Tag Archives: inspiration

West Mountain Wisdom

24 Apr

west mt 2

I never know when I’ll find myself on that mountain.  Going there is more instinct than thought.  West Mountain draws me like a magnet, but before leaving Seabrook, Texas, it was the Seabrook Ship Yard that called my name.

seabrook shipyard 1

 A small winding road off Hiway146, oftentimes under water from impulsive tides and persistent land erosion, faithfully led me past yachts moored in covered shelters, and sailboats loosely attached to floating piers, opening like a subtle bloom into a grassy field lined with pink and red oleanders and a fine assortment of lazy palms.  I’ve parked my old Chevy a thousand times at the point overlooking an arm of Clear Lake that passes beneath the fancy Kemah Bridge, merging unceremoniously with the Gulf Bay.  The bay runs for miles and miles through small, scattered coastal towns on its way to Galveston Island, where it explodes in deep blues and, closer to shore, unassuming hues of sienna and umber.

I was exploring my new neighborhood nearly 30 years ago when I stumbled across this perfect oasis, a comforting hidden harbor that seemed to sense my need for soothing isolation.  We’d lost a child I was emotionally attached to in the busy pediatric hospital where I worked.  Christopher was a ward of the state.  He was fair with soft blond hair and amazing blue eyes, and in spite of a myriad of physical disabilities and disease, he managed to ignore the ventilator pumping breath through his tattered, fragile lungs, and the tracheostomy and feeding tubes he’d endured from birth, to play happily, most days, in his crib.

Everyone loved Chris, but Chris was my baby in the sense that I’d cared for him as a student nurse, and then joined the unit he called home when my studies were complete.  I’d shared almost all of his tiny, 2 year old baby life and was so much richer for the gift of having the opportunity to do so.

Christopher died on my day off, and no one had thought to call me.  It was just an oversight, everyone thought someone else had called me; it happens.  When I showed up for my shift and his bed was empty, I was devastated to learn we’d lost this delightful, brave child, andI  took it to heart the same way I took every death I co-experienced throughout my nursing career, each being deeply personal and intensely important to me.

So the day after I’d learned Christopher had died, I discovered my own safe haven and thereafter, for many, many years to come, found myself sitting in its tall, thick grasses, the salty/fishy scent of the sea filling my head with naturalness and inner peace.  Every visit I made transformed loss into peace, and helped ground me emotionally.

seabrook shipyard2

The Seabrook Ship Yard was my growing place.  My wounds healed there.  The chaos and drama of external life and qiet intuitive inner life met there, supporting each other as I worked to define what kind of woman I wanted to be.

Now I live in the mountains and these deep silent woods transform me once again.  Every time I visit the Peak of West Mountain, I discover a new truth or remember a long forgotten piece of intuitive knowledge I’ve misplaced along life’s long, jagged highway.  Sitting high above the city amongst dogwood, pine, maple and great elms, I am suddenly surrounded by everyone I have ever loved, each perfect soul already having completed his worldly journey.

I hear their voices in woodland sounds and see their bright shining faces smiling back at me from a deep canopy of trees. I feel their presence in every pore of my skin, and every hair on my head. Every time my little car climbs that beautiful mountain, the Universe challenges me to see things differently, and challenges me to walk directly into the fire unafraid.

Those who have come before me give me the vision to realize nothing is impossible, and they remind me that every little thing that happens in this life offers another chance to grow.

I scattered the ashes of my ex-husband on that mountain.  He’s growing wild and carefree in those woods, and each wound he suffered, self-inflicted or absorbed by the blunt intentional force of others, heals cleanly, mends wholly.  His memory and triumphs are born again with each new season.

Curving up West Mountain2

Today as I rounded the final curve going up the peak, my iPod began playing Amazing Grace.  I chuckled to myself.  The song got it right, I was blind but now I see; but the song doesn’t go nearly far enough.  I can hear too, and I can understand; but mostly, I can feel.  And here on this perfect piece of sacred earth, I can share what I’ve learned with others.  I sat on the mountain for a long while.  The longer I stayed, the calmer I felt.  When I began descending, another song clicked on the iPod, but that’s another story for another day.

 

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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

 

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

23 Jan

sister-hood-award

I’d like to thank Irene Waters: Reflections and Nightmares- Writer and Memoirist-   Http://irenewaters19.com  for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the world Bloggers Award. I thoroughly enjoy Irene’s blog; her photography is amazing and the insights she offers about life’s journey are always enlightening.  In the blogosphere, I’m still sort of a Newbie, so receiving recognition for my work, which is really my pleasure, encourages me to keep sharing my heart.

~ ~The Rules ~ ~

  1. Provide a link to and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.
  2. Answer ten questions.
  3. Nominate 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read. Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know they have been nominated.
  4. Include the award logo within your blog post.

~~Questions~~

1.  Your favorite color…. Green

2.  Your favorite animal … I love them all

3.  Your favorite non-alcoholic drink …. Chamomile tea

4.    Facebook or Twitter….. Facebook, I’m still figuring out Twitter

5.    Your favorite pattern …..  Spirals

6.    Do you prefer getting or giving presents…. Giving

7.    Your favorite number … 11

8.    Your favorite day of the week … Thursday

9.    Your favorite flower …. Echinacea

10.  What is your passion? ….. Reading and writing Poetry

There are so many deserving blog sites and so little time.  I’m going to list and link a few of my fem-favorites understanding not all will be able to participate in the nomination process.

http://humoringthegoddess.com

http://secondhalfwoman.wordpress.com

http://tllsci.wordpress.com

http://theempathyqueen.wordpress.com

http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

http://forgivingdreams.wordpress.com

http://thehipgrandmother.wordpress.com

http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com

http://mainstreetmusings.wordpress.com

http://architar.wordpress.com

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings; I assure you, I completely understand time constraints.  : )  I do hope you all visit any link that speaks to you!

*** Please note: the blog address for Wanton Word Flirt has been corrected.  Please explore this delightful site at http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

Finding Hello in Good-bye

29 Dec

staircase to the unknownIn early November, an unexpected storm disrupted my life.  Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I did not, in spite of a nagging feeling inside that something was amiss.  I pride myself on listening to myself, following innate instincts, and falling back on lessons learned from past experiences.  This time the message never made it to my brain, but churned restlessly in my gut as I struggled to connect dots.

My belief was that if I could identify the source of imbalance I felt inside, I would either be able to stay, or right, whatever fate waited for me on the steps of life’s door, or meet it head on, confidence in tact, and resolve, in a sensible way, any body blow it might deliver.

That philosophy proved both naïve and arrogant in lieu of the vulnerabilities of the human condition that evolve in dichotomy, the mind filling with wisdom as the body simultaneously empties with age.  So, when the thug-illness burst through the front door, like any unsuspecting soul, I absorbed its rage, and was swept away in the insane bureaucracy of doctors and hospitals and voodoo poisons conversely intended to heal.

HerbBottle (3)

Once home, huddled safely inside my upholstered cave, I began the process of understanding why I could never, try as I may, have anticipated the events that brought me to this uncomfortable introspective space.  But when the light bulb lit, and a band somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind began playing boisterous choruses of Halleluiah, I began to see the impotence and futility of trying to see into the future in order to avoid or manipulate its impact on the present.

As this new truth emerged, setting me free, so to speak, a new reality appeared, once again taking the wind from my sails as my sweet husband, Rich, the rock on which I have built my life, fell prey himself to an illness uniquely his own.  Thus the feeble bird tended the injured bird as, together, we tried to discern forests from trees.

old couple in love 1

The double whammy of fate proved itself a game changer as we struggled to meld growing physical limitations with solid but stubborn mental competence hell-bent on experiencing the Golden Years as portrayed by cell phone and miracle drug commercials on TV.

The irony of marketed possibilities in old age juxtaposed the actuality of incoming mail filled with term life insurance, funeral and burial policies clashed, rising to a crescendo until nothing would do but to address the 800 pound gorilla in our living room.  Thus began the shift in the landscape of our lives.  And I must say, neither took it very well, the idea of exchanging high adventure for a more sensible plan was like sucking lemons, but we pushed on, readying ourselves for the respite and sheer joy of a Christmas visit from a daughter, her husband and their son.

Two hours before their arrival, the power went out.  But it wasn’t as hard to adjust to the unexpected as it might have been the month before, because surviving last month’s challenge had empowered Rich and me to rise like phoenixes, rendering this latest variance in foreseen reality a virtual bleep on the radar screen.

candle burning

Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm for spending time with family.  Two hours into the visit, over dinner lit by emergency stash fluorescent lanterns, the power came on, and each of us jumped from our seats to embrace in full light.

Christmas was perfection, the best Rich and I have experienced since leaving Texas on our excellent adventure, causing us to ponder the desires and circumstances that led us far from the herd in the first place.  To be honest, the herd had fully dispersed before we broke from the land that held us and served as a constant reminder that even the best laid plans can go horribly awry.

During long, sweet conversations at Christmas, the subject of the recent illnesses that passed like a plague over our house arose, opening a door we never dreamed we might need to enter.  It seems the helplessness of crossing long miles on small budgets while meeting the needs of minor children and demanding work schedules had torn at the heart strings of our daughter and her husband as they were forced to watch from afar as Rich and I struggled to deal with devastating circumstances alone.

Last night Rich told me he and his brother never know how to say Good-bye when they talk on the phone.  I know how that feels. Endings are hard for me; beginnings, not so much.  So the only way I know how to approach change is to find a way to transform it into something I’ll want to embrace rather than ignore.

I’m quite ambivalent about getting old, part of me is so ready, and part is not.  The fact that we need help from others to manage the sharp edges of life is a bomb dropping for anyone, but for those unaccustomed to asking or accepting help, it is a concept nearly impossible to accede.

I have to remind myself that sometimes Plan B exceeds the expectation and reward of Plan A.  When our granddaughter, Morgan, graduates in another year and moves to Austin to get her Masters in Physics, more than likely Rich and I will be packing once again for Texas.

river hondo

The natural beauty of Arkansas will be hard to leave in spite of having made very few friends while being here.  In two weeks I turn 65; it would be nice to enjoy the Golden Years in the presence of family, making the most of each good day, and knowing we are not alone on less impressive days.

And so this nest that felt so right only months ago, suddenly feels a little tight around the hips, and we find ourselves contemplating unexpected plans to return, perhaps, for the last time, home.  Perchance this is how it always is, the evolution of parental roles, one generation passing the torch to the next in an act as necessary and natural as the changing of seasons.  But because we have an option, because we have a say in the matter, because both of our children have offered their homes to us, Rich and I count ourselves as two of the very lucky ones.

welcome to hondo

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.

Crones in Fuchsia

13 Sep

The bathroom at the end of the hall has no windows.  When I close the door behind me, it can either feel like a moss green and latte cell, or a safe house; whichever depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

This morning, it was sanctuary.

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy no matter what kind of spin I put on it, because yesterday I received a letter beginning with the words: Welcome to Medicare.  My plan was to keep today light to stave off age related issues of insecurity, but if I’d really wanted a retreat day, I would have skipped checking in with my Facebook page, wouldn’t I?

tarot the fool

A friend had posted an article relating to internet security that was thoughtful, and while not alarming, I confess, it fed my paranoid side that is suspicious of rapid change.  Like any animal with a head larger than mine, I don’t completely trust it without a proper courting phase allowing me time to ease into the unfamiliar, rather than busting through its doors.

This morning a Facebook entry hit a raw nerve, sending me into the shadow that Medicare began the day before, and I found myself heading to the room without windows at the end of the hall.

Small windowless rooms, most notably closets, have long been my sanctuary when the big, bad wolves of the world close in.  As a child, I believed I was invisible cowering inside, safe from sharp teeth.  As an adolescent, I could feel myself blending into walls, crouching behind an assortment of clothes that played to the particular role I assigned myself for the day.  As a young wife, closets offered refuge from the raging bull in the other room.  In middle age, I became my own closet, moving in, putting the pieces back together again.  At this stage in life, closets are just another chore needing attention.

dark closet

But this morning, thanks to Medicare and Facebook, the small, windowless room whisked me back in time, and for a moment I crouched in deference to the past that made me the woman I am today. And I covered the crone’s lips in bright fuchsia lipstick before opening another door and entering.

images

 

 

 

Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

cracked earth 1

The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

Keeping Secrets and Caring for Our Shadow Side

19 Aug

top secret stamp itty

It’s a challenge at times, especially when they rise to the surface, refusing to be ignored.  I can push with all of my might, using laser-beam focus, but it doesn’t help a bit.  Mama used to say ‘some things take on a life all of their own’, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single thought, every action and consequence, does exactly that.

A few minutes ago, this was a blank page; now it’s a presentation of my personal beliefs.  Each time I strike a key on the keyboard, the page develops into something more complex than it was when I decided to sit down at the desk. I could stop writing now, but even if I do, I’ve already planted a tiny seed that could grow into a monster, or turn into dust that will simply blow away.

It’s a risk I can’t wait to take.

The world is alive.  Sometimes I picture myself as a tiny cosmic dot hanging onto the bushy outer fur of the world as it races across countries and vast bodies of water, timelines and contrasting poles, picking up speed without breaking stride.  It takes every bit of my strength to stay in place, and not be shaken from the world’s great back like a dog would shake off fleas.

There are days I can admit I am a parasite, and other days I am certain I am a vaccine.  But in either state of mind, I am honest with, and forgiving of myself.  It takes a lot of energy just to talk, but it takes me much more to be silent.  My mind is an ocean churning.  There are dangerous rip tides, under tows and furtive currents to be considered.  There are the whirlpools of life and death struggles playing out beyond eyesight.  My mind is full of formidable forests growing from its sandy floor.  There are centuries old shipwrecks hiding bones and lost treasure.  There are species of fish never before seen. In the sea, I am not at the top of the food chain, I am a little fish in a very big pond; that’s how my mind sees my body, and I can either be lunch or a servant to the brain that owns me.

ocean surge itty

I love the sea as much as I am frightened by it.

For years friends urged me to write a book.  My response never wavered, “Who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?” I would ask.  Yet here I am, shooting off my mouth about my philosophy on secret keeping.  I’m able to rationalize this by convincing myself that no one here has ever lost any money over anything I’ve said.  I’ve never tried to present myself as an expert on anything; I’ve never tried to sell my ideas.  I have sold poetry I’ve written, but I don’t do poetry on the two blogs I write.  I keep blogs the same way I used to keep journals.  Getting older has its perks; I’m no longer interested in what others think about me, and while I know I’m not an authority on any given subject, at this age, I give myself permission to say what I think.

If I have to lie to keep a secret, I don’t keep it anymore; I set the darned thing free.  I haven’t had to do that but a couple of times in my life, but each time I have, I’ve felt robbed afterwards.  No one has ever forced me to divulge anything, but I have been convinced to submit to another person’s will before.  Going against my own values is never good; it’s an act of weakness that makes me ashamed of myself, and I hate feeling that way.

Anything can be a secret really.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy information.  Maybe it was nothing until you decided to elevate it by designating it as a ‘secret’.  Nothing moves a non-issue to the front of the line like good branding.

I have lots of secrets.  If I let them go, I lose part of my mystique, and I’m not about to voluntarily give any of that up at this stage.  I have so many secrets, matter of fact, that I categorize them with indexing ranging from recipes to sex.  (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

Whatever task I attempt, I carry my baggage along for the ride.  I’ve gotten rid of most of what I wanted to get rid of, but I’ve kept an awful lot.  My husband is a fixer.  He always wants to improve everything from a situation to a point of view.  I resist being fixed.  I read a book years ago about Native American philosophy and was transfixed by the whole Shadow Side perspective.  There is light, and there is darkness.  The author explained his ancestor’s respect for the difference between the two, and their understanding of the necessity of each.  Without the light, nothing will live or thrive.  But there are times the light is threatened, and to ensure its survival, man calls on his shadow side to protect it.

light and dark itty

Calling forth the shadow is not done lightly, nor without ceremony.  A ceremony sets an intention; in the case of protecting something as important as a value or the ability to live the kind of life one loves, it is the starting line.  A purification/dedication fire is lit and dancing begins.  Prayers are offered to the Great Ones above.  Finally, paint representing the savage nature of the shadow inside, is smeared across the face.  Then the battle begins.

warpainted woman face itty

The author emphasized the importance of knowing when to pull out one’s shadow and when to put it back again.  To enjoy the acts involved in destruction is to become stuck in one’s shadow. To be stuck in darkness prohibits light.

I appreciate the truth about myself, but it doesn’t matter to or affect anyone but me.   I’ve learned how beautiful the light is, and how necessary it is to ensure its survival.  I’m comfortable with my shadow side too.  The secrets I keep, keep my shadow alive.  I respect any memory that has impacted my life so powerfully that I chose to keep it secret.  I’ve given a name to my shadow side, (that’s a secret too), but I often consult her opinion on issues before I act; I find her wisdom invaluable.  I choose my battles carefully these days, but once I determine a battle is completely necessary, I light a candle, set an intention, ask the Universe for support and guidance, and then I do what I believe is best, no matter the price.

victorious woman standing in low tide itty

Dealing With the Past Everyday, Whether it’s Horse Poop or Ice Cream

9 Aug

I’ll speak for myself, but I know for a fact there is one other person who agrees with my philosophy about the past’s influence on the present. Because of that, it makes it easier for us to comfort and lift each other up whenever needed. Lynette is my best friend although it will 10 years in October since we last saw each other. If I dwell on that fact, I emotionally hemorrhage; so on a lighter note, here’s a photo of us back in 2001 or 2002.

Hugs Lynette and Bev

Most of my followers probably expect me to be satisfied with the silver lining in the dark cloud, but finding satisfaction depends on surviving the storm and being willing to assess (and reassess) its damage. Sometimes it seems we are victimized by outside forces we can’t control; and there are cases when that certainly is true: a serious illness, the loss of a child…but 98% of the time, whatever smacks us upside the head has everything to do with an issue we’ve been trying to avoid. The issue and the storms we find ourselves in rarely seem to connect, but after doing the inner work , we find they do.

sea storm BLOG

I have a past as colorful and choppy as mosaic art; it can also be compared to a Pointillist landscape composed of thousands of tiny dots placed on a canvas in seemingly random order, but when viewed from a distance, each individual dot becomes an integral piece in a cohesive story.

                whole face pointillist

In 2000, when I opened a door, my world changed. I tried to pretend it away, but once opened, some doors can never be closed again. Because I was such a master of hiding the truth from everyone who knew me at the time, when I entered that door, my support system fell away, and I found myself on the journey of my life, alone.

Opening one door leads to opening another, which is exactly what I did. But here are a few interesting observations I made along the way: sometimes what lies on the other side of the door is too beautiful to look at for long. Sometimes what appears to be a diamond turns out to be broken glass. And often we simply can’t make our minds up about which door to open in the first place, so gingerly, we turn the handles, meekly peeking in; but once we discover the secret behind the door, we close then open it again and again,  doing that whole  c-r-a-z-y thing where we keep expecting a different outcome while doing the same old thing.

hallway with doors

The great thing about opening doors is the fact that you find the courage to walk on the tight rope of each individual, unscripted moment of life without a safety net, and OMG!, that’s a powerful feeling.

Although for several years I lost my familiar community of family and friends, I wasn’t actually alone for very long. Wandering the hall of opened doors, there was, at first, only a trickling of equally timid souls weaving in and out, walking close or around me.  But the deeper into the guts of the unknown I traveled, the more lively and heavily populated the crowds became.

Lynette was one the earliest hall-walkers I met, and once introduced, we buddied up for the duration of the trip.

The first door I opened, the biggest one, the one responsible for prompting the entire journey, was a door I kept opening and closing. Even as my ever-changing perception of what was on the other side vacillated from horror to ecstasy and back, I never slammed it shut. After a few years, I decided the best thing to do was to turn away from it.

winding trails

What walking away taught me was that entering it in the first place was the best choice I’d ever made, and that trying to completely seal that particular door would prove impossible in this lifetime. For me, that first door represents the precise group of Pointillist dots that form my legs. Without keeping everything I experienced on the other side of the door in my heart; I would not be able to move forward.

While not quite afraid of the pivotal door, for me it’s like the sea, I have a healthy respect of its power while admiring its seductive ruthlessness, its beauty, and the impulsiveness of unyielding focus. If I pretended the past never happened, I’d be doomed to repeat it.

woman and sea merged BLOG

 

I’ve been working everyday since 1997.  And I’ll continue to work for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to support the world I created having opened a series of amazing doors.

The power of a strong inner life…

6 Jul

It’s easy to imagine because I’ve seen it a thousand times in my head, a bit here, a fragment there; pieces of a grand puzzle coming together like a rainbow after a long storm, one color fitting snugly against the next, complementing the whole, yet amazing on its own. That’s how it is, this forest inside my head, the enchantment of the soul visualized by the mind’s eye, making it real.

I’ve been to the forest many times, beginning early in childhood when monsters came out from under the bed, their terrible teeth threatening to eat me alive.  I visited again during adolescence, those years of longing and drama.  The stillness I found amongst towering branches and the scent of deep pine wafting through tangled jasmine was the white knight whisking me away from turmoil, transporting me to a happier, more welcoming place.

Had it not been for the forest, I may not have survived the first twenty years of my first marriage with its intoxicating balance of delight and cruelty, and co-dependence so cavernous it erased every good thing that crossed its path.  But when I was 49, my body made the decision my mind had refused to make, as I stumbled into the kind of illness that consumes every ounce of strength and deliberate thought possible.  Suddenly my body was the tomb I was buried in. 

After the anger and grief, temperance set in, and I found in the midst of rubble, the most peaceful cave.  This silent, empty space was perfectly accommodating, seemingly knowing my needs before I’d consciously recognized and acknowledged them.  I dwelt in that space for three years, until one morning I heard the most delightful sound of a red bird singing on the window sill beside my bed, and his vibrant energy and contagious joy became the crutch I used to move from the cave into the forest of the outer realms of the world.

Pushing my weak body and placid mind, I moved forward, one step at a time.  But the cave of introspection and intuition had become part of me, so I brought it along ever conscious of its presence, and I used it like a self-help manual, or a book of new rules, rules written for and benefitting no one but me, and I called this newness of thought The Self Is and its code and content, The Requirements of Self-Is-Ness.

With renewed clarity of mind, I coaxed my body to do its part to save Self so that I might tell my children about this most amazing revelation I’d discovered within, the absolute fact that we can rid ourselves of the poisons that cripple us, that we can grow whole and find happiness within the boundaries of our own bodies simply by understanding the power we hold. 

I wanted to tell my daughters there are safe places that provide shelter when we become our own worst enemies, or when we allow the world to infect us with unhealthy ideas and role assignments, and how it is necessary first to go in in order to work ourselves out.  I wanted to tell them that the results of caring most tenderly for ourselves with absolute honesty and the tenderness we would afford a child, will carry us past any solution we may have previously imagined, because time spent in the cave is time spent unlearning, converting old assumptions and presumptions of implied fact into authentic personal truth

During the day, I worked to regain strength and balance.  When the time came I sought help from a neurological therapist who taught me how to create and integrate new tools for thinking into automatic responses.  We did this to improve my short term memory and to help me adjust to the loss of many memories of the past.  At home, I took on new tasks, trying confidence on as if it was an exotic new dress, and I embraced critical thinking in ways I’d never imagined before. 

I deliberately broke many status quo rules, as difficult as that was for me.  Friends and family either moved away from me, as if to avoid catching whatever madness had settled upon me, or gathered closer as a show of support for something fragile and young that was determined to live.

It was a difficult but satisfying process. At night I began building a house in my mind, deciding to return to the protective forest of my youth, using this technique like a new tool.  Building this house was a deliberate exercise, lasting an entire year. I began by mentally leaving home and then I imagined a beautiful green valley, lush and inviting.  Arriving in a car packed with sentimental belongings, none of which were particularly well suited for survival in the wild, yet each priceless thing, emotionally necessary, I began unpacking, moving each article into a back corner of an abandoned, leaking shack that I would soon transform into a comfortable home.

I can still see every item I’d packed for the journey, a foot pedal sewing machine, wooden bowls, blue glass, quilts and scraps for making more, good books, pen and paper, string and basic tools, and a seemingly endless supply of candles. 

This mental exercise strengthened my resolve as I built a home from scraps I imagined had been abandoned by another woman who had moved through her own personal forest, discarding possessions she no longer needed as she traveled forward.  In the end, what illness had taken away, newfound physical and mental health and deepening spirituality returned one hundred-fold.

Today I visit my cabin often; I sit on the porch under the stars, or drink coffee beneath the warmth of a quilt, and watch in perfect peace as storms pass outside.  Every day each of us is healing and growing at the same time; that’s what we do on this journey.  As for what comes next, I simply cannot say, but today is good, and that’s enough for me. 

There are so many paths leading home.  The lesson for me is learning to respect myself by caring for that timeless child within, and to listen to myself.  When I do these things, the daily practices of the Requirements of Self-Is-ness are easier to follow in spite of the clamor and chatter of those who confuse self-care with selfishness.

I believe personal forests are essential; without a quiet place to contemplate the pace of the world and it’s sharp, narrowing judgments, too much time is wasted feeling constricted or sad by our personal limitations.  I choose to live an active inner life, working to make my home in the physical world a better reflection of the healing forest in my mind, anchoring myself, providing safe passage for the infinite child who lives inside.  

 

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Rebels and Wallflowers

14 Mar

From the beach, the sea is immense, but it gets bigger when you’re in a boat and land disappears from sight.  Suddenly you find yourself chasing an elusive horizon that seems to tumble from the sky into the water like a blue blizzard, or an avalanche. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

The girl swam to her grandfather’s boat, released it from its mooring, lay flat on her back in the bottom of the hull like a stow-a-way; she watched white Cumulus overhead shape-shift, the rhythm of lapping water lulling her brain into a nearly unconscious state.  When the sound of waves breaking on shore vanished, she sat up. That was when she realized she’d drifted much further from the safety of her grandfather’s house atop the bluff overlooking the bay than she had intended, and her stomach tightened, then lurched, the bitter sting of lunch rising in the back of her throat. 

She was in deep water now, the gradual slope of sand bars behind her, only the midnight blues of the channel as far as she could see.  The sharks she imagined circled in anticipation with night only a few hours away. 

This was the row boat, not the larger one with the Evinrude motor.  But there were the oars, so all wasn’t lost. The girl pulled them from starboard, placed them in  rusty oar locks, sat with her back to the bow as she dipped them into the water, moving the oars in unison like two giant wings on a huge bird, an albatross maybe.  The dot in the distance was home, but she knew she would have to work harder than she had ever worked before to get there.  That thought filled her with an unfamiliar sensation, and her breathing deepened and evened out.  The girl held her head high and began to whistle.

Rowing against the current was hard work, but the girl was strong; her endurance was untested, she had yet to discover her limits.  The idea that barriers should contain her thoughts, should influence her vision of herself; that century old standards and gender based expectations should restrict her ability to achieve any goal she set for herself had not yet formed in her brain.  She knew only what she’d learned for herself, and watching her grandfather. 

In the beginning there was only the land, but Grandfather said that was all they needed, so for weeks, the two lived in a cramped borrowed trailer while they built their home.  Often she marveled at the concept of creating something useful and sturdy from nothing at all, using only primitive tools and a strong back and of course, Grandfather’s knowledge and resolve.

These memories wafted in and out of her mind as she rowed, making her stronger, filling her with the sense that she is liberating herself from a nameless, faceless capture. 

She imagines Grandfather waiting for her on the bluff, sitting in the forest green Adirondack chair he’d built, the chair he sits in when he watches the waters below for schools of mullet.  She knows her grandfather realized she was gone almost as soon as she had left; perhaps he had even watched her leave, chuckling at her great escape, amused by her determination to intentionally break a rule, and proud to have witnessed another passage in her life. 

Had she known he was watching, she might have understood he recognized the necessity of this small rebellion, how sacred and intimate such choices become.  She already knew he would not be angry at her; Grandfather would understand, even if until this very moment, she, herself, had not fully grasped the requisite need to establish independence, to spread one’s wings and jump off the highest cliff, testing your fortitude, knowing instinctively you can fly. 

The girl’s mind moved to another thought as she rowed, turning her head from time to time to look at the cliffs that were growing larger and larger, emboldening her to do whatever it takes to find her way home.  In her mind’s eye, the girl was at a dance in the school gym where the bleachers were lined with a short string of unfortunate girls who had yet to discover how beautiful they are.  And she suddenly understood that taking a boat without permission, drifting mindlessly into open sea was inspired by the same kind of longing a wall flower has to dance, to feel the spotlight emphasize her presence in the shallows of a dance-floor-world of popular girls, to dream that jocks might stop dead in their tracks as if seeing her for the first time, amnesia claiming their memories of ignoring her in corridors and the lunch room, or even worse, laughing at her on the track in Phys-Ed where she is forced to wear one of those hideous white short jumpsuits with elastic around her thighs.

The sound of waves breaking on shore roars in the girl’s ears.  She turns to see her grandfather standing on the bluff watching over her; he is smiling.   The girl angles the small boat parallel the mooring post and tosses the anchor in; then jumps into the water, swimming with the rope in her teeth.  She ties the knot around the post the way Grandfather taught her; then swims to shore.

On the beach again, the sea rushes in, foam pools around her ankles and a sand dollar nudges her foot.  She bends down and picks it up with her hands.  The girl looks to the bluff again, this time Grandfather is not there.  She knows they will talk about this at dinner tonight.  Without thinking, the girl tosses the sand dollar as far as she can, back into the sea.

“Go home”, she says.

Climbing the stairs that wind up the bluff, the girl hears herself say,

“I’m not a good soldier anymore; I’m not sure what I am or what I’ll ever be, but whatever happens, I’ll take the risk, and I will be the one who decides.”

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Secrets We Keep…

24 Feb

There is nothing natural about a dam.  A dam, whether man-made or built by beavers, is a deliberate barrier intended to obstruct and control.  Some dams are magnificent works of stone and steel architecture; others are innocuous mounds of grass laden dirt.  Almost everyone agrees dams are useful.  On another day, I might argue that point, but not today; but a general point of consensus is the fact that when dams are breached, they have the capacity to unleash untold grief on anyone and everything standing downstream.

Consider this: we are all dams to one extent or another, you, me, your great-great-grandmother, and the bully down the street.  We are emotionally bound by the secrets we keep. 

Because we are dams, it is important to understand that we are never completely honest with ourselves, rendering us unable to be fully honest with others.  Every perception we hold as a personal truth is tainted because you cannot build a strong, balanced house on blemished soil.  Secrets limit our potential to realize the full extent of our purpose; they restrict the natural evolution of trust, self-confidence and a healthy sense of interdependence with others. 

Secrets separate us from each other, but even more alarming, they separate us from ourselves, resulting in inner conflict, the war against the interior world of our humanly being, often with catastrophic results.  If we can learn to accept that each secret we keep is a stone in the structure of our dam, then we can learn how to safely repair the vulnerable spots that will be left once deception is removed.

This past week has been tumultuous for me; I’ve been bombarded by secret armies inside secret battles raging within.  And the feelings and emotions that have surfaced have left me shaky and raw.  It began with an unfortunate response from a weak man who is a powerful politician.  The tone of his response washed over me like acid rain.

Of course, I did not agree with what he had to say; I rarely do.  I’ve had an ongoing email discourse with his office for several years, and have yet to feel my voice has actually been heard.  So I am well acquainted with feeling powerless in the context of a political environment; but what I felt, this time, was not rage or disbelief, but something guttural, something rancid inside, beginning to churn.

I was operating on two levels of my brain, timidly consciously, and boldly subconsciously; the subconscious reaction was causing physical discomfort.  But I’d not yet figured that out, so to connect the two, conscious perception with subconscious instinct, I began taking steps, making decisions without knowing why, or what I believed doing so might achieve.

One of the things I decided to do was to share the senator’s response with a feminist activist I admire.  The senator’s mindset is dangerously narrow; his presentation of misinformation as fact and his personal beliefs presented as law, was worthy of sharing with a writer of her experience.   I put it all in her capable hands, believing I’d feel relief; but none came, actually, quite the opposite, as suddenly I began to chew my nails and lose sleep. 

I was very anxious without obvious reason.  When my friend asked if she could publish my correspondence with the senator, I immediately agreed; unleashing an internal sort of terror that left me nauseous.  I retired to my favorite chair in the corner of my bedroom where I do most of my writing, my comfort zone, for lack of a better description, and began to focus, setting a clear intention to get to the bottom of the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing.

Absolutely nothing happened.  I sat mute with a flat-lining brain until ultimately deciding I’d done enough for one day.  Sleep that night was restless; my dreams were filled with barren or bloody landscapes.  In one, my husband bought all new furniture and rearranged our house.  He bought new clothes for himself.  He bought himself a modern car, trying to pawn the old work truck off on me.

When I woke, I was as calm as a clam: the subconscious-conscious connection had been made. 

Richard and Morgan were both working; the house was quiet.  Midway through the afternoon, the letters were published.  Within the first two hours, 3,000 people had read them.  Middle Aged Woman Talking had done a good job of furthering the fight for a more balanced government.  And I’d done my part, sharing my story.  The day passed uneventfully, emotions in check.  Early evening found Richard and me on a date, dinner and Latte’, easy conversation and a long, slow drive home over the mountain.  Naked tree branches casts shadows in the full moon’s light, creating interesting but frightening patterns across lonely back roads.  There was complete silence in the air.  My ears searched for the slightest sound, but none was there.

1 o’clock in the morning; I am sitting on the couch in front of a roaring orange fire.  Richard is waiting for me in bed.  Morgan is singing downstairs.  Suddenly a dam bursts, flooding the living room.  I tread water as best I can, but it keeps filling my mouth and lungs.  Suddenly I realize the choking sounds are gasps I am making as I cry from a pit of hell buried so deep inside, it feels as if I am dying as it erupts.

Suddenly I am 7 again, and feelings of utter emptiness are so overwhelming, I want to run away from them, but it too late.  I realize I’ve been running from this moment for 57 years.  Now it is on me, a fire burning my skin…water filling my lungs…rabid dogs eating my legs.  The secret I’d kept, a stone in the dam, had loosened.  When I broke the rule, telling one story to a journalist, all the other old stories rattled their dark bones, begging for a proper burial. 

It was a long night of revelation.  It was a child coming to terms with brutality, and the woman she’d grown into, acknowledging injustice and vowing to protect the child who had survived. 

The world looks different this morning.  The sun is even more beautiful than yesterday.  The naked branches cast uncompromising shadows in the forest.  Raw earth from the missing stone’s bruise begins to fill with fresh soil.  Invisible seeds from the garden filter through the air, some landing in the empty space.  By summer, the dam will be much stronger.  And the distance between the child and I will narrow, and the miles between us and the past will lengthen as the old ones come to terms with their private demons while passing from this test, here on earth, to the next place.