Thursday, March 22, 2012

22 Days...

It's been 22 days since I last posted. I'm not really sure where the time has gone, but I can tell you there's been quite a bit that's filled up the space! As I lay in bed this morning thinking on what I wanted to write about, I decided that instead of planning things out I would just begin where we last left off - the day I found myself behind that speeding ambulance - Tuesday, February 28th. Where we go from here, at least as I type these words, remains a bit of a mystery! We'll see how this goes...

This picture was taken the very same day my mother was transported to the hospital. Coincidence? Not much. You see, about two months ago my husband set out on a mission. Every day on his way to work he must travel through the wonderful little river town of Stillwater, Minnesota. The bridge in this picture is the infamous Stillwater Lift Bridge, the object of much controversy due to its lovely historic value and the necessity of it's replacement. The mission? To park his car downtown each morning as he passes through on his way to work and climb the 160 stairs that run up the cliff to this vantage point...and take a picture. Rain or shine.

February 29, 2012
These are the stairs. One by one, each seven inches above the last, he climbs his way to the top. I don't really know what goes through his mind as he puts one foot in front of the other, but I can't help but think of Sisyphus as he rolls his stone up the mountain. If you are familiar with the Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, he describes how the gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down from its own weight. What had begun as a sort of punishment, in the end proved to be the source of Sisyphus' joy. "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy!"

February 29, 2012
A lot happened right before the above picture was taken. A lot happened before that day my mother found herself fighting for her life. On February 27th, 2012, at 12:56 in the afternoon, my first grand daughter, Adella Marie Baune was born into this beautiful world.

February 27, 2012
These are the feet of this little one so dear on the day of her birth.

February 27, 2012
This is her mother and father, in the moments after her arrival, in the holy space of bearing witness to the miracle of life. It is a day filled with moments I will never forget.

March 2, 2012
Just a few short days after Adella was born, we had our first snow day of the year. Quite different from the perpetual state of blizzard that we had the year before, this winter has been extremely calm. Nevertheless, Mr. Johnson made his way to the top and snapped his picture. This is one of my favorites.

March 4, 2012
They say in the Midwest, if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute. How true! This picture was taken out my kitchen window. It was 45 degrees this day and nothing but sun. Little did we know the beautiful days that were to come!

March 6, 2012
On Monday March 5th, after a long infusion day at the hospital, my husband drove me to my daughter and son-in-law's home to spend five days being Grandma! The picture above is of me sitting on the floor the morning of my first shift. There simply are no words to describe the sights, smells and sounds of a new baby. My heart so full, I could hardly keep the tears from drenching us both.

March 7, 2012
I almost posted this picture first. This is a picture of my father and mother visiting Adella in her home for the first time. From that ambulance ride only a week before, to this moment, the world seemed to turn upside down and spin backwards in-between. We just never know what the next second will bring, but when you find yourself in moments such as these - let gratefulness burst the seams of your heart.    

March 11,2011
On Sunday, March 11th, we drove to Stillwater to run errands. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity of a beautiful day, we stopped so my husband could climb the stairs and take his picture. Little did I know that the picture of the day would be of me! This is the shot he snapped on his decent.

I would have loved to accompany him to his summit, but illness makes these endeavors simply out of the question. I will say though, that watching him made me so very happy. He's an interesting guy, this man I married. Quirky, eccentric and gifted with the absolute most bone dry sense of humor I have ever known - I cannot imagine one day without him. He is the most beautiful man I have ever known.

March 14, 2012
The average temperature for our area on March 14th is 45 degrees. This day it was 73! Within the next three days we would top out at a glorious 80!! You can see the ice on the river melting in this sun drenched morning shot.

March 17, 2012
I love Saturdays. On Friday night I composed a list a mile long of things that needed to be done. After morning coffee, some good reading, fiddling with a few stones and being serenaded by Mr. Johnson... we totally re-evaluated the nature of the list. It was a beautiful day.

March 17, 2012
This is a picture of my daughter Sara. She is the second part to a two part deal...her twin sister Emma. Both girls absolutely love to cook. On this Saturday Sara decided to make a double layer lemon raspberry meringue cake! It...was...heavenly!!

March 17, 2012

March 17, 2012
Picture perfect!

Another event worth mentioning is the decreasing of our household size by one. A happy/sad event, our daughter Anna moved out of our house and into her first home the beginning of this month. As is the case in any household where there are more children than bedrooms, this created quite the opportunity! The picture below is of the room our daughter Sara occupied prior to Anna moving out. The color, like the cake...raspberry!

THIS is the room now! Thanks to the painting handy work of both Emma and Sara, the aforementioned room went from raspberry to chocolate on March 17th!! We now, for the first time ever, have an official "spare bedroom"!!! I think the last time I lived in a home with a spare bedroom I might have been 17 and living at home with my parents. I find myself just sitting in this room in glorious amazement. Drawers and closet empty, this room is ready for company!

March 18, 2012

March 18, 2012
I swiped this picture of Sara off her facebook page. For so many reasons, it just makes me feel good. Finding ourselves in yet another 80 degree day, Emma and Sara decided to take to the road and walk down to the local BP gas station. 

Since becoming sick, I find myself living much of my life as a spectator. I think this is a natural progression the older we get anyway, but being ill has sped the process along a bit. I don't really mind it though. Life is slower and the viewing comes easier and with a certain amount of wisdom that I didn't have in my younger or more healthier years. 

There's been a lot to look at the past few weeks. A lot to watch. 

Camus describes what he thinks Sisyphus looks like as he pushes the stone back up the hill, "one sees his face screwed up, the cheek against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two clotted hands. At the very end of his effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved." 

This is life.

"There is no sun without shadow, and it's essential to know the night." 

The moment my mother held Adella was made sweeter by fact that she had taken that ambulance ride only seven days before. The gift of an 80 degree day was made warmer by the March blizzard that blew right before it. A Saturday with my husband was made all the more precious by the letting go of a list made the night before. A river fresh and flowing after a long and frozen winter. The end of one story so that another can begin. 

This is life. 

Some might think my husband ridiculous for climbing those stairs every morning. Just as some might pity poor Sisyphus as he rolls that stone up the hill yet one more time.

I imagine them both happy. 

March 20, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Behind A Speeding Ambulance

March clouds above our neighborhood.

Some time ago I read about the practice of looking up into the sky. My mind slips me as to where I read it or who even wrote it, but the concept has never left me. The writer was speaking to our ability to let go, live in the present moment and unattach from the things of this world.  Looking up into the depth of the blue sky helps me to experience the infiniteness of our being – of all things.  And in that infiniteness, the “nothingness” of all that is. In this experience there is no differentiation between me and this sky. We are one in the same.

And then there are the clouds. These clouds take many forms. They can gently move through, so slowly and peacefully that we don’t even know they are there except for the occasional shadow cast. Or, they can spread out across the sky in waves of energy and motion that take our breath away. I see the clouds as the good and bad that pass through our lives.  For these formations come and go, reminding us of the impermanence and unpredictability of all things – of thoughts, of experiences, of the lives of those we love.

Yesterday, I found myself following an ambulance that was carrying my mother to a hospital that was more equipped for patients critically ill with cardiac conditions.  If you look back at my facebook status from that morning, I had posted a prayer from the American Indian Chief Yellow Lark. The first stanza said this,
“Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.”
The morning had been difficult. Experiencing the onset of a painful flare, I had decided that the day would be dedicated to stillness – honoring the needs of my body.  Little did I know that my mother would be fighting for her life or that my father, in the enormity of the stress and worry, would end up himself in the emergency room with a heart condition.

So there I was, behind a speeding ambulance, being blown about by the wind.  I looked up into the sky – clouds rolling about from the storm that had kept my kids home from school that same morning – and it was as if those very clouds, that very wind, blew through the center of my being. It was the warmest, gentlest of winds – almost as if they were the winds of spring. It filled my lungs, and at that exact moment I was comforted by my own breath.  Breathing in, breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. Like the presence of a dear friend, my very own breath holding me, comforting me – reminding me that in all the storms of life, it does not leave me.

My hands relaxed as I let the ambulance drive out of sight. I was no longer speeding. I was no longer listening to the stories of my mind…I was still.  I was honoring the needs of my body. It did not matter if I was lying on my couch in the comfort of my living room – unknowing of the events of the day, or if I was following an ambulance that was carrying my mother in the hopes of saving her life. I had found the space of the present moment; a sky blue and infinite. A peace beyond understanding.

The day was long and difficult. We cannot control the clouds. They will pass through all of our lives, without warning or care. Some days they will be full of beauty and some days they bring about the greatest of storms.  We can frantically try to out run them or hopelessly grasp at them trying to capture the pictures we see in their billowing forms. Both endeavors leaving us exhausted in our suffering. Or….we can let the winds pass through us. Letting go, experiencing what is, and finding peace. The choice is ours.

Yesterday, for whatever reason – I was blessed with letting go. Comforted by my breath, comforted by the friends and family that surrounded me – I found peace. As the clouds blow in and out of your life may you look beyond the formations to the infinite sky above and find the space of the present moment. It is always there waiting for you.