November 24, 2012

i am here. in november, in the quiet work space, in the first sip of coffee, in the pale early light of a morning that has barely started. do the heres seem more relevant or less relevant the older we get? in younger years, i imagined the progression of heres as a sort of ribbon of past moments that would weave itself through the fabric of day to day life. blended, and uniform, as though memories had swirled together in to this one place, some holding perhaps a bit more weight than others, but all of them sharing space, their color and import blending as years passed.

but the heres – those moments that exist exquisitely as they are happening and compel and occupy us when we are in them – should fade and lose their shine as time passes and more moments come in to replace them, doesn’t it seem? yet i can close my eyes, pull a moment up as if shuffling a deck of cards and just choosing one more readily most days than i can remember what i ate for dinner last night.

wasn’t it moments ago that i was boarding an airplane for university in a far away place where winter rules and women sway in the plumage of fashion when it is warm and days were filled with the smells of minerals spirits and charcoal sticks? i used to drag my portfolio up my steep, winding montreal street in the dead of winter cursing my love of art and the snow falling around me. that portfolio weighed a million pounds as did my winter clothing and once i cried the whole way up my street, not stopping until i realized my tears had frozen on my cheeks.

and wasn’t it just last week that warm spring air moved through the open windows of my parent’s old VW bus as it sailed along foothill boulevard, me and meredith and a gaggle of boys in shorts and sun-bleached tshirts on our way to philosophy class? my love of joni mitchell was in full force then – having seen her for my birthday with signe – and i would flip the cassette tape over and over again, harmonizing with the ladies of the canyon and feeling every ounce of angst and wonder moving through my eighteen year old body. in those same days i worked early, opening up the coffee bar every morning – that dreamy, perfect space i was lucky enough to call my own before barista was part of the common vernacular. i would wipe the old tables free of the morning fog, wait for the espresso machine to heat up, and breathe in the smell of fresh croissant that were delivered at 6.30 am like clockwork, just out of the oven and still warm.

maya will be ten in the spring and i am working to wrap my head around the reality of nearly a decade of parenting and all it has brought with it. the hardest work i’ve ever done (for my girl is layered and intense and not a water off your back kind of kid) and the most gorgeous, poignant, heart-swelling moments i could have imagined. how is it that the little girl with the cupcake smell who burrowed in to my neck for all the years i could still lift her can throw down a perfect eastern european accent, move from yellow to orange belt, and gut laugh with me over ridiculous inside jokes like an old friend?

she is my daughter and i am her mother most moments, for it is necessary and constant that i teach and she learns, that i guide and she listens, that i lead and she follows. but really, in the deepest heart of it all, who is learning more? i run this show, but she informs, again and again, in the exquisite and painful moments that stretch back to my surrender to post-partum (and an altered view of the world that came from my fear and revelations there) and forward to now, an exhausted but more seasoned me in the thick of school-girl hormones and dynamics and power struggles with my lanky, quirky girl.

maya asked me last night during the car-drive home from thanksgiving dinner how long a moment is. is it like a minute or a second? she asked, and i had to think about it, for really, is a moment a measure of time or a measure of something significant that takes place so spontaneously that it could be missed were it not for its magic? i like it that way, the idea that seconds tick by but moments present themselves because they are special. perhaps that is the equation – our lives a composition of layers of varying measurements of time, but the path that holds our memories, the one that shines and effervesces and pulls our attention from the present to the past, is the one paved with the big heres, the resonant and life-affirming events we experience once, and subsequently when we visit to wrap ourselves in their light five, ten, a thousand times.

in this week of giving thanks where i work to feel gratitude for all i have and all i’ve lost and what i’ve learned from both, a hundred such moments present themselves. i could list them by the dozens but think they are all here somewhere already, in this modest place where i’ve been writing since coming out of the dark tunnel of loss and heartbreak a handful of years ago. so instead i end where i started. i am here. for all its betters and worses and in-betweens. for the successes and failures and banal days that contain neither. for my daughter and my family and my friends. i am here. i create and witness all at the same time. i love deeply, defend what is mine and leave alone what isn’t. i fret and battle and kiss and soothe. i am left speechless by beauty and cruelty in equal measure. i make room for wonder and hope for the best. i believe in the goodness of people, and am shocked when i see otherwise. i trust, and work toward patience. it’s why i think we are here, these lessons. so for all of the moments that have been and the ones that will come, thank you. i am grateful. i am here.