Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflections on Christmas 2011--Number 2-a

So I had my Solstice Fire.

I brought down my raven rattle. When he didn’t seem to produce a satisfactory sound, I wrapped my jingle-bell bracelet around his neck. Perfect!

Simply drumming or rattling does nothing for me. There had to be music. Wordless humming didn’t cut it either. So I sang. Songs. Christmas songs, ancient Advent songs, Auld Lang Syne…

I sang for my parents. For Mom, “Moon River.” And some Simon & Garfunkel. And “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, her favorite movie of her later years.

For Dad, it was more difficult. He was not particularly musical, and he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But I hit on “You Are My Sunshine.” Dad loved to drive us all around in the car, and we often sang on those long drives. Dad always chimed in on “Sunshine”…loudly and tunelessly. Last night, I sang it for him, accompanied by my jingle bells and raven rattle.

And I did come up with a list of things that “no longer served.” Things like grudges and excesses; indulging in some things more than I should; abstaining from things I should be doing. I wrote them down on a legal pad, wrapped my plum branch in the paper, and both went in the fire.

I started my fire at about 4:00 last night. The evening was clear and cold, and it was still light out. The thought came to me that I should watch the skies as I sat by my fire. The Almighty might send me a spirit messenger. Perhaps a heron would glide in and land in my garden; or an eagle might soar overhead on its way to its evening roost. But the sky was oddly empty. Not even the normal evening “crow-time”--the mob of local crows heading up into the hills for the night--dotted the sky or broke the silence. Finally, I gave up looking. But I was brought to attention by a rattling call coming toward me from the east.

A kingfisher. He flew like a bullet right over my garden, rattling and chattering all the while.

Now, it’s not usual to see kingfishers flying over my yard. They tend to stick close around creeks or the channel; my house is not within spitting distance of the kinds of places they hang out. So I knew this sighting was special, that the kingfisher was the messenger it had been suggested I watch for.

What message might kingfisher bring? My reference book had this to say:

“Take the plunge into this project or relationship with confidence and alacrity, and let go of all doubt and fear, because it will be successful.” ( Wonderful! I could surely use a little success right now! Now all I have to do is come up with a project...)

“Get daily physical exercise that involves both cardiovascular and muscular elements.” (Not many spirit guides carry messages such as this…guess I had better take this seriously.)

And this is my favorite:

“You’re at the initial stages of a cycle of abundance and prosperity, so welcome and receive it.”

That made my day. Maybe my year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reflections on Christmas 2011--Number Two

A shamanist friend—one who is much more immersed in the mysteries and journeys of shamanism than I probably ever will be—asked me what Christmas means to me. Being as how it IS “Christ”-mas and all. This friend knows that I have left Christianity behind and am traveling a path of alternative spirituality. I’m sure it must seem odd, then, that I post stories about encounters with animal spirit guides on the same page with pictures of my five Christmas trees and outdoor light display.

My answer takes into consideration one undeniable fact: I was brought up Christian. Not just Christian, but Catholic. It was not my choice, but it IS my history. As much a part of me as the brown eyes I got from my dad or the short legs I inherited from my mother.

In Catholic school, we were all about the “Christ” part of Christmas. Midnight Mass and fasting before Communion and the gorgeous Italian crèche with the three-foot-high figures set up in one of the side niches of the church. And of course, as all-American baby boomers, we did not eschew Santa Claus (in whom I believed until I was almost ten years old…) or presents or Christmas trees. My childhood was rich in all the trappings of the holiday season—both religious and secular. And we were okay with it. Somehow we managed to fit the baby Jesus right in there alongside Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman, yet remain aware of the “real” meaning of Christmas.

The REAL meaning of Christmas. What is that, exactly? Arguments have been made placing the actual birth of Christ on half a dozen different dates, depending upon the criteria examined. The truth is, no one really knows when Christ was born. In fact, there is no surviving historical record THAT Christ was born. So it seemed simple enough, several hundred years ago, to assign the commemoration of Christ’s birth to a holiday that was nearly universally celebrated in some way in the lands into which the Christian faith was expanding: the Winter Solstice. I have to smile when I hear present-day Christians whining about “keeping the Christ in Christmas,” when it was their ancestors who plunked Christ into a holiday where he didn’t historically belong.

But I have no real beef with Christians celebrating Christmas at Solstice. Human beings almost instinctively celebrate the promise of lengthening days and shortening darkness. One feast of light and life is as good as another, as far as I’m concerned. There’s no need for us to disrespect the customs of others, nor to compel others to celebrate as we do. The Almighty is an expansive force. I’m sure It can appreciate and include more celebrations of Creation than we have the capacity to invent. It’s when we start saying, “THIS is the right way to celebrate, and YOU are doing it wrong!” that we get into trouble.

So I don’t see any particular disconnect between my current spiritual views and my love of all things Christmas. Christmas is largely a secular, social holiday. I’m smack in the middle of my fifty-seventh experience of this cultural phenomenon. Of course it’s very much a part of me, and I see no reason for this to change. I can indulge in the decorating and the shopping and the gift-giving and the eating without feeling that I am somehow denying my spiritual direction.

Still, I have a new path that begs acknowledgment now. I am impressed by how gently the Almighty has reminded me of this. A week ago, had you asked me how or even if I planned to celebrate the Solstice, I would have replied, “Ummmm….” What with all the decorating and entertaining and party prep, I hadn’t really thought much about it. As luck (or the Almighty) would have it, my party is over, my decorating is done, shopping is accomplished and I suddenly find myself with a couple of days to just…be. And I find I’m “being” nudged in the direction of Solstice. Of considering its significance. Of pondering its elemental place in the circle of life. Of crafting my own ceremony of acknowledgment and participation in something very ancient and very deeply real.

I’ve decided upon a Fire Ceremony. The Winter Solstice fire is a North fire. It honors ancestors and teachers. I’ll build a fire on my north deck and think about my ancestors; especially my parents. Christmas is so much about family, particularly those we miss—a significant connection between the two celebrations, as I see it.

Also, the Solstice fire is a cleansing fire. One ritual has participants choosing a stick to add to the fire. The stick represents all the things that “no longer serve.” We put the torch to these things to make more room for the new, and for things of lasting importance. Truthfully, this is a hard one for me. I find myself at a crossroads, and I am undeniably burdened with a lot of meaningless junk. But I’m not really sure what no longer serves. There are times I feel that my entire life no longer serves…and then, there are times I’m afraid to let go of anything, for fear that may be the thing from which my next chapter was meant to spring.

But I have already chosen my stick; I pulled a dead branch out of my plum tree this afternoon after I raked the leaves. The branch is sitting on my “altar” now—the place where I keep my crystals and my ritual trappings. My hope is that it will absorb some of the energy of these things touched by my hands and my spirit. Tomorrow morning I’ll hold the stick and meditate on what things I will attach to it—what things no longer serve—to be burned in my Solstice fire of cleansing and remembering.

Is this the correct, or accepted, or ONLY way to commemorate Solstice? I have no idea. But it is MY way, at this stage of my journey. And I’m really looking forward to it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reflections on Christmas 2011--Number One

mirror

How I have looked forward to Christmas 2011! The promise of an unharried, calm and cozy holiday season is the carrot for which I have reached since we made the decision to give up the restaurant, way back in October 2010. I’ve anticipated this season like a lifer unexpectedly granted parole. How I was going to revel in it! What delicious fun I would have decorating my house! The events I would attend! The shopping I would do! I foresaw hours of leisurely retail therapy, soaking in the electric holiday atmosphere at every mall, big box and local shop within striking distance. After five years of trying to squeeze fragments of a family holiday in between the constant barrage of demands that was the café, I was utterly stoked at the idea of being completely free to enjoy Christmas any way I wanted.

Ah, but those last eight months! I could not foresee what kind of a toll they would take on me. Initially, I thought I was getting off easy. I had expected to feel unbearably sad and defeated as we wound up what I had thought was going to be the greatest challenge/triumph of my life. Instead, the time went so quickly, and I was so exhausted that before I knew it, the last of our Last Mothers’ Day Brunch guests were collecting their roses and their leftovers and heading for home. The crushing sadness and defeat never really materialized. When we closed the doors, I was overwhelmingly…done.

But the actual closing of the restaurant was the task from hell. I wanted nothing more than to be finished and away from it, but I could not seem to scrape it off. There stretched before me seven weeks of cleaning, tearing down and paying bills; dealing with vendors, the landlord, the city, the cable guy, old employees, old customers, insurance companies…it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of what was left of me—which was not very much. May 8 through June 30, 2011 were the longest 53 days of my life.

Even then, I wasn’t done. I had to jump right into the challenge of three major events for the concession business. By the end of August, I wasn’t merely running on empty. I had turned the tank inside out and scraped every molecule of available energy from the lining. There is not an English word for the degree of exhausted I was.

And it’s been a slow road back. In September and October I spent my days happily accomplishing not much of anything. Sure, there was a backlog of things around the house and around my head that needed to be dealt with. But not Right Now. Nobody was holding a gun to my head to do anything, and I was enjoying my liberty with a vengeance. The end of October rolled around and I knew the day was coming when I would have to reel myself in and begin tackling Holiday Preparations. I should have been excited. I should have been revved up. This was what I had been waiting for, what had kept me going at my lowest, most overextended ebb.

But I wasn’t excited. In fact, to my surprise, I was…resentful. I wasn’t done playing. I wasn’t done doing nothing. I was not ready to take on a new “to do” list, no matter how happy or fun the things “to do” promised to be. The mere fact that there were things that needed to be done, and that there was an element of time sensitivity involved, took much of the fun out of it. I’d been living with the impossible hanging over my head for so long that I wanted nothing to do with anything even slightly resembling a deadline.

So I attached baggage to the tasks to make them meatier. Maybe “decorating for Christmas” didn’t hold enough weight to spur me to the necessary action. I made decorating a corollary of cleaning out and organizing the garage. Unfortunately, that little gimmick had exactly the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of giving me a false sense of how important the job was, it put me off it almost entirely. I’d created a little voice in my head that said, “Now you have to get this done!” and my response was to fold my arms, turn my back, stamp my foot and pout, “Make me!”

I did eventually buckle down and dig in. I shuffled through box after box of holiday decorations out in the garage, trying to figure out what had had its day and was destined for Goodwill, and what I could not part with. It was impossible. I sent away maybe three boxes out of the fifteen that filled every cranny and empty shelf space in several locations around the house. Thrown into the mix of my own 35 years of holiday excess were several boxes of things I had bought to decorate the restaurant. Augh.

We’re now into the second half of December. The Christmas cards I had determined to send (because I was going to have the time!) are still sitting in boxes in the kitchen. All the baking I was going to do has distilled down to one stale loaf of cranberry bread deteriorating in the pantry. NONE of my shopping is done—not even for the party I’m hosting tomorrow for former staff of the café.

But the decorating…by god, the decorating is done. Outdoor lights, multiple Christmas trees scattered around the house, satisfying displays of my many collections of holiday chotchkes. And I have to say, it doesn’t look half bad. But it was quite the journey. I learned that my well of creative juices has not yet recovered to the place where ideas will spring forth merrily and prolifically. I need to drop the bucket deep, and I’m never quite sure what will come up. And while patience was never my virtue, what little I had of it has completely evaporated. More than once I had to stop myself from flinging a recalcitrant string of lights out the back door, or taking a handful of tangled plastic snowflakes and tossing them into the fire.

And time, which for a few weeks, politely paused long enough to let me almost get my breath, has shifted into high gear again. Christmas will be gone in a little over a week! I have been focused on “doing” this season, really, for over a year. Now, I’ll have to gird my loins and step off into the Next Chapter.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m relieved or completely cowed.

This is going to be another series (yay!), as I have identified a few topics I want to write about under the general heading of "Chrismas 2011." Hope you'll join me for the rest...

FR mantle for journal

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Heron Story--Part Five

What had begun as a lovely day had rapidly deteriorated into one of the worst I’d experienced in quite awhile, despite what I thought was a valiant effort on my part to keep some semblance of peace and balance while I processed some major life changes. Still, all day long, Mother Earth had been sending me a message, a message I vaguely acknowledged but could not assimilate. At the end of the day, alone with my thoughts in my place of convenient retreat, She could not have made it any plainer that the appearance of herons had special meaning for me.

Since I’ve begun to truly embrace the idea of shamanism, I have had notable encounters with eagles, spiders, pelicans, squirrels and crows. These were spirit guides; each of these appearances was designed to bring me a specific message. And though I have been seeking a revelation of my Power Animal, I came to the conclusion that none of these was it. Perhaps my confused and none-too-focused method of going about my quest was to blame for the fact that I had yet to encounter my Power Animal. Or maybe I was simply never destined to have an adequate connection to things beyond the visible, beyond the corporeal, to move forward on a spiritual path that was all about mysticism and realms beyond perceived reality.

But I figured Heron must have a message for me. I consulted my tomes to try to puzzle out what that message might be. None of what I read resonated with me. Nothing seemed to apply specifically to any of my most recent struggles. All the exhortations were for doing things that I already did all the time. Sometimes more than what might, to others, seem healthy. That in itself should have been a clue…

I expanded my research a bit. In a dictionary of bird totems, the first words under the heading of “Heron” jumped off the page and smacked me between the eyes:

MOST SIGNIFICANT ESSENCE: aggressive self-determination and self-reliance

Heron was not bringing a message for me. Heron was me.



"…those with this totem [need] to follow their own innate wisdom and
path of self-determination. You know what is best for you and should follow it,
rather than the promptings of others.

"Heron medicine is the power of knowing the self by discovering its gifts and facing its challenges. It is the ability to accept all feelings and opinions without denying emotion or thought...

“You are a person who does not need the security of a 9 to 5
job, pension plan, group insurance and the assurance that every day will be the
same. You are one of those rare breeds that can live on the razor's edge of
life, and have an in-born instinct about what will and what won't work for you.
You are happiest when you are exploring many things, learning many skills, and
are often known as a "jack of all trades". While this may give the impression
that you are flighty and irresponsible, quite the opposite is true. If one thing
fails you, you have an assortment of knowledge and skills to fall back on. You
are never without, and adapt into new working situations with ease.

“While you enjoy a social life, it is not a necessary part of your
existence for you are quite at home alone, with your own thoughts and devices.
You are comfortable with yourself, and have no need to be surrounded by people.
You are not impressed with status symbols, or accumulating "things", and have no
need or desire to play the game of "keeping up with the Joneses".

Heron medicine is strong and courageous. It is not afraid to take responsibility for
every aspect of life. It will never pass the buck, or deny an act or deed. It is
the totem of character and strong will, but it will never use those gifts to
bully or take advantage of others.

“It is important for anyone with a heron totem to explore various activities and dimensions of earth life. On the surface, this may seem a form of dabbling, but those with heron totems are wonderfully successful at being the traditional ‘jack of all trades.’

"Most people will never be able to live the way heron people do. It is
not a structured way, and does not seem to have a stability and security to it."


As I read, a picture began to take shape. A picture of a person whose knowledge of herself, and stubborn determination to conquer the next new thing, coupled with a tendency toward solitude and “aggressive self- reliance,” may have made her a force to be reckoned with; but may also have made her life more difficult than it might have been had these traits not been an essential part of her being.

A picture of…me. Of the “me” I realized I had always been. My mother’s favorite story about me was how, as a toddler, I used to rattle the bars of my playpen and holler “Get me out of dis darn t’ing!” Some of the earliest evidence of that “aggressive self-determination,” I would say. And I can see now, it has never changed. Or got any easier.

Many of these traits were ones I had discovered (through my characteristic—some would say obsessive—self-examination) were the very things that seemed to complicate my life almost beyond endurance. I have never felt like I was on the same page as the rest of the world. I thought there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I change? Be more willing to follow? Less of a maverick? Be happy with the 9 to 5, the house in the suburbs, the 2.5 kids and the two cars in the garage? Oh, my life would have been SO much easier!

Only recently have I come to appreciate that my personality—the essential “me”—has been as much a blessing as a curse. And now, seeing this image of myself in black and white, words on paper—words with a distinctly positive spin—has been invaluable. It has answered desperate questions, some of which I had not yet thought to ask.

On this day when I felt that my most recent incarnation of myself had been yanked off like a mask, exposing the hurt, confused, questing spirit who had been trying to hide herself behind it, Mother Earth offered me a most amazing gift: The gift of who I really am. The knowledge of the Animal Spirit with whom I am inextricably linked, and what that might truly mean. The opportunity to celebrate that discovery, to revel in it, to explore it for the good thing that it is.

And, incidentally, the answer to why I have been so drawn to herons, for years.

One of my reference books suggests that, once you discover your Power Animal, you should consider acquiring images or representations of it to place around your home, to remind yourself of your connection to it. I had to smile at that...my home already looks quite like a shrine to Heron.

Now I know why.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Heron Story--Part Four

In my recent travels, I’ve discovered some truly sacred places…places where the spirit of Mother Earth is so strong that even the most mystically-challenged could not help but feel her. A windy rainswept beach. A forest of gnarled, centuries-old trees. Given the time and the resources, I would have flown to one of those places. The desire to do so was almost overwhelming. But with our battle declared “over,” it would hardly have done to pack my bags and drive off alone. The option open to me was the trail on the dike five minutes away. So that is where I went.

“I’m going for a walk.” I flung this information over my shoulder to the husband—comfortably ensconced in front of the television—as I grabbed my keys and headed out the front door. Moments later, I was climbing out of the van and up the short hill to that familiar trail. I was almost disappointed that I was not immediately greeted by the four eagles I had met on that magical Sunday morning a year ago.

Absent such a blatant show of support from Mother Earth, I abandoned my characteristically purposeful stride and just ambled down the trail. The questions that I had wisely set aside for a time when I should be stronger and less prone to flog myself with them crowded to the front of my brain and pushed more anguished tears out my eyes and down my nose. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do anything right, ever? Yes, the restaurant was a disaster…but how much lasting damage was it going to do to my life, to my heart, to my marriage? Why couldn’t I just shake it off and keep going? And why did my life partner seem to have absolutely no tolerance for my turmoil, nor take any notice at all of what I believed was my herculean effort to maintain a façade of sanity and control, while what I was and what I will now be duke it out just behind the curtain?

The beauty of the evening cast a sunset glow on my pity party, but I was not inclined to notice. I was in full demon-wrestling mode; I could have as easily been walking down a crowded aisle at Walmart. Then, ten yards ahead, a large, dark shape rose from the water, aimed toward the sinking sun, then seemed to change its mind in mid-air, just above my trail. The bird twisted and hovered, then silently sailed back into the dark depths from which it had come.

“Heron! Heron…hmmm. I guess it truly is Heron Day…”

I raised my head and looked around me. The sun had disappeared behind the hills in the west. There were no flaming clouds showing off blazing sunset finery, but the whole sky was suffused with a soft apricot glow. Now and then, a gull or a cormorant would fly by. In silhouette, they looked like something out of a coffee table photo atlas. There was no wind, and the voices of geese and cranes rose from their evening roosts. I didn’t completely abandon my pit of sorrow, but the heron encounter had pulled me up far enough to at least dimly recall why I had come here. For peace. For healing. I scraped a few slivers from the peace that surrounded me and buried them in my heart.

Quieter and calmer now, I continued on to the turning point—the osprey tower—turned and headed for home. I didn’t feel healed or renewed, just…hushed. I was done wrestling demons for the time being, but I was tired to my very bones. I let the evening sky wrap around me like a robe as I strode into the dusky orange light of the day’s end. A comforting light. A hopeful light. And once again, a heron appeared from the invisible depths of the channel to my left, made as if to head off to the fields to my right, then twisted, hovered, and disappeared back toward the water. All silhouetted against the Hollywood-worthy backdrop of the sunset sky.

A chill tingled my spine, a tiny firework went off in my brain.

“Okay. Herons. This is for me. I get it.”

Now I had to go figure out exactly what it was I got.

For anyone still interested, it looks like there will be a "Part Five"...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Heron Story--Part Three

The frayed edges of our bubble flapped around us. We didn’t argue, not immediately. Instead we (ridiculously) continued to get ready for our outing. We got in the car, drove north; me attempting casual conversation, him grunting one-word answers or answering not at all.

At the park, we collected the dog and headed down the hill to the trail. Continued stony silence issued forth from the husband. Finally, I sighed and said, “Are you going to be mad at me all day?” What better place to air your dirty laundry than right out in front of God and everybody?

Luckily, “everybody” was not in attendance. But God—the Great Spirit, the Universe, All There Is—was.

The walking trail at this park goes around a tiny man-made lake. We hit the trail arguing. But comfort and distraction came only a few steps into our mobile squabble.

Where our path neared the shore of the little lake, a huge heron floated up from the water, where it had obviously been fishing. It rose above us, crossed our path, crossed it again, then landed in a tree about fifteen yards away and looked down at us. This is not usual heron behavior. Disturbed, they will emit one of their characteristic hoarse croaks, gather themselves up and take themselves away to where the intruding humans are no longer in evidence. It briefly crossed my distressed mind that this one seemed more interested in being noticed, in making sure I knew it was there. After all, it could have just stayed in the water, where a mounded bank had kept it out of our view. It was odd…special. I couldn’t help but climb out of my pit of despair long enough to say, “Wow!”

Husband and I argued/walked on for another twenty yards or so, and the exact same thing happened again. Another heron rose from the shore, crossed our path just ahead of us, and lit in a tree a short way up the trail. “I am here,” it seemed to be saying.

“Wow!” I sputtered between my tears. “It must be ‘Heron Day’ at the nuclear park!”

We walked deeper into the park, and sank deeper into our conflict. I tried to explain that my prime focus the past several months had been to talk myself up, to convince myself that I had not failed. It was the only way to keep getting out of bed in the morning. And I tried so hard to keep my peace; to appear as if I was okay, going through those motions every day. All for naught, evidently. All at once, my façade of peace lay in shards at my feet, and the dam behind which sloshed five years of disallowed tears began to crack. I prepared to wash away into the crater of depression which I had heretofore somehow managed to skirt

We rounded a corner, though I was so awash in despair that I don’t know how I stayed on my feet. Scant yards ahead, yet a third heron rose up out of nowhere and flew across the trail in front of us. It, too, landed in a tree and watched us walk away. "I am still here. For you."

At a point about three-quarters of the way around the lake, we somehow managed to fashion a patch over the hole in our bubble. Husband took my hand and we walked in truce. We drove home in a more amicable silence. Once out of the car, we went our separate ways. We were done arguing, for now, but it didn’t seem important to spend any more time in each others’ immediate presence. Once again, my job was going to be to gather up the shards of my shattered peace and act as if it were no sweat at all to put it back together.

I spent the next couple of hours listening to music and playing solitaire on my laptop. This is my go-to decompression mode. It occupies just enough of my brain to keep it from diving into the depths, analyzing and re-analyzing the argument ad nauseum. The sun sank on what was supposed to be our beautiful fall day. Gazing out the window, I knew I had to get back out into it. I would go to Mother Earth. She would help me puzzle my peace back together.

Looks like this is going to be at least a four-parter...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Heron Story--Part Two

It’s no secret that, since closing the restaurant, I’ve been treading water, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Or maybe not treading water—that would take too much energy I do not have. I’ve been floating. Lying back and allowing myself to be upheld by an energy which is not my own. A force that I vaguely recognize as the Great Spirit—All There Is.

I’m aware that in the depths above which I am now floating are questions that need answers, feelings that need outlets, destinies to be fulfilled. I’m also aware that I am simply not capable of grappling with any of that…yet. I have silently communicated this to the Spirit; “Not yet. I’m not strong enough yet. I need some time.”

As if this prayer is really necessary. All There Is knows what I need, and It knows when I will be ready to do what needs to be done. But first, It has to gently direct my focus to what really does need to be done. About which, I suspect, we currently have conflicting opinions.

As I float above the tough issues, I have tried to conduct my life as if nothing is really going on. I cook, I clean. I mow my lawn. I shop, go to movies, sit and watch TV with the husband in the evening. I do the best a naturally transparent person such as I can do to mask my personal turmoil. That in itself is hard enough work, for me. And I thought I’d been doing a creditable job.

The husband and I have existed in a relatively peaceful, amicable bubble. I’ve come perilously close to patting myself on the back for my newfound ability to ignore the elephant in the room. I’d even begun to think the imposing pachyderm may have slipped out the door while we weren’t looking. I’m usually not one to indulge in such wishful thinking, but it seemed the path of least resistance—to which I am so attracted these days.

Last Saturday morning, husband and I shared a cozy breakfast, looked outside at the fine, sunny fall day, and decided to pack up the dog and take her for a walk at the “nuclear park” (the manicured grounds surrounding what used to be the Trojan power plant.) It was a perfect day to stroll through the kaleidoscope of trees and kick through piles of crunchy leaves. Also perfect, evidently, for an unexpected harpy to swoop out of the blue and rip a hole clean through our peaceful bubble. And out we tumbled, right into the lap of the elephant.

We were in the bathroom getting ready to go, and suddenly the conversation just hit a wall. Don’t remember what exactly we were discussing, but I said,

“…and that would not be good for me.”

Husband: “I’m good for you.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. My back was to him. My eyes widened. My mouth opened. Nothing came out.

I decided not to engage. I straightened, moved to go out to the bedroom, ostensibly to get something out of my dresser. He stood in the doorway. Blocking the door.

Husband: “I’m good for you. Right?”

Me: “Ummmmm...”

Husband: “Right?”

Me: “Move.”

Husband (reacting to my deliberate non-reaction ): “Not lettin’ you out until you tell me I’m good for you.”

It sounds more threatening than it actually was. He was begging for affirmation that everything was okay. That the storm was behind us and we could go back to being…whatever we were before.

And I…

Could. Not. Give. It.

I knew the thing to do was lighten the moment. Laugh it off. I could not form the words. I looked at his eyes, and tears began to sting behind my own.

Husband: “What?”

I tried. I really tried. I stalled.

“I don’t think we should really go there, dear…”

“Why?”

I struggled. I hesitated. For what seemed like long minutes. I dug deep for something to say. Anything. With all my heart, I truly did NOT want to “go there.” But as is my way, when I’m stuck for words and a response is demanded, the truth came tumbling out.

“Because we’ve just come out of a place where we didn’t even know if we liked each other. We definitely were NOT good for each other. For a really long time.”

“So?”

He backed me into that corner, with the idea of getting me to concede that the strife was over and we could now go on as if five years of acid rain on our marriage had never happened. Still, I was not meaning to accuse, not intending to assign blame. I tried to answer honestly, without freaking out, without going ballistic.

“So I think we need to concentrate on being good TO each other for awhile, and then we can talk about being good FOR each other again.”

What is it about the truth that it possesses such power to wound? I’ll never understand it, but honesty in my hands becomes more the sword of an avenging angel than the magic staff of calm and reason that I expect it to be. I hurt people with it, every single time.

The bubble had burst. The day was ruined. He was deeply wounded. And angry.

What has all this to do with herons? All will be revealed in part 3...

The Heron Story--Part One

yellow heron jpicture

To be continued...

Friday, November 11, 2011

You Wanna Piece o' Me?

Position Wanted: Burnt-out former restaurant owner with too much time on her hands and lingering debt issues looking for work. Punctual, dependable, strong work ethic. No drama. Open availability, but would prefer not to work early mornings, evenings, weekends or holidays. Position cannot require interacting with the public, other employees, or management. Current skillset evaluation indicates this person is uniquely suited to sitting in front of a laptop for hours playing solitaire. Available immediately. Please call…

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ten Things...From an "Empty" Mind

I used to do these lists.

They started out as “Ten Good Things.” By nature, I tend to dwell on the negative, so it never hurt to spend a few hours a week dredging up the positives. I felt the lists nudged me somewhere toward proper balance.

Then we bought the restaurant, and…well, that was essentially the end of “Ten Good Things.” It was often all I could do to scratch up ten things that hadn’t totally sucked. Didn’t make for very edifying reading, so I didn’t bother sharing those too much. I think I might have sunk so low as to post a list of “Ten Things That Bug The Shit Out Of Me” at one point during the café days.

Recently, at the end of a rough day, I fled to the dike and wrapped myself in the soft orange light of the setting sun, stitched with silhouettes of water birds, as if it were a ceremonial robe. As usually happens when I try to empty my mind, it filled with random thoughts. Ten things.

1.) I need a name for the Source of All Things. “The Universe” or “The Almighty” sound too “New Age.” “God” has too much weird history. Perhaps “Teacher”…?

2.) When you actually live in your home, you wake up to the lingering smell of what you cooked for dinner last night…instead of what the pets had for dinner. Or rather, how they processed it.

3.) The current peace between myself and my life partner is as fragile as a hummingbird egg.

4.) Heron. Herons. Another heron. It’s Heron. I get it.

5.) If I breach this dam of tears, I could cry for days.

6.) Fall is absolutely the perfect time of year.

7.) I am precariously perched on the edge of a crater of depression. Can I keep my purchase on the rim and not fall in?

8.) I’m addicted to the wild sound of calling geese. And I live steps away from Goose Central, where I can score a fix any time.

9.) I really do like to cook. I had forgotten. Or maybe I never knew.

10.) The diet will have to wait until I am in a better head space. This should be after the holidays sometime.

Since some of these are rather cryptic, it might be worthwhile to blog about each thing separately, in some future posts...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

History Lesson

I think the adage “Forgive and Forget” must have been coined by a man.

The process of rebuilding my life out of the ashes of “our” entrepreneurial disaster has been a challenging undertaking for me. Our marriage became so entangled in the frustrations and failures of running the restaurant that it has been a monumentally painstaking process to separate the two. And for my marriage to survive, they do need to be separated.

Forty-eight months into the stint, I felt that the intricately knotted mass was wrapping around my neck and pulling me down into…what; I had no idea. But I knew it was dark and ugly and I didn’t want to go there. When the opportunity to walk away presented itself, my first instincts urged me to cut myself loose and run like hell from the whole mess—café, husband, and everything associated therewith. I’m convinced a lesser woman would have done exactly that. Exhausted, burned and hurt as I was, the task fell to me to extract the shreds of my marriage from the wreckage and try to piece them back together into something that was at least peaceful cohabitation, if not happily-ever-after.

Scraping off the business part of the mess has been relatively easy. I don’t have to go to the restaurant every day and try to pretend that everything is fine. As far as the café goes, it’s gone, I’m free, and I can brush off my hands and walk away. With it safely behind me, the sting of any lingering wounds will fade pretty quickly, and I can process the lessons learned at my leisure and move on.

It’s ever so much harder to try to be IN a relationship while attempting to undergo the healing/assimilating/going forward process. One needs to adopt the talents of the proverbial duck—what you see is a bird gliding serenely across the surface of the pond, but under the water, her feet are paddling like crazy.

The husband, however, doesn’t want a duck. He has no patience with a duck. He wants a phoenix. Or maybe that’s not even quite accurate, because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t believe there are ashes from which to rise. In his mind, emotional trials don’t leave anything behind. No lingering effects whatsoever. The principals involved merely forgive, forget, and leave it at that. End of story.

If life were meant to be that way, why should we have memories at all? Why not just flit from episode to episode, always surprised, never prepared? Maybe we wouldn’t be unhappy. But we wouldn’t get anywhere, either. We’d never learn anything. We’d make the same mistakes over and over. And we wouldn’t be allowed to pick what kinds of memories we get to have. If “forget” is the prime directive, we don’t get to keep the good and ditch the bad. No history is NO HISTORY. Period. Not much of a life, for my money.

In real life, if it wasn’t for my memories of the good things about our relationship, if it wasn’t for the fact that I wished to honor our HISTORY together as much as anything, I might very well have become that “lesser woman” and walked away from the whole sinking tangle of our business and our marriage. In this day and age, people do it all the time.

But I didn’t. I considered everything, past and present, and opted for us. For the marriage. For continuing the partnership with the man I fell in love with a long time ago. Good thing I didn’t forget that, huh?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Harbinger of...?

woodpecker '11

This little guy showed up in my yard this morning.

I think I should be worried... The last time a woodpecker showed up at my feeder in November, we had the winter from hell (2008).

I'll have to hope that his behavior spells the difference between this occasion and the last: He wasn't actually eating from the feeder. He was eating the feeder. Or, more accurately, he was pecking holes in the post atop which the feeder is perched. And pulling out grubs, or larvae, or whatever.

Which might more accurately point toward an imminent need for a new post than impending terrible weather.

That's what I'm going to choose to believe, anyway...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hounded

This morning, I drove over to the dike to take a walk and talk to the wildlife. I had taken about a dozen steps along the graveled earthen ridge when I looked up to see a twenty-pound Jack Russel terrier about thirty yards ahead, crouching at his owner’s feet. Then, like lightning, he took off, snarling, hell bent for leather—right at me. The male half of the young couple who I assumed to be in charge of the dog (or not) laughed, made a half-hearted attempt to call off his mutt, and then just ambled forward as if nothing in the world were amiss; while I—fearing for my ankles or my butt or whatever part of my flesh the crazed little mongrel might decide to sink his teeth into—waved my arms, stamped my feet and hollered in my best “Bad Dog” mom voice, “No! Get out of here! Bad dog!”

The dog veered at the last second and trotted off into the weeds behind me. Unconvinced that the attack had been aborted, I turned to keep an eye on the little bastard; and out of the corner of my eye, ascertained that a second terrier had broken away from the people and was now also hurtling down the gravel path at me. The young couple strolled amiably toward me and looked slightly amused as I reprised my screaming, hand-waving, foot-stomping act, in two directions now, as by this time I was badgered from before and behind. I looked up angrily at the inexplicably unfazed young couple, who were by now about fifteen feet away.

“Maybe you should put a leash on these dogs!” I sputtered, still dancing and clapping to keep their pets a safe distance from my ankles.

The amiable expression disappeared from the young man’s face and he sneered at me, “Get over it!” Two leashes dangled limply from his hand.

In the ensuing few moments, he got control of his animals; acting all the while like I was some kind of head case for being so upset by his cute little dogs. Once he had the little devils safely tethered, I moved to go around the party and continue my now completely ruined walk. The young man was still looking at me like I was out of my mind.

“I have no problem with cute little dogs,” I informed him. “But when a dog comes charging at me with his teeth bared, that is not a good thing.” And I walked on.

Last I heard, he was whining something about, “Yeah, look at him!” As if his dog were so adorable and so inoffensive he could not possibly frighten a sane person.

WTF is it with people and their dogs?

I have a dog. I love my dog. But she’s A D.O.G. Not an animated stuffed animal. Not a child. Not a cute, cuddly four-legged package of fur with all the rights, privileges, needs and cognitive powers of a small human being. She doesn’t need to come into stores and restaurants with me. She doesn’t need to ride in airplanes, taxis, trains or city busses. She doesn’t need to come to crowded outdoor (or indoor!) events so she can be with me and “play” with the other dogs. She would, in fact, HATE doing any of those things and, though she does not like to be left at home, she is a lot happier there, in her familiar surroundings, than she would be if I dragged her everywhere I went.

And I would no sooner take her to one of those dangerous, germ-infested encampments of canine gang psychology—the “Off-Leash Dog Parks”—than I would incarcerate her in a cell in a dirty kennel and lace her water bowl with distemper virus.

I treat my dog like a dog. We go for rides, we go for walks, we play ball, she gets doggie treats. I don’t feed her from my dinner plate, because I don’t want her to get fat and ill—obesity is mortally dangerous to dogs. She doesn’t sit on the furniture and she doesn’t sleep in my bed. We take her to the vet, we keep her clean, we keep her free of fleas. And we love her. We cherish her, protect her and discipline her. Most people in our circle understand that our dog is a member of our family and is pretty damned spoiled. But she’s still a dog. And we respect that.

Dog owners have gone completely around the bend. They get a dog because they demand that something unconditionally love and be totally dependent upon THEM. Then they attach the poor animal to themselves by an impossibly short umbilical, insisting that the dog wants and needs to go everywhere and do everything the owner does. Not one millisecond of thought is wasted on the dog’s actual needs or preference. Or what might or might not be good for it. Humans have the bigger brains (theoretically.) Why are we not using them to understand how to truly enhance our pets’ lives, rather than building fantasies about how much they love us and need to be with us every minute of every day? Trust me—that kind of sick dependency does not come from the dog.

Then there is the subset of people that believes that controlling a dog in any way is somehow cruel or repressive. The relationship between humans and canines is not one big “Born Free” moment, people. We haven’t gone out into the woods, captured dogs and forced them into servitude. Thousands of years ago, humans and canines hammered out a mutually beneficial relationship. Each species has adapted behaviors to grease the wheels of the relationship; but though we’ve been in partnership for millennia, communication and bonding between the two species is imperfect at best. An uncontrolled dog can still pose a threat to humans…this is even more true since we have chosen to play god and breed dogs for aggressive behavior.

Dogs are pack-oriented animals. A dog’s behavior toward its pack is not an indicator of how it will treat strangers. To eliminate the fear that an encounter will end in bloodshed, dogs need to be under control when there is a chance of them coming into contact with non-pack members. If the human does not have verbal control over the dog, there had better be some kind of physical restraint used. This is known as a leash. It is not a torture device. It protects both humans and canines from the unpredictability of their behavior toward each other.

But we’re not concerned about our pets’ welfare, are we? We just want to puff ourselves up with that feeling of largesse and magnanimity we get when we let our companion run free and unfettered. And don’t nag us about the well-being of other people! If they’re frightened, intimidated or attacked by our pet, they need to “get over it.”

So now, I will either have to stop taking my walks when there is any chance that some fool with an unleashed dog is going to be claiming the territory, or I’ll to have to pack an umbrella, a walking stick, a can of mace or a grenade to ensure that I can complete my relaxing encounter with nature without fear of puncture or mutilation.

Yeah. Right.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Call to Being

For a little over two months, I’ve been swimming around in a sort of agreeable limbo. Now and then I’ll pick up something I find floating by, fiddle with it for a time, then lose interest and leave it to bob away in my wake as I paddle over to another pretty distraction. One part of me wants to stay in this warm, indulgent place forever. Another part of me—the most insistent part—is drawn to the ladder leading out of this pool like steel to a magnet. “Gotta get out of here,” grates that persistent little voice. “Gotta go. Gotta do. Need money. Need stuff. Can’t get that here…”

Up until now, I’ve pointedly ignored that voice. My wiser self takes over and I swim right past it and go trolling for the next pretty thing. But each time I pass that ladder, a shower of acid guilt rains down on my head. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have to get out of the pool to get out of the rain.

I’ve been drawn to the sea and the river, the fields and the forests. I know there is comfort and love there. The spirits of those places are calling me to come and sit, rest and learn. To give myself up to “being” instead of “doing.” You would think that would be easy. It’s so not. Most often I turn my eyes to the skies, the territory of the Bird Spirits; it’s to these spirits I am most drawn. And they do not disappoint me; they are always there. When I look, they appear.

But being the life-long human that I am, I sometimes don’t trust the messages I get from the Bird Spirits. Or my dependence on human language gets in the way, and I just feel like I need someone to tell me in plain English: DO THIS. And then the Universe proves that it can communicate in that way as well. This should not surprise me. Why would the Almighty have endowed me with the gift of writing if there was no transcendent good in it?

Knowing that I have been unsure of the place the Universe really wants me to be right now, It sent me this poem, which I came across in a friend’s blog:


The Summer Day
Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Of course, the Almighty is well aware that I have no idea “how to be idle and blessed.” But it sent this assurance, in black and white, that the concept exists; and that others have identified it and lived it without going to hell.

I’m not entirely convinced that I have only “one wild and precious life.” But the one I do have, right here, right now is my immediate concern. And I very much want to know how to fall down into the grass and pay attention.

I believe I’m being given license to do exactly that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Working On It

We had a snippet of one of those difficult conversations yesterday. The ones that have been tugging at the coattails of my tongue, begging to be let out into the air whenever my life partner and I are in close quarters for any length of time…like during long car trips, or while weathering a rainy day in a shoebox. I pronounced our vacation “over” when it began to look like we might have to spend a second day in that shoebox condition. But because of where we live, long car rides are part and parcel of any time off we have together; I knew it was only a matter of time before the subject(s) weighing heavily on my mind would no longer be ignored.

This particular talk didn’t go so badly. Apparently, I’ve regained enough of my emotional equilibrium that I can almost discuss these things in a rational manner. At least, I don’t go into an instant meltdown in which I then proceed to wallow for days. Or maybe it’s just that I understand there is nothing to fix. Continuing with the restaurant meant that we would need to actually do something about the incompatibility issues that were making it impossible for us to work together. Now, all we have to do is acknowledge the issues and go forward in light of that knowledge. It’s liberating, if a little bleak. Nothing like a big, herkin’ dose of reality, served up with the time and (arguably) the energy to assimilate it.

And so it was that in my 35th year of marriage, I finally understood that the honeymoon was over. All those decades, I insisted on believing that my marriage was different. Special. More of fairy tale than of cold, hard reality. For years, I fought tooth and nail against the concept that a long-term marriage owes its existence to the ability of the principals to live entirely separately, yet under the same roof. I thought, “No. Not our marriage. Ours is about togetherness. Ours is about support and shared passions. It’s him and me against the world.” After our journey of the past five years, I get it. It’s not him and me against the world. It’s ME against the world; and him…well, he’s around somewhere. Perhaps as often on the world’s side as on mine.

What makes the situation most ridiculous is, this is really nothing new. Our very fundamental differences have been apparent for many years—certainly since the mid-nineties when it became obvious that, in a crisis, my first loyalty was to family and relationships and his was to work and fiscal responsibility. Put a gun to our heads, and I will turn to my peeps for support, while he disappears into his work. A classic mid-century male/female, Mars/Venus dynamic. But I could never accept that our relationship was so…archaic. For twenty years (or more) I’ve been inclined to pass off these differences as stress-induced temporary insanity, rather than accept them as a seminal disparity in the way the two of us are hard-wired.

So he says to me, “I feel like the blame for all this is being placed squarely on my shoulders.” And I replied, “No, dear… If anyone is to blame here, it’s me. I’m the one who has clung for dear life to the rose-colored glasses. I’m the one who has refused to see us for who we are, and refused to accept our relationship for what it is.”

Now, my task is to figure out how to conduct the rest of my life outside the romantic delusion I’ve lived in for thirty-five years. No more “Him and Me Against the World.” The trick, I think, is to cherish and nourish the “him and me” half of that equation—on whatever level our paths continue to cross—and just walk away from the “against the world” part. That seems the wisest plan. It is the only one for which I seem to have enough energy at this point.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back from the Sacred Places

Back once again, from days with the waves and the birds, and the wind and the wonders.

And the trees.

This time, I was shown a truly sacred place.

A forest. Where the trees are ancient and alive and wise.

Portraits, sculptures of Time.

And of spirits.

This one... This one--

she-is-me

...is me.

Growing tall out of tangled chaos.

One with the silvered shadow of her losses and heartaches. Those things that are forever part of her. Rising with her, not pulling her down. Not keeping her from living.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sun, Rain, and Buzzards

After untold hours of untold days spent mostly trapped in a windowless kitchen in the back of a small restaurant, I can’t get enough of simply being outside. My vacation consisted almost entirely of rapturous hours among the trees and the birds, the sand and the squirrels, the ocean and the mist-blown sky. For two weeks, I went indoors only to sleep (and shop.) It was heaven. Funny how I can’t stop writing about that time… I guess after not having one for five years, that vacation was quite a major event in my life. Next Sunday (our 35th wedding anniversary) we leave for another seven days camping at the coast. Though this trip promises to be a little damper, a little colder, and a little darker, I’m still excited beyond words at the prospect.

At home, I take my coffee out to my greenhouse deck every morning. A few short weeks ago, if I got up too late, I couldn’t sit comfortably in that east-facing space. I would spend the entire time with a hand shading my eyes, drenched in sweat from the hot flash brought on by the warmth of the morning sun. Still, I felt I needed to be out there soaking it up; because we all know what Oregon winters are like. I hope I stored enough vitamin D to last through until next July.

The climate has returned to something approximating normal, after Nature’s parting shot of this year’s only real summer weather in September. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to enjoy out in my yard, even when the air is heavy with Oregon pissy rain. There are still blossoms galore on my fuchsias, begonias and “black & blue” salvia, providing my over-wintering hummers with plenty of natural forage to supplement the food provided by my feeders. I have salvia blooming right outside my kitchen window, and every morning when I’m doing my breakfast dishes, a little guy buzzes in to enjoy his own breakfast, so close that I have to tilt my head back to see him through the bottoms of my bifocals. The winter population of juncos, goldfinches, sparrows and siskins are gathering at our al fresco dining facilities, and the cacophony of the thousands of water birds arriving from their far north breeding grounds floats on the wind from the wetlands just east of here. Winters in the Pacific Northwest may be soggy, but they are never lonely.

This year has been so odd. We had a long, l-o-n-g wet winter that was not inclined to go away. There was no spring in 2011 to speak of; if we had one, it started in mid-July, when it finally stopped raining and began to climb out of the 50’s for daytime highs. It seemed like this entire year was delayed, weather-wise, by about six weeks. Anything that survived the extra months of cold and wet bloomed and ripened weeks later than normal. We had blueberries in July, cherries and peaches in August, and they are still selling local sweet corn at the farm stands, alongside the pumpkins, squash and apples.

Bird-wise, the unusual weather seems to have made this “The Year of the Buzzard.” Buzzards are the robins of the northwest. Here, the robins in winter congregate in loose little associations that are not really flocks, endlessly patrolling soggy yards and parklands for half-drowned worms; but they don’t fly south. We Oregonians become aware that the hold of winter on the land is finally broken by the appearance of the first turkey buzzard wheeling lazily above the fields along I-5.

Buzzards are so common here during the summer months that I had been in Oregon several years before I learned that they were migratory. Still, though they’re everywhere in the summer, they remain rather mysterious in that, to this day, I don’t know where they roost, where they nest, or where they go in the winter. To my knowledge, I have never seen a fledgling buzzard. They seem to appear in the spring, all fully grown, then simply vaporize sometime during the fall, to reappear the next May. This year, there were just scads of buzzards. You never saw just one. Raise your eyes, and you’d spot groups of half a dozen or more birds, circling, wheeling, picking over freshly-mown fields. I wonder if the long, wet winter provided them with such a bonanza of feeding opportunities that it had an obvious effect on their numbers.

I don’t know if it was the fact that there were so many buzzards this year, or if I was blessed with a special sight, but in the past few weeks I have actually witnessed something I had never seen before: the buzzards flying south. Admittedly, I’m outdoors way more hours a day than I’ve been in, oh, about the last 1800 (days)… And my love of all winged things keeps my eyes scanning the skies much of the time I’m outside. But this is the first time I’ve seen groups of dozens of buzzards, trailing for what must be miles, circling in southward-ranging spirals, up, up, up…until they are but tiny bird-shaped specks high overhead. Wings wide, never a flap…rising to meet the thermal winds that will take them sailing to…wherever they go.

Goodbye, my ubiquitous friends! Safe sailing, and may warm, wide fields meet you at the end of your journey. See you back here next year, dark wheeling sentinels of the summer skies!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Got a Match?

It’s amazing how much paper a couple can accumulate over 35 years. Not just junk mail, but things like tax papers, ancient loan documents, medical receipts, old utility bills, Christmas and birthday cards, kindergarten art from a niece who just graduated high school… Our personal accumulation nearly fills an entire room—the fourth bedroom upstairs which we have designated as “office,” but more closely resembles a combination flea market/storage unit/dead file cellar of the IRS. On top of three decades of our personal paperwork, I have five huge boxes of papers from the restaurant, which I have been exhorted to save for seven years (oh, boy…I get to shuffle this stuff around until 2019!) And I have two boxes of my parents’ files with which I cannot seem to make myself part (Mom died almost four years ago; Dad has been gone since 1999.)

Since “retiring,” one thing that has kept me occupied is Crap Control. For five years we were too busy to do anything more than find an out-of-the-way place to shove Things That Need To Be Dealt With (Later!). I have gone through my closet and drawers at least three times in three months; once upon a time, if I managed that undertaking once a year I felt smugly accomplished. Goodwill is thinking about giving me my own donation truck.

I’ve waded into two of the three most intimidating spaces on our property: the office and the garage. But I can only bear to be in either space for about four or five hours at a time, so the work is not exactly going along at a record pace. And I haven’t yet mustered the courage to tackle Crap Zone #1: the back yard storage shed—the repository for things that haven’t seen the light of day since we moved here 10 ½ years ago. Just thinking about what could be in there—dead or alive—keeps me safely paralyzed on the outside of the shed door.

Part of the problem of dealing with trash paper is the fear associated with just throwing it in the garbage. Much of this hubbub, I’m sure, is circulated by the guys who make paper shredders. I fail to see how someone could harm me if they dug in my trash and unearthed thirty-year-old canceled checks from a long-defunct bank two thousand miles from here. But someone insists that is the case. So a box containing these very things molders on a shelf in our garage, collecting dust and whatever insects eat old paper. Bookworms?

Oh, we have a shredder. But, really…what a pain! It’s hardly heavy duty, and can only eat about three sheets of paper at a time. Before you can even flip the switch, you have to sort through your entire pile of shreds-to-be and remove paperclips, staples, plastic faux credit cards (inserted by junk mail circulators in order to force you to OPEN the junk mail) —anything which might stick in the mechanical craw. Then, you kneel in front of the infernal machine for hours in order to dispatch a pile that represents a drop in your personal ocean of junk paper. When you’re all done, you have a migraine from the shrill whine the thing emits while ruminating, AND you still have bags and bags of…paper! Only now it’s in the form of flyaway shreds that you will chase around and find under furniture for months. I knew there had to be a better way. And of course there is. Fire!



As my house has two fireplaces, you’d think the “burn the suckers!” paper option would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the upstairs fireplace is one of those hit the button/flame-on affairs, and the one in the family room has a pellet stove insert. The only things I’ll be burning in my fireplaces are natural gas and little wooden rabbit pellets. No help there. And I have a propane fire pit out on the deck, along with a gas barbecue grill. No help there, either.

Ah…but I DO have an ancient kettle grill (a 33-year-old K-mart version of a faux-Weber) that I have discovered is a capital stand-in for the noisy, messy, slower-than-snot shredder. Now, when I come away from one of my ninja-strike forays into the Crap Zones with a box of files that have been given the official thumbs-down, I grab my Bic and a long-handled tongs and adjourn to the back yard to grill some aged-to-perfection cellulose.

The last pile I barbecued was particularly toothsome: tax files from 2001 and earlier. There is just something appealingly risky about destroying those thin, yellowing sheaves that were once all that stood between you and a prison sentence. Putting the torch to them felt like personally thumbing my nose and chanting, “Nyah-nyah!” at J. Edgar Hoover. Or Doug Shulman. Or whoever.

But beyond that, it was a most cathartic undertaking. I burned some years that I would have joyfully ignited as they were happening. 1994—which began with my “dream job” blowing up in my face, and ended with major surgery and a cancer scare. 1995—probably the worst year of my life. My sister died, I had about 500 jobs (just the w-2’s for that year created a fireball that could have burned down the house). 1999—Dad passed away early that year, and another thick sheaf of w-2’s bespoke the heartache of trying to recover from that grief. It felt so good to watch those years singe and flame, blacken and turn to harmless ashes. Perhaps the unintended ritual helped, in some small way, to burn away the debris of those years that has stuck to my heart.

With about 10% of the necessary Crap Control completed, I anticipate several more bonfires before I’m finished. I might even have to look into getting myself an actual burning barrel; the kettle grill does get a bit dicey when the wind comes up and whisks things out of it before I can clamp the lid down. So if you should spot a bright orange glow emanating from somewhere in the backstreets of Scappoose, that will be me setting fire to a bunch of old papers and a few old demons.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Respect Matters

This is not the first time in my life I’ve been struck with the realization that respect is all but dead in our society. Maybe in the whole world. And it could be the death of us.

But just because I understand that respect is floating belly-up in the cesspool into which our world is turning, doesn’t mean I have had any success resuscitating it in my own life. Somewhere along the line, I adopted the conviction that respect is not unconditional. Respect is not freely given; it has to be earned. Right? So it’s no wonder I’ve lost respect for…everything…and can’t find it anywhere. Since disrespect has become de rigueur, and no one seems to have any respect for anyone or anything, what’s out there that could possibly earn my respect? In the end, I’ve followed the whole world over the cliff and into the cesspool.

It has dawned on me that I have to get over doling out the gift of my reverence only to those things/people/situations I have judged worthy. Spider has taught me to respect other forms of life that I might find ugly, frightening or even negligible. It’s a good place to start, small enough for me to get my arms around the concept. And then I have to take that and apply it to people, property, rituals, traditions, religions, opinions, ethnicities, nations, tribes, disciplines, the Earth itself. Anything under the sun that I might judge unworthy, and therefore disrespect—most of the time, without even knowing enough about it to make that judgment.

Lately, I’ve become acutely aware of exactly how little respect I have for others. When I curse at another driver on the freeway, or sigh and roll my eyes at the woman who parks her shopping cart in the exact geometric center of the aisle at the grocery store, I am struck by how these small acts of disrespect spring forth from and contribute back to the growing mass of contempt upon which we are choking now. If one person, just one, refuses to add her fistful of muck to that mass, we might get at least one moment of relief. It would be so worth being that person. And I really feel that is what the Almighty is asking of me right now.

Let there be Respect on Earth. And let it begin with me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Going Up

064

A visual metaphor for what's happening in my life right now...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Slightly Belated...

hb terms 2011

Since September 25, 2003.

From famine through feast and back again.

Good Morning

It was foggy this morning. Foggy, cold and damp. The world seemed a physical weight, pressing me down into the depths of my soul. Depths which contain deep pools of anger, fear, resentment and hopelessness. The pools have always been there, I suppose. But my journey of the last five years has deepened and overflowed them.

I don’t want to go down there. It frightens me. I want to believe that purposeful rest and a drastic change of routine will cause those pools to shrink and recede. This morning’s grayness had me spiraling downward. I held my nose and prepared to dive; sat down at the computer to compose an essay of the drowning soul. I stared for a long time at the screen, the blinking cursor, and wrote…nothing. My trembling hand could not soil that pristine whiteness with even one maudlin letter.

So I exited the blank “Word” page, sighed and called up a game of solitaire.

It was a hard one. It looked like one of those that was going to take me an hour of “ctrl+z” to solve. I sighed again. I so did not want to fool around with an endless game of solitaire this morning...

But wait… A couple of smooth moves cracked the puzzle of the “hopeless” solitaire game, and I wrapped it up in a matter of minutes. I win!

And in the meantime, the sun came out. The sky is bright blue. Like the miserable gray fog never existed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bread

One of the facts of 21st century life that helped make me an ex-restaurant owner was having to deal with the preponderance of ridiculous food fads and media driven prohibitions that are out there. It got to where I wanted to shoot the radio or TV every time another “food-borne-illness” report came out. When tomatoes killed a guy in Texas, suddenly every sandwich in the restaurant was going out with “no tomatoes” (which didn’t really bother me much, since fresh tomatoes grown outside of their normal season are gross and tasteless.) A salmonella-in-spinach scare torpedoed sales of the most popular vegetarian offering of my concession business for over a year; though we make the filling with frozen spinach (which is blanched), and the things are cooked in a 400° oven for twenty minutes to boot, you couldn’t talk folks out of their paranoia.

In the waning days of my term as a restaurant owner, the food fad that drove me absolutely crazy—and not only persists but is picking up steam—is the anti-gluten craze. Yes, I understand that the inability to digest gluten was found to be a problem for a subset of people with painful digestive malfunctions that had eluded diagnosis until celiac disease was recognized as the cause. But in the past few years, everyone with any kind of digestive complaint seems to have hit upon gluten as the source of their problems. Gluten has become the dietary devil. The demand for gluten-free this and gluten-free that borders on hysteria.

Bread has been around for something like 30,000 years, folks. Bread and bread-like products were independently developed by hundreds of cultures once human beings figured out they liked grain and it wouldn’t poison them. A food crop with a rich history, one whose cultivation symbolized the transition of mankind from hunter/gatherers to farmers, has suddenly been labeled poison by a hysterical portion of our pop-culture. Just goes to prove the kind of havoc that a lot of people with a little information can wreak.

Of course, I really don’t care if you choose to eliminate gluten from your diet. Knock yourself out, if that’s what you think is going to solve all your health problems. Because of the mysterious connection between our minds and bodies (which is the thing upon which we should really be concentrating if we want to advance our ability to heal sickness), merely believing in a particular health regimen can make it work. Like people who bury potatoes in their back yards to make their warts go away.

But, here’s the problem engendered by our fanatically entitled society: once I’ve decided that something is bad for me, I demand that the entire market place tie itself in knots to pander to my issues. If I’m going gluten-free, the whole world needs to figure out how to make it easy for me. Subway had better cough up gluten-free bread. Pizza Hut had best figure out how to make gluten-free pizza dough. Oh and, by the way, I don’t want to have to PAY more for any of this stuff…

But I digress. The whole reason I began this piece is because a couple of days ago, I had an experience that provided me with a sort of epiphany about America’s bread issues. When I left to go on vacation back in August, I decided I would take with me some extra bread I had left over from the restaurant to feed to the birds on the beach. So I grabbed it out of the freezer, tossed it in a box and threw it into the back of the pick-up. That was a month ago.

Last Friday, I suddenly remembered that I had neglected to unpack the back of the truck when I got home. There was nothing but a bunch of tools, tarps, and camping supplies back there—things that I don’t use when I’m not camping. But…oh no. There WAS that box of bread. Ewwww.

With distinct trepidation, I opened up the back of the canopy and crawled into the truck to retrieve what I was sure was going to be a mass of smelly, powdery green stuff, unrecognizable as bread. What I found was undoubtedly worse than that. Not only was the bread not moldy, it was almost pristine. It wasn’t even stale. I probably could have unwrapped a couple of slices and made a perfectly passable sandwich. It scared the hell out of me.

So I submit to the gluten-fearing American public: It’s probably not the wheat that’s screwing up your health. It’s what we’re doing to it before we eat it that makes it poisonous. And unless you consume nothing but what you have grown, prepared and cooked yourself, you are not saving yourself from anything.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Pelican Encounter

To tell the truth, I very rarely visit the Oregon coast during the summer. First of all, the quaint little towns are all packed with annoying tourists—reminding me that our beautiful scenic Oregon does not belong solely to those of us who live here year round. Secondly, the weather is often iffy in the summer—it can be dank, cool and foggy on the beach when hot weather strikes the inland valleys. Or, if the sun does shine, the wind blows a gale out of the north, making beach-walking an unpleasant, dermabrasion sort of experience. So, oddly enough, though the weather was fine and sunny during our vacation, we didn’t really spend a lot of time on any actual beaches.

A few days into our visit, my sister had looked at me quizzically as we gazed out over the ocean and asked, “What’s happened to all the pelicans?” I hadn’t really thought about pelicans until that moment, but when I considered her question, I realized we had not seen any little parades of feeding pelicans dipping in and out of the waves just offshore. Normally, they are simply…out there—a comforting constant of the seascape. What indeed had happened to the pelicans?

I remembered hearing somewhere about a brown pelican die-off (which, it turns out, was in January of 2009. Yikes! I HAVE been out of touch…) So I wondered if we were not perhaps experiencing the consequences of that event. After my sister’s observation, I found myself searching the sky for them, and I saw no more than one or two lone birds diving in and spurting out of the spray. I had come to love and appreciate the nearly constant presence of undulating queues of the big brown birds, and I was saddened to think we might see no more of them.

On the last weekend of our trip—as it happened, on my husband’s first full day with us—we decided we were going to walk on a beach, come hell, high water or sand-laden gale-force wind. We parked at what turned out to be a small spit of sand at the mouth of a creek. The wind was insane—enough for the wind chill to subtract about 15 degrees from the non-beach air temperature of near 70°. Determined, we bundled and hoodied up and sallied forth.

As we literally blew across the parking strip and gained the sandy beach, my sister pointed to the sky to our left. Fighting their way through the vicious headwind came a stalwart string of pelicans. Not in their usual location, out just beyond where the waves begin to break on the shore, but close in, above the narrow strip of beach. Right over our heads. Nearly close enough to touch. The powerful wind impeded their progress to the point that they practically hovered, stuck to the sky above us. As if to say, “Um…you were looking for us?”

I cursed that I had left my camera in the car, almost turned back to get it, reconsidered…sighed and stood in the wind, rapt, as they floated slowly over us and up the beach. They were magnificent. I even remembered to thank The Almighty for that extraordinary treat. But after we left the beach, I thought no more about it.

Until a couple of days ago, when I recounted my experience with the crows. And I realized it might be wise to consider other special encounters I’d had after my solitary campfire ritual.

Oh, yes! I thought. The pelicans! Maybe I should consult my resources about what a visitation by Pelican might mean.

And here is what I found: “This is an opportunity to forgive either yourself or someone else and release any built-up guilt or resentment.”

Ah! Pelican had showed up on the first full day I’d spent with my husband since I’d left him behind more than a week before. And I’d say there has been plenty of that built-up guilt and resentment splattered all over our relationship of late. I have painstakingly sidestepped those emotions since arriving at the place where I could achieve the necessary amount of physical and emotional restoration to deal with them. I just haven’t been able to go there.

The thing about this encounter is, Pelican’s special connection was exactly what I needed, though I did not know it until weeks later. But the work of healing and forgiveness seems to have gone ahead anyway; husband and I have been getting along much better, and I’ve been able to release much of the bitterness that has kept me distant from him even though we’re no longer separated by the chasm of the café.

So perhaps The Universe sends Animal Spirits not merely to guide, but as symbols of the work being done on our souls even when we are unaware. And as signals to those of us just discovering our connectedness to those spirits—to keep our eyes and minds open to any and every animal encounter.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Squash Watch Continued

What with all my vacations and work weekends this summer, the weekly squash watch thing kind of fell by the wayside. But I know the gardeners out there are dying to know what has happened with my three hapless little butternut squash plants.

Well.... The plants themselves are thriving. This is what my "squash garden" looks like now:





But, you say, can you really call it a squash garden? Where are the squash?
Squash? I have Squash.

I have A Squash.


Here it is, two-thirds of September gone, and I have one little squash about three inches long, out of all that greenery and all those flowers.

Sigh!

But at least there IS a squash.

So we shall see how big it gets before it is compromised by autumn rains and/or frost.

Breaking News: I have discovered another baby squash, about a third the size of this one. Now I have TWO.

Cool!



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting for Crow

What an amazing summer I had! A little more than a week into the season, the ties that bound me to an adventure upon which I had embarked with great anticipation and joy were severed irrevocably, with almost equal anticipation and joy. Tempered by exhaustion and frustration, because that venture had almost proven my utter undoing. I felt lucky to get out (mostly) alive.

For nearly three months, with a couple of unfortunate yet unavoidable lapses, I’ve gone about the business of regaining my strength—with a vengeance. If one could be said to be “aggressively resting,” that is what I’ve been doing. It wasn’t easy, at first, to shed the habit of the perpetual “to-do” list. Once out from under the never-ending, ever-increasing “Things I’ve Gotta Do To Stay In Business” list, I merely replaced it with “Things I’m Gonna Do Now That I Have A Life Again.” When that list started to weigh like a cement block around my neck, I figured it was time for a really fresh start. So I packed up my mess kit and went camping.

Not long into that adventure, I discovered I had sneaked yet another list into my baggage: “Things I’m Gonna Do On My Vacation.” When The Universe decided to rip that list out of my hands and lead me to the things I really needed, I finally got that making lists is not what I’m supposed to be doing.

It’s been hard, though. I don’t know HOW to not do anything. I was never very good at it, and then I spent five years immersed in an orgy of busy-ness. I’ve been on “fast-forward” so long, I think my “stop” button shorted out. So…yes. Do nothing? Wait for The Universe to give me what I need? It’s like quitting…something…cold turkey. Possible, yes. But neither simple nor particularly pleasant.

Even the thing I was convinced was on The Universe’s agenda for me—to study up and choose a spiritual path—turned out not to be part of The Greater Plan at all, but rather a by-product of my own inability to relinquish control. It seems I’ve been basically told to “Cool it.” The information and the guidance will come when the Spirit decides. So I have sat back and waited. But not without feeling guilty about it.

I’m never sure if my reticence to jump headlong into alternative spirituality is a result of my waiting upon the Universe, or of my own hang-ups. Though I feel drawn to animal spirits and shamanism, I’m still very much bound to not only old mainstream religion, but “fact” and “science,” as we Westerners have learned to worship them as well. It’s extremely difficult to break through half a century of “knowing” that animals don’t speak, and animals don’t have souls, and animals are somehow dependent upon the aegis of human beings for their very lives. I can look into the eyes of a crow and almost hear its message for me…and suddenly a little voice in the back of my head somewhere will taunt, “What do you think you’re doing? It’s just a crow.”

Yet I know Crow is one of my Spirit Guides, if not my power animal. Alone one night on my camping vacation, when my sister and her husband went home to take care of some business, I was determined to indulge in a ritual about which I had read, but had not yet attempted. I built a fire and enjoyed my solitary meal while gazing into the friendly flames. After I finished eating, I dug into my jewelry bag and pulled out…my rattle. An artisan-crafted ceramic rattle, carved in the shape of a crow. The books I’ve read mention rattling, drumming or chanting while meditating, to court contact with the Spirit World in general and Spirit Guide animals in particular. So I sat by my fire, closed my eyes, shook my rattle and tried to empty my mind. Tried to concentrate. Asked for a guide. Rattled and emptied, meditated and asked.

I’d like to say something magical and mysterious happened. I’d like to say that I had a dream or a vision, or that I was visited by some great insight. But mainly, I felt…silly. Sheepish. That little voice in the back of my head was having a field day. “What DO you think you are DOING? Rattling? Puh-leez!”

I was determined not to let that voice dissuade me. I kept at it, for what I guessed was an appropriate amount of time to do justice to the ritual. Until my fire dwindled to a few flickering flames. Then I scattered the coals, stowed my rattle, and went to bed. Thinking a Dream might be wonderful, but not really believing it would come. And it didn’t.

But the next day, I drove to the beach with a loaf of bread for the gulls. I got out of the car, sat at a picnic table, and was immediately surrounded. Not by gulls, but by…

Crows. There must have been a dozen, maybe fifteen. No gulls. Just crows.

Now, I’ve been throwing bread for birds at beaches for decades. And this was the first time ever that only a mob of crows showed up for the party.

I can’t explain it. But The Universe can.

And It will. In time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Heart Spiders. People...Not So Much.

In June, I was introduced to the concept of Spider as a power animal. For one who spent the first thirty years of her life deathly afraid of any creature possessing more than four legs, embracing this possibility has been an uphill battle. When I was a kid, my older sister—who thought nothing of handling beetles, snakes, bees, frogs—used to get a huge kick out of chasing me around with bugs. I nearly fainted when she threatened to slip a grasshopper under the bathroom door I had slammed and locked against one of her onslaughts. It’s interesting to note: Now, she’s the one who screeches and stomps on spiders, while I catch them in paper cups and release them out into the wild.

My old knee-jerk “ew!” reaction upon encountering a spider has tempered somewhat since discovering the possibility of Spider as a spirit guide. I’ve certainly overcome my desire to run, screech or squish. But I still find spiders singularly unattractive at close range, and can’t deal yet with the idea of one walking on me. So I won’t share my sleeping quarters with any arachnid larger than a dime, and cannot tolerate showering with one of any size.

I’ve begun to collect stylized representations of spiders—a pair of earrings, a brooch. Things that will help me call to mind the particulars of Spider’s guidance. And, though I have a long way to go before I feel anything approaching warm and fuzzy about arachnids I encounter in my daily life, I understand their appearance and their presence have significance. In just a few short months I have made tremendous strides toward actually embracing spiders—as creatures at the very least worthy of notice and care, if not messengers carrying special wisdom for me from the Spirit World.

But, here’s the rub (and maybe it’s a large part of the lesson the Universe is ramming at me through spiders): I can’t help but notice that, though I’m making all kinds of progress in the direction of spiders, I don’t seem to be able to duplicate that success when it comes to my relationships with people. Specific people, as well as people in general. What gives?

Looking back, I don’t think I’ve had a much better opinion of humans than I have had of spiders for most of my life. Oh, yes, I’m fond of my own family (most of the time), I have had a few human friends, and I am married to a human being (I think.) Apparently, I can carve out places in my hard heart for a very few specific people. And I can care deeply for the rights of human beings in general. But when it comes to relating to strangers or acquaintances I encounter every day…most often I have no use for them. My knee-jerk reaction any time I’m required to interact with other people is to immediately suspect the worst about them; or at the very least to view them as a waste of my time, or an effort I am not inclined to make.

So, while I can read things like the article to which I linked in my previous post, and the truth of the premise can smack me in the face and move me to tears, I can’t live it. My head understands that human beings are every bit as worthy of notice and care as spiders. But I’m having the devil’s own time seeing The Spirit in other people.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I can fantasize anything I want about a spider and it will not do anything to disabuse me of that romantic notion. Whereas human beings can, and almost invariably do, open their mouths and say something, or act in such a way that lets me know immediately that they are what they are, and not some fairy-tale version of what I’d like them to be. I can’t make them pretty enough to be worthy of my affection and attention. I have to appreciate them for what they are. WAY harder to do that than to embrace a spider as a spiritual messenger. Apparently.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Blessing in the Words of Another

Since becoming a "woman of leisure," I have been studiously avoiding watching television, listening to the radio, even doing more than a surface scan of "news" on the internet. I just don't want to go there. The news is all bad.

This morning, I found blessing in one of the only sources of outside information I still frequent without fear and disgust: the blogosphere. More specifically, my personal "blog list."

Go read this:

Looking for Love

You will be blessed, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Style Out of Time

I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this about myself: I am an inveterate second-hand shopper. I have been haunting thrift stores, flea markets, consignment shops and rummage sales since I pocketed my first babysitting money over forty years ago.

Buying second-hand has been the perfect solution for one as addicted to clothing, shopping, and changing jobs as I have been all my life. My closet is always packed; and if something loses its appeal or goes out of style or “shrinks,” it simply falls off the hanger and into the “donate” bag, making room for the fantastic finds from the next trip to Goodwill.

I don’t know how other cities rank on the “resale bonanza” scale, but for my money, Eugene is right there at the top of the list. There are eight Goodwill stores and probably as many St. Vincent DePaul’s (resale shops run by a Catholic charity) in a metro area with slightly more than 200,000 folks. And it seems that there is a privately owned second-hand or consignment shop in every strip mall or on every other street corner. I don’t know if my fondness for thrift stores blossomed into a full-blown love affair because I lived in Eugene for thirteen years, or if I fell in love with Eugene because I love thrift stores. Either way, we are a perfect match, Eugene and I; even though I no longer live there, I have family that does. So I visit often enough to get my resale fix.

This past weekend, I was in Lane County to attend the Coburg Antique Fair (a nearly rapturous assemblage of peddlers of old stuff which takes over the entire town of Coburg, just north of Eugene, on one Sunday every September.) And, of course, I managed to squeeze in a visit to one Goodwill Store. And I did something that, now that I look back on it, is becoming more indicative of my current incarnation of “used stuff” addiction:

Flipping through the sweaters on a well-stuffed rack, I came upon one that I knew I had owned. Now, I have taken bags to the donation site on Monday only to visit my local Goodwill Store on Friday and find my own (former) clothes tagged and ready for their next adventure. That is kind of a surreal experience. But in this instance, this wasn’t a sweater that I had personally donated. But it was an exact carbon copy of one I had worn and loved—one of my special favorites, in fact—back in the 90’s.

I have no idea how long ago I sent MY sweater away. I’m not sure if it got too small, went out of style, shrank, got holes in it… Or maybe it was during one of my mourning periods, when I tend to divest myself of anything that reminds me of a person, time or place no longer part of my life.

But I looked at that sweater, and I thought:

Wow! I used to have this!

And I still really like it!

And I have two or three of similar style in my closet right now that I bought new within the last year. (You know the old adage… “everything old is yada yada yada.”)

So guess what? I’m buying this!


I have to wonder if my second-hand habit is now enabling me to pick a part of my past and live in it.

But, no… I think it’s more the case that, if you’re around long enough, anything and everything comes back into style. At my age, I know what I like and I’ve figured out what looks good on me. I’ve earned the right to choose whatever I want and just rock it, regardless of what decade it’s from.

Haute couture is for the young. Or the rich.

Take that, Heidi Klum…

Monday, September 12, 2011

Full Moon

I was born under the sign of Cancer the Crab. My “planet” is the moon.

I’m always fascinated by the soaring white, full face of the moon. Time after time I’ve tried to photograph it, but have yet to come up with a very remarkable image. But does being a “moon-child” mean that the full moon should be a time of special energy for me? I wonder.

I remember summer full moons many years ago, when I was a teen-ager; the air would be so soft and warm and the light would be so bright that my sisters and I would pad outside in our pajamas, sit on the grass and bask in the moonlight.

Those were magical nights, nights that affirmed our youth and whispered “Yes!” to all our possibilities. In those days, the path of moonlight on any body of water—even a puddle—seemed to lead to every wonderful thing the future might have in store for me. I was lucky then; I didn’t know sadness or want, hadn’t tasted real grief or heartache.

Tonight, I peer up at the full moon—tinted orange from the smoke of many wildfires in the east—and I don’t see possibilities. What do I see?

I see the coming of Fall, the season I have always loved. I love it still, but not for the same reasons as I did years ago. In my youth, Fall was more about beginnings than Spring ever was: new clothes, new shoes, a new school year; new faces to populate my life; new things to learn and accomplish. For decades after my last day of any school, I felt the newness and promise of Fall.

But now—especially this year—it’s about slowing down and cooling off; doffing the sunglasses and breathing deeply of crisper air. It’s about birds, at my feeders and returning to the wintering grounds on Sauvie Island and the marshes of the Columbia backwaters. It’s about the beautiful, protracted show of turning leaves in the Pacific Northwest; snuggly old sweaters that are the good friends of many years, soft blankets and fluffy comforters. Fall is no longer about newness and beginnings. It’s about comfort and familiarity and nesting.

I realize now that the full moon has not been a great friend to me for several years. She has taunted me with possibilities to which I could not measure up; urged me to newness I could not accept. Was it she, or was it my memory of her shining a path to my future that made me so exasperated with her? During my most difficult years, her bright face was simply a nuisance. I rolled down thick blinds and closed heavy curtains against her; I could not abide her taunting white beacon cutting into my precious few hours of barely restorative sleep.

Now, it seems we’ve come to an understanding, she and I. Tonight, she understands that I am older and tireder. Her orange face is smiling gently down on the me who is much happier thinking about comfort and familiarity than change and beginnings.

I think she and I will rest awhile before she gently begins to nudge me in a new direction.