Saturday, September 29, 2007

My 10th anniversary

I left Birmingham, Alabama -- my home for seven years--10 years ago yesterday. I arrived home -- my childhood home in Springfield, Missouri-- the same day and spent two days there with my parents and brother before I started my trek to California and a new life.

I *had* to do it. I had known for some time that I needed to be elsewhere, in a different life, because I did not want to say, at some hopefully far-distant day when I'm near the end of my life, "I wonder what would have happened if..." I did not want fear to keep me from fully living -- fear, nor complacency, nor indecision, nor codependence, nor the expectations of other people. I did not want to settle for the life I had.

I visited California on a business trip earlier that year for 10 days, and knew almost from the moment the plane touched down that I needed to be here. I'd never had any desire to live here until that time. And after that, I explored every possible avenue to find a way to come. Persistence paid off -- that, and some colleagues who believed in me--and my company created a job for me in the Bay Area where there were two offices.

It was the best move I ever made.

If I'd been told then that 10 years later I'd live in a little town in northern California with a husband I adore, living on land with a house I got to plan, and that I'd sell real estate, I'd have wondered what they were smoking. And dismissed it as pure fantasy.

What I've learned in the past 10 years:
  • I can do just about anything if I'm willing to work at it and am patient. And persistent.
  • I am a loving and very loved woman who has discovered wonderful things about this body -- and a little more about taking care of it.
  • There are soulmates. I never expected such love to come to me, and I am deeply grateful every single day for my husband.
  • If you wait to seek happiness until you have a job, a house, a car, a child, lose weight, stop smoking, whatever -- you will never have it. Life is in this moment: it is all we have, one moment at a time.
  • If you don't like where you are, who you are, or what you have, change it. You are the decider of your life's path, and of who you are.
  • It is never too late to change. Not until you are expelling your last breath.
I'm sure I'll think of others -- but the essence is here. Life is a gift, every day. We are fragile, but we also have amazing strength. It is not a dress rehearsal: we seldom get do-overs.

I am grateful and blessed. Thanks be.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shoe tree?

Anyone know about a "shoe" tree -- a tree from which all kinds of shoes were hung -- out on Highway 36? I had a query about it the other day. Please e-mail me or post a comment if you do.

I found some some info about another shoe tree in southern California. And there are rumors of underwear trees, and also a photo, although not very good.

NOT that I'm suggesting we start one.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shine on, harvest moon

Last night was the full harvest moon, coming on the heels of Sunday's autumnal equinox. It is a magical time, a time of change and harvest, of reaping what you have sown over the year, and it also is a preparation for the long dormant winter.

My little group -- Cowgirls, we call ourselves, after the game Cowgirls Ride the Trail of Truth -- has been meeting about twice a month for nearly three years now to share our lives, to celebrate relationship and friendships, to provide support to each other. Our ages are very diverse: I'm not really quite sure how we were drawn together initially, other than we shared a love of the arts. Certainly our life experiences are wildly different, which makes for interesting stories.

And we share a spirituality that is rooted in Christianity -- we all have church-going histories--but has evolved into an undefined, unrefined mixture of Buddhism, Neopaganism, New Thought, and probably involving elements of several other practices. I don't know that WE know, exactly.

But last night we celebrated the equinox with a harvest feast, with candles, with prayers, and then created our own harvest cornucopias with a variety of locally-grown fruits and veggies. I'd gathered a small basket of acorns from our trees, and after holding them and reflecting on the great promise that each small seed holds, we exchanged harvest wishes for each other, using the acorns as the symbol of growth and promise.

And we celebrated Lady Moon, out here where ambient light is so much fainter than in town and the full moon seems so much larger, so much brighter. It was the perfect evening to do so, too, with temperatures still at shirt-sleeve comfort, no clouds, no sounds but crickets and tree frogs or whatever variety of wild thing makes those oddly comforting humming thrumming sounds.

It was a celebration reminding us of the divine feminine, of the energy of the earth and the cycles of life. It was mostly silent, although I'd written some ceremony adapted from a variety of traditions, and altered it further as we went through it -- but it was meaningful and rich and made me feel very blessed to have these women as my heart friends, to share my home with deer and turkeys and other animals -- including a very affectionate kitten who insisted on visiting the laps of two women who are not particularly enamored of cats (how very catlike!).

I am grateful for change that allows new growth and new possibilities. I am grateful for new beginnings and for second chances. I am grateful most of all for love that surrounds and enriches everything in my life today. Thanks be.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rain! and the Wheel turns again

It's 57 degrees and drizzling (with puddles on the ground and sidewalks), and tomorrow is the first day of fall! A wonderful way to welcome this change of seasons.

Actually, we'll be back in late summer this coming week with temps near 90 -- but for now, the long sleeves and long pants feel good, and I'm looking forward to a cozy evening of movies and hot stew and biscuits dripping with butter and honey. I like cool weather.

Neighborhood update: the *new* board members sent out minutes of last week's meeting and a dues increase ballot revised from one that passed a month ago because the wording wasn't accurate, apparently. I have questions: the measure upon which we're voting passed a month ago. While this one is being taken to correct the wording, what happens if it doesn't pass? (I suspect this one is the only binding one...) And the minutes were inaccurate: they do not report a measure that was passed (voted on at the meeting), recording it there merely as a "recommendation."

Of course I have other issues with the minutes, but mostly because they don't reflect the true nature of the meeting. I suspect I'm not alone in that. The plot thickens.

Family: My brother and sister-in-law were here for far too short a time, and we just had a wonderful visit. I took them downtown to visit a couple of shops, we ate lunch at the new Thai House that's recently changed ownership (wonderful food!), and then drove up to Lassen.

I love love love the smell of the pines in the high elevations, and the sky was bright blue. Temperatures were moderate -- we did not need the jackets we'd taken -- and while it was hazy when you looked out across the mountains, it was beautiful up there. Lassen had gotten some snow the other day, although it remained mostly in small patches, but it was clean and white, and I'll betcha they got a bunch more today.

The one disappointment is that the boardwalk at the Sulphurworks has been dismantled, so you can't see the bubbling hot springs and mud holes. The two big ones by the road were busily churning, one so audibly that it sounded like a big washing machine, but they weren't spitting yesterday, just steaming. Both of them really enjoyed seeing "things we haven't seen before," as Jimmy put it, and then we wound up at the Sundial Bridge.

They left this morning for business in the Bay Area, after we enjoyed our ritual family wild-rice-and-bacon-and-Jule-Kage breakfast, and I got a little teary. I am very grateful to have such a great relationship with my brother and sister-in-law -- it is good to have family who loves you, warts and all.

Blessed equinox to you as we enter the dark months. The wheel and night are equal briefly....and we reap what we have sown over the year during this season. It is the great harvest time, this change. May yours be bountiful to last you through the coming winter.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Behaving ethically

I was abruptly reminded today that age and experience do not necessarily render a person either wiser or kinder. And in fact, in this case, I suspect that age and experience have probably rendered at least one man even nastier and more devious -- and I seriously doubt that he ever acted kindly toward anyone, including his family.

The unpleasant encounters came at a neighborhood meeting that was dominated by one man -- not the titular president, who himself showed an ugly, very autocratic face -- who somehow had buffaloed and bullied a majority of those present into supporting him and his agenda. While I know only a few of those present very well, and some not at all, I was simply floored by the overall meek acceptance as gospel truth of the vitriol this man was spouting.

It wasn't even that his proposals had no merit -- there was at least one that was fair and rational. But the way he had ramrodded it through a vote included out-and-out lying and slandering the characters and actions of two volunteers. At one point he boldly admitted in front of the whole group, "I lied." He nominated himself for election to an office, and when confronted with the fact that he had agreed not to seek a position again, declared that he would not leave the board.

And the group sat there, eating brownies and drinking soda, in tacit acceptance of his dismissive, disrespectful, and admittedly unethical behavior. And elected him.

The other man, also on the board and who also had agreed not to seek re-election, also admitted he'd lied, and publicly declared himself to be the sole authority on any road or road-frontage issues in the entire neighborhood, challenging one respectful objector to "Sue me."

And the group sat there. And a few expressed appreciation for his dedication. And stuffed their faces. And elected him too.

Both men were publicly abrasive toward others in the group, most especially and maliciously towards the two volunteers who were not present, and to the handful who raised objections or asked questions about process or decisions made during the year.

It turned ugly. There were raised voices. There were accusations and obscenities flung by several parties, but most clearly by the two liars who had just been again elected to office.

And most of the group just sat there, eating brownies and drinking soda, and saying nothing. Baaaaaa...

I'll confess that I was one of the objectors, and that I threw out a few zingers too. Although I'm generally very slow to anger, I hate lying above nearly anything -- save abuse of animals and people -- and I knew FOR A FACT that both men were lying about far more than they'd publicly admitted. I was shocked that they had managed to so thoroughly convince a group of individuals I'd thought had some intelligence to believe falsehoods and fabrications in order to achieve their self-serving goals.

And I was -- and am -- once again disillusioned and disgusted that unethical, dishonest, mean-spirited, downright nasty actions have been accepted as reasonable and tolerable behavior. It's not the first time I've seen this in the past few years, but it hasn't hit quite as close to home as it did today.

I continue to believe in right speech, right actions, right thought, right intention, right livelihood, right effort and right mindfulness as a way of life. I believe in the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated -- as a guiding ethic of life. I don't believe any of us are exempt from those moral principles, and I believe in karma: that what goes around comes around.

I just want to be there to see it. Okay, I work on that...

It was not a fun day. It's probably not over, either, because I believe there will be repercussions from today's actions. But I'm done. I will not waste major time on minor people. I have more interesting, more important things in my life. Thanks be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Relief: finally, communication

The ice weasels are sleeping for the time being; long, quiet sleeps under many layers of ice. And I am grateful.

I talked for some time today to our oldest daughter -- she called me, even -- and feel deep gratitude that she is, as I'd hoped and pretty much expected, all right. Working, in a larger, less expensive place. Okay. She is okay. Thanks be.

Yes, I knew the ice weasels were doing their gloom-and-doom dance even as they stomped, but it is good to hear her voice and the things she said and didn't say but that I heard anyway. I've asked her to commit to talking or e-mailing weekly. I hope it will happen.

And I'm just bone tired. I can feel the worry and fear almost physically leave, even though there always will be a little teensy kernel there. But for now, she's safe, she's talking, she's doing better.

And next week my brother and sister-in-law visit for a couple of days, so I get a good dose of family to keep my heart happy. I heard from my Indiana best friend forever, and from one of my cousins too. I am grateful for the warmth and love their words bring me, and the sense of connection that had felt all too tenuous these past few days.

So life goes on.

Sleep in peace, surrounded by warmth and love and angels. I will tonight, thanks be.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monkey mind

I've opened the "New Post" window half a dozen times in the last week and closed them each time after sitting here staring at the ready-and-waiting blank text box.

My mind is swirling with fragmented thoughts, many of them anxious, and I don't seem to be able to put them into words that are going to say anything to me or to you. Usually writing is very therapeutic for me, but I think some of my thoughts lead to dark places that are speculative and unfounded, and home to an entire megacity of ice weasels, and I have tried to stay away from them.

So let's see where this takes me.

My uncle's death made me feel very disconnected from family, and I've touched a few of them via e-mail, but that's not tremendously satisfying. It has made me very aware that while my cousins and I share some DNA and some common childhood memories, there really isn't much else, at least in recent years. We had a big family reunion in 2001 -- a month before 9/11 -- and every sibling except my mother was there (she was too fragile to travel). Most of my cousins were there, some with their children and children's children. It was at once fun and stressful: I missed my mother and dad very much, and felt that my mother's sibs should have called her during the event, which they did not, although I talked to her daily.

In fairness, two of her sisters and their daughters visited her just weeks after to share pictures and stories, and in fact got stranded because 9/11 happened the day they were to fly back to the West Coast and nothing was flying. I very much appreciated their visit to her, and she did too, especially with the subsequent events.

I felt then that there were many twigs on that family tree that I would never know -- in fact, would be hard pressed to recognize some of them outside of a family setting. It's a big family -- six sibs, 17 cousins, and a whole big bunch of seconds and thirds and in-laws. They have lives, busy ones, with young children and careers, and few of us live near each other.

On the other side of the family there were four sibs, with only one still alive, far away from here. We never had a reunion, and there's at least one cousin I'm not sure I'd know by sight. Nine cousins there, and I stay in fairly regular touch with a couple of them. And none of us live nearby.

So I've been working on wrapping my arms around the fact that I have acquaintances who are relatives, that everyone has busy, involved lives, and that their extended family is their immediate family -- their parent(s), children, grandchildren. Oh, we still share that heritage, but the connection gets buried underground for the most part.

I think too that I've been dwelling perhaps overlong on family because mine seems to have fragmented in the past few months, and it is painful. Right now communication with any of our children is zip, and I miss them very much. The choice to communicate or not is theirs -- and to be honest, we don't understand the whys and wherefores.

One is going through painful personal growth, including a divorce, and has chosen for the time being not to stay in touch with us. This is a child neither of us raised, although she was loved, and with whom we had established an adult relationship within the past 10 years -- but it was at a disadvantaged distance of some 2000 miles, and with unspoken expectations that were not met -- by golly, it's hard to read minds at 2000 feet, much less 2000 miles! We hope -- and believe -- she will come out stronger and better, and that we will eventually be in communication with her again. We are sending her occasional cards and letters to let her know we love her.

Another has chosen not to communicate since that late-night phone call a few weeks ago where we finally were pushed against the boundaries we'd had to set -- for our sake, and for hers, although I'm sure it doesn't feel like that to her. We don't know the outcome of that crisis, and yes, it is cause for ice weasel parties. Her cell phone is not working. We've written a letter to her last address. We believe she will be okay because she is resourceful, street-smart, and has experience and credentials to find a decent job. But not knowing is hard. We love her too. We believe she knows that deep down. And we believe she will call us when she is on her feet.

The third is the one that has me completely at a loss to understand what is going on. She is a beautiful, competent, talented young woman who has owned her own business, bought and fixed up a house, gathered a following of fans for her work. And she's battling depression now, possibly more, and she's not talking to me nor her dad. I found out this weekend that she moved to a new place a few weeks ago and that she is working. But not from her lips. Not from her fingertips via e-mail, or even snail mail. Just silence.

We saw her just about six weeks ago, and while all was not well, it was a wonderful visit, and we talked openly and candidly, and she seemed to miss me as much as I do her. I've talked with her only a few times since, and received an e-mail three weeks ago -- and then nothing. She has removed herself from a very toxic work situation -- yay for her! -- but I have many, many fears -- most of which have only a tenuous foundation. For instance, I wonder if she continued health insurance, and if she's still on meds. And if not, what effect is it having? Where is she working (I know she's working in a restaurant -- but I've only found that out in the last couple of days)? How is she feeling? Does she feel secure with her roommate? Does she have enough to eat? Does she feel secure at ALL? IS SHE OKAY!!!!???

and why. Why, oh why, is she so reluctant to call me and tell me? To talk to me? Or her dad?

So last night the ice weasels had a party. I knew the invitations were out, but I wasn't sure when it would take place. jAnd they partied hearty until -- oh -- I stopped looking at the clock after 2 a.m.

And I realized that while I know how to deal with physical illness or many other life issues, I have no clue what to do with major depression issues, or similar personality disorders. I know enough to know that it varies wildly from person to person, that I mustn't take it personally and that I neither caused it nor can fix it. I don't know whether to give her space and write notes (I don't know if she checks e-mail -- I've been sending those, but also have done snail mail card -- all just supportive generalities), or to call her now that I have her phone, to let her come to me or to go to her, to just show up at her door, or what.

And the ice weasels considered all of those last night, in addition to a whole darker side that I don't want to even consider talking about. They danced around all of it. Made up new angles that I hadn't thought of. Partied hearty until I finally -- finally -- fell asleep.

And I guess that's what I needed to get out, hm.

I'm sure I'm not done with this topic. I have more questions than answers -- and I also have enough sense not to bombard any of them with questions, but to work on patience to allow them to tell me what they need to say at their own pace. So the other lesson here -- AGAIN -- is patience. My never-done, never-completedly-learned life lesson.


May your ice weasels go into hibernation for a very long time.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another goodbye

My Uncle Bob died Aug. 30. He was my mother's brother and the oldest of the six Dahl children. So now there are three left, my aunties Nancy, Betty, and Dorothy.

He was 92 and had been on hospice care, and died in his sleep, my cousin said. A good life, a long life, and one with sorrow and with joy in it. I hadn't ever been really close to him, although I liked him and loved his stories. As my brother said, "They're gathering in heaven..."

My mother and both uncles died on the 30th of the month, and they died five months apart. Mother and Tom were exactly five months; Bob was a year and five months after Tom. I don't know that there is significance there; I'm merely noting a coincidence.

And my mother has been very much on my mind and in my heart. I think of her at 60, retiring because Daddy did, doing so much then with exercising, walking, traveling, playing cards, sewing...she really enjoyed life, I believe.

I've also thought a lot about my daughter in recent days, partly because she's gone quiet again, and that always worries me because I don't KNOW anything. I can cope with most anything that I know about, but not knowing drives me wild.

We shot soccer photos yesterday == hot, hot sun and a long day -- and I could just see her and her team playing. She played from age 6 through high school and one year into college. In the high schoolers, I remembered her as goalie, fearlessly diving for those balls and capturing them. I could see her buddies Vanessa, Leah, Katie, Tiffany. With the younger group, I remember her being on a traveling team as well as our local league, and the kick two-thirds of the way down the field that she perfected during those years.

If I closed my eyes, I could hear the girls calling instructions and encouragement ... and it was the girls from back then that I could hear, not the ones on the field. I felt very close to them all yesterday for a few hours. I miss that closeness so much -- and I envy my friends who have daughters who are close enough to see and touch and hold and laugh with often.

Everything changes; nothing stays the same. This period of grief and worry will give way to something else in time. It is the nature of the wheel, theway of life, that it turns slowly, leaving behind the old and making way for the new.

And it is September, the end of summer, the harbinger of winter rains. Okay, maybe not quite yet for Red Bluff -- but the hot days are numbered. I will try to savor what each day brings to me, to not wish away my life by wanting winter again.