HOLES

I feel like I’m trying to stitch up the holes in this new reality with old thread. It’s weak. The colors don’t match and it breaks when I pull it tight to close the gap. I have the sense that the holes aren’t meant to be stitched. That this is different cloth designed to expose what’s been ignored and wants to be seen.

It seems the whole of humanity is wearing this same cloth. Some are clawing at it, trying to tear it off. Some are gazing through the holes seeing parts of themselves they’ve never seen before, awakening to new passions with purpose and zeal. Others, like me, are slowly relinquishing the needle and thread and opening our eyes.

I think it’s begun to sink in that what once was will never be again. There’s no going back, and the way ahead is as obscure as San Francisco when the fog rolls in. There’s no new normal – only new.

We have a window of time, right now, to prepare.

At least some of us do. Others are rushing out every day, exhausted and sleep-deprived, to care for the sick. Some are running herd on children who would otherwise be in school, possibly trying to squeeze in a full-time job that also has to be managed from home. Many others have lost jobs and are homeless, struggling to survive.

The rest of us wallow in an abundance of time that arranges itself differently than before. I’ve become accustomed to Bali’s ‘rubber time.’ I’m used to losing track of days. Sometimes entire months go missing. But COVID has brought an additional level of strangeness to the equation. Now there’s an absence of time. We’ve been sucked into a vacuum that feels endless and motivation stagnates.

So when I say we have a window of time to prepare, it’s prudent to ask, ‘Prepare for what?’ No one can answer that question. It’s the HOW that’s important. HOW do we prepare ourselves for the unknown ahead?

Raw material is plentiful. We’re it.

Our minds, bodies, and emotions are ripe for new management. We can’t approach a paradigm shift with old expectations and worn-out patterns. In many cases, even our dreams must be revised or replaced.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past and assess what we want to carry with us into the future and to determine what is excess baggage and has to go. The current chaos is calling us to center and conserve our energy – to form a sea of tranquility in the eye of the hurricane and that’s no easy task.

I’m paying far more attention to intuition than ever before, heeding subtle nudges, seeking to increase awareness and strengthen deeper ways of knowing. By so doing, I’m creating a version of myself that will survive the challenges of this unparalleled time. I’m revising hopes and rewriting responses. I’m seeing that NEVER was yesterday and no longer applies. Options I wouldn’t have considered a week ago are now viable. I’m studying this unfamiliar person with befuddled curiosity.

Under pressure, rigidity breaks. Flexibility bends.

I want to learn this lesson the first time. I know a bit about lessons: if we don’t nail it, the next will strike with force so brutal there may be nothing left to salvage.

This reality that covers us with a strange cloth full of mystifying holes is urging us to take stock of ourselves. To view this as opportunity rather than disaster.

I, too, have lost a dear one to the virus. I’m on the other side of the world from my children and grandchildren and all plans to visit are cancelled for the unforeseeable future. Thankfully, my home here is secure. But there is a deep sense of grief and loss every day.

And yet, another part of me sits in awe at what I’m being allowed to experience in this lifetime and I’m determined to make the most of it.

And…Here Comes the Bride!

But backing up just a bit…

A wedding aboard the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a US Liberty Ship docked by Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, is the stuff of dreams. Planning and executing such an event is a joyous nightmare!

When I offer to come to San Francisco for two months to help Jenny and Kennen prepare, I have no idea what that means, but am elated when they agree. I float on a bubble of happy anticipation as I comb Craigslist for a place to stay. Lodging secured, I pack, say goodbye to Minnesota, and the adventure begins.

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SS Jeremiah O’Brien, US Liberty Ship from World War II

My first assignment after settling in is a visit to the site with Jenny to assess décor possibilities.

The massive, gray ship docked near Fisherman’s Wharf basks like a giant whale in the Bay. It houses a maritime museum but is otherwise very much the same as it was during its working life. A narrow gangway leads from the pier to the deck. The stairs shake and lurch as we begin our ascent. Far below the churning sea is visible in the spaces between the treads. My stomach lets me know how unhappy it is to be put to this test so early in the game.

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Location of ceremony and dance

Once on deck, Jenny takes the lead pointing out a raised platform where the ceremony and dancing will take place.  The Bay unfolds before us, and the city skyline is jagged on the horizon behind. There isn’t much I’ll need to do to improve upon the setting. We take some measurements and photos, then head downstairs to the dining room.

The ship’s galley has all the ambiance of a Legion Hall. I begin mouthing Hail Mary’s while hyperventilating. Breathe, Sherry, breathe. It’s great advice, but the space isn’t speaking to me. Actually, that’s not true. The room is sticking it’s tongue out and laughing in my face! Every self-doubt I’ve ever had rises up to taunt me. “I have two months!” is the only consoling thought I can muster, while wondering if two years would be enough.

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Ship’s galley where dinner will be served

I’ve always admired designers who can step into a space and, with wild gestures, eyes glazed, seeing what isn’t there, wax eloquent as they announce ‘the vision.’ My eyes glaze, but it’s not with a vision.

Days pass, but finally an idea whispers to me. That’s all I need, just one thread of possibility to hook into. Then a torrent of  inspiration pours forth. I’ve been given a budget. I scour Berkeley on foot for items that will give form to the intangible images in my head. When I’m not roaming the streets, I search online, sourcing tulle, lights, and ribbon, in quantities that make my heart fibrillate. I run through the plan with Jenny and Kennen and get the green light. All systems go. Gulp.

The following weeks are a blur of Ted Talks. Assembly line workers possess a high tolerance for repetition and monotony. My vision for adorning the space requires hours of tedious crafting.  I’m not fond of crafts, but I’m hopelessly fond of my youngest daughter. So, tuned in to Ted, I while away the hours making centerpieces.

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The bouquets come together at the rate of about one every four hours. Two a day is my limit, and some days I only manage one. But they’re finally complete and it’s time to begin the chair back decor. I make a sketch for approval before beginning the second mind-numbing craft. By this time, Ted nauseates me. I graduate to Dr. Who. It takes 42 episodes to complete 87 ribbon swags. Thank you, Dr. Who.

P1040553Saint Melody, my landlady, notices my deteriorating condition and calls in the troops. A group of her friends gather to assist, and fingers fly. The lone male in attendance keeps us hydrated with green apple martinis. Bless him! When they leave the last project is under control. I have two days to spare.

It feels like I’ve been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card! Those two days are spacious and free, but my nights are filled with stressful dreams. The pieces are ready but the puzzle isn’t assembled. That has to happen in the four-hour window of time we’ve been granted access to the ship the day before the wedding.

While I’m behind the scenes doing my thing, Jenny and Kennen are multi-tasking robots. They interview caterers, party outfitters, DJ’s, photographers, liquor suppliers, day-of wedding managers, clean-up crews, and interface with the ship event coordinator. They taste-test food and create signature drinks. A week before the wedding, Jenny flies to New York for a four-day business trip. Kennen finalizes the flow-chart that will ensure everything gets done, creates a seating chart for guests, and that’s just the bit I am privy to. I’m sure I don’t know the half of it. My respect for their teamwork and the ability to keep it all together without melt-downs is immense.

D-day arrives. Everything is at the ship, waiting for me. I’m terrified.  One by one my help arrives. I outline the plan and I am blown away by the cooperation, focus, and determined energy harnessed for those four hours. They accomplish the impossible. What a team!

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Time’s up. We stand back and survey the transformation.  Even the cranky old codgers whose job it is to care for the ship day-to-day, appear dazzled.

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I stop holding my breath. That night I sleep like the dead.

The next morning dawns a perfect San Francisco day. The bride is in her suite with her bridesmaids, the hair and makeup artist, the photographer, and me. Breakfast arrives, a delectable array of fruit, quiches, croissants, and coffee.

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There’s music and happy chatter as each of us is transformed into our better self.

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The photographer is a feisty French woman who is petit in size only. Her personality overlaps the room, filling it with zesty enthusiasm. I lose it when she has Jenny pose by the red wall. Her camera clicks like a machine gun as she whoops, “You’re a stallion! A stallion!” I might have chosen a different word. Goddess seems somehow appropriate. I feel the lump in my throat as emotion wells behind my eyelids.

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Then it’s the first look on the mezzanine of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. I’ve never heard of the first look. These past two months have been a crash course in Wedding 101.

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After that it’s full bore to show time! We catch the limo bus to the pier for more photos.P1040777 P1040786

I am adamant about the flags even though their viability is questioned at every turn. To my aesthetic, the four fifteen foot white billows  are a necessary counterpart upstairs to the tulle and lights below. Here they form a dramatic backdrop as Jenny gazes, pensive, into the distance. I wonder what she’s thinking in these last moments.P1040787

I catch a kiss, then my camera dies. It’s great timing. I can be present for the rest of the day without the glass eye of the lens between me and the unveiling of a new life. I have no doubts about this partnership. It’s stronger than a ship’s knot. Mr. and Mrs. Kennen Pflughoeft, thank you. I love you.

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