Last Sunday, my friend Darcy and I met at Vintage Faire, a coffee shop tucked away in our local mall and a halfway point between our homes. We each picked out a teabag, carefully filled our mugs with scalding water from the spigot, and found a table for two. In Juneau, we forego the darling little teapot filled with hot water and the precious cups and saucers if we go to Vintage Faire, but the conversation is just as deep and wide as a tea date in the grand old Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.
Before we jumped into talking about our Christmas celebrations with family and the drama at her workplace, we exchanged gifts. Unwrapping a present on a cold rainy January day is fun. Darcy unwrapped my gift to her, and was very happy to find an 18-month calendar featuring pictures of Ireland. Then she laughed and said, “I almost bought this one!” (The dearth of places to shop can be a distinct drawback in a small city like Juneau.) Darcy has driven around Ireland three times, visiting family members, and she immediately recognized some of the scenes.
After I refilled my mug with hot water, she handed me a small perfectly square flat package. Inside was an exquisite miniature print of Oriental Poppies embossed on a square of ivory paper. I removed the clear protective cover, and by gently moving my fingertip over the surface I could feel the indentation of the press. I turned it over and read the artist’s Certificate of Authenticity:
Title: Oriental Poppies, Media: Resintaglio print on Stonehenge paper, Edition: 200, this print No. 53 of 200, Artist: Michelle Morrell, Printed at: Juneau, Alaska, 2006, Comments: Oriental poppies bloom in early summer in Southeast Alaska and are a garden favorite.
Darcy remembered that I love poppies. I’m not sure if my visit to Stonehenge a few years ago was also a factor, but the idea of a paper tied in any way to Stonehenge is lovely.
Our conversation shifted to state politics and the impact our new Governor will have on women’s issues. Then it drifted into our children and grandchildren, our pets, her challenges at work, and almost two hours had passed before we put our mugs in the plastic bin full of sudsy water, tossed our napkins in the recycling can, and bundled up to go outside.
Over the past 20 months, my health has gone from In-The-Hospital-Awful, to in bed too much, and now I’d say it is tenuous. My stamina drifts up and down and drags pain with it like a rag doll. Where I used to say “Yes!” to so much, I now calculate how realistic I am being. I’ve cut way back on my community activities and commitments, but what I really miss is being in circle with Darcy and our Juneau women.
When we do circle, the two of us sit directly across from each other and are so in sync that it becomes a kind of mental telepathy. We create a center that is beautiful and always has a candle. Our centers have been simple and small scale, but after being in circle around the gorgeous center at our annual gathering, I’m more inclined now to go big and bold!
One of us holds the Tibetan bells and acts as Guardian. We explain the Peerspirit Circle Guidelines I learned in a glorious week in 2006 at Circle Practicum with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea at Marsh House on Whidbey Island, Washington. If you bring women together in circle, and haven’t been to their website at peerspirit.com, go!) After everyone has had a minute to express how they feel, we blow out the candle and close the circle. Without fail, the women are so grateful.
Darcy and I always share a warm hug to seal in the emotions as long as possible. Within a few days, we get together to share notes on what was fabulous and what didn’t work so well. It’s so satisfying. I miss it.
I can live off the memory of our annual gathering last September at Terra Sancta, but I need the ritual of circle, the connection with women on a deeper level, and all the small things that blossom from that. My mantra these days is, “I’m better than I was. I will be better tomorrow.”