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25 Jun
It’s no surprise that bad news depletes rather than fills, but a sense of helplessness is only an illusion. If you want to change the world, begin by focusing on issues closest to home.
 
Attitude makes a huge difference and no one runs before he crawls. Instead of giving up or in, simply think.
 
1. Practice humility.
2. Do not confuse what you want with what you need.
3. Respect others.
4. Practice kindness while keeping true to your core beliefs.
5. Before criticizing others, repeat the criticisms into a mirror; most likely you need to hear the message more than you need to share it.
6. Never force your beliefs or opinions on others.
7. Always refuse to join angry crowds.
8. Listen instead of speaking.
9. If you ask someone a question and he does not answer, accept his silence as a valid response.
10. Smile rather than frowning.
11. Speak well of others.
12. Never boast or intimidate; there is a fine line between arrogance and bullying.
13. Do not fall in love with the sound of your own voice.
14. Be sensitive and aware.
15. Be a strong but loving parent to your own needs.
 
Be happy! Life is too short for anything else.  
itty 
Dream-Wisdom stone feather balance
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Naked Truth

20 Feb

Transparency is a popular word these days.  Along with buzz words like the War Against Women and Wage Inequality, transparency vies for a place of its own in competitive environments of media/politico/socio/economic Halls of Fame, pushing its agenda across a multitude of venues that are either frothing in glee or utter disdain at a seemingly never ending chain of bad human behavior.

The public need for vengeance and humiliation appears to have exploded like a watermelon packed with explosives as we sit mesmerized in our living rooms, or travel from place to place in the soft glow of cell phones, laptops, tablets and notebooks, or as we churn and steam over dinner plates prepared and consumed in front of television sets primed with intentionally choreographed entertain-o-news intended to evoke divisive rage.

In this kind of environment a transparency movement is inevitable, I believe, because something or someone must at least pretend to understand the plight of the little guys with their feelings of being misunderstood, maligned, oppressed, and dismissed.  Thus the transparency movement began calling out bigger boys like corporate greed, unemployment realities, the high and mighty1%; it began challenging assertions that America is a nation of takers, and that piss-poor- trickle-down economic policies will ultimately work.

Encouraged, transparency enthusiasts shifted gears until their tactics began to blur.  Soon it was impossible to distinguish one political machine from the other, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say two camps battle on, each raving over a litany of ill-will subjects such as Wall Street, political corruption, the Koch brothers, and a frightening epidemic of self-righteous foot in mouth diseased fools blubbering on and on about anything vaguely reproductive. Eventually, the pure idea turned into a loud, sometimes whiney movement nobly begun, dissolved in business as usual.

In spite of a resilient supply of pro-transparency advocates, the concept itself is not a well-practiced one.  It’s fairly obvious why politicians, bureaucrats, big money and traditional mass media shy away from exposing the truths of their deep pocket roots, but on one level or another, in spite of, or perhaps because of intensifying and intrusive traffic along social media highways, ordinary folks are beginning to take cover too.

We’re beginning to learn that there is a price to be paid for speaking up.  There is also the arrogant temptation that one’s strong personally-held opinions are so powerfully right-on that they should erase those of others who are equally sure they hold the key to what ails a nation.  There is the covert open door into our lives from sneaky powers that be.  There is the possibility that we’re never actually talking to the person we think we are.  There is a smoldering population of people waiting in fear or anger for a piece of ‘justice’.

All of this brings me to the point I’m trying to make: I have always struggled with the dichotomy of personal disclosure.  Is it better for the soul and the psyche to ‘put it all out there’, or will details and personal histories actually effect real change? And why should I believe my perceptions and philosophies might serve others as well as they have served me? And even if they do, who cares?

Even as I wrestle with the question, a grass root movement to drop off the grid and return to the privacy of the cave has begun.  New pioneers are stepping backward in time in monumental efforts to move forward.  Personally, I can relate to the voices that drive the wild herd deeper into the forests and mountains of anonymity.

It’s all a process.

I come from a long line of well-trained secret-keepers; breaking the habit is hard and painful.  It’s not so much that I love a happy ending, but more that I need one. On a personal level these past four years have been excruciating.  A long time ago I quit believing ‘everything is as it should be’ in spite of the fact that I’ve lost several New Age-y friends as a consequence. I remain steadfast, however, in my belief that there is something to be learned from each and every bit of bounty and crap that touches my life.  One might think I would be a master of wisdom by now, that in deed, we all would, but instead I find myself wrestling more and more every day with the demons of change and passing time.

I’ve chosen which side of transparency best suits me understanding that honoring that choice has cost me the warm, fluffy comfort of the old Pollyanna spirit that used to buffer and keep me safe from the great abyss.

In the past I’ve tempered each word with sugar and hope.  Not anymore.  Not now.  I’ve drawn a new line in the sand of the battlefields in my mind, and I’ve crossed.  It doesn’t matter who the hell I am, I have an opinion, and I refuse to stay captive to traditional boxes in spite of implied or absolute threats.

No magic parachutes or making nice anymore, my friends.  No spin, no bubbles, no unicorns or canned sappy endings.  All that remains in my hands after the blood has spilled through these fingers is the terrible, powerful girth and weight of my own true words.

 viking power 8 great

 

Observation in Grey: January

23 Jan

cedar waxwing 2

Low heavy sky.

Biting wind and bitter cold.

The emeralds and languid turquoise of

summer reduced to neutrals.

Inside this old house drafts refuse to be tamed.

From a window as cold to the touch as ice

I watch for a sign.

Atop thin tips of willowy branches in a barren bush

a Cedar WaxWing inspects a world stripped of nonessentials.

We are so close our eyes lock.

Each studies the other.

What are we looking for?

What do we hope to find?

Where is the thread that connects us?

Wind gusts, howls.

The ancient Magnolia bends in its breath.

From far away, a dirty plastic bag has filled with bluster and taken flight.

Now it rushes between the bird and me.

Cedar Wax Wing cocks his head, but doesn’t fly.

It’s a stare-down of epic proportions,

one animal exploring another,

each with needs,

each searching,

each starving to death to know.

©bss

Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos

6 Dec

the sky is falliingWeather reports zealously predicted the emergence of a winter storm of near epic proportions.  As I listened, I was struck by the sound of rising alarm in the voices of meteorologists who paced like caged tigers, and I wondered again where the days of calm and objectivity had gone, seemingly having disappeared like two old friends descending the last mountain, looking back over their shoulders to companions left behind, giving a final thumbs up to them, as if nothing would ever change, as if time and the world would repeat itself as it always had when the sun rose each morning; but the world did change, and comfort once gained from soothing, consistent voices vanished in a populist culture of serial disasters, each horrible and mesmerizing; each uglier than its predecessor, yet understood to be just another wrung on an endless ladder of adrenaline-driven-drama yet to come.

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst, we drove to the market in preparation of the power outage that was sure to come.  How did we know the power would disappear?  Well, actually we received a text message from Entergy explaining that 8,000 workers were on their way to the area, and that outages were expected to last “5-7 days”.  It seemed more a promise than a possibility.

As we drove, we passed 3 or 4 gas stations, each with long, winding lines and a carbon monoxide fog hanging overhead like another warning, or perhaps, a final obituary.

Inside the store, signs of the new world shrank the warehouse sized building into the likes of a small parlor filled with warring tribes, each combatant wearing armor, his or her eyes straight ahead, and the cold dead stench of fear rising.

The bread aisle was empty.

The water aisle was empty.

no water

A half-gallon of milk cost $4.43.

I had a bag of tortillas in my hand until an old man shoved me and snatched it away; pushing his cart away as fast and hard as he could.  On any other day, perhaps he would have offered to reach it for me, taken it from the high shelf and put it in my hand, or maybe he might have smiled as we passed each other on Aisle 8.  But today he was not himself, or perhaps he had never been more himself until the very moment he stole a bag of tortillas from a stranger’s hand.

It caught me off-guard; for a moment, I needed to step away from the crowd, so I huddled next to an end-cap of nonessentials like cotton balls or hair color.  Narrowing my focus, I listened to the sounds emitted from the surging crowd.  Expecting growls of altercation, I was surprised to hear excitement, like a growing anticipation for an adventure yet defined.  At first I believed I was witnessing the emergence of community, a gathering of like-minded souls preparing to endure shared battle, but the longer I listened, I more clearly I began to understand, and I trembled with the knowledge that what I heard was more akin to observers at a public hanging, or a gathering of the pious howling in jubilation at the burning of a accused witch.

Rich and I left carrying nuts and fruit, a couple of bags of chips and 3 bottles of marinara.  We drove like lunatics away from the crowds, weaving through debris already strewn by the wind throughout back roads and city streets.

Once home, we dug through the Recycle Bin, dragging out empty plastic bottles that we washed with hot, soapy water.  After they’d dried, we filled them with fresh tap water.

We unpacked winter blankets.

We filled a basket with candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches and shared the last piece of pumpkin pie from the back of the refrigerator.  Then we snuggled under the knitted blanket I’d bought at an estate sale from two daughters who didn’t want it, who had valued it at $3.00, never understanding the emotion and time, the love and careful attention their mother had invested in it.

Then we turned on the outside Christmas lights, rolled up the blinds, settled in, held hands, and watched the snow begin to fall.

snow flakes

Anticipating Change

28 Oct

Curving up West Mountain2

It’s dark and damp outside, the product of three drizzling days of lazy rain.  No thunder or drama, just the persistent mist of late autumn on the mountain, the last vestiges of a once brilliant floral floor falling in decay, while the canopy above explodes in blasts of impulsive color.  Crisp air carries the musky scent of wet soil as the temperature plunges, leaving the forest vulnerable to the stark nakedness that will soon follow.

All summer the woods expanded, reaching closer to my door, but now they are shrinking in a slow retreat that will widen the spaces between each magnificent tree and end, eventually, in the white silence of fallen snow.

These are the busy days; the squirrels are fat, darting in and out of hollows and thatched crevices with their jaws stretched to capacity with nuts and fallen fruit.  Foxes move deeper into their dens, and the light twilled sounds of songbirds are overcome by strong, scratchy notes coughed from the throats of crows and ravens.

The steady circadian hum that marked the onset of slow summer nights has been replaced with pure silence, broken occasionally by the howl of coyote in the distance, or the harsh, splitting assault of a poacher’s kill shot.

Black canvas skies feel deeper.  Stars, lit like votive candles, punctuate vast dark fields. And the intensity of light traveling for thousands and thousands of years emphasizes the emptiness above, accentuating constellations described by an array of mythical stories intended to remind us of our vulnerabilities to the wills and powers of the unknown.

images

Between night and rain, the most amazing clear days lend themselves to preparations for winter as I harvest and dry herbs from my gardens,collect seeds, trim baring bushes and fruit trees, cover thinning flower beds with fallen leaves, and thoughtfully redefine the perimeters of our home in anticipation of the uncertainties of the coming winter season.

Inside, I’m refinishing old furniture I’ve drug around for a lifetime and adding fresh paint to faded walls.  I’ve finished quilting my holiday quilt and look forward to hanging it on the walnut quilt holder Rich built for my displays several years ago.  I’m thumbing through old fall and winter cook books in search of comfort food recipes I can revamp and up-cycle into healthier versions of themselves in order to provide my family with sound nutrition that keeps the coziness and reassurance of traditional flavors.

I’m nearly manic in a nesting mode, yet more peaceful and happier than I can recall being for a very long time.  I’m paying attention to every detail in every moment and learning from mistakes I make along the way, but being kind to myself at the same time.

I’m feeling appreciative to this old body that has carried me through all the years of my life in spite of how badly or irresponsibly I treated it in younger times.  I would never dream of altering it, lifting, tucking, cutting off and throwing any part of it away in order to retain some silly semblance of youth.  For me, that would be an exercise in futility, and an insult to the organic process of being born, blossoming,  progressing, then fading and dying in a natural way.  I’ve tended the bedsides of too many hospice patients to waste my time holding on to surface matter, learning from their experiences that joy and satisfaction comes from living life well in the present moment, no matter its length or challenging circumstance.

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa because Rich is retiring, for good this time, at the end of December.  January 1st is kick-off day for our journey together through the Golden Years, no matter what they bring or impose.

on the front porch

90 is the new 30, the frustrating numbers we believe

9 Oct

used car salesman and old lady

I heard it on TV!

40 is the new 20.

60 is the new 40.

Bull pucky!   If you believe that, maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, and while you’re at it, come to terms with the fact that you might be buying yellow bricks from a bunch of munchkins from Planet Oz.

Illusion is the new truth out there, my friends!

What’s real in my house is the troubling personal reality that 90 minutes has become the new 30 minutes and the end results are starting to suck big time since I’m working with what I have and not so much with what I need, or used to have, or think I ought to have.

I remember working like a son of a gun without ending the day with cascading waves of muscles cramps and insomnia.  I remember when a glass of white wine was all it took to unwind. But the fact that it takes 90 minutes for me to do what I used to do in 30 is a fact of life, and as distasteful as it seems, I live around it as I go about the comical but satisfying process of remaining true to myself.  This time-ability-experiential -shift hasn’t changed who I am; it’s only decreased my production levels requiring me to regularly adjust priorities.

Yesterday my dentist was trying to sell me on his idea of how to best care for my teeth, saying his plan would ensure dental happiness for the next 30 years.  I looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“I have no plans to need teeth in 30 years”, I said, to which he replied, “You need to change the paradigm you use to see life.”

I have to hand it to him, it was a great line, but paying $10,000 for a couple of teeth isn’t going to impact anything except my wallet, and honest to goodness, I don’t want to see 95!

Years ago I made a deliberate choice to live my own way.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It turned my entire life upside down, and during the first year that followed, I sometimes wondered if the consequences of that choice weren’t signs that I’d lost my mind.  One the best (and worst) aspects of my personality is an over-developed sense of tenacity; I’m “in it” for the long haul no matter how long or short, how wicked or delightful the ride might be.

I lost friends.  I disappointed family.  I hung in.  I pushed on and here I am!

Happiness is fleeting and situational at best, so to say I’ve been happy ever since would be dishonest, but I have enormous inner peace and intermittent bursts of sudden, unexplained joy.

Eventually my family came around, but there is space between us that didn’t feel as if it was there before.  This was disappointing until I began to understand that life is not intended to remain constant.  The human condition is based on constant evolving change as we grow from single cells into complex beings of great potential.  We accept, we reject, and we settle or compromise.  We break free from the pack.  We stumble and fall.  We get up and try again, or lie face down in the dirt unwilling to gamble on the uncertainty of the unknown.  We grow large or we shrink.  We bend or we break. Some of us try to stay in the same place but the wind blows and the night sky dims our vision, and well known plains and valleys in the geography of our existence evolves around us, forcing our hand.

If we are true to our core selves, resisting social rhetoric and religious dogma, we win!  We get to rub Ben Gay on our swollen legs at night and drink warm milk or pop Tylenol PM in hopes of getting a decent night’s sleep.

We get to have good or bad dreams, and we get to remember or forget them when we wake in the morning.  We get to choose whether or not we want to watch the 5 o’clock news.  We get to decide if we eat sensibly or forgive ourselves for eating chocolate cake for dinner.

We get to keep inching along that long narrow ledge on the steepest side of the highest mountain, and it’s our choice whether or not we leap into the near-blue invisible arms of the sky or sit in place, watching the clouds swirl around us.  We can be kings and queens or the village idiot.  We can shut up, put up and hang on.  Or not.

 

A Glimpse into the Irreplaceable Past

22 Sep

 yardsale2

Sprawling across the front lawn belonging to a 75-ish woman, yesterdays Yard Sale was the result of the mental planning and great physical efforts of two other women, one 45-ish, the other 35-ish. The 40-something gem is a jewel of a woman of whom such a description aptly fits, but the same could be said of the others relative to the fact that one is her mother, and the other, her best friend.

The odd duck in the lot was me, the 65-ish old chick who lives next door to the gem and her best friend.  I was propped up by the presence of my own best friend, Rick, my husband, who attended the foray in the capacity of muscle, security, neighbor, buddy, and loyal assistant.

The day was perfectly beautiful with bright shining sun and a slight breeze, and temperatures’ ranging from the low 60’s to low 70’s.  Having decided to forego listing our sale in the classifieds, the weather proved our best advertisement, drawing sleepy heads, weary of too many days of unseasonable heat, out of their air-conditioned caves and back into the streets in search of community.

It was a very good day to make new friends, which we did, but what impressed me most was the symbology of the items we’d each chosen to sell.  It was a clear representation of the past in a spectrum of odd collections displayed in a mishmash fashion across plastic tables, in acknowledgement of sentimental journeys spanning generations.

Each item we discarded was a piece of our individual and collective pasts.  I can’t speak for the others, but I’d struggled for weeks culling out cabinets and closets trying to come to terms with letting go of objects that represented my past in a genuine effort to simplify the present.  For me, nothing is simply what it appears to be; that small glass bowl with its etched lid is the party I hosted when I was 25 and all my girlfriends were nearly weightless in joy and anticipation of the futures they’d planned.  It was toddlers toddling around our knees, picking cookies off dainty trays and eating them with the kind of zeal only a child can express.

etched jar

The two decorated stacking boxes were freedom at 51, they were inner courage surfacing, lust and excitement coming of age when I felt for the very first time, it was finally my turn.  Putting price tags on them for $2.50 and $4.00 seemed a slap in the face to the most extreme journey I’d taken in my life.

The end tables were tradition.  The handmade Christmas ornaments are hopes I once held for a houseful of grandchildren clamoring each holiday season to help Nonnie and Newt decorate their tree.

I know in my head, none of these items are actually pieces of my identity, only small material representations of dreams I’ve dreamt and discarded along the way as the path turned one way and then another, and each old ideal diminished in the face of a new and far brighter reality.

identity art

But the struggle to release is real.  It’s a mother entering the winter of her life finally realizing she simply must cut the cord and set her grown children completely free to flounder and fall before soaring amongst the stars in the boundless sky.  It’s burying a dead ex-husband and allowing the truth to exist by accepting that each flaw in the relationship helped you learn how to fill the tiny cracks that kept you fractured from the deepest, most authentic aspects of yourself.

It is understanding how embracing the hard times and then letting them go, strengthens your fortitude, making it easier to face the deep unknown.

It’s not a tattered old crocheted blanket; it’s the tears you shed creating it as you divested yourself from longings that, if followed, would deeply affect your children’s lives.  It is not a silly piece of art; it’s your father’s imagination, your mother’s strong hands, your sister’s laughter, your brother’s serious side, a glimpse into the irreplaceable past.

But at the end of the day, hard choices must be made.  Sitting in the shade with new friends and the love of my life, making new friends, placing old treasures into stranger’s hands, I’m cutting loose threads of the past in order to create a clearer path for today.  Even so, late in the day, when a man hassles me over the price of my two decorated boxes, I pass on the deal, deciding to keep this particular symbol for myself.

The seasons of our lives are not loved and respected because of successes we enjoy, nor are they despised and weakened by the challenges we face, but are to be richly honored for moving us each closer to authenticity and the inner sanctuary of unconditional love and absolute peace.

The wise know without the storm, there would be no majestic cliff from which to stand and observe the seemingly random, yet perfectly organized chaos of changing weather.  Without rapids in the river, sharp ridges would not be tamed into smooth stone. Yesterdays’ Yard Sale brought five people together uniting their pasts by sharing and releasing a variety of personal treasures.  These treasures attracted other collectors, and in the process relative strangers journeys’ intersected in an act of true community.

Last night I dreamed I was in a boat that was being carried by rushing currents through a narrow river stream.  Branches from a forest of trees created a low canopy that was ominous.  I could feel my heart beat faster and faster as the water drew my small boat closer to the obstacles ahead, but just as I was about to be hit in the face by a branch, it would suddenly arch toward the sky, freeing my way.  For miles I traveled watching the beautiful spectacle.  My daughters were standing on either side of the riverbed, each peaceful and smiling.  They waved as I passed, then turned and walked away.

I saw my deceased ex-husband on a hill.  He was standing with Rick.  As I approached, he shook Rick’s hand and then faded away.  Rick walked to the edge of the shore, waiting for me; then he slipped easily into my boat.  Suddenly the boat was a ship, and the sea lay open and inviting before us.  And when I awoke this morning, I swear I could taste salt on my lips and hear waves breaking on shore.  Yesterday was a beautiful season.  So is today.

season tree

  And I know tomorrow will be too, no matter when it begins or how long it stays.