My Life With Children
I grew up in western Michigan, where fun is the way of life for all.
Summer camps, swimming, canoeing down the Pere Marquette River, climbing sand dunes and jumping in the waves of Lake Michigan, picnics all over the Manistee National Forest areas, hay rides in the fall and horseback riding across fields, ice skating on real ponds and lakes and tobogganing down steep hills, all were part of my formation and have had great influence on my writing style. “A certain fresh naturalness” someone has called it. “There’s a simplicity and playfulness in your style.”
Perhaps I also owe it to my French-Canadian father who certainly had a taste for enjoying life, that Joie d’ vivre that bounces back in me even when life takes a bad turn. Plus my always cheerful Swedish grandfather, who I watched live through many challenges of spirit with quiet gracefulness. I can find the rainbow in the rain, eventually and always. Much of my writing, then, is an attempt to share the positives that I’ve gotten out of the negatives of my life. Much of it are learnings I wish I’d known as a child. I instinctively try to express what I’ve learned in a way that either a child or adult might enjoy taking in this learning.
My most serious writing has been my book Pain: The Challenge and the Gift, in which I propose that suffering has purpose – It is the harbinger of change. I also always carry with me a sense that we are part of “Something Larger” and Something Larger stays with us through all. I search for ways to discern a wise path through the adventures of life and ways to increase my gladness in being me and in being alive.
And then – How can I share what’s worked for me? My heart reaches out to others experiencing the same questions and puzzles in their lives.
As a child, I had always found everything physical to be difficult, but I had no idea how other people experience their bodies so I just soldiered along. Finally when I was sixteen we realized that I had a severe curvature in my lower back; plus we finally saw that my feet were flat. Surgery kept my spine from falling off my pelvis but it was too late to correct the curvature. This handicap has been the spiritual guide for my life. I’ve always felt the urge to respond with movement to music – I’ve tried and dropped out of Polish polka dancing, Appalachian clogging, Scottish country dancing, but I did win third place in the adult Irish jig!
In 2002 I won a trip to Hawaii! My daughter and sister and I spent several days at the Outrigger Hotel beside beautiful Waikiki beach and then traveled around Oahu, Maui, and Kawaii. I had taken some Hawaiian dancing when I lived in Des Plaines so when life brought me to Oak Park I found the classes of Halau I Kopono. I cannot stand on my feet without orthopedic shoes but June was always so generous to allow me to dance with my shoes on!
Now that I’m older (76) it’s even harder for me to stand – I use a walker much of the time and this is so disappointing to me. How surprised and delighted I felt when June offered Chair Hula on Zoom! Our first dance – to Kaiona, the Goddess of the Lost – was deeply touching, like a prayer. I cannot do regular Hawaiian dancing anymore but June’s patience and generosity to offer this class, by Zoom, allowed me to still flow beautifully through my days.
When I returned to Hawaii a second time, I found an ancient temple site on Kauai. I danced there! I tell that surprising story in my blog “Dancing in the Ruins of an Ancient Hawaiian Temple,” under the category “Exploring new Territory.”