Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Post of 2013

Two more hours in which to create a post for 2013.

So we're sitting here watching "That's Entertainment" on TCM.  Is there a better way to spend a New Year's Eve than lost in 80-year-old celluloid?  When I was a kid, New Year's Eve brought us the first of a genre that's quite familiar now--film "marathons."  My favorites were Marx Brothers' films or Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers musical extravaganzas.  Old movies and New Year's Eve are synonymous to me.

As 2013 passes into the record books, I hardly know how to quantify it.  It hasn't been a bad year.  But it hasn't been a good year, either.  It's mostly been a year of...transition?  The rest after the cyclone, or the calm before the storm?  It has been an opportunity to just "be." Which has been fine, and probably direly necessary.  But I think I've had my fill of just "being"....I'd like to "do" something--before I get too old to enjoy it.

During our trip to Klamath in January, I became enchanted with owls--a bird I never dreamed I'd see in the wild.  We encountered so many there on the Northern California refuge, in the short days of mid-winter.  Those encounters seemed to have set the tone for my entire year.  I've been nearly as surrounded by owls as ever I was back in the quintessentially owl-y seventies.  I'd like to believe that the Universe's desire to speak to me through Owl caused this owlish ripple in the fabric of American pop culture.

I'm not entirely certain that I have been successful at discerning Owl's message for me so far.  I learned today that Owl represents wisdom, clairvoyance, the ability to "see in the dark"--to discern things that are hidden from most people.  I can't really see how this relates to how my life played out in 2013...but I have a feeling that it's going to have more meaning in the near future.

As for the coming year, I think I received my New Year's message from the Almighty this afternoon in my back yard: 

A pair of birds appeared, as far away as I could see in the eastern sky. I went and stood in the middle of the yard, away from the shadow of the house, to get a better view.  I thought they might be eagles, but they were too far away for my failing eyes to tell for sure. The birds flew straight in my direction, circled away, circled back, while I stood there like an idiot, urging, "No, no, don't go away! This way! Over here so I can see what you are!" They fell in line and flew right over my head, softly calling so I would know exactly what they were.

Ravens. The Universe sent me ravens.

Magic.  Rebirth.  Renewal.

Let it be!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Solstice

December has been zipping past in high gear this year.  I feel like I’ve been running behind the Holiday Train, trying my damnedest to catch up and grab a ride.  Wasn’t Thanksgiving three days ago?

Before yesterday, I had not crossed one item off my Christmas shopping list, even though it was drastically abbreviated by our opting not to exchange gifts this year.  About that:  I expected to be at least a little sad and disappointed that husband and I wouldn’t be ripping into gaily wrapped packages (of things we didn’t want and wouldn’t use), but in fact it has proven to be the saving grace of the holiday.  I know I, at least, have felt much less burdened and able to enjoy the season without that one very heavy thing hanging over my head.

And yesterday was Winter Solstice.  It was inconvenient that it coincided with the last shopping Saturday before Christmas, and that we still had all our shopping to do.  We spent the daylight hours skipping around electronics stores, book shops and home centers ticking things off our gift list.  At Lowe’s, we managed to remember to pick up a bundle of wood for my Solstice Fire.

As compact as the season has been, I haven’t done the meditation and soul-searching I managed prior to my first two Solstice Fires.  I’ve been reflecting a bit on whether I have fulfilled the Universe’s mandate that I pursue Joy in 2013.  I think I’ve done it, to the extent that I’m able.  Certainly our trip to Klamath last January started the year off on a most joyful note.  I’m still struggling with relationship issues and lingering after-effects of the café experience.  I see myself making progress in my ability to think before acting out in frustration or anger.  And I’ve tried to find at least a little joy in every day.  But I still have a long way to go.

Anyway, the busyness of the day yesterday had me lighting my Solstice Fire well after the sun had gone down, so the opportunity to obtain a message from a bird spirit was severely compromised.  Not too likely that I’d get a flyover from Kingfisher or be accompanied by the song of Hummingbird at my fire this year.  I contemplated, as I gathered my bells and my pen (to write down the things that “no longer serve” which I would burn in my fire) and my cedar branches, if there would be a message from an animal spirit at this year’s fire.  I knew it was unlikely that there would be a bird in attendance; but when I thought about the day, I realized that my daylight hours on Saturday had been All About Geese.  At first light, I was out in the yard filling the bird feeders and heard the sound of the cacklers milling over the wetlands by the channel.  As we drove around doing our holiday shopping, it seemed like every time I looked up, there was a group of geese overhead.  On the way home at dusk, we were surrounded by literally hundreds of geese dropping out of the sky to their evening resting places on the ponds and the rolling hills surrounding them. 

Geese are an important spirit guide for me.  They were, in fact, the first bird spirits to bring me a message, way back when I didn’t even know bird spirits had messages for me.  In my personal liturgy, geese represent family and ancestors.  Geese symbolize my beloved departed—my sister, my dad, my mom.  They remind me to honor those spirits, to call upon them for guidance; and they remind me to treasure, nurture, and draw strength from the family I have left.

Satisfied that I had indeed received a visitation from a bird spirit to set the tone for the coming year, I settled down to my fire.  Without regret and with no anticipation of an additional spirit bringing a message for me.  I chose six chunks of milled kindling upon which I would scribe the things that would no longer serve, set them aside and proceeded to build my fire.  It sprang to life quickly and surely.  All week long, predictions of rain on Solstice evening had had me feverishly devising ways to have my fire without being TOO cold, wet and miserable.  But the promised rain had held off all day, and stalled yet a few hours longer after dark, long enough to allow me to kindle my fire in relative comfort. 

I played my bells, and sang, and hummed.  I meditated on the past year, considered the coming year.  Thought about Goose, and my family, and what meaning they would have for me.  And gradually, I became aware of an animal presence that I could not ignore.


No…he didn’t waddle up and share my fire.  In fact, I never saw him.  He probably wasn’t even very close by.  But his presence was obvious and persistent.  It was impossible not to understand that my fire had been delayed until the hours after dark so that Skunk could be present to impart his message to me. 

Also remarkable was that I was joined at my fire by yet another spirit whose presence was entirely unexpected:  my husband. 

My first two Solstice Fires had been conducted in solitude.  I’m pretty sure the husband has been at least partially convinced that a lightning bolt would issue forth from his Polish Catholic God as I sat rattling and singing and meditating, celebrating my connection to the Divine in the “heathen” way to which I felt called.  I never even considered inviting him to my fires.  It just didn’t seem to be in any way something that we could share.

But to my surprise, somewhere around the middle of my ritual, a be-parka-ed figure stepped out of the house and made his way to my side.  “Where am I supposed to sit?” he asked.  To which I answered, when I found my voice, that he should just grab a chair.

The attendance of the husband was at once a blessing and a distraction.  It did burst my meditative bubble; but it was also a welcome bit of companionship.  I had just been considering burning “solitude” in my fire, which didn’t feel right, because solitude DOES serve.  It’s only too much of it that doesn’t serve.  So I chose to burn “loneliness” instead…because that is indeed what too much solitude becomes.  And as if on cue, out to my side ambled my “better half.” 

So we sat and gazed into the coals, both remarking upon the obvious presence of skunk, until the promised rain would hold off no longer and sent us snuffing the fire, stowing our seats and retiring to the house.

I don’t even feel the least bit embarrassed or silly that skunk attended my fire and had a message for me.  As soon as we were safely inside out of the rain, I looked up “skunk” in my reference book.  And this is what I found:

Be assertive and stand your ground as necessary, and don’t let yourself be manipulated or pushed around.
Make your self-respect and dignity a top priority, offering the same respect to others.  
You’re taking yourself far too seriously and need to relax, play, and trust that everything is all right.   

Now I have to do a bit of contemplating about how these admonitions and the strong influence of family will interact to create the story of the coming year.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Conundrums

This is turning out to be the Porsche Christmas Season—compact and fast, like the car.  Impossible to believe that the month is already nearly half over, and it’s less than two weeks until Christmas. 

This season has represented for me a bit of an opportunity to review my traditions, preparations and expectations.  I thought that last year was an anomaly.  I thought that the lassitude and distinct sense of “un-excitement” I felt for all the things I had “missed” about Christmas during the café years was simply due to some kind of post-traumatic depression.  But even though I’ve felt like I’ve been rolling along in a much better state of mind this summer and fall than in 2012, I find that, with Christmas staring me in the face, my outlook has reverted to almost exactly what it was last year.

The hyper-decorating in which I have traditionally indulged seems to have lost its appeal.  Decorating four Christmas trees in various rooms of the house has become a monumental challenge, rather than the eagerly-anticipated Christmas bender it once was.  I still love the decorations, and can’t resist acquiring more when I fall in love with something in a gift shop or a resale store…  But I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for the physical act of erecting and arranging all the paraphernalia once the season rolls around.  If I could wave a magic wand and everything would leap out of the boxes and arrange itself, all glowing and Christmassy, I would be on board.  But it seems to take more time (of which I have an abundance, so I don’t know why this should be a problem) and creativity than I am generally able to muster these days.

And then there are the other Christmas traditions.  Like Christmas presents.

Over the course of a long-term relationship, much of everyday conjugal life just becomes rote.  Habit.  Eventually, years and years of always doing the same things transform them from habit to mandate.  We have to do this because we’ve always done this.”  But some things fall victim to random moments of clarity about who you are and what you have been doing together for all these years.

Such a random moment was our “discussion” of last June, wherein the husband declared that he had spent the past thirty-six years doing everything he could to make ME happy.  And that I had it pretty good—I pretty much got everything I asked him for, so why was I not happy??!?  So astounded, hurt and mortified was I over that revelation that I believe those words will come back to haunt me every time, every time he asks me, all innocence and magnanimity, “What do you want…?”

So about a week ago, when he broached the “What do you want for Christmas?” subject, I backed away from it as if I were facing a crouching tiger.  Unfortunately for me, it is my nature for my true thoughts to bubble directly to the surface in moments like these...my first thought was to snap, “You actually think I’d ask you for anything, ever again?!?!?”   But I knew that would never do, so I hedged.  I feigned ignorance.  Told him I didn’t know, didn’t need anything, he should just use his imagination.

But , don’t you know, he couldn’t let it die.  He started throwing suggestions of what he might do or buy out there…hoping for a negative or positive response from me to get him headed in the right direction.  Eventually, I understood that the only way to get out of this gracefully was to propose that we come to a mutual agreement not to buy gifts for each other this year.  Always the brave one for face-to-face confrontation, I sent him an email—“For many of the past several years, neat little stacks of gifts  we chose to give each other, either in stockings or whatever, have sat around unopened and unused for months, and then as often as not end up going to Goodwill.  Seems like kind of a wasteful tradition, at this point, n'est ce pas?”

It worked, I think.  We agreed to take a couple hundred dollars to our local grocery store and buy food for the food bank instead of blowing money on things we did not need and probably would not use just because we’ve “always done that.”  It’s a good idea, and I’m proud of us for making that decision, and proud of myself for avoiding an argument that would not have produced any positive result.

Still…there are moments that I really do wish things were different.  That Christmas was still a time of magic and joy and the comfortable knowledge that there was one special person in the world with whom you were going to share that magic and joy forever.  Christmas isn’t joyful or magical anymore.  It can and will be other good things, though.  I’m sure of it.

I just haven’t completely figured out what those things are.  Yet…   

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Did I Mention I Hate Not Being Able to See?

Had a tense drive home from Eugene this evening.  Interstate 5 bogged down to a stop at Albany (only 40 miles into our 120-mile journey), so we bailed off the freeway and jogged west to Highway 99.  Now, Highway 99 runs parallel to I-5 (sometimes concurrent with it) all the way up the Willamette Valley.  It is the “old” road upon which the Interstate was based. 

And while the traffic on Highway 99 was moving, unlike that on the interstate, it is a two lane road that goes through, rather than around, all the little Podunk towns between Eugene and Portland.  And our late start out of Eugene meant that half our journey would be made in the dark—since it’s pretty much dark as the inside of a pocket around here by 5:00 pm, these days. 

What a nightmare!  My old eyes are in no way vigorous enough to drive 50 miles on a sometimes twisty two-lane road, in the dark, in the rain.  The road is not lit and poorly striped; and every set of headlights that passed left me blind for one or two interminable seconds after they whizzed by. 

This is an age-related disability to which I have not become accustomed, and it’s hard to say which emotion won out after the ordeal--exhaustion, fear or anger. 

All I know is, I’m so physically depleted from that hour of stress driving that I can hardly see the keyboard for all the yawning.  Maybe I should look into getting a pair of those “night vision” yellow sunglasses.  I’ll happily consider any suggestion from any source as to how not to let my diminishing eyesight seriously impair my ability to go where I need to go, when I need to go.

I HATE not being able to see.