Where Love Abides (and Spilled Stars)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on March 24, 2020

Last night right before turning off my lap top I came across this article, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief,” which resonated deeply with what I’d been grappling with earlier in the day and hashing out with a wise friend of mine. It put me in mind, too, of this very fine skeleton of a leaf that Cotton brought in on his tail,  which ended up stuck to the blanket he sleeps on on the bed. When I saw it, I carefully picked it off, gasping at its intricacy, at the whole shape of it still intact, and I placed it on my nightstand as a beautiful reminder of the exquisite beauty of what the Japanese call Wabi Sabi, flawed beauty, or  “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay” (an apt phrase which appeared when asking Google for a definition). I have long been a devotee of wabi sabi, long before I was familiar with the term.

Amidst the worldwide crisis we are all experiencing, it felt as good a time as any to honor this beauty in the flawed and in fact to court beauty in all its forms–even those couched in profound shock and grief. Just as this crisis was making itself felt in my corner of the world, a much looked forward to visit and birthday celebration had to be postponed, as I wrote about in the post “Until We Meet Again.”

When I am disappointed or bereft of anticipated human connection, and as a result of spending a lot of time alone over the years (and for the most part enjoying that solitude), I have come to allow objects around my house to give me cheer when the ones who do that in person can’t be around. In fact the objects are cheering often because they elicit memories of shared happiness. One of these objects is my strong of “starfish lights.” I got these during my first Christmas season at the coast when I was still at the trailer and though my son and daughter-in-law were to come out for part of our Christmas celebration, there was no room for a tree and no ornaments in my possession that weren’t in Portland. So I went with a good friend to the Christmas Store in Lincoln City–(yes there’s a store here that specializes in everything ornamental for the holidays and is open all year) where I found the starfish lights. They happily hung on the mantle in the trailer behind the little wood stove for our Christmas festivities.

When I moved to my permanent home here, it was February, but still, I put up the starfish lights to brighten a hearth with a damaged firebox that would have to be replaced and repaired before I put a heat source in it. They looked like they always belonged there. In the last 3 years I’ve been through a few strings of lights, but they still twinkled on. The plastic starfish snap onto the lights to stay in place. So when just the morning after we had to postpone seeing each other I woke up to darkened starfish, and thought to myself, well there’s a metaphor if ever there was one.

I went to the cupboard where months before I had put an additional string of lights I’d purchased with the right number, and what I thought were the right size to snap onto the starfish. But when I tried to do that, I discovered the base of each light was too small, and the starfish fell right off. Not only that, but the distance between each light was much more short, making it impossible to string them across the mantel even if they did fit.

I was crestfallen. It seemed like a gloomy sign of the times. For at least a day or two, I left the nest of naked lights on, next to the darkened star fish. But then I had an inspiration. I decided to arrange the starfish in a way that would allow them to be lit up by the too-small lights. They certainly couldn’t hang like a conventional string of lights, but they could be arranged horizontally, “spilling” over a basket full of tarot cards and runes on the hearth:

It occurs to me now as I write about them that in this arrangement these campy plastic interpretations of starfish have returned to a position more like their real life partners out in the tidal pools. This epiphany is comforting to me, and soothing. It gives the loss of the way they used to be a a lovely cast of meaning, even in the wistfulness that comes with the knowledge  there will be no rides to the Christmas Store anytime soon to remedy the situation.

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My mother’s favorite George Carlin routine was something called “Sending Away,” which made great fun of the days when we saved box tops from cereal to await the fulfillment of a mysterious offer. Although most of us “send away” online all the time, the shut downs have made that even more pressing. A friend posted a set of restorative yoga poses online and I was deeply impressed with the big bolsters used to accomplish these poses, which are touted to open up the chest and strengthen the respiratory system, the immune system, and more. It felt like a really good thing to add to my yoga practice, so I gave myself the gift of ordering one. And frankly, I’m absolutely in love with it. It allows me to add these poses to my practice and it’s also a great support to my lower back when I sit in meditation in the morning, allowing me to do that a little longer, or, when I’m tired, at all. And doing the poses gives me more energy and lift in my day. In fact I’m so thrilled with the bolster facilitating all this that I gave it a name–Pearl–and I sketched it in honor of that, something I haven’t done in a while, so I could share it here with you:

“Yoga Bolster Life Sketch,” by Maria Theresa Maggi

I also ordered a couple of foam bricks, which haven’t arrived yet. So in the meantime, I’m using a couple of extra “chill pills” I made over the holidays and after as neck supports. They are simply large knitted pill shapes, stuffed with polyfil and decorated with the words “chill” on one half of the pill and a little face on the other. I’d love to say I thought of this myself, but it is the genius of a loom knitting friend in a group I’m in. I laughed so hard when I first saw it as a post she made suggesting it as a last minute gift that I made one for our family Christmas get together. I gave some as gifts and even ended up taking a few orders before all this virus pandemic settled in. I’ve named the two that help me out “Merle” (to go with “Pearl”)and “Shirley” (who sleeps on the bed with Cotton and me).

Perhaps such detail to silly minutia is a sign of my privilege–and I am indeed lucky that I have the resources to stay at home and order what I need or be grateful for those who can drive to bring me my groceries or other necessities. Nevertheless, I am a big believer in the little things making a big difference, and so I court them with abandon.

Finally, even without new or old objects to brighten your days mostly indoors, I’m reminded of this epiphany I had that helped me recognize how to shift feelings that would otherwise only weigh me down and hold me back if I focused on them. This came to me before the virus came to us the way it is now, and at the time I wrote it down, I was aware it could apply to much bigger scenarios than the example I dramatized below. For context, I will explain that in mythology, Chariklo is the centaur Chiron’s wife. Chiron is the archetype of the wounded healer in Astrology as well as mythology, and he is assigned to one of the asteroids in the asteroid belt. Chariklo’s asteroid was not discovered and named as such until much later but we need her now more than ever. She signifies the quiet presence of love abiding during powerful and heart wrenching life and death transitions. I was moved to discover she sits right on my Capricorn sun in my birth chart and so from that perspective perhaps this is one of the reasons why I am so willing to find the good, to birth joy from sorrow while allowing the sorrow and the hurt their due. May the blessing of love abiding be yours today and in the coming days through this worldwide experience of uncertainty, hardship and deep change. Let us, with Chariklo, midwife the love and the light we find, bringing it into the world to shine, and to heal.

“When you’ve been through a difficult transition with someone, even betrayal or heartbreak, Chariklo resides in that space of whatever good memory you have. Even if it is just a moment or a few moments in years of difficulty, she is there to remind you that love abides, right alongside betrayal. Because she excels in creating that sacred space, she doesn’t require you to pick one or the other. But when you let your consciousness abide in the love, from whatever safe boundaries are necessary in the physical world, your spirit and your whole being can begin to heal.

I thought of this on our walk this morning when I said to Cotton as we rounded a corner to go down the hill to the ocean “Let’s go see Mother Pacifica.” A friend here calls her that and I loved it so much because it’s so true to the way I feel that I’ve adopted the name and often refer to the ocean that way, at least to Romeo and Cotton. That name puts me in a place of reverence and gratitude for the moment, and it is a gift that keeps on giving in that way. It also prompts me to remember the daily visits this retired nurse made me when I was at my most sick last Spring, gently listening to what I said and carefully watching for whatever she could do to help. With her training in a hands on healing technique, she buoyed up my energy for over a week.

I don’t see this friend often anymore. In fact, I’ve been disappointed there hasn’t been more follow through when we text about getting together. But when I say “Mother Pacifica,” Chariklo returns me to that place of love and gratitude, and even the delight of the first day I met this friend, who tells me I was the very first person she met here, when she had come to look for a new home, as she tripped coming up from the steps to the beach. She had been so embarrassed and I, after making sure she was alright, laughed to tell her how I do things like that all the time and she was making me feel really good about not being the only one.

On balance, in this small case, there’s more in that loving space of remembrance than there is in the cramped hurts about why I might not have been invited along here or why she didn’t follow through there. It doesn’t disallow those feelings or dishonor them; it’s just way more comfortable to observe them from the space Chariklo creates for perspective. Even if the stakes are so much higher and more painful or dangerous, and the betrayal very real and lasting, Chariklo waits for us in that space of the love we gave—because love given, no matter the outcome, is love received by the one who gives it.”

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica Lake March 25, 2020 at 10:16 am

Thank you, Maria – that was just what I needed to read today. Take care.

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi March 25, 2020 at 10:24 am

Bless you, Erica–you take care, too.

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3 Susan Wright March 25, 2020 at 11:27 am

nice

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4 Maria Theresa Maggi March 26, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Thanks Susan 🙂

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5 Gena March 26, 2020 at 1:00 pm

So beautiful, Maria. I love this idea of allowing household objects to be company at moments when interpersonal connection is scarce! It deepens and sweetens what I was feeling last weekend, my appreciation of the home space I have and the fact that “quarantine,” for me, means being in a safe and cherished place. The starfish arrangement is gorgeous, spilling toward the floor as it does. And I laughed that Shirley is now joined by Merle 🙂

It’s so difficult to allow the memory of love and goodness to abide when there has also been hurt or loss. I’m impressed that you can think about this so generously and write about it that way. Thank you for the invitation to let the experience of love live on.

xoxo

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6 Maria Theresa Maggi March 26, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Thanks, Gena. Yes those of us who have a safe and cherished place are very lucky at this time. I’m so glad you liked my thoughts about objects and the starfish placement, and that I gave you a laugh about Pearl and Merle! Yes, it can be a challenge to let love abide when there is hurt or loss. It’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate how to let that happen while keeping the boundaries and not being in denial about what has happened. Still at it–it’s a practice . . .xoxoxo

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