Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Maple Tree.

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I have a Maple Tree in my front yard.

I brought it with me from Ontario as a tiny sapling.

I removed it gingerly from its mother tree the morning I left to return to BC.

I wrapped it in a wet paper towel and a plastic baggy.

I placed it carefully into my purse where it journeyed across Canada with me.

I loved it so and made a promise to my parents to take good care of it.

I planted it temporarily in a small terracotta pot.

I replanted it and replanted it into ever-bigger pots that sat on my sunny patio.

I watched as it grew and grew until it was the same height as me.

I bought a little white house after my parents died just around the corner from the rental.

I lovingly removed the Maple Tree from its final pot made from a wooden barrel.

I planted it permanently in the front yard deeply anchored in the solid earth.

I called it Marion after my mother.

She is well over twenty feet tall now.

She is far bigger than my mother could have ever imagined.

She is a faithful reminder of my mother and the life we shared.

She provides a welcome canopy of shade.

She keeps my front room cool and comfortable in the summertime.

She is beautifully naked and oh so graceful in the winter.

She quietly stands guard and watches over this little white house.

She is eternally helpful and obliging that way.

She also makes me feel safe in the shelter of her branches.

She changes color with the seasons but not the way her mother tree did back in Ontario.

She wonders about some of those autumn colors of her lineage.

She ponders the reason they are missing from her leaves.

She thinks her mother tree looked divine in a particular shade of red.

She mourns the loss of the things she did not inherit.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Unfinished Business.

IMG_0676It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage.  Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.

Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.

On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’  Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind.  Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet.  Shit.’

Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking.  E’s cancer diagnosis.  And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.

Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.  I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions.  From fear to anger to sadness to joy.  And now gratitude.  This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life.  How quick it all passes.  The cliche is true. Time flies.  Especially the older you get.  I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’  I want to freeze frame the good stuff.  Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff.  Regardless of how it may appear on the surface.  I want to hold on tight.  Squeeze the life out of every last thing.

I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life.  The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it.  Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.

Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe.  We are all less than a blip on the radar of time.  Practically nothing.  Or perhaps not?  Why are we here anyway?  I don’t know.  But I want to know.  This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions.  I’m a seeker.

I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.

Then there’s Ma’s painting.  The unfinished one.  I found it in the attic at 204 after she died.  Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with etherial wisps and airy brushstrokes.  From a distance it looks finished.  A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all.  Not by a long stretch.  You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning.  The first few layers.  The background for the real painting.  Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images.  The Sleeping Giant on the horizon.  Sail boats reflected in the water.  I don’t know for sure.  I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.

Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting.  I have struggled with the desire to finish it.  Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth.  But I won’t.  This is her unfinished business.  Not mine.  And quite frankly, none of my business.

But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish.  Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone.  Not sure I’m okay with that.

Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person.  At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list.  Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing.  Or maybe mine would be too long.  Endless.  From here to eternity.  It would take me forever.  When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed.  Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?

Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do.  I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger.  These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain.  C’est la vie.

So I focus on what I can still do.

Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.

When do I start?  Here.  This place.  This present moment.  As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.

What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life?  It doesn’t matter.  Meaning can be found in anything. And everything.  Doing the laundry.  Mowing the lawn.  Climbing a rock.  Soaring from the top of a mountain.  Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight.  Holding the hand of the broken hearted.  Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still.  The list is endless.  And very personal.  That’s the supreme beauty of it.

Who can I surround myself with?  Who are my people?  My tribe?  My dear ones?  They’re already here. Every last one of them.  And more will come.  Some will leave when our business together is done.

Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world?  Make it a better place than when I arrived?  Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way?  Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place.  In my own home.  At work.  Down the road.  Across the street.  The country.  The ocean.  The earth.

How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps.   Little tiptoes.  One foot in front of the other.  Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings.  I don’t know.  I just know I’m going to die trying.

Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not?  Just because.  That’s all I got.

I’ll take a crack at some dreams.  Hatch a few more schemes.  Make a new plan or two.  Write another story.  Wish upon a star.  Cause a ruckus.  Blow out a few more candles on the cake.  And keep going down the road.  For as long as I’ve got.

Will I die with some business left unfinished?  Most undoubtably so.  I am a work in progress, after all.

Just like Ma’s painting.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Wisdom Doesn’t Come Easy.

Ma loved the shade her summer hats provided.

When my mother died two things happened.  First, I lost one of the people who were most dear and precious to me.  And second, she didn’t leave me with any words of wisdom regarding the “meaning of life and why we’re here.” She didn’t uncover any big secret during her life and impart that to me on her deathbed.  No, instead Ma, my daughter M and I played “I Spy with My Little Eye” on what would be the eve of her departure to God knows where.  We laughed at the grey wall.  I never knew it was her last night. I thought there was still time for her to cough up some tidbit that would help me understand what this thing we call life is all about.

I realize unearthing the meaning of life is a huge topic and probably an impossible burden to have placed on my sweet Ma, especially at the end of her life when she was so terribly ill but in my defense, she was a wise woman and I just assumed she would say something that I could hang onto for the rest of my life.  Put an end to all this seeking and just sail on through without any effort or care until we hooked up in the great Hereafter. I mean it’s only fair.  She was my mother for God’s sake.  She was supposed part with something really great, incredibly profound and comforting that would explain my purpose for being here.

Ten years later, I still grieve for Ma.  Not the way I did initially but I think of her daily and every now and again I am overcome with sadness and I cry.  These sudden spurts of emotion are random and always unexpected.  I can pass a photo of her every day for months and not think too much about it and then one day out of the blue I’ll see the photo in a completely different way, as if for the first time, and I start to cry.  Like a baby.  Inconsolable sobbing. Snot-faced and red-eyed ugly.  It isn’t just a photo that can reduce me to tears either.  Anything can trigger it: an elderly woman with veiny hands and long piano fingers examines a mango in the grocery store; a baby in the park with dark chocolate eyes glances my way; a dog barks in the dead of night; a piece of pie in the fridge looks cold; a fallen leaf forlorn; a rock; a bird; a plane, a hat.  Anything can set me off really.  There’s no rhyme.  And there certainly is no reason.

Why does this happen?  What is it about this random, seemingly unconnected stuff that reminds me of Ma and touches my heart so deeply.  Maybe because it isn’t so random after all.  And it is connected.  All of it.  To Ma.  To me.  To you.  To God.

As it turns out, I did learn something profound through that whole journey of Ma getting ill and ultimately dying.  This probably shouldn’t have been the epic revelation it was but I can be a little dim sometimes.  Anyway, here’s the thing: it wasn’t Ma’s job to tell me the meaning of life, nor answer the big question of why we’re here.  That wasn’t her responsibility.  It’s mine. This is all part of my quest, my journey.  Her’s was entirely something else.  Between her and God.  None of my business.  And maybe she did know something and wouldn’t tell me because by doing so she would have robbed me of the chance to figure this out on my own.  What greater gift.  Ma was wise.