Meditation on Autumn Equinox

Long before a turning point is evident, tiny shifts lead to change: The last cut of the axe before a tree falls, the gathering force of an avalanche before it lets go, the final few cells piling up to a clot that blocks flow and becomes the stroke, the gradual loosening of a sleepy child’s fingers before the toy slides to the floor, the droop and dangle of a leaf before it drops, the new insight added to insight as a mind is changed. 

At autumn equinox, a near balance is struck when day and night are almost the same length before the northern hemisphere tilts toward winter. Minutes of daylight have been slipping away since June, and September’s days, though still sunny, are cooler. I don’t welcome the coming darkness, but accept it. And autumn has its compensations: apples, fires, and glorious colors.

Connections

Tomorrow I’ll join my extended family for a weekend gathering we jokingly call ShrinerFest. Because of COVID it’s been three years since my three siblings, their children, grandchildren, my sons, and all of our spouses have gathered, although I did see my siblings in person last year. In the intervening time, many important events have taken place off-stage, away from the full circle of family.

One niece announced her engagement. A nephew got engaged to a woman some of us haven’t had the opportunity to meet. Our two sons married in small COVID-style weddings. A niece and her husband welcomed their first child earlier this year. My second oldest brother and his wife had a rough year. She and their son-in-law experienced bad fractures requiring surgery and rehab. My sister-in-law also had a close family member die of cancer.

Despite the distance (we are spread across five states) we’ve all done our best to stay connected via text and calls. We’ve congratulated each other about joyful events and commiserated about the hard times. We would have preferred to visit in person, but we did what we could manage, and our connections stayed strong. 

I expect our weekend together will encompass lots of storytelling, silliness, and good food. Cousins who are scattered across the Midwest and are still getting to know each other will likely bond over fantasy football or the best way to cook a Beyond burger. No doubt we’ll talk about wedding plans and new houses. 

My two older brothers, younger sister and I will fall into familiar patterns. Although our interests, politics, and religious views aren’t always aligned, we’ll focus on what we have in common and try to avoid topics that jangle nerves! 

As always in this group of 25, there will be emotional cross-currents. Sometimes grievances might get aired quietly off to the side (Why’d she say___? I can’t believe he did that!) After all, we are still family and although there is a lot of love, there are also strong personalities. 

As we drive away I expect to be tired, but I’ll let the good moments sink in. We’ll talk over whatever changes—for better or worse—we see in the extended family. I might be shaking my head over some new development. But no matter what, I’ll be grateful we were able to be together again, fostering connections and cementing our ties.

The WordSisters Celebrate 10 Years of Inviting You into Our Lives

In 2012, when Elizabeth and I launched WordSisters, we weren’t sure where this adventure would take us or if we could keep up the discipline of posting once a week. Our original motivation was attracting agents and publishers, but soon we were blogging for the pleasure of writing. We had things to say and stories to share. 10 years later we’re still writing!

Through the years, more sisters in writing joined us: Cynthia and Bev are regular contributors, while Brenda, Jill, Jean and Rosemary have occasionally posted. 

Our insights arise from our lives—mothering, working, aging, living through COVID, reacting to events in the news, planning our futures and setting goals. I’m proud of the breadth of topics we’ve covered and the connections we’ve made with strangers all over the world . 

Most of all I’m proud of us for persisting. For being here long after many bloggers have faded away. 

One of our strengths is the variety of voices, styles, and subject matter each of us brings. In that spirit, here is a collection of best-of posts. I hope you’ll enjoy sampling them. 

Thank you for being our readers.

Ellen

No More Guilt with Every Bite 

What Work Would I Do if I Were an Immigrant?

Elizabeth

I Didn’t Come This Far

Until It Becomes Personal

Cynthia

Shake the Marbles

Broken Dreams

Bev

Let the Hope Shine

When It Comes to Your Age, Do You Share? 

Brenda

Confessions of a Pandemic Parent

I’m (Not) Sorry

Jill

Opposing Thumbs

Living with a Freshman College Student

Prior to our daughter leaving for college, Jody and I hosted a self-defense class in our front yard with Crystel and other young women who would also be leaving for school in a few short weeks.

Addressing the girls, the instructor said something like, You will drink. Then he looked at the parents and said, Your daughters will drink. They will go to parties.

That’s not going to happen, I thought. Not our girl.

Directing himself back to the young ladies, he said, How will you keep yourself safe? 

Fast forward. Sixteen weeks into her freshman year, I was shocked when I learned she had discovered drinking, gummy worms, and the sweet smell of liquid THC.

I had to ask myself, What did I think she was doing in college? After much thought and self-reflection, my answer was, Making choices.

I recalled my college years. I had attended parties. I had made choices.

It was her decision, would always be her decision, whether to attend parties and imbibe.

I was not ready for my college student to come home different than how I had sent her. She was always independent but now even more so. She had her own agenda which did not include her parents.

I realized that it was me who needed to adjust. She was growing up. She was adulting.

What finally gave me comfort is coming back to my center. Looking at my choices. My growth. Knowing that my daughter now had the very same opportunities that I did.

I’m writing this blog while she’s practicing Clair de Lune on the piano. I watch her hands move across the keyboard. Clair de Lune, soothing and calming, turbulent and emotional. Sad and triumphant. A perfect backdrop for my emotions.

Coming back to writing, I know without a doubt, What’s important, absolutely the most important, is for me to be there when she calls, and, in between, to enjoy the sweet music that she makes.

Crystel has approved this blog.

National Day of Mourning

Is it time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun violence victims?

Think about that.

Memorial Day I wrote a piece about how children’s funerals create memories that cannot be forgotten and my difficulty in finding peace in my relationship with God. Sitting in a neighborhood church the evening of September 11, 2001, feels like the last time the ritual of praying and singing in community brought calm. The day the world changed, and innocent people became the hunted of those with evil in their plans.

 My final paragraph of the original work was my main message: If there is a way to create calm or comfort for those mourning in Uvalde, please let that happen. For the near future, lets put guns in the safes and do gun related political theater in backrooms. These are days to stand with the grieving and honor the children and their teachers. 

Tuesday stats about gun violence across the country over Memorial Weekend were published. Wednesday a lone gunman took lives in Tulsa. And local schools cancelled their last days of school because of shooter threats. Babies being buried in one state and grieving beginning in others. The circle doesn’t close. Violent gun carriers, particularly those with assault guns, don’t give us a day off.

Perhaps it is time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun victims. Place the day somewhere in a quiet month like March where it won’t morph into a cookout festival. And make it a Wednesday so the travel industry won’t advertise three-day weekends in happy places. Mark the day as special by pairing it with a mandatory national service initiative. Support those who grieve and remember the potential our nation lost in each of those unnatural deaths. If there is no way to control the killing, let us at least honor our dead and remember their names.