In a recent post, I mentioned palm trees and how much I missed Los Angeles. Well, I was very fortunate this past weekend to spend several days there, visiting old friends and old haunts. It was really good for my soul. Perhaps this is because it was between 70 and 80 degrees every day, whereas here, in Sheboygan, it has been hovering at or dipping past 0 degrees Fahrenheit for quite some time now. The body gets tired of this kind of cold, and so does the soul.
The happiness of being in Los Angeles was mixed with melancholy, that feeling that the Portuguese refer to as saudade. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I have a LOT of saudade in my life lately. (I must need to fry more onions, right?) The main reason for my trip to L.A. was to visit one friend in particular who is terminally ill.
Aren’t we all suffering the same fate and isn’t it called “Life?” But, she has an inoperable, incurable cancer and this is hard to bear. We are all going to die, so why is it so difficult to know that there is something very specific that will eventually cut life short? If anyone has any theories on this matter, please reply here on the blog.
While I am having a hard time with her potential death on her behalf, she, on the other hand, has developed a pretty good attitude about the whole thing. Even though she is in hospice in her home and tires easily, she is perfecting the art of making pies and muffins. Also, she bought some “next season” dresses on sale. Do they even have seasons in L.A.? Apparently. Enough to have sales. And, enough for her to determine that unless she is dead, she is still very much alive, and therefore, buying dresses for next season is totally worth doing. I applaud her and love her for this and many other things. Her strength and humor in the face of death are inspiring.
I am really grateful that I got to sit at her kitchen table and drink tea and talk for several hours. On a second visit, we picked up two other former co-workers and had a long and cozy brunch at a lovely little café in Sherman Oaks called Sweet Butter. There is nothing finer than being together with friends that you haven’t seen for while and sharing a leisurely meal and just catching up on life. What a gift!
Luckily for me, I did this very same thing with several different small groups of friends (or one friend at a time) throughout my six-day adventure. It was a weekend of blessings. I must give thanks to the friends who retrieved me from and delivered me to the airport, loaned me a car, housed me, took me hiking, cooked me dinner, bought me dinner (or brunch), fed me soup, looked at art or sat on terraces and drank wine, tea, coffee, or sparkling water with me, sat with me while I had a good cry, and conversed for many hours. You know who you are if you are reading this.
Being in L.A., I had constant reminders of a different life; one in which I was younger, happily married, at the start of my career, learning to be a mom. It was like I was confronting a “me” who does not exist anymore, except in distant memory. Putting myself in the physical place where all that occurred brought the memories back in a great wave, an utter tsunami of feeling. If you have ever met me, you will not be surprised when I tell you I did a fair amount of weeping while I was there. I was not sad, really. I was just feeling things. I guess I would rather feel than not feel, even if what comes up is a painful reminder of loss, change, and transformation. Isn’t that what life is all about?
You want to know what made me cry the most? It was seeing a tree we had planted at the front of our old house on the occasion of Owen’s birth. It started out a thin, tiny cypress. Now, fifteen years later, it is an absolute behemoth. It doesn’t even look like the same tree at all. But, this is what happens, right?
Things grow. Things change. Eventually, they die. New things are born. It is a continuum, and as long as I am on it, I will be compelled to feel and record this constant movement. I will call it a blessing. That seems to help. Naming it anything less does not do the process justice.