This summer has sped by at a dizzying pace bringing much to be grateful for, and much to reflect on. The highlight has no doubt been the arrival of my first grandson, Jordan Biron Maletz. He was born three weeks early, on August 4th. He was only five pounds, thirteen ounces, but from the start he was alert and strong. He is a beautiful baby who has quickly figured out that he is adored, and how to breast feed like a champ. Needless to say, I fell in love with Jordan at first sight. But what touched my heart just as deeply was the way my son and daughter-in-law took to parenting. Their hearts are so open and full of love for this little boy. It overflows all bounds and has enveloped us all.
Before Jordan was born, my son began to sing to him. He sang just one song, “Yellow” by Cold Play, and he sang it to his son every night for a couple of months before the birth. There was a video taken the first evening of Jordan’s life. My son is lying in bed, holding his baby skin to skin, and he is singing “Yellow” in a soft, tender voice. You can tell Jordan knows this song, recognizes it. His little fists unclench and lie flat upon his father’s skin, his newborn eyes search toward his father’s face, he is listening intently. It clear what this little boy is thinking, “I am safe here; this is home.” It is an amazing feeling to see your own child be such a good parent. It is a gift that makes you feel keenly that you must have done something right.
Another wonderful moment this summer was my first meeting as an author with a book club. It was very exciting to meet with people who had all read the book and had come together to talk about it with me. From the moment I walked through the door, I became aware that the response to Cha’risa’s Gift had been a really enthusiastic one. Those of you who have read my book know that at the start of each section there is a recipe, specially crafted just for this story. I had always planned to use the molasses cookie recipe from Cha’risa’s Gift to bake cookies for this book club meeting. They happen to be my personal favorite of the recipes. Unbeknownst to me, my neighbor, Gretchen, who was hosting the event, had attempted the peach cobbler recipe, and the result was so delicious that I may have revise which recipe is now my favorite. One of the other guests, Yeewah, had actually made the Hopi tea recipe. I was very pleased and surprised to discover that this tea is not just good, it is better than I ever imagined it would be. This was a recipe that I had invented entirely to suit the plot of the book. Greenthread is a medicinal plant Native Americans in the Southwest commonly use, and lavender is a medicinal plant more commonly used by people of European descent. I used the two plants to symbolically represent the intertwining of two very diverse families that come together in my book. Having conjured up this tea, I had never actually thought to make it. Yeewah, however, did. She had gotten on line and ordered the greenthread from a Navajo website, and then a friend of hers had given her lavender that she’d grown organically in her garden. The two flavors together couldn’t have been a more perfect pairing. The greenthread was bright and forward on the palate; the lavender rounded out the greenthread with darker, smokier tones. It seemed to me the tea was the exact flavor of balance and well-being.
We had a wonderful conversation to go along with the excellent food that evening. Yeewah had been so inspired by the Native American aspects of Cha’risa’s Gift that she’d put together a group of six questions, each paired with a Hopi quote that she’d searched out on line. We used these quotes and questions to drive some very open hearted discussion throughout the evening. That evening turned into another great gift of this summer. How often are we allowed to see the way our creativity touches other hearts and minds?
Another wonderful event this summer was helping my daughter relocate to New York City as she gets ready to start a graduate program in musical theater at NYU. It is just so obvious that this is what she should be doing, and NYU is the right place for her to do it. We helped her to move in July and then we came to see her again in August on our way back from meeting baby Jordan. While we were out on that second visit, we managed to snag three tickets to go see Anastasia on Broadway. It was our first Broadway show together now that Jamie is officially settled in as a resident of the Big Apple. The show was excellent; great music, a very talented cast, and an amazing use of screens to bring a lot of motion and vibrancy to the set design. I sat in that theater, beside my husband and my daughter, waiting for the curtain to rise, and as I did, my thoughts drifted toward the future. It wasn’t inconceivable that one day I might be sitting in one of these famous, old Broadway theaters, waiting for the curtain to rise on a Jamie Maletz musical. That we are fortunate enough to help our daughter reach for her dreams is yet another gift of this summer.
The last gift I want to tell you about is one that I would call wondrous. It happened over the course of a week toward the end of July, just before I was about to leave the desert for an extended time away. I was out hiking with Lucy. The weather had been typical monsoonal weather; wet evenings, that dried out over the course of bright, hot mornings. As each day progressed, heat would build, unleashing storms once again late in the afternoon. That is the basic pattern but it is not always a predictable one, so during monsoon season, Lucy and I tend to go out early in the day to a favorite meditation spot that is closer to home. Once there we like to settle down under the shade of one particular shaggy bark juniper tree.
When I meditate, there is always a point I come to where I spiral my prayers outward to include my family, all of humanity, and all of the earth. Twice during the course of that week, when I got to this more outward aspect of my meditation, a little hummingbird came and circled around me. On his second visit he came so close I could feel the movement of air from his beating wings upon my skin. After that second encounter I came home and looked up what hummingbirds symbolize. I learned that a hummingbird’s wings move in the pattern of an infinity symbol, which is why hummingbirds are often associated with symbols of eternity and continuity. They are also known to be symbols of joy, and that’s what I felt when this little bird came so close to me. This tiny hummingbird was doing his part to help send my healing intent out far and wide. Obviously I chalked up that experience as a very special summer gift.
The day before I was due to leave Sedona, we had some particularly wild thunder and lightning strikes all around the area. The morning after this violent storm, Lucy and I headed out for a last hike in the desert before our travels took us away from home. When we arrived at our spot under the juniper tree, I noticed that the tree was smoking. I only had one sixteen ounce bottle of water with me, but I emptied all of it into a hole in the trunk, where most of the smoldering seemed to be centered. Wisps of smoke continued to rise from the trunk, and also from the branches. It was eerily beautiful, but also alarming. I started throwing dirt down into the trunk as well. When it still continued to smolder I looked at Lucy, uncertain of my next move. The thought of our special tree igniting, sending fiery tendrils all throughout our lovely wilderness sanctuary was horrifying. I realized we were going to need help. We headed back home as quickly as we could and I called the fire department. The fireman confirmed what I had feared. The heat of the day would dry out the dampness in the tree, and that ember could become a very dangerous spark. But, the fireman said, he could not process my call. I would have to call 911. So I called 911, and they told me they wanted to put me directly in touch with dispatch so I could describe firsthand the location of this smoking tree. When dispatch called me they listened to my description and said, “Would you mind calling the park ranger station? They are better equipped to handle this situation.” The ranger station picked up the phone with a recorded message that began, “If you are calling to report a fire, please hang up and dial 911.”
At this point I realized that the only reliable help for my sanctuary was going to have to come from me. I loaded up the biggest camel pack we had full of water, strapped it to my back, and then Lucy and I took the fastest route we knew back to our tree. When we got there, I could see that the smoking had stopped. Apparently the water and dirt I’d given it before had been enough to smother the ember. Even so, I dumped the entire contents of the camel pack into the hole in the trunk of the tree. Then I sat down with Lucy, quieted my mind and focused on my sense of smell to sniff at the scents around the tree. The smoky smell was gone, replaced now with the fresh smell of wet greenery, and slightly damp red rock. I let my breathing shift into the calm, deep breathing of meditation, and then set my mind free, all the while aware of yet another gift of the summer. I’d been given the chance to save something I love.
As summer winds down, I am headed back to my desert. I’ve been away for over a month, but soon now my next grandson will be born, due in early October.I wanted to be in place in plenty of time, just in case we have another little one wanting to make an early arrival. It also is time for me to return to work on my book, Ahote’s Path. In preparation for another publication in the not too distant future, I recently re-published Cha’risa’s Gift through a new publishing company called Pronoun. Cha’risa’s Gift can now be found on not just Amazon, but on Apple ibooks, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Kobo, Overdrive and Bibliotheca. Pronoun seemed like it might offer up a better arrangement for managing the publishing process and I felt now was a good time to try them out to see how well I like the experience. If you want to check out my new link on Pronoun, click here: https://books.pronoun.com/charisas-gift/ I’d be interested to know what you guys think of what you see there.