April 2019

Today I’ve had a quiet day. I kept thinking I ought to look at my to do list. Instead, I did as I was led. Mid-afternoon I wrote my letter to Friends Meeting in Cambridge, requesting to become a Member.

For years, I’ve been heading this direction. Thursday I walked with a Clerk of the Membership Committee, learned more about the process, shared some of of my story, learned some of hers. Today I felt ready to write my e-mail, not a few lines, or a few pages, but an e-mail, with some typos, written and reviewed, not agonized over, sent with a sense of readiness.

Since writing it I’ve been feeling tender. There is so much we humans feel around belonging, membership, community, spirituality, religion, most of it not spoken of in our day to day lives.

I’ve been thinking so much about loneliness. I read a passage by David Whyte this week that struck a chord, about our loneliness as a longing, as a guide leading us to deeper connection, reminding us that we seek something deeper. May the depth of our loneliness be met with a deep sense of connection and belonging.

For many years I belonged to the Catholic Church. My sense of belonging there was complex, fraught, beautiful and painful, young and hopeful, disappointing, enraging, influential, not my long term home.

After I married, to a profound atheist, I lost track of that side of myself. Parting from him was simultaneous with wanting my spiritual side back.

Still, it’s taken ten years for me to commit again, to feel a sense of belonging that is sure enough for me to commit.

I haven’t committed to a group, to an organization, to a new community like this in awhile, in a formal way, taking steps to consider and talk with others, to reflect and process.

For years I thought I was leaving. I hoped my love was strong enough to overcome obstacles it couldn’t overcome. For now, I’m not. I’m here. This community is the one to which I belong, as much as any other. Someday there may be another, elsewhere. For now, there is not.

When I first found the Quakers, in a way it was falling in love. I was moved. I cried. I was often overcome.

My newest relationship/partnership isn’t like that. I’m in it, I’m loved. There hasn’t been a moment of being swept away or of being immersed and carried into an intense current of passion. And yet. I’m here. I have space for other things.

Today that space allowed me to be quiet, to clean my freezer, to eat defrosted and reheated posole soup I made a long time ago, to read, to tidy, to open mail and pay bills, to bake and make salad for tonight’s dinner with friends, to apply for membership in a beloved community that’s taken me in as I’ve been ready, wholeheartedly and with patience, with love.

That is a gift we don’t all discover in a religious or spiritual community. I didn’t know when I left the Catholic church if I would return or find another spiritual home or if I’d be adrift in a world of unbelieving, solo flying best intentions.

It feels good to admit to a home outside the one I spent the day and much of my adulthood building here on Garrison Avenue, one where I’m not in charge, but where I have a voice and a say and a role to play, where I’m cared for and have come to be known and to belong.

Whatever mysterious process lead me here, I’m grateful. I think I’ve needed to be alone more that I realized to need it so much. Spiritual longing has space to be noticed for me when I’ve been on my own, when the Meeting or the commitment isn’t competing with my personal relationships to beloveds. This time around it might even make those connections stronger, might help me become more of who I want to be for myself and for the beloveds, for the world, might lead me deeper into the kindness I feel when I am with the Quakers or the kids, with my family and friends and the partners when I’ve had them and it’s been going well.

Step one, only one step on the way, but a big one, regardless. Next step Clearness Committee, something I’ve wondered about and haven’t experienced and look forward to, along with some reading and reflection and no doubt other pieces I don’t yet know.

I’m becoming, still at it at 52, in lots and lots of ways. There is still so, so much to learn and to become and to be.


by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.

For a couple of weeks, this poem has been on my mind. First it was just the first stanza. Then I looked up the poem to make sure I had it right. Since then the second stanza has been on my mind.

Just as winter is turning to spring, I’m hoping for hope, dreaming of dreams.

This weekend I took my daughter and her guy to visit colleges. The first two we visited on a grey and chilly day. The third we visited the following day when the sun had come out and the temperature had risen until we felt almost too hot for the first time this year. The grass on that third campus was a green we only experience this time of year, bold and brash and almost yellow in it’s glowing. Not for the green alone, but not surprisingly, both young people were drawn to the campus we visited on the green and sunny day.

The students were out on the grass, sunning themselves in lawn chairs, smiling, bold in bare shouldered and brightly printed tops, in sandals and crocs, which my daughter tells me are coming back. I was about to ask our tour guide about her summer, then held back, realizing it is only April.

Today I began to imagine swimming again, though the water in the places I’d like to swim is cold. The pond in Ashfield where we spent two nights was covered in ice. The ground in the woods there held piles of dirty snow. Winter hadn’t completely left, though today, as I sat on my sofa in the late afternoon at home in Somerville I saw buds on the maple outside the window. By later in the week we may have leaves.

Down below there are crocuses in the garden, yellow and purple like the pansies in their trays nearby which my housemate will plant when she returns from her April vacation getaway.

It’s not only the flowers and leaves and sun and green and bare shoulders that give me hope. Its something less clear in my mind, some life force inside or around me telling me so quietly sometimes I don’t feel sure I hear it that things will be ok, that life as I know it is changing, is always changing, that the picture of what lies ahead may not be clear, but as the young woman in Quaker Meeting shared today, there could be miracles ahead. There could be regular life, good, bad, wonderful, difficult, or miracles. All of it is unknown. Being open to the possibility of miracles, being open to the possibilities of dreams is a state within reach, if we can allow and believe it.

At Meeting my daughter and her guy sat beside me, holding hands, leaning into one another. Young love for all to see, along with the buds on the trees outside the windows of the Meeting House and the flowers on the walk from the car, reminded me how fresh and real those first experiences of other, of being seen and known and curious and eager can be, how eye-opening and energizing and exciting.

After the meeting a woman I’ve known awhile approached me, in her early sixties, to share her story of new love, and her plans to spend two weeks together for the first time with a man she had told me about last time I saw her, biking and traveling in Croatia. As she talked my friend was eager, glowing, might have been eighteen. The power of love to transform was there on display by the coffee maker, right there for me to see. The power of dreams was in my friend’s eyes and gestures as she told me about her trip.

I’ve had the broken winged bird and the barren field with me awhile, have had a hard time summoning new dreams, have been working on faith, trusting that what lies ahead might contain a miracle, at the very least a balance of good and difficult. It’s been awhile since I felt the energy of new love my daughter and my friend and the flowers and the trees reminded me of today, for a person or an adventure or a project or a pet. I miss it and would like to dream it back, would like to hold open the possibility of a miracle, of a life change, of a personal transformation, of the power of love to heal my wounds, of the power of light to bring me more fully out of the dark.

Thank you Langston Hughes, spring, love for surrounding me today and sharing your energy with me, bringing me a little more fully into myself and into the world, leading me on in the tiny baby steps I can just perceive as hope.

Today my threes were upset. Their friend was being mean. What was he doing that was mean? I wondered. He was going to eat them! the girls roared. Probably because you are so delicious, I informed them. No, we are not delicious, the girls giggled. I bet you are, I laughed. I bet you taste like strawberries and blueberries and raspberries and candy. NO, they exclaimed. We do not. What do you taste like, I wondered? Like persons, they assured me, not delicious.

Then they teased me back. You taste delicious, they told me. Like what? I wondered. Like hot dogs! my three confirmed. No! I exclaimed. I don’t even like hot dogs! Then, seeing the hurt expression on her face, I remembered. But you love hot dogs, don’t you? I asked. Do I taste like hot dogs with sauerkraut? I wondered. Yes, she grinned, seeing I do know her best, imagining the deliciousness of hot dogs.

Later her friend came back and said the friend who wanted to eat them said they were not delicious, they were delectable. We said that aloud a few times, delectable, delectable, delectable. That is even better, I said, Isn’t it? Yes, my friend said. We are delectable.

So, perhaps, given my morning, it is not surprising that tonight for dinner what I craved was the pork roast in my freezer and the sauerkraut at the back of my fridge, roast purchased on sale one day in Whole Foods when I imagined preparing it for my son and his gal, my most favorite carnivores to eat with, sauerkraut purchased a long time ago to go along with the hot dogs I bought my son when he lived here and was at the theater every night. I imagined he would eat a hot dog and sauerkraut before or after going out on nights I wasn’t cooking much. I worried then he wouldn’t cook for himself, would go hungry if I didn’t leave things in the fridge to tempt him.

Normally roasting three and a half pounds of frozen meat and eating sauerkraut left in my fridge for months wouldn’t have been how I would have spent a Tuesday night. But tonight I did. Here’s to life alone, post kids, sans live in partner, early fifties, at the end of another long day looking after kids, day care colleagues and friends retired, just me and the twenty something and the kids and a dad and his little and a nanny and her charges keeping company at the park, coffee midday to perk me and the twenty something up, too much crying from our one over breakfast, lunch, and snack for me to enjoy today’s meals with day care kids.

So, tonight I defrosted, salted and peppered three and a half pounds of pork loin, preheated my new convection oven, seared the meat in olive oil, cut and sauteed an onion and an apple, simmered those with a teaspoon of caraway seeds, a cup of hard cider, and two tablespoons of brown sugar, roasted the whole thing in the oven while boiling and mashing potatoes, ate two small dinners while I waited, as I was lightheaded as I rarely am, one a sandwich of lunch meat I’d bought for the NYC trip this weekend that we didn’t eat, one a bowl of rice I cooked awhile back, the white version, leaving the brown and yellow versions behind for another day of eating or composting.

While I cooked I puttered and tossed, as I’ve been doing regularly, two small loaves of bread bought at Trader Joe’s last week, gone moldy before being eaten, oatmeal cooked awhile back when my gal was here, leftover and forgotten, a jar of red pesto brought back from Iceland a year and a half ago, opened half a year ago, gone moldy, all into the compost bin. Surely there is more, as the kitchen remains stuffed to the gills. Shopping and cooking for one and eating alone have not yet become things I do well, or naturally. I haven’t found my rhythm. I have no idea how I’ll eat the other three pounds of meat covered in delicious sauerkraut, who will eat the rest of the lunch meat, if the loaf of bread above the toaster oven is moldy, too, how many more items from my fridge and freezer and cupboards really ought to go so that I’m not forever eating through stashes collected when my house and life were full of my own children, not only the children in the day care down below.

It’s a learning curve. Someday, I’d hoped to share my home again, with a partner, full time. The longer I live without that, the less likely it feels I’ll ever find it. Meanwhile, there’s roast pork and sauerkraut on a Tuesday, for me, to remind me of home, of childhood, of my grandmother, of my mother, of our lives together, of cooking for a crowd of appreciative eaters, of my German heritage, of Western New York, of the mid-western-ness of my growing up, of abundance, of home-cooking and recipes and smells and sights and tastes that take me home, down country roads, to a place that I belong, as John Denver sings in my head about West Virginia while I pine on and on about roast pork and Western New York. Home in one of it’s forms, roast pork and sauerkraut, home a thing I find elusive, as to me it’s made of people, and at the moment, I don’t really share mine so much as live here alone.

Watch me study on that some more. It’s a puzzle, a place of unsettledness, a question, a wonder, a lack of certainty and security, a transition, a step on the path, a stage of life, a chapter in my book of life. Here I am, with a huge roast pork tucked in a vintage glass dish in my fancy newish fridge, roast pork waiting for me to eat it another quiet night or two or three or four, and remind myself I’m part of something, that I was once surrounded by a large and loving family, that I once cooked for a family of my own, that I am older now, and more single than I’ve ever been, more uncertain of my future than I’d hoped to be, eating and living as well as I can, not giving up, not at all sure what else to do but cook for one while the future reveals itself.