79/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that things are not memories, and I ought to remind myself of it now and again.

Memories, those slippery iridescent elusive little creatures I imagine as eels hiding in the tall grasses at the water's edge of my mind. They come, they go, just out of sight but for a tongue or a tail, an occasional rustle, shifting, resettling. They hide there for eternity, they shape shift sometimes.

Unlike the letters, stuffed toys, a pair of leather gloves, a single earring, these things are things are things are things.

The thing about the things is that they rattle those tall grass and draw out the eels. The things evoke memories, it's true, but if we rely on the things to rattle the grasses we run the risk of becoming confused, of mistaking one for the other.

Those elusive eels are hiding in the tall grass at the water’s edge even when the rooms are empty, when the last dresser drawer has been emptied and the door is closed, memory remains.

78/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in writing letters. Real letters, the kind with an envelope and a stamp, the ones that go in the funny blue box on the corner.

Call me old fashioned for continuing to send letters through the postal service - I often say I was born in the wrong time. I fear that letter writing is a dying art, and I’m sad to see it go.

I have vivid and glorious memories of running down to the mailbox after school to see if I had any letters, and the sheer joy of finding one addressed to me. For my 18th birthday my father gave me an antique writing box, complete with glass inkwell, where I kept my tools for correspondence all through college. And now, as we pack up my mother’s house in preparation for her move, we are finding letters in all of the nooks and crannies and dresser drawers - letters from my grandmother to my mother when she was young, letters from my mother’s grandmother to my mother in college, letters to me and from me, from my brother to the tooth fairy, from my mother’s aunt to me, from my father. And I can’t help thinking, each time we unearth another one, that these are gifts through time and space that email just won’t provide for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren (I should be so lucky) one day.

So I go to the post office and I buy more stamps. I sneak into the third drawer of the cabinet in my mother’s study and steal a few note cards with letterpressed bicycles or Ansel Adams photographs on the front, and I write letters to my kids at camp. Yes, I can send them email, and sometimes I do, but more often than not I send letters because there is nothing quite like seeing your name on an envelope in someone else’s handwriting, tearing open the flap, finding some news or a joke or a little bit of love inside.

And then I cross my fingers and make a wish that maybe they’ll write me back!

 

77/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in making the most of what is available to me. No lime juice? Use lemon. No lemon juice? Try rice wine vinegar, the dish might have an entirely different delicious flavor.

We are home from vacation to a rainy Fourth of July. Our house is under construction and we can't stay there so we are camped at my mother's though she is in the midst of moving.  Yesterday, after returning, I dropped off all of my paints at the studio, and in spite of my best intentions I did not make it there to paint today so my little watercolor set and my sketchbook will do just fine. I miss pushing the paint around, but this way I am pushing me and there is great value in that.

Use what is available, push.

(No soap? Try shampoo, and vice versa. I speak from experience.)

 

75/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that precious and fleeting go hand in hand.

Is that entirely obvious, that we treasure what doesn't last?

Do we treasure it because it doesn't last? Or is it that what doesn't last is so extraordinary that it deserves our fuller attention?

And are we capable of treasuring what does last? Of finding precious in the ordinary? I wonder.

As each moment moves me farther in space and time from this vacation, from the beach I love, from yesterday and the day before that, from last week last month last year, from small children and popsicle summers, from babes carried in arms and comforted by rocking and snuggles, from my own days at camp and the summers of my childhood, from a fork in the road or seven, from a butterfly on a branch in oak creek canyon, I wonder.

 

74/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that all good things must end, and it’s a good thing they do because I think I can’t eat another gelato.

Actually, I’m pretending it’s a good thing when really I am mourning the end of our vacation. (Though it’s true that I may have reached my limit on gelato.)

I do love vacation, and I do struggle with the transition back to reality, but it’s more than that - it's that I love it here. I love the air and the light, the harbor and the ocean, the national seashore, the rocks, the refreshing water, the sunsets, the dunes, the marsh, the tide pools. The quirky town completely free of pretense. I love walking everywhere. I love walking my dog everywhere. I love it all.

And yet, all good things must end. So I savor the moments and take a bazillion pictures and paint everyday and walk my heart out and eat gelato after gelato and sit and stare at the blue sky and give thanks for this day, for this goodness, for this life.

 

73/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that the messy parts are the beautiful parts.

It took me a long time to come to see this and even longer to believe it, but now that I do I find that I’m drawn to the imperfections - in paintings, in people. I’m picking up the broken shells, the irregular rocks (ok, I’m picking up the regular rocks too so maybe that’s not the best example).

I’m loving peering into artists’ sketchbooks to see the scribbled bits and crossed out parts. I appreciate paintings with the same, and I’m pushing myself to scribble and cross out, to let it be ok to make things messy because there’s beauty and freedom there.

And it’s not just in paintings. It’s the flower with a scraggly stem and the jeans with visible mending. It’s the well-loved tea towel and the friend with battle scars and stories to tell. I feel a certain appreciation when someone else drops/loses/forgets something-or-other because then I’m not the only one and we are all being human together.

In fact, I’m almost put off by what purports to be perfection these days because I have come to see that there is no such thing, and time spent pretending otherwise is time wasted. In my opinion.

The messy parts are real and real is compelling and that is what’s beautiful. In my opinion.

 

72/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that writing a bio is the hardest kind of writing there is (for me).

I think maybe I don't like talking about myself much, even though I seem to love talking about what I believe, and it's really not a problem for me to talk about what I create, collect, see, explore, love. But ask me to write about who I am? Ask me to define myself in a few paragraphs on a piece of paper? That feels like a rather large mountain to climb.

Fortunately, that task is done for today and there is this luscious color palette as a reward. and tomorrow I'm going to paint some more and collect more rocks and sit on another beach and stare at the sky and savor these days because that is who I am.

 

71/100 Days of I Believe

I believe - and stick with me here because this will take a minute - that there is a space, a little cushion of air or energy, that exists around each of us and it is through this space that we engage with the world.

Think of it like this - you're not smashed right up against the people and things around you, even those people and things you love the most, because that would be terribly uncomfortable and entirely unsustainable. Imagine taking a step back to see something, to bring it into focus - it is the space that allows you to see. The space that enables us to appreciate something. Anything. Everything.

This fact was pointed out to me years ago by a Sofer, a man whose job it is to write the Torah in ink on parchment with a quill and without error, or punctuation. It's a long story, why this man was talking to me about the space, but he was. He was in the midst of giving an example of a parent coming home with a new bike and it was like a lightbulb was suddenly switched on inside my brain. I remember, in that moment, seeing with total clarity that this is what summer camp is all about - it's about making space to see, to appreciate each other anew. It's about giving my kids space to be independent, to appreciate home. It’s about giving me the same.

Tonight, on the eve of the first day of the sixth summer at overnight camp, I told Lucy this story - again, for the umpteenth time. I reminded us about the beauty of the space, and that I believe.

 

70/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that a person can't have too many beach rocks.

Dave would probably disagree since he often finds himself carrying them, moving them, waiting for me to pick up just one more, or discovering them in the secret places in the car where I hide them before we leave the beach.

My mother will tell you that this has been going on all my life - I have memories of being a small child, maybe four years old, and my parents telling me I couldn't bring home the whole bucket of rocks at the end of vacation.

But alas I do, and then some.

I am so taken with the rocks on the beach here, the shapes and the colors, the lines and the marks, the textures. I love them all for different reasons - some to draw, some to stack, some to sort into a color wheel. I just. can't. stop. Picking them up, collecting, touching,

Today I dreamed of a bathing suit with pockets and I think it's not the first time.

 

69/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that some days the words don't flow, or that I'm too tired to turn them over again and set them right. Or that the inside of my head is fuzzy and I ought to go to bed, which is where I'm going right now.

Sleep tight, friends.

 

68/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in seeing things differently. I believe in stopping to look - to really look and pay attention to what's in front of me.

I am reminded over and over again that things will become familiar, begin to make a sort of sense in my brain and I will cease seeing them except in the dreamy blur of what's known. I believe in making the effort to bring things into a different sort of focus.

Do I usually see a wide-angle snapshot of this scene? Then stop to focus on the details, the shapes, the lines. Do I usually see the little things here or there? Then stop to zoom out and take in the big picture.

Find one bit, blow it up, and make that the whole frame. Or blur the whole thing out and find the light or the color field. It works both ways, as long as I pay attention to seeing.

 

67/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in yoga. I believe in moving my body and breathing and I don't know what gets in the way of my practicing every single day because holy heaven I feel better when I do.

 

66/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in open windows.

It's always seemed to me, and I've written about it before but it's been years, that we ought to open the windows in the summertime. Some people in my family prefer air conditioning and I like air conditioning too, but when we shut the windows and turn on the air and it's 68 or 72 or 65 or whatever degrees in the house all year round I'm likely to forget about Popsicles and flip flops.

What makes this season different from the next, or the last? It's how it's hot and little bit uncomfortable sometimes, and the days are long and the sun comes streaming through the windows warming the wood floors and the bed clothes and we're seeking out the breeze or the shade or a tall icy lemonade.

Is it hot and sticky sometimes? Yes. (And I turn on the air conditioning more than my fair share, believe me!) But it's the hot sticky sweaty discomfort that makes the breeze and the shade and the icy lemonade all the sweeter. It's the sound of the birds in the early morning and the frogs at night. It's the light sheet on the bed instead of a heavy blanket. It's the fan we bring up from the basement, the sliced watermelon, a thunderstorm. it grounds me in this season. It reminds me I'm alive.

 

65/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that, as a matter of course, vacations ought to be 3 weeks long.

To be clear, mine never have been, but I got the idea from a dear friend years and years ago. Her reasoning was that the first week you're busy decompressing and the last week you're thinking about returning to reality, so really it's the middle week when you can be fully present on vacation.

I've dreamed of it ever since, and I'm determined that one day I'll try it for myself. In the meantime the thought of it helps me to remember to be right here where I am for the time I'm here.

 

64/100 Days of I Believe

I believe in talking to strangers.

In a casual and friendly way, I mean. I'm not the passenger next to you on the airplane who talks the whole flight, and I'm not (usually) offering candy to little children on the street.

I am saying "hello!" and "good morning." l like your tie!" "We're from Maryland too!" and "Beautiful day, isn't it?" and I'm (usually) happy to strike up a conversation about your favorite place to eat lunch or my very special dog breeder, the weather, our mutual gratitude for this day.

My kids think it's creepy, and I get how it can feel uncomfortable.

The thing is, I would rather live in a world where people see each other walking down the street instead of a world where we are invisible to one another. I'd like to live in a world where we acknowledge each other's humanity, where it's more common to reach out than it is to be isolated, where we are aware of and acknowledge - and appreciate - the interconnectedness of it all.

So I'm going to say hi when I see you on the street and I hope you'll say hi back. I'm going to tell you I love your striped knee socks, and I hope you won't mind. My kids are going to roll their eyes when I do and that's ok with me because I hope that one day - I hope, I hope - they'll say hi also, when they see you on the street.

 

63/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that there are no better words than Mary Oliver's on this, the first day of summer.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

 

61/100 Days of I Believe

I believe that if you are lucky enough to find a special place on this planet, a place that speaks to you in some secret language, a place where the light and the air are magic, where the horizon is so close you can touch it and so far away it's invisible all at once, a place at the intersection of everywhere and nowhere, and you go back and go back and go back to this place for a week or two weeks or less or more weeks every summer for ten or twelve or fifteen summers, then that place becomes a part of your story, a part of who you are, it becomes a part of you.