There is just one life for each of us: our own. Euripides
It came to me in a flash while running on my favorite trail back in June. As I jogged along under a canopy of brilliant green leaves, it unfurled in my mind in the bold colors of early summer. It’s not like all the pieces were in place on that mid-morning jaunt, but the focus of topic was clear and I was certain of one thing: I knew what was going to be on the cover of my next book, and I knew the book’s title. And when an idea as fresh as a summer morning rushes in with the breeze, it pays to take action. And that’s what I did right there on the trail beside a meadow scattered with blooming irises; I called Stephanie, my layout and design buddy at Globe Printing. “I’ve got it!” I cried into the phone. I was full of gusto! I was full of my blazing brainstorm! “I’m Not Too Much For Me!!!” I blurted out in a decibel which might have been a little too much, a little too loud for the person on the other end of this impromptu call. “That’s the title of the next book! ” I continued in my big booming outdoor voice. “And that little girl photo of me, the one with the mischievous grin and the missing tooth, we’ll put it on the cover!” I was on fire with the idea of my fiery new project.
That was in June, before family came to visit and the summer called me outward and the book that I’d been working on for nearly a year, the one that I thought was ready to go to print, needed more attention. By early July, the new idea with the full-of-myself cover, the one that had seemed ready to boil over, had lost some of its bubbles. It wasn’t just the busy-ness of a busy summer that dampened my enthusiasm; it was something else. Something was missing as I thought about this potential project. The missing piece certainly wasn’t the topic. I don’t just write about living full-out; I strive to live this topic. And I certainly have an abundance of material — essays and poems and stories fill a sea-grass box in my creativity room’s closet. So, if not the subject matter, I wondered what it was that kept me from jumping up and down and hooting and hollering and perhaps being too much for those around me when contemplating, I’m Not Too Much For Me!!! It was something about the process that was seeming flat and boring. I wondered where the edge was, the excitement, the flying through the air thrill. It was the process of laying out the book I’ve just completed that made this project so darn fun; it was the playing with my buddy at Globe Printing and my friend Muriel in Maine; it was the gathering of Mom’s recipes from my siblings and the copies of her paintings; it was the connecting with Mom herself in this tangible poignant way more than a year after her passing that set my spirit flying. And so, how can I set my spirit flying with this new topic, I wondered, this topic that focuses on setting my spirit flying. I wanted a structure that excited me and I wanted playmates to join me on the journey.
And now, months later, with the nip of late autumn in the air and a hard frost covering the ground, I’m ready for some inner warmth, ready to light up with my new project. I still don’t have the structure, the “something” that will provide a framework for my writings. And that’s okay; I’m confident it will come, perhaps in another flash, maybe this time as I skate-ski on the trails that will soon be coated with snow, and when it does come, you can be sure that I’ll grab my cell phone and right there in the snowy woods, I’ll give my layout buddy a big booming call. And in the meantime, I’ve found a playmate, someone who from Day One encouraged me to live full-out. It was last summer, during the July of family and our trip back to my childhood home state of Maine that I remembered. We were in the car, my thirty-year-old son Chris, his fiancé Diana and I, heading downriver toward our family’s land by the sea when Chris asked me about my father. “You never talk about Grandpa Ernie,” he said. “Tell us some things.” And I did. I told them that he walked with a spring in his step, that he played with language and made up words, that he hauled the brush from the woods and kept our paths to Sister Point clear and wide, that he made us a raft for the cove from pieces of driftwood, and that he drew people to him with his friendly smile, his listening ear, the mischievous twinkle in his eye, his generosity. What I didn’t say that day in the car, what I hadn’t put into words yet, was that my father “got” me, that I don’t remember a time while growing up that I was too much for him.
And maybe when you feel you have lost a parent in your late teens, one who “got” you, it takes some time to realize that he isn’t really lost and that you can talk about him, that you can talk to him. So here I am, forty years after my father’s passing, talking about him and to him. I’m realizing that it is an incredible gift for a child, one whose wide snaggle-toothed grin looks downright diabolical, one who couldn’t sit still and bit her little brother, one who was often too much for her high-strung mother, a child so full of energy that she was sometimes too much for herself as well to have a parent who mirrored back to her her awesomeness. Who mirrored back my awesomeness. I’m not sure I could write a book with the title “I’m Not Too Much For Me!!!” if it weren’t for my father’s presence. Ten years ago, while in the midst of a yoga session during my teacher training at Kripalu, after a long boot-camp-type day of activity, I was lying on my mat drawing my knees inward, wrapping my arms around myself and rocking a bit side to side. It felt good to contain myself like this, and to feel all this life, an amazing amount of it, flowing through me. In that moment, my father was present again. I remembered that he used to hold me in his big grown-up arms in this very same way, that he used to provide the container so I could feel it back then when I was small, this big booming life force, this big booming life force that I still crave on a daily basis.
So I’ll just see how it plays out, the journey forward on this project. And, in the meantime, I have the book’s cover sitting in my creativity room waiting to be filled up, and I have a father for a playmate, a father who looked though the lens of his camera, focused in, and snapped this cover photo with a grin as wide my own.