Let the Light In — Dog Sh*t Happens


Window Light

Window Light

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.” – Williams Wordsworth

Wyoming hills near Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming hills near Cheyenne, Wyoming

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” – C. S. Lewis

Dog in boat, resting in the sun

Dog in boat, resting in the sun

“To love beauty is to see light.” – Victor Hugo

I am rather smitten with this photo.  I just adore it.

Leaf on Lake

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle Onassis

My mother and I on my wedding day.
My mother and I on my wedding day.  My mother passed away Christmas Eve 2012. My heart hurts.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”- Edith Wharton

"Every moment of light and dark is a miracle." - Walt Whitman

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” – Walt Whitman

I had a really good day today. I spent time doing meaningful work; I played with my son. I watched him build a mountain out of couch cushions, which he called his mountain. He climbed it, curled within it, and sat atop it proud. He stood on it, went underneath it, and cried behind it when I moved one of the pillows. Toddlers are curious creatures; their moods so intense. I thought to myself, “My son built a mountain out of pillows. Who says I can’t move mountains?”

I continued my day thinking only positive thoughts — I let the light in, after all it was shining. I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with my son. He stood on a chair, pouring in the ingredients. I let him crack the egg, allowing his own method of crushing it. Surprisingly, no eggshells fell into the batter. The light shone in through the kitchen windows. I pulled back the curtains I usually keep closed. I let the light in.

My day was filled with warmth and sunshine. After I dropped off my husband at work after lunch, I took my son with me to get shoes. I never shop for shoes. I needed a pair of sneakers. I found the perfect pair: purple Nikes. I had the check-out clerk call the manager (in fact I asked twice — I get that from my mom being a little pushy when necessary). I thanked the manager for a wonderful shopping experience. My son played with a penny we found on the ground walking into the store. He ran up and down the aisles as I walked away from the shoe helper in mid-sentence looking for my toddler son, whom I could hear laughing. The shoe helper, TJ was kind and patient. He knew a lot about shoes; he knew a lot about feet. I tried on a dozen pairs at least and asked two dozen questions about shoes. TJ kept an eye on my son and told me if he was within sight if I had lost sight of him. My purple shoes were perfect. I have bad knees, torn ACL and ACL replacement surgery. TJ helped me find my purple shoes. He was kind. He was knowledgeable. He also was born the year I was a sophomore in college.

I told the store manager how great this shoe shopping experience was after we checked out. Purple shoes, bubbles my son found near the check out line, and M & M’s in a bag. The manager smiled, revealing Invisalign braces and shiny freckles on his forehead. He was happy; his light was shining. He said, “This is great. Usually people call on me to complain.”

“This is not the case. I have had a wonderful shoe shopping experience today.” I followed with, “I really hate shoe shopping.”

He asked me, “Is this your first time in the store?”

“Yes, but it will not be my last.” I smiled.

My light shined.

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” – Desiderius Erasmus

***

My next stop was to get my haircut.  Ben and I blew bubbles while we walked.  His light shined. I focused on this moment and held my breath. I felt lucky.

I gave my hairdresser three cookies: homemade. We chatted about motherhood and its hidden secrets. I told my hairdresser, Libia, “I give you creative freedom with my hair.” She cut my hair as we talked. My son ate M & Ms and played on the floor. I shared my creative passion with her: writing. I love my hairdresser. Her light shines. I always request her and I get my hair cut at Great Clips. I wouldn’t spend any extra money at a fancy salon. She is that good. She is that kind.

This time my hair shined.

I finished the day at the park with my son and mom friend.

My son at the park with his friend

My son at the park with his friend

It was a lovely day.

I went to pick up my husband at work. When we got home I noticed a strong scent of poop. I checked the area for a rogue dirty diaper. Nothing.

Then I check my new purple sneakers. Bingo!

I stepped in dog shit getting out of the car — in my brand new perfect purple sneakers. Dog shit happens.

You can always clean it up.

It was a good day. Light trumps dark. But the two exist together. Today I chose light. It chose me. We shined.

Mirrors of beauty

Mirrors of beauty

There is beauty…


There is beauty to truth and pain is a shadow of the light it casts. Sometimes the reflection is what blinds us.

I made that up (the quote above).  I posted it on Facebook.  Most everyone is talking about the football play-offs, posting photos of themselves in their team’s uniform.  I want to talk about death.  But it is a conversation I have to have with myself.  Grief is an inner dialogue — a language that deciphers itself as you move through its waves. The surf pounds upon my back as I enter the turbulent sea. I allow myself to be afraid, to be sad, to be upset, to be calm. There are many colors in this ocean as I swim in this sea.

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." Jacques Yves Cousteau

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

I am in the deep end of the ocean of grief. I have my floaties on my arms.The heaviness of my heart is what weighs me down. I know I need to be at peace about my mother’s death, but I am filled with a sense of finality that I didn’t experience in the last three weeks.

I had a moment where I looked at a Christmas decoration she gave me a long time ago (a door hanger with four blocks sewn in vertically that spell out N – O – E – L. A bell rings every time you open the door).  Staring at this artifact made me realize how permanent her death is, in my world.  People tell me I will feel her presence. I don’t. I believe she is in Heaven watching over me, at peace and in the true light of Heaven. I am in the shadows down below.

I miss her. I miss hearing her voice and I want to desperately call her and hear her voice in measurable audible tones. Instead I listen deeply inside myself as grief speaks its foreign language.

Change Creates Beauty


© Megan Oteri

November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well.  Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  It was sudden; it was swift.  November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it.  It was a month of change, of acceptance,  of denial, of love, of hope, of life.  Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.

November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors.  I do love November in North Carolina.  Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.

Change happens.  It is just inevitable.  Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson.  I no longer just see color, I smell it.  It contains a small pea of memory.  This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music.  I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11?  Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine.  My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died.  My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came.  My mother said, “No.  His pulse quickened and he was gone.”  My mother is a stoic one.  She is matter of fact and to the point.  Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time.  She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.

Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom.  In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves.  I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.

Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing.  I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it.   There is a beauty to death.  Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about.  I have had several close friends lose their parents recently.  They are a mess (understandably).  I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.

Light Tree

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler

For even in death, there is renewal.  When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.

I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird.  Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.

Fence

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

© Megan Oteri

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Reflection

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle

I am rather smitten with this photo. I just adore it.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo.  I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.  (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).

It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.