Saturday, September 20, 2008

I’ve never dreamed of leaving a mark on this Earth. Mostly I have always lived in the “here and now” with faint thoughts of the future. Maybe it’s because my parents’ experience as children in war-torn Russia/Poland in the early 1900’s taught them to focus on survival, not daydream about the future. As a kid I was never encouraged to make plans. My modest goals were always within arm’s reach. I grew up trying to control the world around me to fit that mold. It turned out to be impossible. I continuously failed and believed it was always my fault.

Then I met Rea Brown…dreamer, artist, writer and lover with the spirit of Puck intact within him. This complex and talented man saw the world through his own unique magical lenses (no Foster Grants here). Luckily he shared his visions with some of us from time to time and it was always a treat. Rea was a died-in-the-wool fatalist. He was easy and comfortable with this belief system and I envied his surety. Over the course of almost 30 years together, his actions positively influenced me as I tried to consciously “let go” of situations (which of course, I wasn’t able to control anyway!)

You know how they say that living with someone ultimately results in both people merging? Phil Donahue proved how he grew to resemble his dog, and Muffin & I sometimes fall into that category, depending on our latest haircuts.

Rea was a genius at designing spaces. Starting with just one sharp pencil and a blank piece of paper, he could theoretically create thousands of dollars worth of construction. It happened numerous times and we were both delighted at the ultimate results. He could visualize everything in his head beforehand and produce sketches for me of how the final spaces would look from multiple angles. I couldn’t envision squat! Although we were considered an” Odd Couple” by some, most people realized we were totally complementary and personally always agreed that we “were more than the sum of our parts…and more than some of our parts.”

After Rea’s death I had to decide whether I was capable of completing the total design and construction of “The TreeHouse”, which he had barely sketched out. That was easy…of course I wasn’t capable! But in my heart, I knew I wanted to carry out our last joint project. So I spent almost a year thinking, drawing, crying, smiling, breathing and frowning. It was terrifying, exhilarating, depressing, amazing and ultimately joyous when finally I GOT IT. The design became another pulsating organ of my body and I was so busy living & breathing the details that I didn’t notice how easily I was making instant decisions. Now I too could envision the outcome. It was Rea’s ultimate gift to me. Of course I’ll always be convinced that I was able to channel Rea during that time period and he was the final designer. And, as always, he produced an extraordinary space to live in...I know from experience.

Today I faced the moment that I’ve dreaded for over five years. I finally went through the boxes of Rea’s saved pictures and papers. To say it was emotional would be an understatement! His collection includes family Christmas cards he penned as a kid; flowery prose mailed to his parents as a struggling young father; optimistic letters written home while doggedly working to establish himself as a professional in the burgeoning advertising arena, and playful letters to his sisters regarding future brother-in-laws. Rea was candid, with a lot of self-doubt, but succeeded at almost everything…ultimately. There was also the correspondence from his father, who I’d never met, written in such careful handwriting and stilted patriarchal tone that it transported me back to another time and place.

I’ve been slogging through the never-ending cardboard boxes (whose contents must be gone through piece by piece); selling off the unwanted furniture; feeling so energized that I can’t admit how overwhelming it all is; inventorying which items should be “re-homed” to a long list of “who”; praying for an arsonist; overcome by memory at times and giving in; laughing aloud in the company of loved ones merely departed but not abandoned; discussing serious things with a confused dog who never loses his patience, and sometimes accepting who I am and what yet has to be done. What I thought would/should take a few weeks has morphed into months. Not that it really takes that long, but it comes down to how much can I handle at a time. Sadly, much less than I expected, but it’s important not to cripple myself with unwarranted pressure.

Here’s the good news…and it’s VERY GOOD!! It’s done. The extra furniture is gone. The pictures are sorted (including some slides I never saw before). I can see the floor again…and more importantly, the faint light at the end of the tunnel. So whatever you think YOU must accomplish, know it can get done. In time, on your schedule, and in good stead. It’s a process, like Life, to go through. There is no ticking timer or angry parent judging you. Everything in its time. I know that magical moments seem to rush at warp speed while painful stuff feels like it’s stuck in quicksand…but hang in there. Remember that YOU set the goal and the ultimate reward is very satisfying when you get there.

I’ve also decided what I'll be doing with Bonni Bakes this year, but I'll explain that next time.

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