Saturday, December 4, 2010
Once upon a time there was a woman entering the winter years of her life. She still remembered how she had felt as a young woman, but her heart was careworn, her body exhausted, her life experience enough to reinforce that yes, she was now 64, that once unimaginable age. She was ready to assume the mantle and venerable title of Crone. This was fine with her. She was more than ready to sit on her porch swing, to survey the green trees, full of the cheerful singing of birds, the buzzing dart of hummingbirds, the tapping of woodpeckers, the chatter of squirrels, the occasional raucous caw of a raven.
On her porch swing, she travels. Sometimes she is in the simmering African veld, the murmur of her bamboo wind chimes clacking, evoking images of elephants marching trunk to tail through the savannah, lions lying amber and majestic in the setting sun, wildebeeste moving across the great and thirsty plains. Or she might zip over the summit to the wild beaches, wander the endless sandy shore looking for sand dollars and abalone shells. Or, better yet, take up temporary residence in a tiny wooden cabin perched on the edge of the sea, no human habitation within sight or sound, only the spout of a surfacing gray whale for company.
She might travel back, to the town of her childhood, to lanes full of the scent of wisteria and mimosa, yellow japonica trailing over white picket fences, sprinklers shush-shush-shushing in the evening dusk. To years when life lay all before her and hopes ran high, all the possible choices spread before her like a banquet, herself too unawakened to realize she was the one to do the choosing. These were the years when the fairy tales would all come true. One Day when she escaped childhood, the magic would happen the way all the books and movies promised. The fairy tales promised a prince, a happily ever after, everything life had lacked so far.
During her twenties and thirties, she walked city streets staring longingly into windows, seeing couples everywhere, looking up from books and smiling, bringing each other cups of tea. She was searching for a home, both physical and emotional, a home and partner for her body, a place for her heart to land. In the end, the lesson she had to learn, and the moral of this fairy tale, is that she had to become that partner and that place for herself before she could live there with somebody else. Because this isn't a movie, by the time she figured this out she preferred living alone to doing any more battle with bumbling princes tilting at windmills. This is her happy ending.
She didn't waste much time exploring alternate realities, the lives she might have led, the books she might have written, love that stayed, children who flourished and did well with happy hearts. Life is what it is; she is blessed with and grateful for what she has been given. Her perspective is on the larger landscape, the soul's journey. In other lifetimes, or other realms, she will find what once she sought here.
Some days the porch swing traveled back to coffeehouse years, when the magic happened and life began anew, or the years when she gathered her strength under her, then made the mighty leap to Tofino, the one dream of her life she made come true all by herself.
Best of all were days when she sat and swung back and forth content just to Be, in the present moment, listening to the clinking of the wind chimes, watching Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, hearing the yips and growls of happy puppies tumbling on the lawn. Days when the world left her alone to enjoy and savor her life, her peacefulness, when she pushed back all the cares and responsibilities that threatened to swamp her now frail shoulders.
Once upon a time, this woman dreamed big dreams. Then Life happened and she learned the journey is about how well we travel, not Getting There. It's what we pack and bring along with us, not the prince, that saves us in the end: heart and humour, courage and steadfastness, hope and gratitude, reverence and wonder.
Not the fairy tale she had dreamed of, it was more of a Grimm's cautionary tale, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. But it was the tale that was hers, the path that had unfolded under her feet as she walked along looking at the sky. She built this life out of driftwood, patchwork, masking tape and a refusal to give up. Inch by inch and row by row, she planted and harvested her garden, and with that harvest nourished her children. She gave them roots and wings. Whether they use those wings to fly, or to perch, terrified, on ledges is up to them. She can only wish them sunshine, blue skies, laughter, spirit, relentless hope, dreams and some of the strength she had had to have, in order to make it through.