it all started last winter with roasted squash and tomato salads. And that black compost box.

In the spring E filled all the rocky beds with the rich mulch that he had been collecting all winter. And from that, six mystery squash plants and three tomato plants took hold. Sprouted and grew effortlessly. Miracle plants. Gracious gifts from God and Mother Earth.

We’ve spent the summer watching them do their own thing. Just doing what comes naturally, I suppose. Add a little sunshine and water to E’s well-mulched earth. And voila! Hallelujah! A miracle.

And we slow dance under the harvest moon.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Walking the Tightrope.

While Ma was lingering in her last weeks, and then days on Earth, I was walking a tightrope. It was surreal. Dreamlike most of the time. It was a delicate balance. How do you keep precious hope alive while you’re slipping headfirst into the long dark tunnel of despair?

The heart wants what the heart wants. But the head knows the hard cold truth. This cruel candor resided in the belly of the thin black line I traversed every minute of every one of those final evanescent days.

It was as though I was walking high above this fragile life that was unraveling. Thread by thread. Bit by bit. One piece at a time. Tiny fragments dissolving into dust.

There I was, out of my body. Looking down. A witness to my own personal heartbreak.

The line was taut. The emotions tauter. I was neither light on my feet. Nor was I nimble. There was no grace in my step. I was just there. Trying to breathe. Trying to keep it together. Whatever “it” was.

The multi-layers of tyrannizing fear permeated ever fibre and pore of my body. Suffocating my soul. Strangling my spirit. I was bound and gagged by the evil twins, anguish and anxiety.

Fear of losing Ma. Fear of life afterwards. Fear of going on without her. Fear of falling apart. Fear of my emotions and what they could do if unleashed. Fear for my family, especially my children. Fear that my heart would never be the same. Fear that I could not go on. Fear that I would.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

With each teetering step, I wondered if this was the defining one. The tripper. The one where all equilibrium was lost. The pivotal point where standing meets stumbling. The place where I falter. Then free fall.

Down. Down. Down.

Eventually, and inevitably, I did fall. It was inescapable. I couldn’t stay up there forever. I had to come back down to earth. Face the other inevitable. Ma was dying. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Except be there.

In the end, falling was an epic relief. I would have let go sooner had I known that I had a safety net. It was there all along.

Yes, for I fell sweetly and safely into the arms of everyone who loved me.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Happy to be Here.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

It’s been one of those weeks. The up and down roller coaster ride. Good. Bad. With a little bit of random thrown in for good measure. It’s also been one of those weeks that has left me a little bit shaken. Wobbly-kneed and rubber-legged. But grateful. Big time.

It’s easy to be grateful during the good times. Especially when the living is easy. For the good things. All those blessings that we want more of. Happy shiny people all around us. Our dear ones by our side. Full of good health and abundance. Kindness and generosity. Peace love and understanding. The list is endless of all the good things to be thankful for.

But what about the hard times? The sad and tragic days. The difficult seasons of stress, when life feels more like a pressure cooker than a pastoral playground. How do you find gratitude when you feel like giving up? When life is just one super-sized shit show. What about those days when the best you can say is, thanks for nothing? How do you find the place in your spirit where gratefulness and appreciation dwell?

I don’t know.

I do know this. When you have a close call. A brush with death. A collision with calamity. The veil of ambiguity is lifted. You see. With such lucidity. Clarity. And in high definition. At least that’s what happened to me this week.

While driving into work on Thursday morning, I was in an accident with my truck. It happened in an instant. One minute I was stopped at a crosswalk watching the pedestrian at the curb. Then within seconds I was shoved from behind and catapulted into the middle of the intersection.

That woke me up.

I was momentarily stunned by the deafening sound of the truck behind engaging with the rear-end of mine. It sounded worse than it actually was. Once I got my bearings and realized that the only damage was to my truck. No humans were harmed. Everyone involved was alive and kicking. I was grateful.

I am here.  All is well.

Trucks can be repaired. Or replaced. They’re just material things. Temporary impermanent pleasures. Not important in the grand scheme. Humans and all living creatures matter. I’m thankful to have been intimately reminded of the difference.

The young man, who rear-ended the truck, was horrified that he hit me. My heart ached for him. It was just one of those things. He looked away for a second. That’s all it took. Could have happened to anyone. Including me. I’ve had some close calls. We all have. But for the grace of God, goes I. So in our brief exchange, I got well with him, right then and there. On the spot absolution.

I’m grateful for that too.

Truth is, at that moment, my gratitude muscle was in a need of a workout. It had grown complacent. Lazy even. I had said the words “I am grateful” so often, they had grown damn near meaningless. Rather than coming from a sincere place deep within my heart, they rolled off my tongue like liquid gold. By rote. Like rhyming off multiplication tables. They had become a cliched elixir to cover my ass in the spiritual department.

Evolved psychologist, spiritual gurus and preachers advise us to be in a mindful state of constant gratitude, especially if we want to be divinely healthy. Honestly, I thought I was. After all, I am the Queen of Deep. Especially after the year we just had with E and the Big C.  I was spewing words of gratitude like yellow smoke from a factory. I had it down.

Then Thursday morning happened. I am truly grateful to be here. To write this post. To spend a little time with you.

To say thank you.