Take a deep breath. You’ll get through this day. It’s kind of lumpy, I know; but you have so many sisters who love you. Think of them. Focus. You’ve come too far to falter.
I repeat this mantra over and over on days such as today. As the sun settles on the far horizon, over Mt, Diablo, I feel drawn to thank all of the amazing women who have gotten me through the last four years. Bear with me. This could take a while.
Here’s to you, Brenda. You came late to my life but just in time to rescue me from a bitter nugget on which I had been choking. You strode past the porch where I sat molting and pulled me into the sunshine with your practical good cheer. In your honor, i went today and got a library card in Rio Vista.
I raise my glass to Katrina, who dug each hole in which I buried a broken splinter of my heart. You planted columbine, impatiens, and lilies in the soil where my spirit slept. You awakened my joy with your persistence and your patience. I nurture the plants in my tiny garden thinking of you. And lest you think that I have forgotten, you also shared your daughters with me, Jennie and Caitlin, and opened my eyes to the special bond of women in another generation.
I owe so much to you, Pat, my Yorkie-loving friend. You give me your faith, your admiration, and your attention. Your saucy tongue and your understanding dance across the wires with such keen timing that I often wonder if you have a portal to my soul.
And Miss Jeanne. What can I say to you? It seems our friendship grew more after I came to California than it did in all the years we knew each other in Missouri. You believe in me in ways that I have never done and no one else has ever done. I did not forget you.
No sister-tribute could overlook Lyne’t, my twin sister from a darker mother. Your robust laughter, your warm embrace, the twinkle in your eye, the sure step of your vibrant dance — these sustain me, even now, even two thousand miles from your best intentions.
A quiet nod across that same distance to Elizabeth, who knows what I do not; who often sees what I overlook; and whose quiet, careful regard for me shone like a candle in more than one dark hour.
I can’t find the words for my devotion to Paula K-V. You have shown me so much tenderness. By your words, in your silence, with your arms and hands and eyes, you have brought me from the brink and kept me safe.
Penny — no, I would not omit you. You often knew that my pain could not be soothed with words, and so you poured another cup of coffee, another mug of tea, and sat yourself down to glow in the gloom of my desperation. What’s more, you brought me into the circle of your world. Through you, I met so many other sisters, including sweet Angela, whose music calms me even when I only hear the notes inside my head. And Cindy, beside whom I never fail to smile.
No tribute list could be complete without Kimberley, my sister leopard with her charming spots. You placed your feet upon the same path where I now walk with more conviction because your spirit abides with me even though our roads diverged.
To Jane, I send undying gratitude. You knew that you could not give me solutions, but you offered steps, and methods, and an unbroken life line. You cannot be blamed for my failing hands, or the blind eye with which I shunned your kindest suggestions.
Genevieve turned her lens on beauty which I still find difficulty acknowledging. She held her arm out in just the right way to break my fall. She showed me that love defies definition, and that I have, in fact, added value in the lives of others. Along with Genevieve, Samantha gave me sweetness and the delicacy of her images. I raise my eyes and feel the peace in each flower.
Lori and Kristen showed me that I can walk a foreign path and find a comforting oasis. The two of you have encountered so much sorrow. And yet, you rise! You rise!
Ruthie offered devotion even though she knew that I strained to accept my worthiness. And something more: A vision of life after devastation. Ruthie, my lovely friend, thank you for your example of believing.
Mary never forgets to tender a message of love, and light, and acceptance. I read those messages, my friend, even when I cannot bring myself to answer. Your constant presence comforts me.
And oh, Jenna — did you think that I could perform this recitation without recalling our wild trip across the state? You were the first to lay eyes on Angel’s Haven! Oh no, my girl; you too receive my gratitude. You showed me a new way of viewing life, for which I am so much the richer. As did all the ladies of our Rotary Club, come to that. Season, and Laura, and Katie, and Janette, and Bayley, and the other Jenna, and Robin. And even, through her mysterious husband, the indomitable spirit of Dr. Carolyn Karr. There is no way on earth I can remember all of them. They know. They remember everything we shared.
Stretching back — to St. Louis — Jeanne Serra, who came back into my life after decades and brought angels with her; and Diana, who left so long ago but never forgot, even to welcoming my son into her home despite the decades and distance between us.
This list could continue. I fear that I will forget someone. It could include the new women in my life — Sharon and Ellen, who share the ocean with me; and Pattie, Macrina, and Christina, and all the other ladies of this place which I now call home. And it must expand by three. So many women have become my sisters-by-choice, but I have three other sisters: Ann, Adrienne, and Joyce — sisters to the core, by our blood, by our shared DNA and the fabric of our childhood. I can barely breathe for measuring the ways which each has loved me. Not a day goes by without a call from Joyce, or a little note from Adrienne, or a gift from Ann. I never once regretted being the youngest girl. My big sisters keep me sane, if sane I can even claim to be.
I’m not dying; nor have I decided to throw in the towel. It’s just this: As I drove down Jackson Slough today, the light glinted off the old cultivator which I’ve longed to photograph in the fullness of the western sun. I drove past, telling myself, today was not the day. Then I made a sharp turn in an old culvert, turned around, and pulled into the farmer’s field. I don’t know yet if I got anything decent enough to share. My sight blurred with the sudden rise of tears, thinking of home, of my tribe, of the women who wove themselves through the rich fabric of the shawl with which I warm myself each night.
Thank you. Thank you all.
It’s the fifteenth day of the fifty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Just a few of my sisters, by choice and birth.