From Jo Floyd Lucas
"Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." ~ Albert Einstein
Whew. I’m on a train to Boston, beginning the last leg of another trip that will (God willing) have me home in St. Louis by the end of the week. Other than a trip to two back to Kansas City to check on Momsy issues, I intend to stay there for a few weeks!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to have traveled as much as I have recently. Trains, planes, and automobiles have taken me on jaunts to Lake of the Ozarks, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Table Rock Lake, Springfield, and Portland. Somewhere in that time period I hosted friends from New York and attended a major fund raiser in St. Louis…all within the last six weeks!
Goodness, I’m tired, but how lucky am I? I’ve climbed the cliffs of the venerable Red Rock Canyon in the West, and have seen Autumn in all her glory in the East. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels, two beautiful lake houses, condos, and apartments. I’ve eaten in Five Star restaurants and drank fine wines. I’ve gone to calming spas, exciting sporting events, ambled around small towns, visited interesting art galleries, and attended beautiful fine arts performances. As wonderful as those experiences were, they are only symbolic of the true memories I’ll carry with me from these trips.
The real memories come from the people with whom I’ve shared these activities.
First and foremost are my out-of-town children, Spencer and Andrea, who have moved to opposite ends of the country to pursue their dreams. There is nothing more powerfully satisfying than witnessing your children live with passion while doing what they were meant to do. It was incredible to watch Spencer coach his young high school team to victory. Even better than the congratulatory pats on the back, it was most gratifying to see him lay a hand on the shoulder of a player who had made a mistake, look him in the eye, and nod his head in encouragement. He never lost his temper or yelled at his players. He was a gentleman through and through, and a role model for each of the youngsters on the field. Veteran coaches met us after the game to shake our hands and tell us how happy they were to have Spencer ‘on board.’ Wow. Is this really my son, the fearless (reckless), charming kid who was responsible for so many trips to the ER decades ago? Oh, Yeah.
I was reminded of those trips to the ER when Spencer took his father and I to Red Rock Canyon for an ‘easy/moderate’ 3 mile hike that, of course, ended up with us going off trail (“Spencer! Those signs clearly state, ‘DO NOT go off trail’ “) and risking life and limb on precarious rock formations. But I was also reminded of the qualities which make him such a great coach. His gentle encouragement to me (“Mom, you’re doing great.”) over and over again, his hand reaching out to me at just the right time to guide me when I needed it, and his great good humor (“Mom! Did you just say what I think you said?”) were precisely why I was able to stand on the summit of Red Rock Canyon and look down into the valley that holds the city of Las Vegas. Both literally and figuratively, it took my breath away. Thanks again, Son!
Andrea, who performed with Portland Ballet in a world premiere of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” was her usual stunning self, bringing a spark of beauty, elegance, and humor to her role in the ballet. Oh, yes, that young woman was meant to dance through life! If I can brag about anything, it’s that I gave her the right name when she was born. “Andrea Joy” means ‘womanly joy’ and that is about as perfect a description of her that can be made. I’ve described many times what good care she takes of me when I visit her, and it was difficult to leave this morning knowing that I wouldn’t be in her cozy apartment for peppermint cocoa this evening!
Then there are my friends. My fabulous, funny, precious, tenaciously loving friends.
I think of my Nertz Girls, who do hand stands in the spa pool of Spa Shiki, give each other home pedicures, wax treatments, and read Tarot cards in between shopping excursions. We have raised our children together, and have been with each other at card parties, holiday parties, bonfire parties, birthday parties, and celebrations for weddings, graduations, and births of grandchildren. We have also been together to comfort each other during misfortune, divorce, illness, and even death. They have offered unending support to me and been ever present in all my joys and sorrows for the last three decades. I am so lucky to be in this circle of sister/friends.
I think, too, of my ballet friends, from New York, St. Louis and Portland, with whom we attended fundraisers, dinners, the Saint Louis Symphony performance, a birthday celebration, and ballet performances in Portland. Let me dispel a myth right now by telling you that ‘ballet people’ are ANYTHING but stuffy! Intelligent, artistic, funny, great story tellers (of course), these people bring parties with them wherever they go! Whether sitting at my kitchen table, or at an after party, or in a restaurant, or at the theater, I can always count on a wonderful time of sharing, learning, laughing…and usually, getting into a little bit of trouble…with this incredible group of friends.
My last friendship gathering was with my ‘Gypsy’ friends, the women from Smiling Heart. Well, most don’t contribute to the blog on a regular basis (though I wish they would), but we do gather together virtually (via Internet) almost every evening to chat and joke and tease and teach each other. We spent a few magically perfect days together, where we laughed, drank, danced, and delved deeper into our relationships with each other. I say it was magically perfect because everything went so smoothly that I suspected we had some kind of divine ordination for this gathering. Five women with their lives rooted in the little hamlet of Ruskin Heights in Kansas City, Missouri, have blossomed and branched out into every geographical area of the country. In addition to Missouri, we now call California, Oklahoma, and Washington D.C. home. In Missouri, I’ve moved east to St. Louis, while our hostess with the mostest, Vicki, moved south to the small town of Morrisville. We each have very different life experiences, and hold differing views on everything from music to religion to politics, but we are SO good at finding common ground!
I usually love to tell the funny stories about my friends, and there are plenty to tell about these women. I think I can safely say that each one of us laughed more during those three days than we had laughed in the last three months. From Vicki’s description of things she learned from the ‘young girls’ at her former salon (top secret stuff), Linda’s wry and witty observations (Helllloooo), Reya’s photoshoot session, Nancy’s unexpected shout out the door, to our evening dance parties, we had a hoot and a half.
But I also want to tell another story. How I watched a woman do shamanic dancing, which looked to me like a beautiful form of praise. How I shared tears with another over my brother’s death years ago as learned more about this grace-filled woman with whom he had shared a meaningful relationship. I ate unbelievably delicious chicken salad, cheese blintzes, and imported cheeses provided by one of the women, but she also provided me with an even more delicious glimpse into the beauty of her soul. I guided the group through the Inner Smile meditation one evening and witnessed the cleansing of grief that another woman experienced, and felt deeply honored to see the depth of love she felt. The five of us shared more in those three days than many friends share in a lifetime.
The final night of our gathering, I experienced a vivid dream that will stay with me for the rest of my days. All of the five women were there in the Lake House, the music was rocking, and we were dancing. As we danced unrestrained, a group of angels descended among us and joined in the dance. Joyful, laughing angels were everywhere, and happiness and harmony were palpable. I can assure you, they must have been watching folks dance for eons…they could boogie with the best! As my dream ended, the angels froze into a tableau of Botticelli angels, faces flushed, voluminous wings draped to the ground, dressed in robes of light blues and soft golds. But rather than the serene faces painted by the masters of the renaissance, the smiles of these celestial beings were wide and openly joyous. They had obviously been having a great time! I’m convinced now of the divine ordination of our meeting.
Here’s the thing. The ancient cliff dwellings in Red Rock, the flaming autumn trees of New England, and the warm earth and strong winds of Table Rock Lake are completely different environments, yet from each I feel the connection to Earth and all Her glory. From them, I hear the harmony of Nature.
The family given to me by birth, the family I’ve forged through intent, and the family of our common ancestors, could not be more diverse, and yet I am part of each of them. In communion with them, I am in harmony with God.
These last few weeks have demonstrated to me the beautiful harmonies that exist when individual voices come together. We don’t need to sing with one voice. We don’t even have to sing the same words. We may need to work together a bit, and we may need to be patient, but goodness knows, if we contribute our voice in the spirit of togetherness, harmony will follow. And when that happens, you just have to dance.