Boxes, Both Miraculous & Mundane

Joy sat on her art box as the small, storm-tossed boat filled with water.  She calmly watched as both of her shipmates abandoned her to swim back to their ship, anchored offshore.  Her beloved box, filled with calligraphy pens, paint brushes and other wondrous, creative tools, was shrouded in a portrait of Our Lord that she had painted on the lid before setting out for Mexico from Canada several years previously.  Alone.  With Our Lord by her side to protect her.

And protect her He did.  Joy could sit with her art box in front of her while traveling through Mexico (not necessarily the safest of places for a woman traveling solo), confident that no evil intentions would cross.  She could enjoy and flourish and live and love.  And no evil crossed Our Lord.

He guided Joy’s little boat safely back towards shore that night.  A local Mexican noticed her bobbing closer and closer to the dock.  By the time he kindly tossed her a rope, the boat was gone.  The boat was later recovered, the art box with its beautiful shroud no longer there.  No, not there in the strictest sense of the meaning.  But it… He… certainly lingered, providing no less strength, courage, discernment, and love to Joy’s emboldened heart.

 * **  * ***  ** * stardust *** *  **  ***

I asked Joy and Tony if they knew they were meant for each other when they first danced.

“I knew before she came,” replied Tony.

Tony had a 200 year old country inn in Massachusetts.  There was a ballroom on each of three floors.  He had taught ballroom dancing at Radio City Music Hall.  He explained to me that everyone has a certain dance inside of them.  Tony is a tango.  Joy, the salsa.  (I am a waltz!)  Find your dance and the others all fall into place from there.

One Winter night, Tony had a vision of a beautiful brunette coming to his inn.  He told his staff and friends then and there that he would be leaving the inn to go with her.

Meanwhile, Joy had completed a job crewing on a tall ship that sailed from New Hampshire to New York’s South Street Seaport.  As a reward, Joy and her friends were treated to the use of a cabin in the woods of Massachusetts.  Not long after their arrival, a local woman, Sophie, showed up, shotgun in hand, to check up on the property and who was living there.  Once Joy and her friends passed inspection, Sophie suggested they go see Tony up at the inn.

And so they did, knocking on the inn’s door one wintry Sunday night.  Patrick, the valet/bartender, answered the door.  Upon entering the inn, Joy saw Tony, dressed in a red and black plaid lumberjack jacket, messing around with a bowlful of oranges in the next room and she thought, “Hello, old friend.”  They recognized each other immediately.  Their dance together commenced and, in Tony’s words, “We never stopped dancing.”

 **  * *** **  * ** dancing snowflakes  *** *  ** * ***  **

FullSizeRender-261Tony’s heritage is Irish-Catholic/American Indian (Joy was raised an Orthodox Jew).  He is a second son, a healer.  The first son is always the chief, and Tony’s older brother fills that role well.

When he was about 9 years old, Tony fell in love with a pop-up camper that was on display at the Eastern States Exposition.  He would visit often, entranced with the pop-up mechanism that turned the little box into a little house.  He was especially drawn to the lime green curtains.

One day, the camper’s vendor had to leave his station and he asked Tony to keep an eye on things.  Tony jumped at the chance.  Such responsibility!  A fellow came by and started to inspect the camper.  He was a local police officer, and he really loved the camper, but was afraid his wife would think it too small for their needs and too big to store when not in use.  Tony jumped into action, explaining how the pop-up mechanisms worked to create a house from a very compact box, and vice versa when the unit needed to be stored.  The policeman went home to get his wife and when the camper’s vendor returned, he fully demonstrated the little domestic miracle to the eager couple.  The sale was made!  And, boy, was Tony proud.

** ***  * *** *  *** lime green curtains  ** * * *** **  *  **

Joy and Tony have started from scratch numerous times.  From places where they had nothing but their own stores of wisdom and strength and, later, each other.  Times when they simply passed through the next open door (for one always appears) to embark upon the next adventure, challenge, lesson, blessing, without looking back, for there was nothing to look back upon.  They have experienced deep loss and grief in their lives and have had to work through some very painful emotions.  Joy stated that on the other side of her deepest heartbreak, she discovered what true, unconditional love is.

For years, on and off, they traveled in a purple and yellow 54-seat passenger bus (a Canadian Bluebird).  A dear friend’s baby was born in the back of that bus.  Many years they simply tent-camped out of a van.  They worked at a dinner theater, alternately dancing and waiting tables.  They taught art and sewing at a homeless shelter.  They worked with Joy’s brother teaching art at his addiction center.  They often traveled to different family members to help them in time of need.

They cared for Tony’s mother at the end of her life.  Being Irish and Indian, Tony is blessed with a double-whammy abundance of superstitious beliefs.  It is said that when someone passes, you hear three knocks and then will see the shadow of the grim reaper.  Tony heard, he saw, and he accepted.

Tony took a long walk through the neighborhood after his mother passed.  At that point, he and Joy were at loose ends as to the next stage of their journey.  He noticed a pop-up camper sitting in a front yard with a for sale sign on it.  So familiar…  with lime green curtains…  being sold by a retired police officer and his wife…

How much?

How much do you have?

$350.

Sold!

Yes, indeed.

** *  *  ** *** *   ** butterflies ***  * **  ***   ***   ***

FullSizeRender-264Joy and Tony now have a small pop-out camper (the two ends open up into little rooms when it is time to set up house).  I noticed their little homestead right away on my dog walks around the RV park.  It is colorful and looks warm, homey.  Inside, purple, gold, and green (some of it lime) greet your eye.  Outside, artwork spins in the breeze where it hangs from a small orange tree.  They even have containers of grass growing on their porch.

FullSizeRender-263At one point, they had set out a small, purple child’s pool filled with lush green grass.  I thought, “Wow, that couple must miss having a yard or something–they bring one with them wherever they go!”  It turns out that it is wheat grass that they grow for its extraordinary health benefits.

In their wanderings since their paths joined in 1987 (Joy set out on her own in 1980), Joy and Tony have lived and loved and served and learned enough to fill volumes.  When I sat down with them to get “their story,” I imagined some sort of linear tale (I am, after all, a linear, highly organized sort) filled with things like when they first started RV’ing or camping, where they have visited, what their favorite places and experiences have been.  I soon realized that trying to squeeze their tale into some kind of distinct, orderly box–organized around the perennial who, what, where, when, and why–would be like trying to put a leash on a butterfly.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing, Joy and Tony!

** * **  *** *  ** *** *  * ** ***  * ** **  *** *

Today’s post is dedicated to beloved Dolly and Solomon, Joy and Tony’s magnificent canine companions and bearers of their own love story, and who enriched the lives of their people as only a doggie can.

The pictures in the post are as follows, in order of appearance:   1)  Joy’s sculpture:  He Touched Me (symbolic of the three-fold flame, Love, Wisdom, and Power); 2)  Joy and Tony’s sculpture, inspired by Joy’s brother, cradled in a discarded satellite dish; 3) Outside view of their current pop-out camper and front porch with Joy’s painting of the prophet Micah twirling in the shade of the orange tree; 4)  Have Grass, Will Travel!

The names of Joy and Tony have been slightly altered so as to provide a delicate veil of privacy for my new friends.

Resolute in Pink

This New Year I resolve to relearn the guitar.  And to be comfy with pink.  To own it!

As a child of the 60’s, I have a deep love of folk music.  The Times They are Changin’ and Puff the Magic Dragon tortured my family as I practiced on my first guitar–a 6th grade graduation gift–in my room.  My room which I detested, with its little girlie white bedroom set surrounded by pink pink pink pink–count them, four–walls.  At that awkward, tortured, self-conscious middle-school age, I wanted nothing more than to be older, in control, and strong.  Certainly not pink.

It proved to be much easier to reject pink as I grew to adulthood than it was to excel at making music.  I tried a 12-string guitar for a while, hoping that those extra 6 strings would somehow work the magic that my mediocre fingering could not.  No such luck.  I tried a mandolin, which was great fun, but still beyond my amateur abilities.

When I was in high school, a friend of my little brother’s asked me to teach him guitar.  I obliged, setting out the music for Little Brown Jug and going over basic chords and fingering with him.  Within a couple of weeks, he was way better than I was.  He was a natural.  That’s probably when the definition of talent–and my lack thereof–really hit me.

Last year, as I downsized my household to get ready to move into this little house on wheels, I couldn’t decide what to do with my guitar.  I hadn’t played it in years, and when I did, it was yet another disappointing experience.  So I gave it to a friend to hold for me until I returned with the RV.  By then I would know if there was a place to fit it and, more importantly, if it would even be worth bringing.

When it came time to decide whether or not to pick the guitar back up, I did, without really knowing why.  Yes, there was room in a tall, narrow closet in my little house–a closet I had them put in specifically for the guitar in case I decided to bring it.  No, my son–who is extraordinarily musically talented, yay!–didn’t want it.  And I couldn’t quite bring myself to sell it.  Or give it to a stranger.  So I now have it with me.

A couple of weeks ago I took the guitar out of the closet and put it on the bed.  I haven’t even opened the case yet.  It makes a nice bedside table.  Maybe I am waiting for the New Year.  Maybe I am waiting for inspiration.  Maybe I am holding out for some kind of reassurance that it won’t be so difficult to relearn to play, and maybe, just maybe improve on what little skill I’ve ever had.

Then I have to pause, and wonder.  Who am I trying to impress?  I’m not in middle school anymore.  If someone walking by my little house catches the strain of an out-of-tune voice accompanying an oddly placed chord, what’s that to me?    I can make music.  Even if it’s not all that good, I can still enjoy myself.  Should I so choose.  And I do so choose.

Yes, I resolve in 2015 to strum and pick and sing to my heart’s content.  In my big, fluffy, pink bathrobe that I amazed myself with when I bought it a few years ago–it seemed so out of character, but I just had to have it!  In the light of the flowery pink lamp that I bought for myself for Christmas this year–seemingly so out of character, but I just had to have it!

I can be resolute.  And still love pink.  I am.  Older.  Wiser.  And strong enough.

Phoenix Rising

I don’t claim to understand forgiveness.  All I know about it consists of glimmers around the edges of something which, I suspect, is one of the most powerful forces available to our puny little human forms.

If forgiveness took on a physical form that we could see, I imagine the mythological Phoenix, reborn and rising from the ashes of its predecessor would serve quite well.

White-hot anger, scalding pain, burning resentment: these are emotions and feelings most of us have felt to one degree or another just by slogging through our daily lives, dealing with everyone from strangers to family members, year after year.

photo 3Way too often we aim these powerful daggers directly at our own heart, piercing it with self-loathing, insecurity, and gloom.

Whether the root source is self-inflicted or gifted from another, these negative forces can feel like they are burning us up from the inside-out, clawing our heart to shreds.  Indeed, the stress caused by holding onto such anger and resentment can make one quite ill.

So what to do?

Let it burn.

Let it burn itself up.

Self-destruct in its own raging fire.

Until nothing remains but ashes.

photo-39How does one do that?  Perhaps a good start is to simply …

… let…

… it…

… go…

Rise above it.  Let it go.

For the burning flame cannot exist in a vacuum.

It draws its life, its fuel from your very soul.

So let it go.

Rise above the ashes, breathe.

Don’t even glance down.

Look up, look forward.

Rise.

photo-40Feel a youthful strength return to your wings as you release the burdens of the past.

Delight in the cool, clean air that gives life and lift to your powerful, graceful flight.

Celebrate your freedom, your liberation…  your humanity in its most beautiful form.

(Dedicated to Art, one of my bestest friends and a forgiving ex-husband.)