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The Autumnal Equinox

                                           Last rose petals linger....                                                               ...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Christmas Ever

                          sand, ice, surf                     dee ‘13

I heard someone describe a 1945 USO Christmas program on a carrier hundreds of miles off shore, two days before Pearl Harbor -- as the best Christmas ever.  That got me to thinking about which Christmas I would describe as my best ever Christmas.  I thought of one from childhood when my entire family had the flu. Somehow, we stumbled out of bed for gifts and eggnog, then it was back to bed for us.  We laugh about that miserable day with almost fond recollection.  I pictured the Christmas when my husband and I didn’t have the extra money to spend on a tree.  We were stunned to return from an outing to be greeted with a tree, all trimmed out. Our neighbors had snuck in and placed a balsam fir, lights, decorations and yes, tinsel, in our living room.  It was one of those rare moments that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. However, as I thumb through my memories, this Christmas stands out from all the others as the Best Christmas Ever. 

My family is gathered together; this alone is an occasion that I always celebrate. On whole, we’ve been bumped and bruised, untethered and even lost, this year.  Yet, we all managed to find our way back to one another for this day. Beyond the holy religious symbolism of the day, Christmas is a sacred day for me.... probably because the shortest day of the year has given way to longer days. The Winter Solstice guarantees growing light with each day that our planet moves toward the Spring Solstice. With that waxing light, comes hope. It has been proven an immutable truth in my book of Things that are True that light follows darkness.  Whatever the darkness, no matter how bleak the despair, Light cometh.  And as my family gathers together today, I am brimming with hope for a new year with new beginnings;  one in which we each find the light we need to illuminate our paths as we move confidently forward.   

Sunday, December 15, 2013


                                            BEAUTY                                           dee
           I have never thought of myself as beautiful.  My mother told me that I was, but honestly, isn’t that what mothers do? My grandmother, who was always known for stating her truths boldly and with little filtering, said, “Dawn, you are a handsome woman. I can’t say you are beautiful.” Saying that I was “handsome” is a solar system away from being beautiful. There was a sting in her observation. I felt my fate was cast; I was handsome. My short-lived dreams of resembling  Katherine Hepburn gave way to the knowledge that I was in a league with, say..... Bob Hope. There is a story that we assemble about ourselves as we grow up.  Mine was that I was attractive, sort of. 
When I asked a cosmetic surgeon (who was removing a suspicious mole from my face)
what he might do if I wanted say... a refresher, he said, “Take you glasses off.  Okay, turn left. Now, right.”  He paused for about fifteen seconds until he uttered his prognosis, “Here’s what to do.  Put your glasses on.”  The point I am trying to make is that I have never seen myself as beautiful. I have had moments, brief, passing glimpses, when a camera has caught me and I can see something the that doesn’t exist in the version I carry of myself. My version of me is best compared to an old wallet snapshot that has faded to yellow, been sat upon and is both wrinkled and distressed. 
       For reasons that I can not guess, I have had the most unusual thing happen recently. Numerous, unrelated, people have been telling me that I am a beautiful woman. I am not wholly sure what that means. I think they are entirely sincere, however. I suspect that they mean both my visage and my  spirit.  This single thought, “I might be beautiful!” is liberating, surprising, uplifting and, if I’m honest, ridiculous!  If I am so bold as to change up the statement to “I AM BEAUTIFUL,” an entirely new universe opens to me.  I feel like I am carrying the best secret in the whole world. One I never knew existed.  l found myself looking into the mirror this morning with more curiosity than I have shown since I was sixteen. What do people see exactly?
     I know my smile is in good shape. My lips are my mother’s: the top one is thin, the lower is slightly more full.  My teeth are straight after the kind intervention of my friend, Bruce. His orthodontic skills, braces and time, left my teeth aligned and even. Gone is the one eye tooth that, at one time, overlapped on its neighbor just ever so slightly.  I am true to my retainers and my smile stays fixed and wide.  
     My nose was a source of some concern for my son when he was younger. He asked me if, when he grew up, would his nose be as big as mine? I allayed his fears while secretly wondering if I might, indeed, end up looking like I might be related to Jimmy Durante. It a a long, straight proboscis, with flared oval nostrils. I imagine it as the Rockies that divides the left side of my face from the right.  Resting on either side of my nose, that Great Divide, are two, high cheekbones. I have had people guess my nationality based on those cheekbones.  I think they are a bit obvious because I am a thin woman, and there is not a lot of padding there.  
     I worked at a cosmetic chain called Merle Norman back in the eighties, The skill I brought to that job was that I could actually imagine the women, many who had never worn makeup, in Before and After shots.  In a matter of weeks, I discovered that the feature that most dramatically changed a woman’s appearance were her eyes. I had a sketch pad that was printed with the outline of a face on every page. I would use the eyeliners and eye shadow to sketch out my ideas for each woman.  Eight out of ten times, the women would give me the green light. I would pull out all the magic pens, paints, powders, salves and lotions.  My very own eyes are directly from my father’s family.  The shape and rich brown color are uniquely Evans. Nothing to say about that except genetics. Deep set, slightly too close - creating a very narrow bridge upon which to set those glasses the cosmetic surgeon recommended.  I watched as my mother aged, the slight folds of skin above her eyes began to droop. I wanted to show her how to use eye shadow to counter that effect.  She did not want to hear a word about makeup, so I kept my counsel to myself.  Now I can benefit from it as I see the same effect of gravity at work upon my brown eyes. I remember my grandmother painting on her eyebrows. She made me promise to, “Make sure my eyebrows are on before they bury me.”  She was only half-joking.  I had no idea that the scarcity of eyebrow hairs was a side-effect of menopause.  My own brows are thinner than they once were. I avoid tweezing and plucking with a deliberate appreciation for preservation of my brows.  My eyelashes are not the sweeping, long variety. However, they serve their purpose and I am grateful they are plentiful enough that, when the spirit moves me, I may apply black-brown mascara.
     These features are set in an rather long, oval face. My skin shows the effects of sun, the day-to-day grind of living and lots and lots of laughter.  It retains elasticity that is unusual at my age. One of the positive claims that I can make as a result of a flaw in my collagen production is that my skin, purportedly, is more youthful than average for someone my age.  Whether that is part of the mystery of my recent “Beautiful” accolades, I cannot surmise. I have tried looking in the mirror to find the answer. I stood and look for a long time. I haven’t looked in the mirror like this since I was sixteen, wondering what my boyfriend saw.
My supposition is that beauty truly resides within us. My growing belief is that whatever it is that people have been seeing in me lately is a reflection of the beauty I find around me. Perhaps I do nothing more than reflect the infinite beauty that surrounds me. It is possible to find beauty in most anything. And if I can’t? I try again.  That kind of astonishing beauty?  That kind? I look for it as I try to find my footing on a new path.  I bring with me memories, sorrow, pain and a sense of a bigger picture.  I am rediscovering the power of friendship and of family. That kind of beauty has taken hold of me and won’t let go. Perhaps, maybe, I am nothing more than a mirror of the beauty that I see and experience all around me.  That thought gives me pause to consider....

“Mirror, mirror on the Wall, am I really fair, at all?”

With surprise and reluctant acceptance, the answer I hear is that I am, well....I am - beautiful.  
Dawn with glasses.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ghosts Dance

Vineyard Sunrise  photo dee

Vineyard Sunset by dee

Hope wears many disguises.  photo dee
     I am privy to a secret; I think sometimes that, if the word were to get out, this Island would be flooded with visitors twelve months of the year, rather than just the three for which it is most famous. Martha’s Vineyard boasts a rich and wonderful panoply of both heart-wrenching and heart-lifting moments. I have fallen in love again.  The Island, with its ever-changing shores, has claimed me. This place is best described by its skies of scattered light, its plains of wind-blown, grass-flattened expanses and waters whipped to fury one day, becalmed the next. 
Last weekend, my husband’s family gathered from far and near to lay to rest one of their beloved fathers. John’s death was timely, but it was not made easier by that knowledge.   John and and his wife were constants in my life as I grew from a young woman to a wife and mother. They taught by example; John had an unerring moral compass that deeply affected how I viewed parenthood. Equally, he was a generous and kind man who loved to entertain. He taught me there is never enough red wine at a party.  He and his wife, Joyce, were godparents to my daughter.  It was hard to rally for another good bye at the moment. The funeral was rescued by the eulogy his daughter wrote. She captured his essence with humor and love. John’s young grand-daughters contributed their heartfelt reminiscences, then the congregation trundled off to the graveyard.  The same graveyard where so many of my loved ones now rest.  John and Joyce’s headstone rests across the aisle from my mother’s, and two rows away from from my godparents.  I saw the soil, sandy and light, piled high around the hole over which John’s casket sat while a priest read the last words of the service...Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.... Except all I could think was, “No. Ashes to ashes, dust to sand.” I was one of the first to turn away from the gathering to go wait in the car. If ghosts walk, they walked that day at the cemetery. I felt the presence of my past all crowded in one place.
This Island is like that. The past and the present are finely woven. The vertical threads, or the warp, is a compilation of places like Menemsha and Aquinnah and Lambert’s Cove and Goode Ave. and Peaked Hill and Edgartown and Ocean Park and the Campgrounds and West Tisbury and Chilmark and Vineyard Haven. The horizontal threads, or weft, are people whom I have loved like Elsie and Sally and Dale and John and Ken and Joyce and Debi and Richie and Susie and Mimi and Chicki and Roger and Mary and Elizabeth. I am the shuttle that joins the two threads. The resultant fabric is colorful and enduring and not a little bit wondrous.

The particular magic of this place is that even the dead dance here.  Live is as eternal as the waves, the sun, the wind, the rain, the snow and the soil. For me, the Island fabric holds both good and bad memories in tact while I can do nothing but go on continuing to weave new ones. Nothing life delivers is ever wasted, nor is anything ever lost. I hold fast to the beauty all around me. I especially like to watch the sunrise and the sunset because of something rare that happens with the light.  In that exact moment of beginning and ending, I am always reminded that all of eternity is contained within each breath we take.