The Timing of Books

When I’m desperate for something to read I wander over to the neighbor’s little library. The books I find in there aren’t necessarily ones I would pick up in a regular library where choices are many. But when you’re needing a book and the selection is few, you end up pushed into worlds you might not pick to read.

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Little community; little library

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the book you find in your hand mirrors something going on in your life? I’m not sure if you are drawn to the book because of events, or if the events make you see things differently so that you pick up something you might not normally.

Both of those things – the neighborhood library, and recent events, have landed a tiny book in my lap.

I posted recently about needing a sister day, and this past week I was gifted with sister days. They were emotional days that make your soul ache and your heart weep even when you struggle to be strong and say the things you need to say.

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Sister words

Words like ‘you’ve fought this battle for years’ and ‘we understand you’re tired’ and ‘we respect your choice to go’ and ‘don’t stay because of us’.

When the reality is inside you’re grasping at cloth while your brain screams ‘don’t you dare leave us!!!’

And then here comes this little book.

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The bookmark is a pricking, a pattern, for a bookmark made from bobbin lace. And in the cup are wooden bobbins from a sister.

 

I’d never heard of the author, let alone the book. But it’s a small book to hold in your hand, with rough-cut edges and a beautiful cover. So I brought it home from the neighborhood collection, thinking it would be a distraction, a non-fiction book on how snails operate. Interesting, maybe boring, but words.

Nope.

The author has a mysterious debilitating disease. And into her life comes a snail, with a pot of wild violets. And one night, she can hear the snail munching.

What comes from that moment is a lesson in slowing down, breathing, changing perspectives, adjusting how we look at life.

At the things we have to let go.

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The book reads like a meditation, with the interesting life of a snail thrown in. Like the fact that they have teeth and you can hear them chewing when the world around you is quiet and still enough.

There’s more to this book than just that, but for now, I want this snail to remind me to be quiet and still enough that I can hear time slowing for one sister. I want to feel how an ending for us is a beginning for her, a birth of a different sort, into the world she has faith in.

And during this time left, no matter how long it is, I hope time slows for my sister so that she can feel our heartbeats, feel our love, find her peace, and find the quiet so she can hear what she needs to now.

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This Cusp Of Time

There’s a cusp of seasons, with moments when you don’t know what time of year it is. Yesterday was like that. If I closed my eyes, it could have been spring or fall. The air was cool and damp and smelled like earth. There were warm currents moving on the wind that took the chill off. It could have been the warmth of returning spring or a dying summer.

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The heavy rains lately have made the waters rise. The rivers are running full and fast. Waterfalls stream from rocks. The sound of water is everywhere. It’s the sound of spring and the sound of fall.

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The leaves have fallen. The bare branches could speak of new life barely starting to bud or the deep dormant sleep of coming winter.

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There’s wood smoke in the air. The scent could be from fires to take off the spring chill or flames to dry the fall dampness.

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I can stand there with eyes closed and imagine it to be whatever time I want it to be.

A time of beginnings or a time of endings. A time to think of new life or a time to remember life that has passed. In this cusp, I’m free to be in either world.

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So many of us are in this transition right now, this moment of pause where we stand, maybe slightly confused, maybe in grief, trying to figure out where exactly we are.

Where we have been.

Where we are going.

We stand in the middle of that bridge between, eyes closed, surrounded by rushing water and rising wind, and wait.

Maybe a little lost.

I don’t know if I’m waiting for what has been, or for what is coming.

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A Sister Day

I remember not understanding my sisters, not getting along with them, and at times being in awe of them. I look back over the many years at how our relationships have changed, and then look at how the relationships are changing right now.

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All of these photos are taken by Helen McPeters with her sister

In my memory there is a clear moment of transition in the relationship with my youngest sister. There was a day when she was hurting and I did the only thing I really knew how to do. I wrote a letter and slipped it under her door. It seems, looking back in time, that the letter, the moment of putting something into words, was the moment we became friends. The letters became like a diary between us, a way to talk without speaking, and a way that then led to spoken words. I can’t imagine life without her.

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I remember the awe I felt at the next sister. She talked back to mom and dad! She stood up for herself! She did what she wanted rather than what was expected of her! She was free and wild and mother earth and all the things I dreamed of being. And yes, somewhere along the line, I pushed her up onto a pedestal where she still remains.

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She used to ask me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with her. It’s the one thing I feel I failed my sister at. So many excuses. Life. No gear. No money for gear. Not physically in shape. Fear. I dreamed of doing that hike, and still do, even though the impossibility of it looms large over the dream. But somewhere in an alternate universe we are moving through the solitude of the mountains together.

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The oldest sister was more like a mother-figure. She was the one we woke up in the middle of the night, knocking on her door because we were barfing or had a bloody nose or a nightmare. It’s hard to say this, but after many years of health battles, her time with us is shortening. During the coming days she will be moved from a hospital to a nursing home, which feels like a strange letting-go without loss. A sign, a symbol, an arrow hanging ragged and broken, pointing to what is to come.

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So I look at the sisters around me, at how they move through their lives. And I see these two friends of mine who are young and strong and beautiful and far from the ending of times. And I see how brilliant they are to prioritize their relationship, to make sure they have a Sister Day.

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Why did we never have Sister Days? Why did we never carve out a time when the four of us managed to get together? Kids and finances and distance and commitments were so important then. But now?

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What do you think when you picture a Sister Day? Some would think of spa days with pedicures and hair and manicures. Some would think of shopping and movies and a meal out.

All of the photos on this page are taken by my young friend on her Sister Days. They head out into a world few see. They go where there are no trails. They move through forest and mountains fearless, and I want to be them. I want to be young and with my sisters with the sky over us and the earth beneath our fingers.

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I want to listen to the youngest worry about spiders and dirt in her bedroll.

I want to feast on breakfasts made by the next sister, on her oatmeal and dried fruit, or her buckwheat pancakes.

I want the oldest healthy and her spirit free, riding the wind, circling us and watching over us.

I want a Sister Day.

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Sisters