We made some pretty fierce friendships in Keene, NH. IN making our move to the West Coast, leaving our son behind (who chose to stay in Keene) was hard. And leaving these friendships ‘behind’ was hard, too. (Say what you will about Facebook, it’s been wonderful for small, constant contact with those people.)
Each person had a particular, unique way of showing up in our world, some special way of looking at the world that would amaze me, and support me, when I struggled with some life issue. I hesitate to even pull out one name, because there were others just as magnificient in my heart. But today is a little shout-out for Melinda.
In the context of my struggle to find peace with difficult people, with problematic family stuff, with my own journey as a human being on this planet, Melinda taught me much about forgiveness and love. About what was part of my journey, and what was part of someone else’s journey. She knows I don’t believe in God per se, but knew how to put it into context I could accept and hold. She could see when I was part of the problem. And she could see when the problem was not mine to ‘fix’. “That’s not between you and them,” she’d explain. “That’s between them and God.” (I could accept ‘God’ as what I would call ‘fate’ or ‘karma’ or ‘the universe’, and see the wisdom.)
One thing we talked about often was miracles. I struggled with the concept. I could see that in times of great distress and agony, when loved ones were in danger, when I felt hopeless and powerless (or rather, recognized how powerless I was to put things right), there were always little moments when something powerful happened. I would cross paths with someone who had exactly the right words I needed to hear, to get through that day. That person might be anyone: A perfect stranger, or a casual acquaintance or a good friend with a life experience I’d never known or imagined. Something in me would blurt out what was on my mind. And that person would have the wisdom, the insight, to help. Not the solution, not the ‘fix’. Just enough of ‘something’ for me to take the next step. (Or not to fall into the pit of despair.)
Melinda said that that’s what miracles are, if we are open to them: Tiny moments of grace that let us see the world differently, a small change in perception and perspective….if we are open to them.
Today I went to the flea market. When my soul is sore, sometimes hunter-gathering soothes it. Finding something that someone else has given up, tossed aside or left behind, or worse, the objects valued enough to hold on to, but cannot find room for in our lives until debt or death acts for us, the treasures of the auctioned storage locker…there’s something beautiful and poignant about even the ugliest and least meaningful (to me) objects.
Today I found a small pair of round-nose jewelry pliers, and pretty rocks–petrified wood, a small agate, a geode. A necklace I can reuse for the beads, and a small bookcase that might fit under the table in my studio.
And a small stuffed rabbit.
If you ever visited my studio in Keene, you know about my eclectic small doll collection, and my pebble collection, and my shells, and pottery shards, and my small boxes. And my menagerie of stuffed animals.
As I walked by, the vendor tried to stand it up on her table. It kept flopping over, so she stuffed it into the slot of a toaster.
I stopped and without thinking, cried, “Oh, no, don’t put him in the toaster!”
She stopped and looked uneasy. “I know, but I can’t make him stand up!” She caressed him hesitantly.
Impulsively, I asked, “How much?” She held up three fingers.
I shook my head, trying to be a grown-up. If it had been the holidays, I would have bought him to put in my little Christmas tree.
If I had more cash, I might have bought him to send to my friend Julie, who adores bunnies.
But….”You have enough little toys,” I told myself sternly, and turned away.
“Two dollar!” she piped. I hesitated. I couldn’t help but think how hard it is to bring all this stuff to the flea market, to stand there all day behind piles of….stuff. To hope someone will buy it, so you don’t have to drag it home again. Maybe make enough money to buy something more important.
I remembered the frantic distress of sorting through all our belongings in Keene, the endless scurry to get everything out of the house and gone, that horrible, horrible last hectic week, the precious objects I’d set aside to keep that ended up on our curb because there was simply no more room for them.
The friends who’d shown up to help, to wrap, to pack, to gently pull loved possessions from my hands, who let me cry, who hugged me, over and over and over again, until the very last day.
As I stood there thinking, a young mother and her little girl came up next to me to look, too. The child stooped over and picked up something small and round and bright green from the pavement.
I instinctively reached for her, but the tiny pellet fell from her mouth, just as her mother noticed her movement and, frantic with worry, cried, “What did you put in your mouth?! What is in your mouth?!”
“It’s okay! She spit it out! It’s gone!” I told her. She was relieved, but still anxious.
I suddenly saw my younger self in here. I remembered when some people were critical of my young ones, when they were small–Doug was crying, Robin was upset, me, frantic, wanting to be a good mother, and not knowing how–and how those people had let me know how annoying they found it all.
And I remembered all the people who showed me kindness and understanding, and smiled at me and said, “Oh, I remember those days!”
I hesitated–should I interfere? Would she see it as meddling?
“Would your little girl like this bunny?” I asked her.
Now she hesitated. “Yes…” and I could see…(but why was I giving them the bunny?) “Yes…” she said, and smiled.
In that second, I realized the little girl already had a lovey, a small white stuffed unicorn she clutched fiercely to her chest. “Robin (my daughter) loves unicorns,” I thought. I realized the child would like the bunny, but the unicorn was special. It would simply be a surfeit of stuffed toys.
Suddenly, the older brother appeared, about five. He saw my hand, hovering with a bunny. Something in his eyes…..
“Would your little boy like the bunny?” I asked her.
She hesitated, we both did. Boys are tough. It’s sometimes harder for a boy to show tenderness. You never know when a bunny is a ‘baby’ thing, especially with a younger sister present, when a fluffy toy will draw a sneer.
As I turned to the children, my hand still out with the bunny, his eyes caught the bunny–and his face lit up.
“Ohhhhh, a bunny!!!” he cried. My outstretched hands met his before either of us could think. He clutched the little toy to his chest and hugged it fiercely.
Mom and I looked at each other and smiled, and we all moved on. Best two dollars I ever spent.
I know now that I didn’t “leave Melinda behind”, nor Julie, nor Roma, nor others. Their friendships are sacred to me. It’s possible that Jessica will remain an acquaintance, even though, since her words once helped me make it through a hard day, she will always seem like more than that to me.
It may be our paths won’t ever cross again.
I also know there are new ‘angels’ here in Santa Rosa, and Petaluma, and Sebastopol. The scene at Atlas Coffee Company, next door to my studio in the arts district, is stinkin’ rich with angels and small miracles. There are old friends rediscovered in Benecia, and in Castro Valley, and Santa Rosa itself.But every day, they are all in my heart.
Make new friends. But keep the old. One is silver, and the other, gold.
And every one is a miracle to me.