Well, the countdown has finally begun. It's been 313 days since Alexander asked me to marry him as we swam in the cool Atlantic waters off Cape Cod. I remember the magnitude of the moment settling down around us like fog, socking us in a dream-like world all our own. It felt like time stopped as my awareness of everything else fell away, leaving only our two heads bobbing above the water, our eyes smiling and shiny.
We finally made the long swim back to shore, reaching for each others hand, stopping to tangle up in a watery embrace, a kiss. My family awaited us on the beach but with a silent glance, we agreed to savor our precious secret a while longer. The only hint of our news was the smile emanating from somewhere deep within me - a smile I couldn't hide if I'd tried.
Our delight lasted a little more than an hour back on land. We got in a huge fight on the drive home: our joy replaced by anger, our fantasies of wedded bliss replaced by thoughts of dread and escape. And the truth is, it's been kinda hard ever since. These last 313 days of being engaged and planning a wedding have turned out to be, for me at least, some of the most challenging of my life.
Until now. 30 days 'til our wedding day. 30 days until I say "I Do" to the man I knew was my husband from the very moment I laid eyes on him 3 years ago. Today I can sense the hush of the ocean, the cool of the water, the intimacy of that moment and know it's been there through the chaos of these last many months, waiting for me to turn within...and remember.
Today this poem by Mary Oliver sings the song of my heart.
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Making a pregnancy belly cast was one of the most fun and intimate moments I got to share with my friend and her baby belly. It felt a little like the old days of drinking wine and painting our toenails - when you just relax together and talk - except this time it was herbal tea and a very special "art project."
Pregnancy belly casting can be as light-hearted or ceremonial as you want. Playing music, lighting candles or reading a poem or letter could easily add a meaningful element to the ritual. Or, like us, you can simply revel in the beauty of pregnancy and birth and a friendship that's spanned many, many "births" and new beginnings.
Making a homemade belly cast is very simple. We did this cast toward the end of pregnancy but I know women who've done several casts over the course of their pregnancy to track the changes in their belly. Here's how to do it.
Bowl of warm water
4-5 rolls of 4" wide plaster cloth, cut into 6" - 18" strips
Washcloth or towel
Photo from Enter Gently
1. Spread Vaseline liberally over the areas being cast (some women include shoulders, arms, hands, legs, or just the belly).
2. Dip the strip of plaster cloth in the water before running it through your fingers to wick away excess water.
3. Apply each strip individually, starting from the top and working your way down. Use short strips for the breast area and longer strips for the belly.
4. Smooth each strip in place to make sure the plaster is spread evenly. Apply several layers in different directions over each section of the cast.
5. Work quickly as the plaster will begin to dry and become tacky. Once the cast begins to feel hard to the touch, remove the cast.
6. Allow the cast to dry before sanding and painting, if desired.
7. Once the baby arrives, take a look at the inside of your cast to imagine how the little one looked inside your belly.
On a visit with my mother last winter, she told me about a recording she once had of Brother David Steindl-Rast, a well-known Benedictine monk. The old cassette tape had long since been lost but she recalled one line clearly: "It's not the happy people who are grateful. It's the grateful people who are happy."
Those two simple sentences have stuck with me, my mind wandering back over them almost daily. Not long ago I read another quote along the same lines, this one by Rabbi Hyman Schachtel: "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have." These two men point out that happiness is a choice, rather than simply a product of happy circumstance.
Today I came upon a third quote. My favorite of the three, Jack Kerouac said, "Be in love with your life. Every minute of it." (For those of you who know me even a little, you know I speak the language of the heart.) So I can feel gratitude... I can choose happiness...
And I can marvel at every minute I'm alive - at the birds singing and the sun shining and the stars whirling overhead and the babies and the old people and the poetry and the text messages and the friends and lovers and the coffee and the cars and the breath inside my chest - and feel totally, unimaginably, humbly grateful, and happy.
"Hooray, Hooray, it's the First of May!" That was the happy declaration in my family on this morning, all of us rejoicing in green leaves, bright blossoms and warm, sunny days. Indeed, May 1st is no less intoxicating now than it was in childhood, especially when one gloriously beautiful day spills into the next. May is a month that makes you feel glad to be alive!
I imagine this must be how Pagans feel, too, during the ancient fire festival of Beltane. Observed on May 1st, this heady celebration falls midway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. Dancing around the May Pole, courting couples, fire rites and fertility rituals mark the coming of summer and hopes for a fruitful year.
Poetry and Musings of an Interfaith Minister on the Journey of a Lifetime.