Just an Ordinary Saturday…

My new friend Joe Bunting has this amazing website called “The Write Practice.” On it, he offers advice, writes lovely essays himself, and provides interesting prompts for 15 minutes of reflective writing.  This weekend he had a doozy, generating more than 70 comments and lots of interesting response. It’s about inspiration vs. perspiration – check it out and play along. I don’t do what Joe suggested we do – jot things down in a notebook for future inspiration AND perspiration. But I did the next best thing. I just wrote for 15 minutes about the events of an ordinary Saturday. But….BUT the ending to that ordinary day was something else. And the photos that you see sprinkled throughout these words give only partial testimony to the extraordinariness of the evening. So…an ordinary day…lit by an extraordinary bit of central California coastal glory.
She sits and looks at me across the scones and tea. Tired and sad, the tears begin to gather, the jaw line begins to tense, the fingers curl.

A friend has asked for a meeting, for a listening ear, a word of encouragement.

She waits, trying to control the barrage of emotions that are washing through her as she speaks. Some are triggered by memories older than she is; some come from pieces of her own story, long before these events;  some are as fresh as today’s coffee, the scent of which is filling this public space.

I try to listen and to speak carefully, gently asking questions when I need to, offering words of comfort, making one or two suggestions.
We spend about 70 minutes together, sipping tea, wiping tears, sharing stories. I bless her at the end of our time. I bless her with the words of Aaron and I hold her hands and cry out silently from deep inside myself; I cry out the ancient words of the blind man by the side of the road, the words of the leper on the way, the words of the woman who grabbed the hem of his garment. I cry out to the God who made us both: Have mercy, Lord. Have mercy.
Then I drive across town. Through the traffic, the road work, the line-up for the downtown farmer’s market, the red lights and the green ones. I pull into the underground parking, find a place to park and ride the elevator up to the first floor to look at shoes.

The bane of my existence. 

Nothing fits. Nothing is comfortable. Nothing ever works.

But today, I find some fur-lined clogs that are PERFECT. And I stride upstairs, able to walk in something other than Asics running shoes for the first time in several weeks. Triumph!

There’s a baby shower this afternoon – a last-minute invitation that was a bit awkward. As the former (now retired) associate pastor, people are often a bit uncertain. Should we or shouldn’t we? This mother-in-law decided to go for it and I am happy to be included.

And I love shopping for baby things. Yes, I do. I’m not ashamed to admit it – I love it. So I pick up several adorable tiny things for this little-girl-to-be and leave them to be wrapped while I walk across the third floor to the restaurant.

Lunch. That’s exactly what I need! A salad, a tall, cool glass of water, a Cookie Royale. Sigh. I spread out the paperwork I’ve printed and look at all the possible writing assignments I can sign onto for this month. One deadline is past – that one is shoved aside. One is due within the week. Maybe. One the 31st of this month – definitely. And one the 20th of next month. Absolutely. Now I have a little direction for this writing part of my life. The salad tastes better because I did this small bit of sorting first. And the cookie – well. The best cookie ever baked, that’s all there is to it.
But as I look around me, I see something that makes my own eyes well up this winter Saturday. There is a table, just to my right, with three women at it – three generations of women, actually. A white-haired older woman – attractive, convivial, engaged; a brown-haired woman of middle age – listening to the older woman attentively; a 20-something, head moving between the two older women, shifting from one end of the conversation to another, taking a bite of lunch, pausing, pushing back the hair from the side of her face.
That was my life just about 18 months ago. My mother was stronger, saner, her beautiful, vivacious self. I and one or the other of my daughters would sit together with her, enjoying a meal or a story, listening and learning. That part of my life appears to be slipping away, along with large chunks of my mother’s mind. I miss that life.

I miss her.

A quick trip home, some furious computer work for my husband, then on to the baby shower. Always nervous entering a room full of women, I load my plate too heavily, find a place in the corner and sit and watch for a while. Again, I am struck by the connections across the generations. The women in this room range from early 20’s to late 60’s. They have gathered from near and far to offer gifts to a newly forming female child, to shower love on someone they have yet to meet. 
So, I forcibly relegate the rising tide of inadequacy, timidity, and wondering-if-I-will-ever-really-belong-anywhere feelings to the room called ‘pointless noise’ in my brain. Instead, I choose to think about the blessing. The gift that is womanhood, the privilege of being a mother or an aunt or a grandmom, the joys of shared stories, shared experiences, mutual memories. And I offer up a breath of thanks for it all – the chatter, the scent of tea, the savory and the sweet on my plate, the love offerings wrapped in pink.
As I leave, the sun is beginning to color the sky. The mission is nearby, so I swing by there, struck by the clear view of the channel and the outlying islands. I grab my camera, swing into a parking spot and stand on the Old Mission steps just as mass is over. Snap. Snap. Gasp.
Then I race across town, down through the ravine to the state beach. Too late for the most dramatic of the evening’s color, the view is still breathtaking. University Point to my right, Santa Cruz Island to my left, the huge expanse of Hendry’s Beach in front of me. 

And suddenly my ordinary Saturday is anything but. Rose and gold on the water, twinkling lights in the distance, stripes of sky and sea and sand, piled on top of one another like a horizontal crazy quilt, as the crisp winter wind reminds me to breathe out. Glory be.

And Hallelujah.
Added on a couple of photos of the winter flora at the Old Mission, viewed in the fading light – just because I felt like it. Joining these meanderings with Laura B and LL B for their weekly memes at “The Wellspring” and “Seedlings in Stone,” respectively. And also with Heather at “The Extraordinary Ordinary,” and her invitation to JustWrite:
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  1. Your photos are exquisite–they took my breath away–and your stories tugged at my heart. Your stories are so full of goodness and love, Diana. I always receive blessings from you and your words and photos.

    (I enjoy following Joe on his blog, too.)


  2. From the woman whose tears you shared and the prayer you lifted to this right here…

    I forcibly relegate the rising tide of inadequacy, timidity, and wondering-if-I-will-ever-really-belong-anywhere feelings to the room called ‘pointless noise’ in my brain. Instead, I choose to think about the blessing….

    These make you superbly ordinary and very loved. Thank you for putting words to what most of us feel and giving us the right place to put them. Into the room called pointless noise.

    Why, oh why, do I live in Michigan? Your photos are anything but ordinary, Diana. =)

  3. What a blessing you were to your friend in need, Diana. And now I offer my prayers and blessing to you, as you miss your mom and grieve for what is lost. Love you.

  4. Oh friends, thanks so much for your good words. It was an amazing ending to a good day. Always struck by how God shows up in the middle of the real, the everyday, the ordinary.

  5. It snowed last night, for the first time since the freak snowstorm that took out power for a week in October. I’m so done with winter and, in my heart, I’m at the beach already. Then I see your gorgeous pics. How I would love to sit and drink tea with you and have you pronounce Aaronic blessings over me, then wander down to a beach and commiserate over how shoe-shopping really is no fun for tall women with large feet.

    Beautiful, Diana. I’ve been following Joe Bunting’s website too, but haven’t followed through with his prompts. Maybe I should.

  6. Diana, your VIEWS! A thousand words with every photo and I think I’m full for the day . . .

    My heart is leaning into the losses with your mum and offering a prayer.


  7. What an amazing ordinary/not ordinary day you have just shared with us. The ups and downs, the joys the sorrows.

    I like you … a lot.


  8. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and am in awe of the photos and the words … They resonate so deeply with me … Please please continue to “use your words”…

  9. Such a touching post.

    I understood the mourning over who your mother once was. Thanksgiving seemed so troubling to me. My Dad is no long the Dad I knew. The dementia is robbing him (and us) of his sense of humor and his unending patience with his great-grandchildren.

    I thought I was the only one with the “wondering-if-I-will-ever-really-belong-anywhere”. And the dreaded feeling of walking into a room full of people.

    We do need to reach out and see the blessing. There is almost always one out there, if we are looking for it.

  10. So very remarkable; both your words and your images.

  11. Oh, Diana. Anything but ordinary. I want to sit with you under a blessing one day. Just your description brought tears. Have mercy. And these photos are amazing! Lovely, so lovely. I must go see your friend and find out about these writing prompts…

  12. Not ordinary at all, neither your day nor the photos… amazing in their “just right” timing! You are a talented writer and photographer, Diana, being used by God to meet needs other than your own.

  13. Laughing at Nancy here over shared frustration over shoe shopping. I’ll join in. Except that this tall woman with large feet doesn’t shoe-shop. I order online. 😉

    Diana, aside of the gorgeous photos and the way my heart is simply moved by your interactions here, I’m taken by the blessing. We kind of toss that word around, you know? We’re blessed, they’re blessed, what a blessing. But you intentionally bestow a blessing here. You blessed with words. And for reasons I don’t know how to explain that leaves me a bit motionless. In a good way. Thank you, Diana, for the way you love and care.

  14. More kind words – thank you, one and all. And Lyla, I order on line sometimes, too, but I usually end up sending them back. Comes from too many pounds for two many years – bad knees, bad feet.

    And you’re right. The word ‘blessing’ has become almost hackneyed. And that’s a shame, because it’s a particular favorite of mine. It sums up so much of what is good and true and life-giving. So I think I’ll continue to use it. And also try to live it.