Wednesday, January 26, 2011

parallel universe

On Monday, I happened to be in the car for most of the day and caught a Fresh Air interview with physicist Brian Greene. Now, I took physics in college, from the illustrious Dr. Baker, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit (in large part because Dr. Baker found ways to make his class funny, somehow). But I don't pretend to understand what Dr. Greene was discussing. Basically, he was discussing a theory that states that matter can only combine in a finite number of ways, and if the universe is infinite, then that combination will occur repeatedly throughout the universe. In other words, in an infinite universe, there may be many parallel universes, within which matter has organized in the same way (as in, we are all there in the parallel universe, living our lives like we do here, I guess). 

As mind-boggling as this concept is, I have thought in the past about the possibility of different moments in time happening simultaneously - like envisioning that my mom is her young, healthy, witty self somewhere else in the universe. Maybe then I'm some sort of inter-generational tie between my mom and my daughter, who will never get to meet in this world, connecting them as I reach one hand into the past and hold onto Dora's hand stretching into the future.  

 And there's a sense of parallel universes when you think about all the joy and pain that simultaneously take place in each moment, day, year, life. In my own little life we have an amazing, flashing light of joy among us - another baby coming to join us later this summer. We have dreamed of this for so long and are overjoyed that our sweet Isadora will get to be a big sister. Yet in the midst of our happiness, we have friends as well as strangers in the greater human family facing unimaginable sorrow. Just today I learned of one friend involved in a serious car accident and another, whose courageous journey I have mentioned before, who needs our prayers now more than ever. Perhaps only quantum physics can explain how such beauty and such pain can at once be contained within this world, how the blessings and the sorrows get tossed out across the universe like so many shining stars.

As I put Dora to bed tonight, she said to me, "I wish I was in your belly". I asked her why and she said, "so we could snuggle". I promised her that she will always be my snugglebug, that I'll always snuggle her. We talked about her being a big sister, all the things she will teach her little sibling, how she'll help me with the baby. Dora refers to this baby as a girl, even though we don't know (and won't find out) the sex until the baby arrives. After a few minutes of quiet she said, "maybe she'll like James Brown." I squeezed her close and laughed, wondering how many three-year-olds are so into the Godfather of Soul that they hope their siblings-to-be will share in their musical tastes. 

Maybe not so many three-year-olds would say it now, but maybe on some other plane in the universe there's a 1960s kid about to become a big brother or big sister, hoping their new sibling is going to get up offa that thing, too. Maybe in the parallel universe Mike made it home safely from work yesterday, and Rachel is so healthy she hasn't had so much as a stuffy nose in the past three years. My prayer is that, if matter really can only organize itself in so many ways, these realities in the parallel universe become reality here. I pray for wholeness for the entire human family, for health and healing for all those who need it, for wisdom for those who provide medical care, and for an unending capacity for love and forgiveness among all of us. With all of these things, the universe truly is infinite.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

old movie stars

I made it home safe and sound from my trip last week that involved airplanes. Lots of praying and holding tight to my cross, and reading a fabulous book to take my mind off my fears. Everything was fine, and I am happy to be back home again. 

Dora spent the week in Ohio with my dad and stepmother. I never like the way this house feels without her in it, but we made the best of our time without her. We finished up projects around the house, got her room totally reorganized (finally), and went to a movie. After much debate we saw True Grit. Being the Coen Brothers/Jeff Bridges fans that we are, we both wanted to see it. But, I saw the John Wayne version as a kid, so I was apprehensive about that final scene with the horse. I remember sitting on the faded tan cordoroy couch in my parents' living room, shocked and crying about what happened. My apprehension about the final scene was over me like a cloud in the theater, and at the end when it came I was just as upset as I had been all those years ago. To me that has to be one of the saddest scenes involving an animal in a movie ever made. It just breaks me heart. 

I've always been an animal lover, and I can hardly bear to see one hurt in a movie, even knowing all the rules and regulations in place to protect them during filming. I read that the rules about the equine actors used in True Grit were more explicit and rigid than the rules governing the 13-year-old human actress. In the river crossing scene, the water had to be a certain temperature for the horses, whereas there was no mention of a required temperature for the humans. Nonetheless, I am always tender-hearted when it comes to animals in film. 

In the ladies room after the movie, I was not the only one wiping my eyes. For many of us, animals are a connection, a place of common understanding to which nearly all humans can relate. Sure, there are a few non-animal people out there, but most of us understand the way a cat or dog curls its way into your heart and home, staking out a permanent place of honor at the foot of your bed, on the back of the couch, or on your hearth. 

At Christmas, we adopted a cat from home, a beautiful, long-haired, black and white Maine Coon named Hedy. She had been given to me by my friend Maria years ago, but soon after she walked into my life she adopted my mother as her favorite human. She was definitely my mother's cat. She was a wonderful companion to her, sleeping on her bed, following her into the bathroom, kneading and purring incessantly. When my mom died, Hedy was sleeping on the bed next to her, curled up beside her like she always was, waiting for my mom's hand to stroke her black fur. 

Now that this old movie star is living with us, she sleeps on our bed, purring incessantly, kneading and drooling, happy to be with us. She's as beautiful as she ever was, happily waiting for the next opportunity for someone to pet her. Beyond just enjoying her company and her perfectly symmetrical markings and her stunningly long whiskers, my home and my heart are warmed by her presence because of the connection to my mother that she represents. There is something so comforting about running my hands over Hedy's beautiful black fur, knowing my mother did the same thing not so long ago. I hope Hedy feels that connection, too, a little spark of familiarity, a little bit of extra warmth from a hand that feels just a little bit like one she used to know and love.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

all you need is love

Happy New Year! 

I know it's been a long time, but I'm still here. I still love this project, and many days thoughts of what I'd like to write go through my head. I can't always make the time to write here, but I'm going to keep it up when I can. Thank you for coming back to read again and again. That means so much to me. 

2010 was quite the year of ups and downs. We shared many joys with our friends and family - new babies (or news of babies to come in 2011), marriages, successes, adventures. We shared sadness, too - losses of loved ones, illness. Together Brian and I grew a lot this year, facing our own challenges and finding that our commitment and love saw us through yet again. We watched Dora grow into an entertaining, inquisitive, and loving little girl. We each branched out into new creative arenas - photography, craft projects, and music, music, music. We said goodbye to one of the world's most lovely and adorable cats, our dear sweet Mackeson.

This past year I was amazed again at the resiliency of love. In late November, a good friend of mine lost her son in Afghanistan. Her loss is unthinkable, yet she maintained so much grace and positivity I was overwhelmed. Her son's beautiful light in the world - and their love for each other - shines on. This year I saw love see friends, family, and self through pain and loss and seemingly insurmountable difficulty. Though in the darkness it can sometimes seem impossible, John Lennon was right. All you need is love.

I'm looking forward to 2011, trusting that love will again see us through the good and the bad. In less than a week I'm flying for work, which is a big accomplishment for me - facing a fear I've been unable to overcome for a long time. At Christmas I received three old Kodak Instamatic cameras that belonged to my mom, and I'm really looking forward to using them this year, holding in my hands the same tools she used to record so many of our family memories when my brother and I were young. This year I want to read, write, take pictures, make things, take care of my house, stay connected to my wonderful friends, and snuggle up with my beautiful family and pets. Yes, all you need is love.