Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday -- Snow Day

We can look at life from a deficit point of view, or from one of abundance, of basic goodness. I choose to lead this essay with that fundamental view because there are many people in my life who inspire this mindset of abundant goodness and one in particular, my kind and good humored boyfriend, Joe, just a regular and extraordinary guy. 

We are in the middle of a very large weather event, the snowstorm of the century, of indeed my lifetime.  I have lived nearly half a century and I have never experienced this much snow fall in such a short duration of time.  I am sure everyone in this lake effect snow band are all experiencing many similar feelings.  The constant shaking of snowflakes from what seemed to be a gigantic flour mill above our heads for miles and miles unearthed a lot of feelings within me.  Even though, I could only feel my own feelings and think my own thoughts, somehow I felt connected to a mind stream that ran many miles in every direction from my little point in this world, my mind, my home, my family, my tiny spot in this village of Hamburg neighborhood. 

Yesterday morning around 9 a.m., my teenage sons and I began clearing out three feet of heavy snow which consisted of one foot at the base of hard-packed and frozen snow.  My eldest son gallantly maneuvered and heaved the snow blower with the sheer will and force of his young muscles through this hard and wet snow up and down the length of an over hundred foot driveway.  My younger son and I shoveled methodically to assist, cutting and picking up large chunks of snow to heave into an already snow-filled back yard.  I knew we needed additional assistance so I called their dad who thankfully lives just a few blocks away.  We spent the entire morning as a family clearing the snow, with me taking an hour break to prepare a hearty breakfast for the guys. 

Yesterday, during the second round of snow clearing late in the afternoon, I began to feel very stuck, my stomach was tightening and my heart was racing.   I was wondering if I was capable of handling all this stuckness, this feeling of being trapped in all this snow around me.  I became curious about this feeling since I have always loved winter and the snow and the sense of being blanketed by the snow cover.  But with a driving ban and the continuous nature of the flour mill at work above our heads as the storm just kept shaking fine powdered snow on our world, I began to resist the conditions I was finding myself in.  I felt panic and separation and I wanted there to be another reality.  I missed being able to just get in my car and go somewhere, anywhere. 

All it took was one phone conversation with my boyfriend to clear my mind of doubt and to look at the situation from another perspective.  Joe and I kept in touch all day and this made the situation we were in feel much more workable, even fun and joyful.  I appreciate the way my boyfriend looks at winter and snowfall and snow clearing.  He has a potently, positive view and it is infectious to hear him speak in this way. In a sense, he is just so straight forward and does not make a big deal of anything.  It was an extraordinary weather event to be sure, and exciting and incredible, and he approaches it with an ordinary view point and an attitude of simply what needs to be done. Refreshingly, I never hear him complain and he actually enjoys the experience.  He is entirely immersed and engaged in the present situation of the moment.  He relates to snow removal with an attitude of pride and duty peppered with a sense of challenge and a mindset of accomplishment.  I realized I was missing and longing for being near him, experiencing this big thing with him, close to him. Since we were not in the same location, I could either resist the present set of conditions and circumstances (our physical separateness) and indulge in my longing to being with him and resulting sadness, or I could experience this big weather event where I was and with whom I was.  The latter brought me more happiness, so that is what I chose.  Joe helped me and I felt joy in my present situation as it was.

After the uplifting phone call with Joe, I returned outside with my youngest son, Aidan.  It was early evening and we ditched the shovels and he said to me, ‘C’mon mom, let’s play!’ Not often does my 14 year old choose to hang with mom over skyping friends online.  This was my chance to let go of my feelings of entrapment which were causing me so much anxiety, and instead fall into to enjoying the four feet of white stuff surrounding our home and comprising our world in that moment.  We both laid down on the the cushion of pure white soft coldness and looked up at the gray evening sky, and I immediately  noticed the few golden-brown leaves left on the Norway Maple silhouetted by the last vestiges of evening light, right in front of us.  We breathed and let our hearts be there lying next to one another.  We then trekked out in the village to explore and witness the storm’s impact on the neighborhood.  We met some neighbors trying to dig out along our winter wonderland walk.  

We tried to make it to our wooden playground but the thigh high snow did not allow for easy passage.  We gave up and turned around to visit Aidan’s dad.  When a front loader was barreling down the street, we ran for cover on the side so we didn’t get run down.  We had fun running down the snow covered streets and slipping on ice beneath the tracks that the machine had left for us in its wake.  We then arrived home and peeled off snowy frozen winter outerwear, left strewn about, which I promptly placed upon our floor heating vents in our 1928 old home, another thing for which I offer thanks and feel the goodness that is. 

On we went all day, although I found time to bake some homemade treats of pumpkin cookies and chocolate banana bread.  All told we spent, with four of us clearing snow that just kept shaking from the sky and piling up in the driveway, eleven hours between us.  It was not easy, my muscles in my back and shoulders and arms today are reminders of the hard work from yesterday.  By the day’s end, I knew I would appreciate some strong medicine that would calm down my aching muscles, so I mixed up a medicinal Whiskey Sour, chilled and shaken.  Between exercise and a walk and a Whiskey Sour, I slept well.

Upon awakening at 5:00 a.m. this morning, I looked through a clearing on the snow matted screened bathroom window to see a sliver of a moon, a bright silver crescent like a beacon in a dark early morning sky.  The sky was quiet and serene, my heart feeling the same.   When I awoke again, the clouds from the day before were gone, the massive powerful lake effect system had shifted and the sun was just rising on a magical world, quiet and just waking up.  I feel as if I were seeing the sun in a new way, with such precision, for the first time in my life.  I feel awakened and touched with the promise of a new day, another chance to be alive.   I feel the good and genuine love that has touched my life this year through the beginning of a new relationship.  I feel a sense of coming home to my own heart while touching the heart of another.  I feel the gratitude of having witnessed the maturity and wisdom of my teenage sons as they grow up and out into the world and take care of things.  I feel a sense of forgiveness for the hurts caused by and toward me.  I feel that no moment is too small to pay attention to and that all moments add up to a day in my life that adds up to a lifetime.  I feel and realize that chances are handed to us over and over to really engage in our lives and to reach out to the world and others in it with open hearts.  I truly feel appreciation for everything and one in my life, including minor and major annoyances, since they all remind me of my aliveness.

Returning to the way I began this essay, with a choice between a mindset of deficit versus abundance, I realize that I have the ability to pick up the phone and call someone, or text, and share experiences, that there is really no separation, it is only how we choose to think of our particular situation in the moment.  Also, I am surrounded by others, friends, family and neighbors, even strangers, and we are all in this together.  And, I feel gratitude for the abundance in my life, my children, my wonderful boyfriend with such a genuinely good and positive outlook, my friends and neighbors and family, my snow blower, gasoline, shovels, a kind and generous ex-husband, heat and electric, food in the refrigerator, my sense of humor, Facebook.  There is so much in our world when we notice the abundant goodness.


Tuesday, the snow day, helped me reflect on how very appreciative I am for my situation.  I have a very good life, and I am grateful.  When the panic set in yesterday, I was reminded by so many in my life and the natural world around me to stay present, to relax into the moment, to surrender and to keep moving forward.  And the sun today reminded me that that the storm will end and the sun will keep on rising and shining.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

THE MOON OVER MANHATTAN

The moon over Manhattan
This is your reality
I just require a road map
An emotional picture
A sense of direction
For what's happening to me
Explain to me that chemical reaction 
When we connect with another human being
When we Fall in love
We take ourselves up to the top of the mountain
Then, knowingly, hurdle ourselves off
Trusting the free fall
The sensation of floating downward
All the while plummeting to the bottom
The rock solid ground below
Here in this busy city of movement
Frenetic energy unleashed
The pace is hyper-speed
All I can do is think of you
And continue this fall


Written October 8, 2002
Dedicated to Maureen