Sunday, December 25, 2011

True Gifts

My favorite Christmas gifts are not the ones that come wrapped in packages. Though wrapping packages is one of the meditative exercises I do with pleasure over the Christmas season. I love choosing the paper for each package, then the perfect accenting ribbons, or baubles, and finally just the right tags, which I select and clip from Christmas cards past.

From the start of the season, the very first sounds light a little spark inside of me. My favorite Christmas carols: the soundtrack from Charlie Brown's Christmas, the soundtrack from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Andy Williams Greatest Christmas hits, especially "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and Ave Maria, sung by a choir. The former delivering the Christmas spirit directly into my heart, the latter sailing me through my earliest memories of sitting with my father while he explained to me that there would be a happy outcome with the abominable snowman, "Just wait and see," he would say, and other fond rememberances of a little boy with heart who refused to give into others and saw the beauty in the tiniest tree.


When the lights of Christmas begin to appear my heart leaps. I love all Christmas lights especially the old, large-bulbed, multicolored lights. I love how people take creative liberty to design their lightscape, wrapping them, twirling them, accentuating whatever their hearts desire. I have a tradition with my son, to get a warm cuppa and drive around listening to carols and taking in the lights, rating our favorites. Through the years it has become important talk time, that is a true Christmas gift.

The flavors of Christmas are amazing, cinnamon tea, and clove-flavored hard candy, sugar cookies, and cocoa with marshmallow fluff. Olives and onion dip and cheeses. Sparkling drinks with cherries. All of these things taste better at Christmas time. I still remember leaving Santa my favorite Christmas treat: chips and dip.

The scent of pine boughs and hollyberry candles, of warm things baking, of smoke sent through chimneys by fires crackling in fireplaces, fill me up, make childhood memories visceral.

I feel blessed to live in the north during the holiday season, to have crisp snow crunch under my feet on my walks, to feel cold air on cheeks, filling my lungs, is a blessing. Everywhere the trees and ground are decorated with crystals that shine.

These are the true gifts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reflecting on Empty

Funny things kept happening today. I would set out to do one thing and wind up doing another.

First, I was heading to my yoga class when I ran out of gas. I was only feet from my home, going up a hill; normally I would have taken a flat road but there was construction, being on the hill allowed me to turn around and coast back to my driveway. My coasting power ended right at my garage door.

My dog was pleased that I returned home, this meant he got his walk all the earlier. Yoga class would have lead to an appointment and then to a walk much later, if I even got one in.

Walking along my familiar path, I reflected on the word empty while admonishing myself for not filling my tank right away when the empty light came on. I kept meaning to, but would run one more errand, and then end up returning home and thinking I would do it 'tomorrow'. By not filling my tank, now I had missed yoga. But instead, I was taking this walk.

So what was the message here? I often tell my son when things don't work out the way he thinks they were meant to, "everything happens for a reason". I try to remind myself this, when I remember it, and I was remembering it now. I realized by allowing my tank to stay empty, I encountered things I might not have, had I been 'full', like coasting perfectly into my driveway.

Then later that day, I went to my appointment only to find out it was for the following week, and I again I found myself with time. This allowed me to go Christmas shopping, something I needed to do, but had not planned on since so much was scheduled into my day. It was luscious having this extra time. I wound up choosing some spontaneous gifts I might not have, had I been pressured for time.

Spontaneous gifts probably come more often than we realize, we just need to make sure our day isn't so full we don't notice them.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Addendum to Life Unscripted


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“I know not all workplaces feel assaultive. I secretly pray I will find one, but I cannot see this place yet. Maybe writing this story will help me locate it.”


As I wrote those words for a story about finding a new job, but feeling reluctant to enter "the workplace,"  the words sprang into action, taking on a life of their own. I could feel it happening. The power of writing is that great. A perceptible physical "lightening,"(as in weight lifted) occurred in me. It felt like I was sinking into a buttery soft easy-chair and taking a deep breath. Yet, at the same time a panic started to rise, I knew now that the words were written, answers were already being "sent out."

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At once I felt free but also like it I was awaiting my turn, about to take a hold of the zip-line so I could fly above the tree tops, exhilarated, albeit at frightening speed.

Then an answer to my words arrived in my in-box three days later on a Monday morning.

I tell my friends this repeatedly: "I wish God would just ring my doorbell and tell me what direction to take with a job; then I will be certain." I once thought this happened when an art job opened up at a catholic school and I submitted my resume to a priest, but that didn’t pan out. Was this message in my in-box a ringing doorbell?

I can’t say for sure; I am awaiting more information and a phone conference. Meanwhile I am choosing not to prescribe expectations around what I will hear, but to keep an open mind instead. So whenever the little voices start to rain on my parade, I simply quiet them.
Yesterday I spent the day reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, a book I return to time and again, it is full of comforting wisdom about letting go of the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves based on what happened in our past.  Tolle explains when we remain unconscious we carry around a pain-body. The pain comes from identifying with past "stories" about our life to the point of limiting our choices. The stories shape our present moment in a way that is not helpful, and is instead painful and destructive.
I am reminded to face each moment with awareness when these stories try to infuse themselves into my day, claiming to know an outcome that is only imagined, and not even true. 

Tolle reminds us that the pain-body fuels our ego. Our ego is the part of our self which lives in the story, and wants the story to continue. The ego is always thinking, it is not being. The ego depends on our painful thoughts (story) to exist. The remedy to this negative spiral of thinking is to simply be present now. Sounds pretty simple, and it is once you get the hang of it.
I am surprised by just how ingrained my negative thinking can be. It is as if my default button is stuck on worry. But Tolle reminds us that there is not even a thing such as an outcome, really there is only the present moment.

The key: look at what you have right now, this is who you are, be as honest and open as you can and don’t tell a story about it, just accept it without judgment, or vice.

Sometimes this concept is so mind-boggling that I cannot look it in the eye for long. It "appears" counter to what seemed like the best advice: plan for your future. But life takes form from the present moment, what we do now. It is all we are certain we have, we cannot know what the future holds.

Here is my now: A 60° November day, a warm quiet house, a sleeping dog curled beside me, the soft hum of my laptop, clicking keys and the urge to stand and move, take a walk maybe.

Need I think more?


Addendum to the addendum: I received a card in the mail today (11/30) that had a cup of coffee on the front (my favorite thing!) and it says, "Good morning, this is God..." Then on the inside: "I will be handling all of your problems today. I will not need your help, so have a nice day." And it is signed God. It does look suspiciously like my brother's handwriting, but he doesn't read this blog! You don't suppose... :)

P.S. The job that appeared in my inbox was not for me, but it was nice to receive an offer.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Life Unscripted

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Yesterday over coffee a dear friend, a writer with a passionate soul, listened to my weary uttering about having no ambition, about wanting to "do nothing", and told me I needed to write a story about it.

Her advice caused my other dear friend to laugh at the thought of writing about doing nothing, which got me chuckling, a relief, because my state overall was somber.

I should clarify that my lack of ambition, resulting in wanting to do nothing, really boils down to one category, albeit a whopper sized one: a job. There is no workplace I can envision wanting to be sitting in, moving through, reporting to etc. Therefore, I have surmised that I want to do nothing for work.

Having little desire to report to work is something I may need to rectify at some point soon.

It has been a privilege to be able to parent full-time and still get the bills paid. Life as a mom has been rich with time spent developing a strong relationship with my son. I have participated in a plethora of activities with him that I might not have gotten to if I had reported to work by day and picked him up afterward. The only thing there is less of is money, but I can't think of anything else that has diminished by this time spent raising my child.
In a way, I gave him the childhood I wish I had. My mom worked many long hours as a RN and supervisor of an operating room, even being on call for holidays. She had to support our family. Looking back now, she is not happy with the toll her job took on her mental and physical health. She missed out on some stuff with us. She has regrets. I never wanted to have those. 
What does not help are the "war stories," pardon the expression, I hear from my spouse, my friends, family members, strangers even, about workplaces. I cannot bring myself to relish, for more than a brief millisecond, the thought of plunking my body down into one of them again. 
Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, here are some of the stories:

One friend has a colleague who for some reason has come at her out of the blue, and with a vengeance, declaring her work unfit; though he is of equal ranking to her, and does not work directly with her, he has decided to make it his mission to stay on top of her business even though their supervisor has made it clear that he should apologize and stop. Did I mention she has her Ph.D.?
Another friend has had all creativity and decision making autonomy taken from her after close to thirty years on the job. She is a teacher of young children and has been handed a literal script, which she is required to read from while being carefully monitored, and offered firm admonishments any time she deviates from it, though she is a master teacher.

Still another friend whose job is literally to fix everyone else’s problems, while accomplishing his own workload as well, (for a huge corporation that is cutting his benefits as I write) must hide with his laptop to have even a spare half hour of a day to get his work done. He eats lunch while working and people track him down and find him behind the see-through glass brick, office walls, on a mission to receive his answers rather than find their own. (He has a thought that the scripted curricula my teacher friend faces are impacting the young people he helps, since they do not seem to have problem solving skills of their own, instead they require the authority of [the teacher].)

Just reading the above gives you an idea about why I am reluctant to venture back to anything considered "the workplace".
So, I think, I want to do nothing.
I have another close friend who is quite successful and has her masters in a health related field. She tells me all the time, “Kellie, unless you HAVE to, don’t get a job.” She is emphatic that the lifestyle I lead is the one we all strive for (time for self). She warns me not to get sucked into the cultural norms that tell us the only valuable work is outside the home in some preconceived workplace. She reminds me of all the jobs I do have, and the value those hold, not monetary at all, of course.
Some of my jobs while being "at home" (art teacher, artist, book keeper), have earned a little money, some have saved money (sub at my son’s private preschool) and all provide my family with a certain convenience. (Chances are if you want to wear that favorite shirt it’s clean, the front door always reflects the season, transportation is never a question, a friend can always come here and will be supervised and fed, the school project will have the right materials, there will always be a clean hand towel.)
Can I have calm, comfort and a job? I watch my husband accomplish many incredible feats at home that involve being up on the roof more often than I would like and hold a full-time job. Yet every morning this week he has proclaimed his exhaustion from the job he "goes to work" for.

I have a friend who has four jobs including 'home' as one. She admits there is one job she would happily omit, which might eliminate the second, but bring her to the two jobs that she most loves. 

Why the ruminating over getting a job? It probably comes from spending too much of my life doing and not enough of it being, that got me into the habit of seeing a job as a half empty, drained really, glass. But, for the past blessed years I have written my own script and starred in my own screenplay. As it turns out, getting up most mornings and having the freedom to choose the time frame and order I will do my work in might be the antidote to malady. Sigh. The thought of dressing my body for a certain image I am supposed to portray, then moving myself out the door, and into a foreign, sometimes hostile, place for hours on end, to produce work, seems discouraging.

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I cannot summon up the courage—right now.
(In fact, I’m pretty sure our bodies weren’t even designed for jobs, not the kind that involves an irrelevant workplace anyway.)
I know there are many other views and that not all workplaces feel assaultive. I secretly pray I will find one, but I cannot see this place yet. Maybe writing this story will help me locate it.

(For now I am off to paint, a portrait of a Great Blue Heron, a Christmas gift for my husband.)
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wanna-be

I confess, I am a wanna-be pie baker. For some reason that comes across as a great personal flaw when played over in my head, I cannot seem to motivate myself in the direction of actually baking a pie though. (I’ve tried in the past, but I lose interest when rolling.)
Yet, I simply have this nagging feeling that, if I were an expert pie baker, the type who can fill two flaky crusts with flavors so outstanding they melt in your mouth, all while heating the kitchen and sending out wafting smells of goodness into the neighborhood, I would somehow be a better person.
Maybe it is my desire to lure people in with my special, magical powers, of which I feel largely incapable of honing truthfully—so I envision baking a pie to be a good tool for that. Still, I only want to pretend to bake the pies. Sigh. The act turns out to be unappealing when actually performed. Maybe I just haven’t found my flavor yet.
The other day, I had a distinct and visceral memory of Samantha on Bewitched, the 1960’s television show about a good witch with powers she only used when absolutely necessary (every show!). She wiggled her nose right out of a predicament and right into the best solution every time. Oh how I desired to have those powers in that moment. I would’ve wiggled up a pie.
Maybe therein lies my problem, I am a product of being born on the cusp of the 1950’s coming to a close, and the 1960’s taking hold, an extremely split-off time for pie bakers in our culture, I would imagine. So part of me wants to be the pie baking “Hazel”, who always pleased the Baxter’s, or better, the mother with a smart sweater and terrific kitten heels who at least helped Hazel by attending the market with her to select the apples! Or maybe I want to be, Carol Brady, who was busy on the PTO but still had Alice bake those pies.
But the other part wants to be a rebel mom and declare, “Down with all pie!”  (Pie is a nutritional disaster by today’s terms anyway.) Honestly, if I was forced to choose which of those types I would really rather be, it would lean toward the fringe clad woman, standing up for a cause. Maybe this is great way to hone my powers.
No, this isn’t entirely true, because sitting on the edge of constant change never really allows one to sit with what is. But, what if “what is”, is just this woman who really doesn’t want to bake a pie (and who is allergic to gluten anyway!) and really just wants to be in the forest hiking with her dog? Well, there is only one way to find out…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reluctant Walk


All at once I realized who the two parts of me are. It came to me. Clear as day. I am on a cusp, I realized, of a HUGE life transition. I have always known it was coming, (but sometimes secretly hoped it would pass me by, "Middle age need not apply here!")

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I realized she, my missing other half, is revealing herself, and in a somewhat reasonable manner. Still, I try to push her away. I need to ''marry'' my two sides together I think.

Who is she, my other half? She is the wise woman, and from what I can tell, she is willing to speak clearly, and often. But am I willing to listen?



I try. Though sometimes my chattery, squirrel voice tries to drown her out with a mantra it squeaks, "You will never have enough, you will lose your store, don't stop, rush, rush, RUSH!"

I think that is why the wise woman held me back in this dream when a raging river and and sawed off tree came barreling for me; this was no place for an impudent squirrel to dwell. One must have their head on straight when dealing with natural forces, let's face it.

I am always amazed by the number of pieces a dream can offer up. My favorite book on dreams, Healing Dreams, comes from Marc Ian Barasch, a magazine editor turned author. He wrote it in 2000 . Before writing the book he discovered that he had thyroid cancer. It was being overlooked by doctors yet he knew, based on his dreams, that he had to be the voice of the illness that was taking him over and requiring attention, now.

Barasch talks about dreams having at least 8 layers, and he made it clear that ALL of the layers are significant and have meaning. ALL of them. And, if there is a layer that speaks to the present, you might want to examine it. Fortunately, examine can sometimes just mean heed the dream message. All the better then, listen!

I am not suggesting looking at your dreams is an easy path, at least not at first, delving into the ''person'' who resides in the hidden layers feels precarious to the point of wanting to retreat and call it a day sometimes, or run like hell, even. But the path is rich and is has more color than any human eye, even those not trained to see, will ever even imagine in their life time--if that makes sense.

Yesterday I walked...a short walk...a reluctant walk. For me walks are dreams. I fashion them that way. My dream was a brief one, yet vivid enough as I trudged along a frozen path, no wider than a foot, and snow covered on both sides, shaded by the mountain, and unfazed by the 60 degree fall sun.

I made my way to a leave covered patch above, that received light, where I stopped, no less awed by the beauty of the forest than I ever am. There stood the trees--my sisters, my family; they didn't seem concerned that I had been gone, they knew they would see me again. And off in the distance, a squirrel. In a flash it is up a very tall tree, a tree missing much of its bark and most of its branches...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sailing to Parts Unknown

So a lot has happened in the time since I posted Vulnerability one short week ago. Seems like the floodgates of vulnerability have opened, providing me a vast channel on which to sail. 
 
Vulnerability brings with it a lot of intense feelings, and quickly! I think it seems quick because you can be caught off guard by feelings when you allow yourself to be open; a particular feeling might feel like a direct hit, and often around the heart region. No wonder so many times I want to numb these feelings. I have discovered many ways of numbing: plugging myself in to my computer to the point of moving in, Real Housewives marathons, Halloween candy, and coffee until it is coming out of my ears. I have also found some positive vents though, friends, yoga and of course walking! And working with dreams A LOT!

In fact, vulnerability reminds me of this Big Dream I had 18 months ago; since its incarnation, it has provided me with keen insights. In the dream I helplessly watched a beautiful, twisted tree, stripped of its bark and missing its smallest branches (hands), and secondary roots--sawed off by human hand--rush by me in the brook in my back yard. It was so pretty, I was desperate to claim it but I couldn’t capture it, I hadn’t the means, and it was WAY too big. A wise woman stood alongside me and bade me, using her body language only, to let it go.

(Since that dream I have learned more about why the wise woman kept me from putting myself in the path of a huge tree and a great force that most certainly would have wiped me out; and yet, because it IS a dream, I secretly know that she didn’t mean I shouldn’t try to ride it—when I am ready, I understood her to imply. She wanted to remind me, I think, that I don’t have to leap off a bank unprepared, to receive grace.)

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But nevertheless, that’s what vulnerability sometimes asks you to do, take a leap—of faith. This week has brought just that, some big leaps. For one, I looked teenhood in the eye more than once, tremulant as I felt at times (being a parent of a teen isn’t for sissies—it's about the big issues, the change your life, no turning back issues, that make falling off the monkey bars seem like nothing). I am preparing to go where I need to. (I never was much of an ostrich type, though it does seem appealing to bury my head, and I have had to resort to that a few times.)

Friday morning now here, I sit feeling jumbled and excited yet fighting an urge to sleep. My struggle: accomplish more or rest?

 Perhaps it is time to walk. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Change

Goodbyes are seldom easy. Goodbyes mean change. Change means you are plugging along in a certain direction, following (what you thought was) a solid plan, and are caught off guard, catapulted off course, or worse, immobilized by uncertainty. I am aware that change is inevitable. I understand the concept of life’s impermanence, but still change feels difficult.
September was a month of goodbyes that I knew were coming, but try as I may to brace myself I wasn’t prepared for the change. (I wonder if I will ever be prepared for change. I picture myself someday content with what is in every moment, confidently handling each turn of events, and no longer stunned by potholes in my path. I see a wiser self who accepts change with grace, but I secretly wonder if the days will creep by and I might find myself still the same person, not really embracing change at all.)
One of the inevitable changes that happen every September is my son’s return to school. Simple as it may sound going back to school is never simple. It requires great change; it requires a supernatural flexibility to deal with the changes that come on an often daily basis. The incumbent adaptions come in a variety of categories, including inverting daily routines and handling new, and unpredictable, responsibilities. Some responsibilities might take on a crisis mode like an auto-pay lunch money account gone awry when you forget to enter your new credit card number online, thus leaving your child unfed at school for the day. Other times the responsibilities are relentlessly mundane like filling out upward of a dozen  documents and contracts from emergency numbers for school, and then for bus, to permission slips so the school nurse can medicate your child so he or she can continue to plug away even when they don’t feel well, to field trip forms with varying fees, to school picture forms with background and package choices, to PTO fundraiser forms including walkathon pledges and Christmas present orders…I could go on but you get the idea. And my least favorite responsibility--homework monitor, which requires constant pestering, sometimes in up to four subjects at once, nightly and on weekends and holidays because home is now considered “the extended school day.”
How does all of this relate to goodbye? It’s probably pretty evident that September signals goodbye to leisure, and goodbye to freedom from deadlines, to say the least.
September also brings about more natural changes like saying goodbye to hummingbirds for instance. And saying goodbye to hummingbirds represents change—the changing season brings about changing weather that requires one’s outdoor activities to change as well as a change in what to wear. That’s lots of change.
One might deduce why I would find it hard to say goodbye to hummingbirds, but understanding  the pang of sadness I feel as I watch them, fewer and fewer coming to my feeder, as days darken and temperatures cool, might be more elusive. Watching the diminutive flying jewels hover on their last days here causes a little stitch that seems to sew itself in my heart where it remains for many months to come, until one day it can be clipped and once again my heart can be free.
So how have I dealt with all the change September has brought to me? Well, the change in routine with school has definitely thrust me out of my comfort zone against my will, and saying good-bye to the hummingbirds has left me reflective. I think the rapid fire changes of the new school year have had a strangely soporific effect. Change seems to be demanding me to stop and turn inward. Perhaps the sleep induced state I have experienced for the past four weeks came so that I can preserve myself, and maybe even store up energy for the to-be-anticipated-yet-unknown changes that are lurking just far enough ahead that I cannot quite grasp them yet.
Feeling dulled and somewhat ill-equipped to handle the recent changes, I have turned to my dreams for acumen. This is what I received last night:

My neighbor takes me in her car to a sheep farm to collect shed sheep’s wool remnants from the ground to plug a hole I have in my garden where a little animal is getting in. When we arrive I begin to look for the wool remnants but she starts collecting snake skin tails. Presenting me with a handful of tails, she tells me to use them to plug the hole.

I am outside in my garden and I see a hummingbird flutter in my bird's nest spruce, there is a web in it and he appears to be caught. I rationalize that I know how to get him safely from the web, but he frees himself and flies upward hovering in front of me and allows me to catch him in my palms. I see his ruby throat. I want to keep him but I know I must set him free. He is looking for food so I go inside to make fresh nectar to put in the feeder. I let go of him with the hope he will return.

Then I am riding in the passenger's seat of a car my son is driving. A squirrel jumps in through the back window and I fear it will wreak havoc with the car's interior, I open my window and attempt to guide him out, at first he gets stuck, the space I have provided is not large enough. I roll the window down further and successfully give him a shove out. I am relieved he is out and glad that no damage was done.

Finally, I am with my son in some industrial building, we are going down on an elevator without walls, he is holding something we had intended to bring downstairs together, but I don't make it onto the elevator in time before it descends and have to wait for the next one. I see three older teenagers acting suspiciously, while waiting to go down. When I arrive in the basement, the teenagers are there and acting even more suspiciously and I panic, knowing he has been abducted and it is up to me to rescue him. I know it will take a careful plan to do so...

I am always astounded by how dreams provide answers. Reexamining this dream, I can see the little male [hummingbird] is not as fragile as he appears. He doesn’t really need my help, though he allows me to hold him and there is a good chance I will still feed him. I like that he rises up on his own, and is determined.

If the little hummingbird were to represent my son, I can rest assured he will be fine, he is in no real danger. Then my son does appear and he is in control, in the driver’s seat, and if something unexpected appears (like a frenzied squirrel) I need only provide enough space and let go of the frenzy.

All is not going to be perfect; sometimes I’ll probably feel worried that my son goes ahead without me. Sometimes I may have to be vigilant about shady characters and exercise my suspicions. Some situations may require careful planning but I can probably
bury old tales (tails) and allow myself some space to begin anew.

In loving memory of my neighbor Ruth who passed on September 28. She was a wonderful woman who touched my heart in so many ways, I'll miss her.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Dreams~*

 
I have been dreaming big all summer. I am finding common themes with some unique and quirky stuff thrown in. I had a particularly wonderful dream in July:

A childhood friend from whom I have been estranged invites me to a theme party at her home. All of my friends from past and present will be in attendance. I accept the invitation.

When I arrive at the home of my former friend, I must navigate her steep driveway to get to her house; it is made of crushed pink glass seemingly melted together. It makes a very beautiful path, albeit a slightly slippery slope, to climb. I do so with care and focus, placing my feet just so, as to make it carefully up the incline without slipping.

This dream encourages me. I am awed by the fact that I accepted the invitation to attend this party that will contain so many personal facets (past and present friends) of my life. The party is themed and the theme is uniting past with present...

Driveways have been a dream theme this summer and a friend pointed out those driveways are entry ways as well as places to exit from. Perhaps I am being shown that I can come and go as I please.

I associate the pink crushed glass with the heart. It is a heart that has been crushed, yet nonetheless mended back together into a work of beauty, a path I enter deliberately, placing my soles (soul) with care as I navigate. The climb is steep and seems symbolic of what it takes to heal sometimes. It isn't always easy, but if I focus and move forward on this heart path I will arrive.

I like that all my allies await me too.

This dream inspires me to create my art, more goddess collages that contain shattered pieces of my great grandmother's heirloom china, gifted to me from my mother, prior to the collapse that crushed them.


About a month after my dream I went on a trip out west with my husband and son to visit Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. We also toured through three deserts, the Sonoran Desert, the Painted Desert and the Mojave Desert.

It was an amazing journey and I found myself climbing many a steep, pink, pebbled path in heat close to 100 degrees at times and at heights of 8500 miles above sea level (the melted crushed pink 'glass' I ascended on in my dream). Perhaps the theme of the party in my dream was this journey.

Yet, I did not recall the dream until I returned and began to write about my experience of traveling the thousand mile excursion to these awe inspiring locations.

My encounter with these distinctive landforms brought a bevy of emotions. I wrote a poem about my feelings that surfaced as I met up with the glorious landforms, this was the only way I could put into words what I had encountered. The excursion truly was a dream, quite visceral and almost beyond words.

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Painted land…scarlet, crimson, pink and rosy… salmon, peach…golden…emerald, teal…azure, purple, white…

Navajo land, simple life, Spirit life, honor Mother Earth, Father Sky…healing land, wounded people, healing people, DinĂ© …

One thousand miles, hours on the road to reflect, memories surface provoked by faces in the rock…

I am a child, full of wonder…seeing this world for the first time…
I feel this land, I rejoice, I laugh, I sing…

Nestled with those I love…I remember…

My mind wanders to struggles, less severe than those of the humankind whose land I travel, but as many layers…
I feel this land, I am angry, I mourn, I grieve…

Descending with baby steps into the gaping hole, I am swathed by Mother, as Father calls out stern warnings to pay attention…
I feel this land, I cry, I gasp, I am afraid but I move forward…

Spiraling upward I sweat, I huff, I clamber, exerting to ascend, I soar with the condor for just a brief moment… my confidence builds…
I feel this land, , I am unsure, I am unsteady; I take leap of faith…

Encircled within deep red rock, I pause to reflect, wade into the baptismal waters, a new beginning…
I feel this land I am overcome; I am humbled, I am resuscitated…

I seek, I observe, I move with intention, I excavate artifacts within the stratum, I breathe and embrace the present moment…lost soul parts are returned to me, I am a child of forty-eight…
I feel this land, I say one prayer: Thank you.

A week after returning home I have this dream:

I am at an art venue, it is large and open, filled with recycled materials. There are windows all around me. Others are there and we have come to make art projects. We are free to choose whatever materials we want. A female picks a piece of clay that is lumpy and when worked on, reveals a face. I like this material. The face catches my attention. I choose to work with the clay. I take it and mold it into a heart, pushing on it with my palm and working it hard to keep it in shape; its consistency is like putty in my hand…

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This is What Summer Brought

In May I wrote these words, "Ahhh, summer, when every person has a chance to become a child again. I cannot wait to see what else is in store." At the time I was a little tentative and unsure about what summer would bring. It is now a quarter way through August and I thought I would share in pictures a little of what summer brought me thus far.


For a long time I resisted the wild brown-eyed Susan's that moved into my gardens on their own without being invited. They used to take up one corner of my garden faithfully every year and often I would pluck them out. I had something against their color, school bus yellow I called it. But then last year they started strategically planting themselves between other flowers in the garden and I fell in love with them, not only for their perseverance, but also for their little pop of gold amongst the pinks. Needless to say, the color has grown on me.


Monarchs are always visiting here, this picture was taken a couple of days ago, the one that follows is last from summer...


I took this picture accidentally and realized I have my own set of twin sisters living along my brook, I had never seen them this way. (If you click on the picture to enlarge it, then click again and use your arrow buttons to navigate, you can see the man in the moon between the trees.)


This is a fairy lily. It was born from a hundred year old plant that came from my dear friend's grandmother. She was sad, as her fairy lily had not bloomed yet this summer, so she asked her (great) grandmother to send her a bloom. The next day, when she returned home from a conference, a bloom awaited her.



I call this the cosmo forest. Every year cosmos seed themselves here and grow into cosmo trees. The cosmo trees even dwarf my new Japanese red maple and baby flowering crab. Alyssum, snapdragons and even a sunflower from the birds seed here on their own too, so it is a "happy accident" annual garden too!




I planted these gladiolas for August blooms and because it is my son's birth flower. They bring cheer for his annual birthday party. This year we will be in the Grand Canyon for his 14th birthday. :)


A few good tomatoes. These are Early Girls. We ate one already. This is only my second year growing tomatoes, I'm doing okay with it. 


This planter consists of alyssum that reseeded there, purple pansies that have thrived quite nicely since spring, due to efficient deadheading, and a fuchsia plant I snuck from my mother's annual pile one day when I was watering her flowers. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see a lichen covered fairy, gifted to me from my beloved neighbor, and residing here for at least a dozen years.



This planter is filled with the snapdragons my sweet neighbor gave to me in spring, along with a fuchsia petunia that reseeded itself, and some alyssum I transferred from some pea stone. My neighbor told me yesterday, that when he sits just right on his screened porch, the top snapdragons, which peek over the fence between our yards, are framed perfectly by the wooden square around the edge of one of the panels of his porch. I had already written this story and sent it to him. I am glad we can share the snapdragons. And today, I sat and watched a female hummingbird go to every colored snapdragon, and each petunia, getting her fill of nectar. I decided her message to me was, "There is an abundance of sweetness available to you now."

Here's what it looked like in early spring.




This front planter, one of two matching, goes along with my "making do" theme. The purple pansies that were in it since spring became very leggy and tired. I went hunting for end-of-season annuals the last week of July but did not find anything that spoke to me. So, one day, while sipping a good cuppa, early morn' by the pool, I came up with a clever idea to collect a couple faithful bloomers in my perennial gardens, (catmint and campanula),  and a soft silvery lambsear for the center, along with some already established alyssum borrowed from the cosmo forest, and a pair of not-quite-blooming cleomes that seeded themselves in the crack between the driveway and house, some are still there as you can see. The results were precious. Ahhh, I love making do. (click on picture to enlarge)


Lastly I have to give my herbs honorable mention, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, (and summer savory, tarragon, basil, oregano, chive, lemon balm and lavender,) they have already participated in several batches of fresh, multi-herb pesto, often at the final hour of me fretting what's for dinner. :)



Multi-Herb Pesto

2 1/2 cups of fresh herbs (I use all of my favorites, basil, chives, lemon balm, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and even throw in torn baby Swiss chard leaves from my garden--any green will do)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (you can add more depending on how you like your consistency)
3/4 cup crushed walnuts
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves fresh garlic (less or more to taste)

I place the herbs in my blender and top with oil, walnuts, cheese and chopped garlic cloves and alternate between chop and puree until the mixture is liquefied. I serve this on top of barbecued salmon, or chicken or pasta.




Monday, July 4, 2011

Frog Blog, Creative Inspiration



Frog on a Log and Two Swimming

The tiny tadpoles I rescued from my pool cover about a month ago have now become tiny frogs. I placed the water they were born in, into an empty planter and set it under a bush for shade, in a location where some rain water would drop in. Little bugs and leaves have fallen in, creating algae and food, and I placed a piece of drift wood for them to sit on when they decide it is time to leave the water, which is exactly what one is doing. I am calling them frogs, but they may be toads as some of the eggs definitely came from toads, like the ones here.

However, a friend of mine says they have frog shaped bodies, and it is entirely possible they are frogs, as the tadpoles I rescued were from another area on the cover.

Either way, it's funny how I would write a story in the beginning of the summer about hanging out with toads and then wind up raising some. I learned that toads are actually frogs anyway, as they are from the same amphibian family.




Last year, I was painting a birdhouse for a local art show and having a heck of a time getting the rabbit I was painting just right, and then, when I finally did, a rabbit moved into my gardens.


I feel very connected to nature through animals. The shamans of Native American cultures used animals as their guides. They would go into a dream-like state called a journey, using spirit animals to reveal for them medicine, magic and power around illness and healing for an individual or the community as a whole.

When animals show up in my gardens and on my walks, their messages are not lost on me. I am aware that they have come to guide me in some way. Sometimes I have to go looking a bit.

The late Ted Andrews wrote about frogs in his book on "the spiritual and magical powers of creatures great and small," Animal Speak,

"Emotions are often associated with water. Individuals with frog totems are very sensitive to the emotional states of others, and seem to know instinctively how to act and what to say. They know how to be sincerely sympathetic."

For better or worse, I can say I have these traits. When I am in a social setting or with a group of people, my feelings tend to bounce around from person to person, making it difficult to stay centered and relaxed. As a child I was labeled as sensitive; the title was appointed to me by the adults and declared as if it was a curse.

Recently, a relative said to me, "You are too sensitive, and you are too kind." She meant well, but hearing it in this way reminded me that no adult ever taught me to honor my sensitivity when I was a child, instead it felt like they tried to push that part of me away. I suppose it was inconvenient that I was a barometer of the state of things sometimes. Perhaps they did not want to feel certain feelings that were coming up, and they did not need a reminder, in the form of a sensitive child.


From "Frog and Toad are Friends"
written & illus. by Arnold Lobel
Even as an adult, I have this experience. It's hard for me to make mundane small talk, I want to know what lies beneath the surface, and it's hard for others to talk about what is really going on with them. I have learned that when someone says, "How are you?" that they do not want a true answer.  Not that I have not found some really wonderful people who have come along on life's journey with me, even to the deep places. But it's hard to find feelers, feelers have been taught to hide. I think most of us have learned to stuff our feelings.

Andrews also writes about frogs:

"The frog is a totem of metamorphosis. It is a symbol of coming into one's own creative power. It changes from an egg, to a polliwog, to a frog. Even after it becomes a frog, it lives close to and spends much time in the water. It always has contact with the creative force out of which it came."

This part seems hopeful to me. I live along the water where frogs croak their songs of creative inspiration nightly. Tonight I shall remind myself to listen closely to what they are saying.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making Do

I am finally settling in to almost summer. I realized it today. Whenever I walked by a window in my home, there was some gorgeous view of one of my gardens.


These later blooming Miss Kim lilacs, are just outside one of my windows and the smell they send wafting through the house is dreamlike.


By now the peonies and irises are going crazy, profuse with intoxicating blooms.


Sometimes I get a little sad thinking about them passing soon as summer offically rolls in, but then I try to remember new blooms will take their place. But the truth is, there is really nothing quite like a sping garden to me, alive with anticipation and possibilities.

I had talked about my garden theme this year being art, but unexpectedly a new theme took its place: making do. We are going on a summer trip to the Grand Canyon mid-August, so I realized I didn't want to go to crazy with annuals this year, both for cost, and the fact that they may perish while I'm gone. So instead, I started looking around at things I have right here in my gardens already for my planters.

I found alyssum that planted itself in the stones.


And my neighbor gifted me with 6 snapdragons, so my box planter is really all set.

Tiny alyssum in the front

To fill garden 'holes', areas that call for a little color, I realized I had plenty of specimens that can just be divided and inserted.

 Like these sweet campanula, that bloom all summer...


... and this cheerful catmint that does the same.

More and more, I realize how I really do have most of what I need already, I just have to be clever (and patient) enough to spot it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Frogs, Peonies and Irises


Just Yesterday

Spring has given birth and summer is coming. My first peony opened today. There is nothing like the smell of a peony, it brings me back to my grandmother's 'parlor' and her cut glass vase on the coffee table filled with the sizeable magenta, fuchsia and white ruffled heads of the fragrant flower. To this day, when I inhale a peony, I resort back to the little girl I once was, encountering the flower for the first time, sitting at my grandmother’s feet.


I think those flowers helped give me the robust olfactory sense that I carry with me today. I have to stop and smell the flowers when I enter any garden. I have made some invigorating discoveries by doing so. For instance, my soft purple irises smell like grapes, and their yellow counterparts, like lemons! Along with my first peony came my first iris today too.



My closest friends know that I have been corresponding with toads of late, and now frogs are coming to visit in droves. Each night they croak to me their secrets from trees and puddles. I am raising my very own frogs too, as thousands were born on my pool cover and relocated into my brook, but a few decided to stay for a while.







Ahhh, summer, when every person has a chance to become a child again. I cannot wait to see what else is in store.