Lock of Hair

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Flying Buddha & Buddhist Monk: Pinterest

I teach a meditation where you actually intend to think. It’s fairly simple. Once relaxed in a seated position you intentionally recall as many memories from your life as you possibly can. You hold none for more than a second or two, just enough to know what you’re remembering, then you drop it and look for another. One of the purposes of the meditation is to demonstrate there is no thought that can’t be pulled up and dropped just as quickly. That many thoughts, which at one time, had immense emotional charge to them can be picked up and put down as easily as thoughts that have no immediate effect on you at all.

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I practice this meditation often, especially when I find myself giving thoughts more power than they likely deserve. I was engaged in the meditation several months ago when the memory of a shopkeeper I’d worked for in the late seventies came to mind. I hadn’t thought of her in decades and the sudden recall of her brought a wonderful warmth to me. I’ve found things that still possess an emotional charge are always worth exploring. They are magic jars I stumble upon in the back of my mind that possess some understanding about myself. I never stumble onto them unless what they have to give is exactly what I am looking for in that moment. It was obvious her memory struck a cord and so I spent more time thinking of her when the meditation was complete.

Florian hired me for her haute couture dress shop on High Ridge Road when I was sixteen. I was a dirt-under-the-nails tomboy, the daughter of a farm-raised mother with seven children, mostly boys. There was not much attention given to the feminine in my house. Most days my mother was buried under five feet of laundry waiting to be washed and three pounds of spaghetti looking for a pot of boiling water for dinner. To me, Florian was a pink flamingo in my chicken coop life. I knew nothing of high heels or the right baubles for the right occasion, as she’d say. Working for Florian was an education in all things womanly.
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“Don’t slouch, dear. You look more like a sloth than the lovely young woman you are. Stand up and hold your gaze level with anyone’s eyes. Just do it softly, not as if your gunning them down. Think, I see into you, not through you”, she’d school me as she stood in her Evan Piccone suit. I often felt I was in training to be a film star, as there was something a bit larger than life about her. “Never be afraid to look at people or have an opinion. Your ideas are just as interesting and deep and delicious as the next person. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, you should make a life out of using it well.”

Florian taught me to tuck my blouses into my panty hose to avoid shirt wrinkles beneath my skirt. She’d pass on her dress shop wisdom as we worked to set up displays, “You can tell a well-made blouse at a glance by the buttons. If they match the color or the fabric of the blouse, it is likely a more expensive shirt”. A great tip when quickly perusing the Goodwill racks, I’ve found. She had a way of buttoning up a shirt on its hanger that seemed almost Zen to me. She never rushed, even when we were busy. She really enjoyed the clothes she sold and relished their quality. Her focused way of moving through life utterly captivated me.
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Growing up with six siblings everything we did seemed rushed and everything we owned looked a decade old within a month of its purchase. Florian cared for things that would be intimately connected to her body as a gardener might tend her roses. When I think back on how fascinated I was by her style I realize she was my first Zen master. I had to slow down and breathe to keep up with her. She taught me to think of myself with reverence and care. That what touched my body should feel good to me and make me feel good about myself.
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I’d watch her walk down the center of the shop, moving with the grace of a swan, her arm aloft lazily, as she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. I’d mimic her stance in the employee bathroom as I practiced different ways of seeing myself, other than the poor, awkward teenager I’d always thought I was.

“A little blush to the chin, nose and forehead make for a more natural appearance”, she’d note, as she applied her makeup meticulously. “Makeup is meant to enhance your beauty, not mask it.” She offered me her compact once and I practiced applying foundation. Another time I laid the eyebrow pencil too heavily and she called me Groucho Marx for a week. I wasn’t simply fond of her, I loved her and how beautiful she made me feel about myself. She had no children and I was as feral as a cat when I first came to work with her. When I look at the timing of our meeting I realize it was as perfect as one of her cashmere sweaters.
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Women flocked to her dress shop to partake not only of her clothes but her special joie de vivre. My home life, post my parent’s divorce, was a rocky place to be. Florian provided me a stable and very feminine haven that I would allow few other adults, at that time, to give me.

“Spend your money on classic pieces”, she’d advise as she held a pencil thin skirt in front of her before the mirror. “They’ll last a long time and you can get away with cheap trendy stuff thrown in for flare and style.” When the shop was slow she’d pick out an outfit and have me try it on. It was the supreme game of dress up. I don’t think I was comfortable being a girl most of the time. I spent more time acting like a boy, so to this tutelage I arrived like a fat sponge. I took everything she’d give me. Though, in looking back, I see now what I wanted more than anything was her confidence as much as her panache. She commanded a room even when that room was teeming with people who had demands.
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I looked her up on the internet after these musings, but only found her obit. A wave of nostalgia mixed with sadness rolled over me; like the passing of a great silver screen icon of old. Not very old, just my silver screen old.

We often think of meditation as escaping our thinking and separating our spirit from our human history. I have never found much richness in that. For me, meditation has taught me not to fear my thoughts or anything in my life. Not to be afraid to let my story rise and fall like flotsam on the ocean, for inside my thoughts are many of the stories I am using to create myself. Some of these stories serve me, while others do not. Meditation allows me to discern what to let go of and what to keep. Florian is a story that serves me, I think, as I lazily tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.

 

This piece was inspired by an exercise sponsored by blogger, Holistic Wayfarer on memories of our past that can be found at https://holisticwayfarer.com/2016/03/31/bonjour-texas-summer-1966/

Some wonderful pieces worth a read, I promise. 

29 thoughts on “Lock of Hair

  1. Florian certainly sounds like one of those very rare, special and privileged acquaintances that, if we are fortunate, we may encounter in life. I have enjoyed a handful of such privileges over my six decades and more, and each were as if a blessing to receive – most worthy of respect and frequent contemplative reflection upon. A quite lovely post, Noelle, for which many thanks.

    • Yes, Hariod, a privilege indeed and you are right, you only have a few such gems in your life. People who you realize appeared at critical moments that lead you down entirely new paths. I feel such a deep sense of gratitude, really.

  2. N, Everything in THIS paragraph, the sentences before and after

    “Florian cared for things that would be intimately connected to her body as a gardener might tend her roses.”

    is what I was seeking when I kept pushing for more out of you. You put it all on your board, almost as if subconsciously you were resisting mine! How interesting. While I wish I’d gotten this from you earlier, as we just finished saying, God’s timing is best. This was not late. It was perfect – just as F would have it. 😉

    I appreciate the thoughtful link-back. But that goes to a guest post. Mine is the most recent post on the home page, though I’m not going to lose sleep over it. =)

    • When I clicked on your main link I got the guest message, but I wrote this last week, so might not have gotten the most current web link. I’ll attach it here, as I’d really like them to get to all the pieces. https://holisticwayfarer.com/

      Sometimes getting to what you want takes time. Your ideas and prompting were perfect for keeping me going.

      • “Sometimes getting to what you want takes time.” Absolutely. I love that this was a process for you, Noelle. That we sought, and found. And I love the gems you uncovered. You painted them well. Again, I appreciate the humble receptivity. That was sweet of you to edit the link.

        Xx
        D.

  3. What a marvelous story, an incredible memory, and an unforgettable gift.
    So many sentences are wonderfully written, and I particularly liked “Florian was a pink flamingo in my chicken coop life”.

    • I think we all have such people in our life, but because we are running away from our histories half the time, we fail to see we are running from the good stuff, too. So delighted you liked it my friend. A thousand blessings.

  4. Oh lovely and energizing Noelle. This brought back a memory of a maiden aunt who took me away from the four brothers and to the art gallery (i had never been to one) and bought me a post card of Botticelli Venus (i was awe-struck, my mother had silently taught shame in the female form). The experience solidified something of beauty that is of the Feminine that i would have had trouble accessing on my own. Bless all these extraordinary mentors – and a reminder too of the lives we in turn can bring magic to.

    • Isn’t it delicious to look back and see this key moment in your life when you know something in you formed? There aren’t that many we can so precisely touch on. Most of our transitions are slow evolutions, rather than pinnacle moments. I love art, so praise to your maiden aunt. Art impacts us on so many levels and reaches deep into the psyche. Smart woman to give you Botticelli’s Venus…. she knew what she was doing!

  5. Beautifully written. I loved the images it conjured up of the exotic flamingo who danced into your life, and the love and respect for self and your femininity that she inspired in you. Also agree with your parting words on meditation. Rather than a tool to take us out of ourselves, I think it’s one to take us into ourselves more deeply and discover the treasures that lie there. Much love to you my friend.

    • I know I entered my meditation practice in hopes of losing a self that seemed broken to me, but instead I seem to be growing deeper and deeper into a me that was never truly broken. Like kintsugi pottery. It’s more lovely because it has been broken and with gold brought back together. Blessings, my dear friend.

  6. Great story Noelle, and valuable lesson as well. I know of a few of those type of relationships which I definitely appreciate now more than I did then. If only you could thank the person. I guess the best way to do so is to respect their message and lead your life by the principles they taught.

    • So true. I think this even about my parents. So many sacrifices that they made you just didn’t understand as a kid. Now that I do they are both gone. Peace, my friend and thank you.

  7. Hi Noelle,

    What I loved most in this piece is what you and Julia briefly discussed above– the idea that with meditation we enter more deeply into the richness of who we are. The idea that thoughts can bring us gifts is also important to me. Thoughts get a bad rap, and they do certainly swirl about, but when I am at peace and I am open, they also bring much that is needed. I don’t think a difficulty in my life has ever lifted without the arrival of a “thought I didn’t think”, given freely to me…

    Your writing is lovely and inspiring.

    Peace
    Michael

    • Love that… “a thought I didn’t think…” yes, indeed. So many hard moments have been transformed by that letting go, if only briefly, so spirit can slide in like arriving at home base, with an idea I had never thought of before. I think you begin to truly live within grace when you realize those thoughts were a gift from elsewhere. An understanding you were close enough to it in your own thinking to understand the arrival of such awareness, but just too tied up in the inner chaos to really grasp that brilliant inspiration on your own. You needed push, so to speak. Yes, a thought given freely. Beautiful.

      Thank you, my friend, for your gift of a visit.

  8. `For me, meditation has taught me not to fear my thoughts or anything in my life. Not to be afraid to let my story rise and fall like flotsam on the ocean, for inside my thoughts are many of the stories I am using to create myself. Some of these stories serve me, while others do not. Meditation allows me to discern what to let go of and what to keep´…

    Those ending words are certainly moving…. I like the way you brought back memories and enjoyed learning about Florian as well… as you said nostalgia might be involved with our deepest thoughts… but as we remember we recreate and the past is always an infinite resource of lessons…
    Sending love and best wishes, Aquileana 🎇 ~

    • You well know, my friend, the value of stories from the past being revisited for what they can teach us in the now. Is that not the central focus of mythology and fables? The tale that endlessly teaches us about ourselves. As always, thanks for stopping by….

  9. “Meditation allows me to discern what to let go of and what to keep.” Florian is a keeper for sure. It must have been heartbreaking to search for her only to find her obituary. I love the richness of your memory, and could envision Florian as if she were standing right in front of me.

    • We all don’t leave that sort of vibe in the world. An impression of ourselves that is actually palpable. She had that sort of charismatic presence. Yes, it was actually a bit heartbreaking to read her obit. It was rather small for such an enormous life, at least to me. Thanks for stopping in, my friend. Grateful for the visit.

    • Sorry I missed your comment somehow. Yes, Florian was lovely. There are few people in life you can focus on so clearly outside of our families that have such impact on us. Makes me wonder if I have had this sort of impact on others and to be a bit more mindful of what I am doing. Thanks for stopping in, my friend.

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