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Weekly Update

Vast, Like the Trees

After making our descent over the orderly grid blocks of Minneapolis containing houses and trees with changing leaves, we touched down on the MSP Airport tarmac.

Our suitcases were packed with a contrasting mix of dress clothes- black, for my Grandma’s funeral, and white flower girl dresses for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.

I was anxious about this trip: the last time we flew into Minneapolis was disastrous- Alice puking on the flight and dry heaving in the rental car, which prompted Avery to faint, and then sympathy puke.

But as we pulled out of the rental car lot, I exhaled. The trip had gone without a hitch.

The first thing I always notice when driving out of the rental car lots in Minnesota is the trees. They are tall and wide, expanding, the antithesis of the skinny palm trees that linger awkwardly, mop heads blowing in the wind. The oak and maple trees are wild and audacious– a stark contrast to the manicured trees of Florida, who are hesitant to grow just an inch outside of their preconceived outline. And I like that a lot. The trees of Minnesota have a lot to teach.

My Grandma passed away over a year ago, yet with the timing of COVID, we were unable to have a funeral. I was beyond the waves of tearful grief hitting at unexpected times, I could talk about her without crying, and it seemed as if grief had run its course.

Her zebra print swimsuit is framed in the bathroom that leads out to our pool. Her blue flowered china is neatly stacked in my cabinets. I have voicemails from her saved, asking if I could please, for the love of all things holy, deposit the check she gave me 3 years ago so she could balance her checkbook. She is no longer here- but she is remembered daily.

It seemed odd, gathering so late after her death, to mourn something that had ripped our hearts apart long ago. The wounds had scarred over and it seemed as if there was nothing left to heal.

But as the pastor delivered the sermon at her memorial, grief washed over me again- filling my chest and eyes with the heavy, crushing feeling.

I tried to hold back the tears, but they still found a way to slip out. And in case you haven’t tried it yet, crying in a mask is messy business.

When it came time to bury her ashes, I had a chance to hold the urn containing the grains that made up who she was. It was odd- holding every ounce of the feisty, vivacious person I knew, now a silent mound of dust.

But there was an indescribable peacefulness.

As we stood in a half circle around her urn, with the pastor uttering the final blessings, a warm wind that was powerful yet gentle wrapped around us. And I knew, that she was there.

I remembered a long run I had gone on soon after she had passed. I could feel her presence deeply, and had talked to her as the miles ticked by. “Hi, G,” I had whispered on an exhale. The wind gusted around me.

The pastor reminded us that Grandma or as we fondly refer to her- G-Dizzle, would live on through us. We all carry different aspects of her from the imprint she left on our lives.

For me, it is the love of pinot grigio, a dry sense of humor, and the pointer finger that comes out when I get fired up.

As I said my final goodbye, hand pressed against the wooden box containing her earthly remains, I was reminded that pain is rooted in love. That the heartbreak I was experiencing was because of the deep love we had shared.

And I wouldn’t trade an ounce of the pain in exchange for the beauty that my world holds because she was in it.

Two days later, I watched my brother and sister-in-law exchange vows under the silver maple trees lining the Mississippi river. I watched a leaf float down from the tree, released from its duties. The wind caught it and guided it to the ground in a zig-zag, fluttery pattern.

I was sitting between my nieces and nephews- little Abigail, less than 2 weeks old. The moment contained it all. Love, new life, loss, joy, peace, and beauty, oh the beauty.

And it was vast, like the silver maples.

Categories
Weekly Update

The Tiniest Details

We found ourselves surrounded by lush shades of green, the silence of a dirt path under our feet, and a view backlit by rays of the setting sun, flooding through the tree branches. The path we hiked started out as a typical Florida hike: flat land running along a river, mangrove trees with their roots dipping into the water, signs warning of alligators, and the forest floor covered in greenery, teeming with life.

A quarter of a mile into the hike, the palm trees made way for skinny stocks of bamboo, thickly populating the side of the path. Ten steps further, we were enveloped in a forest of full grown bamboo, reaching way up into the sky. They gently creaked as they shifted in the wind, and it felt for a moment, as if we had been transported into another world.

When we reached the half way point of the hike, the pace changed from the girls sprinting ahead, to the girls lagging behind, waving ferns that they had collected along the way, poking each other, and sweeping the dirt with their pretend brooms. My stomach was grumbling, and I was feeling very hangry. I just wanted them to hurry it up so we could get dinner.

After five times of trying to hurry Alice along, I realized I didn’t have much control over the situation (a seemingly common theme in my life). And that rather than being annoyed by it, I could just soak in the moment. It was a hard choice to make, given my hanger, but I decided to at least try.

I started to notice the tiniest details, easily overlookable, accenting our hike. The alluring pop of red berries the rosarypea vine flaunted, enticing enough to draw one in for a closer look, despite the fact that if ingested, can quickly kill a full grown human.

The understated white flowers of the hairy beggarticks, the plain jane beauty of the dried out blooms of rue, the climbing vines of the air yam, looking like doilies when used as a food source by bugs, and the trees covered in airplants, housing a stunning view if you only looked up.


Sometimes, life gets choppy and rough. It can be difficult to see the purpose, the meaning, in the fogginess of the storm.

Sometimes, in trying to find the big picture, we lose sight of the small details that make up our reality. We try to grasp for more, for a clearer view. The harder we look, trying to put pieces of the puzzle together, the hazier it gets.

Have you ever noticed how we tend to strive for the big things: new house, career, car; and yet, it’s the tiniest details that end up bringing the most joy? The tiny grains of sand between my toes, the way Alice absentmindedly pats my chest when I’m holding her, the exact same way she did when she was a baby, a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, still gooey and warm.

While I am a firm believer in striving for improvement, trying new things, changing, I am an equally firm believer that beauty is readily available to soak in, and should not be overlooked in the pursuit of bigger and better things.


The beauty? It’s everywhere.

It’s the 75 year old worker at Lowes, wearing a veteran cap, who gave me his secretly stashed last small tube of clear caulk, patiently explaining to me how to re-caulk our kitchen sink, and telling me to get rid of the special caulking kit I had in my cart that he deemed, “not necessary to waste your money on”.

It’s the way Alice’s nose crinkles as she smiles.

It is in the sunrises and sunsets, the peanut butter M&M’s, the way Chad’s always knows the right thing to say when I’m out of sorts. It is Avery’s infectious giggle as she tells a story that only a five year old could find funny, the finger painted artwork that covers our walls, the “juicy kisses” that Alice gives each night, which I swear cause me to breakout.

Blink, and you could easily miss them; but mark my words, the moments are there.


In Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project,” she talks about the concept of “gazing in wonder.” It is one of my favorite take-aways from her book, and I use it often.

For me, gazing in wonder involves tiptoeing into Avery and Alice’s room after they are fast asleep, creeping up to their beds, and studying their angelic faces, peaceful breathing, and dimpled hands. It is the practice of trying to soak in, embrace, another moment with their little selves that I wouldn’t otherwise get.

Beauty abounds. If you read the news, you might not be convinced of that. But if you turn off your phone, shut your computer, and look, I guarantee you will unearth it.

Find your beauty. Gaze in wonder. Repeat.

Cheers,

Laura