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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Someday I hope to write about the achingly beautiful life we have been given and do it justice. Our lives are so chock full of rush and worry...and these same lives are lived out at break neck speed with a cosmic-sized to do list attached to our bended backs. Life passes by like a bullet train, and we stand at the platform waving at a disappearing shadow wondering why we have been left behind.

Or perhaps it is just me... But the train slowed down yesterday for me because of Athena, the small, frail Greek woman in her nineties who stopped my mom and I at the elevator at her senior apartments. She wondered if we would be around for a few moments because she needed two witnesses for her will. As we crossed the threshold of her apartment, I noticed a child-sized easel with some excellently drawn pieces and asked if she was an artist. A humble woman, she was difficult to draw out, but finally she showed me a picture of two beautiful hands reaching out towards a ball of light. "I had a vision,” she revealed. When I pressed her for details, she stated plainly, her voice nearly a whisper, "It was with all of my senses... And I knew I could die in peace."

Her son knocked at the door, and when we found out that the notary would not appear for about an hour, I plugged in my headphones and went for a walk at a nearby nature trail, thinking about being at peace with death. The lyrics to a tune Robin Mark recorded played in my head, accompanied by a haunting penny whistle..."when it all is said and done, all my treasures will be nothing; only what I did for love's reward will stand the test of time..."

A couple walked ahead of me with an unwieldy bike device. A small child tried to ride without success. Suddenly, her mom commandeered the bike and a laughing father and child pushed her awkwardly on the small vehicle. As the penny whistle played a score behind my steps, I began to unravel. A young father walked towards me, his face serene and filled with quiet pride. He pushed a stroller filled with a blanketed infant, too young to walk but not too young to smile. Her face was a mirror of her father's, and as they approached, I saw their lives pure and surrounded by promise. I came undone by the picture, and I could no longer hold back the flood of tears, my own joy and gratefulness overflowing out of these passing life pictures. We have been given this life- this beautiful, awkward, joy filled, painful, abundant life. It unfolds before us every day in these tiny moments of hope and possibility which get swallowed up or overshadowed by the other small things that really don't matter. But today, Athena spoke of a vision, and the day began to slow down. A family had a moment of spontaneous laughter. A father embraced a quiet winter walk with his daughter. And when I had returned for the signing, a fellow occupant of the senior apartment complex showed up in a furry bathrobe and curlers and announced she has worn her formal wear for the witnessing of the will. Suddenly, I was no longer necessary... they had one witness too many. But I was needed as a witness to this beautiful day as it unfolded and embedded itself into my heart. And like Athena, this day gave me a vision that someday I too will die at peace,

knowing a life filled with tiny moments of love and grace…

knowing all my treasures will mean nothing…

and knowing that only what I did for love's reward will stand the test of time.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Someday, I want to write about the soundtrack of our lives. You know what I am talking about. It's the music that plays in your head in those grand, sweet moments of life. It's the pluck and strum of your heart strings in a quiet moment of beauty. It's the musical score of your world.

I have been thinking about this today as I sit in the foyer of Evergreen Hospital listening to Judy play piano. Judy is a senior who contributes to the healing of the universe by playing a grand piano at this hospital as patients and family members go about their business. Because she knows that my husband and I are folk musicians, she has jettisoned her usual set list of classical pieces for folk music arranged for piano. The grand two story alcove pulls the notes skyward as a steady parade of people pass by.

Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing' " floats through the air, and as the lyrics swirl in my head, couples of every size, shape and color stroll past all carrying plastic, life- sized babies. The first couple who passed by signaled an appointment perhaps, a discussion of insights gained while toting a lifelike but plastic nonetheless baby. But soon this steady stream of couples and their dolls parading by make it apparent that this is an appointment of much greater design. Stretchy shirts are pulled over swollen bellies while husbands cling to lifeless dolls, all in preparation for this upcoming event.

They seem so serene, so quietly proud as they walk together, and I think to myself, “Yes, the times they ARE a-changing," in ways that these young couples cannot begin to fathom. Only we who have walked this road before can know the depth of what awaits them in the years to come. They will enter this brave new life blissfully ignorant and totally convinced that they are ready for what lies ahead.

But then, when are any of us ever ready for what lies ahead? If we could see through that dark glass dimly would we run to embrace the future or throw our hands up in despair? Would we dig into some well of courage deep within ourselves or shrink into our own insecurities and fears and never step into the challenges ahead?

Perhaps that is the beauty of the future being revealed in infinitesimally small steps, so as to protect us from our own weakness of spirit.

But through that dark glass, grand moments of beauty await us also in the small ordinariness of this life. Biking to work, I have passed a wetlands bathed in early morning light as a meadowlark warbled and my hearts' voice burst into song. " great Thou art.. how great Thou art..." A brook warbles over rocks, and a symphony plays Copeland's" Appalachian Spring, and I have realized anew that it IS a gift to be simple. A grandchild's face explodes into a smile, and in the light of that gaze, the room and my aching heart are bathed in a chorus of alleluias. The soundtrack of the foyer swells and with it, the landscape of this ever changing canvas. A voice on the intercom announces a life threatening emergency. I see a wheelchair being pushed... an elderly man shuffles passed us, nurses, doctors...a visible river of humanity.

Someone is dying here today; someone is being born; someone is recovering and someone is losing hope.

My mind races with questions, the kinds of questions one wrestles with in the autumn of our lives. The kinds of questions that draw near to you when sitting in a hospital foyer watching life literally pass you by. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Have I overlooked some work I have been put here to do?

In the swirl of questions, I look over at sweet Judy. She is mouthing the words to the folk tune her hands create as the notes circle in the air. I can read her lips as Dylan speaks to the unspoken questions of my heart. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...

the answer

is blowing in the wind.

1968. Fort Ord, California. The start of it all…

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Eleven years ago, I started a blog by this title. I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit what started the journey of processing life through writing. This was my first ever written, a work that continues today in Epiloger.

My friend, singer-songwriter Jimmy Yessian, now gone too soon, had a song called “Someday” that examined all of the reasons we give ourselves to not do that “thing” that should be a priority, whatever that thing is. I was reminded of that yesterday when a visiting pastor spoke on embracing life’s difficulties. He stated that most of us live by what I call, “If/Then” rules. If I get skinnier/fatter/taller/ thinner/ younger/older (to use his examples) then I can do this “thing” that I should be doing.

Of course, his examples of what we should be doing were far more spiritual than mine, but I think the rule applies, nonetheless. For I believe that most of us are living in that “cause/effect” world, which is very logical, by the way. If I DO this thing, then I will get some reward, like the mice in a cage who learn to press a lever and get food. The problem is, most of us are reaching for a lever that is placed beyond our reach. Or we are reaching for a lever that doesn’t exist. Or we are reaching for a lever that everyone around us tells us is there and crucial to a joyful life except that we are wired to never see it.

What if, and here’s that cause/effect thing again, what if we simply reversed the variables? What if we simply put the goal first and the steps second ? It might look something like this: If I go to Hawaii, then I will get skinnier. If I start a program to help the food banks, then I will find a way to get the money to fund it. If I… then… you get the point.

I was reminded of this principle when my husband and I went to see a financial advisor, which, if you knew us, would cause you to explode into hysterical laughter. Our total interest earned on investments last year was about $2.21. That should give you some idea of what incredible savers we are. As we were looking at a pitiful list of assets, the advisor asked why, after 25 years, we owed so much money on our home.

Feeling a bit like a guilty school aged child, I explained as rationally as I could that we refinanced the house throughout the years to fund important business in our family. “Like what?” he asked suspiciously. So again I explained, in as rational a voice as I could, that our daughters needed college educations, and there were two weddings, and then we had to take the whole family to Hawaii.

I cannot begin to describe the look of distain on his face or the tone in his voice when he addressed us. It was, in his opinion, a terrible mistake to have wasted our money that way. In his world, if you refinanced your house for frivolous reasons, then you would have no money on which to retire (and we are, by the way, not spring chickens).

But here’s what it looked like in the reverse: Because we refinanced our house and took my in-laws and my mother to Hawaii, we now have memories of a trip that we will take to our grave. We have stamped into our minds my dear mother-in-law rising exhausted each morning for just one more snorkeling trip. We have her picture in our minds as she flopped around on a hard seat on the back of a speeding raft over what seemed to be mountainous waves announcing, “I have always wanted to do this!” We have memories of her husband, not up to activity, sitting on the porch drinking coffee and doing crosswords as he waved us off each morning to our adventures. And we have the knowledge that had we not refinanced the house, none of those memories would be there, for his father died a few months later.

So today was another someday for me. Someday when I have time, I will start a blog. Inspired by a fellow writer, Ty, I went to set one up and found out I had done so over a year ago, but never written the first word. Today, I switched the formula. If I start the blog, then I will have time to write.

Someday is today.

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