Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just Me; Bitter & Sweet

Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.~~Rumi

                                                                                                                                                                              I'm on hiatus this week.  The pause will be bittersweet.
I suppose I look at life that way. Every time I take out my notebook and raise my pen up in preparation of jotting a notion or impression, I find myself right smack in the middle of this torturous dichotomy.
You look out a door. You see a newly opened, scarlet peony.
Its brilliant petals are magically arranged in perfect symmetry.  You stare into its center and you wonder how you could ever doubt that there was a Creator.
Right next to it, lies an injured sparrow.
She is slow-moving and weak.
You want to save her, like you want to save the spiders on the bathroom wall or the dog being drug around town on too short of a leash.
You pour yourself a piping hot cup of emerald sencha, all the while the sun is streaming in through a window behind your shoulder. The warmth makes you think of summer days from your childhood.  Seconds later, passing by that same window that filled you with so much joy,
is a dilapidated man.  His eyes are hollow and dull. He's pushing a shopping cart with one hand and holding his pants up with the other.
For me, life is constantly like this: a dichotomy of the bitter and the sweet.

A week without The Cousin and Sweet Pea is restful for sure, but it's accompanied by a twinging ache at the thought of not seeing their little mugs.

When I first started writing this blog, several years ago, I didn't call it a blog.  I called it a "friendship email" and I sent it out to only my email contacts: family and pals. It was a weekly rambling consisting of a roller coaster of subject matter that ranged from politics, religion, poverty,human rights, animal rights, love, peace, No Nukes and other current and relevant topics of the day.  More importantly, I wanted all recipients, especially those that lived faraway, to know I was thinking of them and sending a "shout out" of love.  Then, someone said to  me, "Why don't you write a blog?" The question left me feeling like a Stegosaurus emerging out of a cave. What the f*@ck was a blog?

When the blog was created, I suddenly found a voice.  My 7.5 years as a trailer park manager in Prunetucky, California, seemed to be of significance in the most insignificant way.
For sure, it was downright hysterical to many of my friends, and far more satisfying than
whirled peas to others.
The feedback came in droves.  I began to realize that although we all can offer up exchanges of life's bitter and sweet, the truth of the matter is, we all desperately need laugher.
Reminds me of a bumper sticker I  purchased on one of my adventures in Austin, Texas:
"Laugh Until Life Makes Sense."
I think I've talked about this mantra before. I wrote a blog once upon a time about these 5 words of wisdom.

Laughter has saved my ass on more than one occasion.  This blog also. Writing, in general, has saved me from the fires of hell, from the dark dungeons of depression, from beating myself up with the "self-critical stick", from getting my head bashed in by an angry "hater".
Because with writing, in any genre I choose, I am able to talk, cry, pray, shoot off my mouth, and yes, even laugh without getting into a fist fight.

This week has gripped me with sadness, as the news of a special friend's death came last Tuesday.
Sometimes "family" comes in the form of "non-bloods" and that is certainly the case with this
86 year-old woman who, while we sat together in her living room years ago, asked me to call her "Auntie Arl".

Auntie Arl was the sister of my Auntie Ferrol.  Talk about two peas in a pod! These gals phoned one another every single night at 6:00 p.m. sharp for more than 4 decades. Can you imagine?
We all knew not to call either of them between the hours of 6 and 7. To most outsiders, it was inconceivable how two people could have so much to talk about every night at 6. Especially in the last 10 years, when both of them stayed pretty close to home each day and kept their activities to a minimum.  But I understood them.

They talked about golf, health articles, exchanged recipes from cook shows, recent doctor appointments. They each sipped a glass of their favorite Mountain Rhine boxed wine throughout the conversations; never diving too deep into emotions.

Rituals carve deep imprints into our hearts. My mom and I shared the ritual of calling each other every Sunday morning for at least the last 10 years or so of her life. It wasn't until after her death, that I appreciated how sweet that ritual really was.  For many years following her death, I hurt every single Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.
These are the things in life that stay with us; cut deep like broken shards of glass and form both the bitter and the sweet.
Growing up, I didn't see Auntie Arl like I did my Aunt Ferrol. But in the last 10-20 years, she had been a regular part of my life.  I hold many, many memories of conversations about reincarnation, discussions of politics, shared meals at her favorite Chinese restaurant, Chester's in Camarillo. My partner and I also made ourselves available to change her light bulbs, clean out the top rows of shelves she could no longer reach, recycle her batteries. I recall a drive we took down a main street in Camarillo. The center of the street was lined with dozens of old Jacaranda trees, all the most stunning shade of purple.  Auntie Arl was so pissed off that the city she loved recently voted to remove the trees. "I can't understand how they can call this progress" she griped.

One of the final things she said to me happened on a visit at the hospital just a couple of weeks before she passed away. I bent over to give her a hug and a kiss on her cheek.
She grabbed my arm, and because she was getting frail, she struggled to get the words out.
She said, "Take care of her"  referring to her sister.
"You know I will."   I said back.
And as I walked to the door, I turned, our eyes meeting, and I blew her another kiss.
This one was a funny, overly dramatic, big one!
I will always remember the smile on her face, just like I will always think of her when I see a
Jacaranda tree in bloom.

But everything has an end. Luckily, even sadness.



  1. Beautiful and moving Che. Thank you for sharing your heart in this story. times...but then it just began to swirl into that one story you always tell so well which is, in the end, about your love and connection with others. That shows your heart so purely always and I am inspired by that very thing over and over.

  2. "In life's great avalanche of change/Why is it always so?/The friends whose love we treasure most/Are often first to go." My poem just came to mind as I read about your Auntie Arl. You had shared with me that this was coming, but it is oh so hard when it actually does. But that last kiss and hug and her treasured words, "Take care of her." So thoughtful! Always thinking of her sister. What a beautiful relationship they shared. And what a beautiful profound relationship you had with them both. It's so hard to say goodbye. It hurts. So I truly understand the bitter and sweet thoughts you've been having. I know that your aunt was very ill. I know all that. It hurts anyway. And I also know that it was time to let her go. So many wonderful memories remain...I know you'll keep them close in your heart. As you do your mom and the special times you two shared. As you do all of us who dearly love you and treasure our times together. And yes...the purple blooming trees are indeed gorgeous...your aunt was right. Take care.

  3. Well said, Shem! And beautiful words Valerie. Thankyou, Amy