In a wonderful conversation, a friend challenged me on my idea of “Beauty” with the suggestion that finding beauty involved judgement. I had said something along the lines of “beauty was like fuel to me”. By that I meant that noticing beauty feels like random awareness, a visual experience of joy.
Never have I even considered that finding beauty was a process of deciding what was beautiful versus what wasn’t. It has always been, for me, a one way flow. Beauty often appears as a sudden flash, almost always visual.
I understood that if I stuck to using words I would not be able to communicate what is in my heart and mind concerning this subject so it’s off to the photo archives to attempt to illustrate my thoughts with images.
I missed posting last Friday. I doubt you noticed. Even I barely noticed which I’m using as a measurement of just how difficult this January is becoming. Covid is now reported by everyone with whom I am in contact—friends, family, neighbors, loved ones. It seems to be everywhere, swirling through closed doors, through walls.
Our human proclivity to get stuck in previous modes of thinking is up against a highly nimble virus. As the pandemic began we struggled to change what we knew and what we did so when the developing Omicron Variant was described as “highly contagious” we thought we understood what that meant. Did we foresee this?
The last nearly two years has been a steady buildup of challenges with politics turning dire in tandem with the expansion of the Covid-19 virus. At the same time climate / weather / environmental pile-ons are turning impressive. This morning it’s 4 degrees with a wind on Maine’s southern coast which is not that common. This does not appear to be one of those Januarys when we can think we got away with something.
The intensity is bringing a lot of us to our knees wondering what we can do to counter the onslaught, to find ways to ease up and have a moment or two here and there to recharge or reconnect if only for a little bit. I am longing for connection to nature’s warmer, softer, easier moments.
I have some thoughts on the subject so here are my ideas of some ways to allow yourself a tiny reconnect.
The first suggestion is to go to your local grocery (or online for curbside or delivery) and choose a glorious piece of fruit, not the kind that comes in bags, but an individual piece, particularly an organic one, an “are you kidding me?” price tag piece of fruit you usually pretend isn’t even there. As this is definitely not local fresh fruit season suspend your restrictions concerning “rules”. It is citrus season and clementines, satsumas, cara cara oranges, and all the rest are available. Even better are the organic large dark red grapefruits (no I don’t mean the Ruby Reds but the really dark red ones, so red you can see the interior color even through their thick skins). Soon to come will be Sumo oranges. Haven’t tried these? Usually buy a bag of whatever is on sale? Just for this moment find something just for you that is enough to trigger a reminder of nature’s warmer, bountiful side. Allow yourself the pleasure of reconnect in the form of a small vitamin surge moment. Toss aside guilt or need of sacrifice. Forgo the bag of chips that would cost more anyway and wouldn’t taste nearly as wonderful.
The second or alternative suggestion is to buy yourself a flower, or a plant, or a bunch of flowers. It can require creativity to transport a live item safely home in frigid conditions but that’s part of the fun. Allowing yourself fresh flowers indoors in the winter is another way to reconnect. Flowers make me smile every time I looked at them. Put them in a spot on a table, close enough so you can whisper your thanks for their beauty every time you pass by. Think this is hooey? You might be surprised.
There are other less direct ways to reconnect with nature’s bounty of course. You can allow yourself an exploration of the “bath, beauty, and wellness” section of the store (or online) in the form of face creams, body lotions, soaps or shampoos that you would not usually consider. Remember these are not ordinary times and you are after a just a few moments of respite and a trigger for a memory of nature’s natural bounty. Walk past the cheap-normal-commercial-utilitarian stuff and head to the “boutique” section. If you are shopping in a health food type store you will have little trouble identifying where the treat stuff is shelved.
It is possible, even in these hard times, to bite into a crisp apple or a soft pear (you’ll have to carefully watch for the perfect moment of ripening) or a fabulous burst of citrus. It is possible a moment of contact with a bloom can inspire awe. The goal is to have a moment out of the daily presence of winter, to remind yourself that you have the ability to look out for yourself and provide an opportunity of forgetting all but one single out of time, out of pandemic, non-January, non-frigid weather moment.
What can you find to transport yourself if only for a pinprick of time, a tastebud of other, a eye view of beauty? Consider sharing.
We’ve reached the point in the agricultural year where fruits and vegetables are not dependable either in quality nor freshness. What an obnoxious, privileged statement that is in a time where food insecurity is a major issue all over the world. Long ago when my unused (cold) bedroom was piled with squashes and onions and the basement freezers were packed full of homegrown garden produce I don’t think I gave any of this much thought but over the years when I had no garden access nor time nor muscles to grow my own I came to depend on what I could purchase locally. In the summer that meant that I ate primarily from the farmer’s markets and farm stands. I knew what a good deal that was, even when the prices seemed high, because I could buy just what I needed rather than having to process 60 foot rows of a particular vegetable all ripening at the same time.
Although “fresh” and “local” have become rallying cries in so many places, winter is a still hard slog. There are, of course, winter farmer’s markets but I tire easily of the root vegetables so prevalent this time of year. The oddity is even if you live in an area which prides itself on its agricultural goods you may actually have a hard time finding what you want, in season or outside of it. Much of the best of the locally grown products go to upscale restaurants even in pandemic times.
It will be late May or later before the chocked-full-of-vitamins produce begins to show up. Long distance travel plays havoc with vitamin content as you well know. In the meantime we can be grateful that in the Northern Hemisphere this is citrus season and the introduction of Mandarins, Satsumas, and Sumos can certainly help with our Vitamin C requirements. Salads in bags are still in the grocery stores of course. There are better tomatoes than used to be available but really, this isn’t prime salad season and expectations that match what you were able to make in August will fail.
In other places and times I’ve been known to drive quite a few miles in the snowy months to stand in the produce section of a really wonderful (but still very small) grocery store just for the infusion of color. You would not believe how long a person can stray from pile to pile of colored fruits and veggies when the craving is that bad. The prices were often so high I did not buy much but some gardener bleed-through from long ago just needed proximity and the reminder that spring would come around again bringing its progressions: strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples, and finally pears which have gotten me through most of December. I’ve left out many and probably your favorites but oh the juice of a fully, naturally, ripened piece of fruit! It acts like a pulley trying to transport us to what comes after winter.
A number of weeks ago I was driving home from doing errands with the radio tuned to the classical radio station. As the announcer described upcoming pieces that she was going to play I misunderstood the order so when the opening notes of the next play began they startled me because, expecting something new, I instead heard something familiar. It was one of those soaring, transformative moments like we’ve all had where music propels us far beyond our current time and place.
Later, believing the piece was Vivaldi’s “Spring” I went looking for the music wanting to hear it again. After a bit of poking I realized it was not Vivaldi’s “Spring” but instead another part of his Four Seasons, “Winter”. As the quickest and cheapest route to hearing a piece of music is to find it on YouTube, I began listening to the versions that came up which were all played on violins. What I was hearing did not exactly match the piece on the radio that had stirred me, so my next step was to search the radio station’s playlist for the specific piece I had heard. To my surprise, the piece that had been played on the radio was performed on a cello not the standard instrument for the piece, the violin. Why did the instrument make such a difference in my reaction to the piece?
Once, long ago, I had brief contact with a group of gifted folk in Vermont by attending an evening gathering that was exploring using tuning forks and sharing the concept that we humans each have a particular vibratory resonance. Without knowledge about the particular vocabulary of music or a scientific explanation of vibrational theory this was all totally new to me. What was not new was that I clearly felt some sounds quite differently than I did others. Violins are a good example in that the beauty of that soaring instrument’s diversity is profound but my physical reaction to violins has always been slightly “off”, as if it sets something in me to some state of agitation that is just a tad uncomfortable. Vivaldi’s “Winter”, played on the cello, changed the vibratory levels and seemed to resonate with something inside my being.
I had experienced this before; there is something about the sounds of a cello, something I find more compelling, a bit more raw, rough, guttural, or gritty than the other stringed instruments. What is it like to wrap one’s body around the size of it, feeling the vibrations throughout the body as well as hearing the sounds? Surely it must fill the player with joy. Of course, it is not only classical music that can make one’s physical being soar. All kinds of music have this potential. I cannot imagine that you have not experienced the shiver up the spine or an instant transformation from hearing a particular musical piece. Next time that happens see if you can physically feel it in a new or deeper way.
Could it be your own interior tuning fork doing its magic?
A Maine beach, the slanted setting sun’s rays highlighting parts of the shoreline as it lowers in the western sky. The last hours of the daylight fading, the tanned bodies holding out, still savoring the last moments of the day at the beach. Picnics eaten, the last games of catch being played, the dogs romping in the water (only allowed at day’s beginning and day’s end) their owners relieved hoping all that running and playing means settled, sleep-filled nights.
Many couples walk at sunset along the hard packed sand, their pace a stroll at this hour unlike their earlier workouts. Skateboarders are still out on the road working their way around cars moving slowly, drivers gazing at the water, and surfers catch the last waves while they still have enough light to see them coming.
The gulls flap and circle looking for snacks before dark, hoping for discards, sandwich parts or soggy chips. Junk food addiction effects more than humans.
Mostly, the little ones have been gathered, packed up and now fed, clean and sleepy, safely tucked in beds in rented spaces early enough to ensure tomorrow’s daybreak awakening. Is there anything more wonderful than watching children playing endlessly on a beach?
Arms flap trying to swat bugs away as the sun sinks and mosquitoes actively search for blood now the heat has backed off. Beach chairs, backpacks, water bottles and slogan covered, chocked-full bags of every description, soaked and gritty, draped over departing beach goer bodies. By tomorrow those wretched looking bags will be dry and ready to be filled, to head out again, each day repeating the pattern until departure day. The memories of sand and sun and water, laughter and sunblock, ocean dunks, salty water swallowed, and boogie board triumphs, these are the things we remember, what we hold close to our hearts.: vacation. Many months of photos and reminiscing ahead, the knowledge of icy cold sand, horizontally blowing snow, and sparse, hungry birds remain unknown. Winter beaches are south not north, the feel slightly similar yet there is always something extra when it’s summer.
It is simply amazing how much a day can be changed by a kind gesture, a smile, or someone helping out because they noticed. I now use a cane while out doing errands. It’s both worrisome and mortifying to be dependent on something that doubles as an “I’m old and need help” symbol. But it’s better than falling down.
I had stopped at a local, large supermarket around 5:30 p.m., Grocery Store Rush Hour. The checkout lines were thick with pre-big-dinner holiday carts; the store’s ambience focused and purposeful. The groceries of a woman ahead of me in the checkout line were filling multiple bags. She turned to me and said “Could I put those (my few groceries) on the belt for you?” and then, much more easily able to reach my items than I, she did so.
A few minutes before I’d been looking up at a blank space where a particularly hard to find tea might have been on back of the very top shelf. At a loss as to how to even check if it was up there so very far over my head, I looked up as a pro-basketball tall man was coming down the isle. “Could you”, I began pointing upward to the empty space as he handed over the box, his wife chuckling knowingly.
As I plopped my groceries into the car, I was about to look for a return location for the empty cart when a passing shopper reached for it saying “Can I take that for you?”
In the space of fifteen minutes during the crush of a very busy time, three strangers gave assistance. I glowed on the drive home, a kindness recipient feeling very good about the world.
I’ve been musing about oddities tucked into daily life. I’d like to add yours to my somewhat wacky list:
*The old and humorous adage “You can’t get there from here” is often actually true on the Internet.
*My friend Sue pointed out a vexing problem with bedding. Why aren’t sheets and blankets clearly size labeled so you can tell a Queen size from a Full size easily without struggling to make the bed only to discover that it’s the wrong size for the mattress.
*Why would any clothing company offer a sweater for sale with 3/4 sleeves? Aren’t sweaters for keeping you warm and doesn’t that include your lower arms?
*Why do suppliers located in northern climates (think L.L. Bean or Land’s End) no longer carry wool sweaters? It isn’t that “Climate Change” means that snow, ice, and frigid cold are no longer issues in those geographies. Cheaper polyester or acrylic fabrics do not breathe, holding in heat that forms moisture which chills, not ideal conditions for body temperature control. But the polyester exercise clothing that is designed to keep you warm only does so because it wicks away that moisture. Try sitting in a cold room in even dry exercise clothing and see how warm you stay.
Corollary: What happened to wool? What happened to sheep?
Corollary: Why have 100% cotton nightgowns and PJ’s disappeared from local (affordable) stores? Now they only show up in speciality catalogs priced into the stratosphere. A short nightgown for $79.95? For sleeping in a rumpled bed?
Corollary: Why are local affordable stores disappearing? Do you really want to order a replacement screw or a burned out lightbulb from amazon.com where shipping costs and packaging excesses exceeds every tolerable range?
*Why are current men’s suits made so that every man who wears them resembles a little kid who grew out of his clothes but can’t afford to buy new ones that fit? Too tight shoulders, sleeves not quite long enough to cover wrists, pants barely making it to the ankles, a jacket button that can’t hold if a man sits down? Men’s bodies sitting on talk show furniture fidget in ways that suggest they are being constrained by what they are wearing￼. Shouldn’t clothes have sufficient fabric to let bodies move?
*Have you seen recent versions of flannel shirts￼? Old time flannel, thick and warmly inviting, is now so thin as to be suitable for summer afternoons when the tide rolls in. What happened to the “toasty” factor that made them so inviting to wear under one of those disappeared wool sweaters?
*Why do garments that used to be called “tunics” now end just below the waist? Didn’t tunics used to reach far enough to cover one’s behind? Current versions are now shorter than an old-fashioned sweatshirt.
*Am I the only one who thinks the current fashion designs are ways for suppliers to make more money by scrimping on materials? “Fashion Forward”? Yeah, right.
*Corollary: current home heating costs have not made warm, affordable winter garments unnecessary.
*Corollary: When did genetic coding switch to producing humans who no longer get cold? In Portland Maine on any 32 degree (or above) winter day shorts are THE clothing choice for males. And even some sensible (?) females.
Please write back with your observations. They will joyfully be added to this list.
There are so many ways to age. I had no idea of course, when waking hours were filled with occupation and everything else was crammed into living and getting through. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”*
And then, when I knew I was tiring, the gears got switched and I was into something else, this territory of Eldering. By this time I had noticed the creaky limbs and sometimes nodding off at the oddest of times and that my energy level from the gogogo years had somehow gonegonegone. I started to worry about the occasional blank word or name that couldn’t be found in my memory bank and in the morning mirror I saw a face that only vaguely resembled the one I expected to be looking back at me.
There was the painful first use of a “senior discount”. More painful still was (is) being talked down to as my grey head acts as a beacon yelling “Old person here!” despite my internal views to the contrary. Physicians, grocery checkout clerks, waitpersons have all had previously negative experiences with the likes of me, even if it wasn’t actually ME.
I have begun to understand old age “cranky”: the joints that zing unexpectedly, the-way-too-inconvenient searches for a bathroom away from the house, and impatience with the lack of being heard or seen, but those are trifles next to the loss of friends and companions.
What I didn’t suspect was the treasure that lay in the midst of these challenges. A great opening, an expansive freeing spirit from so many things I believed were “me”. Kindness, compassion, patience suddenly began to appear at the oddest times, filling the moments. Conscious awareness found room to show up occasionally and the picture began getting bigger, a panoramic effect allowing a deeper, longer breath. While I cannot move as fast as I once did, slow movement allows opportunities for taking in what lies around me.
We won’t all age the same way and a number of us won’t get to age at all but tucked under a slew of stereotypes are ways of seeing and knowing I hadn’t imagined. Just wait, you’ll see.
For a long time I have been troubled by what I perceived as a divide between my neighbors or friends who live lives that I relate to and respect. It was when we “talked politics” that what seemed like insurmountable divides arose and we ceased talking with one another or ceased seriously talking about matters dear to us because it was simply too painful. I always knew however that if an emergency arose, if there were reasons that we needed to pull together in a time of trouble, those friends and neighbors would be there pitching in.
There are divisions, they just aren’t distributed along the lines we are told they are. Red/Blue. Conservative/Liberal: the divisions reported so often in the media fall into those categories because the media covers those who have much to gain identifying with those labels. Media seems primarily interested in those with power and money or those striving for them. Many of the rest of us are not particularly interested in living that kind of life.
“Family Values” used to be a slogan for conservative political beliefs but even way back then I found myself annoyed that a political group had seemed to usurp a term that I related to even though I would never describe my political beliefs as leaning to the right. Right. Left. Yet another set of divisional boundaries. To me “values” meant caring, meant having a set of internal beliefs and purpose, an internal compass guiding action. “Values” was often in slogans used by religious individuals or groups, but to me religion did not have much to do with it. I felt my life had been lived by my sense of internal values not connected to “religion” which I did not have. Now it seems as if the groups have changed, the slogans have changed, and the term “Family Values” has been flipped on its ear.
Recently I viewed this video which popped up online. It is not political or religious but it gets to the heart of what I am trying to express.
I cannot sew. Even when I learned to be adept with needles they were the large ones used for knitting.
Now, when arthritis has made all needles impossible, I find I am needing to make a quilt. This is psychological work not handcraft. The pieces of my life have felt fractured; disjointed; not part of a whole but disparate pieces scattered, my history, my adaptations over time, myself as constructed in moves made necessary by circumstances. These scattered pieces involve geographies and personal relationships. Quilt blocks: urban, small town, rural—each had a part. Marriage, motherhood, single woman—each had a part. Weaver, gardener, cook, photographer, writer—each had a part. These blocks occupy my memory floating as distinct pieces but what I am now recognizing is eldering is a time to patchwork these pieces into a life quilt which requires connector work, a way of restructuring the pieces of my past and present by gathering them in patterns, making beauty, pain, and purpose into a whole.
I went to a place where I’d not been before. It was out farther on the edge and since then I’ve been different. Changed somehow.
A friend says “It’s all energy” and I am coming to an organic, intuitive, understanding of this. Energy is both in us and surrounding us and is as responsible for our lives as breath. After I paid a visit to that edge space I brought back with me an enlivened sense, an awareness, of it.
This energy is related to the periodic surges we feel when we tap into its flow. “I feel energized” we say as it courses through our bodies or our minds but perhaps rather than it entering us, we have stepped into its flow which surrounds us every moment, the “us” or “I” dropping away as we blend into energy’s constantly moving presence.
Best of all is when our energies merge with others. A recent phone conversation with a far distant friend soared. I felt the expansion of my being, my alignment changing as our words flowed, the conversation becoming a mode of transportation. Of being.
The language of water describes this energy. A river, a stream, the ocean each having currents. Electricity is a current. Is our own human energy not a current as well? And in our finest moments don’t we merge with the currents of others? A day spent exploring with friends, the moments flowing together, spontaneity governing movement with ease and grace. Why do we struggle for language to describe such an incredible, yet ordinary, experience?
Isn’t the image of sunlight dancing on sparkling water a perfect description of such energetic joy? Aren’t the vocabularies we use for water and air also those which describe our beings and our lives:? Such words as Erosion, Flood, Groundwater, Infiltration, Meander, Rapids, Riparian, Ripple, Surface Tension, Watershed can straightforwardly describe scientific, specific, conditions involving water yet when used to describe our lives their meanings acquire added depth. A “watershed” moment describes visiting new psychological territory brought on by illness which took me past an edge I’d not known was there.
See: New Hampshire Volunteer River Assessment Program. River Glossary.
A family member contacted me and asked me if I’d consider writing a blog on what I had learned years ago, in the 70’s and 80’s, about the “ back-to-the-land” experience we (my husband, daughter, and I) had in Northern Vermont.
The move of two small-town people to hardscrabble Northeast Kingdom came after four years of military life during the Vietnam war, followed by low pay work then additional education and a search for where to settle “after”. Opposed to the war while being in the midst (and a part of) what supported that war had been a sobering reality. We had aligned our hearts with those fighting the horror from the inside and it took its toll. We were done with the helpless/hopeless feelings of those times and sought escape via self-sufficient living as close to the Canadian border as we could get. The optimism of the 60’s was dying and Nuclear Winter seemed not only possible but eminent.
After a dozen or so years full of uphill learning curves, the other scourge of our times unfolded: the baby boomer quest of dumping what you had for the promise of an immediate something better —drugs, lifestyle, partners— that was occurring in our cohort happened to us. When I stopped sobbing, I looked up and realized the house with two barns, a garage, and a pond along with the vegetable gardens, the woodpile, the pigs and chickens, and not-enough-salary job potentials within drivable miles required a partner—a family. Going it alone was not possible. I bailed.
This is not what I was asked to write. In thinking about the mostly self-taught skills I gathered during those back-to-the land years I can only see it in context. Those who are living the current version of such lifestyles actually may have a related origin story as these times, so fraught with the have/have not discord, are not so far away from our flight from a right-wrong, war-divided culture. The skills needed to provide for oneself are still learnable but now perhaps without the instructional conversations we had been able to have with our Vermont farm neighbors back then. And the cost of sufficient acreage has gone through the roof.
Do I still remember how to do all of those things I learned back then? There are so many other skills that had to come in finding and learning a profession and the years of negotiations needed for living life as a single, self-supporting woman in a partnered culture. So much hard won knowledge–weaving, horticulture, food preservation, and more–went to the back of my mind as grad school demands and city living required immediate attention. I have no idea if any of that knowledge is still present.
My current focus is facing the challenges of aging. As asked, I look back on those hard earned skill sets and consider my now broken arthritic self. Was slinging the fifty pound sacks of chicken feed or the hours spent rotor-tilling those gardens what so damaged this body? Something did. I don’t know if those homesteading skills still hang out in unused portions of my brain and, if so, I don’t know how to access the links
I am relearning one important piece: community is essential. Going “it” alone is not possible. Our strength, our survival, is only possible by working together. City or country, young and strong or old and getting by, insufficient or self-sufficient, as surely now as then, divisiveness fractures our strength and dilutes what is possible.
Survival skills last just so long just as the bodies that house them. Is it possible for those of us who went back-to-the-land back then to transmit what we knew to those wanting such a lifestyle now? Everything changes. I suspect what I learned then, or what my memory might recall, would not be current enough to help. We are all in this together which means we need to do the work that needs to be done–together. Despite all our efforts however, no one here gets out alive.
When I shut off the wipers the windshield began beading heavily, forming a view of the parking lot as if through a lovely curtain. The heavy rain was from a March coastal nor’easter. I had turned the radio to the classical station, while traveling a short distance through city streets. I was amazed to hear familiar notes, Vivaldi, lulling me into the loveliness I thought was one of the Four Seasons, Spring, I thought as the equinox was two days before.
I sat in the parking lot watching the muted outlines of people walking in and out of the store in time with the music they could not hear. The cars moved about in similar rhythms astonishingly in synch with the strings of the orchestra. Time ceased. There was only the music and the blend of perfect rhythmic movement, a spectacular sense of both being outside of time or place, so perfect and perfectly simple, moments of reverence from within a stormy, ordinary day.
After watching yet another program from the British Telly,* I find myself thinking about the way we hide our own truths from ourselves. I think this is possible because we build a framework to contain this or that story and we repeat this story, or versions of it, to ourselves and to others. The story holds because we’ve formed a structure around it, but what would happen to the facts or essence of that story if we could loosen its framework letting it ooze out?
Frameworks require a lot of maintenance. Wooden or metal, there is much replacement, paint, fasteners and the like, involved in keeping the structure sound. This has to be true of our stories, our emotional frameworks or self constructed histories, as well. How do we maintain our stories? Don’t they require repetition, if not to others then to ourselves?
I am thinking of the stories I tell new friends when I am attempting to build a context, an explanation of who I am and of how I got here, now, at this point in my life. I tell these stories out of a belief they are true. I probably use the same phrases I’ve used telling others over time, but aren’t each of these stories constructions? Aren’t these recitations of my past history, these pieces I think of as life segments, just boxed information I’ve set on my internal history shelf and am now pulling out for another round of show and tell? If I pulled the essence away from it’s box what would it look like? How would it sound?
Perhaps we are drawn to water because of its form or, rather, it’s lack of form. Many of us can watch water as waves and tides for hours, how it flows or breaks differently with each surge. It is both repetitive yet new at every moment. What if we freed our stories from their containers? Would they flow like water, changing shape and color, providing different ways of seeing what we had thought of as solid? Would we try to put the essence of our stories into new containers or could we work with their essence to discover new ways of seeing what we thought of as solid? Would loosening the frameworks alter our perceptions of self? Would we no longer have an idea of who we are if we disassembled the frameworks holding our stories?
I think I will return to watching the water and see if I can release a story or two into fluid form. Maybe I’ll keep it to myself or maybe I’ll chance telling it as a flow rather than a construction.
Recently I had the simultaneous experience of needing to choose whether to go or stay in two separate situations. In the case where I stayed, I learned about being part of a collective energy, a lovely thrumming / humming / buzz to which I got to contribute. It was both me and not me at the same time. I suspect that if I had ever played in a band or sung in a chorus this lovely collective feeling would have been familiar and I am certain there are many other ways to be a part of such energy.
In the other situation, I recognized that my unintentionally disruptive energy needed to be withdrawn. I needed to go.
What remains curious to me is how we come into awareness of when to stay and when to go. Discomfort with the unknown may be an aspect of each, yet discomfort may not always be a signal for departure. Discomfort might signal new ground offering opportunity for learning or growth but, sometimes, discomfort is the first signal telling us something is amiss.
I have been posing this question—how to decide when to stay or when to go—to others. One wise woman suggested either choice will lead to continued learning, that there are no bad choices but rather just choices that will get us where we need to be. It is a comforting thought.
Have you found your way to such understanding? I’m working on it.
So many of us go through life with parts of ourselves we fear are lacking or in need of change. Anxiety, OCD, phobias, aversions, some of which are more obvious or more severe than others, many of which we try to keep hidden from even our closest companions. The range, the spectrum, of such difficulties are vast. What is new to me is the awareness of how very human these “faults” are, how they have been formed from the experience we have from being or growing in this life (or last). I believe we fail to honor ourselves and our own pasts when we fail, in one way or another, to acknowledge them. I believe powerful healing comes from not only acknowledging these things but embracing them while we attempt to use understanding, knowledge, and awareness to overcome the limitations they place on our lives.
New to me is when evidence of such traits or habits or aversions become known, when my own reaction, which once would have been critical (caught as I was in faulting myself for my own versions), I now find endearing, as evidence of human struggle, of an awareness that these things add to the complexity in the person who has let them be shown. It is easier to find compassion when these things are given light, air, and descriptive words, when a person enters therapy showing evidence of willingness to dig into pain to grow beyond and, by that means, expanding his or her life. When such traits are allowed description, in personal writings or in conversation, I am honored to become a holder of such information, honored to share in the process of the unfolding, grateful for the courage of the individual to embark on the journey of discovery.
What has now become evident to me is that what is most negative or difficult is not the individual who suffers these human twists and turns, but the individual who thinks of himself or herself as a superior being because they don’t possess such traits or weaknesses. Beware! This is the faulted being. Condescension alone is a powerful clue that something is amiss. When an individual goes out of his or her way to point out faults in others it is a reason to turn away or to make clear by your words or your silence (whatever is appropriate) to give indication or evidence that such behavior is not to be tolerated. This work may be quiet or actively participatory, whatever works best to contrast rather than support such destructive, ignorant behavior.
What binds us to one another is recognition and, perhaps if we are able, support and caring. Each of us is a version of a flawed being or a whole being. Our weaknesses are evidence of making a life with these traits, using them as a guide to find and repair what feels like imperfection. Thus we grow. Therein lies the true beauty of our humanness.
Note: In honor of Carolyn whose birthday was today. Blessings and thanks to her wherever she has gone or whomever or whatever she has become.
Still a couple of hours before sunrise. The room—cold and very very dark—the near perfect black breached by only the light of a few offshore buoys, dots of a greenish-blue tinge barely enough to interrupt.
I wonder how few of us who love such darkness remain. Even when we work hard at keeping it we now have to contend with the energy vampire lights on so many devices–the smoke detectors, the fridge, even the toothbrush all have annoying darkness intruders, little dots of red or green or blue glowing in the night.
Blackness feels like a health elixir, enveloping my being like a soothing cloak, the perfect balance to sitting in the streaming window sunshine of the morning. The equation of dark with danger, the idea of flooding night spaces with artificial light for safety, baffles me. I came to this over years of camping. Flashlights, considered essential night tools, taught me that our eyes adjust accordingly and using one created a false dependency. Turning it off quickly allows seeing in different ways. Experiment: walk outside on a starry night with a bright flashlight then turn it off and watch how soon you become aware of the brightness of the stars, even being able to see your shadow from starlight.
I’ve read a few articles on light pollution and the possible links to disease. There are dire warnings. How lovely it might be to shut down the lights of buildings when not in use, saving energy and possibly contributing to health at the same time. Could street lights be dimmed or extinguished in the wee morning hours?
How would our lives change if more of us could experience true dark?
The overnight rain has changed over to snow. Dawn’s light made evident an angry gray chop coming out of the north, an unpleasant morning. Puttering about, engrossed in household routine, I looked out upon hearing a motor. A sit-low-in-the water lobster boat was making its way away from shore, the view of it blurred by the snowfall and gray murk hanging over the water. Soon it would disappear into the “marine layer”, out of hearing and out of sight but not out of mind.
The work done by those who make their living from the sea can be viewed through many prisms and I am not qualified to do anything but observe from my window. I can think of the hard physical toil that must be part of such work but I wonder if it is accompanied also by a sense of freedom, of provenance, or desperation, making a living as one can? At a one point in my life I worked hard via the homestead model, of physical labor that comes with large gardens, putting food by, and tending to pigs and chickens, yet I understand that I know nothing of the magnitude of sea work.
Late in the afternoon as the light began to fail I saw the same lobster boat headed home, still the only boat I saw out there all day. I hoped there was a good catch coming home with it. One intrepid boat moving steadily out then back. May you stay safe today and always. Godspeed.
Returning home in late afternoon I noticed that a passing hardwood seemed to have grown a large lump. I pulled the car over and walked back to where I could get another look at this tree. I couldn’t see anything sharp or distinct but, keeping my distance, I walked around to change perspectives. It was clear there were feather patterns to this rather substantial “lump”. The camouflage was quite amazing. I was looking at my first Barred Owl, right there in late afternoon daylight, just sitting in a bare tree branch out in the open. My eyes had picked out an anomaly from a routine passing of a mundane tree clump beside the road in a neighborhood yard. What mysterious vision function enabled that?
My morning had started out badly as I tried to tackle an iCloud password problem and lost an hour I did not have to spare. Lately the subject matter of my entertainment (in the form of DVDs and books) had clumped into a category I’d call “Obvious Screw-ups”. There seem to be quite a number of these in my life and, as if there was a magnetized center, various and seemingly disparate screwy elements I’d noticed pulled together all at once. And then there I was, standing in the shower under a stream of hot water, laughing my head off. I was having a melt-up. Somehow my response to this craziness was not depression but rather hilarity, the convolutions of life suddenly seen in another light. My response to absurdities came in the form of riotous laughter. What mysterious mind function enabled that?
Really, isn’t all this craziness around us laugh-your-butt-off funny? And then, this shift of the oh-so mundane, the daily slog, the truly silly, gave way to awe in the form of feathers. What mysterious function enabled that?
What did it feel like as a storm arrived in times before advanced weather forecasting? As the wind howled and the snow started to pile up against buildings the ferocity and duration of the storm would have been unknown. Did the folk knowledge of the times give them accurate indicators of what was coming? How long a storm would last? How fierce it would be? How did they read the signs and how did they prepare for what was coming?
Thinking about weather seems to be a primary human concern. In modern life I think there may have been times or places where inhabitants of say, San Diego, felt they were living in a weather paradise but I doubt that now there are many—any—such places remaining without at least cyclical weather concerns. Drought, fires, mudslides, flooding affects all and now the Golden State itself is a prime weather worry.
New Englanders historically prided themselves in how they faced the tough and varied weather conditions of their region. I think of this as mostly winter centered but those on the coast had to deal with storms that raged in all seasons. I wonder about about Florida or Texas for example, and if they had their own folklore centering on hurricane or tropical storm survival that they told about themselves.
There are occupational categories where weather is a primary determinant of success or failure; farmers, so dependent on the abundance or lack of water, or fishermen dependent on being able to get out in their boats are two obvious examples.
I find myself wondering about our regional and collective histories regarding weather. The stories of the Dust Bowl era may be experienced most intensely through the stories written about them, think Grapes Of Wrath. A lesser known book, Issac’s Storm by Erik Larson, tells of the 1908 Hurricane that hit Galveston at a time before much was known about the formation and patterns of such storms. Weather has come a long way. While technology has developed as a highly accurate predictor we are as far away as ever in terms of controlling it. I believe humans thought they would someday be able to do that but as climate change awareness spreads the magnitude of weather systems counter such thoughts Fire has become huge and not just in California and the American West. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods in various singularities and combinations are gaining strength and dominance. Each of us, whatever our environs, need to pay total attention to weather conditions at least some of the time.
A storm is coming. Even if I hadn’t heard this news on the media, my body felt the air pressure change, the odd oppressive feel of it, alerting me. Such awareness has always been a part of animal life. Grocery store behaviors begin to intensify as soon as a major storm is predicted and, if you are an adrenaline junkie, you can go take part in the frenetic feel of crowded stores and emptying shelves in the few days leading up to what’s coming. I thought of this today feeling and hearing this energy in Trader Joe’s while I also thought that the stuff being taking to checkout may well be endangered if the power goes down. We often don’t incorporate that factor and for many it feels unnecessary as they also stock up on generator fuel. Just how prepared we can get depends on the size and duration of the storm, think Hurricane Katrina or Maria. We are reaching back and at the same time, ahead, to places and times when the unknown of storms was predominant. Back to the Future.