December 17th, my father’s birthday. My dad would have turned 93 this year if he had lived so long. He lived to 63, barely. Funny how grief can linger submerged for a decade or two or even close to three and then bob to the surface for no apparent reason. Or maybe there is a reason—a mother with Alzheimer’s who, as she drifts farther out in a sea of old memories, brings my father up a lot, stirring my own recollections. She still gets peeved with him for “leaving” so long ago, knowing it wasn’t a choice.
“My life is bland.” Those were the words offered by the elderly woman whose life had gone from being an independent, city-dweller, theater-goer, to needing care for all her basic needs and more. The words echoed in my mind throughout the day. Who wants to live a bland life?
Ever have a bee buzzing around your ear. You move away concerned it might sting you, only to have it follow. Back and forth, back and forth you tussle until you resign to let it go. Soon, the buzz becomes part of the melody of the day and the fear subsides as you realize the fear of getting stung was greater than the actual risk. Following the path of the bee, listening to the melody was a gift waiting to be accepted. That gift was freedom from the fear.
It might reach 65º in Portland today. Seriously. This is November. Skies are blue, air is warm. If it wasn’t for the bare trees and rotting tomatoes left on the vine, I might be fooled into thinking I had fallen asleep for six months and woken to spring. That and a self-imposed deadline circled on the calendar at the end of the month.
I shouldn’t be amazed. I’ve participate in and lead enough groups to know that if the table is prepared, the ambience welcoming and I step aside and make room for the Holy, people show up for themselves and each other. Yet once again as I reflect after the Grief and Loss workshop I led, I am in awe of the courage shown by six women to step into the unexplored spaces of their hearts and share with honesty what flows out through their pens.
The shifting of seasons, especially the autumnal equinox seems to stir something in me. Like the winds readying to undress the trees, I felt my summer begin to fall away a few weeks ago. The list of projects, activities, planned hikes and trips to the coast—many were left undone. All seemed attainable as summer approached, then life remained busy, weekends passed and now—October is here.
The season is post Labor Day and though it is a Friday afternoon, the crowds one saw in August have dissipated, as if blown inland. The gulls, maybe in anticipation that their easy prey of organic fish crackers and gourmet sand-crusted hotdogs have left with the crowds, are gathering at the water’s edge.
I find a deep spiritual connection when I am at the beach. I walk along the coastline as the tide flows in and out. The waves seem to chase each other back and forth—some racing toward me, while others recede into the background. Since I’m not a tidal expert, without looking at the longer shoreline, I can’t tell right away if it is high or low tide, if the beach is being revealed or masked. When I am in the midst of those waves grabbing at my ankles all I can see is the present moment. Feel the water swirling around me-the warmth of water kissed by summer sun or the cold Pacific undercurrent.
Funny how old memories will resurface at unexpected times. Maybe it is the sweetness of the blackberries this summer that stirred my recollection of these unfolding memories two years ago. Spring of 2014 blossomed into a summer of unanticipated challenges.
Work"the work of wildflowers is to sprawl over the field/attracting honey bees with their wide open bodies..."
As I age I come back to concepts of beauty and aging again and again. Images in magazines and on TV focus on a few external cultural ideals—usually with youth or maintaining the illusion of youth in mind. I will readily admit to comparing myself to these photoshopped standards from time to time to my own detriment. And I’m not talking about the young 20 and 30-somethings (I’m realistic enough to know that would be ridicules) but to the women in my own age category. As is often the case though, nature and my work offer me corrective examples of “beauty.”
As this summer continues unfolding, it feels like wave after wave of violence keeps erupting out of every news cycle in our own nation and across the world. Yet through much of this disturbing energy I have been in a place of personal peacefulness, practicing abundant self-care, including spending today at a nurturing writing retreat: “Coming Home to Body and Earth,” facilitated by Lorraine Anderson. Still, in the midst of my private contentment and the depth of a world in pain, tension is brewing. I am unsettled and want to resolve the tension, knowing I have no immediate solution.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have several avenues that offer inspiration for my poetry. Prompts presented through the Portland Women Writers workshops offer of lots of juicy jumping off points for my imagination.
When I was working with my webpage designer, Barbara Keany, we knew what business related pages were needed (i.e. “about,” “services,” “connect” and a “blog” to give the site movement.) As I worked on the content, she offered great advice on layout and design as I had no clue how to enter into this world of social media. I did know what I liked and didn’t like about how other webpages “felt” to me, and that was a guiding principle as the site unfolded on our journey together toward the “launch”. However I also knew I wanted to take a risk and add a page for my “poet self,” this increasingly demanding internal voice that was refusing to sit in the quiet any longer. She has made appearances at other times throughout my life, but not with the same roar and intensity.
My pug, Hugo, turned 15 today, June 26. I remember the day we, my then 13 year-old daughter, 10 year-old son, and 74 year-old mother, drove to Southern Oregon to pick him up. A hot mid-August day, a day we had been anticipating after months of research and deciding on what type of dog to get for our family of four. My mother volunteered to go with us and let us use her car as it was more reliable. We brought a puppy toy, blankets and towels, water bowl and a tiny harness. We brought excited hearts, ideas for names and promises of being consistent on training and chores. I don’t remember much else about how the day unfolded except the scared whimper of a puppy, held between my children in the backseat until he finally slept, and our own oohing and awing at how soft and cute he was and the joy he would bring.
I really don’t like to be reminded how powerless I am. Last week’s news, though, reminded me just how little I am in control of the world that swirls around me. I go about my day, slurping my morning smoothy, munching my mid-day pecan thins and cheese, nibbling an assortment of fruit throughout the day, finally relaxing with a light dinner. I interact with friends, co-workers, salesclerks, family…the list goes on. Our lives all unfolding one breath at a time; one mundane breath after another. Taking for granted that an inhale will be followed by an exhale. My routine remains calmly in place with just enough deviation to add some movement, like a slight key change in music—a variation to add flavor but not dissonance.
Sometimes I challenge myself in small ways. For example by turning right instead of left on my walk. (This seems like it would be simple but I am a creature of habit, so have to literally tell myself “turn right!”) I did this the other day and noticed a small dead end street hidden from view when I came from the other direction. And the shrubs, flowers, even the shading of the houses looked different. Same houses, same flowers, same shrubs but a subtle difference in lighting and angles because my way of looking had changed.
Kevin Kling told a lovely story of when pots and pans could talk. I’m paraphrasing, but here is the essence of the story: A man had two pots. Every day he would take his two pots down to the stream and fill them up with his day’s supply of water and carefully walk home along the dusty path. Over time, one of his pots became worn and cracked and began leaking water. By the time he got home, over half the water would have dripped out along the path. The pot said to the man, “you need to replace me with a new pot. I am no longer serving my purpose.” The man said to the pot, “Look back down the path. See, there are wildflowers growing where your drops have fallen.”
On of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is OnBeing with host Krista Tippett. On their website it says it is a “public radio conversation” as well as “publisher and public event convener.” Speakers explore the question of “what it means to be human and how do we want to live.” The website goes on the say: “We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.”
Creativity. It is so simple to say we are born creative. We are all creative. Heck, the very act of learning to be in our world is creative. A friend was sharing about her two-year old grandson who knew he wasn’t supposed to do a certain behavior, but he figured out a way to “sneak it in” before she could catch him—creative! So why does my acceptance of my own creativity ebb and flow throughout my life—even sometimes during a day?