Tag Archives: overwhelm

Mama Maples – Finding Peace Amidst the Fast Pace

Three gentle giants wait for me in the backyard. Eighty feet tall or so, my magical maples watch over our home, guard our dreams. They stand in a curved row, committed back-up singers, ready to harmonize with those who’ll listen.

Daily, I feel them calling me away from the computer, out of the rush, past my worries. Humming, encouraging, being. They know when I’ve forgotten to breathe again. Meditation has fallen away this week, as I push for more book promotion, more people to contact, more life to live. I’ve been captured by the pulse of perfectionism.

I search for what’s missing in my post-its, my emails, on my to-do list. I’ve forgotten that joy and gratitude are productive companions. The kids call, the laundry moans, and the phone screams my name. I plug my ears. I can’t hear myself over all the questions. So I answer the maples.

I step out the backdoor and we sigh in unison. They are the quietest of teachers and it is their peace I seek. “There you are,” they whisper sweetly. “Come sit down with the dandelions.” The lawn chair scoops me up and I rest in it’s arms. I stare at the maples, waiting.

In the front yard, someone is crying. Drat. I get up, unlatch the gate and walk away from my sanctuary, knowing I may never return today. Down our drive, I spot the two five-year-old friends facing each other. I check my son Kyler’s face, but the hurt isn’t his. I switch to our neighbor, Jeremiah. His mouth is wide and wailing. Both boys are sitting on the sidewalk, scooters flung to the side.

Just as I’m about to call to them, I see Kyler raise his finger and gently, lovingly, touch Jeremiah’s nose. I catch my breath. A tiny giggle spurts out of Jeremiah, defying his tears. Ky blesses his friend’s nose again, light as tinker bell. They both giggle more. I back away quickly, not wanting to disturb the vision, the sweet sharing, the love being passed on. I walk back to my place in the sun with a heart open wider.

As I sit back among the maples, I remember an email I must return. My busy train chugs out of the station when I hear a firm and penetrating, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My body freezes. My mind dumps it’s contents. Did anyone hear that? But no one is there. The maples are definitely addressing me. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Whoa, there it is again. They are swaying inside their own message. They are perfect in their tone and their lullaby. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh they coo, as their leaves wave and laugh. The sky is rocked clean in their easy, soft spell. My smile sails across the yard.

I hear the clank of the gate unlatching and I turn to tell the intruder that I need time alone. But before I can, Ky asks brightly, “Mommy, wanna a piece a gum?” My smile surprises me. “Sure,” I answer. “Jeremiah had to go home,” he reports, as he hands me a soft piece of Bubble Yum. We unwrap the pink puff and eat our gum together, in silence. Kyler rests so naturally, cross legged in his chair. His breathing is free, his spirit, whole. The maples say shhhhhhhhhhh one more time and I remember what I’ve forgotten. I close my eyes. The magic sits before me, within me, like a wide-eyed child. My son, and the mama maples, have settled the breezes inside me, again.

Lessons in Letting Go: a Lost Brother and a Missing Caravaggio

It’s been eighteen years since I last saw my big brother. Although we’d been growing apart for awhile, it was when I wrote him the news, that the door really shut. 

I had been thrilled to be moving in with my boyfriend, a divorced Catholic, but I knew that my brother Dan, a devout Catholic, would be scandalized. Dan had replied that if Bill and I ever married, he would not acknowledge it and not attend. His children would never be allowed to see us. Holy guacamole. It was an electrifying shock. 

Bill and I got married in 1997 and Dan kept his word. Over the years I’ve tried to forgive and forge ahead. But recently I woke up thinking about a Christmas at Mom and Dad’s, back in the days when Dan and I were so close. Eight years my senior, he was my sun and moon. 

That holiday, Dan had found one of my old paintings in the basement and pulled Her from the pack with wide appreciative eyes. 

“Jule, this one is amazing!” Dan crowed. “Man! When did you do it?”

“Oh wow. That was…um…my senior year at Hamilton,” I said, surprised to see Her, my old canvas-friend from college. “We were supposed to copy a portion of an oil painting from one of the Masters.” I babbled on about the details, including the offbeat art teacher who’d believed in me. 

I’d rarely had much confidence in my art; it was never good enough and always needed more effort, more talent, more blah blah blah. A sad self assessment. My dwarfism had left me drowning in perfectionism, the killer of creativity.

But now I was feeling something quite unexpected. It was…(gasp)…admiration.  

“Are you doing anything with it?” Dan said, breaking my reverie. “Do you think I could have it? I mean, look at all these paintings stored away doing nothing.” 

I looked back at Her, biting my lip. I actually….liked this one. Oh dear. I didn’t want to let Her go, even for the love of my brother. 

Dan could feel my hesitation. “How about this? Since you’re not using it, would you mind if I hang it at my house and when you want it back, I’ll whisk it right to you. I promise.” My eyes lowered at the feet of my hero.

“Sure, okay, you can have it.” 

“Thanks Jule!” he exclaimed, with a hug and a love that left me breathless. 

Little did I know, that religion was about to trump our time. There would be no meeting at the crossroads. No hand-off of the canvas. Dan would never dance at my wedding. Our children would be strangers. 

Time passed. Life deepened and flourished. A year after I’d written my memoir, Nothing Short of Joy, the busy-ness and bustle became too much. I decided I had to decompress. De-clutter. Delete.

Out of no where, I feel that painting calling. I swear. I’ve no idea why, but I need to see Her. I remember there was an angel and an old dude. Who was the artist again? 

Two weeks pass as the painting raps at my heals. Was it Rembrandt? Vermeer? My memory is mush. I google French, Italian and Angelic Masters. No sign of Her. Gone. Stolen. Damn it. I feel the resentment burn. Why did Dan have to leave me? 

Meanwhile, emails are busting out my inbox, and I hastily decide to unsubscribe from every newsletter. I scroll down my first victim, whizzing to the bitter end of one I never read and… BAM! My breath shudders. There. She. Is! Oh my glory! NO WAY. The man. The angel. The deep darkness. The feathery light. I am in awe! 

With my brain buzzing, fingers aflutter, I click on the photo and land at Amazon. She is a CD cover? I search for more clues. But there’s no name. No info. The treasure hunt intensifies. I lunge back at google. I shall find you! 

Zippo turns up.  

I run to tell Bill about the super synchronicity. As I reheat some leftovers for the boys, my beloved hubby disappears for awhile, then returns with a cheshire grin. He hands me a slip of paper that reads, “St. Matthew and the Angel, by Italian Master, Caravaggio.” What!? You FOUND HER! Oh thank you Hon! Feeling girlish and giddy, I run to the computer to read Her full history. I’m in a strange rapture. My husband and boys. My sweet lifetime. My healing angels. Something breaks open and I sob for the beautiful mystery of it all. 

What are the odds of me finding that photo? It was the first time I actually glanced at that newsletter, the one I’ve ALWAYS deleted. Even on overload, in confusion, our hands are somehow guided. Our spirits, safe. 

I smile at St. Matthew, perched at his desk, pen poised. He’s a writer. Holy crap. I painted this twenty years before I had an inkling that writing would heal my heart. No wonder I had chosen an author and an angel. But it was Dan who had needed Her too; they spoke the same foreign tongue, of saints and sermons that would separate us one day. I study the painting, the face of my past. I miss my brother. But even as the tears roll out once more, I feel the Love and connection that will never leave.

I take a deep breath as the bigger picture settles my soul. As for my brother and I, I don’t know the story’s end. But for now, my painting is at peace in me, and She is at home with him. 

 caravaggio31