27 October 2010

John 14:7

Today my thoughts are not so much about me.  This post is for a friend who needs a hug.  I hope these words help to bridge the miles between us.  Love you gobs, as always. xoxo
 Who, being loved, is poor?  ~Oscar Wilde 
Here are some thoughts which come, once again, from my sweet little book of positive quotations.  It was given to me by someone who knew I'd put it to good use.  I think today is the perfect time to pay it forward.
*     *     *    

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong ~ because someday in your life you will have been all of those.  ~George Washington Carver
~ ~ ~ 
It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up. ~Vince Lombardi
*     *     *   
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.  ~M. Scott Peck
~ ~ ~   
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. 
~Native American Proverb
*     *     *   
A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.  ~Patricia Neal
~ ~ ~   
May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty.
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.
~Chief Dan George
*     *     *   
When a good man is hurt, all who would be good must suffer with him.  ~Euripedes
~ ~ ~
A good cry lightens the heart.  ~Yiddish Proverb
*     *     *   
I'm in love with the potential of miracles.  For me, the safest place is out on a limb.  ~Shirley MacLaine
~ ~ ~
The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.  ~Buddha
*     *     *   
We shall find peace.
We shall hear angels.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. 
~Anton Chekov 
~ ~ ~
When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.
~E.W. Howe

The quote from Howe sums up the gift. Words. That is all I have tonight. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27  And here, my favorite hymn...I'm not sure which strikes me more, the lyrics or the story of Mr. Horatio Spafford, the Chicago lawyer who penned the words.

Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago who maintained a keen interest in Christian activities, deeply spiritual and devoted to the scriptures.  Sometime in 1871, a fire in Chicago heavily devastated the city, and months before that, Spafford had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Before the fire, Spafford also experienced the loss of his son. Two years after the fire, he planned a trip to Europe for his family. The day they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters to travel as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and sank in few minutes.  After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford's wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Shortly after, Spafford left by ship. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.  The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is unwavering. (Text courtesy of Suite101 and BibleCharts.) 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Be strong.  Have faith. 
Love, Stephanie xoxo

26 October 2010

au Naturel

I once told someone I care about that I am most naked when I write. It is true. Writing is an exercise ~ my exercise ~ of vulnerability. “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~Madeleine L'Engle  The writing is easy...but sharing the words, well, much less so. I like to think I am personable, but I am also protective of my emotions and always (albeit often quietly) on the defensive....

"A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure." ~Louisa May Alcott

...but I am learning to let down my guard. Sometimes all you need is the love of a really great friend (or two or three).  “Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them.” ~Bill Russell

It is this particular time of year, especially, that heightens my senses.  I am far more keenly aware of my surroundings than in any other season.  Perhaps it is the farewell...of a season, of a year that is fading and will not come again.  Perhaps it is the thread of melancholia that is etched in my bones.  Why, why [in everything] do I always prepare myself for goodbye?  Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile. ~William Cullen Bryant

These sentiments seem a bit depressing.  That isn't the intent.  I prefer 'solemn' or 'intuitive' as descriptors anyway.  It doesn't matter.  The thoughts are mine and I can label them as I choose.  Today my choice is to let the season propel me to put words to print.  That, to me, is happiness.

Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
~Emily Bronte

The Daily Book of Positive Quotations. Linda Picone. September 30:  A weed is no more than a flower in disguise. ~James Lowell  How's that for optimism?  Today, the weed seems to be the book, the story, I've been working out in my mind.  I'm still struggling to get all of the details delineated in my thoughts.  Maybe that's the problem.  I've kept "it" in hiding for far too long.  Perhaps the flower will not bloom until the seeds fall onto that elusive paper soil.  I really, really need to get busy.  Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus  My trip to the Cape changed many things pertaining to the piece.  Nantucket has worked its way into my heart and into the setting, as have two new characters which were unbeknownst to me prior to my jaunt to the east coast.  One of these characters I have met, talked with...the other, not at all.  Both, however, have become central to the book's assumed epilogue.  See?  I already know the ending before I've truly begun.  But enough of this...  I'm clutching my newest Moleskine, in Nantucket blue of course, and I am prepared to make a concerted effort to work through the details of the story ~ the story of S, of O and his daughter L, and of C, too.  I only wish I had a view from a Widow's Walk, from which to look out to sea.  I think my efforts at writing this evening might bear much more fruit if it were so.  Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot."  ~D.H. Lawrence

Photo by Paul Gerritson

I include this Autumnal Sonnet below.  It strikes a chord...with my mood, my book, and with the characters who know their story even better than I...for now.

Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,
And night by night the monitory blast
Wails in the key-hole, telling how it pass'd
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,
Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt
Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods
Than any joy indulgent Summer dealt.

William Allingham 

22 October 2010

The Week's End...in Two Acts

Part I, Thursday

I'm wearing pearls and feeling a little Audrey Hepburn-ish today.  That's a good thing.  I'm wearing heels, too.  It's funny...the older I get, the more deeply my feet fall in love with them.  That's a good thing, too.  I'm all dressed up and ready for school!
*     *     * 
Hours have passed since I began talking to myself in this venue.  In the interim, I've taught [and learned with] twenty-two bright young minds, laughed with the best teachers in town, and finished up Night One of Parent Teacher conferences.  They were fabulous!  Seriously.  I know, I'm a lucky girl.  Tomorrow the students will not be at school, but we teachers will.  I'll be leading the K-2 teachers in an exciting (insert tongue in cheek here) session on very specific data analysis relative to my elementary building, school district, and state.  I have the two-inch-thick binder of reports ready to go.  I think I'll couple it with my favorite strappy espadrilles and a smile.  Everything is better with a smile.  Maybe it's the accessory I like best of all.  Maybe.

Part II, Friday

It was late when I arrived home last evening and as much as I felt the pull to write, I felt the tug of my youngest child's hand more keenly.  There was but one choice to make.  I love my children beyond compare.  "Mommy, you look beautiful tonight."  ~  "Ahh, I adore you, Lane Bea.  And you look quite beautiful yourself, my sweet little brown-eyed girl."  Always...always.

Today was busy.  Data Analysis is exhausting work.  Beginning the morning with pineapple juice and an jalapeno bagel helped kickstart the day.  Then there was the celebratory finale with my team ~ formally called lunch.  Thanks, Ria's, for the big comfy booth...and food...and eye candy.  (That's yet another story.) 

The remainder of the afternoon progressed well and was productive, but it is done, and I am not sorry.  I am in a melancholy mood.  I think I've experienced so much joy these past couple of days that a shift could only be expected at some point.  As I type, I am listening to songs in minor key.  They reflect my thoughts...not sadness...but there are no words to adequately explain.  The music crescendos and says what I cannot.  Ultimately, I am entering into my writer's frame of mind.  Tonight as the temperature falls and the darkness deepens, I will sit on my porch...wrapped in a blanket...notebook in hand...and I will write. 

Tonight I have a story that asks to be told.  Tonight.

14 October 2010

Sweet Tooth

“Know something, sugar? Stories only happen to people who can tell them” ~Allan Gurganus
A quaint Nantucket candy shoppe~
Even the flowers exude patriotism.
Another sweet shoppe, the Nantucket Chocolatier, boasts original chocolate covered New England cranberries.  Delicious.  The treats come in milk chocolate (my favorite) or dark chocolate, and are infused with a hint of orange.  My only regret is that I did not splurge.  At $40.00 per one-pound bag, I exercised self-control.  I continue to ask myself why.  I rarely exercise self-control when I truly want something badly enough... and I remain puzzled at my decision.  Next time...there is always next time.  Perhaps I'll find a reason to celebrate in the very near future.  Mail order is just a click away. 
Krispy Kreme?  What's Krispy Kreme?  The east coast knows how a real donut should taste.
I miss Dunkin' Donuts.  Thanks, Cape Cod, for the memories. 

Okay, so these treats aren't edible, but the windows of Nantucket boast flower boxes almost without fail.  Beautiful. 

Flowers On My Window Ledge
Rissi Palmer
I water the flowers on my window ledge
Visions runnin' through my head
Fields of indigo and red
I hear the words I can’t forget
And I remember what you said...

One of the sweetest spots of all...
Sing me a song, any song, Mr. Harry Connick, Jr.

A little bit of me and a whole lot of you
Add a dash of starlight and a dozen roses, too
Then let it rise for a hundred years or two
And that's the recipe for making love

It doesn't need sugar 'cause it's already sweet
It doesn't need an oven 'cause it's got a lot of heat
Just add a dash of kisses to make it all complete
And that's the recipe for making love

"Recipe for Love" from We Are In Love (1990), Harry Connick, Jr.

Missouri girls and Massachusetts mayhem.  Say, "Ahhh...." 
Love you, sweet girl.   
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

13 October 2010

Hunger Pangs

A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands. ~ Lord Byron 
I can do without the champagne...but not the lobster.  This feast, my first dinner in Cape Cod, had 'Stephanie' written all over it.  The food was delicious.  The company?  Illustrious, to say the least. The repast was shared with Suzy and Burnie, Julian and Sam, Paul and Mary Jo, Roxanne and David, Ellie and Rosie (who loved me best of all, I'm quite sure), and Boomer, too.   What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories. ~George Eliot    Maybe this, in part, does the most to facilitate an explanation of the stronghold my Chatham getaway has on my mind and heart.  The sharing of a meal is truly an intimate experience.  My first evening there was spent in conversation...around the dinner table, seated on the couch with company, leaning against the deck in the evening air...and continuing long into the night.  Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard

A View at Provincetown
 Flamboyance is the theme at Provincetown, the original landing site of the Pilgrims.  I'll skip the description of the town and leave the research to you.  I did enjoy a bit of pole dancing at the Governor Bradford though, and can assure you this is the most conservative act that took place in town that day...unless you count my lunch of lobster wontons and~you guessed it~clam chowder.  And by the way, I was not the only "girl" wearing heels that afternoon.
Sunday was spent on Nantucket.  Words cannot adequately express my feelings about this place.  It is very old.  It is lovely.  It is hauntingly mysterious.  Suffice it to say, I left behind a piece of my heart on that small island in the Atlantic.  It gives me reason enough to return.

While this post is primarily about the rumblings of my stomach (and I could tell you about my delicious lunch of crab cake with remoulade sauce while on the island), in this space I can't help but post photos of some beloved architecture.  The captains' houses, the widows' walks, the cobblestone streets.  What's not to love?
Notice the Widow's Walk...How often did the inhabitants watch for returning ships?
Perfection.  This one is my favorite!
A lovely Nantucket home, proudly flying the American flag.
The doorway beckons...
An inviting facade, both the boy and the house.
The Jared Coffin House, now a Bed and Breakfast...
and reportedly haunted.  Boo!

Surveyed and laid out in 1678,
Centre Street is the oldest street in Nantucket.

Cobblestones on the Causeway
More architectural love. Clean lines. Classically Nantucket.

Another incredible Captain's house

The Brotherhood of Thieves..."Good Food, Good Drink, Good Company"
(Even the ghosts think so.)
*     *     *  
There is nothing better on a cold wintry day than a properly made pot pie. ~Craig Claiborne  The most amazing chicken pot pie, served in a bread bowl, was just the ticket for Burnie, Suzy, and Kelly.  Logan, my other dinner date, enjoyed fish (since his requisite 'crabs' were not on the menu).  My own farewell meal at The Nun is best summed up like this:  Soup and fish explain half the emotions of human life. ~Sydney Smith   I have always been adamant that other than in chowder or bisque, I detest clams.  I've recently added another exception to my list, however. 

quahog  (ˈkɔːˌhɒɡ)
1753, from an Algonquian language, perhaps Narragansett poquauhock or Pequot p'quaghhaug, "hard clam"

This definition is a bonus...  My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. One of the primary reasons is my love of the history that accompanies the celebration.  This includes teaching young children about the Wompanoag tribe...an Algonquian people. There is nothing like authentic, New England-style, Baked Stuffed Quahog to send me on journey back in time.  For some reason though, I feel a bit more like a Wompanoag squaw than a Pilgrim.  Anyway, I do now finally understand the significance of clams at the First Thanksgiving.  God is certainly good!  
Batter-Fried Lobster Tail with Butter

As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It's time to start making soup again.
~Leslie Newman 

The Red Nun, Oh how I love thee.

Upon my return from Cape Cod, I immediately began to voice my craving for clam chowder.  The uninformed response?  "There is clam chowder in the pantry."  I am trying hard these days not to be argumentative, but frankly, "THERE IS NO CLAM CHOWDER IN THE PANTRY."  Not real chowder, that is.  Not New England clam chowder.  There is a distinct difference.  Ah, and the North Atlantic coast continues its lure on my palette... 

Cape Cod + Me = Love

Are we not like two volumes of one book?
~Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

01 October 2010

Love is a Place

As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I am back...physically.  I've discovered, however, that sometimes it is impossible to fully return from a place with which you have fallen in love.  I expected as much.  I mean, I expected to adore Cape Cod and treasure the experience.  I did not, though,  anticipate the strong and immediate pull to go back.  "I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds– but I think of you always in those intervals." ~ Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper  I suspect that several subsequent posts will center around my love affair with this region of New England, but it will take awhile for me to find the words to adequately express my sentiments.  I am still savoring certain moments and am, as yet, selfishly unwilling to share. 

It is completely coincidental (or perhaps, not) that my inaugural visit to this lovely parcel of the Northeast paralleled the introduction of autumn.  And maybe, just maybe, the lunar theatrics conspired to forever tether my heart to the Atlantic shore.  Here is a report from Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA:  "For the first time in almost 20 years, northern autumn is beginning on the night of a full Moon. The coincidence sets the stage for a 'Super Harvest Moon' and a must-see sky show to mark the change of seasons. The action begins at sunset on Sept 22nd, the last day of northern summer. As the sun sinks in the west, bringing the season to a close, the full Harvest Moon will rise in the east, heralding the start of fall. The two sources of light will mix together to create a kind of 360-degree, summer-autumn twilight glow that is only seen on rare occasions. A Super Harvest Moon, a rare twilight glow, a midnight conjunction—rarely does autumn begin with such celestial fanfare. Enjoy the show!"  A midnight conjunction...and what a show it was!  Standing on a Massachusetts beach with my friends, the harvest moon smiled at me across the water...amazingly gorgeous...quiet and still...beckoning. "Till then I wasn't alive, I longed for you like the love sick moon pulls the tide." ~Corinne Bailey Rae

The Moon by William Henry Davies

Thy beauty haunts me heart and soul,
Oh, thou fair Moon, so close and bright;
Thy beauty makes me like the child
That cries aloud to own thy light:
The little child that lifts each arm
To press thee to her bosom warm.
Though there are birds that sing this night
With thy white beams across their throats,
Let my deep silence speak for me
More than for them their sweetest notes:
Who worships thee till music fails,
Is greater than thy nightingales.

This past Tuesday can best be described as assiduous.  Following three hours of sleep, I awoke at 5:00 a.m. EST, (4:00 a.m. "my" time), loaded the car, and then began the two-hour trek to Boston.  Traffic was heavy but I arrived at the airport with time to spare.  The flight to O'Hare was depressing.  I was anxious to see my family again after my brief respite, but I had already begun wondering when I'd be in Chatham again.  (Like I said, I've fallen in love.)  "I imagine a line, a white line, painted on the sand and on the ocean, from me to you." ~Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated  The layover in Chicago seemed endless, and the flight to Kansas City was cramped.  Fortunately, the nearest passengers were European and their conversations in both Irish and French kept me entertained.  I won't bore you with the details of the nearly three-hour drive home, following the final touchdown.  I already bored myself with the actual experience.  "The Portuguese call it saudade: a longing for something so indefinite as to be indefinable. Love affairs, miseries of life, the way things were, people already dead, those who left and the ocean that tossed them on the shores of a different land - all things born of the soul that can only be felt." ~Anthony De Sa, Barnacle Love
So once again I'll say the words...I am back...but I am somewhere else as well.  Tonight a piece of my heart is beating 1,400 miles away, in a small town that is blanketed by a dark blue sea. This 'tug' has a name.  

tide  \ˈtīd\    n.

1.  the alternate rising and falling of the surface of the ocean, the result of differing gravitational forces exerted at different parts of the earth by the moon or sun
2.  a fit or opportune time
"And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart—knowing a precious moment had gone and we, not there. We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours forever—the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on belfry floor, a remembered voice, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass."  ~J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country
love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

~e.e. cummings