Tuesday, October 17, 2006


"Of two sisters, one is always the watcher...

...one the dancer."
--Louise Gluck, poet--

Yesterday, I stole my sister away for an hour on her birthday eve to take photos of her in a state park near our homes. She was uncomfortable with being photographed, ambushed as she was by the little sister with big ideas. What I wanted to do? Record her as she is emerging into a new decade, capture how beautiful she is to me...how strong. All of my life, I have watched her move several steps ahead of me...struggling to catch up with her...wishing I had her intellect, her blonde hair, or her boldness. Imperfect sister that I am, at times, I haven't been open to her...clinging to our prescribed roles of "the smart one" or "the sensitive one" without giving any thought to how much we both have evolved and grown.

She embraces life, whatever it brings to her. She laughs when anyone else would be weeping. My sister is not a woman easily thrown off-course. She knows how to hold on and how to let go. When I was just nine years old, my sister left for college--I had a hard time, writing her sad letters and crying to my mother. At nine, I guess I already realized we'd never really live together again. By nature of our age difference, I wouldn't have a day-to-day sisterhood experience: going to school together, lounging around on our beds dreaming of the future, whispering scary stories in the darkness, getting into trouble, bickering over friends and boys. I was envious of her worldliness, how she could strike out into life as she did when I was just an awkward, painfully shy girl.

I didn't know enough to be a real support to her as she had been to me...I was flawed, uncertain, confused--the little sister. As fate would have it, I started having children early and the lines between us blurred. Baby in my arms, I was spontaneously "caught up" to my married, child-bearing sister. But, while she was the mother...I was the mess. It was my sister who finally convinced me to seek help for my first round of PPD, driving me to the doctor, holding my infant daughter while I was checked out and prescribed the medications that reduced the voluminous roar of new motherhood to a gentle song. Gratitude flooded me, but at the time, I remembered her juggling two babies in under two years without flinching--and felt I was second-best yet again.

My sister has been ill with a serious condition...she doesn't second guess it. She doesn't ask "why me?" or consider her health "compromised". It is what it is, and she moves forward anyway. I struggle with the pain of my own (insignificant by comparison) health concern with far less grace than she bears hers. I have been the watcher...she, the dancer.

Yet, each year moves me closer into the center of things...colors me just a touch bolder...makes me that much closer to living my life without reservations. I abandon the labels I once used to define myself and others. I look on the bright side...I care less "what people will say". At a dear friend's recent full moon wedding, I found myself whirling on the dance floor like a fallen star...inexplicably incapable of sitting another one out.

Today, her birthday--and always...I want her to know that I have reaped the benefits from watching her all this time. I hope she keeps living as an example for this imperfect little sister...and that she saves a dance for me.


Blogger rising to the challenge said...

This post is an amazing tribute to your sister and yourself. I'm sure she will truly cherish the honesty and wisdom in your words.

May your health and hers be mended and thrive.

Good vibes blowing your way from Ireland...


3:35 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

What a beautiful tribute to your sister! I hope she gets to read this.And I hope she will be well.

You write of your feelings so well, and all the changes you are making and sensing in yourself. I really love it and honor you for it! It is fun to read, and it makes me smile, and say YES!


4:44 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

The love that powers this post is truly awe-inspiring. It is not just a piece of writing, it is a force.

Happy birthday to your wonderful sister! Thank you for sharing her with all of us.

6:19 PM  
Blogger b/sistersshoes said...

on this day, I am writing from my sick bed. I have spent many birthdays in bed, I hope that she is not.

Give her, and you, my love...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

just me...good vibes right back your way...

amber...thank you for following my words along, I appreciate your thoughts...

patry...yes, a deep love for her and I hope she knows it.

b/sis...I hope you are feeling better soon!

8:52 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

This is beautiful and heart-filling. Happy birthday to your sister and may this year bless you both.

12:01 AM  
Blogger bb said...

beautiful portraits of two beautiful women in their own right!

and a touching tribute to your sister - may you both enjoy health and happiness this coming year.

love x x x

11:34 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

this is a topic close to my heart - sisterhood. how beautiful you both are (and in that portrait, D, you look like you're in a 50s film - so glamorous, and a true femme fatale)

i loved reading about your bond, and how we play catch up with our sisters all our lives. i'm the eldest, so it is even more interesting for me to read this... i wish good healh to you both, and lots of love too :-) xx

1:25 PM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

i'm a watcher too...and it's time we watchers start dancing...

your sister is beautiful and i have no doubt that she'd love to dance hand in hand with you.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an incredible post....a testament to the strength of the sister bond, and a tribute to both of you.

Beautiful (and happy birthday to your sister!)

6:26 PM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

deirdre...thank you for the birthday wishes.

bb...taking her portrait was incredibly inspiring to me...

susannah...thank you for hoping for health around here--and for the "femme fatale", that's quite a compliment.

la vie...I'll meet you on the dance floor...

mardougrrl...thank you!

6:34 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

beautiful, powerful photos that speak volumes.

and your words. oh how i resonate with your words... me being the little sister and the clumsy feelings that can come up with that role. also relate to the fierce love you have for your sister and your differences...owning them and embracing them. accepting one another.

i cannot say enough about this but i will just save this gift you gave me, tuck it away and know that i am not alone.

sisters are a rare and beautiful treasure.

love to you, wise friend.


3:53 AM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

oops...i forgot to say happy birthday to your sis.

i hope she dances in the moonlight...

3:54 AM  
Blogger Deb R said...

I love this post so much and am sending lots and lots of good thoughts to both you and your sister. I love the two photos together. They tell such a story!

That quote intrigues me too, as a woman with one sister. But y'know I can't honestly say my sister and I have always been one or the other - watcher and dancer. I honestly think we've taken turns with those roles at various times in our lives. Thank you for a lovely post that made me think.

3:18 PM  

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