Click here to read my latest piece for the Huffington Post,”Bittersweet Homecomings.” It’s about how you can’t go “home” again and what happens when you try…
I’m establishing a presence on the Huffington Post and would greatly appreciate any comments you’d like to post there! It’s kinda like high school– if people see you cool cats commenting, they’ll want to read the piece, hopefully love it, and forward it. Strange that the bulk of our society then is being driven by cyber reality– which is basically modeled after the way we behaved in high school. Maybe there’s an essay in that! yrs. Laura
Meet Bodie. My 14 year old daughter’s bear. She named him on her own at age two. Not knowing anything about Bodhisattva, and if I’ve ever seen an enlightened relationship between one creature and another, it’s with those two. I bought him when she was in utero because my father-in-law gave me some money for shopping, and I was in New York, and I thought, “My God, when am I going to have the dough to buy Steiff for my kid.” I coveted Steiff as a kid. I had one small small lamb that my mother gave me, and it’s one of my prize posessions– house is burning down kind of beloveds. I love those hard, mohair stuffed German animals. Love them. But they’re expensive. So I blew that $$$ in FAO Schwarz and it just so happened that the kid who came out loved/loves that bear. Bodie has been all over the place with us. He’s a well travelled bear.
So when I picked my daughter up after a week of sleep away camp this summer, she looked at me, about to be a freshman in high school, and said, a plain, impassioned: "Bodie broke."
In my mind it was code for: "My childhood is ending and I'm going to be okay."
Was I okay?
Until I saw what she had done with Bodie.
She had packed duct tape. And gauze. All on her own. What 14 year old girl packs duct tape for a week at camp? Mine, turns out. I was so proud.
She and her bunk mate doctored Bodie. And here he is. Maybe in his finest hour. I'm told you can send them back to Germany to be sewn back together. No way. This is what we will go into her teens with. This is Bodie. And he will be our guide.
A person from my past, with whom I’m have not kept in touch, sent me an email today, apologizing for being mean to me when we were in our teens. It was an act of generosity and integrity. I urge us all to do the same. This is the sort of pass-it-on behavior that can change the world. Think back to someone you were mean to. In the sandbox. At camp. In the classroom. At a birthday party. At a fraternity party. At a PTA meeting. At work… Get to the bottom of it in your heart. Did they scare you? Did you feel wronged by them? Threatened? Did you see something in them that you loathed about yourself? Did they hold up a mirror for you in a way that was too hard to bear? What kind of pain were you in at the time? How did it feel to be mean? Not so good.
Now go find their email address and tell them you’re sorry. I have passed on this gift today, and while at first I couldn’t think of a specific incident– of really being mean to somebody, after I got real with myself, I thought of a few people I’m sure I hurt along the way. And I reached out to them. It felt like coming out of a cool lake. For both of us. Thank you, then, to this old friend and her morning email. For her generosity of spirit. She didn’t have to do it. But she did. That’s what really makes the world go ’round.
by Laura A. Munson
I know a woman who frequently finds hearts. In rocks, in the dish suds, in the shape of manure clods. She’ll say, “Laura! Come here.” And I’ll know that I am about to see some mystical arrangement of two curves, cleavage, and a point.
I know another woman who claims that whenever she begins a trip—in her car, on horseback, by foot, a hawk flies right across her path. “That’s how I know we are going to be safe,” she says.
I know a man who says that when he was a boy, his father told him that there was a magic place in the forest where there was a circle of trees. And if he could find it, and stand in the very center of the circle, he would get any wish he could dream up. So he was always walking around in the woods behind his house in northern California, in search of the Circle of Trees. He never found it. But now, as a man, in northwest Montana, he says that he cannot take a walk in the woods without coming upon a perfect circle of trees.
“Do your wishes come true?” I asked him.
“I’ve never made a wish there, actually. I just figure that the circle is, in itself, the proof that wishes can come true.”
I knew a girl when I was young, who was on the lookout for stones with perfect rings around them. “They’re good luck,” she’d say, squatting on the banks of Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin. She would pick them up faster than it took for me to imagine how a ring in a rock could have power; never mind believe in it. I wanted to believe—her bucket filling up with all that luck.
For a while it was blue sea glass. On the beaches of Lake Michigan. Green, white, and amber were abundant. Blue was hard to find. But not for me. Red was almost impossible, but I’d find red too. Then someone said, “Do you know what that is? It’s broken glass. It’s litter. Pollution. How can you find that beautiful?” So I stopped looking. Still, on beaches, I find blue sea glass. Put it in my pocket. Don’t tell anybody.
My daughter finds X’s in the sky. From airplanes. “Look, Mama. Another X. Isn’t it beeuuuuuuuuuutiful?” I don’t tell her that it’s exhaust from an airplane. She can find beauty wherever she wants.
Now, for me, it is the raven. Always a raven with audible winging, coming out of nowhere as if it is the same one, following me, flushing at my presence, performing its fly-by. It halts me. Reminds me to breathe deeply; say thanks.
My husband finds faces in coals. Usually late-night, around a campfire, when the fire has burned down and everyone else has gone to bed, and it’s just us. He is silent, staring. I know what he is doing. I leave him to his faces. I have never seen them. He says I look too hard.
I apologize to the coals. I assume I have not looked hard enough. I assume I should be the sort to see every design in all of Creation.
But I hear the winging; the raven being released into the night. So close I could reach up and let it skim my fingertips.
Breathe. Thank you.
I take a stick and poke into the coals, collapsing the faces I haven’t seen for whatever reason. I do not need to see faces, I say in my mind. I am the fire. The faces are me. I am not Narcissus of the fire ring. Nor an interpreter of Nature’s art. I do not need to see the designs as much as receive them when they come.
And still, there is the raven. And I wonder: are these things offered? Or are they beckoned.