The First Year

by Eve on December 10, 2012

This is the month of my mother’s first yartzeit: the year anniversary since her passing. Throughout the year, I’ve received subtle messages from her, but the one that knocked me over and has stayed with me all year was on the day of her birthday. My sisters and I were celebrating what would have been her 91st birthday at the Pelican Inn at Muir Beach. The grey and weepy sky mirrored our moods, and we spent what felt like hours sitting in the dimly lit dining room telling stories. When I glanced at the fire in the fireplace, what caught my eye was the mantle etching: “FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR. FAITH ANSWERED. NO ONE WAS THERE.”

Losing my mother, my greatest anchor in the world, catapulted me to walk to the door every time fear came knocking. I grew weary of the sound of eerie rapping and wearier yet facing the frequent visitor. Fear approached and battered my door on a daily basis. (How would I possibly live without her, how could I wake up every morning to the dull ache of an empty heart, how could I stay motivated, how could I keep from disconnecting?) Each time fear grabbed me I labored to find, reveal, invent or connect with the faith that could move me from one day to the next.

In my naïveté, I expected that a year would feel like time enough to come to terms with my orphan status, to reach acceptance, understanding, closure. I figured I would have a pocketful of ahas, cards that I would play one by one to guide me forward.

But this is a long ride. All I know is that I am exactly where I am on the path. I know I’ll be fine, but this is quite a journey.

For a year I have written about my mother. Truth was, I was writing about me. It was not a regular discipline; there were necessary pauses. Life happened between the lines. Words spun in a constantly changing order, from bloom to barren soil, with little respect to season. Because, it turns out, in the spiraling process of transition: first you have to wrap your head around it, then you have to wrap your heart around it, and then, finally, the words come. Or sometimes not at all.

In the small pueblo of Loreto in Baja California I have sat at the table with my compadres of expressive, supportive, and compassionate writers: a colorfully woven safety net. As I poured my raw emotion on the table, they fell in step and journeyed with me. And the faith of friends dispelled my fear.

When I’ve faced challenges—felt lost, gotten sick, endured stormy weather, felt doubtful or confused—each time I heard the upsurge of a little girl’s cry “I want my mommy!” And each time when I searched for my mother’s helpful presence and calming voice, I managed to find it deep within. And the faith of self dispelled my fear.

Nature has been my mother’s persistent messenger. Daily sunsets awash with their gentle gray and rose palette transport me back to her living room. In my midnight eye, a young, vibrant, and liberated mother moved effortlessly through the waves in the Sea of Cortez. In the shape of a flying woman, a bright pink cloud hovered over our Seder table. Hummingbirds have appeared with momentary urgency and excitement, to accompany my comings and goings. And the faith of nature dispelled my fear.

In the circle of my family we have shared stories and tears, questions and laughter. We have gathered for remembrance throughout the year. We have marked time, invented family history where the details were blurry, and deepened our own bonds. And the faith of family dispelled my fear.

Last year on the last night of Chanukah, nine candles blazed then dripped their wax like tiny cairns in our menorahs. We watched as our mother, the final speck of a sunset behind the mountain, flickered to her last breath. With her ultimate generosity, she left us the image of a fully lit menorah: all the light we could possibly need to dispel the darkness in our lives. The candles we light will ever glow in her honor; each night a memory of her love, each night a daughter’s faith in her presence.

Fear may show up at my door again in the guise of an ill child, a menacing storm, the loss of a loved one. As my heart stays open to the messages of my mother and faith continues to serve as my doorman, hope and peace will be the more frequent visitors to pass my illumined threshold.

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by Eve on November 20, 2012

Each year we take it one kilometer at a time: Highway One, Baja California, destination Loreto. Generally a dry and dusty road through the Baja desert, this year the landscape oozes with green from recent rains. It is almost impossible not to drench myself in the expectations and dreams of a new season.

With each bit of road that passes, I imagine my morning view of the sea, my daily swim, the pleasant rhythm of my life with the velocity switch dimmed, gliding along with what comes of each day.

After hours of high desert scenery, as we catch our first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez, I feel a visceral pull.

Our annual migration has turned all of life into tumultuous transition, and my brain is learning to manage the accompanying motion sickness. In the pit of my stomach are waves of excitement stirred with apprehension.

Each year, unique with its back and forth movement, I feel somewhat more at home yet utterly homeless, settled yet unsettling. I am aware of an underlying belief that I am coming home to the place where time stands still.

My mother’s way of settling in was to cook a pot of chicken soup, and like her, I learned to create a sense of home wherever I went. Stranger in a strange land, as I soak the black beans, cook a pot of rice, make the first batch of granola, I declare dominion—and watch as the sun recedes and the skies begin to turn gray.

Before long, the winds blow and storm waters rise in our courtyard. Drenched to the core, in shorts and flip-flops we bale buckets from the garden and sweep rivers out the front door. The rain pours in as fast as we can push it out. Our actions whisper a desperate belief that we can control this.

We pause and look at one another with a brief moment of recognition that even in the midst of our current drama, we might just prefer this scenario to shoveling snow off our deck in the Sierras.

Dripping from the ceiling, leaking through the light fixture, trickling through a conduit into the breaker box, the water like a virus spreads throughout our home. Our wooden doors swell and remain as they were, open or shut.

Water intrusion feels like a betrayal of my home’s capacity to protect me. As I empty the bowls and pots scattered around the room, I feel defeated and wish I could rest my head on my mother’s breast, enveloped by her calm assurance that everything will be okay. I search for that comfort within myself. It’s coming, but I am resistant.

We’re fixated on the online weather map that shows Paul as a Category I hurricane swirling directly toward Loreto. We hear that the town is expecting a big ‘weather event’—what the locals call ‘chubasco’—later in the evening, and we brace ourselves, never having experienced a hurricane, unprepared for what might come. Soon after this news update, Internet and cell phones disappear, and we are unplugged, with no predictions of the future.

The afternoon skies take a deep breath and turn calm—the proverbial ‘calm before the storm’? Either the storm has diminished or we have yet to feel her whip through in pitch darkness. We extinguish our headlamps for the evening, fall into a dark quiet sleep. In the morning the ring of the cell phone awakens us, and we’re relieved that our isolation from the outside world is over for now.

Living in the Baja, we fully expect to have periods devoid of phones, Internet, or electricity. For the 3 million inhabitants spread over this skinny half-a-million-square mile peninsula, there are few modern conveniences, but we have come to rely on these lifelines to our loved ones while we live the “simple” life.

Soon after the tremendous surge of water raged from the mountains through the arroyos and canyons to the sea, Loreto calmed. Yet I still puzzle over this: in a place where time seems to move at the rate of a standing cactus, where geological evolution occurs over thousands or even millions of years, in this one event that lasted a mere 24 hours, the water slashed its way through the magnificent boulders of Tabor Canyon, uprooting trees, depositing gravel and dirt in every possible crevice, hiding boulders the size of two story houses—and changed the landscape forever. The waters spoke, the landscape responded.

The drips in our home continued on for a few days, and when I ventured into town and asked the locals how they fared, when I used the word huracán, they looked at me askance and shrugged, Oh you mean the rain? The water came into the house. No pasa nada. And it dawned on me that I could shift my perspective; perhaps minimize my sense of drama. If I were to accept that having a home in Baja means welcoming the rains in, I would understand on a deep level the truth of life here.

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Why Change? What’s Next?

November 7, 2012

In the natural world we see examples of how an organism responds to a changing world. When a sea star loses an arm it grows a new one. A hermit crab discards its outgrown shell and relocates. In human circles, however, change seems to be a four-letter word. CHANGE? C*#Ng? Why me? Why now? Do [...]

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October 29, 2012

In many places setting the clock back an hour is a simple seasonal change, an annual ritual that marks time and prepares us for the coming winter.  Although this activity occurs twice a year, when it’s time to change the clocks, do you ever notice how many people ask, “Forward or back? “Do we lose [...]

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Summer Reflections

September 9, 2012

My summer goal was to travel to beautiful places. A gypsy in search of natural beauty, I knew it would feed my soul to get my fill of tall green trees before returning to the Baja desert for the winter. So we decided on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, where several generous friends [...]

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As it Evolves

August 8, 2012

Experience tells me that grieving is an evolutionary process. I can only presume that it must take a lifetime to adjust to loss. I still notice several times a week that I’m experiencing a ‘first’ – first time doing this or that activity without the anchor of my Mom. Having to construct a new anchor [...]

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Notice the Tempo

July 9, 2012

It was early and the knock on our wooden door seemed upbeat. From the courtyard I heard our neighbor announcing: “I accomplished a major developmental task! I woke up this morning and cancelled my flight back to the States!” A week before he had noticed our door ajar as he was checking out the Mexican [...]

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The Glass Animals

June 14, 2012

Mom, I have big news to share with you; stories of your grandchildren’s achievements and victories. I’m sure you’re listening, but I wish I could hear the high pitch of excitement in your voice, the way the conversation would go. Yesterday the birdsong at dawn was symphonic, in every tone and melody, and I felt [...]

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Pueblo Mágico

June 14, 2012

Those of us who have discovered this gem in the rough have known intuitively what the Mexican government has just announced: Loreto is the newest pueblo to be added to the list of “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magical Villages). What is Loreto’s magic? The sea, the history, the adventure; an inexplicable state of mind; a simpler, less [...]

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