Monday, February 28, 2011

EST v PST Round 3

Leaving today for Portland.  Not a moment too soon for me.  I added a day to our hotel stay in Seattle yesterday as I was sure Duz was dying.  Nope.  Turns out he is like a gremlin and you can't feed him after midnight.  Who knew?

So we were out yesterday to letterbox.  Took in the Fremont troll, but the box there was missing the stamp.  Instead some geocacher had left a lovely string of Mardi Gras beads and left with the stamp.  I do wish they would learn the difference between letterboxing and geocaching and be respectful of someone else's hobby.  Pipe dream that.

From there we did a set of 12 boxes spread over a mile or so, but what was a cold drizzle turned into a steady freezing cold rain.  We did finish, but frankly the carves were unimaginative, the placements uninteresting and these I included more for quantity v quality.  After that we tried for a few others, but they were in crowded urban locations.  Ironically, the same rain that had made us quit on the longer walks, did not deter the budding baseball hopefuls - AT ALL!  We ended the day on a high note with a 2-layer stamp, a trip to a Wiccan bookshop, and Pegasus pizza right on the beach at Alki point.

The box in the pizza joint was located behind the picture at the table next to us.  So patience and timing were critical.  That just adds to the fun really.  And the location was really beautiful.

Now about the roads.......

I don't know who designed the roads here, but I would like to have a few words with them.  Streets should converge in regular patterns called right angles.  Driving around the first night, I got caught in a time space anomaly because of the roads.  I circled an establishment called CARTOYS about five times. Although it is also possible that this happened because of the close proximity of the Science Fiction Museum which taunted me with billboards for the upcoming Star Wars exhibit opening in 2 weeks.  I tried to use the force to make them change their mind, but they were strong in the force themselves and the date held firm.  I may hit this after Duz leaves.  Not sure at this point.

But back to the pesky roads.  Even with a GPS it has been a hard go.  I can't explain it.  All I know is that I am never in the lane I am supposed to be in and the Seattle drivers put New York cabbies to shame for impatience and overall rudeness.  I have been horned more times in the last 2 days than in 33 years of driving that preceded them.  WTF people.  Add in the rain and the hills and - oh yeah - the non-rectilinear roads system and my head goes KABOOM!

Anyway......leaving it all behind me for Portland where things will just be easy.  And sunny.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

EST v PST Round 2

WOW!   WOW!  WOWEEEEE!

Let me start with the concert.  Just perfection in the way he bends the strings.  When the guy behind us turned to his wife and said with a sad puppy dog voice "Now it's over", I turned to Duz and smiled and said "Not yet it's not."  No post-concert let down this time with Portland to look forward to tomorrow.

EC is god.  'Nuff said.  Last night he danced, he SMILED, just generally enjoyed himself and actually strutted off the stage.  This is my fourth serving of Clapton and it was the best one yet.  Row 4 Seats 36 and 37.  Here is the setlist for the evening:

01. Key To The Highway
02. Going Down Slow
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. Old Love
05. I Shot The Sheriff
06. Driftin’
07. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
08. River Runs Deep
09. Rocking Chair
10. Same Old Blues
11. When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful
12. Layla – seated Gibson ES 335
13. Badge
14. Wonderful Tonight
15. Before You Accuse Me
16. Little Queen Of Spades
17. Cocaine
18. Crossroads



And did I mention Los Lobos opened.  Yeah.  Kinda coasting still.  

OK so yesterday when 'someone' finally got up we headed down to Pike Place Market.  Not at all what I expected.  Yes there was lots of produce, flowers and the obligate fish throwing, but there were also countless artisans in evidence.  My fave was the dude doing one of a kind grafitti chucks.  Absolute swoon!  Just a fantastic and interesting place.  By the time we bolted it was really crowded and the girl doesn't do jostling crowds.

Then we made a pilgrimmage to Kiss the Sky.....aka Jimi Hendrix grave.  I went to nab 2 letterboxes (my first WA boxes) and both of us to show some respect for a great artist.  This place was really busy.  The whole time we were there cars drifted in, people spent time looking at the monument, leaving tokens, snapping photos and then drifted away.  We tried for a couple more after that, but a combo of the cold, wind and skipped meals made me kinda snippy.  The clues were vague and we couldn't figure out where to start.  I was ready to go, but Duz was hell bent on figuring it out.  Finally I won out.  You do not mess with the girl when she hasn't eaten.

That would be a theme for the day.  We went back to the hotel so I could shower and get ready for my date with Eric.  We wandered a bit looking for food (there is lots of wandering with a P, sometimes too much for a die hard J such as myself) and opted for Indian food.  We sat down an hour and half before the concert and 40 minutes to curtain, almost a full hour later, we still had not been served.  So we got up and left for the concert unfed and one of us fairly bitchy.  A monster pretzel at the venue quelled the bitchiness and I could settle in and enjoy the tunes.  BLISS!

Then Mexican food and bed.  I made it until 12:30 last night before konking out.  Strange and wonderful dreams all night.  But sadly I heard Duz get up a couple of times to be sick.  So I'm thinking today we will probably just hang tight and get him in top shape for Portland tomorrow.

L8r bloggies.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

EST v PST Round 1

To start with, our hotel has a Starbucks inside it!  How convenient.  Especially for mornings.  Since Duz has worked a thousand shifts right up to leaving, he is still zonked upstairs.  That despite a text from his new gf that came in on his phone at like 6AM and has been peeping every 5 minutes since.  Dude could sleep thru an atomic blast.  Me not so much.  Those faint peeps cutting the sleep potential to zero.  (That was with the earplugs I brought because Duz is a snore monster).

Yes, I could just go over and flip his phone open to make it stop, but I just can't.  Maybe because I know how excited he will be to wake and hear it peep and know she thought of him.  But we will have a discussion about it so that maybe I can catch a bit more sleep tomorrow.

I don't know that it would matter really.  My body is still mostly on Eastern Standard Time here on the west coast where it is three hours earlier.  Normally that plays to my strength.  I get up at a later time than usual and it is EARLY where I am making me look less morning challenged.  For 7AM local time these people look pretty perky as I sit here hair uncombed and in sweat pants.

Yesterday was pretty weird.  I left Cincy at 10AM after a 40 minute wait on the tarmack that included my first de-icing ever.  Oh the thrill.  I was operating on a couple hours of sleep and just waiting for the plane to hit cruising aka snoozing height, so I fell asleep during this unexpected delay.  Short-lived as the  plane next to my resting head echoed like a rock in a tin can from a direct blow of the de-icing spray.  Glad for it this time  because I was awake for take off.  That is my favorite part of any flight.  That moment where the rumble of tarmac beneath the plane can no longer be felt and you are flying.

Napping on the plane proved impossible as the captain interrupted my sleep every time I started to spin deeper with some incomprehensible announcement that made me wonder if he was possibly drunk or having a stroke.  So I got to enjoy 5 hours of the hungover party girls behind me degassing tequila into a little toxic cloud that encompassed a couple rows, a sick and coughing toddler adding her germs to the toxic cloud (I told myself that the toddler germs that had never before encountered the sterilizing force of tequila would be neutralized), and an older dude who made the empty seat between us his personal property.

Still it was a great flight.  Clear views of Rainier and the Cascades as we landed.  Delta has some new planes in service that are more leg-friendly so I could actually walk when we debarked in Seattle.  I zipped over and got my car - a little blue Nissan and then spent a couple hours aimlessly driving around Seattle trying not to have an accident from gawking.  I drove by Boeing and watched as a 787 took off and landed from their personal airstrip.  I found the Starbucks mothership.  Went by Qwest and Safeco fields.  The weather was sunny, cold and snow.

Then I sat in the cell phone lot and waited.  Texting my friend Sandra, organizing clue pages and setting off the car alarm by accident - TWICE!

Then it was off to the airport, the hotel, dinner (mediocre Thai) and bed.

Think  may go back to sleep for a bit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Following the Leader

the leader,
the leader.
We're following the leader 
wherever he may go

That's right sing along with me.

We won't be home till morning
till morning,
till morning
We won't me home till morning
because he told us so.

That's from Disney's Peter Pan.  It popped into my head when I sat down to write this piece and I knew I wouldn't be able to write word one until I purged it.

I have been having a lot of issues this week with someone who used to be my teacher.  I have been trying to separate what I learned from him from how I feel about him so that one will not contaminate the other.  Within the how I feel about him category, trying to tease apart the anger from the genuine affection for someone who made me laugh even as they got me to swallow the icky medicine that would make me all better.  People get angry at one another all the time.  It doesn't necessarily mean that they stop caring for each other.  But when the anger has no outlet and the situation no resolution so that the anger just builds and builds, it's time to re-evaluate.  And that's where I am.

Over the last ten years I have been fortunate to meet and interact with some phenomenal human beings who served in the place of teacher.  I readily stepped into the student shoes because they are familiar and comfy.  I learned quite a bit about shifting my life from that steeped in American got-ta-have-it-now-then-throw-it-away ideology toward one that was more sustainable on a personal level.  I dug through piles of old shit that I had stored and with their help unloaded a cargo container full of BS.  I am grateful for each of these individuals.

At a party over the weekend an acquaintance that I didn't successfully manage to duck nattered on about the manifestation class that I absolutely HAD to take.  I did the internal check and realized that no I didn't have to take it.  That my time following the leader has been over for a while now.  Lots of reasons for that.  But mostly, it's just time to step out from behind them and just be.  I respect people who fill the role of teacher.  So don't get me wrong on that score.  But I just don't feel the need to follow anymore.  There is more out there than what anyone knows.  How will we discover anything new if we are caught up in what we already know?

I have kinda suspected for a while now that the entire world is my 'teacher' if I let it be.  And in some mobius mind bending observation that the same world is also my 'student'.  That those words are static labels that ill define what occurs in real time here in the lab that is planet Earth.  That is the only teacher I want or need right now

2011 Rant #2

I am a reasonably intelligent woman.  You would think that I could figure out whatever I turn my mind to.  But no.  This is full of the most obscure meaningless jargon that it makes me tear out my hair after only a few minutes.

In the last month I have been looking around for a policy less expensive than the $370/mo that my former employer's COBRA will cost me.  I have encountered many things that were just full of YUCK and hair-tearing.  So here are my suggestions to the big behemoth that is health insurance.

1).  Don't have your computer call me or even dial my number.  Really?  Why would I want to do business with a company that fails to see me as important enough to warrant a real human representative with whom to deal.  NEXT!

2).  To the sales person on the other end.  Please LISTEN to what I am saying.  I know what I want.  You cannot supersize this order.  Be happy with the sale.  If you aren't listening to me now, I doubt you will listen when I need to file a claim.  NEXT!

3).  Leave the 'tude at home.  I can't tell you how many of these insurance sales people are HOSTILE!  Maybe you are used to talking to people who are equally angry and full of attitude.  One might think that you would then LOVE talking to someone who is polite and respectful.  See #1 - why would I want to deal with a company whose front person is angry and aggressive?   NEXT!

4).  Hidden charges SUCK.  Can you just tell us up front how much it's gonna cost to be overweight, or smoke, or whatev?  If you are hiding things like that and springing them on me now, it makes me wonder what else you are hiding that you will spring on me later?  NEXT!

5).  Obscure language.  What is the point?  I hate things that are made deliberately obtuse so as to create a specialized niche for someone to serve as interpreter.  To make something so unintelligible that you have to have someone explain it to you is humiliating.  Often someone less educated.  It isn't rocket science.  I should be able to easily understand and apply for this online, be evaluated within 24 hours (after all isn't my entire medical history public record?) and given a finalized quote.

6).  Finally price point.  I haven't really thought about this because my employer has been subsidizing the cost of this for the last 25 years.  But DAYUM!  Really?  This is some kinda ponzi scheme if ever I have seen one.  I have had fantastic coverage for all those years and used it proactively as I should to have all the routine tests required.  For an American woman approaching 50, my health is really good.  I doubt I will even use the insurance over the next 3 months.  WTF!?!  Why would I pay the equivalent of 2 months rent for something I wont even use.  YIKES!



Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Perfect Day

No, I didn't win the lottery.

I do feel richer though.

Richer for having risen early and watched the sun pink the horizon.
Richer for the metallic blue-black sheen on the river.
Richer for a day of grace with a dear friend.
Richer by 31 boxes of hidden treasure.
Richer from the luxury of hours of deeply held conversation.
Richer smelling the loamy tang of spring after a bleak winter.
Richer by a couple giggles.
Richer for the quiet journey home in the dark watching black trees frame a yellow sky.
Richer despite weary bones and tired eyes
     that will dream of days like today long after I am dust.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Defining Success

"lose ourselves in the curved energy"  
- from What Did We See Today by Robt. Bly


This was part of a poem this morning offered through the Writer's Almanac.  It is a transcript of the same by Garrison Keillor on NPR.  I highly recommend it if you don't receive it.  

This single fragment was so gobsmackingly beautiful.  It moved me.  Good writing does that for me.  Moves me that is.  I don't know what it is about this little phrase, but it is elegant and makes my head explode at the same time pondering it.  The thing is, I have no idea how Bly meant it.  I don't need to.  I only know that when I read it, it makes me want to launch out into someplace far above here where the graceful curve of the Earth is apparent.  Makes me want to cast my little coracle into the flow of sweeping unseen energies.   Makes me yearn to be part of that curved energy.

I could write for the rest of my life.  And if in all those scribblings I produced one thought of my own that made me feel like this, I would consider myself a rolicking success.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nexus

I wrote a poem a couple years ago that contained the line

'a life divided into before and after'.

I have been thinking a lot about those moments that divide my life into clearly demarcated "Befores" and "Afters".  None of those so clearly divides my life as a day in early November 2001.

On that day, I got a phone call at work from my doctor who asked if I was sitting down (nothing good EVER comes after that does it?) and then proceeded to inform me that my tests came back and that I had uterine cancer.  Part of me will never forgive him for breaking the news to me this way.  Although what way would be better, I just don't know.  I still feel that this kind of news would best be delivered where there are soft hands to catch you when you fall.  Because you ARE going to fall.

I tucked my experiments in early for the evening and left in a whirl as a big swirling life-sucking nexus began to form in what had been my life.  I don't remember much.  It was raining.  I remember that.  Not a little spitting kind of Scottish rain, but the kind my dad called a real gullywasher.  I drove blindly through it crying in heaving sobs.  No idea how I didn't wrap my car around a telephone pole or another car.  Not sure I cared about either at that point.  I drove the fifteen miles to home where I curled up on the bed with my dog and poured out my grief onto her.  She had no idea what the tears were about, but she was the best and ablest of every being I knew of coping with it.  

Due to an insurance snafu, I couldn't arrange surgery for three months.  Three whole months of imagining this strange 'other' growing inside me that would kill me if I let it.  Hoping it was not growing too fast.  Fearing it was.  Hating something that was part of me - only different.

Trying to figure out how to tell my family, my boss, my friends.  Most of whom had never had someone close to them get sick.  Amazed that my mom was a rock.  I was strong for all of them and did not shed a single tear.  Not until my sister-in-law Cindy broke down and cried in my arms and that gave me permission to do the same.  I didn't realize until then how much I needed that - to share the feelings with someone instead of being tough and going it alone.  That is one of my life's lessons, to allow someone to care for me.  I am still working on it.

I learned how to say things like cancer, metastasis, hysterectomy without flinching.  I kissed any chance of children of my own good-bye even as my brother Phil was expecting his first.  And the nexus sucked me in tighter.

As surgery neared the stress became intense.  The day before surgery I escaped the best way I know how - the movies.  I treated myself to a double feature of Harry Potter I and The Fellowship of the Ring. 8 hours of movie magic that took my mind off of what was to come.  In between I ate Schlotzky's at five minutes before my cut off time for NPO (an action I would come to regret mightily after they took my bowels out looking for metastasis and then re-instated it.  Add 3 weeks of narcotics and what you get is a holy mess).

Most of the three weeks around surgery are a hazy fog of percocet.  I took them liberally as prescribed.  I don't know that they helped with the pain, but they certainly helped keep me from becoming mired in depression.  That would come six months later when my dog moved on and my niece Tori was born.  I would see nothing but the shadow of the nexus for the next year as it squeezed me breathless.

For five years my life circled the nexus called uhavcancer.  There was no yesterday.  There was no tomorrow.  There was only now.  Everything was offered up in sacrifice to the gods of recovery.   And the price that they demanded was steep indeed.  No children.  No more binge drinking.  No more recreational drugs.  Giving up every friend I had, who in retrospect were fellow alcoholics, to move toward a better life.  Instead those things would be replaced with organic food, holistic remedies and lots of meditation.  Those are the things that sustained me thru those years circling.  That and a few great new friends who materialized as if by magic.

I guess the gods of recovery smiled on my offerings, because one day eight or so years down the road I broke free of the gravitational field of that singularity that kept me in thrall.  I have never looked back except in gratitude for the spectacular changes that came into my life as a result of this experience.  It was a great gift to me albeit the toughest of tough love.

But it is time to stitch the Before and After back together into one seamless ribbon again.  While I am not that person any more, I still remember her and want to offer her memory a soft place to fall.

About damn time too.

A Wednesday Rant

I can't tell you how many times I have heard you speak about personal integrity and working from that place.  How I respected your vision and you for those words.

But it turns out they are empty words from a hollowman devoid of any integrity.

I still respect the vision.  I no longer respect you.

River of Stones Submission

The January River of Stones project is soliciting pieces for inclusion in a book they are publishing.  I know.  How cool.  So, here are the ones that I sent for consideration regurgitated for you.  Thanks to everyone for their feedback.  Special thanks to the ladies in my small group at WWfaC.  You guys are da bomb!



The skin 
remembers 
long after the mind 
forgets.

My childhood 
was carefully 
bordered in 
yellow angles
with a
high gloss
shine.


Lake ice,
window of the 
water house below.

Hold a piece up 
in front of the sun
it becomes my window too.


Small Stone #17
Small sliding steps
tentative
listening for any 
groan or creak 
that means 
breaking through.


Small Stone #18
Like the ivory 
white dominoes 
of my childhood
they fall

singly

or
in
groups

And I wonder when all 
my fears are toppled,
what will remain?


Small Stone #28
The dove startled 
from its slumber
in the pine tree
by the light
flies blindly
into the window
again and again.


There is an art
to true listening
that makes me
feel lovingly held.
Yeah.   I changed it up.  It is just time to let the wintery trees fade.  Not quite spring but the magical time in-between.  I chose this layout (not that I need to explain)  because I am an inveterate doodler and most of my notebooks have pages that look rather like this one.  But think more day of the dead skulls and less hearts.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Distillation

On a day such as today,
it is good to remember
that I have the blood
of kings
and of peasants,
of philosophers
and poets,
of scientists
and musicians,
of writers
and farmers.

And all of that has been
finely distilled down
to render the person
who is me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Silver Dreams


In my dream 
the Louis XIV chair 
is stacked with portfolios 
and folders full of manuscripts 
dripping white pages 
from the silver cushion 
onto the snowy floor. 

Atop them all is a silver 
white birdcage, door ajar. 
I do not wonder where 
the bird has gone, 
just stand transfixed at the 
sight of the empty cage.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weird Scientific Thought

Last night I dreamt that I went to the little convenient store down the hill, you know, the one next to Starbucks run by the Pakistani family?   I bought a pack of my favorite kinda smokes.  Stood in the parking lot and smoked every last one of them.  And it was good.

I have been a smoker most of my life.  About two months ago, I just kinda laid them down and haven't really thought about them again.  Weird.  No fuss.  No cravings.  Just done.  Even weirder considering that I am unemployed and the stress is sometimes - well - yunno - the kind that results in me sitting in the corner playing my lower lip like an instrument.  And that kinda thing sometimes makes the cravings obscene.  But no.

It got me to wondering though.........

As a scientist, I know:

1)  that the more you smoke the more nicotine receptors your brain cells make.  Those receptors are demanding little fucks that yammer constantly for more.  When you quit they go bat shit crazy and tantrum like a toddler in Kroger's who can't have his Lucky Charms.  But if you resist long enough, they begin to be recycled and they get fewer and fewer in number.  One smoke is all it takes to get the machinery rolling again to make more pouty receptors.  Any smoker who has quit and gone back can tell you that even one can lead to tremendous backslide.

2)  that my brain does not distinguish between what is really in front of me and what I remember, at least as far as activity.  If I see a book in an MRI a certain part of my brain becomes active.  If I remember a book, same area lights up.  It clearly does some kinda brainy hocus pocus in there to sort them out because, if everything I imagined were real the Sta Puft Marshmallow man would be the least of our worries.  Some sort of neural higher process is applied to the raw data that sorts it into 'real' v 'memory'.

Damn, that girl is thinking some weird shit.  How she ever gonna bring it all together?

Well here goes.  My question is this:

If what I imagine has the same result in my brain as what is, then if I imagine smoking a cigarette, or in this case dream I smoked a whole pack, does that start the receptors being produced?  


Inquiring minds wanna know, because I may just have to send the dreamtime board of health in to that market and shut it down if the dream smoking continues.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Thunk and the Whoosh

I'm sure the primitive architects of Stonehenge had a moment as they prepared to place the huge sarcens.  The tension preceding letting it go, almost unbearable.  The huge slabs were carted from distant venues and hand-shaped to fit together.  Would the stone break?  Would it be seated crooked?  They held their breath and watched as it slid easily home with a reverberating 'thunk'.  Straight and tall.  As if it had always been there.  All tension expelled in a single 'Whoosh'.

There are moments in my life that have that same 'thunk' and 'whoosh'.  Moments that were just supposed to be.  Moments where the first drop flows into something larger and better like stalactites growing on the cave ceiling.  They are always preceded by extreme tension as things clog at the bottleneck.  Then 'Thunk' as things are released and fall into an easy natural place followed by the 'Whoosh' of things flowing freely again.

Recently, I have been in that breath-holding phase of the bottleneck over my career.  Trying to remind myself of the importance of oxygen and how breathing is good for that.  But I think I heard the faint rumble of things beginning to slide into place.  My ears perked for that 'Thunk'.  The backup started a week ago when I realized that I couldn't sit on my butt and do nothing forever and that it was time to get a move on it.  Decide what I was going to do next.  That led to twirling mad carnival thoughts, an overdose of funnel cakey stomachache, and puke-em-up ride disorientation.  Welcome to Crazytown bee-yotch says the clown in my head.  (And you wonder why I don't like clowns).

After careful deliberation, when I can get the crazy quiet enough to actually think, science is what comes next.  It is my passion.  It is the constant that keeps me grounded, keeps me exploring, keeps my brain busy with real thinking so that the carnival-y thinking can be packed away and carted off to the next town.  Buh-bye!

That started the vision. The planets (and some really great allies/friends) aligned to put me where I need to be and to start pushing against the block.  Less than a week later, there is the 'thunk' I needed.   The funny thing is there is no job.  The one I thought I was going to interview for, was offered to someone else today.  I still have an interview on Tuesday for a job that doesn't exist - YET!  I trust that it will be.  That this is where I am going to be.  I don't know how it is going to work out.  But it will because I feel 'home' when I think about it.  God I have missed that.

And just a note to my circus peeps: could you please put up the net just in case I miss the trapeze?

Photo by Duz of me at Stonehenge.  5/09

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking Out My Kitchen Window

I have blogged before about the sighing space behind my apartment, a little piece of undeveloped land where all sorts of beings hang out.  Over the last three months, I have spent a great deal more time at home during the day and especially just standing there gazing out over the winter landscape into that patch of woods.

Each season presents a new face to me out there.  Soon it will be dusted with the palest green as things begin to wake up from their winter sleep.  But right now it is still all bare tree limbs.  I like this view because everything that moves back there is so visible without the cover of foliage.  I can see the deers bedded down for naps in the afternoon, squirrels frantically chasing one another across the opposing hillside, birds of all sorts - especially the woodpeckers who will be impossible to spot in a couple months.


So while the coffee steeped, I stood there eyes softly focused.  Not watching.  When a hawk swooped down onto a bare limb.  That caught my full attention.  A big red shouldered hawk distinguished by the strongly barred tail and wing feathers visible as he landed.
(Absolutely stunning photo is by Cary Maures I found on the internet).  Impossible to look away from him, he was just that gorgeous.

But I also noticed that some of the other inhabitants did NOT share my enthusiasm.  The squirrels quickly darted to safety and the sparrows and chickadees flitted silently away from the feeder where they had been happily congregated exchanging their morning avian gossip.  Until he sat perched out there all alone in the sighing space.

My mind meandering while I stood sipping coffee.  Remembering a post from earlier this week about animal helpers or totems if you prefer that terminology (FYI - I find totem carries too much baggage for me but, that's me).  In it I pondered the benefits of a helper like hawk versus one like sparrow.   How we all secretly hope to get the sexy, powerful one and fear finding out that we have cockroach as a helper.  How we are more reluctant to claim small helpers of any kind, or more accurately those we perceive as small/less attractive, than we are to loudly claim those we perceive as large and powerful.  When, in truth, all are equally powerful, just differently abled.  It's like comparing Thor to Ironman.  Both are superheroes.  But each has a completely different skill set.  So that if you needed to go to Asgaard, Ironman would be useless.  And Thor wouldn't help much if you needed someone who could help you invent some cool new technology.  (Smooches TStark)

I know alot of people who embrace hawk as their helper/totem.  Most of them are very much like that red shouldered beauty out in my woods - powerful, but essentially alone.  And I get to thinking about those power totems we claim so readily - bear, eagle, hawk.  Nearly all of them are loners.  There are exceptions - wolf, raven.  That aloneness is simply no choice for me and that makes accepting Sparrow so much easier.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mackie

Insistent.
Incessant.
He barks.
The neighbor's dog.

I don't blame the dog, a beautiful yellow lab who is a huge heart with legs.
I blame his owners.
I blame them for not teaching him better.
I blame them for succumbing to the cuteness of puppy, but not wanting a dog.
I blame them for abandoning him to the yard for entire days.
I blame them for spending no time with him.
I blame them for acquiring him as their trophy dog.
I blame them for not ever taking him on walks.
I blame them for not loving him back.
I know what that feels like.

My neighbors are selfish pricks.
And I want to steal their dog because they don't deserve him.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Silver Dollar

One of my friends posted a pix today of a Pacman token he carries with him for luck.  The counterposts were equally intriguing as people fessed up to what was in their pocketses.  That of course got me to thinking.............

When my dad left home at 16 (he may have been kicked out by the evil step mother.  That part of the story isn't clear), he had a dollar in his pockets.  A silver dollar to be exact.  It was 1936.  He went to live with an aunt who lived nearby.

As long as I can remember, until his death in 1984 he always carried that silver dollar in his pocket.  Oh there were a crap load of other things in there as well.  Watching him empty his pockets was oddly fascinating like watching a woman unload a purse she has carried for a while.  Pocket knife.  Miraculous medal.  Five dollars in loose change.  An odd nut or screw that he would stash later on his workbench.  St. Christopher.  A rubber band.  Bits of string.  One key ring complete with 30+ keys.  And those are just the things I remember.

The silver dollar was the largest item in there.  Easily distinguished by the nearly complete lack of markings on both sides as if it were a slug.  If you skylighted it, you could still make out faint impressions of the eagle on one side and the lady on the other.  The coin had been worn flat by years of rubbing against the weighty contents of his pockets as he moved through his life.

He also collected silver dollars and going through his stuff after the funeral we came across stacks and stacks of these.  The original went with him when we did our Viking send off sans burning boat of course.  I don't know why I think of it this way, but I do.  And if there had been a boat to put him on I might well have lit the torch myself.  Never before or since have I ever thought of someone's funerary preparation as Viking, but this one fit the bill as each of us took our turn to make sure he had what he would need for a happy afterlife in Valhalla.  Driver's License. Credit card. Photos of us.  Hand written notes folded like origami.  Perhaps a snack.  I don't remember the specifics of this just the general feeling of preparing him for the next leg of his journey.  And then he was gone.

In the long weeks that followed there were a lot of things to clean up.  Things that he had collected for years.  Things that represented the essence of who he was.  Discarding those things was among the hardest of tasks.  And there were times that I was unable to do anything more than just stand there numb.  I wanted them to stand forever like little monuments to this person that had passed through the world largely unnoticed.  Wanted to leave it all exactly as he had so that I could lie among them and feel close to him again.  In the end though, it all went somewhere else.

My brothers and I took small reminders or big.  I took a beat up hammer from his workbench.  I didn't know why.  I would gift it to my very handy younger brother Phil 20 years later with a note I wrote on my dad's behalf telling Phil how proud he was of him and it would somehow bring healing to Phil and allow him to see our dad thru different eyes.  Also his mess cup hand, engraved with every destination he served in WWII.  That went to my nephew Josh who had yet to be born but whose military career meant he would appreciate it.  For myself,  I took the bowtie to his Knights of Columbus dress uniform to remind me that people are more than they seem on the outside.  And I took a single silver dollar from the stack so that I could carry it in my own pocket and always remember how wealthy I am.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Word for Word

A fellow blogger today posted that her blog is 5 years old.  Intrigued, I just had to go look.

In January of 2006, I began writing an monthly e-newsletter for my Reiki Healing Circle.  Trying to keep a group of disparate individuals plugged into a common center, encouraging them to utilize what they had been trained for, discussing inventive new things, and providing support to that group.

I learned alot during that time.  I figured out how to mash up a newsletter that was visually interesting and had some thought provoking stuff in it.  I knew most of them ended up in virtual circular files all over the city, but still I kept at it.  The practice of writing for that helped me understand that I had stuff to say.  And what I had to say was not limited to the topic of spirituality or healing.  I needed a bigger soapbox from which to crow.  So, the last e-newsletter was assembled and mailed in December 2008.

My blog initially started on Myspace (remember that?) and the first tentative entry was posted April 9, 2008.  I was pretty sure no one would read it much less give a rabid squirrel fart for anything I had to say.  But I kept at it.  Mostly I did it for me.  These early posts are almost like an on-line diary of sorts.  And every time I dated someone new, I would comb through the archives and purge pieces about previous BF's.  That writing is all lost now.  Not that I care much, most of these pieces are drivel.

When my friends switched over to Facebook so did I.  But, the blog function there was non-existent.  Still is.  Although they have made cross posting from Blogger to FB seamless.  So I started looking around for a place to stash my words.  At least some of them.  My niece was posting on Blogger about her stay at Oxford and so I came here.  I brought over many of the blog pieces from MS.  Admittedly, there was another purge here too.

I see now that how I treated the writing was indicative of how I felt about myself.  Pieces that needed to be hidden.  A world that need to be protected from ugliness.  How I would write a piece because it made me feel better to vomit it out.  Then like a bulimic I would need to hide it.  With each keystroke and click of the What-the-Fuck button aka Publish I grew stronger and felt less need to hide.  It is not my responsibility to care for the world.  Only me.  And if the world doesn't get me or my writing then that's on them.

So officially my life as a blogger is approaching 3 which means I am still in my terrible twos.  I think I will go have a tantrum.  Oh wait I did that last week.   Shortly after I started pushing my words out into the ether, I enrolled at Women Writing for a Change.  Pretty much a done dealio now.  Those two practices synergistically amping up the writing, making me care less what anyone thinks about it (I will always care what you think, I just can't let that affect me) - yes that includes BF's.  No more deleting chunks to assuage someone else's sensibilities.  This is me raw and uncensored.  Word for word.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Let's Get Small

A small thing can really hang you up.  Don't believe me.  Try adding two lines on your income tax return that were supposed to be subtracted.  Or what happens if you omit your SSN from a grant application.  Or how distracting a single tiny rock in your boot can be when you are hiking.  I could go on, but suffice it to say I have some familiarity with how small things trip me up.  I tend to worry small things like rosary beads.

What I am working on now is understanding how there are just as many small things that help me.  Someone who smiles at me when I am in a punk ass mood.  The stranger who alerts me to the entire bag of groceries I left on the U-Scan checkout.  A feeling that sends me right instead of left and I run into an old friend.  Being as conscious of these as I am the other.  Being grateful for both.

All of this rambling musing is brought to you today by the sparrows pecking away noisily at my feeder.   Did you know that sparrows are not native to the USA?  Like so many of us they are British imports.  They aren't as flashy as the cardinals or as charming as the nuthatches and chickadees.  They are small, boisterous and communal.  I never see just one out there. Yet inexplicably I like them.

The sparrows got me to thinking about totems.  I thought how amazing these little birds would be to have as allies and wondered what they might signify.  I could look them up in Animal Speak*, but I would rather hear what they have to say before I do.  Somehow I always feel like I'm shortchanging the experience when I do that because once I know what Ted thinks, I stop listening to what the sparrows have to say.  If I can resist that urge to define, classify and know right away, then I am usually gifted with something much richer and more personal than anything I might find in those pages.

Sparrow may not seem all that awesome.  They are small and common as dirt.  One thing my shamanic training has taught me is not to underestimate my allies based on their size.  Size among allies is not related to power.  Not even close.  This point has been stressed by nearly every teacher who invariably then goes on to tell me about all the fantastical, strong and powerful helpers they have.  Just once I would love someone to tell me about their helper Ant or Mouse or Sparrow.  Maybe we are embarrassed to claim something that is inelegant, lowly or small.

But there is a real power in embracing all the help that comes my way.  Large and small alike.  Especially right now with so much of my life feeling unsettled.  So this week I will be hanging out with the Sparrows to see what they have to teach me.  But I can already see that there is something here related to expectation and size.

And as I wrote this I had to laugh.
Sparrow?  Really?
Really really.


* Animal Speak by Ted Andrews is a great resource.  Don't get me wrong.  I love this book and use it frequently.   It is a great place to jump off if you are a beginner.  But I might encourage anyone who has been at this awhile to resist the urge to always go with what the book says.  See what the animals say to you. Then by all means pick it up and read it.  It will lead to deeply layered and interesting insights.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Be a Ditch Digger

My dad always told me "I don't care what you do honey.  Be a ditch digger.  But be the best damn ditch digger you can."  It was usually said in response to my angst about not knowing what to do with my life.  Don't get me wrong.  This is the same dude who would also try to convince me to drop out of school, get married and have babies as a career option.  Between the two extremes, there's not really much in the gamut of career choices he put forth.

Bereft of parental input, I did what every college student does.  I postponed deciding.  I went to grad school.  Cuz school I knew.  School I was good at.  But eventually I couldn't put it off any longer.  Grad school was significantly less satisfying than undergrad and I was forced to live on $6K a year which was less than when I was an undergrad.

I feel really lucky.  Incredibly lucky.  OK.  I feel like a savant.  I backed into a career that I loved.  One that fed me in every way for 25 years.  I would listen to my friends talk about their jobs and wonder why they did them if they hated them so.  It took me years to comprehend that I had been given an extraordinary gift.  I had, in the words of my dad, "fallen into the shitter and come out smellin like roses."

When I started working full time in research the people around me were creative, smart and goofy as shit.  So while experiments were cooking, there were chair races in the hall (one that nearly put me through a plate glass window on the 7th floor), unicycles to attempt, people to kill in effigy, booby traps to lay for unsuspecting lab partners.  There was so much laughter and some really great science in those days.

I'm not sure when that changed.  Maybe it was when my employer decided to become the number one pediatric hospital in the US.  Maybe it was during the first (repeated again in the second) Bush administration that strangled funding for research.  Hell, maybe it's as simple as we all got older.  All I know is that the light went out of the research as it became more and more corporate.  It stopped being fun.  The people around me became increasingly buttoned down and tedious.  That is just a bad combo.  Researchers work best when they are allowed a creative and open environment - kinda like artists only they work with DNA and stuff.

Anyway - that part of my life is over.  Maybe I will go back to it, maybe not.  Until then I am puttering.  Started work today as a cleaning lady.  Not quite the ditch digger.  Probably closer to the married with babies.  The thing is - that I liked it.  I mean really liked it.  I KNOW.  I was as surprised as anyone.  It was dirty and really hard work.  But I have had a job with lots of responsibility, stress and requiring LOTS of thought.  Cleaning a dirty toilet, while it isn't exactly smelling of roses, doesn't create stress.  I mean, no one's gonna die or lose funding or get fired if I don't clean it exactly right.  And if I daydream or scheme a bit of plot in my head who cares?  Who would even know?

I am not above hard work.  Everyone should have a job doing physical labor at some point in their lives.  If for no other reason than to make you more aware of the people serving your food, picking up your trash, hauling your packages cross country and, yes, even cleaning your toilet.  And at the end of the day I know I worked hard, got done what was expected and still had lots of time for poetry.  There is a respectability in working hard that lets you sleep well at night.  Enjoying it - that's just in my DNA.

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...