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Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.
When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.
As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was
There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”
I believe that.
I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.
I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.
There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”
I believe that too.
So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.
And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.
I’ll find my light again. I promise.
Because of our senses, so many parts of the past are not lost to us.
Sight? We have images from as far back as 1826.
Sound? The first audio recording ever is from the 1860s. For Christmas last year, when I bought Kelsea her record player, I also bought an album of historical figures speaking, just so we could have a voice to attach to a name and a picture. We are cut off from this part of the past prior to the recorded word. Such is not the case with visuals, as we have paintings prior to photographs that give us images from centuries ago.
Taste? Well, for centuries some people have had good taste and some people have had questionable taste, but we’re not talking about that kind of taste. We’re talking about, say, turnips. A turnip today – at least one grown organically – likely tastes pretty much like a turnip six hundred years ago tasted. Ergo, status quo. We retain a history of taste due to the unchanging nature of basic foodstuffs.
Touch? Ditto taste. A cat’s fur feels the same as it did one thousand years ago. I think. Not everything is the same to the touch but there is a living history, A rock still feels like a rock.
And so we come to smell. And here is where history fails us. The sense of smell is lost with time – it is the most fleeting and least replicable of the senses. You know the fragrance of a rose, yet one fragrant rose is unlike another. And many roses are having the fragrance bred out of them, either because of people’s allergies and oversensitvity, or because the scent is sacrificed for a more stunning visual beauty. Will there come a day when the scent of roses is just a memory? Can it even live on in essential oils if there are no more fragrant roses?
Florals aside, while we can look at Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s picture, Netherlandish Proverbs, and you can see a lot of what life might have been like in a Dutch village in the 1500s.
You can imagine sounds, because you know what a voice sounds like, what a goat sounds like, what a cacophony of noise sounds like, but what is missing is being able to imagine the rich aroma of the place and time.This was an era when people didn’t bathe often, lived in close quarters, kept animals on small parcels of property, and had no particular system for waste disposal of any kind. Of course, they didn’t have all the trash that we do now, but organic waste is just as smelly as any other kind of waste. And there was possibly a lot more organic waste than we have now – I have no idea what they did with dead animals. Buried them, I hope. Or ate them, perhaps? Times could be tough.
This one sense, which in each of us today, is so variable – some can smell things that others cannot – is the element of the past from which we are most disconnected. A curious thought. Especially when scents can trigger such memories. When I open boxes that I packed up five years ago the day after my Mother died, her scent can waft out as if she’s by my shoulder. Perhaps she is.
When I was pregnant, I would have olfactory hallucinations – memories of smells from my past – primarily gardenias. It was lovely.
But then Kelsea came up to me this morning and said, “Mom, smell my shoulder.”
I guess that sense of smell can be a mixed blessing.
Although we are approaching a full month past the first official day of fall, the gods of autumn seem to be lolling around in Speedos, soaking up the last of summer’s rays. In other words, it’s been a mercifully slow transition. Here in the Centennial State, we have been enjoying warm weather, azure skies, and leaf colors that rival many states with a far larger deciduous contingent.
Yes, I’m thankful for this Indian Summer, which, by the way, since that term has its theoretical origins in Native Americans attacking European settlers and vice versa, I am determined to toss out, and use the more ancient and agriculturally based term, St. Martin’s Summer, or the Latvian term “Atvasara”, meaning “flashback of summer”. Political correctness and semantics aside, it has been lovely. But loveliness tinged with that sense of foreboding, with that feeling that something is following you, but if you don’t look over your shoulder, it won’t actually be there, that all of us who find ourselves plunged into the depths of winter despair and cold-bruised joints experience.
It is out there. And it is coming.
We’ve been lucky. Most years, by now we’ve seen at least one snowstorm. Green grass is a memory and leaves are not just off the trees but bagged up as landfill fodder. Right now, I can still see the grass, and I have not yet reached the place where I am staring at brown and longing for spring, except in the dead cornfields I pass on the way home.
And there is one last holdout from our always-too-short summer. Okay, two holdouts. One is inside my sunroom, and the other is outside my bedroom window.
They are both crickets.
There are seemingly two crickets left in all of Colorado, and I’ve got ‘em. They compete with one another, their chirps feeble and
fading, like a couple of little old men trying to outdo each other in tall-tale-telling before their lungs give out.
I recall last fall, towards the end, the end of everything, when my ex-flame watered the last crickets of summer to keep them alive just a little longer. I recall when I was small and my Mother had a “cricket cup” to catch the crickets that would infiltrate the beach house in the summer and drive us crazy with their songs at night. I recall listening to them with an overwhelming sense of relief as they first chirped in the spring in the fields outside of the Cottage.
These two hang on by a transparent thread, trying to resist death from chill nights and chillier rains. I empathize with them, and hope the chillest of winds, hearts, and fates are gentle with me in the approaching winter – much gentler than last. I have hope and faith to help me through, and the echo of their song to keep me warm. And the certain knowledge that this season
will pass into a new spring, and the crickets will play again.
I was restless today. Antsy. Like one feels before a thunderstorm, sometimes. That disturbance in the Force again. I texted a friend about it, who suggested I check in with my spirit guides to see why. That’s hard for me to do at work, so I wombled off to the Tattered Cover.
Bookstores always soothe my soul. Bookstores with cats are particularly satisfying. The Tattered Cover doesn’t have cats, but it does have squishy, cushy, comfy couches where you can sit and read or write or meditate. I did a bit of all three, and I talked to my Little Sister. I wound up the proud owner of four new books from the bargain shelf:
Books are simply irresistible.
Within the forty minutes I was inside, the blue skies had turned threatening and fat raindrops were coloring the pavement. Back at my desk, I received an email that threw me into a tailspin. And then the restlessness faded. It had – as it so often does – predicted both a natural and emotional storm.
Tonight though, things are quieter. I took a bath in the clawfoot tub. I read my current book. I am looking forward to a first date tomorrow.
Life goes on. It just does.
(For little JVD, with hope that one day soon you’ll love this place where we met your wonderful parents.)
The clouds this morning were moving like I remember from mornings on Jost. As if they were there by accident, randomly floating low and close to the sea in the early morning, with just a hit of the color of leftover moon mist showing. The air in the morning is cool there, with that delightful promise of warmth that hits usually as the sun just peeks over the big hill that drowns its non-existent sorrows in Pull and Be Damned Point. Never too cool for anything but a bikini and a sarong.
I’m not often an early riser these days when on Jost, even though I want to be. I was on my first few trips there. I wanted to make the days as long as possible, so I could savor them. There was no agenda – just be there for breakfast and dinner (if you chose) and that was it.
I liked the warm sand contrasted with the flow of water beneath my feet. I would meander to the rocks at the east end of White Bay, to the path that leads up to Ivan’s. Usually there was someone to stop to chat with – or not chat with, but just appreciate the sense of solitary camaraderie that the smiling silence between us would bring.
At the little cove, just there at the base of the hill, I would always find shells, tiny treasures that were barely visible. I’d sit in the sand, poke around at the edges of the rocks, to find them, miniscule and perfect, just the kind my mother used to love so. If I was thinking, I’d bring along a stray painkiller cup or try to drink my coffee as I walked so I’d have the mug to put things in. If I wasn’t thinking, I’d fill my hands, or tie shells into the hem of my sarong
Pelicans liked to fish for breakfast around the rocks that jutted out into the bay. They would sometimes sun themselves on promontories – never with wings outstretched, but bills down, meditative, looking like statues until they would choose to waddle to another location. Graceful and graceless at the same time.
I would sit for a while and watch the morning. People on boats would be waking, most a little hungover, all just moving with that slow cadence of blood that infiltrates every soul that finds itself in this slice of bliss. First up on the boat makes the coffee. No hurries. No worries except the ones you brought with you, and those you can leave floating in the ultra-buoyant waters in front of Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar if you so choose.
Time has slowed and it just purely does not matter. After a while, I would wander back to Sandcastle, fascinated by my own footprints in the sand, and how they fill with crystal water, and then vanish. Just little slices of reality in a time that can’t be captured. But the memory lingers, just as somewhere on this planet, the sand that for an instant formed my footprint still exists and still remembers that small pattern.
Rocky Mountain PBS is showing the Ken Burns film “The Civil War”. I just came upon it tonight, and don’t know if this is a one-night affair or if it will be rebroadcast again this month, this month – and April 12 specifically – being the start of the Civil War.
I first encountered this film on my honeymoon. We were winding down and spending the night in Taos, New Mexico in a chain hotel, eating Lottaburgers and purusing the cable channels when we found it. I had no idea what it was, but I was fascinated and entranced. On viewing it tonight, I find that I still am.
I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because Ken Burns obtained an amazing amount of photographs from the era and the battlefields. I have no idea where he found them all. Perhaps it’s because it’s simply a marvelously well told story that brings this important chapter in history leaping so vividly back to life. Perhaps it’s because the background sounds – crickets, frogs, cicadas, the cries of blue jays – take me back to my beloved homeland (I am, and will always be, a Southerner). Perhaps it’s because I fell a little in love with the late Shelby Foote the first time I heard his honeyed drawl. He was always one of the people I’d have at my dinner party, if I could invite anyone in history.
The War Between The States was (from a Southerner’s perspective) a war of honor and identity, with very little glory. It was an economic war, with slavery being the lynchpin of the Southern economy. It was futile for the South in the end, and caused a rift within the country that has never entirely healed. As I’ve said before, some Southerners still seem to be fighting the war, and I have always had a sense that the South is just biding it’s time, waiting for the right moment to rise again. There was a pridefulness about the War that I was aware of even as a child growing up in North Carolina 100 years later. I can still recall old men – grandsons of Civil War veterans – marching in their grandfather’s uniforms in a parade down Main Street once. I remember my father had to explain it to me – I must have been very, very small.
A few years ago, Kelsea and I did a bit of a Civil War tour as part of a trip to Virginia and Maryland. We went to Manassas, Loudon, Antietam, Harper’s Ferry, and a few other spots, exploring, learning and picking up the vibe of places where so many lives were lost. It was powerful and we’d both do it again, investigating some of the many other sites we didn’t get to see.
All this is feeling particularly close to home these days. Perhaps it’s because of a certain uneasiness in the world and the economy. Perhaps it’s because 1% of the people in the US are taking in 25% of the nation’s income, according to an article by Joseph E. Stiglitz in Vanity Fair. With the uprisings in Egypt, Libya and other Middle East countries recently, protesting inequality and injustice, I wonder if we in this country are not due for an uprising of our own, one that pits class against class, similar to our late Civil War. If such a battle were waged, who would triumph? And would the price of victory be too high for anyone to pay?
As I say, this film fills me with reflection.
I can’t remember if I’ve written about my favorite astrologer before – I think I tried to, and every time I tried to link to his website, my computer would crash. Wierd. But I’m going to try again tonight.
I’m not generally a big fan of astrology. It’s mostly just amusing. I know that in the days of yore (like the 17th century), astrologers often doubled as physicians or apothecaries, and used their astrological casting skills to predict the health and gender of unborn children, the outcome of serious illness, and a wide variety of other turns of fortune. It’s small wonder that they were considered quacks by educated lords, while being honored and respected by the lower classes.
E-Bro went through a long period of doing astrological charts for people (me included). He cast Kelsea’s chart shortly after she was born – I wish I still had the details, and no doubt I do somewhere, as I don’t recall much about it, but the things I do remember seem to be uncannily accurate, even if they weren’t quite the things that I wanted for her in a perfect world. But they are exactly and perfectly her.
As for me, I idly toyed with “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs” at the peak of its popularity (in my teens). But I’ve never been one to put too much stock in the stars, at least not in the astrological sense. However…
Some years ago, somehow, I discovered Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology. He seems to reach and touch and channel someplace up and away that speaks to me. He’s so on track in his astrological parables and down-to-the-clouds advice that it’s spooky. He’s also written a book that seems to be along the lines of www.tut.com’s Notes From the Universe.
Even if you’re the world’s biggest skeptic, I encourage you to check him out at www.freewillastrology.com. As a little peek for my fellow Cancerians, here’s our horoscope for this week:
“In her essay “The Possible Human,” Jean Houston describes amazing capacities that are within reach of any of us who are brazen and cagey enough to cultivate them. We can learn to thoroughly enjoy being in our bodies, for example. We can summon enormous power to heal ourselves; develop an acute memory; enter at will into the alpha and theta wave states that encourage meditation and creative reverie; cultivate an acute perceptual apparatus that can see “infinity in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower;” and practice the art of being deeply empathetic. Guess what, Cancerian: The next six months will be one of the best times ever for you to work on developing these superpowers. To get started, answer this question: Is there any attitude or belief you have that might be standing in the way?”
I’m off to www.amazon.com to order both “The Possible Human” and Rob’s “Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.” Self-help city, here I come.
I took a 6-mile hike this morning. It was muddy. It was windy. I was all alone with the prairie dogs and four hawks. I cranked my iPod and got blisters on my feet. I thought and thought.
I’m taking advantage of the few days before I start the new job to get outside in the warmth while it lasts. This morning’s was a lovely hike, even with the blisters. And as music will, the songs on my iPod took me to a myriad different places. There were some songs I couldn’t listen to now and others I didn’t even know I had.
I’m venturing into a new world next week. I’ve almost been thinking of it as a grown-up world - a world where I do real work, commute to a big city, be professional. It feels like a long time since I’ve really done that. The prospect is exciting. It’s ironic how far this new reality is from the reality I thought I’d be facing right now, and there’s a poignancy to that.
In my teens, I had the world before me – it was the open-door world. I could do anything. I felt invincible and fearless. I made decisions clearly and rationally. I worked my ass off to get into and through college. I had such hope for the future. I can remember that feeling as if it were yesterday.
I was three days past my 22nd birthday when I got involved with my husband-to-be. My 20s were tumultuous, mostly due to that relationship. My life didn’t take the path I had planned for myself, and somewhere along the line, the choices I started making felt less like choices than requirements. I started falling into things instead of making decisions about my life. And I very much wanted to be married. I needed to know that someone wanted to marry me – that I was loveable enough for someone to want to marry me. Looking back, I placed FAR too much emphasis on marriage. And so, I worked. I grew professionally in a job that I fell into. I think the only big decision I made during this time was to buy our house. Otherwise, I was drifting through a fairly interesting, fairly hopeless world, and trying by myself to make our marriage work. I consider this the semi-conscious world.
Then came my 30s. The marriage got worse. We separated for a time. That was my decision, and it was a big one. But I reneged after only a few months. I was still drifting – it didn’t matter whether Pat came back or not, so I let him come back. I was still pretty unhappy in my marriage, but things were a little better. Pat was working and we had two houses, so we lived apart for part of the week. I was travelling a lot for work and I loved that. I was successful. I was in the professional world. I felt grown up. But I felt something was missing. And so, late one night, looking in a mirror in a New York City hotel room, I decided I wanted to have a baby. In fact, that night was just about exactly 15 years ago.
So I consciously moved from the professional world to the world of motherhood. As sometimes happens, having a child improved our marriage for a while. But I was still working, always working, trying to support the household and be a good mother. I left my job of 13 years when Kelsea was two – a restructuring resulted in my position being eliminated and I declined the replacement position they offered me, so the parting was mutual – and that was kind of a choice for me. Pat was working and was supportive of me pursuing my writing and photography. For a few days. In an ironic turn of events, he got fired about a week after I left work, and swore he would never work for anyone again. My choices vanished. I was back to working again and not really by choice. I was missing my daughter’s childhood. I was drifting, but I was dedicated. I was in a stifled world.
Finally, I hit my 40s. I had gone through several layoffs at several jobs, and had been working multiple jobs for years. I was literally working myself to death. I could feel it. I would go days without seeing Kelsea awake. Finally, I decided again that something had to give. I decided to take a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to the Caribbean. Pat wasn’t interested in going with me. So I went. On a beach on Cane Garden Bay, my soul opened up and I recognized, buried inside me, that happy, hopeful young woman of my teens. God, it was good to know she was still there, and that she just needed a little peace and sun to emerge from beneath my skin. I had entered a hopeful world - where I could see potential.
I came home feeling happier. The once-in-a-lifetime trip became two or three times a year. It was the only way I could hold onto who I was, since I was still working so hard at home. But regardless of my travel, my marriage worsened. I grew happier – he grew more sullen and angry. He drank more. My trips became escapes from my real life. And that was not acceptable. My parents died. My life was too painful.
Finally, I found the support and love I needed to take the step of leaving my marriage. I told my husband I was moving out, told my daughter we were getting a divorce. I shook up my world and entered the transitional world. During all this, I got laid off, but had a temporary reprieve for 9 months. I had made a big choice to get divorced. But I was immediately in another relationship – it was what inspired the change. I felt supported enough to start my own freelance business, but couldn’t seem to motivate myself to pursue it. I just wanted to rest after all those years of working. I know it irritated my new partner. But we had plans. We kept talking about our future. It was all about to happen at this time, this year. And the relationship ended. I had the rug pulled out from under me.
In that relationship, I had felt that teenage hopefulness again. A vibrancy to my future. Like my dreams could actually come true. I was willing and eager to work with a partner. The depression that settled on me in the last few months has left me a place that’s worse than drifting – a world of despair.
So now, I have started over. Started making choices again. I am choosing a job that I want (where they want me). I am choosing to try to invest in a house here. I am choosing to re-enter the professional world and the big city, armed with the knowledge that I will be learning something that will serve me well in the future. I am choosing to continue writing – my novel and a new book, and articles. I am choosing to stay close to my daughter for a while longer, even though she continues to encourage me to move to a warm island somewhere in the sun. But not yet. Right now, I am in the conscious world. And I like that.
I’m making some plans for myself. They are fledgling. And a part of them, the first part, aside from the new job, is that I need to grieve for the dreams I’ve lost. For the love I’ve lost. And in grieving, I can let it go. And enter a brave new world.
On January 1, I decided to participate in WordPress’ “Post-A-Day” (see details here). Since I post with a fair amount of regularity, I didn’t think this would be too tough. However, as others who post frequently know, it is sometimes hard to come up with anything to write about. I have been known to resort to random thoughts, or, if I have too much time, one of my Slightly Bizarre History posts.
As I have been contemplating my future – both the journey and the destination – I am recognizing that I need more discipline. The lack of discipline in my life is a detriment to me. My recent relationship was really helpful in providing a sense of discipline, as my partner had trained himself to be quite disciplined and it worked for him. For the most part, it worked for me too. At any rate, I feel it is good for me – it feels like something I have pushed against unnecessarily – really just to be contrary – for my entire life, and I’d like to stop pushing against it now.
So the “Post A Day” feels like a pekingese-sized way of instilling a bit of discipline in my life. And that, my friends, is something that makes me smile.
(And Boo here ALWAYS makes me smile!)
OK, so Christmas Eve was alone and New Year’s Eve is alone. But big woo. It’s fine.
My time at the Hot Springs was good. I did a lot of work, a lot of writing, a lot of thinking, a lot of soaking and a bit of crying. On some of the travel boards on which I participate, people write trip reports when they go places – sort of like a journal of what they did, where they ate, what was interesting. Cottonwood is not exactly geared for that kind of report. What I wound up writing was a daily lyric poem of my experience – more feelings, thoughts, sensations, revelations. Not your typical trip report. I’m not sure yet if I want to publish it here – still debating in my head.
Lots and lots of writers have been talking about new year’s resolutions or their lack thereof. No reason for me not to do the same.
I don’t have any, really. I’m taking a different approach this year, a more psychocybernetic, secret, law of attraction approach. (Go ahead you naysayers, make poofy faces and roll your eyes, shake your heads in disdain and sign at my delusions, it’s okay.) My landlady introduced to a strange, encouraging messaging thingy last year called Notes From the Universe. Every other day or so, I get an email. I really liked today’s. I’ll quote the most important part of it here. Keep in mind that this is not to offend, belittle or minimize anyone’s religious beliefs.
“1. Give thanks that life is… just as it is (and that it’s been… just as it’s been). Because of it, you’re now “READY.”
2. Define what you want in terms of the end result. Don’t worry about the hows, or even the course. KNOW that what you want is ALREADY yours in spirit, by divine LAW, just focus on the certainty of this ownership, understand it, claim it, and “it will be on earth, as it is in heaven (spirit).”
3. LET THE UNIVERSE show you the way via your impulses and instincts that appear as you take inspired action. Don’t worry that your first steps seem silly or futile. And if you don’t know what to do, do anything! Go! Get busy! Do not insist on intermediary successes, only upon the end result.”
I like these suggestions. I am going to try to follow them. I have spent some time today – and will spend some more time tonight – crafting a few powerful statements that resonate with me, that enable me to feel my future as my present, that basically act on #2 above.
Yes, it’s a new approach, but hey, why not? Last year certainly wasn’t a banner year, and frankly, I don’t want to dwell on it anymore. I don’t want to live in the pain of loss, loss of so many things. That’s no way to live, and no way to act. And according to some universal law theorists, it’s best not to say too much about your evolved reality to too many people. So, my apologies, but most elements of my new reality will remain a mystery until I am living the end results.
Then we’ll all have even more reason to celebrate – but for now, for tonight and all nights, I wish you all joy.