This is the welcome mat below deck of the Pride of Baltimore II, a Baltimore Clipper tall ship, circa the War of 1812.
The crew of the Pride of Baltimore II find their joy on a craft that catches wind in mighty sails that carry them across the bounding main — and the Great Lakes. They rest easy on a ship that can anchor when needed, save them in peril, and fire up weapons to fend off foes.
Their happy place is nothing like mine — I prefer dry land, uncrowded sleeping space and luxurious showers — but I find joy in knowing that the crew of the awesome tall ship is in their happy place when skimming across glinting waters .
The first time I saw my friend Maryanne, she and her eighteen-month-old son were building houses out of sand in the shade of a play structure in our neighbourhood park. Seated side by side, they packed sand into plastic containers and constructed houses of all shapes and sizes.
I played with my own eighteen-month-old daughter nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation.
“What kind of house do you want to build next?” she asked.
“A bungalow,” her son said.
WOW. What toddler knows the word bungalow? And who was this Wonder Of Women with him?
Over the twenty-three years of our friendship (both those children are now almost twenty-five), I have said WOW about Maryanne many times. She has other exceptional qualities besides an advanced vocabulary and a knack for creative story building.
She celebrated her 60th birthday on the weekend and the occasion caused me to reflect on her WOW qualities.
GENEROSITY – I have been at her house to see her open her door wide to people in need. No matter if an arrival is unannounced or if it means re-evaluating food supplies or sleeping arrangements, she accommodates with grace and dignity. It is a gift rarer than the finest diamonds.
SELF-WITNESS – She has the ability to rise above herself, look down and sort life out from a higher perspective. This skill has led her to success in business and helped her to overcome tragic loss.
INTUITION – She seems to reach through the veil of the universe. She just knows things. Sometimes I have to do a double-take after hearing her insights.
LAUGHTER – She is fun. We laugh together a lot.
Her generosity means that saying “No” does not come naturally, but her self-witness is telling her that sometimes that’s exactly what she needs to start saying. She’s learning to listen to her intuition and to choose what serves her and what does not. Which activities, causes or people should she say no to because they drain her without ever giving back? Which activities, causes or people energize her or bring her laughter?
Maryanne is ever-evolving and choosinghow to spend her time and with whom to spend that time. Like Pokemon’s Pikachu saying “I choose you!”
I will be sixty in a few years too, so I’m also am developing the steely inner resolve that comes with the wisdom of age. I am more discerning about how I spend my days, and with whom. I am drawing firm boundaries around demands on my time. One thing I know: Time spent with Maryanne is time well spent. I choose her!
She inspires me to be a better person. I’m not Maryanne’s best friend, but I aim to be the best friend for her in certain circumstances. I hope I refill her well in some way and bring her laughter.
On her 60th birthday I asked myself, “What gift could I give to such a WOW person?” The only thing I could think of was to let her know this:
I attended an afternoon event held at a venue usually reserved for nighttime activities. As I stood listening to speeches, I looked up at this tall ship on a high shelf, lit by a combination of daylight and interior lighting that would not normally be on when customers were in the establishment.
I was struck by both the beauty and the ew factor. In fact, the beauty is made possible because of the ew factor.
Without the dust on the delicate strands of rope on the foundering ship the effect of the light would be less striking.
Something that needed cleaning up had been hidden and ignored. Light made things clear, and somehow beautiful.
The idea helps me this week. The lesson “sailed to me” when needed, as they so often do. I hope it helps you too.
The public library where I work is attached to a high school. The students come and go around us every day.
Today’s teenagers are something else. They are open and honest about aspects of life I either didn’t understand when I was their age, or wouldn’t have talked about with anyone. Sometimes I need to hold on to something to regain my balance when I catch some of their conversations.
They’re also freely creative. For poetry month, we set up a poetry station.
I love the art they created—en anglais et en français In Ottawa, Canada
I don’t. The frugal former farmgirl part of me is uncomfortable with impractical spending. Why spend money on a luxury that will die in a few days?
Praises be, I raised a city daughter who thinks differently. She willingly spends money on touches of beauty: plants with character, fresh flowers and unique throw pillows. (Frugal former farmgirl says, Throw pillows? Useless!)
Last week my daughter brought home pussy willows.
Boom! She transported me back to my childhood farm near a wooded area where pussy willows grew wild. In my barn-chore gum rubber boots, I’d walk through the soggy marshland in the spring and run my fingers over the soft pussy willow buds.
I wondered how many people in our oh-so-urban society are lucky enough to have such a beautiful memory. I felt privileged and full of gratitude.
My daughter, spending her money so willingly, bought more than fresh flowers. She bought a long-forgotten cherished memory, an appreciation for my carefree childhood, and gratitude for how her different approach to life makes mine richer.
Those aren’t luxuries, and they won’t die in a few days.