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The Queen Bee

Queen Bee

Nodding to a religious construct, I am joyfully writing during The Season of Mother’s Day. Or since the Hallmark date actually fell on 05/10/2020, perhaps numerology supersedes church calendar nomenclature this year.

The 2020 celebration of moms-and-all-nurturers may have been my favorite ever. First, I was feted gloriously on Saturday. We focused on my own mother on Sunday. Now that I’ve extended the honoring of maternal-like care to a whole season, we have until Pentecost Sunday or maybe even Father’s Day before we roll into the next holiday, sacred or secular, whichever’s your preference.

Alas, there has been the bloody overlay of COVID to deal with this year. We knew the usual delight of a restaurant brunch to salute our matriarch was out. Plus since our queen mum lives in an assisted living community, even giving chocolates or flowers was going to be more complicated. We were flummoxed about how to love-her-up this year.

My super-computer-savvy sister swooped in to save the day. In no time flat, Susan gathered short video clips from us so that she could compile a short show including all of our faces and messages.

Next question: How could we get this presentation to Mom? Yes, we had managed (with the help of staff members at her facility) one zoom get-together earlier in the month that included my 92-year-old mother. But on this busy Sunday, we thought assistance for electronic-hand-holding might be less available.

We do know Mom’s favorite gift is quality-time which, frankly, makes the ache of isolation along with her age-related frailty ever-so poignant. Maybe this would be her last Mother’s Day? We’ve done our level best to observe her home’s policy that only medical personnel can visit. Then we realized showing up during her daily walk outside might just work. Hooray, the wonderful folks at her building thought so too. It was really heartening to see our queen enjoy watching her drive-by “virtual hug.”

Next stop was Snohomish Bee Company. Long before the quarantine, my husband Rob had ordered two nuclei of honeybees—aka “nucs.” Picking them up on Mother’s Day was essential. Between the two of us, we were able to install these buzzers into their hives on the roof of our church.

Chief-beekeeper Rob explained in the Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral’s annual report, “For four years, the roof…has sported a small apiary of two to four bee hives, depending on the year. Our bees have the best view of the city as well as nectar from luscious [neighborhood] gardens plus blackberry brambles in the nearby greenbelt. While approximately 35 pounds of Holy Honey was harvested in 2019, our bees have yet to survive through the winter, requiring purchase of new nucs [each] spring. Honey in nine ounce jars was sold [last year and] we sold out quickly. Money from sales [was] used to buy [more] bees. … The well-being of our bees is a critical part of Creation. We seek your continuing prayers for the longevity of honeybees.”

I must admit that the bees have been his honeys. I haven’t considered myself a worker bee; I stand in the background applauding, giving support and encouragement (and lapping up the sweet goods). After all, along with our desire that the bees make it through the winter, Rob imagines building a team of volunteers to help. Recently though, due to this crazy virus and necessary social-distancing, we need to create new ways of operating on behalf of these little creatures. I am happy to step in as sous-apiarist and prayer-coraller. This includes asking for fond thoughts, good vibes, crossed fingers, metta, well-wishes, imaginings—whatever you call hopeful requests in your spiritual vernacular. Our bees will humbly relish all of your air care.

Standing in the middle of approximately 20,000 honeybees on Sunday, I simply wanted to tell of Mother Nature’s simplicity and magnificence. I could do nothing less. After all, long before any of this business about seasons or prayers or God was written down—thousands and thousands of years ago, in the days of the dinosaurs—Bees Existed. They and their descendants have been around practically forever. Together they work efficiently to create precisely-shaped honeycomb and heavenly honey.

It didn’t surprise me one bit that while Rob was maneuvering the last frame into place, he said calmly, in his mild-mannered way, “Look, Penny, there she is, the queen.”

Of course she’s there, directing and nurturing. In the grace of all that is, my honeybun found her amidst the perfect chaos. More flat-out encouragement. We must expect nothing less.

 

As Love Unfurled

Gardenia 2

While I was in excruciating pain last weekend, Gardenia started blooming. I have never nursed a plant before or talked to one daily. Until recently, I had not consulted a gardener for specific advice or watched to see how much water this sort of living being really needed. Then finally, after the long season of teasing me with buds and then dropping them, my green friend’s real spring arrived.

But first I started pedaling Her Purpleness (my bicycle) up hills and flying back down in childlike glee. I almost felt young and strong again. I dared bragging on Facebook: “Dammit COVID, you’re not getting the best of me!”

I ignored the niggling ache in my groin until a fiery explosion radiated down my outer hip—full-on bursitis and IT band syndrome, I’m told. Unable to get comfortable in a prone position, I succumbed to the recliner for two nights of fitful sleep. I imagined I would never ride my bike again, all the while hurting, getting fatter and fatter. By Sunday evening I was relying on a cane, not to mention ROB REID, my angel.

Still Gardenia slowly unfurled and her delicious aroma began to waft.

First thing Monday morning while I was waiting for another of my angels—my PCP, Dr Marivic—to call, I answered the landline ring from the Plaza, Mom’s assisted living facility.

“Your mother is more confused than ever. Her pulse…her blood pressure…blah, blah, blah. Should we call 911 or do you want to take her to the hospital?”

I glanced over at Gardenia, gorgeous and nonplussed, basking in the radiant sunshine falling precisely on her gleaming Show-and-Tell.

“I will call you back in two minutes,” I said, knowing I would be driving the 15 minutes, come hell-or-high-water, to get to my Mama, “Our doctor is on the other line.”

I shifted phones, “Marivic, first here is the situation with Mom (fortunately, Mom is also Dr. Marivic’s patient)…”

I will spare you some details as I have retold them sufficiently…to Rob, to my blessed prayer partner, to my study group. Suffice it to say, I could have never arranged or planned the gracious timing to continue as it did. Briefly, after the phone calls and the drive northward:

  • The ice/Tylenol/Ibuprofen regimen prescribed by my doctor started working and I’m healing!
  • Then after masking, cleaning hands and phone, and having my temperature taken, I was invited in to see Mom. After all, the 911 medic had declared her well enough to stay put, she was wondering about all the fuss and, I think the staff wanted my assessment too;
  • I confirmed for Mom, “Yes, John—my father, your husband—died 5 years ago. I was there too, remember?, when he breathed his last.” The reality that she’d lost that memory during the wee hours (when she couldn’t find him) astounded her;
  • We found Matthew Fox’s daily devotional about the Christian Mystics on her bookshelves (and now, a day later via phone, we’ve started discussing what she is finding in that book);
  • While quietly working on a jigsaw puzzle together, we connected via FaceTime with my sisters and several of her grandchildren; and
  • We shared her tuna sandwich and cranberry juice and I got to witness how others care for her while we best stay away. Basic elemental nourishment is all around.

Communion continued when I got home. Need I say, Gardenia greeted me; her flare was wide open. I was able to nap deeply, prone and on my side. Before dinner, we donned masks again for a slow almost-pain-free stroll in the neighborhood.

When Rob placed dinner before me last night—white fish with his signature lime-cilantro sauce along with wild rice and deli salads, I cried tears of profound relief and delight. While sobbing and breathing, both deeply and freely, authentic prayers of gratitude sprang forth:

“We are so very human. We depend on each other. Help us somehow live lovingly.

Thank you, Jesus,

Amen.”

(Well, you know me. While those were the basic words, I proliferated about the feast before me and dear man beside me. Enough said. So be it.)

 

Anniversary Healing

Bikes Arboretum

Years ago when I was young, in my early 30’s before babies, my youngest sister Susan, was estranged from my parents. She lived at the Haven on Gabriola Island in Canada and Rob and I lived on a houseboat in Seattle. Our parents lived far away in Virginia.

I’ll never forget the afternoon Susan called to ask if I thought Mom and Dad would participate in a family conference at the retreat center where she lived. She wondered if they would sit in a circle with her and with Rob and me and possibly my other sister too, while Haven founders—Ben and Jock—facilitated a conversation.

I listened with bated breath…

And stammered, “Yes, yes, yes,” before we hung up.

Immediately alone, without her voice on the other end of the line, I burst into tears. My entire body was flooded with relief. Sobs and powerful energy rushed over and through and around me.

This was something I had prayed for, asked others to pray for, imagined and spoke of aloud with Rob. But on some cellular level, I was amazed when the real possibility, that which I had begged for, was beginning to unfold. I had only been able to convince myself just so much intellectually that these relationships would somehow eventually heal….at least enough for all of us to be in the same room.

And then it happened again when our beautiful Labrador Retriever Roxy was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease—dog cancer—at age 5. She had little tumors all over the undersides of her ears. After blood work and a CT-scan, we learned she had some lymph node involvement. What to do? I remember bathing in my tears again when Roxy, my daughter Carolina, 13 at the time, and I visited a dog whisperer. She helped us hear Roxy pleading, “I don’t want the rest of my life to only be about my cancer. I want to keep playing with you.” We decided not to follow the recommended treatment and take her ears off….   She lived seven more years and died in old age.

Deep healing is happening yet again and I am real-eyesing it. To wit…

Rob is not a morning person but allows me to crawl back to spoon with him after his music alarm sounds at 8 AM. The phrase “for better or worse but not for breakfast” resonates for him. Still, once “Mornings with Mozart” is blaring, that’s my cue to scratch his back, perhaps blabber on about whatever I’ve been pondering in the early hours. He is generous in those moments with his quiet and reliable “hums” and “ah-has” as he slowly wakes to greet the day on his own terms (for the most part – lol).

The other day with my arm slung over the left side of him, in the time of COVID19 when his bloodwork and energy are all in the normal range but his CT-scan to monitor potential cancer details has been postponed, it occurred to me—girl of strong intuition, “My God, he’s cancer-free.” The thought just flew in and I settled on it. Yes, this is the very statement I have articulated, a prayer I have verbalized, an expectation I have imagined and asked others to join in on. But, truth be told, doubt and statistics creep in. For heaven’s sake, he’s 70. I know no one gets out of this life alive.

But in that very moment I found myself giggling, crying, profoundly certain Rob was well. While I knew someone might tell me otherwise someday, that day in that moment, I was sure. And boy did that feel grand! What a comfort, a hit of deep balm to lean into and massage thoughtfully a while longer. This was the faithful solace we’d been seeking and it was time to celebrate.

Happy Anniversary, Rob. Here’s to 37 more years, sweetie pie. If time ain’t surreal, what is?

 

 

 

No Prompt

Bluebells

Really?! No prompt?

Unless yoga ending with shavasana is the prompt.

Or perhaps her zoomed voice at our writing circle, “It’s time to write. You have 20 minutes.”

But I have looked forward to this nudge

with these women.

And now what?!

 

Breathe.

 

Only a briefly blank mind.

 

Then I hear his voice on the phone from the other room,

presumably ordering supplies;

it has that business-like tenor.

And the birds, again are riotous.

Even though the windows are closed, I can hear their exquisite racket.

 

I am grateful we live in Seattle in this neighborhood,

close to the ravine;

it is full of trees and springtime.

 

Even the bluebells that are virus-like make our garden beds woodsy.

 

I have only just now appreciated those exuberant, virulent flowers.

 

Rob and I have always disagreed about them.

They are everywhere and threaten to consume these gardens he’s slaved over.

They are not unlike the virus that threatens to consume us.

 

When we argue about the bluebells, he always says,

“But they will bloom soon. You have to admit they are beautiful then.”

 

And I do have to admit it.

 

What a petty quarrel.

 

Now I see they are here because we live so close to the woods.

Even deep in our city, close to its center, we are near a forest.

 

I wonder

Could there possibly be anything about this virus that makes it redeemable?

 

Like the chance to re-boot.

Or a demographer might say—God, stop him!—“Think on a grander scale. How else are we going to balance out this runaway human population?” Ouch.

And arguably, it does have a sheen of fairness to it. Even as I write that I shake my head. While both rich and poor can get it, the rich, with our material resources, will suffer less.

 

Consider. How could it be redeemable for little me?

 

Well, I now know that Rob and Marlene’s Joaquin (in Nicaragua) have the same birthday—March 24th—thanks to incessant, stuck-at-home e-chatter. That’s remarkable—two wonderful calm and steady men.

And my vices, like them or not, are more obvious.

I am letting myself rest more.

 

Plus I am taking the time to taste gratitude and let it roll around on my tongue:

I have Rob.

He is alive.

He is kind.

He is funny.

We have these years of getting to know each other well.

 

Isn’t that a great expression—

“Getting to know each other well.”

I think I’ll cross out “to know”—

“Getting Each Other Well.”

 

What could be more worthwhile than that?

 

 

 

 

Blessed Addendum

Carol in NicaOne week ago we learned our cruise has been canceled. So a thousand clicks later, we have changed Destination SE Asia to Destination So Cal.

Grace abides.

We’ll be going to All Saints Pasadena for the first time to visit our priestly friend, Alfredo. Then a week together in Palm Springs—also new to us—before a few nights in San Diego where we honeymooned 37 years ago. I am grateful as I anticipate traveling.

And I am confident again that Rob is well. Because that’s how he feels.

Even though I ache to cross borders, I can bridge from here. For instance, Rob and I are meditating together before bed. Last night’s version was dedicated to Global Perfect Health. He is better than I am at hearing and using the suggested Sanskrit mantras.

All the myriad of feelings remain, including the ones I wrote about last week. After all, it’s Lent, when we acknowledge our puny-ness and endure the reality of death. Worship at our cathedral will be quieter and more traditional. Not my preference but I know this too is part of the design.

At times, I still bristle of course. Like when my beloved yoga teacher saw ashes on my forehead and explained to the others, “Oh, it’s Ash Wednesday. It’s the beginning of Easter for Catholics.” I tightened briefly because no, I am not Roman Catholic and I know the stereotypes.

Even last week when our trip-of-a-lifetime was nixed, and I felt that wash of sadness, anger and disappointment, I did not get stuck and wallow like I usually do. Instead I somehow continued to vibrate and the general bar of equanimity has settled again. More calmly now, I am experiencing hopeful and open-hearted blasts of warm emotion.  For example, I finished reading an out-of-print novel recommended by the 80-something-year-old retired aviation engineer in my book group. Round the Bend by Nevil Shute spun me right around the world and back. Another delight: I found this photo from my last group tour in wonderful Nicaragua.

Infinite Joy* abounds.

The pause for writing is always worth it, whatever the feelings. This round I checked the definition of catholic (note small c) and found, “all-embracing.” Definitely fits for me. Maybe I was incorrect in my assumption that yoga Bev’s catholic had a capital C. Wouldn’t it be splendid if she recognized the “universal” (another definition of small-c catholic) lover in me?

*https://genius.com/William-finn-infinite-joy-lyrics