Friday, January 17, 2020

Love Letters to my life #19: Life on Joy Lane

Reno Dance
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. This month, I get to celebrate both my death day and my birth day on the same day!)
The refrigerator is naked, shorn of its magnets, clearly a sign that another move is underway. The number of moves I’ve made in my life is clearly ridiculous. 
However, I hear a whisper, “last time.” 
I respond, “I’ve heard that before.”

This time it could be true. This move was prompted by Joy … literally. Being raised poor, I sometimes have reactions that surprise me. Over my many moves, I’ve lived in a wide variety of homes, from a stunning, view home in Santa Barbara to a tiny cabin in the woods. Recently, my Social Security years have directed me to mobile home parks, ranging from elegant to funky. While there was a slight status adjustment to living in a “manufactured home,” it didn’t last long because they were well-built, comfortable, and felt like a “real house."

My move from Mexico to Reno landed me in an RV “park model” on the river; the equivalent of a tiny house, which was “quirky by choice.” “Quirky" tempered “tiny" leaving my status bubble in balance. When my space rent increased a few months later, I opened my thinking to other options and started looking at mobile homes again. Reno has recently gained the distinction of being one of the most expensive cities in the country, so affordable pickings were slim.  

When a realtor suggested an affordable option, all I heard was “old, single-wide trailer.” No way. It would be like being branded “poor and old; worthless." I refused to even look at it, offering excuses such as “flat roof” and “dark.” Jim played it perfectly, offering to keep looking. In the meantime, the thought of being in a park community with neighbors, an exercise room, pool, and so on, was growing on me, so I went driving around looking at possibilities. Nothing quite worked.

Jim called back with some other things to think about, places I’d already driven by and rejected. Then he said, “By the way, that place I told you about has a pitched roof. You really should look at it … the owners have completely remodeled it.” He went on to outline all the things they had done and sent me a link to the listing. The photos looked interesting but what caught me was the address: 1538 Joy Lane. How could I not look at something on Joy Lane?

However, I can’t say I walked in with an open mind or heart. I tried hard to find the fatal flaw. However, everywhere I looked, this small house had been remodeled with great love and beautiful materials. Slowly my objections drained away and I began to see myself living there. When the owners returned, they pointed out even more of the carefully crafted details and we developed a strong rapport. The next day I made an offer that was accepted. 
Joy Lane Kitchen
So, will this be my forever home? Who knows? I love Reno in so many ways (although cold, winter days are not my favorite). For the first time in many years, I'm living close to the only family I have, whom I love and enjoy immensely, and I’ve just found a place that fits me and my budget. I’ll miss living by the river but we know each other well enough now that I can visit frequently. 

And, I’m gaining neighbors and a club house. That’s rather amusing since neither has ever been high on my list of druthers. At this beginning of my 75th year, I feel like I’m in some sort of backward evolution process. For most of my life, I’ve been moving out into the world through school and career, choosing living spaces that let me sink into the solitude required for my introverted self. Now that I no longer spend the bulk of my time in the world of work, solitude is an overflowing joy -- one that needs to be tempered by interaction with others and enhanced by conversation and camaraderie.

A new life … on Joy Lane … one never knows where life will take us.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Eagle: in Nevada and in poetry

Yesterday was one of those everything days as we explored the Nevada outback (more elegantly known as the Great Basin) … cold with a few peeks of sunshine, occasional bits of tiny snowballs, and fierce, stinging winds that whipped around canyon walls. 
It's an empty world … until you look. In a cavity of a high rock cliff, we were stunned by a golden eagle's nest. 
On the floor far below, I spot the blue belly of a ring-tailed lizard who had left this world for another. An opalized seam of white cracks the towering rock face from tip to floor, scattering crystals this way and that in washes of rocks luring hungry eyes. Tiny white jaw bones with teeth still embedded and fossilized rocks hint of the past ... one that stretches far back in time.
It's a silent world that whispers its secrets only to the wind. If you want to know them, you have to stand close, listen, and imagine.
If I were an eagle, I’d want to sit on that high cliff with my equivalent of a cup of coffee and contemplate the world below me while warming the generation to come. I’d be loath to leave the secure nest I had built stick by stick. Eventually though, a scurry on the desert floor would rouse me into action and I would unfold my giant wings and "fall like a thunderbolt" toward my next meal.

This short poem has always been a favorite. Now I realize how incredibly accurate his words are.

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls. 
Thank you Annie and Don Tennyson for an incredible day.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I miss skin

Afternoon sunlight poured across the street.
Sometimes it seems I am just a passenger on this journey. While others seem to be able to plot their course, I am like dandelion fluff blowing in the wind. Fortunately, it's continues to be a gentle wind; one that brings me words in the middle of the night, words that arrive unbidden, sometimes drifting away without a farewell, sometimes demanding their space on the page.

During the day, I follow the action: war and the stock market, truth and lies, courage and cowardice. At night, though, something else takes over, something seemingly unrelated to the schemes of man. It makes me wonder about the longer sleep to come. None of this leaves me with answers, simply words untranslated.

I miss skin

I miss skin,
The naked length of one body 
Meeting another in unworded exploration,
Blind fingers on the surface of acceptance,
Searching for openings to the other,
Yearnings beyond eyes or ears,
Connection lit pore to pore.

I wonder at the truth 
of my brown-splotched skin
masking the still wide-eyed child.
While old bones dream-remember
skipping and the lightness of spring,
I envy the vitality of the never old river, 
The steadiness of the slowly old cottonwood, 
The loveliness of the forever young sky.

Deep beneath skin lies the damp bed rock of me,
Multi-colored pebbles polished by wind and rivers of time,
Microscopic sands worn through canyons of being,
Each grain neither perfect nor planned,
simply life in an achingly slow lane, 
speeding toward a cliff unseen.

In the greyed world of memory and time,
It is the loneliness of untouched skin 
That wakes me in the night. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

What is a Heart Book?

Catching Sunset
People are hungry for stories …
 for stories of connection …
Who am I? Who are you?
What is our connection?

You see it everywhere … people taking photos ... taking selfies … capturing memories.

Here I am … alive … with my best friend ... with my family… at sunset …
in front of a buffalo in Yellowstone … on top of a mountain … at the beach.

I am alive … my life has meaning …  
 I have meaning.

there is a conundrum though ...

An image is worth a thousand words.
A word is worth a thousand images.

How could that be?

An image ...
  If you've ever been to the beach, or wanted to go to the beach,
you could probably easily come up with a thousand words about this image.

Or a word: dog

If you've ever loved a dog, images will flow as you remember
her in your mind and see her tail wag with joy as she sniffs and plays.

When words come together with images,
a story is born
... meaningful memories are captured.
When those stories are put on paper,
they can be shared with friends and family ... and the future!


Call the process foto journaling ...
when books are made with this process, call them:

Heart Books ... 

books made without agents or publishers,
without contracts, marketing or book tours,
without thought of royalties or copyrights,

simply books from our hearts,
from our "one wild and precious life."*
*(Thank you Mary Oliver.)

 Lost Photos

A lost photo on a street in Mexico
Several years ago, when my mom died, I inherited a large box of photo albums and hundreds of loose photos. Most of them had no names, dates, or places. They were simply strangers on bits of paper. I carried them with me for years before I gave up and threw them away.

It still hurts to say that because I know they were important to my mom and they held stories that might have been important to me. They were lost photos just like the one above: stories never told; connections never made; a future left in the dark.

I'll never know the stories in my mom's photos since all the memory keepers of my childhood are gone, joining all my ancestors, known and unknown. Huge chunks of my life are blank spaces, gone forever. That loss has prompted this focus on simplifying the process of making Heart Books.

Cell phone technology helps us capture images; however, it is not good at helping us share our memories. It is frustrating when we find ourselves thumbing through hundreds (thousands) of photos to show someone a favorite photo of a grandchild, hobby, or vacation.

There is a much better way.

This image from my cell phone tells me I take a lot of photos. It doesn't tell me how I felt when I took each one or help me share those memories and feelings with others. To hold onto those, we need words.

Technology now offers us an easy, enjoyable, and inexpensive way to create personal photo books that will stand the test of time. These tangible stories of your life and loves could be the greatest gift you give your grandchildren ... and yourself as you reflect on, and make sense of, your life experiences.

What is a Heart Book? 

 Basically ... sharing your memories and stories through words and images (photos, maps, sketches, ticket stubs, or any other artifact of an experience) in a personal photo book (paper)
with the intent of being able to see and remember your experiences
and share them with others.

Words + images = memory stories 
(Words + images) in personal photo books = shareable connections ...
Heart Books