Independence Day

Independence Day

Happy July 4th!

In America we celebrate this day as a reminder of our birth as a new self-governing country. It is classically celebrated with time spent outdoors, picnics, family and friends gathering, and, my favorite, firework shows. The history behind it all is not something I will discuss except to add this is not a unique situation in human experience, some group gets together to manage the society and then a smaller group splits off because they want to do thing differently or are being mistreated by the bigger group. I appreciate that my grandmother made the arduous journey to America, that she was welcomed into this amazing country even though she did not speak English or have any job skills. She got work as a housekeeper and taught herself English, then she built a life for herself and paved the way for her progeny.

One of the things i like to think about while making Oma’s perfect potato salad is independence of thought. I believe my greatest contribution to society has been raising three people to be independent thinkers. I tried hard, failed occasionally, to see the strengths and weaknesses in each of these magnificent beings blessed to my care and stewardship for a brief time. Like any parent, I wanted to instill my values in them. However, the double-edged sword of holding in highest esteem the ability to suss out what is right for you regardless of what anyone else thinks, whether that anyone is the kids at school or your own mom, means that I got to be both pleased and worried when they would do things in a way different from how I wanted them to do it.

Critical thinkers, awareness of personal strengths and marching to your own drum, seeing clearly and acceptance of the weaknesses which lets you also strengthen your march, willingness to try something new and to listen and pay attention to those who went on before you, allowing yourself to fail and then get up, reevaluate, and get going again without fear of failure dogging your every step, all of this is what I think about on Independence Day. I believe that to be truly independent you must be willing to listen to the truth that whispers in your heart and soul. We need to recognize when fear is driving our steps and be courageous enough to turn and face it openly or else we are not truly independent. Could there be anything sadder or Machiavellian than to be enslaved while pretending we are free?

My children are each unique in the paths they each have chosen and the way in which they choose to walk it. That I was entrusted with this little part of God wrapped in flesh boggles the mind, yet I was. And without a doubt they are each so very much greater than the sum of their parts.

Here is to Independence Day and independent thinkers! Thank you God, amen, please pass the potato salad.

Oh, and the secret to the potato salad is to boil the potatoes, slice them and lay them in a dish while still very warm and then sprinkle a mixture of vinegar, olive brine, and water over the potatoes and let them sit until cool. And don’t you DARE use anything but real mayonnaise; the use of so-called “salad dressing” may cause my poor grandmother to roll in her grave or even come to your house and haunt your kitchen.

Prepping Oma’s perfect potato salad

I had the weirdest dream last night. In it I was pregnant and in labor and all these people kept coming up and interrupting me and the calm and peaceful labor I had planned. It was very frustrating to keep fighting with them all. Then I was at the doctor at some kind of in-labor check-up and he told me I had cancer and only 10 months to live. So here I was about to give birth and prepare to die at the same time.  And I got to where I could find acceptance with the duality and had to begin to accept how others were going to handle it all. Isn’t that weird? Lot’s there to analyze, for sure.

I went for a mule ride on this Fourth of July weekend in the hills just above the house I am staying. The good news is that Monty has gotten more accepting of me being on top of a mule, he no longer panics at not being able to touch me with his nose to make sure I am okay and that he is okay. The bad news is he is way too lackadaisical around these powerful animals who only just tolerate him. He gets too close to their feet, doesn’t take it seriously when they charge at him to run him off. Fortunately these are nice mules who don’t really mean to hurt him, they are just giving him a hard time but if a mule or Monty accidentally stepped the wrong way, well… it would be a very sad situation.

Here Monty is too damn close to the mule. Thank God Ginger is so calm!

So unfortunately some electronic collar training is going to be necessary. You might recall that is what I had to do to get Monty to leave the elk alone. I send many prayers of thanks and gratitude to the God that cares about little white city dogs and protects him.

the don with Stella and Henry. Henry’s wearing a pack saddle to which large boxes of stuff can be strapped.
Enjoying the view!
My number one fella keeping some distance from Ginger
Mule ears. Notice Ginger’s summer hair cut. No, I did not do it. I kind of prefer a longer main for her to toss around but apparently mules wear a version of a crew cut.

And, for your listening pleasure. hooves on a wooden bridge spanning a lovely mountain creek. No coconut shells were harmed in the making of this sound video. Isn’t it adorable how her ears flip around?

Training Day 2 (and then some)

Training Day 2 (and then some)

All a girl really needs…

A brief rundown of the situation so far: in 2017 (and honestly, way before that) I was ready for something different and a chain of life-changing events had conspired to let me, if I was willing to risk it all, have a whole new life experience. I quit my work and tearfully and fearfully left my family and friends to take a job that was interesting to me in a location that I have long loved. The job was great but the hours long, no days off, and the owner of the place is a bit whacky. After a few months I finally took my earned time off and traveled to other parts of the beautiful northwest U.S.  Upon my return I found the owner had emptied the bank account and had not paid me as contractually agreed to. After some discussion, I took a hiatus from the work while awaiting payment and chose to follow my heart even further afield. The cool thing about no longer having anything is that there is nothing to lose and no excuses to not try something new. Since I have already left everything I loved, I am sure as hell not going to settle for a situation that is undesirable. My motto: If it isn’t fabulous why bother?

I did get to meet some really cool people in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. While the town has a population that is smaller than the high school my kid went to, it only takes one person to make a good life even more bright and interesting and it is there that I met the don.

the don has led a pretty exciting-sounding life so far and enjoys the outdoors as much as I. However, it was his cooking that got my attention and, I suppose, broke the ice. He told me of his multi-week-long packing trips to go bow hunting in the fall and to collect antlers in the spring, of his winter months in the Olympics Steelhead fishing, time spent surfing on the lower Pacific coast and his recent retirement from regular work as a smokejumper. I was intrigued by the idea of hiking with mules and having a giant tent that is heated and especially having really good food; that is so very different from my experience as a backpacker. I love backpacking. I love getting away from civilization and walking the contours of the land and feeling the wildlife all around me. The thing about backpacking that is kind of hard is carrying all your own stuff and especially carrying food. For one or two days it isn’t that big of a deal but for a couple of weeks it can be very, very heavy. Having a dog along means carrying dog food, too. I was intrigued by the idea of seeing the wild landscape of Hell’s Canyon and having a mule carry all my stuff including some real creature comforts. When the don invited me to join one of his trips I jumped at the chance to enjoy some needed time away from working and that first experience in Hell’s Canyon has already been shared.

After the trip and returning to the undesirable BnB situation, there was suddenly an opening in my work schedule. the don offered me a position in his company doing some contract work this summer, work that even a beginner like me can do. And so now you are up to date on how it is that I find myself literally fit to be tied and learning the ropes.

Fit to be tied
So many pretty colors!

This project has to do with collecting pollen from specific trees that have been identified as able to fight off a disease called blister rust.

Blister Rust Resistant White Pine

This pollen is collected and used to propagate new trees with this desirable quality. the don has been climbing trees and rock faces for decades so he can shimmy up as fast as a lemur. I am a bit more… sloth-like. I haven’t quite gotten to the stage where I stop clutching but I am practicing every day so that I can get up and down a tree and not have my hands cramp into a claw-like thing. Plus, it is probably better not to leave dents in the tree from that death-grip I have been using.

Learning the ropes
Practice makes perfect and one cannot settle for anything less than perfect when 90 feet up a tree.

Here I am, all roped and tied up, practicing and testing my knots before heading out to do a real climb. While I did get almost as high up as the don, I did not do any collection because I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish the aforementioned squeeze and three-points-of-contact attitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Up!

 And here I am up in the tree with a view down at the ropes and the ground. I am only about 10 feet or so up here. I neglected to take a camera with a wrist strap and so this photo is taken with my phone. I wanted to take some photos when I was about 60 feet up but there was no way I was going to risk pulling my phone out when that high up. If I dropped the phone, even if it survived the fall, I’d never find it in the thick forest and there is no cell service available to try and locate the phone by calling it. I only take certain kinds of risks and that isn’t one of them.

Waiting for the tree climbers to return to the ground

So we will have to make do with photos of the don in the tree. This is one of my favorites.

the don

Okay. That is enough chatting for now. I need to get strapped up and get my practice climbing.

Big hug to you and please do tell me what risk you are going to take this week to brighten your life?

Oh, and here are some other photos from the past week and the White Pine Pollen collecting job.

Sadly, this tree was burned in a fire so it won’t be contributing its genes to the pool
Checking pollen ripeness
We missed you!
Orange diamond is along forest road and marks the location of the desired tree in “chains” and cardinal degrees. If you look right of the tree marker at about 1:30 you can see the don in that White Pine.
Getting ready to do my work of cleaning and processing the pollen that was collected. This rock was the perfect desk for my office in the woods.
Pollen processing
My number one fella
Burned out cedar. This giant cedar is over 5 feet in diameter. It was one of the many acres of trees lost in the great 1910 fire that devastated this part of Idaho. It was so large that the U.S. Army was called in to help, including the Buffalo Soldiers.
the orange marker is a newer type of marker, the silver tag is very old and is starting to be engulfed by the tree
The hooligans, mine, the don’s, and a friend’s puppy. A few days before this shot I taught the griffons how to pose for a photo like Monty does- they hit the mark every time now!

Still snow on the ground! After the tree climb I scooped some snow into my cup and poured a syrup of lemonade and rum. Best snow-cone ever!
Nez Perce trail- some pretty sad history here for the Nimi’ipuu
X marks the spot. Think there is any buried treasure here?
White Bark Pine pollen has a raspberry color when ripe whereas the White Pine pollen is yellow.
Two *chains* away is the tree. How archaic to measure in chains?
oh, it’s 66 feet if you were wondering.
Some trees need fire to reproduce. It kind of allows a nice view of the distance, too
Some of these trees have been in the program a long time!

Spring Fever and Practical Jokes

Okay, so I sort of told a lie to the grocery checker.

Tree pose

Well, maybe not a lie, per se, perhaps more like spinning a yarn. Everyone chats and one cannot be in a hurry when checking out at the small town grocery store. (aside to Brooke- thanks for letting me know of your Marfa experience, it has been so valuable in adjusting to small-town life) All of the check-out line workers are so nice and friendly; they are such a welcome way to engage in the small town life.  My favorite checker is quite the cook and will comment on some item in my basket and ask what I am going to do with it and  tell me about a new recipe she made with the ingredient. Her recipes are spot on with my tastes, too, which is amazing to me! I mean, there aren’t that many vegetarians around here. Because of this engagement with each shopper, I do not mind waiting my turn to check out because I know that the checker will spend just as much time chatting with me as with the person who was just before me and that all seems fair enough. This trip, though, I could tell the person behind me was in a bit of a hurry and also I am quite picky about how my stuff gets bagged so as Mr. Checker was scanning I grabbed a bag and started putting my stuff in the it. The checker commented that he would do it, “Not a problem, I don’t mind doing it,” I replied. He said again, “I’ll do that for you,” and had a rather firm tone. I don’t know where this came from, maybe because I am fighting off a virus, maybe I was channeling that Texas tale-telling character, maybe it was his firm tone- I don’t know- but what tumbled out of my mouth was, “No, it’s okay. I’m certified back home to bag groceries.” Now, that isn’t really a lie, right? I mean, if something is so ridiculous then it is obviously just a funny story or practical joke, a teasing for humorous effect, and not to be taken seriously, right? But then he did take it seriously. And instead of telling him I was teasing, I expanded on the story to him and to my shopping companion and it could be now that the urban myth of how the Whole Foods customers in Texas are so doggone picky that WF has to train and certify people to be able to bag groceries could be traced back to this incident. I would apologize but I’m not feeling any remorse.

This is our “Sorry, not sorry” look
with Alex on the Ides of March 2018

Wow, so this is SPRING!


In Houston I think our spring lasts for about 20 minutes before charging headlong into summer. If you don’t believe me, do an internet search on how many times the people in charge have had to ice down the azalea beds so they don’t bloom too soon before the big Azalea Trail, which, if you haven’t experienced, is totally worth the trip to Houston in March. While the rest of the country is still wearing down coats and boots, you can be tooling along beautiful mansions and gardens in your shorts and floppy hat before going to enjoy a sangria at one of our many amazing restaurant patios.
But back to Spring in the Pacific Northwest, it is just like the calendars of spring that you find in the Hallmark store. Daffodils and other bulbs poke their little heads out of the ground on a welcoming spring day only to be covered in snow 4 days later. It’s like the weather is getting in on the practical joking, too, “Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to send those dirty down coats to the cleaners and get out the shorts and T-shirts? Psyche!”

Daffodils in snow- March 2018

Sticks and bundles of sticks that looked like some left-over flash flood carnage begin to have little buds and you are like, “Oh, you’re alive?!?!” And if there are hills in your area, and there is not a single spot on this side of the Cascade Range that is not near a hill, you may get to see the budding and blooming occur in succession as you climb up from the warmer valley bottoms to the cooler hill and mountain tops.

Spider web and buds along the hillside.

The big draw for the tourists and even the settlers back in the 1800s is the trees. Awesome doesn’t begin to cover it. Massive cedars, gorgeous stands of alder with their white trunks, spruce and fir keeping the green backdrop while the aforementioned trees go topless for the winter.

Alders, spruce, firs in the Bogachiel Valley

And then there is the driftwood on the beaches. Massive logs tossed like pick-up sticks along the beach just above the average high tide line showing how powerful the storms can become to move such beasts.

 

Can you believe this is a tree??? Alex and Monty checking out the driftwood on the beach at Kalaloch.
Alex reclining on driftwood where the Hoh River meets the Pacific Ocean

Many of the trees here are quite hardy specimens, even with some major damage that knocks them down, they continue to find a way to grow and even bloom! I appreciate these horizontal trees for their ability to provide respite from the day’s work without having to sit on the undoubtedly wet or elk-poop-covered ground. One apple tree even has a beverage holder in it!

Too bad Shel Silverstein didn’t hang out here or The Giving Tree might have had a whole different twist. I mean, really, that is the saddest story of dysfunction I can think of, well, maybe also that one about The Gift of the Magi where Mickey and Minnie each sell something to buy the other a present that is then useless because it… you know the story and to me it is a sad story of commercialism over communication. Yes, I know it didn’t originally start with Disney but, like many kids of my generation, I was exposed to Disney before O. Henry and you know how powerful first impressions are. So anyway, Shel’s story is more like an Easter Island situation but could have been a coexistence situation had The Boy been a little less self-absorbed. Out here on the Flying S Farm we support sustainable logging practices and we have a conservation easement so not every tree gets cut down and certainly not these trees that make such great recliners. Imagine this apple tree in the late summer, hanging out with a book and a lemonade and then just reach out and grab an apple when you are feeling peckish.

This tree played one of the scary trees in the Wizard of Oz. It is obviously a character actor because it isn’t really scary in real life.

This is the yogi tree, it can hold Reverse Warrior forever. Looks like it probably will.

This Yogi Tree knows how to flow with whatever comes and continue to grow toward the light

These are the scary trees. You must always, always know what you are getting into before you fool around these.

Log Jam on the Bogachiel River

Monty made an error in judgement that almost caused his death just minutes after this photo was taken. Btw, this is a photo he insisted on as I did not think it a good idea to saunter out on the logs but there is no telling him anything when a photo op is presented. Yes, that is at least three times narrowly escaping death for him that I know of: 1. Getting hit by a car which resulted in my adopting him, 2. Playing Mufasa in the stampede by running into a herd of elk, 3. Jumping into the water at a tangle of trees on the river and then almost getting swept underneath the logs if I hadn’t ran out on the logs to grab him, which was also a little dangerous. Kids, don’t swim near log jams.

Beavers like trees, too.

Beaver nibbles

This is a rather rural area which helps with all the trees, naturally. (Ha!) Everywhere you go, most people are really quite nice and friendly and they love their trees here in the PNW. Some people, like me, are here for the beauty of the area, some make their living off of the trees through logging practices. For the most part, everyone appreciates the trees and what they add to our lives. There are two trees held in great reverence, both are cedars and they grow quite close to each other in the Olympic National Park.

The Big Cedar- and boy, is it! That is Alex and Monty sitting on it

The other is billed as the third largest cedar in the world and is a bit further off the main highway. It is known as the Duncan Memorial Cedar Tree. A brief Google search did not turn up who Duncan is but I think it is about the loggers who were clear-cutting the area being awed by the tree and choosing to save it from being felled.

Alex at Duncan Memorial Tree- see that tiny person at the bottom?

To file under the friendly and helpful category, the locals have gone to great lengths to help the tourists, especially the city-dwellers, by identifying so much of the forested area. In case you don’t get to see big trees in the city, many are labeled so the cosmopolitan visitors can know and appreciate what they are seeing. “This here is a tree and that over there is also a tree.”

Forestry 101. That is a tree.
Forestry 102. That green triangle thing to the right of this sign is also a tree. This is very helpful for urbanites who have never seen a tree in its natural habitat.

The locals also have a sense of humor and poke a bit of fun at the urban tourist’s expense. In case you are a big city dweller and not very educated in forestry, a good rule of thumb on tree identification is that it has a (usually) brown cylindrical base with a (usually) green bit on top. If you do not see the brown base, called a trunk in tree parlance, it might not be a tree. In the photo below, do not be fooled by someone saying this is a deciduous tree and is going to leaf out come summer. Pay attention, do you see a trunk? If not, it probably isn’t a tree. Hmmm, I’m not the only one who likes to have a little practical joke fun, am I?

The locals having a bit of fun at the tourists expense. For you city dwellers, this is not actually a tree

The trees enjoy the joke, too.

Giggling tree
Close up of the giggling tree

Terrific=tenebrific^10

Do you ever feel mopey?

I tend to be rather bright and cheerful with a touch of aggression to keep things interesting. Moping and somber are not my natural state, but every now and then I will indulge in a bit of melancholy. Sometimes it can be due to a specific incident or situation, sometimes it will just show up without invitation and hang out for a bit. Today I decided to schedule some time to just let the blues hang out with me and I have even been a very good hostess to my forlorn and dispiriting friend. I have served up every high-carb instant food on hand, which isn’t much actually, before moving on to the game of “What’s my ratio?”

In case you need a refresher on this game, it’s typically played either on long car trips or when all alone in the house. You take two edible items and mix varying ratios to find the perfect-for-you combination. It can be an almond-to-raisin mix (3 raisins to 1 almond for me), Tabasco-to-orange slice (for real, it’s good and again is a 3-1 ratio), and today it was a PB to J ratio.

I’m rationing my few remaining slices of g-f bread until I get to Seattle and can get more, besides when moping you can’t just start jumping around all energetically and start making yourself good peanut butter sandwiches or you will ruin the whole point of the wallowing in misery. If you live with other people, you should totally NOT double-dip the spoon between tastes. That would be germy. So let the dog lick the spoon clean in between tastings; they have clean mouths and all that (don’t argue with me, argue with Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel as they are the ones who confirmed it). HOWEVER, since I do not currently reside alone in this house and I do share my food items with others, please take note of the following photos which offer photographic proof of clean technique.

Well, clean-ish. I really should have put the lids on the jars before doing any tasting if I was going to follow proper lab technique. Oh well…

Another advantage to this clean technique is you can actually compare ratios side by side whereas double-dipping requires memory and guessing estimates. And if you are going to start using words like “ratio” to describe what you are doing, then probably you should go ahead and spring for washing the extra spoons in the name of scientific research.

 

Surprisingly, my visitor was still disconsolate after the game of “What’s my ratio?” That is when I decided to produce this pièce de résistance of pathetic food-for-one: mug cake.

 

To be fair, cooking for one is not really a pathetic enterprise but a show of love and devotion to one self (purposefully using one and not one’s; I had to write that since I can’t use (sic) in this situation although you could if you quoted me). ANYWAY, mug cakes have been in my family for a number of years now and I love finding recipes for them. Biggerbolderbaking.com has a recipe for a PB&Banana mug cake that is really good. I mostly followed her recipe but then, since the jelly was still out, I placed a dollop on top of the cake before microwaving it. I used plain oats and ground them in the coffee bean grinder to make the oat flour, as she suggested. Turned out perfect!

 

I have to say, it was really yummy! I added a cup of crazy-strong French press coffee and the  mix of carbs and caffeine were the perfect snack for me and Ms. Dolorous (1).

Alas, my moping time has come to an end. My schedule requires I move on with my life and get to the next thing on the list. Thank you for visiting, Ms. Dolorous, do come again sometime. Actually, I kinda knew Ms. D would be leaving soon when the fork I grabbed for the first bite of cake turned out to be a salad fork and I was like, “No way, you will put that atrocity back and grab a proper fork for eating cake, young lady!” When one has the energy to give a rat’s ass about which fork is being used, the blues are on their way out, for sure. Not that we actually have salad vs dessert forks here at the farm, though, now that I think about it, why the hell not? THIS TOWN IS NAMED FORKS!

Definitely check out Gemma’s blog on mug meals and let me know what you think. I’m looking at that pizza in a mug recipe next! https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/gemmas-mug-meals/

Did you know that tenebrific is a synonym for moping? Isn’t that the most anti-onomatopoeic word ever? It should mean terrific to the power of 10 or tenebrific=terrific^10. That will be my platform for 2020, “Make tenebrific great again!”

(1) I *know* it should be “Ms. Dolorous and I” but that totally loses the alliterative effect I was going for, and artists can get away with grammar faux-pas in the pursuit of expression

The Never-Ending Search for Balance

Just jump in, do it, don’t over-think things, follow your dreams/bliss/heart

Good planning makes good products, measure twice cut once, patience is a virtue

Sometimes all these sayings seem at odds with each other. How can you know when to just jump in and when to carefully plan out how things will go?

As a trail runner I would start a rainy day run trying to avoid mud puddles. After a moment I would accept that getting wet and muddy was inevitable for me and how I choose to run and with that acknowledgement I would begin to run through the puddles and let the mud splash up on my legs and soak my shoes and socks. The sooner I just accepted how it was going to be for me the more fun the run was. Some people I ran with were different and would avoid all mud puddles and filthy trails and get back to the cars with clean shoes whereas I was usually coated with mud and gunk and exhilaration. So maybe I can say that if the end result is inevitable then I should just jump in with both feet at the beginning so as to fully immerse and engage with my situation.

Okay, that is easy enough. Now, what about when I don’t know the end result? What about when I am not in control of the outcome, when I am flowing with what life brings and letting go of worries for tomorrow’s happenings? Prayer and meditation have worked wonders for letting me live in faith that I can take this step without knowing what the exact next step would be. Well, and to be perfectly honest and transparent, God knows I am a bit headstrong and impatient so the little vision peeks that are given to me on occasion help, too. Okay, that is where patience comes in and patience is a discipline of practice.

Now here is where it gets interesting to me. How do you know the balance between patience and jumping in? Patience to let the path unfold without forcing your own will versus jumping in to accept the change that you wish to have in life without knowing exactly where the change will take you. Where is the balance between modesty and full monty? What, you thought I knew? Ohhhh noooooo, balance is not my strong point!

The only thing I have learned so far to help determine what to do at any time is feel for the joy. Not happiness because happy is too variable but true and deep joy that pervades every moment, every interaction. Meditation helps me find the joy even if I am in a situation that is uncomfortable and conflict-ridden. Joy sits back and says, “Wow, even during this argument where you are trying to get your way and he is trying to get his, even during this discomfort you are so animated and believe so fully in how this tiny detail will make everything turn out. WOW, you are SO HUMAN and ALIVE!” And then some part of me will begin to giggle at how intoxicating all these feelings are.

One of the things I love and cherish about my new life is the time outdoors in nature. Every single day has long walks to explore this new land of mine and it is easy to make time to go outside regardless of weather. I am enraptured by this rain forest and, in the same way your fingers trace the curves of your lover’s body, I walk the curves of this land, venturing farther and deeper each time. I took the afternoon off to explore the hill that is my view across the meadow, Reade Hill. There is so much more of her to traverse but this is a beginning and I hope these photos can convey to you how crisp and clean everything is, how joyful life is in such a nurturing environment. Most of all I hope you have a special place that you love and loves you and that you take time every day to keep that love alive!

Gray days

I am working on a post showing life on the farm and this urban girl getting some rural skills. While that has been delayed a bit (by the very chores on which the post depends), I am going to share a poem written many, many years ago.

When I was packing my house to put in storage for my move to the Olympic Peninsula I came across a binder of poems written when I was in my late teens and early 20s. How fun it was to go through those writings and visit that young person through eyes who have seen the other side. If you know me personally you will not be surprised that there is a bit of the dramatic in my writing, just believe me when I tell you that I have actually mellowed since then!

poem written in 1990

rain softly tapping
a peaceful tempo gentling my mood
i watch raindrop rivulets race down the window pane
and bet as to which will win
the pastel gray of the sky is a perfect reflection of my mood
soft, quiet, relaxed
my thoughts wander- daydreaming
today is meant for snuggling
for enjoying the closeness of each other
and sipping hot cocoa to ward off the chill in the air
unplug the phone and turn on the tv
to hell with news, find the cartoons
today is for light-heartedness and gaity
a time to recharge
we will be serious tomorrow

 

Not Earned

Monday, January 15, 2018
Today I leave my last stop of this traveling vacation and enter Forks and my new home and work. Yes, I have mixed feelings about it. I like traveling and especially not working or being answerable to anyone. It is like being a kid again, such freedom! I have fears but, for some crazy reason I choose to barrel headlong into whatever fears I have. I do not run from fear or push it away or excuse it. Probably, more than anything, this is what makes me hard to live with. In my last writing (in my personal journal, not on here) I mentioned Dan and his discussion of how he thought i am beautiful and did I know that.
No. I do not know that.
I have people who have told me, friends who love me and one who was even surprised when i revealed that I do not think of myself as pretty. so i can say that, based on their opinion i must be pretty in a socially accepted way. and I (mostly) accept and appreciate my internal appearance, though I do battle my self on occasion so it is yet to be full acceptance.
And so today I read in Jeff Foster’s “The Way of Rest” about why you are beautiful. If you have not familiarized yourself with Jeff, go do that. Now. Come back after you have wiped your eyes from the tears of love.
So anyway, he writes to look in the mirror and to fully accept all the feelings that arise. Do not resist anything. Do not fight back the disgust or shame with platitudes and affirmations of worth. Let it all just chatter around like seagulls squawking on the shore and then begin to see yourself through loving eyes, whether like a parent or lover or God, just see with full acceptance the pimples, wrinkles, deformities of body and personality.
“And the medicine now is naked, choiceless attention, being as spacious as the mirror itself, making room for thoughts and feelings but not mistaking them for the truth.”
Whoa.
Feel it. Accept it. Hear it. And know what is the truth.
“You are beautiful, without changing a thing; your beauty is not earned.”
I will be meditating on this today. maybe this lifetime.

Goodbye, Michael

You son of a bitch

That is the first coherent thought I can remember after learning of the suicide of my… what is the word for someone whom you have loved for almost 2 years and to whom you just 10 days before said “Your addiction is killing you and us. I can’t bear this destruction. I love you and I cannot be around you anymore,” what is the term for that person? After 2 years I called it off because the self-destruction of my beloved was too much for me. The broken promises, the chaos and drama, this wasn’t what I signed up for and not how I live my life. He had said he wanted a quieter existence. He wanted gentleness, honesty and transparency. Yet, whether conscious or not, each choice he made was away from connection and honesty and toward separation, isolation, pain. And yet I continued to love him. I could feel the soul behind the pain and I wanted so much for him to know joy and peace. And, to be honest, even after I spoke those words of goodbye, I hoped that he would get back into his recovery program and we could build a life together, a life we had talked of many times in our cabin in the woods.

And I’m set to go to that cabin in the woods in 2 weeks. I had invited him to come with me, to live this dream we spoke of so frequently. And he said right after he just finished this project, after one more thing to do for someone else. But that is what he’d always said to me. I’ll see you for (Saturday, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, your birthday, the play, the movie) right after I finish this project. And it got to where I quit making plans with him because I was tired of being forgotten, ignored, and replaced by the excitement of the addiction at hand.

You fucking jerk

Now there is no hope of a  tomorrow for us. There is no us and there is no tomorrow. Ten days after I said goodbye, he said goodbye. He had been drinking very heavily and took a bottle and a gun to bed with him.

You selfish jerk, this is exactly what I was talking about.

He was in desperate pain. I know that. In a bizarre and unwished for joke of the gods, he and I had a psychic connection. It took me a while to understand that what I was feeling and experiencing was not me but him, his inner chaos, and I never learned how to block out the craziness when it really began to overtake him. Our connection was such that I frequently knew his dreams, we would wake at the same moment from slumber, him saying, “I had the weirdest dream,” and I would begin to describe it. I used to fantasize about that kind of connection with a lover, but this wasn’t what I’d thought it would be. I mean, sure, sharing weird dreams about a red sled on a mountain is benign enough but that wasn’t the typical situation, frequently he was haunted, traumatized, psychically screaming in terror and pain, trying desperately to hide from the monsters. That is what I felt so frequently. And I tried so very hard to save him. I tried to show him ways to cope, therapists to visit, meditations and eating to support a gentler and more loving inner life. Yet after a week or two he would return to his agitated state and work would require his full attention all day, all night, all weekend. And I was left alone with an angry and shut-down being. It was like camping on Mount St. Helens in early May 1980. You knew it was going to blow, but you had no idea how it would go or how devastating it would be. And so I left the volcano that was my lover. And then I got the news, “some terrible news. Michael committed suicide this morning.”

And so he isn’t hurting any longer, for that I am grateful. He had come to me in a dream about 36 hours before he died, and it was a terrible dream, chaotic, screaming, confusing, thrashing about. It was horrible and it was how his internal landscape felt and why he tried, unsuccessfully, to drown it out with his many addictions. He hoped something would work. He hated himself more and more with each succession of failure at drowning out the horror.

How could you give up like this, on you, on life, on us?

Oh sure, he is not hurting any longer but I am. Those he left behind who felt his pain, who loved him, we are left in terrible, terrible pain. And I can’t feel that he isn’t hurting, I feel him still and he feels confused still. I pray for him, I pray he will be taken into God and then remember who he truly is, a child of God, a part of God, knowing and joyful and one with all of us. And I pray that I’ll feel him when he has that peacefulness. I pray I will hear that gravelly voice and see in my heart those green eyes and feel his presence envelope me. And that I will find forgiveness, for myself for not being able to withstand the pain and save him, forgiveness for him for not being able to face his demons.

I still love you

Will I be cautious in the future, will I build my own wall around my heart? Will I hear about someone’s 12 step program and decide there’s no way I’m going down that path again? Every relationship we enter leaves its mark on us; I guess whether the mark becomes scarring that hinders or understanding that opens my compassion further is up to me. Every moment is a choice in the creation of this experience. If I get hurt and choose to build a wall to protect my vulnerability, if I choose to battle the attackers, then soon I will find myself walled in and battling only myself. I see this is true. We create the monster that lurks in our mind and heart and we must be the ones to decide to shine the light of forgiveness and compassion on the monster. Love is the greatest vanquisher of all, because it opens up fully to all. And I must trust my own courage and strength, I must remember to show up and do the things that nurture my being, do the meditations, journaling, exercise and connecting with people every single day. I can honor the soul inside my beloved and tortured friend and remember this lesson of choosing love, forgiveness, and compassion every moment.

Screwing Up Is Good For You!

December 8, 2017
“Houston, we have a… snowday!” It is so adorable how excited Houstonians are. All over social media my fellow Houstonians are posting photos of their home and other fav city locations covered in a light powdered-sugar-sprinkle of snow. As one who likes the cold and appreciates getting to wear my socks and sweaters, I have not put the heat up very much in my house. The inside temp dances around a delightful 67 degrees which also encourages my dog and cat to snuggle up to me. Win-win, in my book. also, being Houston, most of the older homes, or those built between the 1940s and 1980s, do not have a fireplace built in. however, YouTube has taken care of this and I am currently sitting in front of a lovely fire with crackling sound being streamed on my tv. All the visual fun and no clean up or wasted real estate.

I’ve given myself permission to relax and enjoy this lovely and chilly morning and am catching up on magazines, sitting on the couch with coffee in one hand, magazine in the other. Dog is curled up at my feet and Cat lounges on the back of the couch near my head. The November 2017 issue of Nature magazine has an article that is supporting a view I have held for a long time, or at least since I got into science and realized how skewed the sharing of information is. Nature reports on two monetary prizes rewarding research that shares the failure or negative result with the world. Until now only
success has been published, and publishing is necessary to survival in academia. This has led to tremendous pressure to have positive results, pressure which has made some people choose to falsify some or all research in pursuit of acceptance by the scientific community. In my first internship at university, I asked about how we learn what doesn’t work and was told by the Primary Investigator that failures do not get published. Come again?

While it feels good for everything to work out perfectly, I will be honest and say it is my failures that teach me so much more than success ever has. I take many classes and love that dopamine dump when learning something new and making those lovely neural connections. It’s the Aha! that grabs us.

If you have ever learned a new software program by having someone walk you through a scenario, “Ok, click File, then New, then …” and with their guidance you flawlessly execute the desired result in the program. A week later you are trying to get things going in that same program and one false click takes you into a land of “What did I do now and how do I get out of here?” If that has ever happened to you then you know that having someone there to fail with you, having a safe place to fail and learn is WAY more valuable than just knowing what works. Throughout the entirety of our lives it is important to be able to fail and then get back up and try again. We revere Edison for his tenacity in failing and failing better each time, yet in our own present day we deride failure and support only apparent success. How foolish we are to not understand there is no such thing as failure, but there is such a thing as resting on your laurels. Failure can, if we let it, teach us how to be even more observant, even more critical in our thinking, even more present in our life. And while success is so desired, it can lead to complacency, tunnel vision, and even worse, insecurity and lies.

So, how will you treat your failures in life? Will you celebrate them as proof that you are pushing your boundaries Will you have compassion for the people who fail, because you know that living on the razor’s edge means that sometimes you will get cut. Will you support failure as a sincerity of spirit, as a courageous vulnerability, both in yourself and in others? Will you choose to support truth in all its forms, recognizing that it is only one truth and that both failure and success point the way toward it. Get out there and screw up. It’s good for you!

Sometimes the line between love and addiction gets blurred

I breathe in deep your scent

And memories of past days and promises of what is to come

Dance through my thoughts.

As your warm and slightly bitter taste envelopes my tongue,

It is as if you move immediately into my blood

Enlivening me and bringing light to my darkest morning.

Oh, coffee…

I am your willing slave forever.