Final Slice of Life: Adieu

Goodbyes are one of the many juxtapositions life lays before you – painful farewells are endured, while new beginnings are anticipated. No wonder Shakespeare defined partings as sweet sorrow.

A meaningful goodbye lingers, filling your heart and thoughts as it morphs into memories. Over time, these memories transform into a new story that will one day require its own ending – an ending that begets a beginning.

Great literature winds itself around your heart leaving you breathless as you drink in the final words. You bid adieu to the characters but the imparted wisdom remains chiseled into your life.

Some literary lingerings to savor…

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The eyes and faces all turned themselves towards me, and guiding myself by them, as by a magical thread, I stepped into the room.”

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

“Are there any questions?”

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

“She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

“Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I never can wish you a greater happiness than this.”

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

“As I left China farther and farther behind, I looked out of the window and saw a great universe beyond the plane’s silver wing. I took one more glance over my past life, then turned to the future. I was eager to embrace the world.”

Wild Swans, Jung Chang

“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

The House At Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant. None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.”

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

And so I bid adieu to the Slice of Life Challenge, with lingering thoughts of writing. Looking ahead into the future; my new story yet to be written.

Gerard Terborch (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1617-1681) Woman Writing a Letter

 

SOLSC #30: A Multitude of Sighs

To sigh, as defined by Oxford, is to “emit a long, deep audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or similar.” In literature, a sigh often symbolizes a deep yearning.

Sighs escape without effort – an involuntary action communicating imprisoned thoughts. Although invisible, its message is powerful, as this audible breath can send someone running to you or away from you depending on its intent.

As I left the chaos of KL behind and headed for the beaches of Boracay, Philippines, a sigh expressed both my bone-tiredness and a deep yearning for a week without deadlines, demands or expectations. Nothing but family, friends and stunning scenery to tug at me. I was not disappointed.

Long walks on powdery, white sand beaches, only leaving behind the sand’s silky touch to plunge into the cool waters of the sea – a sigh of relief.

Hours spent poolside, watching the younger ones discover underwater treasures and fight off menacing, thieving sea monsters – a sigh of amusement.

Reclining on a sun lounge, getting lost in a book, or two, only looking up to breathe in the salty air of the sea and feel the cool breeze greet me – a sigh of gratitude.

Sunsets celebrating the end of a beautiful day, and welcoming the evening’s events – a sigh of anticipation.

Fine food and compelling conversations with good friends, long into the night – a sigh of thanks.

No demands. No deadlines. No expectations. A multitude of sighs.  Sighs symbolizing my deep yearning for a holiday and expressing my feelings of relief and gratitude upon delivery.

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SOLSC #23: A Sigh

Drawing inspiration from Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s collaborative HitRECord site, I have written my own tiny story about my upcoming holiday.

Created by underground artist, Wirrow, a tiny story is  “as long as a piece of string. A really tiny piece of string that can stretch our from your pillow to [a] forest, weaving through mountains on the way and birds perch on it and sing.”

And so I kick off my holiday. Imagine the end of a movie with the picture fading into the distance until it slowly disappears and the credits emerge.

With work cast aside and relaxation rolled up neatly in my suitcase, I fly off into the sunset. Nothing but white sand and cerulean waters greet me upon arrival. Ocean air fills my lungs. I sigh, exhaling all stress.

“Beach at Pourville” Monet, 1882

SOLSC #22: Echoes of Warning

Apollo and Daphne by Pollaiolo, approx. 1470-1480

Outside the window of my favorite spot is a reminder of the tragic ‘love’ story between Apollo, son of Zeus, and the beautiful wood nymph Daphne, daughter of Peneus the river god.

A victim of Cupid’s anger and Apollo’s arrogance, Daphne promises to remain true to herself. She boldly informs her father she desires to run free through the woodlands without love to root her in place. Ironically, to honor his daughter’s wish, Peneus turns Daphne into a tree to save her from Apollo’s promises of love.

Although she has taken on the shape of a palm rather than a laurel tree, Daphne resides in a neighbor’s distant garden.

Swaying to the rhythm of the wind, the breeze carries Daphne’s echoes of warning to anyone who will listen.

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SOLSC #21: Kudos

Tonight, I lay to rest an exhilarating, exhausting, challenging week.

Wrapping up our unit on Impacts and Disaster Preparedness, the week was filled with a frenzy of feedback, focused revisions, practice presentations and high energy.

Despite the madness, all ended well. In fact, I was overwhelmed with the outcome. Students stepped out, with their chins up, and spoke out about disasters that plagued their assigned countries and their need for funding from the UNISDR to reduce the risk of such disasters.

I was impressed by the students use of rhetoric as they used logos to support their argument and pathos to connect to the audience. Their knowledge and understanding of the topic and preparedness demonstrated their ethos. It was indeed a moment to be proud.

I hope, dear students, that you have taken the time to reflect on your accomplishments. You stood up, representing global citizenship at its best as you came across as proactive, knowledgeable, empathic speakers. Be proud! I know I am.

Spring break is finally upon us; it is time to take a well-earned break and relax and rejuvenate.

I look forward to seeing your smiles in a week.

SOLSC #20: A Person’s a Person

I find writing daily, extremely challenging. Writing daily and publishing my thoughts publicly is terrifying. Since entering the Slice of Life challenge posed by the Two Writing Teachers, my mind has not rested.

I look at the world through a new lens. I listen to conversations hoping to overhear a snippet that triggers a topic. I scrutinize my surroundings, noticing details typically ignored and try to twist them into some metaphorical aspect of my life. I pour through books, excavating quotes I might make a connection to. I peruse world events looking to what I might want to speak up about. I reminisce, wondering if my past is worth writing about. Thoughts of possibilities clutter my thinking and stir up anxieties.

In the vast universe of the Net, my post is but one speck of dust floating around waiting for someone to notice it. Each post blowing past through the air with a “yelp”. I reassure myself that if the first person doesn’t notice my “yelp,” perhaps a second or third person will.

I realize that worrying about whether my writing gets noticed or not isn’t why I joined the challenge. I joined to push myself to write daily. I joined to do something WAY outside my comfort zone. I joined to send the message to my students that writing is a form of expression worth toiling over as language is beautiful and powerful. I joined because I enjoy the challenge of writing.

Maybe only a few notice my “yelps”, but inconspicuousness is okay. Because really, I only need one Horton to believe in me.

“After all a person’s a person. No matter how small.”

Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. Published in 1954.

SOLSC #19: A Reminder

With eyelids drooping and head bobbing, I realize a cup of tea is in order if I am to get any work accomplished. Summoning energy, I will myself off the couch and trudge downstairs to attempt a revival with the magic elixir of caffeine.

As the hot liquid fills my cup, I make a mental list of all I have to accomplish this evening before falling into bed. I weigh the benefits of pulling a late night to try to get a grip on my work versus facing a classroom of students, tired and grumpy.

I drop the teabag in, add a scoop of sugar, a dollop of milk and stir. Mesmerized by the soothing circular motions, I fall into a trance, daydreaming about our advancing, much needed ocean holiday. It is time to set work aside and reconnect with my family.

Stress has crept up on me like a fungus spreading across all facets of my life infecting my mood and health. It has NOT been pretty. Looking in the mirror this morning, something I try to avoid, I was reminded of a passage from Kathryn Sockett’s novel, The Help, 

“Her black hair [mine is blonde] is a mess. A curl on top is floppy, sticking straight up[mine is straight, but you get the idea]. Half her blouse is untucked…and I can see she’s gained more weight [stress eating is a bad habit of mine]. And there’s a…sore. It’s in the corner of her mouth, scabby and hot and red.”

Okay, so maybe it isn’t as bad as Sockett’s painted description, but it is darn close.

Removing the teabag from my cup I leave the kitchen to return to my beckoning work. Rounding the corner, I am reminded to stop and enjoy a small gift. A message? Maybe. I know I was thankful for the reminder to slow down and feel grateful.

photo (18)

SOLSC #17: Rivulets of Rain

With the skies refusing to rain down upon us over the past couple of months, Malaysia has been suffering. The sporadic spitting of rain has not been enough to fill our reservoirs resulting in government issued water rationing.

Mix the haze in with this dry heat and you get grumbling, restless people.

Today, tiring of our complaints, Zeus relented, showering us with hope for clear blue skies and overflowing reservoirs.

Rivulets of raindrops raced down leaves forming small puddles. Quenching a profound thirst, roots accepted the gift savoring each drop.

Fighting against the echoes of my childhood, “Rain, rain go away,” I will it to linger.

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SOLSC #16: Ode to Bougainvilleas

Revue Horticol – Botanical Print – Illustrated Book Plate Illustration from Revue Horticole 1800s

The harsh winters of Minnesota produce a hearty, stoic people. As soon as one is welcomed into the world, they are prepped to endure.

Infants are capped and stuffed into Patagonia fleece complete with hood and built in mittens, placed into a covered stroller that provides shelter from biting winds and whisked off for a walk around a frozen lake or down a snow covered sidewalk.

Toddlers learn to walk and ice skate concurrently. Of course walking isn’t necessarily a prerequisite, true Minnesotans wouldn’t dream of waiting for their toddler to walk before slapping skates on their feet.

Bundling up is an art that is mastered early on. Pre-school children learn quickly that mittens are essential if you want to handle the alluring white matter that can be molded into oh so many shapes. Hats prevent the stinging of ears as you thaw when retreating indoors, and thermal undergarments, doubling socks, and snowpants allow for increased hours of fun outside.

Creativity abounds as older children learn to assert control over the domineering, suppressive substance. Flooding a backyard with water creates a private ice rink, snowbanks can be transformed into houses replete with snow furniture, and of course the vast blanket of snow in your front yard can be sculpted into an exhibit featuring a variety of snow people or animals.

A bounty of winter sports provide the exhaustion every parent longs for to stop their children from pinging around the house when too much time is spent indoors – snowshoeing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, hockey, tubing, figure skating, curling, cross country skiing and more than suitable.

Winters create endurance. Winters are magical.

Until you become an adult.

The beauty of the first snow that silences the sounds of summer and blankets the land with promises of peace is fleeting. Many adults see snow as an enemy to conquer – shoveling driveways and walkways, scraping windshields, white knuckle driving, frigid temperatures and imprisonment only serve to hold us back.

As the months of winter drag on, the ache for color becomes intolerable. We are forced to wait patiently for Winter to say its goodbyes so Spring may release its multitude of colors, ever so appreciative when we spot that first hint of color.

My new home in Kuala Lumpur reminds me of my appreciation and admiration of color. Malaysia’s tropical climate, without fail, offers me a gift of color. In particular, I have developed a close friendship with our resident bougainvilleas. Daily, I’m greeted with hues of pinks, reds and whites round every corner I turn. With a respectful nod, I return their greeting.

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I do not miss winter.