In this world of ordinary people, extra-ordinary people, I am glad there is you. I wish each and every one of you extra-ordinary people the very best life has to offer for the New Year and all the Years to follow. Some of you may think yourselves ordinary, but in my life, you are miracles, and you are sacred. Thank you for the many gifts you have brought into my life.
I loved for my Grandmother to read to me, even when I was a teenager. I remember sitting next to her rocking chair and kneading her soft skin and telling her lovingly that it felt so good, like a turkey. For some, that may have been a dreadful thing to tell a Grandmother, but mine understood that it was soothing for me. She would always sit and tell me over and over the fairy tales I always requested. Strangely, both of these stories seemed so dismal on the surface, but I always interpreted them differently.
This is my conscious interpretation of the story. It is true that it was likely in Victorian times in England. It was Christmas eve, and it was very cold as citizens found their way around the area seeking last-minute gifts and special foods to celebrate.
The little match girl, a poor child who would represent reality in those times for a lot of children, was out in the street, poorly dressed for the cold. She held up her matches, for she knew she dare not return home without selling them. Her family did not have the good foods that others had to eat. She perhaps had not eaten all day or even several days. No one noticed the matches she held up in the cold.
Desperate to do something in this dismal time, she lit one of the matches. As the long match glowed in the dark, it warmed her a tiny bit, and in that moment, she saw a vision of possibility. She saw herself in a warm home with food and presents, and a beautiful Christmas tree lit with many colors. The other children with her were all aglow with happiness that permeated the cold, dark sky.
The match did not last. With a sort of strange bit of hope, she lit another match. Once again, her heart was filled with joy and happiness, if just for that moment. You know, it only takes a moment for a miracle. If we can experience the joy of being alive in our minds and our souls, just for that moment, we experience the true miracle of life.
As the matches continued to be lit, finally culminating in the lighting of the remainder of the matches all at once, she was able to transcend that reality of her life.
We are sometimes faced with ugly realities in our lives, and we don’t have to accept them as our forever reality. We can see the best even in the worst of times, and know that life will change as it always does. We are all sacred in this world, as is every plant, every animal, every grain of sand. We are not alone. We are part of the larger universe, and we would not be here if we were not meant to be. If we are here but a moment, we can make it the most beautiful miracle of a moment ever.
As we enter this season with people rushing here and there to purchase every last thing they can for others, I think on what civilization has become. And I think of the beautiful saying, “Blessed are the Poor, for they shall inherit the earth.” I believe that this saying is true for reasons that you may not have thought of.
So many majorly poor people struggle through life to glean the fields for food, and to eat foods that most people throw away. They find what clothing they can, or they create it from cloth or skins that are thrown away or left from some other use. In doing these things, they are, in their own simple ways, helping this earth to survive. They are not throwing away trash that pollutes the soil ultimately and creates land that is no longer fertile and perhaps a danger to health ultimately.
Free from materialistic needs and wants for the most part, they live simply from day to day. They are the first to share whatever meager things they have. I have seen this down in Mexico in the interior. The people we visited lived in a one-room adobe home with a dirt floor. They had no visible food in their home except for one jar of homemade preserves sitting on a shelf. Perhaps they had grown and made that jam, or perhaps that was given to them as a gift; I will never know.
As we sat in the early evening light, the sun shone on the fruit, creating a beautiful sight. I inadvertently admired it, and the woman got up immediately to give it to me. I was touched deeply by such sharing and simple trust in the universe to provide from day to day what little these people had. To refuse such a gift is considered impolite, so I accepted it. As we continued on our journey, and I thought back on those people, I thought of how good it is to be happy with what we have and what the earth blesses us with. I thought how we must return to living simply to help our earth to survive for our children, and our children’s children. And it was good.
As we continue a season of holidays, I want to wish you the very best life has to offer, no matter what set of holidays you choose to celebrate. I wish you peace, joy, and an appreciation of the sacred in this world.
This is a time of renewal, and a time of quiet contemplation about the world that we have been given in which to have the experience of being an important part of the universe with its many different dimensions. As the world seems to sleep, new life is forming quietly in so many different places and going unnoticed until it bursts forth in all its glory when spring awakens.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw – Dramatist (1856 – 1950)
I was thinking about how much fun I have had when I allow myself to play freely as this child is doing. The freedom to explore the world we don’t see everyday, sometimes when it is right in front of us, is a wonderful thing.
I remember when I was turning 65, how I decided to put on some African music I had and begin to dance to it naked in my own home. And then I got the idea to paint my breasts and make prints from them onto cloth. I had no idea what these simple parts of my own body look like from a different perspective and it just seemed a fun way to play. There is nothing strange or silly (well, silly I can live with) about it. It was playing, and discovering, and it was immensely a fun way to celebrate. In the end, the two prints I made – one white and one multi-color, ended up becoming quilts that looked nothing at all like breasts.
I once saw the installations of art by a famous artist who did basically the same thing with parts of his body he said he never saw before. It was amazing, for he had manipulated the images that he got, and nothing was even recognizable as whatever it was originally, but it was immense fun to think about someone to be unafraid to play and to discover whatever there was to find.
It isn’t just the human body with which people are afraid to play and discover. It is things we all take for granted. The cracks in sidewalks, the marks on trees, the forms of all sorts of things out in nature, and perhaps a million other things that we really don’t know at all except from a distance. It isn’t just about playing with toys or playing games that we played as children. It’s about getting to know the world we live in, up close and personal. Have you played lately?
I am not a fashion maven. I do not care for new clothes. New clothes are tabula raza; they have no life story, and for me, that is the most important thing I look for in life. Everything has a story, and if it doesn’t I will make one, but how can you make a story from something that is brand new and has not lived anywhere except on a clothes rack.
I have always loved thrift stores, garage sales, and swap meets of all kinds. There is such a sense of adventure, and what I like especially is that when you go to these types of places, all racial, all political, religious or spiritual or cultural differences seem to disappear. Everyone seems to blend into a wonderful mixture that looks like the clothes in this photo; there is a little of everything. And people sit down at the tables to eat their preferred foods – sometimes things from their own cultures, and sometimes people are just plain adventuresome with what they eat. But the key thing is that they all sit together at the tables, talking often in their native languages, and people doing their best to communicate with others who don’t speak the languages, everyone laughing at the antics of children, or pointing excitedly to a booth that might have extra good items.
And there we all are. One could not paint a more beautiful and sacred photo I believe. there is such a great feeling at the end of our time at these magical events. People are quick to show you their “treasures,” be they the find of heirloom tomatoes, or perhaps a new variety of plant, or a huge watermelon that is going to bring a treat to a big family and friends.
I often use my background in archaeology/anthropology to do a study of a thrift store if I go into a new area, and I can tell so much about the people who live in the area by their “living” artifacts with the stories I mentioned. I can tell if they are primarily seniors who live in the area, business people, or if they are a poor area or an ultra-wealthy one, and I can tell about the children too by the clothes, as well as the cultures represented. And the books and other living artifacts are great clues too. This is such a fun way to spend time discovering history’s mysteries!
I will never be “old” as long as I can find things to have fun with such as these things. I will always be a hippy sort of person in the way I love to think of other people and our society as a whole. The way I choose to dress is sort of a statement about all of that, and I am glad to be who I am because, as the photo says, I have never been this age before, and in one second, I will never be this age again.
I know you cannot see the whole quilt, and I would like you to be able to do that. This was made some years ago as an exchange quilt. We each send a package of fabrics we want to have in our quilt, and the other person does the same. A middle person handles all the fabrics, sending them to different people, and the quilt we make for this unknown person will be returned to them when we are done and all the pieces have been collected by that middle person.
We all have a dual nature, and we generally take on one or the other each day. Just as we have day and night, cold and warm, floods and droughts, love and hate, success and failure, so we can choose to be one personality or the other.
I always love this quote from the book, Advice from a Failure, by Jo Coudert. “Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.”