Distraction

If I could funnel my energies into one thing
That lightens my life and makes my heart sing,
Would I set up my tripod and click-click away,
Storing photos to freshen my memories someday,
Or plunk away, tapping my keyboard all night,
Trying to come up with a story just right,
Or study psychology hoping to find
The missing connections that weigh down my mind?
Would I read all the classics or find something new?
Would I try an inventive new recipe or two?
Would I play with my dog tossing Frisbees and balls,
Or paint pictures to hang on my many empty walls?
Would I tinkle the ivories or strum on some strings?
Oh I wish I had time to do all of these things!
But it seems every chance I get when I’m alone
I’m a virtual prisoner to my smartphone.

Photo via Foter.com

 

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New Year, New Hope

I vow now that the end of 2018 will not see me sitting on my couch watching a movie, just waiting for the sands on the year clock to run out. May 2018 be a year of renewal. May it bring with it a dedication to truth and authenticity, honest, heartfelt conversations, and clarity of thinking in the path forward. May the ghosts of all the years past not throw chains around this new year, and may patience turn to decisiveness.

To 2018!

Photo credit: maxxtraffic on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

Almost There

It’s been a year unlike any other I’ve experienced in my lifetime, a year of uncertainty mixed with sadness at people of faith trampling the values I’ve held so dear for most of that lifetime – humility, kindness toward others, community-mindedness, selflessness. It’s been a year of selfishness and greed, a year where stewards of the land circle the wagons against an imposing army of extraction industries. It’s been a year of vindictiveness and anger toward people who are content with letting others live as they see fit (pursuit of happiness, anyone?) and dredging the rivers of cash to more fully fund the well-funded. It’s been a year of statues over people, of incompetency at the highest levels, of America’s dirty laundry flying for the world to see.

And I’ve been hiding.

A good friend of mine, a sensitive, caring woman who would raid her pantry to feed anyone, was beset with a auto-immune malady after the election of Donald Trump. Her system couldn’t take the stress. She has finally found balance and peace through nature, and after about six months her rash went away, allowing her to re-enter her social circles. I didn’t have an auto-immune response, but I do feel like a turtle who has pulled into her shell of self-preservation. No writing to speak of; no words were there. Just stress and more stress. Instead I turned to my photography – visualizing the world I want to surround myself with, a world carefully created and preserved by dedicated conservationists.

The year is almost over, and this funk I’ve been in, this fog, is lifting. I still wake every day with the stress of not knowing how my world might be upended. I fear war for the first time in ages. I have a constant finger on the pulse of our institutions, whose failure might affect my mixed Hispanic-American family. I wonder daily if 1930s Germany could happen here.

But a shell is a confining place to be, and my creative muse is pushing at the boundaries. It’s lean, starving, hungry – and the muse must be fed.

The Extravagance of Being

This is the season of giving, of depleting the savings accounts and trying to balance the scale between giving and receiving, of cordoning off time for family in the midst of a giant collective shove to propel the economy into the black for another year. It’s a season of rising joy, a half bell curve, where the post-holiday reality check smacks you like a fall to the pavement. Gifts received graciously, excitedly, are quickly used, worn, and eaten. Time passes, and those non-consumables are ultimately relegated to the back of the closet or the top shelf to gather dust before being hauled to the local donation center, making space for the cycle to begin again.

But what of the intangible.

My niece received the ultimate Christmas gift, or maybe she gave it, depending on your perspective. Her holiday plans were interrupted by a trip to the hospital to deliver her first child. It’s a gift we’ve all experienced on the receiving end. It’s a gift that holds such promise and expectation of growth and renewal, of successes, of love and bonding. It’s a gift often taken for granted until it’s gone.

And gone it will be all too soon. This Christmas season also saw the loss of a dear sister-in-law to cancer, the end of a life well lived.

Life and death.

Our existence on this ball of rock suspended in space is a tremendous gift. The place we occupy in space and time is unique to us, and to us alone. We may collect friends and family to walk the path with us, but their vista is different, and they may tread easily where we have cause to stumble. We grow up seeing thing with fresh eyes that cloud over with time. We begin with the excitement of the new, learning instructions for how the world works, until for many it becomes mundane, old, used, and we merely exist until we don’t any more.

But if we look closely, there is extravagance all around us. The heady scent of flowers in the spring that bring the buzzing, industrious bees in their quest for nectar. The small molecules of water that are so constructed as to hold onto each other as they ride the wave of gravity toward the ocean, bringing us fresh mountain streams and scenic waterfalls. Basalt, sandstone, and granite tower over us, ever so slowly shifting and moving, only to then crumble and fall, reminding us of our impermanence in this ancient place. The transfer of gasses within our lungs, the beating of our hearts, the plasticity of our brains, all miraculous gifts that we take for granted until they are gone. The capacity for love and forgiveness that strengthens ties and creates a web of safety and security, tendrils of which creep outward in random acts of kindness toward strangers. Extravagance. Just look to the closest planet and compare – then immerse yourself in it.

2017 – The Year of Not Caring

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person, someone who believes in love and family and that those two things will see you through any bad time that comes your way. My friends and family have seen me through a couple of harrowing years, one of a scary cancer diagnosis and another seeing me through the job from hell. I don’t know how I would have made it through either of those without the love and support of family and friends. But we all go through phases and stages, and this past year everyone’s phases coalesced into the perfect storm of children pulling away and adults revisiting their purpose in this world, all under the helpless feeling that comes with a tumultuous election of a divisive president. It was a one step in front of the other kind of year, a year of going through the motions, of waking up with a dedication to getting through the day.

And it’s taught me to care less.

Though I’m not a Buddhist, I can finally see how letting go gives peace. I have held tightly to my ties, even while the hands on the other end were slackening their grip. I have sat in the middle of a pile of photo albums that only I look at and cried over times past. I have served dinner in front of a wall of photo collages of happy times and tried to make conversation with people who were intent on showing that they were just not that into me. I have tried to communicate my needs and my desires only to be met with blank stares as I pounded my head against that brick wall. And so I let go.

It’s a lonely feeling to let go.

I have spent a lot of time this year wandering by myself, walking through nature, feeling the salt air on my face, staring at the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and marveling at the giant moon as it rose over the land. I slept in the back of my car to get my camping experience and cried as I listened to the families around me talk and laugh around their own campfires. I have wandered and traveled, all the time taking photos that don’t include the people I love. I have dammed up the feeder stream to friendships that were sustained on my little trickle alone. I have searched inward for solace.

There were islands of joy in my barren year, trips to see Smartypants in Virginia and Sunshine in Colorado, trips that filled my soul and reminded me of what I love most about life. We explored and ate and talked and laughed, and I went home revived, with a full tank to carry me through months of what has become a dry, prickly, arid existence. There was a springtime trip with Mr. A to the national parks, getting away from the roles and responsibilities that have made up our last 23 years in this same spot. But returning to knee-high grass and weeds and those same roles and responsibilities brought reality home like a blast from the furnace, and as Mr. A dove back into work, I was on my own once again.

And so I wandered.

And I stopped caring.

As I said, there’s a freedom that comes from not caring, a vagabond mentality that is always seeking out options. It’s a freedom from fear. It’s a knowledge that anything  stable could be upended without a moment’s notice, and an appreciation for what is going well in the moment. It comes with a humility that I cannot influence what I thought I could, and that being myself might not be enough to work magic in other people’s lives. It’s come with the feeling of teetering on the brink between falling back into a life I’ve always treasured and being pushed into a new existence, a chance to re-imagine myself, that square peg that will never fit into the round hole no matter how much pressure is applied.

And so I’ve wandered through the darkness of 2017 and come to the end intact, though the lessons may have been hard. In the autumn of my life, I watch my expectations change and fall like leaves, clustering at my feet, in sight, but out of reach, before blowing away on each stiff breeze.

I am learning to let go.


 “All that history, the love & laughter, is designed for youth. It is what keeps the story of who we are alive from one generation to the next. It ensures our indelible mark in the souls of generations we will never have the pleasure of holding in a warm embrace. Life is short people. Before you know it, another decade will pass, people you love will be lost to this world, and all that will be left of them is what we carry in our hearts.”
― E.B. Loan

 

Share Your World – 12/25/17

Here are my answers to Cee’s latest Share Your World:

What caring thing are you going to do for yourself today?

I’m going to let go of my expectations, or at least try.

List at least five of your favorite spices? (excluding salt and pepper)

Cinnamon
Cardamom
Ginger
Cloves

Thyme
Basil
Cilantro
Garlic

What can you always be found with?

I can almost always be found with my camera. Some people say to put the camera down and be in the moment, but I have found that focusing through the lens helps me to do just that. Slow down. Stop. Look carefully. What’s in the background? Otherwise life seems to speed by and I don’t really notice much of anything.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

I appreciated my daughter coming home. For a small window of time, there was laughter and talking in the kitchen as she and Maverick fell into their old banter. Good times too quickly pass, and she is back across the Rockies now.

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As always, thanks to Cee for the opportunity to share our worlds. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! Stay safe and warm!

Share Your World – 12/18/17

Here are my answers to Cee’s latest Share Your World questions:

If you could hire someone to help you, would it be with cleaning, cooking, or yard work?

Cooking is a joy for me, and not a chore, so though I would welcome anyone to join the fun, I could never hire someone to do it for me. Even when we have big parties, I relish the challenge of cooking a delicious meal for all. As far as yardwork goes, my husband likes to garden and I enjoy cutting the lawn, so we may only hire someone if it gets out of control (as it did last May during our vacation). But when it comes to cleaning the house, I wish I could keep someone on retainer. I hate the drudgery of daily chores and can’t seem to ever completely tackle the housework. I would LOVE to give that responsibility over to someone else.

If you were to move and your home came fully furnished with everything you ever wanted, list at least three things from your old house you wish to retain?

Sometimes a re-do sounds so appealing. That being said, I would keep my famiy photos. I think I’m the only one who actually looks at them, but they mean the world to me. I would keep my piano. It is an old upright that was a gift from my mom and has a beautiful sound. (And what dedication, to bring someone a PIANO!) I would take my struggling houseplants. Maybe a change of scenery would make them thrive for a change.

What calms you down?

A loving hug and/or a good run.

Being allowed to share my feelings.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

One day I was shopping alone in Made in Oregon. As I was checking out the Moonstruck Chocolates, I noticed a girl who was about 10 years old shopping with her mom. She would be talking, then all of a sudden start singing along to the Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas track that was playing in the background. She would then stop singing and continue talking to her mom, then start singing again. I don’t think she even knew she was singing. It was super cute and made my day.


Thanks to Cee for giving us a chance to share our worlds. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season, whatever that means to you!

In Search of a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Yesterday we got our tree.

I scraped my snuffle-nosed, chilled self up off the couch, out from under the warm blanket, woke Maverick from his lazy, Saturday afternoon nap, and together we joined Mr. A on a trip to a local tree farm in search of the perfect tree. There used to be six of us wandering out in the cold, pointing to different ideas of perfection. Now there are three. Soon there will be only two. (I see a Noble Fir in the future.)

In about 15 minutes we had our tree chosen, cut, loaded and paid for, a very quick and efficient trip, a small-sliver reminder of the joyful family times we used to enjoy at this time of year. I should be happy, but I’m feeling rather melancholy.

I have two kids who’ve moved to different states and one stubborn Goose who has decided he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. (I’ll be slipping him a copy of Dicken’s Christmas Carol.) Maverick is left to hold the banner for the offspring branch in this family tree, and he prefers his room to the common area. I am starting to understand how that holly, jolly feeling can be obscured by a dark cloud of unfulfilled expectations. At the same time I am confronted by a social media storm of carefully curated photos of happy, close knit families enjoying the holiday preparations together. Time for a Facebook break.

Maybe I will find my holly, jolly Christmas yet.

Maybe when my system beats back this cold.

Maybe when my Sunshine arrives for a 5-day visit.

Maybe if I can convince my Scrooge McGoose that Christmas is about time with the people you love.

In the meantime, the tree is up and taking up half of my living room. In the spirit of going through the motions, it’s time to decorate.

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Share Your World – 12/3/17

Here are my latest answers to Cee’s Share Your World:

What household chore do you absolutely hate doing?

I hate most household chores. I love doing so many other things and get annoyed that the drudgery of cleaning up takes my time from those things. The only time it’s bearable is if I have a good audiobook for zoning out while I clean. I’m currently listening to Anna Karenina, which should occupy me for a while.

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

There have been a few times when this was the case. First was when I first moved out on my own. I still treasure this time of independence and exploration. The next was when my kids were born. I was able to see the world again through their eyes. Later, I had a medical scare and things took on a new and deeper meaning, though life also became fraught with anxiety. Now it seems to take travel to make me feel passionate and alive. Twenty-three years of sameness isn’t doing it for me.

How many times have you moved in the last ten years?

Zero.

Zero times.

Which means we have a 23 year accumulation of possessions that I have to clean around. We’ve even built a couple of outbuildings to store things we will probably never use again. I’ve always thought a good move every few years would help cull the clutter and define the really important.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I was inspired by nature as I stood on Newport’s south jetty at moonrise, trying to get a decent shot of the supermoon. I didn’t quite get it, but it was pretty awesome being out there and seeing the moon rise over the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge.

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Thanks to Cee for the chance to share our worlds. Have a great week!

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