I received this email chain letter the other day from my mom and it came at such an appropriate time as I feel I am at the cross roads again. My dad turning 70; Thanksgiving; Deciding to sell my pink 1965 VW bus after it's been a yard feature at DKish's for the past three years. Anticipating the trip to Mexico City to pay homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe and see the pyramids of the ancients. There are changes in my life; endings and beginnings; the hesitation before the leap and wondering as I look back on it all have I done it right? or have I done all I am suppose to do? Reading this reminded me that there are so many paths and I too hope I can look back on my life from 70 with humor and wisdom. I am grateful to all the inspiring women and men of all ages, shapes and sizes who grace my life and show me how it's done.
In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older.
And, there on television, she said it was 'exciting...'
Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every day.....like her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.
The audience laughed so hard they cried. She is such a simple and honest woman, with so much wisdom in her words!
Maya Angelou said this:
'I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.'
'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'
'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.'
'I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.'
'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'
'I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back....'
'I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.'
'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one..'
'I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.'
'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn..'
'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'
One of my favorite poems I never tire reading:
On The Pulse Of Morning
by Maya Angelou
From President Clinton's Inauguration in 1993
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
It says, come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the Rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow. when you yet knew you still
The River sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew.
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek .
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They all hear,
The speaking of the Tree.
They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today.
Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.
Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveler, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers--desperate for gain, Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo,
The Scot, the Italian, the Hungarian, the Pole,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Sometimes my mom and I communicate best this way; and I LOVE her for this- the way she feels and responds to the world and shares with me. this was beautiful, and funny and I had a flash of all of your faces come into my mind's eye like a parade of visions and how I miss you! How wonderful to have such wonderful sisters/mamas/ and amazing Women like you in my life....I am counting my blessings today to be in gratitude as I go out into the world this morning...I am enclosing one of the most beautiful poems by Maya that makes me think of being at the bottom of Grand Canyon or along the banks of the Tutuaca and the Casas Grandes river with my Queens-shoes in hand, the shimmering trees along with our laughter; all of your eyes so bright....and being a child in wonder at the world.
Last night I photographed a mother/daughter and I watched them be so tender; daughter attending mother, and mother strong and warrior, her breast holding her daughter's head; I flashed back to the time when the daughter was 5 and now she's 14...she kneeled in front of her and fixed her mother's hair; I remember that feeling of being so small in wonder at my own mother's breast looking up into her beautiful brown moon face and feeling it was the best place in the world....
After Running's 70th birthday eating leftovers and visiting with Ted, and Roseanne and NIcci, all friends of Running and Bennett whom we hadn't seen for a long time since Bennett passed away as late; our bellies were full after the wonderful festivities and reunion. Much laughter and wine and all were tired and full. We sat together all of us at the small kitchen table that has hosted so many wonderful gatherings and Rosanne petted my head the way Bennett used to....it was a magical feeling of the invisible and physical worlds joining. Those here and those who've gone. then Ted read a poem he wrote for Running and Rosanne announced she was learning how to play the harmonica and would play us a song.
Rosanne's head tilted and the space grew really still; the first sweet note; hitting high and deep - she began Summer Time....when the living was easy....when I was little I thought this was my family in the song when my mom would sing it to me...; and it is...as I prepare to fly again I am thinking of all of this; the rapture and the heart that flowed out of Rosanne at that moment filled me with longing for being a baby again, my mother's embrace; my father's assurance and tenderness; the missing of Bennett and the warmth of you friends/sisters/mamas who give me courage and chances to fly and pass along this amazing feeling for life itself.....may we all be joined in the BIG heart...
Ted's poem for my dad:
John at Seventy
The trains blow through all night, perhaps
forty, maybe more. Each distinct voice
hoots long-long-short-long through every crossing,
each voice echoes, reflecting back against
the sacred San Francisco peaks, sacred bringers of rain,
sacred to the nations here; white, mixed, brown. Tonight
a gathering of artists, of visions and cultures,
a celebration of a way of life, of giving
from the heart, el corazon. Here
lives braid, braid like DNA coiled
uncoiling, recombinant, glowing. I love
their faces, lined or smooth, direct
and open gazes with each toast.
Ted McMahon, poet, doctor,trip facilitator
The Hero's Journey; A Grand Canyon adventure 2010