Wednesday, August 9

why it matters

sitting on top of a pile of the sweetest notes and cards
 is the hand-stitched pillow Karen Stevens made for me
If ever you think it doesn't make a difference whether you offer a gentle word of condolence to someone suffering loss, please know it makes all the difference. You may think 'oh, there's nothing I can do-- my saying sorry can't help much' but I am here to tell you--- when the community around you fills your mailbox and home with cards, care packages, bouquets of flowers and your social media overflows with words of comfort, kindness, love and affection-- the cumulative power of each individual touch on the arm is enormous.

I have read and taken into my heart each and every comment that has been left for me on Instagram and Facebook. The energy of love compassion and understanding supported me so deeply. I don't have the means to reach out to each of you to say thank you-- so please know-- I am so very grateful for this extraordinary community that I belong to.

I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of -- and connected to--
such caring, loving souls. THANK YOU.

We should all leave this world wrapped in love and comfort as Daisy did. She left this world like an Egyptian princess--- our vet came to the house and I got to hold her right in her favorite spot on the living room floor.

Oliver was right by her side, giving her the occasional lick to the nose. She was wrapped in the softest blankets, favorite toys and treats tucked around her -- with rose buds and daisies sprinkled over top.

We buried Daisy in the backyard under the two giant maple trees where I can see her from my kitchen window and, each morning Ollie and I go out and sit with her while I drink my coffee.

Several of you have asked how Ollie is doing and the update is: he's hanging in there. Daisy was 11. Oliver is 15. I don't know how much time I have left with him so we are keeping close. He has gotten a little bit cling-y and his spirit is definitely sad. We have spent a lot of time with other people in the past two weeks so he has gotten lots of attention, but I think he feels her absence pretty strongly.

Most likely because I have yet to launder all the dog beds etc which surely still have her scent on them-- but it has been super busy around here and I am trying to keep myself grounded and centered.

What I can tell you is that life is beautiful. That joy and sorrow is just one endless loop. That the key is to be in this moment, this one here-- as fully as you possibly can-- so that you can ride the wave through all the ups and downs --- squeezing out every bit of the experience until it lands you on the beach, safe, exhilarated, exhausted, wiped out and flat on your back, gazing up at the sky -- the wide blue expanse not nearly big enough to hold all the gratitude in your heart.

bisous, Elizabeth

Monday, July 24

my best girl

Sweetest spirit ever there was, Daisy 
October 2006 - July 2017

Never imagined this blog would become an obituary page, but life is funny that way. I really don't have any other public forum to share beyond the cryptic space of an Instagram post and for those who have loved Daisy-- I want to be able to provide you with closure, too.

Over the last few months, Daisy had been slowing down considerably. I called the vet to see if there was something wrong that could be addressed, but her vitals and thyroid were all in good health-- she was just nearing the end. And, although I knew this day would come-- nothing can buffer you from the abject pain of having to say good-bye to the most loving soul you have ever known on this earth.

Devoted falls short of describing how each and every morning of my life she would come to the side of the bed and patiently wait for me to notice she was there. The gentlest beginning to the day you can imagine. As I type this to you, she is resting -- her breath labored-- at my feet. She would follow me room to room -- always staying close, always vigilant.

When I recorded the first Magic of Myth workshop-- Daisy was never more than a few feet from me. And then, on the last day, when I was saying good-bye, she climbed up on the chair next to me, gave a heavy sigh:  as ever, she embodied all my emotion. 

I share this with you below so you can feel her sweet presence -- and because though at the time I was saying good-bye to the class-- today, I feel I can say the same prayer to her as she leaves me and this world.

In the past 4 days, she has lost all use of her back legs so it is hard for me to comprehend, just five months ago-- she saved me from an intruder attempting to crawl in the second floor window while I was asleep in bed. My fierce protective warrior. She nurtured me at every turn. 

It didn't matter if I had been gone 15 minutes or for a day-- when I returned from being away she would leap to her feet and come racing, tail wagging. Pure love. Pure joy.

The hardest part for me in running Squam all these years was leaving Daisy behind. Her gaze as I was leaving always showed such confusion -- how could I live without her? And it felt to me that every time I left her, a bit of her heart broke. 

There's no way to know, of course-- anything at all about the animal experience of this world, but when Henry died she went into such a deep, profound depression I could see more clearly than ever how connected she was to those she loved.

Her most favorite thing in the world was to go for a walk. It didn't matter if it were mountains, woods, beach or just tooling around the neighborhood. 

She was never more happy than when she was out exploring the world. And without fail, if there were water to be found-- she found it. 

There is not one day, not one-- in all the years we were together that the very first thing she did upon going outside before even taking a pee-- she would drop to the earth, roll onto her back, breathe in deeply of the grass-- or mud or snow-- it did not matter if it was pouring rain-- she greeted the earth in the same manner every. single. day.  

She was the most social, sweet, happy-go-lucky spirit. Always warm and friendly to any dog or person she might meet. 

And she loved nothing more than jumping into the back of the car for a road trip.

Somehow, when I left last week-- her ability to keep on keeping on as her back legs and stamina got weaker and weaker-- just gave out. My friend Camille was here taking care of Daisy and Oliver and when I called to check in and see how they were doing, she had to tell me, not good. Not good at all.

At 3am on Friday night, I left Sedona, AZ (where I was one week into a 2-week arts residency) and drove to Phoenix airport to catch the first flight home. 

I am just in so much pain-- she is the truest love I have ever known in this world. 

I am just going to miss her so much. All I hope is she knows how much I love her. 
And how grateful I am for every minute I got to be with her.

My only comfort right now is imagining that Henry is waiting for her on the other side. 
And, that they will both hang around until Ollie and I show up, too.

peace out, Elizabeth

Monday, November 14

gentils coquelicots, mes dames

Light. Joy. Fun. Play. Love.

Everything you need to know about my dad, you can see in the photograph above where he is dancing with me. He loved to dance. He loved fun, music, Monty Python, Asterix + Obelix, silly jokes, dogs and family. He was also quite brilliant with a doctorate from MIT in aeronautical engineering, but anyone who knew him was dazzled most by his extraordinary, uncannily detailed knowledge of history.

When I was a teenager, no matter what time I rolled in, he would be sitting in the living room with a light on, reading. I would walk in the door (sometimes trying not to stumble, ahem), he would look up and say, "you're home." Then he'd turn off the light, lock the front door and head to bed. He didn't grill me about where I'd been or what I'd been doing -- either he respected me too much or was wise enough to know what he didn't want to know--- he just wasn't going to sleep until he knew I was home safe.

All of his passwords were variations on the names of dogs he had loved and lost. 

He adored his children and grandchildren. 

Below is a photograph of my dad with Kate, his first grandchild.

He was a world traveler. Born in Rio de Janerio, he did not come to this country until he was 22. His first languages were Portuguese and French, but he was also fluent in English and Spanish.

Better than 95% of all the family photographs were taken by him; if his camera wasn't around his neck, you can be sure it was always within reach.

He taught me how to make a perfect vinaigrette, how to plant tulips, how to drive stick shift. He introduced me to the Bayeux tapestries, gaufres a la chantilly, Mille Bornes. He cultivated and celebrated simple pleasures: gardening, family dinner, camping and music.

He showed me by example what a forgiving heart looks like.
He had the most forgiving heart of anyone I have ever known in my entire life. 

On Thursday night, November 10, 2016 -- surrounded by his wife of 60 years, his children and grandchildren -- my dad left this world wrapped in love, tears and prayers for safe travel.

I like to believe that wherever he is, there is light, laughter and dancing.

bisous, Beth

p.s. I am offline as much as possible right now.

Saturday, October 1

an ancient, long-buried gift*

Sometimes, things just line up in such a way you almost fall into the path you are supposed to be on. For me, this means I am taking the entire month of October off social media. That's right-- no Instagram, facebook or twitter. I'm even keeping my texts and emails down to very limited days and hours.

The idea has been percolating and then when I read Andrew Sullivan's piece "I Used To Be A Human Being, that pretty much sealed the deal. (*the title of this post comes from his essay)

Not sure how it all came together to begin this morning, but oddly enough it is a most auspicious start seeing as it is both the first day of October (a time to head into hibernation) and a wildly cool double New Moon.

AND, if that all weren't enough-- this morning I participated in a program that planted over 268 trees in Providence!

A few months ago, I got a handwritten note in my mailbox. It was from a woman down the street letting us know that the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program had trees for anyone who wanted to sign up.

Wha-what?  Could I possibly love this city any more? Needless to say, I replied the same day saying:  SIGN ME UP!

I found out last week that this morning was the day-- above is the demonstration of how to plant the trees-- simple, but a couple of critical tips to ensure they grow for 100 years.  And so, with the help of my neighbors-- there are now two baby maple trees (rather Charlie Brown-esque) in front of my house.

Now I am home, changed out of my muddy wet clothes (yes, there is a steady rain outside) and let me tell you-- there are two VERY happy pups who are quite delighted with my plan to go all analog for the month of October.

My intention is to have deep quiet for reading, meditation, house cleaning, pruning the garden and putting it to bed and, of course, studio time. 

I'm hoping it looks a lot like this:

Whatever it shapes up to be-- I am super excited to explore what life is like off-line. The past year has been more extroverted than normal for me and I am way overdue for some deep quiet and restorative pace to my days.

So here we go, off on Staycation!

Take good care of you and I'll see you on the flip side--

bisous, Elizabeth

Thursday, September 22

just keep me where the light is

oh Mindy!*

Can you feel that?  Mercury goes direct today and all I can say is HALL-LE-FFF-ING-LU-YAH!

(I'm sure that's sacrilege in some camps, but not mine -- my god has a great sense of humor and curses like a fishwife.)

This morning I woke up and everything felt softer, easier -- there was even a crispness in the air that felt mighty fresh and new. The dogs and I headed up to the farm and walked the fields for a good hour plus. 

The pond was super low -- like five feet lower than normal-- due to the long, hot summer we have had, but there were two groups of high school girls running long miles around us for track practice and watching them in the sunlight was pure poetry. (of course Ollie very much wanted to run with them but he behaved himself and practiced restraint)

Their focus was simple. They ran in groups of four. There was just something about watching them run up and down hills -- through the fields that fills my heart. Maybe because I logged no few long runs when I was in high school, maybe because I loved the opening scene of Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans (not the killing of the deer, obvs-- but the running), maybe just because it's an expression of our physical selves that I find beautiful.

We came home. I put breakfast down for the pups and then, just as I was reaching into the fridge for some almond milk for my coffee I stopped -- for the zillionth time-- and let my grounding words sink in to my heart, my consciousness, my breath.

(do you not love that my dentists are "light and comfort" I mean, seriously, on what planet!)

regarde autour maintenant

ton reve de 
beaute lumiere passion et douceur
est dans ce paradis

I have no idea if they actually mean anything in French, or not. And, as you can imagine, I don't care -- they have meaning for me.

In June 2010, when my marriage ended, I moved to a farm 20 minutes away from the house above Squam lake where I'd been living the five years previously. 

The farm was my total sanctuary and I still dream about it. 
I carry it's energy and spirit in my heart always.

Of course, I was a bit raw, fragile and all sorts of out of sorts that Spring. To my total surprise, a package arrived out of the blue -- a how-to-start-a-new-life care package from my sweet friend Jeanine. It was honestly one of the most loving, thoughtful gifts I have ever received not least because it was completely unexpected.

There were all sorts of things in it-- a long letter, bottle of wine, some funny things, some serious things and amid the abondanza was a box of French magnetic words.

Yes, those bits on the fridge above have been with me since the day I opened that package. I wrote what I wanted to bring into being and wow, yet more proof that this is exactly how it works. Because every single day of my life since sticking those little letters to the fridge -- admittedly a most absurd and silly exercise-- the experience of living deeply from a place of what I call 'sanctuary' has continued to come alive around me.

The first thing I do when moving into a new place -- the very first thing -- is to put those little words onto the fridge.

Anyway, not sure where I was going with that. Above are two snapshots from last week at the lake. A place you know well. A place that you know is a feeling that can't be explained or expressed. 

But I love that I share that with you. I love that I have spent time there with YOU and it is a reference for us -- something we both understand even if we can't put it into words - -not even funny faux French magnetic words.

It has become a tradition that when it is time for me to round-up and condense the week's experience into a recap that I always say, "it was the best one ever."

And, it has never been more true. It was the best one ever. 

Not merely because we had the most crazy perfect off-the-charts gorgeous weather morning to night every. single. day. !!!  -- and not because the people who came were super chill and created a super sweet vibe -- and not because there was such artistry (that QUILT SHOW OMG!!) and wild creativity. And definitely not because I had to take Jenny to the ER for seven stitches after she stabbed herself during the spoon carving class (NOT fun at all-- and yet, we bonded so deeply and are now friends for life that you can't take away the bad without losing the good).

warrior Jenny the leg (her mafia name thanks to Terri Dautcher)
It was the best because I have learned, changed and grown so much that my experience of the world around is just like those silly words on my fridge.

Thanks to YOU<--! I have found my groove teaching again and it is opening whole new worlds to me. 

Below (left) you can see the yoga set up --- the first morning I figured maybe one, possibly two people might show up seeing as it began at the ungodly hour of 6:15 am -- I mean, seriously -- whose crazy idea was THAT? but there were 18 people who showed up that first morning and from that point forward everything kept rolling out in just the most surprising and wildly beautiful ways.

Whew. I should probably wrap this up and just continue my rambles tomorrow. Just know, there are such good, kind, gentle people in the world. Ignore the fear mongering on tv. Ignore the efforts to make us react with hate, anger, judgement and aggression. 

Ground into the truth that there are good, kind, gentle people in the world and if we stay connected with one another -- we can hold steady through the storm.

 bisous, my sweet friend-- more tomorrow . . .

photo by Forrest Elliott
*This month -- 30 days -- I am writing a letter to my dear friend Mindy because I happened on Mindy's post where she honored me to my core -- sharing that she reads my blog (my long, long neglected blog) and it inspired me to promise that for one full month -- 30 days of September-- I would write her a letter each, and every day. Let's see how I do . . . :) 

Saturday, September 10

squam time

Good morning Mindy,*

Isn't it funny how things show up? Your random decision to mention that you find good mojo reading my blog put some excellent, dry kindling on those dying embers. All I want to do is write to you, write in my journal, read and paint. That is precisely what I want to do 24/7 right now.

And yet, that's simply not what's on the docket.

Paris tales to be continued . . .
We all have our commitments, our responsibilities, the tugs and tethers of life that pull us away from what we want to do most. Well, maybe that's not true for everyone but for so many of us, I know that it is. It is a big part of what I hope Squam brings to the world. A chance to have every single obligation and commitment drop off so that you can sink into your skin, sink into your beingness and do whatever you are called to do for a full stretch of time.

Speaking of Squam-- yes, it is that time. Tomorrow, Forrest and I load the cars and head north. My darling friend Camille is going to stay here and look after the dogs for me.

For the past two years, YOU have been up at the lake to greet us when we arrive and we are going to be missing you so very much. Your loose, easy energy. Your brilliant, creative decorating mojo. Your LAUGH.  Gonna really miss your laugh at night when we sit on the porch and wind down from the day. At least I get to see you on Saturday at the fair -- that's a win for sure.

Meantime, I've been thinking about what you wrote that day on facebook and how since I began dashing off these notes to you-- how not really blogging it has been for me. It feels more like trying to catch up on all the happenings that we haven't had time to chat about. And for me, blogging was never really what did I have for lunch today kind of sharing.

For me, blogging -- and the blogs I enjoyed reading (dead dinosaurs all, now) were exploring how to be in the world-- exploring where they were in the world, and figuring out how to find more ease in their day.

a glimpse of a normal morning when I am in the routine that I love most
It might be a while before I post here again as the lake doesn't have the most reliable wifi and you know too well, once you are up there, you drop into 'lake time' and the real world melts away.  So I thought to share a few of the posts I feel said something that still rings true for me.

I'd really love to know (cause I am super curious) what posts connected most with you. And, I ask that of anyone else tuning in-- especially MEGSIE!!<--!  If you wanted to tell me which ones spoke to you, I'd be so interested to know.

For me-- these are the ones that I am glad to be able to return to:

Love is LOVE

Into the Day

if you do not love yourself, you are in kind of a bind

it is this day

bisous, Elizabeth

*This month -- 30 days -- I am writing a letter to my dear friend Mindy because I happened on Mindy's post where she honored me to my core -- sharing that she reads my blog (my long, long neglected blog) and it inspired me to promise that for one full month -- 30 days of September-- I would write her a letter each, and every day. Let's see how I do . . . :) 

Friday, September 9

end part one

Dear Mindy,* 

Eventually the party came to an end. 

Are you wondering how much play, relaxing, eating and easy conversation can a person take?
Let me just say, if it were an Olympic sport the French would totally whip our ass.

On our last day, we hit some last great spots -- some of our sweet cousins joined in for tours of the Grignan castle and then?
Ice cream!!
with Christine (on far right) and everybody's eyes open
with me on right and eyes closed on Edith, Thierry, Diogo, Cristina, + Isabelle, helas
Kate said that afternoon was one of her most favorites of the week. Easy, loose, spontaneous and fun.

You know, such a difference from all that heavy lifting we'd been doing . . . :)

If you remember, during this time I was doing the #31sunrises project. On our very last morning in Provence, Kate wanted to get up with me and climb to the top of the castle to see the sun rise.

And so we did. Rolling out of bed in the dark. Getting in the car and driving -- half asleep to be sure -- back to Grignan for one last visit.

For me, this was one of the most magical moments of the whole week. I don't have to tell you how much I love mornings and to share it with my beloved niece -- to have my blood pumping and warming me from a quick hike up the rampart -- to feel the air on my skin and watch the birds play on the breeze soaring and swooping -- and then, for the sun to slowly fill the sky.

Well, it filled my heart forever and a day.

And then, of course. It was truly time to go.

We got back to the B&B -- said good bye to the chickens (Kate loved those chickens) and the most amazing breakfast ever-- and headed to the train station.

As it turns out, we were on the same train as my darlingest aunt -- my dad's sister and mama matriarch to this wild tribe (5 children, 14 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren) -- who is such a role model of aging. She looked styling the whole time, took the train by herself, caught a cab home by herself -- returning to her apartment on the fifth floor of her Paris apartment.

She's 88.  Seriously, she sets the bar high.

my amazing Tante Ady catching her own damn cab, thank you very much

YES! Back in Paris . . ..  part two begins.

bisous, Elizabeth
*This month -- 30 days -- I am writing a letter to my dear friend Mindy because I happened on Mindy's post where she honored me to my core -- sharing that she reads my blog (my long, long neglected blog) and it inspired me to promise that for one full month -- 30 days of September-- I would write her a letter each, and every day. Let's see how I do . . . :)