Friday, September 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #39 - Do I still need a migratory life?

Acorns with acorn weevil grub

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

Pinezanita Cycles
the poplars are turning yellow;
one red leaf glows on my favorite maple;
ravens are soaring, always watching;
woodpeckers fill their granaries while
acorn larvae wriggle free and fall
to the ground from a perfectly round hole 
then burrow into the soil for two years 
before re-emerging as adult acorn weevils
in order to begin the cycle anew.
###

Climate change shifted my own cycle of migration, bringing me back early to what is supposed to be my winter residence. Dixie, a monster wildfire, largest in California history and covering almost a million acres, raged through my summer place, consuming homes, towns, landmarks, and businesses. Fortunately for me, it left my lakeside trailer unblemished, other than a refrigerator that went rancid while the power was off.


While the debate ranges about who or what to blame for the devastation, one fact stands out for me: the moisture content for processed lumber averages 15%. Northern California’s forests average about 5%. We are in the midst of a mega drought which is drying up the state’s key reservoirs and turning forests into standing kindling. Climate change experts say this could be just the beginning.



Choke cherries - I got to watch the cycle from bloom to berry.

Last week I logged 1400 miles, driving to Lake Almanor for what I expected to be two or three weeks of enjoying the lake after almost a month of being evacuated because of the fires. I awoke my first morning there to a power outage and no information about cause or duration.


On the second morning, my patience had thinned and I wanted information so I headed for a Chester coffee shop where I found that all of the small downtown area was running on emergency generators and the expectation for return of power was 20 days. The local power station had been destroyed by the fire and apparently the back-up substation had just been knocked out.


Even after a monster fire, the lake is still stunning

With that information, I decided to shut down the trailer for the season and return to Julian, grateful that I had a place to return to. On the return trip, a friend texted that the power had been restored. Who knows where the 20 day estimate had come from? However, I was already packed up and decided to continue toward Julian.


Driving through the heart-stopping beauty of the Eastern Sierra

Something happens to my head when I’m on a long trip. Having nothing better to do, it builds castles in the air and I, thinking they are real, move in and start rearranging the furniture. As always, this trip ended and the castle poofed. 


It was a fun ride though and now I get to sort out the grains of reality from the toppling pile of fantasy.


One jewel of reality is being back in Julian in the oak woodlands of Pinezanita RV Park in my cozy RV where the woodpeckers screech through the clean mountain air. They remind me that they build granary trees so they don’t have to migrate. And, I wonder: do I need to keep wandering south to north; north to south? What would nourish me enough to stay put in this embracing land all year round?

Maybe this is the beginning of my wisdom years ... 


Fall begins in Pinezanita


Been There Voices: Ruth Ann Hattori - Reflections on Japanese Internment


When I think of “been there,” I automatically think of the end of the cliché, “done that.” In the Done That category…

Marriage: I’m happily married to my 4th and final husband. Regardless of what happens in the future, there will be no more weddings.


Kids: My two wonderful kids are finally married off – to absolutely spectacular spouses. True to form, they are entrepreneurs, so not expecting any little ones soon. Our local family unit has grown recently as my stepdaughter and family have moved nearby. The three grandkids are really nice, respectful people (20, 18, 17)…it’s no wonder they worry about our influence on them! They will fit into Texas well, as “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” are in their vocab.


Jobs and careers: After running my own company, multiple Marketing Director, Product Development Director, Training Director positions, it’s hard to believe that I’m in the non-profit world. It’s eye-opening and thankfully fun as the team I’m with is mostly young, energetic and full of ideas. The marketing part is second nature, it’s the challenge of helping the Museum to reach the next level that’s exciting. Of course, there’s that thing about not really being “the boss” that is a bit of a rub every so often.


It’s the most recent Been There that has made me stop and think. Just one year ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, so my 2020/21 has been quite a roller coaster. I kept working – and boy, I have to say, that my work really got me up every morning and to my computer to keep my mind off of dark thoughts. But, because of my work, I probably didn’t spend as much time reflecting as one should.

Prior to cancer, we lost Mom to Covid in April 2020. I guess she was one of the early deaths in our country’s many. She was 96, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and was actually fairly healthy and “with it” except for her short-term memory until the end. Fortunately, she did not suffer for many days with Covid. Even before her death, and thanks to the National Museum of the Pacific War and our Day of Remembrance program, I had been thinking about her internment during WWII. More on that later.


I am truly thankful for the ups and downs of the last year. They do give me some focus on what to reflect upon and what to pursue. One thing I want to pursue is ensuring that all Americans do have a good sense of what happened during WWII – about internment, our initial awakening about racial bias in our culture and the stories of all of those millions of people who fought, supported and lived through that time. It is really true that WWII has shaped us as a country, and as time passes, we are losing both the stories and the lessons that we should have learned.


My mother was 18 in 1942, (shown in photo above) when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both the US and Canada interned people of Japanese heritage on their west coasts, whether citizens of their countries or not. I always admired that Mom reflected upon her experience as positive. She told me that she would have never been a teacher, and certainly not a school principal had it not been for her internment. She was one of numerous young, Japanese Canadians who became teachers in their camps. Many years later, a book titled “Teaching in Canadian Exile” was published which were, essentially, oral histories written by many of the women who taught, including one of my mother’s sisters. As I have read the passages, my mother’s recollection that her internment experience was probably not nearly as terrible as most Americans’ internment experience is probably true. However, the fact remains that they lost their family home and property, and left with nothing post war, like their American counterparts.


The Museum has over 5000 oral histories in its collection. As our population of WWII veterans dwindles, soon we will only have these oral histories to hear the stories in their own words. 


One of my goals for the Museum is that we find a way for these stories to be shared widely. 


-- Ruth Ann Hattori, Fredericksburg, TX, ideas unlimited entrepreneur

Click here for more about Ruth Ann and other Been There Voices  

________________________________________________________

Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Been There Voices: Anita Perez Ferguson - Poetry

Huichol Art ala Anita Perez Ferguson

I used to be older, very discouraged, and certain life’s summer season was done. It was then that I wrote these lines:

Am I writing or praying?

Am I writing, or praying, 
when I create a character 
and give her life?

Her ordinary moments 
reflect the hopes and fears 
that herd us toward 
divine guidance and shelter.

Am I constructing a plot, 
or meditating on her 
purpose and perils?

I listen to her heartbeat 
and see a creative spark 
reflected in her eye.

Am I writing or praying?

***

Summer Past


Summer past

Appears to be

Forever gone.

Never to come again.

Not to be annually recurring,

But spent.

Disbursed.

It’s company

Disbanded.


-- Anita Perez Ferguson, Santa Barbara, CA, young adult historic fiction author

Click here for more about Anita and other Been There Voices  


___________________________________________________


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

These things ... these joyous things


These Things ... These Joyous Things

elegant, long-needled, sunlit Jeffrey Pines,
clinging rabbit brush draping shadows
across the sparkled and crevassed granite rock,
Walker River riffling through the canyon,
Shingle Mill day use area inviting 
passing travelers to stop, rest, 
admire these joyous things...

these joyous things,
waiting for you,
hoping you see them,
wanting your heart to open,
feel the connection,
feel the eternity 
flowing between you.





9/12/2021 driving Highway 395 through Walker Canyon, stopping to do my gratitude journal in one of my favorite places.

I miss the Eastern Sierra.





Monday, September 6, 2021

Announcing: Been There Voices ... stories of wisdom from women who have lived long and learned much

From diversity comes wisdom

"I wanted a perfect ending. 
Now I've learned, the hard way, 
that some poems don't rhyme, 
and some stories don't have 
a clear beginning, middle, and end." 
 -- Gilda Radner

Few of us have fiction-perfect stories; all of us have struggles and joys, lessons learned, lessons forgotten and learned again. What we have after decades of surviving the ups and downs of life is Wisdom. Hard-earned wisdom stories that can be shared with others and, possibly, help them on their own journeys. 

The purpose of Been There Voices is to create an ongoing series of stories and thoughts from a diverse group of women who have lived long enough gather wisdom and are caring enough to want to share what they've learned. 

To start the ball rolling, I invited several women friends who have had varied lives to join a loosely defined process of sharing our stories and our wisdom. The ball is rolling slowly as we gather biographies and ideas into the Been There Voices tab shown at the top of this blog. Click here to meet the women who are sharing their stories.

Early in the pandemic, Barbara Gaughten-Muller, one of the voices of this project, invited me to be a guest on her peace podcast. It was a chance to share some of the thinking I had been doing about gratitude and generosity and their role as two sides of the same coin. I had been fascinated by so many of the pandemic scenes: generosity -- a pianist playing to Venice from a gondola -- and greed -- people stripping store shelves of toilet paper -- and how those actions related to feelings of gratitude.

Barbara suggested I use the podcast in the opening announcement for this new group as an introduction to me as well as to this fledgling process of increasing the number of us who are sharing our wisdom. 

We women who have reached the wisdom stage of life (and some reach it earlier, or later, than others) now live in a world which offers us multiple opportunities for sharing the lessons we've learned; however, sometimes we forget how much wisdom we've gathered, how much we've survived and how we have thrived.

These strange and challenging times desperately need wisdom. I hope we can be an example of shared wisdom and encourage others to tell their stories whenever possible. It is through story that we share our human connections as well as our collected wisdom.

Click here to watch

Please join us … please share your own wisdom in the comments section, or if you would like to be a guest contributor or a contributing member, please send an email to jwycoff at me dot com.

A question and a thought for you:

How might you tell your story ...
and to whom?

"Our species thinks in metaphors 
and learns through stories." 
-- Mary C. Bateson

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Kinetic Wave Sculptures: Reuben Margolin

Another find from my digital attic ... Reuben Margolin, a fascinating kinetic artist who deserved an updated look. I found this in his bio: 
I went to Harvard to study math, but changed majors and got a degree in English in 1993. Maybe, I thought, I could be a poet.
Upon graduating, writing wasn’t going too well and I decided what I needed was a better table to write on. So I built a round table that could drive and set out across the country in search of conversations about the meaning of life. It turned out that the only conversation I was having was why I was driving a table and so I ditched the table in Texas.

 Kinetic Sculpture: Dandelion Wave 

Click Here 

*** 2011 Original Post ... be sure to watch the video ... great studio

Here is a perfect example of the artist perspective (with the talent and skill to translate his perspective into incredibly beautiful reality). Plus, he's very cute.

From the YouTube description:  Reuben Margolin, a Bay Area visionary and longtime maker, creates totally singular techno-kinetic wave sculptures. Using everything from wood to cardboard to found and salvaged objects, Reubens artwork is diverse, with sculptures ranging from tiny to looming, motorized to hand-cranked. Focusing on natural elements like a discrete water droplet or a powerful ocean eddy, his work is elegant and hypnotic. Also, learn how ocean waves can power our future. Learn more about Reuben at http://www.reubenmargolin.com/


Monday, August 30, 2021

Flying Lessons

Most of us who have been using personal computers for awhile have a favorite software that acts like a junk drawer. Mine is Evernote and it passed the junk drawer stage years ago ... after twelve years, it is now a full on attic.  Evernote is an organizer's dream but can quickly become a tangled mess when discipline is slack. 

Charitably, I would describe my organization as mid-level, although it has been drifting toward tangled mess for awhile. With a little prodding from a highly organized friend, I've committed to tidying up. 

It may take awhile because, like any good attic, there are treasures hidden amongst the dust bunnies. One that appeared tonight was a bit of poetry that arrived a few years ago as I was reading about Unfettered Mind, the title of Kitty Ferguson’s biography of Stephen Hawking, which is a metaphorical paean to a life of freedom.

 While his body was locked in an immovable prison, his mind soared into the far reaches of space and time, unbound … unfettered … by the requirements of ordinary life (in large part thanks to his wife Jane’s constant care.) In spite of his decades of paralysis and continuing loss of physical abilities, Hawking said, “In my mind, I am free!”

I became fascinated by the fettered part of unfettered and wrote the following:

FETTERS are those things that bite and scratch,
Claw our spirits, drain our energies,
Withhold the light that shows us the way,
And, distract us from our path home.

FETTERS are the darts of judgment,
Telling us we’re not good enough,
No one will love us, we’re too old,
Slow, dumb, fat, ugly, clumsy,
IMPERFECT!

Darts thrown by the world.
Darts thrown by ourselves.

FETTERS are our neon limitations,
Blank spaces where there should be
Shapely arms or legs, IQ points, money, time,
Energy, mentors, a degree or certificate,
All the things we lack in order to be enough ...
Potholes, sinkholes, wounds, all the missing pieces,
All the many reasons we can’t do what calls us.

FETTERS are the gathered weight of the world:
Too much and too many ...
Stuff, expectations, pressures to fit in,
Be a success; be right; be normal;
Heaviness driving us into the ground while
The weighty expectation of future continuity
Sucks adventure from our bones.

FETTERS are the dark shadows of fear.
Creeping into the corners of our spirits …
Tendrils of failure, abandonment, pain, loss,
Sickness, poverty, entrapment, death,
Calling us to hide, lash out, freeze … or run!

FETTERS nurture the fear that clutches our heart,
And calls us to forsake the clear energy of flowers,
The kiss of morning mist shifting through trees,
The dance of children,
The frosted nuzzle of an old dog,
Or a slow afternoon of friends and family
Gathered around burgers and lemonade,

Joy traded for the weight of pieces of numbered paper.
For the protective shield of our limitations,
For our own acceptance of the world’s judgments,
For the comforting warmth of our hand-sewn quilts of safety.

Thank them, those many fetters, for their lessons,
And then let them go,
One by one,
and

FLY! 

-- Joyce Wycoff

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Been There Stories: life stories from women who have been there

 


Stories. Life stories. Life stories from real women leading real lives.

It's easy to be in awe of the exceptional ... the stars, the Olympic champions, the people who make sweet lemonade from life's bitter catastrophes. However, those stories come with a tendency to think those stars walk on a different plane, were given gifts not available to us mere mortals. It is easy to dismiss their stories and lessons as unrelated to us and our specific journeys.

And yet, anyone who has lived into their sixth decade and beyond has faced the dragon ... probably many dragons ... and survived. The intent of this project is to provide space for those stories; stories which can help all of us recognize our own strengths, our own wisdom, the uniqueness of our own journeys.

Been There Voices is about us, 
our lives, our successes and failures, 
our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. 
The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, 
however, this project focuses on the stories of women.

Been There Voices will begin officially in September 8, 2021




Monday, August 23, 2021

The Granary Tree, Volume 4 - Mountain Shadows Moon

FREE Digital version, click here.  Ad Free.


Life during Volume 4 turned a bit dramatic as the biggest
wildfire in California history began to sweep through the
Lake Almanor area in Northern California.
Although the official evacuation for my area has ended, 
the air quality is still Hazardous and 
I'm staying in Southern California
until it's safe to breathe up there.

Print copies are available ... email jwycoff at me dot com.

Sample pages:






back cover

















 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #38: Choosing Gratitude Resilience

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

Some images sear themselves into our consciousness: the Twin Towers collapsing, the young girl running down a road in Vietnam after a napalm attack, the picture of a struggling mother during the Great Depression. For me, another one has been added to that gallery as thousands of panicked people of Afghanistan mobbed the airport in an attempt to flee their country.

On this day dedicated to being grateful for my incredible life, I’m having difficulty getting past the raging monster fires spreading across the west, including my own beloved Lake Almanor area, the Delta variant threatening our health care system, the melting icebergs, lost animal species, and the incomprehensible rise in violence as our political differences turn toward madness. 

Watching desperate people flee a disintegrating government only deepens my rising sense of despair and hopelessness. My rose-colored glasses are circling the drain. Stop! 

But, stopping this cycle is like applying brakes to a locomotive. All I hear is the squealing of metal on metal as sparks fly. However, stop I must. Beyond this point, there be dragons.

I know gratitude helps. It’s a light in the darkness, but the shadow that holds me does not want to let go. It feeds me “but-what-abouts” until I gag. It tells me horror stories of past and present, paints pictures of apocalyptic bleakness, hellscapes of a dying world.

This, too, shall pass.

 The words are a whisper, but enough to calm my breath.

This, too, shall pass.
Everything changes.

I begin to list my right-now reality: I am alive, I’m amazingly healthy, sitting in a beautiful place surrounded by mountains, trees, and pristine air. There is food in my refrigerator, clean water from the tap, and the wifi is working. Friends are a phone call away; birds are singing; it’s a brand new day.

I remember what I have survived: death of loved ones and friends, disappointments galore, divorce, financial set-backs, lost jobs and homes I loved, a lonely childhood, and almost 76 years of life.

Gratitude slowly seeps back into the day as a blue bird explores the screen of my front door. I hear a squirrel digging through gravel to find a buried acorn and feel the cool morning air. All around me new acorns are growing, green apples are slowly turning red, and the top leaves of the poplars are turning yellow. Life is going on, turning into autumn, dancing to its own rhythms. I can’t control it, but I can flow with it.

Resilience and Gratitude

In a Psychology Today article, Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, states:

One key aspect of resilience is having gratitude practices.”

Canadian life coach Ray Samuels defines resilience as “functioning with a sense of purpose, meaning and forward momentum in the face of trauma.” Today’s world overflows with trauma, to the point that all of us seem to be just a bit shell-shocked, reacting to the many challenges of the world with fear, anger and symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Gratitude may be the best healer.
It doesn't change the circumstances, but it helps us manage them. As Jeff Thompson reminds us: “It reminds you that if you stop and pause, there is still good all around us and it is happening each day.” That’s what helped pull me out of the feelings of despair that surrounded me this morning: recognizing the good that surrounds me, remembering that I have weathered other storms, and knowing that I’m not alone.

4-word advice

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt asked Facebook readers what advice they would give their younger self … in exactly 4 words. The responses were golden (choose your friends carefully) … and sometimes brutal (do not marry him). The one that stuck with me was the most was “life does not wait.” I decided that my addition to that list would be Brother Steindl-Rast’s famous dictum: Everything is a gift!

 On my morning walk, while the jays squawked and the squirrels scurried, my mood lifted as I absorbed vitamin-N. I realized that I am actually grateful for the pain I’m feeling for the world right now. It means I’m human and have a heart. It means I can feel the pain of others; that I am connected; that we are all connected. 

In a life where I’ve often felt alone and disconnected, I am grateful for these feelings; grateful to be a part of life with all it’s sparkling joys and all its piercing disappointments. 

Topping off the morning walk was a gift: a small, blue Stellar's Jay feather: a reminder of other days, in a world where Jonathan Livingstone Seagull soared and the sequel Illusions introduced me to the power of rare, although simple and believable, gifts. I've been here almost a year and this is the first of these beautiful feathers I've found. This one was right in the middle of the path where there was no way to miss it.

Choosing to feel grateful is a choice; choosing to practice gratitude in the toughest of times is a choice which yields amazing gifts and results.

Read more:

“Resilience and the Practice of Gratitude. How a gratitude practice can contribute to your inner strength,” Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., Psychology Today, March 29, 2020
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-words/202003/resilience-and-the-practice-gratitude

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Exploding microwaves

This guy doesn't worry about icky microwaves.
A week or so ago (or maybe two or three), I had a microwave exploding incident. One of those where the whatever being heated took flight and covered the inside of the microwave. Now, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t such a major event. It wasn’t totally gross and didn’t interfere with the operation of the microwave. It just looked yucky. Three or four times a day it looked yucky.

Years ago Malcolm Gladwell popularized the theory of broken windows in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference explaining how small, unresolved incidents of crime leads to a breakdown in social norms and a mindset of crime. Broken windows became a symbol of minor disorder leading to a major issue.

I believe the metaphor extends to other areas of human behavior. I tolerated my dirty microwave day after day. Finally, I broke down and cleaned it. Suddenly, I could feel the difference. Without blowing it completely out of proportion, I felt cleaner, more in control of my world and my environment.

It surprised me how differently I felt about myself. I’m not a clean freak. My psyche doesn’t get a lot of self-worth from the cleanliness and orderliness of my environment. However, opening the now-clean microwave creates a visceral sense of well-being and control. I have to wonder if this is related to the outside world where wildfires are raging and I know I have zero control over them. Cleaning my microwave is within my sphere of control.

I’m not sure where this is going but just writing about it makes me want to get up and straighten the towel which is hanging akimbo on the oven rack. So far, I’m controlling the impulse.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #37: Creative Turmoil

Turmoil

by Joyce Wycoff
 
(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my Death Day: the 17th of every month, and which reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)   
 
Turmoil: a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty and perceived as a negative word and experience. Searching my database of about 5,000 quotes didn’t turn up a single entry. That seems odd since into every life a bit of turmoil always falls; why aren’t the philosophers waxing poetic about how to deal with it?
 
Right now, I’m in a state of turmoil, a boil-and-bubble cauldron of uncertainty and confusion, stirred by a new course from David DuChemin. I’ve been learning from David for several years now and have come to respect his art and his approach to the creative life. (His podcast A Beautiful Anarchy is one of my favorite 15-minute creativity boosters.) 
 
Recently, David patiently guided me through a push-back to one of his messages. I was absolutely sure he was off-base, at least for me and my situation. He asked a few questions and made some gentle suggestions, which I rejected until I woke up one morning with an aha that what he was saying was exactly what I needed to hear.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Forest Walk with Kimberly Ruffin

 

Pedestrian walk-way over Hamilton Branch

My new favorite source for wisdom and stories is Emergence Magazine, especially their podcasts which almost always touch a deep place within. On my walk this morning, I listened to Kimberly Ruffin’s podcast, “A Forest Walk.” You can do this meditative walk in your back yard, a park, or in a forest if you happen to have one handy.

This morning was cool, sunny with a dotted, white cloud sky. As I walked along a route that has almost become routine, Kimberly’s voice invited me into different ways of engaging in what she calls a “walk of faith.”

From Emergence Magazine: Kimberly Ruffin is a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and author of Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions. As a companion to Kimberly’s past Emergence essay “Bodies of Evidence,” she created a guided practice of walking through the forest. For Kimberly, faith is a continuous exchange of belonging, an experience that’s palpable among trees.

Click here:  A Forest Walk Podcast 

Along the walk she invites listeners to engage all their senses, witnessing the world around them. I felt a heart tug when she invited me to engage with all the life witnessing me and found myself pulled into words  …

I am water and stardust
walking through sky
treading on earth
receiving a cedar branch
receiving belonging

watching sunlight make sugar
in the graceful, bright Ponderosa needles
watching a bee gather nectar in a yellow flower

me witnessing him
he witnessing me.

When I sat in a small picnic area next to Hamilton Branch, I thought …

Time is not what the world wants.
It wants my attention,
my devoted, passionate attention. 




Thursday, June 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #36: Denim Carpet to My Wild Twin

My cooling-feet, sunset-watching spot.
by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my Death Day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.) 

75 seems like an odd age to start taking my life seriously. Perhaps because this is the 36th monthly love letter I’ve written to myself or because I can feel the sun lowering toward the horizon on this one wild and precious life, I know it is time … time to do the things I truly want to do, time to be the person I truly want to be. 

So what does that mean? Three questions in one. 

What does it mean to take life seriously? 

What do I truly want to do with the rest of my life? 

Who do I truly want to be? 

Definitely a denim carpet question … which deserves some backstory. 

Every week for the past ten years, with few exceptions, my friend Pat and I have had phone conversations which wandered without direction from dinner recipes to the state of our souls. Recently, for some unremembered reason, Pat said “denim carpet” … a twisting of carpe diem, the popular call to seize the day.  

That silly phrase tickled my funny bone and lodged itself in memory until I began this love letter and it popped to the surface and seemed to be the absolutely perfect phrase. I want to seriously seize the day … but with a grin. Denim carpet!

Another thread to this tangled tale comes from a wild man, a myth teller, a mystic, a weaver of enchanted language. Martin Shaw, where have you been all my life? 

Shaw’s book Courting the Wild Twin popped onto my Kindle store front and intrigued me enough to save the sample for later.  Samples seldom turn into sales, but this one hooked me on the first cast. Shaw’s language snipped the sinews binding me to the rational world and left me swirling through clouds of mythical images. One example comes from a way Shaw describes a character in a story:

"Hawk-nosed, thistle-haired, spark-eyed, yolk-fat with cobra-knowledge, pockets a-clatter with magics, brown fingers dragging rooster blood from the heart of the moon."

According to Shaw, "there is an old legend that says we each have a wild, curious twin that was thrown out the window the night we were born, taking much of our vitality with them."

He invites us "to seek out our wild twin––a metaphor for the part of ourselves that we generally shun or ignore to conform to societal norms––to invite them back into our consciousness, for they have something important to tell us."

 I hadn't read far before my wild twin jabbed me in the ribs and said … I WANT THAT!

In one of the myths that Shaw tells, a barren woman is given advice by an old woman (there’s always a wise old woman in these ancient tales). The old one says: “walk to the north-west part of the garden and, as you go, speak everything you wish to see arise.” 

Because this is a fairy tale, all that she spoke came to pass (with, some unexpected twists since this is, after all, a myth.)

It struck me that we aren’t adept at speaking what we want. We’re taught to live in the real world rather than a world that brings us what we want just because we speak it. How are we supposed to know, though, what we truly want if we don’t speak it? And, how does the world around us know what we want if we don’t say it out loud? That, of course, doesn’t mean that we will always like what arrives, even when it’s exactly what we thought we wanted.

The wild twin knows what she wants

and speaks it out loud.

Shaw says the wisdom of the old ones is available to all of us if we convince them that we’re serious. We do that through fidelity, by continuing to show up for what we are passionate about. Fidelity is a sign post of seriousness. Which made me wonder: to what have I shown fidelity?

One answer came immediately. While I tend to be prone to many enthusiasms and shifting whims of focus, I have been faithful for many years to my creative life of art and writing. In spite of not being showered by much interest or financial rewards from the outside world, I have created a steady stream of art and words documenting my personal exploration of the world’s beauty. 

Because I've taken this part of my life seriously,  the ancients may giving me a nod.

Shortly after arriving here at Lake Almanor, while looking for a guest artist for the next volume of The Granary Tree, I went into a rather remarkable local co-op art gallery … the Blue Goose. In the process of talking about which artist might fit, I showed the gallery owner a copy of The Granary Tree and Corona Wisdom. One thing led to another and I was invited to join the gallery. Delightedly, I accepted.

 
For the first time in several years, I once again have a gallery home. I’ve been in other galleries; however, this time, I’ve matured enough in my life as an artist that I actually feel like I belong. Something of that “imposter syndrome” seems to have dropped away. Regardless of how I’ve gotten here, I now consider myself an artist … seriously.

Maybe I’ve merged, just a bit, with my wild twin. She brought me this advice to share with you:

Take your life seriously.
It’s the only life you have.
You are the only you YOU have.
You are the only you the world has.
You came here to be someone special.
You came here to do something specific.
Do it.
Give yourself the gift of being YOU.

Denim carpet all the way down!