Sunday, October 20, 2013

Time to knit

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/summit-2


Here it is, the monster that consumed a great deal of my summer! The Summit Shawl, which I started last October and keep picking up and putting down. It looks tricky but once you get the hang of the pattern, it's quite simple. I can even do it while watching television! :-)

Today, however, I was distracted when I stepped outside and saw this most amazing red batch of fall leaves against a green ivy grove, so I came in and immediately dug through my stash. I found what I was looking for - a soft red homespun with golden brown flecks - and began one of my favorite go-to projects, a one evening cowl. From time to time, I need a quick knit to feel like I've accomplished something in the day.


One Evening Cowl pattern by Brooke Sales-Lee

I got to row 6 and then life came calling. I volunteered to make sugar skulls for my son's Montessori class, and also there was some work to do in the garden and my sister had called me for lunch. So I put my needles down and commenced to make 52 sugar skulls, which I will pain to mention must be made 1/2 at a time and then left for 12 hours to cure, after which they will be carefully 'glued' together with a contraption called Royal Icing. Still, before being a knitter or a yogi or an anything else, I'm a mom, and this was important to my son.



Ain't they sweet??


After finishing up the skulls, we met my sister for lunch and then worked and played outside for a while. It was one of those beautiful fall days unique to the South, when you forget what season you're in for a moment.



My garden doesn't realize it's late October!!

Now it's late evening, and I just finished two magazine articles and need to get tomorrow's lesson plans posted. I think a well-timed Chai Latte will give me just enough 'oomph' to spend at least a couple of hours working on the cowl. Time to knit...there never seems to be enough of it. How do you fit it into your day?

~Find me on Ravelry as ZenMamaKnits~

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chunky Slouch Hat (that looks more like a fitted cloche!)



 More of a fitted cloche than a slouchy beanie, but at least
it's done! This pattern can be found via Ravelry at http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/chunky-slouch-cap
I had to take this off needles 2 times before figuring out to add a few extra stitches (I've got a big head!) and then a few extra rows. I also believe I might had used wrong gauge yarn. Though it said Super Bulky I believe I need to double up or use a thicker super-bulky next time as it looks different in the photos she has posted. Still it is a fun and simple project! A quick knit, which I love and which gives me a break from the exhausting Summit Shawl (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/summit-2) I have been working on since the dawn of mankind. :-) Happy knitting!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sacred Space and Solitude

Sacred space. Solitude. We all need it.

I recently visited a home where a large family resided. There was plenty of space for everyone, as the home had more bedrooms than it had people. However, the energy was heavy, moving, dense.

Everyone was bent on occupying the same exact space, even the children. Rather than play or spend time in the vast expanses that were thier bedrooms, the den, or the family room, this family all seemed bent on cramming into the dining room and kitchen, much to the detriment of harmony. Children raced through the kitchen, played loudly in a corner, opened and shut the refrigerator, brought family pets to the dining table and handed them to unsuspecting adults. The adults paced, sat. or hovered in the same general area watching television or trying to converse with other adults. Teenagers sat at the kitchen table, playing with technology that would have been much easier to enjoy in a quiet space.
It was disconcerting. So many rooms, and yet everyone was seemingly bent on occupying the same one.

Enjoying sacred space we created on our patio.
I've never been one who saw the need for space that was not going to be used. If a family is only going to use one primary room of the house, then live in a one-room flat and save the 5 bedroom homes for those who actually need, and will use, the space. Space is sacred, or rather, it should be. Our personal, private spaces are where we go to replenish and nourish ourselves. Sacred space is where we go when we need to sit in solitude, to simply be without moving, talking, or doing.

Though you can share sacred space in a home environment, it's important for each family member to have thier own. It's important to enjoy solitude in that space, to be at peace with it. To look forward to it. For most of us, this space is our room and enjoying it begins in childhood. But often, the appreciation of sacred space is not realized until we become adults, and for many people, like the family I visited, it's never realized at all. There are many reasons why people avoid solitude, but the most common one is this: it can be frightening if one has never experienced it in a healthy setting. An adult who had self-involved parents and felt abandoned as a child will often avoid solitude like the plague, but even children with loving, attentive parents are not often taught that time alone in sacred space is a viable, valuable tool for happiness. Instead, we can fall into the trap of feeling that we need other people's presence near continually, spending every waking moment communicating either in person or through the use of technology.

The good news is, if you've never enjoyed solitude in a sacred space, it's not too late to start. Create your own sacred spaces throughout your home, even in high-traffic areas like the kitchen and den. Sacred space does not need to be an entire room, it can simply be a corner of a room, or a mini-altar of sorts set up on a coffee table or even a bookshelf. Sacred space can look many ways. Begin with clearing away clutter, including objects that you don't actually use in that space. Add only items that you resonate with and that are deeply important to you. Live flowers, natural stones, an object that is precious to you, a photo you connect with...sacred space thrives on minimalism, so a less-is-more approach is a good place to start. But every space in your home can be made a little more sacred with the right touches.

Fresh flowers, a special piece of art, and a
basket from our beloved lowcountry
create a little sacredness at our
busy kitchen table!
So, with the energy of a full July moon approaching, ask yourself how you can generate a little sacred space in your home today where you can enjoy not the hustle and bustle of family life, wonderful in it's own right, but a little quiet, reflective time. If you have children, talk to them about the importance of sacred space and only keeping in our possession the things we actually use, need, and/or enjoy. There is a flow of abundance in passing on what is no longer essential; it opens us up to receiving new blessings. Try to create a little sacred space, or mini altar, in each room of your home by clearing out unnecessary items. You can study Feng Shui or research creating sacred space online, or simply go with your own intuition and instinct as to what looks and feels right, and why. 

Then sit, alone, for at least 10 minutes a day, and occupy the space. Enjoy it. Breathe in it. Be in it. If you have children or share your home with family members, this may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Teach your family to respect your need for this time, and encourage them to do the same for themselves. Be patient if this is a new concept for your spouse/children/family. In time, with dedicated practice, it will become part of your daily routine, and the peace it can bring to you and yours to enjoy solitude in sacred space will be worth it.

Sunflowers in patio pots reminds me of Finland...
it doesn't matter why, but it makes my space feel more sacred
in summer. What do you do for yourself in your home
that nourishes your soul?
 Bright July blessings! For more information on creating sacred spaces, email me at amialley@hotmail.com


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lords a' Leaping

I’m not much for news and often find myself not in-the-know when it comes to media-sensationalized current events. However, at the beach this week, I was caught up on the Paula Deen scandal/drama by friends who explained in detail the situation to me. And because I am certainly no fan of cooking shows (or cooking in general) I’ve never watched hers; never had dinner at her restaurant; never bought any of her cookbooks or merchandise. As a matter or fact, my non-relationship with food and cooking is so understood that a co-worker once saw me drinking coffee from a borrowed Paula Deen restaurant mug and burst into laugher. So while her fall from grace does not inspire any real reaction in me beyond disbelief, witnessing it has been a profound reminder that nothing, not even a hard-wrought personal empire, is guaranteed to last forever. That's the whole premise of living in the moment.

It’s easy to live in the moment when one is at the beach; the moments are awesome. Amazing. Wednesday, in water up to my waist, I saw, for the first time in my life, about 10 feet away from where I stood, a slick grey fin slide up, cruise along, and then disappear again into the water. For a moment, I was frozen. I grew up in the era of Jaws, and could hear the theme music in my head. Before I could react, however, something amazing happened – bursting forth from the water came the fin’s owner - a sleek, beautiful dolphin. She leapt up then plunged underneath again. And she was not the only one. For the duration of our time on the beach that day, the dolphins leapt and played nearby.

What a blessing. That my son got to see the dolphins as well multiplied the blessing for me. A beautiful memory. A beautiful day.

I’ve moved away from the aspiration of life being about creating professional personal empires. As Paula Deen and many before her have shown us, empires can crumble. I want to live as big and full and rich of a life as possible, not live primarily to achieve some sort of fame or distinction in my field. Not anymore. Standing in the ocean while dolphins leapt before me was a sweet, sweet moment. Everything was perfect. There was no fear, no hurt, no worry, no concern. There was just the present, and it was pure joy.

That evening, at my friend’s home, my son found a cicada. Remembering the cicada buzz of two years ago, I was reminded of the first time one landed on his face. I rarely take pictures, but I have photos of that. His eyes are closed and his mouth is open in laughter. Pure joy. Remembering that picture, I take another. My son will be nine in December. On the drive home Thursday he sighed in the backseat, remembering the long-awaited vacation. “It goes by so fast,” he frowned. And he’s right. It does.


A new mother wails to me about loss of sleep and adjusting to her changing role, and I listen, because I know it is so hard, and she needs someone to listen. I remind her to be present for all of it, even this, because childhood does not last forever. Nothing does. Our lives are composed of moments. When we are at the top, it’s glorious, but we are not the empires we build or the children we have or the trips we have taken or the reputations we’ve established. We are not what we own, what we make, what we’ve done, or what others think of us. Watching another’s world crumble as a result of poor choices makes me want to hold tightly to my own little empire, but of course, this is impossible. As Robert Frost so eloquently stated, nothing gold can stay. Backing out of a driveway at the beach this week, I hit a post, leaving dents and streaks of paint down the side of my still-new-to-me car. I shrugged it off. “It’s why I have insurance,” I say. Years ago, it might have ruined the entire trip for me, but not now. I've grown up.

I was once told it takes an average of 40 years for a human being to mature. As I approach this landmark birthday myself, I am inclined to agree, although I thought I was plenty mature at 20 and 30. Now I realize there are many ways in which we must grow up, many trials we must face and some we’ll fail but it is only when we cease to leap that we cease to live. And there are little maturities, too. I trade my Nomadic State of Mind hippie rope sandals for sleek Sanuk flops, my hobo bags for elegant purses. I am grown, and I want to be grown. I am an adult; I can do whatever I like. But watching Paula Deen sob on television, I’m reminded that there is one emotion that seems impervious to time, that persists beyond moments and memory: regret. We can do what we like, yes...but we can never undo what has been done. I can’t undo the moment I looked away and hit the post. I know the damage to my car is my fault, and no one else’s. I can accept this, because when it comes to things I know I’ve wrecked, chances I’ve blown, mistakes I’ve made…paint and dents on a car door is nothing.

Wanting more beach time, I book a cottage at the Isle of Palms, not worrying about expense, but trusting that all will be provided. A few hours later, the phone rings. A job offer. I accept not only the job, which will more than pay for the cottage, but the knowledge that like the dolphins, I too, need to leap from still waters in order to breathe, to live. We’ll end our summer on the island because I leapt, and the net appeared.


How many dolphins have I missed seeing because I didn't do this more often?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Graduation Day

Graduating happens this way: slowly, like a small bird picking away at the inner parts of shell. It moves clumsily - it is the first time it has ever sought this form of freedom. Until this moment, life just meant existing in pure, exquisite balance, a place of being and non-being, soul tucked away safely inside of a shell that was warm and happy and home and love and all things good and right with the world.

Then that world, without warning, became too small. The bird couldn't breathe. There was no choice; the shell cracked, was chipped away at; broken. Light came in, and then fresh air and cool breezes. The senses were flooded all at once. Though life had actually begins some time before, it is the moment the bird escapes the shell that we'll call birth.

“My mom made me collect those Care Bears,” my son says to an acquaintance, explaining the bucket of stuffed animals under his bed and disregarding – with one sentence – all those years and months and days and hours we spent playing with those stuffed bears, reading about them, and watching Care Bear movies. They grow up this fast, the children we love. Or at least it seems this way. It’s only later we find out that growing up is a much more grueling process. Maturity comes along at a different point in time for everyone. I thought I was grown at 16, when I became engaged to the then-love-of-my-life. We planned to marry when I finished college, but the cute classmate who sat beside me my first semester pretty much thwarted that plan.

This past Saturday, I watched my niece graduate from the same high school that I attended. When she was born, I was 21, there at the hospital with a new love-of-my-life, who happily made many runs to get cigarettes, drinks, and food for my family as we waited for the birth.

The 21-year-old me holding Rhiannon
Two years earlier, my sister’s first child had died at 7 weeks of age. My mother’s first child was stillborn, as was my grandmother’s. In my family, birth seems to ride in with death alongside. My brother died the day after his daughter was born. In silence, we ate, drank, and smoked, because back then, it was still allowed on hospital grounds…and we waited. We knew all too well sometimes bad things happen when you’re expecting good ones.

Fast forward eighteen years, and it’s an auditorium, not a hospital, where my family is gathered, waiting on my niece to arrive. We are not the family we were two decades ago, however. We don’t sit together because my mother is in the wheelchair section and my father has to be with her. The current contender for love-of-my-life cannot be by my side at this particular event, but my son is. Without food, drink, or cigarettes, we wait. My sister and her youngest child arrive; an aunt and a cousin show up later. But the auditorium is filling up. We end up spread out all over, my family, but still we know who's here. That means something.

2013
Afterwards, we lose and find one another in the crowd, and I occasionally catch a glance of some familiar face from the lifetime ago that I attended high school. I don’t make small talk; there is little to say beyond hello to someone you once knew, but are a stranger to now. I push through the crowd, find my own people, and figure out the next leg of the journey, because this is a big deal, this graduation. I wonder if my niece really knows how big, but caught up in her circle of friends, I’m sure she doesn’t. It takes some living – real, actual living – to understand the definition of the word ‘graduate’. At this point in her life, school is just followed by more school. Give it a fancier name and charge ridiculous rates to attend it, but it is still school. And she has a lot more of it to go. These friends here today will fade away, new ones will take their places, and it will happen over and over again. But right now, she doesn't know that… nor does she need to. She is happy in this crowd. These friends are her people. This day marks a change in her life.

The graduation passage marks us, too. Perhaps more than the children in our worlds who are actually graduating, it is us, the adults on the sidelines, who are marked by the knowledge of how much time - the one thing no force can stop - is now behind us. There are many types of graduations. “I don’t believe in fairies anymore,” my son blurts out over dinner a few weeks ago. So I tell him tales of a dark fairy king who is big as a man and lives in the shadows, searching for wayward little boys to kidnap and create an army of darkness with. “Who will they fight?” he asks. “The forces of good,” I answer. “Who are the guardians of the good?” He's a lover of fantasy films and knows the plots of all such stories are generally the same. “The trees, the flowers, all that grows and thrives and looks towards the light," I answer.
He scoffs. “How can a tree be a guardian? It can’t move!”

“Not in the daylight,” I say, making it up as I go along. “But that’s why people sleep at night, you know. So that the guardians can do their job while it’s dark and no one will see.” I want to say, ‘Just believe sometime, don’t always look for logic,’ but I don’t, because he will seek out the rational and logical in every situation; it is his way. I want to ball up the magic that has been his childhood and hold it in my arms, never let it go, but I can’t. There were so many more stories I wanted to tell, so many more things I had planned to do make his childhood amazing, but he’s growing away from me now.

Growing away from me now...
Later, on an evening stroll, he’s debating the brand new fairy information I’ve bestowed upon him. At the edge of our road, he stops and turns to me.

“Mama, will you be mad if I tell you I still don’t believe?”

I could say anything right now, but I shake my head and give him the truth. “No. No one, not even me, has the authority to tell you what you should believe. They also do not have the right to tell you what you shouldn’t believe. Always remember that.”

He plays with the neighborhood boys as I sit outside, a cup of coffee in hand. At 21 I drank coffee in the evenings in funky coffee shops because it was hip, but nearing 40 now, I do it at home just so I can stay awake past 9pm. ‘Going to bed at granny o’clock’ my friends and I will joke when the urge to give in to sleep at the same hour we used to be heading out for the evening is just too overwhelming. A text from my niece informs me that while she has selected her college, she continues to change her mind about her major. I laugh at this announcement; I have four college degrees, and have had twice that number of full-time jobs.

I’m a thinker, prone to over-think, searching for metaphors and analogies for things in life when I should be in the moments, enjoying things in life, but there is a pencil in my mind, always scribbling down things for later, when I’ll come back to them while knitting or gardening and know I have to stop, write it down on paper, save it because it’s important, and it might help someone someday. At graduations, the talk is always abuzz with what one is going to be, planning to be, hoping to be. My niece asks me questions about this next phase, as I’m the only family member who attended a university campus, and I think long and hard about my answers. These are the kind of conversations we remember having with family, so I’m careful what I say. I want to tell her to be selective with her major, that there is a risk of burn-out when you make your passion your daily work. It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way and have struggled with for the better part of a year now. The old adage rings true – what you spend all day at work doing is the last thing you want to do at home. I now move towards new passions, new hobbies, and new experiences. The shell cracks. Light seeps in.

I want to tell her that part of the point of college is not to already know what you want to do, but also to discover what new thing you might want to do. I didn’t do this. I entered college as an accounting major who dreamt of law school one day, but listened to well-meaning folks who kept imploring, “You’re too creative for that kind of work; you need to do something artistic or you’ll waste your talent.” I was 17 and had been taught to listen to my elders.

I want to tell my niece that I spent a hell of a lot of years striving to be something phenomenal, creative, outlandish, radical, famous (insert your own adjective, it’ll probably work) in my field, because deep inside I felt that just being me was not good enough. I know better now…but it took a very long time. The shell is stronger than we think. It can and will withstand being dropped a few times because it has to be opened from inside.

I want to tell her not to streamline her definitions of herself by saying “I have be this because I like it’ or ‘I need to be that because I’m good at it’. We are capable of being so, so much more than our strengths, hobbies, and interest limit us to. It’s a dangerous game to let them define us, especially so early in life.

I want to tell her that sometimes bad things will happen when you are expecting good ones; that even when your family is spread out, knowing who’s still there mean something; that no one has a right to tell you what you should and should not believe; that loves-of-your-life will come and go with the marches of time, each offering a different life, a different you, a different destiny, a different pain…but you have to try, because we are nothing but puppets without love. The intense joy of having it and the agonizing pain of losing it are the only two emotions in life that are perfectly equal in intensity, the first being impossible to attain without risking the second. Nothing shatters the shells we build around ourselves like love. It throws us off balance, yes, but it is the light that pours in and opens our senses to the wonders of the world outside of the safe, secure familiar.

Instead of saying any of this, however, I give typical, basic, bland advice, as do most adults in these situations. We mean to offer more, we really do, but we’re tired, and children, no matter the age, always seem to spring the deepest questions on us at the precise moment that our brains have shut down for the day. But maybe bland answers are what one needs at times like this. They take the pressure off, make us feel that we have lots of hours to dwell on useless metaphors and analogies; that time isn’t marching on; that we’ll never slip, but always stand tall, secure and safely in balance; that our shell will never grow too small, break, and fall away, causing us to go through birth again and again and again with our eyes closed, because we learned long ago that death can easily ride along on the same wind.

Sitting on my den floor early this Sunday morning, legs crossed, mind deep in meditation, I’m suddenly struck by the question my son asked almost 24 hours before, when we were sitting in auditorium, family all spread out around us, but still there, waiting to see my niece arrive in cap and gown.

Waiting on the big moment...
“What does it mean to graduate?”

I open my eyes slowly. For almost a year, I have been pecking at this shell, until now the final piece, that last remaining vestige of who I thought I was, falls away. I feel exposed, open, and vulnerable. I'm both lost and found.

But I remember graduating. I remember vividly who I intended to be, who I always was, before the ideas and opinions and dreams others had for and about me found their way into my life, my soul, my psyche, building me up and breaking me down simultaneously, defending their intentions with same kind of logic used by foresters to justify the destruction caused by controlled burns. It has taken time, my shadowy fairy kings were many, but my guardians have done their job. I may have broken the shell myself, but they have preserved the balance of what was inside. I grow and thrive, turning my face towards the light.

“What does it mean to graduate?”

I’m sure I gave him the dullest of answers at that moment. But in the not too distant future, when it is him in cap and gown and he no longer asks me questions because he thinks he knows all the answers, I’ll tell him that these passages mark all of us; that birth and death, even as metaphors, are bedfellows; that like me, he will spend many years making it up as he goes along, pecking away at dreams and hopes and goals because he’ll think he needs something external to validate his existence. Then one day he’ll learn that nothing shatters the illusions we build around ourselves like love. It throws us off balance, yes, but it is also the light that pours in and opens our senses to the wonders of the world outside of the safe, familiar shells we’ve been living in. It leads us out of ourselves and into the world, blinking, wondering what we’ve been doing all of this time, inside our own heads, forgetting to come out and play.

Then we feel the warmth of the sun on our faces, the way the trees seem to sway with the breeze, and the way we seem to be a perfect part of this dance just by showing up.

And we smile, knowing that finally, we’ve graduated.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Empowered Fashion

Well, my experiment lasted 6 months.

Beginning in December, and going until May, I did not purchase any new clothes. My plan was to do this for an entire year. I even pledged to give away much of my existing wardrobe, though that was primarily because I was tired of it and/or many items no longer fit. I had several reasons for this experiment, all noble and very liberal-conscientious-almost pretentious sounding.

But by May 1st, I'd quite had enough of opening my closet door with zero enthusiasm. So I went shopping.

Why?


In pink silk, fresh from the salon...
 Because I like clothes. Alot. And shoes. And jewelry. Does this make me a shallow, lemming-minded person who has no depth or real life purpose?

Hardly.

Back in fall, when I wrote a feature article on fashion for a local online magazine, (http://www.greenwoodtimes.com/content/fashion-forward) a friend asked me how it felt to write about something so trivial as high fashion. I'm not sure why they asked me this; fashion is hardly trivial. It's an industry, a lifestyle, a huge part of how we define who we are. I have read fashion magazines since I was 12 years old. And though from time to time I like to explore my own ideas about style, blending thrift store jeans with department store shoes, a hand-me-down jacket with a DKNY blouse, vintage gemstone jewelry with brassy finds from the $1 jewelry shop, I've come to realize is this one, simple thing - when we look better, we feel better, no matter what our style.

New shoes, new hoodie, new hair - because kids like to look good, too!!
At 39, I've been through many phases of style, but now prefer a more sophisticated look. And why not? I'm a grown up, and I've waited a long time to dress like one. During my shopping hiatus, I took a critical  look at my wardrobe, and thought, for the most part...bleh.

Ugh...that's all I'm going to say.

I took a good long look at a few items and asked myself, "What were you thinking?" Then I got a big black bag and filled it up so much that Stacy and Clinton (of What Not to Wear fame) would have been proud. I think it's the typical mom thing - with the kid comes the desire to go for ease and convenience with clothes and in the end we realize our entire wardrobe is composed of beige, wrinkle-free garments with lots of elastic. In the far back, somewhere, are designer jeans and strapless dresses but who has time for that now? When I did want a little flair in my style, I went back mentally to my post-motherhood days, when I shopped over-priced vintage clothing stores on the streets of Ann Arbor and sewed sequined things onto the legs of my jeans. I don't know why. It just seemed to fit.

But that all changed during my 6-month shopping hiatus. I noticed fashion more once I wasn't purchasing it, and I realized that I had no real, authentic desire to dress like the 23-year-old art student whose most prized posession was a pair of perfectly faded 501 jeans with a sequined rose vine climbing up one side. And because I had given away most of my wardrobe, come spring, there was no other choice...I went shopping.

I love these shoes so much, I want to marry them...
And it was so glorious, I did it again.

And again.

My man friend laughed, saying he knew I couldn't do it, go a whole year without buying clothes, but he's a trendy Euro-chic guy who would not be caught dead in public wearing sloppy jeans and/or a baseball cap himself, so he can't throw stones at my love of clothes. (He even has a Nomination bracelet like the one he gave me, but without the dangling silver star, of course!) And wise soul that he is, he never saw the point I was trying to make in my no-shopping mission. It just took some time before I realized I didn't really see the point in what I was doing, either. He laughed when I explained how I had chosen to end the vow and buy some spring tops. It's both frustrating and warming to the soul when someone knows you better than you know yourself. And I also realize that a love of fashion does not negate any depth or originality in person's soul. I've learned that the best things about a person are the things you get to see when you take time to get to know them, and even the most enlightened person will make a quick judgement based on a person's style - or lack of it.  We all need work in this area. But I've decided if I'm gonna be judged, I'd rather it be because I'm overdressed for an event rather than looking like I got dressed in the 1990s for it.

So did I learn anything else from my 6 months off shopping?

Yes.

I learned that the department stores miss you when you don't visit often. They send out the big guns, with amazing coupons and discounts and something-for-nothings for cardholders that make me wonder how they make any profit at all. But I'm not going to complain; I refurbished my wardrobe for near pennies by saving these coupons up. I learned some things seem more noble, but they really aren't a big deal to most of the world. I learned that feeling good and looking good are often inter-connected. I learned there is no shame in loving and desiring quality, pretty things. I learned that my entire attitude changes when I slip on my D & G sunglasses and purple (faux) snakeskin pumps. Does it change who I am inside? Of course not. But it does make me feel empowered when I know I look stunning, and that's a pretty damn good feeling.

And that, my loves, is the entire purpose of fashion.

Go get some.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Trouble With Gurus

There's an innate danger in getting too close to someone whose life and lifestyle you admire. And that is watching the illusions that you've built up around them completely dissolve when they suddenly become human.

This can be a blessing - you realize that they are human, like you, and prone to human actions and emotions, like you.

But it can also be unsettling to realize how willing we are at times to put those we admire onto pedestals, trusting thier wisdom, judgement, and intuition completely. At times, even over our own.

It's a danger, this. Because in the end, we are all human, prone to human actions and emotions, exceedingly imperfect...even the gurus we hold in such high regard.

This I realize as I watch the trajectory of a former-guru-cum-close-friend's life spin into a total 360 from what it was when we first met.

And the thing is, they seem deliriously content to keep letting it spin, because apparently, the wonderful life they'd presented for years, the wonderful life I witnessed and occasionally felt envious of, well....let's just say I've now learned was really, deep down, anything but wonderful.

They were far from satisfied...

But it's okay, because now they are really coming into themselves. Now everything is moving along as it should be. Now they can finally cast aside the mantle of who they were and delve head-first into who they were meant to be. If it hurts someone else, that's a shame, but other people just get hurt sometimes. In the end, we have to consider ourselves and our happiness and what is right for us, even if it seems catastrophically selfish to the outside world. Forget all that other stuff and listen to this new wisdom they have to share. Because it's the real deal. And they want to celebrate every step of it with all the people they love...except maybe the ones who aren't speaking to them anymore but whatever, they'll come around and if not, well, everyone is not meant to be in our lives forever and sometimes we just have to - forgive the cliche - let go. Perhaps they just can't accompany us into this journey to our higher selves. Bless them anyway.

Funny, watching these things as they unfold, wondering what happened, and how much of this person's current actions conceal the deeper reality that for much of the time I held them to such high knowing and regard, they really were not any wiser than me...and clearly, not happier.

It makes me a little sad to think I was thier friend, and yet could have missed something that's now so glaringly obvious, but to my credit, the persona was quite convincing.

And there's the trouble with gurus....

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Honey Pot Karma

The honey pot!
For the past year or so, I’ve had the goal to replace all of my dishware with handmade pottery pieces. I accomplish this slowly, a piece or two at a time, acquiring them everywhere from yard sales to pottery sales to being given a piece or two as gifts. But the pottery sales are my favorite, because I get to take my son along and pick out a piece together. At the student potters' sale at a local college, we perused items that were decorative, functional, and beautifully one-of-a-kind. But we settled on a honey pot, something I've wanted forever and was delighted to see  priced well within our budget.

On the way home, we discussed the importance of supporting the arts, from my own perspective as an artist. "If we want other people to support our creative efforts," I explained, "then we need to support the creative efforts of others, by attending shows or buying things from artists and artisans when we can." We were vending at an art festival the coming weekend, and as I explained to him, could hardly expect other people to support our work if we did not support the creative work of others.

Jewelry display, festival ready!
I’m a firm believer in karma; I’ve seen it at work in my own life and in the lives of others. If you aren’t familiar with the term, let’s just say it makes for some good common sense to believe that we tend to get back what we give. Karma also extends to the reasons we have for giving – is it a true wish to do good from the heart, or is it based on the idea people will think we’re an ass if we don’t do a particular thing for someone else? There is one truth to karma…the desire to do good must be sincere in order to attract good; there is no place in giving (as there is no place pretty much anywhere else) for the ego. And everything, from the way we treat friends to the way we spend money, has a sense of karma.

All set up and ready to sell! Free trees, diplaced by our garden tilling, at the bottom of display; proud to say we gave them ALL away!
My son is 8, and not so much into art-making these days, but he’s got no choice but to tag along with mom to the fairs and festivals where I vend. So when he asked, “Can I sell stuff at the festivals, too?” I thought, ‘Oh, yes!’ This will make it more fun and meaningful for him, and also, hopefully, teach him a thing or two about karma.

Eric with some of his festival paintings. We had so much fun!
My fervent desire on the rainy drive up Sunday was that people would support his work. He’d toiled over making several small paintings and collecting smooth river stones that we washed and turned into ‘blessing stones’ by writing inspirational words on them with a Sharpie. I wanted him to see the cycle of it all, how our giving support to the student potters by attending thier show and making a purchase would culminate in people visiting our booths at the festival and making purchases.

Festival goers did not disappoint. By the end of the day, my son had sold 3 paintings and over half of his blessing stones. I sold many of my greeting cards and made a trade with another vendor. It was a fun and prosperous day for both my son and myself, and on the way home, we talked about how well we had done.

A quiet moment...me knitting during downtime at the festival
“Did we earn back what we spent on the honey pot?” He asked, and I had to smile.

“Oh yes,” I replied. “We got that…and then some.”

Which is typically true…what we put out there, into the world, we get back, and then some, whether it’s kindness or dysfunction, love or jealousy, the idea of giving freely or holding tightly to money and possessions.

Sunny day fun in the garden...
In the garden, as in life, we reap what we sow. In some small way, this weekend, my son got to see this theory in action. For this lesson, I am so grateful.

Sow love.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth...Day????


On litter patrol...
 I had to laugh when a friend asked me if I was doing anything special with my son for Earth Day weekend.

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” I responded, amused by the question. Not that I am undermining the importance of the holiday – it’s one of my favorites, after all. But when I look at the things that people will choose to do in order to honor the earth on this day, I am often amazed that they aren’t doing these things every day, as we do. Maybe we’re just blessed to be able to live in a way that intentionally honors the not only the earth, but also its rhythms and cycles, but it’s simple and easy, once you make a few minor adjustments to your lifestyle.

If you headed this weekend out to attend rallies, pick up trash, take your child to a festival where they planted a squash seed in a milk carton or planted trees, kudos to you. Let it be a kick-start to a permanent commitment to honor the earth and her cycles through daily lifestyle practices.

Here are a few suggestions for making every day Earth Day...

1. Unplug and get outside. It’s impossible to appreciate the earth, and nature, if you spend no real time enjoying her. And get your kids out, too. Be outside with them, together. At my house, the television could explode and no one would care. Games and gadgets given to my son by well-meaning family members – who assume he will like them because other children in the family do – gather dust on shelves. One of the highlights of our day is outside time, and unless it’s raining, it’s built into every day’s schedule. I take ‘outside time’ into consideration even when planning how long I will stay at work that day. Gardening, woods walks, or just playing, being outside is good for the body and soul in so many immeasurable ways. You don’t have to go anywhere extravagant; you can take a hike in your own neighborhood; camp out in your own backyard. Children are essential to the continuing the conservation of our earth’s resources, and if they are not taught to value nature more than television and technology…well…prognosis negative, if you know what I mean...

Sometimes I think we spend more time outside than in...
2. Eat local and what’s in season, and eat less meat and dairy. Of course, ideally, eating no meat would be a far better goal, but the indoctrination to eat meat starts early in many people, especially males, and it becomes too precious of a habit to give up. “He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy” is a common term used to describe men in the South, and it also – falsely – implies that the eating of meat makes one more rugged and strong, just like the idea that human beings need cow’s milk/milk products for optimum health. It’s a lot of dogma to battle, but the greater battle is fighting to keep industrial meat and dairy farms from destroying more wild spaces in order to graze the ever growing herds of cattle human beings are determined to consume. So while Michael Pollan, environmental and dietary author (and one of my absolute favorite men in the universe) nails it when he says, “Eat. Not a lot. Mostly plants,” eating meat and dairy has just become such a mainstream habit, it seems impossible to many families to imagine giving it up. So rather than say no to it all, let’s just agree to eat less of it all. (And maybe, in time, you’ll not have a need to eat any of it at all.) And not enough can be said about the benefits of eating locally verses eating foods from God-knows-where. When you feel compelled to argue that ‘such-and-such says this is an important source of this-and-that and therefore we must eat it year-round’, remember that such-and-such may be on the provider payroll…it’s called kickbacks, it’s a huge part of marketing, and the food industry is one of the greatest abusers of suggestive advertising to ever hit the planet.

You can't put a price on a dinner this fresh..spinach from my own garden, not a state across the country.
3. Complain. And not on Facebook or to your buddies, but to the powers that be whenever you see wild spaces being destroyed. You can’t make people care, but you can let the world know you care, and that will attract to your circle more people that care, and soon you’ll have a small group of people who are determined to change the world…and we’ve all heard the saying that’s the only thing that ever does! Write letters to the newspaper editors, people in government, and environmental organizations. Ask how you can help.

4. Freak out your neighbors and plant a garden where your lawn once was. I mean, what is the point of growing a tidy plot of grass? Unless you have a small herd of goats, there isn’t one. More and more people are waking up to this concept. If you live in an apartment or townhouse complex and only have a few feet of lawn, plant a community garden in a common area, or look for ways to grow things in small spaces. Often there are grants funds available for community gardens; explore those options. Involve your children, too. Chances are, they will remember a garden where food grew far more than they’ll remember the grass at the house where they grew up. And it will serve the added purposes of eating local food that’s in season and spending time outside.

I do love our community garden. So glad we did not move and leave it behind.
5. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Yeah, it’s become a catch phrase, but it’s a good one. A few months ago I started an online group that exchanges children’s clothing. Since then I’ve given away two loads of my son’s clothes and been given several bags of sizes he can wear next fall. I’m a known garbage picker who will haul a good side-of-the road find home and turn it into something useful any day of the week. My philosophy here is two-fold: the less need I have to spend money, the less time I need to spend working, and the more time I can devote to following my passions…like being outside, planting gardens. Also recycle food scraps into compost bins. Between recycling and composting, I may toss one bag of real, actual garbage a week. And that's a 13 gallon bag. It makes a difference.

6. Turn out the lights when you leave a room and unplug appliances that are not in use. A given, but I visit homes all the time where every light is burning and no one is in the room.

7. Walk or bike whenever you can. Not just weekend-warrior style marathon excursions, but just for daily life, if possible. I gave away my bike a few months ago, an impulsive decision I now regret, but I walk everywhere I can, my son walking or biking beside me. His tax-time treat was an uber-expensive cycle that will grow with him, and he rides it every day. I’m often amazed at his stamina on hills and long treks. As a comparison, a friend of his got a new game system as a tax-time treat, and when he spent an afternoon with us, he could not keep up when we walked to the store, which is just a few blocks away. So there is a two-fold purpose to using our bodies to get us from point A to point B.

The toddler beds that I recycled into zucchini and cucumber beds. Big basket in front, since painted red, was picked up off side of the road. :-)
Well, I think I’ll stop here because otherwise this could go on forever. I’ll leave with the advice to believe what old folks say about honoring the earth’s cycles. Buy a Farmer’s Almanac. Listen to what Native Elders believed about how all things are connected. Think outside of the box about how you can make a difference for the environment. Teach the children well.

And love your Mother.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why Bother?

I freaking love this! http://courses.umass.edu/plnts285/WhyBother.htm


Here's an excerpt: "If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. (Just look at the market for hybrid cars.) Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others � from other people, other corporations, even other countries."

Now click on the link and read!

Month 4 of No Shopping for Clothes + Partnerships

These fabrics will soon be swishy dresses and skirts...
So I'm halfway into the fourth month of the year I've vowed not to buy clothes, and I'm itching for something new to wear for spring. It was easy the first couple of months, but now...not so much. In the droll winter months, when the world is grey and dark, it's easy to forget about fashion.

But then the season shifts, and ahh, it's spring.

And warm.

And all I want to wear are long swishy skirts or dresses with sandals. I don't want to think about my outfit; I just want to throw it on, brush my hair, and be ready for the day. Although that's not quite how it happens...I do spend alot of time picking out my outfits and it takes at least 20 minutes a morning to get the comb through, then tame with a variety of oils, my hair. Still, I like to look as though it is effortless. Only thing is, for some odd reason, at the end of last summer, I gave alot of my long swishy skirts and dresses away. I had been hurt, and foolishly believed that reinventing myself somehow would ease the pain. But here's a fact - in warm weather, I hate to wear pants. Now I have a closet full of smooth, professional pairs that look like they belong to a middle-aged attorney. A middle-aged male attorney.

Ugh.

So, it's off to the fabric store on Saturday, where I find a delish African-ish fabric to make a new dress. Later that weekend, someone gives me three 5X tops, brand new, that I'll cut into strips and make a skirt with. I'm very excited about these projects, but here's the catch - I prefer to sew by hand. Always have. To be totally honest, my sewing machine freaks me out a little, and while I've already made two dresses this year (part of the reason I took the vow not to buy any new clothes was to inspired myself to make them,) I've not taken the bloody machine out in months.

What does that mean? It means that, in order to reach even these small dreams and goals, I need time. Time that is precious, and in short supply.

Talking with a friend yesterday, we discussed partnerships, i.e. marriage, and the notion of 'double income families.' Is it really the ideal to have as much money as possible at the cost of very little time together? I ask the kids in the neighborhood if they are excited about summer break, and several of them sigh and say, "No, I'll just be in daycare instead of school." I think about some of my friends, who do not work outside of the home in order to either homeschool their children, or simply be there as a steady, constant part of their day when they come home from school. Money can be tight, so they live simply. But here is the thing - they live. And one thing they have that I envy is time. Time with their children, their spouses, and time for themselves. Life is not a mix of running to a from a timeclock. They don't live just for weekends. They have a sweet sense of freedom, and their spouses/partners? They, too, are less stressed. They work, and they handle the finances, and they come home and enjoy time with their families. Some of the stay-at-homers are men. Some are women. But here's my theory - I believe we are at a point in society where we're realizing that allowing our children to be raised by schools and daycare and having precious little sacred family time just so that we can have all sorts of gadgets and huge house and this, that, and the other...well...maybe that's not progress.

Maybe somewhere, somehow, someone needs to actually be there with the children, and for the children, and the home. I don't mind being the breadwinner, no. I don't mind being the homemaker, either. But being both affords precious little time to be, well, anything else. A writer friend of mine quit working years ago when it was determined that the family could make it just on one income. While her child is in school, she spends half of her day writing books - something that was difficult to accomplish when she was juggling a 'career' with being a parent and a wife. She's deliriously happy and by making simple adjustments to their lifestyle, they have not only done fine on one income, but they've even traveled abroad...twice. Now her books are beginning to get attention. The second income is coming in, and her dreams for herself and her family are being realized. Hmmmmmm....

Someone has to work. Someone has to take care of home and family. Everyone has dreams. Kids need parents who are not exhausted and overworked. Dreams are damn hard to realize when, at the end of the day, one is too exhausted to move, much less sit down in front of a computer, a sewing machine, or an easel. So here's my theory - life's just easier if you a) live simply b) have a partnership c) realize that sometimes we need to live simply and have a partnership if we want to reach our dreams, whether they are small ones like making a few clothing items, or big ones, like becoming all we know that we can be because there's someone else who believes in us, who makes our life easier by being the other half of our partnership.

Of course...that's just my observation. Now I must step over the basket of laundry that needs to be put away later and step into the bathroom that has to be cleaned this evening, and get ready for work, a stressful work that will consume the bulk of my day's hours. The stacks of fabric sit in a chair. Outside there are seedlings that need to be planted. My son has a guitar lesson later this afternoon that he'll need to be taken to, and groceries will need to be purchased. My eyes burn from lack of sleep, as I have a deadline on a article that I've been burning the midnight oil to write.

Everything seems to have a deadline when there's only one person to meet it.

But summer is coming...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Point of My Compass

Painting of Eric in his dance regalia...he was 4.
I am itching to be in the mountains, the Western North Carolina Mountains, my second home for as long as I can remember. There, on the banks of the Oconaluftee, is where I feel I really grew up. I did not cry 15 years ago when I left South Carolina and moved to Michigan until I drove through the Great Smokies of North Carolina and fully comprehended, perhaps for the first time, the distance I was about to put between myself and that sacred place. Leaving my friends and family behind did not affect me so much as leaving behind those mountains. And something about the arrival of spring always sends me spiraling towards them, like a bird migrating back north to its true home. So it was with great enthusiasm that I went online yesterday to make reservations for the Memorial Day Powwow in Cherokee.

Oh geez,” I thought to myself, seeing nothing about the Powwow on the website. “They must not have updated the website.” So I called the Welcome Center, just to be sure of dates. For as long as I can remember, I’ve stayed at the Drama Inn, just across the street from the Ceremonial Grounds, right on the shores of the Oconaluftee River. With such a prime location, the rooms fill quickly, and while I may not be sentimental, I am a creature of habit. To have to stay somewhere else would throw the entire trip ‘off’ in my mind. The friendly receptionist at the Welcome Center busted my bubble pretty quickly, however, explaining that the website was right. There was no Memorial Day Powwow this year. Nor was there a July 4th Powwow or any of the other smaller powwows that used to fill the spaces before, between, and after. In my teens, I was on the reservation nearly every other weekend for an event. “There is only one powwow this year,” she said, giving me the dates. “It’s the 38th Annual Powwow, June 14, 15, and 16.

The second shock was that it isn’t even being held on the Ceremonial Grounds, but at the old high school on Acqouni Road. I have never been to a Powwow in Cherokee that was not on the Ceremonial Grounds…that is the purpose of the Ceremonial Grounds. I was, and still am, baffled by the change….but I also did not return to the reservation last year. I went east instead, to the sunny shores of Wrightsville Beach, to the mountains of North Georgia, to the Isle of Palms. My inner compass having gotten spun to hell and back early 2011, I was still trying to find my center a year later. I was still looking for myself, my place, my peace. I thought perhaps it was in change that I would find a way to put the pieces of my life back together. Now I know better. Perhaps had I returned to those mountains, and continued to read the Cherokee paper, and stayed in touch with friends there, I would have known why this change of venue and events had happened. But I didn’t. I sought something new. No harm in that. Running into the ocean on my birthday was a thrill I’d always wanted. Watching my son surf the waves made my heart swell with pride. Eating breakfast in a small German bakery was like a mini-trip to Europe without spending a grand. All those trips were wonderful…

At the Isle of Palms on my birthday, creating his childhood memories...
But it is this place, and these mountains, and this river where my compass originates. It is from here that I spin outward into all those other different directions.

And it’s changing.

Talking with a friend later in the evening, I expressed to him my dismay at the dwindling number of powwows hosted by the reservation. We speculated as to every cause, from the economy (it actually takes considerable funds to host a powwow) to the arrival of Harrah’s Casino. All were viable explanations…but none eased my feeling that something, somehow, has been lost. Yes, I’d wanted my son to experience some of the things I had, and he’d been dancing in powwows since he was 2, calling them ‘Big Song’ and making the circuit with me a few times. I’m not so vain to try to recreate for him the exact same experiences, however. He will have his own, different, childhood, with his own experiences.

This was and is for me. This is something I need.

Do our ancestors live in our own souls? Maybe. Perhaps that explains why certain members of a family are called to explore certain aspects of their heritage while others could care less. Standing in the Museum of the Cherokee Indian with my son years ago, looking at a mural depicting the Trail of Tears, I remembered  the moment I saw the family names of my ancestors on the Western Roll. They were part of The Removal, but could not stay away from the mountains they loved. I don’t hold on to the past, I don’t feel anything is to be gained from holding on to hurts and wrongs of other times. But when my son, 4 at the time, asked, “Are these my people?” I was moved to tears. Don’t look back, be in the moment, forget the past…I reached out to trace the face of one of the female figures, and thought about a grandfather who would not set foot in his daughter’s house because her husband was white. He was my grandfather, as was his white son-in-law, and all the grandmothers and grandfathers who came before them. “Yes,” I responded, “These are all your people. And there are so many, many more.”

My son’s father comes from the west, and at some point, I will need to take him there. He needs to see the deserts of his own origins, to breathe the arid air, to see the plateaus and wind-whittled earth sculptures that lit the soul-fires of home for his own ancestors, also removed in the name of progress. They, too, returned, a century later, and for different reasons. But nevertheless, they came home. Perhaps the desert will call to his spirit one day as the mountains always have to mine. If so, I hope he’ll honor it. We blaze forth in life, forgetting the connections that created us, that hold us to something more sacred than a man-made home or stretch of field someone purchased a century before. We are a part of something that existed before land could be owned and homes had to have walls. A decade ago, I stood at the window of an apartment I loved in a suburb of Detroit and stared at the vast expanse of buildings and flat lands before me. I loved my life and friends there...but in that moment, I knew I’d spent enough time in a world without mountains. Like so many others before me, I came back to the place I began, the point of origin for my inner compass.

Me, Patrick, Angela and Phylicia, circa sometime in the 1990s, at the Ceremonial Grounds, post powwow...
Last night, an old powwow buddy who disappeared from my life in the 1990s sent me a friend request on Facebook. Delighted, as I’d just been speaking about him that day to another friend, we spent the evening chatting and catching up on one another’s lives. When he sent me the picture above, I knew I could not wait until June to be back in the mountains. Powwow or not, it was time to head north.

We can’t go back, no, but we can go forward, create new experiences, new memories, and new connections.

And we can remember that one powwow a year is certainly better than none.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Standing Up To Live

Not worried one bit about being dirty.
We can learn alot about living in the moment
from children; they innately do this every day.
“How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

Oh, how I love this quote, and all it represents. Yes, I can see the logic behind this. It is this very same logic that has taken me from daily and even weekly blogging to hit-or-miss posting. I have tried to adhere to a schedule, but standing up to live takes time, effort, and energy. At the end of a full day, I may have many things to say, but simply no time left to say them.

For this reason, I'm a terribly selfish blogger. I rarely read other people's blogs...I know, it's a jerk-ish way to behave and contradictory to the give-and-take laws of karmic flow. After all, if I want people to read my words, I should definitely take time to read theirs. It only makes sense, and it's only right. I need to do better. That in mind, I sat down the other night and made a conscious effort to read the blog posts of several of my writer friends.

I was not disappointed. I saw that these wonderful writers were definitely standing up to live, and coming back and sitting down to write only when they knew clearly and precisely what it is they wanted/needed/just had to share. I need to make an effort to read their missives more often; I came away inspired and feeling a sense of oneness and kinship with those who, like me, have created a life where living fully takes precedence to adhering to any type of rigorous schedule. These writers sit down and compose their blogs when they feel compelled to do so, not because it is Thursday at 10:00. Though I believe in creative discipline, I do not believe creativity can be forced at certain times and/or places. Nor do I believe it should be a substitute for living. Ah, but that is a delicate balance…still, there is a certain ‘retreat-ism’ that occurs when one is mired down deep into a creative activity.

I know.

I’ve been mired down into many. And when the flow is overwhelming, I can think of nothing else. When I wrote The Absence of Anyone Else, I did not see anyone socially; I did not stay caught up with correspondence; and I did not even talk on the phone beyond 5 minutes to anyone for about 6 months. I gave one hundred percent of myself to my son, a toddler at the time, but everything else - and I mean everything else - went into my writing.

Yep.

Really.

I was on life autopilot. I pulled almost entirely out of the world at large. All that mattered was getting through the day so I could once again sit down to write. And it paid off - my book was published and recieved a 5-star review from The Midwest Review. Hardly shabby. But...

...I never, ever want to do it that way again.

Life is too precious to go through even a minute of it on auto-pilot.

In the past 3 months, I had 3 friends to suddenly pass away. To say their deaths were unexpected would be an understatement. Their deaths were shocking, startling, unbelievable, and for that reason, soul-rocking to the core.

No matter what one’s beliefs are about what happens after death, the fact remains that they are gone from this earth and this life and this time.

For them, I stand up to live.

I do freelance work, yes…but I sit down to write from my heart and soul only when I have something brand new to say. Which may take days….or months…or years to manifest. No worry. I am on no one’s agenda with my creativity but my own….and golly gee, isn’t that a blessed state?

The good news is, because I am not ‘sitting down to write when I have not yet stood up to live,’ there seems to always be something new to put down in writing. So many wonderful experiences. Someone told me the other day that they could not keep up with all of the things that I am doing. I laughed, because I’m always amazed at comments like this. What, on earth, are other people doing if they think I am doing a lot?

I don’t know. I only know this: even the best of writers and artists will run dry if they spend more time at keyboards and easels than they do out there…in the world…being a part of their community, involved in service, being social...being. Even the most creative soul can only draw so much inspiration in the same place, with the same routines, and the same people…all…the…time. Inspiration from past experiences, or the same present experiences, whether painful or pleasant, will only carry us so far creatively.

Get out there and actually do something.

And that being said, for so many reasons, and to honor the fact that I am still here, blessed with life, on this amazing planet, in this time and space, I can promise you that I will not sit down to write…or paint…or knit…or make jewelry or watch a television show or read a book or do damn near just about anything if I have not also, in that day, at some point...

 ...stood up to live.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Grounding

Yesterday and much of the weekend was spent this way...outdoors, lying on my back, feeling the warmth of the sun and the healing energies of the earth, listening to birds singing and my son and his friend/s playing in the nearby creek.

Some friends were discussing camping the other day, and I bowed out. I spend so much time in the woods that, quiet honestly, I've no desire to sleep there. But I'm lucky enough to live beside woods, and a creek, and can escape there as often as I like. I'm lucky enough to have raised my child in the woods, where he is completely at home, as I am. I could have so easily dozed off, lying there in the sun, not because I was tired, but because I felt so at home, and at peace.

Still, it amuses me that lying on one's back on the ground is now becoming a health movement known as 'grounding'. People in tune with nature have *always* known and recognized it's healing properties. Even as a child, I knew I felt better when I could spend more time outside. Still, if more and more people decide to partake in this simple and yet profound act, I suppose it can only help humanity. In any event, perhaps it will lead more people to appreciate, and therefore want to preserve, nature.

And if you need me during the coming warm evenings, afternoons, or weekends, look no further than the sunny bank along the creek's edge.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Crystal Seller

I'd like to see birch trees in the place that I live...
We’re not getting that house..and it's a good thing.

The news came to me last week, after a stressful two weeks of dealing with mortgage companies, realtors, and packing up of mine and my son’s belongings. It was as simple as this: My grandmother, whose home I was gearing up to buy…changed her mind.

This is not the first time this has happened. In 2007, I made a bid on a house and all was well and looked great until the appraiser came out and discovered the home I’d fallen in love with was completely eaten up with termites. I remember being so devastated, so heartbroken. That home came with a couple of acres and some really nice neighbors…but it was not meant to be.

That’s how I must look at this now, as not being meant to be, because even if my grandmother had not changed her mind, we were still running into a problem. In the past 20+ years she has lived there, the home has been refinanced many times…too many, really, because I had discovered, just a day before she decided not to sell, that the balance owed on the home was expected to far exceed the appraisal value. Which meant, if I pushed through with the plan, I would be paying more for a home than it was technically worth on paper. It was a Thursday when I found this out, and I came home riddled with indecision. I love that house, and I had fallen in love with the idea of living there. But for all of my frou-frou free-spirited dancing-in-the-meadows hippiness, I have a secret and very practical side that was telling me, “Think…it…through.”

This is the part where being ‘independent,’ something many people hold up as the ideal, can be very stressful, because despite what the stalwarts in denial want to spout out about going life solo by choice, the reality is we’re simply not hard-wired to do it on our own. We need other people, especially people who are just as vested in a situation as we are. In this situation, there was no one other than myself who stood to gain or lose from the buying of this house. I could talk to my friends all day, but in the end, my decision would only affect myself and my son…not anyone else in my immediate circle or even my family. And I was torn between buying a home that I loved that was perfect in so many ways, and making what could possibly be a ganormous financial blunder by paying more for that there home than it was actually worth.

But the biggest struggle I was facing was on a deeper level...I had to make a different kind of choice, one that kind of-sort of felt like giving up. That was the choice that was eating at me inside, making me toss and turn at night. It was what was likely going to make me bail in the end, and it has nothing to do with finances.

My grandmother’s decision absolved me of having to make that choice…but in truth, her decision to sell had created the dilemma for me in the first place. Now, sitting here a week later, having processed it all and made peace with what is and isn’t going to happen right now, I’m left with this question…how much do we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the decisions other people make? Her offer to sell me the house for the balance she owed on it spun this catalyst into motion. Her decision two weeks later ceased it to a grinding halt. But her choices about refinancing it several times in the last decade would have greatly affected the entire buying process for me, if I’d followed through with the plan to buy it at all.

Bottom line…through most of this process, I was not at the wheel of this ship. Now, in hindsight, I feel almost infantile and silly. Something I wanted badly at one time in the past was dangled before me in the present and I leapt, without considering whether or not it was really in my best interests at this time, or whether or not I still desired it as intently as I once had. This same thing happened to me in late summer, with an entirely different situation, and I reacted much the same way. Why? Because it's easier to jump back into an old habit than it is to move towards a new dream.

A week before my grandmother offered me the home, I’d come to the hard-wrought decision that I wanted to raise my son in a less conservative community. I wanted the relaxed, open environment that I see and feel in towns like Athens and Asheville. I wanted to not be the one who is different for a change, and it was time to actively pursue this dream. I was beginning to feel like the crystal seller in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, who was still in the same tolerable place he’d landed in years before, still doing the same thing he’d been doing forever, still planning trips he wasn’t taking, still just being…still. I felt empowered by my decision, because though it was going to be a difficult one to put into motion, it still felt right.

Then suddenly, I threw it to the wind in order to dump all my eggs into this one basket…a basket that would have surely guaranteed me another decade here. I’d be well on my way into that process now, had my grandmother not changed her mind…and it would not have been the wisest investment I could have made, financially or spiritually. But it sure as heck would have been easier than blazing a new trail somewhere, on my own with a young child in tow...hence the appeal of it all.

If you have read The Alchemist, then I know you know what I mean, and you know how I am feeling right now. You know that there comes a time when we have to quit trying to convince ourselves that the easiest path is the right one, and accept that it’s just the easiest one and that’s why most people settle down somewhere along it. I know you know this and I know you’re at the same place I am…sitting on the side of the road, thinking, “Well, it’s nice enough here, maybe I’ll sit down a while and rest before moving on.” But then ten years pass, then another, and then we are the crystal seller, still here at the end of our lives simply because we just became too settled to go any further. We convinced ourself that this, somehow, was enough. We put down more and more roots, became more and more convinced that the risks of leaving far outweighed the risk of staying.

Ah, but I know you know for folks like us, that's never going to be true.

I’m glad now that my grandmother changed her mind, because I don’t want to be the crystal seller. And deep down inside, no matter how much you try to convince yourself and the rest of the world that remaining in place is for the best…I know you don’t want to be him, either.

So I left my own home listed on the market. This opens the door somewhat, throws a catalyst of another sort into motion. We'll see what happens.