Tag Archives: christmas

Coming Home

25 Dec


From my mother’s Christmassy place, I reflect on my wanderings of the last few weeks.

I can’t help but come back to what the Universe has shown to me. Three gifts of wisdom have changed me forever.

1. Love is simple.
2. Connection is the gift of the Universe.
3. To be a friend is to love and be loved as a book in hand.

A tradition for my family was to open one gift tonight, Christmas Eve.

My hope is that you will open one of these thoughts and that it will give to you as much as it has given to me

Happy Christmas.

Peace, love, joy and comfort to you all.

Losing Yer Knickers…an Irish Story

24 Dec

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What would Christmas Eve be without a story, loves? And so,

This is the story of about how there’s nothing like almost losing yer knickers when walkin’ into an Irish pub

One Christmas Sunday (about a day ago), I almost lost my knickers in front of a right handsome lad in the best Irish pub in Washington D.C.

I planned to go to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mass the night before Christmas Eve. ‘Twas on the bucket list and what does an Irish lass do after mass? Go to the pub for fish and a pint, that is a given. Transportation was becoming a bit expensive over the weekend. Average taxi rides less than a mile or two were nine to ten dollars and a trip all the way to CUA would be outrageous, I had imagined. So, I decided to ride the Metro. I could walk to the station as long as I had the time and conceivably, I could go anywhere. Only four blocks to the McPherson station, then green line to red line, two blocks to the cathedral. Easy.

So I set out in my navy cashmere sweater, dark red scarf with Celtic pin, flirty short blue kilt, navy tights and high heel black oxfords. Demure, but sporty church/ pub attire. After one block, I knew I should have gone back. Firstly, the kilt flirts a bit too much when I walk in those shoes and a kilt wearin’ red headed lass walkin’ down 14th street at a fair clip is an attention getting thing apparently. I nearly caused two fender benders and had a few interesting proposals from homeless men.

I began to walk faster. That’s when I realized I had brought THOSE navy tights, the ones I had meant to throw away because the panty portion was too loose and would fall ever so slowly with movement all the way down to my ankles. But I was obviously pressed for time and for my own safety. Certainly I couldn’t miss mass nor take the dreaded expensive taxi. “I’ll be fine”, I thought. I had put on a pair of silk knickers over top of the tights because I had forgot to bring a slip and they had plenty of elastic so they’d hold the tights up. That was Christmas wish that Santa just didn’t seem to get wind of.

By the time I had walked to the McPherson metro stop, a third of my bare hips could feel the scratchy wool of my kilt, but I knew no one could see it. So, I ducked into the restroom before I boarded the metro, yanked the trunk portion up high and went onward. The trip took much longer than anticipated with all the high heeled walking and when I finally reached CUA, I had more than two blocks to walk uphill to the Shrine in ten minutes. I wanted to take pictures of the beautiful exterior with all the gorgeous lights in the evening sunset, but by the time I jaunted up the marble steps to the door, I knew I’d have to find a bathroom to yank up my tights again. They were further down than before and almost half of my rear was bare to the kilt. Yikes.

It wasn’t intolerable, though and no one really noticed, but it was becoming an issue and I realized then, “Jeez, I have to walk BACK to the metro stop at CUA and then all the way to Fado from Chinatown metro. This isn’t looking good.”

After spending time at the Shrine, I set out again for the metro stop. It was later in the evening and dark; the entire CUA campus was deserted. Warning thoughts were shooting across every portion of my brain and I seriously thought, “Lass, how stupid can you be? You can’t run in them heels nor those damned tights and not a soul will hear you scream. Get to the metro and get there quick!”

When I sat down, breathless in my orange pleather metro seat, a full three quarters of my bottom was without coverage and then it hit me. Feck, I have three blocks to walk to Fado in Chinatown. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, they won’t drop…will they? So I tried to inch them up casually. I squirmed and tried to nonchalantly pull them up by stretching my legs, but to no avail. They were coming down and I had no option but to pray they didn’t fall before I could get to the restroom inside Fado.

Exiting the Chinatown metro station, I began to notice a looseness that I had not sensed before. Oh holy Father, the knickers were falling too! That’s when I panicked. I kept walking though, small strides, then large strides to try to stretch them up somehow. Nothing worked.

I saw a McDonalds.

Customers only bathroom.


So I kept walking and then I began to pray. “Mother Mary, please don’t let me lose my black silk knickers on 7th street in Chinatown. Dear Mother of God, I can’t lose my knickers in front of the saints and world of men on a street corner.” I stopped to cross the street over to the 700 block of 7th and I saw the sign for Fado. I have never been more happy to see a place in my life and with effort and stealth, I snuck my hand under my coat to grab the front of my knickers and tights to keep them up. For my entire derriere was now bare to the kilt and the under current wind and I knew if I had to walk more than to the door of the pub, I’d be bare as the day I was born with navy tights around my knees.

I made it in the door and made to shuffle to the back toward the restroom. Thankfully, it was pretty empty the night before Christmas Eve and then. . .

There he was, a green eyed Irish waiter with black hair and an apron to match. “Good even’ lass”, he said, “Where’d you like to place yourself?”

At that precise moment, the knickers gave way and I knew they were going to fall right then to the floor in front of this gorgeous waiter and I would be mortified beyond belief. But, I knocked my knees together and leaned into the bar . Casually flipping my hair I squeaked, ”Well, I’m not sure yet, lad. May I use your restroom and then seat myself?”

“Aye”, he said “Tis over there. I’ll get you something for your return?”

“Oh yes” I said. “Make it a Guinness and pour it slow…I’ll be back.”

So when he turned, I grabbed my knickers from the front through the kilt and hobbled quickly back to the restroom. Thank goodness no one else was there to see me and then standing in the stall, they fell like feathers from a duck. I stretched and pulled, rearranged and then slipped the knickers back on and knew I’d be okay. However, I’d better take a taxi home.

So there you have it…

The wisdoms in this?

Listen to your knickers, loves. Underneath everything there is a sureness which is necessary to being. The best experiences can be marred when flexibility gives way. If it means being late, or it costs more money, it matters not. To build upon anything one needs to attend to foundations. It’s most important to life, to love, to anything.


A Lady of Sorrows

23 Dec

Come not to the Father for comfort, but to the Mother, my lady …Mary

After a day of walking pilgrimage, I produced my soul upon the steps of The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for mass on Sunday evening. When I walked in, breathless with five minutes to quiet myself, I was shocked to find mass already in progress. Furthermore, they were saying the Our Father, a prayer which occurs near the end of the celebration.

I panicked.

I walked down to the Bethlehem chapel from the main sanctuary. Nothing, just contemplation. Then, I made a confused and hurried visit to the docent at the help desk.

“Ma’am, where and when is 5:15 mass?” I said.

It came out almost like a child. I didn’t mean to be so upset, but this visit was so needed, so important. I had prepared all day, journeyed through streets and metro to get there on time, and now….nothing. She explained to me that 5:15 Vigil, even though its listed on Sunday, means the night before: Saturday. The only Sunday evening mass occurs at 4:30. I had missed it.

I was so let down, so disappointed in myself, so upset. Then, she did something incredibly loving and kind. She reached across the desk, took my hand in hers and said, “Go somewhere quiet my child, and pray. Our Lady will guide you.” She squeezed my hand and said, “God bless you”. I nearly wept at her kindness. The church was open until seven she had told me, and it was just after five. So as I turned with tears in a choked throat, the only place I could think to go was Our Lady of Lourdes. It had been a very special place for my former husband and myself. On a summer trip to DC, I had shared the shrine with him, especially this chapel, this most holy, most special place. We lit a candle together in the medieval chapel during that visit. Tonight, in that same place, I prayed for comfort, for release. And I had no words.

What was given to me was a quiet grace. The words mattered not. My presence was the prayer. Love is simple. So amid candles and incense and the deep quiet peacefulness of holy presence, I went to my knees at the gate, gazed into one of Her many faces, and let go of this place of my past. It no longer held the quiet significance it once did. And when I left, I left him there, too. What he was at the beginning, what he became at the end.

Eventually, I wandered upstairs. No place seemed comforting enough until I came upon Our Lady of Sorrows. Suddenly, I knew I was home.

Is there any sorrow equal to my sorrow?

No, my Lady, there isn’t. But let me sit inside this grief and we will mourn together. Hope dies, but she has to in order to rise again. The hope of salvation in love, earthly love, must die. There is hope, yet, though. She lies entombed in the winter, in the snow, a pale new bud frozen in winter stillness. I sat in the small green marble chapel, breathed in incense and dwelt in sadness for a long while. I gave Our Lady my tears to hold and trusted indeed that I might be blessed.

I miss dwelling in spirit. I miss dwelling in hope.I go home tomorrow and I will abide. I will simply abide.

Not in Kansas

22 Dec

What is the sea without the sand

What is the sky without blue

What is the song without the words

What is the world without you.   — Clothilde Arias

Today, I toured the Museum of American History, mainly to see one thing: Dorothy’s shoes. And as I rounded the corner and saw them, I became overwhelmed with the enormity this journey. I’m just at the beginning.

Dear Universe, how can I ever walk this road?

I knelt beside those shoes and it took all the strength in my body not to sob. There they were. The shoes from the most hopeful journey I know, a metaphor for my entire walk from last year to now. It felt as if I was kneeling at a shrine and presenting my pain and grief in front of some sort of relic, a holy object that might somehow erase this grief over a life that has bloomed into a flower I never desired to grow. Behind them, was Kermit the frog, and from the minute his eyes met mine, words from childhood appeared.

Its not easy being green, to spend each day the color of the leaves.

The sadness was overwhelming. I actually had to go to the bathroom and get myself together so as not to make a total mess of myself in public. This went beyond being touched by something; this is a wound that’s leaking an absolute mess.

And I think I know why. Here, I feel so isolated and that is most ironic. In Ocracoke, I felt alone at first, but then comforted and connected. Literally, there was no one around, but I felt safe. Hurt, but safe. Here, there are people everywhere, a million things to do, to taste, to see, to photograph, to experience and all I want is my cottage on Fig Tree Lane and Zillie’s in the afternoon, the ease of a small world. I want to go home. Totally disconnected, I feel completely lonely in the midst of the million or so souls walking these streets. This morning, I saw a man crouch down and hug, cuddle, and then kiss his dog’s head on the street corner and it sent me into a stream of tears. Everything here is fabulous, exciting, beautiful, enticing, and all I want is Clarence, my cottage, and talks with Annie.

I may have left too soon. I may not ever be the same. I have to muster the energy to go to Sax Club tonight. I’ve already paid for it. If I just let go, it will be okay. The night will be a good experience and I’ll be glad I went. That new confident snazzy Cyndi? She left before Ocracoke and never came back. Someone else is here now and although she needs to be freed as well, I don’t like her much. People can sense her depression like a wiff of sour milk.


I went to the Willard today and passed up an experience. Tea at the Willard is booked for months, but they had a small spot for me. I should have stayed despite the $42 dollar fee. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, but I couldn’t enjoy it or give it the focus it needed. I wasn’t happy enough. Mom should be here with me. Today, she made jam with Granny and that’s where I should have been, but I just can’t. I can’t be in that world of pretending everything is alright.

It’s not alright.

I went round the corner  and had cafe au lait and tart at Cafe du Parc, where I’d rather go to dinner tonight instead of Sax. If there was a way out of it, I’d cancel the reservation and go back with friends sometime. I thought I could do this alone. It’s actually the main bucket list event of the weekend. I’m not sure I can, but I’ll try.

What comes will come.

It Takes a Village

17 Dec

Yesterday afternoon, I went down to Zillie’s to write about my shopping demise and after finishing my thoughts, I ran into Dolores and John, ex FBI agents. They are a lovely couple, and after quite a few glasses of wine, they began to tell story after story. Their experiences are so intense, so heart wrenching, so inspiring. I’m coming to know everyone by name, and this transition of being accepted by the community as if I actually live here is pretty amazing. Scott, the long term substitute teacher was there along with quite a few other O’cockers, as they are called. There is a delicate balance between transplants to this community and those born and bred here, the native accent is unmistakable.

I listen here much more than I do at home. Their stories fascinate me; I feel included in a way that I haven’t since childhood family dinners. The narratives roll out and I think, where have I been all these years? Dolores told me about arresting a man in a crack house in DC; small frightened children in rooms were screaming while they tried to clear them to find a suspect. And then of finding a pit bull puppy locked in one of the rooms, collar grown into its neck. She cuddled it only to find that when the animal warden arrived, the pup would have to be euthanized. No pit bulls allowed in D.C. As she told the story, the pain of having to let this puppy go, knowing that it would be killed, began to bloom in her spirit. I sat and simply listened in acknowledgment of her experience. The brutal removal of the one bit of innocence in a corrupt dysfunctional world of drugs and crime had to be re-negotiated in her understanding. But she told me and in my listening, we connected.

I met an older man, Kenny, who was so funny and friendly. Later, I ran into him at the Topless Oyster where the community gathers for its annual Christmas party. And I’m pretty sure I was the only tourist in attendance, taking photos, listening to stories. Mr Rogers was right. Everyone has a story and they are all so important to acknowledge. I don’t know really how to explain the party except that everyone comes, brings a dish, and then the owner puts out a keg. After that’s gone, people start buying drinks and that’s when the real party starts. As the only outsider, everyone is quite curious about what I’m doing here, who I am. I have become the English teacher, who is writing a travel blog, and working on some historical fiction and taking care of Annie in the Fulcher cemetery. I’m Cyndi, the writer, the gal in the coffee shop in the mornings. I am not Miss Kelley. You have no idea how beautiful it is to hear your first name, over and over. As if it were so obvious that’s who you always were. Most people don’t realize what its like to be called by a formal name for 18 years. Miss Kelley is not . . .me.

And so I have met all these amazing people this week. I had already met Marcus, Kenny’s godson at Trivia Night on Tuesday; he’s so sweet. He rode past me Tuesday night on his bicycle while I was taking Clarence to potty and he yelled, ” H’lo! Cyndi! There’s the dog!” Peter, who works for the local realty company is so delightful; he talked with me liked he’d always known me. As I photographed him sharing a shot with Brooke and Finkle,  I could see the strands that hold this place together. I haven’t seen ties like these since college. It’s as if the whole town is one large senior class. One older fisherman, who had attempted to chat me up despite the fact that, combined with his inebriation and his O’cocker accent, I had no idea what he was saying, floated around me all evening.

At one point, he asked one of my new friends, “Is she yer wu-man?”

I had to tell him, “No, dear, I belong to me…”. That was a brilliant moment.

“I luv an in-dee-pendunt..wuman” His response was just priceless.

If there was any doubt that the Universe was leading me here, there is NO doubt in my mind now. Sometimes, a friend arrives at just the right time. And that friend was another Kenny. Friday night at the Jazz show at Gaffer’s , I was grafted into a conversation with several ladies and we chatted in group for a bit. He seemed so nice and genuinely fun. After our conversation at the Christmas party for over an hour, I discovered that he left a corporate job to move to the Hatteras area to seek authenticity in his life. To “be”. He quit a successful career to seek a more fulfilling life of simplicity. Every sentiment I have been contemplating this week  about learning that the value of life comes from connection to others, about giving to oneself first and then to the world, about authenticity and deep inner peace, he repeated, sometimes with the very same phrasings. We even discussed a love of Rumi and at that moment I knew without a doubt that we were destined to meet and to be friends. He said to me, “You know, when I saw you sitting there at the bar by yourself, enjoying the jazz, I thought…that’s a woman who owns herself, who is complete. I thought, I have to talk to her.” I know we will keep in touch, even though he lives far away. He is ahead of me on this journey, and his encouraging words meant so much. At the end of the conversation he looked at me and said, “So, when are you moving here?” I can’t tell you how much I want to do that. How confused, in a good way, I am about the way my life is changing. When Kenny had to go catch the ferry, we hugged and he said, “Namaste, my friend” How I found him, I’ll never know.

Then, as I enjoyed watching and then dancing to the Rockers a local band, I met another man. This connection was definitely one that reaffirmed that indeed I may not be solo for the rest of my life. It was grand to chat, to dance and even to be affectionate. Our meeting was quite sweet, respectful, and unencumbered by expectations, but brief like the old image of two ships. I loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, and there was a real tenderness there. This morning, when I went to the coffee shop, he was already there. He engaged me in conversation and asked me for my contact info. And then, even though I didn’t assume anything from the previous night’s dancing and chatting, he came over to where I was writing, smiled, opened his arms, and gave me a genuine hug. I’ll probably not ever see him again, but it matters not. The moment was what was most important. That night, in conversation with everyone, and in holding hands and quiet connection with a kind man, I felt a part of this community. I felt as if I belonged somehow. The possibility of place. I began to fall in love with a new me.

So in coming to love this community, I have learned how to listen and to love myself all over again. I will strive to be my most authentic self everyday. It is what keeps me grounded, alive. For love is simple. Principle One.

A Gift: Howard Street

15 Dec

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Christmas is coming…the goose is getting fat
Pleased to put a penny in an old man’s hat
If you have no penny, a ha- penny will do
If you have no ha-penny then god bless you.

It’s Saturday, and I am shopping.

But for some reason it is just not working for me. All the shops here have been closed this week, so I know that if I wanted to shop for Christmas it would have to have been yesterday or today.

After spending yesterday in research at the museum, it is today or never.

I usually enjoy shopping. But as I trudge into shop after shop filled with beautiful handmade gifts, jewelry, pottery, paintings, scarves, hats, soaps, wall hangings. . .all on sale, literally I cannot bring myself to buy anything.  Nothing appeals to me and yet again, everything appeals to me. I try to force myself, knowing that I need to show those I love how much they mean to me, how much their continued presence in my life is appreciated. After all, in ten days: it’s Christmas. Ten days.

Want in on a secret? I don’t feel it and I think this year, I may choose not to at all.

This year’s holiday isn’t even registering to me. The closest I have come was my arrival on the ferry Sunday and seeing the village lights in quiet comfort, and then again on my dark walk home from the library last night and the tiny lights of Back Road.

I wander the island, shop after shop, knowing that tomorrow, nothing will be open. I will be leaving on Tuesday. I keep telling myself to look harder, to lose myself in the experience, but I can’t. Nothing seems of appropriate value. Nothing seems to fit. After three hours of meandering, I decide to go home via Howard Street and then it hits me. This year, I will have to show my love in ways that do not involve me making a transaction. I want to show  my appreciation meaningfully. That is so important to me now. It’s as if time is of the essence, as if something important will be lost if I don’t. This ever present urgency has fueled my impatience for months. I struggle with allowing the time to just be.

So as I walked Howard Street, suddenly I see what I most want to give to those whom I love.

The curving path through Howard Street, I want to give to you.

an old sandy path which weaves itself through the veil of two worlds, the living and the dead,

weathered stones of grey and white under a branching aged oak lady, who speaks long and low to my heart.

Lichen laden wooden fences around small yards of sea grass.

Two chairs side by side, my friend, my dear one, where I can place myself in happy times and laugh at life with you at how the world is an azure and green glass globe encircled with light.

Blooms of pink, on bushy branches still yielding a memory of summer gone by, but we can remember.

A feathered bird, colors of the russet rainbow, pulsing with the life of home and basic humanity,

in the chain of our transcendent connectedness, his red crest a signal to the universe saying “I am”.

Small soft dog, so sweet, so vulnerable, so fierce, so in love with a small simple world of yard, and family, and the long day of sleep and eat and play and happiness.

No future, no past, just now.

A clapboard colored bottle blue, that is what I’d share with you,

the joy of blue, thickly coating the wood of cottage in the sun, boards stretching toward a winter sky,

white windowed eyes reflecting back the clouds passing in ocean water breezes.

Pinpoint red berry clusters on branches of green, that say, Joyous night…merry and bright…my friend.

And a fire on the deck, and drink in glass, and a longing for your smile, for your love, for your presence in my life

and a deeply felt need to give within me, offering you these images in thankfulness for your birth, for your connection to my soul.

My friend, you are not here, but you are forever with me and for that I can only give one gift in your honor

my words

the perceiving of my senses

and a view of what is best and bright from this tiny place of solitude and hard won comfort.

Blessings, respect, compassion…and love.

It is my simple gift.

Little Lights

14 Dec

We’re born with millions
Of little lights shining in the dark
And they show us the way
One lights up, every time you feel love in your heart
One dies when it moves away

It’s late and I am just home from the library where I listened to Charles Temple, the high school English teacher talk about his appearance and success on Jeopardy. This little meeting, through the friends of the library, was the only event for tonight, and as such most everyone attends. A funny thing happened while I was there, though. Upon arrival, I introduced myself to the gracious lady at the door and she seemed genuinely surprised that as a tourist, I was coming to hear the talk. Bob and Brenda were there as well as several other folks. I was beginning to recognize them after all the walking I have done here. They began to introduce themselves over cookies and tea and I sat between two older ladies and listened intently to Charles’ story. I loved it.

I had forgotten how wonderful it is to hear a story well told, one that has direction, and turns, funny parts and serious parts. But the best aspect was our togetherness in listening to the tale, shoulder to shoulder, laughs and gasps mixing, thoughts and questions and the teasing of the teller. I began to notice how well everyone knows everyone and it struck me that I am pretty much the only one in the room who doesn’t know the story already. That’s when a big epiphany hit me. They came to hear the story again, to relive a part of their collective history.

I’m thinking this is what it means to have the gift of connection. This linked feeling of structure and sharing. It’s an extended family, where truly no one is alone, ever. That sense of belonging among non related people is so hopeful, so beautiful. I am reminded of listening to folks chat in the grocery store or at Gaffer’s about what jobs they are doing. Everyone has a sort of hodge podge of tasks which occupies their working lives seasonally, as in the old days when a worker’s efforts matched the growing and the harvest. This sense of season, of a connection to place even in its changing, overpowers everything here and I want that. Why?

After the talk, I met Charles and chatted with a few people, but I left the library soon to walk home down Back Road. One thing I love here is having to carry a flashlight at night.

It seems so trivial, so small, but the fact that I need to have this tiny light just for me, like a lantern, makes me feel significant.

Walking home, the wind is gentle and it is so quiet, so dark. I stop, look up and a star streaks across …then another…one more…. all shooting by.

Yes, I remember now. Meteor showers tonight. The houses are quiet, lit by tiny lights of their own. Stars in the air, on ground…stars all around. A path I know so well. Sandy road and small remnants of puddles. The darkness here is like no other; it’s comforting. I stop in front of houses to listen, to watch the twinkle of colored lights against soft blackness. Night in the village is not lonely. In the clear stars or in the mist and fog, the dark here is like sleep, a space to breathe in rest. Little lights in the sky, in my hand. Little houses lined with stars, on my path.

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