life's other half

Being Reminded Of Life’s Other Half

Last weekend we remembered and rejoiced the life of a young man who died in an avalanche last winter. His tragic passing rattled any sense of security I was feeling about my own children on the mountain, out doing what they love and the possibility…

There, under the spectacular azure sky painted with swirling clouds, surrounded by oak trees and rolling expanses of green grass, we were reminded of life’s other half – the part where we question, and cry, and consider why.

life's other half

Carson was a young man, just entering adulthood, happy, healthy and loved. He was exploring life – creating a life – to be lived on his terms.

He was a man I’d watched over the years, sharing my school, karate and ski racing communities.

I remember him from karate classes, his tall, skinny frame clad in a white gi as he willed himself through an arduous black belt test with my son. I remember his legs in horses stance for what seemed like hours, trembling with determination.

I remember his curly, dirty blonde hair and shy glances when I’d see him in the hallways at school. Never his teacher, I still tried to draw him out and connect when I could. He was a shy one back then.

I think about him on the ski race course, carefully navigating slalom turns with the concentration of a scientist studying his experiment. I can see his mother’s smile as he watched him cross the finish line, or persevere through the final round of push-ups, sweat dripping off his face and legs and arms quivering under the pressure.

And looking up at the clouds, I think about the lessons we learn through life’s other half.

His service, full of music and love, reminded me of those ordinary moments we spend with people we love, and that in the face of their absence, we realize how prophetically purposeful they can be. Songs we loved, poetry we aligned with and talks along the beach or on a mountain top that at the time we knew were special, but when in the midst of life’s other half we realize were profound.

Carson’s memorial reminded me of my gratitude for the extraordinary in the ordinary every day. For the love of family, friends and community that surround us. And for the generosity of the universe, to open up the skies, to fill them with clouds and sunlight, and the reminder that we are all here for such brief, sparkling, exquisite moments together.

I hadn’t seen Carson for awhile. I was happy to hear he’d joined up with the ski team again, now as a coach, and he was happily living and working in Tahoe. In so many ways, he was just a regular human, finding his way and discovering who he was.

He was living life generously, with delight.

I am not saying that we should love death,

but rather that we should love life so generously,

without picking and choosing,

that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love.

This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love,

which cannot be stopped or constricted.

It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and,

ultimately,

our enemy.

It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself…

What do we know of it?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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In Our Most Ordinary Days

In our most ordinary days we have moments of happiness, moments of comfort and enjoyment, moments of seeing something that pleased us, something that touched us, moments of contacting the tenderness of our hearts. We can take joy in that.
ordinary days
in our most ordinary days
I find that it’s essential during the day to actually note when I feel happiness or when something positive happens, and to begin to cherish those moments as precious. Gradually we can begin to cherish the preciousness of our whole life just as it is, with its ups and downs, its failures and successes, its roughness and smoothness.

~ Pema Chodron

I celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary, the touching of my feet to the floor every morning, the opportunity to watch my children and my students smile and grow every single day. The moments of happiness, even in times of grief, and what is essential to focus on.

That’s where I am in this moment – striving to remember the deliciousness of that first sip of coffee in the morning, the surprise April showers pattering outside my window, the joy of my teenage son waking on his own – early, even – and the solid curl of loyal, black doggie fur pressed against my lap as I write.

As we watch the world struggle to agree, as we mourn the loss of musicians who have made us feel joy in the smallest of moments and the lowest of times, as we yearn for simplicity and understanding, please cherish the ordinary moments of happiness right in front of you.

That’s where we start.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness

The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness

Gratefulness

The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness
The Only Appropriate Response Is Gratefulness Easter selfie

 

You think this is just another day in your life.
It’s not just another day.
It’s the one day that is given to you: today.
It’s given to you.
It’s a gift.
It’s the only gift that you have right now.
And the only appropriate response is gratefulness.
 
If you do nothing else, cultivate that response through the great gift that this unique day is.  
If you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well…
 
Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you.
Then it will really be a good day.
 
~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

This poem came to me at just the right time from the lovely website, First Sip. I share it with you, with gratitude for all the blessings in my life, everything in this photo: my children, my husband, my family, my health, my home.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Life Has Left Her Footprints

Life has left her footprints on my forehead.

But I have become a child again this morning.

The smile, seen through leaves and flowers,

is back to smooth away the wrinkles,

as the rains wipe away footprints on the beach.

Again a cycle of birth and death begins.

sunrise

I walk on thorns, but firmly, as among flowers.

I keep my head high.

Rhymes bloom among the sounds of bombs and mortars.

The tears I shed yesterday have become rain.

I feel calm hearing its sound on the thatched roof.

Childhood, my birthland, is calling me,

and the rains melt my despair.

 

I am still here alive, able to smile quietly.

O sweet fruit brought forth by the tree of suffering!

Carrying the dead body of my brother,

I go across the rice field in the darkness.

Earth will keep you tight within her arms, my dear,

so that tomorrow you will be reborn as flowers,

those flowers smiling quietly in the morning field.

This moment you weep no more, my dear.We have gone through too deep a night.

 

This morning,

I kneel down on the grass,

when I notice your presence,

Flowers that carry the marvelous smile of ineffability

speak to me in silence.

 

The message,

the message of love

and understanding,

has indeed come to us.

 

~written in 1964 in Saigon by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

I share this with deep gratitude to my friend Vicki, who spreads love, compassion and knowledge as we walk in friendship on weekend early mornings.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Edges of Life and Death and David Bowie

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”

David Bowie

David Bowie, dead? It can’t be possible.

I remember when I was young, kids would wonder who would come to their own funeral. It was a way of sussing out our place in the world, of trying to see beyond the exterior veneer and posturing so popular with young people. It was a way of finding our relevance before most of us had actually done anything relevant except to just be a living human.

This self-centered sort of reflection seems to dissipate as we age – many of us, as we become parents and watch decades of life pass by, begin to reflect on just more than how other people would react to our passing – we instead study the intricate balance between where we belong, where we are, and where we want/need/would like to be in this vast Universe.

Death has a way of forcing such reflection front and center, doesn’t it?

I spend so much of my time living up inside my head, thinking deeply and with my reading and writing attempting the unsurmountable task of deciphering where we are in the world – where I am in this vast universe. I watch the beginnings and endings of my lifetime with a mix of apprehension and dismay, knowing that it at the edges of life when I often feel the most deeply, yet find the most discomfort. I crave the middle, the solid surface beneath my feet, the sure path towards…well, joy, I guess.

This month has overwhelmed me with endings, sadness, introspection. I’ve felt as if with the turn of 2016, the Universe has collected in its arms the souls it needs, and I’m just waiting…

First there was Bowie; so long the soundtrack of my youth, his presence in our world will be missed. Of course, I didn’t know him, but through his music and his art, I felt connected, as if his contribution to the Universe was perpetual, something solid, steadfast, unchangeable.

On my first trip to New York City last July, I took an open-air sightseeing bus – one of those complete tourist attractions that allow newbies like me to get a glimpse of NYC all at once. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

One moment that sticks with me amidst the swirls and scents of the vibrancy of the city is when the tour guide gestured towards a huge building and announced that was Bowie’s home. I felt surprised that he both knew where it was and would share it with us – it felt intrusive and presumptuous and wrong to be so public with something so private.

Our homes are our safe sanctuaries, after all.

I didn’t pursue a glimpse of the man I’ve admired since childhood – didn’t even think to snap a photo of it, instead choosing to slip into the maze of Central Park to carve out solitude.

Since Bowie’s death, I’ve been intrigued to find out how simply he, despite his superstar status, was able to live so unpretentiously. How does a man of his notoriety become invisible?

Purposefully, I imagine.

Bowie lived the balance. Knowing he was not indestructible, that the sureness of death was to come, he carved out where he wanted to be on his own terms. He, with all his fame and recognition, dug deep inside and birthed a gift to the Universe as he was dying. What an act of courage, of selflessness, of living. Of relevance.

I was shocked to find out he was 69, but not surprised at all when I heard his latest album. And his lyrics- what a gift to those of us searching for ways to gather together the edges of life and death, to think deeply of our existence and seam together the beginnings and endings with grace and courage.

The man who fell to earth wasn’t afraid of us watching his descent – no, not Bowie. He just wasn’t willing to let us watch.

I find it beautiful to think that in his last moments, he was where he belonged, with the people who needed to be there. He left his legacy to us with his last production, Blackstar, sewing together his life and death with threaded with certainty and stitched into a seamless, endless whole.

How long? And what do we do with the time we’ve got left?

May we all be as victorious in the end.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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