Tag Archives: love

A Letter to My Grandmother

A lot has happened in the past five months that has kept me from blogging. But the most significant is the passing of my grandmother, who left us on March 11, exactly two months ago, after a brief experience with leukemia. On this Mother’s Day, I honor her and keep my promise to her by returning to this space and to writing. 

She was an angel even before death gave her wings.

***

Dearest Gramma,

Did you know when you faded that the void left by your absence would be so vast that I would not even be able to feel it? Like gravity, it would pull down down down upon all of me without my consent or awareness, enveloping everything with its subtle, unbeatable downward force. Even the heart is weighted by gravity.

Gramma, did you know that when you left I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye? That I’d be in the city you once escaped to to craft your own destiny, crafting my own. That my last words to you would be carried by waves through wires and clouds instead of through the mere zillions of atoms between your ears and my mouth had I sat beside you then. That you would not be able to reply, the cancer having stolen your voice. Did you know that I knew? But how could I say it, goodbye?

Did you know that the first thing I did when Momma told me was place my hands firmly on the ground and throw my feet up above my hips and try to do a handstand? I read once that God feels the Earth through our fingertips. Now, when I put my hands in the soil I think of you. I want you to feel life through my fingers, Gramma. I want you to touch the Earth and soak up the sun through my skin.

Did you hear me as I screamed? Driving back home for your send off, my voice bouncing off the walls of my car and back into my throat, I screamed and balled and broke. The promises I made you then I will keep. I will live for you, Gramma. I will write and I will travel and I will make art. I will let no one cage me nor tether me down. I will not settle. And I will love so fiercely and so freely that those with hate and fear in their hearts will shrink and crumble at my touch.

But—I will not forsake myself.

Did it fulfill you to love so thanklessly? Did you sacrifice out of love, or out of duty? Did you know that it wouldn’t be until you were yellowed and frozen and lifeless that all the people you worked so hard to nurture would finally show gratitude for your unconditional devotion? We took you for granted, and we stifled you, worked you like a horse to be left for dead. Especially him. He may not have killed you, but he certainly kept you from living.

I will never be as selfless as you. I can’t forgive him, and I can’t forgive us. And I will not do it. I will not step into your shoes and continue the death march. I may be “next,” but I refuse the position. I don’t know what you’d think about that, but I can’t worry about that now. I can only live how I want to live, which is now synonymous with how I think you deserved to live. On your deathbed you told me, “I never made my art.” Those words will never graze my lips.

Happy Mother’s Day, Gramma. You who taught me the joy of having dirt in my fingernails and watching flowers grow, who gave me crayons and paper and told me to let my imagination soar, who forced me to go to museums and exhibits that I still have not forgotten; you who split every piece of gum in half to teach me the value of saving, who scratched my back at night because you could not sing a lullaby, who made me a calendar so I could count the days until my parents’ return; you who told me a million times to put on sunscreen, who paid for voice lessons and guitar lessons and came to every show, who never told me I could not do. You who held me close as I cried into your shoulder and told me that your parents had gotten divorced too, and that you were OK. I would be OK, you said, everything would be OK.

You—you are the true mother of my spirit, my heart, my life. You—you from whence I came and from whence I shall grow. I am an extension of you, like a bird’s song transposed for a symphony. You—you have my eternal gratitude, reverence, and love.

mother's day, grandmother, love

I am not OK yet, Gramma. I am even less OK now that you’re gone. But please know that because of you, I am trying.

Yours, as I always have been and always will be,

Savannah

 

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Photos of the Week: Forever Sisters

My little sis and I spent all of Saturday running around town, scarfing down waffles and making bracelets! We had so much fun and I am so glad we got to spend one last day together, just us, before I leave.

Tell someone you love them this week, and mean it with all your heart. We don’t do that enough.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Eat Pray Love– A Treasure Trove

I never expected to have a faith-affirming experience while sunbathing on a polka-dotted inner tube, floating on the Joe in St. Maries, Idaho. I’d just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and the eb and flow of the water was churning my reflections. Reading Eat Pray Love, a memoir about Gilbert’s emotional and spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia, had felt like meandering blissfully through an antique shop. I didn’t walk in with the intention of getting anything, just looking. But as I weaved my way through the endless nooks and crannies, I discovered gem after gem after gem. I hadn’t hoped to get so much out of a book that hit the reading market the way Justin Bieber hit the music industry. The teeny boppers and soccer moms drooled while the snobs shrugged, “It’s just a fad.” Then– BOOM! Here come the awards, the critics, the interviews and finally– The Movie. So much for “fad.” Even so, I snubbed Eat Pray Love until a friend recommended it. Luckily my mother had it collecting dust on her bookshelf. She thought it was self-indulgent, so much so that she hadn’t been able to finish. Her criticism (and the fact that it is partly true) didn’t stop me from reading every word, and rereading those that resonated. Eat Pray Love is one of those books a reader needs to be ready for. Books like this one find you when you need them, and if you let them inside your world, they can take you places you ain’t never been before, as our boy Bieber would say.

By the end of my own journey with Eat Pray Love,  I found myself bobbing in a river, basking in my inner peace and contentment. I knew I’d found tranquility when a dragonfly landed on my knee, glimmering iridescent in the sunlight. I watched it rub its hands together, opening and closing its pac-man mouth. Somehow, this vulnerable little insect had determined my body was a safe place to rest, and even more remarkably, I didn’t flinch or brush it away. The dragonfly stayed with me for several minutes until I slapped at a fly that had landed on my elbow. When I looked back at my knee, the dragonfly was gone. But I could still feel its presence, as if its spirit and the spirit of the entire universe had imprinted themselves upon my skin. I knew then that I believed in Divinity, that I had faith in Love. And that I am ready to travel my own path.

While Eat Pray Love did not bring me to this moment singlehandedly, it certainly gave me the extra nudge I needed to get there. Here are some of the nugets I found that either got me thinking, laughing, or praying:

On faith:

Human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity. We’re miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality. We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole nature. We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character. We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme Self who is eternally at peace. That supreme Self is our true identity, universal and divine.” (122)

“I stood up and did a handstand on my Guru’s roof, to celebrate the notion of liberation. I felt the dusty tiles under my hands. I felt my own strength and balance. I felt the easy night breeze on the palms of my bare feet. This kind of thing– a spontaneous handstand– isn’t something a disembodied cool blue soul can do, but a human being can do it. We have hands; we can stand on them if we want to. That’s our privilege. That’s the joy of a mortal body. And that’s why God needs us. Because God loves to feel things through our hands.” (188)

“God dwells within you, as you.” (Gilbert’s Guru, 191)

“Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine. You want to stay near the core of the thing– right in the hub of the wheel– not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness– that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace.” (Sean, the Yogic Irish dairy farmer, 207)

On love: 

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.” (Richard from Texas, 149)

Wayan’s “Fail-Proof Broken-Heart Curing Treatment: Vitamin E, get much sleep, drink much water, travel to a place far away from the person you loved, meditate and teach your heart that this is destiny.” (Wayan, 264)

On life: 

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” (95)

In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.” (114)

We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses– one foot is on the horse called ‘fate,’ the other on the horse called ‘free will.’ And the question you have to ask every day is– which horse is which? Which horse do I need to stop worrying about because it’s not under my control, and which do I need to steer with concentrated effort?” (177)

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.” (One of Gilbert’s Guru’s teachings, 260)

“[The Zen Buddhists] say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well– the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens…

…It is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.” 

(329)

What did you think of Eat Pray Love? Which books have touched your life? Let me know in comments below!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Happy Birthday Little Sister!

Today is my little sister’s birthday. In our 12 years of sisterhood, she has taught me everything I truly need to know, and she’s only in the seventh grade. She’s taught me how to listen, how to let go, how to learn and how to teach. She’s taught me how to laugh and how to be true to who I am and what I need. She’s taught me how to share, how to give, how to fight and forgive. In short, she’s given me all the tools I need to love and to be loved, unconditionally. Without her, my life would be very, very empty.

Hence, upon this eleventh day of July, I’d not only like to wish my sister happy birthday, but I’d like to thank the universe for giving me such an invaluable blessing and thank Kell for being the fun, loving, inspiring little lady that she is. Kell Bell, my love for you is immeasurable! You make me proud every single day, and I can’t wait to continue life’s adventure together, as allies, as friends and always as sisters.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

All my love,

Savannah

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For My Mother

The way I remember it, I spent every summer afternoon of my childhood lying with my mother on her bed, soaking up the dying light that poured in from her bedroom window. We would exchange back scratches, resume the endless tickle war, talk. Most importantly, we would play “the funny face game,” my favorite. The premise of this game is simple: You make the funniest face possible, changing your expression if necessary, until your opponent laughs. Then it’s her turn to make you chuckle. The game goes back and forth like this until it’s dinner time.

As a child, I grew obsessed with the funny face game. Not because I was good at it, but because I loved making my momma laugh, and I loved laughing with her. She always crafted the most creative faces, contorting her brows, crossing her eyes, twisting her lips. My faces… lacked her versatility. So much so, in fact, that no matter how hard I tried to be original, I made the same expression every single turn. My trademark? Flaring my nostrils, widening my eyes, and hinging my top row of teeth over my bottom lip. I imagine I looked like a caricature of a horse.

Regardless of how many times I made this face, my mother broke down and laughed. She laughed because she’s my mom and she bears the blessing of unconditional love. She knew it would’ve hurt my feelings to hear that my funny face wasn’t funny at all; that it was, in reality, redundant. My mom let me go on believing that I ruled the funny face arena, and we continued like this for years, scowling, puckering, and in my case, horsing at one another in the soft glow of the summer sun.

These are the memories of my mother that I treasure the most. The small moments. The moments we seem to repeat in new ways over and over. Walks around the block at night. Debates at the dinner table. Silent mornings spent sipping coffee side by side. Over the years, my mom and I and have transcended the typical mother-daughter dynamic and grown to be best friends. Yes, we have hurt each other. But forgiveness finds us, usually in these moments when we’re doing familiar things together. For these moments,  which remind us of our indivisible bond, have the most room for healing and reconciliation.

Looking ahead, I know we will create new routines as we adapt to the different directions our lives have taken. Separated by distance, those long walks may come less frequently, and the mornings upon which we wake together will be few. But luckily, the memory of those routines and the love they fostered will instill even more love into the future. The new traditions will take meaning and inspiration from the old. Continuing our life adventure together as mother and daughter, as two friends, we can only grow, learn, and laugh. It is an adventure that I look forward to with all my heart.

Eventually, years after the last funny face tournament, my mom told me the truth: I was terrible at the funny face game. She had let me win time and time again. Laughing, I asked her why she kept playing, why she didn’t tell me sooner. I don’t remember what she said.

But I think she kept playing for the same reason I did– love.

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