Friday, April 30, 2010

What Am I Supposed to Do?

This morning my mind woke me up singing Norah Jones' "What am I to you?" ... only the words were "What am I supposed to do?" 

I'm not sure why or what the object of the question is ... what am I supposed to do about what?  There are a lot of questions in my mind right now ... most of them of the everyday variety, some of them of the "which path to take" type but none of them the huge "spin in circles" sort so why is my mind rewriting Norah Jones songs and playing them like a wake-up radio station?  Is there something I'm missing?  Is there something I'm supposed to do that I've overlooked?

I've often thought that if the Universe wanted to deliver a message to me that it would be far more effective if it just wrote it in ten foot letters across the sky.  This subtle nudging just makes me a little crazy.  Does it mean X or Y?  Does it mean anything at all?

By the time I got out of bed and was brushing my teeth, my mind was playing words from Rilke ... but just out of hearing.  I could feel the rhythm and sense the meaning but couldn't get the actual words so I went to my quote file and found:
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear friend, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. 
 -- Rainer Maria Rilke
Great advice but that wasn't exactly what I was hearing so I prowled around further until I realized I was hearing T.S. Eliot's message from The Four Quartets, which I think I've posted here before:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
So what am I supposed to do?  Wait.  What do I want to do?  Not wait.  "But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting."  And life is giving me the opportunity to wait so I'm going to breathe in and wait.  Today I will even try to wait graciously.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poetry Month #6: Quien Sabe by Joyce Wycoff

Quien Sabe
Who knows?
Who knows what this day will bring?
Who knows what this life, this year,
This minute will offer us?
But here in Boca de Tomatlan
There is a rich sweetness that only
Seems to show up at the fringes
Where one field bumps up against another.
River and sea, jungle and beach.
Cement pourers shape a living room floor
Eighty-five steps up the side of a mountain while
Touristas pour space-age dollars into a timeless past.
Diversity flourishes at the edges.
Here there are many edges –
A man in an orange t-shirt casting a
Turquoise fishing net;
A grandmother pounding clothes on river rocks;
A child playing with a mountain mongoose
Under the multi-colored criss-cross of drying laundry …
Scenes captured through a ten megapixel Canon
That would feed a family of four for months
By a visitor whose vacation dollars
Will help feed the multitudes.
Bountiful nature does her part also with unlimited
Red snapper, grouper and shrimp from the sea,
Sweet jack fruit and papayas as big as pebbly footballs;
Backyards filled with banana and coconut palms.
Nearby, Los Arcos shows off its underwater diversity
As white-striped angel fish writhe in a purple and orange 
frenzy for bits of bread dropped into the water 
by giggling children of all ages.
Multitudes of striped jacks join the fray while a stately pair
Of Moorish Idols glide disdainfully at a distance
Their long, graceful plumes waving above them.
In the bay, fishermen pole their boats around the shallow
s-curve sand spit that divides river from ocean even as bells 
announce the first Sunday mass over the chorus of roosters
while in the distance mariachi music pulses into the morning.
Soaring inches above the flat, green water, brown pelicans  
Scout breakfast then return from their fishing forays 
To make their stands on the silent, rocking outboard motors 
While a snow white heron stretches its long thin neck
In a rhythmic sun dance to the sound of the surf.
Across the river at Casa de los Artistes,
Paints, canvases, brushes and dozens of gel mediums wait
For another day of immersion in the creative spirit.
Here even more edges mix and mingle as
The hard edge of Photoshop blends into the soft edge of collage
While an arrogant rooster demands a place in every art piece.
Quien sabe?
Who knows?
Who knows what life will bring us?
Sometimes an answer, more often a question,
But always, always and in all ways,
A reminder to live each moment and
Grow where we’re planted.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Mindset of Freedom

Live. A lot. Unleash yourself upon the world and go!  Go now! And fly free in the frowning face of convention.  Giggle.  No laugh.  No, howl as if you've never grown up.  Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal, this is it!  Take it all in.  Yes every last rose and every single breath.  
-- Mercedes ad 2000
I've always considered myself an independent person and I think most of my friends and associates would agree.  And yet, my actions in certain aspects of my life have run counter to that sense of independence.  I got married when I was twenty-one and stayed basically married until a year ago.  In the process, I became very adept at supporting the interests, desires and hobbies of the men in my life.  Over the year I've encouraged the purchase of and time spent on typical boy toys such as motor cycles, hot cars, airplanes, RVs, boats, golf and fishing equipment, guns, knives, bows and arrows and so on.

Somewhere along the line I became better at supporting them than I was at supporting myself.  This was not their fault or their doing.  It was completely mine.  It wasn't that they wouldn't have supported what I wanted to do (and often they were very generous about doing exactly that); it was more that I forgot what I wanted, forgot to give myself permission to explore my own wants and needs.  I defaulted, and over time the marriages defaulted, to being more about their interests than my own.

During this past year of being officially single, I've started to realize just how much I've put my own interests on the back burner and, actually, how much fun it is to be very me-centered ... to do what I want, when I want, go where I want, spend my time the way I want, eat what I want, sleep when I want ... and buy what I want. 

Yesterday, I went out and bought myself what would typically be considered a boy toy ... I guess in this case it's a girl toy which you can see in the picture.  It's called an A-liner and could be considered a portable nap-couch but, to me it represents freedom.  Freedom to go where I want, when I want and know that I can handle it by myself.  It's like wings ... I can fly wherever I want and stay for as long as I want.  It's a small thing literally but a very big thing figuratively ... an honoring of my own wants and a claiming of freedom for my life.

However, freedom is a mindset.  It isn't necessary to be single or completely self-indulgent to be free.  Freedom can happen within a marriage, within a commune, within any relationship just as well as it can for a single person.  In my case however, because I had lost the mindset of freedom, I've needed this period of self-centered singleness in order to regain my sense of what it is I want, who I am, what's important to me.  I am incredibly grateful for this time and the circumstances that have forced me to explore and reclaim the weft and warp of my life.

I know the next step on this journey will be to recognize the responsibilities that accompany this great freedom.  I do not intend to spend the entire remainder of my life in a hedonistic quest for pleasure (although it is a wee bit tempting).  I want the freedom to follow my own interests for doing good in the world every bit as much as I want to be able to indulge my passion for exploring the world in my own little bit of winged freedom. 

But, for right now ...isn't it just the cutest thing in the world?

Monday, April 26, 2010

One Heron and Two Fishermen

Yesterday I introduced my friend Lynne to Yosemite and it was a great day filled with exuberant waterfalls, enough spring-green to feed my greedy soul, a blue heron who only tolerated us a little, a Chinese wedding with an exquisitely beautiful bride and these two fishermen who meet every year to fly-fish the Merced river.  Life bubbles over and cascades with abandon from the snow-capped mountains to the sea.

It was one of those perfect days where peace and beauty seeped into every pore and reminded me of this reverently irreverent statement from Edward Abbey:
"One final paragraph of advice:  Do not burn yourselves out.  Be as I am -- a reluctant enthusiast ... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.  Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.  It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.  While you can.  While it's still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and you head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much:  I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.  I promise you this:  you will outlive the bastards."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Is Whining Easier?

My friend Doris gave me a gentle nudge this morning ... I haven't posted a message for a week.  I could plead busyness but the truth is stranger than that.  Things are going so perfectly I don't have anything to whine about.  Which makes me wonder why whining is so much easier than ... what is the opposite of whining ... bragging? 

That's the problem ... talking about the perfection of life seems like bragging ... like the hubris of tempting the gods.  But why shouldn't we talk as freely about all the goodness that comes our way as the trials and tribulations that make us reach out for the comfort of others?  Currently I am bowled over by the perfection of my life.  And while I know that "this, too, shall pass," if I don't revel in the gloriousness of this present abundance, aren't I just inviting it to leave?  Shouldn't I speak each instance of perfection just as much as I examine each moment of darkness.  Isn't perfection lurking in both?  While we know each trial contains a gift and a lesson and part of our spiritual journey is to find and appreciate the perfection of those trials, we ... or at least I ... almost skip over the glorious moments as if they are only gifts and don't carry their own lessons.

My life right now is perfect in so many ways but perhaps the most challenging for me to accept is "the house."  After my husband died three years ago and his income was lost as well as most of mine as I cared for him, I decided to let my house go into foreclosure.  My penance for this financially irresponsible act was to live my life as a renter, or so it seemed.  But, as I transitioned from renting in Colorado to renting in California, something happened which I can only view as the Universe intervening.

Here's the storyline:  I fell in love with a house on March 23rd but knew there was no way that I could qualify for a mortgage.  So I tried to get a lease option but the sellers didn't want that.  I gave up, moved on, tried to forget about it.  Yet, through a series of miracles, one month, to the day, later I had a pre-qualification letter on a loan and was in escrow. 

There are so many ways this story wouldn't have happened that it has to be a miracle.   If the rental market here in the foothills hadn't been practically non-existent, I wouldn't have considered buying.  If a real estate agent hadn't asked me if I was sure I couldn't qualify for a loan, I wouldn't have even considered the possibility.  If a mortgage banker, called at random, hadn't checked on the details of my foreclosure and realized that I was now in the "safe" zone, I wouldn't have bothered trying.  And, most amazingly of all, if an absolutely spectacular house hadn't sat on the market gradually dropping in price till it reached my price range, it never would have happened.  I swear it was waiting for me.

And, the lesson in all of this can only be gratitude and a great longing to be worthy of this miracle.

About the image:  this is the view from my new front porch ... or at least it will be in about a month assuming all goes well with escrow.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


On March 30, I wrote in my journal:  Louise at Recover Your Joy announced a "Get in Motion" campaign and every fiber of my body said, "Yes, let's do it!" and then thought, "Whew I've been like a gerbil on an exercise wheel already ... maybe I need to get out of motion ... maybe I need to settle ... but I can't settle yet, I've got to trek 1300 miles to pack and move my stuff and then trek the 1300 miles back. And, I still don't even know where I'm going to live or how to make the project I'm working on go forward." 

Perhaps the question is WHAT we put into motion.  Right now I need patience and a calm, one-step-at-a-time approach to the multitude of strings that are pulling at my mind.  I need to remember that life is perfect and while I obviously cannot control the circumstances that come my way, I can control my response to them. 

Eighteen days later I write:  I can feel myself settling into calm and a sense of "rightness" ... right place, right work, right people, right direction.  I'm not sure I've ever felt so aligned with the Universe.  I found a charming cabin on the lake where I can live until the bank and I come to agreement on my dream home.  I'm working on a project to document the success of an incredible new high school here in the foothills and that work is pulling me into lots of new thoughts about how to spread the word of the new school models that are showing up.  And, my friend of twenty years who helped me make this transition is now looking around saying, "This would be a great place to live." 

As I sit here looking out the window, sunlight brightens the tips of the pines and bird song fills the chilly air.  Much of the world seems shaken and battered, but here serenity spreads across the morning like golden molasses.  The delicate balance of being in motion and being at rest now definitely tilts toward full stop and I breathe in this welcome lull from the chaos and confusion of the past year.  It makes me wonder once again at the difference time makes and how quickly life can turn a corner and open up an entire new world.  Alice falls down a rabbit hole and discovers Wonderland and we think it's a fantasy story when it's really just life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

When Things Go Missing

The pod is loaded.  The U-Haul is packed.  The car is crammed full.  The week of packing went exceptionally well ... except for the things that went missing.  The first was my wallet ... it was there and then it wasn't.  It's interesting to watch the thought process transition from "Where did I put it?" to "It MUST be here somewhere." to "It's really gone."  There were a lot of people in the house but my best guess is that I accidentally packed it away in a box.  The challenge was in two days I was heading off across country and I now had no driver's license, credit card, debit card or AAA card.  I began to scramble around trying to re-establish my identity.  (Is there a metaphor there?)

The second one was even weirder.  I was going to spend the night with my friend Lynne and as we got in the car to go to her house, she handed me her copy of my house key.  I took my copy off my key ring and added it to the small ring hers was on.  We drove to her house, walked in the door and I decided to put the keys back on my key ring so they wouldn't get lost ... and they were gone!  We looked every where, searched every nook and cranny of the car and retraced our steps ... I even went back to the house to see if I had dropped them in the street or something.  Nothing.

I feel like the chaos in my life has opened up cracks in the universe where things are disappearing.  I find myself yearning for routine and a sense of being settled.  It shows up in interesting ways such as obsessing about growing tomatoes.  I feel a little like a storm cloud racing across the sky when what I really long for is to just sit in a deck chair and watch white, puffy clouds float by.