Saturday, August 23, 2014

Who makes elders? How are elders born?

"The young make elders by seeking them, even as they long for or hunger for them."-Stephen Jenkinson

We have just picked colanders filled with peaches, and plums. The birds, mostly robins, have left us a share enough to feed us the bounty of a hot summer with late season rains. The blackberries are succulent and as big as my thumb I walk the forest and bump into them and pull them without attaching to the thorns. They rarely make it to the colander. The late summer sky is a murky blue, tinted by our exhaust and the chem-trails left by jets the air is not pristine but it passes for clear because the sun brightens the sky and t-shirts and short pants still make it not-yet-autumn.

Pete and I went into town earlier today completing the small errands of post office and library pick-ups. At the post office Pete found an envelope from the library. In the envelope the kindly librarian had found a former envelope addressed to me left in a book returned to that lending house just earlier in the week. Funny how the simple regularities of a life being lived can circle around. Favorite places and simple pleasure make for a well spent couple of hours in the town where we live.

Earlier still in this very same day I was wallowing around in a muck of malaise, muttering to myself as I washed the dishes, "I have made so many mistakes. The patterns of ill-formed decisions have been a model of ..." On and on I was going with the harshest of judgment. Oh it was beginning to stink up the air a real dastardly serving. Finally, there was just not enough muck to keep at it. STOP!STOP!STOP! I said to myself out loud as I washed the last fork.

At this moment my family back on O'ahu is celebrating and remembering a loved one. Cindy our cousin died a few weeks ago. I sent a short remembrance to be read at a service held at beautiful Kailua Beach Park in Lanikai on the island of O'ahu. Cindy's daughter received the written remembrance and said, "This is beautiful Aunty." This is the same daughter who came to visit just days after her mother passed. This is the young woman who has asked me questions about naming her daughter. She has listened to me tell her why I was giving her the stone carved woman I have carried from place to place for decades. She has asked me about her father, my first-cousin trying to understand his grief. I did not say this but I wish I had "We grieve the same as we our own individual way." Instead, I said your dad is doing the threshing work of losing a partner of forty years. It's messy, and not logical. As I write I think of my family gathering at the beach. The threshing work of transitions or initiations, death being the final initiation is something we can do well or we can do struggle or rail against. Like my muck-raking with dishes this morning, and over the past couple of days, my wondering had taken me away from the wonder of summer peaches, plums not eaten by the robins, and the initiation of elder-making that comes because a young person asks, "What is that about, Aunty?"

When I finished washing that last fork, I came to the computer and found something deeply satisfying to replace the mush of malaise I was wallowing in. The conversation was between two men, one of them I had never heard before, the other (Stephen Jenkinson) is a person I follow from time to time. From that conversation I found the window opened just enough to recycle my latest shroud of insufficiency (Angeles Arrien). I was as Angeles has described, started to embroider that shroud and that is risky business.

The audio link to Ken Rose's and Stephen Jenkinson's interview is here. Rather than summarize it, I hope you wait until you have an hour (57 minutes will do it) to listen mindfully to the answers "Who makes elders? and How are elders born?" The two men get at the answers so I recognize how vital it is to be there, be available, just as I am for young people who might need to know, "What is that about, Aunty?"

One final snapshot of this one day includes me sitting on a moldy wooden park bench with Pete. "Just don't stir them up(the mold) ... they'll be fine." I said. We sat and looked at the tide coming rapidly into the seawall in our Langley town. Families with children, and families with pug-nosed dogs and poodles walked and chatted below us. Our park bench was positioned to see it all. While we sat we talked of common and uncommon things that make up our lives. We discussed the way we each maintain or resist boundaries: one natally facile with permeable boundaries, the other locked into 'draw the line' divisions in dramatic ways only to be proved wrong tomorrow or decades later. How do we do it? How do we manage to live together with such different takes on the borders? Time and commitment has taught each of us to value the ability and skill to play all the cards in a deck to test the resistance of the other (like a fish on a line ... no resistance the fish shakes the hook lose). We, my husband and I were sitting like old friends on a park bench. Book-ends. Holding life together with space in between for the young people who might come along to ask "What is that about?"

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