A sunlit, breezy August afternoon in what could be Umbria or Toscana brought back memories and reflections of wonderful days living in Italy. Today, however, was a forty minute drive on Long Island to Greenport’s Raphael Winery with a tasting of Rose Pinot Noir and a blackberry-licorice laced Cabernet. It was a day when Nature’s whispers calmed my soul and reminded me of Her Peace that surrounds us if we choose to look and feel Her warmth.
Lunch with a former student who just came back from Greece. I didn’t vacation this summer, so her stories of sun-drenched beaches, hot white sands and cool Greek personalities, drifting with the politics of the EU tingle my memories of when I lived in a very different Europe.
She offers me a bright red gift bag with a big smile before our sesame bread with tzatziki, Greek salad and Greek pizza in a Mediterranean restaurant whose decor of stucco walls and music of the tzouras and outi help me feel the warmth I miss in this too-harried world.
My afternoon is caressed by her young, energetic smile and kind words of encouragement. Meal dissipates like dreams into the Long Island humidity as we exit the restaurant and embrace with words of “see-you-soon.” I open the bag as I wrestle into my sweltering car and find a small bottle of genuine ouzo…the non-imported kind to quench a thirst for culture and a little magnet in the shape of a sailboat to bring my dreams back to me from the Aegean Sea. Efcharistó!
Last summer, I planted one Lemon Verbena in a hopeful butterfly garden without design along with three rose bushes. Of the three rose bushes, one had totally died and only one is still left without blight. This summer that one rose bush produces now for the second time copious, colorful blooms. The verbena, without any intervention from my questionable green thumbs, have multiplied into an army of purple buds, attracting butterflies and bees. Our wishes often arrive, not as we may have projected, but with work and desire, rewards can be just as satisfying.
I slid in the hard plastic-padded chair ready for my pre-school hair-do. It’s been a summer of contemplation like no other full of finishing touches on a teaching life of 17 years, looking at 20 which systematically beats daily with a rhythm that leave many questioning, especially me.
“The usual? Cut, shaping, coloring,” smiled my hairdresser with a down-to-earth readiness I’ve grown to trust over the years. “I’m not sure,” I replied with a sigh. My mind ticked. I’m not sure about a lot of things. Not sure if I’m making a difference, not sure about insisting on games that are supposed to convince that learning is really taking place, but most of all, not sure if my maternal and grandmaternal instincts have a place in today’s world of “If You Got It Flaunt It” and “Just Do It”.
I watched a younger woman in the salon, fussing and flipping her hair, tossing her head from side to side and glancing out of the corner of each eye to get the best glimpse of her new “do”, smiling in the wall-to-wall mirror as if she were flirting with a sexy prospective beau. She was delightedly absorbed in her look, her new-found beauty…it was indeed all her.
“My hair goes whichever way it wants,” I grimaced, “especially in this weather.” The roller-coaster heat tightens ringlets at the nape of the neck while cowlicks and waves appear in a cut that is supposed to be straight and sleek. Go figure! Then I heard myself say, “No color. Is there a cut that can just let my hair go where it wants to?”
“Well, we can do layer and scrunch,” my hairdresser suggested pulling up several strands of hair. “The length is weighing it down.” I certainly understand being weighed down. ” Cut it to just shoulder – layered,” I ordered. For the first time in my life remembered, I had no attachment to the long length of hair I had preferred for a lifetime. I felt no grimace, fear or embarrassment in releasing inches of protective security fall on the grey linoleum floor. The shampoo girl arrived just as quickly to sweep bunches of highlighted growth into the refuse piles. My hair now revealed that mousy shade of light brown with wherever-it-pleases grey and remnants of blonde in random waves that looked like spring high tides on Jones Beach.
My hairdresser blew-dried and scrunched the layers of hair with her customary ease. I watched as the new-do waved into its own pattern and direction. Not bad, I thought. My skin paled even more so under the harsh lighting of the salon, but none of it mattered for the first time. It was me. And me is just fine.
As time often does, just when you feel you’re out of the woods and on a secure path to somewhere, something happens that leaves you scrambling for higher ground. The system that is in place is radically changing – they tell us for the better, but my doubts still nag somewhere deep inside. So, as we are still part of the system, we continue to be counted as a playing participant. When prices rise, we pay them. When leaders sell out their constituents for their own stash of the cash, we demonstrate, write letters and the laws still pass. When standards change, we grumble and have to accommodate them at work and in schools. When leaders talk about “hard work” and the dreams, I wonder why then much of the 99% invest, making their money work for them instead while they jet off to tropical islands, golfing tournaments or polo grounds for their “entertainment”. (Keeps them busy.) When experts rattle on, we listen and either turn off or argue with the television. We tell kids in school the same – work hard, play by the rules – but they see much too much contradiction in money buying innocence, and poverty securing guilt in a broken legal system.
In all of this experience of fraying ends, I find the squirrel in my backyard, immobile, clutching onto an immense tree as he’s contemplating which way to head next – straight up, sure, but which branch?
Take a moment’s pause, hold on, say a little prayer…and help will be on its way! Cliche’? Maybe full of them, but as you’re grasping for dear life with every shaking nerve, it helps to know that this too shall pass!
It was a weekend of looking back into a past I had lived with others – bittersweet, remote yet familiar. Another life passed in time in which random molecules of myself still reside. As I drive South on Sunday, this time the traffic flows freely compared with the double-time it took to return to my past on Friday. The lesson? Live Life in our present in our gratitude for all that It offers. Emerge from the shadows of our past with Life in the present and Love as Much as We Can Forever. Thank you Mary.