Friday, June 18, 2010

The Liquid of Life

I have often used that phrase to describe my relationship with coffee. It is an addiction I share with my mother: we both require a regular infusion each morning before we are alive enough to start each day. What I didn't realize was how many people share that need in the small circle of my family. My sister had her baby at the end of May and we had family come to witness and greet my little niece. 

The first arrival was my little Italian grandmother. Her need for coffee seemed to satisfy the need to do something with her hands. Holding a hot cup kept her settled and in one place, settling the nerves that had her jittery and pacing while we waited. At one point, and I have no idea how she managed it, she even convinced the nurses on the night shift to bring her a cup out of their break room.

Next came my brother-it-law's parents. They had woken-up extra early and driven in that darkness that comes before dawn in order to make it in time. And then they settled in for the wait. No pit-stop at Starbucks necessary, they wanted to be present for their grand-daughter's birth. Yet around 9 pm, when we were sequestered in the waiting room while my niece was almost ready to make her first appearance, even they needed some caffeine to push through. Unfortunately, after scouring the hospital for an open coffee shop or even a coffee machine, they had to settle for a Coke.

Then, a week after my niece's birth, my mother's family flew up from Miami.  Their relationship with coffee is more casual. A cup is simply a necessity to start each day. And it's a nice way to extend every meal as you sit with a cup and continue the conversation. During their visit, we even broke out the expresso machine, because you simply cannot find any cafe cubano in this town.

Everyone who has come to welcome my little niece to the world has had their own relationship with my favorite beverage. My pet phrase certainly rings true, it is indeed the liquid of life.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Memory

"In Flanders Fields"
Written in by John McCrae (1915)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

After witnessing the carnage of WWI John McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields." McCrae, a Canadian, was a medical officer in the Boer War and World War I. (Poem & history are from HERE.)

My summertime memories of Memorial Day weekends are filled with barbecues and paper flowers, with the seriousness of what we were truly “celebrating” etched into my memory. As a military brat, moving from base to base, I was surrounded by the symbols of our country. Often there would be an air show marking the event, with the ThunderBirds soaring above us. I would play with the red paper poppies, twirling them on their little stems of green wire, and tucking them into my hair.

I grew up under the influence of a patriotic family. The men in my father’s side of the family all served in the military: my grandfather served in the Army and was a veteran of World War II, my oldest uncle served in the Navy and was a veteran of Vietnam, the next uncle is still serving in the Army Reserves, and my father has retired from the Air Force.

My grandfather’s birthday was on Memorial Day. And he was serious about what the holiday stood for. With M*A*S*H often playing in the background, he would tell my sister and I some of the tales of what he lived through on the Pacific Front. Unfortunately his war stories are lost in the fog of memory, and I’ll never be able to ask him to repeat them to me. The emotions of those stories: the silliness of young men with pornographic tattoos (yes, he had a couple of lovely ladies on his forearms), the ominous fear of each fight, the strangeness of the enemy, the bravery of his fallen companions…these are graven into my memory.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Light a Candle

Lighting a candle is an act that has significance across the globe and to multiple cultures. We light candles in prayer or meditation. We light them in memory of someone who has passed.  Ceremoniously, candles are lit to emphasize the significance of an event--most notably the Unity Candles used in many weddings. Candlelight is used to enhance an atmosphere: to relax you or create romance. And of course there is the simplest reason to light a bring light and ward off darkness.

I'm feeling a lot lighter. I've had a great day. The pressures in my life are either gone, or I've become better able to manage them. It's not all "too much" at the moment. I have found that place that I need to be in before I can be creative: I've come unstuck. So I'm lighting a candle today, in hope. I hope my fragile moments of happiness and peace become more frequent. I hope that the people in my life stay healthy and safe.  The "fires of creativity" are tangible to me right now...and I'm sharing them with you.