New Citizens of the World

Look at these two baby girls, these new citizens of the world. My daughter Georgia on the left is two months old and her cousin Evelyn on the right is five months old. They got to play together over Christmas when we hosted my sister Mary Ellen's family, my brother Matt and his wife Rebecca and my mother. Amidst all the cooking and feasting and toasting and laughing and snuggling and 5-Straight-playing and present-opening and celebrating, we took the opportunity to have a family baby blessing for the two youngest members of the clan. My father skyped in and my older brother Patrick and his wife Paula called in on speaker phone from Minneapolis. I felt so happy to have all the family on my side gathered for this occasion as that just didn't happen for my son Xavier's blessing.

We all sat around in the living room on Boxing Day morning and lit a candle for each baby. Evelyn sat on her mother's lap and Georgia cuddled with her daddy. Everyone had an opportunity to say something to the little girls. I began by reading this poem by Nancy Wood from Shaman's Circle.

Birth Ritual  
New being, new citizen of the world, new carrier of cloud wisdom and moonstones, new flame of the universe, new eyes of animals too old to see beyond their footprints, new repetition 
Of old ideas that people thought had died long ago, we stand before you, ready to protect your small breath of life, ready to teach you songs, ready to help you plow the fields cluttered with our mistakes. Your
Recent journey affirms our faith in ancient circles. You are the voice of us who tried to change the world. You are the continuity of seasons and migrations, the best or worst of all that has gone before. New being,  
The ancestors are depending on you to surprise them. Little one, our prayers for you come with love and heartbreak. The world you enter is dangerous and filled with imbalance. Knowledge comes from experience, not from  
Easy answers. Resist those who would have you blindly follow them, dear child of buffalo and hawks, ladybugs and fireflies. Turn instead to the rhythm of waves, the pattern of grass, the shape of clouds, the music of raindrops, and the color of autumn leaves. Strong  
Mountains and saplings await you. The tongues of animals are anxious to speak to you and the river is eager to teach you dance. Learn from the vagaries of winds, the honking of geese, the dance of trembling leaves, and the way that shadows mystify.  
New being, this all you will need to be at home in the world. New being, this all you will need to recognize your song. 
Mary Ellen, her husband Andrew both spoke and then their four-year-old daughter Mabel told her little sister and her little cousin how much she loved them.

Next we played the song Love and Happiness by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler, as suggested by my dad.

You will always have a lucky starThat shines because of what you areEven in the deepest darkBecause your aim is trueAnd if I could only have one wishDarling, then I would be thisLove and happiness for you

My mother gave a blessing she wrote and shed a few happy tears. I was brought to tears thinking of three generations of women sitting together. What a gift.

Then my brother Patrick, aka Uncle Pappy, and his wife Paula gave blessings. Paula referred to the quote about giving your children two things:  roots and wings. 

Matthew read the poem The Honey Bee by Ted Hughes from his book The Iron Wolf. He said he looked forward to summer camp for the little cousins at his house someday in the near future.

Rebecca read from Maya Angelou's poem Now Sheba Sings the Song.
Mother told her secrets to me when I rode low in the pocket between her hips I learned the rhythm of her song...Sunsets and rainbows, green forest and restive blue seas, all naturally colored things are my siblings. We have played together on the floor of the world since the first stone looked up at the stars. Innocence, as riches, plates my skin all carats gold, beckons lust and leers and on the delicious occasion my lover whose talent convinces me away from fear. My hair, a hive of honey bees is a queenly glory crackles like castanets hums like marimbas Oh my movement admits to lip smacking, finger snapping, toe tapping shoulder bouncing, hip throwing, breast thrusting, eye flashing love of good and God and Life. My songs wreathe the people in banners of hope, of wisdom, and some just plain laughing out loud I know the near and distant peaks ridges and crevices, aretes and tors valleys, chasms, gullies of while I am made are strewn with remorse, pain, triumph and ecstasy. I am mate to Kilimanjaro Fujiyama, Mont Blanc, and Sister to Everest. She who is daring and brave will know what to do.
Rebecca and Matthew sang Puff the Magic Dragon and Rebecca wished the girls "wild imaginations."

Thus blessed and celebrated, Evelyn and Georgia accepted kisses, smiled and then snuggled down for a nap.


Here Comes the Sun

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare.
~ Emerson

Today is the Winter Solstice and the longest, darkest night of the year. I'm thinking about stars. 

Living in the middle of a city, and a fairly cloudy one at that, I don't see the stars as often as I'd like. Truth be told, I don't go looking for them all too frequently. I was reminded of this last week when we stayed in a cabin in Leavenworth, WA with friends, where from the hot tub on the deck I saw six shooting stars within ten minutes. They were glorious. It made me think about when and where I've really appreciated the stars. One clear night stands out in memory:  I was sailing through the calm Beagle Channel heading towards the Drake Passage and Antarctica beyond. I stood alone outside on the bow deck of the Akademik Ioffe, taking in the most stars I'd ever seen. Yet, I'm incredulous now to think back on the three seasons I worked down on the ice to realize I didn't go outside every night to marvel at the show of stars. Even there, in that magical place at the end of the earth, in the midst of daily routine, stars became ordinary. 

(The stars stretch far...and I am small." 
I am Small by Emma Dodd)

In all the flurry and activity of the holiday season, Solstice is a beautiful time to pause, to be still. The origin of the word solstice comes from "standing still of the sun." Look around you - really look around you - to see your family, your friends, your blessings, your life. Stand still and feel the beat of your steady heart. Stand still and look up at the stars.

("Now in their harness, the reindeer paw at the snow. 
They know the magic is near, very near. 
Santa knows, too. He gazes up at the brilliant, numberless stars, 
and he thinks of all the children and how he loves them so." 
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson)

Tonight our neighbors host an annual Winter Solstice party in their darkened house lit only by candles and a blazing fire in the hearth. We'll eat soup, drink wine and celebrate the darkness. I love this tradition of theirs, which echoes Solstice gatherings throughout the millenia. After all, Stonehenge was built in 2600 b.c. for this precise moment when the world swings back towards the sun. The beauty of Winter Solstice is that we can celebrate the darkness at the same time we celebrate the returning of the light. All day, Xavier and I have been twirling and singing along as we blast the Beatles crooning "Here Comes the Sun." 

Celebrate the darkness, celebrate the return of the light.  Happy Winter Solstice!


Georgia Shines For The Camera

A family doctor is a necessity and a family lawyer comes in handy sometimes as does a financial planner. But a really fantastic thing is to have a family photographer. We were lucky to have found Suzanne Rushton of Feeling Photography when we were planning our wedding in Vancouver and she immediately became a good friend. She has since taken many beautiful photos of our growing family. The first week of December, we were in Vancouver and she did a shoot with Georgia, just six weeks old. We had such fun - the only difficult thing was choosing her outfits. 

Below you'll see the long gown with yellow ribbon handmade by my Great-grandma Alice which I wore at my baptism. My mother-in-law Jane saved the delicate Hudson Bay ivory blanket Georgia is wrapped in from when Christian was a baby. These garments in her layette are such family treasures, and even more so with my sweet daughter in them.

The frilly cream pajamas are from our friend Vanessa and the lavender party frock from our friend Julie. Georgia has received so many beautiful clothes, gifts and hand-me-downs from family and friends. Christian thinks it is incredible I can remember who gave us each piece, but my sentimental heart easily retains such information. And I'll be saving these and many more special outfits for Georgia's future children.

Thank you, Suzanne, for these treasured photographs!


A Surprise 70th Birthday Tribute

This is my beautiful and forever-youthful Aunt Pam. She turns 70 this month. I know, right? I can only hope to have inherited the same genes for ageless skin. Although I think her not-so-secret secret is meditation, yoga, juicing and many other health regimens she has actively pursued and practiced throughout her life. She has always been an early-adopter.

Pam lives in New York and her family is far-flung across the country and oceans. To celebrate her this year, we all wanted to do something special so I spearheaded a group project to write a tribute book as a surprise gift. 
Back in August, I sent the following questions to everyone in the family to jump start some memories and asked them to write a birthday letter to her.

  • What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pam?
  • What is one of your favorite memories or stories with or about her?  (Feel free to write more than one)
  • Do you have a favorite Pam-ism?  Can you remember a funny, touching or special quote she has said.  Is there a phrase/saying you associate with her?
  • What other associations do you have when you think of her?
  • What is your favorite thing about Pam?
  • Do you have a favorite photo of her you can share – or better yet one of you with her?
  • Do you have a toast or special birthday message to give her on this memorable day?

As each person responded, I forwarded their email on to the group so we could all read what others had written, share the memories and spark more stories. Not only was this group email thread such fun to read as each letter came in, but it had the added advantage of spurring on anyone who had yet to write their tribute to Pam. Over the course of about a month, everyone in the family contributed notes and photographs. All I had to do then was assemble the book on user-friendly MyPublisher.com.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Pam's sister Janet presented the book to her. Pam's response to the book?  "I can't tell you all how surprised I was to have been gifted with the BEST and LOVELIEST gift I've ever received. I read it with joy, gratitude and the feeling of being loved." 

Mission accomplished. 

You can view the book right here on MyPublisher:  Pam's 70th Birthday Tribute Book